"Fire/Engagement" is an Extended Universe thread written on January 29, 2015.

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Grey Bergman: Grey looked around frantically as she tried to find a way out, but all she could see was…flames…and smoke. She coughed for what felt like the billionth time as the smoke was becoming too thick. A cracking sound came above them. The brunette looked up only to see a rafter fall from the ceiling completely engulfed in flames.

“Look out!” she said as she pulled Warren away by the tunic as they just barely missed the rafter.

Warren: “Ah!” Warren hissed as the wave of heat from the rafter crashed over them. She got her feet under her but stayed on her hands and knees, breathing in the slightly less smoky air near the ground. “Thanks!” She shouted, screwing her burning eyes shut. “Can you see the door?”

Grey Bergman: Grey knelt down next to Warren wrapping her arms around her as she looked around for any signs of a way out. It did not take long for her to spot a door on the opposite wall a few feet away from them. “Yes, I see the door!” she shouted over the roaring flames hoping that Greg could hear her as well. “But we have to hurry! Come on!” With that she helped Warren to stand up.

Greg Ericson: Greg heard their voices and tried to move towards them but the smoke was too thick to see. He coughed as he ambled towards a wall hoping to follow it to the door, but he tripped on something fell to the floor. He was hit in the stomach with a chest of drawers on the way down, knocking the wind out of him. He lay there on the floor, coughing, try to get his breath back.

Warren: Warren got to her feet and forged through the heat behind Grey. She could see the door now too- a rectangle in the wall that marked their key to freedom. “This place is falling apart!” She shouted. “We need to get out of here before-” as if on cue, a massive splintering sound and deafening crack gave her just enough time to cover her head before another beam crashed to the ground in a cascade of sparks. When she raised her head, the rafter was laying in front of the door, orange tongues lapping at the air.

Grey Bergman: Grey felt her heart fall as she watched the flames form from the rafters that fell from the ceiling above preventing them from reaching their only chance to escape. Her eyes widened. They were trapped! She looked around frantically trying to find another way, but the smoke was becoming thicker and thicker and the flames were getting taller and taller.

“Greg, any ide—?” she stopped in mid-sentence when she saw that it was only her and Warren. “Greg? Greg!” She then turned to Warren. “Where’s Greg?!”

Warren: Warren opened her mouth to respond but dissolved into a fit of coughing before she could speak. She doubled over, shaking her head mutely, face stinging with the relentless heat that surrounded them. Once her breathing evened, here eyes widened in panic. “I don’t know- I thought- I thought he left.”

Grey Bergman: “No…no, he…he was right behind us,” Grey said as she began to feel lightheaded. The smoke was getting to her, but she tried with all her might to stay focused. She had to if they were going to get out alive. No matter what, she was going to get Warren AND Greg out alive. She prayed with all her might that Shadow was there with them, but she wasn’t. So they were on their own. She knelt down next to Warren looking around frantically for any way out. The door was blocked, but surely there had to be another way out. Not to mention that they had to find Greg. That was when she saw something in the wall. It looked like an opening in the wooden wall. It must’ve formed when the rafters fell! Perfect! “Come on, Warren!” She pulled Warren to her feet. “Let’s get you taken care of first, and then I can find Greg!”

Warren: Warren shook her head. “No- I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. It’s just smoke, but we should get Greg and get out of here as soon as we can.” She cupped her hands around her mouth, swallowing hard to try and ease her burning throat. “Greg!” she shouted. “Greg! Greg!”

Greg Ericson: Greg could hear Warren calling his name but try as he might he couldn’t move or even respond. Too much smoke had filled his lungs and the bash to the stomach was more serious than he realized. All he could do was cough and wonder, would this be the end?

Warren: She tried to scream again but her smoke-raw throat couldn’t take anymore. She covered her face with her arm, trying to shield it from the heat- it was so hot…. Her eyes were watering from the smoke. “I can’t see anything…” she cried hopelessly. “I can’t see anything, there’s just fire….” She called his name again, even though her voice cracked and it hurt but she didn’t care. “Greg!” A trickle of grim determination settled in her stomach and she began to move toward the direction they had come. “We’re finding him.”

Grey Bergman: Grey was forced into another coughing fit as the smoke stung her eyes as well. The dizziness was getting worse, but she shook her head to get rid of it. Warren was right. As much as she wanted the Pooka-hybrid to get out first, there was no way she was going to leave her boyfriend here. They were both going to have to look for him together. “Okay, hold my hand tightly,” she said taking Warren’s hand in hers and taking the lead back toward the inferno, “and do…NOT…let go! Greg! Greg, answer me!”

Warren: It was quickly becoming more difficult to move through the heat and smoke but they persisted, calling out to no response.

“Grey,” Warren’s will to move was waning with every unanswered call. “He’s not answering.” she broke off to cough again, eyes streaming. “Grey, why is he not answering? What are we going to do?”

Grey Bergman: Grey turned to her unofficially adoptive sister. The smoke was too thick for them to see each other’s faces, but determination was evident on the human’s face. “We’re going to find him. That’s what we’re going to do,” Grey said gripping onto Warren’s hand tightly. “I promise! I’m getting you two out of here. Whatever it takes!”

Warren: She might have said something, but there was a shape laying on the ground. A chemist of drawers or some similar furniture, but what caught her attention was the soot-covered hand visible above it. “There!” Suddenly she was leading, pulling Grey toward the form.

Greg Ericson: Greg laid there next to the drawers as the flames grew closer and close to his legs. Suddenly a rafter collapsed onto his legs and begun to burn the skin.

Warren: “Greg!” Warren let go of Grey’s hand and rushed forward, grabbing Greg underneath the arms and dragging him away from the flames. She put out the flames on the clothes with her hands and refused to look at the skin beneath the torn fabric. “Help me Cary him!”

Grey Bergman: Grey quickly rushed forward and slung Greg’s left arm over her shoulders as Warren did the same to his right arm allowing both of them to pick him up off the ground. “Don’t worry, Greg,” she said to her unofficial adoptive brother. “You’re going to be okay! We’re getting out of here, bud! Hang on.”

Warren: “Let’s take him to where the beam fell earlier,” Warren said, speaking in between coughs. “I think we can move the beam away from the door with a lever.” She was scared out of her mind but they needed to get /out/, /immediately/, and she knew she had to keep it together until then, now that they had Greg to take care of. They WOULD get out. They had to.

Grey Bergman: “Exactly what I was thinking!” Grey said as she went into her own coughing fit. “Let’s go! Now!” It must have been the adrenaline pumping through her veins, but she was able to guide them through the flames and smoke back to where she saw the opening in the wall. “Hold him!” she said to Warren releasing Greg’s unconscious form into her arms. “I’ll use my sword to move the beams.” She ran to the blocked door and dug her sword into the burning wood.

Warren: Warren eased Greg to the ground, unsure how long this would take and wanting to keep Greg away from as much heat and smoke as she could. She wiped at her soaked forehead with the back of her hand. Shaking fingers cleaned some of the soot from his face and brushed dust from his hair, whispering with a wavering smile words lost to the roaring flames. Her forehead felt tight and she pursed her lips as dizziness tilted behind her eyes. They couldn’t take much more of this.

Grey Bergman: She hacked a few more coughs as she did her best to move the fallen beams away from the door. However, it was proving to be a lot more difficult than she ever thought. The smoke continued to sting her eyes and made it hard to breathe. Whenever she moved the wood, embers would shoot up and a few would actually burn her arms, and the sword was burning her hands. Grey didn’t care though. She was going to get them all out of here one way or another. She shook off the dizziness and blurred vision one more time as she continued to move the beams out of the way. With one last ounce of strength, she pushed the last beam out of the way freeing them. She would’ve smiled and jumped for joy, but instead she turned to Warren, who was tending to Greg. “Come on, Warren!” she said. “This is our chance!”

Warren: Without thinking, Warren was on her feet, dragging Greg over to the door. “I can handle him! Just get the door open!” she said. It felt like a lie. Neither of them could even handle themselves at this point, and sheer force of will was probably all that was keeping Warren standing. She gritted her teeth and prepared for one final effort.

Grey Bergman: As soon as Warren began walking over with Greg, Grey immediately was ready to push the door open. She wasn’t going to get out until she was sure that they were safely outside. They were so close to freedom that she could just taste it. As soon as the Pooka hybrid and her boyfriend were close enough, the brunette immediately pushed the door open. “GO! GO!” she shouted at the top of her lungs.

Warren: Warren pulled Greg onto her back as best she could (a daunting task, as he was taller and heavier than her) and blinked dizziness away as Grey threw open the door. The surge of air was immediate, and smoke and flames immediately billowed upward, kicking up embers…

Grey Bergman: Grey ran as fast as she could as soon as Warren dragged Greg out of the inferno. She followed the half-Pooka out onto the grass a few yards away never once looking back as the fire continued to eat the building they were just trapped in. She breathed heavily trying once again to push the dizziness away as she ran. She couldn’t take it anymore, but she pressed on as she watching Warren tend to Greg. She knelt down next to Warren and looked down on the unconscious teen on the ground. “How is he?” she said coughing one last time as she wiped the soot and tears from her face as well. 

Warren: “He’s… He’s okay I think,” Warren said. “I’m no healer. I’m guessing he’ll wake up soon, but…” ‘I don’t know what to do if he doesn’t,’ she finished silently. She looked him over once more, making sure he was comfortable and that his clothes were no longer smoldering, and then pulled her knees up to her chest and tucked her hands into her lap where they weren’t visible. She closed her eyes and focused on catching her breath.

Grey Bergman: “Well…if there’s anything I learned from my mother,” she began, “he breathed in too much smoke, and we’ll have to take care of those burns.” With that, she gently took Greg and placed him on her back. Thankfully the adrenaline still pumping through her veins allowed her to pick him up. “Let’s see if we can find a healer in this village.”

Greg Ericson: Greg had woken up briefly on the trip to healers. Though he was not awake long enough to say anything, as he once again passed out, this time for a much longer period of time. A day later Greg was in the healers hut. He had been tended to as best as possible but he had yet to return to consciousness.

Warren: Warren sat on the ground outside the healer’s hut, twisting a stick around in heavily-bandaged fingers. The healer had attended to Greg first, and Warren had only let the woman near her once she’d been persuaded that there was nothing more they could do. Now she was a patchwork of bandages and salves that smelled strongly of potent herbs and burned hair. She’d had to cut her ponytail the night before, and now her dark hair brushed her shoulders in dirty curls. She needed a bath. But first, she needed Greg to be okay.

Grey Bergman: Grey walked out of the healer’s hut with her arms and hands bandaged up from the burns. She watched Warren sit outside. The half-Pooka was quiet clearly thinking about her unconscious boyfriend, and she looked exhausted as well. Then again, when you were trapped in a burning building and treated for injuries, there was no time for sleeping. “You okay?” she finally asked Warren. 

Warren: “Fine.” She gave the stick a harsh twist and it splintered. Her blistered hands stung and she let the twig fall to the dirt. Warren picked absently at the bits of bark now stuck to the bandages. She didn’t look up. “Been a lot worse. …How are you?”

Grey Bergman: Grey let out a breath as she sat down next to Warren. “Fine…now that you two are safe and sound,” she said.

Warren: Warren sighed and leaned against Grey. Her thoughts drifted to Greg, scorched and comatose. If this was their version of safe and sound, she didn’t know how she would survive until old age. She was quiet for a while, staring at the sunlight on the soil. “…Will he wake up soon?”

Grey Bergman: Grey smiled gently and wrapped an arm around Warren holding her close as she rested her cheek in the half-Pooka’s brown hair. “Hopefully, he will,” she said. “Greg’s strong. He’ll do whatever he can to come back to us.”

Warren: Warren curled against Grey’s side, letting her eyes half close. “I know,” she said, smiling a little. “I know. Of course he will.” Her eyes slid the rest of the way and she could feel the fringes of her mind drifting off. She really was exhausted. “I just don’t like missing him.”

Grey Bergman: Grey chuckled as Warren relaxed against her. She rested her head on the Pooka hybrid’s head as she felt sleep come over her as well. “I know,” she said as her eyes drooped. “Hopefully, soon, we won’t have to.”

Warren: “Yeah…” Warren murmured. “I haven’t checked in with the healer in a while. I should make sure there isn’t anything I can help with….” She took a deep breath through her nose but didn’t move away quite yet, reluctant to give up the comfort and security of Grey’s side.

Grey Bergman: She let out a yawn as she let sleep take over her. “Yeah…you…probably…should…” she said as sleep took over her. 

Healer: The healer smiled at the young woman. It was a sad smile, but it also conveyed hope. “I’m sorry dear,” she said in a kind voice. “We’ve done all we can for him. The best thing you can do now is to go and be with him.” With that she turned to attend to another patient.

Warren: Well, she was going to do that anyway…. She felt nervous for some reason. She wanted to see him, of course she did, just not when he was like… this. He was never quiet, and though she usually liked silence, she couldn’t bear this kind. But she went inside anyway, lingering in the door and blinking away spots of light until her eyes adjusted to the lack of sunlight.

There he was. There was a stool near the bed and she sat on it, propping her chin up with her hands until the stinging beneath her own bandages quickly reminded her that was a bad idea. She straightened, face breaking into a grin. “Hey, nerd. I’m back. You’re looking better, I’m glad we found a village with a competent healer. Grey’s outside, she’s fine. I’m good too.” She raised a hand to tug on the ends of her much-shorter hair. “A little different. But we’re all fine.”

Warren’s tongue probed the inside of her cheek as she searched for more things to say and found none. She guessed her bedside manner wasn’t the best…. She stared at the corner of the room until the smile faded from her face and she sighed. Warren slid her hand underneath Greg’s and held it, somewhat awkwardly, but at least her fingers had been wrapped individually instead of together. Her thumb traced patterns on his hand.

Greg Ericson: Greg laid there, motionless as Warren held his hand. After a minute or so his hand twitched. He could feel fingers grasping his own. He opened his eyes a crack to see his girlfriend looking sad. ‘That wouldn’t do he thought.’ It was difficult to speak at the moment, but he gathered what strength he possessed and said, “Hey.” His voice weak and hoarse.

Warren: The hand moved in her own. Warren regarded it curiously… no, it had to have been her imagination. Then she heard his voice. He was awake, and he was looking at her, and that meant that everything was okay. Warren’s face lit up and she held his fingers with both hands, loving the feeling of their movement. “Hi,” she said, bubbling with relieved laughter. “So the drama chieftain finally decides to rejoin the living?” She spread her fingers and wove them through his. “You sound awful.” She was right, of course, but he could’ve sung like a Terrible Terror and it wouldn’t have made a difference. Greg was back, and she had missed him.

Greg Ericson: Greg chuckled but was immediately thrown into a coughing fit. After he had calmed down he grabbed Warren’s other hand and laced their fingers. “Don’t make me laugh, it hurts to laugh.” He smiled, until he remembered the fire the day before. “Oh my gods are you okay?” He shifted so he could examine her, only to be stopped by an immense pain from his legs. He removed one hand to lift the blanket. All he saw was a pair of bandaged legs. “What happened?” He asked trying to remember.

Warren: The warm happiness Warren had felt was immediately dashed as Greg started coughing, and she watched him with concern until he settled again. No laughing. That was going to be hard. She winced, about to apologize, but froze as Greg realized where he was. For the thousandth time, she cursed herself for putting out the flames on Greg’s clothes and moving the burning beams with her hands, but at the same time she knew she would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant getting all of them out alive. Still, she tried to pull her blistered hands away so that Greg wouldn’t see them.

“We all got out, don’t worry,” she said. “…I was actually wondering if you could tell me. Grey and I lost you in the fire, and when we found you again, you were out cold.” Out hot, really, she added with a twinge of bitterness. “Grey helped me get you out. We’re in a village right now, the healer’s fixed you up.”

Greg Ericson: Greg tried to think back to the fire. He remember tripping and hurting himself on the way down. He remembered them calling for him, and he wasn’t able to answer, and then darkness. “I’m sorry.” He said, his head pointed down.  ”I’m sorry I made you worry about me. I should have been more careful.” Greg couldn’t help beat himself up. ‘If I had just seen that shelf,’ He thought. ‘I wouldn’t be here. We would have all gotten out fine.’

Warren: “Hey, hey,” Warren caught his face with her hands and tipped it up so that their eyes met. “I worry no matter what.” She smiled. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Greg. Everything is okay now.”

Greg Ericson: (lost response)

Warren: “Okay….” She leaned into the touch for a moment, still studying him quizzically, then pushed the stool back from the bed and made her way out into the sun again.

It took a several minutes more than she’d thought it would, mostly because her tender fingers wouldn’t cooperate properly with the saddle straps. At last she got it free, patted the dragon, and made her way back into the hut, focusing on her throbbing hands to keep from giving in to her terrible curiosity. She stopped by the bed, bag in arm. “You’re sure nothing’s wrong?”

Greg Ericson: Greg smiled again. “I am very sure.” He grabbed the bag out of Warren’s arms and held it tenderly. Rubbing the old bag with a sense of nostalgia. “Many surprises have come from this bag. A pineapple for one, a picnic blanket another, and many others. I think it’s got one more left in it.” He dug through the bag looking for a specific item once he found it he brought it toward the top, but left it in the bag. He grabbed his girlfriend’s hand in one of his. “Warren, we’ve been together for a long time now, and I couldn’t imagine my life without you. I love you so much, and I was planning on doing this… Well not in a healer’s hut for one, but I don’t want to wait any longer.” He let go of her hand and pulled a box out of the bag opening it, revealing and iron ring with a green jewel in it. “Warren, will you marry me?”

Warren: Warren was completely speechless. Marriage. Engagement? A wedding. A family? And of all the places she could have imagined they were here, covered in dirt and sweat and tears and bandages, in a hut full of sick people. She almost laughed, because of how dreamlike the situation was. But Greg was stunningly real, and so was his question. Suddenly she wanted to cry.

“I have… nothing I can give you, Greg. We have nowhere to go. The rebellions are over but this world still isn’t safe for people like me, like our family would be. I don’t want anyone to have to live as I did before the rebellion, especially you. You… are more than I could have asked for. I want us to be safe together; I want whatever we make for ourselves to be free of what we have had to endure. And right now, I don’t know if that’s possible.” She was crying now, feeling thoroughly horrible, and unable to believe what she was saying. She hated imagining the hurt he could be feeling. “I love you. So much, I do. I will marry you, just… just not now.”

Greg Ericson: Seeing the woman he loved cry broke Greg’s heart into pieces. He held her face in his hand and gently wiped away her tears. Greg understood what she was saying, but he wasn’t afraid of struggling against the world. “Warren,” He said, “you can give me the one thing no one else in this world can. Your love, and that, Milady, is all I’ll ever need, and I’d suffer through Ragnarok 1000 times for it.” The thought sparked an idea in Greg, there was a song his parents used to sing all the time, and if he remembered it correctly it conveyed a similar message.

Greg began to hum the opening few bars, as he remembered them, as he slid his hands from her face down to shoulders and then down her arms until he was able to hold her hands. 

“I’ll swim and sail on savage seas, with ne’er a fear of drowning, and gladly ride the waves of life if you will marry me." He sang softly. His throat hurt but he persisted.

"No scorching sun nor freezing cold, will stop me on my journey,

If you would promise me your heart, and love me for eternity.”

He paused, this was the point his mother joined his father in singing, but he was  unsure if Warren would even join him, let alone if she knew the song.

Warren: She had closed her eyes, but now they opened wide as Greg began… to sing. It was a Viking song, a courting song. She’d heard it sung several times in her years traveling on the surface, and she’d hummed it to warm her as she walked from town to town, but Warren never expected to sing it herself. In her mind, she remembered a couple, young and strong, singing and dancing and laughing together as the village feasted and cheered around them. There was a girl’s part, she recalled, but how did it start…?

"My dearest one, my darling dear,” her voice trembled and the rest of the room seemed to go silent. But the words were coming back to her and she caught her breath and continued, quiet still, but with lessening hesitation. 

"Your mighty words astound me-” appropriate, she thought, ”But I’ve no need for mighty deeds when I feel your arms around me.” A small chuckle hummed in the words as she finished and she smiled, sniffling a bit.

Greg Ericson: Greg smiled, Warren did seem to know the song. It would have been very awkward had she not know what he was talking about. Of course it was now his turn to sing. He sped up a bit with this part, the speed slowly increasing with each stanza.

“But I would bring you rings of gold, I’d even sing you poetry

and I would keep you from all harm, if you would stay beside me!”

He meant every line of this song to her. He would protect her as best as he could, and yes even read her poetry if she so desired even if he wasn’t very poetic or artistically inclined.

Warren: Warren flowed with the increased speed, the words coming easily now that the tune was in her head.

"I have no use for rings of gold, I care not for your poetry-" 

She’d never actually heard Greg write poetry, much less sing it, but something told her it would contain far too many puns to be completely enjoyable- 

"I only want your hand to hold, I only want you near me!” They launched into the chorus together:

“To love, a kiss to sweetly hold,

for the dancing and the dreaming.

Through all my sorrows and delights I’ll keep your love inside me.”

Greg Ericson: "I’ll swim and sail on savage seas, with ne’er a fear of drowning,” They sang together. “and gladly ride the waves of life if you will marry meeeeee” Greg of course held the last note slightly longer than he was supposed to. After which he went into a slight coughing fit. After it had cleared up he smiled and looked into Warren’s eyes.

"I meant every word of that. I don’t care if I have to fight a 1000 Red Deaths to be with you. If I have to I will. Just like I will fight the world to be with you.” He held her hands in his and lightly traced patterns onto her wrapped knuckles.

Warren: Warren sighed quietly, a good sigh, and shook her head at her hands with a smile. “Mighty words, my darling dear,” she said, “mighty indeed.” She met his gaze with a flushed face and bright eyes. “How can I possibly argue?”

She stiffly stretched and relaxed her fingers in his and made a sound (she’d been too stubborn to avoid using them, and the blisters were probably cracked again.) “I guess we’ll have to tell the others, then,” she said almost bashfully. “How long have you had that ring anyway?”

Greg Ericson: Now it was Greg’s turn to look bashful. “Oh um,” he stuttered, “I uh, made it about a month ago. Instead of using gold like people normally do, I decided to use iron because iron is a harder metal and I wanted it to symbolize our love.”

Warren: Warren grinned and ducked her head, affectionately muttering something like “Sentimental goober” under her breath. She leaned over and kissed him briefly, pulled back and then rubbed tiredly at her eyes. “Well, I should probably let you rest, shouldn’t I? I’ll see if I can get you some water; you must be thirsty.”

Greg Ericson: (lost response)

Warren: Warren fixed him with a no-nonsense stare. “You were trapped in a burning building and lost consciousness due to smoke inhalation, then woke up and sung a song. I think you deserve some water.”

Forgetting something? Ah. “I hadn’t forgotten,” she said, taking it from him…

Greg Ericson: (lost response)

Warren: Warren turned back to grin at him over her shoulder. “I know. Now stay put and I’ll be right back.” She picked up a wooden cup as she crossed the hut and then stepped outside. There was a barrel of water not far from the hut and she began filling the cup with the ladle.

Grey Bergman: Grey was too busy biting her lip to keep herself from screaming in delight. She woke up as soon as Warren walked into to the hut to tend to Greg and heard everything! They were engaged! Greg and Warren were finally engaged! She jumped around a few times as she listened to the song and heard them talking, but she knew she had to stop as soon as she heard Warren coming out. Warren couldn’t know she was eavesdropping, and she wanted to hear her little adoptive sister telling her herself. So, she quickly dropped to the floor and pretended to be asleep as Warren came out of the hut. 

Warren: Grey always seemed to forget that Warren had really, really good hearing. Warren had been too caught up in what was happening with Greg to notice much, but while she made her way to the door, her ears picked up an odd pattern of footsteps from outside and the sound of dirt crunching as someone hurriedly sat down. She had stepped out to fetch the water as if nothing had happened and listened to Grey breathing a short distance away, which clearly wasn’t the breathing of someone who was asleep. She rolled her eyes. “I’m surprised you’re keeping it together,” she said without moving from her work.

Grey Bergman: The young woman slowly opened her eyes pretending to wake up from her nap and stretched her arms. “Oh, hey, Warren,” she said innocently, “I…I didn’t hear you go inside. How’s Greg doing?”

Warren: Warren replaced the ladle and turned to look at Grey while leaning against the barrel. “Why don’t you go ask him yourself? Unless you don’t have to,” she said knowingly.

Grey Bergman: Grey’s face fell into a pout. “You really did hear me, didn’t you?” she asked.

Warren: Warren raised an eyebrow. “Mm hmmm. And you really did hear /me/, didn’t you?” She couldn’t keep up the stern face anymore and shook her head with a smile. “Eavesdropper. I knew you’d find out soon, but I didn’t expect it to be THAT soon.”

Grey Bergman: “Well, to be fair, I woke up when you moved away and went inside and was about to go back to sleep until I heard you talking,” Grey replied as she stood up and dusted the dirt off her skirt. “So…can I give you the biggest hug ever and congratulate you…maybe even start blabbing about the wedding?”

Warren: Warren spread her arms wide and then, thinking prudently for once, set down the cup where it wouldn’t be spilled. “You are free to squeal,” she said.

Grey Bergman: Grey let out the loudest squeal in the world and ran into Warren’s open arms jumping up and down. “CONGRATULATIONS!” she shouted as she hugged Warren tightly. “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! HE’S ENGAGED! YOU’RE ENGAGED! YOU’RE BOTH ENGAGED! YOU’RE GOING TO GET MARRIED!! OH THOR! YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED!” She finally let go. “Oh my gods, can you imagine? A big wedding for you two! Maybe back home on my island! Maybe the Warren where you grew up! Oh, man, we got to invite all of our comrades from the Rebellion! It will be so exciting! AND we have to invite your adoptive parents and brother too!”

Warren: Warren laughed, squeezing Grey as she bounced and squeed. Her excitement  was more soothing than the poultices spread over each patch of burned skin.  She giggled as she hadn’t since she was years and horrors younger. She was getting married, and everything was going to be okay.

Then something Grey had said sunk in and her ears fell suddenly. “N-no, we can’t… they won’t be able to….” She broke off and then gave a halfhearted smile. “Let’s just have it with all of our friends, yeah? Your island would be great. It’ll be so wonderful to see everyone from the rebellion again.” She picked up the cup of water and moved toward the door. “I’ve got to give this to Greg….”

Grey Bergman: She furrowed her eyebrows together in confusion as she watched Warren moving toward the door. That was not the reaction she was expecting from someone who was just engaged. She quickly grabbed Warren by the shirt to prevent her moving any further. “Hold on a minute, Kangaroo,” she said. “You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what that was.”

Warren: Warren halted as the fabric of her shirt pulled tight, pulling her to a stop. She considered ducking out of it (it was certainly loose enough) and might have, but she knew Grey would just catch her again.

“It’s fine,” she said, looking at Grey out of the corner of her eye. “We’ll have plenty of guests- now can I get this water to Greg before he dies of thirst?”

Grey Bergman: “Warren…” she said sternly, “I might not be the one engaged here, but I know I would want to have my own family there to help me celebrate the happiest day of my life whether they’re blood-related or not. Come on, pal, you can tell me anything.” She held Warren’s hand tightly. “Why wouldn’t you want your family there with you?”

Warren: “I do want them there. Of course I do. They just… can’t… come. It’s fine, really. It’s nobody’s fault, that’s just the way it works. There will be plenty of people I love there.” She felt a stab of longing, but swept it beneath a reassuring smile like dust behind a chest of drawers. “Just not… all the people I love. It will be enough.”

Grey Bergman: "Why can’t they?” Grey asked. “Warren, from you told me, they sound really wonderful, and I would love to meet them. I’m sure Greg and Asha would too. Please, help me to understand why they can’t come. Whatever it is, I’ll believe you.”

Warren: “They are wonderful, and I know you would but they don’t….” She made a sound of frustration, trying to push away the wonderful but impossible scenarios playing in her head. “It’s difficult to explain. Do we have to talk about this now?”

Grey Bergman: Grey gave Warren a stern look and crossed her arms. “Yes,” she said simply. “Just tell me, and then we’ll never speak of it again. I promise…unless we really have to.”

Warren: Warren blew a breath out threw her nose and set the cup on top of a crate. “Okay… fine.” She thought for a long moment. “I guess it’s sort of like this….

“Imagine you’re a kind of green dragon. You and your green dragons are big and peaceful and all live together in a nest where it’s beautiful and warm and comfortable. You take care of your nest and each other very carefully and live and teach one another in peace. You’re part of a very old group of dragons and over many years you’ve learned very very much about the world and magic and many other things. You understand the consequences of this knowledge, so you make sure that it is guarded and used safely and responsibly, and very infrequently.

"Living somewhere else are a bunch of red dragons. The red dragons are excitable and reckless. They create many things but destroy more, and they’re always fighting against each other. They’re gifted with hard scales and beautiful fire, but many of them use these things to burn the earth and conquer other dragons’ nests. Many of the red dragons are kind and gentle, but more of them are hungry for power and unable to see the long-term consequences of their actions.

"The bloodshed among the red dragons frightens and angers you and the rest of the green dragons. The green dragons have seen all of the red dragons’ history and know that many of the red dragons would love to steal your nest and use the knowledge you have to destroy. So you hide away your nest and live by yourselves in peace. Your safety depends on the red dragons not knowing that you exist.

"Then one day you discover a baby dragon that is part green dragon and part red dragon. You don’t know how it came to you, and you are afraid of what it could become. But you refuse to kill one of your own, even if it’s only half, so you take it in and the other green dragons help you raise it. The half-dragon grows up big and strong and you all love it very much. You can see the red dragon in it every day: it’s energetic and curious and passionate and foolish. But it’s undeniably also a green dragon. You still don’t like the red dragons, but you love your half-dragon because it’s yours.

"Then your half-dragon grows up, and she wants to understand her red dragon half. She wants to know what the red dragons are like, even though she’s a little afraid of them. You are afraid too, because the red dragons could hurt your half-dragon, or they could see her greenness and discover your nest. But the half-dragon needs to know where she came from, so you let her go. There are other half-creatures similar to her, and so you believe that the red dragons will see her like them and not like a green dragon.

"Your half-dragon wanders for a long time. She tries to stay away from the red dragons, because she’s learned that many of them don’t like half-creatures like her. Other half-creatures help her, and give her food, and sometimes red dragons help her too. Some of the red dragons try to hurt her, but she is smart and the half-creatures help her and she gets away. Sometimes she is alone and she has to get away by herself. She is afraid, but she wants to understand. She misses the green dragons more every day.

"Then one day, a red dragon helps her when she needs it very much. She learns from this red dragon that there is a group of red dragons and half-creatures that are fighting to help the half-creatures. She joins them, and here she meets many good red dragons. She grows to love them very much. She loves one red dragon especially, and they decide to be married.

"The half-dragon still loves and misses all of the green dragons. She wants to keep them safe, so none of the red dragons can know where their nest is. The green dragons can’t leave their nest, or they will be discovered and killed.” Warren sighed, eyes distant. “The red dragons aren’t even supposed to know about the green dragons at all, but the half-dragon had to tell a few of them. She wonders if the green dragons will be upset with her for this. She knows that the red dragons and the green dragons can never be a part of one anothers’ lives, and though she wants her red dragon family and her green dragon family to be together, she wants them to be safe even more.”

Warren sighed, tugging at her fur absently. “…That’s why.”

Grey Bergman: Grey was absolutely stunned at first. It took her a moment to process Warren’s metaphor, but when she finally figured it out, it all made sense now. Humans were the complete opposite of Pookas…at least from what Warren has told her. The results of the two races ever meeting would surely end in disaster, and Warren was just doing what she does best…protect her family. Without any words, Grey took her little sister into her arms and gave her a big hug.

“Thank you for telling me,” she said. “I understand now.”

Warren: Warren pressed her lips together and smiled a little. “It’s fine. It’s actually… it feels better having explained it. Helped get my thoughts in order.” She twisted around and grabbed the cup again. “Now, I’m guessing you want to go talk to Greg, now that he’s awake?”

Grey Bergman: Grey nodded relieved that Warren was feeling better. “Actually, yes, I do,” she said. “Come on, sis! Let’s go tend to your fiancee!”

Warren: Warren stood and led Grey into the hut. She smiled at Greg. “Hey, sorry about the wait…. I hope you haven’t shriveled up and died of thirst yet. That would put a damper on the wedding plans.”

Greg Ericson: “Ya know I am actually this close to dying of dehydration, so anytime you want to hand it over would be dandy.” Greg said with a smile. “Seriously though thanks I am incredibly parched.” He took the mug from his fiancé and took a big gulp. “Ya know,” He said playing with his mug. “I’ve always been partial to blue, but being red would be pretty cool as well.” He looked up from his mug with a knowing smile.

Warren: “Well, it looks like I’m not allowed to have a private conversation ever again,” Warren deadpanned. “Maybe I’ll just learn sign language and use it whenever I don’t want to be overheard, hmm?” She poked Greg in the side playfully, then sighed after a moment. “Well, I guess you know all my family issues now, huh?”

Greg Ericson: “Well not all.”Greg said taking a sip from the mug, “I actually know very little about your family beyond what I just heard. And if you want to have a private conversation you do not talk just outside a hut with the door open, with the loudest big sister in the history of the Wilderwest.” He smiled at Grey before taking another sip from his mug.

Grey Bergman: Grey raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. “Hey, I’ll have you know, little brother,” she said, “that your fiancee gave me permission to squeal. So, I took advantage of it, and you better watch it because I might not give you a hug and congratulate you as well.”

Greg Ericson: "Oh come on now no one is heartless enough to not to congratulate their little brother when he gets engaged.” Greg said. However Grey seemed unmoving in her position so he finally relented. “Fine I’m sorry I called you loud. Now come over here.” He put the mug in his lap and held out his arms, gesturing for her to give him a hug.

Grey Bergman: She chuckled and bent over to wrap her arms around the boy hugging him. “Congratulations, bud,” she said. “I’m so happy for you two.”

Greg Ericson: Greg smiled. “Thanks Grey that really means a lot.” He drummed his fingers against the wood of the mug. “You know, I think you should go see you’re parents. It’s been a long time since you last saw them, yeah? I’m sure they’re worried and they miss you. Plus maybe you tell them about the engagement if you feel up to it?”

Warren: “Yeah,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about that. Now that I have a something to tell them, you know, something to show for leaving, I think… I think I will go back. I’d like to.”

Greg Ericson: “Definitely do it.” Greg said taking a sip from his mug. “Just do one thing for me. Make it abundantly clear that I did not get you pregnant. That is like the first thing parents ask when you tell them you’re getting married. That would not be an ideal situation for anyone.” He took another casual sip of his mug to find it empty. “Aw bummer.”

Warren: Warren chuckled darkly. “Oh, you’re lucky you didn’t, sir, because it’s not my parents you have to worry about. It’s my very very protective older brother who’s even better with a weapon than I am.”

Greg Ericson: “That’s um… that’s very good information to know. I’ll just store that away for…later usage.” Greg said nervously, as he took a sip from his mug just to distract himself.

Grey Bergman: Grey smiled and sat down on Greg’s cot smiling warmly. “How are you feeling?” she asked.

Greg Ericson: “I’m alright,” He said, rubbing his legs. “My legs hurt as well as my throat, plus a few burns and scrapes. How about you guys how are you doing?" 

Grey Bergman: "Ah…I’m alright,” she said looking at her arms again. “Just a few burns.”

Warren: “I’m fine. Some burns and a new haircut is all. Some of my fur probably won’t grow back for a while, but I can’t complain.” She pushed her hair back from her face with one hand. “Honestly the thing that’s getting me the most is not being able to take a bath.” She chuckled, holding up bandaged fingers. “All in all though, I think we got out of that pretty well.”

Greg Ericson: Greg finally noticed the now cut hair. Her pony tail had been chopped off and now her hair hun just around her shoulders. “I really like, it. Your hair, that is. Not that I didn’t like it before or anything but um… You know.” He coughed awkwardly into his hand before he continued. “Anyways, do we know why the building was on fire?"

Warren: Warren chuckled and tugged on the end of a curl. “I’m glad.” She shared a look with Grey, and then frowned at Greg’s question. “I don’t know. I woke up partway through the fire, so I don’t know where or when it started…. Somebody probably just knocked over a candle or something….”

Grey Bergman: “Yeah, I’m not sure either,” said Grey. “Maybe it was an accident.”

Greg Ericson: “Probably,” Greg yawned and stretched. “Man I’m tired is anyone else tired?”

Warren: Warren was about to answer in the negative, but then remembered almost falling asleep on Grey outside. Was that really only a few moments ago? “You should sleep,” she said. “We all deserve som rest.” She was still exhausted herself, but doubted that her mind would let her sleep after everything that had happened.

Grey Bergman: “I agree,” she said. “We’ve had a long day.” She laid down on one of the beds in the hut and settled in under the covers.

Warren: Warren sat on the ground and leaned against Greg’s bed. After a moment she reached up and took his hand, resting her head on her arm. “I’m glad you’re okay,” she murmured.

Greg Ericson: “I am too. I love you.” Greg said, and he was about to drift off to sleep when he realized something. Warren was sleeping on the floor. ‘Well that’s no good.’ He peeked his head over the side of the bed and saw his fiancé was leaning against his bed trying to sleep. “Hey,” He said, “There’s a bed up here if you’re interested.”

Warren: A not-very-small part of her wanted to crawl up and curl next to him on the bed, but she didn’t want to hurt his injured legs by making him move over. “No, it’s okay,” Warren replied. “I’m not going to sleep. I just wanted to be near you.”

Greg Ericson: “What happened to we all deserve some rest?” He asked. “Besides I think I’d sleep better knowing you we’re getting some sleep to. If you’d like you can pull up a bed right next to mine.”

Warren: “Mmm, so my words come back to haunt me.” She shifted her head on her arm and pulled in a deep breath through her nose. “You drive a hard bargain, sir.” It would be splendid to relax in a bed though…. She relented.
A moment later, she had pushed a second cot against Greg’s bed and was stretched out on it. “Better?”

Greg Ericson: Greg laced Warren’s fingers together with his own and scooted closer to her. I am now.” He placed a kiss on Warren’s forehead and said. “I love you.”

Warren: Warren gently pressed her forehead against his and smiled, pulling their joined hands up under her chin. “I know.”

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