Caleb Segal had been walking on air for the past twenty-four hours. Even his dog noticed how much the usually calm artist was full of energy and seemed to be filled with literal joie de vivre. Over the past year, he’d been finding that sometimes unexpected experiences were the ones that revived his spirit the most. Such had been the case of Octavia Ivakov. Her presence in his life had been constantly surprising, but he was slowly starting to get used to waking up and looking forward to the unknown with the same enthusiasm that he had when he was a child and early light had gotten him out of bed in the morning with a leap and grin. The last night that he’d spent with Octavia had nearly stopped time. He’d fallen asleep at 6 am with more peace in his heart than had been there in years. The next time that he woke up, it was evening and the sun was setting through the open window. Caleb stretched his arms, yawning, as he stumbled out of bed and greeted his golden retriever, who was moping on the floor. “Feeling bored, Chasse?” He chuckled, bending down to nuzzle the dog’s head. “Je suis desole, mon ami.”

He’d been distracted lately. “Can I buy your love with a long walk?” 

The dog woofed happily and thumped his tail against the floor as Caleb reached for his clothes, shoes, and the leash. For several years now, their favorite path had looped around a nearby lake and run by the very gazebo that had become a shelter for Caleb and his new favorite person in Evermore. As he jogged past, a silent grin snuck up his face. He’d never thought that this would be something present in his life again, but as it slowly came into focus, the young man felt at peace with the idea. As he thought of her smile and the way her bright eyes could shine in the dark, Caleb found his feet coming to a stand still at the front of the lake. It was mesmerizing in the soft sunset, but what was happening in his heart was what made him notice. Chasse pulled at the leash, frustrated with his owner’s lingering, and Caleb gave one last long look towards the gazebo, before turning back to his home and running the three miles back on a brand new burst of energy.  

When Caleb approached his home, it was already dark. He pulled out his cellphone to light the way and thumbed through the screen before settling on the texts and typing. It took a moment; but the answer came through. He almost felt more nervous now that the answer was yes.

His entire morning had been spent on the go. Caleb couldn’t help that he wanted to impress her. The first few trips out to the dock had been spent with Malva, setting up a small magical boundary around the gazebo so that it all but disappeared, shielded from view. One of the magical elements that he’d found in all their moments was privacy and the aspect of elements had seemed amused but happy to help accomplish pulling out all the stops to impress her guard. Next, he visited a local restaurant and picked up dinner, before picking up a bouquet of flowers, and stopping back home to shower, dress, and pay the dog sitter.  

There was a bouquet of orchids and baby’s breath in his left hand and he was dressed smartly in a pair of nice jeans and a button up shirt. The dock on which he was standing reminded him of his childhood, but somehow, less lonely. In the distance, Caleb saw a familiar face edging towards him and his heart skipped a beat in chest. He smiled bashfully, meeting her at the edge of the water and reaching for her fingers, intertwining them in his own. When he was around her, he felt strong. A million french thoughts were racing through his mind as he gazed down at her soft eyes. After so long and so many missed chances, it seemed like life was finally moving forwards and away from grief. Perhaps, finally, he’d found a place to put down roots and someone to grow with. “Hi,” It seemed like such an ordinary greeting, but he’d look forward to a million of them. “Sleep at all after that adventure?” 

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It had been a while since she had been so intimate with someone. She had been a little nervous, given that she had only been with one person for all her life, it was hard to know how that translated to being with someone else. But Caleb had been a gentleman and she felt satisfied by their actions. She also felt a deeper sense of connection with him, there was something about seeing him in a vulnerable way like that which made her feel closer to him. He was handsome and rugged, anyone with eyes could see that but she also saw how eager he was to pleasure and how thoughtful he could be with his touches. Her gaze moved over towards him as he traced her skin, she was internally purring from how good it felt “Surprising is one word for it” she commented with a hint of a smile.

She clutched the blanket to her chest as she sat up too, watching him with a soft gaze. Her expression softening when he asked her if the experience had been good for her “Oh believe me it” a smile came upon her lips as she recalled it, her chin tucking in against her knees and making her giggle quietly.

While he was looking for something, Octavia took the opportunity to reach for her clothes and slip them back on, letting the blanket fall to the side while she curled her legs underneath her and made herself comfortable. Her expression could only described as one of adoration as she watched him from across the room. Honestly she was wishing that time would stop or even slow down a little because she felt so happy, so free, she didn’t want to let it go. She laughed softly as she heard the soft sound of guitar strings being kicked, she watched him carefully, her lips curving into a smile “Just checking off all the artsy boxes huh?” she leaned a little closer while she listened to the gentle melodic notes.

 His fingers skipped from chord to chord, certainly not as agile as they had once been, but deft enough to make a pretty melody. The evening air was soft and there was a gentle breeze blowing across the invisible curtains. He had neither planned for or expected tonight, but he was finding himself almost impulsive around Octavia. It seemed to matter more to them both to be alone and craft new experiences than obey societal rules. She seemed confident, but was often soft spoken which he liked.  There was more than he knew how to say about her soft hair and eyes. Caleb had found himself more tongue-tied than usual, lately. "I am very much jack of all trades, but master of none. I could never decide on a creative hobby when I was younger, so I've tried most of them.  If they are enjoyable, they stick around. " 

"Except perhaps, when it comes to crochet. I tried to learn, but it nearly drove me to tears from boredom." He was glad that his family had taken his creativity and encouraged it to grow. He'd never been the type to enjoy sports, or school. It had only been in his army of inventive arts that had helped him gain confidence and feel fulfilled. He assumed that she must have dedicated just as much time to the art of learning swordplay and staying active. It fascinated him that there were still people training as warriors to protect others. That had never been his calling, but he admired those who took up the shield. 

It was unusually warm for a January night and he wondered if the enchantment around their meeting place also had toasty effects, or if he was just reacting to the moment. If anything, it had gone better than he desired, but the young man still blushed as she described their antics with satisfaction. It was nice to get a good review, especially after stepping away from such things for a while. "I'm glad to hear."  Caleb chuckled, setting down the instrument and catching her gaze. He reached up and gently threaded a finger down her cheekbone. Her skin was very soft, while his own fingers were calloused from guitar strings, accidental burns, and small pencils. 

"Tell me about your greatest adventure." Caleb said, cuddling back into the blankets, once again, and knitting his fingers through hers. "Or biggest fear." When he looked it her, it seemed like everything else faded to the background. It was confusing, but he wouldn't have chosen to stray away. It was like two magnets coming together. His curiosity was piqued. He wanted to know more. 

She decided then that this was one of her favorite places, not the gazebo, though it did hold many good memories for her now, but being by his side. He was warm and leaning close to him she could listen to the gentle melody he played with the guitar with a hopeless smile on her face which she kept trying to dial back only for it to keep appearing again “It’s good to have things that lift you up...being able to lose yourself in something you enjoy, there’s nothing better than that feeling” there was a soft knowing smile on her lips because she couldn’t definitely relate that to other things too.

She laughed under her breath when he said he didn’t like crochet because he found it incredibly boring “Somehow it’s not hard for me to imagine you trying it” she commented and nodded a few times thoughtfully “I used to like doing calligraphy a lot, I remember always being the one to write all of the correspondence for the guard because it meant I got to spend an hour just me and the quill” she missed that, nowadays it was all emails, handwritten letters were a thing of the past.

She grinned shyly when he said he was glad to know she enjoyed it, honestly she never had any doubt that she wouldn’t, he was gorgeous, anyone could see that and she felt almost a little smug knowing she got to be the one who had such stunning views all to herself. When he set down the guitar she naturally gravitated her way towards him, leaning into the touch he placed against her face, feeling the roughness of his fingers where they had been pressed against the guitar strings.

She smiled, turning onto her side and cuddling up against him, taking a hold of the hand he was holding before and bringing it up to her lips to press a soft kiss before laughing softly “There are so many adventures” she spoke in a wistful voice before closing her eyes and picturing one of the best ones. “There was this one mission...we were out looking for a mystical object in a rainforest of all places...I remember it being hot and getting so frustrated because everywhere we went felt like it was just leading back to the same place” she nodded a few times “But along that trip we got to see many beautiful parrots...not to mentioned the monkeys that you could hear as they swung in the trees” she smiled, it was such a unique experience, it definitely made her wanna go back there “And the waterfalls...they were stunning” there was one major perk of going on missions all around the world, you saw so many beautiful things.

“I really love animals as you may be able to tell” she laughed and snuggled into his arm “You take the fear one...I’d love to hear more about you” she felt comfy and secure in his hold, she felt like she could freely talk about anything.

It may have been a first date, but it certainly didn’t feel like it to Caleb. Around her, he felt so much. Most of it, he didn’t understand; but he knew for sure that with her, he smiled more. The past seemed to be less. He could relax. Resting was not something that Caleb had never been good at doing. It so often seemed that his mind was a castle and he could float off a million other places. His imagination had always been his refuge from the world. Tonight, he wanted to be present and let each moment come to him, instead of holding them at arm's length. What would he ever do with so much peace of mind? Would it stay? The question floated around him for a moment, unspoken, before Caleb snuggled against her and hid his face in her shoulder.  She was right. Sometimes it was nice to lose yourself. It was easy to float off. However, he wasn’t losing the connection. Not today. Octavia was like an anchor who steadied his racing heart. He was happy to hear that she enjoyed calligraphy. It was an art form, after all. He peeked up at her, returning her soft smile. “You mystify me. Every time I think I have figured you out, there is something new.” 

His own adventures had been brief in this world. While he had seen a lot of nature and discovered plenty of unbeaten trails in the last few years the rainforest was one place that he’d never ventured. It was a bit out of his comfort zone, for sure. But perhaps it wouldn’t always be. If Caleb had learned anything over the last week, it was to embrace the unexpected. He smiled as her lips grazed his fingers. “Animals are a comfort, for sure. I think it’s time you met my dog, huh?”  

Caleb sat up halfway, leaned closer, and kissed her. It was different than it had been before tonight. There was no hesitation now. He closed his eyes, gently pressing against her. She was warm and soft. He breathed her in deeply. Slowly, he let his hands wander before they briefly broke apart. There was no question that he was afraid of plenty, although most days, the human tried to not think about them. Fear was a natural reaction to unpleasant situations. If he had to put one above the other, the answer was obvious. “My greatest fear?” He whispered, indulging himself again, before speaking. “Flying, I think.” 

Caleb had always been fond of keeping his feet firmly anchored to the earth’s surface. “Or, maybe. Falling.”  

No one liked falling, but this kind of falling was very different. Even if he wanted to, Caleb was not sure this was reversible. There was no going back now. That scared him. He’d always been a planner and none of this was planned. It was spontaneous, electric. There was so much in front of him now. Everything else seemed smaller. He willed himself to pull back from her touch, despite how much he wanted more. “What do you consider your greatest success?” 

The blonde was watching him with a soft gaze, she found herself just wanting to keep her attention on him as they talked, he exuded warmth and even a calmness that might be new in him but she liked it a lot, she felt like she could relax and forget about everything worrying her for a while and just be. She giggled slightly when he pointed out that she could be a bit of a mystery “There’s a lot of layers to a person when they’ve lived a long time... there are more years to spend on hobbies...and adventures. Sometimes I feel a little greedy because of all the opportunities I’ve had” she gave a sheepish smile, immortality certainly had its downsides but there were definitely peaks along the track too.

She grinned and nodded enthusiastically when he said it was time for her to meet his dog, honestly, she was pretty excited to do so “Just a fair warning that if I have the chance for puppy snuggles then I might have to leave you” she teased with a slight smirk, she’d never actually had a dog of her own but she did get to see plenty of pets around the manor from other guards who had taken the leap. It was something she always meant to do but never got around to, mostly because she was usually away on missions and it didn’t seem fair to leave a dog so often.

She naturally gravitated towards him when he leaned in for a kiss, closing her eyes and humming in satisfaction. She wasn’t sure she would ever get used to the fluttery feeling that came over her every time the two of them were close. Her hands came up to rest gently at the back of his neck, fingertips stroking gently against his dark locks. Her gaze softened a little when he answered the question about fear, it was ironic considering she was quite literally half-angel and could fly herself “Falling can definitely be scary” she agreed, she had fallen for real a few times during dangerous situations “So you and airplanes don’t get along too well huh?” he’d mentioned he was from France which meant he must have been on one however.

There was a different kind of falling though and that one honestly seemed even scarier to her, having been there before and lost the person she cared for most. If she was to answer that question she pondered that her answer would probably be losing the people she loved, because the pain was unlike anything she had ever experienced before. She raised her brow when he asked about her greatest success “My kids” she admitted with a shy smile “Both of them have turned out to be such brave and well-rounded people, despite everything they’ve been through” it was honestly remarkable.

“What is your most prized possession?” she questioned curiously, he didn’t strike her as a material person but everyone had something important to them that they held close to their hearts.

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