Kaladin Stormblessed opened his eyes for the first time that morning, feeling the sunlight come through his window and touch his skin, upon hearing the voice of one of his men. "Open up!", a fist banged at the wood.
No way. Syl had always asked him to do that, but it wasn't easy. Sharing feelings and thoughts and your personal history was for some a piece of cake, but Kaladin had, even as a child, never-
Oh. Open the door. Right.
In a swift motion, he was out of the bed, jumping into his pants and looping the belt quickly. "I'm coming," he said, once at the entrance, only to find Skar outside in the hallway. He was clean-shaven and smelled fresh, like a good cold bath and forest leaves. Was it already late morning? Had Kaladin slept in? Taln's palms, how could he! "Did I miss my shift?"
Skar raised an eyebrow at him. "No, relax. I woke up early so I'm going out, but I have some news."
Was someone hurt? Kaladin gulped, preparing himself for the worst. "Last night you asked me when the bar at the center opens up," he continued. "They're about to start working in an hour, so..."
"Finally! I see you are taking my advice!" Syl giggled from his shoulder. "I'm surprised you want to talk to a woman though."
If he was being completely honest, Kaladin would be too in any other situation, but this wasn't any woman. It wasn't some messenger that put a hint of seductiveness in her voice or some scribe that shot him a flirtatious look. This wasn't someone he had just met and who made him uncomfortable. If anything, it was the opposite.
Because it was Tarah. Beautiful, smart, fun Tarah. The same girl he had parted ways with years ago.
"Look Syl, I simply want to see how she is doing." His spren certainly wanted his intentions to be romantic, but he didn't see it like that. After what seemed like a lifetime of learning about loss, Kaladin was happy to see someone he cared about alive, and despite the mistakes he had made- especially at the end of their relationship- he did still care about her.
Thinking about the woman made him remember the first time they met. It wasn't long after Tien's death and she and her father had just moved to the war camp. He was already late to practice and she was running errands, and as obvious as the story might go, they bumped into each other. He wasn't immediately taken by her beauty, but he knew there was something special about her the second he laid his eyes on her. Like every second of practice he was missing didn't matter because time had stopped. They stood there staring at each other for five seconds, exactly, he recalled, before they introduced themselves nervously.
Hmm... Five years ago.
Today, he stood in front of a bar, as he had with countless other men two days ago. It was where Adolin's surprise bachelor party took place. He didn't drink much, barely two cups of orange wine, but the one time he did try and get a refill, he saw who was serving the drinks.
Of course, it was none other than Tarah.
Taking in a deep breath and bracing himself for any possibility, he stepped in. "Good day," he said, looking around the space. He expected the visitors to smell disgustingly strong of alcohol, even if it was still early, but instead, the large room smelled of soap and didn't even have many guests. In fact, all the guests were parents with their children, feeding them soft potato and crisp chicken. That's when he noticed the signs outside the window- glyphs that said Family time and two others that said morning and noon.
So they celebrated the last night of Adolin's unmarried life at a place that serves children's food on the menu for a half a day.
Oh, he couldn't wait to tell him.
"Yes?" someone asked from behind him. It was an old, short woman with long, gray hair swept into a bun. Her lips were painted red, putting attention to how thin they were as she puckered them at him, questioning his presence.
"Hello, I'm Captain Kaladin," he introduced himself.
Her eyes immediately widened, mouth gaping. "I promise our drinks are legal! I have the paperwork!" He frowned at her, blinking. She did know the Captain didn't do the inspection, right?
"Actually," he continued slowly, "I'm looking for a woman that works here. Tarah, she's a friend."
The woman let out a quick, relieved laugh. "Oh, yes, of course! Come this way," she said, gesturing with her hands. It was clear that she was the manager, if not the owner, but not just by promising paperwork. The way she moved through her space, or how she talked when he came in was what instantly gave it away. The women that owned pubs where always that way- cold and stern at the beginning, judging if you're a danger to them and their customers. Then they'd welcome you with open arms once they realized you weren't. It was just how it was done in Alethkar, and now, Urithiru has accepted it as the norm.
He didn't prepare himself enough for seeing Tarah. When he spotted her last time, he had the option of going back to his table and turning his attention elsewhere, but now... Now, he was so near her, watching her sweep the tables down to the last little stain, perfecting them. The older woman, who had introduced herself as Amala, patted his shoulder and left them alone. "Tarah," he called.
She whipped her head around, then scrunched her eyes at him, brows furrowing. "Kaladin?" she asked slowly, stopping her work to take him in fully.
He swallowed hard and dry. "I heard you work here!", he said, far more cheerily than he had intended. "I mean... I saw you working here, actually, but I didn't think a bachelor party would be a good place to talk," he admitted. "I'm really glad to see you. How have you been?" He didn't plan for the words to come out so rushed, so out of breath.
"You look lovely!". Someone stop him!
She blushed a little and he hoped that meant this conversation, as embarrassing as it was, was also going well. But something in her eyes shifted, in her posture, in her entire expression. It was like one second she was open for talking and the next, she closed up. "Thank you, I hope you are well too." She paused, looking at the ground, then back up at him. "I don't have to work tomorrow, so maybe we can take a walk then?"
A smile found his way onto his face, unexpectedly. “That sounds wonderful.”