The Good Fight

Participants:

Ahnika.jpg Indira.jpg Jhath Max.jpg

Date: 8/29/10
Location: EW: Various
Synopsis: The Hatching Feast has concluded and Ahnika and Max are forced apart once more and for who knows how long. Each take the night to come to terms with this new wrinkle in their budding relationship and reaffirm their commitment and promises in their own way. This is a collaboratively written vignette.
Rating: PG-13
Writers: Ahnika and Max

She was flying. The ground beneath her was a blur of terrain, greens and browns and greys, even some blues as she and Jhath crossed over bodies of water. The wind whipped lightly past her face, her red hair dancing on the current behind her head, lashing about in unison to Jhath’s long tail. There came no question for why she wasn’t in appropriate riding leathers now, nor why she wasn’t strapped to her olive-green dragon’s neck as would be expected. Such matters were not significant enough to register. She knew Jhath would never let her fall. She just was one with her dragon. They were two pieces of a whole in a way that surpassed even a married couple of several decades. She’d never be left alone again. She’d never be abandoned, dismissed, or tossed aside like yesterday’s refuse. Not on a level as she had known before. Jhath would always be with her, and she would always be with Jhath. As one. Inseparable.

Jhath flew steady and she flew strong. She did not whip and twirl as some greens might. Her powerful wings stroked along the currents of the wind, measured and rhythmic. Ahnika screamed her delight, her triumph, echoed with a powerful trumpet from Jhath in kind. The redhead pressed her face into the wind, staring into the sunrise, then lifted her arms, soaking up the glory of it all, laughing at the horizon ahead of them. No one could stop them. Nothing could hold them back now. Even the sky wasn’t the limit anymore.

Ahni felt Jhath shift, and her wings adjusted slightly as the large green banked, the ground tilting and rising up briefly toward them until the green leveled out once more. Ahead, a thin vertical line of silvery blue against a darker horizon grows steadily wider as the pair begin their slow descent into the forested hills beneath them. Ahni recognized it, even though she’d never seen it from the sky. She knew where they were going. She knew who would be waiting for them even before she saw him.

The descent seemed to happen fast. So fast, it didn’t even seem to happen. But there she was, on the ground, Jhath appearing in and out of dragonet form and adult projection between glances toward her lifemate. Ahead of her was a lake and, she knew, a lazy waterfall of rapids at one end. He would be there, under the trees that skirted and dipped their leaves into the shimmering lake waters. She believed in him. He would be there.

She took one step, pushing past some brush, hearing and feeling Jhath in step beside her. Always beside her. Never in front. Never behind. Beside. She saw the opposite end of the lake. Saw the figure of a man under one of the trees, lounging, with that signature hat on his head.

She took a second step, and she was there, parting the curtain of leaves that served as a natural veil of privacy from the world. She could hear the gentle applause of the water against rocks. She could smell the rich humidity and earthiness of the area. She remembered. But she was here for him, their future, and not for these memories.

She circled the trunk of the tree, Jhath still striding stately beside her, until he came into view. There was no mistaken that ruggedly handsome face, a few days growth on his chin, that hat, his well-toned and muscled form lounging against the tree, feet crossed at the ankles. He smirked at her, offered in a husky voice, “Hey baby,” and she ran to him even as Jhath was trumpeting her alarm. The ground seemed to work against her feet, her legs, making it slower and longer to get to him, feeling almost like it was trying to suck her in, drag her down.

Her arms flung out toward him. He watched her with that same quiet smile. He was almost within reach. If she could just … Her breath caught in her throat as she felt herself sinking farther down. She watched him watch her sinking, but she believed in him.

She screamed her frustration, echoed by Jhath as the green clawed at the edge of the quagmire. She was going down. The branches of the tree above her head started to swim and blur and suddenly she felt his hands on her arms. He was pulling her free.

Things shifted. The tree disappeared and she and he and Jhath were standing on the lake’s banks under a clear sky of lavender, beckoning twilight. His hands were still on her arms, and then sliding around to hold her, pulling her close, bending his head slightly to kiss her. “I’ve got you, Baby,” he says, as he has said before.

“Keep me forever,” she murmurs against his lips before surrendering to them, while feeling Jhath’s warmth curl about their legs, encircling them.

When Ahnika awoke from her dream, her eyes fluttered and she found herself staring up into the dark, cavernous ceiling of the weyrling barracks. She exhaled a long breath and closed her eyes again, recalling that face of his to her mind, and vowing on a soft whisper, “I’ll never let go, my Heart.”

Reopening her eyes, Ahnika could tell Jhath was sleeping, even if she couldn’t see her too well from this position on her cot and in the dim light of the barracks at this hour of the middle of the night. The bedlinens were so twisted up around her and between her feet that she wasn’t even sure she could reasonably get herself out of them quietly enough. Her thoughts returned to Max and her dream, another exhale of breath into the night. Finally, quietly, slowly, she eased herself from the trap of bedlinens that had undoubtedly begun to grapple and still her feet while she had slept. Then she turned and placed her bare feet on the cool stone floor, tugging her nightshift down to her ankles and straightening it out. Her night-braid fell down over one shoulder as Ahni turns to look toward the other beds and sleeping weyrlings here, trying to see if she might have disturbed anyone, and seeming satisfied that she didn’t, the redhead rose gingerly from her cot and seeks out one of the glowbaskets near the entrance.

Once she has gotten lighting, she returned to her cot and quietly retrieved her writing implements from the trunk at the foot of her bed. Lowering the lid, she placed the items on the flat wooden surface, beside the glow, using the little trunk as a writing desk as she grabbed her pillow for support and laid flat on her stomach on her bed in reverse, with her feet where her head normally goes, only her knees were bent and her ankles crossed, up in the air.

She wouldn’t dare jeopardize Jhath’s welfare by breaking rules regarding intimate contact with others, but she’d be damned if she would be here without him completely. The dream had left her feeling bereft of him in more ways than she cared for and she was not going to sit still for it.

Ahnika began to write, “M-“ and then paused thoughtfully. After a moment, she decided to leave the first initial there, just in case, and not write out his whole name. Better to be safe than sorry. Below that she wrote again, “My Heart, my Love, I miss you. I miss you so much.” She continued writing, finding comfort in the rhythmic scroll of her hand across the paper.



It was late, long after the hatching feast had died down. Max had smiled and congratulated his way through it all, careful not to let anyone see, especially Ahnika, the jagged tear that was newly formed in him.

It wasn’t that he didn’t think her worthy of a dragon, if anyone had had a shot at impressing, it was his Ahni. And for that, there was immense pride. His Ahni…the tear opened a little wider. Not his Ahni anymore, Jhath’s, Ahni. Very much…Jhath’s Ahni. She didn’t need him anymore. For all the right words that she’d said, the tears spilled on catching sight of him, there was another now, one that had formed a bond with her closer than he could ever hope to attain.

Don’t let go. His chest constricted tightly. She’d let go and reached for the green.

Exhausted, having had no time to rest since arriving back at the Weyr, and still a little flushed with fever from this fardling cold he couldn’t seem to shake, boot falls echoed down the silent hallway, fingers tearing at the suffocating crush of fabric at his throat as unbidden, his path carried him toward the headwoman’s quarters, his face set as if carved in stone.

Indira was exhausted. Hatchings always seemed to take it out of her, especially this one. The lockdown had set everything back with not all supplies needed making it in on time which had meant having to get creative with what stores the Weyr had been left with in its wake. The endless days of preparation leading up to it, soothing frayed nerves of those working under her, re-assuring both young weyrwomen that everything would be ready in time and of course…having been quietly embroiled in the ongoing investigation of the murderer of hatchlings and human alike, not to mention having to keep a tight rein on their men while Max was away…had all taken their toll.

The heeled shoes were taken off one at a time with her sighing in relief as the ache in her arches started to subside. Barefoot she padded over to the small occasional table near the doorway of her room, the simple sheath styled Gather gown rustling as she moved and poured herself a well earned drink.

A slight sound coming from her office had the headwoman lifting her head, a warm smile forming on her mouth as she crossed to open the door, certain who of it was that had come calling so late at night.

Dark eyes widened and Indira’s heart crushed inwards at the sight of her son standing there silent, a desolated look on his face. She set the decanter down and quickly closed the gap, “Oh shards…Max…” feeling and immediately understanding his sense of loss.

“Ma…” the young beast manager started and then his voice cracked and he clamped his mouth shut lest any of the pent up emotion come pouring out. Shoulders twisted in a helpless gesture as he swallowed hard and then hacked a cough, fever starting to burn bright in his eyes once again.

Wrapping her arms tightly about him, one hand going to the back of his neck in soothing gesture the headwoman had little to say other than to offer quietly, “I know, love.” And if anyone understood the unequal footing such a thing put a person on, it was her.

Max’s head dropped forward, his forehead resting against his mother’s shoulder, his body straining against the dam that threatened to break as arms hung limply at his sides. “What…am I…going to do now?” forcing breath into his lungs in an effort to maintain that tight rein that was starting to slip through his fingers.

“Nothing right now, love,” Indira’s voice held low as she squeezed her eyes shut against her son’s pain, confusion and utter sense of dejection for this newly formed situation thrust upon the two young lovers, “there is nothing that can be done. It is what it is.” Not trying to offer empty words of comfort for she knew herself there were none to be had. A light frown formed for the heat coming off of his forehead against her shoulder, “You’re sick.” She remarked with maternal concern.

His shoulders jerked against her once, twice and then his arms lifted and wrapped tightly about her as the dam broke and the young beast manager clung to his mother for the first time in over five turns. No tears, just silent body wracking shudders until after a long while his voice came quietly broken. “Is this how’s it going to be now? Like you and Pa?” almost a whispered plea for her to tell him otherwise, the comment about his physical health ignored.

Exhaling a slow breath, Indira pulled away and set a long look into eyes so like hers, her chin lifted and mouth set into a determined line as her hands slid down to frame his shoulders. Firmly spoken with a shake of head, “No. Not like me and your father. He was…” cursing under her breath and then changing tack a corner of her mouth lifted in an attempt of an encouraging smile, “she loves you Max. Any fool can see that. You’re just going to have to try and work this out together, aye?” A hand lifted and fingers brushed a piece of his hair down that was sticking up at right angles, “You just need to give her time. And –you- need to sleep. Properly.” Knowing from experience that one tended to sleep with one eye open when out on the open road.

Max studied his mother, eyes shielding and expression starting to school back behind that mask that he wore so well. The one that kept jagged tears in his soul from showing. Having no way to explain to her that Ahni, as Garnalla had been, was now several stations above him making it seem like she was now well beyond his grasp. Not to mention the big green hatchling now so firmly bonded to her. That he didn’t know how to the keep that tenuous bridge spanning across that unmarked distance, from crumbling completely.

However, he already knew he had no other choice. That unlike the Lady Tillek where there had been lusty infatuation as against this bonding of his heart, he’d wait for her; give her the time his mother spoke of even if it took the rest of his life to do so. Somehow, he’d do it. He refused to let go even if right now, it felt like she had.

So instead he simply nodded, uttering a quiet, “Aye,” in return and let her lead him into her private quarters, fuss over him and pour vile concoctions down his throat before insisting he sleep in her bed for the night while she curled up on the chaise lounge. Any plans Indira might have had for herself for the evening, cancelled in favour of being there for her son.

It was then in that medicated sleep that the fever induced dreams came.



M-

My Heart, my Love, I miss you. I miss you so much.

I’m here without you tonight, yet I dream of you, and in that sense I still feel you near and all around me. I dream of you lifting me up out of danger, holding me close, keeping me safe, kissing me, and telling me you have me, and that you’ll keep me forever. I want that. I need that. I need you. This dream pales to the real thing, of course, but I shall endeavor to keep it in my heart while we have to be apart as we are. It is all I can think to do that does not overly confuse and burden my Noblehearted One (n.o.) while I ache for you.

I wonder if you can still feel me around you, too. I wish I could curl up in your arms, but I try and content myself with curling up with you in my dreams. I long for that day when those dreams are made real again.

I do not think it will be as long as the others. I meant what I said about us being the first to graduate into a wing. (n.o.) is so eager and so attentive and smart, and she’s tall and stocky and seems to be growing fast. I am oiling her nearly twice as much as most of the others. I have complete faith in her, in us, and she and I will be the first. I just know it.

And then we’ll be together again, my Heart, in every way. My feelings for you have not changed, and they never will. This I vow. It won’t be easy, I know. I’m not sure how we will get through it, but I do still believe in us, and I believe in you, and I just have to believe, in turn, that it’s not all for nothing. You and I have been through too much, already, for it all to be for nothing. We can do this. I love you.

Maybe (n.o.) is meant to help us get your daughter back? And she would, just as soon as I explained it to her, and the danger your daughter is in there. She’s so noble and brave! I have refrained from saying anything to her so far, of course, because it is difficult to get her to mind her tongue, so to speak, among the other dragons. She’s not “chatty,” necessarily, but she doesn’t quite understand the point of discretion and secrecy, yet. Of course, if you are able to get your daughter back before we graduate from weyrlinghood, I will still help anyway I’m able, as I’m sure (n.o) would to. She likes you. She says you must be very courageous and strong and good to champion me and find victory as you have (though she still insists I should cut my hair). She thinks it is a good idea for me to have two champions, too, herself and you, because as she puts it, she will not always be able to be with me when I go inside somewhere, and you can, so, to her it just makes sound strategy. And she does love good strategy. Once I learn to play cards, I may try and teach her, next. I bet she could win us a lot more marks than I could. She’s so bright!

I suppose I should draw this to a close now, but I will content myself with imagining you lying in your stables and reading it and thinking of holding me as I think of holding you, until I hear back from you. I only hope this letter makes it to you safe and sound, as I am glad you are safe and sound back at the weyr, and able to read it.

I love you.

I’ll never let go,

-A

Finishing the letter, Ahnika folded it with a satisfied smile, feeling better already. She glanced in the direction of her sleeping Noblehearted One, while pondering how to get this letter to Max. After a moment, a slow smile began to spread across her face and she got to her feet, changing quickly into a simple tunic and breeches. Putting away her writing implements quietly and taking up the folded letter in her hands, she made her way to the kitchens.

He fashioned her a runner shoe with a message that was meant to get her to believing their connection wasn’t trivial. Now, it was her turn. She worked in the kitchens until early in the morning, finally pulling the pie from the oven with the holes in the crust meant for venting spelling out a phrase in a spiral around the bubbly pie edge and on into the center: “Max, keep me forever.” It wasn’t quite neat and tidy as the runner shoe may have been. Ahni was not a fully trained crafter Baker, though she did have some natural talent at it that’s just never really been pursued too hard. But if he looked carefully, he’d see the pattern in the crust, and another glance would find that the pie is set within two stacked pie tins, instead of the usual one, with the folded letter pressed discretely into the second tin.

She hoped he’d return those tins, or she’d likely have to pay for them from her own marks. In the meantime, she set the pie in one of the baskets, and managed to bribe the night cook enough to deliver it to Max and his stable-office personally. If she did not find him, she was not allowed to leave it there, but must go and deliver it to Indira instead. Hopefully, likely, Indira would see it and know what to do.

It is proof that Ahnika was there without him, her Max, at least during weyrlinghood, but he would definitely remain on her mind.



She was teasing him. Fingers slowly unlacing the ties that criss-crossed from her flat stomach to the swell of chest of her Gather gown. Laughter in her eyes, a taunting smirk on her mouth. Max’s mouth turned out a lazy grin of appreciation for the slow seduction, eyes skipping and dancing across soft curves and then settling on her full and inviting mouth as he took a step forward.

The dream shifted slightly and the anonymous cavern they were in suddenly showed an exit to the bowl beyond, a menacing hiss starting to fill his ears. At first he didn’t place the sound, too entranced by watching the flame-haired beauty with her back half turned to him as she slipped a shoulder free of the sleeve hanging so tenuously from it, baring porcelain skin to his hungry eyes. She danced closer, almost within reach, blowing a kiss his way and then twirled away, hair washing about her in a coppery red veil as her steps took her to the threshold of the exit to the bowl.

The blood in his veins turned to ice when suddenly he placed that hissing sound. Thread! Falling and twisting in a death dance beyond. Max rushed forward to try and make a grab for Ahnika, to pull her away from the writhing, silvery threat but suddenly found his path and vision blocked by the snap of wide green wings blocking it. Jhath’s head weaving back and forth in threatening gesture as she hissed out warning for his interference, eyes whirling red with battle lust.

“NO!” he shouted. The sound broke through and echoed in the quiet of the headwoman’s room as the beast manager twisted in the sheets. Desperately he tried to dodge passed the green but she managed to counter his every move, blocking him at every turn. A voice filled his head in sinister alto, « She is mine. She will do as I say. » Jhath dropped a wing long enough for him to see Ahnika take that final fateful step backwards out into the life ending rain and then the green’s voice snaked back in again, « She will meet her destiny, as is meant to be. »

Screams of terror and agony filled his ears and stopped his heart as the twisting, weaving threads descended upon the redhead, engulfing her with its greedy appetite. Max cried out in horror and sat bolt upright in his mother’s bed, slick with sweat, bared chest heaving as eyes filled with horror stared unseeing, and tears rolled down his anguished face.

Indira jerked awake and was at her son’s side in an instant, soothing words coming in quiet intonation as she smoothed the damp hair back from his face, “Shhh, its okay. Just a dream, love…Just a dream.” Having no idea what had sent him into such a state, there was however, only one other time she’d seen him like that and she preferred not to think about it.

His mother’s words eventually broke through on the third or fourth repetition…just a dream…and relief washed over him like a wave and left him shivering and defenseless in its wake.

It was then that Max finally broke down and gave into great body wracking sobs for what it was that terrified him the most now - Losing her, like he’d lost his father. It was then, that he realized that for all that he couldn’t have what Jhath had with her, he still had her. She was still alive, and still his and for now, that was enough. He’d deal with them being put in a fighting wing when the time came. For now, he was just going to push it to the back of his mind and not think about it, and in the morning figure out a way to keep that bridge spanned across the metaphorical distance.

For the rest of that night, sleep was deep and uninterrupted with Indira’s mouth setting to a fond line as she watched him sleep, a marginally tranquil expression finally settled across her son’s face.



On her mind as he was, Ahnika did not immediately become aware of Jhath stirring awake just as Ahnika re-entered the weyrling barracks from her presumed midnight raid on the kitchen, should anyone have asked. As soon as she realized it, even if Jhath seemed to know right where she was and was unalarmed, Ahnika formed the thoughts in her mind, I’m here, my Nobleheart. Coming back to bed now.

Jhath’s presence was of sweet incense freshly cast into the censor over a narrowly licking column of flame as her response comes. « You have been eating. » Tasting the berry mixture still on Ahnika’s lips from sucking on a finger or two while she worked on Max’s bubbly pie. « And yet you do not seem full, my Ahnika. » The censor sways a little on its chains, sending more tendrils of incense up, curiosity licking at the edges of Ahni’s deeper, inner thoughts.

Aye. I woke up and was … inspired … because she knew Jhath could definitely understand feeling inspired or moved, but not necessarily other motivations. … inspired to bake a bubbly pie for Max, the Beast Manager.

« Max, the Beast Manager, the one who supplies the food for the Winged Warriors who will Flame Thread » More spicy incense drifted up into Ahni’s mind, accompanied now with the scent of a juicy lamb on the spit and mulled wine, warmth and hospitality emanating. Jhath approved.

The very same, Nobleheart. Ahnika sunk back into the edge of her cot, changing back into her nightshift before straightening out the bedlinens.

« Your Champion. » A pause. «Second to me, of course. » Jhath mused.

Indeed. Ahnika turned and lowered herself to the mattress, sliding an arm up under the pillow as her other hand drew the covers up over her slightly curled form. With her hands occupied, she couldn’t stifle her yawn, and she closed her eyes with it.

« Your thoughts oft turn to him. He is important to you, my Ahnika. » Jhath’s incense swayed some more, almost lulling Ahni in her mind. « But not as important as I am, as we are together. »

A bit of tension settled in Ahni at Jhath’s first statement, causing the redhead to reopen her eyes, and then she relaxed with Jhath’s second statement. Aye, my Nobleheart. You are everything to me. And meant it to the very core of her soul. Losing Max during weyrlinghood or otherwise would crush her, but never as much as losing Jhath would. She closed her eyes again.

« It is important to have strong allies in any battle. » Jhath mused, not seeming to mind sharing Ahni with Max in this context, secure and confident in sensing that her bond with Ahni goes stronger and more deeply. « He is strong. » A pause. « I am stronger, though. » Warmth spreads from the flame and incense. « I flame Thread. » Another pause. « Well, I will. Together, we will rout it! » Sort of.

Aye. It won’t know what hit it, Nobleheart. Ahni patiently contributed to her passionately militant green, then she yawned again, snuggling down deeper into her mattress and pillow.

« We could fly in such numbers as to overwhelm it. » The green continued thoughtfully in Ahni’s mind, either not realizing that Ahni is trying to get to sleep or not caring as much as she does about strategizing the battle with Thread. « It will quiver and shake in fear at our wings and our flame. » Uh-huh. « We could outflank it… We could… »

The last conscious thought Ahnika had before Jhath’s ramblings and droning of the various ways she will flame Thread put her to sleep was of Max, wishing he was there to share this, to listen with her to Jhath even if that would really, technically be impossible, and wishing for another dream of him, just before sleep claimed her.

And dream of him, she did.



Early the next morning, Indira had slipped quietly out of her room, leaving her son to sleep far later than he was likely going to be happy about. Locking the door and slipping the key into her pocket, she settled down at her desk in her office to see to her agenda for the day, when one of the night cooks coming off shift arrived looking most perturbed and with a basket in hand.

Plonking the basket onto the Headwoman’s desk, the woman puffed a little from the hard walk back from the beast caverns, “She said that son of yours was back. But he isn’t there, and no one’s seen him.” With a nod toward the basket, “Young lass said I was to give this to you iffen I couldn’t find him.”

Blonde brows lifted upward and Indira’s mouth twitched in light amusement, “Take a breath, Lalie.” Waiting a moment or two for the woman to do so and then continuing on, “Right, just so that I’m clear here. Who exactly was it that told you to deliver this?”

The night cook’s bosom heaved in a big gusty sigh and she answered while taking a step backward toward the door, “That red-haired green weyrling, Ahnika?” And with a gaggle of her own brood awaiting her arrival, the woman dipped a short idea of a curtsey and slipped out of the office before the headwoman could set her to some or other fool’s errand.

Once the woman had gone, curiosity got the better of her and Indira lifted back the cloth covering the pie. It took a moment or two for her eyes to pick up on the message meant for her son and when she did, her mouth curved into a soft smile. Quickly she stood, unlocked the door to her private quarters, slipped in and left the basket on the night stand next to her bed. Leaving the door slightly ajar, she stopped in her office took up a sheaf of papers and left, locking the office door on her way out. “He gets to banging on that door, you come and call me,” a smirk playing about her mouth and then off she went to organize with Waine to take care of Max’s duties for one more day to provide him chance to make full recovery. She, as Yaron had, knew exactly how to enforce rest upon her oft times obstinate offspring.

It was well into mid-morning before Max finally woke, the fever gone and the cough little more than an irritant now. Groggy for whatever it was his mother had shoved down his throat; he dragged himself into a sitting position. Rubbing at gritty eyes with the heels of his hands he peered about trying to get a bearing on what time it was, his attention landing on the basket just off to his right as he did so.

A tantalising smell drifted out of the basket and hunger growling insistently in his stomach had him realizing he’d not eaten anything since arriving back at the Weyr. He’d just been too wound up to do so. Oh. He knew that smell. Pie!

Settling himself a little more comfortably with his back leaned up against the bed’s intricately carved headboard; he took the pie out and set the basket down to the floor. So hungry was he that he almost missed the message so carefully pricked into the pie crust and the double tins it had been set into. A letter caught his attention and curiosity grew. Turning the pie in his hands he mouthed each letter as it came into view. Frowning a little in concentration as he forced his brain to focus to be able to put them all together - M-A-X – Max. Once he’d figured his name out, the rest came easily and a corner of his mouth curled upward as he murmured quietly to himself, “Forever, baby.”

Turning the pie in his hands to re-read the lovingly crafted message, the bottom tin came free and dropped its folded contents into his quilt covered lap. Untouched pie cradled in his lap, he unfolded the letter and slowly started to read, swallowing the lump that formed in his throat for those opening words and the rest that followed, a smile warming his expression when Ahnika wrote of her green perhaps having purpose in helping to retrieve his daughter one day. By the end of the letter, his jaw was working tightly but only to contain the intense relief and emotion that welled up and threatened to spill over.

I’ll never let go…

He let out a whoop and for the first time in days grinned. Truly, grinned. Leaping out of bed and taking the pie with him, he quickly began searching for a knife and then his clothing and then remembered he’d been dressed in Gathery finery and his nose wrinkled. Finding a paring knife next to a bowl of fruit on the low table before the chaise lounge, Max cut himself a huge chunk of the pie and glanced about his mother’s quarters trying to get his head around the problem of clothing as he took a healthy bite.

Making his way through first one slice and then another in quick succession he finally compromised on pulling the beige dress shirt over his head, forewent the the over-vest, pulled the breeches and boots on and called himself, dressed.

Swallowing down the last crumbs of pie then licking his fingers free of the sticky residue, the letter was taken up and re-folded as the beast manager moved through to Indira’s office with the tins in his other hand, renewed purpose and a mission in mind. Not finding his mother there either, a short frown formed but dissipated quickly enough as he laid the tins on her desk and went to open the door. It refused to budge. He tried jiggling the handle. Nothing. Annoyance drifted in and he banged on the wooden panelling with a fist, “This ain’t funny, Ma! Let me out!” Still nothing. “MA!!” he bellowed as a booted foot kicked hard at the door and had it shuddering in the frame.

It wasn’t but a short few minutes later when he heard the sound of a key being inserted into the lock on the other side of the door. Max yanked the door open the moment he heard it turning and glared down at Indira standing there wearing a deep smirk, “Sleep well, love?” Calm as can be as she stepped back so that he could move passed her, she added with a chuckle, “Enjoy your breakfast?”

Dark eyes narrowed onto his mother and then shot passed her to the guard who was making a poor job of swallowing down his snicker. “Ain’t funny,” Max scowled at the man. However his expression softened when his attention went back to the headwoman. Dropping a kiss to her cheek he stepped back and turned an enigmatic grin down onto her as lifted the folded letter and took another step backward, “Gotta go, Ma. And…thanks.” That last said with deep sincerity and a warmth of tone long last used in the tousled blonde’s presence.

Indira could do little but offer an indulgent smile and a light laugh as she watched the young beast manager quickly move off, a spring in his step and whistling a tune. Her eyes held to his departing back with a fond smile in place as she murmured quietly to herself, “Fight the good fight, son.”


Closing Credits Theme Music: 3 Doors Down – “Here Without You”


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