Stirring from his slumber, Theodore awoke with a soft yawn and the stretching and curling of his fingers.
“Finally awake, kitten?” a gentle voice hummed, accompanying a warm head rub. He was in a bed smelling of chocolates and alarmingly naked. Theodore felt a little heavy and was in no rush to get up. The fingers working their way gently through his hair felt far too nice. “You were out for two days. Even your shapeshifter genes struggled to chase away the poison.”
Poison? Did Boss inject something into him again? Theo sat up, and with the back of his hand, he rubbed his eyes. Urgh. He felt stiff. Was he really asleep for two days?
When he opened his eyes, he was greeted by Boss’ concerned expression. The worry quickly washed away, and that charming grin and playful glint in his deep brown eyes sent shivers down Theo’ spine.
“Cold?” Boss asked, touching the side of Theo’s face and making them lock eyes again. His hand was soft, and he resisted the temptation to nuzzle against it. The werecat knew Boss felt the heat in his cheeks.
“If I said yes, you wouldn’t believe me,” Theodore muttered, pulling his face back. Escape was futile. Boss leaned into him. Their lips brushed against each other, but Boss settled for a kiss on the cheek. A wave of relief washed over him.
“Of course, I would believe you. I’d even give you the robe off my shoulders.” Allowing his hand to fall into his own lap, Boss gave Theodore some space. They stared at each other for a few moments. Theo wriggled nervously in his spot while Boss’ smile widened.
“Why are you nervous, kitten?” Boss chuckled as he threw off the covers and scooted out of bed. He stretched, allowed the robe to fall off his shoulders, and continued toward the open balcony.
“I was the one worried they killed you.” Boss looked back at him. He sounded sad, but the laughter remained in his eyes. “Palindrome subverted my expectations. I am unaware if any of them are actually human.”
The memories came flooding back to him. Thinking about how many people pointlessly lost their lives two days ago, the werecat lowered his gaze. The men, women, and enbies he simply left to die…He bit his lower lip and furrowed his brow.
Theodore pulled away the sheet to inspect his left leg. It was discolored from the usual brown and slightly puffy, but he had movement. In the private company of Boss, he didn’t have to worry about restraining himself. He partially transformed into a snow leopard. The embedded bracelets reminded him of his limits.
“Did you know?” Theodore growled, opening and closing his paw-like hands. Despite being larger than normal and covered with short, light grey fur, they remained fairly human. He couldn’t phase any further without risking severing his wrists.
“Hm?” Boss barely flinched when the werecat stalked towards him.
“Your plan was reckless! Your men died. Does that mean nothing to you?” Theodore towered over the man. As tempting as it was to kill Boss, that would be too easy. Boss had done far worse things than senselessly offing more than fifty of his men.
“It wasn’t my plan. Somebody, a group, thought they could impress me if they took initiative against the enemy. I only instructed them to save you. As much as they are expendable, I prefer avoiding the hassle of finding replacements,” Boss explained. He looked up at Theodore with a saddened smile.
Theodore scowled. He hated that he was agitated. Gang wars was part of this life. Boss could control only so much. Turning away and clenching his fists, Theo asked, “Why didn’t you stop them?”
“My message was delivered, but it was not obeyed. I instructed them to turn the airship around, but they assumed two strikes against me was enough to act on their own.” The werecat stiffened feeling Boss’ face against his back.
“I know a handful of the transgressors were eaten by a monstrosity, and I’ve killed the rest. You focus on recovering. I’ll have people look into Palindrome.” Theodore involuntarily felt calmer. Was it the warmth of Boss’ breath on his back or the scent of dark chocolate in the air? Was it the familiarity of his embrace which was known to stop his mental breakdowns? Would investigating Palindrome really put him at ease?
Boss continued, "Have no worries, kitten. Once we understand the enemy, we will rupture and corrupt them until it pains them to breathe. We’ll enact the Rift vengeance you seek.”