Donavan sipped at his tea slowly while he watched Faustino read. He’d insisted that Faustino keep up with his studies, even in addition to the training Donavan had started him on, and reading was one of the main lessons Donavan felt should be practiced on a daily basis. He’d dealt with illiterates before, after all, and he was not inclined to allow Faustino to succumb to the same misfortunate fate.
Donavan really didn’t need to watch Faustino as he read; the boy was skilled enough at recognizing the characters that he rarely required assistance, but truth be told, Donavan couldn’t help but watch him. Admire him. Luckily, the initial overreaction Donavan had experienced to Faustino’s new clothes (certainly not to Faustino himself) had worn off, but Donavan still found it difficult to keep his eyes off of the young boy.
He was watching as Faustino’s bright eyes flitted across the page and as his muscles twitched in his shoulder to lift a hand to turn the page, when Donavan heard the door to the sitting room open. He sat up abruptly and craned his neck around to see the servant waiting patiently at the door. Donavan beckoned the women over, and she scurried to his side before leaning over to whisper in his ear.
“Sir,” She began, rather uneasily, “You-you’d asked the gardener to keep the next rat he found alive…?”
Donavan smirked deviously across the room at Faustino, who’d lifted his eyes from his book with curiosity. “Yes.” Donavan affirmed, taming his smirk and managing his charming stage smile. “Have him leave it in the trap in the yard, if you would. We’ll be out shortly.” The servant nodded, and scuttled out of the room again as Donavan got to his feet. “Are you almost finished, Faustino? We have an errand outside.”
Faustino blinked for a moment, then nodded and replaced the ribbon he used as a page marker in the book before rising and walking over to Donavan's side. "What is it?" he asked curiously, smoothing his knickers unconsciously as he looked up at Donavan. He had no idea what sort of errand they could have outside; they had just spent the morning outside, and Faustino assumed that they were done for the day. He had rather been looking forward to spending some time alone with Donavan just relaxing and reading, but, then again, as long as he got to spend time with Donavan, it really didn't matter. He smiled brightly waiting for Donavan to explain or lead the way.
"I have a favor to ask of you." Donavan explained rather cryptically. "There's something of some importance that I need to show you, and hopefully, you'll be able to take care of it for me." Donavan could help but smirk with satisfaction. He didn't think Faustino quite realized it yet, but everything Donavan showed him, every detail he chose to share with him was all in preparation for his training. Training that would begin formally after this exercise, if Faustino was able to carry out his instructions, and, as always, Donavan had every confidence in his ability.
"It should be right this way," Donavan said assuringly as he lead the way out into the yard. He needed only to glance around for a few minutes before he spotted a small wire box that was shaking slightly. As they approached, the rat's shrill cries of desperation could be heard, and Donavan felt a chill of pleasure run down his spine. Lifting the box with the rat going wild inside, Donavan held it for Faustino to see. "This is the pest that been getting into the kitchen lately..." Donavan said, spitefully glaring at the little creature. "I decided it was about time we finished it off once and for all, don't you agree?"
Faustino flinched slightly when he heard the rat shriek, but nodded quickly. He knew that sometimes, rats got inside and ate things or ruined things, and that was bad. Still, he knew the gardener had instructions to kill any rats, so he wondered why Donavan should have one here... "Yes," he finally answered decisively, then looked to Donavan for further instructions, wondering exactly what was going on. He always did what Donavan asked of him, but, nonetheless, he was curious to find out what exactly he was to do.
Shifting the cage into one hand, Donavan lifted the lid and grasped the shrieking rat by the throat, squeezing it hard enough to cause the creature tremendous pain, but not nearly enough to put the rodent out of it's misery. He drew it up out of the cage, ignoring it's feeble attempts to claw its way out of his grasp with its tiny claws, and allowing it to wriggle, dangling from his fist in front of Faustino. Donavan cast the cage aside, and with his free hand drew his dagger, presenting it to Faustino hilt first. "I need you to kill this for me." He said simply. "Do you think you can do it?" His smirk broadened and twisted cruelly. Faustino would be well on his way if he would kill at Donavan's bidding.
Faustino hesitantly accepted the dagger, fingering it nervously. He didn't want to kill the rat, he had never killed anything before in his life, and the thought was scary. However, he knew the rats had to be killed to maintain the house, and whether or not he killed it, it would still be killed. And, of course, Donavan had told him to, and whatever Donavan said must be okay. Biting his lip, he hesitated a second longer before squeezing his eyes shut and thrusting the dagger forward.
The shrieking stopped immediately, and Faustino slowly let his eyes open. The rat now hung lifelessly in Donavan's hand; the dagger had gone straight through its tiny heart. Faustino drew his hand and the dagger back in a slightly stunned state, realizing that his hand was now covered in the dead animal's blood. He tore his eyes from the lifeless corpse to look back up at Donavan. "I-Is that all right?" If Donavan was pleased with him, then everything was all right.
Donavan lifted the rat corpse and examined the wound briefly before dropping his hand to his side and grinning at Faustino brightly. "Very good. A clean cut, expertly executed. I'd expect nothing less from you." With his free hand, Donavan removed a kerchief from his coat pocket and handed it to Faustino so that he wouldn't soil his clothes. "Pests have to be disposed of at all costs." Donavan said solemnly his smile fading as he paused a moment to look Faustino in the eye. "By killing this rat, you've benefited the entire household. Rodents destroy property, contaminate food, and carry disease. There are times, Faustino, when killing is necessary for the benefit of yourself and others." He concluded pragmatically. "Do you understand?"
Faustino nodded slowly, managing a smile. Though he was a deal shaken by what he had just done, he recognized that it was a necessary task, and that, besides being useful, Donavan was now pleased with him. "I understand," Faustino assured him with a final nod, accepting the handkerchief and wiping the blood from his hands carefully. "I'll do what you tell me to." He offered a stronger smile, feeling better about the whole thing.
"That's good." Donavan grinned, reaching over to ruffle Faustino's hair affectionately before tossing the rat body as far away as he could and wiping his hand on his knickers. "Do you want to go inside for some candy? You deserve a reward." He smirked unconsciously, reflecting on how well the little event had gone. Faustino did appear a bit uneasy with the concept, but Donavan was sure he'd grow to accept it in time. He would, of course, see to it.
Faustino brightened. "Oh, really? I mean, if it's not to much trouble or anything...I really don't need anything as a reward, or anything." He smiled sheepishly, a little embarrassed and more than a little happy that, once again, he had managed to please. No matter what he had to do, so long as he could continue to please Donavan, he would be happy.
The day of Niles’s appointment with the Commandant came all too soon as far as Dragomir was concerned, and the way things were, there really was nothing he could do. Or at least not anything he could do for Niles while he was with the general. That didn’t of course prevent him from walking with Niles down to the office, which he did. In the past, the walk had always seemed long to Dragomir, but as they reached to door, he couldn’t help but think it had been especially short this time. Pausing, he took hold of Niles’s hand and brought it to his lips, kissing it lightly. “I’ll be waiting outside for you…” He said biting his lip. “If…if anything happens or if you need me, I’ll be here.” Buckling and giving up on comportment, Dragomir released Niles hand and embraced him, placing a kiss briefly on his lips. This would be the first time in three weeks that they’d be apart, and Dragomir was already growing distraught at the very idea of it. He’d done all he could to protect Niles, but he should have known that it was inevitable that something like this should come up, and he knew he’d just have to wait, doing everything he could to be ready for anything in the meantime.
Niles was absolutely terrified. He was horrified of being separated from Dragomir, frightened of the General Commandant, and just afraid. He squeezed Dragomir with all of his strength, not wanting to let go but knowing he had to. He bit back the tears that were coming; he knew he had to look good to see the General, but he needed another moment, another second to feel safe in Dragomir's arms before plunging into everything that he feared. All too soon, however, his second was up, and he was walking away from Dragomir, giving him a last fearful look, before knocking on the General Commandant's door.
Algernon had been thinking through what would happen when he heard the knock on the door. "Come in!" he beckoned, standing and walking around in front of his desk and putting on a charming smile. He was confident; surely, he would succeed this time. Christian could not speak, there was no way he could lose.
Dragomir leaned back against the wall to wait, and gradually slid lower and lower down until he was sitting on the floor. He put his face in his hands and tried to think of what might be happening inside the room between Niles and the Commandant, but couldn’t think of anything reasonably. He kept jumping to conclusions and thinking only of the worst possible things until he could take it no longer and he sprang to his feet, striding over to the door. In all his brash concern, he almost forced it open, but restrained himself. He had to wait until he knew something was wrong. No matter what his imagination seemed to suggest, he couldn’t do anything as drastic as breaking into the Commandant’s office without some sort of proof. He pressed his ear against the door and listened intently for a long time. He realized that the doors and walls must be soundproofed, as he could hear absolutely nothing.
Cursing louder than he’d intended, Dragomir bolted down the hall towards the nearest exit. He was determined to know what was going on, and hoped that by finding a window, he could see or at least hear something. He only hoped Niles didn’t need him during the short interval it took for him to get out side and around the building.
Niles stepped inside timidly and bowed, rising after a lengthy amount of time and trying not to look afraid as he gave the Commandant an inquisitive look.
The Commandant smiled. "And how are you today, Warrant Officer Christian? Better, I hope, after your horrifying experience?"
Niles forced a smile and nodded, hoping that the Commandant would be forgiving of his inability to speak, unlike the Brigadier General. The Commandant smiled back, and his fear eased a little.
"Ah, so you cannot speak. How unfortunate...Please accept my greatest sympathies." Algernon moved closer, placing a hand softly on Niles's shoulder. "Won't you come sit down?" He guided Christian over to the sofa and carefully helped him to sit, sliding into the chair across from him. "Tea?"
Niles wasn't naïve enough to fall for that again. He shook his head with a regretful smile, trying his hardest to be polite without being able to speak. The Commandant nodded, setting the tea things aside.
Algernon smirked internally. There was no opium in the sugar this time.
"It's so good to see how well you're recovering after such a horrible incident...I take it your little Captain was there to take care of you?"
Niles nodded hurriedly with a brief smile.
Algernon put a sad face on and moved so that he was sitting beside Christian. "I'm...sorry to hear that. I really don't think it's god for you to be with that man."
Niles looked at him, horrified. He knew that this was going to happen, but he was going to be brave. He knew Dragomir loved him, and he wouldn't break down.
"I'm sorry to upset you this way, really, it pains me. But I'm worried for you, and your happiness, poor sweet child. You really think he loves you, don't you?"
Niles nodded decisively. He didn't think Dragomir loved him, he knew.
Dragomir reached the back of the building, panting slightly and immediately began counting his paces until he reached the appropriate spot. The curtains were drawn, and it took every bit of self-restraint he had to avoid slamming his hands against the thick pane of glass. He should have known the General wouldn’t leave them open for just anyone to come prying into whatever business he had. Sighing as he pulled himself together, Dragomir knelt next to the junction between the glass and the wall and pressed his ear to it, waiting only a few minutes before realizing that the glass too was soundproofed. Where as before he’d thought it was only right for the Commandant to protect his business, now in his panicked state Dragomir furiously began stomping around outside, wondering just what it was the head of the entire army had to hide. Dragomir ran a hand through his hair and tried to remain calm and clear his mind. The best thing for him to do now would be to return to waiting in the hall. If there really was nothing he could do for Niles and nothing he could do to see what was happening, the least he could do was be there for Niles when he got out.
Algernon was not deterred by Christian's confidence. He would break soon enough. "He may care for you, but, in the end, you're most likely more of an investment to him. You're pretty, and sweet, and there are a lot of men out there who would want to use you. I just don't want you to get hurt." He ran a hand softly along the side of Christian's pale face, wishing he could ruin that perfect skin. "I think Hirlea will hurt you."
Niles shook his head desperately, hoping the Commandant would just stop. He refused to believe any of it, he knew Dragomir loved him, and he wondered why the Commandant was so convinced otherwise. He wished he knew what was going on. It seemed so strange that this man would care so much about him, especially when they had hardly met. He pondered for a moment, however, he completely lost his train of thought at what happened next.
The General Commandant kissed him.
Dragomir got back to the hall, half expecting to return only to find that something dreadful had happened, but instead finding everything as it had been. He took a step towards the door and tried listening again, wondering if maybe he’d just missed something the last time. Of course, there was no improvement, and he still couldn’t hear anything. He staggered back away from the door and tried to content himself by pacing as he struggled to keep his mind from jumping to conclusions. Dragomir instinctively kept his hand on his blade however, and didn’t even realize it.
It was a soft kiss, briefly pressed against Niles's lips, and when the Commandant pulled away, he looked genuinely kind and concerned. Niles was confused, however, extremely confused, and he began to feel guilty almost immediately after. He had just allowed himself to be kissed by another man, a man who was not Dragomir, and he felt like he had done something wrong. He hadn't wanted it, certainly, but it had happened, somehow...and he couldn't even tell Dragomir. What was he going to do?
Algernon couldn't help but smirk slightly when he saw Christian's torn face, and caressed it with his hand again. "I know, you need to go...I understand. But please, do heed my warning, and take care...I wouldn't want you to be used. All right?"
Niles hesitated, then nodded, anything to get out of there. The Commandant smiled and strode to the door, holding it for him to leave. Niles hesitated only a second before rising to follow, hurrying to leave. However, as he was about to go, the Commandant caught his arm and smiled at him. "Please do come back if you’d ever like to talk to me. And do take care."
Niles nodded hurriedly before darting out of the room. Outside, a comforting sight greeted him: Dragomir, waiting, there to protect him. Throwing himself into Dragomir's arms, he let the tears come. He was afraid, confused, and guilty, and he just wanted Dragomir to hold him for a little while.
Dragomir saw the door started to open and resisted his urge to charge forward and liberate Niles immediately, instead slinking back so that the Commandant wouldn’t see him. As Niles emerged and the door behind him slid shut however, Dragomir breathed a sigh of relief and wrapped his arms tightly around Niles, holding him close. For all his worrying, Niles seemed physically unharmed, and Dragomir was extremely thankful. However, feeling Niles’s tears against his chest, Dragomir again began to panic, not knowing what had happened to him during the time they’d been apart. Pulling back slightly, Dragomir pressed a quick kiss to Niles’s lips and then pulled back, studying his features and trying to read his expression. “Oh Niles, I was so worried! What happened? Are you all right?”
Niles nodded slowly into Dragomir's chest, clutching his jacket as if his life depended on it. He was all right, he would be okay, but there was no way for him to convey what had happened or what the Commandant had done to him. He would just have to live with the confusion and the guilt, but he wasn't going to worry about that just right now. Now he was safe in Dragomir's arms, and he wanted to stay there. Softly, he pressed his face against Dragomir's chest, trying to say how glad he was to be back, to be here. He loved Dragomir, and though he couldn't say it, he had to let him know.
Dragomir held Niles close, his heart swelling with the relief of knowing that he was safe and would be safe now that they were back together. Somehow it had seemed to Dragomir that even just the short time they’d been apart everything seemed off somehow, and Dragomir never wanted to experience that again. He loved Niles so much, so desperately, and he never wanted to be apart from him again. Dragomir could feel Niles’s love somehow as well, and he was extremely grateful for the reassurance. Even if Niles couldn’t speak, Dragomir felt he could understand him on a deeper level and knew what he was trying to convey. “I love you too, Niles,” Dragomir murmured, squeezing Niles lightly before releasing him and taking his hand up instead. “I-if you’re alright, we probably need to get back to the office…” Dragomir said a little hesitantly. Truth be told, he was eager to get away from the Commandant’s office; something simply didn’t feel right with it, and he wanted to get Niles away as soon as possible.
Niles hesitated a moment before nodding slowly and holding tightly to Dragomir's hand as he led him back to the office. He didn't want to let go, but he knew he had to, at least until they got out of work, and so he let Dragomir release his hand when they got back and returned to sit at his desk mindlessly completing his tasks for the rest of the day.
The day dragged on and on, but, finally, it was over. Niles was relieved to get to leave, he was still feeling shaken and he wanted to be comforted. He took Dragomir's hand as soon as they were out of the building and clutched his arm, almost as if he needed to be steadied. It made him feel better, though, just the close proximity, so he didn't let go.
Dragomir was oddly silent during the walk home, and Niles began to worry that something else was wrong. He didn't know how to ask, though, so, as they approached his house, he slowed to a stop, tugging slightly on Dragomir's arm. Looking up at him, he tried to convey his worries through his eyes.
Dragomir smiled faintly back at Niles, not quite understanding what was bothering him, and unfortunately, Dragomir feared that he’d miss what was happening with Niles a lot from now on. He flattered himself by thinking he knew what Niles was trying to express, but did he? How could he possibly know for certain? He couldn’t, not ever again. On some level, maybe they were more connective now, but on another, they were further apart than ever. There was so much Dragomir still wanted to share with Niles, but if Niles couldn’t speak himself, was it really fair? Dragomir didn’t want to just talk at Niles…he knew he could understand, but even so, Dragomir would never really know what Niles felt about it. He could feel Niles’s emotions only on a baser level only, and maybe he’d just been making all that up? What if he didn’t know anything at all and he just thought he could understand here and there? It was a very real possibility, and Niles would never be able to tell him the truth.
Suddenly feeling overcome with emotion, Dragomir looked away abruptly and bit his lip hard to keep from crying. He needed to be strong for Niles right now, and he couldn’t let any of his own insecurities get in the way. Still, it was a hard prospect to bear, and he shuddered, breathing though his teeth to keep the tears from falling. When he felt composed, he looked back and Niles and smiled again. For Niles, he could smile no matter what, and that was what mattered. He gave his hand a light squeeze before looking back towards the manner and starting towards it.
Niles followed Dragomir worriedly, knowing now that something was really wrong. He heard Dragomir's breathing get harder, and, though he had smiled, he knew that he was suffering underneath. Had Niles done something wrong? Why wasn't Dragomir letting him know what was going on? Niles's stomach clenched with worry; he could be subjected to the world of which he was so frightened, he could be left defenseless in the most terrifying situation, but he couldn't stand to have Dragomir be upset with him.
As soon as they were upstairs and behind closed doors, with Dragomir sitting beside him and looking somewhat brooding on his bed, Niles tugged on his arm again. Getting his attention, Niles gave Dragomir the most pleading, pathetic look, hoping to somehow discover what was wrong.
When Niles looked up at him, Dragomir’s heart broke. What was wrong? Was Niles trying to tell him something? Perhaps something terrible had happened to him while he’d been with the Commandant, and Dragomir hadn’t even realized that all this time, Niles had been trying to convey it to him. How foolish of him! It was his self-assigned duty to take care of Niles, and how could he possibly hope to do it if he didn’t even know what was bothering him? He couldn’t. He couldn’t understand, and he was just useless to Niles. It pained him to think that he failed Niles and let him down completely; even after all of his promises and reassurances he’d completely missed what was going on. Breaking down at last, the tears fell from Dragomir’s eyes and he buried his face in his hands, too ashamed of himself to look at Niles. “I’m sorry! All this time you’ve been trying to tell me something and I don’t know what it is. I don’t know anything….I can’t understand what you’re trying to tell me and I’m too stupid to figure it out!” Dragomir wept, sniffing and wiping his eyes as he looked back up at Niles. “I can’t do anything for you and I just feel so useless. I’m so sorry…”
Niles was shocked when Dragomir started to cry. He couldn't believe Dragomir could possibly be feeling that way, after everything he'd done for him! How could he? It was Niles who was the useless one, Niles couldn't speak or take care of himself, who was afraid of everything. Why did Dragomir feel that way? It hurt Niles to see him so upset, and he wished desperately that there were some way for him to tell Dragomir that he wasn't useless, that Niles needed him, badly, because he couldn't stand to see Dragomir like this. It hurt, and he felt weak and helpless all over again, and he knew that this time, he had to be strong, he had to let Dragomir know that everything was okay. He was so wrapped up in emotion that he didn't even realize what he was doing until it was already done.
He drew back with surprise for a second; that was his voice that he had just heard. It was barely recognizable; weak and soft with disuse, but he knew it was his voice. He swelled with courage; suddenly, he wasn't helpless, he could do whatever he wanted. He would make sure everything was okay.
Without further hesitation, he continued. His voice wavered and cracked, but he didn't care; it was there, and that was all that mattered. "Dragomir, please... You've not been useless at all, and it's not your fault. Please, I -I love you!" He was beginning to cry now, as he clutched Dragomir's shoulder and tried to get him to look at him. "P-please..."
Dragomir gasped when he heard his name. It was Niles’s voice that had spoken, and he could scarcely believe it, but as Niles continued to speak, Dragomir knew it was true, it really was Niles’s voice, and he started to cry harder, though not with grief. His heart flooding with joy and relief, Dragomir wrapped his arms around Niles and held him tightly. Three weeks since he’d heard him speak, three weeks since Dragomir had heard Niles scream, the last sound Niles had made up until now. Finally, finally, Dragomir could hear his voice again. “D-don’t stop! Please keep talking to me!” Dragomir gasped, desperate for the reassuring sound of Niles’s words. “Niles….I love you so much! I thought you’d never…I thought I’d never hear your voice again…Please keep talking to me…”
"I'm sorry...I'm so sorry," Niles sniffed, his voice cracking as he choked on his tears, trying his hardest to fight them back. It was his turn to be strong now, his time to be there for Dragomir. "I- I tried to talk for you, and it made me so sad to see you so upset..." He swallowed, not quite used to the sensation of talking. "I- I love you so much, I wanted so badly to tell you... Oh, god, I love you..." He buried his face in Dragomir's chest, just happy that everything was suddenly going to be okay.
Niles babbled on for a few minutes at Dragomir's request, saying over and over how much he loved Dragomir, how much it had pained him to see him suffer, until finally, he drew back slightly. "There- there is one thing I have to... that I have to confess to you. I- I swear I didn't want it to happen, but it just...it just happened, so please don't be angry with me...?" He looked up at Dragomir with tear-filled eyes, finding himself unable to find the words to say it. He felt terribly guilty, but he was still afraid to confess to what had happened...he didn't want Dragomir to be upset with him now, especially not after everything that had happened.
Despite the tears that will still rolling down his face, Dragomir managed a smile. “How could I ever be angry with you?” he asked with a small laugh. “I’m so glad-I’m just so happy to hear your voice again, Niles.” He wiped his eyes again on his sleeve and pressed a kiss to Niles’s lips softly. “You can tell me anything, I’m just relieved to hear you speak.” Dragomir said softly, pulling back. “I won’t be angry with you, I want to know everything. It’s been so long, anything you want to tell me… I’ve missed knowing how you’ve felt.”
Niles managed a smile. "Thank you...I've wanted to tell you everything, but...I- I have to tell you this first. While I was in the Commandant's office...he was saying such horrible things again, about you, and how you didn't really love me, and when I tried to tell him that it wasn't true...well...he-he kissed me." Niles looked pleadingly up at Dragomir, hoping he wouldn't be upset. "I didn't want him to, though, and I was so afraid...I'm sorry! I didn't know what to do! I really didn't want it to happen..." He didn't know what he would do if Dragomir thought he was untrue, and he hoped he would believe him. "I- I love you... I was so scared...please don't be angry..."
Dragomir blinked, having trouble comprehending the situation. He did understand however, that it was really troubling Niles, and that had to be remedied first and for most. Dragomir smiled softly and took Niles’s hand in his. “I trust you, and I know you love me.” He looked into Niles’s eyes and held his gaze for a moment. “Whatever he did, I know it was him, and that’s not what matters. As long as you’re all right, then I’m not angry; I could never be upset with you for something like that.” Slowly, he leaned forward again and placed a kiss on Niles’s lips, holding it for a moment and running his hand along Niles’s cheek. Slowly, Dragomir pulled back and enclosed Niles’s hand in both of his. “I don’t know why he’d do that to you…I don’t understand any of his motives at all.” He exhaled sharply and furrowed his brows. “He’s got no right to keep messing with you, though. I wish I could do something about it…I should be able to stand up for you, but to him I can’t…I hope you understand that wouldn’t ever be upset with you for something he did though, because I love you, Niles.”
Niles broke into a smile, tears rushing to his eyes even though he tried to fight them back. "I'm...I'm so glad. I love you," he sniffed, kissing Dragomir back lightly on the lips. "It's all right...he- he didn't hurt me this time, or anything...I just hope he doesn't call me back again..." He snuggled back into Dragomir's arms, wrapping his arms around his waist. 'I'm just so glad that I have you...it was so horrible not being able to tell you anything...to say that I love you..." He smiled into Dragomir's chest. "I love you so much."
“I love you too.” Dragomir smiled, squeezing Niles all the more tightly. “All this time, I’ve been so worried about everything…I’m so glad you’re all right now.” Dragomir buried his face in Niles hair, pausing for a moment to let things sink in. There was so much he’d wanted to ask Niles about over the past three weeks, particularly at first, but even now that Niles could speak again, Dragomir didn’t think he could handle bringing up anything so terrible. He needed to ask at some point…he felt he should know what Niles had endured, but he would wait until Niles brought it up. He didn’t want to force Niles to recall anything he wanted to avoid, and right now, Dragomir wanted to enjoy this moment he had with Niles, the way things were supposed to be.
Niles felt safe and warm in Dragomir's arms, and nodded slowly. "I...I know you probably don't want to hear about it, but...I feel like I should tell you what happened." His voice wavered again, and he swallowed at the memory of all that he had gone through, but he felt the need to tell Dragomir, almost the necessity. No one knew what had happened to him besides himself and Donavan D'Aubigne, and he felt almost like the concealed nature of the event made it even more painful, and that somehow, by telling Dragomir, the hurt would be dissolved. "D- do you mind...? I...I think I need to come to terms with it… I've been hiding for too long.”
Dragomir bit his lip and nodded slowly. If Niles wanted to tell him, he’d be happy to listen. “N-no…Go ahead. I’ll listen,” Dragomir said slowly. It would be painful for Dragomir even to just hear about what had happened, and he could hardly imagine what it had been like for Niles. He owed it to Niles to listen to whatever he wanted to tell him however, and if Niles thought it would help him come to terms with it all, Dragomir would do whatever he could to help. “Whatever you need to tell me, I’ll listen…I’m glad you trust me enough to talk to me about it…”
Niles nodded slowly, shifting so that he could rest his head against Dragomir's shoulder but still look him in the eye if he lifted his head. "It was so frightening...he...he chained me to the ceiling, so that if he pulled on the wire, my feet could barely touch the floor...my ankles, too, I could barely stand..." He swallowed, trying not to think about how painful it had been. "He told me you didn't love me, that you wouldn't come for me, but I didn't believe him. Then he burned me, and cut me, and he kept telling me that I didn't know you, that you didn't love me, that you wouldn't come. But I didn't believe him, even through all the pain." Niles hesitate a moment to regain his composure; thinking about it was still painful. "But-but then he told me about...about what you did with him while you worked for him. A-and that was when I broke..." He looked up at Dragomir, hoping for some sort of reassurance.
Dragomir didn’t speak while Niles told him about what had happened. It just about made him sick to his stomach to think about how badly it must have hurt Niles, and how disgusting it was that anyone could be so cruel. Dragomir knew from his own experience with Donavan D’Aubigne that he was merciless, but what he’d done to Niles was too terrible, and Dragomir couldn’t even imagine what it must have been like for him. The fact that Niles had kept his faith was truly a testament to his strength, though it was a trial Dragomir wished Niles had never been forced to endure. Dragomir waited as Niles paused to regroup and tried to keep his breathing steady himself. He was glad Niles was telling him, but it was still difficult for him to listen. As Niles concluded, Dragomir shut his eyes and looked away, ashamed to think back to it, and disgusted that Donavan would use something like that to torture Niles. He owed it to Niles however to offer an explanation, and turned back to Niles to look into his eyes. He swallowed hard and felt tears of empathy welling up at the corners of his eyes. “I’m sorry…” Dragomir choked, not knowing what else he could say, “I’m sorry I didn’t get to you sooner…”
Niles shook his head, sniffing back his tears. "It's not your fault," he replied, "So, please, don't take the blame. I know you did all you could." He rested his head back on Dragomir's shoulder and squeezed his arm a little before continuing. "A-after that, he...he had a whip. He told me about how you got all the scars on your back, but I could hardly think anymore. I...I thought you weren't going to come for me..." he felt horrible now for thinking such a thing, "I- I should have known you would, but he...he kept saying that I didn't know you, and he knew you, and you loved him, and I didn't know what to think. And after that, I passed out." He paused to take a deep breath and wipe his eyes on Dragomir's sleeve. "He...he woke me up by nearly drowning me...I don't know how long I was out. After he'd strung me up again, he poured alcohol on my back, in all the open lashes...and after that, salt. He cut me with glass shards, and the whole time, he kept telling me how worthless I was, and how no one cared about me, or would ever come for me..." He trailed, ashamed at his own weakness, before adding softly, "I...I begged him to kill me. If you weren't coming for me...well, I didn't think I had anything to live for." He looked away from Dragomir and wiped his eyes again with the back of his hand, not able to face him after being so weak.
With tears that were threatening to fall blurring his vision slightly, Dragomir took Niles gently by the cheek and angled his face so that he could look at him. “You’re very brave, Niles.” Dragomir said truthfully as the tears fell at last. “You endured so much more than anyone should ever have to… You’re not a coward for asking to die.” Dragomir wiped his eyes and wrapped his arms around Niles, pulling him close and holding him tightly. “I’m just so glad you held on long enough for me to get there…” Dragomir sniffed, holding Niles and never wanting to let go of him again.
Niles's eyes widened at Dragomir's words, amazed by them. "You...you think I'm brave...? But...I was so frightened...I gave up. I was hoping I would die." The tears streamed down his cheeks now, and he looked into Dragomir's eyes. If Dragomir thought he wasn't a coward, then nothing else mattered. He nodded slowly, and settled back against Dragomir's shoulder, wiping his eyes again. "A-after that, he let me down. He kissed my hand, then broke all my fingers...then I passed out again." He sniffed and looked back up at Dragomir. "W-when I saw you, I felt like everything was all right. No matter what Donavan had done to me...Dragomir..." He began crying again, but kept eye contact with Dragomir, sincerity shining in his eyes. "I love you, Dragomir. I'm sorry for everything that happened, and that I ever doubted you...but please...I love you."
Dragomir started to cry harder again as Niles cried, but he smiled through his tears. “Don’t be sorry. I love you so much, I don’t want to give you reason to doubt me ever again.” Dragomir said definitively, not breaking eye contact. “No matter what happens, from now on, I’ll be there for you, because we’ll be together.” Dragomir pressed forward gently and kissed Niles on the lips, softly at first, but then increased the pressure as he brought his hand to Niles’s cheek and used his thumb to wipe away Niles’s tears, moving somewhat hesitantly to deepen the kiss.
Niles hesitated for a second before leaning up into the kiss and wrapping his arms around Dragomir's neck. He had forgotten how amazing it was to be alone like this with Dragomir, with nothing to worry about, nothing to be afraid of. This was how things truly should be, how he always wanted things to be. Everything was all right now, he was safe and Dragomir was here with him, Dragomir loved him and was going to protect him. It seemed as if, all of a sudden, everything bad fell away, and all that was left was good, was the way things should be, and Niles almost cried again with joy. Instead, however, he kissed Dragomir back fervently, trying to express how happy he was that things were all right again.
Dragomir’s heart soared with relief when Niles kissed back. It seemed like it had been so long since they’d been able to share this together, and Dragomir had felt almost at a loss without it. He hadn’t known quite what to do, as Niles had seemed numb for such a long time, but now, things were as they should be, and Dragomir couldn’t be happier. He smiled into the kiss, effectively breaking it, and pulled back only slightly. “I missed you…I missed hearing your voice and being this close to you.” Dragomir murmured softly, moving in again and kissing Niles on the neck. “If-if there’s anything you want, that I can do for you, let me know…I haven’t been quite sure what to do to help you these past weeks…” Dragomir said softly between kisses as he worked his way down Niles’s neck.
Niles gasped softly when he felt Dragomir against his skin, but did not pull away. There weren't words to express the way he felt, so full of happiness and relief and love and ready to face his fears. "You've been perfect," Niles replied breathily. "Everything you've done for me...it's been perfect. If it weren't for you...I- I don't think I would have recovered." He inhaled sharply as Dragomir's mouth hit a particularly sensitive spot, and looked down to meet his eyes. "But for right now, the only thing I want is you." He smiled softly, it felt so good to be able to say it again. "I love you."
“Than I’m yours,” Dragomir smirked up at Niles for a moment as he lifted a hand and carefully undid the top few buttons of Niles’s jacket. Dragomir tugged at the article lightly, pulling it lower before moving in to suck at his collarbone, licking and biting softly as he explored Niles’s neck and shoulders with his tongue, taking care to avoid his healing wounds. “Whatever you want of me,” Dragomir paused to speak as he unbuttoned the jacket a little more. “I’m yours.” He concluded, again moving back to Niles’s lips for a fleeting kiss. “I love you, Niles.” He whispered as he pulled away, moving back to Niles’s chest.