A Talk by the Lake

It is only a few paces from the edge of the wilderness to the lake; trees crowd close to the water in every direction. The water at your feet is pristine, shining blue. Gentle ripples ruffle the glossy surface of the water and whisper at the shore. The hump of Katahdin Peak, blue-grey with distance, looms over the trees as they ring the lake. The air smells clean, rich with pine and fish. In the distance you can make out a dock, and other signs of human habitation; but here, only the calls of birds, frogs, and insects disturb the peaceful quiet.
An airship bobs over the lake at the end of long, fine tethers that are fastened here and there around the eastern portion of the lakeshore. An array of ropes and winches dangles from amidships, ending at a small, floating platform with couple of small, neat dinghies moored to it. Occasional sounds emit from the airship: spinning propellers, jets of steam, and voices.
Obvious exits:
Treehouse Katahdin Road

Perched on a rock at the edge of the lake, the white-haired figure is so still that he's barely noticeable at all. His clothing helps him blend into the soft colors of early morning, although it is a clear, cool morning without fog. He is sitting with his arms wrapped around his knees, staring out at the water.

Although he moves with the ungulate grace which is too often compared to deer, unlike a deer he usually does not make a sound, this slender young man with a waterfall of perfectly white hair-- not blond, but white and fine as Queen Anne's lace-- which has been rather carelessly confined with a simple tie at the nape of his neck. His eyes at first appear to be dark rather than the blue that is their shade, as they are so saturated with color that they absorb rather than reflect, like the evening sky. The planes of his perfectly symmetrical face reflect a beauty so delicate and finely drawn as to be almost inhuman, an impression furthered by the translucent pallor of his skin. Yet the lovely lines of his collarbones and his wrists showing delicately through that transparency paradoxically reinforce his humanity by suggesting his fragility.
He is currently wearing plain but sturdy-looking brown leather boots that reach halfway up to his knees, soft gray pants of some closely-woven material, and a smoky-blue shirt of very sheer linen with wide gathered sleeves and an open collar. Over this is a knee-length, dark green, leather vest, soft and scarred with use, casually only halfway laced up the front.
At rest, he sits quite still, not even fidgeting with his long and capable hands. His face tends to assume a clear, icy expression which is a first cousin to sorrow.

A figure in loose blue pants and short-sleeved off-white shirt appears at the edge of the clearing. Barefoot and jogging, Rex crosses the leaf-covered green meadow, and is nearly on top of Miklos when he realizes that he's there. He skids to a halt, then stumbles briefly for words. Finally, he manages to say, "Miki! You're, um, up here early." The implied question dangles off the end of the sentence.

He is a youth verging upon manhood and his lean frame is just filling out with muscle. A shining ebony mane trails in a loose ponytail down the smooth line of his spine and a lock of it drops into one dark eye. His skin is as flawless as the bronze it resembles and shows not the least inclination toward hirsuteness. Leather leggings provide the base for ancient armor plates to protect his lower body: black plastic thigh and shinguards, and a black plastic and metal codpiece. His upper body is usually shirtless, except in the most extreme weather or temperatures, but when he does wear something, it is an ancient, battered black leather jacket.
His prized possession, worn either across his back or at his right hip: a shining sword with golden hilt clad in a tooled leather scabbard.

Miki looks over at Rex and leans his head on his knees. His face registers no change of expression at all on seeing his friend. "Yes, I am here early."

Rex frowns, puzzled, standing at the edge of the water with one hand on his hip and the other rubbing the back of his neck. Carefully, he inquires, "Are you, you know, okay?"

Those eyes, usually so deep a blue, reflect the lake until they are almost as disturbingly pale as his older brother's. "Why do you ask?" Miklos replies, looking up at Rex.

Some sort of restlessness overtakes Rex, and he turns to one side to stretch out his hamstring and Achilles tendon, bending one knee and keeping the other leg straight, foot braced against a rock in the water. He bounces a little as he thinks. "Well," he begins, his drawl particularly slow this morning, "you're not usually here this early. And you look, um, unhappy. I mean, you didn't smile or anything, and you, uh, usually do. For me." He turns and stretches the other leg, watching Miki out of the corner of his eye.

"Do I look unhappy?" asks Miki. His tone is mostly detached, yet slightly engaged, as if this is only a mildly interesting question which has nothing to do with him.

Rex stops stretching and looks hard at Miki. "No," he admits. "You don't look like you're feeling much of anything at all. Which, um, I think, for you says that you're unhappy. And, so far, you've answered my questions with either my question as a statement, or other questions. Which Mama always said meant someone's tryin' to avoid your questions 'cause they're too close to home. Or somethin' like that."

Miki sighs and looks back at the lake. "I... do not appear to be good at avoiding questions. Since you keep asking them."

"Man, I only ask because I care, you know?" Rex crouches down close to Miki. "What's up? Can I help?"

Miki shrugs. How he manages to do this with his arms wrapped around his knees is not clear, but the gesture is there: a single, devil-may-care shrug. "I do not think you can help, Rex." His voice is gentler than his posture.

The Kin watches Miki's face for a moment, then looks down at the beach under his feet. "Would it help to talk about it, maybe?" he asks hesitantly.

Miki's face darkens for a moment and his hands tighten on his upper arms in a white-knuckled grip. "I just do not *understand!*" he bursts out. "I do not know what I did!"

Rex raises his head quickly at the outburst, and his brows peak in a puzzled expression. "What you did?" he asks.

A quick glance at Rex, then Miki rests his chin back on his knees and looks at the lake, his expression once more perfectly blank. "To Simon."

The perplexed look becomes more complicated as Rex's head jerks back an inch or so and he straightens his back. After a moment of thought, he looks back to Miki. "What do you mean? What about Simon?"

Still staring at the lake, Miki says in a dreary voice, "You did not notice, Rex? He... he does not want to come near me, any more."

Rex cocks his head, looking out at the Turtletop thoughtfully. Then he looks back at Miki. "Yeah. You're right. He didn't touch you. I guess... I guess I just thought, at the time, that it was just location and stuff, but..." He frowns. "You don't think he's gotten all cold-footed because he's... but, no, he was still doing stuff with me... so he's not... Well, what's happened lately? Maybe we could figure it out...?"

"He was scared when Anderja took me from the Farm," says Miki expressionlessly. "I think that might have been it. But that was not me. And I did not mean for it to happen in front of him; I was just careless. I tried to explain..."

Rex scowls. "What the hell?" he fumes in a low voice. "He's got a problem with magic 'r somethin'? What've they been feedin' him anyway? Fairy stories about the world before the Night and how everythin' was so nice 'n' normal?" He growls in the back of his throat and lunges to his feet. He begins to pace, splashing along the water's edge. "What'd he say when you explained?"

Miki shrugs again, a bitter and confined gesture. "Not much. That was in the library, remember?"

"Yeah, I remember." Rex paces some more. "Shit. I should've left you two alone yesterday so you could talk or somethin'. I was bein' greedy. I'm sorry."

"I... am not very good at talking," says Miki in a surprisingly low voice. He turns his face away from Rex.

Rex swoops in and kneels in front of Miki, raising one hand to the boy's chin and applying gentle pressure to bring him around to face the Kin again. "Miki," Rex says softly. "Miki, man, look, you can talk to him. I mean, if there's anything those Farm people know, it's this talking thing. Or, well, I could talk to him, if you don't feel okay about it."

Miki resists having his face turned until Rex's last sentence, when he turns his head around with surprising speed, his hair flipping itself over his shoulder. "No! I mean. I guess, um. I should do it. If I knew what to say." His eyes are suspiciously bright.

"You could just ask him point-blank why the hell he's seems afraid to touch you," Rex suggests. "I've usually found that the direct approach works best with guys our age. Although," he adds, his eyes darting away, "it works for Oroszlan."

"Would he admit it?" asks Miki, that trace of bitterness back in his voice. He gives Rex a sweeping look-- from his head to his feet-- and looks away again. "Anyway, he has you now."

Rex's mouth twists to one side and he frowns disbelievingly. "Whaddaya mean? Got me? Like one person is a be-all and end-all? Look, I like Simon, and he's cute, but I'm just not into him for much. I'm actually not all that into having virgins, anyway. Too much emotional free-for-all, y'know? Been there, done that, got the black eye." He strokes Miki's cheek. "He might admit it, confronted directly enough. And surprised. You know, like Arrow's Flight pulled on Lucas last night. He was lookin' for a reaction, an' he got one. Same thing."

That gets a hollow laugh. "I do not think I could do... that," says Miki. "Not the same way, anyway."

"Look, you want me to talk to him?" Rex says, leaving his hand on Miki's cheek. "I will. I've done this kinda thing before. I don't even need to say much of anything. I bet he'll sing like a bird. And then, you know, I can talk him more or I can deck him or whatever." He smiles half-heartedly at his tiny joke.

"Hey!" Miki half turns and glares at Rex. "If you dare..." He's only half-joking.

"No, seriously, you know I wouldn't really," Rex hastens to reassure Miki. "But do you want me to talk to him?"

Miki hunches his shoulders and glares at the lake as if it has personally offended him. "I do not know, Rex. I am not good at this. I..." He sighs. "I do not know what to say." The sentence is said quietly; an admission of defeat. "What would you say?"

Rex smiles and stands up. With hand on hip, he addresses a tree stump. "Hey, Simon. Look, y'know, Miki's kinda upset. Are you mad at him or somethin'?" He pauses, hooks his thumbs in his waistband. "Huh. That's funny. 'Cause I noticed that you didn't, you know, touch him or anythin' the other day, when we were all together. And now he's pretty upset about it. And I'm kinda wonderin' what's goin' on, is all." He smiles as charmingly as he can at Miki. "See? Pretty easy, ain't it?"

Miki smiles wanly at Rex. "For you, perhaps." He looks back out over the lake, then suddenly stands up, shaking his head. "No. No. It is all a great fuss. I do not want... No. I will not make a fool of myself over this."

Rex faces Miki squarely, frowning down on him. "Man, it ain't a fuss. There ain't nothin' worse'n havin' someone pull this kinda shit on you. It ain't makin' a fool of yourself. It ain't a big fuss. It makes perfect sense to ask these questions. Why're you feelin' so shy?" His voice softens. "He's hurt you. You have a right to know why."

Miki looks up at Rex, tense with something like anger. "Let me... deal with it. Myself. Please, Rex."

Rex lays his hands on Miki's shoulders and squeezes gently. "If I do, you won't do anything at all, will you?" he asks, half to himself. Then there is a slow spread of realization over his face. "Miki... you're not... you're..." He stops and inhales. "What's really goin' on, Miki? I mean, if it were me he did this to, I'd be hurt an' I *might* talk to him, or might just leave it. But this has really... hit hard, hasn't it?"

Miki looks away, his face settling once more into the slightly sad expression it usually wears. He doesn't reply.

"Aw, Mick," the Kin says softly. "I didn't know."

Miki sighs, his shoulders lifting lightly under Rex's hands. "It is... not important," he says, looking down.

The perplexed frown reappears on Rex's face. "What do you mean?" he asks, enunciating each word carefully. "Of course it's important."

Miki looks up at Rex, his mouth thin with control. Then he steps forward and leans his forehead against Rex's shoulder. "Hell," he says, pronouncing it carefully. "I do not know what I mean. Shut up, Rex." He rests one hand on the Kin's other shoulder, slowly closing it into a fist.

Rex lays a gentle hand on Miki's wrist, trapping it against the shoulder, and slides his other arm around Miki's waist. "If you care about him, you shouldn't just let it go," he says with deep conviction.

A breath explodes out of Miki, and he turns his head to say in Rex's ear, "You do not know when to leave things alone," with equal conviction, before biting him on the neck. His teeth are surprisingly sharp for a human and he bites down hard.

Rex makes a low exclamation from the pain, then growls, "No, I don't." His hand tightens on Miki's wrist and his arm around Miki's waist, and then he bends his head to bite Miki's ear.

Miki gasps and reaches up with his free hand to the back of Rex's neck. "Persistent."

Rex nips lower, gripping Miki's earlobe firmly and shaking his head slightly. "Yes," he says through his teeth. "Always."

"If... you are not careful..." says Miki, stroking his fingers lightly along the back of Rex's neck and standing on tiptoe to try to reach Rex's ear, "You will...Ah! Get in trouble. Perhaps."

"With who?" Rex inquires, eyebrows raised inquisitively and eyes wide with innocence as he turns his head to look at Miki without relinquishing the other boy's earlobe.

"Me," growls Miki, trying his level best to look fierce, with his hair tumbling into his eyes.

Rex finally releases Miki's savaged ear and laughs low against his neck. "I look forward to it," he says, just before biting his throat.

Miki gasps again, his free hand suddenly grabbing onto the collar of Rex's shirt as if to keep himself from falling. "Rex," he whispers. "Um... should we be doing this here.... Rex....?"