Ace drew his shower curtains and stepped down on his mat, towel wrapped low around his waist. Just as he moved to tend to his scruff before the mirror, he tripped over something fluffy. Looking down, he saw Helios at his feet, ears flattened, eyes narrowed to slits. “How did you…?”




Helios licked his nose insolently, before bending to lick drops of water off Ace’s feet. He washed one spot assiduously, before hopping in the shower and looking up at the shower head. Then he looked at Ace, tail waving, and back at the shower head.

“Uh … ” The apparent non-sequitur caught her off-guard. “No? And no?” She wandered over to him, insinuating herself into his space, curious to see what he would do. Would he be the demonstrative type, or would she have to initiate everything? He’d seemed pretty keen on kisses, but even that she’d had to start. What kind of lover would he be? Brendan had been pretty ordinary, once she got past the excitement of having sex at all, more intent on his own pleasure than anything else.

She knew plenty about Ace’s tendency to self-neglect; his contradictory hedonism; his grey, rough shell that concealed his inner self. She had no idea how that would translate into a more serious relationship.


Hearing the hesitation in her words, with each step she took, as if still testing the waters with him, he frowned.

“You’re correct,” Ace mumbled, slowly reaching out to wrap his arms around her waist and pull her into his chest. “As a reward, we can split a whole pie of a Neapolitan delicacy. What toppings do you want?” Ace asked lowly, knowing how fragile the first few months of a relationship could be with someone as sketchy and fleeting as himself.

“I, uh.” Confronted with his bare chest, after the revelations of barely an hour ago, she found it hard to think. “It’s more what I don’t want? No anchovies or peppers? Anything else is fine.” Her shoulders relaxed, and she leaned into his hold, one hand resting on his skin. Impulsively, she kissed the bit of skin closest to her mouth.

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