A Brutally Honest Evening in the Diner

Ursa Diner(#179RAJh)
You step onto a cracked but clean tile floor that was probably once red, but is now a faded salmon pink. A large, rectangular communal table seating about 10 takes up the middle of the floor, with mismatched smaller tables arranged near the large front windows. The long counter in front of the kitchen door sports plates of fragrant bread, cookies, and muffins and bowls of fresh wild fruits. A small, rattling fridge in the corner holds a selection of juices and cold spring water in reused bottles and jars. Atop the refrigerator is a can for cash donations; next to it is a box for barter payments. Scrawled on the box in black marker are the words "Pay what you can, when you can."
Menu Board
Obvious exits:
Curtain Main Street Kitchen

The clouds overhead drizzle listlessly.
It is windy, and blowing from the southeast.

You paged Rowan with 'Okay. Late afternoon, just fading to evening? No sunset, since it's drizzling, according to +weather, and I don't mind playing with +weather.'.

Miki opens the door of the diner and enters tentatively, looking around. He is wearing a short, knee-length rain cape in oilcloth, with the hood pulled up; upon entering the room, he pulls it off and hangs it by the door. He wipes his boots very carefully on the mat.

He moves with the ungulate grace which is too often compared to deer, but unlike a deer he usually does not make a sound, this slender young man with a waterfall of perfectly white hair-- not blond, but white and fine as Queen Anne's lace-- which has been rather carelessly confined in a burgundy ribbon at the nape of his neck. His eyes at first appear to be dark rather than the blue that is their color, as they are so saturated with color that they absorb rather than reflect, like the evening sky. The planes of his perfectly symmetrical face reflect a beauty so delicate and finely drawn as to be almost inhuman, an impression furthered by the translucent pallor of his skin. Yet the lovely lines of his collarbones and his wrists showing delicately through that transparency paradoxically reinforce his humanity by suggesting his fragility.
He is currently wearing plain but sturdy-looking brown leather boots that lace halfway up to his knees, soft gray pants of some closely-woven material, and a smoky-blue shirt of very sheer linen with wide gathered sleeves and an open collar. Over this is a knee-length, dark green, leather vest, soft and scarred with use, carelessly only halfway laced up the front.
At rest, he sits quite still, not even fidgeting with his long and capable hands. His face tends to assume a clear, icy expression which is a first cousin to sorrow.

There is a sign on the counter that says, "Gone fishin'. Back soon." There are, however, fish on the counter, and noise in the kitchen, so it might reasonably be assumed that the sign is out of date. Soon, Rowan emerges with a knife (a very sharp knife), and stops as he sees Miki. "Hey there. What can I do for you?" he asks, as he regards the younger man.

He fits in the background, this young man. He's fairly tall (about 6 feet 2 inches worth), and rather stocky, but he can and does observe events without intruding on them. His hair is rusty-red, darkly so, and relatively long. It is, however, tied back in a ponytail, to at least attempt to keep it out of his eyes. Most of the time, he succeeds in this endeavor. Occasionally, he fails, somewhat to his irritation. His face, in keeping with his frame, is a bit broad. His eyes are blue, and there are already laugh lines around them.
He wears dark blue pants, with a considerable number of pockets, a slightly lighter blue shirt, a vest, and a jacket.

"Um," says Miki, upon seeing Rowan. "I just wanted to get in out of the rain for a while." He looks at the fish on the counter and says, "Do you want help with those?"

"Well," Rowan says, gutting the first fish and starting to scrape off some of the scales, "Only if you want to. And, really, if this kind of thing kind of grosses you out, then I could do it later."

Miki laughs a little. "I do this all the time," he says, perching on one of the stools on the opposite side of the counter. "Do you have another knife, or should I use mine?"

Rowan says, apologetically, "Well, this here's the sharpest knife I /have/..."

Miki nods, rolls up the sleeves of his shirt, and reaches into his vest. After a moment he pulls out a small hunting knife, which he tests thoughtfully on the edge of the "Gone Fishing" sign. Apparently satisfied with the edge, he pulls one of the fish towards him, neatly guts it, and begins scaling it. His hands are quite sure, and he somehow manages not to get fish scales everywhere.

Rowan guts another fish, and puts his two bowls, one for guts and scales, one for the fish themselves, on the counter. "So you're just here to get out of the rain?" he asks, while his knife moves. "Couldn't offer you some rosemary tea?"

A small pile of scales appears and Miki scoops them tidily into the bowl. "I think tea would be nice," he says shyly. He deftly turns the fish over and slides the knife under the first layer of scales on that side.

Rowan's smile is surprisingly warm. He's laid his knife down on the counter and headed into the kitchen in the briefest of moments. Kettle heating, he's back out, with some carrots and a chopping board; apparently, he's going to let Miki prepare fish in payment.

Miki was not, apparently, exaggerating when he said that he was familiar with this. In very little time he has scaled the fish completely and neatly slices the head from the body. Setting that one aside, he reaches for the next, disemboweling it carefully over the bowl and not spilling a single drop of blood.

Rowan seems quite used to chopping carrots. He gets done with quite a few of them, even considering he has to cut the skin off, before the teakettle whistles. He's up, bustling, before it gets loud enough to scream, and brings out both tea (for both of them) and some bread and butter.

Miki finishes the second fish, and starts on the third. He looks up as Rowan appears with the tea, a lock of hair falling into his eyes. "Thank you," he says.

Rowan shrugs. "You're welcome. Figured, you guttin' some fish for me -- a job I hate, I might add -- was kinda compensation enough, you know? So how're you guys settlin' in?"

With a smile, Miki looks up from his work. "We are doing well, I think. Anderja found us a place to stay, a ruined building. It is a long walk from town, but I do not mind so much." Miki becomes distracted by the lock of hair in his face and attempts to blow it out of the way, unwilling to use his sticky hands.

Rowan watches this procedure out of the corner of his eye, a small smile tugging at his mouth. Silently, he offers a napkin. "Ruined, huh? There's a lot of those, around here. 's it a church, or an old factory?"

Miki accepts the napkin with a slightly embarrassed look, then notices the question. "Oh? It was a church. It is a nice big building." He wraps his fingers in the napkin and pushes his hair out of his face with it before going back to what he was doing. Another pile of scales is deposited in the dish, and so is another fish-head.

Rowan stops, in the middle of taking a sip of tea. "Yeah?" He sounds slightly enthusiastic. "Dali and Leaf lived there, briefly. If it's the same place."

The fourth and last fish is gutted into the bowl with a look of fine concentration. "Did they? It is a neat old place, with a graveyard and everything. Very over-grown, though. But still, some of the stained glass is there."

You paged Rowan with 'Sorry about not putting my name on that. Do you want me to repose?'. >From afar, Rowan doesn't mind when it's just us.

Rowan nods. "Yeah, the stained glass is what set it in my mind. Love that stuff..."

Miki thoughtfully slides a pile of scales into the bowl and flips the fish over. "It is very beautiful. Some of it is broken, though, and there are trees... Still, it has most of a roof, and so it is quite comfortable, with our things." He looks up at Rowan, a quick flash of a smile. "You can come by, if you like, but it is not a short walk. Not, you know, just a stroll."

Rowan goes back to chopping carrots. "Like I mind? I go on some long runs just about every day. You guys want comp'ny, just say the word."

Biting his lower lip, Miki concentrates on getting the last of the scales off. "You are welcome, for all of me," he says finally, looking up with a smile. Then he neatly beheads the fish and sets it on the pile, using the napkin to wipe down the knife. "I must wash," he says unnecessarily, sliding from the stool in one quick movement and heading for the kitchen.

Rowan watches after the younger man, eyes slightly narrowed for just a moment.

Miki returns after a moment, his hands damp. "Is there anything else I can do?" he asks, hesitating instead of sitting down.

Rowan shakes his head faintly, just before Miki comes back out of the kitchen, and then refocuses on the young man. "Mmm... don't think so. Got most of the soup makings done already. But thanks."

Miki resumes the stool at the counter, then, wrapping his hands thoughtfully around his tea mug before taking a sip. "You are welcome. Besides," he adds, putting his head on one side, "you are paying me, no?" He gestures at the tea and bread with a slight smile.

Rowan looks as if he doesn't quite get the joke for a moment, and then he unbends, snorts faintly, and agrees, "Oh, yes. I'm paying /you/. Of course..."

Miki takes another sip of his tea before biting into the bread and butter. He looks over at Rowan and asks, after another pause, "How long have you lived here? If it is not, you know, a rude question."

Rowan shrugs. "Couple years. I was in Charlotte, before that. But I'm from Maine originally, so this is kind of like coming home."

"Ah," says Miki thoughtfully, and drinks more tea. He glances towards the peak of Katahdin-- or, rather, where the peak would be visible if there weren't a wall in the way-- in a rather eerily accurate way, and looks back down at his plate.

Rowan glances toward Katahdin as well, though slightly less eerily accurately. "I've... grown roots here."

Miki looks down at the counter, drawing circles with his long fingers in a bit of spilled tea. "It seems like... an easy place to do that. Here, I mean." He looks up. "We have been traveling for a long time, Anderja and I."

Rowan snags a chunk of carrot. "Yeah. I was doing that, for no little time, myself. It gets... tiring."

"Does it?" asks Miki, genuinely curious. "We... we have traveled since I was four. When our parents died, you see. Then, this happened." He gestures towards the mountain, his hand suggesting, somehow, the pull of migrating birds. "I do not understand the calling. And I should, you know."

Rowan follows Miki's hand. Then his gaze returns to the young man. With a quiet intensity, he asks, "Why should you?"

Miki folds his hands together on the counter, looking down at them, then up at Rowan. "Oh, because of the magic I do. I, um, can call ghosts, you know. And animals, sometimes. But my calling is... nothing compared to the mountain."

"The mountain itself wasn't what called /me/ here," Rowan says. "But... what's it feel like, for you?"

Miki puts his head on one side, ignoring the hair that falls into his face again. "Like... like waking up from a dream in which I am supposed to go home," he says finally.

The Dancer's attention is on the hair for a little too long, and then he drops his gaze. "It felt like /coming/ home, for me."

Miki sighs, dropping his gaze to his hands. "I... am not sure what that feels like," he confesses, sounding rather ashamed.

"Cradled. Cradled in warmth. Cradled in certainty." Rowan is watching Miki's face again, now that Miki isn't looking at him. "As if everything makes sense again."

Miki smiles suddenly, a tender private smile which is probably not meant to be seen, for it vanishes almost as soon as it appears. "If everything makes sense at... home, then the world must be a more sensible place than ever I thought."

That smile elicits one from Rowan, before he suddenly looks away again. "It doesn't last long," he says, almost bitterly.

Miki looks up. "What does not last?" he asks, watching Rowan's face carefully.

Rowan shrugs. "Any of it." He's still looking away. "One sensation does not a lifetime make."

"Well," Miki points out, "if it did, it might be a boring lifetime."

Rowan looks back at Miki. "But much easier. And much less..." He searches for a word, and gives up. "I dunno, less painful."

A look passes over Miki's face which is almost too quick to be read-- a certain dilation of the eyes, a betraying movement at the corner of his mouth-- which suggests that he has had his share of such sensations, and feels, if not outright sympathy, at least some kind of empathy. He places one hand flat on the table and looks down at it, at the delicate architecture of the fingers and the faint flush of blood under his pale skin. "At least we know we are alive," he says finally, trying for a light tone.

The Dancer seems stuck in neutral. Perhaps he's distracted. By that hand, for example. "There are," he says, eventually, "Better ways of knowing that than pain."

Miki's blue gaze flicks upwards, to Rowan's face. "That is very true," he says simply.

Rowan's gaze is, conveniently, on Miki's hand, so he doesn't have to avoid Miki's gaze. It takes him some moments to speak. "Anyway." A moment later, he says, "So are you planning on sticking around?"

Miki's fingers curl thoughtfully. "I want to stay. And there is the other ghost-calling, you know. The one people... hint at."

Rowan chews his lip. After a moment, he looks up, the faintest of smiles on his face. "What, you mean the ones in our Wards, that hate Niska and keep the Hive away from us? Sorry, can't tell you about them. That's Julen's job."

Miki props his elbows on the table and leans his chin on his folded hands, not even trying to hide his smile. "I see. Well, perhaps she will tell me when next I see her, ah? It is good to have work, you know, but one likes to know... what it is." One corner of his mouth quirks with the deepening smile.

Rowan says, "I'd think so. She's..." He trails off. "I admire her," he eventually says, "And she's not known for beating around the bush."

"She is not often in town, at least not when I can be, though," says Miki, a little ruefully. "Well. She will want to talk to Anderja, anyway."

Rowan blinks. "Why not you? You're the one she's actually seen do anything, aren't you?"

Miki looks at Rowan, surprised. "Anderja is more powerful than me," he points out. "And he is older. And she does not... like him." He looks at Rowan for a moment more, then drops his gaze to the table again. "So she will want to talk to him, not me."

Rowan tries to translate that. "She doesn't like him, so she'll /want/ to talk to him? Why /is/ that?"

Miki blinks at Rowan, his eyes wide. "Because... she, um, wants to find out? I guess. If she can... work with him?" That sentence clearly bears no resemblance to its original form. "But Anderja is a good varaszlo, more powerful than me. And we will do a good job, you know."

Rowan repeats, "Work with him." Then he says, "/Oh/. /Work/ with him," as if something had become clear to him. "Right, sure." He seems to have no trouble, now, looking at Miki. His confusion seems to have brought him back down to his usual reality. "An', sure, I believe you. I haven't got any line to Duskfire's thoughts, though, so I don' think I can help you out, there."

Miki shrugs. "I will talk to her when I can." He lets his gaze wander away from Rowan and around the room for a moment, then looks back at him. "There are so many mages here. I wonder that you need us."

Rowan shrugs, casually. "They don' seem to work with ghosts, not like you do. Or won't chase 'em out. Safi was kind of weird about it."

"Safi is weird," Miki agrees, with a touch more enthusiasm than is strictly necessary. "But ghosts should be called out. No one likes to live in a haunted house. It is very uncomfortable."

Rowan says, fervently, "/Dark/ yes. I... am very tired of them."

Miki sighs. "Did you know we get our name from ghosts?"

Rowan shakes his head. "I know almost nothing about you. Tell me of it?"

Miki smiles a little and reaches up pull the ribbon out of his hair. "This," he says simply, as it falls around his shoulders like snow. "We are from the Holtsapadtbolyh branch of the Majlaths, and it means, 'hair that is white as a ghost.' It is supposed to run in the blood with the magic, you see." He runs a hand through his hair distractedly. "It makes us a little conspicuous."

Rowan's attention is riveted on the hair, as it cascades down. Eventually, he says, "Really."

Miki tilts his head and looks at a lock of hair which has fallen forward over his shoulder. "Well, it did in the Little Lands. Perhaps not so much here," he says quietly, absently threading the ribbon through the fingers of one hand.

Rowan starts to say something, and then stops. He clears his throat. "It is... striking."

With a slightly impatient gesture, Miki tosses the lock of hair back over his shoulders, then reaches up for the inevitable one which is dangling in front of his face. "People are superstitious..." The import of Rowan's comment seems to strike him at that moment and he blushes slightly. "Um. Thank you." He stops, still holding that wayward lock in his fingers.

Rowan's eyes half close, as he inhales. He looks on the verge of leaning closer, until, an instant later, something flashes in his eyes, and he's up on his feet, radiating that tension that Miklos has yet to see, but which is almost always with him. "Superstitious," he says, pacing into the kitchen to fetch more bread. "Of /course/ they are."

Miki shrugs and shifts a little on the stool, almost but not quite sliding off. He watches Rowan with a trace of wariness, as he rakes his hair back from his face with both hands. "I think it is only across the ocean, you know. In the Duchies." His voice is also wary; clearly he does not know how to interpret Rowan's last statement.

Rowan returns, with more bread and a small (very small) chunk of chocolate. He perches on the counter, and shakes his head. "Sorry. Just... there's still a lot of superstitions surrounding Garou, too." That tension eases a little, but it still informs his posture. "I'm sorry," he repeats, sounding almost tired.

"You don't have to apologize," says Miki, sounding just a touch bewildered. He reaches for the ribbon which he left on the counter, holding most of his hair back in his other hand.

Rowan shakes his head, sounding grim. "Sure I do. Get you confused, let me finally give in to the moon's pull, why /not/ apologize?"

"The moon?" Miki looks upwards, although of course the moon is not to be seen, on account of the ceiling. His look of confusion only deepens, as does a slight blush. "Um..." The ribbon is forgotten.

Through Rowan's tension, a certain confusion enters. "What?" After a moment, he adds, "I'm Garou. It... toward the full moon, it gives us more anger, more rage."

The moon phase is Waning Gibbous.

Miki gives Rowan a look which would, at one point in time, have been called old-fashioned. "You should not apologize for my confusion," he says firmly. "And if you are angry, you hide it very well."

Rowan hops off his perch, and begins pacing, energy flowing off him in waves. "No," he says, tightly. "It doesn't always mean anger. It can just mean energy, or inability to be touched, or any number of things. But it makes us better warriors. So," he says, stopping abruptly and looking at Miki intently, "What does it mean to /you/?"

Miki blinks once, pinned by Rowan's gaze, and blushes like a sunrise. "Um," he says finally. "It, um, seems to affect... feelings, mostly. In... the type of magic. That I do."

Rowan takes a step or two closer, that look still fully on the younger man. "Feelings."

Miki shifts his precarious balance on the stool just the tiny bit needed to slide to his feet. "Yes," he says, his gaze still fixed on Rowan's. "The moon affects ghosts and animals both. And people, I suppose, but... my magic is not meant for people."

Rowan echoes, voice terse, body tense at the ready, "Not /meant/ for people?" His attention might be hard to take, hard to stay under. Or, perhaps not.

"Everyone here *asks* me that," says Miki in a low, intense voice. "It is not for people, people's minds are too complex. I can call ghosts and birds, or fireflies, or even goats, but I never even thought of calling people... not until I came here and that is the only question everyone asks! I even tried it, because someone asked, but..." He lets the explanation trail off, biting his lower lip.

Rowan says, still regarding the young man, "But." It's hardly a question, in that flat, hard tone.

Miki tips his chin up, defiantly. "It only worked because Simon *wanted* it to work. It was very difficult. I could not call a person who did not want to come. And why are you asking me, anyway?"

Rowan answers, tone still flat, "I want to know what it means that you are here. I want to know what your abilities are like. I want to know if you are mage, hedge mage, or something else. I want to know about you. So how did this calling work, on a human?"

Miki swallows nervously, the motion clearly visible against the translucent skin of his throat. "Simon asked me to try calling him, because he was curious. I was, too; I had never tried to call a person. I did not think it would work. I went into another room of Sunshine's house and sang to him from there, and... he followed me." The wonder of the experience shines briefly through Miki's expression, before his gaze flicks back to Rowan's unforgiving aspect and he swallows again. "He said the he felt the calling, but..." Miki pulls one corner of his mouth aside in an expression which is not a smile, "he wanted it to work. And that is why it worked. I could tell, through the music."

Rowan nods, once. "Can you make people do things, when you call them? Or animals?"

A flash of anger appears in Miki's eyes. "I told you," he says quietly, "that I only called a person once. I cannot *make* anyone do anything."

Rowan shrugs, restlessly. "So. Fine. Can you make the animals do things? What I mean is, is it more useful than just calling, and what else can you do? Is it an inborn skill, or do you learn it?"

Miki reaches up impatiently and rakes a hand through his hair, which is falling into his eyes again. Although his face is so calm as to be nearly expressionless, his body is very tense indeed. "I can suggest things. But only while I am still singing. I cannot, you know, tell the cow never to get out through the gap in the hedge again." He takes a deep breath. "It is part of the magic of my... family. But I had to learn, as well. It is not easy." He looks up at Rowan and bursts out, impatiently, "I will show you, if you like."

Rowan actually considers it for one brief instant; it's clear in his eyes, and by the way he tracks that hand. Then he wrenches his gaze away from Miki and shakes his head abruptly, a lip curling. "No. Thank you. Manipulation and I are not friends. Descriptive narrative is fine. So it is the singing. And you are neither mage nor hedge mage?"

"It is not manipulation!" Miki bursts out, trembling with anger which finally begins to show on his face. "I never promise anything I cannot give! And I was not offering to try it on *you!*" The emphasis he places on the last word might almost be insulting.

Rowan's gaze is drawn back to Miki. "And that," he asks, quietly, "Is your definition of manipulation? Promising things you cannot give?"

Miki takes a deep breath. He is shivering from head to foot, and his hair is standing out from his face in wild tangles, almost lifting like hackles in his rage. "It is one part of it," he says tightly. The picture of anger is perfect except for two things: he drops his gaze beneath Rowan's stare, and he cannot quite control the trembling of his mouth.

Rowan looks at him for a moment. "Yes." Then, "I am beginning to agree with Duskfire-rhya. Your brother is... dangerous."

Miki slowly closes his hands into fists, leaving them down at his sides. "What does my brother have to do with this? We are discussing my magic, not his." The carefully level tone of the statement wavers just a little at the end.

Rowan says, carefully, "If you have lived with him since you were four, and he is older, then he has taught you. And if that is your definition of manipulation, or a part of it, then he has taught you that." He regards the young man intently for a moment, and then shrugs, abruptly. "But, dark, man, I'm sorry, I don' mean to be insultin' your family or anythin'. I was just tryin' to figure out how your thing works, that's all. I'll stop buggin' you now, hey?"

Miki wraps his arms around himself, staring defiantly up at Rowan. "You cannot apologize for such things. You..." He jerks his head sideways, cutting off whatever it was he was going to say. He bites his lower lip, still keeping his eyes locked in that challenging stare.

Very slowly, with none of the casual accent he was adopting just a moment earlier, Rowan says, "I can't? Do tell. Why not?"

With a sudden movement, Miki pushes his hands back down to his sides and takes a step forward. "Because an apology is not enough," he says tightly, refusing to look away.

The Dancer just /looks/ at him. "And what /is/ enough?"

"The truth," says Miki, tossing the words down like a gauntlet.

"And who," asks Rowan, "Defines what is truth and what is not?"

"I know enough of truth to recognize it," says Miki in a low, intense voice. "Do you not?"

Rowan leans against the counter. "I do. But then, you clearly disagree with /my/ truth."

Miki bites his lip, his eyes narrowing but refusing to drop their intense blue gaze. "If I told you that 'Majlath' means 'my defender' or 'my steel,' it would be the truth. If I told you that the de Holtsapadtbolyh-- the White-Haired Majlaths-- were founded as a family fifteen hundred years ago to fight a threat that would have destroyed all Hungaria-- and perhaps all of East Europa as well, it would be the truth. If I said that my family and my magic had fought the vampires all during the Long Night, it would be the truth. *That* is my family, my magic, and my heritage. And you think you can *judge* it as *manipulation*--" The scorn he puts into that word is immense. He takes a breath. "You know *nothing.* You are as superstitious as they are. Tell the truth. You are ekeiteletes..." he searches for the word. "Prejudiced. You say that because you *dislike* me."

Rowan, not quite looking at Miki, says, "Dislike? I... do not call this dislike." He looks at nothing in particular for a moment, and then suddenly stands slightly straighter. "You want truth? I am Rowan. I am Garou. I am Spiral Dancer. I have fought vampires, I have fought Corrupter. I came to this place, Called, and I have sworn to protect it. And that is what I do."

"Are you protecting the mountain now?" asks Miki, again with that eerily accurate glance in the direction of Katahdin's peak. "Or protecting yourself?"

Rowan bites back his first answer, quite visibly. After a moment to breathe, he says, "I do not protect the mountain, Miklos. My priorities are different."

"And these... priorities," Miki repeats, stumbling a little over the word, "include insulting me and my family. Why?"

Rowan shakes his head, abruptly. "I make judgments." With paint peeling honesty, he adds, "I'm often an asshole and overbearing, and sometimes the judgments I make are wrong. But I'd rather be wrong than allow what I protect to be destroyed. I can always apologize later."

Miki suddenly wraps his arms around himself again, shaking his hair into his eyes. "You prefer..." He shakes his head, preventing himself from continuing.

Rowan takes one pace forward. "Yeah." His voice is hard. He takes another pace forward. "I prefer to be an asshole. Ask Louisa. Ask Gerard. It's a part of myself that I hate. But someone with power, someone who..." His voice goes softer, somehow confused, "...sets me off... like that..."

Miki looks down, at his feet, letting his hair hang around his face and obscure it. "You have power," he says in a low voice.

Without thinking, watching Miki's hair, Rowan says, "I don't have power. I /am/ power." A moment later, with a quizzical look in his eye, and hesitation in his voice, as if he didn't quite know what he meant, just then, "I mean, that is, I'm Garou. It's who I am."

Miki glances up suddenly, through the fall of his hair. "Do you trust yourself?" he asks.

The Dancer stands there a moment. He doesn't answer.

"Because I do not understand," says Miki, hesitating, "why you..." He lets the sentence trail off, just looking at Rowan.

Rowan's voice sounds forced. "Why I what."

Miki takes a deep breath, still watching Rowan warily. "Why you so quickly decide not to trust. Others."

Rowan swallows. "That," he says, unsteadily, "would take quite a long time to explain. And I would bet by this point you just want to dropkick me down a chasm, instead of listening to me /talk/."

Miki suddenly folds his arms, tilting his chin up defiantly. "You still haven't admitted that I am right."

There's a sudden, almost warm grin from the Dancer. "About what? This conversation's been going on so long, I'm sure you were right /somewhere/ in there..."

Miki smiles back, almost involuntarily, although it is a slight and sad smile. "About why you said what you did. About me."

"Because you were-- I was--" Rowan stops abruptly. "Look," he says, in a low voice, "let's just pretend it's because I hate you and I'm prejudiced, and then and we don't have to think about it anymore, ok?"

The expression on Miki's face is best described as flinching, although he actually makes no such gesture. He nods once, mutely, staring up at Rowan. After a moment, he turns suddenly, flicking his hair over his shoulder, and walks back to the place on the counter where he left the ribbon which usually ties up his hair.

The Dancer forces his gaze down, staring fixedly at his feet. And then he moves, so fast as to have used rage, so that he is right behind Miklos. "But you /know/," he says, fiercely, in a whisper.

Miklos freezes in place for a long moment, one hand still reaching for the ribbon. Then he turns his head slowly, very slowly, as if afraid that a quick movement will bring consequences. "I..." he replies, in a voice so low that it is almost a whisper, "I cannot assume..." He lets that sentence go and turns enough so that he can look at Rowan over his shoulder. He looks up at Rowan for a long moment, and finally says, "But that is not magic. It just is."

"It just is," says Rowan, who is standing, frozen, as if terrified of his own movement.

Miki turns the rest of the way around, very slowly, and looks up at Rowan. His eyes are dilated, dark, full of a very adult understanding; yet his voice trembles slightly and hesitates, stumbling. "I am sorry. At least I know now why you hate me."

Rowan says, grainily, "Yeah." There is the ghost of certainty in his eyes, bleeding away quickly into confusion. Then, "Not you."

Miki shivers, still staring up at Rowan. His breathing is a little too regular, a little too even, to not be carefully controlled. "I am," he says finally, "the target of it."

Again, Rowan says, "Yeah." Then his hand reaches out, to almost trace Miki's jawline. Indeed, he does lightly touch skin; he freezes again, at the moment of contact.

The pulse is visible against the fine skin of Miki's throat, and he catches his breath when Rowan touches his face. He continues to look up at Rowan, and doesn't say anything at all.

Rowan drops his hand, silent. Then he shakes his head, looking at Miklos full on. "Can't. For a lot of reasons. But thank you."

Miki bites his lower lip and, after a moment more, drops his gaze. "I understand," he says quietly.

Quietly, Rowan asks, "Do you?"

"I understand... that you do not want. To," says Miki without looking up.

Even quieter, Rowan says, "I /do/. Your fierceness, your pride, your /hair/," he adds, with the slightest tinge of helpless amusement. That amusement is gone in an instant. "But I have made promises, and I have my own honor."

That gets Miki to raise his head. "I understand," he repeats. "I also do not break promises."

Rowan's smile is wistful. "Good." Then, "I should go. Hunt." He keeps Miki's gaze for a brief moment. "You will be around."

Miki nods, allowing Rowan to maintain eye contact. He swallows, but elects not to say anything more.

Rowan's smile fades, and then he's melting down into lupus and loping out the back door, without a backward glance.

Miki turns around and puts his hands on the counter, and leans on them. He stands like that for a long while.