It was a busy day in the center of Evermore, but for him, the world stood still: the crowds were quiet, the wind ceased to whistle, and Caleb Segal was in stasis. It didn’t matter where he traveled, it seemed like whenever he stopped at the foot of a church no time had passed. It had been thirteen years since his mother's funeral and despite leaving and returning to Paris many times, he hadn't once stepped foot into the Sacré-Coeur. This tiny chapel was humble in comparison, but somehow that made this easier. He had enough looming in front of him to not need his past staring him in the face. Winter leaves had frozen solid on top of the ground, but he didn't much mind the cold. He was used to it. Truthfully, he hadn't really warmed up since the day the news came. Everything felt numb: his hands, his heart, his sense of time. The petals of the early blooming February daffodils on these graves was proof enough that he was wrong.  It had been two weeks since he first arrived in Evermore and one since he discovered this tiny hideaway filled with history. Even seven days ago, there had been no bright colored flowers to cheer up all of the gray. Caleb dropped to a knee in front of the unmarked grave, running his fingers over the rough stone. Soldiers were all alike, weren't they? Bravely putting the lives of others in front of everyone else. 

Goddamnit. Why did you have to be so honorable? I've got needs. I need you, Ava.

He squeezed his fingers into a fist, until his knuckles turned white.

Was it terribly wicked to wish the island she'd vanished on had been pulled under in a storm if only she had come home safe? There was a lot of things he'd sacrifice to see Ava again, including some of his own morality. Caleb carefully placed the ribbon tied bouquet on the cold earth. It was lavender sprigs, baby's breath, and orchids. Her favorites. Underneath the fresh flowers were the wilted ones from a few days ago. The rest was dirt covering an old coffin holding someone else bones. Her body was lost in the depths of the Indian Ocean.

Maybe you're alive. Maybe --

Caleb broke his gaze from the grave, blinking up at the sky, begging himself not to cry. There was no one else here, like always, but if he started he wasn't sure he'd be able to hold himself together.

I hope it’s actually blue. [ the ocean] People always lie about that. It’s brown, just like dirt. The only blue left is the sky. I don't know why she had to love it so much.

Caleb squinted up at the clouds. He hated the unsettledness, the anger, the frustration. So much of it welled up inside him, unbound, with nowhere to go. Ava was one of only a few people who hadn’t given up on him very soon after coming into his life. If anything, she had become his personal cheerleader. 

He sniffed and pushed his hands into his pockets, a whisper of something on his tongue. "Je t'aime tellement, Ava Mitchell. Ne m'oublie pas, oui? Don't forget." 

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The chill of the night nipped at the Aspect's hands enough to send them a little deeper into his leather pockets. The night sky lacked beauty as the thick clouds covered the stars; making his usual visit to the cemetery, a rather gloomy one. Most people assumed graveyards meant just that anyways, gloom and doom; but not Ery. In fact, it was his home away from home, and the one place he felt the most solace in. Erythreus was no social butterfly, and his social awkwardness made it impossible to make any friends, with that, the Aspect of Death was left to himself, and the realm he was in charge of; the dead.

Often times he pitied those who weren't ready to die, some of them had even begged him not to guide their souls to their bodies, as if it would matter, as if they didn't understand that even if he didn't guide them, they'd still be dead. A frown tugged at his lips, shaking his head to the thought of how scared some people were of dying. Ery supposed he was a natural at this, given his duty, and the fact that he had died twice now, sorta made death seem normal to him rather than dreadful and scary.

Clutching his staff closely to his side, Ery sighed. It was the time of night he hated most; for him it seemed to be rush hour for the dead. 'Give me a break tonight please' he quietly pleaded, looking up as if he were talking to the very same Gods who'd sent the Aspects down to earth, granted with a second chance to live, and a purpose to fulfill. Erythreus was granted with a staff, and called the Aspect of Death; Someone capable of reaching out to and speaking to the dead, transform into a red dragon, conjure weapons from anything around him, and guide souls to their bodies after they've passed away. But, as a whole, the Aspects were to assure peace among all species / humans. It was a tiring but fulfilling task, he was grateful for a second chance, but like everything in life, this too had it's downfalls.

Being the Aspect of Death, meant that Erythreus was alerted every time someone died; and 55.3 million people die a year, 151,600 a day, 6,316 an hour, 105 a minute, and nearly 2 each second, of every day. To say his job was tiring? That was utter bullshit, no one truly understood why Erythreus's eyes held the look that they did, but that was exactly why. And, although he was accustomed to so much death, it didn't mean that he didn't crave something different every once in a while, some excitement, a thrill or two. Either way, tonight was no different; sometimes the Aspect just wanted to cave, and turn the noise down just a little, so many .. so so many deaths, meant that he never heard any peace. Ery always had voices in his head,, and many deemed him crazy; that's what made the graveyard such a good place for him to hang out. No one to judge him here tonight.

From the distance, the Aspect watched a male grieve to himself; the same male he saw here every night. Ery decided not to interrupt until he finished with the soft whisper, reminding the deceased to never forget him from what the Aspect could hear. That was one of the perks of being a 1500 year old plus Aspect, he'd learned every language known to man-kind. Clearing his throat, Ery approached the male; only having to take a few steps to do so from where he'd been leaning against his favorite tree, not far from the tombstone that the male kneeled by. "Sorry for your loss" he said awkwardly. Apologizing for someone losing a loved one had always seemed so silly to him, but it was normally the only thing that came to mind; words couldn't suffice for someone grieving and Ery got that.

"Sometimes it's just better to let it out.." he then said. Erythreus saw him here every night, fighting himself and holding back the tears; and even tonight, he didn't cry. But it pained the Aspect to see how hard it was for him not to. If something hurt, it hurt, there was no point in fighting that feeling, or bottling it up like Erythreus did; that only turned him into an animal, and with that, came Venetus who'd taught Ery how to act like a functional man again. Torn from humanity by the cruelty he faced, Erythreus had bottled everything up, and refused to let his emotions out, and when he done that, he'd became ruthless.. he was thankful to be a new man today, but still, he couldn't help but think of those days, when seeing someone so distraught and hurt, but also so hell bent on controlling the emotions that came with all that hurt.

He hoped he could get the male's name tonight, if he wasn't attractive, he wasn't anything. Just because Ery spent all his time in the graveyard talking to the dead, didn't mean he didn't notice someone attractive when they appeared. A hint of a smirk tugged at his lips, and he played hell trying to tear his gaze away, but after sucessfully doing so, the Aspect inhaled and gained his composure before even daring to make eye contact again. "I'm Erythreus, but Ery is what everyone calls me" he spoke softly while reaching out a hand. "Ive seen you here, almost every night.. they must've meant a lot to you" he added, averting his gaze to the ground with the lavender sprigs, baby's breath, and orchids; flowers that were replaced every few days, and at this point, he figured it would be safe to get to know the male a little, hell it may be Ery's shot at an actual friendship. He chuckled at the thought, but one could be hopeful, right?

It hadn't been easy since the last few months, but since he came to Evermore at least there had been people around him. It had been tiring to live on his own and Caleb was starting to get tired to walking through the light with his eyes closed. By Monday, he finally pushed himself out of bed and persuaded himself to put on put more clothes on than pajamas. Now that his suitcase was unpacked, it was high time that he see the city. After a short walk, Caleb found himself on the steps of a tiny chapel. It was deserted apart from a grounds-keeper who was pruning flowers in a garden to the left. To the right, an old graveyard was tucked under a bed of trees enveloped by shade and time. Caleb shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans. C’est l'heure. No words were exchanged as he breached his comfort zone and approached the old man pruning hedges. The garner knew a look of grief all too well, after all, he’d watched over the church for going on twenty years now.

With a bunch of flowers in his hand, Caleb took his time walking down the wooded path. He almost couldn’t do it. His heart pounded in his chest and the sweat on his palms made the stems of the flowers stick together. As he weaved himself in between the graves, he couldn’t help but notice how old some of them were and how a few had been recently dug. They all had names apart from one which was apart from the rest and unlike them didn’t have a name. It was just a cross. He knelt down in the grass, feeling emotion well up and then hit a wall. What could he say? She wasn't supposed to be gone. 

They always joked that it would be him to go first because sometimes he rode a motorcycle around without a helmet and he hated doctors. It was never gonna be Ava: sweet, conscientious Ava who did everything right. Caleb dropped the bouquet from his fingertips, air coming to his lungs fast and hard. He couldn’t breathe. Oh, mon dieu. Pas toi  ...non. non non. I have to get out of here.

 His whole body shaking, Caleb stood up, refusing to let any tears fall from his eyes. If he did, it was real. As he looked down the path, he swore that glowing ever so slightly in the light was Ava. Ethereal, unglued. I’m seeing things. 

Caleb rubbed his eyes, letting the salt both sting and cleanse them. As he did, the ghostly figure disappeared and transformed into that of a young man who looked around his age. He seemed somewhat familiar. Perhaps, out of the corner of his eye, he had seen him watching over the graveyard during the past week that he had been visiting. It had been almost everyday that Caleb had traveled the short few miles from the Ailward mansion of place the bouquet of wildflowers on the grave. Logically, he knew it wasn't the one that housed his loved one's body, but emotionally it still gave him solace. As the stranger approached, Caleb shoved his hands into his pockets and avoided the his stark gaze. His own eyes were red and had been for days. They were far from the best for friendly greetings, as of now. 

If it was better to let it out, Caleb certainly didn't know how to let down his guard. Still, he appreciated the sentiment. Not many people would be willing to approach a stranger in a grocery store, let alone a graveyard. Grieving was in general considered a private process. Rarely was it spoken of, especially, when new faces made their way into a tight knit community. Caleb nodded, figuring it was the most appropriate to at least answer some questions about his loss before he moved on for the day. Without much sentiment taking to his expression, the twenty-something offered the other a hand to shake in greeting. "Caleb Segal. And you?"

If Erythreus Ailward was familiar with anything in this life; it was what a broken heart looked like on the outside, and he could tell the male visiting the only grave here without a name, was quite broken. Ery had suffered plenty of loss himself, but due to being the Aspect of Death, he'd seen plenty of deaths, people who were genuinely good people, or people way too young to die. Life was cruel, if anyone knew that, the Aspect of Death did. Times were exceptionally hard for him when it was children who'd passed away, and Ery had to guide their souls to their bodies. He had only reach out and spoke to a handfull of them, because most children who died, found peace right away; but the occasional times that they didn't, Erythreus reach out and said to them the things he would want to hear if he were the one in that sort of situation. 

The Aspect watched him intently, but eventually forced himself to look away as the other trembled and shook like a leaf, battling the tears that'd welled up in his eyes, forbidding them to fall. Ery could relate in that sense, he wasn't typically the type to cry in front of people himself. The rare occasions that Erythreus shed tears in front of someone, were the very few times he'd been so angry that he could literally bite nails in-two. Nodding at the male as he then introduced himself as Caleb, the Aspect reach forward to shake the offered hand, giving him a faint smile before withdrawing his own hand, and stuffing it back into his pocket. 

"You can call me Ery; short for Erythreus .. Ailward" he said in response, hesitant on saying his last name, because he was sure he'd seen Caleb in Ailward territory quite often now that he got a good enough look at him. "I'm sorry, but you look vaguely familiar"  he expressed, knowing this was a bad time to ask someone if he knew them or not, but Erythreus didn't go any where else besides the cemeteries, so his curiosity was fair; or at least he believed so. 

After expressing his curiosity, Erythreus gazed back down to the cross that lacked a name, and likely a body before gazing back up to Caleb. "Ive saw you here several times now, knelt at this cross and battling yourself and your emotions; was it a family member? or a significant other?" he asked, knowing his questions were being thrown out there as being too blunt, but.. they were here, it's not like there was anything else appropriate enough to speak of right now. 

Pulling his flask from his leather jacket pocket, Erythreus took a swig before reaching it out, offering the other male a drink, without directly asking if he wanted some. A big part of the Aspect really did want to know who he was though, and why Erythreus was convinced he'd seen him in the Ailward manor; normally outsiders didn't come to the manor without a reason, and typically those reasons weren't anything short of bad things. Guards and Aspects both went on missions all of the time, and it was normal for them to even approach people at their homes, if they were in danger, among other reasons, but Ery had never seen many of them make friends enough to bring someone into the manor. 

Erythreus Ailward. Caleb ran the name over in his head. He didn’t recognize it, although the face it belonged to was vaguely familiar. Perhaps he was there on that not so distant day that Caleb had awoken on the sofa surrounded by strangers and a lack of memories. After that, only Argent had stayed for very long and he’d slept for almost two days. The next several weeks were fuzzy in his mind; Caleb knee that the concussion he suffered still played with his memory and very often made his brain hurt. The young man rubbed his temples with his forefingers, as a sharp pain inches behind his eyes. In truth, he didn’t mind the conversation, not entirely. If it kept him from spreading tears on Ava’s grave, he was glad for the company. Already, Caleb’s blue eyes were wet and dangerously close to spilling over. He only managed to disguise the tremble of his upper body by wrapping his arms around himself and playing it cool. Hopefully, it wasn’t too noticeable. 

He appreciated the gesture of the flask. Despite not usually being much, if anything, of a drinker, right now Caleb would do almost anything to get away from the feeling that his heart was being torn out of his body. He took a swallow of the drink and frowned as the whiskey burned his throat. Supposedly, one built up a tolerance over time. His own was not that good. Even though he was fluent in English and had spoken it since he was ten years old, the only mental response that fired back to the other’s questions was a babble of French that was difficult even for himself to understand in his own mind. Caleb couldn’t remember how long it had been since he’d made sure he slept a full night or ate more than a bag of potato chips. He was trying to be human, but it didn’t feel like he was doing a very good job. “I...” That was English. One word at a time. “She was my fiancée. Ava...” 

It was too much. Caleb wasn’t sure he’d spoken her name apart from in sleep, in weeks. He couldn’t answer the rest of the questions. Hearing the three letters formed together made his head spin. Along with the lack of rest and real food, he reached out for something to steady himself and ended up grabbing onto the cross.

I must seem like a total mess. 

Caleb thought to himself. 

Why am I still trying to do this? 

The young blonde had to force himself to sit in the grass, or he knew he’d fall over in front of a possible stranger. He was already enough of a disaster. He didn’t need to add fainting to the list. There was a quiet shuffle as someone knelt down beside him. Whoever the Ailwards were; they were kinder than a lot of people that Caleb had come in contact with. “Pardon.” He looked up. Despite being 5’11, this Erythreus was still taller than him, and certainly much more muscular. “I...do not feel like myself.” 

He hadn’t felt like himself for months. Not since that phone call on the last night he thought she was alive. It had only been a mere few weeks before the wedding and they already lived together. Already, lived through the highs and lows of life...together. Now, a critical piece of who he’d built himself upon was missing. Dead, really, though he barely dared to think it. Caleb squeezed his eyes shut, closing out the blue sky and everything else. If he couldn’t see the world, maybe it did not have to be real; but no matter how much he closed his eyes or clenched his teeth, the pain that gnawed inside his chest would not relent. He couldn’t - he could not do this anymore. Not without her. Despite that he knew the other wouldn’t understand everything he was feeling splayed from his lips, in French, as the tears slipped down his cheeks...one by one.

Erythreus watched him for a moment, as he seemed to study Ery’s features, possibly trying to figure out where he’d saw Ery, as much as Ery had been standing here trying to figure out where he’d seen Caleb, but that much was clear now. It was just trying to figure out why he’d been in the manor, that nagged at Ery. As Caleb rubbed his temples, the Aspect looked away, he could only wonder what caused him to do that so often. It seemed that there was a much bigger story to Caleb than Ery realized. Erythreus also caught how his lip trembled a little, knowing he was just mere inches away from opening the flood gates, letting the tears flow, that he’d fought every single night he had visited this particular name-less grave. 

Ery gestured for Caleb to keep the flask; he’d grab it before they parted ways, or he’d just buy himself a new one next time he went to the liquor store, because if anyone needed some liquid courage right now, it was definitely Caleb. He watcjed as he swallowed his first sip, seemingly his first drink in ages with the way her shuttered to the taste of whiskey. Ery grinned, but his features changed to one that wouldn’t be disrespectful when Caleb finally started speaking of who laid below. 

Caleb sported black circles underneath his eyes, and he struggled to stand up straight. The Aspect watched, saddened by the sight before him. It wasn’t every day he approached those who came to grieve by a loved ones grave. Caleb was just someone who seemed like he needed someone, and to be frank, Erythreus kind of needed someone too. Ery’s reflexes caused him to throw an arm out “I know it may be awkward, but lean on me if you need to” he suggested, giving a faint smile before nodding to drive his point home, that he didn’t mind at all. Instead, Caleb had sat down on the grass, and with that Erythreus did too, giving him a side glance.

“I’m sorry you lost her” he then said, knowing how much Ery himself hated those very words ‘i’m sorry for your loss’ was such shit, at least to Erythreus. However, he knew that sometimes it was literally the only thing people could say, and it was a gesture of kindness sometimes.

It just seemed silly to Ery though, for someone to say sorry for your loss, as if it was their fault in some type of way. Erythreus frowned a little to hear him say he didn’t feel like himself. “It’s okay” was the only thing he could conjure up. But moments later, the tears that had began slipping from the others eyes, seemed like a breaking point, sadly, a breaking point that Caleb needed. Holding it all in, usually turned you into a monster, and that much Erythreus had lived through, experiencing it first hand. When Venetus and the others found him, Erythreus was no more than an animal torn from humanity by the cruelty he’d faced for so many years. And, after being taught how to live again, being executed and brought back as an Aspect, Erythreus had made a vow to be better, and to help those who couldn’t help themselves. 

Caleb was no exception to that. And for whatever reason, Caleb tugged at a piece of Ery’s heart, that he thought he no longer had. He wanted to help Caleb. He may not know why as of right now, all that he knew was that he needed / had to. “Can you walk?” he asked, while reaching over, placing his palm on Caleb’s shoulder, After giving it a gentle squeeze to let him know he wasn’t alone, the Aspect glanced to the cross. “Is there anything I can do to help?” he then questioned. First thing was first though, if Caleb could walk, Erythreus would be taking him some place isolated for him to eat.

The Aspect knew of a few decent places here in the city they could go for the isolation, he was sure the last thing Caleb needed was a bunch of people staring at him for how heartbroken he appeared. The next thing on Ery’s mind, was something he’d wait for Caleb to ask him once he knew the extent of Ery’s abilties and who he really was. Everyone deserved to say goodbye, and Erythreus would have been more than happy to make that happen for Caleb in due time.

To put it frankly, Caleb wasn't and had never been much of a crier. He preferred to hide his feelings or if he had to talk over them with someone, but sometimes things were just overwhelming and when words failed, the body had a natural way of finding relief. That didn't mean he didn't have to like it, only that it was his current reality. However, he wasn't much liking most of his current reality, so it wasn't as if crying was going to change things. The twenty-five year old found himself anchored to the grass like a small child who's parent had suddenly disappeared from their eyes and found things spinning out of control. Everything was spinning: the sky, the grave stones, and the flowers he'd placed only moments ago. In some ways, the world changing from bright and beautiful to colorful blobs liked mixed paint on a palette was a relief. He could finally rest his eyes. The whiskey slowly bleeding into his system was a lot stronger than he remembered, but it had been three and a half years since he stopped drinking. Salt stung on his face where he'd persistently rubbed tears away for weeks, and he could taste it on his tongue as the slipped downwards. Perhaps, if one had to choose either living with loss or living in a semi-conscious state, Caleb could see why he'd once chosen this. It was a bit of a struggle to speak without slurring his words, but if he talked slowly, it seemed to do the trick.

As Caleb looked up at the blurry fuzz of clouds, he swore one of them looked like a gloomy dog. It was frowning at him with all the despair he'd ever seen. Why had he never adopted a dog? "You seem like a dog person. Have you ever seen thos...those commercials with sad dogs?"

Erythreus was rather blurry too, but Caleb didn't really mind. "Those...ones with sad dogs in shelters?" All he could think about was how they needed to go to the nearest dog shelter and let them out right away. It might be impulsive, but it seemed important, too. "How do people even cope knowing there are dogs to adopt? Life isn't fair to them. They have no home. No humans. No....dog food."

Sure, it wasn't the most pleasant thing to think about how many homeless dogs there were in Evermore, let alone the world, but it was a lot less painful than thinking about what he was really breaking his heart. Caleb took another swig of the whiskey, certain that half of it was spilling as he tried to direct the flask to his mouth.

Ava would be so disappointed in me....

The thought nearly reached home, but he looked up at Ery and the dogs decorating the clouds, and took a took another drink. No, she'd only be disappointed that they weren't rescuing the puppies. That was all. Caleb stood up, his legs taking noodle status for a few seconds before he found support in the tall Aspect beside him. Ava was not dead, not today. He knew that this wasn't actually her grave. And with that, he could hold onto some hope that she was a still alive, even if it was fruitless and stupid and may hurt him down the road. Today, they were all going to get a dog. Several, if he was allowed. "Allonsy!"

It hadn't really ever dawned on Erythreus that a non drinking person would be so easily tainted by one sip. In fact, the slur in Caleb's voice was something Ery wasn't even familiar with. As an immortal being, Erythreus rarely found himself slurring, staggering, or acting drunk. It took the Aspect of Death a lot of time, and a lot of alcohol to reach that state. Not to say he had never been drunk. Erythreus often aimed for just that. Drinking was a waste if you weren't doing it to numb the pain of some harsh reality you were living through. One never simply drank alcohol for the taste, it was horrific. But, the brooding Aspect never went a day without so much as his flask to accompany him. 

For a moment, all he could do is snicker. This wasn't funny by any means. But, getting to see Caleb a little tipsy somehow brightened the Aspects night a little. He would of course watch out for him and keep him safe now that it was his fault for Caleb's altered state of mind. But, Ery didn't like to see anyone grieve as much as he'd seen Caleb grieve. If a little alcohol could take that kind of pain, even if only for a little bit, then Erythreus would happily assist with that. It was nice to see Caleb talking for once, about something other than how much he missed the woman he visited every night here at the cemetery. 

Ery's gaze averted to the sky, where Caleb seemed to have found something interesting to look at. While Ery saw nothing, Caleb obviously found himself a sad dog to look at. Chuckling Erythreus nodded at the male, amused; especially when Caleb said he seemed like a dog person. Did he truly? Ery had never really thought much into it, about what kind of animals he liked, but he supposed if he was going to pick an animal for himself, then yes, it would definitely be a dog. So he decided to go along with what Caleb was saying for the moment. "I definitely am." he said in response, before nodding at his question "You mean the ones that play the really sad piano music?" he asked, having remembered seeing that commercial a time or two in the manor while one of his sisters watched modern day TV. 

Erythreus didn't watch TV, and he was a total failure when it came to modern day technology. Hell, he didn't even know how to turn a tv on, and had nearly crashed a computer at the library, which led to asking for Alva's help, now he had awaited Iris's help, because he didn't know how to activate the cell phone he'd bought for himself. 

Snapping out of thought, Erythreus leaned back on the grass, propping his weight on his elbows, before letting his head fall back so he could get a better look of the sky. Erythreus side eyed him, struggling to not laugh, was this Caleb, or the alcohol? He felt bad to think this might be the alcohol talking. But then again, what was there to feel bad about? Even now, Caleb was a gentle natured, humble person, who just wanted answers. Erythreus put a hand on Caleb's shoulder as he sat up straight, and turned to face him "I'm sure they are being fed. And, most of them go to good homes." he expressed, hoping that would ease the human's mind just a little. 

Erytrheus watched as he took the flask again, thankful for his own reflexes as he reach over to tip the flask upward, as it began pouring down Caleb's chest. "Dude" the Aspect said, chuckling a little, but he now knew he needed to help him, and felt like an ass because of Caleb being a little too buzzed. When Caleb stood, Erythreus did as well, with his arms outstretched, ready to catch him. Ery sighed as Caleb fell against him, but as the beastly tall Aspect positioned Caleb's arm to wrap around his neck, he began walking him where ever his heart desired, and only realized, he was doing something nice for Caleb, as their short walk, landed them at the animal shelter. Ery fiddled in his pocket, and pulled his pocket knife out, picking the lock easily. His eyes nearly popped out though to see the larger dogs stirring awake. IF they let all of these dogs lose, they'd surely lose a few limbs tonight, so his idea, was to help Caleb free a few of the smaller dogs. 

Glancing to the not so sober human, Ery shook his head "You only live once right?" he asked, before eyeing the door, silently praying they didn't get caught. 

Caleb had to admit that in this situation the easier thing to do was deflect and not thing about everything racing through him and when it came down it cuddly animals could be one of the best distractions known to man kind. They were bright and numerous, the exact opposite of everything he was going through. The Frenchman crouched down on the floor next to the eight dogs that had been released into the yard of the adoption center. There were a few puppies, but also several older dogs who appeared to have seen some things. One of the most quiet was stubbornly positioned away from the crowd and had his back to the two young men. “Bonjour...” Caleb stretched his hand out, only to be met with a quick sniff and a sigh of dejection. It was a very depressed dog. Even in his semi-drunk state, he could see that. “I am Caleb. I am a human. I like dogs, though. Dogs are good.”

The dog didn’t look at him again, but Caleb pursed his lips. He could be stubborn too. Planting himself next to the Labrador, he was ready to wait. “What do you think happened to him?” Animals had stories just like humans and just like them, too, they weren’t always happy. He reached out and let the puppy sniff him, as an appropriately cautious greeting. With a whine, the golden colored puppy flopped down beside him more interested in napping than talking. It had been recently bathed, but not thoroughly as there was still dirt behind the ears and paws. Caleb scratched them anyway. He’d almost be content to go to sleep right there on the floor of the pound.As he yawned, Caleb noticed Ery’s curious gaze. “Whaat?” He drawled, slowly shrugging his shoulders. “Drinking makes me...eh, what is that word, endormi...a sleepyhead.”

____________________

His head was pounding and despite the lights being dim, they seemed quite bright; but as he moved, finding himself on the couch in the living room of the Ailward’s home, Caleb found a warm animal snuggled up in the crook of his arm. It was the golden retriever puppy, properly bathed it looked like a new dog. He rubbed his eyes, trying to guess the time of day. It had only been a few years since he stopped drinking, but the zombie like effects remained. Only waking up next to a dog instead of a naked stranger was a relief in more ways than one. However, as he looked around the room, which was empty, Caleb had to admit that it had been nice to take a break from everything that had been happening. He was sure the guilt would catch up with him before long, but right now he just wanted to stay under a throw blanket with a dog and pretend his problems didn’t exist, but the smell of breakfast was wafting in from the kitchen and as much as he wanted to hide from the world the smell of food was fairly enticing, even during a hangover. In fact, maybe bacon and eggs sounded like the perfect cure for a hangover. Either way, they weren’t resistible to Caleb. He sat up slowly and led the doggy sleeping on the couch cushions. His clothes were terribly wrinkled from the day before and his hair was sight unseen. As he caught a glimpse of himself in a hallway mirror, he cringed. “Ouf...I am not doing that again.” 

Ava had been headstrong in her determination to help him overcome his drinking problems that had built up during his college years and looking in the mirror, he could see why. He looked like a ghost. She’d been so persistent in the person he was and even more so the person she knew he could become that he never doubted it for himself. A half smiled crept on his face before disappearing. He missed her. She was always keeping him at his best and he kept her from rushing head first into danger...until.

Caleb closed his eyes. Breakfast. He would like that. 

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