This one-shot is a gift for ShadowGrace, who, quite honestly, is probably one of the most amazing people I've ever met. She helps me so much, whether it's a question or an opinion. She never gets snippy or frustrated by my neverending questions. You're amazing!
So yeah. This takes place after Reckoning (if you haven't read it, don't read this. Quite a few spoilers in here). I hope you enjoy! (Especially you, ShadowGrace!)
P.S. The quote in this one-shot (in bold and italics) is from Reckoning, page 289. I took a paragraph out between them speaking.
Two years have passed since I last saw him. Sometimes I wonder if he's ever coming back.
The day he left, he told me he had to fix himself. He said he had to make himself worth me. He told me he loved me for the second time. And then he was gone, and I was alone.
Now, two years later, I'm 18 and still living at the Schola Prima. I hardly ever leave; I don't want to leave. Nat drags me with her for a shopping trip occasionally. Shanks and Dibs take me out every so often for pizza or a run. But for the most part, I stay inside the stone walls of safety.
When he left, I committed myself to learning. I went to every one of my classes, five days a week. I ate lunch in the canteen with the boys, Nat, and Ash, who was also subjected to school since he was no longer Broken.
I resumed physical training, doing my exercises every morning in my room, reviewing old moves after breakfast, learning new maneuvers before lunch, and sparring prior to dinner. I trained in hand-to-hand combat and with my malaika. I pushed myself, taking in everything, distracting myself from the gaping hole in my chest where my heart used to be. I made a new life for myself, and eventually I stopped sitting outside on the stone post by the huge cast-iron gates, watching for the person that was never going to appear.
"Morning, Dru," Dibs greeted as I took a seat at our usual table.
"Hey, Dru-girl!" Shanks added.
I grumbled out what could've been anything from a "Good morning" to a "Shut up". I barely payed attention to Ash sitting beside me, happily chowing down his breakfast. Instead, I glared at my plate and stabbed my scrambled eggs.
"Hey, Anderson!" The feminine voice was accompanied by a rough shove to my arm.
I have Nathalie a dirty look from beneath my wild curls I hadn't bothered to brush. No one cared how I looked. "What?" My voice came out as a growl.
Next to me, Ash stopped chewing and looked at me warily. Dibs and Shanks attempted to act like they weren't listenting.
Nat wasn't fazed by my tone. "What's your problem? Not enough sleep?"
She said it mockingly, but I nodded. "He -" I jabbed my thumb at Ash "- kept waking me up. They really need to fix the foundation of this place; he growled at every sound last night."
Ash had his own room - a bedroom, not a cell; he wasn't broken anymore - but he insisted sleeping in mine. I'd never had a problem with it before - until last night.
I shoved my plate away. "I'm not hungry." The legs of my chair scraped the floor as I stood up and grabbed my canvas shoulder bag.
I headed straight to the empty gym and began my katas. Then I moved on to warm ups with my malaika. I was completely alone, and it would stay that way for a while; breakfast wouldn't be over for another half hour, and then everyone had at least two classes before they came to the gym. My instructor never showed up until everyone else did. There was also no guard. It'd taken a year, but I finally managed to clear myself of my constant watch team.
I had been working out for about fifteen minutes when I sensed someone behind me. I completed my motions and then slowly turned around, my twin swords still raised.
It's a good thing malaika are made of really strong wood, because what I saw made me drop them on the hard floor.
We stared at one another in silence for a long moment.
"Graves?" I finally whispered hoarsly.
And just like that, everything inside me snapped and I was pressed against him, his arms wrapped around me so tightly I could hardly breathe, but I didn't care because I was doing the same thing to him. I heard him murmuring to me, repeating my name again and again until there was no more significance to it.
And still we held on, our warmth creating an even tighter embrace.
We finally parted, although neither of us let go. I looked up into his green eyes.
"Dru," he said at last. "Oh, Dru."
"Graves," I breathed.
Graves walked us over to a bench and pulled me down.
"Why?" I asked, my voice rough with tears I refused to shed. "Why were you gone such a long time? What took you so long?"
He remained silent for a long minute. I didn't look at him; no matter how badly I wanted answers, he deserved time to focus his mind.
He took a deep breath and spoke. "It was horrible, at first. Not the people; Shanks' family was nothing but kind and understanding. It wasn't the place, either; forty acres of private land, only wulfen and a couple loup-garou around. No, what made it so bad was the pain."
Graves sucked in a ragged breath. "When he Broke me, and I fought it, it hurt worse than anything else ever had; worse, even, than when Ash bit me. Worse than the time I actually spent as his prisoner. The pain slowly broke down my resistance until I was almost completely his. Those times I came to you... I don't even know how I managed that.
"The pain slowly dissapated, and after a year it finally faded almost entirely."
"Then why didn't you come back?" I demanded sharply.
Graves didn't flinch at my tone; even after two years, he knew I resorted to harshness when I became frustrated. "Because after the pain came the anger."
His reply startled me. "Why anger?" My voice was considerably softer.
"It was a lot of things. The fact that, even though he was dead, he still controlled this aspect of my life. And that I was forced to suffer all that time. But the thing I was most angry about was that it took so long. I hated that I left you, hated myself for keeping away. And then I realized that the pain was still there, only it was no longer mental. I was in pain from losing you."
He fell silent. After a moment, I worked up the courage to ask, "How long did the anger last?"
He sighed deeply. "It went away about halfway through the year."
My voice was a whisper. "What came next?"
"Nothing. The anger faded, and I still decided to stay. I convinced myself you were better off without me, with someone stable.
"But two days ago, I realized I couldn't stand it anymore. I couldn't stay away. So I packed my bags and came back, and here I am."
The story slowly soaked into my braid as silence reigned in the empty gym. I'd never thought about how hard it would be for Graves to fix himself. In some area of my mind, I'd known it wouldn't be as easy as 123, but... the knowldege that it could take as long as ten years, in the best of cases, was something I hadn't let myself really understand.
"Dru? Say something. Please."
Graves smirked at my smart-alec response. "I'm waiting, you know," he said.
I looked at him, thoroughly confused. "For what? I said what you told me to!"
His grin widened. "I seem to recall a certain svetocha promising me a name when I returned."
I blinked as the conversation came back to me.
"I love you. Okay? I promise." Another step back, his green gaze holding mine. "Hey." His throat worked, like he was catching the words halfway and pulling them back. "Dru. What's that short for, anyway?"...
"I'll tell you when you get back," I managed. It was all I could say.
"Dru?" The real Graves snapped his fingers in front of my face.
"Do that again and I'll bite your fingers off," I droned, my voice deadly calm.
Graves immediately stopped and pulled his hand back, but slowly, like he thought I wouldn't do it.
I wouldn't, of course.
"So?" Graves looked at me expectantly.
I sighed. No matter how much I wanted to keep stalling, I knew him too well. He wasn't going to drop it.
"Druzhinina," I muttered.
"Druzhinina!" I said louder. "Drew-zhi-nin-uh! My name is Druzhinina Eliza Anderson." I saw him struggling to process the unusual name. "My mom's ancestors were Russian," I defended. "And her name was Elizabeth, so that's where Eliza comes from."
"It's very..." He struggled for a word that wouldn't result in him on his butt, courtesy of my fist.
"Girly?" I offered bitterly. He held up his hands as if to say "You said it, not me". "Why do you think I go by Dru? No one's called me Druzhinina since I was two. No one's allowed to." I thrust my finger at his chest. "And that goes for you, too, Edgar."
"Of course, Dru," he replied pointedly. "I don't call you Druzhinina and you don't call me Edgar."
I dropped my hand. "Good."
It took me a moment to realize my hand hadn't landed in my lap.
Looking down, I saw Graves' warm hand enveloping mine. I raised my head to stare into his eyes, glittering green meeting stormy blue.
His gaze was intense. "I meant what I said that day."
The three most important words of that conversation began looping through my head.
I love you. I love you. I love you...
I'd said it to him, once, when he was still Broken but fighting it. And he'd said it to me twice. A day never went by when I didn't think of those three little words.
And I finally gathered the courage to tell him the truth, the truth I'd wanted to tell him then but couldn't.
"I love you, Graves."
He sucked in a breath at the pure truth in my voice.
"I love you, too, Dru." His eyes held mine, and I didn't look away.
And I knew that, somewhere, Mom and Dad and Gran were watching, and they were proud of their little svetocha.
So? How was it? Let me know, please!
This started out as what was just going to be a cute little I-love-you one-shot, but then I kept getting ideas and it turned into this! I hope you liked it, ShadowGrace!
You may notice that Christophe is never mentioned. That is because ShadowGrace and I both agree that Christophe Reynard is a Class-A Creep. He knew Dru's mom, he randomly shows up places, and he almost never gives a straight answer to anything. I classify that as a creep.
Plus, have you people actually read the last conversation they have in Reckoning? Talk about horrifying!
Anyway, please review and let me know how this was. I really hope they weren't OOC or anything.
All rights go to Lili St. Crow
P.S. Druzhinina is Russian. I looked up Russian names starting with D and it's the only one that came up with Dru in it, so I just went with the flow.