An Eternity of Moments
Author's Note: Some references to dialogue and options from Tristian's romance in the game.
The moment Tristian falls, he loses more than his wings and Sarenrae's light. He loses the measure of his life too. A deva's life is measured in eternities; a mortal's in moments.
He'll have to start measuring his life anew - moment by moment.
The moment he first sees her, he falls in love with her.
(He doesn't realize it then, won't know it for falling in love until later. How could he know a love you can fall into when all he has known is the love born into, his goddess' love?)
She is bright even on a sunny day, radiant with inner light that he swears comes from her heart. He feels dazed by it, yet drawn to it, and he finds his request to join her side to be genuine and sincere the moment he utters it – even if it is also what he was bid to do. He is commanded to join her side, yet he also wants to. Oh, how he wants to.
He feels a fool for it; he hopes he won't make her the fool for it.
The moment she asks about his life, genuinely interested, his words feel bitter in his mouth, a mix of lies and truth, but somehow, as he speaks to her, they feel sweeter and sweeter. Perhaps he's willing them to be true, just for his time with her.
He wants to be what she sees; a devoted cleric that only wants the world to be less cursed, a kind and compassionate young man, a companion that could become a friend.
Only she seems to want to be more than friends, a confusing and enticing idea. He knows little of mortal love, only having seen glimpses of it before, and it always seemed to him like a firefly, fleeting and always on the verge of dying.
It scares him that he suddenly feels a longing for it, a longing for her, even if it would burn out and he would be left with the ashes.
The moment she smiles at him, he feels warm for the first time since… Since he woke in this mortal body and felt chilled to the bones.
She has several smiles, he's learned from observing her. She has pleasant smiles for her whole group of companions, who all seem to gravitate towards her as planets would a sun. She has sad smiles he occasionally glimpses in the corner of his eye, and wonders what is about. She has a soft smile that she doesn't even seem to realize she makes whenever she gazes out over the land, a smile that tells him she will be a great caretaker of it and its people.
And she has the smile she gives him, different from all her others, a smile that feels like an invitation. It warms him, heating his cheeks and his heart alike. Her smile just for him, just for Tristian. He wants to see more of it; he dreads to see more of it. After all, he isn't just Tristian, and as much as he might want to, he can't be just hers.
He has been claimed by another, after all.
The moment she gets hurt, he feels a sharp jolt to his heart, somehow more painful than anything Nyrissa has subjected him to. He nearly stumbles in his incarnation, but catches himself, and his spell washes away her wounds as if they never were.
Afterwards, he fusses over her when they camp, insisting on another spell even when she declares herself fine, and she lets him, her eyes bright as she regards him. In the light of the campfire, her skin looks golden, and the urge to touch it feels like an enticing sacrilege.
Not because she is a goddess; she is not. She is all mortal, yet he still longs to worship her. Eternities with her love would be bright eternities indeed. She doesn't have Sarenrae's light, but her light is no less radiant, just different.
"Thank you, Tristian," she says, her voice genuinely sweet and not honeyed bile, as Nyrissa so often speaks. "What would I do without you?"
She will have to find out, he doesn't say; he doesn't want it to be true. Instead, he smiles softly, and realizes he now has a smile just for her.
The moment he kisses her hand, he feels all light, all warmth, all love. After so long in darkness, it's impossible to resist her light, and he lets the kiss linger for far too long. It feels too good, and he is far too weak to resist as he should.
She is full of sunlight, and he tells her as much without even thinking. He can hear her soft inhale and sigh, and feel her lean closer.
If kissing her skin feels like this, how would it feel to kiss her lips? How would it feel to embrace her, to cling to her, to rest in her?
He will never know, he reminds himself. Can't know. Can't, can't, can't.
(Want to, want to, want to.)
She looks disappointed as he stumbles away, muttering apologies, and oh, how it hurts to see her eyes dim as he retreats from her.
The moment he breaks her heart, he breaks his own too.
He has steeled himself, rehearsed every word until he no longer chokes on them, and it still feels like falling into darkness all over again as he tells her that he's been too much of a distraction. Her confusion hurts, her disbelief hurts, her sadness hurts.
They haven't even really started anything, so why does ending it hurt so much? He never imagined losing the possibility of something could hurt as much as losing something you actually have. Is it the same for her? Will the loss of what might have been haunt her, pain her, break her?
He prays she will forget him; he selfishly wishes she won't.
The moment he breaks her trust, he doesn't look at her, can't look at her. He can hear the disbelief and pain in her voice; he cannot bear to see it in her eyes too. He wants to remember the way she would look at him before this, wants to cling to the memory of it like a fool even knowing it has ended.
She will never look at him like that again.
"Tristian," she says, her voice steady, and he listens as she pleads with him, every word cutting into him. She is right, so right, but he is lost, too lost. There is nothing he can do, nothing but…
Light, he thinks. Oh, light.
He does it before he has time to think it over, before his cowardice overcomes him. He summons the light of Sarenrae, feeling it fill his hands and then burn away his sight as he lifts his hands to his eyes.
He thinks he might scream; he can hear the horrified gasps of the others. The pain is sharp, burning, but pain already seems to have become a part of him, fused into his bones. What is a little more?
He has fallen far, but he will do this one good thing nevertheless. For her. He has no right to claim her as his, but nevertheless, this is for her.
He crushes the Occulus and flees through the portal, hearing her cries of his name as he does.
The moment he hears her voice again, he feels foolishly happy, if only for that moment. She has come after him. She has a war on her borders, and yet has chased after him. She has seen his betrayal with her own eyes, yet tells him it is good to see him alive. She has every right to be angry with him, yet her voice is still filled with concern.
He deserves none of it, yet he will take the memory of it with him to the end. He is ready for it now. Whatever Nyrissa subjects him to, whatever end to this nightmare is waiting, he is ready.
He flees again, urging her to forget him even as he hopes she won't.
The moment he returns to Nyrissa, he feels nothing.
Nothing when he angry words lash into him.
Nothing when her pain brings him to his knees.
Nothing. There is nothing left in him now. Even his prayers to Sarenrae feels empty, words he repeats over and over again to no avail as he feels hot tears streak his cheeks.
He is Sarenrae's deva no longer, Nyrissa's skylark no longer, and he was never her Tristian no matter how much he wanted to be.
Nothing. He is nothing.
And still she comes for him.
The moment she saves him, he feels like he's finally, finally no longer falling.
"Let me take you home," she says, and her arms feel warm as she holds him, steadies him, catches him. Forgiveness after all, and oh, how it hurts and mends at the same time. One burden lifted, and another burden added – he no longer has to carry lies and deception, but he will have to carry the shame of what he's done.
To be near her, he would carry anything, he thinks, and wonders if he has the right to feel that way. Yes, she has rushed to follow him yet again, fought for him, listened to him, and now forgiven him despite harsh words about his betrayal from the others, but does he have the right to even hope?
Maybe he doesn't have the right, but he still can't help it; he hopes.
The moment he asks her for a second chance, it seems to take an eternity before she replies. He can hear her exhale slowly, perhaps considering his words, and he can but wait, torn between hope and fear.
She is about to be a Queen, another step towards what he knows will be a great fate, and he is a fallen deva that betrayed her. No one would blame her for saying no, least of all him. He will love her from afar and begrudge her nothing if she says no, but if she says yes…
Oh, let her say yes.
"I still want to be with you," she says, and he can hear the soft smile in her voice. Her smile for him, he is certain, and he steps closer. Gently, he lifts her hand and kisses it, swearing himself to her with all his heart – finally feeling like he has his heart back.
His sun, he thinks, and feels the warmth of her skin against his lips.
The moment she asks him about Nyrissa and his fall, he tells her everything. He holds nothing back, keeping to his promise of no lies, even if parts of it leaves his cheek wet with tears.
"Tristian," she murmurs lovingly, caressing his face as he leans his forehead against hers. Softly, she presses her lips against his cheek, kissing away a tear.
"I am sorry," he says, lifting a hand to her cheek. She has been crying too, he realizes. For him. He feels a strange mix of pain at causing her hurt, and reassurance to know she cares this much. Tenderly, he mirrors her – pressing his lips against her cheek and kissing away a tear. "I am so sorry."
"I know," she says, pulling away slightly to look at him. "You don't have to keep telling me that, Tristian."
He feels like he has to, he doesn't say. Instead, he leans his forehead against hers again and lets himself be warmed by her presence.
The moment he wakes from his nightmare by the campsite, trembling, she is already by his side, whispering reassurances. He lets himself be held until her warmth chases away the last ghost of Nyrissa's chill from his body; and after too, when they simply sit together in a silent embrace, stars blinking above them until the sun rises and hides their light with her own.
The moment he feels the light and grace of Sarenrae enter him again is like a sunrise, and he feels awash in it. The light that created him, the light that shaped him, now offering to wash him clean of all he has done, all he has suffered.
All he has become.
He can feel gazes on him, some awed, some confused, and hers – hers filled with so many different conflicting emotions that they practically radiate from her. She is happy for him, yet afraid she might lose him. She wants him to be happy, yet is pained at the thought of losing him.
He understands all too well. He too, was conflicted, but he has come to learn the truth of what she once told him – to listen to his heart, and his heart is certain.
One day, he might become a deva again, and spend eternities like a mortal spends moments, but not yet. Not when he has so many moments he still wants to experience with her. He wants to hear her laugh without any cares in the world. He wants to feel her smile against her lips, and kiss her at least a few moments every day. He wants to be there with her as she makes her kingdom a land where people truly matter. He wants to spend nights with her and discover if her passion is as great as her love and compassion, even if he already is certain it is.
He wants… he wants to live with her. A lifetime as a mortal. She is his heart's desire.
He can feel Sarenrae's soft laughter in his head, and strangely, a sense of pride. In him, or in the Queen that taught him the strength of love freely given, he's not sure. Perhaps both.
Go to her then, my deva. I see the bond between you – you've spun quite the shining thread together. Be mortal with her. You will have time before returning to me.
He exhales, and Sarenrae is gone, though some of her light lingers. He is still mortal, but not just. He has grace again, and a second chance twice over.
"Tristian?" she asks again, her voice almost even, but he can hear the hint of fear below it. After all this, she still fears losing him. He will have to teach her not to fear.
"Take me home," he says, and feels the relief from her as she steps up to him and he takes her into his arms; they stay like that for what feels like an eternity.
The moment he kisses her, he wonders why he's taken so long – and how he is meant to ever stop wanting to now. Her lips are upturned against his, her breath like a caress, and she tastes like… like sunlight, but not just, and he thinks he might spend a delightful amount of time determining just what.
"I love you," he says, pulling away just slightly. "I always have. Since we first met. And I was so afraid I'd be your downfall. But not now. Now… Everything is over."
"I love you too," she says, and oh, how he knows. He's felt her love since he first met her, and seen enough proof of it for a lifetime. It still warms him to hear it spoken aloud – he'd blame the mortal in him, but he thinks the deva in him rather likes it too.
When he kisses her again, it's even better than the first time, and yes, ever stopping is going to become a real problem.
The moment he sinks into her, her legs wrapped around him, her hands caressing his chest, and her lips on his, is beyond words, mortal or otherwise. It feels like… He feels like… He feels, all passion and emotion and her and him and love, oh so much love, and he finally, finally understands why mortals would chase something fleeting when it feels like this.
He could live eternities on the memories of a moment like this.
"My love," he whispers breathlessly, feeling wisps of his hair cling to his face. His love. His Queen. He will probably never feel worthy of her, but he's come to realize that love freely given – that love doesn't have to be earned or deserved. It is always a gift, and oh, how he plans to treasure it.
"Yes," she replies, arching into him; he sets to work on making her at a loss for words – and succeeds very well, as it turns out.
The moment she finally falls asleep, he doesn't. He stays awake, slowly caressing her face, memorizing her skin with his fingertips. In sleep, she is relaxed, none of the tension of ruling or fear of Nyrissa's next scheme he so often feels from her.
He likes to think he's helped a bit with that; if he pretends not to be modest he knows he had everything to do with that. As pleasurable as being with her was on its own, it also makes him happy to know it may help bring her better rest.
(As good an excuse as any to repeat it frequently – not that he truly needs any. Like kissing, making love is impossible not to want another moment of, and another and another, forever and ever.)
He moves his fingers down her shoulder, pausing for a moment to kiss her neck and hearing her sigh happily in her sleep before nudging even closer to him. There is much they still have to face, he knows – Nyrissa and her schemes, whatever comes after that, mortality and their eventual separation, whenever that may be – but right now, he still feels strangely at peace.
"Tristian?" she murmurs sleepily, and he realizes his caresses must have woken her after all, even if he tried to be careful.
"Yes," he says, kissing her tenderly. "I am sorry. I did not want to wake you."
"Nightmares?" she asks, sounding worried, and he shakes his head. She knows he suffers them still. After living a nightmare for so long, he supposes it takes a while before they will stop completely haunting his sleep.
"I was just enjoying the moment," he tells her honestly. "My first moment of you falling asleep in my arms."
"Oh," she says, sounding touched. "Tristian, there will be more moments of that."
"I know," he says. "I want to enjoy all of them. I want to live all of them. I want to make an eternity of moments with you. Our little eternity. I want…"
She kisses him, sleepily at first, but soon, it becomes clear that sleep, sleep will have to wait. They have another moment to enjoy together; one of many to come, he will make sure.
(After all, a deva's life is measured in eternities; a mortal's in moments. He's both now; he will find a way to combine them, and live them. He loves too much not to.)