She didn't know where she was going, as she raced out of the hut that she was currently calling her home, and nor did she care. All she wanted was to be alone. However, a state of solitude was rather difficult to achieve when living on such a small island, where everyone knew everyone else so very well.
Or, at least, where they thought they knew everyone so very well. No one truly knew who she was on Ibara, and that was the way she wanted it. Still, it was frustrating on occasion, to have to live under a mounting wall of secrets and falsities day after day. She was afraid that at some point, if she had too many things she was hiding, too many roles she needed to play, she would just snap. Ruin her entire role. Destroy everything. She couldn't let that happen no matter what: too much was at stake.
That was why she needed to take this morning to herself. That was why she needed to escape, even if only for a few precious moments.
She tore across the ground towards the shore, not stopping until she was completely out of breath, panting hard. Her legs gave out underneath her, and she flopped down onto the ground, alone at last. At least, that was what she thought for several moments, until she noticed two figures some way down from where she sat. On closer inspection, she saw that the pair was cuddled together: their arms around each other, their toes dipped in the surf. From their expressions, that looked happy enough to spend the rest of their lives watching the early morning sun rise.
And it was upon seeing them that she was forced to admit to herself what was truly bothering her. It was not, as she would have liked to believe, the fact that she was hiding herself from all the naïve and simple-minded people that resided on Ibara. It was the fact that she was hiding herself from him.
She turned her head away from the couple, digging her fingers into the sand and then slowly lifting her palm, watching as the loose grains flowed freely through her fingers. She scooped them up again and repeated the process, and then yet again, finding comfort in the simple repetition of the action. The grains . . . so small . . . so dependant on each other . . . for were there only one or two of them, there would be no sandy beach. They relied on each other heavily, just like all these pathetic Ibarians.
Just like her.
What had happened to her? What had happened to her self-sufficiency, her independence, her ability to rely on no one but herself? She had never used to need anyone so desperately. She had, in fact, usually found most people tedious and slow, and preferred to operate solo in all her endeavors. So what happened, why had she lost this? Why could she no longer feel satisfied being constantly self-sufficient, being steadfastly independent, being endlessly reliant on herself?
Why could she no longer feel satisfied being alone?
By all technical terms, she was not alone. Indeed, by all technical terms, she had quite a lot of company. Being crowded together on one island meant that they all were interacting with one another a good deal. Interacting with everyone except the one person she wanted to interact with.
No. Stop it, she silently berated herself.
For what difference did it make, whether or not she was self-reliant anymore? Because whether she was or wasn't, she was going to have to be. Nothing was ever going to come from her feeling this way. Nothing was ever going to happen between them; he was certainly never going to feel the way she did. It was time to stop dwelling on this nonsense, these feelings, it was time to –
She jumped. The grains of sand in her hand spilled quickly back to the ground.
"Sorry," Pendragon apologized hastily, "I didn't mean startle you, I just – are you all right?"
She unwrinkled her troubled brow, relaxed the posture of her limbs, slipped a natural(-looking) smile onto her face. "I'm fine, Pendragon. I was just thinking."
"Mmm. Can I join you?"
He took a seat beside her, and spent a moment quietly looking out at the horizon before asking, "If you don't mind me asking, what were you thinking about? I've never seen you look so . . ." He trailed off, not finishing his sentence.
"Yes?" she prompted him, suddenly worried: had her face given away too much? Had she been so caught up in her thoughts that her visage had become contorted and strange?
"I don't know, so – intent – not that you haven't been before, but just in a different way than . . . normal," he finished awkwardly.
"Life here is not always easy," she replied, inflicting a note of sad reflection into her tone. "Rebuilding an entire community . . . it is a beautiful dream that I will never give up on, but it comes with its difficult times. This morning, I just needed to muse over the situation by myself for a bit."
Pendragon nodded, accepting her reasonings. Good.
"And what brings you here at this time of day?" she asked. "The sun has not even risen entirely."
He blew out a gust of air through his mouth, thinking over his response: clearly she wasn't the only one with secrets. "Just . . . thinking. About, you know, everything. Life. Love. Change." There was a pause, then he blurted out, "Telleo, have you ever done some – some life-altering thing? By your own choice, I mean."
"Similar routines and patterns have made up my whole life, Pendragon, you know that. It's how all of us on Ibara live, taking comfort in simplicity. That is, until you showed up," she added jokingly.
He didn't laugh, didn't smile. "But have you ever made some sort of decision that differed slightly from these patterns? From what you were 'supposed' to do?"
"Well, I doubt my father approved of my willingness to help the Jakills . . . so, yes, I suppose I have. What have you done that you were not supposed to, Pendragon?" she asked him quietly.
He shook his head. "Too much," he reflected bitterly. "I've done too much. Not anymore though. I'm done meddling in things that shouldn't be meddled with."
Nevva knew that he was referring to his fight for all of Halla, of all his various battles and triumphs and failures – but she had to remain outwardly ignorant. Telleo did not even know of things called flumes. Of an entirety called Halla. Of a man called Saint Dane.
So the natural thing to ask him as Telleo was, in a small voice, "You're not giving up on rebuilding Ibara, are you?"
"No, no," Pendragon backpedaled quickly. "Of course not."
She smiled at him. "That's good. I was worried for a moment."
He smiled too, thought it looked very forced. "No, I was . . . not referring to that." He glanced away from her, down along the shore, his gaze landing on the man and woman sitting together, the same pair she'd been eyeing earlier. His gaze narrowed slightly. She wondered who he was seeing there, wondered who it was he was envisioning himself embracing. Chetwynde? Loor? Killian? Spader?
She reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Strong . . . emotions . . . can sometimes be very strenuous. It's especially difficult to have . . . lost . . . something precious," she murmured gently.
"Or to have never had it," he muttered back callously.
"That too," she agreed.
She felt as though they were speaking in code, the way they were discussing the issue of ill-fated love without even naming or confronting it directly. Amazing how easily two people could relate to each other, without really saying anything. Even more amazing the case when these two people were on completely different sides of the war for all of Halla.
They both looked at each other at the same instant, then hastily turned their eyes to the water. She suddenly became aware that her hand was still resting on his shoulder, and promptly moved it away, folding her fingers together in her lap.
She glanced at him out the corner of her eye, after a few silent moments, and observed absently how much he had aged since she'd first met him. It couldn't have been more than a year ago that she'd first become acquainted with Pendragon, yet he seemed so much older. He had seen so much more than he had back when they were on Quillan, experienced so many larger things. But then, so had she.
"Well, they say it's better to have loved and lost, than to have never to have loved at all," he commented rancorly, still looking out at the horizon.
"'They'? Who is 'they'?" she questioned curiously.
He smiled slightly, shook his head at himself. "Just . . . people." He ran a hand over his face, then, abruptly, sprang to his feet. The weary old age was gone from his features. He looked like the teenager that he really was – or was supposed to be, anyway, if the given circumstances hadn't stolen his youth from him.
"But sitting here isn't going to improve anything," he continued. "And look, the sun's almost up – we've got things to do." He held out a hand to her. His mouth was curved in a grin, but as she looked up at him, she noticed that was the only part of him that seemed happy. "So – you coming, Telleo?"
There was a fleeting hesitation from her as she glanced once more at the horizon, and then the couple that she'd been watching enviously: the two of them had now stood up, and were walking, hand-in-hand, back towards the huts. Then she lifted her eyes up to Pendragon, his arm out-stretched, his palm open.
"Concern yourself with your own task. Make him love Ibara. Make him want nothing more than to live there and help create his version of a perfect world."
The words had echoed in her head constantly ever since he had spoken them, banging around in her mind, pounding in her thoughts, throbbing in her subconscious. She lived by those syllables. She lived by his teachings. She lived by his vision.
She lived for him.
It was this more than anything that gave her the strength to leave behind the beach, leave behind all her painful and conflicted feelings, and go do what was needed to be done.
She reached up, grasped his hand in her own. "Of course, Pendragon, of course I shall come. Always."
A/N: "Concern yourself with your own task. Make him love Ibara. Make him want nothing more than to live there and help create his version of a perfect world."– Quoted from Pilgrims of Rayne. D.J. takes credit for those wonderful lines, not I (unfortunately).