She sounds like she has secrets. Every word spoken is another one concealed in a dusty corner of the attic and tucked in among the cobwebs. Pull up a floorboard and become a millionaire only it ain’t cash it’s knowledge and cracks. It’s something that always got his back up, gets it up now and there’s a familiar prickle along his wings of feathers rising slightly with the shift in his mood. It’s irritating and he can’t control it no matter how he tries.
The fact that all of his secrets are laid bare at the withering glance of a violet eye and the bat of a painted eyelid only eat at him more.
He always had been the faster of them; his movements just as quick and sharp as his tongue on its best of days. She’s reminded of that now. Her eyes go saucer wide at the contact, the heat that lives beneath his skin spreading to hers and lingering even after he pulls away. A touch and she is momentarily undone. Her lungs forget how to function and her pulse hammers in her temples. His hands are rough with a thousand nicks and cuts earned by a childhood playing with swords bigger than he was, and the feel of them is no longer a memory. No longer a ghost of sensation in her mind but there and vivid and he is hers why is she standing here why is she-
Two beats before she’s back to rights again, folding her arm at the small of her back. Where he touched feels branded, burning, and she wants to hide it from view.
Out of sight, out of mind.
He has a piece of information she does not wish him to, but that has always been how they operate. Stealing snippets, hoarding secrets and weaknesses and waiting for the right moment to bring them back into the light. In that regard they have always both had excellent timing- innate, coming as naturally as breath.
But he is just as off-balance as she, perhaps more so. It’s written in the brief canting of his head (birdlike), the idle scratching of his shoulder. These are cues she was born to read, the guide to Dave Strider printed in bold in each gesture, each slight inflection. The ruffling of feathers is new and that he moves so quickly to obscure that tick is telling of how long he has lived with it.
She lets her gaze drift down the length of his arms; she had not noticed the scaling there before, too distracted by wings and trying to see the boy who
was had been so very dear in the man who came to meet her. She sees the narrowness of his waist now, the prominence of his ribs above his stomach. He is all muscle, feathers, and bone; not an ounce of fat on him and it is not a good thing.
Her heart twists and she wants to scream at him, to snatch the shades from his eyes and hold them and scold him for taking such poor care of himself, for wallowing in squalor when he could do so much more for himself. When he deserved so much more. She clenches her teeth behind closed lips, jaw tight, and smothers any words she may have said. If she opens her mouth her heart will be naked on her tongue, agitation and longing and guilt all tangled in her voice and oh so easy for him to pull apart.
She sees the hard line he’s drawn of his mouth and her eyes narrow. He isn’t pleased to be seen; the rigidness in his shoulders and the cording of the muscles in his arms makes him look fit to fly like a frightened bird. The thought of his leaving
again rubs her nerves raw.
“Ever the gentleman. But I left my craft kit back at the hotel, so I have to politely decline the mask.”
Throwing him off balance always amused her, his agitation at being so easily stripped down to the awkward boy he was hopelessly endearing. But now it only frustrates her. Frightens her, and more than a bit. If she pushes the pins in too deep he may go, may run, and how would she find him again?
She thinks of Vantas. She thinks of Vantas and Makara and how miserably they ended for lack of a few simple words. Her eyes slip off to the side, lungs crushed by an invisible weight as she debates her options.
Dave was always the one to buckle first. It was a cornerstone of their relationship.
But she imagines never hearing the tempo of his voice again, the endless stream of oft inane syllables from his lips and she
knows thinks she’d rather let the void swallow her. Perhaps it would, in a way. Leave her empty of all but aching and the bitter ashes of regret upon her tongue.
Still, she is uncertain. If anyone could read it in her, it was him. So there isn’t time to think on it. Hesitation was the most glaringly obvious tell for either of them. They were predators both and so much as a moments pause for doubt shifted them to prey. So she unfolds her arms from around herself, and with a movement slow and deliberate reaches forward to take his own in her hands. She slips fingers down to his wrist, drawing his hand from his pocket, extending his arm and running her fingertips over the scaling there. This must be why he itches.
“So, David; how long?”
Her voice is, perhaps, softer than she would like it to be. But any more and she may waver. She maintains a certain firmness of tone this way, the ways in which her heart twists and aches not quavering on each syllable.