The first mistake the professor makes is in pairing them up. She looks at him and curls her lip in disgust, and there is a tight pressure in his chest that makes it near-impossible to breathe. He doesn’t remember the professor’s words — they wash over him and fade to white noise before he really registers him. She puts her hand in his, small and cool to the touch, and it’s there, on the tip of his tongue to say it — I’ll cut off your claws before you can have him — and she hears it anyway. They stare at each other even after the music starts; it’s only when the professor’s voice rises, sharper than before, that they move.
They’re supposed to be doing a demonstration for the beginning classes, a gentle sort of pas de deux where the lovers come together and he cherishes her and she adores him, light footsteps and outstretched arms. She looks at him and tilts her head just so, like a bird cocking its head in question, and he wants to wrap his hands around her neck and just–
He jerks her arm up. She doesn’t make a sound, but her eyes go wide in surprise. Like a ballerina, though, she regains her balance before she actually stumbles into him. He sees a flash of teeth in her bright pretty smile and spins her roughly away. She goes light as a blossom on the breeze, turning her stumble into a series of graceful sidesteps. She spins to face him again and lifts her arms over her head, arching them and hooking her fingers into claws.
Forward he presses and back she retreats; they circle each other like winter-hungry wolves, at odds with the delicate music. The professor is saying something in protest, but the beginning class is watching, rapt. He can almost feel the weight of the sword in his hands. When she spins, he imagines he hears the sound of giant beating wings.
She feints to one side and he catches her roughly by the waist (his hands span so far, her hips are thin and her waist so tiny) and lifts her forcibly. She gasps silently — her mouth falls open and her eyes go wide — before her eyes narrow and she twists hard. He almost drops her — almost loses balance himself — but sets her back down, catching her arms and twisting them until they are a tangle of limbs, her back pressed close to his front, his arm tight over her breasts, her leg hooked back over his. She’s breathing hard, her tiny bird-heart fluttering so, so fast. He bends forward, his cheek to the soft raven-dark (carrion-bird, his heart whispers, as the scar across his chest aches) hair.
“I won’t let you have him,” he whispers for her ears only. “I’ll kill you myself.”
She sucks in a breath and stops. The music has already long ended, and their audience is silent. She is warm and soft and the only sound is his breath and hers, and he thinks again of how easy it would be — if only he had his sword —
Her head bows forward. He sees her smirk and her lips move: you can try.
With a growl that never quite vocalizes, he lets her go and steps back roughly. The professor immediately sweeps forward, fussing; that was brilliant, that was lovely, but that was completely not what I asked for—
They never make the mistake of pairing him with her again.