I say pseudo-fanfic because while all of the characters who appear in the story are of my own creation, and are considered part of shall we say the “established extended universe” of kinda-canon, this is not my setting. (Also, a character mentioned is not mine.) But the author enjoys seeing me poke in her world, and who am I to tell an author no. 😉 So this is a drabble of sorts I came up with for Lyn Thorne-Alder, in her Addergoole setting. I have literally no idea where in the timeline this would take place; we’ve dabbled so many times in this that if I tried to put a year, I’d be wrong. So Lyn? I trust you can figure it out. 😉
It wasn’t so much the feeling of being watched that itched at the back of his mind—it was the fact that he was certain he knew the gaze watching him. His step faltered, just enough for his companion to notice and pause in her own gait.
“Marius? What’s wrong?”
The redhead stopped in his tracks, the crowd around him muttering in frustration as they weaved around the larger man. “Someone’s here.”
Salome blinked, glancing around. She knew full well he had to mean someone specific; they were surrounded by people. A quick moment of reflection and she had no premonitions of danger, no avenues they needed to flee to. “Someone we know?”
“Not sure.” His eyes narrowed, peering through the crowd. There had to be an indication somewhere. Someone was watching him, and he was going to find them—and ignore the mounting frustration from those around him. It wouldn’t do him any good to feed back into them; a fight was just likely to make it harder to find who he was looking for—and if being around Bracken had taught him anything, it was that his fight or…well, fight instinct wasn’t exactly useful.
This is…strangely familiar. Familiar in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. This was a feeling like family, like safety…
It hit him. Like Crew.
Now his eyes knew what to look for, and it didn’t take him long to notice the stream of people eddying around another fixed spot—one with dark hair and piercing blue eyes staring right at him. She wasn’t the same as last he’d seen her, but who really was? His interactions with his and his Keeper’s Crew from school was minimal at best; he knew where Sascha was and was content for him to rot there, Silas had floated around his world but never come in too close, Lorelei had been a bit of a mystery but seemed to be making her way through the world, Mallory and Seth were much the same (not surprisingly), and Judith was…gone, as far as he knew. She wasn’t exactly missed.
But Aikia. He wasn’t sure what had happened to the Spring Frost, but he’d heard a multitude of rumors. That she was dead. Captured by a slave trade. Lost in a duel to one of the infamous members of Boom, Addergoole’s perhaps most notorious crew. Sex slave to one of the kingpins of the black market. Marius had long since determined that if he knew anything of his former Crewmate, it was that she wasn’t going to be one to be easily nailed down.
And now here she was.
Salome’s eyes followed his, and he could feel her go still next to him. Her hands wrapped around his forearm, but he just set a hand over hers and walked over to where Aikia was standing near a bench. “Aikia.”
Her lips curved in a small smile, but it never reached her eyes. “Marius. I wondered if you’d see me.”
“I could tell you were here.” He’d worked alongside Aikia for far too long to not know when she was nearby. “I hadn’t heard from you.”
“No one has.” Now the smile was rueful, and her eyes watched the ground. Marius frowned. This isn’t normal. Something in his crewmate had changed, and he wasn’t sure it was for the better or not. He didn’t feel any anger coming off of her, and Salome hadn’t urged him to leave yet for somewhere safer, so he was willing to hope for the best. “It’s been…a trying past few decades.”
While Marius was struggling to come up with the appropriate response, Salome offered for him. “We can talk back at the bunker, if you’d like.”
Aikia blinked at her, only the faintest glimmer of recognition in her gaze. “If it’s no imposition.”
Marius frowned again. “Of course not. You’re crew.”
Now her smile was self-deprecating. “I don’t expect anyone to welcome me as anything like that anymore. I’ve seen enough to know what I did.”
Both Marius and Salome were taken back at that, but Salome—ever to her nature—recovered first. “Nothing can be done which cannot later be forgiven. It may take time, but it can be. Come, we’ll show you back home.”
Most of the rest of Salome’s old crew—the ones Marius was living with, occasionally to their chagrin—was out when they got home, which was just as well for him. While Salome and he might be willing to let Aikia in without too much question, he didn’t relish Ariadne or Evander being there when she walked in. Gods only know what Seth might have done, if he’d still been around. That would have been a true nightmare.
As it was, having Aikia sitting across from Salome and him looking for all the world like a student dragged into the Director’s office…was strange enough. “Why are you here?” Marius asked. Salome’s eyes snapped to him, horror and frustration flashing in them, but Aikia didn’t even flinch. In fact, a small smile slid onto her lips.
“It’s a fair question,” she said, looking at Salome. “Perhaps not the most tactfully asked, but I wouldn’t have expected tact from Marius.” Aikia looked back to Marius. “The simplest answer is that I have not yet figured out where I am meant to be. The longer answer…well, it’s not exactly the easiest thing to explain…or stomach.”
“I can listen.”
And listen he did, as Aikia laid out her past before him. More of the rumors were true than he’d expected; she’d been “salvaged” by slave traders of a sort, fae capturing their own in a brutal attempt to “heal” the “broken” at any cost—and they had been the ones to send the Spring Frost to “die” at the hands of the Lightning Blade, though of course it hadn’t actually been Aikia. Years had passed at their hands until finally they’d been torn apart—and she’d ended up in a different compound, albeit a happier one than she’d had before. There were other pieces, but from all of it Marius could make out a similar theme: Aikia had been through several rings of hell and back again, and she was only just now starting to make out who she was after it all.
He knew something about that feeling. A frisson of guilt flickered through him, which he tried to swallow back.
“Am I the first of the crew you’ve seen?”
She tilted her head back and forth. “Outside of Lorelei at the compound? Yes, you’re the first. I…I’ve been meaning to go and see the others, but some I don’t know where to find and others…I’m not sure how the interaction will go. I understand that being around me, particularly during school and immediately after, was…shall we say, not pleasant.”
Salome blinked. “I…” Her mouth snapped shut, and she tucked one foot under her.
Aikia just gestured. “Please, say whatever you like.”
It took the girl a moment, but she found her voice again. “I’m surprised…well, that anything could have evoked this much of a change. I…I never knew you well, but I remember you.” There was a beat of silence before she added, “I think we all remember you.”
The wince in Kia’s eyes, however much she wanted to hide it, was evident. “Yes, I can imagine. As I said, I know that I wasn’t particularly pleasant. I have no doubt that some elements of that are unlikely to change. I am, after all, still the Spring Frost. That which is in my nature is not truly easily changed. But…I can at least try to shift the pieces which were the wall I built for myself.”
Marius blinked slowly. “You’re looking for forgiveness.”
Aikia spread her hands in an open gesture. “I’m looking to see if anyone is left to…” Her voice hitched, and she frowned, taking a deep breath. “Left to…forgive me, yes.”
Marius hadn’t actually expected those words to leave her mouth.
“Then I’m not the one you need to talk to.” Aikia raised an eyebrow at Marius, and he cleared his throat. “We weren’t good to each other, and if you don’t think I need to apologize to you, then you don’t need to apologize to me.”
Aikia shrugged. “You were who you were. And I failed to treat you as anything more than that.”
“I’d say the same for you.” His eyes leveled with hers, something he wouldn’t have done years ago. “I know what it’s like, Aikia. I’ve been treated like a thug and nothing else, and I’ve had people…someone…treat me like more. And I fucked that up bad.” He could feel Salome shift next to him, but he pushed her unease from his brain. “I know what it’s like to have the best in front of you and walk away because you didn’t get it—or didn’t get it fast enough. I hurt people. …Someone, and someone who didn’t deserve to be hurt. And I don’t get to choose if that ever gets better. I…” His voice died in his throat, and he could feel Salome fighting to keep herself from taking his arm. She knew it wouldn’t help…knew it’d probably make it worse. Marius shook his head, and shifted the focus. “That’s where an apology is necessary. I owe her one, and I don’t know if I get to give one. If it’d make anything better. I dunno. So yeah, I know your shoes. But I’m not one you need to apologize to.”
A faint smile traced Aikia’s lips. “Quite a speech, Marius.”
He grunted. “Happens sometimes.”
The smile widened just a fraction. “I appreciate that you feel that way. And it’s unfortunate that you’ve had that experience. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.” Her eyes shifted to Salome. “You, however, may be owed an apology.”
Salome’s eyes widened. “What? How?”
“While I may not have directed affected you when you were at school…” Aikia lightly touched Marius’ knee, the closest to a playful swipe she could manage. “I may have affected this one. And that reflected back on you and his Keeping of you. So for whatever pain that may have caused you…you have my regrets.”
Salome smiled, shaking her head. “I don’t find it necessary, but thank you. Seeing you changed at all is gift enough for me.”
“Best in everyone,” Marius muttered, and Aikia chuckled in response.
“Were that more people in the world like you, Salome.” She stood, brushing off her skirt. “I won’t impose on you any longer. I suppose I have more traveling to do…more people to find.”
Salome was on her feet as well in a flash. “Oh please, Aikia, don’t feel you need to leave so soon. We can help you find the others. Help you plan.” A pause, then she added, “If you’d like?”
Kia’s eyes found Marius’, and an unspoken amusement flickered between them. “I think I’d like that; thank you, Salome. If nothing else, I’d like to hear more about what my crewmate has been doing with his life since I last saw him.”