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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.”
After contacting Mal to let her know of the new arrival to her greenhouse, Octavia had picked up Caleb’s sleeping frame and carried him to a clearing nearby, they hadn’t brought all of the supplies needed to camp out properly but she managed with a tarp to shield them from the inclement weather and a few branches to prop everything in the right places. She lit a fire not too far from them. The whole time she was watching over Caleb to make sure he was okay, she knew there was little she could do to meddle with a magic-induced rest but there is one thing she could do, protect him.
Eventually, all of the work of setting up camp had taken its toll on her and she had sidled up next to him, lifting the soft woolen blanket she had placed over him to join him. Laying her head against his shoulder and allowing the exhaustion to take over for just a while. It had been a long day but a very successful one in the grand scheme of everything and thankfully it seemed the world was kind enough to give her peaceful dreams for once. Usually, whenever Octavia dreamed it was some bizarre mix of confusing visions that made no rational sense when collated but occasionally on the good days she could relive some of her happiest memories.
There was a smile on her lips as her mind allowed itself to wander through all of those countless nights out at the gazebo, never really talking about anything which would change the world but never realizing that it was slowly changing her world. She hadn’t been looking to start over again, she certainly hadn’t been looking for a relationship but somehow, those were the two things she had come to find. It wasn’t intended or forced, it had been slow and natural and it had brought her more happiness than she could have ever hoped to have find. Even today he had been willing to risk himself just to see a part of her world and the life she chose and that meant everything to her.
It was almost like she could sense when he returned to bed with her because her body naturally curled itself against his, her arms reaching for him like it had become a natural reaction for her. And when he spoke those soft words, she wasn’t sure whether she was dreaming or awake, but either way, they made her smile.
The fire was mostly smoldered by the time they awoke in the morning, her eyes fluttering open before she crept from where he was sleeping to allow him to rest. She headed out to grab some more logs that had fallen from the trees and placed them on the fire before settling herself down to enjoy the warmth of the morning. A large contrast to the storm that had poured yesterday. She smiled when she heard him coming up behind her and brought her hands to touch gently against his where he held her from behind “Better than I thought I would” she answered with an easygoing smile and turned to face him for a moment “You made quite the first impression on that flower...it’s safe now” she smiled softly, proud of what they had achieved.
Caleb curled his body around Octavia, peppering some soft kisses onto her neck. What could he say? He felt extra affectionate this morning. There seemed to be some burden off his shoulders that he'd been carrying for multiple years that was simply gone. He was fully attached to this present moment. "Good morning, gorgeous." He smiled. His overall mood seemed completely saturated in the soft glow of the sun. "No one ever regretted a little gentleness, did they?" He mused, thinking back on the advent of their adventure so far. It seemed almost like something had changed. Their bond was deeper. He felt less worried, less hesitant. There wasn't anything holding him back now. He knit his fingers through her unused hand as they both preoccupied themselves with the eggs and bacon that had been cooked over the remains of the fire. There was a bit of silence between them. Comfortable silence. The kind that only came when you had complete trust in the person sitting by your side. "You are quite a good cook." The young man chuckled. "Especially considering the materials you've been given to work with today."
He had a vague recollection of a late night conversation with the moon but such heavy sleep had blurred most of the distinction into one fuzzy feeling. There was so much that he felt for which could t be put into words and simply echoed around his mind in hazy pictures, as he imagined what their future could look like.
He finished up breakfast and sat across from her with his legs crossed. His deep blue eyes traveled across her face, stopping every once in a while to note some small detail, like a freckle, or tiny scar. As she settled down next to him, he inhaled quickly. He wasn't sure how, but somehow she still completely took his breath away. Caleb reached up, softly brushing the side of her face with his fingers, drawing her closer. His eyes never left hers. He couldn't seem to tear himself from those green eyes. They had a hidden brightness, despite that her reserved personality sometimes hid it. His hand came to rest on her cheek, cradling her close. He was drawn towards her like a magnet.
The tall grass and misty air almost hid them. Caleb rested his forehead against hers, breathing slowly, deeply. “You make me feel so...so many things.”
He squeezed her fingers in his own. “Things I thought were gone forever.”
His blue eyes opened, the expression vulnerable, but lacking much of the deep sorrow that had been there in their previous conversations. “I just want to be near you.”
Caleb lifted Octavia closer and it seemed their breath was mingling with the morning fog. “I believe you promised me a kiss yesterday. May I collect that now?”
She still felt sleepy and reluctant to move despite the sun that was creeping into her vision “I think there might be a few who regretted it” she commented and giggled softly “But empathy is always a good quality and saving others should always come before anything more drastic” there had been times when someone or something just couldn’t be reasoned with or was far too out of control but she found often the right words could change an entire situation. Before long though they were up and working on breakfast, her stomach making a soft grumble as it protested her lack of an evening meal yesterday “You haven’t seen anything yet” she teased with a wry smile “I’ll make you dinner you’ll remember sometime” she promised and nodded her head softly.
After she finished cooking the food she divided it between two small containers and ate some of hers, savoring the taste, sometimes a simple meal like that could be more rewarding than any, especially because it was quiet and there wasn’t a whole hoard of hungry guards hovering over her shoulder and hoping for a share.
Eventually, she set down her tin and let out a soft breath, indicating quite how relaxed she was feeling in that moment. When she caught his gaze lingering on her, she smiled softly to herself but waited a few moments before finally turning towards him, leaning into the hand he placed against her cheek “It’s been strangely nice to get away from it all...even if we were on a mission” she commented and bit her lip softly.
She allowed herself to get lost in the moment, just the simplicity of it all made it so different to others times, there was no loud voice in her head screaming at her about all the things she needed to worry about, it was just quiet. “I wasn’t sure I could feel...comfort like this again” she murmured softly, for the longest time she had felt quite inconsolable, like no one could understand the way she was feeling.
What they had been through was similar but also different but in the end, it had left both of them feeling lost and looking for some kind of direction to pick themselves up again. Somehow in that trail they had found one another and now neither wanted to back away from it. She laughed softly, eyes dropping to his lips and then back to his oceanic eyes when he asked for a kiss “A promise is a promise” she whispered softly and leaned in to close the gap between them.
A promise was a promise, after all. Caleb had done his best to focus and show his partner that he could be and do more than just emotional support. It had been a long time since he'd used most of the skills that they'd needed for the mission, but even after time, they'd become second nature again. He'd forgotten how much he loved adventure and the last few nights under the bright stars and eager sunrises had been oddly refreshing.
Caleb wrapped his arms around and tugged her into his embrace. He'd felt so alone for such a long time. For most of it, he hadn't even been sure that he wanted to try again; but with Octavia it didn't feel like starting over. It felt like reuniting with old friend that he'd known forever. Forever was a strange concept, knowing she was immortal, but for right now Caleb was content to let his questions go. His gaze dropped to her as she came closer and his breath hitched with anticipation. Ever since the swim across the river, he'd had to put half of his mental energy into being a companion and not a lover; but now he could let that go. Her feather light touch graced his skin and a slow smile danced over his lips.
They were so close now, but it was Octavia who brought them together. She was soft. Caleb let that sink in for a moment as their lips closed together. He didn't know how someone could be both so strong and so gentle at the same time, but he wanted to know more. Every time. His fingers came to gently rest on her jaw and there was a drive inside him to go further, but he drew back. His lips marked her neck in a trail, until he contented himself with holding her close. Something was different --- that had changed in only the short few days that it had been; but Caleb knew that he had to take his time.
She was worth so much. Every moment seemed to scatter new bright spots into his memory. Like a light; one he treasured. "You make me feel like I could fly." He whispered, somehow, both finding shelter and strength next to her. "Curious." He opened his eyes, pushing her hair away from her eyes. "...happy. Indomitable."
It had been a long time since he'd felt that way. Perhaps, even, the first time. "Octavia?"
Caleb looked across the short space between them. He'd never been more sure of anything in his life. Somehow, he just knew. His blue eyes glowed especially against pink flush of his cheeks. "I love you."
There was a feeling of warmth that surrounded her when he pulled her in like that, not just from his body but from the way it felt inside of her, it felt like a part of her that had been shut away for a while now was finally unlocked again and none of it felt hard. She thought that she would feel conflicted or some sort of complication in her mind as she slowly moved forward from the tragedies of her past but it was much like walking into a warm embrace, one that told her maybe things would be okay.
Seeing the way his lips twitched into a smile she couldn’t help but echo it with her own before their lips touched, softly at first, whispering a sense of intimacy between them that could only be expressed like this but as time passed, the kiss deepened just enough to remind her of the passion they also shared, the connection they had built over so many nights and so much patience. Her eyes searched for him as they parted and she was rewarded with the feeling of his lips against her skin which caused her to sigh contentedly.
What they had was…different, understated perhaps but tangible all the same, it was something she wanted to hold on to, a light in the dark as one might see it. Her eyes opened to meet his as he spoke again and she couldn’t help but giggle when he said she made her feel like he could fly “You know with me you actually could fly” she teased softly but she felt her heart clench when he spoke his next words.
She felt a pang of nervousness in her chest when he spoke her name like that and her eyes fluttered open to hold his, her lips parting in surprise when he spoke those words, her heart leaping in her chest in reaction to it “I love you too” she whispered softly as her hand came to cup his cheek gently, her thumb gently sweeping against his face “I couldn’t picture another day without you in it” she added as a hint of a smile appeared on her lips.
For a moment, Caleb didn't quite believe what he had heard. He'd spent so much of his life giving to other people and only getting back a semblance of what he felt. In some ways, he'd become good at that. Like underwater breathing, it had become a skill; but being with Octavia was like coming up for air. It was unexpected, but flooded his body with a strange kind of relief. Perhaps, he hadn't really remembered to breathe in quite a while. Every wall that he'd constructed for his own safety, she had managed to build a door inside. At first, they'd sat on opposite sides, with only their voices to guide them through that darkness; but now there was absolutely nothing. Her thumb brushed against the soft stubble that had grown over his face in the last forty-two hours and Caleb pressed his lips there, gently; but after the relief passed, a slow smile spread across his lips that he could not hide. It was like sunshine, spilling out, in every direction. It had been quite a while now that he'd hoped and needed to say what he had and the affirmation made him light up.
"You'll have to show me someday." Caleb whispered. Their rendezvous had already taken the long path. Was it so bad to lead it on another detour? "But, first, I have so much I want to show you. Everything. Everyone I love. Will you come with me?"