Kell leaned forward, peering over the narrow, stone ridge -- all that stood between himself and a thousand-foot drop.
Far below, waves crashed against the jagged rocks at the cliff's base, and gulls soared over the water, crying out in their lonely voices. Overhead, a pair of much larger winged forms circled in the cloudless sky: a young couple on a mating flight, probably. Kell shaded his eyes with one arm, watching them swoop and glide.
A hand touched his shoulder, and he gave a start.
"Relax," said a deep voice. "It's just me."
Kell turned and met a pair of familiar dark eyes. "Ash... how did you know I was here?"
"Just a feeling.." Ash tucked his hands into the pockets of his new robes. Unlike the tan robes of a youngling, Ash's were a deep, vibrant blue, marking his new status. His glossy-feathered wings, the same charcoal black as his hair, were folded neatly against his back.
So strange, thought Kell, seeing Ash with wings. But that wasn't the only difference. His shoulders and chest had grown broader and more powerful since the Change, and stubble roughened his once-smooth jaw. Not long ago, they'd been of equal height. Now Ash stood about two inches taller.
"You've been spending a lot of time sky-watching lately," Ash remarked.
"I guess so." Remembering his manners, Kell bowed his head and touched his brow with the first two fingers of his right hand. "Sorry," he muttered. "I keep forgetting."
Ash rolled his eyes. "I told you, you don't need to bother with that silly formality around me. We're still friends. Nothing has changed."
"I know, but... you're an adult now."
He shrugged, flexing his wings. "I'm still me."
Kell didn't reply. He turned back to the drop, hands resting on the ledge.
Ash stepped up beside him. "Is something wrong?"
"I'm fine," Kell said, staring at the ocean.
"Kell...." One warm finger touched the underside of his chin and lifted his face. When Ash's gaze met his, Kell's heartbeat quickened, though he didn't understand why. Those dark eyes searched his. "I know when something's bothering you," Ash said, his voice low and gentle.