"Ahh, I understand," he said with a grin. "Dag must be excited to see his dad again, aye? Well, I’ll take you to Arlow’s and then come back to grab a few more things. While I’m here I’ll keep an eye out for them. If Dag’s anything like his father, I’m sure I’ll track him down sooner or later."
By now they had left the city behind, and Bo wasn’t sure what to say. He had planned on meeting Shad’s family and friends with Shad around.
"It won’t be much longer," he assured the womer with a smile. "Arlow’s house isn’t too far from the city, which makes supply runs easier. It’s a nice little place, too. I think Shad said you and Llaara will share his room, and he and Dag will share the loft area."
"Oh you should have seen him, the boy was beside himself when I told him," E’hla laughed and nodded idly as he continued talking. There was no doubt in her mind that he’d be able to find Dag, he wasn’t exactly difficult to track down in a city of well-behaved people.
She faltered when he started talking about the sleeping arrangement, almost stopping before she collected herself and walked alongside him again. “He wants us to stay there with them?” she asked calmly, and maybe a bit surprised, and glanced up at Bo.
"Of course," he replied happily, starting in the direction of the gates. "Well met, E’hla. I’m Bo." He paused a moment, before turning his head towards her again.
"Do we need to wait for the others or would you rather me track them down later?"
"It’s nice to meet you, Bo," she offered with a smile and followed after him when he started walking. "Actually, I was hoping I could speak with him without the kids," she replied letting out a short laugh, "quite a lot has happened since I last saw him, and I would simply like to catch up before they start hounding him."
"Oh, Shad! Aye, I know him. Well, actually," he replied, smiling brightly and glad he could actually help. "He left for Arlow’s house not too long ago. I was just about to follow him myself."
Bo paused then, his smile faltering slightly as if something had suddenly struck him. He looked the womer over and a slow smile spread across his face.
"…are you Llaara or E’hla?"
"Well, if you were already headed there, maybe I could come with you?" she asked with slightly raised eyebrows and tilted her head. She could only assume he knew her name because of Shadrach, and she offered him a small smile. "I’m E’hla," she replied, "Llaara is my daughter."
Bo had been sent to pick up the last few remaining groceries and was just about to head back when he felt someone put a hand on his shoulder. He turned, his brows furrowed in slight confusion. When he saw the equally confused look on the womer’s face, and heard her apology, he smiled.
"Not a problem," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "It happens. Who are you looking for, though? If I’ve been mistaken for them before, I might know who they are."
E’hla cleared her throat and smiled in return. “I’m looking for a man named Shadrach,” she told him, “I was told he would be somewhere around here.” She looked up at Bo and tilted her head slightly, studying his face as best she could without staring. Even now when she was facing him, she could have mistaken him for Shad at a long distance.
“Do you know him, or where he is?” she asked after a brief pause and quirked her eyebrows.
E’hla had left the inn that morning with one very simple task in mind - to find Shadrach. She wore her cloak with the hood down as she walked through the streets searching for her friend. It didn’t take long before she spotted the man she was looking for, and she walked over to him with a small smile on her face.
“Ah, there you are,” she said, announcing her presence, before she put a hand on his shoulder. When she turned him around, however, it was not Shadrach’s face she saw, but a completely different man. She blinked and furrowed her brows, and removed her hand from his shoulder with a mumbled apology. “I apologize, I thought you were someone else,” she confessed with pursed lips.
E’hla had just taken a seat at a table when the Redguard came over and asked if she wanted anything. After a brief moment of contemplation, the Dunmer settled for a bottle of whiskey. While the woman she later learned was Saadia fetched her drink, E’hla leaned back in her seat, relaxing for the first time since she had left home. Llaara was with Dag, and for the first time in a long time she didn’t have to worry about anything.
Saadia returned with a bottle and a mug, set them both on the table and left the womer to her own devices. E’hla poured herself a mug and took the first sip, enjoying the burning sensation in her mouth and throat as she swallowed.
As she sat there enjoying her drink, she noticed someone entering the inn and she offered them a weak, lopsided smile as she motioned towards a chair. “Would you like to sit, maybe help me finish this?” she asked and tapped the whiskey bottle with her fingernail.
The shatter of the plate mirrored the shattering of his heart at her words, and he understood immediately. He stared at the splinters of porcelain on the ground where he had thrown the plate and nodded. “I understand,” he said softly, his voice catching in his throat at the last syllable.
He cleared his throat of the lump that had formed and peered back up at his wife’s eyes. She might not be his wife for much longer. But he tried to give her a smile, as small and slightly wavering as it was, and said, “But it can be put back together. It just takes time, and some effort. And it might not be like new anymore, but it will still work. When a bone breaks, it is painful, but for a while it is stronger from that break before it completely mends again.”
He took a step closer to E’hla, avoiding the shards of the plate on the ground for now—he would clean it up later. “Will you think about it, E’hla? If you need time away from me, so be it. Take all the time you need. I will take care of the animals. No problem. I just.. have one request. May I have an embrace from my wife? Just in case it is the last one?” A few tears fell, but he quickly wiped them away.
E’hla merely shook her head slowly, “I won’t, not this time,” she told him. “Not after all this, all the hurt feelings, all the mistrust, all the hurtful words, from both sides,” she continued.
"I will, however, use the trip to Whiterun to think. I cannot, and will not, make any promises beyond that," the womer said calmly before she opened her arms, took a step forward and wrapped her arms around him. She lingered for a moment before she let go, offering him a small, empty smile, and stepped away to pick up their bags. "Do you want me to say hello to Shadrach for you?" she asked, mostly out of courtesy, before she laid her hand on the door handle and looked over her shoulder.
Though Dalamus wanted to be defensive, he clamped his teeth shut. She was right, he did want to win. Because at least if he won, he had something to hold onto to give him some kind of satisfaction. Something to focus on aside from the pain of knowing that he was, in fact, wrong.
"But I do know what that feels like, E’hla…” he said quietly. “You have done the same to me in the past. You have also made me feel unwanted and unloved when you compare me to Drevain, and it still hurts. But.. I know it does not justify all the pain I have caused you.”
He frowned, the guilt rising up as he scrubbed at his face. “You are.. amazing. You are more patient than I deserve, and you have done nothing to deserve the hurt and pain I have put you through, E’hla. Regardless of intention. You have stood by me for so long, loved me when I was unlovable and forgiven me when I was unforgivable. I have messed up so many times, and you do not know how many times I have thought 'this is it, this will be the last straw,' and yet you still stay, and sometimes I wonder why, too. You deserve better. You deserve so much better. But I can be better, I know I can because I have been doing ‘better’ things more each day, and I want to be better. For you and Llaara, because I do not want to be right anymore. I do not care about winning anymore. I just want to be happy. And I think we can be happy together, E’hla. We were happy, once. We can get that back. I think we can. Do you..?”
The Dunmer crossed her arms and listened to him talk, staying quite so she wouldn’t interrupt him. Eventually, moments after he had asked his final question, E’hla simply shook her head. “No,” she replied, “I don’t think we can get that back. I don’t believe that people can change just because they want to. Here, let me show you,” she said and took a few steps away from him towards the kitchen.
She returned to him with a porcelain plate in her hands and held it out towards him. “I want you to throw it on the ground,” she said, but didn’t explain him why.
The plate shattered into tiny bits and pieces when it hit the hard stone floor, and E’hla looked up at him. “Now say you’re sorry, that you didn’t mean to hurt it,” the womer said calmly and waited for him to do just that. She raised her brows slightly and tilted her head, “Did it go back to the way it used to be? No? Do you understand what I’m trying to say now?”
'I want some time away from you.' That was what she had said. Earlier, when she had taken her journal back she had said something similar and it had not hurt as much as it did now. Probably because he had not thought that ‘time away’ meant ‘I want to be miles away from you and I am taking our daughter, too.’ Seemed as though she was not going to let any arguments stand, either.
"N-no, E’hla, that is not what I—The greymages." Blaming the greymages again? Gods damn, he knew he was going to get in trouble for this. But it was true! He did not know another way to explain it. "I was worried about you, E’hla. I was worried that you were so quiet and distant and cold, and I wished to help. Gavril essentially told me to piss off after he beat the shit out of me, and greymages have been swarming me and telling me that you had probably found someone else while you were away and it just.. made sense, E’hla. Not because I do not trust you, but because I know I have hurt you enough for such scenarios to be within the realm of possibility in my mind. Maybe my head is messed up, but how am I supposed to know what will happen if you do not speak to me?”
He calmed himself by exhaling a puff of air. He had not meant to ramble in such a negative way, but he wanted to stay calm. He wanted so badly to stay calm so that he would not hurt her even more, but something told him it might be too late for that. His arms hung limply at his sides as he looked at her, his voice softer. “Can you honestly say that you have never thought of leaving me? Despite all you wrote in that journal? Because if you cannot, then how is it unjustified for me to think that it could possibly happen in the future?”
He was not paying attention to his wording, and he knew, he knew, that he was likely going to regret that. But he was already in trouble, and he had tried to explain as best he could, though interrupted by a few coughs.
E’hla let out a heavy sigh and closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose. “You are unbelievable,” she sighed and shook her head before she moved her head to look up at him.
"You trust the words of greymages more than mine. Do you have any idea what that feels like?" she asked him with quirked eyebrows, "I cannot talk to you about my problems, because you are my problem. You have made it very clear in the past that trying to talk about it only ends in arguments because you are obsessed with winning. It’s like you think marriage is a gods damned game, and by breaking me down you win.”
"To the victor goes the spoils, isn’t that what they say?" she paused and shrugged her arms, "What spoils? What makes treating me like this, making me feel so unwanted, so distrusted, worth it? What have I done to you to deserve this over and over again? I have stood by your side through everything, even when you messed up and put your own daughter in danger." Her voice was calm and even, and it surprised even her. She wanted to yell at him, scream at him, scratch and punch him, but she did nothing.
"Just tell me, what have I done to deserve this? Because I have thought about leaving you, and to be honest you’re not exactly making it difficult for me to choose."
He scratched the scars on his cheek while he gathered words, attempting to remain calm and not sound accusatory. “If I believed it was just a simple visit, then I would not have said anything. But, considering our recent.. discussion, if one could call it that, I am led to believe that there is something more. And I do not mind that Dag is going. I am certain that he will be thrilled to see his father. Perhaps it will do him some good. We might not be the best of friends, but I have been amiable towards him recently. Does this mean that if I wish to go with you, I may?”
Dalamus had not said so much since the altercation with Gavril, and the injury in his throat reminded him exactly why. Subconsciously, the mer brought a hand up to rub the spot through the bandages before he relaxed again. Well.. ‘relaxed’ might not be the right word.
While Dalamus had been talking, E’hla had gone back to gathering the last of her things for the trip, but at his question she stopped quite abruptly and shot him a glare. “If I had wanted you to come, I would have asked you. I don’t care how much you want to come, because I want some time away from you,” she replied.
"And since you brought it up, what exactly do you think I’m going to do to Shadrach, hmm? Sleep with him? Like that’s the only thing he’s good for?" she scoffed and shook her head. "Do you really think that lowly of me?"