9. Also Known as the Time Aydin Invites her in for Tea

The next morning, there was no mission assigned for them on the board, so Nicole assumed that the vanguard was giving them a day off. Usually, the huntress took those as a chance to get out and explore Venus by herself but after the last two days, she was happy keeping her feet on terran soil.

She went back to bed for a few hours after checking the board. No reason to be up. She messaged the warlock about it, so he wouldn't be wasting his time. He wasn't able to leave the Tower without her, but she figured he would find something to do. Warlocks were good at that, always had something to keep them busy.

It was waning into the afternoon when she finally got up and started her search for the warlock. Since he couldn't leave, she decided to go find him the old fashion way instead of pinging his ghost. His apartment was only a few levels below her's so she checked there first.

When knocking yielded no answer, she turned to leave. Maybe he was in the library. Her ghost blipped at her before she got too far, catching her attention once again with his odd hesitation.

"Let's snoop," he said after a minute, sounding small behind his own suggestion.

What? No, Ghost, we're not snooping in his apartment. What is wrong with you?

"He snooped on us though! How do you think he knew about what happened to Davion and the others? And all the other guardians you've trained since then?"

That's all public archives… isn't it?

"I can show you the security wall I ran into when I tried to access his information."

Well, how do you know that was how he even got them. There are other ways of gathering information than looking it up in a database.

"First of all, he's a warlock. How many warlocks do you know would go somewhere else besides an archive if they knew that the info they wanted was in there. I mean, the security was pretty serious, but definitely crackable for a ghost, given time."

Nicole wasn't sure how she felt about it still. She was trying to gain his trust. And she knew that if he ever found out, she would never get anywhere with him. Why do you want to snoop anyway?

The echo of the memory was back, Verz's voice explaining to her again about all the people they couldn't trust. "I'm honestly curious, Nicole. What kind of secret is he hiding that he can't even trust his fellow guardian? What if that secret is what the Vanguard is afraid of? Ignoring it would be disobeying orders, wouldn't it?"

She felt herself being manipulated. Her ghost was playing off her emotions, and she knew it. At the same time, she knew he was right and that was why he was doing it in the first place.

She hesitated, then sighed, her shoulders sagging. She'd been standing in the empty hallway for the last several minutes, having her silent debate. She finally looked back at the unassuming grey door. What would she find on the other side?

"It would be easy to hack the door…" her ghost said quietly.

She didn't like this, but now it was the budding fear of what she would find on the other side.

She didn't get much chance to think any further on it. The elevator down the hall dinged loudly and Nicole reckoned she jumped about five feet. Of all the people to come walking out, somehow it was the warlock. He spotted her, hesitated for a second, then looked behind him as if he was expecting an ambush.

She waved sheepishly at him, standing guiltily by his door. The confusion on his face seemed to intensify, along with, to her endless shame, the mistrust.

"Hello, lassy, you looking for me?"

She nodded, her ghost finally coming to her rescue. "Since the Vanguard didn't assign us any mission and you can't leave the Tower, we were just coming to check in and make sure you didn't need anything."

"I need to take a trip to the Reef, or Mercury, but neither of those things are obviously going to happen until this bloody probation is up." He shrugged. "But thanks, I suppose. For remembering me," he commented sourly. He seemed like he was in a bad mood, and Nicole wondered if she could get him to tell her why.

"Is there anywhere else that we can take you?"

"No," he sighed, sounding suddenly tired. He unlocked his door, Nicole stepping away to give him space. "You want to come in for tea?"

She blinked in surprise. It was such a mundane but oddly kind offer that she was taken aback by it. She smiled and nodded, letting him lead her in. She would get to see the inside of his apartment anyway, without having to snoop afterall.

His apartment was small, and nearly identical to her's, except it looked much less lived in than her own. His was in an inside ring, so it had no windows, and until he turned on a lamp beside the door, was pitch black.

She instantly felt better once he started turning the lights on, and got right to setting an ancient looking kettle on the stove to boil. The main living room was nearly empty save for a bookshelf and a desk that had at blanket of loose paper covering it, spilling down onto the floor around it. The kitchen was small, the cabinets had no doors for some reason, and nothing in them. There was a small table between the kitchen and living room, with only a small decorative glass bowl with with a single, small pumpkin in it.

"What's with the pumpkin?" Her ghost asked, for both of them.

Aydin looked over at her from the kitchen, glanced at the pumpkin, then grinned. "That stupid thing. It's a silly gift from a friend."

Friend? Didn't think he had any…

"A friend?"

"Yeah," he replied, his smile gentle and affectionate. Her curiosity was very suddenly piqued. "Another Osiris Acolyte. She thinks pumpkins are good things to have so she gave it to me."

"What's her name?"

"Oh um-"

He was cut off by a loud crack over by his desk that made both guardians jump a little. Nicole looked over at Verz, where he was noisily depositing what looked like fifty pound tomes onto the desk. One by one.

Each one hit the desk made the whole thing shake, papers drifting away. Nicole looked over at the warlock who was watching his teapot and looking like he was trying very hard to smother laughter. This oddness went on for awhile before Aydin was beside her with two cups of tea and inviting her to join him on the carpeted floor.

"I've never had a visitor before so I never thought to invest in furniture."

She waved his concern away. She was hardly bothered by it. It felt almost more intimate, sitting with him in the dim light, sipping hot tea. It was a nice change compared to the last few days. Having a peaceful moment with him was exactly what she needed. She could learn a lot more about him this way.

Some of the papers that had fallen off the desk had drifted pretty close to where she had chosen to sit. Close enough that she reached out to one and picked it up. She looked back at the warlock for a second, silently asking his permission. He made an agreeable motion so she examined the page.

Half of it looked like an alphabet soup of what might have been a mathematical equation. The bottom half was a diagram of sorts, but Nicole couldn't make heads or tails if it. It was oddly beautiful in it's straight edge lines that seemed to have a sort of ordered chaos. A lot of time had gone into it.

"Energy conversion," Aydin said eventually. "Experimenting with Light and how it changes. Part of my research also has to do with how Light reacts to Darkness sources and how they change each other, but all of that research is classified so I can't keep it here."

"Research funded by Osiris?"

"By the order, yeah. Osiris himself isn't around much. I've never actually seen him, myself. Read books, reports, educational papers he's written. The order has interest in the interactions between Light and Dark. Well, a lot of interest in the Dark. Because I'm one of the few that is still living in the City, so close to the Traveler, my purpose is better suited to Light research."

"And this research is classified? The Vanguard doesn't have access to it?"

"Yes and no. Half of my research is on Mercury. The half I do most of the time is here," he gestured to the desk. "The Vanguard, and by extension, the Consensus, still funds this part. So the part that is legal and favored by the Consensus is not classified. The half that isn't is funded by the Order. They build off each other. I'm coming to an end of what can be done here for my current report. After my probation is up I need to spend some time on Mercury and finish the report there."

"So you'll be disappearing once we finish our last mission?"

"For a few days, yeah. I don't spend much time there usually. The Vanguard calls me back with mandatory mission if I stay too long. Besides, it's quiet there. Aside from the occasional vex…" he sighed suddenly. "And Titan interferences, it's easy to get a lot of work done in very little time. It's an environment heavy on quiet study. It's easy to get lost. I love it."

"What kind of Titan interferences?"

"Oh, the Sunbreakers. The actual order that teaches sunbreaker types how to use solar energy. A large portion of them hang around Mercury. I think Osiris hired them to protect his temples. They can get rowdy sometimes."

The conversation petered out for a while. They sat in the quiet, sipping their tea for a while.

"So, why were you here?" he asked after a while. It seemed innocent enough but Nicole wasn't stupid. She knew a probing question when she heard one.

"Like we said earlier, we were just coming in to check on you," her ghost replied without missing a beat. "Since you can't leave the Tower without us."

"Yeah, that's what you told me," he was watching her with that frightening intensity again, calculating and recording her every movement. She felt naked beneath his gaze.

She fidgeted and shook her head. "We weren't snooping, if that's what you're getting at," her ghost replied defensively.

"Didn't say you were, I was just curious." He shrugged, still watching her with that uncomfortable intensity. "I just wanted to know what your real intentions were, is all."

There a pause of silence in the room, but Nicole's head was filled with internal screaming, her ghost apologizing furiously underneath it all. Aydin was watching her still, his ghost floating silently at his shoulder, judging them. A sly little smile spread across his lips, making him seem almost cat like.

"Okay, look, we were here to snoop," her ghost finally admitted. "I mean, the Vanguard assigned us to watch you because they obviously think you're hiding some big dangerous secret but the more time we spend with you the more we realize that what you may be hiding isn't dangerous at all and that if you just trusted us, we could help… you…"

Aydin had started laughing. "That is biggest load of crap I think I have ever heard. You have no idea what I'm hiding. The only reason you know I'm hiding anything at all is because Verz told you." He still had the cat like smile across his face, making her uncomfortable.

"We're just trying to figure out what the vanguard thinks is so dangerous about you. That's all."

His expression changed then, becoming softer. His smile turned warmer. He put down the cup down beside him and scooted closer to her. "Nicole Foxwell, I will make you a promise."

And there is was again. That benevolent intelligence, the warmth in his eyes, the gentle confidence. Nicole was a deer in the headlights, mesmerized, enthralled. He took her hands, his gloves soft and black against the pale glow of her own hands. She knew without a shadow of a doubt that whatever he was about to say, it was going to the truth, wholly and completely.

"I will never, ever do anything to hurt the Vanguard, the City, her people, my fellow guardians, or the Traveler."

Nicole was captured once again by that gaze. And even as he moved back away, standing and collecting their cups, Nicole couldn't seem to get her brain back. She sat in his living room as he moved quietly around his kitchen, her face blazing hot. Even her ghost was silent beside her, fluttering his shell in a response to her roil of emotion.

By the Traveler, that is attractive.

She felt more than saw her ghost suddenly turn to look at her. She tried to ignore him for a half a second before looking back at him, her face even hotter.

Aydin came back a few moments later. "Anyway, without trying to sound like I'm kicking you out, I do need to finish getting this report written up. You're welcome to stay of course." He shrugged, turning on the lamp at the desk and pulling the chair out."

Nicole smiled politely, still trying to get her feathers to flatten after the latest ruffling they were given. She stood and and gave him a goodbye pat on his shoulder. Her face still felt hot and she made her escape quickly. If Aydin noticed her fluster, he thankfully made no comment about it. He just looked down at her with mild amusement, before turning to the desk.

It was only alone in the hallway did she finally let her composure break down completely. She put a hand on the wall beside her, using it to support herself.

"I think I understand your desire to help him now," her ghost said quietly.

She only nodded, still trying to recover. If this was going to work, she really needed to get herself under control. She couldn't let him keep doing that to her.

A new set of missions was available by morning, along with it, Nicole and Aydin's final assignment. It was still early when she ventured back to his apartment to retrieve him. She actually enjoyed the interaction from last night. Going out to find him instead of having her ghost ping him was much more of a personal notion.

It was still fairly early when she rang the bell so she was only mildly surprised when he came to the door looking like he had just rolled out of bed. As in, he wasn't even wearing a shirt.

Oh, hello… She blinked a few times, giving him a once over.

He squinted at her in the light of the hallway, his apartment beyond him pitch black. "What?"

"Good morning," her ghost chirped. "New mission was posted." She smiled at him.

He rubbed his eyes, stifling a yawn. "It's way too early for missions, can't we do it later? Or tomorrow?"

"Don't you want your probation lifted?"

He paused for a second, still squinting at her. After a long moment he sighed, waving at her to follow him inside. The darkness inside was terrible, and again Nicole only felt better when he popped on the kitchen light to put on a kettle to boil.

"I don't think I've been asleep all that long," he explained, yawning again.

"Two hours," his ghosts provided. It had appeared in the short hallway that lead to the bedroom. "Spent way too long on that damn report again."

"It has to be perfect, Verz. The Vanguard reads that draft, remember."

The ghost made a noise, something between a grunt and a sigh. "Good morning, Miss Foxwell," it greeted.

She nodded politely at it.

"Go get dressed, Aydin, I'll get the tea."

The warlock made a face. "Don't touch my teapot."

There was a pause in the room, Aydin and ghost having a brief staredown. It ended when Verz fluttered it's shell in agitation. "Whatever," it muttered, disappearing in a puff of light.

Nicole came into the kitchen with him, mostly just to be in the light. The living room was still too dark. She watched him for a moment as he brewed his tea, picking up details she had missed before. He was wearing a small necklace that usually hid beneath his armor, a white glowing material that didn't quite look like stone, hanging from a thin chain. He was much more of lithe build than she initially assumed, his armor giving him some much needed bulk. And while she hadn't noticed it right away, when he cleaned the two mugs still in the sink from the day before, she thought she spied some kind of dark tattoo on the palm of his hand. She only caught a glimpse of it before he was pouring the tea and handing her a mug.

This tea was significantly more bitter than the fruity flavor he had served her the day before. So bitter, in fact, she made a face. It took her a second to swallow it. She looked back at the warlock in time to catch him smother a smile.

He pointed to the table behind her without saying a word, where a pile of sugar cubes in a bowl had appeared without her noticing. "Morning tea is bitter. Afternoon tea is sweet," he informed her still with that almost sarcastic smile.

She stuck her tongue out at him. He threw his head back and laughed; Nicole couldn't help the smile that spread across her lips at it.

He took a few sips from his own mug, not even bothered by the taste, before wandering off to the bedroom. Nicole didn't have to wait very long for him to come back, fully geared now. She smiled when he returned, having finished the tea. He looked significantly more awake now.

They didn't say much to each other until they had both made to the elevator up to the main pavilion, but the silence between them was comfortable, almost pleasant. It was only when the elevator doors were closed that Aydin spoke.

"So I get coming in for a social visit yesterday, coming to check on me. Which was nice, don't get me wrong. But why didn't you just call me today?"

She shrugged, her ghost appearing at her shoulder to explain. "Yesterday was a very pleasant experience for both parties, we hoped. It felt more personal to just come find you instead of calling you."

"Personal…" he echoed. He made a soft humming noise, then fell quiet to chew on her words for a bit.

"We've come to the conclusion that the Vanguard was wrong about you. We understand that you have secrets and we are curious, but we also figure that with time, either you'll tell us, or it isn't our business to know. So we respect warlock secrets, despite our desire to snoop yesterday…" Aydin snorted quietly from his side of the elevator. "And on that note, we desire a new approach. Since you don't have another fireteam, and I'm sorry, but it's obvious you really need one, we're going to train you, even after this mission is over."

He grunted, shrugging his shoulders. "And here I was figuring you'd want to get away from me as soon as you could."

"Our last few interactions were good, weren't they?"

He looked over at her, giving her the assessing look that always made her feel so exposed. "I suppose."

She patted his shoulder, mouthing his name and giving him a reassuring smile. She knew that it could be disconnecting to have her ghost speaking for her, but those were her words too. Aydin needed a friend, and she wanted to be that friend. At least until he could find others better suited to him than her.

He paused, his eyes getting a little wider. There was a half second beat of stillness then his face turned the color of a ripe tomato. "That-t's good, I supp-pose."

She stifled a laugh. It was her turn to ruffle his feathers. "So, I hope that we can be true friends, then," her ghost finished softly.

Aydin was quiet for a long moment, the silence in the elevator turning awkward. "I'll consider it. But I also appreciate your offer of training. I'll take you up on it. We'll see how the 'friends' bit works out though. You should definitely come over for tea more often."

The elevator door opened just then, and Aydin rushed out, his blush so intense she could see it in his ears. She smiled after him, enjoying her first victory in a while.

Their mission took them to the Moon this time, which Nicole was not exactly thrilled about. Luna was riddled with tunnels and chasms and who knew what kind of monsters hid in those shadows. Maybe it was the stark light and black shadows that tripped her out, or maybe it was the silence, only broken by the distant rumbling and her own breathing. It was a fear she would never really admit to, that the ground would crack open and swallow her whole.

Aydin arrived after she did, like usual, and Nicole didn't give him much chance to get acclimated to the gravity before she summoned her sparrow and blazed a path to the Hellmouth.

It was just a simple scouting mission, thankfully. Another guardian had gone into the Hellmouth a few weeks prior and had cleared out a ritual sight of some kind, but along the way reported a heavy fallen presence among the hive. Their job today was to spy on the Exile movements around the area and to stop them if possible. If they were getting so bold suddenly, than perhaps it would be beneficial to keep an eye on them and curb their advances.

Previous guardian reports had told of a large group of servitors being moved from a nearby valley to a hidden crater sight just outside the Hellmouth. Exile had been moving them in small groups every few days, and nobody could begin to fathom why.

Based on the previous patterns of arrival, supposedly there was going to be more arrivals today. Their job was to keep an eye out and see where they were being taken, and if possible, try to find out the reason.

They found themselves on a ridge high above the Hellmouth. From there, they could see down into the pit for as far as the light could reach. The green haze the obscured everything down there gave Nicole the creeps like little else could do. Fallen patrols roamed the areas far beneath them, for the moment oblivious to their presence.

They were both silent for a time, Nicole with her sniper and Aydin with his spyglass. Why he didn't just carry a sniper was beyond her, but she supposed that she was in no place to judge him on his oddities.

"Skiffs are supposed to be arriving soon to drop off the servitors, when they arrive, what do you think we should do?" her ghost asked over an open channel between the guardians.

Aydin was quiet for a moment, and even though he was right next to her, his voice came in better over the comm. "We can just stay up here and watch. Or try to sneak closer."

It had been a test question, seeing if he had any bright ideas on how to tackle this particular mission. He seemed pretty good at thinking outside the box so Nicole was a little disappointed when he suggested the obvious course of action. But then she supposed that might just be for the best anyway.

"The valley on far end is where they are keeping them, according to reports."

"Should we get closer?" He turned his head to look at her, but with his helmet, she couldn't see his expression.

She nodded and picked up, heading down the hill to use it as cover from the valley. She saw more than heard the small rocks tumble past her as he made an ungraceful attempt to follow her. She mentally added that to the list of things to train him for, movement over rough terrain.

They made it around the long away, trying to avoid where the mountain dipped into the valley. The sound of a skiff breaking through orbit, broke the silence in half. Nicole jumped half a mile without meaning to, looking back at Aydin who had ducked down and was scanning the sky for it.

It was already in the crater valley when they finally made it back to the top of the ridge, looking down at the cluster of buildings of an abandoned pre-golden outpost. Fallen crawled through the alleyways and buildings, snipers perched around the perimeter and on some of the taller buildings. The approach was not going to be easy.

"Hey Verz, you have that map of the tunnels beneath this place?"

Nicole felt the ping from his ghost resonate through her's and a map overlayed her vision for a moment. It showed her a tangle of tunnels that could only assume were just under their feet. She shuddered at the thought.

A section lit up, a part that had to be smack in the center of the crater. "That tunnel peeks up in the crater, the other half comes out below us." Aydin pointed down behind them.

There's the bright idea. She knew he would come up with something. She just wished it didn't have to do with tunnels.

"If we get caught in those tunnels, we'll be sitting ducks," her ghost contested, mostly for her benefit.

"Yeah, but at least that approach affords us some element of surprise. I doubt you have enough ammo to take out all those snipers down there."

She paused, wanting to protest, but after a brief mental tally, realized he was right. Besides, she wouldn't be able to get them all even if she had the ammunition. They would duck down into once she started shooting.

"I have a better idea," Aydin said suddenly. "You do have enough to get quite a few of them, and if they're too busy dealing with little miss sneaky sniper, they won't be expecting me to go in through the tunnels."

Better?! That is not a better plan! Any plan that required them to split up was simply a bad idea. But Aydin was already sliding his way down the hill.

"Don't start firing until I'm in position, obviously," he said over comm, his breath already heavy as he sprinted over the open ground. "We'll keep comms up."

She could hear him breathing that way, so it would always sound like he was right beside her, and she would know the moment he was in trouble. She wondered briefly if he did that to make her feel better. She didn't get much chance to ponder it.

"Start shooting when you can, love." His voice came across quieter like he was trying to whisper. "There is a lot of Fallen down here."

She could almost hear the fear in his voice. She was quick to start, the tremble in him like a strike of lightning to her own blood. She picked off four, ducked down to reload, took out four more. A captain had appeared when she peeked out the third time. It took another clip to down him. She burned a synth, reloaded, peeked out for the fourth time and was met with only silence and stillness.

She could hear the gunfire and explosions now from Aydin's end. His breathing was harsh in her ear. "I found the servitors! Better yet, they found me!" He laughed, an almost maniacal sound interrupted by a sharp fitzing noise. His breathing cut out, the only noise for ten long seconds were a series of fitzing noises that Nicole felt like she had heard before but couldn't seem to place it. "I'm going to need some help," he continued suddenly, sounding very calm.

She was moving before he even finished speaking. She climbed up the incline, and leaped down over the ledge, using her jump to keep herself from landing too hard. She landed on a building, slid off and landed in a puff of moondust. She ducked inside a building, finding two shanks and a very distressed sounding dreg. She wasted no time, her scout blowing its head off without trouble.

"I'm alright, lass, calm down."

He could hear her breathing too, she realized with a jolt. He could hear just how scared she was. Somehow that brought her a little comfort. The tunnel opened up beneath her, a great big angry maw ready to swallow her. She could feel her heart pounding in her throat, the blood suddenly roaring in her ears.


His voice jolted her. It pushed her into action, and somehow calmed the screaming in her head. Her vision was clear again in a snap, his voice had been so crystal and sharp. She was halfway down the tunnel before she had another second to think. She couldn't let herself be scared. She had a warlock to protect. This wasn't like before. She wasn't leaving anyone behind this time.

He was on the other side of the cluster enemies. Most of them were focused on him, they didn't see her coming, probably expecting the forces she dealt with on top to be enough to hold her for longer than they actually had. She tore into the captain and his crew of vandals like they were paper.

Aydin was further down the tunnel still, farther than she could see him. But she could see the lights from his fusion rifle as it lit the tunnel, brief flashes of blue guiding her towards him. She could still hear him over the comm, his breathing sharp and ragged in her ears.

Nicole cut down the last vandal and was rounding the bend, there was only a single servitor left, floating before Aydin with its shell open like an excited ghost. She paused, taking a second to absorb the scene before her. Aydin was standing in its gaze, his gun limp at his side, his whole body rigid. She couldn't hear him anymore, and the silence struck her like a hammer.

"Kill them!" Verz was in her ear cutting the silence like a hot knife, its voice full of static and pain. "They're hurting him!" It was a plea, full of panic.

The shell was open, leaving it vulnerable. It only took a handful of well placed shots and it was reduced to scrap. Without its light, the tunnel fell into pitch darkness. Her ghost was at her shoulder in a flash, illuminating the tunnel. Aydin was only a few feet from her, on his knees cradling his head like it was suddenly too heavy for his shoulders.

"What just happened? Are you alright?"

He only shook his head, refusing to move otherwise. "You didn't hear that humming?" His voice came over the comm. He sounded exhausted, strained.


"We didn't hear anything."

"It was probably just battle stress," Verz interjected suddenly, its voice coming in very loud and clear compared to just a moment ago. "Aydin didn't sleep well last night. He froze up. It won't happen again Miss Foxwell. We'll meet you back in the City."

Verz is in a hurry… hiding something…?

She felt the telepathic equivalent of a shrug from her ghost. He had no clue either. Regardless of what she thought, the idea of getting out of these damn tunnels was met with joy from the hunter.

The warlock disappeared in a puff of light, Verz not even waiting for Aydin to regain his composure.

I hope he's okay. It was almost an afterthought. She didn't exactly doubt Verz, even if his behavior was odd. Then again, when was it not? Aydin had probably just frozen up. But with only one servitor left, she wondered what had frightened him so bad he had done it then of all moments. Something else to work on, she supposed.

She beat him back to the City, even though he left several minutes before her. His ship pulled into dock, but instead of landing on the hangar pads to be stored, it got pulled forward into one of the prep bays.

She had been waiting for him to arrive. The more she thought about the way he froze up, and the way had been holding his head afterward, the more worried for him she became. She couldn't decide if the servitors had hurt him in some way or if he had actually frozen up. Even replaying the memory, courtesy of her ghost, no answers could be gleaned. In the end, she just wanted to check on him, make sure he was going to be alright.

She walked down to where his ship finally came to rest in the hangar. The warning lights on its wings had already stopped blinking, but the engine core still glowed orange, radiating heat as she walked by it.

Her ghost pinged his, asking for entry into the ship. She got no response for a long moment, then a hatch hissed open near her. Inside was almost completely dark except for the emergency floor lights, the ship in complete shutdown. They hadn't reported any issues, but the thing was such a junker, she wouldn't exactly be surprised.

She found him in the cargo hold, sprawled out across a bench. His helmet down on the floor beside him, one of his arms slung over his eyes. He looked like he was asleep, but his breathing told her otherwise, hitching softly in quiet every few minutes. He was still in pain. Verz was resting on his chest plate, watching its guardian protectively. If a ghost could look concerned, it was doing an excellent job. It glanced at her as she entered, blinking its eye in greeting but not wanting to move and disturb Aydin.

She tapped on the wall beside her; he startled, sitting up on his elbows and twisting to look at her. He must have been expecting someone else. He took a moment to identify her before he fell back again with a heavy sigh. Verz settled right back into place again.

"Aye lass, how's it?"

He was watching her from one eye, his arm slung across his mouth, muffling his voice. She shrugged and came to sit by his head.

"What happened?" Her ghost appeared, his voice quiet for Aydin's benefit.

The warlock still winced, his arm falling the rest of the way to cover both eyes again. "Damn Servitors… I'm not sure what they did, started humming. Couldn't move, couldn't breathe. My head feels like someone's buried a bloody axe in it."

She clucked quietly, in sympathy. The noise made Aydin look at her again. She patted his arm, motioning for him to sit up. Confused, he complied and she scooted closer, pulling his shoulders down so his head rested in her lap. He tried to sit up again, but one cool hand across his forehead made him stop. She gave him a reassuring smile, his face turned beet red.

"A warlock friend of ours used to get terrible migraines. Nicole would often help her get rid of them." She feathered her fingers through his hair, scratching gently against his scalp.

The response was instantaneous. The mistrust melted away to relief, he sighed heavily, his eyes falling shut. She smiled too, letting her fingers do the work and her mind wander. Latvie used to get crippling headaches. She explained once that sometimes warlocks can hear things no one else can, like other people's thoughts. And sometimes, all that noise got a little overwhelming. Nothing helped quite like a good scalp massage. She had the hardest time getting herself one. That was until Nicole showed up. She didn't mind one bit, found to be equally as relaxing as if she were the one getting it. It was one of the many things her and Latvie became friends over. That and coats. Nicole had a thing for nice coats and Latvie had one hell of a tailor down in the City. Not that Nicole had ever gone there personally. She had never managed to get down to the City. She never really had time, then when she lost everyone, she didn't have the will.

She shook herself from her memories, smoothing down his hair where she had ruffled it. She looked down at him for a long moment, watching him breath peacefully. He had fallen asleep on her and somehow that made her smile.

She settled in, careful not to wake him, letting her head rest on the wall behind her. It was comfortable enough, and really, she decided she wouldn't mind a nice nap.

Afterword: Ah hey, it only took me a month to sort this plot hole out. My solution? Fluff, cotton, and cute shit. There's your first taste of romance, for those asking. :)

So one of the things Ikora says over the Tower PA is that she asks everyone to "please think quieter for the next four hours" or something else to that effect. Gave me the headcannon that warlocks can occasionally hear other people's thoughts. Or maybe some warlocks can and other can't. So on so forth and whatever.


To both GamerGhost and stanwhiches, who said the exact same thing, I'm glad the shit was good. Have some more.

Giffy McWonderkin: Ship them forever. Forevvvvvverrrrrr. Glad you're enjoying it. :D

Kyle Chaulklin, Oozak, F1REST4R, and the guest: Thank you all so much for sticking out the wait, and i'm glad you guys are all enjoying this story. :)

Amberstar and Jayfeather: I hope ya'll get that worked out. Also, thank you both for the laugh. And yeah, Harpoon Guy is blazing. She's the chillest mofo that ever did try to spear things.

Thank you to everyone who reviewed, subbed and faved. I appreciate all of you, you guys are the greatest!