I looked at our leadership cadre. Ninja was looking out of the corner of his eye at Max who was standing there as stone faced as Freya. I don't know what through his head, he didn't even look at Freya, he just started walking towards Carol and Zane. As soon as Ninja saw that he broke away and headed towards me and Night. That was the signal for the crowd. They broke ranks and like a wave headed towards us. Most of them, especially the women, headed towards Carol but a sizable bunch came to us.
It was one of the more bizarre experiences of my life. I hated it, I loved it, and I didn't let go of Night. It was like I had thrown the winning touchdown or won the lottery. Everyone wanted a piece of me. My face went rigid with what I hoped was a grin and I began repeating the same phrases I had seen on television a million years ago.
"I was glad to do it."
"He's a great kid."
"Oh, there were a few rough patches but we made it."
"Glad to be back."
"Damn. You're uglier then when I left."
Night was spooling her responses out just like I was.
"Oh yes! I am so glad he's back.
"I never doubted it.
"He would do the same for you I know."
I only got about thirty seconds with Ninja before he stepped away. It was time enough for him to say "What took you so long?" Punch me in the arm and grin.
I did have time to see Freya had disappeared and Max standing next to Carol and looking as uncomfortable as I felt. At least for him.
Eventually we were left alone enough that I could blow off the few who didn't get the message by telling them "Don't you have work to do?" They looked like I had slapped them with a fish but they left which is all I wanted. I felt Night shaking and looked down at her. It took me a couple of beats to realize she was shaking from holding in her laughter.
"Jesus G. I love you."
Then using the arm she had wrapped around me she pushed me in the direction of Max. I whispered to Night "This is going to be interesting." Night didn't say anything but Max heard me. He looked over at us, flashed a quick grin, and began telling his people it was time to go. He was a little more diplomatic but not much.