Noble Souls

Title: Noble Souls
Time Period: March 18, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Duncan's visit to the Dovetail includes gifts, secrets, and promises for the future.

In early evening, the setting sun casts long shadows across the floorboards. The fire in the room is warm, allowing Luna to wear a dress cut off the shoulder rather than be completely covered. Her sleeves are long, falling low over the tops of her hands but not porcelain fingers as they graze the pictures on the pages and trace the words within. Her eyes lit up when Duncan brought his gifts, the title of the first endearing both of them for different reasons, Lonely Planet Great Britain. The wine color of her dress matches the burgundy of the drink she'd poured him upon his arrival. He didn't ask, at least not for that particular drink.

Enthusiasm in her gratitude didn't quite match up to an invitation between the sheets. Being rather early in the day, or in the visit, he's allowed to sit in the chair that's become his. She is silent as her eyes dart from word to word, greedily soaking in the text about one city in particular. Liverpool. Her free hand is clasped at her throat, fingers curled around the other gift he brought. A token strung on a chain. It's a delicate contrast to the pastel ribbon that hangs down, tucked into her cleavage. It's where the key to the room resides. A room that was locked from the inside the moment he stepped over the threshold.

"Duncan, it's wonderful…" He surprised her, at least. The flush in her cheeks and genuine smile hints at a further favor. It's delivered when she joins him in the chair, her weight not so significant that it would render him uncomfortable. "Did you know that they had machines that traveled in tubes that ran underground? They called them subways."

Duncan makes for a good benefactor. His pleasure in her pleasure is evident, and there is no impatience sensible whatsoever as he sits and watches her read. Content with her happiness, and with the state of her dress, the placement of his token. His appreciation for this arrangement a finer, more refined thing than what his previous Dovetail visits involves. More, in a word, civilized.

The dress, the wine, and now the girl's cheeks are blooming red. Duncan sips and smiles, easy in his chair, posture loose. He only need shift a little to accommodate her, but accommodate her he does, inviting her to alight upon him. He wants her comfortable as well. His hand clasps her waist, touch much lighter than his first grasping.

"I did not," Duncan says, brows lifting. One hand rises, hovers near her shoulder, tending upwards but stopping short- he wants permission to touch her hair, and though the request is tacit, his eyes ask for it. "Did you learn that from the book?"

A quirk of a smile. "And not 'they', Luna- we. They were men and women, too. Like us."

"We," she repeats, if only to please him. He did, after all, come through with two beautiful gifts, one unexpected. Motion grants him his silent request as she kicks out one leg, pointing her toes toward the fire, and her head tilts toward his hand. Soft curls brush his fingertips before she rights it again, a flirtatious smile inviting him to explore the long blonde locks a little further.

"I didn't," learn it from the book. "The last time I ran away, I met a gentleman who had all sorts of things. I learned it then."

The book is folded closed and set to rest on her lap. The hand now free rises to touch the line of his jaw, her nails raking lightly against the pale stubble. "Thank you, for the book and the necklace. I'll treasure them always."

Duncan is delicate, even with the license Luna grants him; she did, after all, threaten his good eyes should a touch come unexpected. His gentleness takes on the quality of savor, just as he sipped the wine before setting it on the arm of the chair, freeing fingers to stroke through those golden tresses, and to lightly brush, with a trailing ring finger, the soft skin beneath her ear.

He must shave every day, judging from the shortness of those bristles. A meticulous man in some respects.

"Leave room for treasures to come," Duncan advises, "save space amongst your possessions and your heart." A lifting of brows. "And don't run away. I'd rather you where I can find you."

"My heart?" Suspicion and disbelief mingle as Luna eyes him. Her toes stop wriggling for the time it takes her to come up with a retort of her own. "You tread on dangerous ground, Mister Rowntree. Given your position and our… uhm.. acquaintance in the past, are you certain room in my heart is something you'd truly wish for?"

Still, the touch to her hair and skin is welcome and the book is removed from her lap to be set carefully on the floor. Somewhere a careless bump wouldn't knock it, threatening to break the already ancient spine. "I can't promise not to run away," she whispers close to his lips, "but if it makes any difference, given the gifts you've graced me with, you'd likely know where to find me."

"Your beauty makes me hasty, perhaps," Duncan admits, hand slipping low on her waist and clasping the soft curve more firmly, "at least you'll accept future gifts, and with them future visits?"

She may not have to answer. As she places the book in safety, his attention becomes more focused. All the more when she draws so close.

"That makes all the difference," Duncan replies, in answer to her promise, and his assurance inspires him to steal a kiss from Luna's hovering lips, the hand in her hair slipping down to clasp her cheek as he holds their lips together in a lingering contact.

Luna's eyes close at the first taste of the burgundy. The alcohol makes her hungry enough to push back against his kiss and deepen it. She shifts in his lap, a small attempt to get closer to him that results in the glass precariously balanced being tipped. The subsequent smash against the floorboards, scattering of glass and wine, is ignored.

When she pulls back enough to open her eyes again, her stare bouncing back and forth between each of his irises, she licks her lips. "I'll allow one more visit after this one," she smiles, a coy thing that comes with a flutter of lashes. "Another after that if it pleases me. But I wonder, how many gifts would you grace me with to keep me, Duncan Rowntree, before you decide that I'm not proper enough to warrant the effort?"

He's been a visitor to the establishment long enough that she's found out the gossip. His gifts and favor turn toward another the moment he gets bored. Though the same could be said about her.

There is a hint of savage appreciation, still the product of Luna's audacity - that she might 'let' him do anything, as per her pleasure; and to be fair, it's this very impertinence that accounts chiefly for her novelty. That and her lineage, though how Duncan regards this has not, in their hours in the lacey room at the Dovetail, yet been indicated.

And so Duncan laughs, and she can feel the reverberation in his chest. "But it wouldn't pain you to see me go, would it? There'd be some ardent swain waiting to take my place." A compliment to Luna's charms, coupled with an implicit tease; he speaks of no pain of his own at the prospect, after all.

"Don't concern yourself with propriety," he advises, hand reaching down to brush a thumb against the round token, pressing the cool disc against bare skin, "in fact, don't concern yourself at all. Be careless. Free of worry. Today I'm here. So are you."

The shattered glass, lying in a blood-red pool, stands witness to present carelessness.

"It might pain me, eventually, but you've yet to enrapture me." Luna's hand smooths, palm flat, in a circular motion over his chest. She pauses to hold her hand over his beating heart and he can see her pulse quicken by the glint of the chain at her throat. She shifts, to nestle a little more comfortably against him, her posture relaxing only so much that she's soft instead of stiff. "Immediately, I would so miss the remarkable gifts and I might become horribly jealous of the woman that next finds your favor because of them." He hasn’t yet seen first hand the brutality of her temper when scorned.

Her eyelids slide down until the scope of her vision is reduced to two small slits hidden under coal dusted lashes. Focus concentrated solely on the man underneath her, she moves her hand to cover his over the token, holding it still. "Aye, you are here, aren't you? I'll not wake up from some debaucherous nightmare that I've been rendered senseless by your touch."

When she leans up against him, he can feel rather than see, her crooked grin as she brushes her lips against his, delaying another stolen kiss by a whisper. "Somehow, I'll keep my wits about me today. Though, I’ll grant you this favor; I’ll be careless enough to be worry free about breaking a very expensive wine glass."

Duncan is lighter handed this time; he leaves the kiss on her lips, untaken and untampered with. "You'd name that a nightmare? You cling too tight to sense," a thumb brushes the ridge of her cheek, "turn your mind instead to sensation."

His own lips part in a rare grin at her offered boon. Such generosity.

"I'm gentle with you, Luna. But you can't expect gentleness entire. That which I am, I am."

"I'm not the silly wee thing that people claim, Duncan, I see through your game. Trying to lure me into temptation. You take from me my livelihood with the attempt and then where would I be? A homeless pauper, forced to live in the tents like the gypsies." The teasing tone compliments the trailing touch along his fingertips, her nails dragging lightly along the hand over the token. The grin on her face remains as Luna nudges the tip of her nose against his. "Until the next time I run away, then I find my fortune."

One stocking'd foot rubs against the other, pointed toward the fire for warmth but allowing just enough of a view when her long dress rises halfway up her calf. "You say that you are what you are, but you've made an exception for me. Perhaps I should make an exception for you then? What is it that I shall do for you, shall I sing you a song or tell you a story? I’d offer a dance but I'm afraid the costume's been stolen."

"And there can be no dance without a costume?" Duncan queries, but for the sake of banter - he's been respectful of her rules and wishes thus far, a good sign, when the law is itself law abiding. Now he kisses her, once- lightly. And then a second time, lighter still.

"Fortune would buy you unassailable propriety," is a somewhat cynical view of properness, perhaps, but the difference between whore and courtesan is, regardless of other shades of distinction, one of price, first and foremost. "When you run away, shall I expect you to return some day in a carriage, dressed in silks and decked in jewels? Will I call you 'Lady', then? Will I be permitted the pleasure of private conversation? Or will we be forced to flirt through messengers and seneschals?"

She can answer these questions, if she wants to; Duncan knows better than to expect or demand, and knows better than to want to. Still, he'll answer hers. "Don't make me choose. Sing me a song that tells a story."

"Of course there can't be a dance without a costume, silly man, these clothes are all wrong for it. There's no give and they cover absolutely everything, much too heavy for proper flow of movement." The closest thing she has is a favored nightshirt. It's glanced at across the room before Luna shakes her head quickly, putting the thought from her head. Her cheeks flush a light rose, the sudden heat causing her to put a hand over her lips, preventing more stolen kisses. It would be a sign to stop but the slight crinkle at the corner of her eyes denotes a playful toying to go with their cat and mouse game.

"When I return you shall call me Lady Owens, for I will find a bounty of wealth in Liverpool. Thanks to your gift and my map, I'll be able to navigate the ruins underground quite well." The hand moves form her face to his, and she mimics his action, tracing her thumb along his cheekbone. "Would you wish to visit me still, if I left the Dovetail?" It's a question posed so seriously and quietly, the tone and expression of her face changing almost too quickly. "Truthfully, it makes all the difference."

So serious a question, and one that seems to have a clear right answer. To say 'no' would be some breed of insult, surely- to suggest that Luna is to Duncan only that which this place makes her; a thing to be bought, company paid for, however eclectic the price.

So then the suddenness makes this a test of truth - with the right answer so obvious, it serves to see how well and quickly he can lie, if he wishes to lie.

He doesn't answer quickly, however. He takes time to consider the question fully, which in and itself is, at least, a gesture towards attempting truth. Would he, indeed? Would propriety permit?

"Only if that were your wish," he says, maybe a touch too diplomatic, until he adds, with a slight smile, "though you'd need make your wish very clear to keep me away."

And then something she said, just before, snags on his mind.

"Your map?"

Her lips part and a small breath is taken in too quickly, as if she's said something heinous and caused some insult but Luna knows she hasn't. She could lie, it would be the wrong thing to do, Duncan has a reputation. So it is her turn not to answer too quickly and when she does, it's with the graceful point of a finger toward her writing desk. "When I ran away last time, I met a man." But she told him that already.

Blue irises fall to the floor where the wine has begun soaking into the cracks. The flooring is already swelled in some places, so it's not that she's worried about. Perhaps glass on bare feet. Luna Owens may be reputed to do many things but inflicting pain on herself, especially on purpose, has always been avoided.

"I told you of the machines that run underground, the subways. I have a map of their tunnels."

Duncan knows the sound of a secret spilled. Funny that it's only after the fact that the signs show- the secret itself is revealed in carelessness, but the secrecy of the secret is revealed in care. For this is something Luna cares about- something to do with her dreams and ambitions, it would seem.

"And these tunnels hold some kind of fortune? A kind of dragon's hoard?"

Duncan doesn't sound skeptical, as such, but he's hardly credulous. He may find Luna attractive, charming, even clever- but she's still a golden-headed girl and thus apt to harebrained notions, at least in his experience. He's happy to hear her idea, though, to view her dream with the distance of amusement that manly judgment affords.

A nod, a shake of a head, a slight shrug, Luna goes through them all in succession, finally picking the last as her final answer. "I don't know, after so long, it could be nothing." A heartbreaking admission, the shake in her breath and quick successive blinks label it so. "But my map has labels to the library, the hall of records, even some shops. If I could find only a scrap of what was, it would give me enough capital to lay claim to a house of my own."

She shifts again, throwing both of her legs up over the arm of the chair and crossing them at the ankle as she lays back against Duncan's arm. "Think of it, even a bottle of wine that's been there since…" A gesture of hands toward the unknown. "Scotch… I would come home dripping in jewels. That city could lay host to untold wealth. I know it's in ruins and forbidden but I ain't ever going to be anything here except a girl from the Dovetail. I want more."

That he'd visit her away from this room, as an equal, seems to be the key to her smile. "There's my ambition, Duncan Rowntree."

Equality itself rests upon ambition, in Duncan's case. Only those with vision and aspiration are worth sharing high ground with. Those with stunted dreams, dull desires - lucky clods that they are - are best kept to their limited paths, under the direction of those with eyes set skyward.

"Just so," he says, approving.

With the girl draped across him, Duncan takes the opportunity to run his fingers against her belly, drawing a narrow oblong that nearly brushes against the hidden key at its peak.

"But you wouldn't risk going alone, would you? Better to share the spoils than be buried with them, surely."

Her stomach contracts as she lets out a breath of a laugh, not from the attention his hand is giving her. She's not so ticklish. "Who would take on such an adventure with silly Luna Owens? I'm afraid that going alone might be my only option, not through lack of trying for company." After giving Duncan a long look in the eye, she smiles and glances back toward the window. Dark is settling over the town quickly and the frosted pane holds no view. "I'll ask ma', maybe she'll have the sea give me luck. Mariah might join me but I can't think of anyone else that would."

Her finger finds a bit of skin between two button holes, and she draws her own pattern of circles and spirals over it. "Of course I would have to buy a horse to begin with, and a wagon… Rent a vessel to carry me most of the way. There's so much to do and I suppose I should learn to ride."

"Lend me your map," Duncan says, request just that- a request, "for a day or two- no more." He catches her chin and draws her eyes to his with emphasis.

"I'd think to go myself, if I could afford to leave Dornie," and if Dornie could afford to have him leave, is the heart of his meaning, never lacking in self importance, "but I might at least send you with companions, bread and arms - militia women who's honor it would be to escort Lady Owens upon her return," and to assure that she does return, is the further intention.

"You would help me?" Surprised because her own importance has always been suspect, at least as far as Rosses and Rowntrees are concerned. Luna is, after all, a whore and a flighty one at that, Owens name or not. Her smile is slow and she leans up to steal a kiss of her own, one that lingers as long as her hands cup his cheeks. "I would break my rules right now if I believed they would benefit you at all." A quick smile and dart of her eyes to the bed convey the meaning between the lines.

Great care is taken as she climbs from Duncan's lap and onto the floor. Careful to avoid shards of glass, she tip toes toward the bureau and opens a drawer. A weathered rectangle of paper, wrapped carefully in plastic, is pulled from its confines and held tightly to her chest as she picks her way back to his lap. "Look here," she says, breathless as she tugs the map from its casing, "All of the tunnels lead to main points of interest around the city. All I have to do is follow them and if I happened upon a subway car… Oh Duncan… think of it. A whole car."

"Rules have their reasons," Duncan says, following the flicker of her gaze and discerning the implication - she can feel the tautness of restraint in the lines of his body, though, "and I'll take rewards for promises delivered, not hopes lifted."

His arms stand ready to enfold her when she returns to his lap. He tilts his head, expecting her to handle the map, to place it before them both for consideration. The strange colored lines resemble little Duncan has seen, and nothing he has understood - it is not a map such as he understands them, through use.

He sets a small kiss at the nape of her neck, against the curtain of golden hair, then peers over and down, eyes free to peruse both the map and its mistress from this vantage.

"Could you bring it back? Would it dig a tunnel to Dornie?" These are not teasing, incredulous remarks. They are fair questions from a man who can only guess at the limits of the miracles that came Before.

“I think it would take a few more arms than those of a few women to carry one across so many miles. They haven’t worked for many lifetimes and I’ve no knowledge of how to make them go. I suspect it’d take someone much more learned than I am to decipher it all.” Luna isn’t paying much attention to the man that has her in his grasp, at least where his eyes are. Her focus is purely on the colored lines in front of her, trying to pick through the worn out names of places she’s never heard of.

It’s not long before the precious object is folded up and tucked back into its plastic sleeve. The protection it receives there is suspect, given the pock marks and holes riddling the exterior of the shield. “Think of it, Duncan, there might be more tunnels like this, in Scotland even. Perhaps close to Dornie. If we know what to look for, we could find them.” Of course, Liverpool isn’t enough.

I could find them. I’d have something of my own then, something I could be the best at.” A hobby that isn’t feminine in nature, she means.

Duncan's not so vain as to require Luna's attention; if attention were all he wanted, he'd not be in this room. Plenty of that sort of thing elsewhere in the Dovetail. Recall: he first saw her with her nose in a book. This was impudence, and while a certain bullyish manhood might have served as initial incentive, impudence is not what keeps him, neither as a lure nor as a target of wounded pride. It was that a book held her attention so. Absorption, and its object.

There is also the matter of his own interest in ancient engines and the kind of tunnels that might possess no small strategic value.

"If you want to find them, and find them first-" Duncan says, reaching down to clasp the hand that clasps the map. His index finger strokes the pale bend of her thumb, "then you'd best keep this map a secret."

She can hear his grin, nearly feels it, as he pledges in a low murmur, right by her ear.

"I'll nae tell."

A slight turn of her head finds Duncan in Luna's periphery, the slight hook of worry in her eyebrows and the downturned set of her lips give her an expression of great woe or worry. Looking away quickly, her benefactor is met with a nose full of sweet scented blonde locks. Her breath stops and she smooths her free hand down the thick fabric of her dress.

"And what of the people who already know of it? I wasn't afraid before of my dreams being stolen but I find my heart aching at the thought of it now." She glances over her shoulder at the soldier and leans heavily into his chest. The prostitute isn't in tears but there's a tiny tremble in her chin, as though she could burst any moment. "I’ve already told people without thinking.. so I think I might be as silly or stupid as people claim."

Slowly, the map is passed from her hand to his, it's with great reluctance that she actually lets it go. "You'll keep it safe, aye? And you'll only hold it for two days at most?"

"Off with the hand that holds it from you for a third," Duncan states. He mollifies his bombastics by slipping his arms around the woman, one hand clasping his wrist, an embrace of casual intimacy.

But of course, he breaks it to take the map.

This is business, and they seem both business minded enough to entertain actual business - though not without the companionship that excuses it. A strange reversal.

He leans over and slips the map into the pocket of the jacket that hangs within his broad reach. Safe and sound.

"You're not stupid, Luna," he says, though in so saying he claims the wits to judge her own, "just… noble."

The compliment turns her mood like a pendulum, from depressed to joy in the matter of a blink. "Noble," she muses, her fingers trailing up and down his arm flirtatiously, "I quite like that."

Twisting in Duncan’s lap, Luna kicks her feet over the arm again, swinging them idly in play. "I have a confession," she says as her fingers find a button on his shirt to toy with. "You've quite surprised me since you've started visiting my room. I'm not as frightened of you now as I have been nearly my entire life."

Her lips quirk a little at one side as she makes the feeble attempt to hide a smile. "I've always thought myself on the opposite side of the sort you've seen here before."

"Sorts? What sorts are these?" There is slight hint of barb to this - the implication, however subtle, that he finds the idea of whoring factions unserious, absurd.

"The Dovetail is a jewel," Duncan avers, softer now, and with a delicate balance between irony and sincerity, "and you are its most lustrous facet."

His eyes slip down to the button she’s gracing with her fingertips.

“And it’s most shameless coquette…” His hand slips into her hair, clasping the back of her head, “maybe a little more fear would do you good.” His smile says he’s jesting, his eyes are less clear.

"You might be the only one I have ever heard call this place a jewel. To most, everyone here is just a whore to be used as needed," she admits with a tinge of raw bitterness in her tone. She doesn't explain, she doesn't really need to. Her finger circles the button once again before it freezes and her gaze flicks up to meet his in surprise.

Breath held, Luna stares up at Duncan; eyes wide and inches from panic, her pale skin is suddenly ashen. The fingers in her hair keep her from scrambling to fall on the floor, away from him. The glass is a wonderful deterrent as well. "Perhaps…" she utters, licking her lips and swallowing, finding the air suddenly dry. "Perhaps it is time for— time for your bath. I can have one of the others help you, if that would please you more."

Slowly, she edges to sit properly. The hand in her hair finds a companion, one of her own, as she tries to gently pry herself from him.

“Come now,” Duncan says, relinquishing his hold in a gradual, controlled fashion - releasing her, pointedly, “you have subtler methods of subduing a forceful suitor, surely?” He’ll let her go, if she’s still set on retreating, but the easy of his slouch doesn’t suggest he’s going anywhere, nor that he intends to ready himself for bathing.

“You are lucky I am a gentleman,” he says, smile slanted at first, then straightening, “and I am glad at the chance to show it.”

“I— “ Luna’s cheeks flush bright red and she turns her head away, down toward the floor where the glass glitters as it catches the lick of flame from the fireplace. “No. I don’t have suitors, I have clients. If I believe they— “ She pauses as words fail her. She never completed extracting herself from him fully after his hand left her head. “— the last one that— I smashed a bottle over his head but more often than not, I simply run.” There’s still a fair amount of fear as she glances back at him, as meek as when he first entered her room, posture a little stooped to make herself smaller.

“I’m sorry if I offended you, by saying I wasn’t as frightened of you anymore.” She chances a glance into his eyes, her blue ones a little greyer and darker than his. Her hands fold on her lap, fingers laced together tightly as her knuckles whiten. “I thought it was a compliment, because I wouldn’t see you again if I thought you would hurt me.”

Duncan’s hands rest, harmless, on the arms of the chair, just brushing the places where she is close, a passive contact. His gaze surveys her instead, his eyes on hers, active and inquisitive.

“What’s made you so afraid of being wanted?”

“I’m not a whore,” she says, her breath still quick from fright and pulse racing to fast to allow her to calm. “No matter what anyone says, it don’t matter that I live in this house and sell my time. I choose if a man will lay in my bed. I choose my clients. They don’t choose me.” Evidently, Duncan has been made an exception or so it appears. None of that answers his question.

His stare outlasts hers. Not openly defiant of the man, her eyes settle somewhere below his throat. His answer is a shake of her head. “Is it want when a man possesses a woman so fiercely that she’s left sobbing with a blackened eye or a split lip or another mark that can’t be readily seen? I’m not afraid of being wanted, I’m afraid of a fist leaving a scar that’ll turn me ugly or plain.” He’s unable to see the goose pimples on her arms and legs but he can feel that shiver that courses through her spine.

“When I come back from the tunnels,” the small smile that graces her lips is as wistful as the serenity painted across her face when she returns to her dream, “I’ll have a proper suitor. I’ll have enough wealth of my own to not fear anything. When I come back, my ma’ will weep with joy after everything I’ve done to ever make her disappointed or devastated.”

If Duncan has disagreements with Luna’s distinction, he doesn’t voice them. What’s a whore, anyways? A wife trades her body for her husband’s wealth, and more beautiful women can catch wealthier prizes. Not that this is a hard and fast rule - but working a trade and enduring childbearing, birth and rearing is a great deal to ask of the most indomitable of womankind. We trade what he have to trade, and we are worth what others deem us to be, until we can amass fortunes of our own.

“There are subtler forms of coercion,” Duncan reminds, one hand venturing to measure the tremble in the curve of her back, “if choice is what keeps you from being a whore, is what makes a whore that she has no choice? That seems more grounds for pity than scorn…”

What a progressive, that Duncan Rowntree. His hand wanders higher, playing with her hair. She’s afraid, but he’s still smiling, still enjoying her beauty, which fear seems not to tarnish.

“If you had wealth, why would you even need a suitor? A husband?” It’s a devil’s advocacy, this, as well as an implicit flirt - just because she might be wealthy needn’t mean she close her doors to less formal advances: his own, for instance.

"Most of the girls wait for a man to point at them so they can guide them up the stairs." Luna shifts so she's balanced on the end of one of Duncan's knees, foot pressed to the floor and ready to bolt like a skittish colt. His hand is let to wander, she makes no movement to encourage his advances though the only form of discouragement comes with the stiffness of her posture where it was once loose and she was once careless. "They don't say no when they ought to."

She turns her head, eying her own shoulder, bare as it is, when he poses his question. It is lifted in a minute shrug, something that could easily be dismissed or denied should it anger him. "Because.." she emits slowly and quite carefully. "I would be more proper and proper women have one suitor to please them rather than— " the number she has, she doesn't say, instead she swirls her hand through the air. Let him make up his own number of men to compete with. "— well, it don't matter much how many I have, does it."

“You say it matters and does not matter in the same breath-” Duncan says, brows lifting very slightly, “this is one of those womanly nuances we men may never understand.”

And he leaves it at that. He questions for the sake of it, for the game which it helps him play. The answers concern him less. Whys and wherefores are of less consequence when you already stand near the pyramid’s pinnacle.

“I am practical,” Duncan claims, a useful self-appellation that permits much, “propriety is rarely a concern of mine- not as you use the word. The proper solution to the problems I face are not always polite. And it seems like when you say proper, politeness is what you have in mind: caresses, not blows - poems, not crudities - swains, not johns.”

"I am not," practical. Luna's eyebrows rise a little on her forehead as her nose and chin lift in arrogance. She's almost as tall as he is, seated on his knee, at least when she stretches tall and straight. She can't quite look down her nose at him, but she can look down on his collarbone, half lidded and eyes shielded by her thick eyelashes. "I prefer fancy, I don't think women are supposed to be practical. When they are, they're always so plain and boring, with ugly boots and shoes that look square in the toes. I prefer my toes pointed." The small twitch of her lips that punctuates the statement hints at ulterior meaning.

His talk, though aggravating in some respects, has worked to ease her tension and fear. The deep timbre of his voice much more soothing, no matter what he is saying, when not accompanied by a fearsome hold. She leans to the side, melting against the arm of the chair and glancing up at him with a rather dreamy expression. "I would ask which you prefer but I would be afraid of the answer. Many men believe the practical women are the marrying sort while the fancy ones are for play."

“Stating a preference only limit your pleasures,” Duncan says, hand returning to her belly now, careful to leave all threat from his motions, coaxing her back towards her previous state of comfort, “if you insist on knowing what you prefer, you will miss the new and unexpected, let it pass by instead of reaching out and grasping it.”

As he grasped her, is the implication here; flattery joins gentleness in his attempt to lure her into ease.

“You know already, don’t you Luna, that the most wondrous treasure is hidden and buried, still.. Dreams are always more than the words we use to relate them.

“And I have already been married once.”

"I remember. I remember the dancing," Luna muses, letting his hands guide her back to lean against his chest. Her head angles to the side and her teeth become visible as she smiles a little. "Da' had just come into his fortune, I was dressed in white lace and pink ribbon. You were quite dashing, if I remember correctly…" Her grin widens and a giggle bubbles up from her throat as her hand finds his cheek. The soft caress of her fingers tickles the skin, relaxed now, she turns her head slightly to touch her forehead to his chin.

"… as was your brother."

It’s such a slight incline, the divide so small - how could he not tilt his lips forward to grace her forehead with a kiss? This is better, much better; Duncan pets Luna, rewarding trust with tenderness. Recalling, as she recalls.

The day returns, and with it, further memory, with strands running further forward and further back, through painful places, dark ones, sorrowful ones.

“I haven’t danced in some time.”

When did he last?

“I must have at Edmund’s wedding,” he says, “I do recall the dress you wore then-” he musters a smile, forsaking any regrets that might threaten to bubble up in favor of the moment here and now, with her, and the memory that pertains, “I’d happily see you wear that again…” It was very fetching indeed, if the striking memory serves.

"I don't have that particular frock any longer," Luna admits, a fresh blush staining her cheeks as she musters the audacity to take Duncan's arms and wrap them tightly around her frame. The fire glows low, washing the room in an orange light, turning her dress a darker color than before. "I have much lovelier pieces now than I did then." Her dresses now are of fancier fabric, always with a sheen or iridescent hue change. Of course they also cover much more of her skin.

"I will commission a dress like it, for you, if you like." Letting go of his arm, she trails her fingers along his cheek again, her eyes slowly closing as she lets loose a long sigh. "Of course, I may have new book requests," she smiles and nestles against him a little more. "Or requests of some other kind… but I think for now I shall be content with readying myself for my grand adventure."

Lifting her head, she turns to look him in the eye, her face as line free and pleasant as when he presented her with the gifts. "I'd like to learn how to ride a horse, if you've the time to teach me. I would be ever so grateful."

Duncan is more than happy to let Luna guide his arms - large and strong though they are, they permit themselves to be moved with the greatest ease, their desire and Luna’s seeming to fall in line, more or less. He even turns his head to hint at kisses upon her fingertips.

“Consider it a formal request, then,” Duncan says, “just name the price.”

And it seems she has - the lessons would be in keeping with the system of favors, in which there is no clear one to one correspondence, just striving, acceptance, judgment and delight.

“We must take time out of my visits for your lessons,” he says - Duncan doesn’t have much spare time as it is, and it would be bad form to wile away hours teaching women to ride when there’s a settlement that needs lawkeeping, “but I’m willing to make the sacrifice, if that is your wish.”

Such a noble soul. Which makes two of them.