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It had been far too long since she had gotten to travel anywhere 'just because' so much so that she hadn't had the first idea what to pack for the trip, it had taken her many hours of back and forth through the manor, taking things out, putting things back in, shaking her head and sighing at herself before she finally found herself zipping up the suitcase ready to go. She did one last check-in on Mal, reminding her not to cause too much trouble for the guard covering her in her absence before finally making her way out and jumping in the taxi over to Caleb's place.
When she arrived she thanked the driver and tipped him before taking out her bag and standing for a moment, so this is what the prospect of an entire week of freedom felt like. Honestly it was so foreign to her because working was pretty much a constant thing for a guard and she had generally been okay with that, the Ailward manor was her home before it was a workplace and her work rarely felt like a chore. But the idea of being able to just go and explore was exciting to her.
Heading up to the door she knocked and waited for Caleb, hoping he was ready to set off on their new adventure as much as she was, because she was practically bouncing on her toes in excitement and she couldn't wait to share that with him. "Hey" she spoke softly and allowed a bright, easygoing smile to cross her lips "Are you ready for our adventure?" she questioned.
It felt like it had been months since their last adventure, but sometimes time just flies when you are happy. Caleb was happy. His students said that he was whistling around the studio while they worked on their projects and that left him bemused more than anything else. He had not remembered learning how to whistle. It was a faint memory. Something which his mother had taught him as a child. Those happy memories had been buried deeply for an incredibly long time. In many ways, they still seemed covered in a faint mist. Far away. But, he could see his home in the back of his mind and he could hear her laugh for the first time in over a decade.
Whatever had happened in that forest had been good. His shoulders were not so tense. While the introvert had often avoided people because they drained him, he was finally enjoying time alone in a different way. He was able to relax and recharge; and the company of others did not stress him the way it had for so long. The company of significant others went so far as to make him giddy and Caleb had quickly found that the nights he spent apart from Octavia were both lonely, but also good for recentering his mind and his spirit.
His small house on the lake was ideal in the early summer. There were fireflies and his faithful canine companion slept by his feet during evening sessions of art, meditation, or calls from family members.
Tonight, he awaited the company of his great-aunt via facetime. Despite their relation, she had always been much more like a grandmother to him than anything else.
The phone rang and he clicked into the camera with a settled smile on his face.
"Mon cher!" the familiar voice quickly came through his speakers. It took a moment before Celeste's wrinkled, but cheerful face joined it. She was still learning about rapidly changing technology and often made mistakes.
"Bon soir." Caleb chuckled. "You look very well."
"As do you. As do you." She replied. "Your eyes are brighter every time I see you. But, when will that be face to face? You make me wait too long."
Caleb cringed. "I tend to stray far from home, do I not?"
"Further and further each year." She replied. "I am old, child. Do an old lady a favor. Come back for a summer. At least one week."
"You know how I feel about flying." He sighed.
"It has been five years. If you never do, you never will." The old lady tsked.
Why did she have to be so...so...right?
Caleb nodded and gave her a slight shrug. "May I bring a..." He struggled for a moment. Damn. While Octavia was officially his girlfriend, that felt like the wrong word. "Someone special. I'd like her to meet you."
His grandmere said nothing, but there was a slight knowing smile on her face. There was something in his intonation and the way he'd phrased it. She'd only heard it once before. "Your someone special is always welcome in your home, Caleb. No matter how far you wander."
It took him several hours to sleep. He spent a few of the restless ones booking tickets and texting details back and forth with Octavia. It seemed that sooner worked better than later. After their plans were established, he spent a few more moments on the back deck, staring up at the sky and trying to again roll the word girlfriend off his tongue. It felt incredibly odd. It was so English. It had seemed to suit the extremely American adventure he'd once dated, but it did not suit Octavia. Caleb looked up at the stars, tracing a few with his fingers. "Mon amour." His love. That felt right.
The young man side, calling in his dog, and surrendering himself to his bed. Morning came all too soon. He was still packing his suitcase as Octavia arrived at the front door, which was glass. A sleepy smile graced his face. "I do think you caught me before the coffee has set in." There was a mug in his hand. "But, I am more than happy to see you."
Caleb set down the cup, and quickly pulled her into him. "Good morning, my love."
She had to admit she was nervous to go ahead with this, she wasn’t a normal person with a normal life, her past was messy and hard to explain and she had a lot of sadness that loomed around her. Still, being around Caleb brought a lot of light and warmth to her life, he made her feel as though she was alive again where a part of her felt dormant before and she wanted to reach for that potential happiness as much as she could.
Even looking sleepy, she couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was, especially with that easygoing, barely connected with the world, expression that told her he hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before “Not the lack of coffee…that’s a dangerous situation you know” she teased playfully, a small grin appearing on her lips. “Well there’s still a little time before we need to leave so…by all means, enjoy it” she held up the coffee cup she was holding “I’m already on my second, I guess I got myself a little over excited” she hummed playfully.
She couldn’t help but smile when he pulled her in, naturally gravitating close to her and gently pressing her lips against hers “Are you feeling nervous?” she questioned in a slightly concerned tone because she knew how much this trip meant to him, both in terms of getting to go home but also because of the connections that traveling had to his past.
Caleb enjoyed the gentle kiss. He had somehow comeback to enjoying gentle moments lately and being able to take things one at a time, small, and simple. It certainly was nice to feel even a little more relaxed than he had for over five years. It had taken such a long time for him to truly grieve such a traumatic loss in his life and he knew that Octavia was still in part of her process. Whatever that took -- he was okay with it. Time was really the best balm in situations like these. If she needed space, he could provide that. A hand to hold? It was prepared. For once, he hadn't planned any kind of future. It was nice to just embrace whatever happened.
"Over excited is permissible." The Frenchman smiled fondly and relaxed on the couch, hoping she would join him.
It was a good question to ask if he was nervous. Flying had become one of his biggest fears -- not without reason. He flinched, for a moment, thinking about the possibility of disaster. They said planes were safer than cars, but in his experience that was not always true. He leaned forwards and cleared his throat, making eye contact. "I mean...yes. I am. I am not certain I will ever enjoy flying in a plane again, but at some point you either let that run your life or decide to keep living."
And, he did miss his family. Sure, some of them were judgmental, half of them disinterested, but the ones who cared were those he'd grown up with. They mattered. So did traditions. It would be good to be home for the holidays. "Can I say cautiously excited?"
It felt a bit like finally getting to have a fresh start, she hadn’t taken a vacation from the guard in years and certainly not one which involved exploring on another continent. Despite being an immortal warrior, Octavia spent a lot of her time being rather unextraordinary and she didn’t mind it that way. But she had to admit, she was looking forward to this adventure.
She giggled slightly as she came closer to where he was siting, perching herself next to him and naturally leaning into his side “I’ve never really been on a vacation before…not the way that most people do anyway” this one was still a little different, but getting to spend time together…just exploring, she was excited.
She nodded her head slightly “I’ll be by your side the whole time…” she was proud of him for being able to face up to his own fears and push to do the things he wanted anyway, it took a lot of strength to pull yourself up “People could learn a few things from your determination”, she reached for his hand, threading her fingers through his.
“Cautiously excited sounds fair” especially when talking about flights, even if they weren’t something you had a bad experience with, they could indeed be gruelling and drag on “I can never sleep on planes so I brought far too many books..” she murmured softly.
"You have never been on vacation?" Caleb had to pretend to be shocked.
Octavia dedicated almost all of her hours of existence to helping other people, whether that was with her work or her family. He admired it; but a break here and there never hurt anyone. It had been a long time since he'd been in France, especially back at the family home in the countryside. Avoiding air travel meant that the places he could go outside Evermore were somewhat limited. Although, he had enjoyed exploring the new terrain of the northwest United States; there was nothing to compare to Annecy. His childhood home held most of his happy memories. Far more than Paris herself. It was a place of days in the sun and nights under the stars.
He'd spent the last six months working to conquer some of the fears that were holding him back. It had taken genuine work. He'd begun working with a therapist and hosting a group for grieving people. After all, what was grief, if not continued love? Although the idea of getting on a plane was incredibly nerve-wracking, Caleb knew that he'd made progress. He no longer flinched when planes flew over his head and had come to peace with the passing of his family. There was still good in the world, especially when it came to those who loved him.
It was exciting to share those people with Octavia. Hopefully, they would enjoy her as much as he did.
"Thank you." Caleb smiled when she reassured that she'd be there for him and blushed just a bit when she continued on with a compliment. "Well, life moves on. With or without you, doesn't it? I think the people I've lost would be happy for the people I have found."
He eagerly took her hand and gave it a squeeze. "Are you an airport earlybird or a last minute jogger?"
She blushed almost embarrassed when he commented it out loud like that, shaking her head “I know it sounds ridiculous when I say it like that” she mumbled softly and looked down slightly, she had just been raised the way she was like she had a duty to the world that she needed to fulfil and that was the the mindset she had carried with her for so long “I guess you could call me the very definition of a wokaholic” she mumbled softly.
Meeting and getting to know Caleb had definitely been levelling for her because his life was far more laid back than hers, he’d had the freedom throughout his days to make his own decisions, to set out on his own adventures and prioritise himself, it was something that almost felt foreign to the nephilim. But she liked the idea of a life like that, to be able to just…get away from it all.
“That’s a nice way to see things” she responded and nodded slightly “I think the people who cared for us most wouldn’t want us to remain paralyzed by those experiences…” she knew if Vlad had a say in her decisions he’d be encouraging her to chase whatever scrap of happiness there was left in the world because honestly, they were feeling rarer these days.
She looked down to his hand and then back up to his eyes “It really depends on the day, I always aim to be organized but there’s only so much you can do when it come to the aspects, everything is crazy” she grinned “But if we’re talking about preference, I like to get there early and people watch…airports are…fascinating for that” you saw such a range of people, it really made you feel small in the grand scheme of things.
“So we’d better not prove me wrong and head on out soon” she jested playfully.
"You are lucky I live to be prepared." Caleb teased with a familiar sparkle in his eye. He'd gone through many stages of growth over his life: a messy, distracted artist, an overly disciplined student, a lost human going through the motions. Eventually, something had settled and he managed to find a healthy in-between. Today, his suitcase was packed, but not agonized over. He had purchased insurance and made travel plans, but had still managed to sleep last night, instead of spending hours awake overthinking every possible thing that could go wrong. Change was good, despite how foreign it made his habits.
The young man wheeled his suitcase in from the corner of the room and offered his hand to Octavia. "Well? Shall we?"
The drive to the airport was of decent length. Caleb languished into thought on the way there. The quiet was far from uncomfortable. It was soft, reciprocal. He had space and time to be wherever he needed to be at that moment -- even lost inside his own head. As they road stretched on, planes began soaring ahead in the distance. His shoulders involuntarily tensed. For all of the hours that he'd spent working to allow the normal backdrop of city noise into his day, right now he desperately wished for a pair of earplugs. Between the roar of jet engines and the honking of car horns, things were becoming louder and louder.
He silently followed Octavia towards their gate, going through the motions, more than anything. It was only at boarding that his nervous ticks began to be noticeable. If only there were something packed incorrectly that would bar him entry from the plane; but his regular, calmer, prepared self had done an excellent job of making sure everything went according to plan. That plan was boarding a plane to France.
There was no problem with that; but if there wasn't, why did he feel rattled?
She had to admit, she felt a little apprehensively about everything, fear of the unknown she supposed. Vacations were something that most people craved, waited for every time summer came around and yet she would always be the one with her head buried in work, focused on quite literally anything but herself. Still, the ride to the airport was peaceful, her head leaning against the window so she could watch the world as it rushed by.
Getting through the airport was easy thanks to the pre-planning they’d done, she handled most of the talking because Caleb had gone noticeably quiet since they got here. She couldn’t imagine what was going on in his head and she wasn’t sure of what she could say that would make a difference.
At the gate, the crew were working diligently to get everyone on board, calling out by groups. She glanced over to Caleb for a moment, noticing the way his eyes seemed glazed over like he was in some place right now. She pressed her lips together and reached for his hand, lacing her fingers through his and squeezing gently “If it’s too much, you only have to say the word and we can leave” she assured him, she would never push him to do something.
Caleb barely noticed as the passed through the gates. The crowds swelled past him. The noise faded into the distance, too. The voices of people, conversing in many languages, at various stages of meeting, and each dwelling in their own journey slowly met his ears. It was like being underwater. Luckily, he liked to swim. Swimming was easier than walking. The water lifted the weight of your body and carried some of the weight. All that remained was controlling the direction. He took this image and focused on it as his heartbeat faster. It was intimidating, but nothing like he had once remembered. It seemed that Octavia’s presence was the only lift that he needed. When she was by his side, the world could float by and Caleb was unharmed.
Even the airport seemed to will him forwards. Occasionally, while they walked, the pedestrian walkways would take the work away from his feet. Then, it was a quick hop and back into the rhythm. He noticed that when Octavia hopped off, she floated on the air for a brief second longer than a human would. Even without her wings, she was less bound by gravity.
They reached the gate and Caleb carefully handed in his ticket as their turn came through. He’d selected the ones which were the least claustrophobic, but he was still nervous. Her gentle grasp gave him a slow pulse of encouragement. He squeezed her hand — a bundle of nervous energy escaping. “Merci.”
He thanked her and smiled softly as they walked inside a portable metal hallway, suitcases drawn behind them. “Don't you think by now they would have come up with a better way to board us? This is like the squished end of a paint tube…”
He looked around warily, focusing an uneasy smile on her face. Luckily, she looked nervous too. Together, or not at all, right? “Are you sure you couldn’t have given me wings to fly to Paris?”