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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The lights were low around the bench that he'd chosen and the bokeh of lanterns sparkled in the trees, an allure of human magic calling to him. It was just the type of night that Caleb loved to capture and keep forever. It was warm, both with laughter and conversation. He settled against the wooden blanks, recalling the many nights on similar benches by the lakeside. It was fun to see Octavia's innocent reactions to the big, bright world that he'd been able to experience since childhood. He couldn't imagine not being human. The messiness of it all that was strewn with hope was part of why he was an artist, after all. There were some things that were untouchable, unexplainable and the quiet moments where they sat together seemed to be one of them. He seemed to lose his English, sometimes, and it took more than the average amount of time for him to gather his thoughts into a proper sentence. Thankfully, talking about art came easily. It was something that no matter the weather or the confusion that bubbled up inside him, could light a smile in his eyes and bring his tongue to a quick babble - even if it turned into Frenchglish. She seemed patient, and he was thankful to laugh off his mistakes. 

Caleb laughed and scrunched his nose thinking of some of the antics he'd gotten up to on a weekend alone surrounded by art supplies. It had been a while since he'd shared them. Very few had seen the actual mess that was his studio. His paintings, yes. They were in the front room of his home that had large windows and plain white walls. It was clean. It was decorative, like a frame to the canvas. His studio was as much the inside of his brain as the paint was an ingredient to his creativity. Yet, somehow, he would not be ashamed of sharing that mess with her. He glanced down at his converse before back up at her. "Yes, yes. More art. Always." He liked to express himself with paint the way a child would play with playdough. It didn't only decorate the canvases in his studio, but very often the lightswitches, the ceiling, and the windows. He didn't like to limit his creativity. "I tend to get lost in it sometimes, but when I do, it is nice to have someone to adventure with again. Perhaps, sometime, you would like to see it? My getaway. Disaster and all."  

Caleb stood as the lines for the rides began forming. He hadn't ridden a Ferris Wheel in years. Overcome with excitement, he grabbed her hand and began jogging across the grounds, people, smells, and light rushing past. "Allonsy!" 

It was a strangely beautiful sight to sit aside while everyone rushed around them, kids with big smiles on their faces, the smell of all different kinds of food in the air, everyone chatting loudly amongst their groups and looking up at the lights in wonder. She was looking over at all of the different carnival rides they had set up, some looked really fun and some looked absolutely terrifying, she had never really been able to see one in person before, everything was so lively that it made her feel alive, in a strange way. She was glad to be here with Caleb, perhaps considering their peaceful natures most of the time, this was a strange place to find themselves but somehow it made sense, they both seemed to be searching for something good in their lives, things to look forward to.

She laughed at the way he responded without hesitation whenever it was about art, she truly saw a light in him whenever he was talking about something that was important to him, he pretty much came alive. She sometimes wondered if she would ever find some kind of passion like that, something she could create or do that she felt truly proud of. Despite living for so long, sometimes she wondered if she was only living moment to moment without any real goals. “It’s kinda inspiring to me how you always seem to be overflowing with… energy when it comes to art” she laughed under her breath. She wondered what she would have done with her life if she had been born into this era and not raised as a dragonkin hunter. She widened her eyes at his offer to see his studio though “Are you sure I wouldn’t be an imposition?” she was definitely curious to see the place he created all of his paintings, aside from the ones he sometimes did in the gardens “I’d...really love to see that” his art was definitely beautiful to her and she wouldn’t turn down the chance to see more.

“And don’t they say there’s a certain peace in chaos?” she chided with a smile as she got to her feet, they came here for the carnival, after all, they should definitely experience it. When he suddenly grabbed her hand she widened her eyes but laughed as she allowed him to tug him across the way towards one of the big rides. It was high but didn’t look especially terrifying. When they slowed down as they reached the entrance she grinned playfully as she peered up at him and then at the Ferris Wheel “I could get used to excited you” she commented, glancing down to their joined hands and wondering if she should let go. Was it bad if she didn’t want to? They edged up the line before reaching the booth where she handed over her tokens for the ride and before long they were being shut into the little seat and a lap bar pulled over their laps “What made you choose this one?” she quizzed wondering if there was something special about it.

Caleb wasn’t sure what had instantly drawn him to towards the Ferris Wheel. Unlike most things, it wasn’t nostalgia. It was fair to say on his best days he thrived on his memory and on his worst, it tended to capture him and keep him in the past, but right now he liked this moment. It was a warm night but not too humid, a perfect example of a Colorado summer. The line to get on the great apparatus was long already and the excitable chatter of the people around him reminded him of the streets of Paris. Compared to the great French city, Evermore was truly a small one. As he stared up at the wheel of lights that slowly spun around hosting guests in glitter, he noticed that Octavia’s hand was still in his. It was small, delicate, but the grooves that met his fingertips also had callouses. He glanced downwards, warmth parading from their touching fingers up his arm and stirring an array of surprising emotions in his chest. Thankfully, he didn’t have to explain the thousands of thoughts that were all trying to occupy his tongue, as the line moved forwards. He lead her forwards and escorted her up the one step that led to the tiny metal carriage. Only a thin bar sat between them and the rest of the world as it started to rise into the sky. It took him a moment to find his voice. “Light has always fascinated me. Part of being an artist, I guess.” He shrugged, looking up as they rose above the fairground. “It’s one of the most living things that doesn’t actually breathe. The way it moves and is always the same, yet, always so surprising, you know?”

The neon lights were reflecting in multiple colors across his field of vision, making the field of strangers far beneath almost glow. There was so much to look at between the view, momentary glances at his counterpart, and the lively music that he didn't realize there was a brief silence between them. A sheepish look crossed over his face. Great, his answer had probably just catapulted him straight into nerd territory. If she liked him excited, his rambling would likely follow. Caleb was nothing if not passionate, but it had been a while since there had been a girl sitting beside him that he didn't mind it fluttering towards. For once in a rare moment, the now felt alive enough that he could let the past be at peace. Life was full of chaos, perhaps, but around her everything seemed to slow down. He looked back up as the embarrassment faded. His sturdy fingers were still loosely entangled with hers. Caleb glanced her way and cleared his throat, looking away to hide his smile. The last thing he wanted to do was force her into moving on, but a gentle squeeze was enough to say what he meant without words. He didn’t let go, though. Surprisingly, he didn’t want to.

Octavia would admit to being out of her element tonight, which was ridiculous considering the places she had seen and been to in her years, something which was considered almost mundane to most was foreign to her and she found herself wrapped up in the wonder of it all. Whereas she could quite literally see the nostalgia etched on Caleb’s face because this was something he knew and was comfortable with. It was a good new experience, the lights, the music, the loud chatter and big smiles, it felt like being able to take a moment to breathe and just be happy for a while, something she hadn’t experienced for a long time now. 

She had to wonder for a moment what Vlad would think of all this. She had never been the type to need someone else but she had found comfort in finding someone who had been through the same things she did and her and Caleb had gotten closer. This wasn’t officially a date and they had never called it that but it kinda felt like one, especially with her hand in his. He was warm and his larger hand enveloped hers with ease. Same as his height practically dwarfed hers when they were standing next to one another like this. She wondered if she should say something but she didn’t want to ruin the moment either and so she kept holding onto him. She felt supported and she decided she was going to relish that feeling. After they climbed into the little seat, it didn’t take long before they were heading upwards, her eyes scanning around and seeing the lights of Evermore City in the distance. She smiled as Caleb explained his fascination with light “One of those things which are hard to explain because they’re just so...magical” considering a lot of supernatural abilities were closely attached with the light she had a certain belief it was tied to magic. 

She nodded thoughtfully “And yet it’s not volatile like magic is, you can always rely on it to be steady, the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. Light refracts and becomes a rainbow when you split it” she nodded a few times “Kinda beautiful when you think about it like that” she smiled as she glanced over at him. It was silent for a moment as they stared out at the expansive distance. It was kinda serene, despite the loud music and implication of chaos below. Perhaps it was the company. He always seemed to make her feel calm, even on the worst nights when nightmares wouldn’t leave her, she could just sit by him and find some sort of solace and she didn’t feel like she needed to hide any part of who she was alongside him. When he squeezed her hand she turned her head towards him and smiled, saying her own words silently too “This was a good idea” she spoke as the ride circled around and began heading up for the second rotation “I’ve lived such an abnormal life for so long, I think...normality was exactly what I need to find” and she was grateful for him showing her how that looked.

 The small seats left them just enough space that it wasn't at all awkward, just a little cozier than the gazebo. He didn't mind that. Even though there arrangement had this night labeled as friends exploring the town, Caleb was feeling more and more like a teenager. He wasn't sure what to do or say and he was honestly a little nervous to met her eyes, because he was afraid that they'd travel down to those rosy pink lips and he'd get distracted like he always did. Distracted and at a loss for English words were two things that commonly described him, but tonight he would prefer if he could be different. He'd rather come across as a smooth gentleman than the nervous wreck that he felt like. Still, it was confusing, even as once again the giant wheel boosted their vision over the whole field; where were the boundaries? How did he not make a fool out of himself? Would Ava have been okay with the fact that when he was around Octavia, his shoulders didn't feel so heavy? Subconsciously, he knew the answer to the last question was yes. Ava had always been a pepper-pot of joy; not because her life had been easy, but because she saw the difference it made in her sphere of influence when she smiled. He wanted to be more like that. If there was anything that he took away from his past relationship and kept, he wanted to smile more. He wanted to be less serious and not let the difficult things define him anymore. 

It would take practice.  

The Ferris Wheel descended for the final time, allowing people to ease their way back into the crowd. Caleb kept a hold of her hand as they took a step off, adjusting back to the normal sway of gravity. "Light is predictable, or at least, I think so. I know there are plenty of people who say a sunset is magic and I can't disagree." 

He smiled, at the ground, before shyly meeting her gaze. Her eyes were a soft green and the LED bulbs from behind him bounced in her reflection like fairy dust. The same kind of gravity that led the rides spinning around, seemed to naturally lead him closer towards her, but his boundaries made him take a step back, a soft pink toning his cheeks. 

He wasn't sure what was happening. Why did his chest feel like butterflies were trying to escape? 

This is not a date. Be a gentleman. Said the angel on his shoulder. 

Follow your instincts. Whispered the other.

Conflicted, Caleb reached the next stall and was thankful it could occupy his hands, which now seemed slightly sweaty. "I assume you've been bowling before." He pointed to the pins, which had targets behind them. "This is almost the same. We're going to be a team and try to get points knocking them down." The Frenchman pressed a wooden ball into her grip. "Throw it very hard."

While the games keeper was distracted, he leaned over and whispered in her ear. "And a little to the left, it's actually quite rigged."

With a pitcher's arm, he took aim and rounded the wooden ball at the pegs, successfully knocking them off their magnetic stand. "Like that, oui?" 

A part of her wondered mindlessly what Vlad would think of tonight and whether he would be angry for her for enjoying the company of someone else but pretty much as soon as the question came in her mind she resolved that he wouldn’t be angry, he had always wanted the best for his family and for them to be happy and she couldn’t imagine any reality where he would want her to stay stuck wishing for something she could no longer have. It was hard to accept that but this really was her reality now and no matter how much she wanted to, she couldn’t go back.

And she was enjoying herself so far here with Caleb, he was quiet but also really thoughtful and considerate which she liked a lot. She didn’t need someone to say a lot of words to sense how they were feeling, she tended to be able to pick up on that from the way they acted. She could sense Caleb was a little nervous tonight which gave her the assurance that like her he was wondering whether there might be something more. It wasn’t like she was blind, she knew he was handsome but behind that he was this creative and sensitive person who seemed to care about things more than he let on.

Before long they were exiting the Ferris Wheel, she glanced over at it over her shoulder as they walked away and smiled, what a great invention, she thought to herself, it was created for no other reason than amusement and yet it served its purpose pretty much perfectly. “I feel like it’s compulsory for an artist to see beauty in the world where others might not find it” she commented and smiled “I guess in a way you see magic in ordinary things a lot” she noticed how fascinated he had been by things she would consider simple or a given in the past.

She glanced up at him for a moment and they just seemed to pause for a few seconds as their gazes met, her chin tilting a little because she needed to lean back to see him because of how close they were. A soft smile appeared on her lips and she took a shaky breath, wondering what he was thinking because to her, she was thinking about how easy it would be to close the small gap between them.

Before long the two of them had moved over to one of the game stands, she was studying it and the people taking part in it when Caleb mentioned bowling “Once, but I wasn’t exactly good at it” she confessed with a sheepish smile but nodded when he said they would throw the ball to try and knock down the pins, she glanced over at him when he said to throw it hard. Well, that was a challenge, hard or supernaturally hard.

She widened her eyes when he said the game was rigged too, laughing under her breath before watching him take his shot, she grinned widely and nodded, she was good at aiming throws because she was well-trained in weapons so she took a deep breath, aimed and used a little of her supernatural strength in the throw, landing it well enough to hit but because it didn’t hit quite in the right spot the ball bounced back towards them which made her widen her eyes as it was heading straight for Caleb’s back, she lifted her hand to catch it just in time before giving him a sheepish grin “Well I never promised I was good at this” she confessed.

Every so often when Caleb would look over at Octavia carefully aiming for the pins, he could see red light glowing on her blond locks and for a moment, there would be a twinge of nostalgia. That was something familiar. The rest of this was all too new and confusing. He wasn't normally the type that enjoyed a loud and busy environment, but people watching had always been one of his favorite activities. It was an introverted way of socialising. It had been stranger a few weeks ago, when he'd first noticed the slight attraction that seemed to exist between them. In fact, it had been borderline alarming. It wasn't that he'd avoided women in the past two years, not entirely, but he had avoided intimacy or people he liked enough that it could end up as anything more than casual flirting in a bar. Somehow if you could forget it after one night, it didn't seem to do any harm, but there was nothing about Octavia that was forgettable. He leaned against the stall, reaching for the prize as it was offered to them by an unhappy worker, who did not appreciate that they'd bested the game. A giant teddy bear seemed like a nice distraction from the mental workout he was engaging in just now. Caleb knew that if he let himself, for him, falling in love happened quickly and all at once; but he didn't want to think about that. He wasn't ready. It seemed like so much. He hoped his torn emotions were not visible. He had to get better at masking them. Right now, the last thing he wanted to do was talk about it. At least, even if nothing happened, he could have a good night to drench in memory and make art out of tomorrow. 

Like a child who was proud of a first place ribbon, he presented the large stuffed bear to her with a bow. "It needs a name. Things come alive once you give them a name. You never know what powers this..."

He looked over the animal, which was terribly red, white and blue. "French-American bear could have." 

"I vote for Jacques."

She was very focused on the game and trying to win at it, she managed to get the hang of it before long and how to aim to send the pins tumbling, he wasn’t wrong when he said it was rigged, the things were practically glued together to prevent the average person from being able to knock them down easily. Quite sneaky. It felt gratifying to see the disgruntled look on the clerk’s face when he realized they had managed to figure out his secret and he brought over one of the prizes, her eyes widening when he didn’t take one of the small stuff animals from the side of the structure but instead an obnoxiously large teddy bear “I’ve never seen a stuffed animal that big in my life” she confessed with a whisper as she turned to face Caleb, seeing the giant thing propped in his arms she couldn’t help but grin.

He looked adorable and like he was so proud of the prize they had earned together, naturally she opened her arms and took it into hers. It was almost as big as her so as she hugged it against her chest she placed her chin on its shoulder so that she could still watch Caleb with a playful twinkle in her eyes “Not sure if what you just said sounded cute or like the beginning of a horror movie” she responded glancing at the bear’s face next to her and then back to the blue-eyed human.

“Jacques” she responded when he suggested the name and then nodded slightly, admittedly it didn’t sound quite the same rolling off her tongue with an American accent but it sounded cute none-the-less “I like it, do you like it?” she wasn’t speaking to Caleb, she was looking at the bear which she made nod in response to her questioning and then giggled. She pointed out one of the carnival rides and smiled “And he’ll fit with us on that...spinny thing?” she didn’t know what all these things were called but it had fun sounding music and looked energetic.

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