Claimer: Niles and Dragomir = ours.
Warnings: light yaoi undertones and probably some language
Major Delancy opened the door for them, and Dragomir strode into the room confidently after a quick bow. The Major inquired how their interview had gone and Dragomir informed her of their general success as he took a seat. “The most interesting part though, sir,” he started, “Happened when we went to see the Colonel.” Dragomir crossed his arms, a broad smirk sliding across his face. “You should have seen him, sir. His face must’ve gotten all cut up on one side, and he even had a bandage on his neck.”
“I saw him this morning.” The Major said with a small smile, in a voice that seemed to say, ‘it’s not our business.’ Dragomir was slightly disappointed by her relative lack of interest and got up to walk over to Niles.
“Well, we have to get to work on that report.” Dragomir smiled, gearing up to use some skilful persuasive tactics if he had to. “Why don’t you write it up? I can help you if you need it, of course.”
"Oh! Of course, sir!" Niles set out his notes and began to write, in his overly-neat, cramped writing. He could sense the Lieutenant looking over his shoulder, and he began to feel even more self conscious about his penmanship. He tried harder to make it less cramped and prettier, but it ended up being more cramped and started slanting to one side. It seemed the harder he tried, the worse his writing got, so he tried to relax, but ended up making a rather large ink blot.
He started to apologize, but suddenly, the Major was upon them. "Lieutenant! What are you doing, breathing down the Corporal's neck?" she scolded, giving his ponytail a good yank. Lt. Hirlea winced slightly as his hair came out of the ribbon which held it back and fell around his shoulders. As his superior sputtered annoyedly, Niles found himself unable to think of anything but how good he looked with his hair down, despite his attempts to keep the thought from his mind.
"My apologies, Corporal," the Major said to him with a smile, snapping Niles out of his trance. "You may continue now."
"Oh, I don't mind, sir!" Niles responded, picking his quill back up and dipping it in the ink well. He really didn't mind at all; he wanted to please the Lieutenant.
Dragomir retrieved his ribbon from the floor and stood up, directing a small scowl at the Major. It would be difficult to pull his hair back again with his sling on. He managed to tie the ribbon into a single knot with his good hand, and then began to fumble with his hair. It was exceedingly difficult to gather up all of the locks while holding the bow between his fingers. He at last got a hold of the hair and slipped it into the ribbon. Unfortunately, when he tried to tighten the knot, it simply slipped out, releasing his hair once again. Dragomir cursed mildly under his breath and glared at the Major again. There was no way he could put it back up again; she would just have to tolerate his hair being down for the rest of the day.
Niles looked up to see his superior fumbling with his hair, and, before he knew what was going on, the words were out of his mouth. "Oh...Sir, if you'd like, I can fix you hair...? I'm actually rather good at it."
Dragomir blinked down at his subordinate. He was surprised by the offer, but it did seem like the sort of thing Niles would be good at; the Corporal’s hair always looked perfect, after all. “Oh, would you? I’d really appreciate it.” Dragomir grinned, handing the ribbon over before turning around and reflecting on the situation. It really was…sweet of Niles to offer to help. Niles was always working so hard to do everything he could for Dragomir, but the lieutenant really had no way of doing anything for him in return. Looking over his shoulder, he smiled softly back at Niles. He’d think of something to do eventually.
Niles was ecstatic that he could do something of which his superior would be appreciative, but he was soon faced with another problem. Flushing, he stuttered, "Ah-Sir...could you...sit down, or something, please?"
Dragomir laughed and turned back around. He’d momentarily forgotten that he was a good head taller then Niles. “Sorry about that. I didn’t even think about it.” Dragomir grabbed a chair and pulled it over before sitting down. “How’s this?” He asked through a smirk.
"Ah! Thank you, Sir!" Niles replied flusteredly. He then ran his hands through his superior's hair a few times before pulling it back and tying the ribbon into a neat bow around it. "There you are, Sir. I hope it's all right." He flushed and stepped back, hoping it would be tolerable.
Dragomir looked over his shoulder at Niles with a smile and ran a hand over his now neatly tied hair. It was definitely done a lot better then Dragomir usually did for himself; it was smooth and there were no stray hairs that had escaped from the clutched of the ribbon. Niles was indeed very good with hair. “Thanks a lot. With the sling on, I can’t pull it back myself.” Dragomir ran over all the sorts of things he could do for Niles in return but nothing really seemed appropriate. He really did want to do something for the Corporal, though. They hadn’t worked together for very long at all, but Dragomir already felt rather close to the other. There was just something unique about Niles, and Dragomir couldn’t help but feel somewhat attached. “Hey…” Dragomir began uneasily, “Would you like to…come to dinner tonight?” It was an odd invite, as Dragomir knew that what they had to offer would be meager, but he felt it was the best he could do. Besides, for some reason, Dragomir wanted to introduce Niles to his family.
Niles blushed a deep red. "I--dinner?" He wasn't quite sure what his superior was asking. Dinner? Like...a date? The very thought made Niles heart flutter almost disturbingly, and he couldn't believe that was actually true. "Ah...are you...serious, Sir?" Perhaps the Lieutenant was joking?
Dragomir couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed himself. Niles was making a bigger deal out of it then he had expected. “Ummm…Yeah, well…” Dragomir was blushing, and felt even more silly for it. “It wouldn’t be that big of a deal, nothing formal, or anything.” He tried to smile, attempting to make the whole invite seem less significant. “I’d like you to meet my sister.” Dragomir ran a nervous hand though his hair and glanced around. Lucky, the other personnel were at the other end of the room and were missing this little exchange. “I mean, only if you don’t have other plans…” Dragomir did manage a smile this time; his blush was almost completely down and was able to casually shift his weight over to one foot.
Niles waved his hands in front of himself quickly. "Oh, no, I don't have any other plans, and I'd love to have dinner with you, Sir!" Did those words just come out of his mouth? "Ah-would it be all right for me to go home and get dressed beforehand? I-I'd just hate to go looking like this, Sir, I mean..." As he said this, he subconsciously smoothed his uniform, blushing a little. "If you wouldn't mind waiting a little while, I can drive us...?"
“I don’t mind waiting.” Dragomir said brightly. “Although, you don’t really have to worry about changing, you know.” Dragomir couldn’t help but feel a little bad. He could only hope that Niles wouldn’t be too disappointed.
"Oh, but I want to look nice, Sir!" Niles said a little too quickly. "Especially if I'm going to meet your sister! I want to make a good impression, Sir!" He fumbled with words for a moment. "Of course, if you don't mind, sir. I'll do whatever you say." He smiled in what he hoped was an appealing manner, and looked up at his superior. "I'm very grateful for the invitation, Sir!"
“And I’m glad you can come.” Dragomir smiled briefly before returning to his own desk to pretend to go through some paperwork. If they stood around for too long, the Major would probably get suspicious. Dragomir was pleased with the idea he’d come up with. It would be nice to see Niles again outside of work, and Dragomir hated the stifling formalities. Apart from that, this would be the first time he’d ever had anyone over for dinner, and he was looking forward to introducing Niles to Viorica in particular and hoped they would get along.
Dragomir managed to keep himself looking busy for the rest of the day and he was relieved to get out of any extra work. He knew how to sign his name, and so most of the paperwork he had got finished relatively quickly. Anything that look too complicated, he left with Niles, stating that he had too much other work to do. By the time Major Delancy at last excused herself, Dragomir was feeling antsy all over again, and couldn’t wait to get out of the stuffy office. He supposed that his nerves wee probably catching up with him too, as he’d been worrying about the various inadequacies of his home all day.
“So,” Dragomir said, strolling over to the Corporal’s desk, “Are we ready to go?”
"Ah!" Niles started, standing up quickly. "Yes, sir!" He followed his superior outside, led him to his automobile, opening the passenger's side door for Lt. Hirlea before climbing into the driver's seat and starting the engine. The drive home was fairly short, and when they arrived, Niles excused himself quickly to run and get changed.
Once inside, he scurried upstairs to his bedroom and immediately began leafing through his wardrobe. He quickly located one of his nicest outfits, a deep blue brocade jacket with gold embroidery and matching knickers, as well as his nicest lace cravat and blouse. He chose to finish the outfit with his most expensive leather boots and a matching blue ribbon in his hair, then hurried back out to the automobile.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, Sir!" he apologized, hopping back into the driver's seat and once again starting the engine. "Can you give me directions now?"
If Dragomir wasn’t in shock already after seeing the massive mansion sprawled out before him, he was certainly in shock now. Niles was dressed exceptionally well, and Dragomir couldn’t help but stare. The deep blue of the fabric looked fabulous with the Corporal’s eyes, and he wore the outfit well. Focusing on something outside the window, Dragomir tried to ignore the sinking feeling of inferiority as he considered what he should do. Niles would obviously be disappointed by Dragomir’s little hovel, but there really was nothing else for him to do as he didn’t have enough money to pay for a night out. Turning back to Niles he managed a small smile. “You look really good.” Pausing for a moment to run a hand through his hair, Dragomir looked directly ahead at the huge manor for a brief moment, trying to imagine what Niles would think of his own home. He then looked back at Niles and reinforced his smile to the best of his abilities as he started giving directions, too flustered to remember that Niles had already dropped him off at his house once before.
Niles drove according to Lt. Hirlea's directions, and, about a third of the way through, realized that he had driven this way before. He recognized it when they arrived at the Lieutenant's home. It was smaller than he remembered, but he said nothing and parked the automobile. He hurried to open the door for his superior, then took a step back. "After you, Sir." He smiled up at the other man. Though this wasn't what he had expected, he was still glad to even get to be spending time with his superior.
“Right.” Dragomir started, getting out of the automobile. “I hope this will be alright.” He said, gesturing vaguely. He then managed to pull off a confident smile as he started towards the door. Before he reached it, he turned back to Niles, a thought having just struck him. “I’d rather introduce you as a friend then a subordinate.” He said with a grin. “Would you mind? That way we can drop the formalities again.” Not only did Dragomir prefer it that way, but he also knew that they would avoid a lot of cracks from Pierre about a superior officer dressed more casually then an enlisted soldier if Niles agreed. Although, Dragomir knew that there would be no way to avoid a complicated situation, no matter what they did to try to avoid it.
Niles blinked, the blushed a little. "Ah- Sure...Dragomir." He tried the name out again, and it felt less awkward than the last time. "Dragomir. Right." He nodded determinedly, a happy bubbly feeling that his superior actually wanted to introduce him as a friend rather than a subordinate rising in his chest. "So, um...should I knock?"
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary.” Dragomir smiled at Niles’s use of his name, and returned his attention to the door, opening it without knocking. “Tatiana,” he called, taking a step in side, “I’ve brought a guest.”
“Really?” she called back in disbelief. He could see her in the kitchen taking off her apron and lifting her skirts to come meet them. As she came around, Viorica emerged from her room to their left.
“A guest?” Viorica repeated. They both sounded so surprised, and Dragomir couldn’t help but laugh.
“Yeah.” Dragomir said, indicating Niles with his good hand. “This is Niles Christian. We work together.” Both Viorica and Tatiana stared dumbfounded for a moment before they both realized their impolite behavior and curtsied simultaneously. Both found themselves a little speechless and so waited for Dragomir to do the introductions.
“These are my sisters Tatiana and Viorica.” Dragomir gestured to each individually as he introduced them and then turned back to Niles, hoping that he wasn’t too disappointed already.
Niles was delighted to meet the other members of his superior's family, especially since he had never enjoyed the company of a family of his own. "It's a pleasure to meet you," he replied with a cheerful smile and a bow. For once, he, strangely, didn't feel flustered or worried; these women didn't seem like they would be quick to judge, and their manners and faces seemed kind. He only hoped they wouldn't think he was a rich snob, and tried his best to look humble. "I'm so glad I can have the chance to meet you."
“I need to get back to making dinner. If you’d excuse me.” Tatiana smiled sweetly and hurried back to the kitchen. Dragomir could tell she was a little nervous to be serving one of his guests, but he had faith in her cooking. It was never anything fancy, but it always tasted really good.
Viorica took a step closer and examined Niles carefully. “So…” She said, smirking in much the same way Dragomir generally did, “Are you Dragos’s boyfriend?”
“What?” Dragomir exclaimed, laughing. “Viorica, honestly.” He laughed again and looked quickly back at Niles to make sure he hadn’t been offended. The idea very idea was extremely amusing, but Dragomir couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed and knew that the heat on his face was a thick blush.
"Ah?!" Niles was completely taken aback by the question and immediately flushed a deep red. "N-no, it's not anything like that!" he stuttered, gesticulating wildly. What was he supposed to say now! He was so embarrassed...but why was it that there was a small part of him that wanted to respond "I wish"? Could he possibly...no, that couldn't be it. He just wanted to feel wanted, right?
He forced his mind back to the problem at hand and decided to worry about that later. He glanced over at his superior to make sure he wasn't angry with him, and found him to be seemingly just as embarrassed. Was that good? He hoped so. Shifting his weight uneasily, he laughed lightly. "Really, it's nothing like that at all. We just work together."
“That’s right.” Dragomir reaffirmed, forcing himself to be serious. He didn’t want her to get the wrong idea…what had made her think that in the first place?
“I see.” Viorica raised her brows and looked at the two of them slyly, walking slowly over to their mock foyer and taking a seat. Dragomir followed, expecting Niles to do the same. When they were both seated, Viorica crossed her legs and leaned forward on her hand, once again studying Niles carefully. “I only asked because this is the first time Dragos has brought home any guests, ever. I just figured you had to be someone really special.” She sat back and smiled innocently at Dragomir who was blushing again.
Niles blushed again, wringing his hands slightly in his lap. "Ah, well...I'd like to think so," he replied carefully, hoping he was choosing the right words. "Dragomir is really my only...friend." He hoped that his superior wouldn't mind his word choice, as he truthfully did feel this way; the Lieutenant was the only one who had ever been kind, considerate, really anything but demanding towards Niles, and he was extremely grateful--and attached to him--because of it. "I really am grateful for him." A smile, the best he had, in hopes of making a good impression.
Dragomir was touched by Niles’s words, and felt his embarrassment begin to subside as he looked back fondly at the Corporal. Niles definitely had a nice smile, Dragomir concluded, and it caused him to smile as well.
Viorica unfolded her arms and grinned. “Well, I’m glad to hear it. Dragos is generally a pretty good guy.”
“As long as he doesn’t get caught up with the wrong crowd.” Pierre drawled, choosing only now to let his presence be known. He was standing in the frame of the hall smirking, and didn’t look as though he would make any effort to join them.
“Niles,” Dragomir grimaced, “That’s Pierre, my brother in law.” Dragomir did not turn to look at the man, rather hoping to ignore him for as long as he could. Pierre’s appearance had all but completely spoiled Dragomir’s good mood, and it was obvious he had done it on purpose.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Pierre bowed extravagantly in a mocking fashion before turning quickly and heading for the kitchen, not even bothering to wait for Niles to return the salutations.
“I hate him.” Viorica announced, glaring at nothing in particular.
“Sorry about that.” Dragomir said smiling again awkwardly at Niles.
"Ah! Um..." Niles was somewhat flustered by this newest arrival and departure, as he didn't have time to return any greeting before the other man walked away. He bit his lip and looked back at Dragomir and Viorica, trying to smile. "Um...that's fine." He really hadn't been offended or anything, only confused. What had Pierre meant by "as long as he doesn't get caught up with the wrong crowd"? Had the Lieutenant done something wrong in the past? He couldn't believe it, but yet, he could think of nothing else that the other man could have been suggesting...He tried to smile awkwardly, hoping that the situation would ease soon.
Unfortunately, that would not be the case for at exact moment, the door from which Viorica had originally come from was flung open so forcibly that it hit the wall and bounced forward creating a resounding bang which reverberated throughout the small house.
“Mother!” Viorica exclaimed jumping to her feet. Tatiana emerged from the kitchen and rushed over to the door while Dragomir fell back into the couch and put his hands over his face. This was quickly becoming a disaster and he had no idea what made him think that bringing Niles here would be a good idea.
An old woman came into view, shuffling out from behind the door at an incredibly slow pace. She wore only an ugly stained nightshift and an old dressing robe which hung loosely over her frail boney form. She coughed violently, making a terrible retching sound as she did so, and refused to take the arm Tatiana offered for support.
“Oh no.” Pierre said loudly from the kitchen. “The old hag has decided to join us in the land of the living.” Viorica shot him a venomous look and he quickly turned away, suddenly fascinated by a pot hanging from the ceiling. Viorica seemed satisfied and joined her sister over by the door.
“Mother,” She said soothingly, placing an arm around the woman’s hunched shoulders. “You know what the doctor said. It’s not good for you to be out of bed. You need to get rest to get better.”
“No, no, no!” the old woman shrieked, her obvious mental instability becoming clear as she thrashed about, wriggled her way out of Viorica’s arm. Once freed, she again started her relentless shuffling drive forward into the foyer. Dragomir quickly got to his feet, offering her a hand which she promptly brushed aside.
Dragomir started to introduce her, “Uhh Niles, this is my mothe-” but she cut him off harshly.
“Quit Dragos!” She shouted much louder then was necessary. Dragomir sat back down and looked uneasily over at Niles as the women too fixed her wild eyes on him. “Let me have a look at you.” She wheezed at Niles, her voice at last at a reasonable volume. “See if you’d be a good man for my Dragos.” She smirked toothlessly. Dragomir’s eyes went wide. Why did everyone in his family seem to think there was something going on between the two of them?! It was a ridiculous unfounded assumption on their parts, and Dragomir was certain it was embarrassing Niles just as much as it was embarrassing him. Luckily, Tatiana and Viorica appeared on either side of the old woman and took both of her arms up gently.
“That’s enough now, mother. Time to go back to bed.” Tatiana said sweetly, gently turning the woman around. Through their combined efforts against the old woman’s unrelenting thrashing, they managed to walk her carefully back to the door. Just before she was about to disappear behind the wooden barrier however, she turned back and stared at Niles for a brief moment.
“You’ll do.” She said lowly, another smirk crossing her features just as she was dragged away and through the door.
Dragomir put his face in his hand and rubbed his eyes. “I’m really sorry about that.” Dragomir sighed, apologizing again as he let his good arm fall limply onto the couch in a discouraged manner.
“I suppose at least now you’ve met the whole family.” Tatiana said lightly as she and Viorica came out of the room and shut the door securely behind them.
“Well, not the whole family.” Viorica said smirking, sitting back down. “He still hasn’t met the twins.”
“Who don’t live with us.” Dragomir said quickly.
“And who you’ll probably never have to meet.” Tatiana added.
"Um...yeah," Niles responded with an uneasy laugh, putting a hand behind his head. "Well, it was nice to meet your mother. Um...I'm glad she approved of me." He blushed slightly at the statement, laughing again. He wasn't sure why the Lieutenant's family was so sure that their relationship was something other than work related...but, it seemed, they liked him well enough, then that made him especially happy, since he had no family of his own.
He was brought out of his thoughts when it was announced that it was time to eat. Slightly nervous, he followed his superior towards the dining room.
Technically, the dinning room wasn’t really a room at all. It was comprised of a large round table with eight mismatched chairs and it was situated in the corner of the main room of the house, just next to the kitchen. Dragomir took a seat close to the corner and indicated for Niles to sit next to him. Viorica sat on his other side with a grin and dragged three sets of silverware from the center of the table over to where they sat. Only moments later, Pierre came out of the kitchen caring a platter of chicken and a dusty bottle of wine. Dragomir recognized the dish to be one of their best, and knew that under normal circumstances, Tatiana would not have prepared the entire bird. The wine too was obviously one of the better ones from the cellar. Dragomir was grateful that Tatiana was going to extra lengths, but he still couldn’t help but be worried about the overall adequacy of the meal. Pierre took a seat across from them at the table and began carving up the meat just as Tatiana arrived with a steaming bowl of soup setting in the middle of the table. She went back to the kitchen and Viorica rose to follow her. They returned with the fine pewter dishes, which had remained untouched in a cabinet since the initial decline of their mother’s health, and set the table quickly. Tatiana made a final trip to the kitchen coming back to the table with one small plate of fruits and a platter of sweets, both of which she set delicately on either side of the bowl of soup.
The meal at last laid out, neatly and in a somewhat symmetrical order, Tatiana took a seat next to Pierre, who passed the now cut meat to Niles, indicating that he should serve himself first. Dragomir reached for the soup and ladled some out for Niles before serving himself and passing it over to Viorica.
Once the chicken and soup had both made their full circuit around the table, Pierre was the first to start. “So Niles, right?” Pierre asked through a mouthful of chicken. He obviously wasn’t interested in hearing the answer, as he did not wait for Niles to respond before continuing. “What’s a scrawny little rich boy like you doing in the military?”
“Pierre, please!” Tatiana scolded. “Be nice.”
“Fine. I meant to ask, what exactly do you do in the army? You don’t look like much of a soldier.” Tatiana looked a little displeased, but said no more.
Niles flushed at Pierre's remark, fumbling with his utensils and looking down at his plate pointedly. "Ah-I... well, I never have been in a real battle. I usually fetch things and do paperwork, or whatever my superiors order me to do." He grew rapidly redder and redder as he spoke, and seemed to be paying closer and closer attention to his hands in his lap. He got the feeling he was being scrutinized, and that he was failing whatever test he was being given. "I-I have started in an investigation, now, with Dragomir, though," he added hopefully, daring to look up across the table. "I-I know it's not much, but..." Hopefully, they wouldn't think too badly of him...
“No, that’s really great.” Viorica chimed in, knowing Pierre was likely to say something else negative. “I think you’re really lucky to have avoided battle. You should be glad!”
“That’s right.” Dragomir added. “Being in a battle is nothing to be proud of.”
“Especially if you get wounded and have to come crying home because you’re so useless.” Pierre said nonchalantly as he wiped his mouth with his napkin.
“Pierre!” Tatiana repeated. “Please at least try to be decent!”
“What? I meant that mealy as a general statement.” Pierre sneered at Dragomir from across the table briefly and then looked back at Tatiana. “In no way was I suggesting that my own deer brother in law was a coward, oh no. Never.” Dragomir kept his mouth clamped shut firmly, not wanting to upset Tatiana, and also trying to keep the dinner civil for Niles’s sake.
“The soup is really good tonight, Tatiana!” Viorica seemed to have the same goals in mind.
“I’d have to agree.” Pierre broke in before Tatiana could speak. “Although, I must say that I’m a little worried about our guest. Surely he’s used to much a much finer feast then we could afford to offer.” Pierre was speaking to Tatiana, but he said it loud enough that it was apparent Niles was meant to hear as well. “So tell me Niles,” Pierre turned and looked at him, interlacing his fingers as if he were very interested. “Do you enjoy eating with the poor just to scoff at their pathetic attempts to please you?”
“That’s enough!” Dragomir growled, suddenly furious as he got to his feet. Pierre stood up too, although rather shakily.
“Please!” Tatiana begged. “Can’t we just enjoy our dinner peacefully?”
“Maybe we could if he wasn’t here.” Viorica said pointedly, crossing her arms and glaring fiercely at Pierre. Dragomir sat back down and Pierre did the same, ignoring Viorica’s comment.
“I’m so sorry about his behavior, Niles.” Tatiana said, her brow furrowed with concern.
“Yeah. You have to ignore him. It’s what everyone else does.” Viorica was concentrating hard on her plate and looked horribly upset. Dragomir didn’t know what to say, so he contented himself with glaring at Pierre, who squirmed uncomfortably under his gaze.
Niles sat, sort-of stunned by Pierre's remark. Surely he couldn't really think that? But maybe Niles had done a bad job of trying to be friendly, and had come off stuck up? He couldn't stand the thought of having the Lieutenant's family hate him, on top of everything else... The thought brought tears to his eyes, and he quickly excused himself from the table, hurrying out of the room.
He had no idea where any washroom was, or, for that matter, where anything was in the house, so he found himself huddled in the corner of the foyer, out of sight. The tears began to fall freely, blurring his vision and staining his clothes. The thought of being hated by people that he wanted so badly to like him was painful and burning, and he couldn't stop the steady flow of tears.
He knew he was going to have to get back at some point, so he bit his lip and tried to think positive. The Lieutenant had stood up for him, and that was certainly something. Obviously, he was on Niles' side. Come to think, that was really something. His superior cared for him. There, that was something. Chin up, he told himself, and wiped away his tears. Standing, he decided he could return now.
Dragomir saw Niles returning from the direction of the foyer and stood up as he approached. “Are you alright?” Dragomir asked as they both sat back down.
“Aww. Was the poor little rich boy crying? I don’t believe it.” Pierre sneered.
“Shut up.” Dragomir said coldly, his voice dangerously low. Pierre looked away uneasily, and Tatiana took his arm.
The rest of the dinner progressed smoothly enough; Pierre refrained form even looking in Niles and Dragomir’s direction, speaking only to Tatiana occasionally. Viorica managed to initiate a small conversation, which lasted until all of their plates were cleared, at which point, Tatiana and Viorica cleared the table and they all moved into the foyer to finish the wine and sweets.
Tatiana and Pierre sat next to each other, all though they looked more like they were sitting on top of one another as they took turns feeding each other chocolate. Dragomir was relived Tatiana would be keeping Pierre occupied for the rest of the evening, although he was, as always, a little disgusted by their behavior.
Viorica was trying her best to ignore them as well, and was instead intent on interviewing Niles. “How old are you Niles?” She asked with a smile. Dragomir feared she was trying to set them up or some such thing, and was blushing unconsciously.
Niles blushed at the sudden attention. "I-I'm twenty," he replied, trying to smile. "I've only been in the military for two years, so I'm not very experienced." He laughed embarrassedly. "Your brother has been very kind to me, and put up with my ineptitude and inexperience. I'm really grateful for him." He was beginning to really like Viorica. She was so friendly to him, and so cheerful.
“I’m really glad to hear that.” Viorica grinned. “I was worried he’d have trouble after being away for so long, and with his arm all banged up like that, but I’m sure your friendship has really helped him a lot!” Dragomir didn’t know what to say, so he simply smiled at Niles as Viorica continued her interview. “When’s your birthday?” She asked brightly.
"April 8th," Niles responded with a smile, feeling slightly fluttery at the way the Lieutenant was looking at him "And Dragomir really hasn't been having any trouble with anything. Even with his injury, he's so talented, like at dueling, and things." Whoops, he got a little carried away, shouldn't have sounded so adoring. "And...well, I think he's helped me more than I could have helped him." He blushed a little at the thought, putting a hand to his face.
Dragomir ran a hand through his hair as he tried to think of something to say. “You’ve really done a lot for me, Niles.” He said lamely. Dragomir felt ridiculous and figured Viorica was doing this on purpose.
“Yes! You’ve been doing his paper work right? He hasn’t asked me to do any of it yet, so I figured you were doing it!” Dragomir’s blush came back full force and he bit his lip. She was giving him away! He elbowed her slightly, but he knew the damage was already done. “That’s really nice of you.” Viorica continued, ignoring him completely. “I know Dragos appreciates it a lot more then he lets on.” She smirked.
Niles blushed at the Lieutenant's statement, but turned his attention back to Viorica when she spoke again. "Ah, yes, as a subordinate, that's my job." He laughed embarrassedly. "I'm not good for much else." He was slightly perplexed by her next statement, however. "But...why does he ask you to do it? Is it because of his injury?"
“Oh, you didn’t know?” Viorica said, raising a hand to her mouth. It was obvious that she was faking her surprise.
“I can only write with my right hand.” Dragomir stated. It wasn’t true, he could write equally poorly with both hands. He was just hoping Niles would buy it and Viorica would drop the subject.
“I keep trying to teach him, but he can never pick it up.” She said, ignoring his attempt to steer the conversation away. “I think it’s because he’s starting so late…or because he can’t be bothered to learn. But he does a very good job of covering it up.” Viorica struggled to keep a straight face but she couldn’t keep it up and a smirked slipped through. “Few people know he’s illiterate.” She laughed lightly as Dragomir turned away with an almost pouting expression. He really hadn’t wanted Niles to find out, and wondered what the Corporal would think of him now that he knew.
Niles was flabbergasted. "Illiterate?" He couldn't believe it... there were actually people who didn't know how to write? And...surely the Lieutenant wasn't one of them! He was so smart and charming...but, then again, he had always pushed off doing any reading or writing...
Finally, Niles managed a laugh. "He does hide it well...I never would have guessed," he commented, smiling congenially. He hoped that Lt. Hirlea wouldn't be angry that he had found out, and he wanted him to know that he still looked up to him just as much.
Well, now that Niles knew, Dragomir would have to defend himself at least a little before Viorica made it sound worse then it was. “Well I-I’m not all that bad…” Dragomir stuttered. “I can read a little and sign my name.”
“His handwriting is terrible though, and he can’t spell at all.” Viorica didn’t even try to conceal the fact that she was just picking on him now.
“Viorica,” Dragomir forced himself to laugh; he was really quite embarrassed. “Really though, I can manage alright with what I can do.”
Niles laughed lightly. "It's good that you can do that, though! I'm sure it must've been tough." He smiled at his superior. "I learned to write when I was 6, and my handwriting still isn't very pretty." That was a stupid thing to say, hopefully Lt. Hirlea wouldn't take it the wrong way. "I respect that you can do so well without being able to read. It only speaks more for you, I think." He tried not to look too admiring and probably failed. He was getting worse and worse in this feeling, and he realized there was probably no turning back now.
"Um...thank you.” Dragomir could keep from blushing again. He was for some reason extremely relieved to hear that from Niles. Under any normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have cared what anyone thought about it, but now, he felt so embarrassed about Niles finding out. Dragomir decided that it was probably because of all the strong wine he’d been drinking that he felt so odd.
“You’re pretty good, Niles. Dragos is all flustered now.” Viorica smirked. “Not just anyone can do that you know.” She laughed and Dragomir blushed an even darker hue.
"Ah-I'm sorry!" Niles flushed, suddenly flustered. "I-I didn't mean to embarrass him, I just-" What exactly was Viorica getting at, anyway?! Had Viorica figured out what he was feeling? No...that couldn't be; he couldn't even figure out what he was feeling! Ugh, but now the Lieutenant was embarrassed, and it was his fault...
Awkwardly, he tried to change the subject. "So, um...you and Dragomir seem very close. I wish I had a sister like you." He smiled; it was true. He would have been very grateful to have such a caring sibling, or, for that matter, any family at all.
“Do you have any siblings at all?” Viorica asked. When Niles shook his head, she seemed a little surprised. “I really don’t know what we all would have done without Dragos... It must be really hard not to have any brothers or sisters around for support.” She smiled sadly.
Dragomir was waiting till the color in his cheeks went down to rejoin the conversation, and he imagined it wouldn’t be too much longer as he was currently finding himself disgusted as he watched Pierre and Tatiana take turns giving each other sips of wine out of the same glass. They were quite drunk already, and he wondered how much longer it would go on.
As Dragomir seemed thoroughly preoccupied by watching Tatiana and Pierre, Viorica decided to continue her interview. “So…” She stalled coming up with a question. “What’s your favorite color?”
"Ah, blue," Niles replied with a smile. "I've always liked it, since I was a child." It was funny, talking to someone about this sort of thing. No one had asked him questions like this before, and he felt warm inside that someone actually cared to ask his opinion on colours.
Viorica smiled. “Blue is a good color for you. You look good in it.” She said knowingly as she elbowed Dragomir hard in the side. He nearly jumped and quickly looked away from Pierre and Tatiana.
“It does look nice.” Dragomir smiled uneasily. Tatiana smirked at him and he quirked a brow in response. Surely he was allowed to give a complement to someone innocently with no intention of insinuating anything? Maybe he shouldn’t have said it, just in case. Luckily, he managed not to blush again.
“What kinds of foods do you like Niles? Maybe next time you come, we can get Tatiana to cook something special.” Viorica chirped happily, feeling accomplished.
Niles blushed uncontrollably. "Ah-um--Thank you," he replied. He was so wrapped up in the compliment that he didn't notice Viorica's expression at her brother.
He looked back at Viorica when she asked another question, then laughed embarrassedly. "I really like sweets," he responded sheepishly. Chocolates and pastries, eclairs especially." He smiled and laughed. "I know that's not very sophisticated, but that's what I like the best."
“It doesn’t matter if it’s not sophisticated if it’s your favorite.” Dragomir grinned. Niles did seem like the type to like sweets. It was a…cute sort of thing to like.
“We’ll have to get Dragos to make you some pastries sometime then!” Viorica beamed. “He’s a really great chef, but he hasn’t made anything since he got back. I hope he didn’t forget while he was away.” Dragomir was mortified and stared at her wide-eyed. She was diffidently revealing all of his most privileged information on purpose! Niles would probably think he was a pansy. Not that it mattered really though, since they were just friends, Dragomir reassured himself.
"He is?" Niles asked, both surprised and delighted. "That's so amazing! I'd love to try some of his cooking! Anything, really!" He bubbled happily, clasping his hands together in excitement. "I bet he's really good at it, too!" He was excited; he wasn't very good at much of anything, and to know that Dragomir had so many... he hoped he wasn't inadequate, but, more than anything, the idea of the other cooking for him was exciting.
...wait. Did he just think of his superior as "Dragomir"? He was getting out of line. Once he got back to work and started using "sir" again... hopefully it wouldn't happen again. He tried to push the thought from his mind, and smiled at the Lieutenant. "Would you mind cooking for me sometime?"
“Umm, no I wouldn’t mind.” Dragomir said uneasily. At least Niles seemed pretty excited about it all… It really wasn’t all that special of a talent. Dragomir had learned out of necessity when he was younger and had since become rather proficient. He personally preferred his own cooking above anything else, but he really didn’t think it was all that good. Although if Niles wanted to try his food, then he’d need to scrounge up some good recipes right away. But only because he didn’t want to disappoint the Corporal.
“I’ll make sure he makes something for you!” Viorica grinned. “I’m sure he could make some éclairs too, right Dragos?” She asked, turning to face him.
“I think so.” Dragomir smiled. Éclairs wouldn’t be that hard—especially if he were making them for Niles. Because…it was easier to make things when you had someone in mind. Right. That was it.
Really?" Niles replied excitedly, "You'd do that for me?" The idea of someone cooking for him because they wanted to and not because they were hired to do so really made him feel bubbly inside, especially if that someone was the Lieutenant. "I mean, if you ever have the occasion, I'd love to try your eclairs." He smiled. Even just the thought was enough to make him happy.
Come to think, despite his earlier worries, tonight had been one of the best nights he had ever had. Maybe, he thought, just maybe, the Lieutenant's family might come to replace the family he had never had.