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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"Breakfast," Caleb said quietly, enjoying the lingering moment where her fingers melded against his cheek. He leaned into her touch, taking in a deep breath. He spent so much of his time trying to hold everything together and somehow when he was with her, that all melted away. He didn't have to be a perfect pillar of strength that his life had demanded. He opened his eyes in the semi-darkness, meeting her gaze. The wisdom in her eyes and the depth was different than anyone he'd ever met. Perhaps that happened, after you'd lived longer, or perhaps it just happened after you'd experienced pain. He wasn't sure. That bubble of understanding and shared experience made him happy. He wanted to know everything, all of her quirks and not just why she disliked mushrooms but the story behind what had happened to make it that way. In his experience, there was usually a story. Like his, with his dog, who truly had been the first living thing to bring him back from the edge of grief.  "He did." Caleb said. "There was one morning when I refused to get out of bed and instead of barking like a normal dog...he just crawled in with me. I didn't know animals could be so...kind. Or aware." 

It went without saying that Caleb was deeply introverted. He was a man of few words, but he was just glad that he had someone who had faced their demons and understood the need for help when things went wrong, but the freedom was even better. Let's just be teenagers. The phrase circled to the front of his mind.  It had been many years since he played hooky, but this was different and he was glad that she was willing to follow his intuition.A suddenly bright sensation of being touched with a feather from the edges of his toes to the top of his nose came back to bite him.The French interjections that came pouring out of Caleb as he pleaded for mercy were completely involuntary. “Ai, ai, ai, arrêtez, Octavia…” 

The roll into the hay was the only way to escape the gentle torture and Caleb landed half atop her and found himself locked into her gaze. A tiny smirk rested on the Frenchman's lips as they hovered only centimetres apart. "Height is genetic. Blame my tall parents." 

As Octavia reached for him, he could not help but relax to her touch and let her lead. "I like when you laugh. A lot. " Caleb lingered at the whisper and smiled against her lips, but the teasing smile in return urged him forwards.Between his hand in hers, even the rain and the thunder went silent. It was just them. This time, he didn't try to hold back, and his lips caressed hers, warm, wistful, wondering.  It was longer this time, before that connection slowly washed into half open eyes. He smiled and wrapped his arms around her, "So...truth, or dare?”  

Octavia had a hint of a smile on her lips when he answered when he liked to eat pancakes “So you can sneak them into bed and eat them there?” she was a sucker for breakfast in bed too, she had to get up early for missions a lot so she did treasure the times when she could just lay there and not have to worry about anything for a while. She had lived a long time and she had seen many people come and go, she had learned how some people stayed in it for a long time and others for much shorter. But despite having more time than most get, she had always learned that it was precious too. Just because someone was here with you now, didn’t mean they always would and she had regrets in her past. She didn’t want to regret letting someone else slip away without another word.

“Animals are smarter than we give them credit for...especially when it comes to emotions” she nodded her head softly, there were some things humans found it hard to deal with and emotions were definitely one of them, it was hard for a human to comfort another without feeling like they weren’t doing enough.

Perhaps she should have stopped when he started responding to her movements but she was laughing so much as the two of them attacked one another that she couldn’t bring herself to want the moment to end. Up close like this she could see the little dimples he got when he smiled and how his eyes seemed like they were so full of life for a few moments “I guess I should thank my mom for being tiny then” she commented with a soft laugh.

As she looked down at him, she really felt like they’d managed to let go of their pain. It was still there of course but for a moment, it was pushed aside, replaced with a need to live in the moment and be happy for just a fragment. “Me too” she spoke softly as she eased into the kiss they shared. Time seemed to slip away without a thought as she just let herself give in. He was gentle and playful, but mostly he felt safe to her. She felt like it was okay to give herself to this moment “Dare” she responded with a wry smile, she was pretty brave so she was up for whatever he challenged.

"I usually make breakfast and then eat it in bed, especially in the winter, because I don't like to have cold feet." Caleb said, winding his finger around one of her long blonde curls. He was very happy to kiss her. She was good at that and likely more experienced than he was, but he also just liked the talking. There had been so much that he'd held back for several months now while trying to push through whatever it was that was between them, but now that it was in the open and clearly mutual, he didn't have to be as reserved.  "I tend to not be very sneaky," He admitted, "Or good at surprises, except, maybe tonight."

Perhaps, this was a sign that he should learn how to go with the flow a little more and stop over thinking everything. The idea was appealing, for sure. Caleb was tired of spending so long waiting to pursue the things that he wanted while waiting for life to be easier. There would always be hard things. They were not going to just disappear because people could make him happy, but perhaps he could have an easier time wading through difficulty and stop doing it alone. He smiled, gently kissing her temple. "Dare?"

It was interesting to see Octavia come out of her shell. He felt glad that she was comfortable enough around him to laugh. He nodded, coming up with an idea. "I dare you to listen to me pronounce a French tongue twister and do your best to say it three times in a row." 

He started out slowly. "As-tu vu le vert ver allant vers le verre en verre vert?" 

And grinned. "Did you see the green worm going towards the green glass?"

"Like this," Caleb over enunciated, attempting not to laugh. "Ahh tu voo le vert ver allah vers le verre en vert." 

It sounded so funny when he tried to make the sounds more English. They did not want to be that way. He had quite the advantage of studying both English and French in school and college. Caleb waited, eagerly listening for the laughter that would ensue from a twisting of her tongue."Ready...set...allonsy!"

She laughed and scrunched her nose because that little detail about him was quite adorable “You aren’t one of those people who wear socks in bed are you? I swear I can’t sleep with socks on, it feels so uncomfortable” such a weird quirky thing to be talking about but she liked the fact they had finally broken through to that depth in their relationship. She giggled softly when he said tonight might have been one of the times when he had given a surprise “I think this one...kinda snuck up on both of us” she admitted with a half smile, not that she was complaining, it was just, unexpected.

“I love surprises though...or I love organizing them anyway...my daughter is always the hardest to surprise because she’s...well...she was raised a guard so she’s basically got supernatural senses when it comes to everything” he laughed and shook her head slightly “So the rare moments I can surprise her, those are special” her and Thea hadn’t been a close as they were lately but she knew she needed space to process everything.

She closed her eyes briefly when he pressed a tender kiss to her temple and she smiled softly seeing the cogs spin in his mind as he tried to decide what to dare her to do. She widened her eyes when he challenged her to say the tongue twister. She watched him carefully as she listened to him say it and then blushed when it was her turn to try to say it.

She attempted to repeat after him, the first time trying to say it in her native accent which didn’t work at all and she forgot half the words halfway through “Ahh tu voo le...uhh” she looked up at him for help before laughing softly “Okay French accent is required” she laughed softly. She tried to enunciate the words while putting on a bit of an accent, this time she managed to say it very slowly.

But as soon as she tried to say it the third time at full speed she became a babbling mess and ended up laughing hard “Okay this is stupidly hard” she jested as she nudged her elbow against his chest for setting her up like this. “Okay your turn, truth or dare” she challenged as she propped her chin against her hand.

It was amusing to hear her attempt at his native language, despite the dissonance it brought to his ears. It had taken him multiple years to learn English and his first attempts had been anything but pretty. Sometimes, when Octavia mentioned she had a daughter, Caleb had to remind himself that Thea was a young adult, not a child. She'd also recently lost her father. He remembered similar loss like it was yesterday and it had taken him many years to remain positive when he thought about them. Parents were people you looked up and guided you through life. They couldn't be replaced. He could tell how close Octavia was to her family by the way she talked about them. It made him miss his, even more. The past few months had been a lot about growth for Caleb and he'd spent time reconnecting with his half-brother in Evermore, recently. Perhaps, someday, he could convince the more elderly members of his family to relocate, though he did wonder if his Aunt or his Father would ever leave their homes. Even if they didn't, at least, he had one here and now with Octavia and with his friends. There was a lot of good around him to appreciate. Especially tonight, when it was close by, even in his arms. "Oui. C'est difficile! Imagine learning English for the first time. French is very tonal. It repeats a lot of the same sounds with different intonation. But, if you'd like," Caleb nudged her back. "I can teach you." 

It would make him very happy to have even small conversations with her in his home tongue. "A surprise for us both, eh? I could get used to that." He smiled softly, lying his head down in the hay. He was tired, but much too excited to sleep.  "How do you sleep without socks?" An expression of confusion settled on his face. "I cannot! The monsters of cold will steal your toes." 

It was difficult to decide between truth or dare. It would be much easier to answer questions, for sure. Being dared to do something made Caleb a little bit nervous, but tonight seemed to be a little bit about doing things that were different. He pursed his lips, before giving a decisive nod. "Dare. Don't go too easy on me." 

Octavia was a generally brave person so even though she knew she was going to horribly butcher the whole thing, she was willing to give it a go anyway. That was the kind of person she was, the one who would always try everything before she would make any comment on it, always patient but also curious. She was blushing by how badly she had done on the challenge but regardless the amused look on his face told her he was satisfied with the attempt “I never really got a chance to learn languages” she responded in a soft voice “Study of any kind was...rare for women back then, I was lucky I was even allowed to learn to read and write” she nodded a few times, she would love to be able to study now but it didn’t feel like something in the cards given how demanding her work was. “I love to learn...though you’ll have to be patient with me” and a tongue twister was admittedly not the most reliable starting point.

She smiled gently, she felt comfortable with him and felt like they had slowly opened up to one another in a way that felt natural and right, it didn’t feel rushed but she did feel more curious about him, she wanted to know the little things more than ever. She widened her eyes when he said he did sleep with socks on “I can’t think of anything worse! Don’t your feet feel trapped?” she shook her head playfully, she was sure they would have many differences but that’s what made people unique and special in their own ways.

She had a devilish look in her eyes when he picked dare and she pondered it for a moment before grinning “Practice your best three pick up lines on me” she challenged, giggling slightly because he didn’t seem like the kind of person who typically flirted with anyone. She sat up excitedly, crossing her legs and facing him while she waited for him to try it. “I’m choosing truth for my next one...dares are...dangerous” she quipped with a wry smile.

Perhaps, he should have not started with tongue twisters. Then again, he'd heard practicing other languages was good practice for kissing. As if she needed any practice. He probably did. It had been quite a while. "Pickup lines?" Even in his bravest days when a little whiskey had helped him get along with girls, Caleb had never been quite suave enough to pull off something like that. Still, he tried envisioning the slight bit more je ne sais quoi that he'd had a few years ago as he nodded. 

It was not hard to imagine himself eyeing her in a bar, or anywhere else. She truly was beautiful, but that wasn't his favorite thing about her. He'd truly come to rely on her support and sheer goodness. He cared less for for the outer being than he once had, although it was certainly a bonus. "I can be very patient." Caleb smiled, as he gazed up at her. "People say it's one of my better qualities. I do not like to rush. I take my time." 

He reached for her hand and held their intertwined fingers up to the moonlight, before bringing them back down and giving her hand a squeeze. "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?"

Many times tonight Caleb had pinched himself, wondering when he would wake up, alone, and the next night he would meet Octavia in the darkness of the gazebo, only to find that nothing had ever happened. "Because you look an awful lot like an angel."

Caleb shifted and wrapped his left arm around her shoulders, lying his head down on her shoulder. He'd always been a cuddlebug and the truth was that the artist spent most of his time at home and he wanted someone whom he could have that with -- just home. Breakfast in bed, midnight cuddles, gardens and stray animals. His own little slice of Annecy. Here. The warmth that flowed between them was proof enough that he was not alone and that something had changed. Something he couldn't quite put a finger on, but wanted very much. Yet, as he looked into her eyes, he felt ever so slightly afraid that something would happen and he would hurt her. Even if she did, Caleb wasn't sure that he could forgive himself for that. She was too special and had been through so much pain. How could he do this right?

The Frenchman tilted his head up, still admiring her eyes. "Well, I like to be warm. With people, blankets, hot chocolate...socks." He smiled. "Speaking of socks, my feet are rather cold. I think you've knocked my socks off."

He had to laugh that time. It was ridiculously cheesy, despite it being the truth.

Caleb reached up and traced her features with his left hand, which happened to be his dominant one. As he thought of the last phrase, he inched a little closer, until they were nose to nose. "Are you sure you aren't French? Because Eiffel for you." 

Whenever he touched her, it made him feel like there were sparks traveling up and down his body. It hadn't happened all at once, but six weeks ago, he'd almost fallen asleep by the lake and he'd woken up to her smiling down at him and squeezing his shoulder. That glow hadn't gone away since. Despite that he wanted to, Caleb didn't indulge himself in kissing her. Sometimes waiting was worth it. 

"Dares might be dangerous, Tay, but if I hadn't dared to do something tonight, I don't know if I would have." He bit his lip. "Truth. How long did you feel this way before tonight?" 

She had a gentle, wistful smile on her lips when he said he was patient “I know” she responded nodding her head slightly, she had noticed that about him in the time they had spent with one another, he could spend hours just putting the perfect few strokes on a painting or he would sit and listen for a long time while she ranted about something on her mind without interrupting “It’s definitely charming... I feel like the world spins at a slightly slower pace in your eyes” which was interesting considering he was the one between them that was mortal.

She couldn’t stop the stupid cheesy smile tha came over her when he decided to choose that particular pickup line to use on her. She was expecting the whole thing to be laughable and silly but there was something about his tone of voice that was soft and caring and gave the whole thing another vibe entirely “I am an angel” she teased softly biting her lip gently “or half of one anyway” he was yet to see her wings, that was something she had kept hidden because it was one of the things which made her so different from ordinary and maybe when she was with him she wanted to believe she was a normal girl for a while.

He was warm. That was one of the main things she noticed as they laid there together. The temperature had dropped because of the storm and the rain but with how close they laid together, she could barely feel it. The soft patter of the raindrops was the only sound she could hear now aside from their two voices. Even the jingle of the carnival music had faded away.

The second one though, did make her laugh because it brought back their discussion on socks from earlier, she shook her head in amusement but there was also a sense of wonder in her gaze because she had never seen him act so bold before and honestly, she found it attractive. “I can approve the hot chocolate and blankets...perhaps even paired with a cute movie?” she offered wondering if that sort of thing appealed.

She leaned into the gentle touch he placed against her face, reaching out to cup his jaw like gently with her right hand, fingers tracing very slowly against him before she let a bright smile cross her lips when he leaned closer and spoke his final pick up line. She scrunched her nose knowing he would feel the movement against him and pressed a chaste kiss against his lips as a reward for his bravery “You did better than I did” she teased softly as she pulled away.

She wasn’t really scared of much, but handing over her trust and speaking her feelings, that was something which felt more risky to her. She found it easier to face a battlefield of dragonkin than she did to talk about her feelings. So his question made her go quiet for a moment as she pondered the moment when things changed “The exact moment is blurry but...I remember having a really good day...it was that night when I got my acceptance letter to start night classes at the university...I sat here and chatted to you for hours about how excited I was to do something new” and it had been good for her so far “You were the first person I wanted to tell about it” she spoke and nodded her head softly, that was when she knew things were...different.

Caleb nodded. "I remember." He hadn't quite seen Octavia being so excited before that, although he had many other nights to remember, such as the one where she'd brought him cupcakes. It was going to be hard to describe how and when it had changed for him. Their first months of conversation had been only about loss and the ones that they loved and missed. The first time he'd realized what was happening, it had been a great source of anxiety. It was difficult. He hadn't had anything since the plane crash. Caleb had cut himself off from romance; and barring the occasional one night stand, he'd been completely celibate. After Ava, anything that he wanted or anything he could see becoming something seemed too much, but she was different. As much as he described what he'd lost to her, it was easy to see a future they could build. As inspiring as that was to him, it still made Caleb nervous to think about. He was comfortable taking it slow. He smiled as her nose scrunched up against his and again as she kissed him.  It was soft, quick -- a tease and a congratulations -- but he wouldn't have changed it.  It was good to be in the quiet with her, together, but alone. There was a silence that he liked. Even the rain had stopped and the crickets hushed to listen. 

"I am not surprised," He said, when she admitted to her angel heritage. "No wonder I have such little resistance when it comes to you."

It wasn't like he wanted to keep up his guard, not now, not anymore. Despite the confusion of everything and how sudden some of this seemed, Caleb hadn't ever felt more certain. "I...remember one night. I fell asleep on the bench. Six weeks ago. It was still warm out then. I couldn't sleep at home. I'd tried, but the dreams wouldn't leave me alone and when I woke up, you were sitting with me. And I'd been sleeping. Without the nightmares. For the first time in months. I..." His voice trailed off. 

He'd had bad dreams for as long as he could remember. They'd only gotten worse a few years back. Octavia was the first person who seemed to help. He could be surrounded by fire and smoke and still feel safe if she was there. Caleb's eyes stared into the dark, meeting hers. "Octavia, I have never met someone like you."

He took a deep breath, wondering how many hours had passed. It seemed like it had only been minutes. "I like cheesy movies, really. I like animation and comedy. Anything that can make things seem a little brighter. I could watch Kung Fu Panda anytime or place. I've worn out two of those DVD's since 2008." 

Which was slightly embarrassing, but true, which was the point of the game. "Dare me again." He smiled, snuggling into her arms. "I feel brave when I'm with you." 

Maybe not ninja warrior brave, but brave for him. Brave for the introverted artist.

Losing Vlad had been one of the hardest thing she had ever endured. He wasn’t just her husband but he had been this pillar which she leaned against when times were hard and after losing him, for a while she felt like she had been freefalling. Not only that but she had a family to take care of and they were looking on her to be strong. There had been a while where she couldn’t even bear the thought of sleep. Things had changed slowly. She was a resilient person and she knew Vlad would have never wanted her to be sad, he was the kind of person who always made people smile and it would have killed him inside to know there was a time when she just couldn’t. It was complicated, but she felt like he would understand.

Caleb was patient and sweet, despite the two of the harboring feelings for a while, neither wanted to rush into anything and tonight had felt like letting go of her past very slowly. Reaching out for a taste of happiness which she had no idea would last or not. Perhaps she didn’t care, perhaps for a night she just wanted to throw caution to the wind and see what happened.

She giggled slightly when he jested how he had little resistance to her because she was an angel “If you look really closely into my eyes, you’ll see the faintest hint of purple in them” that was a nephilim’s supernatural tell, most species had one, though none were quite as obvious as hers. She touched her hand gently against his and used her clairsentience power to send a fuzzy feeling to him while she smiled softly, knowing the purple appeared brighter when she used her powers.

She sucked in a soft breath when he mentioned the moment when things had changed for him, a soft smile appearing on her lips as she looked back at him, squeezing his hand when he trailed off his sentence. They had both found one another at a time when their minds felt dark and the world felt heavy and while neither of them were responsible for pulling the other out, they had found comfort in knowing someone understood. “You were sleeping really peacefully...it seemed cruel to wake you from that” she whispered softly and smiled.

“Well I’d hope so” she responded in a soft voice, offering a smile when he complimented her “And you’re pretty interesting yourself...mysterious artist living in the simple life, surrounded by the supernatural and yet somehow...completely untouched by it” it was honestly fascinating to her just how much of a normal life he led “Sometimes I’m a little jealous” she confessed in a quiet voice.

She laughed at his comment about watching Kung Fu Panda so much that he ruined the disk “Mine was Shrek 2...you have to admit that movie is iconic no matter how many times you see it” and far better than original she would argue. The soundtrack was stellar too.

A few silly dares came to her mind when he asked for another but she couldn’t bring herself to give him one that would make him get up and leave her arms and so she bit her lip as she tried to think of something new “Tell me something you’ve never told someone before” she prompted, raising her brows as though to challenge him to take the dare.

The cuddles were warm and the conversation, equally so -- lying here was comfortable. If Caleb hadn't been so eager to listen and learn more about Octavia, he might have fallen asleep; but now it was his turn to talk. It took him a moment to think of a secret that he had never told anyone at all. While there had only been a few people in his life that Caleb tended to confide things in, once he chose to, he was often  willing to talk about almost anything. It took a while to get past that place of casual acquaintance for him and some people lost interest in the meantime. Those who knew the most about him tended to be those whom he considered his family. They were people that he could share parts of himself with that perhaps he was not confident in, hadn't talked about in a long time, or even, never faced at all. The few people who stayed in his life that long had been awarded every loyalty that he had to give. For the most part, Caleb found it easier to talk to women. He'd been raised by his mother and his father had been entirely absent from his life. The first good role model that he had was in the form of a second grade teacher, but there had still been a lack of connection. As a child, he had resented that the favorite tutor went home to his own kids. Sometimes, he wondered how different he'd be if his father had raised him. Would he have become a rancher, hard on the outside, but still a deep lover of the arts? His parents shared that and because he'd grown up around art, it was still a large part of his life. His first confidant had been Adalie and that had only started to change in secondary school, right before she died. It had taken him quite a while to connect with his Aunt, whom he knew loved him dearly and deeply.  

He was certain that his first few years at University had brought her plenty of near-miss heart attacks. He'd been far from a model student and the trajectory of his life had only changed upon meeting Ava. Caleb knew that a part of him would always love Ava. She was the reason that he'd become the best version of himself. He couldn't change that and it was something he respected and accepted about Octavia, they'd both been deeply touched by love before. 

As she sent a bit of energy pulsing his way, Caleb could see the purple in her eyes, that perhaps he thought he'd imagined before. It often seemed to be a trick of the light, but as they lay there, it almost seemed obvious. He'd never seen eyes like that. An 'oh' formed on his mouth as the curiosity truly hit him. He'd lived in Evermore for several years now and while he'd learned fairly early on that it wasn't exactly a simple city, Caleb had never exactly seen anything too irregular. He knew there must be a burden that came with living through more centuries than a human. "We can play pretend whenever you'd like. You can come over and play human for a day. No one has to know. We can imagine that you aren't many years beyond me, and that all there is those things that are obvious. No magic." Caleb whispered. "I'll cook you dinner, we can watch Shrek and Kungfu Panda, and pretend we're in Paris."

Perhaps, the one thing that Caleb never vocalized was how much he missed home, but how hard it was to go back. It was complicated to be so tied to his family and want such distance from them. He loved them, but had a hard time letting them love him back. "A secret?" He asked. 

Caleb knew he'd promised to talk about the happy things, but somehow he didn't feel sad talking about life. Perhaps, that was the difference. When they were together, no matter how heavy things got, the burden could be shared. "I deal with things. If I am struggling, most people can't tell. I hide it really well." 

Caleb sighed, sheepishly. "Even when I was little, I learned to compartmentalize. My mother was sick, so in some ways I raised myself. My parents never knew that I wanted to be a teacher, not an artist and no one else has ever known that I went to Catholic school so, sometimes I still sing old hymns when I can't sleep. I like to help others, but sometimes I am pretty bad at letting people help me." 

The Parisian reached into his jacket pocket for his wallet. He kept pictures, a lot of pictures. "This is my Mama, and my Aunt. And this...this is me in second grade." He snickered. "J'étais un petit nerd. Does that satisfy your curiosity?"

If she closed her eyes for a few brief seconds, she could believe they were somewhere else entirely than hiding at the back of an old barn. It was comfortable and cosy, despite the draft and damp smell that came from the rain. It almost seemed surreal to be here with him right now because despite knowing she felt something for Caleb for a little while now, it wasn’t something she had expected to act upon. It was complicated, given her family and her history. She wondered if people would think less of her for searching for a certain kind of comfort which someone else had previously filled. The last thing she ever wanted to do was hurt anyone else with the choices she made. But at the same time, was she supposed to deny herself happiness for fear that it might upset someone else? It wasn’t simple but she could fool herself into believing it was in times like this.

Seeing the look in his eyes as that brief moment flashed where eyes could get brighter made her smile softly, she was proud of what she was for the most part, she was a warrior and she had protected countless people from the dragonkin’s attacks. Even after they were defeated she had joined the guard to continue that purpose which drove her. Protecting people was in her blood you could say “That sounds easier said than done” he responded when he said they could play human. She always wondered what her life would had been like if she was born in this era and born a human “What career path do you think would suit a modern version of me?” she giggled slightly, honestly she found it hard to see herself as anything but a guard “Maybe a teacher?” she pursed her lips playfully, that would have been nice.

Her green eyes were focused on him as he considered what secrets he had to keep, in her mind a lot of secrets weren’t purposely kept secret, they were little things you did for self-care that no one was interested enough to know, the things you did to make others happy without looking for any praise or recognition. Not every secret was harmful or even particularly impactful in her mind “You’d be surprised how many people are very good at internalizing” she spoke softly, it was a nature thing, most people didn’t want to be seen as a burden to others.

She reached up her hand to rest gently against his shoulder and she stroked gently against him as he spoke, comforting him with small touches which spoke her appreciation for him to share something so personal and difficult to admit “Eventually you do learn that other people don’t mind taking on your problems...just a little” she nodded in an assuring voice “People want to care” even if you didn’t think they did, often someone just needed the opportunity to do something good.

She sat up a little when he took the photo out of his pocket so she could study it, a smile resting on her lips when he pointed out each person “You resemble both of them in different ways” she spoke softly, her eyes scanning carefully over it “You were very cute” she teased softly and nudged him slightly “Sadly cameras weren’t a thing when I was growing up” she winked because it meant she got out of showing him baby pictures “It feels a long time ago now...I have to think hard to remember it all” she gave a slight smile “But somehow I manage to hold onto the important memories, they always stay” no matter how much time passed.

She giggled under her breath “We should probably get going before they lock us in here” she teased softly.

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