Once again, Jeron found himself waking up, but instead of by a dream, he was awoken by the scent of something cooking. It took him a moment to realize he was alone in bed which meant…
Throwing the blankets off, he ran into the living room. There he found Sylus standing in the kitchen, tentacles on full display, juggling at least a hundred different tasks at once. His back was to Jeron so the chef took a moment to take in the sight. Not realizing he was being watched, Sylus cracked a raw egg in his mouth. Jeron audibly cringed. Stopping in his tracks, he lowered his tentacles.
“Did I wake you?” he laughed as he tossed the shell into his mouth.
“Just… smells good,” Jeron sighed as he sat down on a stool, “Pretty good with those things, huh?” he motioned to the now idly writhing tendrils.
“Practicing,” Sylus muttered as he flipped the contents of a pan onto a plate. “Here.”
Jeron was presented with an overflowing plate of food. Giant pancakes, too many eggs, bacon everywhere, stack of ham slices, and a tower of toast.
“Not enough?” he put another similarly loaded plate on the counter.
“How long have you been cooking?”
“Not long,” he shrugged, “My greatest limitation was the number of burners on the stove, but it turned out okay, right?”
“Should I be worried about losing my status as the town’s best chef?”
“Jeron, it’s breakfast food. It’s easy,” Sylus leaned on the counter, “I could never roast a ham like you do,” he winked coyly.
“Dig in,” Sylus leaned away, “Let me know if it tastes okay. I know with mass production quality can go down, so feel free to critique.”
Another plate showed up on the bar beside Jeron though it was devoid of ham and bacon.
Shifting his weight a bit, Jeron picked up a fork and began tasting everything. It was infuriating how good it was. There was a good chance it extended from all the time he’d gone without any real food, but it was still aggravating that Sylus had only ever been an occasional fry cook in his kitchen and turned out perfect food.
The idle sound of pots and pans being washed filled the kitchen while Jeron ate in peace. He looked up to find the tendrils at work again. Effective, but unnerving. He shrugged. This was the new norm and he’d do himself a favor by not fighting it.
“Good morning,” Daniel appeared next to Jeron.
“Nine, catch!” Sylus called from the kitchen as a hambone flew across the room barely missing both their heads. The spawn resting quietly behind them lashed out with its tendrils, caught the scrap, and quickly began gnawing on it. “Damn thing likes ham almost as much as I do,” Sylus turned with a laugh. “Oh hey, morning, Dan.”
“Morning, Dad,” the boy was beaming.
“Your plate’s next to Jeorn, Saari’s is on the end. Wanna try to get her up while it’s still warm?”
“Sure!” Daniel ran back up the stairs.
“Parent of the year, Sy,” Jeron wiped his mouth.
Sylus scoffed as his tendrils continued cleaning up.
“Good morning,” Jeron chimed as Saari entered the room.
She bowed deeply before making her way to her place at the counter in silence. Daniel happily plopped himself between her and Jeron. He was quick to dive ravenously into his meal.
Jeron looked down the counter to find Saari staring blankly at her plate.
“Need a hand, Saari?”
She sat up abruptly, blushing with embarrassment.
“I’ll help!” Daniel put his fork down for the first time since he’d taken his seat.
“I-I do not…”
“Saari,” Sylus turned to face her, “Can you see your food?”
She bit her lip.
“It’s okay,” Daniel offered her a fork, “I’ll help.”
“I do not need help,” she took her fork from Daniel.
All eyes were on her and she could feel it. With a look of determination on her face, she stabbed her fork into what she was hoping was her plate. Instead, it went into the bar. The second she knew she missed, her lips began to quiver. Shaking her head, she tried again. This time landing in a pancake. Assuming the soft reaction meant she’d hit something, she slowly lifted her utensil to her mouth, but the weight of her food suddenly left her grasp. Her pancake had slid back onto her plate. Embarrassment riddled her features. She gripped the fork tightly torn between retreating to her room and trying again.
“Here,” Daniel leaned over, “lemme cut it up like Dad used to for me.”
“I do not need help!” she barked in defiance.
“Saari, my dear, it is okay to need help.”
“M-my Lord!” Her face flushed an intense shade of violet.
“This is all new to you. Please accept help when you need it.”
“You will learn and eventually you won’t need help, but right now? You do. Let them help you.”
“I… Y-yes… M-my… Lord Qaitax,” she bowed her head in shame.
Qaitax leaned over and kissed her on the forehead, “I am so proud of you, Saari.”
Saari’s head remained bowed, but Qaitax could see her lips quivering.
“Let Daniel help you.”
“I do not need help cutting my food.”
“You’ve never needed to! Saari, this is all completely new to you! To me. To us…” Qaitax paused a moment, “We need to learn, Saari. We have much to learn on many fronts. Both of us, Saari. Together.”
Saari slowly turned Daniel, offering him her fork. With a grin on his face, he took it from her and began cutting up her food.
“Good girl, Saari,” Qaitax was beaming.
“I feel like a child…”
“You are a child, Saari. It’s okay to be one.”
She looked away again.
“It doesn’t matter how many thousands of years old you are. It matters that you’ve never lived your life. You can live it freely now. Never feel inferior for needing to learn something. New world, new people, new life. Everything’s going to be okay.”
Finally, a smile slowly made its way across Saari’s lips.
“There,” Daniel sat back. “All set. Just stab in and you should be able to get something manageable. Let me know if you need me to cut anything else, okay?”
Saari took her form back with a smile and a nod.
“Good girl, Saari…” Qaitax muttered as he returned to Sylus’ cleaning.
Jeron slid off his stool and made his way around the bar and into the kitchen proper.
“You’re not so bad,” he whispered next to Qaitax.
Jeron sighed. “You really care about her, don’t you?”
“I do. With all my, well, uh, metaphorical heart.”
“So you are capable of love and respect…”
“I am learning.”
Jeron shook his head, “You don’t learn that kind of thing. You either have compassion or you don’t. And to me,” he sighed once more, “It seems like you do.”
“I am honored to hear that.”
Jeron nodded as he put his dish in the sink.
“We should speak again some time.”
“You and me?”
“Yes. You have been good to my dear Saari and you are important to Sylus. We should… Get to know each other. Or… Whatever you mortals do to kindle familiarity and understanding.”
Jeron thought a moment, before scoffing and shaking his head. “Yeah sure,” he looked to Qaitax with a smile, “Why not?”
“I very much appreciate that.”
“Before you go wandering off to whatever back of the mind cave you live in, did Sylus ask you to suggest that?”
“He did not. Sylus is hesitant to let us converse. He is afraid I will taint your perception of him. However, I believe it is important that we understand each other. Even if it means we choose to dislike each other, it will be from a place of understanding. Which is acceptable in my opinion.”
“And here I thought you were just some cold-hearted tentacle monster…”
“What have I done to give you that impression?”
“Honestly? Since meeting you in person? Nothing.”
Qaitax grinned as the light in his eyes faded out and returned to their normal human shape.
“Thanks for being understanding, Jeron,” Sylus breathed as he returned to cleaning up.
“I’ve some time to think about it and I figure it’s best for all of us to assume the best. I’m prepared to be disappointed, but he’s part of you, Sy. A part of you I can’t avoid. I’m willing to give him a chance.”
Sylus gave him a peck on the cheek. “Thank you.”
“I-I want us to work out, Sy. I really do and I realize that I’m hindering it. I’m refusing to accept change. I’m refusing to really understand, but I want to try, Sy. I really do. I don’t want to end up like my old man. Ignorant and afraid of things that are different. I can’t live like that. I saw the kind of suspicion and fear it put in him and with the way the world is now? I can’t feel that way. I can’t…”
“I didn’t exactly make it easy for you. Leave one way, come back completely different with an interdimensional god taking up residence in my body… That’s not normal.”
“None of this is normal!” Jeron threw his hands in the air, “Why are we… Why am I expecting it to be? I want to open my mind. Pops kept me pretty sheltered after I dropped out of school. Kitchen, bathroom, bed. That was it. I never met people. I never…” he sighed as he turned to find Daniel’s gaze darting away, “I never got a chance to really form opinions of my own. And after those years in the bunker, I can’t help but always assume the worst in everyone and everything.”
“It was terrifying, Sy… Fucking terrifying…”
Sylus wrapped an arm around him, “Talk to me, Jeron.”
“N-not in front of the kids…”
Tendrils wrapped around Jeron, pulling him close. “Talk to me.”
Warm. That was all Jeron could think. That was the only thought he could muster at that moment. Soft, warm, comfortable… In all honestly, he didn’t want to be let go. He was happy here.
“Later,” Jeron was smiling uncontrollably.
The tendrils withdrew and the chill of the world washed over him.
“I won’t forget,” Sylus grinned at him almost tauntingly.