One Way Phoenixes
by Setz

September 14, 2005

Two birds perched closely, so ready to fly.
Two lovers so near do lifelessly lie.
Two armies did meet.
Two dead in the street.
Two more lives gone with no one to cry.

To speak of the birds, the phoenix of fame.
Cast down in the street, but to rise just the same!
For love is too great
To suffer such fate-
Ah, but myth is the bird and is love in a name.

A chilly scene was left, accompanied by a lengthy pause after the last words were spoken. It was by no means an awkward silence, but a soulful one. It was a pause that was enriching and made them better, more aware people afterwards. During the pause, the speaker stood ramrod straight looking over each of the listeners in attendance, all in a row from right to left, giving each of them equitable, yet haunting looks. They were all gathered in the second story of a coffee shop hidden off the beaten path on what was considered the safer side of the city lately. The room was arranged with the furniture in a semi-circle around the small wooden podium which was little more than a soap box, really. There were long, narrow red couches, deep, overly cushy armchairs, as the one Teemu was sunk into, large, oversized black leather bean bag chairs, and shoddy old maroon loveseats specifically for the lovers to share each others' companies in.
A pall was cast over the room once the final climactic line of the poem was uttered. The unnerving quiet was led by the poem's speaker: a long, tall, dour seeming rabbit, ears flopped hopelessly to their sides, and eyes both droopy and penetrating. As if to accentuate it all, he wore black, thick framed glasses, had slicked back black hair, and had on a black, itchy looking turtleneck that didn't bother him in the least.
The message of the poem was clear, and the reader's acute pronunciation of the hard consonants with his dark elegance of style would not allow for any other interpretation. It was not a new poem, but an ancient one that had recently become en vogue once more on account of the war they were losing. As in the poem, day to day life was marked by hopelessness. It was a certainty that the world was coming to an end this time, and so expressions of these feelings were a sad duty shared by many. One of these individuals was Teemu. We was not a poet now, but had the itch during his schooling. Upon adulthood, he cast the hobby aside, for he did not enjoy a job which encouraged much creativity. However, as the world's last days drew near, his desire to express himself flared up within him before he would never have the chance.
The hostess of the poetry reading was the first to move, and thereby break the silence, heading to the podium with unnaturally cheerful expressions. Everyone else settled into their seats and relaxed whilst the rabbit gracefully stepped down and back to the loveseat he shared with no one. "Thank you," the hostess complimented, adjusting her ratty babushka. "Who would like to be next?"
Throughout the silence, Teemu had finished mustering his courage and raised his paw in the air. "Yes," he replied simply, but in a voice that sounded of confidence, if shaky. He already had his notepad clenched in paw already flipped to the correct page.
"Please!" the hostess agreed with a squint-eyed grin and stepped aside for the unimpressive white ferret to speak.
After a minor struggle to free himself of the deep chair, Teemu stood up and straightened his clothes. He mounted the podium and gave a brief smile. Although his job was based around interpersonal actions, he wasn't much of a public speaker. "My name is Teemu, and would like to recite this poem that I've written, if I may." Another brief smile, and his eyes sunk down to his notepad to get their bearing before addressing the crowd.

The birth canal is a tunnel,
And tunnels, these I know.
You arrive through the entrance,
But have nowhere to go.
The entrance, it gets walled up,
And I hear so does the end,
And throughout the trip, this I know,
There's not a twist or bend.
I know not where I am,
Except that it's nearly done,
And just as I came to this place,
I leave it only one.

"Thank you," Teemu ended, having delivered the poem in what he considered a happy medium between monotone and melodrama. He gathered up his poem, which he had scribbled onto his notepad on the subway ride over to the poetry reading. It was not met with much reaction as he returned to his seat in a manner that he considered a respectable medium between gratitude and haste.
"O.k., thank you, Teemu," the vivacious hostess finalized, and began searching the crowd for someone else.
Teemu had only sat for a few moments when he realized that his mouth was quite dry from the poem, and headed to the bar for a cup of tea. It was to his satisfaction, and he flopped back to his seat where his mind began to wander. The next poets down the line were no more than a droning murmur whilst his mind blotted them out on its own track. He paid attention to the poems which came before him, but after him the synthesis of his poem and the One Way Phoenixes, which came before him, had compounded his despair.
It sucked him into his mind, thinking and rethinking his "tunnel" and his "brick", and two birds sitting in a tree, and the tree rolled over by a tank. The brilliantly coloured phoenixes escaped into the air, fleeing from the battle. They flew so close together, and moved with such coordinated skill that they must know each other's love. Machine gun fire ripped through the air. Everyone was aiming for them as they flew desperately down and into a tunnel to escape the pursuers, but there was a brick wall, and that was the end...
And that was the end. Coming out of his trance, and making use of some bad acting, he checked his watch and stretched his limbs. It was all he could take of this, and so he finished his tea, put on his hat and coat, and left, giving a polite smile to the hostess. Through the alleyway and down into the subway station he paced. Night had fallen, and small units of soldiers patrolled the streets, assault rifles slung over their backs. Soldiers awaited him at the platform, giving everyone a visual search before they entered the train. More soldiers awaited him inside the train, but he was perfectly accustomed to them and took his seat, falling into the bench. He closed his eyes and rested his head back, silently meditating over the words he had heard and spoke this evening. The more he thought, the less he liked the direction his mind was going, but everyone's mind was going there, so there was no guilt or any feeling that his thoughts were irrational or unjustified.
"If I die," he murmured in his lowest voice, eyes still closed in contemplation, "you all die with me." That made him feel not quite so bad.

He awoke the next morning ahead of schedule. Fourteen minutes early, he defused the his alarm clock and sprung out of bed; a morning person from head to toe. He enjoyed the sky and the trees this early. A fresh layer of snow had fallen overnight, giving the scenery outside of his condominium window a renewed beauty. He had a nice place to live, a good job, and, despite certain losses, more money than a sane man needed. Like everyone else, he was born into it all, and his mother knew everyone. All the gaudy parties, he thought as he put the kettle on. The tacky women and the haughty men. Fortunately for him, he thought, only his job was arranged, and not his marriage. Bureaucracy and dinner parties were his life, even as the country fell apart around them. He was at the poetry reading more or less incognito the night before, traveling across the city far from the wealthy area, not that he was that well known, or that he didn't wanted to be seen. He just simply wanted to be alone around other people.
He climbed into the shower and frowned as he turned it on. The water was just fine as it glistened down his average, narrow-framed physique, but he was in a foul mood this morning. He cleaned himself quickly and unceremoniously, content with remaining ahead of schedule. He was a suit. His job was to be a suit. His life was a suit. He dressed in a suit, acted a suit, corresponded with other suits, and that suited him just fine. He was not a warrior, literally. Earlier in life, he enrolled himself in the officer's academy, but was rejected. It turned out he had an allergic reaction to the identification system. It was a rare disorder, and the armed forces were looking into ways to manipulate this allergy, but there were many other cushy government jobs out there for his mother to get him, so it wasn't a significant loss.
He poured his cup of strawberry tea to start the morning and took a cinnamon bun for breakfast. Without a word, Teemu ate his breakfast, mind finally wandering to today's job. He was an officer at the Ministry of Information, and had been since the officer's academy was ruled out. At a party several years ago, he was introduced to Viscount Heiskari, who recommended the young Pitkäranta boy come join his ranks. "You'll go far," the heavily mustached Viscount offered, and, of course, it could not be refused. You do not refuse offers like that, and indeed you do go far, because that's the way the machine worked. You come in here, you go out here. Teemu held the rank of Baron, and had a cottage in the country, which was probably looted and destroyed by now, or was lodging enemy troops. He didn't know. At least for now lived in the city.
He finished his meal and stacked his plate and cup in the sink. From there he headed to his study to gather his papers and identification, and then out. He had a valet to do this for him for several years, but one day Kaarle was gone without a trace. He may have been a spy, or he may have been abducted, or he may have been blackmailed into it. Again, Teemu didn't know, and by this point it didn't matter very much anymore. As far as he was concerned, from this point on he was alone in the world, and he had accepted that.
The location of his day's work was the palace, and the city streets that marked his path were lined with convoys of trucks carrying troops and supplies and kilometers of barbed wire and armoured vehicles heading to the ever nearing front. His vehicle had government license plates, so he wasn't questioned at all until he got to the palace gates. A uniformed officer approached his car and motioned that he wished to see papers. "Good morning, Baron Pitkäranta. What is the purpose of your visit this morning?"
Teemu withdrew folded slips of paper from his inside coat pocket and handed them to the royal guard. "I have been instructed to interrogate these people." His eyes wandered to the guardhouse, trying not to seem impatient.
The royal guard looked down the list and refolded the papers, handing all of the documentation back. "All ladies. Lucky you. You may proceed."
Teemu flashed the guard the smile that he had thought the guard would have wanted him to and returned his eyes to the road as the guard backed away and the reinforced gates opened up.
Each step of the way from here on in, from having his car parked for him, to the castle entrance, to the entrance to the residential section, he was asked for identification and papers. Guards were seemingly everywhere, but the Ministry of Information was upon a pedestal, and no one had given him any trouble, or the time of day for that matter, the double-edged sword that the Ministry was. The castle currently served as both a hotel and refugee camp for displaced nobles that lived in the eastern occupied territory - Teemu was not invited, not that he expected it. He had three women that he needed to interrogate by the end of the business day and all were displaced here. Hundreds upon hundreds of rooms made up the north wing of the palace complex. Libraries and studies were moved to make way for the nobles as dozens of families sought refuge. Most had fled the country, but others were fiercly loyal, ruined, lazy, or were awaiting means and ended up here.
The appointments with all three women were made in advance, plus he had a guide to help him find them, so it was no surprise to find his first questionee alone in a large, emptied out closet, three meters by five in size, outfitted to be a smoking room. "Countess Laulaja," Teemu greeted, bowing deeply as he entered the room. "You look elegant this morning."
The Countess nodded slowly in acceptance of the greeting. "I assume you are the gentleman from the Ministry of Information?" She was smoking, with a book folded in her lap resting on her turquoise floral print dress.
"My name is Baron Pitkäranta, but please, call me Teemu. I have a few questions that I need to ask you. You are under no suspicion for any crime, but we believe that you may have information that may help us in the war effort."
The young Countess was a straight up and down vision of beauty. She was a custard coloured hare with long, sleek ears, a long, sleek body, and fiery crimson hair done up in a loose ponytail. She had the countenance of a woman that could have been twenty-four or forty. The angles of her face placed her as either a cougar or a shark, and her demeanour entailed that her prey wouldn't find out until it was far too late. Her eyes seemed never to open fully as she examined her examiner. "Yes? What do you need to know?" The woman tapped out her cigarette, and then folded her paws in her lap to at least feign interest.
Before starting the interview, Teemu pulled a tape recorder from his opposite inside jacket pocket and switched it on, placing it on the arm of his chair. "Now then, your land was captured by the enemy advance - this we know," he began, placing his paws in his lap, as well. "We also know that you had to flee across the enemy line to return to the capital. Our interest was your time behind enemy lines. For example," shifting his posture to a more relaxed one and gesturing non-chalantly with his right paw in the air, "what route did you take? Did you meet up with any enemy troops? Did you detect any movements? Anything unusual, or that would suggest a pattern? Etc..."
When she put her mind to it, Laulaja was effective both as a seductress and liar. She had a knack for pulling apart and unraveling a male target like an old wool sock, but since she was defeated whilst her country was not quite yet, there was no reason to use any charm on Pitkäranta.
She related to him her story while he sat listening, interjecting at points for clarity. Enemy troops had come one day, armoured vehicles cruising down her road, and raided her parent's estate. With all of her guile, she had managed to escape and blended into a field on her estate. She knew the topography well, and so she fled through an orchard, gathering over-ripened, late autumn fruit for herself, in case she would need to hide for a while. Her family's estate was near the border of the two countries, so her's was one of the first places to fall. Since she was near the border, she explained, she knew the language very well, and hid in a nearby town until she could find a means to escape back to her capital. Her chance eventually came when she stole a dirtbike and sped like a bat out of hell across the enemy line through a forrest path, and then some farmer's roads until she was in the clear. From there, she met up at the capital to find out that the remainder of her family was captured, and, following a botched escape attempt, executed. Therefore, she received the promotion to Countess and was the heir to all the land that her family owned, but her country didn't.
Teemu grunted at that part of the testimony. "I share in your loss, my lady."
Laulaja nodded slowly. "What did you lose, if I may ask?"
"I don't really know for certain," was his misty response. "Land, servants... Beyond that, I don't know. I was in the city at the time. One day I had a cottage and flax fields, the next nothing. Then my valet disappeared one day. I don't think you can trust anyone these days..." Only after a minute of silent contemplation did he realized that that also applied to himself.
"No..." At this point, a cigarette was lit and Laulaja took a mental break from her testimony.
"So, to make sure, you had no exceptional interaction with enemy troops beyond your recount, and encountered no one as you fled home?" he asked with a tone of finality in his voice.
"Exactly," she agreed with a nod. "There was one patrol along the road, but nothing more, and nothing out of the ordinary."
"Good!" With that, Teemu switched off his recorder and replaced it into his coat pocket. "I don't think I'll need to trouble you any more than I already have, Countess." He rose to his feet and gave her another deep bow. "The Ministry thanks you kindly for your cooperation."
Laulaja nodded once more, opting to remain speechless.
"I wish you all the luck in the future. Thank you." He bowed once more an exited the smoking room, straightening his overcoat and breathing in fresh air.
He was greeted by a page who checked to see if everything was alright and if he needed anything. Teemu asked for a glass of iced tea, as he was running a half hour ahead of schedule and spent the break sitting in an armchair, keeping quietly to himself. He switched to the second tape, marked "Anttonen", that he was to use today. Upon that, he waited patiently, sipping iced tea and admiring the molding along the wall. Both were expectedly good, but...
Eventually his mind returned to sorrow as it invariably did lately. He was never safe from these thoughts for long. Everyone was losing everything now, but at least he was going down with the ship. The whole country had given up and was fading fast. It could be seen in the faces of all the refugees that walked here and there in a disillusioned trance. Everyone was more interested in dinner parties than anything else, and now, oblivious as to why, everyone was shocked that they seemed to have misplaced the shirts on their backs...
Well, except his next witness, the most questionable one on his docket. She didn't lose her shirt, he reminded himself as he was summoned to her quarters. A more grim face this time, he mentally rehearsed his strategy. More serious case. Stay sharp. Guard up, tape on, remember the script. He was just about to start hopping around a bit as he did during his boxing days at university as he neared his room. He had not previously met the woman that got the better of him, which was partly the reason he was assigned to all these quests. "Guard up, tape on, remember the script," he murmured and the door was opened for him.
"Good morning, Viscountess Anttonen..." And that was as far as he got this time. The door was shut behind him, and he was officially trapped.
"Pitkäranta, I presume," came the young woman's response, piercingly sharp, her gaze fixed directly upon him, leaving him nowhere to move.
This was as unexpected as could be. "Pitkäranta, Baron Teemu, yes," he replied with a gulp, and in a snap he was doing she asking the questions. It was extremely difficult this time to say, but he managed to give a deep bow and speak. "You are a vision of loveliness this morning, madam."
Lady Anttonen was a massive woman with a smug smirk on her round face that showed that she was not going to give an inch any easier than if she had to be carried that inch. "I know you, Pitkäranta. You playboys... You're not getting in my bed - there's no room!" There was a bit, but only if one used their imagination.
"Lady Anttonen!" Teemu yelped, narrowing his eyebrows in indignation. He could see she was a massive woman - that was hard to miss, and neither was her smug visage. He was ready for a fight this time, though. He adjusted his footing and stared at the meter and a half, or so, wide woman, also a silky white ferret, with frozen blue eyes that glistened like fine gemstones set in vessel worthy of their quality.
"Baron Pitkäranta..," she snapped back, adding "Teemu..," slowly for effect. She noticed the facial tick that came from his face at that, likewise eyeing his face. His small, pointed chin and angled jaw were clenched tight, as were his pronounced lips.
"Am I to understand that the Ministry of Information does not have your cooperation in the war effort?" This was the standard out for conversations which went south before they began. What normally happened then was that Teemu left and not too long after the Secret Police would come by and arrest the unwilling subject and drag them to a detention facility, though for her size, if she did not go cooperatively, there may have to bring the detention facility to her. Besides, he knew quite well that to flailing while caught in the trap would be certain death.
"What do you want to know?" she asked rhetorically. "That I sold the estate to the enemy and made some money instead of having it taken by force like the rest of these poor slobs?" She cleared her throat and caught her breath, preparing extra venom for her words. "I'm not ruined. I'm not in the poorhouse. I'm here until the construction is done on the new place, and then I'm long gone. So ask my why I sold the farm. Go ahead and earn your paycheque."
Teemu was one that had lost most of what he owned, and whether or not she knew it, that attack was aimed squarely a him. "You conspire with the enemy, arrange a deal, and you sell it all to one of them. You hand it over to them nice as you please and laugh all the way to the bank, never mind about anyone else, least of which your family - least of which your country." He paused for a second, but not long enough to allow her to interject. "The charge is treason."
"It's just business, and you know it," she replied in a miasmic tone, straightening her posture, sending he rolls fat swaying forward and back as she sat in a specially designed chair for her more than half-tonne. "Who has money left in this country? You tell me who doesn't - the desperate son of a bitch that doesn't even have enough money to tie his own shoelaces - and I'll tell you who I bribe." She took a break from her tirade to catch her breath. She took in several thick, husky breaths before continuing. Teemu waited arms crossed, doing his very best to stay angry. "Did I sell away my family? You're damn right I did! What did they do for me? I'm sure you get around, playboy." A grunt came from Teemu's mouth, but a barely noticeable nod told her to carry on after several more laboured breaths. "Have you ever met them? Have you ever asked them if they had any children? Well, here's your answer: No, we weren't blessed with children. No, just me."
She paused once more to catch her breath, taking longer this time from her heightened mood. This was the moment Teemu needed to rebut as her proportionally large chest heaved up and down. "Easy now. Relax." His facial features and posture softened. "I understand what you're saying." He didn't indicate just how much by words, but he tried to convey the magnitude from his eyes to hers, hoping she'd catch his plea. "It still falls under the crime of treason, however, and I am obligated to report it."
"To who? Who? Who's left to care? Who's going to try me? You?" she hounded relentlessly. "O.k., maybe the secret police could drag me into the street and set me on fire, or whatever it is they conspire to do in their creepy little birdhouses to 'traitors' - I wouldn't know - but if I was them, I think I'd have more important things to do right now than to look for me." Still in a huff, she ended her verbal rampage to take a breather, this time at a full blown pant.
He couldn't help it at all. He was weakening by the second. Her chest rising and falling, his jealousy of her rationale, the sweat glistening on her forehead from the workout the conversation was giving her, and his deep despair were all swirling together at once leaving his mouth as dry as the night before. Watching her slow, cavernous panting was like watching his heartbeat. He could see himself in her... "May I sit down, please?"
"Will you stop throwing the word 'treason' around like confetti and speak sense?" she shot back, not making this easy at all for him now that she felt that she clearly had him in a corner. She shifted once more in hear seat, causing it to creak at the joints underneath her. Her belly reacted with a sway forward, and a sway back, followed by slow undulations until settled again. Barely contained in her dark maroon dress, it hung well between and far below her wide spread apart knees, though with thighs still pressed against each other. At the top, in between her round breasts which rested to the sides was a small plateau - the most perfect spot in the world for one to rest his head, he thought.
"I have no choice!" Teemu resigned and sat in a chair to her right designed for a normal sized individual. He flopped back into the chair and slumped, looking straight ahead at a spot on the wall to collect his thoughts. He felt so close to everything, as though he was seated in the eye of the storm. The more thoughts he collected, the less he liked it until he could take no more and his paw came up to hide the spot on the wall from his eyes. He rubbed his eyes with slow slides of his paw, putting up a desperate fight to hold back the tears. "You're right," he conceded eventually. He took in a deep, therapeutic breath and let it out slowly, taking his paw from his eyes in confidence that the tears would not show themselves today. "And it's not fair," he added.
"You're just doing what you were told to do," came the verbal shrug. It was not the least reassurance, but she seemed to know that and not mind, either. "You may leave at any time, as well. I can't help you," she dismissed, waiting like a five hundred and fifty kilo vulture to dive down and drop on top of her prey as soon as it was comfortable.

"Hello, Teemu. I have some bad news. The boss has fled the country, and has asked me to tell you that everyone at the Ministry has been relieved of their duties at this time. The Ministry building is going to be burned to the ground, oh, forty-one hours from now, so gather up everything you need before then. Oh, and keep it under your hat, too. No one knows until the fire's lit, alright? And... I'm sorry, old friend, but I'm leaving the country, as well. I'll see you again when this all clears up, I promise. Take care of yourself. Stay safe till we meet again. Good bye." And with that there was a click and the answering machine shut itself off.
The voice that Teemu had just heard was that of his good friend and coworker Kai. Like Teemu, Kai was a working noble that held a trophy job at the Ministry of Information. Now it seemed that Information Retrieval Officer DZ-015, Teemu, was the only one left in town. Everyone had just grabbed what they could and ran. There was nothing left in the office that he needed or wanted at all. There was just papers and pens and other things relegated useless at this time.
Evening had come, and it seemed that the only things he had left in the world were exactly the things he didn't want. The day was a miserable disaster. The second interview ended abruptly, and he skipped the third interview entirely. He didn't file a report, either, but opted instead to drive home. He parked his car in the underground parkade and reclined the driver's seat fully.
With his eyes shut tight, he lay there for hours until he had mustered the courage to use his car phone. It took most of the next hour to accomplish, but choosing every word with surgical care, he persuaded Anttonen that they should speak again. Once off the phone, however, he had no idea what he'd say the next day, but the night was his to think about it, so he got out of his vehicle, headed for the elevator, and went up to his place.
Now Teemu stood motionless, staring at the answering machine deciding what he'd do with it until he'd thought of the best plan. "No! No! No!" he shouted, each word accompanied by his right fist smashing down onto and then into the answering machine, pummeling the messenger until it was smashed open. "No! No! No. You... No..." His paw throbbed with pain once he had finished the eight blows, but it didn't concern him as the tears he was saving up now came pouring out. The young ex-bureaucrat collapsed to the floor in a heap, paws covering his face as he wailed all alone with just one thing left in life. That one thing would be decided the next day, so the remainder of the evening he would spend with his last companions: grief and desperation.

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and the greatest achievements ever known to the world have come when survival is threatened. The army was getting pushed further and further back towards the capital. The front line was pushed west past the river until the outskirts of the capital could be shook with artillery when the wind was just right. Preparations were made for the fight to continue street to street, but the deserters were leaving town by the hundreds before the city became surrounded. For the deserters, survival was secured as leaving the city was still an easy task. Trains still left the station and the roads were opened as the city evacuated itself, but time was quickly running short.
Again, as the day before, Teemu pulled up to the guardhouse at the palace. The papers he still had from the defunct Ministry of Information had gotten him through once more, and he made his way back to the only place where he felt he had need to be right now. However, upon arriving the second time it was not the same as before. There was no feeling of apprehension. He wasn't about to fade away easily, and so he had the best white suit he had available on his shoulders and stuck his chest out. "Remember the script," he murmured to himself as an act of tradition, and opened the door.
"Viscountess," Teemu greeted as he stepped in. On this occasion he subtracted the bow and embellished the smile to suit his needs.
"Ah, Baron Pitkäranta. Please come in." The lady was sitting in the same place as before, but this time she had next to her a breakfast tray within arm's reach. A pool of grease was left to the one side of the wide tray to mark the majority of her devoured meal, but she still had a few odd slices of toast to go. "Have a seat." She gestured with a piece of toast to the seat he was in the previous day. On her face was a chilly smile that could either mean eager opportunism or narrow-minded guile.
"Thank you," he replied and took his chair, placing his hat in his lap. That was all he said, though, and fixed his gaze on the munching woman, smiling quite broadly as though he had eaten the canary for breakfast.
Today she wore a formal white button up shirt, not buttoned all the way up, and a relatively short black shirt which showed her thick, pillowy calves. "So you have something of vital importance to tell me, and a business proposition that you couldn't have told me over the phone. I find it hard to swallow that you want to support my cause, so you tell me what I want, and I'll tell you what you're going to get for it."
"Well," Teemu began, slapping his paw on his leg, "I've been thinking. At the Ministry, I have access to sensitive information. And," he added, touching his forefinger to his bright white muzzle, "I know people. Do you know people?"
"Not unless I have to," the woman muttered out the side of her mouth in a low tone, polishing off a piece of toast. With her mouth yet half full, "You're shadowboxing, Pitkäranta, and I don't like shadowboxing. It seems too much like..," she paused, searching for the word, " to me, and I've done all I can hack of that for one day."
These were exactly the words he needed. "You sound to me like someone that doesn't have too many people around them," he elaborated.
"That's because I don't like people, and the fewer that are around me the better." She wolfishly bit down on the second last slice of toast and kept her eyes on him in a way to suggest frustration. "I'm not an employment agency, Pitkäranta. My shoulder's nice and soft, but it's not here to soak up your tears."
"I'm not looking for a job!" That was a lie, but indirectly so. "Look." He leaned forward, allowing just enough of his desperation to seep out in the gamble that it would find her own. "Who do you have? I mean, who do you have?"
In two large bites, she finished off her toast before replying. "I think you mean to ask, who do I need?"
"Who do you need, Miss Anttonen?" Teemu asked, walking a very fine line.
"I've tried needing people," Satu Anttonen replied, reaching for the last slice of her breakfast. "Maybe you know - when needs get unmet, you suffer. Do you suffer? Teemu?" Her frosty gaze was unmoving, pinning Teemu into his seat whilst her cheek bulged out as she chewed her toast.
"I suffer," Teemu answered flatly, meeting her gaze with a flat look into her face in a desperate attempt to keep his eyes off of her jowl as it bounced with her chewing. "By the way I've been keeping score, we both suffer."
"You suffer?" Anttonen shot quickly. "Maybe you do, maybe you don't. I don't know you, and I don't really think that I want to know you, but I don't think that your conception of 'suffer' is the same as mine." A masochistic smirk drained onto her face as she paused both for a breath and to finish her toast without gagging for air. "It's not a comparison that does justice."
When two people are damaged, it is as though the damage polarizes them, together or apart, but he was there now and he wasn't giving up until forced to. "You're right. Different people feel different things. Different people have different things, but they need different things, too, and nobody needs nothing."
Satu's response was slow in coming. Her mouth opened and her lips smacked a couple times, as if about to say something, but checked herself before she speaking. She took a deep breath and cleared her throat, her hulking body reacting with a gentle wobble that creaked her chair. "Why?"
Teemu tilted his head with an inquisitive glance. "Why what?"
"Why are you asking me these asinine philosophical questions?"
"Why are you answering them? Better yet," raising a finger of correction, "why aren't you tossing me out for asking asinine philosophical questions?"
She paused once again to collect her answer, bringing her paw up to her face to wipe the crumbs from her breakfast off her muzzle. "Tell me again why you're here."
"That's more like it," he said, relaxing his posture, beginning to rely more on his paws for gesture. "As I said, I have a proposition for you. Not a job, not work, not... Not that. I would like to offer you a partnership, in a vague sense."
"A vague sense?" It was hardly noticeable, but her attention was piqued.
"Yes, a vague sense," he Teemu repeated, trying not to mimic too greatly. "I don't want money, and I'm not out to use you."
"My dear Pitkäranta," Satu spoke in a voice that resembled a silk scarf ornamented with barbed wire, "I'm not afraid of being used. The danger here is to be left alone, but if used, be warmed: I've never trusted my parents, or my family, or anyone." Taking a second, she braced herself and grunted and heaved her way into a standing position. "If I put my trust in you, and you used me in any way," she took slow, heavy steps away from her chair. The floor bowed and the decorations on the wall shook audible until she had forced her body around until facing him, hulking over his chair, "I guarantee you that you would be used back ten times over."
"Oh, yes..." Teemu shifted his position in his chair, gazing directly into the woman's eyes. A perfectly untamed grin spread across his face as he sat in her imposing shadow.
"A partnership?" she mused, placing her paws on the arms of his chair to brace herself up. "What do you have that I need? What do you have?"
Her weight pushed precariously up against the chair, creaking it backwards enough to hear gentle snapping sounds in the wood. The bottom part of her stomach pressed up against his knees, and he could feel her deep breath on him. He followed his natural reaction and placed his paw on top of hers, feeling the softness overtop of the muscle holding her up. "Hearts are funny things. Only with them can two completely weary and empty come together to create something full, and rich, and beautiful."
"That's not very vague," Satu commented, iciness finally melting away from her visage, "but I think that we could work something out a bit more concrete." She pushed against the chair, mortally injuring its structure and nearly breaking it backwards in the process, and stood herself upright. "Do you plan to stay in the city?"
"I have no plans," he answered in earnest, holding her paw as long as he could before it went up onto her hip.
"Did I mention to you that the new place is nearly done? It's a few thousand kilometers away and has an amazing view of the sunset into the coastline. I'm curious... Do you know Jadwiga?" The strain of standing for that long was beginning to get to her, but she made no move to become seated once again.
"I know Jadwiga, and I also know that to truly appreciate that particular sunset, you need someone to enjoy it with."
At those words Satu let out a low, deep, rumbling purr. "I don't like people, but someone to carry me over the threshold and lap to sit in and watch the sun set..."
By now, Teemu could well see that her sentences were punctuated with constant mild panting underneath her now aggressive purring, and so he decided to stand and allow her some expediency. Placing his paw under her elbow, holding it loosely, he brought his other arm around her full stomach, resting his paw on top of it, feeling that it could easily sink into her soft flesh quite a ways. Arching his back forward, he leaned in and brought his muzzle a couple centimeters from hers, this time feeling her heavy breathing directly against his facial fur. A shiver shot through his body at the feeling of her breath against him, and that, mixed with the notion of how far he had come so fast, had convinced him that there was only one thing left to be done.
Feeling it, as well, she brought her muzzle in towards his, pressing him up against her, deep against her to reach, and the two finalized their new agreement with a kiss, both filled with a ravenous fervour. It went on for as long as Satu could hold it, before absolutely needing more air to sustain herself. She let go so reluctantly, but when she did her face was a deep blush and slick with sweat as her body shook from exertion. "Pit... käranta..," she wheezed, her entire front heaving in and out, "you have... a deal..."