Ronin wasn't sure what MK was doing, but it was certainly peculiar. She had many round glass balls, tiny to her, but was around half his size. Currently, she was lying on her front on the floor, with many of those balls scattered about the floor. MK was picking some of those balls from a small bag and flicking them at the ones on the floor.
"What are you doing? And what are those?" he asked in confusion.
MK answered distractedly, focused on what she was doing. "They're called marbles. They're just tiny, decorative glass balls. Usually you make a game out of them, though there's an actual professional game set up for them and that they're also just collected by people."
He wasn't quite sure he got all of that, but he amused himself by settling down by her head and watching her aim and take shots at the other "marbles," trying to hit them and knock them away.
"It seems a bit pointless," Ronin mused, though he held no particular judgmental tone. "But I can see its entertainment value."
"Mm," Mk hummed. "Good, senseless, and idle fun. No need to make it all complex and headache-inducing. Sometimes, the simple things in life is where it's all at."
Ronin thought about that, and decided it was a good philosophy, and maybe one he should look into. He had the tendency to always make things bigger than they were, and to always make things harder on himself. Her thought, if anything, was a less stressful way to deal with things.
He'd appreciate the less stress in his life.
The bounce of the marble came dangerously close to where he was. At last second, Ronin dodged to the side.
"You might want to be a little more faster, Ronin," MK teased. "You might end up being crushed."
"You just worry about yourself!" which, on second thought, was stupid. She was the one tossing those damn marbles, while he was the one running and dodging.
He was slightly regretting asking MK to help him train.
But ever since his retirement, he felt odd going to the training grounds and training with the others. The other Leafmen made it worse by continually sending him looks and walking on eggshells around him. Nod, who was there a lot as well, tended to treat Ronin as if he was going to fall apart at any second and he had to be careful with what he said and did around the former Leaf General.
And yet Ronin, despite being retired, still wanted to keep fit and on his game. Just because he was retired didn't mean he could let himself go, and generally be lazy. So he still had to find a way to keep himself combat-ready and find a way to train, which lead to him asking MK for her opinion and help.
Which led to him dodging dangerous marbles aimed to seriously knock him out if he didn't get away in time.
He was, by the end of this, sure he'd be faster and more evasive than the others. How could he not, when his life was in danger from crazy, giggling red-heads and glass balls of doom?
The marbles, it turned out, were good for strength and endurance training too. One day, he decided he would push one from one end of MK's room to the other. It actually took a lot of work. But the more he did it, the more easily it started to become.
He could also train his balance on them, as he climbed on top of one and attempted to keep on it. It had been a struggle climbing onto one in the first place.
He realized after a while, that MK's room had sort of become his new training ground, and he found that it suited him just fine.
Ronin was exhausting himself more often than not in his new training rituals. Had he done so back in his old training grounds in Moonhaven, there had been break areas where the Leafmen could rest up. He had also just been able to fly back to his home hurriedly.
But since he now trained in MK's room, he didn't really have either option. Thankfully MK, astute as ever, had noticed without him even needing to say anything. He tended to exhaust himself so often in her room, that after a particular hard training session, he'd just pass out peacefully on her floor, to which she'd then carry and lay him on her bed.
So when Ronin had come to visit MK some days after she'd noticed –without him noticing –, he found that she'd set up her old dollhouse for him. It had been cleaned, spruced up, and a very welcoming bed and some chairs had been added for him to relax in. A small bowl of water was set out next to it, and the tiny cup (that Professor Bomba probably made) that was put by the bowl, was ready for him to scoop water out of it and drink as much as he wanted.
He grinned at her as she grinned back, and couldn't help that he was starting to feel very much at home.
Ronin was finding it harder and harder to sleep in his own home. There were nights where he had dreams that he didn't want to dream of, nights were he just felt unable to sleep and was probably plagued with insomnia, and then there were nights where the cold, quiet, and loneliness of his home began to bother him too much.
Circles lined under his eyes and he couldn't sleep much anymore. As he walked around Moonhaven these days, his state was noticeable and everyone tended to just give him worried looks, and he got treated like glass even worse than usual. To stay away from everyone and their looks, he usually stayed in his home. And if he didn't stay in his home, he was in MK's home, which was happening far more than even usual.
It felt more comfortable and less taxing to be there and in her presence, than it was dealing with everyone back in Moonhaven.
And as he listened to the "classical music" MK put on as she worked on some papers ("applications" of some sort…), he could feel his eyes drift close.
The long needed and wanted sleep came to him then, when it was so hard to get in his home.
He noticed it quickly. He had so much trouble sleeping in his own home that it wasn't that hard to note the difference.
He found no peace in his own home and could never easily sleep there anymore. But as he slumbered more and more in MK's room, in his own little spot in the dollhouse, he realized that he had come to see and was finding MK's room and "his" dollhouse more home than the place he lived in in Moonhaven.
He was spending more time in MK's room than in Moonhaven as a whole. He slept, lived, ate and drank in MK's room, with the occasional and rather rare days and nights where Finn (and sometimes Nod) would prod him into joining them and the others to hang out or have a drink or two.
But he was coming to find that he felt more at peace and more at home with MK in her home and in her room, than anywhere else these days.
His sleep went uninterrupted in the nights where he stayed over, and he wasn't at war with himself and with everyone else.
And MK, sweet as always, was an ever constant, quiet, and solid presence.
When Ronin was sleeping, he dreamt. He dreamt of Tara, he dreamt of Moonhaven, and then he was dreaming of MK and her room. Sometimes he dreamt of all three of them, he, Tara, and MK, just peacefully sitting together in a familiar field.
He could never hear what any of them was saying, but Tara would have a wide, happy smile and she would say something that had MK giggling. He would feel himself smile, though he had no idea what was said. He felt like an outsider looking in; like he was out of his body.
Tara used to be everywhere, haunting him, even when she was smiling so happily. And then all of a sudden, MK was everywhere, and she was in his dreams, there when he was awake, there when he was content, and there when he was tired or sad.
And when he started dreaming of that familiar field later on, Tara wasn't there anymore, and it was just MK looking around lost like she wasn't sure what she was doing there and she was looking for someone to be there too. And then she'd look his way and she'd smile brightly, and hold out her hand to him.
She was always there when he was awake and stuck in reality. When he closed his eyes, he could still see her.
Dreams were more pleasant these days (he'd never had such good dreams, or had even be able to dream so well his entire life), and sleeping wasn't such a chore now.
"If you need me, know I'll be there."
These nights, dreaming of that field and of MK, she says that to him all the time, and he believed it wholeheartedly.
Home is where the heart is. That's what Tara used to tell him all the time. Though he'd never denied that, he'd never put much thought or focus on the saying. He let Tara say it and he would indifferently agree…
But now he was sure he'd found a home.
Home where he was happy to have meals with Bomba and MK, and felt like family. Home where he could rest easily, and where he had his space and yet also had someone willing to wait there and hold out their hand. Her hand.
Home was where MK was, he realized.
Because his heart was right there.
"A lazy day?" Ronin teased as he climbed in through her window.
MK tossed him a grin from where she was lying on her bed, taking off one of her earbuds and the faint music drifting from them was heard.
"I suppose you can say that," she laughed lightly.
She held out a hand to him and he jumped onto it, keeping himself dignified and balanced on her curved palm. She lifted him over and closer to her, settling him down on her shoulder. She lifted the earbud not in her ear and handed it over to him, and he sat down comfortably while holding it. He closed his eyes, unknowingly at the same time she did, and listened to what she was listening to.
"I didn't know that it was so cold
And you needed someone to show you the way
So I took your hand and we figured out
That when the time comes
I'd take you away~"
He smiled slightly, feeling himself drifting away and becoming drowsy.
"If you want to, I can save you; I can take you away from here. So lonely inside, so busy out there. And all you wanted was somebody who cares…"
He peeked one eye open and looked at her, recognizing her softly singing that part.
'Thanks for caring' he wanted to say to her, but the words got stuck in his throat.
So all he could do was give a full, if soft, smile towards her, even if she couldn't see with her eyes closed.
From his spot in the dollhouse, laid out on his front on his tiny bed, he gazed out of the window of MK's room and to the outside. The outside he never really felt like venturing back to, at least not beyond the borders of this house.
The stars twinkled in the sky, and it was quiet. He could hear MK's breathing as she slept on, while he stayed awake and aware.
Nothing felt out of place. Not even him.
"I'm home," he murmured.
He was home.
He acknowledged that while he wasn't as fragile as everyone else had thought he was, that Ronin had still not been feeling strong.
There was pain and there had been sorrow. And he had felt that.
He needed a friend, someone to lean on. He didn't need someone to carry him, make him feel like a burden and breakable.
MK had been that friend and he had leaned on her all this time.
When he felt like he couldn't do it anymore, just closing his eyes and seeing her had helped him. When Moonhaven and everyone in it started to suffocate him, he fled to her and found a safe haven. When he was too tired, he found rest with her. When he couldn't relax, he found peace around her.
She made him believe in a tomorrow when he hadn't wanted to.
The days when he felt empty were starting to fade away.
They were at their garden, where MK was watering the vegetables and flowers and he was sitting on her head and watching.
"Thank you for being there."
MK set down the watering pail and gently took him off of her head, keeping him sitting carefully in her cupped hands. She smiled brightly.
"You're welcome, Ronin. Anytime," and she gently leaned closer and kissed the top of his head. "Let's just keep looking forward to tomorrow, alright?"
And he did look forward to his tomorrows now.
MK was in the midst of putting breakfast down and about to get her father to eat, when the sound of a slot was heard. Curiously, Ronin looked over in the direction of the entrance, knowing by now that that sound meant the mail had come. MK looked certainly anxious about something.
"Waiting for something?" he asked, jolting her back into the present.
She gave him a small smile. "I'm hoping that my acceptance letter is there…or alternatively my rejection letter."
He gave her a reassuring smile. "I doubt you, of all people, will be rejected for anything."
She crossed her fingers, which he knew meant for luck or something like that, and went to the entrance, disappearing around the corner for a second. Then she was back, holding a pile of envelopes and then sitting down at the table.
He walked over to her and sat down by her plate, waiting patiently as she sorted through the mail. When she stopped at one, he straightened up and looked at her inquiringly as she dropped the rest of the mail to the side on the table, and began to open the one she held.
He watched as her green eyes quickly scanned through the letter, reading it quickly, before she broke out into a wide smile.
She picked him up excitedly and jumped to her feet, peppering his head with kisses.
"I'm in, Ronin! I got into Harvard!"
Though Ronin looked supportive and even quirked his lips up somewhat for her, inside he couldn't help the dread that began to build up for some reason.
As the days began to pass, Ronin began to realize just exactly what it meant for MK to be accepted into Harvard.
The foremost being that she was leaving.
She was leaving him.
He knew that was a selfish thought, and that he couldn't keep her tied down to there. Especially given that she was young and still had much to live for and dreams to fulfill. Why would she want to stay in a place where she was stuck with nothing and doing nothing? Aside from Bomba…and himself…what else was there for MK to be in that place for?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
But now she had a chance to do something. She was going to go somewhere prestigious and study there, and once she "graduated" she would be able to go out into the world and do something for herself. Which meant further leaving him behind.
He wanted to be selfish and ask her to stay there, stay with him. And he hated that. Of all the times he finally chose to be selfish, it had to be now and at the expense of another.
Ronin couldn't help it though, and he knew and acknowledged that.
He was being selfish and was afraid the emptiness would come back to consume him from the inside.
Ronin still remembered the day she'd sat him down and told him she was leaving. He'd already had the sinking feeling that that was what it was coming down to, but he'd been holding out and hoping that she could come back and forth, and he'd still be able to see her.
Apparently, "Harvard" was farther away than that was capable of accomplishing.
Ronin balanced on MK's shoulder as she walked from the window to her bed, setting him down carefully. She gave him an awkward smile.
"I know I told you I got into Harvard…and I think you get the gist of what that means and what I'll be doing…"
At his nod, her smile turned more sad.
"I'm going to be leaving, Ronin. I won't be here for a long time," she said softly.
He stiffened up. It wasn't enough that she was leaving…but to be gone for a long time?
"You'll be gone for a long time?" he whispered, feeling the air just become stifling around him.
MK sighed and nodded. "It's far away, Ronin. Which means I'll be moving over there, and I'll probably be gone for months at a time. Longer even. I may be back during breaks, and holidays like Christmas and stuff…but mostly, I'll be over there studying and attending classes."
He swallowed heavily, but nodded his acceptance.
Ronin hadn't really accepted it. Not really.
Ronin had thought about not coming, not wanting to see MK leave. But he knew he'd regret it if he didn't say goodbye, and then she was gone and he hadn't managed to show and tell her how much she'd helped him.
But as he watched MK hug her father behind, he couldn't work up the nerve to say anything. He just stood on the railing, feeling himself already coming apart.
It didn't make sense. Hadn't he become stronger these days? Why was he feeling like he was shattering into pieces because she was leaving?
Then she turned to him and gave him a soft smile, and deep down he knew why.
He gave a small smile back and tried not to feel like he was breaking inside.
It had been hours since MK had left. Ronin lingered in her room, looking around and remembering all the memories that had been made.
He remembered stars, music softly playing, and laughter and well-earned bruises. He remembered smiles shared, even if his weren't really smiles, because he had never let himself smile before. And he remembered coming together and being whole for the first time in a long while.
And now there was nothing.
Ronin felt as empty as the room was.
"Please come back."