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Squirnk knew he shouldn’t be in Lunaea’s room. She had told him many times to ask permission first. The crew kept finding new additions to Squirnk’s “space consent” rule. Sometimes he was nervous to breath wrong or else they would add another one.

After all the modifications he made for them, helping out around the Sparkle Speeder (someone had to clean the bathroom after Krieg coffee’d all over it), and just being his lovable self, Squirnk thought they would appreciate him more.

But no. Cors would make his deep sighs, his long eye rolls. Shaks would stare silently, but the look was clearly judging everything Squirnk made. Lunaea didn’t know how she sometimes spoke to him like a child and how it affected him. Vega was… still knew to the crew, and Squirnk was trying to figure them out. But he knew they didn’t approve of some of the Ysoki’s methods. And Sonny was Sonny and loved everyone no matter what. At least he looked out for his “little rat buddy.”

After everything he did around the ship, Squirnk knew he deserved better. But if he was being honest, this was the closest thing he ever had to real friends and a place to belong. It left Squirnk feeling scared to speak up, afraid to defend himself when they would make jabs at him. If he did, what if they told him to leave? He didn’t want to be alone again.

So, he put up with it no matter how much it hurt him.

But he also took his revenge when he could, thus being in Lunaea’s room. As much as they put up with him, Squirnk had to put up with that lot too! While the crew was away on another adventure that left him behind, he decided to treat himself a bit.

Throwing open the door to her closet, his little feet took him inside a world that he loved:

Glamor, fashion, gems, and beauty.

His clawed hands ran across rows of fabric, beautiful dresses, pants, skirts, tops, jackets for any and every occasion. The soft feeling made him shutter in anticipation. While there were so many choices, he looked for a particular piece he spotted Lunaea admiring in a store  weeks ago. He admired it too and thought about it more than he would like to admit.

After minutes of browsing, he finally spotted it. He pulled over a stool, scrambling up it, before delicately taking the dress from it’s hanger. It was made of a Triaxusian satin blend that looked silver when it was still. But with any movement, colors rippled across the surface like a romantic sunset. The smallest gems, so tiny they could barely be seen without a keen eye, caught the light like the first stars of twilight.

Squirnk quickly and carefully pulled on the garment. Weirdly enough, it wasn’t as long as he thought it would be on a four foot tall rat person. For Lunaea, who pushed seven feet tall, this would be little more than a cocktail dress. Still, he hiked it up to his knees so not to step on the fabric and marched to the mirror.

His breath shuttered at his reflection. Yes, he was a genius as making weapons. He could make monsters and enhancements better than anyone else. He could take pride with aiding and supporting the Sparkle Speeder crew.

But it was moments like this, seeing himself look so beautiful, that he truly felt right , that this was who he was supposed to be.

“Squirnky-Poo?”

He whirled around and dread gripped his chest.

Lunaea stood in the closet door, her eyes narrowed at him. He could feel the pressure of her psychic abilities pushing at the edges of his mind. For someone who wore her emotions so openly, she was hard to read at the moment.

She inhaled slowly, “What have I told you-”

“I’m sorry!” Squirnk blurted out. “I just wanted-”

She held up a hand, and the Ysoki gritted his teeth to prepare for the worst.

Lunaea started again, “What have I told you about needing to accessorize? That dress needs at least one bangle and a necklace to showcase the low cut neckline.”

Squirnk blinked quickly processing what she was saying. He watched as she pressed a button, and two doors opened to reveal her accessory wall. He squeaked out, “You’re… not mad at me?”

“Of course I am!” her voice was the opposite, excited at what was happening.

“Captain, I’m confused…”

“Because you ruined the surprise, silly!” she flashed her best celebrity smile at him. “That was supposed to be a present for you. A little thank you for all the help around here. I know the guys would never say it, except for Sonny, but we’re all glad you’re here.”

Clutching the fabric around his knees, Squirnk fought the heat rising from his chest all the way up to his ears. The same heat welled in his eyes and he fought the urge to cry.

They did care. They just had a funny way of showing it.

Lunaea tuned holding a small box of jewelry, “Let’s find something good to match it for the next time we all go to the club.”

“Okay!” Squirnk sniffled and grinned wide as he hurried to her side.