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[personal profile] sunsetmondays
Ashe is alone on the deck of the ship late at night, left to collect her own thoughts.
My secret santa gift to Amber.

There was a chill in the air this night, icy salt-spray swept along in a fervid breeze under the starry sky. Ashe felt it brush along her skin. It raised goose bumps on her skin and threatened shivers down her spine, but she didn't mind. There was something refreshing about being out in the open, left to the mercy of the elements. It was liberating - a taste of freedom - and on the long ship-bound journeys between ports, Ashe often found herself out here above deck and under the night sky. In the unending darkness, it was easy to imagine that for once in her life she was truly alone with her thoughts.

She leant against the railing and filled her lungs with fresh ocean air and salt, her mind wandering. She was irritated, frustrated, with the events at the proclaimed wizard high school. Even now, she could still feel herself slipping, burning away in the aftermath of the briefest taste of her unrestrained power. Inien, who had spurred on such an outburst lingered in her mind. Working with her had been a dangerous game: she'd recognised her bindings and who knows what else she'd figured out but kept to herself.

From the moment they'd broken free from that closet Ashe had prayed to every god she knew that Inien would keep quiet. Ashamed isn't the word Ashe would use to describe her feelings about her past, but pride certainly didn't take its place. Her history, her fate, they're not the kind of things she was ready to let her newfound friends - a flash of Gregor's actions atop the tower burned through her mind - wasn't ready to let her acquaintances know about the truth behind her past. She'd already left clues dotted among their conversations but their reactions, nor their trust had proved that she would be safe to tell them.

Gods, why did she have to be born into this. Sometimes she wanted to yell, to scream, to run, to taste blood- breathe out and let the emptiness consume her. But no. She, Aesling, had duties holding her to this earth and a responsibility to keep herself in check. Not like she had much of a choice. The bindings were placed for a reason and she'd formed too much of an attachment with this mind, this body, this world, to let herself shatter and watch her humanity fall away.

Her mind still wandering, she thought back to their moment shared around a campfire; a lonely night where she'd already told more than she ever thought she would. Markus, in his own charming humour, had presented his romanticised tale of wisdom and woe. But beyond his ostentatious gestures and hyperbolic stories, she found some truth in his words. "History does not favour those with fate on their sides." If she'd even dare to call the 'gift' in her lineage a favour of fate, in too many ways, history had not favoured her. Too many times, it felt less of a blessing, more of a curse. Despite her status, she'd always felt imprisoned by so many things. Her history had no favour, only shallow praise and a good serving of half-digested regret.

"History does not favour those with fate on their sides," she whispered to the wind, as if the clean salt-spray would wash away her laments.

From the darkness behind her a voice broke through the whistle of the passing wind. "You think so too?" said Markus, stepping into the moonlight. He wore his typical devil-may-care grin but Ashe wasn't fooled. In his world of half-truths and grandeur, he too had his own shadowy secrets. He gestured at the space beside her. "May I?" Ashe nodded and he approached to lounge against the railing.

After a moment of tense silence, Ashe spoke with a sigh. "Yeah. I've been thinking and you're right. There is no favour for the fated ones." Her skin prickled with cold and unease. Whilst she had no quarrel with Markus, she still didn't feel right to talk about this. Not yet at least.

"So, do you care to enlighten me about your own foretold fate?" Markus asked. The question was unsurprising, understandable even, but Ashe still felt like the words were loaded. Markus' silvered tongue was as dangerous as Thog's bullets and every survival instinct had her ready to run.

"No," she answered, a lot harsher than she intended. She saw the briefest flash of his wounded expression before he subdued it with an empty smile; Ashe wasn't the only one to have built a fortress of secrets and concrete facades but she knew they all had their cracks in their crumbling insecurities. She wasn't hesitant to guess that that's why she still refused to give even her milder secret, as willing as some of the group were willing to give theirs.

"I thought not, but it was worth a shot," Markus said with his somewhat playful half-smile. Even with his own weathered cracks, Markus seemed to have mastered the act of keeping it all together. He was always the charismatic fiend and it was something Ashe could envy.

"I don't know how you do it," she said, continued to gaze ahead into the unending coalescence of ocean and sky.

Beside her, Markus raised an eyebrow. "Do what?"

"Keep so calm about it all."

"About what?"

"About everything."

"Believe me, I'm no calmer than you." Ashe wished the answer wasn't what she was expecting. She was happy with the fantasy that there was something more than this raging storm of thought and emotion that she could achieve. Unfortunately, the world was always too eager to remind her that she was too old for fairy tales.

"You do a bloody good job at hiding it."

"So do you, Ashe, so do you." Ashe couldn't help but snort at his retort. It was too easy to remember herself yelling at Gregor, a supposed friend, as fought hard to use non-harmful means to escape his grip. By the gods she wanted to make Inien bleed back then. Her fury was an unrelenting crash of thunder and electricity. It made her feel so alive but so detached from the world around her. At that moment, she could feel herself slipping from her own mind, struggling to hold herself together. It was all Gregors fault! if only he would have listened to reason then she wouldn't have-

No. She took another deep breath, bringing herself back to the present. It wasn't Gregor's fault. Yes, she was hurt that he'd favoured the stranger, the witch's trust over hers, but Gregor wasn't to blame for her outburst or for the events that spurred it on. If anyone was to blame, it was Inien, but even then, Ashe still had a strong part to play in her actions. Her decisions were still her own, after all.

"It's hard, Markus. It's always so hard," she said. She let go of the railing and shook out her fingers. She hasn't realised just how hard she was gripping it and now an ache lulled through her stiff knuckles. She rubbed her face with her hands, collecting herself.

"I know. I know." Markus sighed wistfully, looking up at the sky. His fingers twitched somewhat in Ashe's direction. But again, the walls were thick and heavy between them and trust was held at the deepest centres of their fortresses. With as much as they'd shared - more than with most others they'd crossed paths with in their life - they were both begrudgingly content to keep the rest to themselves.

With a booming hollow yawn and a stretch, Markus took a step back from the railing. "Well, I think I'm going to head to bed. Goodnight Ashe."

"Goodnight," she muttered to the darkness, once again alone to her thoughts. This time, she shivered. She could almost swear it was getting colder.

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