In his defense

In one moment, the atmosphere changed.

He reacted without a second thought. The insult had run his anger past the point of thought. Rational thought dissipated as the muscles in hands made them clench. A moment later he straightened his fingers, pressing his palms down on the table. The part of his mind which wanted to attack was, perhaps, all of his mind. Which was why pressing probably wasn’t the right word for what he did. From the sound he made, slammed made much more sense.

Before he could stand up, before he could swing, she attacked. Instead, his hands rose in front of him to catch her by the shoulders. Her teeth grazed his neck, unable to make a proper mark there.

She was feisty, her fingers at his chest, long nails reddening the skin under his shirt.

He raised up and hand and clocked her in the forehead. She reeled back and fell to the ground. He took a breath.

“Someone might think I wronged you.”

She mumbled something that might have been screw you. He kicked her in the stomach. Yep, someone was going to throw a fit about this. As if she didn’t insult him first, as if she didn’t attack him first.

Damned double standards.

Of my daily life

I always forget that I have put on the kettle.

Earl Grey is my poison of choice. Steeped for longer than it probably should be. Loose leaf, in a stylized strainer. A little milk and too much sugar, if I put anything in at all. I rather like drinking tea.

But I forget that I’ve put the kettle on. I leave the kitchen, I go somewhere else, I forget that I’m thirsty.

The screaming of the kettle always catches me off guard. I always have to run back to the kitchen, find my mug, if I even left it out and prepare everything as a harried mess.

Then it is too hot. For ten minutes it sits. Sometimes I forget that I have it there and it goes cold.

For those times I actually can drink my tea, remembering it when it is at the perfect temperature, ready for me. Sweetened or no.

Something finally seems right.

Warmth

“I am not prepared for this weather,” Zale admitted.

Salimah had to agree. Despite having the proper gear for the mountains, Zale didn’t appear at all able to hide from the snowy chill. “Use this.” She removed her over cloak, handing it over to him.

Zale smiled, but shook his head. “I won’t take your warmth, lady Salimah. I might be uncomfortable, but I can survive this.”

She did not retract her offer. “I live in this ice. It doesn’t cause me the same discomfort. My temple garb in its entirety protects me from this, under my faith. I am simply sharing a portion of it with you. Please, while we traverse this snow at the very least.”

He did not deny it again. It came down to his ankles, but it was better than prior. “Thank you. I see why you wouldn’t make this offer when we are with the others. You always wear many layers, but that is certainly not enough to share with all.”

Salimah nodded. “Let’s keep this between you and me then. I am trusting in your strong arm to protect us, if we are attacked.”

Zale nodded. “Of course.”

The two of them trudged onward.

Acceptance

The first time it happened, Jin almost kicked him off. He lit a candle beforehand though, enough to wake himself up and consider the situation.

“You’re not a dog,” he said to Ling. “Go back to bed.”

However, despite the fact Ling had just gotten there, the boy was asleep at the foot of Jin’s bed without any preamble. Jin considered shoving him off. He considered picking him up and moving him back to his own bed, then decided both took more effort than he wanted to bother with.

With a sigh, Jin extinguished the candle and went back to sleep.

Evading the waterfront

Robin couldn’t wait for the fireworks, which was why he was surprised when Jay said he wasn’t coming.

“But, fireworks!” Robin protested. “It happens once a year. Right over the waterfront! Come with me!”

Jay shivered, shaking his head. “I’ll pass. I have work to do.”

“Oh no you don’t! You aren’t using work as an excuse to miss the festivities!”

Jay scowled. “I don’t like fireworks, Robin. Go. Do whatever you want with your time off, that’s your prerogative. As is mine.”

Robin sighed. “You can’t work during your time off all the time. We don’t have a case!”

“I have paperwork to file.”

That was always Jay’s excuse. Robin wasn’t even sure what all of the paperwork was. Still, Robin held back for a moment. “Of course. Well, I’ll bring you something back from the festival.”

Jay nodded, waving him off with an absent look in his eyes. Robin began to plan how he would get Jay down to the waterfront.

When he returned that evening though, the office was dark. Confused, Robin let himself in. “Jay?” He searched around and found Jay in a backroom, hands over his head. “Jay?”

Jay jumped, looking at Robin with bewilderment. “Music doesn’t drown it out, it just makes it more startling.” Jay’s voice wavered and it sounded as though he were about to ramble. “It pierces through everything, Robin, everything. I hate this. I can’t-”

The sound of another display from the bay sounded off and Jay bent over, placing his head between his knees.

Robin forgot what his plan had been. He walked over, sitting down in the chair next to Jay. “Next year, let’s take a trip,” he said. “Where have you wanted to go? I’ve heard that Kwall has this restaurant that’s renowned throughout-”

Jay laughed, a weak sound, but a relieved one nonetheless. “Thank you, Robin.”

It wasn’t as fun as if he had gone to the festival, but in Robin’s mind there was no decision to be made about where he should have been that night.

Building a fire

Ingrid made a beeline for the fire. Everyone else had long since disappeared into their huts. Only one other person remained out in the elements.

Kahina’s voice was low. Her chant was in the language of her people, one that Ingrid did not know nor could she name it. The reason for her speech in front of the fire was something Ingrid also did not comprehend. It had something to do with the fire, that was all she knew. It appeared to dwindle, though the light remained consistent and the heat increased to the point where Ingrid could feel it, several lengths away.

“Stop that,” Ingrid said.

Had everyone gone home because they were scared? Or was it because that was how things were done here? Ingrid considered not getting involved. But the intensity of the small fire terrified her.

“Kahina? Please.”

Kahina’s voice became raspy as she continued. Ingrid couldn’t get over how short her hair was, completely shorn off as of this morning. This way she could see every feature of Kahina’s face, glowing in the light. Full lips were in constant motion, tongue pink between her crooked teeth.

It was too hot and Ingrid wasn’t as close as Kahina. She could feel her eyes drying, lips cracking.

It was as if she were on fire.

“Kahina!”

Was she on fire?

Ingrid tackled Kahina, dropping them both to the ground. Kahina stopped chanting. The heat diminished, the light normalized, and the fire returned to eating the wood and leaves blanketed below it.

It was fine. Ingrid drew in a ragged breath, feeling Kahina do the same underneath her.

And then she heard the chant.