Lark was sitting on the edge of the Canal, feet hanging down just above the water level, and Quiloe curled up at her back. She didn't look up as the druid approached, but she spoke up when he drew near. "They cleaned the canal up pretty well. I'd almost consider eating the fish from it." Alanon chuckled as he sat down next to her. "Pitch does on occasion. He doesn't do it often, but you know how he is where food is concerned." She eyed him. "Mhmm. So long as he doesn't do it regularly. I may have to stop kissing him if he does."
That brought a laugh from the druid. "I'll pass the warning along," he told her, then grew more serious. "How are you doing?" Lark shrugged. "I'm managing," she said. "It's hard. Getting older doesn't make it any easier, either." "I know," he replied gently.
Lark looked over at him. "How do you manage it?" Alanon raised an eyebrow at her. "Seeing the ones you come to care for dying all around you? How do you do it?" He frowned in thought, staring down into the Canal. "I suppose it's a matter of balance," he said finally. She snorted. "That's not a real answer." He shrugged, still thoughtful. "Druids are balance, no matter what path they follow. I suppose it might be easier for us to understand."
Lark cut in. "Please don't start that mysticism stuff with me right now. I'm not sure if I can handle it." He looked at her for a moment. "I apologize," he said, then hesitated. "Lark..." "Don't." She cut that off too. "I know what you're going to say. Just don't." "You do realize that he loves you," the druid stated softly. She looked away. "I know," she whispered, then shook her head. "It's not any easier on me, I promise you that. It's too soon after Tuah. I can't right now." "I understand," he said.
Quiloe shifted slightly behind Lark, making herself more comfortable. Alanon watched the wolf for a bit, then reached over to scratch her ears. "Would you mind if I told a story?" he asked suddenly. Lark gave him a curious look. "Sure, why not?" He leaned back and closed his eyes, looking thoughtful, then opened them again and began.
"I met my best friend when I was six and she was four," he said. "We literally grew up together, Her name was Jaryla." He paused to look at her sideways. "I thought for the longest time that you and Pitch would wind up like we were." Lark blinked at him. "And that way was...?" He grinned. "Like I said, we were best friends. We shared nearly everything. We were never more than friends, however," He shook his head with a chuckle. "We tried to pair up once, and had to call it off. We were too alike in some ways, and too different in others." "Mhmm," she responded. "So you thought Pitch and I would end up like that?" "Yes," he said. "I should have known my brother better than that, though."
Lark smiled faintly. "He doesn't do things by halves, does he?" Alanon shook his head, then gave her a piercing look. "I know how he feels about you. But do you love him back?"
She stared down into the water. "Yes, I do," she replied quietly. "And it scares me to death." "Why?" he asked. "Because I've seen so many of them die," she told him. "I'm sick of it. If anything happened to him because he's with me..." "And why do you think something will happen? I haven't discovered any curses on you." Lark ignored his attempt at humor; she seemed to be struggling now to keep her composure. "The last time I felt like this about someone, we had two wonderful months together," she said. "Then I had to bury him and watch his pet die slowly, wasting away on his grave."
Alanon gave her a minute to collect herself, then asked her gently, "And it wasn't worth it? Would you have given up on that time you had together, just to have him live?" "Yes!" she cried, her face so full of pain that he very nearly regretted prodding her this way. "I would have, if it meant that he was still alive. And I can do the same for Pitch if I have to." "But he wouldn't settle for that," he said softly. "You know that."
Lark looked away, blinking rapidly several times. Alanon waited a minute before speaking again. "It's rare that we can love someone without getting hurt, whether it happens sooner or later." She looked back at him, her mouth twisting wryly. "Then why love at all?" He actually smiled. "That is something that each person has to answer for themselves. But for me? I would rather love and be hurt, than to never love at all. Not loving is not living. It's one of the things that shows we're alive."
She stared at him, then gave a very faint smile. "I think you would have gotten along famously with Lath. I can't even count the number of times he told me something similar." He cocked his head. "Who is Lath?" Her smile grew a fraction. "Lathenil Skywing, a Claw druid. He was my.. my first real partner. It's been almost five centuries since he died." Alanon frowned slightly. "I think I knew him." She blinked at him. "You knew him?" "Well, knew of him," he corrected. "He was with Jaryla once, briefly, probably right before he met you if I remember correctly." She stared, then dropped her gaze to her hands. "... I never knew what his life was like before we met. I never asked him." She looked back up. "Alanon?" "Hmm?" She hesitated a moment. "Where is Jaryla now?"
He sighed, deeply. "She fell at Hyjal. She and our daughter both." Lark looked down again. "I'm sorry." "It is long past," he said. "The pain is still there, but it's a good pain." That brought a raised eyebrow, and he smiled. "It means that I still remember her. So long as I do, a part of her still lives." Lark gave him a crooked grin. "Definitely sounds like Lath."
His smile faded. "Lark, I try not to ever tell people what to do. But before you decide what to do about your relationship with Pitch, perhaps you should think about what he'd be happy with." She looked down again, then answered, quietly, "I-.. I will." He nodded, then reached over to squeeze her shoulder. "Goodnight Lark," he said, then stood up and left her.
* * * * * *
Pitch brought his new bike to a stop near the fountain. In the sidecar, Lark looked out over the Harbor. "You can't see much of the damage from here," she commented. Pitch grunted, then looked down at her. "So," he said as he broke into a grin. "What do you think of it?" Lark had to grin back; his excitement was contagious. "It's nice, Pitch. But did you let me be the first to ride in it just to get me back into your bed?" He blinked at her. "Uh, no. Really, that wasn't what I was thinking." She laughed at him and he blushed, then grinned. "Although you know, if you'd like to...." She suddenly sobered. "Except that you don't have a bed anymore." He shrugged. "I'll find something. Until I do, the trees aren't all knocked down."
Lark looked down at her hands. "Um, Pitch? Would you... want to move in with me? You can always move out again if you find something better." He stared down at her for a minute; she could feel his eyes. "That'd actually be great," he said finally. "If you're okay with it." She nodded, glancing back up to grin at him crookedly. "I wouldn't have offered if I wasn't, you knucklehead." He chuckled.
They sat in companionable silence for a bit, then Pitch cleared his throat. "Uh, Lark?" "Pitch," she said immediately. "Please don't, babe. Not tonight." He looked at her, then away, out over the Harbor. "All right," was all he said.
He was hurt, though; she knew him well enough to tell. After a moment, she reached up and found his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. He looked down, then grinned and squeezed back. "Want to go see if anyone's at the Pig?" he asked her. She considered, then shrugged. "Why not?" He kicked the bike into gear again, then they headed back into the city.