Wulf: *I hear before I see, and I stop in the shadows for a long moment before moving forward into what passes for light in the Halls* I'm here. He's well?
Hanild: *she looks up smiling, though that falters a bit, and nods* For the most part. He's teething, so there's been more fussing than usual. He's also decided he likes crawling more than sleeping and eating. *looks back at Gram and smiles* Haven't you?
Wulf: *I sit down on the other end of the couch, eyes only for the baby for the moment. I reach out to touch his dark curls, gently* He's crawling? That's...he's already...?
Hanild: *tilts her head and watches him* Yes. He's not very fast, but I suppose I should be thankful for that. He'll be running around in no time.
Wulf: *I stroke his cheek with one knuckle and smile a quick, fleeting, genuine smile, something you're not used to seeing* Good luck. You may need it, if he's anything like I was at that age.
Hanild: *quietly* What were you like at that age?
Wulf: *just as quietly, not meeting your eyes* A child like any other. A little small for my age. Which of course made me feel I had to prove myself by jumping off of roofs and giving my father apoplectic fits. *glancing up* And you?
Hanild: That would do the same to me, I think. *meets his gaze briefly and then looks down at Gram* I don't remember anything before I was five or six, and then I tried my best to be a boy by following Frey and my brothers around. Until my nannies caught me and made me be a girl again. *pulls her feet up on the couch and settles back* Are you...doing ok here?
Wulf: *Gram's grabbed my fingers, and I set him in my lap without thinking* It's well enough. There's nothing for me down there. All I wanted was revenge. And I've had that. *I say that without meaning to hurt you -- just a statement of fact* I died centuries ago, Hanild. We all did. I'm just...more resigned to that fact.
Hanild: *rests her chin in her hand and nods slowly* Not much for me down there either. Just him. *small sigh, glances up* I forgive you, you know.
Wulf: *steadily, seriously* I don't expect you do. Which is why I won't ask.
Hanild: *just as seriously* No, I do. I also wanted to thank you for the whole...Hama thing. *softly* It certainly wasn't the best of ideas, but I appreciate the intention behind it.
Wulf: *I blink, startled, a little wary* I didn't mean you to find out. It was just...I couldn't let Vanthene hurt either of you.
Hanild: *small smile* I know. So thank you. *reaches over and strokes Gram's cheek as he happily babbles to himself* He likes you.
Wulf: Good...I love him. I loved you once, you know.
Hanild: You mentioned that when I thought you were Hama. I didn't know if you meant it, though. I don't really understand how you could, we never met afterall.
Wulf: *I shrug, but my dark gaze is unwavering now, thoughtful* A man may love a princess from afar, you know. And sometimes from not so afar. My father had business at Edoras now and then...I rode with him. You never noticed me, but that's all right -- I never expected you to.
Hanild: I knew who you were. Or I had heard of you, anyway. *curiously* How can you be so sure it was me you loved and not who you thought I was?
Wulf: I don't know. I was young. And I hoped to have the chance to find out.
Hanild: They didn't tell me -- that your father had asked if you could marry me. *looks away, down at the floor* Not until the very end...
Wulf: *I look genuinely startled at that, jaw slightly agape* What...? Then what DID they tell you?!
Hanild: About what happened? Just that someone had insulted Daddy, they fought and the man...your father, had been killed. *avoids his gaze*
Wulf: *flatly* Did they mention that my father was unfit and unarmed? ...I'm sorry. You know this now.
Hanild: *nods* At the time, they only told me what they wanted me to know. I doubt I would have been told anything if there hadn't been such a commotion about it. *turns to look at him* I'm sorry it happened. It was wrong.
Wulf: *pulling back, arms close around Gram, almost in a cracked whisper* Why are you apologizing...to me?
Hanild: *softly, not looking away* Because it was wrong, unnecessary and it hurt you. You deserve an apology and I don't think anyone else will give you one.
Wulf: I...you... *my mouth works soundlessly for a moment before my head drops, hiding my expression behind Gram's fuzzy head* thank you.
Hanild: You're welcome. *watches him for a few seconds, then whispers* I would have loved you back.
Wulf: *thickly* You don't have to say such things. I... *I clear my throat harshly* I'm sorry you became a, a means to an end. I came back to Arda as a revenant, not as a man. I still am, really. There are cold places where I should feel things, and empty places where I kept all I had left. I used that up when I...hurt you. I don't have anything now. Just... *I cup Gram's pudgy chin in my hand* Just this.
Hanild: It helps to say it. I don't expect you'd understand, no one does, but it helps things not hurt so much. Of course, it makes other things hurt more... *takes a shaky breath and wipes away a stray tear* You'll always have him. I won't take him away.
Wulf: Other things? What other things? *I may be unable to lie to you, to tell you that I'm sorry for what happened, merely that I'm sorry that it had to happen...but it's over, and done, and...I find I do not want you hurt now* I don't understand but...I'm...grateful, and... Talk to me. Why not? I'm dead, and I never lie to you.
Hanild: *murmurs* No, you don't. *takes another deep breath and then just talks, looking down, nervously playing with the hem of her dress pulled over her feet* It's just...you loved me. I would have loved you. It wasn't easy to admit that to myself, but I really think I would have and we never had a chance. It feels like I had something taken away from me without my knowing it and now that I do it hurts.
Wulf: oh. *it's a simple word, but there's meaning enough in it -- I look down at the baby, thinking about what you've said, trying to turn wheels in my mind that have been rusted shut since the war began so long ago* There...might be a way. But I don't think it would work for you.
Hanild: Tell me?
Wulf: *shaking my head raggedly, suddenly afraid, pushing Gram back at you and rising* I would lose what little I have left and you...you can forgive but you can't forget. It wouldn't work.
Hanild: *wraps an arm around Gram and reaches out with the other to take Wulf's hand* Tell me. Please?
Wulf: *I could pull loose and leave, easily. But I don't, though I am as tense as a bow and still cannot meet your gaze* Jade could send me back with no memory.
Hanild: No memory? But...you'd forget everything? Me...Gram?
Wulf: I suppose so. *looking away, around, as if suddenly wondering if we're being spied on* I don't know what her powers are, exactly, and anyhow she doesn't like me. Fairly enough, after all. *quietly* So you see, it's not a good idea, and...I wish I had one for you, but I don't.
Hanild: It wouldn't be fair to you, no. *lets go of his hand* Couldn't she just let you go back the way you are? It would make visiting easier and less confusing for Gram when he gets older. She's let people out who did worse than you did.
Wulf: *shaking my head, looking distantly neutral* There are rules. There are punishments for breaking the rules. Grima can't die, and I'm not allowed to live. There are reasons, I suppose.
Hanild: Oh. That doesn't seem entirely fair either. *stands and bounces Gram gently, to stop an impending outburst* Would it help if I asked her?
Wulf: *I wrap my arms around myself, trying to feel something, anything...over the last few months in Mandos I've lost even the last traces of hate and anger, and that was fine, the empty grey stretches were peaceful...but now suddenly I'm not so sure I like it after all, and the wrenching confusion on my face is something entirely new* I don't know. I swear I don't.
Hanild: Would you like me to try? *looks up at him*
Wulf: *I stare at the floor, then raise my head slightly to see Gram, then (slowly) look up at you through a hanging curtain of black hair* I suppose it doesn't matter. You could. But why would you?
Hanild: Because I still think you deserve a second chance. A real one. *raises a hand as though to brush the hair out of his face, but stops and lowers it to take one of Gram's hands instead* You're not as empty as you think you are.
Wulf: *I don't argue with you, but I don't agree with you either* Ask her, then. I wonder what she'd say.
Hanild: I will. *frowns a little and adjusts her hold on the squirming child in her arms* I think it's time we went back. He's getting tired. *looks back at the couch* Thank you for listening to me. Not many people want to, so it...meant something. *soft smile*
Wulf: *eyebrows rising* I don't mind listening. Though you didn't really say all that much. Whatever happened...before...I don't like you being hurt now. *I reach out to caress Gram goodbye, and (to my own surprise as much as yours) clasp my hand fleetingly over the back of yours where it curves under his bottom* Be well. Guard him.
Hanild: With my life. *catches his gaze and smiles* We'll be back regardless of what Jade says. You take care as well. *hesitates for a few seconds and then turns and heads off to find Jade*