Don twirled a bird feather between his fingers as he clambered down the stairs toward Mr. Mayland's room. The railing shook beneath his hand, as someone came hurtling up the stairs. The mousy blonde from 2S clattered toward him, with a boy hot on her heals. Huh. He'd have bet money that she was too much of a nerd to get laid, all baggy sweaters and skinny legs, but if there was one thing he could sniff out, it was the musky aroma of recent sex.
The guy had one of those ridiculous man-buns and a line between his eyebrows. Don stepped to the side to get out of the way, but she ran past without even acknowledging that he existed. The man-bun did, too, reaching out to grab the railing.
Reaching through Don.
Violent shivers swept him and he shook his head. No way. That was just an optical illusion. Still, he followed them back up the stairs, the shivers chasing up and down his spine. He clutched the feather tighter and reached for the door, half expecting his hand to pass through it, but the cold metal push bar met his palm with a satisfying thunk.
He must have imagined it. Just the product of weed and pizza and games. Heh. His mom would be thrilled if she ever knew that he'd blamed a game for something. She thought they were the devil's work.
The girl from 2S paced back and forth at the edge of the roof, looking like she was about to have hysterics. She stopped and the guy she'd banged came up behind her and put his hand real soft on her shoulder.
"Bee, talk to me. What happened?"
She turned towards the guy, and even though Don was right there, standing in plain sight, her eyes didn't even flicker toward him. "I…I let all of the birds out."
"What?!" Don laughed, anticipating the fireworks that were going to come later. "Mr. Mayberry is going to be piiissed. If I were... you. Hey. Hey!"
Neither of them looked over at him. The guy just squeezed her shoulder. "Okay. Well, it's probably nothing to be upset about. I'm sure you can just talk to whoever owned them, maybe make arrangements to have them replaced."
"Hey!" Don strode across the room, feathers swirling around his feet. "Hey, look at me when I'm talking."
"You don't understand," Bee, the girl from 2S said to the guy. "You don't know what I've done."
The cold feeling down his spine came back and crawled up to his scalp. "What...?"
As if he was finishing Don's thought, the guy said, "What's that supposed to mean?"
Don held his breath as Bee walked over to the edge of the roof nearest the cages and looked out over the city. "Those weren't ordinary birds."
He looked down at the feather he still held. The silky gray had brushes of iridescent purple in it that flashed and caught in the morning sun. Don dropped it.
"Jesus Christ!" The guy jumped and flinched, staggering back from Don. "What the hell? What. The. Hell!"
The relief almost dropped Don to his knees, but that would have put him among all the feathers scattered on the ground. "You can-- Oh, thank God."
Bee from 2S sprinted back from the edge of the building, and pushed past the guy to stand in front of Don. She stared at him with enormous hazel eyes and he wasn't sure how he'd ever thought she was mousy. The way she looked at him. Looked through him. "You're the guy who helps Mr. Mayland with the birds."
"Um. Yeah. Sometimes." He tugged on his shirt, wishing he'd opted for something other than Byte Me. "What's with the birds?"
She cocked her head, looking almost birdlike herself. "You don't know, do you." The light caught in her irises and turned them the same light amber as a pigeon's eyes.
"Know... Of course I do." He swallowed. "I know that they aren't ordinary birds. And I know that you released them."
The corner of her mouth twisted in a sad sort of smile and she ducked her head, looking at the feathers at their feet. Ducking, she reached down and plucked the gray one from a drift of weight.
And she disappeared.