12. just another dream where i chase things that aren't real
30 June 1608
Beren grumbled in her sleep, annoyed at the dull pain in her head and hugged the covers tighter.
"Hiding under the covers won't make me go away. Wake up."
The pain became sharper and Beren gasped, curling up on herself. She tried to breathe to calm herself but the throbbing was sending waves of pain all over her body. She felt the covers shift behind her and a hand rubbed up and down her bare arm, warm and reassuring. The hand ventured down her arm, delicately opening her closed fists and interlacing their fingers together.
Beren breathed out, the pressure on her chest dissipating and the pain in her head fading away. Diakiosyni shifted closer and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to him.
"Is the spirit bothering you again ?" He yawned, nuzzling her hair.
"Less now." She replied as sleepily, closing her eyes and leaning into him. "Sorry I woke you up."
"S'alright." He placed a kiss on top of her head and she felt his lips stretching into a smile. "I'm used to it by now."
She frowned. "What do you mean ?"
"You've been snoring since the first day we shared a room."
"I do not snore."
He grinned against her ear. "Yes you do. And it's very cute."
She huffed and made a move to leave but he tightened his arms around her.
"Why would I stay after you insulted me ?"
"Because a, I didn't insult you, I simply pointed out a fact and b, we only have an hour before we have to go and put on an act and I want to spend it with you in my arms."
Her heart beamed at the simple confession. Beren liked how naturally they had shifted into this new side of their relationship. It wasn't easy all the time and it required some work on both their parts but the pros far outweighed the cons. The time when she used to hate waking up before him was long gone. Now that there was nothing keeping her from staying next to Diakiosyni, Beren loved to wake up early. She liked being able to watch him sleep, simply lying next to him and sometimes tracing her fingers over the soft features of his sleeping face.
The fact that she could reach out and touch him, feeling his presence next to her…
It was so reassuring and Beren realized how deeply she had been needing this physical contact. Not just the passionate kisses and lovemaking, but also the simple gestures of holding his hand, touching his face or wrapping her arms around him. She used to be so alone before him and after a while, the screaming of her crave for human contact had just blended with the other sounds of her usual life. It had come back full force now that she and Diakiosyni were together.
It had scared her at first, how much she needed that contact. What if it was asking for too much ? What if she was too much ? When Beren had opened up about her worries to him, Diakiosyni had laughed, pulling her in his arms.
"Can you feel my heart beating ?" He had asked her, a smile in his voice.
"It's beating fast."
"That's what happens to me whenever you touch me. So please, don't stop."
Beren didn't know that it was possible to love someone even more than she already loved him. She brought their entwined hands up and kissed his knuckles. "Fine. I'll bless you with my presence for the next hour."
Diakiosyni yawned again, stretching and pulling her closer. "How very sweet of you."
Her hand started spasming, agitated with nervous shakes. Beren sighed deeply and ignored it. It had started a few weeks ago when she was writing a report, her hand becoming uncontrollable for a few seconds before coming back to normal. It happened again a week after, then five days later, then two, then one… it now occurred daily and for longer periods of time, making her hand useless in those times.
As annoying as it was she was still glad it only concerned her right hand for now, because she knew it wouldn't be long before the rest of her body followed.
Diakiosyni waited for the tremors to pass to speak, his voice careful.
"Are you okay ?"
"Beside the facts that I'm going crazy and losing control of my body, yes I'm fine." She replied with a little more venom than intended.
He sighed. "Renny…"
"I know, Dia okay ? I know. I just… let's not talk about it."
Her head started to spin painfully.
"I'm just worrying-"
"Well stop ! I don't want your worrying, I don't want you and I wish you were dead ! I'll kill you, you miserable human fuck !"
Diakiosyni let go of her with a tired sigh, turning away to lay on his back. He knew from experience that his touch only made things worse in these moments. Beren took her head in her hands, trying to calm down the pain spiralling in her mind.
"You think he can protect you from me ? You think love is going to save you ? You're pathetic. When you'll give me your body, I'll make sure to keep you around just like you kept me. I'll make you watch as I kill him first and drink his blood."
"No no no no no no-"
"Aww, look who's regretting now… I offered you a painless way out of this once but you shoved me away for him. It's too late now. I'm going to break you in every way possible."
Her cry was lacking force and determination. The spirit laughed and the pain intensified, like a hammer trying to crush her head. Beren lost track of time and when the pain faded enough for her to reopen her eyes, the attack left her trembling and struggling to breath.
She hated it, hated how weak she had become. Losing to her own mind and body sickened her. She used to be so strong and so reckless. Not caring about anything because she knew she would die in the end and she was fine with it.
Once he knew the worst had passed, Diakiosyni came to rest his hand on the small of her back, drawing circles. His cold skin was a soothing balm on her own burning one.
"That was a big one." He commented cautiously.
He didn't know how to handle her in those moments, and honestly, Beren didn't either. He feared too much concern would send her on the defensive but he also feared not doing enough and losing her. As for her, she didn't trust herself to stay calm or rational at his decision.
But Diakiosyni found the right words. "What do you need me to do ?"
Her throat tight, thinking it would trigger another fit of anger from the spirit, loosened up. Diakiosyni left her the decision, trusting she would know what was best for herself.
He closed his arms over her and Beren hung onto him. The fog that clouded her mind faded away, replaced by the sensation of him. It was always easier to resist the spirit when she was near him. The spirit seemed to keep distance whenever he was around, waiting for her to be alone to attack.
"How are you doing ?" She asked.
Diakiosyni laughed lightly, caressing her hair. "You're the one who just went through an attack, not me."
She lifted her head to look at him. "I know. But I'm asking about you." She touched his face. "Are you okay ?"
He was silent for a moment, simply looking at her before sighing. "I hate seeing you suffering like this and not being able to do anything. It's my job to protect you but against this… I'm useless. And I hate it."
"You're not doing nothing, Dia. It's because I have you that I'm capable of holding on as long as I am. I can't imagine what I would do in my moments of lucidity if I was alone. With you… I get to forget I'm going to fade away." She kissed him. "Thank you for being by my side."
He cupped her cheek. "I'll never leave you."
She didn't have the heart to point out the truth to him so she kissed him again, pushing her melancholy away. They stayed like this for a long moment, simply holding each other and kissing lazily until the morning sun streamed between the curtains of their room and it was time for them to go.
Beren wasn't expecting the crowd gathered in front of the building, but then again, it wasn't always that a Vessel got a sacred execution. Parents had brought their children, friends had kept places for each other, merchants had installed stalls... It all turned the sacred ceremony into one big festivity. Noticing the bright sun that shone on the crowded square, she paused at the door to look at the people.
"Do you think you'll die on such a beautiful day too ?"
The spirit came next to her, looking at the crowd with an undescriptible expression.
"I don't know." Beren replied.
She turned her head to him. The smell of the meadow caressed her nose and under her bare feet she felt the tickling sensation of grass.
The creature scrutinized her and a wave of peacefulness settled over her. "What would you like ?"
She tilted her head to think. "... A sandstorm."
"I was born during a sandstorm."
"Where I'm from, sandstorms are believed to be bringers of fate."
She bent down to pick up one of the flowers that covered the valley in blue. "What's it like ? Your world ?"
The spirit raised his hand and brushed his fingers against her cheek. "You'll see it soon. I'll take you there when you're gone."
"-ren. Beren !"
Beren blinked and flicked her gaze to Diakiosyni. "What ?"
"You've been staring at the void for five minutes. We have to go."
She looked around. The bright meadow was gone, replaced by the cold walls of the army base. The noisy crowd took over the chirping of birds and when she looked down at her hands, there was no flower.
"Where is it ?"
Diakiosyni frowned. "Where's what ?"
She turned on herself, her heart starting to beat faster. "The flower."
"The flower ?"
"Yes !" She looked under a table. "I had it just now !"
She spun around and snapped. "I'm not going crazy !" Diakiosyni stopped in his tracks, surprised by her reaction. "There was a flower. I know there was." A tear rolled down her cheek without her realizing it, as if her body was crying for something she ignored. "I'm not crazy !"
Diakiosyni raised his hands up, slowly walking towards her and something inside of her screamed at her to flee. He stopped approaching the moment she shifted her weight to run away.
"You're not crazy, Ber. Here, look," He opened his hand. "I've found your flower."
The blue flower rested in his palm, looking just like the one that she had picked up earlier. Yet, she had a strange feeling about it, as if this flower wasn't supposed to exist.
"Can I give it to you ?"
She nodded and he closed the distance between them, tucking the flower behind her ear. He kissed her forehead gently. "There, you look beautiful. Can we go now ?"
Beren hooked her hand around the arm he offered and they went outside, walking on the ramparts that led to the building of the execution, overlooking the square and the crowd. The fresh air and the wind helped clear the last pieces of web tangled in her mind and once the realization hit her, she stopped, forcing Diakiosyni to stop as well.
"There was no flower." She said, frowning at the ground in confusion.
He looked at her and shrugged. "If you say there's a flower, I believe you."
She shook her head. "You can cut the act, I know I was hallucinating."
A relieved smile touched his lips but was soon replaced by a concerned frown. "Are you sure you want to do this ?" He gestured to the execution place. "It might be best if you just take the day off and rest…"
Her eye darkened. "I'm not completely useless yet. I can do this."
Diakiosyni took a deep breath. "I'm not saying that you are but we'll understand if you need to… skip this one."
"What are you trying to say ?"
They were interrupted before he could answer.
"Where were you ?" Goran groaned to Diakiosyni as he approached, ignoring the military ranks that would have had him address her instead.
Which happened more and more lately as people heard of her growing disabilities and witnessed her slow descent to madness. Beren was being shoved to the side, like an embarrassing broken machine that you don't want visitors to see.
She was only general by title now. The Council didn't send her on important missions anymore, didn't require her presence at meetings, arguing that they valued her more as an advice force than one of attack. She thought of how hard she had worked, of all that she had sacrificed to get that title and how easily they were dismissing her now that she wasn't as efficient as in her youth and bright flames of anger started dancing in front of her eye.
Diakiosyni's reflexe was perfect. He grabbed her arm before Beren even started to gather energy in it, tightening his grip on her until the message of pain arrived to her brain and she realized what she was doing. He arranged to conceal his motion behind the wide sleeves of their ceremonial clothes.
"Sorry, we had to stop on the way." Diakiosyni replied in her place.
Goran's brow furrowed. "What for ?"
Diakiosyni pulled her arm higher behind her back as she tried to free herself and Beren held back a gasp at the sharp pain that shot in her shoulder blade. Rage growled inside of her, circling like a lion in a cage. She was going to kill them both, if only he would let go of her arm...
"Picking flowers." Diakiosyni said, rolling his eyes. "We were taking care of some issues that do not concern you."
The Vessel narrowed his eyes, before breathing out through his nose haughtily. "Don't let it happen again or I'll have to notify the Council. Understood ?"
That miserable bastard, how dared he talk to her like this ? Beren was his superior, not some common kitchen girl. Diakiosyni better shut him up or she would rip his head clean off his pretentious neck.
Diakiosyni bowed his head. "Of course. It won't happen again."
Beren pulled on her arm with all of her strength, yanking Diakiosyni forward. He wasn't expecting it and was forced to follow along if he didn't want to dislocate her shoulder, causing the two of them to stumble a few steps awkwardly. Goran stared at her with a disgusted frown and turned around, disappearing into the execution's room.
Diakiosyni pushed her inside the waiting room before releasing her arm and closing the door behind them.
"What the hell is wrong with you ?" Berenhissed, holding her wounded arm. "You almost dislocated my shoulder !"
Diakiosyni walked towards her in big steps. "No, what the hell is wrong with you ? I would never have had to nearly dislocate it if you hadn't struggled like that !"
"Why didn't you let me go ?! I was going to-"
"Going to what ?! Kill him ?!" The anger in his voice made her take a step back.
Beren huffed and hugged herself. "I can't stand how he talks to me. Or doesn't in fact. It's like I'm not here, like I don't exist. They all act like I'm already crazy…" She looked away and lowered her voice, letting go of what hurt the most. "You do too."
"But you are !" Diakiosyni yelled.
She stopped moving, looking at him like a deer in headlights.
"You are crazy Beren ! You have entire conversations by yourself ! You pick up imaginary flowers and nearly get a panic attack when it disappears ! You are not alright and it's about time you stop kidding yourself and thinking it's just a thing that'll happen in the future ! Cause I'm done playing along with your shit !"
In a superhuman effort; Beren managed not to let the spirit get a hold of her powers and explode him right there.
She stared at him. "So that's it ? You've had your fun with me for a few months but now you've had enough ? What, is a dying girl not good enough ?"
He glared at her. "That's not true and you know it."
"Oh I do. Because the pathetic truth is that you're hoping I won't snap." He looked away and she knew that she had hit right. "You're in love with me and you hope it'll end differently for us than it'll end for Reina and Alya. I might be crazy but I'm not disillusioned, I know there's nothing waiting for us in the end. Love," Beren spat the word, "isn't going to change a thing. I'm going to snap and you're going to kill me." Diakiosyni's knuckles became white around the hilt of his sword. "So stop kidding yourself about us and start doing your fucking job."
He pursed his lips, his whole posture shutting off. His eyes had taken a dangerous glow, throwing daggers at her. "You're right," he growled low in his throat, "Maybe I should do my job after all."
He left the room without another word and Beren didn't go after him. The buzzing in her ears started again and she shook her head to make it go away. A gust of wind blew through her clothes and she spun around to where it came from. A great light blinded her and she shielded her eye behind her arm.
When she lowered her arm, Beren discovered that she was back in the flowery valley, barefoot on the grass. There was a whole different feeling to it now that she knew it was only a product of her mind.
"It's not a product of your mind. It's a product of mine."
"What do you want ?" Beren growled, turning to keep the spirit in front of her.
"You know what I want." The silhouette vibrated, a predatory smile stretching its features. "I want you."
"Go to hell."
She tensed when his claws gripped her shoulder and his whisper reached her ear. "We'll go together."
The spirit and the vision disappeared, replaced by a throaty laugh that echoed in her head. Beren shivered. She looked at her shaking hands, closing them in fists at her sides, refusing to give the spirit the satisfaction. She closed her eye, dropping her head back. Energy travelled from her core to the tips of her fingers, warm and reassuring.
It had been a long time since she had last used her powers freely. It felt like coming home after a long day, a safe place to rest her sore body. Nostalgia tainted this sense of wholesomeness, because she knew it was one of the last times she would be able to use them on her own.
Will I even be able to recognize the last time ? Will I be able to enjoy it for what it is ? Or will I be too damaged already to even realize it ?
By the time Beren got to the room, the ceremony had already started. She moved silently between the few guests, ignoring the side glances they threw in her direction. She climbed the stairs of the rostrum and took her place at Diakiosyni's left. He didn't spare her a glance, standing imperious in a perfect Executioner's posture. Elgerak and Hak mirrored their positions on the other side of the rostrum, Goran and his executioner stood to her left, faced by Thovey and Fenril.
The four oldest Vessels and their Executioners.
Alya and Reina stood alone in the centre of the podium, kneeling before the High Priest and the members of the Council. Beren's old instructor was with them. He glanced at her and his lips stretched in a discreet smile before focusing back on what happened in front of him. The High Priest was chanting in ancient tongue, eyes closed and facing the grey stones of the church's ceiling. He had one hand on Reina's head, the other on Alya's.
Beren didn't pay much attention to what he was saying, her eye drawn to the chains restraining Alya and forcing her to her knees. Unlike Beren who was known for her fits of anger, Alya had always been a calm Vessel. Even as she was about to snap, her voice never raised, her timid smile never faltered. Rumors said she had asked to be executed on her free will, preferring to die rather than risk people's safety.
To honor her choice and her long service to the country, the Council had decided to grant Alya a sacred execution, the first in decades. It was rare for Vessels to go out this way, most of the time, the Council preferred to have them killed discreetly, in an unfortunate turn of battle or in a closed and empty room.
What a shame, they would say, they snapped out of the blue and their executioner had no choice but to kill them. A tragedy really.
The truce was that the Vessels that snapped were the results of a mistake. The Council took no risks and ordered the Executioners to kill them once they became too imprevisible. Beren knew her own killing order wasn't far from ringing and after what she had just said to him, she started to doubt what Diakiosyni would do if it came down to it.
She tapped her fingers against her hip, chewing on her bottom lip nervously.
"Stop." Diakiosyni growled in a whisper.
She was already going crazy from the spirit in her mind, she wasn't going to add fighting her ocd.
"Make an effort."
Beren huffed quietly and rolled her eye, ignoring him. The High Priest finished the last verse of the chant and stepped back, reopening his eyes as if he was coming back from a trance. The High Counsellor took his place and spoke, his voice resounding through the huge building.
"Rise my children." Reina stood up while Alya stayed on her knees, unable to move.
The thought sent a cold shiver down her spine and Beren had to force herself not to look away. Her fidgeting intensified.
The Counsellor continued, "You stand before the Council, your Peers and the Gods for the greatest moment of your lives. A life might end here, but understand this : today is not a sad day. It's the celebration of selflessness and sacrifice, the celebration of righteousness and dedication." He turned to Alya. "A life ends here but will live on forever in our memories and hearts." Alya nodded peacefully and the man turned back to Reina. "And you, my child, do not feel guilt for what you accomplish for you will be a hero."
The crowd behind Beren cheered loudly, congratulating the speech. Her stomach tightened and she felt sweat trickling down her neck. Elgerak seemed as uneasy as her. Goran and Thovey didn't look any better. The Executioners on the other hand, looked perfectly at ease, heads high and chest out. This was the apotheosis of their career, a kid's dream coming true and pride beamed on their faces.
Beren couldn't turn her head to see Diakiosyni's face and she wondered if he was smiling too, thinking with impatience about his turn under the spotlight to come.
She didn't have time to wonder for long because the High Counsellor stepped aside and it was time for Reina to speak.
"Alya Nergih, you have been my mission for the last eighteen years and I couldn't have asked for a better one. I admire your kindness and dedication to your work, you wanted to make this world a better place and you did, simply by being in it. I will miss you but I am proud to be the one to kill you. Thank you for these years… my friend."
Beren wondered if Diakiosyni's speech would be as blank and empty. So cold and professional, like every relationship between executioners and vessels should be.
Alya smiled like Reina's words actually meant something to her. "I will miss you as well my friend. But I will leave grateful for the life I have lived and the choices I have made."
Beren wanted to find her old self and slap her for throwing their lives away. Because despite all she might think, there was so much worth to live for. If only she had known what awaited her down the line, she would never have taken that deal in the first place.
"I was able to help people with my gift and I believe my sacrifice has made a difference in a good way."
A long time ago, when she was young and naive, Beren had thought that, if she was going to die someday, she might as well try to help people. Do what her mother had wanted to do but never could. At the time, trading her life for powers had seemed like a good choice. She had thought in her naiveness, If I am to die, I prefer to have a short and intense life, rather than a long and empty one.
"I have no regrets."
I regret everything.
Beren cursed herself for having been young and stupid, for having believed that life wasn't worth living and throwing it away for some meaningless fame. She cursed herself for having used her powers so recklessly, burning her life away even faster.
Beren cursed herself for having fallen in love with him, because she was fine with dying until she met him.
Reina unsheathed her sword and some priest presented her sacred liquids to wet her blade with. Beren's jaws clenched and she shifted on her feet, trying to shake off the feeling of nausea threatening to overcome her.
Instead of seeing Reina walking to Alya, Beren saw Diakiosyni walking towards her, sword in hand. She saw him put a hand over her forehead and push her head backwards, exposing her neck. She saw him, crying while he drove his sword inside of her. She saw herself, dying and too far gone into insanity to realize it.
Their hands found each other on their own accords, pinkies linking under their long sleeves, hidden to the eyes of the world. Beren let go of a shaky breath, her eye watery. She wanted to hold Diakiosyni, to forget the world and their fucking fate, forget it all in his arms. But the world was watching and she couldn't move, couldn't tell him that she would never let it happen. She would never put him through so much pain because she could never hurt him.
Because she loved him.
Alya died quickly, her blood pouring out of her slit throat and pierced heart, staining her robes. Reina held her in her arms, whispering her last goodbyes and closing her eyes.
Beren couldn't draw her eye away from the pool of blood forming at their feet. She didn't react when Reina got up, marking the end of the ceremony. She didn't react when Diakiosyni ripped his hand away from hers, turning away abruptly and leaving the room. She didn't react when people started to leave, when the room became silent again.
Elgerak was the last to leave. He stopped next to her, hesitating before dropping his head to her shoulder. He was crying. Beren kept staring at Alya's motionless body that wouldn't be removed until the night.
"I don't want to die." He cried on her shoulder. "I don't want to die."
Something broke inside of her and Beren moved, wrapping her arms around him. She let him cry on her for what seemed like an eternity, not minding her wet clothes. She wanted to cry but she couldn't so she let him cry for the both of them.
Beren found him sitting on the edge of the bed, his sword laid out in his laps. Diakiosyni was staring at it. She stopped at the door, hesitating to enter, her hand resting on the wall. She hadn't felt hesitant near him in years and the apprehension she felt in her stomach was strange. Thinking about it, she realized that the hesitation surrounding them had disappeared when they had stopped considering themselves as Executioner and Vessel but as friends.
And today had tore down their idyll, setting back the clear differences between them. The world was tearing between them, drifting them apart and if nobody built a bridge between the two sides, it was the entire world that would go crumbling down.
Fighting through the fear gripping at her throat, she pushed herself from the wall and walked inside the room. Diakiosyni made no move indicating he had noticed her. Beren sat next to him cautiously, her shoulders tensing at the proximity of his sword.
She rested her head on his shoulder and he let her.
He inhaled and his body moved against her. "I'm sorry too."
She closed her eye. "I know I'm already crazy."
"I know. I'm sorry for what I said." He paused before speaking again. "I'm the one who didn't know."
"What do you mean ?"
"I knew you were going to go crazy but… I never thought it would happen so fast and be like that. I guess I kept fooling myself and thinking you would be the exception. And when it became clear that you were not... " His fist tightened and Beren wrapped her hand over his, brushing her thumb over his knuckles. "I don't know what to do." He admitted, voice caught in his throat. "I was never trained for this and I don't know what I'm supposed to do. They don't teach us how to help relieve our vessels of the pain… I don't know how to help you. I've spent half of my life following the instructions they've filled my head with and now that I don't have them… I'm lost."
Beren turned her head to him, raising her other hand to cup his cheek. "You were never trained to be my friend but you still did an amazing job at it. Don't underestimate yourself. You're more than just an Executioner."
She kissed his cheek and pulled away, pausing for an instant to look at him and finding him beautiful. Her gaze dropped to the sword in his lap. She had never liked that weapon and Diakiosyni had made sure to keep it out of her sight as much as possible. But with its blade bathing in the midday light, highlighting the same edge that had cut through Alya's throat a few hours ago, it was hard to ignore it.
"I'll never use it on you." Diakiosyni said, sensing her agitation.
Beren closed her eye briefly, sighing before saying, "You don't know that."
He replied bitterly. "I don't need to know anything. I won't use it."
"Dia, I'm going to snap. Soon. If you don't kill me, people are going to die and-"
"I don't give a fuck about people."
Beren blinked at the confession, turning her head to him. He was staring at the wall, jaws clenched and brows furrowed in anger.
"I don't care about them. They can die and it won't stop me from sleeping soundly. But if you died... You're the one I care about. I'm in love with you and I'm not killing you." He looked at her then and Beren found herself almost shivering at the intensity of his eyes. "Now, you're free to leave and find yourself a new Executioner that'll do their job, but if you ever felt anything for me, don't ask me if I'll kill you ever again."
Her lips parted, wanting to say so many things but not being able to say any of it. But the words refused to leave her mouth.
"Dia… What about your family ?"
It clearly wasn't the answer he had been expecting and it wasn't the one she had expected either. Caught off guard, Diakiosyni looked away.
He swallowed, mumbling at first. "I was thirteen, grieving and craving for revenge when I decided to dedicate my life to killing a girl I had never met before. At that time, all Vessels were the same and all Vessels had murdered my family. You were just a stranger who had decided to become the murderer of my family. The thought of killing you was comforting."
The murder of his family had been something Beren had regretted since he had first told her. She felt barely more than annoyance at the actual soldiers and sometimes civilians that she had killed, but this family that she had never met was her biggest regret.
"I'm sorry." Beren apologized, because despite how much she had begged for it, her almighty powers didn't include bringing the dead back to life.
A gentle smile appeared on Diakiosyni's lips. "But Ber, I'm twenty-seven now. I've had time to grieve for my family. It still hurts and I'm still mad at the Vessel that killed them but… I don't blame you. You're my best friend and I won't kill you." He chuckled. "Quite honestly, my father would punch me if I ever thought of killing you in their name."
Beren let an amused huff escape her, her shoulders relaxing under his soft gaze. She leaned against him and he closed his arms around her, resting his chin atop of her head.
"So do you have someone in mind ?"
She frowned. "For what ?"
"Well, to replace me."
She leaned back to look at him. "I'm not replacing you."
"Oh." His eyebrows raised. "After what you said earlier and all, I thought… well, I thought you still wanted to die."
"The only reason I ever wanted to die was because I thought it would hurt you if I killed innocents after snapping. But now that that's off the table," She scrunched up her nose, "I'm not really looking forward to it."
"You seemed pretty impatient to die during our argument though." He pointed out. She looked away and he tilted his head to meet her eye. "And I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with my family then, am I wrong ?"
Diakiosyni let her go when she pulled away to start pacing across the room.
"No, you're right. It had nothing to do with your family."
"Want to explain more ?" He offered, his eyes following her.
"I guess I was just trying to convince myself. Since my mother died... I've been alone. And I was fine with it. But then I had you and... it has been the best years of my life." Her back was to him and she closed her eye. "I love you Dia. So much." She breathed in deeply, counting her heartbeats before opening her eye again. "And I'm stupid enough to keep believing that if we love enough, maybe it won't have to end, that we won't have to be the death of each other like every other Vessel and Executioner. I can't bear the thought that there's nothing for us here and I took it out on you. You didn't deserve it and I'm sorry."
Beren heard his footsteps on the wooden floor, coming in her direction. Then it was silent again. For an instant she feared she was having another hallucination or that he had passed by her and left the room. She came back to life when he wrapped her in his arms, hugging her from behind.
"You're not stupid." His lips brushed against her hair. "You've never been. There's nothing foolish about hope or love. We can lament on our fate, scream against destiny or we can hope and love and try to find a solution."
Diakiosyni placed a hand on her waist, turning her around so he could see her face. He removed her blindfold and she opened her dead eye for him.
"Fate will only condemn us if we let it."
He kissed her eyelid then, his hands cupping her cheeks and Beren held onto his arms. He kissed the part of her she hated the most, kissed in broad daylight what she kept hidden in the shadows. He was throwing away all he had worked for, saying fuck off to the world and its expectations, for her.
Beren swallowed hard, her throat tight. "I love you."
He tilted her chin up, leaning in to kiss her lips. "I love you too."
She shut her eyes tight, mustering all of her resolve to softly pull away from him. She placed her hands on his chest and kept her eye on them, because she knew she would break into pieces if she looked at him.
"I love you but I can't let you do this. I chose to become a Vessel and die, you did not. I can't let you get your hopes up when we're sure of nothing. I'm not worth crushing your hopes."
"I love you Renny, but shut up."
Beren cocked her head up, frowning. "What ?"
"I'm not asking for your permission here and you're not my superior so I don't have to listen to you. This isn't about you. I'm doing this for me because I won't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least try to save you. I can decide what you're worth on my own, and if I say that you're worth all I have then that's it."
Beren wouldn't be able to change his mind, she knew it.
"Aaaah damn you." She sighed and let her head fall against him. "Why do you have to be so stubborn ? I was trying to offer you a way out."
"I don't want it. I once swore to never leave your side and that's what I'm going to do."
He had also sworn to kill her but she decided not to bring up that part of his oath.
"What if I'm beyond saving ?" She asked. "Vessels have existed for centuries and if someone had found a way to save them instead of killing them, don't you think we would know of it ?"
"I don't know. Maybe we'll be the first to succeed, maybe we'll fail like everyone else. But I'll be damned if we don't try."
Beren looked at him, discovering his face like it was the first time she saw it. He had changed so much since the first time she had met him. His skin had tanned thanks to their years deployed in the desert, his hair had lightened under the fierce sun. His gaze was softer and his overall posture more relaxed even if she knew his reflexes were as sharp as ever.
"You're really sure about this, aren't you ?"
He pulled her closer. "I am."
It didn't take her long to make her mind. She kissed him, long and soft, wanting to memorize his taste, the sensation of his lips on hers.
"I trust you."
Thank you all so much for reading this chapter ! I hope you liked it :D