(No) Illusions

Who: Isolwyn, C’aol
Where: Weyrleader’s Weyr, Fort Weyr
What: After a violent encounter, Isolwyn has made a decision. Or thinks she has.

A day and a half passes with Isolwyn’s absence from the caverns and meetings, leaving murmurs of her having pushed herself too hard in the first months of her pregnancy to begin to circulate, for all that they don’t reach her ears. She gives herself no more than that before making herself leave her weyr and slip across ledges to C’aol’s instead, no greeting called ahead of her as she goes to seek him out. She has not a thread nor hair out of place when she locates him, her distance kept as she clasps her hands behind her back. “…You’ve always said that I’m yours until I no longer want to be,” she says quietly, if steadily and clearly. “You never said for whose sake I had to make that decision. I knew that you would be better with someone softer and more biddable and… it’s been selfish of me to convince myself otherwise. You don’t… like who you are, with me. It hurts you. Frustrates you. Continuing as we are is only going to make you suffer.” She lets herself glance down at her feet. “I won’t keep Eosyth from Daeserath. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I won’t make sure another wins her. Your rank is right and yours and… I’m what’s wrong. Working together is the easiest part.” Her lips briefly twist into a more mournful thing. “The child will know who their father is. I don’t… expect anything else of you.” Her – likely memorised – speech delivered, she turns to leave.

C’aol has spent much of his time out of the Weyr as he has focused on meetings with those beholden to Fort and other Weyrleaders. He’s reviewing papers when Isolwyn enters. He listens to her with an impassive face before he returns his gaze to his papers where it appears he is prepared to return to his work. He has never quite acknowledged their gap in age, though now it causes him to sigh and set the paper aside. He looks up to her and gestures to the empty place on his couch. “Come, sit.” He does not speak again until she sits beside him. “When I told you that you could leave me whenever you wanted, I was not so irrevocably tied to you. If this is a way for me to acknowledge your desire for marriage, I won’t do it. However, I will not tolerate you leaving me with the thought that somehow in doing so, you’ll somehow… save me.” He looks away from her and folds his arms in front of him. “We are allowed to fight and disagree without you always preparing to leave.” He doesn’t acknowledge his ties to the argument when he’s told her to leave him.

Isolwyn hesitates, then takes another half-step towards the door before turning to head across to the couch, where she sits at its edge, her fingers laced together in her lap. “You are fixating on something that I uttered unknowingly and only because another had asked if I wished to marry you, to which I’ll have you understand that I said it would never happen and I would never ask. That is all it is and all I can tell you.” She looks down at her knees as he shifts the burden of why she’s there back to her, shaking her head a little. “You’re doing it again,” she murmurs. “It’s as if… you have these moments of clarity when you know what you want and need to be what you want to be… and it’s never me that you want or need in those moments. It’s always somehow my fault. You don’t want me to trust you or to be near you, or to accept who and what you are. You want me gone and to push you back and to blame you… You //said// it was my fault. That I make you like that. To find better.” Closing her eyes, she huffs out a weary sigh. “What else would you have me believe? You told me to stop. This isn’t some minor disagreement, C’aol. You behaved as if I torment you. That I’m a fool for having no illusions about you and still being here. I can’t… make peace with it.”

C’aol stares at Isolwyn as she speaks and does not flinch at any of her words. He continues to stare and stretch the silence between them, his eyes hardening as his temper flares. He tightens his fingers together and then removes his arms from in front of him. He places his hands on the top of the table and leans in. “It is as you say it is. I don’t know what normal couples do. For that, I am sorry. And yes, at times, I do want you to find another because I find myself… frightened that I may have trapped you into something you do not deserve. That you keep returning to me with honesty and with acceptance of me, is not your fault. It is mine.” He heaves a sigh and closes his eyes for a moment. He opens them and no trace of his temper is present. He looks resigned as he adds, “I should not have treated you as I did. I’d be wrong if I told you… I did not enjoy it. I did enjoy it. I didn’t… I felt ashamed after I left you. I’m still ashamed now. I don’t want to treat you the way I treated the others. You are better than them. I love you. I never loved them. Aside from Riel…, it was always a way to hurt them. For wanting me. For using me. For looking at me. I can’t say I will change. I don’t think I can. I have changed in some ways…,” he shakes his head and looks up towards the ceiling. “I may not change in others.”

“…I don’t know any better than you in that respect,” Isolwyn murmurs, staring down at her knees. “There is no way that you could call anything that was ever between me and any other a relationship, even with those I was obligated to let closer to me.” Her shoulders hunch a little and she seems not to even breathe in the moments before she asks, “Do you… Do you think I use you?” her voice barely audible and the last of her words almost lost to the silence. She settles into that quiet for a bit, unable to think past the question she may not want an answer to before she can gather herself to speak again. “Is it not better if I… know? I didn’t find it awful. It wasn’t against my will. Do you not think that the thought of having you at my mercy solely for my own gratification never crosses my mind? Maybe it wouldn’t be a matter of… being ashamed… if you had stayed long enough to make sure we were both okay and reminded yourself that we love each other.” And yet, despite that, she closes her eyes and bites down on the inside of her lip. “But if it’s my presence that makes you that self-destructive… none of the rest of it matters. You can love me and I can still be the worst thing in your life at the same time.”

“Isolwyn,” C’aol’s voice is firm and his tone sharp. He waits until she lifts her gaze to his before he continues. “In no way are you the reason why I am self-destructive. It is not you who makes me who I am.” He takes his pointer finger and presses it firmly against the table as he adds, “I am responsible for myself. No other is. You are not to blame for my actions. Ever. I don’t know what that,” he almost spits the word out, “Uncle made you believe… but you do not control who I am. I do.” He sits back in his chair and rubs at his temples briefly. “I’m prepared to move past this argument,” he tells her as he sighs and drops his hands to his lap. “We have not decades between us. I assume that we will find ways to suit each other and… not fall to such toxic things as the years go on. My parents were no example to me on how to be happy with a partner. I may not be the best father to our child. All I can promise you is I will never hit you, or them. If… my tendency to sexual… violence is abuse, you do not have to tolerate it. I will not behave the way I did again if you do not want it.” He lets an especially vulnerable flash to his features before he schools them back to the carefully controlled lines he is known to keep. “Will this… be agreeable to you?”

Isolwyn doesn’t precisely jump, but she does look at C’aol very suddenly and sharply as he speaks her name, something of her own temper flickering to the surface and away again. “…Whatever you may believe, I am… happy, C’aol. I don’t think that either of us were built for the ease of smiles and laughter that others might be, but it doesn’t mean that I’m unhappily trapped in something I want to be free of.” She looks away again, only to make herself look back at him and the reality of the matter, rather than theory or abstract. “Why don’t we say that if you want to behave like that again, you tell me. You ask. And if it happens, we look after each other afterwards. Perhaps you surrender to me once in a while.” Her jaw tightens and she swallows hard just before she adds, “If you find that acceptable and you can promise me one other thing – that you will leave me if being with me makes you feel… like that… more often than not – then I think I find the rest agreeable.”

C’aol lifts a brow at the mention of her need of a promise and then shakes his head as he glances up at the ceiling in thought. He looks back at her and states flatly, “I promise.” He rises from his chair then and crosses the distance between them. He looks prepared to hug her and then thinks better of it as he reaches for her hand. “Let’s go and see what our Weyr thinks of us walking around together. I know they try and hide their rumors about us. I had more than one Wingleader seemingly prepared to ask me something only to think better of it.” He smirks as he moves to open the door and let her through it before he captures her hand again. “As I’m sure your Headwoman and the Steward have similar questions for you.”

“They know better than to ask me anything that isn’t business related. Our Headwoman has even talked around the subject of the child without directly commenting on it.” Just at the threshold, Isolwyn stops and lifts her gaze to C’aol, then takes a half-step back into the shadow of the door. “Wait.” She frowns, her hold on his hand tightening a fraction as her focus seems to turn inwards while she tries to put together what she wants to say. “I don’t need you to change,” she says quietly, given time to order her thoughts. “I just hope that, one day, you’ll feel safe with me. Because that’s what you do for me, whether you think I should feel that way or not.” She tightens her hold again, this time to tug and draw him after her into the light, to let the Weyr see them and draw their own conclusions. It’s after duty has separated them and darkness has fallen that she slips back to his weyr and into his bed to curl up and wait for his day to finish.

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