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Run. Run Away And *Never* Return (JP Garatt & Felix)


Jenna Cunningham
 

It was a higgledy-piggledy panicked sort of packing, the sort of packing that you do when you haven’t got a plan beyond running. Garatt stuffed in books - books were important - and clothes without any real idea of what should match or how much he would need. Only that it couldn’t be a Candidate uniform and that clothes would be needed but that also he couldn’t carry too much.


He kept half an eye as he packed on Felix, brain not working clearly enough to decide what to do about the firelizard. It wasn’t as though Felix were his firelizard to take, but someone would have to feed her.


Felix did take rather a lot of feeding.


The firelizard in question lay across Garatt's cot, sprawled out like a small green mountain, and watched the packing with interest. This was not because she had some window into his tortured psyche. This was entirely due to a fit of jealousy.


Her new human was putting FOOD? into a flappy, flat NOT FOOD thing, which may possibly have been FOOD once, and he was not feeding her while he was doing this. The FOOD RECEPTACLE was swelling up with all the things she was not eating, and she let out the laziest, least sincerely plaintive sort of creel ever, the sort she had quickly realised (and what a clever FOOD THOUGHT that had been!) summoned her new person to feed her.


She nosed closer, pushing herself bodily along using her back legs, and bit one corner of a book that stuck out of the travel bag.


Look at how smart I am, she seemed to say, I'm helping. FOOD REWARD now, dum-dum.

 

“Oh no no no.” Garatt sniffed back tears and went to push her away, realising only belatedly that this was going to hurt and pulling his hand back. “Don’t eat that.” He looked around, vaguely remembering swiping food from the Dining Hall earlier. Already it was ingrained that any food he tried to eat before needing to see M’ayen was going to come up before or after that meeting.


Probably it was somewhere under that pile of clothes he’d just dumped on his bed.


“Food after this,” he promised, lifting his voice slightly as though that might help.


Felix let out another pathetic noise, though privately it was a little quarrelsome. She was not thirsty. Conjuring water from his squishy FOOD balls was a neat trick, but it was also an incorrect one. If he were in her faire, which didn't exist and was rarely fantasized about, he would not receive even the most paltry of FOOD REWARDS for that. 


She hoisted herself up into something of a squat, wings stretching out, head stretching out, and scooted toward Garatt's hand, again making those pathetic little noises. He had told her not to eat food, and he had withdrawn his hand. Was there FOOD there? She could smell it with some certainty, something metallic and pulpy, and decided she needed to up the ante.


Felix snaked her way forward and went for the chest nuzzle, cuddling her not inconsequential bulk up against her new person. FOOD, she thought at him with a sweet croon, trying to make the image as impactful as a bullet from a sling. YOU ARE AS BEAUTIFUL AS FOOD. FEED ME NOW.


Something, everything, was probably lost in translation, and if Garatt picked up anything at all it was probably an endless gag reel of Felix herself eating in various poses and in various settings.


Garatt had been kneeling next to the bed, trying to stuff things into his bag without putting weight..anywhere that hurt. The unexpected push knocked him backwards slightly and automatically he went to sit back on his knees and promptly, immediately, pushed back up again with a quiet pained noise. Trying to sit was not in anyway going to be a good idea.


“Sorry,” he apologised to Felix, as though somehow that flare of pain might have offended her and sniffed again. Tears seemed ready to break out at the most inconvenient of moments of late. “You’re going to have to find someone else to feed you, you know. I’m sorry.”


Felix had the outward appearance of something listening very attentively to Garatt, but the reality was different. To her, he made a string of nonsense with his mouth parts, though one of the nonsense noises did sound vaguely like FOOD and that made her head lift hopefully. She hung draped along the edge of the bed, watching him, and made yet another sad little creeling cry. Deep cunning was going to be required here to retrieve her FOOD REWARD. She furiously wracked her tiny mind for ideas.


“I know, I know, I’m sorry.” Garatt reached for her with his good hand this time, because clearly she understood every word and was going to miss him too. Sadly he rubbed her head gently, trying to comfort her. “Asheran said there was someone you could go to -- I think her name was Tyme? Do you know a Tyme?”


No, no, it was time for food.


Putting aside her frustration at how her new person just failed to understand her at every turn, Felix preened under the head rub, because grooming was another sort of FOOD.


Then, with another flash of deep cunning, she turned her head - sniffing out the FOOD RECEPTACLE that her person kept feeding more things into. Perhaps, just perhaps, she could deceive him and burrow inside it, and eat all the FOOD within before he realised. All she needed now was a distraction.


FOOD, she projected at Garatt, along with the image thought of, well, a pile of delicious meat sitting outside his little candidate cubicle.


Garatt caught -- well, he caught something and went still, glancing at the door. “Is there someone outside?” he asked Felix in a low whisper. “Is that it?” Could be someone who’d catch him and stop him leaving. Could be M’ayen. Hastily he started to grab things on the cot, stuffing them randomly into his bag or -- where they wouldn’t fit -- back into his drawer. It wasn’t as though he was going to be here to be in trouble if it was untidy.


Luckily for Felix, this was also gradually uncovering the selection of food he’d swiped at dinner earlier.


Felix pounced on one of Garatt's discarded shirts, shredding into it to get at the FOOD beneath, and began to happily gorge herself. Original plan immediately forgotten, she congratulated herself on a con well executed. The FOOD REWARD was all hers, and she nosed under the clothes to get at it all, spreading it out across the cot, glorying in the mess.


She was so thrilled that she even made a half-hearted attempt at a song, like she had once heard (and forgotten) Melody use in greeting. It was…


Eeh.


Some of that - a lot of that - had been what Garatt had intended to take with him for the journey, but he didn’t have the heart to take it back from her. She would have to find food herself now after all, and at least it would stop her from following him.


“Listen,” he said, voice very serious, trying to get her attention again as he picked up his bag and pulled it over his shoulder. “I won’t be here any more, you hear? You need to find Tyme for food. FIND TYME.” He hesitated. Had it been Tyme? “Or-- or Asheran?” It was against the rules he knew, but he’d cheated and Asheran had somehow Impressed when forbidden. How much more trouble could they get into?


Find time? Felix had all the time in the world to loaf and eat and sleep and eat. It was paradise. So she cherruped an affirmative and buried herself in that one shredded shirt, choking down more FOOD with an obscene joy.


But then, with a tickle of familiarity: Asheran? Who? She paused, stretching her mind back eons to almost a whole seven-day and a half ago, and then she remembered. That weirdly shaped presence in her mind that was not FOOD but still sometimes conjured FOOD, and with that FOOD, affectionate FOOD THOUGHTS. She pinged that presence distractedly, then noted its location for later. Later, when the FOOD disappeared, and she would reappear in his life like she had never even been gone, then he would be so happy he would give her a FOOD REWARD.


Yes, that would be perfect.