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After a certain amount of time in the city, Caleb had made a home there. The first people whom he'd met in Evermore were all among the Ailward family. Some of them still remained good friends and he was thankful for the help that he'd received upon just arriving to a foreign place. After four years and eleven months, the trauma of his past relationship were slowly fading. There were still bad days and nightmares, but recently he'd even found the courage to move forwards. Octavia was now a close friend and it made sense to pursue what they both felt. It was her employer and personal friend, Malva, whom had overseen Caleb's first entry into the city. After many long hours in her office, she'd given him a primitive diagnosis of PTSD. They'd never remained close in the same way that his friendship with Ery had continued, but he'd always appreciated her help.
This morning, the Frenchman walked the gardens of the manor with a book settled between his left thumb and fingers. It was clear that he'd become lost in thought, however, because the pages had not moved in over ten minutes. He was a renowned introvert, so that habit of hiding himself in a book was not uncommon. What was different was the shy grin which decorated his lips. His face, being mostly hidden by the pages, was hard to read. He hadn't slept much in the last twenty-four hours. This was not unusual, but the night previous had been far different than most of his walks in the night. Instead of being alone, he'd been with Octavia.
That was different. A nice different. Caleb found a seat underneath a sprawling oak tree and attempted to concentrate on the pages of Les Misérables, but found himself often staring into the rosebushes instead. His body felt alert and nervous. The stupid grin would not leave his face. With a soft groan, the young man flopped down onto the grass. It had been a long time. He hadn't remembered how a serious case of the butterflies felt. Abandoning his book, he pulled out his mobile phone and began typing and retracting words. What was he supposed to say? Before long, the phone was also abandoned beside the book, face up in the grass.
His last text to Octavia had been confirming their...night of fun. He'd never suspected it would be more than what they'd originally proposed. Caleb squinted up at the sky and attempted to take in a deeper breath. As he did so, he saw a familiar face come into focus, as a younger woman peered over him. Between the raised eyebrow and intimidating smile, he easily recognized Malva.
Quelle malchance. He grumbled to himself. How very unlucky.
Today, of all days, he'd run into one of a few people who could probably deduce what had happened the previous night. Fairly certain that he may be getting a lecture on the protection of his new...fancy, Caleb sat up. His shirt was well-wrinkled and there was grass clinging to his soft brown hair. It was very unlike him to be so disheveled. His stomach turned in a flip as he uneasily smiled at the physician. "I assume that this isn't just some casual daily greeting." The Aspect of Magic seemed to usually have underlying plans. Whether or not she would approve of his shenanigans with her favorite guard was yet to be revealed.
Things have been changing lately around here, and by that Mal meant truly everything. She remembered when she first met Wyatt, someone who would later be a pain in the ass and a thorn to her side. As if she needed another one after Sebastian. Long story short, she took the prodigal dark diviner as her apprentice and has been teaching him some of the more advanced magic because that was usually a perk of learning under her. But it hasn't been going well. Or at least it has been until it was no longer that well anymore. It was fine in the first few months and she wasn't aware of whatever Wyatt was going through personally, he never told her about it nor did he try to indulge her in his troubles. A part of her thought he hid it away so as to not worry her when she was having a lot of trouble trying to balance the insurmountable trouble waiting on the other side while keeping the Archives intact as well as safe from other forces.
She first noticed the slightly weird behavior displayed by the male a few weeks ago but didn't think much about it. Perhaps he was just tired, being surrounded by dark objects and books that were documented about dark magic wouldn't be an easy task. Especially when the most ancient magical objects are stored there in the Archives, which was ironically located in the heart of Evermore. Nobody would have thought she would leave it there and that made it the best location to move it, in plain sight. While she was halfway mixing the new ingredients she got from the apothecary earlier this week into the mortar, she suddenly halted and it was only by a chance that she didn't let the mortar fall on her room's carpet.
"Shit… that's going to be a stain hard to get out of" she sighed to herself and stopped whatever she was doing and rolled up her sleeves so she could clean up the mess on the carpet. At first she opened the doors to her balcony so she could let the air in, because the last thing she wanted was her whole room to smell like that. Could she use magic to clean it? She could, but she thought it would be better to preserve it for now. She couldn't just use them recklessly when she was still learning to control her own archive. That was when she noticed a certain male sitting against the oak tree in the gardens that was coincidentally facing her room. Of course, he was here. The question is, what was he doing here? Mal wondered if he was there to ask for her guard again, which was honestly starting to annoy the Aspect of Magic because it wasn't as if she would stop Tavia from dating or whatever her personal interest might be underlying, it's just that she would rather her guard not be bothered when she was sent for a mission.
Distraction would mean a step closer to a mission being jeopardised. And she would not have that. She frowned and decided she should ask him what he's doing in the gardens of all places, in the Ailward manor. That was some nerve, for sure. By the time she got there, he still didn't notice she was anywhere nearby so she peered over, letting her brown locks cover the light from the sun. "Spot on. What are you doing here of all places? One doesn't just walk into the Ailward's gardens so you must have a reason for why you're here." She crossed her arms and tilted her head slightly, sparing the male a look filled with judgment, "Do I even want to know what you're planning for Tavia again? I have to admit you're quite persistent…"
Caleb's morning muse in the garden had been quite pleasant, despite being more anxious than usual. He found a lot of peace in nature. It was part of how he'd made friends with Ery, Argent, and Octavia. They all had that in common. His first days in Evermore had been spent in the Ailward manor and his life had been forever touched by many members of their family. The aspects and the guards had become close friends, despite how difficult he found it to connect with most people. One of the only Ailwards that Caleb hadn't managed to charm was Malva. She seemed quite immune to his nonchalance and quiet nature, finding it more suspicious than calming. The Frenchman sat up as the Aspect of Magic glared over him, guarding his face with a paint-speckled hand. "I do not think most of your family would take so well to finding me buried here."
He brushed his light brown hair back from his face, standing up. At six feet, he quite literally towered over her, but that didn't change the feeling that she could kill him very easily if she wished to do so. The human pulled his keys from his pocket. Jingling among the more normal steel ones was one crafted of soft silver, obviously older, that unlocked the gate to the garden. It had been a gift. His slightly annoyed gaze softened. He could understand why Malva was protective of her family and her home. There was a lot of tension inside the city. "I wouldn't trespass, I swear. I was invited."
He slipped the keys and his hands back into his pockets, where they often rested when he felt nervous. The young man turned, walking towards the gate. Clearly, his company wasn't going to help her mood. It was only her question that made him pause. Everything that happened the last night with Octavia was fresh in his mind. It lingered just below the surface. Yet, he didn't know what he was planning. Was he planning something? Was he supposed to? What happened next? He scratched his neck, a soft pink glowing across his nose and cheeks. "Planning?"
"Um, planning is a bit grand." He chuckled, trying to hide the red cheeks with a persistent stare at the grass. "Uh, I -- I don't know."
It wasn't nothing, but it wasn't something, either. Not yet. Merde. The last twenty-four hours had been nerve-wracking. He couldn't explain it though. He could barely communicate with Malva about ordinary things, much less emotional ones.
Instead of addressing the elephant in the room, he turned back towards her. "I've gained the trust of two of your siblings and your personal guard. If you value their judgement at all, doesn't that mean...perhaps..."
He spoke slowly, cautiously. "I could deserve a chance to gain yours?"
She had to admit, a part of her was not expecting to find him, of all people, lounging where most could find. It’s the garden, after all, very close to the greenhouse that was pretty much managed by both Virindeus and her. It was a risky spot to be at if you were trying to keep a low profile, which she was starting to think the human wasn’t very good at. “No, they wouldn’t. They would chastise me and ask why I had to bury a person here, of all places. And then they would ask me why I buried you, where I will give them the only reason that matters whenever I do anything; because I felt like it.” Mal wasn’t given a free pass to do anything she wanted, not really.
As the Aspect of Magic and a member of the Ailward family, it wasn’t like she could be reckless all the time. Despite her notorious personality, she still had to keep her reputation and image somewhat… pliable. The best she could anyway. He is tall, she could see that very clearly, his six feet stature was towering above her five feet five. But that wouldn’t change anything, she has taken down people far taller than six feet without blinking and Caleb knows exactly what she’s capable of, considering her temper. But he had something others don’t, Tavia. And since she loves her guard dearly, the last thing she wanted to do is give her an excuse to be upset about. No thank you. She noticed the jingling keys and was able to identify one of them, “Where did you get that from?” she exclaimed casually, she was fully expecting him to give her the answer she already construed inside her head.
But as usual, it was so much more fun to tease him. “You’re not stupid enough to trespass, I know that much…” Malva rolled her eyes when the Frenchman turned around to say that, “Oh god now you’re blushing, if I wasn’t so irked by romanticism, I would’ve said both of you are being cute.” And that, right there, is her way of saying they are cute. Indirectly. “What do you mean you don’t know? You are thinking of something, no?” The dragon wasn’t the most patient person there is, in fact, her temper often keeps her off the grid, for so many reasons. The brunette scoffed and shook her head when he said he had acquired the trust of two of her siblings, including her trusted personal guard that he is currently pursuing. Tavia deserves another chance at happiness, how could she say no to that? “Relax, I am not saying I would eat you up god… I was teasing you, it’s fun. But… just curious, which two of my seven siblings have you gotten the trust of again?”
She leaned against the tree and crossed her arms, but her gaze wasn’t so threatening anymore, more so that she’s being serene. “Seriously, why are you here and what are you doing here? It’s a genuine question, Caleb. I’m not trying to find reasons to bury a body here, it’ll ruin the healthy ley lines…” That was a joke, of course.
The more that Caleb spent time around others, the easier that it became to adjust to different personality types and their different…quirks. As a child, he’d been quite sensitive. It had been a struggle to connect with his peers. That had changed as he got older. It had been encouraging of late that even after trauma, much of his personality was quite intact. That included the ability to deal with a tenuous amount of sarcasm and wit. His eyebrows were pressed firmly into a line as he listened to her carefully combat his words. It took extra thought to get through the barriers, considering English was his second language, but he made it work. Clearly, his presence in what was normally a quiet safe haven for Malva had been more than a little alarming. That had certainly been unintentional. He’d grown up in the countryside with both parents and neighbors who heartily encouraged his exploration.He’d very rarely been reprimanded for his misadventures as a boy. If he’d upset someone, a charming “Je suis desolé!” And promise to return with his Mama’s baked treats would quickly earn him forgiveness. As an adult, he sometimes forgot that walking everywhere aimlessly was not as widely expected once you were no longer 3’11 inches with adorable gap teeth.
Evermore was an entirely different world. Physical boundaries often existed for reasons that hovered just beyond his comprehension. He was completely new to the knowledge of magic. The trials, tribulations, and societal norms that it created often floated just above his head. Caleb listened when she spoke. That was one thing he was good at doing. “I apologize for alarming you.” He nodded. There was a curious smile on his face.
Plenty of what she said was true, but he wouldn’t be the first to admit that. His relationships with the two Ailwards who had originally led him into Evermore had faded some in the last year. While his early days had often been spent adventuring with Argent or having philosophical conversations with Erythreus, Caleb had slowly found his place with the rest of the humans inside the city. What set him apart was simply his knowledge. Instead of ignoring what made the city so different, he’d found friends — family, even — in almost every faction. It was how outside he was of everything that allowed him to see everyone with little bias. If anything, he and Miss Malva Ailward were quite polar opposites. “You don’t have to trust me.” He pulled back on his previous statement, slowly. “You don’t even have to like me.”
“Tolerate would be nice.” He chuckled. “Considering how we share a similar bias.”
It was a bit annoying when she called him out for blushing, but he was frankly rather annoyed with himself. It was an incredibly physical reaction and one that he would rather not have revealed to her, of all people. Caleb’s romantic sensibilities might have been firmly intact, but he did enjoy his privacy. It was likely why the gardens on the Ailwards property had always called to him, ever since he first walked there with Ery, and now with Octavia. Caleb pulled the keys from his pocket. “I have a feeling you should ask your siblings for those stories, not me; but if my being here truly bothers you, I do not mind surrendering my stake.”
He hadn’t quite finished. “However, I do think you might regret that. Something tells me given your caution over my presence, you’d prefer to have some kind of eye over my rendezvous with your loyal guard. Despite the fact that we both know she is more than capable of taking care of herself.”
Caleb leaned back on the fence. He did have something in mind, honestly. Octavia deserved something special after so much time of mourning. He had been lost in thought this morning and had never meant to wander so close by the physician’s quarters. “Let’s just say, if you may be willing to go out on a limb and help me surprise her, I’ll owe you one.”
It felt slightly dangerous to owe one to Malva. But, in the very least, he did know that now they not only shared a bias, but also a bodyguard. Perhaps, it was time to find some kind of middle ground.