The longer Lucien and Eschieve take to get home, the more I get used to them being away. It's almost nice, having the place to myself after Kenna has left, although it has left me alone with my emotions.
Emotions I've tried my hardest to surpress over the past few days, that kept on pouring out in massive bursts whenever they did.
Now that I've had what feels like hours to cry, with Kenna being there for me for all of it, I feel relieved. Emotional, still, and stressed, but relieved.
The appartment smells like freshly baked cookies, and I've just scrubbed some carefully placed strawberry off of the wall after Emilia's hands smeared it there.
To my surprise, the sound of keys in the door makes me feel something other than dread. Though I don't know how the two of them will come in, I'm happy to see them again.
Lucien enters first, the look on his face not telling me much. All I know is they made a little detour after returning, the both of them needing some air.
"Hey," I smile, hearing the pitter patter of two sets of feet on the floor, both pets running up to Lucien and Eschieve.
Eschieve's eyes look red and puffy when she finally comes in, totally avoiding my gaze. I understand. These past few days can't have been easy on her, and though I've tried my best to hide it from her, she must have noticed the shift in my behaviour, something I feel terribly guilty for.
Lucien smiles back at me, though weakly, and presses a quick kiss to my lips.
"I made cookies," I smile, trying to catch Eschieve's eye. "You don't have to eat them, but they're your favourite."
"You don't have to..." her voice sounds hoarse, and she doesn't finish the sentence. When I meet her eyes, just for a second, I know what she means to say.
"I'm not trying to pretend nothing happened," I shrug, my tone soft and my hands gently placed on the counter. "But I hoped you'd take this as an offering of my love. I know I haven't been..."
She shakes her head violently. "You don't need to apologize."
"It's not an apology," I say, breathing in heavily. "But it is a sign of empathy. To show you that no matter what happens, no matter how I act..." my voice trembles as I swallow hard. "I love you."
No words are said before Eschieve finds her way into my embrace, every limb shaking, her breathing uneaven and fast. She cries, and understandably so.
I cry with her, tears running into her hair as she feels small and fragile in my arms. I'm reminded of how young she is, how innocent, and how much of a victim she is to the situation.
"I'm not mad at you," I breathe, my shaky hands caressing her hair like a mother would her daughter. "I hope you're not mad at me, either."
For the first time since returning, since way before that even, she looks me in the eye. Tears are glittering there, and I don't think I've ever seen her this broken, but she shakes her head with a deliberation to be jealous of. "I'm not mad."
      With all of the emotion and stress getting the best of her, she falls asleep on the couch to a re-run of a French show Lucien has turned on for her. Frank is curled up to the front of her, and Lance has found his way on the exact opposite side, both also fast asleep.
Lucien and I don't talk about it. We have some small talk over a glass of wine before we both go our own ways for a while, then finding one another again when we both come for a second serving.
"Thank you," he smiles when I pour him a glass, moving a hand through his hair that's slowly getting longer, almost to the length it was when I first fell in love with him.
"I have a feeling that's not just for the wine," I smile.
"For everything in general," he smiles back. "She really needed to hear that."
"I really needed to say it," I add. "I meant it."
"She knows that. How...," he takes a sip out of his glass. "How are you feeling?"
"Alright," I shrug. "Weird, still. Can't help but be reminded of nearly a year ago, no matter how hard I try not to think of it. But I've accepted that it will always hurt, and that sometimes it's better to feel than to ignore the pain. I would have loved to have avoided it all together, but we did not get that lucky."
He presses a soft kiss to my temple as an answer, stealing a cookie from the plate I've put all of them on.
"Those are for your sister," I correct him, gently tapping his fingers.
"She won't eat them all, and it would be a shame to let the one time you bake go to waste," he smiles, a teasing tone to his voice.
"Don't you pretend I never bake, du Castellon," I gasp. "I try my hardest to provide for you. Just because you are always in charge of dessert doesn't mean I never bake for you."
"Well, you would have made a terrible housewife in the fifties, Middleton," he chuckles. "Though these cookies are terriffic."
"Housewife?" I laugh. "We aren't married, du Castellon."
He smirks, breaking off another piece of the cookie and chewing on it viciously. "I can tell we're not married by the amount you bake, Middleton."

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