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Stepping off the gangplank, Con Stavros inhaled the aroma of the bay deeply. To most outsiders it was a rank stench, and after being so long away he had to admit that it was a little harsh on his nose, but it was home. It had been what he had known and after so many years, it seemed that his life had come full circle. He had left a young youth wanting to escape the fishing nets of his family for something better, now he returned and fishing nets were dreamy in comparison to what he had found in the world. Well, not entirely true, he had found Arette and he would have to send word to her that he was in Illian, hopefully she would come to him.


"How does it feel to be home?"


Looking behind him to Brandeis who had just walked onto the dock and his other companions who had joined him, Con smiled. They had stood by him, and the Lord Captain Commander had seen fit to release their entire group from service. The Inquisitors wouldn't stop, and rather than let it turn into a conflict, Valorn Goldren had been wiley and set them loose instead. He washed his hands of them, yet at the same time gave them a fair enough headstart to outdo their pursuit which was surely after them. A pursuit that wouldn't make it to Illian, Children of the Light would not be welcomed. Not that the Children didn't have hidden blades, but those could be dealt with as they came.


"It do be good to be back. Come, lets go home." Leading the way, it was a good twenty minute walk from where they were but soon they were standing before his old home. It was as he had left it, and for a moment Con found himself hesitating. This was no visit, this was home for good, he had sworn his sword away twice to causes he had lost heart in, never again. Was he ready to do so? Fishing for the rest of his life?


The decision was made for him as the door swung open to reveal his mother with a basket of fish in hand, intended for the markets. As it dropped to the ground, Con's voice broke a little as he spoke. "It do be me mother, Con." It was tears and embrace that followed.


Trying to hold a squirming one year old who didn't want to be held was a daunting task, but Arette had become an expert at it and she was determined that Cina would eat a bit more since she had only nibbled her lunch like a little bird. The spoon guiding food to the little mouth that was trying to turn away stopped when she could hear commotion from the front door. She could barely recognize Electra's voice since it was so muffled with emotion but the man's voice replying... She didn't dare to even hope that it was Con. She peeked from the kitchen door and nearly dropped Cina when her arms went weak. Light it was him! After almost a month of waiting and worrying, he was finally here.


She let down the child where she stood and was closing the distance between them before she even realized she had moved. She savoured every detail of him and came to a rapid halt when she focused on his beloved face. A kaleidoscope of expressions from delight, shock and finally anger was readable from her demeanor. Those bastards had hurt him badly and he would wear the scars of the painful memory for the rest of his life. They would pay for it, Light be her witness, somehow they would. But he was alive and here now and that was all that mattered. Arette rushed to him and Electra stepped courteously a few steps aside. She threw her arms around him and squeezed him hard enough that he certainly could feel it on his ribs. For a long time she just held him and enjoyed the feeling of his strenght supporting her as she couldn't hold back the treacherous tears of happiness.


Wiping her cheeks embarrasedly she pulled back. Rana and Cina had crawled to the doorway of the kitchen and looked around with interest sucking their thumbs - a bad habit she needed to weed them off. She smiled at him fairly certain that she could fulfill her promise that the girls could say daddy by the next time they would see him. She had drilled them patiently and taken even the risk of creating an image of him a few times with the One Power for the girls and the other children after learning that they had never seen their uncle Con. The only thing that could spoil the naming was the girls feeling too shy.

"I'm so glad that you're here, Con. I was worried out of my wits when I couldn't feel you anymore." She touched the deep scars on his cheeks tenderly with her fingertips and couldn't help but shiver when she thought how much it must have hurt. The scars were too well healed for it to be natural but she didn't want to crowd him with questions now. She had to be considerate of Electra too and not take him for herself for too long.


It was one thing to reunite with his mother but to find Arette already there was a shock. He had thought he would be waiting quite sometime before he saw her again if she could leave Fernhill at all, but now she was in his arms and that was all that mattered. Parting after awhile, Con was glad that it wasn’t revulsion that gripped Arette as she followed the scars on his face with her fingertips. He hadn’t had any idea what she would think when she saw them.


"I do be sorry, but the ring do be taken from me when I do be questioned. I knew you would be worried but I no be able to send word until I was here, no be wanting to be sending company your way."


Squatting down and taking his children into his arms, Con stepped away and to the side to reveal his companions. "Mother, they do be my companions, it do be alright if we all come in?"


Quickly ushered in, all of them entered the small dining room and took seats if they could, all of them with blades hanging from their sides except for Brandeis whose hammer was in his belt instead. Packs being laid against the walls, Con smiled as one of his children ran a hand over his stubble. He couldn’t tell them apart yet, but with time he would be able to. Looking to his love as she sat next to him, he passed one of the children to her as he held the other in both arms. Looking to his mother who was still in shock, Con shook his head. "I do be sorry, I would be sending word ahead but there no be any time. As it is we did be riding hard to Ebou Dar from Amador, and from there we did be taking ship to here, we only be putting into port half an hour ago."


When Con began to apologize for not sending a word, Arette almost opened her mouth in protest. She hadn't meant to accuse him, just express her emotions, so she merely shrugged and smiled to show that it didn't matter. The girls were thankfully calm when he picked them up, they were used to strange people holding them since all Con's brothers and sisters had come to pay a visit during the past month. She did hope that they actually recognized their father but they didn't say anything coherent, just babbled to each others in the baby tongue that they seemed to understand. Electra had told her that Con and Mia had had something similar and maybe because of their own special language they had learned to speak a bit later than other children.


The small dining room was filled to a brim with armed men but it felt just safe because they were Con's companions. She smiled at Bernd, Leon and Luca glad that they had left the Children too. Arette would have to thank them all later for helping him out of Amadicia. Con handed Rana to her and from his small frown she could tell that he was trying to figure out which one of the girls she was and not very succesfully. She was about to whisper the name to him when he apologized again and explained to Electra's benefit how they had gotten there.


Arette perked up at mention of Ebou Dar and touched his scars lightly again with the fiery look in her eyes that faded as she spoke. "Did you visit Telcia while in Ebou Dar, Con?" That was the logical conclusion since someone must have Healed him. "Are they settled up already? And you really shouldn't apologize for anything, Con. It is them who should do that and it wouldn't be enough, nothing can make up this." She drew a deep calming breath. "And your mother already knew that you were coming here, because I told her that. We expected also Brandeis and maybe few others but..." She grinned. "I'm quite sure that Electra is trying to now think bewildered where we will fit you all."


"We’ll probably be having to find another house for everyone. There would have to be one somewhere if we do be looking hard enough. Worst comes to worst we do be able to build one, but we only be needing to be staying tonight till we find a place to be having everyone billeted." Frowning, Con then smiled at Arette. "Telcia did be saying that she would be finding you and sending word. But for now, we do be having something to eat. A few of us will head to the market and be getting something to bring back."


Getting to his feet, Con handed the child he had in his hands to Arette and gestured to Brandeis and Bernd to come with him. Looking back to his mother and Arette, he smiled as he made his way towards the door. "We do be back in awhile." At that, he ducked outside as he led the way to the markets.


It was good to be home...


Con Stavros

Former Commander of the Tower Guard

Former Whitecloak


Arette Nenatiar

Exiled Brown Sister

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Calvin watched the bustle in the house and felt even more outsider than ever before. He had been dreading Con's arrival but also anticipating it since he had realized that he held an ace that would force Arette to leave this place. He knew Arette and he betted that she had kept some of her secrets from Con. He realized that his chance had come when Arette asked Con to fetch something from the girls' things. It was the perfect symbol of how he had been cast out from his role in their life and his determination doubled. He would return things to how they had been. Pretending to head to the privy, the only private place in this wretched house, Calvin stopped at the doorway and followed how Con rummaged through the saddlebags and messing everything in the process. He would have done it so much better.


"So, you and Arette will be taking the final step soon, I've understood", he said wryly. The man's head swiveled toward Calvin and for a moment his own dislike was mirrored on Con's face before the bastard controlled his expression. "I haven't had the chance to congratulate you yet. I have to say that you are much nobler man than I would have thought for forgiving her little adventures." The stony look on Con's face warned Calvin from continuing and he knew that this would end up in blood and pain but he was doing it for the girls. His own fists were already itching in anticipation of landing soon on the face of the lout and it brough him immense pleasure to know that his news would break the fragile bliss of Con and Arette. He was sick and tired of it and this would finally be the end of it.


Calvin laughed, an ugly sound with malice tinging it. "Or did she even tell you? Such an irony that she always suspected you of loving Telcia and then she herself took that Domani vixen as her pillow friend. Ever thought that it might not be you she was so jealous of but Telcia? Reflecting her own feelings to be your feelings... Oh, she's so good at that. And those two date back centuries after all."


He had expected a roar of rage but Con was deadly silent when he launched his attack. Calvin welcomed the blood and pain. Con was so much better than Calvin that he was hard pressed to block even the first onslaught. But avoiding the jab didn't save him and his mocking laughter was silenced by one mighty blow.






Arette saw Calvin heading after Con and she wasn't fooled for a moment. She sighed. A confrontation between those two had been long coming and maybe they could sort it out without thinking on the hair on their chests. Remember the girls, they need you both, she sent a fervent though at them. She met Electra's hard stare and merely shrugged and shook her head. Lets not disturb them yet. Only a moment later pain exploded in her jaw and the knot of emotions that was Calvin went numb. She couldn't keep back a wince and she rubbed her chin. Light, what had that woolhead of a man done now? And Con was a fool to have let Calvin provocate him so, she had expected better self-control from him. Still, with Calvin being the way he had been lately, she couldn't really blame him. This really was the final straw and he would have to find some place else to live at. Rising calmly she made her way to the room without any haste. Con stood there beside the unconscious man and still clenched his fists as if wishing to beat Calvin to pulp. He didn't turn to face her so she hugged him from behind.


"I'm sorry for what ever he did or said", she said quietly. "I should have realized earlier how out of hand he really was. I just... hoped he'd take his last chance and behave. Will you tell me what happened?"


Arette Nenatiar

Exiled Brown Sister

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Con was still shaking when he felt familiar arms wrap themselves around him. Calvin and himself hadn’t gotten along for years, but the deliberate way he decided to use what he knew of Con’s earlier hurt, and the insidious lie he had used in order to do it. If Calvin hadn’t fallen with the first blow then Con wasn’t sure if he wouldn’t have killed the man, or at least done something more permanent than he had. Taking a deep breath as he tried to get his feelings under control, he was terse as he explained. "He do be a snake. He did be saying that you did be laying with Telcia, and other lies saying that you did be spurning me not because you did be thinking I betrayed you, but because you did be wanting Telcia for yourself."


The arms around Con stiffened as Arette tensed. Light, she had almost forgotten it, almost managed to convince herself that it had never happened. She wanted to wail in despair at what Calvin had done. He had wanted to destroy them and she wasn't entirely certain that it yet wouldn't... but she wouldn't have to do it. If she never admitted it, it would remain just Calvin's lie and they would be safe. But still it would be between them and she would be lying to him by omission after they had promised to be always honest to each others. She had never hated herself this much in her life, not even after saying all those horrible things to him almost two years ago. This would hurt him even worse in some level because it was betrayal in more than just words and mind.


"Con... I love you, only you and I have never loved anyone else and never will. I hurt you because I couldn't bear the thought that you wouldn't love me as much." He had to believe her, he just had to. She held him even tighter because she knew that he would wrench free in a moment and he could never forgive this and she would never be this close to him again. She could never forgive herself either. "But he was right in one thing... me and Telcia were... we did... once." The confession took every ounce of streght from her and she leaned heavily on him fearing his reaction.


Shock was what caused Con to relax, his fingers unclenching and his arms going lax. Calvin was right? Well, not entirely, but Arette had... Telcia and Arette... His knees felt very weak at that point and he was feeling a little light headed. A seat was what he needed. Walking forward, Arette’s arms slipped from him as he made his way to the nearest bed and sat down. Arette had done this, and Telcia had gone along with it?


But then a question came to him, the natural one that a cuckold asked perhaps. "When? Why?" There was no control of what he was feeling now, or how the confusion and the hurt came out in his voice. He hadn’t even known that Arette had such feelings, and now to learn this?


Without Con's strenght supporting her Arette slid on her knees to the floor and she stared at her hands numbly. She had done it again, shattered their happiness. He wouldn't want to wed her or be anywhere around her anymore, not after this. And she couldn't blame him. She only hurt those she loved. It was the hardest thing in the world to face Con and answer his questions but she had to. There was no way how anything could justify what she and Telcia had done but maybe he could understand. But before she spoke, she embraced Saidar and made them private. Even the One Power couldn't exult her now but this was between them and she would make it so.


"Before I tell you, I just want you to know that I am sorry and that I truly regret it." Her voice was desolate. "It happened almost six months ago, soon after Jelane and Jamal were taken. We were both heart-sick and certain that we would never see you or Iussi again and maybe not the twins either. Me and Telcia slept in the large bed upstairs as usual with Rana and Cina in their crib and her sobbing woke me up." Light, how could she look him in the eye and tell him. She was red with shame but it was part of the punishment. "She had had a nightmare and I comforted her. And then it changed... I don't know which one of us made the initiative, I think that her since I never would have thought of her that way if not... I couldn't relax enough to... not with the girls there but it was so wonderful to be held and touched again by someone even if it wasn't you. And at least I could give her pleasure and release." She hung her head. "It was a replacement, Con, for both of us, a poor replacement."


Lifting her head again, she fixed her gaze between his eyebrows. "And the next day we did our best to behave normal, as if it had never even happened. Calvin knew of course but we never spoke of it. Why I didn't tell you is not because I wanted to keep secrets but because I had almost convinced myself that it was just a dream. And because I was too afraid for it to be true. I didn't want anything to change, not how I saw myself... it is so unnatural and still I could... and you would despise me and it would bother you and ruin what we have... and me and Telcia... and you and Telcia." She sighed from the bottom of her bleeding heart. "Do you think that we can ever put it behind us? Can you forgive me... well, us?"


It was perhaps a minute before Con moved. Not trusting himself to speak, instead he stood and took the couple of steps required to get to Arette. Helping her up, he brought her over to the bed where he had been sitting and seating himself once more, pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her. This wasn’t to say that everything was healed as if by saidar, but they had agreed to put everything behind them, a clean slate. They hadn’t been together either, so despite the feelings it engendered in him it wasn’t for him to hold it against her.


All he wanted to do instead was just hold Arette, he had enough of fighting and enough of resentment. He would just have to swallow his feelings about it, accept that it had happened. Much easier said than done, but he was going to try at least. A part of him wished that Arette had told him earlier, but another part yet again wished he had been spared the knowledge of it altogether. There was a cruel irony to it as Calvin had pointed out, one that threatened to eat away at him but he would weather it, just as he had to weather all things. What mattered was what was important, and Arette was what was important, not what had happened before they reconciled.


Disbelieving that it could be happening, that he could be still there touching her, Arette allowed Con to guide her to the bed like a mindless marionette. The physical connection returned her wits and she clung on him as if her life depended on it. Light, she wanted this to last forever. Realizing that the Ward was still there she unknotted it and finally allowed herself to relax. She was careful to not kiss or caress him yet no matter how hard she wanted to, he would have to show her that he was ready for it. She didn't know how long they just sat there and she wouldn't have ever wanted to break the moment and the silence but they would have to return back to normal. Electra and the men would wonder and Con would have to spend some time with Ilia and Mia and Hala too who had returned from their own trip to the market place.


Finally she raised her head regretfully from his shoulder. "I don't want to end this but I have to ask... will you allow the girls to see him ever again?" Her mouth curled with distaste. "He will not put a foot under this roof again and I don't know where he will go and I don't even care anymore with what he has become and how he is acting. But no matter what kind of a low-life he is now, he is still Rana's and Cina's uncle Alin." And he was also still her bloody burning Warder. She wanted very badly to release him from the Bond that very moment, but she couldn't. It was so deep ingrained in her that it would be a disgrace and no matter how they had exiled her, she still was an Aes Sedai and Calvin was one of her last ties to the Tower. "I really don't know and I think that we might not be in the right mindstate to decide right now. But when you make your mind, we will go by it." It was strangely appropriate that this would be one of Con's first decisions as a father. Calvin had wanted that right and position and he would have taken the girls from Con if would have just been able to.


Considering Arette’s words, Con looked over at Calvin as he was still slumped against the wall, blissfully unaware of what was going on or the fact that his jaw would ache terribly when he awoke. Con wouldn’t say that he hated Calvin when he thought about it, having said that he would rather that the man was no longer around his children. If he was such a poisonous viper now, he had no idea what he could end up doing with them. On the otherhand, he was Arette’s warder, and he had been there with the children when he had not, nevermind that he hadn’t even known of their existence. Maybe there was something in what Arette had said.


"We’ll decide later." Turning to Arette, there was a pause before he leaned forward and kissed her temple before shifting her off his lap. What had been said and done could not be taken back, the only way was forward and he wasn’t going to lose Arette again. "I’ll be in the kitchen with the others. We’ll talk about this later." At that, Con stood and made his way out, feeling like he had run a marathon and twice as weary afterward.


Arette closed her eyes when Con's lips touched her temple and she savoured the moment. She wanted to beg him to stay but he had so many others to attend too. And they had the rest of their lives together. She merely nodded as he said that they would speak later and watched him walk away. It had been taxing on them both and they were still not entirely through it. She wasn't certain if they ever would be, but there was always hope. Her gaze turned on Calvin and became glacial. She wanted him out now and to be out of her sight before he woke up. She would pack his things, leave him a note and then Berndt and Leon would find the shittiest and most stinking ditch in the whole Perfumed Quarters and leave him there. Though then he would be robbed of his money and maybe even his life. She sighed. Fine, they would take him to some shabby inn and she knew that he would stay put because he would hope to see the girls. With the decision made, she went to fetch the men and then to help in the kitchen in her very favourite task, gutting fish for the massive amount of dinner they had to prepare.

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