After the initial awkwardness of learning to behave like a man and a woman together instead of a boy and his duck, the days began to pass by slowly and peacefully. Oh, at first there was quite a scandal of course, but the townspeople soon accepted that the strange writer on the edge of town now had a female companion in his cottage. He was obviously on the fringe of society as it was, so the idea of him rejecting common morality wasn't that strange. The younger, more romantic girls in town thought it rather fitting that the mysterious artist would take an equally mysterious lover. They imagined that she must be a runaway, perhaps a rich young girl that rejected her arranged marriage to be with her impoverished sweetheart...
Fakir thought the rumors ridiculous. He directed a glare at the housewifes as they dragged their curious daughters away when he went out on his weekly market trip to pick up supplies and acted like he didn't hear any of the more invasive questions. It wasn't any of their business what his relationship with Ahiru was. So what if they didn't have rings and they didn't go out of their way to have a big circus-like wedding? He'd lived together with Ahiru for years now. The only difference was that now she wasn't a bird, but a woman, which was hardly any difference at all. The fact that such a big deal was made out of it did nothing but irritate him. It only made it worse that Ahiru was so bothered by all of the talk. He tried to tell her that she shouldn't care what strangers said, but even if Ahiru was a little older and more mature than the girl she'd been when they first met, she was still as awkward and self-conscious when dealing with people as ever. In fact, it might even be worse now that she'd decided that she wanted to be a person again. She was even more desperate to fit in than before. Thinking about how hurt Ahiru would be if she was around to hear the barely-conscealed whispers as he walked through the market only soured Fakir's mood more.
By the time Fakir made it home from his shopping trip, his mood was darker than the fresh ink he'd picked up at the market. It took most of his willpower not to snap at Ahiru when she greeted him from the kitchen with her typical energetic welcome. Instead, he managed a grumbled 'hello' in return.
Ahiru popped her head out from the kitchen doorway, grinning from ear to ear. "Did you get my ingredients?"
"Right here." Fakir held out a bag toward her. "I still can't believe you want to try to make a cake without eggs."
"I'm not going to steal those eggs away from those poor mother hens!" The duck-turned-girl snorted, marching into the kitchen.
"They aren't fertilized when farmers take them, you know."
"I don't care! It's still cruel!"
Fakir sighed. He could understand why it bothered her, of course, and he certainly didn't have any plans to eat chicken or (particularly) duck ever again, but in his mind the eggs he bought at the market were nothing more than a yoke and some egg white. It wasn't actually a bird. With a shrug, he walked back to his study with the mind to work on some of his writing while Ahiru tried to bake.
Fakir had a system every time he sat down to write. He'd pull up his chair to the desk at just the right spot so he wasn't so far he couldn't reach the desk comfortably or so close he couldn't stretch his legs. He'd then brush his fingertips over the feathers of his quill pens and choose which pen 'felt' right to him. He could never figure out why it mattered, but each pen had a different feel to him that reflected in his writing. After a few seconds of thinking it over, he picked out a quill with its feather dyed a rich blue. After that, he had to align his paper together so that the stack was perfectly even, cross his right ankle over his left, and rest the palm of his left hand over the worn groove on his desk to the side of the stack of paper. It was then that he could put his pen to the page, confident that he'd find the words he needed to write.
Most days, anyway. Today was different--his mind was numb, his teeth grinding against each other, and his heart was completely uninterested in writing. Instead, everything was still thinking about the gossiping ladies in the market and the stares. He felt angry, frustrated, humiliated, and then even angrier that it affected him so much. He couldn't relax, couldn't concentrate on anything else. His pen stilled on the page, slowly pressing an ink blot onto the white surface.
He wasn't sure exactly how long he stared at the blank page before he heard the sloppy, irregular footsteps that always announced Ahiru's presence when she wasn't concentrating hard on walking gracefully. "It's in the oven!" she announced as she leaned against the back of his chair. "Are you writing?"
No was what he wanted to answer, but he glanced over his shoulder at her with a weary expression. "Trying to."
"I haven't decided yet."
"Hmmm. Write a story about birds."
"I already have a published novel and two short story collections all about birds, Ahiru..."
"There's no rule that you can't write another!"
"Ahiru, everyone needs my help, not just the birds. There's still stories to tie up."
"Hmmm..." Ahiru rested her chin on top of his shoulder blade. "Like what?"
"That's the problem, I have to find them first."
"Is that why you're so stressed?"
Fakir's body tensed even more than it was before, which helped her chin dig into his shoulder. "I'm not stressed."
He huffed, reaching back to press his hand against her face and push her away. "Don't you have a cake to make?"
"I told you, it's baking!"
"Then find something else to do. Make eggless frosting."
"Don't just take out all of your frustration on me!"
"I wouldn't be frustrated if you'd leave me alone and let me write!" Fakir snapped.
The room was silent for a moment, before he heard the floor behind him creak. Assuming that was Ahiru leaving the room, he sighed, leaning his forehead down to rest in the palm of his hand. She was right, he was stressed, and it was hard to concentrate whenever his mood was sour (which was far too often). He needed to find some way to relax, but how could--
His thoughts were interrupted by a light touch tickling against his neck. He shivered, his head jerking up to let him look toward the touch. Ahiru was standing there with a smile that was far too self-aware for his liking, one of his quill pens in her hand. He frowned. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to help you relax." She grinned and reached over, tugging the pen out of his hand and setting it aside before she reached across his chest and pushed him back against his chair. "That's why you can't write, isn't it?"
"I didn't say that--"
"You didn't have to. I've watched you write for long enough. Now close your eyes."
There was something strange in Ahiru's voice that Fakir hadn't heard for a while--that stubborn tone that he knew meant she wasn't going to back down. He closed his eyes, although his voice still had an argumentative tone. "Just what in the world are you doing?"
For a few seconds he didn't feel anything. Then he felt the feather return to his skin, starting at his neck and slowly sliding up along his jaw line. Once she finished tracing along that, the light touch slid up his cheek to over his eyelids, sliding just barely over his eyelashes. Then the feather dipped back down along his face to his neck again, and then even lower to his collarbone.
He wanted to say 'this is stupid' and tell her to stop. He wanted to think that a silly thing like a feather wouldn't have any impact on him. But he could feel a tickling trail across his face even after the feather had left it, and the effect was enough to send a small shiver up his spine. His forehead scrunched as he tried to hide the shiver. "This is silly."
"That's even sillier."
That was when he felt a button on his shirt come undone. No, she wouldn't. Would she? Pop--there went another button, and the feather started to drift lower down his chest. Fakir's eyes flew open. "Ahiru! What are you--?"
"This is part of it!"
"Do you even know what you're doing?"
That earned Fakir a glare. "Of course I do! I've noticed you liked being touched here before, you know!"
His face started to turn red, thinking back to when he finally gave into his desires toward the girl--woman now--and the nights that followed. They were both awkward at first, but soon Ahiru had found a natural curiosity, asking him how this touch felt, and if he'd liked to be stroked here...she must've noticed his reactions before when her fingernails had lightly brushed against his birthmark.
"Ahiru," he forced out, his voice sounding rough, "I don't have time for this right now, I have to wr--"
"You weren't writing. You need to relax before you can work, don't you?" She finished unbuttoning his shirt and pushed the cloth away from his chest, before slowly beginning to outline his birthmark with the end of the quill. Fakir didn't have a hope of hiding his shiver this time, that odd ticklish feeling even stronger as it crossed from his bronzed skin to the bluish-gray mark that slashed across it.
"Keep your eyes closed, Fakir." She rested her hand on his thigh to steady herself as she slid the feather along his skin and her thumb brushed against his inner leg.
"Close your eyes! It'll make it better, I promise!"
He swallowed and closed his eyes again. He could feel Ahiru's breath against his cheek as she leaned forward--making sure his eyes were really closed, he guessed--before the feather started its path along his torso again. He could tell she was pressing the feather of the quill a little harder against his skin, the tickling trail leaving a stronger impression as the feather traced along the jagged edge of his birth mark. It slid down from his collarbone to his pectoral muscle, lower, lower...and then back up, circling around his nipple. His breath hitched as the feather began to brush over it and he squirmed. The small hand on his leg brushed against his crotch when he did. His eyelids fluttered as he tried to suppress his reaction to the contact.
"Hey! Don't. Open. Your eyes!" Ahiru quacked out, punctuating her words with a flick of the feather against his skin.
"I'm not trying to! It's hard to keep them closed when you bump against me like that!"
"Like what?" The feather started to slide toward his stomach. "Like this?" And that's when the heel of her hand slid closer to his crotch. Fakir only realized she meant to do that when the palm of her hand pressed forward and cupped him through his trousers. He gasped, his back tensing. Her hand started to slowly massage him as the feather traced out patterns on his skin. He tried to figure out what she was drawing out with the feather, but for the most part he was in the dark--although he did think he felt the shape of a heart against his skin. He could feel the shape of the heart against his skin even after she pulled the quill back, as if the feather had drawn a small trail of fire against his skin. He could hear her giggle a little before the feather traced around his navel, then letting the tip dip inside. To Fakir's horror, he let out a surprized giggle, doubling over. "S-stop that! This isn't relaxing, it's just t-torture!"
Ahiru just laughed. "If it was torture, I doubt you'd be reacting this way." She pressed her hand against his growing erection, her tone sing-song. "If you just stop worrying about everything and enjoy yourself, you might even get a reward--"
BING-BING-BA-DONG--down the hall, in the entryway, Fakir's grandfather clock began to ring out the time. Ahiru gasped, dropping the quill and pulling her hand away. "What time is--?! Oh no! The cake! I left it in the oven too long! It's going to burn if I don't get it out--shoot, shoot, shoot!"
Fakir's eyes opened just in time to see Ahiru's red hair streaming behind her as she ran out of the room. He groaned, leaping to his feet and chasing after her. "Hey--wait! You can't just tease me like that and then leave right in the middle!"
"But the cake!" She dove into the kitchen and tugged on a pot holder, then opened the oven and pulled out the cake pan. "There. I think I saved it! Whew!"
"Great." Fakir frowned, pulling his shirt closed. "Congratulations. You've managed to magically bake without eggs."
"You're still grumpy after all that?" She shook her head, slowly tugging off the potholder from her hand in a way Fakir guessed was probably supposed to seem arousing. What she said to him next was more successful at actually being so."You know...the cake has to cool before we can eat it. Do you want me to try the feather on a few other places while we're waiting?"
Fakir swallowed, his face turning red. He wasn't getting any work done while they were doing this, and he hated to actually prove the rumors true...but hell, what did he care at this point. He briefly smirked, holding out his hand toward her.
"I think I have time for that."