It had been a long, long time since Bastille made contact with anyone but Octavia. He couldn't even say how long, precisely, other than Eden had been dead for over a year and he'd managed to avoid people for roughly the entire time. Sure, he'd spent a week or so trying to help his rag-tag little Clan along, making sure the few survivors managed to find homes in neighboring groups, but after that... He was gone. Might as well be dead to them, and to everyone, for how thoroughly he managed to erase himself from existence. He didn't want to make new friends, settle into a new home; he couldn't bare to be near every one, not after losing Eden. No -- not after he ruined Eden. He couldn't do it. He was already broken, and staying with them would have killed him.
There were a few stops he made along the way, when he had no other choice; sometimes he was so fucking lost that he had to ask for directions from the local -- and seemingly only -- group around. Other times there was no goddamn water for miles and he had to spend the night somewhere to make sure Octavia didn't waste away, figuring out which direction to go in to avoid dying of dehydration. He wouldn't really mind, honestly -- it was an interesting variation to the current deaths he had on record. Murder-suicide, drowning, falling, sacrificial offering to demonic gods; dehydration might actually be the best one yet. And maybe he and his jack-asses of souls would actually stay dead. What a notion. Alas, much as he didn't really care for his own well-being, he did care for Octavia. She was all he had left, and he wasn't willing to give her up (nor would she be willing to go with anyone else, frankly). So, as long as there was Octavia, he would keep himself alive. A tragedy.
Most of those stops had been in the beginning, though. Within a few months, he'd learned his lessons the hard way, and managed to gradually figure out how to keep himself and Octavia going without stopping for any more unfortunate visits. It was better that way. Strangers asked too many questions, and he didn't feel like risking being around others for too long. Clear, he had not learned the lesson that Echo had: he was a plague everywhere he went. Staying and getting attached would do no good.
He wasn't sure if he had coping mechanisms for the sudden loss of interaction. He had Octavia, and he had the vast abyss of apathy to lean on. More than that, though, Bastille had perfected the art of slipping away, taking a back-seat role. When he felt sick of the movement, the traveling, the emptiness, when he dares to miss Eden, he could disappear in a single breath. Someone else could take over, could be Bast for the day; usually it was Echo, who seemed to actually miss living (now that his powers were under control, that is), but occasionally it was Zaniel. Never Pollutedsoul, though. Polluted would murder Octavia and seek out a group of strangers to murder all of them too, likely -- the crazy fucking freak. Sometimes it was hours, sometimes it was days; Bastille didn't really care any more. It wasn't like they were interacting with anyone other than O, and she didn't care, either. She was used to the others, now; had accepted them as part of who Bastilleprisoner was.
It didn't always work, though. Sometimes Bastillle tried to shut down, and found that no one was willing to step the fuck up. Oh, they were perfectly fucking vocal and opinionated when Bast wanted them to shut up, but when he wanted to take a break suddenly no one felt like living? Great, guys. Real fucking useful and helpful. In those times, Bastille was trapped without anywhere to go, and it was exhausting. He was pretty sure that the number of times he found himself in this predicament was what helped him get so used to the apathy once more. He was forced to just... shut it all off, to go blank, to push through on his own. Autopilot.
It'd been a while since Bastille had taken a damn break, honestly. He could go for one, perhaps after he got Octavia sort out, and just thinking about it made the thought suddenly horribly tempting. How long had it been? A month? Only a couple of weeks? He had no fucking clue, but it felt like long enough. If no one wanted to take over, then worst case scenario he went the fuck to sleep. This place would do for the night, any way. And then he could try again tomorrow morning.
He didn't get a chance to finish up with Octavia, though. Bastille's reflexes were swift and controlled, but there was little he could do about someone dropping on top of him. Besides, by the time he was ready to throw her off of him, his senses had already picked up on something that took him several beats to comprehend fully.
He knew her.
Of fucking course he knew her. He knew her aura almost better than his own, could track her from a distance without batting a fucking eye. His body knew her faster than his brain did, that's how fucking ingrained her aura was to him; he saw the molten, liquid gold sunshine before he even saw her face, and he knew. The only reason she got him pinned down in the first place was that he knew, and he... didn't know what to do. He was frozen, systems crashing momentarily as he stared up into fierce, fierce golden eyes. (Octavia didn't even fucking flinch. She knew, too, which was a fucking testament to just how fucked Bastille was.)
The name was like a dagger, even if it was his own thoughts betraying him. He tried to avoid her, pushed her away desperately, marked her as off limits and kept her in the far, far recesses of his memories. He refused to be reminded of her, had trained himself to simply ignore the things that might have been immediately associated with her in the past; he no longer watched Octavia romp and was reminded of Arion playing with her; he no longer saw gold and saw her eyes instead; he no longer heard singing, or saw art, and thought of her. He had purged her from his thoughts, stamped it all down and removed her from his life.
It had taken months. Hell, it'd taken the year or more that he'd lived since Eden burned to the ground. He still was taken aback sometimes, unable to stop the memories before the crept in, but those moments were rare and far in between. The pain hadn't been enough to shock him out of it; no, he'd worked on it, spent hours and hours of empty days teaching himself how to forget. He'd trained it out of himself, and it was the hardest thing he'd ever done, besides the actual act of losing her. He'd... Gods, he'd been desperate to save himself from her phantom.
He'd learned pretty quickly that he couldn't just manipulate the memories away. He didn't have it in him to track down someone else with his talents, to make it more real. He'd tried to cajole Grimm into blocking the memories away, into hiding them; he'd begged and begged and lost every time. He'd tried everything.
Bastille had never really had a taste for alcohol, or at least not one that he was willing to admit to. He knew, he knew, that Zaniel was an alcoholic -- he knew that he had it in him, that if wanted to like it, he could. He knew that if he dared to try it for too long, he'd be forced to admit that he wasn't actually repulsed by the taste or smell, not like he claimed to be. Sure, the idea of who Zaniel was had always induced disgust in Bastille, produced that judgmental stare and wrinkled nose... But he couldn't deny that he had no true opposition to the taste.
Oh, sure -- the taste brought back memories he'd rather ignore, pretend weren't a part of his shared past with Zaniel. But Bastille would rather remember that than remember her, and he was willing to try anything. When the alcohol lacked appeal the first few times, he gave up and let Zaniel have his way with his body, resolved to let Zaniel teach him, so to speak. As if all this new body needed was to drink properly and in excess before Bastille got the hang of it.
(He still remembered that party. It had been one of the last groups he'd visited, the last he stayed the night with; what started with passing a wine bottle around the camp fire had dissolved into relative chaos, and Bastille had ceded to Zaniel, having given up on vodka as a tool for forgetfulness. Honestly, he should have anticipated Zaniel doing exactly what Zaniel does when drunk and within touching distance of literally anything with a pulse. Maybe he had anticipated it and just hadn't cared, but that was beside the point.
What he certainly didn't anticipate was being snapped back into reality, into control, so abruptly that it gave him whiplash. The sudden, crisp awareness of everything as he was back in the driver's seat with no notice as the girl kissed his neck and tugged idly on the bottom of his shirt. The dazed confusion, followed by annoyance, followed by the immediate and overwhelming wrongness of it all as he shoved her away and went to find air.
He hadn't really understood what had happened until Zaniel had told him in disgust, Well, we're still you, too. Just like you're us. I just didn't realized your stupid little hang-up would ruin my life, too. Dumbass. It'd been a cold wash of reality, of dread, of fucking misery to realize that Zaniel couldn't even ignore the memory of Hazel. That somehow, Bastille's love for her ran so fucking deep that all of his souls were infected by her, traumatized by her very existence.
He didn't let Zaniel do the drinking again after that night.)
At some point he'd given up on erasing her entirely, but he'd gotten really, really good at almost forgetting. And now... Here she was. Hazel. Hazel, in all her bright, fierce brilliance, her aura just as blinding as ever; Hazel, just as hostile as he'd last seen her, with all that anger and viciousness and tension; Hazel, older, changed, but still overwhelmingly Hazel in some way; Hazel, staring at him as if she didn't even know who he was, somehow, as if her soul didn't recognize him immediately in the same way that his recognized her.
Everything that he'd pushed away hit him all at once, and it was... Horrible. Horrible, and awful, and painful -- but it was also good. Gods, he had missed her, and in a sick, twisted way the sudden crushing weight of her existence slamming down on him once more was amazing. He could remember her laugh and her singing and her radiant smiles just as easily as he could remember her leaving and her anger and her blame. As much as it killed him, tearing him apart, he couldn't imagine trying to shut her away again, couldn't turn the apathy back on and forget her if he tried.
Not even two full sentences, and she'd already wrecked him.
Months and months of work and desperation, destroyed. Just like that. All he had to do was look at her, at those golden eyes, and he was a goner. Damned straight to fucking hell, and... She didn't even recognize him. How? How? Of course, Bastille was older, but they'd parted at an age where he'd already passed puberty, that the affects of age weren't really going to make much of a damned difference. He was still Bastille, with his dark mess of hair, freckles, and cold blue eyes. He had the same scars on his shoulders, the same line across his throat; the only real difference was how fucking tired he was of living, the new scars he'd gained from fighting the demons, the slightly harder lines of his jaw.
Maybe she'd managed to forget him.
Oh, Bastille wouldn't be surprised. She'd been so angry, so quick to blame him for everything, and at the end of it all she'd just... left. Left him alone to fail, left him alone to struggle against an Eden that was crumbling. She'd damned him the very day she left him behind, if he could even be damned more than he was. She'd written him off. Bastille knew, he'd always known, that her leaving had been her choosing to leave him, to be rid of him. She'd given up her home just to escape him, and she hadn't even said goodbye. She'd just... left.
Could he really even be shocked that she had forgotten him, too? That maybe she had the will power, the strength, to ask someone to purge him from her memories in the exact manner he was too weak to do to her? Hell, fuck will power -- she'd probably been happy to do it. She'd already walked away from him; what were useless memories of someone you hated?
Something in him had woken up at the sight of her, the feel of her -- something had come back to life. But when she spoke, when reality hit him, he could feel himself dying. Just as quickly as his body responded, it shut down, the quick burst of emotions withering and evaporating straight back into apathy as he reminded himself that she wasn't his Hazel. His Hazel had died the day Dahlia betrayed him.
In one sudden burst, Bastille went from complete stillness to movement. She made the mistake of assuming he gave a damn about his life; cold metal against his throat could not deter him, and in a sweep he knocked her legs out from under her and shoved her away from him. He didn't really care about cheating, and tossed her a few extra feet with the wind for good measure, rolling to his feet with a scowl.
"Don't kid yourself, princess," he said lowly, turning to regard her with expressionless eyes. There was a nick in his throat from her sword, a thin line of blood that intersected the scar that was already there. Bastille glanced at Octavia to make sure the mare was fine, but she'd taken a few steps away and was grazing impassively. Figures. When he glanced back to Hazel, he finished disdainfully, "You're going to have to do a hell of a lot better than that if you plan on keeping me down."
He didn't both to answer her questions; she didn't deserve it, not as far as he cared. It's not like he wanted anything from her, anyway. (He did. He desperately want her back, wanted to know why she had left, why she hated him, why she refused to understand that it wasn't his fault. Bastille had long ago determined that these weren't things he would ever know, however, and that he'd never get her back. There was nothing he wanted from her, now. There was nothing he wanted or felt, period.)