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Private Foggy Omens

Robin

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June 18


Maria was in danger, and Ozma couldn't help.

A thick fog had settled around their wagon as they rode. The feeling wasn't instant for Robin, but became apparent rather quickly. It was the unique type of fog that only really existed in the Vales. The magical-cancelling kind. A rather lewd comment about utilizing the strange phenomenon for their indoor-sexual-adventures was at the tip of his tongue, but it was quickly brushed aside.

Ozma apparently sometimes had feelings. Outside the normal spectrum of simply feeling emotions and sensations on what was presently happening - or even bouncing off of what was going on inside your head, this was different. He sometimes got a feeling when someone he was close with, was in danger. Or...something like that.

Robin watched him - keeping a hand on his back, as they rode in their wagon, to try to escape the clutches in the fog. Ozma's focus was on his phone, sending messages to the loved one of the woman in danger.

On top of everything, he knew...Ozma felt out of sorts when his magic was cancelled. It was for that reason that Robin was firmly against the use of Prometheus Dust in more intimate situations. So that was likely not helping anything.

All in all, it was a mess.

Robin continued to draw circles on Ozma's back as they rode - casting the occasional side-glance to check on him, before refocusing on driving them.

"Even without being able to physically teleport there, you gave them more of a chance to stop...whatever is about to happen, then they would have had otherwise. They have a chance to help her now," his eyes ahead of him as he spoke, "And this fog can't be endless. We'll reach the edge soon. I just know it."
 
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It was one thing for Ozma to feel useless. That was just something he'd come to terms with in his life, and he could look past it most of the time. He could separate his emotions and his logic, and recognize that he served a purpose.

It was something else altogether for Ozma to be useless, and as he stared straight ahead into the fog, he wanted to crawl out of his skin. He wanted to scream. He wanted to hit something and cry and then hit something else. He wanted to be an unapologetic bastard and take his frustrations out on Robin just for being there and breathing the same air.

Instead, he sat and stared and clenched his hands together in his lap as his anxiety rapidly flip-flopped between the sickening feeling that compelled him to find Maria and stop something, and the hollow void he felt in his soul where his magic usually spilled over. Ozma hunched his shoulders.

Robin spoke, and his words were even, measured, and true. Oz knew that, but it didn't stop his fear from morphing into roaring anger. His head dipped, and he squeezed his eyes shut, reminding himself that he would feel so much worse if he took it out on Robin now.

Silently, Oz shifted his weight slightly, then curled his left hand into a fist, punching it down onto the wood between himself and Robin, feeling - hearing - an immediate crack as one of his knuckles gave way. A few splinters shot up into his skin and blood started to seep between his fingers.

It was grisly, but it kept keep him from doing something he'd regret an awful lot more.

"These fogs can go on for miles and last for days. She'll be dead by then." His tone was uncharacteristically feral, and it was impossible to hide the undercurrent of stress that was apt to bubble up as anger. "Why do they all have to be such fucking fools? Why-- she deserves it! Whatever fucking happens! She has it coming, and it's the cost of having an ego the size of a continent!" He exploded aggressively.

"She doesn't even care about who she could hurt if she does this. She's only thinking about another--" Ozma punched the seat again. There went his knuckle even more. "She wants another feather on her hat. Fuck. I hate this. I feel like I'm going to climb out of my own skin, Robin."



 
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Robin

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Robin watched as Ozma punched the wood; neither wood nor knuckle seemed to win. Splinters and blood alike spilled forth, causing the crease in Robin's brow to deepen a bit. He wanted to help; to fix it. To take away this frustration and pain in some way. But the truth was that it was impossible. All he could do was be there for Ozma, and continue moving forward - hoping that they'd reach the end of this endless fog soon, so he could teleport away and save Maria from herself.

The situation as a whole was...irritating, in truth. Not at Ozma, of course, but at his friends. He knew they meant well. That their intentions were to end something before it began. He understood that, of course. That was why he was planning on ending Grima's life by his own hand when he returned home - at the cost of his own life. Before the world could be rendered useless by the Fell Dragon, he could stop it. Of course...this situation was different. People repeatedly told by those who knew more about the situation, that they should not engage...were anyway. Or at least that's how Robin understood it.

He couldn't imagine how frustrating that was; yelling to deaf ears of those who chose to hurt themselves on purpose. Robin worried for them. For their mental well-being as well. Maria was throwing herself into the unknown, with little regard of what would happen next. Perhaps she saw herself as infallible. And...Robin really hoped she was right. That the situation would be dangerous, but ultimately Ozma would be wrong.

Robin carefully pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and gently draped it over Ozma's hand - silently listening as the other man spoke.

The words mirrored his own idle thoughts - gaze dropping as he considered how to respond.

"You're right. It's extremely careless and self destructive...on a level which I don't think she quite realizes," he frowned, "I can't begin to explain why any of this is happening in the first place, but - as I said - you're right. As...cold as this sounds, people who do not heed warnings ultimately deserve what happens next. Oh...that was too mean. Let me rephrase that. There is only so much people can do to help others. In the end, it is the person that has to make the choice. And even still - you've given her a saving grace by alerting others of the situation. While you can't actively be there, people are aware and will do everything they can to keep her alive. I know none of what I just said is really helpful or comforting, but sometimes hearing the basics can do...something," he kicked his feet over the side of the wagon slightly and sighed, "To avoid climbing out of your own skin, how can I help? I...could take my shirt off? We could play a game? Read? I can tell you random stories from home? Or I can sit in silence and play with your hair for awhile. Whatever you need Ozma, I'm here."
 
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Ozma

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"No... no, you were right. There were so many warnings, and they were all ignored. They-- whatever happens, Maria... deserves it." Ozma hated saying it. The words felt thick and clumsy on his tongue, but his anger was burning just behind it, pushing his mind into hostility that he usually stayed above in his life, because he feared being similar to Salem in any way. He hated the way his rage could turn a corner and become wrath within a matter of seconds. He hated the way Robin was on his radar. The way he felt within a matter of seconds of lashing out at him just for being there and trying to help.

Ozma closed his eyes and focused on the way his hand was throbbing. Even the soft fabric of the handkerchief rubbed too hard against the flayed skin and broken bone. Opening his eyes, Ozma turned his gaze to Robin with a somber expression, and the cold anger of his expression broke at last, revealing a moment of deep, vivid sorrow. "Robin..." His voice was a glorified whimper, and Ozma looked away. He didn't know what else to say. He didn't know how to voice his feelings, and he certainly didn't know what he wanted.

"Can you set my hand for me?" Ozma finally asked softly, holding it out towards Robin. Blood was already soaking the handkerchief, and Ozma could see his fingers shaking and spasming. "I have bandages and splints in my pack. I'm sorry. I... I shouldn't have. It was a stupid thing for me to do. I'm sorry." A wash of self-doubt flowed through Ozma, feeding off the anger and twisting it until everything seemed to be his fault. He had walked into this dismal fog. He wasn't helping anyone. He had no advice or guidance to offer. If anyone ended up dead, it was on Ozma and his inaction.

His hand shook harder. "Robin, this... isn't my fault..." Ozma hazarded a glance up at Robin's face, searching it desperately for confirmation. "Right? This isn't on me."


 
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Robin

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It was clear to Robin that Ozma was...hardly holding himself together. Understandable, given the situation. Little fissures allowing moments of his expression telling all, before it was forced away into an upset lull. All Robin could really do was sit there and be there for him; and if he asked for anything, offer what he could. There was no fixing nor repairing the awful situation. Only helping him get through it to the other side.

Robin quietly nodded at Ozma's words, as dark as they were.

His gaze landed back upon the hand, nodding silently. While medicine was far from his expertise, he had taken place in enough wars to have a basic idea on how to take care of things such as this. Healers were more useful, but sometimes they were injured themselves, too exhausted to help, or it was an emergency situation that required action on the person right next to him. There was a familiarity with injury; with blood. He didn't like it, but it was simply a piece of life for him.

"Yes, of course," he added, gently taking the hand, before thinking better of it. He quickly moved to the back to grab the supplies, before returning. It'd be better to set it, and quickly have access to the bandages and splint.

"It's a stressful and upsetting situation, you have nothing to apologize for," his voice low, yet warm - offering Ozma a smile, "Brace yourself."

And he forced the hand into place - quickly grabbing the bandages and splint to keep it from slipping.

The question...hurt, because Ozma clearly didn't believe the words himself. At least yet. Part of Ozma thought he was to blame; that there was more to do, and because of his inaction, Maria was going to get hurt or worse.

"This isn't on you," he confirmed, holding Ozma's gaze as his hands stilled from his work - knowing and needing he had to get this point across, "You did literally everything you could to prevent this exact situation from happening. Whatever happens next is at the fault of those who forced the situation, not the ones who tried to stop it in the first place," his voice even, despite a bit of heat and annoyance at the others gently touching his words, "Maria has sealed her own fate, whatever it may be. Everyone carries a choice on how to live their lives, and she made hers. Whatever follows is in her hands, not ours. Those who are following her now, though, will likely blame themselves for what comes next. They will see fault in their timing if anything were to happen to her. But you have done literally everything you can, Ozma," while one hand supported the injured hand, the other rose to cup Ozma's cheek, "It'll be hard to not blame yourself, I know. But I truly believe none of this is on you."
 
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Ozma had learned over many centuries that there was no way for him to be everywhere at once. That was one of the ways that Salem had always managed to eke out ahead in their contest against one another. No matter where he was or what he was doing, it felt like something even worse was happening just beyond his reach. Even when he had a trusted group to help him widen his net...

People were fallible, and Oz wasn't as capable of sacrificing lives as Salem. He hesitated, and he debated, and he stalled until, oftentimes, it was simply too late to act. He tried to make the right choice in every situation, but Ozma wasn't always good at knowing what that choice was.

His mind flashed, unbidden, to the incident some months ago. How he'd raced through the sky, praying he wasn't already too late.

He hadn't been. Not that time. The damage done had been easy enough to rectify, and he had been able to cast the Grimm hybrids aside before any lives were lost... but the memory still lingered and haunted him. It frightened him.

Many and more years of pain kept Oz's expression level even as Robin popped his hand back into alignment. He didn't comment on whether or not an apology was necessary. At this point, Ozma just wanted to apologize for everything until someone absolved him of something.

Robin's words felt like cool water over a burn, releasing some of the tension that had been building in Ozma over the past few hours. His eyes dipped down, flirting away from Robin's gaze, but he listened closely nevertheless. He understood the message - that Maria had chosen her own course, and nothing Oz did was going to change that. He'd done his part by alerting the people who could reach her, hopefully in time to prevent a tragedy, and that was the end of what was due from Ozma.

He was no one's keeper in Pandora. He didn't have any obligation to do more than he reasonably could. Ozma leaned into Robin's hand and allowed his eyes to shut for a moment, simply reveling in the closeness and the quiet, but persistent love that managed to trickle and bubble through the lingering anger. "Thank you, Robin. I'm... trying not to take responsibility." He admitted softly, turning his head just enough to press a kiss against the center of Robin's palm.

"Frankly, I don't believe Maria would have listened to me anyway. She and I butt heads too much, and my warnings pale next to her ego as a huntress. It's a common thing, in my world." Ozma explained, sounding a bit more like himself as his body relaxed some more. His hand was throbbing, but it was easy to ignore. "The life of a huntsman - or huntress - is... well, it's brutal. Once one has survived so much, it's hard not to develop an inflated sense of confidence. Maria is from far before the modern times of Remnant. My reputation, as much as I disliked it at times, doesn't phase her because she didn't grow up hearing of it."


 
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Robin

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Robin smiled as Ozma kissed his palm. He was more than slightly aware that he couldn't just 'fix it'. That there wasn't something he could say that would simply evaporate all of Ozma's worries, outside of somehow knowing Maria would be fine. But he couldn't know that; not in this fog, not without lying - which he absolutely refused to do. Hope was an important thing, but false hope based on a lie was nothing but a spark ready to catch kindling around them. Robin was naive in many ways, but that was something he knew well. Telling Ozma that Maria would be fine wouldn't slip through his lips, unless he absolutely knew it.

Which he didn't.

The fact Ozma was attempting to entertain the thought that it wasn't his fault, was enough. A slight tension easing out of Robin's shoulders, as he continued fixing up the wound, nodding at his words.

"And that's all I ask."

Robin finished his work, turning his full attention onto Ozma as he continued - silently placing a hand on his knee, wanting the contact.

"It sounds as this was inevitable," his own gaze a bit unfocused, before landing back on Ozma, "A perfect combination of things, really. If not this, then something else. I just...hope this is a lesson learned for her. Perhaps it'll knock some reality into her. I'm...lucky in that I've never really had to be alone, which I know is a struck of fortune in my life. But I can't imagine not listening to the people around me - even if I think I know better. Even if I think I know something they don't. Just to...blatantly ignore warnings? I just...can't imagine it. And the fact she seemed to have slipped away without informing anyone, confirms she knows exactly what she's doing. Were she actually sure of this decision and knew she was in the right, she would have held no fear in telling the others what she was doing," irritation ebbed in his voice, before he took a deep breath - running his fingers through his hair with a sigh.

"Sorry, I know I'm not the one who should be upset right now." a bit of a laugh on his lips as he shook his head.
 
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The further they plunged into the mist, the more Ozma was recognizing their surroundings. He'd spent months in Dednear, during his time with Salem, and he could still feel an unsettling amount of energy emanating from the direction of her crumbled fortress. If he'd left the wagon and started walking, Oz could have followed that scant remnant of power right back to the foyer of the place. He could feel it down to his bones, and it chilled them.

With a great display of focus, Ozma turned away from the blanket of fog and honed in on Robin. The pain of his broken hand was even more grounding than before, and he put his mind to that as well, on the way the torn skin burned and the cracked bone against itself. His breathing quickened a bit, because it was hard to be immune to pain when he was simultaneously focusing on it.

Robin's words caught him by surprise, illuminating Ozma to the reality that he wasn't as far from Maria himself as he wanted to believe. Not that Robin had any reason to know that yet - not when Oz had been trying so hard not to slip into his old, secretive habits. He wanted to do better, but he could also understand Maria's choice - except, at least when Ozma had made that choice throughout his existence, it really had been the only and best option available.

He knew that.

He had to know that.

Maria was different. She had taken on an enemy she couldn't hope to defeat. She had gone in blind and stupid. She had kept it secret, knowing how others would protest.

Ozma looked stricken for a moment, but then his mind soothed itself.

If Maria died, Maria stayed dead.

All at once, Oz relaxed against Robin, content with his justification. That really was the crux of it, wasn't it? Maria only had one life to live, whereas Ozma had hundreds, and anything he lost from one to the next was for Ozma and Ozma alone to worry about.

He looked at Robin morosely, chewing on what he wanted to say, and what he knew he should say... but he didn't, because Robin was clearly annoyed about Maria. If Ozma came right out and admitted that he was just as bad as she was - or had been anyway...

Well, who was to say what Robin would do? He would be disgusted, probably. He would wash his hands of him, and for good riddance. No one wanted to be saddled with something as broken as Ozma. Not really. Not when the depth of his fractures was made apparent.

The alternative was to point out where they were, but Oz wasn't sure about that either. Robin didn't deserve to be made uncomfortable by their location when it couldn't be helped, even if they wanted to do something about it. Ozma didn't trust himself not to start babbling if he started talking about it.

As if on cue, the fog broke around a tree whose trunk was heavily scarred with ash and scorch marks. Ozma gave a sharp, nervous laugh before he could stop himself, and clapped his good hand over his mouth to catch any other noise that escaped, staring with a sense of helpless discomfort as they passed where Salem had killed him, once upon a time. Not even long ago. A year and a half? Two years? The tree hadn't even healed yet. It probably never would.

"Sorry. I thought of something funny." Ozma lied, turning his eyes away and focusing on Robin again with a smile. "You know you're allowed to feel upset about whatever you want, Robin. By all means, be frustrated with Maria." He added softly. "I'm glad you've never had to be alone, dearheart. It's not something I would wish on anybody."

 
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Robin smiled as Ozma relaxed against him; the annoyance ebbing away as quickly as it had come. He didn't...like letting things get to him. Not that he was exactly yelling and breaking things, but his composure was one of the few things he had control of in his life, as sad as that sounded. The command of battle was typically his, but that was different. How his life unfolded - how things had fallen...not a single part of that had been his will, his say. It was a minor thing, something he knew he was far from alone with. But it made him pay attention to what, exactly, he had the power to change. His fate was sealed the moment he was created. But his composure was his and his alone.

He wrapped an arm around Ozma, drawing circles on his back, as his gaze sat unfocused in front of them. With the fog, there wasn't much to focus on in the first place. However, a tree broke through the haze - one that had seen either a nasty storm or nasty battle. Robin's eyes narrowing a bit as he studied the damage to the truck.

A laugh erupted from Ozma causing Robin to glace over at the man with a bit of a smile - yet confusion pulling at his brows. Laughing was...good? But the smile was better. Robin's own smile and confusion relaxing a bit on its own.

"I just prefer not to be," he admitted with a bit of a shrug, "Especially since I think everyone is prone to that behavior in the right circumstances. And for all we know she was captured, and it's not even her fault. I just like knowing the situation fully and trying to understand their perspective before getting irritated. Though...there was one time when a friend kept repeatedly dropping frogs down the back of my shirt. That I got irritated about," he laughed a bit to himself.

"I had some incredible friends back home," his gaze distant, but the smile on his face warm, "I genuinely don't think I'd be half the person I am now, if they hadn't found me in that field."
 
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There was no way that they would manage to get the wagon through the entirety of the Dednear Woodland before nightfall. Ozma realized this gradually, and he shifted restlessly on his seat, eyes flicking nervously from place to place in the fog, tracking shapes that weren't even there. Once, he craned his neck to look behind them, back at the place where Salem had killed him the first time, but it was eaten by mist already.

With his good hand, Ozma reached for Robin's and clenched it with nervous energy, palm slick with nervous sweat. "She wouldn't be captured without a fight." Oz said softly, forcing himself to stop looking all around like a neurotic fool. He focused on Robin, and his grip on his hand tightened. He made himself laugh softly. "Frogs? I would have liked to see that." Ozma chuckled, and he glanced around again. He summoned a mental map of Dednear to his mind's eye, trying to think of the easiest way out of the forest.

Aside from his own nerves, which Oz didn't want to acknowledge aloud, there was also the very real risk of Salem's hybrid Grimm, which likely still lingered in the area, drawn by what remained of their mistress's power. He didn't know if they would be affected by the fog, but Ozma doubted it. The Grimm weren't magical creatures - they weren't flesh and blood, necessarily, but they were fueled by their own physical forms.

"I'm happy for you, Robin. Truly. No one deserves friendship like that more than you." Oz rubbed his thumb against the back of Robin's hand, reluctant to bring any darkness to their conversation when it was rather rare for them to discuss a great deal about Robin's life in his own world.

Rationality and emotion warred in Ozma's mind. Tell Robin of the potential danger of the wood, or stay silent and let him talk of the life he'd left behind?

What was the right choice?

"I want you to tell me more." Ozma said softly and warmly, leaning closer. "But you should know that we're very close to where Salem lurked while she was in Pandora. There may be Grimm still about - in fact, I'm certain there are. Just... be wary, dearheart. But keep talking, please. Tell me more about your friends." He smiled wanly. "Goodness knows I never have anything pleasant to tell you."


 
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The news on what this location used to be, caused Robin's eyes to widen just a touch. That explained Ozma's random laugh earlier. Likely a nervous side-effect of seeing that tree. Possibly even...a death associated with it? On their first...date-thing, Ozma had mentioned that Salem had killed him. More than once, apparently.

A chill went down Robin's spine as he studied the hazy world around them, before his gaze fell back to Ozma's hand that was playing with his. Robin's arm that was drapped around Ozma, grew a bit tighter, without much thought.

"I see," his voice hushed, before he purposefully nudged himself against Ozma a bit, before settling. Just a slight sway to convey a handful of small things, that he likely already knew.

"Right, I think I can ramble on about them to distract you. I do think you have plenty good to tell me but...I know that's not the point right now," the hand on Ozma's back fell into his hair, threading his fingers through it as they continued to ride through the fog.

"The two people I was easily closest two were actually part of the Royal family of Ylisse. Chrom was easily my best friend. He was a Prince when he found me in that field - after I passed out from being wiped - and later because the Exalt...or King, I guess. His little sister was named Lissa, and she was with him in that field. She was..." Robin laughed to himself shaking his head, "...the one that put frogs down the back of my shirt, actually. They both just sort of pulled me into their family - their lives - when I was just a stranger that had no memory of even the name of the land, that they found passed out in the middle of a field."
 
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Assuming there were Grimm in the area, it was imperative to keep the topic of conversation as light as possible. Ozma's anxiety was already a glowing beacon for any of the creatures within a mile, but at least he had centuries of experience in wrestling his negativity into a compartment in the back of his mind. As he leaned against Robin, his body relaxed by force, and Oz schooled his thoughts away from anger and fear.

He listened to Robin instead, and focused on the good energy of the presence at his side. The hand in his hair did wonders to ease what was left of his tension out of his shoulders, and Ozma closed his eyes, finding it easier to picture a happier setting when he didn't have to see the stark reality of where they were. He put all his concentration on what Robin said, releasing a soft peal of laughter.

"Sorry. The frogs will never not be funny." Ozma apologized lightly, shifting his weight and pressing his head more against Robin's hand. "I'm happy for you. Truly. I know how much that can mean... to have people open their homes and their hearts to you when you have nothing to offer in return. You were lucky to have them, and they were just as lucky to have you." Ozma smiled, eyes still shut against the foggy forest around them.

After a pause, he took a deep breath to keep tension from returning to his frame. "You should know that Grimm are drawn to negative emotion. Anger, sorrow, stress, fear... it's like a beacon to them." Ozma explained calmly, offering another faint smile. "Just so you don't think I'm avoiding talking about where we are. I..."

Ozma paused, looking somewhat conflicted, then wrinkled his brow. "I am avoiding it, but I can talk about it when we're somewhere safer. Just not right now."

 
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Justin McCay VERSUS Luke Skywalker:
Pinder, schminder. People should just stick with archery contests, and base all future dates on the results.
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