Author’s Note: Another entwined duo of chapters, in which our two friends learn the value of close friendship and trust from their fathers. At the same time, their fathers learn the value of patience, awareness and determination from their sons. And thus the bonds of friendship and family continue to grow.
The last thing Kaffi expected was a present from his paddir upon their return from Panooria: a brand-new handmade saddle blanket, made of cotton with a lovely blue and white landscape design. Kaffi’s eyes widened as he ran his talons over it…the bulk of the cloth was soft and smooth to ensure that it didn’t irritate the scales on his back, with the pattern hand-stitched instead of printed or dyed. This was one of a kind and had to have cost a lot, much more than Kaffi had ever thought of spending on himself. His wings shivered with both delight and awe. His own first saddle blanket…! This meant this was going to happen!
He lowered his snout, tears coming to his eyes. “Maianni-naahsah, paddir…!” he said, his voice barely a whisper.
Graymar smiled at him, lowering his own snout in response. “Once you are used to distance flight, I wish to train you on saddled flight. And after that, if you do well, then perhaps you may train with a ride.”
“It’s got to be Diwa,” he said before he could stop himself.
Graymar let out a soft laugh and let his wings flutter for a moment or so. “I said same thing when I was your age,” he said fondly. “I wanted Samuel to be my first ride. We were both so impatient to get up in the air.”
Kaffi blinked at him in surprise. He’d never seen or heard him be this emotive about Samuel. Did something happen between them during their trip? “Paddir…” he started, hoping that he could get him to tell him more. “You don’t talk about your early flights all that much.”
“Hmm. There’s not too much to say,” he said, scratching his snout just above the whiskers. For a moment his whole expression softened, his brow lifting slightly. “I was about your age, and Samuel was a few years older than Diwa. He’d been looking for flight experience but few tintrite were interested. Most of them already had rides, many already bonded.” He looked down, tapping the backs of his talons. Another smile crept across his face. “Samuel was a late starter. Most humans start riding in their teenage years, but he was closer to twenty. That was a mark against him in many tintrite eyes. Unfair, yes, but that is how it is sometimes.”
Kaffi kicked back on his own hinds, eager to know more. “You knew Samuel for a while by that time, yes?”
“Hmm. My family moved here while Daniel and Akkree were landlords. He and I crossed paths many times before then. We were classmates and became good friends.”
“How did you know, though…?” Kaffi blushed. “I mean, how did you know that Samuel would be your ride?”
Graymar’s smile widened even more, showing quite a few of his fangs. “I suppose it would be the same as the way you know Diwa will be yours, Kaffi. There is a connection between tintrite and ride that goes beyond the positions themselves. This is your first lesson, pahyoh. The connection: trust. The rider trusts the tintrite with his life, just as the tintrite rusts the rider with theirs. It never comes lightly, but you will know it instinctively, and it is something you cannot doubt. I knew I could trust Samuel, even though he’d not flown at all before then. I knew he would treat me well, and I him.”
Kaffi hummed. He took his paddir’s words to heart and thought of Diwa. Diwa had never flown, to his knowledge. He’d expressed interest many times, even though he’d never actually acted on it. He’d been at Diwa’s side for so long now that he knew he could trust him, so there was no question there. And he was certain Diwa trusted him…so it made him wonder why Diwa had not initiated any tandem training.
They would need to talk, and soon.
“Thank you again, paddir,” he said, still holding the blanket tightly to his chest. “I’m looking forward to using this.”
“I am glad,” Graymar hummed, and pushed himself up to standing height. Unexpectedly he let out a slight grunt as he stretched his wings, the right one twitching slightly. “We shall train again this weekend,” he continued. “I would like to bring you to the city and meet a few acquaintances. They are part of my system of contacts, and I would like to introduce you to them.”
Kaffi nodded, and watched his father leave his nestroom.
Alone, he looked down at the blanket, still clutched in his hands. He wanted to tell Diwa about this right away, but he held back. This was something special, something he wanted to share with him when he was here. Instead he headed to his desk and turned on the computer. He didn’t have much homework tonight, but Diwa still had a paper to write. They’d vidchat as normal, perhaps compare notes about their fathers’ trip. They’d both expressed interest in taking over that delivery someday, as ride and flight. Perhaps that would be their first official flight as co-landlords.
He folded the blanket and put it on a high shelf, just out of sight of the computer camera but in plain few by anyone who came into the room. Perhaps next time Diwa came over, he’d tell him.
Diwa walked into Samuel’s office the day after he and Graymar had come back from their trip to Panooria, and much to his surprise, he found his father actively moving things around in preparation for cleaning. His desk was completely clear; in fact, he’d taken the cleaning supplies from the hall closet and given the surface a good hard and much needed scrubbing. Both his chair and the couch had been dusted and tidied up. He’d replaced the threadbare back cushions for the love seat with two giant floor pillows from storage, put an old bed comforter under the cushions to soften the seating, and thrown small colored towels over the threadbare armrests. Nothing was even close to matching, but it was finally a comfortable place to sit again.
He’d also brought in a brand-new multipage printer-scanner, which was currently running a multipage job and sending the digital images to his laptop. And just underneath the desk was a new high-volume shredder, with two already-full recycling bags next to it. Diwa felt a shimmer of hope well within him; Samuel hadn’t bought new office hardware in years! Could it be…?
“Hey, Pop,” he said, looking around the room, noting that even the rear window was open for the first time in ages, a fresh breeze flowing in. “What brought this on?”
Samuel turned and gave him a wide smile. “Oh, nothing. Just felt it was about time I cleaned this place. Would you like to help?”
Diwa didn’t need to be asked twice! “Sure, what do you need me to do?”
He pointed at two large plastic bins in the corner of the room, just behind the door. “Trash is black, recycling is blue. It’s time, Diwa. I’m going to go through every single one of these papers, one stack at a time. Any tenancy paperwork I need to keep, I’ll scan and then bring it down to the storage facility. I’ll shred the rest and throw everything else away. It’ll probably take me most of the spring and summer, but by this autumn, this will be a perfect office for co-landlords.”
Diwa blinked, the response completely unexpected. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first. Something had changed his father, much for the better, during his latest trip. It made him wonder if he and Graymar had had a long and extremely overdue talk…
Samuel handed him a pile of empty folders that had seen much better days. “Recycling. Did you know lolo Daniel kept receipts of everything he bought?” He laughed quietly and shook his head as he went for another pile. “I just went through three folders of sales receipts for grocery and supply shopping. From twenty-four years ago! The ink had faded so much you could hardly read them.” He flipped through another folder as he continued to speak, placing each item he pulled out in a specific pile on the desk. “I’m quite sure most of the paperwork in this room can be destroyed, but I still need to go through it all. It’s going to be a slog, but it’ll be worth it in the end.”
“Impressive,” Diwa said, moving closer to watch what he was doing. “Seriously, though…what brought this up?”
“Oh, I…” Samuel paused briefly, dropping his chin and smiling warmly. “I just felt it was time. If Graymar and I are to hand our positions to the two of you, then I don’t want to burden you with any of this. And while we’re at it, we can create a better filing system that works for both of us.”
Diwa nodded, but there had to be more to it than that. Something must have inspired him to take this big of a step. “Makes sense,” he said. “How was your trip?”
“Much lighter on the way back!” he gushed, as he continued to sort. “The co-op farm paperwork is done and away. We did a bit of shopping while we were at it, so most of it should be in the post and getting here in the next day or so.” He pointed across the room to a gap that he’d made in the far corner, which contained three brand new cardboard file boxes. “Our copies of the co-op paperwork are in a special spot over there. Once we have more room and clear out the filing cabinets, they’ll go there.” He finished sorting, looked over the piles, and handed Diwa two of them. “This one goes to recycling, this one to trash.”
Diwa dropped them in the containers and returned to his side. “You and Graymar have a talk or something?” he ventured.
Samuel looked up at him, clearly embarrassed and not hiding it well. “Why do you say that?”
“Just wondering,” he said quickly. “You’re in a much better mood today. I’m just curious. I thought you might have cleared the air, had a man-to-tintrite talk with him.”
“Man-to-tintrite,” he echoed, smirking. “I’ll have to remember that one.”
“I’m just glad that you’re in high spirits, Pop.”
“Salamat anak,” he said, patting him on the arm. “Pinahahalagahan ko ito.”
Diwa smiled back. It wasn’t often that his father spoke Tagalog as he’d never been able to properly master it, so it made him feel even happier that he’d made the attempt anyway. Something positive had definitely taken place on that trip. He didn’t really need to know exactly what it might have been, to be honest…he just hoped that his father’s new attitude would last. He decided that he’d spend the rest of the afternoon helping Samuel clean up the room. If that’s what it took to keep him happy, then that’s what he’d do.
Samuel rode the elevator down to the basement carrying two beat-up cardboard file boxes, and Diwa stood beside him with the same. This was their last run for the day, having already brought down the trash and the recycling, as well as four large bags of shredded paper. They’d gotten more done than he’d expected for the first day of cleaning, which was a great start to this project. The area around his desk and the love seat was clear, giving him a much larger workspace for the first time in years. Diwa would not be so reticent to come in and work alongside him now. All he had to do was keep this up.
“I want to thank you again, anak,” he said. “I really appreciate it. We’ve made a significant dent already. It makes our goal look so much more attainable now.”
Diwa hummed in agreement. “I can vacuum the floor when we get back. It certainly needs it.”
“Don’t you worry about that,” he said. “You have homework.” The car finally stopped, and Samuel motioned for him to go first. He followed out and they both walked side by side down the wide hallway. The basement storage wasn’t exactly the most secure place for these documents to go, but they’d be safe enough until he found an offsite storage facility. At the junction of another shorter crossing hallway they turned right; their storage room was the last one on the left. This was another room that he and Diwa would have to go through at some point…family heirlooms, excess furniture, and forgotten belongings. And years of dust.
“Anywhere is fine,” he said. “I’ll be coming down here this weekend to straighten out the room a bit.”
Diwa nodded and dropped the boxes up against the wall near the door. Samuel put his on top and closed up the storage room once more. Diwa was about to head back to the elevator when he slowed to a halt.
“Pop,” he started, his brow slightly creased. “I know it might be no business of mine, but I’d like to know. What happened during your trip?”
Samuel paused again. This was the second time he’d asked that. He looked away, hands on hips, thinking of a good way to answer. This wasn’t something he could easily share, even with his family. It was too personal, and it was meant to stay that way. But Diwa was waiting on an answer, and he wouldn’t take an evasive one this time. He was in a similar position now…he was connected to a tintrite, the best of friends and planning on a long future together. He owed his son this much.
Ah, Graymar… he thought. Quite sure Kaffi’s asking you the same thing right now.
“You’re familiar with bonding?” he said plainly.
Something in Diwa’s eyes flashed like a sudden moment of clarity, and he quickly nodded in response, hoping Samuel hadn’t noticed. “Between human and tintrite,” he said. “Ride and flight.”
“Yes. Did I ever tell you how Graymar and I started out here?”
“Not sure…maybe a long time ago?”
Well. It was far past time to give him this talk, then. He took his shoulder and directed him towards the elevator. “Come on, let’s go back to the office and have a chat. I think it might mean something to you as well.”
Diwa took a seat on the couch and gingerly leaned back, still not used to the new pillow backing. Samuel sat at his desk and reclined slightly, thinking of how to begin this properly. He’d probably told his son parts of this before, out of order and never all in one go. And he’d left a lot out, things he hadn’t even shared with Dari.
“Graymar and I started out as each other’s first paired flights,” he said. “As you can imagine, Gray was intimidating, even then. One of the biggest tintrite in his class, grumpy as hell even then, and one of the best fliers. All the human rides respected him, but very few dared ask him to fly. And he always dismissed them. As for me…well, I started out late.”
“You took a few years off after school,” Diwa nodded.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, to be honest,” he said. He still didn’t know to this day, but that was another conversation entirely, and one he didn’t want to get into right now. “I tried out a few positions in the city, did a few short internships, but nothing stuck. I met your ina then, of course. We were both fresh out of school and just starting our lives. Dari and I came back just before I turned twenty. I realized I’d better start my internship with Papa before I got too old. Which meant I needed to find a flight partner quick.
“Gray and I knew each other since we were kids, but we’d grown close during his last few years of school. Similar to you and Kaffi, I think. We kept in touch when I was in the city. He’d come and visit me all the time. He was still living here, and Akkree was training him for paired flight, but he hadn’t officially taken on a ride. It took me a good month or so to muster up the courage, because I had absolutely no experience. But I went ahead with it. You know what his answer was?”
Diwa shook his head.
“He said that he’d been waiting all this time for me to ask. That he’d wanted to be paired up with me from the beginning.”
Diwa shifted in his seat, not quite sure how to react. “I didn’t know that.”
Samuel masked his smile by thinking of an amusing memory. “It took us a good couple of years to get used to each other. You’ve seen him fly, so you understand he can be quite physical about it. We figured it out as we went along, just like any ride and flight would. There was a lot of trial and error, and yes, a few arguments as well. And sometimes he’d claim to forget I was there and take a dangerous turn and then laugh at me when I screamed at him.”
“I can see Kaffi doing that to me,” Diwa smirked.
“Well – point is, there’s something we call bonding. It’s a word that means many things, and it’s used in many ways…so the meaning of it in this instance often gets misconstrued. I want to set it straight here.
“A bonding between a human ride and a tintrite flight is one of the strongest and most important connections there is in this world, anak. It’s trust. It’s me trusting Graymar with my life when I climb into his saddle. It’s Graymar trusting me with his life when we’re in the air. It’s about being able to sense each other’s thoughts, actions and instincts. Knowing when he’s feeling exhausted or in pain, for instance. Or knowing when I need to land. It’s about communication in flight, about going through the pre-flight checklist thoroughly. Even when we’re not flying, it’s about that constant connection, talking and working things out, understanding Gray’s emotions just as he would understand mine. Helping him when his saddle or his satchel needs adjustment, or when he needs to stretch and clean his wings to keep them healthy.
“Or when I need to realize that I’ve been blessed with a great friend and a wonderful family, and when I need to listen to my bonded friend.”
“You had, uh…” Diwa nervously scratched the back of his head. “You had a pretty serious talk, didn’t you?”
“Graymar gave me a lot to think about the last few days. And I want to make good on that.”
“…I see,” Diwa said, and cleared his throat. “Um. Thanks, Pop. I’m glad. I really am.”
Samuel smiled and patted him on the knee. “Good. Go get cleaned up for dinner. I’m sure you’ll want to talk with Kaffi tonight.”
Diwa giggled nervously, his face going slightly red. “Maybe so,” he said. “Thanks again.”
“Maianni-naahsah, paddir…!” — (tintrite) “Thank you so much, father…!”
“Salamat anak” … “Pinahahalagahan ko ito.” — (Tagalog) “Thank you, son.” “I appreciate it.”