Time to Move On

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Ray shuffled in scratching his belly just as Kai managed to burn his first attempt at cooking bacon. He chuckled as Kai coughed and threw open every window in the kitchen.

"Oh essence of the flame, may I help you manage the stove?"

"Shut up." He threw the bacon into the trashcan just to regret it as the bacon and grease melted through the trash bag. He cussed and threw the pan into the sink with a clang.

"For the future, cooking on a high setting doesn't make it go any faster. It just burns things," said Ray.

Kai rolled his eyes and picked gingerly at the half filled, half melted trash bag. Crud, some of it had melted to the side of the trash bin. Ugh. And it smelled. He'd have to take the whole thing out.

"You take care of that. I'll cook." Ray stepped past him to pluck the pan out of the sink. He frowned at the countertops filled with food. "You get this all yourself?"

"Hn." Kai hefted the trashcan up, hating every second that it felt like lifting weights. He allowed himself to slump a bit more out by the curb, where he tossed the sack into the burnable trash and peeled off the melted plastic from inside, then gave up and just figured the Grangers wouldn't mind if their white, cheap trash can had a few blemishes.

Back inside, Ray was already poking away at a little plain of sizzling bacon, his lazily tied back hair fuzzy from a night of sleep. He gave Kai a morning smile as he went to dig the blender out for a protein shake.

"At least you got the rice right," he said, gesturing to the steaming rice cooker with his chin.

"Are you enjoying my ineptitude?"

"No, I'm trying to be encouraging."

You're being an ass, Kai wanted to say, but thought better of it. He did, after all, like Ray. He didn't have any reason to care whether or not Ray, who had grown up working in restaurants, thought it amusing that he couldn't cook. It wasn't that he couldn't, Kai just didn't. As mentioned before, he didn't even have a stove in his house. On the off season that he wasn't at his boarding school, where they took care of all the food, he lived off of a diet of microwave meals and whatever he could find for cheap around town.

He found the blender and got to work throwing fruit and Tyson's abandoned whey protein together. At least that didn't take any special skills.

"Be sure to make Ayah something first," said Kai before turning on the blender.

"She awake?" Ray asked the moment Kai turned it off.

"Hn." And perhaps traumatized because you couldn't keep your mouth closed while helping her. Damn it, why did he care? It was nothing anyone could have helped. And the only difference between Ray and his reaction to caring for her naked body was that Kai had thought better than to try and have some sort of manly bonding over it or whatever the hell Ray had been doing.

Kai found a seat at the table, readjusted his seat so his tail feathers could poke out the back of the chair, and settled into his shake.

Really...he shouldn't care so much. After all, if he really did want Ayah to be happy, he'd keep himself as distant as possible from her. Ray, hell, anyone was more suited to making her happy than Kai was.

As though the universe sought to frustrate his thoughts, Ray pushed the full plate of fried rice, mixed with all sorts of egg and baconny goodness, in front of Kai.

"Could you take this up to her? I think I heard Tyson's snoring stop."

Kai sighed heavily. He wanted to call Ray out on being a momma hen again, but took the plate anyways. Against his better knowledge, he wanted to do this. The protectiveness within him whispered that he could understand her humiliation better than the others, but that just confused him.

He was still confused when he walked into a yawning, frumpy Tyson, who eyed the plate with a wide, sleepy smile.

"Aw, Kai, you shouldn't've!"

Tyson reached for the plate, but Kai raised it out of his reach.

"This is for Ayah." He hesitated. "Can you go help her eat this?"

Tyson blinked. Then gave a wide smile. "'Course! Oni-tan to the rescue!"

Kai brought the plate back down, somewhat reluctantly, and allowed Tyson to pluck it up and skip away with it.

For the uptenth time that morning, Kai sighed, then leaned back on the wall. It still felt weird to have a thick cushion of feathers and his own flesh separating him from his habitual stance.

He needed to get away from here. Clear his head. If Tyson and Ray were so chipper, Max had to be okay. Besides, he could always keep tabs from a distance. He had to figure out his college situation anyways, and who knew what else.

Kai closed his eyes, listening to the homey hiss of Ray's cooking and the murmur of Tyson's voice upstairs. Right. Time to move on. He had a life that was going on without him...right?

Something within him ached. It wasn't anything new.

"Morning, K-man."

Grandpa Granger was coming down the hallway, tightening his usual practice pants for kendo with a bamboo sword over his shoulder. He gave Kai a cheesy wink before putting the sword point first on the ground and resting his palms over the hilt.

"You're looking especially freaky this morning," he said.

...Definitely time to move on. Guess he'd pick up his second half of breakfast on the way. Ugh.

"Thank you for letting me stay," Kai said. "I think I'll be heading home."

"Right-o, home skillet. You know you're welcome to my crib anytime."

Kai did his best to smile politely, but it probably came out more like a straight-lip grimaced as it often did when he tried to smile. He gave the elder Granger a polite bow of gratitude, then headed towards the door.

"Yo, ain't you going to say good-bye to Ayah?"

Kai just shrugged and went to pull on his boots. His leather duster waited for him by the door with whatever remained of the cash he grabbed that morning in one of its pockets.

"I hope you be extra special about that sweet pretty thing. Don't tell the little dude about this, but I think she's tak'n a special shining to you, you dig?"

Kai's fingers froze twined in his laces. His stomach had done the strangest, most disconcerting jump at those words. It was almost as though it had been trying to dislodge his lungs, for he even found himself catching his breath.

Then he let it all out and continued tying, the feeling smothered. Even if it was true, it could never happen. Not with him.

He stood and wrapped the trench coat about, shifting his wings to keep them out of sight, and stepped out into the breaking day.

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