[P] Double Edged Blades
The winter solstice was going to be soon, the moon was almost full, and Whisper wondered partly whether or not she and Theo should go to take another visit to her parents. She didn’t know, Bête Noire would certainly not benefit from throwing another feast, not when Winter was setting in and food was becoming scarce, and their own pack needed them, she liked to think, maybe she would go on the spring equinox. 

She sat at a vacant table in the inn, closer to the fire seeing as in winter she was perpetually cold no matter how she layered. She nursed a cup of hot tea and crossed her ankles before her, though mostly she held the hot cup to warm her hands while she sat in contemplative silence. 

Or it was silent, before Theodore walked in and deposited himself in the seat across from Whisper at her table. At first the pagan said nothing, but her nose crinkled and she scowled at the man without much delay. ”You smell... like horse dung.” she quipped, pouting for a reason she couldn’t determine. Why did she always act this way around him? She didn’t know, all she could say was that he riled her up, his presence irritated her in a way that no one else could boast.
The coyote stretched out as he walked, one hand over his hat while Theo padded down the main strip of town.  The winter season was coming in full swing now, and while his old home wasn't exactly a stranger to snow and cold, it didn't have anything on the weather this further north of where he lived.  At least here they had nice, sizeable stables that were cozy for the horses, and warm fireplaces in secure houses.  It was certainly nice, though it was strange how orderly everything was.

Even their accommodations were kingly compared to what he knew, having spent a majority of his life on the road.  He was going now to the in where they were housed, though instead he was hoping for something to eat and drink.  Working for Del Cenere wasn't nearly as glamorous as he imagined it might be, at least for the moment, but it was still hard work that needed to be done.  He'd managed to wash up well enough, and physically he was clean, though he could swear he'd still smell the stalls for a little while.  Walking into the inn, Theo moved to the bar hoping to ask something to fill back up on, when he spotted a certain wheat mix sitting by the fire at a table.  Seeing Whisper with just a cup of tea, he asked for the same before scooping the warm cup up in a charcoal hand, then walking over with a small wave.

As soon as he sat down, the mystic's face scrunched in a show of disgust, before curtly telling him that the odor from mucking out stables wasn't strictly in his head.  Letting out a short nasally breath, the coyote smirked at the Mayflower and said "Fine evenin' to you too.  Havin' a good tea time?" in his most polite tone possible.  At this point in their bantering, it was hard for even him to tell when he was being sincere, and when he was being sardonic.
Theodore as always managed to waltz right up to the witch and sit down with her like he owned the place, sporting his stupid cocky grin as he spoke to her as though they were old friends. Her face scrunched up in a deepening scowl when he asked if she was “enjoying her tea time”. ”I was.” she snapped back, emphasis on the second word to drive home the unfinished portion of the sentence, ‘before you came along’.

Truth be told she didn’t know why she was so upset with him, Theo had never done anything to her to deserve the way she treated him, unless you counted the time she caught him with his pants down, but that was a memory the witch preferred to remain deeply as repressed as was possible. Nonetheless, she turned her head down and away, refusing even to let slip the notion that she didn’t absolutely despise his presence, but still, everything she did, every movement, every tone, was quiet and subtle. She wondered when he would finally get the hint and leave her alone... as was bound to happen.
Whisper was in a snarly mood as ever today, which he could only reply with looking down his muzzle where she sat, his smile diminishing to a smirk.  "Charmin'." he said in a playful tone, glancing down into his cup and swirling the tea that half-filled it.  He half expected that since leaving Bête Noire, they'd become closer as friends, but ever since they got here it felt like things have been slowly working backwards.  Did he make a mistake in coming here?  It was always his dream to run about in a gang, but the way things developed in his head about Whisper, he couldn't help but wonder if he was behaving like a child.

Grumbling in his confusion and doubt, Theo took a sip of the piping leaf wash, before making a slight face at his drink and setting it down with a tiny clink, intending on holding off the next sip for a little while.  If he had noticed her blatant attempts to ignore him till he faded from view like a foggy memory, the coyote didn't show it.  "So, do anythin' fun today?  Pick a new herb you've not seen yet?"  It wasn't lost to him that his conversational skills were somewhat unrefined when it came to Whisper's downtime, but that was kind of not his fault.  He hardly knew about what she actually did, as any attempts of the Mayflower to be productive seemed dashed by his presence.  And it wasn't for lack of trying to find out, though that might've been part of the issue altogether.

It was enough to think that maybe, Whisper really did just accompany him out of pity, with no real reason to say yes or no.  Had he forced the witch into this, despite trying to give Whisper the space to think about it before they had even planned to leave?  Whatever faint interest she might've shown in him before felt hollow in his mind, like the more he looked for proof that it wasn't just in his head, the more it seemed like a dream.

The latest no less than genius comment to come out of the coydogs lips directed at Whisper set her face into a small semblance of a scowl as pale eyes glared back at him from where she had set her face facing away, resulting in a rather effective side eye that was doubtless the nastiest expression that frail Whisper could muster on her waifish features, her birdlike big eyes unwavering at him for a moment before she turned away again, ears lashing in irritation and the fur along her back prickling as it strained to lift upwards against the barrier that was her clothing. 

"In case you hadn't noticed..." the waif started in a scolding tone, her lips barely moving as she mumbled out the words. "It's winter." That was her only response to his insufferable prying. And what was with that smile? Why was he always smiling? What did he have to be happy about? Did he enjoy torturing her with his endless barrage of bad jokes and dumb comments? Was his entire goal in life to torment her? If that was the case, maybe she'd just be better off going back to live in the village with her family and the rest of the folks from Bête Noire again.

However, for whatever the reason was, when the thought occurred to her that she could simply leave, she found that stubbornly, she didn't want to, and when she wondered why that was, she couldn't figure it out. That only served to irritate her more, and she growled, turning fully away so that she could no longer see Theodore's stupid face with his stupid smile, but his stupid horse smell remained in the air around her. She wanted to just get up and leave, but then again, she wanted to stay where she was. Why? She couldn't figure it out and it infuriated her.
His attempts at social interaction so far have been nil for two, with the most recent one making him seem like an entire idiot.  Theo actually visibly shrunk in his seat at Whisper's withering remark, pointing out the obvious season they were in and therefore implying just how many herbs the witch was likely to find.  "Yeah... right." he mumbled in an embarrassed tone.  For a moment he thought about making the argument that some plants are hardy enough for winter chill, but then again they probably wouldn't be growing if the ground was frozen like it was, and any that were probably weren't new to the Mayflower.  This place didn't have the constant capacity for growth year round like some of some southern climates he was more accustomed to.  Stupid, brain dead idiot.

Still, he tried to keep smiling, even if it was only slightly and more to himself.  Whisper might've found it annoying, but maybe if he showed that he was happy to be around her, the wheat furred hybrid might come to like his smile.  He hoped that's what he'd accomplish, instead of making her even more annoyed.  Which he seemed to do, since eventually Whisper gave him a low growl and turned to face the opposite direction from him, probably not wanting to look at him period.  His brow knitted together, tipping his head together as he gave the cross coyote a sidelong glance.  "Have I done somethin' to offend you?  More than usual, I mean."  he asked in a half-joking manner, wrapping both hands tightly around the cup for warmth as he leaned over the table a bit more.

Though whether he was ignored or snapped at, Theo only sighed, slouching in his chair a little as he stared directly down into his cup, his stone grey eyes level with the trembling tea, where his hat hid his expressionless face and muzzle.  "Do you... hate, me?" he asked in a soft tone, not wanting to be specific lest he give Whisper ammo against him.  It sounded silly when he said it, but only a little.  It felt like Whisper's attitude towards him only worsened as time went on, and he didn't know why that was.  He even started to tease his fellow Brasas less because he felt guilty, or to make her hate him less.  But nothing else really made sense at the time.

She stared away stubbornly, not giving a single inch to the coyote that sat across from her at her table, unwelcomed, unwanted. And honestly, how dumb could he be? Asking about finding new herbs in the snow? Was there truly nothing better for the insufferable coyote to do than to pester her with ridiculous questions? She guessed not, and she was sure that if she just ignored him and made it clear that she didn't want him there, he'd give up and leave her alone. He'd go away, and that would be safer, that would be familiar, that would be good. 

But he didn't go away, did he? Pale ears half perked and swiveled back at his next question. Of course he had offended her, all the male lived for was to pester her and tease her and drive her up the wall, when could she get a moment's peace when he was around? And why, for that matter, did he keep hanging around? Why had he asked her to come here with him in the first place? She did nothing for him, she didn't help him in any way, so why? The tone of his voice held a different note to it, and she couldn't help but glance back for a moment. He was no longer looking at her now, but seemed to be staring sadly into the tea cup he held between his hands, the smile that had a moment ago been so obnoxious was now diminished, like a childish hope one still clung to late in life, small but never completely gone, only lingering as a pale shadow of it's former self. She liked this look even less, and so she looked away again, pouting, with her small slender hands balled into fists atop her willowy legs.

The sound of the next words to leave the coydogs mouth finally caught her attention though. Her eyes widened from the scowl she'd been so determined to keep on her bird-like face. Did she hate him? Her ears went up and she turned silently to look at him, but she could no longer see his smile, the brim of his hat sat low over his face as Theodore hung his head and sat still, and though she couldn't see it, her sensitive ears picked up the slight sound of vibrations coming from the cup he held. Why were his hands shaking? Why did he think... that she hated him? Why... didn't she hate him? She thought she did a moment ago, but now the sight of him looking so diminished made her chest feel tight, like something squeezed inside her, pushing her to figure out how to make this right. 

She didn't know, though. "I-I don't... hate... you..." She said after a moment of quiet deliberation. She still didn't look at him, but now her face was turned towards him and only her eyes looked off to the side of him. There was a pinching in the middle of her forehead, not a scowl, but a tension manifested by the confusing, conflicting, difficult emotions she was contending with within herself. "I don't..." She almost whined, but the sound came out as more of a tight exhalation of a breath she had been holding. "Don't..." She murmured, pausing as one of the girls slender arms extended part way across the table towards him, reaching just far enough that the short fur on the back of her finger just barely breathed against his hand. "... b-be sad..." She'd reached for him, and her words were meant in earnest, but still she wouldn't look at him, and she pouted off to the side in fear and concern and embarrassment as she tried to comfort him now in the only way she could bring herself to do.

Her finger twitched, and one of her knuckles brushed against his. She was the picture of conflicted, reaching out even as she stubbornly continued to refuse to look at him. Or maybe it was that she couldn't bear to do it. Why that was, she couldn't understand.
He felt silly, just sitting here when he was receiving every single shade of signals that told him to get lost, and was probably better off being anywhere else doing whatever else considering how much he was actively chewing off his own foot at this table.  There had to be something more productive he could go do with everyone's time, like taking out his sadness on harmful plants in the grazing fields, or standing by with a pitchfork and shovel in the stables just waiting to muck it out again.  With a heave of his shoulders, Theo's legs tensed as he prepared to push away from the table, only to freeze as Whisper broke the silence in a very titular fashion.  Glancing up from his withdrawal, the coyote peered from under the hat, seeing that the Mayflower was struggling with something as clearly as the snout on her muzzle.  Her brow knitted together, but in a far less disapproving way, almost like she was exasperated.  So she didn't actually hate him, that's great.  But where did that leave them?  Why did she behave the way she did towards him, in what way had they changed?  Their relationship wasn't always the closest, or even well defined to him, but he didn't feel as if he had changed much since coming to Del Cenere, which was an entirely different set of concerns.  What was it?

Whisper tried to go on, almost as if the words were getting trapped in her throat, a choking invisible vise preventing her from conveying the proper words.  He'd learned after many errors that it was not a good idea to help the hybrid if she couldn't find the words, but to allow Whisper the chance to muster what she had to say alone, unless he felt like making her even more infuriated with him.  Instead, he sat in quiet reflection, eyeing his tea in a debate if a second sip would kill him or not, before she found a way forward.  Theo was afraid that if he even looked in the shy pagan's direction, he might upset her, so instead he made no moves as he listened, watching a light arm slide across the table in an attempt to reach out to him, keeping perfectly still.  Just seeing this happen made the coyote acutely aware of the slightest brush of the fur on their hands meeting, almost tickling him it was so gentle and light.  It was a little hard to register what was happening, considering how completely opposed Whisper was to Theo moments ago.  And now, she was trying to touch his hand, to reassure him after he became dejected?  By her own free will?  Was the sky falling down outside?

Internally, he questioned if that gut reaction was part of the reason Whisper had been as hostile as she was to him.  Still, watching Whisper trying her absolute hardest to console him, probably stretching herself to the limit of what she was comfortable with, after ruthlessly tearing into him when he first came over to sit down, he honestly had to suppress a small laugh.  Entirely unafraid of absolutely ripping into him, but then wanting to cheer him up afterwards.  It was enough to put a small smile on his lips again, at least.  'What am I going to do about you..' he thought with good humor in his head, the tense knot in his chest undoing a little.  It would probably be too much for him to fully grab onto the lifeline Whisper cast out in his direction, but maybe, just a little show of his appreciation would be good enough.  After their knuckles brushed together, Theo's pointer finger lifted to gently rest along one of the witch's knuckles, the joint of it conforming to the groove between her knuckles.  The charcoal finger rested easily against the tendons in the back of her hand, as Theo kept his eyes solely on the point of contact, not wanting to break the moment by looking at Whisper directly.  "Thanks.." was his only reply, hoping this was simultaneously enough to convey his appreciation, and not so much as to fluster Whisper.  it really was a nice moment, after all.

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