This is my first foray into a fandom that is not Naruto. It was a little scary because it was so new to me. I hope I've done the Kiesha'ra fandom at least a little justice, as well as these two characters because they have such wonderful chemistry in the book. I have to thank my awesome and lovely beta Amethyst Grey for her help and also getting me to write this. Your fics inspired me, so this is for you! Thank you!!
The Kiesha'ra series and Wolf Cry belong to Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, not to me.
A hand slowly slides up my arm and the fingertips are snowflakes on my skin, gently caressing and cool to the touch. The hand reaches my shoulder and breaks contact for only a moment before I feel its owner cup my face. I feel laughter vibrate through their body and into mine from hand to cheek. Oh, how I love that laugh and the way it warms my heart.
I cannot see this person who touches me so intimately. They have no face, only skin. Skin that touches my skin. Breath that caresses my skin. Their lips are above mine; our breath mingles. If I move forward an inch, our lips would touch. Kiss.
But I don't.
Is this what I crave? To share such an intimate moment with another?
Is this what it is like to get lost in each other? To be with the one you trust so completely? To be able to feel? After a lifetime without such feelings, is this what I want?
"Hm?" I opened my eyes and look into a pair of shining sapphires.
Realizing who was staring at me, I shifted to sit up straighter from where I had dozed off in the nest corner.
"You," Urban said as he sat down beside me, "fell asleep during A'isha's solo. You missed quite the show."
"I'm sorry," I started and paused to rub the sleep out of my eyes. "I was...thinking and I guess I just…fell asleep." It was not the best excuse, but I hoped that Urban would leave it at that.
I should have known he wouldn't.
"What could you have possibly been thinking about that caused you to fall asleep?" Urban asked as I saw the next dancer step onto the dais.
The usual commotion in the nest continued. I knew no one would notice that Urban was no longer among the spectators so we could hold the conversation in relative privacy. Well, as private as the nest can get what with a dozen or more people living in it at one time.
I turned my attention back to the serpent at my side.
"Oliza, actually," I said, surprised at my own answer but knowing it was the truth.
Urban scoffed and said jokingly, "You gotta give her up Marus, she's moved on!" He punched me lightly in the arm to emphasize his point.
I glared back at him, but I couldn't stop the smile from creeping onto my face. In the months since Oliza had gone, Urban and I had filled the hole that was her presence with each other. As her former suitors, she had asked us long ago to try and make amends with the people we had long seen as enemies and never friends.
"We'll make you proud." I remembered telling her the day she left.
I'd like to think we did, even if all we had to show for it was the tentative friendship Urban and I had began.
I still could not believe how Urban had persuaded the dancer's nest to let me stay with them when I had nowhere else to go. I did not realize how much our friendship had grown until that point.
Its origins were simple. Strangely enough, I took the first step and apologized to Urban for my crass behavior. I did not expect him to reciprocate the action, but he did. And soon we found ourselves walking through the market when his leg was fully healed, and meeting each other for small events in the court. Even our conversations became more natural as we grew comfortable with one another.
Yet, the genuineness of our friendship was soon tested when Urban invited me to live with him in the nest. It was not his invitation to give as he had asked none of the other dancers for their permission. This had shown me just how Urban had changed from a rather smug serpiente to the candid man I now called my friend.
Living with a nest full of snakes was not something I had been keen on doing, but I had nowhere else to go. Perhaps I was beginning to change my ideals then, too. I had entered the nest with hesitation that first night and found unexpected comfort in Urban's company.
After explaining my presence to the rest of the nest, he did not abandon me in the unfamiliar place even on that first night as I thought he would have. Instead, Urban told me about the history of the nest, its customs, and what was expected of a dancer. I only half-heard what he said as my body was overly conscious of his body sitting next to mine. However, I was relieved that he kept his distance, mindful of my discomfort at any sort of closeness.
I had looked to the snake at my side and asked him, "Why did you bring me here if only dancers and those in training are allowed to live here?"
Urban had furrowed his brow as if the question confused him but he did answer. "You were kicked out of your own home, Marus. Did you think I was going to leave you alone out in the cold?"
I had turned away, ashamed when I said, "Yes."
I had both heard and felt his laughter in response to my answer. "Maybe I would have done that a few months ago, but that was before I got to know you, Marus. You didn't deserve what happened today. And besides, I'd like to think you'd have done the same for me although they'll never kick me out of the nest! I'm just that lovable!" Urban had shouted the latter part to the rest of the nest and got a variety of replies.
As he was defending his "lovable appeal" that allowed him to stay in the nest, I had pondered over his thought. Would I have done the same for him? And even then, why was it a serpiente that offered me kindness? Why didn't an avian attempt to do the same?
I had changed, too, and did not realize it until that moment. Yes, I would have taken him in because I did consider him a friend.
Now, most—if not all—the serpiente who called the nest home were used to me by now. I was not as open with everyone as I was with Urban, Salem, and Rosalind, but no longer would I shrink back when someone accidentally brushed by me.
And as for Urban…he just would not leave me alone. When his leg was still healing, he was not allowed to dance or even practice. To prevent boredom, he turned to the only other person who couldn't—and wouldn't—dance: me.
Through conversations and simply being around one another, the snake and I gradually became good friends instead of being two acquaintances thrown together by unusual circumstances. I let down my reserve around him and Urban was more open towards my "bird habits" as he put it. I even participated in some of the non-dancing customs that occurred in the nest, much to Urban's surprise and delight. It was to my utter embarrassment when the python would later tease me."We did have arguments occasionally, and there were days where I simply had to leave the nest to walk through the northern hills and appreciate my avian heritage.
It was not a perfect friendship, but it was something. Something that I thought Oliza would be proud of.
Urban pulled me from my thoughts again.
"But seriously, Marus, what brought Oliza to mind?"
I sighed, not really wanting to go into the complexity of my thoughts, but I knew he would keep pestering me about it if I didn't tell him something.
"I'd rather not get into it," was my vain attempt at ending the conversation.
"Oh come on," Urban said as he scooted closer and looked into my eyes. "You can tell me."
I narrowed my eyes. "They're private thoughts."
"Well, you can trust me to keep them private, then."
I looked at him dubiously.
"What?" He asked, sitting back gesturing openly with his hands. "You can! How long have we known each other? I mean without trying to one-up the other for Oliza's affections." Urban continued without waiting for an answer, "A good damn while that's how long."
I still looked at him skeptically, not sure if I wanted to get into everything that I was thinking and then my skepticism turned to shock.
For at that moment, I saw Urban slowly reach out his arm to put around me. He never turned his eyes away from mine, silently asking for permission if it was okay since even this subtle, friendly gesture would not be seen as such in avian society.
I gave the smallest of nods, consenting, but that still could not stop the tensing of my muscles or the flush that colored my skin. I knew Urban noticed this, too, as he paused his movement for a moment before gently settling his arm around my back, his left hand lightly cupping my upper arm.
"It's okay; I'm not going to bite." He said it innocently enough, but I didn't quite trust that smile of his.
"I'm not so sure about that," I said, fighting down the blush on my face for now. "I've seen you do this movement before. You put your arm around someone when you want something, usually money, or right before you drag one of the dancers over to a shadowy corner to do…well, I would rather not think about it."
Urban had the decency to close his mouth after my frank comment left him slightly shocked.
"Point taken. But if I ever did borrow money from you, I would pay it back in full. As for the other…well, you are cute, but I would only go that far if I had your permission."
I shivered involuntarily. Why did his stupid innuendos always get a reaction from me? Damn him and his relentless teasing.
"But seriously, Marus," he continued. "What's got you so bothered?"
I bit my lip. "Who says I'm bothered?"
"No one," Urban shrugged his shoulders. "But I can tell that you are."
I looked away from him as my eyes found the dais through the sheer fabrics hanging from the ceiling to the dais where Echo was now practicing a melos with Hakan.
"A lot of things, I guess. It's difficult to explain." I tried telling him, but my own thoughts were so jumbled from the dream I had before waking that I was not sure I wanted to discuss them with Urban at this point or ever.
Urban smirked. "Try me."
I breathed deeply and sighed. "I was thinking about Oliza's happiness and how she could be so happy with Betia. And what that must be like."
"Wait a minute," Urban interrupted with his loud, obnoxious voice. "Are you trying to tell me that you want to be a woman so you can make Oliza happy? That's just wei--"
"No, you idiot," I cut him off before anyone could overhear his ridiculous outburst and elbowed him in the ribcage as a warning for him to quiet down.
Quickly realizing my behavior, I stammered, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that. It was rude of me."
Snickering was the reply I received.
"My dear Marus," Urban managed to get out between attempts to stifle his laughter. "You need to relax. I'm not hurt and I definitely deserved to get hit. I promise not to make any more uncouth remarks. How's that?"
I raised a single eyebrow at him.
He smiled and settled back against me, well, as close as he had been previously which still allotted a fair amount of room.
"So, you don't want to be a woman…" he prompted.
"No," I said pointedly and sighed. I had been doing that a lot, I noticed. "Oliza was so happy the day she left and I'm sure she is now. She's with the one person she truly cares about. I'm happy for her, and I'm not jealous, not at all. My feelings for her, well, they're just friendship now."
I looked at Urban, wondering if I should continue speaking and reveal what I was really thinking. In his eyes, all I saw was a concerned friend. I turned my head back to the performers. Their dance had gotten more intricate and the two were well within one another's personal space. It almost seemed as if they were one person dancing.
I closed my eyes and spoke. "What I cannot fathom is what that must feel like. Oliza knew Betia for only a few weeks before she decided that in her heart there was no one else. No one else she wanted to be with, no one else who made her feel so loved. How is that possible?" I felt the shock at revealing my most private thoughts the moment the words were out of my mouth. But at the same time, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. This was Urban I was talking to and I knew he would keep my secret safe.
"You don't get it, do you?"
I opened my eyes, surprised at his response. "What do you mean?"
He was shaking his head slightly at me. "Oliza didn't decide anything, Marus. She knew that she and Betia belonged together. It's a feeling, not a decision. You're overwhelmed with what you feel towards someone else, and they feel the same toward you. It can't be helped. It just is."
I was in awe, surprised by the thoughtfulness of his answer. "That's…profound, Urban. How do you even know this?"
He snorted. "Oh come on. You just have to look at two people in love and you'll see it. I saw it with Oliza the moment she brought Betia here to the nest. And I see it with her parents every time I pass them in the market. They still act like hatchlings around each other. It's cute actually."
"I never noticed any of that."
Urban smiled then. "That's because you were looking too hard. After Oliza left, you lost the only place you had, or you thought you did, and you wanted to find acceptance again. To do that, you looked to our lovely lady Oliza, bless her soul, in order to follow in her footsteps. But you didn't know how because you didn't understand the 'why.'"
"And now I do, thanks to you."
"Just doing my part to help a pal. But I'm right aren't I? You want what Oliza has, to find someone to share your life with? A mate."
I looked away, keeping my eyes downcast.
"Yes," I breathed. "But it's more than that."
I knew Urban was looking at me, waiting for me to continue. How could I expect him to understand exactly what I was thinking and feeling at this moment?
I sat up and turned around in Urban's loose hold so I could more easily look him in the eye.
"To find someone who accepts each and every part of you, who is willing to live their entire life beside you, and who trusts you and you trust them is not achieved easily. I can't just go out to the market one day and find who I'm looking for. I don't even know who I'm looking for!"
I did not realize that my raised voice had caught the attention of two people in the audience until I noticed two faces now staring pointedly back at us.
Somehow Urban was already on his feet and saved me from further embarrassment by offering his hand to lift me up from the floor.
"Come on," he said. I took his hand and followed as he led me to a room in the back of the nest. There was no central fire in this room nor were any candles lit, but light spilled in through the window from the near setting sun outside.
Once in the room, Urban turned around and looked at me.
"You said you don't know who you're looking for, but you do."
I rolled my eyes. "I don't Urban. It's more difficult than you realize. You can have anyone you set your eye on by just going up to them. Things are different for me, especially now that I've exiled myself. I'm not truly accepted by either world so I doubt someone would ever want me."
Urban closed his eyes and shook his head before opening them again.
"You are one dumb bird," he said smiling. "You don't even realize it, do you?"
"Realize what?!" I snapped uncharacteristically, tired of him speaking in questions.
In two large steps across the room, Urban was standing in front of me.
"You've known what you've hoped to find in a mate this whole time. You said you want to find someone who accepts you, for who you are, not that you've changed that much. You want someone who accepts your life and is willing to stand by you. You want someone who you can trust. Then look for that person!"
"But it's not that simple," I started. "What if I do look for them but I can't find them? What if they don't exist?"
"I'm sure they do, Marus." He asked simply, "Do you trust me?"
"We've been friends for how long now? Do you trust me, Marus?"
His question took me back to my first week living in the nest.
I was still getting used to living with so many people, and I still kept to myself if Urban was not around to talk to. The other nest occupants gave me looks that said "Outsider," "Foreigner," and "Intruder."
That night when I heard the comments, the words stung like fire.
"Your bird over there doesn't belong here, Urban. Maybe if he would contribute, then he'd have some worth. But he doesn't. Take him back to where you found him in the first place."
Maybe coming to the nest wasn't such a good idea. I was mulling over how to make the quickest and quietest exit when I heard a distinct crack.
I looked up to see Urban standing over the serpiente who had voiced his opinion. The snake now had his hand covering his nose, and I could see the blood seeping through his fingers.
My eyes were wide in shock and a blush soon overtook my entire body when I heard the next words Urban said.
"First of all, he has a name, you ass. So call him by it. And second, if you can't accept Marus living here, then I won't be living here either." He straightened up and spoke to the whole nest. "This is Wyvern's Court, not the serpiente palace. We're all equals here. Best to remember that."
I had not expected such a sincere declaration. His words told me just how much he cared about our friendship. It showed me how far in the past that I had been living, too. Urban trusted me enough to take me into the nest and into his life. How could I not do the same for him?
It took me only a moment to realize the answer. "Yes, I do."
He smiled. "Good. Then you'll trust me when I do this."
The moment his lips touched mine, pins and needles raced across my skin as my body tensed.
My muscles were not coiled for an attack on an enemy and my avian reserve was nowhere to be found.
I felt every sensation a hundred times more than I had in my dream: the soft pressure on my side that was Urban's hand, the firm yet flexible muscle beneath my own hand that was his back, the warmth of his breath blending with my own as our lips danced to music neither of us could hear.
A thought occurred to me that I should pull away, that I was not thinking clearly. This was a serpiente, a male serpiente, who was kissing me. This was Urban. This was the person who had become my closest friend in only a few short months.
This was the person who gave me what I wanted because they were who I wanted.
"See," Urban whispered as we both finally pulled away from one another. "I told you that you knew what you looking for. You just had to see it in someone, see it in me, standing in front of you."
I gave myself a moment to catch my breath and gather my thoughts. I didn't even try to fight back the flush to my face. It was most likely permanent now, something which I knew Urban would love.
"I'm sorry it's taken me so long. I've been thinking about this so much that I didn't even realize who was right in front of me." I smiled at him, a genuine smile full emotions that I had not felt in a long time.
I closed my eyes as I felt his fingers massaging the back of neck just under the feathers there. How could I have not seen this gentleness in him before? Maybe I had and I just didn't want to acknowledge that Urban embodied everything that I was looking for.
"This time, it'll be different," I said and looked into his eyes. "I'll trust myself more and I'll trust you and I won't be oblivious of what's right in front of me."
"Good," Urban replied. "Nothing's changed between us, Marus, except that we both know how we feel now."
I felt the cool, gentle kiss fall on my lips.
'Just like a snowflake,' I thought absently.
"So, would you trust me with something else?" He asked when we both came back to reality.
"What's that?" I asked, my mind still attempting to wrap itself around everything that had just happened.
Urban took a step back and held out his hand.
"How about finishing what we started all those months ago? Care to dance?"
My eyes went wide.
"You can't be serious."
Mockingly, he said. "I thought you trusted me, especially now that we're…closer."
He chose the word for my benefit since I knew that both of us were not exactly sure of where we now stood with one another, just that we stood together and cared for each other.
"Okay," I said, taking his hand as he led me out the door and into a world that now seemed filled with endless possibilities.
Quick A/N: The title comes from a lyric in the Kate Nash song "Navy Taxi."
Thanks for taking the time to read this! Constructive criticism is always appreciated!