Author’s Note: Out of the nest and into the wild, as the mandossi saying goes.
“Brings you back, doesn’t it?” Samuel said, unable to stop beaming with pride as he leaned up against the rooftop patio railing. He watched the two boys – the two young men – across the way, going through their post-flight stretches and checklists. They’d done almost everything right, and any errors they may have made were few and minor. To be honest, they’d done so much better than he and Graymar had done their first time, so many years ago! He let out another appreciative laugh. “Not bad for a maiden flight. Not bad at all.”
Graymar stood tall beside him and nervously tapped his talons on the railing, something he rarely did. He fretted and hummed in response. He’d been a bit more animated earlier, most likely for appearance’s sake, but now that it was all over he’d returned back to his usual stoic self. He was deep enough in thought that his wings were rippling of their own volition.
“Come on, Gray,” he said, startling him out of his thoughts with a light elbow to his side. “I know you want to say something. There’s no need to feel embarrassed in front of me. We’ve known each other far too long.”
He let out a slow breath out his nostrils and whined – something else he’d rarely done. Their sons’ maiden flight had clearly moved him more than he’d expected, and he had no idea how to process or show his emotions! “I am unsure of what to say that doesn’t sound like I’m being ungrateful. I want to critique, Samuel. You know how I am.”
“Then critique,” he gestured. “That’s what you and I are here for. We have to compare notes if we’re going to be on the same page as them.”
He scratched at his snout. “Hmm. You first.”
He smirked and shook his head. “I knew you’d say that. Fine.” He turned back to the roof of Building C; the foursome had finished up their post-flight party, tidied up the roof deck, and started bringing their celebration indoors, most likely to Anna-Nassi’s apartment where they could be as loud and boisterous as they pleased. He reminded himself to thank her personally for helping Diwa…and for making sure he and Graymar were there to witness the entire flight. “First off, Kaffi’s initial drop launch was a bit too sharp,” he started. “Diwa was struggling – he was angling back the best he could. But they were both aware of that. Once they pulled out and up, though…that was a fine maneuver. I wouldn’t have gone under the tree line, but from the look on Diwa’s face, he was having the thrill of his life! Kaffi knows how to harness the wind like it’s second nature. He wasn’t struggling at all. You’re right, he was born ready for this. You trained him well.”
Graymar hummed quietly, nodding in response to his compliment. “I agree with the launch,” he said. “Though I believe he became aware of that, after the fact. Kaffi has confidence; he knew he could easily clear that tree and catch the convections over the central green that way. He was flying with the constant awareness that Diwa was there as his ride and they were in constant communication the entire time until they gained altitude. More from Kaffi than Diwa.”
“I noticed that as well,” Samuel nodded. “But Diwa has always been observant rather than questioning.”
“Or he may have been scared out of his wits.”
“I’ll grant that. I admit I felt the same way on our first flight.”
Graymar snorted and cocked his head at him. “You never told me that.”
“Of course I didn’t!” he laughed. “I didn’t want you to think I was too scared to ride on some big brute like yourself, Gray!”
“Big…brute…?” he said slowly.
“Ai, so sensitive!” he teased, prodding him again. “You were twice my size and ten times my weight. But this isn’t about us.”
“Anything else you’d like to add?”
“Your son did seem a bit stiff at first, but he was observant. He quickly learned how to read Kaffi’s movements. Once he understood them, he loosened up considerably. He might have been afraid at first, but that diminished quickly. He trusted Kaffi wholly the entire time.”
“He’s been watching Kaffi do his flight exercises the entire month,” he said. “Admirable and unexpected. Didn’t you see him?”
“Many times, including down on the green,” Graymar said, bobbing his snout in that direction. “I thought he might have just been providing company.”
“Looks like more than that,” Samuel said. “I’d watch him sometimes. He was enraptured by Kaffi’s movements. Studying them. Trying to figure them out. That’s when I realized what he was doing.”
“Bonding,” Graymar said quietly.
“Yes,” he said.
“Were we ever that detailed?” Graymar asked out of the blue.
Samuel didn’t expect the question at all, most of all from him, and had to think about how to answer. “I’d like to think we were. Just in our own ways and over a longer period.” He looked out over the green again, listening to its quietness. Most of the tenants had gone on their way after the little air show, the sounds retreating to their usual buzzing calm. Just a few months ago their sons were out there, playing a loud and unorganized game of catch. They’d come so far so quickly…perhaps he’d been wrong about his opinion of them all this time? Their connection had indeed been much closer and for a much longer stretch than either he or Graymar realized. They were not just committed, they were confident. “There’s a connection between those two that’s definitely different from ours, Gray.”
“There is,” he said.
They stood together in companionable silence for a little while longer, letting it all sink in. Life was going to change here on the estate. Samuel hoped it would be for the better.
“So,” he said eventually. “What are we going to tell our sons?”
Graymar let out a slow breath through his nostrils, and let his wings unfurl slightly. “I’m going to tell Kaffi that I am deeply proud of him,” he said lightly. “First of all. Both he and Diwa surpassed my expectations. Be sure to tell that to your pahyoh.”
Samuel smiled brightly once more. “I will Gray. And your son. Tell Kaffi that I was thoroughly impressed.”
“That’s all?” Graymar said, giving him a small grin.
“Hmm. I was going to wait to say this to him personally, but…tell Kaffi that I am proud of him as well. Tell him that I trust him to fly with my son any day.”
“Hmm. I’m sure he would like to hear that.”
“I’m sure he would, Gray.”