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"How was it?" I asked, though I already knew. He was playing sad songs by the beach alone, and the ring of silver-gray in his black eyes was shadowed.

"They were bad kissers," he said.

I winced. "I'm sorry, brother."

He leaned down and pressed his cheek to my head plate. "It was almost funny. They managed to drop the eggs twice, once before I got to it and once after."

"They dropped fertilized eggs?" I exclaimed, chilled. "We should demand more gifts!"

"Don't," Ojune said, and resumed stroking my hair, one thumb tucked against his palm and the other guiding the strands. His hands were cold. "They were nervous, Kelennet. There were only three eggs."

"Three?" I shivered. "Only three? No wonder they were nervous. A three-egg clutch . . . none of them might stand at all from that nest."

Ojune did not reply to that. After he calmed me with his caresses, he said, "Are we well set now?"

I nodded. "They gave us enough for three weeks, if we eat nothing but seal jerky and dried reedberries. They said you gave good service, and were patient." I frowned. "I had no idea how good and how patient."

"It's done," he said, though I heard the heaviness in his voice. "Another month and we'll retire to the storm cave, anyway."

I had more to say, but I didn't. Other clutches admired my brother for the tsipia he displayed . . . but alone of my three sisters, I knew his tsipia was like the storms. It came and went in violence. He hid it so well that only a nest-twin could have noticed; we had stood at the same time, he and I, and had taken special care of one another since. I hugged his waist and pressed the flat of my nose against his stomach. He folded himself over me, dark hair scattering over my spotted back.

Several sea birds cried. The waves tripped themselves racing to shore. The whole world seemed disordered. I found no tsipia in it.

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