I heard a second door shut but it didn’t register beyond the sound in my head. And then there was another click of the door and I raised my head wiping my eyes with the back of my hands. The bathroom door shut was the first thing I registered. And then there was a small head pushing against my hand and I looked down at Ophelia. She was purring and headbutting me so I picked her up and she curled up in my arms and I scratched her head and between her shoulder blades.
A few moments later I realized the bathroom shower was running. “Why did he stay?” I asked Fee, though she just purred in my arms.
I sat her down on the floor and stood up. I’d put all the groceries away that we’d… he’d bought in my haste to calm down. I got it all back out and started making pancakes. I focused on nothing more than those actions, but my mind drifted to the things we’d fought about. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to manage this. If he got upset about Ant all the time, then I’d have to stop being friends with Ant and I wasn’t sure I could handle it. Handle that much change.
I took a deep breath and focused again on the task of making pancakes. Eggs, and milk. Flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla extract. It was all relatively simple in the right amounts. I laid the bacon out methodically on a pan before sticking it in the oven to cook. I beat eggs into submission and set them aside for later.
I made a pot of coffee in the french press. I rarely used it since it was time-consuming and I’d rather just use the coffee pot. But this helped with the whole calming down thing. The focus and attention to detail. Every detail mattered, not because I was trying to impress Alex. I was way beyond that. I just didn’t want to be a mess when he came out. He was showering for me. I don’t know why, but he was here and I would reward that with food. But I wasn’t making it extra special for him, no I did that for me. I needed to be in my happy place and this was one way to get there. The only thing I was missing was music, but in my current mood, I would probably fall off the deep end if I listened to anything.
I listened to the butter sizzle on the hot pan as I dropped the first set of pancakes on the griddle. It was almost as good as music. The water in the bathroom turned off and my heart started to pound harder in my chest. The clothes Alex had picked out were still on top of the dresser. I flipped the pancakes and then walked to the dresser and picked up the shirt and shorts then knocked on the door. I didn’t wait for an answer as I slipped the clothes through the barely open door. “Figured you might want these now,” I said then closed the door.
I know I probably upset him but not opening it, or staying or looking or any number of things, but right now I needed to be back in the kitchen. The small gesture was overwhelming me and I needed to get back to myself.
I buttered the fresh pancakes and put them on a plate, then set to make another batch. I probably had three more sets to make and then I could finish off breakfast with the eggs. The bacon was making my apartment smell great and my stomach rumbled. Ophelia sat on the counter waiting. I found her cream in the fridge and poured her a bowl and warmed it quickly with a weave of fire. She purred gratefully and I went back to paying attention to my pancakes.
I noticed the door to the bathroom open but I didn’t look, I didn’t want to see him in my clothes, coming out of my bathroom. I could smell him from there even over the bacon. I didn’t smell others on him, and I tried to focus on only the bacon I didn’t want to make him mad. I…
“You have to stop Nox,” Alex said from across the room.
I looked up at him in confusion. “Stop thinking like that.” I dropped my gaze back to my pancakes. I knew it would make him mad but as I did it I walled myself off. From everything, my sight, my hearing, the smells. I made everything go away. The sting from the magic bursting at the edges tinged my eyesight. But I focused on the pancakes.
“That’s not much better.” He said, this time much closer than before. “Can I have a cup of coffee?”
I looked at him and blinked. Then slowly nodded. “Make yourself at home,” I said politely though I heard the pain in my voice.
“It really hurts you to shield so tightly?”
I shrugged. “Dorian told me it’s because I have too many kinds fighting each other. But even he is only speculating.”
“Why do you think it happens?”
I shrugged again. I didn’t have an answer for him.
Alex started opening up the cabinets looking for a coffee cup. “It would be easier if you would just let me read you.”
I shook my head and flipped the pancakes. “No. that’s not a good idea.”
He opened a few more and shook his head, “I should have looked above the coffee pot first.”
I was pretty sure he was just looking through my cabinets. Alex poured two cups of coffee and handed me a cup black and made his own – cream and two sugars. I smiled knowing I’d gotten it right when I’d ordered earlier.
I finished another set of pancakes and started the last bunch. Alex was standing behind me, his coffee cup sitting next to mine and his hands on the edge of the stove trapping me there. He pressed his lips to my neck and then whispered. “Nox, let the shield go.”
It wasn’t a request. And I let it go without even thinking about it. The stinging stopped but the flurry of everything hit me full force and my knees buckled for a moment, Alex’s body keeping me from collapse as I caught myself from falling. I closed my eyes, while reigned in the patterns, and the senses. I hadn’t meant to let everything go, not all at once.
Alex gasped behind me. “Fuck!” He backed up a little, “You okay?”
I nodded slowly, “I let go of everything and I didn’t mean too.”
“Okay.” I took the last of the pancakes off and started the eggs. “Everything smells great.”
“Thanks. I need to get the bacon out of the oven.”
Alex took a step back and I opened the oven and grabbed the out pan without a glove. Alex yelled, “Nox..”
I put the bacon down on the stove top and looked back at him. “I forget that normal people can’t suck the heat out of things. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Alex grabbed my hands and kicked the oven closed examining my hands like I’d burnt them. “Don’t do that again please?”
“I’ll try to remember.”
I pulled my hands from his and turned to finish the eggs. “Can you get three plates?”
I didn’t wait to see if he’d comply but I heard him set the plates down and he was picking up pancakes and dropping them on a plate with his fingers. I smirked a little as he did the same for the bacon which was hot and greasy and he dropped them quickly then licked his fingers. I dropped a pile of eggs on his plate as he walked to the fridge to get the ice cream. He brushed my back with his arm as he walked past me. “Alex?”
“Don’t say it, Nox.”
“But I am,” I said, he knew what I was going to say. He knew I was going to apologize and he didn’t want to hear it. I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
Alex set the ice cream down next to his plate and then turned me around so my back was against the countertop. “Me too.” He said, then pressed his lips to mine. “We’ll both try harder.” He said after he pulled away and was already taking the ice cream scoop to the vanilla ice cream and dropping it on his pancakes.
And then he took it all to the coffee table around the bar.
He only made one plate. “I would have made your’s but I don’t know what you’ll eat.” He said as he sat down.
I made my plate with eggs, bacon and a pancake. And sat down next to Alex. But apparently not close enough for his liking as he moved over and his leg was pressed against mine. I smiled and we ate in companionable silence – except for the soft sounds Alex made with each bite.