That title is probably too cheesy for this somewhat sullen little story, but it’s what I’ve got.
Warning for references to injuries.
It was the smell that woke Raven. She wished that it was something normal, like the sound of rain or the first beams of sunlight through her window. Or, if it had to be a smell, something pleasant and intimate. Bacon and eggs. French toast.
But no. That harsh, chemical smell hung in the air, the one that meant her girlfriend dunked herself in disinfectant and ointment before climbing into bed with her. At least she couldn’t detect the blood.
Raven rolled over to face Anna and couldn’t contain her wince. Her cheek was covered in gauze and the swollen, torn corner of her mouth looked infected. She wanted to ask what happened to her face, but the answer was obvious. She hadn’t been careful (even though she said she would) and let one of the gryphons get her with their claws. Back when they were younger, she used to joke that she let them scratch her on purpose, just so she would have a battle scar and a story. Lately she didn’t make those kinds of jokes. Not since Raven cried at her last major injury. Anna lost a finger to a snapping beak and tried to make light of it. Emphasis on “tried.”
Raven saw Anna’s dark-ringed eyes peering back at her and whispered, “Rough night?”
“You have no idea.” She smiled weakly with the uninjured half of her mouth.
The exchange used to be a fun little joke between them, a way of trying to shed light on the harsh realities of the situation. They said it every time Anna got hurt capturing gryphons. It stopped being funny the third or fourth time but they never stopped.
“Did you at least catch it?”
Anna blew her flyaway bangs out of her face. “No.”
Raven sighed through her nose, unable to contain her frustration. “Then we can’t make rent.”
“You think I don’t know that?”
“Maybe you need a reminder,” Raven said, propping herself up on her forearm and leaning closer, “just like I need to keep reminding you that you can’t keep doing this.”
“What choice do I have?”
“Literally anything else.” If she would get a normal job, it would solve a lot of their problems and probably make new ones.
“It’s all I’m good at.”
Except that she hadn’t been good at it, at least not as of late. Selling exotic, fantastical, dangerous pets to every rich moron that wanted them made a lot of money, but actually having gryphons to sell them was step one. Anna couldn’t seem to catch them anymore. Maybe they got wise to her. Maybe her injuries were finally catching up, stacked one on top of the other like spiked, heavy bricks on her body.
“Can we stop?” Anna asked, reaching out to touch her shoulder. “It hurts to talk.”
“I didn’t say anything,” Raven replied, turning back around.
She can’t go back to sleep after that, not with the knowledge of Anna all torn up right behind her, but she could at least pretend. She had gotten good at that lately.