Light Hearts and Lone Wolves

He swears the young punk is deliberately trying to provoke him, and he remembers how infuriatingly calm Val had been in the same situation. Myg moves with the same grace and confidence, but the seemingly ancient wisdom that was Val's trademark was not evident in the young recruits face or stance, only arrogance and a smug sense of undeserved superiority that invited Brin to wipe that look off of his face.

"You're one of the best martial artists I've ever seen kid," Brin said, noting Myg's obvious agreement. "But not *the* best." He was pleased to see Myg's face darken.

"I'm stronger than you," Brin said, flipping towards the younger man with a twist that would have ripped a less powerful man in half, his legs sweeping towards the space that Myg was rapidly leaving as the Lythyl-born martial artist dropped to avoid the attack. Brin was already twisting again, rebounding off of the wall behind Myg and down towards the prone youth, "Faster than you," he added, as he descended like a hammer, only to see Myg roll to the side, evading him by scant centimeters. As Myg rolled to his feet, Brin rolled forward, and also was on his feet by the time Myg cleared the floor. "More experienced than you. Better trained than you," he said, lunging forward again as Myg seemed to make a fatal mistake, allowing Timber Wolf to tag him in the ribs. Brin recognized the tactic too late to adjust, and Myg's knife-hand felt like a laser in the side as the brutal young man attempted to paralyze him with a perfectly-executed strike to the nerve cluster, having allowed himself to be hit just to open up this opportunity for a counter-strike.

White hot stars of agony exploded across Brin's vision, and yet his body spun in midair with cold, mechanical precision, his leg striking Myg in the back with enough force to send the smaller man flying into a wall.

Myg found himself staggered by the impact, unable to catch his breath, and somewhere in the red pulsing blur that filled his vision, he dimly saw the Legionnaire hauling him up by his tunic, feeling the ground drift away from beneath his feet as he was lifted bodily into the air with contemptuous strength. From a million miles away, he heard the voice, "And I know more about pain than you could ever imagine." before the world fell away to darkness.

Tinya helps Brin get Myg into the healing bay without comment. Her silence is echoing in his skull, all the accusations and judgments he hears are internal, and he wishes that she'd just say something, so that he could defend himself.

"He hit me with a nerve-strike. I didn't mean to hit him that hard." he finally says, annoyed with his teammate for not saying the words.

Tinya just 'hmm-mmms' absently as she checks the console, verifying that the young man has a mild concussion and some cracked ribs, nothing that he won't have recovered from in a few hours in the tank.

"My whole leg went numb, it was supposed to just throw him off-balance, but it hit him like a truck…"

Tinya turns away from the console, having finished setting the diagnostic tools to automatic. Her brown eyes look directly into his, and she still says nothing.

"And he pissed me off! Is that what you wanted to hear?"

She just smiles and reaches up and puts her hand on the side of his face. "No, silly. But it's what you wanted to say. I was just waiting for you to get there." Her hand slides away and Brin can feel his pulse for a moment. It's been too long since someone has touched him like that, and he turns away to look at Myg for a moment, trying to hide his reaction. From the corner of his eye, he can see her long black hair sweep back into view as she also turns to look at Myg, "Besides, I think he pisses everyone off. Stuff like this happens in training, and he was sloppy to try and fight you like that, strength to strength. Val never would have made a rookie mistake like that."

They both grow silent for a moment, remembering the first man to use the name Karate Kid, and thinking how unlike this new 'Karate Kid' he had been.

The moment is interrupted as the med-bay doors slide open, and the room is suddenly ten sizes too small as Ayla enters, pausing for a moment in the doorway at the sight of Brin, as if she can't decide whether or not to enter the room or turn away.

A surge of irritation spoils Brin's reflective mood. It's been over a year, and still with this ridiculous awkwardness. He turns and walks out, leaving Ayla standing by the doorway.

Tinya has diplomatically turned back to the console, even if the process is completely automated at this point, and fiddling with anything would be more likely to mess things up than help in any way.

"Is this ever going to be over?" Ayla says sourly, crossing over to Tinya and making a half-hearted attempt at checking the readings.

"Not until you both want it to be over," Tinya says, turning to face her teammate with a challenging look.

Ayla is surprised by Tinya's confrontational tone and takes a step back, "It's been over. This isn't a time out or a 'need some space,' thing. He's the one who can't let go."

Tinya just raises an eyebrow and crosses her arms, "Then have your new boyfriend tell him so, if you've moved on."

Ayla shoots her a look, angered by the comment, "I don't need a boyfriend! I can move on just fine without some big strong man to tell people to back the hell off! Maybe I like being alone!"

Tinya shakes her head, "No. You don't. You don't need a man to tell Brin to get over it, and you don't need a boyfriend, and you don't like being alone. But you are alone, and you've been pushing away anyone who tries to get close, not just Brin."

Ayla closes her eyes, willing some of the tension to flow away. She can feel tenseness, and wishes there were someone to rub it away, but that brings back memories that only lead to yet more tenseness… "I'm not ready to get back on that horse." she says softly, stalling as she gathers her thoughts.

Tinya has moved forward, so that they are face to face again, although her stance is less confrontational. "You don't want to start over with Brin. You don't want to move on and let go of Brin. He's not the one 'not letting go,' you are the one keeping him on the hook, letting him squirm, because you haven't figured out what *you* want yet."

"It's not like that." Ayla protests. "I feel guilty for abandoning him, and yet…" she sighs, not wanting to say the words out loud, "I'm selfish. I don't want to have to deal with his baggage. The pain-killers, the anger, the 'my dad raised me to be a living weapon' daddy issues… He's just got so much stuff going on." She looks up to Tinya, her blue eyes somewhere between anger and tears, "I didn't feel like his girlfriend, because I had to be his nurse, and his counselor, and his therapist, and his *mom.*"

Caught up in the moment Ayla raises her hands, "And that's another thing! Does he even have a mom? Did his father decant him from a vat? I don't know! *He* doesn't know!" Shaking her head, "I can't even deal with my own family issues, and his life is just insane. Maybe he deserves someone who can give him all of that… stuff… that I can't."

She falls silent for a moment, seeming to shrink in on herself. Tinya puts her hand on Ayla's shoulder and looks into her crestfallen face, "So you haven't moved on, because you feel guilty for abandoning him? It was too hard to love him, and now it's too hard to leave him?"

"I guess." Ayla says. "I don't want to find someone and flaunt it in front of him, and I don't want to go back to being the only stable thing in his life. I felt smothered. I wish I could find someone who had their act together, someone stable. Sometimes I envy Shady…"

Tinya chuckles involuntarily, before catching herself, her years-long friendship with their Talokkian teammate giving her a better understanding of her relationship with the stoic Daxamite. "You think dating Brin is a challenge?"

Ayla just looks up, momentarily surprised out of her train of thought, "What? No, Mon, he's so calm and centered…"

"Watch them." Tinya says with quiet confidence. "Just watch them. They can't be in the room together without Mon drifting towards her, and they can't sit next to each other without Shady holding his hand."

Ayla looks like she's about to say something, but Tinya raises a hand. "Yes, we've all thought it. She's got him whipped. She's clingy. She keeps him on a tight leash. She's pissing all over her territory to warn the rest of us off." Tinya shakes her head, "That's not it at all. Talokkians are sexually permissive, not at all possessive or territorial. She's always touching him, because he needs to be touched. He spent ten lifetimes unable to touch or be touched, feeling like he was nothing but a memory of a man. She keeps a hand on him to remind him that he's real, that he's not just going to fade away, that she's not just a brief fleeting dream of contact in the unending loneliness of his life." Tinya smiles, recalling her own chagrin that her judgment of their relationship had been so wrong, and revealed more about herself than them.

"You worry that Brin didn't want you, so much as *needed* you? Trust me, everyone has these doubts. You either confront them, or live alone." Tinya pushes her hair back, "Do you think I never sat up and wondered if Jo truly loved me, or just the thought of me, the high-society gal falling for the crook with a heart of gold?"

"I guess I never really saw it that way." Ayla admitted. "He always seemed rock-solid. Even Jo, he started out with a chip on his shoulder about 'the mean streets of Rimbor' and all that, but he's gotten it together, and I always figured that was because of you…"

Tinya smiles, "Thank you, but I like to think that he's just matured on his own. Maybe with a little nudge, here and there…" The smile fades as she becomes serious again, "And I think maybe you are too close to see that Brin has matured, too." She points towards Myg, still resting in the healing-bay. "That wasn't Brin losing his temper or 'going feral' or whatever, that was Myg picking a fight with someone who vastly outclasses him, pushing the fight into unfriendly territory and getting a richly-deserved spanking."

Ayla seems torn, "So, you think I should give him a second chance?"

Tinya just shakes her head, "I don't care. It's not about him. It's about *you.* Give yourself a second chance, to date Brin, to tell Brin once and for all that it is over and to stop waiting, to date someone else, or date nobody at all, but for the right reasons, not because you are 'waiting' to stop feeling guilty for leaving Brin, but because you are happy where you are, right now, and don't need someone else in your life." She pats Ayla on the shoulder, "Whatever you do, decide for yourself, not because you are worried about he's going to take it, or even what I think. Do what's right for *you.*"

After a long moment, Ayla nods. "Okay, I get it. I was going to chew you out for thinking that I needed someone to be happy, but I get it. Thanks." Ayla surprises Tinya with a sudden hug and hurries out of the medical bay, for a long overdue talk.

As the door cycles shut, Tinya hears a voice behind her. "You're quite the manipulator, aren't you?" Myg says softly.

Tinya turns to the young recruit, still immobilized in the medical bay, and leans over him so that her black hair is dangling in his face. "Everything in your life to this point has been a fight to the death. Every conversation has been a tactical engagement, either to take the measure of an enemy or to provoke him into some mistake that you can exploit." She leans closer, her dark eyes to his, flipping her hair back out of his face. "You aren't on Lythyl anymore. Everything I said was to help Ayla, and none of it was untrue. What you heard was something that your training and experience has left you completely unprepared for. It wasn't manipulation, it was friendship."

Before his eyes, the Legionnaire grows pale and slips from view, like a mirage, leaving him alone.