The whole time Kal spoke, Jag was unable to keep his eyes off of the tiny blonde creature before them. In the brilliant light of day Emma was more stunning than Jag first thought. Draygonians were naturally blessed with heightened senses compared to their human counterparts but nothing could have prepared the warrior for seeing the human female in broad daylight. Her blond hair was cut short to frame a round face. It reminded him of the styles the female warriors preferred as it kept them cooler and also from getting caught in things but this particular style seemed more about style than comfort. Blue eyes that matched the shade of the sky were framed by thick dark lashes while Emma’s nose dipped softly before coming to a soft upturn. Her lips were what held Jag’s attention the most. They were soft pink in colour and were full and bow shaped. 

Golden eyes flickered as they ran over the lithe form before Jag, freezing when they landed on the silvery marks on Emma's neck. They were pale and faint in the light but noticeable to Jag who now couldn’t look away. Several were small circles that would probably fade to nothing in time but it was the larger ones that had Jag’s attention. One sat at the junction of Emma’s neck and shoulder. It looked to be two inches in length and followed the curve of her neck around to the back. There were no signs of it being stitched in the past as was how humans had dealt with deep cuts before the visitors came. Instead, the width and unevenness of the shape suggested it had been caused by repeated actions. What could cause such a scar? 

“So, Emma, will you be going to the watering hole on Friday?” Sid’s voice broke through Jag’s thoughts bringing him back to the conversation. 

“The watering hole?” Emma’s dark eyebrows pinched together in a way that Jag could only describe as cute. 

“It’s the nickname of the bar everyone frequents.” Kal elaborated. “It’s actually called the Silver Dollar. Some people have organised a social for everyone who can make it to meet and have a good time. You should come.” 

“Oh, I don’t know.” The blonde stuttered. “I’ll see if my roommate is up for it.” 

“You have a roommate?” Jag frowned. “I didn’t think rooming was protocol even for the contractors.” 

“I-I m-mean she’s letting me stay with her until I get my own room.” Emma explained, eyes wide. “I only got here last night so no one has had time to give me a room yet.” She paused for a beat, her expression changing and Jag couldn’t help but  be reminded of a young animal that had braved the outside world for too long and now wished to retreat to the confines of her den. “I should get going. I said I would meet my friend back on the third floor.” 

Jag felt the sudden urge to reach out and encircle the human in his arms. The desire to hold her and not let her out of his sight until she was saturated in his scent was almost impossible to ignore. His fingers twitched, the muscles of his arms flexing as he fought against the primal urge to claim. Somehow he managed to prevent himself from doing anything rash. He needed to speak with the others first after all.

“Do you need us to walk you back?” Sid offered. 

“Oh no, I’ll be okay.” Emma smiled nervously, taking a step back as she raised her hand to give a soft wave goodbye. “It was nice meeting you all.” 

All three soldiers were silent as they watched the human female walk away. It was only when she was no longer in sight that anyone moved. It was Kal who looked away first, his golden eyes glowing as he turned to his friends. 

“You sensed that, right?” Kal finally asked and yet it was obvious he already knew the answer. 

Jag and Sid both nodded, glancing at each other before looking to Kal once more who was smiling in triumph. Jag couldn’t blame Kal for being excited but he refused to let himself get his own hopes up. Indeed, they had all sensed the Isis gene within Emma. That in itself wasn’t the unusual part. Draygonian males were capable of figuring out which female held the gene eventually however, to recognise it so quickly and with such strength could only mean one thing. 

Emma wasn’t just a compatible female. She was their compatible female. 

“How’d it go?” 

Camille looked up from the book she was reading when she heard the familiar voice of her pink haired friend. Sure enough, Charlotte was leant against the doorframe of the locker room, the dark metal of her piercings glimmering in the artificial light and her hair pulled haphazardly into a bun. Charlotte had looked like she had barely rolled out of bed when they entered the Ark that morning but now she looked like she had rolled out of bed straight into a bush. 

"Fine " Camille answered as she closed her book. "What happened to you?" 

"What'd ya mean?" 

Camille regarded Charlotte for a moment surprised by the look of confusion on her face. Was this purely from working? If so, what exactly were the cleaners doing to come out looking like...well, that? 

"Nevermind. Shall we go?" Camille asked, standing up. 

"Let me just get changed but don't get any ideas about moping on the couch when we get in, I have a surprise for you." Charlotte grinned, wiggling her eyebrows before dashing away to the changing rooms. 

With Charlotte changed and looking much less bedraggled, they headed back to the apartment. It had only been a few hours but it felt like they had been inside all day. Camille found herself going over everything that happened, even her encounter with three Draygonians, each as handsome as the next but in different ways. It was surprising. She had seen plenty of images of the visitors to know they were a beautiful species so why had these three stuck out to her the most? Just thinking about those amber eyes that glowed against smooth skin of varying shades of blue had Camille's heart rate quickening. 

"So did you meet anyone besides Heather?" Charlotte asked as they waited to be let out of the ark. 

"Donnie." Camille nodded. "And someone called Kal."


Camille nodded. "He's a...a Draygonian. A lieutenant I think." 

"Oh Kal!" Charlotte's face brightened with realisation before she smiled. "I know Kal, he's really cool and so is his friend Sid. Bit of a player that one though which is probably better than what their other friend, Jag, is." 

"And what's that?" 

"An asshole." Charlotte huffed. "All the cleaners hate him. He's rude and no one likes cleaning his office because he just snaps at them until they leave without finishing and then has the audacity to complain." 

Camille frowned. While she didn't want to admit it, Jag had been gruff with her over something that wasn't really his business. She just hoped that she did get tasked with cleaning his office. She really could do without another man yelling at her for no reason. 

The apartment was unsurprisingly exactly as they had left it but Charlotte seemed unworried about tidying up. Instead she insisted Camille have something to eat before ushering her out the door. They were in the small apartment for less than half an hour before Camille found herself walking the streets of New York. The sun was warm against what skin Camille dared to expose but with it still being spring, the shadows of buildings and billboards were considerably cooler. Charlotte was tight-lipped about where they were going. She constantly changed the subject until Camille gave up. It was only when they were standing outside of a clothes store that Charlotte finally told Camille what they were doing even if by this point it was pretty obvious. 

"Shopping?" Camille frowned. "Charlotte I have next to no money."

"I know but this is my treat." Charlotte replied before sighing. "Mills, come on. You literally have nothing. When was the last time someone bought you something you wanted to wear?" 

Camille hated that Charlotte had a point. It had been a long time since someone bought her something she wanted. Nathan didn't deprive her exactly. She was his prized trophy girlfriend after all so he made sure she looked the part but that was the point. Nathan chose what she wore and when. The few articles of clothing she had brought with her had been things she wore when she wasn't being paraded around like a piece of meat. Even then, they were hardly appropriate even for a cleaning job. 

Charlotte let out a squeal of excitement and triumph when she saw Camille's resolve crumble. Before the blonde could back out, Charlotte had grabbed her by the hand and was dragging her into the store. 

Luckily Charlotte allowed Camille some creative freedom in choosing her own clothes. She made sure she had the essentials like socks, underwear, t-shirts and another pair of jeans but Charlotte was quick to add some leggings and sports tops to the mix making Camille's eyebrow quirk upwards in suspicion while guilt coiled in her belly. She had already decided she was going to pay Charlotte back for everything she was buying but Charlotte seemed intent on buying the store out. Sure it was all reasonably priced but there had to be at least $100 worth of stuff in the giant tote shopping basket and they only had cleaning jobs…

"I have a surprise." Charlotte suddenly appeared from behind a rack of summer dresses that Camille had been trying hard not to eye up. 

"A surprise?" Camille repeated as a question. 

"Mhm!" Her friend nodded her head quickly with excitement before whipping one arm out from behind and holding up a pair of gloves. "Tada!" 

These weren't just any type of gloves though or rather, they weren't designed to keep someone's hands warm on a cold winter's day but rather designed to protect someone's knuckles when repeatedly hitting something. 

"Sparring gloves?" 

"For the classes I signed us both up for." Charlotte smiled sheepishly. "They're self defence classes...kind of. I mean Jujutsu is a kind of self defence. It's about stopping your attacker and protecting yourself, right? Anyway there are these classes for women only and I just figured..."

"Jujutsu?" Camille cut Charlotte off mid rant. "Char, it's been like four years since I did that stuff. I don't think I could do it anymore." 

"Sure you can." Charlotte argued. "Besides it's a beginners class and I think it would be good for you to have something to do besides sleep and work. You used to love Jujutsu. Come on, it will be great." 

Back when they were kids, going to Jujutsu classes had been one of the few things Charlotte and Camille had been allowed to do. Being foster kids meant they didn't get much in the way of extra curricular activities (unless you included shoplifting and weed). The teachers of the classes had felt bad that the girls couldn’t pay after the free trials so had come up with an agreement that they could attend the class but had to help set up and put everything back afterwards. It was more than a fair deal and Camille and Charlotte had loved going. They never missed a class in the three years they attended. 

And then Nathan turned up and Charlotte left for New York. 

Camille sighed in defeat. “I’ll think about it but I’m not making any promises.” 

Charlotte grinned, willing to take that for an answer for the time being. “Great. Okay one more thing…” 

Camille could help but feel exasperated but quickly recovered when Charlotte held up a set of wristbands. They weren’t the awful elastic ones from the eighties but rather loops of thin leather donned with beads made of rose quartz and jasper. There was a simple macrame fastening that allowed the wearer to tighten and loosen them with ease while being light enough and snug enough to be able move freely while not catching them on things. 

“I know you’re self-conscious about the scars on your wrists.” Charlotte gave a tentative smile. “And they will fade but until then, you could use these to cover them up.” 

Camille felt her throat tightened with emotion, her eyes welling with tears. She was touched by the gesture and could only manage a nod before taking the bracelets from Charlotte and giving her a hug. 

“No sweat.” Charlotte murmured in response to Camille’s gesture of thanks. “Now come on, let’s get this paid for and go get a coffee.” 

Camille smiled and let her friend lead her to the cash register, practically dragging the shopping basket behind her.

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