The Quiet Left BehindStarted by Kassandros Essair at Apr 28, 2019 12:50 am
Einmanudur 10, 76
It was a strange moment for Cygnus to decide he had a conscience. On the other hand, it stood to reason that the likelihood of Kass actually dying and not coming back hadn't really sunk in all the way, until Canius decided to nearly make that a sudden, unexpected reality. Kassandros had never been worried; he didn't die that way, either. Cygnus was upset, likely an understandable outcome if Kassandros didn't think about it too logically, the justicars had come and gone, and the knife hadn't left any permanent damage behind. What Kassandros hadn't managed to fix, Merenwen and Xiaodan did. Everything was back to how it should be, though Gannicus seemed a bit more vigilant than usual; which said something, because very little got past that guy.
He still needed to go get Sati. Time was running out, and while he was sure the Lucains could handle it from here, what if they couldn't? Then again, Sahura wasn't exactly above threatening all of Dalmasca to get his son back, so perhaps the concern was moot. Still, it was a concern that flitted in and out of his mind, around everything else. The problem was, he couldn't easily tell how much time was left. It'd changed several times in the last couple months, too, to add more complexity to the situation. Maybe this was one of those things that he'd be better off not worrying about.
Still, he had many things he wanted to do, still, and maybe not nearly enough time to do them in. At least knowing how long he had left would help him prioritise a bit better... he pushed that out of his head, for now. It didn't matter too much, and he had a feeling he wouldn't really be allowed to do anything more strenuous than paperwork for a while after this. He was strangely okay with that. But then, it'd eventually occurred to him, perhaps a bit late, that it really wasn't like he was alone. And maybe handing some things to Icarus or Cygnus, or anyone really, wouldn't be too bad an idea.
In the interim, it'd been a long day, and while he hadn't decided to just go to sleep yet, he also hadn't disappeared into his office, like he usually would've, instead currently curled up in his chair reading a book. He'd asked Sandalio for tea earlier, and it probably wouldn't be much longer before he wandered back. ... come to think of it, he never did get around to teaching him to read. Most would wonder if he had the time to spend on that, given it didn't seem terribly important, but it would be, if ever Kass was gone. At least one of that bunch knowing how to read would be useful, and Estelle was young enough, teaching her would be much easier (she was already learning how to do maths). Sandalio was older, though, and around him more often.
Maybe he'd start on that soon. ... but maybe they should get through the rest of that conversation Canius interrupted, too. Kass almost didn't want to bring it up. Mostly didn't want to bring it up, actually. Decisions.
Things had calmed down a little. Kassandros had healed up well, thankfully they had good healers and had been able to save him from the damage done by Canius. ... Canius had probably not been so lucky as to survive what Sandalio had done to him but there were very few who would miss him, and Sandalio had managed to get off based on self defense technicalities. It was for the best, and certainly he wasn't complaining about not facing execution for saving Kassi.
Granted, he'd have thought it was worth it even if he was facing a trial, so there was... that. Anyway. Maybe he wouldn't ever say that part outloud because he had a feeling Kassandros would not agree with him about the fact that it had been worth it regardless.
At any rate, he'd gotten the tea that Kass had asked for and that meant it was time to go back up to give it to him and also check on him. To say today had been a long day would probably be an understatement. And if he never had to face the very real possibility of Kassi dying from injuries again - well. Sandalio would be wondering if they'd been transported into an alternate universe honestly. But that was... ah, beside the point.
As quietly as someone his size could manage, Sandalio slipped into the room Kassi was resting in. "Here." Sandi murmured, setting the tea down where Kass could reach it before retreating very slightly so he wasn't in the way.
The Macenian was trying not to hover, he really was. It was hard. Almost losing Kass was scary, even if he knew it was a possibility and knew it was likely to happen again. Assassins were, after all, a fact of life. But this had been different, this had involved Kassandros directly putting himself in danger. On the other hand it had been to save his brother and honestly.... Sandalio could relate. He really could.
That didn't mean he had to like it. "Enjoying your book?" Kassi didn't get to do things just for himself often, so Sandalio hoped so. "...You can ignore me." Just, putting that out there. If Kassandros would rather read than talk, that was fine. Sandalio just wanted to be close by, he just wanted to know that Kass was as safe as he could be.
He almost started, but then, realised that was Sandalio, and relaxed. "Thank you," he murmured, as the other set the teacup down, and Kass set his bookmark in place, sitting up enough to sip at that. If he was reading the Macenian right, he was kind of extra-jumpy, but, maybe that shouldn't be surprising. Even if he didn't really understand why, he knew practically everyone in this house loved him, in some manner. It was a strange, foreign thing; it wasn't like he was very personable, so he didn't really understand how he'd come to have so many that loved him. Maybe it was just a side-effect of loving them, first.
Whether he'd intended it or not, he'd become something of the sun that House Essair revolved around, and maybe he should be concerned about that; Cygnus could be, when he bothered, bright and magnetic a personality. But he wasn't terribly smart, and he had a nasty habit of acting on impulse. Icarus was fairly intelligent, and didn't tend to rush headlong into anything, preferring to consider his options first; he'd make a good leader, if anyone thought to make him one, but he wasn't quite as brilliant. Kassandros didn't consider himself magnetic, but he did have a penchant for knowing things, and knowing how to use what he knew, to greatest effect.
It was interesting, how they all seemed to have different strengths. Maybe that was by purposeful design. Or maybe, they really were just different parts of the same whole. If Icarus managed the day-to-day public affairs, Kassandros stayed in the shadows, and Cygnus fed them both information, what kind of a force they'd be. Truly, almost terrifying. Maybe he'd have to try that.
Anyway. Kassandros smiled, slightly. "I've read this book about fifty times, now," he answered. "Mostly, I'm just staring at the pages, looking smart. ... and it's not terribly easy to ignore you, I'd just like to point out." He was still somewhat fretting. It was probably better that he was fretting now, after the crisis was over, than he started freaking out while it was still ongoing, but Kassandros didn't expect much else.
"I'm fine, you know. I don't die like that, either." No, he knew quite well how he died. Perhaps not when, but how... mostly. There were some fuzzy details, some pieces he couldn't quite make sense of, but he got the gist. Sometimes, he was okay with dying, still. It came and it went, whether he was or not. Tomorrow, maybe it'd bother him again. Today, though, it did and it didn't. Livia was right, though, whether he liked it or not. He couldn't exactly save them from everything, and then go and die on them. Maybe that was more cruel than just not saving them in the first place.
Sandalio smled just slightly in answer to the thanks, but said nothing more for the moment. Just being around him was enough, because it was enough for him to just know that Kassi was okay. In the end that was all Sandi really wanted to know these days. It was odd, maybe, but then again maybe not, having become so invested in one person that that was enough for him. But this was home.
Well that was.... fair enough. Though Sandi did have to wonder why he was staring at the pages if not to read them. Then again, maybe the illusion of reading was mostly to keep people from bothering him. Which, of course, reminded Sandalio that he should probably be quieter. ... Admittedly though, most didn't seem to have any issues at all ignoring him up until they were a threat and they realized that he was a force to be reckoned with.
Certainly most Dalmascans had no trouble ignoring a slave. .... Yes, he knew, he knew he'd been friend, and he knew Kassandros was not most anyone. Still he seemed surprised by that fact.
"Somehow having you tell me that after an event doesn't actually make me worry any less." Sandalio responded dryly. Especially not during the event itself. "Besides that, I'm not actually sure that you see yourself dying in a different way means that you're impervious to the danger you put yourself in between now and then." Just uh, just saying.
Not that Sandalio really expected it to make any difference in the way Kassandros acted. After all, that was what Sandalio was here for, to make sure that he didn't get himself killed or something like that. That was what body guards did. However! It was easier to do that when ones charge didn't think they were invincible.
And you know, that whole in love with Kassandros thing. That made him worry maybe a little more than he necessarily had to, but that was normal, too.
Well, probably not. It wasn't like Kassandros thought himself some sort of untouchable thing, and there were many things worse than death, this he knew, too. Sometimes, far more frequently than Sandalio would've liked, as Kassandros had gathered by now, Kass decided the risks didn't outweigh the gain, and he went for it anyway. And other times, he was the true cause of something, it was only fitting he dealt with the results, such as was the case with Medea. Perhaps that was a strange way of looking at things, but it also only seemed fair. And really, its strangeness was due to its fairness.
How'd they even get here? He kept wondering that, off and on. In the end, he supposed the how and the why didn't really matter, but it was hard not to wonder it. He'd tried not to end up in this situation, with anyone, but, here they were. Maybe it was one of those things that he couldn't change, because he wasn't supposed to. It wasn't like he didn't - it was complicated. In hindsight, he wondered if there'd ever been a time when he didn't love, now that he was thinking about it. Because maybe in his awkward way, he always did. (He was wildly aware he wasn't the cocky overconfident shit he pretended he was.)
Damned sense of justice. It was all that thing's fault. He wasn't a very good Dalmascan, and yes, he realised, even if some might disagree, that ultimately, all his problems were his own damned fault, for not being a very good Dalmascan. If he just kept his damned head down and didn't feel the need to correct injustices when he saw them, maybe his life wouldn't have gone so terribly. Maybe he wouldn't have had to figure out how to lead an entire house, on the fly, at fourteen. Maybe their mother wouldn't have ever ended up in that tower. And maybe he and Sandalio wouldn't have ever met.
It wasn't like he'd know what he was missing, and this mess with Cassimer could only end in blood and tears. Maybe some fire.
One thing about knowing everything, Kassandros had long figured out he didn't know shit. And the funny thing about the future, it was always changing. Sometimes, even just knowing a future changed it in unpredictable ways. It happened, he knew it, he'd seen it, many times before in his short life. There was no guarantee, that not being in House Essair would in any way be better, and Dalmasca, in general, was cruel. He knew that. He just felt less like the Messiah, and more like the destroyer, sometimes. It was too late, now, for all that. Because one cared too much to let go, and the other cared too much to try and make him, and maybe at this point, Kassandros should just, accept this.
Still, he warred with it in his head. And maybe there'd always be a part of him somewhere that thought Sandalio might've been better off never knowing his name.
"I know," he answered, quietly, pulling his legs up onto the chair. "You know how little mortal danger deters me, though. It never mattered. I had no reason to care, and I guess it's still instinctive, not to think too hard about it. When I was younger, probably about eight or so, Vopiscus took me to market one day, I forget what for. We got distracted by a commotion anyway. The details are blurry, now, but there was a Dalmascan in heated argument with a market girl. She had a collar. He didn't. I think he thought she'd shortchanged him on purpose, raised hell over it. Most distinctly, I remember thinking, since she had a collar, she probably couldn't even do maths very well, but she could sort of count and tell the difference between an orange hession and a gold one. Chances were, she'd just mixed up her numbers, or something like. The man pulled a whip out, and beat her to death with it right there in the street, and nobody did or said anything. Nobody listened to her trying to defend herself, nobody asked her what she'd done, how she'd counted them, nobody tried to save her. Vopiscus snorted, laughed a little, and said something about one more cretin no longer breeding."
He paused for a moment, and then set his book on the table. "I guess it hit me a bit harder than it seemed like it had, at the time. I wanted a Dalmasca where that doesn't happen, and it was something that felt like mattered, something that felt like made me matter, to make a Dalmasca where that doesn't happen. I got so focused on it, I forgot everything else, but that was what I decided I wanted, and maybe after so long of being told how to dress and act and what to say and think and be, I was about fed up with it, and anything I decided for myself I wanted was worth throwing everything I had into. All of Dalmasca is in chains. Some people's chains are just prettier than others'. And here I am, some ten years later, and I can dive in front of glass whips and knives without a second thought to save someone else, but the idea of living for them, hoo... that's almost too damn much. At least that one was my brother. Makes a bit more sense, I guess." Something like that.
"Sorry, the point is, I'm not very good at this," he added. "That's very unlikely to be the last time. ... you sure you don't want to go to Haradi?" It'd certainly be less stressful.
Yes, he'd noticed that Kassandros had little care for his own health and safety. That didn't really change the part where Sandalio really wished that the other would take more care with himself, given just how many of them looked up to him. And how many people relied on him here. But of course, once something like that had become 'normal' Sandalio supposed it wouldn't be easy to set it right again.
Though that was a rather familiar story. Not because Sandalio had been there precisely, but because that sort of thing wasn't uncommon, and the macenian could understand the effect that might have had on a young Kassandros. .... On the other hand, he couldn't save people if he destroyed himself.
And some fo those people he saved would be in just as dark of a place if he was no longer there to help them find something that wouldn't end in the same - or different - chains being placed on them. On the other hand, Sandalio wasn't sure how to word, exactly.
"I don't want to go anywhere if you aren't there with me." Was his answer to that about Haradi. And that was the simple truth of it. He didn't want to be where Kassandros wasn't, no matter how stressful staying here in Dalmasca might be, the idea of being away from Kassi was worse. "I don't like it, of course, but it's.... it is part of who you are." Sandalio knew that much. "I just... sometimes I wish you put a little care for your own safety, that's all. A lot of people love you,and we'd be devastated to lose you."
There was a slight pause. "And I know sometimes you're going to risk yourself anyway. That's just the kind of person you are." But he wished that when it was possible they couldtry... something a little less self-sacrificing. Sometimes sacrifices did have to be made. But it shouldn't be as a matter of course that Kassi was willing to toss his own life away.
But of course, this partially came back to their discussion from earlier. About how Sandalio loved him. So of course he didn't want to lose Kassi this way.
Yes, Kassandros had noticed that. He still wasn't entirely sure why. The more time went on, though, the more he wondered if leaving Dalmasca wasn't a good idea. There was very little that was good, here. It'd already ruined him. Nearly killed his mother. It would very well likely be his end, even, and maybe... maybe, it wouldn't be a bad idea to just leave it all behind. Dalmasca's problem was, it kept killing its good men, and leaving behind only the really terrible ones. Which, all of House Essair up and leaving would certainly not help that any, but you know what, why the fuck should Kassandros even care.
He didn't say that. Instead, he looked somewhat apologetic, glanced down at his lap. "Sorry," he said. "Kind of confusing, you know, being told my whole life it doesn't matter, and then oh, yes it does." A very unintended side-effect of helping people all the time, he was sure. It was so much easier, when nobody really liked, or disliked, him. He didn't end up at war with Cassimer and having a very stubborn Macenian trailing behind him all the time. Then, that was what he'd gotten said stubborn Macenian for. Sort of. Mostly, he'd gotten tired of dealing with the assassins all the time. Kassandros had much more important things to be doing, but then, turns out, those important things maybe weren't all that important after all, either.
Ah, maybe that was it. He had no idea what he was doing, anymore, because he'd spent so long one-track focused on the Imperator throne, but the truth was, he didn't want it, anyway. His inner Vopiscus voice did, to be sure, but not him. He'd have been much happier if he could do something else. Like spend his days watching the stars, or something. There was a lot up there, and nobody had been able to see much of it. He never wanted to rise through the Warlord class that fast, he never wanted to end up controlling most of Nydema's street police, he never wanted to end up running an entire House, but nobody'd ever asked what he wanted and Kassandros had never thought about it, until recently.
But, he'd been dealt a shitty hand a long time ago, and he was just doing the best he could with it. Which, admittedly, wasn't very great.
What'd he ever do to deserve Sandalio, anyway? Maybe he wouldn't ask. Sometimes, the universe changed its mind if you questioned it. "All men die someday, though. Try not to mope about it too much, when I do. S'just how things go. ... or go on a personal crusade. The path of vengeance never did anyone any good." Actually, it tended to do the opposite.
"Don't be." Sandalio responded quietly. It wasn't Kassandros' fault that Dalmasca was a wreck, nor was it his fault that Dalmasca hurt so many people. Including Kass himself, honestly. There was something very wrong about this place, and Sandi wasn't sure anything in the world could fix it. Destruction would only bring more destruction, of course. But really other than that, he didn't know what to do that might resolve the issue.
And Sandi supposed it was confusing, but other than continuing to reiterate that his life did matter to people, he wasn't sure there was much for that. "Unfortunately all I can really do for that is try and keep reminding you that it matters to me, at least." He shrugged a bit. "But I can't say I don't understand." No, he did. Slavery did that.
And at some point Sandalio had realized that the nobles were almost as heavily chained as the slaves - the difference was just in the form those chains took. Sad thought, that. But that made it no less the truth.
"I know that. That doesn't mean I have to look forward to it or accept it peacefully." Sandalio responded after a moment, shrugging. He'd survived thus far raging against those who wanted to take his life away, it seemed... reasonable to continue to protect Kassandros with the same ferocity that had allowed him to survive that sands of the arena. "But I'll keep in mind that that isn't the path you would want for me." On the other hand, as his actions that night had shown, he would act violently to protect Kassandros if the situation warranted it.
That wasn't some sort of personal crusade though, that was just... doing his job. Then again he had many reasons to hate Dalmasca and it was hard to say that he wouldn't ultimately want to retaliate on some scale, if Dalmasca really did end up grinding Kassi to dust as it had so many others.
And Kassandros didn't understand why it did, but perhaps for the same reason Sandalio mattered to him. By this point, that was the only logic he was going to make of it whatsoever, and it was good enough, he figured. It was close enough to make sense, and something in this making sense, Kassandros was certainly not complaining about that. He wished this was easier, on them both, really, because there were too many moving pieces that didn't make much sense, n his opinion. Not that anyone had asked.
He didn't say anything, at first, just reached over and took one of Sandalio's hands in his. Once upon a long time ago, he actually didn't consider himself a very big fan of physical contact. Rather the opposite, it used to make him rather nervous, and he'd decided to just avoid it in all forms possible as much as he could. And then, that one day, he'd brushed against Sandalio and it didn't bother him near so much as it usually did. Next he knew, he'd started reaching for him when he was in range of him, any opportunity or excuse he got. It was a strange thing, to him, but maybe it wasn't all that strange at all.
"No," Kassandros agreed, breathing in and looking down at the floor. "But it'd be better for you, maybe, if you did accept it peacefully. Because maybe something will change, things often do, but I don't go quietly, as of this moment, and I don't want it to destroy you." Thetis had done most of the work, Kassandros couldn't exactly claim working his ass off to free him before he'd actually freed him, because there wasn't much left to do. But then, Sandalio never really had bent to Dalmasca, not entirely, so maybe not all the work was hers, either.
Whenever he died, Kassandros wanted Sandalio to live. That was, at least partly, why he spent so much time reuniting families. He was giving them reasons to live, and then letting them go do that. And he wasn't going to say it, probably, because it was so hard to broach the subject the first time (Kassandros was not good with feelings), but he hoped, too, that he'd fall in love again, someday. Maybe that was strange of him, but he didn't really want him to be alone, and Estelle could use a mother figure.
"... and this is not related to the current topic of conversation, but in case I forget to tell you later, go wander around House Asheron. You'll figure out why soon enough." Well, if he thought about it, he could figure out why; Kass never said things like that, unless there was a reason, typically a familial-reunion-type reason, but unless Sandalio had more kids, he was out of family, except Roland.
Well, Victoria. Go figure. But maybe Kassandros would leave that one to Surya.
Sandalio allowed his hands to be taken, remaining quietly close to the blond. Really, he wasn't sure what to say, but maybe that was okay, it wasn't like he had to say anything right this second. So he was quiet while he stood there, enjoying the moment to be close with Kassandros, and listening to what he said.
Sandi didn't like it, of course. There were... many reasons not to starting over here with but his job was to minimize the chances of him not going quietly. Sandalio was a bodyguard, that was what he did. But Kassandros had never really wanted him to do his job as well as Sandalio wanted to do it... so of course they were always just going to fail to see eye to eye on that situation.
Maybe Kassi didn't want this to destroy him - but didn't he understand that Sandalio wasn't ready to lose him? The other had barely had a chance to live himself. Sandalio didn't say that. There wasn't much of a point, and he didn't really want to argue with Kassandros after the near death experience he'd already had that night. Gray eyes looked a little sad though.
One eyebrow quirked slightly upward at that. "I'm almost afraid to ask why." Just, putting that out there. Being fair about it there were only a few options that it could be. There weren't many reasons that Kassandros might want him to spend time at the Asheron estate, still it was sort of.... how much more was Kassandros going to do for him, exactly. And why was he willing to do so much for other people and yet so unwilling to do anything to help himself?
That didn't seem like the right thing to say either so he didn't add that part.
"I think maybe we just won't see eye to eye on this not being upset when you go thing." Sandalio said that finally, shrugging his shoulders without pulling his hands away from the blond. "But I'll try and remember what it is you want from me." But Sandalio couldn't - and wouldn't - make any promises on the topic. Sandalio knew that in Kassandros' way this was him caring, him wanting Sandalio to live on after him, and he could respect that.
Sandalio would rather live with him by far.