From Bad To Worse


Max.jpg Ahnika.jpg

Date: 21.03.2011
Location: EW - Feeding Pens
Synopsis: Max and Ahnika face each other after the disastrous attempt to celebrate their joint turnday and things go from bad to worse.
Rating: PG18 - Language
Logger: Max

Two sevens have gone by since the disastrous non-celebration of joint turndays and its not that Max has deliberately been avoiding Ahnika so much as rather trying to give them both some time and space to figure out where their heads are at. Or at least, that would be the reasoning behind his careful avoidance of the feeding pens and any other area he might be likely to run into the greenrider, were he to be pressed on the matter.

And so it is that late afternoon, a time when the feeding pens are generally free of draconic visitors, that the beast manager is to be found at the uppermost end of the fenced off area, engaging in a task usually reserved for the lower ranking stablehands. With his hat pulled down low over his eyes, stripped to the waist, tanned skin glistening with sweat, the muscles in his back and arms ripple with each swing of the axe. A grunt punctuates each thud, the blade echoing the dull headache throbbing behind his eyes as he works.

Arriving for her daily meal, Jhath swoops in for a smoother, running landing outside the feeding pen fence. With her is her rider, who unstraps and slides down her neck, shoulder and leg to the ground with a bit more practiced grace than previously. As is required, Ahni is in her riding leathers this warm late afternoon. She removes her cap and goggles and gloves as soon as she is on the ground, though, tucking them into her belt. It might hug her figure enough to accentuate her curves in a flattering way, but it's damnably hot and uncomfortable and it shows. The wisps of loose hair around her face that are not swept into her braided bun at the back of her head all cling to her skin around her hairline, looking darker for the sweat there. Her face and neck hold that same perspiring sheen which likely only makes the fair-skinned young woman's freckled face stand out all the more from her darker-hued leathers. The tall green dragon checks the feeding pen for persons who might be harmed by the unsettled herdbeasts and then with leave given by her rider, Jhath does a winged hop over the fence and gets to selecting her meal for the day. Ahnika, herself, seeks the shade of one of the nearest trees from her position, hoping for some respite from the sun while in her leathers, and notes Max's presence as she heads over to a particularly shady tree. She doesn't interrupt his work yet, though. Setting down on the ground with her back against the tree, she seems more inclined to watch and admire those rippling muscles, the same ones that captured her attention the first day she met him. With a wistful sigh, she draws her legs up to rest her arm across her knees while the fingers of her other hand fidget with stalks of grass down by her side.

Working high enough up in the feeding pen that he’s not in any danger of getting squished by an incoming dragon, Max is initially somewhat oblivious to the arrival of the greenpair. It’s the stirring and lowing of the herdbeast down below when the dragon breeches the fence line that catches his attention. Wiping a forearm across his eyes, he straightens, attention narrowing onto the green. Once identified as being Jhath a heavy frown, hidden under the brim of his hat fits into place and his gaze sweeps the area below him for her rider only to find Ahnika staring back at him from under a tree. For a long moment he remains where he is, his dark regard fixed to the redhead and then with another powerful swing of the axe he sets it to the chopping block, pulls his work gloves from his hands and starts to make his way down to where she is being careful to keep clear of the hunting green.

Old enough to hunt for herself and even fly with Ahni, yet young enough to still enjoy making a game out of it, Jhath takes her time in selecting her prey from the herd in a playful, but likely still terrifying manner, toying with them as a cat might toy with a mouse. There's a few warbles and bugles, hisses and snapping of jaws, but otherwise, Jhath is not terribly disruptive, and even though she likely knows Max is on approach to Ahni - through the bond with her if nothing else - she seems content to keep to the business of selecting her meal for the time being. Ahnika, on the other hand, draws her legs in a little closer as she realizes Max is coming toward her. She brings her other arm up to rest across her knees with the first one, but maintains her position there under the tree. Neither, it should be noted, does she stiffen or tense as he gets closer. She remains relatively relaxed and lounging there in the shade of the tree. When he comes within speaking range that doesn't require shouting, she remains silent, watching him with heavy, brooding grey eyes.

Given his line of work, the legitimate one, he’s quite used to the proclivities of hunting dragons young and old and so Max sends the green little more than a passing glance as he draws closer to the fence line. Yeah, the chances are good he’s still a little pissed off with Jhath. The gate latched firmly behind him, his steps slow as he closes the rest of the distance between himself and the redhead and then they halt altogether a few feet shy of where Ahnika has situated herself. Lifting a hand, a thumb tilts his hat a little further back from his face and then arms fold across his chest, his expression unreadable save for the guarded look in his eyes. And there he remains, silent for a good long while before he breaks it to state low, “We need to talk.”

Ahnika follows him with her eyes, not a challenging look, but neither is it a cowed look. If anything, she probably looks tired, hot, and not feeling at her most comfortable. She doesn't break the look exchanged even as he stands there in silence. She sits there in silence looking right back at him. When he finally speaks, she nods, but says nothing.

When Ahnika continues to say nothing, even for giving her silent agreement that they need to talk, Max exhales a sigh as arms unfold and hands set to his hips. Staring off into the distance for a moment his gaze swings back to her again, tone still held low, “Do you still love me?” And then his expression guards in anticipation of a reply he doesn’t want to hear, dark eyes watching every nuance of her body language in the silence that might form as he awaits her answer.

For a moment, Ahnika blinks and hesitates, looking confused, since that wasn't what she was expecting to come out of his mouth. "Yes," she says after a moment, her confused expression smoothing out to one of calm once more as she looks up at him in front of her. She doesn't elaborate or say anything else for the time being, just looks up at him.

Max gives a short acknowledging dip of head and then lets another spell of silence wash out before he inhales to speak again, his hat shadowed face betraying little of what might be going on in his mind. "Then why do you keep doing it, Baby? Why tell me you're finished with me every time we get into an argument?" confusion and hurt slipping briefly into his tone, "I ain't never spoken to you like that, ain't never told you to go fuck yourself, or someone else for that matter, or called us done. Shards, I ain't never walked out on you neither and yet Jhath slaps me upside the head for abandoning you." Here a heavy sigh exhales and he hunkers down before her, dark eyes seeking grey out, "I love you, Baby. I just…you can't keep doing that, Ahni. We're gonna piss each other off. That's a given, but if we have any hope of this, of us, working? Then you gotta stay and work it out, aye? You gotta help me understand." No accusation in his tone, simply a deep weariness derived from sleepless nights spent tossing and turning. "Unless…" and here his gaze drops, not wanting to see the truth reflected in her eyes, "you're having second thoughts…about us."

The calm Ahnika had been wearing on her features is immediately wiped away with his inflammatory rhetoric and it shows. Bristling visibly, Ahnika's jaw works a bit as her gaze hardens on him, "That's some apology." Despite her dander being up again, her voice comes across cool and soft, not yelling. Neither is she getting up. Yet. "I never told you I was finished with you. You asked me if I was done, and I said I was. I never said it was you. You should know by now that I need space when we're arguing and you say something hurtful. You want me to stay and work it out? How can I when you keep putting me down? I'm not some Lady Holder who will just let her Lord Holder walk all over her and disrespect her, treating her little more than a breeding bovine, or a child who doesn't understand the work that is meant supposedly only for men to do. But if you insist on treating me like this, Max, it won't matter how much I still love you. It hurts. I can and will only stand it for so long. I wasn't having second thoughts about us, but with this? The way you're coming to me now? Yes, now I am. It seems like that new line of work you're in is taking over all of your priorities, and it's all-consuming and is more important than anything and anyone else in your life. That's becoming abundantly clear and it's starting to make me think you're not the same Max I fell in love with." The last comes out in a rasped admission, and for a moment she blinks rapidly, trying to keep the tears at bay.

As Ahnika's gaze hardens and those first words fall out of her mouth, Max lifts a brow, disbelief starting to write itself across his features. Slowly he stands from that hunkered down position he'd taken to in front of her and is able to do little but stare at her, dumbfounded, his mind in turmoil for somehow or another, he's cocked up again and…he has absolutely no idea how. Standing quiet, his jaw sets into a tight line as he drives down whatever hurt and anger her words have caused him, and then he finally responds with a small shake of head, "I'm…not sure how I've hurt you, Baby," quietly though truthfully spoken, "or…where I've treated you like anything less than my equal but know this, there ain't nothing more important in my life than you, Little Bit and Ma and if you can't see that then…" one shoulder rolls in the idea of a helpless shrug. Dropping silent dark eyes fix to those rapidly blinking grey eyes, wanting to say something, anything to take away her pain and make things right but fearing that he'll simply make matters worse by opening his mouth to do so.

Shaking her head, Ahni gives a little sniff, looking sad and weary, "I used to believe that, Max, but now I'm not so sure. Actions speak louder than words, and if you trust your criminal cohorts more than you do me, and you're more interested in giving me a slap on the wrist and then dismissing it without even asking me what happened, assuming that what Kelarad told you was true, then it's clear where your priorities lie, and they don't lie with me. Accusing me of trying to set you up to get stabbed in the back, Max? How do you think that'd make me feel? Like dancing a jig?" She exhales a bit, blinking hard, "I thought if you apologized … maybe …" she shrugs her shoulders as her voice drifts off, and she puts her gaze past him on Jhath enjoying her caught meal, "I suppose it's to be expected. You're changing into a different man with these new responsibilities and I've changed with Jhath. I just thought maybe … with us …" She pushes to her feet and sniffs, looking back at Max, "It doesn't matter what I thought though. You've made your choice. Don't worry, Max," her voice hardening bitterly, "I won't get in your way of your criminal empire anymore. You don't have to worry about that ever again."

And still, Max remains silent, frustration starting to show across his features as his jaw tightens further. Taking a step in closer to Ahnika as she stands, he pins an intent look onto her. "You never gave me a chance to properly explain myself, Ahnika, or to hear you out for that matter. You decided I was being a self-righteous bastard taking his word over yours, got your tail in a spin and…left. Had you stayed? You mighta seen that I actually wanted to hear from you what had happened. To hear your perspective both of Kelarad and the situation. Did I choose the worst possible time to bring it up and then shove both my boots in my mouth when I did? More'n likely, and for that I am sorry. I ain't no harper, darlin', I'm a fucking beast manager tryin' to do right by my girls," all three of them, "and those that look to me, trusting me to keep 'em safe. But" and here he takes a step back again, "now that it's startin' to get a little harder, now when I need you more than ever, it seems you've decided that it ain't worth it." The bitterness in her tone along with those words she delivers at the end has Max needing to turn his face away lest she see just how deeply she's cut into him. When his regard returns to her there's no denying the pain in his eyes, too great for him to be able to adequately disguise it when she seems to be calling it quits. He'd pull her into his arms but given the snide comment she'd slapped him with down in the clearing at Landing regarding cuddling and fucking, he's not about to set himself up for more of the same. And then his voice drops low, laced with deep regret for just how badly screwed up things seem to have gotten, as he takes another step backward, "I'll always worry about you and watch over you, Ahnika." Here he lifts a hand and touches two fingers to the brim of his hat as he gives in tight and formal tone, "Good day to you, ma'am." Yeah, he knows when he's not wanted. And unless she stops him, he'll start to head back up toward the chopping block, a seemingly fitting place for him to be right now.

Ahni snarls angrily as he starts to turn away, "Are you fucking kidding me, Max? You accused me of trying to get you stabbed in the back and then dismissed the whole thing by starting to walk into the tavern!! Just when were you going to ask me what happened? When we were sitting down to eat with your mother? You're the one who dismissed it out of turn without giving me a chance and now you're realizing you fucked up and trying to make it out to be my fault because the truth is you don't want to lose your new throne. You'd rather have that than my love. Nara was right about you, about all men. And you're sharding right it's not worth it! No man is worth being treated the way you treated me that day and the way you're treating me now. You're only proving your insincerity. I'm only grateful I found out your true colors now, Lomaxin." The name she's never used with him before, and she's using it now. "Save your worry and eyes for your criminal cronies! They obviously need it more than I do, and it's obvious that it's where your heart truly lies anyway." With that, she heads off in the direction of the bowl, while Jhath looks up briefly from her partially eaten meal and then launches skyward, moving in a direction to intercept her angry and hurt rider once she's past the treeline.

Stopping in his tracks Max turns, the last shreds of his control stripped away by that snarl and words coming from Ahnika, hurt morphed into palpable anger. “No,” he growls out low, “I made a bad fucking attempt at trying to lighten the situation to avoid just exactly this!” the all out argument that his ill humour about being stabbed in the back had now devolved into. “And I was hoping,” stalking a step closer, “that just maybe you’d see it that way and that we could talk about it afterwards like two adults. Guess I was wrong to ever think that would be possible. Did I fuck up?” a bark of self-deprecating laughter sounds out, “Ain’t no doubt about that because that’s what I always do, ain’t it? Fuck up!” Snatching his hat from his head a forearm wipes across his brow as he tries to reel his anger back in but to no avail as he utters a rough snort, “Figured it was only a matter of time before you slapped me with that,” his new position down in the south, “So I tell you what, you take your highly principled dragonriding ass off and go play with your high and mighty dragonriding mates and leave the dirty work to us no good criminal types, aye?” Finally trading insult for insult where before he’d remained quiet and refrained from doing so. When Ahnika heads off, he moves as if to try and cut her off, not about to let her storm off again. But then Jhath lifts up from the feeding pens and despite his anger and hurt, he’s not prepared to tangle with the dragon too. And so…he lets her go, glaring after the departing redhead before turning to head back toward the beast caverns instead of the task he’d been engaged in when the green pair had landed.

Linkin Park - Faint

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