Ravi makes good on his promise to take Max on a mini-vacation — upstate, to a remote patch of woods where they rent a cabin and go on morning hikes through the mountains. It’s refreshing, and Max delights in being physically active again without the added burden of a copious stomach. Initially, the alpha fusses over him, suggesting they take frequent breaks to rehydrate and snack, but after a few hours, he catches on that his mate is hardier than he initially suspected.
“You’re a tough little omega, aren’t you?” he asks playfully, bronze, sweat-coated skin glistening under the sun’s rays.
Max grins: “You sound surprised. Four kids. Need I remind you?”
He feels giddy from a mixture of alone time with Ravi and natural endorphins from exercise, and the clean mountain air feels crisp in his lungs. In short: everything is wonderful, and yet he misses the kids like a limb, and while they’re only gone two days, they’ve FaceTimed several times already just to check in with them (thankfully, they still have a cellphone signal).
For the most part, they seem fine. Aady is preoccupied with showing off for her uncles, and Charles is busy keeping up with his sister. Beeja is too little to really grasp they’re no longer there, and she’s sated as long as Bengie keeps defrosting the breast milk from the freezer. The only one who seems concerned is Taj, who is old enough to realize they’re gone, but too young to celebrate his independence.
The first time they FaceTimed, Taj saw their faces on the phone and burst out crying, which in turn made Max cry, and Pat desperately tried to calm everyone down back at the house, while Ravi hugged the omega and assured him everything would be fine.
The next time they saw the boy, he had a chocolate popsicle wedged in his mouth and seemed at peace with the world.
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