"Aesop!" The mercenary stumbled into the embalmer's room who now turned to look at the survivor quite surprised.
He had been practicing on his mannequins with background music coming from his record player, expecting to have a day of peace. But, not even an hour into his alone time he was interrupted. Not that he hadn't expected it, but still...
"Naib, please. /Knocking/." the silver-haired man reminded the mercenary who now scratched his cheek a little awkwardly.
"Oh, uh, sorry bout that... Uh, Mary wants to talk to you." Naib got to the point quickly but noticed the Embalmer raise his brow.
"The Bloody Queen?" Aesop asked, making the mercenary nod in return.
"Why would she request my presence? Is everything alright?" the Embalmer asked unsure, making the other shrug.
"Not sure. But she seemed quite worried." the other survivor replied. "Did you make her mad or something?"
"I haven't even talked to her in the last few days," Aesop said in return, now placing the makeup brush aside before he took his gloves off.
"Well, she is waiting for you in the lobby... Good luck man, and sorry about the whole not knocking thing." Naib scratched his cheek once more with a shy smile on his face.
"It's alright, don't worry about it." the Embalmer reassured him.
What could the hunter possibly want from him?
He closed the set of double doors behind him carefully, now turning around to face the female hunter.
The woman was wearing a heavy frown on her face, not even wasting a moment before she approached him.
"Thank you for coming, Carl," Mary said, making the Embalmer nod in response.
"Is everything okay?" the man asked, making the woman sigh deeply as she shook her head.
"It's about Joseph..." she started, making the embalmer's eyes light up when she mentioned his partner.
"Is he alright?" he asked quickly, the face mask hiding his worried expression. He felt his stomach sink when he saw the frown on the hunter's lips.
"He hasn't come out of his room since yesterday and doesn't let anyone in. He keeps insisting that he is okay, but something is way off with his voice. If there is anyone who can get through to him, it's you." the Bloody Queen said, her eyes now back on the Embalmer who listened to her carefully.
"I would escort you to his room, you don't have to worry about the other hunters. He might be a pain at times but I do worry about him," she admitted, sounding quite genuine as she did so.
The Embalmer hesitated for a moment but then responded with a nod.
"Alright, I will follow you," Aesop said.
He still had an unwell feeling about crossing to the other side of the Manor but if Joseph needed him there was no way he wouldn't go, even if it was risky.
The hunter seemed quite relieved by his response, now smiling slightly at the survivor.
" Thank you, Carl." The Queen said, now turning around to lead him through the opposite set of double doors.
The change between the sides was immediately visible by the sudden darkness, the lights in the hallways being quite scarce.
The Embalmer followed the hunter closely, the atmosphere laying heavy.
It wasn't like most of the hunters were out for blood but some of them could be dangerous. It had been proven more than once and Aesop didn't want to become another example of that.
But he also felt quite safe with the Bloody Queen on his side...
The hunter stopped in front of the Photographer's room before she stepped aside to give the survivor some space.
"Don't mention I'm here, he might shy off..." she whispered, making the Embalmer nod in return before he stepped in front of the door.
He cleared his throat slightly before he knocked.
"Joseph?... It's me, Aesop. Are you there?" he asked, a moment of silence falling before he heard a thud, now suddenly quick steps coming from the other side. The door was unlocked quite quickly before it opened.
It was indeed his partner who opened it, but he looked like a mess.
His hair was undone and his eyes were red and swollen.
He hadn't even dressed properly, only having his bedsheets wrapped over his shoulders with his shirt unbuttoned underneath.
"Aesop?..." the hunter asked surprised, wiping his eyes quickly with his sleeve.
Despite his attempt to hide it, it was quite obvious that the man had been crying just moments ago.
"Can I come in?" the survivor asked after he pulled down his mask, making the other man nod quickly as he stepped aside to let him in.
Joseph closed the door behind him, now turning to face his partner. But before he could say anything a set of arms was wrapped around him, Aesop now pulling him into a tight hug.
The photographer blinked quite surprised but quickly returned the gesture, now resting his chin on top of the other's head.
He felt the tears swell up in his eyes again but tried his best to suppress them...
"I heard you aren't feeling so well... Is everything okay?" the survivor asked in a low tone, his hands now caressing over his partners back who at this point had started shaking.
"It's just..." Joseph was about to start before he swallowed heavily, now sniffling slightly before he pressed his lips against the others head, thankful for the comfort.
"It's his anniversary today..." he whispered against the other's hair, almost inaudible to the other.
But Aesop had heard him, not having to guess for too long before he understood what the other was talking about.
The Embalmer hummed in response as he just held the other closely, both of them staying silent for a moment.
He could hear the other's breathing hitch as he cried again but Aesop didn't comment on it, neither did he move.
He left it up for the other man to decide when he was ready to let go...
They just stood there for quite some time, the Embalmer still caressing the Photographer's back who at this point had hidden his face in the other man's hair.
"I... I have an idea..." the shorter of the two spoke up, the hunter now pulling back slightly to be able to look into the other's grey eyes in a questioning manner.
"Yes?" Joseph sniffled slightly, thanking the other man in a low tone who now handed him the napkin he carried in his chest pocket.
The hunter was now cleaning his eyes with the soft fabric, holding onto the napkin tightly as he looked back at the Embalmer.
"There was a practice I used to do with my father... Whenever I started missing my mother back when I just had moved in with him after her funeral," Aesop started to explain before he reached for the Photographer's hand.
"He would write a letter with me inclouding anything I wished to tell her and then, we burned it... He told me this way she would receive it no matter where she was. " the Silver-haired man now smiled up at the other who looked at him a little surprised.
"If you wish, we could do the same... " he suggested, his thumb now trailing over the back of the other's hand.
"That sounds good..." the photographer said, now a soft smile on his own lips.
Aesop then led him over to the office in the corner of the room, now letting go of his hand when the other sat down.
"Like, what exactly should I write though?..." Joseph asked a little unsure when the Embalmer pushed a paper in front of him and fetched the quill and ink.
"Anything you want to tell him, just imagine that you write a letter you will send to someone," Aesop said with a smile, reassuring his partner to go ahead.
Joseph thought about it for a moment as he looked at the empty sheet of paper in front of him but soon enough dipped the feathers tip into the ink before he started writing.
His handwriting was beautiful but Aesop couldn't read any of it sadly as his partner had decided to write in french.
It didn't surprise him though, from what he had told him he had lost his brother back when he was still living in France...
He just placed his hand onto his partner's shoulder who every now and then had to wipe tear-filled eyes as he continued to add more and more words onto the paper. He had even gotten so far as to turn it around, the back page too now being flooded with ink and tears.
"I think I'm done..." Joseph spoke up as he once more wiped his eye with the napkin Aesop had lent him.
The Embalmer just nodded, now fetching a candle from the other's nightstand before he came back over, the Photographer already having picked out a box of matches from a drawer.
After lighting the candle Aesop reached for the other's hand, now guiding him up and towards one of the windows.
He only let go of him to open it, now setting the lit candle onto the windowsill.
Then, he once more reached for the hunter's hand which was holding the now neatly folded letter before he drew him closer.
Joseph just let the other do as he pleased, following his unspoken guide while his eyes were focused on the shorter man.
Aesop was still holding him when the tip of the letter caught on fire, now pulling both of their hands outside the window.
The paper started to burn faster, the ashes now mixing with the wind as they flew away.
Joseph's eyes followed the specks as they glided smoothly out of view...
The hunter only let go when the flame grew too close to his fingers, the last piece now drifting off as it too turned into ashes.
Both men were looking after it, the taller of the two now hugging the other from behind as he once more rested his chin on top of his head.
Aesop smiled to himself, glad to know that he managed to ease the other's mind.
They stood there for a few more moments, the Embalmer now leaning into the Photographer as both of them stared into the distance.
"Thank you...Aesop..." He said softly, his lips now placing a kiss onto his cheek and when the survivor turned his head to face him he was relieved to see a smile on his face~