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 light. It was quite a rush to let down the barriers that he'd been holding up for the past six weeks. It had been 42 days since he'd first noticed the pull towards her as more than it had been. Caleb had tried so hard to keep his boundaries and avoid the overwhelming instincts that he had to wrap his arms around her when she seemed lost, upset, or worried; but instead, he'd tried to make her laugh. Tonight, with their hands and gazes knit, he'd finally given into the flow. The kiss and the tug towards the barn overwhelmed his logical thought. Going with the moment was contagious, but Caleb felt both a familiar sense of uncertainty and a rush of excitement as she grabbed his hand and led him towards the barn. 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. It almost seemed like she glowed. 

His hands were sweaty. He wanted this, but that didn't mean it wasn't just a little scary. The tips of their fingers were the only things touching, but that little bit of expectancy charged straight to his heart.  He hadn't felt like this in a long time, but he didn't want to jinx it. For some reason, despite the confusion and the fear, he felt safe. He took a step forward, magnetically pulled by the depth of her eyes. They were so green that it almost looked like the rolling pastures of France. They were like home, but held so many secrets. Caleb took a deep breath and firmly wrapped his fingers around hers, pulling her closer. His arms wrapped firmly around her waist, pulling her into him. He was nervous, but this was too hard to stop, now that the bottle had been uncorked. She smelled like flowers, alluring, but if he blinked it could have been a dream. He would wake up and they'd be sitting in the gazebo like this never happened.  

Caleb 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 touching her. Slowly. He was an artist and she was a new medium standing in perfect light. His callused fingers smoothed over her cheekbones and the sculpt of her eyes, wound around a curl in her hair. "You..." He struggled to merge the words together in the proper tongue. "are enchanting."

He'd never met a fairy and always sworn that humanity was alone in this world, but there was something different about Octavia. The wisdom in her eyes and the depth was different. His touch lingered over her lips, before Caleb couldn't stop himself, and kissed her again. It had been many years since he had played hooky, but luckily he remembered what women tended to like. The curiosity was strong as he let down his guard. His lips crashed into hers. Warm and wistful, a amount of urgency gripped Caleb and for a moment as they fell together there was nothing but the swell of first chances a second time. Cautious movement slowly turned forwards. 

Caught up, he may have let himself go, but a quick rumble of thunder shook the building and allowed him some presence of mind. He wanted more than a one night stand. "I do not want to regret this."

"You mean more to me than one night." Caleb took a deep breath, letting a soft kiss trailed down her nose, towards her chin. He guided her towards some hay bales in the back of the barn, where they would be safe from the rain. "Tell me about yourself, please, Octavia. I want to know...anything." 

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