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everybody says that nothing ever lasts forever, so I'm hanging on tight trying to keep it all tied together

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“You’ve been smoking more lately,” Raihan points out, sitting on the edge of the yard, baby trapinch in his lap.

It’s the first hatchling of the year, and Raihan desperately hopes that means it’s a good omen. After the destruction of Spikemuth last year, and all the new, interesting ways people kept finding to challenge his faith in humanity, he needed this year to be good. He felt guilty, because really, Piers needed a good year more than him, but he balanced it out thinking they all needed a good year. It would be nice if things didn’t spiral out of control for once.

“Maybe,” Piers says, looking at the cigarette in his hand. “It’s a bad habit.”

“I’d gathered,” Raihan replies, voice dry, and shifts his hand so the trapinch can chew on his fingers, not hard enough to hurt, but more a… comfort gesture. It reminds him of flygon, when he was that small. “Considering how much you yell at me about it.”

Raihan doesn’t even really like smoking, he does it mostly to piss Piers off. Besides, his image would suffer for it, if he made a habit out of it. He’s still somewhat awkward, blatantly posting his face in social media, but it’s all part of the plan.

Rose can’t blacklist him, if he’s made himself a popular icon on his own terms.

That’s the theory, anyway. He needs to build up a big enough base, before he can test it by challenging the Chairman in anyway. Piers would be mad about it, if he knew what Raihan’s planning, but what he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him. Raihan has baby dragons on his side, the internet will be his plaything yet.

“Do as I say,” Piers singsongs, wry smile tugging his lips, “not as I do.”

“Does that shit even work on Marnie?” Raihan wonders, not bothering to hide the dubious look he’s giving his friend.

Piers snorts.

“You assume anything works on Marnie,” he says, and blows out a series of rings high above their head.

More often than not, Piers is like that, these days: dry and wry and a little bit resigned. Raihan worries and doesn’t know what to do with it. After all that’s happened, Piers is allowed to be sad and tired and resigned. He’s allowed to miss his Ma and feel overwhelmed by everything piling up high on his shoulders. He’s allowed to feel bad, but Raihan wishes he’d feel better. Raihan wishes he knew how to make him feel better, but he doesn’t. So he just sits with him, instead, when he drops by over the weekend, and he doesn’t ask who’s looking after Marnie when he does, and they sit at the edge of the yard and chat about nothing, staring at the looming towers of Hammerlocke right above them.

“You work on Marnie,” Raihan says, voice soft, and reaches a hand to hold one of Piers’. He squeezes it when Piers gives him a dubious look. “You do! She loves you.”

“I’m all she has,” Piers bites out, unconvinced, but he doesn’t pull away.

He’s prickly, like that. Reminds Raihan of ferrothorn, which might just mean Raihan likes naturally prickly things, with sharp edges and pointy bits that hurt if you don’t know how to handle them properly. He thinks he does know, though, how to handle Piers. He’s got practice.

“Just because you’re all she has doesn’t mean you’re not all she needs,” Raihan points out, and tugs his hand, pulling him up against his side. “She’s happy, y’know? With you. She’s happy and smart as all hell, and you’re doing alright.” And then, a whisper of inspiration. Or maybe intuition. It reminds Raihan of some of his siblings, the ones that were hurt, before they found their way to Mrs. Fairweather. The ones that cry and scream and kick and try so hard to lash out and hurt others the same way they were hurt. “She doesn’t love you because she has to. She just does.”

Piers seems startled by that, and then he laughs, closing his eyes.

“Shut the fuck up, Raihan,” he says, rubbing a hand on his face.

“Why?” Raihan teases, nudging him, until he’s got an arm wrapped around his shoulders. “’cause I’m right?”

His hair’s getting longer, Raihan notes, thick ropes twisted in themselves. It reminds him of Lydia and that hurts, and then he wonders what Piers feels like, looking in the mirror every day and seeing more and more of her stare back at him when he does. Raihan thinks he’s got his mom’s eyes and his dad’s jawline, but the memories are so foggy now, so distant, they don’t really hurt to think about. It’s more a curiosity than an open sore.

He doesn’t know when Piers will stop hurting, about his Ma and his town and everything else, and he doesn’t think it’s fair to even ask.

It’s shit, and it’s the kind of shit Raihan hates dealing with, because he doesn’t know how to fix it. He doesn’t know what to do. He might be doing something right, considering how often Piers drops by – and how their roles have reversed, now – but for all he knows he might be making it worse.

“Primarily,” Piers snorts, before he takes one last drag of his cigarette, a whole lungful of it, and then throws the still lit butt into a patch of dirt in the yard where no grass has grown back after turtonator burned it down last month. “I know it’s bad for me, that’s half the appeal.”

“What’s the other half?”

Piers grins.

“I’ll tell you when you grow up.”

Raihan frowns.

“The hell is that supposed to mean?”

Piers closes his eyes, basking in the hug.

“When you know, you’ll know.”

But he doesn’t light up another cigarette, and he looks game to take a nap right where he is, so Raihan decides not to argue. He can always argue more, he supposes. Later.

Later.

They’ve earned this much, at least.