The Fae World: Kalinia (post-apoc): Amber: Spending Time With Christophe

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the Fae World: Kalinia collection
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They sat on opposite sides of Christophe’s study. Amber had the direwolf he’d insisted on her keeping asleep next to her, fortunately not snoring, and she kept staring at him, even though she didn’t want to. She kept telling herself that she didn’t like him, because if she did it might become the truth. When he’d first convinced her to stay she knew that it was possible that their relationship might change as they were going to be spending a lot of time together. She just didn’t realise how much it was going to change, but then she hadn’t realised then that what she’d been seeing was the mask he put up. It was stupid not to, really, after reading his journal, yet there was this part of her that did think it was possible he might have changed in the time he’d been a Magician. He had been on the other world for a long time.

“You could borrow a book.”

Amber shook her head. “We both know that’s the start of a path I don’t want to go down.”

“It would be preferable to you staring at me, Amber.” Christophe looked at her. “What are you thinking about?”

“Does it matter?”

“Probably not, but talking would also be preferable to you staring at me. I can’t concentrate with your eyes boring into me like that.”

“What are you reading?”

“Nothing that would interest you, unless you happened to change your mind about learning magic. You wouldn’t even have to learn it from me. Lissa would willingly teach you.”

“Christophe…”

“Yes, I know, we’ve had this conversation, and I don’t doubt we’re going to have it a hundred times more before you finally give in.”

“I’m not going to give in.”

“Eventually you will.”

“On that we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.” He shook his head.“Why are you so determined to walk away from this chance?”

For longer than she thought she would Amber studied Christophe, wishing she knew more about him and the choices that he’d made, but the urge to ask him questions was one she’d managed to stomp down more than once. “Chris, do you know how long I have to be here before this world has a permanent effect on me?”

She could see the surprise in his eyes and it made her smile. “That’s not something I thought about. I should have done, obviously, but all I knew was that we needed you here and I was the person who was going to make it happen.”

“I know.” She reached out and took hold of his hand, before mentally berating herself. “I’m beginning to understand you, even though I wish I wasn’t. Having me here, in the hope that you were going to convince me to help you, was the only thing you could think about.” If Lissa was right it was more than that, but Amber wasn’t going to bring that up. “As much as I hate it you did make the right choice. Even though I am still certain about the magic, because it’s not time for me to learn yet, it’s been good to learn more about the world our magic comes from.”
He looked down at their hands and then back at Amber. “What do you mean it’s not time yet?”

“When I return home I’m not trapped in the safe houses. I can still use magic outside of them if I have to. Learning how to use magic the way you do would affect that and until I talk to Scott I can’t let myself.”

At the mention of Scott Christophe made a face that once would have angered Amber, but that time it made her laugh. “I know what you think of Scott, Chris. You’ve made that obvious. Unfortunately your personal dislike for him doesn’t change anything. For your plan to work we’re going to need to have him on our side rather than theirs.”

“You really think that’s where Ruby would have gone?”

“The safe house was compromised. Someone is giving you information they shouldn’t be and the only place she knows for certain would be safe is Scott’s.”

“How do you know he isn’t the one giving us the information we need?”

“It’s Scott. He was my friend long before he was my instructor and I trust him. There is no chance of him giving out the location of our safe house if he thought for a moment I might get hurt.”

“Does he like you?” Christophe’s voice was full of jealousy, making Amber think Lissa really was right. “Have the two of you slept together?”

“No, we haven’t, because he’s my friend, Christophe.” Amber kept her voice as light as she could, not wanting him to think that she was annoyed with him. “Have you and Lissa slept together?”

Christophe glared at her. “You know we haven’t.”

“Then I would really appreciate it if you didn’t ask stupid questions either. Being friends with someone of the opposite gender is possible and Scott has been my friend since Dad died. If it wasn’t for him I would never have become a thief.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have. Life would have been so much simpler if you never knew anything about Kalinia, but instead you go breaking into my bedroom, which meant breaking wards you shouldn’t have been able to break. No one should have been able to break them.”

“How many times do I have to apologise before you’ll drop that? I didn’t mean to break your wards. It was an accident. If there is anything I can do to make it up to you then please let me know.”

“You already know what you can do to make it up to me.”

“Not yet, Chris. Give it until Samhain. I’m going to slip out the night before and talk to Scott. Maybe I’ll even be able to speak to Ruby. Either way after Samhain I will learn magic, from you and from Liss, if you’re both still willing to teach me then.”

“Why wouldn’t we be?”

“Anything might happen between now and then.” Amber shrugged – it was easier not to tell Christophe that she was beginning to have prophetic dreams. “I just want you to know that if anything does happen to change your mind I do understand.”

There was a silence that was longer than Amber was comfortable with and she had a horrible feeling that he’d worked out more than she wanted him to. “Is there something you’re not telling me, Amber? When Lissa had been on Kalinia for about the same amount of time as you have she came to me, told me she’d been dreaming of the future, and I made her write down everything she saw. Eventually it faded, but we still have that journal and there are still things she dreamt that haven’t happened yet.”

“You know I already write down everything.”

“Good. What’s going to happen on Samhain?”

“I can’t tell you. It’ll affect the choices you make and the way you react to certain things.” Amber bit her lip. “Promise me something.”

“What?”

“That you’ll trust me. If I do something unexpected, something you hate, please trust me. Whatever it is I’ll be doing it for a reason.”

Christophe stared down at his desk. “Amber…” He shook his head. “You know about the dance?”

Amber nodded. “I know.” She squeezed his hand. “The dress is a lovely touch. I probably won’t be as happy about it on the day, but I do appreciate it.”

“Petyr.”

“Who else?” She ran her tongue over her bottom lip. “I don’t know everything that’s going to happen. The dreams are showing me bits and pieces, probably so I see what they think is important, but it means that I’m having difficulties working out where they all fit. One of the things I do know is that Petyr is going to try something against you, because he hates you, and he thinks getting rid of you will mean that he gets me.” She shrugged. “It’s never going to happen, as I’m not going to let it.”

“He doesn’t know that though, because he still think you hate me.”

“Everyone but Lissa still thinks I hate you. Spending the majority of our time in your warded study rather than your bugged rooms was a good idea.”

“Thank you.” Christophe lifted his head and looked at her, their eyes meeting for a moment. “That’s why you keep picking fights with me, isn’t it? I think I’m getting somewhere during the day and then…” He shook his head. “You couldn’t tell me, because you didn’t want my reactions to be different, right?”

“Sorry, I don’t like doing it, but we’re close enough to Samhain now that I can tell you the truth. I don’t want this to be hanging between us, not when I need you to trust me.”

“You were right. If you had said something it would have changed the way I was reacting.” Christophe looked down, at where the direwolf was laying. “He’s not been a problem recently, either, has he?”

“No, he hasn’t.” Amber glanced down at the direwolf she’d started to think of as hers. “We’re friends, now, and I’m glad you gave him to me.”

“How can you be friends with a direwolf?”

“In the same way I can be friends with you, Chris. Being an animal doesn’t mean he’s incapable of being friends with people. He always thought of you as his friend, so when you asked him to look after me he took that job seriously. There’s a chance he wouldn’t have done if you hadn’t taken the time you had to get to know him as best you could.”

“I summoned him.”

“You treated him like you hadn’t.” Amber smiled at Christophe. “It never mattered to you that you summoned him. You’d talk to him, about all sorts of things, including me apparently, and he appreciated that. He understands how much I mean to you, so he’s going to do everything he can to protect me.” She shrugged. “He would have done anyway, because you did summon him, but now I mean something to him too.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I don’t only dream of the future. Maybe that isn’t normal, but I also, sometimes, dream of the past, and most of the time I dream of you.”

Christophe studied her. “You feel something for me?”

“Not going to answer that.”

“I didn’t think you would, but…” The hurt was obvious in his eyes before he managed to look down and Amber hated it. “It’s okay.”

“Don’t lie to me.” Amber surprised herself when she stood and walked around the table. “Look at me, Christophe.”

Eventually he did, although it wouldn’t have surprised Amber if he’d been too stubborn to, and she found herself staring into his eyes. “You know why I’m not going to answer. This isn’t a conversation we can be having now, because it’s going to change things, and it’s not time for things to change. It won’t be long, I promise, but right now, Chris, we can’t.”

“That doesn’t mean I don’t want to have it.”

Amber took hold of both of his hands. “I know. Honestly, this is as hard for me as it is for you, but this is the way things have to be if we’re going to get through Samhain and come out of it in a better position than we went in, okay?”

He shook his head. “It’s not okay, but I understand. You know how I feel about you, though, don’t you?”

“Yes, and I know it’s not fair. I never said this was fair.”

“I love you, Amber.”

“You’re not helping.”

“Who ever said I was going to help? You’ve known it since the beginning, even though you didn’t want to believe that Lissa was telling you the truth, and she keeps telling me that you feel the same way, but that’s something I’m not going to believe until I hear you say it.”

“That really doesn’t surprise me. Lissa cares about you a lot.”

“Once I thought there might be something between Liss and I, but we make better friends than we ever would lovers.” Christophe bit his lip as he stared down at where their hands were.

“Amber, would it be a problem for us if I’d had other relationships before, ones where I’d had children?”

She never thought it was possible for him to be able to make her speechless, but she had no idea how to reply to that. It wasn’t something that had crossed her mind before, although she should have known that Christophe had had relationships, and to hear him ask that… it told Amber he was serious about them actually having a relationship. Knowing that changed things. Knowing that meant she needed to think about her answer, instead of just saying the first thing that came into her mind, because she didn’t want to say the wrong thing. He could be sensitive, so finding the right words was important.

Finally, sighing, she squeezed his hands. “This is not a time for difficult questions, Chris, or for you making this a hundred times harder than it already is.” She shook her head. “Were they important to you?”

“No, not in the way you are, and I did it because I was lonely… I just didn’t think of the repercussions. There are girls in your safe houses who are my children. I’ve done what I can to protect them, but they willingly made themselves a part of this war.”

“Tell me who they are and I’ll get them out.”

“I couldn’t ask that of you.”

“You didn’t. I offered. At the moment I’m still in a position where I can – soon enough I won’t be, so tell me what you can about them and I’ll bring them to Kalinia.” Amber smiled. “We’re going to need some of the thieves working with us, so this is something that might work in our favour, if you’re willing to let me go long enough.”

“Promise me you’ll come back.” He looked at her, uncertainty filling his eyes. “I know it’s not fair of me to do this, but please, Amber, if you’re going to leave Kalinia I need you to promise me that.”

“Chris, stop being a muppet. I am going to come back to you.” She bit her lip. “You never did answer my question.”

“Which one?”

“How long do you think I need to be here before the magic of Kalinia starts affecting me, permanently?”

“If I did know I would have answered the question.”

“All it took was one night. You didn’t need to put the tracker in, because Kalinia would have drawn me back, but it wasn’t until recently that I learnt that. Some days I wish I hadn’t. If I’d made a run for it instead…”

“I would have followed you. No matter what I would have done everything I could to bring you back here, so I could convince you that we aren’t the enemy, although I admit I didn’t go about it the best way I could have.”

“Honestly there was no right way to have done that. Being taught at the school means I was taught to believe that you were our enemies, that you were attempting to keep the magic of this world from us, that you were dangerous people we should all stay away from…” Amber sighed. “I never stopped to think that any of it might be lies created to keep us from listening to what any of you had to say.”

“That isn’t a surprise considering what you went through, Amber. A Magician, or more than one, did take your father away from you, so I don’t blame you for accepting the lies you were being taught. You wanted to hate us from the beginning and I understand why. If I was in the same position as you I would have felt the same way.” Christophe smiled at her. “Now though…”

“Even though I hate to admit it things have changed, mostly because of you.”

He shook his head. “Both of us know that isn’t true – it’s mostly because of Liss.”

“Lissa helped, that I will admit, but I spend more time with you than I do with her, although we do spend a lot of that time sitting in silence.”

“Silence with you, as long as you aren’t staring at me, is nice. You don’t expect anything more from me than I can give, unlike the other Magicians. I wasn’t expecting it, because I thought you’d always hate me, but somehow we’ve become friends, and that is something I am grateful for. Without that, if you did still hate me, I don’t think I’d be able to keep going.” Sighing, he bit his lip. “Before it all happened I thought this was going to be easy. Liss told me I was wrong, but I’ve never been very good at listening to other people. I assumed that the feelings I had for you, that I hadn’t really accepted at that point, couldn’t be a problem, not when I knew why I was doing this, and yet the longer I spent with you the more it did.”

“Why was it a problem?”

“Being in love with someone you think will never love you back isn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy. I didn’t want to make you do things, I wanted to convince you to join us because you thought it was the right thing to do, even though I knew it was going to be hard to make you believe that after what happened. Of course I also knew the effect the school has on people.” He sighed again. “You were one of their best thieves, until Rynne was taken, and after that… I know having to work under Jaya, as backup, was difficult for you. I remember watching you…”

“You used to watch us?”

“We did, yes.” The discomfort in his eyes was enough for Amber to understand how he felt about saying that, but it was the way he tried to tug his hands free of hers that made her certain that there were certain things he never wanted to tell her about. “Even though I hate to admit it watching the thieves was a part of the game we played.”

“How?”

“The mirrors – we mostly use them for travelling, but they can also be used to See the houses, and we used to keep an eye on you to be certain that you were in the places we wanted you to be. More often than not you ended up somewhere else, returning to Rynne with something that wasn’t on the list you were given, which is why everyone was so desperate to get to your safe house – some of the books you took could have taught you more than you ever wanted to learn if any of you could actually open them.”

Amber bit her lip. “I could. I just chose not to, because I thought it was the best option.”

“How did you know?”

“I read your journal, Chris. Even though I still hated you I did learn some interesting things about Kalinia and that made me realise I was better off not admitting that I could read the books. You have no idea how many secrets I kept from the thieves. Fortunately I know now that I wasn’t making a huge mistake, although I believed I was at the time, because I did think that you were our enemy.”

“Did you really burn it?”

“No, I didn’t.” She smiled at him. “I hid it instead, so I could go back to it, although I do think part of my reasoning behind that was my certainty that I would be able to get back into your bedroom. Unfortunately I had no idea when it was going to be or how it was going to happen.”

“I am sorry about that.”

“Sorry about what, exactly? Threatening my friends to make my stay? Attempting to kill my fellow thieves?”

Christophe shrugged. “All of it and none of it. I wish I hadn’t needed to go to that extreme, I wish I could have just talked to you, but getting you to actually listen to what I was saying would have been another matter entirely.” Their eyes met. “The choices I made were based on necessity. We were running out of time and we needed you.”

“You already had Rynne.”

“Rynne wasn’t the right person, but I am glad he chose not to kill her. She won’t be able to help us in the future, though, not in the way that you will, because you thought she was dead. Fortunately Ruby is out there telling everyone who’ll listen that you’re still alive.”

“That’s why you let her go.”

“For this to work I needed one of you here and one of you out there. If I’d really thought things through it would have been better to have had Ruby here and you out there, but all I cared about was having you here so I could convince you I wasn’t evil. Liss would say it’s because I was in love with you then, which might have been part of it, but mostly it was due to the magic that you had – you broke my wards without even trying, Amber, and I knew what that meant.”

“It wasn’t until I read about the wards in your journal that I realised they were even there and that means they must have been strong magic to begin with. When I found out… that was when I realised that I had no idea what my strengths really were. At the school we were always so focused on what they told us needed to be done that we didn’t explore what abilities we might actually have and that was a mistake. Breaking those wards meant that I had enough magic to be able to do that without trying, when it was obvious your magic was already strong, and, honestly, knowing that terrified me, Chris. Even though we know we all have magic, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to use a wand, it’s not seen as a good thing to have strong magic, as that makes you a target. I made the only logical decision I could – I hid it.

“Very few people knew about me. Scott knew when he saw me with your journal. I can still remember the look in his eyes and he took me aside to talk to me about it, along with Ruby, as she’d been with me at the time. Ruby knew because she was my best friend. I told Rynne when I realised I’d misjudged her. Pia found out mostly by accident, on one of the days that Rynne managed to convince me to look in a book, because she thought it was important that I learnt more about my abilities. Fortunately Pia is someone I already trusted, so it wasn’t hard to convince her that the reason I was keeping my magic a secret was a sensible one. I kept it from everyone else. All of the thieves have heard stories about what happens to the people the council finds have strong magic and I didn’t want to find out if any of them were true.”

“We have gone in to rescue some people from that before and you really didn’t.” Christophe ran his tongue over his bottom lip. “I did always wonder how you’d kept that to yourself, but knowing that Scott kept that secret for you…” He shook his head. “That isn’t something I could imagine Scott doing, so he must like you, and I knew Scott well.”

“Although I thought of Scott as a friend I wouldn’t say I know him well, because he’s very good at keeping things close to his chest. I would have asked questions if I thought I would be lucky enough to actually get some answers.”

“He’s going to hate me for telling you, but he was once a Magician, until he chose to walk away, and I have no idea why he did. We were apprentices at the same time.”

“Walking away meant he could be there to help us, Chris. He was doing exactly what you were doing, but he was doing it from the inside, which means we might actually be able to make things work out the way we want them to.” Their eyes met. “You should have worked that out yourself.”

“I probably should have, but I was angry with him for going. I thought we got on well enough that he’d tell me if he was planning something like that.”

“Everything is about reactions.” Amber sighed. “Had you known you would have reacted differently when he came into one of the houses as a thief. He needed you to act in a certain way, in order for things to work out the right way, and that meant keeping things from you. I have to do the same thing. For certain situations you have to act without knowing what’s going to come of your actions. I wish I could be more open with you, but I can’t.”

Christophe nodded. “Even though I hate it I do understand.”

<<< The Fae World: Kalinia (post-apoc): Amber: With Christophe***
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