For all the times that you’d seen Emet-Selch, it had never truly crossed your mind to the fact that the man was actually there. You’ve experience enough with spirits and specters for the caution to have some virtue, though it’s not one that you ever sought confirmation for--it simply never seemed relevant.
But you’ve gotten your answer at last, though it had not been your intention in even a few short minutes ago.
Arms wrapped tight around the man’s chest, tugging his body so close against yours that it nearly hurts. You had half-expected him to turn to smoke against your touch, so the surprise that fills your eyes when they look into the man’s gaze is as powerfully genuine as it is matched by shock in his own.
Your lips part. No words come out. Just a breath so soft that you hardly hear it yourself.
Though he makes no attempt to pull away from your grip, you can feel the Asican’s golden eyes upon you, as if boring into your very soul. Though it unnerves you, it does in the same way that most of him does--the way that his presence and form and voice but screams in being other, though it could have easily been due to your blessing naturally responding to a soul so opposite your own.
The man tilts his head and breaks the trance of the moment. Suddenly you can breathe again, though your arms yet wrap tight around his body--and he does not move away.
“Did I hear you right?” The Ascian murmurs, just a touch too soft to be scathing. “Because I could have sworn I heard a voice call out ‘please don’t go!’ as if one was calling for their own parent.”
A moment passes, and so your grip lingers. Your eyes fall away from the Ascian’s gaze but you make no attempt to speak--those had been your words but moments ago, when you feared that Emet-Selch was about to leave your presence in a vortex of shadow.
You were terrified if you’d ever see him again after that.
You were horrified by the idea of the man, this Ascian, never once showing up again in your life. No snide remarks, no play of words or wit--it was more than just losing a familiar thorn pricked deep in your finger, but of someone you’d come to be comfortable around.
Someone who, despite it all, felt familiar to your very soul, though you could hardly place why.
With no answer forthcoming from you, the man seemed happy to fill it with the sound of his own voice, still as soft as before--a noticeable difference from how he tended to talk.
“Is that what you are now, dear warrior? Do you so prize the company of a being who has tried to kill you and your friends--so much that you may cry out with such fervor when I decide to take my leave?”
The words are painful but the tone lacks a bite, as if drained of venom. Hollow. When they fall upon the air they sound more like a challenge than an accusation.
So you hug him tighter. Emet-Selch feels warm against you, warm and strong and broken in some of the same ways you are. You can’t ignore the way you feel when he’s close to you--the buzzing deep in your chest, as if your soul can’t help but try and reach out to his.
Lonely, almost lost to the eons of empty time.
But you hug him. You hold him tight. Your fingers dig into the leather of his jacket and you can’t find the ounce of will to release the grip.
“...Yes,” the word spills from your lips, beginning a gentle torrent that can’t be staved or filtered quick enough. “Because I know you don’t want to leave.”
You hear the softest catch in the man’s breath.
But suddenly Emet-Selch scoffs and shakes his head lightly, as if to rid himself of even the idea itself.
“What gave you such a stupid notion?”
You tilt your head so you can look into the man’s eyes again. Though the words would have pushed a notion of the man’s growing agitation, their tone revealed the Ascian’s expression before you finally caught sight of it.
He looks confused.
“Perhaps your soul is more broken than I assumed. Fragile and foolish and.....”
It’s only then that the Acian seems to lose his words. They trail off into silence, one that lingers for several heavy seconds until, at last, all the man has for you is but one word:
It’s not easy to give him an answer, since you are balancing on the edge of impulse and instinct. But the words must be somewhere in your heart already, for they bubble up unscathed and untangled against your tongue and teeth that threaten to rattle with nervousness.
“You’re lonely too,” you murmur. “I...can feel it. I felt it. You don’t want to leave. You can stay here with me--help us make the world a better place.”
“And you think it would be that easy?”
“Of course not,” you argue gently, growing bold as your body catches onto the man’s material realness--his body heat, his gentle pressure. “But it’s better than hiding in some corner of a forgotten Shard.” Your brows knit together. “You told me not to forget--to remember you and your people. That you existed. Why not join us and keep their history alive by your actions?”
It’s hard to keep Emet-Selch’s gaze for longer than a few more seconds, as his silence begins to feel heavier and heavier upon your shoulders until it’s more than you can handle. It’s then that the shame and worry start to creep in, that perhaps you’ve let instinct go too far, that your words are foolish idealizations.
You worry for what feels like an eternity of its own.
But then it’s suddenly warm, your body, and the realization almost overwhelms you of arms slowly wrapping around your body. They hold tight, matching the power of your grip, until it hurts and you let out a soft noise of discomfort--
--and then they loosen. Just a little. Apologetic. Learning.
“...perhaps you are worthy to inherit what my people have left behind,” the Ascian finally murmurs, though the words feel more like feigned cover for something deeper behind them. “If you are yet so willing to keep me nearby, then I will take amusement in it. For now.”
And he hugs you in return. He hugs you in a way that feels awkward and new, like he’s yet to figure out the pressure to apply around your shoulders. He speaks like there’s eons of emotions beneath his words, thousands of lifetimes of thoughts and hopes and dreams.
He feels lonely in the same way you do deep inside, and yet his arms are firm and his gesture is honest.
It makes your soul feel warm.