Fantastic art by the fantastic Sixelona, who’s one of my favorite readers.
Gorish leaned over the picture of himself. His suction-cup fingertips tapped out a rhythm, as if he were leaving kisses all around the edges of the paper.
“It’s a lovely rendition,” said Aakesh, absolutely dead-pan.
Harry flexed his fingers. “How’d she get those colors?”
“Would you like to know? Perhaps you should ask her,” suggested Aakesh, just as simply, just as straight.
Harry hunched, turning away slightly as if reminded of something painful. “I dunno. I haven’t spoken to another human in a long time.”
“I will even give you clothes,” Aakesh offered with a sing-song promise.
Harry looked at him the way a well-fed but always-hungry college student might look if his uncle offered him a dollar to memorize a sonnet.
All the Sundered looked up, riveted, feeling that laugh more than hearing it, and suddenly, they all laughed, too.
Harry scowled down at the picture. “Glad you all find it so funny.”
“Harry, Harry.” Aakesh smiled with teeth showing (something he did more rarely than laughing) and gestured at the page with such grace. “You know by now that no harm will come to you. Do you wish to learn to use such colors?”
The look on Harry’s face now resembled nothing so coddled or expectant as simple hunger. That was need, raw and untarnished, as rough as an uncut diamond and so heavy it seemed to lengthen him from eye to jaw. “Yeah.”
“Then Gorish will ask. I do not doubt she will agree.”
“Yeah.” Harry wrinkled his nose. “What kind of a name is Sixelona, anyway? Six Elonas? What’s an Elona?”
Aakesh smiled his usual closed smile, tight and cool. “That, dear Harry, is not important.”
Gorish planted fingertip kisses right on the drawn figure’s belly. “Hugs time,” he whispered, and held the artwork carefully as if it meant the world.