Elle fumbled with the tall number of dishes in her hands. Thank God I’ve never worked as a waitress. H.T. looked over from reading her textbook at snort at the almost cartoonish display. Elle would’ve given a playful glance back at her had it not been for the tower of unstable dishes. The plates and glasses began to clatter against one another as she slowly lost her grip. Luckily, she got most of them in the sink before the one metal bowl slammed onto the ground with a loud clattering sound.
Suddenly, H.T. dropped out of view, even her breath seemed instantly absent. Elle picked up the bowl and placed it in the sink before lifting her head to see if her brain had only temporarily focused strictly on the bowl. But no, H.T. was still absent, the textbook lying open on the chair she’d been sitting in. Odd, she thought.
Carefully, Elle stepped from the tiled kitchen to the stiff carpet floor, trying to see H.T.’s large figure. After slowly side-stepping the couch, she spotted her, but something was definitely off. She was quivering and her breaths were swift and shallow, her body curled into a tight ball, and from what she could see her eyes were so narrow that one could hardly tell she had pupils. The tips of her long ears just slightly poked out of her mass of brown hair, and through the thick strands the rest of her ears were pressed flat against the sides of her head.
Elle’s stomach churned into a knot at the sight. H.T. had never, not once, looked this utterly terrified. She reached out to tap her on the shoulder, but just as her nails grazed her soft gray shirt, H.T.’s entire torso snapped quicker than a bolt of lightning. Her razor-sharp claws struck Elle’s cheek, making her yelp in pain.
She lifted a hand to her face, feeling a sting and pulling it back again. She stared at her palm; H.T. had drawn blood. Her distinct heavy footsteps got closer as she reached out to Elle’s face. She smacked her large pale hand away, still wincing in pain. “I’m sorry.” she croaked; her deep, throaty, voice barely audible.
“I’m sorry.” she repeated, her voice becoming shaky.
“What, no, don’t worry about it.” she mumbled, lifting her hand to try and stop H.T. from talking.
“I didn’t mean to hit you.” she faltered, the lump in her throat becoming audible, ignoring Elle’s body language completely.
“I’m so sorry, Elle, I-”
“Shut up!” she yelled finally, glaring at H.T.’s golden eyes, grinding her fingers against her forehead. “I just...need to put on a band-aid.”
H.T. coiled back silently, her eyes unusually vulnerable, tears edging her eyes as Elle paced towards the bathroom.
Elle locked the door and looked up into the bathroom mirror. Four shallow scratches that trailed down from her left ear to her muzzle. She opened the medicine cabinet, reaching for the large fur-safe bandages. She peeled the Velcro-like cover off, placing the bandage pad on her cheek, only the tips of the scratches still visible. She rubbed it on, the band-aid making a crinkling sound as it locked with her wiry gray-brown fur.
She unlocked the door and stepped out of the bathroom, where H.T. was waiting patiently on the right side of the hallway, her hands tucked in her pockets. She took a few steps forward, her bare feet rubbing against the carpet. She said nothing, rather, she bent down gave Elle a lick on the cheek, her cat-like tongue rubbing off the dots of drying blood off her face.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you,” she said, “I was stressed out.”
“Not your fault.”
“Not your fault.”
H.T. scooped Elle up in her muscular embrace, dipping her head onto Elle’s muzzle, her chest rumbling with a thunderous purr. Her entire body loosened, carrying Elle over to the couch. Elle’s head rested her head on H.T.’s left bicep, her neck tilting downwards, making her muzzle rest on her chest. H.T.’s purr slowly ebbed into silence, the buzz of the city filling the room until the pair fell asleep til their alarms awoke them for their next assignments.