I suppose I should have felt awkward standing there in front of the three of them. I didn't because they were my real family. I never had a family, well one that not insane or high, but now that I did I didn't see any point in pretending things weren't what they were which, to me at least, was all fixed up. Carol had her kid. Max was Max. Night was Night. Life was good.
"Hey Max. What's up Carol?"
Max grinned, put his hand out, and as soon as we made contact he pulled me in and gave me a bro hug.
When we both stepped back he looked me up and down, and smiled again, this time it was tinged with sadness? Irony? How fucked up life can be? And told me "I would have gone." He didn't add or say anything else. We both knew what he was leaving unsaid.
"Yeah but it needed to be done right." Then I laughed.
After a second he started laughing too and told me. "Yeah. Somehow the word that comes to mind is expendable."
Yep. Everything was back to normal as far as I was concerned.
Carol had stood up and wasted no time getting to the point "G. I'm sorry." She paused and looked directly at us and said "No. I'm not. I did what I had to do and I would do it again." She said this defiantly but then her tone softened and she focused on Night "You understood don't you?" The plea for mercy and understanding was raw an apparent. I tried not to respond to it and instead I looked away. I had too. It may not have been what I should have done but I was afraid to have Night see my eyes right then. It was only for a beat, time enough to shut some doors in the head, then I looked at Night.
She wasn't looking at me. She was staring directly into Carols eyes. She gave her a brief nod, then told her in a voice that was as flat and toneless as a machine. It was her "I'm not fucking around voice" and it got a smart persons attention right away. "I don't like you. I never will. Stay away from me. Push it again and I will kill you and go into exile -- alone if I have to."
She unlocked her arm from around my waist, spun, and walked away. I looked at Carol and told her quietly "She means it."
"I know." Her voice was incredibly sad.
I looked at Zane and told him "See you around" and turned to follow Night. She wasn't moving fast and I stretched my pace to catch up. We had covered twenty paces when I heard Max "Night. You don't mind if me and G take a walk do you?"
She shook her head "No" and pulled away without looking at him. I knew why. She didn't want him to see her tears. Life was not as good as I had originally thought and as usual I was feeling clueless on what to do when it came to crying women and relationships in general.
It was a bit of a relief to fall in with Max. We walked silently and headed off towards the perimeter and began tracing it with slower measured paces.
"So what's up Max?"
He didn't laugh. I would have. Instead we walked for a bit more then he began with "First off I didn't know you then, let alone about you and your ... thing for her when we got together."
"Yeah. I know."
"I know you know. I just felt like I had to say that G."
Now it was my turn to be silent. A lot of things went through my head. None of them particularly uplifting or what I wanted to deal with so I just locked them down and told him "Thanks."
"I'm going to assume you're up to speed and know I'm sleeping with Freya." He quickly added "She isn't a kid anymore G."
"I know." I also knew this came under the same category as what he told me about Carol. The "I had to say it" category.
"It's all about survival. Our survival. "Our" meaning everyone you see" He had stopped walking and was looking at the Horde going about life. "What do you see G?
I knew this wasn't a rhetorical question. Max didn't do rhetorical. I also has some inkling about what the correct answer was to this but I didn't do correct answers with Max. I told him my truth. I shrugged and told him "Outside of us," us meaning my family, "I see cattle. A herd that might be useful."
" I know. I do sometimes too but I can't let that be me. I see people. I see casualties. I see possibilities. I see a future. I can't live by just killing G. I need to make something worthwhile. I may have to kill a lot of people to get it but when I do it will be worth it. This I promise you."
He let it end there. We both watched our people do whatever for a little bit. I broke the silence asking him "What about Carol?"
"Yeah....she is good at organizing. She'll find a place and I will make sure her and Zane are taken care of. What was then is long over. She'll find someone, probably sooner than later."
"Okay. What was the deal with Freya earlier?"
Max shook his head. "She loves ceremony. It was going to a tribal presentation and recognition of your success. At least that's what she told me."
That last part didn't get past me. "You don't trust her?'
"I don't trust anyone who has an agenda and she most definitely does. There is some shit going on that is bigger than us G. I don't have a total handle on it and I think we are just a piece on the board but I tell you what..." He paused, grinned "We are aren't getting fucked like my people did last time around." He reached out and smacked my arm telling me "Lets go find our women. I think we are both are going to have to do some sweet talking. Oh yeah. Tell Night her troop movement didn't get past me." I was still processing the last thing he said but I didn't get it. I stored it away to tell Night and followed him back into the heart of the camp. Now I had to find out where Night was because that was going to be where I was if it had any privacy for the next few hours at least.