It was well after dark by the time they got home.
There was an unmistakable chill in the air, and the oncoming cold, along with the steady hum of the aerocycle had made Adorabat drowsy enough to pass out before they even landed, and she rested in Badgerclops’ arms.
Mao Mao parked on the grass to let his larger partner off to take the sleeping girl inside, and without them, drove the bike into the garage around back, mindful of the waterfall.
Bike secured, and still not quite tired, Mao figured he’d quickly check in on Adorabat then go out for some training in the veranda. He walked inside to see the kitchen light on- of course, and strolled into the bedroom.
Walking in, Mao Mao was glad to not see Adorabat hanging from the above bed’s beam. He climbed up the side of the bunk and saw her tucked in on the mattress, fast asleep. The first time they put her to bed before she could herself, they- not entirely sure how to get her little bat claws to grip properly , hung her up as best they could and called it a night.
They woke up to a little blue bat on the hard, wooden floor with a bruise on her head, then argued over whose fault it was. Adorabat was fine, excited even, to have a battle scar despite it not being a scar, nor getting it in battle, but they had humored her, complimenting her feat. It brought back an old memory for him- one of little Mao Mao tussling with the turtles in the pond and getting a good scratch for it, he showed his sisters his impressive battle wound, and they had laughed him off.
He ignored the emotions that accompanied the memory, and instead focused on Adorabat for a bit, remembering that the days were getting colder pretty fast. they’d have to pull out the thicker blankets soon, get a small one for her. Maybe finally put a door on the exit to the veranda. Mao sighed, adjusted her cover, then slid back down to leave and complete the other half of his late-night-checklist.
He walked out to see Badgerclops out of the kitchen, and on the couch, fuzzy blanket on his lap, along with a bowl of chips beside him. More importantly though, right across from Mao Mao, the open entrance was letting in quite the breeze. They’d need that door by the end of the week at this rate. Still, he was determined to get some practice in- his fur was thick, he could take it.
“Hey man,” Badgerclops called to him, “you think you can turn on the station for me? Kinda comfortable already.” Mao Mao let out an annoyed sigh, but still indulged his friend, pressing the on button on the box, and tossing over the controller. “Thanks, dude.”
“Uh-huh,” Mao Mao acknowledged, already walking away. “I’m heading outside, gonna do some courses.”
Bagderclops, surprised, spoke through a mouthful of chips. “Whoa, right now?” He swallowed, then continued. “It’s freezing out there man, you’ll get sick.” Badgerclops smiled at him, shaking the controller in his hand for Mao to see. “Why not just take it easy tonight? Sit down, play some games...”
“No,” Mao replied, “I don’t really feel like sitting around right now, besides, the colder it gets, the less I’ll be able to train later on,” he reasoned, and it was a good reason, he didn’t like the idea of not being able to train.
“You sure~,” Badgerclops tried once more, patting the seat next to him, “blankets big enough for two- or like, one and a quarter, in your case.”
Mao Mao’s face burned, and he knew right then it was a definite “no” - not that he was possibly going to say yes, he was sure badgerclops knew that too, but just couldn’t resist. Mao huffed but didn’t reply- he entertained the idea of shutting of Badgerclops’ game, but instead chose to finally go out to the veranda. He stuck his head out of the doorless entrance, and found the air a lot colder than it was when they first got home. The chill twitched his ears and the toe he stuck out burned on the freezing planks.
A gust came through, followed by another, and another, and shortly after, the outside was uninhabitable by anyone with even the thickest coat of fur. Not that he didn’t try to press on for the first couple of minutes, only to crawl back in, shivering, with Badgerclops poking fun at his attempts.
Half an hour of humiliation was more than enough for him, Mao decided, and forfeited his efforts to go out and train. The cold must have beat the energy out of him, he figured, because he suddenly felt very exhausted. Maybe going to bed wasn’t so bad an option, adorabat was there, and it’d be peaceful, but for as tired as he was, he didn’t feel like sleeping.
“Hey man, you still over there?” Badgerclops asked, not looking away from his game.
Mao didn’t want to answer, his larger friend had done enough to would his pride these last couple of minutes, and not to mention that “quarter” comment. He realized it was childish, but couldn’t help it, still...
“No, I’m here,” Mao replied through chattering teeth, “think I’m gonna go to bed actually-”
“Nah, forget that dude, come sit down, relax for a bit.” Badgerclops paused whatever he was doing in the game and turned to look at his friend.
“I’m going to bed, what’s the difference?” Mao Mao argued.
“The difference,” Badgerclops started, “is sleeping isn’t fun. If all you do is train and sleep, then you still don’t have any down time, man.” There was some logic in that, Mao supposed, and let himself be convinced to take a seat beside Badgerclops.
He tucked himself between the arm and backrest of the couch, still fighting off some of the earlier chill that followed him in and clung to his fur. His shivering must have been obvious because Badgerclops once again stopped his gaming to look at him.
“Dude, if you’re cold just get in the blanket with me.” Badgerclops chided, lifting it up for his friend. “There’s still room for a qua-” Badgerclops began with a smile, but faltered to an awkward grin at Mao Mao’s glare, “I mean, a… half?” well, he could take a half. Mao scooted closer to his friend, sliding into the held open section, mindful to leave some personal space between him and badgerclops, who once again wiggled a controller in his direction. “Wanna play for a bit? I’d get the other one, but that involves getting up, and you know.”
Mao waved a hand at him. “I’m just gonna sit here, you keep playing.” Badgerclops shrugged, and did just that.
Mao Mao didn’t play games often, and honestly he stunk at them. His bladework took years to perfect, but with every fight he improved, and similarly with other skills. Video Games, however, were the only thing he seemed to be getting worse at with every attempt. His first time playing one was at Badgerclops’ pleading when his new partner spotted an arcade in the town below them from the aerocycle. The whole thing ended with Mao Mao slicing the machine- and several others, in anger, and then having to pay for the damages. All while badgerclops laughed at him and called his outburst cute.
Mao Mao’s cheeks burned remembering his friend patting him on the head in sympathy after they had set up camp for the night. He buried his blush in something soft beside him, and waited for the heat to leave his face.
Still, occasionally Mao’d indulge Badgerclops’ want to play together- if pestered enough, and if the games were cooperative rather than competitive, it saved him looking like an idiot in front of him.
“Yo Mao, you alright? You’re kinda squirming.”
Mao Mao froze, realizing the soft thing he was pressed into was Badgerclops. He must’ve leaned closer without noticing. He was very cold, and calling badgerclops warm was an understatement. Still, his cheeks were on fire.
“Sorry,” was all he mumbled, and got up to move away.
“Hey, you don’t have to stop, man, I know it’s really cold outside. That’s why I got this blanket out of the closet,” Badgerclops reassured, and Mao Mao settled back into his side. “We should probably get a door for that, huh?” he added, gesturing to the entryway where Mao had tried and failed to get outside.
Mao Mao suddenly felt caught up in the old conflict. He should have been outside- weather be damned, and training till he was sore, till the frigid air made him unable to feel his face and hands and he could use it to ignore any hits he might have taken and train harder. Instead he was here, cuddled up on the couch in a big warm blanket, next to Badgerclops. He couldn’t help but think of how much his father - if he would even notice, would disapprove of such a blatant showing of weakness. Of softness.
No, he wasn’t weak. He wasn’t soft. This was just a break- Badgerclops always said he should take breaks. Tomorrow he’d make up whatever time he’s lost. Tomorrow he’d train all day if he needed to, endure the cold, and if he got sick, he’d have no one to blame but himself, and even then he’d train more. He was going to be a legend, he was going to show his father, his sisters, and then he’d finally be worthy of being loved and adored by them. Because he wasn’t weak.
But that was tomorrow. Right now... right now he wanted to stay on the couch, with Badgerclops and a warm blanket, and try not to feel guilty.
“Mao,” Badgerclops pressed, and Mao forgot he had asked him about, “the door-”
“tomorrow,” he replied, settling further into Badgerclops’ body heat, and shutting his eyes.
“Sure, man,” Badgerclops whispered, “tomorrow.”
Mao felt himself drifting off, and knew tomorrow would come faster for it, he didn’t care.
Right now, he wanted to be warm.