?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!!)