King Passes Queen's Knight


Ahnika.jpg Max.jpg

Date: 11/4/10 (IC: The same night after Not The Bad Guy)
Location: EW: Beast Cavern - Max's Office
Synopsis: Ahnika comes looking for Max in his office, wanting to welcome him back and find out how the trip went. Max drops the big shoe about laying claim to the southern continent as its renegade lord and king, so to speak, in an attempt to keep the rougher players out and up north. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, Ahnika is okay with it. Jhath too.
Rating: PG-13
Logger: Ahnika

Later into the night has the beast caverns at their usual state of earthy peace and quiet. The door to the beast manager's stall stands slightly ajar with just the dim lighting of a glowbasket emanating from it. Inside, the only remaining evidence of the temper explosion of earlier might be Max's clothing strewn about his personal area with the beast manager now wearing little else but a pair of dark drawstring trousers and laid flat on his back on his mattress. Despite the pillow held over his face with arms crossed over it, the leg he has drawn up would likely indicate he's not sleeping so much as shutting out the world. The thumb tapping against his arm in rapid motion, only movement from the man aside from the rise and fall of his chest.

Coming from one of her late night “discreet” visits to the Infirmary, Ahnika is knotless and looking as non-descript s possible in her “Pheenie” guise as she enters the beast caverns proper, trying to be quiet so as not to disturb the animals, but trying to make enough noise so as not to startle Max, or Waine, or anyone else along the way. She presses lightly on the door to move it open enough for her to see inside, squinting in the dim light as she moves in a few steps before calling out in a hushed whisper, “Max?”

Upon hearing the sound of footfalls and then the door to his office being pushed open, Max's voice comes muffled from under the pillow, "Just put it on the desk." Obviously having being expecting someone. That is until Ahnika speaks his name. Arms unfold from over the pillow and a corner of it is lifted up, the edge of weary smile pulling out as the beast manger rolls up into a sitting position. "Hey baby," and although there's warmth in both tone and eyes as he pats the mattress next to him, there's a shadow cast about the man's features which has little to do with the ever present stubble.

Ahnika is only fleetingly stalled at the mention of something put on the desk. When he invites her to join him with the pat on the mattress, she does so without hesitation, though does warn, “Jhath’s awake,” as she approaches. She bends down to brush her lips lightly across his, “Welcome home.” And then she settles on the mattress beside him, “I won’t stay long,” likely for a combination of factors, not the least of which is Jhath being awake. “You seem tired, too. I’m sorry I couldn’t get away before now. How was the trip, my Heart?” The last as asked as she curls up against his side affectionately and warm.

A wry smile disappears behind Max meeting that brush of lips to his with the announcement of Jhath still being awake. Drawing away both hands lift upward and away from himself slightly, "Ain't gonna throw you down and have my way with you, baby." His grin the tiniest bit lecherous despite the weariness. "Aye," quietly stated to being tired, "It was…an eventful few days," he chooses as a response on the trip up to Telgar, wrapping an arm about Ahnika as she curls up against him. Tipping his head sideways to lean it against hers, he goes quiet for a while and then asks, "You been seeing the Healers?" Of course he was going to ask.

“More’s the pity,” Ahnika states flatly in a rare moment of witty amusement to Max’s first. She leans in against him, one arm wrapping around the back of his waist and the other resting on his thigh, flat and still (not rubbing or anything). “Mmm,” she says softly, “Eventful.” It’s a prompt, but she’s more than a little tired herself and so it could be unclear. A lot of the excitement of having him back home washes some of the fatigue in her expression that is much more readily apparent in his, it seems. “Yes, just came from the Infirmary, actually, which is why Jhath isn’t with me and I don’t have my knot on. All is well on that front, my Love.” She doesn’t do any more prompting on Telgar than she already has, expecting him to tell her about the trip in his own time.

With a crooked grin attaching to his mouth, Max presses a kiss against the side of her head, meant as a gesture of understanding on that witty comment of hers. The prompt in her tone is heard but he responds to answer of his question put to her first, "That's my girl." Approving rather than condescending. Silence stretches out, with the beast manager savouring the simple contact of having Ahnika curled in against him and her arm about his waist, drawing a sense of soothing from it. Finally with a long sigh, he turns his head slightly in an attempt to try and capture her eyes, his own troubled, "I think…I might have done something really stupid." Not a confession one is ever likely to hear too often from the man as he questions the decision taken while up in the north. One that is now far too late to try and reverse.

Ahnika smiles warmly at the kiss to her head and closes her eyes. Like him, she is relishing the moment of close contact, even snuggling a little more comfortably and warmly against him as the silence stretches out. She says nothing to his praise, but does smile a little more, and it is as he turns his head that she feels it and lifts her own to open her eyes and look into his. Her brow furrows a little with the comment and there is a lingering frown to the corner of her lips, but it is all brief, and then her expression smoothes to one meant to be reassuring. She leans in for another simple brush to his lips and murmurs softly, “Tell me all, Love. We’ll deal with it. I’m sure it’s not ‘really’ stupid. Really stupid would be you not coming back at all, or Jaya getting captured or killed.” She knows that much from the brown who delivered them there and back again to be able to say so confidently. “We can fix it, if it needs fixing at all,” implying she does have confidence in him, believes in him.

Studying Ahnika's expression intently for a moment, wariness in his own, Max meets that brush of lips, his own lingering longer for the solace he seems to find there and then briefly leans his forehead against hers. A sigh spills out before he draws away, his hand moving to rest over hers on his thigh, thumb idly brushing back and forth as he frowns down at it. And slowly he starts to speak, "When we got up there, it was as Jaya had said," with Keane having been beaten and Olira violated, "except that…Kelarad's men were already there." Pausing for the unexpectedness of that encounter, "Any way, as you can imagine, they challenged us," and he challenged Crawl, but that's neither here nor there right now. Inhaling and then exhaling a long breath, "Long story short. Crawl, sent a messenger out to find his boss and then Rad showed up the next day. Recognized me," or more to the point the name he'd given out that he'd fought under, "Called a meeting wanting to know why we were up there, why we wanted to take his cousin away with us and how I intended paying my debt to him." Here the beast manager pauses and goes off on a slightly different track, "Baby, there's big shit brewing up north. What Vaput did to Rad's cousin that's…not going to end well. They," the northern renegades, "have…had," correcting himself with another frown, "this idea that the South is free and open to any one of them to lay claim to which would bring all kinds of crap down here that will make Jinnet look like child's play…so…I sort of…made out as if it were already under someone's control…mine." And there's the kicker.

Ahnika remains quiet as she listens and while his forehead rests against hers, she tightens her arm a little more around his back comfortingly. Her gaze is cast to the floor, with her head resting against his in that pose, but those grey eyes do stay opened. Her expression remains mostly unchanged until he mentions ‘Crawl’ and then her eyebrows come together again in confusion, briefly, before smoothing once more to listen in silence again. Her eyebrows shoot upward in mild surprise at something or another of what he said, but it, too, is fleeting as she gathers it all in and begins to process it in the only way a would-be headwoman might. Finally she nods, but the gesture is gently done on account of his head being against hers, and then she exhales a breath, but it’s done much the same way a headwoman might do when sitting down to a desk full of hides and administrative duties ahead of her, filling up her day—somewhat daunted at the tasks and workload ahead, but not disgusted or dismayed. If there’s any ire or frustration or worry, however, she doesn’t express it, either. Instead, she says simply, “I see,” and then asks in a rather businesslike tone, edged only with a bit of reassuring warmth, “Rad is Kelarad, yes? Who is this Crawl?” Did she not hear him? He just told her that he’s pretty much claimed himself crimelord of the entire Southern continent. And she’s simply asking for clarification of the players involved? Yep. That’s Ahni.

Drawing away from that lean of his forehead against hers, Max nods to Rad being one and the same as Kelarad, his tone emotionless through the next, "Aye. Crawl's his right hand man. Bit of a prick," that last muttered, "but I think that's because there's something between him and Olira," pausing and then adding for clarification on another new name given out, "Rad's cousin. The woman we brought back with us." His hand moves off of Ahni and scrubs through his hair in frustrated gesture, likely because he thinks she doesn't seem to understand what he'd just revealed at the end with regards to crime lords and the part he now plays in it. With a sharp exhale, "Rad gave me Tillek's alliance for the South and…will be coming down here to see how…I run things," a self-derisive twist of mouth for that and then frowning as he turns slightly to face the redhead, "Baby, this means that…my name and face is right up there with the rest of the shit bags that run the north now. I'm expected to attend peace gathers with them and…" his jaw tightens slightly, "do whatever is necessary to protect my turf," the air quotes audible in a tone still laced with self mockery, "from any that would seek to try and overthrow me." Thus having put himself and possibly the Weyr and those close to him, in a direct line of fire should someone ever make such a bid. With his gaze falling away from her and settling to the floor somewhere he gives low spoken at the end, "I just didn't know what else to do to keep them away from here."

Ahnika, perhaps oddly, doesn’t freak out as Max draws away from her or lifts his head away from where it rested against hers. Her attention remains on the floor, silent as he speaks and explains further, and her mind already starting to churn over the impact and the consequences and plans and so forth in a very much calm and practical manner. What’s done is done. You can’t change the past. Why beat yourself up over it? Why dwell? Looking forward, anticipating needs, that’s Ahnika’s motto. “Hmm,” is all she says at first, and then she stands up, studying the floor as she paces a few steps away. “Hmm,” she says again, thoughtfully, and paces back before pivoting and pacing off in another direction. This is big. This is a bigger problem than she’s used to solving. Not that Max has asked her to solve it, but this is Ahnika we’re talking about. She exhales a long, slow breath and leans her butt up against the edge of his desk and in a soft, her hands resting on the edge on either side of her hips, and in a calm voice finally asks, “Is this what you want?” It seems absurd a question, really, so Ahnika clarifies, “To be the head guy down here for the seedier element? I can’t help you with this unless I know exactly what will make you happy, what you’re looking for, what you want to get out of this. What is your main objective? Your priority? Are you comfortable with running things? With being the face like you say? If you’re going to lose sleep every night because you’re worried who is going to come in and stab you in the back in your bed, Max, then we’ll come up with a plan for you not to be in charge, but with the Northern bosses still too timid to encroach on the territory … I dunno,” and casually tosses it out there, “A fictitious head crime lord here, one who is so dangerous, no one knows what he looks like, while you’re really running things otherwise. But if you’re satisfied with this turn, if you want to do it because you think it will help you reach and help more people and can live with the risks and consequences without losing a wink of sleep over it, then I’ll support your decision, and we’ll work out the details,” we being her and Jhath and Max, together, like a family, “to keep it as safe for everyone as possible, including yourself. But I can’t help work things out if you’re only going to be sharding miserable and feeling stuck. So, I got to know, Max, is this how you want it?” Now she lifts her gaze up to regard him from the few paces away, her expression serious, sobering.

When Ahnika stands, hmm’ing as she does, Max’s frame stiffens and his jaw tightens, likely expecting more of the same of what he’d gotten from Randi but he remains exactly where he is, knees drawing up and arms coming to encircle them loosely. However as she launches into problem solving mode, a brow goes up and he fits her with an unreadable expression. Shoulders twitch in a shrug to the query on this being what he wants, “Too late to back out now, baby. What’s done is done.” And then a frown forms, “No, I don’t want to be that fucking guy,” the head of the underbelly of Southern, “but I also don’t want to see some dirtbag coming down here and throwing his weight around and making things worse…” words trail as the redhead shoots question after question at him until eventually the beast manager is palming a hand over his face and staring mutely at her. Finally, “Look, I ain’t happy about none of this. But it’s the way of things and there ain’t nothing you or I can do to change that,” that being the more unpleasant side of life, “All I want, is to know that this continent remains what it is, a safe haven to those wanting to start over. And if this is what I gotta do to keep it that way then…that’s what I’ll do.” Looking away and down at his bare feet, lips press into a frown, “Don’t give a fuck what they try on me…” brows joining into that frown as he slowly lifts his head again and sets her with a long look, “more worried about how my doing this might spill over onto you…and the Weyr.” Silent a moment and then he adds, “Randi’s already having bitch fits and accusing me of bringing trouble to the Weyr. Trouble I ain’t even had a hand in.” A slightly pained expression slips into place for that as he puts her in the knowledge of the goldrider now also being aware of his change in status. If that’s how one can view it. He doesn’t answer to the matter of losing sleep, as it’s never really been his to lose to start off with. Save for that one night recently when he’d found her curled up in his shirt and in his bed. “You want me to walk away from this…I’ll do it but it ain’t gonna stop what’s coming, baby. Same way you and Jhath can’t stop Thread from falling. It’s coming any way and all you can do is turn and fight it.” That perhaps being his answer to her last, less him wanting the position from a power hungry ambitious point of view and more him feeling it his duty to do what he can with what he might have at his disposal.

Throughout what Max says, Ahnika continues to look at him, even as he looks away. Her expression betrays little beyond mild exasperation at points, but largely just remains openly attentive and listening, a lot of the listening is for what isn’t said as much as what is said, having been around Max long enough to have some sort of a clue about body language and mannerisms. Her own index finger begins to tap a little, quietly, against the desk and then when Max brings up Threadfall, the finger goes still. Her expression remains unchanged, however, but it’s clear that one struck a chord with her. “Max …” she says finally in a soft, soothing voice, “Take a deep breath, Love. Just … relax a minute.” She moves away from the desk now and returns to the mattress, but shuffles a bit to kneel behind him and starts to massage his shoulders, if he allows, “I’m not angry with you or disappointed in you. I’m not accusing you of bringing more trouble to the Weyr, or us – you and me and Jhath – just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax a minute, Love.” The last is said at a whisper as Ahni leans down closer to his ear while trying to work any knots out of his shoulders.

Eyes go to that tapping finger of hers; brow creasing as he tries to divine what is going on beyond that unreadable expression Ahnika had been wearing. Her finger stills, his eyes lift and fit to her face, vague confusion evident for the soothing tone and words used. Silent Max's attention stays fixed on the redhead as she approaches, head turning only slightly as she moves in behind him. Shoulders at first tense reflexively against her touch and then muscles slowly start to relax under her hands with his head bowing. And still silence reigns. In the end a long breath of air expels as his head lifts and turns slightly over his shoulder toward her as she leans down closer. "Just…tell me what you're thinking, baby," spoken quietly before pausing and adding, "what Jhath's thinking." Asking for the first time since she impressed for the green's counsel on the matter at hand.

There comes a soft smile of understanding to his request and Ahnika continues to massage his shoulders another moment longer before getting off her knees and settling in on her bum behind him, one leg stretched out on either side of him, and she moves her hands down his spine in a slightly circular motion, probably not pressing too hard, but mostly that is because she is used to working her hands in harder along Jhath’s hide when oiling her and so she goes easier than she probably needs to on Max, sort of overcompensating. “Undo my laces, please,” she asks softly from behind and rolls her ankles in a quick little jiggle motion of her boots next to his thighs to indicate which laces she means. So much for not staying long. Then she takes his pillow and sort of bunches it to give her some support before she leans back a little on it and the mattress and gently strokes her hands along his back, not really massaging as much anymore as just rubbing lovingly, allowing him to lean back against her if he wishes or stay sitting up, whichever he prefers. Finally she says, “I’m thinking about what would make this whole thing less troubling for you. Jhath is too, though, she’s also grumbling about someone – I think A’kon – who is snoring more loudly than usual right now.” She smiles briefly at that and then continues, “I mean what I said, Max. You know, you were right about Threadfighting being a choice. We may not have a choice in Impressing, but by Standing, we’re saying we’re willing to risk our lives for the people of our land in fighting Thread in the sky. That is a choice. You may not think you had a choice with this recent … judgment call, but in a way you did. You made that choice turns ago when you decided to take up your father’s banner,” Okay, Jhath’s input there, clearly, “along with your mother and help these people who need help in a way that the rest of society has let them down. And if that means you have to assume some kind of fake crimelord mantle to do it, then as long as you can live with it and all that means, I will, too. And I will do what I can to help you, just like you’re living with my decision to fight Thread in the skies, and all that entails, and doing what you can to help me. What I don’t want is for you to do this without finding any sense of fulfillment or reward in it. That’s not helping you, or us, or them,” the people he’s trying to help. “So, if you’re going to do this and be miserable and not get a lick of sleep and hate your life and be grumpy all the time, and make me and Jhath grumpy all the time, then you can forget it, Beast Manager. We’ll figure something else out.” Jhath sends along the mental equivalent of a snort to punctuate that sentiment. A pity Max has no idea. Despite the firm tone to Ahnika’s words, her volume is still the same hushed voice, and she doesn’t sound angry, just determined, and a little tired now, perhaps.

Shoulders stretch out in appreciation of muscles being just that little less bit tense, his head dropping back slightly and rolling from side to side. Ahnika’s shift of position behind him and her hands moving across his back in the manner they do, start to draw up another manner of loving within the beast manager who quickly twists his upper body slightly to do as requested and start unlacing her boots as means of distraction. Turning his head slightly to look back at her, amusement flickers across his mouth for the green’s complaint for the one snoring loudly, “Should borrow one of those turnips from L’ron’s blue and stick it in this A’kon’s mouth.” It’s not that he’s ignoring the rest of what the redhead has just said but simply that he’s mulling it over, the rest too as he once again slips into silence working on the laces of her boots and then gently pulling them off and setting them neatly on the floor next to his mattress. There does come a wry twist of lips however when she turns his own words about choices and fighting Thread back on him. Rather than lean back against her and possibly cause discomfort by pressing on the chest wound that’s still healing, he manoeuvres himself until he’s no longer cradled between her legs but rather lying on his side, cheek resting on her one hip and an arm slung across her lower abdomen. Still silent, as he continues to put thought to what she’s just said and then Max turns his head slightly to press a kiss to her fabric covered hip, a lot of the tension he’d been carrying since his return having dissolved with those words of hers. Twisting his head backward, dark eyes search her face and then slowly but surely a crooked smile appears and in a tone laced with love and gratitude he gives quietly, “I ask myself every day how I got so lucky to have you in my life. You’re really something special, baby.”

Chuckling softly at Max’s suggestion for the snoring weyrling, Ahnika murmurs, “Don’t give her any ideas. She can hear you, you know,” Well sort of. She lapses quiet and stretches a little, settling more comfortably into the mattress with the pillow getting more and more smooshed under her back. It’s only after he turns a bit to settle more on his side and use her hip for a pillow that she murmurs, “I need to buy you more pillows.” Which reminds her about her Gather gown and she reaches down with one hand to brush his hair gently, “Thank you for getting my gown back, too,” more softly, “you didn’t have to do that.” Then she grins and closes her eyes, flexing the toes of her freed feet a little, “Ah, go on,” she says, lifting her hands from his hair and resting them lightly across her middle, elbows against the mattress. “So, what say you, Beast Manager?” The question is vague, though she generally means about being the crime boss of Southern now.

At reminder that the green is listening, his smile turns to a crooked grin as Max lifts his head slightly, “Do it Jhath, I dare you to!” Oh dear. One can only imagine the mischief he might encourage any children of theirs to get up to one day. The arm slung over Ahnika tightens briefly in a sort of one armed hug, his head moving slightly against her in the idea shaking it, “Naw, think I like this pillow better. It’s all warm and has some really good squishy bits to it.” That being the human pillow he currently has his head resting on. Eyes close, enjoying the feel of her fingers through his hair and a small smile appears, “Aye, that I did. You sold it to…save me from myself. ‘Sides, there were entirely selfish reasons behind getting it back again.” Not expanding on the plans he has of taking it off of her one day. Ahem. The question put to him at the end, has the man drawing quiet again. And then a soft breath is exhaled, his tone wry in acceptance of his newfound status, “Reckon Southern’s new renegade crime lord should likely get himself a frame to go with his mattress.” Dry humor injected before twisting his head back again to seek grey eyes out, “I’ve…got W’red agreeing to hide Rad’s cousin for me amongst you lot. You mighta seen her about today? Redhead.” A pause and then, “I told him you’d give him a name and cover story for her. Which reminds me…” shifting from his position in order to raise himself up on an elbow a crooked grin coming into play, “your weyrlingmaster plans to have a bit of a sit down chat with you it seems.” For some reason he seems to find that amusing, possibly picturing the big brownrider and his fiery redhead facing off.

With his dare, Ahni swats at the back of his head, lightly and playfully, not to hurt, “Shoosh you!” But she’s laughing softly and conveys a reply, “Jhath says she’d do no such thing personally, but the next dragon to wake up, she may convince him or her to do it.” Smirking faintly, she looks down the length of her to his face, “See what you started?” Then she lapses into another soft chuckle, over his choice of pillows, her stomach moving a little with the mirth, “I’m. Not. Squishy.” She sticks her chin out a little, closing her eyes again, “I’m a weyrling. We have rigorous physical training, you know. We work out.” Ignoring the obvious softer parts that makes her a woman to her otherwise toned body after five months of physical training. “Selfish reasons, eh?” She grins then, cracking one eye opened to look down at him, “Like?” prompting him softly before returning next, “Mmm. A frame would be nice. More pillows and a frame.” She nods. It is settled. It is done. She blinks her eyes all the way opened as he discusses Kelarad’s cousin and the weyrlingmaster and she takes a moment to absorb it in, adding up all the bits and pieces, “Right. I see,” and despite being more or less put on the spot for a cover story, Ahnika doesn’t take exception to it. But then again, she sort of thrives for that sort of thing. Well, not the lying part, but the logistics part. Plus, she feels needed and useful. Then she blinks and tenses, “Wait. What?” She frowns, “What did you tell him?”

Max doesn’t even try and duck the playful swat and isn’t looking in the least bit contrite either, chuckling for Jhath delegating the job to another dragon, “Mark of a true leader that.” Raised up on his elbow as he now is, the beast manager puts a long and rather suggestive flow of eyes along the length of Ahnika’s frame, a smirk curling up one side of his mouth, “Reckon I should get back into training sooner rather than later if I’m to keep up with you.” As to his motives for having gotten her dress back, that smirk is adroitly set behind a look of complete innocence, “To take you dancing of course.” Riiiight. The issue of his sleeping arrangements apparently settled by her an assessing look is sent up to the redhead as she processes what he’d just said. “That’s usually Indira’s thing but…I ain’t been to see her yet,” his expression speaking to him not looking forward to that particular meeting at all, “you don’t have to do it if you’d rather not.” Watching carefully to see if she’ll take this ‘out’ provided or indeed tackle the task at hand. “W’red? Just let him know you’re my woman and that if he gives you any grief he’ll have to go through me,” lying outright but unable to suppress the humour in his eyes. And then he relents, “Nothing baby, just asked him that you be allowed access to the woman to try and reach out to her.”

There comes another grin for his comment on Jhath having the mark of a true leader, but Ahnika is modest enough to not speak on it beyond, “Jhath humbly thanks you.” Then she grins more ruefully, “You better,” keep up with her in training, “Because I don’t want to wear you out that first night we get to spend together,” yeah, she went there. To the idea of dancing, she brightens noticeably, apparently taking it at face value, or at least giving the impression she does. She blinks a bit to his comment of Indira usually doing it, and frowns a little, “I don’t want to encroach on her usual duties, Love. You sure it would be alright with her?” Apparently, she’s okay with it, as long as she doesn’t step on Indira’s toes in the process, and she’ll even go as far as shaking her head to his next, “I don’t mind doing it. I want to help, but I’ll not do it if it will put your mother out of sorts with us.” The ‘us’ could be her and Jhath or her and Max, or all three, possibly even Olira. She doesn’t specify. Completely duped for the moment, Ahnika’s mouth flaps open a few times as he talks of her telling W’red he’ll have to go through Max, and then as he relents she shuts it, and nods in silence, her gaze going up to the ceiling a moment as she considers it all, and her hand idly sweeps through Max’s hair once more. “Jhath and I will need to meet with her and get to know her a little bit before we can come up with a plausible cover story for her,” she finally states, “I’ll work on that tomorrow.”

Low laughter greets comment of wearing him out and he lifts up on his elbow, seeking her lips for an open mouthed kiss of promise though he’s careful to keep it fleeting. Settling back down again, that crooked grin still in place as his hand toys idly with the edge of her tunic, “We’ll see who’s wearing whom out, hmm?” sending a wink at the end which fades into a frown over the Headwoman and the distribution of duties. Stated quietly but firmly, “She don’t run things no more,” which might account for the explosive argument likely to occur the next day, “I do.” The pup having finally outgrown the dam to become the alpha male in their set-up. “She won’t give you any grief about it, baby. We’ve always been short on someone reliable to come up with back story’s aside from her. Sometimes things happen too quickly for her to be able to put something together in time,” sincere the next, “She’ll see the asset you’ll be.” Ahnika’s reaction to his outright fib on what he’d told her Weyrlingmaster draws his grin back into place again, uttering, “Gotcha!” once she assimilates the truth of what he’d really said. A nod greets her needing time to meet with the woman first and he adds as further reassurance on W’red having said he wanted to meet with her, “Probably also just wants to get to know his weyrlings on a more one on one basis, you know? Lot of ‘masters do that when they take over a cycle.”

After returning the kiss, brief that it is, Ahnika simply fixes Max with a smirk, and Jhath – from afar – considers a gage has been laid down in challenge, the fact that the challenge seems to be who can endure their Trial of Stamina the longest, of course, whenever the Trial is to take place. She’d bugle over the established contest, but is old enough now to know that doing it in the middle of the weyrling barracks at this hour is not wise. So, Jhath will mentally convey her approval through, which Ahni is only happy to supply with a knowing smile, “Jhath says she’ll be happy to stand in judgment over our contest of stamina, then,” knowing full-well how disconcerting it’d probably be for Max to have multi-faceted Jhath eyes staring at him as he and Ahni try to wear each other out at some future date and judging his performance, as it were. Ahnika is definitely amused at the thought, as seen both in her smile and the twinkle of mischief in her grey eyes. But the amused expression fades soon enough over his talk of just who it is who runs things around her and Ahnika’s eyebrows shoot up, “Don’t let the top of this house of cards go to your head, Max. You get too big for your britches and it’s all just going to fall down around you.” Her tone isn’t critical or reprimanding, more just gently reminding him why he’s doing it and how it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) have anything to do with being the head honcho and everything to do with helping people and keeping them safe. More softly and soberly, with an edge of worry to her tone, she sifts her fingers through his hair again and says, “Just don’t ever forget why you’re doing this, Love.” She does smile over the comment of Indira seeing her as an asset and nods slightly, looking pleased with that, but doesn’t comment again until the talk with W’red is mentioned, “Hmm. I suppose. Did you say anything else about me? So I can be prepared when I go in that office.”

The smirk from Ahnika is met in kind by him that is until she says what she does of Jhath apparently offering to play judge and grade his performance as such and the poor man almost chokes on incredulity. “What!?,” blink, blink, “No way! She’s sure as shells not going to be sitting there…” at a loss for words until he adds in discontented tone, “She can rather go fly sharding patterns or hunt for fish or something.” And then it sinks in, realizing that thanks to that mental link the green has with her rider there’s really no escaping such a thing if the dragon is of a mind to either listen ‘look’ in. Oh look, someone seems to now be a little flustered and flushed around the gills. Heh. And so it is that Max is a little slow in responding to her reminder of why it is he’s even doing any of what he is with regards to nefarious titles. Silent as he shifts from mortified to somber. Dark eyes seek hers out, sincerity in their depths as her fingers play through his hair, “I ain’t doing it to throw my weight around, baby. I’m doing it to keep her out of the line of fire as far as possible.” Much in the same way as he’d laid claim to Jaya now working under him - a protective measure of sorts. “Anyway, I need her to head up to Telgar sometime if she can get away for a few days, to meet with Keane and set things in place up there. He’s willing to act as a corridor for us to get people in and out as might be needed.” Ah, so there’s a plan attached with him taking with the one hand and then giving with the other. Brows fit together briefly as he goes over the conversation he’d had earlier in the day with the brownrider and then cautiously puts out, “Told him you’d had a taste of something similar to her which made you the best choice for reaching out to her.” He’s not going to lie about it. In gentler tone, “W’red’s good people, baby. Just be straight with him.” Which might be easy for him to say considering he and the brownrider have an understanding on a different level right now to that of weyrling and Weyrlingmaster.

Ahnika laughs at loud at Max’s reaction to Jhath sitting in judgment over his (and Ahni’s, too) performance. Ahni, herself, doesn’t seem bothered by it, but Ahni’s had five months to get used to Jhath’s ways and knows Jhath will probably get bored within the first five minutes and will go find something else to do. Not that she’s telling Max that. Not yet anyway. As her laughter subsides, she pulls the pillow out from her back and puts it properly in place at the head of the bed before adjusting her position to lie more completely on the mattress with her head on the pillow, though she leaves room for his own head and even pats the space in invitation should he wish to snuggle up more next to her closer to her face. “I get the feeling your mother was long-used to being in the line of fire before you were born, Love,” Ahnika says simply next, with a nod as if she believes his reasoning is not out of a hunger for power (right now), “but if that’s how you want it … I’ll do what I can to help.” One can be sure, though, that Ahnika will be keeping a careful eye on Max as he more concretely settles in as the southern continent’s crime boss, and she will be there to remind him of his more noble values if he looks to be getting too hung up on the power trip it likely creates. Power corrupts, after all, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is to his next on what he said to W’red that has Ahnika sighing softly. That awful event is going to try and haunt her forever, it seems. Will she never get away from it? The past should just stay the past. “Fine,” she says after a moment, a little more forcefully than she meant to. So, she softens the tone in her next, “Good, I’m glad you think he’s good people. We weyrlings need a good, steady weyrlingmaster we can rely on.”

Ahnika laughter simply has him narrowing his eyes on to her. Not that he minds being laughed at; it’s more the potential dent to male ego that has the beast manager looking distinctly put out and has him slow in taking up the offer to move up along her side and put his head to the pillow and share it with her. At least he doesn’t fold his arms over his chest in a full on huff. They are however laced at the hands across his stomach, the ceiling of distinct interest all of a sudden. Finally in a tone midway between sulk and getting over himself, “Aye, we’ll see how funny it is if she decides to broadcast her findings to the entire Weyr.” But wait, wouldn’t that make things worse? Sucks to be you, mister! A long sigh pulls out for the upcoming encounter with his mother, “I just…it would be nice to see her be able to take a break from it all sometimes, instead of always worrying about everyone else, you know?” Her keeping him humble so to speak is probably exactly what he’s counting on in all this. Although one can be sure it’s not likely to come without a heated exchange of words at times, the two of them being the passionate people that they are. It’s the soft sigh coming from the redhead that eventually has him unlacing his hands and reaching the nearest out toward one of hers, seeking to twine fingers through hers and give her hand a gentle squeeze, “You can’t change the past baby, but you can use it to shape the future, aye?” By helping others through similar situations. Her response on her Weyrlingmaster draws a faint smirk to his mouth but he doesn’t speak to what had put it there and instead puts out a smile (apparently done with his huff now), “Reckon he’ll do right by you all.”

To his concerns about Jhath, Ahnika simply offers him a reassuring smile, and either chooses not to say what she’d otherwise say because Jhath is listening in, or because she wants to torment him further. But at least the reassuring smile is there, feeble attempt though it is. Lying on her side and facing him as he settles in more beside her, Ahni reaches out with the less-pinned hand to stroke his chest gently while he talks about his mother, “Your mother and I are a lot alike, Love,” she says, “So, when I say I wouldn’t like to be ordered into early retirement before I make that decision for myself, just … think about it, before you say whatever it is you mean to say to her. I’ll help with some of the workload, as I can, at least in the planning and administrative parts as you mean for me, but I strongly suggest you tread carefully if you mean to force your mother out.” She pauses then, thinking of how that would make herself feel, and in turn how that likely would make Indira feel. “Want some free advice?” she asks, though gives it to him regardless of his answer, “Work it so it’s your mother’s idea to take a break, not yours. If she thinks you’re trying to control her and tell her what to do? That’s not going to end well for either of you.” Ahni is mostly speaking from a sense of knowing how she would feel if she were in Indira’s shoes with her own son telling her to sit back and do less for their little network of help-the-helpless when it’s all she’s done for turns. “Don’t make her feel … useless,” she amends, knowing that would be the kicker for her, personally. She squeezes his hand as it reaches and grasps hers, and to his next statement, she merely nods a little, closing her eyes and says, “Mm-hmm,” though she’s never had a problem with learning from her past mistakes, she just prefers learning from them and moving on rather than learning from them and having to rehash them over and over. “If you think he will,” she says on W’red, “I’ll take your word for it. You picked him, so I figure he’s good.” Awful trusting of that, she is. But she has no reason to think otherwise at this point. She curls up a little closer to him, her cheek resting against his shoulder. “So, other than keep Kelarad’s cousin safe, what else do you need me to do?”

That reassuring smile is given a wary look. Yeeeah, he's not so sure about this Trial Of Stamina thing any more. Either way that's soon dispelled with Ahnika's hand moving across his bared chest as it does, drawing an involuntary shiver from the beast manager and a sound that could be construed as a low growl. He does however, focus on the matter at hand, his mother. There's a passion killer for you. Max listens quietly as the redhead speaks, a light frown hovering across his expression and then soft smile appears as he lifts their joined hands and presses a kiss against the back of hers, "I don't intend forcing her out, Love. In fact, if anything, I need her and her contacts now more than ever." The frown deepens a little as it seems he's making a hash of trying to explain himself, "It's just that this is something that when if it hits, is going to hit hard," the trouble brewing in the north, "so I need it to seem like she's taking a less active role in order to become … more active out of the line of sight of those looking our way?" In other words, for Indira to continue what she's doing but be seen to have stepped down in favour of her son. Dark eyes search her face for the non-committal reply given on her encounter with Phineus and using it rather than hiding from it, a melancholy etching briefly into place but he doesn't make comment on it, choosing rather not to press the matter. With her curling up against him more, he turns his head and brushes lips against her forehead, "W'red … will do whatever is necessary to protect his own," that being the weyrlings, "and see that they have everything they need to stay alive one day." Whether that be fighting Thead, or as the brownrider had hinted at, fighting anything else. That having been said a roguish chuckle rumbles in his throat for what else he might need her to do, instead he sticks with business, "See what you can get Kelarad's cousin to let slip," having yet to use her name, "about his operations down in Tillek. Or any of the other renegades she might have something on. That kind of information could be invaluable in anticipating their actions."

Quietly listening, Ahnika begins to look a little confused when he talks of his mother’s role, but the expression smoothes out a little, and there’s a bit of a smile tugging at her lips for his kiss to her hand before she says, “So, you mean to sort of use yourself as a decoy figurehead while your mother is really the one in charge behind the scenes?” She appears mildly impressed not only that he’d come up with something like that, but that he’d actually be willing to do something like that, “I suspect that will sit much better with her than being forcibly retired, and you can still feel useful as her shield, more or less, for whatever comes at us. Nice.” She blinks a little at the rest of his words, more for the shifting in mental gears to W’red and Olira than being surprised or upset or anything. She nods once, “It will take awhile to gain her trust. Won’t be overnight. But I’ll see what I can find out for you.” She’s yet to ask the woman’s name, and no doubt it’s for her own protection as much as Olira’s. Then she turns her face a little to kiss his bare shoulder softly, murmuring, “I’m glad you’re back safe and sound. I missed you. I love you.” Beat pause, “Jhath said she missed you, too.” She smirks faintly, “The Weyr is dull when you’re gone. Though she likes the new book.”

Well no, that’s not quite what he’d been meaning but rather than going down that particular rabbit hole right now, Max simply nods, a small smile appearing, “Aye, something like that.” Because he does fully intend stepping up to the plate and putting himself between his mother and whatever’s coming while at the same time slowly starting to position himself alongside the Headwoman rather than under her in terms of authority. “Aye,” he agrees quietly to it taking time to gain Olira’s trust, “don’t doubt it will. But you got a way about you, Love.” Expression turning warm through weariness as it all simply just starts to catch up with the beast manager. Eyes slip shut for a moment, the arm closest to her shifting in order to wrap it about her when Ahnika presses the kiss to his shoulder, “It’s good to be home again.” Turning his head in against hers, he murmurs against her hair, “Missed you too, baby. You make it worth coming back to and fighting for.” Eyes still closed a low chuckle spills out for what she conveys from Jhath, “Dull, eh? I thought she’d be glad for the peace and quiet,” though by his tone alone, it’s clear to see that’s struck a chord with him somewhere, a pleased and somewhat retiring smile bearing further evidence thereof. Mention of the book grows that smile into a crooked grin and lids slip open to pin an amused look down onto the redhead, “Thought I’d better get you another before you started reciting the last one in your sleep.” Silence then as he regards her through a long and intent gaze breaking it to state quietly, “I love you too, baby. And…thank you.” For not having twisted his ear, stormed out on him or ranted and raved about what a total fool he was being, as a lesser woman might have.

Closing Credits Theme Music: Tears For Fears - "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"

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