Leithan frowned, said nothing as they stepped under the ironwork arches of the Fashion District. Everything was quiet in the small hours of the night. Another cat sauntered past, and Leithan thought he heard voices – people talking inside their home, maybe.

The winding cobblestone path wasn't very well-lit, but Leith knew his city well enough to find his way in the dark.

"You don't need to be nervous," Leithan told him at length.

"I'm not," Teshin said.

"Liar," Leithan replied, smiling. "Lux, remember?" Though it wasn't really thanks to that, and they probably both knew it.

Teshin shoved his hands in his pants' pockets, and he groaned low in his throat.

Leithan rolled his eyes. "Whatever. We kissed and it was nice. That doesn't make us yaklizi. You're kinda skipping steps."

But Tesh didn't seem to hear that last part. "Just nice?" He sounded disheartened.

"No," Leithan admitted, laughing. "It was more than that." He avoided Teshin's gaze. The truth was, the lux still sang in his blood, still vibrated across his skin.

So he was grateful for the opportunity to walk it off, and for the cool night wind, which carried the distant scent of the sea and perhaps a hint of rain.

Except, Teshin had stopped.

Realizing this belatedly, Leithan paused and backtracked. Until they stood facing each other in the narrow cobblestone alley, between two shops' side walls. Under a lonely lantern, and a sky with no moon.

"What was it then?" Teshin asked.

Leithan breathed in deep, to calm himself. His heart thundered against his chest, as it had done all night, it seemed. Leithan stepped closer under the lantern's feeble glow.

"I don't know," he answered honestly, and their eyes met. Hard to avoid when you were pretty much the same height.

"Amazing?" Leithan tried with a helpless shrug. "I really, really liked kissing you, obviously. But, I guess I'm . . . a little bit . . ."

"Scared," Teshin finished for him, like he could read it on his face. He probably could.

Leithan breathed out, a weight lifting from his chest.

"Yeah," he said.

Teshin reached out to lightly hold Leith's arm between elbow and wrist. "Why?"

Leithan thought about it, choosing his words. "I don't want to be an experiment or a one-time thing." He shrugged, glanced away. It was harder to say than he'd anticipated. "If it was someone else, maybe I wouldn't mind, I don't know. But with you . . . I'm just not sure I could handle it." His voice lost strength toward the end.

"Look at me," Teshin said, and Leithan did.

Teshin was clearly hesitating. Like he wanted to say something, or many somethings, yet the silence lingered like a fragile aura wrapping itself around them. And through this silence Teshin reached up for his necklace. His shaipi.

He took it off, messing up his hair a bit. Then, as Leithan held his breath, chest tight with something he couldn't fully make sense of, Teshin slipped the leather cord over his head, until it dangled from his neck, caiman's fang very white against the black of his shirt.

"You can't do that," Leithan said weakly.

Two years together, and Nix had never done this. Probably hadn't even considered it. Kovishi had given Valira his shaipi after a few months of being together. They'd told him the story – it was really sweet. Kovishi had given it to her after Val told him that she was pregnant.

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