At last everything was in order for Tatiana’s surprise baby shower; Pierre had been planning it for weeks, and it was finally coming together. When Niles had graciously volunteered to host the event at his house, Pierre had eagerly seized the opportunity to show off to all of their guests exactly how wealthy they were, and had personally made sure the room they were using was decorated entirely to Tatiana’s tastes. In addition to the decoration, Pierre had somehow managed to commission a few of Niles’s cooks to make all the dishes that were now elegantly spread throughout the room. All of the guests, comprised of Pierre’s parents, their neighbors, and Tatiana’s needlepoint club, were assembled now, as well, and were waiting for the only thing that remained to complete the party; the guest of honor herself. Pierre had left to pick her up several minutes earlier, and so it would be anytime now that the two of them would arrive.
Dragomir looked around the room at the many awestruck faces of the women present. The seemed a bit in shock to be in such a beautiful room, in such an elaborate manner, and appeared to be too wrapped up in the majesty of the whole structure to be paying much attention to their children. Dragomir was concerned, both for their safety and for the preservation of the Niles’s house, that someone should step in to watch the kids, but he himself was reluctant to do so just yet—he wanted to make sure he was available when Tatiana arrived so that he could congratulate her.
Dragomir turned to Niles and found his hand, giving it a light squeeze and flashing him a smile. He was so excited for Tatiana and her baby, and was extremely grateful to Niles for hosting for them.
Niles squeezed Dragomir's hand back, looking around. He, being the gracious employer he was, had agreed not to tell anyone that it was indeed his house, not Tatiana's, and so he was now watching, semi-bemused, as all of Tatiana's friends oohed and ahed over the house. He was distracted, however, by the group of small children running around the room and the toddlers trying to eat his furniture. He glanced to Dragomir worriedly, hoping things were under control. Hopefully, Tatiana would show up soon and everyone would settle down.
Dragomir heard footsteps outside the door, and smiled reassuringly back at Niles. Surely now that Tatiana was here, the mothers would get their children under control and things would settle down. The door opened and all eyes turned expectantly to the front of the room as Pierre led Tatiana inside.
“Oh my goodness!” Tatiana gasped, raising her hand to her mouth. “Pierre, what-?”
“Surprise,” he murmured, with an expression of supreme satisfaction.
“Did you put this all together?” Tatiana asked, touched. However, before he could answer, many of her friends gathered around her to offer their congratulations, leaving all of the children completely unmonitored. Dragomir knew they were going to wreak havoc if they weren’t kept under control, so with a regretful sigh, he released Niles’s hand made his way over to where the younger children seemed to have established a base for their game of tag. On his way, he picked up two of the youngest toddlers and carried them over, intending to gather all of the children in once place so that he could establish the best method of managing them.
After Tatiana had thanked each of her guests, she worked her way over to Niles and smiled. “Thank you so much for helping Pierre with all of this. I’m told you’re letting him pretend it’s his house?” She giggled and looked up at Niles gratefully. “Thank you for everything, and for playing along.” Looking past Niles, she noticed Dragomir sitting on the floor the smaller children and teaching some of the older ones a little game to play with their hands. One of her friends stepped forward and giggled.
“Well, it looks like you already have a reliable babysitter.” The woman commented, then noticed Niles and curtsied politely. “I’m sorry, I don’t think we’ve met.”
Niles smiled to Tatiana. "It's no problem at all. I'm just happy to be able to help with this party for you. Think of it as part of my gift." The other part of his gift was five hundred thousand dollars, which he was planning on giving to Tatiana a little later, when it would be more discrete.
Having lost Dragomir to the small children, he then turned to the other guest with a congenial smile and a bow. "Nice to meet you. I'm Niles Christian, a friend of the family." He was having trouble keeping track of all the people, as he was not used to having guests, and hoped he wouldn't offend anyone.
When Dragomir had at last managed to teach all of the children how to play the game proficiently enough to do it by themselves, the party was already well underway. Hopefully, now that all of the children were occupied in a peaceful game, Dragomir could find Niles and take part in the party. Unfortunately, he was not so lucky; as soon as he stood, he looked down to find a little girl tugging at his sleeve anxiously.
“Pweze don’t leave. Stay and play with us, mister!” Dragomir smiled down at her, completely unable to resist.
“Alright, alright.” He sighed, glancing regretfully at Niles. Hopefully he understood Dragomir was doing this for the protection of his house… “I’ll teach you something new, if you like.” Dragomir grinned at their enthusiasm, and set about explaining the rules of their next game as he glanced around the room. Pierre and Tatiana were caught up with Pierre’s parents, who were no doubt trying to figure out exactly whose house they were in, and Viorica was over by the drinks. He had suspicion that she was still avoiding Pierre and Tatiana, but he was glad she’d decided to come. They couldn’t ignore her forever, especially if she continued to be cordial to them. Niles, it seemed, was involved in conversation with several of the female guests, and each of them were holding half-drained champagne glasses. Sighing, he returned his attentions to the children. He was content in the fact that everyone present owed their as of yet peaceful party to his efforts.
Two other women had joined the first since Niles had first been locked into conversation, and it seemed, no matter how much he tried, he was unable to escape and return to Dragomir's side. It seemed that all three had been drinking, and he was a little confused by the way they were acting. They were very nice, and all, but, they kept saying strange things that he didn't really understand and giggling.
"So, is it all right if we call you Niles?" 'Brigitte' giggled, looking to him expectantly.
"Um...yeah, I suppose," he replied with a congenial smile, nodding.
"Ooh~! That's such a cute name, you know. I absolutely adore it," 'Marie' squealed, and the other two agreed, all bursting into giggles again.
"And you're so handsome, too," 'Cherrie' added, blushing at Niles, who blinked back embarrassedly.
"Um...thank you...?" he replied, not really sure what else to say. He was relatively shell-shocked.
"It's true, though. You're absolutely gorgeous," 'Marie' piped, batting her eyelashes at him.
"And so suave and sophisticated," 'Brigitte' added, giving him a strange expression.
"I-I really don't know what to say," Niles replied embarrassedly. He really did have no idea what to say, and he couldn't figure out why they were acting this way towards him.
When Dragomir next looked up to check on Niles, he was disgusted to realize that the women gathered around him were flirting with him! They were flushed from the alcohol, and Niles looked terribly uncomfortable and as though he was unable to shake them. Dragomir’s mouth set into a scowl and he got to his feet. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he reassured the children before striding over to where Niles stood with the women. “Hello, ladies.” Dragomir said through his teeth, clenched in a fake smile, as he slipped an arm around Niles’s waist.
Niles blinked in surprise as he felt Dragomir's arm slide around his waist, and looked up at him. "Oh, hello, Dragomir." He looked back to the women, who were looking at Dragomir with a sort of shocked expression. "This is Dragomir Hirlea," he introduced. "He's Tatiana's brother." The women didn't appear to be listening, however, but, instead, to be trying to appraise the situation.
"Niles," one of them said slowly, her voice polite, "How exactly did you say you knew the family, again?"
“He knows them through me.” Dragomir stated bluntly, glaring down at them and pulling Niles a little closer. While he knew Niles was clueless, Dragomir didn’t like that idea of anybody flirting with him, and wanted to make sure it was perfectly clear that he was taken. However, despite his best efforts to look imposing, the arrival of two little boys spoiled his act.
“Come back and finish the game,” one of them whined, looking up at him imploringly.
Niles was very confused as to what was going on, but was a little disappointed when the children returned. He looked up at Dragomir, wishing somehow that he could stay with him, instead, and protect him from the frightening women who were, apparently, Tatiana's friends.
Dragomir looked down softly at the children and managed to speak in a kind voice, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there in just a minute.” The boys seemed satisfied and went back to the rest of the group and Dragomir turned back to the women, reestablishing his menacing look. “If you’ll excuse us, Niles and I are going to entertain the children. I hope you enjoy the party.” Dragomir turned away from the abruptly, steering Niles with the arm around his waist. As soon as they were a bit away from the women, Dragomir released Niles and sighed. “I’m sorry for all of that. I hope you don’t mind that I’m taking you away. You don’t have to stay with the kids if you don’t want to.”
"No, I don't mind at all. Thank you very much for taking me away," he replied hurriedly, not wanting Dragomir to have the wrong idea. "They were acting kind-of strange, and I didn't really know what to do..." He followed Dragomir back over to the children and, when Dragomir sat back down on the floor, he followed suit, sitting slightly behind Dragomir so that he wouldn't disrupt the game and resting against his shoulder. "I don't mind staying with the children...you're so good with them, I want to watch. And besides..." he smiled embarrassedly, "I'd like to stay with you."
Dragomir turned to Niles and smiled. “I’m glad, I like it when you’re with me.” It was certainly better then when he was around with those women… And besides, Dragomir felt less like he was missing the party if Niles was with him; in fact, he didn’t even care to be much involved as long as he was with Niles.
“Hey mister,” the shrill voice of a young boy brought his mind back to the game and he looked for the source of the voice among the multitude of children. “Is your friend gonna play too?” The child asked expectantly. Dragomir recognized him as one of the boys who’d gone to get him, and Dragomir was touched he was so invested in such a simple little game.
“I dunno, maybe you should ask him?” Dragomir prompted the boy, who turned to Niles eagerly.
“Do you wanna play with us?” the boy asked Niles excitedly.
Niles blinked. He didn't know how to play whatever they were playing, but, on the other hand, he'd love to learn. He had missed out on a childhood, on playing with other children, and he wanted a chance to try. Smiling hesitantly, he nodded. "Yes...yes, I'd like to play," he agreed, grinning at Dragomir before tuning his attention back to the child.
“Oh good!” The boy smiled broadly, revealing several gaps where he’d lost teeth. Dragomir and the other children then edged aside, making room for Niles to join the circle next to Dragomir. As soon as Niles was seated, the boy scooted over to him and lifted both of his hands. “Okay. This it how you do it.” He said matter of factly, glancing to Dragomir for approval. Dragomir nodded, and the boy continued his instruction. “You put your hands like this,” the boy twisted Nile’s wrists around so that one was palm up and the other was palm down and moved his hands so that they rested one beneath Dragomir’s hand, and the other on top of the hand of a small girl who sat to his right. The boy moved back to his seat and prepared placed his hands against the other childrens’ in a similar fashion before announcing that they would do a demonstration. As the boys and girls began to sing the little ditty that kept the pace for the game, Dragomir hoped Niles would catch on.
Niles followed suit, moving to clap the hand of the child beside him as the clap went around the circle. He figured he was getting a hang of it when, all of a sudden, the song stopped, and his hand was the last one to be clapped. Blinking, he looked to Dragomir. "W-what now?"
“You’re out.” Dragomir laughed. “But if you’d moved your hand away, then she would have clapped her hand instead of yours.” Dragomir explained, indicating the girl seated next to Niles.
“But that was just a practice run!” the little boy interrupted. “So you can still play.” He obviously had a vested interest in making sure both the ‘grown-ups’ stayed in the game with them.
Niles smiled. "A-all right, I'll try my hardest!" he agreed, setting out his hands again to play. He was glad to be able to be playing with children, and that they were enjoying it; it gave him a feeling of warmth that he had never really experienced before. He smiled warmly as play began.
The played four rounds, and Niles lost three of them; he had a rather slow reaction time and wasn't good at getting his hand out of the way. One of the times, he actually hit his own hand, and blushed with embarrassment. Still, he was just glad to be playing, no matter if he lost. After a while, however, the children began to lose interest, and Niles suddenly had an idea. "I have some games, if you'd like to play something new?"
All of the kids perked up eagerly at the mention of new games. “Yeah! What do you have?” Some of the more outgoing children asked. Dragomir too turned interestedly to Niles. He wondered what sort of games Niles had growing up, and which one’s he’d kept. Being that they had completely different backgrounds growing up, Dragomir was interested to see how comparatively intricate the games and toys that Niles had were. For Dragomir, a toy had been whatever scrap of garbage he could find that was safe enough to be played with and the right shape to be functional. He was quite certain that Niles’s toys would be drastically different, and that they’d probably be much nicer than anything the children they were entertaining had ever come across.
Niles grinned, rising. "Hold on, and I'll show you," he offered, hurrying out of the room. He made his way upstairs to the upper west wing, where his old nursery was from when he was a child. Nothing had changed since he had moved out and into the house, and he knew exactly where all his old toys were kept. He took a few of the boxes before heading back downstairs and to the party.
"There you are," he announced, laying them out for the children to see. "We have jacksticks, marbles, and jacks. What would you like to use?" He smiled; the games were mostly untouched, as, as a child, he had had no one with whom to play. He was glad that now they would be put to good use.
There was a clambering of small bodies as all of the children tried to squeeze in to get a good look at all of the games. This movement was followed by a clamor as everyone shouted out their favorite game. Dragomir hushed them all, and, remarkably, the fell silent to listen to him. “I think it’d be best if we played jacksticks.” He said simply, taking the sticks from their bag and dumping them onto the floor before moving the other games aside. “That way everyone can play together without much trouble.” There was some grumbling, but generally, everyone consented and agreed that it would be best.
Dragomir leaned forward to inspect the jumble of sticks, announcing that he would go first. Upon inspection of the long skewer-like rods, Dragomir realized that they were lacquered in a variety of bright primary colors, and their highly polished surfaces reflected the light beautifully. Dragomir smiled briefly at Niles, before leaning back and pulling the first stick. He picked a difficult one, wanting to save the easier ones for the younger children, but he managed to get it out with out moving the stack. He held it up for everyone to see, and then placed it in front of himself proudly before indicating that Niles should go next.
Niles had played this game before once or twice by himself, but he was never very good and so he hadn't used it often as a child. He was clumsy, and no matter how careful he was, he could never manage to get the sticks out without moving the others. Still, now that he was an adult, he assumed it would be easier to do, and so he followed suit and tried to take a stick that would be harder for the children. Unfortunately, just as it was almost clear of the pile, the shift in weight caused several of the other sticks to roll off the side of the pile. Niles blushed embarrassedly as the children all began to laugh, and quickly returned the stick to the pile, looked to Dragomir for either comfort or advice. It wasn't a big deal, but he felt as if he was failing at having a childhood for the second time.
“It’s okay; you’ll get it next time.” Dragomir smiled amusedly. “You almost had it, but that one was supporting a bunch of them, so you have to wait until there’s less to pull it out.” He explained as the next child in line reached for a stick very close to the top. Unfortunately, it was touching the very top most stick, which had no weight to hold it in place, and it rolled clean off of the pile. The children again laughed, and Dragomir did his best to comfort the little girl and explain why it moved, and that she’d get one next time because now she knew better. Looking to Niles, he smiled in a way that said, ‘see, you’re not alone. I just got lucky.’
The game progressed smoothly with only a few others failing to get a stick until it got back around to Dragomir again. He selected another challenging stick, and for the amusement of the children, decided to make a bit of a show out of it. He leaned over as far as he could to scrutinize the pile with a comical expression. He got a few laughs, smirked, and shifted so that he could lie on his stomach to get a better view. They all seemed surprised by his lack of comportment, but impressed by his dedication to the game, and they laughed openly as he pretended to struggle to remove the stick. When it was free of the pile, he sat up and brandished it triumphantly, to the further delight of the children. He smirked with satisfaction and placed the stick next to the other one. He then leaned a little to the side against Niles and said softly under his breath, “Try the red one in the middle.”
Niles giggled slightly at Dragomir along with the children; he was impressed at Dragomir's ability to amuse them and keep their attention. When Dragomir gave him the advice, he nodded slightly, biting his lip with determination as he reached towards the pile. He chose the stick that Dragomir had pointed out, carefully withdrawing it from the pile. Slowly, he moved, trying not to knock any of the sticks out of their place, and, finally, managed to pull the red stick free. Very proud of himself, he grinned at Dragomir before placing a quick kiss on his lips. "Thanks."
“Eew!” One small boy was the first to voice what most of the children thought.
“They kissed and they’re both boys!” A little girl giggled. Most of the boys and girls however, kept quite, not wanting to draw attention to the unorthodox break in custom they’d just witnessed.
Dragomir sighed at their behavior and took Niles’s hand in his, ignoring it. “You’re welcome. I’m glad to help.” He smiled at him and then turned to the children, raising his brows as if daring them to question the behavior. Most of them didn’t question it and returned to playing the game, but the little boy who’d been so eager to get Niles to play looked at them stubbornly.
“That’s weird, you know,” he stated. “Kissing is for girls!”
“It is not!” the little girl next to him protested. “I bet your mommy and daddy kiss all the time.” Dragomir couldn’t help but laugh, and they both looked at him, surprised. In response, he shrugged at them as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
“It’s your turn,” Dragomir encouraged the boy.
He was a little taken aback, but it took him only a moment to recover and he puffed up with determination; he’d been one of the ones who hadn’t gotten a stick successfully last time, and he refused to lose his chance again. He went for one of the harder ones, and spent a long time carefully working it out, but his determination paid off and he was rewarded with success.
“Nicely done,” Dragomir praised, smiled brightly at the boy.
“I still think it’s weird,” he replied stubbornly.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Dragomir said plainly, “But I think you’ll grow to understand.” He added vaguely with grin, ending further complaints.
Niles blushed at the children's remarks; he hadn't really thought about the kiss before he'd done it and hoped Dragomir didn't mind putting up with the attention. It hardly seemed to matter, however, because at that moment, their servants arrived with the food, mostly small hors d'oeuvres and finger foods, and began setting them out on the tables. The children quickly rose and ran either towards their parents or the food items, eager to eat. Niles and Dragomir also rose, relieved to be freed of babysitting duties.
"Want to get something to eat?" Niles offered blandly, gesturing vaguely to the food trays now flocked by guests.
“Sure.” Dragomir smiled, brushing himself off. They made their way over to a table where there weren’t many people and began filling the small hors d'oeuvre plates conveniently provided so that they could move out of the crowd. As they made their way toward a sofa a little ways away from the main group, Viorica caught up with them, grinning.
“Hey you two!” she greeted with a grin. She seemed to be glad for the opportunity to socialize with people who would not ostracize her based on Pierre and Tatiana’s influence.
Dragomir smiled brightly at her, taking a seat on a sofa next to Niles as she pulled a chair over so she could sit across from them. “How have you been?” Dragomir asked once she was settled.
“All right…” Viorica said, her good mood fading. “I’ve been helping Tatiana a lot lately with everything, but both of them are still upset with me.” She sat back and folded her arms and Dragomir was impressed her temper could shift from sad to angry so easily, but he supposed it was for her over-exposure to his temper.
“That’s too bad. I know she appreciates all of your help though. I think it will just take some time,” Dragomir assured her.
“Yeah, well…” Viorica looked down at her hands for a minute before sitting up again with another smile. “Let’s not talk about that, though! How have you both been?” She asked eagerly, but didn’t leave them time to answer. “I guess its official now, isn’t it? How exciting! You’d never believe how shocked Tatiana was to get a dowery for you, though, Dragomir.” Viorica laughed, and Dragomir blushed, shocked and speechless.
Niles blushed at her remark; that hadn't been meant to get out. Upon removing Dragomir's help from the house and being sympathetic to their needs for the new baby, Niles had seen to it that five hundred thousand dollars, which he, being silly, had called a dowry for Dragomir, would be sent to the Hirleas. He had never meant for Dragomir to know, however, because he knew how embarrassed he'd be, and that he might scold Niles for sending charity. Still, Niles knew the money would be appreciated, and so he had not felt guilty in the deed.
"It was only a little bit," he finally replied lamely, "and I thought I owed it to you, taking Dragomir away from you, and all." He gave Viorica an embarrassed grin and added, "I'm not giving him back, though."
Viorica laughed at the joke and said with a giggle, “I think it was sweet of you, Niles, to think of us like that.” She was obviously doing it all to make Dragomir squirm, and she smirking broadly, relishing his reaction. “Besides, like I said, it really makes it official! You’re like the happy married couple now.”
Dragomir cleared his throat and looked away uneasily, his blush still prevalent against his tan skin. A dowry? For him? It was too embarrassing, and he was still at a loss for words. At least it hadn’t been much… Dragomir was certain Niles had meant it in kindness, but he worried that it meant Niles didn’t think he could still support his family now that they were living together, and he didn’t want Niles to be worry… Still, Viorica was right, it really did make the whole thing much more official, and to that end, he appreciated Niles’s initiative to seal the deal. Chortling embarrassedly, he ate some of his food, sinking a little lower in the couch, still at a loss for a better reaction.
Niles blushed and smiled a little wistfully at the thought. "I'd like that," he agreed, grinning over at Dragomir, who seemed to be trying to hide in embarrassment. "Although..." he added without thinking, "I really don't think Dragomir is the bride..." Then, realizing exactly the full connotation of what he had said, he flushed bright red. "I mean— That is to say— I mean—!"
Dragomir sat up quickly, blinking at Niles as Viorica burst into unrestrained laughter. “Aww, Niles, I think you’d make an adorable bride,” Viorica said jokingly between bouts of sniggering, flushed with amusement.
Dragomir’s blush had returned in full and he looked over at Niles, biting his lip. He didn’t know quite how to respond to that, either, but the idea that that was how Niles thought of it all amused him quite thoroughly, and he couldn’t suppress a nervous chuckle. “I have to admit,” Dragomir said at last, leaning in a little closer to Niles, “I think she might be right.” Smirking, he placed a kiss on Niles’s cheek and slipped and arm around his waist.
Niles blushed bright red all over at Dragomir's remark, but smiled through it. "I'm glad you think so, I guess," he replied softly, resting his head against Dragomir's shoulder. Though this had been an interesting day, what with Pierre and Tatiana's friends and the children, things weren't turning out so bad, after all.
Dragomir let the smooth black cord slide through his fingers as he watched the coffin descend into the ground. He was aware of little else outside of himself; he knew that across from him and on his right, his brothers Marius and Razvan were performing the same solemn task of easing the coffin into the seemingly bottomless grave, and that somewhere in front of him, a minister was delivering a final sermon, but he couldn’t make out their faces, and he couldn’t find the meaning in the words being said. All that existed for him for the moment was the large polished black encasement that he was dutifully lowering to its final resting place. The coffin swayed slightly, suspended just a few feet from the ground far below, and Dragomir looked up and to his left briefly to see Pierre struggling to compensate for the slack he’d accidentally let slip though his fingers. Dragomir felt too numb to think ill of him, and turned back to his charge.
It was the strangest feeling… It seemed to Dragomir like only a few years had gone by since his mother had been working days and nights, long, long hours just to support them, and yet, so much had happened since then. His mother, Emilia, had become very ill when his sister died, broken by the grief of death that plagued her even after they’d escaped the country that took her husband’s life. But still, things went on for Dragomir; so much had happened. He joined the Berceuse Malheureuse, and Emilia never complained. It was a difficult job, but he brought home the money, and that’s what had always mattered to her; supporting the family by whatever means necessary. She saw him break, and saw the results, but by that time she was too weak to tend to his wounds. Even so, he recovered, and Emilia did not. He joined the military, and she was proud he went to war to support what had become her country. When his brother died—that’s when she became delusional. The doctors all said she wouldn’t have long to live, but still it seemed as if it had been such a short time, but so much had happened. Emilia was sick, and she stopped being a part of the lives of her family; they had accepted that the mother who’d never been around to raise them, but the mother that they still loved dearly, was gone. Dragomir knew they’d only been waiting for her to die.
As the coffin reached the floor of its tomb, Dragomir released the dark cord and brought his hands to his eyes to wipe away the tears. It was a difficult thing for him to accept, and he still hadn’t quite come to terms with it. He loved her deeply, and he knew that out of all of his siblings, he was the only one left who remembered her from before things had gotten so hard, before they left Dacia. But the memory was vague, and he was ashamed to admit to himself that he’d grown detached from her.
The minister concluded his sermon, finished her last rites, and shut his book. The small gathering of people, mostly family, because they were the only people Emilia had ever spared a moment, dispersed and Dragomir went to find Niles—the only one who could comfort him.
Niles shifted uneasily at the back of the small group of people, fingering the buttons on his black jacket and looking around for Dragomir. He felt nearly suffocated in the atmosphere; they were outside, but there was just something about funerals, about death that made him want to lie down and die, too. He hadn't been to a funeral since he was barely old enough to remember it, barely old enough to understand why the parents he never knew where being put into the ground and buried.
But Dragomir was the one suffering now, really suffering. He was old enough to understand that his mother was never coming back, he was old enough to have known and loved the woman now securely buried beneath layers of dirt. He had watched Dragomir as he fulfilled his filial duties, watched his agony, and for the first time in a long time, he felt detached. There was nothing he could do to fix what was now missing from Dragomir's life forever, there was no way for him to go back and make things all right. He felt Dragomir's pain acutely as his own, but was able to do nothing to assuage the hurt.
Now, as the people were once again moving, he struggled to locate Dragomir again, and finally found him walking in his direction. His face reflected such pain that Niles could barely keep from crying; to see Dragomir so broken inside was breaking his heart, but he knew he couldn't crumble now. He had to be strong for Dragomir, he had to make things as all right as he could. It was the least he could do.
Dragomir located Niles among the group of people and made his way over to him hazily. Everything was still a blur; he was lost in his own thoughts and recollections of the past, but seeing Niles was a great solace to him, and he trudged forward, practically collapsing against Niles, desperate for some affirmation of the world of the living. He just wanted to hold and be held, and even though he knew it would do nothing to change the situation, Dragomir just wanted to be with Niles and shut out the rest of the world. “T-Thank you for coming…” Dragomir choked weakly into Niles shoulder. “I don’t… I don’t know what I’d do with-without you…”
Niles could hardly bear to see Dragomir this upset, but he bit his tears back and nodded. Squeezing Dragomir tightly, he replied softly, "I'm so sorry... Dragomir... Things'll be all right," he promised weakly, trying to find something to say that might help him feel any better. "I-if there's anything I can do for you... I'm sorry..." He was having trouble finding words without crying himself, now, and so he just held Dragomir, pulling him closer and letting him cry.
Dragomir didn’t want to let go of Niles, but he knew there were still some things left for him to do. He sniffed and straightened, wiping his eyes vigorously before reaching for Niles’s hand. He wasn’t ready to let go entirely. He sniffed again and tried to smile weakly at Niles. He was so grateful for his support, Dragomir hardly knew how to express his thanks…but he felt like he hardly knew how to do anything any more. They’d all been expecting her death, but it still seemed like an integral part of his life was suddenly gone, and it shook his foundation.
Dragomir managed to see at last, through the blur of people in black, his sisters approaching. Pierre trailed meekly behind them, stunned. Viorica was weeping bitterly, and Dragomir wrapped his arms around her, willing himself not to cry again. Niles had been strong for him, and he felt he owed it to Niles and to his sisters to be strong for them now, too. Tatiana stood a little ways away from them both, crying discreetly. As Pierre approached and placed his arm around her, she leaned against him and abandoned her discretion. Dragomir could see now that Pierre was crying too; Emilia had always been good to him.
Viorica pulled back and apologized for her tears, removing a handkerchief from her bag and wiping at her eyes. She noticed Niles standing just behind Dragomir, and thanked him for coming as well. She then started crying again, and Dragomir took her back into his arms. He knew this was the most difficult for her; Viorica had never really known their mother until recently, when the task fell to her to care for Emilia in her last years of life. Dragomir knew that for all her delusions, Viorica had still grown attached to their mother over the last few years, and he could tell that she was suffering for it. Tears pricked at his eyes again, and he looked over his shoulder at Niles weakly.
Niles took a step closer, placing a firm, comforting hand on Dragomir's shoulder. He had no words, there was nothing to be said, but he nodded solemnly to Viorica, feeling his stomach knot to watch her cry, as well. He himself had never known Dragomir's mother, but he could tell she was well-loved, and began to tear up again himself. He managed, after a few moments, to compose himself; he would be strong for the Hirleas for as long as they needed him.
After a shot time, Marius and Razvan approached them slowly with their wives and children, apologizing and explaining that they needed to leave. Viorica again pulled away from Dragomir and dried her eyes long enough to say good bye as Tatiana encouraged them to come and visit in the near future. As they disappeared out of sight, Pierre spoke for the first time that day.
“I really think Tatiana ought to be inside…” For once, his constant doting and obsessing over Tatiana didn’t seem obnoxious; Dragomir agreed and walked the three of them with Niles to the automobile they’d rented, courteously helping Tatiana inside.
Niles and Dragomir stood silently and watched as they started the car and drove off. Many things were going to change, Dragomir was quite certain. Running through the figures in his head, as he was quite certain his mother would be proud to know he did even on such an occasion, he came to the conclusion that aside from the expense of the funeral, Emilia’s passing would make their monetary situation considerably easier. Just in time for the baby. It made him feel sick that he could think about it all in terms of money, and tears streamed down his cheeks again at the thought as he turned to Niles. “I think we should leave,” Dragomir worked to say evenly, swallowing hard to wet his throat that had been dried from so many tears already.
Niles nodded slowly. Whatever Dragomir wanted, he would do, and he wished desperately that there was some way he could make everything all right again. He knew there wasn't, but he was going to try his damnedest anyway, and so he, taking Dragomir's hand tightly in his, began to stride towards where he had parked his own automobile. Getting the door for Dragomir, he hurried to his own side, climbing behind the wheel and starting up the engine before pulling away.
The drive home with only the sound of Dragomir's crying to break the silence was unnerving to say the least, and Niles was anxious to get home. It seemed to take unnaturally long, but finally, they arrived, and Niles didn't hesitate to turn the automobile over to a servant before helping Dragomir inside. He led him immediately upstairs to the bedroom; Niles knew that whether or not he wanted him with him, he needed to be relatively alone.
Dragomir made his way slowly across the room and sunk down onto the bed, staring distractedly at the wall. His tears had subsided momentarily, but it felt like they could start anew at any moment and Dragomir bit his lip, trying hard not to think of anything and keep his tears at bay. Thoughts, however, still flitted into his mind, and he shook his head, putting his face into his hands and falling back onto the bed. Little would change for him personally now that his mother was gone, and yet things still seemed so different. Everything would go on, but even as he assured himself of this fundamental fact, tears slipped from eyes again silently. Somehow, he’d have to move on. Wiping his eyes, but doing nothing to stop the steady stream of tears, Dragomir removed his hands from his face and peered over at Niles blearily. He knew he could make it through anything as long as he had Niles with him, and he managed a weak smile.
Niles had been hesitant to be near Dragomir, since he didn't know if he would want comforting or just want to be alone, but when he looked up at him that way, Niles nearly melted. Dropping onto the bed, he threw his arms around Dragomir and pulled him close, trying his best to be comforting and supportive. He fought back his own tears once more, instead trying to smile as he met Dragomir's eye. "Things...things'll work out. It'll be...it'll be all right..." He wanted to be strong for Dragomir, to try and make things all right, so he fought to keep his smile, tightening his embrace.
Dragomir let himself cry again into Niles’s arms, relived to have the contact and comfort. Niles’s support meant everything to him, and because of it, he knew he could believe what Niles was saying to him. “Yes…” Dragomir managed weakly, “I think…I think they will be…”
Niles squeezed Dragomir tightly, biting back his own tears. "They will be...Oh, Dragomir...I love you...Things will be all right." He didn't even really understand himself, but he had to do something to make Dragomir feel better. Somehow, some way, he'd be here for Dragomir. He loved him; he'd see to it that things were all right.
Wearily, Dragomir carried the last of the steaming plates of food out to the table where everyone was seated. It’d been only a few weeks since their mother’s passing, but Dragomir and his sisters were beginning to recover. After all, they had the baby to look forward to, and still a lot of work had to be done in preparation. Now that Pierre and Tatiana were settled into the master bedroom, their late mother’s room, Dragomir was helping them convert their old room into a nursery for the baby. The work was mostly complete, and since it was the weekend and they’d be having a day or so off, Tatiana had invited both Niles and Dragomir over for dinner in gratitude for all their help.
Dragomir, of course, preferred to cook rather than suffer Pierre’s attempts at food preparation, and as such he’d spent quite some time in the kitchen preparing the meal and felt a little worn out for it. He hoped Niles’s time with the rest of his family had been pleasant enough though, and that Pierre hadn’t been too obnoxious. Though, Tatiana was now so pregnant that Pierre focused all of his energy into doting on her entirely, and Dragomir assumed he had little impetus to construct insults. Besides, as his employers, both he and Niles now held considerable leverage over his behaviors and actions. Smirking, Dragomir took his seat next to Niles and looked tauntingly across the table at Pierre as he posed a question directed at Niles. “I didn’t miss much, did I?”
Niles smiled. "Nothing much at all," he agreed, nodding. "The food all looks great...thanks for cooking. You ought to take a break after all that..." He pressed a quick kiss to Dragomir's cheek before accepting the plate of food being passed to him. "Let me take care of things after dinner, so you can take a rest, all right?" It was nice to be doing some domestic things, though Niles felt fairly bad for letting Dragomir do all the grunt work while he was only the design consultant as they cleaned, painted, and accessorized the baby's room. He knew Dragomir deserved a break to relax, and hoped he could do something useful instead.
“No, it’s no trouble at all." Dragomir smiled. Even if he was a little tired, he enjoyed helping get everything together for the baby, grateful for Niles’s input on the design aspects of the room. He could tell that Tatiana too was quite impressed with his skill, and her level of appreciation for Niles had increased.
Pierre snorted from his seat across the table. “If I might humbly quote a proverb, you can’t throw pearls before swine,” Pierre drawled, looking knowingly at Niles. “The big lout here,” he gestured vaguely at Dragomir, “Isn’t used to the finery you give him. If you don’t keep an eye on him, he’ll soil his expensive clothes.” Pierre smirked and folded his arms. “And you can’t have your little pet looking as bad as the rest of us; it might reflect poorly on you.”
Dragomir slammed his hand on the table and glared sharply at Pierre, who sunk back, leaning over to Tatiana. His face was still smug, and he was obviously pleased with the reaction he’d gotten, but lacked the gall to taunt them further. Tatiana tugged lightly on his arm, and his face became one of love and adoration, and Dragomir felt disgusted by how quickly his disposition could shift.
Niles quickly put a calming hand on Dragomir's shoulder, not wanting anything to escalate. It probably wasn't good for Tatiana, and besides, he didn't want Dragomir to do anything he'd regret. Instead, he turned to Pierre himself, determined to beat him at his own game. He had studied carefully in all of his exchanges in his effort to tame Pierre, and now viewed himself rather proficient. Pretending to be thoughtful, he looked back at Pierre. "However, I think it reflects more poorly on me to keep a servant who doesn't know his place...and it'd be such a pity for you to lose your job right before the baby comes, too." He gave Pierre a lingering warning glance before looking back to his food and adding, "As unattractive as you are, jealousy makes you look even less attractive."
Pierre quickly looked back to Niles, flabbergasted, speechless, and quite terrified by the threat; he was completely at a loss for a response. Viorica, who’d previously been occupied with preparing some medicine for Tatiana, burst into laughter at the expression of horror Pierre was making. Dragomir, too, smirked with satisfaction at Pierre before turning to Niles and grinning at him proudly. At last someone could finally beat Pierre at his own game; Niles had come a long way.
There was little time to savor Niles’s triumph, however, as Tatiana tugged again at Pierre’s arm. He shot a final pathetic pouting glance at Niles before turning to Tatiana. “What is it?” he cooed concernedly.
“The baby…” Tatiana moaned, “I-I feel faint…”
“What?” Pierre gasped, panic-stricken yet again, “Is everything all right? Tatiana!?” Viorica got to her feet quickly and grasped Tatiana’s hand, putting a hand to her forehead.
“I think you need to lay down for a bit.” Viorica said slowly, biting her lip. Tatiana nodded weakly, and Pierre helped her to her feet as Dragomir, too, got up and moved to her side. They helped her back into her room and eased her onto the bed, before Viorica shoed all of them outside. “I’m not sure yet, but this could be it.” Viorica said enigmatically as she shut the door.
Pierre paced back and forth, mumbling almost incoherently. “It? What does it mean? The baby? Is it time? It’s still early!” Pierre spun on his heel and looked at Dragomir and Niles, his state of panic having only grown to new heights. “What do we do!?” He demanded, “If it is the baby, what do we do? I can’t just stand here! I have to be with Tatiana!”
Dragomir felt tensions running high, and had no idea how to answer Pierre’s question. What were they supposed to do? Surely there was something…? But Dragomir could only shake his head, feeling all too frazzled to even attempt a reply. If he himself was feeling anxious, he could hardly imaging what Pierre was going through, and he felt bad that his brother-in-law couldn’t be with Tatiana at a time like this.
Niles paled considerably as Tatiana was taken into the bedroom; he hardly knew what to do with himself and followed Dragomir anxiously into the other room, clutching his arm. He couldn't even begin to imagine how Pierre was feeling; the idea of a birth was completely alien to him, and he didn't have the foggiest idea what to do. It seemed neither did Dragomir, and so he hovered nervously, unsure of what was going to happen next.
“That’s it!” Pierre announced, after only a few seconds. “I have to go inside! I’ve got to be with Tatiana.” He straightened up, and walked with anxious determination to the door to the bedroom pausing in front of the door. His hand hovered momentarily over the doorknob, and for a moment, Dragomir didn’t think he’d go through with it, but after a deep breath, Pierre turned the knob and pressed himself inside.
Pierre had seemed to Dragomir almost terrified, and with good reason; not only was his wife about to give birth, but it was Viorica who’d kicked them all out in the first place. Dragomir looked uneasily over to Niles and bit his lip, as shouting could be heard from within the room. A moment later, the door opened again, and they watched at Pierre was shoved roughly from the room by Viorica.
“You can’t be in here, Pierre! I have everything under control!” Viorica said loudly as she shut the door again.
Pierre visibly shrank back, but quickly pressed himself to the door again and yelled though it, “Wait, you can’t! I have to be there, she needs me!” Had the situation not been so serious, Dragomir would have scoffed at Pierre’s plight, but right now, he felt only empathy for Pierre; it was only natural that he should want to be with Tatiana now, no matter what. Pierre looked back at the two of them imploringly, but Dragomir still found himself at a loss for words. He was still a bit in shock, and though he found it cruel that Pierre shouldn’t be allowed inside, he knew it was traditional.
Niles bit his lip and looked up at Dragomir, not releasing his arm. He felt terrible for Pierre; it would be horrible not to be able to be there for something as important as this, and he wished Viorica'd let him in. He didn't know any way he could help, but he wished he could, and the expression Pierre was giving them about broke his heart. Weakly, he nodded towards the door slightly. "T-try again, Pierre...she ought to let you in." It was a stupid thing to say, it wasn't as if what he said would make a difference, but he felt he had to do something.
Pierre nodded firmly, as though he’d been waiting for a bit of encouragement of any sort. Even so, when he reached for the door once again, his hand shook. He looked back once more at them before slipping inside with a look of determination on his face. They heard Viorica yell at him once again, but either he put up enough resistance, or she decided it wasn’t worth the effort to remove him, because this time, he stayed inside.
With another look to Niles, and a shaky breath, Dragomir moved over to one of the sofas, griping Niles’s arm. No sooner had they sat down however, then they heard Tatiana cry out, and Dragomir was instinctively on his feet again. He was so on edge that he realized he was visibly shaking, and he forced himself back onto the sofa, squeezing Niles’s hand tightly. He had every confidence in Viorica’s skill, and knew that since Pierre was in there, he’d see to it that no harm would come to Tatiana.
Niles squired and fidgeted a bit clutching Dragomir's hand. Time passed excruciatingly slowly, and every time Niles thought maybe things were calming down, Tatiana would scream or cry out again, and he would be on edge, holding on to Dragomir even tighter. He knew Viorica would have things under control, but he was still worried; the way Tatiana was screaming, it seemed as if she was really in pain, and he hoped that nothing was going wrong. However, there was no way he could know, and so time continued to slowly go by, punctuated only by Tatiana's noises of pain. Niles could only hope that soon it would be over.
Dragomir kept glancing from his pocket watch back to the door. His whole body remained stiff as the hours rolled by, and he found himself completely unable to think beyond Tatiana and the baby’s safety. He could hardly believe that it would take so long to bring a child into the world, and numerous times he considered forcing his way into the room to make sure everything was all right. At the back of his mind, he kept thinking about what a problem for Tatiana might mean, and he couldn’t keep himself from thinking to his mother’s funeral. If anything were to happen to Tatiana…he couldn’t even think of what he would do. But he refused to allow himself to take that potential outcome into consideration, and Niles’s comforting closeness kept him at bay and in his seat.
Nearly ten hours had elapsed since Pierre managed to get into the room, and Dragomir looked down to find that Niles had drifted off to sleep. Niles’s peacefully sleeping face was a great solace to Dragomir, and he managed a small smile as he shifted slightly so that Niles could be more comfortable. He held him close and tried in vain to relax enough to sleep as well, but found himself unable to keep his mind from Tatiana or his eyes from the door.
Dragomir checked his watch again and again, and when the sun began to stream though the windows full force, heralding the coming of the afternoon, it seemed as though already an eternity had elapsed. If only there was some way he could check on them… Dragomir wished he could do something, but knew there was nothing to be done and that he had to trust Pierre and Viorica to take care of his sister. With a sigh, he looked down at Niles and moved a lock of hair from his face. At least he had Niles; Dragomir didn’t know what he’d do with out him there with him.
Niles's eyes fluttered open slowly and he sat up to realize that he had fallen asleep on Dragomir. He felt a little stiff and not very well rested; he was still all nerves and realized he might have missed what happened. Sitting up quickly and looking to Dragomir, he looked concerned. "What happened? Did she have the baby? Is everything all right?" The way the light fell across Dragomir's face made Niles realize that it must be late afternoon, and he was surprised by how much time had gone by.
Dragomir shook his head slowly. “Nothing.” He said solemnly, a note of worry finding its way into his voice. “It’s been just the same…” Tatiana cried out again, and Dragomir flinched reflexively. “I don’t know what’s going on, or if there’s anything I can do, or anything…” He looked down for a moment, before looking back to Niles with a small smile. “I’m glad you were able to sleep for a while. It helped me feel a little better, somehow.”
Niles smiled softly, though he felt somewhat guilty. "I'm glad...though I wish you were able to sleep, too..." Niles was surprised that it was taking so long, and he was worried that maybe something was wrong. Though he didn't know anything about giving birth, he was worried by how much time it was taking. Still, seeing Dragomir so worried made him feel worse, so he took his hand in his own and held it tightly. "Dragomir...I'm sure everything will be all right. Don't be so worried."
“I know…I’m sorry.” Dragomir smiled again slightly and lifted Niles’s hand to his lips, pressing a soft kiss to his fingers. “I just hope it’ll all be over soon…or that at least that someone lets us know what’s going on…”
Within only a few hours time, Dragomir began to grow even more worried and concerned than he even thought was initially possible. Tatiana’s cries of pain seemed to grow louder and more frequent while Viorica’s calm voice, somehow still commanding and yet reassuring, became audible as well. Dragomir, pushed to the brink of tolerance for all the stress, was up and pacing with worry as Pierre had done. If only, if only he knew what was happening!
It seemed like forever before his answer at last came as the sound of a baby’s cry suddenly broke through and reached his ears. Grinning uncontrollably, Dragomir pecked Niles on the cheek in his excitement before striding towards the door, which opened as Viorica emerged, looking worn and completely spent, but smiling nonetheless. She wiped her hands on a towel before wrapping her arms around Dragomir, who hugged her back with relief. Her high spirits could only mean good news.
“I did it, Dragos!” She smiled, pulling back. “Everything went perfectly!” Dragomir was too overwhelmed with joy and relief to respond, so he grinned back at Viorica and attempted to peer into the room. “Go on inside, silly.” Viorica laughed. “Go meet your newest niece!” She urged Dragomir inside and hurried over to Niles, taking him by the hand and leaning him into the room as well.
Inside, Pierre had propped Tatiana up against some pillows, and she was smiling serenely down at a tiny bundle in her arms. Pierre was pressed up against her, positively bubbling with delight as he too leaned over the little bundle. As Dragomir and Niles stepped inside, he looked up at them with the truest smile Dragomir had ever seen from him, and noted that there were small tears of joy at the corners of his eyes.
“Come see, come see!” Pierre squeaked at them, and Dragomir couldn’t help but smile to see his glee. Tatiana looked up briefly at them, but Dragomir imagined she was still too enraptured with her little baby to pay them much attention.
Viorica released Niles’s hand, and moved to clear out some of the towels that still littered the floor. Dragomir was quickly to take up Niles’s hand once again, and held it tightly as he approached the bed apprehensively.
Niles couldn't help but smile at Pierre's behaviour, and squeezed Dragomir's hand as they came nearer to the bed. Peering over Tatiana's shoulder, he caught sight of the tiny form in her arms. The child's face was just visible above the folds of the blanket, and it was currently screaming at the top of its lungs. Niles was vaguely aware of Viorica informing them that this was a good thing; it showed that the baby could breathe properly, but he was paying more attention to how Tatiana soothed and rocked the child until its wails dropped off and it was generally quiet. Then, right before their eyes, the baby opened its small eyes and smiled. Pierre seemed to be taken in by its small expression, because he chocked slightly with a smile as a tear ran down his cheek. Wiping it away quickly, he informed them without looking away from the child, "She's a girl."
Niles was simply taken aback by all of it, and made a small noise of delight. The child, though rather wrinkled and strange looking in a newborn sort of way, was remarkable; her skin was slightly lighter than Tatiana's, though not by much, and the tiny bit of fuzz on her head was a dark brown as well. What struck Niles the most, however, were her eyes; they were big and bright and undeniably blue, and as Niles looked up for a moment, he realized that they were tiny replicas of Pierre's. Smiling, he looked up at Dragomir, hardly knowing what to say. "It's...breathtaking..."
Dragomir nodded in agreement and struggled to find something he could say. He was so stunned by the magnificence of it all that he felt as though speaking now, when he knew it would only be something meaningless, would only take away from the experience, and so he remained silent, still.
Pierre reached forward hesitantly, wordlessly asking if he could hold their daughter, and Tatiana granted his silent request. He took the little bundle into his arms, holding her reverently for a moment before allowing himself to snuggle her gently. Tatiana looked longingly after her baby for a moment before turning to Niles and Dragomir with a soft smile.
“I’m so happy,” Tatiana sighed. “Pierre was there with me, the whole time, holding my hand.”
“I think my fingers are broken.” Pierre said snottily, but as the baby began to cry in his arms, he started to panic and immediately began doing everything he could to sooth her.
“She might be hungry, Pierre.” Tatiana said dreamily, still too euphoric to have register Pierre’s sarcastic complaint. She reached up for the baby, and Pierre held her a few seconds longer before returning her to her mother’s arms. Tatiana smiled again, offering the baby her breast.
Viorica returned and asked, grinning, “What are you going to name her?”
“Pierrette.” Pierre chirped quickly. Viorica glared at him sharply and looked down at Tatiana, ignoring his look of “What, I’m serious.”
“Amelie…” Tatiana said wistfully, oblivious to Pierre. “Her name is Amelie…for mother.” Pierre seemed slightly miffed, but as Tatiana finished with an explanation, he nodded somewhat solemnly.
“Yes,” Pierre admitted slowly, “I think it’s a beautiful name.” Tatiana smiled up at him, and he repeated the name softly as he sat down on the bed next to Tatiana again, kissing her softly on the cheek. “I love you,” he murmured. Tatiana nodded and kissed him back, but it seemed little Amelie had had her fill and was drifting off to sleep, and Tatiana dared not disturb her. Smiling, she mouthed the words of endearment back to Pierre.
Dragomir felt completely taken by the whole scene, and the name Tatiana had chosen seemed perfect. He wiped at his eyes and slipped an arm around Niles’s waist, pulling him closer to share in his rapture.
Niles rested slightly against Dragomir as he was pulled closer, but was also unable to manage any words at the scene. He opened his mouth once to say something, compliment the choice of name, comment to Dragomir about the whole scene, but no words came out, and so he closed it again, leaning against Dragomir and smiling warmly. He could tell that he, too, though completely uninvolved with the whole ordeal, was becoming overly emotional, and wasn't surprised to find tears in the corners of his own eyes, which he quickly wiped away.
They stood in silence for a few moments, overcome by the serenity of the room, before a thought struck Niles, a foolish thought, but before he really thought any more about it, he was smiling sheepishly up at Dragomir. "I wish we could...oh, no, it's silly..." he trailed softly, looking down and blushing slightly in embarrassment. Still, it was true; the power of the whole process had captivated him, and he wished that he and Dragomir could have a child, too.
“Huh?” Dragomir asked vaguely, having missed most of what Niles had asked and all of the connotations of his tone due to his preoccupation with the baby. Viorica giggled at Niles however, so Dragomir went over it again in his head. Blinking, Dragomir looked down at Niles, rather unsure of what he thought Niles might have meant. “What? You wish we could what?”
Niles blushed bright red, flustering. He hadn't really thought before he said it, and now Dragomir was asking and Viorica was giggling at him...oh, it was embarrassing! But he smiled sheepishly at Dragomir and managed to stutter, "I wish we could...I mean...that is to say...I-I wish we could...have a child..." He was bright red by the time he was done, and he hoped that Dragomir wouldn’t laugh at him for his foolishness.
Dragomir couldn’t help but laugh at the very idea and did so unintentionally, from both amusement and embarrassment. Pierre and Tatiana looked up at him sternly however, and seeing the small baby squirm in her sleep, Dragomir managed to curtail his laughter. “I’m sorry.” Dragomir said softly to Niles through a thick blush. “It’s not that I…It’s not like I wouldn’t want one...” Dragomir blushed an even deeper shade of red and looked away, only too see Viorica sniggering fitfully at the two of them. He glared at her and looked back to Niles quickly. “I just…It wouldn’t work.” He concluded lamely.
Niles flushed and looked away, embarrassed. "Well, I know that, obviously," he defended softly, feeling like a complete idiot. "Just...to raise a child with you...it would be..." he blushed again. "...would be like a dream come true." He flustered and looked away again, knowing Dragomir would only think him foolish but not caring. It was truly how he felt, and Dragomir laughing at him certainly wasn't the end of the world. Taking a deep breath, he looked back at Dragomir with another embarrassed smile.
Dragomir’s breath caught in his throat and he bit his lip quickly, going over again what Niles had said. A child…with Niles? It sounded ludicrous, but Niles was so sincere, and now that he’d said it… Dragomir knew it would be like a dream for him too. He blushed all over again, and leaned over, placing a kiss on Niles’s cheek. “I…I’d like that too.” Dragomir had always loved children, but in truth, he’d never really considered the possibility of raising any of his own. “I’d never thought…but I’d love too.” Dragomir smiled through his blush, and hoped Niles could understand what he’d meant.
“You should adopt!” Viorica piped in next to them. Dragomir hadn’t even realized she was listening in so intently, and was momentarily taken aback. He managed however, to roll his eyes at her and shrug back at Niles with an awkward grin.
Niles smiled warmly, leaning back against Dragomir and nodding. He gazed on at Pierre and Tatiana and Amelie for a moment, feeling soothed by the beauty of the scene. Looking back up at Dragomir, he blushed slightly but nodded. "I...I think I'd like that... someday." Looking back to the family before him, he decided that this was their time, and hopefully, in the future, he and Dragomir would have theirs.