Where the Heart Is
Mar 10, 76
11 Replies
Livia Asheron @ Apr 27, 2018, 03:26 AM
25 Posts 20 Years Female Macenia Merchant House Asheron Played by andromeda
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'
Axelius told her, that Alcides had left perhaps for only a moment, and then somehow come back, without her noticing. She was a young were, admittedly, in the grand scheme of things, and Alcides' scent and general presence was so normal, it wasn't surprising to find she'd completely missed it. It did, in a way, explain why she'd not been as on-edge as she'd expected, nor for as long as anticipated. Alcides had been with House Asheron for quite some time. Without him, things seemed just a bit drearier. Axelius stared at her all the time, like she was missing something obvious, and perhaps to most she was. The truth was, she wasn't missing it. Just ignoring it, was more like. Alcides was free, now. He had a right to decide to do whatever it was he wanted. That was, of course, what being free meant. It wasn't right for her to try and push what she wanted onto him, when he'd never known what want was in the first place.

Apparently, it was being here. That was apparently what he wanted, and for the life of her, Livia couldn't fathom why. It was funny, if she stopped to think about it; were the roles reversed, Livia likely would've done the same exact thing. Left, realised she had no idea what she was doing, nor what she wanted, and come back, because home was here, and here was home. No, that wasn't quite right, not for her. Perhaps the place was home, but it was only because of who, exactly, was in it. She'd never told him, not with words, what he was to her, how much he meant, to her, because Alcides, like most slaves, would've just gone along with it and not thought twice about it. She was ever in a position of power, over him, at least, she was. Nowadays, not as glaringly, but she did recognise she was, and remained mindful of that. It was very easy to influence him one way or another, and she wanted him to think about it, and decide for himself how he felt about her. Axelius was a similar complexity, but he'd already dived head first into that one, it was too late for that.

It was funny. Everything felt right again, she'd noticed, somewhere amid watching him do what he always did around the house, sans following her around, that was. Alcides had been her shadow for the last several years; it was strange, now that he wasn't. She wasn't going to admit that, not to him. Maybe someday, but not today.

After a few moments of standing in the doorway, she cleared her throat slightly. "You came back," she said, quiet, tone coloured only just slightly with confusion. True it was, Alcides was never terribly an ambitious sort. Perhaps he just hadn't decided what he wanted to do, just yet. At least he knew, in House Asheron, he always had a place to sleep, and food to eat. She'd attempt not to get her hopes up.


14 Posts 21 Years Male Dalmasca Commoner House Asheron Played by Lenara
Livia had meant well, setting Alcides free. He knew that. She had meant well, she had intended to be rewarding him. Had intended it to be a good thing. Logically he knew these things. But in the short time he'd been gone, Alcides had mostly just felt lost, separated from the only people he really knew, really cared about. Ultimately it was that feeling of being lost, adrift in a storm without an anchor, that had led to his return.

The Asheron estate was home. Livia was home. And he'd known that before, but the truth of it had only been underscored by the fact that nothing had felt right until he'd returned to the place he'd been for so many years. She had meant well, she'd been trying to reward him. But all it had done was leave him feeling cut off from those he cared about the most. So here Alcides was, keeping to himself and working quietly on tasks that weren't likely to draw too much attention to him. She'd find out eventually, Livia always did. But in the mean time... well. In the mean time, he might as well get something done, no?

Ah. It took less time than Alcides had expected, actually, for her to come and find him. Brown eyes moved from the task at hand to settle on her form. For a moment, Alcides was struck by how lovely she was. Not that he hadn't noticed it before, exactly. Just...mm.

"Yes, I did." In a similarly quiet tone. "It's nice to be home." Without elaborating on what exactly was home about it - either she knew, or she didn't. And it was probably best if he didn't explain at least for the moment, if she didn't. "How have you been?" It hadn't been long, but it seemed to be worth asking, at least to him.

Alcides always cared, and perhaps he worried too much. Axelius could take care of her, he knew that. But Alcides had grown up with her, had loved her for many years, and it was not easy to step back and allow someone else to take over for him when he'd devoted so much of his time to it. Livia did not need a guard, not really. He knew that, Axelius knew that. It didn't change their reality.

25 Posts 20 Years Female Macenia Merchant House Asheron Played by andromeda
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'
Yes, it was nice to have him home. She'd missed him, for the grand total of, what was that, four days, he was gone? She wasn't sure. In truth, Livia had been trying not to think about it, because it stung, whenever she did. Most would wonder, about then, why she'd even freed him if she was just going to miss him so much, ultimately. Livia hadn't expected him to come back, either, yet in hindsight, that was rather dumb, wasn't it? It seemed an odd thing, to hope for, but, she'd hoped he'd come back, even if only because he had no idea what he was doing. It wasn't as if Alcides had a family, somewhere, that knew him. It wasn't like he'd had a life, before Dalmasca ruined it, because Dalmasca was his life. House Asheron was, more accurately.

She knew all that. But it wasn't right to make his choices for him.

"As well as I always am," she answered, dodging the question somewhat. "Nobles are still quite grating, and I still think murder is more beneficial a path to take. Thus far, I've still resisted the temptation." It was more of a running joke, than anything serious. Livia may have contemplated murder, a few times, seriously or not so much, but she'd rarely ever actually done it, unless backed into a corner. But often, she'd tell him, he ought to just let her stab them. It was never him stopping her. And yet, in some sense, it was, because he, and plenty of others, depended on House Asheron, and if it fell, they fell too.

A heavy weight, and too many in Dalmasca did not realise they bore it. Livia wouldn't end up one of those. "How about you?" He looked alright, outwardly, but Alcides was difficult to read, even for her. It was probably a good bit of what made him good at guarding. Axelius was much louder, and he was effective, in wildly different ways, but different nonetheless. Alcides may as well have been furniture. (He didn't get that from them telling him to be furniture.) Outward appearances with him weren't always so cut and dry. It was, incidentally, part of what made him interesting, funny enough.

14 Posts 21 Years Male Dalmasca Commoner House Asheron Played by Lenara
That was not really an answer, Alcides knew. On the other hand, it was, in a way. Not a clear one, or a direct one, but it told him enough. It had only been a few days, really. Just a few days since the last time he'd seen her, and it wasn't shocking that little had changed in that brief time. "Probably for the best." He responded in slight amusement. "I'd be a bit disappointed if you lapsed into murder immediately after I left." Worried more accurately - worried about her safety, and what in the world had happened in his absence that had made her feel like that was the only possible option.

His gaze dropped for a moment to his task, and he was quiet for a moment - apparently deciding how to respond. Finally he returned his gaze to her form, and shrugged. "I'm doing alright." He was. Physically he was fine, and all of that. He couldn't complain, nothing terrible had happened while he was gone.

"I just, ah. Realized I don't know what to do out there." He'd freed one hand from what he was working on to make a slightly sweeping gesture in the general direction of outside of the estate. And... he wasn't really exaggerating, to be fair. It was true, he didn't know what to do out there, and while he probably could have figured it out eventually, if only because he was a resourceful sort, some part of Alcides didn't want to. He'd wanted to come home.

He wasn't sure how to explain that in a way that didn't sound like he was spitting on her gift of freedom, which to be honest was not his intent but... Alcides could see why it might seem like it.

Well, on the other hand, this was Livia, and she tried to take things from him generously, if nothing else. So maybe she would understand if he just told her. He took a breath, expression thoughtful for a moment before he continued. "I appreciate the gesture of you freeing me, truly." Alcides started. "But I've hardly ever known anything outside of the house." And the idea of having that kind of freedom, after being raised in a cage? It was oddly terrifying.

So in the end, he'd returned to his cage, even if Livia would not choose to lock him within it.

25 Posts 20 Years Female Macenia Merchant House Asheron Played by andromeda
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'
Livia couldn't help the slight smile of amusement. She supposed he might've been disappointed, but he knew better than most, that Livia did not fall to that level unless given no other alternative. If things had gotten that bad, it was more likely he wouldn't be disappointed so much as concerned. He knew her too well, for that. Sometimes, Livia wondered when that'd happened, when they'd come to know one another well enough for things like that to go unspoken between them. But then, he'd almost always been with House Asheron. They'd grown up together, essentially, as Livia was never taught that slaves were below her, and was allowed, even back then, to interact with them as if they were just another Dalmascan. There were times Livia was glad for that; there were other times when she sort of resented the incidental burden it'd placed on her. To be one of the only Dalmascans that understood a slave bled, and therefore he was just as hume as anyone else.

She'd rage at the institutional oppression later. For now, Livia had other things on her mind, like how strangely glad she was that Alcides hadn't gone far. It wasn't as if she didn't know why. It was just balancing that knowledge with reality. She'd never say it first. Axelius insisted Alcides liked her back, but, what if he was wrong? Not that Axelius usually was wrong about things like that, he had an odd penchant for picking up on those kinds of things, but that really wasn't the point. More likely, Livia worried too much, particularly when it came to Alcides.

Ah. Livia smiled a bit, more in understanding, shifting her weight, glancing at the floor for a moment. Her hands folded together in front of her, her gaze meeting his again. "You're not the first," she answered. "Dalmasca's a big place, Azaleon even bigger. You won't be the last. But, I figured I'd give you the option, in case you were feeling brave enough to stay out there. You're always welcome here, though, Alcides, if here is where you'd rather be." Maybe someday, he'd change his mind, find something else he'd like to do, but here was more familiar. He knew what was expected of him, here, what his place was in House Asheron, and out there, it wasn't always as clear. Freedmen were never treated terribly kindly, either, as no one thought they'd amount to anything (jee, perhaps giving them the space to might fix that right up). Dalmasca was many kinds of sideways, but at least it was no Jihon.

"I ah, still have an opening for another guard," Livia mentioned. "I can't quite find someone to replace you, if you're interested in reclaiming it." The only difference, of course, would be she paid him, but he and Axelius were paid before, anyway, just not always in hessions. Axelius was also still a blood fighter, and he made his own income in the street games. Alcides would probably be paid more than him, just on principle, due to that. Axelius would likely understand the apparent discrepancy. Axelius wasn't exactly her guard, anyway, more of general House security. And, being honest, it was eerie, being alone so often, when Alcides had been shadowing her for years now.

Even if she'd had a replacement, it wouldn't have been the same, anyway.

14 Posts 21 Years Male Dalmasca Commoner House Asheron Played by Lenara
No, he supposed he wasn't. "It is at that." Dalmasca was a large place, and Azaleon was not kind, even to freedmen, except in the free cities. But they were foreign and far away, and in many ways scary in different ways. If he was brave enough. Alcides hadn't ever really considered himself brave. Sure, in some sense, he had to have some semblance of it, to do his job as a guard properly. But it wasn't exactly the same thing as having the bravery to face a whole world unknown. It wasn't even really the same as having bravery or whatever for himself. He existed to protect her, that was what he'd always done. That was what he drew the ability to stand his ground in adverse conditions from. Her.

She was one of the strongest people he knew, emotionally and physically. That was probably why it bothered him so much when people underestimated her, when people insulted her simply because she was a female. ... No there was more to it than that, and he knew it. He loved her. He knew that, had known that for a long time. But it was better not to dwell on it. It was enough, it was enough that she welcomed him back into her home after he'd left. It was enough that he still had 'home' to come back to. ... Even if home for him would always be her, and not really the place.

"Somehow it didn't occur to me that you might have trouble refilling the guard position." She had dozens of blood fighters, most of whom were incredibly loyal to her. Any of them could have done the job at least as well as he did, if not better. Except for the fact, of course, that part of why he was good at his job was that he could go places they couldn't, in the sense that he remained all but invisible invisible under far more circumstances than a blood fighter might. No one was concerned about the quiet body slave who followed her. No one thought he could be dangerous except when he was openly carrying a spear, and even then... he was under estimated.

"I wouldn't mind going back to it though." The hardest part of it was often keeping up with Livia and her habit of not exactly sharing where she was going and when. She often forgot there was a reason she had guards - or chose to ignore the fact entirely. Livia was headstrong at times, it was one of her many traits. Alcides only really minded because it put her in danger some times. ... It occurred to him, of course, that some of those who might be willing to replace him as guard may have trouble grasping the idea that she wouldn't always tell them when she was wandering into something that may well get her killed.

It didn't help that he had indulged her habit of not necessarily telling by just growing accustomed to following her whether she directly asked him to or not. It was easier, in many ways, than asking her to change. Livia was a free spirit, for all that like all nobles she had been raised in a cage. She was a free spirit, and it was easier to bend with her than to expect her to bend.

"It'll be nice, even." He liked spending time with her, after all. But it was easy enough to assume he meant that it would be nice to have everything go back to normal. ... Which he did, but also not. Ah. It would be easier if you'd just tell her. Alcides could almost hear someone pointing out. He mentally shook that off though, leaving the statement where he had.

25 Posts 20 Years Female Macenia Merchant House Asheron Played by andromeda
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'
That time, Livia laughed, slightly, albeit it came out more of an amused huff. "The others have a bit of difficulty, keeping up with me." Alcides had always just fallen smoothly into step beside her. He didn't ask her to change, and she didn't ask him; he just learned to move at the speed of Livia on his own, decided to on his own. In every possible way, he'd become her shadow, and sometimes, she couldn't help but think maybe he'd wanted to. And maybe he'd come back, because - it was a stupid thought, or she believed it was. It was just silly wishful thinking, on her part. Still, she kept thinking it. But that slight scent... Axelius had the same one, and Livia hadn't quite figured out what it was, but...

She decided to just push that out of her mind. It wasn't important, anyway. All that mattered was, he was back. Alcides was back where, as far as she was concerned, he belonged, and of course, if he had come back on his own, maybe there was a reason why. This was normal, anyway. If nothing else, out there would be a very different life than the one he'd led so far here. And here, at least, Livia could be absolutely sure he was okay. Dalmascans often played games he wouldn't understand. He hadn't needed to, before, when he was a slave and it didn't matter, but on his own, as a freedman, it'd be a very different story.

Livia would much rather he were here, for many reasons.

"It was... odd, without you following me around all the time," she admitted, quietly, gaze falling to the floor again. "It was only a few days, maybe I'd have gotten used to it, but, I kept turning to tell you something, or make a face at you, and you weren't there." It had stung, every time. And it merely only served to underscore how firmly a part of her life he'd become, over the years. But that would happen, when you essentially grew up with someone, and suddenly they were gone. No, not so suddenly. She'd had warning. She'd meant to free him for years, really, but couldn't quite bring herself to brace for the very real chance he may not ever truly come back.

Oh, if she had her way, he'd be in the Free Cities by now, making a new, better life, than anything she could offer him here, and things were, if Kassandros continued down the pathway he was on, going to get fairly nasty. Even for her, maybe especially for her, as she was very firmly behind House Essair, she was one of Kassandros' biggest supporters, and she was female. She'd be assumed to be the weakest link.

"There is a storm coming," she mentioned, looking back up, her voice a bit louder. "House Essair moves to take the Imperator throne. House Cassimer and House Lancaster will undoubtedly be fiercely against it, already Marcus is trying to kill Kassandros, admittedly he's not doing a very good job. I am behind Essair, and, most likely, they'll think me the easier target. I've already begun scattering our soldiers and half the blood fighters across the vineyards and farmlands, and I'm building walls and sentry towers around them. This may get very messy. We may end up at war in all but name. Are you still sure this is what you want?" Some part of her hoped he'd change his mind, run to the Free Cities where he'd be safe.

Another part of her wasn't sure she could face this mess without him.

14 Posts 21 Years Male Dalmasca Commoner House Asheron Played by Lenara
Oh. Okay, so yes, that was it, the fact that they weren't used to having to preemptively follow her. "Well, you do have an admirable amount of get up and go." He allowed himself to sound amused, at least mildly. She did, to be fair, and yes, he supposed only those who were used to following her could keep up without a bit of time to get used to having to do the same thing. Axelius probably could do it, Alcides was sure but...

Anyway. Alcides listened to what Livia was saying, considering carefully her feelings. "You probably would have." Livia had certainly gotten used to worse things than him not being around. Still, he felt kind of bad that she'd had a time of it in the few days he was gone. They'd been together for so long it was hard imagining one without the other, and he supposed that was the problem. She was used to him being there, used to his always being around to answer a question or sympathize when nobles were being stupid again.

Alcides respectfully listened to what Livia said, keeping himself quiet until she'd finished. And then he was quiet for a moment longer, obviously making a point of thinking about what Livia said. They both knew he wasn't going to go anywhere, still, he thought about it. About her surety, about the fact that a war would be difficult for them all, no matter what happened.

"Yes, I'm sure." Finally, with a steady confidence as he met her gaze. "If anything, it only makes me want to stay more. I won't abandon you when things are about to turn much, much darker. And I've never been under any illusions that things would remain peaceful forever." He could run, to the free cities maybe. But they'd still be foreign, they still wouldn't be home.

They wouldn't be Livia. He didn't think she'd understand that, exactly. And he wasn't srue he wanted to put it quite that way, even if she would. But what if... what if she felt the same, and only didn't want to say anything because she was afraid of influencing him or something like that? It was just like her. He was quiet another moment, his expression contemplative. "You don't have to say anything." Carefully. In fact maybe it'd be better if she didn't, in some ways, if she wasn't sure, if she hadn't thought about it. "But I'm not going anywhere. I want to be here, there's no where else I'd rather be. Even if things are going to get a lot harder before they get easier. That's okay." He wasn't afraid.

With Livia he didn't really have a reason to be. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be because I love you Livia. I... I have for a long time, and I probably always will." He looked down, away from her when he'd finished speaking, as if he almost didn't want to see her reaction.

25 Posts 20 Years Female Macenia Merchant House Asheron Played by andromeda
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'
Admirable, he said. Livia made a wistful, albeit amused, expression; well, Alcides never did say anything terrible about her, or her many odd habits. Sometimes, Livia wondered if this was because he had none to say, or because he just didn't want to say them. He was more diplomatic than that, at least. It was part of what she liked about him, but there was always some measure of wondering if he was really being honest, or if he was just being careful in his word choices. She had get up and go, yeah... she was also a hair selfish, and wasn't always the best at remembering there were other people to consider, at times. At least, Livia recognised these complexities, and did her best to curb them, when she noticed herself doing them.

Yes, maybe she would've gotten used to it. And yet, things would've never quite been the same, again. It wasn't the same, even now, and yet, she knew, despite his being free, now, Alcides wouldn't complain, if nothing changed at all. She'd have to be mindful of that. It wasn't as if she really ordered her slaves around, anyway, not like most did; she asked, politely, rather than demanded, was careful never to ask more of them than they were willing to give, never made them do anything she wouldn't do herself. That was strange, wasn't it? She'd heard all about how strange it was, many a time before, and still didn't care. Maybe adjusting to him being a freedman, now, wouldn't be as difficult as it may have been if she were like every other Dalmascan.

Well, barring Kassandros. But he was also an anomaly, as Livia was. All of House Asheron was, really. Kassandros was born into the wrong house; he even looked like an Asheron.

Livia frowned, noticeably, when he decided against leaving. Really, some part of her had always known that giving him the choice to leave, it was almost pointless, because that part of her knew he wouldn't take it. If the roles were reversed, neither would she, but it was the principle of the thing, really. Alcides was accustomed, by now, to her asking and really wanting the honest answer, in things like that. Her blood fighters were behind her, and she knew it, and, maybe Alcides had never been on the sands, before, but he was almost as much one of her blood fighters as the fighters themselves were. All were trained by her. And all had come to at least respect her, in their ways. Some took more time than others, to earn the respect of, but Livia never shied away from earning it.

Wait, what'd he just say?

It was, quite possibly, the first time ever Livia was at a total loss for words. Well, that saved her having to figure out how to say something, without actually saying something, being fair about it. Livia was always afraid of saying it first, that he might think he had to at least pretend he felt the same way, and that wasn't really love, was it? Livia didn't think so. Apparently, that was why he'd come back, to some extent. Here was almost all he knew, anyway, and she was and wasn't surprised, when Axelius had said he'd come back. Now, though, flickers of wondering if she was worthy of that crossed her mind, but, she stuffed them back into whatever corner of her mind they'd popped out from. Her silly little insecurities weren't really important, right now. All she could do was hope she was, and trust Alcides' judgement, but nothing was terribly new, there.

He said she didn't have to say anything, but, aside from the part where words weren't formulating in her head, properly, she did want to. She should tell him she reciprocated, at least. She shook her head, more to herself, crossed the space separating them, took one of his hands in hers, and gently kissed his cheek. ... and, of course, then turned scarlet.

14 Posts 21 Years Male Dalmasca Commoner House Asheron Played by Lenara
Alcides wasn't sure why he was so incredibly nervous about what he'd just said. Livia never took anything from him badly. And she certainly wasn't the sort who was going to explode because he was being honest. Even if she didn't feel the same, nothing would change between them. He could still be her guard, he could still do his job as she would expect him to. Arguably, his being in love with her might even make him better at it, because he would work harder to protect her because he cared about her.

Still, there was something about laying his heart out that was hard. Something about admitting to feelings that he had concealed for at least a few years now was... unsettling. It was one less thing between them, and Alcides thought that was probably a good thing. Keeping things from Livia wasn't something he would have considered a strong suit really.

After speaking he fidgeted slightly in place, without managing to look too uncomfortable.

It was the truth though, he loved her. And he wasn't going to go anywhere for many reasons, but perhaps mostly because he did love her and wouldn't leave her to face these things by herself. He'd rather stand beside her and fight. ... Besides, it wasn't like he had a home, or a family to go to.

"...Oh." Softly, as he felt his cheeks flush with heat. That uh, that answered that, apparently. Rather, um, succinctly. Somehow, he hadn't been prepared for her actually reciprocating. Of course, in hindsight, that wasn't surprising - he'd spent all this time assuming she wouldn't feel the same, and clearly he hadn't bothered to actually consider that maybe she did. ... She could do- No. Leave that alone.

"I guess that settles that." It was a weight lifted, actually. In an odd way. Almost in spite of himself he drew the hand holding his upward and brushed his lips against the back of it in a feather light kiss.

Axelius was never going to let him live this down. ... But maybe that was okay.

25 Posts 20 Years Female Macenia Merchant House Asheron Played by andromeda
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'
Some part of her had to wonder, how long they'd both felt the same way, how long they'd been dancing around their own feelings, both afraid for some reason or another, to admit anything. Livia, afraid to say anything, in case she'd misjudged it and he didn't really feel the same, afraid of incidentally asking him to love her back even if he didn't; and Alcides, probably afraid of things getting awkward, convinced she was out of his reach. Who knew? She wouldn't ask. In the end, it didn't matter.

It was kind of nice, having it said now, having it put to words, finally knowing for sure. She shook her head, more to himself, trying not to giggle too much as he changed colours, too. He kissed her hand, and she couldn't help it, stepping a bit closer and hugging him, incidentally leaning against him. "It seems kind of silly, now, doesn't it?" she asked. "Now that it's been said. Why'd it take so long, it seems like." It wasn't like feelings were terribly easy to deal with. And some people, they preferred not dealing with them at all. Livia never considered herself one of those people, but once in a great while, that was how things were.

"... we're never going to hear the end of this from Axelius, are we?" That was, it seemed, highly unlikely.

14 Posts 21 Years Male Dalmasca Commoner House Asheron Played by Lenara
Alcides hugged her back rather easily. At this point it seemed... almost natural. It was still a little odd, and he was a little embarrassed but it was such a weight lifted to not have to wonder if what he was saying was going to betray the truth to someone, finally. Axelius had always guessed at it, but Livia had not.

"It does." He admitted after a short, if smothered, laugh. "It's such a weight off and some part of me is like, so why did you resist doing this again?" But he had, because he'd been afraid of the reaction even though it had been totally unfounded. That was just... the way it had happened. It had seemed like it was the best thing to do at the time, but in hindsight, it would have been nice to have just said it long ago. Of course, there'd been no way of knowing that she felt the same way. So there was... that.

Ah. But he had always known that she would be tolerant of him, should have always known nothing terrible would come of it. And yet, here they were.

"Ah, probably not." He admitted after a moment. "Axelius doesn't seem the sort to let this go." He was always on about telling her anyway, to be fair. It was almost a miracle he hadn't gone behind Alcides and done it himself or something, if they were being honest.