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Orym

Ashton Greymoore, huh. You don’t think much of them, at first.

They’re loud. Brash. Flashy. Tend to draw every eye in the room, and don’t mind doing it if only it means that people are watching them.

Hm. You’ve never been like that, and honestly, you’re not really comfortable being around people who do it intentionally. No, when people look at you, you lean into your size, your height, your demeanor. Smile, duck your head, dodge, defer.

I’m just a small man. A wee boy. I can’t hurt you. I don’t merit a second look.

Because, you’ve learned, when the bigger people in the room discount you, then you can come in swinging when they scoff and turn away. You can step between the blow and its target every time almost every time, because the attacker never expected you to be there in the first place.

Still. There’s something about the earth genasi that draws your eye, and it’s not just their flash. Something else keeps you looking back.

Even though you’ve always known better.

 

 

Ashton

Orym of the Air Ashari, eh? Pffgh.

Strange name, sure. But beneath it, he’s just another fighter, same as all the rest you’ve met and laughed at and screwed with, over the course of a hundred other jobs just like this one.

Nothing new to see there. People like him don’t tend towards people like you, unless they’re looking to fuck you over. Maybe it’s for whoever’s writing their paycheck this week, maybe it’s because they think you’re a threat to whatever they’re idolizing at the moment. Sometimes they even seem sorry about it, in the aftermath.

It’s eh. Just how the world works.

So yeah. Orym of the Air Ashari? Boring. Predictable. Lots more fun types in this wild new group.

Except that – something about him pings you. Fucked if you know what it is, though.

Maybe it’s the way he watches you? Because it’s the same way that he watches the rest of the group. Like he’s looking out for you, same as he does for anyone else.

Which is fucking ridiculous. There’s no reason why he would.

 

 

Orym

He fights like you do, though.

Well, no, all right – not exactly like you do. He depends on his strength more than dexterity, and he tends to charge in without looking first, going right for the brawlers and the heavy hitters like himself. Doesn’t necessarily stop to scope out the various threats on the field first.

There’s also the hammer, the yells of defiance, that manic edge to his laughter as he swings. The lights that pulse in his head, around his body, as he throws himself into the fray.

More flash, you’d thought the first time you saw him do it. More grandstanding. Sigh.

Except that –

Drawing the enemy’s eye to yourself is a strategy too. Just ask you how you’d know. There’s a reason why you always goad your opponents – if they’ve got eyes on you, then they aren’t aiming at others.   

You pay more attention to how he fights, after that little epiphany. And when you do, it’s all right there, just waiting for you to see it.

The way he treats his body like it’s both a target and a shield, something to be thrown into the line of fire. Something that he can pick up, and brush off, and move on with, because in the end, that’s all it’s really for.

You look at, and think of, Ashton Greymoore a little differently after that.

 

 

Ashton

He doesn’t fight like you at all. Nah, he’s got forms and shit for that sword of his, like there are rules he knows because someone actually took the time to teach him how to use his weapons properly.

No street brawling for the Air Ashari then, huh. No chains on kids’ knuckles, no trial and error with lockpicks and knives. Must have been – and you aren’t trying to be a shit when you say this, honest – must have been nice.

Weird how all of that disappears when things really get going, though. Kinda unexpected how he’s always the one who gets right in there alongside you, all those subtle forms lost when he darts up into the thick of it. Despite the fact that he’s fucking tiny, and one lucky step from some of the fuckers this group fights could probably snap his leg. Or his neck.  

But he never even hesitates. Always has that fucking sword and shield of his up and ready to protect, literally everyone but himself. Always depends on his speed, his deftness, and not much else, to keep him from going splat.

And when those things aren’t enough?

Then he plants his feet and sets his mouth: grim and resigned, completely ready to go splat.

He’s gone down like that a couple of times, now. In fact, if Storm wasn’t around that once, then he probably would’ve died. But when Storm clapped him on the shoulder, pleading for help, he just, fucking, stood up again. Spat out his own blood and cracked his own neck, then stumbled right back to the fighting.

What the fuck is up with that, Orym of the Air Ashari.

 

 

Orym

It feels like once you start looking, you just can’t stop seeing.

You see how they never look for healing – not even from FCG, who they’ve known for the longest among this group. You see how they won’t let anyone touch them, not even with a clap on the back for a job well done or a brush of their fingers when handing off a drink after a long day.

How they laugh when anyone else would be wincing. Flinch when anyone else would be leaning closer. Grin when folks watch them get beaten bloody; grimace when someone has to help them wipe the blood away afterward.

And you know you’re not the same you’re not, you’re not, but still. Maybe like recognizes like, just a little. Because you know there’s a story there.

Your body tells a story too. Only you chose your own scars, the greenery and the dual moons that were driven into your arm, pinprick by pinprick, so that the ashes of your first love and the deep black logwood of the homeplace you once shared have long since become a part of you too.

But you doubt that the earth genasi chose theirs. Not something like that: glass and gold and gods know what else, poured into places where their skull has been splintered and their skin has been shattered.

In a certain light, scars are scars are scars are scars. They’re sites that show you survived something, maybe even something you shouldn’t have.

A lifetime stolen. A heart broken. All by an attack that wasn’t even aimed at you.

But the scars that folks don’t choose hurt different from the ones that they do.

Ask you how you know this.

 

 

Ashton

Now. You’ve been around the block before, and you know the signs. Folks who are the way he is, they don’t usually just show up one day acting like that. Nah – the type who walk into every fight ready to die there are the ones who’ve been through some shit, and who want some shit as a result. You wonder, idly, what it was that did this for Orym of the Air Ashari.

And then you find out that there was a husband. Years ago, same post as he was, fought beside him and died there too. His ink is for the guy.

Ah. Fuck. Yeah, that would do it.

He’s already so small, but re-telling this story – ‘cause this can’t be the first time he’s had to say it, has had to explain himself to a room full of pitying gazes and worried smiles – makes him fold himself smaller still. His shoulders hunch as he sinks into himself. It’s pretty fucking awful.

Hhhh, if only Storm were still here. Not that the princeling would know what to do either, no, but at least Orym was willing to lean on him, in a way that he doesn’t seem to with anyone else, not even Calloway. Like the tiny weight of him is just too heavy to ask anyone else to bear, even for a second.

Fuck. Sometimes you wish that shit in your head and your heart – or other people’s – could be fixed with a good shake. Or no, not even fixed: you’d settle for just, like, jostling it a bit so that other shit can cover it for a while, give you some space to fucking breathe before the next thing that you need to stand up and fight comes barreling at you.

 

 

Orym

It’s only Ashton and Fearne who don’t treat you like glass - brittle, breakable - when your grief finally comes to light.

Fearne, at least, you’ve come to expect: she is Fey, so life and love and loss and loneliness all mean very different things to her than they do to the rest of your group. More temporary, you suspect; more negotiable, too.

Ashton, though. Somehow, their good eye takes the reds and greens and blacks and greys that you’ve had driven into your skin as something more than mourning. A badge, maybe, but a choice, certainly. It’s refreshing.

And then you learn – both of you learn, all of you learn – where the cracks in their body came from. How they’d mortgaged their life to protect a crew who’d left them for dead. And they don’t even have the time or space or privacy to process this, their lowest moments just being dredged from the depths of their mind while a group of still-near-strangers stand around watching.

You, at least, had years – years of wandering in which to cry your tears, scream your anger, bank your sorrow, make your choices.

Ashton, it seems, has never had more than mere moments.

And while this isn’t your tragedy to grieve, still. It hits. It hurts. More that you didn’t see it, from the beginning.

 

 

Ashton

He grows a little white flower for you.

White poppy, he says. Then declines to fucking elaborate on what that actually means, though even down here in the Hollow you’ve heard enough stories that you know every flower has a meaning behind it.

You let it go, though. Because, unlike what you’ve seen him do for others, he simply lets it sprout from his palm and then holds it out to you. Just offering.

Doesn’t reach in and touch your face. Doesn’t make it grow from you or on you or anything like that. Doesn’t assume that even such minimal touch is going to be all right.

And he’s right: you couldn’t take a gentle touch right now. Fuck. When did Orym of the Air Ashari become someone who could even be right about you.

So you just grin at him, even though you know your teeth are probably dark with blood. Thought the flowers were just for Storm. Because you’re an asshole and you know it.

Dorian? Some were, he muses, unfazed. I only grow them for friends. Folks I care about.

Un-fucking-real.

And what’s more: a white poppy’s for peace, Calloway tells you later. Interesting, isn’t it, that he’s a fighter and so are you, but he wants you to feel at peace!

You shove her shoulder for this, but she’s not wrong. It is interesting.

And you tuck the poppy into a buckle on your vest all the same.