Perceval stayed behind the pillar for a long time while he tried to collect himself. When he at last emerged from the tight space, he realized that he’d managed to get quite disheveled. With a sigh that wavered slightly, he began straightening his clothes, brushing off the dust, and working the tangles out of his hair. Satisfied with his appearance, Perceval started down the hall again; he didn’t think he could stand for Algernon to see him right now, and it was probably better if he just moved on anyway. He was uninvited, after all, and the Commandant probably had other duties to attend to.
Perceval only made it so far however, before he’d turned back and was once again standing in front of Algernon’s door, adjusting his appearance. He couldn’t go back to work like this, and even if he didn’t want Algernon to see him, seeing Algernon was the only thing that ever made him feel better. Hesitating slightly, Perceval knocked gently on the door before opening it just enough for himself to slip inside. “Good afternoon, sir. I hope I’m not disturbing you,” he said smoothly, bowing deeply to disguise his condition.
Algernon looked up from the paperwork he was filling out to see Perceval. He stood and made his way over to where he stood, smiling. "Of course you're not disturbing me, Percy," he replied, pressing a soft kiss to his lips. "To what do I owe this visit?" As he took a step back, he realized that Perceval was looking fairly bothered and unsettled, and he wondered if something was not right. "...is everything all right? No one's been bothering you, have they?" He was somewhat surprised at the protectiveness in his own voice, but it did not lie; he would personally see to it that anyone who bothered Perceval would answer to him.
Perceval’s heart was still fluttering after the kiss, however brief it had been, and for a moment, his troubles had left him. That was one of the many many things he loved about Algernon. When Perceval was with him, nothing else mattered—nothing had to be perfect because Algernon’s perfection and very existence made up for it all. Algernon’s question had brought him back into the real world however, the world of business he usually worked so hard to maintain around Algernon, and he looked down sadly, disappointed to be roused from the blissful solace that was Algernon’s close proximity. “No sir, everything is quite…it’s quite alright.” He looked up at Algernon and smiled softly. “I just wanted to see you, sir.”
Algernon was quite certain that something was wrong now; Perceval was never melancholic unless there was something behind it. He would just have to find out what it was and fix it; Perceval being dreary would never do. Pulling the other back into his arms and kissing him lightly on the neck, he smiled. "You know I always enjoy entertaining your company, Percy..." He kissed him again on the same spot, "...but it does pain me to see you so unhappy. Please, tell me what is troubling you so I can have something done about it." He hated when Perceval got into these states, especially when he refused to tell Algernon what was bothering him. He wanted to be able to fix his problems, no matter what they were, and it was just so much harder when Perceval was in such a state.
Perceval allowed himself to relax into Algernon’s arms and sighed as Algernon’s lips graced his skin. “It’s better now, sir. Thank you…” Perceval placed his hands tentatively around Algernon’s waist and closed his eyes. Really, being with Algernon made everything a lot better, and he had no idea why he’d been so upset. It was Algernon’s prerogative, after all, to do as he liked with whomever he liked… Perceval had been foolish to think that he alone could ever be good enough for Algernon. He shook a little and looked away, his jaw clenching. “I hate that wretch, that Christian…” Perceval hissed, narrowing his eyes. He wasn’t sure why he’d said it aloud, or if he’d meant to at all; he didn’t mean to sound so jealous, but that was how he felt, and now that it was said, he wouldn’t take it back.
Algernon's eyes widened slightly in realization as Perceval hissed out his venomous dislike for Christian. So Perceval had seen Christian leaving the office...that must have been it. He was jealous; he thought Algernon had been with Christian... It all made sense now. Shaking his head, Algernon squeezed Perceval tighter before taking a small step back, taking Perceval's hands in his. "Oh, Percy, Percy...you don't really think I'd seriously involve myself with my incompetent, childish cousin? You must know that anything I do, everything is for business...business, and nothing more...?" He hated to see Perceval this way, and he wished the other man would trust him, would understand that he did what he had to for business.
“I know but,” Perceval whimpered, looking down at Algernon teary-eyed and struggling to hold back how he felt. “It just seems like…even if it’s just for business,” the tears broke and Perceval buried his head in Algernon’s shoulder. “Sir, I can’t help but worry that…you’ll grow tired of me and look for someone else…” Perceval knew he must sound ridiculous, and terribly childish, and that Algernon probably didn’t want to have to deal with his insecurities, but saying it out loud made him feel a little better, and he sniffed back his tears, pulling back slightly. “I’m sorry sir, please forgive my outburst.”
Algernon shook his head, pulling Perceval close again and wiping away his tears carefully with his thumb. "I wish you'd have more faith in me, Percy...I've never, ever wanted anyone but you. You are mine, and I keep what's mine, understand?" He looked Perceval in the eye, giving him the most trustworthy look he had. "What do I need to do to prove it to you? I'll do whatever it takes...you know I hate to see tears in those perfect eyes." He took Perceval's chin carefully in his hand and angled his face down into a soft kiss. "Tell me what I need to do to prove it to you, Percy."
Perceval nodded, feeling terrible for not having faith in Algernon. He had to believe that whatever Algernon did was what should be done, and he had to trust that Algernon still wanted him, regardless of business. When Algernon looked into his eyes again, Perceval tears returned silently. Algernon didn’t need to prove anything to him, one look like that was enough to make Perceval weep again with emotion. “Please don’t stop,” Perceval gulped, opening his mouth slightly and closing his eyes, hoping Algernon would kiss him again.
A smile slid across Algernon's lips as he pulled away slightly. "As you wish," he murmured against Perceval's lips before kissing him again, harder. Tightening his arms around Perceval's waist, he drew the slender man closer to him as he deepened the kiss. After a few moments, he pulled away, leaning up to lick away Perceval's remaining tears before kissing him briefly again on the lips. Withdrawing again, he trailed his tongue down to Perceval's neck, nipping lightly before sucking. When he grew tired of the spot, he nibbled his way back up to Perceval's jaw, leaving another red mark there before kissing him one last time on the lips.
When they broke apart to breathe, he smiled at Perceval, trailing his fingers lightly along the line of red marks he had produced. "There, Percy... Proof that you're mine."
Perceval reached tentatively to touch the mark as if to confirm its presence, smiling softly as he slipped his hand into Algernon’s. “Thank you,” he breathed, his concerns having shifted entirely as he became more wrapped up in hoping Algernon would offer more proof. Really, he supposed, the whole thing had been foolish; Perceval knew he belonged exclusively to Algernon, he’d just needed a little reminder and to vent some of his ever persistent loathing of certain Warrant Officers. Now that he thought about it, Perceval realized how silly it had been to get so upset and worked up about it when in truth it was really all Christian distracting Algernon, and it was no fault or imperfection of his own; Christian was the who should be punished, and he would see to it that he did just that.
Algernon smiled, kissing Perceval briefly on the lips once more before letting his expression slide into a predatory smirk. "I really think I ought to provide you with a little more proof...don't you agree, Percy?" He moved closer and lowered his voice, nibbling at Perceval's ear softly. "You did lock the door on your way in?"
“Yes,” Perceval sighed his response to both questions, mewling eagerly. He’d remembered, even in his previous state, that good things always came from visits to Algernon, and he knew that that fact was something he’d been counting on, even if only subconsciously.
Corinne stared blankly at the open road before her. It was a Saturday, she was off from work, and she was about to go see Viorica. She should be been excited, but, instead, she was feeling rather gloomy. Ever since the initial meeting with the rest of the Hirlea family, Corinne had felt melancholic and downhearted, and not even her daily morning visits with Viorica could lighten her mood. She felt like a failure, like she had screwed up the one good thing in her life. She was always confident in every aspect of her life; she was well respected and a precedent-setter at work, and before Viorica, work had been her life. But now, now her love was the priority, and she didn't know what to do with herself.
However, today was a day off and today she and Viorica were going to go out. Surely that would lighten her mood, and she had even worn a dress so as to be presentable to the Hirleas when she picked Viorica up and dropped her off. She arrived in good time, parked, and, taking a deep breath, headed for the door. She couldn't hide from them forever, and besides, she needed to see Viorica.
Viorica skipped around the house excitedly as she got ready for her outing with Corinne. It was such a relief to get out of the house and especially to spend some time with Corrine aside from their little meetings. It’d been difficult lately for the two of them to spend much time together after the disastrous first meeting with her family, but Viorica had a plan to remedy that little misfortune. As it was, Pierre had his day off today and was home with Tatiana, helping with Amelie, and the two of them were acting positively giddy—it was the perfect time for them to meet Corinne again, as this time they’d be too enraptured with Amelie and far too sleep deprived to give her a hard time. It was a rather tricky way to go about fixing things, but Viorica new that someday they’d come to like Corinne, somehow, and right now what was important was helping Corinne to feel better about how things were going until that time when everything would come together.
Viorica made he way over to the door to wait for Corinne eagerly, planning to open the door even before she’d knocked. However, she heard her name and turned as Tatiana asked her to fetch another bottle from the kitchen. Dutifully, Viorica left her post and got the bottle, handing it to Tatiana just as there was a knock on the door. Happily, Viorica lifted her skirts and made her way over to the entrance, smiling brightly and pulling the door open. “Hello,” Viorica greeted musically, pecking Corrine on the cheek as she took her arm and led her inside. “You have to meet Amelie before we go.” Everything would go well this time, she was sure of it, and her confidence showed in the extra skip to her step.
"All right," Corinne agreed with a smile, allowing Viorica to lead her through the house. Even if she was feeling tentative about how Viorica's relatives would receive her again, she couldn't help but feel a little better at Viorica's cheerful demeanor. Seeing her happy made Corinne happy, regardless of the situation, and so she willingly followed Viorica down the hall to a small room from which she heard hushed voices and fussing noises. The door was half open, and Corinne held her skirts back with her free hand as she tried to step quietly. "Is this the baby's room?" she whispered to Viorica.
“Yes,” Viorica said in a hushed voice. “But it used to be Dragomir’s,” she added with a giggle. They both tiptoed carefully into the room where Tatiana was sitting in a plush chair next to the crib holding a bottle for Amelie as Pierre leaned over the two of them making adoring faces at the baby. Viorica smiled back briefly at Corinne before hurrying forward to Tatiana’s side. “Corinne is here to meet Amelie.”
“Oh, of course.” Tatiana murmured, looking up at Viorica and then over to Corinne and smiling blissfully. When she looked away from her tiny charge however, Amelie spat out the bottle and opened her mouth in a loud wail. Tatiana immediately looked back down at her and tried to get her to take the bottle again, to little avail. Pierre tried his own method of cute noises and faces, but nothing seemed to work to calm her down. Viorica looked back to Corinne apologetically, hoping she wouldn’t mind all the noise.
Corinne smiled back at Viorica assuringly, and made her way quietly into the room, peering over Tatiana's shoulder. The baby, even fussing and crying, was absolutely adorable, and Corinne melted slightly into a soft smile. She was a healthy looking child, and the spitting image of her parents, and Corinne found herself unable to stop smiling. Tentatively, she turned to Tatiana. "May...may I hold her?"
Pierre looked up at Corrine with abrupt sharpness as if he’d only just realized she was there. Temporarily abandoning his goal to assuage the baby’s crying, he scowled at her and started to say something, only to be cut off Tatiana nodded and passed the squirming baby to Corinne. Disheartened, Pierre shut his mouth and looked longingly after his baby as if he were afraid for her safety. Tatiana on the other hand, seemed excited to share her little baby with Corinne, and smiled happily as she watched little Amelie squirm around in someone else’s arms.
Corinne smiled softly at the baby in her arms, rocking her slightly. Even though she had never had any interest in giving birth, she had always had an affinity for children, and holding the baby made her feel almost fuzzy inside. She continued to smile at the child, and, to her surprise, Amelie began to stop crying, her tiny face changing into one of calm restfulness. Corinne was surprised, but quickly smiled over at Viorica before looking back to Tatiana and moving to return the child to her arms. "Thank you very much...you have a lovely daughter."
Tatiana beamed up at Corinne as she took the now sleeping child back into her arms. “No, thank you,” Tatiana whispered softly. “You must be very good with children.” Rocking Amelie gently, Tatiana looked up to Pierre, who was looking at Corrine skeptically, as if reevaluating her.
Viorica smirked inwardly; her plan had gone better than she’d thought, and now that it was clear Amelie liked Corrine, and Tatiana had been won over as well, Pierre would have to follow suit. She turned to Corrine and grinned up at her, her task accomplished. “Are you ready to go?” she asked, already starting for the door.
“It was nice to see you again.” Tatiana said after them. “Please come by any time you like, Corinne.” She smiled and looked up at Pierre expectantly, who, scowling, was prodded to say, “Yeah, whenever,” just as they stepped out of the room.
“I’m glad that worked so well,” Viorica giggled, leading the way back outside. “I knew they’d like you, it just took a little bit of help from Amelie.” Viorica laughed lightly and spun around abruptly to press another quick kiss to Corinne’s cheek. Then, skipping, she slipped her arm into Corrine’s and smiled up at her as they walked to the automobile. “So, where are we going today?”
Corinne couldn't help but smile at Tatiana's change in demeanor, and thanked her warmly for her offer before following Viorica out of the room. She smiled again at Viorica as they made their way outside, laughing slightly in relief. "...I'm so glad. I didn't know what I was going to do if your family didn't like me..." She grinned and pulled Viorica into her arms, planting a firm kiss on her lips before opening the automobile door for her. "Today, I'm taking you shopping in the city. It's been a while since I've had an excuse to spoil you rotten...we'll call it a reward for helping your sister out with the baby, how about that?" She smiled in anticipation as she climbed into the driver's side, started up the automobile, and pulled away from the curb.
“I like that idea,” Viorica smirked, “And I deserve a reward—it’s been nothing but work, whether I’m home or at the hospital,” she laughed jokingly. It was so exciting to get to go out into the city, and the fact that it was with Corinne made it doubly so. Corrine always bought her a lot of expensive things when they went out, and it had been such a long time since they’d had a substantial amount of time together, so even aside from the prospect of fineries, Viorica was jittery with anticipation. Being with Corinne was the highlight of everything she did, and a whole day with the other woman promised to be spectacular. Viorica rocked in her seat eagerly, watching as things zoomed past outside her window, and occasionally glancing over at Corinne as she smiled to herself with enthusiasm.
They made it to the city in relatively good time, and Corinne parked the automobile on the curb and helped Viorica out and onto the walk. Looking around at the shops for a second, she grinned at Viorica and nodded towards a nearby one. "What do you say we go to the shoe store first?" She was already excited to get to buy Viorica more things; she took a guilty pleasure in giving Viorica expensive gifts, because, after all, it made Viorica happy, and it hardly hurt her financial state.
“All right!” Viorica said happily, grinning up at Corinne. One could never have enough shoes, and as Viorica only owned a few pairs, she considered that apocryphal phrase to be especially true. She was always wishing she had a bit more variety when it came to her footwear selection, and Corinne always found the things that would be perfect for her. Shopping with Tatiana had always been a disappointment because of how restricted her choices were, but with Corinne, it seemed like the choices were limitless, and Viorica loved to dress up for her, especially in things Corinne selected for her to try on.
Viorica skipped along eagerly behind Corinne as they made their way to the shoe store—one of the largest in town—and stepped inside. The shelves upon shelves of shoes were rather intimidating to Viorica, who’d never been in a store quite so large, and she grasped Corinne’s arm, looking up at her expectantly. “Where do we start?” she asked, with an audible note of nervousness.
Corinne grinned and led Viorica over to one of the plush chairs set about the store. "Is there anything in particular that you're looking for, or can I just choose things for you?" With Viorica’s permission, Corinne excitedly examined the shelves, finding anything she thought Viorica would look good in. Lavishly decorated ankle boots and high-heeled slippers were the fashion, and Corinne knew that the style looked perfect on Viorica's small feet, so she didn't hesitate to take anything she fancied.
By the time she had made it about a quarter of the way around the store, she had already picked five boxes, which was about all she could hold at once, so she returned to Viorica with the boxes and set them out for her. "Here, I think this is enough for starters...try them on," she urged, sitting down beside Viorica eagerly to watch.
“Oh wow, they’re all so pretty!” Viorica exclaimed as she set about removing the tissue stuffed in a pair of elegant suede ankle boots. She held the shoe reverently, admiring the ornate lace and decoration as she kicked off her own crude leather boots before stepping into the beautiful boot. Corinne had her size down pat, she noticed, and pulled on the other shoe before standing and trying them out. “What do you think of these?” she asked jubilantly, walking around Corrine in a small circle. “You got the size just right, by the way,” Viorica added, wiggling her toes inside the shoe experimentally.
Corinne watched, pleased, as Viorica walked around. "I'm glad they fit you well...they look great on you. You have such gorgeous little feet," she admired, nodding. She was too anxious to wait too long, however, and they weren't outstanding, so she hurriedly pressed the next box into Viorica's hands. "Here, try these."
The next pair of shoes were light blue heels with gold embroidery and crystals sewn on. They were a little gaudy, but somehow still elegant, and so she knelt to slide them carefully onto Viorica's feet. The three inch heels made her feet seem even more dainty and cute than they already were and she smiled as she stood. "What do you think of these?"
“Oh, I like these a lot!” Viorica cooed, looking down at the shoes and moving so that the little crystals caught the light. She had a tendency to go for the flashy things in general, and she was glad Corinne had found a pair of shoes that were showy, and yet very stylish. After strutting around in the shoes, Viorica sat down and looked tentatively at Corrine. “Can I get these ones?” she asked hopefully, even as she pulled the next box closer. She knew it’d be best to look at everything else first, but she couldn’t help but be excited already.
Corinne smiled. "Of course. Just set them aside." She was glad that she had chosen something that Viorica liked, and happily set the box off to the side for later before moving on to the next box. Over the course of an hour or so, they went through box after box, Viorica trying on pair after pair of shoes and Corinne never ceasing to be amazed by how every single pair looked good on her. Finally, after they had gone through most of the boxes, Corinne came upon a pair of ankle boots that caught her attention. They were white suede with a light blue trim and embroidery. They were elegant yet simple, and Corinne liked them. "Try these on," she offered with a smile, sliding one shoe, then the other, on. "They look really nice on you."
“Do you think so?” Viorica asked, trying to be modest. She really liked the color herself and was pleased Corinne thought it looked good on her. These shoes however, begged for a matching outfit—Viorica had hardly anything that she could wear with them now, and she hoped that they’d find something nice over the course of the day. In the meanwhile though, she experimented with prancing around in the white shoes, enjoying how perfectly they fit her. The support was excellent, and they were also really comfortable. “These are really nice. Can I get these too?” Viorica said after a moment, feeling almost reluctant to take them off.
"I'd love to get them for you," Corinne replied with a smile. "You can wear them out of you like," she added, noting the way Viorica seemed not to want to take them off. She set the box aside with the other pairs of shoes they were purchasing, then began gathering the boxes to put back on the shelf. After setting them aside to be replaced on the shelves, she smiled and picked up Viorica's boxes, heading to the desk to purchase them. "Ready to go?"
“Yes,” Viorica grinned with a nod. “Can we look at dresses next?” she asked hopefully. Corinne obliged, of course, and once the boxes of shoes were safely in bags, they set off for the next store—a large and imposing building housing a union of tailors who offered the best quality garments in the capital. When they entered the building, a woman immediately came to their service and took Viorica’s measurements before showing them to the section where the garments with the closest fit were contained. She assured them that all the dresses could be modified to any size as well, and bid them happy shopping. As soon as the woman had left, Viorica hitched up her skirts so that she could get a good look at the boots, explaining to Corinne, “I’d like to find something I can wear with these. What do you think would go?”
Corinne looked at the shoes, then began looking through the dresses on the shelves. After considering, she chose three different dresses. The first was light blue with silver and white accents and white lace, and the second was also light blue, with silver and pink accents and white lace and trim. The third was Corinne's personal favourite, it was made of white satin and had light blue accents and trim, as well as light blue lace around the edges. Corinne handed all three dresses to Viorica, smiling. "Try these on."
“How beautiful,” Viorica said as she accepted the dresses and looked down at them with admiration briefly before grinning up at Corinne. “I’ll go try these on right away,” she chimed happily, heading for the dressing room where she was met by an assistant. She got out of her dress hurriedly, and, with the help of the assistant, slipped into the first of the light blue dresses. Her assistant took a few minutes to pin things into place, the way they would be resewn if Viorica ended up purchasing the garment, and helped her lace and tie all fittings before she stepped out of the changing room and twirled around for Corinne. “What do you think of this one?” Viorica asked excitedly, feeling like a princess already.
Corinne watched as Viorica spun, admiring the way the dress looked on her. "I like it. It looks good on you," Corinne replied with a smile, admiring the way the colours complemented Viorica's skin tone. "Do you like it?
“Yes,” Viorica smiled, looking down at herself with a grin. For some reason or another, it wasn’t quite perfect, though, and she was eager to try on the others. With a final grin at Corinne, Viorica returned to the dressing room and waited patiently as the assistant removed the pins and helped her out of the gown. Viorica selected the next one, with silver and pink, and pulled it on, waiting again less patently as the dress was pinned to fit her. That being done, she bounded out from the fitting room and swished her skirts about, admiring the way they fanned around her. “This one is really pretty, too.” Viorica smiled up at Corinne. “Which one do you like?”
"They both look lovely on you," Corinne replied, looking Viorica over in the new dress. "I think I liked the first one better, though. Why don't you try on the third one now?" Corinne smiled. Though Viorica looked cute in the first two dresses, Corinne was sure that she would look absolutely amazing in the third dress, and eagerly waited for her to try that one on.
Viorica nodded and smiled brightly. She’d like the first one the best too so far, and was happy to hear that reiterated by Corrine. However, just from her initial look at the three dresses, the third one had really caught her eye from the get-go, and she was really looking forward to putting it on. Once she was unpinned and out of the second dress, Viorica took a moment to look over the elegant detail on the beautiful white dress. It was such a classic color, and it really went with her shoes quite perfectly. Viorica had the assistant pull the dress over her head and lace her up, and she was excited to find that this one required only minimal pinning and fitting. Even before the adjustments, it had felt lovely; the satin material was light and seemed to fit like a dream. Viorica couldn’t wait to show Corinne, but took her time walking gracefully out of the fitting room and stepping with precision over to where Corinne waited. She curtsied politely, then turned around slowly so that Corinne could see the full effect. “I think this might be my favorite so far.” Viorica giggled.
Corinne was almost stunned speechless as Viorica glided over to her and curtsied. Though she knew Viorica was absolutely adorable and was captivated by her girlish charm, she was always stunned by the grace and beauty she emanated when she tried. When Viorica spoke, Corinne was brought back to reality, and she smiled warmly, taking Viorica's hand into hers, kissing it amorously. "It's definitely my favourite. You look absolutely gorgeous...breathtaking." Corinne took Viorica's hand firmly and twirled her around again before nodding and grinning resolutely. "I'm buying this one for you whether you like it or not."
“Oh, I definitely like it.” Viorica laughed. “I’m glad you do, too! I think it’s perfect, thank you.” She smiled, giving Corinne’s hand a light squeeze before trotting off to change back. This time the pins were left in, and the dress was handed off to one of the tailors for the few minor adjustments while the bill was brought out to Corinne and Viorica got dressed again in her old clothes. The dress was finished by the time everything else was together, and Viorica emerged from the dressing room to thank Corinne again profusely. Already it had been such an exciting day, and Viorica was thoroughly looking forward to wearing the dress and shoes out next time she and Corinne went somewhere.
Viorica smiled sweetly at the woman who handed her the now resized white dress, which was tightly and carefully wrapped in a package, then grinned up at Corinne. “Where are we off to next?” she asked eagerly.
Corinne grinned back as they headed outside. "Well, it just wouldn't be proper of me to be buying you shoes and matching dress without buying you the rest of the outfit to go with, don't you think? There's a really nice place that does gloves and purses right down the street. That sound all right with you?"
“Oh yes, that sounds perfect!” Viorica smiled. She was glad Corinne had thought of that, as otherwise she wouldn’t have really had any of the other necessary pieces of the outfit and the whole thing would have looked incomplete. Viorica followed Corinne the short distance to the other store, and once inside they both set about picking out accessories and holding them against the dress and with the shoes to see what would go best. In the end, they settled on a dainty little white bag and a pair of long white gloves with blue detail stitching, as was in fashion. Corinne paid for the last couple of items and they headed back outside. “Can I get some jewelry next?” Viorica asked, not wanting to sound too needy, but at the same time still hoping Corinne wouldn’t mind if they kept working on perfecting the outfit.
Corinne laughed. "You took the words right out of my mouth. Come on, I know the best jewelry place." She took Viorica's hand and led her to a rather conservative looking building and immediately led her over to the desk. The woman behind it smiled at her. "Good evening, Ms. Delancy! What can I do for you?"
Corinne smiled back at her. "Do you have any blue diamonds? Preferably on silver?" The shop owner nodded and left into a back room for a minute before returning with a necklace in hand. She set it on the counter in front of Corinne, who picked it up gently. It was beautiful, a large blue diamond cut in a teardrop shape on a thin silver chain and Corinne knew it would be the perfect thing. Carefully, she clasped it around Viorica's neck. "What do you think?"
Viorica looked down at the delicate piece around her neck and carefully lifted a hand to touch the gem at her neck. With an awed smile, she looked back up at Corrine as her fingers continued to trace over the slender chain reverently. “It’s so pretty, and it seems like it would be just perfect with the dress!” she chimed excitedly, hoping that this necklace would be the one they bought, as she was already quite attached.
Corinne smiled. "Excellent. It looks lovely on you," she replied to Viorica before turning to the store owner. "We'll take it. Is there anything else in the set?"
The woman nodded. "A ring and earrings. Would you like those as well?"
Corinne grinned. "Of course." She accepted the necklace back from Viorica and handed it to the store owner. "And wrap them up in a box for me? Thank you." She moved over to the front counter to pay, Viorica trailing at her heels, and accepted the package after the transaction was completed. Then, taking Viorica's hand in hers, she headed for the door. "I hope that you're satisfied with everything you got?" she asked with a grin. "You can try it all on together, if you like. I thought we could head back to my place?"
“Yes, everything is fantastic! More than I could’ve ever imagined even owning,” Viorica practically squealed with delight as they emerged from the store and into the evening. “And going back to your place would be the perfect way to finish off the day.” Viorica added happily. She was surprised how late it had gotten, but it had been a day well spent, and she could hardly wait to dress up for Corinne back at her house. Viorica slipped her arm around Corrine’s and walked close to her, following her back to the automobile.
Viorica was so pleased with everything they’d picked out that day, and she wanted to make sure Corinne knew how much she appreciated everything. “Thank you so much, Corrine. Today has been amazing.” Viorica followed up the thanks with a quick kiss to Corrine’s cheek before pushing a little closer to her as she reveled in the moment and thought about what it would be like to dress in such finery and how amazing it would feel to look so pretty for Corrine.
"You're welcome, love. Anything to see your pretty smile," Corinne replied as she opened the door for Viorica before getting into the driver's seat and starting up the automobile. The money was no object to her; so long as she could make Viorica happy, she was happy. And besides, she was especially looking forward to going home and spending some time alone with her, as well as seeing the new outfit.
The drive seemed longer than it actually was, but finally, they arrived at Corinne's home. As soon as they got in, Corinne handed some of the bags off to a maid, who followed them up to the bedroom. Upon Corinne's instructions, she deposited them in the dressing area, then curtsied politely and left, closing the door behind her and leaving Corinne and Viorica alone in the room. Corinne grinned. "If you'd like to try your new things on, you can use the changing area over there, and I'll wait for you here." She sat down in the sitting room attached to her bedroom, and motioned over towards another side area with a vanity and mirror meant for dressing. She felt as if she were about to pop with anticipation; she couldn't wait to see Viorica in the new things that she knew would look gorgeous on her.
Viorica smiled, gathering up the bags of clothing and moving to the dressing area. She undressed quickly, impatient to put the new dress on again, and then unwrapped the package. She was once again taken by the sheer beauty of fabric and trims alone, and couldn’t wait to put it on again so that the full effect could be realized. Carefully, she pulled the dress over her head and slipped her arms into the sleeves, adjusting the gown so that everything hung correctly, and loving what the tailors had done for the fit. Before, the fit had been good, but now it felt perfect, and that was exactly how Viorica wanted to look for Corinne. However, before she could get everything else on, she still needed help lacing up the back of the dress. Hesitantly, and blushing quite vibrantly, Viorica emerged from the dressing area and smiled meekly at Corrine. “Can you help lace me up?” she asked a little embarrassedly as she made her way over to wear Corinne was seated.
Corinne also blushed slightly as Viorica emerged in a partial state of dress, but grinned nonetheless as she rose to help. Even though Viorica was holding the garment around herself, Corinne could still catch glimpses of her underthings around the edges, and she tried hard not to look as she began lacing up the back of the dress. She felt her face go hot, and she tried not to think about it, but it was just too much, imagining what the rest of Viorica in her undergarments looked like, it was too...mind blowing. However, she managed to get a grip on herself as she finished lacing and quickly covered her eyes as Viorica stepped away. "Hurry and put on the accessories so I can get the whole effect."
Viorica twirled around for good measure, not even noticing the state Corinne was currently in, and then skipped back to the dressing room to finish getting dressed. She extracted the jewelry from their various boxes and put each piece on carefully before pulling on the gloves. Then, straightening everything out, Viorica fixed her hair haphazardly with her fingers and stepped out from behind the screen, hoping to make a dramatic appearance and a good impression. She’d never felt so fancy and gorgeous in her life, and she managed to walk over towards Corinne with surprising grace without even trying. Something about being so dressed up and looking as amazing as she felt made it easy to walk with elegant confidence. Hopefully, Corrine would be impressed with the final outcome.
Corinne felt her jaw drop as soon as Viorica appeared out of the dressing area and stood quickly as she managed to close it. "Oh, wow..." she breathed, taking a step closer as Viorica made her way to stand before her. Everything in the outfit looked perfect together, and looked even more perfect on Viorica. It was as if the things had been made for her, and the effect was amazing. Corinne opened her mouth and closed it another time before she finally managed words. "You look absolutely breathtaking." She took Viorica's hand and kissed it lightly before stepping back to look her over again. "You're gorgeous...on you, the things look even prettier than by themselves." She nodded, then smiled and asked, "What do you think of them? Do you like everything? After all, the point of buying it all was to make you happy."
“I feel so pretty,” Viorica giggled, “and your expression just now confirms it.” Viorica stepped forward closer to Corinne and rocked her hips attractively, swinging her bag as she pressed up against the other woman. “I love everything, and I’m so happy you think it all looks good.” Viorica smiled and lifted a hand to Corinne’s cheek as she rose carefully to her toes and pressed a kiss to Corinne’s lips. “Thank you,” Viorica murmured, pulling back slowly. “I love you.”
As Viorica moved back, Corinne wrapped her arms around Viorica's waist, bringing her close again. "As long as I can see you smile, I couldn't be happier," she replied softly, pulling her into another kiss. This time, however, she didn't break away, instead deepening the kiss as she tightened her arms around Viorica's waist. A few moments later, she pulled back slightly, moving to kiss lightly at Viorica's jaw and neck. "I love you, too," she murmured against her skin, smiling slightly before sucking on the spot. Slowly making her way back up to Viorica's lips, she kissed them lightly once more before smirking against them. "You're so beautiful...I'm so glad you're mine."
“And I’m glad to be yours.” Viorica smirked back, wrapping her arms around Corinne’s neck. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.” She sighed happily, closing her eyes for a moment before pulling back and resting her head against Corinne contentedly. “Hey,” Viorica asked unthinkingly, “Do you think I could stay the night?” Blushing, she realized how her question must have sounded, and redoubled quickly. “I mean—I don’t mean that—what I meant is, since it’s getting late, and since this is my reward for doing so much work for the baby, and all, would it be okay if I stayed? So I don’t have to go back to working?” Viorica asked, looking up at Corinne rather pleadingly even as her blush remained scarlet.
Corinne grinned and pulled away to move to her wardrobe. "Sure thing," she replied, opening it and beginning leafing through. "I'm sure I have a nightgown that will fit you..." After a few minutes, she withdrew a small lavender, lacy, ruffly nightgown and handed it to Viorica, kissing her lightly on the cheek. "I know what you mean," she added with a smirk. "But I don't think any of the guest rooms are made up, so unless you want to sleep on the sofa..." she grinned. "Anyway, here, you can keep this if you want. My father sent it to me when I was sixteen..." She rolled her eyes. "You'll probably use it more than I ever did."
“Thank you,” Viorica beamed, accepting the shift, relieved that Corinne had understood as well as excited by the good fortune of the guest rooms being unavailable. “I’d much rather be with you than on the sofa," she added as she looked over the nightgown. “This is really cute, by the way—I appreciate it.” Viorica smiled looking up at Corinne fondly. Then, after a moment, she said, turning, “So I guess I’ll go get changed again?”
Corinne laughed. "Good to know I'm better than the sofa," she teased as she withdrew her own shift from her wardrobe. "And I'm glad you like it. It's nice to know someone will get some use out of it." She smiled and nodded to the changing area. "You can change back there, again." She turned and made her way back into the bedroom to change into her own nightgown, a much more sensible blue cotton thing. Then she moved to her vanity and began combing her hair out before tying it back for bed, waiting for Viorica to reemerge.
Viorica unlaced both her dress and her corset by herself, an endeavor she was still, somewhat childishly, getting used to. Then, she pulled on her new shift and was immediately impressed with the quality of the material, as it was far superior to anything she’d ever owned. Flouncing around experimentally, Viorica decided that this new nightgown would get a lot of use; there was simply no beating the higher standard of material and comfort. Additionally, the garment smelled like Corinne, and Viorica indulged in the scent, inhaling deeply with a smile before exiting the dressing area. Noting that Corinne was by the vanity, Viorica made her way over to her and leaned over her shoulder, grinning. “I’m all ready, how about you?”
Corinne smiled as she turned and put a hand on Viorica’s head and ruffled her hair affectionately. "I'm ready for bed, too." She rose and made her way over to the bed, looking back at Viorica and grinning as she sat down. "Are you coming?"
“Yes, of course,” Viorica grinned broadly, hurrying over and letting herself practically fall backward on to the bed. It was, of course, infinitely more comfortable than her own back at home, and Viorica wriggled the rest of the way on to the bed. “Thanks again for letting me stay over.” Viorica yawned happily, looking endearingly up at Corrine.
Corinne grinned and lay back on her bed as well, rolling over to wrap her arms tightly around Viorica. "No problem," she murmured, pressing a kiss to her cheek. Having Viorica in bed with her somehow made everything seem so much nicer, softer, more comfortable...smiling lazily to herself, she kissed Viorica one more time before closing her eyes. "Sweet dreams, love."
“You too,” Viorica smiled, snuggling into Corinne’s embrace and letting her eyes flutter shut. “I love you,” Viorica murmured after a few minutes when she felt sleep began to tug at her eyelids. Today had been absolutely fantastic, and Viorica could think of no better way to wrap it all up than drifting off to her dreams in Corinne’s arms.
Perceval thumbed through a multitude of papers on his desk, stacking and reorganizing many different files. Recently, a group of officers belonging to Brigadier General Garnier’s brigade, the unit concerned with special investigations, had come up with a theory that the Berceuse Malheureuse had a man inside the military—a soldier involved directly in Perceval’s own brigade’s operations. Perceval was impressed they’d learned so much, but the whole idea was laughable; they were indeed on to something, but he was quite certain they’d never find the rat. He was, after all a highly respected Brigadier General, and practically above suspicion.
Even so, the department was requesting that the efforts of both units be temporarily combined so that the search for the leak could be facilitated. The proceedings required a great deal of paperwork on Perceval’s part, and he was in a foul mood because of it. He wanted nothing more than to stop by Lt. Colonel Delancy’s office to harass and torture Warrant Officer Niles Christian, but his current workload made that impossible. Additionally, it seemed his ideal time had, unfortunately, passed him by, as Captain Hirlea had returned to work early. Perceval’s lips curled into a snarl as he thought about the two despicable wretches, and he went back to reviewing the potential squadrons to be merged for the time being with his own brigade.
As Perceval continued to look through the fills and lists of commanding officers, a name jumped out at him. Colonel Lawley. Perceval recognized the name instantly—not because he’d heard of the man around headquarters, but because he’d only just recently read his name not too long before. Perceval folded his hands neatly on his desk, waiting. It would come to him. Then, realizing what the name was from, Perceval quickly extracted Christian’s records and files. Just that morning he’d be looking through them, hunting for the perfect was to cause the Warrant Officer misery. He realized not that this would be the perfect method to inflict some substantial damage; Perceval knew that there had been some dissention between Lawley, his men, and Niles, and was quite certain their reunion would not be a pleasant one for Christian. Perceval smirked cruelly, having made his decision, and got to his feet. He had to go spread the good news, after all.
Niles smiled cheerfully to himself as he pushed Dragomir's wheelchair down the hall. He was in a very good mood; after all, today was the first day Dragomir was back at work since he was wounded. Niles was overjoyed; he had missed all the time spent with him sorely and was glad he would now have his normal superior back to work under. No offense to Julian, but he liked working under Dragomir better. It was just more normal.
Julian, however, did not seemed to be thrilled by Dragomir returning to work, but Niles didn't let that phase him. He was sure that Julian and Dragomir would somehow manage to get over their differences eventually, and that they could all be great friends. In the mean time, Niles would just be as cheerful as possible to both parties.
They arrived at the office and Niles moved out from behind the wheelchair for a moment to knock on the door before opening it and pushing Dragomir inside. He bowed and greeted the Lt. Colonel before moving Dragomir back behind his desk happily. "There, isn't it nice to be back?"
Dragomir was just turning to him to reply when the door opened and General Rousseau stepped inside. Everyone got to their feet quickly and bowed as gracefully as they could, except for Dragomir who did his beast seated. The General peered around the room, smiling rather eerily. The room fell completely silent as everyone waited for his announcement.
“As I’m quite sure many of you have realized, or at least theorized, there is a breach.” The General began. “I should hope that all of you are intelligent enough to make the connection that each time we’ve conducted an operation concerning the Berceuse Malheureuse, the organization has known of our plans in advance.” He paused for dramatic emphasis, and struggled very hard not to smirk. “Gentlemen, we have a rat. At the moment, we have no leads and none of you are under any suspicion, but the special investigations department is conducting an intensive internal operation aimed to find this informant and remove him by any means necessary—a purge.” The General’s eyes narrowed. “For a time, this of course requires inter-unit cooperation.” He paused again and folded his arms as he glanced about the room, searching for Warrant Officer Christian; he wanted to watch him, and see how his expression would change first-hand. “Beginning tomorrow, you will all be working with Colonel Lawley and his investigations unit. Brigadier General Garnier and I shall oversee the project. Are there any questions?”
Niles listened attentively as the General began his discourse, but as soon as he mentioned the names, he felt his breath catch in his throat and he paled noticeably. It was as if his heart had stopped beating; it couldn't be! After, by some miracle, he had been transferred to Dragomir last fall, Niles hadn't seen nor heard of Brigadier General Garnier, Lt. Colonel Lawley, or the first and second Lieutenants Holtcombe, and he was infinitely glad for that fact. But now, now he was going to have to see, to work under them again, and now he knew how painful it was going to be. Before it was different, before he thought that was the only way it could be, the way it was supposed to be, but now...
Niles barely noticed as a few men asked questions and the Brigadier General left the room, but as soon as the commanding officer was gone, he dropped into his chair, his knees giving out entirely. His entire body began to shake, and he stared blankly ahead, almost paralyzed with fear.
“Niles?” Dragomir asked concernedly, wheeling his way over to Niles’s desk. “What’s wrong?” Before Dragomir could get to Niles’s side, however, Captain Kaiser had cut him off. Dragomir glared at the Captain’s back and did his best to wheel quickly around the desk and to the other side of Niles. He wouldn’t be outdone, and he needed to know what was wrong so he could help Niles.
“Are you all right? Shall I get you some water or anything like that?” Julian asked, placing his hand gently on Niles’s arm and looked into his eyes.
Niles looked at Julian, then back to Dragomir, shaking his head numbly. "No, no... no... it can't be..." He wanted to retreat away, he wanted to hide, and he wrapped his arms around his trembling body. "No... not again... not now..."
“Niles, what’s going on?” Julian asked, sounding even more worried than he had before and trying to get Niles to pay attention to him. “Please, tell me what I can do to help you.”
“What’s happening again?” Dragomir asked, rather urgently, as he slipped an arm around Niles’s waist, pulling him close to comfort him and to get him away from Captain Kaiser. “Is it something about what the General announced?” Dragomir asked, realizing that it had started after the General had left. Dragomir wanted to be supportive, and he’d do whatever it took to help Niles through anything and everything. “You’ll be all right, whatever it is; I’ll make sure you’re okay.”
Niles shook his head again, almost frantically. "There's...there's nothing..." He looked up at Dragomir with terrified eyes. "I can't work under them again...not now! No...no, I can't..." Tearing up, he completely broke down and buried his face in Dragomir's chest, gripping his shirt and sobbing. After what had happened with Donavan D'Aubigne, after having Dragomir... he couldn't take it now.
“Is Colonel Lawley one of your old superiors?” Julian asked, wanting to confirm what Niles was saying. He was a little confused about why something so seemingly menial would be so devastating, but was also still trying to do everything he could to help Niles, despite the seemingly losing battle he was having with Captain Hirlea.
Dragomir remembered how Niles was when he first transferred, how skittish and frightened he’d been of doing things incorrectly, and had already reached the conclusion that his old superiors had been anything but kind to Niles. Now that they’d be reunited, Niles was understandably terrified of having to go back to the way things were. Dragomir held Niles closer still, wrapping his arms around him and doing all that he could to comfort him and offer him whatever solace he could. “It’s all right. Things will be different this time.” Dragomir said reassuringly. “I’ll be here with you, I’ll protect you.”
Niles nodded weakly, looking over his shoulder at Julian, before burying back into Dragomir's arms, quivering fearfully. "No...no, I don't want to be punished again..." Even if Dragomir would be here to protect him, there was no way he could stand up if any of them pulled rank, there was nothing even he could do. Niles knew now that when they came in control of him again, they'd want to make up for time lost... The prospect was terrifying. But he couldn't think of anything he could do besides, for now, hide in Dragomir's arms, and so he did just that, burying his face as he succumbed once again to tears.
“It’s okay; you haven’t done anything wrong. They can’t hurt you.” Dragomir tired to sound soothing, but judging by the way Niles was reacting to the news, this was serious business, and these new superiors were quite obviously bad news. Dragomir would do everything he could for Niles—whatever it took to protect him—but even Dragomir was beginning to worry about how the new personnel would change their situation, and whether or not he could really do anything about it.
"Hm...this is interesting...quite interesting indeed."
"Oh? What is it, what is it?"
"What is it, what is it, Lawley?"
"It appears as if, in the near future, we're going to be reunited with our dear old Corporal."
"You mean Christian?"
"Indeed. It appears as if our dear old Christian has been promoted to a Warrant Officer, as well."
"A Warrant Officer?"
"We don't believe it!"
"Indeed...it seems as if our little Corporal has been getting into trouble while we've been away. We'll have to punish him, won't we?"
"Yay! Punish him!"
"Punish him, yay!"
"Lawley. Holtcombe, Holtcombe. I don't want you getting into trouble with Rousseau. He's on the Commandant's good side, and I don't want any trouble."
"Aw, calm down, General. Have we ever gotten into trouble?"
"Have no worries, sir. We'll keep everything in control. We simply find it necessary to teach Christian a lesson. Don't you feel that it's appropriate, sir?"
"You have my full permission, Colonel."
"Lovely. It seems that everything is absolutely lovely..."