• Mature • [Mature] The Right Words

The shallow bay Egilrun is situated upon is used, these trials, for crafts and crafting. From boatmakers to weaponsmiths, glassblowers to metalworkers, the sound of hammers and saws can be heard almost every break of the trial, with crews working in shifts to produce the beautiful craftsmanship which they might, one trial, become famous for.

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Carver
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[Mature] The Right Words

First Trial of Cylus, Arc 720
Residential District, Egilrun, Scalvoris

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Like all lovers, they spoke much of themselves, as if they might thereby understand the world which made them possible.
John Williams
Continued from After Death.

At the bridge, the icy waters quietly rippled underneath toward the bay. Past warm torches, the sapphire blue sands sparkled. Carver paused when Laures stopped their walk, on the highest point at the mid-arch of the bridge. Their gradual journey away from where they’d awoken kept going and stopping, going and stopping; he thought of the fair gray eyes, of the stuttered eyelashes while life had fled in the form of his lover’s blood. Scarlet and crimson had gushed forth from the torn open throat, under the serrated edge of the hunting knife, and he’d seen the attempts at breath – at maybe, even, last words of some sort. How he’d wanted to just touch his newlywed husband again, to kiss, and say how sorry he was that he couldn’t figure out another way to give Laures everything – for breaking his promise in such a deceitful way. When he looked at Laures, he could almost see it again. A vision of unrelenting gore that felt so surreal that it might as well had been a nightmare, but it’d been real. Hadn’t it? It had to be.

Hands held under the older’s, he returned the eye contact but the blue irises looked so different in hue that it distracted him. He barely heard the murmured insistence that he shouldn’t be sorry. Confusion, sadness, vulnerability: all showed obvious on his new features, and though his eyes were dark in color, blatant emotions shone through them brighter than the torches nearby. He stayed quiet while he felt the older’s gloved hand brush over his face.

“…so glad that I can feel you again. That I can touch you. I don’t need rest, love, I only need you…”

The expressed words returned the smile from before to his chapped lips. Shy, barely showing his teeth, his gaze flitted downward and then to the side. He felt so raw, like a freshly amputated limb exposed to the air, and found it difficult to suppress his own thickly blended emotions. His eyes shut for a moment, and he leaned toward the touch through his hair. He simply allowed Laures to comfort him in the moment, even though part of him didn’t want it to be necessary. Pulled closer, his eyes fluttered open, and he sought to look at the other man again. Carver didn’t have time to do much of anything when he felt the older’s lips press against his. It felt… different, yet the same… and it felt nice, but far too short. His hands drifted. He touched Laures’s neck briefly, a trace of his gloved fingertips over the center, then he hugged around the other’s waist to bring them even closer together. Laures had tasted bitter, like the bay waters. He wanted to kiss again, but the other started talking again, so he simply remained near and stared with a sense of fascination.

“Okay,” he agreed that he wouldn’t burden himself with the possible guilt. He still felt it, but he wouldn’t focus on it. Carver believed what Laures said to be true, simply because the other told him so. They continued along the bridge and he followed close beside, their hands tightly held. As if he dared to let go, then they might never hold hands again.

Laures tried to lighten the mood, insisted a certain hope to the unknown dangers ahead, and that they would find somewhere warm enough to undress… which he also wanted, very much. The attempt at humor brought another smile to Carver, and this one showed his teeth – his white, polished, perfectly aligned teeth. Dimples showed on his cheeks. As the sorrow and confusion had displayed in his dark eyes, so too did his hesitantly allowed amusement. He looked at his companion, and smiled toward him.

“I love you.” he whispered in a laugh so quiet that it barely sounded audible.

After crossing the bridge, the couple kept on the dirt path that followed the river. It hadn’t taken long until they came across what seemed to be living domiciles. Only these looked to be nearly as dark and empty as the warehouses and shops had been. It confused Carver, but he insisted they continue rather than stop at the first house they came across…

…at least until he caught a glimpse of a fire. Not torches, nor a wildfire, but a great bonfire that lifted into the sky and set on the blue sands. From around the brilliant orange-red glow, laughter, music, and conversation sounded beyond the ridge that separated the path from the shore. Silhouettes of figures wandered around the wide aura of crackling light. The music struck him as odd. It sounded like… drums, fiddles, and flutes. Gypsies?

As they got closer, he veered to lead them off the path and away from those who hung out at the ridge. Carver noticed several individuals who sat along the crested dunes of sapphire. In the firelit haze, they were drinking and eating. Shadows crossed around, in crowded frolic, and he felt a faint curiosity to look closer… but he also felt wary. He did not know what this place was, who these people were, and so many of the ones he observed looked so odd. Already he’d seen a couple more with the fleshy ear cuffs, or eyes in different colors, or brightly colored hair. It had to be... gypsies, it was the only thing that made sense to him and what he knew.

He kept a tight hold on Laures’s hand, unwilling to let go for any reason. Perhaps this was the reason why all the buildings seemed empty. Everyone seemed to gather on the beach for the row of bonfires that now spanned along the riverside.

Carver hesitated, for a moment, then looked to Laures and he asked, “Did you…” he didn’t finish the thought. Instead, he shook his head and kept on their walk past the various houses. Many of which looked to be tenements of sorts with multiple entrances. He turned onto a stone path, that led between the buildings, away from the bonfires and into pitch-darkness along an edge of the residences. He looked toward a line of small abodes, somewhat distanced from the rest. One of them had to have a hearth…

He stepped aside to hide in what was far too narrow to count as an alley, but was technically a space between buildings. Carver pulled Laures close to him. He requested, “Hit me.”

“On the cheek,” he added. “Just a punch, enough to swell.”
Last edited by Carver on Fri Apr 24, 2020 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1146
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Re: [Mature] The Right Words

First Trial of Cylus, Arc 720

Residential Distract, Egilrun, Scalvoris
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I would know him in death, at the end of the world.
Madeline Miller

It worked. It worked well enough, at least, to bring a hesitant little smile to his sweet soulmate's face. A peek at perfect teeth, and dips in his cheeks, and dark eyes that possibly could not have hidden their emotions if they'd tried, not yet. All things new to Laures, but new to Carver more so. He tried not to let it bother him. It was not that he found such things inherently bothersome. It was all just so jarring. In one moment, he had been staring across at Carver, his Carver, at the carefully guarded expressions and shyly hidden, sepia-toned teeth, copper-blond hair damp with blood and sweat. Eyes so green one could get lost in them, and think themselves wandering a forest. Fire and fury and smoke and pine; his lover was buried beneath the rubble, behind layers of ash and flesh and bone. He was in there, Laures knew. That was his aching heart behind those words, his prose given life in those eyes. And he was beautiful, for all the things that had changed and those which had not — the rosy coloration of Laures' cheeks when he had kissed him was evidence enough of this belief — but it would take him time to adjust, to comprehend, to fully recognize that this was not some copy, or imitation, but the real man he loved. Breathing again, made whole; healed from the fatal wounds inflicted by a delicate, shaking hand.

And if Carver had not noticed such changes for himself yet, then it would presumably take him time to do the same. After all, he knew what it felt like to change so suddenly from what you knew, even if his changes had been far less drastic — and he wondered, again, if he had been changed in the same way as Carver. If he would see someone else, yet again, staring at him within his reflection. Laures was no stranger to such things.

He glanced over again when he thought he heard the other man laugh, but his voice was quiet against the sound of water flowing underneath the bridge. Laures could not pretend to know what had been said, but he returned the smile with a bit more confidence, a little more affection peeking through the blue of his eyes, and he gave the other man's hand another little squeeze. He meant it, too. He meant all of it. Even if a little abstractly. He was not as sure as he seemed, after all, and despite the smile offered in Carver's direction, the sorrow for having died, and killed his lover, hardly lessened. He was glad to be here with Carver, yes, he was glad to be given a chance to see him and feel him and know him again, to exist with him again, but it was so difficult for the older not to break down right there, to not be reduced to the sobbing, unsteady mess that he knew himself to be. To not dwell on other matters, such as the utter emptiness of his mind, the silence that surrounded his own thoughts, the lack of interjection... and the loneliness that brought, that his husband could not understand. He had never clued him in before, never let him know, and now that it was gone, how was he meant to explain? How was he meant to make sense of feeling so alone?

Carver mattered more. Carver mattered more than his sadness, and his fear, and the loneliness that fueled both. Carver was afraid too, and so clearly vulnerable, and while Laures had never thought of himself as all that protective, he could not help but feel it now. This was his friend, his partner, his soulmate, his husband — and he would rather die a thousand deaths more than see him hurt. Everything else was pushed aside with a heavy exhale, and he told himself to stay alert, as they continued along the dark road. His eyes scanned the shadows as they traversed, passing buildings that surely had to be houses, surely had to have hearths somewhere around, or at the very least a few blankets... but Carver did not want to stop, and while Laures was tired and wanted only to settle in somewhere, he did not protest. The younger had more experience with these things, he figured, and he would not question his judgement.

It was not until they wandered farther and neared gatherings of other people that Laures paid mind to truly watch himself. Quiet as he could be, the blond kept Carver close to his side, watching each moving silhouette with thinly-veiled suspicion. Fire, and... yes, the sand was blue, he could tell now in the light of the flames. The figures danced about, and chatted, and drank, and played music just as strange as their attire. He wondered briefly if they were... if they were... fuck. More things he could not remember. It did not matter regardless, and though he kept a close eye on all of them to make sure they were not approached or caught off guard again, he did not think too hard about any of it. When his companion turned to him and began to ask a question, the older shook his head, mirroring the other's reaction immediately.

They went on farther, then, wandering through the darkened residential buildings and away from the fire-lit gatherings, and Laures allowed himself to be pulled into... not a true alley, for it was far too small, but something close to one. A far cry from the moon-lit stretch in which they had found each other's lips for the very first time. He was pulled closer, and he looked to the younger's face for explanation — only, when it came, he was left far more confused. Hit him? Why would he ever ask for such a thing? Blue eyes widened, and then narrowed, bewildered. He did not want to do that. But as he took a moment to consider, and peered out beyond their shadowed spot... he offered a firm nod.

"Fine, but — don't make me do this again."

He let go of Carver's hand. A steely-blue gaze settled on his husband's face, and gently, he kissed his cheek. The one good thing about the new body, he supposed, was that he still felt a certain degree of distance from it. He took a step back, though there was not that far too go, and he took a steadying breath. Right. Just a punch. Hard enough to swell. Laures raised his hands, drawn into fists, and as he exhaled, he swung at the other man's cheek. A lot... harder than he had intended. Hard enough to hurt his own hand, and immediately the older grabbed onto Carver's shoulders, eyes wide and expression apologetic.

"Oh, I — I didn't mean to hit that hard," he hadn't even known that he could. Again, he was left confused with his body's shifting strength, and more aware than ever that he needed to figure out the extent of it. He had never had to worry about it before, as he had simply been so weak, fragile in frame and resolve.

"Are you alright, love?"
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Re: [Mature] The Right Words

Second Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720

Injury was hardly something new for the younger man. He lived a life of abuse, knocked around and shoved and kicked and punched so hard that he lost more of his tobacco-stained teeth than he should have. From his early arcs right up until the moment he died, violence was as common as drinking water for him – perhaps even more common than water. Much of his time in the city had centered around brawls, many of which scuffled into life-or-death street encounters. Knocks to the head were familiar, punches to the face something he’d learned long ago to shake off and continue with the fight.

So, he didn’t fear when Laures raised his hands. Carver simply waited, though he ground his heels to help him balance. He didn’t flinch when the fist swung at his face…

…then it landed.

“FUCK!” His hoarse voice scraped into an actual shout. He immediately turned in momentum from the hit. Not only had it hit a lot harder than Laures intended, but Carver felt as if he’d never been hit before... ever. He hadn’t felt that kind of pain from a mere punch since he’d been a boy, before he’d gotten most of the nerves in his face beaten away by repetition. He breathed heavily, hands trembling as his new body went haywire from the impact it was not familiar with. This body was not used to being punched, not even once, let alone had the decade of experience that Carver's born body had.

He placed his fingertips over his cheek and pressed against the sting. The other man grabbed his shoulder, and he looked at the older with wide eyes, still shocked by the unexpected impact. He gasped, “What- the- fuck?!”

“Yeah, yeah,” he hurriedly answered. “I’m… I’m fine. It’s fine, love. Fuck, that hurt. I don’t think I’ve felt a punch like that since I was a kid. Gods, what the fuck has happened to us?”

Carver shook his head, regaining himself as he blinked a few times and fixed his posture so he wasn’t slumped over from the hit anymore. He rubbed at his cheek, grimaced while the pain continued to linger against the… that didn’t feel like his cheekbone. The younger man frowned. His fingertips started to tap along the shape, momentarily ignoring the pain, while he felt the difference in angle and broader structure and…

“What…” his voice wavered in his bewilderment while his fingers traced over his own jaw, then gingerly touched the bridge of his nose. He moved quick, and took off his gloves, and peered at his hands again. They were his hands? Weren’t they? His vision overlaid, struggled to make sense of things, and he felt nauseous. He pulled the gloves back on, not wanting to look anymore. Focus. He needed to focus.

“Right. Shelter, warmth,” he reminded himself aloud. Carver left the alley, then paused to look around. He pointed toward the smallest and farthest house at the far edge of the district. “That one. I’ll knock. You linger out of sight, but where you can hear, okay? In case…”

He didn’t wait, though. Carver fixed his coat so that it hung disheveled on his shoulder. As he approached, his steps turned uneven while he faked a gradual limp. The young man paused briefly, to check where Laures had gotten to, then he finished the last few steps to the front door. With a small breath, he readied himself and then he knocked on the door.

No answer. Behind the small round windows of fine glass, the few rooms were unlit. Carver glanced around at the other houses, which were separated by grassy yards that spanned between them rather than crowded up against each other. He glanced at Laures once more, then knocked a little louder and more insistent.

A candlelight’s flame flickered into life beyond one of the windows. Footsteps sounded, then the front door opened a small crack with a bleary-eyed man who had long auburn hair in matted tangles. He peered at Carver, and then coughed and said, “What’s it?”

“S-sorry to bother,” offered Carver as he forced his voice loud enough to be heard. He cleared his throat and licked his chapped lips though his mouth felt impossibly dry. “Do y’ have any bandages? We was walking back from the uh- the fires and- someone jumped us, and think I got stabbed in the uh… leg, and don’t got any light or- they took all the coin an-”

The door swung wide open. The stranger set the candle on a side table, then walked over, and offered his shoulder for Carver to lean on while he helped him into the home. “Sure thing, fella. I got plenty, reckon you could use a drink too… did you say we?”

“O-oh, well…” Carver hadn’t expected his bluff to work so flawlessly, and he glanced over to where he’d last seen Laures. He limped over the entrance, invited in and helped by the stranger.
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Re: [Mature] The Right Words

Second Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720

His perfect, stubborn, foolhardy husband did not even flinch. So used to being used and abused, willing and otherwise, it was easy to recognize that the mind within had no issue taking the hit. He had asked for it after all, and Laures was aware that he had sustained far worse than a simple punch to the face, given how stab wounds had hardly phased him in life (past life?), and he would not have requested it if he did not know that he could handle it, if it was not necessary, if he was not aware and prepared for the pain that would result from it. But when it landed, when hard, sharp knuckles slammed against his cheekbone, Carver acted like he had never been hit before in his life. Laures willingly took the blame for most of that, considering the force he had unknowingly put into it, but surely the younger had been hit harder before. He had not hit quite hard enough to knock any teeth out, though he wondered now if he could. Not that he had that particular desire... but he found himself growing increasingly curious with the capabilities of his restored form.

Hands shot out to grab the other man's shoulders to steady him, and Laures grimaced as he saw the younger touching at his injured cheek. Gloved fingers tapped along the bone, testing, and the older's hands slipped down his arms, reluctantly releasing him. "Sorry," he offered, genuine, continuing to watch with clear concern as the leather gloves were removed and the hands within inspected.

"I... don't know. I definitely couldn't do that before." He supposed it was not the worst thing in the world, to have gotten stronger. Or... sturdier, perhaps, he was not sure. He certainly did not feel as fragile as he used to be, and his skin did not seem nearly as thin either, judging by the way his fingers had not begun to bruise. His... scarred (?) knuckles were a bit sore from the impact, and he flexed his slender fingers to stretch them out again, but he felt... fine, on that front. Carver turned his hands over, examining them for a few bewildered moments before slipping them quickly back into his gloves. What, was he beginning to notice the changes too? The transformed structure of his bones, his body, his tolerance for pain? Laures set a hand against Carver's arm, wishing to comfort him further, but he was already taking off again.

That was alright. He could always make it up to him later, once they found adequate shelter and got a better grip on their surroundings. It would simply not do, to linger in the poor excuse for an alley and be found again by strangers less kind than the three they'd encountered before. It was already a pretty good indication that they were nowhere close to home, that — if they were, they would have been declared the perfect targets for anyone that crossed them. He supposed he was grateful enough for having been left alone. Laures trailed after the other blond, exiting the alley with a quick glance to either side. This place might have been kind enough to them thus far, but he was not foolish enough to believe that that compassion would extend much further. He sucked in a cold, heavy breath, and nodded in agreement as his lover threw out the outline of a plan. That one... his eyes followed the line of Carver's pointed finger, settling on a small house farther down the road.

"Alright," he agreed, and when Carver moved forward, Laures did the same. Before moving out of reach, he brushed his hand against the other's arm, and added quietly, "be careful, love."

He broke off the path then, straying to the side and farther, somehow, into the shadows of the... morning? Night? Whatever fucking time it was, it was dark, and easy enough to slip away. While Carver approached the little house, Laures walked parallel to him, separated by a stretch hardly far enough to be considered distant, but entirely too far for his liking. In any case, he managed it fine, and came to a stop somewhere off to the side — he pulled his hands from his pockets and leaned down, fiddling with his shoes as he listened to Carver knock against the door. Silence... he glanced over, and did not bother to hide his smile when he caught the younger looking back at him. More knocking then, louder and more insistent. He looked away, taking another moment to listen before he straightened up.

Although he could not hear what exactly they were saying, Laures knew that whatever his dear husband had said, it had fooled the house's resident well enough. Shaking his head quickly to muss up his sandy hair, the blond began his own approach. He hurried to the door — it was shutting behind the two, and Laures did not know if it was by intention or not, but he caught the handle, pushing it back open. Suddenly out of breath, the human huffed a small sigh of relief, and dipped his head in apology.

"Sorry about that, sir," said Laures, and when the man assisting Carver did not immediately push his husband aside to approach him, but instead stood staring in wait, he continued. "Thanks so much for helping him. Don't mean to impose—"

The auburn-haired stranger shook his head, and Laures could not quite make sense of his expression. He looked... unsurprised? Was that right? Or... not knowing, exactly, but he looked as if the situation had suddenly made sense to him, though it made even less to Laures. "Said 'we'... any more?"

Laures blinked. "Ah— no. Just us two." The man looked hesitant, as if he didn't fully trust the second face that had appeared, but after a moment's consideration, he nodded for the older blond to come in. Laures did so, shutting the door behind him and glancing at Carver, confused.

"Say, you got a hearth, sir?"

A reluctant hum of confirmation was the only response he was given. Laures stepped farther into the little, darkened house, eyes scanning over the space before landing back on Carver, questioning. They were both weakened by their sudden reawakening, but he would not hesitate, if the younger wished for them to simply dispose of the kind (and now apparently wary) stranger.

"You... mind if I light it?"

Another disinterested hum.
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Re: [Mature] The Right Words

Third Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720

Robert Arkwright knew these faces. He’d seen them at the markets, and at the Lemon Messy on some evenings, and he could have sworn he’d seen the one at Two Queens Shy not long ago. Not that he went to those places very often. Robert, or as the Egilrun folks knew him – Bob, didn’t frequent the establishments too much. He went to his workshop in the markets across the bridge, worked through the trial, and then he returned home to eat and sleep. Ever since Susie had left him behind to explore the world to find herself a couple arcs ago, his life had gotten increasingly quiet, but he didn’t mind the solitude. Sure, he missed Susie’s incessant chattering sometimes… sometimes, but not all the time. He only went to the local haunts in order to meet with others who didn’t want to come all the way out to his little cottage on the far edge of the residential district, or bother with the stink of leather and metal in his workshop.

For the life of him, though, he couldn’t recall either of their names. It wasn’t that uncommon, while Egilrun had a close-knit community, every arc it grew a little bit more and visitors came around to admire and purchase the fine craft wares. More and more apprentices showed up, nearly every trial, to find guardianship under mentors to learn the various trade arts. Why, even Robert had a young woman approach him just a few trials ago to ask him to take her on as an apprentice! He never thought he’d ever have an apprentice for the trade of making chests and trunks, unless he had his own children, but Susie hadn’t been too interested in that… maybe when she returned, though. Maybe then.

When he saw the cousin of the tax collector at his doorstep, clothes disheveled and cheek swollen, he knew he couldn’t turn the young man away. Who in their right mind would mug the tax collector’s cousin? Likely visitors who came to enjoy the Cylus Dusk bonfire and didn't know any better. Such a holiday brought in drifter sorts and attracted trouble that otherwise wouldn’t bother on ordinary trials. It was a simple matter to help the younger man out though, he had nothing against him after all and he did have plenty of bandages in the cabinet.

The door had almost shut when another caught it by the handle. Robert paused, but it wasn’t like he hadn’t seen this man with the other one before. In fact, every time he could recall seeing either face in the past season of Zi’da, they’d almost always been together. Of course, there’d also been a couple other people always lingering nearby – like that one young woman – and so he glanced to see if she were close behind as well.


Carver wasn’t sure why the stranger acted so… nice? Certainly, he’d encountered naïve and helpful people before, but this… was it some sort of trap? Did this stranger have ideas of his own? He hadn’t thought he’d managed to make much sense during his rambled bluff. He could hardly put together where he was and why, let alone manage to fabricate a lie that sounded convincing. Yet the man had still shown him in, as if they were friends or brothers or something. It bewildered him even further. He thought of the woman who’d said good morning to them, and the men who had simply moved on without the slightest interest in robbing or fighting or… any number of things that he would have expected back in the city where anyone could be a threat and most preferred to spit on each other than ever offer a hand.

He glanced over to Laures when the other man made it inside. It was good he did so, because Carver wasn’t sure what he would have done if the older had gotten stuck outside. When he saw the confusion on his lover’s face, he only reflected it back with his own new features. If it weren’t for the human stranger between them, he might have shrugged.

Led to a chair next to a small table, in the dim house that looked to only have a couple rooms, Carver held out his leg and he hoped it was the one he’d been using to limp on. He’d gotten so distracted by everything that he’d forgotten which was supposed to be the injured limb. The blond looked between his legs (were they longer? but bulkier, maybe... far more human in silhouette), then committed to one and he felt as if he’d recalled correctly.

“I’ll get the bandages,” said the stranger, who glanced once again at Laures, then headed through a door into the adjacent room.

As soon as the door shut, Carver got back to his feet. He hurried over to Laures and grabbed onto the other’s forearm to pause him from figuring out how to light the hearth. It was then that Carver acted yet again, in his vulnerable and confused state, uncharacteristically. His dark brown eyes fixed on his newlywed husband, as if seeking something, as if desperate, and he whispered, “What should we do?”

“Should we try to ask him questions?” he offered the suggestion, though he sounded uncertain. “Laures, I don’t know if I can… if I can fight like this. Not like before.”

He had to let the other man know. The punch had hurt so much, and it made him doubt his body entirely as to whether he could fight like he was used to. The ignorance of his own capability made him feel almost useless, but he wasn’t about to let pride get in the way of informing his lover of such a thing. Carver glanced over at the door. His gaze lingered while he listened for footsteps. He whispered in a hushed voice, “He seems so… trusting?”

Carver looked back to Laures, the uncertainty plain to see on his young human features. He paused and waited to hear what the older had to say… and then he heard the footsteps. The blond nearly scampered back to the chair, and quickly returned to the prone and injured posture on the seat.

The door swung open again, and the auburn-haired man returned with a basket of bandages, herbs, and other medical supplies. He set the basket on the table, then mentioned, “I don’t see any blood, you said you were stabbed?”

Carver hesitated. He glanced at Laures, then back to the stranger, and took a deep steadying breath. “I… uh…”
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Re: [Mature] The Right Words

Third Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720

Laures was used to the company of strangers. He doubted that he would ever feel comfortable in their presence (or anyone's really, besides Carver's), but he had long ago learned to wade through the discomfort in order to get what he needed, get done, and get out. In the majority of cases, it had not been his choice, but it had been unavoidable all the same — so he learned. He watched. He adapted. When one thing did not work, another surely would. Sometimes it took him a little longer to get there, but most times, he had managed, and when he did not... well. A stranger was not so disturbing to his senses when they did not move, or speak, or react whatsoever. If this man was ready and willing to help his husband, but took some sort of issue with him, however small, then... they could use that. He could work with that just fine. Right?

...Right. He had been expecting some sort of response, and when it did not come, he took another calming breath. Of course he could work with this! Laures repeated it in his head over and over, as if he would hear anything besides his own voice in there if he only repeated it enough. The auburn-haired man turned away to bring Carver to a small table and helped him settle down into a chair; Laures followed a few steps behind, glancing around the dimly-lit house as he did. It was just as small as it had looked from the outside, but it was nice enough, he supposed. It seemed to have a few different rooms, and that was more than could be said for plenty of other places he had been. His gaze snapped back to the stranger when he mentioned bandages, and when his eyes found Laures, the blond was not sure what to do. So he did nothing, and watched the man slip out of the room without another word about it.

He... did not like the way he looked at him. While he could not say for sure that the man recognized them (because, how could he? They'd never been here before), he seemed receptive enough to Carver, and had seemed to withdraw, if only slightly, when the older had followed soon behind. So he certainly had some sort of opinion on them, whether he had ever met either of them or not. One more confusing thing to add to the sickening mix, and one more thing that he hardly had the mind to think about, let alone had the energy to figure out.

Carver was out of his chair as soon as the man left the room. Laures' arm was grabbed, and though he did not reach out to pull his lover any closer in return, he did not pull away from the touch either. He frowned, subtly, as the younger once again displayed such obvious signs of distress. So... strange, he thought, as steely-blue eyes met brown, the latter far more expressive than the former. The whispered confession only deepened his frown, and a gloved hand was raised to cradle the other man's cheek in his palm.

"It's alright," he assured, matching his lover's hushed tone, "don't worry about it. Questions, yes — maybe we can find out where we are. Don't worry about fighting yet."

In truth, he did not disagree with Carver's questioning sentiment. He did not seem... well-suited to fighting, in his current condition, and Laures would not dare ask him to involve himself in such conflicts if he did not even believe in his own abilities. He did not want to see him hurt any worse, especially not after seeing him react so poorly to a simple punch, and not after seeing just how open he was with that pain. He could not bear it. As for the little house's owner...

Laures pressed a quick kiss to Carver's forehead before dropping his hand from his face. Quietly, he said, "I'll figure it out. Just... follow my lead, love."

Not words he had ever expected to say, but then, he had never expected to die and wake up again either. He leaned away when he heard footsteps approaching at the other side of the door, and crossed his arms loosely over his chest as Carver returned to the chair. Posture straightened and returned to normalcy (but oh, why did he hear a little popping sound in his back?), Laures remained standing off to the side as the compassionate stranger returned, carrying a basket along with him. It was set down on the table near Carver, and the older looked over it in brief inspection, as if half expecting the man to draw some sort of weapon from underneath the medical supplies. When he didn't, his gaze darted upward.

Blood, stabbed — why had Carver said that? He had gotten a punch to the face, not — he couldn't have said he needed the bandages for his ribs to be bound, or — but no, no. He had at least gotten them in, and he had done so quite easily. Far easier than Laures suspected he might have done himself, judging by the looks this man was giving him. When Carver neglected to answer the man's question, looking towards the older instead, he stepped forward. It caught the stranger's attention, and when he stepped even closer, to set his hands on either side of the back of Carver's chair, the other man stepped back, suddenly cautious.

"He's confused, sir," informed Laures, forcing through the hoarseness of his sore throat to smooth out the words, "he was knocked in the head, see. I tried to check on him, but he took off ahead of me — what did he tell you?"

"Uh, he..."

He looked a little more confused, then, eyes dropping to Carver's face as if seeking confirmation from the younger that he had only been knocked in the head. Something about his forced tone did not seem to strike the man as genuine, and Laures could not blame him for his suspicion. His cheek did look injured, though... and the younger one had only said he thought he'd been stabbed, not that he was. So reluctantly, he answered, "said you fellas got jumped on the way back, and he thought he was stabbed. Is he alright?"

"Ah, right. Awfully kind of you to take us in so quick. I don't think he's in need of those bandages, sir, but I am sure afraid for his head — you... wouldn't mind if we sat here for a while, would you? Just until he's right on his feet again?"

Less hesitance this time around. Laures suppressed a sigh of relief when the tension in the auburn-haired stranger's shoulders seemed to lessen, and though he still looked wary of the taller blond, his apparent compassion for the injured Carver won out. He wondered, again, why the man was so kind... but he could not have possibly met either of them before.

"For a while, sure. Don't need the bandages, you said? Need anything else then?"

He reached for the basket, and Laures did the same — "I-I'm not sure, actually. We should keep it close, and I can make sure—"

The basket was tugged away from his hand, and the stranger kept it close to himself, out of reach.

"Reckon you can light the hearth?"

Though the question caught him off-guard, he offered a quick nod. Right. No touching his things, then. Laures dropped his hands from the back of the chair. Fuck, he did not know how to navigate this, not when the guy was being so weird towards him. With a small, reassuring smile down at Carver, he stepped back, and turned away from the table entirely to try and find the hearth. If he wanted to talk to Carver, then he would let him. And if his lover floundered, then... well. He would disregard such attempts at calm conversation, but for now, he did not wish to endanger the other man further.
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Re: [Mature] The Right Words

Third Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720

While Laures and the stranger talked between each other, Carver stayed quiet. His mind wandered away from them, and back to recall when the punch had landed. He still felt the tender pain, pulsed hot in his swollen cheek, and he tried to make sense of the change in what he had come to expect of himself. This… wasn’t his body, was it? He stared at his own legs. One of the gloved hands ran over the breeches he wore. An odd sensation brewed in the pit of his stomach. How could he not be in his body? How could he be in another’s? Had he been reborn… but as a grown man? Wasn’t rebirth supposed to start as an infant? Wasn’t it supposed to include not remembering the previous life? How could he simply be placed in another’s body with memories that flitted in and out like they always had before. He toyed with the concept. It felt uncomfortable, but not impossible. What did that make him though? Was he… alive? Carver wasn’t sure if he even understood what that very word – alive – meant anymore.

The stranger stared at him, as if wanting… something? He didn’t know what had been said, and he turned his gaze away with a grimace. Had this been what Laures had meant when he said none of it feels right? Understanding gradually made its way through, and the younger man felt like an idiot for mistaking his lover’s words for something like petty concern about whether the other man hated him in the aftermath of their joined suicide. If the older didn’t want to stay with him, after everything... but that wasn't the case. So, he was happy his companion had insisted that nothing between them had changed – to the extent that Laures even comforted Carver in his weak and vulnerable state. Carver despised that it was necessary, though. He wanted to be strong. He wanted to have the answers. He wanted to provide and give Laures everything, and be there for the other man, and not have to be cared for in the slightest – not comforted nor… any of it. He just wanted to not be a bother. For arcs and arcs, he’d taken care of himself. He’d cleaned himself up, he’d bandaged his own injuries, he’d been alone, alone, alone. He didn’t want to need help. He didn’t want to burden Laures with his weakness.

While he sat on the chair – hands running over his thighs in a dazed way, barely listening to whatever was being said between the other two men – Carver tried to find his anger. He didn’t like not feeling something he’d come to rely so much on. His fury should have arisen in this sort of situation, easily and without any coaxing required. It would have lowered him until he felt consumed, and barely able to restrain himself from action, and fill him with heightened energy. Yet when he searched for the red-hot adrenaline, he only felt the tremble of impotence, of fatigued calm, of guilt and doubt. Carver hated it. He disgusted himself, and he tried to stoke the flames of anger through that abhorrence. It worked, somewhat, but it wasn’t the same.

Expressive as he was, unaware of his new features and how easily they gave away his emotions, his face turned from obvious confusion to a frown of discontent. He leaned in the chair, looked away from his legs, and raised his sight to stare at the shadowy ceiling. Laures had said to follow his lead, but… Carver didn’t want to ask questions. Not really. Confused as he was, lost as they were, he wanted to be alone with Laures. That was partly why he’d avoided the taverns, and the bonfires, and all the rest of the people. The house around them, carefully selected due to its fringe isolation in the district, seemed safe and quiet. He wanted to be with Laures, alone together. The world could wait.

“-and I can make sure-”

“Reckon you can light the hearth?”

Carver didn’t pay attention to the slight tension around the basket of medical supplies. He caught the reassuring smile from his lover, but he didn’t smile back. He stood from the chair without the slightest attempt to act injured with his leg. The young man picked up the holder for the only candle and brought the singular light with him while he walked across the modest cottage home.

“A-ah, you shouldn’t walk around,” insisted the kind and helpful human.

Completely ignoring the man, Carver walked to a small kitchenette counter and pulled open a drawer. He rummaged through the contents within, then took out the largest knife found. He set it on the surface, then glanced at Laures before he looked at the stranger. The auburn-haired man stepped toward the door which led to the rest of the small house. That meant there was either a way out through there, or something important was kept in the back, or both. He left the knife laying on the counter, and breezed past the stranger and the door.

Carver discovered a small corridor with an open-frame door that led into a bedroom. There were no bathrooms, only a basin. When he held up the candlelight, he momentarily caught a glint of a reflection in a tarnished mirror framed on the wall. He didn’t look more than a glance, though, and instead noticed a bundle of firewood in the corner of the hall.

“Did you want to speak alone?” inquired the stranger while he followed as Carver explored the bedroom. “Do you need help? Need to get away from him? I could run out and get an officer.”

“Away from him?” repeated Carver. The very words soured his tongue. He glared while he swept past the kindly man again to return to the hall. How dare the human even suggest such a thing… how dare he. Again, Carver tried to grasp onto the slight inkling of anger and build it on the disgust he’d felt toward himself. Maybe he wouldn’t feel so weak if he could gather his fury.

He handed over the candle for the other man to hold, then gathered some of the firewood. Carver settled them in the stranger’s arms and said, “I'm fine. Cold, though. For the hearth.”

“Ah, I see. Thank you,” said the auburn-haired man with a nod, as if it all made sense to him now. He seemed relieved. Cradling the chopped wood, the stranger headed back to the main room.

Left in the shadows as the candle left his side, Carver leaned somewhat and reached behind him. His gloved fingers wrapped around the wooden handle of the hand axe. Keeping it slightly behind him, he followed the human, back into the room where Laures had been left to attend to the hearth.

“We got some wood,” explained the cottage’s inhabitant, while he set the candle on the table, then went to lay the firewood beside Laures. The man still seemed highly suspicious when he looked over the fair blond, and he glanced toward the kitchenette counter… as if to check if the knife remained there.

Carver tightened his grip. He breathed slowly, focused his mind as his varied thoughts tunneled around the purpose ahead of him. He wanted to stay with Laures. He wanted to be alone with Laures. He wanted to provide him with a safe house of their own…

He would. He would stay with Laures. He would be alone with Laures. He would provide him the house.

No matter the cost.

While the auburn-haired man turned away from him, Carver lifted the axe. He glanced once at Laures, a moment’s eye contact but not long enough to pause nor did he seek permission or agreement for what he was about to do.

Carver swung as hard as he could.

The axe glanced past his aimed mark, swinging in a complete miss along the back of the local’s neck. It whistled through the air, while the stranger turned and realized – with no small amount of shocked confusion – what had just been attempted. Carver swore lowly, but he didn’t hesitate. He swung again. It missed again while the older man backed away. Didn’t matter. He swung again. And again. And again. Every swing missed the mark of flesh, but he wasn’t aiming for it anymore.

Instead, he led the kindly helpful man into the corner of the cottage where there was nowhere else to run or hide. A few woven baskets of herbs and seeds toppled over. So little room to maneuver escape, nowhere to flee, the stranger gave a shout. The axe blade finally made contact with flesh. It lodged deep into the man’s shoulder and… Carver tried to pull it out, but he couldn’t. It’d gotten stuck and he didn’t have the strength to retrieve the blade from the embedded flesh and bone. He swore loudly and slammed his foot into the other man’s stomach. Carver used the impact to pin the human against the wall and with a great heave, tore the axe out from the shoulder. A mess followed behind, splattered and thick and staining his coat.

He swung again, and this time it landed in the desperate defense of a hand in his way. Easily torn out, he swung again… and again… and he felt odd while he did so. Nearly impossible to describe. Blood rushed through his hearing, and he felt tears well up in his dark brown eyes. A couple heavy droplets escaped down his flushed red cheeks, the skin smooth without freckles. Carver had killed so many people in his short life, and he’d never shied away from the loss of blood, or the gore, or the way people shouted or screamed or as this man decided to – whimpered with persistent confusion - so why did this feel any different?

The axe got stuck again. This time, it lodged deep within Robert Arkwright’s face. Carver couldn’t get the blade free, but there was little purpose to do so. The inhabitant wasn’t going to be getting up any time soon… unless he also found a new body, supposed Carver. His fingers ached terribly from having gripped the wooden axe handle so tight. Stretching out his gloved fingers in slow curls, he turned around to find Laures. Fresh blood dripped from his wavy dark blond locks and trickled over his unfamiliar new face. A neutral expression dominated the youthful features, but in his dark tear-lined eyes, troubled agitation presented itself to be openly seen.
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Lars
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Re: [Mature] The Right Words

Third Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720

Whatever Laures had in his mind to do, if he had had any sort of plan at all — Carver was not having it. He could tell already, by the way he stood from his chair without a word, dropping the guise of an injured man immediately. It startled him at first, the older having only made it a few feet away by the time his husband left the chair and came to join him. Or... not, for he continued on, candle in hand, to cross the room and approach what appeared to be a kitchenette. Blue eyes met the stranger's in a shared, uncertain look, and the latter looked away first. What was Carver... doing? He would follow along with whatever his lover wished of course, as he always would, but he would not presume to know what that was just yet. So while the house's owner moved (Carver looked back at him. He noticed the glint of metal in the candle's light, and a knife was set upon the counter. Laures did not react, and his careful expression gave little away, but he was not sure about this plan.) towards another door, Laures took a step back, unsure of what Carver wanted of him. He had said that he did not feel like he could fight. He wanted for the older to do it, then? He could. He did not have the most faith in himself, either, but he could do it for him. He could.

Carver took the stranger's movements as a sign, and his lover disappeared behind the opened door frame. Another glance from the house's owner, but this time, Laures did not meet his gaze, turning his head to look out across the rest of the room... until he heard footsteps following after Carver, delving deeper into the little house. He could hear their voices on the other side of the wall, muffled and barely intelligible to the distracted blond as he crossed the room and grabbed the knife from the counter. Far darker now without the candle's warming light, Laures was endlessly grateful (at the moment) for his new and improved form, knowing all too well that he would not have been able to navigate the darkened room before his bloody death. He had almost forgotten that he had ever been able to function in the darkness at all. To pick out shape and silhouette, to notice movement, and most importantly, to not view the world through an expansive, glassy blur.

The knife was tucked behind his back, beneath his coat. Even through the fabric of his shirt, he could feel the cold metal pressed against his skin, and a shiver ran upward from the spot, tracing his spine and finding a home at the base of his neck. His intact, if a little sore, neck. Laures left the counter then, sparing not another glance through the doorway nor to the corridor beyond, trusting his husband to do whatever he needed to do. Perhaps, he thought, it was not the best idea right now, but the trust was given freely regardless. Careful not to jostle the knife as he moved, the human found the unlit hearth soon enough. It was almost tauntingly cold, despite the protection of his newly-acquired, peculiar clothes, and he would be thankful to have a real fire soon. The fires near the water had been tempting, yes, but the crowds around them, not so much. For as much as Carver wished to be alone with Laures, Laures wanted only to be alone with Carver.

Alone. He pondered the word as he knelt down, gloved hands reaching around on the floor in some attempt to find a tinderbox, or something to burn, or... really anything to distract from the near-crippling absence of his dear beloved. Alone, he thought, and the word only echoed about in his head, unobstructed and unheard. His hand found a little box, and the dwindling contents rattled within. It was not opened before a light caught his attention in the door again, and Laures held back a smile, shy though it might have been, when Carver and the kindly stranger returned.

"We got some wood," informed the resident, lowering said wood onto the floor beside Laures.

"Lovely," said the blond, his tone entirely disinterested. "Help me get i—"

Carver swung at the man, and Laures fell the short distance back and to the floor, surprised by the suddenness of his aggression. He had caught the look, of course, but — he had thought it was a sign, that he needed to — gods, alright. This was fine. This was totally fine. Carver kept swinging at the auburn-haired resident, and kept missing. Laures scrambled to get back up, wincing in pain as the knife pressed against his back at a sharper angle. Nope, no, all fine, it was all fine. He reminded himself of that as he stood and reached back for the blade, fingers gripping tight around the handle... but the younger was still swinging the curious hand axe with reckless abandon, hitting the man when he could and swinging again when he didn't. It was for that reason alone that Laures stayed back rather than engage himself. It took him a little longer than it should have, and he did so with far less practiced hands than normal, but Carver still got the job done.

When his bloodied lover turned around to face him, Laures was still standing by the cold, dark hearth, one hand holding the unused kitchen knife while the other tapped against his thigh. Carver was... crying. Was he crying? Or was it simply a trick of the dim light? Whatever the case, he was shaken, and the older blond dropped the blade where he stood. He approached with open arms, confused about so many impossible, infinite things, but there was one thing he knew for sure: he wanted to help Carver. Soothe him, calm him, praise him, whatever it took to get that distressed, agitated look off of his new face. Uncaring for the blood that would surely stain his clothes, Laures pulled his companion into his arms, nuzzling his cheek against the other's. If Carver seemed... put off somehow, by the sudden bloodshed, Laures only seemed calmer, as if a weight had been taken off of his shoulders.

"That was perfect, love," he murmured, pulling back just enough to look at Carver properly. One hand moved up to rest against his shoulder while the other found his cheek, though it did not linger long, moving instead to push waves of bloody, blond hair back and out of his face. "Now we can... get warm, and..."

...admittedly, he was not sure how to handle his lover's shift in disposition. He wanted to help, but his efforts thus far had not served well. Content to ignore the slaughtered human in the corner, Laures drew in a deep breath, gazing into the unfamiliar dark eyes. Voice soft as ever, he suggested, "let's start the fire then, shall we? And... did you see a bedroom? Maybe we can bring some blankets in here, and we can just... uh, rest a while. I think we need it."

With a small, concerned frown, he added, "I need it, at least. I need you. The rest of it can wait a while."

He did not mention that he was mostly just worried about him, for the rest of it was just as true and, he suspected, far less bothersome to hear. Drawing his hands back to himself, Laures seemed as if he intended on turning around and getting to the task of starting a fire... but he lingered there, hesitant but clearly wanting more. He was just... it was just so strange. He wanted to kiss him again. He wanted to hold him close, like he had not gotten to do in death. And yet as he stood there and stared, his rosy-cheeked shyness got the best of him, and he moved to turn around and find the hearth.
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Carver
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Re: [Mature] The Right Words

Fourth Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720

That was perfect, love.

Carver nearly fell against Laures when the older man pulled him into an embrace. His arms wrapped around the other’s waist, and he clung tightly. As if he never wanted to let go again. He clung so tight, unaware of the slight nick the knife had left in his lover’s back. Tears dried between their nuzzled cheeks. The quietest forced laugh rose from him. He moved only because Laures guided him to do so, to be looked at, and he gazed through the darkness with a hesitant small smile.

He observed while Laures drew in a deep breath, like the so-very-slightly-taller blond needed to gather patience? Was he upset again? Carver tried to figure it out, while he looked at those different yet same features he’d come to love so deeply. The structure remained so similar, no matter the vibrancy of the colors, and he could easily see his soulmate within those steely blue eyes. He nodded in agreement to the suggestion of a fire, and that he saw a bedroom, and also that they needed rest. Though, he didn’t think he needed rest. He only needed to hold Laures more, and… and maybe to figure out what had happened to his body?

“…I need you. The rest of it can wait a while.”

“Yes,” he agreed easily. Carver brought a hand up, as if to…

…but Laures drew his hands away. Hurt hinted through the dark brown eyes, impossible to hide such a fleeting emotional reaction. The sort of hurt that would have hidden far beneath his calloused defenses in his born body, hurt that would have lurked underneath all the bloody layers of his rage and his coarse behaviors to move along without seeming to care in the slightest. He didn’t have any of that, not in these moments, not yet. The abyss he’d fallen into had yet to sink back down to the hidden depths where it belonged. Instead, it flitted upon his surface to be witnessed.

Laures lingered, though. Carver recognized that he hadn’t pulled away out of any repulsion. He couldn’t fault him for feeling confused too, for being scared like he’d already said he was, or for any of it. Laures could feel however he wanted, and Carver would accept him regardless. The younger man gathered Laures’s hand in his own. He lifted it, while he gazed at the stare and the blush, and he kissed the gloved palm. Then he let go and watched as Laures turned around and away from him.

Carver followed, though… No, not followed. He walked past Laures, moving ahead yet again, and he stood in front of the fireplace. Hair still dripping with blood, he stood in front of the hearth and he spoke in a raspy but clear command,
Accende.


Nothing happened.

The hearth remained cold, and dark, and ashen. Carver frowned. He flipped his hair out of his eyes, then smoothed the bangs aside so he could see better. He repeated the word, a bit firmer. Why wasn’t his magic working? This always worked before, where they’d come from. The word should have brought fire to the hearth, and warmth to the room. It was then that Carver lifted his hands, and stared at them, and then glanced at the other man. Yet another difference. One he almost felt embarrassed for. He didn’t mention it though, and instead turned away with a frown.

“I’ll get blankets,” he mumbled, and pulled off his coat while he headed to the bedroom. He threw the coat onto the table, then glanced over at Laures. He hesitated for a few trills, then said in a hoarse but louder voice with clear enunciation, “I… I’m here for you.”

He disappeared into the other room, but he was not gone long. Within a couple bits, he returned with a bundle of blankets and pillows. Carver returned to the space in front of the hearth, and he let the various items fall softly to the floor. He grabbed onto a nearby woven area rug and pulled it over as the base to build from. Carver went to his knees, and he started to gather the blankets to make them a comfortable nest of warmth to share.
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Lars
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Re: [Mature] The Right Words

Fourth Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720

He should have just kissed him. He should have, and he knew it, and now he could not ignore the odd awkwardness that clung to the edges of his mind whenever he was close to Carver. He should have just done it, and gotten the weirdness out of the way, so that he could be rid of it and continue on like normal. He had kissed him on the bridge, after a while of building himself up to do so... but it had been short-lived, and shy, and so different from the kisses he had become so familiar with. Laures didn't... he did not kiss the various men that visited him in search of his services, when he could help it; he had not kissed many people at all in his life, but he had come to need Carver's lips like he needed to breathe. More than he needed to breathe. And yet, here he was, stumbling in his shattered resolve. It was an awkwardness that he was not certain left his thoughts, if it pervaded the rest of the room and, in turn, his lover, or if it was confined to the safe (and yet crumbling) walls so hesitantly built around his heart. He hoped it did not. He hoped Carver could not tell. It was not his fault. It embarrassed the older, to be so genuinely reserved when it came to his own husband. He had nothing to be afraid of, with him. He was just...

Just nervous. Anxious. Like the fluttery, light kind of anxiety, that he had felt so strongly before they really got to know each other. When they had danced, when they had schemed, when they had walked home (only his home, then) under moonlight and finally gave in to the desires buried within them both. It felt like a new light, a new love, a new form to memorize; he was so terribly confused and turned around, but he knew that he wanted that. That he wanted Carver, just as much as he had always wanted him. That he should have kissed him as soon as they had awoken on that unfamiliar sapphire beach, bitter waters and sand be damned — that he should have kept him close, on the bridge, and kissed him until even their gloved fingers were numbed from the cold — that he should have kissed him just now, as he had stared into those expressive brown eyes, and showed him his love rather than simply offer the words. Words were a fine support, he supposed, but did little without proper foundation.

Laures stepped back from the hearth as Carver spoke. The word was familiar... the response was not. The lack of response, more accurately. Carver glanced up at him, and Laures met his eyes, quirking a brow in silent question. There was no reaction from the hearth (nor from any other part of the world around them) when the word was repeated, and upon realizing that it simply would not work, the older stepped closer again. He knelt down on one knee, ignoring the little, stinging pain in his back as he did so. If Carver could not light the fire with his magic, as he had so often done before they ended up... here, then it was not a problem. Laures knew perfectly well how to function without magic. The younger mumbled something about the blankets, to which he replied, just as quiet, "thank you. I'll get this."

He reached for the tinderbox he had dropped, pulling the bundle of firewood closer as well. The shuffling sound of clothes against clothes and his soulmate's quiet voice dragged his attention to the side again, to observe the other man for just a moment. Distraught as he seemed to be, Carver was still trying to comfort him. He nodded, small, and said, "...I know you are."

He could have returned the words, and meant them just as well, but something told him that the younger was not requesting them. Despite the messy state of his emotions (of both of their emotions, really), Carver did not like having to be taken care of. Laures was not entirely sure why, but he knew it to be the truth all the same. So he did not press, and when his companion exited the room to go and fetch the blankets he had requested, the older turned back to finally start the fire. It did not take him too long, once he was able to focus on it. A few more strikes of the match than perhaps necessary before it lit, a few more rearrangements of the tinder and wood as he struggled to keep the flame going... but he managed in the end. The added warmth was already a relief, and as the fire began to spread to the bigger pieces beneath, Laures pushed himself up to stand. His coat was removed as well, even if he thought it likely that he would need it even with the fire, and it was set upon the table with Carver's. Still opting to ignore the dead man in the shadowed corner of the room, he returned to the warming hearth, and waited patiently for his husband's return.

Husband... the word was still so new. So empty to the rest of the world — or at least, to the one they knew — and yet it held more meaning than anything else possibly could, to Laures. It had felt so short-lived. It had felt almost pointless, too, when he realized through the drug-induced haze that his lover sought to kill him. To be killed in return. To... end that union, and in turn, never allow it to be broken. Over, but endless; nonexistent, yet infinite. He had not even realized that Carver had returned, so wrapped up in his thoughts and his vision of the fire before him that he almost jumped when the other man joined him on the floor. Saved from that embarrassment by his calm demeanor alone, he crawled closer to assist in the arrangement of pilfered blankets and pillows. His gloves were removed then, though he did not bother looking at his hands, and he reached out to pull his husband closer. His husband, his love, his everything. His soulmate, no matter what body housed that soul.

"Come here," he murmured, letting go of Carver's arms only to slip his arms around his waist. Laures leaned down and to the side, gently lowering them to lie down against the pillows, and he pulled one of the blankets up and halfway over them as well. A soft, exhausted sigh escaped him, and he nestled in closer, lying on his side with his back to the fire so that he might face Carver instead. Eyes fluttering shut, his hand smoothed over the other's side, and then slipped forward to simply rest his arm over it in a loose hold. Like everything else, it felt different to lie against him now. He was not sure if his own body had changed so drastically, but it felt like... like cuddling a different person, like lying next to a stranger. He pushed through the discomfort and focused on the man underneath it. The soul. The rest of it would fall into place, he was sure.

His hold around Carver tightened as he hugged him close, and only lessened when steel-blue eyes flicked open again, to gaze upon the soul's new face.

"I love you," said Laures, "I tried to tell you again."

I choked instead. I drowned in the words.

"I just wanted to tell you again: I love you. And whatever we are now... I love you still. I always will."
word count: 1301
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