A/N: Hi guys! Hope you're in the mood for angst! :)
The rating is mainly for later chapters. Poor kids...
This starts in directly after Episode 18/Chapter 31 (the one with Elias and the cave) so if you haven't seen/read that bit yet this might not make too much sense to begin with.
Cross-posted from my account at AO3.
"Come on," Chise smiled at Elias, holding out her hand, "Let's go home." She snuggled against his side as they walked back through the snow, a relieved Ruth trailing behind. "Would you like me to stay with you tonight? We can snuggle up in your bed, and fall asleep like that. We have lots to talk about..."
It was dark by the time they made their way home, the mid-winter sun retiring early, and after a warm and comforting dinner, they decided to follow suit. Chise didn't find using the fox pelt as exhausting as using her own magic; but it had been an emotional day, and she was tired.
Elias, too, was subdued, only responding when spoken to, confining himself to monosyllabic answers, not quite meeting her eyes. She had noticed his distance when Stella first called her a friend to her parents, of course; but she hadn't anticipated his jealous reaction to her visit, and she didn't think he was fully over what must have been a wild jumble of overpowering and confusing emotions for him. As tired as she was, she desperately wanted to talk to him about it all more this evening; she was afraid that if they waited until morning, discomfort and embarrassment on both their parts would push it aside and the topic—along with the potential for fallout from it—would be ignored. She was afraid it might blow up in their faces again, and next time, it might be worse than Elias just running from her and squeezing her half to death in a shadow-cave.
So while she had not pushed at dinner, being happy then to keep the desultory (and mostly one-sided) conversation light, now, in his room, she meant to talk things out with him, whether he wanted to or not—and she rather suspected he did not.
When she had entered, pyjama-clad, expecting to find him already sitting in bed, he was instead standing motionless in front of his open wardrobe, staring into its depths, all but fully-dressed still, having doffed only his vest.
"Elias? Are you all right?" Chise asked softly, closing the door behind her.
"Mm." He turned his head slightly to give his non-committal reply, but kept his back to her. She crept a little closer, reading the tension in the lines of his back.
"Are you still upset about me spending time with Stella? It was only an afternoon, and she brought her treats for both of us..."
Elias looked down, crossing his arms. "I still don't like the way you look at her," he finally muttered. "I don't want you looking like that at anyone else. Only me." His shoulders hunched slightly.
"How do I look at her?" she asked, puzzled.
"Like she matters."
Chise was taken aback. "But she does matter. She's a friend, now. But, Elias... You don't need to be jealous of her, you know."
Elias only hunched his shoulders a little higher.
Chise sighed, brushing a wisp of hair back as she stared at his unyielding back. "Jealousy is a hard feeling to have, isn't it?" she murmured. "It's an ugly, twisty thing. I know, Elias. I do know." She rested a gentle hand on his back; he ignored it. "I've felt it so many times myself, seeing happy families in the streets, in the parks, walking about laughing and smiling, loving each other, helping each other, not even knowing about all the awful, scary creatures surrounding them... I envied them their joy, and their ignorance, and I wanted it for myself, so, so much..."
She rested her forehead against him. "And when everyone else was so happy, and hated me so much, and just wanted me gone... to—to just go away and die and leave them to their happiness, the rude, awful, selfish, crazy girl... then I was so jealous of my mother, too, that she had managed to escape, that she had left me to this hell and gone away, and I was jealous of that, too, that she was dead and done with it all, and I was alive and still had to deal with everything, all on my own..." She sighed. "I was even jealous of Nevin, of how peaceful and right his passing was, how gently he slipped away into his new state, the old making way for the new, his dying bringing forth new life in his tree... I know what jealousy is, Elias. And I don't want you to have to feel it anymore. There's no reason for it, you know."
Elias huffed slightly, still refusing to turn to face her.
Chise slipped her arms around his waist, resting her face against the warm solidity of his back. "I mean it," she insisted. "You have absolutely no reason to be jealous of Stella, or anyone else."
Elias said nothing, but she could feel the tension in his back, his waist.
"Elias, thanks to you I have so many people—so many friends now, more than I ever had in my entire life before. So many people who care about me and what happens to me. And I care about them. All of them. You, Angelica, Lindel, Ruth—even Simon, and Alice..." She paused. "Huh. And you know, every single one of them is older than me, taller than me, stronger than me, wiser than me, more powerful than me..." She gave him a squeeze. "I feel safer than I ever have; but I also feel so small around you. Around all of you.
"But to Stella, I'm the grown-up one. I'm the tall, strong, wise, mysterious, powerful one. I wonder if that's why I liked her visit so much?" she mused.
That probably wasn't a helpful thing to say, though, she realized, and changed tack. "In the end, though, she's just a little girl who came by for an hour or so to bring us her treats, and have tea. She might do it again in a month or so. You have no reason to be jealous of her."
Elias huffed again, but his arms unfolded, and slid down to embrace hers. He didn't turn; but he was listening, at least. Will he hear?
"Elias... I care about lots of people. I love lots of things. I love my friends. I love pancakes. I- I love you." She gulped, and continued, Elias still standing immobile. "I love my friends; I care about them and their well-being and happiness and they for mine. I love pancakes; they taste good and I like the texture and they're my favourite breakfast food. And I love you, Elias." It was a little easier to say the second time. "You're—you saved my life, when you bought me. You may not have meant to, but you gave me hope, and made me feel wanted and cared for and—and loved... And I love you, too.
"I love your voice. I love the way it rumbles through me when you hold me. I love your hands, how elegant and long they are. I love the way you carry yourself. I love the glow of your eyes, how graceful your horns are. I love how your cloak billows around you when you walk. I love how tidy and elegant and precise you are, but how wild you are underneath...
"I love you. I want you, to be with you. You bought me; but I chose to stay with you. And... someday, once we've got everything all sorted out, when you've—when you've fixed me and I'll get to live for years and years more—I hope it's centuries and centuries, like you and Lindel and Angelica, because, Elias," she squeezed him again, as tight as she could, "Elias, I want to live for a long, long time. With you. I want to have a family with you some day."
Elias finally half-turned in her arms, looking back over his shoulder at her in apparent confusion. "But... I thought we already were family?"
"We are, Elias!" She smiled up at him, peeking up under his arm. "Whether we're married yet or not—whether we've had a wedding or not yet, you are absolutely my family. You and Ruth and Silky and Lindel... You are all absolutely my family." She hugged him again. "But... what I mean is, someday, when we've fixed me and I'm older and we're ready for it, I want to start a family. With you." At his quizzical look, she clarified, "I want to have children with you, Elias. I want your children."
He gaped at her for a moment before stepping back from her in alarm. "Chise!"
"Wait!" Chise's eyes went wide and she scrabbled for words. She hadn't meant to go that far! "I mean, I know you said you don't really like kids, and I don't think either of us is ready to have them yet—I mean, we can barely take care of ourselves right now, right?—But someday—?" Chise blinked back tears at his rejection. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. It—it wasn't time yet, was it?" She sniffed, scrubbing at her eyes with her sleeve. "I just—I just want you to understand that you have no reason to be jealous, all right? Not of anyone. No one in the world means as much to me as you do. No one." She sniffed again, huddling in on herself. "I'm sorry."
Gently, Elias laid a comforting hand on her head. "Chise." He sighed. "It's all right. It's a nice idea—for someday." He paused, dropping his hand from her head. "You're still so young, aren't you?" he added, half to himself. "Do you even know what that would entail?"
"Well, I mean, I'm not even sure if it would be possible, right? I mean, genetically? But if it is... I—I mean, I want to try, at least."
Elias gave her a look she couldn't interpret. "You were just a child, though, when your mother left you, weren't you? I doubt very much she had given you much instruction on the process."
Chise laughed. "Wait, you mean sex? Of course I know what sex is!"
"Really?" She had the impression that if he had had eyelids, he would have blinked. " I had thought you too young to have had a lover..." He sounded vaguely disappointed.
"Of course I haven't!" Chise blurted, shocked. "But I don't need to have had sex to know about it!" She blushed furiously. "I mean, I missed a lot of classes, but they still try really, really hard to make sure you know all the facts about sex, you know? And kids talk about it all the time."
"Ah, good." Elias seemed to perk up for a moment. "Still..." He sighed. "Knowing and doing are quite different things."
"Wait—have you had sex?!" Chise hadn't thought she could be more shocked than she had been already.
"Chise, I've lived for a long time. I've met a lot of people. Some of them have been interested in me. I suppose they found me intriguing, one way or another." He sounded slightly sad about it, though, not matter-of-fact as she would have expected from him, let alone boasting the way she thought men usually did. "I have no need to repeat the experience. It doesn't hold anything for me."
"But—Not even with me? I mean, not right now, when I'm a bit older, but..?"
"Not even with you. I'm sorry." He turned aside from her, and fiddled with his suspenders without quite detaching them.
"But what happened? What was it like?"
"It doesn't matter. It was a long time ago."
"I don't want to talk about this right now."
"Oh. Sorry." Chise stood awkwardly, fidgeting slightly. "I didn't mean to pry. Let's... let's just go to bed, then."
Elias turned his back to her, the tension returning to the lines of his form. "No."
"You want to stay up?"
"Do you—do you not want me to stay here after all, tonight?"
Elias huffed a sigh, his back still to her. "No."
"Okay. I'll go, then."
Elias's shoulders' hunched slightly. "No."
What does he want, then?! Don't stay, don't go... Chise sighed, and lightly touched his arm. "What you're feeling right now, it must be very confusing, hm?"
His head turned a little further away, but at least he didn't pull away from her. "Yes."
"Do you want some time to think about it before we talk about this anymore?"
The muscles under her hand were still tight. "Do you want me to stay with you tonight? We don't have to talk if you don't—if you're not ready yet."
He said nothing, but his muscles tensed a little more. Chise sighed again. "All right. Elias, I'm going to go back to my room now, okay? If you want me, I'll come. All right?"
"Is that okay, Elias?"
He huffed again, and his arm relaxed slightly, although he was still obviously tense. "Yeah."
"Okay. Goodnight, then, Elias." I love you, she almost added, but decided that he might not be ready to hear that again right now. Instead she gave his arm a slight pat, and left.
"Goodnight, Chise," she heard, quietly, as she gently closed the door behind her.
Back in her room she climbed into bed, tense and wound up herself now, and trying to quash a deep sense of rejection. Curled into a dejected ball, she huddled into Ruth's comforting warmth at her back and thought, At least he's not actually running away again.
Sleep was a long time in coming, and was fitful when it did. She kept straining to hear his soft footfall outside her door, but all was silent in the dark.