A Way to a Man's Heart

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She had tea and a large plate of curry waiting for him in the kitchen when he got out. He had followed the scent of food (something that he seemed to always want nowadays), and found her munching away at her own plate with another right next to her. She gestured to it with her chin, as her mouth was full, to show it was for him, so he sat down with a quiet thank you. Tyson would have had seizures hearing so much gratitude from him.

They ate in quiet. He couldn't help himself from stealing a few glances of her. He dared any man not to. About the third time, however, he caught her glancing up at him as well. She flushed and turned back to her curry before she could have spot the heat crawling up to his face as well.

"Sorry! I never got the chance to see your feathers, the gray at the tips—I mean, I was kind of..." She turned her face even further to hide her face behind her hair, even trailing a bit in her curry. "You're beautiful."

A hot chill ran up his spine and his stomach did a giddy twist behind his ribs. Had she just...did that mean he should say he found her beautiful too? Wait, was beautiful even the right thing to say to a freak guy like him? But then, he wouldn't be a freak to her...

Damn it...it still didn't matter.

Sighing to himself, he reached out and pulled the lock of white hair that had fallen into her curry. She jerked around to see what he was doing and her face turned even more red, if possible.

"Stupid hair," she grabbed a cloth from the stove to rub it. "Would you believe me if I said Tyson and Grandpa don't have a single hair band? They tie back their mop heads with whatever torn piece of fabric they can get their hands on. Like they'd ever had to deal with this much..."

Kai reached into his pocket for a hair band. He had found them useful in keeping his ever lengthening tail feathers in a bundle easy enough to stuff down his pants. Without a word he stood and walked behind her, where he cautiously scooped back her hair. He didn't know what pushed him to take the initiative to be in close contact with another being. Perhaps it had been because he had seen her naked, even helped bathe her, so such boundaries were hard to replace. But she didn't seem to mind, so he gingerly pulled back her soft, satin smooth waves into a loose (maybe even too loose because he feared pulling at her hair) ponytail.

"Thank you," she said, giving him a smile over her shoulder.

He shrugged. "Tail feathers." He meant to explain more than that, but his voice was even harder to find than usual.

"Really? Are they that long?"

Her eyes went down and, since he knew for sure he was so not going to unzip his pants and pull out his tail, he robot-marched to his seat and started scarfing down food as though nothing had happened. He should have taken a longer shower; used up all of Tyson's hot water, anything.

"Ray told me he saw you breathe fire," she said, rather lamely, as though she herself was having a problem coming up with conversation topics.

He shrugged, lucky to have his mouth full. He planned on pretending to take a nap somewhere or puppy-guarding the laundry after this.

Ayah fiddled with a piece of potato in her curry. "Kai, why are you so afraid of me? I can think of reasons but my father always told me not to assume and...if it's because of what happened back in that room of Cain's, I promise I won't do it again."

"I'm not afraid of you," he said most stoutly, which was true...right? "Just how much can you hear? What makes you think I'm afraid?"

"Your heartbeat," she said. "And your breathing. And...well, there are certain kinds of 'alarms' I guess you can say that I can hear from the human body, beneath the sound of the heartbeat and breathing. One is when the body is injured, and if said person's heart rate happens to be up, it increases the blood flow and makes the alarm easier for me to hear. The other alarm also happens when the blood flow is sped up, but it's usually something like...potential. Like the whole body starts to hum with pent up energy in case they need to run or fight or use it for something, which is what happens when someone is stressed or afraid, right?" Her brow wrinkled and her eyes widened with earnestness. "Right now it's that second kind of alarm with you. You're all pent up for something. Though...you're usually pent up like that, so I guess I was just getting jumpy when I heard it pick up around me..."

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