Chapter Eight: Nootau
Tag, You're It
The arms entangling him didn't help his motivation to leave the bed either. Warmth radiated all around Nootau. Aegeus’ humming filled the air, making Nootau smile. The guy loved to hum. Nootau couldn't remember the last time he felt so content, so safe, or so relaxed. Not with complete strangers.
Aegeus squeezed Nootau closer, the crest on Aegeus’ forehead pressing against his neck. A hand curved around his side and went down his abs, heading straight for his groin. Nootau laughed and grabbed the hand.
"You may not want to do that."
Aegeus chuckled and tried to keep going. "I'm pretty sure I do."
"I got to take a piss."
The hand stopped. "Okay, maybe I don't."
"So nice of you."
"My pleasure." Aegeus hugged Nootau again then rolled away. He sat up, scratched his belly, and offered his hand to Nootau.
Aegeus pulled Nootau up and gave him a kiss. "Hurry back to bed."
"I'll see what I can do."
After a quick shuffle toward the bathroom, Nootau backtracked to his pack. He yanked out his toothbrush and toothpaste, toppling the bag over. It thumped but he'd get it on the way back to bed.
Using his foot, Nootau shut the door behind him while putting the toothpaste on his brush and shoving it in his mouth. He stood at the toilet and relaxed, brushing his teeth as he pissed. The stream flowed as he got the morning crud out of his mouth. Nootau leaned over the sink and spit, gave himself a little wiggle, then moved in front of the mirror.
As he rinsed out his mouth, Nootau checked himself out and washed his hands. His hair went every which way, a bird's knot on one side, and hickies covered his neck, chest and back. Those two certainly liked to suck—and boy, could they suck. Gods. Out of the corner of his eye, Nootau noticed a brush on the shelf over the toilet and he grabbed it, soothing out the snarl. Some scruff covered his face, but not much. Not nearly as much as Aegeus had.
Nootau considered shaving anyway—he wanted to look nice for the pair—but he hadn't brought in his razor.
I can duck out and grab it.
The moment he stepped out of the bathroom though, all the warm fuzzy contentment fled from him.
Aegeus and Edwige stood next to his fallen pack. In their hands was Ahanu's box. They were running their hands over the carvings and talking quietly to each other. Stunned only momentarily, Nootau's anger took over.
"What are you doing?" Nootau rushed over to them.
"Give that back!" He shouted and grabbed the box. "How could you go through my stuff?"
Nootau shoved Aegeus away and bent over his pack, putting the box back in and his shirts over it.
"We didn't go through your stuff," Edwige said.
"Sure you didn't."
"We heard the bag fall over and were just trying to pick your stuff up for you," she continued.
Edwige grabbed his arm. "We were just picking up for you."
Nootau stopped, breathing heavy, wound too tight like a straining violin string. When would he break?
"That's..." She paused. "A unique box."
He hunched over his bag, his eyes shut tight. Even if he tried to talk, Nootau doubted he could get anything out. He shook with frustration. A hum, most likely Aegeus, filled the room. Edwige's hand stroked Nootau's arm. The touch tender, affectionate. Much like all the ones she gave him throughout the night. But what did it mean?
Edwige cuddled closer. "I think we've shown we like you."
Yeah, they had.
"We had a good time together."
That too, but that didn't mean anything.
"We heard the noise and checked on it. When we saw the pack toppled over all we did was pick it up."
"We didn't mean any harm."
Had they caused any? Really any at all? No, but Nootau still struggled with the idea of them being completely innocent in the matter. Not when their paws were on Ahanu's box.
Most people wouldn't know these carvings were different than most. These were special. Not many people could recognize most of them. Not unless they were taught to read them, or avid chasers. The pair hadn't come off as chasers. All she had said was "unique." No, Edwige and Aegeus couldn't know what the markings meant. He must've overreacted, that was all.
"Sorry," Nootau said finally. He opened his eyes and looked at Edwige. "I didn't mean to be so snappy. Must have not gotten enough sleep. A couple somebodies kept me busy all night."
He tried smiling, but nothing came. He was just too raw. Too much had happened in such a short time. Neither of the pair looked convinced he had a bad case of sleep deprivation. Alarm still blared inside his head, despite Nootau's attempts to push it back. Aegeus' nervous humming grated against him, pushing and agitating Nootau as he stood and started pacing.
The pair watched him with twin expressions of concern. Nootau almost laughed. How alike were they? Their openness, their kindness had almost been painful. Then all he wanted to do was greedily suck it up.
"I'm sorry. I just—" What? Didn't trust anyone? Not after everything that happened. These two, though, they had been so heartbreakingly sincere. "I lost someone I cared about recently. Someone who I was close to. The box is from him."
Edwige stepped into his path. "We're so sorry."
"It was an... unexpected death, so it has me a little lost as to what to do next." Nootau waved toward his bag. "I'm trying to fulfill his last request."
Aegeus and Edwige shared a look that communicated a thousand words. Her bright hazel gaze turned on him—determined and holding a familiar expression. One Nootau hated. One he didn't want either of them to ever have. Why couldn't they have been able to leave things where they were when they got up this morning? Fun. Playful. Without fear.
"Nootau," Edwige said quietly. "Are you a walker? An unregistered walker?"