A/N: FFNet doesn't allow for series of connected one-shots as AO3 does, so I'm putting both of these up as the same story, hopefully. (I am still not fully sure how this site works; I only just now figured out I can reply to reviews!). In any case, here's another short little thing about this kiddo. Hoping I did the character described in this fic justice, hahah ^^
Knock-knock-knock, on the boy's door, a tall slab of simply-carved solid wood painted white. He looks up at the noise from where he's sitting on his bed and places his book on his lap, open-face down. Silently, the door opens, and the boy's father steps into his son's room.
"Hello, Liyan," he says, smiling his teeny-tiny, busy-businessman smile. The door clicks closed behind him. "How has your day been?"
"Hi, dad! It was good!" Liyan responds, grinning. "Cato took me to the Library today."
"Did he now?" A little worry seeps into the father's tone; he involuntarily clasps his hands together. "Did you find any new books?"
"Uh— yeah!" Liyan's ears flush. "I— I found a book about the... history of science… I was looking for that Eisenstein man Mr. Cawl told me about last checkup, and—"
"Liyan." An edge of sternness in his father's voice, but a soft, fond one. Liyan yelps and covers the tips of his ears, and his father chuckles at the gesture. "What else were you looking for?"
Liyan presses together his lips, reluctant to speak. "...Mr. Cawl talked to me about my brain," he admits, "and he said the Kiari thing was because of… my mother, and so I was looking to see if maybe she also could've had that? Or if it was like my joints…"
His father blinks, surprised. He opens his mouth to reply, but Liyan interrupts him, adding:
"I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't think too much about my mother, just—"
In the time it takes for him to start babbling, his father's crossed the room. Liyan looks up when the weight on his mattress shifts to see him suddenly sitting on his bedside, offering him his palm. Liyan stops talking and places his hand over his father's, and his dad covers it with his own other hand, gentle and grounding.
"Liyan," he says, softly. "Why would I be angry?"
"I don't know… You were always so worried when I told you I was learning about mother's kind," Liyan admits, "so, I stopped telling you, a-and Cato said I probably shouldn't look too much into her, because you're not... together, anymore, and…" Frustrated tears well up in his eyes, and he clumsily wipes them away. Why does this always make him cry?
His dad sighs. "I'll talk to Cato. But, Liyan, listen to me," and Liyan looks at his father, whose face is soft. "I understand," he says. "There has never been anyone quite like you. It's natural to be curious about that. If… if I seem worried, it's because I want you to be safe, and happy." An idea occurs to him. "And if you want to learn about your mother," he adds, "there's some things I could tell you." As Liyan's eyes widen, his father cups his tiny face and wipes a tear away with his thumb. The father doesn't want to admit it, but when he said he understood, he meant it more than the child could imagine; he knows what it's like, to crave a parental relationship that's missing.
"Like what?" Liyan asks, small, so small.
"...Why don't we get your journal first?" the father suggests, clearly stalling for time. Liyan allows it with a hiccupy chuckle, as his dad elaborates, "You might want to write it down."
"Alright, alright — wait, dad, check this out," Liyan adds, and under his father's watchful eyes, he lifts a hand, stretching it just a bit forward, and he squints —
— and on a bookshelf on the other side of the room, a leather-bound journal and a pen with a bifurcated grip are shakily lifted up in the air, and start slowly hovering towards the bed.
The father raises an eyebrow, surprised; when Liyan grabs the journal out of thin air and shoots him a beaming grin of pride, he can't help but smile back. He ruffles his son's hair, and Liyan squeals with delighted mock-indignation. "That's a good trick," he admits. "Did Tigurius teach you that?"
"Mhm," Liyan confirms, nodding. His father huffs with amusement as Liyan pushes his book aside to crack open his journal; he recalls how the Chief Librarian hadn't even needed to be told he needed a trustworthy tutor for his son, or that he had a son at all, really, and had simply responded to his summons request with notes on what time out of his busy schedule he could spare for the child. It'd irritated him at the time, but he can't deny there'd been some relief mixed in. His son's existence is not easy to explain.
As the boy flips through the journal's pages, there's a momentary flash of what's written right at the beginning. In the father's effortlessly neat handwriting, there's a short claim, This Journal Belongs To. Below it, in the son's shakier, all-capitalized letters, is printed his name: ILLIYAN EUTEN.
Liyan opens the journal farther along, after pages of strange dreams in heavily-abbreviated notation and carefully-glued scraps and colorful pressed leaves brought by his brothers. A discolored feather bookmarks the last page he's written on. His father almost tuts at the state his journal is in, but he bites his tongue; keeping this journal, a tradition inherited from him, is already more difficult for his son than it is for him, and if he wants to put random things in it, well — he's earned it. (He's just sort of... immeasurably fond of this child, as one is wont to do with one's own children, and it feels like his hearts are being squeezed whenever he thinks about his son imitating him, or how much he looks up to him).
Illiyan holds his pen and looks up at his father expectantly. "Well?"
It's always funny to his dad, when he says things he's clearly picked up from Sicarius. "Well what?"
"What can you tell me? About my mother." He presses the tip of his pen to the page and raises one eyebrow.
"What do you want to know?"
Illiyan is visibly surprised by the freedom of choice, but he quickly recovers. "What was she like?"
His father ponders the question.
"Determined," he decides to start on. "Ambitious, even, though in a good way. And not unrealistically; she just thought there was a lot to do. And she was right. She had quite an important job, and she took it seriously. She also always needed to have the last word, on the rare occasions we argued… well, we both did," he admits. "She was also… patient. Endlessly so. She had to be, for what she did, but it was still formidable to behold, whenever she had to deal with bickering and backstabbing."
"Was it often?"
"Very," his father nods. "She always kept up a front of assured integrity before her people, but it mostly meant that when we were together, she complained a lot about how impossible it all felt." He pauses. "My job felt impossible then, too. I suppose that mutual feeling brought us together."
He hears the skritch-skritch-skritch of the pen over the paper, but his eyes are distant, elsewhere. Only snapping to attention when—
"And… what happened?"
Liyan's father is at a loss for words. "...Our paths in life led... different places," he says, tactfully. "It... became dangerous, for both of us to be seen together. And…"
And she never wanted anything serious? And she said she couldn't have a child, she couldn't raise a child knowing their soul would be damned, she couldn't bear to let a child born of an union between her and a mon'keigh be known to her people, when she'd been called a lapdog simply for being friendly, before? And she'd argued with him, they'd argued, and she'd told him the child could be born, and she'd love them, of course, but she could not be with them, that between them and the fate of her people, she'd have to choose her people, every time, or it would've all been for nothing?
...No. Illiyan couldn't know this. At least not yet.
"...and," Roboute Guilliman says, with a distant, grieving look, "we said our goodbyes peacefully… and she gave you a kiss on the forehead, and your name, and I could never see her again." A beat passes, and Illiyan's father blinks forcefully and looks at his son with a smile that's only a little forced. "But she gave me you, and you're the greatest gift I've ever been given," and he presses a kiss to the crown of Illiyan's head and the boy giggles, and everything is right again. "And there is some very stiff competition in that category, if you must know," he adds dryly, and Illiyan snorts.
"Love you too, dad," Illiyan tells him between giggles, and Roboute feels the hearts-squeeze again.
Roboute reaches forward to press a hand to his son's upper arm, soothingly, and ask, "Anything else?"
"Well— what did she look like?" That's an easier question, thankfully. Roboute glances at Illiyan's journal and sees his notes on what he's said; he looks away before he can read them all, but they give him pause.
"...She had white hair," he begins, "and she always wore it up. I am not sure if it was an Eldar custom or not. The ponytails aren't unusual for her people, but her personal style was… unique. She was tall—" and he gestures an approximation of where she reached by his side, if they both stood up, "and she went everywhere nearly barefoot." He remembers that because he'd once wondered how much taller her heels were making her, shortly after they'd met, and he'd glanced down and she hadn't even been wearing shoes. "She was very pale, with tattoos over her eyes," and that combination had been so very striking alongside her white eyelashes in the sunlight, but that's not the sort of thing a child would understand, so Roboute keeps it hush, "and she always held an expression of… vague, resigned wariness, like she was never sure what you would do next." He smiles at his awed son. "She was willowy, even for an eldar — you've inherited her build more than you've inherited mine, that's for certain," he very seriously informs his son, gently poking his chest, "and she also blushed at the tip of his ears. Much like a certain young man, whose bedtime is nearing."
"Daaaaaad," Illiyan complains, but the word's immediately followed by a yawn. His father strokes his hair in silence as he finishes writing, slow and practiced lines turning into a brief list of details. In that moment, Roboute can't help but think of him as too big; as his son grows up, it's harder and harder to keep up the tapestry of lies hiding him from his own subjects, and harder still if he's determined, as he is, to keep as little as possible from the boy. Illiyan wriggles his way under the blankets once he's done and closes his eyes, and Roboute puts the journal over the other book on the night-table and kisses Illiyan's forehead before stepping up and away from him—
The voice is sleepy; Roboute turns towards his son. "What is it?"
"Where was she from?"
He hesitates, for a moment. "...An Eldar Craftworld," he said, "named Biel-Tan."
"Ohkay." Ah, it probably means nothing to him. "Goodnight, dad."
Roboute doesn't reply until he's by the door, turning the light's dial down until the room is cloaked in comfortable penumbra. "Goodnight, Illiyan," he says softly, just loud enough for his son to hear it.
Illiyan hears the door close. He waits — one, two, three — until he's sure his father's gone; then, he sits up and grabs a torch from under his pillow, takes with him the book he was reading earlier and hides under the covers. He flips back to the page he was on; where was it?
Ah, yes. "Chapter 11: Schematics of Warp-Proof Voidships Through the Ages"... Yeah, he thinks he gets it.