Oasis: Maeve's Vigil

The door opens before they reach it, their arrival having been observed from one of the windows of the tower. Inside, dim coolness is again a dramatic contrast to the brilliant warmth of the swaying bridge. The red-haired Rory is at the door, bowing to them as they pass. The chamber looks exactly as it had when last Margot had been here, with pairs of guards posted at the various doorways and the ensigns still hanging from the wall.

"Welcome back, m'lord, and to you as well, Princess." This may very well be the first time Margot had heard him speak. His voice is soft and several pitches lower than Kendall's, though nowhere near as deep as the white-haired servant's.

Kendall nods in acknowledgement as he passes, but does not pause in his progress through the reception chamber, escorting Margot through the chamber toward the door that led to the private areas of the tower. "Thank you," the Chaos Lord answers Rory's greeting as he walks. "I would like a bath drawn and a meal prepared for the princess, to be served in my chambers."

The door shuts behind them with a muted clunk. "Yes, m'lord. M'lady."

The further they travelled into Vigil, the wearier the princess became, likely due to the adrenaline dissipating now that they were in a place of safety. The aches and pains began to return, tightness in the muscles and joints. Overcome with emotions she could not put words to, she steps in front of Kendall to block his path. Tears spill as she shakes violently, wrapping her arms around his torso and hugging him tightly.

Kendall stops when Margot moves in front of him, blinking down at the young woman with some surprise. He had become so intent on their progress to the goal that he had lost track, somewhat, of the reason behind the sense of urgency. Arms come about her as she pulls him close. "Come, come, my sweet," he says, voice encouraging. "You have been strong thus far."

Strong. His words almost summon a snicker between sobs. She didn't feel strong. It was easy to be strong when she had to be. She wouldn't let any harm come to Kendall, but how could she possibly explain the relief she felt or that her word was her bond and she was prepared to - willing to - summon all within her will and conjure a fate that would not end well for the guards had they not been absent?

Without waiting for a response, he leans down, one arm moving behind her legs as he lifts her once again and cradles her against his chest. Her legs buckle under his arm so that he found no resistance in lifting her off the ground. With her head against his chest, she sobbed softly, taking consolation from the sound of his heart and the comfort of his arms.

A soft kiss against her temple, and he simply carries her up the short flight of stairs, through the door, and down the dim corridor that led to his private chambers. Another doorway, and the light against Margot's eyes is brighter now, sunlight beaming through the sheer curtains that hung over the doors to the balcony. Kendall carries her into the room, over to the bed, and bends over to lay her down on top of the heavy comforter.

"I'm filthy, Kendall, NO, please…" she protests, clinging to him. Staring into his eyes, she searched blue for what seemed an eternity. "I… I… " Fingers traced his brow to his temple, then along his cheek, eyes following her fingers. "I don't know … " Her brow knit together as her words refused to form. Fingers continued to ghost along his face, now, following the lower edge of his lip. "I am so relieved that you are safe." A sad smile formed, her lips pinched thin.

"For the nonce," he agrees, after a heartbeat's pause to take in the sense of her words, studying her face. "Safety is always a fleeting thing." Releasing her and pulling away to crouch at the side of the bed, he allows her to sit instead of lying down, so that she would not dirty up the coverlet.

She truly didn't know if she should be at ease or feel the fool; both fought for dominance in her mind and heart. His almost cavalier-meets-zen acceptance of it all confounded her. Was it so wrong to care for his well-being? To worry and fear that others would hold malice and vengeance and hatred for the one she loved? So many questions filled her mind, spinning in a dizzying dance.

He hesitates again, then stands up, leaving her on the edge of the bed to fetch a glass of water from the carafe on a nearby table. "More importantly, you are safe and intact, having survived your ordeal and an… unexpected detour," he says, returning to present her with the glass. "Drink up. Tis time for you to begin your recovery."

Margot accepted the glass with a small smile, sipping from it slowly. "And how do you propose we begin?" she asked with bemused curiosity.

He crouches down in front of her again as she sips, nimble fingers beginning to unlace her boots. "A bath," he answers, eyes and attention on his work. "It will rejuvenate your spirit, and you will no longer complain of being filthy. Followed by a solid meal, which you will eat without complaint, to revitalize your body. And then sleep will meld the two together." One boot slides from her foot, and he turns his attention to the other one.

"I only didn't wish to soil your bedding…" she countered, a little contrite. Margot watched and listened, her embarrassment fading away as he tended to her, being replaced with appreciation and fondness. Surely this was not a role he was accustomed to playing. Once more, her fingers touched his face, this time, tipping his chin so that she could see his eyes, "And what of you…? While I am being tended to and pampered and returned to some state of normalcy… what will occupy you?"

"I, too, have need of a toilette," he points out, lips curling into his usual faint smile. "And I shall join you while you eat, if that is agreeable to you." Even without looking, he finishes unlacing her other boot, sliding it off to leave both feet bare.

"Of course that is agreeable to me," she smiled, cupping his face in her other hand. Sometimes she was not certain if he was teasing her, or if he realized that his turn of phrase made it seem like he was, but it did not feel unkind which only made her smile more.

There is a knock at the door then, which opens to admit his manservant. "And already your bath awaits," Kendall observes, after a glance over his shoulder confirms who awaits at the door. He stands. "Rory will see to all your needs, Margot. Do not hesitate to ask for anything you might desire."

Taking Kendall's hand and assistance, Margot slides from the bed. The short time sitting had made her legs a little gelatinous, but not impossible to manage under her own strength. She glances to Rory, then up at Kendall, then to the manservant once more. Suddenly she blossoms such a fuchsia that one might think she had caught a fever. Eyes wide and mouth agape, she tries to speak, but nothing comes out. Instead her mouth just opens and closes. Opens and closes. Her lips move several times before she finds her voice, her head turning between the two men all the while. "You're…. you're …. you're not joining me?" she finally sputters out.

That sense of puzzlement takes hold of Kendall as he looks down at her, divining that although her question related to her reaction, it did not tell the whole story. He combs unruly strands of hair back from her face, looking down into her eyes. "I had not planned to," he answers. He also trades glances from Margot to Rory and back, still unclear as to the true nature of the issue. The servant, meanwhile, simply stands quietly with an expressionless face, watching his master and waiting for a decision to be made.

Oh, how mortified she was! Her head falls in shame; she would rather have been struck down by lightning at that very moment, rather than have to look into his eyes and have seen his confusion.

"Though as I said, I must also clean up after our adventures. Would you… prefer we bathe together?" he asks her.

"No…" she finally says softly, "You do not have to join me if that was not your choice." Trepidation wrapped in resigned determination lingers in her voice. "I… it's… just…"

She steals another furtive glance at the stoic servant, waiting so patiently while she fretted so skittishly. "I.. um… I have noted a lack of female servants during my visits here…" The delicacy of this whisper makes her feel even more the fool with Rory standing right there. "The only man I've ever bathed in front of … as a woman … is you."

"Ah," is Kendall's initial answer, enlightenment. A heartbeat's pause before Margot catches sight of a hand signal out of the corner of her eye. The tableau is broken, with Rory moving over to the wardrobe, and the Chaos Lord's hands come to rest on her shoulders.

"I forget how innocent you are, Margot," he speaks softly, looking at her downcast eyes. "I had thought you would prefer a solitary bath to recover from your ordeal, but it would appear I was incorrect. If you would prefer company, I will join you. You must merely say so."

As he speaks, the servant lays two robes on the bed and then withdraws, closing the door again with a click.

Margot heard the door click and released a breath clutched tightly in her chest. "I am sorry to be such a bother. I was just …" embarrassed, ashamed, shy, "I was just surprised at the offer, given that Rory is your man. I am able to bathe myself. It's not a new experience for me." One corner of her mouth tugged into a half-smile.

Slowly, downcast eyes turn upward. "I asked if you were joining me because I did not wish to disrobe before another man… at least not without you there. That may be something I have to … acclimate to," she explained gently. "Though, I will never turn away your companionship, wet or dry… I can also appreciate your need for routine and that routine includes Rory."

A smile appears then and she turns toward the robes lying on the bed, beginning to discard her tired, worn, dirt-laden clothing. "I don't think these are salvageable," she muttered as the she fumbled with the thong that held her blouse at a modest neckline.

"Likely not," Kendall agrees from behind her, leaving her to her undressing. "Though if they have value to you, an attempt could be made."

He makes short work of his own clothing, heaping his rumpled and dusty clothing on the bed along with hers. Boots are left on the floor near the pile of clothing, and he chooses one robe at random to pull on. Both are an identical dark blue. Either due to less complex clothing, or extreme skill at undressing, or Margot's weariness, he is appropriately garbed first, in spite of her head start and lack of boots. He picks up the second robe and holds it for her to step into, tying it securely at her waist. It is, like before, much too large and long for her, but also soft and warm and scented with cinnamon.

Snickering, she could not help but admire her appearance, with the cuffs hanging past her hips and the midnight blue pooling around her bare feet. She pulls the sleeves up enough to free her fingertips so she can unweave the plait which Kendall had secured for their climb, then shakes out her hair to cascade down and around her, making her look even more the scamp than before. Shoulders and neck roll trying to free some of the tightness with little success until with a sigh and a huff at her locks that fell in front of her eyes, she led him toward the door.

Kendall opens the door for her, ushering her into the hall, his arm encircling her waist as they walk together just a short distance down the dim corridor to the portal that opened into their destination. The bathing room itself, though recognizable to her, still appears quite different in the bright light of day streaming through the windows set near the ceiling. To Margot's eyes, it was as if Rory had wrestled the sun and bent it to his master's will to create a hidden cove of decadence. The door opens into a small semicircular undressing area of pale gold tile, with the marble bath set at the other end of the room within a raised platform and surrounded by mirrored walls. The water smells of cinnamon and citrus again, the soothing scents rising with the steam. Warm and soothing, the steam rose to greet them in ethereal wisps only to leave tiny beads to weep along the shimmering tiles.

Margot had hardly noticed Kendall's arms envelope her from behind, let alone unknot her robe or when he peeled the sumptuous fabric from her flesh. Her attention was drawn and fixed to the still, perfect surface of the pools and the dancing specters of steam rising from the watery depths. It was his silhouette stirring in her peripheral vision that drew her attention to where Kendall lay the robes near a brazier to keep them warm.

With all that had happened, all that had transpired, she could not help but admire his beauty in its most natural form. Were he wearing clothing, she would have been accused of removing it with her eyes; thankfully, he had spared her the trouble. Still, seeing the full of him was breath-taking and revealing; more of her … innocence … as Kendall so gently put it. It mattered not that he had bedded her in a night of continued passion; nor did it matter that she craved him continually and with nearly every breath she drew. To have him so close, present, REAL…

Turning back to her, Kendall takes her hand, smiling down into her eyes from scant inches away. "Are you steady enough for the stairs, my sweet? I would not wish for you to faint or slip and fall."

There was no point in attempting to hide the blush, nor the arousal that started to grow despite her exhaustion. A half-step closer and she rested her hand on his chest, leaning against him, "I must confess…" she spoke with a breathy whisper, completely mesmerized by his eyes. "I cannot be certain how sturdy I will be descending into the bath."

His smile fades into a serious expression, his eyes searching her face, and his arms come about her again. He bends, still holding her gaze, to lift her into his arms. "I suspect you are correct, Margot," he answers as he carries her up the stairs, a short two steps to the edge of the tub, and then down into the warm water as he had for their previous visit to this same chamber. He settles into the bath carefully, mindful of the hot water on her skin and giving her time to acclimate, settling her on his lap and watching to see how she would fare in the hot water. It was his estimation that she would find the soothing warmth draining away any semblance of nervous energy that might remain to her, but… he had been known to miscalculate before. It was possible that she had more than he thought.

Margot tensed only a moment at first kiss of water against her skin, but it did not take long for her body to become accustomed to the soothing comforts Kendall was easing her into. Both seated, with her on his lap, Margot breathed deeply and tried to release the stiffness and suffering that had worked itself into her muscles. Almost weightless, she rested her head upon his shoulder, the arm having slid down to stroke his lean side and back while her other arm slowly spooned handfuls of warmth over his other shoulder and watched it spill over his chest.

It wasn't that she was asleep so much as she was in a … meditative state. The rhythm of his breathing, the beating of his heart as it echoed deep within his chest; how each exhale spilled over her bare shoulder just peeking above the water's surface… the sound of the water's lazy licking against the sides of the pool and the distant sounds of the waves outside… all of these things when married with the soothing heat of the bath and the tender caress at her flank — which would have summoned a giggle were it not underwater — had done much to put the Princess in a state of contented peace.

"Let us take care of the bathing now, before you fall completely asleep, and then we shall proceed with the rest of your recovery as outlined," he suggests quietly, so his voice does not bounce from the walls very much. He shifts a little so that he can pick up a loofa and soap, rubbing them together to create suds. "With the addition of a massage after you eat."

His voice wasn't a painful discord, though her head did nuzzle against his chest and a purr did rumble from deep within, as one does when they wake from a particularly deep sleep. Margot stretched, back arching and dipping her completely underwater and rinsing back her hair and any pearls of sweat that had collected along her brow. The movement was not destructive or violent even in its relative swiftness; much like all that she did, it was with the feline fluidity that seemed inherent in each movement she made.

Hands slicked back long ebony locks and wiped the moisture from her eyes as she rose from the water. Once she was settled again, he begins to rub the loofa against her skin, rubbing off all the dirt and grime that had not naturally come loose in the warm water. His movements are gentle and thorough, without any of the sexual play he had indulged in the last time he bathed her.

Margot adjusted as he scrubbed; first offering him the arm that was closest to his chest, then her bare back and shoulders, pulling her locks over her shoulders. Shifting, her second arm was now closest to his chest and offered to him. She watched him as she removed all the evidence of their trials earlier that day from shoulder to her finger tips. Finally, while still side-saddle in his lap, she turned and faced him, brushing her hair down her back. Dark eyes found blue, and she smiled, reaching for the loofa. But, before Kendall relinquished it, she leaned in to sample his lips.

His free arm encircles her shoulders, pulling her close against him, and he returns her tender kiss in kind. Her position and newly developed awareness makes it easy for her to identify the feeling of his physical interest growing at their closeness. Though he had been studiously pushing aside his physical desires in favor of her needs, still perhaps he had taken on more of a challenge than he had anticipated in agreeing to join her in a bath. His lips part under hers, sucking her lower lip, teasing her with the tip of his tongue, his hand around her shoulders drifting down to caress her back.

The loofa forgotten, Margot's arms slide around his shoulders, pressing herself against his chest. The press of his interest did little to calm her desires as his tongue beckoned hers to invite him in. She drank deeply from his mouth, her need for him barely kept in check. Emotionally, she had missed him terribly; he was caring for her in ways that no one had ever done. So much endured, so much had happened…and with an entire kingdom sworn to protect the royal bloodline, the only place she felt safe and cared for was in his arms.

Physically, she had ached for his caress nearly every waking moment since he first touched her, with nearly every breath drawn. And even with the obvious reasons to temper this moment before things spin wildly out of control, she adjust to straddle his lap so that she could face him directly. As she shifts her weight, moving her legs, his hands move down to aid her, supporting and caressing the smooth skin of thighs and buttocks. Though she supports her weight with her legs, yes, if she were honest with herself, she would join him with little encouragement.

But some lingering hint of reason stays the impulse to move beyond their current intimacy. He settles for resting her weight atop his legs, her breasts brushing his chest as they reacquaint themselves through sensuous kisses until she withdraws and claims the loofah, a smile upon her lips. That she is the one to pull away is surprising to him, and he releases a breathy chuckle. She adds more soap to the sponge before settling back down and gently beginning to scrub his shoulders and chest, her eyes watching her hands very intently.

"And yet more tempting, my dear Margot," he almost whispers. He watches her face as she scrubs him, controlling his breathing and mentally setting aside the physical again. There would be time later for such things. Realizing the tenuous nature of their current situation, Kendall tries to avoid any further flares of tempting passion. And Margot, though perhaps not aware of his reasons, appears to intuit his desire to finish their bath quickly so the next phase can begin. Once each finger, toe, curve, and crevice have been thoroughly washed and rinsed in the cooling scented water, they depart the basin without any further lingering.

Kendall climbs out first, surefooted on slippery tile, and steadies her as she ascends the stairs. Water streams from her limbs and hair, and the soothing warmth had stolen away much of her remaining strength. She finds herself standing on shaky limbs that seem to have forgotten how to support her weight without the aid of buoyant water. But Kendall's supportive hand at her elbow is steady and firm as he leads her the short distance to the steps that led down to the door level.

Few words are exchanged as he fetches towels warmed by the brazier, smoothing the moisture from her skin with fabric the softness of goose down. His touch is light and gentle, as though caring for a breakable treasure, and she catches the sound of low humming as he dries her hair and back. Her smile is shy as she returns the favor, admiring his sleek form as she moved the fabric over his skin, and never had she seen his hair so tousled as after he had vigorously rubbed it with his towel.

Together, they once again don robes of dark blue before Kendall opens the door to the hallway for her, letting in a gust of cooler air that brushes against their faces and hands. But secure in her warmed robe and held close to the Chaosian with his arm once again around her waist, the coolness has no effect on Margot. Still, their progress down the hallway back to his room is perhaps slower than they had walked before. Fatigue made her limbs feel like they were being drawn through honey or maybe even sap.

Thick and lethargic, no matter how fluidly she wanted to move, her limbs flopped with little grace, foregoing form for function. Still, there was no end to the comfort she took from being pampered by her lover. As he guided her back to his chambers, her head rested against him, the inside arm wrapped across her womb to weave her fingers into the ones he had anchored to her waist.

The door to Kendall's chamber is open, and within they find fulfillment of his orders. On the table that sat near the doors leading to the balcony sat an impressive spread of food. Meat and cheeses were arranged on a platter, with a bowl of fruit near center. A salad of assorted leaves and seeds waited in another bowl, with other delicacies spread between on tiny plates. Glazed figs, caviar, smoked fish, pate with crackers, vegetable rolls, an assortment of stuffed olives, and many other things to tempt the palate. A wine bottle sat opened, with glasses at the ready.

The display of food was … breathtaking. Only then had she realized she did not remember when she last ate. Her debut dinner had been interrupted with nary a morsel passing her lips; mostly because her nerves and other emotions had kept her from attempting to try. Her mother had a few honeycakes delivered to her room as she prepared for the Pattern; but that was only because she refused other foods for lack of appetite and Gana knew that the sweet confections were Margot's weakness.

Their rumpled and dirty clothes, meanwhile, had disappeared. In their place, lying at the ready on the bed, were what appeared to be loose lounging clothes consisting of trousers and a shirt. There were two sets, one of cream and one of blue, both of luxurious silk. There were no slippers, but the floor here was warm against their feet.

Margot's eyes drifted to the bed, noting the exchange of dirty clothing for sumptuous clean. Again, she glanced up at her host and caretaker. "Are we to dress before or after we eat?"

He turns his gaze down to her, weighing and thinking about all the things he already knew of her, as well as gauging her fatigue. That she was slowing was obvious, as her weight settled more against his body and arm for support, and her eyes had a glazed look to them.

A smile takes over his expression again, and he shakes his head though her question did not involve a yes or a no. "After, I think. Come here with me," he invites her, the arm around her helping to lead her past the bed and to the table. Once there, instead of seating her in her own place, he sits and pulls her onto his lap much as he had held her their first morning together.

A warm smile of remembrance curled her lips as he drew her to his lap. "This is … exquisite." Her eyes went to the tri-colored salad he had first introduced her to. She could not remember the name, but she did remember she liked the taste. "I am grateful that Rory had the presence of mind to realize that utensils would be wasted," she said with a smile, noting all the finger food and tiny morsels.

"Utensils can be a hazard to the very weary," Kendall remarks, still smirking a little. "Or to those nearby the very weary." He turns his head to press a kiss to her temple.

Margot's shoulders rose and fell with a deep sigh, not of despair, but simply of weariness. As she blanketed him, it only seemed fair that she tend to the actual feeding of them. A small plate collected, she dotted it with figs and cheese, meats and nuts, decadent morsels and peppery leaves. Vibrant, succulent pieces of fruit filled in the white space. The plate, now filled with treats for two, rested in her lap so that Kendall may request something for her to deliver to his lips or select something of his own accord.

While she fills the plate, he reaches with his other hand to pour a glass of water, and fills a second glass with wine. The water is set within easy reach for Margot, and he picks up the wine to take a first drink. Setting his glass down again, he waits while she selects something for herself before picking up a fig and biting it in half. "Thank you," he says.

Her head canted as she regarded Kendall, curiosity and confusion swirling in her eyes as a small, bashful smile started to form. Truly, she did not know for what he could show his gratitude; he had done nothing but see to her from the moment they had arrived. "For what?" she asked, setting the small piece of hard cheese on the plate without breaking her gaze.

Kendall watches the cheese rise to her lips, then return to the plate untasted, and he frowns a little. Putting down the remainder of his fig, he instead picks up the cheese she had abandoned and holds it to her lips so she would eat it. "I wonder if having Rory tend to your needs may have been much more to your benefit when all is factored, as I am clearly quite distracting to you," he observes.

There is a half beat pause whilst his gaze jumps from her lips to her eyes, and he adds, "I am neither dismayed with nor inconvenienced by caring for you, my sweet, though tis an… unusual… experience for me. But before I will answer your question or speak further on any topic, you must promise to me that you will eat, and eat heartily, of all the foods on the table."

A small hand wrapped around his as she nibbled at the piece of cheese, taking the small morsel obediently. She listened to his words, pondering and trying — with little success — to suss out what he was getting at. Of course he was distracting… he was also soothing and delicious and dozens of other things that her soul needed at this very moment. But, by that same token, he certainly did not seem to mind the fruits that his presence produced nor did he object to the attention he received.

A smirk pinches her lips as he demanded his price for the treasure she sought. "I promise I will eat my fill… there is more than enough food here for the both of us… for several meals!" She laughs. "I swear to sample most of it and return to things I find particularly delightful. Is that reasonable?"

Kendall's head tilts to the left as he considers her end of the bargain, and then he looks over the table. He apparently decides that sampling most everything on the table would involve eating a fair bit, as he eventually nods in agreement. "Very well, my dear. If you are not talking, you should be eating, and I will endeavor to do most of the talking so that you do most of the eating."

He picks up a bite of meat, savory with pepper and herbs, offering it to her, and his serious expression gives way to mischief again. "And afterwards, if I am satisfied that you have taken enough to replenish your energy, I will pleasure you — and myself — before you sleep. What think you of that?"

Margot's eyes widen, taken back, but not in a chaste or appalled sort of way. Clearly surprised at his … reward system, the poor thing nearly chokes on her sausage as a fit of giggles claimed her. Swallowing, she sampled his lips, luxuriating at their softness, good humor fading into a soft purr as she trapped his lower lip between hers.

"I think… " she breathed, "You are an impossible temptation to refuse." A slight nip tugs at his lower lip. "So… I must uphold my end of our arrangement." Sitting up, she selected a piece of bread and popped a torn portion into her mouth.

His smile widens at her response, returning her kiss with caressing lips while his free hand sneaks inside her robe to stroke the skin of her belly. Leaning back in his chair again, once she has put bread in mouth, he speaks again. "Thank you for your concern over my welfare." Picking up the half-eaten fig from before, he pops it into his mouth, reaching next for some of the spicy sausage.

Her expression softened as she contemplated that which he was expressing gratitude for. Warmth fills her; something between bashful and affectionate with the true realization or perhaps appreciation of the fact that she had been very focused on his safety, placing it above her own.

But there were no ready words for her to accept. You're welcome seemed so… impersonal. Rather, she brushed her lips against his temple before resting her cheek against his head, her arm snaking around his shoulders to play with the locks just below the opposite ear. She closed her eyes as his fingers slid along her abdomen, both soothing and arousing, the soft sounds of contentment spilling over him in breathy waves.

Kendall gives a relaxed sigh as she snuggles closer, but he raises the sausage to her lips. "You are not speaking, and so you should be eating," he reminds her.

Margot chuckled, pressing another kiss to his skin before straightening to accept the sausage between her lips. She nibbled happily from the items selected on the plate in silence for a few moments, sampling luscious fruits and pungent cheeses, crunchy nuts and crisp vegetables. Kendall takes a long sip of wine and samples several treats while she eats, savoring the way different flavors meet and mingle from one bite to the next. He eats lightly, though, companionable rather than overly hungry. He does not offer wine to Margot, as he had decided it would not mix well with her fatigue, leaving the water for her.

"Thank you," she says in her own time. "Thank you for caring for me. Like this…" She smiled around a piece of berry. "I know you would have preferred to have Rory tend to the minutia and all… but… This is what I needed… I mean," she felt her words fumbling without finding any ending or meaning. "I just didn't want to be left alone. Not anymore."

He cocks his head thoughtfully to the side again when she had finished speaking, picking up an olive and putting it to her lips so that she would continue eating while he answered. "I see that my intention was not clear," he says at last. "While you are most welcome, Margot, it was not my desire to… pawn you off — as is sometimes said — to my servant. Rather, twas my estimation you would prefer to recover in solitude, a misapprehension I am glad you corrected."

She savored the salty-bitterness of the olive as he spoke. A smile curled her lips again, layered in its emotional reflection. "I didn't mean it that way," she explained gently. "I only meant that… " She hesitated, trying to find the right words to articulate what she wanted to, but her mind was already a fog that she just hoped he could follow her winding path.

"The only time that I have felt at ease, accepted — normal — is when I am with you. That is not to say I do not have my own identity or person or that I do not believe I exist unless I am an extension of you." She sighs wearily, her hands smoothing his robe's lapel and keeping her eyes focused there. "I have felt alone since arriving here. An outsider. I had been thrust into all of this without awareness or training or anything that would prepare me for who or what I am. I was uncomfortable with the thought of Rory tending to me in the bath. But more than that… it seems like I've been nothing but a prisoner to solitude since arriving and I just wanted … needed … something real, grounded, alive. I needed you."

She had spoken words very similar to these when they had been together in the cave, not so very long ago. Now, as then, he found words eluding him. Kendallarithan of the silver tongue, left befuddled and without speech? It was a circumstance that would greatly amuse certain people if they were witness to such a thing.

He lifts up a hand, laying the back against her cheek while watching her downcast eyes as she fretted with his robe with nervous fingers. Then putting his arm around her shoulders again, he simply pulls her against his chest in a gentle embrace, his other hand moving the plate of food out of the way and placing it on the table.

"Margot, my sweet. You need not feel alone in spirit," he answers at last. "I will care for you, even though you may at times feel alone in body."

Margot melted against his body with little insistence as his arm came around her; hers slid along his side with one resting on his chest. Eyelashes ghost against his neck as she listened to his words and their meaning. In his arms, Kendall can feel another layer of tension and anxiety fading away from her form. Fingers refuse to remain idle, sliding just inside his lapel to feel the warmth of the skin closest to his heart.

Several moments pass with her simply resting and taking comfort in his arms, with a gentle caress or a tender kiss blessing a spot of his exposed skin. Curled up in his lap, Margot was at last finding contentment for her tormented heart and soul… something she wished to savor, knowing full well how fleeting moments like this would be. Eventually, her stomach demands more attention, though, so she sit up and reaches for the plate once more. This time, she chooses a few more pieces of fruits and nuts rather than meats and cheeses.

"You must bear in mind, however, that I will not always be available to care for you thus," Kendall continues, somehow gentle in his matter-of-factness. "Once we return to Chanicut, I am certain a suitable maidservant can be found to care for your needs. Rory has served me for many cycles, and knows me well. It will take time for such a relationship to develop, but you will not be required to rely on him if you do not care to."

Margot chewed a leaf as she listened. "I fear I may have given you a poor impression of me," she says with a rueful smile. "I do not expect you to abandon your duties or responsibilties to tend to my despair, pain, or suffering. You are a Lord to a noble house and will have much to do once we return to Chaos. I know this… but—"

Her expression turns thoughtful. "You raise a valid concern I had not considered. While I am self-sufficient, there will be times when I will require the aid of another." Her expression falls, a fret furrowing her brow and tugging her lips downward. "How is it that Rory came to follow you to Amber?"

"He is my servant," is the straightforward answer, perhaps expected in its simplicity. "As it was my duty to journey here to Amber, so it was his duty to accompany me. Siorys accompanied the Ambassador for the same reason, and the others were also assigned to come here according to their skills and merits. If Rory had come to me beforehand to ask not to accompany me to Amber…"

Kendall's voice trails off as he tries to picture such a thing, but eventually he shakes his head. "My apologies, Margot. My imagination is not vivid enough to expound upon such a situation."

"I just never considered ordering an attendant to follow me to Chaos," she confesses sheepishly. "You were on a diplomatic mission and required to come and did so with a full retinue. I am choosing to follow you back to Chaos… a place I get the impression — no matter how glorious it is to you — most native to Amber would find a grave and cruel punishment. It's not exactly the same circumstance."

Kendall is able to resist the impulse to answer immediately with the first thing that springs to mind, only due to long practice with just that very thing. Instead, he finishes chewing a piece of the spicy sausage-like meat he appears to favor as he reorders his thoughts, following it with a sip of wine.

"You are correct that the circumstances are not entirely similar," he answers her. "Yet you are of Noble Blood, and thus would not be expected to travel without a retinue of some sort. Even those who are moving with haste and in secret often have a trusted companion that accompanies them. You should not feel bashful of having Rory tend to you in the meantime, however," he adds with a smile appearing as he thinks of her skittishness. Picking up his wine, he drinks deeply of the liquid within.

She smiles shyly, as he once more offers Rory's services. "I will try to remember that, thank you." Margot lifted another berry to her lips, this one a deep violet. "Would it be a terrible inconvenience if I asked one of my servants to attend to me in Chaos? I mean, would that be … rude … or an insult to your House?" The last thing she wished for was to add additional reasons for the Chaosians to despise her.

As she speaks, he picks up a large seed from the plate that Margot had not yet experimented with, having the same basic look and hardness of a nutmeg. He looks off to the distance beyond the gauzy curtains that wave in the breeze from the balcony as he considers her question, crushing the seed in his mouth with a very loud snapping crunch.

"Tis not an inconvenience to me, nor should it be difficult to accommodate one additional traveler," he answers after a time. "Nor would it be considered insulting for you to bring your own attendant, though as I mentioned, one would be supplied to you if the need arises. I am uncertain how such things are done here in Amber, but for the journey at least, she would be housed with the other servants and attendants."

A nod, contemplating options. Another piece of krinth makes it to her lips, to be followed by a wedge similar to a clementine. "I think I will speak with one of my attendants. I won't force the issue with her if she chooses not to come." Her expression remains thoughtful, as though she doubted she would be refused but was still working through all the consequences. "And then leave it to the fates to determine. As guests of your House and your home, anyone who travels with me will abide by your customs… including where she will be housed during the journey."

"Very well, Margot," Kendall agrees. "A message should be sent to this person, summoning them here so you may speak after your rest. Is that amenable to you?"

She smiles, clearly pleased with his support. "Yes, that would be wonderful. Thank you." Delicate fingers fall to the plate to find it, much to her surprise and amazement, absent of food. Gnawing on her lower lip, her expression turns self-effacing. "I guess… I'm a little hungrier than I thought…" Turning around, she replenished the snacks, focusing on the bread and softer cheeses this time, adding the sausage that Kendall kept returning to. Sipping deeply from the water, she continued to snack, happiness radiating in her eyes.

He smiles in return, studying her profile as she selects more food to eat, content to let her be for now. One hand comes up, combing fingers through the strands of her hair. Neither of them had done any grooming after their bath, and so though he had taken care when drying her hair to muss it as little as possible, it had still dried snarled and unkempt, curling over her shoulders and down her back in rumpled wildness. His expression is soft with affection in that unguarded moment before he turns back to his wine and then helps himself to more of the food on her plate.

"I hope that you will display greater self-care once your circumstances are improved, my sweet," he remarks. "Else I will be forced to hold you down whilst putting food and drink into your body for your own good. Neither of us would enjoy that, I expect." His words are delivered with his customary matter-of-fact tone, so that it's hard to know exactly where the seriousness ends and the joke begins — if, indeed, there was a joke in there at all.

"I am eating…!" she points out, giving him a sidelong glance, a smile of bemusement blossoming. "This is the third plate! Hardly what I would consider peckish." An open sandwich with a soft, pungent cheese having a garlicky after-taste found its way into her mouth as if to accentuate her point.

Kendall nods, still smiling as he chooses a small bunch of purplish berries. Picking them from the stem, he alternates between feeding one to her, and then one to himself until they are gone, making an effort to ensure she doesn't have a chance to pause between her bread and cheese and what he was offering.

"I meant for the future, Margot," he elaborates. "For now, you are doing quite well, though with some coaxing. I am uncertain at this point whether this is because you are responding to your body's need for sustenance, or if you are merely interested in the promised reward." An eyebrow quirks as he holds another berry to her lips.

Margot couldn't help but giggle around the berry as it came to her lips, his expression and quip clever and sweet. "We HAVE shared meals together, M'Lord. You are well aware that I eat plenty. But, I will promise to continue to do so, even without your watchful gaze. Though, I suppose you could always assign someone to stand over me to ensure I am consuming acceptable quantities."

She paused in her snacking to refill her glass of water, refreshing his glass of wine at the same time. "When I am hungry, I eat. I don't wolf food like some Titan… but, I never leave the table unsatisfied."

Margot's answer causes Kendall's eyes to brighten with greater mischief and elicits a chuckle. But he merely responds with a nod. "Very well, Margot. I will cease and desist with my nursemaiding. I do not plan to leave the monitoring of your consumption to anyone else for quite some time yet, however."

The last berry gone and her plate nearly empty, Margot leaned in and sampled his lips once more, savoring the lingering wine that had flavored them. "Good." Setting the plate aside, she reached for the linen and wiped her mouth and fingers. "That was plenty… was it not? Any more, and my stomach would stick out from consumption. Or worse, I may explode!"

There is no doubt that Kendall takes her question seriously, taking the linen from her when she is done and using it to wipe his own lips and fingers clean before discarding it to the table. He had been watching her eat like a hawk throughout their talk and banter, but it would seem she had performed her task to his satisfaction.

"You have done all that I could ask of you, my sweet, and now tis time for you to seek our bed." His arms come about her again, and he lifts her as he stands up, intent on carrying her to her next destination.

Whether intentional or not, one small word instantly captured her attention. Our. It was her turn to be speechless, though even the blind could see the surprise in her eyes. Our bed. She indulged in him lifting her; wrapping her arm around his shoulder and nuzzling his neck along the short distance. Her free hand once more toyed with his lapel, idle fingers slipping past deep blue to trace delicate lines upon his chest.

He turns his head to inhale the scent of cinnamon that rose from her hair as they walk the short distance. Once there, he bends over to lay her on the pristine sheets before sitting next to her and beginning to untie the belt of her robe. Margot swallows with nervousness or anticipation, her own fingers beginning to loosen the belt of his robe at the same time. He stares into her eyes as they both work to free the other from the confines of fabric.

He succeeds first, his hands not hampered by weariness and nerves, moving the collar of her robe aside to reveal her breasts and waist. Margot is only seconds behind him, though, and he waits until belt falls free and her seeking fingers find the skin of his chest before he leans over to kiss her. She slides the fabric back from his shoulders as he moves forward, so that skin meets skin, hearts thrumming between them when lips meet.

One hand slides around his waist, the other holds him to her chest. A soft purr rumbles between them as their kisses play and toy with one another. Fingers continue to play upon his skin from hip to rib, over his chest to hold his face to hers. While not overwrought with desperate, immediate need, Margot makes it abundantly clear that Kendall was all that she desired in this moment. Her arms fell away from him just long enough to slip the sleeves of her own robe, baring her completely to him.

Her invitation right then was all that he was looking for. Even as she slides out of her own robe, he stands up to allow his to fall carelessly to the floor in a pool of dark blue before joining her on the mattress once more. Lying next to her, he pulls her into his arms, kissing her with sensuous passion and caressing her with gentle fervor. Lips touch, meld, and part while tongues explore. Her sighs of pleasure are all the encouragement he needs, lips leaving hers to taste her cheeks and jaw. One hand slides down over her waist and hip to draw one sculpted leg up over his, but then he suddenly pulls away to look up over Margot's shoulder towards the doors to the balcony.

Worry flickers in Margot's eyes as she sees distress. Allowing her gaze to follow the path his took, "Kendall…?" she began hesitantly. "What is it?"

Sunlight beams onto the balcony, beginning to angle towards afternoon, and breezes still move the curtains, but nothing seems amiss that she can tell. He looks down at her again at her question, arms still around her, and smiles. "The sunlight," he answers her question. "It reminded me of something."

He pecks her nose with another kiss, then releases her to roll away and off of the bed. Moving over to the end, he takes hold of the heavy, thick comforter folded at the foot of the bed. It was, really, too warm during the day for such a heavy cover. "Please wait right there, shayna. I must make some arrangements," he adds as he pulls the comforter off the bed and carries it out to the balcony.

Another giggle follows him in his wake as she simply collapses with a dramatic flop against the mattress. Rolling onto her stomach, she tosses her robe on the floor with his, opting for the sensual caress of the sheets to wrap her body in. Margot propped herself up on a pillow, laying on her stomach and watched the balcony, both affection and amusement fighting for dominance in her eyes.

Hauling the unwieldy mass of fabric to the double doors, he drops it in a heap so he can first push them both fully open and then shove the table and chairs to the side. That being done, he retrieves the comforter and lays it on the balcony, folding it over into thirds so that it roughly fit into the space. He pauses to survey his work for several heartbeats, bathed in the sun as he pokes a toe at one corner that did not lay as he liked. But eventually he is satisfied and returns to the side of the bed, crooking his finger to her in a summoning gesture.

In a feline fashion, Margot rose from her recline to rest upon her hip, the pillow held playfully to cover her modesty. Carefully, she touched her feet to the warmed floor, extending a hand to him as a Lady would a Lord. Part of her slowness was for dramatic effect; but, she was also concerned that her legs would give the moment she stood. Playing a little didn't hurt anything and it allowed her to test the waters without abandoning the safety of the mattress keeping her afloat.

A smile appears again as she plays at modesty. Or perhaps it wasn't play, for her; this was their first encounter during the light of day. Taking her hand, he helps her up, steadying her if she wobbles a little and putting a hand round her waist again. He escorts her the short distance to the balcony, stepping carefully onto the soft instability of the new floor covering. Once fully in the sun and the breeze, he turns to take her hands in his and kisses her fingertips, his eyes alight with mischief.

"It occurred to me that one of your fantasies was to share a lover's embrace on the balcony in the sun," he says by way of explanation. "This likely will be your last opportunity to see that vision here in Amber, and so, though the sun does not yet set, it seems as though the present is the best time."

Finally, all is revealed and her delight … and more … shines in her smile. A half step closer and she presses against him, weaving their joined hands to the small of her back. "That is a magnificent idea. Remind me to properly show you my gratitude for your considerate nature and thoughtfulness." She uses his arms by way of fulcrum to help her reach his mouth, then allows her lips to slip along his neck as her heart raced.

He chuckles at her response, bending his head to kiss her ear and the sensitive hollow behind. His arms pull her close, steadying her as he crouches, pulling her with him to settle in the sun on the thick makeshift mattress. Somehow, she ends up below him, shielded in part by his body when he blankets her, though he supports himself on one arm so as not to crush her. Mouth to mouth once more, he begins again where they had broken off a short while ago, free hand cupping her cheek before moving to caress arm.

The warmth of the sun heated the bed and warmed her skin. And then his own body heat enveloping her did much to soothe her body and arouse her senses. A leg slides along his flank, bending at the knee, before toes trace the inside of his knee and along the slope of his calf. Hands slip along his sides and along his back, pulling him close. As his lips explored her skin, Margot's contentment washes over him, spilling from her in hungry moans and whimpers of longing. "I… have… missed you…" she breathes; a statement was never truer nor more obvious.

[Fade to Black]

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A Mere Misunderstanding

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