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Of Silence: a Home for the Holidays: Part One


by theschizophrenicpunk

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I: Stumble Over Words

      I t’s fast approaching two in the morning when the candles above Kanrik’s work desk begin to dance in what would seem to be the ghost of an unnatural breeze; and that, as always, can only mean one thing:

      The thief’s got a visitor.

      Immediately alert, though too tired to be surprised, Kanrik hears the soft whooshing of spellsmoke scattering across the ground behind him, then the distinct sounds of one, two, three soft footfalls as the magic’s caster takes what is no doubt his signature standing position: arms folded disdainfully — almost disappointedly — across his chest and with his weight casually shifted to one hip. Well, at least the thief doesn’t hear a sword being drawn, so it’s probably safe to assume that his guest isn’t totally ticked. He doesn’t hear any irritated huffing, or the angry clearing of a dry throat, or the tapping of anxious toes against the ground, or... well, any signs of frustration, really. All that’s there is the sound of a man’s deep breath, a long, calm exhale, and the last sparkling overtones of magical essence dispersing into the aether in a plume of black fog.

      But, well, the lack of an air of sudden hostility actually seems more foreign than anything in the context of this guy, and that just begs the question...

      What the heck is he here for, then?

      Well, first thing’s first. Kanrik decides to use the opportunity in his being disturbed to crack his back and let out a much-needed yawn — one that he’s been supressing for hours. He lets the quill he’s been holding fall lazily to the table, carelessly splattering a bit of ink across his inventory papers and desk, then lifts his arms high above his head to stretch his tense muscles and regain his lost, once-proud posture. After one last second spent casually — almost painfully casually — flexing his tired fingers and cracking his knuckles, Kanrik finally angles his head ever so slightly over his shoulder to ask a calm, sleepy-eyed, “Mmm... did I do something?”

      The thief is honestly more than glad that the sound his question is met with is a genuine — albeit rather theatrical-sounding — laugh rather than the uneasy silence of a short temper being frayed. Whatever fragments of doubt the blue Gelert was still feeling are immediately chased away by the sound, and so with that, and with all his confidence once again intact, he finally turns to around to face his friend.

      The grey Gelert assassin who stands behind Kanrik looks... casual, for once, actually. It’s honestly incredibly odd to see him not wearing his long robes and cowl — he almost always has his hood pulled down to conceal his eyes, and a heavy cloak concealing his lithe but strong silhouette — and dressed in slightly brighter shades of coffee and cream than the usual dreary browns of his “work clothes.” He’s wearing his hair down — in the place of a hood, it seems — with the long, near-white locks half-concealing his golden eyes, though still allowing more light to reflect there than usual. He’s got his fingers laced calmly behind his back, though he seems oddly uneasy, and the expression that’s currently found its way to his typically stern face seems, strangely enough, almost... pained.

      But still, he seems to have nothing less than perfectly kind intents, so Kanrik forces himself to push his worry aside and simply turns around the chair he still sits in until he fully faces his friend. The thief then leans back casually and crosses his ankles, resting his elbows on the tabletop behind him.

      Simeon, the notorious Gelert Assassin of Meridell, gives Kanrik one of his signature cocky half-smiles at the sound of the thief’s words, then shakes his head with another snorted-out laugh. “You forgot, didn’t you?” he asks, near-whispered, his tone like that of a disappointed parent.

      Now Kanrik is just confused.

      And that confusion must be clear in his eyes, for at the sight and sound of the thief’s awkward silence, Simeon throws his head back slightly and lets out a long, tired sigh. “The contract, Kani,” Simeon says as he looks back down towards the floor, answering a question that Kanrik hasn’t even asked yet, now with a bit of his typical perpetual irritation back at home in his throat. “You had mailed me stating that someone had proposed a contract. This was merely a few hours ago. Did you truly forget so soon...?”

      Ah.

      Right.

      He did forget.

      Kanrik’s facial expression — and emotions — quickly shifts from confusion, to remembrance, to realisation, and then finally settles into a bit of an embarrassed cringe. Still leaning casually back, the thief gives a too-casual snap of his fingers, pointing them like fired pistols in the assassin’s direction, then his cocky smirk finally finds its way back to his lips. “Right.” Pause. He lowers his hands again. His words are slow and precise: “You are correct.”

      The silence that follows is, luckily, too short to be considered terribly uncomfortable, but it still seems as though Simeon is, at first, at a loss for words. Finally, though, with another half-sigh, the assassin looks back up towards the thief and replies with a tired, monotone, “I’m assuming that you mean I’m correct in presuming that you’ve forgotten, correct?”

      Kanrik gives his friend one big, firm nod, pursing his lips with the motion and humming a bit in affirmation. “Mm-hm.” He then pauses once more — uncrosses his ankles, then crosses them again. “Forgot.”

      His curt words — or, uh, word, rather — are met with another breathy, amused chuckle. “Figures,” Simeon says, lowering his eyes to the floor and giving a half-annoyed, half-amused shake of his head. Still, he plays along with the snarky little façade, mirroring the thief’s overconfidence with a snipe of his own: “That’s just like you.”

      Kanrik, too, decides to just keep running with the playful atmosphere. “Hey now, I’ve been busy,” he says, throwing a hand over his chest to feign the nursing a broken heart. “I’ve got an entire guild to run, you know.”

      Simeon shakes his head lightly again, though the motion seems rooted solely in amusement — which, honestly, is still a bit odd, considering that the man’s default emotion tends to be just pure annoyance, though Kanrik isn’t really complaining about this sudden and strange-seeming change of heart. Yet. “You’re always busy, aren’t you?” Simeon asks mockingly, his tone implying that, in reality, he believes that Kanrik hasn’t gotten a thing done in weeks.

      Which isn’t really a lie, honestly. But still, Kanrik mirrors the darkly sarcastic tone, snickering a bit before replying with an equally caustic, “That’s something we have in common, right?”

      Simeon’s pleasant-sounding laughter is a bit louder this time, though it still seems oddly hollow. “Sure, sure,” he says, his golden eyes sparkling with his smile. “What would the world do without us?”

      The two Gelerts exchange a few more soft chuckles, and then a calm silence fills the room.

      On any other day, Kanrik and Simeon would both loathe the lull that’s fallen between them, but something still seems strangely off in this moment, and neither of them can seem to find their typical sass within themselves. Simeon’s eyes once again travel to the ground by his feet, all signs of happiness — or the closest thing that he can feel to it — suddenly gone from his expression; although, honestly, the smile he’d just been wearing never seemed wholly genuine to begin with. He looks to the floor, then to the side, and then his focus finally settles on the cluttered piles of whatevers that rest against the wall to his left.

      Saying that the man looks pensive would be a radically gross understatement.

      And, to be completely honest, it’s more than a little worrisome.

      Not like Simeon is really known for his lively enthusiasm or anything of that silly sort, but he’s usually not this distracted, and he’s never, ever this shy. He’s always the first to excuse himself when there’s nothing left to say. He’s always eager to be out of the company of others the second he’s not needed anymore. He’s always the one to break a hush with some sort of snarky snipe. He always has an excuse to leave whenever a conversation dulls or the early morning’s sun begins to rise. The fact that, right now, he’s just standing in silence, seeming both here and nowhere at the same time, well...

      Kanrik decides to answer the question that he’s sure Simeon would have asked if he were in his right mind — which it seems he’s not, currently. The thief once again uncrosses and then re-crosses his ankles; then, “The guy’s name is Hayes,” he says, a bit louder than he would have if he knew that Simeon was listening, and Simeon’s attention is immediately — almost frantically — snapped back to Kanrik with a whip of his head and a little jump of surprise. “He, uhm... he’s a newbie here,” Kanrik continues, further confused by Simeon’s odd demeanour, though trying to not let it show, “and insisted he needed someone, uh... ‘taken care of...’ ” — he puts quotes around the words with his fingers — “because of worry for the guild’s safety, or something wannabe-noble like that.”

      Simeon’s eyes wander for a second more, his gaze reflecting an oddly crestfallen light, but he quickly manages to refocus on Kanrik, although it almost seems like he needs to force himself to do so.

      Kanrik continues, still trying his best to act like he can’t tell that something is wrong. “He said something about past debts and unpaid fees and, uh...” — he bats a hand — “feh, whatever, I’ve learned not to question why people hire villains like you,” — he shoots Simeon a playfully disgusted glare, thankful that it’s received with a quick eyeroll and the ghost of a smile rather than more pensive silence or other lack of reaction — “and asked if I knew anyone in your line of work.” Kanrik shrugs lightly, tilting his head and making a face with the motion. “Begrudgingly, I said yes, but that he would have to deal with you himself.” Pause. He gives Simeon another mischievous, sassy grin. “But, well, it seems like that’s backfired now, since he’d told me earlier that he couldn’t go through with it, but I forgot to te— or, uh, was too busy to remember to tell you, so now, I’m stuck dealing with you again. End of story.”

      On any other day, Simeon would probably — no, no, would definitely — laugh at Kanrik’s jokey insults at least a little bit; but today, Kanrik just gets a halfhearted smile, and then another slow averting of the eyes.

      Well, at least Simeon remembers how to speak. After a few seconds of what seems like deep thought, the assassin shifts his weight, then looks back to the floor — realises he’s losing track of where he is again, then looks back up. “I’ll be honest with you, Kanrik,” he says, sounding oddly genuine — and more than melancholy, “I’m actually rather relieved to hear that, as I’m not too fond of... work... so close to the holidays.”

      Kanrik isn’t sure how he should react to this admittance of what, on any other day, Simeon would probably consider “weakness,” but after a few seconds of deliberation, the thief decides to try to lighten the mood once more with a sarcastic snort and another snipe. “Do you mean to imply that you have a heart...?” he asks, slowly and mockingly.

      Again, though, he’s only met with a hollow half-smile; and, again, Simeon looks back down to the floor. “That’s debatable,” he mumbles, nearly inaudibly — almost more to himself — though Kanrik has learned by now that the answer to that particular question — though it may be surprising to some — is an overwhelming, resounding “yes.” And they both know it. In fact, that’s usually something that Simeon prides himself on, and that Kanrik admires in him almost more than anything else. The fact that Simeon is seemingly doubting that — doubting something that is such a crucial part of who he is as a person — is just...

      With a half-frustrated exhale, Kanrik opens his mouth to speak — to continue on the same topic — but then changes his mind. Something is wrong, and it’s not being addressed, and it’s not being brought up, and it’s really, really bothering him. The thief leans forward in his seat so that he’s sitting less casually — more formally — straightening his spine and lacing his fingers in his lap. “Um...” But he isn’t sure how to say it.

      And Simeon just keeps staring at the ground, absentmindedly dragging his heel across the cold stone floors.

      Kanrik leans forward a bit more, trying to see his friend’s face a bit better — to attempt to read his expression, or something — then decides to just say the most present thought on his mind. “Is, um...” Though he still struggles to find the words. “Are, uh... Are you alright, my friend?”

      Silence.

      It would be frustrating if it weren’t so worrisome.

      Kanrik leans forward further, resting his elbows on his knees, keeping his fingers laced in front of him. “Simeon, is something wrong?”

      The name feels somewhat foreign on Kanrik’s tongue, as he tends to not use it — he’s not fond of using non- formalities in regards to powerful people, as he often feels that doing so may lead to vulnerability — and, likewise, Simeon isn’t quite used to hearing the sound of his name in his friend’s dark bass. But, well, at least it managed to knock the assassin out of his strange, trancelike daydream. His golden eyes snap up again, and he’s honestly surprised to see Kanrik’s shift in position — his genuinely concerned expression, and his seemingly nervous laced fingers. Now Simeon is suddenly embarrassed. He looks away on purpose this time.

      Once again, there is silence.

      Then, Simeon sighs. He tries his best to feign some sort of confidence, though it’s transparent as the air itself. “And what is that supposed to mean?” he attempts to say as if boasting, though the haughty tone sounds absolutely fake, and his tenor seems seconds from cracking.

      Kanrik debates a little too long whether or not to continue being snide — to just continue trying to speak in playful insults as they usually do and hope that it encourages Simeon’s typically pompous personality to show itself again — or to give in to his concern and voice it. Eventually, and for once in his life, Kanrik decides to go with the second option rather than the first. “Simeon, you’re acting very strange right now,” he says matter-of-factly, though still rather softly, hoping that the confidence in his voice keeps the conversation from devolving into frustration.

      The careful choice in cadence ends up mostly working. Simeon finally looks back towards the thief, then gives the blue Gelert a genuinely irritated huff. “Why are you using my name all of a sudden?” he asks, annoyed.

      Now Kanrik decides to start being a jerk again. He gives Simeon a handsome, cheeky grin. “Because it’s the only thing that’s currently getting you pay attention to me,” he says.

      Simeon narrows his eyes. It’s a threatening glare, but, honestly, considering that “threatening” is one of Simeon’s default auras, the glower is more of a comforting a sight than anything else, and far more familiar-feeling than the crestfallenness that had been swimming through his gaze just a few seconds before. Kanrik maintains his grin, oddly comforted by the sudden settling of hostility.

      Simeon scowls a bit more fiercely when he sees that Kanrik’s nerve is immovable by cold stares alone, then turns away once more so he doesn’t have to see the thief’s smug face. The assassin huffs again, though it seems more embarrassed than anything else this time. “Everything is fine, Kanrik,” he says — he lies — his eyes searching the room for something to focus on to distract himself from his thoughts. “It’s just, um...” He desperately tries to think of a quick and believable excuse, but it’s painfully clear in his eyes that he doesn’t have one. “It’s... incredibly late, and I’m incredibly tired, and...” He struggles again to find a decent reason. “And I’m... frustrated that I took the time to come here for no good reason since your newbie decided to back out.”

      The lie is so blatantly obvious, it’s nearly palpable in the air.

      Kanrik doesn’t buy the excuse one bit, but... he worries that all he can really do is pretend that he does. Simeon isn’t the type to admit to failure, after all, even if it’s just something as simple as failing to hide a motive. Attempting to argue would definitely be a dead-end road, but...

      Well, he’s still worried.

      And Kanrik hates being worried...

      After a few more seconds spent in stillness, Kanrik straightens his posture once more, again draping his arms over the back of his chair, though keeping his feet planted on the ground rather than crossed casually over each other. He decides to try being playful again, now that the conversation has started flowing a bit more freely. “What, you hate seeing me so much, it’s taken your words away?” he asks in a childishly whiny voice, forcing an equally childish pout.

      Simeon rolls his eyes again, a bit more honestly this time, but doesn’t look back towards the thief as he answers with a curt, “Clearly.”

      Kanrik throws a hand over his heart again, somehow able to make his pout look even more pathetic with the motion. “Sir, you wound me,” he whines.

      Now Simeon looks back, smiling a bit once more when he sees Kanrik’s endearingly cheeky expression. “Good.”

      Kanrik’s fake gasp is louder than anything either of them have said yet. “How rude!” he scolds.

      And, again, the assassin’s smile brightens. “Am I truly known for being nice, Kani?” he asks.

      The thief’s tone then turns saccharine, and his pout is replaced with an equally obnoxious expression of pursed lips and Puppyblew eyes. “The most pleasant man I know,” he coos in response.

      Simeon cringes. “That’s unfortunate.”

      And with that, Kanrik’s tone and expression finally return to normal. “I wish I were joking.”

      They exchange a few more snickers, and then there is silence once more.

      It’s no secret to Kanrik that Simeon is almost unhealthily reticent, so the thief wasn’t really expecting him to just willingly and readily give a genuine explanation as to why he suddenly seems so lost. Still, Kanrik feels the need to keep trying to get his friend to divulge at least a few of his thoughts. After all, despite the fact that the minds of grey pets are almost always home to a myriad of miserable memories — especially pets like Simeon who had turned grey as a result of grief as opposed to being painted —Simeon is always ridiculously adamant about never letting that side of him show, instead hiding it all behind a wall of brazen cockiness. The fact that his façade actually seems to be cracking, especially to the point that he’s letting his emotions peek through, is incredibly unusual... and wildly disconcerting to boot. Over the many years that the two Gelerts have known each other, dating back to even before Kanrik had taken over the guild from its previous leader, the now-master thief had grown to admire this man for his strength, and his intelligence, and especially his dedication. Though their friendship was rocky at first, to say the very least, they had eventually gained a strong sense of understanding for each other’s lives, and each other’s decisions, and each other’s paths, and just each other in general. Through often hesitant conversations, usually held in a stress-induced state of half-delirium, or when tired and bleary-eyed as the night ticked on and on, they had learned so much of each other’s stories, and of their victories, and of their woes. Kanrik had gained Simeon’s trust — and Simeon, Kanrik’s as well — and eventually learned of the grey Gelert’s tortured past. Learned of his past love, and his loss, and his heartbreak. Learned of the way that he turned “cold.” Learned of the way that he entered his morbid line of work. Learned of the reasons why he can’t seem to stop. As heartless and cruel as Simeon can be — or outwardly seem to strangers, at least — Kanrik is one of the few people who knows exactly how loving the man truly is. How much he’s been through, and overcome, and survived. How much he still cares about the world around him. How much he longs to be free from the weight of his past. As silly as it sounds, and though more often than not the two Gelerts communicate through nothing but petty threats and cheeky insults, a huge part of each of them cares deeply for the other, and Kanrik is finding it nearly impossible maintain the impassive persona that he uses to keep all of that sentimental gibberish hidden now that Simeon, too, is showing a bit more of what’s underneath the act. It’s as if all those past years of pretending to hate each other actually brought them closer together, as they now know just how much the other hides, and how much it hurts them to do so. After all this time, and in this too-early hour of the morning of Christmas Eve, Kanrik is finally starting to realise just how much...

      “Now why are you so suddenly pensive?”

      This time, Simeon’s voice catches Kanrik off guard.

      The thief whips his head up to look Simeon in the face, a bit of a panicked light flitting through his emerald green eyes. Ah. Whoops. He must have let his worried thoughts take too tight a hold on him.

      Kanrik decides, though, as he meets the assassin’s puzzled eyes, that perhaps the best thing to do in this moment is to just be truthful — which, honestly, is somewhat of a foreign concept to him. But, well, this is a bit different, he supposes. He actually wants to see Simeon feel better. “I’m... sorry,” the thief says slowly, his tone oddly genuine, “but you’ve, ah... got me a bit worried. You aren’t usually this, uhm...” He struggles to find the right word. When one doesn’t come quick enough, though, he eventually just goes with, “Sombre.”

      At first, Simeon makes a bit of a frustrated face, more irritated by the fact that his bad mood is obvious enough to be seen rather than irritated that Kanrik is calling him out on it. But then, the assassin chuckles lightly, finally with a bit of genuine gladness returning to his voice. “Are you truly saying that you’re surprised to see a grey pet seeming sad, Kani?” he asks.

      Now it’s Kanrik’s turn to roll his eyes, though he’s glad that Simeon is at least admitting to the negative emotion — in his own odd, roundabout way, at least. “Fine,” he the thief says with a quick flick of his wrist, “is ‘uncomfortable’ a better word for you?”

      Simeon is still smiling, thankfully. “Sure,” he replies, too playful to be considered dismissive.

      Kanrik doesn’t let that rest as his only response, though. “So?” he prods.

      And Simeon’s expression falls back into one of more confusion. “So what?” he replies, though he’s honestly pretty sure he knows what Kanrik is wanting to hear.

      “So is something wr— or, uh...” Kanrik decides to change his wording before finishing the question. He pauses for a split second, purses his lips, takes a deep breath, then tries again in a calmer tone. “I mean... is there anything you’d like to talk about?”

      Now Simeon’s smile is starting to turn less playful. His eyes narrow a bit until he looks threatening once more. “What, am I a child in need of counselling now?” he asks in an angry half-snarl.

      On any other day, Kanrik would mirror the expression and snipe back, but... “No,” he says, deciding it’s best to just stay serious, “you’re just a friend that I care about a lot, and I’m worried that something is wrong.”

      Silence.

      Simeon looks... shocked, honestly.

      So Kanrik, now suddenly panicked that he may have said too much too honestly, tries to remedy with a gracelessly added, “Uh— um, somewhat, I mean...”

      Well, the good news is that it’s late enough in the night — or early enough in the morning, rather — that both of their odd demeanours can be passed off as simply tiredness taking their tongues. The fact that Kanrik has to hold a hand over his mouth to hide a yawn after speaking those last less-than-eloquent words helps with the illusion. Plus, Simeon refuses to believe that anyone left in this world could actually care about him. Nobody has ever bothered to care — not since...

      The grey Gelert clears his throat, suddenly feeling it cinched tight by something-or-other. “I’m flattered,” he then says, brusquely enough to pass as sarcastic, “but no. Everything is fine.” He hears Kanrik inhale to speak again once he’s said this, and suddenly, all of his default hostility returns to him. The assassin lifts a hand in a stern motion for silence. “And I would kindly ask that you stop pestering me about it, Kanrik,” he then adds before the thief has a chance to speak.

      Kanrik looks a bit hurt by the sudden aggression, but...

      Well, at least Simeon’s seeming somewhat back to normal now.

      Not like his “normal” is necessarily pleasant, or anything, but...

      Kanrik crosses his arms, then leans his chair back against the desk again. “Fine then,” he huffs, now equally irritated — or seemingly so. “Sorry I bothered.”

      There’s a brief pause as the two Gelerts avert their eyes of each other, the both of them seeming embarrassed that they’ve just let so much of their pompous, stoic personas crack and fall away, but...

      Well, it is far past two in the morning, after all.

      Neither of them are really in their right minds.

      And this is further proven on Simeon’s part by the fact that the next thing out of the assassin’s mouth is, “No, no, I apologise for being churlish.”

      Woah, did he just genuinely apologise for something...? Kanrik’s expression is like that of a child seeing their very first snowfall. The assassin isn’t usually this openly genuine. In fact, he never is. He usually speaks only in riddles in these sorts of personal contexts.

      Kanrik’s posture softens as Simeon lets his stoic front completely fade away for one last time. The assassin breathes deep, crosses his arms protectively, then, still looking down and away, sheepishly admits, “I just... really don’t want to talk about it.”

      Silence.

      What in the world is wrong?

      That question is only continuing to dig deeper and deeper under Kanrik’s skin; but, unfortunately, Simeon has already opened up so much that Kanrik can’t really complain. True, the thief wants nothing more in this moment than to just keep asking question after question until he pries out an answer — just to satisfy his curiosity, if nothing else — but, well...

      Kanrik sighs long, and then he, too, looks away. “Alright.”

      The silence that follows doesn’t last too long this time, thankfully, as that last admittance of what Simeon would definitely consider “weakness” left him in a bit of a panic. He clears his throat nervously again, then uncrosses his arms to begin channelling the dark energy needed for his teleportation spell. “Well then,” he says, his volume suddenly doubling as he forces a cocky tone — the closest thing to his persona that he can currently muster. “If your little goon doesn’t need my services anymore, then I would like to get home and rest.” He then turns up his nose, sarcastically admiring the tendrils of dark magic that now swirl around his fingers. “As much as I love awkward chats at two in the morning, I’m rather tired at the moment, and would truly rather be anywhere else in the world than this dingy place, so...”

      And with that, Kanrik, too, manages to find his snarkiness again, and roll his eyes with a snort. “Well, have fun being lazy and useless,” the thief says, finally returning to his old speaking habits now that Simeon has done the same.

      The snipe is returned with a softly spoken, “And you as well, Kanrik.”

      One last time for this night, a silence settles between them.

      Then, Kanrik turns back around to sit facing his desk, picking up his quill to write once more. The ink he had spilled earlier has dried completely, forever staining the desk’s very grain. Had they really been talking that long? “Take care, my friend,” Kanrik mumbles as the soft whooshing of magic sounds clear again.

      Kanrik stares intently at the quill in his hands as the black spellsmoke disperses around his ankles. The thief knows full well just how much work he still has yet to do, but the longer he sits and contemplates his incomplete paperwork, the more he realises that his residual worry is rendering him completely unable to write. Kanrik looks down at his desk, then up to the wall, then high to the ceiling, then lets out a sigh.

      It’s right here, and right now, that Kanrik decides he won’t allow Simeon to be cryptic any longer.

      The thief has finally thought up a plan.

      It’s a dangerous, stupid, reckless plan, but, well...

      He’ll be safe if he’s reckless on Christmas...

      ... Right?

     To be continued…

    Author’s Note: Big thanks to my friend, Kalnya, for giving me feedback on and suggestions for the journal entries in Part II of this series — you’re the best!!

 
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