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.”

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She couldn’t help but grin because of the literally cheesy line he used on her but it just seemed so...him. Caleb was a dreamer and often had his head in the clouds but that’s what she adored about him, you never quite knew what he might come up with and the unexpected was interesting to her, whenever she thought he might do one thing he did another “As long as no one tries to eat us” she teased playfully and smiled with her eyes, it was hard to resist him when he was being cute like that.

She bit her lip slightly when he spoke again, saying how he was lucky enough to find her, her expression softening too, they hadn’t really happened in a traditional way but they had both been there for one another in a hard time of their lives. Not necessarily a leaning post but more a board where they could express everything they were feeling. “There’s an awful lot of roads out there you know” she teased playfully when he said he wanted to travel down all the roads “Are you suggesting that I run away with you?” she teased softly, a getaway did sound nice though, she had spent so much of her life on missions that she never really travelled for...fun.

She laughed when he said his feet might fall off “You have seen your own physique right?” she commented and raised her brow, well she certainly had and she wasn’t buying that he wouldn’t be able to cope with a long hike. Still it was a long way to go with very little to go on as far as travelling goes. She had gotten pretty experienced when it came to tracking and so she could do it with little more than a compass now, which she was holding in her hand. She bit her lip when he brought up her sword, noticing the way he was eyeing it as though it was entirely foreign and she supposed to him, it was “It’s basically a Nephilim rite of passage to get yourself a weapon...this is one of the only things I still have from my family” she nodded her head slightly.

She watched with a curious expression as he pulled out the locket from his pocket and then clicked out a blade, she gasped in fascination from the craftsmanship and how small it was “Well that would be handy in a pinch” she murmured as she investigated it and smiled “It’s beautiful...looks handmade” she nodded slightly, she was sure he kept it more as a keepsake than an actual weapon. She laughed under her breath “It has seen plenty” she commented as she twirled the hilt around her hand to display how well she knew her way around it.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned about magic, it’s that you need to stay as far away from it as reasonably possible” she shivered slightly, every experience she’d had with nasty dark magic had been tough to get out of so honestly she was hoping what they found today sided with light magic. “Funny that I ended up being the personal guard to the aspect of magic” she grumbled slightly and shook her head. As they walked they came up to a river that was rushing by with seemingly no way to cross. She bit her lip for a moment “How good of a swimmer are you?” she questioned playfully.

The tall pine trees provided some shelter from the warmth of the summer sun, which had previously beat down on Caleb’s shoulders. It had been a few weeks since he’d taken a hike out into the depths of a forest and this one was entirely unexplored. The ground was hilly, but he’d come prepared in sensible shoes. It wasn’t difficult to adapt to the terrain. He’d spent more of his time as a child outdoors, than in. He followed Octavia, observing her use of particular landmarks and a small compass. He’d grown up before the general use of GPS, but using coordinates was more like a whole different language. Strangely enough, they were often used by pilots for navigation. Genuine explorers tended to stick to the tried and true methods. He was still the most comfortable with a paper map. 

Occasionally, there were branches to break along the path. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but the trails were also ones that had fallen out of use. He paused to duck under a branch. It had been several years now since he’d gone completely off-road. It was reminding him of many good adventures where he’d allowed himself to truly get lost. This time, they were getting lost together. His lips humored a small smile as she asked for clarification on his plans. Caleb slipped his knife back into his pocket, gazing ahead at where she was trailblazing. Was he asking her to run away? Perhaps. The idea was inviting. “Run away, abscond, fly the coop…” He replied. “I would honestly roam just about anywhere if we were together.” 

The sound of rushing water made itself known before a river came into view. It was wide and the water moved swiftly across the bedded rocks. He studied the distance. It was almost a guarantee that they were going to get a good soaking. The lowest point in the water was past his hips and would be to her ribs. It certainly had a strong current and places that were deeper than he was tall.  Distracted by her comment on his physique, the tips of his shoes landed smoothly on the edge of the water. He stabilized himself, and flashed her a big smile, before meeting her winsome eyes. “It’s not as if I spend many hours in front of a mirror, but, I did grow up on a lake. I can probably navigate my way around the water better than the land.”  

He took a seat on the edge of the river and untied his shoes. Bulky shoes with good grip were the best for hiking, but the worst for swimming. He prefered swimming barefoot. He hadn't thought to put a change of clothing in the backpack which was on his shoulders.The matter of getting the backpack, sword, and shoes across the ravine were a bit of a different matter. Weight would need to be distributed evenly across the body if he were to swim with it. Caleb tilted his head, thinking, as he looked up at the tall trees around them. It had been a while since he'd fiddled with innovation, but it was always in the back of his mind. "Do you have a piece of rope?" 

With a long piece of rope, in theory, they would be able to create an elementary pulley system. The young man stuffed his socks into his shoes and tested a nearby branch, before hoisting himself into the tree. The branches went out over the water. He was one of the rare adults who still had a penchant for tree climbing, hence his nimble feet had never really lost their connection. He tied the long rope to to the lowest hanging branch, before swinging down onto the dirt. "One at a time, I think. I'll go across and tie the rope at the other side. After that, you should be able to secure the items to the rope and I'll pull them across."

Caleb wrapped his arms around her from behind, a soft sway in his hug. He kissed her shoulder. "May I have a kiss for good luck?"

She couldn’t help but giggle slightly when he spoke such riddles when it came to the idea of running away, honestly she had been tempted herself to just get some space away from everything, the past few years had taken a large toll on her and sometimes she wondered if it would be better for her own sanity to focus on smaller things than trying to save the world “Wouldn’t you miss home?” she questioned curiously, though honestly Caleb had always been the wandering type in her mind.

She grinned slightly when he explained how he grew up on a lake and knew the water well “Well then I am suddenly a big fan of swimming” she teased slightly, she was quite athletically built from all her training throughout the years, she never let herself get too far out of practice, mostly because training was a good outlet for her whenever she was worked up. While he was busy taking off his shoes and preparing to get in the water, Octavia was canvassing the area, she checked in the entryways to the river, looking for any sign that people had always come this way.

She raised her brow curiously when he asked if she had any rope but she opened her bag and took one out, it was essentially a staple item to have with you on missions, along with things like a swiss army knife, flint rocks, a space blanket and emergency food supplies. If people didn’t know who she worked for, she supposed they could see her as quite outdoorsy and adventurous, though if it was up to her she preferred the comfort of a cozy nook where she could read a book. She watched as he climbed up in the tree like a natural and she was immediately impressed by his resilience “You may not be a warrior but you sure know how to think like a guard” she teased softly.

She grinned as she watching him impressively swing himself down from the tree “Very Tarzan of you” she teased as she stepped closer to him naturally “Well at least the supplies won’t get all wet but we’re going to have to take the hit” the rope wasn’t going to be strong enough to get them over after all.

She practically melted into his arms, tilting her head up so she could look at him “I thought you bragged you spent more time in water than land” she teased, implying he didn’t need good luck but still she pressed a soft kiss against his lips and smiled into it.

He wasn't exactly a boyscout, but Caleb had a decent understanding of the outdoors. Despite lacking a father figure in his life, he did have both an adventurous mother and grandmother. They had constantly encouraged him to explore the great outdoors, test his senses, and go a step beyond where he felt safe. Perhaps, some of his wandering nature came from their contribution to his childhoood. There were still parts of him that wished to be wild, but lately, he'd become more content. He firmly pressed his lips together as she mentioned him missing home. Until he thought about it, he did not. "I do miss home." He said slowly, as if testing out the idea. The exploration of the last ten years had led him so many places. He'd learned so much. He could never regret leaving, but sometimes he did wish there was a way to be more than one place at once. 

"But, sometimes, I don't really know where that is, either. I have dual citizenship and family that lives on both sides of the ocean. It gets complicated pretty fast." He said sheepishly. There was no retort to her teasing, but his blue eyes sparkled in her direction as the final steps of the pulley were roped into place. After checking that it was secure, Caleb naturally gravitated back towards her side. Her body softened against his own and he relaxed into her embrace. The theme of Tarzan played in the back of his mind. How could he explain to her that his home was with the people he loved? Wherever that took him.His blue eyes traveled from the river back towards her face. The gaze was tender at first, curious; but just like always, when he looked at her, the rest of the world seemed to move in slow motion. That soft curiosity became bolder. They hovered inches apart, tantalizingly close, eyes knit together. Her voice broke the pause, teasing him, again.  

"I might be guilty of just wanting a kiss." Maybe? Definitely.  He'd never miss the chance to have lady luck on his side. Caleb's arms swept her upwards and brought them closer together. Her lips brushed his and that was the only invitation that he needed. He pressed against her, eager, warm. Now that their bodies were well acquainted with one another, the shyness seemed to have disappeared. Everything he struggled to speak in words, he could say like this.

"Did you route us this way specifically so I'd lose my shirt wearing privilege?" He teased, as they broke apart. "I did wonder." 

He kept his hand in hers as they came to the edge the water. He pulled the white tee over his toned chest and began backing away until his hand slipped from hers. "Bonne chance." He flashed her a mischievious grin and jumped into the water. 

She smiled and nodded in an understanding manner, she knew the feeling of being torn into different directions well and she could understand why he yearned for adventure but also for a place he belonged because she had felt the same. Being a guard was part of the way she had managed to achieve both, all the missions brought excitement and new things but when she needed to, she could always return home to her family. “What is home though?” she questioned and smiled gently, it meant something different to everyone after all.

She grinned and nodded her head when he expressed how he wasn’t sure where home was “If you’re not sure I guess you can count yourself as still looking for it” she commented and nodded slightly, there was nothing wrong with that but she did hope that eventually he found a place that gave him that feeling, because it was incredibly special. There were many moments like this with him, moments that made her heart skip a little in her chest, she couldn’t help but feel pulled in by his warm nature, everything about him made her just want to drop everything she knew and focus on him.

She giggled and pressed a soft, playful kiss against his lip when he pointed out his guilty motivations, a mischievous smile on her lips “When we make it to the other side, you can have the rest” she teased softly before pulling out of his grasp so she could actually focus on the task at hand. “I can neither confirm or deny that statement” she teased back, he certainly did look amazing with or without a shirt. With that she also started undressing down to her underwear, after all, making the rest of the trek in wet clothes wasn’t going to be fun at all.

She rolled her eyes playfully when he threw himself into the water like that “Show off” she teased as she came to the edge and started placed her clothes she was wearing into one of the supply bags before threading them onto the rope ready to be pulled to the other side. She watched as Caleb surfaced and licked her lips, she had to admit missions were a lot more fun with such a great view but her own will not to get distracted was being tested to the max.

Although the river was wide and fairly deep, Caleb’s experience in the water made it simple to swim across. The soft waves mediated the warmth of the summer. There was a mugginess in the air that announced the approach of a thunderstorm. It was a good thing that they had chosen to cross right now. In another thirty minutes, the storm clouds brewing in the sky could have made the simple task much more difficult. It was never smart to cross a body of water with lightning hovering on the horizon.The large rocks along the shoreline required extra navigation as he moved forwards; but the depth of the water gradually dwindled until it stopped at his knees. The human quickly crossed the sand floor to begin pulling their gear across. The rope circuit that he’d designed in a crunch was surprisingly effective, but he was still careful to not pull it over too quickly. 

 He still had a few painful memories from childhood of using ropes to scale trees and finding his hands badly burned in the process. Rope could be quite brutal on the hands if handled wrongly and his profession was tied quite intricately to his ability to hold a paintbrush. The backpack and other essentials slowly made their way across the river and Caleb quickly hurried to unlatch them. 

 The more time that he spent by her side, the more Caleb found himself uninhibited by earlier anxiety. It was easier without the pressure of first impressions. Now, there was a familiarity and comfort. He had started to feel at ease. Nothing about the last twenty-four hours was what he’d planned on spending his weekend doing, but that was becoming a pattern. He often got lost in his routines, but sometimes they killed his creativity. The ability to toss everything to the side was something that he clearly enjoyed. It was spontaneous. A fresh breath of air in more ways than one. The playful banter that flowed between them made it incredibly easy to forget that they were supposed to be working. He had attempted many times over the past few hours to clear his mind, but that was much easier said than done.  

 After unlatching their equipment, Caleb ran his hands through his wet locks which were threatening to obscure his vision. He pushed them away from his eyes, watching as she crossed the river herself. Her stokes through the water were precise as an arrow, but delicate as a swan. Practiced and much more polished than his own. The way that he’d learned to swim was simply by running into the water. There hadn’t been any methodology, much like the way he learned art. It meant sometimes he did things the difficult way, but it had become so natural that it seemed normal under scrutiny.  

 Caleb bent down on the rocks to offer her a hand up. It was quite obvious that it wasn’t necessary, but the way he had been raised had taught him the importance of chivalry. He was no knight, but he enjoyed that part of the old world. It seemed disheartening how selfish the world had become. He grasped her fingers and gave her a swift tug up onto the shore. There was only one towel within their belongings, but he was happy enough to wrap it around her shoulders. He motioned to the path with a soft smile on his lips, “Lead the way.”

Their footsteps slowly seemed to fall into step with one another and Caleb thought back to the topic of conversation from a moment ago. “I am always finding home,” He nodded. “But, would it be strange to say that my home seems to travel? It…it is wherever I am with the people that I love.”

Caleb’s blue eyes met hers as he took in their surroundings It was all that he could do to pocket the glow that seemed to emanate from his complexion whenever she looked in his direction. It was bright enough that he barely noticed the storm had been rapidly approaching. The Frenchman squinted up at the sky as a raindrop settled on his nose. “It looks like getting caught in the rain is becoming a habit. Would I be wrong to assume that your bevy of soldiers keeps a list of shelters?” 

 He hoped not. Once-drenched was very different than-twice drenched.

After he had taken care of getting the equipment over the river she followed quickly behind, Octavia had never been a stranger to the water, it was part of her training as a young nephilim to be able to survive in harsh terrains and confidently handle herself in water. Sometimes her upbringing felt pretty military but she couldn’t deny the results or how well it had prepared her for the life she chose to lead. Before long she had swam the distance across the flowing body of water and reached up to take his hand as he pulled her up from the water “Thanks” she responded as she shook off some of the water droplets and reached to neaten her now unruly tendrils of hair.

When he gave her the towel she looked down at it and smiled softly as she pulled it closer around her shoulders and began to dry herself with it, she had noticed before crossing that the sky was beginning to look increasingly clouded and the temperature in the air was beginning to chill, alluding to a storm being on the way. “That’s poetic” she commented in a soft voice when he said that his home tended to be where a person was rather than a place “Though I suppose I could say the same, my family is just...very large” she laughed, she saw the entire guard and the aspects as her family, albeit a very chaotic one.

She laughed, remembering the last time they had gotten caught in the rain and while they were already wet and probably wouldn’t mind it, the things they had with them were more likely to be damaged by the storm. She bit her lip slightly when he asked about a shelter “Well we do have a list but it isn’t exactly...the middle of the woods” she commented and looked around for a moment, noticing the trail of rockwork in the distance “I say we head there as quick as we can, most rocky landscapes have caves” where they could hide out until the storm was over and it was safe to continue.

With that she grabbed his hand and began hiking in that direction, grabbing the backpack they had brought across the river with her and moving at a hurried speed because the rain was starting to get heavier, by the time they reached their destination the towel she had over her shoulders was starting to get damp against her skin. She quickly spotted an opening and dashed towards it before pulling him inside with her. She space wasn’t especially large but it would be enough for the two of them.

The one raindrop that had broken from the sky was only one of many that came cascading down in an onslaught of fast, rushing rain. They were already quite wet, so the transition from the river to the quickly formed puddles was not so sudden. The last time they’d been caught in a rain storm, it had been nearly nightfall. The afternoon light gave the benefit of the doubt when it came to climbing the large rocks in his bare feet. Caleb didn’t mind the mud. Not in the slightest. If anything, he was being called back towards his roots where he had spent unlimited hours in the great outdoors. He’d entertained himself most of the time. Most of his friends had been imaginary, the animals, or the elderly folks who lived in the surrounding area. As Octavia had mentioned once, at his heart, Caleb was a true country boy. 

He grasped her hand as they ran through the slippery terrain. His palm was secure inside hers. The grip parallel and their fingers intertwined. The rocks loomed ahead. They were red stone, intermixed with various trees and shrubs like much of the southeast. He couldn’t name most of the wildlife. It was worlds apart from where he’d grown up. The mud splashing up his limbs and torso made him thankful for the pouring rain which kept it from sticking; but he wasn’t embarrassed about being a mess. Sometimes the best things were beautiful disasters.

He didn’t spot the cave until after she mentioned it. There was an indent inside the stone, barely big enough for the two of them.
Caleb never minded being cozy. The mid afternoon heat was beginning to evaporate and leave him quite cold inside the increased elevation. A large slab of stone kept the small area dry and Caleb huddled underneath, carefully pulling Octavia to meet him. "Sometimes I border on too poetic," He said, chagrined. "My family is small, but we're rather spread apart. I guess that makes it even more special when we get together."

"At Christmas, about six years ago, we all stayed in my Aunt's condo. It was a tight squeeze. Seven people and four beds. I slept on the couch most of the time, but I didn't really mind. That meant I got to be next to the tree. And the cookies." He chuckled and hugged his knees to his chest. The rain was pouring down from the cloudy sky with little sign of relenting. He didn't mind, though. He'd always enjoyed a good rainstorm. There weren't a whole lot of rainy days in Colorado, so he enjoyed each one. The young man carefully pulled their backpacks further into the shelter and opened the first pocket on his. Inside were small packets of peanut butter and pretzel sticks. It was one of his favorite snacks. "Want some?"

She had to admit it seemed like the weather almost wanted them to take more time as the rain began to come crashing down through the trees, they were some cover but not nearly enough to prevent them both from being re-soaked to their very core. She didn’t mind being wet for a short time but if they remained completely drenched for an extended period they were very likely to get sick, especially Caleb as he was human so it seemed best to her to hide away until it passed, it was already going to take a while to get back so she didn’t see them harm in extending it a little.

She laughed softly as the two of them dashed into the cave, the space was small so they could barely turn around in here without bumping into one another, but it was dry with the stone overhead keeping the rain at bay. When he pulled her closer she huddled against his shoulder and leaned there for a moment, well at least she was hiding out with him. “Maybe” she commented when he said he could be too poetic “That just means you see the world more beautifully than others” she murmured softly as she turned her face to rest her cheek against his chest “That does sound special…you must miss them a lot though” she’d never really experienced being away from hers for longer than a mission period.

“Well the cookies are definitely good motivation” she commented and smiled softly “We used to celebrate Christmas properly back on the isle, the tree, presents, decorating, you name it” she was always really fond of the time because all of the guards managed to leave their posts for a few days and they would just be together. “Not so much in the past few years” she commented sadly, since the fall of their previous home, people hadn’t wanted to celebrate knowing it would be a big reminder of the faces that should have been there but weren’t. Her eyes lit up when he pulled out snacks and she couldn’t help but grin when he offered her one, she took it and smiled “I’ve always had a big sweet tooth, the type of person who eats her dinner just so she can have dessert” she commented and laughed softly.

“What about you? What foods are you ready to sell your soul for?” she teased playfully, watching as the water crashed down outside she reached her hand to thread through the one he wasn’t using to eat “I never did like storms” she commented softly “Too much chaos” she added.

The rain pattered against the rocks leaving a hollow, drumming sound. It made him sleepy. Opposite to her, Caleb had always loved storms. He slept the best on rainy nights. To his active imagination, thunder and lightening seemed more like they were having a conversation than causing true trouble. He brought his hand up to softly stroke her hair as she snuggled against his chest. Her cheeks were warm. He’d definitely found that she could be a small furnace to keep his chills away, but Caleb hadn’t considered doing away with his bedtime sock habit. Not yet.

He’d always been fairly blessed when it came to his own health. The young man couldn’t remember the last time that he’d been stuck in bed unwillingly, but the chill of the rain had settled onto his shoulders. He sensed that she was worried, but did his best to comfort her as they cuddled up. His distance from his family had come up in conversation multiple times lately and left him with a terribly bitter sweet feeling clinging to his chest. In truth, for the first three years in Evermore, Caleb hadn’t even reached out. His faithful Aunt had continued to support him, but he’d simply been to numb to consider returning home. Things were different now. The word home rang differently in his mind. Especially as he pressed a soft kiss to Octavia’s forehead. She was home.

Caleb leaned his head atop hers, breathing deep and slow. “I worry about them.” His brows creased. “Especially my Aunt. She’s had heart problems since I was little. I’m afraid that my tendency of absconding to different countries has done little to help with that.”

He felt guilty for leaving sometimes. It had been difficult to describe to family what was going on and so much simpler to just go anywhere else.The words out of his mouth were ones he’d never expected to say. “I do miss home. Half my home. The far away part. I’d like to go back, but —“

His blue eyes met hers with a slight vulnerability. “I have so many reasons to stay now.”

Summer had traditionally been a very difficult season for him. Tragedy seemed to always fall between the months of May through August in his family. It was the first time in years that there wasn’t weight holding him down. There were memories, but the chapter of his life had simply turned pages. 

He listened as she talked about her own holiday traditions and how they seemed far in the past now. “Perhaps you should remind them of what they loved. Holidays are built by messy people. The thing that makes us drawn towards them is loving others.”

It was certainly true for them. Caleb traced the side of her face with his finger, almost as if he had magic in his touch. He smiled softly, happy to hear that she’d appreciated the gesture of sharing his food. “My Aunt’s chocolate chip cookies.” He nodded decisively. “Her shop has a small kitchen in the back room because it was a bakery before it became a florist. So whenever you walk in it smells like a delicious mixture of baked goods and fresh blossoms.”

Caleb had clearly spent a lot of time in that shop. It was mapped in his mind. He pressed his forehead against hers, closing his eyes. Right here, he was warm, comfortable. Protected. A small smile danced in his lips. They were so close. “I believe we’ve made it to the other side.”

“What’s next?” He asked.

She could sense a certain apprehension on him when it came to his family which made her wonder if he was reluctant to return back for some reason or another. She never had to really worry about making decisions like that because she was lucky enough for all of her family to be close to her already but she could imagine it was hard to find time to drop everything “We should go visit together sometime” she spoke softly, maybe he’d feel better about the trip if he had her there and she was sure she would enjoy seeing the place he came from.

“From what you’ve said about her, I think she’s tougher than that” she teased and nudged him slightly but she could definitely sense the guilt in his voice, she leaned against his shoulder and turned her face to bury against him for a moment “You know, anyone who loves someone as much as she does you, would understand why you decided to leave” she commented in a soft voice, sometimes people needed reminding it was okay to put themselves and their own happiness first after all.

She bit her lip as she thought about the holidays and whether it was time this year to start getting to back to what they enjoyed about them “It still feels empty with so many empty seats but you’re right, we can’t live our lives tiptoeing around a day that used to make us so happy” she nodded her head slightly “What sort of celebrations do you think they’d enjoy? Building gingerbread houses? A big tree with lots of presents?” she got the feeling those would go down well.

“Oh I love cookies” she commented humming softly as though she could taste them on her tongue in that moment “That sounds absolutely heavenly” she commented in a soft voice “I’ve always been a sucker for good smells, Thea always teases me whenever we go past one of those stores that sell all the bath bombs because I can’t help myself” she would often treat herself to one and set aside a whole evening just to enjoy it to the fullest.

She let out a sigh of relief and peered out to check that the storm had cleared before smiling softly “Now we find this damn thing so we can go home and dry off” she spoke with a new sense of determination as they stepped out and she shook herself off. To her surprise, the sun was starting to peer through the clouds as they began to walk further up the cliffs “So the legend says a long time ago a magical seed was planted here and the flower has since grown, but it’s causing some magical disturbance” she nodded “That’s what we’re looking for” Malva was sure it was here.

There was something about empty seats that made people avoid gathering. Especially, if it was a reminder of happiness and there were people missing from that joy.Caleb knew a brief version of what had happened between the celestials and their guards; in the past years, there had been many who had sacrificed their lives to keep the peace in Evermore and death left holes in the existence of everyone who remained living. He felt so much more comfortable around Octavia than others because she understood that. Caleb leaned into her touch, finding them eye to eye, and nose to nose. Her voice was soft as she answered his questions. The guilt that was imprinted on his forehead began relaxing as she mentioned how much his family loved him. It had been a while since he had reminded himself. One thing that Cal always noticed was how steady she seemed during their deep conversations. It was beginning to wear off on him. There was a certain calm that prevailed when they were together, even in a thunderstorm. 

Caleb brought her fingers to his lips in a gentle kiss. As she mentioned holidays, he remembered a similar time last year when they’d only begun to be friends and there had been fireworks over the lake while they talked. Not long after, he’d started noticing her -- differently. Holidays had always held a special place in his heart, but he had to think before he could decide on one. "Well, we always burn a Yule log and the main meal on Christmas is called Réveillon. The participation involves staying awake on Christmas Eve until the early hours. Considering how few French are morning people, there is much coffee and much grumbling by breakfast." 

He chuckled. "We also always have parades and fireworks on Bastille Day. It is a lot like your fourth of July. Overall, I think those two are the ones which we look forward to the most." 

What was his favorite? That was a hard question. He liked Christmas. It seemed to lull a sense of peace over most of the world, even if it was temporary. "I like the cookie homes. They are a perfect mix of engineering and art; but my Aunt does not let me touch the recipe. I am well known for being a bit of a disaster when it comes to baking." Caleb said, letting out an amused sigh. 

As the rain stopped, they began walking towards the remaining woods. Was it wrong that he would be disappointed if this would be over by tonight? He wrapped his thumb around her hand a little tighter when that came to mind. Perhaps, her suggestion of visiting would not be such a bad idea. He'd always had a tendency towards adventure, even before he had used it to escape the city where he had gone through so much; but Caleb's relationship with Paris was complicated. 

His apprehension was partially the reluctance to fly on a plane again and partially the memories from the city. He loved his family deeply, but had never felt truly understood by anyone but his Aunt Luna. Especially after his mother had died. Their relationship was much more on the level of a grandchild and grandparent, as she was technically his great-aunt and her hair had gone grey by the time he was eleven. He often felt guilty for the ways in which he'd coped with his early losses and had often wondered if it was his own fault that there was distance within their familial gatherings. He hoped that they had understood and Octavia's warm encouragement meant more than he could properly express. 

It had taken so long to be able to put his thoughts into words, let alone actually visit the graves.The idea of her presence softening that blow sounded inviting. He'd never missed France as much as he had missed his family and he hadn't been back since he moved to Evermore. That was five years ago.  A slow, surprised smile inched across his face when she mentioned visiting his home. One of his homes. "Really?" He tilted his head. His tone was light, but there was hesitation underneath it. "Are you sure that you wouldn't mind my vice grip on your hand anywhere within five miles of an airplane?"



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