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Afternoon Delight

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"Afternoon Delight”

Lily groaned lightly as heat warmed her face. Realizing it was sunlight, she turned away from it, not quite ready to face the day yet. Soft fur brushed her nose, and Lily smiled, pleased that Heath hadn’t gone far during the night.

She pressed closer to the woman lying next to her, burying the front of her face into Heath’s hair. Lily inhaled, picking up notes of cotton from the bedding and a fresh sandalwood scent that likely came from Heath spending much of her time outdoors.       

“Lily.”

The familiar voice made Lily’s heart skip a beat, Heath shifting her head until her nose lightly bumped Lily’s. Unable to help laughing, Lily sat up, the sheet and blanket falling to pool at her waist.

“What time is it?” Heath asked lazily, a touch of sleep still in her voice.

Lily reached for the nightstand next to the bed, grabbing the wristwatch lying on top of it. She flipped the front glass up, then felt out the hands of the clock. “9:30.”

The bedding was pushed aside as Heath wove her arms around Lily’s bare waist, settling against her hip. Lily could feel goosebumps gradually develop on Heath’s skin from exposing herself to the cold hair in the room.

The fall season had begun to set in during the last few weeks, bringing with it lower temperatures and on-and-off rain. Lily wasn’t the least bit surprised that Heath had cuddled up to her for warmth.

“It’s too early,” Heath groaned, her voice partially muffled.

Putting aside the wristwatch, Lily laid a hand on Heath’s head, sinking her fingers into the silky strands. They used the same shampoo, but somehow Lily’s hair never gained the same appealing sheen Heath seemed to manage.

“It is not,” Lily replied, moving her hand to Heath’s forehead, the horn cool amid the warm skin surrounding it. “You just want to sleep more.”

A jolt ran up Lily’s spine at the feel of soft lips brushing the left side of her stomach, Heath kissing it. “That’s the last thing I want to do.”

“Really? I couldn’t tell.” The sarcasm in Lily’s tone was obvious.

Her breath trembled as Heath slowly moved her mouth upward, putting it to considerable good use while Heath’s fingers skimmed up Lily’s arms, the light touches an exquisite form of torture.

Heath had just reached her mouth, nipping Lily’s lower lip when Lily couldn’t restrain herself any longer. She closed the short distance between them, fully embracing Heath as she fell back onto the bed.           

Lily took a shaky breath, her nerves still on edge. “I guess we can stay here just a little longer.”

Heath's soft laughter rumbled along Lily’s neck as Heath nuzzled her playfully. “Glad to hear it.”


 Once they’d managed to pull themselves from the bed, Lily dressed as Heath took a quick shower. She wandered into the bathroom, shortly brushing her teeth.

Heath shortly finished up, the squeak of the faucet loud as the stream of water cut out. She grabbed a towel, her steps approaching Lily as she leaned over the sink, washing her face.

“Ow.”

Lily turned towards Heath. “What’s wrong?”

Heath made a small huff next to her. “This long hair tangles too much.”

“Let me try,” Lily said, holding out her hand. Heath laid the hairbrush in it, Lily turning it, so she gripped the handle. “Can you grab a stool from the kitchen?”

A few seconds went by until Heath returned, the scrape of wood against tile telling her Heath had succeeded in her mission.

“I’m sitting in front of the tub,” Heath said helpfully, Lily broaching the area carefully, wary of any water spots that possibly remained on the floor.

Lily touched the back of Heath’s shoulder, orientating herself. She gently ran the hairbrush down the side of Heath’s hair, her first stroke finding no resistance. The second, a little further to the right, made Heath flinch, and Lily pulled back, moving her hand that rested on Heath’s back to the problematic area.

She pulled at the tangle gently, quickly unraveling it within a few seconds. Lily continued brushing to the right, finding no problems in that direction. Upon going to the left side of Heath’s head, she encountered another tangle.

“Let me know if I pull too hard,” Lily said, pressing fingers into the mess. It was bigger than the previous one, and she moved slower, afraid of causing any pain. “If this becomes a common problem, I can get some detangling solution.”

Heath’s voice hitched for a moment as Lily unwound the knot. “Or we can just cut it.”

“I thought you liked it long?” When she’d made sure everything was adequately untangled, Lily placed the hairbrush in her pocket. Leaning forward, she pulled Heath’s hair back into a loose ponytail, her fingertips brushing Heath’s neck and ears.

The fur was always something surprising, given so much of her body was reptilian.

Heath tipped her head back as Lily started to braid her hair. “I can take it or leave it.”

“If it really starts to bug you, we’ll fix it.” Lily turned away to slip a hair tie off the bathroom counter. She tied the braid off, lying her hands on Heath’s shoulders, happy to have been of some help.

“Heath?”

“Yeah?”

Lily hesitated, unsure if her bringing the subject up would trigger any bad memories.  “I’m curious, how old are you?”

Heath made a soft inquisitive sound, eventually shrugging one shoulder. “I don’t actually know.” She turned on the stool. “I know I’m older than you, but by how much I don’t know.”

“Well, when is your birthday?” More silence on Heath’s part, Lily’s chest aching in sympathy. “Just how long have you been alone?”

“It felt like forever,” Heath said quietly. A scaly hand came to rest atop Lily’s own, clasping it softly.

Lily felt the start of tears in her eyes, quickly shaking her head, not wanting to react too emotionally or make a big deal about it.

“Well, I’m here now, and I’m not going anywhere.” Lily steeled her resolve, smiling. “Let’s make it today.”

“What?”

Lily hugged Heath close. Despite showering, Heath’s distinctive scent remained, a familiar comfort she relished. “Your birthday. I want to celebrate you.” 

Her brow narrowed in thought. “I’ll have to go into town for some supplies.”

Heath stilled against Lily, shoulders growing tight. So far, she had only ventured out to Lily’s house, avoiding the main town. The leftover guilt from razing it was probably still too much for Heath to handle.

Lily kissed one of Heath’s ears, making her start slightly. “I promise I won’t be long.”

The world wasn’t perfect, but eventually, Lily vowed she’d find a way for Heath to come to grips with her past and find some peace.   

“Okay.”


An hour and a half later

The way Lily navigated the kitchen, you’d never have known she was visually impaired. Heath was ever impressed as she leaned over a braille cookbook, fingers running over one page. A variety of ingredients sat on the counter next to her.

She looked up, smiling at Heath cheerily. “I don’t mind you watching, but you could also give me a hand.”

Heath ducked her head, though Lily couldn’t see the motion. “Sorry.”

She moved closer, coming to stand next to Lily. Heath had constantly been learning since Lily came to live with her. The set of measuring cups she bought had braille on them too. She fingered the handle of one, the tiny bumps so small she could barely feel them.

“We start with the sugar.”

Heath slid the paper bag of it into Lily’s hand, making short work of locating the correct measuring cup. She kept one finger down the inside of it, filling it twice, both cups going into the bowl to her right.

Heath tried to look ahead to the next ingredient, but there was no visible text she could read. She must have made a noise of frustration because Lily chuckled, briefly patting her arm. “Dry ingredients come first, so flour is next. You want to do it?”

Swallowing nervously, Heath nodded. “Which cup is it?”

Lily handed over a medium-sized one in a show of encouragement. “One of those, please.”

As Heath filled it with flour, careful to make it level at the top, Lily grabbed and opened a small brown glass bottle, the aroma of vanilla rising in the air.

Scenting the air, Heath briefly closed her eyes. She’d never encountered anything quite like it before meeting Lily. “That smells great,” she said upon adding the flour to the mixing bowl. “Do we add that now?”

Lily shook her head, replacing the cap of the bottle of the vanilla extract. “Not yet. I just wanted to make sure it was the right flavor. Now we use baking powder and baking soda.”

Leaning over the counter, Heath eyed the smaller measuring spoons, nervous that she might have to use her larger fingers to wield them. Unlike Lily’s small ones, delicate operations were difficult for Heath.

“Stop worrying, Heath. You’re doing very well so far.” How had she known? Sometimes Heath wondered if Lily was a little psychic. Her intuition was so often on the mark.  

Lily made the two baking ingredients look easy, pushing a round tin can in Heath’s direction. “Open that cocoa powder, please.”

Sitting up in interest, Heath undid the lid, suddenly enveloped in the chocolate scent. “It comes in powder form?”

“Sort of,” Lily replied. “It’s what left after all the moisture is taken out of chocolate.”

Curious, Heath dipped a pinky into the dark mixture, bringing it to her lips. She grimaced as she found it bitter, the tip of her tongue hanging out of her mouth. “Ugh.”

“You tasted it, didn’t you?”

“…No.”

Lily laughed. “It’ll taste good in the cake, I swear.”

“If you say so,” Heath said, handing the opened container back to Lily. She added it to the bowl before a pinch of salt. She stirred the bowl a few times, the fingers of Lily’s free hand pressing against the open page of the cookbook. “Okay, wet ingredients next. Would you like to do the eggs for me?”

She pushed a small carton of eggs towards Heath, along with another bowl.

Heath eyed the items dubiously. “You trust me to do it?”

“Of course.” The warm expression full of confidence Lily shot her way made Heath’s chest momentarily tighten. While she’d do anything for her, Heath wasn’t sure how Lily could put so much faith in her. Especially given the part she'd played in causing Lily's blindness.         

Heath grabbed the bowl and carton, quickly opening the latter. A half dozen eggs stared back at her. The first one she clutched with too much force, the egg breaking apart in her hand.

“Damn.”

There were multiple white pieces floating in the frothy mixture in the bowl. Heath picked at them, but they danced away from her fingers every chance they got. She growled in frustration.

Lily laid a hand on Heath's shoulder. “It's okay, you can start over.” She took the bowl away, then rinsed it out in the sink before setting it in front of Heath again.

Feeling clumsy as she reached for another egg, Heath kept her grip gentle. A light tap on the side of the bowl and a hairline fracture appeared on the egg. Heath dug a few claws into it, and the bright yellow yolk and the whites surrounding it slid past her fingertips, landing with a plop at the bottom of the bowl.

“I knew you could do it,” Lily said happily, clearly hearing Heath’s successful egg breaking. “Just one more to go.”

Gritting her teeth, Heath managed to crack another one, relieved when no part of the shell broke off during the process. Lily deposited the eggs into the main mixing bowl, then dumped a cup of milk and some vegetable oil into it as well.

“Now the vanilla?”

“Yes.” Lily carefully added two dashes into the growing mixture. “Now, we just need some boiling water.”             

 “Why?” Heath asked, honestly curious. Before they’d even started, Lily had put a kettle of water on the stove, slowly letting it heat up.  

Lily looked nervous for the first time, using an oven mitt to grab the kettle's handle. Meanwhile, Heath turned off the burner. “Hot water helps bloom the cocoa powder, creating a deeper, richer chocolate flavor. I’ll let you measure this out, okay?”

Heath took the kettle from her, not needing to use anything to protect herself. The one good thing about being a monster who could summon fire at will was never being at risk of being burned by it.

Heath filled the cup with care, certain they were on the last ingredient now. Once it hit the cake batter, the rich scent of cocoa rose in the air. Bloom indeed.

“All done?” Turning the bowl into Lily’s waiting hands, Heath placed the kettle back on the stove. Lily worked the mixture for a few minutes, the batter looking thin for all the ingredients they had put into it. “All right, the oven’s already preheated. 350, right?”

Heath double-checked, the dial clicked in the right place. “Yes.”

“Then bring me the baking pan I greased and floured earlier.” Lily nodded her thanks when Heath did as requested, making sure she didn’t smudge the inner layer of the pan.

With the utmost care, Lily poured the batter into the pan until the bowl was nearly empty.

Heath snatched a spatula and scraped the insides of the bowl. A large drop of the batter splashed onto Lily’s fingers, who snickered.

“It’s supposed to go in the pan, not on me.” Lily put the bowl down, going still when Heath raised Lily’s hand to her mouth and licked the underside of her fingers.

She shivered. “Heath,” Lily breathed out, a small smile gathering on her face.

“It’s delicious,” Heath announced in a low voice, the inherent sweetness of Lily melding with the chocolate batter. If she was honest, the cake had nothing on Lily.   

“I-It’ll be even better after baking,” Lily said in a whisper, leaning forward to put her forehead against Heath’s for a moment.

Heath grinned. “I doubt that.”

“Ye of little faith,” Lily said assuredly, then pounded the pan on the counter a few times. “Any bubbles on top?”  

Peering over the lid of the pan, Heath surveyed the dark batter, then shook her head. “You’re good.”

“Excellent.”

Donning a pair of long oven mitts that brushed up against the crook of her elbows, Lily picked up the baking pan full of the batter while Heath opened up the oven door. The heat blasted her face and neck, Heath making sure the door didn’t spring upward unexpectedly.

Lily carefully slid the pan onto the top rack, then backed up, allowing Heath to close the door. She flashed Heath a smile as she freed up her hands. “And now we wait.”

“What’ll we do to pass the time?”

Lily reached out for Heath, taking her hand. “I picked up a new book in town. Would you mind reading some of it to me?”

Her voice had been low, looking at the ground as she asked. The suddenly bashful behavior made Lily look so adorable, Heath almost couldn’t stand it.      

She held back the urge to hug Lily close, thinking that some of the best memories they had together were simply exploring other worlds in fiction, carving out quiet time together.

Clasping the fingers in hers carefully, Heath smiled. “I'd love to.”


Heath had to admit Lily’s vow about the high quality of the cake hadn’t been a lie. The rich chocolatey aroma of it filled the kitchen as Lily pulled the now fully baked cake from the oven.

Her mouth slightly watering, Heath asked, “Can we cut it now?”

Lily chuckled. “It has to cool first.”

“How long?”

Tilting her head, Lily gave it a few seconds’ thought. “Give it five minutes…unless you can stand to wait while we make the frosting.” She arched a brow in silent challenge.

Heath bit her lower lip, torn by the desire to make something already good even better or have near-immediate satisfaction. “No, there’s no need.”

“Okay.”

Lily didn't seem too bothered by the decision, busying herself with getting out plates, silverware, and napkins. It didn't seem possible that Lily had only come to live with her six months ago. The way she moved around the kitchen, it was like Lily had been there forever.

When enough time had passed, Lily stuck her hand into her pocket, digging around until she found what she was looking for.

“What are you doing?” Heath asked.

Lily stuck a small candle on top of the cooled cake. “I’m marking the occasion,” she said. “If you’ll help me light it, that is.”

Heath stepped in front of Lily, her chest warming up as she summoned up the primal element that she could call her own. A thin stream of fire crawled up her throat, shooting out towards the candle on the cake. When the wick caught aflame, Heath cut off the flow, smoke billowing out her nostrils for a moment.

Stepping out from behind Heath, Lily took a seat on the chair next to the counter, patting the one beside her.

Heath slipped onto the chair, surprised when Lily held the cake out towards her.   

“Happy birthday, Heath,” Lily announced warmly, the thin flame of the lit candle flickering, casting a shadow on her face.

Though she’d known it was coming, Heath flushed in embarrassment. “W-What do I do?”

Lily laid the plate back on the counter. “You blow out the candle and make a wish.”

“Can we eat it afterward?”

Biting off a chuckle, Lily smiled. “Yes.”

Heath leaned over the top of the cake and shot a gust of air over it, snuffing the candle out easily.  

“What did you wish for?” Lily asked curiously.

“Nothing,” Heath replied, scooting forward until her legs were touching Lily’s. “I already have everything I want.”

Lily flushed, leaning into Heath’s side shyly. “I do too.”

The small action was enough to overcome what little restraint Heath had been holding onto since Lily’s reading request earlier.

“Lily,” Heath said, pressing closer to Lily. “I’ve changed my mind. I’d like to eat my cake later. I’ve found something better. Is that okay?”

She pressed a soft kiss against Lily’s neck, making her intention quite clear.

“A-Anything for the birthday girl.”   

For the second time that day, the bed saw further use.