Title: Closer
Time Period: April 26, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Duncan makes a decision on the health and welfare of his current interest.

Not since his initial interest in Luna has Duncan sent word to Edme ahead of time that he’s going to visit. As per his usual, the bevvy of girls are prepared to receive him at his leisure. All except for one. Sitting up in her room, the cast off blonde sits at her window brushing her hair and staring at the road. She doesn’t join the rush to make herself beautiful, or more beautiful.

When the awaited time arrives, her eyes are down on the road at the front of the brothel. The horse that races up is yanked to a halt and reins thrown at one of the boys to tie while two sets of blue eyes meet each other across the space of three floors. For the first time all day and too few times in nearly a week, Luna smiles widely and races from the window.

Whatever the message was that arrived, it was misconstrued.

Before Duncan reaches the stairs leading to the second floor, Luna has already flown down and her lips are crushed passionately against his. They linger there, long enough to cause some of the waiting beauties to turn color and finally turn away. "I thought you’d flown away like all the rest,” she says, her breathy voice coupled with a smile. Her pale arms are wrapped so tightly around his neck that her feet can't make the stretch to touch the floor. “I tried to write you, did you get my letters? It wasn’t a disease at all, it was something dark that made the marks.”

Duncan may be born in the purple, however freshly dyed, but he's not immune to the appeal of populism. It's a shame that genuine populism, like genuine 'people', is a messy affair. So Duncan savors the facsimile, well pruned, represented in the attentions - bought and paid for though they may be - of the Dovetail's ornaments in their array. If only all assemblies were so comely, and so compliant.

But he's here for someone in particular, not to play at charming the masses. Duncan is all grace and appreciation, but he lets no ceremony impede his progress to the stairs. There he is met by Luna Owens, and in the moment of that kiss all claim to egalitarian appreciation dissolves in a show of quite personal favoritism. The spell is broken and the ritual comes apart, its adherents dispersing as Duncan, holding Luna aloft in his arms, begins to take the stairs step by step, ascending with the steady tread of mixed memory and care.

For all that the reunion is sweet, however, there is that darkness of which Luna speaks. And though Duncan received no letters, he's gotten word.

"A hawk must have plucked up your carrier pigeon," Duncan suggests, to account for the missing letters - more likely they were intercepted by a more brightly plumed bird in the Dovetail itself, but Duncan would never cast such aspersions himself.

"So I was told. 'T was a mixed feeling, discovering at once you were mending and how you came by harm."

"It was Misters Fogg and Wartooth that kept me safe at night," Luna gives the credit, knowing that Duncan was most likely informed already. "I was hungry in the morning for the first time since I first took ill, after a bit of porridge and toast I felt so much stronger." To see her now, one would never guess the marks had ever been there. In fact, she looks even healthier than he's ever seen her.

Something attributed to lack of opiates, most likely.

Unlike the last time he stepped into her sanctuary, the room is fresh and bright. Curtains parted wide and window left open to allow the cool spring air to flow through. It's a refreshing change from past visits. "I've been neglected," she complains, a slight jut of her lower lip displays a small pout that could very well be play. "I'd have thought you'd be here to nurse my ailments, healer or no— I’ll forgive you this time but just this once because I know you're a busy man." Luna's grace and benevolence extends nearly as far as Duncan's where their arrangement is concerned.

The change in Luna's vivacity is striking. A blur down the stairs, a soft presence in his arms, a tumbling of golden hair and the press of lips - she's a jumble of lovely impressions and fair pieces, animated as he's never seen her before. It's- quite charming, really. Beauty in the sunlight is always truer than beauty in smoke and shadows. Such sunlight suffuses her room, and he shuts the door behind him before depositing her in a bright band that cuts across her coverlet.

"Good men," Duncan avers, speaking of Luna's protectors, "I must find a way to thank them." As if they defended her on his behalf.

Her pouting is taken for play, and his penitence is accordingly playful. "Your loveliness is almost matched by your grace." Almost! Not quite. Duncan kisses her lips, to offer them an alternative.

In the privacy of her bedroom, the kiss that Luna responds with is hungry, something that would have much sooner marked her domain had she given it on the main floor. Her cheeks flush warm and beneath him, Duncan can feel the flutter of her heart as its beating becomes stronger against his chest. Her teeth catch his lower lip lightly before she breaks their embrace and she grins up at him.

"I hardly know what to do with you first," her murmur is much too low for any ears that might be pressed against her door. As if revealing a decision through touch rather than words, her fingers fumble with the hem of his shirt to pull it up enough to touch his skin. "Should I ask about your days and feign interest while my mind wanders underneath your clothes, or should I take what I wish and be satisfied so that I can properly concentrate on decent conversation?"

This is not the sort of question you bother answering. It's a game to treat it like a question at all. Her fingers know better than to honor the conceit. His own waste as little time. The open air ruffles the curtains and carries in the noises of the Dornie morning, but the world of the attic room is soon as good as enclosed for all the mind paid to elsewhere, and what sounds issue out of it are in the private language of gasps, sighs, and names.

In unrushed time the pair can be found tangled in the bedsheets, the bright bar of light gracing silken crests that rise above the soft shadows of their neighboring valleys. Basked in the sunlight it's so easy to forget about darkness, even one recently invoked. Evidence of Luna's illness has all but vanished from her body, but as Duncan lets his eyes wander idly, they come across the empty frame of a mirror.

"I want you at the castle," Duncan says, "you'll be safer there. And closer."

This is generally the time when Luna's lips are pursed around the end of an herbal cigarette, enjoying her afterglow with a bit of drug punch. Since discarding that habit, she's left with occupying herself with gentle caresses and light kisses over his chest and shoulders. One bare foot moves against his calf in a featherlight rub while she listens to the deep tone of his voice and behind it, the strong beat of his heart.

"The castle?" she repeats, the hush of her voice betrays disbelief and perhaps a bit of reluctance at the change he's proposing. "I'm not quite certain how to answer. As much as I wish I could, would Edme allow it? And further, what of your family? I don't want to be treated lower than the servants because of what I am…" The question unasked for fear of an answer she won't like also begs a reply. What is she?

"Don't fret," Duncan bids, shoulders walking his torso into an easy lean, fingers finding a strand of Luna's golden hair in the coverlet, tossed free either in last night's sleep or today's morning. He draws the pale filament up , caught between thumb and forefinger; it's lambent in the sunlight.

"I'll take care of everything."

Perhaps another drawback to soldiers is their tendency for need-to-know. The very promise of care comes with a burden of ignorance. How will he take care of everything? Better yet, what specifically needs taking care of? Lacunae in knowledge provide dark spaces for projection, if one is so inclined. But at least there is one concern he's willing to directly address.

"They will treat you as they ought, as you are- as they would any blood of close family friends," Duncan assures her, "and think: whatever my daily duties, I always come home. No more wondering when I'll come, and no risk of my going 'til the sun rises."

"And when the danger is over and this thing is caught, I would land back at the Dovetail." Her pitch should go up in a question instead of her voice fading as she turns her head away to survey her room. The place she's made her own since taking it. "Someone will have stolen my room in the time I'm gone." Something that is an inevitability due to the lack of private quarters in the house. Luna's luxury is a rarity that only Edme and a choice few share.

The positive side of his plan, the one pointed out, receives a grin and she turns back to him falling back down onto his chest to trail kisses up the side of his neck. When she reaches beneath his ear, she pauses, slides back down to his chest, and rests the point of her chin in the divot between shoulder and pectoral muscle. All for the purpose of looking at at his regal profile from below.

There’s a certain sense of admiration in her expression, either for the attention he so recently lavished on her or for the protector that he prides himself to be. "Are you implying that I'd be sharing your room? Can't I have my own tower or wing so I can run as wild as unicorns?"

She's basked in his attention. Now Duncan's time has come 'round. He goes so far as to lift one arm, hand slipping behind his head as he reclines, visibly at leisure. No fear of the dead in the bright light of morning.

His other hand reaches down and strokes her hair.

"Share a room? Gracious me, the impropriety," Duncan's voice drips with irony, "nay, Luna- you'll have a tower room of your own. I know just the place. As if it's been saved for you. So mayhaps there'll be no call to return to the Dovetail. Especially if they have no claim on you."

His fingertips find her backbone, where it lies between the slopes of her shoulder blades. They start a pilgrim's procession down the curve of her back.

"Think: a place to call your own-" the smile tilts, canting roguish, "though, I'd hope to hold the lock-key."

She's quite still and silent for the long span of time that it takes her to study every line around his eyes and every strand of hair in his brow. Hers knit together lightly in worry before she swallows and nods in agreement. "Of course," Luna ekes out and then forces a small smile to her lips. It's there for only a second, then her head tilts down to study his long body and a kiss is pressed to his chest.

"Though, it wouldn't be my own, would it? If you were to ever cast me off, I'd be nothing more than a beggar on the street." A beggar with the Owens name but a beggar all the same. Not that Luna believes it at all, she'd likely just end up in the same place she left.

"I suppose, then, my challenge would be to make certain you never tire of me."

"What I give you is yours," Duncan says, hand settling at the small of her back and spreading, roughness of his skin contrasting with the softness of the sheets, her skin, "it'd be ungallant to take it back."

A chuckle. What does she claim will happen to her?

"A beggar princess? Don't be absurd."

Still, who can fault her for her worry? The alternative could only be called naiveté.

"I suppose, then, that I must be worth the challenge," he echoes, a little sly.

Luna's leg lifts slightly and wraps around Duncan's, tightening her body a little further against his. Abdomen pressed against his hip, she glides upward until her lips are hovering next to his ear. Her soft breath can be felt circling his earlobe before she touches her nose lightly against the soft skin behind his ear. A place not weathered by the heat of summer or the cold of winter.

"I don't like to lose," she whispers, nuzzling there as lazy as a cat. "Especially not the things I'm so fond of."

His arm braces her back. He keeps her there, close as he can, hand hooked across the narrow span of her waist. It's a single limb, hardly matching Luna's latch, but it's not to be underestimated. Duncan's hold on her is quite secure.

"Peculiar creature-" he says, breath short for half a moment at the caress of her breath, eyes sliding shut a moment, "when I ask you to take a place in my home, you fear losing me."

Planning for the future isn't something that Luna is wont to do, which makes the fact that she is thinking about her own security somewhat momentous in its own right.

Now, her hand slides up, her fingers splaying across his jaw and cheek, cupping it in a gentle hold. "I'm being selfish, Duncan," she says, turning his head until their lips graze each other and punctuating her statement with a heated kiss. Her back arches in a soft concave under his hand, his hold keeping steady and strong. When their lips part ways, she opens her eyes to stare into his lighter ones. The hand on his face slips around to find a firm grip around the back of his neck, not unlike the one he's experienced earlier in the day under much more impassioned circumstances.

"You've been visiting the Dovetail for more years than I've lived here," is further explanation, "and you've never had a favorite. Were our positions reversed, would you find the upheaval of everything you've known for half a decade a wee bit exciting and frightening— all of it rolled into one bundle of knots in the pit of your stomach?"

He reacts to her undulation with a gentle increase in pressure of his hand. When the kiss ends, he has still managed to retain remarkable equilibrium. The hand at his head remains in place, a signifier of the nonchalant.

And then the familiar grip. Duncan is not long in joining the reminiscence. His hold on her stirs from dormancy, and - with an ease that makes Luna seem feather-light - he pulls her up atop him, the hand at his head relinquishing sole dominion to Luna as it comes down to settle on her hip.

"Dunnae know if that's like what I'm feeling," he says, deep set eyes hooded, mouth curved into a smile, "but I'm feeling something, truth."

Luna can feel it too.

A grin spreads across her face before she sits up on Duncan, posture straight and chin lifted, as haughty as the day she first grabbed his attention.

Floors below, the other girls can hear the giggles from the attic that quickly turn to moans of pleasure, coupled with a noise that's more masculine in origin. Soon the time will come where they'll have to be mindful of such things but that day isn't today and those sounds are really just the regular business of the Dovetail.