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3rd Watch, In Which Drax and Elle Have Feelings

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3rd Watch, In Which Drax and Elle Have Feelings

Post  TRU on Fri May 26, 2017 8:44 pm

Abadius 2nd, 4715

Early Morning

Lady's Light


Elle waited until Pyraxis' breathing slowed into that tell tale rhythm of slumber before waking her watch partner. With Penny gone Elle had assumed she would be taking her watches alone. The idea hadn't really bothered her at first, but with the blood of their foe spilled all over the floor, and recent events being what they were, Elle was thankful Drax had volunteered to take Penny's place.

Now she needed to rouse him without causing a ruckus, or burning her hands. Suddenly an idea so simple hit her she wondered why she hadn't thought of it before. Summoning the mage hand from around her neck Elle caused the ghostly appendage to grab Drax by the shoulder and shake.

"Hey Drax, it's time to do the watching thing... As ol' grandaddy would say, 'up, up!'"
*****************************
The demonic fire wielder groaned lightly as his shoulder was shaken.  Watch already?  Wasn't his watch....He sighed, he had volunteered to help Elle with the watches since her sister had been transferred.  His eyes opened expecting to see the young former half elf shaking his shoulder.  Instead he saw her standing a little ways away, hand outstretched as if she was the one shaking him.

"I'm up, I'm up." he looked at her curiously as he sat up, his sleeping bag opening.  The man stretched, his long hair falling across his face, blurring his vision for a second before he was able to brush it off his forehead. Once up he immediately yawned, "Excuse me."  His lips turning into a small grin as he came to stand next to her, "Sorry, still not used to getting up this early.  So how did you do that, shaking me thing from over there?:"  One hand ran through his dark hair, as blinking he looked around the room.   He turned back to her, his eyes twinkling in mirth, "Ol grandaddy?"
*****************************
"You know who I mean." Elle smirked as something caught her attention. She reached down to grab the illuminated wayfinder sitting on the floor at her feet. The bottom of the device felt slightly sticky. She ran her finger across the spot and then lifted it up to her nose. Iron, rust, and a hint of sweet. Shining the light on her finger confirmed her speculation. Old coagulated blood. With whispered chastisement for her carelessness, she stepped over a few feet and sat down on her own bedroll.

"You're not the only one who finds the use of pseudonyms entertaining. It's just that mine don't usually stick..." Elle pulled a handkerchief and a waterskin out of her haversack and started cleaning the wayfinder.

"Mage hand, since you asked." She said, abruptly switching subjects. "I have that necklace, you remember? The dead elf hand with a penchant for second base?" She pulled the mummified hand out from the neck of her shirt.

"I thought it might save me a blister or two. If I were a healer, I'd say you really ought to get that fever checked," she joked with a straight face.
*****************************
He simply looked at her, blinking a few times before laughing softly.  "Yeah, I guess you could say I'm burning for my enemies,"  he deadpanned.  "You know, I turn it off when I sleep."  He knelt down next to her, taking another quick look around the room before focusing on her wayfinder.  "You know how hard I sometimes sleep, and I don't want anyone trying to wake me to get hurt."  He smirked lightly.  "What happened to it?"

As he knelt near her he took from his pouch a small pack of dried jerky, applewood smoked this time and handed the bag to her, offering some.

*****************************
Wiping a hand off on her pants Elle reached over and took a piece of the dried meat Drax was offering.

"Apparently I set it in some blood. It's still fresh enough to get all over the place." Elle glanced at the body lying in the corner. "Should have known better than to try and sweet talk that scoundrel. There was no way we were avoiding a fight with one of the Light's guardians.The percentage of my persuasion actually working is low. I will never be Penny. Her people skills are remarkable.

"You know I'm not mad at you, right?"
*****************************
"Oh?" he looked over at her, glancing at her then down at wayfinder.  "I know....and...you were right at the time too."  He shrugged lightly, looking around.  "My anger is....seemingly always simmering lately."  

He sighed lightly, "I apologize.  You were not wrong to try and talk to the man, and I, I spoke again."  He grinned at her slightly, "And you think your skills with people are bad?"

He took a piece of the meat from the bag, chewing it lightly as he walked around the room.  As he swallowed, he ran a hand through his hair briefly exposing his horns before his bangs fell back over them.  He turned back towards her, speaking softly.

"You know, you underestimate your abilities.  You've always had a way with people, and you are far better at it than I am."

He shrugged, "At least that's my opinion."

*****************************
"Well, your people skills are legendary. Legendarily terrible! Your influence makes people want to beat you." Elle chuckled. She inspected her work cleaning the wayfinder.

"I think this is as good as it's going to get with what I have to work with." She pointed the light over Drax's shoulder, and in very a professional tone asked, "Come closer and look into the light, please."
*****************************
As she spoke the tiefling flinched.  While probably true her words did sting.  He sighed, his shoulders dropping slightly as he continued to look around, his darkvision suddenly being impaired by the bright flash from the wayfinder.

"I think I'll keep my eyesight, thanks" he replied to her asking him to look into the light.   "Am, am I really that bad?"

*****************************
"Oh, you're bad. Really bad." Elle continued as if the subject were as inconsequential as a moldy piece of cheese, or a broken chair. She was completely oblivious to Drax's discomfort. "You have your moments, glimmers of common societal tact. But then, you know the saying right? 'Even a blind squirrel finds a nut'.

"Now would you humor me for a moment?" Elle wiggled the wayfinder causing the light to bounce up and down. Her voice took on an exasperated tone. "I'm not trying to blind you. Just come closer and look into the light!"

*****************************
He shrugged, "Fine, at least I can be good for something."

He turned back to her fully stepping into the light. "What exactly are you doing?"

*****************************
Elle watched with focused curiosity as she motioned Drax to stop less than an arm's length away. She stared at the contracted pupils of his yellow eyes for a moment.

"Feline." She marveled before finally lowering the light. "I never knew. Is that a common racial trait?"

Then a trigger went off in her head. It was what Drax had just said, '...at least I can be good for something.' The words were not the trigger, as much as the way he had said them. Her mind immediately associated this with the moment she had with Pyraxis a few hours before. 'That's because you think I'm a monster,' had been the oread's words. They had been vehement, pointed, and sad. It was the same sadness she noticed in the friend standing before her. Sadness directed at her. The situation with Pyraxis had been easy to understand. He had told her point blank why he was upset. But Drax's words were not so crystalline.

Elle let out a sigh of disappointment. "I have upset you. Seems to be a running theme today. First Pyraxis, now you. Would you please do me a favor and tell me how I have managed to do so?"

*****************************
He shook his head, dismissing the question initially. "No, I'm fine, it's noth.....wait," he tilted his head towards her, "What happened with Pyraxis?"

While his tone started out as if it was an inevitability, it quickly changed to one of concern as he questioned her about Pyraxis.  Before she could speak his eyes turned towards the sleeping rock man.  How could she have possibly upset the stoic and strong guy who had once (and yes it still impressed him) spun kicked a dinosaur?
*****************************
Elle narrowed her eyes at Drax in confusion. She couldn't understand why he was dodging her question, or why it left her feeling so let down. The depth of their relationship was something she was not used to. In fact, all of the relationships within the Vanguard were new to her. She had come to define friendship as a light, flattering, frivolous thing based on shared commonalities. Status, and certain level of diversion also played huge roles in friendship. Her relationships with each member of the Wayfarer Vanguard were challenging her perspective however. At first she thought the relationships within the Vanguard would be that akin to business partners, with the exception of her sister, Penny.  And yet something about fighting shoulder to shoulder in order to survive, seeing so much blood (much of it their own), and having to bring each other back from the brink of death or worse brought about stronger bonds than mere partnership.

There was a loyalty like none other Elle had ever felt between them all, tenacious despite their many uncertain situations. But there was also the occasional frustration of unmet expectations. The juxtaposition of these two feelings mystified her. Admittedly she was floundering trying to navigate these new kinds of relationships. She would have to lean on an old tried and true method. Experimentation with subsequent observation followed by hypothesis. Somehow she thought swimming up stream in a strong current would be easier.

"Okay," she shrugged. "If that's the way you want it... okay.

"Pyraxis made a comment earlier that surprised me. He said that I thought of him as a monster. I see how he came to that conclusion, though I thought he had understood it was a joke." Elle shook her head. "I had no idea it had been bothering him all this time."
*****************************
"No...it's not......"

He sighed, it appeared his words had caused some discomfort to her and he wanted to explain himself, but finding those words was nigh impossible it seemed.  So he continued as best he could, "I can see how that would happen." he spoke slowly, trying not to upset her anymore, "Sometimes, it's hard to tell between your joking and your seriousness."  He sounded almost sad.

He sank to his haunches, kneeling down beneath her wayfinder's light, his pupils widening in the sudden darkness.  He couldn't explain it but for some reason, her being upset bothered him.  Him!   He was used to harsh words, harsh actions against him and his infernal heritage.  He would get over it as he always did, but seeing her upset by something someone said, him and or Pyraxis, was bothering him.

"No, I'm.....I'm fine.  You didn't say anything that wasn't true so you shouldn't have to worry about.  ‘Specially about me."  He turned to her, giving her a lopsided grin in the dim light. "I trust you and Pyraxis got everything sorted out?"
*****************************
"Yeah, I think Pyraxis and I are alright now. I talked to him just before we changed watch." Elle shrugged. "The problem with the rock man is that you never know what he is thinking until it crosses his lips. And that occurrence is rare. Wall of stone, that one.

"I don't think I've ever had this problem before. My old friends always laughed at my jokes." Elle leaned back on her hands and stared absently at the wall across the room. "I don't get it. You laugh at yourself, but when I join in you complain, loudly.

"It's the beating thing, isn't it?!" She looked at Drax, the realization washing over her face. "You made it a joke when you told us about how the priests of Iomedae used to beat you. But it's not really a joke, is it.

"Aww, jeez Drax. Talk about not being able to tell the difference between a joke and being serious. What the heck, man?!"
*****************************
Words were once again escaping him so he did the only thing he could think of. He took off his shirt showing her his back. Crisscrossing the entirety of his skin were old scars, some so old they were obviously from when he was a child.  Barely a spot on his back wasn't marred in some way.

"I joke sometimes to cover it but no, I wasn't kidding about that."  

He shrugged his shirt back down, resecuring his armor. It was subtle but the mysterious item was definitely becoming more demonic looking. Or maybe it was just him over reacting.

When he spoke again his words were quiet. "My whole life I've been told I'm worthless, a freak.  Even after I left the temple I was more often treated as a sideshow attraction." He shrugged continuing, not sure why but unable to stop now, "Even those that expressed interest in me as a member of the opposite sex were only using me to get back at daddy or a novelty"

He still could not meet her gaze, instead focusing on the small fire he generated in his slowly swishing tail. "It wasn't until I met you all that I found people who mostly accepted me for who I was."  

His voice trailed off, he knew this conversation was leading and he didn't want to go there. Not now. Not when he had already caused some discomfort.
*****************************
Elle stared at the multitude of scares that etched a map of suffering across her friend's back. Pain layered upon pain, the knotted skin pulled taught over a tense, sinewy back. A sharp intake of breath escaped her lips. Something stirred deep down inside her as she reached out to touch the angry marks. But she was too late, Drax was already pulling his shirt back over his strapping shoulders.

There was a silence as Elle recalled everything she had teased Drax about since the day they had met. Every joke hung in the air before her accusing her of guilt she now knew she deserved. She had to own it. She had to make it right. Nothing else would do.

"I'm so sorry Drax." She whispered. Even though they were right, the words were hard to say. "I've... I've made a fool of myself, and I've hurt you in the process. Not just once... countless times! I never knew... I never expect this. I only wanted to make everyone laugh, and that included you."

The moment was fragile. She could feel it and she didn't want to do anything to harm it. Drax had been there so much lately when she had needed him. Now it was her turn, and she would not mess this up. Think like Penny, she told herself. What would my sister do? She leaned forward, seeking out his eyes, wishing he would look at her.

"You are not a freak." She said as carefully and as kindly as she could. "You are Draxthious, chief of the flame, chef extraordinaire, seeker of justice for the oppressed... and most importantly, you are my friend. You have been my rock these last few days. Thank you. After everything I've done to you, I don't deserve it."  
*****************************
He finally did turn toward her, shaking his head before meeting her gaze.  "You do not have to apologize."  He smiled sadly, "I am not worth the accord, but I appreciate the gesture."

His eyes blinked slowly, her green eyes sparkling but he found himself missing her old eyes.  A soft brown that reflected mirth and curiosity.  He mentally shrugged, they wouldn't be coming back.  He himself had seen to that.  At her request true but still.  

"How could you have known.  I speak of it rarely and when I do I say so teasingly"  He head hung slightly in-an emotion he was not used to sharing-sadness.  "Cooking was my solace, you know.  My way of dealing with the beatings, the abuse both verbal and physical.  If I could make something, something they enjoyed eating, maybe it wouldn't hurt as much."  He broke her gaze then, looking up and away slightly, "And it worked. For a time.  The beatings were less but in return more was expected of me."  He turns back towards her, a small smirk on his lips.  "No one else knows this much.  I've barely spoken of it, even to Colin when he and I shared a room back in Absalom."

He sat fully on his tailed butt, his back against the wall.  "No, you don't owe me anything, hon.  And do not worry, I'm not going anywhere.  If you need a rock, then a rock I shall be."  He shrugged, "I don't know how well I'll do, or even if I'll be able to help but....."   His tail swished behind him slowly, running along the floor.  Unnoticed to him the ground was cracking under his tail.  It was small, but visible if looked for.
*****************************
There they were again, those golden feline eyes. How she had missed them all this time she never knew. Maybe her eyesight had become worse than she thought in the old body. Thank to gods for this new pair, even if they did formerly belong to the runelord of lust. Drax's eyes were breathtaking.

The sound of rushing water flooded her head. Elle was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling she thought she had long forgotten. How could this be? Here? Now? Impossible! And yet here it was. Affection. No, her body must be betraying her. There was no way she was falling for anyone. This was something she was incapable of doing. She had sealed her heart away, walling it off from further hurt. All that was left of her heart were broken pieces anyway. Drax deserved more than that.

How thankful Elle was when Drax looked away. She was sure her eyes were giving away tell tale signs of the cacophony going on inside. She squeezed them shut in an attempt to get a hold of herself. Her gratefulness quickly turned into disappointment, than annoyance as she listened to Drax's words. On one hand, she was glad he felt like he could trust her with these very fragile things, but on the other hand she was offended that he would not accept her apology.

Her stomach started to twist. "Don't," she said, shaking her head, eyes still shut. "Don't do this..."
*****************************
He snapped his head back to her, concern and worry on his face and in his eyes.  "Elle?  What's wrong?"  He turned his body towards her, leaning forward slightly, "What's wrong?  What did I do?"
*****************************
"This!" Elle thrust her hands in front of her, opening her clear green eyes again. "This thing you do... making me mad at you! Things have been so good lately! We've been getting along more and more, and I've been getting mad less and less. Sure there was the thing with the witch... and then that guy over there," she gestured to the body in the corner as the words came tumbling out of her mouth. "But those were nothing, minor infractions.

"And then, here we are, opening up, and being all honest and junk. I meant the words that I said, Drax! I meant it! That I'm sorry, that you are worth more... Why did you have to go and sweep all that under the rug? Like my words don't even matter? Do you not trust me either?"

She paused for a moment to take a breath. Starting again in a slower, more even tone she said, "Maybe we should go back to lying to each other, saying everything is fine when it's not. It might not hurt so much."
*****************************
His eyes widened, his mouth opening and closing without talking.  After a few seconds he was finally able to find his voice, "What...no....no I wasn't...I didn't...."  He spun around, standing up and punched the wall, small cracks appearing on both it and his hand.

"Why do I have to screw everything over?" he asked through pain clenched teeth.  "I know you meant the words," he whispered, "and that you would apologize to me and mean it is amazing to me like you would never know."  He turned back to her, his eyes clear but hurting.  "I trust you, of course I trust you."  He shakes his head.  "I don't want you to be upset at me. I don't want to lie to you, I never want to lie to you."  He laid his head back on his shoulders looking up at the ceiling.

"I'm not used to kind words."  he sighed heavily, "I don't know how to take compliments on anything other than my cooking.  My first reaction is to dismiss it or push it away.  I am sorry.  I don't know… I don't know what I can say."  he turns his back to the wall, leaning against it before sliding down.   "I… I'm sorry.   I can honestly say you are the person in this group I trust the most.  I screw things up, apparently.  I don't mean to, at all.  Especially not with you."  He looked at her, his eyes weary and sad.  "I mean it when I say your words meant something to me.  I truly do.  And I'm sorry I didn't know how to… to respond in that situation.  Please don't be mad.  Please?"

*****************************
Returning his gaze Elle chuckled lightly. "How could I be mad after an apology like that? Going all Rockman on the wall, even..." His eyes were so sad. She wanted to make him smile again. But not at the expense of betraying his vulnerability. She swallowed hard, trying to will her heart to crawl down out of her throat into it's rightful place in her chest.

"Here," She gestured for his wounded hand before retrieving a bulky parcel from her haversack. "Let me see your hand. I can at least put a bandage on it." After unwinding the string that held it together she unrolled the parcel revealing a wad of fresh white linens, a few little pots, and a set of tweezers. Elle lined everything up in the exact order she would need them. Then she unfolded the linen and after eyeing the size of his hand tore a strip off for the bandage.

"I don't want to be mad at you either. But there are moments. The way you..." Elle stopped. She was going to finish by saying, 'make me feel' but the words stuck in her throat. Damn this body! She needed to get herself together. This was not the time or the place to fall apart.

"It's just," she tried to salvage her thought, "the way you react to things sometimes... I get annoyed and I just don't know what to do with you." She chuckled again.

"Thank you for hearing me, for trusting me. I needed it. Today has been the closest I've been to hell in a while." Elle sighed heavily. All the wariness was beginning to weigh on her. All her cracks and tears could feel the strain. She sat there hunched over as if the weight was literally resting on her shoulders. A sudden fit of giggles hit her as she realized what she just said. Hanging her head, she gave herself over to the mirth, black hair tumbling over her face as her shoulders silently shook. This went on for several seconds before she threw her head back and a peal of laughter filled the room.

"I... I'm sorry," she gasped, trying to catch her breath, "I... I don't mean... any disrespect... to... to your, you know." Elle swallowed back the laughter for a moment, still grinning like mad. "Your heritage. I really, oh... I'm really not making fun of that. It's just, well, I died today!" A string of giggles freed themselves from her lips. "'...the closest I've been to hell...'! It's just too much!"

*****************************
He had sat there, allowing her to wrap his hand which, he suddenly realized, hurt.  A lot.

"No, it's… are you alright?"  When she had first hung her head he had reached out his hand. He wasn't sure why or what he was doing he only knew when she was upset, his heart cried.  When she started laughing however, he became startled, sitting back.

“I… no, I know you aren't making fun of my heritage..."   He leaned closer, his eyes wide with concern though her laughter was contagious and his lips were fighting the grin threatening to grow there.  He was a little worried her laughing would wake the others, but… Cayden damn it, when she smiled, it made him want to smile.

He allowed himself a couple chuckles until he realized what she said.  She died.  She died!  And all his laughter and mirth left him.  Draxthious sat himself fully on the ground as he finally figured out where his anger came from.  It was always there, a part of his heritage as it were, but when she died… that was when it finally boiled over.  And why it was still there, simmering under the barely secured lid.  She Died!  He almost lost her forever and why did that bother him so much.  Drax shook his head, he knew why it bothered him, but his mind refused to acknowledge it.  As if even thinking about it would make it true, and by not thinking about it he could prevent it from being true but… oh by the infernal, he liked her.  He thought it and he realized it was true.  He couldn't figure out when it started but it was there.  He was developing feelings for her.  

His eyes wide, staring off into nothing as he tried to process these thoughts, Drax flexed his newly bandaged hand, the pain helping him focus.  He turned back to her, a soft smile on his lips as he watched her mirth.  What in the abyss was he going to do now?

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Part 2

Post  TRU on Fri May 26, 2017 10:06 pm

*****************************
Elle's laughter slowly ebbed into a bubbly pool of smiles and giggles. The tensions that had been building, threatening to break her had been driven back behind the treeline. It was the best she had felt in weeks. No drugs, no drought, no alcohol. Just pure unadulterated laughter. And the greatest part about it was Drax's smile.

"Oh man," she sighed happily, "I needed that. Nothing like a good pun about one's demise to lighten the mood! I'm sure Groetus would be delighted at my humor this evening. Too bad Jasper had to miss it."

Letting her eyes rest on Drax's face a moment longer, Elle tried to puzzle what might be going on in his head. As pleased as she was to see his smile, the shocked look in his eye confused her. One thing she knew, the nervous fluttering and pounding in her chest seemed to have stopped. She felt at ease in his presence again.

"All jokes aside, though, this last day or so has been rough." Elle's voice got serious. She looked down at the linen and pots before her, suddenly relieved that she had something to put away. She tucked a dark lock of hair behind her ears, then started to pack things back up. "It has been horrifying, and confusing, and... I don't know. All I want to do is get out of here and go home. But I can't leave you guys, and I couldn't disappoint Penny, so I'm doing my best to just survive."

Her words sounded more desperate than she meant them to, but they were earnest. "One thing is for sure." Elle smirked, peeking mischievously at Drax. "When I get back to Magnimar I'm going to have to beat the boys off with a stick! My mother will be so proud."

*****************************
Drax's grin widened slightly, "Anyone tries to touch you, they will have to go through me first." he chuckled lightly, a sudden sharp pain of… was that jealousy?   No matter, he knew her.  He knew no matter how many suitors came she wouldn't be interested.  Idly a thought came into his head, 'I wonder if she would ever be interested in someone like me'  and as soon as it came, it was quickly dashed.  A pipe dream to be sure.  There was no way someone as wonderful as her, especially in her new body, would settle for something like him.

His smile remained though his eyes turned serious, "I can't even begin to imagine what these days have been like for you. But if I can help, in any way, I'll be here for you.  No matter what."  His hand reached out then, his flames extinguishing as he grasped her shoulder, squeezing comfortingly before sitting back-though closer to her now.  When he realized how close he was it took a great effort not to scooch further away.  Not because he didn't want to be near her, but because he wanted to be closer.  And closer to her brought pleasurable pain.

It was going to be difficult being near her but he meant his words.  He would be there for her no matter what.  Even if it meant he suffer for it.  Suddenly a new thought came unbidden to him though this one wasn't as unpleasant for him.  He wondered instead, if her new body would like his cooking still.  At that thought his eyes softened and a small twinkle of joy sparked in them before he smiled at her and changed the topic, at least away from his thoughts.

"I'd like to meet her, if I could,"  he said softly. "Your mother I mean.  Though I understand if you would rather go to her yourself.  I'm sure you will both need some time together to get used to the changes, but..." he shrugged, "If you want me to, I'll go with you."


*****************************
Drax's touch sent shivers thrilling up her spine.  When he pulled his hand away she felt cold, and inordinately sad. She tugged the blanket she was sitting on out from under her, wrapping it around her shoulders for warmth.

"Yeah," Elle nodded, assenting to his request. "I would like that very much." She blinked in bewilderment. Her brain tried to work out all the scenarios at once of how she might break the news to her mother. The end results were disheartening.

"I don't have a clue how I'm going to tell her what happened. 'Hey momma, I died under the Lady's Light and came back as Sorshen, Runelord of Lust, embodiment of desire to all who breathe...'" Elle rolled her eyes. "Yeah, that's going to go over well."

She arched her eyebrows at Drax with playful seriousness. "But when I take you to meet her you have to promise me that you won't fall in love with her. My mother's beauty knows no bounds. Men tend to make fools of themselves around her. Besides, she's way too old for you."

*****************************
His smile was warm, though a little sad.  "I don't think it's possible for me to fall in love with your mother."  He sighed lightly. "Though I promise, I will not. And I know you have often hailed her beauty, but I have a feeling you are more beautiful than her, and even were befo..." he stopped suddenly, coughing lightly.

Drax's hand reached out, grabbing the pouch of jerky and offering it to her. "Snack?  I'm curious how it tastes to you now that you can smell again."  He smiled warmly, genuinely as his eyes shone in the light reflected from her wayfinder.

*****************************

Elle squinted at the tiefling. The way he had cut himself off before finishing what he was saying caught her attention. Previously Elle would have seized this opportunity to tease Drax with a real zinger, but in light of their conversation she held herself back. As much fun as it was to watch him squirm, she would much rather see him smile.

"Right!" Elle exclaimed at the offer of food. "I had one here somewhere. Pretty sure I didn't eat it, on account of cleaning my wayfinder..." She felt around her space for a moment before finding the hunk of dried meat nestled under her right knee.

"Aha!" her triumph was gleeful as she popped the jerky into her mouth. Biting into the meat caused an explosion of flavor in her mouth unlike any Elle ever remembered.

"Mmm!" she asserted, nodding with grave appreciation.

"Mmmmhmmm," she hummed, letting her eyes close as she concentrated on the unique aspects of each taste.

"Mmmmmmmmmmmm..." her face softened into a pleased smile. The tension in her shoulders melted away as she relaxed further into her blanket. Her closed eyes looking so serene were the only thing visible above the edge of the blanket.

"Can I have another one?" she whispered cutely, her muffled voice quivering with excitement. A dainty white hand shot out from between the folds and grabbed at the air in a blind search for more.

*****************************
Peals of laughter, joyous in sound, echoed from the tieflings mouth. Without thinking he took her hand, guiding it and the bag together.  Once she had a hold of her bag of jerky he realized what he was doing and released her hand, turning his head away slightly, a light warm flush crossing his cheeks.  Oh geez, here he was acting like young girl from those novels from Colin's homeland.

"Ahh, You can have as much as you want."  He chuckled lightly as his face turned back to her, his smile wide and genuine.  "If you want I'll cook you whatever you desire when we get home."

*****************************
"You know what I want you to make?" Elle asked wistfully. "Chowder. The subtly of cream and seafood have long been lost to my palette. I've always loved the texture of clams, though."

She tore off a smaller chunk of jerky instead of popping a whole piece in her mouth this time. "What is that... that sweetness?" She asked after a moment of savoring.

*****************************
"I can do that.  I haven't done chowder in… quite a while." he chuckled, running a hand through his dark hair.  One of his horns exposed briefly as his hand passed by it.  

"That would be the apple wood smoke.  You have to dry the meat in a fire prepared with apple wood-kept fresh and burning for hours.  As the meat dries the smoke seeps into it, infusing the jerky with a sweet undertone the compliments the rest of the spices."  His grin turned sheepish, "Sorry, I'm sure you don't want to know the secrets of cooking.  It's fun for me but..." He shrugged  "Like I said, it was my solace when I was younger."

He looked at her and as he did, his smile softened.  His eyes very briefly showed his affection for her as to him, she looked absolutely radiant in the light from the wayfinder.  Realizing he might be starting to stare he coughed lightly, his face returning to his normal masked smile.

"So um, how did you get into Alchemy?"  He asked, curious and wanting to more about her.

*****************************
“I have Telwin to thank for that.” Elle sat up, straightening her shoulders once again. “I don’t know if you remember the aging half-elf I work for occasionally, when I’m not neck deep in research and retrieval. Telwin is an extraordinary herbalist and he owns a shop in Grand Arch. He’s also a bit of an amature alchemist. He’s been friends with my momma for a long, long time. I mean, really long.” Elle arched her eyebrows for emphasis. “Apparently his daddy knew Colin back in the day, if that gives you perspective.” She grinned and then continued on.

“It really started after the incident,” the smile slipped away from her face as she said this. Her forehead creased and her voice lost it’s playfulness, becoming pensive and detached.

“I don’t remember a lot about that time, but momma said I became pretty listless and despondent. She was worried about me and when Uncle Telwin told her he had an idea she jumped at it. So he took me in for a week and just read to me. Chemistry and Alchemy were my favorite things to hear about, I guess. Uncle Telwin likes to say I lapped it up, like a stray cat after a bowl of warm milk.” Elle smiled slightly at the memory, though deeper pain hid behind her eyes. She cleared her throat trying to chase the dismal memories away.

“I remember reading, always reading. Uncle Telwin lent me his books after our week together. Momma used to catch me very late at night reading with a candle, and she’d threaten to take the books away so that I would get some sleep. But I continued doing it, and she never took them away. I should have listened. I nearly ruined my eyes with all that night reading.  When I knew Telwin’s books by heart I begged him for more. Then he taught me how to run experiments and follow rudimentary recipes… and I never quit.”

*****************************
He saw the pain in her eyes as she spoke, it first appearing when she spoke of the 'incident'.  He immediately cursed himself for an idiot.  He should have realized that that time probably had a part in why she studied what she did.  Drax shook his head, sighing to himself.  He wanted to know more about her.  Hell, he wanted to know everything about her, but asking such a simple seeming question made her remember a time he knew she would rather forget.

He slowly, his hand hesitating occasionally placed it on her shoulder and squeezed in what he hoped was a comforting gesture.  "I'm sure I'm going to screw this up.  I'm almost as bad at giving out compliments as I am at receiving them, but."  He smiled, warm and soft, "But has anyone ever told you that you are as smart as you are now beautiful?"  

His eyes widened as he realized how that phrase could be taken and he pulled his hand back, a slight panic in his voice. "Not that you weren't beautiful before, you were, you really were I mean...."  He sighed, his hands collapsing onto his lap.  "See, just as bad as giving as at getting."

*****************************
"I... no... wait, what?" Elle stared at Drax flabbergasted. He had complimented her! He had never done that before. And he just did it out of nowhere! What in the world was going on? Was the Lady's Light messing with his head now? Blast this place! And yet, she could see by his earnest eyes and defeated posture that, though he was clumsy, he was also very sincere.

"I, uh," she started again, still not quite finding the words. Her heart sank. What if Drax fancied himself in love with her? Whew. She had no clue what to do if that were true. Just the thought scared her so much that she wanted to retreat behind the walls she had built to surround her heart. Being with Drax had felt so comfortable lately, until now.

"Wow, Drax," she finally spoke, her voice edged with sarcasm. "You sure do know how to make a girl blush! What was that for?"

*****************************
Drax's shoulders drooped as he leaned back, his smile fading.  "I screwed up again, didn't I?"  He sighed, turning away and standing up.

"I was genuinely curious about how you got into Alchemy. But… my question caused you to remember something painful.  When I saw that, I just… I mean we've been getting along really well lately… and I just… wanted to..." He trailed off, sighing again,with frustrated hand gestures.  "I've always knew you were smart.  I've never told you.  I thought maybe, if I mention it now it would bring a smile to you.  I'm sorry." he grinned ruefully at himself.  "Lesson learned."

*****************************
As soon as the words had left her mouth, Elle knew what a mistake she had made. It was her fault this got screwed up, she wanted to scream. She was the problem. Nothing he had said had been wrong. It was just the memories, another pair of smiling eyes that tore at her. She wished she could say this to him, but the fear of love kept the words at bay.

She wondered if her fear was a mistake. They had just agreed to be honest with one another, and the last thing wanted to do right now was fight. Not today, not with Drax. She was tired of fighting. And yet here she was, at war with herself. Her fear told her to run away and hide behind behind her walls of indifference where it was safe. But there was another desire urging her to trust Drax, to let him be her wall of safety. To let him be her rock despite his rough edges. As the battle raged, Elle decided it was time to change sides.

It was time to stop lying.

"Drax," she said, her voice both serious and soft. She waited for him to stop fidgeting and look at her again. "Drax, I'm sorry... I shouldn't have... You didn't do anything wrong." Her voice quavered, and she knew she was reaching her tipping point.

"Drax, I am a broken mess. I have been for a while. And it's not because of anything you have done. Like you, I try to hide my pain with a joke, only worse, because my jokes... hurt..."

Then a rare thing happened. As she realized the truth of her own selfish mechanism of deflection, a single tear rolled down her cheek.

"I'm sorry..."

*****************************
He had turned back to her when he heard her call his name.  He faced her, his face sad, but as she spoke, another couple of emotions crossed his demonic features.  Understanding and worry.  He knew where she came from, though their experiences were different his past was full of pain as well. And here she was, really opening up to him.

When he saw that one tear fall from her eye it was as if his heart had been torn in half.  He knew some of the story of her past but this, seeing her open and vulnerable, it only made him want to care for and protect her more.

"You are an idiot Drax." he whispered.  He walked quickly back to where she was, dropping down to his knees next to her.  "I am going to do something." he said, his voice calm yet brooking no argument. "You are going to let me do it."

As the young tiefling said this his hands slowly came to rest on her shoulders. Gently he pulled her head into his shoulder, his arm wrapped around her protectively and comfortingly.

"If you need to cry, if you need to vent, if you need to hit something, I am here.  We have both been through so much, seen more than our share of pain."  his words held conviction, strength. He couldn't tell where the strength came from only that if she needed it, he could and would be immovable as the mountain.  

"I'm an idiot and my only, only redeeming quality is I'm a great cook.  But if you need anything at all, I will be here."
*****************************
Elle didn't put up a struggle as the tiefling wrapped his arms around her. His embrace was gentle and sure. It felt warm and reassuring, and part of her never wanted to leave it. Two more tears ran down her cheeks as Elle took in a shuddering deep breath.

"I don't think I can do this right now, Drax," she whispered. "I'm afraid if I cry, really cry, I'll never stop. And I have to keep it together, somehow, until we get the shard and get out of here. I can't fall apart on you guys. It wouldn't be fair." She slipped her arm between them and brushed the tears from her cheeks. "Just give me a couple more minutes, and I'll be okay."

Elle rested her head on Drax's shoulder a moment longer. Taking a few more deep breaths, slow and steady, she drew strength from him before finally, gently but firmly, pulling away.

"We're quite a pair, you and I." She smiled weakly, barely daring to look up at his face again. "So much brokenness... some might find us pitiful, but I kinda think we fit."

*****************************
Draxthious did something then he had rarely done before and never when anyone could see him.  He blushed. His cheeks darkened noticeably as all the myriad meanings of her last few words flew through his head.

He finally chuckled lightly. "Yeah, we do fit don't we," he smiled warmly at her.

Then his face got serious as another thought intruded. "If you want, I will hold you while cry, when ever you ask me to. However I think we should wait until after I have been cleansed of the stones influence."

He took a deep breath. This was a fear he had been having for some time now and she needed to know.

"I don't know what will happen once I get the stone. I know it will change me and I'm honestly scared. Scared I will do or say something that will push you away from me." His eyes looked really sad then as he continued, "Please, don't hate me for what I may do."

*****************************
"I know what it's like to under the shard's influence." Elle said, noting the deep flush of Drax's cheeks. She couldn't remember ever seeing him blush before. That was something to file away for later.

"I know that no matter what you do or say, good, bad, or otherwise, it all feels right. Like you are completely justified. Even after the curse goes away, you never have any guilt over what you did. Are you going to be okay with that?"
*****************************
Drax shrugged.  "I have to be, I'm just… I'm worried I'm going to mess up..." he shrugged again, his hands motioning around them, "whatever this is.  I don't want to push you away and I'm afraid that what I say or do while under the influence will… make you see me differently."

He ran a hand through his hair again, the dark locks falling easily around his shoulders.  "Am I explaining it well enough?" he asked sheepishly.
*****************************
"That's just it, though," Elle's brow was pinched in an expression of serious concern. "Once you are cursed you won't care what you mess up anymore. You won't even care afterwards, even if you cause someone pain. I don't know how well you could deal with that.

"And I hear what you are saying," Elle picked at the corner of her blanket. It hung rakishly off of one of her shoulders, the other side having slipped off when Drax had held her in his strapping arms. "I don't want to see you differently either. I like this. Us. Not clashing, but understanding." She let out a mirthless chuckle. "We don't seem to need any help messing it up, though. I mean look at tonight...

“Are you sure you want to take this shard?"

*****************************
A quick shake of his head started his answer. "I don't know anymore."  

Drax sighed, "My nature says yes, take the stone, it's your birthright."  His eyes softened as he looked at her, "But something that seems to be stronger yet is telling me, don't. Take the stone after the curse has been broken.

"This, tonight, what's going on right now?" his eyes gazed at her almost a if he could see into her soul. "I would do anything to not destroy this. Even if that means giving up whatever birthright I've got."

*****************************
"Birthright?" Elle asked with acute curiosity. Both times that they had talked as a group about who would take the shard of lust Drax had never mentioned a birthright.

"How do you mean?"
*****************************
His eyes unfocused, his gaze settling on nothing as he spoke, "I don't know.  Remember when I said I felt like I had to have those two specific shards?" He shrugged, his broad shoulders rolling, "when I try and think about those shards it's the only term that comes to mind."  

He leaned back, resting on arms stretched behind himself. "I don't know who or even what my father is." Drax's gaze focused on the floor in front of him as his voice softened.  "Did you know that normally tieflings age like a human? Have the same basic life span."  His grin when turned towards her was rueful. " I'm  supposed to be an old man by now. Yet I seem as if I'm in my twenties."

*****************************
"Huh," Elle cocked her head to the side in thought. "I wonder why that is? I mean, there must be reason you are drawn to those two shards. Kinda sucky shards to be drawn to, though, I'm not gonna lie. Of all the sins, wrath and lust are a bad combination. Somehow I don't think the curses for either are going to be as cute and entertaining as bejeweled Penny with a penchant for pinching books." Elle shook her head and smiled fondly as she remembered how greed had overtaken her sister.

"Remember when we in Nidal and Baron Beroy finally let us into his library so we could find answers about what was going on? Crazy shadow town! Remember how we ended up researching all night long because Baron told us we couldn't take a book out of the library? How, despite the Baron's firm attempts to get us to sleep elsewhere, Penny politely refused to leave those books? It was so hilariously cute the way she insisted she didn't need sleep, that she could just study all night." Elle laughed.

"Yeah, I don't think wrath and lust are going to be that easy." She shook her head again, pausing a moment to consider Drax's inclination toward these shards, and to reason out why that may be.

"Maybe it's the magic you are drawn to..." She squinted her eyes as she reconsidered that line of thinking. "The evocation is obvious, but enchantment isn't really something you use, is it? But then you really are more of an innate magic user, so the schools don't really matter...

"The virtues are nice, though..."

Elle gave a nonchalant shrug. "You know, when we get some time, I'm sure we could look into your heritage. I happen to know a gal who is real close with the library in Magnimar. Like, tight! She knows her way around, if you know what I mean." Her eyes twinkled at she spoke. "If she's in town we might be able to persuade her to help us find the reasons you are you.

"But what are you going to do about the shard before then?" She looked at him, her eyes both kind and inquisitive as she asked the question.

*****************************
Draxthious shrugged.  "I don't know."  He shook his head, running a hand through his hair again as he turned away.  He wasn't trying to avoid her and he hoped his body language conveyed that, he just didn't know.

"As to the why for the lust shard, maybe it has to do with where I was conceived."  He sighed exhaling slowly.  "My mother was… taken against her will in a temple of Noctula.  I was the result, though to hear my uncle tell, she could only have been pregnant for three months."  He grinned sadly remember the stories his old mentor used to tell him.  

The elementalist walked over to the wall closest to him, worry crossing his face as he leaned back against it. "I've never even thought of finding my father.  Whatever he is, whatever he's become." he shrugged, smiling slightly the tips of his lips curling up, "But if you want to know more, I'll gladly help you search."  

"Sorry, I seem to be changing topics quite rapidly don't I?" he chuckled lightly though without mirth.  "I think.....I think I will not take the shard.  I do not want to do anything to mess up what is going on right now."  His eyes turned toward her, almost glowing and reflective in the light of the wayfinder.  "I will let someone else have it and once the stone has been pacified I will take it then."   He barked out a quick soft laugh, "I feel that is the right decision and the wrong decision and I will probably be agonizing over it until the stone is in someone's hand."  His smile widened slightly when he looked over to her fully, "But you can't take it either."

*****************************
"In this body?" Elle joked lightly. "I wouldn't dream of it.

"I had thoughts of taking it, once. Thoughts of taking all the rest of them, actually. Why subject everyone to the curses, when one person could take them all? It would save everyone else's pride and dignity." She studied the pillars in the room absently. Her words sounded in an indifferent acquiescence to the situation, though her pursed lips told of her worry. "I honestly thought lust would be the least of my worries. But now, after... my body swap, I don't feel it would be appropriate for me to take it anymore."

*****************************
"I would not want you to have that shard."  He shook his head, walking over to stand next to her.  "I'm not sure I'd have the willpower to resist if you..." he almost blushed again, "you know..."  He chuckled ruefully looking up at the ceiling.  "I really need to just stop before I talk and think about everything I'm wanting to say and how it could possibly screw me up even more."

His eyes wandered over the pillar nearest him, refusing to look at her out of embarrassment, "I can understand where you are coming from, wanting one person to have all the curses, and on paper it sounds like a good plan."  He shakes his head lightly, "I still think it's a bad idea myself, but I can't tell if that's because I feel like I should have some of the shards myself or some other reason that is escaping me at the moment."

He finally did look back at her, worry mixing with concern in his eyes.  "No matter who gets the stone, I promise you I won't let them do anything to you that you do not want."

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Part 3

Post  TRU on Mon May 29, 2017 2:58 pm

*****************************
Elle's heart jumped into her throat again as she met his eyes with her own. Their expression was intense and caring. Her stomach twisted into knots again.

"I know," she uttered softly, before blushing with embarrassment.

He had promised quite a few things to her this evening. Everything from food, to being her punching bag. But she found herself repeating Drax's promises of protection the most in her head. Why did they mean so much to her? When had she become so fragile? She had said it herself when she admitted to Drax that she was broken. All this time she had felt fairly safe behind her own walls. But now she saw some of their weaknesses, the sharp cracks that did more harm than good. She was really going to have to watch her tongue in case she reverted to hurtful jokes again. As good as it would be when it was gone, Elle was still scared to let go of one of her coping mechanisms. No wonder she craved Drax's protection.

She chided herself for immediately putting so much stock in his security. He hadn't promised an all encompassing defense, but a specific one. Protection from any unwanted attentions brought on by the shard of lust. Even so, she was grateful.

"I think I'm gonna need your help with more than just being the defender of my honor, though," she said sheepishly, shifting her position as she tried to get more comfortable. "This whole joke thing--you know, the one where it's hard to tell when I'm being serious and when I'm not. I think it needs to change. I didn't realize how much some of my jokes hurt until today." She gave a playful grimace, though her eyes remained serious. "But I'm afraid that if I stop with the jokes and teasing I'll become a dried up old spinster woman."

*****************************
She blushed. She actually blushed and it was enough to make him want to fall in love all over again. No, no he couldn't do that. She was amazing, far stronger than she knew and someone like him didn't deserve her. But by Cayden it was still the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

He turned his head, fighting the smile growing on his lips. She was being serious and it wouldn't do to be seen smiling at her words. She was asking for help with something. Gah, why did her blush have to be so damn cute. Jokes..she was asking for help with her jokes."

"Heh, don't worry, I won't let you become an old spinster woman," he smiled back at her, finally turning his head to look at her again. "And I will give what aid I can. That sounds way too formal, doesn't it," he sheepishly grinned, running a hand through his hair. "I will, talk to you, when it seems your jokes are getting out of hand. If that is what you are asking for?"

*****************************
"Yeah," she nodded, tone brightening. He got it. It was like he knew what she needed before she did. "A look, a nudge, a word even. Something to stop me from putting my foot in it again! Maybe you could come up with..." she hesitated. An idea had come to her that seemed perfect at first, but once she started to say it, it seemed childish. So she dismissed it and said something else instead.

"You could take a page from Colin's book," she grinned. "You could have Joke Judgments!"

*****************************
Colin. She had to mention Colin. Maybe it was because of his lack of self esteem, or maybe it was because she trusted Colin first but he often wondered if there was something between those two. She certainly teased the half vampire less than him but was that an indication of greater affection or less. Colin was the one she introduced to her mother first, which based on comments she had made tonight even meant she thought he was the 'more mature' person. He kept his smile on his face though his words were slightly quieter and his eyes no longer shone with entirely the same mirth they once did.

"Yeah, could make a whole repertoire of judgements. Biting comeback! Jovial mirth!" he laughed lightly.

"Colin is an interesting fellow. I mean, I'm glad to know him." He seemed to be doing this a lot but as with nervous habits, he couldn't control it very well. A hand slid through his hair again, and when his palm brushed his horn he nearly winced. "What....what do you think of our friend?" he asked, almost afraid of the answer.

*****************************
"Colin?" Elle laughed. It was an odd question, especially after all the time they had spent together as a group. "I think he is more human than vampire... most days." She smirked, thinking about how the dhampir and she had met. She had doused him with holy water assuming that he was undead. It only managed to get him soaking wet, a fact that Colin never let her forget.

"I think he's a good egg. I'm pretty sure he could be the leader of our group if he wanted to," she shrugged. "I don't think he will, but if he did, I'd follow him.

"Why'd you ask?"

*****************************
Draxthious shrugged, "Sometimes you guys seem really close. I was curious." He looked around, this time his eyes focusing on the rest of the group sleeping for the night. A stray thought came to him, one he actually had quite often but didn't ever really talk about. 'What will I make for breakfast?'

He sighed, he was still jealous of Colin though her answer was more neutral than he was expecting. For some reason he was expecting her to gush about their friend but she didn't. And the desire to follow someone you thought was a good leader did not mean one would follow them into the embrace of love. Maybe there was nothing there, but then again Elle was often guarded about her feelings. Maybe she was doing so again. True they had agreed to be open and honest with each other, though he doubted he could answer honestly right now if she asked how he felt about her.

"So...I've got to start thinking about breakfast." He turned to look back at her, his smile forced again onto his face though his eyes were shining, probably about the topic change to something he could comprehend completely. Emotions were hard. "Is there anything you would like?" His hand rested on a small pouch on his belt, one that contained his traveling spices. "If we have the stuff for it, I'll make it."

*****************************
Elle snorted derisively. "I'm as close with Colin as I am with you, Penny, and Pyraxis," she asserted. "Well, maybe not Pyraxis. He's an odd duck. Seems very honor bound, but to what I'm not sure. I haven't been able to crack his shell yet. Very sensitive about his racial heritage... and apparently jokes about one's race are just a jerk move." Elle looked down at her lap again. It was hard to believe that she had let herself get so insensitive. Had she always been this way?

"I can see why, though." She continued. "I catch the looks we get sometimes. It's not often. You all have become quite adept at hiding your non-human features. I wish you didn't have to, though. I wish everyone could see you like I see you. I wish I could tell them all how boring their lives and their friends are compared to mine. But they wouldn't care. They would rather be afraid.

"So I let 'em," she smiled smugly. "I let 'em go on being afraid, and I go on and enjoy my little secret."

*****************************
Draxthious chuckled. It was a good answer and while part of him was hoping he was closer to her than the others, he knew he didn't deserve that. At least Colin wasn't either.

"Yeah, he's always so stoic, so....logical." his grin turned back towards her, "It really is hard to know what he's thinking. And that way he hides when he's hurt?" The tiefling shook his head in bewilderment. Some things he didn't think he would ever understand.

His grin widened at her last few words, "Yeah, I'd say Colin has the easiest time hiding his nature, all he has to do is not smile." He raised an arm above his head, his other arm reaching up and grabbing it, stretching long and hard. "Pyraxis has it the worst, being a fellow of rock and all. Me? I cover my horns but why would I want to hide this?" He teased her, his tail swishing back and forth near her.

*****************************
Elle reached out her hand and let Drax's tail brush through her fingers as he flicked it in her direction. "You shouldn't have to," she replied, grinning. "It is, after all one of your most charming features."

She winced as soon as she said the words, her out stretched hand balling up into fist of regret. "Aw jeez, there I go again. Bad joke, Bri'ellyith Hunithurdrenn, bad joke!" Elle rolled her eyes in frustration, not wanting to look at Drax.

"I...." she paused. "Man, this is going to be harder than I thought. I, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to... your tail is very nice. I like your tail. And you can be charming, too. All of you-not just the tail-can be charming... that is, when you're not trying to burn something."

Elle shut her mouth. She knew she sounded like an idiot, stammering on and on about Drax's charm. What was that all about? She could feel her cheeks getting hot again. "Yoptel mopsel..." she swore under her breath in Draconic. "I hate this place!"

*****************************
The tiefling laughed. He could do nothing else. Watching her stammer and go on like that was adorable beyond belief to him. So he laughed, full of joy and mirth.

"You don't have to apologize. You have said nothing wrong, I promise you. I know I am not the most charming person and in truth, I've never tried to be. However I do agree, my tail is in fact one of my most charming features."

The so named appendage swished back and forth, slinking up to Elle's face where it wiggled back and forth before the tip curved down looking almost like a gentleman bowing.

"And I can’t say I disagree with your assessment of this place." He looked around them, past their sleeping companions. "It has been an adventure filled with many… emotions and changes." His shoulders shrugged briefly, "Some good, some bad, some yet to be determined. But I will say this. No matter what happens in the rest of this place, I'm glad we got to have tonight." He smiles back at her, it turning sheepish when he fully realized what he said.

*****************************
Elle smiled back at Drax, though a shade of concern crossed her eyes. As she opened her mouth to say something she heard Colin's voice growl out from where he was sleeping. It sounded like he had spoken gibberish in his sleep until Elle realized that it was a gruff command for them to "pipe down!"

"I think we're getting a little loud," Elle whispered, her grin growing wider. "Old granddaddy over there's getting grumpy. Doesn't want us to disturb his beauty sleep. We'd better be careful, or he's gonna be edgy tomorrow."

Elle scooted as close to Drax as her bedroll would allow. Looking down at the floor in the light of the wayfinder reminded her that there was still a lot of blood on the ground. She didn't want it to get on her boots, or her clothes. At least no more than it already was. And the clothes weren't even her's. They belonged to Drax, and she already knew she was going to need to buy him a new set when they got back to Magnimar. The stains on these were already horrible, even after only a few hours of wear.

"You know earlier, when you asked me about Alchemy, but then you, you know..." She hesitated, thinking that if she said 'complimented me' she would be in danger of blushing again, "...because you felt bad for making me remember something painful?" Elle fixed her serious green eyes on the tiefling. "Well you don't have to feel bad. I don't mind talking about it. That is, if you don't mind listening."

*****************************
"He's always edgy" Drax started to say as he turned his head to face the now much closer woman. When he did he found himself staring into her deep green eyes. He couldn't look away, they were captivating. Despite his earlier thoughts about missing her old eyes he found himself thinking 'maybe these ones aren't so bad after all'.

"Umm, yes..." he started to stammer slightly, blinking to end the spell her gaze was putting on him. "I mean, if you are sure. I don't want to cause you any discomfort...ever."

*****************************
"I'll live, Drax," Elle shrugged indifferently, "even if you cause me discomfort. Discomfort, pain, is inevitable. Don't feel like you need to stop it every time it rears its ugly head. There will be plenty of times to avoid it, I'm sure. But there may be times when I'm okay talking about the uncomfortable things. So you don't have to freak out when I do, okay?"

Elle gathered her thoughts as she shifted her eyes to the wall just behind Drax. "You mentioned solace a little bit ago. How cooking was your solace... when those priests did those horrible things to you." She closed her eyes, exhaling sharply as her mind was confronted with the image of her friend's scared back. As much as she tried she couldn't begin to imagine how torturous it must have been for him. It appalled her that priests had done this to him. Weren't they the ones that were suppose to provide safety and healing to the masses, encouraging many to follow the tenets of their gods? Were the fiercely upright Iomedaens always this harsh? What they did to Drax was so unjust. How they could have condoned the such beatings was a mystery to her. It was enough to make the alchemist want to find the priest of Iomedae who had done this and give him a piece of her mind. Instead Elle lay a sympathetic hand on his knee, patting it a couple of times gently before letting it rest there.

"Alchemy was like that for me," she continued on, looking at the wall once again. "A solace and an escape. It distracted me enough to bring a sense of normalcy back to my life. Though there are countless outcomes when working with alchemy, they all stem from a set of rules that never change. I find great comfort in those rules." Elle laughed at an idea that struck her. "I've never thought of myself as a lover of laws before... but I guess it's kinda true." She looked back at Drax and smiled.

*****************************
"Pain may be inevitable, but that doesn't mean I want to be the cause of it." His smile turned sad yet somehow also comforting. "However I promise not to freak out should it happen."

As she talked and her hand rested on his knee his own settled on top of hers. Just resting there, not holding it, just....sitting there. He nodded as she talked, seeing similarities between her solace and his though there were some differences too.

"Rules and laws, my time with the bitch queen's priests taught me that even they have a place and a purpose. Even if I don't agree they should be followed all the time." He shrugged, smiling back at her. "However, whereas alchemy has to follow it's laws and rules, cooking doesn't." His grin widened as his gaze turned toward the ground, thoughts of the ever evolving nature that was his solace flowing through his head. "Cooking is… a living thing, breathing and changing each time it is made. Sure there is a recipe, but it's more of a guideline." The tiefling chuckled lightly, "It encourages experimentation, probably much like alchemy does, but more on the fly. Quite often while I'm cooking something I've cooked hundreds or thousands of times before, I'll change something in the recipe." His eyes practically glowed when he raised them back to her. "Seeing what comes out of it, noting the changes and what flavors it highlights compared to what was there before, finding something that makes people stop while eating and say, 'Damn this is good'."

Draxthious coughed a little to forcebly, "Sorry, I kind of took off on a tangent there. I didn't mean to way lay the conversation. Please, continue?"

*****************************
Elle swallowed hard. The hand she had laid on his knee was now completely covered by his own very manly hand. She could feel the roughness of his palms against her delicate skin. Her heart skipped a beat. Even though Drax had turned off his fire aura her hand still felt like it was on fire. She froze for a moment as thoughts of Raylar washed into her head. He had loved playing with her hands. Even before they became a couple he used to find any reason he could to hold her hand. He used to call her Ink Fingers, for she always seemed to have some kind of stain on them back then, whether from the odd alchemical experiment or from writing one of her stories. Once Raylar had told her that he knew every scar, every freckle, and every line on her hands as if they were his own.

That had been two weeks before he announced his engagement to Celestine.

Two weeks before he informed Elle, with laughter in his eyes, that it would have never worked between them. As if it had all been a joke.

Two weeks before she came back from blacking out with her hands around his throat.

Warnings were going off in her head, much like the flashing lights they had encountered in the Red Redoubt back in Absalom. Why had she been so stupid to place her hand on his knee like that? It was more than the innocent comfort she wanted it to be. Hadn't she been reading the signs during this whole conversation? Draxthious was most definitely falling for her, and here she was, coaxing him on with a single touch. Were they not in the middle of the Lady's Light, a stronghold of Sorshen, runelord of lust? What, on this green earth, was she thinking?!

Elle cleared her throat. She looked up to see Drax staring at her awkwardly. She thought maybe he had been speaking about something, but for the love of all that was holy she had missed it. She regretted not paying him more attention, but that regret wasn’t as great as what she would feel if she didn’t say the very next things she planned to say.

"I'm sorry Drax," she apologized, slipping her white hand out from under the comfort of his light brown one. "I fear I have let this get a little out of hand..." She smiled weakly at her own bad pun, then quickly continued on before he could interrupt her. "I shouldn't have let this... It's not your fault... I can't believe I've let myself be so stupid. I should have been more careful..." She was babbling. She could see the confusion in Drax's eyes, maybe even fear. She needed to get it together and be honest with him, as honest as she could without causing him more pain.

"Drax," she started again, her brow furrowed in concern. "I need to be more careful with us. Tonight has been so good in so many ways, but I think I might be getting a little carried away. Your touch is... is warm, and comforting." Saying each word felt like she was ripping away at her own flesh, opening a window into her chest cavity, leaving her broken heart dangerously exposed. "My desire for it is scaring me. I can't do this, I don't want to destroy what we've just now started to mend. It's not fair to you, it not kind, to string you along like that. I have to remember that we are under the Lady's skirts. Who knows what kind of influences may be at play here. I need to keep my wits about me." She trailed off and was quiet a moment, wanting desperately to retreat and hide in a safe place.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, "but I think we need to be more careful."

*****************************
To be honest, Drax hadn't even realized his hand was resting on hers until she moved it from under his. While he listened to her talk his eyes widened in confusion.

It sounded like she was saying she was having feelings for him. That was impossible wasn't it. He was nothing special. At least in his eyes. Yet here she was saying she desired his touch, here she was saying she wanted more. More but was scared, scared of what she was feeling, of what she thought he was feeling.

"I don't know what this is or what it's turning into." the young elemental weirder said while slowly motioning between them, "I do know that I would not ever want to hurt you or push you away.

"It sounds like, what you are saying is you want to explore this" he again motioned between them, "but are afraid of both getting hurt again and of the influence of where we are altering your perceptions." He shrugged lightly, "I can't say for sure what's going on, or what will happen, or anything really." he smiled warmly and honestly though his eyes were a little sad. "If going slow is what you want, then go slow."

He wanted to reach out to her, to grasp her shoulder, offer comfort, but he was afraid it would make her unhappy or push her away, so he sat there stoically, afraid of whatever she would say next.

*****************************
"I don't know if I should be exploring anything between us right now." Elle replied, her voice tinged with shame as she thought about how her impulsive actions had argued differently. "I honestly don't know if what I feel right now is something I should be feeling. I don't know how much of it is actually me... or if it is Sorshen. I never thought I was capable of feeling this way again..." Elle twisted her fingers together nervously as she buried them under the folds of the blanket in her lap.

"I don't want to hurt you either." Elle spoke in a strained murmur. "You are too important, and I need you. I really do appreciate how you've stuck by me lately, even when I came back not looking like me.

"I thought I was strong, at least up here," she tapped a finger to her forehead, "but now with everything that has happened I'm struggling to keep it all together. But you are helping me keep it together. I wouldn't have made it this far without you."

*****************************
"I know I'm not the smartest person, not am I particularly wise but..." Drax tilted his head, looking at her with a soft gaze "I think if you were being affected by the runelord, wouldn't... how do I say this... wouldn't you be more inclined to seduce me instead of being worried about how you feel?"

He sighed, "I don't know, it's just... your words are something I never expected to hear. From anyone much less someone as amazing as you have always been. I am not... I'm not anyone special" he shrugged as he continued.

"But like I said before, I will always be here for you. No matter what. I will be the rock you need, I will support and protect and..." his shrug was larger and somehow seemed to be directed at her, "whatever you need, whenever you need it. I will be here."

*****************************
"I know you will," Elle nodded, "and I'm very thankful for that."

She sighed. Drax had presented a pretty good argument siding with the fact that these feelings might legitimately be her own. And yet his opinion was very biased... No, she couldn't think about this now. It wasn't safe, or prudent. Elle tucked her thoughts away for later.

"You're a pretty good egg yourself, you know," Elle looked at Drax again. The anxiety had left her eyes and they shown with confidence. "Despite all your rough edges. Don't sell yourself short."

*****************************
"I'm not so sure about that, but I'm happy you think so." the young tiefling chuckled. It was true, he wasn't the smartest person, or the wisest but even he could see it was time for a subject change, Any more and he felt he would push her away instead of… whatever it was he wanted. Things were happening so fast for him, he was sure his eyes were showing the chaos that was both his thoughts and emotions.

"So, you never did answer my question." Drax walked over to his bag, bringing it back with him and sitting down next to her again. "Breakfast? What would you like? I have some more jerky, beans, oatmeal, some dried fruit that will probably be going bad soon." He pulled out a strange pouch that seemed designed to carry volatile items, "Hmm, forgot I had the eggs."

*****************************
"Hmmm," Elle scanned the food choices trying to decide. "Eggs sound good, but so does oatmeal and that dried fruit... I don't know. I wonder what Colin and Pyraxis would prefer..." She looked over at their sleeping companions. "I bet they would prefer the eggs. Eggs are good for hearty chaps, right? I feel like fruit might be more of a girly thing." She shrugged, glad for the chance to talk about something more simple, even if it was unknown territory.

"My momma loves fruit. I ate a lot of fruit when I was a kid. And vegetables. Weird stuff, like arugula and chard..." Elle wrinkled her nose at the memories. "Momma didn't cook. It was all raw plants for her--and seeds. Quinoa. Have you ever had uncooked quinoa? It's like eating gravel! It didn't take me long to get in the good graces of the cook at house Versade, if you know what I mean."

*****************************
Draxthious grinned at her, mirth returning to his eyes. "Well, I'll be honest. I'm not really caring what they want. I asked you." He started to put stuff away before holding up the fruit and looking at it. "I could probably mix the oatmeal and fruit, give it a bit of a sweeter flavor." The cat shaped eyes narrowed in thought as he mentally calculated what amount of the fruit should be added to the meal before finally deciding on all of it.

"I've never had uncooked quinoa. Though based on your glowing opinion of it, I don't think I ever will." he tossed her a quick wink, "despite how much l love eating gravel." His words were teasing, playful.

"And you my dear, are in luck. You have the best chef in all of Magnimar at your beck and call." He set the rest of the food he was holding down before turning her way and bowing from the waist. "You have but to command me and I shall prepare whatever you desire."

*****************************
"Best chef in Magnimar? Please..." Elle gave him a sassy look of disapproval. "More like 'best chef in all of Avistan!'" Her shapely lips turned up into a wide grin. Drax's playful flirtation was putting her at ease again. She let the awkward, confusing emotions from moments before slip away. Surely she would have plenty of time to sort them out later, when they weren't in the middle of a dungeon. Moments like this, though, watching the twinkle grow ever brighter in Drax's eyes, listening to him joke and tease. She wanted to hold on to these moments forever.

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