Chapter Fifty Nine
Pilot, + briefly Atlas, by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,003
Sitting across from Atlas, with her glowing silver curls and captivating honey eyes, was easy for him in a way that he had yet to see anyone else interact with her. Even her Guardian, who had been at her side since birth, could not stand with outright vulnerability before her eyes the way Pilot did. The thought amused him.
He, the dark dweller, as Elseron so liked to call him, was the one without any secrets. The one with no walls to guard his thoughts, no fences to keep his emotions contained.
His whole existence exposed to her eyes; if only she would open them. There was a wealth of untapped greatness in her, he thought, and wondered when it would be that she would begin to access it. What obstacle would it be that forced her to evolve, to adapt and grow into her destiny?
Her movements were familiar, merely reflections of movements he had been witness to for years before he laid eyes on the Queen of Atlantis. So much of her was the same, so much of her was already memorized to him; the few differences he could find were trivial and negligible.
She was an echo.
He smiled at the echo.
She shifted in her seat, her delicate fingers fidgeting with the hem of her garment. “Why do you insist on seeing me?”
The fireplace was lit, despite the sunlight the glowed behind the drawn curtains of her windows, and he wondered if she was cold.
He meandered around the room, inspecting the crevices and cracks that littered her chambers, as if seeking things she could not see. “I am working on a thesis,” he answered, without answering her actual question.
She frowned, sensing his avoidance.
“And what could being in a room with me do to further your hypothesis?”
He met her gaze directly then, and her heart stuttered in her chest. He smiled again, and it had a haunting air to it that she was nearly certain he didn’t mean to be there.
He unnerved her and left her breathless simultaneously.
His green eyes studied her face with a simple openness she wished others could manage. There was no deception in his study of her; she could see the way he broke her down in his mind, piece by piece, examining and discarding as necessary.
“Observing you is the only way to prove my theory, Atlas,” he said, and she struggled to recall giving him permission to call her by name.
She couldn’t remember doing so.
He said it so freely, as if she were a commoner or a long-time friend. It was strange to hear her name spoken so casually.
It was her father’s name. She was certain no one had ever said his name so unabashedly, so frank and unrestricted.
Just another word in a string of vowels and consonants.
His eyes never left her, never blinked. His lips formed the words but she didn’t hear his voice, she seemed to feel the meaning beneath her awareness; a cold wind that stirred half-forgotten remembrances.
“I think you should meet someone.”
“Your intentions with the Queen do not sit well with me, Dark Dweller.”
Pilot laughed, and the sound of it was hearty and full, but it held an edge that told of deeper, darker thoughts.
“Do not accuse me of emotional or intellectual infidelity, Elseron; you have no grounds for such an accusation and I will not tolerate outlandish imaginings.” His eyes shifted colors, darkening and gaining depth along with the weight of his tone. “I am committed to my wife.”
Pilot smiled across the distance, but it was hollow and full of shadows. It was not the smile of someone that intended anything that toed the line of good or neutral.
It was the smile of a man that had no qualms ending the quarrel with bloodshed.
“Do not assume me gullible, Pilot,” Elseron warned, his tone foreboding. It was not quite a threat, but the difference was paper-thin.
“Do not gauge me by the standards and methods of other men that have met your gaze, Elseron. It would be unwise.”
The static tension sparked between them once again. It hovered, crackling in the air. Pilot shoved his hands into his jacket pocket, a casual gesture he seemed comfortable with. He did it constantly.
“Phaedos did not exaggerate about you,” Elseron observed coldly, his arms crossed over his chest. The two stood in the open courtyard of the mansion, bathed in sunlight.
Pilot breathed in a hungry gulp of fresh air, as if reveling in the wide and uninhibited daylight. “I do not imagine he would know how; he is not the creative kind.” He rolled his shoulders in a way that suggested he was dismissing something. "You do not know me, my intentions, or my kind nearly as well as your intuition wants you to believe."
For a long moment, unbroken silence was all that held them in place.
“Why have you not told her?” It was Pilot that shattered the stillness first. His question was bold, perhaps too bold, but he did not seem to notice. If one were to judge by his posture or his tone, he could have been asking about the weather.
“What haven’t I told her?” Elseron’s words were measured.
The breeze stirred at his clothing, stirring his scent and sending it out into the atmosphere. It would rain within two days, Pilot noted, and returned his attention to the conversation.
Pilot turned his virid gaze to Elseron, unabashed and intolerant. His expression said, 'I am not a fool, Elseron.’ His mouth said, “Do not mistake me for an ignorant miscreant, Elseron. Such evasion does nothing for your situation.”
When Elseron’s eyes turned acerbic and frosty Pilot smirked; his shoulders drew back as he stiffened his posture. The glint of a challenge flickered behind the emerald curtains of his irises.
“If you do not tell her, Stalwart Shield, then I shall be inclined to do so myself.”