I had the run of the house and any facilities So'Kath could offer, except for his workshop. He was actually a merchant, but liked to craft things in his spare time. Two sculptures and a sand piece in my chamber were of his crafting.
I had large amounts of time which I used to improve my Earther language skills. I watched their vids and practiced my speech. It would be useful to know when dealing with them once I had a freighter. Earther was becoming the standard language of diplomacy, overtaking Interlac. It was strange - I should have been more bound up with my grief for Na'Tal, but this lodging brought comfort. So'Kath looked after my every need and his presence filled a little of the gap left by Na'Tal. In his house, I rarely felt alone.
So'Kath had brought home a human puzzle for us to work on. He called it a three dimensional jigsaw. It had small pieces that fitted together in arrays that formed three dimensional structures. Every night we pieced some more of it together. I was better at it than he - I seemed to have a better grip of spatial problems. It was something that he deliberately set aside time for before bed. It was a time to talk. It was a time that I enjoyed and looked forward to. Occasionally So'Kath would be away on business, but most nights we shared time and jala and talk. Then So'Kath would most courteously wish me pleasant dreams and go to bed.
Some days he would practise my fighting with me. At first it was so very painful - this had been something that Na'Tal and I had shared - but I slowly relaxed and learned points of technique from So'Kath. He also instructed me in the following of G'Quan. He gave me so much and was so very kind to me. I never knew what he saw in a bedraggled Outcast or why he took me in, but I was grateful.
I had spent about standard two months there when I reached a point of terminal boredom. So'Kath was in his workshop and I wanted to see what he worked on. He didn't hear me enter - I can walk very quietly if I choose, which is another legacy of an active childhood and violent brothers. I crept up on him and spied upon his work.
He was working on a clay sculpture To one side of him were two paintings - one of a ragged but beautiful female surrounded by images of chaos, the other a scene of serenity reflected in a bowl carried by the same female, now beautifully dressed in ceremonial robes. I never knew he was capable of creating such beauty. A sigh escaped me.
So'Kath swung around. "What are you doing in here! I told you never to enter!" For the first time in all the time I'd been here he looked angry with me. Furious, in fact. I have to admit I was somewhat frightened by his demeanour. He is a big male, taller and stronger than me, and I am by no means a pouchling in size. He towered over me in his fury. But I wanted to see his art-in-progress so much.
If I dropped my head, I could see the sculpture. I bowed my head and apologised profusely. I peeked under my eye ridges at the sculpture whilst holding a position of submission. I truly did not want to make him violently angry. I had seen what he had done to those overly persistent suitors of mine. He was a master fighter and my skills would not hold him off. But I did so want to see the sculpture.
Despite his annoyance with me, he was gentle as he shoved me out the door. He gripped my trembling shoulders and held me at arm's length. His eyes glared deep into mine, transfixing me. "Please do not come in here again." It was an order, not a request. I bowed deeply in submission and his expression softened. He looked at me strangely and caressed my jaw, then shut the door against me.
I had much food for thought as I waited for my muscles to release and stop trembling in preparation for quick action. Unfinished as it was, the sculpture had looked familiar somehow. It was of a female and her head was thrown up proudly. I was pretty sure that the same female was in the painting.
I didn't understand why So'Kath had picked me out of the gutter and brought me back to his house. It was certainly greatly shameful to be seen with one of the Outcast. He had not laid a hand on me, except for this afternoon, and had been perfectly civil in all our dealings. He had entertained me and provided for me. He had shown me a lot of things that I would have to consider if I went into business for myself and had recently begun to bring me into his business dealings, seemingly training me. Even when he was angry with me, he still treated me with respect. He was what the Earthers would call a gentleman and a philanthropist (I had watched a great number of Earther vids, including some archaic ones from their 20th century). He had never tried to bed me, unlike every other male I had ever met. Very peculiar.
I practised my Then'Sha'Tur in the back gardens. In commencing training again, it seemed that maybe I was getting myself back. I was still a hollow vessel, but at least someone seemed to care about me and I, I was beginning to care about life again.
As I finished my exercises, I caught sight of a reflection of myself. It reminded me of something.
At dinner and afterwards, So'Kath seemed edgy or disturbed somehow. He was not concentrating very well and three times tried to put the same wrong piece in the same gap in the jigsaw. He also studiously avoided those accidental touches when two hands reach for the same piece. Eventually, he excused himself early and went to bed. I continued working on the jigsaw a while longer, then abluted and changed for bed. It was strange for So'Kath to behave so oddly - he normally was so calm. I hoped that my behaviour had not disturbed him, though it could have been an important business dealing that made him so jumpy.
I could hear that So'Kath was still awake by the strains of music emanating from his room. He was listening to an opera - he has quite cultured tastes. This was another tragedy. He was fond of tragedies, or maybe it is just what operas are about. Either way, I am not sure. The leads sang of unrequited love, love unseen. Beautiful female, many lovers but not this poor ugly male...he tried many things to impress her but she did not see him, or so he thought. The last pieces of a different puzzle fell together in my mind. Only Na'Tal, and maybe one other, would be capable of perceiving the secret smile on my face.
I pushed the door to So'Kath's room open and entered without knocking. He was lying on his back on his bed. He looked absolutely exhausted. His eyes darkened as he turned to look at me. I put my fingers to my mouth to stop him saying anything. Maybe he could see the secret smile on my face. I hoped that he could.
"I know who that female is," I said as I approached his bed. Then standing to my full height, I turned so that I mimicked the proud pose of the sculpture in his workroom. I dropped my sleeping gown to the ground. His eyes widened. "Dream no longer." I sat beside him, laid my hand along his strong, beautiful jaw. His eyes now glimmered in the dim candle-light and he at last reached for me.
Oh he was gentle and reverent at first, but I wanted more, so much more than gentle and reverent. I goaded him and teased him into a frenzy. Not many males were capable of matching me - that was one reason for trying so many and being drunk whilst I tried them - but I finally had found one who could. I'll never forget that first lovemaking, so violent and passionate.
Those few months with So'Kath were the happiest I've been in all the time since Na'Tal died, and it has been well over three years now. Even as the first anniversary of Na'Tal's death approached, I remained relatively happy. Still, there was hardly a moment when I did not miss him. I had tried drugs to fill that emptiness, and drink, but these had not made any difference, except to empty my pockets and keep me Outcast. I had always thought the old tragedies terribly melodramatic, and now look at my life. So'Kath gave me back something of that which Na'Tal took when he died. Not all of that which I had lost - noone could replace Na'Tal - but there was a new something that could lead me to a different future. Maybe even give me a future much brighter and longer than the one I had believed I would face alone.
So'Kath saw my preparations for the rituals. I hadn't told him much about my past. It was bad enough carrying this grief without baring it to another, even someone that I was coming to love almost as I had my brother. He deserved an explanation, but I didn't know if I could give him one. He had been good and gentle and kind to me, and had asked nothing in return. I had to give him something in return. More than my body, more than my love. I had to trust him.