There is something in Chepi's walk that is different from other women, a certain sway in her hips and swish of her tail. Pala tries not to make it obvious that she is looking, as she once more takes the broom to the already-clean threshold of the inn, sweeping away imaginary dust.
"You oughta talk to her."
Pala glances around in surprise, seeing no one until she looks down. It's one of the little goblins who's set up shop nearby, their wares making the whole bluff reek of perfume.
"Talk to who?" Pala asks, her face growing warm in spite of herself.
The goblin chuckles. "Don't think I haven't noticed. The way you been looking at her? You gotta seize the day!"
Pala shakes her head with an awkward laugh. "What would I say?"
"Don't worry, sweetheart. I got what you need." The goblin produces a pretty, heart-shaped box and opens the lid to show Pala the chocolates within. "Girls love candy. It's a scientific fact! Very reasonably priced, of course..."
Pala's heart is beating like a drum as she approaches with the box of chocolates held behind her back. She can't believe she is doing this. Chepi is finishing a sale and sending a young bull on his way.
"Hail," Pala says, trying to sound casual.
Chepi turns to look at her, hazel eyes so warm and sweet. "Innkeeper Pala. What can I do for you?"
Pala finds herself nearly tongue-tied. "Well, I — I just happened to have — I mean, I wondered if you might want —" Flustered into silence, she shows Chepi the heart-shaped box, now tied with a bow.
Chepi's face transforms into open surprise and pleasure. "Oh... For me? How kind of you."
When she takes the box, their hands brush together, and their eyes meet. Chepi smiles.
[Very Berry Cream]
They sit atop the flight tower, gazing out over the rolling plains of Mulgore as the sky turns pink with dusk. Chepi sits with her legs dangling over the edge, but Pala has to keep her hooves drawn up beneath her or she gets vertigo.
"And do you ever get the ones who only want to sell, and never buy?" Chepi asks, and bites into a chocolate.
Pala giggles, feeling as foolish as a little girl. "Oh, all the time!"
Chepi swallows before she answers. "I'm running out of room for all the junk these people want a copper for." She examines the open box in her lap and picks a candy out, examining it with suspicion. "I think these square ones are berry. Do you like these?"
"They're my favorite," Pala admits.
Chepi smiles playfully. "Open your mouth and close your eyes."
Pala is startled, but obeys. Chepi places the candy gently into her mouth; Pala bites into it, and the berry filling spills onto her tongue, sweet and cool.
When she looks, Chepi is gazing at her with curious, half-lidded eyes.
The moonlight shines pale through the upstairs window, across the little brown papers scattered upon the table, and across their dappled fur as they lie upon the bed. Chepi picks one of the last candies from the box, and holds it slowly, gently to Pala's lips. Shyly she licks, softening the sweet outer layer of it, taking long minutes to break through to the rich, buttery filling inside. Her tongue touches Chepi's fingertips, too, cleaning the melted chocolate from her skin. She hears Chepi's breath catch a little in her throat, sees her eyes now dilated-dark.
Pala has never done anything like this before, but she finds that it is getting easier all the time.