Gifts and Feathers: The World's Most Awkward Hug
Location: Archery Range
Timeline: December 10th, 2009
Angel was dressed warmly from the waist down in heavy snow pants and boots, layered over thermal long johns and thick socks. But from the waist up she was only wearing the matching thermal top and the new glove Maus had gotten her. She'd braided her hair into an intricate crown and then pulled a heavy woolen cap down over her ears. She was standing at the farthest reaches of the range, though there were tracks going up and down the length of it where she had been working with her bow.
Said bow was currently on the table while Angel tweaked the sight. Before coming down here she had left a note for Zach. She knew when it came to weapons he was the go to guy and her bow had been due for maintenance.
Zach trotted up to where Angel was, dressed much the same way as her. Heavy lower body but body tight thermal top. Over his shoulder he had a leather satchel of his tools and another item that was a long black box with a handle in his right arm. He nodded to her as he walked up and set his tools on the table.
"Hello," he said neither cheerful nor gloomily.
Angel looked up beaming, some might think she was particularly happy to see him but most knew that an open smile such as this was her normal look for anyone she cared about. "Morning," she said setting down her tools and flexing her fingers, "she needs a tune up, bad. I can do some of it but I knew you could do it better."
Zach nodded in understanding. He set his tool belt down and then set his black carrying case next to it. "I finished you Christmas gift" he explained. In it was a new set of cams, they were a little bit bigger than the ones currently on her bow. The cam tracks were invisible as they were in the cam it self. The flat sides of the cams were covered in a celtic design of a cat on one side and a dog on another. There was also a new bow string as well. It was woven out of different polymers and wires that Zach found for cheap on line. Finally, there was a single arrow shaft. It was palest white with crimson feathers. The tip was replaced with a small round ball that shown bright in the winter light.
"The cams have a pull of 200lbs with 95% reduced pull the whole way. Unlike most bows, the design does not suffer from a loss of power or accuracy. It is a binary cam system so it will not be as powerful as it could be but accuracy of shot will compensate for now. The string will never wear out, stretch or rust. It is also designed to store potential energy on draw and release it when you let go. Further increasing power and accuracy. However, there will be an over all weight in crease of 5.43 ounces and a draw wieght increase of 1.123 lbs on your part. Is this acceptable?" He asked.
Angel practially glowed with anticipation as she looked over the items in the case, "Yes! They only just let me put the cams back on that had any weight reduction so it already feels super light."
Zach nodded and got to work. He quickly took apart her bow carefully but effieciently. He seemed to get lost in the process. After about 20 minutes he finished weaving the bow string together so it appeared to be only one continuous string. "Ok done. Now lets get testing so I get it fined tuned for you" he stated as he handed her the updated weapon.
Angel had hopped up to sit on one of the stumps near by, munching on a hunk of jerky while Zach worked. She knew better then to interrupt him so just watched and fidgeted. She was wearing a very tight sports bra to keep 'the girls' out of her way as was her habit when she practiced, but when she wasn't practicing it was bloody uncomfortable. She could understand why the amazons lopped off their extra bits, though she would never consider such a thing.
When he finished Angel hopped down and slogged through the snow to look over his work with a smile, offering him the paper bag of jerky she had been munching from. She used a small towel to clean off her fingers then ran them over every inch of the work he'd done, not checking for mistakes but appraising the changes so she could better use the weapon. Once she was satisfied she ducked under the strap of her quiver and drew out one of her practice shafts but she didn't draw she looked at Zach.
"What distance do you want me to start at?" Angel asked, looking at him for her cues.
"The worst case scenario are two. Max distance and with-in 20 yards so lets start with Max distance first and then 20 yards. If we can get those tuned then we should be fine." Zach stared for a moment and then asked "How reliant are you on the sight?"
Angel shrugged as she hefted the new bow, "I keep it tuned as a back up, like a calculator to check your homework. Or to compensate in bad weather."
Zach nodded, "Good, in real combat there will be little time to match up the site with your target." He removed her stablizer and replaced with with one of his own. It was smaller and small perfect sphere of flat gray that reflected no light at all. "This will be a better balance for you. Since you are using weight reduction you can depend on the muscle you have built to maintain the stability you have lost." He handed the finely tuned bow to her and stated "Ok, lets get to tuning."
Angel nodded moving into the area of cleared snow she had shoveled early that morning and rolled her shoulders loosening up from sitting in the cold. She shifted the small piece of jerky in her mouth to the far back and wedged it between her teeth so she could take a slow controlled breath as she took aim from the farthest reaches of her range.
The shot wasn't perfect, landing in the first ring out of center making Angel growl under breath in annoyance at herself.
Zach looked on without comment. What would he say, Angel's focus on the bow was greater than his but nonetheless he spoke "Empty the quiver. Then we will adjust."
Angel nodded, it wasn't her usual smiling and enthusiastic nod instead it was a small curt movement as her mind focused fully on the task at hand. Slowly she began taking arrow after arrow out of her quiver and firing it. This was her method of meditation, where others might sit around muttering Ohm or fight until they are too exhausted to think, it was this precise set of motions, the pull of the arrow from the quiver, the deft motion of notching the butt to the string, the pull back, perfectly controlled, then the release and satisfying thud as the arrow hit home. Over and over she did this until the quiver was empty, her mind ticking off the arrows so that when the last one was gone she didn't reach for another only turned to look at Zach.
Zach nodded and without a word reached out to for the bow and handed it back to her and a fist full of arrows. This process was repeated over and over for the next hour. Angel getting a tighter and tighter grouping and the balance getting better and better with each adjustment. Soon, without a word spoken they both knew the bow was tuned perfectly for her and Zach put his tools up.
"Now it is time to have some real fun," he stated flatly and motioned her to follow him.
Angel locked the bow and slung it across her back before filling her quiver one more time and jogging to catch up with Zach. They had been oddly silent for her, no small talk, laughter, just work, but it was a good work, something she enjoyed so while it was odd, it wasn't uncomfortable.
Zach led Angel to one of the many open fields around the school. They came upon a table where their laid several different model bows. Along with a large box full of arrows. Also next to the table was a tennis ball launcher and several large buckets of tennis balls. Zach turned and grinned at Angel.
"I hope this will be a bit of fun for you and perhaps educational. According to your vision you were actually firing into us. I am assuming that this will happen before and again after that vision. So I figured since accuracy will be more important for you in the long run than power. So the exercise is simple, I am going to turn on the machine and hand you a bow that you are not use too and shoot the balls out of the air. Is this acceptable?"
"Sure," Angel said brightly, setting aside her bow carefully and unbuckling the quiver to lay with it. Since the attack at thanksgiving she rarely went anywhere without her bow, not for her protection, but for its. She took a few seconds to take off her hat, pull out the band in her hair and retame the mass of curls back into a messy mass at the back of her head but completely out of the way. She set the hat with her other things and then looked at Zach, "Where do you want me?"
"Stand here. I will position the launcher to shoot at from the same side. I want you hit the tennis balls as they fly forward. Once you care comfortable with the concept, we will move the launcher to aim at you. Understand?" Zach stated as he adjusted the tennis ball launcher.
Angel nodded losing a little of her blasé attitude as she took up her stance and waited for him to hand her a weapon.
Zach moved the launcher and put the settings on the highest it would go speed wise but set the time to be about 4 seconds between launches. He nodded at Angel and then turned it on.
Angel took the bow he handed her a short recurve; her first two shots missed, though the second one took a tuft of green from the side of the tennis ball. Her next few shots were spot on, skewering the tennis balls almost perfectly through the center as she adjusted to the new bow.
As they worked Angel grew more relaxed and comfortable, changing weapons and getting more comfortable with the exercise. Before they could change tactics she asked in a somewhat raised voice to be heard over the ball launcher, "So what's your deal Zach? I've never seen you really interested in any one, is it girls? Guys? Sock puppets?"
Zach paused for one second before responding, "You are correct, I am not interested in anyone." He reduced the timing so that a ball was now being released every 2.5 seconds. Sensing that some kind of banter was warranted he replied back, "Are you going to have sex with Drake?"
Angel snorted keeping up with the new pace though part of her wondered if he was doing it to shut her up, "Not likely. He's into Cat and vice versa, and they neither seem the sharing type. No other then Kyort to pay for Cat's tat, I don't have anyone on my dance card." She fluttered her lashes at him when he handed her a new bow, another recurve but longer and a lot harder to draw, her tone was playful as she drew back and fired, "Why? You offering?"
"No. I assumed you were expecting me to ask a similar question back. I guess it does make sense that Cat and Drake will have sex, they both act absurdly strange in front of each other" he replied "This is clearly easy for you. One second." he turned the tennis ball machine off and moved down the way and then pointed it at her. He then without asking turned it on so the balls were firing at her. He then ran to stand next to her so they could continue talking. "No ducking. Is there anyone you are interested in boys, girls, rotor rooter?"
Angel laughed, shooting him a bright grin, but she focused for the first minute, this was harder and hurt a hell of a lot more when she missed. She took one ball to the hip when a glancing hit didn't turn the ball enough and another to the shoulder before she dialed in her shots. Only once she was back in the rhythm of it did she speak, "No, no one in particular has caught my eye. As for Cat and Drake, I think it's less about the sex, though I am sure that will happen, and more about attraction, mentally rather then physically. Drake is fascinated by her, not just her looks but her life, she's been his life line to getting to know our world. And for her, he's the only person she's ever physically been attracted to, that I know of, and the idea frightens and intrigues her."
Zach nodded careful to keep an eye on her work while paying attention to the conversation. He did not know what else to say so he focused on what he knew. "Your aim is flawless and what I thought I could add is not necessary. My only suggestion is to practice making shots while on the move if you are not doing so already," just as he finished the statement that last ball whirled out and the machine turned off.
"The more time I spend on this," Angel said setting down the last bow and stretching her shoulders by clasping her hands behind her back and pushing outward, "the less time I have to spend on the mats getting my ass kicked. I am not exactly what one might call athletic..." She pushed a curl out of her face and smiled at him, she was a little shaky and more winded then she looked, her breathing calm and steady but deep and her muscles were screaming from the unaccustomed bows. "My next goal is to get better at shooting from horse back I think that will be the closest I can get to practicing for shooting while in flight."
"Your analysis is correct but realize, I would not have been able to preform the same level you are at now," he said as he moved to pick up the area around him.
"You might if you practiced as much as I do," Angel said as she bent to touch her toes, she would help him clean up but she needed to stretch out her muscles or they would seize up on her. Once she'd finished her stretching she went to fetch one of the ball buckets and began helping him retrieve her victims, "So where is it you keep running off to. You used to run all over the island, now you seem to only go in one direction..."
Zach stared at her for a moment, "I got bored. The one directions leads to the preserve across the way to harder, harsher terrain."
"Wouldn't that in itself get boring though?" Angel prompted, she wasn't prying, just curious how his mind worked. Most people were open books to her, she knew how to manipulate most people, not that she was looking for leverage, she just wanted to understand someone who just didn't think like the rest of the world.
"Variation comes after you leave the actual island," replied Zach and he dumped an armful of tennis balls into a bin.
"I might have to tag along one day, see this variation you rave about," Angel said cheekily as she began pulling arrows out of tennis balls.
"Running is one of the few things that brings me close to peace that does not require an opponent. I would prefer to keep that if at all possible," Zach replied evenly and calmly while pulling an arrow out of a tennis ball.
"It's not a competition Zach, it was an offer of company," Angel said, dropping her teasing tone, "I'll leave you to it then, I just thought it might help with my cardio and give us a chance to bond." She stopped what she was doing and looked at him, "You know, just because you aren't close with most of us like you are with Pike, we all care about you right?"
Zach nodded to her as the only response. His face giving no sign of emotion of appreciation, hate or anything. He was now analyzing the arrows to see which ones would need to be repaired, trashed or saved.
On impulse Angel moved to wrap her arms around his shoulders and hug him, she was one of the more touchy feel-y students so this wasn't uncalled for, she had just never thought to hug Zach before.
Just as her arms were about to land on his shoulders Zach deftly ducked under them to the left side while spinning to come up facing behind her arms empty. Zach simply asked, "What are you doing?"
Angel stumbled but recovered before she fell on her ass in the mud, if only just. She had known that other then Pike and instructors, no one touched Zach unless it was in combat training. "It's called a hug Zach, hug, a noun meaning the act of holding someone tightly in one's arms, typically to express affection?" though the words could have been snarky, her tone was gentle.
"We are not having sex so such a thing is not necessary," replied Zach clearly not getting it. He gathered the bows to return the weapons closet. "I hope the gift is adequate, if I need to make any changes let me know. I will clean up the rest."
"The gift is wonderful Zach, I love it, thank you. But I am not going to let this drop, if I do you are going to have a very wrong impression of me. What I was trying to say was that affection doesn't have to be about sex," Angel tried to explain, she kept her distance from him close but not within his personal space, "I wasn't coming on to you honey, I wouldn't do that, I know you aren't attracted to me. It was just a way to show that I care about you, as a sibling, to thank you for this time, to say I had fun all in a simple gesture."
Zach was thoroughly confused and wondered if this was tied to the females in general, he would ask Ms. Summer later about this. For now it seemed as if Angel was concerned about something and he was trying hard to understand what. "If you want to hug me then you may do so," replied Zach finally. He set down the table and stood arms by his sides waiting.
Angel walked over and stood on tip toe so she could come closer to his hight. She hugged him for half a heartbeat and with only the slightest pressure before leaving a quick peck of a kiss on his cheek then letting him go. She wasn't smiling and was in fact a little sad, but tried not to let it show, none of her instincts for people worked with Zach, she wanted to figure him out but the very challenge of it she knew would be too much for him. She moved away and said, "I had fun. Maybe next time we could go riding."
Zach only nodded and moved to pick up the table to finish cleaning up.
Angel would have helped him, but decided that they had made enough progress for the day. Nodding to herself she picked up her bow and quiver and the little paper bag of jerky and left.