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Babe, I'm stopping by the mansion. I should be home in time for dinner.

XOXO

Hitting the send button Aurantia waited a few moments, watching the grey bubble at the bottom of the screen the indicated Clay was typing out a reply. The moment it flashed on the screen she grinned, hitting the button to blacken the screen. Setting the mobile phone in one of the cup holders she started the truck up, sliding the buckle into place, and pulling out of the parking lot. She'd had to stop in at the Tractor Supply to pick up animal food, a couple of new bowls, and some other odds and ends for the farm. Turned out moving all of her things and creatures to Clay's farm was a large task than she had realized and some things had been broken or straight out lost. While inside a pair of sock had caught her eye, reminding her painfully of her dear friend.

Driving through town the redhead reflected on the sudden reappearance of Octavia and the heartbreaking news she had brought with her. Everyone had questions and the Guard had no answers, the more she had been probed for information the more agitated the blonde had become yet no amount of needling had produced satisfaction. Since arriving back Octavia insisted at every turn that she was “fine”, but the Aspect knew better. There were shadows in her eyes and an intense aura of sadness that Tia could almost see. Having known the Guard and her late husband for most of her immortal existence she knew the love that existed between the two thus could only imagine how Tavia was really feeling.

Pulling into the driveway to the mansion the Aspect of Elements climbed out and headed inside, passing doors and rooms aplenty that were either empty or occupied by people she wasn't searching for. Ironically she came upon her friend standing in the kitchen, arms crossed over her chest tightly as she stared off into space. Tia stood there for a while just watching her old friend, a woman who used to be so vibrant and powerful reduced to a mere shadow of herself. Heart clenching painfully she finally approached her, walking around the wide kitchen island to stand in front of Octavia.

“Whatcha gonna cook? Not a pie I hope. Yer last attempt was deplorable.” Her tone was soft and light with only a hint of teasing, an attempt to draw the blonde into a conversation and perhaps coax her into talking. Keeping her emotions buried wasn't going to do her much good and the longer she ignored them the more dangerous the situation could become.

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Everyone kept asking how she was, prompting her to talk, making her come out of her room and be around people. They told her it was for her own good. She didn’t know what was for her own good anymore. Since coming back from the mission and finally reporting husband was dead she had just been keeping going for those who needed her. She knew Illiana and Gabriel needed her to be strong for them and that’s exactly what she was trying to be. O was very good at pushing her own emotions down in the name of what was best for others, it was a skill that stayed with her through most of her life but she could definitely feel the pain this time, like a dull emptiness in her chest that was gnawing away at her.

She was just standing in the middle of the kitchen and her mind suddenly went a little blank, remembering the time that her and Vlad had gotten into a full-blown water fight in the kitchen on the Isle of Skye, one of the rare moments of bliss they had gotten to themselves and a treasured memory in her mind but now thinking about it was tinged with sadness knowing they would never have a moment like that again, knowing that it was over and there was nothing she could ever do to bring him back. She sucked in a long breath, her green eyes just focused in one spot and her arms crossed over her chest as though they could make a barrier between her and all the hurt she was feeling.

She honestly hadn’t been noticing or anyone or anything in those moments, her mind just spacing for a few moments, lost in the good times that she wished there were more of, it was the regrets that kept playing on her, wondering if she had taken the idea of forever for granted and this was life’s harsh way of punishing her for not cherishing it more. She knew she needed to stop thinking so negatively, that there were people who needed her to be strong, but that didn’t stop where her brain went in these quiet moments.

When she heard a familiar voice she was snapped out of her daze, however, her panicked eyes looking around suspiciously for a moment to see if anyone else had noticed her moment of weakness before they softened a little as they fell on the redheaded aspect. Octavia had always had a soft spot for the youngest Ailward aspect and considered her a close friend, close enough to easily see past the blonde’s defenses “I still haven’t figured out how to get the crust to not burn” she spoke with a soft half effort of a laugh “No I just realized I haven’t really eaten much and figured I should hunt something down” she admitted with a soft shrug, hadn’t really had much of an appetite really.

Octavia’s very posture was defensive, with her arms drawn tight across her chest she looked as if she were clutching her heart away from the entire world. Not that Aurantia blamed her, the world had dealt a pretty shitty hand to the Guard and her reaction was natural. It must be a special kind of hell, the Aspect further reflected, given that the woman knew her husband was dead but hadn’t been able to provide any further information on how or why. It was understandable that she would be in shock, however, the woman wasn’t giving herself time to grieve instead she was waving away all attempts to help her. It was no doubt frustrating several people within the Aspect compound but the redhead knew first hand that pushing someone into something they weren’t ready for was a bad idea.

Tavia’s head snapped up, mossy green eyes widening in trepidation as they swept the surroundings and when she found nothing untoward her gaze softened. It was almost like dealing with a wild, wounded animal; each movement could send her into a rage so caution was always warranted. Tia and Tavia had been friends for a very long time, thick as thieves as Aureus had often said. Though she was the youngest of the Aspect she felt more at home next to the blonde Guard whose down to Earth attitude and family focus had always meshed well with her own personality.

Grinning softly at her comment about pie crusts Tia took a couple of steps forward, placing a gentle hand on her arm. “Why don’ I cook ya somethin’ up? Maybe a nice omelet or a quick stir fry…” Her friend looked wane, her eyes were sunken into her face ringed in dark circles that gave her lack of sleep away. Her lips were pinched and her hair looked a tad lackluster, however despite it all the woman somehow still looked immaculate and gorgeous. As if she had worked on the look in order to perfect it and was rocking it. That was Tavia though, and a trait the Aspect of Elements envied.

Once Tavia was seated Tia went around the kitchen and started picking out ingredients while gathering what tools she would need. Reaching in for a pan she pulled out a large skillet with a dent in one side, an exasperated snort escaping her as she brandished the damaged pan. “I told Venetus he needed ta get this pan replaced months ago!” Shaking her head she let out a little giggle, “Ya remember when I put this here dent in this pan? I swear I’ve never seen Virindeus look that flabbergasted in ma life.”

Back when the Aspects had been young into their second life and still getting to know one another Virindeus had been a trouble maker. The Aspect of Life constantly pulled pranks and jokes on his siblings and the Guard members, causing mayhem wherever he went. Aurantia had been one of his targets, and one afternoon he had decided to try and scare her while she was cooking. Unfortunately for him, he had jumped out of the pantry while the country girl had a pan in her hand, a mistake he had sorely regretted. Tia used the pan to knock her would be attacker upside the head thus denting the pan and causing her ill-begotten sibling a very sizable headache. Aureus and many others had teased him mercilessly and to this day Viri knew better than to sneak up on his littlest sister.

The blonde guard wasn’t a stranger to loss, she had lost a lot through her long life but every time that she had lost it was clinging on to the Ailward cause and the family she had made here that eventually pulled her through. That’s why, even though she had taken a long time to do so, longer than was probably expected of her, she had come home to them in the end. And being around the people she knew best did help her to feel just the smallest amount better she had to admit but it didn’t take away the pain she was feeling. Nor the frustration of not knowing for sure what happened or why it had unfolded this way. Ery hadn’t seen Vlad die and she didn’t even know what that meant, it was like he had disappeared from existence altogether. She couldn’t even find peace in knowing he moved on.

Tavia had been flinching away from most people’s touch the past few days, something about the gestures feeling off to her or perhaps she felt like she didn’t deserve the sympathy but when Tia touched her arm she only stiffened a little for a split second before she let out a breath and relaxed a little “You know that would actually be great” she admitted in a small voice, O hated asking for help but with Tia it didn’t feel as hard to ask, they’d always been there for one another through everything over the years, it was like an unspoken agreement for them by now.

The blonde sat herself at the kitchen table, sitting up a little too straight because she didn’t want to slouch as she watched Tia moving around the room, the redhead had always been good at cooking and so had O so they found their friendship over that mutual love, Octavia would always bring back cookbooks from the places she went on missions and then the two of them would attempt to make whatever it was inside that interested them most. It made everyone on Skye excited whenever O came back from a mission because the two of them would always share whatever was made.

Seeing the pan that Tia pulled out though, a laugh did escape Octavia’s lips, she remembered that day very well. Deus had always been the prankster of the group and he picked on his siblings the most, he was also a terrible influence on Argent who somehow always got roped into whatever he was up to. They always made things fun though, she loved that about them, that even when the world was at stake they still found a way to laugh. Like now, as she reminisced the memory in her mind and laughed remembering the look on Deus’ face the moment the pan had collided with his head. “I can’t believe that thing is still here” she admitted with a shake of her head.

Years passed but nothing seemed to really change, they were all the people they were a millennium ago, just a little further buried under the weight of the world “I remember when I first came to Skye, so young and clueless, intimidated by the very idea of knowing protectors of the world” she admitted with a wistful nod of her head “And then a few days Deus snuck up on me and scared the wits out of me and I realized I had nothing to fear, ironically” she laughed shaking her head a little, though her smile never really fully reached her eyes, they were all like a strange extended family, she felt as close to the Ailward family as she did to the ones who shared her surname, that’s how she knew other people were hurting from the loss of Vlad too.

There were many signs when it came to trauma, depending upon the type of person suffering from it and how they usually handle such things. Losing a loved one was an obvious example of stressful affliction that might affect a person and Octavia fit that bill to a tee. Aurantia didn't fail to notice the slight flinch, a brief and small drawing away as her hand touched the other woman's arm. The reaction was fleeting but had been there, giving her an idea of just what she was condening with. Pretending not to notice she kept her movements slow and fluid, relaxed so as to keep her friend calm.

Moving around the kitchen with ease the redhead assembled some utensils and ingredients from all their familiar places, settling on a simple stir fry. Something flavorful and filling but light, suspecting that the blonde hadn't eaten much and needed a substantial meal that wouldn't upset her stomach. A small and sad smile touched her lips thinking about the old days, days long passed when many who were now lost had been living among them. Tavia and Vlad had been a few of the closest friends the Aspect had, their love and support had brought her through some hard times.

Vlad had been there for Tia after her fall out with Venetus, providing her comfort and advice in the face of her brothers rage. He had refused to let her dwell on Ashley's death, refused to let her blame herself needlessly when the Guard had chosen to take the mission that had killed her. He had even tried to talk to Venetus in order to heal the rift that had formed between the siblings and when Ven had proved too stubborn Vlad and Tavia had stood by her. More often than not he had been sitting at the counter of the kitchen while she and O cooked, playing DJ with the radio while the two women cooked up all sorts of concoctions that delighted the entire house.

The blonde spoke up from the table as Tia threw a small assortment of diced veggies into the pan with a pat of butter, her memories echoing her own. “Deus always did enjoy when a new person joined, the prospect of having someone new to prank made him giddy.” She had always suspected that as the Aspect of Life Virindeus had known how scary it was for new people to come into the fold and had gotten up to his antics as a way to break the ice. It was effective too, all.of his victims had blended into the family seamlessly after a good shared laugh.

Suddenly Tia burst out laughing a memory swimming up out of nowhere. The redhead nearly doubled over from her laughter and she turned to prop her hip against the stove while her dancing cornflower blue hues gazed at her friend. “Remember when Argent and Vlad teamed up against Ven?” That prank was legend among the Aspects and the Guard, the aftermath had been apocalyptically hilarious for everyone but Venetus. The Aspect of Light and the Guard had put dye in Ven's conditioner resulting in the male sporting bright pink hair for several months. No matter how many times he washed it or what dyes he tried to correct it the color had stayed, drawing some suspicion on Malva who's magic might or might not have been involved.

Octavia had always led her own path, she was very independent that way and even getting married and starting her own family hadn’t changed that, she would go out on missions alone, she would speak out when she didn’t agree with something, she refused to be someone she wasn’t for anyone. Her relationship wasn’t the center of her world but it was something that boosted her confidence higher and made her feel more at ease with herself, that’s what made her and Vlad perfect life partners from one another.

And that was why she knew she would survive this. It hurt like hell right now but she had to keep going, because if he didn’t get his forever then she would have to live it for him. She was slowly making peace with the fact he was gone. The look on the face of everyone who saw her in the manor now was like she was going to break if they looked at her too hard and she hated that, she wanted to shout about it but she also knew shouting about it would just get her more looks of pity. That was why she was keeping everything so internalized, she hated to be looked at like she was broken glass.

Watching Tia cook Octavia couldn’t help but be reminded of the way Vlad would always try and distract them from their cooking sessions with his ridiculously bland jokes and playing music louder and louder until the two of them could barely hear one another over it. The three of them had some really good times actually and it made her sad to know there wouldn’t be more of those “He’d be telling us it’s too quiet in her” she commented in a soft voice as her eyes traveled over to the stereo, the louder the better was his motto, always such a bold person was her husband.

“I was never one for pranks but to know that someone tasked with such a big responsibility could be….well..Deus” she laughed “Was enough for me” it was a strange family they had but a family nonetheless and she wouldn’t trade it for the world. She hadn’t been sure she made the right choice joining the guard when she first came but now she couldn’t imagine her life being any different, the choice she made changed her life and sure it was dangerous but so was her life before she came here so things weren’t that different.

At the redhead’s sudden laughter the green-eyed Nephilim’s head snapped up in confusion, clearly Tia had thought of something really funny, the blonde narrowed her eyes a little as she waited for an explanation “Oh goodness the pink hair prank” she responded and then started to laugh “I actually thought Ven might explode with how red his face got” she commented with a chuckle, though she was pretty sure that Malva spelled the dye to make it more effective “Man you guys can be really cruel to one another” she teased and scrunched up her nose.

“I think my personal favorite was when Val decided to get revenge on Deus for messing with her and changed all the wake up sounds on his computer, damn I have never seen the guy move so fast, I know he’s supposed to be the aspect of life but” Octavia smiled, probably the first real one since she had come back “Always reminding us not to take life too seriously is the very definition of the aspect of life isn’t it” which was kinda comforting now that she thought about it.

Adding in some spices and a few more ingredients to thicken the sauce Tia’s smile became a little sad and wistful as she looked around the kitchen. The only sounds besides their voices were the simmering coming from the pan and the murmur of conversation that occasionally shifted through the manor. It was odd that the sound of something savory and delicious could make her feel so forlorn, almost lost within the one place she should feel most at home. “He’ probably play something with a weird beat or tons of instrumental that you'd have to be half deaf already to appreciate.” Her smile was forced, her heart clenching painfully in her chest and her voice became a bit gravelly with the emotions she was fighting to suppress.

Clearing her throat she busied her hands with adding in the rice and cooked meat, stirring it all together as Tavia continued talking about Deus. In the early days when it was just the 8 of them the Male had been quiet and standoffish, though that had changed fairly quickly. Once the magnanimity of what they were and what they had been tasked with wore off the Aspect of Life had come alive with a vengeance, drawing them all closer in the name of pranks and good fun. His antics had only gotten worse as the Aspect took on Guard's, the reign of tomfoolery knew no bounds and took no prisoners. Giggling at her friend she shrugged, “I prefer ta think of it as siblin’ centric. Cruel is such'a dirty word.” They both know the blonde was right of course, they had all pulled a gag at once point or another that in modern terms would have caused severe psychological trauma.

Tavia went on talking, reminiscing further as the redhead separated the stir fry into two bowls and fished around in one of the drawers for a pair of forks. Carrying them to the table she set one down in front of her friend, sliding into the seat next to her with a bowl of her own. “I think tha’ was there plan, tha’ each of us would have a specific job even among one another. Ta help us git through tha hard times.” Her voice was quiet, contemplative as she regarded her friend and took a bite of her food. They are for some time in silence, Tavia pushing around the food a fair bit though the Aspect noted she had at least eaten half of her portion. It wasn't like the Guard not to eat, to dig into food with a rare zeal but then again this wasn't a usual circumstance.

Finally, Tia set her fork down and pushed her bowl away, drumming her fingernails on the tabletop for a moment. “Ya know Vlad told me once tha’ bottlin’ everything's up is dangerous. Tha’ it eats at yer insides like a cancer.” Letting that sink in she leveled her sky blue gaze on her longtime friend, ready for whatever might come. “Time fer you ta stop actin’ like yer okay an’ unload on someone. Ya can't keep goin’ like this an’ Vlad would kick ma ass if he knew I had let ya. So out with it.”

Talking about him in the past tense, as though he really was gone, that was hard. Every time anyone mentioned his name she was filled with the memories of the time they spent together, all the stupid little things that were probably strange or insignificant to everyone else but meant the world to her. She wanted to be able to talk about him though because she wanted to keep his memory alive, if that was all he got then she had to be the one to carry it forward, her and the others in his family. She saw so much of him in Gabriel and Illiana now, so much so that sometimes it was hard to keep it together around them “And yet we’d let him play it anyway” she mused with a shrug of her shoulders, he was always pretty convincing when he wanted to be.

It was weird to be sitting and doing nothing for a while, just watching Tia as she moved around the kitchen and fixed up the food, she tried to keep her mind busy by still talking, it was the quiet moments of silence that were the hardest for her because when things got quiet her memories ran wild and made her miss him so badly that she felt like there was a hole in her chest and it hurt more than she knew how to describe. “Hey I’m not judging, spending that amount of time around the same people, I know from experience, can drive you nuts” she laughed softly, it was all given in equal measure, no one really felt singled out by the others. They all loved one another, that was what was most important and she’d never seen that fade, not in a millennium.

When Tia place the food in front of her she thanked her and picked up her fork, she made an effort to eat a few bites of the food and it was really good, the kind of thing she would normally completely clear the plate on, but today she was slowly making her way through it, eating little bits between swallowing it down and staring into space. Today didn’t feel like a good day, so far she had been pretty good at pushing down the emotions that bubbled to the surface but being around Tia was hard, somewhat because she had been close with both of them and she had a lot of memories related to the three of them but also because the redhead was probably the closest friend that Octavia had aside from those she was actually related to, which also meant she could see through the cracks easier than most.

She was doing pretty well at avoiding eye contact and memories until she heard Tia quite directly call her out, Octavia’s eyes had been on the plate but she wasn’t seeing the food as she pushed it around the plate and her gaze began to cloud with tears. Today was one of those days where she so desperately wanted to know what really happen, she wanted someone to blame, something to focus on that wasn’t the emptiness in her chest. The first tear escaped as she looked up at the aspect and she reached up to furiously wipe it away “What do you want me to say? That it doesn’t hurt? Of course it hurts, it feels like I’m burning myself from the inside out” and once they started they didn’t stop the blonde shaking her head from side to side a little as it all started feeling like the floor was pulled out from under her “I want to grieve but I can’t because I’m so angry at myself for not knowing what happened, for not knowing anything” her voice broke on that last part and a sob escaped her lips.

Aurantia watched her friend, the way she swallowed down errant bites here and there between pushing the food around the bowl and staring into space. Happy that Octavia had at least eaten some of what was in front of her it wasn't consumed with the usual zeal or chatter that had always been present during their meals together. The woman who sat in front of her looked like her friend, moved, and enunciated like her friend, yet wasn't her. The vibrancy behind her eyes was gone and the hollowness in her voice almost sounded like a stranger. At least until she managed to break past those shields to the wounded creature who now lived underneath.

The redhead was beginning to wonder if her words had penetrated through the blonde's mind at all if she had spaced out so much that her words had been missed. Filtered out with all of the ambient noise and nonsensical babble that the mind discarded as nonsense. Her head tilted up though and the Aspect caught the unmistakable sheen of tears in her eyes. There it was, the c**** in the armor she had so firmly in place and the first piece pulled free that would crumble her friend's defenses. She was doing it to be mean, on the contrary, Tia knew from experience if her friend didn't face her sadness and heartbreak now things were only going to compound until she exploded. It was much easier to come back from a meltdown than from an internal explosion and more healing in the end.

Tia met Octavia's gaze without flinching or looking away, a steady gaze that wouldn't be denied or brushed off. The sob that ripped through the blonde's throat nearly broke her heart, the sound one of pure anguish and loss. Reaching across the table she took her friend's hand, gripping it tightly to create a lifeline that the other woman could hold onto. “I want ya ta say it all. I want ya ta scream and cry and yell and rage, I want ya ta stop hidin’ behind those walls an’ let it out.” Despite what the Guard was insisting she was grieving, though the process was tougher given she had no answers for her loss. To know the love of her life was gone was a blow, to not be able to remember how he had died was another layer of hell. The Aspect wasn't sure why Tavia didn't remember but was positive her memory would resurface eventually, and until that time the blonde needed to stop trying to dam up her emotions.

“You are allowed ta be angry an’ uncertain. But ya need to allow herself ta be sad an’ confused.” Her voice was firm yet gentle, squeezing the hand she had possession of. “You are allowed ta fall apart.

Octavia just hadn’t wanted to break down in front of everyone, it wasn’t that the urge hadn’t been there, for the first few days after Vlad’s death she had been completely inconsolable but managed to barely hold onto herself because she knew she needed answers about what happened. She had taken it upon herself to search out a valkyr, a dark diviner, quite literally anyone who might be able to save her husband or bring him back and no one had been able to help her at all. Now she knew that even Erythreus couldn’t see his spirit which meant he wasn’t even dead, he had entirely been erased from existence and that hurt so much more.

Around most people she was doing pretty good at putting her walls up and brushing off their concern, she didn’t want people to look at her like she was broken or that she couldn’t do what she had dedicated her life to anymore because she had lost her husband. She was stronger than most people gave her credit for and she hated people pitying her. There were a few people that she did feel safe around however, people who she knew would never think any less of her for falling apart a little or feeling like she couldn’t handle the weight of the world. Tia was probably top of that list, they had been there for each other through everything and Tavia would consider the redhead probably her closest friend out of everyone.

That’s why it took the redhead all of about 20 minutes to pull the emotion right out of the green-eyed Nephilim who found the tears stinging in her eyes as she looked back at the aspect, when the first sob came she was glad for Tia’s touch against her hand and she held onto it for dear life, gripping onto her for support as she felt the pain spread through her body and the struggle for air became evident “I just…” she spoke though there was a slight crack in her voice “I want to be angry at someone or something, I want to be able to curse it and think about it when I’m training and let out my frustration on it but all I have is nothing” she let out a long breath “Just a dark room of nothing” she squeezed her eyes shut as tears rolled down her cheek “So should I feel angry at myself for not being able to remember? Because I hate myself for not knowing, for not being there for him when he needed me” she was really glad no one else was here right now to see her like this, especially not her children.

She looked up at the aspect’s blue eyes as she tried to control her breathing and gain a little bit of her sanity back, that turned into sad little hiccups as she wiped at her eyes with her spare hand “I miss him” she admitted as she looked at her “I miss him so much that my heart actually aches every time I think about him and the fact that I can’t even be sure he found peace” her lip quivered a little. Did she need this? She wasn’t sure right now but now that she started she knew she wasn’t going to be able to stop any time soon.

Thankfully her words penetrated through that stubborn and hardened front that Octavia had put up around her. She was trying to be strong and brave, believing that she had to be; for her kids and for herself. That was fine at most other places, in front of everyone else that inhabited the world around her but not for Tia. The pair had been friends long enough that the redhead knew right where to push, right how to push, and how hard to push to break through that armor. Octavia needed to let some of that emotion out, to scream or shout or rage or cry before her healing could begin. It would be a long road, a road filled with winding paths and twists that would seemingly bring her right back to the start. That was how grief worked though, it was a slippery and treacherous road.

Listening intently the Aspect felt for her friend, her heart ached for the turmoil and torment she felt. The whole situation was weird and caused the entire Guard and her siblings a lot of anxiety. Search parties and investigations had been sent out to try and find some clue but had all yielded nothing. That was perhaps the biggest torture for her dear friend, the unknown question mark that had somehow wiped the love of her life from existence. Before Clay Aurantia might not have understood what Tavia was going through, but now she couldn't imagine being in the blonde's shoes.

Holding tight to her hand, their grip on each other so tight her fingers had started to go numb. The tear tracks down Tavia's lovely face broke her heart but she knew it was necessary. Mentally sealing the doors shut to keep everyone out, her blue eyes dropped to the table clearing her throat past the well of emotion seeing her dear friend in such pain had caused. “So ya use tha blank spaces, ya fight back against tha nothing's an’ ya do not git mad at yerself.” Swallowing her own tears the redhead focus on Tavia, lending her strength in her time of need. “Whatever happened is not yer fault, ya cannot hate yerself fer something's tha’ was outta yer control.” The Aspect knew for a fact that if Vlad had been here he would be pissed to know his beloved wife was blaming herself.

Once the tears started she knew they wouldn't stop, had been counting on that fact. The Guard needed to let out some of that pent up sadness, needed to vent or she would melt down or combust. “I know ya do,” she whispered back shooting her chair closer to wrap an arm around the blonde's shoulders. “A ‘course he isn't at piece, he isn't with you. Wherever he is, tha’ man is givin’ ‘em what fer and rantin’ like a ravin’ lunatic because they took him away from you.” She grinned, the picture of Vlad in her head and the general sadness finally broke through her own armor, a few tears sliding free. Turning to kiss her friend on the temple Tia choked back a sob, her heart shattering for both of her dearest friends. For their separation, for Vlad's loss, and for Octavia's struggle.

“I wish there was more I could do.”

Truth was, Octavia didn’t have the answers just after it happened, she wasn’t any closer to them now and that was driving her insane on the inside, the blonde just wanted a shred of truth, something she could hold onto but everything she reached for felt like it slipped through her fingers. She thought maybe coming home to her family would make her feel better about it but all it had done was make her relive it all several more times over, from comforting Illiana to Theo’s angry outburst, none of it made her feel better. She knew it was selfish of her to think because she wasn’t the only one going through this but she couldn’t control the way she felt about it. Tia, of course, had seen right through her ‘I’m Fine’ facade though, somehow she always knew. Guess that came from being close with someone for such a long time the way they were.

Octavia looked up as she talked, forcing herself to meet the redhead’s eyes as she spoke, she was holding onto her for dear life at that moment like she was the only thing tethering her to the ground. Maybe she was because the temptation just to fly off into the sky and never come back had been weighing on her mind for days now. She kept talking herself down and reminding herself how many people needed her to be here but the feeling always sat there in the back of her mind. She just wanted to feel the tiniest bit better, like there was hope for some kind of happiness in the future but what was there without him?

“I can’t fight nothing Tia, I’ll exhaust myself until there’s nothing left” she admitted in a broken voice, she had been grasping at the straws for weeks, hunting down every shaman, diviner, valkyr or even Phoenix she could find in search of answers and all she had gotten was that he was gone, that his spirit was gone. At least everyone else got peace when someone died that they moved on to a better place where the angels roamed but her? She got nothing. It was killing her not knowing why or having someone to blame. “There’s no way to know it wasn’t my fault” she cried out as she clutched her chest and broken down into tears, barely able to breathe, it was the first time she had spoken about her fears that she was the one who hurt Vlad out loud. “I can’t breathe like this Tia, I can’t cope not knowing if it was me” every sob wracked through her whole body and she found herself being pulled in against the aspect’s side.

The blonde buried her head into Tia’s shoulder, her whole body shaking as she let out all the emotion she had been going through since the moment Vlad died, at first it had been denial, desperately searching for a way to bring him back, when it finally sank in that it wouldn’t be possible she had been completely numb, she decided to bring back the news to her family then, but she never really fell apart, not the way she was now. Not to the point where she felt like her chest was going explode from the pain and her head was throbbing from the tears and the memories. She was clutching against Tia’s back, her fingers digging in a little because it felt like the only thing she had in that moment, she felt empty, so utterly empty.

The one thing she did manage to hold onto though was the fact the aspect was right, Vlad wouldn’t want her to do this, he’d want her to be smiling and singing silly songs and talking about all the great moments he had. If that was all she could give him, she had to. “He wouldn’t have wanted a funeral” she spoke softly into Tia’s shoulder “But I think we should do...something” she snuggled against the redhead’s shoulder not ready to let go yet.

“An’ yer not already at tha’ point?” the redhead's eyebrows rose in question and doubt though her voice remained soft and steady. She could tell her friend was on the verge of collapse, whether mental or physical it wouldn't be good. She didn’t know exactly what was going through the Guards mind but she could guess, based upon how well she knew Octavia. It was a pretty good bet that the woman was driving herself insane trying to find some clue as to what had happened to her beloved husband and perhaps what had become of his soul. Unfortunately, that was the hard part about death, it was unknown to the living. A part of life that remained a mystery until a person walked the actual path and experienced it all first hand. There was no telling how many layers or destinations lie in such a journey and that was perhaps the main reason so many people feared death.

Tears stinging the back of her sapphire hues she watched as her best friend finally broke, finally allowed all of her bottle up emotions to spill forth. It was hard for the Aspect to keep her own sorrow in check but she managed it, for Tavia. Nodding her head she took a deep breath, “An’ there is now way ta know fer sure tha’ ya were.” Given the circumstances, it had crossed her mind that the blonde might feel as if she were responsible and the search for answers might very well lead to another big question mark. Cradling her dearest friend close to her, she held onto the other woman with a quiet strength lending her comfort and what consolations she could.

“Could ya really cope knowin’ tha’ ya were? If by some chance ya find out somehow, tha’ ya were responsible would it make a difference in how ya feel? In how ya grieved?” With each shaking sob Tia had to fight her own tears, the sympathy and compassion she felt for one of the greatest friends was overwhelming and yet she couldn’t give in the urge. The redhead had to remain as unaffected as possible, to allow Tavia to grieve in the safety and security of her arms. Turning she kissed the Guard’s forehead, drawing in a shakey breath as she fought down tears of her own and cleared her throat several times before she spoke. “Sometimes we don’ get tha closure we deserve, sometimes we only have tha faith tha’ our loved ones are safe on tha other side. I know it’s a hard platform ta stand on, bu’ it’s tha only option ya have short’a goin’ crazy.”

Aurantia spoke from experience, knowing full well how hard it was to keep going when all you wanted to do was keep searching and satisfy that deep ache for information. “When I was brough’ back, I never saw ma parents or tha people I had grown ta care about again. It hurt fer a while, not knowin’ wha’ had become’a them, but eventually I had ta stop obessin’ an’ move forward.” It was the single hardest thing she had ever had to do in her long life, along with the overwhelming task of dealing with her new abilities and place in the world she had somehow earned. Aureus had been the one to bring her back from the edge, to keep her from scooting off to find out what had become of her family. Eventually, she had come to terms with everything and stopped longing to know, the unknown was easier to handle than her curiosity.

Nodding her head she squeezed the blonde a little harder, plan already coming together in her mind. “I agree. We should have a wake, one with lots’a food an’ music. A celebration'a his life an’ life in general, he would've liked tha’.” Tia knew it would be difficult for everyone, Vlad's family most especially but maybe that's what they all needed. A ceremony that allowed them closure and to give the warrior a farewell wherever he may be.

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