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They ducked inside just as the heavens opened up, the silvery hiss that had been growing louder all morning deepening to a roar as the deluge began. Huddled under the eaves at the main doors of the base, the guards nodded stoically and shrugged their rain cloaks more closely about them, humid hands shifting on rifles as they turned their focus back to the streets.

There wouldn't be any new recruits to watch for yet, but soon. There were always new faces after the worst of the rains had passed, new feints by the other tribes as their own numbers were renewed. For now there was only the drone of the latest storm pinging dully off the roof, the puddles they tracked in shimmering fitfully before flickering out.

Gale paused to push the heavy doors closed, expecting to hear measured footsteps departing at his back, but Serph waited for him, patient and serene. There was no urgency in his stare, no silent demand for facts or figures or troop estimates. Having fulfilled his temporary function as armed escort while Serph inspected the bounds of their territory, Gale should have been free to go.

It was a thoroughly illogical satisfaction that filled him when Serph tilted his head just so, inviting Gale to walk with him further. Having been of use once, perhaps he could be of use still.

Where Serph led, he followed.

"We should open up the empty rooms," he mentioned as they walked, waiting for Serph's nod before speaking again. "At this point in the cycle, we should have 3.2 days before the new recruits arrive." The rains were predictable. The men and women straggling in off the streets, not-quite familiar, were also predictable. The rains always came. The recruits always followed.

He dimly, very dimly, remembered coming in himself, being led to a room already warmed up and lit. The effort expended had been needless, of course, but it had made an impression.

Serph nodded again, and having reached his own room, turned back to Gale--a farewell, he assumed. Only Serph hesitated at the door, tipping his head again as his eyes and the arch of his brows asked a question, and--

There was no point in it. Serph clearly had nothing to ask him, and Gale had nothing to offer but his presence. He could be more usefully occupied elsewhere.

But it was warm inside Serph's room with the rain a hushed growl through the closed windows, a reminder that they would be busy again soon enough. The waste of an hour wouldn't harm the tribe, and the satisfaction Serph would feel from fulfilling his function would have immeasurable benefits.

Stop, Serph would tell him now and again, even on the eve of battle. Rest. You'll burn yourself out.

He hadn't (lately), but it was Serph's function to protect the tribe, and Gale was not averse to letting him.

And it was, after all, very warm in his company.