|By the Grain|
|Summary:||Chrix and Maggie get the brewery back under way.|
|It's an orchard. There's a brewery. Derp.|
|September 27th 289|
Chrix' shirt was cast aside as him and the rest of the men and women and children of the brewery - any and all who was fit to do manual labor was expected to contribute - assisted in the process of getting the grain delivery to the malt house, an annex to the brewery itself. Sweat made his hair a sticky mess that clung to his scalp, and turned his bronze flesh into a slick canvas of constantly shifting planes and angles, young lean muscle bunching and stretching while he shoveled the grains from the wagon load, and onto wheelbarrows that ran back and forth. It was hard, backbreaking work, but the ache in his back and his thighs, and in his shoulders and his arms.. was a sweet ache.
It was a joy to finally have the means to start production again, even if this inferior fodder grain wouldn't leave them anywhere close to full capacity, nor would they be able to produce after his family's special recepies, which demanded certain mixtures of fine grains and herbs. It didn't matter. Making something was better than making nothing, and so he was smiling while he shoveled, taking only the occasional break to wipe sweat off his brow, or waiting for another wheelbarrow to arrange itself properly.
One such wheelbarrow was under the control of Maggie Huntington, who couldn't possibly afford to be anywhere but where she was. The woman's dress, while not brown…was grey and she'd tempered it with an apron that was a deep dark blue. Almost black, but not quite. Today was the first day she'd worn anything but black and it felt…good. Right. A new beginning even as the brewery was promised a new beginning with the much needed grain that'd been promised by the Lady Anais.
So her sleeves were pushed up to her elbows and those blond curls were set far tighter about her head where sweat made them cling and bounce and Maggie…Maggie was smiling. Even when she looked at Chrix and sometimes, because she looked at Chrix. "You've the look of a man who could use a cold drink," the woman offered, those gray eyes lapping up the length of his figure and back again. It was the first time she'd been over on his side; the first half of the deliver had been spent seeing to the unloading, before she'd relieved one of the older workers who'd looked fit to fall over.
Chrix straightened out as his step mother came close, a languid ripple of motion that made him curl his toes and spread his arms out wide as they went. A pleasured groan of contentment spilled past his lips as he stood there atop of the wagon. He pulled on the hankerchief tucked through his belt, unraveling it before giving a daub on his forhead, and the back of his neck, getting rid of some of the sweat. His father would've never partaken in the hard physical work himself, just stood astride the workers and whipped with his bellows to work harder, faster, get the bloody job done you lazy fuckers.
There weren't enough of them left for Chrix to take route. They needed his arms, and besides, he couldn't afford to antagonize what few hands they had left after the invasion. He needed every single one of them, at least until the brewery was running soundly again and he could be picky about hirings.
"I -could- use a cold drink," Chrix said cheerfully, propping his hands atop the shovel's handle, and leaning against it for a brief respite. His usually so detatched eyes had a gleam of vitality in them today, a light that transformed his whole face into a shining beacon of contagious enthusiasm. His bright toothed smile invited smiles of everybody around him, even from the downthrodden old hands who'd lost so much.
"By the Smith, my back hurts. But all I can think of is I wish there was more."
"I could bring you out some water?" Maggie offered, hopeful eyes finally walking their way back up towards his face. "Or if you'd like somewhat else?" Inquired; a little wrinkle of her brows following as well when he said his back hurt; those storm tossed eyes searching him for signs of further pain or imagined hurts. "There will be more though, Chrix, in time and we'll get back to full production."
"You're inspiring them," she continued, lips quirking faintly at the corner. "It's nice to see. I always knew you had it in you but…it's different, seeing you doing it. It's nice, Chrix." But…but he looked happy didn't he. Infectious. And it was entirely too inviting. Strangely so.
"You're…nice to see." Blink blink. But then her smile turned shy and her head dipped to the side in an attempt to hide it and she shuffled from one foot to the other. "Can I help you?"
His attention flowed over her, like a dam breached and a warm summer beaver pond spilling out in a powerful rush. In a second taken in the whole of her, no restraint in it at all, nothing like the look a step son aught to be giving his older step mother. But it came with a smile, still, and after a second it passed as his brief break came to an end with the need to throw more grain into another rickety wheel barrow. He bent his back to the task, spreading his legs to get leverage, then wielding the shovel with brisk purpose. Quick purposeful throws that descended into a flawless rythm.
He didn't say anything more until he'd filled up the waiting shuttle, and sent the man on his way.
"Water'd be real nice," he admitted, wiping off some more sweat. "Nice and cool. Perhaps for the workers, too, if you don't mind."
"I don't mind," came the woman's reply, with a low dip of her head. Weeks it'd been, hadn't it? Months almost. With this boy who made absolutely certain she knew that he would never be her son. Some days she didn't think about it at all and when she didn't? When she didn't it was easier and she faired better. Time tends things, perhaps it really was true. So she asked Matthews if he'd take over the wheelbarrow that she'd brought over and a murmured her thanks with the brush of a hand against the man's shoulder before she swept away.
It was a good ten minutes before she returned; a heavy bucket of water that sloshed with every step; fresh and cool enough to leave a chill when it went down, while her free hand juggled a tray and a plethora of mismatched wooden cups. She set it off on a covered barrell off to the side, put one of the younger boys in charge of seeing that everyone got their fill and took a cup, herself, back over to her son.
When she returned, Chrix finally allowed himself a break. He tossed the shovel into the hands of another, before leaping off the back of the wagon and landing with the thoughtless bouncy ease of youth. His chest heaved with deep bellows as he caught his breath, leaning against the wide of the wagon. The sun's summer rays felt down from the heavens in a steady rain of warmth, with just enough cloud cover that it wasn't completely smothering.
His eyes were on Maggie while she organized the refreshment, well earned by now, and still on her while she approached him. He said nothing, not even once she was up close. Just accepted the cup when it was offered, his fingertips brushing against the side of her palm during the transfere. A lazy forward shove, then, that got them standing side by side. His eyes finally parting ways with her blond-framed features, to take in the bustling activity.
"This is nice." A bit of water splashed against his chin as he drank a quick swallow, a drip-drip of icy cold that swept down onto his chest.
"It is, isn't it? Seeing things start again," Maggie mused; reaching up to tuck one of those wild strands back in behind her ear. "I wasn't…," she began and trail off on a long suffering sigh. "I didn't think, not really. I was afraid to hope, Chrix," she admitted at length; lifting her eyes to meet his face. "Watching it all fall and then slide further, like the work we did manage didn't seem to matter. It's been so long," the woman shook her head then, to help banish the thoughts that plagued it.
"But you didn't," and that's the part that makes her smile. "You didn't doubt. You always kept working towards something better, kept trying and dragging me along too, when I got stuck in the mud just waiting on the river to carry me away. You didn't quit. And it's paying off now…because of you." It ended with a little nod then, as she leaned in and pressed her lips against the curve of his cheek. "Thank you." A wealth of sincerity in it too, of appreciation.
"I don't give up on something I want," Chrix said with quiet sincerity, and perhaps more meaning behind the words than was immediately noticable. He took another sip, more water slipping down his smooth shaven chin. There wasnt enough hair growth on him yet to let him grow a proper beard without it looking like a child's immitation of a grown up, and that wasn't an association he wanted anyone to make while looking at him.
"And I wanted this. I've always wanted this." He nudged a gesture in the direction of the freshly reconstructed brewery, the hard packed dirt courtyard in the center of the buildings. It took in the expansive orchard behind them from where they drew the fruits required to make their famous cinder, and it took in the large dwelling that had once been home to the whole Huntington clan. The exterior might have been largely repaired, to keep the weather out, but inside it was just a gutted shell still. He'd change that, once they started making coin again.
"Anyways. Thanks." For the water. He passed the cup back to her, then jumped back onto the wagon and reclaimed his shovel.
"I always wandered," Maggie's reply was softly given, hardly more than a whisper in truth because it touched upon things they didn't discuss, like the past. "In truth, I think I just kept waiting on you to go, to run and leave it all behind and find something better to do with your life as far away as you could get. And then when you did go, when you sent that letter," if a few words scrawled on a scrap of parchment happened to be a letter, "Even when it was done I wasn't sure that you'd ever come back. I don't think I'd have blamed you if you hadn't, either."
But if he had, there'd have never been this. It'd have fallen, just like she had fallen, until eventually there was nothing left. "You're welcome," she offered at length; reclaiming the cup for all that she turned it over in her hands peering down at its depths.
"Now you know better," he told her over his shoulder, not looking at her while he did. Instead he smiled at the worker he replaced, clapping the man on the shoulder before taking the shovel to the grain and throwing a load onto the waiting wheelbarrow. "I don't run away, Maggie. I endure. Patience. Hah!" He threw his head back, laughed, a boyishly delighted sound while he threw another shovel full, the grains soared through the air, then fell down into a cascading rain of rattling brown and gold. "Patience and endurance, and willingness to take a knock. In a month we'll all get drunk on the first batch."
"You're something else, you know that," Maggie mused, with a little shake of those golden girls and a hint of a smile. It meant the world to see him like that. Happy and glowing and just a little bit carefree, even if she knew it wouldn't last and that it wasn't carefree at all. "But I'll hold you to it," she mused and was still smiling even as she turned to go. A slow content little wandering to collect cups as she went and if it should happen to take her wandering in the direction that she was supposed to have met him in then…so be it.