A highway sets the traveler’s stage

Magic Hollow 
#1
The styrofoam boxes squeaked against one another in the bags Cliff held in one hand as he rummaged for the room key for the other. After a brief pat down of his pockets, he prized it and slid it into the door lock. A clunk was signal that he could turn the knob, which he did with a brief, “Hey,” before swinging the door open completely. Just a force of habit to let Maxine know he was coming in. As if she hadn’t heard him (or smelled the food) coming from the moment he reached their floor.

He moved to the table that was provided to set down the take out. This was their current existence. Almost every meal had to be take out, as Hotels weren’t exactly cool with you using their kitchens for home cooked meals. Continental breakfast was nice. But things were getting really expensive.

Cliff sighed as he pulled open one of the two bags and pulled out the first of three boxes stacked inside. The spaghetti from within was enough to coax an audible growl from his stomach. But he’d set out the rest of the food first before digging in. The two other boxes both contained chicken parm, and the two boxes in the other bag were garlic bread and another spaghetti. Like, really really expensive. Two bears ate a lot.

When things were set out on the table, Cliff finally turned to glance at Maxine. Food blinders were hard to see around, sorry. “Foooood.”

@Maxine Myers
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#2
She was lying across the bed, scrolling through job vacancies in the surrounding area.

Maxine lifted her head when she heard Cliff though. And ohhhhhhh the smell of food.

Okay. She was up. Immediately, sitting on the edge of the bed. ”Hey,” Maxine said back as he set the bags down.

”Smells goooood,” she said, eventually rising to stand beside Cliff. ”I was looking at jobs,” she told him with an unimpressed shrug and glance, taking a bite of a slice of the garlic bread.
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#3
Cliff rummaged through the bags for utensils as Maxine came to stand beside him. She was already eating and that wasn’t faaaair. But she festered it, since she’d been on the hunt for a job and that shit sucked. “Any luck?” Cliff asked as he offered her a pack of utensils before settling down on a chair at the table and pulling one of the spaghettis toward him.
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#4
She took the cutlery and sat opposite him. "Not really," Maxine confessed. "I don't even know what job I'm... looking for. Or where," she told him because that was kind of very unhelpful when it came to job hunting, Maxine.

She brought the chicken parmigiana closer.

"I guess I could just transfer instead of looking for something new."
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#5
Cliff absolutely did not envy job hunting. He was glad he never really did have to do it? He wouldn't voice that, because he'd just sound like a spoiled asshat if he did. Instead, he frowned at her struggles. "Well, were you happy doing what you were? Do you think you'll want to settle down here in Magic Hollow?" A question that actually really needed to be discussed. They couldn't live in a hotel forever.
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#6
"Yeah, I was content with it. Before the Sleuth, anyway," Maxine explained, finishing off the slice of garlic bread before proceeding to eat the chicken parmigiana.

"Depends where you want to settle. I really... don't mind." She knew that was a terrible answer, but she still felt responsible for dragging him out of the Glenn. Very responsible.
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#7
"There's probably something like it you could do out here. More swampy, though." The swamps were fun. Mud was great, said the Bear. As for where he wanted to settle... it actually sort of took him by surprise that she wanted to stay close to wherever he was. Not that he didn't think she liked him or anything, but Maxine was pretty independent. He tried not to think too much into it.

"I've been looking at houses around here. It's, ah, not exactly cheap. But I can't function in an apartment." He was hardly surviving in the hotel. "It's a pretty good area, though. Away from everything. No groups, I think? Still feels a little funky, BearSenses wise, but?" He was rambling. Basically he was saying he wanted to stay here. Maxine had known him long enough to interpret that.
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#8
Magic Hollow it was. And there was a swamp, which she was absolutely not complaining about.

"Yeah I don't think any Weres run town. It's a weird feeling of someone running it but not... the same? And it doesn't smell like corpses around here." She lifted one knee up as she ate. "What did Levka say about Lee anyway? How is he?"
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#9
She was saying what he was feeling, and he nodded along as he shoveled spaghetti into his mouth. At the mention of Levka, Cliff frowned some and wiped at his mustache with the back of his hand. " 'I am taking care of him' " He did a pretty shitty impression of Levka's dumb accent. "I asked him if Lee lost his phone in the wreck and he just sent me some stupid shrugging gif." He shrugged to emphasize.
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#10
The accent was borderline offensive but Cliff had a tendency to not know when he was being... offensive. Or maybe Maxine was sensitive. Either way, at least he'd replied and at least he was taking care of him. Levka could do more for Lee than either Cliff or her could.

"That's... strange," was all Maxine said to the mention of a gif, frowning clearly before she ate more. Levka had also sent her a gif of some animal wearing a crown, supposedly him.

Didn't do a lot to help his case.
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#11
"He's a child." Plain and simple. More food. Soon enough, he'd look back up at Maxine with a sort of apprehensive clearing of his throat.

"I don't know if you, uh. Are wanting to go for an apartment or house alone or whatever. But if you wanted, we could probably find like a decent place thats reasonable if the cost was split." He could probably afford it on his own, but he still had his North Glenn house to keep up with payments on until he could sell it. No telling when that would be. "Just an idea." Another shrug as he pulled the other chicken parm closer and grabbed a slice of bread.
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#12
Pause.

”Oh? Are you sure? I mean... yeah. She’d like that.”

Going from living in bear territory to feeling bearless... the closest thing to make up for it was keeping Cliff at her side, admittedly. Or vice versa.
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#13
She'd like that. The bear. Admittedly, the Kodiak was entirely content with being as close to the black bear as he could be. For months he'd been basically taunted with the potential for more interaction with the other ursine members of the sleuth. Lee's grizzly had been nice, and an epsecially fun play mate that matched his size. But the rest of the group had been just within arm's reach, but never tangible for the Kodiak. Cliff wondered if things might have been turned out another way if that had been different.

He wouldn't know now, and really didn't care to.

"Yeah, I mean. It'll be good to stick together. But would Maxine like that?" He sought to clarify. "I don't want to you do things you don't want to do for the sake of the bear. Not anymore." They'd both done enough of that for the Sleuth, and look where they were now. The last thing he wanted was the for himself and Maxine to be driven apart, too.
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#14
Okay that was... sweetly, overwhelmingly, considerate. Maxine lifted her gaze to Cliff, just wondering whyyyyyy and howwww had she come to discover someone so understanding?

Trying to hide a smile, she stuffed her face with more food. It failed completely.

”Yeah, no, it’d be nice. I always felt like we didn’t get enough of that in the Sleuth. Being around each other. Maybe it was my fault, I don’t know, but I did try to express friendship before we were even official and all that.” Only to have it fall flat.

Maxine, you were rambling.

”What I’m saying is yes.” Stooooppp smiling.
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#15
For the record, garlic bread was easier to hide a smile behind. Still, he couldn't help the soft chuckle at her smiling. Could you not be adorable for five minutes, please and thank you? Anywaaaaaay. She was saying yes. Which was actually a huge relief on account of the offer was pretty forward, and it would be a little easier to manage financially. "Cool." He said with a nod... cool. He actually felt pretty good about that. It was nice having something else sorted out, especially something he could look forward to happening. It wouldn't be all sunshine and daisies living with another person, but he was glad it was Maxine. They could at least communicate pretty well.

"And it's not your fault. Shit just didn't work out like it should have." Thats pretty much how they had to look at it if they didn't want to be resentful for the rest of their lives.
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#16
”Yeah,” she agreed before looking down to her chicken parmigiana and resuming it.

Maxine hadn’t lived with anyone in a long time. Definitely not alone with a guy.

But they were bears so that was probably normal? Didn’t Kroc, Jackal, and Levka live together? Normal, right? She didn’t really have... any reservations. For the first time in a long time, she was completely unattached to any responsibility, and that permitted a dangerous amount of freedom.
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#17
They ate in silence for a bit, which wasn't as long some would have guessed. Bears ate fast. Fun fact! Cliff went about collecting the trash when they were finished, and looked to Maxine as he tried to shove the boxes back into the bags. Emphasis on "tried", "I'll start really looking into more houses. And I would definitely ask if you could transfer out here with what you were doing, if you liked it." She deserved to be happy with whatever she was doing. No more being miserable for the sake of trying make things work that just aren't meant to work.
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#18
Maxine munched the last of the garlic bread down while Cliff cleaned everything up.

"Don't think there are any parks in Magic Hollow," she gave a good-natured chuckle, just teasing. "But yeah, something like it. Or transfer nearby. I'll be on the... prowl." Wrong word to use for a bear, maybe? Maybe not? Not sure. It was the best thing she could come up with.

"Thanks for the food," Maxine added, giving his leg a gentle nudge with her foot.
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#19
You knew what he meant, Maxine.

“Do bears prowl?” He teased back, “Yours does a lot of wiggling and bullying.” Mostly a joke but just a little true.
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#20
"Because yours is a bit dumbbb," she teased back with a grin. "Showing a Vampire we can talk?" Maxine's expression grew a little more serious there, brows raising.
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#21
He was wounded.

“That’s rude, he just likes to play.” Grumpiest frown. Also. “It was a vampire. Whats the worst she could do with that information?” Go gossip with her corpse friends? He’d said two words. No one would likely believe her anyway. “Was trying to run her off.” The biggest shrug as he walked away toward the garbage can, not super discreet about feeling just a little bit unappreciated for that. At least he didn’t just stand there and stare. Who knows what that random ass lady would have done to a couple of presumably wild bears?
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#22
Maxine ignored every single thing Cliff said after calling her rude.

Because, oh...

"Was that really... rude?" she asked, ready to apologise? She'd just been joking? (Kind of).
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#23
Whyyyy was in impossible to stay upset with Maxine? His brow stitched as he pushed down the trash, and when he returned to the table he offered a little smile. “Nah, just teasing, yeah? I know he’s a giant dork.” Rven though the Kodiak would likey disagree if he were capable of self assessment.
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#24
Cliff had never called her rude. Not that her feelings were hurt (mostly) but? He never spoke his mind like that.

Maxine watched him as he explained, before giving a single nod. "Still, sorry. Didn't realise."
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#25
Why was she apologizing??

“I called you a bully first so, if anything I’m the rude one.” His tone was very clearly in jest. He reached out a hand to ruffle her hair a bit. “You’re just fun to tease.” Was that mean? He was sure she liked to tease him too.
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#26
Being called a bully was somehow... inherently funny when not meant seriously. She laughed, and then wrinkled her face as he messed her hair up, but otherwise didn't move. Yeah yeah, she'd let him off without retaliating this time.

He'd bought all the food and had cleaned it up. How could she nottt try to be on best behaviour?
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#27
Laughs were good. He chuckled warmly before drawing his hand away, his fingers trailing across her cheek briefly. With an exaggerated stretch of his arms and a groan that sounded mostly bearish, he shuffled to his bed and flopped down. Shoes off, pillow tucked to his chest, “Nap time.” He informed her.
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#28
Maxine averted her gaze as his hand trailed her cheek, lifting back up only when he went to stretch. She chuckled another time, going to tap his midriff playfully before getting up.

"I might go get some air. Work all this food off," Maxine spoke, mostly to herself.
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