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Typically, the human had no trouble silencing his cellphone and surrounding himself by the brightly colored palettes, stark white canvas, and large windows that formed his studio. Today was a different matter entirely. Caleb was distracted. He lay back on the wooden floor, staring up at the roof, and balancing a paintbrush between his thumb and forefingers. It was his favorite paintbrush. One could even say it was lucky. It had belonged to his mother and painted many a great piece before he’d taken it into his own hands. He swept the brush across his wrist, trying to stir some image to his mind. Normally, the cherry wood and soft horse hair bristles would ground him. Right now, they only seemed to tickle. Focus. Where was his focus?
He sat halfway up, gazing at the fan which spun above him. The past few days were playing again in his brain. He’d pinched himself six times in the last few minutes. It was definitely real. He closed his eyes, letting the air blow over his face. Perhaps if he just let his mind wander. Images danced back into his mind. The dock. The flowers. Her blonde hair falling across her eyes. His hands everywhere. Her fingers in his hair.
Play it cool. Already, the confusion that had reigned in his mind was fading into the background, replaced by a steady, but shy satisfaction. Play it cool.
The Frenchman banished the images from his mind, covering his eyes. What was happening? What was wrong with him? Art was the one thing that he’d always been able to connect with no matter what. Even in past relationships, his time with his ideas and sketchbooks had sometimes dominated his presence in the moment. Now? Now it was the total opposite. Caleb groaned and carefully stashed the brush away. He needed a cold shower. An ice bucket would be helpful, really. As he resigned himself to the fact that there would be no painting done today, there was a soft knock at the door. He peered through the window and it only took a moment for his blue eyes to focus on Tavia.
He grinned sheepishly, and opened the door, and stuffing his hands in his pockets. She was his confidant, his bias. Why, on today of all days, did he have to forget almost every English word he knew? In that silence, his could not avoid her beautiful green eyes. Something inside him melted with relief. However, he continued to stand in the doorway, slightly mesmerized by her sudden appearance. Ai. Oh mon dieu. Say something! Something English.
“Hi.” He scratched the back of his neck, turning quite pink. What was the word? “It’s....” He wanted to lift her close and inhale her flowery shampoo. Terribly distracted by the fuzzy feelings inching around his body, Caleb chuckled. “Je suis desole, Octavia.”
Frenchglish. Of course. He might have been losing his bilingual brain, but artists weren’t naturally good speakers. He could communicate everything he needed without words. The stupid grin refused to leave his face, but Caleb’s gaze was soft as he reached for her hand. His grasp was gentle, but firm. It took a bit of effort, but he managed to translate before speaking this time. “What a...nice surprise. Good morning, Tay.”
She knew it was kinda off protocol to do this but Octavia couldn’t help but to remember how Caleb had asked to come on a mission with her and after getting her assignment this morning, her mind kept drifting to him. Perhaps it was the overprotective part of her that didn’t like the idea of leaving the city and him alone. What if something happened while she was gone? It was irrational, she knew that but having lost someone important before, there was a part of her that kept trying to pull him closer.
She shuffled a little as she stood on the doorstep, wondering if she made a mistake in choosing to come here out of nowhere. She had a duffel bag packed in the car and she was ready for the usual journey she needed to take across the country at a moment’s notice. “Hey” she responded when he opened the door before furrowing her brow a little when he seemed to complete freeze up “Sorry I didn’t mean to intrude on your alone time” she commented noting he seemed startled but smiled softly letting him pull her closer when he took her head.
The Nephilim naturally brought one hand up to rest against the back of her neck and she smiled softly “I know it’s only been a few days but I missed you” she murmured softly before pouting her lips slightly because she knew the moment she got here she’d want to stay. She reached up on her tip toes to press a soft kiss to his lips before finally lowering herself and biting her lip “I can’t stay too long, I’m heading out on a retrieval mission” she commented and jerked her chin the general direction of the car she had driven here.
“A guard’s work is never done...as you may have learned by now” she commented, almost whining in her voice, she did less travel for missions since she had come Malva’s personal guard but she was still one of the oldest and most experienced members which meant it was her responsibility to fill in the gaps where needed. Honestly she didn’t mind getting a little space though, clear her thoughts while she was on the road and all.
It made him nervous to admit this early on in a relationship that after only three days, he couldn't seem to get past the box in his mind labeled 'Octavia'. Rather, the box was starting to spread out so that it influenced everything else, but Caleb's brain freeze thawed as she looked up at him with those big green eyes. He had missed her. The introvert was naturally inclined to be reclusive and hide away from the world, but she made him want to explore again. It had been a long time since he'd wanted to do that. He smiled shyly as she wrapped her arms around his neck, stretching up on her tip toes. It was quite charming. Caleb pulled her tightly against him, feeling the restless beats of his heart settle down, finally, "I would not say this to just anyone," He nodded. "But, you are always welcome here. I never feel a need to be alone when I'm with you. I just...fit in."
It was a little crazy, given how long she'd been in her field, but every time that Octavia had left for a mission, he'd been surprisingly anxious. The last time, especially, had been only weeks before they'd revealed the way they felt to one another. Now? Now, he felt extraordinarly protective of her, despite that his skillset was not useful when it came to taking down enemies.
When she backed away, he bit his lip, a rare bit of disappointment showing on his face. Three days had already felt like three months. He didn't want to wait that long again. "I missed you too. So much." He said quietly, carefully pushing her hair behind her ears so that he could cradle her face with his hands. They were actually clean of the usual pigmentation today. Despite that he'd had no luck when it came to art this week, but it felt promising that when he hugged her tightly and her floral scent faded into him. Caleb buried his face in her neck, as he often did, when he didn't want to let go. He took a deep breath and pressed a kiss against her temple.
His brows were deeply creased with worry as their bodies separated. He wasn't the type bold enough to pack his own bag without being invited. They'd spent many nights together now, some intimate, some not; but he knew independence was important to her. "May I at least check the engine of your car? I...wouldn't want it to break down in the middle of nowhere on you."
The hood to the engine popped up and Caleb had to admit that he was partially stalling. The last time that he'd let someone he loved walk alone into an important task, they'd...never returned. For the most part, on the surface, he looked calm, but his shoulders were tense. It only took a moment for him to make sure everything was running smoothly. He pushed his hands down deeply into his pockets, glancing at the ground, before meeting her eyes. "Please, be careful. I - "
I love you.
Caleb heard the thought in his head, but redirected, slightly startled by it's depth. He managed a soft smile. "I have a surprise for you next week."
She’d always been pretty petite but being next to Caleb always reminded her how tiny she really was because the human completely towered over her, she had to tip her head back a little so that her green eyes could meet his blue hues and hold his gaze for a moment as an easygoing smile crossed her lips “Always?” she asked curiously and blushed a little, Caleb was definitely the kind of person who enjoyed his alone time so it really was a compliment that he wanted her to be there with him.
She could have stayed there much longer in his arms but she slowly moved back and offered him a small comforting smile as her hands came to rest against his where they were placed against her cheeks “You make yourself really hard to leave” she chided softly as she tilted her head slightly as she glanced into the room he had been working in “Were you working on art?” she asked curiously, it was rare she actually got to see him working on his art because he always seemed to need the right setting for it. She always thought his works were really fascinating though, expressing him a way no other media seemed to be able to.
She snuggled against him when he hugged her before laughing softly “If you hold me any tighter I won’t be able to breathe” she teased, taking deep breaths as though to emphasize her playful words. Octavia raised a confused brow when he asked to check her car but nodded before following her over to it, she quite liked her car, it wasn’t especially flashy but it did the job when she needed to go onto missions and didn’t draw too much attention. It didn’t take long for him to inspect it before finally looking up at her “I’m always careful” she murmured softly.
“It’s just a retrieval mission though...mostly a long drive on the open road” she prompted as she pressed her lips together “You could come along if you wanted?” of course she was expecting that he’d say no considering how short notice it was and he wouldn’t be ready to just hop into the car, still, there was a part of her that was hopeful that maybe he’d go for it. She widened her eyes when he cut off his sentence and then spoke about a surprise “A surprise?” well now she was going to be wondering about what it is the whole drive.
He felt safe around Octavia. In certain ways, it was almost like having a guardian angel. His studio was one of several places in Evermore where he’d truly let out his grief. She had already seen that side of him out on the lake. Art was very personal. For him, it was a way of getting through the highs and lows. Some of his paintings from the first weeks in the city were in the closets now. He needed the space and at his current stage it was not very encouraging to wake up to giant canvases of burning planes with broken wings. Caleb spent a lot of his time alone, but with the right person, the effect was still there. It could still be quiet, contemplative. It could be whatever he needed. Without a doubt, she was always welcome. He nodded and fished around in his jeans pocket. “Tell you what,” a key ring was exposed. “this can be yours. I have another.”
He leaned up against the car, watching her mimic that posture. A sheepish smile stole the serenity from his face. “I...have been distracted.”
He turned to face her, reached for both her hands, and brought them to his lips. “Wonderfully distracted, though.”
It was easy to be distractable around her, because everything else seemed to fade out of focus. It was just her in the frame. It was reassuring to know that the mission was not dangerous. Caleb lifted her up onto the back trunk. When she sat there, their heights were much more comparable. He pressed his forehead against hers, hoping that his own anxiety moments ago hadn't hurt her. There were still parts of him that were haunted by the idea that he'd lose another person in a way that he could have prevented, but the soft grasp of her hands in his hair was gentle and helped him snap out of the depth of his own mind.
Her eyes were captivating. They drew him in. Caleb leaned forwards grazing his lips against hers. It was delicate, just enough that he could inhale her breath and feel the warmth of her skin; but it only took a moment for that tender morning greeting to become as intense as a storm. The heat rose into his cheeks as it became firmer and more determined. His brows furrowed and he reached his hands underneath her, trying to pull her closer. Clearly, what had been between them for so long in the dark was dancing in the daylight now. It couldn't be hidden now. Every touch only seemed to cement those stubborn words that usually took him so long to say.
Je t'aime, Octavia.
It explained so much. It explained his nerves. It explained the confusion. It explained the worry. It explained the excitement and the fireworks that had engulfed him upon seeing her through the window. He loved her and it explained so much. Those words bounced around his head as the warmth of that connection slowed. It was not surprising that the lightbulb had gone off in his mind while they were so close. Touch had always been his love language. It had frustrated people, before; the way that his words had always been secondary to his hand to hold, or a shoulder to cry on, but here it just seemed right. Caleb nuzzled his nose against hers, breathing in deeply that familiar, floral Octavia scent. He smiled against her lips. "I would love to go."
That smile turned into a slow, teasing smirk. “I like the idea of having you all to myself for more than one night." Ever so reluctantly, he pulled away to walk backwards towards the studio door, which was propped open. "I'll be right back."
It was easy to take those stairs two at a time. This one bedroom apartment had been one of several places he'd found for himself over the past few years, but as he entered it...it seemed so small. The curtains were closed and the bed was made. It almost seemed to perfect. He was beginning to relish things like rumpled sheets and early morning light in a way that he had not in a long time. Caleb rummaged through a chest of drawers hurrying to placing clean clothes inside a duffle bag. On his way out, he caught a glimpse of his face in the door mirror. Over the past few years, he’d seen lines around his eyes start to form. Lines of heaviness, and sorrow. The person looking back at him did not have them. A shy smile and cheerful eyes had replaced that formerly dull countanence. Caleb took a deep breath and locked the door behind him.
She was waiting in the driver’s seat. He slung the canvas bag into the back seat and hopped over the passenger side door instead of opening it. What could he say? He'd been tagged quite contagiously by the sunshine this morning. Caleb leaned back in his seat, his eyes following her hands as she put the car into drive. He didn’t mean to stare, but it was difficult to take his eyes off her. Her blonde hair blowing in the late spring breeze and the light dancing down from the top mirror was positively magical. She was a work of art. There was nothing he appreciated more.
Octavia looked down to the keyring he offered out to her and a small smile appeared on her lips as she watched him, a curious expression showing that she wasn’t expecting a gift but still she excitedly closed her hand around it and smiled “Thank you” she murmured softly as she brought it closer to her chest as though she was treasuring it and bit her lip softly. “Distracted is you speak for being completely head in the clouds” she teased softly as she naturally allowed herself to be lifted, giving a slight squeal as he sat her against the trunk.
She liked it when they were able to be close like this, he usually towered over her so she would take any chance she could get just to be able to reach him. Naturally her hands came to wrap behind his neck as he leaned against her and she closed her eyes just taking in the moment. It felt like the development between them had come slowly and all at once and now they were both trying to navigate all the feelings that were spinning around them. It was complicated for the both of them, she knew that, nothing about this was easy when it came to figuring out what would work. But there were things she could be sure about, which was that he made her feel happy, he made her heart flutter when he came near and she found herself thinking about him at random times in the day.
There was no doubt in her mind that she had feelings for him, deep feelings, the kind where there was that little voice in the back of her mind hoping that he would stay for just a little longer. Hell the greedy part of her was ready to ask him to stay for as long as they could have together. As they kissed there was an intimacy there which was silently making itself know, it was in the way that neither of them wanting to be the first to pull back, or how a smile tugged at the corner of her lips as his met hers. She bit her lip and fluttered her eyes open, full of emotion when they parted. It became evident to her today that he worried for her safety as a guard and in turn she worried, leaving him here in Evermore.
It was better to just stay together right?
She giggled softly when he nuzzled against her, she was prepared for him to say the trip was too short notice and he wasn’t prepared but she swore her heart leapt in her chest when he said he wanted to come. “Really?” he spoke softly as her head tilted just a little so she could meet his gaze, mostly to check it wasn’t a joke. Before she could even process it all, he was already heading back towards the house. She hopped down from the trunk and headed around to the driver’s seat, processing the range of emotions that were spinning around her.
She checked everything was in order in her bag while she waited before putting on shades because of the sun, before long he was climbing into the passenger seat and she was setting up the navigation to their destination. “Guessing this is your first supernatural fetch mission?” she asked in a teasing manner as she put the car into drive and pulled off, heading through the residential area of Evermore before finally making it onto the highway, heading east. She was focused on the road to begin with but before long she noticed he was watching her “See something you like?” she teased playfully.
It had been a long time since Caleb had gone on a spontaneous adventure, but that had once been a key part of who he was -- wandering. It was why it was so easy to pack a bag and be ready to go at a moment's notice. He'd spent a long time on his own, traveling, discovering the world, and chasing various skies. His move into Evermore had been the first time in his life that he had become settled. He'd learned to relax and let the curiosity he held for the world be sedated, even if just a little bit. It was hard to believe that everything had happened so quickly; but it also hadn't. He remembered sitting by her side for twelve excrutiating weeks thinking that the budding feelings in his chest could never be returned. All of the sudden, they'd realized that perhaps the one thing they'd kept from one another was the way they felt about each other. Now that the wall was down a steady current of energy flowed between them. Retreating into his own space for the past few days had been difficult. He'd forgotten what it felt like at the beginning of a relationship when his mind was bathed in oxycontin. It made him warm, all over. Her showing up that morning had only firmed into his mind how serious this could be for him. For them.
Being next to her only validated everything that he felt. It would be difficult to watch her drive away. The invitation was met with an excitement that was almost childlike. It seemed like the entire world was spinning, but when he looked at her, it all came to a steady pause. The drive out of the suburbs was slow, but eventually Caleb began to recognise that tall rows of pine that had welcomed him into the city a few years ago. He'd been so dissociated from life for the entire first year. Healing was a process, after all, and that process often required long nights of deep thought and short days in the sun. It was still early, so the birds were singing in the trees as they passed and the golden glow of mid-morning surrounded the car.
There wasn't much traffic, so they were able to turn to one another now and then. He was quickly caught with his gaze lingering as she focused on the road. Caleb ducked his head, unable to hide the smile on his face. They'd spent nights together, but now he wondered how long it would take driving into the sunrise to qualify as running away. "I am afraid that I'll be entirely new to this, so you'll have to show me the ropes."
He reached for her hand as they came to a stop at the edge of the woods and rubbed his thumb over her fingers. Did he see someone he liked? "Very much." Caleb didn't have the nerve to admit to more, not yet. It had been a long time since he'd felt like this and this time, he was going to do it right. "I'm happy to be with you."
Things had changed a lot for her in the past few months, it was as much exciting in equal parts as it was terrifying for her. She never forgot the fears that hovered around when she thought about what might happen but at the same time she knew she couldn’t focus on the fears. The world kept spinning, people came and they went, there was nothing she could do to change any of that, but wasting time seemed like the one thing she shouldn’t do. Wasn’t it all for nothing if she allowed herself to shut down in the face of the worst? She wanted to be happy, she wanted to chase happiness, even if it made her feel conflicted.
When she was with him though, the complication began to fade. The moment her eyes met his, all those worries and complications seemed to just fade away for a while. Her chest felt all fluttery and she longed to just bask in the positivity he brought to her. Perhaps in a way they were both running away a little but she didn’t see the harm in that, escaping had allowed them both to come into their own. She’d seen him open up over time in a way she never expected, he gave her something to look forward to. A reason to smile at the stupidest of times.
The drive so far was pretty relaxed, once they got to the highway it was easy enough for her to put the car into cruise control and allow it to do most of the work. Though her eyes lingered on the road throughout. She giggled slightly when she glanced over at him only to catch him gazing because the shy way he responded was so endearing “That’s okay, for the most part, it’s just a long time to travel so make sure you’re comfortable” she teased slightly.
“People think being a guard is all fighting battles and catching criminals but nine times out of ten, the mission is usually investigating what crazy mystical objects find their way onto earth” whether they’re ancient or recently created by a diviner, it was their job to assess the threat level of such a thing existing and call it in where necessary. She glanced over at him for a moment when she felt his hand on hers “Me too...with everything that happened, they send a lot of guards on solo missions now but...honestly, they make me a little nervous” why wouldn’t they? They could turn out to be dangerous when you least expected it.
The car sped down the road and Caleb started to make himself comfortable. It appeared that this would be quite a long road trip, but he was looking forward to that. It was quite a relief to look frowards, not backwards. It had been a while. Her hand was soft inside his own. He wished that his face would not betray him with such a bright pink glow whenever their eyes met. He tended to be a very private person, but all of the sparks that he felt were beginning to be obvious. He'd become completely taken with her over the last two weeks. He squeezed her fingers. Caleb was not much of a talker, but sometimes it seemed like when they were together, he could barely shut up. Perhaps, he was coming out of his shell, or perhaps she'd simply found the key to his heart. Road trips were a wonderful way to get to know the people you loved. They incited curiosity. He'd enjoyed nearly every new place that he'd ever been. Having a travelling companion to experience the rush with only made that better.
The view out the window changed from pine trees into low, rocky hills. The hum of the engine was pleasant. He'd always liked driving. It relaxed him. It would have been easy to fall asleep. He was safe, warm, and happy; but the more subtle purpose of this mission had been to stay together. Caleb reached forwards and pushed the button on the radio. The soft beat of classic rock pulsated throughout the car. This had been his mother's favorite type of music. He was pretty certain that he could nail a karaoke performance of "Dancing Queen" by Abba, despite never willingly turning it on himself.
As the road curved onwards, Caleb reached for his notebook. He liked drawing his surroundings more than he liked photographing them. The fact that it was his own interpretation seemed to make the memories more alive. The fingers of his right hand brushed the pencil against the paper. They were curved and slightly bumpy from the friction of the road. He glanced up at her, sketching together a silhouette which hugged the page. Slowly, it became an outline of her face with strong cheekbones and a delicate nose. The pieces seemed to fit together the more that he observed her.
"I've traveled my fair share. I think I can make it work." Caleb said, thankful that she never seemed to mind his quiet. It took him a while to process things; but lately that had been thrown off center by the electric attraction that pulsed between them.
Her grasp on his hand made everything five shades warmer. She was incredibly beautiful. Caleb was certain that by now, he'd notice her face in any crowd. He was drawn towards her. "It's still odd to me. The idea that the earth isn't just for humans. I like it, though. I always want to know more. I think what you do is honorable. It...it must take a lot of sacrifice. You're much braver than I am, Tay."
If their trust had not run so deep, it would have been much more difficult knowing that she often ran into fire, instead of away from it. He had opened up to her and what they shared seemed to be a true mix of vulnerability and strength. He was her adventure and she was his rest. After an hour, It was quite the relief to get out and stretch his legs. Caleb stretched, before crossing the short distance between them and reaching for both her hands. "C'mere."
The back of the lot was surrounded by scattered trees and there was no other person to be seen. It was occupied only by squirrels, stray dandelions, and the bright blue sky. Their footsteps slowed in the grove of trees. The only noise was the slight whisper of the wind. Everything else was muffled by nature. Caleb pulled her against him. His arms were wrapped firmly around her waist and they were nose to nose. The idea that this was a mission and not a vacation had completely left his mind. His hands strayed from their place, caressing her waist, and shoulders, before coming to rest behind her neck. The warmth between them seemed to melt as their lips collided.
It was actually quite a scenic drive, with rows of trees as far as the eyes could see, the road snaking its way around them and creating a canopy over them, it made her a little sad to see something so beautiful but just be speeding past it “I should tell my sister about this place, she loves taking photos of nature” she was really good at it too. Her family had all been pretty artistically talented except her, Tatiana, her niece, was an avid painter. The music he put on filled the silence nicely, she liked a lot of music, though she was pretty impartial to the classic singalong songs. She glanced over at Caleb every so often to check what he was up to, between discussions and debates here and there.
She found it kinda peaceful to watch him draw, she’d seen him do it many times over their time of knowing one another, she was glad he had that escape to reach for, he always seemed at his most youthful and relaxed when he was drawing “It honestly amazes me how you can always find so many things to draw” she commented and smiled softly, eyes returning to the road. She kinda wished she could watch for longer because it brought her joy to see him doing the things he liked most, but she was sure there would be plenty more opportunities in time. He wasn’t going anywhere after all.
She pressed her lips together, it wasn’t the first time she’d been called brave, some might even say fearless if they didn’t know her well enough, but those who did would understand that everything she did came from sacrifice towards making the world a better and safer place for everyone. “The world is so much bigger than people think it is, I’ve found it’s easier to assume something is true before disbelieving it by now” she chuckled under her breath. “It does...but protecting people...it’s always been a part of who I am” she nodded slightly in thought, that’s why she could never quit.
When she pulled up at the spot she had been asked to check out, she was keen to get out of the car and she could only imagine how Caleb was feeling considering his legs were far longer than hers. After stretching out a little she heard his words and naturally moved closer to him, placing her hands in his as they started to head down the path. She was a little surprised when he pulled her in but it was almost gravitational as she leaned to press her nose against his and her eyes closed for a moment as her arms came to wrap around his waist and her head tipped back just in time to meet and welcome his kiss.
She smiled against his lips, he was warm and being here with him felt nice, especially when they didn’t have to worry about anyone else finding them here “I have a feeling I might get questioned on why this retrieval took so long” she teased when they parted, still holding him in her arms with no intention of letting go.
It had taken a lot of steps to get to where they were now, but it all seemed worth while. Bit by bit, things were changing. Caleb hadn't felt at rest ever since his mother had died. That grief had been like running on a rocket to space and trying to breathe without oxygen. Every place that he lived afterwards had been touched by the pain. Here, there was none of that. The pressure of out-running his demons had come to a steady walk, before halting all together in her presence. The blue sky and warm sun wafted over him. The afternoon light and her arms around him anchored him to the now. Between the spontanaity of their adventure and the sweetness of the connection, his stream of focus had been well and truly broken. Admist it, he'd found peace. Everyday it continued to lead him back towards her. Perhaps, the cords of love and grief which had so long been tangled toegther in his heart were finally separating. The mellow appreciation for this moment was left behind. His blue eyes drifted over her and Caleb settled into the grass enjoying the cozy grip of her arms around his torso.
He closed his eyes basking in the rays of the sun and the warmth of her body against his. He nestled into her embrace, remembering her coy teasing about being the big spoon. The warm temperature wafted over him. His eyes opened and he found their faces only a breath away from each other. He reached up, gently curling his fingers into her hair. "Mm. You'll have to blame me. I keep leading you on detours, don't I?" Caleb whispered. "But, it's easy to get distracted when you look at me that way."
Travelling without a map had once been his favorite pastime. Right now, he was taking great pleasure in the idea of getting lost with her. The one thing that never seemed to not fade was the way that their lips kept travelling back to one another. They were soft, almost silky, against his own. He felt the soft tickle of her breath against his nose. Nobody had ever kissed him like that before. The tenderness in her hands reeled him away, until a moment had gone by, untethered to anything but their touch. "I like going off road sometimes. It can be worth it to take the scenic route."
He was content in this bubble, but last thing that he wanted was for a job that she loved quite dearly to be put in jepoardy. He reached for her fingers, giving them a reasurring squeeze. It may be difficult to push away the desires which he had to be connected to her, but he didn't mind. "It can wait. I want to see you in action."
A slow smile built on his face as he said that. "Seriously. Just show me. State secrets and everything." If anything, his curiosity had been brought wide awake. "I've heard I'm pretty good at guarding, myself."