A/N: This is an advance post for Project Pull, in which you post 1,000 words every Friday.
I haven't updated this one in a while :) This one's a bit on the short side, since it's a 'filler', but rest assured, the next one will have a bit more substance and length to it :D
Chapter 8- Saying Goodbye
Not the peaceful, tranquil variety, but the kind invoked by tension so thick that it would take a chainsaw to rip through it.
Col still hadn't said anything, and it was worrying me.
"Col?" I said hesitantly, slipping my hand into his. "Are you okay?" I knew that the solution would come as a shock to him, but I didn't think that he would take it that badly.
He pulled his hand firmly away from my own, and dug his hands into the pockets of his trousers. My fingers trembled, already missing the warmth of his hand. I clasped both of my own hands together in front of myself, but it was a poor substitute.
"It's not fair," he muttered angrily. I half-walked, half-ran as I tried to keep up with his long strides. "You shouldn't have to go." I caught his arm, forcing him to stop and look at me.
"But it's what I need to do," I whispered. "It's the only way to keep us all safe."
"I know, but that doesn't make it any easier to bear!" Col tore away from my grasp, and stormed towards the plantation, before turning around abruptly. I shrank backwards- his eyes were blazing in anger. "I've only just gotten you, and now I have to lose you?" A tear, unbidden, slipped from my eyes. Col's eyes softened as he reached up to wipe it away, conceding defeat. "What's fair about that?" he pleaded, but half-heartedly; he knew that he wouldn't be able to change my mind.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," I said, trying to convince myself as much as him. "I just need to lie low for a couple of months, until all of the media hype dies down. I'll be back before you know it."
"What if it never dies down?" he argued. "Think about all those kidnappings and murders that exist for years in the media; when you come back, they'll recognize you immediately."
"We'll figure it out, Col," I said softly, as he pulled me into a tight hug. "It won't last forever. I promise." In all truthfulness, I didn't know whether I could keep that promise.
I stared blankly over Col's shoulder as he embraced me, feeling like if I let go of him, I would drown, but I could only hold him for so long.
"I suppose you'll want to say goodbye to everyone?" he asked emotionlessly, avoiding my eyes. I shook my head vehemently.
"I don't think that's a good idea. It would just make it harder to leave." It felt horribly selfish, but if I made my farewells, it wouldn't take too long for one of my friends or family to convince me into abandoning my plan. I had no illusions of my strength- I knew that I wouldn't be able to resist them.
"I'll… just let Evelyn know, then. I'm sure between us, we can come up with some sort of an alibi to feed to Jane and Anneena." A slight measure of sarcasm was evident in his tone; one of Col's automatic defence mechanisms. "Is there anyone else who needs to know?" I nodded reluctantly.
"Yes- but I think I need to tell her in person."
Once again, we flew in relative silence. I was aware that Col and Skylark were having a private, subliminal conversation, having accidentally dropped in on it.
"The rock dwarves will keep a track on her, don't worry…"
"…but they can't tell me how she's feeling, just where she is…"
"…how about if you…"
I quickly extricated myself so that the conversation could remain just that; private.
Thankfully, when I arrived at the large cave on the moor, overhung with weaving tendrils of ivy and camouflaged with pale, textured patches of lichen and moss, only Argand remained in the underground nest.
I remembered the day when the dragons moved into it all too clearly; the dragonets had grown too big for the cave in Mallin's Wood, but not big enough to survive in their own lodgings, so the Society, particularly the dragon companions, had worked on finding an alternate accommodation for them.
We had needed to dig out a large cavity underneath the cave- one of the twin boys who were companions to Argand's siblings had gotten half-buried in a cave in, thanks to their companion's particularly enthusiastic brand of digging, but they were rescued soon enough.
"Argand?" I called out softly, reaching out with my mind simultaneously. I felt her mental presence pounce on me exuberantly, and her physical form followed soon after, sprawling into a halt at my feet.
"Companion!" she intoned joyfully. She looked up at me quizzically, eyeing my expression. She reached forward and licked my hand with her cat-like, sandpapery tongue. "Is everything all right, companion?" I said nothing, but crouched down beside her, sending her a quick mental stream of the day's events. I came to a dam, of sorts, on reaching my conversation with Col, but with a strong push, the dam shattered, and that memory followed too. It was easier than using words to explain it, but it was difficult nonetheless.
My companion looked up at me with sad fading eyes- the fire that played mischievously in her golden irises had been extinguished.
"You must go?" I nodded. "Miss you. Love you."
"Love you, Argand," I whispered. As I threw my arms around the companion that I might never see again, I felt a hand stroke my hair soothingly. I did not need to turn around to know that it was Col. How I wished that I could say the same words to him, but I knew that it would just make saying goodbye to him even harder. I resolutely wiped the tears from my eyes and tried to keep my voice steadfast. Once his concerned eyes met mine, all resolutions of masking my emotions went out the window.
"I'm really going to miss you," I sobbed as he held me close. He held me back at arm's length for a moment- I studied his face, trying to imprint it to memory.
"Then let me come with you. You need someone to look out for you- you said it yourself, you can't stay hiding forever."
I'll admit it, I was tempted. To have Col with me… well, it would change my outlook entirely. But it wouldn't be fair to him. He had a life too; I had no right to ruin his along with mine.
"I'm sorry, Col. I can't. I... I have to go." I shifted into a sylph and was carried away by the breeze, leaving Col holding nothing but thin air.