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


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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The redhead’s question wasn’t an unfounded one, anyone else would probably be at that point already, feeling so utterly broken that they couldn’t continue but there had always been this fighting spark in Octavia which never left her, no matter what the world did to kick her down, it was always there, dimmed sometimes but always there “I can’t be, I’m not the only one going through this” she spoke honestly, she had both her children to think about and they were her everything, she was their parent and their protector first, had been from the moment she took them on as her own. “You know me, falling down and staying down, it’s not who I am, even on my worst day” she did believe that, she had to find things to hold onto and she had to stay strong for their sakes, it was one thing letting her sadness get the better of her with a friend she trusted could handle her feelings, it was another around her family who were hurting too.

She could hear the emotion in Tia’s voice but it never actually faltered which told the blonde exactly how much control and strength the aspect of elements truly had, while Tia had been closer with Octavia, she had known Vlad very well too and she too, had lost a dear friend. “Not knowing is so much worse” the Nephilim spoke softly but Tia was right when she said that Octavia should be preparing herself for the reality that she may never know the full and complete truth of what happened. Except whoever did this, the guard got the feeling this wasn’t where they were going to stop. It was a targeted attack, that much she was absolutely certain of that and the usually pretty fearless Nephilim was definitely feeling it behind to creep up.

The green-eyed female looked up to Tia and parted her lips, it was a good question and not one she was sure she could fully answer without actually experiencing it “I just can’t accept half-truth, if someone out there attacked us, we don’t have a lot of time before they try again” it was evident from the way she spoke that she wasn’t going to be able to let go and move on until she knew who or what was responsible and they were made to face justice for their crimes. She continued to speak between hiccuped breaths as the emotions washed their way through her. She was glad Tia was holding onto her, otherwise she might have fallen onto the floor from the weakness she felt “I don’t even have that” she spoke as her lip trembled “Ery told me himself, Vlad’s not there in the realm of the dead” which means he was somewhere else entirely or he was just gone, she wasn’t sure which was worse.

The redhead made good points about the fact she had to move forward but it was different for her, she had peace that the people she knew before would go on to lead normal lives and while it must have killed her, not being able to go back or check on them, at least she knew with certainty they got some kind of a future. “I just...I don’t know how to let it go right now” she admitted with a soft whisper. She didn’t know how to tame that part of her that was so desperately looking for any kind of truth. All she had right now is speculation and she couldn’t find a single bit of peace in that. The only peace she had was that the rest of her family was safe but she feared they might not be in time if they didn’t figure this out. “Not when I know it could bring more danger to the people I love” she added, the pain evident in her expression, she couldn’t handle losing more people, she had already lost the love of her life.

She found comfort in the aspect’s arms though, Tia had always been good at understanding Octavia and where she stood. They had been together and leaned on one another the night of the fall of Skye. They had grieved for the loss of many of their most treasured guards together. She knew the aspect had seen more than her fair share of loss too. But the first step to moving on was probably to remember Vlad in his best moments and with all the people who had lived alongside him for centuries, there was bound to be plenty, he was always a bright and happy person and he would have wanted people to remember him with a smile on their face “Have a stupidly spicy curry because that was always his favorite, I swear he just enjoyed making me turn all red in the face” she spoke with a sad smile before she let another soft whine because it hurt to remember the good times knowing there would never be more of them “Will you help me plan it?” she asked as she reached up to wipe at her eyes trying to clear her vision a little.

The Aspect of Elements shook her head, both exasperated and proud beyond belief with her dearest friend. It wasn't when a person achieved something great that their true colors came through, it was when the rain poured and the dirt and grime covered a person from head to toe. Amidst all the ugly and broken the authentic and genuine characteristics that made up a person came shining through and you got to see who a person really was. Reaching out Tia tucked a strand of blonde hair behind Tavia's ear, marveling at how strong and stalwart the woman could be in the face of overwhelming anguish. "Yer children are grown adults Tavia, warriors in their own right. I could understand them needin' ya if they were still young'un's but they aren'. They can struggle along fer a day'er two while you fall apart." She chuckled, knowing her words were useless yet still needing to say them. It was her job as Octavia's friend to do so even if her friend didn't take her advice.

"I know." It was said with a knowing smile, because she did know. The Guard and the Aspects themselves were full of extraordinarily capable, courageous, and tenacious individuals who had faced overwhelming odds more than once in their long existences. It was a coincidence or by accident that Octavia and her belated husband had been her closest friends, they knew and understood her on a level that few could fathom. Accepted her and loved her for all her flaws and shortcomings which made them even more beloved in her eyes, which was how Tia had known that Tavia wasn't going to take her advice. That was the duty of a friend though, sometimes, even knowing the answer you still need to assert the point just because you care.

Still at least she knew that the blonde was listening, taking in what was being said rather than dismissing it all out of hand. Or ignoring her completely. Nodding her head at the whispered confusion the redhead met green eyes with sky blue, "It won' happen all at once. I know ya can't do tha' an' so do you. It's a process. So we focus on somethin' else." Letting go wouldn't be easy, Octavia would fight and claw in some respects while she'd give up in others. The stages of grief were different for everybody but as long as she was willing to work on it and try she could get through it. "Maybe tha's tha answer. We focus on tha' problem, tha' threat instead." That threat was one that was on everyone's mind and had even Aureus on edge.

Holding onto her friend she hoped she was helping, hoped that she was in some way easing the hurt and the burden that Octavia had been carrying around on her shoulders. So many times in the past either Tavia or Vlad had come to her rescue and now that the shoe was one the other foot she was afraid she was a poor substitute. Then again they had all had to deal with so much loss over the past few years this song and dance should be routine by now, as sad as that realization was. Centuries of fighting produced centuries of deaths, the loss of the Isle, and now this...it was one giant wound that would never fully heal. A burden that they would all bear together. A small laugh bubbled up and Tia nodded, tears finally sliding free of her crystal blue eyes as she held onto her best friend. "Absolutely. An' color. Lots of loud obnoxious color. Tha' man's obsession with color was a mystery ta me."

Tavia was lucky that she had always really had someone there for her, she couldn’t name a point in her life where she truly felt alone, from her family and her sister when she was young to then Vlad and then her children, not to mention the aspects who she held a strange kinship to all these years and many of the other guards too, with Vlad came his family, Aurelia had a child of her own, one day her children might have children too, if they so wished. “I know that” she responded with a slight smile “But a mother’s instinct is a mother’s instinct, whether they’re 2 or 2000” honestly, a lot of her way of coping with things was to focus on others because focusing on her own sadness just left her in a pit of grief she didn’t know how to crawl her way out of “Honestly I’m so tired of crying” she admitted as she sniffled a little “My head hurts” she complained as she pressed her palm against it and sighed.

She knew Tia was trying to be a good friend and she really appreciates her for it, even if she knew she couldn’t bring herself to take her advice fully, the redhead seemed to be full of it. The two of them had seen a lot of people come and go in their long lives, often not by their own choice and it never seemed to get easier to lose someone you cared for, still, it was something they had to accept as part of their lives because, in the end, they were fighters, they fought for the balance in the world and unfortunately battles often had sacrifices. She hated that it was the reality but the cause was something she believed in from the moment she arrived on the Isle of Skye and she would serve the Ailward cause until her dying breath “Thanks for worrying about me” she spoke softly as she looked up at the aspect and nodded her head slightly.

Focusing on something else seemed like the best way to go, she couldn’t keep sitting around like she was waiting for something to implode, she couldn’t spend another day in bed clutching at her chest because it felt like her heart was going to explode inside of it from the pain she was going through “The problem seems even more difficult to comprehend” she admitted with a vulnerable gaze and worried at her bottom lip for a few moments “It feels like we’re being targeted” she admitted as she sighed softly “Someone out there wants to wipe us from existence and know exactly what they’re doing as they go about it” that was how she saw it anymore, first their home and all those guards on the isle, now Vlad, who was next?

It really helped to be real with someone about how she felt though, with others it was about being distracted by their problems or trying to be there for them and support them through their grief but with Tia it was more raw, just her truth about how she felt and where she stood when it came to her own coping mechanisms. She didn’t have all the answers but leaning on people she trusted and loved seemed like a good place to start, she wasn’t going to let this threat take her down and she was willing to fight to protect everything they had “I swear I never met a man with such an obsession with rainbows until him, it’s why he insisted my ring have such a large stone, so it would make one on the walls in the sunlight” she laughed softly, her eyes full of tears as she reached up to wipe Tia’s away “Wherever he is now, I think he misses us too” she admitted as she leaned against the aspect’s shoulder and then reached for the radio to turn on one of Vlad’s favorite stations “He taught me to dance you know, before I met him I was utterly useless at it, always tripping over my own feet” she laughed shaking her head.

Sighing a bit wistfully at Tavia's response the redhead found herself staring at the grooves of wood in the table. She knew nothing about a mother's instincts, had no clue what set a mother apart from any other woman or what special powers were endowed upon a woman the moment she became a mother. Lately parenthood had been heavy on her mind though she hadn't revealed that to anyone, wondering just when and how a female was suddenly gifted with these innate abilities that made her a super mom. Tia's biggest fear of course was that the mother fairy would somehow skip her and those particular wonderful gifts would pass her by and she would be simply ordinary or dare she think it ...subpar. To give herself something to do and to cover her over horrid thoughts the Aspect rose and walked to the medicine cabinet, returning to the table with a couple bottles of headache cures that her best friend could choose from.

Adding insult to injury thoughts that weren't her own slowly started to seep in, making the redhead wince as the noise level in her head and the intrusive thoughts had her own brain splitting. She knew somehow that Tavia wasn't going to take all of her advice and that all of the face of the many people the pair of them had met were floating through her mind. Sliding back into her seat Tia spread her palms over the table, focusing on the feel of the grains of wood as a way to block out the thoughts that weren't her own. So preoccupied on the feel at her fingertips when the blonde spoke Aurantia nearly jolted with a start, managing a smile. "A'course. You an' Vlad have worried 'bout me often enough. It's my turn."

Winking for good measure the Ailward was glad when things seemed to settle back, like some passing bout of nausea she was able to focus and the only thoughts she could hear were her own. Sitting back in her seat she reached up to run a hand through her hair, leaving the wavy strands jostled around her shoulders as she considered Tavia's revelation. The expression on her face was part guilt, there was even more she had been keeping from her friend especially considering what was going on and she wondered if she should spill her truth. Considering the tears they were both working through Tia decided the answer was still a resolute no, no use adding more worry onto an already large pile. "Let's jus' hope whoever he is he gives us a break fer a'while." Given the incident with the cows she doubted it but again, now was not the time to reveal her dreams or how she had been feeling of late.

Tia giggled, holding a hand over her mouth as she nodded more tears sliding free despite Tavia's efforts to stem the flow. "He actually came ta me an' Reus fer tips on how ta teach ya ta dance. He was an awful teacher." The redhead snorted, her laughter nearly doubling her over as she remembered the look on his face when he had tried to teach Iris to ride a bike. His niece had been reduced to tears and after a little cajoling from Tia they had both tried again with a bit more success. "Tha' man took years ta learn patience." Giggling harder she clutched at her stomach when all of the cabinets suddenly snapped open and then slammed closed, shattering many of the glasses inside.

Watching as the redhead raised from where they were sitting and went over the cabinet she raised her brow before seeing the bottles of pain medication and she picked up the aspirin and got to her feet to pour herself a glass of water before taking a couple of the pills. She then downed the rest of the glass of water, she glanced over at Tia for a moment seeing the way she was staring so intently at the table and the blonde had to wonder what was going through her mind at that moment. The aspect tended to keep a lot of things to herself, all of them did she supposed, part of that intention to save the world before themselves mentality she supposed. She didn’t say anything but she slowly sat herself back down opposite her trying to figure out what other reality Tia was sending herself to.

“Well it’s kinda our job to worry, first priority is the aspect’s safety after all” her voice showed a little of the suspicion she had from the redhead’s actions the past few minutes “Both physically and mentally” she hinted wondering what was going on with her friend. Tia was usually one of the most laid-back aspects, it seemed weird for her to be so spaced out. “Everything okay there?” she asked, it was obvious Tia was trying to hold the conversation but also seemed pretty out of sorts, Octavia had been around the aspect long enough to know something was wrong “Yeah I think I'm all out of hoping to be honest” she admitted with a shrug of her shoulders, hope only got you so far in life, the rest had to come from working hard and pushing boundaries, something the blonde had been taught by her parents when she was young. She was born into a dragonkin hunter family, she wasn’t the type who could sit and watch the world rush by without doing something about it.

“When they call for an information-gathering team I’m going to volunteer” she spoke and nodded her head slightly, she knew people were going to tell her it was a risk and that she probably wasn’t ready but she needed to be out there, gathering facts and figuring out the truth, not in her, crying her eyes out and hoping for something to change. Damn it she wanted to make the change happen. Despite the fact that Tia was acting stranger than normal, she still managed to make the Nephilim laugh, shaking her head in amusement as she heard how Vlad asked Tia and Reus for help “You know he told me had a plan for getting me to notice him” she giggled softly, back then Vlad had really gone all out to impress her, which was totally unnecessary in her opinion but he had always been very traditional in the sense of courting “I noticed him from the moment I kicked his ass for getting in my way on a mission” she laughed softly, she was always pretty headstrong.

Her head snapped up as she heard the sound of all the cabinets in the kitchen opening and then quickly slamming shut, her eyes widening as she looked from them to Tia and then back to them “The hell?” she spoke before getting to her feet, the natural curious part of her wanting to investigate what had happened. The kitchen was pretty deep in the manor so it wasn’t like it was some draft from the doors causing weird airflow, she pushed up onto her tiptoes noting the fact that a lot of the things in the cupboards were now broken. She narrowed her eyes unable to explain it “Mal isn’t doing some weird experiment again is she?” usually when weird stuff happened in the manor it was thanks to the aspect of magic’s experiments.

So preoccupied with trying to push past all of the foreign thoughts and images trying to shove their way inside of her mind Tia has almost forgotten that she wasn't alone. "Huh? Oh yeah. I'm good. Jus' los' in memories." She waved her hand idly through the air, telling the partial lie so smoothly she surprised even herself. There was a grain of truth in her statement, for the redhead was sure that the things passing through her mind were memories they just weren't all her own. She'd be lying through her teeth if the realization didn't scare her down to her very core, taking every ounce of her will to keep her from running straight home in sheer terror. Thankfully the voices and images seemed to pass and she was able to focus back on the here and now. "Hope is sometimes all we have ta hold onto. Without it we turn inta cynical shadows'a ourselves." The redhead reflected, speaking more to herself than her blonde friend.

Her cornflower irises rose at Tavia's easy announcement, though if truth be told the Aspect shouldn't have been surprised. Had it been her that had disappeared and Vlad in her place the male would have moved heaven and Earth to elicit any little piece of information he could. She doubted he would even be waiting for the teams to be formed, which showed how much restraint and how much more level headed the wife was than the husband. Or maybe that was just women in general, either way she couldn't blame her friend for wanting to be put there searching for answers nor could she stop her from hunting for some explanation either. "Jus' promise me yer gonna be careful, I can't take both'a ya disappearin' on me." It was about as far as a blessing as her best friend was going to get, not that she needed one but the Aspect felt like she needed to say it anyway.

Grinning as they reminisced over yet more memories of the couple and the one missing piece to their trio the redhead reached up to rub at the spot just over her heart. It would be a while before she would be able to think about Vlad without that familiar ache pounding in her chest. As the cabinets whipped open and the glassware shattered Aurantia's eyes went wide, her heart jumping into her throat simultaneously with her stomach dropping to her feet. She was sure she had gone white as a ghost and Tavia was going to notice, though thankfully she had risen from her seat to investigate. As usual when anything strange happened Malva was the scapegoat, and Tia jumped on that bandwagon with zeal laughing nervously, "I guess so, no tellin' what tha' girl is up to half tha time. I'm gonna go see what's she's up to." Rising from her seat she stuck her hands in her pockets and started towards the door, turning back long enough to give Tavia another brief smile, "Let's meet up later an' we can start plannin' tha wake. I'll text ya." Without giving her much choice the redhead ducked out of the room, and nearly ran out of the mansion going straight for her truck. There was only place she wanted to be right now and that was home.


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