Threats And Promises

Participants:

Ahnika.jpg Max.jpg

Date: 9/11/10
Location: EW: Bathing Cavern
Synopsis: Ahnika and Max each other in the public bathing cavern, reassert their intentions, and make dangerous threats that might not be so "idle".
Rating: PG-13
Logger: Ahnika

Such a sacred thing these days of weyrlinghood: a hot, soak in the bathing pools. In the very beginning, Ahnika couldn’t indulge herself here and separated from Jhath for very long. But now, moving on into several Sevens since Jhath cracked shell, it’s not as difficult to linger a bit and simply allow the steamy hot recirculating water soak some of the tenderness and ache from one’s very bones. And so it is late evening when Ahnika has settled in to one of the smaller pools in the darker recesses of the chamber, washed herself, and her hair, and taking the time to do so properly, not in a rush for a change. With a soft sigh of pleasure for the hot soak, she settles on the little submerged ledge on the side of the pool, tilts her head to one side to rest against the stone lip of the pool, near where her satchel of bathing supplies rests with her towel atop it, folded. Closing her eyes, she rubs her neck briefly and then lets her hands slide back into the water, and after a few moments, actually dozes off, just too bone tired and sore to resist the luring charms of the steamy hot water into light slumber.

Tired himself (though probably not nearly to the degree that Ahnika is) after a long day of rounding up bovine to replenish the feeding pens, Max has eventually managed to find his way to the bathing caverns. With towel slung over shoulder and a change of clothing hooked over an arm, he saunters in, offering a polite nod here and there to those that greet but otherwise not appearing to be in the most conversational of moods. Which would probably be why he skirts passed the larger and more immediately accessible pools and heads towards one of those at the back, not really paying too much attention to who occupies which pool. Laying clothing and towel down on a bench, boots and socks come off followed by his shirt, revealing bruising now somewhere between faded purple and healing yellow. And there he stops for a moment, hands scrubbing over his face and through his hair as a long sigh lets out.

Ahnika had dozed off, but while the hot water of the bathing pool is extremely comforting, it’s not her actual cot, and the stone lip isn’t all that great a pillow. So, the dozing is not very deep, and the long sigh nearby actually stirs her a little closer to consciousness. The redhead with her hair sodden and sticking to her neck and shoulders and back, inhales suddenly, though not quite a gasp, and lifts her head briefly before lowering it back against the lip, mentally trying to kick herself out of the pool but just not really having the desire to. It just felt too good with the only exception of the hard lip against her head, really. From some corner of her mind, she is mildly alarmed at the thought of dozing off again, but her fatigue and the hot water just overwhelms any sense of worry for herself.

It's the sound coming from a pool just off to his right that has Max sending a vaguely interested look that way as his hands get to moving again and unbuckling his belt. The air is filled with steam, and his eyes are tired so it takes a few moments before his muzzy brain is able to wrap around the image of the dozing redhead in the pool. A slow smile starts to form and he pads over on bare feet coming to a stop next to where Ahnika's head rests. Hunkering down, arms dangling over knees, fighting the urge to reach out and move a stray tendril of hair, instead dark eyes flow over what can be seen of the shapely young woman in an attempt to reassure himself that she's doing okay, at least on a physical level.

What can be seen of her shape above the steamy water seems all in order. The occasional scuff or bruise, but nothing that would not be unexpected with physical training during weyrlinghood. However, there comes a slight frown, somehow frustrated that she couldn’t possibly be completely comfortable in the pool just by virtue that Ahnika didn’t have a pillow. Everything else felt so good. If only she could have everything so just right. And so she gives up and sighs, turning her head to the other side a moment before sighing again and lifting her head away and running a dripping hand down her face and reopening her grey eyes, blinking as they settle on Max’s steamy form above her. For a moment, she wonders if she hadn’t actually fallen asleep more deeply and his image before her is merely a dream, and so slightly dazedly she reaches a wet hand out to his knee where he crouches, wordlessly testing him for being real by brushing those damp fingers softly against that closest knee, her expression is of wonder and hope, though heavy with tiredness. Then she turns that sleepy little smile up to his face, murmuring, “Max,” simply in greeting.

To be expected or not, he clearly doesn't like what he sees in terms of the few scuffs and bruises Ahnika sports, as evidenced by the light frown that forms. He who quite literally had a runner trample across his back. But then this might be one of those occasions where double standards come into play as far as Max is concerned. Okay for him, but not for her. When the redhead stirs, contemplation falls away as a smile yet again starts to form though blunted by the edges of concern, his hand shifting to touch fingers over hers where they trace damp marks across his knee, "Hey baby." Voice held low and husky in the relative quiet of the bathing caverns for that sleepy smile turned on to him.

Her smile grows more warmly as her brain gets put more in gear, so to speak, and his fingers brush hers. Ahnika watches his face for a moment, and then slides her eyes to where his fingers touch hers, and she tries to grasp his hand a little more firmly to bring it down to her lips for a brief, chaste kiss against its back, if permitted. It’s then that her grey eyes slide up his shirtless form and she frowns at the evidence of a worse beating that even what little bruises and scrapes she, herself, is sporting. “You’re hurt. Are you okay? What happened?” Her tone is one of worry, but it is said softly in the bathing cavern, meant for his ears only and their secluded pool. She looks up into his face again, frowning with her concern at him.

Max's hand is easily captured and led to her lips, his thumb moving to brush against the side of her mouth, dark eyes searching across her face and drinking the sight of her in as if trying to imprint this moment into his brain to take out and hold onto later. Therefore the 'Oops' moment of sheepishness that crosses his own features when he realizes that there's no hiding the marks left on him by Renegade, is probably quite plain to see. With his mouth twisting around a crooked smile there comes a short shake of head to her concern, "It's nothing. Renegade got a little up close and personal is all." And then a brow lifts in pointed examination of Ahnika's own scuffmarks and bruises and her open exhaustion, "Looks like you've had a rough few days. You should be in bed already." And by the way he says it one might imagine he's on the point of dragging her out of the pool, wrapping her up in a towel and depositing her firmly in her cot back in the barracks, despite where it is he'd rather be taking her.

Ahnika lets their joined hands rest against the edge of the pool, frowning up at him as she considers his explanation, “Does this mean Spring Breeze is no longer working and you’ll have to find some other way to calm him?” Her gaze leaves his face to study his chest once more, unable to hide the pointed looks at the purpling and yellowing bruises there, but also enjoying the fact that she’s staring at his bare chest again and this time it is beyond dream or memory. It’s been so sharding long. His next words draw her attention back to his face and she shakes her head a little, “I’m fine. I’ve had worse.” He’d know of one instance when she had, after all, had worse. But then she sighs and nods, agreeing reluctantly, “I should be heading to bed soon, though, yes.” She makes no move to get out of the pool, however, and instead adds, “You look like you could use a massage as well as a hot soak in the pools for those bruises.” Then she narrows her eyes a little at him, but the playful smile touching her lips allows it to be seen for the mock-ire that it is, “After all, it would be what a teasing wench would offer, wouldn’t it?” Then she grins, her expression softening, and she squeezes his hand, murmuring, “Thank you for the book. It was wonderful … just the thing I needed.” She exhales, her eyes turning a little sad, “You are too good to me, Max.”

"I can't have her around him when he gets like that. Spring Breeze is" the conflict on whether or not to tell Ahnika set in the light twist of features, "she's with foal," finally deciding on letting the proverbial feline out of the bag. "Wanted to surprise you and show you," a light frown forming, "but who knows how sharding long they're going to keep you locked up down there." As if she were some kind of prisoner. That frown lingers a little longer for the redhead reminding of her having received worse and Max's gaze slips off her briefly, settling unseeing to the surface of the water. Her next words however go a long ways to drawing him away from that dark place he'd teetered on the brink of and sly grin is sent back her way not looking in the least bit apologetic for his written words. With that self same grin still in place, "You heartless tease," he comes back with, the thought of massages and hot soaks and hot red-hair … ahem, back to reality and all that it currently forestalls, "I'm going to hold you to that," that given with a playful waggle of brows. A low chuckle greets her thanks for the book, "Reckoned that would make it by as 'safe' reading material." Shifting so that he's able to reach his free hand out and gently set two fingers under her chin to lift it up, dark eyes search grey in the wake of that sad look, "What is it, love?" True concern flickering in his gaze.

Looking both a measure of surprised and pleased, Ahnika nearly straightens herself more out of the surface of the recirculating steamy water as he mentions Spring Breeze’s “delicate” condition, “Oh!” she says, her grey eyes sparkling a little with warmth and approval, and she sinks in a bit more into the waters, containing her enthusiasm for the topic a little more, “Is she? Oh, that’s so very good, or,” she looks up at him curiously, “it is good, right?” Not really knowing much about the running of a weyr’s stables, after all. When he mentions her being locked up, she squeezes his hand again, closing the few inches to it with her mouth and kissing it once more. “But I am surprised,” she tries, reassuringly, “and by then I should be able to see it, my Heart. Right? How long until she delivers?” Then in a more soothing tone, “It’s getting easier, Love … I may not be out of weyrlinghood, but Jhath is growing and understanding more every day and … it’s getting easier,” she says the last again on an exhale, adding more softly, “She sleeps now. It’s late and she likes to get up early.” Then she grins at his response to her teasing, and then again more broadly at him holding her to that and waggling his brows at her. “I hope you do,” she responds in kind, though doesn’t wag her eyebrows, just smiles coyly. “It’s perfect reading material,” she says earnestly, speaking on the book, only to have her chin lifted gently as he looks more deeply into her eyes, and she lowers her lids, her cheeks flushing a bit and then she chuckles softly, “You’ll think me silly, really, I think. And I am.” And here she reopens her eyes to stare up into his face, his eyes, seeking to meet his gaze with her own.

He doesn't have a young and impressionable mind in his head and so when Ahnika almost straightens up out of the water a little more, eyes streak toward the movement despite her resettling herself back under the surface again. Therefore his reply, when it comes is a little distracted, "Hmm? Oh right. Naw it's good enough. Was hoping to put her to Starflight but Renegade got there first while I was away," shoulders shift in a light shrug. He's not about to point out that the telling and the seeing of a surprise are two different things and instead sends a smile and nod of head in response to her words. "Good few months still," this to when the mare can be expected to deliver. His thumb breaks free once again from their linked hands and brushes a soft line across her lower lip as he states quietly, "I know, love. Saw enough of my friends go through it back at the Reaches," although he never paid much attention to intricacies of their early weyrlinghood, "But you and Jhath, you're going to make it through this and before you know it, it'll all be over," about the only he's currently holding onto himself. On holding Ahnika to the offer made of massages there comes little more than a wicked grin that speaks to that being a given before Max's expression turns warmer for the blush. "Never, baby," this to him thinking her silly, "Only silly if you don't tell me, aye?" his gaze meeting her grey-eyed one, "What is it?" he prompts again, this time with a low spoken intensity.

Ahnika either doesn’t realize what his gaze was darting to, or she wisely chooses to ignore it rather than call attention to it. She nods a bit to his mentioning Spring Breeze had been destined for Starflight instead, seeming thoughtful for that a moment before he talks about how long until the foal arrives, and Ahni smiles at him again, “Jhath will be flying by then,” although she really has absolutely no clue. She’s just a believer. Jhath’s own enthusiasm and hard-work ethic and sense of duty helps, though, too. Jhath doesn’t get too caught up in the social ongoings of the weyr, both human and dragon alike, except in a firm desire to right any perceived injustices she might hear about, or solve problems and riddles with that tactical mind of hers. The rest, including seeing humans hold hands or display other social expressions, more or less bores the dragonet, though she makes for a decent, polite listener at least when anyone is feeling chatty. Ahnika closes her eyes at the feeling of his thumb against her lower lip, but she’s had more than a month of practice shutting down certain line of thoughts, or shielding them at least, and so she is not so distracted not to hear his words. “We will,” Ahni murmurs in agreement against his thumb, “it will.” And then she reopens her eyes and looks up into his face once more, answering, “I was thinking about the beginning … of us. I was remembering finding you with those similar bruises on you, only you looked much worse then, of course, and I was thinking how sure you were that you were ‘no good’, remember? And yet, here you are, treating me as if I were some … “ she stalls a moment and then says, “like, I dunno, like maybe a weyrwoman or something,” she wrinkles her nose, as the analogy didn’t quite fit right, but she couldn’t think of anything better at the moment. So she continues on, “And you’re plenty good. More good to me than anyone else, except Jhath, and you didn’t even believe it back then.” Despite the sort of ‘I told you so moment’ her voice does not sound smug at all, and she grins at him lowering her head to rest her cheek against their joined hands now as she continues to look up at him, “if I had believed them,” meaning Randi and Indira, “and you … things would have been so different, wouldn’t it?” Which, to be accurate, it did sort of go down that line for a little while, until Max was able to woo her back. In the end, however, she obviously never stopped believing in him. She closes her eyes now, savoring the feel of their hands against her cheek. No thoughts of anything sexual even risking the fringes of her consciousness now. She merely enjoys the feel of him close by. If she were clothed and out of the baths, she probably would even feel comfortable enough to hug him and be held by him. After all, that brief brush of lips before, when Jhath was awake and present for it, did not alarm the dragonet in the slightest anyway, as pleased as she was for the bulk of Ahni’s fretting and Max’s triumphant return being of more prominent interest to the green. “See?” she mumbles against their wrists, “Silly.”

Max goes quiet as she talks, savoring the simple close contact of their hands entwined, much as the redhead does. His gaze however drifts away from Ahnika and off to some unseen point as he listens, not much aside from a slight tightening of jaw at one point and a light frown at another to betray what he might be thinking over what gets said. That silence stretches out long after she’s stopped speaking with him dropping his free hand down so that fingertips swirl idle patterns in the water’s surface. Eventually with a short glance sideways to where she rests her cheek against their hands and the glimmer of a wry smile, his gaze goes down to the ripples that form around his fingers and eddy outwards.

“That night you found me…” he starts out voice held so low it’s almost barely audible as he struggles with whether or not to speak of the exact reason to his various injuries back then. A heavy sigh is followed by a frown of similar proportions, his damp hand lifting from the water to press thumb and forefinger tightly against closed eyes and then he tries again, his voice flat and emotionless through most of what follows. “A few days before that, when you came to the stables to fetch the kittens and Randi…,” his hand drops away and a short unreadable glance touches on Ahnika’s face before setting once again to that distant point, “…we…had an argument and she ended up decking me. Got me square on the jaw. Deserved it too I reckon. A night or so later, I caught Jaya prowling about in the tackroom. I tried to keep her in one place so’s I could figure what her purpose in being there was. She freaked out and decked me too. Broke my nose.” Lips twist into a heavy line as he states quieter now, “Couple days after that I went to a bar outside the Weyr. Came across this bronzerider bragging about how he’d bagged Indira and what a good lay she was,” wisely not mentioning the bronzerider’s name as shoulders shift in a discomforted gesture at the memory, “I lost it and climbed into him,” a soft snort erupts for that ill thought out move, “didn’t give his sharding wingmates a thought until they decided to get in on the action too.” A slow breath inward and then exhaled as eyes slide sideways, “I ain’t no good, baby. I’ve done shit that…” well he’d really rather she never find out about, like the informal fights he used to willingly participate in, or how it is he came to know the 'thugs' associated with himself and his mother. “Only thing good about me, is you,” and as if to demonstrate his point he adds in darker tone, “I was going to kill him,” the trader who’d dared to lay a hand on her and touch that one pure thing in his life, “could almost taste it and then you and Zen…” were somehow able to talk some sense into him. “Fuck,” the expletive one of frustration, “if it weren’t for you Ahni, I’d be…” face down in a dirt ring somewhere or worse still, probably turned out of the Weyr by now and wandering the roads a drunken excuse of a man. Only now does he turn an intense gaze onto the redhead, searching those soul grazing eyes of hers, “You give me reason to keep trying, baby. I can’t…I can’t do it without you.” And while that might be a heavy burden for someone to carry, it’s his truth and why it is that he so desperately needs her to continue to believe in him and not let go.

Her eyes remain closed as he begins to speak, just resting her cheek there against their hands. When he mentions Randi decking him, Ahnika reopens her eyes, staring up into his face, even if he is looking elsewhere. She remembered that night, and remembered hearing the beginnings of a scuffle, but she was a little preoccupied at the time with her own demons. For all the beginnings of the frown forming in her mind, she doesn’t frown visibly now, her expression remaining opened and cheek remaining right there against his hand. Yet, her grey eyes follow that discomforted line of expressions in him as he unravels it all before her. She remains silent throughout his words, as well, and even for a long moment afterward. She had been prepared to speak reassuring words to him, disabuse him of the notion that he’s no good, pointing out that – well with perhaps the only exception of the scuffle with Randi – all the other situations were really coming from ‘good reasons’, reasons that Jhath would have approved of no less: subduing a potential thief? Championing his mother’s honor? Defending his woman? And Jhath, in Ahni’s mind, is the most noblehearted creature in all of Pern. But it is with his last words that such objections, such points of reasons and justifications, fall unspoken from her lips and Ahni takes in a breath with a slight shuddering sound. “You’ll never have need to, my Love,” she exhales softly, meeting his gaze as he seeks hers. Her tone is genuine as she can never imagine being parted from him, not beyond weyrlinghood, but then she’s never personally experienced the tragedy of riders falling to Thread. And with those words, she steps away from the lip of the pool and more towards its center, tugging meaningfully on his hand in hers, wishing to hold him now, just hold him.

Ranting and raving and throwing accusations at him, he could have dealt with, expected even. But it’s her silence that almost undoes the man and as it lingers beyond where he’d finished talking, his hand starts to go slack in hers as if to pull away, understanding it to mean, she literally, had nothing to say to him and therefore, wanted nothing more to do with him. Again, expected. Thus it takes a while for her words to sink in when they do come, dark eyes sliding shut briefly as an unexplained frown forms and Max’s mouth presses into a tight line. Swallowing his gaze pins to hers as he nods in acknowledgement of those words, the barest edge of a weak smile twitching on one corner of his mouth. The tug to his hand is successful as wordlessly he slips into the pool and pulls Ahnika in tightly against him in an almost crushing embrace, head burying into her neck and wash of damp hair with an odd gulp of a sound, helpless to actually say anything further right now.

Ahnika’s heart aches all the more to see that tortured look in his face and then feel it in his frame as they hold one another, wanting to fix it and not really knowing how, knowing something of the anguish, but not all of it. There are just some parts of a person no one else ever truly knows, and understands, except – perhaps – a dragon. That thought has Ahni blinking a moment, picturing Max Impressing and all that would mean for them, good and bad, before she squirrels that thought away for another day. For now, as he sinks into her arms and holds her tight, she does the same, wet hair and all, resting her head on his shoulder with her arms wrapped around his middle and the hot steam from the secluded bathing pool acting as a quasi-curtain for their private, tender moment. She allows the moment to linger there, emotions running deep, but inwardly schooling them back from progressing too far down a road that might awaken Jhath. To do so, the forceful redhead with the determination to match just focuses on the joy of holding him, just simply holding him, and offering some little comfort. After that lengthy moment, she gives him a soft peck on his shoulder, the barest of touches with her lips, and then lifts her head up. Still holding him in that bathing pool, she pulls her head back just far enough to study his face, or as much as she can of it if it is still on her shoulder. Then Ahni lifts a hand from his back, sliding dripping warm fingers into the hair at the base of his neck, part scalp-massage, part comforting stroke. “I’ll never let go, my Heart,” she whispers, “There is no dark deed you have done in the past that could tear me away from you now.” The future, well … that all depends, of course. “Look at me,” she murmurs in soft plea, her hand slipping to rest against his cheek, but she continues to speak whether he lifts his head or not, “You are a good man, Max. I could never love a heartless, cruel villain. And I love you. I love you because you … try to save the weyr’s tack from a would-be thief, or that you defended your mother’s honor, and mine, no less.” She smiles then, her grey eyes squinting with humor as she looks at him, “Jhath wouldn’t let me anywhere near you if she didn’t think you were worthy in some way. This is our noblehearted Jhath, after all.” And it is almost amazing how she so easily used the word ‘our’ with Jhath, even though she is more Ahni’s than Max’s, in some ways, the redhead just can’t help but see them all as one little close-knit family already.

Max is keeping his head right there, buried in her hair where she can’t see that raw and vulnerable expression so naked upon his face, breathing grown heavy but for no other reason than simply that of fighting to regain some sense of control over emotions stripped bare. Therefore it might seem at first as if he is cast from stone, no words, no movement aside from the rise and fall of his chest, nothing aside from holding onto that most precious of second chances – Ahnika. Only once she’s asking him to look at her, does his head slowly lift, jaw tight against her palm laid at his cheek and dark eyes shadowed to near black holes in his face as he listens. There’s a vague movement of his head, almost a shake of it in denial of what she says, but not quite. “Ahni…I…you…” stop, start, stop, start. Yeah, he’s real big with the words today. Finally with the gusty release of a sigh the barest sign of a smile shows up, “You’re crazy woman, do you know that? So is that dragon of yours,” perhaps not the words she might have expected to hear, but it’s his way of saying he accepts what she says. Arms tighten about her briefly as his jaw relaxes and the tension and strain in his expression is blunted by that of something warmer starting to filter in, “I love you, baby. Always and forever. And I’ll wait, I don’t care how long it takes or how many sharding hoops I have to jump through. So long as I’ve got you…” further words not needed to fill in the gap there.

As he shakes his head, even slightly, Ahnika maintains her warm, wet palm there on his cheek, her grey eyes moving to try and keep up with his own gaze, trying to keep their gazes locked. She quiets as he tries to speak, however, despite her desire to try and stay connected visually with him, and then the sigh comes and the smile and his words that follow elicit a tossing back of her head a moment to laugh genuinely, not upset at the tease in the least. From someone else, well, maybe, but she knows Max doesn’t mean anything truly critical of it. Then she is looking at him again, and that hand on his cheek slides back into his hair, sifting gently while the redhead grins at him, and then her expression softening all the more as he tightens the embrace, and says those final words, and some of the tension she hadn’t realized was still in her shoulders relaxes out of her a little more. Ahni takes in a breath and lets it out with a contented expression for Max before leaning in to brush a chaste kiss to his lips, no tongue, “You better,” she murmurs teasingly there, and then pulls back enough to smile into his eyes, “Or I will hunt you down and let Jhath bite your butt.” Then she tilts her head a little to rest her forehead against his, adding, “I love you, too, Max.” And closes her eyes.

It’s her laughter that does it, that draws a small crooked grin from Max, “Aye well…” looking vaguely sheepish. That falls away leaving a warm expression in its place, silent, enjoying that simple soothing gesture of her hand moving through his hair, dark eyes holding to hers. That kiss, chaste but meaningful all the same has him murmuring quietly as she draws away, “You’re more than any man could wish for, baby.” The tease draws a low chuckle that holds a roguish edge to it, “Prefer it if you were the one doing the biting,” he sends in return and then drops silent again as Ahnika leans her forehead against his. Slowly but surely, with a large part of the tension having drained away like suds on circulating water, he becomes aware of their relatively public surroundings, various states of dress and undress. However harmless it’s all been up until this point, his arms loosen from around the redhead and he steps back, putting a pointed though appreciative look over her and clears his throat, “You, uhhh…you should probably get dressed.” Nodding his head as if to confirm to himself more than her, that this is probably now the best course of action to consider. And then plucking at the band of his sodden trousers a low chuckle spills out, “At least time I don’t have my boots on.”

Ahnika warms with his comment that she is more than any man could wish for, her grey eyes remaining on his, that soft smile of hers reaching them. Then the smile turns into a chuckle of her own as she allows her fingers to run a little more into his hair, teasing some more, “Careful what you wish for, beast manager. The day will come when my activities will be more … liberated, after all. Probably sooner than either of us think, considering Jhath.” She grins ruefully, and then reluctantly lets him pull away from her as he does, sinking more deeply in the steamy water for a moment before smiling up at him, “Right. Sorry.” Then comes a chuckle at his thoroughly saturated trousers, only to softly end with that same affectionately fond look for him. Then with a regretful sigh, she sets aside what she wants to do and instead settles on duty. Moving to the nearest edge, she puts her hands on the outside and heaves herself out with a soft splashing of water and droplets back into the pool. Careful not to meet his eyes for fear of what they may say considering her current state of undress, and fearing her own inability to resist thinking along the same lines, she straightens and pads her way, dripping, around to the side with her satchel and towel, retrieving it and drying her hair rigorously – all the better to hide from his eyes there – with said towel. She’s not shy about giving him a show, inwardly hoping it will serve more as a beacon of hope and less a cruel tease, but she knows better than to watch him watch her. That would make this whole situation more unbearable to her.

A brow tips upward and a sly smile peels out in challenge to Ahnika’s words of actions upon ‘liberation’ somewhere further down the line, “Promise?” the grin deepening. And what does one do with hands bound to try and pull her back against him for reasons anything but chaste at this point? Why, shove them firmly into waterlogged trousers of course. Which is the pose Max takes up as the flame haired weyrling dutifully departs the bathing pool and any temptations along with it. Try as he might he can’t seem to keep his eyes off of her. He really should look away but he just can’t. Eventually a hand leaves its pockety prison and palms over his face as he just gives up entirely and thoroughly enjoys every last inch of the view provided. At least one of them is going to have a rather hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep this night. And no, he’s not about to leave the pool himself. Not given his current reaction to this most welcome though unexpected indulgence of eye candy on display. With a soft clearing of throat, he does eventually look away if only to wade deeper into the pool and then fumble with stripping off his trousers and tossing them to the side of the pool to land with a wet squelch. “You send any more of those pies over at ridiculous hours in the morning still hot from the ovens and I don’t care what rules there are, I’ll come over to the barracks and put you over my knee,” this noted firmly and joined with a pointed lift of brow as he reaches for the soapsand, glancing in Ahnika’s direction. Yup, it didn’t take him much to put two and two together and come up with one shattered-for-lack-of-sleep weyrling.

Ahnika has a lot of hair, but it is fine, not terribly thick, and so it takes a bit of time to dry compared to someone with shorter hair, but not too long. She then moves to drying herself otherwise, and – still without looking at Max even as she hears his soaked trousers coming off and slapping up on the side of the pool. She pulls her nightshift on, as she had been heading for bed after her bath after all, and then the wrapper around her shoulders before retrieving her satchel and sitting on the bench nearest his folded set of clean clothes and starting to braid her hair, damp towel around her shoulders. She blinks over at him in the pool then, brow furrowing a little in confusion, and then it fades and she nods, “Sorry … I’ll ask the cook to bring it to you later so she doesn’t wake you then.” There’s a thoughtful frown as she ponders if that inconvenience might not cost her another mark in bribe money, but it goes unvoiced. “Was it good? The pie?” She was pretty exhausted when she made it and may have missed an ingredient, though she didn’t think she had.

In the time it’s taken Ahnika to dry her hair and dress, he’s gotten himself scrubbed down, stealing glances over at her here and there. Save that is, for his hair which he’s busy lathering up vigorously. When she moves over closer and settles on the bench nearby, Max’s hands still and he puts a surprised look onto the redhead for the way in which she interprets his words. A short chuckle and then he disappears under the water to come up right at the edge closest to her, palming the water from his face, he crosses his arms up on to the side and lifts a brow, “Ain’t got nothing to do with waking me up, love. That pie was still warm, which meant that it hadn’t been baked that long beforehand which means that…you were awake indulging my belly rather than getting in the sleep you need.” Unfolding an arm it reaches forward toward her, his hand likely landing just short of one of her feet. With a low chuckle, “No denying yours is the best pie around, baby. But if it’s coming at the cost your rest…” his voice quiet and tone infused with gentle concern, “I worry about you enough as it is.”

Ahnika finishes braiding that long braid, letting it rest down her left shoulder and over the curve of her bosom that is modestly covered over between her nightshift and the wrapper. She listens to Max as he speaks, occasionally glancing over to him as well, while picking up the top article of his fresh clothes and beginning to look it over critically for holes that need mending or missing buttons or laces as the case may be. She is thorough about it, so it’s taking her awhile, it seems. Or perhaps she is just procrastinating leaving the baths and thus leaving him. She looks past the clothing in her hands to him at the edge of the pool, chewing on one lip in pondering a reply, and finally stretching her leg to get her foot out to his hand – at least it’s a clean foot – and closing what little gap there was. “Your letter … “ that would be the one that came before her reply with the pie, though to be fair the young woman doesn’t specify, except to admit reluctantly, “It … frightened me.” She starts to withdraw her foot back from his hand, unless he has a hold of it by now, “I had to do something. I wanted to do something more for you than just a letter. Just … just to make sure …” To make sure? Make sure she didn’t lose him. Make sure he had something tangible from her. Make sure he didn’t lose all hope. Make sure he didn’t forget her and what they had. All of this, and more, goes unsaid. And then the woman takes a breath and exhales, blinking her eyes a little as she looks at his face, and then away again, back at his clothes, busying herself with that activity as she adds gently, “It was just one night. I won’t kill me.” Not while in weyrlinghood, probably not; lack of sleep while fighting Thread can be deadly, but in weyrlinghood, it’s just annoying, mostly. She shoots him a tender smile then and shakes her head, “You’ve nothing to worry about me for, my Heart. Weyrlinghood is no picnic, sure, but it’s not like we’re in any real danger or anything. Nothing like the sort of danger you face on a daily basis.” And point of fact the redhead did no such thing as promise she would not make him any more pies. The mere notion is absurd to her. Of course she’ll make him more pies. Maybe not every night, but she’ll definitely be doing it. It’s the only thing of any tangible value she can give to him right now, in her mind.

With her foot now in accessible reach, Max’s hand closes over its top, thumb brushing idly over the bone at the side of her ankle as a light frown forms once he realizes which letter she’s speaking of. As Ahnika tries to withdraw her foot, he closes a firmer hold on it. His chin still resting on his folded arm, dark eyes slant upward, searching her face in silence for a moment. Voice a reassuring rumble against the muted sounds in the caverns, “I ain’t going nowhere, baby.” And then a lopsided smile appears, “Couldn’t even if I wanted to, not without you.” Releasing her foot he uses both hands to haul himself out of the bathing pool slopping a puddle up and over the lip of the pool as he stands, and reaches for the towel left next to his clothing to wrap around his waist. At least his back is turned to the redhead, although how much that will help, is anyone’s guess. “Just one night,” the words echoed back at her in a slightly amused tone as he turns toward her and holds out his hand for his shirt that she’d been examining. A soft snort utters on the apparent daily danger he faces, “Not unless you call having your arms and butt clawed, dangerous,” of course he’ll pick up on those marks left on him rather than the more obvious ones. Max is well aware that she’s made no promise with regards to the making of pies and as such a crooked smile appears. “You start to make a habit out of it and I’ll have to start running like a weyrling around the lake every morning,” this as a hand pats to a work hardened stomach that for now, shows no signs of any such thing being a problem. And then quieter and with more sincerity he refers back to something she’d written in her last letter, “You’ve already given me everything I need, baby.” Which would quite simply be, herself.

Ahnika bites her lip a little at the small bit of comfort and pleasure from his thumb on her ankle, but it’s not exactly goosebump worthy and she is able to return to her survey of his clothes as he climbs out, keeping her eyes averted whether his back is to her or not. “I know …“ now anyway, “It just …” and her voice trails off there and she just shrugs a little. Startled her, really, would be the finish on that statement. She wasn’t expecting it to be that hard on him and that only serves to put a guilty look of regret on her expression as she passes the shirt off to his hand, still not looking at him directly, even though the towel is safely around his waist. “Clawed? What?” She blinks up at him then, bewildered a moment before it clicks and she grins a bit, “Oh, the kittens. How are they getting on? Should I track down Davel for you?” then comes a grin and a glance at his stomach before she is looking away once more, quickly this time, and chuckling, “I won’t make a huge habit of it, then, but I still want to do it for you from time to time, as duties with Jhath permit.” Because Jhath comes first, is the unstated piece to that. Though weyrbred as he was, Max likely already understands that. But to his last comment, she sobers a little and looks back up at him, his face, “But that doesn’t seem to be helping you get through it …” At least she has items that she can hold and touch and feel like she is touching him in some way, and she has Jhath on top of that. He has no one, nothing, but her memory. Her hands fidget with her braid a moment and then she chews on her lip, looking up at him as an idea dawns, “Did you bring your knife with you?”

Being of the lace-up variety, Max pulls his shirt on over his head, a regretful cast to his expression once his face reappears, “I’m sorry, love. I’m an ass. It was just seeing you down there at the lake and talking about…” potential plans for a future that seemed so far away. Oh the impatience of youth. The words trail off and he shrugs a little, reaching for the drawstring trousers as a self-effacing chuckle spills out on the topic of kittens and claw marks. Nodding tracking Davel down as he turns, drops the towel and pulls the trousers on, he turns back toward Ahnika tying the strings securely, “Aye, probably best you do. Already nearly sat on one,” which would account for scratch marks on his butt. Now that he’s clothed, the beast manager folds himself down onto the bench next to the redhead and reaches for a balled up pair of socks, a warm smile going her way, “As you wish,” looking rather pleased over the likelihood of there still being pie in his future, “But only as Jhath…” his expression turning pointed now, “and sleep permit, aye?” Bending to pull socks onto still damp feet (He’d foregone actually toweling down in favor of getting clothing on as quickly as possible) a sideways glance flickers up to her before a wry smile appears, “I’ll be fine, love.” The query over his knife has him straightening again and sending a bemused look the weyrling’s way, “Aye?” Not too sure where that’s coming from.

Shaking her head and smiling at him reassuringly, “No, you’re not,” an ass, that is. Ahnika stands up then, reaching for his hand with her own to squeeze it, “Under the bridge, my Heart. I love you. You love me. No one is going anywhere without the other. That’s the end. I only wish I could some how make it easier …” a pause and she tacks on, “For both of us,” lest he think she is overly fretting on his needs more than hers. Which she is, but now is not the time to admit to as much. Then she smiles and nods, “I’ll seek Davel out then. He didn’t have a mama kitty to take care of, with the kittens last time, but I’m sure he’ll figure something out. He can be pretty resourceful.” Another nod regarding pie-making and the redhead seems inclined to just drop it there, not commenting further. Instead, she holds out her free hand and asks, “May I have the knife please?” Looking a mixture of uncertainty for what she is about to do, and grim determination as well.

That’s a matter of opinion, but he says nothing to it, taking the hand held out to him in his own and bringing it to his mouth to brush lips across its back, “Aye,” he murmurs on neither one of them going anywhere without the other. On the matter of trying to somehow make things easier for the two of them, there comes a light shrug of shoulders, “That’s life, baby. We play what we’re given, aye?” Or at least try to. As to Davel and the furballs currently being housed in his stall there’s a simple nod before he’s reaching for and unsheathing his knife with is free hand. Holding it out to Ahnika, hilt first, he maintains a careful but firm grip on its blade, a wary expression starting to settle into place as he catches that uncertain look she wears and then tries drawing it back from her reach if she hasn’t already taken a hold of it as he stands. Spoken quietly as his jaw begins to tighten as does the hand that holds hers, “Whatever it is, don’t.” Now assuming all kinds of worst case scenarios which likely include her trying to lay down a knifing on him for whatever unfathomable reason.

There are few things about Ahni physically that she is vain about, really only one: her hair. She goes to a lot of lengths to take good care of it, even spending the marks for the “good” fine sweetsand shampoo and oils and keeping that nice, healthy sheen to it. And so with merely a nod in agreement to Max’s first statement and a grasping of the hilt of the knife in her free hand, she swallows visibly, about to put the blade to her braid and sheer it off for him. Right there. But she stops as he makes his grip more firm, and as she doesn’t want to hurt him, she quickly stops trying to draw it away. Her hand remains on the hilt, however, and she turns those grey eyes onto him, growing less and less convinced on this course of action by the seconds, even if it was her own idea initially. What can she say? The woman loves her hair. “It’ll …” she licks her lips, “It’ll grow back,” she offers softly, trying to use reason to convince herself. “Jhath has been trying to get me to cut it anyway. This way … you’ll have my braid, some little piece of me, there with you. Like a lock of hair, only … more.” She looks down at the knife now held between both their hands, “Let me do this for you.” Not her virtue, but for Ahni this would be a very significant sacrifice, indeed, and it shows in her expression.

Obviously Max has no way of knowing what she intends doing, as such it’s only once she starts talking about it growing back that his eyes drop to that thick gleaming braid that it dawns on him and he jerks the knife away, heedless of where the blade bites into his fingers. Staring wide-eyed and speechless at Ahnika for a moment, outrage is finally shows up, “Are you –crazy-, woman!? Cut your hair? What the fuck!?” Oh yeah, she can bet he won’t be letting that happen. If she’s released the hilt enough, he’ll toss the knife behind him onto the bench, if not? He’ll just stand there keeping a firm grip on it despite whatever blood might start oozing from the thus far light cuts. Shaking his head firmly, he’ll try tugging her in against him using their joined hands to growl down quietly, “You touch your hair and we’re going to have some serious issues.” Which doesn’t mean to say that the sacrifice she’d been about to make has gone unnoticed or that it didn’t swell his heart to bursting in his chest. Just that…her hair!?

Well, Ahnika’s certainly not going to fight him over the knife when he is the one holding the sharp part, after all. So as he jerks it away from her grasp, she lets it go with the barest of resistance and a brief gasp from her lips before her eyes go wide with worry at his hand. As he speaks, her attention is on the knife when he casts it on the bench behind him, and then she looks up into his face. Her own initial startlement fades into righteous indignation, but she clamps down a lid on her temper with obvious effort and for obvious reasons. Enjoy this self-restraint in your little Firecracker while you can, Max. One day, all bets will be off. With such effort, her jaw sets and her eyes close in internal distraction, and she is drawn into and against him with his other hand, her free arm instinctively snaking around his waist with her hand resting on his back. She exhales softly a long moment after his growled out words, continuing to contain the storm brewing within as well as the conflicting flood of irritation and genuine relief at him having stopped her. “But …” she finally manages in a whisper, though the protest dies there for the time being.

Okay, so he keeps his blades pretty sharp and as such there’s now a lovely slow oozing line of blood across his palm. But hey, something to remember her by while they’re apart? He’s sure as hell got it now, the dry smirk of amusement for that when it occurs to him evidence thereof as he closes his fingers up over it once the knife has been discarded. Max tips a challenging brow up when it looks like she’s about to have a go at him for refusing to allow her to cut her braid. When she doesn’t, another smirk plays about his mouth in thinking he’d easily gotten the upper hand. Yup, he’s in for a big shock once Ahnika’s not having to school her thoughts and reactions so carefully. Once she’s caught up against him a warm smile curves across his mouth, “But nothing, love. Your hair…” is not even up for discussion in his mind, “Don’t need anything but you, baby. It’s not like we’re in separate Weyrs or anything, aye? Besides, I got enough up here,” his closed fist lifting to tap against his temple, “to keep me going for the rest of my life.” With what she’s already given him, meaning just that much to the man.

Keeping her eyes closed, Ahnika lowers her head against his shoulder now, resting her face against his neck and letting her shoulders sag a bit from the effort and willpower (both to have the courage to even try in the first place, and then not to bite Max’s head off) as she starts to calm down finally. The arm around his side moves to rest on his chest then, and she leans into him with a slight shudder and another exhale of breath. “I feel so helpless and useless with you. I want to take care of you and help you and I can’t do anything. I can’t comfort you and I can’t … satisfy you and I can’t even make sharding pies for you every day. And there aren’t any holes in your clothes that I can mend for you.” She sniffs a moment against his neck, and then continues, “I want to do something for you … and I can’t. There’s nothing for me to do or give to you.” There’s a pause as she worries at her lower lip a moment and then says, “You don’t need anything but me, as you say, but right now … right now I can’t even give you that,” not in a physical sense anyway. Then she sighs, “I hate whining. I’m not trying to whine. Just trying to get you to see how useless and helpless I feel for you, for us, right now. Everything I’ve got is going to Jhath, as it should be. You see why making pies is so important to me when I can? It makes me feel like I’m doing something for us. That I’m still … useful … to us. But … I guess … shells.” Then she pulls back a bit, lifting her head and looking at his other hand, “Let me see your hand. You hurt it on the knife didn’t you?”

Releasing his hold on her hand, Max slides that arm up and around her shoulders, hand coming to rest against the back of head over that thick braid she was willingly going to sacrifice when she leans her head against shoulder. And there he stands quietly, closed fist at his side and the woman that means more to him than life itself wrapped against him with his other arm. Taking that sniff to be herald to tears and knowing that Jhath can’t and shouldn’t be alarmed in such a manner, he leans his head against hers pressing a soft kiss against the side of her neck, meant to encourage and comfort more than anything else. He’s probably going to suck at what he tries to convey next, but at least he gives it a shot. “Baby, listen to me,” trying to duck his head now to find her eyes for all that her head’s against his shoulder, “Pies and mending and making love to you, and everything else, that’s all…that’s icing on the cake, aye? Your love and belief in me, us, this…” lifting the hand at his side and uncurling his fingers to reveal a light slash of blood, evidence to him of just how far she’s prepared to go to tray and make him happy and give of herself, “…goes beyond that.” Lips press into a frown as none of that seems to be what it is he’s trying to say here, and so with a sigh, he tries again, “You shine the light in the dark, baby. Give me reason to keep on in a straight line,” relatively speaking, “You’re far from useless. Knowing that you’re down there fighting every second of every day to keep it altogether…shards Ahni,” his tone dropping lower and more intense, “You believed in me when no one else did. Don’t you see? That’s something marks can’t buy. It’s a gift given. And received and treasured in a way that no other can be.” Well maybe he got it right there for a gentle smile moves into place, “You want to keep making those pies, then do it. But because you want to, not because you feel that somehow if you don’t I’m going to forget why my hearts beats, aye?”

Ahnika is slow to meet his gaze, but she does meet it, falling silent as he speaks with no visible, outward appearance that his words have gotten through to the young woman who desperately wants to feel needed in all things that touch her. That gaze then turns to the slash of blood on his hand when he revealed it, and the redhead bites her lower lip, pulling away a little more to reach for his injured hand with both hands, if he’ll let her. To the final bit of his words, she just nods mutely in acquiescence, lowering her gaze from his and doing a fair job of looking resigned or convinced, or both. After a moment she just murmurs, “I love you.”

His injured hand is easily hers to take, however its Ahnika’s silence that once again has concern creasing his brows, despite those three words spoken in apparent acceptance. Fairly convinced he’s done a poor job of trying to explain the near inexplicable to her, or that he’s actually somehow said something wrong. As such Max doesn’t respond to them just yet, allowing silence to stretch out as he studies her, trying to fathom passed her own stillness. Until quietly spoken, “I love you too, baby.” And then he moves as if to take a step back, “I…should go.” Suddenly feeling somewhat awkward and a little perplexed in the face of this unusual quietness coming from her.

“To the Infirmary,” Ahnika says, finishing his statement as both her hands gingerly hold his injured one and she studies it. She looks up then, her face set with determination and her grey eyes hold that fierce look when she’s made up her mind about something. She pulls one hand back from his injured one, but only to point it at his chest, resting the finger there on his sternum, though not actually poking. Poor man has been bruised enough from being stomped on. “If you’re leaving now, it is only to make a stop into the Infirmary on the way back to the beast cavern, do I make myself clear?” Her voice is soft, not shouting, and she doesn’t sound angry so much as firm, determined, brooking no nonsense here. “And I will be calling upon them in the morning to make sure you have, and if you haven’t, my braid will be the last thing you will be worrying about me cutting off, beast manager. Understood?” Which could be taken all sorts of ways, and probably none of them actually as bad as a man might leap to. Then in a rather complete turnaround, her gaze softens a little and she lets his hand go with her other one, freeing up both now, and wrapping them around his neck to lean in for another one of those chaste, tender kisses. Full of love and absent of any dangerous passion.
Still with only one sock on and the other foot bare, Max wasn’t exactly rushing off, however, her opening words from that silence catch him a little off guard, “Huh? Oh, no.” Starting to shake his head as he glances down at his hand, “It’s just a scratc…” and then stops short and is left simply staring at ‘bossy’ Ahnika as her finger comes to rest against his chest. “Hey now wait a minu…” and he’s cut short again and left blinking at the unspoken threat of cutting off things other than her braid, until a cocky smirk tries to make an appearance, “You’d have to catch me first.” Then again, what if he doesn’t go to the infirmary, she indeed does do a check on him and…cuts off her braid. Ahem. Not quite so cocky now. With a slight grumble to his tone, “Fine. But Che’s just gonna laugh at me. And then she’ll pour some or other awful stuff that burns over it, stick a bandage on it and send me on my way,” could he –sound- any more like a petulant little boy? And then the redhead has her arms about his neck and is kissing him. A kiss he has to use every last ounce of his control to leave as just that, tender and chaste. Guess she’s not the only one learning lessons of self-control. On breaking away and with a brush of his knuckles against her cheek, "I love you, Ahni."

Through all his initial protesting, Ahni just remains there, staring at him coolly with that same determined expression, all the way up until he refers to the Healer by her nickname and then Ahnika looks confused, “Che?” Blinking a moment before shaking her head and dismissing it for now, “You work with runner shit, dirt, mud, carcasses, and who knows what else. It may be a scratch, but it needs to be tended to so you can work without it getting infected and ending up with your hand getting amputated.” Because Ahni knows so much about the Healing craft, right? And all infections lead to amputations. She then softens her expression, closing her eyes as he brushes his knuckles there along her cheek and she exhales with a smile, “I love you too, Max,” her eyes coming open to stare into his once more, and then she murmurs with a sultry teasing smile as she pulls away, “You need your hand to make love to me again one day, so go take care of it.” And then she is stepping away to retrieve her satchel and dirty clothes, intending to depart.

“The journeywoman healery type down there. Set my nose,” Max gives over easily on his use of Che’s name, probably not even giving it a thought as to where Ahnika’s mind might have gone, or might still go. Done and dusted, yes? Well, hopefully so. Resigned to his fate of having to make a visit to the infirmary, he turns an amused look onto the redhead, “I’m not a total dunce you know. I woulda stuck a bandage or something on it.” Or something, right. Need his hand to…er what? Hey now, no fair on the quippage. His expression says it all as that last of hers leaves him once again blinking and then swallowing slowly, “I…uhhh…” Anything he might have normally had to say in return (pre-Jhath) now not anything he could give voice to and call innocent or chaste. As such Max ends up clearing his throat unable to do little more than glance down at his hand and then back over to where Ahnika is now starting to make preparations to leave. One thing is for sure, every time he sees the scar that cut is likely to leave, guess where his mind’s going to go. Finally he simply ends up chuckling, shaking his head and taking a step after her to swat a playful smack to the redhead’s bum if she’s in range, “You go get that cute behind of yours into bed, love.” With that he’ll plonk himself down and set about getting the other sock on as well his boots before scooping up his own clothing, drowned trousers and all.

The mention about Cheusia gets a fleeting nod, though Ahnika’s not sure which one he means, really. But it only seems important in the fact that it’s a name she may need to remember when she goes to follow up and make sure he’s been there. She only shakes her head, looking amused for his following words as she rolls up her clothes and stuffs them in her satchel to be put in a marked container for laundry later, so that her stuff doesn’t get mixed up with anyone else’s. And so it is that she starts with a squeak at his smack on her bum and shoots a glare at him that has no real venom to it. Then with a smirk, she throws the satchel over one shoulder, “I’ll write you back soon, and you’ll be lucky for another pie after that,” and slinks out, giving him the show of that bum with a roll of her hips on her departure, and calling out to him, “Goodnight, Max,” before stopping by the exit to the bath cavern and blowing him a kiss goodbye over her shoulder.

Oh he’ll be going to the infirmary, make no mistake about that. He’s not about to risk that lustrous braid of hers, his dangly bits or anything else she might have a mind to take a knife to. No, siree! There is not one ounce of an apologetic look that comes in response to either the squeak his smack elicits from Ahnika or the glare she shoots him. All’s fair in love and quippage, baby. Or so one could assume that roguish grin of his says, “Worth it,” this to the threat of her withholding any pies in the future. Stomping his feet into his boots and then awkwardly rolling his clothing up one-handed into a squelchy jumble of items, (not nearly as organized as the redhead is) he sets his knife across his knees and leans back against the rockface, “Night, Ahni.” And then dark eyes fix firmly to that hip swaying walk. He hates to see her go, but Faranth, what a sight to watch her leave! As such he’s somewhat distracted that he almost misses the kiss blown back to him. Almost but not quite, helpless to do little other than send low laughter after his Firecracker. It’s only a short while of him sitting there staring off in the direction she’d left before he’s standing and reluctantly dragging his boots along to the infirmary. Probably grateful that none of his mates are about to hoot with laughter over the player that they would now term as being…‘whipped’.


Closing Credits Theme Music: Shinedown - "If You Only Knew"


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