"Thank you for helping us, Aarindarius."
"Anything, Vaarsuvius. It's no trouble. This tower gets lonely without guests, as I'm sure you remember."
Vaarsuvius smiled, putting down the glass of wine after a small sip. "You may change your mind soon. The halfling is a special nuisance."
"I've taught children. I know how to handle these things." Aarindarius smiled before putting down his own (deliberately non-alcoholic) drink, his gentle lavender eyes unwavering on his ex-apprentice, trying to keep the inevitable topic of discussion from making unneeded tension. The effort was futile. "I've been wanting to speak with you for some time, actually."
Vaarsuvius's smile faded. The only thing illuminating the nighttime study was the candle between them, throwing their faces in relief. The Order was resting in the various rooms Aarindarius had summoned up to accommodate them, so now, they were all alone, just surrounded by the shelves of books that Vaarsuvius had grown up with.
For a moment, she wished desperately that she was just a small apprentice again, watching as this man opened up all these new worlds to her.
"It's about Inkyrius, is it not?"
He made no effort to beat around the bush. It wasn't in his character to, a trait he had passed to his apprentice.
"I want to know why you decided to leave your family."
Vaarsuvius looked away, pulling at the purple ponytail lightly, and Blackwing awkwardly shifted on the thin shoulder, eventually hopping down to the table. "I didn't have a choice, Master."
"You always have a choice."
"Not a good one."
The younger mage fell silent, but a stern stare from the elder forced more explanation.
"We're on a quest to save the world. I'm not sure how much Inkyrius told you, but I… had possession of some power that didn't belong to me."
The master's expression darkened. Inkyrius had definitely told him.
"It was difficult for me to hold onto it. I wanted to protect my family, but I have a greater responsibility to the world I am trying to save. I had to make the most of it while I controlled it, as it came at a high price and I wouldn't have a chance to make such a difference again. I never wished to give up my family." Vaarsuvius fingered the sleeve of a tattered red robe. "I love Inkyrius and our children, but I suppose that it wasn't meant to be."
Aarindarius leaned forward, propping his elbows on the table, and his severe, disapproving stare bore into the ex-apprentice. "You have always put your work ahead of your family, Vaarsuvius. I hope you know that's why you lost them."
"Believe me, I know." Vaarsuvius didn't meet the harsh gaze of Aarindarius, preferring to gently scratch the top of Blackwing's head, much to the raven's delight. "Though if I had another chance, I would doubtlessly do the same. I would do my best not to, but eventually, I would slip back into the habit and Inkyrius would be neglected all over again. This is for the best." The mage had to pause, collecting up the unstable emotions beginning to rise to the surface again. "Inkyrius and our children—all children—need much more love, affection, and attention than I am able to give, at least as I am now, and I will do nothing but bring danger to their doorstep. Let them live a peaceful life. Whomever Inkyrius takes as a spouse next will probably be a better Other Parent than I was."
"Am, Vaarsuvius, not was. Even if you're divorced, you're still their Other Parent." Aarindarius kept on drilling invisible holes into the younger before he finally relented the stern stare, leaning back and giving a soft sigh. "But of course, I'm being hard on you. You were never dishonest about who you were, and Inkyrius was under the naïve delusion that you would change once you were married and had children. The divorce wasn't entirely your fault, and maybe it's better if you both find someone more suited. But I urge you to pursue partial custody of your children once you finish your campaign—you and I both know that Inkyrius would allow it."
Vaarsuvius was scratching Blackwing's head a little harder, hearing the words as if they were from another world.
Blackwing let out a consternated warble when the scratching got too hard.
"I hope that I will live to try."
Aarindarius tightened up and his face drained of color.
"Good night, Master. It was good to talk to you again."
The younger got up to leave, but Aarindarius was suddenly right there, gripping her arm tightly. "How dangerous is this quest of yours?"
The ex-apprentice held out one hand towards Blackwing, which the raven jumped on. She had expected this question eventually—Aarindarius had a right to know, and regardless, she had always been awful at hiding things from him. He wouldn't be happy when she told him. Good thing he hadn't been drinking; while far from an alcoholic, Aarindarius and alcohol never mixed well. "Very. Usually, once you die, you simply go to the afterlife until someone casts a spell. It's very possible that that won't happen to any one of us. Our souls can become undone and, should that happen, we will cease to exist in anything but memories."
The wizard's grip tightened painfully, but Vaarsuvius still didn't meet his eyes, just allowing Blackwing back on a thin shoulder.
"I won't involve Inkyrius or the children in that. If I am unmade, it's better that our foes think I burned all ties to them. Otherwise, they will be in danger of a similar fate."
"You're not serious."
"You have never known me to kid, Aarindarius. I'm quite serious."
The grip tightened even more, starting to get to bruising force.
"So this may be the last time we see each other."
Vaarsuvius worked her jaw, eyes fixed on the various books sorted on the shelves. "Yes."
"By the elven gods, Vaarsuvius, look at me!"
The mage had never heard the wizard take that tone in all the years they had known each other. Vaarsuvius looked up, a familiar tension crackling between them.
"I want you to resign from the adventure at once."
"That is one request I cannot honor, Master."
His eyes were glowing by the sheer force of emotion, his hands tightening even more on the younger elf's arms. He was angry. More angry than Vaarsuvius had ever seen him while he was sober.
After a moment, she realized it wasn't about the anger.
"You aren't a fool, Vaarsuvius. You have a family. As your master, I am commanding you."
"You are not my master anymore, Aarindarius. You were the one to make sure of that." Vaarsuvius pulled away before his grip bruised her, having to pry his hands off before stepping back. "I made my decision a long time ago. If I do not, it's possible that the world will be unmade."
"You are not my master. You threw me out after we kissed, remember?"
"I am not a child anymore. I can make my own decisions, and I have made this one." Vaarsuvius, with customary haughtiness, tilted a sharp chin up defiantly, keeping violet eyes fixed on lavender. "If you have reservations about it, then I apologize, but that won't stop me."
The anger was gone.
He deflated, stepping back and turning away, looking out the window and biting his knuckle. He had never really broken that habit. "I don't want to lose you."
It was a surprisingly honest and vulnerable statement. Blackwing shifted awkwardly and jumped back down to the table, trying to make himself as unnoticeable as possible.
"Then why did you throw me out of the tower?" Vaarsuvius asked, and underneath the frostiness, a friend could hear the hurt. "You seemed quite eager to lose me then."
"That was…" Aarindarius bit his knuckle harder. "I… You don't know how much I had wanted to go further. You are a beautiful elf, little one, and sharp as a tack, but I was your teacher and a relationship would have only hurt you."
"You think that I wasn't hurt when I was left out alone? I had none of the skills needed to take care of myself."
"You needed to learn how, and I needed to separate us before I ravished you. I never intended to cause you pain."
Vaarsuvius wished for a nervous habit to indulge in. It seemed like Aarindarius's knuckle-biting was making the talk a little easier for him, and the elven gods knew that this was a very painful conversation.
The mage crossed thin arms and closed violet eyes, trying to ease the old but familiar feelings tightening up within. "It did cause me pain, Aarindarius. A lot of it, but… I suppose the past is past."
Vaarsuvius shook her head, leaning against the edge of the table. Her ex-master was still gnawing his knuckle viciously. With any luck, he wouldn't make himself bleed this time.
"I thought that you were happy with Inkyrius."
His voice was distant, faint. Like someone from the past was trying to scream into the future.
"I was, for a while. Just because I am happy with one person does not mean I have forgotten my feelings for another. I thought marriage would solve them, but it didn't." Vaarsuvius shook her head, but this time, she wasn't moving her eyes from Aarindarius. "I always wondered what would have happened, but they were nothing but wonderings. They wouldn't come to fruition. You had moved on, so I had to as well."
Aarindarius let out a soft chuckle. "On the contrary, Vaarsuvius, I never moved on. You're still the beautiful, intelligent young woman I watched blossom into adulthood, and no matter how hard I tried, I never lost sight of that. There have been instances where I regretted never going further with that kiss, or never letting my feelings known before you married, but I always remember that you're young and passionate and deserve better than an old elf teacher locked up in his tower. It was for the best that you ended with Inkyrius instead of me."
"Well, if the best ends with divorce and relinquishing any rights to my children, I'd hate to see the worst," Vaarsuvius said dryly, crossing her arms.
Another chuckle, only this one was warmer. "I suppose so."
Vaarsuvius wasn't smiling, though. "Aarindarius, do you want to make love to me?"
His ears perked in surprise.
"Regardless of any of these silly self-made obstructions. Regardless of ages differences. Regardless of what you do or don't think I deserve." She was playing with the gold band tying her hair together, twisting it, before unconsciously tugging it out and letting wild purple loose. "By the gods, if you want to make love, please tell me now. If you don't, then I will get married again to someone else or be unmade, and you won't have another chance."
He was silent for a long while.
The younger looked down at the gold band on a pale palm, staring at the light reflecting off of it and hoping for him to say something, anything, to finish what they had started all those years ago.
He never did.
Vaarsuvius sighed, holding out an arm for Blackwing. "Good night, Aarindarius."
The mage turned away, the raven beginning to peek out from his hiding place.
The younger elf turned around, only to suddenly be clutched to the elder's body, their lips crushed together. The welled magic in their flesh popped against each other, making their skin tingle, and Vaarsuvius quickly wrapped her arms around Aarindarius's neck, desperately holding what she thought she would never have. It was just like the last time all those years ago, only now, he didn't pull away.
Blackwing sighed and quietly hopped under the table so he could give them some privacy. It looked like he'd have to find a new place to sleep that night.
But once he took notice of the feelings he got through their empathetic link, he felt happy about it nonetheless.
Maybe his master's love life wasn't as hopeless as he thought.
A/N: For a friend, since I figured she could use a little cheering up (and I needed to keep a promise I made nearly a year ago-whoops). This pairing actually required a bit of a struggle, but I'm hoping that the result was good nonetheless. Here you are, Zanaril: I hope it puts a smile on your face. :)