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Welcome Tallygarunga is an 18+ post-Potter non-canon forum RPG set in Australia, featuring Australia's only public wizarding school Tallygarunga.

Location: Rural Victoria, Australia
Current time: January 2018
Term One: January 30th-March 29th

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Sturt: 10
Bourke: 10
Spencer: 5
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Alan Burdett

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Alan Burdett last won the day on February 24

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    Alan Laurence Burdett
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    Nathan Fillion

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  1. Alan grunted. He didn't know. Sure, it was natural and happened most mornings---but it didn't feel natural right now. It felt weird and creepy and very inappropriate. It was like his mother might jump around the corner any second and chastise him for being a very naughty boy. And yes, she had been wiggling around, which had been---not unpleasant. The very thought sent Alan into further meltdown, how could he reduce Audrey to such vulgar thoughts? Alan was extremely annoyed with himself. He should have better control than this. At the very least, his body should be refusing to do these sorts of things. Trust his body to act like a seventeen year old boy at the worst possible moment. "Long as you slept well." Alan muttered, a little lost as to what to do now. It was early. Very early. But normally there was something to be doing at this hour, whether it was checking on things over at the school, or helping Steve and Baz across the property. Hotel breakfast wouldn't be running for at least another hour, and the information sessions weren't until nine. He wondered if he should check in on his parents, see how the kids were. Or contact the school and see if there was anything there that needed his attention. In both cases, he would get yelled at and told just to enjoy the conference. Hah. He picked up his wand, muttering again as he brandished it at the curtains---swinging them shut and blocking out the harsh morning light. As the room fell into half-dark, he relaxed a little, his eyes opening up properly. Where were his clothes? Had he put them away, or were they still stashed in a suitcase? He couldn't remember. Alan frowned towards the closet, the handle of it triggering the memory of a dream. There'd been a closet like that in his dreams. He'd been.. inside it? With Audrey. Yes. After the--- Well that just made everything worse. He'd dreamed about kissing Audrey and woke up like this. It was so vivid, too. He could almost feel it now. Her lips were amazingly soft. No. No. He didn't know that. It was a damn dream. Realistic, yes, but not real. Was that better? How was it better that his mind had concocted all of these extremely alluring details about his loyal friend and employee? Why had it rendered for him a detailed picture of her perfect backside? It was really not helping. "Should check on Mum and Dad." he mumbled. "Make sure the kids haven't overwhelmed them."
  2. The well-deserved hangover was setting in, ache starting to bore it's way in from the back of his skull and push forward. Nausea would come later, and all of this was very unpleasant. But somehow not as unpleasant as watching and feeling Audrey wake up---and shift away from him as she most certainly realised what was happening. Alan felt his stomach sink faster and turn more harshly than even a hangover would have allowed. He realised he should have slept on the couch, at least to avoid this moment---and perhaps the moment where Audrey came to her senses and questioned what she'd been drinking that was so strong that it led to this particular sleeping arrangement. It wasn't what she'd meant, it wasn't how she felt. But void of the details of the night before, Alan could only assume that Audrey was highly uncomfortable with how they found themselves. And for that, he felt awful. What had he done? He scooted backward, slowly and shamefully. Stupid stupid stupid. Blearily, Alan looked at his watch. "Bit after six." he grunted. Alan sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and turning so that his back was to Audrey. He willed everything to just calm down, but of course the more attention he paid to it---the more trouble he found himself in. Stupid biology. He winced as another pulse of pain ran through his head, he was going to have to do something about that. And probably something about the rest of all this... but what? Audrey had clearly noticed. Should he apologise? Tell her that it wasn't personal, that he wasn't... well, thinking about her inappropriately? How much needed explaining? Alan felt like a creep. He felt like he needed to explain that he wasn't trying to be a creep, he'd just... fallen asleep with a beautiful woman in his arms and body things happened. Okay.. that sounded even more creepy. Alan sighed. "M'sorry." he murmured. "Didn't mean to um... Yeah."
  3. Alan had a peaceful sleep. He'd never been good on his own, Alan had lived most of his life in search of someone who would be happy to do just this: rest beside him. Almost the second his head hit the pillow, Alan fell deep into a comfortable and content sleep. It was a sleep filled with dreams, a montage of happy memories and fuzzy feelings. In one, he got to hug Lauren and tell her happy birthday, before she rode away on a cloud and promised to come back later. There were dreams of mud-pits and Harley Quinn, of being a superhero at a ball, Bruce Wayne with his glasses on surrounded by beautiful women who promised they would never leave. Of softness and that faint smell of shampoo, frilly pink scraps of fabric that fluttered in the wind, and that moment. That one, accidental, moment. But he was ever an early riser, even when he'd been up to all hours drinking. Cows didn't care if you were still drunk, they needed milking. His father never let him have those sleep ins, and as an adult Alan had never been able to learn how. It didn't really matter what he'd been doing the night before, Alan woke at the same time every morning down to the minute. He woke in much the same position as they had crashed, perhaps his arms had tightened a little. His mouth was dry and a headache was beginning to set in. Had he had water? Alan couldn't remember. He didn't remember much at all. He wasn't alone. Who was---oh. Audrey. Audrey? Right, the room mix-up. Why didn't he sleep on the couch? As the rest of his body began to wake up and report in, Alan was fast regretting however this had come about. Not that lying here with Audrey in his arms overnight had been awful, but because exactly the opposite, and Alan was in a little bit of morning trouble. Well this was great. Alan tried his best not to move while he worked out a plan. If he didn't move, there was less chance of her realising what that was, right?
  4. Alan's cheeks flushed a deep red. She'd said it, so now of course he was imagining that silly little pink thing. Why did he have to imagine every little thing people mentioned? It was doing his head in. Even in his drunk and sleepy state, he had a vivid imagination that brought such things to life in intricate detail. He could even imagine how certain things would bounce or wobble or flutter in the light breeze, and---no. Stop. Audrey was talking. "Yeah, that sounds about right." Alan was pretty sure Audrey could dunk herself in a mud-pit and still come out looking---oh damn. Audrey in a mud-pit. Stop! Alan shook his head, trying to shake the thoughts out of it. It worked, and he forgot entirely what he'd been about to say. Audrey was talking about the bed. She wanted to share? Alan wasn't so sure about that. It didn't seem proper. But then, it sounded very much like he would be doing her a favour if he agreed. How could he refuse when the ease of her sleep depended on it? Could Alan really rest well knowing that he'd left Audrey to suffer with the pain of her wound when he could have eased it? Damn Audrey and her damn logic. It wouldn't be the first time that he and Audrey crashed in the same spot, though. Just. The first time they'd managed to get to a proper bed before passing out. Usually it was the couch, sprawled out at opposite ends and snoring. Or out in the grass on bonfire night. Why was a bed that much more significant? It was just a mattress and blankets. And they were only going to pass out for a few hours before they would have to get up and drag themselves off to the professional development and other nonsense sessions that everyone hated about conference. Alan shrugged one shoulder, and grunted, trying to sound casual about it. "Yeah. Sure." He lumbered over to the bed, pulling back the covers. He was really tired now. He'd hit the wall good and hard. "In y'get." he motioned to Audrey, before climbing in himself. She wanted---yes. She wanted cuddles to help with the pain of her wound. That, Alan supposed, he could do. He'd not shared a bed with anyone except for his children in a long time. He hoped he hadn't become too much of a blanket hog and that he still knew how to do this. Once Audrey was settled, he curled up behind her like the lump of a big spoon he was. He tucked her in until she was nestled perfectly against his chest, one heavy arm locking them together. Secure and comfortable. "That okay?" Alan asked, most of the words obscured by a yawn. "Just hit me iff'n it's not."
  5. Alan cleaned himself up a bit while he was in the bathroom. Peeled off the soiled suit, wiped away the excess whipped cream and pulled the last of the popper streamers out of his hair. What a bloody night it had been. Clean enough to crash, Alan brushed his teeth and waited politely for Audrey to finish. You couldn't just barge in on a woman getting changed, it really didn't matter if you'd just seen most of her exposed backside. That was medical. But---one mystery had been solved for the night. Audrey was soft all over, it seemed. He wandered back out in his boxer shorts. Like Audrey, he tended to wear a little more clothing when the kids were around. Most nights Alan didn't even bother with boxers, he had a pair beside the bed in case he had to get up. But Audrey didn't need to see all that. It was bad enough with just the thin satin fabric. And she'd disappeared. Alan frowned. No---wait. There she was. He followed her out to the balcony, very confused by her attire. "Does it like... transform when you put it on?" he asked before he could think. Even if that did sound super cool. Imagine all the space you could save in a suitcase if all your clothes shrank down to skimpy little satin things? Genius. "It looks like my shirt!" ... and then it clicked. "It is my shirt." Alan said sheepishly. Could he blame that on being drunk? Probably not. It was the same kind of speak-first dense remark he would make completely sober. There was a light breeze that felt delightful, especially now that he was out of that suit and had room to move. A slight glow on the horizon meant that dawn wasn't too far away, and the city was beginning to wake up. Alan had never liked the city. It was too noisy, too dirty. You could never see enough of the horizon. He'd only stayed long enough to get his degree, and he'd bolted back to Narrie once he had it in hand. But now, watching over the view in his Batman boxers, it didn't seem all that bad. "Looks good on you." Alan grinned. "But I don't reckon there's much that doesn't."
  6. "Yeah. I guess you're right." Alan said softly, and around the hair tie he had held between his lips. A most excellent technique he'd learned, because when he put the bloody things down he could never find them when he went to use them. He really hoped that maybe things could stay as they were, that he wouldn't have to poke the bear that was Rachel. It wasn't a realistic hope, though, he did have to move on. Audrey knew about the additional bank account that he had for "umm... future stuff, and the like". She knew as well as anyone that Alan did want to, eventually, try again. It was just a matter of when. Alan tied off the end of the plait, admiring his work for a moment. He couldn't sing, couldn't dance, and his Batman impressions were a bit rough---but damn if he wasn't an expert in simple hair styles. Sarah refused to go to anyone else, even Audrey, if Alan was around to fix her hair. That made him proud. Such a small skill, something other people did almost every day, but for Alan it was an achievement. He stood, and made his way over to her suitcase. He did it without thinking, peering through the neat stacks of clothing to try and find something that was suitable for bed. He wasn't sure what he expected to find---Meri had always worn those comical red flannelette pyjamas, with the white mouse print and her fluffy slippers. By the looks of this, Audrey and Meri did not have the same taste in sleepwear. Not... by half. He'd supposed that she just wore the usual comfortable shirts and tracksuit pants that she lounged around the house in, the sorts of things she wore while they got the kids ready for bed. Those... were not here. Alan held up what he assumed was a nightie, or was it underwear? Womens' clothing was confusing. "Is this pyjamas?" he asked. Nothing in here looked covering enough to be pyjamas. He was finding altogether too much underwear in here, too. How was any of this comfortable? He wondered that a lot when he did the washing at home. Rachel had always worn very practical undies. He understood that. "Never mind." Alan dragged the suitcase over to the chair, where Audrey could reach it without disturbing her hip too much. "I should probably get out of this straight jacket." the thought made him grin, and he headed off to the bathroom already starting to un-do his shirt buttons. "You get yourself changed, yeah? Holler when you're decent."
  7. Alan gave her a weak smile. Rachel. Yeah, she'd done a lot of damage. And he'd absorbed so much of it trying to protect the kids, but---that was what a Dad had to do. He'd let her come back too many times, he still half hoped she would. It was a stupid hope, Alan knew that, but for just long enough Rachel had been his everything. She'd arrived at a point in his life where he was lost, and she'd given him things he had almost given up on. And then once he was getting stronger, she broke him. Again and again. "Well." he murmured. "If not for you, the kids would be missing out on a lot more. Mum and Liz and Sam and Ems do their best, but---I dunno. I think if you gave Cam the choice between visiting Rachel, and hanging out with you? He'd pick you. He knows you, for a start." Alan snorted, mildly irritated that things had to be that way at all. But grateful that Audrey had stepped up when the kids needed her. She really didn't have to. Alan grabbed another towel and began idly drying Audrey's hair. She couldn't sleep with it wet, she'd get sick. Then she brought up the D word. It still felt like he was admitting defeat, even though the battle had been lost years ago. He didn't want to go through all of that. Alan doubted it would be as simple as signing papers. What if she wanted more? She didn't deserve anything out of this. He didn't want to fight Rachel over it. What if she challenged for custody? Sure, she would lose, but it wouldn't be a pretty fight. He didn't want to do that to the kids. "I dunno how she's gonna take it, Auds." he admitted. "It's fine enough now, it's her decision to stay out of our lives---but you know what she's like when something's being forced on her." Rachel had run off so many times Alan couldn't count, and yet the one time he'd kicked her out---she had made a scene. She hadn't even been back from her last absence for more than a few hours, he'd felt it was clear enough that she didn't want to be there, she'd been dragged back by family to sort out their mess. The kids had been so upset to wake up and find her gone again that Alan decided enough was enough. He didn't let her back. And that was the moment she decided she wanted to stay. Not because it was what she wanted, but because he'd made the decision. After that there had been letters. Tear-filled phone calls. He'd caught her in Narrie, waiting and watching. She'd been barred from all the Burdett properties and Tallygarunga as well, else Alan was certain she would have appeared there too. "I'm worried it's gonna end bad. And I'm worried it's the kids that will get hurt." Alan murmured. It was still true that Alan didn't want to let go, but the longer he left it the more concerned he became that initiating a divorce would be exactly the trigger Rachel needed to lose it again. That it would shatter the uneasy peace they had established. As Audrey asked for water, Alan nodded. He stood, helping Audrey to her feet and bending slightly to scoop his arm under her knees and pick her up princess-style. Even drunk as he was, this was a well-practiced move. Their chat had sobered him enough that his steps were steadier, and he took extra care as he brought Audrey over to a chair and placed her gently in it. That done, he retrieved a glass of water, bringing it over. "Where's your brush?" he asked, poking his nose back in the bathroom. Ah--there. Taking a seat behind Audrey, he began to detangle and brush her hair. He'd got good at this over the past few years. Sarah was proud of her hair but screamed when it had to be brushed. Alan had learned how to get knots out in the most gentle ways possible. He could also do several different types of braids. Slowly he began to plait Audrey's hair, so that at least something would be a little easier to manage in the morning.
  8. Alan just couldn't see it. He was old, with three kids and a divorce on the way. He wasn't polished or glamorous, he'd made his way to where he was mostly by accident. Alan did things and hoped that at the end of the day, he was the sort of person his parents could be proud of. That was it. He didn't think he was in any way remarkable, and his seeming inability to keep the affections of various girlfriends and his wife only served to prove that. There was so much damage he carried with him, from all of those wounds, that Alan couldn't understand why Audrey would even consider anything more, when so many better options were out there. Hearing her say otherwise, it made his chest hurt. In the good way. Like maybe there was some hope that he could be enough to make Audrey happy. He wasn't fool enough to believe yet that he could provide for her as a romantic partner, but just the idea that she was happy now with what they had---that meant the world to him. That he wasn't bringing her down, that she wanted to be where they were. That she wasn't spending her youth looking after him, and getting nothing back. Audrey was sopping wet as she sat next to him, so Alan reached up for one of the towels and wrapped it around her shoulders. To dry off properly, she would need to remove the dress---but this would stop her from getting cold in the meantime. He opened the first aid kit, relieved to see that it contained a few salves he was familiar with. Alan was good at getting injured, and he'd had to patch himself up more than once when his wand was also broken in the river bed with the four-wheeler. He cleaned his hands up with the sanitiser. "This is gonna sting like buggery, but it's good stuff." he said, before squeezing some of the smooth gel across the wound. It was magical in part, and inspired by muggle technologies. Although it didn't completely heal the wound, it did hold the edges together like a glue, creating a seal through which infection could not pass. Healing agents would promote cell regeneration over time, and maybe the wound would need no further attention. Even if it did, this would buy enough time and comfort until Audrey could get it properly assessed. As he waited for it to dry and set, Alan wrapped the towel around Audrey that little bit tighter and pulled her into a hug. He wasn't sure why. He just felt like he wanted to hold onto her for a minute, and also she was hurt---hurt people should get hugs. "Yeh, I'mma lump." Alan acknowledged. "But I'mma lump that wants you to be happy. Y'know that, right?"
  9. Alan sank down to sit on the floor in the doorway, not sure if he should really stay here while Audrey clearly planned to shower---but he'd made up his mind. Until he was sure that she was okay and that wound was addressed, he wasn't letting her hide. Her answer only served to confuse him further, she seemed so sure in her statement that he had something to give back for all that she did for him, and yet---Alan just didn't see how. Alan often felt terrible for how much he relied on Audrey, and never felt he could give enough back to balance the scales. He worried that he was using her, trapping her in a role well beyond what he paid her for. "Think I ask Kate that almost every year." Alan snorted. It was pathetic, but true. He got drunk, he had a low moment, and there was Kate. "N'she hates me for it, every year. Always comes back, but. Never gives up on me. I don't like seein' her lonely, either. Hides it well, but I know 'er better'n that." Why can't you ask me? The question made Alan stop---and laugh. He stared back at Audrey, crawling around to sit inside the bathroom proper---just outside of the shower door. "Why th'fuck would you wanna marry me?" he asked, shaking his head. In spite of his family, in spite of rumor, in spite of everything Alan had always refused to consider Audrey as much more than she was. He couldn't afford to. The kids liked her, he needed her. If things got weird, all of that would be destroyed and the kids would be left without a mother figure again. So he had very carefully sealed her away in a little mental box where he couldn't possibly think about her as a woman---because doing so would lead to all sorts of more complicated things that started with the way her eyes widened just a little bit more a fraction before the smile hit her lips. The things he noticed and knew and looked forward to. The way that a day was just instantly less terrible when Audrey walked into his office. He couldn't acknowledge it. Because there was no way---none---that he could ever be what she needed. What she deserved. There were so many handsome young men out there that would give her the world. Alan knew he couldn't compete with that. "Y'got the world out there just waitin' for you t'grab it." Alan said softly. "I mean, I know I got some good dance moves, but---they ain't worth chaining y'self to an old man for. I know that."
  10. No, no---this wasn't right. Was she about to cry? Did the cut hurt that much? Alan stumbled backwards at the shove, lucky not to fall over completely. He was very confused, but he knew by the twisting in his guts that everything was not okay and there was something he had to fix right now. He was damned if he was gonna just give up and get into bed. Besides, that was Audrey's bed. He'd meant it when he said he would sleep on the couch. Probably wasn't a terrible idea to be those few feet closer to the bathroom anyway. "Audrey..." Alan staggered after her, jamming a foot in the doorway before she could close it. At least he had this advantage: he was a giant lump. Alan placed himself in the doorway, rubbing at his forehead in confusion. "Y'know if I was hurt there's no way in hell you'd let me try'n fix it, so don't think I'm gonna just sleep while you're hurt. Even if all I c'n do is sit here and keep y'company." he said. He folded his arms, the Batman mask was still perched on his head---but twisted to one side, and his glasses were lopsided. His shoulders slumped slightly, watching Audrey as he tried desperately to figure out where all this had gone wrong. "M'sorry it's been... it's been a weird night," he muttered. "I dunno what I've done, but I've done something, yeah? You aren't happy, and I don't want you to be sad. I hate when you're sad. Feels like the world's gotta be really broken if it's getting you down. You don't deserve to be sad like that. You never let me be sad too long..." Alan's voice trailed off, a little unsure of what his point was now. Only that he really couldn't sleep while Audrey was upset. It didn't feel right. "Can y'let me look after you, like you'd look after me?" he asked. It wasn't something he could put into words, but this felt important to do. It was a feeling that gripped him just as it did when the kids were hurt, that overwhelming discomfort that something wasn't right with those he loved. And he wanted to show Audrey that---that what? That this wasn't just business? That he knew it wasn't her job to look after him the way she did, but he knew that---and that he'd be there for her too? Because she was special. Yes, she was special. "I wanna take care of you too, Audrey." he mumbled. "I don't know how most the time, y'don't... seem to need it like I do."
  11. Alan wasn't sure what was wrong. He knew something was, else Kate wouldn't have rushed off like that. Audrey didn't look real happy either, but why they'd both gone from okay to not okay? He couldn't figure it out. He grinned as she determined that he wasn't bleeding, or that there was anyone bleeding, and---no that didn't make sense? Nothing was making sense now. Alan was in for a lot of pain in the morning. "But where'sall the blood comin' from?" he asked, believing Audrey at first as she dragged him toward the suite. He was still trying to figure this out when they entered the room, and Alan turned on unsteady feet to finally see for himself the exposed wound on Audrey's hip. How had he missed that? Alan cursed under his breath, was this why Audrey was upset with him? He didn't know. He really didn't know much of anything right now. "We gotta get that fixed, Auds." he said, fumbling around in his jacket for a clean hanky. Lucky his mother always made him carry one. He handed it to Audrey, and looked around the hotel suite. "There's gotta be somethin' here, I dunno if s'a good idea to try'n heal it now with magic." It wouldn't do if Alan somehow managed to grow a third leg on Audrey's hip in an attempt to fix the damage. Not... well, a third leg would be pretty cool. Alan's drunken mind was now filled with images of a three-legged Audrey. No. Stop. Focus. Audrey was broken. Gotta fix that. He wasn't really in a state to be taking care of anyone, but it was Audrey. He had to. She would do the same for him, and he wasn't about to leave her hanging now. Even if she seemed kinda mad. She wasn't scary mad yet. "Got some bandages here, and... aiight." Alan found the first aid kit, waving it at Audrey with a grin. "Sit down. I gotcha."
  12. Seth had been carried away, by the looks of it, and Kate was standing by the bar still dumbfounded. Alan adjusted his glasses under the mask, and readied his weapons. This was... exactly his kind of fun. The cape strings were tight around his neck, and the cape itself fluttered off his shoulders in its comically tiny way. It wasn't much bigger than a hand towel, and across Alan's broad shoulders it looked hilariously out of place. Still, it was his cape, and he did his best to flip it dramatically with one hand as he made his way to the ballroom door. "I am the night." he answered, which he figured was what Batman would say instead of "yes", and with another theatrical cape-flip Alan pranced into the room to the great confusion of anyone who could still see straight. His first balloon he lobbed into the middle of a crowd, before awkwardly getting down to the floor to do an even more awkward commando roll over to a table. Okay---so his knees weren't as good as they used to be. Pain was for tomorrow! Where was---aha! The Greyheme crowd. Pack of pretentious asshats those. They got a balloon for sure. Alan wasn't taking any chances with this one, so rather than throw it, he sauntered his way up to the group and tapped the Greyheme headmaster on the shoulder. When the man looked around, Alan threw the balloon point-blank at his sharp and annoying nose, popped a party popper into the whipped-cream mess, and scooted off crowing "I AM BATMAN!" before the geezer could retaliate. This was for Lauren, so it had to be extreme. Alan wasn't worried about consequences. Weird things happened every year, and everyone here would wake up in the morning with enormous headaches and very little idea of how they came to be covered in soggy streamers and spoiled cream. At this rate, it was questionable as to whether Alan and Audrey would even remember this. It was fun now though. That's all that mattered. He walked backwards in a way that he assumed looked as cool as it felt, all the way back to where Audrey was. In very obvious and supposed-to-be covert hand signals, he indicated that Kate should be their next target. "You distract her, and I'll 'pa-kow!'" Alan instructed, miming with his hands the explosion of a giant whipped cream balloon all through Kate's hair. This was gonna be awesome!
  13. Alan listened, nodding occasionally as he took in the dilemma. Alan had dreamed of being an Auror at some point himself, but his grades were never good enough. He'd destroyed that dream all on his own, and these days he could recognise that it wouldn't have been a good life for him anyway. He couldn't imagine leaving the kids to go to a job where his life was on the line, teaching was by far a better career for him. And he ended up being good at it. "Alright, well." Alan grinned at Cass. "The good news is, you've got plenty of years ahead of you if you decide you want to go a different direction. I know a lot of you kids are eager to get straight into your dream jobs, but---be easy on yourself. Learn something 'cause it's fun, cause you like it." in all his years of teaching, it was the most reliable piece of advice he'd come across. Do what you love first, and the rest will come. Maxie sniffed at Cass's hand, a little disappointed to discover that it didn't contain food. But it was offering pats, and that was almost as good. The old dog turned his head toward Cass, cloudy, half-blind eyes on her. Yes, scratches behind the ear were very good. Maxie was almost as common a sight in the office as Alan himself. Probably more, as the elderly dog didn't escape as much as the headmaster did. "I mean, the point isn't to launch your career just yet, is it? We're trying to keep you challenged. So with that in mind, what challenge do you want this year?" The door behind him swung open, and a bleary-eyed Octavia emerged from her nap. Without a word, she stumbled over to Maxie's cushion and curled up beside him. Tavi's arms looped around the old dog's neck, cuddling her face into his fur as she promptly went back to sleep. Alan shook his head. "Don't mind her," he laughed softly. "Weird kid. Tuck her in tight as you can, she'll still find a way to wander off and crash somewhere strange. Spent a good twenty minutes one day in a panic, found her in the chook shed."
  14. "Maybe." Alan murmured. He both loved and dreaded the dreams. When they were happening, Alan didn't want to wake up. He wanted to sit and talk and play with the intelligent little girl that made his heart burst with love. When he woke, it was so hard to believe that she was just a figment of his imagination. Maybe a "part of him" always, but Lauren herself was gone. It took days to shake the feeling of having held her, heard her. He took another long drink. The moment was getting far too sober, and the pain far too close---although he felt an odd sense of peace settle. He squeezed Audrey, taking comfort in her presence. Though Alan knew he didn't have to be alone in his grief, year after year he found it more difficult to seek out the support when he needed it. Audrey just.. knew. Even on the days that weren't special, she knew when it was hitting him harder. Heck, she knew whether he was craving a steak sandwich or a souvlaki, and always got the right one. And of course, she knew the best way to honour Lauren's short memory. This would serve the department right for everything they'd screwed up. His invite, the hotel room, heck--just having the event on this stupid day. "Yes." he said. "A thousand times yes." His voice was suddenly bright and eager, he jiggled the lock and kicked the door open. It was time to make some mayhem!
  15. In the cramped closet, Audrey managed to splutter her mouthful all over the both of them. Which just made Alan laugh, that dumb grin hiding in the dark as he realised that his horrible Batman impression had worked. His whole body shook with the laughter, he didn't bother wiping at the alcohol that had landed on him. The moment was quietly perfect, and he held her firm as she spluttered the rest of the drink clear of her airways. "You right?" he asked between chuckles. "Didn't know I was that bad. I mean, Cam says I am---but I'm pretty sure that kid exists to puncture my ego." An exaggeration that bore almost no resemblance to the truth, Cam idolised his father but even Cam knew the difference between a Batman and an Oscar the Grouch impression. He took a drink from the flask, swallowing before he bent his head down a little. The scent of Audrey's shampoo filled his nostrils, and he pressed his lips gently to the crown of her head. "Lauren would have been ten today." Alan murmured, feeling safe and secure enough in the darkness to finally talk. "In her last year at Bilby. Probably running the place if she took after her mother. In trouble every other day if she took after me." Alan snorted a soft laugh. "She might have been a horrible kid... I dunno. I'd give anything to have been able to find out." He rested his cheek on Audrey's head, drinking deep from the flask again. "It still doesn't feel right, being happy," he admitted. "Not when Lauren's gone. The kids---they're everything I could ever have asked for, but there's always one missing. A gap no one can ever fill. Everything they do, they amaze me---and at the same time, I remember all the things Lauren never had a chance to do. I remember the first moment I held her, and the moment she was ripped away." Alan's voice broke, and he paused for another drink. "I dream about her sometimes. She gets older in my dreams. Sometimes we sit down and talk." Alan swallowed, closing his eyes and bringing to mind the image of Lauren as a ten-year-old, a smile on her face and soft brown hair floating in the breeze. "Or I take her out riding on the goddamned pony she convinced me to buy. Stupid stuff like that. She asks about Cam and Sarah and Tavi---it feels so real." Alan's chest shuddered slightly with each breath. He'd never talked to anyone about the dreams before. "Then I wake up. And she's gone again." Alan's hand was shaking as he lifted the flask to his lips again. "I lose her all over again."