Stressed wasn’t the right word for what Evelyn was feeling, but it was as close as she could get. She had spent her day at the temple dealing with various politics and mediating arguments between Sister Talastin Daragon and Father Luke Sunbright, who had been debating Amaunator and Lathander all day. Even Evelyn was getting sick of the constant attempts to out-preach each other that seemed to never stop. Then she had got home and had immediately been forced to mother four young children that seemed hell bent on tearing down what was left of the house. Nat and Jenks were reasonable enough, but between Squiddly’s repeated attempts to blow something up or stab something and Simon’s extremely unhelpful encouragement from the sidelines, she was on the verge of tearing her hair out. Diath was nowhere to be seen, cooped up in his room trying to figure out exactly how many crime bosses and esteemed city nobles they had gotten tangled up with. Strix was aloof as ever, rushing around screaming about something or another in the usual way. Once the kids had gone to bed, Evelyn was ready to sleep on any level surface she could find, but she was distracted by the realisation that she hadn’t seen Paultin since that morning. While her friends retired to their rooms to sleep, Evelyn stayed up. She paced the hallway, worrying about the bard. He had while she was at the temple, and it was well after sundown now. What if something had happened to him? It took every bit of her self control not to go out searching for him on Morning Glory. She was about to completely run out of patience and do just that when the one and only Paultin Seppa walked in through that front door. She threw herself at him, wrapping him up in a hug, grateful that he was home in one piece. That was when she noticed that he was cringing away from her touch and wincing in pain. She stepped back, holding him by the shoulders to keep him still as she looked at his face. For some reason, he wouldn’t meet her eyes and kept his head ducked, using his overgrown fringe to hide his face.
“Paultin, what’s wrong?” she asked softly. “Look at me.”
He complied although he was visibly hesitant, and the second he did, she felt rage swell up inside her. His nose and lip were bloody, and his left cheek was bruised and swollen. There was also a welt on his right temple that was bleeding. Shocked, Evelyn scanned the rest of his body and noticed that his clothes were pretty scruffy, even torn in some places.
“What happened to you?” her voice was harder now, a little of her anger showing through her tone.
“Shoulda seen the other guy…” he slurred, and Evelyn could immediately smell the alcohol on his breath.
“You drank too much again.” she stated, leading him towards the stairs as he tried to deny her observation badly. She got her proof when they reached the first step and Paultin completely missed it. Had Evelyn not been there, he would have fallen face first into the stairs and probably would have further damaged his already tender nose.
“You’re a great person, Evie.” he announced as they made their way slowly up the stairs. Evelyn didn’t reply, focused on the task at hand. Getting up the stairs was a tedious process, but they got there eventually, and Evelyn led him to his room. He continued to chatter drunken nonsense until she deposited him on his bed.
“Take your coat off.” she instructed, forcing her voice to be gentle despite her rising frustration. She had been on her feet all day, she had babysat four children from the second she stepped through the door, why did she have to babysit Paultin too?
In response to her asking him to remove his coat, he did a wolf whistle that was poorly executed, probably due to his level of intoxication. She could have hit him, right then and there, but she controlled herself as she helped him sit up and took his coat off him, hanging it up on the back of his door. She walked back over to him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder, using her lay on hands to heal the injuries. The blood was still there, but at least he was healed.
“What happened?” she asked as she straightened up.
“They had it coming…” he mumbled, lying down on his bed.
“That’s not an answer.” she huffed, folding her arms and frowning at him.
“That’s a morning question.” he managed, closing his eyes. Not even a second later, he scrambled out of bed and stumbled to the window, sticking his head out to throw up. Evelyn sighed her annoyance, fluttering over to help him back to his bed.
“You can’t keep doing this.” she returned to her folded arms pose, watching him as he crawled under the covers.
“Watch me.” she heard him mutter.
“I don’t want to watch you, Paultin! None of us do!” she snapped, and suddenly the days frustration spilled out of her in a single sentence. “You’re just some drunk bastard that can’t do anything right!”
A silence filled the rooms, and it wasn’t because Paultin was asleep. In fact he seemed to have gone still under the covers, before he turned to face her, his eyes narrowed. Faintly, Evelyn remembered that lay on hands removes poison, and alcohol was technically a poison. He was completely sober right now.
“I know I can’t do anything right, Evelyn. I can’t even keep the people I care about alive.” he snapped. Evelyn knew she should apologise and say goodnight, but she also knew that if she did that, then the situation would just repeat itself.
“Don’t pull the pity card, Paultin. We’ve all suffered, and I know you have too, more than you deserve to have suffered! But you won’t let us help you! You can’t keep throwing yourself an eternal pity party!” she exclaimed. A stunned silence hung in the air as Evelyn realised what she had said.
“Evelyn-” Paultin began, but the paladin was already on her way out of the room and down the corridor to her room. She heard Paultin calling after her, but she didn’t stop. It was only his hand on her wrist that forced her to stop, and she turned to face him.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to be so… mean.” she landed softly on the ground, and her body sagged with exhaustion.
“No, you…” Paultin sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I don’t make things easy, and I’m sorry. But I… it still hurts, you know? I miss them. Sandra, my parents… You, the several times you died.”
“You have to promise you’ll try and get better.” she whispered, and he sighed again.
“Promises always disappoint.” he said, and Evelyn was struck with the realisation that Paultin has said wedding vows to a woman he loved dearly at some point. Promises probably reminded him of that.
“At least just try?” she asked, hopefully, looking up at him. He held her gaze for a few seconds before nodding. It was only now that Evelyn realised the height difference between herself and Paultin. Normally she’d be flying, and that would make the difference much less noticeable, but with both feet on the ground it was more noticeable than ever.
“I’m sorry I called you the B word.” she mumbled, and Paultin smiled, letting out a small laugh of amusement.
“Wow, I didn’t know you were allowed to swear.” he joked, and she rolled her eyes.
“Ha ha, very funny.” she shoved his shoulder playfully, and he grinned at her. They stood and stared at each other for a couple more seconds before they both started stammering and stuttering.
“Oh- uh- I should- I need to be up in the morning-”
“Yeah, I uh… have to sleep, uh… I feel a little hungover, so, uh…”
Stumbling over their words, they backed away from each other, both blushing and both embarrassed as they went their separate ways to sleep the rest of the night away.