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look at me and tell me what you see

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Ayda wasn’t used to getting a good night of sleep. Especially not a good night of sleep in a bed. Especially not a good night of sleep in a bed with a friend.

The first was because of how it was easier to research magic or think about magic or write about magic in a journal that she didn’t let anybody else see than actually quiet everything in her brain and go unconscious. The second was because it was easier for her to just doze on a perch, because her wings didn’t quite fit in a hammock and beds weren’t very common on Leviathan. The third was because-

Well. She didn’t have friends.

Ayda Augefort was good at being alone in her library, and she was good at not spending time with other people, and she was good at missing social cues because people didn’t take the time to explain what they meant when they talked to her.

She had Adaine now, though, and they were friends. Adaine had said so, and she had the best frog that Ayda had ever seen, and that was a good reason to trust her.

Apparently, by the transitive property, that made Fig her friend as well.

Fig, who was laying in bed next to her, turned on her side to face her even though it was likely uncomfortable due to her horns. Fig, who said what she meant and made a point to be honest and let Ayda know what she was trying to say. Fig, who was helping Ayda know what you were supposed to do at a slumber party.

Fig was Ayda’s friend, and she looked like she had very soft hair, and the distance between her words was trailing off, and her eyelids were fluttering shut, and Ayda’s couldn’t seem to look away.

There was a different kind of tension under Ayda’s skin as she watched Fig, something that didn’t feel like her usual tight running spirals of cause and effect and why and because. She didn’t feel calm, because this was not a world that seemed made for her to be calm in, but at the moment, she didn’t really want to be anywhere else.

Fig swallowed, and Ayda’s eyes tracked the movement, and she didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Fig’s eyes opened and connected with Ayda’s, and for the first time in a very long time, Ayda didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Fig let out a yawn and Ayda lifted a hand to catch the breath before it hit the skin of her face, and as she brought it down she caught Fig’s lips slipping into a smile as well. Fig’s eyes were having trouble staying open, but her slight grin was awake and Ayda found herself looking at it. It was nice to look at people’s mouths when they talked, because eyes were difficult sometimes and it helped her focus on the words and people didn’t usually like it when you looked away over their shoulder, but it wasn’t just that.

Fig had a nice smile.

That was a normal thought to have about a friend who was your friend by the transitive property.

“What are you looking at?” Fig asked, the arm held by her chest fiddling with the collar of her shirt. Ayda didn’t know if Fig noticed she was doing it, but she filed it away in her mind.

Ayda liked watching Fig. Fig knew how to be a person the way that people seemed to want, even if she apparently doubted that sometimes. Fig had a soft smile with sharp teeth and sharp horns and soft hair. Fig was a lot to be around and she was kind when she didn’t need to be and her smile said that she knew something that she was willing to share.

When Fig asked what Ayda was looking at, Ayda told the truth. “You.”

Fig opened her mouth, shut it. Her face was flushing. She looked at Ayda, and Ayda looked over her shoulder, because she didn’t know why but she felt like she had done something wrong.

Mental calculations started turning on what she could offer to Fig to make up for her presence, but she let them turn in a back corner of her mind. The Bad Kids had wanted her around because of what she could do and so she would probably need to do more spells for them if she wanted to still be Adaine and Fig’s friend, but Fig had also said that she wanted to help Ayda understand things if she didn’t.

Fig opened her mouth to speak but Ayda got there first. “Did I do something wrong? Should I not have said that?” She was prepared to leave if she had to. There was a worry starting to wrap itself around her shoulders that said she shouldn’t want this. That she shouldn’t want Fig to reach out and take her hand. That she shouldn’t want Fig to keep looking at her, even if she couldn’t look back.

That she shouldn’t want Fig to kiss her.

Ayda was preparing to get up, wings flexing and fluttering, when Fig spoke and her eyes were drawn back down to her lips.

“Hey, it’s fine, you just surprised me is all!”

“Why would you be surprised, I was looking at you and could not have been looking elsewhere.”

Fig’s tongue flicked out and licked her lips and Ayda’s eyes tracked the movement. All of Fig’s movements seemed to catch her attention, from the grand put upon gestures to the small tics that she didn’t know if anyone else paid close enough attention to notice. Fig still had her grin on, but a quick glance showed that it didn’t quite make it to her eyes. “Well, if people are looking at me, it isn’t usually for me.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” One of Ayda’s wings flexed behind her and she saw Fig’s eyes follow the movement before she spoke again.

“Well, it’s-” Fig hummed, looking for the words, and she wasn’t casting a spell but the noise still sounded like magic. “You know how I was disguised as Augefort today- or, yesterday, now, it’s probably past midnight.”

Ayda nodded. “Yes, it brought up issues that I had not dealt with.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that. But with the whole disguise thing, people only usually look at me because of who I’m wearing. If I’m pretending to be a doctor, they see a doctor, and they don’t see me, they just see the disguise.”

“Are you in disguise more than you are out of it?”

Fig blew out a breath, angling her head so that it wasn’t directed at Ayda, and that was an unexpected kindness that she filed away in the mental journal used for collecting the bits of Fig that she noticed. If it was a real notebook, it would have been full by now. “I’m still me most of the time, but people look at me because I’m a tiefling, or because I’m in a band, or because I’m causing problems.” She lifted a shoulder up in a shrug and let out a small laugh that didn’t seem to have much emotion behind it. “It’s a silly thing to get caught up by, people just don’t usually look at me for, you know.”

“What do I know?”

“For me.”

Ayda let out a hum that echoed Fig’s from earlier. “They are the silly ones then. There are a great many things to look at you for.”

Fig propped herself up on an elbow, sleep apparently becoming less of a concern once again. “Yeah?” There was a bit of a tone to her voice that Ayda couldn’t quite place, and in anyone else she would have likely assigned it to teasing, because if she didn’t know what someone was trying to say to her it was an easy guess that they were teasing her, but that didn’t feel like something that Fig would do.

Maybe that was the sound of friendship, and she just wasn’t able to recognize it yet.

“Yes.” Ayda sat up, crossing her legs underneath her, talons curling around her knees. “Your hair is a little darker at the roots than it is at the tips, and there is a little bit of purple in your bangs. Your ears flick back when you laugh. You have a little scar right under your eye. I don’t know how many freckles you have, but a few on your shoulder look like the Pleiades. There are more piercings in your ears than you wear jewelry in.” Ayda stopped talking as Fig sat up as well, and her blush was back.

Fig was fiddling with the end of her braid, a strange smile on her face that Ayda hadn’t seen before.

Ayda assumed what she did when she was unsure: that whatever had gone wrong, it had likely been her fault. “I’ve made you uncomfortable. I should leave.”

Before she could turn and go, though, Fig’s hand was on her wrist and Ayda froze. “You didn’t make me uncomfortable! It’s fine, that just was-” She laughed, still a little tense, and her free hand went to scratch at her neck. “You surprised me is all. Again.”

“Hmm.”

“Hmm?”

“You just don’t seem like someone who can be easily surprised. You’ve seen a great deal of this world and the people in it and I didn’t think that there would still be things that could surprise you.” Without thinking, which was a strange way for Ayda to act, she flipped her hand in Fig’s grip and linked their fingers.

Fig shifted and tightened her hand around Ayda’s. Her skin was cool, and it felt very nice against Ayda’s skin, which was always warm but seemed like it was burning up more than usual. “Hey, I’m the same age as you, there’s a lot of life I haven’t seen yet. A lot of unexpected things out there.” She squeezes Ayda’s hand, lifts it up a bit as if to say like this.

Ayda nods, once, sharply. Fig seems to take her questions well, seems to like the surprise of them holding hands, seems to like sitting there across from her with their knees barely touching, skin against bare skin where their sleep shorts don’t cover. Fig seems to like her surprises, so Ayda ignores the tight feeling in her chest and decides to give her one more. “You said that it wasn’t wrong for me to want...this, correct?”

“Yeah! This is fun, I’m glad it’s something you want.”

Ayda lifts her chin, glances at Fig’s lips, moves her gaze to the tip of one of her ears where there is a healed piercing. “Would it be wrong for me to want to kiss you?”

Fig the loud, Fig the funny, Fig the charming didn’t have anything to say to that, and Ayda just held her grip and kept looking at that one point on the tip of a pointed ear. Fig had already reassured her that she didn’t need to leave twice, and so she was just going to sit there, hand against hand and knees against knees and quiet against question until something broke.

When Fig spoke, her voice was quiet. “There’s nothing wrong with that, you should want what you want.”

“Do you want me to kiss you?” Ayda’s glancing eyes caught Fig licking her lips again, a swallow moving down her throat, the flutter of eyelashes against skin as she blinked. Ayda didn’t know how people could look at anything else.

A moment held, and then it stretched, and then Fig’s lips lifted up in a real smile, one that reached her eyes, and something spiralling tighter in Ayda’s chest was able to unspool. “I do, actually. If that earlier question wasn’t just a hypothetical.”

“It wasn’t.” One hand still intertwined with Fig’s, Ayda leaned forward, resting her other on the side of Fig’s face. Fig leaned forward as well, and then Ayda’s lips were on Fig’s and Fig’s eyes were closed so Ayda let hers close as well.

Ayda was mentally cataloguing the feeling of Fig’s skin under her palm, the softness of her lips, the way her hand came to rest on Ayda’s knee.

Fig was the first to pull back, tossing her head to get the hair of her bangs out of her face. She was still smiling, rubbing her thumb across the back of Ayda’s knuckles. “Do you want to do that again?”

“Yes.”

As Ayda let herself fall into Fig’s orbit, she made a mental note that she would need more than just the one brain journal if she wanted to truly record Fig.

As her hand shifted to cradle Fig’s head, discovering that her hair really was as soft as she had hoped, Ayda knew that she did want to.