Runaway's Desire

Title: Runaway's Desire
Time Period: March 25, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: While giving promised lessons, Duncan tries to pry into Luna's silly mind.

The first lesson, Duncan was only there at the beginning. He had smiled and helped her up onto the saddle - not sidesaddle, such eccentricities belonging to a less practical epoch - and soothed her and her horse simultaneously. The nerves of one effect the nerves of the other, after all, and Duncan has been sure to give Luna an older, more sedate steed - no need to tempt fate, or tragic fall.

But he had business to attend to, of the sort that could not be deferred to give lessons in horse riding to a pretty lady - sadly, his brand of nobility has not yet gathered the idle time necessary to dedicate itself entirely to beautiful pursuits.

So he leaves her with Murdina the militia woman. Stocky, rough, with untended black hair cut with a knife, and a nose that’s broken and not been reset, Murdina is a starker a contrast to Luna as one could reasonably ask for, so strikingly different as not even serve as good foil. The experience of seeing them, both at once, is more unsettling than anything else, aesthetically. But the woman knows how to ride. She’s gruff, and critical, and lacking in social niceties, but she’s patient and knowledgeable, and doesn’t push too hard or too fast. A fine tutor of the skill - that much must be admitted.

Which one should take as consolation, as it is Murdina that awaits her at the pasture for the next lesson, standing in the sod, holding two horses by the reins. Duncan is nowhere in sight.

It doesn't help Luna's disposition, consolation or not. The sight of the thicker woman immediately sets the prostitute to looking herself over and brushing imaginary bits of dirt from her long dress. The first lesson was a nightmare, by her own view. Her pretty dress was chastised and Murdina had instructed her to come in something more practical.

Luna has never worn a pair of trousers in her life and she's not about to start now.

Head held high, she does her best to look down her nose at the more homely woman when she marches up. To Luna's credit it simply seems as though she's looking up to her. "Where's Mister Rowntree?" His first name not used in public, they're not that well acquainted. "I had thought my lessons were to be given by him, I didn't dress for this." Because she didn't want Duncan seeing her in men's clothing.

"Y' ain't dressed f'r naught," Murdina answers, direct as can be, her brogue speaking of no good family or breeding. "Man's past th' gates b' now, 'less they run afoul o' somethin' in th' thicket." What this means, precisely, is up to Luna to suss out.

"Up y' get," she says, wasting no time at all, head jerking towards the big old brute Luna rode last time. It's hooves and calves are already muddy from some earlier canter, and from the speckling on its flanks, Luna can guess that her dress will not be safe.

Murdina receives a long stare. Unblinking, Luna's deciphering take three times the length than it took the other woman to actually speak. For her wait, the militia member gets a short nod. "I see." She doesn't.

Rather than ask any more silly questions, Luna sets to work at trying to climb up to the saddle. An abundance of fine fabric is heaved into her leather gloved hands and she jumps. Heels sink into the muck as she lands again, square as there was no angle at lift off. "Murdina," the prostitute's tone is strained and curt, filled with impatience. "I have no ladder and this horse is much bigger than the last one." It couldn't possibly be the same beast as last time because Luna is certain she had that one trained to bend at the knee in order to receive her.

Murdina displays her consummate professionalism by keeping a totally straight face during these proceedings. She neither laughs nor seethes. She simply waits, offering no help or guidance until she's addressed, at which point she crosses her arms.

"No ladder near, nor shorter breed," she says, with a one-shouldered shrug, "seems y'll need t' step, foot to the stirrup, and haul yourself up like a proper rider." 'Proper', it seems, takes on a different connotation in this woman's mouth.

And so Luna should expect to make a proper fool of herself trying to scale the horse in heels and dressed, with this crooked-nosed woman as witness. What the hell does Duncan think he's doing, 'providing' for her like this?

The sound of rapidly falling hooves presages an opportunity to put the question directly. Out from the road to town center comes Duncan Rowntree, astride a chestnut mare, its flanks sweaty from swift riding. He hails Murdina, who snaps to attention as he approaches, and dismounts with fluid ease before crossing over to Luna and her tutor.

"Murdina-" he says, "you're relieved. Take her," he thumbs at the horse he arrived on, "to paddock, and then pick an easy watch." The Rowntree man turns to Luna, granting her a proper - in the proper sense - bow. "I'll see to the needs of Lady Owens."

Luna is in the midst of following the crooked nosed woman's instruction on how to mount a horse when Duncan arrives. One stocking showing clear past the knee and boot hooked into the bell shape of the stirrup, her cheeks bloom a furious red when she turns her head to see him dismount with such ease. It doesn't deter her from the attempt to show the lesser of the two soldiers that she can do it. Pretty women should be able to do everything better than homely ones.

She pulls and manages to stand on one side of the saddle, trying not to shriek as the horse decides that is the time it wishes to dig for a bit of grass to nibble on. If later questioned, she will claim she was hanging on for dear life as a wild horse decided to drag her clear to England. But this is not the case. A step or two later, the old gelding stops and bends its head down to feast on the few green shoots it has managed to scrape up.

"Mister Rowntree," she greets in return for the proper bow, "pleasant day, isn't it?" Never mind that she's standing on one side of a saddle and a little confounded on what to do next.

"None pleasanter," Duncan replies, any attempt to conceal his entertainment at seeing Luna in this peculiar position half-hearted at best. He moves over to Luna's side, taking the reins of the second horse while Murdina mounts the chestnut mare and, after giving Luna a tip of the hat, trots off. Duncan assesses Luna's situation with an up and down look. "Though you seem caught at an impasse."

He moves around to the right side of his horse, lifting one boot to set in the stirrup, part mirroring Luna's own position. "That dress will have you riding sidesaddle, you know," Duncan says, "an altogether trickier place to start from," he smiles, eyes crinkling with a touch of fond malice, "though I appreciate that you'd wish to impress me." Presuming much, this man!

"Take ahold of the horn," he says, setting his own hand upon the wooden fitting, "and pull yourself up. Here-" he steps off from his own stirrup and around to Luna. One hand finds her arm. The other takes her hip. It's a familiar touch, though no more familiar than he's been in the privacy of the Dovetail. Much less, really.

"I'll be sure you don't fall," he promises, "now- mount."

A significant lack of muscular strength makes the mount a touch difficult for the young woman but with the aid of the man behind her, she manages. Once in the saddle, Luna places her other foot in the opposite stirrup and arranges her dress to prevent the cold from seeping through. "I don't own anything ugly," she says haughtily to the comment of her clothing. Apparently trousers on a female are ugly.

"Thank you for the help, though, I don't think I would have managed on my own." It's an honest admission with a hint of apology, perhaps to now absent soldier. Her cheeks return to nearly their normal pallor, the cold preventing them from going completely pale. "I am glad to see you, I was beginning to believe you were lending my time to that woman."

This makes Duncan chuckle.

"Of course you do not."

He's on his own horse moments later, taking the reins and drawing himself around beside her. The change in tone makes his own smile change its quality, taking on a touch of the rueful.

"Much is demanded of me," Duncan says, by way of explanation and his own apology, "I sleep in a castle, but I live in my boots, and they cannae afford to long be at rest, nor I." He reaches out with a hand, gloved in rough leather but presented to her all the same

"Murdina?" he smirks a little, "she's a sight, isn't she? Damn good with a knife, too."

Then Duncan remembers himself, and the quality of his company. He really has been spending too much time with his people.

"Good to see you as well," is sentiment, and so he must quickly step towards instruction, "think you can show me what you've learned?" and with a crooked smile, "see if you're yet ready for the perilous quest."

Jealousy brews in Luna's stormy eyes as she sees the smile on Duncan's face when speaking about the other woman. Regardless, she slips her own gloved hand into his palm. "You're forgiven for allowing your duties to fall before me, this time." The grin she gives him is inviting but instead of letting him keep the hand, she pulls it back ad grips her reins with two hands.

“You really wish to see what I’ve learned?” He called her the Dovetail’s biggest coquette once, she hasn’t let that image down yet. Her steed seems suddenly restless, perhaps sensing his rider’s impetuousness. He isn’t disappointed when two heeled boots jar him in the ribs, setting him into motion. “Hah!”

She learned one word.

In a shot, her horse is off at a gallop with Luna hanging tightly to the reigns. Luckily, years of practice gripping tightly to various things have prepared the woman for a screaming adventure across the heath.

Duncan hasn't the faintest clue what the envy of Luna means - he might, though, if he paused to consider what jealousy of homely, brogue-mouthed Murdina would imply about jealousy of a beauty. Instead he's smiling indulgently as she offers her indulgence.

He's not smiling, though, when she goes racing away from him. A coquette in all things- she makes her chase him, even when at lessons.

Duncan spurs the horse on hard - "Yah yah!" - but she's got quite the lead on him.

The old gelding's gait isn't quite as long as Duncan's fresh horse. Murdina chose her own mount quite well, just in case Luna managed to get away from her. Unfortunately it's not Murdina she got away from. When her mount leaps over a low shrub, the blonde is jarred hard enough that the weave her hair's been braided into comes loose.

Long hair flies free as the young woman's flight of fancy turns to fear. "Duncan!!" Her terrified scream echoes across the plain behind her, along with a shawl that drifts through the air to settle on the ground. She might let go, if she wasn't so afraid of falling off. Falling off leads to death.

They're catching up. The shrub is cleared in a flash of motion as Duncan charges after Luna's golden streak. He guides his horse to the side, drawing up, nose to tail, to haunch, to flank. He leans low, pressing his rein-bearing hand to the horses neck, and gives it a brief parting pat, before lifting his leg and turning towards Luna's horse, racing parallel, only one foot in a stirrup. If she's looking, if her head is turned his way, she may catch his eyes, just for a moment.

The next moment, he's jumping.

The saddle jerks sideways as Duncan lands on in, his hips bumping Luna forward in the saddle as he leans forward, keeping his balance as the runaway horse whinnies in protest to the sudden extra burden - Luna was so light! - and tries to buck it free. Duncan grips the reins tight, arms closed about Luna, keeping her secure as the horse tries to free itself of them.

But he's seen tougher years, and Duncan is no light load, and fatigue as much as Duncan's firm handling soon bring it in line, breaking the gallop into a canter, then down to a trot, the beast's flanks heaving with the catching of breath.

The arms around her ease the fear a little, as there are bigger worries right now than being touched. Luna's hair is wild and hanging loose, rather than brushed straight or styled into a feminine twist and curled into spirals at her crown. Lifting a hand to rub at the skin of her temple, she wipes away a smear or coal that streaked there in the midst of her terror. The horse has stopped and everything is right with the world.

Still.

A laugh huffs out from her chest and one of Duncan's hands is lifted to a spot high on her breast. The heart underneath hammers as though it's trying to break free. "That was exciting, I've never felt so alive without aide." Of herbs or drink, she means. "Feel my heart, it's never gone so quick." Whatever scolding she may receive for her impulsive behavior seems secondary to this new feeling of exhilaration.

Duncan’s own horse, abandoned in the leaping, veers off to the side, slowing as soon as she figures out there’s no more urging to gallop, until she eventually stops and takes what chance she has to snap up a little grass while the humans are otherwise occupied.

Duncan’s hand, however, has found greener pastures still. Planted high on her chest, he can feel her heart beating quite wildly, hammering out an excitement that can - in the manner of sensuous emotions - attach itself to any cause or object. “Never?” he echos, “you live too sedately, Lady Luna.

“Which is why you cannot judge the difference between a wild sprint and a run,” he concludes, the lesson coming in as it must. There’s no chiding, however; all is well that ends thus, and he seems content to let her enjoy the exhilaration on this, her second day. If this attitude still predominates on the eve of the intended expedition… then firmer lines might needs be drawn.

“Life becomes more lively, when it brushes close to death. You’re lucky I was here to save you from a closer encounter.” Not scolding, but rather a little boasting - if she’s to make light of this, so shall he.

“I live life as I am able,” Luna says, her breathing deepening to calm but her heart still keeps the same pace as when Duncan’s hand was first placed. She glances backward, not up at his face but at the shoulder behind hers. “I was nearly six years old when I stopped playing with other children, at least rough and tumble. I didn’t wish to get my pretty dresses dirty and become ugly.” Like her mother, much of Luna’s pride is put into her looks. Further than Isibeal, though, much of her daughter’s self worth is placed in the same.

“Out with anything truly fun… and dogs, although I had a kitten. Cat, I suppose, after she grew.” Duncan may remember the little girl who was too grown up compared to the other children around her. “Instead I learned poetry, dance, needlework, things befitting a woman instead of knives and horses like some others.” Some others like Murdina, the woman he spoke of so fondly to cause the spark of jealousy.

She shivers, suddenly remembering the shawl that flew from her shoulders, and she glances upward to meet his eye. “Will you be taking me back or will you clamber back to your own mount and risk my fleeing once again?”

“Woman is woman,” Duncan says, hand withdrawing from her breast!archaic form! only to find a plant at her hip, “as she is clearly from first breath. But you were cultivated,” his touch rises up her waist, pantomiming grown, “and grew into the bloom of ladyship,” his hand stops upon the ridge of her ribs, “though there’s still a wildness to you, without which maiden temper would lose its savor and its sweetness.”

Is that what stews behind Duncan’s eyes during his imperturbable moments? How long the hive of his mind taken to form the honey of his flattery? Either he’s a deeper well of passion than he lets on, or he’s quite the quick wordsmith, at least when it comes to filigree.

“Having nearly lost you forever,” Duncan replies, “I hesitate to lose hold of you now.”

"Lost me forever? Come now, as Baizey's clearly shown, there's no such thing as losing forever. After death, he can just call them back, even if he doesn't wish to." Whether or not Duncan remembers the haunted child from the Dovetail is irrelevant to Luna's brand of gossip. "Unless you were speaking of losing me to the wild, then that would be something completely different."

Luna's hands take hold of the reins, seeming content with allowing Duncan's hand to wander where it will. The horse is guided in a slow amble, as she'd learned in her first lesson. Posture simple for her to maintain, she sits with back straight against him as she turns the beast in a large circle. "When I ran away, I wanted to join the selkies," she admits, turning her head near the end to give him a view of her profile. "I am glad now that I didn't meet any, this is a most welcome adventure."

“I’d rather you not be insubstantial,” Duncan says, relinquishing the reins and letting his hand settle - most modestly - at her waist, even on both side, “nor icy cold, nor bound in a shroud, when we share time together.” Which is fair, really. Even more fair when you consider how leery Duncan can be of extra-mundane forces.

But then, of course, Luna reminds him of her lineage. The seal-woman’s daughter- he had almost forgotten; people have stopped referring to her so irreverently when in his presence, once word got out that he and she had struck up an acquaintance.

Ah, but that fine profile! How can he credit barbarian degradation to such fine features?

“You’d be wasted in the wilds,” Duncan affirms, “we have plenty of briar roses. Civilization befits you. You deserve a gilded frame.”

A thought, though.

“Your children- would that share your runaway’s desire? Will I be finding them in the woods, running wild while I patrol?”

That Luna deserves a gilded frame instead of a cage pleases her. She rewards him by nestling a little closer in his arms, though feigning a chill to encourage an advance.

"Children?" Her ribs contract and belly hardens as a light laugh erupts from her frame. Shaking her head, Luna states down at the ground ahead of them. At this pace, she will have quite a while to explain exactly why she’s flabbergasted at the notion of children. “I have no children. Any that I could be blessed with would have been accidental but I am quite protected against that now. No need for tonics or powders to make me ill.”

The wind carries her hair to one side as they continue winding around shrubs of heather and scrub. Luna’s eyes dart over each one, presumably looking for good leaves or fresh shoots. “I highly doubt that they would share my desire, it’s not the same for me as it is my mother. She’s magic, I’m not. I simply don’t want to be left behind.” Again, she glances back at him, to give him a smile. “She’s the only one in the world who loves me unconditionally. If she was gone, I think I would be beside myself with grief.”

The lady shivers- who is he to question why? Duncan encloses her in his arms, painting at last a portrait of proper intimacy, better matching the ease they share in the Dovetail. The lesson has become a discussion, a walk - but that’s just as well; he can feel her form from here, her ease in the saddle. He can take control if he needs to.

He remains curious about her fertility, to put it bluntly, not simply put at ease with the assurance that she’ll bear no bastards. But it seems uncouth to inquire further, already quite a step to ask in the first place. He lets the matter go, and turns to the question of love and grief.

“Surely since she loves you so, she won’t leave?” Duncan says, “or she would take you with her- though I’d like to bar against any such rash eventuality.”

"What do you mean?" Luna's brow furrows, even buried in the comfort of Duncan's arms she feels cold, perhaps explaining the shiver. "I've read about the selkies, once they put on the pelt they can't come back for seven years. I don't think ma'd have a choice in the matter of coming back." The matter of her father remaining behind isn't touched, either Isibeal and Maddock have made their own arrangements or they haven't discussed it.

"How would you presume to bar against it, Duncan Rowntree? Would you make me a offer that I simply couldn't refuse?" She smiles over her shoulder, perhaps in jest at the notion. "It would have to be something at least wonderful enough to compare to the freedom of the sea and the love of my mother."

“I wouldn’t dare the comparison,” Duncan says, “not being your family.” He says no more than this - flirtation would seem to demand he offer some promise, some insinuation, but to do so here would mean quite a dedication, lest it be wastrelrey

“I will only ask that, should you ever hear that call,” Duncan says, “come to me first. That way I can set up a post by the sea, and spend those seven years in watchfulness.”

"You would spend seven years watching the waves?" Disbelief clouds her tone and she stops the horse with a gentle tug of the reins. On the ground nearby, a muddy shawl lays under a bit of scrub. Glancing between it and her stirrup, Luna seems to be judging the value of the clothing against the trouble of climbing back on the beast. "There is a price for my farewell, you know. Someone else has already asked for the same, so I will tell you what I told him. A poem, I will grant your request for a poem."

She's quite high maintenance in that regard, though practical in her own right. Treasure can't be packed on the back of a seal but a lovely poem could be carried in the heart. "But it is unlikely that I would ever be called. I spent three days by the ocean waiting for them, I even shed seven tears into the water like I was told. I was rewarded with solitude and chill."

“Magic is by its nature capricious,” Duncan says, before conceding, “though man usually needs a firm heart or a firmer hand to keep his promises.” So now he must amend. “Magic can afford to be indifferent to man; man can hardly be indifferent to himself.” But this is very serious talk. He breaths in the scent of her hair. “Of course- without caprice, there’d be no risk, and-” he glances down at her riding form, then carefully dismounts, “no risk means no play.”

He plucks the shawl from its languishment, and holds it in each gloved hand, examining it, before looking up at Luna. Does she want it? Like this?

“Must it be poetry?” Duncan asks, brow canted in an unpracticed solicitation of sympathy, “there must be some feat better suited to my talents…”

As to whether or not he’d personally spent seven years in longing watchfulness, he doesn’t clarify. Perhaps claiming such a thing openly would tarnish the gilt of his tongue. Luna’s beauty is supplemented by the adventure she desires, and the luminous promise of wealth, both found and inherited. It’d be a disservice to her to rush in headlong, surely, when the personal and political mingle so thoroughly.

Maybe it’s hard to own such words when they feel the claim of a purely mundane ghost. The dead are with us, always.

But the living have their own presence, even when absent.

“Who is so familiar with you as to ask for such a consideration?” Because two can play at this green game.

A hand, pale as the full moon itself, stretches out toward both the man and shawl. Dirty as it may be, the lace can still be salvaged. Or perhaps that is the hope. "What talents have you, sir, that would please me should I ever become a seal maiden?" Holding onto the horn, she reaches past the shawl itself for his hand. "Tell me and I'll consider it in trade, aye?"

There's no possibility of her helping him back up. Lacking the strength for such pursuits, she opts for the other course of flirtation and grabs the shawl with a grin. It's soiled and likely to sully the pretty dress she wore to impress (or please) him but it seems to be of no concern.

"A friend is all, if that, where he is concerned I am either swinging from a thread of friendship or hanging myself by the neck." Luna doesn't seem to let that bother her, at least not while in the company of Duncan, a better pursuit? The horse is guided a little closer to the soldier and her foot removed from the stirrup to allow him a step back up. "Baizey Skye has no interest in me except to see me twisting in the wind, he asked what the price of my goodbye would cost. I don't expect that he would ever put pretty words to paper for the likes of me."

“That only puts me so much at ease,” Duncan says, “I think you underestimate the power of beauty as inspiration. But I hope you are correct-” he lets the muddy scarf go, to do with as she will - he has no qualms about a little dirt and water, “I’d not care for a suitor, much less one that might have deceived you about his intentions.”

He sets a hand on the saddle, by Luna’s knee, and looks at up her - it’s not often she has the advantage of elevation over him. “I doubt the honesty of any man whose intentions towards you were stated as merely friendly. Such a man is either blind or a liar, or twisted in some way.”

A laugh then, light and airy, complete with a hand to breast to catch a breath. "Suitor, surely you're mocking me in the most cruel fashion, Mister Rowntree. Baizey Skye was a childhood dream, my heart has been broken by that man too many times to even dare ford that river again. I'd be carried into madness, I think." The shawl is laid over her lap, its damp threads creating a darker spot on the fine dress.

With one hand on the reins, she reaches down to trace her thumb against his cheek, her features softening. "His intentions are none, I doubt he even wishes to be a friend. I am nothing but a silly fool in his eyes and much to pale and fair for his tastes." She smiles possibly to mask the pain of being jilted, she is a vain creature, and straightens in the saddle. "He likely asked simply to be conversational and agreeable, he's not even spoken to me since my return."

“Your reason tells you to give him up,” Duncan observes, “but it sounds as if you’re heart still reserves a corner for him.” Despite his previous prying, this assessment is not delivered with noticeable jealousy. Rather, a touch of commiseration’s present. He understands, in some fashion. And truly, who doesn’t?

“And I’d never mock you out of cruelty,” Duncan adds, leaving room for other kinds of mockery, better intentioned, “not as long as you are not cruel to me.”

"My heart carries a place for the kind boy that indulged me with stories of adventure and princesses, not the man whose words only wound me." Luna's tone is firm and resolved, her eyebrows down at the edges in a frown, as though the subject of the current conversation is distasteful somehow. At the very least she's soured on it. "As I said, I am nothing to him and likely will always be."

Looking down at Duncan brings a little smile to her face though, obviously pleased by his attention. "I think I'd be much too wary or frightened to risk being cruel to you, Duncan, you have a reputation that has never been tested on me and I'd rather keep it so." She bends at the waist, leaning enough toward him to press her lips against his cheek. "Beside that, I think I am much too infatuated by your company to risk never seeing it again."

Very well. Duncan lets the matter of Mr. Skye rest, for now. He’d rather indifference to sourness, but the smile she gives him is enough. “I’ve a reputation?” he says, mock-incredulous, “and it’s not for my peerless conduct around ladies? You must makes sure to correct the score on that count, next it comes up. You know me by now as a genteel soul.”

Duncan’s hand lifts to catch her jaw, gloved hands clasping with a delicacy that is still firm - a weaponsmith’s touch. “Infatuated?” he echoes, before his speech slides into an informal ease, “if you’re nae a liar, lass, I think I deserve a wee bit more than that.”

He coaxes her down towards him, soliciting but not starting a kiss. Waiting for her to grant it freely, however compelled.

She blushes pink as spring roses at the touch to her face. The feel of calloused fingers much different than the soft ones she's used to. Her clients are generally of a different sort, unused to labor such as his. Save one. "What is it you'd like then, Duncan, room in my heart and in my bed?" Luna lets out a nervous laugh, not mocking anyone except maybe herself.

He doesn't need to coax much to be granted his silent request. Familiarity bred by bath has changed her position, at least with him. His touch is welcomed at most times, even solicited as with the shiver. The blonde's eyelids slide down to half shutter her blue irises from view and she leans in, pulse pounding and cheek warm, to press parted lips to his.

He takes the kiss, and for a while it is precisely what he wanted, and what he wants. Duncan’s own eyes slip shut, trapping him in darkness when his attention narrows from her features to her lips alone. But man wants more. It’s his nature. And so he lets his hand trace a path through her blond hair, down her back, to her hip, where he grips and - without further warning - pulls, turning as he does so to roll her right off the saddle. His other arm rises up to catch her legs, drawing up under her knees.

He’s got her. Luna’s safe and sound, secure in his arms, which bear her slight form as if she weighed next to nothing. He looms over her. He’s close. “What would you like?” he asks, low, as one might when inquiring after a secret.

Her gasp breaks the kiss, not one of fright but excitement as told by wide blue eyes that stare up at him in a small semblance of awe. This is the first time in her life she's been handled this way and her handler not be a recipient of lacerations across the face. "I— " she breathes, it could be mistaken for aye in this case, but it's not. A gloved hand comes up to cup his cheek and draw him in again, "I would like another kiss better than the last."

Before he closes in, she places a finger to his lips to stop him.

"Then I would like for you to stay with me for the remainder of the evening." Luna's voice is quiet, so it can't be carried over the fields by the wind. Her finger slips away, allowing him to accept or decline the offer. But she smiles, close lipped and crooked, behind it a promise of something more. "I would also like to join your bath this evening after you undress me."

He would kiss her in any case - how could he be so un-gallante as to do otherwise? But it seems the kiss is an agreement to rather more, simply the first event in a chain that continues with ‘then…’ then leads into discretion. The offer, sounding not unlike a previous one made in opium haze, now has the clarity of the open sky, the pasture air, her pale skin. This, Duncan judges, has been earned.

So while he’d kiss her in any case, the kiss he places on her lips in this moment carries the weight of expectation, an intention, a desire that stretches out into the future her words conjure up images of. He kisses her, so he does not say ‘yes’, but like all deeply shared knowledges this one needs not be spoken.