‘I just realized that you never got the chance to tell him you’re giving him a chance.’ Dagon pointed out in the middle of Asper’s breakfast. ‘Do I really have to explain that apple analogy again?’
Asper’s eye twitched, remembering the morning’s events. ‘I’ll tell him soon.’ She managed, staring at the fizz in her OJ and hoping it would calm her down. ‘I don’t think I can handle another round of… that.’ She shuddered at the thought of that vile substance she’d rather refer to as Essence ala Angelo. It had been hard enough to wash out. Still, she could smell it on herself and she was pretty sure everyone around the table was trying too hard to pretend they didn’t notice it.
‘Nice weather out, ey?’ Cobalt mused while she was setting the table.
‘Don’t you take baths in the morning? It’s good for your hair!’ Bethany had remarked when Asper had left the toilet after shutting herself in for a good hour.
Amber dropped by for breakfast and asked why she wasn’t in her jammies like she’s always seen Asper at this time of the day.
Xavier, on the other hand, had taken every chance to brush against her while she all but marinated herself in the scents of sizzling bacon fat and sausage gravy.
‘If you’re wondering, the smell takes a little over three days to fade away.’ Marco finally made an appearance in their little group chat, making Asper inwardly blush.
‘Wouldn’t it differ? You know, since he’s royalty and all.’ Asper braced herself, expecting Marco to say something like ‘Oh right, maybe it’ll take a month’.
‘Naw, it would take a little over three day.’ Marco stifled a laugh, trying to sound as deadpan as possible. ‘Trust me. I’d know.’
‘Shut it, Marco.’ Dagon growled over the mind link.
Meanwhile, the rest of the table stared at Asper as she held her forkful of eggs close to her lips for a good three minutes before laughing to herself, all while staring at her orange fizz.
‘She’s doing it again.’ Amber touched her hair nervously. ‘Do you think it’s the medication or something?’
‘Oh I’m sure it isn’t. Xavier did you do something?’ Cobalt frowned as Asper attempted to finally eat off her fork but it slipped off and splatted right into her pile of beans.
‘Nothing everyone here doesn’t already know about.’ Xavier grinned at the breakfast table, whom grimaced and stared at their food. Xavier shrugged and proceeded to flick a buttered pea in Asper’s direction, landing it straight into her orange fizz. Still she stared at it, unblinking. Xavier frowned.
‘What does everyone know?’ Amber looked up from her baked beans and toast. ‘What happened after she lost consciousness? And Gods, Angelo, don’t do that. She hates peas!’
‘I’ll do whatever the hell I want, girl.’ Xavier shot back and Amber gasped, holding a hand to her chest.
‘I don’t like you.’ She narrowed her eyes as she glared daggers at him.
‘The feeling is mutual.’ Xavier glared back, engaging in an unofficial staring contest.
‘Isn’t it great that Asper’s two close friends are getting along so well?’ Cobalt turned to Bethany and forced a smile.
‘Oh yes, I thought so too. Isn’t it just fabulous that they are? And what about you? What would you consider yourself?’ Bethany had her chin resting on her hand, elbows perched on the table as she acknowledged him.
‘I think of myself as her guardian. I wouldn’t say I’m her close friend, I’m above that.’ Cobalt smiled thinly and sipped his coffee, his eyes closed as if unable to take such a racket in the morning. ‘And you? What would you consider yourself to Xavier?’
‘He is my King.’ Bethany purred. ‘And I will always serve him faithfully. And you? If the King was to hurt your precious little witch?’
‘Then I will do what is best for her.’ Cobalt replied easily. ‘But I know Xavier will do everything to keep her safe.’ Bethany nodded.
‘And what would you do, oh humble servant of the King, if Iroria was to fall?’ Cobalt added as his eyes slid open to observe her.
‘I would stand by him for it will be the ultimate test of my loyalty to the crown.’ Bethany took deep breath and huffed.
‘Sounds like a very well rehearsed line, I’d give you that.’ Cobalt’s eyes slid close once again as he sipped the last of his coffee. Bethany bristled.
‘I am going to make more toast!’ she stood up and stormed off.
‘Careful not to burn yourself.’ Cobalt mused. ‘It’s not just bread that toasts, you know.’ Bethany glared at him irritably and flicked her hair as she walked away. Standing up, Cobalt stretched and walked over to Asper, tapping her lightly on her shoulder.
‘Hold on guys, I think someone just threw a pea into my fizz.’ Asper interrupted their little conversation about celery and peanut butter. ‘By Allura, someone did! Who would do such a thing?’
‘Maybe it was the Prince who was trying to get your attention from across the breakfast table for the past half hour.’ Dagon seemingly shrugged.
‘He didn’t have to pea my drink!’ Asper exclaimed. Marco snickered across the mindlink. ‘Oh Ha-Ha, Marco, real mature.’
‘Lighten up, kitten, it’s just a pea.’ Marco cooed.
‘I hate peas!’
‘For argument’s sake, we had no peas in Iroria so Xavier wouldn’t have known.’ Dagon reasoned out.
‘Maybe I should flick a hunk of beef into your pale ale next time.’ Asper shot back.
‘Asper!’ Asper looked up at Cobalt who had his hand around her wrist while she had hers in a vice grip around her cup of now contaminated orange fizz. ‘I know what he did was horrible of him, but for the record, you could have prevented it if you weren’t spacing out.’
‘Alright’ Asper took a deep breath and set her cup down. ‘I’ll be the bigger person and not retaliate.’ Xavier, who had won the staring contest with Amber who was now whimpering about how her eyes felt like it was on fire, turned to smirk at her.
‘Thanks, Asper.’ Cobalt let out a breath of relief. ‘It’s good to know that you’re being more matur-‘
‘After all, it was such a puny attempt on his part to start a food fight with me at the table. One pea. Really, Angelo?’ Asper had her hands on her hips and her foot tapping while Cobalt just sighed and sat back down in defeat.
‘Puny? Babe, back in Iroria we flaming boars at each other for fun.’ Xavier retorted as he glared at her from across the table.
‘Well, Iroria isn’t where we’re are right now, are we? Really, Angelo, I would have thought better of you if you’d just gone on and slopped whipped cream across my face.’ Asper twirled her hair as she challenged him.
‘Let’s not waste the good stuff and start with the most horrible item first, shall we?’ He bent over the table, easily covering half of it and grabbed the bowl of baked beans. Asper gasped.
‘You bastard! I made that from scratch!’ Asper turned and snatched a fist full of Bacon from her plate.
‘Oh no, what are you going to do with that, sweetheart? Stab me to death with premium cut back bacon?’ Xavier taunted her, a ladle full of beans ready.
‘I can have that arranged.’ Taking the chance of Amber was still rubbing her eyes, she ignited fire from her hand and charred the thickly cut pork bellies into crisp spears. Seeing this, Xavier’s eyes narrowed, so did Asper’s while Cobalt simply sighed.
‘ALRIGHT. ENOUGH.’ Everyone turned to Amber who was now at the basin rubbing God knows what out of her eyes. When she could finally open them just a crack, she glared at everyone. ‘I have had enough of all this fighting! I’m stilling recovering from my cold and I feel like someone used hot sauce on my eyes instead of regular eye drops so I really don’t need food getting stuck in my hair at’ She paused to check the clock ‘Eleven in the morning! Honestly, how old are you guys already?’
‘Oh if only she knew.’
‘Shut up, Marco. You’re going to get her into so much more trouble if she laughs.’
‘Whatever that goes on between Asper and I is none of your damn busines-‘
‘Listen here, buddy.’ She cut Xavier off, earning an impressed eyebrow raise from Cobalt. ‘Listen here and listen good. I DON’T LIKE YOU. Your opinion means zilch to me so I’d really appreciate if you’d either sit back down or leave.’ Rather dumbfounded, he did, causing Asper to grin slightly.
‘And YOU, young lady.’ Asper flinched and looked down, hiding the burnt pieces of meat behind her back. ‘Have you any idea how much that packet of bacon cost me? You’d managed burn six good piece of it and my goodness, Asper, why the heavens did you even keep it? And for how long?!’
The silence of the room only seemed to irritate her more.
‘Urgh. I can’t do this anymore. I need to go see a doctor and when I come back, I want to see this mess cleaned up. Ya hear?’ Both parties nodded and Amber harrumphed. ‘Cobalt would you be so kind as to walk me to the car?’
‘I wouldn’t allow you to drive in your condition, Ambs.’ Cobalt got up from his chair and practically ran to hold the door.
‘At least Cobalt is sensible enough.’ Amber threw her head back and fanned her face dramatically, running into Bethany who squealed.
‘What’s going on?’ She demanded, brushing crumbs off her top.
‘Xavier and Asper over here were just about to clean up and do the dishes. You could leave the toast in the microwave for lunch which I trust Asper will not burn and Xavier would not play with.’ With a pointed glance at the duo, Amber strutted out the door with Cobalt following suit, leaving a rather shocked Bethany in her wake.
‘Um… What just happened?’ Bethany turned to see Xavier jerkily stacking plates while Asper threw away burnt scraps of meat into the trash. ‘I think I’ll just put these in the microwave…’
‘That was all your fault, you know.’ Asper muttered to Xavier, who had stuck to her like glue ever since she was done with the dishes.
‘You were the one spacing out.’
‘You didn’t see Cobalt throwing food into my drink, did you?’
The conversation died, like the many others that they had when the two had nothing else better to do with each other.
‘Why is it so hard to find a recipe that has bread in it?’ Asper exclaimed, expecting a stupid answer from Xavier but none came. ‘Why aren’t you talking to me?’
‘Because every time I do, we always end up fighting and somehow, I’m always wrong.’ He had his eyes closed and was purposely facing away from her.
‘Then why don’t you just go home?’ Asper softened a little and poked his sides, hoping to find a ticklish spot but found none.
‘No, not without you…’ If it was possible to have her heart break from words alone, this would have been it. Sighing, she rolled him over to her side and stared at him.
‘Look, I’ve been thinking.’ She started.
‘Urgh, I hate it when you start a conversation like that.’ Rolling back to his side, he listlessly picked up and book and flipped through it, determined to ignore her.
‘It really depends if you want to hear me out, you know.’ When the words left her lips, she waited a few moments before getting up and sighing. ‘Suit yourself.’
‘What’s the point when all you’re going to do is try and convince me to go back? All you ever want to talk about is how we can manage without each other. That I’ve been coping really well the past century without you.’ He looked up from the book and peeked at her. ‘What’s the point when we’re both trying so hard but for opposing teams?’
Asper paused, her hand already around the doorknob. ‘You do have a point.’ as slowly as possible, she twisted the knob. ‘But I was actually thinking of something entirely different, something more on your page… Something more like. Maybe I should give him a chance. Maybe I should give him…hm. Three?’ She stole a glance at him and was pleased to find him looking up at her with wide eyes. Grinning, she all but flew through the door and made a mad dash down the hallway, relying on the sound of him tumbling after her on the stairs to fuel her adrenaline.
Once upstairs, she threw open the first door she could, dived in and locked up just in time to hear Xavier wham against it. Looking around, she realized where she was and grinned.
‘Asper, are you doing this on purpose?’ Xavier banged against the thick wooden bedroom door. ‘C’mon stop teasing me. Get out of my room!’
‘What? I’m not.’ Asper called out. ‘In fact, I quite like it here.’ She sat on his bed and snuggled onto soft satin sheets. Rolling over towards his nightstand, she spotted a drawer left ajar and opened it. Inside were an onyx pearl necklace, an elegant emerald ring and a solid gold floral hairpin. All of which he had given her in the castle, all of which she had wordlessly returned to him when he announced his engagement to that princess. A gestural statement that made him believe that she no longer loved him while all the time her love for him had grown even more. She slammed it shut, the reminder of watching him love another before was too much to handle. Back then she’d thought she’d hate him if he’d given her gifts to that lightning bitch but she never knew how much more seeing it now would hurt her. If anything, she wished he’d have really given it away.
‘Asper?’ Xavier’s voice whispered from behind the door. ‘Why’s it all quiet in there? Hello?!’ The hammering on the door got louder and more frequent.
‘You take down that door and you only have my mother to answer to!’ she shouted, causing the thundering to stop.
‘What’s wrong? Please, don’t shut me out.’ Xavier begged.
‘Why did you bring the pearls over?’ Asper whispered from the other side of the door. ‘Did you want me to accept them again? Because you know, it’s not romantic. At all.’ She couldn’t manage to hold her tears in and sobbed.
‘Ah. Oh Gods. Oden help me.’ Xavier swore. ‘I wasn’t going to give it to you again, I swear. I just wanted to remember you.’
‘With stuff Cobalt had picked out for you to give me? Is that it?’ Asper whammed her fist against the door in rage. ‘Don’t even bother lying, Angelo, I know these things. Cobalt was an open book.’
‘It’s not like that!’ Xavier roared from the other side.
‘Yes! Yes it is! I know it! I’ve lived it, Angelo!’ Asper was screaming now. It wasn’t helping that she was not trapped in a room that brought her back to Iroria and a raging vemon at the door of her only chance of escape.
‘If you don’t believe me, check the second drawer.’ Xavier’s ragged breath hitched as he tried to calm himself down.
‘No.’ Asper sobbed defiantly.
‘Just check the fucking drawer, Asper, please.’ His voice was softer now, as if he was close to tears.
Unsteadily, she stood and walked back to the nightstand. In the second drawer she found a stack of papers, some with smudged ink and stains. Flipping through it, she realized that they were drawings of her. Some of them were distorted, but they had the signature raven hair and forest green eyes. The pictures were drawn in different style of clothing, some with different expressions.
‘Found it?’ Xavier knocked on the door.
‘What is this?’ Asper flipped but it seemed like there was no end. Xavier sighed.
‘Over three hundred years of not seeing you was taking it’s toll on me. Since we were worlds apart, the bond grew very weak, especially since your soul wasn’t physically around with me. I was wasting away. Mainly because I was starting to forget you. From how you looked to how you functioned. So I had no choice but to draw essence from things that were formally yours and remember your face thought how artists remembered you look like.’ Xavier grunted ‘Which kind of sucked because I was never sure if what they drew actually looked like you. But I took it anyway.
I’m sorry I loved you only when you were gone, when I realized you were alive I was hysterical because I could feel you again. You were stronger than ever and by Oden if I say I wasn’t turned on by that he could smite me.’
‘Sweet words aren’t going to get you through this time, Angelo.’ Asper leaned against the door as she finally managed to flip through half of the picture book. ‘Though your efforts to remember me are faintly romantic and borderline creepy.’ She slipped a picture of what most likely was supposed to be her in lingerie under the door and heard a thump on the door, probably his head.
‘Look, I don’t know how to make things up to you. All I can say is that when I first met you, I was young, stupid and I didn’t have my priorities straight and-‘
‘Let’s start from the top, Angelo.’ Asper began. ‘We have a few weeks -maybe a month- so let’s pretend all that horrible throw-her-into-the-dungeons crap never happened and try to make this work like adults even though you’re at least half a millennium old and I’m a little over three hundred.’
‘How am I supposed to take you seriously when I’m speaking to you through a door?’ Asper sighed, turned and flung the door open, resulting in Xavier sliding down right onto her lap. He sighed as he laid in that possible for a while but quickly got up when Asper cleared her throat.
‘Okay, um. How do we go about doing this?’ He sat up right while Asper gave him a tired smile.
‘Well, we start from scratch.’
‘Scratch?’ Xavier raised an eyebrow.
‘Sure. Like this.’ Asper put her hand out. ‘Asper Emma Bellavista but you can call me Asper. I’m a witch and my favorite color is green, like my eyes. Now you go.’
‘Uh, I’m Xavier Angelo Salvator. Please, do call me Xavier.’ He took her hand in his and kissed it. ‘I’m a vampire-demon hybrid and my favorite color is dark blue, like my room?’
‘I was kind of expecting a handshake but that was rather charming and awkward in itself.’ Asper pursed her lips. ‘But we’re off to a good start, don’t you think?’
‘But we already know all these things about each other.’ Xavier gave her a puzzled look, all the while trying to keep her hands in his but Asper noticed and slipped out of it.
‘True,’ She tilted her head as if thinking of what to say next. ‘But on that account, that means I also know that you betrayed me and threw me into the dungeon, yes?’
‘Ah, is correct. Now,’ Asper stood up and offered a hand to Xavier. ‘I guess the usual rules apply if you don’t already know. Since I’ve decided to give you three chances, a chance forfeited will be referred to as a ‘strike’. I’m not going to make this little relationship all about me, but a little tip would be not to cheat, be unreasonable and lie. Those would be the basic few, the rest would be up to your creativity.’
‘Can’t I set my own rules?’ Xavier challenged.
‘Of course. Anything above mine.’ Asper replied simply. ‘Whatever I set as a rule, I’ll apply to myself. If I break a rule, I’ll give you back a strike.’
‘Sounds fair enough,’ Xavier walked ahead and turned, blocking her path. ‘But I want you to open up to me more. I’ve already missed three hundred years of your life and-‘
‘You do know it’s only been three years here, right?’
‘Okay, okay. It’s always good to take things slow.’ Asper ducked under his arm and skipped towards the kitchen. ‘Anyway, I’m off to make lunch. If you promise not to throw food at me, I’ll let you pick the dishes. How about that, Xavier?’