Author Topic: A Stable Foundation  (Read 548 times)


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A Stable Foundation
« on: June 26, 2017, 07:41:38 PM »
Tuesday, 21 June 2017

Horse smells, they sat inside the stables permeating the air much the way that sulfur thickened the air at the forge with one notable exception. Kruger didn?t have a real appreciation for the smell. That didn?t stop him from mucking out Apollo?s stall as he waited for Ali to return. He didn?t have to, there were people paid to do that job, but he needed to stay busy in the meantime. Better this than succumbing to the requests from the owner that he look at the shoes on other beasts. He had, and he would again surely. Getting stomped on was not something he was looking forward to tonight.

Kruger had arrived not long after sending Nikolai off with his? nanny wasn?t the right word. Rochelle, the old woman who lived with him and his mother treated him more like family than anything else. Still, when the pair left, Nikolai regaling her with stories of his visit and all the things he?d figured out, the place felt too empty, too silent, save for the musings of the yellow opal in his brain. Movement was best, busy hands and work that would leave him in a soaked shirt that had bits of straw adhered to it in places. It wasn?t his usual routine. When Ali took Apollo out, she would be back at the shop, but there were things nagging at him. He laid the rake across the wheelbarrow, as he layered in a fresh bed of straw for the pegasus. If she were gone too much longer, he was definitely going to get roped into checking shoes.

Aludariel wasn?t gone too much longer than that. After only a few weeks she had been able to work out the timing of Nikolai?s time with his father to make herself scarce just before the boy arrived before returning shortly after he departed. It wasn?t as though she wanted to be away from her smith, but it was still early after her return, and she wasn?t keen on asking Kruger about the boy before he was ready to share him. Before long, the telltale canter of newly arrived hooves broke the monotony of Kruger?s work and soon, boots when she dismounted. The last one she had expected in the stable happened to be awaiting her return and so, she offered him a curious look as she led Apollo to his stall. ?Come here often??

The question made him grin. He would never be pristine, though maybe she already understood that as he looked up at her with dirt streaked across his cheek from wiping sweat away. Maybe he?d learn someday that just because he wasn?t using his hand, didn?t mean his forearm wasn?t just as dirty. ?Only when I?m in dire need to clean s*** from a stall, so not really no.? She was a windblown mess, hair not quite as neat as it would be, the color to her cheeks telling him enough to know she?d ridden hard. In short she was probably the most beautiful she?d ever been to him, despite how she might think she looked.

?No, I just didn?t want to stay home. It was a bit too quiet.? He looked to the barrow, and its contents. ?Tell you what, you get Apollo settled, I?ll go dump this and then I?ll help you brush him out.? He must have missed her to make the offer, and it was possible that he now smelled different enough that the stallion wouldn?t try to take a chunk out of him. He didn?t move right away, choosing instead to grab hold of her shirt and pull her in for a breath stealing kiss. Only after leaving her panting would he grab the handles of the barrow and head for the manure pile.

?That?s a shame. I?d have to come here more often if someone like you were here.? She said with a cheeky grin. He was one of the few capable of rousing such a thing out of her, her typical smiles far more muted publicly. Intent on a long ride, she had dressed for the occasion, in riding breeches and a tight fitting blouse along with knee high boots and her hair pulled into a side braid over her left shoulder. Midnight wisps had broken free of the braid and stuck out at odd angles like a black rose?s thorns, as potent as they were beautiful. He caught her before she could argue and she found her head spinning when all was said and done. It left her to turn and watch him even as she guided Apollo back into his stall.

The petulant Pegasus was none too happy about the arrangements but nothing short of free range would be enough for his liking so he would have to deal. By the time Kruger returned, she had already set about brushing the beast, taking care of the worst knots and burrs before the smith ever came back in hopes that it would make Apollo a little more complacent and accepting of the man?s presence. ?It couldn?t have been quiet all that long.?

He tried to steal a stealthy glance over his shoulder, hoping that he?d see her eyes on him. He hadn?t really needed to for the half smile to embed itself squarely on his face. It took a little time to dump the barrow, if only because he needed to return it to the shed along with the borrowed tools. That and having to convince a would be customer that he was not, in fact, an employee. Fortunately Garrett, the youth who usually cleaned the stalls came out before things could get too loud. By the time he got back, Ali was already hard at work. He put his hand on Apollo?s flank, grabbing a curry comb and beginning on the other side only having to quickly move his feet once when the stallion?s rear hoof stomped down.

?Not really, I doubt it was more than twenty or thirty minutes.? A lot of that time had been him wandering through the place like he was looking for something he just couldn?t find, let alone remember what it was. ?Restless I guess.? He set to work, breaking up bits of mud that had dried into Apollo?s coat. ?Does it bother you when Niko comes for his visits?? He was sharper than he looked, though could be oblivious to some things about people. He had noticed that she took those visitation times to be away. For the most part, he just thought maybe she wasn?t quite ready to deal with a rambunctious four year old? or well maybe two rambunctious kids since he definitely dropped any pretense of being an adult whenever there were kids nearby.

?You never did do well with silence,? she remarked softly. It wasn?t chiding, it wasn?t criticism. Just a quiet observation to realign the Kruger-that-was with the Kruger-that-is. They seemed two separate entities in her mind at times but steadily she was merging them, reconciling who the man had been with who he had become in his time away from her. His time without her. It was slow going, sure, but they had seventeen years to account for. She didn?t doubt that he noticed her absence when Nikolai came around but what she didn?t expect was a question like that. Over Apollo?s flank, she blinked at him, almost as if she were confused by the question. ?He?s your son, mela. Why in Chislev?s name would I be bothered by that??

A silent laugh came from him, she did understand him in ways no one else seemed to. The reason he?d so often worked until he couldn?t stay awake anymore. The same one that there always seemed to be music on his mind. He really didn?t do well with silence. ?He is my son, from someone else. Maybe a reminder of all the things that we?ve missed.? It made sense to him, even if he was totally wrong. That was why it was better to ask, then go on assuming things. She had Apollo, and while the relationship was different it was clear that she?d had him a while. Judging from their bond, it was safe to say he?d imprinted on her fairly young. Apollo didn?t bother him, not being part of it was another story.

?In many ways, you?re exactly the same and if it wasn?t for my reflection I could believe that a day hasn?t passed. I won?t push for you to spend time with us, you will when you?re ready to. I guess I?m just looking for what you?re feeling.? Kruger had stopped giving his attention to the pegasus, and he let his displeasure be known with a shake of his head and mane. He stared over the beast?s flank at her, reaching to brush a sandpaper thumb across her cheek.

?But he is still your son, regardless of who his mother is. Your flesh, your blood, your kin.? She said softly but there was an insistent edge to her words that said she firmly believed in every word she said. After all, before Ali had ever made her presence known to the smith, she had found his children to see just what the man had to occupy his time in her absence. That he had tried to move on had been of some comfort if only because she so often recalled the loneliness of seemingly endless nights without him.

?I don?t know what I?m feeling save for the fact I don?t wish for you to change your relationship with him to accommodate me. Or with any of your children.? Her hand lifted to settle over his, the other patting Apollo?s side to soothe the steed?s dismay. A few quiet words, elegant elvish for all of their murmuring, seemed to settle the great beast for the time being. ?It is not fair of me to ask him to change his worldview of his father just because of my presence. In time, when you think it?s right, perhaps. I?d like to be a part of his life too??


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Re: A Stable Foundation
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2017, 07:43:04 PM »
?I guess that?s my real concern. Nothing?s going to change my relationship with Niko, or you. He needs me, and I haven?t said anything yet because things seem to have normalized for him for now. Sometimes he needs to come for extended stays. He?s different than I am, and I?ve had to bring someone into his life to help with whatever magic, or ability is inside him. There?s plenty of time though, I?m not going anywhere. Maybe we start slow? An hour at the park before he leaves sometime.? Kruger couldn?t help but smile for her, the touch of her hand like turning on a switch in him. ?We?ll both know when it?s right. I?m not letting you go either, so it?ll have to happen.?

He wasn?t sure how much to tell her, that she wasn?t the first person who?d jumped timelines, that the boy in question had come once as well and how disastrous that had turned out to be. It would certainly lead to the inevitable ?why? question. That might be a story that wasn?t his to tell. ?Sometimes I wish we had?? Kruger cut himself off, not really having a good way to say what he wished for. ?I still wonder what she?d have been like. A mirror of you no doubt.?

Ali had gone quiet as he answered, one hand on Apollo, the other over his on her cheek. At the end of the day, his children came first. It was a fact she would have insisted on. Add to it that Nikolai had needs that his father had to assist with and there wasn?t an argument to be had. She would let the smith decide when the time was right. Regardless, she nodded along to his suggestion. An hour. An hour here, an hour there, minute introductions in the grand scope of what should amount to decades. She could spare hours no matter how awkward. His wish, cut off though it may have been brought about a slight and almost imperceptible wince on Aludariel?s part. He didn?t have to finish the sentence for her to know and by the time he adjusted his phrasing to something else, she couldn?t help the faint tremble in her hand. ?I see her in my dreams sometimes? who I think she?d be. Reckless and loyal like her father? bullheaded and impossible to reason with like her? father obviously.? Uh huh. Like her father. Right.

As he feared it was there in her, his skin had become far less sensitive but even the callused mess it had become his hand could feel that trembling. Inwardly Kruger kicked himself, but the topic wasn?t something that he felt should be avoided. He wanted to be able to talk to Ali about it, she was the one person who felt as deeply on the subject, the only one that possibly could. Still no matter how much the comment had affected her, she?d managed to draw a laugh out of Kruger. ?That sounds almost exactly like me, except that I am far from impossible to reason with, and nothing you can say will change my mind.?

His eyes were tinged with amusement as he said the words. It was this kind of thing that had kept the two of them close. ?Then again she?d also be bold, and exceedingly able to take care of herself like her mother, and care very little who she offends while getting what she wants? like her mother.?

Ali scrunched her nose, a cute motion if ever there was one if only due to the delicate cut of her features. That said, there was nothing delicate about the little elfess, a fact the smith was most acquainted with. As things so often turned in a land like Rhydin, she had taken porcelain and fit it with steel until she was no longer vulnerable save for the minute cracks in her facade, cracks that Kruger often so easily found. ?You say that as if it?s a bad thing? but yes, she would be? would have been all of those things and so much more. I see her in my dreams, but not all dreams can come true, mela. It does not do to dwell on them so for now I focus on the gift I?ve been given; you and yours, no matter the capacity.?

?Not a bad thing at all, not to me at least.? Kruger enjoyed the momentary break in her otherwise unshakable demeanor. There were few who got to witness them, and none who received them in quite the same way. She was right, Ali?s presence here was a gift. ?You were unexpected, then and now. The first time, I had no idea that anyone would ever consider being so close to me. Hard as I tried, nothing ever filled that emptiness that you left. You came back to me, somewhere out there we never lost each other. Now I have you again, and nothing ever felt so good as seeing you, touching you again.? He stepped around Apollo?s backside, keeping a hand on the animal so that he wouldn?t draw a kick, and pulled Ali into a tight embrace. ?I?ve seen much of this world in the time that I wandered. You?ve seen far more, done more. I dream too, of her, of all of us really, but I want to know all the things that happened. To tell you as well, make this? our family work.?

?Our family,? she repeated with a soft exhale against his chest. In his arms there was safety and a sort of security she hadn?t known in almost two decades. Even if her kind weren?t the sort to pair but once in life, she didn?t think she could have ever tried to move on after him. Steadying her breathing in time with the beat of his heart, she finally stole a look up at him. ?Perhaps someday we might see her again but until then, I am content sharing in your happiness. If I may.?

Ali smelled like Apollo, and wilderness. It reminded him of freedom, at least from the crush of people that the city so often gave. He couldn?t do both though, and since he?d long ago decided that this would be his home, rather than avoid the crowds he had done all he could to be at its center. Happiness had never really been a part of the decision, It was something that he?d given up on feeling. ?You are my happiness, Ali. Niko, Addie? I don?t require a lot, the small circles are best.? He took one last breath of her before reaching back to pat Apollo. ?We about done with tall white and moody?? The pegasus stomped again, almost as though he knew that Kruger was talking about him.

?Shak, Apollo,? she chided the steed, steadying him with the press of her fingertips to his side. With a chuff, Apollo calmed, leaving Aludariel to turn a hand palm up to the smith. They were done and nothing else good would come from standing amidst the smell of fresh hay and horse dung. Careful steps led him from Apollo?s stall and toward the stable?s exit. ?Apollo does not like this place but I think in time it may grow on him.?

He followed her, enjoying the way she moved with a decided leer at her backside. ?By here do you mean the city, or the stable? I mean, maybe it?s time to look for something more permanent for him. The shop isn?t exactly zoned for having a stable, and where would we have him run, the alleyway outback? But maybe there?s something in a different district or beyond the walls near Battlefield Park that we could look into.? She had managed to touch on another subject that he?d been wanting to discuss. Before she?d returned to him, he wouldn?t have considered it, she had though and there were needs now that didn?t exist before. ?If we had our own, then things would be simpler.? A lot of hope rode on her answer, it would mean a change of more than just living spaces. It would also mean that they were deciding to be together not just shacking up as he suspected a number of people believed.

?Both, though understand he?s never stayed in a city proper for more than a few days at a time.? She said gently, glancing over her shoulder to find him checking her own. There may have been a little bit extra swing in her hips after that when she made it out of the stable and into the warm evening air. His quiet postulation had her pausing, turning to fix him with a cant of her head. ?Our own? home?? She asked softly, checking to make sure she understood where he was going with things.

The extra sway had him biting his lip in appreciation. ?That?s what I thought, and yes I do mean our own home. It would be good for him, and while the place over the shop is okay for one, or one and a little one. It?s a bit small for the two of us. Don?t get me wrong, I like having you close, but I never really thought that I?d raise a family there. It?s been convenient for work, and a good place to have Niko on a temporary basis. But even when he?s there, we don?t spend much time in the place. I?d rather take him to places where he can explore or just has enough room to play. Though it does make blanket fort nights much simpler in a small place.? Kruger didn?t want to press her for any kind of decisions on moving. He was interested in how she felt about it, gave her as many reasons as he?d considered for thinking about it. ?It?s a big step of course, and there?s time to consider it. The more I do, the more I like the idea.?

Home. Home. What a foreign concept for her at this point. She had had many a roof over her head over the years but she couldn?t remember the last place she truly called home. But it was then that she remembered that home isn?t a place but rather a state of being and her home was in the heart of the smith at her side. She reached for his hand, looking to slip her fingers into his callused grasp. ?Whenever you?re ready. Whenever you think the time is right. Yes.?

His fingers melded with hers, the movement almost instinctual for how fluidly it happened. ?Let?s start looking. I?ll make some calls, try to find a decent realtor. We?ll figure out our budget, and see what we can find that fits what we want and need.? Claire might have a suggestion, she?d recently been in the market as well. ?I guess the first thing we need to think about is inside or outside the walls.? Kruger pulled even with her, falling into step as they left the stables and headed towards Kruger?s Exotic.

(Thank you to the player of Aludariel for writing along with me!!)