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Mating Habits

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She walked absent-mindedly through the park, her boots screeching on the soft snow. The sun had only risen for half an hour and there was nobody in the park except for the pigeons. Which had been probably the point, she mused as she threw a handful of barley on the ground. As on cue, the pigeons flocked to her, pecking gratefully at the offered grains.

 "You're doing it wrong," a voice called and she turned around in its direction.

"And I suppose you know the right way to do it?" she challenged the man that had chided her.

"I know you're used to keeping a distance when feeding, and with your line of work, I can't exactly blame you," he smiled at her, "but really, Helen, pigeons are harmless."

He closed the distance between them and stuck his hand in the bag she was holding. Their fingers brushed slightly as he took a handful of barley out of her bag, making her shiver at the contact just a bit. He didn't throw it on the ground, though. Instead, he extended his hand, palm open, and soon enough a pigeon landed on his arm and started eating. It didn't stay for long, but when it flew away Nikola turned to her with a victorious grin.

"See? There's at least a species that finds me more appealing than you," he smirked at her.

"Two, if you count humans," Helen smiled. "I seem to recall a share of ladies who had been rather… taken with you a century or so ago."

"Debatable. I mean, straight ones, yes, but as soon as you were an option to them as well…"

"That's not on me," she shrugged.

"No, you just have a way of making people fall in love with you," he smiled and there was a sadness in his eyes she really couldn't afford wondering where it came from.

"Let's not dwell on that, though," he said after a while. "They're still hungry, and you're still being British with them."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she challenged as she got another handful of barley. Before she had the chance to throw it away, however, he caught her hand in his.

"Easy," he whispered as he got behind her. His fingers traced along her arm as he helped her extend it.

"Good," he whispered in her ear, his breath hot on her neck. “Now stay here," he instructed. "No sudden moves."  It took them a while to gain confidence, but after that, two pigeons landed on her arm, approaching her palm carefully.

"See?" he asked with a toothed grin. "A little physical contact when feeding didn't hurt anyone." His voice was low at that, almost as it was when he turned, which reminded her he was a vampire and he was probably very aware of the fact that her pulse had quickened lately. Which made him a bloody bastard, but it wasn't like she wasn't used to this.

"Careful, Nikola," she teased him. "If you get any closer to me people could get the wrong idea."

"Oh?"

"You wouldn't want people to think Nikola Tesla is preying on innocent young ladies, not after how much you've worked on building your image as a celibate."

"Please," he scoffed. "They have no clue who I am. Also, you're neither young nor innocent. And if I am to trust some bastards I won't name here, you're not exactly a lady either." He let her go, however, stepping back from her a bit and leaving her with the pigeons.

One of them landed on her hat, startling her. She looked rather comical like that, a pigeon on her head, not daring to move, afraid she was going to scare it off. It made his heart ache for her in softer ways than he was used to. He sat on a bench, his eyes not leaving her for a second. When the pigeons finished the grains she had in her hand, she sat next to him, her bag still half full.

“You were right, this is nice,” she said with a smile. “Peaceful, even.”

“So you’re not bored to death,” he concluded happily. “I was kinda afraid you’d be, I mean feeding something that has no intention to eat you instead? You should have been asleep by now.”

“Very funny,” she muttered.

“It does get more interesting at times, however,” he remarked, a smile playing on his lips. “See that one over there?” he asked as he pointed to one of the pigeons. He seemed to pursuit a smaller one – a female, Helen guessed. He kept following her, spreading out his tail, but she kept stepping away from him, pecking at her grains as if she hadn’t even noticed him.

“So insistent,” Helen said as she rolled her eyes. “She just wants to eat, she’s not in the mood for anything else.”

“Of course that’s what you’d think,” Nikola said with a smirk. “Funny thing is, you’re wrong.”

“I’m sorry for him, but she doesn’t seem to be impressed with his showing off.”

“Well, that’s just step one,” Nikola grinned. “First, you do this kind of public displays for her, then you help her build a nest – well, that is, if she’s not a very smart capable woman that can build her own nest and only needs you to build something that can… keep the pest away.”

“Pigeon.” Helen corrected him. “You mean pigeon.”

“And then,” he continued, ignoring her words, “when she finally admits she’s interested in him, they kiss, and then she feeds him-“

“I had no idea pigeons would think feeding to be romantic.”

“Oh, they do. The ones that don’t consider it foreplay, that is. Though I have to say, these two aren’t exactly mutually exclusive.” She rolled her eyes at that, suddenly deciding it was safer for her to focus on the pigeons. She could only imagine the look he had at the moment. It seemed he had been right, actually – the female acted way more friendly now, holding out her head and moving closer to her partner.

“And this is it,” Nikola said with a grin. “Now they’ll mate and stay together forever. Oh, yes, that’s another thing. They mate for life.”

“How much is that?”

“To us? Around 6 years. But it doesn’t matter. To them, it’s eternity.”

“Seems risky,” she said, her voice suddenly small. “Tying your life to someone like that, not caring they could end up hurting you… Besides, eternity is a long time.”

“Not if you’re spending it with the one you love.” At this, he closed the distance between them, not stopping until he ended up so close to her that their knees brushed to each other.

“Come to think at it, it’s also risky for him,” Helen said. “He’s giving his best shot to impress her, and it could still be for nothing.”

“That, or he could end up with a really stubborn hen that not only gets herself into a lot of trouble, but also disapproves of some of his… interests, so to speak. This courting thing can last an awful amount of time.”

“Then why bother in the first place?”

“Because sometimes you just know when you met the one you want to spend your eternity with. Which may or may not be related to the fact that she was the one to give you said eternity in the first place. Twice, actually. And then, of course, there’s also the obvious reason.”

“Which is?”

“Pigeons have wings,” he said with a grin. “She could fly away any day if she wanted.” At this, he took her hand in his, their fingers intertwining as he watched her intently, half of him expecting her to get up and leave. When she didn’t, however, his posture relaxed visibly and an infectious grin spread over his face.

“Yeah, I didn’t think so,” he said.

“For the record, this doesn’t mean I’m feeding you,” she said bluntly, but that only caused a mischievous glint to appear in his eyes.

“We’ll see about that,” he replied sweetly.