They ate in a relative, relaxed silence, enjoying the food more than the sound of one another's voice or the intellectual stimulus of which conversation could arouse. The mournful tones of the Sufi record afforded a comfortable backbeat, almost akin the songs of birds and chattering of insects when out in the field. It was only when more coffee or food was asked for that the pseudo-silence was broken by language, although, more often, they tried to simply gesture to what was requested.
Kim was not in any hurry, but he never was, despite his penchant for appearing suddenly. This allowed Mofuko to unwind a little. He was always a little high-strung before leaving, fearing he was either running late or had forgotten something.
They were only going to be gone a week. It was a simple trip out to the ruin to make a few early spring observations. Tiben had harassed both of them mercilessly about it two nights before at the cantina, stating the jaunt was more of camping trip than an actual field expedition. Of course, the term milk run came up in conversation.
"I hope you're not taking whiskey with you, Sparrow," Tiben mocked, his accent augmented by the liberal amount of gin he'd drank that night. "Whiskey's for the last night after a proper bout of fieldwork, not a bloody milk run."
"Now, Tibs," Kim shot back, "You know the only kind of milk out you can get out in the field is the powdered kind. There ain't a village for miles, and I'm not going after a nursing mother for cream in Mofuko's tea."
The exchange got Mofuko to laugh, nearly spitting up his beer in mid-gulp. Upon recollection, he found his coffee catching in his throat. Kim gave him a concerned look.
"It is okay, my brother," he said once he could speak properly. "I was thinking of Tiben."
"Milk run?" Kim inquired with a smirk.
"Milk run," and they both chuckled before resuming their meal.
They did not speak for the rest of breakfast. Kim gathered up the dirty dishes to wash. Mofuko checked his own pack and then went to check Kim's gear. The record ended and John Coltrane was put on in its place. Mofuko half thought of requesting some Ramones or Black Flag, but decided against it, knowing they would be leaving soon. He started to loose himself in the music at hand when he was pulled from his musings by a knocking on the front doorframe of Tangled Tree Manor.
"Kim Sparrow!" Her voice was that of sitars and soft flow of Mother Ganges. "Are you home?"
It was Ansouka. When she wasn't referring to Kim as the bird man, she, like Dilip, would call him by his full name. The other thing that announced her presence, aside from the knock, was the warm scent of fresh naan.
"Ansouka Chadry!" Kim called back, returning the joke of using full names. "Would my front door be open if I wasn't here?"
"There is no need to be smart, Kim Sparrow."
Mofuko came upon them standing in the kitchen. Ansouka was looking up at Kim defiantly, despite being only half his height. Her bearing made up for diminutive stature. She was dressed in a pair of jeans and a sweater with her thick black hair pulled into a single tight pony tail. She seemed perpetually perfumed in incense and lotuses. The bindi and delicate gold nose ring stood out in contrast to her dark skin. It was joked amongst the circle of friends that she and Kim were secretly in love with one another, which was why they would sometimes antagonize one another the way they did. Dilip had more than once offered to divorce Ansouka for his friend, to which Kim would ask what he was being punished for.
"Good morning, Mofuko," Ansouka said without looking in his direction. "I trust you're well."
"Always," he said. "And you?"
"Until I walked into this house I was having a wonderful day."
"Does Dilip tape your mouth shut to get some peace from your incessant whining?" Kim asked. "Or is that why he drinks so much when we all have dinner together?"
"My husband does not drink much unless he is around you, Kim Sparrow."
"I actually believe it's more Tiben than anyone," Mofuko interjected. "At least that is what Snobi would say."
"Stay out of this," Ansouka snapped in a playful tone.
"He does have a point," Kim added. "That Tibs, he's a bad influence."
"Why am I here again?"
"That's a bit philosophical for this early in the morning."
"Hey, you asked the question..."
"I meant here," Ansouka growled, her dark eyes rolling. "In this overgrown treefort of yours."
"Because you wanted to wish two of your friends a safe journey out into the dangers that is fieldwork," Kim said, trying not to chuckle when Ansouka rolled her eyes once more. "And there is the matter of the package."
"Package?" Mofuko was curious.
He watched Ansouka slide a cloth bundle toward Kim. There were small tendrils of steam rising from the folds. Kim pulled open the bundle and held up a piece of fresh naan.
"I got you a present, my brother," he said. "You see, Ansouka Chadry is not a total bitch."
"And I hope you choke on the first piece you eat, Kim Sparrow."
"Thank you," Mofuko said, giving her a quick hug.
"There is no need to thank me. Just come back safe. I'd hate to have to comfort Snobi if something bad happen to you. As for Kim Sparrow," the amused twinkle in her eyes belied the malice in her voice. "Leave him to the scavengers."
"For you, Ansouka Chadry, I'm going to come back in one piece to grace your dinner table," he said.
"I will try to be excited," she said over her shoulder as she walked out.