Love on Gaia: The Longest Road (Eros/Passionate Love)

Nickname: Razorgrin
Category of Love: Eros
Characters: Aath, Terrah, Balam

The Longest Road

“How you doin, gorgeous? Been a long time…”

Micah Arclight stood in the dark of his forgotten tattoo studio, running his hands over the sheets that covered his salon chairs to protect them from dust. They had watched over his shop in his absence, standing sentinel like forgotten ghosts in the dim streetlamp light of the Coalwalk.

It seemed like it had all started here. Being a partially retired Templar agent had given him the funds and the wiggle room to chase a childhood dream of being a tattoo artist, but he hadn’t expected it to lead to love… and loss.

Opening the shop had put him in arm’s reach of one who he swore was a soulmate. The lawyer who helped him draw up his shop’s terms of service and legal protections, Terrah had been a grounding element in the process of chasing a wild dream. Her exotic beauty had Micah chasing other wild dreams, though… They’d run into each other in different worlds, different lives, different Ages. But they’d never managed to make a connection that lasted, not in this Age or any other. Thinking about her led to a twist of embarrassment in his gut; he’d wildly overstepped her boundaries and had tripped over himself trying to make it right, and then had practically begged for her love. It had been pathetic, and good on her for recognizing it. He hoped she’d found someone worthy.

A slightly less cringy memory was Aath’s midnight visit, where yet again he’d overstepped boundaries— poking around in her phone’s camera and finding spicy content. The bold, blond bombshell had taken it as an opportunity to tease him mercilessly, which led to a warm night in each other’s arms. He still had a snapshot of the sketch he’d drawn of her in the morning saved to his phone. Micah pulled the black device out of his pocket, swiped till he found the picture, and smiled.

Putting his phone away, he still stood in the dark of his abandoned shop and his thoughts naturally drifted to the circumstances of its abandonment. His little jaguar… Balam. After the dust of Terrah had settled, he lost himself in odd tattooing jobs, field work for the Templars, and the occasional extermination mission with his cabal. The latter had found him endlessly bantering with a stoic Asian communications operative, a Dragon in his cabal that seemed to dislike him on principal alone. She was another one of those ladies in power suits and deadly stiletto heels, with a steely expression and a no-nonsense attitude that seemed to inspire all kinds of nonsense in Micah. The banter and teasing had led to bouts of practical jokes and downright infuriating sabotage, to the point of Balam just outright setting Micah’s mail on fire in front of him with her Elementalism powers.

Then, he’d told her she would make a good field operative. He told her that she had a warrior spirit. The surprise on her face had surprised him- but it explained the power suits and the rigidity of her spine. No one had ever told her that before, he’d been the first one to see it. Her mumbled, bashful thanks had made his heart lurch, and he blurted out an offer to teach her some blood magic. She accepted.

Micah’s gut twisted with regret. Maybe if he hadn’t said that… she’d still be here. She’d still be haunting the cabal’s communications offices and teasing him about how bad he was at filing his taxes. She’d been an accountant in her previous life, so when he offered to teach her blood magic she’d returned the favor by fixing his terrible finances.

If he’d never said that… he wouldn’t have gotten to see Balam, face free of makeup and wearing a pink sweatshirt, hair haphazardly piled on top of her head, eating pizza and feigning irritation as she prodded a calculator and poured over his shoddy tax records. He would never have gotten the courage to ask her over to his place for Netflix and chill. Balam had turned him down, of course—but only because she preferred her place over his.

If he’d kept his mouth shut, she might still be here… but he would have never gotten to see Balam’s soft skin by the grey light of a rainy Seoul morning. He never would have discovered that she’d bought slippers and a robe in his size because she’d had designs on him all along.

He never would have felt that sweet, fleeting sense of finally coming home.

Micah’s throat tightened and his eyes watered, in a way that he couldn’t blame on the dust in the abandoned tattoo shop.

A while after they’d gone from enemies to lovers, the Dragon had started sending Balam out on actual field assignments. By strengthening her blood magic, she proved to have a sizeable talent as a warrior, which the Dragon capitalized on. They’d taken her out of her safe communications office and sent her out on missions.

Then one day, she never came home.

It had sent Micah out scouring every corner of the world, looking for her. He’d shut down the shop, warned his handlers that he was going AWOL and no force on earth would stop him, and then vanished.

That had been over a year ago. He’d finally run out of corners to scour. He’d finally run out of hope. Now, he stood in his old shop, teeth clenched against tears with a white-knuckle grip on the salon chair in front of him.

Grief was just love with no place to go.

Rather than stand there and break down for the thousandth time, Micah wrapped his Gaia-given power round himself to recall his Anima to another familiar, safe place. “Mall-Agartha” as the locals called it, the heart of the world tree where Bees traded and stored their goods in dimensional-folding vaults. Micah stood near the mailbox, huddled in his big black coat with his eyes closed. He stood and listened to the sounds of the great tree. The buzzing of bees, the groaning metal of the Guardians as they hulked along their patrol routes. The warm, honey-sweet power of Gaia. A sort of comfort. Another sort of homecoming.

“Well, if it isn’t Razorgrin himself. How have you been, Micah?”

He turned to find none other than Aath, standing there with her innocent, troublesome smile. Still every bit as beautiful as the morning he’d sketched her, she was dressed in summery casual, with legs for days and her soft blonde locks tied back in their usual ponytail.

His smile was still weak when he offered it. “It’s been a long road, but it’s good to be back. How’re you doin, Gorgeous? How’s the family?”

“Doing great. You know, I still have the sketch you gave me.”

Micah couldn’t help but smile a little more wickedly. “I do, too. Still one of my better sketches, I think. Helps that I had a beautiful model to work with.”

Aath’s smile widened, too. “Maybe I can model for you again, sometime?”

“Maybe so.” He offered, not quite a no, but not a yes, either. There was still a sharp pang of pain there, missing someone he couldn’t find.

Aath heard it as plain as if he’d yelled his suffering out loud, she’d always been a thought-reader, an empath. Still, she smiled brightly for him and offered in return, “Don’t be a stranger then, okay?”

“You bet. See you around, Gorgeous.”

Micah watched as Aath twiddled her fingers in farewell, then trotted off deeper into Agartha’s twigs. Then, he closed his eyes, flooded his Anima with power, and vanished again.