Arkay stared at the sign, then double-checked his map. He was definitely at the right place, but the sign on the front door said ‘closed’. Yet there were plenty of beings inside, clearly having drinks.
Without warning, a heavy arm slammed against Arkay’s shoulder. Out of instinct, he jumped up, teeth bared, only to see who it was.
“Sorry, did I scare you, Arkay?” Phovos grinned, as she pushed open the door, blatantly ignoring the ‘closed’ sign.
“No, not at all!” Arkay lied, before quickly changing his mind. “Okay, maybe a little…” Already, Arkay was angry at himself. He shouldn’t have lied, that was a bad way to start this little meetup. Worse, he knew that Phovos knew he lied. “So, uh… the sign says it’s closed?”
Phovos glanced back at Arkay. “Oh that? Owner’s a forgetful guy. Never remembers to change it.”
Arkay followed the Raptor inside. She walked past several tables, all filled with chattering Thanatians, mostly females who looked and dressed similarly to Phovos. She inspected every table, before choosing a small booth for two at the back of the cafe, near the entrance to the kitchen. Arkay waited for Phovos to sit down first, before taking his own seat.
“This isn’t like most Thanatian cafes I’ve seen…” Arkay muttered, not sure how or where to start.
“Of course it isn’t. It’s run by this gay Vrekan couple. Young, female raptors love gay, male Vrekans!” Phovos cheerfully explained.
“That seems… weird…” Arkay didn’t get it.
“I don’t get it either…” Phovos admitted, before quickly changing the subject. “So! How’s things? How’s the family?”
Arkay shrugged, just as a waiter appeared. The waiter was a very short, chunky Vrekan.
“Good afternoon, Kyra Phovos!”
“Hiya, Venais! How many times do I have to tell you, you don’t need to call me Kyra!” Phovos pointed at Arkay. “I hope you don’t mind Rethans coming in, do you? This is my little friend Arkay. You know, the Dessaron kid.”
Venais stretched out one of his clawed fingers and placed it on Arkay’s shoulder – the Vrekan equivalent of a handshake. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, ser…” Arkay replied, not sure what to do with his own hands.
“What do you want to drink?” Phovos butted in. “Venais, you got those strawberry milkshakes?”
“I do.” Venais removed his hand, then pulled out a small notepad and jotted down Phovos’s order. “And you, Kyr Arkay?”
“Can I have a sugar free caramel soda please, if you have them?”
“Of course. I shall return…”
Venais disappeared into the kitchen, leaving the Thanatian and the Rethan alone. But their respite was only brief, and in under thirty seconds, two drinks arrived on their table, as Venais disappeared once more.
Phovos took a sip of her drink, then glanced at Arkay, who was staring awkwardly at his.
“Kyr is masculine, right?” Arkay answered. “I haven’t… considered myself to be masculine for a long time.”
Phovos blinked, not quite understanding. “I thought most Rethans considered themselves mostly one or the other? Or is it kinda fluid?”
“Depends…” Arkay sighed. “Most Rethans lean towards masculine. Outside the bedroom anyway… I used to think I was a bit of both. Then… things happened… Let’s not talk about that. How are you?”
Phovos’s smile returned. “Me? I’m just dandy. Yesterday, I got four members of the Myst signed on for some exhibition matches. Kalsa Warriors agree to it. Your Ksa buddies agree to it… Just need to get my sisters on board…”
“I thought you only had one sister?” Arkay asked as he took a tiny sip of his drink, checking that it was indeed sugar free.
“I always called the Sixteen my brothers and sisters. They practically grew up under my wing. Back when I had wings.”
Arkay’s eyes widened. “You used to have wings?”
Phovos hesitated, then sighed. “I… technically still do. I’m not like other Thanatians, or even other Raptors… I… can change…”
Arkay leaned forward. “So… you’re a shapeshifter?”
“Not a shapeshifter. We call it form-changing. I keep my same characteristics, my blue eyes, my green scales, all that. But I can adapt to my surroundings. Meaning I was the perfect Thanatian to teach sixteen Thanatian nestlings with elemental powers they couldn’t control. Mavri wanted fuck all to do with them until they stopped destroying everything by accident.”
Phovos waited for Arkay to be freaked out, then realised who she was talking to.
“That’s a fucking awesome ability!” Arkay exclaimed. “So what, you can just grow wings or flippers or anything?”
“Yeah, pretty much…” Phovos took a big gulp of her drink. “What, you don’t have powers?”
Arkay tutted. “Not in a traditional sense. Most Rethans are like most Thanatians. No elemental powers, just pure strength and courage.”
“You’re not most Thanatians.”
“I’m not!” Arkay giggled. “But technically my abilities are classified. Plus, you know what I can do. You’ve seen me in your arenas.”
“I’d forgotten about that. Silly me!” Phovos joined in on the giggling, but quickly calmed down. She glanced at Arkay, who was still smirking as he drank his caramel soda. There was something about the Threan-type she couldn’t put her finger on. “What about your family?”
Arkay paused. “My family?”
“Your real family. I know lots about Retvik and Elksia. I don’t know anything about your blood. Can’t be nearly as bad as my family…”
Arkay let loose a small smile. “Depends. Was one of your family the product of a virgin birth, while being an influential member of their species?”
Phovos blinked. “That pretty much describes me.”
“Oh…” Arkay sighed. “Sorry. I was referring to my older brother Elkay.”
“He’s not dead, is he?”
“What?” Arkay nearly leaped out of his seat in shock. After a moment of calming himself, he leaned in really close to Phovos. “How in the name of the Light do you know that?”
“I’ve met him. I remember his scent. I still smell it on you. Fresh. Many beings think us Thanatians are stupid. We saw that funeral. I watched it on telly. Then afterwards, I went to visit your mum, and he had a look in his eyes. He knew his kid wasn’t dead. He didn’t say it, but he knew.”
Phovos leaned back, hinting for Arkay to back off, which he did. “Then you lot get exiled, of course, you came back here. None of your brothers had any connections, apart from you and Elkay. I knew you’d come to me, and the second I saw you, I smelled Elkay’s scent.”
Arkay huffed, then sat back in his chair, feeling deflated. “So all Thanatians know…”
“All local Thanatians who have met Elkay and know his scent, they know. But most of us don’t care. Your secret is safe.”
The little Rethan took a deep breath, then slumped down in his seat. A wave of relief washed over him. “Thank fuck… I was worried that I had majorly fucked up or something… Phew…”
The pair of them fell silent, quietly sipping their drinks, lost in their own thoughts.
Phovos eyed Arkay, looking him up and down. They had so much in common, despite being two very separate races. And weirdly, Phovos found herself enjoying Arkay’s company. Most Rethans she had met, she’d wanted to get away after a while. Most Rethans were imposing, perhaps a little too proud. Arkay though, he was gentle. Or maybe he was broken. Either way, he had been a pleasure.
“What are you thinking about?” Arkay suddenly asked, breaking the silence.
“Um… I was thinking of asking you out on another date at some point…” Phovos admitted. “I am busy tomorrow, but in the afternoon, I don’t really have any plans. International Thanatian holiday after all. The Day we said No to the Facistans… Old holiday…”
Arkay nodded. “It’s not like I have much going on right now… And everyone keeps on telling me I need to socialise more…”
“What were you thinking about, Arkay?” Phovos finally asked.
“Oh me..? Uh…”
“You can tell me.”
“I…” Arkay smiled. “I was just thinking how silly Elkay’s scent must be…”
Phovos put an arm on Arkay’s shoulder. “Well, if you want, meet me here tomorrow at three, and I’ll tell you.”