Death sighed. "Alright then. I just need a moment, okay, dear? You can be with me soon... Will you watch the play with me, too?"
Senecio chuckled and leaned closer, nibbling Tide's ear playfully. "I just didn't feel like it..." he murmured. "We did other things to relax, though. I made him a makeup mixture to cover his scars and we went to a cheap tavern one evening, dressed as a sailor and his lady. Then we went to the Being restaurant as well, and we had this amazing cake. We wrote a law propsal in one night. Well, that wasn't to relax, of course, but we had to take the chance with the king coming. And the first evening we went to make a deal for the balm, of course..."
That question, unlike previous request, seemed to brighten up and reassure little creature a bit.
" Of course!" She stated proudly." Uncle will be sad, so of course Xia be there." She grinned playfully, as if trying to cheer him up" Xia will use a chance where uncle is sad, to coax cuddles and kisses!"
Tide shivered with the nibble, but he leaned into it, chuckling shyly, as if enjoying the little casual playfulness that still respected his boundaries. When Senecio explained what they did these days, though, he held him breath, and when he finished he withdrew a bit so he could see Senecio's face to see if he is serious.
" I am relieved for the balm, and all that sounds great...but the makeup.... Your mixture can really cover scars like that?" He asked, taken aback. " That... Would really be a big thing for Hans, not little one. " He smiled slowly, his surprised expression melting into one of a delight, as he glanced to sleeping Being." He must have been so happy... Wasn't he?"
" Uncle overthinks everything, yes? " Xia chuckled." But since uncle wants answer - if Xia is sad, too, then Xia and uncle cry, snuggled together..." She replied softly, and now when little reassured, she leaned across the bed and licked his cheek in a kiss.
Tide smiled slowly.
" It must have been so emotional for him... thank you. What have I done, to deserve such a bundle of joy...?" He whispered, and he closed his eyes trustfully and leaned in for a kiss.
The creature leaned into his touch, closing her eyes and purring with it. She didn't want to make him uncomfortable, having on the back of her mind that he needs her to go right now, and although she did not understand why she wanted to respect it. After a moment, she stopped his hand with her paw and licked it in greeting.
" Xia... will be back, when uncle sends for her... " she whispered, trying to keep a straight, brave face. Not prolonging the moment any longer, she got to the edge and slid out of the bed, where she transformed, into the flying fox form, with big soft wings. She did not look back, though - she turned to the half-open window, opening it more with her nose, and then, she lept out of it, into the open air, for the first time since she was born, going alone.
Tide kissed him, this time softly and gently as if taking the time to savour his closeness. As the kiss ended, he embraced him anew, snuggling with him. He had so much to say, and his heart was so full of gentle, tender feelings, but despite telling Death people don't have to thank each other all the time, what first came out of his lips was thanks.
" Thank you... For all the little things," he said hoarsely. " I usually... am reluctant about any intimacies until far into the relationship. " he murmured, leaning against him almost sleepily, calmly, not opening his eyes. " But I feel so safe with you... "
Jake nodded lightly. He was sitting on the chair before, but it did not feel appropriate. He sighed, and stood up, and sat down on the bed beside him instead. He was quiet though, not making any rash moves.
" I know it may seem a bad thing from your angle... " he said after a moment, turning to see him better. " But it doesn't seem half bad to me, if I may say so," he suggested, watching him intently, not hiding his worried, furrowed brow, either. " What is wrong? "
" It is... just really fun... " creature admitted, smiling lightly too. " I feel like we can just be close and free, and at the same time, I don't feel pressured or guilted into anything I don't want. All relationships that I considered success from before were mostly founded on romance and emotional depth, and they were great, but... with you, I feel like I can have everything, depth and intimacy. It comes so casually to you... " he nudged his head against the actor's, like cats do, with a gentle head bump. " It feels good... "
"Love," Death muttered. "I don't think I'm capable of it. I can't return it. I tried it for a long time before I realized that... She reminds me of my fairies, but I can't love her in the same way. They died because I loved them and... I think that part of me died as well, when I killed Grendel because of it... I can feel fondness for her, but I have no desire for her to return it. It makes me uncomfortable when she does... She is so young and innocent and I don't want to hurt her, just like I didn't want to hurt Riversong. And I also have to wonder... it was Ben who created her, and I don't know if that love is fully her own. She said herself that she was made to soothe..."
"And what can I say?" Senecio murmured. "You at least came to this through romance. I took the exact opposite way..."
" Alright, the first thing out of the way, I think at least you can be sure her feelings are her own. " Jake replied tactfully. " Saying they aren't her own just because Ben made her, wouldn't it be like saying my wish to be your friend is fake just because I shared his mind? " man tilted his head curiously. " When we were together, Ben thought very intently about you, so of course, I got to see you from his light a lot. But what are some memories, some botched up confused feelings? I have seen it all, but if anything, they just made me frustrated and I disliked you for it. I felt bad for you, sure, but I only got to change my mind after I met you. I am pretty sure it must be the same for her, that even if some impression seeped through that made her interested in you, that the feelings came when she got to meet you. Didn't some of you guys mention she was made for Svarik after Ben in demon form hurt him, not you? She seems pretty much like a gift of guilt, not result of his feelings for you. Besides, haven't you noticed? " he paused, before adding. " Ben... All in all, his mind was pretty torn up, and overwhelmed with the fear of being abused and hurt again, yeah... but... deep underneath it all, from the time he knew you, there were buried suppressed memories of longing, of lust, and of infatuation. He yearned for you to love him to the point I am uncomfortable with, just remembering it. But just look at Xia, at that little thing... You can practically read it on her face. She doesn't want you in any such way. The way she loves you is very pure, childlike indeed... I don't really think she really gets the concept of attraction. Objectively, you're a handsome person, but I really don't think Xia even understand what handsome means... I think being made, not born, got her to really be free from any standards that may drive her to think of you differently, then now... She is much different than Riversong, as much as the sun is from the moon... "
" I... don't understand. " Tide whispered. " Why does the path matter? We both choose each other. I love that you are so confident about intimacy. When another person is shy, I am shy as well, but with you, I feel I can be more confident, too... And maybe you are forgetful sometimes, and aren't used to obvious things like flowers and reciting poetry, but I find the way you care for how I feel extremely romantic." he smiled shyly. " And don't you like that we can just talk about all those things freely? You aren't just pretty, you're tender and insightful. I love having all those talks with you... "
"I'm scared of that even more. She is like my fairies. I couldn't force myself to love Riversong. But I feel I could love her like she wants me to, in her pure way. I could, if I hadn't lost them, and..." his voice broke with pain.
"You're telling me I'm not used to reciting poetry?" Senecio snorted, playing with the demon's hair. "I recited you poetry the first day we met!"
" Sshh... Easy there, you silly thing... Just bear with me, hear me out, okay? " Jake smiled a little bit. He hesitated, but he slowly reached for him and placed him hand on arm - not shoulder though, not wanting to alarm him by touching him too close to his injury. " You are having a lot of doubts. It's been a long while. It's all perfectly natural. But don't you think... all those comparisons are doing more harm than good to you? " he suggested tactfully. " Xia does not put pressure on her, demanding declarations of something high and divine from you. You are the one that thinks you owe her to love her like you loved those fairies, but why would you force yourself to follow same patterns? She is not them, Death, no matter how much similar her behaviour may be. Why not just... let yourself love her as you can love *her*? She doesn't know how you loved them, she can't compare, she only knows how you treat her right now. Besides, she won't forever be stuck in innocent wonder, and she is not as weak and frail. She will grow with time. If you let yourself grow with her, learn and lean on her, you may both get much more than you thought. It may become something completely different than what you had with your fairies, but still, feel great. Just because it would be different, doesn't mean it won't be equally rewarding. "
" Well, you were only doing it back then because you were hoping to seduce me! " Tide pouted innocently while leaning against his touch. " You haven't done it since. After we got to be intimate, you went about it like it's a magic trick. " he teased. " Poof! Oops, it seems I can no longer do that... "
" You don't owe her anything. " Jake repeated with empathising, gently but firmly, pressing his hand. " Don't do things out of obligations, do it if you want them. Do you think pretending would do her any good? If you just go along with it like it's an act, you will just break her heart when she realized that. Wouldn't it feel better to just put expectations aside, and treat this like a whole different situation, as it is? " he suggested with worry. " Brace yourself, and prepare to tell her to back off, if you can't shake off those expectations. But if you're willing to try - then don't treat her like she has no say in this, okay? " he whispered. " Shouldn't she have equal say in this, as you? She should have a choice if she wants to keep being your friend. Don't... let the silence, denials and confusion ruin things for you, as it did for me and Ben. " his grow furrowed with pain. " Talk to her honestly about your fears. let her know how you feel, and why you're eating yourself, why her love makes you uncomfortable - and let her choose if she wants to love you, despite that. What is the harm in that? Whatever it is, it's much lesser than shutting her off without proper explanation, right when she became comfortable enough with you to display her affection more openly... "
Tide blushed with it, seeming pleased by the unusual change.
" Well... nobody naturally talks in rhymes, so poems always sound a little silly. But that's what's so lovely about them. " Tide smiled softly, as he added longingly. " Wouldn't it sound silly but lovely to you now, if I just say that: "
I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams...
"I don't know how to explain it to her," Death sighed. "She's too young to understand some things and I don't know how to make it simle but understandable. I hoped she would understand better after seeing the play..."
Senecio sighed with that, kissing the last words from Tide's lips.
" Play will be emotional, big thing, it may only confuse her further unless she is given some insight. She doesn't understand our language well, so how much would it really help her on her own? How much does she even know of your past, besides that you lost someone you love and that you used to argue with her Maker? What about your feelings? You need to talk it out with her first. The play can only tell her about you, not how you feel about you. She is a child." Jake empathized." She may be curious of your past, but her focus will be on the present. Tell her what you can and can't give, ask her what she can or can't give. If you can't meet half way outside of the play, you won't meet so with the play." He sighed, a little sadly, bewildedly." You and Riversong really... Enabled each other. Why... Do you fear the open talk so much? You just explain why you feel conflicted, she explains how she feels about it, you apologize to each other if needed, redefine where you stand, reassure each other - why is it so much more complicated than it needs to be with you guys? Do you think it's, like, smarter to pretend nothing happened till the end of the day? You would just be playing with her trust, to leave her in the dark... "
Tide snorted with it, kissing him again shortly, ending the kiss with a smile.
" Would... one more compliment sound too cheap?" He suggested shyly." I just can't seem to get tired of complimenting you. I love how eagerly you kiss me. I love how clearly you have missed me. Every your gesture of longing makes me want you more. " he spoke passionately, but his eyes were ready in his emotional state." ... Where... have you been my whole life? If I have only known I would have met you, I would have spent thousand years rotting in the theatre, enduring all the stares and insults of the world. I wished... I wished I could have met you sooner..." He caressed his cheek, his hand trembling." So you wouldn't have to reach the point just above suicide, before you found some happiness and love in life..."
"I'm not sure if I can explain in a way that she would understand and that wouldn't hurt her. And hurting someone... is against my nature. That's why it's so hard to me to talk about it..." Death said.
"I don't care when you met me. I'm still.amazed that you did," Senecio whispered, leaning into the caress.
Cook nodded slowly as if things clicked with the explanation.
" I see... Now that you explained it properly, I understand why it may be very conflicting to your nature. But can't you see? You're not that bad at this. It just takes a little back and forth. " Jake whispered. " You wouldn't just tell me - hey, you are human, you wouldn't understand. You explained to me. You can explain to her too. She seemed to like picture books... Why not try to use simpler terms, fit for her age? Just because something is put in simpler terms, doesn't stripe it of its truth. Now, as for your nature... " he looked thoughtful. " It's a little contra intuitive... But look at it like this, okay? Silence works slower but hurts way more than just clearing things out loud. You would be hurting her more by *avoiding* the talk, than by talking it out, so why not talk? And the talks like those, the pain isn't a bad thing. It is more... like cleaning of the wound. It hurts a little, but there's a relief when it's washed and clean. You will be helping her, by having this talk with her. Unsaid words lead to misunderstandings, and hurts fester in silence. Now... " he smiled faintly. " You wouldn't want to do that to her, do you? That would be very much against your nature... "
Tide caressed him gently, being quiet for a moment, wondering.
" Seine? " he whispered after a while. " This may seem abrupt, but... It's a bit overdue talk. I didn't feel the time is right to say it until now, but... You know, I have been thinking. You like having fun. If you find someone that respects you and thinks well of you, I won't mind if you have some fun with them. I do not see it as cheating if it is not romantic, as long as there are no secrets between us. But... " he gulped, fondling his cheek. " If you fall under temptation to return to those people in the theatre, out of urge, out of bad habit, out of weakness... please, do not. That would really hurt.... "
"Would you help me to explain?" Death asked hesitantly. "I'm afraid I will only make it worse with something I say..."
Senecio sighed quietly. "Not anytime soon, I think... I need to figure out some things first. You know... we were shopping with Hans yesterday, and he took me to a mask shop... that was actually a club. I guess he thought I would like it, but... I just ended yelling at Eros. So, I don't really feel like having fun with someone else until I figure out how I feel about it now... Although, I told Hans I wouldn't mind a threesome if you would agree..."
" Sure. We have a bit of a language barrier, but I'm sure we can work it out. I know sign language very well. " the cook said with a smile, a little wonderingly. " I doubted... that it would be much useful skill, but I guess it will be. Yes, I would really like to help, for the sake of both of you. If anything, at least I will be able to monitor the talk - and make sure to deescalate and help you two-step back if things get heated. Haven't read much fairy tales as a kid, but I've heard a few, at least, so I am better than you, at least, I can help you word it. I... could bring some food she can eat form the kitchen, so she can have something to eat too, and not feel left out, while you talk, and I don't have touch-fright, so I can try to reassure her if she needs it, so she doesn't feel alone in this, " he smiled a little shyly, with a slowly dawning, thoughtful hope. " Yes... I think... I can help... "
" Oh, you did? My naughty little rascal... No, I don't mind actually, with you and him, I think I may be able to enjoy it... " Tide smiled faintly. " Just... like you said, not with all those unresolved things. I didn't want to be an overbearing boyfriend - I sincerely wanted to be lenient... But that is my line. No matter how much I tried to consider it with myself, thinking of you being again with people that treated you so low would be really painful. " he whispered, watching more intently, as he prompted. " What.. would be your line, Seine? I want to adjust to it, to make sure you never feel betrayed by me. And, if you'd let me, I'd like to talk to you about Eros, when you're ready. I'm sure you wouldn't have yelled at him if something about it all didn't sting you deeply... Are you okay? "
"Thank you. I would really appreciate that," Death said.
"I don't know... same as you, I guess..." Senecio murmured. "I don't feel like talking about it now, but we will, later. About this and about what happened on your journey here... We will get throught it together, okay?"
" Then we'll deal with it. Now, is there anything else you'd like to speak about? " Jake asked, a little more colour and confidence in his voice with something meaningful to do. " If not, you should really get to those cookies," he reminded him gently. " You need strength for the talk, and they will get cold... "
Tide smiled faintly.
" It's a promise," he whispered, with more colour to his voice, as he laid hand on his shoulder. He looked over to Hans, but as Spirit was still deeply asleep, she smiled faintly. " So... how about... I take you to breakfast instead? " He grinned a bit. " I refilled my pocket money... "
" Yes... That may be best. She'll feel better if we make her something tailored just for her. " Jake nodded slowly as if a little dazed, with an unexpected turn of events. He cleared his throat. " Do you... happen to know any kind of cookies she enjoys the most, that doesn't take too long to make? I want to make sure I finish them on time, and from my experience, children love warm cookies... "
" He wouldn't be able to get them without your help. Without the balm, he'd be tossing, and turning, and not able to fall asleep... " Tide commented, and with a smile, as they were preparing to go, he caressed Spirit's hair, and gave him a little parting kiss, while he spoke with the actor, with a voice full of softness. " I am proud of you. You have a lot to feel proud about, too. This is your credit... "