Pillow Talk


Ahnika.jpg Max.jpg

Date: ? IC: The night of Falling - Part Deux
Location: EW - Beast Caverns
Synopsis: Ahnika returns to the stables that same night, things heat up, get interrupted, and tricky truths are revealed and forgiven, in part.
Rating: PG-13 - adult sexual content
Logger: Ahnika

Despite the fact that Ahnika had spent the rest of her candidate duty that day in the stables, she really didn't get any more quality time in with Max, either because he really had so much work to do, or there were too many people around. So, when she knocked off for the day, she left with the complete intention of coming back later, plan already hatched in her mind. Memories of that morning and their very intimate exchange of feelings and declaration for one another still heavy on her mind, the teen made her way through the weyr in a sort of lovestruck haze, half-smile tugging at her lips. She couldn't wait to feel his arms around her again, to be held by him again. And so it was that she meandered around, nodding politely and offering small talk to those she knew as she encountered them at dinner or in the bathing pools as she prepared to settle in for the night. She returned to the weyrling barracks for a time, wanting a good measure of time to pass so that there would be even fewer about the weyr as she moved through it, and then she rose once more, changed into one of her best tunics short of Gather material, and one of her best skirts, and letting out the night-time braid of her hair. She collected her satchel and two light blankets, stuffing them into the bag, before carefully creeping out of the weyrling barracks and making her way to the stables with only one stop in to the kitchens for some redfruit for them to snack on. When Ahni arrives at the beast manager's office and bedchamber, her disappointment at not finding Max there is evident, but only disappointment, not doubt. Not yet. After all, there could be any number of things wrong with the beasts he manages, livestock and stablehand alike, that could have drawn him away. And so, practical girl that she is, she sets about making herself at home in his space, and in a rather feminine way, marking her territory. The first thing she does is track down some kind of rope that does not look like it is being used for anything - which could go really badly if it is - and she strings it up across Max's stable-office separating the corner where his mattress is and the rest of his office. Then she unfurls the light blankets from her satchel and folds them over the line, letting gravity tug them down so that they are almost touching the ground and affecting a nice dark barrier between bed-area and office-area. With that, she goes to the door of the stable area and looks over, seeing how much of the bedding she can see from there, and, seeming satisfied, she returns, ducking behind it and setting her satchel down in the corner. She sits there and waits for him for a time, and then starts to feel tired, so she decides to lie down to wait. Without meaning to, in a span of a few moments from when she put her head to Max's pillow, took in his scene there, the girl dozed off to sleep, well and truly exhausted, despite not having had the physical workload that another candidate who drew stable-duty might have had. Her day was exhausting in other ways, particularly mental and emotional. She turns in her sleep after a few minutes, her hand flung out and resting, palm down, just on the edge of the curtained barrier.

Having taken the time away from his duties to spend with Ahnika, work set aside, continued well on into the evening. A meeting with a potential feed supplier, one with a tanner and another with the big tree of a man that supplies the Weyr’s timber, the first over dinner and the latter two, drinks. Then it was a stop by the bathing caverns, make a swing passed the kitchens and snag himself a monster of a herdbeast sandwich. All of which culminates in Max returning rather later to his stall than usual. Still munching on the last half of his meal-to-go, he swings into his office and stops dead when his eyes land on the make-shift screening set up. The sandwich stuck halfway in his mouth and almost forgotten for a moment. Suddenly he remembers its presence finishes the bite he was in the middle of taking and paces a step or two closer as he chews, eyes narrowed and suspicion high. Not initially putting this new development together with the redhead. Its only once he’s stepped passed the barrier and claps eyes on the sleeping beauty, that his frame starts to relax somewhat and the corner of his mouth turns up. The sandwich, or what’s left of it, now presenting a bit of a problem, gets set up on a nearby shelf that holds his personal effects and then he’s moving back toward the mattress, eyes roving over and taking in every small detail. From the fiery hair fanned out across his pillow, to the effort taken in her chosen attire.

Hunkering down next to Ahnika, loathe to wake her just yet, Max reaches a hand forward to brush fingers through the silky hair as he watches her sleep. Finally that hand moves to where hers lies flung out, and gently laces fingers through hers, “Ahni, baby. Wake up.” Softly spoken in the hope of not startling her.

His touch through her hair, light as it may have been, earns him a soft, slumbering sigh, a pleased sound, not one of distress. Ahnika does awaken a few moments later as he laces his fingers through hers, her eyes fluttering open and blinking in confusion for a moment, and then immediately surrender to the impossible force of a yawn. With her free hand, she politely covers her mouth, and then reblinks her eyes opened. Once they gain focus on Max's face, her fingers tighten a little around his. Then another blink and her grey eyes look around, taking in the surroundings without moving her head. And finally Ahni stretches her legs, back arching a little with the effort, while a frown tugs at her lips, "I didn't mean to fall asleep." Her gaze goes to the curtain as her body relaxes from its stretch, and she smiles, then looks back at Max, "You said we had to be discreet. I thought … well, what do you think?" She asks, her head nodding a little to the curtain. "If you don't like it, I could talk to one of the woodcrafters to make us a good'n proper dressing screen, painted pretty." She rethinks it and adds, "Well, maybe not painted pretty. Someone might think something was wrong with you. It'd be harder to explain away." Being so masculine as Max is and suddenly having a nice, prettily painted dressing screen in his stable/office/bedroom? Yeah, wouldn't work well.

He can’t help it, he’s male. Dark eyes transfixed as Ahnika stretches like a feline. A slow intake of breath and then he’s shaking his head to try and clear it, a crooked smile perched on his mouth, “Not exactly what I had in mind, love.” A glance goes up to the draped fabric before a good natured sigh spills out and he’s trying to find himself an edge of the mattress to sit on, “You make it very hard for a man, do you know that?” Low laughter greets her suggestion of a daintily painted screen, “Only if you promise to make sure there’s plenty of pink flowers and ribbons all over it.” Joking. Still keeping the fingers of one hand laced through hers, he leans over supporting his weight with his other arm that sets to the mattress on the opposite side of her body and kisses her gently for a moment or two before pulling away with a short smile and offering proper greeting, “Hey baby.”

As he looks for an edge on the mattress, Ahnika shifts a little to one side to try and give him space. But her expression is laced with uncertainty and confusion. "What did you have in mind? I can make sure to do it right. Just tell me how. I'll fix it," says the problem-solver. And then his second comment has her blushing all over again and smiling coyly. She lowers her gaze in a rare spectacle of demure bashfulness, still smiling, and clears her throat, "Oh, well, I can leave if you don't want me here." There is a little teasing note in her voice, just enough to suggest she knows he wants her there, right there, under him. But it's not as confidently teasing or seductive as say some other more experienced women might offer Max. Then she chuckles, the sound of her laughter coming at the end of his comment about flowers and ribbons and she nods a little, her grey eyes staring up at him with warmth and humor, "You got it. I'll get right on it." Pause. "Sir." Then she's grinning, that is, until her lips are claimed by his. She closes her eyes and tilts her chin up slightly, tasting him and his kiss with equal softness until he pulls away, and to his greeting, she reopens her eyes and smiles, whispering, "Hey." And then she shifts again, twisting her free arm up to pillow her head, her red hair splashed across it and his pillow, or half of it, and she studies him. It isn't quite the study of him she made when she first encountered him working here in the stables. She seems to want to look deeper into his face and any lines of a tiring, long day his work may have produced. "What time is it? Are you just getting back?" An edge of concern for him overworking himself is threaded into her timbre.

Amusement flares in his eyes, “Little miss fix-it,” Max teases and then shakes his head for his earlier words, “This is fine,” having come to some or other decision. Ahnika’s tease may not be as seductive as he’s heard in the past, but watching the butterfly starting to slowly emerge from its cocoon, seems to be what holds the allure more than anything else. Drawing his arm in tighter against her side, as if making to trap her, he growls playfully, “Then you’ll force me into hunting you down and trussing you up like a herdcalf to make sure you don’t get away again.” A chuckle greets her own and a brow tips upward, “Oh, Sir, hmm? I think I quite like that.” When she shifts her position he goes quiet, eyes once again roaming over her to finally settle on her face, meeting her study of him in equal part, weariness for a long, though satisfying day there in his eyes. Her question brings him back from wherever his mind had wandered and he glances upward as if he could see Belior and Timor’s paths through the rock. “Late,” he states quietly and then turns a warm expression down onto her, “You should get some sleep,” though he doesn’t look to be turning her out, as demonstrated in his next, “Come on, lazybones. Let a man have a square of his mattress.”

Grinning good-naturedly at his teasing of her need to fix everything, Ahnika squeezes her eyes shut and tilts her head back, chin out and neck arching to expose her throat some and that grin blossoms into a combination giggle and chuckle, her expression one of youthful joy and comfort, which then turns into a little bit of a squeal of girlish laughter, lilting and happy as his arm pulls in tighter against her side. Making a soft humming sound on the trail of that laughter, Ahnika reopens her eyes to look up into his face again, grinning once more, "Never," she breathes, and then her expression sobers some. She moves her arm out from under her head to reach for his face, meaning to cup it, "I don't ever want to leave you, so don't you ever let me get away." Then another smile at his comment about 'Sir', but she remains quiet, letting him speak, and watching him and his face once more. She starts to try and make a low protest about sleeping now when he just got there, but it is forestalled by his last statement and, just like that, the warmth in her expression fades and she looks up at him, a flicker of hurt in her grey eyes before she turns her head away and closes them, and then she slides over to be all the way against the wall and give him his space, seeming stiff and distant. "You really think that? Do you really think I'm lazy?" asks the girl who spends so much energy trying to make sure everyone sees her as useful, as worth something.

All that bared neck just asking to be kissed, and so that’s exactly what Max does, leaning over her to brush lips along that soft pale skin, trailing up to her ear where he echoes her own response low, “Never.” To letting her get away. When Ahnika turns away from him going suddenly quiet and presses herself up against the wall, confusion colors his expression at first. First stopping to kick off his boots, the silence stretching out as he does so with just the soft sound of a runner nickering from a few stalls over to break it, he turns a perplexed look onto her back before stretching out on his side next to the redhead. Reaching an arm toward her middle he’ll try drawing her back in close against his chest, as he tries to make apology, “I was only teasing, baby. You’re the last person anyone would ever think of tagging the label lazy to. Now Leron…” a short chuckle, “that kid’s got Lazy branded on his ass.” And if that doesn’t work, he’ll press kisses to the back of her neck where her hair has fallen away, murmuring against her skin, “You really need to learn to start laughing at yourself, love.”

Ohhh. Yes. Those kisses along her neck and up to her ear are doing things to her. Warm things. But alas, Ahnika has this baggage to deal with first. She is, however, easily drawn back into him, against him, her hips and waist shifting as she snuggles up to his warmth once more, and his kisses back against her neck are working some magic too, causing a little ripple of goosebumps and shivers of pleasure to move through her, and the girl sighs in his arms, seeming a little less distant and more content now. She even chuckles a little over Leron, and Ahni says, "Maybe stablework just isn't Leron's calling?" Which leads her to thoughts about Healing and how much she wanted to, but it just wasn't a good fit. "I made a poor Healer," her shoulder slump a little against the mattress, "I really wanted to be a Healer, too, I mean really badly, but …" she wrinkles her nose and reaches out with a hand to pick at a splinter in the wood of the stable wall, fidgeting again. She squirms a little more against him, pressing into him, needing him, and bends her leg to curl up against his. She is still wearing her ankle-boots, it seems, but her skirt reveals a bare calf as she cuddles up to him more. She frowns then, sounding indignant as she answers, "I do so laugh," okay maybe not at herself so much, "Is it a crime to want to be needed and useful?" She asks, looking at him over her shoulder, and then turns back again, "I just want to be helpful and make a difference," her voice growing softer, into a whisper, "I don't want to be a burden or problem and … " her voice catches a little, and she leaves it unfinished. Left behind. Abandoned. Kicked to the curb. She shrugs rather than choosing between them, and continues to work at that splinter, trying to smooth it out.

With Ahnika conceding and curling up against him, his arm tightens around her in a reassuring squeeze and then loosens, a low chuckle coming for the goosebumps raised along her neck. Fingers set to tracing idle patterns across her tunic covered stomach as Max listens while she talks, a crooked grin arriving for her comment over Leron, “Don’t rightly think there’s anything that’s his calling.” His shoulders shift against her in a shrug, “Maybe they should send him over to entertain the littlies, aye?” amusement there. Back to what she says of having wanted to be a Healer. He listens quietly for a while before pushing up onto an elbow to look down at her with a warm smile, “I’d beg to differ,” on her making a poor Healer, “but then I’d only be accused of being biased.” The squirming against him however, has the effect of the poor man closing his eyes tight and then letting out a slow breath, biting back a response about her keeping still – for the love of Faranth, woman! But it’s a mental plea and goes unsaid. When she turns to look back over her shoulder, he leans down to playfully try and catch her lower lip lightly with his teeth before chuckling at the indignation, “Nothing wrong with wanting to feel useful, love. We all feel like that. The trick is to remember that sometimes it’s okay to just relax and be you.” Now he goes back to that delicious neck, mouth not quite touching as he murmurs, “And I’ll always need you.”

There comes a little smirk at the comment on Leron, but she doesn't mention him further. She does, however, suck in a little breath as Max takes her lower lip, some of the sparkle in her eyes turning into a low smolder. His words and breath sliding across the skin of her neck has the woman shuddering and closing her eyes, "Promise?" And she is either well distracted from her own issues, or he has truly completely washed them from her worrisome mind, because even without his answer, she's turning around a little more, trying to face him as she stretches across the mattress next to him. Her hands come away from the wall and reach for him, one to rest on his chest and the other to rest at his hip, assuming he allows her to turn around enough to do so. She leans in seeking his lips with hers, whispering, "I love you, Max," while closing her eyes.

…FTB for heavy petting and then…

Cue one blundering idiot (or savior) by the name of Waine, who barges into his boss’ stall banging on the door but not waiting for permission to enter, “Boss I was just wonderi…” the words cut off as his focus lands first on the draped fabric and then, the sounds of heavy breathing beyond. Backing out a sly grin on his chops, “I can come back later if you’re, busy.” The latter word far too heavily stressed for his own good.

A rumble of deep annoyance greets the interruption, with Max needing to take a few steadying breaths. As he rolls away from that luscious creature he’d had under him just seconds before, he tugs at the waistband of his trousers in hopes of trying to disguise the obvious effects she has on him, and fails. As such he simply ends up sitting on the edge of the mattress, shoulders hunched, and hands clutched at his head in high frustration as he growls out tightly “Fuck off, Waine!”

“Sure thing boss. Speak to you in the morning then. Have a good one.” And the lout at least has the sense to close the door behind him as he leaves. Max in turn sends a boot flying after him that thunks dully against the wood. “Sharding idiot!” Though whether this were to his underling or himself is unclear right now. Turning back to Ahnika, he tries to draw her closer to him, much of the earlier heat cooling in the wake of the interruption, “I’m sorry, baby.”

The growl and the boot actually startles Ahni, considering she's curled up and hearing it more than seeing it. It wasn't expected, and for a moment, a brief moment, she misunderstands and thinks Max must be cross with her. Panic grips her while she works to control her breathing, her mind racing to try and figure out what of her hands, her lips, her body he somehow finds lacking enough to respond like that, and then he is drawing her near, and that panicked sensation begins to subside. Ahnika doesn't resist his drawing her to him, but she is trembling a little, either from the excitement of it all, the near lapse in judgment, or perhaps she is just cooling off as he is. She struggles a little to right her arm in her sleeve, and set her tunic back in place, and then, only then, does she look up at him as he draws her near. She exhales a short breath and smiles tremulously, uncertain of where to go from here, if anywhere at all.

With frightened and uncertain animals being Max’s particular area of expertise, its no small leap to for him to read the signs in Ahnika. “Shards, I’m so sorry, love,” this as he tries to help her set her clothing to rights, hands smoothing over her hair and then cupping her face in his hands to give her a soft reassuring kiss before wrapping strong arms about her “I want you so bad, Ahni,” head dropping to nestle in her shoulder before lifting to seek her eyes and understanding out, “So bad. But not like this. Not in a way that makes either of us feel like we’ve done something wrong. Not for the first time.” A short smile appears and he traces a finger across her lower lip, “You deserve something special,” searching her face now, “Let me try to make it special for you?” The weariness and exhaustion of all that had passed in that very momentous day starting to catch up with the man now.

With his cupped hands, and closing her eyes to his soft kiss, Ahnika remains speechless for a time. Her supple and yielding body still trembles, however, and she manages a nod and shaky laugh in answer to his last question, cut short by her teeth chattering, her own nerves seem to the breaking point. Yet, Ahnika, the poor inexperienced thing, just looks confused and frightened all the more for her inability to stop trembling, and so she tries to hug her arms to herself to keep still, but it doesn't quite work, and she finally exhales, chattering out low, "Can't… seem to stop…" the edge of alarm in her voice is unable to be kept out. "What's wrong with me? Max?" She looks back up into his face, needing him to hold her, but not really knowing how or why or even how to ask as her teeth continue to chatter involuntarily while her nervous system just floods her body with little spasms as they decompress and cope with the sudden change from on to off.

Watching as the jitters set in, concern creases his features and a frown forms as he delivers himself one swift mental ass kicking to himself for having put Ahnika in this position to begin with. “It’s alright, baby. You’re going to be alright,” Max soothes, pulling her closer into his arms and then moving to lay the both of them down again, her back against his chest, his one pillow sharing both of their heads. “This…is what happens when you get too…” searching for the right words to try and explain what was happening to her, “worked up with no place to go.” He eventually settles on. A soft chuckle sounds out, “Cold swim in the stream shocks the body right back into behaving again.” Although he doesn’t seem to suggesting she give that a try right now, but perhaps she now understands some of what he’s gone through in their passed encounters. With one arm wrapped tightly about her, offering his strength and warmth as salve to a rattled nervous system, his other strokes gently up and down her arm, “Just need to rest for a bit. So…tired,” his voice starting to sway and drift as the adrenaline slowly starts to leave his system. Whispering quietly again, “I’m sorry, baby.” Sorry he can’t give her what they both want, and need right now and sorry that she was so horribly startled by the interruption.

Even with his shirt off, and the intimate setting and the very near miss they just had in their sexual exploration of one another, her nerves going hay-wire has a way of making a young woman lose interest in sex pretty quick, but that does not mean she has no interest in tenderness and being held as Max holds Ahnika now. Taking a couple shuddered deep breaths as he pulls her in with her back against his chest and holds her and soothes her and explains it all to her, Ahnika slowly but surely begins to calm down. "Cold swim," she echos on an exhale, teeth not chattering finally, closing her eyes and focusing on the wonderful feeling of his arm around her, protective and calming. She listens to his breathing and feels his heartbeat while being up against him, and she falls into the comforting rhythm of both. To his last, she lightly strokes his hand over her stomach with her own and murmurs, "Shhh. I'm fine now. It's all okay. I'll be okay as long as you're with me." Apparently deciding it is her turn to be comforting.

Savoring the warmth of her, even fully clothed, against the bare skin of his chest, Max chuckles softly for something said and curls in closer against her trying to match every part of his body that he can to the soft curves and planes of Ahnika’s. This his show of weak vulnerability, his need for and the comfort drawn from simply having her there with him. Soothing words and touches to his hand have him battling to keep his eyelids open; knowing that should they sleep, and worse still oversleep, the risk of discovery would be higher by dawn’s light. “Talk to me, baby,” mumbled words as he fights sleep’s seductive allure. Maybe if he just closes his eyes for a moment…..the rise and fall of his chest starts to fall shallow, the beat of his heart slowing as he succumbs.

Perhaps unaware of the risk, or simply uncaring, Ahnika continues to stroke his hand softly. Her eyes remain closed, but oddly she feels wide awake, either from having the jitters or from her little cat nap earlier. She smiles a little at his request, but is slow to come up with anything to talk about that she thinks might interest him, so after a moment wherein she remembers Indira and Max's fondness for drink, she says casually, and softly, "There's a new bar owner at the weyr. Her name is Jaya. She seems like a decent sort. She told me that she'd teach me how to run a bar if I would come spend a candlemark or so there helping her get the bar set up. That should be interesting. I've never even been drunk. Oh, she said she'd show me how to do that, too. Get drunk, that is."

Almost at the brink of sleep, that place where surrender is easier than dragging oneself back from the precipice, Max is for the first time in a very long time, content. That is until Ahnika’s voice strokes through his consciousness, the first few words gaining a drowsy, “Mmm,” from him. The next few however, and the woman named, has him instantly alert, his frame tensing slightly against it, and then he goes dead still. Searching for words to meet hers the silence stretches out as if perhaps he hadn’t heard her and was indeed asleep, save for that earlier tell. Finally low spoken at her back, “I know Jaya,” his arm tightening around her as if she might bolt for some reason, “She’s…don’t get drunk with her, Ahni.” It’s a plea rather than a directive but the slightly tight edge to his tone may have it seem as the latter.

There's something sweet and intimate about "pillow talk" even if the events preceding the talk weren't true to the usual context. Ahnika seems to warm and settle even more against him, within his embrace, as she talks. So when his body tenses behind her, she senses it immediately and her hand gently stroking across his goes still. Then as his arm tightens around her, she leans back into him a little, perhaps finding that need in him and wanting to reassure him. She wasn't going anywhere. Not yet anyway. There is a long, drawn out silence in reply, and then just when it starts to seem like Ahnika won't acknowledge his combination plea and directive, she takes his hand at her waist and lifts it to her lips, pressing a kiss against the skin on the back of his hand before moving it back to her waist. "I trust you, Max," she says, believing he is looking out for her in some way, "If it is that important, then I'll be careful around her. I won't get drunk with her." She does, point of fact, know Max a lot better than she knows Jaya, and so she seems okay with deferring to him here. There is a little pause and then she gives a plea of her own, in a softer whispered tone, "Tell me about it."

For all that Ahnika presses in closer against him, the tension doesn’t quite drain away and Max remains silent for long moments thereafter, the back of the hand she’d kissed turning over to touch a gentle almost regretful stroke against her cheek. The heavy frown that’s settled between his brows likely goes unseen, however, she’ll probably feel the way his head moves in the semblance of a shake from side to side on the pillow they share. Low, and seemingly quite sure of it, “Trust me Ahni, you don’t want to know.” Loathe to say or do anything that’ll have her leaving him, never to return again.

Despite how good his hand feels on her cheek, and how she longs to press her face into it more, it is Ahnika's turn to tense with his response, and a frown forms on her own lips. "Hey," she says softly, twisting around so that her hips and bum remain curled in form against his, but her shoulders are closer to being flat against his mattress. She looks back at him, her eyes searching his face, and the frown fades with a sigh as she leans in to brush her lips to his lightly, and then says against them, "You said yourself this morning that if we're to make this a successful match we have to tell each other everything." Well, that's more or less what he said, or at least what she remembered the sentiment meaning. Then more softly, with slightly furrowed brow, she says, "Talk to me, my heart. Don't you trust me?"

With Ahnika turning her upper body over to search his face it’s hard to hide the frown and the discomforted twist of lips Max wears. His mouth smoothing out only slightly when she leans in to kiss him lightly. His hand finding hers again to thread fingers through a slow breath is inhaled, “Aye, that I did.” He just didn’t expect to be having to face this particular situation quite so quickly. After searching her eyes for a moment, his own slide off to fasten to where their fingers are laced together, “Jaya and I…” frowning for the shame wrought simply by the obvious hurt he’d caused the bar owner and quite possibly would cause the woman that had set his heart to beating again, “let’s just say we…christened her new bar pretty thoroughly.” Awkward the shift in his shoulder where it presses against the redhead. And no, he can’t quite look at her right now.

Ahnika continues to watch his face as he laces his fingers with hers. She does give his hand a little squeeze that is meant to be encouraging when he stalls a little further, and then his choice of wording engenders a confused look on the redhead's face. She looks down at a point on his bare chest, seeming to see through it as she works that out in her head and while occasionally obtuse in such matters, Max's discomfort and the metaphor combined allows her to, eventually, make that terrible connection. To her credit, the teen doesn't yell and scream or throw something at him. She doesn't even cry or get up to leave. She does, however, try to pull her hand free of his, meaning to lift it to brush some of her hair back from her face and looking for a little space without actually moving away. Her eyes pull away from his chest, unable to look there anymore either, and she looks like she might be sick as she exhales and says on exhale, "That's why you were out so late …" coming to the conclusion that he meant this happened today. He was right about one thing, though she'd never admit it: she didn't really want to know.

Dark eyes flicker up from their entwined hands in time to catch the moment when the realization of what he’d said hits Ahnika. His hold on her hand loosens and he lets her take her hand back, perhaps needing to punish himself with the distance created both physically and what he assumes to be emotionally too. Quietly in stony tone, “Told you, you wouldn’t like it.” Rolling away from her and onto his back Max’s attention goes up to the ceiling, jaw working tightly until the redhead finally speaks. Turning his head quickly back to her, “What? Tonight?” momentarily confused and then edging the pieces of the puzzle together, “No baby. A while ago. And I told her afterwards there was someone else,” even although he’d had no clue whether or not this captivating woman at his side would even want him. “There’s been no one since…” he went to see her at infirmary and then ended up making her that runner shoe. Rolling back in toward her, “There’s only you now, Ahni. Only you.” He really needs her to believe that.

There is a stinging at the back of her eyes that promises tears as her imagination, an apparently a masochistic one at that, pictures Max and Jaya together in that bar. On a table. On the floor. On the bar counter. Against the wall. Who knows? He did say 'thoroughly'. Ahnika is distracted with such pain, and doesn't try to keep him or cling to him as he turns away from her, and she shifts on the mattress herself so that she is no longer twisted and now rests flat on her back. She manages not to shed any actual tears just yet. When he clarifies the timing a little better, maybe not specific to a fine point, but at least she knows it wasn't after this morning's declaration, that eases the tightening in her chest just a little, and some of the stinging in her eyes recedes as well. She finds breath again, and takes in a deep one, exhaling slowly. "Someone else," she echoes softly, her mind still reeling a little and trying to put the timeline together, a timeline that seems ultimately important to her for the moment. She is about to ask him to finish his comment with 'since when?' and looks over at him, pulling her hand out of her hair to rest with the other on her midriff, fingers laced, and her mouth opening. That's when he rolls back in toward her and she braces a little. Only her now, he says. And her heart does a little flip. Only her. And some of the lingering doubt and fear she was afraid to voice this morning washes away. Only her. Only her now. She rolls into him now, turning to face him, a smile softly tugging at her lips and then she sucks her lower lip in through her teeth a moment before she breathes out, "Oh, Max, I believe you. I believe in you. In us. I'll never give up. Not on you. Not on us. None of that matters now. All that matters is that I have you now and you have me." She takes in another breath and leans in, seeking his lips, and whispers. "I love you. I'll love you always," the idealistic teen vows.

The way his chest constricts making it hard to breath, it’s like he can feel Ahnika’s pain, absorb it through that short distance created between the two of them. Her exhaled words do at least draw a wry twist of lips from Max, eyes flickering over to her, trying to ascertain where this all leaves him. But once she’s meeting him, almost literally halfway, despite still troubled eyes, a warmer smile appears, “Aye baby, only you,” he confirms. Despite her further confirmations of love, or perhaps because of it, and finding strength in it, he seeks her eyes out yet again, “Ahni, I owe it to Jaya to set things right with her. I hurt her pretty badly…I think, and…” another awkward shift of shoulder, “I don’t want to be that person.” Searching her face, “Can you understand that?”

Ahnika knew. Somehow she knew. Deep down, this was the Max trying to scratch his way out of that cold, jaded shell of an exterior. The Max whose eyes meet hers once more, and is met with reassuring grey eyes. The Max she surrendered to, putting her heart in his hands. The Max who is now asking her to understand, understand his need to make things right. To fix his past wrongs. The Max who is, in this respect, becoming a man, and becoming a man, Ahni believes, for himself and her, and only her. Not only does she understand as he asks her to, she seems only to want to encourage it, in fact. Smiling more brilliantly now, her eyes shining with that smile that shares a hint of intuitive insight that allows her to finally seem to put so many of the puzzle pieces of their unlikely connection to one another together. She nods, and wordlessly, binds her understanding and forgiveness and love all together in a single, tender kiss of Promise against his lips.

Sometimes, doing what is right isn’t what is easy. As such, this step as small as it is, is likely to prove a difficult one for Max. But right now all that seems to matter is holding onto the belief Ahnika has put in him. Thus it is that he greets that soft kiss of fealty from her, with love, a small edge of uncertainty for his ability to change, and a large margin of growing respect for this, his Ahni. Wrapping strong arms around her, there are initially no words, just that fierce grip and a suddenness weariness descending upon him as he murmurs against her hair, “Thank you, baby.”

Closing Credits Theme Music: Aerosmith - Don't Want To Miss A Thing

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