My first Epic fanfiction! This movie is now one of my favorites ever.

I own nothing, for I am a poor impoverished teenager.

"You're supposed to be cleaning up in here, not dressing down."

Nod barely gave Ronin a glance before he returned his gaze to his forearms as he meticulously extracted himself from his upper layer of armor. Minutes before the rest of the battling force of leafmen had emerged, armor righted, to greet the new queen. Ronin had stood off to one side, allowing a nurse to flutter uselessly around him, and when he didn't spot the familiar brown mop amongst the heads of the kneeling soldiers, he had waved her off and gone searching.

"Nod," Ronin insisted, moving inside the now empty quarters of the leafmen, "Nod, are you listening? You can't go greet the queen in your underarmor."

"What? Oh," Nod looked down at his torso, a bit surprised at how the honeycombed green material was no longer covered by the hardened shell of his breastplate. "I wasn't… I wasn't thinking. Sorry."

"Hey." Ronin approached the younger jinn carefully. "Are you alright?" He looked him over quickly. Nothing seemed broken, and the only visible wounds he sported from the battle were a few scrapes across his cheek and nose.

Nod sat down heavily, rubbing his face with his hands. "I'm fine," he said shortly, "just… taking it all in, you know?" he offered up a brief smile from between his fingers, "Don't get all overprotective on me now." He removed his hands from his face and began to scratch at one already scabbed cut on his cheek.

"Don't pick at that," Ronin instructed automatically, not quite hearing his own words, "it'll scar."

Nod withdrew his hand and seemed surprised at the blood beneath his fingernail. He then returned his hand to his face, leaning into it tiredly.

Ronin considered Nod for a moment before taking a seat beside him, wincing as pain passed like a wave through him. Countless boggans later he was still standing, if only just barely. Tara would have… the thought put a bitter taste in his mouth that he had gotten all too familiar with. Tara would have been happy to see him make it. She had been happy to see him.

The thought of Tara still brought pain to him, even though it had paled a bit following her final smile at him, telling him silently everything he needed to know. Ronin glanced at Nod, lost in his thoughts, eyes locked on his feet. He could go anywhere, truly, it had been Ronin who had insisted on him joining the leafmen, which had seemed nearly harmless at the time, but had brought on so much pain and destruction.

He spoke without looking at Nod, seated still beside him; just let the words come, heavy and broken. "Look, if you still don't want to be a leafman… you don't have to—"

"What?" Nod cut in sharply, making Ronin look at him in surprise. The young jinn stood up sharply and began to pace, shaking his head and gripping his fists. "After all this, after everything, you still don't think I'm cut out for it. "

"That's not what I said," Ronin cut in, and tried to stand. His head spun momentarily, but he as on his feet again. "Nod, listen to me—"

"You can't just… just throw away everything I've done—"


"You don't get to lecture me!" Nod stood, panting, the cut on his cheek pearling bright spots of red. "I'm not going back from this, Ronin, no matter how you think I screwed up or failed or any of it…" he trailed to a stop before sucking in a breath and pressing out, "You have no idea what I—"

He couldn't help it. Ronin snapped out, "Oh, you're going to yell at me, now? Is that what's going to make this better?" He made a vague gesture towards Nod's entire person.

"I don't know." His voice is strained and desperate. Nod looked like he was about to drown.

"Nod." It isn't an order to stay quiet, or a plea to hold his attention, but Nod still closes his mouth and looks at Ronin with hunted eyes. "I wasn't saying that you should leave. I was giving you a choice. I made my choice because of Tara. And I suppose that after you saw what that does… what a real battle is like, not patrols that you just want to blast through on your bird. Now that you, you and MK…"

"She's gone." The sharpness of his tone stopped Ronin in his tracks. Nod was looking everywhere else in the room except where Ronin was standing. "MK… she's a stomper, and I'm just… we got one kiss. One kiss and I'll probably never see her again."

Ronin took a moment before speaking up quietly, "That's more than I got."

"Oh, Ronin, I'm… I wasn't thinking." Nod looked properly abashed, although the lost look in his eyes was still present.

"If there's anything else you want to scream at me about, now seems a pretty good time to get it off your chest." Ronin halfway extended his arms on either side, only to draw them back in, muscles screaming that any unneeded motion was evil.

Nod was silent for a long moment. "Remember… remember inside her father's house, when she got captured in that machine of his? She was holding onto my hand, and I tried not to let her go. But she just… slipped through my fingers. I guess I just thought that I would only have to go through that once. I keep losing people. MK, you, my dad… I'm not losing being a leafman. Not now. It's all I really have."

Ronin picked up one of Nod's abandoned gauntlets, weighed it in his hand, and then threw it.

"Ow." Nod rubbed at one side of his head. "What was that for?"

"For being an idiot, what else?" Ronin snapped. "You've still got MK, stomper or no, she's a part of you now, a part of the leafmen. She'll find a way back to you."

"Yeah, yeah, leaves, tree, I get it. But how do you know that she understands that? That she'll even try?"

"Because of how she looks at you," Ronin replied simply. Color rushed to Nod's face. "And your father never wanted to leave you. Even now, I see parts of him in you, the way you walk, how you talk, how infuriating you get sometimes." The last part is added on with a fond smile. "You're not defined by the people who come before and after you. You're defined by yourself. Leafman or no. That's your choice."

Nod rubbed one hand roughly through his hair with a long exhalation of breath. "Okay, I get it. It's just, so much has happened in the last day."

"And now a new day awaits. New day, new queen, new leafman who should be at least partially clothed when he goes to meet her." Ronin threw the other gauntlet at Nod, this time not aiming to injure. Nod caught it with a dry look and began to strap all his abandoned armor into place, even rolling down his sleeves at Ronin's stern look.

"There," he said, spreading out his arms, "all dolled up."

Ronin nodded towards his neck. "Try again."

With a loud groan that was almost as upbeat as his usual one, Nod began to fumble at the neck of his underarmor, rarely ever fully closed. Smartly, Ronin pushed Nod's hands out of the way and began to work the hooks and clasps on the neck of the underarmor.

"Oh, come one, what am I, eight?"

"No; eight year olds can dress themselves. I swear, the last leafman I saw who left his neck exposed in battle…" his hands froze, the underarmor fully secured.

Nod stepped quietly into the silence. "Was my father."

Ronin swallowed heavily. Exposed neck. Boggan arrows. "Yeah," he agreed. "Your father." He moved his hands to hold Nod's shoulders. "He would be proud of you. I'm proud of you." He thinks, momentarily, that that will be the end of it and he could get Nod to put on more of his overarmor and finally get out to where the Queen and the others are waiting, but then Nod was latched onto him, arms tightening around him in an embrace.

"Ow." Ronin grunted, chest singing with pain at the surprise attack. But he still found himself returning the hug for the briefest of moments before gently pushing him away.

"Sorry." One of Nod's hands was at his eyes, and his lips curved into a smile even as he sniffed loudly. "I just…" he chuckled quietly, "I'm just really glad you're alive."

Ronin scoffed. "Remind me of that tomorrow when I'm begging for death from all this." He gestured down his torso, covered in ratty and destroyed armor, and Nod let out a quiet laugh.

"I should have figured that it would take more than the entire army of boggans to keep you down," Nod said, beginning to walk towards the coronation room. Ronin fell into step beside him, the pain forgotten, for a moment.

"Yeah, and don't forget it. Seems like you're stuck with me."

"Wouldn't have it any other way," Nod replied, and Ronin believed him.

Hopefully they were in character. Review, please?