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In the Riverbed

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Druig sat with his legs crossed like a child on a large stone. It wasn’t fully flat but had a slight slant that made it nice to sit on while watching the river.

He’d always go to the river alone, it was his own special way to calm down. When people were too loud or when Druig felt overwhelmed he’d always sit on the side of the river on the rock. To him, that was his spot and he wouldn’t want to sit anywhere else.

The river was outside the walls of Babylon and he knew it wasn’t very safe but that didn’t stop Druig. He doesn’t think that idea ever would.

He tends to be by the river for hours on end, and when he’d return to Babylon he’d always get questioned. It was some quick lies saying that he was always there just where no one saw him. No one seemed to believe him but they all knew that they’d never get a better answer out of Druig.

He liked the silence around the river, only the quiet sounds of running water filled the air. There were no people or loud noises around to overwhelm him. That’s probably the exact reason why he’s so close to Makkari, nothing but understood silence. Druig found it peaceful.

The river water glistened from the night sky, the moon and stars reflected off of the water slightly distorted. The little fauna that surrounded it was also reflected off the water and there was Druig reflect as well. He was distorted in the water but it still felt like he was looking at himself.

Druig sighed softly and ran his fingertips over the rock. He wanted to feel every spike and all of the divots. When Druig was at the river on that specific rock he felt like he could truly be himself. When he was sitting on the side of the river Druig could freely show his stims and his reactions.

His mind began to fog up, there were no active thoughts just him staring into space.

Druig always enjoyed the silence but he never seemed to get that when he was around the other Eternals let alone the humans. When he was around the others there was always a lot of laughing, yelling, and especially sudden loud noises. Druig hated sudden loud noises but he could never show it. He just wanted to be normal like all the other Eternals not that’s not how the world worked. If he wanted to be normal then he had to pretend; had to act the part even though Druig’s wishes would never be.

Sometimes the others would look at him like he was crazy when he’d cover his ears when the fight came to them. Of course, Druig being Druig would excuse it by saying he’d felt all the fear amongst the humans. They all seemed to take it as a valid response, understanding and sympathetic looks filled their faces whenever this would happen. Little did they all know that he spoke in lies, and little did they all know that he just wanted to be like them.

Druig heard the light sound of someone walking up to him. He sighed with discontent. He’d been happy and at peace with the silence but now he was being interrupted.

“Please leave,” Druig called out to them.

“Can’t,” He heard the familiar voice of Ikaris “Ajak’s been worried about where you’ve been. Besides, she wants to talk to you.”

Ikaris placed a hand on Druig’s shoulder but the contact didn’t even last a second. Druig jolted away in mere moments and jumped to his feet.

“Please don’t touch me,” He tensed up “I don’t want to be touched right now,” Druig spoke as he took a few steps back, leaving about two metres between them.

Ikaris looked confused though he stayed where he was “What is wrong with you? You don’t fight, yet you leave Babylon to sit by a river. You’re risking your life to sit out here like a sitting duck!”

Druig flinched at the sudden change of the volume in Ikaris’ voice “Please be quiet, you know deviants are attracted by noise.”

“So you do understand the dangers,” He retorted.

Druig scowled, “Well it isn’t a problem when I don’t have people yelling at me,” his tone raised slightly.

“Why can’t you do this back at the temple? It would be easier for every party, then none of us would have to worry about where you are,” Ikaris’ tone raised with the conversation.

Druig was taken aback, tears slowly began filling his eyes. He took what Ikaris just said as a way to say he was being a burden, exactly what he was trying not to be.

“Well maybe if you didn’t want me to burden you then the lot of you should learn to be quiet!” Druig fidgeted with his hands as his mind had begun to spiral.

Ikaris took a step towards him “Druig, that’s not what I meant-“

“Don’t come any closer,” He interrupted defensively.

Ikaris stopped in his tracks. Both parties took a moment to breathe before Ikaris continued the conversation with a different approach.

“I’m sorry, Druig, I didn’t mean to upset you,” He paused, trying to look for any signs of how Druig was reacting “I didn’t come here cause any arguments, I was just told to bring you back home.”

Ikaris’s accent lined his words. Druig always wondered why they had different accents if the only memories he had were of them together. They all spoke so differently yet they only have memories together, maybe they were all from different places in Olympia. That’s the idea that gave Druig the most peace of mind, so that’s what he chose to believe.

Druig sighed “I’ll leave soon, just give me a bit.”

He went back to sitting on his rock with his legs crossed. Druig expected to hear Ikaris leave but he stayed. He noticed the Eternal sit on the ground close by the rock.

“You can leave,” Druig commented.

He heard Ikaris sigh “I said I’d bring you back, I plan to keep that promise.”

The momentary silence turned awkward before Ikaris asked “Why do you come out here?”

It took a second for Druig to formulate his words and put together his thoughts, “You guys are too loud, I don’t like loud noises,” While his voice was just over a whisper, Druig was proud of himself for admitting the truth to him.

“Why don’t you tell us? We’d quiet down if you asked,” Ikaris confusedly asked, genuine concern and laced his voice.

Druig looked down at his shoes “I don’t know, how am supposed to ask? Just say ‘hey could you shut up; you’re making my head spin’? I can’t say that, that’s weird,” He began to slowly overthink the entire situation.

Ikaris looked over to him, gears turning in his head to figure out why Druig was overthinking what he deemed such a simple action. He was the group’s golden boy and Druig was the odd one out.

“Well you don’t have to justify it, just saying something like ‘can you be quiet please?’ would work,” He tried to reason.

Druig stared off into the water of the river “Yeah, sure, but Sprite would ask, so would Phastos, so would Kingo, Ajax would as well and what am I meant to say to that?”

“But you don’t owe them an explanation, just saying it’s too loud should be enough.”

Druig groaned and rested his head in his head “You’re not listening to me, I can’t ignore them- that’s rude. Kingo’s persistent and loud, Sprite doesn’t like taking no for an answer, Phastos is always curious, and Ajax would keep trying to figure out what’s wrong.”

Ikaris was about to speak when he was interrupted by the other, “I’d rather just keep coming here, it’s nice and quiet and normally I don’t have to talk to people,” Druig slowly started getting slightly agitated.

“It isn’t safe to just sit here on your own though, Druig,” Ikaris countered.

“I’ve been doing this for well over a century now, if it hasn’t happened before then I doubt it will,” Druig looked up at the night sky.

Ikaris nodded though he knew that’s not how these things worked.

“How far do you think the humans would’ve gotten without us? If we were all just back home, away from deviants,” He posited “Do you think they would’ve evolved on their own to fight the deviants?”

“I… I doubt it, sometimes they’re hard to kill, even for us,” Ikaris looked over at Druig from the ground, watching the sky reflected in his eyes.

“Yeah but with death comes new life, it’s a never-ending cycle,” He paused, “Of course wiping out billions at once would do no good, that only causes loss, but our universe loves to recycle.”

Admittedly Druig felt homesick, he didn’t remember Olympia but he did have Earth as his supplementary home. He’d always been curious as to why none of the Eternals remembered their home planet but whenever he’d ask Ajax the question would get shot down though he was never great at letting things go, so he’d go back and ask again. To be quite frank, Druig was shocked that Ajax isn’t absolutely sick of him.

“When something dies it then decomposes which makes the ground around it fertile and good for crops,” He commented what he thought was simply common knowledge “and because the universe loves to recycle, it helps populations bounce back and lead to something more prosperous.”

Ikaris looked at him like he was crazy. “That doesn’t mean that everything to come out of it will be good though, just new.”

“Maybe, but despite everything, there will continue to be good people in the world, without the bad there is no good and vice versa,” Druig sighed, to him the universe was a magical and wondrous place. He had the mind of a dreamer but the eyes of a realist.

Ikaris looked away to the other side of the river as Druig continued “Without the bad, there would be no advancement. Without their flaws the human’s aren’t human anymore, they’d simply be nothing but the same.”

Ikaris seemed to be at a loss for words as Druig continued in his mind-delving conversation with himself “You might not feel sonder but I do. The realisation that everyone has been living their own lives that are just as complex as your own. We’ve all experienced pain and suffering, happiness and life just as vivid as you or me,” He paused, idling in his thoughts “You don’t feel it the way I do though, you're the soldier and I’m the one who uses psionics. I can see how complex every person on this planet truly is, you can’t because you're the archetype of a soldier, a fighter, however am not. We are vastly different yet you continue to sit on the ground and pretend to understand what I am saying.”

Druig called Ikaris out, he knew his words were going in one ear and out the other. He tended to be blunt and observe others to the point of knowing everything without having to use his powers once. It was easy to tell Ikaris had no idea what was going on, it didn’t take a genius to figure it out.

“Maybe I’m just listening to what you have to say,” Ikaris posited quietly.

“It doesn’t take a genius to know that you have no idea what I’m saying, let alone understanding what I’m describing.” Druig could tell at that moment that he was about to say some things that he’d held onto for a long time, he was about to bring forth a few of Ikaris’ shortcomings. “You constantly deal with dolorblindness, you deal with it around me and Sersi, Phastos, Sprite, even Kingo. You’re frustrated whenever you can’t tell Sersi you understand her pain, her sadness, her fear, and her anger and whenever you try you come up with some slapdash comparison that makes her feel unheard. It’s easy to tell you that want to say that you understand but you can’t, you’re too honourable to lie to her like that.”

“How do you know?” Ikaris looked shocked to hear all that came from the dark Druig, the one who never seemed to pay any actual attention to the matters at hand.

He chuckled to himself “I’m observant, but it’s not hard to read you when you’re an open book. You don’t present but your actions do, you’re a bad actor Ikaris.”

While he may have been fibbing slightly, it was true that to Druig, Ikaris was an open book that sat at a fifth-grade reading level. It might be an easy read for him, but to everyone else that could be vastly different.

“I could be lying to you right now, putting on an act, you wouldn’t know a damn thing,” Ikaris might be a man of few words, like Druig, but they both formatted them differently.

Druig spoke clearly and sometimes sarcastically, he put a different emphasis on his words compared to Ikaris. Ikaris would be direct to the point, ignoring how his words have double meanings until he sees others’ reactions. He’s a man with a heart of gold, filled with honour but that doesn’t exclude him from hurting others. Unfortunately, Ikaris seemed to always forget how words have power.

A soft sigh came from Druig’s mouth “But you're not. I fear that sometimes you forget who you’re talking to, Ikaris. I can read your mind easily but I don’t have to if I want to know exactly how you feel.”

It seemed to him that Ikaris had no idea what to say to the truth of the topic. It had never hit him before that maybe Druig could read his mind or any of the other Eternals’ minds for that matter. It was more of a well-guarded secret of Druig’s that he’d rather not share with everyone.

“And I can tell you don’t feel like listening to the ramblings of a lunatic, you’ve stayed out of obligation.” Druig’s voice slowly became quieter and quieter until it dissipated into nothing. He always had dealt with dolonia; pure self-doubt that leaves him bare to the bone and wondering why people actually like him, how he can’t fathom people liking him for who he is. “You’re a man of honour and pride, Ikaris, if this is what it takes for you to get validation from Ajax or Sersi then you’ll do it.”

Ikaris looked simply offended at the statement presented to him as if it made a mockery of
him “That’s- that’s not true,” Neither of them were looking at each other anymore.

“Then why don’t I believe you?” Those words came out of Druig’s mouth broken and cracked. They were so quiet and filled with pain, agony, bareboned truth. He felt foilsick after saying those six words, doubting his intentions and feeling ready to shrivel into a ball. It was unsettling to him for Ikaris to begin seeing the side of himself that he had tried to lock away centuries ago.

Ikaris looked astonished that such few words had just held such a large impact. He had just been stabbed in the gut by something he didn’t know could hurt him so deeply “You don’t trust my word?”

“It’s not that I don’t trust what you say, it’s just that I know you Ikaris. I have known you for as long as I can remember,” Druig exhaled softly “I know your tells for lying or how you act when you get nervous. You don’t usually fall over words and yet that is how you speak when you start getting nervous.”

“And how do you know that?” Ikaris tried to ask calmly as if his ego hadn’t just been bruised.

Maybe it was a pure momentary impulse or maybe something that was a long time coming but it made Druig fall into a pool of rasque.

“Because I like you, Ikaris, and watching from afar is all I can do!” Druig spoke without speaking first and now he’s blurted it out he can’t help but want to leave and never return.

“What?” Ikaris was infuriating, he never seemed in touch with the conversation.

“You’re so fucking dense, it was obvious; hell Sersi picked up on it before you did-” Druig grew annoyed at Ikaris very quickly. It made his tone roll out as snarky or disrespectful but he didn’t pick up on that as to him he was just talking.

He knew if it ever worked out then they’d only be an illicit love affair. They’d grow annoyed at each other very quickly and they would sink as fast as they’d sailed.

“Take her name out of your mouth,” Ikaris snarled.

Druig wanted to rip his hair out “Is that your bruised ego speaking, knowing Sersi is significantly smarter and more observant than you?”

Ikaris appeared offended and was about to speak when he was quickly interrupted once again. Druig always seemed to interrupt people, intentionally and unintentionally. The other’s would always give him flack for that, they trained him to not speak and to not participate in their conversations out of fear of unintentionally interrupting them.

“It’s time for this to end, Ikaris,” Druig bit the ends of his words harshly.

He was getting sick of Ikaris’ bullshit, not wanting to deal with a massive headache later that night. Ikaris tended to be the cause of most of his headaches anyways but that was beside the point to Druig.

Within mere seconds Druig entered the mind of his fellow Eternal, taking steps to alter his mind. Now while he couldn’t erase the memory of their conversation, he did bury it deep inside his mind where he hoped Ikaris wouldn’t remember. Druig never did this often but sometimes it had to be done for his own self-preservation, he did have his own pride to maintain and Ikaris never helped with it.

Druig’s stopped glowing, as did the eyes of Ikaris. There were a few moments of silence before Ikaris spoke up.

“Ajax asked me to bring you back, she’s worried about where you’ve been. Besides, she wants to talk to you.” Druig felt eerily brought back to the beginnings of their original encounter, but that was long gone now. There were just small cuts left from the beginning, hidden by the larger ones that filled the rest of their, now historic, conversation.

“Okay,” Druig sighed and began walking the way he came “Just go home, I can get there on my own.”

Ikaris looked confused, his face filled a look that wondered why Druig agreed so easily. Normally they were argumentative, they were like hot and cold or two stubborn kids who always wanted to get the last word.

“You look dumb, just go back,” Druig brought back his usual sarcastic tone.

Ikaris’ jaw looked clenched, as he just stood there. It took Druig waving his hand to leave for the man with melting waxwings to sore off into the sky.

He watched from the ground of the Babylonian soil before trekking back home. It wasn’t far, but it was just far enough for him to be alone and just close enough to make it easy to get to the river.

Druig looked at the river as he walked, he thought about the arguments they’d just spat into the riverbed. He didn’t want to think of it but it just happened; his memory seems to adore mocking him when all he wishes for is silence. He didn’t want to fight or argue, he just wanted to sit in peace, but alas Arishem sent him to Earth to protect the humans from the Deviants. They were all Eternals and they had one job, as soon as they finish it they can go home. He wondered what it would look like then, would they continue being friends or would their relationship turn to dust in the wind. It was only up to time to tell.