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Love in a Time of Tea Dragons

There’s something magical about watching Kesrie work. I don’t get the chance very often—usually it’s her watching me, waiting for me to drag myself out of whatever I’m building. Sometimes quite literally. But I wanted tonight to be special, and I’d spent all day checking the time to make sure that today was the one day I didn’t get lost.

I wasn’t nearly as productive, but a chance to make Kesrie smile was beyond worth it.

Right now she’s not smiling. Her attention is completely absorbed by whatever she’s working on in her computer, to the point where not even her horde of teacup dragons can get her attention. Not for lack of effort on their part, though, and there is definitely a horde of them now. Arya, one of the original two, is perched on my shoulder, her black scales iridescent in the bright lights of what was once my father’s lab. He’d handed it over to Kesrie lock, stock, and barrel the day she sequenced our teacup dragons (something he’d been trying to accomplish for decades, though admittedly he’d been aiming for large ones).

Kaydis, the blue twin to Arya, is being his usual pain in the ass self, and trying to set Kesrie’s dupatta on fire. Fortunately, he can’t produce more than the tiniest of flames, because Kesrie is not only brilliant, but also much better at seeing consequences than a lot of scientists (hence teacup dragons, and not giant dragons that could lay waste to the entire space station). The rest of her horde are scattered across her workstation, either napping or making as much mischief as they can. Dula is fully living up to his teacup nature by taking a nap in Kesrie’s actual teacup, his red-bronze wing peaking up over the lip.

I’m hoping the cup is at least empty this time.

I could easily watch all of them all night. My ridiculous family. Kesrie mutters something to herself, thoughtlessly shooing Isla’s small, glittering white body away form her interface, and I’m momentarily overcome. I have loved Kesrie since the day I first saw her in this lab, my father’s newest intern, and I will love her until I am nothing but stardust and memory. The tiny teacup horde she brought into our lives crawled into my heart beside her. This is my future, my everything, a horde of teacup dragons and Kesrie, always Kesrie.

Always Kesrie.

And suddenly watching her isn’t enough. I didn’t want to interrupt her before, but now I find myself striding through her otherwise empty lab toward her. Her staff have long since left, headed home to spend the day how they will, and I take full advantage of their absence to wrap my arms around her from behind. Arya pounces off my shoulder and onto her twin, saving the red and gold dupatta as Kesrie sinks back into me.

“Hello, my love.”

I squeeze her gently and press a kiss to her temple. “How’s the research?”

Kesrie shrugs before leaning back further, her lips brushing the underside of my jaw. “Slow today. I suspect it’s time to put it away, since it’s not often you’re dragging me out of my work.”

I smile before turning for a proper kiss. “True. It is usually the other way around.”

“It is. Which makes me wonder what, precisely, my dear ferrohound is up to, coming to find me like this.”

I grin at the nickname for quantum engineers like myself, named for the ferrofluid we frequently found ourselves covered in. I’d hated it until the first time she’d said the words, humor and appreciation infused in the lilting accent I found irresistible from her. “Do I have to be up to anything to want to spend time with my girlfriend?”

Kesrie laughs, her head falling back to my shoulder. It’s a sound I find more magical than any music. “Nothing, except that I know for a fact you were planning to work on that new solar surfer design you’ve been piecing together. I expected to have to drag you out some time during fourth shift, just so you could get some rest.”

The fact that she knows me so well makes me smile. “True. But I can work on the solar surfer tomorrow. Tonight…” I reach behind me for the Acacian Rose I’d hidden and hand it to her. The petals shimmer, their color changing with every movement, a veritable rainbow in flower form.

“Oh, Amadi! How did you find one of these?”

I shrug as she takes the flower that actually took me several favors and my last crate of Q’ravi whiskey. “I know people. I also know they’re your favorite.”

She stands up and gives me a real hug, without her chair in the way. Her head tucks up under my jaw as I pull her close. “You didn’t have to.”

“I know. I wanted to.” I squeeze her tighter, then drop to my knees before I can lose my nerve. “I know it’s cliché, but… I love you, Kesrie. I will always love you. I can’t imagine my world without you. Please marry me.”

Kesrie’s deep brown eyes widen and then soften, and my heart skips a beat or twenty when she smiles down at me and giggles. “Of course I will, my ridiculous ferrohound. I love you beyond all the stars, Amadi. Though I’m a little disappointed. I wanted to ask you. I had it all planned out.”

This time it’s my turn to laugh. Launching to my feet and sweeping her up with me, I spin her in circles, both of us laughing until we can’t breathe. Our horde of tea dragons launch as one into the air, spinning with us and crowing with delight. Kesrie kisses me hard when I finally set her back down, only letting me up for air when I pull away. She doesn’t have a chance to pout though, before I place something else in her hand.

Kesrie stares down at the twisting infinity ring in her palm, and the twin in my own. The metal glows ever so slightly, alive and twisting as colors dance over its surface and the words I painstakingly carved with my laser torch, words that speak of love and stars and tea dragons and eternity. My hands shake as I place one ring on her finger, and I see hers tremble as she does the same for mine.

“Yours beyond the starlight, for always and eternity.”

Kesrie smiles, her dark eyes dancing. “Yours beyond time and memory, my love.”

I kiss her again, slowly and deeply, as the tea dragon horde comes to rest on us, tiny claws clinging to hair and clothes. Kesrie and I laugh, holding onto one another. Tomorrow we will tell everyone, celebrate with our larger family. Tonight though, tonight is for us, for Kesrie and I and our teacup dragon children.

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