A/N: More exploring Zelda post-Bloors. Through my wonderful fabourite character. Enjoy.
: You Never Came Back :
When Gabriel is in Cambridge for the day, the last thing he expects is the flash of raven hair and ice cold eyes to step across his past. She had never come back. Now he finds out why.
She hears her name in a voice she thought – hoped, maybe – she'd never hear again. Echoing across Cambridge streets, the city that is her sanctity, a reminder of her past that she doesn't want to confront. Not now, not ever.
It's not Manfred, on a desperate hunt for her, though she might have expected one after she threw away his letters and told him to piss off. It's not Asa, whimpering for her help and affection; neither is it the twins, identical, and casts of her, wanting her to rejoin them. It's not that little pain Charlie Bone, who she knows full well would have wrecked her life had she stayed any longer, and as a rain cloud hasn't opened over her head, she has twice the reason to say it's not Torsson.
She turns her head to confirm it, taking in the lanky figure with a bundle of blonde curls atop his head, hands with the longest, slimmest fingers resting gently by his side. "It is you." His mouth opens softly. He steps towards her through the crowd; she is still. "I thought, maybe it wasn't, and I was just seeing things, but there always was something unforgettable about you Zelda."
"I wish there wasn't," is Zelda's plain answer. Her tone is sharp, pointed, more echoes of what she was, what Gabriel has brought back in her than she ever wants. "I thought I made it clear to Manfred that I never wanted to hear from any of you again." Never mind that it was only the Bloors who actually knew where she was.
Gabriel's eyebrows furrowed as he looked at her, attempting to work something out. Zelda meets his stare, her dark rimmed eyes not losing their spark. "You don't know," he whispers under his breath, and Zelda doesn't quite catch it and thinks of asking him but then he continues. "I always wondered why you never came back."
"Why should I?" Still on the defensive. Five years, and she still has her guard up around them.
"You and Manfred..." Gabriel begins, but then he catches sight of Zelda and stops. Her eyebrows drawn down in anger, mouth clenched. Her fingers wrapped in her fists.
"None of you got it." Zelda speaks more to herself than to him. "None of you understood. He was a hypnotist, controlling was his nature, the entire bloody goddamn family's nature. And you think for one second I would want to go back to that, back to being under his thumb? Maybe I loved him once, maybe under different circumstances, without the Red King and endowments and the war, we could have been happy together, but I never, ever want to go back to living that half life."
"All our lives would be easier without the war." Gabriel freely admits it. "But you've had five years away from that place, Zelda. And we both know that I couldn't force you back there. Not that it's the same."
"Even now, people call me deluded," Zelda says. "Spending my years in education, unwilling to face up to the real world. A common enough occurance among Cambridge students, they say, but even so I can feel the glares. Despite that. I'm happy here Gabriel."
"Manfred's dead." He can't skirt around the issue any longer.
Zelda goes pale. She is vaguely aware that her hands have started to shake, but beyond that she's lost. Gabirel looks at her concerned, worried as to whether she'll faint or fall over. "You're lying," she says as she summons up the words to speak. "He put you up to this, he wants me back and he thinks this'll make it work. I won't fall for it." She looks closer into Gabriel's eyes, thinking he must be hypnotised.
He just stands there. Zelda takes a step back, now uncertain. "Why would I lie about this?" he asks. Zelda can't think of a good answer to that one. Against her will, she can feel her eyes starting to well. "In the final battle. He lost."
"Cause he was bad and you were good," Zelda comments. "It was always so black and white with you people. It wasn't his fault."
Gabriel can think of some things that he think disagree with that, but remembers that Zelda was friends with Manfred and might, just possibly might, have seen a different side to the boy. "Why didn't you come back then?"
"Bloors was oppressive. It had nothing to do with Manfred. I just didn't want the remind here. My life is perfect now. No one even knows I'm endowed. I don't think many of them are even aware of the concept. And no one told me what happened. No one told me he had died."
"Would you have come back if someone had?" Gabriel asks softly.
Zelda pauses. Her eyes open just a fraction more than normal as she thinks on it. "I don't know. Maybe it'd have helped me move on." She looks around, glancing, eyes finding the sky. "I think not. I don't want closure. I simply want to forget. And now you're bloody here and I can't and it's all getting too hard."
"I'm not going to be here long," Gabriel says. "I'm spending the night, I'll be back on a train by mid-day tomorrow, I promise. I'll keep the others away from your haven."
Zelda nods quietly in appreciation. Gabriel continues. "I know it doesn't mean much, coming from me, but I admire you. For being able to walk away. None of the rest of us managed that." Zelda, eyes down, knows the truth of that far more than Gabriel.
She takes a step away from him, and another, until she stands on the otherside of the street. "Goodbye," she states, just loud enough for him to hear. "No hard feelings, but I never want to see you again in my life."
"Understood." Gabriel turns and walks back down the street he was on before he spotted that raven black hair and ice cold eyes and decided that, for Zelda's sake, he'd make sure none of them were seen. She deserved some peace after all.
Zelda, eyes down, returns to her haven.
And Manfred would never haunt her again.