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Warmth

Sleepy-kun Nov 1st, 2015 (edited) 2,038 Never
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  1.     I sighed and slumped down in my bus seat, letting the grey cityscape speckled with colour rush by. A familiar tune played in my ears, some of the more subtle sounds drowned out by the buzz of the city and the rumble of the bus as it took off from the terminal. Almost every seat was taken, most of the passengers dressed in a jacket to fend off the slight chill in the early spring air. Looking around would reveal people of all shapes and sizes, even some of different species.
  2.  
  3.     To my left sat an older woman who must have stood eight feet tall, with a white horn poking through her black bangs, sipping a coffee and reading something on her phone. A bearded man with round sunglasses near the driver's seat tapped out a simple rhythm on his knees, and you could see a small set of wooden drums sticking out of the backpack that lay at his feet. At the back of a bus a little girl with a cat's ears and tail sat on her mother's lap, asking questions about everyone on the bus like they couldn't hear.
  4.  
  5.     It was tempting to stare, and almost expected; it had only been a few short years since Parahumans were revealed to the rest of the world, and fewer since they made the move to integrate. My generation grew up unaware of their existence, and I was young yet. World culture had to evolve quickly those few years, and it wasn't without its problems. I supposed sitting quietly on the bus with everyone else, waiting to arrive at a common destination made it seem like nothing had really changed.
  6.  
  7.     The bus came to a stop, the air system hissing and the doors' locking mechanism beeping as people stood up to disembark. I grunted as a knot in my shoulder worked itself out, and waited my turn to walk out the door. Another song started in my earbuds the moment I set foot on the pavement, and the cool breeze brushed my hair back as I started walking.
  8.  
  9.     If you looked around, the grey of the city revealed little bits of colour to you through the cracks. A strange restaurant selling food I couldn't pronounce radiated red from its interior, cheap fluorescent lights reflecting off the paint through the big front window. Between buildings were entire worlds painted in graffiti, some simple series of lines, some grand murals. Once in a while you'd pass a street musician, strumming a guitar or twittering on a flute, putting on a show for anyone who happened to walk by.
  10.  
  11.     It didn't take long before I started to hear the telltale sounds of Unity square, and the everlasting festival that always seemed to be happening there. Snippets of bizarre music, lights reflecting off of smoke and steam from food stands, and countless voices interacting in all manner of languages all gathered in the same place, acting as a beacon for anyone who felt lost.
  12.  
  13.     Unity square was always filled with vendor's booths, a year-round night market, no matter the weather or time of day. I suppose the mild weather year-round must have helped. Ten feet away someone was selling hand-made clothes, while walking another twenty would get you dumplings on a skewer. A police officer on a bike passed through the crowd at a leisurely pace, everyone respectfully moving out of the way. Off to the other end of the plaza, by a group of benches, a falconer was giving a demonstration, a proud eagle resting on his forearm over a tough leather glove. What drew my attention first, though, as always was the monument of unity.
  14.  
  15.     A bronze statue stood tall and proud in the middle of the downtown plaza, with fountains gently pouring water into a basin below. The statue depicted a man in a suit and a woman with the lower half of a spider shaking hands, laughing like old friends. I always took pause and made time to look when I passed the statue by. It wasn't often you saw a figure in a statue smiling, let alone two.
  16.  
  17.     I had only just torn my eyes away when I thought I heard a familiar voice calling out. I turned on my heels just in time to feel something run right into my chest, and I took a step back as I felt a pair of arms wrap around me in a tight hug. Looking down showed me just what I wanted to see.
  18.  
  19.     Ashen blonde hair, just a little bit ruffled by the wind. A heavy, oversized winter coat that was too warm for the weather. Two long black horns curved backward. A long tail decorated with rich, dark red scales that ended in a black point.
  20.  
  21.     “Good evening, Marcia.” I said calmly, beginning to break into a smile despite myself. She had that effect on people.
  22.  
  23.     Marcia looked up, standing nearly a foot shorter than me, and grinned wide. Her pointed teeth showed a little, her fair skin contrasting with the dark red scales gathered near the corners of her eyes. Her eyes themselves were swirling gold, with vertical pupils that looked me up and down before she buried her face in my chest again, still not ready to let go.
  24.  
  25.     “I missed you. Have you been sleeping well?” She asked, her charmingly scratchy voice muffled by having her forehead pressed into my jacket.
  26.  
  27.     “Yeah, I've been alright.” I lied, not wanting to spoil the pleasant mood. She pulled back and studied my face again, this time unwrapping her arms from me and holding them together at her front, her long sleeves rolled up a little to keep them out of the way.
  28.  
  29.     The dark red scales continued onto her arms, covering most of the backs of her hands and forearms. I also knew that the scales trailed up her shoulders and further, connecting with a layer covering most of her back. Her hands were mostly normal, except that her nails were black like her horns and had a little bit of a point to them. She rubbed her hands together, trying to keep warm for a moment before she placed them back in her pockets where they usually were. Her light hair, trailing down just a little past her shoulders, covered the handful of scales on her neck.
  30.  
  31.     “Hmm,” She looked thoughtful. “Okay.” She allowed herself a light chuckle. “Those dark circles under your eyes are a little lighter today.” She continued her grin while she teased, rocking back and forth on her feet as her red tail swished from side to side.
  32.  
  33.     “And you? You're not too cold?” I asked pointedly, noticing one of the pointed ears sticking out of her hair twitching as I spoke. “It's a unusually chilly right now.” Her jacket shifted a little bit on her shoulders, and I could tell it must be her small red wings flexing beneath her coat.
  34.  
  35.     “Sure is. I was going to get some coffee, but you showed up on time as always. Shall we?”
  36.  
  37.     “Of course.”
  38.  
  39.     Marcia's soft boots didn't make a sound as she skipped over, wrapping her arm around mine and leading me away to the coffee shop she must have picked out for that week. She was always scouting out new places to get hot coffee, and it seemed like every time she found a favourite, a new shop opened.
  40.  
  41.     “I won't stop until I've had the best cup of joe in town,” Marcia would say. “and here in Seporah, it's a new town every day.”
  42.  
  43.     In any other city we would have drawn a lot of attention, I think, but we were in the right place. We weren't beneath notice, but anyone who took a glance at us walking together didn't stop to look twice. As the city with the highest parahuman population in the country, it was hardly a rare sight in Seporah. The pleasant weather and clean air didn't hurt when it came to making everyone get along, either. Anyone you asked could tell you that Seporah was the place to be, whether you were human or not.
  44.  
  45.     Marcia was a dragon. She had a tail, scales, horns and wings that were just a little too small to fly with. She could glide if she got a running start, but there was never much need. She was cold-blooded, meaning she had to stay warm or she would get very sick. She was almost completely immune to heat on her scaled sections, but it would make her human skin itch. Not the kind of thing I would have to worry about with a normal girlfriend. I'm still not sure why, but to me it had a certain charm that dating her was a learning experience. There was something funny about seeing a legendary beast of yore get excited for coffee and donuts, too.
  46.  
  47.     We had been together for eight months, and so far we were a good foil to each other. I had always been fairly quiet, preferring to stay beneath notice and speak when spoken to. Marcia was constantly full of energy, looking for new things to try and places to explore. Whenever my phone rang, I could be almost certain it was her, trying to trick me into a quick little adventure of her design. As the ice to her fire, I think I had been doing pretty well. Marcia was always upbeat and open about everything, meaning there were few problems between us that a quick conversation couldn't fix.
  48.  
  49.     I exhaled half a laugh as she quickened her pace, dragging me along to a tiny hole-in-the-wall cafe hidden between a felafel restaurant and a print shop. The doors struck a bell over the entrance, and an old man who sat polishing a teacup behind the counter stood and greeted us with a smile. He raised a hand and swept back his hair, grey peppered with black as Marcia stood fixed on the menu sitting on the counter.
  50.  
  51.     “I'll take a medium with cream, and...?” I waited for Marcia's response.
  52.  
  53.     “How's your cappuccino game?” She asked the old man at the counter with a raised eyebrow and a sharp-toothed grin. I resisted a strong urge to cover my face with my free hand as the old man scratched his chin, before he smiled and nodded.
  54.  
  55.     “How strong do you take it?” He asked as he leaned over the counter on his elbow.
  56.  
  57.     “Lethal.” Stated Marcia plainly, puffing out her chest a little.
  58.  
  59.     “You got it.” The man laughed as he moved back to the kitchen.
  60.  
  61.     He came back with our drinks and a big slice of cake, and we took over a small table situated by the big front window. Marcia, with no need to worry about burning her tongue, took a sip of her cappuccino and sighed contentedly.
  62.  
  63.     “Mmmm. Heat.” She mumbled, her words muffled by her raising the cup back to her mouth. I smiled quietly and helped myself to a forkful of the rich red velvet cake. It was still warm; some of the vanilla icing on top was sliding off of the cake onto the plate.
  64.  
  65.     “So, what have you been up to?” I started quietly. “You're in your second semester now, right?” She seemed absorbed in her coffee for a moment before she looked me in the eye and replied.
  66.  
  67.     “Yep. Though it doesn't matter much when you're in general arts. It doesn't fell any different from last semester.” Marcia looked at the cake for a moment, but left it alone for the time in favour of her coffee.
  68.  
  69.     “You got any idea what you're taking next year yet? I thought you'd have to sign up soon.”
  70.  
  71.     “Nope. Not a clue.”
  72.  
  73.     I clasped my hands together and rested my chin on them, taking in the little details about Marcia while we sat close together. Her ears would twitch whenever a sound rang out from the kitchen, and the tip of her tail drew little circles on the floor as it stuck out from the side of her chair. Her golden yellow eyes always seemed to swirl, never holding still, and the smooth black horns swept back over her head seemed to have a bit of shine to them I hadn't noticed when we were outside. Her wings had stretched out and wrapped around her chest when we came indoors, and I could see their tips from under her unzipped coat.
  74.  
  75.     After a minute, Marcia cleared her throat and I realized I had been staring again.
  76.  
  77.     “To be clear, yes, you are on a date with a big red lizard.” She chuckled, and my ears heated up. She started to laugh, much louder and clearer than me when I joined until she managed to bring it down to a snicker “Okay, two questions. One. When are we raiding? Two. When are you going to feed me some of that cake? You've got the only fork.”
  78.  
  79.     I glanced over at the old man behind the counter, but he was suddenly very interested in an outdated newspaper on the counter. From around the paper, though, I could see the corner of a grin.
  80.  
  81.     “Alright, you got me.” I muttered with defeat, letting one hand return to the table and using the other to take hold of the fork. She sneakily rested a hand on mine as I took a bit of cake and held it up to her. She took a bite, and hummed happily. I got another piece ready as I began to speak.
  82.  
  83.     “If you want to go on a raid, just say so. I've been waiting on you.” I said, still watching the old man from the corner of my eye. “You've mostly been playing with that mage alt of yours. I figured you'd hop on to your main when you wanted to organize something.”
  84.  
  85.     Marcia had gotten me addicted to a fantasy MMORPG she played with her college friends, where she played as a powerful warrior with a two-handed hammer. I played a healer, and the teasing was relentless until it was time to go on quests. She was a natural leader, and always fought on the front lines while I supported from the back. We made a pretty good team, if I did say so myself.
  86.  
  87.     The conversation went on until I went to pull of another piece of cake, and ended up scratching empty plate with the fork. When I went up to return our dishes, the old man at the counter stood and asked me to wait for a moment.
  88.  
  89.     Not a minute later, he lead a tall, light blue-skinned woman with pure white hair out front by the hand. She showed a little bit of age, but I could tell that her white hair came from her being a yuki-onna, an ice spirit.
  90.  
  91.     Marcia came up to the counter and joined me, smiling when she saw the icy woman standing at the counter with the old man's hand clasped in hers.
  92.  
  93.     “We only got married recently.” The Yuki-onna explained as she looked lovingly at her husband. He scratched at the back of his head bashfully, but with a grin on his face. “We both always wanted to open a cafe, and we finally got everything set up this week. Would you mind if we took a picture?”
  94.  
  95.     Of course we both agreed. The old man set up his old camera on one of the tables with a timer, and rushed back into position with a big smile. After the flash, we said our goodbyes and started for the door, but not before the yuki-onna had plenty of time to say how we were such a cute couple.
  96.  
  97.     “Well, I guess now we have to be regulars here.” Remarked Marcia as she looked up at me. I scratched my head, and this prompted another round of laughter from the whole room.
  98.  
  99.     We made our way to the bus station and both sat down, Marcia's head on my shoulder as we sat in happy silence.
  100.  
  101.     “Hey...” I started quietly. “When does your class start tomorrow?” Marcia looked up and grinned once again.
  102.  
  103.     “Pretty late, not until the afternoon. Why?” her ears twitched before her eyes narrowed. “You're thinking what I'm thinking, aren't you?” I looked around innocently.
  104.  
  105.     “You said it first.” I shrugged. “Kung fu movie night?” Marcia's eyes lit up.
  106.  
  107.     “What are you, stupid? Hell yeah!” She made a fist and gave a pump just as the bus hissed to a stop.
  108.  
  109.     The bus ride to my place wasn't a long one, but it gave us plenty of time to argue over what we would watch. As hilarious as it was, you could only watch Fist of the Screaming Dragon so many times. We eventually settled on a new one, just in time for our stop.
  110.  
  111.     My place was a small, single-room apartment located off of one of the quieter streets. The little parking lot was usually empty, and I still had yet to speak or even hear from any of my neighbours. Marcia and I walked up the short flight of stairs together to my apartment, and she didn't let go of my arm as I fished around in my pocket for my keys.
  112.  
  113.     As always, Marcia teased me for the lack of decoration in my place. The walls were white, and nothing was hung up to cover the empty space. I flipped the switch on my cheap lamp and set about clearing off my big black chair as Marcia went to take off her winter clothes. I didn't have enough space for a couch, but I did have a good armchair, and Marcia was always eager to share.
  114.  
  115.     I had been finished cleaning up for a few minutes when Marcia came back into the room, wearing a spare t-shirt she must have taken from my room. It was massive, a large plain white one I had found for a dollar at one of the clothing booths in Unity square. It was so huge, in fact, that I was caught off guard to see she was in her underwear underneath. Knowing better than to comment, I set up our movie to start and Marcia squeezed into my chair next to me, hugging me close to share my body heat.
  116.  
  117.     I pulled up a blanket in silence as we both watched, Marcia's ears twitching whenever someone landed a particularly good hit. Her hands rested on her lap for the first half, but they eventually shifted until they were draped over my neck. One of her wings slid behind me and pressed lightly against my back, probably trying to share some of the warmth.
  118.  
  119.     By the end of the film, Marcia was sound asleep on my lap, snoring just a little bit as her horns lightly poked at my chest, her hair ruffling against my shirt. Her tail had worked its way down and was wrapped loosely around my ankle, and I very gently uncoiled it before I tried to stand up.
  120.  
  121.     Marcia didn't wake up when I left her on my chair. I picked the blanket back up to toss it over her, but held when I got another look at her sleeping face. Her mouth was slightly open, and I could see one of her sharp fangs past her lips. She was blushing deeply, probably from the warmth, and her wings were wrapped around her as far as they could go. Her messy hair was swept a little over her face, and I couldn't stop myself from reaching down and pushing her bangs back. A warm feeling overtook me, and I did something out of character.
  122.  
  123.     Very slowly and carefully, I hooked my arms beneath her knees and back, careful not to disturb her wings, and picked her up along with the blanket. She didn't stir, but her ears and the corner of her mouth twitched as I carried her back to my bed, mindful of the walls lest her horns or the tips of her wings scrape against them.
  124.  
  125.     She stirred a little as I approached my bed, and I felt her soft lips come up and press lightly against my cheek. Her eyes were still shut as I gently lowered her, sweeping back the blankets once her legs were down. I found myself spreading out as much as I could on my half of the bed, and we both let out quiet sighs once the blankets were back on us.
  126.  
  127.     When I looked at Marcia, I didn't see a dragon. I saw a sleeping girl with a smile on her face who loved me back. I exhaled a silent laugh, and her eyes opened just a crack.
  128.  
  129.     “I love you.” She whispered. I opened my mouth to reply, but her eyes had already shut again.
  130.  
  131.     I moved closer and pulled her in, bringing her head up to my chin.
  132.  
  133.     “I love you too, Marcia.” I replied, so quietly it might not have even been a whisper.
  134.  
  135.     For the first time that spring, I looked out my window and got a good view of the stars. The half-moon shone bright, just enough that I could see Marcia's horns shining ever so slightly beneath my chin.
  136.  
  137.     I exhaled deeper than I thought I could as my eyes drooped shut, Marcia's wings shifting slightly as I fell into a peaceful sleep. The last thing I felt before everything went dark was her cool breath rolling over me, and her eyelashes tickling my neck.
  138.  
  139.     “I'll see you in the morning.”
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