Hey guys! Sorry that this has taken so long, I've been INSANELY busy, and very stressed out. This isn't the dark!Fang fic I've been promising, but it is a fluffy Mari fic, not something you see too often. Anyway, Max and Ari are not siblings in this, and he is not dead. It takes place a few years in the future, I like to imagine about ten years, but it doesn't really matter, except that they're older. This was originally intended to be a gift fic for Kiseki-no-neko, but I haven't talked to her in forever, so I don't know if she remembers this. If she reads it, I hope she likes it! I hope you all enjoy it, and review! If you don't like Mari, turn back now and don't even bother flaming. They are accepted, but you're wasting your time if you do.
Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any affiliated characters, aside from Lyris.
The stillness of the early moments of the day is potent, all but forcing you to wallow in the glorious immobility that seizes a person for the first few minutes after you wake up. But for all the power it can hold over you, that same stillness is fragile, and easily shattered. Inevitably, something will break the silence, and force us to rejoin with the day. This time, it was the wail of a baby, piercing and shrilly.
Ari's eyelids fluttered open at the sound, his dark eyes crusty from lack of sleep. He rolled over, looking down at the other person sharing the bed.
Max was awake too, her eyes red-rimmed and ringed with dark circles. She blinked blearily, and Ari realized how exhausted she was. Staring at him, she silently implored him to get up and take care of the baby.
With a sigh, he sat up, and she smiled at him, whispering in a raspy voice, "There's a bottle in the fridge." She closed her eyes, and fell back onto the pillows. Ari slid off the bed, the springs creaking, and stretched.
Their bedroom was small, with barely enough room for a bed. Next to the beaten-up old dresser that held all their clothes squatted a mini-fridge, giving off a soft mechanical hum. Ari crouched in front of it, and pulling out one of the plastic baby bottles that lived in there. It was three-quarters of the way full, more than enough for the baby's breakfast. Crossing the room in several strides, he bent over the bassinet, pausing for a moment to stare at his daughter.
Lyris had thin, softly curled brown hair that hung in wisps across her scalp. Massive dark eyes, so similar to Max's, stared up at him. She was pleasantly round and chubby, the way babies should be, but when Ari picked her up, she seemed to weigh next to nothing. Ari sat on the window seat, leaning up against the frame and placing the bottle into her mouth. She suckled on it eagerly, her eyes closing with satisfaction. One of her tan wings twitched, and a small, downy feather fell from it. Balancing her in the crook of his arm, her skin was burning hot against his; the avian genes from her mother's side were responsible for that.
Ari brushed his thumb across her forehead, feeling a familiar rush of pride. He-patchwork, sloppy, guaranteed failure Ari-was fifty percent responsible for this perfect little being. His own imperfect genes and massive faults had been combined with the other perfection in his life, to produce a fantastic child, unlike any other the world had ever seen. She was, without a doubt, the greatest achievement of his entire life.
Lyris suddenly pulled her head away, rolling to the side. Ari set the bottle down on the floor beside them and moved her so she was resting against his knees, facing him. She was obviously full, and her diaper was clean, so for the moment, all he really wanted to do was sit here and enjoy these precious few quiet moments.
He glanced over at Max, who had propped herself up on one elbow, hand tangled in her hair as she watched them dreamily.
The narrow slats of light coming through the closed blinds shone across her husband and daughter, illuminating their forms perfectly. The scene before her reminded Max of something, and she smiled.
Ari asked, "What's funny?"
Max replied, "Do you remember the hospital we went to, when she was born?"
Ari had spent pretty much the entire four days they had spent on the hospital anxious and on edge, first because of Max's prolonged labor, then because of the fact that they were in a hospital. The entire thing had been like a flashback to his childhood; flickering fluorescent lights, shiny white walls, antiseptic and chemicals that burned his sensitive nose, and people in white coats. At least Max had had drugs to help her through the traumatic experience, which seemed kind of unfair to him. Even though Ari had been twice as anxious and twitchy than she had been, he hadn't seen anyone offering him any heavy medication. If he had thought there was even the slightest chance he would get it, he would have been on his knees begging for an epidural.
He gave a small shudder. "Yeah."
"Did you ever look at that picture in the hallway outside of our room?"
There had been many posters and such lining that hallway, most of which had made Ari want to bundle Lyris up in baby-sized body armor and devote his life to making sure nothing in those posters ever happened to her, but he was pretty sure that wasn't what Max was talking about.
He shook his head. "Which one?"
She was silent for a moment, then spoke. "It was of a man with dark hair, holding his baby just like you are now, sitting on a windowsill and looking at her. I remember looking at it and thinking that if things were ever like that for us, I'd know that I made the right choice, staying with you."
Ari smiled at her, saying nothing; he didn't need to.
Neither of them spoke for a while; the moment was too perfect to spoil with words. Then Ari murmured, "Are you happy?"
Max blinked. "What?"
"I asked…I asked if you were happy. You know, with me."
She sighed. "Do you think I'd be here with you if I wasn't?"
Ari shook his head. "I guess not. But…don't you ever wish you were with Fang? Things would be so much simpler with him. The Flock would be more accepting of your relationship with him, other people wouldn't be so suspicious of us, and your life would just be a lot easier. I'm so flawed, so messed up, it just seems like he'd be easier to love than I am."
She shrugged. "Easy doesn't always mean better. You're right, I do love Fang, but he's like my brother. He's a great guy, and I know if we ever needed anything, he'd do everything he could to help us. But…he's not ready to be a husband yet, or a father. I want to be a mother and a wife now, not later. And let's be honest, I don't know how long I'm going to live. I could live to be one hundred or drop dead tomorrow. I don't have the luxury of time to wait for Fang to grow up enough to want a family. Who knows if he'll ever grow up that much? And now I've realized that I don't need him. I have Lyris, and I have you, and I have the rest of the Flock. That's all I need, now or ever."
Not waiting for a reply, she smiled serenely, rolling over and flopping down onto her back. "Put Lyris back and come here."
He glanced back down at Lyris, who had, despite the conversation, managed to fall back asleep. Getting up, he set her down gently in her crib, careful to not disturb her slumber. She smiled at something in her dream, and sighed.
Ari eased himself down onto the bed as quietly as he could, trying not to make the bed creak as he lay next to Max. They were silent for a moment as she traced patterns on his neck and face with her fingertips. Sitting up again, she looked into his eyes, and said with concern in her voice, "I don't like it when you're sad like this."
When he didn't respond, she leaned down, draping herself across his torso. "If I wanted someone who was broody and moped all the time, I would have married Fang, remember?"
He laughed. "I don't mean to be like this, it's just sometimes I have these thoughts, and I need to get them out. I won't do it any more if it bothers you, though."
She shook her head, and leaned in until the tip of her nose brushed his. "Kiss me, and forget about your doubts of why I love you. I'll prove that I do, just…kiss me."
I would just like to add that I think baby!Lyris owns Renesmee, Max would kick Bella's ass with both hands tied behind her back, and Ari is a thousand times better than Edward. Thank you.