As usual, Essek walks with Caleb to the Archive.
This has become one of Essek’s favorite parts of the day. He gets to hold his boyfriend’s hand and see him off safely to work with Beauregard. Essek knows Caleb could teleport right into the Cobalt Reserve and save time, but he thinks they both enjoy this last moment of being together before the craziness of the day starts.
For the past weeks, Caleb and Beau have been building a case for Ikithon’s trial. Judging by the slump of Caleb’s shoulders and the dullness in his eyes when he comes home, Essek is inclined to think that as well as tedious, building this case is also incredibly taxing for Caleb. So he likes to savor their time in the morning, making sure Caleb knows how loved and safe he is.
This morning is a calm one. The leaves in Rexxentrum are just starting to turn, a sight that delights Essek to no end. Xhorhas isn’t know for it’s trees. They take their time, Caleb walking slowly and allowing Essek to look at all the trees. Essek also sneaks glances at Caleb. He’s wearing a scarf that perfectly brings out the color of his eyes. It’s a sight to behold.
Eventually, Essek and Caleb stop at the threshold, turning to face each other. Essek presses a kiss to Caleb’s cheek, “I’ll see you tonight.” Caleb nods, but doesn’t say anything as he hugs Essek tightly for a long moment.
“I love you,” Caleb mumbles against Essek’s shoulder.
“I love you too,” Essek responds softly. When Caleb pulls back, he takes a deep breath. Essek offers him an encouraging smile and Caleb heads into the building. Essek is about to turn and walk back to their apartment, but he is stopped by someone grabbing his arm.
Essek jumps and whips around. Beauregard is standing behind him. Essek has no idea where she came from.
“Beauregard?” Essek asks.
“You should stay this time,” she says softly, letting go of his arm. “It’s getting intense and I’m worried about Caleb. You calm him down. If you’re not busy today could you please stay with us?” There’s something in her voice that makes him pause, he’s never heard the monk sound so worried.
Essek nods, “Of course.”
Beau nods for Essek to follow her. As Beau leads him deeper into the library, his eyes go wide at all of the knowledge these tomes must hold. Fearful of blowing his cover, he doesn’t stay long around the Reserve, but given the chance he would gladly spend a whole day soaking up all of the knowledge in this library.
Beau guides him to a private room in the back where she and Caleb have been working. The walls are covered with papers stuck to the walls, strings connecting them, drawings, and blueprints. There’s a large table in the room where Caleb is already hunched over a book.
Essek walks over to him and presses a kiss to the back of his head. Caleb jumps a little, but relaxes upon seeing his lover. “What are you doing here, Shatz? I thought you went home.”
“Beauregard wanted me to stay,” Essek says.
“Oh.” Caleb looks at Beau who shrugs.
“You need him, I can’t have you freaking out on me.” Caleb looks down at his hands.
“Don’t worry,” Essek says as he pulls up a chair, “I won’t be paying much attention to the investigation.” Caleb’s been rather cagey about the whole thing, evidently wanting to protect Essek from his past. “I have my own work to do.” Essek summons his spellbook to his hand. “I’m just here if you need me.”
“Thank you,” Caleb tells him quietly, reaching over to squeeze Essek’s wrist.
The next hours pass slowly for Essek. He splits his time between working on a new spell and watching Caleb. In the months since they’ve gotten together, Essek has become an expert at reading Caleb’s little cues.
When Caleb brings his hand to his mouth, biting at his nails, Essek gently takes his wrist and pulls it away, locking their fingers together. “You know that’s not good for you,” Essek chastises gently.
Caleb ducks his head and mumbles a soft, “I know.” He lets Essek hold his hand for a few moments longer before he pulls away to jot something down.
When Caleb starts to anxiously tug on the roots of his hair, Essek tuts at him and winds Caleb’s hair into a braid. “Can’t have you going bald on me, ussta chev.” Caleb blushes at the intimate nickname, but nods.
“Caleb?” Beau asks a while later. Both Essek and Caleb look up and find Beau’s face grim. “I’m trying to fill in the blanks of everything. Can you come over and check this timeline?”
Caleb takes a deep breath and nods. As Caleb stands, Essek does too. They walk over to Beau’s half of the table. Essek can see a whole bunch of paper laid out with so many things written on them. Essek averts his eyes before he can read them.
Caleb takes a shuddering breath and laughs humorlessly, “It’s odd seeing all of my issues laid out like this.” Essek takes Caleb’s arm, gently running his hand up and down Caleb’s back. With a shaky hand, Caleb picks up one of the papers and exchanges it with another. Essek watches in grim horror as Caleb orders his abuse and trauma into a neat row.
“Thank you,” Beau says gently when he steps back. Gentle has never been a word Essek associated with the monk.
“Caleb?” Essek says softly. “Why don’t we take a walk?”
Caleb shakes his head, “I’m fine.” He steps away from Essek and walks quickly back to the other side of the table. Beau and Essek exchange a look and Essek walks over to his boyfriend.
“Caleb, I think you need to take a break. You’re-”
Caleb slams his hand on the table, “I’m fine! You need to stop treating me like I’m fragile or-or like I’m weak.”
“We don’t think that,” Beau says, coming to her senses far faster than Essek. Caleb almost never yells. “We’re just worried about you, man. For the past three weeks I have made you explain every fucked up thing that happened to you and we’ve been listening to account after account of abuse. You can’t tell me that you’re fine right now because I sure as hell aren’t and I’m not the one who went through all of it. And when I go home at night I tell Yasha what’s going on and I let her comfort me. You’re not doing any of that shit, Caleb. You’re keeping it bottled up inside and we both know that that shit will eventually explode.”
Caleb grips the edge of the table, his knuckles turning white. “I said I’m fine.”
“You’re not,” Essek says quietly. Caleb’s gaze snaps to him. Essek’s eyes are watery with tears. “I see you come home every night and it scares me, Caleb. You don’t act like yourself. I need you to take care of yourself and to-to lean on me so I know you’re not going through this alone.”
“I’m sorry,” Caleb stands and walks over to Essek, taking both of his hands. “I’m sorry.” He looks to Beau and then reaches out to take one of hers. “I’ve always had to go through things alone. I’m not really sure how to lean on you.”
Wordlessly, Essek opens his arms. Caleb laughs wetly, but wastes no time in ducking his head against Essek’s chest, arms tight around his waist. Essek hugs him so tight, pressing his cheek to the top of Caleb’s head.
Essek meets Beau’s eyes over the top of Caleb’s head and raises an eyebrow. With a dramatic eye roll and a sigh, Beau begrudgingly attaches herself to Caleb’s back, her arms around his waist. But as much as she’s acting annoyed, Essek can see her eyes squeezed shut, face pinched in worry. He lifts his arms from Caleb’s back and instead stretches them to pull Beau in as well.
Beau shoots him a warning glare, but doesn’t pull away. Essek holds them both tighter.