“Wow, you grew up,” came the ridiculous statement in a familiar, deep voice off to her left.
Sable grimaced, tensing out of raw instinct before turning to face the tall figure. He grinned with a maniacal edge taking over the near blackness his differed eyes appeared in the moonless night. She took in the wild, dark hair and its leaves and dirt, concluding safely that his journey had been a long and tedious one. His white shirt was smudged and turning grey. There was a jeweled dagger at his hip; the only weapon she’s ever seen on him. Not that he needed one.
She guarded her thought immediately, electing to ignore his statement with a pointed glare.
“So, where’s the tormented one you followed so faithfully all those years ago?”
He knew exactly what had happened with Kazious; he’d been there. He was simply being cruel now in response to her attitude. Her heart squeezed exactly how he wanted it to and his lips quirked up to the right.
“What are you doing here,” she whispered, careful to lock away her master’s gentle command from earlier. ‘You are not meant to move on yet’.
What was Gabe’s involvement in her continued presence here? She knew better than to call it a coincidence.
“I was going to check in on a game, but it appears to have run its course without me,” he regarded her with fire on his tongue, burning his eyes yet his mouth was smiling innocently.
Her hand twitched to her hip when he stepped closer. Gabe pretended not to notice, for her sake. No one gets away with threatening him.
“Twice now, my game has been cheated and I have lost control of it,” he informed her acidly. “Twice someone else has been pulling the strings behind the scenes. Do you know how much I hate losing control?”
His threat was obvious, but measured. He was testing her, reminding her that there was a monster locked away in his mind with much more destructive capabilities than her old companion. He would not dare, though… would he?
“It’s not my fault if you can’t choose your pawns wisely,” her own sarcasm surprised her.
It seemed to catch him off guard as well as he raised his eyebrow. Then he grinned, soothing the fire in a flash. He reached a hand out as if he would clap her on the shoulder like they were old friends.
Instinct sang from within, though. Her skin skittered, sending her two steps to the side, clutching her short blade now unsheathed and raised, ready for attack. It took her a long moment to realize what she was doing, the threat her life held for daring to raise a knife against Gabe Arenreeth.
She pulled in short, shallow breaths and allowed her nerves to settle. Gabe wasn’t looking at her, though. He stared at the place she’d stood, clarity suddenly pulling down his lips. Slowly, he let his hand fall to his side, clutched into a fist.
“I see,” he mumbled, hanging his hand. “There’s still so much that I don’t know about you. I apologize, I should be more considerate… I know better.”
He shifted his tense arm, loosening it and turning the palm up as he stared at his flesh like it was foreign to his eyes. It was strange to hear those words from him. Gabe was not the sort to know, or even comprehend at times that he’s done something wrong. Especially when the problem came from a torment so long in her past that he could not have understood his misstep.
She shouldn’t have been surprised, though. How long had she traveled with a madman when she was a child? How long had she been kept on her toes each time she thought his unstable ways were studied long enough to understand. She knew more than most about the sudden shifts and unpredictable nature of insanity.
“So, what will you do now that I cut your game short,” she pressed ahead, refocusing his dark eyes.
Gabe frowned in answer. Perhaps considering whether or not he would honestly tell her.
“I don’t know yet,” he admitted with a shrug.
For ten full seconds, she didn’t believe him. He was well known for having his next ten steps plotted out; already predicting the previous nine of anyone he was interacting with. The silence felt like hours droning on.
~What have I taught you to do with those who come to you? Stop looking at him with your eyes. Look into him with your heart.~
Faithfully, she searched his eyes, not for their beautiful brown and blue colors, nor the surfacing signs of emotion telling her he was amused. No, she dived into their depths headlong and let the waterfall pull her over the edge deep down into a place thick with sorrow and endless agony. She could hardly breathe by the time her gift took her into the deepest cavern of that torn, beaten, and bloody heart.
He was so lost.
His games were only passing aimless time while he desperately tried to deny the impossibly long immortal future ahead. It was too much to face. He was without purpose and all he knew was the pain he began this journey with. There was nothing for him but an endless darkness stretching into his eternity.
Sable knew the feeling too well. She could hardly imagine the fear of it extending on forever. At least she could grow old and die and it would have ended eventually.
But she had a purpose now. And that purpose was to save others. She took in a deep breath,
“Gabe,” she started, leading with the tug in her heart and praying that she was not wrong. “Considering I ruined your game, would you let me entertain you for a while? I wouldn’t mind the company and could use an extra pair of hands. Especially ones from someone slightly stronger than myself.”
His voice shook even as he tried at humor. He knew what she saw. She was not immune to his psychic senses. Yet he did not seem upset at her prying, rather shaken that she could understand what had even hidden from himself. Gabe was shocked.
Was he truly only avoiding the truth of his endless, hopeless future?
All of this lasted only a small moment.
“Please,” she pleaded. “I am on a journey that will show you a side of humans that I know you have never had the chance to study. You can’t tell me that’s not enough to replace the silly plot I stepped on.”
There was a pause as she watched him light up at her admission.
“Only if I can be the crazy one,” he finally replied, grinning at his joke reminding her once again of her last acquaintance.
Still, she forced a smile and nodded. This was about to become a long and hard road for him. She only hoped that she would have the patience to lead him through it.
~This will be one of the hardest hearts you will lead to me.~
Came her master’s agreement to her thoughts. Sable let out a long breath.
She was ready to save Gabe Arenreeth.