Mare was sitting at her new home in Montfort. The rest of her family were getting ready to leave for their various jobs, Gisa finishing the stitching on one of her silk scarves, just about managing with her only recently healed hand, her father getting his papers ready for his job as a history teacher aided by her mother who would drop him off on the way to her flower shop. And then there was Mare, who was currently jobless. She was searching of course, she never wanted to have to steal ever again, but it seemed no one wanted to employ the girl who had started a revolution and brought about the end of the Monarchy. She welled up a bit when she thought about everything that had happened because of the royal family. Because of them, she'd had her heart broken. Because of them, she'd become a murderer. Because of them, her life had been completely uprooted and would never be the same again. And she missed Cal.
"You're thinking about him again, aren't you?" Farley said, bouncing Clara on her lap. Farley came and went as she pleased and had decided to stay for the week. Sometimes it hurt, Clara looked more and more like Shade everyday, but today Mare welcomed the distraction.
"No. Of course not." Mare lied.
"You know what one of the best things about being captain was?" Farley smiled, leaning forward in her seat, "I learnt how to tell when people were lying. And you, Mare, are lying."
"Whatever. I'm going out."
The house was beginning to suffocate her, each memory or thought of Cal bringing the walls closer in, trapping her, encasing her in her own mind. Had she made a mistake leaving him in Norta? She trusted Cal but she couldn't blame him if he moved on and forgot all about her. She was the one who decided to leave after all. Yet a selfish part of her wanted him to never find anyone else and drop everything to be with her again. It was a stupid thought but she still clung on to that naïve hope.
Mare slid out of her seat, glanced one last time at Clara and slammed the door. Shutting it all out, she wandered the streets visiting the city fountain, the library, even the market where the smells mixed wonderfully in the air. Anything that took her mind off the events of the past year. It was well into the afternoon, after the lunch rush had died down, when she started noticing people being careless with their belongings, leaving money, watches, bracelets and the like in easy to reach places. As much as she told herself not to, she soon fell back into old habits. It was simply too easy. The people in Montfort were much less cautious than they were in Norta and she couldn't resist such easy pickings. A watch here, a wallet there, each time she told herself would be the last but she found she was unable to stop. Too soon, the Sun grew tired and started to sink below the horizon, painting the sky all shades of red, orange, purple, pink and blue, bringing an end to her little game. Thinking she might lift her spirits with alcohol, Mare decided to go to the tavern. Her feet trudged along the floor as she made her way towards the bar and ordered a drink with the freshly stolen money. When the drink was finally placed on the counter, Mare spun around and watched the people in the room, looking for more easy targets. It wasn't long before she spotted a wallet hanging loose in a man's trouser pockets. Not really paying attention to what she was doing, being driven purely by instinct and habit, she inched her way towards him and reached. There was only one time she'd ever been caught and she'd made the same mistake now as she did that fateful night when her old life had caved in. She tried to steal from the King, or now ex-King, of Norta.
"Thief." It was Cal. His burning eyes met hers and she could feel his grip on her arm slowly heating up. His warm touch jolted her awake. The familiarity of it all should have been a comfort but she was too shocked to melt into it like she used to do.
"Obviously." Mare didn't know what else to say. She peered down at her outstretched hand, poised to take his wallet. It didn't escape Mare's notice the irony of meeting him again like this. It also didn't escape Mare's notice that he deliberately kept his hand around her forearm rather than her wrist. So Cal remembered her whole ordeal with Maven and the Silent Stone manacles. The screams at night, the shudders if he went anywhere near her wrists, the fear in her eyes for months afterward. He'd seen her in her darkest moments and yet he still loved and cared for her. It was the least she could do to love him back. And thus, she resolved to let her heart out of its cage one last time.
"Not getting back into old habits I hope?" he raised an eyebrow, trying to lift the tone.
"Well in my defence, this has only happened once before." she joked back.
Cal then did something he hadn't done in ages, he laughed, a sound that filled the room and reverberated off of the walls and Mare would have been lying if she said that it didn't make her happy to her very core to hear that beautiful sound again. The two young adults finished their drinks and rushed to escape the confines of the tavern. The paved cobblestones lit by lanterns gleamed underneath their feet as they danced, suddenly being brought back to that magical evening where Cal had given her her very first lesson. They both hummed their song, the tune holding so much meaning for both of them. They had been through so much together but something still weighed on Mare's mind.
"I didn't think you'd ever come back. I thought maybe you'd forgotten about me, moved on even."
Cal lifted her face to meet her eyes so he could reply.
"Never. I know we agreed that we both needed time, you to be with your family and me sorting out the situation in Norta, but it's been more than enough time for me, and if you don't want me back I would understand but," he said bringing Mare closer to him. "I can't deny that being away from you for so long was killing me. I've missed my lightning girl."
"I missed you too Cal. Does this mean… does this mean you're staying for good?" she couldn't help asking.
"Do you want me to?"
"Well I wouldn't be completely against it." Mare chuckled.
His face flushed white, a silver blush. Mare followed it with her fingers, teasing, making Cal go even paler. It really was too much fun. A mischievous grin was all the warning he got before she tackled him to the ground. Pinning him down she whispered in his ear, "Well that was too easy. You know, you always did get too easily distracted. Now let's see if you remember your own lessons. Who has the advantage?" She knew the words would bring a smile to his face.
"I do." smirked Cal.
"And how is that?" Mare asked quizically.
"Because you forget, I'm stronger, taller, more experienced than you and," Cal grinned, pushing her off with ease and reversing their previous roles, "you had a terrible grip. I must say, I thought I taught you better than that."
"Oh shut up." Mare kissed him.
Their first kiss in almost a year, bringing back bittersweet memories. The Bowl of Bones, the many betrayals, people they loved dying before them, everything that should have ripped them apart (and almost did) just brought them closer together. Eventually Mare knew she had to pull away because Cal sure wasn't going to. Their lips reluctantly separated. The rest of the night was spent showing Cal her favourite places in the city, safe havens where she could escape her thoughts for some time. He took them in with keen interest. It was late into the night before she stumbled into her home with Cal in tow.
Surprisingly, the lights were still on. Then she saw the reason. On the couch there sat a boy, probably not much older than her. Instinctively she summoned her lightning but Cal rested a hand on her shoulder.
"Mare wait. I recognise him." He turned to the boy. "Thomas, isn't it? I'll admit you look a bit different than the last time I saw you but it'd be impossible to forget…" he trailed off. Mare gulped. Maven had talked about a Thomas, she vaguely remembered the distant past sitting at a dining table while she was his prisoner, just the two of them alone, a dog and her cruel master trying to gain sympathy, feigning vulnerability to trick her into feeling sorry for him. And it had worked. For a while at least. Mare remembered the agony in his voice, the sorrow. Maven, it stung to even think his name, had loved Thomas. And more importantly, had thought him dead. But there was no doubt that the boy sitting on her couch was alive and breathing, healthy as a fish in water. The question was why.