AN: So this is a very lackluster chapter considering how long its been since I've posted. But it will set up better chapters to come. Sorry for the long delays! And thank you to ForeverSunshine13 for motivating me to get this up...even if I'm a few months slower than I had wanted to be.
To say she couldn't sleep was the understatement of the year. Even though her heart had stopped pounding in her chest nearly an hour earlier, M.K. still could feel the sensation of Nod's body, the weight of his chest leaning against her filling her with an excited warmth that just didn't seem to go away. Turning in her bed she tried to sleep, but it was just no use. No matter how hard she squeezed her eyes shut, or how many sheep she attempted to count, in the end her lips would curl up into a smile as she thought about the confused Leafman only a few doors away.
"Stop it. Go to sleep," she told herself as her mind flitted from their kiss to the way his body had looked when she had accidently walked in on him. Every little muscular, flexing ridge of him had been permanently seared to her brain, driving her insane. No man, magically made big or otherwise, had any right to look that way. It was just plain unfair. How would she ever get sleep with that memory floating around her head?
Letting out a frustrated puff of air, M.K. decided that there was no point staring at the ceiling. There was only one thing that could cure her sleeplessness. Well two, if she was being honest with herself, but there was no way she was going to go throw herself on Nod like a pining teeny bopper as much as she would like to. She would at least save herself that little bit of dignity even if every cell in her brain was screaming for her to toss her pride out the window.
"If he wants to see me he knows where I'm at," she whispered into the dark, affirming that it was a sense of feminine pride and not fear that kept her creeping down the dark hall, silently pushing past the guest room without stopping. Pride, she told herself again at the erratic thumps of her heart.
She moved down the steps carefully, avoiding as many of the squeaking ones as possible and made her way to the kitchen. Flipping on a light, she could almost feel the presence of her mother in the room, her warm smile lighting even the darkest, scariest corner on a stormy night. She had been afraid of the lightning and thunder as a child, her crying waking her mother up no matter how quiet she tried to be. Looking back, M.K. was sure that her mother grew tired of her illogical fear, but it never showed. She would always smile, pulling her up from bed and leading her to the kitchen. There she would tell her stories about brave little girls, wild little girls, and even little girls that were no bigger than the size of a bug. M.K. would sit and listen to these while the smell of chocolate rose from the worn pot on the stove. Without fail, she would find herself sleepily sipping on the warm treat, her mother's voice lulling her back to happy dreams only to find herself in her own bed once morning came.
Soon, fear of storms turned into sleepless nights worrying about her dad, but cocoa still soothed her anxieties. Then came the pressures of friendships and school, but her mom and her magical drink would put her mind at ease. They had never really had a chance to have too many restless nights over boys, M.K. realized as she began to heat the milk and add the chocolate. The few crushes she had in high school fizzled out before they caused her any heart ache and soon after that her mom had gotten sick. Nothing had seemed important after that.
"Wish you were here, mom," she said to the steaming pot. Her mom would know what to do and what to say to help her clear her head. She would tell her to listen to her heart and fight for the handsome boy that came from a different world, or she would stroke her hair and hold her while she reassured her that there were other boys out there, ones more attainable and relationships that weren't doomed to fail from the start.
A creak from the steps pulled her from her thoughts, as did the timid sound of footsteps moving towards the kitchen.
"Oh, you're up," came Nod's voice, sending a shiver up her spine.
Turning, she took in the unsure way he lingered in the doorway, his eyes looking from her to the stove and back again. Grabbing a second mug, she motioned for him to join her as she poured out her mother's drink. "I couldn't sleep, but this usually helps."
"What is it?" he asked, taking a seat at the table across from where she sat.
He raised an eyebrow before swirling the thick brown liquid in the mug she handed him and giving it a sniff. She held back a giggle at the surprised and excited look on his face as the sweet chocolaty scent hit him and turned his skeptical frown into a smile. The grin only grew after he took his first sip.
"What is this stuff?"
"It's my mom's old recipe for hot chocolate," she answered, smiling at the enthusiastic way he drank. "It's good, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it's a lot better than that other…" he trailed off, his cheeks turning red. "I mean it's good. Not to say that the other food wasn't good, it's just that this is –"
"Don't worry," she laughed, cutting him off. "My dad isn't known for his cooking. Mom always did the domestic stuff like making food. To be honest, I'm pretty sure my dad only ate bologna sandwiches after my mom left."
"Is that what we had tonight? Bologna?"
"No. There's no way I would have let him serve you that," she answered, her face scrunching up in disgust of the salty lunch meat. "Tonight actually was a pretty good effort on his part."
"Oh, well I didn't mean to make it sound like I didn't like it."
"Again, don't worry."
Nod looked up at her, his eyes a mess of emotions although it was worry that appeared the most. M.K. gave him a reassuring smile before reaching out and giving his hand a squeeze. "We'll find a way to fix this. We can use my dad's helmets and go into the forest tomorrow and try to find Ronin or someone to help."
"Do you think they might know what happened?"
"Well, from my experience at least, I'm sure the Queen can make you turn back. I mean if she can make me big, she should be able to make you little, right?"
"Yeah, you're right," he answered, his voice lacking any of the enthusiasm she expected. She was about to ask him what was wrong when he looked up, his brown eyes wide with what she was quickly realizing was fear. "Do you think she made me big?"
"What? No! I mean why would she do that?"
"I don't know, but it was Queen Tara that made you small and then the new Queen made you big."
"Well, yeah I see your point, but that doesn't explain why she would change you."
"Maybe I'm being punished. Maybe I did something wrong and they are banishing me."
The fear was clear in his voice this time and M.K. could at least somewhat understand it. Being magically turned into something you're not and put in a world you don't understand is frightening, although she couldn't imagine Nod ever doing anything so bad that he would be banished from Moonhaven. Even when he had abandoned the Leafmen Ronin had welcomed him back with open, if not slightly lecturing, arms. It seemed impossible that this was some sort of punishment.
Voicing her thoughts, she shook her head. "No. I doubt that. What could you have possibly done to be banished?"
"I don't know," he answered slowly. "But it's the only thing that makes sense. That or…"
"Or the boggans somehow have the power to do this and it was a way to shrink our forces."
"But if that's the case then why haven't there been more leafmen popping up huge in the forest? They wouldn't only get rid of you if they were planning something."
Nod shot up, cocoa spilling out of his mug. "What if they have? M.K, we have to go check!"
"Yes now! What if there are other leafmen that were turned big? We have to find them and figure out what the boggans are planning."
M.K. swallowed a sigh. She thought it was a longshot that the boggans were responsible for anything like this. From what she understood, they didn't have magic, only the Queen did. Wasn't that the whole point of their trying to get the pod a year earlier?
But Nod was determined, that much she could see. She wasn't about to abandon him even if she thought he was grasping at straws. If he wanted to search the forest she would help him and make sure he didn't get into trouble, just like he had helped her multiple times during her day being small. So she nodded and turned off the stove. "Okay, we can go look. Let me get my coat."