Kyriala sat on the mat wearing the bright blue split-skirt thing Riala designed for her, with her old Socks on the floor next to Bella. Her tiny white dog sat between my big black bitch’s front paws, looking like a toe ornament.
Gan sat up on one of the dog-washing stations with Tanifas’s tinies on and around him, while Farasha sat in one of the padded chairs with the cats. Other than Altras, who lay draped around the back of my neck. I had not let Doof sit under my chin because she kept biting Altras’s tail and digging her big bird claws into my chest. She was sulking above, a spot of red and gold, up against the gilded ceiling beams.
Tanifas had a shaved great hound before him and rubbed a cream along his spine, filling the kennel with the scent of peppermint. “It seems to me that you're making good progress toward what you want,” he said. “So officially you will be two couples with Gannara being acknowledged as Minis’s alesinas.”
“At least until the bill allowing female alesinas goes through the Assembly,” Farasha answered him.
“How are your families taking this?”
“My mother is ecstatic, but she’s confused by a Jitzmitthra wedding--” Ky turned to look at me, smiling. “I didn’t want to wait until after the year started.” Her eyes twinkled.
Gannara laughed. “As if no one is going to figure out that we’re going to celebrate the whole rest of Jitz with no rules and regulations choking up this one.” He twitched a thumb at me. “Slacker.”
“Feckless squawker!” I grinned and scratched under Altras’s chin, getting a heavy purr.
“I love you too, you hairy wen!”
“Minis.” The great hound under Tanifas’s hands writhed over onto his back to get him to scratch his belly. “How have you been sleeping?”
I blinked innocently at him. “Since I proposed to everyone, like a baby. Well, I have some nightmares and some weird God dreams but doesn’t everybody?”
“No, Minis,” Tanifas said gently, ran one peppermint scented hand over his own nearly bald scalp. “Your nightmares and your divine dreams are focused dreams, and point out to me where you are still injured. Are you still recording them?”
“Um, yes. Just writing them down is soothing. I quit sweating and shaking while I do that and it lets me get back to sleep.”
“That sounds like a lot more disturbed than ‘sleeping like a baby’ to me,” he said dryly. I could see my loves nod or sign chalk around me.
“You’ve been sleeping quieter than you used to,” Farasha said. One of the golden cats, with eyes the same colour as her fur bumped up under her chin.
“That’s not saying much,” Gan said. “It means he’s much less likely to smack me in the chest with an elbow.”
“I only did that once, and that was on Haiu Menshir when I started poking around in all this stuff,” I retorted but I was only half listening.
What Tanifas had said was still rolling around in my head as I realized I’d been diminishing how often I was still sleeping and eating badly. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t wake you all up.”
“Stop that, Minis.” Gan got off the ledge and moved over to the empty chair, shedding tiny dogs who stayed behind and looked at him, panting. “I sleep just as badly and wake you all up enough too.”
“It is a good thing that you are saying things in your nightmares, ‘Nara,” Farasha put in. I nodded.
“The silent ones are still the worst for you.” I said, turning my head to get the most rumble from Altras.
“So all of you are spending time together, it is obvious. I am also assuming that you are being very proper.” Kyriala and I both nodded and Fara snorted.
“Too proper for pre-marriage partners I think. We should all be sleeping together to make sure we won’t drive each other crazy with our nighttime noises. Nara and Minis and I all know but Kyriala won’t know if my whistling snores will keep her awake, or the boys’ dreams.”
Tanifas sat back and sent the great hound off to snooze in his kennel down the hall. Kyriala spoke up as the click of the dog’s paws faded off to an enormous ‘whurf’ as it settled down. “I tried to explain, Fara. We can’t do that.”
“No,” I said. “No one would take Ky seriously if even a hint of that got out. The one party… we were lucky.”
Tanifas leaned forward intently. “Farasha, your people are always very close, cheek-by-jowl so to speak, ‘m I right there?”
“Yes. People sleep in the caravans in inclement weather and it’s as tight as a ship.”
“Hmmm. Your people and Gan’s have good reason to carefully vet your partners. The Niahs and the Yeolis – more than ship crews -- grew out of close-living people. “f you all realize that sleeping together i’nt necessary, should some sleep things keep awake or piss off your husband or wife or alesinae you can go sleep in your own separate bed. It doesn’t mean anything about your partner. Not rejection, not anger, nothing. It just means you need to sleep.”
Gannara and Fara looked at each other and shrugged each in their own ways. Ky and I smiled. “The place is big enough that everyone in the marriage has their own private suites,” I said. “People would be very interested if all four of us slept together all the time. And this is just sleeping together. Nothing else.”
“I suppose it’s all right, then,” Farasha said. “I just think it would be a good idea of Ky knew what she was getting into.”
“I think I can deal with it. We’ll work something out once I am supposed to be sleeping with Minis. The Assembly is going wild right now since they’ve started calling you ‘First Concubine’ and arguing if a woman can be an alesinas.”
“My children I don’t want in line for the Crystal Throne anyway,” Fara said and Gan signed chalk.
“And we all know that whatever formal titles Arko plasters on us, we as a family, are together as a four.”
“You’re doing well,” Tanifas said. “I’m here to listen to any problems you might have, you know.”
Gan, by now, had another big golden dog leaning against his knees to get scratched. The pack was calm and all of us had the various animals just being with us. “We know, Tanifas, thank you. You have the better of us since the pack just tells you if we’re doing all right!”
He laughed. “I use every advantage. My advice to you all is keep on this way. It is not that long till the wedding.”