As the latest traffic light flipped from yellow to red just as she pulled up to the intersection, Nailah growled and bared her teeth, before falling back into her seat and sighing. Getting frustrated wouldn’t solve anything, she knew that, but it was hard to remain calm when it felt like she was hitting every red light and then some. It didn't help that work had been extra dull that day, though unfortunately no less important. “Not my lucky day.” Nailah muttered to herself. As the light became green once again, Nailah eagerly stepped on the gas pedal and continued the drive home.
After getting stuck at another couple of red lights, Nailah finally reached her neighborhood. Pulling into her driveway, she sighed from the relief of the end of a hard day and began to smile slightly, without showing any teeth, as she got out of her car and locked it behind her. There was, at least, the small comfort of what waited for her at home once she actually got there. After all, home is where the heart lies, and her heart lay with him as it always had, and as it always would.
Rafiel was the wings she had never had, and she made him forget that he was broken. Neither of them would fly any other way, even if they could, for together, they soared.
As she opened the door to her home, Nailah couldn’t help but yawn. She was more tired than she thought. “I’m home.” Nailah called out with an exhausted voice as she entered, before turning to shut the door behind her. The sound of running footsteps began just as Nailah touched the handle, and Nailah barely had time to finish closing the door and turn around before Micaiah ran into her and wrapped her in a hug. Initially knocked back slightly from surprise of the impact, Nailah could only chuckle and return the embrace. “I missed you too, Micaiah.” That much was true, though Nailah got the feeling that there was something more to how Micaiah was currently acting. After a moment, Nailah tapped Micaiah on the shoulder, and they let go of each other.
“I love you, mom!” Micaiah beamed, and Nailah couldn’t help but smile at the sight; Micaiah only came up to her shoulders, which certainly added to her charm but sometimes made her difficult to take seriously.
Her smile becoming a mischievous grin, Nailah pinched Micaiah’s cheeks and pulled on them teasingly. “So, what is it? Did your father put you up to this? Do you want me to buy you something?”
Batting at Nailah’s hands, Micaiah finally made her let go, and pretended to pout. “No, of course not!” Nailah could sense she was telling the truth.
“Then what’s the special occasion?”
With a strange look on her face, Micaiah hummed quizzically. “You really don’t know?” A moment later, she clapped her hands together, looking excited. “Well, if you don’t there’s no helping it. You’ll just have to find out!”
“Micaiah…” Nailah’s knowing look caught Micaiah’s attention, though Nailah suspected it was for the wrong reasons. “You’re having boy trouble, aren’t you?”
“Ew, no!” Micaiah blushed immediately. That wasn’t it, Nailah now knew, but this could be entertaining. “I am not having ‘boy trouble.’ How old do you think I am?”
“I am 22 !” Micaiah groaned, face in her hands. “I don’t even look 13 anymore!”
“13, 22, either way you’re still just a pup to me.” Nailah laughed, ruffling Micaiah’s hair. “So if it’s not boy trouble... girl trouble?”
“No!” Micaiah sighed. “I am not having trouble with boys, or girls, or, or anybody ! Just because Pelleas and I are friends-“
“Who said anything about Pelleas?” Now Nailah was really curious. This must be something Rafiel teased her about on occasion.
Now Micaiah became red as a beet. “Mooooooom…!”
Pretending to zip her mouth shut in the silly way that the beorc did, Nailah winked to Micaiah. “Well, anyways. Enough of that. Where’s your father and brother?”
Grateful for the change of topic, Micaiah pointed towards the living room further into the house. “Dad is sleeping upstairs, but Sothe is studying in the living room, so you can go bother him instead.”
“Thanks.” Nailah rolled her eyes. “I’ll go do just that, so have fun going back to daydreaming about Pelleas.” Micaiah scoffed with a deep blush returning to her face, going to the kitchen across from the living room, earning only a knowing smile from Nailah.
She and Rafiel had adopted Micaiah and Sothe some nine years ago now- Micaiah had barely been a teenager, and Sothe only a small child. The two of them had bonded even before Nailah and Rafiel had brought them into their family, already being like siblings to each other. To Nailah, they were as precious as all the jewels under the earth, and she wouldn’t give them up for the world. Rafiel had always been the more parental of the two of them, though, so she could only imagine how he felt.
Especially after everything he’d been through.
Without another word, Nailah walked into the living room, sitting on the couch next to Sothe. “Hey there, Sothe. That doesn’t look like studying.”
“Never said I was studying for school.” Sothe replied coolly, as he turned the page of the male model magazine he was reading. Nailah could tell without looking just what he was respectfully observing.
“I suppose that’s fair enough.” Nailah admitted. “Just be sure not to fall behind too much when it comes to school.”
“Got it.” Sothe said, barely listening.
“Have you done your chores for today?”
“Make sure you kiss Tormod next time you see him.”
“Will do.” A few seconds passed before Sothe finally processed what she had just said, and blushed just as much as Micaiah had, though he made a better attempt at hiding it. “Was that really necessary?”
“No, but it was very funny.” Nailah grinned, and Sothe rolled his eyes in response. There was an outburst of laughter from the kitchen, and they both turned to see Micaiah laughing with her finger pointed at Sothe. “See? She gets it.” Nailah remarked.
“How’d your date last weekend with Pelleas go?” Sothe asked unnecessarily loudly, most likely out of annoyance, with Micaiah paling with every word in the sentence.
“You traitor -“
“Really? She went on a date?” Nailah asked, trying very hard not to laugh at their sudden change in fortunes. “When’s the wedding?”
“Two dates, actually.” Sothe corrected over Micaiah’s protests. “And at this rate, tomorrow.”
Nailah opened her mouth to respond, but before she could, light footsteps on the stairs made her look to the entrance to the living room. “My, you all are even more lively than usual.” Rafiel smiled as gently as ever. “Did something happen?”
Micaiah ran as fast as her feet would carry her towards Rafiel, wrapping her arms around him. “Dad! They keep bullying me!” Micaiah seemed even shorter next to Rafiel, barely coming up to his chest.
Though his smile remained unchanged, Nailah could see a twinkle of amusement in Rafiel’s eyes. “I’m sorry to hear that. That’s quite terrible of them.”
“Isn’t it?” Micaiah let go of Rafiel and stepped back as Nailah approached him, though there was something odd about her smile before she returned to the kitchen.
“Good evening, my love.” Rafiel greeted, bowing his head to place a kiss on Nailah’s cheek. “Was your day well?”
“Mm. Not very, but it’s better now that I’m with you.” She sighed. “I can’t believe it’s evening already. Time flies by without you.”
Before Rafiel could reply, he turned his head with a look of surprise past Nailah, who followed his gaze. Micaiah walked up to them, slowly and carefully, carrying a cake on a large plate. “Happy 20th wedding anniversary, you two.”
Nailah and Rafiel both blinked in surprise, but it was Rafiel who spoke first. “That explains why you asked me when we got married. My goodness, I’d forgotten all about our anniversary.”
As Micaiah placed the cake down on the kitchen counter, Nailah laughed. “I had forgotten as well. I suppose at our age these sorts of things don’t mean as much anymore. Still, thank you Micaiah. This means a lot to the both of us.”
“It’s no problem!” Micaiah hummed as she cut the cake. “It’s just, you two have done so much for me and Sothe for so long, so I want to return the favor however I can.”
Leaning in to Nailah’s ear, Rafiel whispered to her. “We’ve raised such marvelous children.” Nailah only responded by nodding with a sweet smile and giving him a kiss on the cheek.
“Before you ask, Sothe helped keep it a secret. He gave me advice on how to keep the cake hidden, actually.” Micaiah noted as she separated the slices of the cake onto smaller plates. “Oh, and, if you’re both feeling up to it, I also picked out a movie for us all to watch tonight. We can skip that step, though, if-“
“Micaiah, I am always feeling up to spending time with you.” Rafiel said, looking so proud of her. “How about you, my dear?”
“Well, I can’t guarantee I won’t fall asleep during the movie.” Nailah admitted. Especially if it was one of those cheesy beorc romance films that Micaiah enjoyed. “Still, I’d be more than happy to try. Is the cake ready?”
“Yep! Just grab a slice and dig in.”
Nailah did not think she would ever understand this particular beorc custom of eating cake, but she did enjoy the taste, so she couldn’t complain too much. The family gathered around the counter to start eating, and as they did so Nailah could only watch Rafiel’s lively smile while interacting with Sothe and Micaiah.
If even he could still be happy like this, then she couldn’t complain too much. Not with Rafiel by her side.
It was one of those cheesy beorc romance films that Micaiah enjoyed.
That was the last thought that passed through Nailah’s mind before she fell asleep on the couch next to Rafiel.
When she woke up, she was on the bed she shared with Rafiel upstairs. “Do you feel rested now, Nailah?” Rafiel asked with only the slightest hint of amusement in his voice.
“Ugh, I fell asleep.” Nailah sighed. She’d have to apologize to Micaiah later, though she knew that Micaiah had probably already forgiven and forgotten. She was good at that, or usually was at any rate. There were few things scarier than when Micaiah held a grudge. “Well, no helping it now I suppose. You didn’t carry me up here by yourself, did you?”
“Only with help from Sothe and Micaiah.” Rafiel laughed. “Those two really are stronger than they look.”
A few moments passed, and a sort of sadness crossed Rafiel’s face. “I’ve been thinking…”
Serenes had been a neighborhood in another city with the largest concentration of Heron laguz in the world. However, when an angry mob who blamed the Herons for the death of the mayor had attacked it and burned it down, there had been few survivors. Rafiel had survived, but had been kidnapped, with his wings eventually so damaged by his captors that he could no longer fly. Nailah had rescued him, and that was how they had met.
Some justice had been done through the efforts of Ike, a young lawyer who had been assisted by Nailah and Rafiel in trying to expose the corruption of the city government and give responsibility for the preservation of Serenes to the Hawk and Raven laguz clans. Through Ike, Rafiel had also met his surviving family, who he hadn’t seen since the massacre. However, there was no bringing back the dead.
“Ever since we found Reyson and Leanne, as well as father, I’ve been wanting to visit Serenes. To… pay my last respects to everyone who didn’t make it.” Rafiel sighed, an unbearable weight upon him. “I don’t think I want the children to see the remains but… would you come with me? It’s a terrible place to be alone.”
Nailah didn’t even have to think to know her answer. “Of course. Just tell me when you want to go and I’ll make all necessary arrangements.”
“I love you, Nailah. I really do, though I don’t think those words can really convey how much you mean to me.”
“They don’t need to.” Nailah smiled, placing the palm of her hand against Rafiel’s own, stroking the back of his hand with her thumb. “I already know from everything you do.”
“I wish I could marry you all over again.” Rafiel laughed, though only half-joking. He sighed, both contented and sorrowful. “Speaking of meeting family, has Volug made any progress on finding Micaiah’s little sister?”
“As a matter of fact, there has.”
“Really?” Now Rafiel sounded excited.
“Do you remember that little girl with the purple hair? The one being cared for by Sephiran? Well…”