Kaelyn Paddock

In a cold world, it's a warm place where you know that you're supposed to be

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Resurrection Stone just released a new single that did a pretty swell job of summing up the way Kaelyn felt about Toby, from the wild hippogriff ride of emotions down to the potions-induced-like happy buzz that came with every kiss (the song did a much better job of not making it sound so cheesy though, of course).  Kaelyn currently had the song on repeat, humming along to her miniature gramophone, when she spotted her boyfriend coming towards the lake.

 

A wide smile broke out across her face as she shot up from where she was sitting, just a stone’s throw away from the lake, and went running-skipping over a sloping bank to meet him.

 

“Didn’t think I’d see you again ’til dinner. Weren’t you going to go down and duel?” Kaelyn giggled as she tugged her earbuds out, looped her arms around his neck and leaned up for a hello kiss.  Then she saw the expression on his face and her smile faltered.

 

“What’s wrong?”

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Toby had his attention fixed on the lake, his own oversized headphones for once missing as he walked. He just needed the silence, this morning, even if it made his thoughts louder and harder to ignore. Skipping stones was always what he did when he wanted to get rid of excess energy without any others being around; dueling was what he did when he had excess energy and didn't mind talking to people. 

 

He stopped to pick up a few stones as he went, rubbing his thumb over the surface to check if they were good or not along the way. Those that made the cut went into his pocket, those that weren't were dropped back onto the grass. He didn't notice Kaelyn in the distance, his thoughts too far away, not until she was bounding up to him, a warm summer glow with golden hair. 

 

Toby smiled automatically, catching her with hands on her waist, and tilted his head down obligingly for a kiss. When her smile faltered and she asked what was wrong, his frown deepened. He didn't want Kaelyn worrying about about him, or frowning because he was upset. "It's nothing," he said. He lifted a hand from her waist to take hold of one of her earbuds and pulled it towards his ear. "What are you listening to?"

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It wasn’t nothing, and Kaelyn knew Tobias well enough to see it.  For a moment she let it go, watching with a nervous smile as he tuned in to the chorus of her song.  “Resurrection Stone, Sky High Feeling.  What do you think?” she asked, wondering if he hear the beat of her heart through the lyrics.  Sometimes music was the only way that Kaelyn could understand feelings at all.

 

There was still a wrinkle between Toby’s brow as he listened to the song, and she sensed it wasn’t from trying to concentrate on hearing the singing between the drums and guitar.  She rubbed his arm gently, not wanting to press if he wasn’t up to talking, but not wanting to let him wallow in his sadness either.  She did that one before, and nearly lost him as a result.  Kaelyn wasn’t about to let that happen again.

 

“It’s not nothing,” she said.  “Not to me.  You can tell me, you know.  It’s just us.”

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Toby pushed the earphone in and began to listen, the music a distraction from the thoughts going around in his head. It was more upbeat than he was used to, but with a good set of guitars. Toby loved guitars. Kaelyn preferred pop music, happy and bouncy and positive. Most of the time Toby liked that too, but he liked to think his taste in music was more ~sophisticated~ because he was that kind of person.

 

"S'not bad," he admitted, with a small smile. Kaelyn's hand on his arm was nice, a reassurance that she was still there. 

 

The song ended with a crash of cymbals and a long-held note. Toby took the earphone out. "I had a patrol with Luke last night. He told me why he dislikes me so much, turns out it's always been the case, and not just - not the Darcy stuff. He went on about all the bad stuff I've ever done, how horrible I am, you know. All that."

 

He shrugged, and pushed his hands into his trouser pockets, The stones inside one clacked together. He wanted to go skipping stones. It was a shame there wasn't a spell to attach your problems and worries to stones and then throw them away. Maybe he should invent one, he'd make millions. Did spell inventors make any money? Was that a thing?

 

 

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“Oh?” Now it was Kaelyn who had a knot between her brow as she processed this new information, wondering how this conversation even came about.  It didn’t seem like Luke to just tell someone he disliked them, but she also remembered the fight that Silas had told her about last year.  That hadn’t seem like Luke either, but then again, Kaelyn still wasn’t sure how well she knew Luke these days.

 

Her thoughts flashed to Darcy, trying to remember what Toby had told her about their fallout over the summer.  She knew it hadn’t been pretty, not by a long shot, but she also knew about Toby’s lycanthrophobia.  It had been a bit of a sore spot for her in the past, given how much she adored her godmother, but it had never been anything that had pushed their friendship off the edge either.

 

She pressed her hand more firmly against his arm.  “Well… what stuff, exactly?  What did he say?”

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"Ugh," said Toby, who did not want to talk about it. 

 

He'd come to the lakefront for some solace, for silence and some time away from other people. He couldn't say that to Kaelyn though, not without running the risk of upsetting her or hurting her feelings, and there was nothing he wanted less to do. She was only trying to help, was genuinely concerned about why he looked so annoyed. 

 

"Well, first he made a joke about me getting bit when I went to the werewolf reserve..." He still thought that was out-of-line. How could Luke joke about something like that? "Then he asked if I went just to trash talk them... and it sort of devolved from there, I guess. I told him I went because I wanted to fix things but he acted like... I dunno. Like I was a prat regardless, went on about all the horrible things I've done... how I don't have any sort of redeeming qualities..." Toby shrugged one shoulder. It was all the same stuff he'd been telling himself for most of the previous year. 

 

Turning away from Kaelyn - he wasn't sure he wanted to see the expression on her face, or see in her eyes what she really thought - Toby pulled a handful of stones out of his pocket and began looking through them for one good enough for skimming water. "You know, what most people think I guess." He selected one of the stones, pulled his arm back, and threw it.

 

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Kaelyn watched the stone skip through the water, leaving several gradually widening ripples behind before sinking into the depths of the lake.  She still remembered what she said to him over the summer, about people thinking he’s a jerk, and wondered if that had anything to do with the way he averted his gaze, or the very defeated way that he said, “what most people think I guess”.

 

It made her want to take him into her arms and hold him so tight she could absorb every last drop of his hurt, his shame.  She wanted confident, give-no-flacks Toby to come back to her, because even with all his flaws and all his faults, that was the Toby that her song was about.

 

Kaelyn wasn’t good at talking about emotional things, and she wasn’t good at sharing her feelings. But as she watched her boyfriend standing by the water looking completely dejected, something crazy and nameless came pouring out of her.

 

“I don’t know everything that was said, or what Luke was thinking or whatever,” she began slowly, her eyes following the next stone as it went skipping along to join the other.  “But I know what you told me, over the summer, and… and I know you said things, and did things, and…. yeah, I don’t agree with some of it.  And maybe that’s all Luke sees, I don’t know.  But that’s not all I see.”

 

Kaelyn bent down, her hand searching for the perfect stone to join him.  “I don’t see… horrible, or unredeemable, or… or whatever it is, I don’t even know what people say.  I know you made a lot of mistakes, but I know you want to fix them.  I know you feel bad, and I know you’ve been trying to fix them.  People are… people are going to say stuff.  People just… I don’t know.  We all make mistakes.  I’ve made mistakes, a bunch of time.  A lot of them.  And like… I don’t know, do you think I’m horrible for that?”

 

Kaelyn didn’t even know what she was saying anymore.  Her thoughts were running away from her.

 

“Maybe I’m the only one who can see that in you, but you know what? Who cares? Who cares what everyone else thinks?  I just care… I just care what you think.  About you.”

 

Definitely, definitely Kaelyn wasn’t taking Healer O’Dwyer’s job one day.


Edited by Kaelyn Paddock

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Toby watched with a critical eye as the stone skimmed the surface of the water, hopping twice before plummeting under the surface.

 

"I don't think anyone's horrible," Toby said. He frowned. "Actually, I think some people are prats. Luke, for one. He was so - so - so self-righteous and like - it's like people who think they're noble and in the right think that it justifies them to do horrible things. Remember when Kelly got turned into a werewolf by Gawkrodger? Where was the justification in that? That was cruel. And then those kids in the year above us, they tormented her, like, sure, that's going to make her change her mind."

 

He let out a frustrated sound, and looked down at the stones in his hand again, searching for one with the smoothest surface. He'd always known that he didn't see the world in the explicit black and white colouring some others did, but when he had been little it hadn't been a problem. It seemed as if the older they got, the deeper the lines were drawn in the sand: this is right, this is not, these people are right, those are wrong. Toby wrestled with the idea of there being one right way to be, a certain way of acting. It made him feel confined, as if he was locked in some sort of cage, having to do what others wanted just because... well, he wasn't sure why. The unwritten rules didn't make sense to him. 

 

It was like Addison and Silas. Toby understood why Silas was mad that Addison had done what she had, especially as he thought Silas had been harbouring feelings for her for a while now, but Toby didn't as a result think that Addison was a bad person. He didn't think anyone was necessarily bad. She had made some bad decisions and put other people in danger, and she was also very good at alienating everyone around her with her choices, but she never did it to hurt people. 

 

He felt as if that was his problem too. When he teased people, when he wound them up, it never went so far as to truly hurt someone. If he ever overstepped the mark he always scaled it right back, like when he'd made jokes about Irene's young boyfriend at the start of the year, then comforted her when she'd gotten upset about it all. He just didn't think sometimes, about the consequences of his actions, or know just how far they could go, what they could do. He hadn't been nice to Grace, but in a way, he thought he was helping. She hadn't crumpled and fallen apart - if she had, perhaps he would have stopped - and had instead argued back where possible. But he'd acknowledged that perhaps he hadn't been the nicest to her; he'd taken a step back from teasing her, under Silas's request, just like he'd tried to be nicer to Irene this year. He was trying to be better, to be good. 

 

He gave everyone else so much leeway because he didn't care if they were occasionally cruel or unkind or unhelpful. They were human, and people who were perfect and honest and nice all the time, they weren't real, Toby didn't believe it. Even Abby - who was made of literal rainbows - had a darkness in her, the result of the death eater attack. Yet it was as if Luke had wanted him to be perfect, had totalled up every little thing he had done to draw a picture of someone cruel, unkind and uncaring, like there was nothing else. 

 

He'd let the silence drag out for a long time, maybe too long. He sighed out a breath, and skimmed another stone across the lake. "I think I'm not what people want me to be, that they all just want me to be someone else, like the person I am isn't good enough." The stone bounced once, twice, three times, almost making a fourth as it disappeared under the surface, sending ripples out in every direction. "But with Luke it just felt like - like more, I guess. Like he truly, honestly, thinks I'm a horrible person, that I hurt people for fun and don't care about anyone but myself."


Edited by Tobias Winchester

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It hurt.  It hurt so badly to see Toby like this and be completely helpless to make it better.  Nothing she said seemed to help; nothing was sinking in.  All he could talk about was how he wasn’t meeting other people’s expectations — that everyone didn’t think he was good enough.

 

It made her want to scream at him, I think you’re enough! I think you’re amazing! Don’t the things that I think matter to you? She didn’t, of course, realizing that the last thing that Toby needed was for her to turn this into the Kaelyn Show, but she did wish there was a way that she could make a difference.

 

She thought back to all the times he had made her feel better, keeping her from falling apart when her world was coming undone: how he insisted on walking her everywhere after she got attacked and was completely terrified of being on her own; the way he pulled her out of Grace’s first defense lesson when it got to be too much, valiantly defending her to Grace in the process (even though she had gotten a bit mad at him for that afterwards); the way he bought her ice cream and gently cradled her as she cried and cried and cried after breaking up with Luke, even though she had been far too distraught to even tell him why it had happened; the way he told her to take a chance on Gary, with a look on his face she hadn’t been able to read at the time, when he saw how much she wanted to be with him, even though he already knew he liked her at the time; and every sweet moment in between.

 

Kaelyn wanted to do that for him too but she didn’t how.  This was usually Toby’s role in their relationship.

 

Her arms looped snugly around his waist as she approached him from behind, pressing her cheek firmly against his back as her heart ached for a way to take this all away again.  “I love you,” she told him softly, the words tumbling out before she even knew that she had thought them. It wasn’t what she’d been planning to say and Kaelyn froze, her heart suddenly picking up pace.

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Was it something fundamentally wrong with him? he wondered, this inability to see himself as a bad person. Luke had said something to that effect, when Toby said he knew he had done bad things: Luke had asked if he well and truly owned them. What had Luke wanted? Remorse? Self-loathing? He'd seemed to think that the bad choices and mistakes Toby had made in the past defined him as a truly horrible person, like he'd purposefully gone out to hurt people and treat them badly. 

 

As the anger worse off and the melancholy began to settle in, Toby began to consider Luke's words more fully, attempting to view them from all sides, like the stones he was turning over and over in his hand. Where were the imperfections? The flaws? The inconsistencies? Was Toby morally corrupt the way Luke seemed to think he was? Did he hurt people and do whatever he wanted, regardless of the consequences? 

 

Arms curled around him from behind, her cheek pressing against his back. His lips curved up into a smile, soft and honest. At least there was this: there was Kaelyn. 

 

She didn't think he was inherently bad, that he was not a nice person. She believed in him. Perhaps that was what made her different, why he felt the way he did about her. He liked her so much because he felt as if he could be himself with her and not be judged for it, that she accepted him, failings and all, and did not expect him to be someone else. Baby had used him for her own gain the first time they had dated, Eloise had enjoyed the social status boost that came with dating an older guy. Neither had really wanted to get to know him, had liked instead the idea of him: rebellious, flirtatious, the kind of boy you couldn't take home to your parents. 

 

And he'd played up to that image, did play up to it. He'd cheated on them both, hadn't thought twice about it, had just done what he wanted to. 

 

“I love you.” 

 

Kaelyn's words were soft, almost stolen away by the wind, but he heard them. His heart thumped, air rushed into his chest, empty space, vast and unknowable. Stones clattered in his hand as he clenched his fingers around them. She loved him. Shouldn't he say the same? The words stuck in his throat. I know. Kaelyn's heart was huge, her feelings clear in whatever she did. She gave everything her all; was passionate about all that she did. She'd stuck with him through everything, forgave him his failings and accepted his apologies, she never gave up on him. Did he love her? He didn't know. He wasn't sure if he could, not after the things he'd done, what he'd said. 

 

He looked out across the lake. Shadows lurked under the surface. "You shouldn't."

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I love you.

 

I love you.

 

I love you.

 

It was her own words that reverberated back to her at first — words that probably caught her more off guard than it had him.  The sentiment had fallen into the open before she’d even been aware of its existence and… did she mean it?

 

With her cheek still firmly pressed against Toby’s back, her smaller body still fretfully trying to soak up the pain in his, Kaelyn felt like she did.  But it was all too soon, too fast, too big, just like their relationship.  She hadn’t been ready to voice them and now it was too late to take them back, and yet… she did mean them.  Kaelyn honestly felt like she could give this boy everything without getting back nearly enough in return and still be okay.  That was love, wasn’t it?

 

It scared her, but she wanted him.  She wanted him so badly and she felt like she could be brave enough for the both of them.

 

Except he might not even want her to be.

 

“You shouldn’t.”

 

His words sounded hollow, just like the way he looked.  Kaelyn lifted her face and slackened her hold but still kept her arms loosely looped around his waist.  Now it was his words that reverberated into the silence.

 

‘You shouldn’t’ was a far cry from ‘I love you too’ and Kaelyn wasn’t sure how she was supposed to feel about that.  Maybe her sadness should’ve been bigger, and maybe her relief should’ve been smaller, but if she hadn’t been ready to say those words then she had no hope or expectation of it being reciprocated.  Her heart continued to thump as she turned this thought over in her head.

 

You shouldn’t.

 

You shouldn’t.

 

You shouldn’t.

 

“Maybe I don’t care about that.”  Her sudden declaration was punctuated by that trademark Paddock stubbornness.  The rest of her thoughts were slowly coming together too.  “I won’t say it to you anymore if you don’t want me to, but don’t… don’t push me away just because… just because you think you’re not what people want you to be, okay?  I- I don’t care who thinks you’re horrible, or not good enough, or whatever… I- I know you. I think you’re good enough.  More than good enough.  I think - I love-“  And here she almost said it again, but caught herself just in time.

 

Kaelyn couldn’t explain the way she was feeling, but she was sure that if she could capture it and ride the wave forever, she could do almost anything.  She moved to stand in front of him, flinging her arms around his neck and pressing her forehead ardently against his. “If you even think for a minute that I’m ever going to listen to you, Tobias Winchester, you are crazy!” she ended off a bit savagely.

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I love you.

 

I love you.

 

I love you.

 

The words repeated again, over and over. Had he said the wrong thing? He started to feel the shortness of his breath, the extra beat in the pulse point flickering in his wrists. He should have said something else, should have said it back to her. What if that was it? What if she agreed with him? He didn't know what he'd do if she agreed with him and realised that he was an utterly terrible idea. 

 

He needed to take it back, it was a terrible thing to say--

 

"Maybe I don't care about that."

 

His breath wavered, heart skipping another beat as she tried to convince him that he was a good person, that he was worth her, but he wasn't, he knew he wasn't. Kaelyn deserved someone better than him, someone who had cheated on two girlfriends without a care and drawn his wand on a girl he'd been friends with. She deserved someone who was a good person - really, truly - and would treat her the way she deserved to be treated. Toby couldn't promise he wouldn't ever hurt her like that, because he didn't know. He'd always been as changeable as the wind, going in whatever direction he felt like at the time. 

 

Kaelyn claimed she knew him but did she, really? He wasn't even sure he knew himself.

 

There was movement and then she was standing in front of him, arms around his neck as she pressed her forehead against his. He had to lean down to do it, his own arms moving automatically to wrap around her waist, holding her close. He closed his eyes as she spoke, lips curving into a smile. That was the Kaelyn he knew, telling him off when he did something she didn't like. "That's probably a good idea," he said, opening his eyes, only it made him a little cross-eyed to try and look at her when they were this close, so he had to lean back. "I'm full of all sorts of crap. I don't know why you put up with me."

 

But he was glad she did - oh, how he was glad.

 

"I-" the word stuck, it wouldn't come out. He swallowed, tried again: "I'm glad I've got you. Thank you for never giving up on me."

 

One day I'll be worthy of that.     

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