Sweet And Sour


Ahnika.jpg Max.jpg

Date: 8/5/10 (IC: After Scrubbing for Truth)
Location: EW - Beast Cavern
Synopsis: Brandishing a middle-of-the-night picnic meal of sorts, Ahni visits Max in the Beast Cavern and their discussion leads to a heated argument over how the Hatching will or will not change things for them, and how they will find 'a place' for one another in their lives thereafter.
Rating: PG-13 for language and adult content and … stuff.
Logger: Ahnika

Sweeping upwards from the tunnel's entrance at the easternmost end, this cavern arches well over the heads of its inhabitants; both two- and four-legged. Wooden stalls and pens have been built in rows. Two rows are built into the north and south walls and two are back-to-back down the center, leaving two aisles up and down. Each animal enclosure is spacious, well-built and solid; the whole place smells of new timber and sawdust, with the subtle undertones of leather, animal and hay. The western end opens out into the feeding pens and from there into the upper bowl. The opening is large enough to allow a decent amount of sunlight to enter the cavern, but not quite big enough to allow the adult dragons inside.

It's a few hours after she finished her duties in the kitchen. Ahnika has seen to her bath and freshened up for an impromptu call upon the Beast Manager. This time, however, she managed to get back into the kitchens after all had left and took one of those bubbly pies for herself and Max, along with a skin of water, some bread, and redfruit, all tucked together inside a lidded basket. She takes her time going up and through the beast manager tunnel, still more or less going over the information from Ellie in her head to the point of some idle distraction as she meanders through, scattering bits of rock and dry soil as she goes without much care for any noise. As she enters the beast cave proper, passing the first of the stalls, she lifts her gaze from the floor and looks around, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips as she continues on toward the beast manager's office and home. The basket sways lightly from her hand as she moves.

A pre-dawn start to see to a herdbeast having trouble delivering itself of a calf, and then a day filled with the usual physical and mental expectations that come with the position, finds Max the one to be passed out cold this time. Having fallen asleep sitting up with his back against the stall siding, head of still damp hair fallen forward on his chest with a letter still clutched in his hand, one could possibly surmise sleep had captured rather than having been hunted after.

With a gentle knocking push on the stall door, not wanting to rouse any of the other stablehands, Ahnika steps in. The smile blossoming on her face comes to a slow stop as her grey eyes settle on his slumbering form there against the wall. She sighs and shakes her head, her smile turning into one of wan amusement, and she moves farther into the stall-office, depositing the basket on Max's desk as gingerly and quietly as possible, before moving over to stand next to him. She reaches for the letter, trying to gently take it from his grasp without waking him, but not to read it (though one can be certain she will later if the opportunity presents itself), and then just as gently tries to shift and slide his shoulders toward her so she can (hopefully) lay him down proper-like for sleep. All without waking him, she hopes.

Ahnika’s entrance does go unnoticed even for the gentle knock. However it’s when she tries to take the letter from his hand that Max suddenly jerks awake, his other hand snapping out to grab her roughly by the wrist, pure instinct taking over, his expression a dark snarl. It takes a couple of moments for the haze of sleep (and whatever nightmares he must have been embroiled in) to clear. Blinking owlishly up at the redhead, “Ahni? Oh shit,” his grip loosening instantly, “Sorry…I” That same hand coming now to rub its heel to his eyes. As it falls away a wary expression lifts up to her, “Are you okay?” Seeing as how he probably just unintentionally scared the crap out of her.

There is a gasp from Ahnika as her wrist is grabbed roughly, but she doesn't scream in her startlement. Her grip on the letter is loosed immediately and in reflex she tries to pull her hand away, only to find his grip stronger in his haze of sleepiness than she would have expected. "Max," she whispers, trying to soothe him to full wakefulness, her heart beating a little faster and breath coming a little shorter until her own nerves are calmed, too. And then he recognizes her and loosens his grip and she shakes her head, smiling a little, at his apology. The redhead rubs at her wrist briefly before letting it go, "It's fine, my Heart. I should have just woken you instead of trying to put you abed without waking you." One hand reaches out to his forehead and the damp hair there, brushing through the mass at his temple. "You shouldn't fall asleep sitting up," she says, as if he did it on purpose or something, "It's bad for your back. Lie down now, and I'll get you some water before I go. You're more bone-tired than I am, Love." Her tone is marked with endearment and affection.

Darkly apologetic eyes catch to where Ahnika rubs at her wrist with Max sitting stockstill as her hands plays through his hair. With the edge of warm smile starting to leak out as she fusses over him, “Not a littlie, Ahni,” grumbling lightly as he straightens his shoulders against the wooden siding and then stretching, “You just startled me is all.” Except that the sad puppy dog look he sends her on words of her leaving, might demonstrate to the contrary. Trying to reach for her waist or hand, or whatever part of her he can to pull her down next to him, “Don’t go, baby. I won’t…I won’t hurt you.”

Her waist is easily captured as his first words stalled her a moment, giving Max that opportunity. “Of course you’re not, I just—“ want desperately to take care of you? To be needed forever? Ahnika lets go of whatever she was about say to finish it as he pulls her down next to him, allowing the action to cover up the fact that she couldn’t bring herself to voice her need at that moment. She curls up against him, seeming to seek his warmth and affection. Ahni leans a bit to rest her head on his shoulder, and with a little exhale, she smiles, “I know you won’t, Dearheart. I’ll stay a spell if you want me to. Just seemed like you needed your sleep, is all.” Her eyes settle on the basket on the desk, “I couldn’t manage to get any wine, but I brought us fresh water and something to eat, if you like. The pie is probably still warm.” She tilts her head a little, looking up, grey eyes seeking his face for a reaction. She is dressed in fresh leggings and tunic since her bath, but her hair is left undone, having since riddled out that the man seemed to like her hair down, and – truth be told – she did enjoy his hands in it. So, her red tresses spill down her shoulder and arm now as she looks up at him.

Perhaps the way Max pulls her in close against him, thumb brushing lightly up and down her arm, might bespeak his need for her as draws quiet, simply enjoying her soft body leaned in against his. Leaning his head against hers and nuzzling his stubble roughened cheeks against that glorious abundance of hair (when will the man ever remember to shave when he bathes?), he clumsily tries to fold the letter he’d been reading with one hand, “Don’t need water or wine, just need you, baby.” Chuckling a little, “Sleep when I die.” About to say more he suddenly catches onto something she’d said a wide boyish grin starting to spread, as his eyes meet hers, “You brought pie?” Like she’d just announced he’d won the finest racing runner in all of Pern.

The letter trying to be folded certainly does go noticed, Ahnika’s grey eyes watching it, and after a moment of watching him do it awkwardly one-handed, she reaches out to try and take it and fold it for him while still in his grasp—not trying to take it from him again—using both of her hands to do so. Ahni seems content not to ask him about it just yet. Instead, she leans back into him and closes her eyes briefly, relishing in the feeling of him nuzzling her, stubble and all, and smiles with his words of mild opposition to her suggestion. And then Ahni looks up at him again, the grin she gives him is one of both amusement and chagrin. Nodding, she leans forward to push herself up to go get the pie, and then says on a soft sigh, “So, you are the one’s been filching the pies, after all. What am I going to do with you, Max?” She asks in mock-exasperation.

Max makes no objection to the help she gives, even going so far as to loose his fingers from the letter until its been properly folded and once it is, takes it up and slips it into his shirt pocket saying nothing of its contents right now either. His free hand catches up a long length of hair and idly winds it around his fingers as a content sigh spills out, “Could stay like this forever.” Just him with Ahnika tucked in close beside him and the earthy silence of the caverns. That is until she calls him out on the pie thievery. Leaning away slightly, he mirrors a near perfect act of innocence, “Me? Steal bubbly pies? Never,” though the mischievous glint to eyes tells a whole other story. “So go on, where is it the…” words trail and he sets an entirely devilish look onto the redhead, “A few things spring to mind actually,” waggling brows suggestively in tease of what she could do with him.

The ‘forever’ comment while he winds a length of her hair around his finger had gotten a genuinely and rather intensely warm smile from Ahnika. One could almost see the girl’s heart “nesting” with “happily ever after” in her grey eyes. But this was the real world, not fantasy. And in the real world, love and relationships and the merging of two hearts with their two lifestyles and dreams were constant work with equally constant rewards and pitfalls. Even at her tender age of 16, Ahni understands this. She grew up under such a marriage between her foster parents, after all. So, the glow of her dream-eyed smile diminishes just a bit as she gets up and straightens. It isn’t until Ahni is well put a few steps away and standing at his desk that she finds her voice again, and then she chuckles, retrieving the whole basket and turning to take it back over to him. She pauses, though, and leans against his desk, basket held in both hands in front of her. “More than a few things, I’m sure,” Ahni says with amusement fringed in her timbre, and perhaps amazingly, with a little blush to her cheek, despite what progress they’ve made on her own sexual liberty. “So, Zen told me you two talked about me?” She asks, lifting her face from the basket to look across the space to Max, her eyebrows arch a little and that same amused smile touches the corners of her lips. If she’s mad about being talked about now, as she had been earlier, she appears to hide it well.

Life experience and the school of hard knocks already having taught him these valuable lessons, the “happily ever after” is something he’s learned doesn’t exist. Just the here and now and the hope that it will last long enough to be worked at. Leaning his head back, Max watches in silence as Ahnika gets up and moves to his desk, lips twitching with reciprocal amusement for things said and unsaid. Next his attention falls on the basket she holds, eyes grazing slowly upwards until they find her eyes to lock onto a slow smile finally stretches out, “So you going to feed me or just stand there looking beautiful?” Her question however draws a light shrug from him, “Zen was having some…issues and needed someone to talk to,” staying deliberately vague on the exact nature of the conversation held. Grinning lazily, with the edge of a dare to it, “Your name may have come up.”

With the question, a rather demanding one by Ahni’s estimation, even if laced with a compliment, one of her already raised eyebrows lower, giving him a ‘Really?’ look, but it is tempered by her amused smile. She closes the distance between them then, but does so in a painfully slow manner with a slight roll of her hips as she walks toward him, basket still in hands in front of her. Now would be a good time for a sort of half-lidded bedroom look from the redhead, but she is still trying to master the art of seductive body language, and so her amused, patient expression remains instead. “Well,” Ahni says softly, “You can thank him when you see him next, when he … needs someone to talk to. It’s practically all over the weyr now,” she exaggerates, “that you and I are a couple, practically weyrmated.” Well, it’s not as if a number of people didn’t already know where things were headed from previous conversations with Ahni and/or Max, and able to put things together. Still, Ahni doesn’t see the point in keeping it secret anymore, and perhaps, to some degree, is only glad to do so. She sets the basket down next to Max, and then lowers herself to his lap, trying to crawl into it as gracefully as possible, though not likely successful on the graceful part. “What do you think of that?” Of what, she doesn’t clarify.

“Really,” Max confirms with amused confidence. However, when Ahnika starts that slow hip-rolling walk toward him, no matter how new it may be to her, it has the desired effect. Brows hike slowly upward and his mouth pulls into an approving smirk, “All over the Weyr huh?” forgive him if his voice sounds somewhat distracted, because well, he is really. Can you blame him? Vague surprise greets the redhead settling into his lap, but he sure as hell isn’t complaining. “Weyrmated, huh?” dark eyes glower with all kinds of warning signs that this is likely to come to no good. Or plenty good, depending on how you view it. Automatically hands settle to the tops of her thighs, a low chuckle sounding out as they sliiiide up toward her waist, “Think of what, hmm” Trying very hard to focus on the conversation at hand rather than where his mind is currently leaping to.

Chuckling softly, unable to help but feel thrilled at how she is able to distract him, Ahnika leans back a little. Her shoulder presses against his with her hands in her lap, shifting to be cradled in his own lap now more comfortably, and lifts her feet to kick off her soft-leather boots, revealing stockinged feet and ankles, up to her leggings. There is a little hole on the toe of one sock that she hasn’t had a chance to darn yet, and she doesn’t seem to notice it, either. Ahni reaches over for the handle on the basket and draws it closer to them, “I love you,” spoken more affectionately amused and not with the heat of passion ignited. She reaches into the basket then and pulls out the bubbly pie, already cut in slightly larger than bite-sized bits and rendered ready for finger food. “I can’t wait to show you as much with my body.” Her tone is rather matter-of-fact about it, but there is a twinkle in her grey eyes. She holds the pie dish in her lap with one hand, and lifts scoops a bit of it up with her other, moving to put it to his mouth since, obviously, his hands are full. “So, what was in the letter?” She asks, conversationally. Apparently, all talk of being weyrmated has been set aside for the time being. Bubbly pies and mysterious letters are more important right now.

There’s not much the man misses and so it’s no surprise that he catches the hole in Ahnika’s sock, which simply serves to draw forth a fond smile. Once she’s gotten herself thoroughly settled, Max dips his head down to land a kiss to the side of her neck, “Love you too, baby.” And then he’s getting distracted for entirely different reasons – pie! Wrapping an arm about her waist, the other comes free and is about to try stealing one of those pre-cut pieces when the redhead makes her calm statement. Gobsmacked to say the least! He can do little but give into low laughter, amused at her directness as he tries to come with an appropriate response to that. Eventually, moving his head forward to snag that piece of pie being held up for him, his mouth pauses at her ear to murmur gruffly, “Even better than pie.” Finally getting to make love to her. And then thankfully his mouth filled, a soft sound of pleasure as savors the morsel. Swallowing, brows flicker lightly together when she brings the letter up, “Just news from home.” He answers vaguely, more interested in the pie. Or so he would have her believe.

Ahnika grins and shivers a little in pleasure with his breath against her ear. And then the words sink in. Even better than pie? Ahni fixes him with a bemused smile and slightly narrowed eyes as if in mock suspicion, “Right. The day that pie becomes more interesting than me and my body, you be sure to let me know.” Yeah right. And sign his death warrant with those words? Then he is eating his first morsel and she smiles, enamored with the way he savors it and the pleased sound coming from him, wishing she could make him do that with herself. She lifts a second piece, but pauses with it a little bit out from his mouth, and says, “Home. This is your home now.” She pauses and bites her lip, adding more softly, uncertainty shimmering in her eyes, “I’m your home now.” Then she looks ashamed for having said it, her gaze cast down a moment and adds, “I’m sorry. Probably not fair of me to say so. It’s … it’s your daughter isn’t it? Is she well?” The last is asked genuinely, and the lift in her tone says as much, mirrored in the lifting of her gaze to meet his.

She even has to ask? Entirely devilish the grin that colors Max’s expression and he’s having to choose his words very carefully as to what he’d rather be putting in his mouth right now. Clearing his throat, “You’ll always be my favorite kind of pie, baby.” Charmer. Although he does seem to sound entirely honest about that. Ahni first, pie second. Or Ahni and pie together. Mouth chasing after the second piece being offered, he effects a small look of disappointment as the redhead withholds and then goes quiet, a quick smile emerging, “Aye, anywhere you are, is home, love.” Like right there in that humble stall he calls his living quarters. Exhaling slowly as his shoulders move against her in a shrug, trying to find a way to explain it, “Spent almost all my life up there, you know? A man has connections, history,” not sure she’d understand any of that, “You don’t miss your foster family any?” When she touches on the topic of his daughter, he withdraws into silence. It takes a long time before he finally answers, “Need to see her, baby. Never seen her.” With a shift in position he adds as quietly as if thinking aloud, “Might speak to Randi about it. But if she finds out who her mother is…” a soft growl of frustration spills out.

With his words about pie, her being his favorite, a much deeper blush emerges across her cheeks and Ahni can’t help but grin, leaning in to brush her lips to his briefly before withdrawing once more. She is ready to surrender the next bubbly pie morsel when his words give her pause. Connections. History. Something she feels she doesn’t have, foster parents notwithstanding, at least her expression suggests it. At his frustrated growl, Ahni moves the offered pie morsel to his lips once more, seeking to quell any bad mood, the teen’s need to please him is more overwhelming than her own need to feel useful to the general weyr population. But that is probably not surprising considering she is in love with the man. “I miss Seren and Xavier,” she concedes with a nod, “Which is why I write them, and I miss the … simplicity of life there, at times.” Simplicity that someone else might not get considering the constant pace in and out and overcrowding the little country cothold maintained. She smiles, remembering something fondly, “We had a lake. A little lake, really, with rapids on a river on one corner. It was kind of pretty.” Pretty. When she wasn’t finding the other fosterlings there, shirking their duties and requiring she get on them to get back to their chores. She shakes herself out of it briefly and the nods, “But you had standing, so I can understand … connections. Missing your friends there. And … your daughter.” She leans into him, then, resting her head against his shoulder and neck, “I wish I could go with you. I want to be there for you. And … I’d like to see her, too. Your daughter.” And maybe the Lady Holder, as well. Because Ahnika is just a masochist that way. “Is it possible to convince Randi you’re going for something or someone else?”

It may be that the blush was just what he’d been hoping for or simply that he’s that captivated by it that has Max easily forgoing the next morsel of pie in favor of greeting the brush of lips from Ahnika with his mouth curving against hers in a grin. Oh look pie! That does at least keep his smile there for a while longer, tongue emerging to catch up every last crumb on his mouth and then chasing after her fingers just in case there were maybe any berry juice left on them. Riiiight. That’s his excuse and he’ll stick to it. Drawing his arm tighter around her waist, his free hand strokes through the fiery red tresses, trying to offer comfort as she speaks of her home. A low hum of approval coming as she talks of the lakes and river, “Sounds like a good place to go riding. I can picture you in that setting,” nuzzling his cheek briefly into her neck and then adding, “Maybe we should go there some day, aye?” We. Him and her. And then his daughter is being brought up again, “No, Ahni. I don’t want you anywhere near that woman,” being very careful not to mention the woman’s standing in society. “I’d prefer she didn’t even know I was there.” So…he’s planning on some kind of reconnaissance mission? With a short shake of head, “Randi ain’t stupid, she’ll figure it out when we get there even if I don’t tell her about it beforehand.”

A giggle transcending into lilting laughter as he licks pie juice and berry bits off her sticky fingers, Ahni lets her head fall back, eyes closing and pure joy on her pale and freckled features. The mirth subsides slowly, enjoying the intimate moment with his hand in her hair, her cheeks still flushed though with a mixture of warmth for the closeness she is feeling and the laughter in general. She smiles thoughtfully, nodding, “I’d like that,” and she sounds uncertain at first, and then begins to slowly warm to the idea, “I’d like you to see where I grew up. The cothold. They’re as close to a family as I ever have or likely will. I’d like them to meet you one day. Seren and Xavier, that is. They are good people. Really. Did right by all of us, as much as they could, considering how many of us there were.” She waxes mindhealer for a moment and adds, “I think it was their way of making up for the fact that they could never have children of their own, so they never turned any child away, no matter how little room there was. They just … made it work as best they could.” Then when he talks of the mother of his daughter, Ahni’s lips touches on a frown, “I want to help, Max. I want to help you in this. I want to be there for you. I know I can’t right now, as a Candidate … “ her voice trails off as thoughts of other issues involving her Candidacy and the Hatching resurface, and then she purses her lips and refocuses, “but I still want to. If I can’t leave and go with you, then at least let me help you here. We can figure out a way. I can talk to Randi for you, if you like?” She leans in, seeking his lips with hers, and murmurs, “Let me help you.” Yearning to be needed . To be useful.

Leaning his head into Ahnika’s as she leans hers back, her laughter has warmth suffusing his features as he hugs her closer against his chest, “Ah Ahni, you do me good, love.” Because right here and right now, everything seems so simple and nothing else matters. Eyes half closed as he listens, enjoying the sound of her voice as it ebbs and flows, he interjects quietly at one point to say, “Mmm, I’d like to shake the hands of the people responsible for such a special woman.” And then Max goes quiet again as she continues on. “You know love, it would seem to me that it doesn’t matter that you don’t know the name of the womb that birthed you,” for in his opinion her birth mother is little else of consequence, “You know the names of the people that opened their hearts and home to you and loved you. Saw right by you. That’s more than a lot of kids have growing up.” Offering a snippet of his own childhood as example, “Ma tried, but my father…he didn’t make it easy on her.” A child sees and understands a lot more than adults give them credit for. But there’s also less bitterness to the words than there might have been before. “Which is why I want her back with me,” his daughter, “Garnalla,” hopefully she won’t recognize the name, “she…wears people like pretty baubles and then packs them away when there’s no one around to admire them or she tires of the novelty.” Tone turning down low to almost nothing more than a rumble in his chest, “I don’t want that for her, Ahni. She can’t grow up like that. Nothing more than a possession.” Seeking refuge from the ache in his chest, his lips are easily captured by hers, with him drawing strength from that contact. “I need you with me in this Ahni. If not physically when we go over there, then here,” shifting so that his hand comes free and presses lightly against where her heart is. “To know that you’re here waiting for me…” he can endure just about anything.

Ahnika blushes when he says he’d like to shake Seren and Xavier’s hands and why, but keeps going, and with his final comment, she goes quiet, nodding a little and sighing, “I know. I know and I grateful for everything Seren and Xavier have given me. They’ve obviously cared more for me than my real parents did. It’s just …” And here comes the reminder of her teenage years, with a little whine in her voice she says on an exhale, “Why the secrecy? Why the anonymity? What was so horribly wrong with me that they couldn’t even own up to me being their offspring? A lot of foster children came and went through that cothold, and many of them were estranged from their parents, but they all knew where they came from. They all had … a place in life. They weren’t just consequences to be ashamed of and shoved under a rug somewhere, out of the way, out of sight, out of their lives. They belonged to someone.” By the end of her little rant, the redhead’s eyes are shining with unshed tears, and she mutters, “Sorry.” Her breath shuddering a little on her exhale. “Maybe Zen’s right about me after all.” She wipes at her eyes with the back of her hand. Then, after a moment’s quiet, Ahni nods simply, sliding her hand over his where it presses against her chest. She nods solemnly, “You’re right, my Heart,” her voice still a little shaky, “She can’t grow up like that. I’ll be here, waiting for you, forever. I’ll lend you ever shred of strength I have left in me to help see you through this. I love you, and as she is a part of you, I love her too.”

As Ahnika expresses the hurt, confusion and rejection felt by the abandonment of her birth parents, all Max can do is wrap his arms tighter about her and hold her close, murmuring words spoken just recently to another important woman in his life, "I got you, babe," adding quietly, "Ain't never gonna let you go." Its clear to see that her pain translates into his own as he swallows hard against the tears that rise up in those luminous grey eyes of hers. Pressing a gentle kiss to her lips, "Love, we don't know the circumstances. What if your mother was some Lord Holder's daughter promised to someone in marriage but she was pregnant by someone else? What choices would she have had, hmm? Some Lord Holder's would disown a daughter for tarnishing their misguided honor in such a way." Spoken as if he has a fair idea of the inner workings of a Hold in these matters. "If anything," continuing as if this might indeed have been the situation of her birth, "She chose your family carefully for you because she loved you enough to want the best for you." Chest swelling on a long inhale and then relaxing as he exhales softly, he takes up her hand that had covered his and presses a kiss into its palm, "She's going to need a mother, love." A certain note of wariness for her response to that as he speaks it and then he's leaning his head against the siding with a small thump and a soft snort, "That's if I can even get her away without it all coming back on the Weyr."

The redhead could have withstood the tidal wave of tears, honestly. Ahnika was well on her way to bolstering herself more against them, but then his tenderness and his love and his comfort serves to just undermine all her efforts and before she knows it, Ahni’s cheeks feel the salty caress of those tears being shed, streaming down her hot cheeks. Returning his gentle kiss, she weeps silently, and when the kiss breaks she is leaning into him, pressing her face against his neck, feeling vulnerable and raw and yet safe and protected with him there all the same. She is quiet for a long time with his words, his suggested explanation for her appearance on Seren and Xavier’s doorstep as a toddler, her eyes remain closed and she sniffles softly, and then in a very pitiful voice that makes her sound younger than her years she murmurs against his neck, “The other fosterlings said the same thing, only they made it sound … dirtier … than the way you made it sound.” Because, let’s face it, kids can be cruel, and in an overcrowded shelter-like environment where space was a premium, they can be over-the-top cruel at that. She exhales a shuddering breath then, “You make it sound … almost nice and romantic, in a sad way.” And then deep within her a low chuckle blossoms, laughing at herself, and the whole ridiculousness of her tears. She pulls back a little, a tremulous smile playing at her lips and her brow furrowed while her eyes are all puffy and soggy, “You really think I could be a Lady Holder’s daughter?” Her voice sounding tiny and meek, and very un-Ahni-like. Yes, this is a very vulnerable moment for her. She bites her lip then, breaking off a half-sob and half-laughter sound, and leans in to press her forehead to his. “I love you so much,” she murmurs, closing her eyes again. Then Ahnika smiles, sniffing again and reopening her eyes. The hand he gently kisses is curled around his face, tenderly cradling it there, and she leans her head back again to nod solemnly to him, “If you’re asking me to be a mother to her, I can and will, in every way possible.” She slides her hand up to his hair, sifting through it lovingly, “I’ll love her as if she were my own, as I love you.” Then there comes another bite to her lower lip, uncertainty shimmering in her moist eyes, “Does this mean … what I think you’re asking me, my Heart?”

Oh great. There he was trying to make Ahnika feel better and what does he go and do? Somehow make it worse. Again. For all the tears and sniffles its oddly the pitiful sounding little voice that draws a fond expression from Max as he uses his thumb to try and wipe the tears away, "Anything can be made to sound dirty, love," a crooked grin appearing, "Even pie." Chuckling a little as a shoulder shifts against her, "It could be," romantic and sad, "Better than the way you've been looking at it though, aye?" Man should have been a harper with the tales he can spin to draw a smile from her. Dark eyes brimming with warmth take in the tear swollen eyes, spoken with that same warmth filtering into his tone, "Aye." Simple answer in return to the possibility of her being a Lady Holder's daughter. The topic of his daughter, Ahni's vow and her question put to him at the end have the young beast manager going very quiet when he realizes she's likely misunderstood him. Carefully as if fearing to break the bond already forming between them, he broaches the subject, a light frown in place as words are chosen, "In a heartbeat, baby. But I don't think now is the right time for either of us." He's not afraid of commitment (well, not rabidly so), he's simply trying to be smart about decisions and timing for the both of them. Which is likely to get him shot in his own foot.

Chuckling again over her tear-fest, and sniffling and nuzzling him at the same time, Ahnika seems to relax a bit more into him. Nodding a bit at his words, and blushing even more at the thought of him thinking her so high born, she remains in that sort of amused brooding place in his lap. His latter comment earns him a contemplative look, though, and she picks up another chunk of pie with her fingers, lifting it to his lips, “Well and so,” she murmurs, sobering, “I think …” she exhales and pushes through it, “I definitely think we should make love.” Beat pause, “Before the Hatching.” Her grey eyes, still shiny from having been so tearful, seek to meet his darker ones. “If you want to make it special for me … well, I would like that and respect it … but I’ve changed my mind about waiting.” A frown tugs at the corners of her lips. She could be discussing a business transaction, not the loss of her maidenhood.

Ah, pie. The greatest invention yet. The tension that he'd built up within himself for worry of Ahnika's reaction to his reply simply melts away with the presentation of that tasty treat. That and the fact that the redhead herself hadn't gone running off in a further flood of tears. Taking a large bit of the pie, eyes closing in full appreciation for it, Ahnika's words catch him completely unawares. Dark eyes fly open and find hers looking into his, and then he inhales when he should have swallowed, and it degenerates into the poor man almost choking on the mouthful with him trying to swallow and cough at the same time - Death by pie. It's a good few moments before he's able to say or do anything other than to croak out a stunned, "Uuuh…" sound. Yeah, she got him good this time.

Being that she is in the man’s lap when he starts his choking fit, Ahnika is likely jarred a bit and pounds on his back in obvious concern until it looks like he is more or less fully recovered. But that reaction really didn’t make her feel any better than his previous one. So, with a sigh, she moves the pie from her lap and back into the basket, “I’m serious, Max.” She turns back to look at him, though seems ready to try and get out of his lap if necessary. “Someone told me today that …” another frown and this time it looks confused, “Okay, well, so I was wrong about the dragons shredding the Candidates who do not Impress, so you tell me if I heard it right about what happens when a Candidate does Impress?” She pauses, lifting her now free hands up to his cheeks, cradling his face in them, “What will that mean for us? Will we still be able to be together?”

Temporarily lost for words he might be, but Max sure as hell isn’t letting her get away. Not after a confession like that. Tightening his arm about her, a few testing breaths are taken to ensure he’s done with the whole choking thing and then he’s chuckling, the sound starting deep in his chest as he leans his head forward to try and capture Ahnika’s mouth with his. “Nothing…” his voice turned low and enticing, “would give me more pleasure,” emphasizing that last word with heated intent, “than to lay you down and enjoy every last inch of you,” as if the redhead were some kind of exotic buffet. Some of that fire that she so easily ignites in him, wanes on the heels of the questions. Shaking his head slowly a light frown appearing, “I don’t know, Ahni. My father never really talked about it. But it seemed to me that…” and here comes some of his own internal struggle with the thought of her impressing, “my Ma never really had all of him,” the brownrider’s infidelity aside, “His dragon…” Words fail in him trying to get his point across, eventually he ends on a quietly spoken note, “Probably why they say rider and non-rider pairings aren’t a good choice.” Turning his head into one of her hands pressed against his face, dark eyes regard the grey of hers solemnly.

Her eyes turn soft and warm with his first, halted, statement. Ahnika’s smile is one filled with hope and desire, wanting to be with him, wanting to be ‘enjoyed’ by him, and then he captures her lips in that kiss and she surrenders, even if briefly, eagerly. Her face leans up, mouth soft and yielding, and her lips part, allowing that tentative tongue to slide out and taste his own lips and the sweet residue of pie on them. She sighs against his mouth, her breathing shallow, and then she withdraws slightly. With her hands capturing his face, she tilts her head once more to rest her forehead against his and closes her eyes, “I don’t believe that for a second,” she murmurs, vowing that she will be able to love him and her dragon at the same time, without it being a competition, “My heart is too big not to be able to love you both, wholly and completely, should I Impress.” She doesn’t really know. How could she? But she intends to see it through, it seems, and genuinely believes she will not short-change either, not with her love. Ahnika then lifts her head a little and reopens her eyes, staring down into the deep, dark depths of his own. “But I’m scared,” she admits on a whisper, “They tell me that weyrlings can’t have sex, not until their dragonet is an adult. Is … is this true?” Ahni licks her lips a moment, and exhales her next words, “I don’t want us to wait that long and … and I’m afraid, Max, that … I mean, I want my first time to be with you and none other. If I Impress and my dragon reaches adulthood and mates before we, that is, you and I …” She bites her lower lip, looking at him, pleading with him to see it from her point of view. “I only want you. You and none other,” she swears earnestly, “Please.”

A low sound of approval greets the manner in which Ahnika takes to tasting his lips, his own tongue snaking out to meet hers with a more insistent urging than before. With her earlier words still fresh in his mind, his hand lifts to cradle the back of her head as the kiss deepens in such a way as to suggest he may very well give in to her wishes, right here, right now. And then she’s breaking away and talking, leaving Max with uneven breathing as his eyes fix to her mouth so close, and yet so far. All her initial words earn her is a short flicker of a smile, barely there before it’s gone again. It’s what comes next that has his eyes darkening and a muscle in his jaw starting to tick. Closing his eyes against that searching gaze of hers, he inhales slowly, “No baby, weyrlings can’t. It’s too much for the dragonet’s young minds to process. Too intense they say. Heard sometime after the first turn it’s okay but…” shoulders shrug, he’s going purely on hearsay there. As to the rest, he turns his head away, unable to bear the thought of anyone else, no matter the situation, of having their hands on his Ahni. Teeth gritted, reply does eventually come as he turns his head back and fixes her with an intense gaze, “I don’t think…I should be around…when…” he can’t even say it. When, her potential dragon goes up. His gaze pulls off of her and fixes to a point somewhere opposite in the stall and until nodding slowly, agreement comes, “Alright love, but only if you’re sure and promise me to find a ‘rider to take you Between after, aye?”

If it hadn’t come to such a strong pull, such a strong desire to Impress now, Ahnika would leave Candidacy for those eyes of his forever on her and in a heartbeat. But her heart and mind and soul have travelled too far down this path, seeking Impression, seeking that one connection, a connection that no human weyrmate could ever give her, no matter how close they are. Someone to belong to on an inhuman, almost ethereal level. A bond like no other. To be needed like no other. The redheaded teen closes her eyes against his gaze, that gaze, that intense gaze over unstated talk of her bedding another man or woman as the case may be, hating that gaze and loving it all at the same time, wishing she could make him understand how important this has become for her, and how conflicted she is over keeping that knot on her shoulder right now. Mutely, Ahni nods, and swallows visibly, feeling the ache in him at that supposed future and sharing in it. When she reopens her eyes, she finds him staring off at some point across the stall, and something in her heart cracks, sensing she is killing a part of him somehow and for once the problem-solver isn’t sure how to fix it. “Hey,” she says softly, shifting a little in his lap, tilting her head to try and put her face in front of his gaze, “My Heart, look at me.” A pause, “Please.” She reaches for his face again with both hands, gingerly, not to turn it onto her though as much as meaning to comfort him. She exhales, “Max,” she says more softly, “I love you. That’ll never change. You’ll be my first, and you’ll remain my only love. I believe in you. I believe in us. I won’t let anything change that,” she vows solemnly. And she means it, despite the fact that at her age and inexperience, she likely can’t see anything coming that could possibly change that. “Nothing will change that … not unless we allow it. Not unless we stop believing in us, yes?” All thoughts of love-making, including going Between, set aside for the time being.

His face was easily captured by her hands, jaw muscles working tightly under the soft press of fingers. Max’s gaze however, is not yet hers to commandeer. And then he has no choice when Ahnika’s face fills his vision, eyes averting to the basket near them despite her plea for him to look at her. But eventually he does, dark eyes holding a hard edge to them as he tries to challenge her words and vows with a mirror opposite scenario, “What if it was me, huh? What if I was the one wearing that knot and impressed? How would –you- feel?” Yeah, however tightly reined in it might be, anger and hurt flirt at the edges of his tone. Lips press into a thin line and then he’s shaking his head, a hand lifting to wipe across his eyes as if he could wipe the mental images that were taunting away, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll…deal with it.” And that’s about the best he can offer for the time being. Slipping into a brooding silence arms move to wrap tightly about the redhead, his forehead dropping to rest in the crook of her neck, as if somehow he could physically draw her into him and make it all go away.

His words and more importantly, the hurt and anger at the edge of them, causes the girl in his lap to flinch a little. Ahnika frowns a little as something deep within her turns to ice, and it’s her turn to avert her gaze from his face, though she continues to face him. “I don’t know how it would make me feel,” and then she looks at him, a little bite to her own words, “As everyone seems fond to remind me, I’m pretty idiotic and backwards about weyr life. So, more than likely, I wouldn’t feel any different about you Impressing because I wouldn’t know I was supposed to feel different.” She pulls away, needing some physical distance, and trying to slide out of his lap. “I suppose because I love you and I’d want you to be happy, I would be happy for you, and believe in us enough to withstand any storm.” She’d worry, too, if it were him and not her on those Sands, but only because they were currently in a Pass and too many riders fall to Thread these days, while the weyr was still getting the wings straightened out and drilled. And there is the matter of his father, too, and how he died. But all that isn’t immediately present in Ahni’s mind as her ire is good and stoked right now. In an all too cool neutral tone, she asks, “Is that what you want? Is that what would make you happy? For me to turn in my knot?” She snorts a bit, muttering, “You’ll deal with it? I see that working oh so well for you, Max. You’ve been bitterly forging your own path for so long, you’re not even ready to consider someone who’d stand beside you no matter what, and deal with things together with you. Instead, you’d rather just … keep everyone, including me, as a … . a side dish. Well, just forget it. Just … forget it.” Disgusted, perhaps more with herself than anything else, Ahni runs a hand through her hair and looks at the stall door, considering her exit, should she have gotten out of his lap well enough.

As Ahnika pulls away, so his grip loosens to allow her the space. Quietly at first, “First of all, I have never, and will never view you as idiotic or backwards,” a brow lifting to accent his point. With her slipping from both grasp and lap, leaving a void both physically as well as emotionally on some level, Max does little to stop her, simply staying where he is, dark eyes pinned to her as her anger washes over him. Eventually something said by the fiery redhead spurs him to action and he’s on his feet and planting himself between her and that convenient exit, anger and frustration rolling off of him, “You think so little of me as to assume I’d even let you –consider- turning that knot in? Faranth have mercy!” cue the exaggerated eye roll. “A side dish. Really? Nice one, love!” heavy sarcasm. Sending her a dark look next, “Listen baby, if I thought of you as little more than a side dish, it wouldn’t be killing me to think of some bronzerider with his hands all over you because his dragon caught the high tail of a luck fuck!” Stepping back from her with his hands held palm up before him, “But hey, I’m Max, the fuck ‘em and leave ‘em guy, right?” a bitter little smile at play, “Not the idiot that would walk over burning coals to get to you.” And with that he turns away, leaving the decision to stay or leave entirely in the redhead’s hands.

To his first point, Ahnika just snorts. She remembers the look he gave her in the Living Caverns when she was all set to believe she and everyone else were risking their life and limb on those Sands, or at least remembers how she interpreted that look. She opens her mouth to protest as she straightens and makes for the stall door, and then he is on his feet and he standing between her and it and she shuts her mouth. The fire in the copper of her hair is mirrored on her expression as she folds her arms across her chest, glaring up at him, but quiet and letting him have his say, all the way through and facing him down as he does, not trying to get away and not even looking away. It’s when he finishes and turns away from her, opening the path for her escape that she opens her mouth again, stepping into his personal space even if all she gets is back and shoulder for now, she’ll take it, glaring up at him. “What bronzerider, Max? Do you see a bronzerider here with his hands all over me? No. You’re making this harder on yourself, on both of us, because you think you have to carry the weight of it all yourself. That’s what I mean about sidedishes here, you big lug!! You have to do everything yourself, for yourself, and by yourself. You won’t sharding let me in, let help you, let me share in it, in any of it, not even for your beautiful little girl, and you just make yourself miserable dwelling on a future that isn’t going to happen! Then you suck it up all alone, like you’re the only one in the world with problems, and the only one who can deal with your problems. Instead of your partner, you think I’m some sharding helpless damsel in distress you have to tear your feet up for to rescue.” And that just makes her face all red and blotchy, on top of the puffy eyes, and she lowers her hands to her sides and clenches them to fists, “I’m not fucking helpless! I’m not in need of rescuing! Why can’t I meet you half-way on those sharding hot coals?! Why does it have to be all you?”

Max doesn't move, either toward her or away from her when gets up close and personal with his space, hands shoving into his pockets, a bristling immobile statue. Waiting until Ahnika's done talking, his voice comes out low, "No Ahni, I'm not making it harder on myself, I'm being realistic." Inhaling as eyes close and frown forms some of the fight goes out of him through a long exhale, "How do you know it's not going to happen, hmm? Did a little egg tell you?" recalling what Zen had said to him of the egg touching and though slightly sarcastic his tone is more resigned than heated. Slowly his head turns, dark eyes fix onto the fuming redhead a slightly apologetic smile tugging at one corner of his mouth, "No love, of course you're not," helpless, "but in the same way there are things from your past that I can't fix, there's things in mine that I need to deal with." Echoes of words said to her not too long ago in this very stall. As to his daughter a brow lifts and his body now turns to face her, hands reaching out to take a hold of her upper arms if she doesn't wrench free, "If I didn't want you to share in her," his daughter, "and didn't need your help, I wouldn't have told you in the first place." Though tension still stands rife across his frame he sets the ball firmly back in her court.

Scowling a little, Ahni responds to the first comment he sets to her with, but there is little bite to her tone compared to moments ago, “No, of course not. Just saying we don’t know anything yet, and even if I do Impress, maybe I can be elsewhere. With you. When it happens. Or something.” Some of the anger leaves her with that, and it is replaced with frustration and exhaustion, and she runs a hand through her long, unbound hair at her scalp briefly, “I don’t get why tradition has to be so strictly followed. Especially in a weyr, a place that makes Holds and Halls look like they are living in some bygone age. If something just doesn’t work, then we need to find another way. Plain and simple,” says the progressive problem-solving teen. “But you’ve already resigned yourself to believing we’re doomed. You’re staring at the floodwaters before the dam has even broken.” Her voice is softer now, gentler, almost plaintive, “Don’t do that. Don’t lose hope in us, Max. You wanted me to believe … well, I need you to believe, too. Don’t you see?” She falls silent as he takes her upper arms and looks up into his face, her hands reaching for his shirt waistline, not upsetting his hands on her arms. “I know … but somehow I think even if I wasn’t a Candidate, you’d still not let me come with you. Not let me help you.” Her fingers fidget with the edge of his shirt, and she adds with an imploring whimper, “You’re not in this relationship alone, you know, Max. Whatever comes, as long as we face it together, nothing can stand in our way.” So sayeth the idealist.

Ahnika's logic catches the man with an unexpected mouthful of teeth for having not given the option she points out a thought. But he's still a little sore and riled up about the whole affair so the sheepishness never quite makes it to his expression. Her progressive viewpoints however, those serve to draw a soft snort from Max, "No wonder you get on so well with my mother. She who believes she can change the world with just one command," his mother, not Ahnika. Hangdog, the expression her words settle about him. She's right and he knows it but has no way of trying to explain that her coming into his life seems almost too good to be true. That at any moment now, he expects to wake up and find it all a dream, or in retrospect a terrible nightmare for it not being so. Sighing softly, eyes fixing down to where her fingers fiddle at his shirt, "Ahnika," exasperated in his attempt to try and keep the two halves of his life (dark past and brighter future) separated, "If I have the misfortune of running into Garnalla herself, it'll be bad enough. But if you're with me, and she figures out your connection to me?" It's the soft whimper that finally unbinds the last of the tension and has him drawing her in close against him, "How about a compromise, eh? If you don't impress, you get to come along when I go to take a lay of the land. But you have to stay here," in the safety of the Weyr, "when," if, "we go back to get her. Fair enough?" She the idealist and he not far behind in even imagining it possible to spirit a child away from a Hold without serious repercussions.

The comment on his mother has Ahnika drawing herself up a bit, squaring her shoulders and pursing her lips a moment before saying, “Your mother’s a good woman. A very good woman. Smart and skillful, and if anyone can change the world, it will be her, and you’ll do yourself a kindness to remember that, Max.” She grumbles a bit more, lowering her gaze and her hands from his shirt. She lapses quiet, listening to him, and at the mention of Garnalla again and the situation, her shoulders slump, having to give in to the raw logic of his thoughts and nodding. Then he draws her in and she doesn’t resist. Instead she slides her arms around his waist and presses herself closer, her head turning to rest against his chest and shoulder. After a long moment, she nods, “That’s fair, I suppose, unless we come up with a plan together that will require me being there personally, as a … decoy or something.” She lifts her head up to look at him, “If you need me, you’ll not hesitate to include me, right?”

That loyal response from Ahnika with regards to his mother sets his mouth to twitching with amusement. Not denying the truth of her words Max nods solemnly, "Yes ma'am." Looking, or trying to look, suitably chastised there. Only once her arms slide around his waist and that head of fiery hair is laid against his chest, does he exhale the breath that had caught up inside of him when the angry words had begun. Dropping a kiss to the top of her head, he murmurs quietly, "I love you, Ahni." Apology in his tone if not his words as he leaves a small silence before going back to the topic of his daughter. "Will only know what will work once I get back there," realistic once again. A low chuckle forms on her playing decoy, "Not unless you plan on flashing those sexy legs of yours at the guards so when can knock them out cold." Which hopefully it won't come to that. Quick in and out, that's his current plan. "I'll need you to set things up here so that all anyone knows is that a new woman," the child's possible nanny, "and her child have arrived from somewhere up North. They can't know she's mine until the dust settles." A crucial part to the whole 'plan'.

“I love you, too, Max,” Ahnika says in reply against his chest, smiling softly and closing her eyes as she lets her head lean against him again. She seems to feel he has ‘learned his lesson’ regarding talk of his mother, so she has nothing further to add there. Then she grins, pulling away just enough to look down at her legging-clad legs, “I have sexy legs?” Because no one has ever told her that before. But she is easily distracted by the plan to set the baby and nanny up here and straightens, lifting her gaze from her legs to his face, excitement lighting up her grey eyes, “Oh! Yes, I can do that! I can manage that perfectly. I’ll have it all sorted and right, just right.” She smiles then, leaning up to kiss him tenderly, “Thank you for trusting me with this.” And for needing her, her unstated addendum charged in that kiss.

When Ahnika’s attention drops down to her legs, his is right behind it, a slow grin forming, “Mmm,” the sound rumbling in his chest, “Stairway to…” Well, there really isn’t a Pernese equivalent to heaven, but the sentiment is there all the same. The redhead’s excitement at being given something tangible with which to help in his endeavor pulls a warm smile from Max, his eyes however remaining lightly guarded for all the things surrounding it that she couldn’t possibly understand right now. And with that, he strives to drown his misgivings in that kiss before drawing slightly. “Right so,” a glance going back toward the abandoned basket, “You plan on letting me have the rest of that pie or are you just going to leave me pining for more?” boyishly hopeful the pattern his features settle into as he’ll try to lead her back that way.

Reluctantly pulling away from that kiss as he does, Ahnika chuckles up into that boyish expression of his and is easily led back to the mattress and that basket. “You should try my sweetcakes,” she says conversationally, “I make great sweetcakes. Good enough to be considered for apprenticeship to the Bakers, anyway. And they liked my stew, at the cothold. And bread.” She leans in a little more against him, her hand lifting and offering a pat to his stomach, “And even my pies weren’t too bad.” She grins up at him and winks, then lets her hand fall away to reach for the basket handle once they are back next to it.

Closing Credits Theme Music: Bon Jovi - I'll Be There For You

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