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 was fun to share a photo of his childhood self and he wondered if she could bring back some memories, he could paint a portrait of what she'd looked like when she was younger. Many years ago, things like preserving yourself in paint or by photograph was expensive, but today he had the chance to make it available to almost anyone. It was strange to think how many years Octavia had experienced that he'd only ever read about in school. Perhaps, someday, he'd ask for some stories of the favorite times of history that he'd always loved. It made him curious. He would have loved for time to slow down, right there, in that moment; everything tonight had been so unplanned, but so special. Caleb knew there wasn't any going back now, but he did wonder what was going to happen next.

He had to think in order to envision Octavia as anything else than a guard. She fit the role so well, but he also loved to see the more relaxed version of her that he'd gotten to know tonight. More than anything, they both seemed to highly value family. He could see her gentle, but firm mannerisms coming across very well as a teacher, perhaps even a middle school teacher. Kids often started to resent authority by that age, but she had a way of getting through to others. He smiled, and squeezed her fingers. "I think you'd be a great teacher. You'd be able to keep the unruly ones under control, but I think kids would like your laughter and your spirit." 

He'd never met her daughter, but he could envision a small Octavia having the brightest eyes and a true stubborn streak. He gently played with her hair, as they lay together. "I wish we could stay." He said, looking down at her. "But, I think everyone else has gone now."

They were the last ones on the fairground. It was late. The moon was high in the sky and multiple hours had gone by since they first took shelter from the rain. "Octavia?" He sat up and reached for both her hands. "Will you...go out with me? On a date. A planned something. I know that I could never replace what you lost, but maybe, when we're wouldn't be as lonely."

He was rambling. In English. That was a first. Caleb cleared his throat. "I would like that. A lot." 

Because he liked her, a lot. It made him feel confused, and flustered, and happy.

Really, ridiculously happy. "I've smiled more tonight than I have all year." 

Tonight had been somewhat of a whirlwind of emotions for her, but she was happy. Things were complicated, she knew that but when wasn’t the world complicated, they lived in a reality where vampires and immortality existed. Where dark magic beyond comprehension constantly loomed over them. If it had taught Octavia anything, it was to never take time for granted and assume there was more because one day it was going to run out. When that happened, she hoped not to have any regrets in her mind. She wanted to live her life and not become the empty shell that had threatened to take over.

She smiled brightly when he said she would make a good teacher, being a guard was essentially part of her identity, she was a warrior at heart and nothing was ever going to change that. Her bonds ran deeply with her family and the aspects who felt like extended family to her too. She had built a life around this. “I would have loved to teach English or maybe history” she had a hint of a smile on her lips, that would have been nice, to really delve into a subject and feel like she knew it really well. It was an appealing idea and something a modern version of her would have no doubt found purpose in.

“Me too” she responded softly when he expressed his wish to stay. But by now the rain had washed out and the sound of the fair was long gone. Everyone had packed up for the night and here they still were hiding out in the barn. When he spoke her name she naturally focused her eyes on him, thumbs sweeping gently against the hands he placed in hers. Her expression softened when she realized what he was trying to say. The smile widening slowly on her lips until it reached her eyes fully and sincerely “Of course I will” she responded before she leaned in slowly, pressing her lips against his delicately.

“And I’m not looking to replace anything...I’m looking for...happy” she tilted her head slightly “Do you think you could try happy with me?” perhaps it was a weird way to phrase it but she was looking forward to exploring what all that could mean to her.

Caleb could imagine it - being happy with Octavia. He liked to imagine that and to think about it. Tonight was really the first time that he'd allowed himself the opportunity to go down that path. Being happy would involve a lot of letting go and setting aside plenty of the things he'd experienced in the last few years, but he felt ready. When he was next to her, it didn't seem so bad. There were good things to look forwards to and he wanted to see what would happen. He knew that there was the chance she could have turned him down when asked her out, but in a way, even she hadn't been ready, he knew that it just mattered to have her in his life. Caleb watched as a soft bit of sun come out from behind the cracks of the roof and start shining in between them, the hay, and surround her with a golden halo. It was morning. Just like that, hours has disappeared and he'd spent all of them without sleep, but for once, never feeling exhaustion or restlessness hit him. When he heard her say yes, the artist ducked his head.  "I would love to try happy with you." 

As much as her words made a jolt of electric excitement rush through him from head to toe, he knew that ultimately he wanted to everything to slow down. He wanted to do right by her and make memories. Make happy. He was pretty sure that somehow this barn had a magical spell placed over it and all logic defied how he would replicate it, but once he allowed himself to dream about something, it was difficult to to stop him from trying. After every surprise in the last night, he would have been content to sit and enjoy the sunrise with her, but  Caleb wrapped his arms around her waist pulling her close to him and meeting her gaze as she kissed him.

It wasn't long. It was soft, sweet. It was just long enough that as it stopped, he felt warm inside. Caleb cleared his throat softly, looking  at her with a soft blush spreading across his cheeks. He knew that now she could see it. "Good morning," He pressed his forehead against hers. God, he hoped there would be a lot more mornings like this one. "I think the sun is happy to see you."

There was a brief silence, before Caleb could hear the birds stirring to life in the trees.

Reluctantly, he stood up and offered her his hand. "I think my dog will jump his fence and start searching for me if I don't make it home soon." He chuckled. 

He didn't have a better excuse for not wanting to let go, but he knew he'd have to -- life was something that moved, even when hay hideaways made it seem to stop. 

Caleb pushed open the door and sunlight came flooding in, illuminating the empty fairgrounds and pink sky. "Walk back with me? It's just beyond the clearing."

She could feel the warmth of the sun on the back of her neck but she was too focused on him to turn away. She couldn’t believe she had stayed out all night, perhaps she was taking this whole act like teenagers thing really literally. She didn’t regret a thing though, she had fun tonight and that was the important thing. A small smile spread over her lips when he agreed he would try happy with her.

She swore she wanted that kiss to last forever because then she didn’t need to pull away and this night didn’t have to come to an end. She could feel his hands against her waist, warm and his grip was tight enough to tell her he didn’t want to let go either. By the time he pulled back her head naturally tilted so she could meet his eyes. She couldn’t help but notice the blush resting on his cheeks which in turn made her blush too “I can’t believe we stayed out all night” she commented and laughed softly.

She looked down at his hand and gave a sad smile before placing hers into it “Sounds like you two are quite close” she jested with a smile imagining him cuddled up with the pup on the couch and generally doting on him “Send him my apologies for keeping you out all night” she teased with a laugh, it was so unplanned and yet it had turned out perfectly somehow.

She npdded when he asked her to walk with him and before long they were heading back through the empty fairground, the rides were still, the metal parts glinting in the morning sun and the grass was all flattened on the ground where people had been walking around “It’s kinda amazing to me how this whole...little town can be here one moment and yet tomorrow it will be gone and all that will remain is the flattened grass” she laughed softly “Until they come back next year of course” perhaps she was bringing up any topic to prolong the inevitable but it really did fascinate her.

Caleb smiled as they finished kissing and as her hand slipped into his while they walked towards the giant field. It must have looked slightly silly to see two people holding hands, one of them with a giant bear under her arm, and the other yawning every thirty seconds. Thankfully, there was no one to watch. It was completely private, just as it had been all night. The sun was peeking above the trees and a slight cold shivered in the mist that hazed over the tall grass. To the left, Caleb could see the tents and equipment quietly sitting in the first light of the day. They didn't glow neon like before, but the sun rolled over them rather perfectly, illuminating the bright oranges and reds.  

Caleb strung his finger's between Octavia's as the walked, loosely, carefree. It was about a mile back to the plot of land that he'd purchased in Evermore about a year ago. It had taken almost that long to finish building and there were still a few projects to complete, but it seemed right to have Octavia be the first person he showed his tiny house. 

The shingles were blue and there were windowboxes on the four corners that boasted a combination of wild ivy, and baby's breath. Sunflowers grew up against the south side of the house and a dirt path led up to the fence that contained the world's bounciest dog ever. As soon as Caleb came walking up, Chasse bounded up to him, barking. 

Caleb chuckled and undid the fence. "Shh. You'll wake the neighbors."

By neighbors, he really meant the ducks who lived on the pond next door. Otherwise, there weren't people around for a while, but that was just the way he liked it. As Caleb turned towards the door, he smiled; his eyes were getting heavy. He was finally, truly, tired.

His hand lingered in hers for just a moment, before he raised it to his lips and placed a soft kiss on her knuckles. "I'll see you tomorrow. Have sweet dreams, Octavia." 

With that, he let her go, pausing to look back over his shoulder once as the dog raced him for the door. If he blinked, it might have been a dream; but it wasn't. It was morning now and his heart felt lighter than it had in years. 

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