Florence was not sure if his silence was a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand he might just be so stunned that he was left speechless for once in his life, or she was too quiet and he did not hear her at all. She was hopeful it was the former rather than the later. Then at length, he spoke. Playfully he questioned if she knew the full implications of what she had said. The woman was sure he was not really looking for an answer, but she gave one all the same. [+mediumseagreen “Yes, that is kind of the point.”] She wanted to be ‘stuck’ with him, although maybe not to the extent he soon took it to by threatening to keep her in this bed. A while would be fine, but all day was probably a bit much, especially if they wanted to be left alone. But it mattered little as it was an empty threat she was sure.
[+mediumseagreen “Does love only come from grand gestures?”] If so she certainly could not think of any she had done for him to make him feel the way he did. [+mediumseagreen “I do not believe there was any one thing that changed the way I feel, it was gradual. The more time we spend together the more attached to you I become. I am sure I have felt this way for some time, but it took a little while for me to fully realize what it was.”] Florence was a dunce when it came to unraveling her own emotions, so he would have to forgive her for that. [+mediumseagreen “I also wanted to be completely certain before I told you.”] Her arm she had put around him while they kissed earlier pulled him a little closer to her, tightening their embrace. [+mediumseagreen “And… your absence shook me more than expected. It forced me to examine my attachment to you instead of avoiding it.”] To be frank it was easier to avoid than face her own feelings. It allowed her to continue with the comfortable way that things were, not casual, but not fully as serious as they could be. [+mediumseagreen “This is the conclusion I came to. I am not very good at saying it, but I love you, Nicolai.”]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The kiss completed she shyly pushed her head to his chest and would feel the reverberations of his laughter, wrapping his arms around her all the more as she pulled herself closer. It was quite sweet when she acted this way, though he would have liked to continue the kiss or the very least look on her gentle face some more. A hand stroked along her back as the other came up to her cheek and lightly traced his fingers along her jawline.
Happy to just stay like this with her for a while longer, he was about to close his eyes over when she spoke once more. It took a little time, barely seconds though it felt longer, to fully appreciate and let those words sink in. For a man who had been saying it with such ease and abandon the past few months, taking every opportunity to remind her, hearing it from her there and then was a touch breathtaking. She would hear his heart beat faster though otherwise it would seem he hadn't heard her or would not react. But Nicolai was never one to sit idle, especially when he could over analyse something.
[+royalblue “You know by saying that, you're stuck with me now forever, right?”] It was hyperbolic and rhetorical but the light humour in his voice helped to ease any tension she may have felt. He had heard, and he was happy.[+royalblue “I'm not letting you out of this bed all day, not until you tell me what brought about this change in opinion of me. I did not think I had done anything special, at least nothing that would push you toward love.”] He almost wanted to ask her to say it again, and again, and a thousand times more, but he understood for her this was quite the moment and he would not water it down with silly demands.
Well, that was not really what she meant, but at least he had not taken offence to her rambling. Or she thought he hadn’t until he pulled away. However it soon became clear he was only looking to have her face him, and rather tightly at that. Florence did not mind though, other than the fact that her cheeks were still flushed. If Nicolai noticed, he did not say anything and she was thankful for that.
Shortly thereafter he was professing his love to her in the same eloquent manner he always seemed to have with these things. And even though she had heard it all before, or at least something close, it made her heart skip a beat. But in the end it was the kiss that took her breath away. Florence was speechless when he pulled back, eyes lingering on his face as she memorized his features for hundredth time. Scooting in just a little closer, tangling her legs just that little bit more in his, she was happy, but there was still something left to be said. And he had not made it any easier by flustering her so. Not that he knew any better or she made any attempt to stop him.
Bringing her head to his chest, she snuggled in under his chin. Perhaps if she could not see him looking at her, it would help. And thankfully it did to some extent. She was still nervous, her heart felt like it was pounding, mainly because Florence knew she had made a way bigger deal out of this than she should have. It was embarrassing; more so than what she was about to say. And this time she really did say it, albeit in a much less flowery and fanciful way than he did. [+mediumseagreen “I love you too.”] There it was. It was finally out. But if he mentioned that damn dog again she was going to lose it.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was unaware as to her midnight confession and so he only saw her words as playful banter. It was sweet and innocent in a way, a soft chuckle as he ceased his plethora of kisses. He kept himself close however, squeezing her ever so slightly as she became flustered with her words and stumbled to a clunky outburst.[+royalblue "I prefer you too dear."] His words were filled with joviality.
She was rather skittish and demure this morning and it showed. Usually by now she was pushing him back to get up and dressed, not one to let him indulge his love for her for too long. Yet now she was laying here he felt a little concerned that he had truly upset her with his sleepy mutterings. He shuffled a little back from her though it was only so that he could roll her towards him, first onto her back and then so that her chest pressed against his.
Sharing his pillow, bodies all but entwined, he looked into her jewelled eyes.[+royalblue "Florence, no-one comes close to you. I have chased you for decades and I'm not about to let you think you aren't anything but my love and my one and only. I love you, only you."] Spoken in a soft manner and with great meaning behind his words, he leaned in to kiss her in one of their more passionate and loving embraces. No hands stealing touches nor anything crass going on. It was just pure affection.
Strange that he could remember that from his dream and know for certain that was what she was referring to. Almost took the fun out of her teasing, but this was for the best. It would not have been good if he took her too seriously. [+mediumseagreen “Of course not. It just pains me to be put on equal footing with that monstrosity.”] Florence was more comfortable around Cam now, but she would not go so far as to say she was actually fond of the animal. If she brought a stick over, the woman would throw it to get her away from her and nothing more. Definitely was not getting attached like everyone else.
She hummed at his kisses sprinkled on her warm morning skin. He was like this after waking up. Florence was not sure whether that was just how he was, or he saw this as one of his few opportunities to get some alone time like this. Either way, she was generally okay with when he got this way… though like most things she had not mentioned it aloud. But despite his cuddling to distract her, she would quip back at him. [+mediumseagreen “Oh come now, I am not sure that even counts. You didn’t even lose an arm or anything...”] There was intended to be more to that comment. A but that led into something sweet that would balance out her sass, however the words got caught in her throat. The pause probably did not come off the best and she tried again. [+mediumseagreen “But I- uh,”] why was this so much harder now than it was last night? Obviously because he was awake to hear her, but she had already said it once, twice even, so she thought it should be easier now. Florence was struggling. [+mediumseagreen “I mean, that is not bad. I prefer it that way. Or rather I prefer you.”] That didn’t even make any fucking sense. Silently groaning she wondered if she should cut her losses and give up for now so that she could try again later. No, if she did that Nicolai might be left thinking something was wrong. After all, there had to be some reason she was being so awkward. Luckily she was turned away, because her face was heating up rather spectacularly.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai slept well from that point, though his dreams shifted from rather pleasant to something entirely. There were no more incidents of talking however and when he woke his hands clutched at his partners frame a little more tightly. It had drawn her from slumber however though she barely moved, her voice the first indication she was up.
Listening to her made him smile lightly, her feigned furore rather sweet and cute now that he could hear and understand it. Had this been the tavern, he would have taken it as a serious statement and his apologies would be flooding forth. Instead, the elven man let out a soft sigh and shuffled down a little more into the warmth of the covers, leg entwined into hers and hands grasping her sides.[+royalblue “Don't tell me you're jealous of a wolf now...”] He recalled the dream vaguely at least, though the more he thought on it he was sure the wolf had said she loved him. Peculiar.
With his hands on her sides he leaned his head forward, light and placative kisses to her warm skin as a little of that morning frustration coupled with her accusations came out. Although he had been a rather good boy, giving her space and never pressuring her, at times when he had just awoken he could be at his most forward and mischievous.[+royalblue “You know I love you and only you.”] He spoke between his teasing kisses.[+royalblue “Remember when I took that arrow for you?”] Oh he would never let that die, regardless of what came after.
The woman tensed at his voice. He was not supposed to be awake. She thought she stared at him long enough to tell, but now she was not certain and the mortification began to set in. Her face was heating up something fierce at being caught doing something so childish. Well, until he groggily mentioned Ool… was he still asleep? And was he dreaming about Cam? Even when that wolf was not around she was still the bane of the woman’s existence. More than a little peeved at the idea that he was probably dreaming of that mutt while lying next to her, Florence resisted the urge to push him right off the bed. It was not an easy impulse to put to bed, but seeing as it really was not his fault, or Cam’s technically, she let it slide for now.
With that rollercoaster of emotions coming to an end, the woman was just about fully awake. It was terrible. She was forced to sit there with her thoughts until her tiredness finally caught back up to her and she was rewarded with the sweet escape of unconsciousness. Thankfully it was a dreamless sleep, and one that lasted till morning when she was stirred by Nicolai pulling her closer. That was the tell tale sign that he was awake for the morning. He had made a habit of doing his damnedest to keep her in this bed with him. Most mornings she managed to resist him and start her day in a timely manner, but this would not be one of them. She was much too tired for that.
[+mediumseagreen “You are the worst, you know that?”] Her grogginess showed strongly in her voice, betraying that she had not slept well. [+mediumseagreen “I would much appreciate it if you learned to not speak of other women while holding onto me.”] Her tone was not serious, even with the gravel of sleep still clinging to her words. She was just giving him a hard time like he had done to her, though it was incredibly unfair considering he had little control over what he would say in his sleep and she was making it out to be far worse than it really was. [+mediumseagreen “Sleep talk or not, it breaks a woman’s heart.”] Florence did her best to feign distress.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat It was quite a peaceful day from there on out. He got to walk with his partner, though given their attire for the meeting was fairly formal, it wasn't exactly a leisurely stroll. He was sure he'd find sand in his boots for years to come. When they returned to the estate up top, half the day was already gone and so the few hours of work left – albeit arduous and tiring – was not as bad as it could have been. Everyone seemed in better spirits, though he made sure to apologise to them at the dinner table for any hardships it may have caused. Most took in in stride, though as he helped to clear the table Töka had come back to strike him in his arm with such force he was sure it would leave a deep bruise for days to come. At least it was out of the way.
Heading up he shepherded Florence into his room, muttering to her something along the lines of [i [+royalblue 'quickly, before she puts a curse on you']], their muffled laughs cut off by the closing door. Changed and into the bed they took a little time to just lay there with one another though when she did roll onto her side, clutching his arm to her so that he rolled with her, he placed several teasing kisses at the nape of her neck and along her bared shoulder. Denied anything more he had to settle with pressing firmly against her back and brushing his fingers over her stomach idly before drifting off.
Her movement during the night was rather minimal, though she had slipped a little from him and his hold of her had weakened so she moved with ease. The lack of warmth was slowly becoming more noticeable and he frowned a touch, though on hearing her words his face visibly softened. By the second utterance of those light words, his hand that had rested beneath her squeezed her side appreciatively.[+royalblue “Mm… I love you too...”] It was said dreamily, light and soft, a little muffled.[+royalblue “Just… don't tell Ool… jealous you like me more...”] Again his words came sluggish and muttered, the dreaming man let out a deep sigh as he drifted between deep sleep and light consciousness.
Somehow they easily fell back into a lighthearted and playful banter. Even just a few months earlier she would not have believe it possible for them. Surely they should be yelling at one another by now? But they were not and she was ever so glad for it. This was much nicer and it made her happy. Especially when he made mention of not leaving her again, Florence liked that most of all.
[+mediumseagreen “And risk bringing her wrath upon myself? You wish.”] It was an immature response to what kind of came across as him asking that she put in a little more effort for him, but given the current atmosphere she thought it was fine. They just finished up a serious conversation and now all she wanted was something light and easy. And so the pair continued on that way, taking their time on their stroll. Neither was in a hurry to get back to the house, but when they did it was much as Florence had predicted. The hold farmwoman had a whole slew of things for both of them to do. There was some catching up to do after taking most the morning on the meeting with Davos.
All that work only made the peace of the afternoon sweeter. Dinner and the time spent winding down afterward was no different than normal, but after all the stress of worrying over their missing friend everyone felt a little bit better than they had in a couple of days. And when time for sleep came around even though Töka had relinquished her hold on Florence’s ‘official’ room she once again found her way to the master suit. The old-fashioned old woman still met them with a disapproving stare, but it seemed as though she was giving up fighting them on the matter, at least for the time being. No doubt she would gain another burst of energy at some point and renew her attempts to keep them adhering to the word of the Lord.
With things just about back to normal for them, the distance between them only half maintained the night before was nonexistent now. The couple cuddled normally before falling fast to sleep. Well mostly. It was an oddity for Florence, but she woke in the middle of the night. Moving to adjust herself to return to comfort she wound up facing the elf beside her. Thankfully it did not seem that she had disturbed him, but still she watched him for some time. The way his hair fell into his face when left to its own devices, the soft way his chest rose and fell as he breathed, and the tranquil expression that he seldom wore when he was awake. She took in all these things and more as she laid there next to him in the darkness with her thoughts of the past several days and even weeks.
Taking in a slow breath, she eventually spoke. [+mediumseagreen “I love you.”] The words were soft, impossibly so, and tinged with uncertainty. It was as though she was testing what it was like to say it aloud and whether or not it was really true. After a short moment’s reflection she nodded silently to herself and then repeated the confession. [+mediumseagreen “I love you.”] The second time was just as quiet, but the hesitation was gone. Florence had her answer.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Though he knew he was not off the hook entirely, Nicolai agreed that it was good to speak about this openly. Letting things fester had never worked out well for the duo. It showed a lot of growth in them that Florence could approach him about this so quickly and openly, and that Nicolai would back down and accept he was at fault. Perhaps these two socially deficient children were beginning to learn, beginning to mature. Wishful thinking really.
Her kiss was warmly received and returned, his arms unfolding to take a hold of her hips and pull her close. Even in the warmth of the sun she was that little bit warmer and he looked at her with a light smile.[+royalblue “I think I'm done with being Action Man. I did my little part. Unless Augustine orders me to, I don't imagine any case where I'll leave you again.”] Although she wanted to continue the walk, he held onto her for just a little longer, pulling her into a light embrace.[+royalblue “If you're so eager to be stuck with me, then stuck with me you shall be.”]
His humoured tone shone true as he pulled back from her, a smile on his lips as he pressed them briefly to her forehead before his hands slid free. One hand took a hold of hers and the smile persisted as he turned to the beach and began walking.[+royalblue “You know there will come a time where you will have to rest control of me away from Helga. If I am your man, perhaps you could make that evident to her.”] Now he was just poking fun at her expense, though it was an attempt to put distance from his transgression and perhaps find some peace away from the demands of that stern if little work master.
It was painful to hear that he still thought she did not care. And truly, she knew that was not what he was trying to say, but Florence could not help but think it was true. That felt like another conversation though and she was still very planted in this one. This was where she would invest her energy for the time being. [+mediumseagreen “I know, and you did help.”] Her voice was soft as she admitted the ends of his carelessness did bring them boon. Bringing Davos here and enlisting his aid was going to put them in a much better place, so she understood his sentiment. [+mediumseagreen “I just hope you can see my side of things and might use a bit more caution in the future. Or at the very least just tell me what is going on... please.”] Now that she felt like he knew how much grief it caused her to be left in the dark there was a chance things could improve.
With that she bridged the few steps between them. [+mediumseagreen “It was never my intention to hold a grudge over this.”] A rather round about way of saying he was forgiven. [+mediumseagreen “I just thought it was important we talk about it and clear the air. I do not want to dwell on it. You came home safe and that is what matters most.”] Finally she smiled. It was a subtle, but warm expression. The relief she felt at his return still resided in her, she could not help that it slipped out in this way. Nor in how she kissed him shortly after that. It was a longer affair. Not indulgently so, but more than a peck on the lips as she had done the night before. This was more to make up for lost time. That and her next comment, [+mediumseagreen “Now if you do not mind, I would like to continue our walk before Helga finds us and steals you away.”] No doubt the little old woman had plans to force him back into labor as punishment for disappearing.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat That last point was the one he was dreading because it was the one he had been most concerned by before he left. This whole thing was quite a selfish act for him, even if he had reasoned that it was warranted and needed. He had done it to make himself feel better, to go out and be useful when he felt he was stagnant. He had had to separate himself from all of them in an emotional level to do something on a practical level; it wasn't worth it in the end so it seemed.[+royalblue “I'm sorry Florence.”] It was heartfelt and true and if he were anyone else, that would be it.
But Nicolai always had more to say. It was quickly becoming a problematic trait of his.[+royalblue “I didn't think you were so invested in us, in me. I thought you were still trying to find your feelings and how you felt.”] He folded his arms across his chest as they felt rather awkward just hanging at his sides.[+royalblue “And it's not a case of whether I value myself or not, we've been over that. If I truly didn't care whether I lived or died I would go to the Capital, find a way in, and kill Vincent without concern for escaping.”] It wasn't that simple, of course, but it was just a means of expressing that he did hold some value in life. However, a lot of it was placed with her as his sole reason, not that saying such would help right now.
[+royalblue “I just wanted to help, and didn't realise I meant that much to you. I'm sorry.”] After so many years of little more than fleeting talks, followed by such a long parting, and adding in how Elizabeth had turned against him, perhaps he could be forgiven for not knowing how any woman truly thought about him – let alone how Florence, Queen of Masks, felt about him.
She understood the sentiment of wanting to avoid one’s problems and let their happiness persist, but Florence thought it a disservice to both of them to let this go by the wayside. If it remained pent up this way it would eventually come to fester. Then there would be resentment, and even now as the wound was quite fresh that was the last thing she wanted.
[+mediumseagreen “I think not saying goodbye is much worse.”] This was wholly her opinion, as in her experience that was how it was. But it did not seem so for Nicolai. In his mind a goodbye preceded estrangement. [+mediumseagreen “It is not stupid; you are not stupid. Any goodbye could be the last, but I do not want that to stop us from saying it, from having one more moment together, from holding one another one more time.”] What would happen would happen regardless, so for her that final moment shared was important, vitally so.
And whether he saw it or not the worry was there. The mystery surrounding his disappearance only fed those emotions, making them worse, however Florence did not mention it. This conversation was not meant to guilt him. It was more to air feelings. It seemed he was using it as such as well. [+mediumseagreen “You are right, I would have made you take someone with you. If only to selfishly sooth my own nerves... It just hurts, because it feels as though you do not value yourself. You did not want to lose anyone else, but what if I did not want to lose you?”] She cared about him an awful lot; he was important to her. Just how much so she was still working out herself, though these last several days had given her a lot to think about.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat He did know this conversation was coming, but given how well they had been doing of late he hated to think of how upset he had made her. His nerves stemmed from not wanting to see the disappointment in her eyes though that is exactly what he saw. It was almost a blessing that she looked away to the ocean once more.[+royalblue “I guess in a way I was hoping we would avoid this talk. That maybe if I just focused your mind elsewhere we could skirt past it.”] It was an off hand remark, one accompanied by his gaze dropping to the sands below. It seemed he was not so lucky as to escape this discussion.
Looking back up at her he went on, even as she kept looking out to the waters.[+royalblue “I did it that way because I knew you would not let me leave otherwise. That you would force me to take you, or Töka, or just stay entirely. I felt that, after so many weeks of hearing how the masses were content with Vincent, we needed a win. We needed something to give us a little hope that this wasn't as difficult as we were being shown.”] It was a good excuse, yes, but it wasn't the entire truth. Nicolai hated honest truths. Often they were more difficult than giving a lie, which just made the situation all the more difficult to him. Yet he relented with a soft sigh, denoting that he wasn't quite done just yet.[+royalblue “I didn't want to risk anyone else, in case it all went wrong. I had to go regardless of whether you agreed or not, and I knew you would disagree with me going alone, and I didn't want to see the worry in your eyes.”]
Swallowing a lump in his throat, born more from discomfort than any overt sadness, he went on.[+royalblue “I just… I didn't want to say goodbye, not to you. As stupid as everyone says it is, I love you Florence, and the thought of saying goodbye to you – even if only for a few days – it scares me, because the last time I said goodbye I didn't see you for so long.”] Again he stared down at the ground, though it was better than walking a few steps away.[+royalblue “I know, it's stupid to think such a way, but when was I ever rational?”] A small barb at himself, but rather true.
The water really was beautiful. She looked out to it the entirely of their walk to the beach. The quiet persisted as she did so, at least until the elf spoke up and broke the silence. He mentioned mundane things, but he was correct. It was a lovely day. One of those perfect autumn ones where the sun was out to warm everything below and there was just enough nip in the air to remind you that the weather really was changing. [+mediumseagreen “Tempting, though I imagine the water is a bit too cold for that and I am not one for boat rides.”] Her tendency toward seasickness stopped her from enjoying what most probably saw as a fun pastime.
Her gaze eventually tore away from the water and came back to meet his violet one. Nicolai seemed nervous. [+mediumseagreen “I do not know why you are so on edge, I said last night that we would talk and that I expected some answers from you.”] Perhaps the man took their sit down with the lord to be his excuse for what had happened, but that was less what she was looking for in speaking with him here. [+mediumseagreen “I now understand what you set out to accomplish by leaving and Flora relayed that you left without goodbyes because you wished to avoid opposition, but still…”] the woman was clearly unhappy about it, even if she understood. [+mediumseagreen “To be left with nothing more than an apology if you do not return is too much, Nicolai.”] Her sadness stained her voice and her emerald eyes released him of their hold, returning to their place out on the ocean instead.
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