Title: The Day Before You Came :: Vale of Eternal Blossoms
Character/Pairing: Last time before we dive into the world of Full Ensemble Writing. The Rogue, the Hunter and mentions of the other people you'll see the next time I write anything.
Rating: Still really safe, honest.
Summary: It's the night before the first push into the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, and a gnome is causing trouble...
Disclaimer: All these people live in a computer game owned by Activison and Blizzard. They own this all, I'm just playing with it, or in this case not. I'm just writing for the time being ^^
Considering the speed with which this piece was conceived, I feel particular thanks should go to Mr Beta Man for taking time out his weekend to poke this with the pointy sticks of correction. Feedback would be better than both cake AND pie.
The Day Before You Came.
He shoves the door open so hard that the hinges separate from the wall.
It's appreciably cooler outside and the air hits him, drawing a moment of clarity from his anger. He doesn't slow down, however, until he's to the edge of the balcony, where the view that meets him jars him back to reality. As the landscape around the Shrine slowly consumes itself in inky black desperation, instinct sparks, and he's searching for their point of entry, the place where tomorrow his group of ten will attempt to take back the Vale for the Pandaren.
The Mage's words ring in his ears, insidious clarity against the desperate nature of their impending situation.
'You're a fool not to indulge the night before a battle that might well be your last.'
Crais isn't sure what makes him more incensed: the suggestion he might die the following day or that he's deliberately avoiding temptation. Deep down he's aware that he's deflecting the real truth, and the alcohol is only fuelling his internal conflict. If it were any other woman this would be academic, trivial; but it's not.
Mage Lieutenant Fizz Goldfellow had fixated on the tension between her and Crais since his arrival last year and the rogue had tried his damnedest to stay silent. Tonight however, enough was enough. The hours before a major push are NOT the time for ridiculous gestures. It is certainly the absolute worst moment to realise you've been fooling yourself for months over a truth you're frightened to acknowledge.
Cold air is sobering him fast. He makes sure never to drink enough ale to dull him when he wakes, just enough to help him sleep because he knows he won't, but Fizz's persistent arrogance riles, eats away at his balance. If Randall had been here it wouldn't have happened, the Gnome's undignified assumptions squashed flat, deemed massively inappropriate under the circumstances. He misses his friend more than he ever has, just because Randall was capable of bringing calm to his chaos, and now he'll have to do it alone. He's lost too much over the years, far more than he's comfortable recalling, and in the hours before such a significant event he could do without having to struggle for equilibrium.
The voice that materialises behind him doesn't help matters in the slightest.
'You gave him exactly what he wanted. I'd have thought you would have learnt by now.'
He didn't hear her approach, bare feet on stone, almost as quiet as he is in stealth. He knows he can't turn around either, not yet. If he does the emotions win, this gets messy and he crosses a line he drew himself the moment she arrived back in Pandaria. She doesn't need to be distracted, and he can't afford to damage the fragile calm they've re-established. In this regard, at least, he can prove to himself he knows the right moment to reveal his true intent.
'Explain to me again why we're taking him?'
He can hear the rustle of soft linen as P shifts, crossing arms over chest, gaze undoubtedly turning from approving to wry amusement.
'Because he's the best there is and you know it. Plus the fact he's not afraid of anything, especially arrogant Rogues who think it's their job to protect everybody.'
Indignation rapidly consumes the fear, suddenly compelling him to point out the flaws in her statement. But when he turns to face her, it all just falls away, and he stares at the woman in the moonlight who is suddenly more beautiful than any words he could reasonably utter. Fate does like to screw with his personal life, he knows, blatantly disregarding the larger stage whenever possible. This is absolutely the worst moment to have to deal with this, which is exactly why it's happening.
As he stands and the anger disspiates, she reads him perfectly. Her softness, understanding, everything is there in a moment of perfect comprehension. Her words are deliberately quiet, reassuringly gentle.
'You don't have to defend my honour, but I'm always grateful when it happens.'
Crais knows this is not the same woman he stormed away from at the Bar. Something fundamental has shifted, not simply because of her concern for him. This is something new at play, quiet purpose in her demeanour. His awareness identifies a palpable fear woven into the determination, a joint understanding that this fight is not like any of the others that have preceded it. The devastation that the dark heart of an Old God has wrought upon this once-beautiful land, a madman who perpetrated the descent into chaos.
This isn't just personal for them both. If they fail, there won't be an opposition left to worry about: this is make or break for both factions. They have to succeed, because balance must be maintained. This is why they have fought for so long.
Without the Horde, there is no Alliance.
Both of them know the stakes-- her so much more than him, or she wouldn't have run when she did. Bringing P back hasn't resolved any of his conflicted feelings, because there's been no time to: the world has moved too fast around them, and now they're stuck in a moment they cannot escape. The only constant they have, remaining reliance and order is from each other-- and the Mage had tried to destabilise that on a whim.
Crais' anger towards Fizz is unnecessary, his relationship with this woman cannot be so easily trivialised. Their combined strength is unassailable by anyone or anything, their greatest potential asset in the days that follow.
The emotion inside still renders him mute, incapable, until she has herself wrapped around him, arms encircling his waist with a firmness that he struggles to fight. She knows how I feel, because she feels that way herself. She will hear his heart, betraying his implacable exterior, and it will not matter if the Gnome was right or wrong, just that this is how she deals with it. He knows how she approaches the battle, that her routine is measured and precise, and it is that definition that gives her the clarity and focus she requires to survive.
Only then does he grasp that she's trying to calm him down, and is having a measure of success. In the mist of all this chaos, theirs is an order that cannot be subjugated by anyone. When she finally speaks again the words resonate into his body, wrapping themselves silently around his brain.
'Fizz is jealous, not simply of your superior combat skills. He knows how good we are together. I just choose for now to deliberately ignore the obvious.'
Now he has to react, to acknowledge their understanding, their first joint progress of the new campaign.
'That's a skill I'm also working on.'
At this she pulls away but maintains contact, hand on waist, deliberately static. These aren't overtones to intimacy, because that's ridiculously inappropriate the night before something this important to the entire continent. After all they've done, he's eventually interpreted the true path to enlightenment. That's got to count for something.
He has to tell her out loud, so he can hear the words and grasp that whatever else happens in the days that follow, he just took an important internal step forward.
'I begin to understand the significance of picking your moments.'
When she smiles at his eventual grasp of the obvious he wants to kiss her, but knows he won't even try. Instead he focusses on the feeling, that thrill that one day he could, fuelling a rush of energy he has to fight to control. The power from her, that she is able to generate in him, is quite unlike anything else he has ever known, and that she must feel this as he does. This is why they keep coming back, to each other and to the fights.
Without her, there is no him.
'That's as maybe, but I'd appreciate you remember that Fizz is on our side and maybe finally cut him a break?'
He doesn't want to talk about the Gnome any more. He's already focussing on the morning, tomorrow's task, capturing the momentum to carry with him as strength for his labours. Briefly he extends his arm and pulls her back into his chest, breathing in her scent, committing it to memory so he can find her in the heat of battle. She holds him in response but this time there is a change, the softening of her body, a pliancy and acquiescence which tells him all he needs to know.
There will be another time for this. They will make sure that happens.
P looks up at him, suddenly serious. She too is refocussed on the matter in hand.
'We need to have the strategy sorted for the insertion into the Vale, and Argus is panicking. This is bigger than anything he's handled so far and his Alliance counterpart could use the reassurance.'
Crais looks down at her and is comforted by how much he loves it when she talks business.
'You think I am the man to sooth nerves?'
'You are the Rogue who has already given us an edge with your reconnoitres. We'd not know the corrupted elemental was down there were it not for you. Come make them feel as confident as you are, especially Fizz. I know he'd not pick a fight that dumb unless he was sacred.'
'That's all it was?'
Now she releases him, and puts deliberate distance between them, This is an intentional disengage, because she's going to say something that she couldn't if they were close.
'This is the time for preparation, not for indulgence. That's all that matters.'
She turns and walks back to the Inn as Crais watches, allowing himself one last moment to think on their possibilities. He's good enough to hide behind his own professionalism, albeit briefly. When she stops and turns, looking back and waiting, only then does he go to meet her.
Tomorrow, they will use their balance to return harmony to this continent.