Everything And Nothing

Participants:

Max.jpg Jaya.jpg

Date: 2011.04.08
Location: EW - Jaya's Bar
Synopsis: Max drops by Jaya's bar for a post mission report and gets a whole lot more than he'd expected.
Rating: PG18 - Language
Logger: Max

One of the last of Jaya's drunk patrons staggers out of her bar in the helping arms of one his friends. The Bitran barkeep busies herself cleaning out the last of her mugs with the help of Hayli while Suli left early pleading a headache. Shijan was at his spot, as usual - at the entrance of her bar. There was one patron left and it was one Jaya knew: "The best things in life are the hardest things to steal," she was telling the bronzerider, S'las as he gets off the stool at the counter, picking up the payment for his drinks with a nod of thanks. He prepares to depart, giving the Bitran a hearty laugh that reaches tired eyes despite the fact his gaze lingers more on the blonde barmaid than on his bar owner friend. "You'll die a thief in the night if it were up to you," is his parting shot, tossing a wink to the ladies before stepping away from the bar and starts his way out.

Max had wanted to make a turn passed Jaya’s bar the day he’d heard she and her bodyguard were back from their little ‘excursion’ but if it wasn’t one thing, it was another that had prevented him from doing so until now. By all intents and purposes her mission had been successful considering that they were back and in one piece. There was however the matter of how long it had taken the pair to carry out. And so it is, that deep in thought, southern’s crimelord makes his appearance this night with Shijan given a brief nod as he passes by and enters the bar. S’las is given closer scrutiny but it doesn’t deter Max from sauntering up to the bar and taking to an idle lean against it as if he owned the place, his expression closed to interpretation. “Not if I can help it,” he drawls on thieves in the night even although the comment hadn’t been directed to him.

"Are you mocking my family?" These words come unbidden to Jaya's lips, and it must be some sort of inside joke since there's no malice where there should be in the query. It's an inside joke that S'las gets for it sets him laughing again, the sounds a fond one alluding to their long-time friendship. He opens his mouth to speak until Max does, turning to regard the newcomer with open curiosity. Grey eyes steal towards Jaya for her reaction and she's looking Max over with veiled interest, the bar growing silent. After it lingers, the man having hesitated, "Not if any of us," S'las appears to agree on Max's words, and with an incline of his head he turns and finally makes his exit. "I had almost thought the wild southerns lands had swallowed you up whole," she drawls, returning to her cleaning with a pointed look Max's way. A discrete look is sent Hayli's way then, the blonde barmaid suddenly stating that she had some meeting she needed to make down in the kitchen before taking off. Hayli never questions. Once she was gone, "A drink?" she then offers, stopping her cleaning to focus on him.

Unreadable Max’s expression as S’las and Jaya look him over, he setting them both with an even look and then he turns and stretches right across the counter, his hand dropping to grope about underneath the bar counter in search of whatever bottle his fingers might close around. That search halted and a browlifted look sets to Jaya, “Speak for yourself, darlin’. Figured the two of you had eloped up north or something along the lines of a harper’s tale of wild romance.” That last spoken with an odd edge wrapped around it and then at the offer of a drink Max retracts his hand and nods as he claims a stool, a glance going Hayli and S’las’ way as they depart.

The ease lifts at the note in Max's voice, Jaya's gaze flicking towards Shijan still standing by the door before she lifts an easy brow. She moves in silence to make Max his drink, fixing him something that wasn't too strong. As she bustles behind the counter, one eyes managing to find the crimelord at the counter, "Wild romance? Speak for yourself, shuga," she tosses back brazenly, willing to play the game for just a moment. After a pause, "I trust the mission was satisfied to Kelarad's tastes anyway?" she asks, choosing to try and suss out the exact source of his edged tone before giving up anything. "I mean I haven't heard anything untoward, unless" and her gaze makes a point of flying towards her bodyguard at the entrance in the pause. A bottle it brought up on the counter, and she sets forth two clean, empty glasses. "And besides, what sort of 'eloping' would I do without you, and all my men by my side?" There's a playful tilt to her tone, head tilting a bit as she uncorks the bottle and pours into the first glass.

All Jaya's return quip gets is a tightening of jaw but he says nothing choosing rather to drop onto the topic of her mission. One shoulder lifts and falls in a shrug, "Ain't heard nothing to say otherwise from him. What I want to know is…" he pauses then, dark-eyed gaze following her glance to Shijan and then setting back on onto her with a slight frown in place, "what took you so sharding long?" Grumpy much? The playful words causes one side of his mouth to twitch toward a smile but it never quite makes it there as he starts reaching for the glass even before Jaya's finished filling it. His shrug and words in response offhand, "Dunno, whatever sort of eloping those caught up in the madness would follow." And then he's drinking. So much for his plan to swear off drink.

Yeah, Jaya can catch the grump of spirit, seeing that it does little to lighten his mood. She starts to pour into her own glass then, her gaze not meeting his until the question of why was spoken. "Long story, shuga," she drawls, knocking back some of the drink she just poured and coughing some. "Did you have need of me here? Was there a problem?" She doesn't mean to be confrontational. It comes naturally, watching Max take down the drink with a twitch of brows before adding, "There were some complications," she tries to explain, going a bit more slowly on her drink now, "but it smooth itself out. You know me." Arrogant much? Yeah, the bar owner seems to not make it that much of a big deal. Trying to turn the tables on him then, "What I want to know," she drawls, leaning towards Max, close to his face as she props one elbow to cradle her head, "is the talk I'm hearing about a child. A child resembling you." He did tell her sometime ago that he had a kid, so the rumors swirling about the Weyr of late certainly catches her attention.

“I ain’t going nowhere,” Max wheezes a little after having knocked a healthy portion of his drink back. His expression tightens further and a brow lifts but knowing how Jaya operates he doesn’t rise to her confrontational words. “No, but I might have,” he comments on having needed her, “For all I knew the two of you could have been laying face down in a ditch somewhere.” Ah, so he cares after all. “Complications?” his voice lifts upward in prompt for her to explain herself. Having lifted his glass to his lips and been halfway to swallowing down another mouthful, her next question catches him off-guard and it’s a moment or two of coughing and clearing his throat before he answers. “A kid looking like me?” some of the earlier funk melts off and his mouth turns about a crooked show of amusement, “Huh, how ‘bout that. Must be a good looking kid.” Pretending like he doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about though the smirk that comes unbidden gives him away.

Yeah, Max's further words on where they could have been sobers Jaya right up. There's a tightness around her eyes before she straightens up, running a hand through dark, loose hair, taking up the bottle rather than the glass and lifting it to her lips. Finally meeting his gaze, "Sorry about that," she says low, almost apologetic in making him worry. She takes a deep breath and shifts her body to lean against the counter, telling him, "That cargo Kelarad wanted us to see into Borrento's territory? It was a boy. Pretty clever boy by the looks of it. He never missed anything." Setting the bottle down, "We dressed him like us and took him through the Reaches like planned, only…what was not planned," she states, eyes flicking over to Shijan, "was how close to the boy he - we," she corrects it, "got." As to those complications, there's a shrug. "Think Borrento caught wind of him ahead of time," she explains briefly. "Got stopped by some of his guards on the way in. Searching real hard, too. So, we decided to stick around longer and make sure he makes it through whatever mission Rad had for him." She could have been talking about stargazing as far as she knew. When Max is taken off-guard then, a brow lifts and her chin lifts, "Yeah, a kid," she states wryly. "A child. Came out of nowhere, though admittedly, I haven't been about to see for myself. I hate having to rely on hearsay, you know."

Dark eyes hold to Jaya as he watches the realization of his words sink in and then he straightens, inhaling a slow breath before giving a nod to her apology. “Next time send word with a flit or somethin’ because if I have to come after your sorry ass…” a certain fondness sitting in a tone that is otherwise grave. “These are dangerous times darlin’. You know that better’n anyone else, aye? More so now that word is gettin’ out that you’re with me.” Open possession of her services laid claim to which hopefully if her bodyguard has overheard, doesn’t get taken up in the wrong way.

A brow goes up as she expands on the matters surrounding her mission up north and the boy involved then he glances at Shijan from over the top of his upraised glass. “You brought him back with you?” assuming that’s what she’d meant about the two of them having gotten close to the boy though he doesn’t look to be annoyed with why they’d ended up staying longer than planned.

And on the matter of children Max meets that lift of chin from Jaya with a slightly guarded look in place before slowly nodding though he doesn’t say anything just yet. Silence hangs heavy in the air as his attention falls to the liquid he swirls about in the glass. “It’s Little Bit,” he finally admits quietly sending a long look to the dark-haired barkeep, not quite able to mask the vulnerability that shows itself briefly. “Long story short, she’s here with full knowledge of the Lord, and thanks to Rad’s help in the matter, her mother won’t be comin’ lookin’ for her. Far as anyone else is concerned,” pausing to take another drink, “she’s my half-sister born to Ma of Keane.” One has to wonder what the Telgari barkeep might say to such a ruse.

“Oh my sorry ass?” Jaya echoes those words, hand flicking to herself indication with an amused look. “I hear you, shuga. I should have noted. I keep forgetting I’m still a fugitive these days.” One corner of her mouth lifts at that. On the boy, she immediately shakes her head before he finishes his question. “The boy wanted to get into the Seacraft – aspirations and all that. Shijan wanted to help him. You know how children of the lands are treated.” Most of them had no one protecting them, running about and already resigned to their fates at a young age. “Just thought the boy could use a second chance is all,” she tacks on in her low voice, her voice seeming to be far away as if she herself was thinking of her own unfortunate childhood. When that fades and she meets Max’s gaze once more, “We did clear it by Kelarad, though,” she adds to make sure that no toes were stepped on between the two crimelords. What they did really wasn’t theirs to do; it was Max’s. “He was a little reluctant, of course, being that Sego was a good asset to him, but in the end he gave his blessing. I know it wasn’t our decision to make,” and she inclines her head briefly in his direction. “It was yours, but we were running on time at the moment.” It was her apology for it.

Staying on the topic of children, Jaya finally straightens and offers him more to drink with the raised bottle in the growing silence. When Max confirms who the child is, her eyes widen slightly. “You went and got her?” she asks quickly, her interest apparent. “What about the Lord, and…you mean the Lady’s been taken care of? By Kelarad?” That could mean a whole lot of things, and the Bitran ponders that bit over. That last gets an amused snort, “Keane’s baby? I think the man’s been wanting a child for decades,” she notes, pouring more of the drink into her glass now as she shakes her head. “It’s good story though. Everyone pretty much knows your mother’s in love. Some have seen the man when he was down here. That’s really all you need.”

Max is quiet a moment and then a crooked smile appears, “Naw, you just keep forgettin’ you got people what cares about whether you live or die, darlin’.” And then he drops silent once again, nursing his drink as she explains about Sego, a dark brow lifting as he turns his head and fits Shijan with a long look. “He took a likin’ to the kid?” surprise colouring his tone as his attention goes back to Jaya and then his smile warms a touch. “You paid it forward,” triumph in his tone, “Good for you! So Rad let the kid off the hook, aye? Huh, man has a heart after all.” The last echoed into his glass as once again it lifts to his lips and he drains its contents. The apology was unexpected and so Jaya is set with a long and unreadable look before he gives a small shake of head, “Naw, you did good, Jaya.” Sincere.

With the offer of a refill, he holds his glass out to her, a full grin appearing, “Aye, that I did. Was plannin’ on doin’ so anyways and then I got a message from the Lord askin’ for my help with his Lady. Seems she and his brother were lookin’ to kill him off and take Tillek for themselves.” Here his smile takes on a cold and sinister edge, dark relish flattening his eyes, “Oh aye, the bitch is history. She’ll never bother anyone again.” And he’ll leave her to decide for herself what that means. Her amusement is met with a wry twist of lips and a shrug, “Sometimes the gossip mill provides better cover than we coulda come up with. I figure Ma’s prolly written Keane to give him a heads up.” Or at least he’s hoping she has. “Seems safer to let folk believe Hope’s theirs, aye?” Dropping his daughter’s name at the end.

“Yeah, I guess I do,” Jaya admits to his words after a moment’s silence, the thought an equaling sobering one. Vaputero never cared what Jaya got up to, as long as his will was done. It was something she had gotten used to doing for all these turns, so for Max’s words, the Bitran woman still fond of him despite all, there’s a tentative smile before she clears her throat and looks towards her glass. At Max’s surprise for the budding relationship between Shijan and their young cargo, “Mmm,” she agrees, her own warm gaze flicking over towards the entrance as she lowers her voice, “Yes, it surprised me too. I thought it was peculiar, but, there’s still a lot about the man that I don’t yet know.” She snorts lightly on Kelarad having a heart, the woman dryly adding, “More like, that’s one less mouth to feed. Plus I was hearing the boy was driving the dockmen sick with the spoiled fish he was catching. Must have been a clever one if he could sell sour fish to that hardy lot.” All the same, she looks proud when Max is, pleased that he wasn’t upset about the whole matter. She feels compelled to add, meeting his unreadable gaze with one of her own, “It’s not me to go off mission like that, but I suspected this was important to Shijan, so I did. Sego was probably better off learning a decent trade than getting skewered by Borrento for getting caught. Guess we have to look after our own, eh?”

Reaching forward to refill his glass then as he speaks, there’s a warm smile and wry “It’s good to see justice in the lands sometimes – even if it was in a Hold. Kinda feel bad for Lord Tillek though. Never a good thing to be betrayed by family.” Yeah, she seems to know something about that one. She tops off her own glass and briefly raises her glass in a toast before drinking. Her eyes never leaves Max’s face while she listens, and the name drop at the end gets a twitch of her brows. “Hope? Nice. Apt. And she’s well? I could imagine that the sudden change of environment must be daunting for her.” Pause. “And you?” she asks, setting her glass down and lacing her fingers together before her on the counter. She scrutinizes him, not having seen him in a good while since before the mission. “Something’s different,” is all she says, studying his face, her words quiet in asking after both his daughter and himself.

Another sidelong glance goes in the direction where Shijan stands guard and then Max fits Jaya with a closed look for her words on there being much she doesn’t know about the man. “Just don’t go tryin’ to change him, aye? Love him for who he is now, not what he could maybe be somewhere down the road.” Strange words delivered in a guarded tone and then amusement breaks through on the topic of Sego. “Sellin’ bad fish to dockmen? The lad must have some silver tongue on him. More the type the Harper Hall could use.” Once again he sends a long and silent look Jaya’s way to her words on having gone off mission, and then a small smile curves one side of his mouth upward, “You love him that much, eh?” As to looking after their own he gives a firm nod of agreement, “If we don’t, who will?”

“Aye,” Max gives soberly on the matter of Lord Tillek, “to be betrayed like that…” shaking his head his doesn’t complete the sentence but instead chooses another swallow of his drink. Wry, “Aye, Hope. Maybe it’ll serve her better’n it’s served me.” Guards drop into place next and the young crimelord looks away, his drink coming under study and then one shoulder twitches in a discomforted shrug, “It ain’t what I thought it would be.” Honest. As to the last, dark eyes lift as lips press together and he gives a small shake of his head, nothing said to there being something different about him until after a while he states quietly, “Things change, darlin’.”

The guarded tone is regarded for a long moment before a smile blooms once more on Jaya's face despite the curious tilt of head at his tone of words. Lightly slapping the counter surface before them, "Me, change him?" She snorts at that one, her gaze straying towards Shijan. "Hardly, shuga. Ain't my style. I don't change people, for then they'll think they can change me, and I don't change unless I want to." Yeah, Dicori-logic. She chuckles on Sego then on choice of apprenticeship, "Yeah, I think I did see some of Shijan in him, though he seemed to have something against women. Didn't talk to me all that much. The smile turns more genuine for Max's words on her loving Shijan enough to go off mission, the woman putting a pointed look onto the man before stating, "Hey now, shuga. I'm not some soft-lilied woman. I love him, I do, but if you're expecting some girl singing praises and melting into her own drink." And there's laughter at that, though she tacks on, "But I imagine you know all about that, eh? You and Ahnika."

She nods some to the Lord Holder's plight, and a fond silence meets his words on his daughter until Max looks away with those guards in place. His words on Hope, on not changing. She straightens, and if he doesn't pull away she reaches a hand out to claim the bottom of his chin to gently bring his gaze to her own as he speaks on the last. Frowning now in her silence, the Bitran studying his face closely, "What ain't what you thought it would be?" she asks naturally, head tilting down to see his expression better. "What's changed, Max?" Jaya has natural curiosity bred from her upbringing in a trader clan, but her concern for one of the men in her life is evident on her face.

Max can’t help but chuckle at her Dicori logic and so he lifts his glass in toast thereof, “I’ll drink to that.” Interest peaks next, “Some of Shijan in the boy?” another glance going the mysterious man’s way, “Wait…are you tellin’ me he’s of harper stock?” Suggestion made that Indira and her son don’t always exchange all information with regards to the people under their protection. As to Sego and his apparent dislike of women, a wry smile appears, “The lad’s probably not had much to do with women if he’s been out on his own like you say he has. Shards, for all you know, it was his own mother that tossed him out in the first place, aye?” For sadly, such things do occur. His grin starts to widen when Jaya negates being the typically starry-eyed type of woman in love and then falls right off again as she brings Ahnika up. “There ain’t no more me and Ahnika,” terse, his expression hardened, “seems I’m more trouble than she’s willin’ to take on,” coldly sardonic.

He doesn’t jerk away or try to avoid Jaya taking his stubbled chin in hand, but he does look away, avoiding her gaze for a moment as a frown forms and he swallows. “Everythin’ and nothin’,” Max finally gives somewhat cryptically on things not being how he’d hoped they might, disappointment, hurt and shadows of other things darken his eyes. Inhaling slowly, a sigh is exhaled and he pulls away reaching once again for his drink, his tone carrying a hard edge now, “What’s changed?” a rough sound of hollow amusement echoes into his glass as he drains the last of his drink. Setting the glass down with a thunk to the counter, “I have. Enough to know that playin’ a round of happy families ain’t in the cards for me. Hope don’t want nothin’ to do with me and apparently I’m a sorry bastard when it comes to women. So, now you know what a fuck-up I am, you gonna give me another drink or am I goin’ to need to pull the boss card on you?” Attempt made to turn the conversation away from his personal failures.

Jaya drinks to that too, and she was about to follow that up until Max makes the connection between Shijan and Sego. She almost chokes on her drink, her pause evident enough for an answer even if she doesn’t respond right away. She meets his gaze in the pause, frowning a bit before she says, “You and your mother really, really need to talk more.” Then she returns to her drink, though it’s more thoughtful onto his next words regarding the boy and women. She nods to that as she sets her glass down, “I got that feeling, too. It’s why I wanted to help them. Sego. The lands should be a choice, not something to be thrusted upon a child.” She leans heavily on the counter then, thinking over her own words until Max drops news on his relationship that she wasn’t expected to hear. Dark eyes snap up at him, the shock evident in them as she looks the southern crimelord over for a long moment. At first she’s not sure what to say, the woman shaking her head a bit before tentatively put out there, “Over? Trouble? What do you mean? What happened?”

Since Max doesn’t pull away from her touch to his chin, Jaya holds to his chin firmly to try and get his attention. She seems to drink his expressions in, his cryptic words causing her to straighten and pull her hand away as he reaches for his drink. “Until now, Hope’s father was the Lord Tillek, shuga,” she says low, almost gently as she levels herself to his eye level. “You’re going to have to give her some time to get used to you.” Looking grim on his self-deprecation, “You’re hardly a fuck-up, Max. You know as that as well as I do.” Instead of him pulling the boss card on her, she lingers her gaze on him before straightening again and moving to refilling his glass. While doing so, her eyes away from him, “Start from the beginning, Max.” Clearly she didn’t like to hear him talk about himself in that way, and the barkeep wanted to get to the bottom of it as she passes over a filled glass his way.

His suspicions confirmed by Jaya’s reaction, a wry smile and a shake of head is given, ‘It ain’t about us not talkin’, Jaya. What we do, Ma and me…it has to be on a need to basis, aye? But considerin’ what you two got goin’ on personal like and how you’re involved with what I’m doin’,” his northern accent coming thick and strong, “I reckon it’s time Ma and me had a talk about that man of yours.” Max lifts a brow when she then makes use of the word ‘them’ in relation to having helped Sego and he goes quiet a moment before putting forth cautiously, “That somethin’ you think the two of you might want to get into? Reachin’ out to the young un’s out there in the lands?” Not mocking in any way, in fact he seems to be sincere in his questioning. However when Jaya then questions him about Ahnika his expression once again hardens and lips thin as his hand tightens about his glass, “Let’s just say she seemed to like the beast manager more’n the crimelord and leave it at that, aye?”

A simple nod is all that greets her words about giving Hope time, however there’s no denying the frustration in the young crimelord’s expression. “Aye, time,” he gives in flat tone. And then a rough sound of hollow amusement barks out to his not being a fuck-up, “Do I know that? Face it; I ain’t exactly got the best track record, darlin’. Fucked over by that bitch of a woman because I couldn’t keep my dick in my pants,” a finger lifts, “fought in Rad’s rings not because I had to, but because I fuckin’ liked it!” Another finger lifts soon joined by another, “Ran out on my kid before she was even born because I’d pissed off the wrong people. Seduced an innocent,” Ahnika, “on purpose for my own selfish reasons and then sold her on an impossible dream and ended up doin’ wrong by her because of choices I made,” becoming crimelord of the southern continent. Four fingers now held up and here his mouth twists as a fifth joins it, “And let’s not forget how I fucked you over, aye?” A slow shake of head and he knocks back the contents of his glass and stands, both hands set palm down on the counter, “Kids are smarter’n adults. Seems to me Hope’s got more savvy than her old man and knows when to steer clear of trouble,” namely him. Quieter now as some of the heat fades from his tone, “She’s got Ma, and Ahni’s got Jhath, they don’t need me.”

“But you’re crimelord now,” Jaya points out as if she knows the makings of one. “’Need-to-know’ basis might bite you in the ass badly one day.” She grins some on his deciding to talk on Shijan with Indira, but it slips free when he talks about the possibility of helping out the holdless kids. One could tell that thoughts didn’t ever cross her mind, but it did now by the ensuing silence. Idly bringing the glass to her lips, “Reaching out in what way exactly?” she asks, considering. Then she watches his face close up on the matter of Ahnika, choosing to not yet say anything despite the fact that her concern on the matter is there and plain.

“Time,” Jaya repeats it, easy with her pointed look. “Children are like canines in some ways, you know. Takes time for a canine to get to know you. It’s not something instant, shuga. What you can do for Hope right now is be a continuing presence in her life. Show her the attention she deserves, right? Hear children respond to that.” She wouldn’t know, really. She falls silent with Max goes through his list, frowning more at the last one checked off before she leans forward with one finger lifting up in counter. “One, that bitch of a lady was the fuck-up, not you,” she tells him firmly. “You can’t control rotten women, or whether they become so or not. Two,” and another finger joins the first, “ain’t nothing wrong with fighting in those rings, but I’m of a partial voice to them. Fighting don’t make you fucked, Max. You did what was necessary at the time. Three,” and another finger lifts, “what would have happened if you snatched your daughter away from Lady Tillek, hm? You think the Lord Holder would be sympathetic then? You’d be in worse trouble if you did. He could well have gotten you listed, and then you would have guards on your ass to haul you off to the mines for kidnapping. Then you’d never see her again once you’re in the mines,” and the thought of the mines makes her shudder a little. “You made a tough decision, Max, but in the end it was the right one.” She pauses on the ‘innocent’ point, however, not comprehending. In the pause, she chooses to address the one involving her first. Her gaze drops onto her drink, “I fucked you, and I wanted you,” she admits low. “Those feelings hadn’t gone away,” and she meets his gaze squarely then, “despite everything. You owed me nothing, shuga. I…was in a bad place back then and may have reacted more than I should. That was my fuck-up. Not yours.” Beat. “As to Ahnika,” she continues, it clicking on who the ‘innocent’ was, “we all have choices. She has hers like you do. It was necessary for you to become crimelord here, to protect the lot of us. Dreams are all well and good, but then there’s reality.” Her lips firming, “She made her choice to stand, and she Impressed,” she notes, nodding once. “I can imagine that was something you didn’t wager on. It’s tough to get involved with a dragonrider, from what S’las tells me. Did you think things would be easy, Max? Even if you were still just a beast manager, did you think you could accept all that went with her being a greenrider?” Dark eyes bore into him then in the silence, willing her serious words. She speaks as herself, not as the bar owner to a patron. His last gets a cool, “You’re wrong. You are more needed than you know, and I won’t hear such talk.” Pause. “If you’re such a fuck-up, then why am I still here?” she drops the words coldly, eyes narrowing at him in demand for him to answer. ‘Here’ being the Weyr, by the way she flicks a gesture about them with one hand. “Why would I trust you so?” knowing full well how hard-won it was to get her trust in the first place.

“Aye,” Max concedes to not being in the know on something perhaps coming back to bite him in the ass one day, “but because of my standin’ now, it might also be the difference between someone’s safety or not, if I don’t know.” Six of one, half a dozen of the other. On the matter of the holdless children wandering about without any to look out for them, he gives a simple shrug, “Dunno, darlin’. That would be up to you. Find folk willin’ to foster ‘em and deal with all that goes with that. Maybe put together some kinda halfway stop where they know they can go to be fed, clothed and sleep safe?” putting forth suggestions as he muses out loud. “But first, the two of you,” a nod going in Shijan’s direction, “need to be on the same page, aye?” In other words, talk it over and get back to him.

On the matter of trying to reach out to his daughter, a soft sigh of understanding spills out, “Like a spooked runner. Aye, I get it.” However, as Jaya takes him to task on the shortcomings he’d listed, Max’s expression turns heavily guarded and a muscle starts to tick in his jaw. He does however do her the courtesy of listening without interjection, toying with his empty glass as he does so. That is until she comes to the point he’d made about her and him and his head jerks up, dark regard capturing hers with an intent look. “Jaya…that…ain’t fair,” tone low and laced through with an odd note as he looks away without adding anything more on a somewhat dangerous topic. The silence that ensues after her words about him and Ahnika has the young crimelord uttering a frustrated sound, “Easy? Fuck no. But I sure as shit didn’t expect her to bail the first time things got a little tough!” As to Ahnika being a greenrider and all that goes with that his jaw tightens, “You don’t always get to choose who you fall in love with, Jaya. But I woulda stuck around.” He quietly makes pointed note of. “But it’s neither here nor there now, aye? What’s done is done. I’m through tryin’ to make right only to have it thrown back in my face.” Wounded pride woven into the hard edge that creeps back into his voice. It’s Jaya’s last that initially leaves Max without response, simply shaking his head slowly before his eyes lift to her once again, “I don’t know why you trust me, Jaya,” quiet. Pushing away from the bar slightly now as if he plans on leaving, “You got a bottle to go?” His version of take-out.

“If you don’t know, then how are you going to protect them?” Jaya asks quietly in interjection. She falls into contemplative silence when Max lays out the possibilities of helping those holdless children about, his words resonating. She doesn’t give him any indication on whether she decides to the task or not, something that she will, indeed, speak with Shijan on. She does nod on spooked runners, watching the crimelord intently as some of her words filter through to him. Reaching out as if to briefly place her hand over his own, “She’ll come around, your daughter,” she tells him, sounding pretty confident about it. “She’s where she ought to be now. Just give her, and yourself, a chance to adjust, shuga.” Max looks strained now at her honest confession, the Bitran woman not one to look away and appear awkward. No, she looks awkward situations straight in the face, even when she shouldn’t. “Ain’t fair,” she agrees on that, knowing full well why, and in that is why her voice is kept low and leveled, “but it’s the truth. Thought after a time, I’d forget you, but…” and there’s a shrug, mechanical. “Us Dicori women aren’t simple sorts with our hearts,” she admits at bit wryly. “Beddie’s taught me that more than anyone.” She leaves it at that, straightening to drain her glass once Max pushes away. The matter on Ahnika gets a grave “If you love her so, then perhaps it can be salvaged?” she asks, watching him. “Is it really that bad?” There was nothing on the grapevine that said otherwise, though she never heard of them breaking up until now. “What did she say?” she asks then in curiosity. His answer on her trust gets a grave “I trust you because you make sacrifices.” Meeting his gaze, “Where I come from, folks only care for themselves. That’s what I’m used to and yet… you and Keane sacrificed your own safeties to ensure mine. That’s more valuable than marks, shuga. That was why you convinced me to stay here.” Chin lifting, “That is why you choose to be crimelord here.” Beat. “Because no one else can.” She lets that sink in for a moment, and only then does she look away by bending and retrieving a bottle from below. Setting it on the counter, “Don’t drink it all in one place,” she tells him wryly, oddly watching him with guarded concern and held respect for his position.

“Ain’t given it much thought ‘til you told me ‘bout that Sego kid you and Shijan pulled from the docks,” honesty in his words, “You’ve given me somethin’ to think on though.” Max doesn’t pull his hand away in fact he turns his over and gives hers a light squeeze, the gesture likely saying more about the appreciation felt for her concern and words than he can adequately put into words right now. Only when Jaya speaks so directly about them does he slide his hand slowly out from under hers, dark eyes burning into hers before he gives a shake of head as if to clear his mind. Faint regret strung into his gruff tone, “Don’t make no matter now, does it darlin’? We made our choices you and I.” A quick flick of eyes goes sidelong in pointed manner to where her bodyguard is watching the interaction between the two without seeming to do so.

As to Ahnika there’s another shake of head and he gives quietly, “Sometimes love ain’t enough.” The hard truth of that still sticks in his throat. “She’s got it in her head that I trust the word of those in the brotherhood more’n hers and that my position here in southern means more to me than her.” Frustration leaks into his tone and then he exhales a heavy sigh, a hand lifting to palm over his face, “She don’t wanna hear that she’s got it all wrong and I reckon nothin’ short of my givin’ up bein’ crimelord here, is gonna satisfy her.” There Max’s chin lifts and that same hard expression falls into place, “And that, ain’t gonna happen. There’s too many Sego’s and Olira’s out there for me to do so.” This likely simply entrenches Jaya’s words on the sacrifices he’s made and will continue to make to ensure the safety of others. He however doesn’t see it like that but rather more as his duty and simply doing what he’d been trained to do whether astride a dragon or not. And so her words on how he’d earned her trust are met with a wry smile his saying nothing in response. One hand closes about the bottle produced and he lifts it in salute, “See why you’re my favourite barkeep?” A wink comes from out of a weary expression and then Max turns toward the door and starts to head out. Pausing midway he flicks a glance from Shijan to Jaya, encompassing them both in his next words, “Be kind to each other.” And then he’s gone.

“That’s the name of the game,” come unbidden to Jaya’s lips on making choices, meeting that burning gaze unflinchingly. “It’s not her place to ask that of you,” she notes on his giving up being crimelord, the woman shaking her head slowly. “Those Sego’s and Olira’s out there need a place of solace. Ain’t many places out there that show kindness like Keane would.” She moves to take up both glasses now, setting to washing them out when Max speaks on her being his favorite. There’s a fond smile there, though her tone is dry along with her words: “I’m the only barkeep that puts up with you, shuga.” Beat. “You take care of yourself, Max,” she adds soberly as he leaves, her eyes going thoughtfully towards Shijan when he does. “You know where to find me.” And then she lets out her breath and makes a show of returning to closing up her bar for the night.


30 Seconds To Mars - A Beautiful Lie


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