Life Hereafter

Participants:

Max.jpg Jaya.jpg

Date: 2011.07.02
Location: Outside of the Weyr
Synopsis: Two sevens after retrieving Kaskan, Jhorn and Nenienne, Max is going stir crazy and Jaya suggests a ride to get away from it all to clear his head. It turns out to be a pivotal day away from the Weyr for the pair.
Rating: PG18 - Adult Innuendo
Logger: Max

Some time has passed since arriving back at the Weyr as Jaya got herself settled back into her role at the bar. Truth be told, Suli was glad to see her return so she could get what secret life she had, back. She had gotten all the information she could out of the tall Telgari about Vaputero's stay in the Weyr while she was gone, the two spending nights pouring over details again and again. Once Max was able to stand on his own feet, she suggested to the man a nice ride outside the Weyr to get some air. It always made her feel more herself when being injured so, and on top of that, she missed riding her runner. She puts a basket together filled with food and booze this lazy afternoon while dressing the part of a woman born of the stables in her embroidered skirt.

Max as was to be expected made the worst kind of patient. Refusing to stay in bed to recuperate from as early as the next day when he dragged himself off to the bathing caverns and then setting himself up at his desk, proceeded to insist on continuing to run things using Waine as his mouthpiece. By the time Jaya suggested heading out of the Weyr for a ride, he was going stir crazy and just wanted out. Needless to say it was with some relief that Waine and the rest of the beast caverns personnel took note of their boss tacking up both Starflight and Moonbeam. “Those herdbeast cows are about to drop their calves. You be sure to keep ‘em as far away from the feedin’ pens as you can,” he instructs Waine for the umpteenth time that morning. “And when you’re done there, Yaron needs a hand with a couple of new trainees down Landin’ way. Grab a hold of M’las and,” – “I got it the first time, I got it the second time and I swear to Faranth if you say it again, I’ll put you back on your arse,” Waine broke in before his boss had finished, “Now get your arse on that runner and leave us in peace.” That the conversation going on between the two as Max leads the pair of runners out of the beast caverns.

After a talk with her crew at the bar, Jaya heads down to the stables to find Max leading their runners out and Waine speaking. "I'll make sure to take him in hand really slow," is her drawled greeting to them both, stepping forward to claim Moonbeam with a wink towards Max for the innuendo in her voice. To Waine, "You never did tell me who your brother was that we used to feed and sing to up north." She nods to Max then for them to head out, the woman taking the runner by hand before nimbly mounting up. She looks him over with a clear eye before adding, "Healing better. Jonavan knows his work, I can see that much. You'll have to send him up a good bottle in gratitude. Two, if you count those broken ribs you had." Then Moonbeam starts to pace her away, seeming anxious to ride just as much as her rider is.

Waine and Max catch the innuendo in Jaya’s tone at the same time, the latter studiously avoiding the look of high amusement the former sends him. “Wear him out good and proper,” Waine responds through a wide grin, “I’d take it as a personal favour.” – “Fuck off,” Max growls out his standard reply as the tips of his ears colour a touch. He’s no shrinking violet and has very few inhibitions but his sex life being discussed so openly in front of him is one thing that will have the man not sure where to put his face. A face which has finally had the stitches removed leaving a nasty red scar running diagonally across his face.

Recovering some of his equilibrium, Max swings up onto Starflight’s back with only a faint grimace to suggest his ribs aren’t quite one hundred percent healed yet. “No I didn’t,” Waine agrees with Jaya and then sending a wink her way, turns and heads back up the beast tunnel. “He ain’t a quack,” Max replies on the masterhealer through a crooked grin and then sends a sharp nudge of heels to Starflight’s flanks, the black stallion leaping forward in response.

With Waine being so crass, and Max's cursing so with that faint blush on his scarred face and ears, it all has Jaya laughing aloud. "The way you fuck, I'm surprised you'd be embarrassed so," Jaya seems to tease, reaching a finger to trace that scar on his face playfully. "Waine's just taking care of his boss and all his needs, right Waine? There's no shame in it." She tosses a wink in the second's direction for that and for his quip on his brother before he leaves them be. Max's return on the master healer gets almost an odd look, there and gone before she quips, "Is that so? Should he be? I met his only friend in the Hall," and with that, Moonbeam's flying, seeming to out run Starflight as she heads for the Weyr entrance and out into the rolling fields beyond.

Jaya adding her two marks worth has Max sending a scowl her way and then quickly turning his head in an attempt to hide the heat he can feel burning up his neck. Waine sends a deep smirk the embarrassed crimelord’s way and gives in an aside to Jaya before he leaves, “You want to see him really blush, ask him about Harvis sometime.” Oh no he didn’t! Max thankfully doesn’t hear that last bit or he might likely have turned himself around, stalked back to his quarters and locked himself in for the next seven. Being as how he’s oblivious to what had passed between Waine and Jaya he turns out a grin, “Quack is bad, Jon is good.” Thereby drawing the distinction there between the masterhealer and every other healer that’s ever tried to lay hands on him. With Starflight streaking after Moonbeam, the Weyr is soon left behind, the cares and concerns of the passed month too as the fresh morning wind erases them from thought. Starflight is easily capable of outpacing the silver-grey mare but for some reason, is staying just behind her flying hooves. All the better for his rider to appreciate the view maybe?

Harvis?? "The Istan crimelord, what-?" But Waine is already leaving and Jaya look towards a young crimelord with a red neck. Of course, curiosity gets the best of her, and the way Waine says it, the Bitran barkeep is definitely making not to ask him about it. Making sure the basket of goodies is secure with her, she lets Moonbeam fly through the tunnel like she wants along with her cares and worries. The fields contrasted well in the sunlight as the wind flowed through her dark hair, the Bitran leaning forward to put her back into it as the runner picks up speed. She gave the runner some rein, but she knew where they were going. There's a small valley by a field of rich farmed soil, showing the panoramic view of the southern continent. It didn't take long before she spots the location in question as she pulls on the reins to start slowing her down, the woman looking over her shoulder in exhilaration to see if Max had kept up. If she was suspicious of him checking her out from behind, it does not seem to register on her face.

The image that Jaya presents leaned low over her runner’s neck with her dark hair steaming out behind her like that is one Max is not likely to soon forget. The further they draw away from the Weyr and the confinement he’d been under, so the wider the grin that wraps into place. Max isn’t too concerned about where it is she’s leading them for he knows the lands beyond the Weyr like the back of his hand. As she starts to rein in, that grin fades to a warm smile of appreciation for this is truly one of the more beautiful places around in which to unwind. Guiding Starflight to fall in beside Moonlight, his gaze sweeps about the area and then settles back onto Jaya, “Now this is what I call gettin’ away from it all.”

Moonbeam is pulled to a stop at the appointed place and Jaya circles the nice spot underneath a wide tree before dismounting. Tying Moonbeam up then, “Thought we both could use some time away from the Weyr,” she notes to his words, looking her shoulder with windswept hair over one eye. “I grew up not confined to Weyr and Hold,” she explains, moving to the runner’s side to untie the basket she made for the impromptu picnic. “Us traders are like that. Wide open spaces and the thrill of the wind in your hair. Being up in Fort had me missing this place, and no matter how much time I spend down here, I ain’t much of a southern girl.” She tosses a wink at Max before she sets the basket down and starts to unroll blanket. Dark eyes linger on him as she works, her gaze full of contentment and need and hunger for a man that had captured her heart unknowingly from the moment he stepped foot in Keane’s bar turns ago. Nodding with her chin towards the basket as she lays the blanket out, “Come help me set up,” she sends, the crooked smile growing.

Dismounting as Jaya does, Max gathers up Moonbeam's reins and leading the two runners to a shady area near the stream secures them in such a way so as to allow them to graze without wandering off. Returning to where she is, he leans up against the trunk of the big tree, something said by her drawing a slightly guarded look into place though it might be missed in the shadows cast over Max's face by his hat. In a careful tone; "You plannin' on leavin' the South?" His heart constricting in his chest at the possibility of this being what she'd meant by her comment. Lifting a hand to rub at the scar that itches Max pushes away from his lean and approaches with a small smile in place, suddenly wary until he knows the reply to his question. "Rather help you…unpack," he states, dark eyes flowing over Jaya in such a manner so as to suggest he's not talking about the basket she'd brought with her.

Jaya misses the guarded look with her attention on spreading the food and booze out on the blanket, so when Max asks that unexpected question, she looks up at him blankly. "Leave? Me?" and a hand presses to her chest before she tilts her head up at him. Now catching the look on his face, realizing Max was serious, she slowly shakes her head and states, "Of course not, shuga. I ain't a southern girl, but that's because I'm a Bitran. We're a proud people. Even if I've got ran out of those lands, Bitra will always run in my blood." Straightening as she approaches him slowly before she reaches out and touches the bottom of his chin to lift it up a little before adding in a lower tone, "There was a time when all I wanted to do was run. It's what I know, shuga. The south wasn't supposed to be on my itinerary, and when it was, I didn't plan on staying on here - but here I am, turns later. I'm a troubled girl, and there are things you don't know about me," she states evenly, "but, I stayed. Kept lying to myself that it was because of the good marks I'm making here. Sounds better than admitting that my heart was stolen from me the moment a certain beast manager walked into my makeshift bar." Gaze lingers on him then before a smile cricks up, tapping that chin before moving as if to return to setting up the picnic. "So no, I have no plans of leaving. I've always known. Guess the south and its people have a way of keeping a renegade fugitive enthralled." Dark gaze finds Max's own on his quips about unpacking, flowing a look over him before dropping, "Like to see you try, shuga. You ain't at full strength yet to tame me down." Heavy innuendo laced in her husky tone before she reaches for a dark bottle and uncorks it.

Max goes still, eyes narrowing in the intent focus he puts to Jaya as she speaks. He doesn’t interrupt other than to comment wryly, “There ain’t a one of us that ain’t from somewhere else, Jaya. For me it’s the Reaches, for Waine its Benden.” Revealing where it is his big second is actually from. “Home,” he states when she captures his chin so, “is where the heart is.” And she’s fast become his heart, though he’s yet to say as much. In fact, the young crimelord has an air about him that suggests there’s quite a lot playing on his mind but it’s set aside with a low laugh for the challenge she lays out toward the end. “Don’t want to tame you,” Max remarks more sincerely as removing his hat and setting it to one side, he drops down beside her, knees drawing up and arms dangling off of them as he sets her with an intent look. His gaze then drops to the bottle she uncorks and a smile quirks out, “Plannin’ on gettin’ me drunk so’s you can have your way with me?” teasing.

"Ever miss the Reaches?" Jaya right then, filing away that tidbit on Waine. As of late, the second has become an interest to her since revealing that he had family involved with hers up Bitra way. Max's words on home gets an intent look before inclining her head and saying, "I agree. Interesting how life turns things upside down for you, hm? When all you wanted was to steal and pillage every person you meet?" There's a twinkle in her eyes on that score, though she's watching him as she can feel something in the air with him - she just can't place it. Amusement lights up when he claims he doesn't want to tame her, to which she replies, "Good. I like to fuck, and fight, dirty." The bottle now uncorked as she sweeping a hand over the food of cut fruits, sweetrolls, cheeses and meatrolls, "I plan on keeping you off you guard today. Enjoy it. And the whiskey's Bitran so it might burn a hole in your stomach. Might." She takes a long drink before handing it over, the look one of a challenge. "And I tend to get some answers," she adds enticingly. "You're a tough jewelry chest to crack, but I intend to at least get a peek at what's inside."

Quiet a moment and then Max nods, “Aye, I do. It’s in my blood.” The phrase borrowed from her and then he adds with nostalgic smile attached, “I miss the cold.” A quiet chuckle follows her comment on stealing and pillaging, “Remind me to lock the gems down when we get back to the Weyr.” Slipping that into conversation as easily as if he’d not realized what he’d just said. The chuckle then grows into husky laughter for her next on fucking and fighting dirty, “So I noticed.” Nothing but high approval and a flash of heat showing in his eyes for that but then he adds with a warm smile attached, “You also love and protect with heart, Jaya.” The way in which she’d recently done so with his daughter having touched him on levels she’s likely not aware of yet. Attention going to the picnic foods she’s put together, interest peaks when she reveals where it is the whiskey originates from, “Bitran, eh?” followed by a grin and shake of head, “Naw, my stomach’s lined with iron.” A wink given as fingers brush against hers when the bottle is handed to him but he doesn’t drink from it just yet instead setting Jaya with another of those long and unreadable looks. Finally, taking a swig and setting the bottle down between his knees Max gives her the opening she’s looking for in a single worded offer, “Ask.”

With peaking interest, "Don't you have family up there?" Jaya asks, dropping into a crosslegged position on the blanket as she helps herself to a sweetroll. "Or is it just Indira?" Going silent for a moment, she adds, "Eventually, I should check up on mine, you know? Likely my father will still bitch at me," and she sends a scowl over to him that's short-lived, "but if he doesn't throw something at me, then I'll know something's wrong. Beddie and Nacor…I need to see them too. Just to, you know, make sure they're not dead or something. I figure Beddie's not at least." But then Max is talking about gems and eyes shoot to meet his. "What gems?" she's quick to ask now, catching that. "Holding out on me?" Max's further words on her fierce protection of his daughter draws an odd faint flush as she looks away and clears her throat. "Do what I can, you know?" she plays blasé, shrugging alittle like it was no big deal. "I ain't perfect, Max," and she looks his way. "Ran with sorts like Vaputero for a reason. My situation was nothing like Olira's." She lingers her gaze on him as he does her, the crooked smirk in place on Bitran whiskey as he takes a swig. But then, he's offering her to ask, and she's slow in putting forth, "The way you love…the way you fight…I see the darkness in you. Saw it that night when I found you broken. Darkness no weyrbred man should have, one from the lands would think." Toying with her bitten sweetroll as she regards him, "Does it come from death? Lady Garnalla? Your father?" She knew it was a touchy subject with the crimelord, but the woman was not Jaya if she didn't probe injuries physical or not.

Lips purse together for a moment and then Max shakes his head on having family back north, “Just me and Ma.” As far as he knows that is. “You should,” he states quietly to Jaya checking up on her kin, “Family ain’t always perfect but it’s all we got, aye?” a quick smile given to indicate he understands her need to do so. “I’d like to meet your father,” he then adds before moving onto the matter of the gems, a sly light entering his eyes. “Just an idea I been toyin’ with,” he comments but deliberately doesn’t add what sort of sparkly gemstones he might have stashed away, that cunning light drawing deeper and then gone when she mentions her former boss. “Why did you take up with him?” There being no judgement in the question, just interest in what motivates the woman that’s come to mean so much to him.

In the small silence that forms, Max reaches for a hunk of cheese. Taking a bite, his jaw stills in the chewing action when Jaya asks what she does. Slowly he swallows and then washes it down with another bracing mouthful of whiskey as if fortifying himself before answering. “I ain’t no dragonrider, Jaya,” and all that is expected of the honourable men and women of the Weyr, “That died the day I saw my father die.” Silence as brows peak toward each other as memories flood in on top of each other. “He had these plans for me, see? Reckoned I’d be Weyrleader some day. He was wrong.” A touch of bitterness entering his low held tone, “Those dreams died the day he did. Ma…she went off the deep end so when the offer came from Lord Tillek I left because I wanted nothin’ more to do with the Weyr or dragons,” confession given in a dead tone and then his eyes lift from where they’d been fixed to a point on the blanket, “And where do I end up? Right back where I started.” Wry. “I ain’t that man he wanted me to be, Jaya,” putting words to the deep-seated sense of failure he feels himself to be, “Never will be.”

“Indira’s all you need, shuga,” Jaya drawls on family, understanding in her gaze. “And Hope.” When Max announces that he wants to meet her father, the Bitran woman gives into a low chuckle and a wry, “He won’t be eager to meet you, so I wouldn’t rush so. Might throw a knife at you, too. It’s the Dicori way of greeting one another, apparently.” Her interest lights on the idea of gems, and with Max not sharing, she’ll lean over and will try to pinch what she can of his arm. “You and your ideas,” she drawls on that, lingering on it in amusement until he asks about her and Vaputero. Some of the amusement fades, the woman having expected that question to come eventually. “Few ask that of me,” she even notes to him, lounging back and arranging herself so that she can prop up on one elbow and face him.

After a pause, “Why did I take up with him? You may not like the answer,” she tells him quietly, idly looking at the panoramic view about them. “Vaput and I….we understand each other. We’re a lot alike. Only difference was, he was a hold exile and I wasn’t.” Looking at Max then, “The both of us were angry, very young,” she tries to explain slowly, frowning as she remembers. “I was so angry that my mother died and him? Well, something went down in that hold. He never did tell me, but it was enough to send him down the hole he’s in now. He was drawn to me, and I him, because he knew that I would do whatever it took to get what I needed – even if it meant taking another’s life,” and she looks long at him then before looking away. “That’s my darkness, Max. It’s in me – in the Dicoris. It always will be, and I fight it daily by being here. I was innocent of it when I met him, but after….” And she shakes her head. “He was fascinated about my family, about how dangerous we have been. He had no family as far as I could tell.” Silence lingers before she sighs and shrugs, briskly adding, “It was complicated, our relationship, shuga. He never forced himself on me, or offered to fuck me even when I knew he wanted to. Treated me almost like a sister and a lover. At the same time. After getting kicked out of the clan by my father at the time, he and his style of life was the perfect choice.”

Then it was Max’s turn to answer and she stays quiet, watching his face closely as he speaks about his father. Frowning heavily at something said, “You would make a strong Weyrleader,” she notes, biting into her sweetroll now. “Not everyday one chooses the life of crime. Indira….” At hearing Indira went off the deep end, the Bitran slowly shakes her head. “Never easy to lose someone,” she gives quietly, her gaze lingering. “But perhaps,” and she leans forward to try and touch his arm, “you are exactly where you are meant to be,” she gives on not being what his father wanted, her tone one of earnest. “You’re doing what you were meant to do – being who you are meant to be. May not be a dragonrider, no, but who says that such a life is best?” Lips pursing, “You’re a damn good crimelord, Max,” she announces with a firm nod. “I wouldn’t have taken up with you otherwise, my heart be damned. I respect you and know you are good with your word. Few can say that in this life. You wouldn’t be able to have accomplished all you’ve done if you ended up Weyrleader.” Hand moves to the side of his face, the smile gentle as she adds, “If you father was alive and couldn’t have seen that? Then that is his burden to bear. Not yours, shuga.”

Max doesn’t immediately respond to Jaya’s first, merely sending her an enigmatic smile for now. Then his expression mirrors hers in its wryness on her family, “I’ll be sure to have a knife drawn and ready to return the greetin’ then.” Yup, seems like he’s determined to meet the Dicori clan despite the warning given. Catching the interest that peaks when he mentions the gems there comes a slightly smug cast to his expression though he’s quick to drown it with feigned hurt for the pinch to his arm as he pretends to flinch away. With the bait laid Max then turns to the topic of Jaya’s former boss, listening in heavy silence as she explains the dynamic between them. As predicted there are some things said that he doesn’t like, but he’s careful to try and keep it to himself, his expression schooled to a bland mask.

Leaving a small gap after she’s finished speaking Max sets her with a long look. “You loved him,” he states and then with a small shake of head he goes on to negate some of what she’d said, “Maybe the two of you were cut from the same cloth back then but you ain’t nothin’ like him now, baby. You fight it; he’s given in to it.” Then he’ll be so bold as to make the following statement which some might term as being arrogantly possessive and presumptive, “He was your past, I am your future.”

And then he finds himself searching Jaya’s eyes when she responds to what he’d revealed of himself. “No dragon will have me,” Max responds in a tight tone to having potentially made a good Weyrlader but doesn’t go on to explain that. “I only did what I did back in Telgar so’s Rad would let Olira go with us and to get Hope back.” Her touch to his arm draws his gaze back up to hers and once again Max goes quiet and while the glimmer of smile passes across his lips when she speaks to him being a good crimelord he can’t but help to give that dry response. “Some would say I’ve done nothin’ but cast a dark shadow over a Weyr strugglin’ for survival.” A certain greenrider for instance and to some degree, probably Randi too, “That my choices are nothin’ but self-servin’ in the search for glory and title.” That last bitterly stated as his hand passes over the fresh scar on his face and then his fingers curl about Jaya’s as she sets her hand to the side of his face. “If my father was alive, he’d have me tried, flogged and either staked out for Thread or exiled.” For L’min wouldn’t have tolerated having a son named as crimelord no matter his reasons for having chosen to be so.

Snorting at Max’s initial return, “I warned you at least,” Jaya drawls, swallowing her sweetroll and reaching for the other bottle of whiskey. “He and my brother aren’t exactly friendly to strangers – even crimelords. Only one they remotely accepted out of the lot was Vaput.” Speaking of the big Bitran, when he speak on her loving the man, she takes a pause to consider that before her lips twist. “I adored him,” she corrects him then, meeting his gaze. “Admired him. He was living the dream mostly other holdless men only talked about in their cups. The Holds, the Halls, and the Weyrs all couldn’t touch him. His business was flawless. Us Bitrans, how can we not?” Leaning back to uncork the bottle and take a drink, his words on her being nothing like him now gets a brisk “He’s changed, love. He wasn’t always……like this.” She was clearly still struggling with this new version of Vaputero, having known the man for turns. “Perhaps it was dormant, or he was fooling himself. I dunno.” When he speaks on her fighting it, Jaya gives him a long look before she puts forth, “Maybe, only a matter of time before I fail, too. My family history isn’t a good one. Even my father…..” and she lets it trail in light of Max’s possessiveness of him being her future, the crooked smile returning to that as she states, “Intend to be around for the long haul with a criminal? What if I should steal from you, hmmm?” she adds almost teasingly.

She listens when Max speaks on his life, and his father, the smile turning genuine as she watches him. “You casted a dark shadow? Who would say that? Seems pretty petty to say.” To something else as she holds her bottle, “And are you? Looking for glory and title?” She snorts to that one and shakes her head. “Well, the fool they are. What ‘glory and title’ is there in running around and leading renegades? If that is what you wanted, you would be waiting on the sands for your dragon to come, or, handfasting yourself to some blooded woman of a Hold.” She moves her hand from his face to claim his own then, running a thumb over his knuckles as he answers on his father. “He would have failed,” she says that with certainty. “You’re gaining ground. Gaining stability. One day soon, no one can touch you.” The way it was for Vaputero – or used to be. She takes a moment to spear some cut redfruit before she then asks, “Ever killed anybody?”

A faint smile appears for the correction Jaya makes but he gives no response to it. “Perhaps it was you that kept him sane for a while,” Max breaks the silence he’d fallen into to comment and then he meets that long look sent his way. Lifting a hand he brushes a touch down the scarred side of her face, “You ain’t gonna fail, Jaya. But if you do, I’ll be there to catch you.” One side of his mouth quirks upward as a low chuckle rumbles in his chest on talk of thievery, “If you steal from me…” and here he’ll lean sideways and try to steal a kiss, “I’ll have to think up an appropriate punishment.” His tone filled with wicked promise as he adroitly evades the question on how long he plans to be around.

Suggestive tease falls away and a shadow flashes behind his eyes, “Some are not as forgiving or understanding of my choices or those that I associate with now and judge accordingly.” The faith she seems to have in him and his ability to run the southern continent has Max sending a warm smile Jaya’s way, “Tryin’ to butter me up, eh?” teasing. Using his free hand to lift the bottle of whiskey he’d settled on the ground between his legs, he takes a good long swallow, hissing through the afterburn as she goes for a piece of redfruit. As the bottle comes away from his lips his expression has turned slightly guarded for the last question asked, his hand twitching in hers as if feeling the bite of steel against throat and the warm rush of lifeblood all over again. Long silence and then setting the bottle back down; the young crimelord gives a grim nod of head, “Aye. You?” Turning it back onto her with a searching look.

“That,” Jaya states on her being the one to keep the big Bitran sane, “would be called irony.” Max being there to make sure she doesn’t fail, to catch her should she falls touches her deeply. She leans into that touch, her eyes closing to it as she says, “I believe you will. Maybe that’s why I’m not as afraid as I used to be.” She lets that sink in before her eyes open to his tease on her stealing from him, a brow lifting in open challenge before she laughs. She playfully moves away from that kiss at first before leaning in and planting one on his lips herself. “Appropriate punishment, huh? Will this be with clothes or without?” asks with feigned innocence before she lets it fall to the seriousness of this next topic. Taking a drink from her bottle then, “When are they ever, shuga? But they don’t matter. You’re protecting people. I have a feeling that’s something ingrained in you from your ma. Takes special people to take on such a task. I don’t think I could have done all that you have.” To her buttering him up, there’s laughter as she reaches for some redfruit and offers it to him. Leaning forward, “Do I need to butter you up to fuck me good?” she drops with such seductive air, the heat there in her gaze despite the darkness of the topics they’ve been speaking on.

She can feel that Max was unnerved by her next question, the twitch of his fingers getting a gentle squeeze of her hand. When he answers and asks back, “The first is always the hardest,” she answers grimly, frowning. “He was an accident. It’s haunted me ever since. I still send marks to his family. I know it’s worth little compared to what I’ve done.” Head dips briefly before adding, “I was really young then. Did whatever it took, but he was at the wrong place, wrong time. I’ve made peace with the nightmares,” she adds, regarding her bottle, “but the darkness remains. It always remains.”

Watching her closely as she speaks, catching the meaning behind her words and then smiling when she then feigns evading his kiss, an invisible chord of tension that had been strung about Max seems to unravel a touch, though not entirely. “If I told you,” he responds on appropriate punishment, that same roguish glint to his eyes, “then you’d only try harder to get caught.” Oh yeah, real scary. And then he goes quiet setting a long look onto Jaya when she speaks on what it is he and his mother and then a smile appears, “You have it in you to do the same, baby.” Laughter breaks that moment of solemnity and as she leans forward offering that piece of redfruit he opens his mouth and steals it from her fingers. Chewing and then swallowing a grin appears on being buttered up, “No, but it sure sounds like fun don’t it?” Especially if one considers the nature of butter when it becomes warmed up against bare skin.

With her leaned forward like that it puts Jaya in easy reaching distance, his hand caressing gently over her cheek as she speaks on her first kill and then slipping into her hair as a means to soothing her for the confession made. Warm approval softens his scarred features when she admits to still sending marks back to the dead man’s family, and is voice drops low with the sincerity of his next words, “That…is why you won’t fail, baby. You’re a compassionate, caring woman even for the shitty hand of cards you’ve been dealt.” As to darkness that lingers, his hand slips away from her hair and he nods, a muscle twitching in his jaw, “Aye, that it does.” Looking up again, eyes and tone both flat for what he says next, “That blood on my shirt,” the night she’d returned to the Weyr at Waine’s urging, “belonged to one of the men what took Kas and Jhorn,” beat, “I killed him.”

“Isn’t that the point?” Jaya quips back on getting caught, playing her tongue over her bottom lip as if trying to collect up juices from the fruit. She laughs enticingly on all that is fun, and Max’s solemn words on her being able to do the same as he and Indira gets a long, sobering look from her. His touch to her cheek warms her along with his words on her confession, the woman moving her lips to press a kiss to his hand there in response. “I love you,” is given as simply as if she were giving the current weather. With his hand in her hair, “Some would say that would make me weak. Loving. I was of a mind to think so, but…..I dunno anymore. I can’t help how I feel anymore. Dunno about compassionate,” she adds on his words. “Or caring, even. Maybe it’s something I can’t see myself. I still see the darkness. Then I look at you and I know things will be alright. That, I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks anymore.” When Max confesses to the blood on his shirt, there’s grim understanding and an incline of her head to it. “You saved Kas and Jhorn, and Neni,” she states that simply. “Some deaths are necessary. Do you believe that? Will it haunt you in your space?” She searches his gaze as she asks, her words falling like near whispers.

“Will it have you stealing from me?” Max asks with laughter in his voice, his eyes dropping to where her tongue sweeps across her lower lip and for a moment he’s distracted by desire. It’s what Jaya says about love and loving that flicks his gaze upward again and for a long breath in time he searches her face, her eyes. He doesn’t however say anything in response to any of what she says which might be more than a little unsettling for someone who has basically just laid their heart and soul out. What the young crimelord does answer to is her response on the man he had killed. “It haunts me that…I don’t…feel nothin’ for slittin’ his throat,” the truth there in his shadowed gaze, “He and his brother touched three of mine,” those that she had just named, “and they paid for it." There's a pause before he adds, "And I’d do it again,” cold certainty in his frosted tone and echoed in the hard edge of his expression.

With her hand still entwined about his Max then goes quiet, his gaze setting to the panoramic view before them, drinking in the peace and quiet while he grapples with his thoughts. Ruminating on all that has been confessed and shared in the last little bit. Then he turns his head and sets Jaya with an intent look and goes back to something she’d said earlier about his mother and daughter and what it is he needs in his life.

“Ma, Hope and…you.” He states quietly breaking his silence and then slips back into it as he tries to find the right words to say what’s been laying heavily on him. Frustration flashes into place briefly as he stares down at their joined hands, the events of the past month having brought him to a few pivotal realizations that he’s now struggling to verbalise. Eventually dark eyes lift and roam across Jaya’s face, “After Ahnika…” pausing and then forcing himself to continue, “I swore I’d never fall in love again. Never let someone get close enough to hurt me like that again,” a quick swig of whiskey is swallowed down though he’s not nearly drunk enough for such confessions to be coming easily to him and so steeling himself he continues. “But when I sent you and Hope away, it felt like I was sendin’ a part of me away with you and I knew then that…even if I didn’t see it before, you’ve always been a part of me, right from that first time in your bar.” Here Max stops, drops his gaze, takes a deep breath and when his eyes lift to her face again, there’s an air of complete vulnerability about him, “I love you, baby. I can’t…do it on my own. I…need you.” Swallowing hard, fear of rejection darkening his eyes further, his hand tightens about hers in unconscious gesture as if he’s preparing to hold onto her should she bolt at his next words that are barely audible, “Marry me.”

“I will steal either way,” Jaya counters that easily, the smile infectious as she drinks in his desire for her. It fades when Max admits that he feels nothing for killing the man, the Bitran woman squeezing his hand as she says, “We do what we must to protect what’s ours. That is the law of the lands. It will haunt you, but one day, it will fade.” She falls into silence when he does, watching him, the food and drink forgotten for now as the breeze brushes her hair over her scarred face. When Max speaks again, voicing his confession, there’s a tentative smile touching her full lips. It even grows when he finally voices those three words, the barkeep looking away briefly as she brushes the hair from her own face. “You can,” she says hoarsely on him doing it alone. “If you choose to.” It’s the last that she doesn’t expect. She tenses up to those two words, eyes widening a fraction as she feels his hand tighten on hers. Handfasting…. “I, ahh, ain’t a girl men handfast to,” she’s stammering a little, frowning uncertainly at him. “What about Vaputero? My family and its curse? Handfasting to me will doom you, and Hope,” and she nods towards the direction of the Weyr where his daughter is. “It’s a risky move, and I promised myself…..it would die with me. The curse.” Pausing, searching his gaze, “Do you understand what all you’re risking, Max? By handfasting to me? What all you may lose?” It was the crux of some of her fears – something she never thought she would have to deal with until now. “You will regret. You will resent me like I heard my mother had, handfasting my father. It was her downfall. His downfall.”

All else fades, all of his attention focussing onto Jaya for while she’s voicing her fears and anxieties so Max is battling his. Slowly but surely his jaw sets into a determined line and though there’s wariness that lingers in his gaze, his love for her overrides it. “Jaya listen to me. I don’t give a fuck about Vaputero, your family or curses. None of it,” tone held low as using their joined hands he’ll try to gently pull her closer to him, into his lap if possible. “If there’s one thing the past month has shown me, it’s that life is short and that we need to live every shardin’ day like it’s our last. To find what happiness we can in this life.” Spoken in the tone of one who has recently looked death in the eye and given it the middle finger and then if she’ll allow he’ll try to capture her chin and turn her gaze to him, “You ain’t your Ma and I sure as shit ain’t your Pa, or mine.” And then he goes on to add in a voice so low it rumbles in his chest, “I love you, Bajaya of the Dicori and I want you at my side until my last day.” And then a smile warms his face as he traces a finger down the side of hers, “The only thing I’ll regret, is not tellin’ you how I feel, how much I want you…need…you.” Words fade and then pick up again with his dark regard fixing to her intently. “Together, we’ll be unstoppable,” acknowledgment quietly spoken of her having been his strength when he was too weak to continue on his own and there he stops watching her carefully as guards threaten to flicker back into place.

All else indeed fades in light of that announcement, something that Jaya looked side-blinded about. She thought of the excuses, the reasons not to, and Max was batting down every single one. Taking on a new tact, “I’ll never be the tame sort,” she seems to warns, going through all the notions she had learned of handfasted folks. “I may never be the proper woman you deserve. You wanted a mother for Hope….and I could be a poor one, love,” but then he’s pulling her close, pulling her onto his lap, and she touches the scar on his face as she continues to search his gaze. She listens when Max talks about life being too short, that they should live each day like it was their last, that draws a considerable regard from her. She breaks her silence when he speaks on regret, the Bitran seeing the love in his eyes to be genuine. “There’s so many reasons why we shouldn’t,” she notes wryly, reveling in his touch, “and yet you’re willing to take the risk.” There’s a long silence to them being unstoppable before she says, “I agree. We would be.” Beat. “Then I will,” she states, chin lifting. “I’ll marry you. I have unfinished business to deal with first,” and she grins before touching a finger to his nose. “Shijan, for one. Vaputero for another. It will take time, my love.” And she leans in and presses her lips to his.

“Ain’t exactly the proper sort myself,” Max returns her warning and then a lopsided smile falls into place over what type of mother she may or may not be, “And you could be just the type she needs. This time, I’m choosin’ for myself.” Harking back to another conversation they’d had. Strong arms wrap about Jaya as she settles into his lap with him turning his head in toward her touch to his scar. “Aye, there are,” he agrees on the multitude of reasons why them marrying likely isn’t a good idea, “but you’re the only reason I need to want to.” That darker side of him that prowls and whispers to his subconscious had been so sure she’d say no, that Jaya would turn him down that when she agrees it’s a moment or two before her words register. A broad grin appears, “Yes? You said, yes?” And then he’s letting out a whoop of joy loud enough to startle their runners nearby and bring disapproving snorts and whinnies from them. Laughing Max’s arms tighten about her and he greets the brush of her lips with a fierce kiss of relief and possession, deepening it as hunger leaps to the fore. Breaking away slightly his lips curve against hers in a goofy grin that appears plastered to his face, “Take all the time you need, baby.” She said yes, and that’s all he needs right now, even the thought of another’s loss being his gain not enough to put a damper on his happiness.

Max continues to deflect to the point that Jaya couldn't really see any other excuse to send. A lopsided grin of defeat appears, the Bitran woman still haunted by her mother's death enough to say, "Yes. I will, just…don't get all mushy on me, Lomaxin," and she fits him with a hard look for that loud whoop of joy erupting from him. "Though I did, briefly, but I've recovered. Tell me something though. Why handfasting?" It was something she never understood herself, apparent in her gaze as she watches him tighten about herself. "I've seen many live on without all the pomp and ceremony. Why so important to you?" That fierce return of kiss causing her to gasp before watching that goofy grin on his face, seeing the tension ebb from his shoulders. He gives her time and she nods to that, pleased. "Thank you," she says, the words meaning more beyond that. "It's, ahh, going to take time to let such a thing settle. Haven't started freaking out yet." She reaches for her bottle then before taking a long drink, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand as she regards him idly. Leaning back against him then, "Guess this means we would have to go up to Bitra then," she states wryly, it now being inevitable.

Her words on not getting mushy on her simply serve to deepen his grin despite the hard look Jaya sends him, the stresses and tensions of life forgotten for the time being. Max then arranges a look of suitable chastisement, save for the sly light of humour that sparks dark eyes, “So no shiny baubles, or nothin’ then, eh?” Because that would just be mushy, right? Right. It’s when she questions the reasons behind making it official that he pauses and counters with, “Why not?” And then there comes a pause where he contemplates the why of it all, trying to find a way to put into words what he feels deep within. “Because you’re important to me and I’d be proud to call you mine and let the rest of Pern know it too,” pausing once again and then adding, “It’s also for us, Jaya. To remind us both that it’s for keeps. That what we have is worth fightin’ for, and that runnin’ away when the goin’ gets tough ain’t an option. Besides, do you want our kids to be labelled as bastards?” Tease intended for that last. On the matter of ceremony a crooked smile falls back into place, “Don’t have to be nothin’ big, baby. You, me and a Harper and I’m all good.” That having been said his mother would probably kick his arse from Southern all the way to the northern continent if he dared do such a thing. A low laugh rumbles in his chest, “You plannin’ on doin’ so?” Freaking out that is. Leaning his back against the tree trunk one of his hands loosen from about Jaya and reach for her bottle once she’s had a drink. “Aye, like I said, I need to speak with your Pa,” thus lending hint that this hadn’t been a snap decision he’d just made but that he’d been lending it some thought over the last little while.

"Baubles should come regardless," Jaya states that as if it was some ancient rule. "You mentioned gems earlier. Don't think I haven't forgotten that." Then Max answers on the 'why' of it all - the whys of handfasting in the first place - and she remains silent as she mulls over what he says. "The same could be said without the handfasting," she notes, leaning forward to grab a meatroll. The word are neither here nor there, especially since she already agreed to marry him, and when he speaks on their potential children, she whips a look back at the man and glares. "Looking to breed off of me? You maybe looking for a long time, shuga," she sends with an open scowl. "My own ma died giving birth to my brother, and I'm not looking to die that way myself. Besides, Dicori children will be cursed. If you get one off of me, you'll see." Beat. "And I'll fight you before that happens, Lomaxin," she warns with a glare, though one would know it's short-lived considering how the two just can't keep their hands off of each other for longer than a day. The matter of the wedding itself is something she goes blank on, the Bitran stating, "Never was one to dream about a wedding, much less my own. Something small, yes. Simple. The way the holdless do it." She snorts on his playful question on freaking out, but she answers on the matter of her father with a blithe, "Don't expect him to welcome you with open arms into the family, shuga. He got rid of a daughter, not gaining a son-in-law." Then pausing as she hands her bottle over to him, she leans back more comfortably against him and sighs as she looks at the peaceful view. "What will your mother think?" she asks now on Indira, the sudden thought touching upon her as she finishes off a meatroll.

Jaya’s response has him chuckling, “Ah, so baubles are okay so long as there’s no mushiness attached to them, huh? Tell you what, how ‘bout you can have what you can find.” Challenge set out over the gems he’d mentioned earlier. Watching her carefully as she reaches for a meatroll, Max goes quiet a moment and following suit takes up a sweetroll, “No, handfastin’ ain’t gonna break that curse you’re worried about, love. You gotta look it in the eye and tell it to go fuck itself, aye?” Taking a bite of the sweetroll, his mouth folds around an amused line for the scowl sent his way at mention of children and then it slips right off into a slightly anxious line when Jaya reminds of her mother having died in childbirth and the one armed grip he has on her tightens briefly. “You ain’t gonna die,” he growls out low, as if somehow it were in his power to control such things. The seed of worry is however now planted and the young crimelord leaves that topic well enough alone to put a warm smile to her, “It ain’t somethin’ boys pay much mind to either, love. Small and simple it is.”

There is however curiosity in his expression for how it is the holdless go about such things but he doesn’t ask just yet because she’s bringing up the topic of their respective families and how they might take the news. Finishing off the last of the sweetroll he licks his fingers and snorts, “Ain’t lookin’ for another Pa.” There he pauses not having given much thought to what Indira’s response might be and so he turns it back on her, “Dunno. What do you reckon Keane would have to say?” For if there’s anyone’s opinion he respects, it’s the older Telgari barkeep.

A brow lifts with suspicion as Jaya looks back at him for his initial response. “Go find them, eh? And if I should find your precious booze stash too? That mean I can take them to task as well?” The challenge is duly returned. Max’s answer on handfasting and curses get a helpful smile, though it’s clear that it won’t be easy for her to let go of. Not when she has seen relatives succumb so before. She returns to settling back against him and watching the view, his words on childbirth getting a frown as she puts forth, “How do you know I won’t die? My da didn’t know, and losing her tore him for the rest of his life.” That’s her take on it at least, and she’s satisfied enough with a nod on the wedding that she gives no words. His answer on what Indira would say gets a grin from her as she says, “Gonna tell her? You know she figure things out sooner or later.” Beat. “Keane would laugh till he was blue in the face,” Jaya gives with a roll of her eyes and snort. “He used to poke at me on things like this, so I’ll be playing right into his hands.” Squeezing Max’s arm that’s around her, she adds more fondly, “He’ll be pleased. He’ll say that me going south to open may bar was the best decision I ever made. He’ll say me running to his bar was for the best. Need to check up on that man,” she tacks on, glancing back at him. “See if he’s doing well up there. He’ll want to hear about Vaputero and Olira.”

“The booze is off limits,” Max is quick to return, though he’s hard pressed to hide the amusement in his eyes when Jaya twists round to look at him, “The gems…you ain’t gonna find,” smirk. Gauntlets definitely thrown down on both sides – Let the games begin! As she settles more against his chest, so arms wrap about her middle and he rests his chin on her shoulder, attention flirting between both the pastoral view between them and the one afforded him down the front of her blouse. “Because I won’t let you,” his response comes gruff against her ear to dying in childbirth, not prepared to even entertain the thought, “We got Jonavan, and he’s real smart.” That his apparent ace up his sleeve regardless of whether or not the masterhealer would deign to attend something so mundane as a birthing.

Max had already turned his head in toward Jaya, lips brushing a line down the length of her neck and then she harks back to the topic of his mother. Talk about a buzzkill! “She already knows somethin’s up,” he admits leaning forward and reaching passed Jaya for a meatroll, “I’ve been avoidin’ her.” No apology in the crooked grin that appears for that. “Aye, I’ll tell her. You know she’s gonna come bargin’ down to the bar wantin’ to know if I got you knocked up, aye?” For according to Indira, why else would he have asked Jaya to marry him? There’s a warm smile for her response on Keane. “He’s good people,” Max states and then sends a sidelong look her way, “You reckon he’d be pleased? Not pissed off because of the whole…crimelord thing?” He’s more worried about Keane’s reaction than that of her own father by the sound of it.

“The booze,” Jaya is quick to correct, “won’t be off-limits if I find it, or should I be your wife. I’ll find those gems, too. Give me a good day and you’ll know never to challenge me,” and she tosses a wink in Max’s direction at that before reaching over to try and steal the bottle back from him. Of course, she knows he’s getting plenty of peak down her cleavage, but for now, she’s permitting. In fact, she’s giving him more view if it means she can wrest the bottle away from him while distracted. Easy play is set aside in light of childbirth and death, the Bitran stiffening just a little at Max’s open trust in the masterhealer. All she says to that is a dry, “Well, you can trust him. I don’t have to. I doubt he delivers babies anyway, shuga.” Well, she hopes not. Jonavan still had no clue that Max was the man she was seeing, and she wasn’t about to be the one to come in between two good, apparent friends. So on that sake, she’s quick to steer the subject off of Jonavan.
His lips are like a cool balm to the heat of the day down her neck, though the buzzkill of talking about his mother draws a knowing smile from her. A brow lifts to him saying Indira already suspects, and she turns back to look square at his face. “And avoiding her helps you…..how?” she tosses back, looking as if to steal the very meatroll he was going for. “And I can handle Indira. Always have. She’ll come to me eventually, you know. She took me being with Shijan hard, at first. If that’s any indication, I doubt she’ll be anymore amiable with me for being with her son.” On the matter of Keane, there’s an easy shrug on the old barkeep before a crooked smile appears. “Pissed off? Keane?” and she waves that off with one hand in dismissal of it. “He wants me settled. I always said I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. You know he’s pretty traditional sometimes, though I think your mother may change that in him. You’ll get no problem from him, shuga. He likes you, and what you stand for. Thinks you’ll keep me from going over the edge. The whole Weyr, even. Of course,” and she gives a heavy, inevitable sigh, “once he knows, he’ll be insufferable. I’ll never hear the end of it from him."

Low laughter spills and Max nips gently at her ear, “Oh no you don’t, you don’t get to pull the wife card until…it’s a done deal,” smirk. As to challenges a grin forms and he definitely isn’t backing down from setting them before her, “And have you gettin’ bored and sluggin’ some other poor sap on the nose? Not a chance.” Sly reminder given on where that all had led to. Jaya’s bid to distract him enough to steal that bottle away from him, almost works, almost. The moment she tugs at it, his grip tightens about it and he sets her with a look that dares her to try harder, his other hand already moving to her ribs where he’ll quite likely employ the dirtiest of moves and start tickling her to gain the upper hand, which means he loses the meatroll to her. Max feels her then stiffen against him and misinterpreting the tension kisses the side of her jaw, “We ain’t gotta worry about that now, aye?” Famous last words, mister.

Eyes narrow lightly at that knowing smile and then a chuckle rumbles in his chest for just how avoiding his mother will help, “It buys me a little more time?” Time enough for just this day, this moment in time to have been able to ask Jaya to be his wife and savour her response before facing down the negative comments he’s sure his mother will sling his way. “Shijan…was different, baby. He’s…” Max lets the words drift away, unable to speak of the man he’s effectively ‘stolen’ Jaya way from. Just as well he has no idea about Jonavan. And so he moves onto the topic of Keane instead. “I went up to see him a while back,” the young crimelord confesses, “Gave me some good advice. Said one day I’d know when I’d met the right type of woman for the kinda life I lead these days,” or words to that effect, “And he was right,” a warm smile Jaya’s to own. A soft laugh follows next, “More like you keepin’ me from goin’ over the edge.” It becoming ever clearer to him that they needed each other for similar reasons.


Skillet - Will You Be There


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