Niles returned home in a much better mood than he had left, due to both having met a new friend and looking forward to seeing Dragomir again after a long day without him. Once he made it inside, he practically skipped up the stairs and to the bedroom, hurrying over to the bed and sitting down beside Dragomir. Leaning over to press a chaste kiss to his cheek, he grinned. "I missed you today. How are you feeling?"
Instead of answering Niles’s question just yet, Dragomir smirked and pulled him down for another fervent kiss on the lips. He’d been feeling, quite honestly, bored and impossibly lonely without Niles. His whole day had been passed mostly looking out the window and at the clock, waiting for Niles’s return. The servants had done all they could to keep him occupied, bringing him food and offering him some of Niles’s old picture books to look at while he waited. Dragomir accepted them disdainfully, but in the end found them more interesting than the window, and so gave in and looked through them all, cover to cover. Now that Niles was back however, the rather miserable day was of little significance, and he was elated to have Niles’s company once again.
“Better, now that you’re back,” Dragomir said, breaking the kiss with another smirk and leaning back into the pillows once more. “I missed you a lot though.” And he’d been worried too, but Niles seemed cheerful, so he figured his fears were unfounded. “I spent the whole day wishing I was there with you.” He’d thought carefully about what he’d say to Niles when he returned, and so he hoped it didn’t sound too planed, but that Niles was glad he’d been thinking of him.
Niles blushed slightly, but smiled nonetheless, gently brushing a few stray strands of hair out of Dragomir's face as he lay. "I wish you could have been there with me, too. I'm glad you were thinking of me...though I hope I wasn't the cause of any distress for you. I wish I could stay with you and take care of you..." He pressed another brief kiss to his cheek before sighing and straightening. "I was so lonely without you today...though I did meet a very nice guy. He's new, and I'm working with him until you get back. So at least it's not so bad...though it's not the same without you." He smiled at Dragomir. "Are you feeling any better? Get well quickly so that you can come back to work."
“It doesn’t hurt when I’m not moving, but even then, it’s not unbearable.” Dragomir smiled, lying slightly. “It’s terrible just doing nothing, though. I better recover soon. Maybe Viorica’ll let me go back sooner than two weeks?” Dragomir grinned hopefully up at Niles with a shrug before placing his hands behind his head so that he was propped up a little higher. “A new guy, huh?” he asked after a moment, biting his lip. Dragomir furrowed his brow, going over it in his head. “Well, I suppose I’m glad you have company.” He offered a grin, but he wasn’t quite sure he was happy to hear the vague news of a “nice new guy”. Even so, Dragomir wasn’t really worried. Now was his time with Niles, and he wouldn’t waste it by reading too much into the news.
"Yeah," Niles confirmed with a smile. "His name is Julian Kaiser, and he's a Captain, like you. We started talking about poetry and stuff...and he speaks five languages! I was really impressed." He laughed slightly, knowing Dragomir probably didn't care, however, so he changed the subject. "But enough about him. I'm so glad it's not hurting as much anymore...I hope you're allowed to come back sooner! Still, you ought to rest it now so that it heals faster." He thought for a second. "I'll have them send dinner up here. Do you think you can move over to the table, or should I have them bring it over by the bed?" He smiled, awaiting Dragomir's answer. Even if he was too badly injured to move or do much, Niles just felt so much happier being able to be with Dragomir. Meeting new people was nice, but it was nothing compared to getting to spend time with him.
“I can get up,” Dragomir said resolutely, regardless of whether he really could or should move. He had to prove to Niles that he really was better, even after just one day. Two weeks was an unbearable amount of time, so even if he had to fake it, Dragomir would make sure he was better before then. Pushing back the covers, Dragomir gritted his teeth and swung his legs over the side of the bed, reaching for the nearby crutches and situating himself before pulling his self to his feet. He grunted with the effort of suppressing a cry of pain; the movement had been too fast, and some of his weight had accidentally shifted to his bad leg. It would be a hard thing to fake, but Dragomir knew it was what had to be done. Turning around to face Niles, he smiled to prove his okay-ness and started making his way over to the table.
Niles hurried to Dragomir's side, putting a hand on his arm worriedly. "Are you sure you're all right?" But Dragomir smiled at him, so he let go, instead moving over to the sitting area and pulling out Dragomir's chair for him. As Dragomir sat, he took the crutches from him and set them against the wall before moving to sit across from him. After summoning a servant and requesting that dinner be served here, he smiled back at Dragomir. "So, I hope your day wasn't too boring...did you find something of interest to do?"
“It wasn’t too bad.” Dragomir sighed, then looked away with slight embarrassment and explained, “Your servants gave me some of your old picture books to look at.” He laughed to try and make it seem more like a joke—the very idea of doing something so childish seemed utterly ridiculous. Clearing his throat, he moved to change the subject quickly. “What did they have you do at work today?”
Niles giggled at the idea of Dragomir looking at his old picture books, but stopped himself to answer Dragomir's next question. "Ah- I was explaining to Captain Kaiser about the Berceuse Malheureuse. He didn't know anything, so I had to tell him about Donavan D'Aubigne and stuff." He smiled. "He really nice about it all, the way you always were with me. He even invited me to dinner tomorrow night." He bit his lip, realizing that Dragomir might not want him to go while he was still injured. "Of course, I can always tell him I need to come home and take care of you, if you want...I didn't think of it that you were stuck here alone. I'm sorry...I hope you're not upset with me." He looked away, ashamed that he had been selfish.
“What?” Again about the supposed “nice guy” …And Niles was even comparing this other Captain to him! Dragomir was beginning to feel a little suspicious, and the mention of the dinner invite confirmed it all. “Dinner, huh? Are you sure he’s just being nice?” Dragomir asked, raising his brows. “I mean, if you want to go…don’t let me hold you back.” He smiled slightly, going over it all in his head. He wondered if Niles had mentioned him at all to Capitan Kaiser, and how this had all come about? Frankly, he was a little miffed—not at all at Niles, but rather at that guy... Dragomir wished now more than ever that he could go back to work and put things straight. He knew Niles had no idea what his new friend was after, and Dragomir didn’t want Niles to feel bad or guilty about it at all. This was between himself and Kaiser. “Don’t worry about me, Niles.” Dragomir smiled in earnest. “I’ll be fine for an evening.”
Niles broke into a relieved smile. "Oh, thank you, Dragomir. I'm so glad you don't mind...I wouldn't want to do anything to make you unhappy, but I'd also like to get a little time to talk with Captain Kaiser." He thought over what Dragomir had said and furrowed his brow after a minute. "What do you mean, just being nice...? Do you think he's...trying to get money out of me, or something?" He bit his lip, then shook his head. "No, I'm sure he was just being kind...I was asking favours of him, and he was being kind enough to humour me. I don't think he's trying to get money." He blinked. "But if you think I should, I'll be careful. I know you know better than I do."
“Yeah…” Dragomir chuckled. It amused him that money was what came to Niles’s mind first. Perhaps he was starting to rub off on him? “Just be wary…for me.” Dragomir tagged the last bit on with a smirk, though it was possibly the most important and serious aspect of the sentence. Then he asked curiously, “What sort of favors did you ask him?” Nothing too serious, Dragomir hoped. He wanted to end this little entanglement as soon as he was capable of doing so.
Niles blinked. "I asked him to come over sometime to teach me Albionian. He's just so good with languages, and I've always wanted to learn another one, but I'm so bad at it that I could never learn." He thought a moment. "Oh, and he offered to write me a poem, but that's it. Why do you ask?" He hoped Dragomir wasn't too suspicious; he understood his cautiousness, but, at the same time, Niles trusted Captain Kaiser, and hoped that Dragomir could, too. Still, it was Dragomir, and Dragomir came first. "But I'll be wary, for you, since I know you know best." He smiled obediently.
A poem? And Niles had already invited him over? A lot could happen in a day. This guy was bold, and Dragomir didn’t like him in the least; he could already tell. But, f Niles wanted to learn from him then Dragomir wanted to make sure he had the chance. Besides, the lesson would be taking place here, which meant the Dragomir could sit in on it. He smirked inwardly at the thought. Yes, as soon as he was better, he’d make sure Capitan Kaiser was carefully monitored. In the mean time, he trusted Niles implicitly. “Thank you, it means a lot to me.” He smiled as the door opened and the servants began bringing in plates of food. As they set the dishes down, Dragomir helped himself to the wine they brought—just the thing to dull the ache in his leg that the sitting position caused. “So, what’s this guy like?” Dragomir liked to size up his opponent early in the game.
Niles thought for a moment as he served himself some of the soup before passing it to Dragomir. "Well, he's taller than me, and pale, and he has dark blue eyes and black hair. He's not anywhere near as handsome as you are, though he is somewhat attractive. He's really into poetry and literature, and languages in general. He's really nice, too, and isn't angry when I make mistakes." He hesitated. "I don't really know much more about him. Sorry. But I'll be sure to tell you more about him after we have dinner...I'll have to mention you to him, too, because I didn't get the chance..." he trailed with a small smile. "Is dinner all right? I had them prepare venison just for you."
“Yeah, thank you!” Dragomir grinned, serving himself as much as would fit on his plate. It had always been his favorite dish growing up, but it was an expensive dish to prepare, and he never got to indulge in it too often. Niles however had found out about his taste for the wild game, and had his servants make it on occasion, much to Dragomir’s delight. Eagerly, he picked up one of the forks at random, not bothering to think through which one was correct, and began cutting his portion, planning to savor every bite. “I’m glad he’s nice to you,” Dragomir said earnestly, taking his first bite and chewing slowly. The last thing they needed was snotty superior trying to boss Niles around. Dragomir felt a little peeved that he sounded good-looking, but he also seemed more of an intellectual type…Dragomir was certain he could beat him in any contest of physical prowess. The fact that Niles hadn’t yet mentioned him, however, was a little worrying, and he hoped Capitan Kaiser didn’t feel misled…though it served him right—he was new after all, and he had no business making passes on his very first day. “If you learn anything else, I’d be interested to know.” Dragomir smiled. “And if he does anything suspicious, let me know.”
Niles smiled. "I'm so glad you like it! And I'll tell you if he does anything fishy first thing...but I really don't think he will." Grinning at Dragomir, he added, "But don't worry, I'll be on my guard for you."
Dinner passed quickly; Niles and Dragomir found quite a few things to talk about since they had been separated all day. Once the table settings were cleared away, Niles helped Dragomir back onto his crutches and followed him back to the bed, sitting down beside him and sighing wistfully. It hadn't really occurred to him until now, but... "Since you're injured, and you're not allowed to do much physical activity...I don't know what I'm going to do with myself until you get well again." He blushed as he said it, but it was the honest truth—he was feeling the need for physical contact, but at the same time, he didn't want to make Dragomir's condition worse.
Dragomir smirked broadly at Niles’s statement. He too had been reflecting on that particular unfortunate side effect, and had been working on a way around it. Grasping Niles by the arm, Dragomir pulled him into a kiss, deepening it almost immediately as he ran his hands over Niles’s still fully-clothed form. When they broke apart, Dragomir explained mischievously, “I never follow the rules, you know. I think we can manage, if you help me.” He grinned slyly and slipped the leather straps off of Niles’s shoulders. If Niles had brought it up, than he must have been just as eager as Dragomir, and the prospect excited him further. “What do you say we experiment a little bit?”
Niles blushed deeper, surprised by Dragomir's sudden movement. Still, he certainly wasn't complaining, and, if Dragomir thought it was okay, there was no way he was going to say no. Hurriedly, Niles helped him remove the article of clothing, unbuckling it and shrugging it off to fall on the floor, before leaning back over Dragomir to kiss him on the lips again. They broke apart a few moments later, gasping for air, and Niles grinned embarrassedly, bracing himself against the bed so that he could stay closer to Dragomir. "I say I'd love to."
Cecile lay sprawled on her bed, crumpled in her skirts just as she'd thrown herself there hours ago. She wept bitterly into her pillows, her fists clutching her sheets tightly. Multiple people had knocked on her door with various things to offer, but she had sent them all away; no food or words or company could make her feel better now. She hated herself for being rash and stupid, and now things were worse than they were.
She hadn't understood why the people were so angry; when she raised the taxes, she had carefully explained that it was for the armies in Hispania, and that soon they would be able to lower them again, once the men returned home. Yet, they had still gotten so upset with her, and that upset her, so she had gone to her advisors straight away and asked if she could try to explain herself again. The advisors had given her a flat out no, and not even permitted her to ask Lucette just to step outside for a moment and try to talk peace with them. It was too dangerous, they had told her, but Cecile, being who she was, had, at a full run, pushed straight past them and through the doors to the outside.
She had been expecting the people to be rational, to listen to what she had to say, like people were supposed to be. She had expected them to be angry with her, but at least to hear her out. She didn't realize how dead wrong she was until someone had shot at her; the bullet grazed her arm, but the force of the action had knocked her off her feet. She lay, in a daze, for some amount of time before one of the palace guards had been able to break away to come carry her back inside.
She hadn't listened to her advisors scolding words as the doctor had bandaged her arm; she had been to numb to care. As soon as she was excused, she ran, full speed, back to her bedroom and thrown herself violently onto her bed and had not moved since. She wished that the shot had killed her; she hated herself deeply for what she had done. She would see no one now, she would not move. She would wallow in her misery until something proved to her that she could still rule, and she doubted that would happen anytime soon.
Lucette knocked hesitantly on the door and called softly through the thick wood, “Your Majesty?” She’d watched the whole event unfold, horrified, and had not been allowed, until this moment, to see the queen. She was so worried for her majesty’s health, even though the doctors had assured her it was just a small wound on her shoulder, and Lucette was even more concerned about the Queen’s current mental condition. The violence and the brutality: Lucette had watched it all, knowing that Cecile thought she’d been the one to cause it, and it pained her to think of the hurt the queen must be feeling. That was why Lucette thought it imperative that she should go to see her now. Lucette had to let her know that she thought Cecile’s actions to be very brave and admirable, and that the riot wasn’t at all her fault. Somehow, she had to get through to her. When there was no response, Lucette knocked again. “Your Majesty, I’m coming in,” she said gently, pushing the door open and stepping inside.
"Go away," Cecile choked, not looking up from her pillows. She especially didn't want to see Lucette right now, she had almost put Lucette in danger, too, when she had tried to send her out, and she was ashamed to even face her. She hated to think that, after all she did to protest putting Lucette in dangerous situations, she had almost done so herself. Her eyes burned with new tears, and she couldn't hold back a sob as she started crying full-force again.
Lucette hesitated, on the brink of turning around and obeying the Queen’s request, before walking forward towards the bed slowly. Whatever Cecile said to her, Lucette wouldn’t leave her, not in this condition. “My lady…” Lucette said softly, already feeling guilty about going directly against a request from the Queen. “Cecile…I’m not going to leave, ma’am.” Lucette sat on the bed next to Cecile carefully, and reached a hand tentatively forward. “Your Majesty…” Lucette pushed back a stray lock of the Queen’s hair and smiled softly. “You were so brave today…I thought you were amazing to do that.” Even if things hadn’t quite worked, she’d done everything she could, and that was so much more than any other person of royalty ever seemed to try to do for her people.
Cecile shook her head violently into the pillows, choking on her words as she cried. "No, no, no! I was awful! I made my people angry, I disobeyed the advice of my advisors, I possibly made the situation worse...and...and I...I almost got you hurt, too." She emitted another pitiful sob before lifting her head slightly to look at her double. "I...I don't understand. I only do the things I do for a good cause...I would never want to make my people suffer. Why do they hate me?" She sniffed piteously, her tears not slowing in the slightest.
“They don’t hate you, my lady.” Lucette said evenly, despite the tears that had begun to trickle down her cheeks. “You’re well respected, and a wonderful ruler…people just…people have trouble with change. This war had been going on so long; they don’t think it will end. They don’t think the taxes will do anything.” Lucette looked down. People would always have their doubts, and unfortunately, Lucette knew it would always be the uneducated, and the poor—the ones who suffer most during transition—who wouldn’t believe there was a brighter future in store. “They’ll see, you’ll bring the troops home, and they’ll see.” Lucette soothed, rubbing Cecile’s shoulder lightly. “The economy will balance out, too, and everyone will be all right. Someday they’re realize what you were trying to do, and they’ll look back on it and think about how amazing you are to try and do what you did. No one in your position has ever done that before…and they’ll remember it and how brave you are.”
Cecile blinked, her tears slowing a little. "Y-you really...think so...?" Even after everything that happened, if her people didn't hate her, it would be at least a source of solace. "You...you think they don't hate me...?" The tears began again at the thought, though this time they were slightly of relief. Falling forward, she cried into Lucette's lap, clutching her skirts. "I hope you're right, Lucy...I hope you're right..."
Niles straightened his jacket out as he looked in the mirror before tying his cravat. Today was the day of his dinner engagement with Captain Kaiser, and he was fairly excited. He was a little sad to be leaving Dragomir, but it was only for a few hours, and he would tell Dragomir all about it when he got back, since Dragomir seemed so eager to find out about the Captain.
Once he was fully dressed in his deep blue jacket and matching light blue vest, he made his way over to the bed, where Dragomir was lying. "I'm all set to go now, so I'm going to go wait for him downstairs, all right? I promise I'll be back in a few hours." He leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to Dragomir's cheek. "I love you."
“You look really good tonight,” Dragomir complemented, smirking, “But I don’t think you’re quite ready to go yet...” He took Niles by the arm and pulled him down onto the bed, capturing his lips in a quick hard kiss. “There are just a few things missing…” Dragomir smirked again as he broke the kiss. His hands worked their way up Niles’s torso teasingly to his cravat and loosed it as he kissed Niles on the neck lightly, before sucking and biting at the spot. “Give me just a few minutes…for the few hours…” Dragomir murmured against the skin as he watched the mark from, before trailing kisses up to Niles’s lips again and engaging them in an urgent kiss.
Niles made a noise of surprise as he was pulled down on Dragomir, but didn't object. After all, a few minutes for a few hours only seemed fair, and he had absolutely no qualms in a few kisses to tide him over until he got home that evening. Truth be told, he was still a little sore from the night before; because of Dragomir's injury, he had been forced to do everything himself, and, being unskilled, had perhaps gone a little overboard. Still, that hardly seemed to matter to him now as he kissed Dragomir back fervently.
Dragomir broke the kiss after a few minutes and undid the first couple of buttons on Niles’s blouse so that he had more access to the tender skin of his neck. Dragomir pressed a string of kisses all along his neck, just above his collar bone, before he began working on another spot a little higher up. While whatever extra minutes Dragomir could get in with Niles before the next lonely couple of hours ahead of him were important, Dragomir wanted to make sure a couple marks were clearly visible on Niles’s neck before his dinner out. Dragomir couldn’t let that other Captain get any ideas, after all.
Niles gasped at Dragomir's kisses, melting into his arms and wishing that he wasn't going to leave in just a few minutes. However, after a little while he reluctantly pulled away placing one last kiss on Dragomir's lips. He was completely disheveled now, and he had to fix himself up. With a final blushing look to Dragomir, he buttoned up his shirt and retied his cravat before redoing his hair. To his embarrassment, even when everything was done up, there were definitely three obvious red marks on his neck, and a fourth one that was half-covered. He didn't have time to worry, however, because he just as he was inspecting himself one last time, a servant knocked on the door and informed him that a Julian Kaiser was awaiting him downstairs. Niles thanked him, bid Dragomir goodbye, and then hurried downstairs.
Niles met with Captain Kaiser in the foyer, smiling sheepishly. The Captain was wearing a deep green jacket and a beige vest with gold accents and a pretty brocade pattern, and Niles couldn't help but notice that he looked fairly attractive. He took a deep breath before speaking. "Good evening, sir. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting."
“Oh, not at all.” Julian smiled, admiring the Warrant Officer’s lavish blue outfit. It suited him so much more than his uniform did, and Julian realized now that seeing him out of work only served to heighten his attraction. “I was just admiring your foyer, Warrant Officer.” Julian explained, talking so that his staring didn’t seem obvious or rude. “I see you have a taste for the old-fashioned, as I do myself.” He smiled and inclined his head in a small courteous bow, before turning to look at an old clock on the mantle, his particular point of interest. Turning back to Niles after a few seconds, he looked over him once again. “You have a very lovely estate,” Julian said plainly, as an alternative to stating how lovely he thought the Warrant Officer looked.
Niles blushed and bowed back. "Thank you, sir...I'm glad you like it. Usually, people make fun of me for my old-fashioned things." He was glad everything was to the Captain's liking; he would hate to disappoint his new friend. So far, everything was going well. And so, with a nervous smile, Niles motioned to the door. "Well, then, shall we go, sir?"
“Yes, if you’re ready,” Julian nodded, stepping over to wear the Warrant Officer stood and looking down at him mildly for a moment, admiring his slightly flushed cheeks and soft golden hair from his closer vantage point. As he looked however, he caught sight of a few distinct red marks, vivid against the Warrant Officer’s delicate skin. Julian did not allow himself to dwell on them for too long however, as they were probably just a play of the light anyway. Taking a few brisk steps forward, Julian opened the door and held it for Niles. “If you’d be so kind as to follow me, Warrant Officer, my automobile is just outside.”
Niles smiled as he stepped outside, then waited for the Captain to lead the way. He noticed his superior looking at him somewhat strangely, and couldn't help but be a little embarrassed, but brushed the feeling aside. He was going to enjoy his night out, and not be bothered. Once Captain Kaiser had led him to the automobile and they were both inside, he smiled hesitantly over at his superior, fingering the red marks at his collar nervously. "Thank you so much for having me, Captain...I'm really grateful for everything." He hoped that his words had made sense and not sounded too nervous—he was afraid he would mess up at an important moment like this.
The Warrant Officer’s nervous fingering of his collar drew Julian’s attention yet again to the red marks. He could make out plainly three of them, and as the Warrant Officer adjusted the collar, Julian noticed yet another one. Turning away quickly, slightly embarrassed that he’d been looking so long and so intently, Julian started the automobile. “It’s my pleasure to treat you like this,” Julian managed to say evenly. “It’s the least I can do after all of your help yesterday.” He pulled off of Niles’s drive and onto the main road before smiling. “But please,” he started, risking another glance at his guest, “Call me Julian.” He watched him briefly before turning back to the road and asking tentatively, “Would you mind…would you be at all perturbed if I called you Niles?”
Niles blinked for a second before blushing brightly and smiling. "Oh-oh, no, of course, not, sir! And thank you, sir, I'd be very flattered to use your name." Though Dragomir had told him to be wary, and he would be for him, he was certain that there was nothing sketchy about Julian. He was always so sincere, Niles couldn't help but believe him.
As the drove along the road through the nicer part of town, Niles looked over at his superior. Trying to make idle talk, he asked, "So, where are we going tonight, sir?"
Julian smiled, looking over to Niles almost reverently. Now that they were on a first name basis, Julian was quite certain conversation and the like would flow more freely, and he relished the thought. They had so much in common, and Niles was simply so fascinating, Julian couldn’t wait. “We’re headed to a quaint little place that’s just down the road,” Julian answered happily. It was possibly one of his favorite restaurants, and he hoped Niles would approve. It was small, and not too fancy, but he found all the food that the restaurant served to be quite exquisite. Their pastries, too, were to die for, and Julian hoped that he and Niles shared a sweet tooth in common.
It wasn’t too far to the restaurant, and Julian pulled up slowly, parking the vehicle and hurrying out to open the door for Niles, as well as offering him his hand. They were out of work now, so restrictions of rank no longer applied, and Julian liked to be a gentleman. “Right this way,” Julian smiled, gesturing towards the entrance to the rather humble looking building.
Niles took Julian's hand and allowed himself to be led inside, looking around. The restaurant seemed to be nice enough, and Niles rarely ate out, so he was looking forward to trying something new. Once they were inside and seated, he picked up the menu and began to look over the choices. There was so much to choose from, and didn't know where to start. Smiling sheepishly over the menu, he looked to Julian. "I don't know what to get... what would you suggest, sir?"
“Do you like poultry, Niles?” Julian tried out the name for the first time that evening in Niles’s presence. Before, to himself, he’d thought about the name and said it aloud a few times as he’d been writing, but to speak it to Niles made it so much more real, and he relished the sound of it. “It’s particularly delectable here.” Julian smiled briefly and looked down at the menu. “The desserts, too, are delicious,” he said, making his choice and folding the menu again to look at Niles. The marks were visible in this lighting, too, and Julian began to sort out the possible reasons for the discolorations, refusing to accept the most obvious explanation.
"Oh, yes!" Niles replied, nodding. "Thank you!" He looked over his choices again before selecting one and setting the menu aside, looking back up to Julian. "Oh, they do? I love sweets," he said excitedly, smiling embarrassedly. "I know it seems a little childish, but...I'm excited to try them." He grinned and cocked his head slightly, hoping that the Captain wouldn't laugh at him.
“I’m so glad,” Julian smiled, once again admiring the adorable gesture, “I used to patronize this restaurant just for the desserts,” he said a little embarrassedly. “I discovered their fine selection of courses only recently, but really, as I love sweets as well; they’re what I most look forward to.” Julian could hardly believe they had another thing in common; it was all just too perfect. As for the red marks, however, he was beginning to worry that Niles might have had and allergic reaction, and hoped it wasn’t too severe. However, the fact that Niles hadn’t yet brought it up probably meant that he was recovering, which brought Julian a sense of relief. “I’ll be happy to have your opinion on a few of the fine desserts they have here—you have such refined tastes, I do so hope you enjoy them.”
Niles blushed. "Well, I'm glad you think so, sir...I'm flattered." He was always so embarrassed when Julian complemented him that way...still, he didn't necessarily mind. "I'm sure I'll like them if you do, sir. You have such good taste...I trust your choices are delicious!" Julian seemed like the type to know that type of thing, and Niles was excited to try whatever he liked.
Julian smiled softly at Niles, pleased to have received the compliment back. He prided himself on his sophistication, and appreciated that Niles could recognize it in him, as well as accept that he too was very refined. Exhaling wistfully, almost to the point of sighing, Julian tore his gaze away from Niles and summoned a waiter. Once the server had come over to attend their table, Julian placed his order. “I would like your pork tenderloin marinade, please,” he said politely, returning his menu and turning to Niles to see what he’d selected.
Niles waited for Julian to order, then smiled at the waiter as well. "I'd like the chicken with mushroom duxelles, please," he said, watching the waiter take down their order. Once he had left, Niles turned back to Julian, trying to make conversation. "Thank you for agreeing to tutor me again...I'm really grateful." He smiled.
“But of course,” Julian said kindly, folding his fingers. “I can see in you a passion for poetry, and with that to inspire you, I’m quite certain you’ll be able to pick up the language right away.” Apart from Niles’s raw potential and intelligence, Julian fancied himself a good tutor, and it was his hope that they’d be able to devote lots of time together to study. “Gallian and Albionian are related, as well, so with your intelligence, it should be an easy thing to grasp—with the right tutelage, of course.” His lip twitched, almost forming a smirk, but he repressed it and smiled softly instead. “I’m looking forward to spending more time with you in the future, Niles.”
Niles smiled back. "Well, I'm sure you're a great teacher, and I can't wait." At that moment, the food arrived, and Niles thanked the waiter as he accepted his. Carefully taking a taste, he looked back up at Julian. "Wow, this is great! Thanks for advising me on what to get!" He took another bite, then looked up again to respond, delayed reaction. "I'm glad we'll get to spend more time together too...I'd like to get to know you more." He smiled at Julian for a moment before looking back to his food.
Julian watched Niles eat for a moment, enjoying that he was enjoying the food, before starting on his own dish. He was glad to hear that Niles was looking forward to their time together, and that they were both equally eager to learn more about each other. The fact of the matter was, Julian was certain that the more he learned about Niles, the more he’d grow to admire him, and he hoped Niles felt the same.
They ate their dinner slowly, between discussions of various works of literature—everything from fiction to poetry—and to Julian, the time flew by. Just hearing Niles speak and listening to his inflection was amazing, and when Julian factored in what Niles was talking about, it was just perfect. He could listen to Niles forever. When they’d at last finished their dinner, Julian summoned their waiter and asked for the dessert menu, which was delivered promptly. “What do you like best?” Julian asked with a smile. “I like pastries, myself. My mother used to bake them for me all the time when I was growing up.” Julian explained, “This restaurant makes excellent streusel, and I can’t help but be reminded of Allemangne every time I have the chance to eat it.”
"Oh, I'd like to try that," Niles said with a smile. "I like pastries, too, but éclairs are my favourite." He thought a moment. "What if we order both, and share?" He blushed and cocked his head again with a sheepish smile. "I know it seems a little silly, but...then we could both enjoy both. What do you think?"
Julian put his palms together and smiled with excitement. “That doesn’t seem silly at all, in fact, I think that sounds marvelous.” Julian made a mental note that Niles liked éclairs, and was looking forward to trying them himself—more importantly; he was looking forward to sharing with Niles. Julian got the waiter’s attention again, and told him their plan before the waiter bowed, hurrying off only to return promptly with the two dishes and two spare plates before leaving them to enjoy the desserts. They both cut their respective favorites in half and then passed them to the other on the spare plates. Julian waited again for Niles to eat, curious as to which he’d try first, and intending to follow suit.
Niles picked up his half of the streusel, taking a small bite. It was very good, and he liked it a lot, as he did with most sweet pastries. He finished his piece slowly, enjoying the taste, before smiling up at Julian and saying brightly, "I like it a lot!" He then began on his half of the éclair, taking a few bites before looking up again. "What do you think of the éclairs?" He, too, was excited to know what his superior thought of his favourite sweet.
“Ah, they’re delicious.” Julian smiled, thoroughly enjoying the new experience. “The cream on the inside is simply exquisite.” He said delightedly, as he dabbed a bit of it off the corner of his mouth. “My only regret,” Julian began jokingly as he finished off the last bit of the pastry, “Is that I didn’t know about them sooner.” If only he’d known Niles before his transfer… But really, he was grateful for the opportunity to meet someone so like-minded and fascinating at all.
Niles nodded with a smile. "I agree, they're excellent. I'm so glad you like them!" He took a few more bites of his own pastry before adding thoughtfully, "The only thing I think that could be better than these are Dragomir's éclairs...and there's nothing better than his." To Niles, that was the highest compliment; Dragomir's éclairs were his absolute favourite food in the world, and to compare to them was the highest compliment he could give.
“Oh?” Julian asked, knitting his brows and feeling a little outdone as he wondered who this “Dragomir” was. He’d heard Niles mention the name before, when the Lt. Colonel was talking to him, but Julian still had no idea who he was. A cook, perhaps? He recognized the name immediately as Dacian, and assumed it must belong to someone of a lower class. “Who, if I might be so bold as to inquire, is Dragomir?”
Niles hesitated a moment, confused, before realizing. "Oh, I forgot, I haven't told you about Dragomir yet." He smiled, bubbling, happy just at the thought of the other man. "Dragomir is my boyfriend. He's usually my commanding officer, but his leg got injured, and so he'd been at home for the past few days. I forgot that I hadn't told you about him...he's the most amazing person I know, and I hope you two can meet sometime soon. I've been taking good care of him, so he should be able to come back to work pretty soon." He grinned. "I know you'll like him. He's the nicest person ever."
Julian stared, blankly for a moment in shock before recovering himself and putting on a strained smile. “I’d like to meet him,” Julian lied, not wanting to sound rude or quite as crushed as he was. Niles seemed so happy just talking about him, and it pained Julian even to think about what kind of person this Dragomir must be to have won Niles’s heart so completely. Niles was beautiful, enraptured as he was just at the thought of the other man, and Julian took in the sight as a slight source of solace. Nothing, however, could truly console him, not after this revelation. All of Julian’s hopes and plans, they all seemed worthless now. They’d all been in vain, as Niles already had the love of another. If only he’d met Niles sooner… But nevertheless, they were meant to be together, of that Julian was sure, and he’d stop at nothing to win Niles over. He’d outdo this Dacian and prove himself to Niles easily. He had to. “When do you think he’ll return to service?” Julian asked, coming out of his state of mental duress and recovering quickly. He had a goal now, he just needed a timeframe.
Niles thought for a moment. "Probably just under two weeks...he was shot in the leg, but I'm sure he'll heal quickly. He's the strongest person ever." He smiled at Julian, who was seeming a little put out. It made sense, he supposed, since he probably didn't want to hear about Dragomir too much. Not wanting to upset him Niles added, "I'm really glad, though, that I have you now. It would have been so horrid to be all alone...thank you for being so kind to me." There, that ought to please him, and Niles hoped that they could still have a good rest of the evening.
Julian smiled in earnest. Hearing Niles say that meant everything to him, and it strengthened his decision to pursue Niles until the end. “Yes, as I am equally grateful to have you at my side guiding me as I become acquainted with all the new proceedings. I thank you, truly, for all your help and kindness, Niles. You’ve been invaluable…and I hope that neither of us has to be alone again…” He said the last part without thinking, but smiled again to make the comment seem less pathetically wistful.
Niles smiled back. "I'm so glad I can be useful to you! And I hope so, too! We'll be friends forever!" He rested his head in his hands contentedly. "I'm so glad to have such a good friend like you. Thank you again for everything."
“But of course,” Julian nodded, “It’s my pleasure.” He hoped they would be friends forever, and perhaps even more; he’d do all he could for Niles, until one day, he’d no longer be able to resist his charm. “Your friendship means a lot to me. I thank you for it,” Julian said with a slight incline of his head. Then, seeing that Niles was finished with his desert, Julian called over a waiter and paid for their meals, leaving a generous tip, as per his custom. Than turned back to Niles with another smile, explaining, “We can stay as long as you like, of course.”
They stayed a little bit longer, discussing literature and poetry and language among other things, and Niles enjoyed himself thoroughly. As it began to get later, however, he began to grow sleepy, and he knew that Dragomir would want to spend time with him once he got home, and that was probably going to require a great deal of energy, so he knew that they ought to be heading back. He smiled sleepily at Julian. "Well, thank you so much for taking me out...I've really had a great time, and I can't wait to start learning from you."
“I’m glad you were able to come.” Julian smiled, just now realizing that it was odd for Niles to have gone out to dinner with him in spite of his other commitment. Maybe it meant, Julian reasoned, that he really did have a chance… “When would you like to begin your lessons?” He asked hopefully. Perhaps the Albionian lessons would provide just the perfect timing for him to start things seriously. Julian smirked inwardly at the thought, before smiling again at Niles.
"Oh, whenever is convenient for you, sir," Niles replied quickly, smiling hesitantly; he didn't want to be a burden. "I suppose weekends would be better, since we have a lot of free time...if you wouldn't mind. I think we can probably start whenever is convenient for you." He'd have to talk to Dragomir, of course, but he was sure that it would all work out. Besides, he could prove to Dragomir what a nice person Julian was.
“Yes, weekends would be ideal...” Julian said thoughtfully, as if he were trying to decide on the best time. Really, he had little other than personal study and the occasional party to occupy his free time. “What about this Saturday?” he asked excitedly. “I think that would be best for me.” It was best because Julian didn’t want to go a day without seeing Niles, if he could help it.
Niles smiled back. "This Saturday would be great! Let me talk to Dragomir about it, of course, but I'm sure that'd be great. It'll be fun to spend the weekend together." He rose and made his way over to Julian with a smile. "I'm a little tired...maybe we should go home now? I'll talk to Dragomir and be sure to get back to you first thing tomorrow." He smiled.
“But of curse,” Julian said quickly, rising to his feet. “Make whatever arrangements that need to be made.” He nodded understandingly in reference to the plans proposed for the lesson. Julian offered his arm with a congenial smile and led Niles out of the restaurant and to the automobile, then opened the door for him and held it while he got in. Julian went around to the other side and started the engine with a quick little smile to Niles. “Thank you so much for accompanying me to dinner tonight, Niles.” Julian said politely, pulling back onto the main road. “I hope we can do it again sometime.”
"Oh, that's great! I'm sure it will all work out great!" He smiled over at Julian as they made their way back down the road towards his house. "No, thank you! I had a great time, and I hope we can do it again, too. I'm really grateful to have a good friend like you." Everything was working out so well, he only hoped Dragomir would get along with Julian as well as he did.
Julian smiled brightly to hide his slight disappointment at the idea of just being good friends. Still, for now, it would do. Things were sure to change, as well, Julian reassured himself, possibly even starting with what he was about to give Niles as a parting gift.
They reached Niles’s manner, and Julian pulled up to the door, turning off the automobile and getting out to open the door for Niles. As Niles got to his feet, Julian produced a small wax-sealed envelope from his jacket pocket and presented it to Niles. “This is for you.” Julian said softly, pressing the object into Niles’s hands.
Niles smiled excitedly, accepting the envelope. "Oh, thank you, sir! I'll be sure to read it right away!" He took a few steps towards the house, then turned back to Julian quickly. "Thanks again! See you tomorrow, Julian!" he called with a grin before darting inside.
He broke the seal carefully with his fingers as soon as he got inside and began reading as he walked. It was the sonnet Julian had promised him, and he was excited to see the amazing things he was sure Julian had written. By the time he reached the bedroom, however, he was thoroughly confused, and decided he would have to ask Dragomir about what it meant. However, first matters came first.
"I'm home," he announced as he walked into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him and making his way over to the bed. He was sure Dragomir would still be awake, and he found he was correct. He smiled and pressed a quick kiss to Dragomir's cheek. "I'm sorry to have been gone so long. Did you survive?"
“Barely,” Dragomir pouted. “I was worried… Did everything go all right?” What Dragomir meant to say was ‘He didn’t make a move on you, did he?’ but he managed to refrain from such an accusatory question, and instead pulled Niles down again for another brief kiss on the lips. Really, he had been worried, but Niles appeared to be fine, and the marks on his neck were still vivid. Hopefully, they’d served as enough of a warning that the Captain hadn’t given him any trouble. Just in case, though, Dragomir asked, “What did you two end up doing? Was it a good restaurant?” He had to keep close tabs on the other man, so that he could outdo him in the future.
"It was a nice restaurant," Niles replied with a smile, sitting down beside Dragomir on the bed. "They had excellent éclairs...they were almost as good as yours." He thought a moment. "We talked about literature a lot, and discussed food... Oh, and I told him about you!" Niles brightened, grinning. "I told him how amazing you are, and how he was sure to like you."
“I see,” Dragomir smiled, glad that he’d come up in their conversation at last, but not entirely sure the other Captain would like him in the slightest, or that the feeling would be reciprocated. He was, however, exceptionally pleased that Niles thought his éclairs were better the Kaiser’s restaurant’s éclairs, and hoped Niles had told him so. The fact that they were beyond excellent pleased him thoroughly, and he smirked proudly. He could use Niles’s preference for his pastries to his advantage. “Maybe I’ll make some éclairs for you sometime, and you can give one to Captain Kaiser.” That would surely show him, Dragomir thought confidently.
Niles brightened. "Oh, that would be lovely if you could make some! Actually, if you don't mind, Julian is going to come over on Saturday to start teaching me. It's too bad you won't be able to cook by then...but since he's going to be tutoring me, I'm sure, sometime, you can make them and give them to him yourself! I'm sure he'd like them a whole lot!" He hesitated a moment, then added tentatively, "You don't mind if he comes over, right...?"
Dragomir blinked. Niles was planning to do more with this guy outside of work? That wasn’t really a good sign… Though Dragomir did remember something about language lessons, and he supposed they’d have to take place outside of work sometime. Additionally, it’d be good to see they guy in person. “No, no problem. I’d like to meet him.” Dragomir smiled wryly. “And maybe for your next lesson, I’ll be able to make some things for you both.” He was determined to support Niles, and at the same time do something really impressive so that he could completely outdo the other Capitan.
"Oh, thank you, Dragomir! I'm so glad it's okay with you. And I can't wait to have you bake for me again!" He bubbled excitedly, leaning over and kissing Dragomir on the lips before straightening again, remembering the envelope in his pocket. "Oh, right...there is one other thing. He wrote me this poem, and it's really nice, but I don't really understand what he means by some of it...would it be okay if I read a few lines to you to see if you could tell me?"
Dragomir clenched his teeth at the mention of the poem. He’d been hoping Kaiser would’ve forgotten about it, because he knew it to be his own sole weakness. Dragomir knew nothing of the intricate subtly of poetry and metaphors, so he couldn’t imagine he’d have any easier time understanding what Niles had missed, but he agreed with a small nod. “Yeah, I’ll do my best.” Even if he didn’t understand any of it, he didn’t want to be left out of the loop, and was grateful that Niles was including him.
"Oh, thank you!" Niles replied excitedly. "Here, I'll read you the part I don't get." He pulled out the envelope and opened it, taking out the paper inside and clearing his throat before reading. "And I devote my body, every part/ To he who now has hold upon my heart." Niles blinked back at Dragomir. "What does he mean by that, Dragomir?"
“What?” Dragomir asked, unable to keep his tone calm. He pushed himself up to his elbows and glared at the paper in Niles’s hands. “Is that really what it says?” Dragomir asked, trying not to sound quite as angry as he felt. It was poetry, sure, but to Dragomir, the implications were perfectly clear. He took a deep breath. He wasn’t upset with Niles, so there was no reason for him to be angry now. He’d save it for when he finally met Julian Kaiser. “Niles…I think you should stay away from him.”
Niles blinked, surprised by Dragomir's sudden outburst. "D-Dragomir? What's wrong?" He wondered if there was some implication which was completely over his head. "What does it mean, Dragomir? Why do I have to stay away from him?" He was upset that Dragomir should tell him to stay away from his new friend, especially without any reason.
“I don’t like it,” Dragomir said, lying back with a flop, and grunting as he accidentally moved his leg. “I mean, not that I don’t like the poetry, but…” Dragomir didn’t really know how to explain exactly what it was that he didn’t like. But it was just way too personal, especially since they’d only met a few days earlier. Of course, maybe he was just taking it too seriously? It was just poetry, after all. “I don’t know…” Dragomir sighed, turning to Niles and reaching for his hand. “I guess I just miss you too much when you’re not here, and then I get paranoid.”
Niles smiled softly, shaking his head. "Oh, Dragomir, I'm sorry...I promise, I won't spend any more nights away from you." He leaned over and kissed Dragomir softly on the lips. "Until you get better, I'll spend all of my time at home with you. All right?" He did feel a little guilty for leaving Dragomir all alone, and he couldn't think of anything he'd like more than to be under house arrest with Dragomir.
“I don’t want to keep you from doing stuff you like… But thank you, at least until I’m better, for staying with me.” Dragomir smiled. He didn’t want Niles to feel like he couldn’t go out and do anything, but Dragomir really didn’t like the direction the other Captain seemed to be trying to go in, and it made him uncomfortable. At least until he was better, until he’d met Kaiser for himself and assessed him, Dragomir hoped Niles wouldn’t mind staying with him. Niles was all he had to look forward to each day after all, and Dragomir was impatient. He lifted himself up again carefully, this time to press a kiss to Niles’s lips and wrap his arms around him before falling back onto the bed, taking Niles down with him. “Besides,” Dragomir smirked, kissing Niles on the neck, “It wouldn’t do if you got all worn out without me and didn’t have any energy left when you got back…I don’t want you to strain yourself, after all.”
Niles blushed, but grinned nonetheless. "Don't worry," he replied, kissing Dragomir back on the lips. "I'll leave the wearing out to you."
Algernon strummed his fingers on his desk, waiting impatiently for Perceval. They were supposed to meet this evening to talk about the riot and how successful it was, but for the first time in all the time Algernon could remember, Perceval was late. He was a little annoyed, but a little more worried. Perceval was never, ever late, and Algernon began to worry that something had become of him.
Perceval hurried down the halls as fast as he could to Algernon’s office, running his fingers through his hair hurriedly as he walked. It was still a little wet, and heavier than usuall because of it, and he just knew it was going to soak he uniform. After work, Perceval had gone home and spent the afternoon having it washed; for the first time in over two days, he was going to have a meeting with Algernon, and wanted to make sure he looked his best. All that had backfired however; he was now late even though he’d left before his servants had finished drying and combing out his hair. Those ingrates. They’d be severely punished in the morning for not doing their work fast enough.
Perceval had never been late in all his years of service to Algernon, and never before had he looked so unkempt. Aside from that, his scalp hurt slightly. He supposed it was because he’d yelled at them to hurry so much that they’d been forced to yank and pull his hair a bit more than usual, but still, it was bothersome. They were probably doing their best, but that wasn’t good enough for Perceval. They’d still be punished.
He arrived at Algernon’s door and frantically tried to finish fixing his hair, but it was no use; he was already late and he simply didn’t have enough time. Pushing his hair back over his shoulders, Perceval opened the door tentatively. Hopefully Algernon wouldn’t be upset with him for being late, and hopefully he wouldn’t notice what a disastrous state his hair was in.
“Good evening, sir.” Perceval said humbly, bowing even lower than usual and taking longer to rise to show his humility. “I’m so sorry for keeping you waiting, sir, please forgive me.”
Algernon sighed slightly with relief when he saw the door open, but quickly composed himself. "Ah, yes, do come in, Percy." He rose and made his way over to where Perceval stood. He noticed immediately how disheveled he looked and smirked, taking a lock of the damp hair and twirling it between his fingers. "I take it you were...busy?" He smiled at Perceval for a moment before pulling away and walking towards the chairs. "Come now, Percy, don't keep me waiting any longer. Do tell me the news."
“Yes sir, I’m so sorry,” Perceval apologized as he followed Algernon over to the chairs. He took his seat across from Algernon neatly and crossed his legs as he once again adjusted his hair, hoping it would dry soon, but doubting that it would be so cooperative. Sighing, he left it alone and looked over to Algernon with a still-apologetic look in his eyes. “As I’m sure you’ve heard,” Perceval prefaced his report, “It went even better than we could have hoped.” He smiled and folded his hands, resting them on his lap. “Total chaos broke out when the Queen made her appearance and she very nearly got shot.” His smile quivered, almost smirk-like, as he continued. “Mr. D’Aubigne managed to recruit a fair sum of Berceuse Malheureuse to stir things up, and they did their jobs as well as can be expected of common thugs.” Perceval paused and touched his hair again unconsciously, but was disgusted by how wet it was and the tangles his fingers naturally seemed to gravitate to, so he put his hands at his sides, determined not to fidget any more. “There were massive casualties on both sides,” Perceval was sure Algernon knew that fact; he was probably still working through some of the paperwork, as was he. “But in the end, our very own Lieutenant Colonel Delancy was able to sort things out and prevent the otherwise inevitable massacre.” Perceval smiled wryly, disappointed that it had eventually ended peacefully. “You may be interested to know that the Berceuse Malheureuse casualty rate was 100% and it was after they had all been disposed of that terms were negotiated.” Perceval concluded his report and added, after the fact, “Sir,” bowing his apology. Hoping to make up for it and stay in Algernon’s good graces he said quickly, “I’ve already composed a polite thank you note to Mr. D’Aubigne and had it sent posthaste, sir.” He smiled meekly, hoping his report was satisfactory and that Algernon wasn’t too upset with him after all of his misconducts.
Algernon smiled. "Excellent, Percy. I couldn't have asked for more." Things were all coming together nicely, and he was pleased that the riot had been pulled off so well. The public was obviously growing more and more to dislike the Queen, and it was all the better for him. Smirking, he rose and made his way over so that he was standing directly in front of Perceval and carefully took the General's chin in his hand, forcing him to look up at him. "You know Percy...you were really quite late this evening...and you know how I find tardiness unacceptable..." He let his nails dig in, drawing blood to the skin. "I really think you must be punished." He smirked down at Perceval, twitching slightly in anticipation.
Perceval shivered at the touch and looked up at Algernon imploringly. Even though Perceval felt terrible for keeping Algernon waiting, the idea of being punished by him was as arousing as it was exhilarating, and as Algernon cut into his skin, he couldn’t help but let out a breathy gasp. He really should be punished, and he couldn’t wait. “P-please, I’m very sorry, sir,” Perceval stuttered, begging nevertheless.
Algernon smirked. "I know you are, Percy..." He moved to straddle Percy's waist, dropping his chin and instead clasping both of his wrists tightly and pressing them against the back of his chair. "...but that's just not enough." He pressed a bruising kiss to Perceval's lips, biting at his lips as he withdrew. "You'll simply have to do the penance."
Perceval moaned softly with delight as he was restrained, pleased that his words hadn’t been enough to stop Algernon. He whined slightly as Algernon pulled away and licked his lips, squirming feebly beneath Algernon. “What do you need me to do to atone, sir?” he asked dolorously, looking up into Algernon’s eyes.
Algernon pulled Perceval forward roughly, moving both wrists into one hand behind Perceval's back. Yanking him to his feet and turning him, Algernon moved forward to pin him against his desk. Smiling darkly, he reached for his bottom desk drawer, the one with the secret compartment. "Patience, Percy, you'll see."