Hey guys, I'm back with another update. I couldn't figure out how I wanted the chapter to go. I really wanted to focus more on developing X and Raven, so this chapter is very much focussed on them and their interactions. Hopefully it's not neglecting everything else too much.
DramurKopa~ I really appreciate the criticism...I tried to take some of it to heart in this chapter although I already had the chapter mostly written by the time I saw your review...
Still I tried including more dialogue and, considering your comment on the various other pairings, I'm still not sure who I want to end up together, but I think you're right...I've introduced Cy and Bee but I don't they'll be anything other than friends and as for Tara/BB and Rob/Kori/Roy I'll have to figure out what I want to do with those...
I also tried to focus more on Rae/X in this chapter and only have small interludes of other characters...so, in other words, I think you're criticism was helpful but I'd like you're feedback on the changes I did make in this chapter-what worked and what didn't for you :) Thanks again! :)
Hope you all enjoy!
She frowned, exhausted. He had forced them to leave the cabin that afternoon despite the fact that daylight was fleeting. She had regretted offering her mount to the woman at the door now, that seemed so long ago. She had not asked if he gave up the belt or not, she was not about to open that wound again. As such, she had to uphold her original end of the bargain-leaving behind one of their riding horses.
She sighed knowing that promise was a promise, and no matter what Xander had done with his enchanted belt, she had struck her own accord with the woman. It made no matter what Xander chose to do, it did not affect her promise. Thankfully, the woman was generous and gave them two saddlebags of food-one of coarse rice grains, one of oat grains and fruit. It was nice having provisions, but Raven missed being able to ride on her own. They had travelled three days in relative silence; all of her attempts to speak to Xander were brushed off coldly.
And it didn't help that she had to share his mount. While they were in the middle of their worst argument.
This is what you get for leaving him behind in the rain that one day, now you can't go anywhere she thought, groaning at the unfair punishment the universe was giving her. Normally, she hated the people who went on about conspiracy and how the world was out to get them, but she was starting to wonder if Azar held some grudge against her.
After a slow day's travel (as they could not overwork their only mount left) they stopped to make camp for the night. They were going too slowly, losing speed. Raven knew that they would quickly be overtaken if Richard had followed them- he would not be with the limitations they had. She hoped he had followed Gar and Tara. They probably weren't making better time but, with Tara, his main objective would be completed. Surely he could forget about her if he had Tara...?
"I'm going to look for wood or a natural place of cover for the night," informed Xander, cutting into her thoughts.
"That's it?" she could not keep the annoyance from seeping into her voice, she was snapping from the stress, "It's been three days. I said something stupid, are you going to ignore me for the rest of the trip? Especially when you started this?!"
He frowned, "You don't understand." I'll be gone soon, anyway.
In the glow of the fading light he still managed to look stressed, as though the last few days had added years to his life. She could have sworn there were a few gray strands in his hair too. She felt, well, terrible, as though their fight had contributed. This weariness was not present before.
After a moment, he added, "And how the hell did I start this?!"
Her concern for him submerged under her flaring temper, "Are you kidding me? If you had just stopped stealing, I wouldn't have had to stay with you or come back to warn you about Richard! I would be home reading a lovely book drinking herbal tea. I would be calm!"
"I hate to break it to you, Sunshine," he retorted angrily, "But I didn't make you come back! Not to mention you're the one who started all this fuss over one guy chasing me! I could be home!"
"Well excuse me for not wanting you dead! Next time, I guess I won't do anything!" she yelled, her fists balled at her sides shaking with rage.
She stormed off to their horse, getting to work at preparing a decent meal while Xander stalked off into the forest. She sighed, this was not going as planned.
They had made it back to the mansion and everything was quiet...too quiet. However, there was a single light that illuminated one of the windows. It must have taken several oil lamps to make the room so bright.
"That is not Friend Victor's room," remarked Kori in confusion, "That is the study. Only X is permitted in the study."
Roy narrowed his eyes, X was no longer there, after all, that was the reason for this mess. And, from the information Kori gave, this Victor didn't seem like he would be taking a midnight read in his master's empty study.
"Kori, I don't like this," cautioned Roy quietly, "I don't think we are staying here tonight. Let's go."
"Should we not do the spying to see who it is?" asked Kori, turning around and angling her body in a feeble attempt to see what was going on.
He sighed, surveying the land. Luckily, the unkempt gardens gave the place more coverage than usual.
Roy weighed his options before deciding.
"No," Roy finally replied, straightening his shoulders, "It's too dangerous and I don't like the idea of getting caught. Let's go."
Richard finally came to. He groaned, his head still bore a nasty bruise. His muscles were screaming in pain from the uncomfortable way he was riding. A quick check revealed that his hands and feet were both bound and he was also tethered to his horse. He was also laying sideways on the saddle so his legs and arms dangled off the horse.
Who are these people? he thought.
He could have sworn he saw the town smith but darkness quickly overtook him once more.
She massaged her temples wondering what it was about him that angered her so quickly. He had been back for an hour setting up a makeshift shelter and they had barely said anything to one another.
She smiled to herself realising that she had found someone who was possibly more prideful than she.
"Look, as much as I hate to say this," she stated, extending an olive branch to X, "Right now we're all we have. And we're being chased by a madman. So, like it or not, I may be the last person you see. Can we please go back to being sort-of friends for now, at least until we reach our destination? Then you can talk to Gar or Tara and pretend I don't exist."
"Sort-of friends?" he asked innocently, forgetting his anger for a moment, "You never considered us friends, Sunshine?"
She grew flustered, "Um, I don't know what we are."
The instant she said it, she could feel the heat of embarrassment slowly crawl up her neck and face. She knew such a statement opened up questions-questions she was unwilling or unable to answer. Hoping he didn't see her face turn several magnificent shades of red, she quickly bowed her head.
"Well, if you had to define us, then, how would you?" he asked, noticing the blush creeping on her face before she dipped her head in vain to hide it.
"Hmm?" she intoned, a tactic used to buy time.
Feeling unusually brash, he walked toward her purposefully, "You heard me."
She looked up, startled at his reply. She looked almost like a deer in bright lamplight. Clearly, she was expecting him to let it go.
Picking up a small part of her roughspun dress, she began to fiddle, avoiding his gaze. Finally, after several 'umm's, she came up with the brilliant reply of "Well I don't know!"
Looking up from the piece of her dirty dress, her amethyst eyes met his and she saw that he was smiling at the encounter.
"Are you laughing at me?" she snarled.
Putting his hands up in a defensive gesture, he replied, "Easy there, Sunshine. It's hard not to smile when you're at a loss for words. I think this marks the first time."
Rolling her eyes, she smiled, "Wow, I've outdone myself."
"Outdone yourself...what do you mean?"
"Erm...," she began before looking up.
"Something wrong?" he asked, concerned that she may actually be feeling ill.
"Just waiting to be struck by lighting...or something," she supplied, waiting.
A beat of awkward silence passed before she added, "Any minute now."
"Is spending time with me so terrible?" he asked, playfully, hoping his playfulness covered his curiosity.
"No, and that's just it," she retorted shifting her gaze back to the thief who was now inches away from her, "Will you miss travelling together? When it's all over, I mean?"
As soon as the question slipped out, her eyes widened in shock, seemingly in surprise at herself.
"Um, nevermind, don't answer that," she corrected, "I know you won't. Hell we've barely spoken this whole trip and I went and got you sick from being careless and said that stupid comment...so I guess we're not friends, are we? I've gone and made a mess of things...but now I'm rambling..."
He was taken aback by her revealing outburst; it seemed so unlike her. He was still registering her comment and barely heard her small apology.
Not really knowing how to react, he just hugged her. It seemed right and, after a small 'eep' at the surprising manoeuvre, she returned the hug.
"I was never mad at you, Sunshine."
She pulled away enough for him to see her brow arch gracefully.
"Fine, I was. For a bit. But not about running ahead of me," he explained, "Besides, I quite liked the detour to the cottage."
Cocking her head to the side (in the cutest way, X noticed but decided not to comment), she scrunched up her face, "You did?"
He shrugged, "More or less. Didn't you?"
"Well, erm, yes," she replied, unsure of herself again.
A small part of himself began to whisper that all might not be lost. Perhaps she did like him. Or could.
"Umm, Xander?" she asked, waving one of her hands in front of his face, "You kind of zoned out there."
In a split-second decision, X decided to throw caution to the wind and, pushing her against a tree roughly, kissed her.
For a moment he was sure he'd miscalculated. After what seemed like an agonising eternity to him, she, hesitantly, wrapped her arms around him and began to kiss him back.
Vic rattled the chains loudly, calling out to the jailors. It had been ages, with no response. He was satisfied, about to break free, when a small boy, probably around twelve years of age working on an apprenticeship, entered. He held the keys and looked nervous yet wary.
Vic's gaze softened. Looking over at Bee, they both realised that a new plan was needed.
"What's wrong?" The boy asked, trying to look unafraid.
"I'm not feeling so good," Karen answered and doubled over, as though she ate something bad, "May I please get some water?"
At her demeanor, the boy was disarmed. "Sure, be right back."
Karen smiled at him, the plan, although improvised on, was going well. The boy trusted a frail, sick looking woman.
Sure enough, he quickly returned with a mug of water.
"Will you unchain one of my hands so I can take a sip myself?" she asked innocently.
The boy complied. With one arm free, she quickly grabbed the keys from him and undid her other cuff before the boy could even react. She then threw the keys at Vic, which he deftly caught from his days as an athlete. He freed himself quickly.
Karen turned to the boy, "I like you but, if I leave you, will you stay here or go run and warn someone?"
The boy whimpered, "I'll stay."
Karen nodded, "Take the keys and the mug and go back to your room. We'll make it look like we broke out. Anyone asks, you heard nothing."
The boy nodded, doing as she asked. Vic used some of his tools to create scratches on the iron clasps and the surrounding wall.
"Let's go already," she snapped to Vic, before turning and gracefully making her way to the window.
Breaking the silence that had fallen between them, he awkwardly started, "So.."
Looking at her, she appeared almost erethral. The sun was setting behind her, enveloping her in its soft glow. Her face was noticeably flushed from their intense kissing and, although her neck was marred by his love bites, he decided she still looked radiant.
"Hmm?" she intoned, a small smile gracing her face.
Nothing witty coming to mind, he just simply blurted out, "I love you."
Her eyes opened in a flash, the content feeling gone, as she choked out, "What?"
"Aw, shite. That was the wrong thing to say, wasn't it?" he said, mostly to himself.
She laughed at his bewildered expression and his comment. Not a chuckle as she sometimes would, but a full-blown laugh that she couldn't contain. It wasn't long before tears were streaming down her face.
All she managed to choke out was "Y-your fa-ace..."
He grinned and waited for her to catch her breath before saying, "You should laugh more often. I think you have the cutest laugh I've ever heard."
She gave him a wry smile as she made her way to a fallen moss-covered tree and sat, "That's not saying much considering the only people you've probably laughed with are Gar and Vic."
After a brief pause, she added, "And I love you too. I think."
Trying to hide his smile, Xander sat next to her and, feigning hurt, he asked "You think?"
Raven hit him on the shoulder playfully, "Love is not my forte, Xander. Surely you could have guessed that by now."
Wrapping his arm around her shoulder in a comforting embrace, he replied, "Yes, but why is that, if you don't mind me asking?"
She looked away into the setting sun, her shoulders hunching as though the weight of the memory was too much to carry. Intertwining his fingers with hers, he gave her a reassuring squeeze.
"If you're not ready to talk about it, I'll wait."
She smiled at him sadly, "You deserve to know."
Before he could protest again, she began.
"It was a couple of years ago. A guy named Malchior was just passing through our village from Bludhaven. To me, he seemed everything a man should be-he was good-looking, smart and well-read...almost unbelievably well read. He was courteous and seemed to understand me. I was always a bit of the odd one out in the village. I loved to read, to the point that many deemed it unhealthy.
I was plain, introverted and shy and, yet, he seemed not to care. And he was such a fountain of knowledge that I felt like I couldn't compare-but he didn't seem to mind. He even went out of his way to talk to me.
We had many long talks about anything and everything and I enjoyed the time we spent together. Eventually, at some point, I realised that I had fallen for him during the encounters. I don't know if he could tell, but he grew bolder. He would kiss me when no one was around and sought out more ways for us to be alone together.
Then he wanted to take things further. I refused, it was not honourable and he had no roots in Azerath. He could leave whenever he wanted-there was no security. A little while later, he received urgent news that his sister had fallen ill and he left to see her immediately."
She snorted, "The bastard didn't even have a sister. It was all a hoax. About six months later, when I saved up enough coin to travel to visit him, he was already after someone else. I confronted him and he laughed at me. Mocked all the things I'd said to him-just cast it all back in my face. I felt like such a fool."
His arms tightened protectively, "I am so sorry. How cruel of him."
She shrugged, "I don't know if I loved him but I trusted him more completely than anyone I had known. His betrayal stung and I kept everyone else back after that. I don't know if I know what love is, how it feels. Like I said, I don't have experience beyond Malchior."
He smiled, "Lucky for you, Sunshine, I'm not exactly one to talk. I haven't seen anyone in quite a while. But I do know that I would do anything and give up anything for you, Sunshine."
Colour flooded her cheeks as she hugged him with such enthusiasm that they were both knocked to the ground.
"Well, then, I love you too, it seems."
Wrapping his arms around her, he smiled cherishing the moment. Both of them were so content and relaxed that they drifted off to sleep, waking only to the sound of an earthquake ripping all around them.
Didn't write this chapter for the longest time because I couldn't figure out how I wanted X and Raven to end up together. I'm not sure how I feel about they ended up getting together, but I wanted it to be fluffy but a bit unconventional-I'm not sure I accomplished that but I hope you all enjoyed it all the same.
Let me know what you think! :)