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Old April 15, 2017, 04:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Rose You Cannot Go Abroad Without Coming Home A Changed Person [Dante]

TS: End of Ponitus Era XXIV

Six years. It was hard to believe it had been that long, and yet it was also such a short time for as much to have happened as had. As Niven made her way from the Demios docks in the wee candlemarks of the morning back to the home she shared with her fiancÚ and his family, she tried to keep the tears welling up in her soft granny-smith green eyes and spilling over and down her pale cheeks. Questions of what-if only added weight to the cascading waves of regret she felt about what her family. She couldn't change what they had done, but she was responsible for her choices and the path they had lead her down.

As Niven passed a bench, she moved towards it and sat, her bag slipped from her slender shoulder and dropped onto the bench beside her. She buried her face in her hands for a few moments and then brought her hands into a prayer-like form covering her mouth. Maybe if she just sat and took the time to mentally go over the past few years events, things would make more sense...

It had always been a long shot that they would accept Dante. Elves were notoriously xenophobic. Niven knew she was rare when it came to that. She'd hoped that for her sake they would have been more accepting, but that was not the case. They'd been rude and hostile when Dante had formally asked for her hand and Niven had never been more ashamed of and humiliated by them. The row she'd had with her mother, her aunt, and her uncle had been a doozie. If things between her and her mom had been strained before.... "That's the first regret," Niven thought, miserably. She'd said such horrible things to them in her anger. She'd let her usually docile temper flair and get so out of control. And then stormed out. Livid at her family's disdain for her happiness, they'd left almost immediately.

It had been stressful keeping a low profile and being constantly on the move, staying nowhere for more than a handful of cycles at a time. With the persecution of dracon's nowhere was safe for dear Nelly, nevermind Dante. But Dante could shape shift, something their sweet daughter could not, and even he'd had to choose something new for fear he'd be recognized. It was mentally and physically exhausting to keep moving all the time, constantly looking over their shoulder when out in public, and it took its toll on all of them. But at the same time it had brought the family closer together. Niven gave a small smile at that. She did love their family, very deeply. She was so grateful for the brightening she'd met Dante. She'd had no idea at that time that he would end up being the love of her life and that one day she'd be introduced to his brimming brood of adopted children, each of whom she would come to love with every fibre of her being.

Then the Xet attacked. The brightening the news reached them that Silrosia had been destroyed was one that would forever be etched in her mind. Those moments were so vivid they could have happened only the brightening before. A cold feeling flooded her veins, even amidst the already bitter chill in the air, as she relived the memory. All the blood had drained from her already pale skin. She could hear nothing but the loud beating of her heart pounding in her ears. And then it all went black.

As soon as word reached her about Sancta Nova, it was an easy decision for them to head there. If anyone from Niven's family was alive, they'd be headed there. Dante and the kids waited with her for a few cycles until it didn't make sense anymore and the prejudice had gotten ridiculous, and they headed here, to their house in Demios. But she hadn't been ready to give up yet.

For the first few months, every few candlemarks a few refugees would straggle in. Then every few cycles. Then once or twice a month. Niven had hoped against hope that just one family member had survived. When it had been six months since the last refugee has arrived, it was clear no one had made it. And by now it had been a more than a full era since she'd seen Dante and the kids. They wrote to each other, yes. But it wasn't the same. And her letters were shorter and shorter as she lost more and more of her hope. "But was it really hope? Or just an extension of my guilt and my selfish need to not have that truly be the last things I said to them?" she asked herself. At last that was the moment the tears started to fall. Niven pulled her knees into her chest and wrapped her forest green cloak around her as she sobbed into her skirts.

Signs of life were beginning to appear in the town and Niven wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. She should get home. No one was expecting her so no one would worry, but the chill in the air was starting to seep through her warm woollen cloak and she was exhausted from crying.

Sighing, Niven pulled her slight elven form from the bench. Reaching for her bag, she dragged it off the bench, and after slinging it back over her shoulder, made her way down the familiar streets home.

Upon reaching the house, she stopped for a moment and just stared up at it. She gave a week smile and walked round the back to the kitchen door and there was a much better chance it was unlocked. She was less likely to wake anyone that way. Her intention was to simply silently make her way up the stairs and close herself into her room and sleep and greet the family later. Whether she succeeded or not would depend on if someone was already up.
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Old April 15, 2017, 07:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The brightening was a cold one. Dante was tempted to sleep in, but he'd let that feeling take him before. That feeling kept him from enjoying life, from enjoying the time he was able to spend with his children. That feeling was constantly trying to bring him down and he wasn't having it. Not again. He couldn't afford to break down with 7 children to take care of. So with a stretch and a grumble he rolled out of bed.

"First things first," Dante thought to himself. He made his bed. Good advice from a loyal friend. No matter what the world throws at you that you could control. Once done he noticed the earliness of the hour. It must have been the nightmares that had awakened him. He still said his morning prayers, but it was more to the universe now rather than a specific deity. He didn't know which deity had taken over Diana's responsibilities, so he prayed simply that he and his family would be protected and mercy would be shown to them and all dracon kind that they could come out of hiding again.

The dracon in human seeming shook his head at the frustration of not getting a good nights sleep and headed for the kitchen area. The kids were asleep still, as was their bodyguard/nanny Kala. Dante was adept at sneaking around and so he was able to slip past all their rooms without disturbing anyone. Once downstairs he headed to the larder and grabbed a shank of bacon from where it was being kept cold. He sliced it into strips and then lit the fire in the stove. The warmth wasn't enough to fill the kitchen yet, the brightening was too cold, but it warmed the area immediately around it making Dante much more comfortable.

As the fire warmed up, Dante went to check the doors and windows. All the hatches were battened down, just like he knew they would be, because he'd checked them the night before. These were the times they lived in and Dante couldn't risk another dracon hater trying to hurt his family. Thanks to Niven's absence he'd gone into overprotective mode, mostly because if he couldn't keep her safe he certainly wasn't going to fail his children.

By the time he was done the stove was warm enough to cook on and he set to work cracking eggs and laying out strips of bacon. The aroma filled his nostrils and made him salivate. The sizzling sound was too quiet to waken anyone, but he was sure the smell would have some of the children up soon.
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Old April 15, 2017, 08:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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As Niven approached the side of house, she thought she saw a flicker of light. This could only mean one thing: someone was awake. Inhaling sharply as this was not her ideal way to return, she steeled herself against whatever was going to transpire. She would not fall apart. No, she was determined not to fall apart. As much as she was looking forward to seeing everyone, she wanted to be feeling not quite so tired and emotionally drained.

Taking another deep breath, Niven stealthily peaked in the window. She saw no one. Perhaps the gods were smiling on her after all! Her relief vanished the moment she tried the door. Locked.

Niven closed her eyes. "Feth!" She cursed to herself, but she really wasn't surprised. It made perfect sense that Dante would have kept the house locked up tight. It was simply responsible.

Dante's form moved into the kitchen and Niven quickly moved out of sight. She silently watched as he moved around the kitchen getting rosuyn ready. Even in her current emotional state, a tired smile moved on her lips and she felt a rush of love wash over her as she as she watched her fiancÚ. It didn't hurt that his new human seeming was very easy on the eyes. It saddened her that it had been necessary, but this cloud had a definite silver lining.

Her smiled faded as the tiredness he was clearly feeling was evident on his face and in his movements. It broke her heart a little to see him like this. The years had not been kind to him. And yet, he continued to work and fight for his family. Something that she so very deeply loved about him.

Wanting nothing more to see a smile on his face and to bring him a little happiness this brightening, she moved to the door and knocked softly.
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Old April 16, 2017, 12:45 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Dante's hand immediately went for one of the daggers concealed on his person when he heard the soft knock at the door. Slowly, deliberately, he made his way to the door while tuning his senses to listen for anything else that might indicate this was a distraction and that someone or something else was coming from another direction. He wasn't expecting anyone and it was way too early for a visitor from town.

Trying to look calm, the dracon opened the door. What the dracon saw was the last thing he expected, but what he'd been hoping for for what felt like eternity. The normally stoic dracon saw the most beautiful sight in all of Telath, there; right there on his kitchen porch. His throat closed up and his mouth turned dry. His eye's widened in disbelief and then started to water. It could have been sand. The house was close to the beach. His hand dropped from the hilt of the dagger behind his back and hung limply at his side for what felt like eternity although it was just a moment.

Those beautiful eyes, green like creamy jade, looking at him. The curve of her jaw, the height of her cheek bones, the nape of her neck, the shade of her lips. It was her. Niven, his Niven. Right there. He was afraid to touch her, scared that he was still asleep and that this would just turn out to be a dream.

Unable to hold himself back any longer he lunged forward embracing her in a hug, confirming that she was in fact real. His voice finally returned to him, but only long enough to get out one word, "Niven." It came out as a sigh of relief. Once he realized that he was holding her out in the cold, he allowed himself to pull back from the embrace enough to get another look at her, although he didn't let go of her entirely, but enough that the two of them could get back in the house and get the door closed.

With a smile he leaned in and kissed her, gently like trying to catch the dew on a flower petal. He breathed in the smell of her, enjoyed the feel of her lips on his as he let his hands gently caress the sides of her face and hold her in the embrace, assuming she let him.

When the kiss ended, much to soon for Dante's liking, he stepped back, still holding her at arms length and got another look at her. She was tired, obviously. Dante chastised himself for not thinking of that sooner. She probably wanted nothing so much as to change into some pjs and get into bed. He also noted she'd been crying and his heart broke. He didn't know why she'd been crying, but he wanted nothing more than to make all her pain go away. Hugging her again he finally said the words he should have said when he first saw her, "By the Gods I've missed you. I love you so much. Why have you been crying beautiful?"
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Old April 16, 2017, 01:27 AM   #5 (permalink)
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The surprise on his face illicited a tired smile from the Sylrosian. His eyes started to water, her expression morphed to one of sympathy and she started to tear up herself.

As he engulfed her in his arms and held her close, she closed her tired green eyes. He breathed her name and she barely heard it over his pounding heartbeat. Niven took in everything he gave her. His love, his scent, his warmth... it was all him and she knew, no matter where they were, this, right here, in his arms, was where she belonged. She was finally home.

He pulled her into the warmth of the kitchen and then released her from his embrace, but not from his grip. His disbelief was understandable. It had been a long time and she'd sent no word of her return. When he pulled her back in and kissed her, she felt her resolve melt completely away and tears slipped silently from beneath her closed eyelids, making new little wet trails down her already tear-stained cheeks as she pressed her lips softly back into his.

When their lips finally parted and he held her at arms length studying her, she gazed upon him with a mix of exhaustion and relief. She sighed with happiness when he pulled her in again. She just didn't have the energy or ability to speak yet. At his declaration and his question she couldn't hold herself together. It was just too much. The emotional dam inside her broke and her legs gave away under her and she fell
to the floor, unless she was caught and supported in Dante's arms, and started to weep anew.

"They're really gone," she finally managed between heavy sobs, as her grief, now complete, consumed her. She realized now, that as much as she may had pretended otherwise over the past era, she desperately had been needing him. And now that she was in his arms again, she was safe to relinquish the strength she'd been so heavily leaning on though it was in short supply, and was able to lean on him. She just hoped he had enough for both of them as hers was entirely spent.
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Old April 16, 2017, 04:05 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Fortunately Dante was still holding her when she collapsed. With worry creasing his face, but love in his eyes and with the strength of a man who not only worked for a living, but trained himself every brightening for combat; Dante swept Niven up in his arms, literally carrying her bridal style as she wept onto his chest. Tears weld up in his eyes again, seeing the agony that his beautiful, sweet, courageous, wonderful fiance had endured alone for the past era.

"I'm sorry my love," was all he could think to say. He'd had no doubts about Niven's family's fate after hearing about Sylrosia. Especially with as long as she had been waiting. He tried to be supportive, but something inside said they hadn't made it. He said nothing more. She was exhausted, both physically and emotionally.

He quietly carried her upstairs to her room making sure not to awaken the children. He managed to carefully open her door then quietly carry her inside. Closing the door behind him, Dante carried Niven to her bed and sat down with her on his lap, just letting her weep while letting her feel his warmth and hopefully being comforted by his presence. He rocked back and forth gently while humming one of the lullabies he remembered his mother singing to him when he was little. He didn't rush or tense, just bunkered down to be there for as long as his love needed him, which he hoped was for awhile.

He sent out the call, testing to see if Kala was awake yet. "Kala?"

She sleepily replied, "Sir?"

"I've got some food cooking on the stove, but was..." he didn't want everyone making a fuss over Niven's return until she'd had a chance to compose herself and freshen up from the road "...unexpectedly detained. Will you please see that it doesn't burn the house down?"

"Of course," she replied sleepily. Almost immediately Dante heard her door close and the sound of Kala's footsteps headed down the stairs toward the kitchen.
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Old April 16, 2017, 04:41 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Without the will or strength to make any movement to the contrary, Niven allowed herself to be swept up in her FiancÚ's arms. As he carried her up through the house, the only movement she made was to bury her tear soaked face in his chest and put a death grip on the front of his shirt.

Juno, who'd stayed with the family in her absence, heard the unmistakable sounds of his mistress in distress, was hot on Dante's heels as he carried her to her bedchamber.

Rearranging slightly as Dante sat on the bed with her on his lap, she continued to sob into his chest, soaking his shirt, as he rocked her back and forth in an effort to soothe her. The soft melody he sang could barely be heard over her sobs and so she didn't notice. Juno, concerned, laid at Dante's feet, wanting to be of assistance, but not knowing how.

At length, the combination of the rocking and Dante's steady and strong heartbeat did ultimately soothe the broken elf, but not until after a good candlemark. Eventually her sobs softened into small hiccups of breath and her grip on his shirt loosened. Feeling safe and secure and completely exhausted from her journey and emotional release, Niven fell asleep on Dante's chest.
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Old April 16, 2017, 05:20 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Dante was patient. He had stalked targets many times and if you rushed your target escaped, only this time his target was a whole, happy Niven making the effort extremely more important. He simply waited the whole candlemark, letting her cry. Sweet Juno, the good dog that he was, waited patiently at their feet looking as concerned as Dante felt.

After about a candlemark Dante realized she was asleep, partially from the end of the hiccuping sobs, but also because her breathing became much more steady and she grew slightly more limp in his arms. Not wanting to wake her he shifted himself while carrying her up onto the bed and lay back. He held her close with his left arm and propped his head up with his right forearm up and behind his neck. With that he just let her sleep on his chest while he thought about how happy he was to have her back, how worried he had been about her, but how even more worried he was seeing her like this.

The dracon had many, many moments of grief in his life that he could pull from to empathize with her, including the loss of his own parents, so he knew that nothing he said right now about her family would really help. He remembered clearly the only time he'd ever met them and how they'd torn into him and his children, especially Nelly and the triplets. He was able to maintain his temper by a thread because they were Niven's family. They were important to her, but when they finally crossed the line and Dante was about to lay into them, Niven did it for him. Even in her anger he could see the love she had for him and his children, so he let her handle it.

Dante knew she could handle herself so he didn't need to step in, but not only that the kids saw how much she cared about them. Niven's rage at her Mother, Aunt and Uncle helped heal whatever gap had been between her and MJ as well as cementing her as 'Mom' in the eyes of the other children. For a short while the family felt complete, until the news of Sylrosia came.

They went with her went she left to look for them. They stayed with her for as long as they could before the prejudice and hostility drove them away. She decided to stay. He wasn't sure he understood why until he was without Niven. For her he would have waited for eternity, if not for his children he never would have left her side in the first place. As it happened he still waited for her, just to come home back to him when she was ready, rather than give up that she'd never return.

Eventually her soft breathing, assuming she didn't wake up already, lulled him to sleep as well. His mental and emotional dam finally had release. He hadn't realized how exhausting it was holding it together for others. Now that Niven was safe Dante finally felt like he could get a good night's sleep.
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Old April 16, 2017, 06:49 PM   #9 (permalink)
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The warmth and strength of Dante's body made a very comfortable sleeping space and for the first time in ages, Niven experienced a dreamless sleep. For the past eras since she's heard of the attack on her home soil she'd had the same darkeningmare darkening after darkening.

First, she relived the argument with her mother, aunt, and uncle. She heard the words of anger and hurt that spewed from her lips, the horrible things she'd called them, the damage she'd intentionally inflicted on their feelings. She remembered the looks of hurt in their eyes. At the time, Niven didn't care. As far as she was concerned, what their behaviour was so far over the line the line was a blip on the horizon.

The scene faded into a dark billowing black fog. Watching the entire scene helplessly she saw their fear, their attempts to run, and she saw them one by one become engulfed by the fog. It was at this point she woke drenched in sweat unable to catch her breath.

This brightening though, she slept in peace as Dante held her close.

When she finally stirred candlemarks later, she found herself in her own bedchamber with her head and left arm on Dante's chest and shed body comfortably nestled into his. Juno curled up on the bed in the curve of her legs. If she hadn't appreciated the comfort of her canine so much, she would have kicked him off her bed. She hoped Dante wouldn't mind Juno's cheekiness with the sentiment behind it.

The next thing she noticed was that she felt rested and she couldn't remember the last time she felt that way. A smile forming on her pale pink lips she realized the likely reason for that. Moving her head only slightly, she watched the human form of the dracon she loved sleep. Her creamy jade eyes took in the soft peace that was on his sleeping face as she watched him slowly breathe in and out, her head and arm moving up and down with the soft rise and fall of his strong chest. His shirt was still slightly damp with her tears and it was badly creased where she had gripped it tightly in her fist. Gently she raised her left hand from his chest and moved to smooth it out. It made no real difference, so she abandoned her effort and instead moved her hand from his chest and reached up to gently trace the features on the right side of this seeming's face with her slender fingers. A small lock of hair had fallen in his face and she gently brushed it aside as she traced his brow and moved down his cheek to his jaw.

The handsomeness of this new seeming was striking as far as human's went. But a human had been the best choice for a new seeming that would be unrecognizable to anyone looking for them. Elves were so precise in their movements and practices that they were much harder to keep up with as a seeming, though Dante had done well in his elf seemings. A human offered him more freedom to be more like himself with only the slightest of chances that someone would notice it was only a facade. Plus, as a human it was much easier to fly under the radar. All in all, Niven appreciated not only the seeming, but that Dante was so willing to don it even though it didn't have wings.

Raising herself up, she planted a soft kiss on his soft lips. She hated to wake him from his peaceful state, if that was the consequence, but she simply could not help herself.
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Old April 16, 2017, 07:26 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Dante still was a relatively light sleeper. He felt Niven stir, but pretended to sleep in case she wanted to go back to sleep herself. As she knew, he could mimic other races mannerisms pretty well, pretending to sleep was nothing. The tracing of his features almost got him to smile, it certainly made him happy on the inside. Of course the kiss ended the charade, but he felt that was the point of it.

His eyes opened slowly looking into the beautiful face of his love. Her eyes at the moment reminded him of the tall grass he'd seen in a mountain meadow one brightening long ago. They made him feel peace, she made him feel peace, just from her sheer presence. Smiling at her with unfeigned emotion he whispered, "I was afraid I'd wake up and you'd just be a dream." Still supporting his head with his right arm, that had started to tingle from poor circulation, he used his left to run fingers through her hair, being careful to not get them tangled. "I love you Niven Soliel. Welcome home," he said quietly.

He noticed Juno had joined them and only grinned at it. He was a good dog and Dante wouldn't keep him fro his mistress. That dog had kept him company on more darkenings while Niven was gone than he could count. He had been truly grateful for Juno's company, especially when Dante was missing Niven an extra large amount.

Still with his hand in her hair, he pulled her close again and kissed her gently. Breathing in the smell of her caused his heart to race, his pulse to quicken. Feeling her lips on his, after so long, made it race even more so. He didn't want it to stop lest she slip through his fingers and be gone again.

Dante only assumed she was hungry, but he wasn't about to rush this closeness, the personal togetherness that he'd been craving since the brightening they'd been forced to separate. He wanted to just enjoy being with her, just them two. "I'm glad you're back," still speaking quietly the dracon didn't want this moment to end.
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Old April 16, 2017, 08:27 PM   #11 (permalink)
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As the sea blue eyes of his seeming fluttered open and gazed in hers, Niven smiled lovingly at him. "No, I'm really here. I promise," she replied, knowing exactly what he felt. It seemed almost surreal that she was here again. It felt like forever ago they'd left as a family for what was left of Arakmat.

She smiled and closed her eyes, her expression one of pleasure, as he ran his fingers through her hair, an intimate gesture that reminded her of how well he knew her and how much he loved her. She opened them as he told her he loved her for the second time this brightening and smiled.

As he pulled her to him again, she melted into the kiss allowing all her love for him to pour into it and all of his love to wash over her and start filling the cracks of her broken soul, mending them. She'd forgotten the taste of him and she drank of his lips deeply. The pounding of her heart aligned with his, just one more piece of evidence to prove she was back where she belonged.

"I'm so happy to be here. I regret staying away so long now that I am here," she breathed, sighing and nestling into him again. She allowed herself to enjoy his closeness for a few moment before a thought dawned on her and she bolted up sharply, pushing her hand against his chest as she raised herself from her place beside him. "By the gods, the Rosyun you were cooking! It must be burnt to a crisp by now and hopefully not destroying the kitchen!"

Unless stopped, she kicked Juno, who grunted indignantly at the sudden shift in his sleeping arrangement, off the bed as she moved for the door.
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Old April 16, 2017, 09:04 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Dante smiled as she kissed him back. Enjoying her and the fact that she was enjoying him. He finally wrestled his right arm free from behind his head and held her tight with it while letting his left caress the side of her face, holding her close.

When she tried to jump up, he quickly grabbed her arms and pulled her back down onto him. Holding her tight with one arm and laughing quietly, Dante gave Niven a mischievous grin, then pointed to the side of his head. "The call remember? Kala took care of it. It's been candlemarks my dear. I'm sure everyone else is out of the house. The children are probably at school."

He then bipped the tip of her nose affectionately, "Although that raises the question, are you hungry my love? I could go fix you something while you unpacked and things." He gently wiped some of the dirt away from her cheek where her tears had created little riverlets, "Then we can talk and catch up? There's much to discuss."

"Of course if you'd rather us just stay here I'm great with that too," he said happily a sincere smile on his face. He caressed her cheek again and waited for her to decide what she wanted to do.
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Old April 16, 2017, 09:43 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Pulled back to him, Niven's confusion was plain on her pretty features as Dante chuckled at her. "Oh," she said, shaking her head at her own short sightedness. "Right."

To be honest, Niven was a little relieved that she didn't have to face their children yet, as much as she'd missed them. She'd hoped to be a little more composed before she saw them again. "They must be so big now," Niven said, wistfully. In her determination to find her own family, she'd missed so much over the past eras of their one together. Guilt for being away so long rose within her. "Chalk up another regret," she thought. Giggling at herself as he tapped her nose, she brought herself out of her thoughts. Right now she'd focus on the present.

As if on cue, Niven's stomach gave a soft growl at the mention of food. It had been almost a full brightening since she'd eaten anything. She'd likely been hungry for candlemarks and just never noticed. Niven giggled again. "Guess that answers that! I think my bag must have been left downstairs...." The memory of the candle marks early had sadness clouding her eyes once more, but she blinked it away. She forced a smile. "I'll have to fetch it before I can change. And I would like to wash up a bit," she admitted. "I feel dirty, so I can only imagine what I look like!"

She looked into his face again and smiled softly at the man she hoped to one day finally marry. "I'll go down with you and fetch it as long as you don't mind putting something together for the two of us! I'm sure you're hungry too!"
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Old April 16, 2017, 10:06 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Dante watched her face so intently he was able to see when she was somewhere else, especially when it wasn't somewhere happy. Concern would flicker over his features before his smile would return again with hers. Relieved that she was hungry, mostly due to the fact that she looked malnourished, living for eras in a refugee camp can do that to a person; Dante was all to happy to let her stomach goad her into eating something.

"You could start washing up if you want. I could just bring your bag back up to you quick before I start on something for us to eat?" He queried. He didn't want her to be a spectacle, especially if the kids hadn't left the house and knowing that Nelly was definitely awake by now, the call would just confirm he was up and bring the curious draconess up to investigate what was going on. Especially if she pinpointed that he was in Niven's room.

Based on her answer he either offered his hand to walk with her, or he smiled winked at her and quietly headed out the door. Unless she accompanied him he'd head downstairs grab her bag and return it to her.
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Old April 16, 2017, 11:24 PM   #15 (permalink)
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At his offer, Niven placed her hand on her chest and gave him a grateful look. "What did I ever do to deserve you?" She asked, planting another kiss on his lips before she moved off to her wash basin and filled it with water. As Dante left, Juno followed, also hopeful his master would feed him.

Looking into the wash bowl, Niven finally got a look at her reflection for the first time in cycles. She'd been so busy and so distracted, she'd forgotten to worry about eating or her appearance. The reflection in the clear clean water made her eyes widen in surprise. Her cheeks were slightly sunken and so dirty that her tear stains on them were readily apparent. Her hair had lost some of its usual luster and was mildly stringy. She reached her fingers up to touch her own cheek to make sure what she was seeing was real. "Carmelya above! I actually look like this?! How did Dante even recognize me?!" She thought. The Niven in the wash basin reflected back her look of disbelief.

Shaking her head, Niven realized that she needed more than a simple washing. She needed a full bath. But that would have to wait for later. Right now she needed to make herself at least somewhat presentable. She twisted her long blonde hair and tossed it behind her to keep it out of the way while she washed her face. The cool crisp water felt good against her skin.

Once Dante returned with her belongings Niven stripped off her traveling dress. She grabbed the sponge and soap and gave herself a quick, yet refreshing sponge bath. As she moved her sponge over her body she realized her face wasn't the only place she'd lost weight. She could count each of her ribs. This alarmed her. How did she not notice this earlier?! Pulling out a clean shift she slipped it over her only slightly damp body and donned her wine coloured overdress. Grabbing her brush, she did her best to bring some life back to her hair. She didn't succeed as much as she'd like, so she simply plaited in into a braid and let it fall over her shoulder.

Sighing with resignation to her circumstance, she left her bedchamber and made her way downstairs. The smell of whatever was cooking smelled amazing and her stomach growled again.

When she found Dante, she commented, "I think I might take a bath later. It would feel so nice to wash properly again."
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