Someone To Die For


Ahnika.jpg Max.jpg

Date: 8/21/10 (IC: immediately following the Not Worth It scene.)
Location: EW: Baths
Synopsis: After the scare in the tunnels, Max carries Ahni to the Baths as requested, and Zen stands guard outside the entrance until the couple are through. Max and Ahni discuss the event as they both recover from their ordeals: Ahni at being attacked, and Max for seeing part of it and nearly losing himself in defending her.
Rating: PG-13
Logger: Ahnika

Ahnika still cradled against him, he sends a nod of thanks to Zen as he takes up position at the entrance to the baths, his own steps carrying them through and over to one of the bathing pools set right back in the cavern. Max’s expression still set into grim lines, he carefully deposits the redhead on the nearby bench and then kneels before her, hands with grazed knuckles moving to start gently divesting her of clothing if she doesn’t slap them away or recoil given her recent frightening encounter. His own shirt torn free of a few buttons and smudged in places with the other man’s blood, no words come just the tight flexing of his jaw and thin press of mouth into a hard line - More likely for the pathetic bundle of humanity left in the tunnel than anything else.

The young woman with half of a swollen face lapsed back into quiet only once she reopened her eyes long enough to verify that they were not on their way to the Infirmary as initially suggested, and then reclosed them as her head throbbed and Max carried her to the bathing caverns. So it isn’t until Ahnika smells the familiar scent of sweetsand feels the steam of the baths that she cracks her eyes opened again, only to close them once more until she feels Max settling her down on the bench. When she reopens her eyes this time they settle first on her sticky, bloody fingers and her hands begin to tremble a little involuntarily. His gentleness seems to be the trick, or she is simply still a little shocked and overwhelmed to protest, as his movements to help her out of her clothing doesn’t seem to elicit any recoiling or slapping his hands away. It takes her a little while to blink and pull her gaze away from her trembling, bloody fingers, his flesh still thick under her nails and making her swallow hard against an urge to sick up. Finally looking up from those hands, she settles her grey eyes on Max and his shirt as her own clothing is starting to be removed. “Your shirt,” she whispers finally, expression one of woe, and she reaches for it, moving with those hands that can’t seem to stop trembling to try and undo the rest of his buttons, the ones that did not get torn off. “I … I can fix this. Just a soak. Then some mending. Good as new,” the problem-solver babbles, and then she stops suddenly, horrified to find the smudges of new blood along his shirt where her fingers grazed the fabric, her eyes staring at her gory fingers once more, “I … I didn’t mean to hurt him so badly … he just … he wouldn’t let me go.” She bites her lip, then winces a little as she tastes the cut there and her own blood.

Her boots and socks were the first to come off and be set aside, with Max still in heavy silence as he sets to unbuckling the belt at her tunic. It’s only when she starts on about his shirt and being sorry for having hurt that twisted piece of humanity as she in turn is trying to undo the last of his buttons that his hands move to grip her wrists to stay the action, “He was going to rape you, Ahni.” His voice heavy with that certainty as dark eyes fix to her face, a stab of fear breaking in briefly for the very real knowledge that had Boxtol’s son not found him in time…. Once again his jaw tightens and he looses her wrists, looking away and down to the belt as it comes free, fingers setting to the hem of her tunic to draw it up and over her head. Still not looking at Ahnika the next words come quiet in the steamy caverns, “Where was your knife?”

It’s his grip on her wrists that sends the young woman off, whether intentional or not, flinching away with a catch in her breath as her knee-jerk reaction to having her arms restrained in any way now. Skittish of even Max now, sadly. But Max’s words seem to find a home in her ears, even if her eyes don’t reopen again to show it until he has released her wrists. “You don’t …” know that. But the immediate protest dies on her lips this time as she actually thinks it through and realizes that Max could be entirely right about that. “He was hurting that boy,” she murmurs, but it’s not in a defensive tone as she would on previous arguments with Max, more just like she was making an observation. Her hands start to tremble again and she frowns down at them, and the woven runnerhair bracelet, lost in watching it jerk a little on her wrist while her hands tremble, blinking as her tunic comes up and over her head. Her bun, having already been thoroughly damaged by the cretin, comes loose with the tunic, falling into that single braid she coils into her work-day buns. And her head throbs anew. She gingerly reaches up to touch the little knot there, eyes squinting with the sharp pain from touching it. “Knife?” She asks, blinking, “Oh.” Yes, that exquisite piece of weaponry that Max had had made for her and given to her on her Turnday, recently. Her hand moves from her head to her waist, where her belt would be if she were still wearing it, “I was working. Chore duties. I can’t seem get it to stay in one place while I’m working.” Too active, perhaps, or her hands are usually too full to be able to keep it in place. “It ends up at my back with the hilt jabbing me there.” Or she perhaps is just putting it on wrong, never having owned something like that before. She has been wearing it when not on-duty, though, when she is actively investigating. But she’s not feeling as defensive as she normally is, so she doesn’t explain that aloud. Some of that fiery ire gone from her, at least for now, in the wake of the attack. She closes her eyes then, and exhales, “I’m… I’m okay now.” More or less. This was a learning experience for her to be sure, whether she sought it out or not, and she will not quite be the same ever again. As if to prove she is okay, though, she tries to get to her feet, the better to remove her breeches herself, trembling hands or no.

Max swallows hard against that flinch to his touch and it’s just as well that her eyes are closed for she’ll miss the dark anger that flares in his own. Not at her, but at her attacker for having put this wedge, no matter how small, between them. With her tunic off his hands start to move toward the fastening on her breeches and then fall away to land on his knees, loathe to draw forth perhaps an even worse reaction. Hoping she’ll get the unspoken message and do it herself, he states in a low bitter tone of the trader’s intentions, “Aye, I do know that.” Watching as Ahnika’s hands tremble and fighting the urge to take her in his arms and comfort in the only way he knows how, he instead stands and turns his back stiffly thus providing her with what further privacy she might need or want. Hands to hips and head bowed for a moment, he shakes it slowly as a heavy sigh expels, “He smacked the kid because he knew he’d get in the way of his purpose.” Flatly spoken. And then the beast manager, needing something, anything to do, is moving toward a pile of towels. Selecting a large one his head half turns over his shoulder at her explanation for not having been in possession of her knife at the time, “I’ll ask Ma to show you how to wear it around your thigh and teach you how to reach for it when you need it.” He’s still that shaken by the whole affair and the manner in which she just reacted to him as to be handing any self-defence training over to the headwoman instead. There is no reply to the redhead stating that she’s alright, just a tighter press of lips.

Still somewhat dazed and stunned by the event, herself, Ahnika doesn’t argue Max’s first and second statements, which she undoubtedly would if she were more herself right now, and she doesn’t seem to notice that he has given her his back or moved off to find a towel for her. It is probably just as well, though, because she struggles a little with the rest of her clothing and would be even more flustered if she knew he was right there watching her. But finally fully disrobed, she unbinds and shakes out her braid and is moving, albeit wobbly, bare feet padding against the warm stone floor, toward the nearest bathing pool, slipping into it and submerging to her bare shoulders, still not looking at him. “If … if you think that’d be best,” she offers quietly to his statement of having Indira show her. She begins to wash away the blood from her fingers, dig out the skin from under her fingernails with an openly sickened look on her freckled face, and then something about that notion sinks in and she whirls around to look at him, “Oh, Max … no. Please. No one can know, please. I’d … I’d rather you taught me, or … even Zen, if you don’t want to anymore.” She blinks away the sting in her eyes with the last bit, but is unable to keep her chin from trembling a little, as do the rest of her, though most of that remains unable to be seen in the water. “Please. I don’t want anyone to know about this. Ever.” Real alarm settles in on that half-swollen face of hers with the cut lip, and not a little bit of shame and guilt and insecurity. It will be interesting to see if she can explain away such obvious consequences of having confronted Phineus as she had, her own folly, and one lesson she’ll likely not forget.

Only once he hears the telling sounds of Ahnika entering the pool does the beast manager turn back fully, a pained expression on his face as he watches her starting to literally wash her hands of the trader. His instinct is to be right in the pool with her, tending to her swollen face and cut lip perhaps in an effort to satisfy –himself- that she is indeed at least physically, okay. Instead he simply crouches down near to her head, laying the towel down where its not likely to get wet, a frown playing about mouth and brows, “If…that’s what you want,” he states slowly, “I just thought…” that she’d probably not want him or any other male anywhere near her in a combat situation, whether it be for training or not. Max goes quiet at her last, eyes drifting out over the steamed surface of the bathing pool, hands dangling off of his knees curling slightly and then releasing. “Randi and Alara have to know, it’s their Weyr,” his tone dull, “but no one else will,” not from him in any event. His gaze finally drifts over to the redhead a hand reaching out tentatively toward her to brush a knuckle lightly above where her face is swollen, though quite prepared to jerk it back again should she shy away from him, “I’m so sorry, baby,” voice cracking slightly.

Ahnika looks up at him as he crouches closer, and nods. “It’s what I want,” she assures, a bit more of her bold demeanor starting to slip back in, and then more softly she adds, “Please.” The redhead doesn’t shy away from his slow, tentative touch, even if she still feels a little tender in the area. It’s the quick movements and restraining grips that will likely send her off, if her previous reactions have any indication. “No,” she whispers, “Max, please. Especially not them.” Meaning Alara and Randi, “Please. No one needs to know.” Embarrassment fully coloring her cheeks now, she grips the lip of the pool wall then, inching closer and up to him, “I’m really okay, Max. He didn’t …” get that far? Touch her intimately? Spoil her? Ahni can’t finish, though, and bites her lip in habit, then winces and lets her lip go and goes back to scrubbing her fingers and hands in the hot, steamy water. There’s a soft shudder to her shoulders and she says with a grimly determined tone, “Tell me what I did wrong. I don’t want to wait for the more physical lesson. Just … just explain it all to me, Max. How I should have done different.” Be that the events leading up to the fight or the fight itself, or both, she leaves him to decide what to offer in constructive criticism. She’ll not let herself be victimized ever again, not if she has anything to say about it, and she exhales softly, finally slowing down the scrubbing on her hands and fingers as she finds less and less to scrub off except her own skin, making it a little raw as she gets carried away. “I need to know. Please.” She’s been saying that word a lot, it seems.

The conflicting emotions are probably clear to see as they flick in and out of his expression for the visible mark left on her, until finally Max settles on a carefully constructed mask of bland to wear, his hand returning to its earlier dangle over a knee. Frowning for the embarrassment she displays he addresses that first, “You did nothing wrong, baby. Nothing! Do you understand me? You’ve got nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It was him that…” his voice starts to grate over the last words and he abruptly stops not quite able to address the subject of that ‘thing’ masquerading as a man just yet. Instead with a calming intake of breath he sets his tone more evenly, “If Alara and Randi don’t know, whose to say they don’t let him back in again, hmm? Or that they don’t alert the cotholds under our protection that he’s out there?” appealing to her sense of reason, he adds quietly, “You want that he should hurt someone else? Someone that doesn’t have anyone at their back?” The beast manager goes quiet again, his head shaking slightly deeming this neither the time, nor the place to point out where she might have gone wrong. As such the silence lengthens, his gaze set away from the redhead and flicking toward where Zen guards the entrance. So much so that she might think he’s choosing to ignore her. Finally, given low but firm, “Not today, love. Today you need to just…” lips twist into a discomforted line, at a loss of what it is she should rather do and then he lands on helplessly, “just…breathe.” He’s out of his depth, drowning in not knowing how to make it all better for her again. At least, that's how he's feeling right now.

Ahnika looks up at him and goes stock still as he reassures her that she has nothing to feel ashamed about, and she continues to watch him as he does a very convincing job of appealing to her sense of reason and duty toward others. She nods slowly, looking down at the surface of the water then, and says, “You’re right.” Her expression turns grim, “He shouldn’t be allowed to hurt anyone else.” A pause, “Again.” And here she recalls something and more urgently looks up into Max’s face, one hand reaching out of the water and trying to take his where it dangles from his knee, “He talked of someone else. Some woman. I think he hurt her, too, Max. Said he’d teach me a lesson,” or something to that effect, as her mind works to recall through the haze and adrenaline, “just like he taught her.” She frowns again, grey eyes glancing off to some point in the distance as she replays it all in her head again and then closes her eyes with an involuntary shudder. To his suggestion, she shakes her head a little, “I want to clean myself up and get back to work. I think I need …” she pauses, “I don’t want to be alone right now.” Maybe not ever again. She reopens her eyes and reaches up for his other hand with her second one, “Max … do you think … I mean, you’re not of a mind that … I’m somehow …” soiled or tainted or otherwise worthless and useless to him, now, but the words get stuck in her throat and she can only weakly ask, “Will you ever hold me again?”

The beast manager’s face goes into a tight mask and his body stiffens, fingers perhaps clasping to hers a little too tightly when she reaches for his hand. Lips curling back into a light snarl, not aimed at Ahnika but rather for the further information she reveals, “He’s…done this before!?” What comes next is a dark mutter of, “Zen shoulda let me finish the bastard off,” that may or may not be heard by the redhead being as how it came more as a growl than actual words. Schooling that anger back again, he forces out the edge of a smile, “Aye, well you ain’t going to be working today. Not unless you going to say you walked into a wall or something?” gentle reminder of the swollen side of her face. Nodding firmly to her not wanting to be alone, “Just as well, because you’re with me today, I ain’t…” words drain away as her next sinks in and Max blinks visibly, too shocked that she would even think such a thing. As such, without thinking he’s dropped over the edge of the pool and is wrapping his arms around her to prove exactly the opposite before he can even realize that…he’s still fully clothed, boots and all. “Forever in my heart and arms, baby,” the words choking out as he turns his head in against hers, fighting back the emotions that suddenly break through the hard barriers he’d automatically flung up when he and Zen had entered that fateful tunnel.

Ahnika squeezes his hand, but briefly, as he acknowledges her own suspicion based on the creep’s words, and then she nods, looking back down at the surface of the water, seeming to seek some wisdom from it that never comes. So, she misses the under-the-breath growl and perhaps that is for the best, really, as she glances back up again with his next statement and sheepishly turns her face away from him, “I look that bad, don’t I?” She lets go of his hands to tenderly feel at her face, and then dips her hands in the water to wash away the blood that had trickled from her cut lip. As such, she visibly starts with his sudden movement as he drops into the pool, but manages to recover quickly as his arms slide around her and she leans into him, blinking back more of the sting in her eyes, wanting to try and be brave about it all. After all, she’s got some bruising and a cut lip, and a small knot to the head, but she is really physically unharmed for the most part. But she’s finding it hard to be brave about it when Max is right there in the pool with her, clothed and all, holding her, making her feel safe and secure. And so, she wraps her arms around his neck and shoulders, heedless of her state of undress in the bathing pool, and presses in close with another tremble, this one more for want of his embrace and that safe-feeling and just how close she came to being more hurt than she really was. She presses her face, enduring the smarting of it, against his neck and rests her head on his shoulder, and finally, finally, she allows herself to break, first with a sniffle, and then the tears begin to flow, and her chin quivers, and she chokes out a soft sob, managing tearfully, “You came for me.” Not a question, not even really a realization, but more an observation, proof that her belief in him was not misplaced, and she will continue to believe and trust in him, forever.

And that’s all Max had wanted from the moment he’d set her down on that bench, was to take her in his arms and just…hold her, reassuring both her and himself that she was indeed okay, that it was going to be, okay. The tremble felt against him, has his arms tightening and pressing a gentle kiss to her ear where her head’s laid against his shoulder. The tears and the soft sob, that all but undoes the usually In Control beast manager and has him squeezing his eyes tightly shut and swallowing hard, therefore, its a few moments before he’s able to gain enough control to murmur hoarsely, “I’d die for you.” And kill for her. No question about it. Eventually a hand moves and strokes lightly through her hair, “It’s going to be okay,” nodding slightly against her, “We’re, going to be okay.” That last meant more for himself than anything else but encompassing her ordeal and making it his own to carry with her.

And so the young couple remains in each other’s arms for a little while, grateful for the time alone to recover together as Zen loyally keeps guard for them. Ahnika’s tears subside long before she is even willing to entertain the notion of leaving. Only when fingers begin to prune does Ahnika finally give up on the dream of being able to stay in there with him all day as she finishes washing herself up, still mostly within his arms, and seems more or less ready to face the real world for the most part. She is only too happy to take Max up on his offer to let her stay with him the rest of the day, safe and able to move at her own pace, though she doesn’t just shadow him as a lost puppy. Ever the practical one, and needing distraction, Ahni will certainly try to make herself useful in some way, working on her Hatching robes if Max has nothing else for her to do, before moving on to mending any his clothes for him that needs it. And of course, there is the unpleasant stop to be made to report the whole event to the weyrwomen …

Closing Credits Theme Music: Nickelback - "I'd Come For You"

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