Old February 16, 2017, 09:12 AM   #1 (permalink)
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[Jaedaxia] Of Reminiscing and Regrets

Spring Era XXIV


Adyn's fingers were brushing against the seams inside his pockets, his cigarette already nearly halfway depleted. He was nervous, he discovered, which irritated him. He had never been one to feel nervous.

Still, he pressed onward. His trek to Le Refuge had been smothered outwardly in silence, but inside his thoughts were spinning. He found himself confused, tousling with the emotions that his old friend's reappearance had dragged up from him. He fought at the knot in his stomach. He had promised to stop running, and for once in his life he was heading in the direction of his demons. It couldn't have been further from the Adyn he had been only a single season ago.

He wondered what would have happened if he had done things differently. If he had remained in Port Alyxandrya, had taken his apprenticeship... or if he had stayed in the training yard and spoken to her. Still he was lingering on regrets and could-have-beens, and he tried desperately to push them aside.

He found it difficult to understand why Kailin's presence had hurt him so. Part of him had felt shame and grief, yes, but part of him had been more difficult to understand. Something about the way he might have felt for her once had wrenched its way to the surface, and try as he might to deny it, that feeling had lingered after he had gone.

But those times were in the past now. The people they might have been had long since gone away. He had abandoned them himself, in fact, choosing a life of hardship and sorrow instead. All he could do now was face his judgment, and try to see the ground on which he stood.

He still hadn't figured out what he wanted from all this, what exactly he wanted from her. But there was a piece of him that couldn't simply run away from that confusion again. He needed to sort this out.

He took a deep breath and exhaled. Smoke slipped past his lips and into the cool spring air. It was time to stop his running.
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Old February 16, 2017, 03:57 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The laughter that rang out as Adyn approached the palatial three-winged, five-story building that was Le Refuge was as bright as the spring sunlight that had just recently come out from behind winter's clouds, and it bounced off the eastern-most walls of the central courtyard heedless of the grumbles and shouts that flowed out of the nearby open windows even before its echoes had died down.

"Shut up!"

"Some of us are actually working up here!"

"Good gods, why did I ever agree to this?" Came a familiar voice, sounding quite put upon over the residual laughter that warmed its tones.

"Because you needed a break, Kael, and you're perfect. Stay still." This second voice - also feminine - sounded just the slightest bit exasperated.

The courtyard had been shaped and sculpted to inspire the artists within, and was dotted with gardens, little forest groves, pools that had recently lost their winter coverings of ice, and even - somehow - a small brook. It was only luck that had seen Adyn entering anywhere near Kailin, and further good fortune that had her laughing loudly enough to catch his attention.

"It's freezing, Sid. You try keeping still. I swear the ground is still frozen here, and if I lose my fingers to frostbite-"

"You'll just heal them and everything will be fine." Sid cut her friend - for they obviously were that - off, and followed up with yet another, more exasperated, "Leave that alone, Kailin."

The conversation was coming from a small stand of trees nearby, and as he made his way into them, the scene - which he might have already partially guessed at - unfolded. Kailin was leaning against a trunk, doing her best to hold the pose she'd been positioned in, while wearing what could only be described as light armor. Thin silver gauntlets encircled her wrists, and above the dark brown breeches was a thin shirt of chain mail, her waist encircled by a metal corset that matched the gauntlets. Her hair was as it had been when they'd sparred, bound in a tight black plait, and had been pulled over one shoulder to hang down to her waist.

The difficulty she seemed to be having came entirely from the thin sword she held in her gloved hands, which she was in the process of moving from one pose into another as she came into view.

"I can't hold it up like that forever, Sid. Don't you think it would look better like this anyway?" Kailin planted the tip of the sword in the ground at her side, effecting a proud warrior-like stance.

"Gods, Kael, only if you want me to be a laughing stock. That stance has been done to death. Get. Your. Arms. Up! Or I will come over there and cut them off of you and position them myself."

Kailin laughed again, the sound loose and honeyed, easy, "Just try it... I'm the one with the sword here." But she did as instructed, raising both arms above her head with one hand clasping the hilt, and the other holding the tip so that the sword was parallel to the ground. She did her best to look fierce.

Both women seemed entirely unaware of Adyn's presence, with one entirely focused on capturing the image before Kailin moved again, her blond head cocked slightly to the side as she looked from model to canvas, working furiously; and the other doing her best to stay still and pretend that her arms were not about to fall off.
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Old February 16, 2017, 04:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The rogue meandered into the wooded courtyard, eyes grazing the touch of nature that had enveloped it so. Jaedaxia had always loved its intricate gardens and complicated parks, its glitters and its glitzes and everything in between. He had never understood it, but Leysa had come from this city - and she had melted into it like a brushstroke on the canvas. How different they had been, he realized now.

He started at what he thought might be movement near his boot, catching his cigarette before it fell from his lips. His eyes found only be a flower, and he shuffled away from it anxiously before moving his way further in.

He followed the sounds of the voices. One of them he recognized. It felt strange to hear Kailin laugh that way. A nostalgia wanted to take over him when he recalled Aria doing the same. The girls had been fond of one another, and he had often heard them chuckling together. His heart ached at the absence of his sister, which only served to dampen his mood further than the twittering of the birds.

The earth complained beneath his feet as he made his way torward the trees. His voice of reason wanted to tell him that confronting a gaggle of women was not the best thing for his nerves, but tentatively he continued, trying to manage his way amongst them as stealthily as possible. He was relieved to realize that there were only two of them. His eyes alighted on the reason why they were giggling, and a humor of his own found its way into his eyes. He exhaled blue smoke, retrieving the cigarette between his fingers, a smile treatening to manage it way onto his lips.

Kailin was wearing armor. And she was posing. With a sword. The very defiance of his memory of her was hilarious... and invigorating. For a moment all of the last fifteen eras seemed to melt away, and before him he saw a child whose joy he surely recognized.

She had done just fine without him. Not that he had had any doubt in his mind.

A soft smile had broken his resolve, and he tried to tamp it down by placing the cigarette back between his lips. A humor was dancing in his eyes now, however, as he took a steady drag and put his hands back in his pockets.

"Do you know how to use it?" he asked then. He had not meant to say anything at first, but it had slipped out before he thought better of it.
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Old February 16, 2017, 05:27 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Kailin started visibly as Adyn spoke, but managed - by sheer dint of will and refusal to smack herself in the head with the stupid sword - to hold her posture. She was extremely glad for the gloves that had just protected her left hand, as she liked those fingers, and really preferred to keep them attached.

Her eyes had widened with the initial surprise, but narrowed again as they swiveled toward the rogue and the haze of blue smoke that surrounded him. So he'd come after all... Kailin had been mostly sure he would, from the alactrity with which he'd accepted her invitation, but... well... he was Adyn, and she couldn't help but wonder.

Surprisingly, she found that her happiness at seeing him outweighed the anxiety she felt over what was to come. Perhaps it was the fact that the initial shock of his being alive had worn off, or something in meeting Ministra, but Kailin could hardly drum up the anger that had been so all-encompassing before. The fact that her heart was beating hard and fast in her chest, again, was a secret she could keep to herself. And if her cheeks had flushed a bit, it was easy enough to write that off as simple surprise. Maybe he would - incorrectly - assume that she was embarrassed at being caught out like this.

And so, green eyes alighting on him, she grinned, "No. I don't. Know any good teachers? The last one I had ran off..." Too soon? she wondered as the teasing words left her mouth. So maybe she wasn't above just a little torture.

Sid, who had glanced up at the intruder and then immediately written him off in favor of her work (artists... so rude sometimes), perked up at this, giving Adyn a rather more appreciative once over. "Oh! Is this the guy that you were in lo--"

"ShutupSid," Kailin cut her friend off, her words running together as she tried to talk over what the woman had just been about to say. If she'd thought her heart was beating before, she now felt sick with the sudden lurch it had taken. Her gaze bounced to Adyn to see if he'd noticed, and then immediately away again.

Sid was extremely talented, and Kailin had come to appreciate the woman's friendship as she spent candlemark after candlemark in the Refuge. But she could be incredibly obtuse about anything social, and Kailin really should have realized the danger before she'd led Sid right into it.

Now, she dropped her hands, rolling her shoulders and neck as she tried to get her emotions back under control. She did not want to look up to Adyn again, to let him see how the words had affected her - though she suspected that the cat had just ripped the entire bag apart on its way out - to see the deep red blush that she could feel burning in her cheeks.

"Sorry Sid... I think my shoulders are done in for the brightening. We can do more tomorrow, okay?" Her voice was softer, and apologetic as she looked at the blond woman, who had actually already started work on her canvas again. Seemingly unperterbed by anything and everything that had just happened (and her part in it), she waved one hand lazily at Kailin, not bothering to look up.

"See you later, Kael. Take the sword back, would ya?"

"Yeah, I got it." Kailin smiled at the top of her friend's head once more, and then moved stiff limbs, making her way toward Adyn.

"Hello Adyn. I'm glad you came..." she said as she neared him and his blue haze, lifting her green eyes to catch his again finally as she settled the sword against her shoulder, tip pointed toward the trees above them. "Let's head up to my studio."
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Old February 16, 2017, 06:33 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The rogue's smile only seemed to broaden when he realized Kailin looked embarrassed. He had always been the sort to get satisfaction out of drawing a flush to a woman's cheeks. Of course, Kailin had been a friend and her joy had always meant more than that. It was just a shame that he had never sought to make that clear to her before. He wondered, briefly, if she had always thought that his aim was to torment her. The smile faded as he realized he may have given her no reason to assume otherwise.

He visibly winced at her joke about running, but his shoulders eased immediately after. He let himself chuckle a breathy gust of smoke, resigning himself to the torment. He much preferred to laugh at himself than to hear those words with the pain that she had said them with before. It did make him feel better to hear her make light of it, at least.

His brow quirked at the blonde woman's sudden notice of him, so caught by surprise by her words that he hardly made them out before Kailin interrupted her. His lips clamped onto the dying cigarette as his brow creased into a frown, his mind trying to sort what the artist thought of him. Had the world already heard about Adynirach Thorne and his flight into the future? He found the things Kailin might say of him in his absence meant more to him than he realized.

He tried to bite down on his curiosity, resisting the urge to ask the woman to repeat herself. Instead he waited patiently for Kailin to remove herself from the tree and for her companion to depart. Even from a distance he could see the deep crimson that had grown more vivid in the woman's cheeks. His brow quirked again, cigarette maneuvering itself from one side of his mouth to the other, his jaw shifting slightly in his idle contemplation. His eyes danced with amusement.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to sneak up on you like that," he offered by way of apology. "You seemed to be enjoying yourself."

A pause, and the mirth in his face grew stronger. "Kailin Alyxanda, paladin of the faith? Warrior... hero. Guardian of the weak." He flashed his teeth at her in a lopsided grin.

He stepped to the side, gesturing for her to lead the way. He took up stride alongside her, hands soon finding their way back to his pockets. At this rate, by the time they had reached the entrance to the building, his cigarette would be gone. He made a note not to relight it, although he would miss the numbness that it offered him. The nervousness became worse when the cigarette was gone. But... again, no more running.

"So tell me... Le Refuge." His eyes grazed the courtyard around them. "Is this what you do now? Pose for portraits in costume?" He paused, regretting saying this, not wanting to make it seem as though her last performance had been only a joke. "I mean... it seems nice. You were always good with, uh... art." Good one, Adyn. "I hope you're not going to try and sketch me again, though. You remember how bad I was at sitting still. Some things have certainly not changed."

Somehow a hand had found its way to the scruff on his jaw and he rubbed one side, and then the other, tilting his chin upward as he noted how it extended further down than he would have liked. He would have done better to have shaved before coming, but it was too late for that now.

"And, well... I've acquired a few less appealing traits since then, I imagine." His finger made a brief brush of the scar that trailed over his eye before it went back into his pocket. There were times when he missed his youth. He was hardly that old at his current age, surely, but his body had taken much abuse since he had left the life he knew.
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Old February 16, 2017, 08:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Kailin's embarrassment subsided, though the blush lingered in her cheeks as Adyn started speaking. From the lack of awkwardness that he was displaying, she felt relatively sure that he'd missed Sid's meaning, though how he might have done so was a mystery. A small miracle, then.

Whatever the case, it allowed Kailin to breath easier as she led them onto a path that would take them back to the east wing of the building, and her features relaxed into a grin as he teased her.

"Hero? No... at least not recently." She said, tossing a playful wink his way, "Sid found out that I train and got it in her head that I would make an excellent model for her next painting. She would not take no for an answer."

At his questions about the Refuge, and what she was doing there, she felt her brows reaching toward her hairline at the awkwardness he was displaying. Amusement danced in her gaze, and she even chuckled softly at the memory of a young Adyn, trying desperately to stay still.

They'd both left the last such experience frustrated, as she recalled, and he'd told her never again. It hadn't been long before his father's death, and so his words had become more of a promise than either of them had realized at the time. They'd been so ignorant... so young. Shaking her head, she turned to see the finger he trailed along the scar. All at once, her expression softened, and she felt the pull of the grief that they'd so far avoided.

"We all have our scars... it is our imperfections that make us interesting." She paused, and when she spoke again her voice was softer, quiet with the weight of memories between them,"And I never needed you to sit for me, Adyn." I knew every inch of your face. "I just liked to watch you squirm." I just liked to watch you.

She knew she should have been smiling, tried to make a joke out of the words... but Kailin just let out a slightly shaky breath, looking back to the path in front of them. The doors to the east wing were in view now, and she picked up her pace a little.

"I almost never pose for portraits, though we artists occasionally have to help each other out when a model doesn't show up, or we don't want to wait for our client's next appointment to keep working on something. Sometimes it's a good break from the work." Reaching the door, she pulled it open, taking the sword off of her shoulder so as to not inadvertently hit someone with it.

"I am currently trying to improve my painting skills, and hope to someday be a professional artist. But I still work for my family, and will actually be heading home in a cycle or two, at most. I'm not sure what they will make of me taking my art more seriously." Or her Thaumaturgy, for that matter. There were a lot of things up in the air, all of which made Kailin loathe to return home to her Aunt.

One of those things was Adyn, and whether she would tell Kerric about him. It was one of the many topics they needed to discuss... but she was not yet ready to start down that path.

As they spoke, their steps took them up the grand staircase that was just inside the doors, spitting them out finally on the third floor. Kailin led them down a hall and stopped in front of a door, seeming to hesitate for a moment with her hand on the handle. Then with a twist of the wrist, she pushed it open and stepped aside to allow him through first. She followed behind him into the brightly lit space, the windows of this particular studio looking out on the courtyard below, with a sprawling view of the city beyond.

There was the expected mess of easels, and the room smelled strongly of paint and turpentine. Setting the sword against the wall just inside the door, Kailin closed it and turned to watch Adyn take in the space as she removed what she could of the clunky armor.

It had a high ceiling, and the three walls that did not boast windows were filled with sketches. Kailin had never had so much space for her artwork before, and it still made her giddy to look around at everything she'd accomplished, both the good and the not so good.

There were many faces in those sketches that lined the walls, but also landscapes, and the occasional glimpse of something that must have been seen only in Kailin's mind, whether abstract or unusual. She stayed silent, giving him a moment to look around.
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Old February 16, 2017, 08:45 PM   #7 (permalink)
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A laugh escaped the man's lips when Kailin claimed to have made him squirm on purpose. It seemed to carry off into the wind and leave a lighthearted grin behind. A memory seemed to dance across his eyes before he removed the remains of the cigarette from his mouth, tilting his head back and exhaling to let the last of the smoke subside from his breath.

Without the smoke, the air smelled earthy... fresh. He let the wind mess with his hair. However much he preferred the city air, he was treasuring this single moment out here, because he felt as if he was walking toward an inevitable doom as they approached the studio. This sense of being a part of Kailin's life again would end, he feared. They would walk into that studio, devolve into tears and regret, go back to how wrong and broken he was, and would leave the future behind. A sense of dread roiled through him.

He lifted his brows as she discussed her plans for that future. His eyes met hers again. "Professional artist, huh? So the business...?" His lips grew somewhat crooked as he seemed to struggle with his question. His voice grew soft. "Well, I wouldn't worry about what they think. If anyone would support you to the ends of Telath, it would be your father." His eyes dropped and his gaze drifted somewhere up ahead, eyes glazed over with memories again.

He allowed her to lead him up the stairwell and down the hall, his mind busying itself with the ghosts that seemed to want to follow him here. The wallpaper, the railings, the smells.... Although he had not really been here before, the familiarity was strong and... sad. He felt like a ghost in a place that might have been his home once but was no longer welcome within. He was out of place... out of time. He fought the expression that had come over him when Kailin turned back towards him, gesturing him through the door.

His boots thud against the floor as he stepped slowly inside. His eyes brushed against the view that sprawled out beyond the window, taking in how beautiful the world could look when one stood above it. It was different when it was on the other side of glass. His mind wandered to the wraith that was Aria, and the reflection that had looked back at him as he had watched her argue with Lynessa.

He turned, unable to look through the window anymore. For the first time his eyes alighted on the myriad of sketches, and all thoughts of old regrets melted from his mind. His steps began to slow, and in the warm glow of the suns the art seemed to come to life.

All around him, there were memories.

He wondered why he had not truly seen it all those years ago. The things that sprung from Kailin's mind were placed here and vulnerable for the world to see. But she had captured them in a way he could only describe as love. He knew what that word meant now. And in that moment, as he caught himself reaching out to one, he realized too that they were memories and thoughts, whispers of emotion. For her, those memories did not have to bring such pain. For that he could be glad.

He let his hand fall away and looked at her. A soft and genuine smile had found its way to the corner of his mouth, even though his eyes were sad.

"They're beautiful," he breathed.

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Old February 16, 2017, 09:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Kailin's breath hitched as he spoke of her father, and she pressed her lips together hard as they climbed the stairs. It was too open, there were too many echoes here to speak the words, and they would reach her studio soon enough. Too soon, perhaps.

Once inside, Kailin leaned into the steadying presence of the door for a moment before she pushed off of it, her steps trailing slowly behind his as he took in the sketches all around. When he paused in front of one that was larger than the others and lifted a hand toward it, she let her steps carry her to his side, close enough that she could feel the warmth that he radiated, and smell the lingering sweet scent of his cigarettes. As his arm dropped, she raised hers, fingers trailing along the edges with something that could only be called tenderness.

Adyn could not know just how right his thoughts had been, for this sketch - more than all the others - held Kailin's love. And how wrong, for it also contained the greater portion of the pain she carried.

"Lilia..." she said, her eyes trained on the picture of the young girl, perhaps three or four years old, sitting on a floor with a gigantic book in her lap. She was looking up at the viewer with a rather stubborn set to her jaw, but a familiar amusement in her eyes, as if she was trying very hard not to smile. Where the hair was tucked around her ears, he could see that they came to delicate points. "Cormamin. My heart. My daughter..." Throat closing around her grief, the last words came out almost on a whisper, and - though she tried to swallow them back - a tear dropped from her dark lashes to paint a trail down her now pale cheek.

Kailin thought abruptly of the elf, and her words 'I will die without him', and she lowered her arm. She knew that pain... for the loss of a child cut like no other, and it was a wound that would never heal. She knew, every brightening, she knew that she would die from it. That she never did was both a source of strength and a source of grief for the woman.

Next to the picture of her daughter was a portrait of a man that Adyn would recognize, though the man in it would be older than he remembered. Kailin's father... and - though she could not find the will to speak the words - her hand settled just on the edge of the sketch and she waited for him to meet her gaze. The grief in her eyes, when he looked, was plain to see.

Kailin knew, as the tears pooled and fell, that these would not be the only ghosts she and Adyn would face today.
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Old February 16, 2017, 10:33 PM   #9 (permalink)
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The look on Kailin's face as she looked upon the portrait was one he knew all too well. He could feel the ache returning as the beauty in the artwork began to shift into one of sorrow. The way she spoke the name on her lips was the same as how he heard Aria in his nightmares, the same way he had said the word father to himself when he had yearned for Samson's guidance. The pain was such a reflection of that which he had carried for so long, that at first he hadn't understood what Kailin had admitted. As the realization dawned on him, he floundered for the words.

"Daught... Kailin, I-"

He reached up only to realize that his hand was shaking. He would not have caught her tears even if he had tried. It faltered, his body wanting to buckle beneath the helplessness, the weight of loss crushing tightly against his chest again. It felt so real and raw.

But that was not the worst of it. Her hand drifted to the portrait of a man he had once held dear. That he held dear, even now. Although he knew what Kailin was trying to say to him, his heart would not allow it. His throat closed and his eyes began to burn. He thought that he might choke.

He turned from her. He couldn't do it. The regrets that a thousand lifetimes could not mend were flooding over him again. As his face drifted back toward the window, Adyn began to cry. It was the second time in a single season that he had rediscovered he could do so.

He didn't have the strength to fight it. The tears trailed from his open eyes and formed streaks down his tired face. He looked up, tried to bid them not to flow, but for all his efforts they wouldn't still.

He should have turned and mourned alongside her. He should have shared in her despair. But somehow he felt that her eyes would judge his grief and find him unworthy of it. Perhaps he was, knowing all the disappointment her father must have felt in him. And now he, too, had died.

He swallowed at the acceptance. I fresh new pain bled into him. His voice was hoarse when he finally forced himself to speak. "I should have been there." He breathed.

A new sob choked him of his words. What more could he have said?

He would have remained that way if he had not learned better. If Ministra had not taught him that reaching out to others was not such a fault after all. He forced himself to turn to Kailin, eyes red and despondent, and whether she would have welcomed it or not, he reached out and embraced her.

She could fight him if she wanted. He didn't care anymore. It was something he should have done a thousand times before. Perhaps it was lifetimes too late, but it was better late than not at all. He knew that the only reason he had the chance was because she had allowed him here. In another time, as another man, he had thought he would never have seen this day. Now that he stood before her, he could understand what opportunity he had been given. It was a moment he would not make light of.

He forced himself to loosen his grip on her, though, if only so that she might not feel as if she had no other choice. Part of him felt guilty for having stolen the gesture without words. He waited for her to push away or to fight his existence there, knowing he couldn't blame her. He felt like a stranger stealing moments that were no longer his to hold.

"I'm sorry, Kailin," he rasped, his voice barely a murmur. "Gods I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..."

He was sorry for himself, as that much would never change... but more than that he was sorry for her, for her father. He was sorry for everything.
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Old February 17, 2017, 12:38 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Kailin saw, through her own tears, the moment that Adyn took her meaning. The moment that his own grief - and not just his sorrow at hearing of her loss - welled up in him. It echoed in her, striking chords that were already singing loud enough to drown out everything else, and she reached up a hand that ended up holding nothing but air as he turned away toward the window.

Her fingers curled into her palm and she trapped it against her chest, pressing down on the pain that threatened - over and over - to tear her open. Here in this room, surrounded by the faces of all those she'd lost, she watched as Adyn pulled away from her again. As he suffered alone, again.

Even now, when there was a shared grief, he felt unworthy of what she could offer him. She would not have known, before Prime and the vision she'd taken from him, what was in his heart right now. Surely she would have thought him cold, would have thought it was his selfishness that made him distance himself. And perhaps there was that, too...

But she could not unsee what she'd seen, or pretend that she did not know the shame he carried, as heavy as any stone. And so she moved to stand behind him, and - uncurling her fingers - allowed another piece of her heart to break as she settled a hand lightly on the back of his shoulder. No more than that.

She would give him time with his grief, but this time she was here with him, as she'd never had the chance to be before. As she would have done if he'd only let her back when they were kids, Kailin tried to let him know that he was not alone.

At Adyn's words, the same words she had spoken when she'd realized that her father had died, she bit back her own sob even as his sounded into the relative quiet of the room. Hiccuping in little gasps of air, she shook her head, though he couldn't see it. She hadn't been there, either... hadn't had the chance to grieve with her family. Her hand tightened reflexively on his shoulder, her head bowing under the strain of holding back the sobs that were choking her.

So when he turned to her, her gaze lifted to his, the green of her eyes shockingly bright with the strength of the mingled grief and hope that stood naked in them, glittering with the tears that washed down her cheeks and dripped from the end of her nose. And she did not hesitate when he took the step closer and embraced her, wrapping her arms around him and burying her face against his neck. He could feel the silent sorrow that shook her, the wetness of her tears mingling with his own in the scruff that he hadn't bothered shaving.

She held onto him, shaking her head against him as he apologized, and - swallowing so that she could find her voice - she pulled back from him enough to look into his face. Her hands dropped from him, then lifted to settle gently against his cheeks, thumbs wiping at the tears that still fell. Her own eyes were still shimmering, and her voice was raw as she spoke, "No more, Adyn. No more shame... The past is gone."

And they were still here. She was here... that's what she wanted to tell him. Licking the salt off of her lips, she traced the lines of his face again, and willed him to understand. "I am sorry, Adyn. So sorry." For everything...
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Old February 17, 2017, 12:25 PM   #11 (permalink)
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The feeling of Kailin's hand on his shoulder only served to worsen the young man's tears. There was a relief and comfort that came from it that was overwhelming to experience in that moment. But as he turned to her and she welcomed his embrace, he could only wonder what he had to fear. He could only wonder why he had not sought it all those years ago.

Perhaps, as always, he had been afraid. The things he was feeling were painful and immense, no matter what they were. He knew so little of how to experience them that he had considered numbness the more reasonable alternative. But for eras they had been bottled up and were now flowing free, and he couldn't understand how he would ever have experienced the tidal wave alone.

For a moment he feared she might leave him to that when she pulled her head away. He closed his eyes, readying himself to steel his heart and continue on, but he soon felt the touch of her hands against his face. He fought the twist of expression that came with renewed grief and confusion.

He opened his eyes at her words. What had she ever had to be sorry for? But he accepted them, because they lessened the ache in his heart. The understanding was enough.

"When?" he croaked, speaking of her father. "How long...?"

He tightened his hold on her. He knew the answer would not come easily. It was a lot for him to ask of her now. A hand had found its way up to touch hers, taking a gentle clasp on it as he prepared himself for the truth. Thoughts of her father and his kind eyes forced their way into his mind, followed by a future with the man that Adyn had chosen to leave behind. Perhaps in the years he had called to his father when he had wanted him the most, he might have had another to turn to. But Kailin was right, and he knew that now. The past had gone away.

A softness came to his face from that. He looked at Kailin as if she were a different person, allowing a light to find its way into his heart. She had grown. She had grown without him, and had grown better for it. He could see it in her eyes, the way she had mantained that gentle soul, and in the lines that creased the corners of her eyes. She had grown stronger, wiser. Like the paintings all around her, she was beautiful, too.

He squeezed her hand, fighting new tears. He didn't want those anymore. He fought the way his shoulders attempted to collapse against her. But he couldn't help himself from opening his mouth, from digging deeper into the woman he had left, had lost.

"Lilia..." His eyes flashed with both apology and sadness for her. "She... was beautiful." He recalled the picture, the detail in which it had been so gently recalled, the features on the small girl's face. "The language you spoke... It was hers as well?"
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Old February 17, 2017, 10:45 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Expected as they were, Adyn's questions hit Kailin square in the middle of her grief, and it surged once again. Her eyes closed against the wave as her head dipped toward him. The hands that were so warm against his cheeks would have fallen away, too, except that she felt his hand slide over her own, clasping it... offering comfort.

Her gaze lifted, buoyed by the strength he offered despite the pain that was clear in the turbulent blue-gray of his eyes. Adyn Thorne had just reached out to offer comfort for the second time in as many minutes, and had accepted what she had to give in return. The smile that flickered over her features was watery, but held a hint of the wonder that she felt... That he was here, now. In front of her.

The thumb of her free hand swept across his cheekbone in a soft caress, the sensitive tip of her finger feeling the ridge of the scar that stood stark against his skin. Then that hand fell to clasp the wrist of the hand that gripped her shoulder tightly enough that she felt the small joints of the chainmail she still wore pinching slightly. She didn't care - having all but forgotten she was wearing the armor - and she certainly did not want him to let go. Her grip would have been just as tight as his, if she'd had the strength for it.

"It's been six and a half eras, now. I was gone..." She'd started off strongly enough, the words coming despite the soreness in her throat, but at her admittance that she had missed her father's death, missed the chance to grieve with her family, her features twisted again with the old sorrow, and another tear slid free. "I was gone, Adyn. They... they didn't know how to reach me. I missed it..." She sniffed, shaking her head against the pain, "I wasn't there."

She kept her gaze steady on his, despite the wash of tears that had formed little rivulets against her flushed skin. He wasn't the only one with regrets, that look said... nor the only one to carry scars.

As his grip tightened around her hand, she watched him fight back the anguish trying to rip its way free, her own grip on his wrist tightening in response. She did not anticipate the questions he asked next, and - at the sound of her daughter's name on his tongue, and the apology in his eyes - she dropped her head again, and her eyes closed. She breathed in deeply, let out a shuddering breath, and then - caught by his final question - Kailin seemed to still.

When she looked back up to him, it was with the hint of a smile in her eyes, and hovering at the corners of her mouth. "Yes." She said, and the smile grew. Yes, it was her daughter's language. Kailin had spent so many eras thinking of Elvish as belonging to her husband, to his family. Adyn's perspective had caught her entirely off guard, and she found that it brought a peace to her heart. That unlooked-for peace was reflected in her eyes as she looked across at him.

"Elvish... it was her language. And her father's..." Kailin's shoulder lifted under his hand in a slight shrug. "I learned it for her." Speaking as if each word was a revelation - for it was - her expression softened with tenderness. Adyn had just inadvertently given something of her daughter back to her. It was a gift that brought yet more tears to her eyes, though they didn't fall, instead shimmering against her lashes. "She was beautiful... We lost her to the Feeble Pox when she was four..."

"I miss her..." She said, her words quiet.
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Old February 17, 2017, 11:37 PM   #13 (permalink)
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oocAnd there you were talking about the length of YOUR post. ;)

There was a sad solemnity in Adyn's eyes as he watched Kailin's face for answers. He seemed not to notice the touch of her finger against his scar, allowing her to explore it as freely as she wished in the silence. When she admitted she had not been with her father when he passed, Adyn saw his own reflection in her eyes and knew that there was nothing that could take away that pain. He knew, then, that to assume she knew nothing of his regrets was folly. She had experienced it much the same as he had.

"Oh, Kailin..." If only he had known. If only he had not been so stupid as to assume that he was the only one to know that feeling. How callous must his words have seemed when he had spit them back at her in winter? How selfish could he have been?

When her head dipped at his question about her daughter, he feared he might have gone too far. He waited patiently for her to collect her thoughts, wondering if he should say or do something else to take back the things he had asked. But when Kailin looked up at him again there was something peaceful in her eyes. He blinked at her, trying to understand the joy that had sprung to life there. Something in his own heart seemed to lighten at this. To know that somewhere in her sorrow she found joy... it gave him hope.

Something in him somehow twisted when she mentioned Lilia's father. He couldn't have said what it was. Instead he focused on the light that seemed to find its way through the storm in Kailin's eyes, a light that only bloomed with memories of her daughter. To hear that the little girl in the picture had been taken from Kailin made him realize all the more that she, too, had loved and lost.

At her admission of yearning for a piece of her life that was gone, Adyn was reminded of the laughter that he so often missed in his sister, too. She had had a smile that radiated throughout a room and rivaled the suns themselves. She had had a voice that had warmed so many hearts, a nature that reveled in the joys of life even in the wake of sadness. Losing that light had caused so much suffering in those who had been touched by her glow. To know that the innocence in Aria could not even come close to the innocence of a child.... He could not imagine what Kailin must have grieved for.

He released his grip on her hand and shoulder. Calloused hands found their way to Kailin's face, mirroring what she had offered him before. He brushed at the hair at her temple, his own thumbs wiping gingerly at the moisture that had collected beneath her eyes and on her cheeks. Through his own tears, he managed a smile.

"I know," he said softly.

He knew she missed Lilia because he could see it. He saw it in the portrait she had made in Lilia's honor. And he saw it in her eyes. He felt it, too, a brushstroke upon an ocean that had somehow begun coloring his heart.

"When I saw you last, I..." he continued, his voice a whisper in the stillness of the room. "I got to thinking. I thought... that the world was so vastly unfair in everything it had taken away from me. I didn't want to face you because the memories that came with you... the ones of those I had lost... hurt so greatly. I decided I would rather not have loved at all if I had to experience the pain of that."

His eyes, although they had seemed lost in a memory, saw into hers once more. "But the more I thought, the more I realized... that in the greatest moments of sorrow, it was the memories of happiness that held me whole and high. That if it weren't for those small glimpses of love I was given, I... would not have had the strength to suffer through the pain."

His eyes crinkled slightly as he seemed to search for something in her face.

"What you have... your memories. Of her. They may hurt enough to make you want to die, I know. But, Kailin... they are what make you alive."

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Old February 18, 2017, 06:15 AM   #14 (permalink)
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As Adyn's hand fell away from her shoulder, and he released the hand that was still cupped against his cheek, Kailin let her arms fall to her sides, feeling momentarily untethered. It was a sensation that lasted only the space of a few heartbeats, as she felt the warmth of his fingers - work roughened - brushing back the loose strands of hair at her temple. Unconsciously, she leaned into his touch, her head tilting slightly into his palm even as his thumbs swept the wetness from her cheeks.

Her eyes closed, Kailin tried to think of the last time she had been held like this, the last time someone had brushed her tears away. Kerric, perhaps. But she could not pull up a specific memory, not of anything like this.

'I know,' he said, and she looked up to find him smiling at her, his own tears bright in his eyes. She did not correct him, did not explain that - until he had experienced the loss of a child - he couldn't understand. Because she didn't think he was saying that he understood. He was acknowledging her pain, her loss. She felt seen, as his eyes held hers. Perhaps for the first time ever, Kailin felt like Adyn was not just looking at her, but actually seeing her. She felt her pulse quicken, and a slight flush crept into her cheeks.

And then he went on, and she held his gaze as he spoke, flinching away only when he spoke of her wishing for death, returning as he said it again, 'I know.'

It was Kailin's turn to lift a hand to lay over his where it still held her, and she leaned even further into his touch as she completed the circles they were drawing around one another. "I know." She said, and he could feel it against his palm as her cheek lifted with the smile that pulled at the corners of her mouth.

"I would not trade away a single moment with her, not even for a lifetime free of this pain." And at the word, Adyn caught a glimpse of the deep well of sorrow that Kailin lived with, stark in her eyes as she left herself unshielded against him, vulnerable. And then she closed her eyes, and some of the tears that she'd managed to hold at bay slid free, traveling over the calm, almost serene expression on her face.

"I am who I am because of her, Adyn. And, though I would change it if I could... I would give anything to have her back with me... I am who I am because of her loss, too." She opened her eyes as she spoke the last words, because they applied to Adyn, as well. It wasn't the same, but she couldn't help thinking that if he'd stayed, if he'd seen her back then, she might never have had Lilia.

Kailin was just selfish enough to be grateful for it, despite the pain she knew he'd suffered for so many years. Still suffered, now. How could she explain to him that something so good had come out of him leaving? For that, she would have to admit to what she'd felt all those years ago. And that, she could not do. Would not do, when his heart was given elsewhere.

And it was that realization that made her face the fact that those feelings were not as completely in the past as she'd thought. Or at least, they did not seem content to stay in the past where they belonged.

Her face heated against his palms, the blush likely seeming to come out of nowhere, and her hand that had covered his wrapped around his fingers and pulled his hand down, even as she turned away toward one of the tall tables that served both as desk and workspace for her sketching.

"Come. I have something for you." For all that she should have, Kailin couldn't force herself to let go of his hand, and as she looked back at him, she squeezed gently in an attempt to reassure him. She didn't want to pull away from him... She couldn't. Not when she'd only just found him again.

As they stepped up to the waist-high table, Kailin gestured to a large leather folder that sat in the center of it. There was a set of strings on the right side that had been left loose, so that all Adyn had to do was lay it open. With another quick squeeze, she gave him back his hand, but stayed close by, not wanting to leave him alone with this.

Inside the folder, there were two sketches, as lovingly done as either of the two on the wall that held Kailin's daughter and father, but these showed more skill, as they had been done much later. The first was a portrait of Aria, eyes bright with the smile that shone on her face, as if she were on the verge of laughing. Kailin had purposefully chosen to sketch her slightly younger in this first one, as she'd looked nearly seven eras ago before Kailin had left for Paxia.

The second was a portrait of Aria with her daughter Ellinor in her lap. Not content to sit still, the infant had twisted around to stare up at her mother with obvious adoration that was reflected in Aria's face. It had been culled from Kailin's memory of the time right before the Xet attack.

Silent, Kailin watched the man as he opened the folder. She was close enough to offer support if he needed it, but equally willing to let him have a moment alone, if that was what he wished.
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Old February 18, 2017, 07:39 AM   #15 (permalink)
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"I would not trade away a single moment with her, not even for a lifetime free of this pain."

Adyn's lips quivered at the words. Everything in his heart sang at the truth of them. As his tears threatened to bubble up again, Kailin's seemed to have stilled themselves in a sea of calm. He let her continued words roll over him and soothe his pain, let her eyes see him as they opened. For once in his life, he was not afraid for someone to see him as he was. Because he knew she understood that part of his soul that had broken piece by piece.

He could have remained that way, in time. It was a moment he would have wanted to still until it moved no longer. But that stillness broke too soon and Kailin's hand drew his own away. Her body - and her eyes - turned away from him. The light in her features and the joy that spoke through the darkness felt so conspicuously absent that his heart seemed heavy again when she led him to the desk. He allowed himself some small solace in the squeeze she gave his hand, willing the fear of what he was yet to face not cripple him before he could face it.

He waited as she indicated at the folder, hearing his breath quicken in the quiet space. His hands began to clam and a knot had started to reform itself in his stomach. He swallowed. Everything in his bones wanted him to flee... to turn on his heel and leave the room and trot hurriedly back down the stairs. The moment her hand fell away he was both disappointed and relieved, and before he could stop himself he had already taken a step away from her.

But something held him there. Perhaps it was the way that she remained so solidly, as if she was making a promise that he would not have to face these demons on his own. Perhaps it was the way that she looked at him, a comforting gaze among the haze of self-pity and lack of self-understanding that was welling back up within him. Perhaps... perhaps he simply knew that to face it here with her somehow felt meant to be.

He took a few steps forward, his hands wanting to shake again as he reached up and touched the leather folder. Gently, as if dealing with a snake, the young man drew the object open.

His breath caught in his throat at the sight of her there, laughing. His shoulders shook. The truth of it was overwhelming. So many eras he had thought her image to have faded and crinkled... so many eras he had despaired at how the memory of her was threatening to die away. Each passing moment she remained dead, she had continued to die in him. Even the parts of himself that she had nurtured and instilled had steadily melted day by day. And here she was, the way that he remembered her. Happy, beautiful, alive.

He forced himself to breathe again. He drew the paper aside, revealing the one beneath it. A cry escaped him.

The man broke. He felt his knees give beneath him and he allowed himself to sink to the floor, the tears coming back to him in a way he hadn't known for eras. He could remember now - could remember as if he was there again, the last time he had wept like this. He had held a letter in his hands, had been wearing a uniform that had claimed him a man of the Imperial army. In him, everything good had died that day.

He turned, his back against the desk as he buckled into himself, his face buried in his hands. He didn't know how long he wept there. He didn't care. Here in this space with Kailin somewhere nearby, at least he felt safe to do so.

The baby had been so beautiful. Aria had been so beautiful. The truth of their lives, vibrant and free, had been nothing short of beautiful. And he had missed every. single. moment.

He could feel it crushing at his soul. All the moments he had lost, all the ways in which he had failed them. It wracked him again and again in the silence.

In time he found the will to breathe normally again. He remained silent even then, allowing his head to rest in his hands, his eyes and temples aching from the tears. He sniffed, rubbing softly at his eyes.

"She was so kind, Kailin. Gentle. Quick to laugh. Ready to see the good in everyone and everything." His voice wanted to quake at the effort. "Everything about her... she was all the things I wasn't. She was everything I didn't know how to be." He gave a quick inhale, his body fighting him now. "So many times I have wondered, after all the things I have seen, after all the darkness I have experienced in this world, why it was the small glimmers of light the gods saw fit to snuff."

The words had devolved into a bitterness that denied him the truth of what he had said to Kailin not long ago. He couldn't understand those words anymore.
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