(1310-08-17) Lost and Found
Summary: Olivia d'Albert no Rose Sauvage pays another visit to the convalescing Matthieu de Rocaille and Gabriel de Montreve, and childhood memories give way to the realities of the present.
RL Date: August 17, 2018
Related: None
matthieu olivia 

Rocaille Townhouse

Lavish and refined in its design this townhouse seems to spare no expense while still maintaining a cozy atmosphere. The floors are polished ebony marble, gleaming under the light of many high windows and wrought iron candle filled fixtures. The walls are painted a deep forest green and adorned with various works of art depicting the companion Shemhazai and the lands of Siovale. The main rooms of the townhouse are for entertaining guests, the sitting room and dinning room respectively. Other rooms branch off these and a staircase and well lit hallway leads upwards and deeper into the house where the private rooms are. The building seems to have been constructed around a large garden in which various herbs and flowers are planted. The garden also boasts a small well kept pond with exotic fish at its center. Both the dinning room and the sitting room have large windows and doors that look out onto this garden.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a summer day.


(BGM: Paul de Somerville - Mariage D'Amour)

The late afternoon sun spills through parted drapes in bands of orange and gold, filling the solar with warm illumination that highlights its intricate woodwork and brass fixtures. Unlike the riotous activity that has filled its halls in the last week or so, today finds the state of the house in some manner of quiet repose, if not just because its staff has managed to fall back to its usual routine after being upended by the arrival of Matthieu de Rocaille and Gabriel de Montreve.

Music drifts from its confines the closer one approaches it. Despite the brace in his arm, it is apparent that the ducal heir can at the very least still work his fingers, having somehow, miraculously, kept his dexterity despite his three years in captivity. He had not given his captors cause to break his hands, merely bind them - evidence of such would be apparent due to his rolled-up sleeves, just underneath the elbows to reveal bands of ugly bruising encircling each wrist. His platinum-blond head is lowered slightly, fingertips worn by travel and toil caressing ivory and ebony keys. Sheet music is before him, but upon close observance, one would discover that he doesn't have to refer to it as often as anyone else would, especially when playing a piece for the first time.

He tends to wear that usual look of intense focus on his features on everything he does, but there is something different in his air whenever he sits on a bench; as if whatever passion he can't bring himself to express finds a conduit in the instrument under his hands, some kind of resonance reached between man and thing. He uses his left foot to work the pedals instead, digits drifting over the chords effortlessly - A Minor, C Major. With the high-collared shirt he wears, the first two clasps undone, black trousers and riding boots finish his understated ensemble.

Gabriel is listening in companionable silence, though he hasn't moved from his vigil by the window. For once, he isn't in the middle of one of his jokes or ridiculous stories, electing to remain silent and appreciate the notes for what they are. It has been a long time since he has heard Matthieu play, a prayer whispered under his breath that he has managed to find him so that he could. These days, there is plenty to be thankful, after all.

—-

Olivia had sent no word ahead that she'd be calling upon Matthieu and Gabriel today; there'd been no notes, no promises, no messengers bearing word of her intent. She arrives in the company of one of the Rose Sauvage guards, the man dismissed from her side when she's escorted through the front door and into the safety of the Rocaille residence. A lightweight cloak of palest grey clings like liquid silver where it drapes from shoulders to floor, adding a monochromatic touch of colour to her usual attire of white upon white. Her veils are edged in finely-worked embroidery to match the cloak, these pinned to her head with the simplicity of two enamelled dragonfly combs. "They are in the Solar, my lady. This way."

Thus is she led through the house to where the notes of a somewhat familiar tune spill. It causes the smallest cocking of her head to one side when they fall on her ears, and a smile blossoms beneath her veils as she steps into the room. Tears spring to her eyes, and she stands for a moment, the silent observer.

—-

It's Gabriel, as always, who notices her first - it can't be helped, with the kind of eyes and senses he has. "Livvy!" he says, ever bright-eyed whenever he sees her, taking several steps forward and extend a hand so he could help her down the single step into the Solar. "Matt, we have a visitor."

Matthieu's fingers pause on the keys, storm-blue eyes lifting from them to rest upon the slender figure at the door, being assisted to slip further inside the Solar, blinking once. Once again, he had not expected to see her so soon, and much less out of her usual coloring; the contrast of silver and white upon her is a different aesthetic that he isn't accustomed seeing upon her, and he takes a moment to appreciate the novel splash of color and how she wears it.

Ever the gentleman, as the Cassiline assists Olivia out of her cloak, he stops what he is doing and rises on his feet, managing, somehow, to keep his weight off his damaged limb. There's a strange, almost hesitant air there, the memory of Gabriel's chastisement a few nights before filling his skull - but as always, it doesn't last, and once the cloak is hung up by his protector, a rough, sun-bronzed hand lifts towards the courtesan, palm up.

"Liv," he greets. After a pause, he ventures: "Would you do me the kindness of helping me turn the pages?" The gift had come from her, after all.

—-

Olivia's hand is small within Gabriel's much larger one as he helps her down the step. Her words are quietly spoken, and intended for his ears alone as he helps her from her cloak. "How is he, Gabe?" She pointedly doesn't look in Matthieu's direction as she asks that question of him, and she turns to look at Gabriel on the heels of her question. Eyes of the clearest blue search his, perhaps to look for the truth of his answer in his soul. Eagle eyes will note hair that's a shade or two lighter from when they'd played as children, wisps of it having worked their way free from the edges of her veil as she scrutinizes his face. It'll be easy for him to note the concern that's to be found in her features with the way that her brows pull slightly together across the bridge of her nose, and the way that the tips of her lashes are dusted with gold.

Whatever his answer, she's not much time to respond to it, since Matthieu's own greeting to her comes quickly between them. "I'll hunt you down later for a proper report," she assures him with humour, her touch light to his arm before she turns to greet the man that's the purpose of her visit. "Matthieu. I was not certain that you would have it within you to be able to play still, and so well too. But see how misguided I was." She crosses the distance between them, her hands reaching for his, fingers slipping easily into his so that a kiss of affection can be pressed to his cheek. "Of course I can turn the pages for you, though you'll no longer need to kick me on the ankle in order to have me do so, for I have learned a little of music myself."

—-

The quiet whisper has Gabriel pausing; it is rare to find him hesitant, and unable to smile to cover it up. But that is typical for him, too, isn't it, as far as Olivia would know. The two men were not, nor they were ever, lovers, but they are closer than brothers and friends - oftentimes, one can accurately gauge the mood of the other by simply looking at one of them, mirrors as they are of one another's souls. As with all things, there is a story behind it, but this is a tale that will have to wait. For now, the look of emphatic concern that the Cassiline sees on the beauteous face - or what hints of it he could see - of his childhood friend softens his own demeanor. There is a smile, of course, in the end; Gabriel will smile even while heartbroken, but thankfully, it's not so severe as that. Her dainty fingers are given a warm squeeze.

"Stubborn as ever," he murmurs in response. "But later." And he lets her go. His eyes find his friend's paler stare over Olivia's head, a look that Matthieu returns. They never needed words either, to make meaningful exchanges.

Matthieu's attention draws down to Olivia and the gradients of blue he can see peeking out from above her veils, and the wisps of gold that are only just slightly darker than the shade of his own hair, drawn closer at that delicate press of veiled lips against his cheek. It reminds him of something else, however, and as the Cassiline quietly moves out of the room for just a moment to hunt for a servant, he is already turning, hand clutching the heavy silver head of his walking stick as he moves for the piano, with her drifting along him like some manner of wind fae, her effortless, airy grace in every step. He is as sharply aware of her look, gestures and manner as he is of everything else around him and while his touch his light, his grip is secure.

Word about her developed musical acumen has him canting his head towards her in interest. "Oh? What do you play? Or do you sing?" He takes the steps necessary to escort her to the bench, where she could sit, and turns so he could open the drawer of one of the antique side tables present in the room, withdrawing a small white box, bound closed by a single length of silk ribbon. White on white, hint enough as to who it is meant for, and with very little by way of introduction and fanfare, he offers it to her, waiting for her to take it before easing into the space next to her, setting the walking stick to the side.

—-

"I have been learning the pan flute," Olivia says, an embarrassment showing itself in the tone of her voice as she settles upon the bench. "But not very well. I am learning it still, and I could never play upon it in company." A sigh filters softly against the gossamer of her veils. "My tutor, Patrice, encourages me to keep practicing, but a child of ten could likely do better. He's very patient." She reveals her modest nature with that confession, and takes a second to ease back the cuffs of her gown from her hands. Wrists exposed, it reveals that she wears only a simple bracelet about the wrist of her right hand, the fine filigree chain suspending a heart of pure silver. Wind fae. Angel. There might be many comparisons with things of beauty that could be drawn upon the slender woman that now occupies the seat alongside Matthieu, but there's appears to be a complete lack of awareness in her own presence that's quite disarming. Charming even. "For me?" There's genuine surprise that shows in both the words she speaks an in her eyes as Matthieu produces the small white box, and colour suffuses her cheeks as the gift is placed in her hands. She's like a child on her birthday, eyes shining in quiet expectation as she lifts it first to her nose to sniff at it, then to her ear to give it a gentle shake. A glance towards Gabe, and then back to Matthieu, her veils trapped between the smile that curves her lips. "Is it for opening now?"

—-

The other details she reveals with every word and gesture are those taken in with the sharp alacrity of a man who misses nothing. It isn't just a habit ingrained in Matthieu, whose attention to detail accounted for much of his survival, but always something that has stayed with him since he was a boy. The one bit of jewelry that is visible, if nothing else, fits her manner; as with all delicate things, he often associates them with Olivia above all, ever since they were children.

Surprise flits over those clear blue eyes of hers, and Matthieu turns back to the piano. There's no curious look, no indulgent smile - he was never the most emotive and the last three years have only made him increasingly jealous of his thoughts and the contents of his own heart. But he does watch her as she attempts to guess what it is before opening it. It smells like nothing and when she shakes it, she'd hear the quiet rustling of thin paper, and something within. It doesn't hold much weight, though there is some, assuring her at the very least that it is not empty.

"Of course," he says, when she asks if it is for opening, and when she unspools the ribbon and lifts the lid, she'd find a hairpin - deceptively delicate and wrought from white gold, meant to hold small locks of hair or function as a simple adornment. While certainly not the most lavish of gifts, as she probably received plenty of jewels in her years as a sought-after courtesan, the craftsmanship is so detailed that it looks very real; a cluster of three wildflowers in the shape of layered stars and tinged with delicate blue in their middles, fashioned from enamel so white, the petals are almost translucent. They would be recognizable - fields of these very same flowers grew in the back of the Vicomtesse de Seyches' property, where they often played as children, swaying in the summer breeze and filling the air with their scent.

Matthieu's fingers rest on the piano's keys once more, his tone low and slightly absent in reminiscence. "I remember you wore them in your hair, and sat on a rock while Raoul, Gabriel and I jousted with wooden sticks for your favor." He turns his head to meet her eyes, a more rueful bent touching the line of his mouth. "You've taken great care to demonstrate that those days still remain with you in some way, I thought for once, I would do the same."

—-

There's a touch of wonderment in Olivia's eyes when she looks on the gift. It's delicate in its rendering, the fragility of it echoing the personality of its recipient to perfection. She traces the tip of a finger along the edge of a petal, her eyes lidding at the memories that Matthieu's words evoke in her. "I remember." Her words are borne on a breath that's eased from the depths of her core, and a shift of her weight where she sits allows for her shoulder to press lightly into his. "How long ago it all seems now. How many ribbons must I have stolen from Aunt Lucienne's chambers to bestow as my favours. She never complained. I'm not even sure what you did with them either, for I was always on the hunt for more. You made me feel like a Princess on days like that." She turns the pin over in her fingers, feeling the smoothness of the enamel beneath the pad of her thumb. "I feel now like I should buy armfuls of ribbons for Aunt, I'd all but forgot." The edges of her veils are drawn back from her head, and the golden of her hair is revealed for a moment as she fastens the clip securely within the flaxen lengths. "There…" she says, tips of fingers checking the smoothness of her hair that forms a framework for the piece. "How do they look? Do they compare favourably to the ones you remember?" Her eyes dip as she twists her head, allowing him to easily look upon the top of her head.

—-

What did he do with those ribbons? Matthieu turns his eyes back to the ebony and ivory keys before him, a single index touching the D key. The rueful twist on his mouth grows, but as always, those hard and handsome features remain in that straddled point between emotion and inscrutability - mere hints of the cracks he has sustained over the years. The gesture at the very least reveals, however, that while wounded and deeply, he isn't hollow, when he can evoke such things by his straightforward descriptions and the truthful sincerity behind each word he utters. To her, at least, she who has remained one of his very few exceptions in a list of complicated rules that never fail to rouse a conflict in him, now and then.

Her shoulder is a welcome weight and he barely budges, like marble underneath thin layers of cloth and warm underneath them as their proximity dwindles by increments. He tilts his head back in thought, the longer locks of white-gold hair falling over his brow. "They ended up collecting at the blunt ends of my practice weapons," he recalls. "And they stirred whenever I moved, like you were cheering for me even when you weren't there, no matter how many unforgiving bruises I sustained."

There is comfort in the memory, some of the open, internal gashes he suffered soothed by it - as strange as it is, for recollection of better years to have such profound effect on the inner storms of him. As she asks him to inspect her handiwork, he turns away from the piano to regard the silken, pale-gold swirls at the top of her head and the token he has given her. A hand lifts, often so reluctant to touch her out of some irrational fear that whatever darkness has tainted him would stain her indelibly, but it couldn't be helped because memory inspires him to thread those fingers into that luxurious bind for just a moment, to adjust the look of the pin. Gently. For a man who looks like he does, neutral at best and volcanically furious at his worst, he can be gentle when he wants to be.

"Perfect," he tells her, unashamed. And at last, one of those faint smiles appears, more reflected in those silver-chased ice-blue eyes. "But childhood biases can be relentless."

—-

Olivia appears to approve of Matthieu's explanation of where Lucienne's ribbons had ended up, for the softest chime of laughter punctuates that admission. "I never noticed the same of Raoul's weapon. Perhaps he gave them away to the daughters of servants within the household. I remember he had a certain fondness for the cook's daughter." Perhaps that's how they managed to sneak those custard tarts so easily. With the disturbance of her veils and hair, the subtle fragrance of night blooming jasmine teases the senses, and when Matthieu's finished adjusting the flower clip, her mouth curves easily with another smile. Hands lift, her fingers adjusting her veils back over her head, and she tilts up her chin to look into his eyes. So many memories, but all of so very long ago. "Don't you think it's odd how many things can be forgotten, only to be remembered again with a handful of words and the gentlest of nudges?" A glance towards Gabriel. "I wonder, Gabe, what you did with the ribbons you won. If I remember rightly, you and Matthieu were almost equally matched in the winning of my favours."

—-

"He definitely gave them away to the women of the household," Matthieu remarks, the look of him exasperated but amused when he delves deep into those memories. "And played his share of pranks with them. If I recall correctly, he gave one of them to the Carelle twins and said that it was from Gabe, and she spent the entirety of one summer chasing after him relentlessly. I've never seen a man so scared of a girl."

Gabriel is busily picking at the cart brought in quietly through these proceedings, looking up while pushing a small bite of food in his mouth. "I liked her sister," he grumbles. "And I was certain Raoul knew. Oh, he claimed he couldn't tell them apart, but he couldn't fool me. Those eyes were full of lies."

Don't you think it's odd…?, Olivia asks, and the future duke of Siovale ponders the question with that quiet and intent scrutiny, her eyes probing the answer out of him after a few heartbeats: "Yes and no," he says. "I read somewhere that the brain can only immediately hold so much by way of conscious memories, the rest are tucked away in the deeper parts of one's soul." His fingers slip lower, drawing a stray tress behind her ear, skimming the fragile arch just barely to make room for the veil that needs to be re-secured in place. "…and then meant to be examined again with the proper inspiration." He pauses, something about his demeanor softening upon further contemplation. "I suppose there is comfort in that, to be assured that even the most visceral parts of you agree that these are memories worth keeping."

At that very last question, the Cassiline looks up and smirks. "I'm hurt, Livvy," he says, dramatically, placing a hand over his heart, ever the trickster meant to contrast softer and serious faces. "Have you not guessed? I wore them, of course!"

—-

Olivia's eyes are lit with mischief, and delight plays within them when they alight once more on Gabriel. "I would apologise for Raoul and his behaviour, but I find I cannot, Gabe. Perhaps it's his actions and your newfound horror for the determination of females is what drove you into the arms of the Brotherhood." She's teasing him — goodness yes she's teasing him — mirth showing in her voice as, once Matthieu's fingers have dropped from her hair, her own lift to secure her veil beneath her headpiece. The faint blush that his touch has brought still warms her cheeks, and is the perfect foil to the colour of her eyes, bringing out as it does the ultramarine and azure tones with which they're painted. The flowered clip glitters through the haze of her veils, and the laughter in her voice is modulated when she returns her attention once more in Matthieu's direction.

"If that is the case, Matthieu, then I doubly thankful for your return to us. It feels as if with each year that passes, memories of my childhood dull about their edges. The sweetness of apricots eaten in the orchards, juice painting our fingers and lips, or…" And she pauses, her eyes flitting down to her hands in her lap. "… the way that you kissed my finger when a bee took objection." A beat. It seems that she, too, is the subject of a sudden influx of memories, and her shoulders pull back, allowing the graceful curve of her neck and her spine to be faintly revealed through the film of veils and silks. "But the music. May I hear it?"

—-

There's a loud gasp from Gabriel at Olivia's teasing, his expression utterly leaning into it, the hand pressing into his heart gripping the front of his shirt instead, as if clutching a string of pearls. The look of him is very much how dare you as his dark stare falls on his pale, delicate friend. "Vile slander," he breathes. "I'll have you know, my dear, that it was father dearest who drove me in the arms of the Brotherhood." He pauses. "Literally. With a shovel and everything, swinging for my head."

As the two of them banter around him, Matthieu picks up where he has left off quietly on the piano, fingers easily finding the chords again while the young woman sitting next to him colors, comely blushes only hinted at by the translucent veils that only partially obscure the finer nuances of her lovely expression. He is the sort to lose himself into the notes, always the kind of soul that gives his entire being into a thing that he deems worth the investment, but her attention presses against the side of his face like a soft and sudden kiss, and his playing pauses when those silver-streaked blue eyes turn back to her, blinking once when she diverts her eyes on her hands.

Speaking of dulling memories. "….I did that?" he utters, brows drawn together as he searches the galleries of his memories.

Gabriel laughs, clapping a hand on his shoulder once he is close enough. "She was picking flowers when the insect attacked her, I forget which ones but even back then, she was fascinated by how they had their own language. It didn't take much for her to cry that day, though." There's a fond, commiserating smile at Olivia. "We were parting ways in Elua and she wanted to leave them as tokens, and you somehow managed to find the courage to console her in her most favorite way without running for the hills— "

One could practically track how the memory comes back to him. Matthieu stares at Gabriel disbelievingly and his expression only makes the Cassiline laugh even harder. The future duke's sun-darkened hand lifts, to rub against the back of his neck. "I— "

"You'd be disappointed with him now, Livvy," the Cassiline continues. "I can't believe I'm saying this but he was more debonair back then than he is n— "

But the music. May I hear it?

"Of course," Matthieu says, and while his tone remains level, it might just be a touch hurried, grateful at the change of subject as he flips through the sheet music and starts from the beginning. Gabriel shoots him an amused look, and a wink over the top of his head at Olivia before he falls back, to lean against the wall and listen to the performance.

—-

Gabriel speaks of her potential disappointment in Matthieu, and Olivia's response is a firm shake of her head. "Disappointed? I think not." She speaks as a member of the Night Court, as someone for whom an over-indulgence of faux-affection has become tedious and stale. "It's refreshing." Her hand lifts, her fingers curling behind one corner of the score that's propped before Matthieu as she follows the rise and fall of the notes until the moment when she needs to turn the page. It's smoothly done, and whether or not Matthieu relies upon the presence of the notation before him to pull the melody from the keys, the notes continue their journey unbroken across the manuscript. Something to distract him further from the torment of his thoughts. With Matthieu's focus directed towards the piece that he's playing, she catches the wink that Gabriel sent her way. A crinkling at the outermost edges of her eyes hint somewhat at the smile that plays her lips, and his answer will be a dip of her head in acknowledgement. Her words are soft as he plays, reluctant as she is in her own quiet way to break the mood of the spell that the melody weaves; a spell that pulls the three of them into the peace of simpler and less complicated times. "Had I known that you still played so well, I might perhaps have found you something more challenging. An operetta, perhaps."

—-

It has always been his way - Matthieu doesn't know how to be anything but himself, though the construct he has become is just as layered as the veils she chooses to wear. And when she tells Gabriel that she wouldn't be disappointed, his face once more takes upon an unreadable cast as his two friends talk around him, callused fingers caressing the keys, every gesture smooth and practiced, if not just because it is. Restless nights have had him plinking away at the piece, remembering rhythm and measure. He has had nothing but time to kill since he arrived and he meant what he said in his letter to her - that she has reminded him of how fond he was of the act of playing. To remember how to play, however, has taken more effort than he would like to admit, never one to choose to expose his vulnerabilities and weaknesses more than he has to.

The piece is reminiscent of other pastorals written to evoke love and romance - a light melody with enough audible motifs to speak of melancholy, to mirror the fact that the act brings with it a certain sweet, but aching pain. Eyes lid as he pours himself into the keys, passions he doesn't allow himself to express often finding a conduit in the instrument. There are unconscious additions the more he gets lost, of frustration, of bittersweet longing, rooted deep past the surface of wounds that remain open, thrumming over the piano's strings.

It is her voice that tethers him to the present, before he drifts too far. "I've always been told that if I elect to do something, I should do it well," he tells her. "Your aunt's influence. But the principle's served me well, if not just to repay you for your kindness in the way that you deserve." Not to impress her, or say something she's accustomed to hearing from the others who have fought for her assignations in the Night Court - like a comment about how he stayed up all night attempting to remember how just to make her smile, perhaps.

Because he did, but he would never tell her that, and to say that he did so just to win one of her smiles would be a lie. The gift had a purpose and he used it for such purpose, to while away the empty hours and the very act of it enabled him to avoid the demons lurking in the shadows surrounding his bedroom. He would never reduce her consideration in such a manner, or distill it in such a way so common among her patrons.

After a pause: "Attempts, at least, that I hope are successful." When you provide me with this kind of refuge.

—-

Olivia turns another page, her hands falling away and back to the cradle of her lap whilst Matthieu plays on. "Oh yes. Aunt Lucienne is certainly not one to suffer anything other than a person's best efforts." There's a pause in her words, the quiet needed as the piece reaches a particularly poignant phrase. Her breath is remiscent of a sigh, and it takes a moment for her to find the threads of her thoughts again. "I hadn't realised she was plannning to spend time here in Marsilikos, and hadn't even known that she'd arrived until I received an invitation to visit with her. It will do her good, the warmer clime and the brightness of air. It is the thing that I noticed the most, the thing I remembered, when arriving here from Elua." Fingers twist together in her lap, and her eyes downflit as in a sudden moment of awkwardness, she suddenly confesses. "I upset her when I visited. I didn't mean to. We were talking of fashions, and of planning a shopping trip together. I mentioned silks, and she commented on the inferiority of Ephesian silks." Eyes lid, those gold-dusted lashes lying dark upon the paleness of her upper cheeks. "Companions bless her, for some reason she took such offence to my mentioning that inferior silks were preferable to expensive ones when it comes to assignations between courtesans and patrons. For obvious reasons. I…" Her voice tails off, and her chin comes up as she steals a glance in Gabriel's direction. "I know that the Brotherhood don't approve of the Night Court, Gabe. But I hope that you still see me for whom I am." And then to Matthieu. "She disapproves of me, I am certain. Or perhaps not of me, but rather of what I choose to remain. She said I should be done with it now that my marque has been made, as if I disgrace myself by doing so."

—-

The piano doesn't cease until the end of the song, though while Matthieu plays, Gabriel's expression twists. "Oh, Livvy," he sighs. "Fie what the Brotherhood says about the courtesans of the Night Court. Did you ever think of me as the sort to go along with what other people say so easily?" He winks at her from where he stands. "I would never think you any less."

Matthieu, however, says nothing - not yet. Perhaps his loyalty to Lucienne keeps him silent on the matter, unwilling to get in the middle of the two women of House Albert. But with the strains of the song fading, he moves to take his walking stick, rising from the bench, so he could offer his free hand to Olivia in an effort to assist her up. "I believe you wanted to retrieve some saplings from the garden," he remarks. "I'll go with you to collect them."

To those who do not know him well, it might sound dismissive of her distress, but his intentions are clear enough the moment they step outside into the garden and he leads her with brisk strides that belie the severity of his injury, towards the construct at the other side of the yard; a glass house inspired by the shape of a bird cage, its panels gleaming under the sunset and soaking up its vibrant colors. As Gabriel opens the doors to make a sweep of its confines to ensure that no hidden threats are lurking about, the gesture carries with it the scent of flowers - of all kinds. Vines climbing up strategically placed trellises hold small multi-colored blooms, stargazer lillies of different stripes occupy various bushes. And the roses, of course, of a multitude of hues - white, yellow, pink, peach and even rare blue ones dominate the space. It's a veritable cornucopia of shades and scents, situated carefully around a marble fountain topped with an angel in repose.

The Cassiline steps out, and the future duke of Siovale leads the young lady further in, towards where the gardener has left the pots and clippers for her. Out of the confines of the Rocaille household, far away from the prying ears of the servants and situating her in the middle of some of the things she loves, his arm slips away from the brace it makes against her hold, and slips a hand in his pocket. When he turns, his eyes find hers, silver and blue falling on the gradient shades of her own, reminded immediately of the Eastern Sea.

"Do you believe in what you are doing?" he asks, his low baritone pitched quietly at the scant distance between them. "I don't hold the pretention that everyone in Terre D'Ange feels the same about the Night Court, but what is important to me is that you have faith in the service that you provide, that you sincerely hold that you are doing Naamah's work. And it seems as if you do, there was pride in your voice when you told me how you hold the position of Second in your Salon." He pauses. "The only disgrace I would find is if you continue to do what you do without the faith that it requires, because without it, there is no sacrifice and that is the element that makes what you do a noble and uniquely D'angeline thing."

—-

Does she believe in what she does? The question has Olivia turning into Matthieu where he's released her, the splendour of the glass house and the emotions that it evokes at her core shuffled off to one side at the directness of his question. "How can you ask me that?" Her eyes search his. "Naamah put aside not only her modesty but all that she was, for love of Elua. To emulate her actions is the ultimate act of worship, and it has been an honour to have been able to do so."

Despite the quietness of her reply, there's a resolve to be found in Olivia's words, an assured and composed self-confidence that's seldom revealed within the confines of her canon. As if to ward herself from further questions, she catches the edges of her silks and draws them about her slender frame, trapping them beneath her arms as she wraps herself in a small self-hug. "Sometimes, though, I do wonder what it would have been like had I not entered service." Her voice tails off, and her lashes lower to guard her eyes and the ghosts of so much else to be found within them. Her breath is audible in her pull of it, and she takes a step away from Matthieu, turning to appreciate instead the gloriousness of her surroundings. "We have nothing like this at Rose Sauvage, and I miss the one at home." Fingers close about the clippers, and she lifts them, weighing the implement in the palm of her hand before testing the edge of the blade with the pad of her thumb. "Aunt Lucienne's words hurt, though she meant well, of course. She thinks I ought marry, and that my father is negligent."

—-

"I ask you because it seems to me that in spite of your determination and resolve, all of which I know are sincere and genuine, your aunt's words shook you enough to confide in me about it," Matthieu replies, his voice level and meeting her eyes unflinchingly. His words, while brusque, hold no heat. "I understand that her opinion is important to you, but I wanted to know how that weighs against what you have devoted yourself to. I'm no Gentian, Liv. How am I to know what's inside of your head and heart if I don't ask the question?"

He watches her turn away, before glancing to the other side himself, scrubbing his fingers through his silver-gold hair - the only sign of some simmering frustration, but more directed at himself than his gentle company. His other hand grips his walking stick, his weight upon it giving him an easy lean, broad shoulders at an angle.

After a moment, he sighs, letting his eyes fall upon her again. "She's a product of the experiences that time has wrought upon her," he begins, hand falling to bracket his left hip with his fingers, head bent slightly to turn his stare upon the ground and brows drawing together in thought. One of those thoughtful frowns besieges the hard, handsome lines of him. "War, crisis, and loss has her looking to the future always and that has made her a particularly unrepentant, but practical patriot who believes that those who carry her blood should serve crown and country through more tangible means other than the spiritual. You're not wrong, Liv, in what you have decided to devote yourself to, but neither is she for believing what she does. If you ask me, I think Terre D'Ange needs both."

He pauses and when he continues, his tone is absent. "Naamah teaches us to love as we will. If you don't want to get married, to love someone that way, then you shouldn't, no matter what anyone else thinks. You have that freedom…and you should exercise it. Others do not have the luxury, despite the principle."

—-

Olivia flexes her fingers about the handles of the clippers, squeezing the blades together before allowing them their release. "I didn't say that she was wrong, Matthieu, only that her words hurt. I have devoted my life to serving Naamah, but hasn't made me immune. I've loved." Her eyes meet with his, and a faraway look is to be found within them; as if in that moment she sees something other than him and the glass house within which they stand. She's caught by whatever it is that chases her thoughts, and beneath her veils a tightness catches her lips before she remembers to breathe. One in. One out. Her veils billow lightly and her lashes fall as she grounds herself in the here and now. The glass house. The weight of clippers in her hand. The scents of the flowers. With what appears to be an effort of will she opens her eyes, a forced lightness to her tone as the hand not holding the cutters collects a small basket from one of the trestles. "Aunt Luci is not wrong," she goes on, falling into the familiar manner of address for her aunt. "And whilst I am proud of what I've achieved, I do dream of having a family of my own. Of tow-headed children let loose in fields. Of ribbons on swords, of grazed knees, and bee stings. Of innocence. Of love." Her words are as fragile as she herself is, and are warmed into tenderness by the memories that his return have wrought. Her brows knit, and there's a dip of her head as she quickly turns from him and steps with a whisper of silks towards one of the trellised vines. "This one if from Aragonia, I believe. Perhaps a little of this."

—-

I've loved.

He expected that; whoever it was probably gave her the silver heart that she wears on her wrist, the only piece of jewelry she wears and has worn around him. But it is a surprise, to be sure, to hear the words from her own lips. There's no regret on Matthieu's face when he hears it, unreadable most days, especially when it comes to the contents of his own heart, but something about his demeanor softens palpably, more sensed in the air than could be observed on his features. It is mostly commiseration, because he knows what it is like, and he understands how painful its loss could be - better than most - and while he remains grounded in the present, a stark contrast to the faraway, almost dreamy look on her veiled face, he is reminded once again of the words he told her in her last visit.

That she is no longer six, and he is no longer eleven. Circumstances have done them the kindness in tying the threads of their lives back together, perhaps in the precise moment when they need it most, but it does not change the fact that Time has marched on.

He doesn't remark upon what she says just yet, but as she turns her attention to the vines, his shadow falls across hers. Before she could lift that pale, fragile hand towards the wooden frame, rough, bandaged fingers capture it in a loose hold, like attempting to catch a butterfly without crushing its wings, so deft is the gesture.

"The thorns are sharp," he tells her, normally abrupt syllables carrying notes of a gentler guise. "Let me."

He will not force it if she doesn't relinquish the clippers, but if she does, he'll turn towards the vines and wait for her to select which blossom to keep before threading his fingers through the virid stems and their spindly brambles, uncaring if they cut or scratch…once again taking on whatever injury she could suffer into himself.

And only then does he reply, his voice so quiet it is only their close proximity that allows her to hear it: "You'd make a wonderful mother."

—-

Olivia yields the cutters to Matthieu, though his action in catching her hand perhaps derails her, since it takes a moment before she speaks. "This is commonly known as a Firethorn, though is not indigenous to Terre d'Ange." She speaks with authority for her subject. "It would have had pale pink and white flowers in late spring and early summer, but is now setting berries. See how they form at the base of the leaves?" She points some out. "It will bring birds to our gardens in winter." Lifting her gaze, she scans the thorny plant for a suitable cutting for him to take, and indicates one of the whippier, newer growths that's supple in its youth, and bears fewer thorns. "That one there would be perfect." A butterfly. Yes. She could certainly be compared to a creature as delicate as that, for as easily as a lepidopterist displays his specimens, she's pinned by the words that next fall from Matthieu. "I…" Overwhelmed, her eyes ground themselves at her feet, and her breath quickens in her chest. "I would be too gentle-natured were I ever to be blessed with children. I would be a terrible mother." Softly spoken, there's nevertheless a self-deprecating humour there in her words, and she lifts her hand to receive the stem that Matthieu cuts.

—-

He isn't looking at her as she explains, but Olivia would get the very real impression that he is listening as attentively as he always does, words taken to heart. Matthieu may look like a scrapper, a wiry athlete, but he is Siovalese to the very marrow. Botany is a subject that he knows very little of, and he takes this opportunity to learn from someone more knowledgeable than he is. "So it isn't poisonous when ingested…the berries, I mean," he says, moving the blades to where she asks to do the cutting. The thorns sting, but in the end, they barely register when they occasionally snag into his bandages as he clips them for her, but they do not hurt. Considering the mess on his back, it doesn't even compare.

He turns his eyes back to her once he has collected the stems, offering the sprigs, meant to find a new life in the plots she keeps in her Salon, the weight of his gaze once more a tangible thing when she looks down and says what she does with a hitch in her breath. His quiet scrutiny etches over the profile she makes under the translucence of her veils - a tease, to beguile a person into wondering about her mysteries, perhaps, but all he sees is the face he knows and regards fondly, completely divorced from the siren song of her art.

"I wouldn't be so certain about that, if I were you," he tells her, head bent towards hers in an effort to look her in the eye. "You found your steel relatively quickly when I prodded you a few moments ago." He falls quiet, before he lifts his head once more and turns his attention to the Firethorn vines. "You've always done right by the people you love, and I don't think you'd love anyone in this world more than your own children."

—-

Matthieu will find Olivia's eyes when he attempts to, for there's an intimacy to the path along which their conversation travels that has her lifting them back up. The cuttings which he's collected for her remain suspended within the curl of her fingers, and there's something utterly defenceless about her when he speaks. It's as if within the bubble of space that they occupy, she allows her armour to slip. "Perhaps my feelings are just too loud for words at times." she says, the faintest tremble to her voice. "It is easier by far to hide them away, and my training makes that easier yet." She admits, in part, that subterfuge is simply a way of life for her, but only in a way that's not damaging to others, and when Matthieu turns from her and back towards the firethorn again, she places the branches he's cut, into her basket. "Not poisonous to birds, but I imagine a sickness of the stomach would occur were a person to pick at them." Her thumb finds a thorn at the base of the stem, and a pressure applied at his next comment, breaks it free. "Do you think? I think there are so many different loves; each unique and special in the form that they take. The love of a husband is different to the love of a child. I would die for both, were I asked."

—-

Perhaps my feelings are just too loud for words.

"You're not alone in that - to find some necessity in hiding your passions." Matthieu is the same way, though their reasons are different. Hers is a defense mechanism, a way to ensure some separation between the artifice of her art and what it brings to her door, and the Olivia that dreams of real happiness and a family. While his is…

He falls quiet, searching her veiled features, keen eyes picking up the exact moment where her fortifications crumble, and when he speaks, that absent touch ghosts over his voice. "I wish it were as easy for me." He struggles daily to keep his control, it is easier some days, but in others it is akin to steam-pressure pushing against already cracked and broken steel.

With a hand, he gestures for her to pick her next sapling, though as he reaches with those clippers, there's a minute pause at her words.

I would die for both, were I asked.

"Anyone who returns your love wouldn't ask," he says, his attention on the flowers. "And would take your place and fight to the death in a heartbeat, if you were forced." He turns back to her once the blossom is retrieved, holding it towards her in offerance.

"That's what I would do, at least, were I so ensnared." His eyes lid faintly at that. "Though in a way, it would be selfish. To consign a woman who loves me to that kind of heartbreak. But it can't be helped, and I wouldn't hesitate in the slightest. I would always think that the world is a better place with her in it, than me."

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