The way the elf denied it was almost funnier than saying it in the first place. [+coral "I figured as much."] If Nicolai really were tying to fill that position, Augustine doubted he would announce it so casually, or at all. Even if he still had his heart set on his mother, the boy did not see him trying to step into Germaine's shoes to that extent.
[+coral "Yeah, yeah, I will take it slow and get it all sorted out."] Gods forbid he repressed all these feelings and then they rear their ugly head when he needed to stand and defend himself or others again. Then he really would have something to regret.
The silence between them was not half as awkward as it had been when he first entered the room. This one was almost pleasant as he was able to sit back and think a little more. Well, until Nicolai spoke up and asked if he had come for anything more than this. [+coral "Well, yes. It is kind of a big thing to talk about and I wasn't really able to focus on anything else when I was planning to come in here."] Even now, his mind was bogged down by the previous day's happenings, though there was a certain hint of desperation to be saved from boredom in the man's voice that made Augustine want to stay a little longer and help him out. It would also work as a distraction for himself.
Propping his elbow on his knee, the blond rested his head in his hand and looked over to his one time mentor. [+coral "Did you ever think of coming back? You know, sooner than you did, or in another way?"] Surely in those seven years it would have crossed his mind to come to Astoria.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai nodded at his remarks and had a small smile about the father note he made. He had not meant it in such a way, more so that he was not very good at being open and helpful in that manner that most fathers were to their sons. He could give Augustine all the information and experience he had but the truth of the matter is he had never mastered being able to speak to anyone in a less than formal or platonic manner. Perhaps it explained why Florence did not seem to trust him to be open and clear with her.
Has he known how the boy felt about his mother, about how he saw her as being happier than ever before, perhaps he would have taken a step back from her and allow her to continue that happiness. But people are selfish, and he was about wanting her.[+royalblue “I did not mean to try and place myself as a new father figure. Only that I am not particularly good at this talking malarkey.”] He smiled lightly.[+royalblue “Just, don't try to rush it Augustine. Things like this need time to process and work through. Be sure to give it time.”]
It was all quite odd and surreal, sitting here with him, discussing this whilst being a prisoner in a foreign land. Apart from the boy being older and putting aside their location it was as if seven years had not happened. Like they were back by that fountain, on the clear summer day, just talking and wiling away the time. So much had changed since then and Nicolai did not like most of the changes. It was a simpler, more enjoyable time. Not least because he had not confessed how he felt to Florence. Perhaps that was his biggest regret.
[+royalblue “Is that all you came to talk to me about? I have a few days to the rest of my life stuck in here, so throw any other questions you have at me.”]
Augustine shrugged at the distinction. [+coral “Connotation is everything, I guess.”] Words were like people, they could be good or bad depending on how you viewed them and what you associated them with. Even if they all boiled down to the same things. [+coral “But I understand. Compartmentalizing it will help me out in the long run.”] Looking back on this, he hoped to be able to separate it from his regrets, even if it was a single word that kept them apart.
His other comment though, that was sort of funny, as that was very much not what Augustine was hoping to take away from this conversation, nor this relationship. It even got a bit of a laugh out of the boy. [+coral “Not really looking for another father. I’ve already run through two of them.”] That was in part Florence’s fault, but at this point wasn’t holding it against her. Plus, she was the happiest he could ever remember her being. As much as he liked Nicolai, Augustine had a hard time dissociating his mother's unhappiness from her being in a relationship. Perhaps it was the remnants of his childhood notion that she did not care about his father or himself. Although it likely was, he certainly had not made the connection. [+coral “It was helpful though. I’m able to see things a little differently now and I think that is a good thing.”] At the very least he felt marginally better about it. And that was a start.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai nodded and he had to agree that it was good to see the boy was not being trivial with the matter. It was a serious incident and deserved to be given proper attention. But he disagreed with his wording.[+royalblue “It is good that you acknowledge this, that you spend time to understand it and understand if you are ready to do this again should the need arise in Wistina. It in all likeliness will happen again.”] He had to know if he could rely on Augustine as a front line fighter or if he would have to sit back and be more of a reactive, defensive fighter. This was all on the assumption he went with them of course.
Leaning his head back on the bed he stared forward at the door.[+royalblue “But you use the wrong words Augustine. It is not murder and it is not remorse you should feel. Remorse is for those you couldn't save, murder is for those you wish you did not kill.”] He spoke from personal experience and yet it was as true as the day he realised it.[+royalblue “You might think it semantics, just substituting certain words, but it is key to learning how to process this. You killed a man, you did not murder one.”] It was all terribly repetitive and dysfunctional to say but he had to reach him and show him that this was not a time to feel bad.
[+royalblue “I think you should focus more on how when the time came you did the right thing and you defended your loved ones. You showed your family that you are a staunch defender and the fact you contemplate now if you did the right thing, shows you are not heartless. I wish my first time taking a life was so simple.”] He let out a deep breath, closing his eyes and linking his hands together.[+royalblue “Was that any help at all? I'm not exactly good at this father-ly thing, as my past clearly shows.”]
Augustine heard Nicolai jostling about before he saw him out of the corner of his eye. The man came down to his level to speak, and while it would make it easier to communicate he was glad he did not breach the distance entirely. It was hard enough to hear what he had to say.
The boy sort of fixated on that first part. That he was not ready to go back. Out of everything that could be said, that was the last thing he wanted to hear. But that did not mean he thought Nicolai was wrong. Fighting to regain his title was bound to be an arduous and blood-filled battle. If this much was causing him to falter, he would be of little use when they made it to the south. Even his uncle, who sat on pacifist tendencies, hadn’t been able to come through their war unsullied. If he wanted to do this he needed to harden his heart, at least to that degree.
That was not all Nicolai had to say, however. There were other options than taking the fact that he was guilt ridden and using it as a reason to hold himself back from what he really wanted: to return to his homeland. This was still fresh and new and with what the elf was saying, there was more than one way to view the situation. Augustine was so fixated on what did happened that he never thought of what could have happened. What if Adrian really had been able to kill his mother. He could barely stand to think of it. If he had chosen to do nothing certainly he would feel a thousand times worse than he did right now... but did that mean he was right to do what he did?
As if he was reading his mind, the dark haired man asked a fairly simple question. How would he feel if someone else, Nicolai in this case, had done the same thing? He hardly had to imagine it. Both he and his mother had done just that on their journey to Astoria. He had never thought to see them any differently. They were just doing what they needed to to survive. Was this the same?
[+coral “No, I would not hate you... I would say you did your job as the general of Wistina.”] To some extent he would have celebrated it. This also got him thinking about how he felt before when Adrian was initially injured. Augustine had felt little remorse for the man. [+coral “Even when you nearly killed him before... I did not think it so bad. I only worried for my mom and how she might handle it.”]
Given that, he wondered why it was so different when he was the one with the dagger in his hand. Taking in a deep breath he stopped to try and think about that. He was sure if his mother had the blade she would have done the same... and she probably wouldn’t even feel bad about it. But she also had the experience to back that action. He did not. And it was ludicrous to expect that he could handle such an extreme situation in the same way as someone who had been in that position before.
[+coral “I not want to walk away from this feeling guilt free. I murdered a man. To be remorseless about that would make me no better than an animal, let alone a man who should rule over the lives of others.”] No, he needed to feel and process this, but he also had to decide not to let it consume him. With that thought, he regained a bit of his determination. [+coral “I was not wrong. I did the right thing.”] In the end, it was exactly what his mother had said to him. [+coral “But I will not let that be an excuse to not think critically of my actions.”] He had to keep an open mind and remember there would be times when just because something was right for him, did not mean it would perpetuated the greater good.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai grinned at the comment about his mother. She certainly seemed prudish when it came to matters of sex or even just simple affection outside her Astorian family. But that was a talk for adults so he said nothing of it. He just sat and listened as Augustine began to spill what was truly bothering him. He had not really considered the possibility that the problem of Adrian was dealt with by Augustine. He figured Florence would keep him away. Perhaps he had been insistent on joining them, or had come running to her aid. Whatever the meaning for his being there he clearly felt upset about having to attack the man.
Shifting a little on the bed to try and gain a comfortable position from which to talk, he simply couldn't. In the end he dropped himself down beside Augustine, leaning back against the bedding though maintaining a sizeable gap between them.[+royalblue “I won't sweeten my words Augustine; I didn't seven years ago and I don't believe a boy with your kind of upbringing and past needs to be coddled.”] He was his King after all, and if he wanted his honest advise he would get it.[+royalblue “You killed a man. Whether you regret it, celebrate it, ignore it – it happened. It is a part of you forever now and that is that.”] It was rather succinct but he lifted his hand and rubbed at the back of his neck.
It was not an easy subject to explain, though he seemed to have no qualms talking of it. Being a General he had his fair share of these talks with men under his command.[+royalblue “The key point is how you deal with it or let it affect you. I would say if your approach is to feel guilty then you should stay here in Astoria and forget about Wistina because you are not ready.”] He could be perhaps a little brash and upfront, but he wanted the boy to see he was being truthful and blunt. He would not half-heartedly give him what he wanted to hear, because that would not help him.
[+royalblue “Or, you can accept what happened for the simple fact that it was kill or be killed. You protected your family, did the right thing, and I know because I can guarantee if you had not done what you did, and he had hurt your mother, you would be feeling a lot more than irredeemable right now.”] Pulling his knees up as if to mimic the boy, he rest his arms on them, toying with his fingers one one hand with the other.[+royalblue “Unfortunately it is not a black and white thing. I can't give you the wholesome answer that will clear this all up succinctly and you can move on happily. And yes, that feeling of uncertainty will lessen with time, but it is up to you if it goes away or consumes you.”] It was so difficult to tell a child, or a young adult, that this was a journey he had to take himself to look at himself and judge himself based on the circumstances.
[+royalblue “You know, some people, like me for example, can take a life without too much thought and it's almost an instinct. We learn to justify each life we take, why we did it, and move on. We can do that because we learned how to deal with what you are going through right now.”] He sighed and looked across to the blonde boy, keeping to himself rather than try to offer a reassuring hand on the shoulder.[+royalblue “Tell me this much; would you hate me if I had done that to Adrian? Put me in your position, exact same spot, your mother or you behind me, he's coming at me wanting to kill me. Am I a bad man, am I wrong, for wanting to keep you safe?”]
He listened as Nicolai had a somewhat roundabout way of telling him that he remembered it. And somehow, in all that, none of it was quite what he wanted to hear. [+coral "You don't have to worry about that. Even if I tried to tell her she would probably just tune it out. She doesn't like talking about that sort of thing."] Not that he was at all eager to sit down and have that talk with her either. They were both very comfortable not discussing sex with one another. Hopefully it would stay that way. He just prayed that Nicolai would also keep his mouth shut. The last thing Augustine wanted to hear was someone lusting after his mother. Even just the brief thought made his skin crawl.
Then it came, Nicolai's call back with his own inquiry. There was another pause before the boy was able to answer. [+coral "...I just want to know when this feeling is going to pass..."] He brought his knees in close to his body, wrapping his arms tightly around them. [+coral "I killed Adrian. I didn't try to at first. I just cut his arm to get him away from mom, but then he got up shouting that he was going to kill both of us. Everything happened so quick I barely knew what was happening when I moved."] It was harder to say it all together like that than he expected. He took in a couple of deep breaths to try and steady himself before going on. [+coral "Mom, she keeps telling me that everything is okay and that I did the right thing, but she would say that about anything."] Not to mention at one point she and Adrian had been close. Surely that was not all she felt on the matter. [+coral "But no matter how many times she says that, it still doesn't feel true. I feel like I've done something irredeemable. Does that feeling ever go away, even a little bit?"] Right now it felt all consuming, like everything else took a back seat and that was all there was to define him. He felt dirty.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai grinned when he saw the boys face turn a good shade of red. So boys still disliked talking about their crushes eh? Good to know. But when he took a seat on the floor leaning against the bed, the older man was a little confused. Surely the bed was more comfortable? If only he had a chair. But they had taken that when he had informed them he could easily break off a leg to use as a club. He was nothing if not a helpful prisoner.
Nodding along to what he said it was all rather interesting. The typical things he expected to hear of someone growing up, but hearing him talk of his mother being more understandable was a good thing to hear. At least their divide had all but disappeared and they looked to be on the path to a more successful relationship. He moved around the end of the bed, leaning back to sit on the edge with his feet dangling off though he leaned forward to keep an eye on him; to do otherwise was rude.
The question however did have his brow raising with interest. He could understand why the boy was asking, but he wondered who it had been. Nicolai answered his question first however,[+royalblue “The first life I took? Yes. I remember it very vividly. But it is like most of your firsts in life. First time riding a horse, first time swimming in the local stream, seeing the lambs be born in the spring, your first crush and kiss and first time having sex – though if you tell your mother I told you that last one it will be the first time you experience having your head shaved and dunked into a military latrine.”] He looked down on the seated boy a little suspect but the corners of his mouth turned up slightly.
[+royalblue “In short; I do remember. But you don't need the details. Or do you? May I ask why you want to know? Or rather, what you are hoping to understand by hearing it?”]
In a way, Augustine was glad Nicolai reached out first, but at the same time the subject he went to bring up was horrifically embarrassing. Face reddening fast, he was also a little confused at how the elf would have found out anything about Flora. Well, not that confused. It was bound to be his mother. [+coral "They've been interesting..."] The young man glossed over the topic of his girlfriend for the time being.
Coming up to the bed, he was standing beside the sturdy wooden structure by the time he spoke again. He did not really want to sit directly next to Nicolai, especially if he was going to be asking embarrassing questions, so he took a seat on the floor leaned up against the bedpost. There was a good chance he would be here for a while and this was going to be more comfortable than standing.
[+coral "I have met a lot of people, most of them good natured. None more so than my uncle. I was surprised how well we got along. I expected him to be more like my mom, but besides looks there are not many similarities."] He laughed lightly at that. [+coral "I also made a few friends, ones that I am not related too."] While he considered himself friends with some of his younger cousins, it was different from things with Flora and Marko. Then again that might also have to do with the age gap. [+coral "Seeing everything here, I have come to understand my mom a lot better too. Part of that comes from talking with her though."] Honestly a lot had happened over the years, but none of it seemed all that important in that moment. [+coral "Overall, I have learned a lot of different things from a lot of different people and I am grateful for all of it."] That went for the hard bits too. And right now he was dealing with one of the hardest lessons he would need to learn. How to live with himself after killing a person. Thinking about it, it was probably a blessing in disguise that this happened when it did. There would not be time to sit back and process these emotions if they were already on the road to Wistina.
Augustine was quiet again for break, although this time it did not last. His voice dropped lower as he called for the older man's attention. [+coral "Hey, Nicolai... Do you remember the first time you took a life?"] The question may have been simple, but he was probing for details.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat As quick as he was to irritability, he was just as fast to calm down and took a little time to stretch out his legs. He was not as flexible as he was when he was younger, but he bet he could still beat Augustine in a race if the time came for such a thing. Perhaps that was the folly of being older, that he still looked at those younger than him and saw them as lesser. It was just jealousy in the end.
Yet when the boy walked in, seeing the elder elf sat on his bed and massaging at his calves, it would not look like a man in the peak of his physical life like Nicolai believed. Not wanting to speak first and be seen as rude, he let the boy observe his Spartan lifestyle in this room. After a few minutes of nothing, Nicolai looked across with a bemused smile.[+royalblue “Apologies, I was told you wanted to speak to me, but seems the cat has your tongue.”] He stood up lifting his arms up high, a few clicks in his back and shoulders as he eased himself to one side.
Rotating himself a little to ease his tension a little more he turned to Augustine.[+royalblue “Come on, talk to me. Tell me how the last seven years have been. Tell me about Flora. Is she cute?”] He grinned as he teased the poor boy but if it invoked a response other than silence it was worth it.
Shaking her head lightly at the mock formality he showed her in the end, she found it funny. What was even more entertaining was his tiny stumbles as he attempted to walk. The woman might have liked to stay around just to see a bit more of that, but she had already announced her departure. Giving him a more formal farewell, she left. On the way out she returned the key to the older guard who had kept it before. He seemed glad to have back in his possession. As though he might have been in trouble had he been caught without it.
Florence headed out toward the courtyard. She doubted Augustus was in yet, so she decided it best to meet him part way. That way she would be the first to see him and she would not need to think up some excuse to pull him away from Eugene who was bound to want his attention in light of recent events. It was on the way out she ran into her son. He had not gone far and the way he was standing about gave her the impression he was waiting for her. [+mediumseagreen "He's just been granted the ability to get up and out of bed. Perhaps give him just a bit longer so that he can stretch and get comfortable."] As much as she wanted for Augustine to have time and space to express himself, she also wanted him to remain courteous. Though the look on his face alone told her he was not happy about it. Shrugging, she knew he would do what he pleased and she continued on toward her destination.
Augustine had expected Nicolai to steal away more of his mother's time than he had, but when he caught sight of her she looked to be on a mission, which explained why it had been so short a visit. Not that it bothered him, that just meant he could go in next. Or it did before she advised him to sit back for a bit. It had already felt like he had been waiting an eternity since yesterday, but he knew a little while longer would not kill him. So there was a gap of about half an hour where the boy was left to his thoughts once more. After that, he figured Nicolai was fair game.
This time the guards gave him no problems and allowed him to pass without a word. He waited till he was inside the room with the door shut to properly have a look around. This was a room he had been in previously, but now it was barren. No doubt stripped of any luxuries to hold a man that was meant to be a captive.
Augustine had spent all this time knowing that he wanted to see and speak with Nicolai, but now that he was here he was not quite sure how to begin. It was not like it was an easy subject to breach in the first place. 'Hey, I just killed a guy. Someone my mother was actually pretty partial too. How would you deal with that, you know, for reference, cause right now I feel like shit.' Just was not going to cut it. So the silence persisted as he tried to gather his words.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat It was quite a quick and hurried ending to their talk as her hand was pulled from his and she diverted talk to her need to speak with Augustus. Nicolai for a moment let his face dip a little, though quickly a mask was thrown up and he nodded with a smile.[+royalblue “Of course, more pressing matters to attend to.”] He commented lightly as he managed to slip around her. Standing was a little odd for a moment, having to become used to the weight on his feet once more. His ankles felt rather brittle like a fawn. But he moved around her and past the end of the bed.
[+royalblue “Tell Augustine he can come speak to me whenever he wishes – my schedule is rather open at present.”] His joke was a little forced though he turned back to her and still the smile held.[+royalblue “And thank you again for allowing me this small freedom.”] Offering a small bow of his head to her he remained several feet away as she moved for the door so as not to offer any trepidation he may make a move to leave or anything erratic. One of the guards outside eyed him with suspicion but he remained perfectly still where he was as the door closed behind her.
With her gone the façade dropped and he was left stewing in annoyance. Part of him understood her refusal to speak with him, on any matters really, as he was back to being a relative stranger. A past of fleeting shared experiences did not make for a friendship or at least one that involved sharing anything beyond simple facts. But a greater part of him felt like nothing had really changed between them.
She put up the idea that he had to go through this makeshift trial before he could even think to the join her and Augustine and that her brother and Augustus would be the ones to decide on his fate there. He knew Gregory would not like him to go with them and from what he had witnessed with Florence so far, she did not seem overly keen for him to join them either. He wondered how she would have reacted to him had he closed himself off to her and rejected the opportunity to open up about things. She had looked rather annoyed when he would not discuss Elizabeth or Natalya. He remembered her anger than he would not share information regarding his wound all those years ago.
For a time he found it all hypocritical of her that he was being as open to her as possible and yet she found excuses to leave and avoid talking back to him. But there was little sense in getting angry or upset about that. As he had stated to her in her room, if she did not want him in the same manner he wanted her then that would be that. And at present it seemed she was quite content to remain by herself.
Or perhaps he was being an idiot and over analysing this all like he did seven years ago?
He tried to push it aside as he returned to his bedside table, taking up the copper tablet and placing it on his tongue as the headache this gave him began to throb irritably.
Eyes down, she watched as his hand slipped between both of hers. His skin was a touch chilly against hers, probably from the poor circulation that came with them being shackled. Her gaze stayed there as he spoke. His voice was low and comforting, and his words kind. [+mediumseagreen "That might be true... unfortunately, I am not sure there are many out there who can quite relate to how I feel. At least, not fully."] Obviously he understood what it was like to be worried for the well being of your child. He'd likely felt that even more strongly than she, but there was something else that had been bothering her for a while now. Something that she could not speak aloud, so to vent would be impossible for her. The closest comfort she had was spending time with Gregory, letting him sooth her like a child. However she was an adult and could not expect to be able to do such things forever. [+mediumseagreen "Thank you for the offer, but I am afraid this will be staying with me."] She squeezed his hand lightly, an attempt to convey that she truly did appreciate it. [+mediumseagreen "Plus, now is not the time to be worry over me. You have much bigger problems on your plate. If I were you, I would not be so eager to take on more than you can handle."] Her comment was made in mostly a joking manner, as she had already asked him to listen to Augustine, but there was some seriousness too it. Besides, it was not as though she bottled everything. There were many things she did discuss with Augustine. As interested in her business as Nicolai seemed to be, her son had him beat in that category hands down.
[+mediumseagreen "Now,"] she pulled her hands away from his. [+mediumseagreen "I should probably see if Augustus has made it back to the castle yet. I need to speak with him."] Not to mention she wanted to allow Nicolai some time to himself before Augustine showed up.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat It was good that he would have a little time before Augustine was allowed to meet him. He needed to stretch and fully wake up after almost a week of being tethered to a wall or bed. It would have been nice to go for a run outside or do some light weapon practice – no doubt any chance of leaving this room or the opportunity to take a hold of a weapon would not be looked upon favourably by his hosts.
Looking at Florence as she rubbed her hands together in a nervous fashion, he shuffled himself to the edge of the bed. In a slow manner, meant to convey his intention before doing so, he lifted his hands to hers and his fingers slipped into her palms as he looked up at her.[+royalblue “Florence.. I said I will speak to him, and I will.”] His voice was low as he gazed upon her. It really was quite remarkable how often he found himself lost for words just looking at her and observing her like this.
But this time he retained his composure.[+royalblue “You are a worried mother and I can partially relate to that. Even as a father for so little time, I understand how worry for them can be.. overwhelming and consuming.”] He did not elaborate but he continued to hold her hands in his very lightly, his thumbs running over the backs of her fingers.[+royalblue “It is not as easy or simple as telling you to relax. Perhaps it is not just Augustine who needs someone to be able to vent to, to relate to.”] Equally a simple thing to suggest, but she seemed rather pent up and frustrated at things whenever he had had chance to speak with her. Yes Adrian was a large distraction, but it looked to have been going on far longer than his own return.
[+mediumseagreen "Not right this second. I sent him away so I could talk to you first."] She wanted to lay out some of the basics before Augustine came in here and unloaded everything on him. That being said, she knew he would appreciate not feeling useless by simply repeating everything his mother had said. His concern was a founded one. Augustine was a great deal different from how he had been last Nicolai saw him. In some regards he was still the same. At the very least he was still somewhat reserved with personal matters around strangers, but much of his timidness had shed away over the years of having more contact with people and children his own age.
Bringing her hands up in front of herself, she wrung them. [+mediumseagreen "You are right... I suppose I should leave you to handle how you think best."] It was a relationship between the two of them after all. She did not need to insert herself into it. [+mediumseagreen "I just cannot help but think he wants someone to relate too. And given your histories,"] that being that they both lost their fathers at a young age and came from Wistina, [+mediumseagreen "you fit the bill. Not to mention he confided in you back then as well... All I ask is that even if things cannot be the same, you still allow him that."] Florence was not sure why she was explaining all that, not after he had already agreed to try. After all these years she was still little more to an overly worried mother.
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