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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She laughed and watched him with soft, appreciative eyes “As if I was going to say anything but yes” after their night at the carnival it had been fairly clear to her that the both of them wanted this and while the very idea of ‘this’ seemed somewhat relative, spending time together seemed like the right place to start anyway.

She nodded in agreement when he commented about his life and how compared to others he had been very lucky but also how easy it was to lose sight of that “I think it’s easy for anyone to take something for granted...you never really realize how much you needed it until you lose it” it was natural to feel secure in what you had already and to regret not cherishing it more only after it was no longer in reach “It’s the people who learn to hold on to everything they have who really thrive” but that took time and experience.

“Wanted to see more huh?” she commented with a soft smile “The guard has given me a lot of chances to see so much but...I still feel like I want to experience more...I kinda hope I never lose my hunger for adventure” after all, it was one of the reasons to keep going and being an immortal she needed as many of those as she could get “Poetic...that it’s your home” she commented softly, you could say that about any city you didn’t come from though, everyone had their reasons for wanting to visit.

She widened her eyes a little when he confessed he used to ride his motorcycle without a helmet “Who wouldn’t worry about you hurting this head of yours” she commented as her hands came to press either side of his face “It’s natural to feel protective of those we care for” she murmured softly, she certainly was, she tried to protect others at her own expense quite often if she was honest. Her eyes fluttered close as the two of them came in closer and shared a soft, tender kiss, the kind that felt warm and reassuring. It made her feel comfortable.

Her tired eyes opened again when they parted, a knowing smile on her lips as he spoke those next words, her heart skipping just a little in her chest because it really had been quite some time “A while” she commented softly “Feel free to tell me” she echoed softly as her fingers came to stroke gently against his cheek “So is this...magical getaway going to last until the morning?” because she could feel herself beginning to slip towards slumber.

Caleb was touched by Octavia’s reaction to his story of teenage rebellion. He hadn’t seen much use for his motorcycle since coming to Evermore. Perhaps, the concussion had taught him a lesson, or perhaps he was just a different person now. It had seemed like such a central part of his life not so long ago, but now it stayed in the shed on his property, probably getting dusty with time. Something he’d had to learn in the past few years was the value of living. He’d spent a lot of his life watching out for others. It had felt so strange to be separated from that kind of duty, yet also strangely free. Caleb sat up, blowing the candle out. The flame flickered for a moment before leaving the gazebo into total darkness. “Will you stay?” He said quietly. 

He hadn’t shared his bed with anyone in a long time; but tonight seemed right. Even if their bed would be made in the middle of nowhere. The little patch of nowhere had become a shelter where the two of them came together. Caleb reached for one of the thick blankets and pulled it over them. “I am cozy.” He yawned. “But if you have a bed calling your name, I’ll walk you home.”

They lay with her back tucked against his front and Caleb’s height made it easy for him to wrap himself around her like a shield. His hands knit with hers, not clinging, just holding. Everything was changing, but he wouldn’t have chosen to any differently. “I hope you’ll adventure with me.” He said. “Somewhere. Sometime. Take a road trip to the beach or  the grocery store.”

Caleb knit his hands together, arms around her small frame. She was very warm. It was comforting, as he was often cold. “Let’s plan more...tomorrow.” His voice trailed off and the young man surrendered to slumber, with his last words stuck in his dreams. For the second night in row, no dark shadows chased him as he slept. His sleep was deep and still. The morning came with a soft glow around the trees, but it was the distinct feeling of being next to another person that stirred him awake. His long legs were entangled with hers and her blonde hair was strewn across the pillows. He rubbed his eyes open, attempting to adjust to the light. Had their first date really turned into a breakfast? He cuddled up to her again, nuzzling his nose against her shoulder and pressing a soft kiss to her neck. “Good morning, gorgeous.”

For as long as she could remember she’d had trouble sleeping, she always ended up wandering because she wasn’t able to stay still any longer, that was how her and Caleb had first come to know one another, right out here, overlooking the lake as they both tried to quell their wandering minds. She wondered if sleep was just something that would continue to evade her, to remind her of the journey she had been through to get here.

But tonight, tonight she felt like she could truly rest. With his arms wrapped around her frame, the sound of his heart thrumming soft against her. Their limbs entangled in a way that silently spoke the words of ‘I don’t want to let you go’. She awake a few times, her eyes fluttering open only to see his sleeping figure beside her. Perhaps if she was alone she would have found herself stirring but under his comfortable hold she quickly found herself snuggling back against him.

When the light was beginning to creep in she found herself wanting to hold on for just a few moments because she didn’t want the moment to end. When she felt his lips against her neck a small smile appeared on her lips and she giggled softly “No morning….too early” she jested as she snuggled against him too. She wanted to just bask for a little whole longer before reality set in and she would have to come back down to reality.

She yawned softly and fluttered her eyes open slowly, meeting his blue hues with her own and grumbled as she turned and hid her face away against his shoulder “Time keeps running away from me when I’m with you” she teased as she pushed herself to a sitting position.

Caleb was not much for rising early. His usual night was filled with several hours of tossing and turning before he became too exhausted to keep his eyes open. That was typically around 2 am. His night owl tendencies meant that most days when he woke up, the sun was already up and breakfast time had come and gone. Tonight was very different. With Octavia next to him, he found that his usually cold body heated to be warm and comfortable. They stayed connected all night, always managing to return to touching even if someone rolled over. When the moon was too bright, he could coc*** his face deep into her long blonde hair and easily drift off again. The birds were singing in the trees as morning came. The soft trills bounced off the lake and towards them with early glee. It wasn’t the noise that awoke him, but someone else lying against his chest, breathing steadily. By the time that Caleb opened his eyes, her soft gaze met his.

He felt slightly shy as she snuggled into his chest. With all the surprises of last night, he couldn’t help but wonder if he was braver in the dark. But instead of pulling back, Caleb smiled, embracing her again, and putting gentle kisses on her face. Morning kisses. Sunshine, soft.

“I can’t really blame time,” he teased, stretching his arms upwards. It wasn’t perhaps the most comfortable thing to sleep on hard stone, but what he woke up to was definitely worth it. He knew the day would come calling. It always did, but the longer this could last, the easier it got. Caleb lifted Octavia into his lap. They both had messy hair and wrinkled clothes. It was clear that the previous night wasn’t well thought through. It was organic. “I like running away with you.”

Despite how late it was in the morning, Caleb pulled the blankets back around them. Only a crack of light shine through. It was enough he could see her face. He bit his lip, pushing her hair out of her eyes. He just wanted to look at her and take everything in. The bubble they’d created was inviting. It was separate from other people, responsibility, and time. What happened from here? When they left this gazebo, would they walk hand in hand? He was slow to process things. The endorphins swimming in his brain did very little to help that. Something was happening to him. Something inevitable and surprising. Instead of talking, he broke their gaze and hid his face against her shoulder. “It’s not morning. Not yet.”

It was nice, to do something simple like this. That’s what seemed to work most between the two of them, they just focused on the simple things and didn’t worry about the rest. The world was complicated and she was sure if they thought hard enough about how this was going to work they would realize it was complicated too. But it didn’t feel complicated with him, it felt easy to just relish in his warmth and fall into a sense of ease and security. Almost too easy perhaps, it made her wonder how easy it would be to lose herself in him.

She giggled when he started peppering kisses against her face, blush rising on her cheeks as she just took in the moment, she knew reality had to set in sooner or later. She fluttered her eyes open to meet his bright eyes as she smiled. “Me neither” she commented softly, there was a slight pout to her lips though “But I wish it would go just a little bit slower” she made a gesture with her forefinger and thumb to emphasize.

She laughed a little and wriggled in protest when he pulled her onto his lap but soon enough she was caught back up in his gaze and grinning like an idiot “Me too” she spoke in a soft voice as she stared back at him, she knew they were both prolonging for as long as they could and she honestly didn’t want to be the one that pulled away. “Maybe we should run away on an adventure next time” she was sure he would be a fascinating person to sightsee with, since he had such an expressive and artist mind.

She giggled when he denounced the fact that it was morning and reached to stroke the hair on the back of his head gently “But alas, it is” she teased softly and pressed a kiss against his cheek “Will you walk me back to the manor?” she asked in a soft voice. She knew she probably looked a mess and everyone would be whispering about them but honestly right now she didn’t mind all that much.

Caleb smiled as he hugged her. Her hands were so gentle. He pressed his nose against her face, content, and cuddly. He'd always been the type to be a slow riser. Mornings weren't his favorite, but he wasn't minding them when he got to wake up next to her. He was reluctant to end everything, but at least there would be a nice walk back. The cleaning of the mess they'd made in the last twelve hours would fall to him and he'd be happy enough to do it later. Right now, he wanted to focus on the possibilities. He stood up and reached for her hand, finding that it found the perfect place inside his larger one. He had to admit that he felt a bit-tongue tied. Usually, he talked more when he was nervous. He stepped out of the gazebo and onto the well-worn path that led back towards the manor.  The grass brushed against his feet with a slight tickle. 

The pathway was about a mile long, but it couldn't have been long enough. The bubble they so often entered was now only a glimpse in the back of his eyes. It might have been a lazy walk, but it didn't take long to get to the steps of the old building. It was already brimming with life, seeing as they'd slept in. Caleb came to a stop and reached for her other hand, pressing his forehead against hers. "You make me happy." He squeezed her fingers. 

Despite that there were a few onlookers, Caleb leaned down and gave her a tender kiss. As they pulled apart, he found his eyes still closed, before the could focus on her pretty face. "Have a good day." 

Despite that he'd love to linger, Caleb had responsibilities calling him. He crossed back down the path, stopping midway to look back over his shoulder. He had no clue what was coming, but for once, he wasn't at all worried. The future seemed bright.

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