It was a warm night in Whitestone when she slipped from the castle, making her way out into the gardens. Crickets chirped under the cover of darkness as naked, heavy foot falls thudded across the stonework, heading in a very specific direction.
As she closer neared her destination, long having left the tameness of the gardens for the wilderness of the surrounding forest, the unmistakable sound of music reached her ears.
It was not the happy notes she was so accustomed to, set into a jaunty tune that was written to bolster drives and lift spirits. Instead this was something low and haunting, dragging and slowing so as to create something melancholic and longing, almost like a howl on the wind.
She followed the sorrowful flute to a familiar bench, where she found what she’d been looking for.
Even though she wasn’t even trying to hide her arrival, he didn’t seem to notice her, so engrossed in the music. He was sitting on the bench, boots left on the ground and feet pulled up, crossed beneath him. His hair was untied and down, spilling over his shoulders and catching in the light breeze. In the moonlight, she could make out the wet streaks running down his cheeks.
“I’m sorry if I scared you.”
He jumped, head whipping around so that glassy brown eyes could meet sympathetic blues. Seeing her there, his gaze softened, as though he was looking at something ethereal and brilliant. And perhaps he was, with the way the white night dress seemed to glow in the dark against the near blackness of her dark skin, equally white hair let loose so that it swung behind her in some sort of angelic cloak. But could she really be called ethereal when, just as obviously, her arms were bulked with intense muscles, her bare arms covered in numerous scars?
He always seemed to think so.
“You didn’t,” he lied smoothly, as though not even thinking about it. And perhaps he hadn’t. She could understand how, after so many years of hiding away, of protecting himself from harm and danger, that such things were like instinct to him. She couldn’t really blame him that when too often she did the same.
Instead of offering a reply to the claim, she just stepped forward to sit beside him. Running a hand over the stone, she smiled at the way it grounded her and made her remember; remember the feeling of sadness and beyond loyal love, the smell of death and feathers, the taste of alcohol and blood. As though Vax’s spirit were with them now.
He was looking down at his lap, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth and very purposefully trying not to meet her gaze.
“You deserve better.” He said, small in his words but certainly not quiet. He was never quiet in the things he truly believed.
And, when really thinking about it, she agreed that she did. She deserved someone as equally devoted as her, someone who would hold her through her night terrors, someone who could pick her up and hold her and protect her from the horrors both in the world and in her own head.
“But I don’t want better,” she admitted, shrugging her shoulders. Looking down, she opened a hand to reveal a ring resting in her palm. It was nothing more than a simple, golden band, and yet it made him flinch, as tough it might burn him.
Tsking, she grabbed one of his hands into her own, unoccupied one. He tensed up for a moment, as though fearing the sensation of cool metal sliding onto his finger. When no such feeling came, he relaxed, seeming to sag beneath some great weight.
His hand was much smaller than hers, dwarfed in comparison, but it was more scarred. The tips of fingers were hardened and long dented, from a lifetime of fingering and plucking and strumming. Nails cut short to keep out of the way, but jagged and uneven from work. Scars littered the back, small little nicks and scrapes accumulated over the years.
Bringing it up, she kissed each of the dark freckles on the tree bark skin, looking up to find him looking at her once again. He eyes glowed in the darkness.
“Why me?” He asked, voice genuine and honest in his confusion.
It was a good question, and certainly one she’d asked herself many times over the years they’d been together. As a child, in all of her wildest fantasies of the sort of person she would end up spending the rest of hr life with, someone like him had never entered her mind. And, truly, from the moment they’d met she had decided that such a thing would never work between them, despite his continued flirtations and advances.
And yet, despite such an early ultimatum, she had never once turned him away. She had never once asked him to stop or even so much as hinted at any distaste.
Why was that?
If she knew it would never work, why had she strung him along like that, allowed him to keep on with his advances?
The reason had been a purely selfish one; because no one else had ever looked at her that way. No one had ever said such things about her before, had ever wanted her so badly before.
And really, that’s why him.
Because, for as flawed and messed up and haunted as he was, she was just as bad.
They both had their demons and, in a way, they complimented each other.
“Cause it’s you.” Is all that she said though, very slowly and carefully slipping the band into his hand. Not onto his finger, still giving him an out if he really and truly did not want this.
He looked at her, then down at the band, then up to her, then to the band, then up to her, before slipping it onto his fingers. He gave her a smile, shy in a way that anyone else would have found uncharacteristic, but she was used to them in these moments when he allowed himself to be so open, so vulnerable with her. She was grateful for that.
“Well Mr. Shorthalt, shall we head back? I’m sure the others will be happy to hear the news.”
“But of course Ms. Trickfoot. Please, lead the way.”