Dragomir was wrapping Niles’s torso in fresh bandages. He’d just finished cleaning out the wounds, and he was sure the pain still stung Niles bitterly, so he was trying to be gentle as he wrapped the gauze around his stomach, working up to his chest and going over his shoulders a few times. Trimming the roll of bandages, he set them aside and looked down at Niles as he ran a hand lightly over his arm. It pained him still to see how devastated Niles appeared, and the fact that he still hadn’t spoken made things even more difficult for Dragomir to bear. He was determined however, to get through and take care of Niles no matter what.
With the clean bandages applied, Dragomir helped Niles back under the covers before he took his seat beside the bed. Dragomir smiled weakly and found Niles’s uninjured hand among the blankets, giving it a light and reassuring squeeze. “Viorica and Lt. Colonel Delancy are going to stop by today…” Dragomir said softly. “They want to see you…and make sure we’re both alright. Will you be okay with them here?” He asked concernedly. He didn’t want to rush Niles, but then again, he thought it was important for him to be surrounded by friends, and hoped it would help him to start to feel a little better.
Niles looked up at Dragomir, panic flickering across his face. People were going to come here, people from the outside world, and he was frightened. He knew he knew these people, these people had been kind to him, but now, he wasn't so sure. Everything was different now, everything was frightening, and he was afraid that he might get hurt. Still, he knew Dragomir wanted him to do this, and Dragomir had been so kind to him, had taken care of him, so he nodded slowly in consent.
Dragomir smiled earnestly. It was definitely a good sign that Niles felt all right seeing other people. He had seemed a little frightened at first, but the fact that he’d assented in the end was what mattered. If Niles would see other people, if he wanted to see other people, then Dragomir was certain he was beginning to recover slowly.
It wasn’t long before Viorica and the Lt. Colonel were at the door, and a servant came up to Niles’s room to inform them of their arrival. Dragomir instructed him to let them in and bring them up, as he didn’t want Niles to have to move until he was ready.
Dragomir got to his feet when they came in, but didn’t move from Niles’s side and didn’t let go of his hand. He smiled slightly and nodded to both of them, but didn’t really know what he could say.
“I’m so glad to see you both!” Viorica said, tearing up slightly and wiping her eyes on her sleeve as she moved slightly closer to the Lt. Colonel.
Corinne put a comforting hand on Viorica's shoulder, offering her her handkerchief. She too was filled with relief to see that Christian was all right; she had been sure that he would be killed when Hirlea had used force. But now, to see that they were both recovering made he feel a lot better. Taking a few steps towards the bed, she smiled at Christian. "Hey, Christian. How are you feeling? Any better?"
Fear clutched Niles, and he looked away from the Lt. Colonel, shying away from her words. He hesitated, then nodded quickly, not making eye contact.
His reaction worried Corinne slightly, and she looked to Dragomir, hoping she hadn't done or said something wrong.
Dragomir rubbed Niles’s hand comfortingly before turning to the Lt. Colonel. “Niles…Niles hasn’t said anything…” Dragomir managed with some difficulty to explain. He hoped that after a little while, Niles would regain his confidence around both of them, as he’d done when he’d first gotten used to Dragomir again.
Viorica rubbed at her eyes vigorously—she didn’t want any of them to see her crying, and she knew it wouldn’t do Niles any good especially—and knelt next to the bed. “Oh Niles…” She choked as she saw the extent of his injuries, her medically trained eye instantly picking up on all of his many wounds. She felt terrible to see him in such a condition, especially after she herself had escaped from the same situation unscathed. She felt enraged by the injustice of it all, but her grief and empathy crushed the feeling, and all she could do was start crying again, silently.
Dragomir looked back at Niles, not wanting to see his sister cry. He really had no idea what he ought to be doing; he felt so confused with regard to everything. All he wanted to do was take care of Niles and get him better as soon as possible, but seeing the two women seemed to drastically complicate things. He still didn’t know what to do or think about the two of them…and he couldn’t very well bring that up at a time like this. Additionally, he owed so much to the Lt. Colonel—and he hated feeling indebted—but he didn’t know of anything he could possibly do to repay her for everything she’d done. Without her, Dragomir didn’t think he would have been able to rescue Viorica or Niles… Dragomir found solace in Niles’s eyes however, and managed to smile at him as he tried to wordlessly assure him that it would all be alright.
Niles looked Dragomir back in the eye, and Dragomir seemed to think it would all be okay. He was still afraid, but he trusted Dragomir, and so he tried not to let the fear show in his own eyes as he looked unwaveringly into those comforting grey ones.
Corinne dropped to her knees beside Viorica and wrapped her arms around the crying girl, rubbing her back softly. "Come, now, Viorica, crying won't make Christian feel any better." She tried to smile, but the same feeling of helplessness was welling inside her. It was just so horrible that Christian had been forced to suffer this way, and she well knew that the loss of the ability to speak was one of the worst psychological effects of trauma..."I'm sure he'll be fine in a little while...your brother is taking good care of him." She dabbed at Viorica's eyes and gave her a comforting pat on the shoulder before standing again. She moved towards Hirlea, lowering her voice slightly. "How...how has he been? What happened?"
Dragomir tore his eyes from Niles and looked back at his superior officer, biting his lip. He didn’t really know how to respond to her question, or if he could really bring himself to tell her what had happened, but she of all people deserved an answer. “Like this…he’s been like this since he woke up yesterday…” Dragomir managed to reply softly. It took him a while before he felt he could answer her second question, and he looked away, clenching his jaw, before he spoke. “Donavan did this to him…and I let him get away.”
Viorica’s tears seemed to be lessening, and she looked quickly up at Corinne and her brother, but did not stand. She felt that already Niles must have felt very alone, and didn’t want him to feel entirely excluded. Scooting a little closer to him, she smiled gently and wiped her eyes again for good measure. “Niles…” Viorica said softly. She didn’t expect him to look at her, but she wanted him to know that she was doing her best to be there for him. “You’re going to be alright soon. I know Dragos will take care of you no matter what,” Viorica stated with a confidence that she was still trying to make herself believe. “And I want you to know that…I’m sorry.” She sniffled again but held her gaze steady. Viorica didn’t know why she should be sorry, but letting him know that she was seemed to somehow lessen the inequality of the situation as she saw it.
Corinne put a hand on Dragomir's shoulder, looking him squarely in the eye. "You can't blame yourself, Hirlea. It was a bad situation, and you handled it admirably. You're not at fault for what happened." She sighed and looked back to Christian, who seemed to be trying to hide from Viorica. On the other hand, she was very concerned about Christian...his silence worried her greatly. "...Christian really hasn't spoken since he woke up yet...that is bad...silence is a psychological effect of very bad trauma..." She didn't know if saying this would upset Hirlea, but she felt he deserved to know. She looked back at him slightly worriedly to see how he would react.
Niles shied away from Viorica and her words, curling up away from her. She seemed like she was trying to comfort, but he didn't know...and he was just frightened. He looked to Dragomir, hoping for him to return from his conversation.
"...What?" Dragomir asked, a note of fear creeping into his voice. "N-no—but, he'll get better, won't he?" Dragomir looked to the Lt. Colonel and then anxiously back down at Niles, who looked about as terrified as Dragomir felt. Niles would get better, he absolutely had to! Dragomir didn't know what he would do, what he could do, if Niles didn't recover...if Niles was like this forever because of him. Dragomir dropped to his knees and looked intently at Niles, drawing his hand up and placing a soft kiss on his fingers. He looked at Niles for a long time before he turned back to his superior, his face set with determination. "I know he'll get better."
Corinne nodded slowly, her mouth set in a solemn grimace. "I'm glad you believe in him, that's probably crucial to his recovery." She dropped down to her knees again, lowering her voice so that only Hirlea could hear her. "I'm...only trying to be realistic. I have no doubt that Christian will walk and function properly again...I'm just not so sure that he'll ever speak again." She knew this would be horrible for him to take, but she felt he deserved to know, so that it would hurt less should Christian remain mute forever.
Niles had been pondering why Viorica had apologized to him when he saw Dragomir's face change to one of fear. Worry swept over him, and he tugged on Dragomir's arm, trying to see what was wrong.
Dragomir bit his lip hard as he tried to remain calm. He felt like he could cry again at those words, but he also felt angry that the Lt. Colonel would even bring up something like that. He knew though, that she meant well—he just didn’t want to accept it. Dragomir felt Niles’s light tug on his arm and turned to look at him carefully. He thought about all that they’d done together, the every second of time they’d spent—as each one was equally precious to him—and Dragomir thought about how much Niles meant to him. Dragomir realized that Niles would mean that much and more, no matter what had happened, or ever would happen. He loved Niles till the end, and nothing would change that. Dragomir felt a swell of love rise in his heart, and he smiled at Niles, and it was a true smile completely unaffected by the current circumstances. He held Niles’s gaze for only a short time however, before he turned back to Lt. Colonel Delancy. “Even if he can never say a word ever again, I’ll take care of him. It won’t change how I feel.”
Corinne hesitated in surprise at Hirlea's response before melting into a soft, comforted look. "That's the way to go about it. I'm proud of you, Hirlea. And I'm sure things will turn out all right, one way or another." She smiled warmly at him, nodding as she rose and moved over to place a hand unconsciously on Viorica's shoulder.
Niles was surprised at first when Dragomir smiled at him, but the feeling of warmth and love permeated his state of shock, and, for the first time, he smiled back at Dragomir. Weakly, he held Dragomir's hand and nuzzled his face against it softly, feeling protected and loved. He wished there was a way for him to better express his love and gratitude, but, for now, this would have to do.
Dragomir could hardly contain his elation upon seeing Niles’s smile. He’d missed it terribly, but seeing the expression now served to strengthen his resolve and dedication. What ever it took, he’d get Niles better, and even if Niles couldn’t find his voice, Dragomir would take care of him and do whatever he could to help him. Dragomir ran his hand gently across Niles’s soft cheek, and looked at him fondly as if nothing else existed in the world.
Viorica had said nothing, but she’d heard most of what her brother had said, and from her vague knowledge of rudimentary psychology, she could infer what Corinne had been warning Dragomir about. She couldn’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for the two of them, and the thought that Niles might never speak again just about broke her heart. When she felt she could no longer stand to think about Niles being mute, Viorica blurted rather more loudly then she’d intended, “He’ll be able to speak again, I know it! Niles is still just recovering. His voice will come back.”
Niles knew that everyone had been talking about him, and how he couldn't talk, and he was beginning to feel as if he was what was making everyone so sad. Whether or not Viorica and the Lt. Colonel were frightening, he didn't want to do anything to make them upset, though this desire was somewhat more based on self-preservation than anything. He especially wanted to make Dragomir happy, and he felt as if it was hurting him that he couldn't speak. Gathering up his courage, he struggled to sit up and opened his mouth to speak.
His lips moved, but no sound came out. It was scary enough to make him retreat, but, for Dragomir's sake, he felt he needed to try again. However, it was of no avail, he just could not speak. His courage worn out, he fell back to the bed feeling scared and depressed and like he had failed Dragomir again, and he let the tears return, silently sobbing into his pillows.
Dragomir watched as Niles tried to speak, and his heart sunk, edging towards despair, with each unsuccessful attempt. Dragomir knew how difficult it must have been for Niles to even try, and the fact that he couldn’t muster a single sound was disparaging, and he could tell it was especially difficult for Niles. He’d gone out on a limb, and since it hadn’t worked, Dragomir feared the attempt had only made the situation worse in the end. Biting back tears, Dragomir moved to sit on the bed next to Niles and ever so gently scooped him into his arms. “It’s alright Niles…” Dragomir choked. “Give it time…” Dragomir didn’t even think how Niles might react to the amount of contact until after the action was completed. Still, he didn’t want to let Niles go; he did his best to somehow emotionally channel his feelings and let Niles know that everything would work out.
Viorica looked on, feeling even more terrible now that her carelessness had prompted such a discouraging event. She looked up tearfully at Corinne, seeking comfort. It was so difficult for her to see her brother and Niles suffer so much, and it made her feel all the more in need of Corinne’s comfort and reassurance.
Niles was limp in Dragomir's arms, crying pitifully into his chest. He felt as if every bit of his courage was spent, and every inch of his body crumpled with the failure. The warmth of Dragomir's arms around him helped slightly to ease the pain, but his spirit was crushed, and he felt like a useless empty shell, no longer worthy of even being a human. He wanted so badly to make Dragomir happy, Dragomir, who spent countless, sleepless hours taking care of him with no reward, not even recovery on Niles's part, but he was frightened, frightened of pain and failure. And now, it seemed, everything in the world could be attached to one or both of those things, and he was just so afraid that it seemed recovery would be impossible. It all seemed so hopeless, and he whimpered softly in despair into Dragomir's chest.
Corinne dropped to her knees again beside Viorica, wrapping her arms around the girl and pulling her close. She knew Viorica meant no harm, and did not want to punish her for something she did only in good intentions. She held Viorica against her chest, stroking her hair softly. "It's all right, Viorica. Things will get better," she soothed, smiling weakly and trying to believe herself.
“Don’t worry about it…” Dragomir sniffed. He knew the tears were inevitable, but still he fought them back. “This doesn’t mean anything…You’ll get better, I’ll take care of you…no matter what.” He was definitely crying now, but it didn’t really matter to him so long as he could provide support and comfort for Niles. “Just being with you…It’s enough for me.” Arranging his arms around Niles’s quivering form so that he wouldn’t touch any of his wounds, Dragomir held him close and let the tears fall silent and unrestrained. His position held firm, so even if Niles never spoke again, it wouldn’t matter to Dragomir anymore. They’d manage, and Dragomir would always stay with him and take care of Niles.
Viorica let herself melt into Corinne’s arms and slinked her own around the Lt. Colonel’s waist. She felt horrible and wondered why she’d even come. Obviously, Niles only felt safe around Dragomir right now, and her being there had only caused this new wave of hurt. She cried into Corinne’s shoulder and wished desperately that life wasn’t nearly so unfair. Niles hadn’t deserved what had happened to him, and in her innocence, she had never even considered the possibility of something so dreadful happing to her, and certainly not Niles and Dragomir. What they'd had was so perfect, and it tore at her heart to think that everything could be taken away from both of them, all at the whim of one deranged man. Viorica knew her life too was only just beginning, and she still had so much she wanted to do. She had Corinne, and she couldn’t bear to think that everything could have ended.
Niles could tell Dragomir was crying, and it only made his tears come harder, his body shaking with the quiet sobs. He wanted to believe what Dragomir was saying, that everything would turn out all right, but he was so frightened of everything, of taking a chance, that he didn't see how it could be. Dragomir was so kind to him, so reassuring, but he wasn't so sure, there were so many questions buzzing around his head. What if he never spoke again? What if he was never the same? What if things weren't the way they were? He couldn't expect Dragomir to put up with all of that... Still, Dragomir kept saying that he would take care of him and stay with him, no matter what, and Niles believed him. It didn't seem fair to him that Dragomir should have to do so much for Niles, but he wanted, he needed protection and care. If Dragomir would love him, would take care of him, even though he might not be able to speak, that would be more than enough for him, even though he didn't deserve it.
Corinne stroked Viorica's hair and murmured softly into her ear. "It's all right... it's all right, darling... it isn't your fault." She squeezed Viorica tighter, hoping to convince her that everything would indeed be all right. "Things will get better with time, just give it time..." Corinne counted her blessings that the things that had happened to Christian had not happened to Viorica; it was a guilty thought, and she did feel horribly bad for Christian, but she couldn't imagine seeing Viorica suffering this way. "Your brother and Niles will be all right. They're strong, and they'll pull through." She felt tears threatening at the back of her own eyes, and she held Viorica tighter, rocking slightly. "God, Viorica...I love you so much... Please don't cry..."
“Even…even if nothing changes…” Dragomir shook with emotion as he continued to squeeze Niles tighter. “I love you whatever happens, however it goes, and I will do everything I can for you forever.” By the time he finished speaking, some steadiness had returned to his voice, and he spoke with conviction. And though the tears were still present, Dragomir hoped with all his heart that Niles would understand how much he really meant to him.
Viorica could hear Corinne telling her to believe in Dragomir and Niles, but she had trouble accepting that anything good could happen after things now appeared so dire. Viorica knew not to give up, but it was difficult to believe. Still, Viorica didn’t know that she could stop, but somehow she managed to slow the rate at which her tears fell. “I love you, too,” Viorica cried rather weakly, pulling away from Corinne for just long enough to look into her eyes. ”I trust you.”
Niles felt the conviction in Dragomir, and heard the steadiness in his voice, and so slowly, the tears began to subside. Dragomir loved him, Dragomir would be there for him, even if he never spoke again, and that was enough for Niles. He allowed himself to be held in the tight embrace for a moment longer, glad for the feeling of protection and comfort, before leaning back a little to look Dragomir in the eye. Though he could not speak, he tried to convey to Dragomir how grateful he was for him, tried to say thank you. Slowly, he managed a flicker of a smile, before leaning back in to rest his head against Dragomir's chest, feeling the need to be held just a little longer.
Corinne felt Viorica's tears slow, and nodded slowly, squeezing her for a moment. "Everything will be all right. The best way for you to help things get better is to believe in both of them." She drew back again to look Viorica in the eye. "I know it's hard, it's... it's hard for me too. But if we believe in them, they'll be able to believe in themselves, and then they're sure to be fine." She pulled out her handkerchief and dabbed lightly at Viorica's eyes before placing a soft kiss on her forehead. "I know it's tough, but we can be strong." She offered a small but optimistic smile. "Right?"
Dragomir smiled back, feeling a rush of relief wash over him. He still had faith in Niles; Dragomir truly believed he’d find the strength to pull through, but now that Niles honestly believed in Dragomir’s sincere determination to help him, Dragomir was hopeful that it would give Niles the confidence he needed to start on his path to recovery. Dragomir had no intention to let go of Niles; he would hold him until both of their tears subsided—and it wouldn’t be long. A surge of hope was building in his heart, and he hoped Niles could feel it too. They’d get through together.
Viorica nodded slowly and summoned up a weak smile. “You’re right,” she said softly with a sniff. It wasn’t as if crying over it would do them any good… At least if she believed, her positive thoughts and feelings could possibly make a difference for them. And besides, if Corinne believed, Viorica was certain things would all work out somehow. She strengthened her smile and nodded again resolutely. “We’ll be strong for them.”
Niles felt safe and protected in Dragomir's arms, and for the first time since he had woken up, he felt a little hopeful. Maybe things would be all right, even if he wasn't completely the way he was. If he had Dragomir, then it didn't really matter, not so long as Dragomir still loved him. Upon this revelation, he felt as if a small weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and, though it was not a huge difference, he felt almost contented for the moment. Relaxing into Dragomir's warm embrace, he let his eyes slide shut. He was tired from crying and hiding and being frightened, and so, now, feeling safe, he began to drift off to sleep.
Corinne smiled back at Viorica. "That's the spirit. We can do it." She wiped the tear streaks from Viorica's face and stood, offering her a hand and pulling her to her feet as well. Glancing over to where Niles and Dragomir sat, she noticed with a small smile that Niles was beginning to fall asleep. "Looks like we should be going," she said quietly, so as not to wake him. She smiled at Dragomir, "Thank you for having us. We'll be sure to come back whenever you think he's ready," then to Viorica, "Shall we?"
Viorica slipped her arm around Corrine's and smiled up at her with a nod. Then, turning back to Dragomir, she looked him until he looked up from Niles. She did her best to smile both confidently and apologetically, and hoped he understood. He seemed to, because Dragomir held her gaze briefly with affection before he turned back to Niles, who seemed to have fallen asleep completely in his arms. Viorica's smile broadened ever so slightly; to see the two of them like that together was inspiring and she couldn't help but be confident in her decision to be strong with Corinne.
Dragomir watched as the two turned and headed out of the room. He didn't fail to notice the way Viorica clung to the Lt. Colonel's arm, and pressed against her, but remarkably, he found he wasn't bothered by it. He was happy for his sister, even though he knew it was extremely unconventional, even more so than what he had with Niles, and his only worry was for the difficult the two of them might have together in society. Still, he knew that both were strong, and the Lt. Colonel had already more then proved her aptitude in looking after his little sister.
Settling back against the headboard, Dragomir shifted Niles slightly in his arms and leaned over him, pressing a soft kiss to his cheek and nuzzling him slightly. When Niles was ready, he'd call the two of them again, and he was certain that everything would go better for all of them. In the meantime, Dragomir was happy to stay with Niles for as long as it took.
Niles slept soundly, and when he awoke, he felt better than he had since he had gotten home. He felt refreshed, and maybe like he could gather enough courage to face his fears a little better. He opened his eyes to see Dragomir, asleep besides him, propped against his headboard. He smiled slightly to himself, glad that Dragomir was getting a little rest, and lifted his head, shifting slightly so that he was resting on Dragomir's lap. He would let Dragomir rest for a little while; he didn't need anything desperately, and he knew Dragomir needed the sleep.
Dragomir felt himself slowly beginning to rouse from a deep sleep and lingered for a moment, reluctant to completely wake up. He realized there was a weight in his lap however, and this acknowledgement of the waking world kicked his brain into action again and he opened his eyes slowly. Dragomir found that the weight he’d felt was Niles, and smiled contentedly as he lifted a hand to stroke Niles’s hair. “Hey,” Dragomir said a little groggily as he moved back slightly to accommodate his neck, which ached for the position he’d slept in. Dragomir couldn’t very well have said “good morning” or anything like that, as his entire day-night cycle seemed to have deserted him in the time he’d been looking after Niles. It had probably been almost three days or maybe a bit more though, he reasoned, based on when Viorica and Corinne had come and gone. Dragomir bit his lip slightly and thought for a moment as he continued to run his hand through Niles’s hair. Three days was a rather a while, actually, in terms of hygiene and other such necessary nonsense (as Dragomir deemed it), and now that he thought about it, Niles’s hair didn’t feel quite as oft and silky as it usually did… “Niles,” Dragomir began softly, and blushed lightly, “Do you want to take a bath?”
Niles let his eyes flutter open, and he looked up at Dragomir. It was true, he'd spent most of his time sitting in bed, and he probably really did need to bathe. He wasn't sure how he could, however, in this weakened state; he wasn't sure if he could even stand. He blinked for a second before nodding and moved slowly to a sitting position. From there, unsure of himself, he slid his legs around the edge of the bed and lowered himself to floor, pushing from the bed to put weight on his legs. They wobbled beneath him for a second before they gave out, and he couldn't even cry out as he began to fall.
Dragomir caught Niles quickly, bracing him under the arms and being careful to keep from touching any of Niles’s injuries. Smiling briefly at Niles, Dragomir moved around him before lifting him up into his arms delicately, and hoping again that Niles wasn’t hurt by his movements. Wordlessly, Dragomir pecked Niles on the cheek and started towards the bathroom. Once there, Dragomir set Niles gently on a chair before turning to start filling the tub. He was starting to blush again by now, which was really very silly, considering everything, but he couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed about the prospect. Even so, he also couldn’t help but look forward to helping Niles bathe. After all, as selfish as Dragomir felt for thinking of it in such a way, it was probably the best they could do until Niles recovered. Dragomir pushed the thought from his mind resolutely however, and turned back to Niles, smiling gently before moving around behind his chair. Dragomir started unwrapping the bandages slowly, and as he did so, he thought whole the process through. “I’ll help you out of your knickers when this is all off,” Dragomir said plainly when he realized that it would be necessary. He was determined to take his job seriously and make sure everything went perfectly for Niles.
Niles watched the water with a strange fascination as it lapped at the edges of the tub, slowly filling it. His wounds hurt slightly as the cold air hit them, and he winced slightly as Dragomir removed the bandages. Still, the pain wasn't much, and so he watched Dragomir blankly as he set the bandages aside for the servants to take care of later, then move back towards him. He bent, and with careful hands and gentle fingers, he began to unbutton Niles' knickers. Niles's eyes followed him, but his vacant eyes seemed to register nothing in his brain until Dragomir was halfway through unbuttoning. Dragomir was blushing slightly, and, as he carefully worked the buttons undone, his finger slipped and brushed against Niles's bare skin. A shiver ran down Niles's spine, and when Dragomir looked up at him, he blushed and looked away after a second. He wasn't really sure why he reacted that way, however, and he was afraid to think about it, so he didn't, instead going back to staring at the water blankly.
At Niles’s reaction, Dragomir blushed even more. He felt bad for being amatory with Niles in his current state, and even worse that Niles hadn’t really reacted to the accidental touch at all. Focusing on his task and using it as a distraction, he concentrated on the fact that he was doing this to help Niles, and for absolutely no other reason.
Once he had the buttons undone, and the knickers sufficiently down around Niles’s waist, Dragomir stood, and gently pulled Niles to his feet, allowing him to fall against him so that Dragomir supported most of his weight. From there, blushing all the more due to the extreme close proximity, Dragomir worked Niles’s knickers down until they fell to the floor. Gently, Dragomir lifted Niles out of them and carried him the short distance to the bathtub. He managed to kneel, and let Niles’s foot touch the water. “It’s not too hot, is it?” Dragomir grunted from the effort of holding Niles in such an awkward position. When Niles nodded numbly, Dragomir lowered him the rest of the way into the tub, ignoring the fact that his sleeves were now completely soaked through. Dragomir rid himself of the now wet garment and looked to Niles a little embarrassedly. He really didn’t have any idea how to start and what he ought to be doing now to help him. Hopefully, the water was at least soothing, and Niles didn’t mind just sitting for a bit while Dragomir tried to think what to do.
Niles felt all of his muscles relax in the warm water, and he let his eyes slide shut again. The steam and the heat made him feel drowsy again, but he remembered that he needed to wash. Opening his eyes again, he reached for a bar of soap, but it slipped out of the grasp of only one hand. Niles looked to Dragomir, vaguely hoping that he would help. He realized that Dragomir had also removed his shirt, and blushed again, though, again, he avoided wondering why.
Dragomir watched Niles’s endeavor with the soap and smiled slightly at him as he moved to retrieve it with both hands. He pressed himself against the edge of the tub and leaned over it, helping Niles to scrub off. Dragomir did his best to wash most of Niles’s body, avoiding his back and other wounds, and blushing only as he got lower down Niles’s torso. He tried to check himself mentally, tried not to think of anything but Niles’s benefit, and slowly set about completing his task. When the soaping was completed, Dragomir cupped his hands and scooped up a handful of water to rinse Niles’s shoulders, rubbing them lightly to make sure he got off all of the soap. Dragomir was really quite wet now, but it didn’t matter to him in the slightest. His mind was on other things, the least of which were innocent. He was still berating himself for that as he continued to wash Niles when an idea struck him. Perhaps…perhaps if he did something, he’d be satisfied. Feeling a little awful and very guilty, Dragomir leaned over, bracing himself against the opposite edge of the tub with his arm, and placed a soft kiss on Niles’s lips.
Niles was surprised by Dragomir's lips on his own, and, for a second, he became frightened and didn't know what to do. However, he knew it was Dragomir, and Dragomir had certainly kissed him before, so the fear dissipated, and instead, he felt his body telling him what to do. He didn't know what he ought to do besides follow it, so he leaned up against Dragomir and hesitantly placed a hand on his shoulder. It certainly didn't feel bad, in fact, it felt very good, and so he didn't pull away, and instead let his eyes slide shut.
Dragomir was both surprised and relieved to feel Niles actively responding to him, even if Dragomir could feel that Niles wasn't fully aware of what he was doing. Dragomir pulled away slowly, letting his hand linger softly on Niles's cheek, and looked into his eyes for a moment. They seemed vague, and Dragomir worried for a second that Niles hadn't even really wanted the kiss, that he'd only allowed it to happen out of fear that he would otherwise be rejected. Dragomir's heart sunk a little and he looked away. He shouldn't have tried anything—he should have known it would just make himself crazy.
Glancing around the room, Dragomir spotted a medium sized pail and retrieved it. "I'm going to wash your hair now, Niles." Dragomir explained as he submerged the bucket in the bathwater. With a small smile, Dragomir lifted the bucket and upturned it gently over Niles's head. He then reached for the shampoo and began working it into Niles's hair in a thick lather. "Lean back so you don't get soap in your eyes," Dragomir instructed, as he began to recall the process from his experience helping his siblings.
He spent a long time on Niles's hair, reflecting on everything. He'd have to get used to this sort of thing if he were to help Niles, and really, it wasn't so bad. Dragomir smiled as he began rinsing Niles's hair. Eventually, urges could be suppressed, and Dragomir could enjoy the time he got to spend helping Niles; he loved him, and he loved taking care of him, and eventually, they'd both make it through in some way or another.
Niles allowed Dragomir to wash his hair, leaning back and closing his eyes so that the water wouldn't run into them. Dragomir's fingers working gently against his scalp felt good, and he relaxed, leaning slightly against him. He wasn't sure why Dragomir had been upset with him a moment ago; he didn't think anything bad had happened, but maybe it didn't have anything to do with him. Dragomir seemed fine now, so he didn't linger on it, instead feeling comfortable in the warm water as Dragomir rinsed the shampoo out of his hair again. After the water had run down his face, he let his eyes blink open and he looked at Dragomir, as if to say, "What next?"
Dragomir smiled back at Niles, pleased that he was able to understand the quizzical look. “Let’s get you dried off and into some clean clothes.” Dragomir said with a nod, as he submerged his arms all the way into the water and scooped Niles up out of the bath, bracing him against his chest for support. The water that drained off of Niles’s skin ran down Dragomir’s torso, soaking through his knickers, but Dragomir didn’t notice. He was busy attempting a balancing act, managing to support Niles while grabbing a towel. Setting Niles down onto the floor carefully, Dragomir braced his nearly limp body against his own and gently wrapped the towel around him, patting him down lightly. Dragomir looked down and Niles and smiled at him reassuringly as he slowly eased him back into a sitting position on the chair. Form there, Dragomir finished drying Niles completely, and got another towel, which he used to wrap Niles’s hair and put up to dry. With the hair out of the way, Dragomir worked to dab at Niles’s wounds on his back until they were dry enough to be wrapped and bandaged.
Niles let Dragomir dry him off, falling limp in his arms and allowing him to move his body however he pleased. Dragomir was gentle, and even as he dried the wounds on Niles' back, it didn't hurt at all. He looked up at Dragomir, half smiling softly, as he wrapped bandages around his torso again. He felt peaceful, grateful for Dragomir's loving care. However, just as Dragomir was finishing with the bandages, his stomach growled slightly, and he realized he was hungry. He looked up at Dragomir again, hoping to convey the message.
Dragomir heard Niles’s stomach’s cry for food and couldn’t help but grin slightly down at Niles as he tied off the bandages. “As soon as we get you dressed, I'll call for some food,” Dragomir assured, leaning over Niles and picking him up once again. Dragomir carried him back to his room and set him gently down on the edge of his bed before heading across Niles’s room to locate a clean pair of knickers for him to wear. It took a minute or so of riffling through all of Niles’s many clothes before Dragomir found a pair that looked comfortable enough for Niles to sleep in. He brought it back over to where Niles sat and fitted his legs through, pulling the article up as much as he could before lifting Niles to his feet so that he could get them the rest of the way up. Supporting Niles with one hand, Dragomir managed to get the knickers buttoned, and didn’t allow his hand to slip as he kept his mind completely focused only on helping Niles. Dragomir then eased Niles back into bed and pulled the covers up around him so that he wouldn’t get cold being so wet. With a brief smile, Dragomir turned from his charge and rung the bell to summon a servant.
Somehow, Niles’s servants had guessed what they wanted, and two arrived, each with a tray of dinner. Dragomir thanked them both, and settled in next to Niles on the bed, helping him to eat his fill before eating his own.
Niles ate slowly with Dragomir's help, beginning to feel a little stronger as he did. He finished what he was given and did not ask for more; he felt fine, and he wanted to give Dragomir time to eat before his food grew too cold. When Dragomir had finished and set the trays aside, Niles took a hold of his hand, his grip slightly stronger than it had been, and tugged slightly, wanting to have Dragomir a little closer. Resting his head on Dragomir's lap, he smiled softly. Maybe things would be okay, after all.
Donavan had been in a rather sulky, brooding mood. The fact that his plan had been completely unsuccessful, and that he’d been forced to run away from Dragomir had put him into poor sorts. Even after his visit with Algernon, which he’d been sure would go a long way towards cheering him up, had caused him to feel the stings of envy toward his cousin for what he had with Algernon. Donavan often felt alone, and he resented Christian for the feelings Dragomir had for him.
It was a silly sort of feeling however, because Donavan did have Faustino. Even if he was just a child, Donavan had tremendous confidence in his every ability. Whatever he lacked in a true relationship, Donavan knew he had Faustino’s mutual admiration, and that at least pulled him through.
Donavan shot a brief smile at Faustino, who was sitting next to him on a sofa in the sitting room of Faustino’s house, before turning back to the tailor he’d hired and watching him as he and other servants brought in an assortment of boxes filled with Faustino’s new clothing.
When all the boxes had been brought in, Donavan got to his feet and clapped the tailor on the shoulder amiably. “Well, now that they’re all in, would you mind sticking around and checking for fit?” Naturally, the tailor nodded, and Donavan directed him to a chair, which he took gratefully. Then, Donavan moved to one of the boxes and took the lid off, pulling back the tissue paper to look at the outfit inside. With a broad grin, he brought the box over to Faustino and pressed it into his arms. “Go and put it on so we can see how it looks.” Donavan said brightly. This was just the sort of thing he needed to improve his mood.
Faustino smiled back brightly and accepted the box, scurrying off to another room to change. He was glad Donavan was looking happier, he had been seeming down lately, and Faustino was eager to do anything he could to cheer him up. Shutting the door to an adjacent room behind him, he quickly removed all of his clothing before putting on the new outfit. It was much nicer and fancier than anything he owned, and he was extremely thankful for Donavan's generosity.
Once he had the new clothes on, he looked himself over. The jacket was a deep burgundy colour, with wide sleeves and gold-coloured cuffs and trim and a pleated back, with gold buttons. It was trimmed with gold stitching and decorated with a brocade pattern, and it hung nicely around his knees. The knickers were reddish-brown leather, and the blouse had lace at the wrists which matched the cravat. The lace at his wrists and neck was threaded with a burgundy ribbon, which was tied in bows and matched the jacket. The outfit was topped off with smart tan boots and a burgundy hat with a large white feather.
When Faustino was satisfied that he looked all right, he once more stepped into the other room, smiling embarrassedly at Donavan. "Is it all right?"
As Faustino walked back in, Donavan’s lips curled delightedly with satisfaction; Faustino looked amazing, of course. The colors suited his skin tone perfectly, and Donavan couldn’t get enough of looking at him. The way the jacket hung, how it came down to just the right place, the pattern, the cut, all of it fit beautifully, and the whole look and composition accentuated Faustino’s every feature. Donavan had thought Faustino adorable before, but now…
“I left the hems wide so that they can be adjusted as he grows.” The tailor interrupted Donavan’s thoughts.
“Oh…” Donavan managed, swallowing as he tried to stop thinking about how perfect Faustino looked. “That’s good.” He brought his expression back under control and into a regular, pleasantly pleased sort of smile. Clearing his throat, he tore his eyes away from Faustino and looked to the tailor. “You’ve really outdone yourself, I think. This is even more then what I’d been hoping for.” The tailor beamed and Donavan got to his feet, sauntering over to Faustino. He let his hand drop to Faustino’s shoulder, sampling the texture of the garment, and he walked slowly around him, before kneeling down to look at him levelly. “You look amazing.” Donavan said at last, wishing his voice didn’t sound quite as husky as he worried it did.
Faustino beamed. "I'm so glad!" he exclaimed, smiling innocently up at Donavan. He was overjoyed that Donavan thought that he looked good, if Donavan thought he did, then no one else mattered. "Thank you!" However, there was a strange tone to Donavan's voice, and he blinked slightly at Donavan. "...Are you all right...? Your voice sounds kind of funny...”
Donavan cleared his throat again and smiled brightly. “Me?” He asked feigning innocence, “Oh no, I’m fine.” He said with a slightly uneasy laugh. “I’ve just got a bit of a sore throat, I guess.” He was thankful for his acting abilities; he had managed to get his voice back to normal. Now all that remained was making sure it stayed that way. Besides, he really shouldn’t be getting so worked up over Faustino… “Why don’t you try on something else now?” Donavan suggested excitedly. There, that was acceptable. He could be excited for Faustino, for the clothes, he just couldn’t be excited by Faustino.
"Oh....I hope you feel better!" Faustino replied decidedly, smiling at Donavan. At his next suggestion, Faustino brightened, and nodded quickly, gathering up another box and darting out of the room.
The next outfit was a deep green, with a royal grey-blue trim and cuffs. There was gold thread on this jacket, too, and it matched gold thread on the edges of the lace at the wrists of the blouse and cravat. The vest was blue, and it seemed to be made out of oriental silk, with gold embroidery and gold trim. The knickers were a deep brown, and the shoes to match had gold buckles and green bows, and there was another hat, deep brown with a stunning blue peacock feather. He adjusted the hat on his head before once again returning to the other room, smiling and hoping to receive the same positive reaction.
“Ah, I’m especially proud of this one!” The tailor chirped. “That silk is hard to come by.” Donavan didn’t really hear what he said however. He was far too busy admiring Faustino. Again, the clothes looked perfect on him. Everything about Faustino was simply stunning. Donavan nodded to the tailor, hoping it was an adequate response, and got to his feet again shakily.
What was his problem? He certainly shouldn’t be having this kind of trouble walking… He hoped neither of the other two noticed as he made his way over to Faustino. “Turn around for me…?” Donavan’s voice betrayed him again and he swallowed quickly. He watched as Faustino turned, though, and took in all the details. Some may have considered it too showy, but Donavan thought it was marvelous. “I love that color on you also.” Donavan practically purred. Feeling ridiculous and coughing, Donavan patted Faustino on the shoulder and sat down again, crossing his legs. “You’ve still got a few more to try out.” He managed a grin.
Faustino grinned. "I'm glad!" he exclaimed happily, twirling around again so that the jacket flowed out. "I'll go try on the next one!" He took another box and returned to the other room, quickly removing the outfit he had on and folding it before opening the new box. This outfit had a deep purple jacket and olive green trim and silver stitching, with a matching green vest, a slightly deeper shade than the jacket trim. The jacket was lined with a multitude of tiny silver buttons, which matched the buttons at the bottom of the chocolate brown knickers. The lace on the sleeves of the blouse and the cravat was pale lavender, as was the feather in the hat and the bows on the shoes. Faustino felt a little less self-conscious this time as he stepped out into the other room, grinning at Donavan.
While Faustino changed, Donavan rested his chin against his hand and tried to breath steadily, hoping to keep this little problem he was having form getting any worse. He took a quick glance across the room at the tailor, and noticed the man had been staring at him rather oddly. Great. Donavan smiled congenially at him, and was just about to say something when Faustino emerged again, and caused him to choke on his words. Donavan leaned forward quickly and struggled to smile. Faustino looked fantastic again, of course, almost too fantastic for Donavan to handle. Something would have to be done about this. “Come a little closer and turn again.” Donavan instructed. It took all his effort to keep his voice natural, and even more to set his face in a relaxed smile. “Very impressive…” Donavan praised as Faustino turned in front of him. Donavan caught Faustino by the hand and brought it to his lips. “You look positively regal.” Donavan almost choked again, and swallowed hard to stop himself. That had probably not been a good idea. Turning sharply, he looked over at the tailor, who’d been rather too silent for Donavan’s comfort. “Everything has looked and fitted perfectly.” Donavan sated with a nod. “I’d hate to keep you, so feel free to leave, as there doesn’t seem to be any adjustments that need to be done.” Donavan managed a smile as the tailor got to his feet quickly. “I’ll certainly be calling on you again.” Donavan called after him as he made his way out of the room with great haste. At that, Donavan couldn’t help but chuckle. He felt bad about the situation, but not bad enough to not be amused. “Well then, why don’t you put on the next one for me?”
Faustino nodded with a smile and collected the next box, hurrying off to change. He was extremely happy that Donavan was pleased with him, and was still blushing slightly from when Donavan had kissed his hand. He was eager to change quickly and impress Donavan again.
The next outfit was deep blue with silver and pale blue accents. The jacket had sliver buttons and silver embroidery and was a bold brocade with pleats in the back and more buttons, and the vest was pale blue with silver trim. The knickers were pale, and the boots were black, and the hat was a matching pale colour with a deep blue feather. He smoothed the knickers a moment before once again making an appearance, grinning and twirling as he walked over to Donavan.
“Stunning,” was all Donavan could manage when Faustino appeared again, and he took in the sight almost hungrily. While Faustino was changing, Donavan had been going over why exactly he was reacting so strongly to all this. He’d worked it out that it was probably a combination of his excitement for the clothes, his pleasure to be treating Faustino to something so fancy, and built up sexual tension. Seeing Faustino again however forced him to consider another possibility. Maybe he was attracted to him? Was that it? It really couldn’t have been it, he assured himself. Today was just a strange day, and everything would work itself out in due time. “I really like the silver accents on you.” Donavan commented as he shifted positions uncomfortably. “You look even better than I could have imagined.” He added honestly, managing a smile. And there’s only one left to try, right?” He couldn’t wait to see it, but at the same time, he thought it would be better if the little fashion show wrapped up quickly… He could only hope that he’d have more control in the future, as Faustino would soon be wearing such lavish pieces on a regular basis.
Faustino grinned. "Yup! I'm glad everything looked good so far!" He did another twirl before taking the last box and scurrying back out of the room. The last outfit was beige with deep brown accents and gold embroidering and trim. The gold buttons were especially tiny and delicate, and matched those on the deep brown vest. The knickers were also deep brown, and the boots were pale, matching the pale hat with a brown ostrich feather. There was a double ruffle of lace at both his neck and wrists, and it was threaded with deep brown velvet bows. He spun for himself, seeing how his jacket spun out, and then returned to the other room with a small flourish. "How do I look?"
This time, Donavan couldn’t say anything at first. This outfit looked exceptional, and the crisp colors both looked so perfect with Faustino’s skin tone. It was hard for Donavan to say anything, let alone tell Faustino just have wonderful he looked. Donavan really had a problem now, and he didn’t know how much longer he could go with out doing something about it. Still, for just a little longer, he’d have to endure. “You look so elegant.” Donavan managed at last to articulate. His voice was low and husky again, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it now. He got to his feet shakily, and started walking to the best of his ability towards the bathroom, turning over his shoulder to smile weakly at Faustino. “I’m so glad all of them look so good on you.” He paused for a minute before explaining, “I need to take a shower. I’ll be back out in a little bit, so pick out whichever one you want to wear for the rest of the day.” Donavan said with a nod, as he picked up his pace. The sooner he got everything taken care of, the better.
Faustino smiled. "All right! I'm glad you like them!" As Donavan got up and began towards the bathroom, walking sort of funny, Faustino followed on his heels, however. "...Is something wrong?" he asked worriedly. Donavan's voice had been sounding especially strange, and he hoped he wasn't getting sick or anything. "Can I come with you?" he added, wanting to make sure everything was all right as well as stay with Donavan just for the sake of it.
Donavan froze mid-step. Come with him? Had Faustino really just asked that? Had Faustino been anyone else, Donavan thought he probably would have jumped him right then and there. But Faustino was Faustino; a boy whom he respected for his many talents, and who he absolutely was not attracted to. He added that mentally just to be certain. Even so, the idea was still attractive…but no. Without thinking, Donavan replied, “Someday, when you’re older, you can come with me,” and stepped into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him, not wanting to explain his extemporaneous pledge.
Faustino bit his lip, staring worriedly at the bathroom door for a moment before turning slowly to put away all of his new clothes. He hoped Donavan would be all right, and wished he could be there to make sure... Someday, he consoled himself, Donavan had said so. Still, he couldn't wait until he got older.