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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It happened one moment too fast for him to see or prevent. His enthusiasm guided him out of the previously spinning piece of dishware in a fairly graceful leap, but he didn't realize that perhaps his childhood experiences of riding on machines that spun him in circles had prepared him to easily dismount this one without an insane amount of vertigo. As Octavia stumbled out of the teacup, Caleb's excitement dampened slightly. He'd always prided himself on being a gentleman and gentlemen didn't leave ladies behind in unfamiliar territory. As he reached for the teddy bear, his companion stumbled over the stairs. He felt a quick tug on his jacket, before his own feet betrayed him. Thankfully, the bear took most of his fall. However, there was only a brief second where he could be thankful for that before she fell on top of him. 

"Ow..." She appeared rather small, but the impact was still a shock for the human, who was not the most hardy of them all.  "That's gonna bruise."

His breath had been forcibly shoved from his lungs, as they crashed so it took him time to get his bearings. When he did, he became distinctly aware of how close she was -- nearly atop him. It was enough that his eyes shot open in the half-darkness and he could feel a red heat building up his neck.  

It wasn't as though he'd never touched her. He was starting to quite like holding her hand.

It also wasn't as if he hadn't -- you know, since Ava had died. It just was - this seemed different. 

He actually liked her. Quite a lot. 

A chagrined smile took a place on his lips, as he looked up at her even features and then away. "Who's laughing?"

He wasn't laughing. 

Caleb felt flustered, but when he looked back up, he swore there was something. 

A cautious, but undivided attention. 

The playful grin he was getting back let him know she wasn't hurt and that their evening was going better than he had originally hoped.

If a band of school age children hadn't trampled past them and into the ride that they'd just exited, he almost...well, if he had the courage, he would have kissed her. 

Instead, Caleb stood up, brushed himself off, and reached for her hand.

Hands. That seemed easier. "Come on...I, uh -" His voice seemed a little stuck in his throat. "Would you like to see the house of mirrors?" 

So if she was trying to impress someone then falling completely head over heels off of a children’s ride probably wasn’t the way to go about it, especially because when she fell she somehow managed to drag Caleb down with her. The world was still spinning as she opened her eyes, hearing his reaction to the fall, her cheeks naturally flushing in embarrassment because of the way she had lost control of her body “Sorry” she spoke softly.

Though as their two gazes met she noticed she wasn’t the only one with color in her cheeks. She stared, probably for longer than she should have. From here she could see how deep his oceanic hues were, still glimmering in the whimsical bright lights around them. His features were sharp but the look he was giving her in that moment was soft, the kind of soft look which made her heartbeat speed up a little.

“Me” she responded when he asked who was laughing, though her smile was warm as she looked up at him. For a moment she wondered whether he was going to lean in, their eyes hadn’t left one another the whole time they were there. But in a second the moment was over and she was biting her lip as she reached to take his hand. Today had turned out to be something she never expected and strangely, she was okay with that.

His hand felt warm in hers, she felt comfortable. Today hadn’t started out as a date but right now it kinda felt like one. She hadn’t been on a date date in years, it was strangely exciting, though a little sad given that the last one she had was with Vlad “Sure…nothing’s going to jump out at me though is it?” she widened her eyes, she wasn’t so much worried about being scared as ending up attacking some poor actor just doing their job.

The walk towards the other side of the field was slower. The crickets were chirping and Caleb became aware that many of the large families were leaving as the sun set and it got darker. To the left was a corn maze and the right, a large barn with the dozens of mirrors he'd been speaking of, but for right now he was content with the quiet pace and matching footsteps. The dirt path reminded him of home. He hadn't been in Annecy in years and in some ways that made his heart ache. Although Caleb would never have admitted it, he missed France. The culture in America was different and often much louder than he was used to dealing with. This night walking in the countryside reminded him of growing up. It reminded him of happy times and sad times which seemed to be colliding lately. The air was almost wistful. Caleb bit his lip, matching her quick but tentative gaze. "If something happens, I am right here. I wouldn't let someone hurt you." 

Despite knowing that she was likely the more talented fighter of the two of them, he did mean it. There was something building inside him. He never wanted to let go of her hand. Instead, he gently ran his thumb down her fingers. 

As the crowd got further away, they were all alone in the field of tall grass. Some lanterns lit the way, but other than that, it was just them and the stars. Caleb reached for Octavia's other hand, pausing, where they were. He looked down at her, his blue eyes carefully tracing her features. Gosh, if he didn't get the courage now, he might never.

He leaned in, pulling her closer with his arms and letting his left hand come up to cradle her face. It was just a whisper, but he was ever the gentleman. "May I?" 

She was very aware of the fact it was getting later, the crowds were thinning, there were less young children running away and screaming excitedly. She saw a few groups of teenagers around them, enjoying spending time with their friends and laughing over some inside joke. She was looking around as they walked, getting a feel for the environment and enjoying the moments of quiet. They were rare in her life nowadays and honestly she wished she could have more happy days like this. Ones where her only worry was what ride she was going to challenge herself to get on next or what she was going to name her new giant teddy bear. She glanced over at him with a soft gaze when he said he wouldn’t let someone hurt her “Thanks” she spoke softly “Though I’d be more worried about what I might do if I’m surprised” she responded and blushed softly, she was a warrior and a guard after all, he knew that.

She got a sense of his protectiveness though and it made her feel warm. They had known each other for a long time now and they had grown closer, gotten to know one another’s quirks, shared their pain and also shared some happy moments. She felt comfortable being close with him, though her heart was beating a little faster because of the little near miss earlier.

Perhaps she was a little insecure in the fact she hadn’t really dated anyone in a long time, she never really intended to ever have to find someone new. But there was a sense of knowing in her chest, telling her it was okay to be happy, knowing that she deserved that after everything she had been through. When they stopped she turned to face him, green eyes lifting to meet his, her chin tilting a little because he was so much taller. She felt a connection with him that made her chest swell a little as she felt herself being pulled in close.

The blonde naturally pushed herself up onto her toes, leaning into his touch while her hands slowly lifted to wrap around the back of his neck. His whisper made her smile gently before responding a soft “Yes” she closing the gap between them, her lips brushing gently against his.

It had been a year and a half since Caleb had first stumbled upon Octavia in the gazebo that had long nursed his nightmares with quiet, but over that year he'd found that sometimes he sought her out because he wanted to be with someone who understood everything that he'd been through. In that plane crash, he hadn't just lost his family, but plenty of hopes and dreams that he'd built up. Coming to Evermore away from the memories was slowly allowing him to separate his past from his future. The sparks with Octavia were not planned. He'd wondered for a long time if he'd spend the rest of his years without the intimate connection of someone whom he wanted to share everything with, but then she'd been so gentle. She never once asked him to stop loving the old; if anything, the foundations of what they shared were based on a mutual understanding of loss. Yet, he could see himself being more than just a widower when she was around. Octavia was curious and kind, modest, and easily amused. He liked her smile, especially now.

This hadn't been a date. This hadn't been planned or prepared, but the entire night from the first moment of finding her in a crowd, to the way her arms were sliding up his neck, felt natural.  His blue eyes drifted past hers as the word was said and Caleb's eyes closed as they melded together. Her lips met his and he almost forgot to breathe. 

Caleb tilted his head and let all of his thoughts slip away as the moment carried into another. His hands rested on her lower back and gave her a gentle boost upwards. He was surprised by how small she was, despite noticing it before. When they were so close, he the petite curves of her body fit next to him like a puzzle piece. Despite the plenty of seconds that had gone by without air, he was content with this exploration. It wasn't overly passionate, or heated. It was soft, curious. It was saying hello after too many goodbyes. The fairgrounds disappeared. She tasted like cotton candy, but it wasn't that which sent warmth parading down his body. It was holding on to another person and letting the loneliness slip from his shoulders. It may have been the most cliched moment and he felt like he was sneaking out past his curfew, but that didn't matter. 

Their eyes fluttered open briefly and Caleb felt like he was drowning, but he didn't want to be rescued. This moment was something he'd been waiting for, but hadn't known he'd needed. Gravity brought him back to her again, speechless, but starry eyed. His fingers gently curled into her blonde hair, exploring the texture. His mouth slowly slid across hers, mellow, at first, but slowly giving into the pleasure. If this wasn't a date, Caleb wasn't sure what he was doing, but luckily thinking didn't seem to matter very much right now. 

Only touching, whispers, and the two of them alone, but together. After what felt like an hour, but had really been more like a few minutes, the moment slipped into the dusk. Even after they drifted apart, his arms found a steady position around her torso. He didn't want to let go. The human glanced down, taking in the woman who was slowly, but steadily opening his heart. "You never told me you were so good at that. You took my breath away."

A tiny smirk was visible on his lips. "I'd like it back." 

She had never planned on this, it wasn’t something she had even thought about doing before tonight, perhaps she hadn’t even noticed how close she had let herself become with him. She couldn’t regret it though, he was warm and funny, he didn’t say much but when he spoke, everything he said was meaningful and thoughtful. He was artistic in a way which was hard to describe but that only added to his charm, most people probably didn’t take the time to understand him but she was starting to feel like if she let herself get closer, she could.

It was a little complicated, given that they both had sad pasts they were trying to find a way to move on from, but in that moment she didn’t feel like she needed to be sad. It was new but somehow comforting to be close to him. He smelled masculine, his lips were soft against hers as they both allowed their curiosity to get the better of them. And as she pulled away, she had this warm feeling, she liked being close with him, he liked that he made her feel like there was hope again.

When her eyes opened, there was a soft, grateful smile on her lips, though they widened a little when he leaned back in for another, this time a little more heated, speaking volumes of the passion the two of them shared for one another. It felt like a part inside of her was unlocked as he returned it, grip tightening a little against his neck in an attempt to pull him as close as she could. The moment ended way too quickly and when they parted it seemed like both of them were reluctant to be the first one to pull away.

She couldn’t help but laugh gently when he said he’d like his breath back “I’m sorry but I don’t think is a return kind of deal” she commented with a soft, vulnerable expression, there was no going back now, not after a kiss like that, which made her heartbeat triple in her chest “And honestly I don’t want to” she confessed as she lowered her hand to take his and tug gently towards the house of mirrors “C’mon, let’s go act like teenagers who don’t care for the rest of tonight” she was happy, it was evident in her tone and her smile.

In the light of the lantern, he could barely see her, but the moon's bright glow was starting to make up for the darkness.The barn looked like it was made of oak, something he only knew after building his own house when he moved to Evermore. Oak wood, like the tree, tended to be sturdy and last many years. He wondered how long this barn had been here and how many people had found it on a dusky evening. It was fair to say that he got distracted at times and things like light and old buildings really did the trick, but the slight pull on his hand was enough that Caleb didn't lose himself down a train of thought that would interrupt the fact that he'd just kissed Octavia. He was pretty sure that the stupid grin on his face said most of what he needed to in that moment. He was happy, quite happy. It had been difficult over the last six weeks to hold up a barrier between himself and the sweet blonde who had accompanied him on many a dark night over the last year. It wasn't like she'd suddenly become attractive, that was a factor that had stayed the same, but perhaps he was finally ready to let down his guard. It had been three and a half years now since Ava had died. Every single day had been different, but for right now...finally, he didn't want to think about it. He wanted to take a night off from being sad and just be around someone who made him feel happy. 

It was very quiet. The only noise was the crickets chirping through the open door. A general, nighttime ambiance, was starting to envelope the small pocket of world that they'd settled into. Going with the moment had been contagious and for once, he felt no regrets following her. There was a familiar sense of uncertainty, but the excitement was much more prominent. The darkness of the night crept through the building, but the bright moon reflected through the wooden slats and onto the mirrors, giving the room a soft glow. His gaze floated around the room, watching their reflections bounce, until he settled on her. Caleb hoped that she would not notice that his hands were slightly sweaty. The curiosity he felt just now did not mean that he was not nervous. However, he liked her idea. Perhaps, if they were going to embrace the idea of being like teenagers; it meant it was okay if he was not perfect at something. It had been quite a while since he'd felt...butterflies over another person. In the past, most of the women he'd dated were bold and adventurous. He'd always felt slightly out of place, but had never had to be the one to come up with a plan or idea. So much more was on the table now. 

The tips of their fingers were the only things touching, but that little bit of expectancy charged straight to his heart. Caleb ducked his head, trying to keep his grin a bit under-wraps as he squeezed her fingers. "I, uh, I would like that. Very much." He said quietly. He hadn't felt like this in a long time, but he didn't want to jinx it. For some reason, despite the confusion, he felt safe. In this bright light, her hair seemed almost like a halo, but what he really noticed was how green her eyes were and how deep. They almost reminded him of the rolling hills in France. They seemed like home, but there were so many secrets there. He didn't know where to start.
Caleb took a deep breath and threaded his fingers through hers, wrapping his arms firmly around her waist, and pulling her into him. She smelled a little bit like flowers.

He was certain that Octavia could feel the rush of his beating heart as they leaned against the barn door, but for right now, it was okay. They’d spent the whole day bonding around the lights and he had laughed for the first time in what felt like years. She never forced him to talk, or do anything, but he could if she wanted. It was nice to be around someone who understood both pain and smiles. Despite the many thoughts that paraded through his mind, in the moment all he could focus on was being there. Words were not really necessary, for which he was thankful; as the majority on his mind were both hard to grasp and French. He wasn't sure what to do next. What was meant to happen on a night that seemed both out of the blue and perfectly planned? Luckily, he didn't have to decide. A gentle pitter patter of rain began against the wooden slats of the roof and as he looked up, there was giant crash of thunder. 

Caleb did not like thunderstorms. Not at all. A brief expression of displeasure flashed across his eyes, before he stuffed it far away. "It looks like the rain votes for us to stay a while." That he didn't mind. At all. He ran his thumb down her cheek and pointed her towards some hay bales in the back of the barn, where they would be safe from the storm. "Tell me about yourself, Octavia. Your favorite season. What makes you laugh. Your least favorite food on earth. Anything."

He climbed aboard the hay bales and offered her a hand up. Caleb hadn't been caught in a storm since he entered the city. This one wasn't exactly bringing pleasant flashbacks. Talking would be a good distraction. Snuggling on the hay bales was just a bonus.

It had been a long time since Octavia had truly allowed herself to give into the small things in the world, but Caleb..he seemed to center his world around those things. He had this artistic mind which was hard to understand at first, as someone who was always surrounded by people she was used to expressing herself through communication with others but he was quiet, everything he did say tended to be important and so she always wanted to remember all of it. She was sure she had talked his ear off most of those nights in the garden, she would talk about her thoughts on some random topic on her mind, sometimes she would look at his paintings and explain what she thought they symbolized. Despite her own lack of creative expression, she did see a lot of beauty in the things he created.

She hadn’t really expected for things to move deeper than that but then she couldn’t really be surprised either, they had spent a long time together, just sharing their thoughts and time, it was a comfort in a crazy world they both experienced. They both understood the worst kind of losses and yet managed to find some quiet strength in knowing they weren’t alone. At least that was how she saw it anyway, she respected and was even in awe of the way he channeled his grief into good things and it made her want to do the same. Before long they were heading towards the barn, filled with mirrors, she could see reflections of them in every direction, each of them distorting in some way designed to be entertaining, she actually found the view quite beautiful.

Her hand was still secured tightly in his and she didn’t want to be the first one to pull away, his hand was comforting and warm, it reminded her that he wasn’t going anywhere and for a while, she could let her guard and her fears down. She hadn’t felt like she’d been able to truly do that in a long time. She was still looking around at the mirrors, amused by the way they looked when she heard the sound of the rain outside and peered out of the door, what started as a few drops quickly started to pour down and the flash of lightning in the distance told her that it seemed like the evening was going to be rained out. She couldn’t help the slight pout of disappointment that appeared on her lips when she realized that meant the place would likely close up soon.

Caleb seemed to have other ideas though and before long he was tugging her to an area behind the mirrors, probably off-limits, but a nice enough area to hide out from the storm “Pretty sure we aren’t supposed to be back here” she chided but the smile on her lips said she was okay with it. She settled herself down against the saw and then raised her brows when he asked her to tell him something about herself. Well there was a lot of things to tell but all of them of course disappeared from her head the moment he asked for them. She laughed softly as she thought about his suggestions “Fall...definitely” she responded and smiled “I like watching the trees change and I’m a sucker for pie and the holidays” she nodded slightly, she always looked forward to that time of year where summer faded away and there was that hint of chill in the air.

“As for what makes me laugh…I definitely like those little clips of animals doing silly things...and spinning until I’m completely dizzy in a tiny teacup” she smiled giving him a pointed look because that one had made them both laugh. She wrinkled her nose “Mushrooms...I’ve tried to like them so many times but I can’t bring myself to stomach them” she laughed and tilted her head, laying down on her side so that she could face him, not caring that her blonde locks were going to get hay in them “If you could have a superpower, what would you choose and why?” she raised her brows curiously.

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