To say that Octavia had a lot on her mind lately was an understatement. The Nephilim had seen many awful things in her time, things that would haunt and torture anyone but losing Vlad had to be the worst and in the 6 months since he passed, she had felt a little lost. She had tried to find herself in the things she loved, fighting, spending time with her family, being a dutiful guard and attempting to make happy memories just like she knew Vlad would have wanted her to. But no matter how much she told herself she was strong and she was going to make it through this, which she knew she would, at the peak moments, when she was all alone at night, she knew she was lost, that she had lost a small part of herself she may never get back.

Which she supposed was why she was always up so late, the guard spent a lot of time alone nowadays, just thinking and processing everything she had been through and where she went next, it was impressive, how long she could just fade away into her mind for and often it was a very dark place, full of questions and what-ifs, wondering if there was anything she could have done to change the reality she now lived in. As she laid on her back in bed she stared up at the ceiling and sighed, it was like this most nights, she wanted to sleep but her mind was aware and screaming at her. She could lay for hours tossing and turning, fighting it until she eventually gave into exhaustion but that simply drained her more than it actually gave her rest.

So she got to her feet, changing into jeans, slip-on shoes and wrapping a cardigan around her before she slipped from her room and headed out to the gardens. There weren't many things that could fully distract her but there was this one bench in the gardens up on a slope which gave the perfect vantage point to look out at the night sky and over the lake which was behind the Ailward manor. It was her favorite place of the whole grounds and not too many people ventured far enough from the warm building at night to even know about it. She headed out into the night, pulling the material closer around her shoulders and shivering because the fall air had taken a turn towards chill. 

She padded through the gardens, her fingertips delicately running over a few of the plants before she finally made it to the back of the place but to her surprise, someone else was out here, sitting alone on the edge of the bench and staring out into the distance. She debated turning around and going back into the manor for a moment but instead, she came closer to the bench and then silently took a seat next to the figure, glancing over at them for a moment. She recognized him but she'd never actually met him, she'd seen the aspect of light tailing him all over the place, Argent liked to take people in and help them, she had this natural kindness to her that was unparalleled. "Couldn't sleep either?" she asked as she stared out towards the sky and allowed a smile to travel over her lips because it was beautiful "You picked a good night for it, wow" she marveled at how clear the sky looked and also how amazing it looked reflected in the water. 

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(2016 / pre-Evermore)

It had been a long time since he’d been in Annecy. The car rolled to a stop on the gravel road, the brakes complaining ever so slightly as he pulled them towards himself. It was autumn and the early morning air hadn’t quite lost the mist to the clover that gather near the bottom of his feet as he exited the car. Granted, Caleb didn’t usually have a reason to drive, but sometimes he enjoyed things like old highways and a rolled down window just like everyone else did. Driving at ninety must have been the closest thing that human beings often got to simulate flying. He rolled the sleeves of his henley up to his elbows and walked towards the unassuming ranch style home that sat about ten paces ahead. The paint was chipped and half of the shutters were falling to the side. It certainly wasn’t what it had once been in the last time he was here. There had been so many nights that he remembered dragging a full bodied telescope to the top of this hill and staging it just between the crack in the trees where you could see the most stars. 

Back then, he knew all the legends to every star that he’d seen and if there wasn’t one, there was always someone around the campfire who had been ready to make one up. Usually that was Ava. She’d always been a born storyteller. 

The stairs creaked beneath his feet as he made his way up the incline and reached for the steel handle on the door of the screened in porch. By now, the netting was beginning to cave in and it was clear that no one had lived on Galway Hill for many years. It was without a master, unattended, and lost to time. Caleb shivered. November mornings could get chilly. It seemed odd to him how a small stretch of imagination years ago could make something like frostbite more like a game than a real worry. Back then their band of thieves had spent hours out in the cold. As he entered the  barn, whose rafters were strung with old bird’s nests and cobwebs, a wave of nostalgia swept over him.

I wonder what would have happened if I had never left.

(Present day) 

Moonlight streamed through the open curtains leaving a gap of light on the wooden floor boards. A subtle, but demanding red number blared from his alarm clock on the nightstand. Two oh two in the morning and he’d already been tossing and turning for several hours. Caleb was no stranger to insomnia. Even before the accident, he’d always been a night owl. His friends had always teased him about the way he would spend hours late at night diving into research or art, but he couldn’t help it. Very often, the wee morning hours were when he finally felt awake. Granted, it was on a polarizing schedule to the rest of the world. Except maybe vampires, which Caleb was still unsure existed, even in a place as unique as Evermore. Casting aside his blankets, the Frenchman slid his feet into his tennis shoes and decided to go for a walk. One of the plus sides about being on a opposite direction to the rest of the sleepers,want he didn’t have to deal with others interrupting his thoughts. It was often between two and five in the morning that he had his best ideas. 

One of his favorite spots in Evermore had been discovered almost completely by chance on one of his late night jaunts throughout the city. The lake on the property of the Ailwards was the home to twisting trees that formed a maze and many varieties of plants and small animals. Granted, it was gated and locked to most, but being friends with Argent and Ery had helped him discover some of the secrets about the manor. He’d even added a few of his own over last year: inside the gazebo on the east shore was an easel and box of supplies. He’d seen a few others use it, which truthfully, made him happier than keeping it to his lonesome. Art was meant for sharing, whatever form or inspiration it took. The night air had a bite to it, but Caleb did his best to ignore leaving his apartment without a jacket and instead shoved his hands in his pockets. Out here, away from everything, he could see stars. There had always been a special place for Astronomy in his heart, but Ava had certainly helped cement it. Now, whenever he was around them he felt more at peace. Did it lead to some dark circles and extra yawning in the morning? Sure, but it was worth the experience. 

Caleb found his usual solitude on the bench that faced the still water. It was quiet. If it weren’t cold, he could almost sleep right there. He was pretty sure Erythreus had found him in that gazebo fast asleep at sunrise multiple times, and the thought was tempting. He’d always rather fall asleep counting stars than tangled in uncomfortable sheets. Before he could stretch the full length of his legs out on the bench, however, he was joined by a woman who appeared around his age. He was glad it was dark and she couldn’t see the slight flush that had conquered his cheeks over the thought of her being five minutes later and finding him asleep. The racing thoughts in his brain almost failed to connect to the English she was speaking, but after a moment he managed. “Night owls, yes?” He said sheepishly. “The stars can be...comforting, oui?”

Octavia always came here whenever she just needed time to breathe and process, which lately, was more often than not. Coming back to Evermore and facing everyone had been both helpful and really crushing for her. On the one side, it gave her purpose and her mind focused which meant she wasn’t just sitting and feeling sorry for herself constantly, something which really wasn’t healthy and made her progressively sadder and sadder. But them on the flip side, coming back meant she had to be strong for everyone else around her, she wasn’t the only person who lost someone, after all, Theo lost his brother who he had known for his entire life and Thea lost her mother. It must feel impossible for them. It was chilly this evening, enough that she pulled her cardigan a little tighter around her shoulders as she looked out over the distance. She missed the Isle of Skye, nights like this reminded her of it so much.

Octavia glanced over at the male for a moment, seeing the dazed look he gave her which immediately told her he was really tired, she knew that feeling considering she didn’t think she’d had proper rest in the past 6 months since everything went down. A few hours here and there sure but they always seemed to end with nightmares or restlessness which eventually had her needing to get up and do something else. “I never used to be, but lately that seems to the the case” she spoke it thoughtfully as she turned her gaze towards the sky and then back to him with a laugh “Well I’m not sure the stars like me all that much but they sure are something to look at” she admitted it with a shrug of her shoulders as she leaned her head against the tree which stood tall next to the bench.

“I’m Octavia by the way” she introduced herself realizing they’d never actually met before and he wasn’t a guard so he wouldn’t just know everyone’s names. She glanced over at him for a moment “Long way to come just to look at the stars?” she questioned him, he hadn’t been living in the manor for at least a few months now but she knew he got along with Argent and Ery which means he would always be welcome around here. She was just wondering if something was weighing on his mind and he was looking for some peace like she was she supposed, sometimes she felt like she had to compartmentalize how she was feeling around the other Ailward guards and aspects because they were hurting too and negativity seemed to breed more negativity.

Annecy (Spring, 2005)

“Calebbb!” A melodic voice called put over the shrubbery, almost making him feel guilty for hiding. “Mangeons, mon petit chou!” 

Almost. Often, the adventure was worth pushing the boundaries. The tall reeds concealed all but the top of his head and if he kept still he could watch the family of beavers a throw away collecting sticks to repair their dam. As much as he didn’t want to leave Percy and Albus, his animal companions, Caleb did have to admit that dinner sounded good. He’d been on the shores of the lake all day and the combination of sun and surf was enough to make any eleven year old very hungry.

Arrivant!” Caleb grinned, calling back. He felt fortunate to live next to the nature, but only a stones throw away from a warm meal. He quickly bundled together the wooden sword, pencils, and collection of rocks that he’d gathered that day before jogging back towards the house. Immediately, the smell of his favorite food wafted through the open doors and towards his nose, causing the pre-teen to drop his toys and run towards the dinner he'd only moments ago been stalling. 

Adalie stood over the stove, a weary smile on her face as Caleb bounded through the front door. “I made your favorite.”

Caleb’s stomach growled as he sat down to the plate of Ratatouille, but couldn’t help but notice the slow way his Mama walked and almost concealed grimace on her face. “Another one of your headaches, today?” They were getting worse and he couldn't pretend that he didn't see that. She'd always told him that it was just the weather, but he was worried. As the blend of noodles, tomato sauce, and cooked vegetables met his tongue, Caleb did his best to hide the way his eyebrows had formed a solid line. 

“Do not fuss yourself over it.” She joined him at the table, leaning over to kiss his forehead, before the banter over the day’s adventures quickly overtook any thought of pain. 

Present Day 

Caleb has always made friends with the stars, but he also had grown up far from the city night lights, surrounded by the harmony of quacking ducks by day and crickets at night. His Mama had always told him that no matter what you had to say, stars would always keep your secrets. She was an artist and had raised him on a lake much like the one that now stretched in front of them, blissfully serene. In middle school one of his favorite hobbies had been learning how to skip rocks against the blue surface. He dug his boot into the mud at the edge of the bench. It had been years since he’d even attempted to do anything more than watch wildlife. It had been different after his Mama passed away. Sometimes he wondered if her death had opened Pandora’s Box onto his life, or if maybe Ava had been right and everyone suffered. It just came to each person in a unique way, often without care of timing. “I grew up on a lake...much like this.” 

Perhaps, it was why he was so fond of the place, but Caleb was tired of analyzing himself. Being here seemed to quiet everything that raced inside him, almost like being hugged, or wrapped in a peaceful embrace. Only, it was memory instead of the arms of someone he loved. Between his mother passing suddenly as a boy, coping with a stillborn child, and his fiancée dying only a week before their wedding: from the outside it seemed like death followed him closely through the years and it want so strange that he’d become so close with a grim reaper. As Octavia introduced herself, he realized that he’d seen her many times over the last while. They both ran in the Ailwards circle, but Caleb was not one to introduce himself to a others actively, especially in the group settings where he remembered adding a name to her face. “Caleb and...I suppose that’s a bit of a long story.”

A handshake seemed wrong, so he let the words carry themselves as he pointed up to the stars in between a patch of cloudy sky. “See there?” He pointed in a ladeled motion. “That’s the Big Dipper. Legend says following it you’ll always find your way.”

He didn’t know to what, but he liked to believe finding home. 

Octavia noticed the way that Caleb was here but also somewhere else at the same time, something she understood well, trying to keep up with everyday life and all the people around you but also feeling like you were stuck somewhere in the past too. She was sure she was going to feel like that for a while now, missing the past and then letting the memories seep in and spin around her mind, it was happy afternoons out in the fall leaves or making snowmen, quiet dates walking hand in hand in the park. It was when she was young and her parents and Aurelia would all spend the afternoon working out in the fields or training. The older you got, the more of those memories there were to haunt you. When he said he grew up near a lake like this one she turned her eyes to the large open body of water “I didn’t, but I spent most of my life by the sea so I guess a part of me misses that” if you closed your eyes, you could listen to the quiet whooshing of the water where the fish were swimming and imagine you were somewhere else.

The blonde wasn’t trying to pry conversation from him if he didn’t want to give it, she understood wanting to be alone better than most lately, sometimes all she needed in her life was for everything to stop and be quiet for a while, those were the only times she truly felt like she could breathe and cope. But then there were other times where conversation was welcome, especially when it wasn’t about the topic which was weighing on your mind, just something to distract the mind and take it all away. “Caleb” she spoke and nodded her head slightly as though to silently say it was nice to meet him while she leaned against the tree to the side of her. He seemed like a kind and polite guy from what she had briefly seen of him around the manor though she wasn’t sure how much Argent and Ery had revealed to him about who they were and what they did.

“Well, you’ll find I’m an excellent listener” she spoke softly with a gentle laugh “Much better at listening than I am talking if I’m honest, I never know quite what to say” though she had been told before her advice was good so maybe that was just her insecurities shining through. When he pointed to the sky, her eyes followed his lead and focused in on the constellation he was pointing out with a slight smile of awe “Always find your way” she repeated his words and grinned a little “Kinda sounds poetic, though it begs the question of where it leads to” what direction was a person supposed to take in life. “Do you know any others?” she asked as she glanced over to him, her green eyes illuminating in the soft moonlight, she noticed he was quite tall even while sitting because she had to tilt her head up a little to look at him.

He remembered every star. The way that they twinkled down at him was alien to the way that it had once been, warm and delightful, beckoning to the greater adventure the world held. It was foreign now, yet it had been something that so many people in his life had aspired to understand. Astronomy was mathematical and precise, but the legends that led between the trails of light was mystical and full of unanswered questions. He knew the stories. Ava had known them by heart and frequently recited them during their nights under his skylight apartment. He had always been surprised that she hadn't turned out to be an astronaut instead of a pilot, but perhaps her love of the sky was more than one dimensional. Caleb drew his knees up to his chest "Trace a straight line and then up in three different heights and that is the constellation of the hand." He demonstrated and wrote a soft line in between two glowing dots in the black canvas of night. "The myth comes from the Lakota tribe, Native Americans who lived in South Dakota. It was once said that whichever warrior survived a mighty task would receive the daughter of the chief's hand in marriage. 

Caleb shook his head, partially glad he hadn't been raised in past times of warriors and their conquests, although sometimes he admitted that the adventure might be worth the risk. "People like to tell stories. Some of them go back a very long time. I think talking about things is one way we come to accept the circumstances of our life."

Sometimes, bad things happened, but in Evermore Caleb was see that they didn't conquer all of the good things, or take away the beauty of the stars. Those were one thing that would never change and neither would the impression left on him by his past love. He knew it was time to move on and slowly in the past two years, his heart had begun to heal. The loss of his partner had turned into a subtle acceptance and remembrance of the time that they spent together. There were, however, days that he woke up with a heavy heart and nights of little sleep. They didn't always pertain to memories, though, sometimes he simply needed to wander. He needed the time to become quiet and still again, before his body could rest or his jokes would again slip out in conversation. The lake was the perfect place to do this. 

Caleb turned to face Octavia. He recognized Octavia from around the manor. Although they'd only ever briefly spoken in greeting, or polite how-do-you-do's, so he was very curious to learn more. She was good-looking in a way that didn't boast of beauty, but what he noticed most was that despite her lips smiling kindly at him, her eyes still carried a burden. It was one that he recognized all too well. "One thing wonderful about the sky is that the sun always comes back. No matter what you've experienced, that one thing is always true." He fiddled with chain and ring in his pocket. It no longer felt right to wear it around his neck, but yet, it didn't feel right to put it away. "Things change."

Octavia had always been the practical child of her family, the one who figured everything out through logic and calculation, unlike her sister who had been given all the imagination and artistic talent. So perhaps she felt a little detached from the things he was saying because they were so poetic and while there was no doubt it sounded beautiful, she struggled to see any more than a blanket of white sparkly dots above them. She pursed her lips thoughtfully, different people saw the world in different ways she supposed but that was kinda why it worked, things would be awfully boring if everyone was the same. Still, she strained her gaze slightly as she tried to see what he was seeing “All I see is a scatter of lights” she spoke in a slightly disappointed tone “A mighty task huh?” she raised her brows “They sure loved their vague descriptions back then” maybe that’s what made it sound so poetic.

Like him she drew her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them as she leaned her chin against them “Maybe that’s it, or maybe stories are just a good distraction from reality” she nodded remembering how much she always enjoyed hearing stories when she was younger because it took her mind off the fact her family were essentially caught up in a war zone “I always liked hearing the ones with the happy endings” she spoke softly and smiled slightly.

She was mostly staring out into the distance as they talked, her mind occupied with the path from past to present and the person she had become throughout, if you told her story then it would probably be a tragedy given all she had lost. But she was still here and fighting which counted for something right? But sometimes she did glance over at him, she noticed how blue his eyes were, even in this low light she could see the way they reflected the night sky with a certain wonder which she couldn’t describe. “Yeah, no matter how many good days or bad days you have, they are always days and there will be another” the world kept moving regardless of where you stood and that was a good reminder that the world didn’t revolve around any single person. “And if you’re not careful, they’ll leave you behind” she spoke it softly as she pressed her lips together.

“Not all changes are bad though, I mean there’s new friends to meet and things to experience” she tried to see the bright side even when the world was dark, but it was becoming increasingly hard.

Caleb couldn't imagine a world without art and his head without an imagination as big as the sky. All of his life, people had encouraged him to ask why. Once you started asking why things existed or why colors made people it did one of two things: brought out logic, or fantasy. He was happy to let logic take the back seat sometimes if it meant that beauty could prosper. It hadn't always been like that, though. There were plenty of times he'd shut that part of himself away or tried to force into tiny boxes and shut the door. It wasn't easy to see good in a world where things like starvation and violence existed. However, he knew that good people did their best to fight against that darkness everyday. His fiancee wouldn't have died trying to rescue people from a natural disaster if she wasn't good and the tsunami wouldn't happen if there wasn't bad. Two sides of the same coin, so delicately balanced, often tripping and slicing into the cords of the lives he knew, forever cutting them to the grave.

It was clear to him that they'd both experienced loss and those experiences were the ones that lead to disturbed sleep and restless jaunts through the stars. Caleb remembered his first few months in Evermore and the days that had lead him here. Chasing a ghost had nearly turned him into one. Living during the night had made it easier for others to not see how badly that loss was affecting him, but eventually the Ailwards had taken notice. Argent had offered him friendship, Eri had offered him a place to grieve, and Malva had monitored his health. With the aid of their trifecta, in the space of a year, Caleb found himself painting again and slowly enjoying his social circle. The miles that he walked at night had wrapped around the city and into almost every territory, but the lake behind the Ailwards home was still his favorite spot on a particularly bad night. "I don't think we ever completely leave the people we love." 

He carefully dropped a smooth stone into her fingertips. He always enjoyed taking the rocks, thinking of a memory, and then skipping it into the water. In that way, he found relief. By some magic or mysterious work of a groundskeeper, the small pile of stones was always back on the north shore, the next time he needed them. "Take it in your hand, think of something that holds you down, and let it go."

Caleb picked up a stone, carefully measuring it in his hand, before skipping it across the water. "Even the dead. We carry them with us. In memory and how we live." He sat back down, ignoring that the grass was slightly damp. In the vague light, the pulled Ava's ring from his pocket and let it shine in the moonlight for a moment, before hiding it away again. He barely wore or revealed it these days. "If you've lost aren't alone."

The one thing that Octavia tried to do whenever she met someone was new was try and understand them, understand where they came from and why they were the way they were. She sensed from Caleb that his past might be quite a dark place, he spoke of small moments in his life and the significance behind them but it always seemed to be with this wistful twinge in his voice which made her feel that it was on the other side of a lot of hardship “Nor do they ever completely leave us” she agreed with him, there would be a part of everyone she lost in everything she did, she carried their legacy inside her, it shaped the choices she made and the person she had become.

She looked down at the stone he had placed into her hand, running her thumb over the smooth surface as she listened to him explain what to do with it. She had always skipped rocks out here with Vlad on the hard days and it made her light up just a little to see someone with the same tradition. There was something truly freeing about taking your worries and sending them flying across the water. She thought about the weight of worry she’d been carrying since she came back from that mission, the ever-present question of whether she was a danger and then nodded slightly before sending the stone skipping across the water.

“You’re right, though in my case I’m not even sure if I have the room to keep carrying everything I’ve lost” she admitted it in a soft voice, the curse of living so long unfortunately, the world was painful for an immortal in a mostly mortal world and living in such a volatile faction meant she had seen so many people come and go. Seeing the ring he held in his hand made her naturally reach to touch the one of her index finger and let out a soft breath, she hadn’t been able to bring herself to take it off so it was always there, a constant reminder. She raised her gaze and pressed her lips together when he said he lost someone too “Doesn’t ever feel like it’ll get better at times” she spoke softly “Sorry for your loss” she spoke empathetically knowing how he must feel.

Caleb took a deep breath, subconsciously whistling The Clare De Lune to himself as he looked out over the water. He still knew it by heart even after many months of trying to shut it out of his mind, the soft lullaby echoed from his pursed lips in clear pitch. There were crickets chirping in the trees, playing a fiddle's accompaniment to his tune. There was a lot of history in the short bars of music. It had been the blissful, but clumsy moments of their first dance and also the pure shock as her plane of the same name was lost in the ocean. He tried his best to focus on the good moments. There were so many to choose from and if he didn't choose to keep walking, he knew the memories would anchor his feet and pull him downwards into a darkness where the sun was not visible. 

I’m sorry for your loss. Sometimes, Caleb felt like that phrase followed him around. He’d spent a lot of time in graveyards for someone in his twenties, that was true; but, the people he buried had been worth the pain. Very rarely did he consider that loving someone could (in the truest sense) deprive you of more than it gave. Though, there were of course exceptions to every rule. The people he’d loved had been kind, innocent souls and he knew very little about the darker side of those emotions. He twiddled with Ava’s ring more openly, now that Octavia mentioned it. Only then, did he recognize the faint glimmer of one on her own hand. Caleb remembered when he would rather have cut his own finger off than remove it. He still did sometimes. Now, more as a reminder of an old and dear friend. One of the people he’d shared nearly everything with, including a child. Someone who had healed him in unspeakable ways and who’s absence had broken new cracks. Only time was beginning to seal them. Time and hope that his life would continue. Just like she would want.

It wasn't only the bad dreams that kept him awake, though. It was the good ones. It was drift off to sleep, alone in his room, finally happy with where his life was in the present, only to have his subconscious remind him what it felt like to have her body curled up next to his own in the morning with warm light drifting in through the windows. Sometimes, briefly, their son would be cuddled between them, safe and warm. Only when he opened his eyes did reality betray him. The more that it happened, the less that it stung. Lately, it seemed more like messages from heaven than an absence from hell, but there were days that it still got to him and those were times that he spent walking around the lake. Nights like tonight. As much as he liked being alone, Caleb had to admit that it was comforting to have Octavia on the other side of the gazebo. She may not be his family, who were unreachable like a distant sun, but perhaps that was exactly what he needed. Someone else to be there, just to listen: never to replace, only to respond. 

Caleb stood up, dusting his sweat pants off from the dewy grass, wondering if perhaps, he should of have changed out of pajamas before leaving the house. He hadn't exactly planned on seeing anyone tonight. He'd noticed over the years that casual clothing was an essential part of the American lifestyle. However, it was not something he'd adopted. It was fair to say that people rarely saw him dressed down outside of the gym. He almost never left the house without a proper pair of shoes, a button up or collared shirt, and some nice jeans or slacks. Silently, he put his questions over his appearance to rest, and settled near bench nearby. He'd left tiny marks on the Ailwards property over the years and this particular bench and become quite colored with different cartoon depictions of each one of the siblings. He ran his fingers around it, shaking his head at how Ery had requested to have better hair. He'd found a family and certainly something he'd never had before: a brother.

"What is your family like?" He tilted his head. Clearly, they both enjoyed time with the Ailwards, but he didn't know very much about the Ivakovs. Just like, Octavia, they seemed a bit mysterious. Are you as haunted by beautiful ghosts as I am? He couldn't help but wonder.

The thing that felt hardest about processing everything she went through was having this dreading feeling in her stomach like the worst is yet to come, which considering she had lost someone so important to her life, felt almost inconceivable and yet she saw city relations slowly getting more and more volatile. Every headline or meeting the guard call to review took her right back to that day she returned to the manor and brought the news of Vlad’s death and she wasn’t sure she could ever feel truly ‘okay’ again until they had managed to find some kind of answer on who was responsible for taking him. But then the other part of her knew her late husband was a fun-loving and caring person who always put his family before anything else and she knew how disappointed in her he would be if he knew she was wallowing, she knew he would want her to be happy but finding happy wasn’t something that she knew how to do right now.

She lifted her gaze as she noticed him stand up, though she stayed where she was, eyes moving between his figure and the sky while she just processed her thoughts for a while. Being a guard was one of the most rewarding things she had ever chosen to do but also one of the hardest, with everything they lost and the pain they went through til now, she was sure no one would blame them if it managed to tear them from the inside out but somehow all those struggles had brought them closer as a unit and she saw the whole faction as her family. Some were closer than others of course but they had all been on this journey together and they all believed in the same things, they believed in protecting the innocent and caring for this world, for encouraging equality.

So when he asked what her family was like it made her stop and think about her answer for a moment, it was hard to define it she supposed because it could be seen as both broad and small depending how to decided to tackle the question “Incredibly complicated” she responded honestly and laughed “There are families made up entirely of one species and then there is ours, who decide we may as well complete the full set” she ran a hand through her short blonde curls and shrugged “My sister and I were raised in a pure Nephilim family who hunted Dragonkin” she pressed her lips together for a moment “But that’s a dangerous life to lead and she ended up getting turned into a Valkyr” which she wasn’t judging of course but the elder Ivakov certainly blamed herself in part for what happened.

“And when she had a child that welcomed our resident Dhampir Tatiana” she nodded “And my late husband was a Phoenix, he had a son from his previous marriage who was a Diviner and his brother Theo, he’s an Initia” she chuckled because the longer she talked the crazier it seemed “And Theo’s daughter Iris, she’s a Therianthrope” she lifted her green-hued gaze towards him and smiled “Confused yet?” they were quite literally proof that all species could get along through and that was what she found special about them “We’re definitely not your run of the mill family but” she shrugged slightly trailing off. It still felt weird for her to talk about Vlad when he was gone, sometimes she just expected him to appear right down the hallway like nothing had changed “I guess we kinda work”.

There was something about grief that made a home in everyone, but only after taking away what mattered most to the person it occupied. Somehow, inside the walls of what had once been treasured festered a wound that ate away at memory, at song, and every bit of joy that it touched. Caleb knew it all too well, because grief had been his constant companion for the past several years. He'd hidden himself in the depths and wandered through the countless nights where loneliness was than a feeling. Every time that he had dared to think of Ava Jacobs, there would be physical pain that made his shoulders heavy and his smile disappear. Remembering the dead was not something that the living very often did without a vague sense of questioning. Death existed and it had been something he'd had to face very early on his life, but never more had he tried to wish it away than when his fiancée had taken flight, only to never come back from the clouds.

He still carried her with him, despite that now the wound had healed into a soft mark with stitches that he sewed himself. There were some things that people never forgot and love was one of those. As they spoke, Caleb got the sense of Octavia's grief, but only in brief moments where their eyes would meet and he didn't have to hide or put up a pretense. He'd almost forgotten what it was like to not wear armour around others. As an artist, it was often that he bared his emotions onto canvas, but it was rarely that he let others know what was really going on his head, even if they could tell that there was something. He was private and held out to talk to his experiences with but a few. The small bubble in the gazebo evoked a certain spirit of murmures dans l'obscurité. Or, whispers in the dark. It was such a place that you could say anything and be forgiven, like confession, at a chapel.  

Caleb ran his fingers through his hair as he listened to her describe her family and supposed that the silence which followed was the natural cue for him to continue. "I have never had a large family to enjoy. It was...small. Intimate, I suppose." He shrugged. "There was me and my Mama until I was around twelve and she died, but she was the one who inspired me to paint. She was an artist. Her work always inspired me. The way she used a brush to bring about the most simple of memories. C'est magique. It's like magic." His eyes sparkled, as he described the canvases he remembered from long ago. "And my Papa is American, but we are not very close. We only met as adults. He is very different than I am, stern and strong, but quite funny if you can understand in time." Caleb chuckled. "I also have a half-brother, who loves math the way I love art."

He paused for a moment, catching her gaze, before his own floated off towards the lake in search of something that was long gone. "And I always had Ava," He fingered the ring in his pocket. "Until I did not."

He hugged his knees to his chest and bit his lip. "Sometimes it is the people missed who touch your heart the most, oui?

Octavia supposed every time that she had been through grief before there had been a constant which helped to pull her up, Vlad and now that it was his death she was attempting to come to terms with, this time she had to pull herself up again. Of course, there were people around her she could lean on when she needed to but it was different this time, this time was about trying to find the drive in life when your world felt a little shattered. In that sense, she thought she was doing pretty well, she managed to get out of bed, she did sleep, though not exactly peacefully, her focus had been on diving into her guard duties because those felt like they gave her purpose.

Her green hues lifted when he talked about his own family, how it was small and close but it was clear despite the fact he lost his mother young that she had taught him, instilled values and passion in him that would always be there “So painting has always been your way of keeping her memory alive” she commented it softly, thoughtfully even because there were many things she and Vlad had done together and perhaps she could keep alive in that sense. “It sounds like you value them all the same way I do mine” she offered a small smile in his direction “There’s this thing about family, most of them you don’t choose and yet the bond you feel to them is like nothing else” even people like Caleb and his father who he suggested were very different to one another found a way to understand and respect each other.

She pressed his lips together when he said he had Ava until he did not, there was the name of the person he was missing she supposed. It seemed like they had more in common than either initially thought. She nodded slightly “It’s only natural when a person becomes a part of you that they take a part with them when they’re gone” that wasn’t her being pessimistic at all, that was her admitted that there would always be a part of her which felt attached to him, that would miss him always. She ran a hand through her hair and gave a soft sigh “But I also have to remember, the rest of me is mine only and if I can’t find a way to live it, it almost feels...wasted” she took a long breath “Does that make any sense at all?” she had spent a lot of time crying and wanting to be alone so far but it made her question what that achieved, it certainly didn’t bring anyone back.

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