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Birdwatching or Pigeons and Sparrows

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Sha hugged his knees and looked up at his handler. "See anything yet?"

    "Mmm..." Juan squinted through the binoculars, and stared intently at the telephone wire. "I think the brown speckled-y-stripey ones are sparrows."

    "And the other ones?"

    "Ummm...pigeons? Maybe?"

    "...Mr Juan, is there a particular reason we decided to go birdwatching when we only have one pair of binoculars, and your avian identification skills seem limited to calling everything either a sparrow or a pigeon?"

    "Like you could hold the binoculars up at all, Mr. No-Distal-Phalanges."

    Sha frowned. "That is entirely beside the point and that still does not change the fact that you only seem to know two very common bird species."

    "Not my fault we're only getting sparrows and pigeons. And I do so know other bird names. Um..finches. Martins. Swallows. Robins. Swifts. Eagles..."

    "...wow. Okay. But could you identify any of those species if you saw them right now? And you are aware that there is more than one kind of...pretty much everything you just listed."

    "Ummm...well...I'm PRETTY sure that nothing I"m looking at here is an eagle."

    Sha chuckled quietly and leaned back up against Juan's legs. Admittedly, as far as a Juan outting went, this one wasn't so bad, even if neither of them really had any experience with actual birdwatching. (In truth, for them, it was more like 'stare at whatever feathery things showed up in the Curetown square and make vague guesses about what they could possibly be' than anything) It was early enough in the morning that it wasn't too bright out, and they hadn't seen too may other people. The weather was nice, and if the air wasn't exactly fresh, it was still a good deal less stuffy than the inside of their shared apartment.

    "Next time, we should bring a bird book."

    "Next time? Mage-y, did you just imply that you WANT to do this again?"

    "...perhaps."

    "Hahaha oh wow, this is a red letter day, then." Juan grinned down at him. "Hey, you want to take a look through these things?"

    "Ummm...well...you said it yourself, I am not at all certain I could really hold them all that well..."

    "Who said anything about you holding them?" said Juan, kneeling down behind Sha. "Oh, you are okay with me putting my arms around you, right? That's the easiest way for me to hold these things up for you...."

    "Oh...ummm...that is...umm...sure, I guess." Sha felt his face heating up. oh please let it not be noticeable...

    "Hahaha are you seriously blushing?" Juan leaned over Sha's shoulder a bit farther to look. "Oh wow, you are seriously bright red."

    "Am I? Interesting. Let's not talk about it." And please stop breathing on my ear like that.

    "You're getting redder, you know. It's bizarrely adorable." Juan laughed again and nuzzled Sha's hair. "Man, seriously...I mean, I respect the fact that some people are just more...I dunno..modest? Shy? whatever... than others, but you're like...on a level of prudery that makes me wonder how you function, if this is all it takes you turn you into a human tomato."

    "Mr. Juan...just leave it. Please."

    "I mean, for pities sake, I've seen you naked! Freaking help you bathe and dress and everything. You'd think a not-hug like this would barely phase you by now..."

    "JUAN. Drop the subject. Now." Sha was burying his face in his hands at this point.

    "Hahah YES, got you to drop the 'Mr.' again. What do I have to do to get you to do that all the time?"

    "Either drop it, or take me home." snapped Sha.

    "Fine, fine, sorry, I'll stop. Calm down." Juan squeezed Sha's shoulders playfully. "Here, look at the birds, it'll take your mind off of it."

    Sha grumbled but complied. For several minutes, they did this...Sha peering through the binoculars, the pair of them chatting about the maybe-pigeons and probably-sparrows and hey-I-think-that's-a-swifts and even one possibly-a-swallow. And then a new bird appeared...it was smaller than the pigeons, had fairly pale plummage, a slightly longer tail, and was fluttering in close enough that neither of the needed the binoculars to get a good look.

    "Woah...what's that one?"

    "Not a clue." Sha smiled, pressing his hands together excitedly. His handler was still holding the binoculars in front of his face, but in a loose, one handed grip now. His other arm was draped casually around Sha. (The ex-witch was unsure how to feel about this, but not quite willing to pull lose.) "I really wish we had thought to bring a bird book..."

    "Next time?"

    "Yeah, for sure."

    "Hey, maybe I can lure it even closer...I've got some bread in my bag."

    "Go for it!"

    They both smiled widely when the bait worked, and the little bird fluttered even closer...and then there is was, less than 5 feet from them, in the air, coming in for a landing, when a familiar sounding snarl split the air and a figure in a kitty ear hoodie pounced. A cloud of feathers filled the air.

    "HA! Got it!" crowed Hunter triumphantly. Or at least that's what Sha thought she said...it was a little hard to tell what she was saying, given that she was talking around a mouthful of freshly killed bird.

    "...well...um. That was..." Juan worked his jaw for a few moments, staring as he watched the blind girl messily devour her catch.
     "...something."

    "To say the very least." Sha stared at the sad little pile of feathers, still too shocked to process his own emotions. "...I would have liked to have known what kind of bird it was."

    Hunter wiped off her mouth and grinned in his general direction. "It was the DELICIOUS kind!" She howled with laughter at her own joke.

    "Thanks, Hunter." Muttered Juan.

    "Seriously, though, did you SEE that?!" She fist pumped excitedly. "Got it RIGHT OUT OF THE AIR, and I jumped from all the way over there...NO EYES NECESSARY, BABY, I GOT SKILLS. Like to see anyone call ME helpless right now..."

    "...you ate a live bird. You actually ATE a live bird." Muttered Juan. "Holy crap, do you have ANY idea where that thing might have been...?"

    "Pffftt, whatever, man, I'm still totally awesome here." She stuck her tongue out at the pair. "Sides, I'm already infected with like...super plague virus thing. What else could even happen to me, really?"

    "Would you like a list, Miss Hunter?" said Sha. "There are quite a number of things you can catch from wild birds, and it's not as if having a prior infection, however severe, will keep you from picking new things up. Illnesses can stack..."

    "What else could even happen to me that's WORSE than what I already got?" countered Hunter, who was in the middle of doing a victory dance. There were feathers stuck to the front of her hoodie which fluttered with her every movement.

    "Hmmm...objectively speaking, there arguably is no individual thing that is worse than the green flu that you could get from this, however, when taken on top of what you already have...well, for one, there is salmonello from the raw meat and feathers, there could be any sort of bacteria, you could get lice or perhaps some sort of internal parasite...I forget if birds can carry tapeworm or not..."

    "Mhmm mhmm." Hunter moonwalked in a circle, barely paying attention. "Dude, do you guys have ANY clue how hard it is to hit such a small target, even when you CAN see it? And I got it with my bare hands, hah! You losers had BETTER back me up when I tell this story later."

    "There are also quite a few avian born illnesses that humans are susceptable too; some of them can even be fatal if not treated properly. Encephilitis..."

    "Thought that was mosquitos?"

"It is both, really...the insects are part of the cycle at any rate. I think. I am actually not sure if you can get it directly from the birds, now that you say that...oh well. There is also bird flu, aka H1N1...both can be particularly nasty. And that's just what I can think of off the top of my head. The main point is that any one of these things could either leave you bed ridden, or stuck in the..umm...facilities with severe gastric intestinal issues. Or at the very least, you could be reduced to undignified scratching."

    "Yeah, yeah, whatever, Nerd." she sniffed at him.

    Sha frowned. "You really should take this more seriously, Miss Hunter..." he muttered, feeling more than a little deflated by her dismissive response. "...your health is important..."

    "Let it go, Mage-y." sighed Juan, petting his hair. "There are some you just can't reason with."

    "WELP, I'd LOVE to hang around and chat with you losers some more, but I got stuff to do." Hunter grinned again, doing double finger guns in their general direction. "Catch you later!"

    Juan frowned at Hunter's retreating back, and petted a now visibly sulking Sha again. "Damn...Smoker really has strange taste in women..."

    He'd said it more to himself than anything, but it was quite possible that he'd meant to be overheard. Either that, or he'd forgotten how sensitive the hearing of those with Hunter's particular strain of infection was. Whatever the case, Hunter instantly turned round and got in his face.

    "What was that, Rivera?" she hissed.

    "No...nothing!" Said Sha, holding up his hands placatingly, and trying to get between the muscular little girl and the musician. "He said nothing of consequence, really, nothing worth acknowledging." He was ignored.

    "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, please excuse me..." Juan cleared his throat in an exagerrated way. "I said SMOKER, MY EX-GIRLFRIEND, HAS REALLY REALLY REALLY STRANGE TASTE IN WOMEN IF SHE WOULD GO FOR SOMEONE LIKE YOU."

    "Oh REALLY?" snarled Hunter. "And what the hell is THAT supposed to mean?"

    "Mr. Juan...really..." groaned Sha, clapping his hands over his ear. "Also could you both please lower your voices...?"

    "Well, gee, I dunno...what COULD I possibly be talking about here? I mean, obvioiusly it can't be about the fact that you are a violent thug who attacks innocent wildlife with her TEETH, that's top notch dating material right there. By the way, you still have feathers in your teeth."

    "You REALLY wanna start shit with me, dude? After you just watched me catch a godddamned bird RIGHT out of the sky, you wanna do this?"

    "What I saw was you slaughtering something smaller and weaker than you. I'm kinda bigger than a bird..."

    "You think that means I won't mess you up, dudebro?"

    Sha groaned and stepped a few feet further away.

    "I don't think you have the GUTS."

.....................
(Sometime later, at Sha and Juan's apartment.)

 

    "Ouch."

    "I honestly do not know what you were expecting." said Sha as he hunted around the kitchen for a clean hand towel. "OR what you were hoping to accomplish by provoking her. That was indescribably foolish, even for you."

    Juan groaned and slumped in his chair a little more. "I...I'm not sure what I was expecting, either. Though I gotta say, she does NOT look like she can possibly hit that hard."

    "Why not?" said Sha in an almost uncharacteristically snappish tone. "Because she is fairly diminutive, or because she is female? Either way, I am inclined to say that you more than earned that black eye." He opened the freezer, and dug through it, muttering to himself.

    "...you're mad at me?"
"OF COURSE I AM MAD, YOU MADE ME WORRY. You picked a figtht with someone who could effortlessly disembowel you if she was so inclined to go that far, and I would have been powerless to prevent it. GAAAH why do we not have any cold compresses in here?" He dug some more. "Honestly, we were actually having a GOOD morning and then...gaah, you drive me CRAZY some times, Mr. Juan, REALLY what were you thinking? And you are meant to be taking care of ME..."

    Juan blinked his good eye, and peered at Sha. "...Soooo...you were having a good time today...?"

   "Don't you DARE change the subject!"

    "Sorry, sorry...ummm...would it help if I said that at least part of why I did what I did was because I didn't much like the way she was talking to you...? Because, really, the way Hunter just blew you off..."

    "NO! God, no, that does not help! That makes it worse!" Sha emerged from the freezer, holding a bag of frozen peas. "If that's even a little bit true, than I am just...arrrgh. I do not want you getting hurt because of ME, you, you..." he wrapped the towel around the bag of frozen legumes, gritting his teeth so tightly that Juan could almost hear them grinding. "and don't you DARE use me as an excuse for making terrible decisions!"

    "Well, that wasn't the ONLY reason...she just gets on my nerves, and I just...every time I see her, I just wonder what the hell Smoker SEES in her."

    "Hmmph.  It is entirely up to Miss Smoker who she chooses to spend time with; she is a competent adult, and it is NOT any of your business."

    "So I'm not allowed to even worry about her now..."

    "Worry all you want, but quit pretending you can have any influence on her choices!"

    Juan scowled, but nodded. "Okay, okay...you are right...MOSTLY right.  That was a horrifyingly bad decision. Look...I promise not to pick any more fights with Hunter, okay?"

    Sha snorted again. "Lean your head back, and hold this against your eye. It should help bring the swelling down."

    "I mean it! Scout's honor!"

    "Were you ever even a Scout?"
    "Once, when I was younger. I mean, not for long, but I did actually earn a few merit badges. Yeeek, cold!"

    "It is supposed to be. And clearly, none of those badges were in first aid...our medical supply kit is a disgrace."
 
    "Oh give me a break...those kinds of supplies are like...nigh IMPOSSIBLE to come by right now, and you know it.  The Mads* get first dibs on anything that comes in..."

    Sha sighed and sat down next to Juan. "Right...I will give you THAT much.  And at least you got lucky today... ALL she did was punch you. It really could have been worse."

    "Damn straight."

    They fell silent for a moment.
 
    "...so...about what you said about us actually having a good day...."

    "Oh for...Yes, up until Miss Hunter arrived, I was enjoying myself. I will give you that much."

    "So I did SOMETHING right. Heh." Juan sat up, and took the makeshift cold pack off of his eye. "Hey, com'ere for a sec..."

    "JUAN, I told you to keep that on your eye...!" snapped Sha, standing up and stepping closer. Before he could do anything else, however, Juan grabbed him by his outstretched arm, and pulled the skinny redhead into his lap. Their lips met.

    A few minutes later, they finally broke the kiss off. Juan grinned, and tapped Sha on the end of his nose. "You're blushing again, Mage-y."

    Sha smacked Juan with the bag of frozen peas.

* No, this is not a typo. Juan is referencing the in-show nickname for the Mad Scientist doctor characters from MST3K. Just thought this was worth pointing out, given how badly spell checked my general output can be.

...........................................................................................................
Epilogue
At the Ladies' apartment

    "Hey, guess what, I punched your stupid ex-boyfriend today!"

    [Heh, really?]Smoker typed, smirking. [He probably deserved it, I'm sure.]
 
    "Oh yeah, he did, haha. And you know what, he was totally out just cuddling with that nerdy little boyfriend of his...loser probably is still claiming to be STRAIGHT, can you believe him? Even money says they are like...back home making out now or something."

    Smoker snorted and smiled.[Wouldn't surprise me one bit.]

    "Oh, and you know what else I did? I totally caught a bird. RIGHT OUT OF THE SKY, it was awesome, I wish you could have seen it." She grinned. "Not that SEEING is really worth much of anything."

    [You didn't eat it, did you? You never know where those things have been...]

    "Oh WHAT, don't you start, I already got this lecture from Shadude.  Seriously, ain't nothing that can happen to me that's worse than what's already happened..."

    [Whatever.  Just don't go thinking that you can kiss me with your bird germ lips or anything.]

    "That's what you think!" Hunter pounced on Smoker, ignoring her garbled yells of protest. "C'mon, pucker up, WE ARE DOING THIS THING mwah mwah."
.......

    Charger watched the wrestling pair from the kitchen door before sighing quietly and carefully backing back into the living room. She carefully closed the door. "Right. Nobody go into the kitchen right now. Hunter and Smoker are...playing. Again. And no, Jockey, before you ask, it is not the kind of play you can join in on." The noises from the other room got louder. "They will probably be busy for a while."

    "Oh dear...are you...are you SURE they won't hurt each other?" Mousey stared at the door, quivering slightly. "They always sound so..."

    "Hahah don't worry, AngieMousey, they wouldn't REALLY hurt each other." Jockey grinned. "They like each other too much for that!"

    "In any case, it would not be safe or advisable for any of us to intervene, especially you. Though I DO wish they'd chosen to do this somewhere besides the kitchen...at lunch time..."

    "We..well, we could always go out to eat? Maybe? Eep!" Mousey jumped, startled by the sounds of an especially loud crash. "In fact, I think going somewhere NOW maybe would be a very good idea...?"

    "...you make a compelling argument."

    "Oh, Oh, I vote Eli and Yans' for noodles!" laughed Jockey, seemingly oblivious to the rising cacaphony.

    An extra loud, grinding crash echoed from the kitchen....not entirely unlike a table being upset and at least partially reduced to splinters...followed closely by some rather suggestive snarling noises.

    "...Works for me. Let's go."