28th of Ophus, 2718
HOME in the Painted Ladies | AFTERNOON
Healing was a far slower process than Rhys had the patience for. Twice now since leaving Drezda's home the doctor had made the effort to visit this old stack of rooms in the Painted Ladies, the older galdor's magical assistance gentle but time-consuming. Stitches removed and bones knit back into place, scars and aches remained, parts of his life and his body forever altered by the vicious events of Achtus, unable to be repaired by any phrase of Monite. No, not just his, but theirs—Charity not untouched by it all, just in ways that the young Valentin had no idea how to bring even a hint of restoration to.
Then again, it wasn't as though he knew how to fix a house, either.
Clocking hell, he really didn't.
It was as if the gods desired to add insult to all the injury, for once the not-galdor was able to spend time on his feet without drowning in pain, he put himself to work. He'd laid idle for too long, though his restlessness wasn't entirely fueled by pent up rage at their attackers or frustration at the pace he was forced to set in his physical recovery. More than just his body had hurt, and while they'd made efforts at forgiveness and restoring their relationship that had been just as wounded, the damage lingered in ways that the tall blond felt helpless against.
Dismissing himself as selfish, denying the tangible need for intimate reconnection that hummed in his veins in their renewed closeness because he was surely a better man than beast, Rhys attempted to settle into the understanding that like his broken bones, the unspoken wounds Benjamin had left in his wife would heal over time. He just had to wait, quick to comfort the delicate pianist when nightmares woke her, perhaps still out of a guilt he had no idea how to entirely shed, and he was quicker still to assure her of his patience when proximity had warmed into kisses and kisses had been tempted into touches, only to dissolve into terror and disgust.
He couldn't smash through such things with a hammer. He couldn't peel it all away like old wallpaper. He couldn't tug at stitches. He couldn't scrub the grime left behind by some other ersehole's unwelcome advances. He didn't know how to return what had been stolen from his delicate pianist any more than he knew how to restore what time had worn away in this damn house.
But, clock the Circle, how he wanted to. Nothing felt quite the same, their renewed trust so lovely that Rhys felt like a monster for harboring such otherwise natural desires for his wife, desires he had no idea what to do with or where to hide them. Despite the pain that hadn't entirely left his left arm or his ribs, even if the bruises had faded, even if the stitches had left their pink scars behind, the Sergeant distracted himself with the newness of home repair. Instead of picking a single room to focus on, unlike Charity, he picked a task—the walls. The act of stretching and scraping were both uncomfortable, but the discomfort was far more welcome than he was willing to admit.
Rhys peeled wallpaper from every room. He scraped paint. He filled holes and smoothed over cracks. He scrubbed years of neglect from each vertical surface he faced, one room at a time. It was something he could see, a victory that was visible, an accomplishment that satisfied where nothing else seemed able to reach him where he needed touched the most.
Today, he was wrapping up the dining room, not only because it was downstairs from where his wife had chosen to work, but also because it possessed some of the most stubborn paper in the whole clocking house. The tall blond had been able to curse quietly and growl alone, ripping and peeling in ways that were both maddening and therapeutic, ignoring the way his arm twinged at certain angles or his body objected to the angle of his reach. The physical labor was perhaps made more intense by his wanting to push the limits of his endurance, to expend all of himself after his injuries had stolen his strength for nearly a month and a half.
The Sergeant felt Charity's eyes on him without needing to feel her field, scraping away at stubborn glue, sweaty from the warmth of the kitchen's hearth and his overcompensating efforts at repair. Pausing, he dropped his tools onto the crumpled pile of deteriorated paper that proved his progress, turning in time to catch a brief, fleeting glimpse of that look and the color that had rose to her face.
He'd almost smiled back, a warmth tingling along the back of his neck, dribbling down his spine and between his shoulder blades like so much sweat, but just as quickly as it came, her expression of desire was overshadowed, strangled by a frown and a wince. He felt the fear in her field and his own returned expression of wanting was never given the opportunity to blossom, blue eyes darting away to the walls he'd conquered before searching her face with unconcealed concern,
"Yes, please, Mrs. Valentin. I could use a break." Rhys returned softly, stretching with a groan while palms rubbed roughly over his unshaven face, fingers of his left hand lingering over the pink line etched into his left eyebrow that almost reached into his hairline. He licked his lips just to feel the puckered, tight knot of a scar there, too, swallowing the eddies of regret that swirled around in the cavity of his narrow chest. He tugged on the wrinkled, unkempt collar of his half-buttoned shirt, sleeves rolled up, wiping dust from his face before crossing the room, his glamour far less capable of hiding his apprehension than his face was.
He couldn't escape a single reminder, could he?
Could they? Would they ever?
The taller blond finally managed a smile, genuinely enthused, the offer of a sweet snack at least an honestly very acceptable consolation. He brushed fingers against her hand in his passing, resisting the urge to plant a kiss on her forehead even if he leaned a little as if he'd wanted to,
"Pie, eh? Gods, yes—" He chuckled, catching himself in an almost chagrined fashion before he made any comments that may have almost been an innuendo, "Even if they're imported from Mugroba, those peaches are a much-needed hint of summer. It's been so damn cold."
Good job, ersehole. Talking about the weather. Rhys smirked, fingers trailing away from Charity as he made his way to the kitchen hearth in order to put the kettle on for tea, purposefully choosing to use his right arm because his left was still weak and tired,
"Just the upstairs left to peel and scrape and fill and smooth—then we can agonize over colors and patterns." He spoke to the fire at first before turning to lean heavily against the kitchen table, watching his delicate pianist instead of sitting.