Support is.. on offer [5.3]

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You can tell a lot about someone by observing how they react when stressed.
You can also find out how powerful their right hook can be too if you're not careful!

Definitely something to keep in mind if you ever decide to go 'sleeping bear' prodding in any case, right?

Events unfold including but not limited to:
Sharks with laser beams being mentioned to comedic effect,
some chicken gets chased around a stone doughnut
(I WISH I was making that bit up!),
and Hannah is declared a goddess while finding multiple interesting ways to relax at last, with John's help, naturally.


 

“You accepting visitors yet?”

For a long moment I considered telling him to get lost but it’s kind of hard to keep a sulking rage going when I’ve had a few hours of peace in a comfortable, well-conjured chair with a good book or five to keep me company.

“Sure John, you okay making a seat or want me to do it instead?..”
He cocked his head to the side curiously but shrugged at the same time so I guess he didn’t take my outburst earlier too personally at least.

Hopefully Mum didn’t take it personally when I practically dropped Eris in her lap from my haste to get lost for a while as well?
Eris too actually, come to think of it.. I barely said a word to her on the ride home..

I’ve probably got a few people to apologise to over the next few hours to be honest but in my defence, today was supposed to be a bit of ‘me’ time where I could just relax while getting a few chores done and it evolved into this horrible dragging mission to just keep everyone in line while TRYING to at least get something done without it all going wrong in one way or another!

“Did Sarah send you in to find me or- HEY! Don’t-”
Despite my protest’s John kept going as he squeezed himself into my nice comfortable one-seater sofa, actually pushing himself down into its cushions enough that it practically popped me out of the seat for a moment before he threw an arm out and pulled me into his lap instead of letting me fall.

I turned awkwardly from my new perch to shoot him an angry look but he just smiled away as if he’d done nothing of interest in the slightest.
My glare lasted an almost painfully long twenty seconds of utter silence before I finally gave it up as a lost cause with an annoyed huff.

Trying to make someone who is entirely unapologetic for his actions feel guilty for them with a look is like trying to win a fight with a brick wall by head-butting it into submission.. your much better off cutting your losses and coming back later with reinforcements, possibly even a bulldozer or two..

“I come representing several worried parties from both within and without your motley crew of family members, even your grumpy old guard guy ‘Pauly’ asked after you, if you can believe it?”
Despite myself that one got a snort of amusement out of me.

No doubt he was so very subtle and stiff about the whole thing if he did ask.. then again I wouldn’t put it past John to just say he asked to get exactly this kind of reaction out of me?
..sneaky bastard..
“Of course, I was coming to find you anyway. Can’t have you hiding away and pouting to yourself on a nice day when we could be doing so many other, much more fun, things instead now can we?”

Slowly I let myself relax against him, his warm magic making every point of my body where we touched tingle in a deliciously interesting way that almost reminds me of the physical responses I sometimes get from spells coming too close to my skin or just being near powerful magic sources in general.

“What kind of fun things are you thinking of?.. you’d have to buy me dinner first, I’m not that sort of girl you perv..”
This time he snorted as he pulled his arms a little tighter around my waist and gave me a gentle but reassuring squeeze.

“I was actually thinking of us taking a late picnic lunch down to the lake so we can get to work planning out the new wardstone’s rune schemes in peace.. figured you’ve already got any number of utterly insane idea’s you want to try slipping past the ever-watchful eyes of the MPA at this point?”
My shoulders untensed a little more when he didn’t take the obvious bait for once.

I actually HAVE got some idea’s I’d love to try out, I need to check the area where the stone would be sunk first to see if they would work though.. which makes the idea of a late lunch on the waterfront seem a lot more appealing then I’d like to admit.
..I’m kind of hungry too..

Damn him for knowing me so well!
..stupid John..

“Fine, there’s only so much theory-based advanced mathematics I can study at a time without going a little insane anyway.”
He cocked an eyebrow up at me for that comment so I waved the book I’d been happily reading a few minutes ago, before he so graciously decided to interrupt me.

In all honesty I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of reading the works of Martin Gardner and his ‘Mathemagician’ ilk, whether it’s their fact-based works, fiction novels or their almost inevitable progressions into real magical theory either by accident or intent.

The man was one of the biggest sceptics I’ve ever heard of, working tirelessly to debunk everything from faith healers to wildly destructive religious doctrine and beyond.
It must have blown his mind to discover magic’s existence for the first few seconds it took him to process the idea then start breaking things down and trying to find empirical evidence in an effort to get REAL proof on its existence, one way or another.

It’s fascinating to see something as complex and often times nonsensical as real magic being broken down to its core, vital and often overlooked functions using the universal language of math and the mind of someone with a genius level IQ who can’t actually DO magic in the first place.

It almost feels like what would happen if you took a highly advanced mage from New Avalon who only vaguely understands that ‘clockwork’ is a thing that could work even without magic being added to it, then dropped them in at the deep end by giving them their own brand new Trans-Atlantic passenger airplane with the task of working out what made it fly!

Taking someone who’s considered one of the best in their fields, dropping them into a whole different world of possibility’s without telling them all the rules and only allowing them what little they can gather from their much dumber, disinterested or frankly theory-light new peers to start working from can produce some amazing things.

Reading Gardner’s theory on making internal combustion engines work using magically rich metals as a containing medium to replace the ignition source with pure, unfiltered magic is just.. just so INTERESTING!

Seeing the theory behind it all laid out so simply like massive, complex mathematical jigsaw pieces that just seem to FIT so perfectly into place seamlessly despite the seeming impossibility of that fact.. all in a beautiful dance of numbers..

I want to DO something like that someday!

I have no idea what, I have no idea HOW.. but I want to come up with something so earthshakingly important with potentially world changing repercussions for both mages AND the normals.
Even if my work gets ignored in the magical world for being ‘weird’ or hidden from the normal world like Gardner’s later pieces were, the chance to do something so completely NEW with magic makes me slightly light-headed just on principle alone!

“Has anyone ever told you that it’s cute the way you stare at books as if they’re your baby’s or something at times?”
My head snapped up from my reverie to fix John with a fierce glare.
He chuckled to himself and lifted his hands up into view as if offering a surrender which eased my annoyance to some degree.

Someone HAS told me I look cute when I’m studying before.. then he died..
..thanks for the reminder John-boy..

“-Much as I could quite comfortably sit in this REALLY well made chair with you perched on my lap for the rest of the day. I can’t get up and start sorting out this picnic until YOU get up sadly and not letting that scary little brain of yours loose on the wardstone designs before I have to start working on them would just be a crime at this point!”

It took a bit more effort than I’d like to admit for me to bring up a smile for him in response this time.
The sudden wave of sadness that came washing over me from the direction my thoughts had just taken at his unintentionally painful comment hit me a bit too close to home sadly.
It quickly became easier to handle though as I forced the emotions back into a corner of my mind to be sealed away safely along with every other bad ‘Karl’ thought that I tend to have these days.

With a shove to his knee’s I staggered back up to my feet and dropped my book on top of the nearby pile of its peers for later reading.
..I’m going to have to do something to ‘claim’ this room as mine now..

After randomly wandering through the golden halls for a while and checking doors to see if there was anything interesting inside without much success, this one room just seemed to appear out of nowhere., already furnished with a surprisingly well made magical window showing a view of some kinda sunny beachfront, walls colored in a soothing shade of sky blue which fitted my mood and needs almost TOO well at the time.

The first step I took inside led to a creak from the obviously somehow real wood flooring underneath the thick, warm white carpet inside the room completely sold me on using this place to relax for a while to be honest.

“What kind of locking spell do you think I should put on the door to keep everyone out of here while I’m gone?”
John shot me a confused look for a moment which slowly morphed into an incredulous one before finally settling on a highly amused smirk that said he knew something I didn’t.
“What?”

He chuckled under his breath and stepped over to ruffle my hair in that same annoying way he always used to do under my hood back in school.

“You honestly have no idea do you?”
Huh?.. what’s he on about now?!..
“This is YOUR dimension Han, you can shape it however the hell you want. Did you honestly think you just found this room that’s practically tailored to your tastes at random?”

Well.. yeah?.. I did actually..
..seems kind of stupid when he puts it that way though..

“Let’s try something quickly, think hard about wanting this door to lead out into the main entrance hall of your realm, then close your eyes and open the door.”
I shot him a glare just for the fact that he’s giving me orders but when that only seemed to amuse him more I gave it up with a huff and turned to do as he’d suggested.

The idea of wanting to be in the entrance hall quickly was easy to fix in my mind at least, I REALLY don’t feel like walking twenty minutes through the golden maze again right now!
Attaching that thought to the door in front of me was pretty easy too.

The whole task reminds me kind of like the way I have to create and ‘set’ thoughts in my mind when grafting new diversions to my magic, like the now infamous ‘ice to water’ one I did a few weeks back.

Slowly I closed my eyes and reached out to grasp the door-handle.

With a twist and a pull it opened smoothly allowing a burst of noise to come inside before cutting short suddenly to be replaced by gasps of surprise.
I peeked open my eyes only to come face to face with a relatively large group of ‘family’ members all looking back at me with obviously wide-eyed shock.

“Congratulations, you just consciously moulded reality within your own personal dimension so that your new ‘study’ room could move its door and contents, including us, to a much nicer location in an area I believe once consisted of an empty patch of wall at the back of your entrance hall.”
It took everything I had not to wince as dawning comprehension washed over the faces in front of us from John’s little speech.
“Welcome to being the god of your own ridiculously huge dimensional kingdom Han!”
His smirk was practically burning a hole in the back of my head at this point.
..smug bastard..
“Your Gran will be happy, she’s been desperately trying to work out a way to make the travel times between the dorm rooms and the dining hall shorter somehow.. I think she was trying to make some kind of low-yield waypoint beacon the last time I checked?”

Murmurs went up in both volume and frequency a little more as everyone shot me, at the very least, slightly cautious looks and started disbursing off to continue their previously planned journeys.
Most likely with a new goal to go spread gossip on me in mind sadly, as mages tend to do in most new situations.

There’s a REASON why rumors travel so worryingly fast with mages after all!

“Now, as for your lock idea.. why not just make the door disappear until you need it again?”
With obvious care, and more than a little sarcasm in his movements, he stepped out of my new study room while turning to offer me a raised eyebrow that was equal parts curious and mocking, much to my annoyance.

For a long moment I just stared back at him, still trying to process the idea that I just broke the laws of time and space for my own convenience.
Eventually my brain finally caught back up with reality and with a worried gulp I stepped out of the room too, turning to give his idea a shot at least.

..there’s no way this will actually work, there’s no way I can have THIS much power inside here?!..
I nodded along with that thought even as I ignored it’s sentiment to fix my mind on the idea of making the door in front of me disappear.

My eye’s squeezed shut but I didn’t even need to open them again to know that it had worked when another round of gasps started up, I did open them anyway of course and was met with an innocently blank expanse of golden wall for my troubles.

“HA! That’s so awesome, I had no idea if it would actually work or not of course, but I kind of figured if anyone could do something so amazing with unconscious ease it would be you Han.”
..damn it John!..

“You just had to spoil it, didn’t you? For ONCE I actually came out of a situation thinking you could be wise without being an ass about it..”
He cocked his head to the side again and offered me a grin that reminded me distinctly of some massive soppy looking dog, one that has no idea what his owner is saying to him but is just pleased to have her attention if nothing else!
“..forget it.. let’s just get started on this picnic before you make me do something else that should be impossible out of misplaced curiosity, shall we?”

He nodded firmly and seemed almost proud as led the way across the hall, completely ignoring the watching crowd of whispering family we left behind in our wake.

At one point he demanded someone step out of his way or else he’d get ‘Goddess Almighty Hannah the Wrathful’ to lock them in a room she can create with her mind as punishment, but the tone he used and the silly arm waving he added in helped to defuse the threat into something that even got a wry smile out of me to go along with everyone else’s laughter.

By the time we’d made it across the hall to the exit doorway everyone seemed a lot calmer about my sudden ability to change the world at will.. even me, I’m sorry to admit?
I found myself sidling up to John’s side and nudging him slightly with my elbow before walking on past him.

“..thanks John..”
I didn’t need to look back to confirm the grin on his face that formed in response, I could practically FEEL the bloody thing shining out in his magic, even if decades of knowing him hadn’t already told me it would be there to start with.
“Enough preening John-boy, I’m hungry so let’s go!”

“Yes Ma’am”
..smug asshole..

======

“So.. a romantic little picnic dinner, huh?”

“Don’t start Sare..”
I shot Sarah a warning look and continued making my sandwich while nibbling at a few spare bits and pieces to keep myself going despite my hunger.
“..it’s a working lunch”

“A working lunch, together, at seven-thirty?”

“It’s later then I thought when the idea came up.. now stop talking..”
The knife in my hand twitched slightly above the next sandwich in line to be cut.
She’s not going to stop, is she?

“A sunset picnic, on a blanket together, by the lake with a nice little basket and everything?”

“YES! Okay?!.. I get it.. it’s suspicious as all hell but I’ve had a stressful day and I’ve been holed up inside ever since I got home so the idea of working out the rune equations for our new wardstone while surrounded by nature sounds really good right about now and he asked and it was really nice of him to think of it an-”

“Whoa! OKAY!.. Jezz, don’t blow a blood vessel over it Han.. learn to take a joke?..”
We both fell into silence again, I don’t know about Sarah but I had to take in a breath or two to get myself back together for a bit longer then I’d like to admit for some reason.

The only sound available to stop things from quickly becoming awkward was the now almost continuous thrum of people that’s basically become the soundtrack to our house lately.
Even my cutting paused as I tried to stop myself from carrying on defending my dinner choices anyway, despite her protests that they were unnecessary.

I don’t know why she got to me so much there anyway?
..yeah, bullshit, I totally do..
SHUT UP BRAIN!

“Can you just.. just give it a rest Sare?”
She pulled a face that said quite clearly she was anything but happy with letting things ‘rest’ at this point but she didn’t voice that opinion out loud, which was something at least.

“I know it’s weird and I know I need to be careful with John.. but he’s changed, ya know?”
Her eyebrow rose slightly sceptically but again she held her tongue, showing a surprising amount of restraint from the usually quite vocal sister I’m used to.
“It’s not like you would be worried about us doing this sort of thing if I was still male right? We used to spend hours going out of town into the wilds with a takeout dinner to talk and you had NO problems back then after all!”

I’d kind of expected some kind of reluctant agreement from that comment but all I got was a long awkward silence and slightly flushed cheeks from Sarah as she looked away from me guiltily.

“The rules are different now Han, you can’t just go around alone with guy’s anymore, especially John-”
She hesitated before carrying on as if she wasn’t really sure she wanted to continue but something pushed past her reluctance despite her obvious misgivings.
“-it wasn’t exactly okay to start with to be honest, I just kind of figured you two were.. ya know?.. and you seemed happy enough so I let it go on without saying anything so..”

oh.. really?..
She thought we were together, even back when we were both guy’s?!
Well that’s.. awkward?.. I guess

“John’s only into girls Sare and by the time I had to face the fact that I didn’t mind either way he’d disappeared into the psycho-zone far enough that it was pretty much a non-issue anyway.”
After a few seconds to process that idea her face twitched slightly and a few moments later she started lightly laughing as if suddenly relieved for some reason.

“No offence Han but even when you two couldn’t possibly have kids or anything else that comes into the whole ‘generic heterosexual relationship’ package deal you’ve got going for you now, I REALLY didn’t want to end up with that egomaniac as a brother-in-law!”
She laughed a little more and I felt my ears turn slightly red in embarrassment at the idea of it all.

“He’s not that bad anymore.. he’s still a dick at times and he wouldn’t be himself without that smug sense of superiority about him but he doesn’t mean it most of the time, it’s more habit and a front that he puts up than anything else..”
She shot me a disbelieving look for a second but that disappeared pretty quickly as my face started tightening into an annoyed glare for her doubting me.

I know John, I don’t know much else at times but if I say he’s getting better than he is!
I’m the world’s only expert in John-studies.. John-tology?.. John-ography, maybe?..

“I still think you can do better-”
With a heavy sigh I gave in on that point, mostly because it’s pretty obvious that she’s not going to be the one giving in on things at the moment, just from the tone of her voice if nothing else.
She offered me a tentative smile and pulled me into a one sided hug that practically lifted me off my feet for a moment before she let me free again.
“-I just worry about you. Logically I know you could kick his ass six way’s from Sunday if he tried anything you didn’t like but your still new to all this Han and take it from the expert here, female hormones are nothing to scoff at.”

Despite her advice I did, in fact, scoff at that idea moments later.

“I’m serious Han.. it gets easier with time but when I first got hit by the boob-fairy in my teens there were a few months at least where I became a drooling boy-hungry mess.. blaming hormones is cliché I know, but it’s cliché for a REASON!”
She huffed to herself and squeezed me a little bit more before finally letting go.
“I’m too young to be a biological Aunty Han.. plus, can you IMAGINE what Mum will say if you end up waddling down the aisle with John before I’ve even gotten my love life sorted out? I’ll be the butt of every backhanded comment you can think of involving ‘spinsters’ and ‘old maids’ until I become so desperate I grab a random guy off the street and go for a quickie Vegas wedding just to shut her up!”
..seriously?..

I really didn’t want to laugh at her rant, because honestly I can tell she’s being partly truthful in her worry and the idea of me ‘waddling’ down the aisle with ANYONE is just plain TERRIFYING right about now.. but that didn’t stop my instincts in the slightest and after a short snorting burst which I attempted to hold in, I ended up leaning against the counter while laughing so hard it made me just a little bit light-headed.

Luckily I didn’t have to suffer alone because after a few seconds of looking indignant at my obvious amusement when confronted with her potential ‘horrifying’ future Sarah joined in, leaning against the counter next to me and chuckling to herself.

We really do have a problem with resisting the urge to laugh when the other laughs, don’t we?
I hope it really is a ‘twin thing’ because otherwise it’s an ‘us’ thing and that would make us both shift slightly further into the ‘weirdness’ end of the normality scale, a scale that I’ll reluctantly admit we’re already pretty far from center on to start with..

“Okay, okay! So, the big question that comes to mind now is, just what the HELL did you two do all the time if you weren’t sneaking off together to snog or whatever in the back of his busted up old car?”
The bluntness of her question set me off on a whole new roll of laughter sadly and we didn’t get much done for a while as our laughter fed into itself in an almost continuous loop that only seemed to pause if we looked far away from each other for a long time without speaking.

“Well.. we went star gazing and-”
I didn’t even get to finish that first thought before Sarah burst out again, collapsing practically on top of me so hard I almost fell to the floor before she could straighten herself up again.

“No seriously, what did you two do?”

“um.. star gazing?”
It was no use, she went off again, dragging me with her with the silly mood that had overtaken us all of a sudden.
“I’m serious Sare, we went cloud watching t-too!”

..okay, now I’m starting to see the funny side of it again..

======

“Hi Han, you two okay? I could hear you both cackling away from upstairs.”
At John’s sudden appearance Sarah let off an almost yelping giggle and ducked her head down to hide her grin.

Under her breath, almost too quiet even for me to hear, she muttered ‘sharks with laser beams’ which made my eye twitch as I fought hard to not join her in giggling again.
Slowly I brought my hand up to my mouth as if hiding a cough or something just so I could allow myself a wide grin to relieve the pressure a bit without him noticing my amusement at his expense.

In hindsight, telling Sarah about John’s ‘teenage fantasy’ of owning some huge secret base full of sharks with laser beams attached to their heads, for defence and toast making purposes naturally, which was an idea he apparently stole from a movie he saw on TV and only mentioned to me at the time because he was reminded of it by a worryingly specific formation of cloud cover that even I couldn’t really deny looked EXACTLY like someone being eaten by said laser wielding sharks, was probably not the wisest thing I could have done?

It’s hard to take anyone seriously when you find out how much of a dork they were back in high school after all!

“I made the sandwiches John-boy”
He blinked in surprise and shot us a slightly confused look as Sarah continued sniggering away to herself quietly and I took another stab at poorly hiding my ever-growing smirk.

“I was going to.. oh well, what did you make, anything interesting?”

“Irradiated extra-large tuna, fresh from the secret lair?”
Before I could respond Sarah had muttered out her own answer at a slightly louder volume this time which I really doubt John could miss, even from this distance.

He paused and shot her another confused look before turning to me suspiciously.
I held it for a few more painfully long seconds but eventually I couldn’t help but bust out in laughter while offering him what I hope was an apologetic and slightly guilty shrug.

“You told her about the Castle of Doom idea?”
Sarah wheezed heavily as if she was trying to laugh on top of her already existing laughter, no doubt because of the silly name he’d just inadvertently let slip that I’d previously avoided mentioning to save him at least some credibility.
“..you suck..”

“She sure does.. god, I forgot how big a pair of dweebs you two were back in high school, to think I thought you’d been off doing stuff which could get at least one of you technically ‘laid’ before your twenty’s?!”
With one more evil little cackle Sarah slapped a hand on my back before waltzed off into the house, leaving us in an awkward silence that made me want to cringe even without John’s withering stare being fixed on me at the same time.
“Don’t know what I was thinking, you two getting laid?.. as if!”

John’s withering stare went up another notch at Sarah’s parting shot but a few seconds later it at least shifted away from me to Sarah’s retreating back instead.

“Sorry John-boy, it just kind of slipped out..”
Slowly he turned back to me and despite everything his lips twitched up almost fondly to show that he wasn’t seriously pissed at me over it or anything too bad.
“If it helps, Sarah pee’d the bed semi-regularly until we were ten?”

His little lip twitch went up dramatically into a wide devious smirk this time.. THAT’S the John I know!
Give away something embarrassing about him and he’ll get huffy, but give him some ammunition in return and all’s forgiven without a second thought!

“Come on, we still have to walk down to the lake and I’m pretty sure even MY Mum isn’t going to ignore it if her ‘teenaged daughter’ is out past midnight with a guy she silently considers to be ‘practically dating’ her..”
He nodded and shrugged, finishing the movement with a flick of his wrist that had the sandwiches I’d been working on packing themselves neatly into the basket he’d left by the stairs specifically for the purpose of carrying them.

“Lead on, oh great unable-to-keep-a-secret one!”
His amused smirk was almost a direct counterpoint to my face’s sudden dip into frown territory.

“..just get the basket John, without the sarcasm please for powers sake.”
..asshole..

======

“Here look good?”

I glanced around us thoughtfully before offering him a slightly uncertain nod.
You’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to find a nice picnicking spot by a lake the size of the Upper, but after a while you tend to forget just how many tree’s there are around here.
Hell, most of them even lead all the way up to the water’s edge too surprisingly!

“It’ll do? I’m hungry and walking further probably isn’t worth the effort.”
He nodded before dropping the basket down to the floor at the base to one of the bigger trees and flexing his fingers a little.
Part of me wanted to point out that if he’d used magic he could have saved himself the discomfort he’s now experiencing from carrying it all this way but another part found the fact that he hadn’t thought of it at least somewhat endearing, enough that I won’t embarrass him over it.. for now..
“You need a hand setting up?”

For a second he hesitated with his arm elbow deep into the basket, which is suspiciously NOT big enough to fit his arm that far inside itself.
That didn’t last long though because a smile spread across his lips and he shot me a slightly mocking look a few moments later.

“You made the sandwiches, I’ll set up.. you could see if you can find anything to make a fire pit with for when the sun goes down though if you want?”
I couldn’t help but shoot him a suspicious look out of habit more than anything else and despite his obviously fake attempt at looking ‘innocent’ I couldn’t really find fault with his logic if nothing else.

Technically fires are illegal around here as we were told repeatedly back in school every time some group of kids from the resort started one during the summer and the adults somehow decided to blame us locals instead for some reason.
The fact is though, I now technically OWN this forest and beside that we’re mages!

It’s not like we can’t just flash freeze the fire if it gets out of control.. or hit it with some summoned water from the lake.. or even cover the pit in loose dirt then let off a blast of my diversion into the ground to regrow all the grass and hide it completely at the same time, after all?

“Fine, you set up your little tea party and I’ll go be the big strong lumberjack.”
A smirk spread across my lips at the indignant squawk he let off in reply.
Obviously I didn’t hang around long enough to give him a chance to REALLY reply because, let’s be honest here, he’s better than me when it comes to one-liners and he’d only find some way to turn the joke around on me if given half a chance.

I couldn’t be obvious about that fact though so instead of running off I sauntered away in an admittedly slightly awkward quickstep from how uneven the paths are around here.
A quickstep that may have looked slightly silly out of context but offered the added benefits of giving a little teasing wiggle to my hips and allowing me the pace needed to flick my hair a few times just to mock him a bit more as I went.

I’d almost got out of hearing range, even for my magically reinforced ears, before he spoke up again in a hushed tone I honestly don’t think he intended for me to hear.
“..too cute to be a lumberjack..”

My cheeks flared to life with a deep blush in seconds and without a backwards glance I dropped the teasing pace in favor of just leaving the area a LOT faster than previously planned.

..I may not look like much of a lumberjack but he’s prissy enough for a tea party still at least..
Yeah, stupid John!
Don’t just go calling people cute like that!

I’m not even TRYING to look cute at the moment damn it?!

======

“I didn’t actually mean for you to cut a tree down you know?”

Despite not being physically taxing, it’s surprisingly annoying to levitate several rather large logs through an area full of trees that they can get caught on easily.
When I finally made it into our little clearing, walking backwards with them all in tow, I ended up falling on my butt in the dirt as I let them drop to the floor with a huff.

If I didn’t need a moment or two to sort my magic out again I would have shot him an annoyed look for the stupid comment though at the very least!

“They were all lying around on the floor already smartass. I figured we could use the big damp ones to mark out the pit’s edge safely.”
It’s surprisingly hard to find rocks on a forest floor for some reason?
..maybe I should look into that at some point..

I swear there’s a really easy way to make shaped bricks from mud or something but aside from feeling vaguely familiar I’m honestly drawing a blank on the how’s and why’s at the moment.
“We could have just used safety flames anyway so I don’t see why yo-”

Oh.. that’s why?..

John offered me a slightly nervous smile and after a few seconds of indecision he tried to play it all off as a joke by sweeping his hand dramatically around us as if offering me a prize on some game-show.. before finally settling into an awkward half-bow with a nervous look just on the edge of blooming upon his usually vaguely stoic face..

With wide eyes I pushed myself back up to my feet and stepped a bit closer into the.. I guess you could call it a ‘den’?.. that he’s made in my absence.

The little clearing has changed a lot in a surprisingly short amount of time.
I’m pretty sure he had to have conjured at least SOME of this stuff to manage it because I’m not sure our little food basket could honestly have held THIS many throw pillows to sit on, massive drapes of cloth to hang from the trees above us and especially not the funny looking doughnut-shaped stone table in the middle of the pillow piles that he’s covered in various foods of all shapes and sizes.

“You’ve been busy?”

He smirked at me as he drifted back up out of his bow and nodded almost proudly to himself.
I took another cautious step forward, taking my first reluctant step onto the velvet looking clearing-wide carpet he’s setup, which I GUESS could technically count as a ‘blanket’ if you squinted a little?

It took me a moment or two to notice at first but when I did then I found it kind of hard to take my eyes away from the artfully shaped little flower display he’s put at the ‘front’ of the round table full of food.. it’s not so much the fact that he’s done it, or that he used flowers so nicely either?
No, the thing that really had my attention was the fact that he’d left a space in the center of his little display that was JUST big enough to fit my poorly made sandwiches, in pride of place, above all the rich fruits and assorted foods I only vaguely recognise from movies as the kind of stuff I NEVER thought I’d get a chance to try in real life back in my teens!

“This is way too much John.. where the hell did you even GET some of this?!”

He moved over to plant himself on a little chair of pillows he’d obviously already planned out for his use and waved for me to sit down too before answering that rather important question.. sort of.
“Have you even looked into all the stuff you inherited from Ari yet, Han? I know for a fact that she has her own Caviar farm down in California and several vineyards in France that she had set up to build her private stores of the stuff for her own personal daily use in her next incarnation..”

Rather than answer him and admit that ‘No, I hadn’t even thought to check that sort of thing out yet!’ I huffed loudly and threw myself down onto the surprisingly comfortable pillows around the table in a vague hope of changing the topic somehow.

He didn’t buy it in the slightest of course because he’s just an annoying ass like that sometimes, but he DID at least hold back any smug comment I may have been expecting.. which actually threw me off slightly to be perfectly honest?

I shuffled to get myself a bit more comfortable and John took that chance to raise a hand full of fire up before flinging it in a wide ark to land dead-center within inner space of the doughnut table where it promptly lit some kind of unseen wood-pile up with a mildly worrying roar of flames.

My incredulous look didn’t do much when it met the full force of John’s happy little grin.

..he’s actually proud of himself for managing all of this..
I don’t really want give him the encouragement that would come in admitting that he’s impressed me right now but privately I’ve got to admit this is a lot more effort and forethought then I’m used to seeing him put into anything that isn’t in some way a mildly mean joke at someone else’s expense.

“Got any other little tricks in place you want to show off?.. also could you REALLY not think of any better excuse to get rid of me for a while then collecting wood that you don’t even need?!”
His lazy shrug would almost be enough to annoy me if my hunger wasn’t overriding most rational thought when faced with a bounty of interesting foods mixed with large quantities of cut meats, all made with several different preparation methods each.

Trying to be subtle, I reached out a hand to snag up a chicken leg that smelled AMAZING even from here and just before my hand made contact with it the plate suddenly jerked to the side, just out of my reach.

A sharp glare at John didn’t get me anywhere because he just sat there smiling back at me, looking highly amused but completely unrepentant and not the least bit guilty, with his hands laid flat on the table for some reason.

Slowly I moved over slightly on my pillows before jumping forward with a sudden burst of speed in the hope of snagging some chicken-y goodness before he could do anything else to mess with me again.

All it achieved sadly was to leave me sprawled out on the velvet ‘blanket’ underneath us with empty hands outstretched though because, yet again, the plates all decided to shuffle over JUST enough to be out of my reach!
..that’s just cruel..

“As much as I love watching you make a fool of yourself, and trust me I REALLY love watching it, I’m pretty sure if I get between you and fresh meat any more at this point you’ll probably decide to see what cannibalism is like from the murderous look in your eye?”
I pushed myself back up to my knees and kept my glare going despite his words, a glare which finally managed to make him shift ever so slightly back in his pillow seat nervously before he carried on at a slightly faster pace.
“The tables charmed, put two hands on the stone and push it slightly to move dish’s around either left or right until you have what you want, there are some empty plates we can fill up at the far side.. and don’t worry, the table is also charmed to keep things warm, so there’s no need to rush while eating the hot bits.”

Having said his rather rushed sounding spiel he placed his hands on the table again and pushed slightly to the left making the plates all slide around until those juicy looking chicken pieces were sat right in front of me at last!

Before he could do anything more to slow down my nice meal I snagged two chicken legs up and set to work eating them while shooting him cautious glances to make sure he didn’t have anything else planned for his own amusement purposes at my expense.

“Not that you asked, but you’re RIGHT, there IS a certain lack of bugs or mosquitos flying around despite how bad they’ve been lately and the fact that we’re sitting right next to a large open body of water?”
Between mouthfuls of chicken I shot him a mildly disapproving glare to show that I didn’t appreciate being mocked, even if I did happen to be ever so slightly curious about how he’d managed to stop them, now that he’s brought it up at least.
“The drapes aren’t just there to look pretty, they’re charmed to repel insects.. they’re also charmed to repel dog’s, bears and wild badgers while attracting dormice for some reason too but it’s kind of annoying to redesign a spell just to get rid of a few bonus abilities it may have that you don’t strictly need..”

He did all this with just spells?!

..one of these days I REALLY need to show him how to craft runes properly..
If he knew how to do things properly then he could have gotten all those effects permanently enchanted into the table and drapes, along with any changes he could want to put in place at the cost of just a few hours’ worth of calculations, instead of having to do the no-doubt overly complicated and possibly silly looking dance-like ritual steps necessary to get the same effects with an existing spell-matrix of THAT complexity!

..no rush to disillusion him on his own ‘awesomeness’ though..

“Chickens good”
My honest opinion given rather succinctly, I sunk my teeth back into the almost unhealthily nice tasting meat in my hands and watched on as he spun the table around until the spare plates and cutlery came into view.

I swear, only John could plan a picnic and think four different types of dessert spoon would be in any way ‘necessary’ for two people to enjoy a simple working lunch?!
It probably shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as I’m making it seem though, whether he’s John or any incarnation of Max that I can remember, he’s always gone just a LITTLE bit too far in anything he does for one reason or another sadly.

I’d say that he’s compensating for something but I’ve seen him naked and that’s DEFINITELY not an issue in this incarnation at the very least!

Oh well.. sometimes overkill is okay, I guess?
It’s not like I’m not guilty of going over the top sometimes too after all.
“Pass the Mango slices John-boy”

..yeah, there’s definitely some bonuses to trying too hard at things sometimes..

======

“uhhhgg.. I can’t move..”

With a wobbly gesture I tried to pathetically reach out for John’s arm but he’s much too far away for it to actually work sadly.
The attempt managed to get a laugh out of his equally, if not quite as obviously, full up and content body as he lay reclined against his pillows like some kind of overly privileged Sultan of old.

I probably should have stopped at some point but.. but, there was so much MEAT and it was all so NICE!

Already I can feel the sleepy daze that comes from overeating to a silly degree coming over me?
Before the feeling could get too strong a hold over my senses, enough to stop me doing anything for safety reasons if nothing else, I dipped into my lines and lifted myself off the ground with a relatively simple combination of levitation spells.

It took a bit of awkward arm waving for balance to stop myself from flipping over by accident of course as I hovered across the carpet-blanket space between us.
Self-levitation is always a bit hard to pull off, despite the simplicity of the magic involved, but eventually I reached roughly the right position and rather than trying the complicated bit of timing needed to let me gently drift back to floor level I cut the spells instead making me plummet down onto the pillow fort around John’s stretched out form, landing heavily at John’s side with a hazy little giggle of success much to his apparent amusement.

He shifted slightly, just enough to move the pillows and let me drop the last little gap to be properly seated next to him.
I didn’t even think about it when my magic tentatively reached out in response to a subconscious thought of mine and pulled that wonderfully warm blanket of his magic loose again to wrap around me tightly.

“Thanks for this John.. I really needed a chance to just de-stress a bit more after today..”
He rumbled something in his chest and put a loose arm around my shoulders.
It wasn’t much but I could work out from the context that he was at least somewhat agreeing with that idea if nothing else.

My eyes drifted lazily over the table for a few seconds and settled on the ‘centerpiece’ of flowers.

For a long moment I tried to work out what was wrong with it when compared to the image of it I had in my head but eventually it clicked.
..I really don’t handle being full and comfortable well..

“You ate my sandwiches?”
John grunted and hugged my shoulders a little tighter in response.

I kind of wanted to ask for clarification that one but I really can’t bring myself to ruin the moment at this point.

In fact, my body had apparently already decided on its own ideas for why he would have eaten them without any form of proper confirmation, judging by the way my cheeks heated up slightly against my will and I found myself snuggling down a little deeper between his warm body and the pillow piles around us.

All the food.. with some of the most exotic, delicious and above all else quite often meat related flavors on offer.. and he ate my crappy sandwiches?..

Yet again my body betrayed me in snuggling a bit tighter into his hug and resting my cheek against his chest before I let off a happy little sigh that kind of bled together into the yawn that broke loose a few seconds later.

This is becoming a suspiciously regular problem, isn’t it?..
..stupid body!..

“We should really get to work on some of this rune work for the wardstone or Sarah’s going to tease you even more and you won’t legitimately be able to claim that this was some kind of ‘working lunch’ situation?”
This time I did the chest rumbling non-answer instead of him.

The way I’m feeling right now I honestly couldn’t care less if she mocks me for days over it all.
I’m full and sleepy and he’s so WARM and it was so nice of him to do all this just for me an-and..
“..love you John..”

The words tumbled out of my mouth as my mental filter apparently faltered against the awesome power of, possibly cat related, ‘your warm and fed so sleep’ instincts.

I didn’t even manage to really register how important or embarrassing those three words truly were, OR look for John’s reaction to them, before finally giving in at last and slumping heavily against him, practically dead to the world in seconds within a nice happy food coma.

======

“-can’t take it anymore, I want the watermelon!”

“Eris don’t!”
I jolted awake feeling more than a little out of it and disorientated.

My eyes winced open ever so slightly, just so I could check for threats more than anything else.

Although, it didn’t help much considering anyway considering there seemed to be some kind of ever-growing mass of swinging limbs moving around over to our right?
As I watched on, slowly trying to wake up properly, more bodies joined the pile as people came shooting out of an apparently endless stream of tree-line hiding places to join the melee.

On some level I wrote it all off as ‘them’ using the given excuse to kick off old fights again just like last time when they dog piled John and I let my attention drift over to a now grinning little girl who had herself perched on the big table in front of us surrounded by watermelon slices, currently half way through munching into a slice while watching the chaos she’d started with glee.

A warm arm squeezed me a little bit which felt pretty nice from my current position.
I cut my eyes up to the side of John’s smiling face before letting my head drop back down to his chest again with a tired sigh.

“We have very strange children, don’t we?”
He chuckled making my head bob up and down slightly in the process before his chest settled back down again at last.

“Yes.. yes we do.. let them fight it out Han, you go back to sleep and I’ll sort out the bodies when it’s all out of their systems.”
A rumbling purr of agreement left my throat and John shifted slightly to let me get somehow even more comfortable in my nice warm little pillow pit.

“M’okay.. your fault.. night.. stupi' John..”
His chest rose as he took in a breath to say something in response but I was dead to the world again far too quickly for any of his usual ‘whit’ to come into play, back into my nice comfortable sleep haze before he could even get a single syllable off in all honesty.

..Mmm..so warm..



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