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Makenzie Newell and Tobi Reinhardt
In good times and in bad.
Fri Sep 16, 2016 17:55

Her life was over.

Over the course of a few weeks, Makenzie’s entire world had fallen apart. She hadn’t seen or heard from her mother in months, her father was gone, and she was stuck living with Dustin and his family. They had fallen. It was over.

Instead of going to her room from the wagon, she took off for the Gardens, just to avoid seeing her contemporaries, who had no doubt heard what had happened. She wasn’t ready for that. There would be whispers and stares hanging over her like a dark shroud, terrorizing her like she wasn’t already terrorizing herself enough as it was.

She knew the first years would be this way for their Orientation, but fortunately, the Labyrinth Gardens were, as the name suggested, Labyrinthine. Their decorated vastness would separate her from the bubbly children--her cousin Florence included--enough for now. So with that in mind, Makenzie tore through the paths, traveling deeper and deeper into the foliage, until she found a bench she felt was far enough away. Then she sat sideways, pulled her knees to her chest, and, feeling overwhelmed, cried.

But not for long, as a tap on her shoulder demanded her immediate attention. Her head snapped up, teary eyes looking nervously through falling waves of messy red hair.

Tobi didn’t say anything at first. He had been concerned when he’d seen her step off the wagon upon their arrival at Sonora. He had been looking forward to his return, looking forward to seeing Aiden and the Teppenpaw Quidditch team again, looking forward to seeing Makenzie again. But whatever it was he thought he had been looking forward to, it was not seeing Makenzie in an obvious state of distress running from the wagons away from the school and into the winding maze of the gardens.

He frowned, dropping his bag and took off after her. He didn’t really think it through--which was very un-Tobi like in that he usually though everything through. But he really only had one thing on his mind and that was to see if Makenzie was okay. His crush on her had started out because he’d noticed her lovely red hair (lovely red hair that was making it easy for him to follow her against the green leaves of the garden) but he’d soon realized she was so much more than that. He remembered how quiet and shy Araceli had been their first year. They’d had a talk in the MARS room about music but they hadn’t progressed much further than that.

Yet after befriending Makenzie, Araceli had seemed to be able to branch out. She was even dating Duncan Brockert who had been a couple years above them. And to Tobi, that change in the quiet witch he found silent camaraderieship with meant the world. Makenzie had done that. Makenzie’s friendship had done that. Which meant that Makenzie was beautiful both inside and out. He thought she was even beautiful as she looked up at him, messy hair and tear stained face. It was a tragic picture to be sure, but there was something captivating about the vulnerable beauty she presented. It reminded him of coming across a doe in the woods, one who wasn’t accustomed to observers like himself, one who halted in her tracks, uncertain if he was there to hunt or simply to be.

He didn’t say anything at first, just let his hand rest on her shoulder for a moment, taking in the situation. “Hey,” he said softly, his voice hoarse from the silent ride to school. He and Arne weren’t speaking again and had therefore let Laila do all the chattering, something which she was always willing to do until even Tobi wanted to snap at her to just be quiet for once. “Coming back to school can’t be this bad, can it?”

For a moment, she just stared up at him, trying desperately to speed up the process of convincing herself that yes, this was real, and yes, someone had seen her cry. Despite everything, Makenzie was a proud girl. At least it was Tobi; he had always seemed so very nice. As she regained mobility, she raised her hands to rub away her tears, the joint of her thumbs pressing beneath her water line. “Hey,” she returned weakly, trying to match his tone. “It’s, um… Yeah.” She provided him no real answer, assuming he knew what had happened to them--to her--and was just trying to redirect from what had to be the issue. Makenzie straightened herself, turning to put her legs down in front of the bench where they belonged, expecting this conversation not to go away. He would probably want to sit down.

Tobi had never been one for gossip and, though sometimes rumours were spread among customers who came into the shop, he never paid much attention to them, finding that truth rarely resided on the tongues of cowards who weren’t brave enough to talk in front of people’s backs--whole truths, anyway. So though there had been names thrown around, he had made himself scarce in the backroom, tidying shelves and sweeping up. Therefore although he knew something had happened over the summer with someone’s family, he was not clear on the details and was completely oblivious to the reasoning behind Makenzie’s tears.

“Don’t move on my account,” he said. “Sometimes my little sister likes to take up the whole couch when she’s upset, I can stand. Or sit on the ground, I’m used to that too.”

“Oh, I… Okay.” Makenzie shifted back, returning her legs to the bench, although instead of scrunching back up, she stretched them across the seat. “Thanks.”

Tobi grinned as much as Tobi could grin anyway and walked around the bench, sitting with his back to Makenzie and letting his long legs stretch out in front of him, but leaning into the bench so as not to indicate that he was ignoring her. Matti didn’t like it when people saw her cry and even though Makenzie was anything but his little sister, Tobi wanted to extend the same courtesy. “I was walking in the forest this summer--I live right on the edge of one in Washington, you know,” Tobi said. “And as I was walking I heard this noise. It started off very faintly and I started to walk towards it.

“The sound grew louder and I found a little stream. I followed it and it grew bigger. It was a sunny day, see, and the light made the water glitter and so I wanted to see as much of the stream as I could before I had to turn back for dinner.” Tobi paused for a moment to think about what to say next. “There were fish in this stream, they were all swimming against the current and I knew they were swimming upstream to spawn and I could have followed them but that’s their business and I wouldn’t want to disturb their redds anyway. So I kept going and the stream got larger. And the stream became a river and the river came crashing down over a hill.

“And I thought to myself, well I always knew salmon swam up river, their runs usually involve some sort of waterfall but I never saw anything like it before. And so I watched these little salmons jumping against everything that was pushing against them just to continue on to the next cycle in their life and I thought, well, it’s a great day to be alive. Because just imagine that little stream became this waterfall, this obstacle to these fish but they decided that they wouldn’t let it bother them, that they were going to keep on ahead and create their redds and spawn.”

Tobi turned his head slightly so he could see Makenzie. Her torso and face were still directly behind his head but he could see her legs and that was good enough for him. “Salmon are pretty amazing creatures, aren’t they?” he asked.

Somewhere in her mind, Makenzie registered that she had just heard Tobi speak more than she had ever heard from him in the last five years of attending Sonora together, but she nonetheless did not answer his question. She simply posed her own. “Tobi,” she said, her tone devoid of everything. There was no hurt, no anger, nothing. It was hollow. “Why are you being so nice to me? Don’t you know I’m nothing now?” There was no more sobbing or trembling to be had, but slowly, silently, a few more tears managed to escape. This time, she did not move to wipe them.

Tobi frowned, glad that she could not see his face. Maybe he didn’t know what was happening in her life, but he didn’t like to think that someone like Makenzie could be made to feel like nothing. “You’ll never be nothing,” he said quietly, knowing he would regret the words once they came out of his mouth. If he were the regretting sort, anyway. Tobi was of the mind that nothing was to be regretted, just learned from. “At least not to me.”

“What do you mean?” she asked weakly. Normally Makenzie was a rather perceptive person, but his implications went unnoticed in her current state; it was hard to see the writing on the walls when she was sifting through the rubble.

He frowned again. Thinking more carefully over his words this time. Never before had someone other than Liac incited in him the desire to just talk. And now he had to be careful. Not watching one’s words could always land one in a bit of trouble. And haste was never attractive. “I’m unsure,” he began but stopped. No, that wouldn’t do. “I think,” and he stopped again. Makenzie deserved more than just a string of incoherent words, but that was all he seemed to be capable of forming.

“You’re very kind,” he settled on, drawing out each word slowly, calmly. “You’re very smart. You’re a caring friend and you’re an excellent prefect. None of that is nothing, you’re not nothing, as long as you have those things you’ll never be nothing. And it doesn’t matter what anyone says because they can’t decide that for you. Only you can.”

The corners of her lips tugged in the threat of a smile. Makenzie scooted down the bench so that she was no longer behind him and then slid onto the ground beside him. “You’ve got a lot of faith in me,” she stated with the ghost of a laugh. “I’m not sure I really deserve it. But… I appreciate it, anyway.” She rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. “Salmon are pretty cool, too. What else do they do?”

Tobi felt the hairs on his arm stand up as Makenzie slid down to sit next to him. His cheeks heated up and he was glad that the summer sun had darkened his already tanned cheeks making it so that the blush was less visible. The heat that came from her body’s proximity to his caused his heart to beat irregularly but he did his best to ignore it. He had just done what he did best, cheer people up, and he wasn’t about to let his hormones ruin it. His heart raced faster than it did after a foot race with Arne as she let her head drop to his shoulder and he reached his hand down to squeeze hers. “Everyone deserves someone to have a little faith in them,” he countered, ignoring her request to tell her more about salmon for the time being.

Makenzie squeezed his hand back. She smiled.

OOC: This behemoth was co-written by both authors.

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