Cheyenne Point Ferruginous
Ashley stood on the sidewalk next to a small bakery she'd intended to step into to waste a little money on a pastry to distract herself from some worse than average anxiety. But in this moment, she was stationary, standing hunched forward to a bit wider than a right angle.

This was because a very large something had landed on her back, its claws digging through the fabric of her shirt and into her skin. Ash was largely frozen to the spot, red-irised eyes bulging, staring mostly to the pavement. She wriggled only slightly as the bird took a clumsy step further up her back.

"Okay," she breathed, blinking rapidly. "Okay!"

The bird seemed to mostly agree, though to the sight of someone approaching, it shifted to face them, spread its wings, and screeched defensively.
The fox was not happy at the sight, and by extension, neither was Jamaal. He found himself purple-eyed, immediately doing his best not to shift. Again. He clenched a hot dog croissant tightly in his hand, pastry flakes falling away in the process. Behind him, his hand still held the door to the bakery.

He wanted to say anything, ask her if she needed help. But he was struggling greatly. It felt like, if he opened his mouth, fox teeth would flash out.
This was a predicament. Ashley gently tried to will the bird away, though she could only imagine the pain of the bird launching himself off her back. It took her a moment to recognize that there was someone on front of her, though she could mostly see their chest down, unable (or maybe just unwilling) to lift her head high enough to glance up.

"I'm... okay!" she peeped unconvincingly, reaching a hand up to try to offer a thumbs up. Toward the ground, mostly!

The hawk screeched noisily, flapping its wings once, tail feathers fanning in further threat.
Was she? Was she okay? Was he okay? No, not at all, and he wasn't even really sure why. But the tension within him was great, and she didn't look very comfortable. Deciding that standing still offered no benefit but to risk him courting a shift further, Jamaal advanced with furrowed brows.

"GO," he hissed through clenched teeth, swiping with his hand.

How the animal would react was not his control, though.
She saw him getting closer, saw a little further up his chest. Blinked at the ground, her cheeks warm, her irises flushed red as well. It was all very embarrassing, and she didn't really understand it! Definitely had something to do with her power, but. She hadn't even seen this bird, how did she make it land on her back?!

So far her nose hadn't been bleeding, which was good. But the man's threat to the bird was compelling enough to cause it to push against her unintended grasp, and she could taste the red gathering in her sinuses for it.

The bird whipped from her back, a foot snagging briefly in her hair, but ultimately taking panicked flight up and away, its path over the head of the man who had shooed it.
Away it went, and he scowled at it as it did, squinting and ducking with hunched shoulders. His eyes remained stuck purple, and he remained tense. (More than half of it was definitely fear, but his fox mostly communicated that through bodily anger.)

"You okay?" he asked tersely, which was really quite unlike him, but so it was anyway.

She seemed so, more or less. He glanced back to her eventually.
She felt a little scolded as she stood up straight, finding her back vaguely hurt. (Like, the spine itself. The skin also hurt because there were scrapes in it!)

"I'm- um, yes," she peeped, putting a hand to her nose as an ooze of blood trickled free from her nostrils. He seemed tense, and she felt all apology, her free hand reaching for her bag to try to find her trusty towel.

"Thank you. For doing that," she said. Ashley missed his purple eyes, feeling a little too ashamed of it all to try to meet his gaze. He seemed to be... very tense. "That was brave."
Brave! A huff. "Dunno 'bout that. Birds like that just freak me out." He did not relax by enough to relax the color in his eyes, noticed or not. He did turn his head every so often to see if the thing was still lurking around, but it seemed like it was gone.

What was keeping the fox around, then, was the smell of blood. Not that Jamaal exactly realized it, because he wasn't looking at her back. But it was there in the air, a hint, a reminder of hunger.

"Why'd it do that?"
Even braver to do it when he was freaked out! She grasped the towel, bringing it up toward her face and wiping the blood from her finger onto it as well. Awk, Ash! On top of everything else!

"Um, my fault, I think," she said. Brought her free hand up to wave generally toward herself. "I have a weird power? But I'm not good at it. So animals just... land on me?"

And then she laughed with some obvious embarrassment because what kind of power just made animals land on you!!
Animals... just... landed on her. That was a little startling, to a part animal. He did notice the blood on her finger as she went to wipe it, and then his attention was a little hard on the towel, but he heard those words well enough.

"Is that like. A... a real..." Hey Jamaal, stop looking at a bloody towel (literally bloody not Wallace-bloody). "Sorry- real power."

His eyes would be purple for the remainder of the entire thread.
He was staring, and she didn't blame him, but she did kind of wish he wasn't! But. It was fine. Again, that was on her, for somehow attracting a hawk and then just bleeding on herself for it. What was the use of a power like this, honestly!

"It doesn't seem like one!" she said, nervous laughing, nasally. "I don't really know why I have it. I-"

She felt blood warming her back. And probably ruining her shirt. And she was hungry! She eyed his hotdog pastry thing but didn't want to seem like she was coveting it. "One time I made two swans tie their necks together by accident? It was awful! And it makes my nose bleed! It's just. Ugh!"
Oooookay. This was not a case of like, "oh haha I have a disney princess power and animals just land on me" It was like, a power. Like... whatever they were called. People who had powers.

Eyes purple as ever, but Jamaal did manage to contain the panicking of the fox at the prospect of some animal-controller turning his body (and stupid long tail) into a knot. It involved shoving the pastry into his mouth. He was still smelling blood, and unaware of it. The effect of it. He did at least swallow his bite before talking.

"Why... d'you. Nose bleed."
Would she be able to reach to heal her own back?! This occurred to her as she, unfortunately rudely, blew her nose to clear away the last of the blood, folding the towel over itself once so she could dab at her face with a new, unreddened side.

"It's like a... punishment? For using powers?" she said. Then blinked at him, and realized...

He seemed familiar? They'd. They'd definitely talked before. Ash tried to remember, though it was hard to focus not on the fact that her back was trickling blood down her... back.

"Gosh, um. I think we've met before, actually."
Why would powers have a punishment. Apparently they'd met before, but Jamaal wasn't the greatest with faces, and... to be frank, her face was sort of forgettable. Or, like. It didn't really stand out? Ahhhh. He was not trying to be mean. He was actually very confused to be recognized when he made such an effort to be bad at following up on connections.

"How?" he plowed ahead and asked. Maybe she was confusing him for someone else.
Oh, gosh. Was she picturing the wrong person? Hadn't they... talked about healing before? Now she was just making life awkward for both of them.

"Oh, it's- I'm probably thinking of the wrong-"

His... eyes were purple! Her head tilted as she folded the towel up once more to tuck into her back. There was a tiny smudge of red on her upper lip, but she couldn't tell.

"Wait, do you have a power, too?"
She didn't really answer, which was a shame because working in retail he saw a lot of faces that blurred into each other. It wouldn't have been terrible to actually like, reconnect with someone, even if — again — he was bad at maintaining connections overall.

But Jamaal was now here to get cross-examined apparently! He was unaware of his gaze, and unaware of the sneakiness of the fox. It had felt like he had stilled, but that was only because he was a predatory kind of still, focused on the blood on her face.

Even Jamaal looked to it as he answered, not thinking about eye colors. "I- uh... why?" Maybe she was flirting?? He wasn't sure what to do with that! Also, he wanted to tell her about her face.
Both of them were kind of a mess here. Ashley realized she was not making things better, but it felt hard to pull back now? Maybe she should have just ducked into the bakery with an apology, except her back was bleeding, so she was probably better off just going home!

"Your... eyes? Are purple," she said gently. Maybe he didn't realize he had a power! She didn't think he'd had one last time, if this was the right person. Hadn't they talked about healing? If this was the same person, who didn't remember her anyway, so... it was fine!

Just starting fresh, if she'd ever known him at all.
Dangit, Jamaal. At the callout, his eyes maybe seemed to color brighter, or maybe it was just the light catching them as they widened.

"Oh- I- no, I just, like," wait stop abort abort abort. He waved his hands. "I mean, yeah. I can- do the, like. Same. Thing. As you."

Ashley was not the best at detecting dishonesty, in general. But this felt hard to swallow, and she frowned a little. Thinking about Katya, at the pool. Ashley looked down for a moment, somewhere near his chest, mouth slightly ajar.

These things were hard. It didn't feel very polite or kind to say you didn't believe someone. So she pushed for a small, however small, and nodded.

"That's... cool. I should probably go... figure out this mess that bird made of my shirt. But. Thank you for your help."

Pastries would have to happen on another day. Her skin was aching something terrible.
Damn. Now he just felt kind of awful, chasing her off like that.

"Uh. Can I-" he started, and then started shrugging off his jacket. Grabbing his stuff out of his pockets. "Do you like. Want my coat?"

A lame question to ask as he was already removing it, but whatever.
That was so nice, even if he'd maybe been dishonest. Honestly. And it reminded her- it had to be the same guy.

"It's okay, I-"

Just use your words, Ash.

"You got me an Uber, once. And you wouldn't let me split it. You work at a... plant shop?"

And his bike! Memories!
His entire face kind of froze in place, as his brain sought to work out a meeting from a year ago. And yeah, maybe her face was a bit nondescript, but... "Oh! Wait! You!" he pointed at her. "Aaaaa...shley?"

Oh god, please be right. Why had he ordered her an Uber again? She was carrying... something...

A big bag. Soil?? No wait. Sand!
Oh! He got it! She grinned, the lie forgotten, and the scrapes almost forgotten minus that they hurt.

"Yes!" she said, then her expression immediately changed to apologetic. "I have... definitely forgotten your name, though! I'm sorry!"

Which was terrible because he'd been the one to get her an Uber, but she just had a very bad memory for names. And kind of a bad memory in general.
He huffed a laugh. She remembered the meeting, but not his name. Meanwhile he remembered her name, but not the meeting. Not until she told him.

"Might have to be offended about that one," he said, but it was joking. Problematically, there was the urge to bring his face a little closer to hers, and it had mostly to do with the fact that there was still blood on it, but he wasn't processing it like that.

"Jamaal," he said. And now, he was definitely offering her his coat, and it wasn't a question. His other items were slipped into his pants pockets.
A little red in the face (beyond, you know, the actual blood!) for his comment, she still managed to catch that it was a joke.

"Jamaal!" she said, feeling it come back to her, briefly shaking a fist at herself. But he was taking off his coat and she was going to bleed on it maybe! Ahhhhhh! "You are like, the nicest person- I'm-"

Maybe she could get it dry cleaned after? Dry cleaners could probably remove blood?

"You're still at the shop, right? I'm going to bring this back. And pay you for the Uber."
Jamaal, the nicest person. The smile didn't fade from his face. Though as she suggested separation, he was... maybe less than interested in that. Which was weird, Jamaal. Why are you so fixated.

"Where are you headed now?" he asked. She'd been outside the pastry shop, but that didn't mean anything unless she said so.
His coat had the residual warmth you got from someone else's clothing. (And, also, don't tell anyone: it smelled like boy.) He wasn't super tall, but it still hung slightly large on her. Cozily so, minus the bit where she was probably bleeding on it.

"I was originally going to just go home, but I guess if I'm... covered, I can go to the bakery now?" she said, maybe accidentally thinking out loud to him. "Can I get you a dessert or anything at least?"

Ashley turned toward the store, but didn't move to step inside just yet.
Was she really just not going to go to the bakery because she was bleeding a little, thought a boy whose thoughts had skewed about eighty percent food for the last two years. Jamaal reached a hand behind his head, playing kind of a dumb boy card because he could.

"You asking me out for coffee?" he teased, half a grin on his face giving it away. She still had red on her face and he needed to tell her that. Preferably before she tried to place an order.
Oh my gosh, what was that! She huffed, toying with the flaps of the coat she wore open.

"I guess I am," she said cheekily, moving to open the door to the bakery and let him in first. The smell of bread and sugar had her mouth watering a little. Also, her back kind of hurt still! But! It was fine! Hard to believe she'd been attacked or... maybe just protected by a hawk a few moments ago. Hopefully she wasn't bleeding on his stuff.

Assuming he went in, she'd follow, peering into the bakery case with undecided interest.
He responded to her cheek with an easy grin.

Jamaal went in. And he also decided to not let her get too close to the register. "Hey, lemme know what you want and I'll grab it. You can get us a table."

Hopefully she would and he could untense a little bit.
Oh noooo way! She shook her head, hair lashing a little.

"Jamaal!" she chirped. Was he the nicest person in the entire world maybe?! Ashley also had no idea what she wanted yet, which was a whole other issue. She did her best to consider her options quickly, but gosh, it was hard! "I'm the one paying for you."

Given that, she reached a hand into her pocket to pull out her wallet (which was also her phone).
Jamaal didn't actually know her wallet was her phone. He might have entirely reacted because he didn't want her to see her face yet.

Anyway, he went "UH-UH!" and then, quicker than human, the phone was suddenly in his hand, and he was holding it up. Up up up, maybe looking a little surprised at himself which mostly just looked like he was surprised at her.
She had not been expecting that. It happened so fast it startled her. Having something snatched from her hand was not really the most fun thing. He was nice! But also she... didn't... know him that well!

But Ashley didn't want to make it awkward, so she just kind of laughed! Haha! "Jaamal, I- why!"

Still lighthearted! But! Still very startled! That had been so fast she wasn't even sure she saw it happen. Maybe she'd... blinked!
Yeah Jamaal! Why! "It's fine!" he said, to himself, and also to her. Or at her. Huffed a little, but he was kind of messing up right now and he knew it.

"Just- just go sit, it's okay. I got this."

It almost sounded like a plea, which he was pretty sure was worse, but he did slowly lower the phone to her level. Apologetically purple-eyed.
This was weird.

It was weird enough that she had to put work into keeping her smile going. She took her phone back, glancing from those purple eyes down to the dull shine of her device.

Everything was fine. Maybe he was just a little socially awkward. Nothing wrong with that.

"Sure. I'll... find us a table."

Smile, smile. She'd go to do just that, and found herself thinking about...

Iago. Someone else with colorful eyes who had seemed nice and claimed to have a power, too. It made her stomach ache.
Good. Great. Awesome. "Cool," he went with. Be cool, dude. As she walked away, he put his hands behind his head and just. Breathed it out. The fox, too, managed to settle down in a way that Jamaal hadn't noticed signalled the animal's wriggling around in his head.

It would take some minutes to collect everything he wanted and decided she wanted, but when he was done and all was paid for, he'd grabbed a whole lot of stuff. Overcompensating.

Three hot dog croissants, two marble pound cake slices, three cheese danishes, two chocolate chunk cookies, and two lattes, which in his opinion was the only real way to enjoy coffee.

He also got a cup of water, and napkins.

"Here," he settled down, trying to act like this was normal, even though it would have been if she was a were. "I hope you like, like, any of these."
She did her best to pretend she couldn't hear him ordering. But she could! And it was so much!

Ashley blinked at her hands, clicking her cell phone screen om and off thoughtlessly. He had to be like Iago, but hopefully not...

Not just like Iago. When he returned, her eyes bugged, and she felt like a kindly managed hostage.

"Oh my gosh," she squeaked. "I- definitely. Hopefully you're having some too?!"
She was so squeaky. And also very small. Jamaal sort of wanted to squish her and hear more squeaky sounds. It was at least partially a vaguely canine urge, which tracked for the vaguely canine boy.

"Yeah, definitely," he assured, snorting a little bit because it was funny to imagine him not devouring half of this. "Just, uh... one sec."

He grabbed a few napkins, folding them up, and then carefully tipped the cup of water so as to wet them a bit. And then... swallowing, motioned her forward.

"Let me, uh. Get some of that off your face."

In a way he hoped she did more squeaking.
That was good news, at least. Half of this was already more sugar than she could wisely consume. All of this was flustering, but also failed to prepare her for the worst yet.

Ashley was reaching a hand toward one of the cookies when he made his offer. She tilted her head, blinking at him.

"Some of...?"

She flicked on her phone, readying to turn on selfie mode to see what she'd done to herself.
Again with the phone! Why was she like this, asked an early-twenty-something kid who clearly did not hang around enough people his age. His brow furrowed.

"It's nothing! Just."

He reached forward with his thumb propped behind wet napkin and did his best to swipe it away but it was entirely up to her if he got her upper lip or her ear if she turned her face away. (Though he'd also pull away if she did.)
She didn't pull away fast enough. Saw it coming. Realized it was too late. And here she was, in a stranger's coat, sitting in front of a pile of food she'd not ordered herself, and now was having her face wiped with someone else's wet napkin.

Ashley froze to her spot, eyes wide. What could she even say, really. Just.

"O-okay! Thanks," she said, voice small, eyes on his hand and not his face because she was pretty embarrassed. "Probably... blood. Sorry."

Maybe the hawk would come and pick her up and carry her away now.
Good news was that she let him do it. Bad news was that it was... definitely awkward. Worst news of all? He was so focused on it in this fox-like way that he just flat out... didn't even register that second part until he was leaning back, napkin in hand.

"Yeah, don't worry about it."

And that was when it hit him, just about as the fox redirected his attention to the hot dogs. Meat please. He had such shame right now.

"Sorry. I... just. Didn't wanna embarrass you in line."

So instead he'd embarrassed her anyway and also at this table, wow. Good going, kid.
She was definitely worrying about it, but she... appreciated being told not to, maybe! Ashley needed to make a better effort to double check after nose bleeds. Her cheeks were all red (though no blood outside, way to go!), and she blinked, trying to pull herself together.

"I appreciate it," she said, and on some level she did! Really! It was not the way to go about this. She wished he'd just told her. But it was just fine. Ashley swallowed and reached for the cookie again, promising not to make this a thing for him or her.

"This is the nicest dessert spread ever."
Now that her face was cleared, it meant he was just fine around her, right?

Wrong. Because the fox still smelled blood. She wouldn't have been the first one he'd even bit. He thought about all the times he had trouble connecting with his own, or even wanting to be around them very long after the first few minutes were satisfied.

There wasn't an interest in changing Ashley, to be clear. Just an interest in biting her. Grabbing that hand in his teeth and shaking the hell out of his head while she squeaked.

Jamaal closed his purple eyes and almost missed her comment.

"Heh," he huffed more than said. "Gotta eat right, right?"

No, this wasn't eating right for her, because she wasn't like him. "What were you up to out anyway."
Eat right! That got her to actually laugh, at least. A bunch of desserts was probably the opposite of eating right, but he seemed to be in pretty good shape, so obviously it was working for him.

She broke off a piece of the cookie to put into her mouth, and it was delicious. Her shoulders slumped a little for the sweet comfort of sugar. They could talk a little, then go off and do their own thing and maybe whenever she met him again it would be less awkward. She probably owed him, um... a lot of money, between this and the Uber. Best not to think about it right now.

"Honestly, just trying to enjoy things before it gets too cold," she said. "I sit in the house more than I should, so... just. Trying to get out more. You?"
She didn't answer the question again, or maybe she did and going out to eat inside a pastry shop was her idea of enjoying nice weather.

"Checking out a local library," he said, which was soft code for "he didn't have reliable internet at home and it was easy to do online college application stuff in better-connected towns." "What were you going to do outside?"
Oh, libraries. Maybe that was something she could do to get out of the house. Go... sit in a library, instead. She'd fallen out of love with reading after years of doing it for school. Kind of felt bad about it.

His question caught her with cookie in her mouth, and she chewed hurriedly so she could reply. Sipped the whatever drink it was, and, oh! Coffee! That was... fine! She'd just have an energetic walk back.

"Oh, just- the walk here, I mean," she clarified, sheepish. He still had purple eyes. Just like Iago. Don't think about that right now. "Might find a... park to wander around on the way back."
She was just as awkward as he was, even if it was more outwardly so. Jamaal nodded quietly, taking one of those hot dog buns in his free hand. His other hand still held the napkin.

"You fixed up your back already yet?" he asked, in lieu of confirming something he'd just remembered.

Remembered that thing about her having the same ability as his dad. It was kind of melting in to the fact that he now knew she could... make animals land on her or something.

Right, yeah. One of those. He'd met a few.
Fixed up- oh! So he... remembered the healing thing. Ashley shook her head, putting the cookie down on the little paper slip it came in.

"No," she said. "I have to touch my hands to it, and then my nose would bleed again, so probably something to try when I get home. If I can reach."

The last bit was mostly a joke. It would just probably look silly while she did it, if she did it.

"But I tend not to heal myself unless it's bad. Feels a little wasteful to use it on myself, I guess." Ashley looked to his face, to his eyes, and couldn't help herself. "Your eyes are, um. Still purple."
Ah. Okay. But what if it got like, infected or something? Except his eyes were still purple and he frowned glancing away, and then rubbed at one.

"That's weird. Uh. I dunno. Maybe something... with my contacts or whatever."

Uh, uh, yeah. He shoved food in his face.
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