Flint remembered the fear.

He was adrift in a dark haze, a flurry of images flickering through his vision, all of them tainted by that sick fear. In time, he focused enough to remember more clearly. The invasion alert. The desperate battle. The lurch of his bomber as it took damage; the blare of alarms as systems failed. Sudden inspiration and one last, desperate plan, keyed into the autopilot. He’d committed the program, hit the eject button, and then…

Then the world had turned to fire.

But he was breathing now – not with the soft hiss of life-support filters, but open air. There was something against his body, far softer than his flight suit and cockpit seat. All was dark, but soft beeps told him he was in an infirmary. He opened his eyes.

Everything was still dark.

Fighting a sudden surge of fresh panic, he tried to reach up to feel for something in front of his eyes, but his arm did not answer to his will. He couldn’t feel anything with it.

His resolve shredded, and that mounting panic started to take hold.

“Commander!” An urgent voice, female, unfamiliar. Booted feet, hurrying closer.

Then a hand on his brow. Warm, gentle, real. “Easy, Flint. You’re safe. You’re in a bad way, but you’re stable.”

That voice – masculine. Soft and soothing. That voice was familiar.

He licked his lips. “Drevin?” His voice was cracked and weak, but that at least did what he wanted to.

“Yes, Flint, it’s me. You’re safe – all of us are safe. Just try to relax.”

The other voice was saying something, soft and technical and beyond his understanding at the moment. There was a touch to his right hand, something shifting there – a needle in the back of it? But that uncomfortable sensation at least told him that that hand was still there. When he strained to shift his fingers, they curled against the sheets.

What that said about his unresponsive left hand was something he didn’t want to think about, but the conclusion was inescapable.

He tried to escape it anyway. “Drevin – the invasion…”

“It’s over,” Drevin soothed. “Repulsed. We bought enough time for the Navy to get here in force. It was… hard. It was a close thing. But we won.”

There was a metallic scrape. When Drevin next spoke, it was from somewhat lower. “We thought we’d lost you, Flint. You were so close to the explosion when your bomber collided – it breached your pod. Your suit ablated – even your helmet split. The backup cocoon deployed, but the beacon was shorted. We couldn’t find you for a while – just a piece of your helmet, after that first fight.” The ferret’s voice cracked in sudden grief; he drew a deep, ragged breath before he went on.

“We got you back in the end – thank goodness – but you’d taken quite a beating. The worst of it was to your left arm – that had been… pretty badly mangled. But the vacuum also damaged your eyes. Your original pair… well, it’s a lost cause.”

Hearing that grim tally, Flint shivered. But the way Drevin had said that… even in his state, Flint could connect the dots. “What’s next?”

“The medics are going to put you back together, Flint,” Drevin assured him. “Good as new. The only question is what they do it with. They could clone new tissue and eyes, but that’d take… some weeks.”

At that, Flint couldn’t help but wince. Weeks of this… this nothing?

“We could place you in a medical coma for the duration,” the female voice put in. “It’d be less stressful, and by the time the new organs were in place you wouldn’t have neurologically adjusted as much to their lack. Or we could install prosthetics – we could operate today, and the self-learning firmware would shorten the time to adapt to the replacements, perhaps greatly – but they would be synthetic.”

“Top of the line,” Drevin contributed.

Out of all that, only one thing mattered. “It’d be faster?”

“In absolute terms, greatly so,” the woman said. “Subjectively – yes, even disregarding the time to grow cloned tissue, it would be faster and less jarring.”

“Then do that,” Flint pleaded. “I can’t bear this… this…”

“Shh. Just relax,” the woman soothed. “You’re in good hands, Commander Farsey. The Emperor himself doesn’t have better than my top neurologist.”

Flint sighed, and automatically tried to close his eyes. The panic was ebbing, sinking under a soft haze that settled over him. “Right. When…?”

“You’ve got a fresh dose of sedative in you now,” the woman explained. “When that takes hold, we’ll take you right to the operating room for full anaesthesia and get the interface installed, and by the time that’s done the prosthetics will be ready. It’ll all be done today, in one session, and you won’t feel a thing. After, we’ll be sure someone is always with you, so that whenever you come to, you can be eased through the first steps of acclimatization.”

Sedative. No wonder he was feeling so… so calm. “’kay,” he mumbled, and then the world spun away into silent, peaceful oblivion.

Waking up again was rough. Flint immediately became aware of a pounding headache, a buzzing in his ears, and a nasty pins-and-needles sensation all along his left arm.

But that, he supposed – he hoped – at least meant he had a left arm.

Once again, he tried opening his eyes. This time, at least, he was met not by darkness, but by static; even when he squeezed his eyes shut, fuzz still floated across them, just much dimmer.

“Are you with us, Commander?” It was a soft voice, feminine; calm, gentle, yet somehow confident. A doctor’s voice – not the one he’d heard earlier, he didn’t think. “Your interface will be trying to link into your visual and sensory cortices – I know it’s uncomfortable, but the more data it can parse, the faster it will be over. It usually only takes a few minutes for the first stages of calibration.”

“Then I’ll be able to see?” It was somewhere between excitement and panic that drove the words out of him.

“Coarsely at first, but you should be able to discern shapes,” the woman went on. “The worst of the visual effects will be over at that point, and your sight will improve from there. Full calibration – and with it, full acuity – should be done within the next few days.”

“What about my arm?” He tried to lift it, to shake out the stiffness and the tingling, but it still didn’t answer him. “I do have an arm, don’t I?”

“It’s there, yes. It still needs to connect with your sensory cortex…”

“Why can’t I move it?”

“Motor connections are deliberately delayed, Commander. But as soon as the sensory connections have stabilized, the filters will relax. What you’re feeling now – both in your arm and what you’re seeing – is the interface adapting to the particular connections of your brain. They aren’t able to do so while you’re sedated, and there wasn’t time to warn you before. I’m sorry. Try to relax, and the worst will be over soon.”

Flint took a deep breath, trying but not quite managing to keep it smooth. When he opened his eyes, the static brightened again; when he closed them, it dimmed.

At least he had that measure of control. Another breath, and he opened his eyes, trying to ignore the dizzying blur. “Are you a doctor?”

“Nearly. Siorah Mashi di Sasheron. I’m both a medical technician and a qualified nurse, and I’m studying under your primary doctor, Dabir Torquil, to be a cyberneticist.”

Well, if he didn’t have much to look at, at least he could hear and speak. Conversation helped keep his mind off the discomfort, so he said, “Siorah and Torquil? Both good names.” Ermine and squirrel, respectively. That at least told him a little more about the one in the room with him. Her given name seemed a little off, but, well, the Empire had been together for thousands of years now; why wouldn’t the ermine start to adopt some words and names from the other races in it?

A soft sound of assent. “With this work, I hope to live up to mine.”

“Is this your residency?”

“Yes, it is. I didn’t actually configure your implants – Dr. Torquil has only had me work with less critical cases. But I’ll be doing as much as I can with you now that they’re installed, and I know enough about the principles that I should be able to answer any questions you may have.”

“Just talk to me…” There he paused. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure how I ought to address you.”

A soft chuckle. “By the stars, you’ve earned yourself a reprieve from formality if anyone has. Call me Mashi.”

At that, Flint couldn’t help but smile. He lifted his good hand – it felt weak and sluggish, and there was still something attached to it, but it answered his commands; and presently, a slender but strong hand clasped it. “I’m Flint,” he introduced himself.

“It’s good to meet you, Flint.” Mashi’s voice was closer now, softer, gentler. “There are some remarkable people among our servicemen, but you’re a bright star among them.”

Flint had to laugh. “Lying here in what I presume is a hospital bed.”

“Part of it is what you did to get in that hospital bed, Flint.”

Part? His ears tilted toward her. “And?”

“Well… it’s not many who could suffer what you have, lose what you’ve lost, and still keep enough of themselves to talk like this. Such strength is rare even in the services, Flint.”

Getting praised for his strength when he was too weak to move was such an awkward thing… even if it wasn’t talking about the same sort. “The trick is not to let myself think about it, that’s all. Keep my mind off of… everything. So keep talking, Mashi. Please.”

“Whatever should I talk about?” Mashi chuckled, stroking along his arm, then easing it back down to the bed. “I already feel I have the advantage of you, all things considered. Prattling on so…”

“Informing me will only help to ease that gap,” he challenged. “Hmm? Let’s start simple – where am I?”

“You’re on Mercy Station, in orbit over Sasheron. You were brought here as soon as you were… found.”

At that, he frowned. “Why the pause?”

“You’re too observant by half, even without your sight.” She sighed. “The truth is, Flint, that I don’t know. I know there was some irregularity in getting you back in safe hands, but not the details. Only that you had to be roused from emergency stasis.”

“But Seth…?”

“Is safe,” she confirmed. “Word came of the attack, and that the planet and orbitals were unscathed… albeit at a heavy cost to its defenders.”

“Right…” It was hard to think of pictures under the shifting static, but Flint remembered, all too clearly, friendly signatures vanishing from the scanner, drowned in a sea of red.

Speaking of things he ought to keep his mind off.

“I think… this is the closest I’ve ever been to the Capitol,” he mused.

“As I understand it, you’ll be going closer still. The Emperor wishes to greet you – he has made your well-being a matter of Imperial concern.”

Again, Flint frowned. “I really hope I haven’t jumped the queue here.”

“If it’s any consolation, you were the worst off of all the wounded. None others needed to come to this station by courier.”

Hopefully that meant getting him here hadn’t come at the expense of someone else. Maybe it was ungrateful, but having his life at the cost of someone else’s was not a comfortable notion.

“How are your eyes doing?” she asked into the ensuing silence.

“I…” He squinted. Was there something there, actually? “I’m… not sure. I think I might be starting to see… where something is.”

“The first thing you’d see would be edges.” She gave his arm a light pat. “Try to focus on them – it should actually speed up the resolution.”

“There’s… not much to focus on,” he protested. “Just like… if all the static was little particles bouncing around, I think I’m starting to get a sense for where they don’t go.”

“That’s the early stages of calibration, yes! Distinct shapes, even if the fine details are lost – edges of things in your sight. You won’t be able to distinguish a disc from a sphere, not yet, but where the walls meet…”

“I… think I do see it,” he admitted. Yes, this was a room – rectangular, or nearly so. He was at one end of it, with open space to either side and his feet toward the middle. Where the door might be, he couldn’t tell.

But he could see a pattern in the space to his right.

“Excellent news,” she said with a squeeze to his shoulder. “One moment; now that the edge detection is functional, they should be able to colour-calibrate, and that should ease the last of the major symptoms. From there, your acuity will still be lacking, but that will improve as your brain re-learns to control your new eyes.”

She fetched something fair-sized and rectangular, apparently a display screen of some kind; from the moment she held it in front of him, the shifting array of colours started to steady. Over the next few minutes, pieces of the static seemed to suddenly stick in place.

What he was left with was blurry, and squinting didn’t make it any better, but at least the colours were finally steady.

“That’s as good progress as we can expect in the very short term, I’m afraid,” Mashi informed him. “The rest will come, but it will take both time and effort. I’ll start you on some suitable exercises once you’ve had a chance to rest properly. How is your arm?”

“My arm?” Flint blinked. Somewhere, while he’d been distracted, the pins-and-needles had finally ebbed. “It feels… better. Doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“It will still be extremely weak,” she cautioned. “The motor connections will try to calibrate now that the sensory connection is at least stable. Here, I’ll do some quick tests.” Moving to his other side, she said, “Tell me if you feel anything.”

“Nothing yet,” he sighed after a few moments passed. “Wait… something cool? Yeah, cool and pressure on my upper arm… now the forearm, about halfway down. And…” As the sensation shifted to something altogether warmer, he couldn’t help but try looking over.

Where his arm ought to be was something bright and shiny – not yet covered by a real-seeming cladding. And farther down – was she… stroking his hand? Somehow he couldn’t quite bring himself to ask.

Then she lifted it up, and there was no mistaking that she was clasping his hand between both of hers.

His muzzle twisted into a smile, in spite of his circumstances. “That,” he said, “I feel.”

She let his hand back down onto the bed. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have done that,” she mused. “But it seemed like you could use the friendly contact.

He sighed, letting his head sink back and his eyes slip shut. Darkness – true darkness – returned, without the shifting patterns. “I think I needed it. Thank you.”

The squeeze she gave to his shoulder was even clearer than the touch to his hand. “Gladly given. Now try to rest, Flint. You’ve had a rough time of it, and anaesthesia can be more draining than restful.”

Frustrating as it was to just be lying around, maybe she was right. He was feeling strangely tired.

He’d meant to just relax, close his eyes for a bit, but fatigue swept up and carried him off.

The next time Flint woke, it was to a quite mundane concern: he was hungry.

Mashi wasn’t present; the intern who was, a young man with a brown and apparently-fluffy tail, promised to summon both her and food before he dashed out.

Mashi arrived first, and with no lesser figure in tow than her patron, Dr. Torquil. While Flint still couldn’t discern the fine details of his face, the man’s coal-black fur – uncommon, if not unique – and low, rumbling voice were distinct among his kind. He and Mashi checked Flint over, as far as the weasel could tell, jointly, each taking turns to ask questions, both heeding the answers. Torquil assured him that he was making as good progress as could be expected, but cautioned him that the rest would be gradual. “You might not consciously notice the changes, unless you keep in mind where you’ve been during this process, and compare that to the moment.”

Once he’d left, Flint said to Mashi, “He sounds very competent – no doubts there. But I think I like your bedside manner better.”

She laughed. “Are you flirting with me, Flint?”

Her voice sounded light, but she did not include any contact with the words, Flint noted. He chose his words carefully. “If I shouldn’t, by all means, tell me. But from my position, you’re a kind and dedicated person. You’ve a lovely voice for one in my straits to hear, and as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather have some positive conversation than lie here moaning about my state.”

“You don’t even know what I look like,” she said with another chuckle.

“So? Even if all I’d just said weren’t true, or it were somehow less relevant…” He shrugged, and despite trying to school his expression, couldn’t quite keep a wince off his face as the dead weight of his rebuilt arm made the gesture feel somewhat lopsided. “With the way ermine choose who reproduces with whom, I think I can confidently say that I’ll find you beautiful when my eyes are working better.”

Now she did press a hand against his cheek. “That’s very kind of you to say, Flint,” she murmured over his ear. “The truth is, however, that I was born a ferret.”

A frenzied moment of thinking later, Flint realized he actually hadn’t put his foot so far into his mouth as he’d thought in that first instant. “But you still carry the clan name,” he challenged. “So either you were born through their breeding program, but with at least one ferret ancestor,” and the races were certainly close enough to interbreed, “or you were inducted into the clan yourself. Either way, my point stands; genetic slouches wouldn’t bear the Siorah name.”

“A fair point indeed.” She reached over to give his good hand a squeeze, but then sighed. “This shouldn’t progress any further, Flint. You’ve been so resilient about your condition, compared to others I’ve tended with far lighter difficulties, that it’s almost easy to forget you’re a convalescent. But you are, and you’re in my care.”

“I guess I should have expected that,” Flint sighed, closing his eyes. “Especially if mine is the big case you’ve got to do right.”

“Once you’ve recovered and had some time to adjust to yourself… then perhaps we can see,” she soothed. “At the risk of saying more than I ought, your overtures would not be unwelcome, Flint… if you weren’t a patient.”

He cracked his eyes open, trying to make out some details in the white blur of her face. “You’re not just saying that to keep my hopes up?”

“I am, at least, not saying it with the intent of shutting them down later. I’m not trying to string you along, Flint – and you do deserve something to look forward to. I just can’t promise to be that something.” She squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry.”

“No, no.” He shook his head. “It’s… probably best to get some sanity back in my head earlier rather than later.”

A laugh, light and easy. “At the very least, your optimism makes you a delightful patient to care for. And speaking of care, your food has arrived.”

He sniffed. “Has it? I don’t think anything’s wrong with my nose, but all I smell is, well, hospital smells.” Recycled air and a tinge of antiseptic; it was actually much better than the hospitals on his homeworld. “And I’d hope the food has some flavour to it.”

“So it does,” she assured him. “But we try not to fill the halls with it. Tastes vary. In your case, of course, we have the advantage of your Authority file’s listing of preferred foods.” She brought something closer, and made a motion over it.

All fears of bland, barely-palatable hospital meals vanished from Flint’s mind in a cloud of sweet spices and lightly-seared meat.

She laughed at the evident bliss of his reaction. “Don’t get your hopes up too high, Flint. The texture’s probably rather softer than you’re used to. Our staff do their best to match flavours, but the truth is that your body is still quite weak. It has to be easy to digest, for now.”

Oh, dear. “Just please tell me it’s not mush.”

“Not that weak,” she assured him, and brought it in closer.

“It” turned out to be a covered tray, said cover now set off to one side. Shiny streaks on the matte surface were all he could make out of the cutlery, and his nose was a far better guide as to what food was where than his eyes were; but for offering him that bit of dignity, he was suddenly glad.

Then he tried to reach for it, and it suddenly sank in that his left hand – the one that wasn’t responding to his wishes – was his main hand. “Oh, hell.”

“You’re… left-handed, aren’t you.” Even if Flint couldn’t make out her expression, he could hear the grimace in Mashi’s voice.

“Exactly,” he sighed, trying to push himself more upright.

That didn’t work out too well, either. Besides being much more awkward trying to do one-handed than he’d ever realized, she was right about him being weak. It was all he could do to keep his right hand up in the air; trying to sit up unsupported was exhausting. Ultimately, he had to give up and have the head of the bed raised to support him.

And his right hand was still so weak that the strain of holding it up made it shake uncontrollably.

He, Flint Farsey, commander of the in-system defence force for one of the most populous systems in the Empire, now needed someone else’s helping hand just to feed himself. Not exactly a high point in his life. It took all too much of the enjoyment out of what should have been a satisfying meal.

Not that he wound up eating very much of it, either, before waving the rest away and sinking back against the mattress.

“Thank you,” he sighed, some silent moments later. “For not just… taking over, or even suggesting it.”

“The more you can do on your own,” she replied, “the sooner it won’t present you with difficulty. Helping you to do something will let you accomplish it unaided sooner than would doing it for you… not least for the impact it would have on your state of mind.” She gave a light squeeze to his shoulder. “Your strength of will is a special thing, Flint. I’ve no wish to undermine it.”

He gestured at the tray, now off to one side. “I just wish that didn’t take so much out of me.”

“Give it time,” she urged. “And push yourself as best you can.”

A thought struck him – a conspicuous difference between this treatment and his prior hospital visits. “I’d have expected you to tell me to take it easy.”

“For many conditions, that’s what is needed,” she replied. “In your case, the main issue is one of remembering how to use your body. Physically, you’re truly not that badly off – but your motions are yet uncoordinated, and you’re prone to wearing yourself out because you’re opposing yourself. But even that helps ensure your muscle stays in tone, and every moment of it gives you some much-necessary practise. Your heart is sound and you’re not fighting an illness, or any other such fragile condition – the worst danger is to your own mind, if you try something and fail.”

“So, what, anything I succeed at is good? What if a special friend or two came to visit, huh?”

It was only after the words were out of his mouth that he noticed how much bitterness had seeped into them. As if he could possibly get it up, anyway…

No, that was not an appropriate line of thought to go down.

“Oh, fewmets,” he said into the ensuing silence, turning his blurry gaze down at the creamy-white expanse of the sheets. “I’m sorry, that was…”

“Understandable,” she interrupted. “But for the record, Flint… the answer is still yes. Anything you can do – especially something that helps you reclaim some normalcy – so long as you can do it without leaving the ward and it isn’t something that would injure a healthy person, I’d call it medically advisable.”

Oh, right. Ermine – and anyone who lived among them for any length of time – were much harder to scandalize about sex than some kid from a stagnant provincial backwater, weren’t they?

Still… He shook his head. “I shouldn’t have said it… like that, though.” Not with such venom…

She took his hand, giving it a squeeze. “Flint, I actually think it a good sign that the notion could occur to you at all. By all means, if you have a chance for such… healthy pursuits, pursue them. Just push the red triangle on the console beside you there if you don’t wish to be disturbed, and that will be respected for anything short of an emergency signal from your monitors.”

With that, and a slight tilt to her head that he thought signified a smile, she excused herself and slipped away.

It was only when the rectangle of light that signified the door had slid shut behind her that Flint realized – it was his left hand she’d touched.

And it had felt… normal.

When he brought his right hand over to run along his left arm, it didn’t feel normal under it. The surface was smooth, furless, and he couldn’t quite make himself ignore that, anymore than he could the way it gleamed in the soft light.

But his arm did feel the progress of his fingers, and it did feel the sheets beneath it. Maybe he couldn’t feel the texture of the cloth with that hand like he could the one that was flesh and blood… but Dr. Torquil had been right; it had been so subtle in its progress that he hadn’t really noticed it happening.

When he’d first come to, even after the initial discomfort had passed, what he’d felt had been just this side of nothing. He hadn’t felt the sheets with it, not because he was tuning out that ground state, but because there wasn’t enough to feel. Now… now, if he paid attention, he could feel those simple things.

And if his right hand, never mind his left, still didn’t feel up to rubbing one out… it did feel less leaden than it had at the start of his meal. Maybe he just hadn’t noticed it getting better because it was getting tired, and now it had had a chance to rest?

A soft tone from the door caught his attention, and at the same moment, the big white button on the console beside him lit up.

Huh. His tenders had just come and go at need. A visitor?

White was the intercom, the red triangle was privacy… there, the green blob was the key to open the door; he let a finger come to rest upon it.

He couldn’t make much sense of the vague outline that was revealed in the open door; even less, when the door slid shut and the outline became less distinct.

Then a ragged male voice said, “Flint, you’re looking way better than you were. And I’m afraid that’s saying a lot.”

Somehow, that remark was just what he needed; he laughed. “Whatever happened to the meek, quiet Drevin I used to know?” He gestured to his right, where he was pretty sure there was a seat. “Come in, pull up a chair. How are you…?”

It dawned on Flint, as Drevin came closer, that the ferret wasn’t wearing Authority black. Or any form of duty uniform. Civvies? “What’s up, Drevin?”

Drevin Targe eased himself into the indicated seat. “I’m on medical leave myself, actually. I’m not hurt,” he added in a hurry – had Flint’s expression shown his surge of anxiety? Probably so – “I just, well… I failed the psych eval for returning to duty.”


The ferret had a hand on the bedside rail; Flint lifted his own to rest atop it, giving it a light squeeze. Never mind that that was about all he could do yet. “Things were… rough, weren’t they?”

“…Yeah.” The ferret sighed. “I’m… glad you pulled through, but… then I think of all the people who didn’t. And then… well.” He shook his head, and uttered a short, humourless laugh. “Fewmets, I came here to try to cheer you up, not… this.”

“Hey, it’s okay.” Finch let his fingers trail along Drevin’s, reacquainting himself with the strength that lay in them. How long had it been since he’d known that strength personally, even so much of it as a handshake? Months, anyway. “Take it from me, Drevin – you don’t need to feel bad for not ending up worse than you did.” He glided his fingers up a little further, then lifted them right up to the ferret’s jaw. “And seeing you here… reminds me of just how glad I really am that I did survive. Thanks.”

If he’d died in that blast, or been lost in space after it… he’d never have heard Drevin’s voice again, not after that one last, anguished shout over the com. He’d never have seen the ferret walk toward him again, however blurry. Never have felt his touch.

Never had their muzzles come together for one more breathy kiss.

And for the chance to feel that kiss – and maybe more, when he was a bit stronger and Drevin less shaken – all the pain, the discomfort, the disorientation and feebleness… all of it felt worthwhile, suddenly.

Actually, why wait?

His left hand, however leadenly, answered his will enough to reach over and stab the red triangle; his right shifted around Drevin’s neck, pulling him in a bit closer.

The surprised, but quite gratifyingly pleased, sound that Drevin made against his muzzle was a delight he hadn’t felt in far too long.

The rest was clumsy, but worth every fumbling moment.

It was a good thing the bed was built sturdy; neither Drevin nor Flint was large of body, but it still felt a little bit precarious with both of them on it. Or maybe that was just the lightheadedness of release.

“Are you… sure that was a good idea, Flint?” Drevin asked with a nervous laugh. “I mean, not that I’m going to complain if you need a bit of something else in your hospital diet…”

“Oh, the food’s fine. In fact, help yourself,” said Flint, laughing, gesturing toward the nearby tray on its cart. “Though I guess I did need something a little… different.” He licked his lips; though none of the ferret’s essence actually lingered on them or his tongue, it was so wonderfully easy to imagine that they did.

“Okay, but… you’ve just been through major surgery, haven’t you?”

“Sure.” Flint shrugged, cupping his good hand against the ferret’s ass, the synthetic one on his shoulder. “And I’m under medical advisement to push myself.”

“What, even… this?”

The weasel grinned. “Specifically this, actually.”

Another laugh; Drevin wiggled in against his side. “Well, as therapy goes… I think I kind of like it.” He brought a hand around to stroke the smooth fingers of Flint’s left hand. “Thanks, Flint.”

“Glad to do it, Drevin.” He licked the ferret’s lips; there was nothing there, either, for his tongue to catch, but on the other man’s breath was a lingering trace of Flint. “I think we both needed a little reminder of how good it is to still be alive.”

“You’re right,” Drevin sighed over Flint’s throat. “It really, really is.”