-written on January 30, 2006-

He can hear Lani getting dressed, but he doesn't move. Beyond the soft swish of fabric and the distant drone of the air purifier, Tarren hears early morning birds and a car racing down their street. He doesn't get why they have to race; it's such a small street and it's not like they've got anywhere important to get to, is it?

"Tar, hun?"

He yawns involuntarily and turns over, feeling the bed dip as Lani sits beside him.

"I'm going to go, alright? I'll see you for lunch."

Tarren nods and lifts his arms for a hug, then Lani is gone. Only his vague scent remains.

With another yawn, Tarren laboriously lifts himself up and out of bed, immediately shivering as his feet hit the cold wooden floor. Their apartment never gets as warm as it should in winter due to the faulty heating and he dresses quickly, throwing on a woolen overdress and leggings. He steals Lani's fuzzy cat slippers (a joke gift from the friend) and shuffles off into the kitchen for breakfast.

Sequestered away on the couch with a blanket and a bowl of cereal, Tarren flips open the laptop with one hand as he eats. The room is fairly light at this time of day, with the high ceilings and tall windows letting the sun decorate at will. Tarren has a few emails from the help group Lani talked him into joining, most of it the continuation of an argument between two other people that apparently didn't know where to take it. In any event he doesn't care and, after checking the other various internet sites and circles he frequents, Tarren shuts the laptop back down and takes his empty bowl to the sink.

Today is going to be a gray day, he can already tell. There is sun, sure, but clouds on the horizon and who cares about the sun anyway? It always hurts Tarren's eyes if he looks at it too closely, though being warm is very nice. Swaddled in blankets as he is limits his range of motion somewhat.

Again, the age-old question; what to do? He has a job but he doesn't feel like doing it. It doesn't matter anyway, since Lani has a fairly generous pension from somewhere or other. Tarren had never really thought to ask. Now he wonders what happened to their cat, they used to have one, didn't they? Or maybe it was a dog. He shakes his head. It had to have been a cat, because Lani doesn't like dogs. Too slobbery, or something. In any event, the house is empty but for him. Such a lonely thing.

Well, he has some friends. There is Joliik, who was almost impossible to find but easy to get a hold of. There is always Joliik. And there was that quiet man at the clothing shop- Bela or something. Not that they could talk about much. He doesn't feel like talking anyhow. He doesn't feel like much of anything, that is the problem.

With a yawn, Tarren walks back into their bedroom, dropping the blanket as he goes and crawls in under the covers. He is asleep within moments.

-

It is going to rain soon. He can smell it. Right now, the ground is crunchy under his boots but he knows it will soon be wet and squishy. He has never been fond of mud, but rain is nice. He has always liked water.

The town they live in is small and artsy. He never remembers its name, but it's right between some mountains and a city. The forest is nice, if a bit spooky in wintertime. It is cold too, but Tarren is all bundled up with scarves and mittens and a hat so it doesn't bother him. He stumbles a bit since he can't really see, but it's fine.

As his feet take him back into the city, Tarren watches the few other people from the gap in his wrappings. They all look cold and miserable, and he smirks. Now he is warm and they are not, though none of them trip as much as he does. He puts this down to his own inherent magical powers or somesuch nonsense.

Noticing a cafe, he decides that hot chocolate would be very nice about now and pushes open the door, bumping accidentally into a person going outside. They stop to say sorry and he nods slightly, hidden in his clothing. He knows they must think him rude as he scoots inside the building without apologizing, but he doesn't care enough to stop and write it down for them. They won't care enough either- he knows this.

Walking towards the counter and shedding layers as he goes, he stares up at the board of options. They do have hot chocolate, but they also have peppermint hot chocolate. Having reached a verdict, he turns his attention to the clerk.

"Hi, can I take your order?"

Very lame, he thinks, but does not voice this thought. Ha! As if he could. He takes a paper from one of his pockets after a lengthy search and writes out his request, glad there aren't any other people in line. He's not as self-conscious as he used to be but it still gets embarrassing at times. The clerk gives him a funny look but says, "Coming right up," and proceeds to make his drink anyway. Good for him.

Once he has paid and wandered off to a table to sit, he observes his surroundings. There are two other people there- one, a teenager reading a paper, and the other an older woman looking pensively out the window. He spends the next hour making up stories about them and drinking his hot beverage. By lunchtime he has almost forgotten to meet Lani, and hurries out of the shop trailing hats and scarves.

It takes him twenty minutes, but when he gets to the little bistro he immediately spots Lani at a table by the window, absently scratching behind a horn as he studies the menu. With a sigh, Tarren plops down in front of him and starts unwrapping himself again, slightly out of breath from all his insane running around.

Lani looks up and smiles slowly. "Did you forget again?"

Tarren's eyebrows rise innocently over the glove in his mouth as he attempts to free himself of his jacket.

"It's okay, I forgive you. What do you want to eat?"

Shrugging, Tarren deposits all his stuff in the empty chair and takes Lani's menu. Soups, sandwiches, salads... the standard fare. Tarren briefly misses their old food before pointing out a sandwich filled with grilled vegetables and handing the menu back. Lani ponders it another moment and then the waiter is there and he orders for them. Tarren draws circles on the table with his finger as the waiter leaves. The tablecloth could use a good round in the laundry.

"Sooo. How has your day been so far?"

When he is met with another shrug, Lani sips his water.

"No gruesome murders?"

'Did we used to have a cat?'

"A cat? Uhm... no, I don't think so. We might have had some rats though."

Oh, yes. Tarren remembers the rats. They had been cute for a week or so, before they had escaped and never been seen again. He thought they must have been eaten by the neighbor's cat, which would explain why he was thinking feline.

"Why? Do you want one?"

'A pet.'

"Any kind? Oh, thanks."

The server sets their food on the table and leaves. Lani switches the plates to their correct places and unfolds his napkin. Tarren opens his own napkin and pokes at the food with his fork for a moment. Thinking of rats, he assumes. When nothing moves or jumps out at him, he replaces the fork and lifts the sandwich to take a big bite. What? They stuff their sandwiches so full in these places.

"This is very bland," Lani comments. Tarren nods and chews.

-

"And now you get to walk home in the rain! Aren't you thrilled?"

Tarren buttons his coat the rest of the way up and puts on his mittens. Lani hugs him from behind and rests his chin on Tarren's head.

"Comment vas-tu, Tarre? You seem down."

Shrugging, Tarren turns in Lani's arms and returns his hug. 'Tired I guess,' he signs into Lani's side after worming an ungloved hand into the other's jacket. 'Maybe I'm sick.'

"Well, it is winter. You could have the flu. You should take some vitamin C when you get home." Tarren nods dutifully. "I'll be home in an hour, okay?" Another nod. Lani kisses his cheekbone and lets go of him. Tarren does the same reluctantly. "Don't look so sad. You can make those cookies you said you were going to. Remember?"

Tarren does, and so when they at last part ways he goes home with the intention of baking. It might make him feel better. It usually does, right? His head feels kind of heavy and it's hard to think straight, so he's not quite sure. The rain is nice though.

The walk is short, and by the time he enters his now warm and familiar home he is already feeling better. It takes him a good few minutes to divest himself of all his various protective accouterments in the closet. He considers moving the shoes aside and taking a nap against the coats, but ultimately decides not to and moves into the kitchen. They have a fairly small kitchen, with minimal counter space but many things hanging from the walls and ceiling. Implement assembled, Tarren begins his task of cookie-making.