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Kat's Blurbs [Read only] - Printable Version

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RE: Kat's Blurbs [Read only] - Kat - 12-25-2020

He was inexperienced in the way of nations. He was inexperienced in the way of politics. He was inexperienced in pride and honor and nobility and every classical and contemporary definition of chivalry and he was inexperienced in matters of the heart, both authentic and fabricated.

She didn’t understand what her attraction to him was nor did she want to think about what it meant to her titles and her land and to the state of the endless games she played with the aristocracy. They were engaged in finding the potential weakness of her throne. She knew better than to ignore their scheming, but it was difficult to forget him.

She loved him. Love extravagant, with the bells and whistles and wedding chimes, and love in lesser, quieter ways.

When she caught him on his knees in prayer, she loved him. When she watched him sleep beneath the weight of his Deer Hound, she loved him. When she saw how he cried for his sister when she was wed, she loved him. When he secretively mentioned his longing for her as they passed one another, she loved him. Even now, despite all that came between them, she loved him.

In tears, they said their goodbyes. Not with words, but with looks of disappointment and pain and, in his case, primal fear.

Though it hurt more than she thought she could bear, she watched the guillotine drop.

Queen Kaisie Amthne loved the traitorous Cerons Vinters then and forevermore, his headless body the last memory she would ever cherish of him.


RE: Kat's Blurbs [Read only] - Kat - 12-25-2020

Two kinds of people.

Quick ones. Sharp as a blade. Honed and merciless. Bad people. They’re made that way, made by the city. Chewed up and spit out, saliva slick, stinking of their shore trophies long after they’ve mugged coppers from her coffers. Seaweed stench, teeth like an outhouse; vile and odious and dangerous in the dark. They got their leathers and their pipers, their buck and their red hand knowledge. Always hiding from the knockers, always waiting for their next score. Sea snakes, the lot of ‘em. A few are lost to salt baths and the whole world sighs in relief. The rest make their way, trudging and filthy and sharp. Oh so sharp - with glinting eyes and hands weathered from storm and thievery and years of hard time. The Bazrah can’t stop ‘em. Nothing can stop ‘em.

The city feeds its own.

Other ones are elusive. Sweet talkers like the belters at the inn, strumming their cords for copper. They put faith in the aura witches and the crones and the passing advice doled out from hounds. Whisperers are their grapevine, feeding them sweet niblets of information while they pass as anything and everything. Surgeons with their chopping blocks, Candlepriests throating promises to the gods, Nighthawks doing all the evils the honored house won’t openly commit. They get close without you knowing - get into open wounds and between spread legs and into ears and into sights and through the heart - and once they’re in, they never leave. Can’t scrub the tracks they leave, the changes they make to you and yours and everything you’ve known. They can only go taking what they need and leaving when they get enough and I tell you, when you’ve been taken for a fool, you’ll never see those elusive fuckers the same way.

But this is just the way of it, of Hoffer, and the way you’ve always known. Your knuckles have been bloody since you were born, raw from work and sore from the walls and windows and jaws they’ve met knuckle first. Almost a shame to see hands like yours be so broken, but we’ve all got our problems. Crippled hands might make you less susceptible to the devil. Broken fingers give you plenty of time to use that head of yours. It’s Hoffer, sure, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one of the sharp ones or the elusive ones. Those’re only two kinds.

City has a bellyful of merchants anticipating their final hours in port, happy to put some distance between themselves and Corpse Cove. They come for Spice Harbor, as we all seem to, but they aren’t hard-pressed and down on their luck. They don’t need to stay, as we all seem to, so they leave right quick.

What if you left with them? Left Hoffer and the docks and the stench of the gutters- just left it all behind?

What would you do then?


RE: Kat's Blurbs [Read only] - Kat - 12-27-2020

Among the dark halls and ebonsteel plating of the flagship, the northern keep of the sept was well lit, a means to accentuate the most hallowed of entries. The temple of Iris Ll’asect was in sharp contrast to much of House Rhodion’s decor choices, shedding dark motifs for an alabaster glaze that bled into every facet of the design. The high ceiling with its mural in opaque tones, the elaborate rose gold flooring only a few shades different from the classical cream of the arching doorway. It suited the sanctum to appear in equal measure serene as it did resolute, and for that, it would continue to stem the tide of darkness so fervently associated with Vampire kind.

The youngest of the ruling house, Kitja Des Cou’la Aer Rhodion, liked the temple best.

Perhaps that was why it was so easy to find her in the pale sea of historical texts, her fair complexion right at home in the wash of white.

“It’s almost time.”

Kitja brought her gaze slowly upward, tracing the frame of the much larger figure taking up much of the temple’s delicate entryway. Something close to a smile crossed her lips.

“It seems rather soon, doesn’t it?”

“No,” responded the hulk. “If anything, you’ve prolonged this meeting and we’re obligated to make no more excuses.”

Looking rather out of place, the massive speaker was several times the size of Kitja. Features hidden beneath a mask of bone, his golden hues watched the petite mage as she rose to stand. His attire was heavy and white, a flow of thick silks topped by ivory furs. Only his chest remained bare. Tanned and pierced with patchwork scars that would no more vanish with time than they would lessen. They simply were.

Kitja paid the scars no mind. She knew the stories for each.

“Will my parents be seeing me off?” Brushing away fine strands of her platinum locks, Kitja didn’t appear hopeful. If anything, there was a feeling of annoyance palpable even at a distance between herself and her personal guard.

“No. Medjerai Oul’stan is away and Medjeress Kyione is busy.”

“Busy?” The word was seethed, a flush brightening Kitja’s cheeks so the apples burned at the outline of the bone. “With what, Ol’haus?!”

Ol’haus, known as Haus to most (including the fledgling when she was less aggravated), shrugged his shoulders with a dismissive lift.

With no more words to say between them, he beckoned for Kitja to follow him from the bright glow of the temple.

“No matter how you feel about your parents, you must realize they have responsibilities outside of you. I do not believe their…” He struggled for the word, attempting to stay neutral, “apparent neglect is done maliciously. It simply comes down to their tasks and their duties. The House has many responsibilities and few who can bear the weight of such responsibilities.”

“Like you being stuck with me,” Kitja mumbled to herself, sulking. “You’d rather have the blood to walk the lines.”

“My wish to be a walker has dwindled. Even before your birth, I had resigned myself to my destiny. Perhaps you would be wise to do the same.”

“Easy for you to say- you’re not off to marry someone you don’t know.”

Haus frowned behind his mask. An honest, deep frown.

“I never had the luxury of a marriage. Instead, I was given a charge to raise.”

Kitja silenced whatever petty response she intended to give, her sights downcast. They were traveling along the dark trail leading toward the passenger carrier. In the silence of their trip, she wondered if she would ever visit the temple again. Would she be permitted to visit the Asa’Roul flagship to see her friends and maids and loved ones? Her older siblings had long since vanished from the colony ship, married to various houses for whatever reasons her parents saw fit. They had given away all their children. Now, Kitja was leaving. The last of the Rhodion Fledglings.

At least Haus was with her. Kitja had been given permission to bring servants and bodyguards, but she had only Haus in mind for an extended journey. Who else had genuinely earned the right to see her down the aisle?

---​


This was merely a visit to display the skills of the houses. She knew as much, yet her entourage continued to explain her duties. Time and time again, they sang their concerns and hummed their worries and, rarely, crooned over how darling they thought the representative of the Valerian house was. Speakers of the Veil were only allowed to sing, as it were. The party she hosted was full of women in gowns of white with matching veils, their sequin argot fashioned like stars and snowflakes and other strangely festive icons. Kitja wore the only dress without a series of detailed patterns, her pale hair without a veil.

Her shoulders were bare, the bodice of the gown hugging just over the swell of her breasts, pinched at her hips to accentuate her classical figure. Beautiful in the same way her mother was beautiful, her pale eyes were a crystal blue - rare within the community. They studied a heavily edited draft of the terms of the marriage, squinting over terms such as ‘intimacy’ and ‘birth expectations’. Part of her imagined being shackled in a basement, only to be used when she was capable of ovulating.

Then again, her kind didn’t do that. Humans, on the other hand, did. She had seen humans bred for the purpose of expanding the herds, and they always had the human women shackled and muffled and greased. The men were blindfolded and positioned behind their partner. In the end, no one seemed to enjoy their part in the process.

It made her stomach churn.

If nothing else, she wished to enjoy whatever obligatory sexual intercourse might occur.

The singers began to cease their worried songs once the cruiser arrived in Valerian space. A sleek passenger vessel by the name of the Tion’larhone carried the group through the expanse of space until bay doors invited the vessel into the expected landing bay. Kitja swallowed whatever nerves threatened to ruin her meeting with House Valerian and rose to make an exit from the ship.

As though choreographed, the singers began their encouraging hymns, songs joyfully sung a few steps behind the delicate Rhodion femme. Petals were thrown by the few male members of the entourage, their deep hums intended to lift the female vocals they accompanied. Were Kitja not accustomed to such treatment, she would find it beautiful. It really was.

Haus trailed farthest from the singers, having a few words with the pilot. Another House Rhodion member, though one Kitja didn’t know. A cousin or a nephew or an uncle, perhaps. She found it easiest to wait for Haus, so the whole procession came to a halt for a moment as Haus finished whatever it was he was doing. All it took was a second for him to join Kitja at her side, but it felt like an eternity to wait in the middle of the landing area.

Back to their intended waltz, House Rhodion came like an avalanche, singing and throwing their petals, humming and imparting delicate plumes of incense smoke into the air around them. The message was clear - it conveyed immense joy - though the face of Kitja remained as neutral as possible. Haus, of course, remained masked. Nine feet of masked muscle.

Hopping to the front, a very small figure withdrew a long bob of parchment to sing a welcoming solo.

“It is with great respect we arrive,
the blessed of House Rhodion,
Our most precious of jewels,
Our youngest daughter,
The Last of the Blood,
The Last of the Walkers,
The Pride of our Lineage,
The Soul of our Sept,
Lady Kitja Des Cou’la Aer Rhodion!

With her, we gift a troupe of those we adore,
The Speakers of the Veil,
Those who might lighten your court,
Those who would sing your praise,
Those who would be loyal to this most blessed union!

We send our regards,
Unable to attend this beautiful occasion,
But our duties are many,
And demands keep us away!
Forgive us this once!
We will not miss another event!
From yours now and forever,
The Medjerai Oul’stan Rhodion and
the Medjeress Kyione Asa Ness Ah’serah Rhodion!’

When they finished their piece, the singer hopped away, leaving only Kitja to step forward in her revealing white ensemble. The only person in the entirety of Kitja’s entourage to be visibly armed was Haus, but his hands remained far from the broadsword strapped to his back.

Slowly, Kitja bowed her head to the welcoming party.

“Kia’tan, House Valerian. I am deeply humbled to be in your presence this day. Please allow us the privilege of being your guests for the length of this visit.”


[Note: About to run these characters through Artbreeder to get some faces in my head]


RE: Kat's Blurbs [Read only] - Kat - 01-21-2021

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There was an echo to the void.

Sometimes, at the worst times, she could hear voices from the past. It took her years to learn not to chase, to sit back and to listen. Even thinking about those who possessed the voices brought an ache to her chest so strong, she swore if she left it alone, it would be the death of her.

She had seen the insides of ships and cells, of sky capitals and cargo bays. She had run through open fields and crossed the highest mountains in the galaxy. She had even mustered the courage to visit Ixxin'lo one last time.

But nothing compared to that euphoria of starting anew.

Rhailo was a creature of new beginnings. Ends would come and she would see them to their finish, but beginnings were so brief. All she wanted was to enjoy the bittersweet calm before the inevitable storm.

Turner Dunham was a man of few words. She barely knew him. Only really knew that he enjoyed racing across the dunes of O'shala and that his dog (recently deceased) was named Corduroy. The two met when Rhailo landed and they'd been traveling for a week since, aimless, as though the whole sandpit theme of O'shala wasn't boring enough.

It was a stroke of ill-luck that the hummer starting choking on the sand. Misfortune or not, the pair were stranded while Turner poked around beneath the vehicle.

Rhailo chose to sprawl across the hood of the parked vehicle, lounging under the heat of twin suns. They both had names but she couldn't remember them. Instead, she called them Inky and Shiny. Even such a ridiculous idea put a smile on her face, and sure enough, her face was suited for smiling. The warmth rose over her bare arms and legs, prickling her pale skin until she thought herself tender from a developing burn. Even then, she stayed where she was, enviable and envious all at once.

"Thirsty?"

Turner didn't poke out from beneath the machine, all too focused on the task at hand. Also, strangely enough, he was polite. Not once had he stared her down or leered at her or threatened her. In the grand scheme of things, he wasn't really her type.

"I have a canteen." Lazily jingling the vessel as if he might hear it, she sighed. "No. I'm just fine."

"Fine like really fine? Or fine like something is seriously fucked fine?"

She ignored his question. Instead, she asked one of her own.

"Are you a mechanic? I didn't hear you call anyone to come get us, so you must know your way around a..." She considered the vehicle in question before settling on, "truck."

"It's a Tzark 45k. Most of the work is custom. Calling someone wouldn't do us a ton of good." A pause. "Also, I'm more of a Fixer. Not just a mechanic.. I can fix most problems."

Rhailo's narrowed gaze shifted from the sky as she leaned to one side, stealing a glance over the hood of the Tzark.

"That's a really bold claim to make, yeah? What if I have some problems I need fixing?"

"Guess you'd have to let me in on what these problems might be. Figure it out as we go. If I can't fix them, you might be able to fix them yourself."

"Hmmm." The Auroun's sights flickered shut. She detached from reality. She was sending herself somewhere far from the conversation, out into the infinite, and she was going to avoid this topic because-

"Bet it's about a man." Turner chuckled low in his throat. "It's always about a man with your type."

And she was back in the present, back to the conversation, revived by the utterance of something so crazy and profound.

"What do you mean by 'your type'? I'm not a synth or anything so simple. Just because I'm not a Terran doesn't mean I'm somehow easy to read-"

"Hey, hey now- no need for that. It was a joke about pretty women, not about whatever- well, you might be."

Oh, right. He didn't know what she was. She sort of loved the fact he didn't know.

"Ah, sorry. I'm just thinking about not thinking, y'know? Maybe what you said is right. A man on my mind, problems with men, whatever. I just push it away. It's like this clutch of pearls I keep with me, but they're toxic and they're eating me alive. It's always so much easier to pretend I'm not sick."

"Sick?" He asked, finally sliding out from beneath the cover of the vehicle.

"Yeah. Sick. Sick with worry, sick with doubt. Just sick of holding on when it's not happening. Sick of asking myself to compromise for the sake of keeping up. Sick of being dropped off on random planets in the middle of a foreign galaxy." Her eyes rolled, pale and cheerless, as she added, "And I'm so sick of the melodrama. Love is just... I can't describe it. Too much too fast. Too little for too long. The rot in the core of a fruit. On the outside, it's the fairytale. On the inside, it's the forgotten ending. The lost chapter."

"Huh." Turner maneuvered with a slight squirm to get completely unlodged, then rose to his feet. Thick build, farmers tan. His hair was prematurely greying, but that always seemed like such a crazy idea to Rhailo. How many decades had she been at this?

"That it? Just huh?"

"I'm thinking," he answered. She gave a moment to collect his thoughts. Two. Three.

Eventually, as she was readying to tell him to forget she mentioned any of it, Turner said, "If you love someone enough to love them through all the rot, maybe it's okay to keep loving them. From the sound of it, it isn't that love is what's hurting you. More like you're punishing yourself for feeling the way you do." Reaching for the canteen he had in the driver's seat, he added with another chuckle, "But if you're falling in and out of love, that's something to do with your heart. Maybe you haven't found what you're looking for."

Laying in the rays of twin suns, she turned from Turner and blinked back a few loose tears. Once a cry baby, always a cry baby.

"Fuck-" she breathed just before forcing a sharp laugh. "Maybe it's me. Maybe I've been feeling so guilty for so long, I couldn't see it was okay to love him... even from afar. Even now. I would've outlived him anyway, but wow- fucking wow. I loved him so much."

"Sounds it." Turner stepped back and moved to the flatbed, unslinging the tarp covering the basin of the back. "I'm gonna put up a tent for you, alright? I'll crash in the cab."

"Turner?"

"Yeah?"

"Does that fix me?"

"...I don't think it'll be that easy, Rhailo."

And it wasn't.



RE: Kat's Blurbs [Read only] - Kat - 04-13-2021

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Jasper’s vision blurred, wavering due to the pulse of energy emanating from his Auroun companion. Several blinks later, he slapped an open palm against her bare thigh.

“Yo! I’m not gonna be able to drive if you keep doing that shit. You need to sober the fuck up.”

Phae’s lids eased open as she wiped the side of her mouth. “It’s not so bad,” she mumbled weakly, the corners of her lips tilting upward. “Y’know you’re like my babysitter or something.”

The pilot eased back and shrugged, his attention on the road ahead. Something about this situation had his nerves frayed. First was Phae, then was the party. By now, he was running on empty and every small instance of bullshit was just another irritant he was forced to ignore. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do. Slow season, fewer customers. He just felt… used? Possibly used. No, no. Something else.

Jealous.

Just a tad.

“I didn’t even drink that much,” Phae joked, lips splitting into a ridiculous grin. It reminded him of the years they spent in classes together, when she wasn’t cute and he was twice as reserved as he currently was. Scratch that. She WAS cute then too but he didn’t tell her as much. They were friends. It was innocent. Now, a decade later, he saw her in all the ways every other guy in the vicinity did and he was embarrassed to admit how much he envied all her past conquests.

His silence was due in part to how stupid he risked sounding. If he scolded her, she would get upset. If he didn’t speak, she’d get suspicious and accuse him of being angry. In the space between her senseless rambling, he had offered small nods and simple ‘yep’ responses. Now, thanks to the length of the trip, Phae was getting closer to cognizance and with it, closer to calling Jasper out for all those empty responses.

“So…” He shifted a bit as they rounded a dark corner, the road lit by headlights alone. “You said something a few days ago. Douzoida? What about it? You didn’t get to the point of what you were saying.”

“Oh.” Phae’s lashes fluttered lightly over her cheeks, clumped with long ago smeared mascara. “A job. I got offered an apprenticeship. It’s uh…” Her left hand rose, weaving through the air in circular fits. “A contract position. I go and shadow a mechanic for the Legion and if all goes well, I can finish my certification. No more hustling bit gigs.” Shooting a glance toward Jasper, she added gently, “No more being too broke to get a lift from Arc transit.”

Again, Jasper said nothing. He just nodded. Again and again and again until he hated himself.

“Have you figured out what you wanna do with your pilot’s license?” Phae dragged herself from the slumped position she previously took and reclined as far back as the seat permitted. “I know with all the testing they put you through, you’ve gotta be thankful to be done. A little rest goes a long way.”

“Yeah.”

“And if I’m being super honest, I’m tired of freaking my mom out. Tonight is probably the last time she’ll scold me about coming home trashed. It’s weird to think about.”

“Yeah.”

“Jas, you okay?” The pulsing had stopped, but the sheer magnetism of their closeness had Jasper on edge. She looked concerned and if she pried even slightly, he would have to say something to avoid blowing her off.

“Just exhausted,” he attempted a smile to make it seem more convincing. “I didn’t drink but I feel like I’ve been up for days.”

“Yeah?”

Tugging down her sleeves, the oversized jacket she wore swallowed her upper body. In the middle of the night with no lights to hinder her glow, she looked hauntingly beautiful. Jasper didn’t know much about ghosts, but he knew a half Auroun like Phae could easily pass for one under the right circumstances. At the moment, he was only half aware of the road but entirely conscious when it came to all things Phae. No matter what she did, it seemed interesting. Intriguing. Sort of taboo.

Without realizing it, he frowned.

“If you want, you can crash at my place. You know my mom loves having you around. Like, even if I’m off-world, she’ll probably expect you to swing by at the end of the week to have dinner and chat.” The loose strands of her hair hung silver along tan cheeks, contrasting in all the right ways. “And I think she’ll be lonely. No one’ll be there to harass her or borrow money. What’ll she do?”

This earned a laugh from Phae, but Jasper wasn’t ready to do the same. Instead, he hummed a short sound of acknowledgment followed by a simple, “Maybe.”

“You sure you’re okay? I feel like you’re upset with me.” There it was. That accusation couldn’t be farther from the truth. If anything, he was upset with himself.

The silence had gone from a comfortable one to a strangling weight that compressed around his chest. Anxiety aside, there was a pain of another variety rearing its ugly head, squeezing his heart with emotional tremors. It took reminding himself again and again it wasn’t something to dread, and only then did he find the words to inquire, “What about you? Won’t you be lonely?”

“I guess.” Phae gripped the cuffs of her sleeves to tug them further. “I mean, yes. I don’t know how to avoid that, but I can only think about how far I’m going to be.” With a sigh, she went on to explain, “And like I said, my mom will be alone. I don’t really want her to be alone. If it was reasonable, I’d take her with me and we’d live in Centa Arc together… but you know as well as I do she won’t budge. I don’t know why but she’s committed to keeping close to the Euphrates but we’re about as close as we can be right here.”

“I mean, Zhato Orrick would be close as well, but yeah. I get your point.” Jasper’s brow furrowed, his features tightening in concern. “I’m not going to abandon your mom but I still wanna know about you. If you’re going alone, do you think you’ll be okay? Safe? Is this contract legit? I can have my dad give it a look if you need someone to verify the authenticity. He’ll be back from his port station in a couple of weeks-”

“I leave in three days.”

Jasper’s heart sank. The tightness in his stomach was dragging him down, slumping his back until he was left with one hand haphazardly palming the steering wheel. The other tended to his hair, raking dark locks back from his features.

“I know, right? Short notice.” Phae laughed but it remained humorless. “I should’ve said something sooner.”

“Phae…”

“No, no. I get it. Like, my mom lectured me on it all yesterday. She thinks 23 is too young, but it’s hard to reason with someone who lives 300 years.”

His tongue was lead. His body hadn’t fully realized he was in shock, but it likely wouldn’t have changed their course if it had. Along the dark road they continued, the only vehicle for what seemed like miles.

“Plus, I’ve been busting my ass to get a contract like this. Everyone knows that. Just because this one is short notice doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all I know. I just don’t want to lose this chance. If it doesn’t work out, at least I can say I tried. I’ll do my best. I’ll just…” she trailed off with a soft huff. “Yeah. I’m sorry. I really didn’t know until last weekend.”

“It’s cool, Phae. I get it.”

But he didn’t get it. Not really. Not the part where she would be leaving for who knew how long. He got the rest just fine. The contract, the opportunity, the chance to excel. Phae had always wanted to catch an apprenticeship. Better than that, she wanted to work for the Corps on Titus. What better way to get there than apprenticing with the Legion? All roads led off-world. All paths sent her traveling through space.

Far, far away.

“It’s not like I won’t be able to come home or anything. I bet I can come back every couple of months.”

Jasper nodded once, deadpan. Whatever misery was eating his insides had been banished from the conversation for the time being. In the distance, the horizon began bleeding the lights of the city, the dome outlined by countless points of illumination from the contained buildings and streets. For as long as he had known Phae, they had been attached to the Euphrates, both city and orbiting station citizens. When Phae’s mom moved them down to planetside, it was only a matter of time before his parents followed suit. Neighbors, friends, schoolmates. The idea of Phae leaving was almost too much for him to comprehend.

He had other close friends, sure. Other interests. Other girls to break his heart. Other part-time alcoholics to drive home. He had plenty to keep him busy. Why did this seem like the end of everything?

“We’re almost there. Better decide if you wanna slum downtown at my place or if you’re awake enough to make it home.”

“I’ll head home.”

The rest of the ride was in silence. They received a scan from the perimeter check as they passed through the gates to Euphrates but nothing came of it. No patrols flagged them down for a monthly quota. As if the two were invisible, they rode straight through the outskirts of the city without so much as a traffic light to stop them. Only when they reached Phae’s apartment complex did Jasper slow down, and when they parked and the drive was over, he managed a nod at Phae.

“Hey, don’t be sad, okay? I’ll be back.” Phae perked up in her seat, figure straightening so she could get ready to get out. “I’m sure you’re gonna be busy with all the job offers you’re going to get, but if you do get busy, promise you’ll take time off when I’m back in town. That way, we can schedule a meet-up or whatever. Get the gang together again.”

Time wasn’t on his side, but he couldn’t bring himself to say more than he had. It hurt. Everything hurt.

What hurt most was knowing Phae was excited to leave. He could see it in her face, the bright smile she offered him as she finished speaking. It was stupid and selfish, he knew, but he couldn’t help feeling slighted by her happiness. What about him? What about his happiness? What about what they had?

Deep down, he knew better. Deep deep down, beneath all the pain, he was happy for her. Better yet, he was proud of her. She was doing it.

But he didn’t say that.

He didn’t say anything worth saying.

Jasper brought a hand up and nudged Phae’s cheek with his knuckles, a gentle jab.

“Call me when you get to Douzoida, okay? I wanna hear how the trip was.”

“Yeah,” she replied quietly. Her gaze was hooded, cast downward at her lap. “Yeah, I’ll do that. Thanks for the ride, Jas. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

You’ll find out soon enough, he thought. Same for me. Gonna know soon enough what it’ll be like without you.

“Nah. Hang in there. You got this.”

Making a shooing motion, he waved her on her way and she took the hint, exiting the vehicle. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it as she walked to the steps of the building. When she turned and waved, he waved back. Then, with a deep inhale of smoke, Jasper pulled away from the curb and drove on through the night.

Hang in there, Jasper. You got this.