Noni crouched down and touched the purple boy's limp hands. The feline slowly lifted his head and stared vacantly.
Noni whispered something intently and ran his hand up one purple arm. Something flickered in the newcomer's slit eyes and he slowly turned his hand to entwine their fingers.
Noni turned eagerly towards Finn and made a beckoning gesture.
Finn stood and took a cautious step forward. His uneasiness kept growing and he couldn't shake the feeling. Was it the Ytra's earlier aggression? Or was it something different?
Noni waved him over a second time - a frown of confusion marring his delicate brow.
Finn approached them reluctantly, and Noni smiled up at him, before cupping the purple boy's jaw.
"I'm Noni. What's your name?" The feline purred.
The newcomer blinked hard a few times and his grey pupils sharpened.
"Liler." He whispered.
Noni's responding smile lit up the room and he nudged their cheeks together.
"I'm going to get you some water, Liler. Finn will stay with you - he's a friend." Noni jumped up and ran towards the water dispenser.
Finn shuffled uncertainly. He did not want to sit beside the purple boy, but without a definitive reason he couldn't justify his behavior. He sat slowly and watched those drooping white ears.
Liler's lavender waves were lightly mussed and his heavy lashes shielded his eyes. His body language spoke only of exhaustion and Finn felt a moment of shame.
"Hi." He said softly.
The feline's ear twitched, and that pointed chin lifted, until icy orbs pierced Finn. The Human tensed and the hair rose on the back of his neck.
"You." Liler hissed. "You didn't fight. Didn't resist. You just laid there. Like prey."
Finn's heart stuttered and he leaned back from the Ytra.
"Why?" Liler's voice was barely audible, but his eyes burned a cold flame. "Don't you have any pride? Any loyalty?"
Finn felt his palms go damp and he curled his fingers tight.
"Loyalty?" He asked quietly. What was Liler referring to? His planet? His family? "I didn't fight, because I couldn't win."
That cold stare narrowed and Liler placed one claw tipped hand on the mattress.
"What about your pack? Your alpha?" His white tail swept up, and curled for balance, as Liler crawled closer.
Finn's pulse beat hard in his throat and he turned for any sign of Noni. The black haired feline was arguing with a few of the Kua, who blocked the water dispenser.
Long fingers curled around his throat and he looked up into Liler's slit eyes.
The feline straddled him in a gesture similar to Noni - only where Noni's touch was comforting; this was restrictive. Liler's build made him appear smaller from afar, but he was a full head taller than Finn.
Sharp claws pressed against his skin and Finn kept very still.
"So if your opponent is stronger, you won't resist?" Liler asked, white tail beating steadily against the floor. "You'll just take it. Like a worm."
"Let go of me." Finn grit, struggling to keep his eyes locked on that contemptuous gaze.
Liler bared his teeth, revealing needle-sharp fangs and a gasp sounded. Out of the corner of his eye Finn saw Noni place a cup on the floor. Then the black haired feline was on all fours and he slinked around them - movements fluid and cautious.
Liler snarled, legs tightening around Finn, and the Human winced.
Noni flattened his ears sideways and pressed his tail against the mattress. He produced a small yip and cautiously rubbed his head against Liler's shoulder.
Liler growled and his tail lashed the air, icy gaze still fixed on Finn.
"Lower your eyes." Noni whispered, between more purring yips.
The feline's scathing comments still stung and, briefly, Finn was tempted to ignore Noni. He took a small breath and let his gaze drop to Liler's collarbone.
"Now show your throat." Noni breathed.
The brunet swallowed hard and felt those claws tighten a fraction against the motion.
Ever so slowly, he let his head fall back. Liler pushed against him, until Finn lay flat on his back, eyes fixing on a blue pillow beside them.
Warm skin pressed against his chest and Liler's breath ghosted over his ear.
"Pathetic." The Ytra hissed, and Finn clenched his jaw tight.
The claws retracted and Liler's weight lifted. Finn made to sit up, but Noni's hand pressed against his shoulder; keeping him still. He looked up and met the black haired feline's unreadable gaze.
"Just a little longer." Noni murmured, and Finn stayed down. Finally, the small hand lifted and he sat up slowly.
Noni moved carefully to Liler's side and passed him the cup. Liler drank, wrinkling his nose at the taste and Noni smiled, whispering something. The purple feline gave the tiniest smile in return and Noni surged forward, butting their heads together.
In the next instant both felines curled around each other and Noni tucked his head beneath Liler's chin with a blissful expression.
Finn quietly got to his feet and moved away. He found a solitary corner on the opposite side of the hall and felt an absurd burning in his eyes. He forced the tears down and leaned back, closing his eyes.
"Exhausting aren't they?" A voice spoke and Finn opened his eyes to see Anargi's black orbs watching him.
The boy's grey skin and white hair gave the impression he was leached of color and his sharp teeth had Finn's skin prickling.
Anargi didn't seem discouraged by Finn's silence and he folded his thin limbs onto a deep green pillow.
"The Ytra live in packs." The white haired boy continued. "I believe the new one is from the south and Noni is from the north, but their hierarchy is similar. Overly emotional creatures that show violence one minute and kindness the next." He cast a meaningful look towards the entwined pair and Finn thought he saw Noni's blue eyes look towards him.
He dropped his gaze. He was still trying to process what happened and craved solitude.
"And what of your kind, Finn?" Anargi asked lightly, curling his spindly legs to face the Human more directly. "Was the little Ytra correct? Do you crave affection like they do, or are you more solitary creatures, like mine?"
Finn knew his silence was becoming downright rude and he reluctantly faced the white haired boy.
"I suppose we can be both." He answered slowly. "Some of us are social, others prefer to be alone. Most people are a mix of the two." He frowned as he spoke. He wasn't well versed in psychology and hadn't given it much thought.
Anargi leaned his head against the wall, snowy hair parting to reveal a spindly grey neck.
"And which are you?"
"Somewhere in the middle, I guess. I like people, but I was always better at interacting with animals." Finn answered.
"Animals?" Anargi smiled and slanted another look towards the Ytra. "And why do you think that is?"
Finn shrugged and stared at his hands. He wanted nothing more than solitude just then.
"Maybe because I'm not good with words." He said. "Animals can read you and they're honest..." he trailed off.
A grey hand folded around his fingers and Finn jolted at the sight of long, black claws.
He looked up into those liquid black eyes, white dots glowing eerily in their centers.
"Are you afraid of me?" Anargi asked softly.
"Yes." Finn answered instantly and Anargi flashed him a tight-lipped smile. It was difficult to read his foreign features, but it seemed to have a wry tilt to it.
"Most creatures are." Anargi said, hand still curled around Finn's. "My kind are predators. We hunt in the night and sleep by the day. We are very difficult to catch."
"How did they catch you?" Finn breathed, heart-rate rising.
Anargi's thin nostrils flared, as if he could scent the Human's fear.
"The same way they caught you, I'm sure." Anargi shook his head, white hair swishing softly. "I am young and curious. I strayed too far from the safety of the dark and here I am."
He watched Finn a moment longer, eyes traveling over his face lazily. The Human carefully made to move his hand, but Anargi tightened his grip a fraction.
"I won't hurt you, you know." Anargi said. "This place changes you. I woke up and my appetite for flesh was less. The urge to hunt is gone. Now all I'm left with is boredom and curiosity."
Finn's breath expelled in a rush he hadn't been aware he was holding.
"That's a relief." He said simply and Anargi's lethal grin made him blanch.
The food chime sounded and they both looked towards the doors.
Anargi stood, and stretched his long limbs leisurely, then looked down at the Finn. "Let's go, while the food is fresh."
Finn stood and joined the queue of early birds. He reached the front relatively quickly and selected his meal with care. Anargi chose only the live options and stacked his plate with wiggling, or twitching, specimens. Finn's stomach quelled at the sight.
"We'll sit in the corner." The grey skinned boy seemed to assume they were dining buddies now and Finn could think of no polite way to refuse. He sat.
Anargi ate with brisk efficiency, his meal sometimes squeaking or making him chase it around the plate. The brunet only made it through a portion of vegetables, before he had to push his plate away.
"Does my meal bother you?" Anargi asked, stabbing into his final offering and finishing it in one gulp.
"Yes." Finn answered, gaze fixed on the floor to keep his roiling stomach in check.
Anargi laughed, melodic voice completely at odds with his bloody teeth.
"I like my meal fresh. Perhaps you'd have a taste for it if you tried." He mused and Finn shuddered.
The second tray of the sweet and salty drink arrived and Anargi sighed.
"I'll fetch us some of that swill." The grey skinned boy said and stood gracefully.
He was back a short while later and passed Finn a cup.
"Do you know what's in this?" Finn asked, when he'd finished it.
Anargi had downed his cup, in three loud gulps, and was coughing into his elbow.
"It's..." the white haired boy coughed a few more times and cleared his throat, "It's probably what keeps us dull. I tried to skip it once and they forced it down my throat."
Finn blinked and considered his cup.
"Do you know what they want from us?" He asked and gathered their plates.
Anargi gave a liquid shrug and placed the cups onto the plates.
"I'm guessing they'll sell us." The white haired alien stood and placed his items on the table and Finn did the same.
"Sell us? Why?" Finn asked and Anargi quirked a fine, white brow at him.
"For sexual purposes, entertainment, or labor." The grey skinned boy settled back onto the mattress and yawned, stretching his thin body, before curling on his side.
Finn stared at him in horror.
Anargi opened his black eyes and pillowed his head on his arm.
"Don't be naive." He murmured, watching Finn with dark amusement.
Finn shook his head and stared at his hands resting limp in his lap. Would he be sold to some alien as a slave? Alien trafficking. He couldn't wrap his mind around it.
The drink seemed to be having its effect and his eyes started to droop.
"Lie down." Anargi instructed softly and Finn did so, resting on his side, and struggling to keep his mind clear.
Cold fingertips brushed over his face and he blinked at Anargi in surprise. The alien quirked a smile at him.
"I want to touch your hair." Anargi said quietly and Finn found himself nodding, even though it wasn't a question.
Black claws ran over his scalp and the Human shivered.
Anargi watched him with hooded eyes, white lashes partially eclipsing the black. His mouth was surprisingly plump - dark grey with a pronounced cupid bow and a full lower lip. He was attractive, in a nightmarish way.
Finn struggled to make sense of that description and Anargi chuckled.
"You like this." The grey alien murmured and Finn closed his eyes in agreement.
Those deadly claws kept stroking and the pressure felt good. He slept.
Finn woke to Anargi's startling face and battled an immediate urge to recoil.
White lashes rested against the boy's sharp cheeks and his grey mouth was slightly open, revealing the faintest tips of his shark-like teeth. His fine white hair pooled beneath him and his clawed hands were gently curled in sleep.
He looked up at the tentative voice and saw Noni sitting close by. The feline's ears were drooping and his tail was curled around his legs.
"Why didn't you stay with us yesterday? Don't you like me anymore?" Noni's large blue eyes were wary.
Finn's heart beat faster and he sat up slowly, brushing the curls from his face.
"I like you, Noni. But I don't think me and Liler will get along." He replied carefully.
Noni's eyes narrowed slightly.
"Are you asking me to choose between you and my own kind?" The Ytra hissed.
Finn blinked in surprise at the hostile reaction.
"No." He said quietly and Noni searched his face intently.
"Yes, you are!" The feline countered.
Finn brushed his damp palms over his thighs and suddenly doubted his own words. Was he?
"I don't want you to choose. If you want to be my friend still, I'd like that." Finn finally said.
Noni's eyes were slitted and his tail started to swish.
"You challenged him." He spat.
The Human frowned and shook his head in denial.
"I had to tell you to show submission and he let you go. If you acknowledge him as alpha, he won't attack you." Noni continued, voice becoming earnest and ears swivelling forward.
Finn stared in disbelief. The feline wanted Finn to endure bullying, and harassment, for his sake?
"No." He said quietly.
Noni's ears swept down again.
"No?" The black haired boy repeated in a small voice.
"No." Finn repeated.
Noni's eyes filled, even as they hardened.
"You have no loyalty!" The feline snarled and spun on his heel to storm away.
Finn's heart pounded and he took a deep breath to steady himself. When he looked down he saw Anargi's eyes were open and watching him.
"They're so dramatic." Anargi said softly and reached out a clawed hand to brush down Finn's arm. "But I think you might have misunderstood each other."
Finn blinked at those unfathomable eyes.
"How so?" He asked.
Anargi gave another of those liquid shrugs and rose to his feet. He ran his claws through his long hair and smiled at Finn.
"I could be wrong. So I won't confuse you further. Let's go to the showers."
To be continued...