She was meticulously perfect. She had meant it to be this way. The silky hair had been done up in curls, pinned in with a sparkly, dangly piece of hair jewelry. This piece defined something she would wear. It was pretty, girly, and bubbly all over, inside and out. It made her sick. The pale slender neckline was framed by the strapless white dress, which fell in several ruffles, cascading further until they reached the floor. Her jewelry was worn sparsely, because she knew this was the norm. Her choice was simply a heart-shaped necklace and the ring. It fit perfectly she noted, a dull throb of bitterness rising in her chest towards her throat. She wanted to throw up now.
She wondered, for a brief moment, how she was supposed to feel today. It was her wedding day, so she should feel happy, right? Had she ever felt happy? She tried to think back. She hated thinking back. It meant going through headaches, heartaches, and other pains she preferred to forget. She wished she could forget.
“You look perfect.”
Her eyes snapped back from the mirror to glare at him. “Isn’t it bad luck to see the bride before the wedding?”
“Not if you’re not the groom.”
“It will be if you don’t get out,” she paused. “Wait, why are you here? Who’s with her?”
“Why does it matter? She’s stuck. She’s not going anywhere.”
“You absent-minded little twit! What if she escapes? Our entire effort will have been for nothing and you will easily perish! If you think I’m going to waste my energy protecting you you’re sadly mistaken!”
“Don’t you talk to me like that!” Fangs were revealed, and he took a step closer, his magic brimming. “You’ll regret it! Our plan is foolproof!”
She didn’t seem to be affected in the least, working on her hair, fixing the little cowlicks with bobby pins. “Think, you fool, think! We have to play our cards right, take our time and do things right or we risk it all!”
“Not to worry,” he said coolly. “You’re flawless. No one will know the difference.”
“I want to speak with her.”
“I said I want to speak with her. Make sure she’s awake.” He didn’t move. “Go!” Begrudgingly, he obeyed, shutting the door behind him.
Again, she returned her eyes to the mirror. Are we really so different? What is it that separates us so much? Is it the way we act? I thought we act so much alike, were such good company to each other. Then, I felt like… like… She squeezed a gloved fist. I was betrayed… I lost everything. I won’t let that go without punishment. I hate it. I hate him. And I hate her.
Following a knock on the door, he entered once more, sweeping back his slick black hair. “She’s ready…” He was grinning, and blood trickled down his chin. “Just needed a little…persuasion.”
She stared at him for a moment, then at the door, before it swung closed. “You’ll regret what you’ve done.” It took a few moments, only silence in the room, but she exited, straightening her gloves, the hellish energy around her dimming down to a dull darkness. She entered the crumbling room of the forgotten inmates. The asylum had been a good place for him to pick, she had to admit, better than she would have been able to come up with in the end.
However, he had to be punished. She would not allow a break in the deal, even a small one such as that. He would not be moving for a while after that, which would give her plenty of time to make sure everything went well. “Hello.”
The woman lifted her head, a small trickle of blood coming from her neck. “… Just leave me be…”
“That’s the greeting I get? After so long?”
“No.” Her lip sneered, teeth bared. “You will watch this, because this day will live in infamy and I want you to know exactly what’s going to happen.”
Tears came to her eyes. She would have never expected, not in all her life, something like this to happen. She was really going to… how could this have happened? A few weeks ago, things were so different… she was so happy… She felt herself drifting into unconsciousness due the lack of blood, her head lolling back. She tried to focus on those times, the happier times, the ones she knew she might never know again.
The suit was absurdly comfortably. A custom-fitted one-button tuxedo from a tailor whose skills were not entirely mundane, the suit was just barely snug around the shoulders, waist, and wrists. The smooth black cloth of the jackets and pants was almost as soft to the touch as the bone white silk shirt underneath. A crimson necktie wound around his collar, a black vest buttoned down the front of his chest, and sleek black dress shoes encased his feet.
Michael Kiersgaard felt like a million bucks, as was appropriate considering the number of favors he had called in and cash reclamations he had suffered through in order to afford the suit, and it was worth it. The feeling of allowing every inch of his body feel as powerful and collected as it could be, the feeling of actually deserving her, was one on which there was never going to be a price tag. The suit may have been costly, but the value was priceless. He ran his fingers down the front of the jacket, smoothing it down, before using one dexterous hand to loop the button through its hole.
Today was a day like any other day for so many people. For him, it was more. The golden band in the pocket of his jacket, the faint twinge of a fear that echoed through his heart, and the twitching half-smile that absolutely refused to leave his lips was enough to indicate there was so much more to it, for him. An engagement party, the equivalent of telling the world, the universe, that he had been told the one world that mattered anything to him.
“Yes,” he murmured, “It’s perfect.”
A stocky man with wrinkled sausage fingers stumped around in front of the mirror, adjusted his tie with a grunt, and began to issue instructions in Latin as crisp as it was perfect. Italian was an inferior language to this tailor. The orders earned the nodding acceptance of his subject, who stood two heads taller than and almost as broad as his peculiar outfitter.
“I really have to go,” the younger man said, this time in Latin far from crisp but just as perfect. “My engagement party is–“
The old man waved him silent and cut him off, “No, you have to walk with your shoulders back and your head up, you have to look good! This is my suit, and when you wear my suit, you abide by my rules. What are my rules?”
“Do not eat in the suit, do not sleep in the suit, do not run in the suit. If you must dance in the suit you will dance well, if you must walk in the suit you must walk well, if you must sit in the suit you must sit well,” Michael recited solemnly.
“Good, and the cardinal rule,” the Roman tailor said, earning a surprised look from his customer. The old man smiled until the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes threatened to swallow them entirely before saying, “Take it off before the ladies tear it off, my brother!”
Laughing, Michael Kiersgaard decided, was an excellent way to start the events of the day. He walked out of his room with a smile and a wave, headed towards the reception room wherein he and his bride-to-be would announce their engagement to … why, to everyone!
She had tried to keep it simple. At least she had tried. That didn’t account for much though, since it had taken her a good couple of hours to get ready. Where is he? She wrung her hands. Oh, if he was late for the engagement party she would never forgive him. No matter how much he begged or tried to be cute. She fussed with her hair, pinning stray cowlicks back. A fair breeze stirred through the window. She ignored the faint sense she had, the sense that told her something was going to happen. Today was her engagement party. Things were going to be perfect. She was sure she’d never get around to greeting everyone, oh she was sure of it.
The building had been an ideal choice for the party, though a good distance from the town. Selene preferred that, honestly. It meant more privacy. Privacy away from the prying people just waiting to dig their claws into the delicate flesh of her personal life. Her life would be on the front page of every sob story magazine, she was sure. “Sh! Selene’s Secret Love Affair!” or “Twin Marriages? Double Deaths!” Oh she could just go on and on imagining the possibilities. Her talks with her friends, both old and new, had helped calm her down and prepare her for such a day as this.
Yes, her life had been hectic. But she didn’t regret. Regret meant giving it all up, wishing it for naught. No, she didn’t regret. After all, she may have had rough times, but those were passing. She was part of a different story now. “A love story,” she thought, “A love story that’s only beginning.”
“Oh! Will! I’m sorry, what was it?” She snapped out of her daydream to face the strong, astute angel.
“Where did you want this?” He lifted a large white potted Lily as if it weighed nothing.
“Oh! Put it there.” She pointed at the refreshments table, filled with fruit trays, small desserts, and those small sandwiches people always liked. She was careful to choose very specific foods, ones she thought were more likely to appeal to a wider audience. “There, that’s nice.”
“Is there anything else?” Will was patient, thought he couldn’t help but question Selene’s methods of choosing a husband. She had hardly known either of these men, and yet she’d known him for years beyond years. Did he lack something? Maybe he would be next in line. No, he shook his head. What a terrible thing to think. He was here at a friend’s engagement party, his best friend’s. He should feel only happiness for her. Then why did he feel so…
“You can turn on the music, Will.”
He absently nodded, going over to the stereo and fiddling. When he got it, the gentle guitar of Peter, Paul, and Mary flowed out of it. He took a moment to listen. Not exactly a wedding ballad, but it was at least relaxing. Human emotions were a puzzling thing, something he still didn’t quite understand. Angels had their own ways of dealing with things; the things they felt were generally stronger, more passionate. There was one feeling he knew. This feeling, the one he likened to sadness, was understandable. He tried harder to ignore it, instead focusing on his friend’s happiness. She really was happy. And that, he decided, would have to be enough for him.
“Okay, Michael should be back from the tailor’s soon, and then… then the guests should arrive.”
He had noticed her outfit, and how lovely it made her look. She hardly ever dressed up, but that wasn’t because she was lazy or something like that. She was simply naturally beautiful. Lucky, as humans would put it. Today she wore a spaghetti strap sundress, white with gold sparkling lines along it and tan zig-zag stripes. Of course no one could miss the watermelon she had for a stomach, but somehow it seemed to flatter her figure, as it did most pregnant women. Will didn’t exactly agree wholeheartedly with the assumption, but he wasn’t about to argue. Her high heels surprised him the most. They weren’t terribly high, but they were enough to make him double-take. Somehow he doubted someone had told her they weren’t the smartest option to wear pregnant. But again, he wasn’t about to argue. “Ready over here!”
“Good!” Selene braced herself and gave a little cheer. “Let the party begin!”
Stepping into the reception room Selene had chosen was like stepping into her living room, except that instead of turning her excellent taste towards comfort she had managed to turn it towards fancy comfort. The polished hardwood floors, which he recognized with dread as being perfect for dancing, managed to give just the right touch of splendor to the cheery atmosphere created by high light-catching windows. It was not exactly like her, but he could see the touches of her choices in every corner of the room. The meticulous cleanliness also reminded him of her.
The warrior – retired – spotted her from across the room and could not help the grin that spread across his features. Those thoughts that had been filling his mind, the thoughts of comfortable suits and clever decorating, vanished against the wave of awareness of her. His ardent grin petered out into a tender smile as he continued across the floor towards her, his eyes never leaving her or her adorable sundress for a moment. The high heels were noticed, filed away in that passionate part of him so that he could recall them at a later date, and as he stepped close enough to touch her, he slipped his arm around her waist, balancing his forearm sturdily against the small of her back.
“Hello,” he said, laughter in his voice, not giving her time to respond before he leaned down and gently kissed her lips with complete chastity. “You look wonderful.”
The Lamborghini wasn't designed for hauling cargo any more than Louis Fritz, forty-year old retired farmhand and pipe smoker, was designed for heavy lifting any more, but he and Cadenza managed to support the cumbersome weight of the gift box with its red bow between the two of them. It wasn't so much an actual problem of being able to lift the weight of the box--they had plenty of strength to spare. It was just that it was too long, tall, and wide for any one person, even with Louis' reach, to comfortably fit their arms around the whole thing and still be able to see. Cadenza had splurged for the most expensive, expertly handcrafted, and safety-guaranteed piece in the whole furniture store, and what it weighed in wood, it more than doubled in weight of the money spent on it. It was the best baby crib money could buy.
I really hope Mike hasn't decided he wants to build the kid a crib himself... is he the craftsman type? He could be. I could see Selene liking that...
"Denza, watch for the steps!"
The split second notice was all that kept the gypsy from crashing over the hand-railing. She jerked her skirt free with a motion of her hips, thanking the gods that it didn't tear, and steadied herself again before she lost her handle on the crib's box.
"Er... lo siento there, bud. Was kinda drifting off. This party's a really big deal for the two of them..."
"You've said," Louis nodded, the gesture all he needed to show to let her know he'd accepted the apology. His breath was beginning to wheeze a little. "When does... Rain come...?"
"He... said he had a little work to wrap up with Raisha, and then he was gonna be right over. Maybe half an hour? I really haven't got a clue... Kate, don't take any of that food!"
Kate peeked her head out from behind her aunt Ari, where she'd been trying to sneak a piece of a fresh pound cake. "But Mommy... I'm really hungry..."
"I know, honey, but we're almost inside... just help your aunt carry the containers, okay...?"
"Good girl..." she gave her daughter a smile, and paused right as she saw Louis flinching at her. "...'bout to hit the door, aren't I?"
"Yeeep..." he chuckled, with a bit of a cough.
"Thanks." The dark-haired woman reached back with her elbow and knocked three times. "Man I hope this door swings inward and not out," she sighed. Louis simply chuckled at her again and waited.
Kira banged on Ren's door, Rontu standing a short distance away from her as she did so. She was in the same pin-stripe suit she had worn to Cadenza's wedding. Rontu was wearing the same suit he had as well, with his hair brushed back just the same. Their concept of the modern clothes, especially formal ones, made them easily satisfied with using the same ones again for this formal occasion. Khaz was also standing nearby with Leita, though she stood closer to Rontu than he did. Khaz thought it best to keep his distance from what he deemed "the dragon's cavern."
Kira paused. There was no answer. She half pouted and half scowled. He was such a brat. Pretending like he wasn't there.
"Come on, Ren, I know you can hear me," she called through the door. "You're already wearing the suit again, you might as well come."
"There will be food. I know the Dome didn't give you anything you would consider edible today."
Kira smirked, ready to use her last and only weapon. The ace up her sleeve. "Okay," said said with a resigned voice that was convincing enough. "But Saelius is going to be real disappointed that you're not coming with us ..."
She waited two seconds before the door was ripped open. Ren stood beyond it, his face stern and cool. Kira had wiped the smirk off her face before he had appeared. He was wearing the same completely black suit with red tie and just as sloppily as before: the last buttons of the collar undone, tie loose, and his shirt untucked and sleeves rolled up to his elbows--complete with his fingerless gloves.
"Saelius is going?" he asked curtly at the door.
Kira quirked an impatient brow and nodded at him, like this had been common information. Ren glared at her coldly for a moment, as if trying to assess whether this was just a trick or not.
"Another wedding, hm?" Rain finished putting on his shirt, pulling his shirt down right after pulling off some bloodied cloth that had formed a makeshift bandage. Even if most wounds did heal up almost instantly, he decided that it would be better for him and the person he drank from if he wasn't as careless about how much blood he'd lose during a fight. Ripping some cloth off and tying a wound tight would help, he hoped.
"Yes." Raisha responded immediately, her fingers pulling some of her hair slightly to the side, and her other hand setting a clip right in to hold it there. Her eyes kept staring at her reflection in the mirror as they looked over the outfit that Cadenza picked out for her. She wasn't very used to them, nor had she even thought about fashion that much. But she said that it would look perfect on her; and Raisha believed that it did. The skirt had her showing off a little more leg, and the top, a little more cleavage and shoulders.
"Selene's last wedding was..."
"I know." As if reading her mind, Rain replied softly, his eyes far away and perhaps lost in memories for the moment. In the silence, Raisha turned to look at him. Rain was just there, finishing tying his tie and slipping into the jacket. Her eyes fell in the bloodied cloth that he had tossed aside and she smirked slightly, turning back to the mirror, perhaps a little glad that he would be a little more careful. He wasn't like her at all.
There was a knock at the door. It was opened before anyone else could answer. Jessica walked in, smiling sweetly from ear to ear. Her hair tied up in a small ponytail. Over her ear, a large, white, flower-like hair clip was set in. Around the edges of each petal were silvery dust that glittered lightly with each step. Her dress was silver as well with straps holding it up at her shoulders, while the flowing hem dangled around her ankles.
"Are you ready?" She asked excitedly, "You both are, aren't you? Let's go."
"Well thank you!" she replied, a hint of childish glee among her own voice. "You look very nice too!" She couldn't help it as her hands involuntarily straightened the crimson tie a little. "Even more formal than I thought, this is a very nice tailoring job. Make sure you thank him personally," Selene had known very little about where Michael had been, only that he needed to get fitted and would return in time for the party. "I'm glad you made it. I was beginning to wonder what horrible fate should befall you if you didn't," she pulled him closer by the tie and whispered, "or what perfect pleasure awaited if you did." She knew a thing or two about making a man's mouth water, and she could tell, by looking at her soon-to-be husband, more physical sensations were aroused than she thought.
"But you'll see more about that later..." She released the grip on his tie and gave his chest a gentle pat, looking at the people that had arrived. There were a few present, but not many yet. Of course, the party didn't technically start yet, so most of them were early. Then there was a loud thud at the front of the reception building, which caused Selene to look with concern.
"Oh good! Cadenza and Louis are here!" She didn't see Rain, but assumed he would be coming a bit later, with Jessi and his sister as well. Kate, adorable as ever, seemed to be playing a mover as she motioned which way they should bring- my goodness was that a huge package. What on earth... Selene watched a bit shocked as they managed to move it over to the growing pile of presents. Then, gaining control of herself, she moved over to welcome them, eyes trying to stay off the huge package in curiosity.
"Cadenza, what have you brought?" Her tone contained the laugh she struggled to keep inside her. "It's humongous!"
"Mommy bought-mmph!" Louis slipped a hand over her mouth to shush her with a playful chuckle at Kate's surprised muffle. "You'll just have to wait and see, Mrs. Vlaxen."
Selene blushed at the title. She hadn't heard it in a while. "Thank you. Cadenza, I'm so glad you could come."
"I'm glad too... Kate, why don't you go help your Aunt Ari with the appetizers and food? Maybe she'll reward you with a little caaake if you're goood..."
At the word "cake", the girl had already squealed and scurried off to help before her mother could finish speaking. Nothing motivated like sugar. The adults shared a laugh.
"You brought food too...? Oh Cadenza..."
"It's nothing..." the gypsy smiled, "just a few little things my sister and I whipped up together, a little pound cake she made. I thought some extra food couldn't hurt, gods know you're busy..."
"Food, yes..." Louis eyed the containers, "maybe I should go help too."
"Don't you dare touch anything!" Cadenza snapped, grasping the sleeve of his yellow dress shirt just before the man could break into a dash. The minstrel grinned weakly before smoothing the fabric. Even in heels and a pencil skirt, she was too quick for him to get away. Smooth, slender muscles strained under the silk of her violet blouse, making it very clear to him that he hadn't a chance.
"Yes'm..." he murmured, chuckling, and stepped back into place. "I'll just mingle, milady." He smiled and tipped his hat, a more formal brown bowler for this occasion, to Selene in apology.
Michael absentmindedly brushed a golden-blonde strand of hair behind Selene’s ear before turning fully to face the arrival of her guests with an easygoing smile that was one part welcome and four parts natural satisfaction. The sight of the large package earned a faint lifting of his eyebrows as he tracked its progress, but other than a faint twitching at the corners of his lips he refrained from making any comments as the raven-haired gypsy woman approached them and made idle small talk with his bride-to-be. The complacent look settled on her counterpart for a moment and then skimmed over the rest of the pleasant little band.
… and then there was the little girl, who managed to make his heart melt a little bit without so much as glancing at him. It was quite a group of friends, exactly the sort of happy people he would have expected his future wife to have befriended, but he did feel a bit of a sinking sensation in his chest when he realized that his own guest list was going to be sadly small and all but absent from both the engagement party and the wedding. The majority of his friends were busy people with as much sentimentality as he had, and few of them would consider it worth their time to attend a wedding. He had no doubts that they would send gifts, but it was different.
Now that he was actually getting married, he was starting to realize why people he had barely known had sent invitations. They wanted to show off. They wanted to be able to point at their side of the aisle and say, “Hey, look, I know people too!”
The side of the aisle belonging to him would be occupied by perhaps two people, neither of them excellent examples of upstanding citizenry for any place.
Still and all, it was at least twice as much her day as it was his. His perfect day had been when she said yes the first time. The second time was just for show. He smiled to himself and bent down to kiss his beautiful lady on the cheek before whispering, “I’m going to go steal some food. Want anything?”
"No, Michael, that's alright. I'm not very hungry. Maybe just something small if you're going there, something light like a sandwich or something," she complied with a kiss on the cheek.
"I'm sapposed to say... congraduelations on you are getting married and I hope you have lots of kids so I can have some more friends to play with." Kate had stepped right up to Michael and talked to him as if he was her best friend in the world, despite having never met him before. She didn't even seem shy, which was a rare case for her. The innocence sparkled in her eyes as she smiled at him.
"Well look at that, you have a friend. Kate, this is Michael. He's going to be my husband, why don't you show him the food?" Selene asked, smiling.
"Okay! Come on, Mr. Michael!" She dragged him by the hand over to the buffet table.
The little brunette’s hand in his was enough to finish the melting process. Michael flashed an inordinately happy grin at his angel and allowed himself to be led away to the food-covered tables. Despite never having been particularly good with any of the children he had met in the past, partially because most of those children had witnessed him doing something much more disturbing than standing around looking overdressed in an expensive tuxedo.
“Thank you very much, Kate,” he rumbled as they reached the dining tables. He immediately began arranging vegetables and fruits on one of the small, disposable plates and added, “Do you want anything?”
"Not that stuff," she said, regarding the vegetables and fruits assorted on his plate. "Just eat the sweets, that's the good stuff!"
"I don't like sweets," he replied with a confused frown.
"Don't like sweets?" Kate just stared at him. He couldn't be human! She tried to process this anomaly. "Why not?"
"I don't know," Michael replied, without really thinking about it. He had never liked sweets. "I just don't. If I want something sweet, I eat fruit."
Kate paused at this, thought for a moment, then shook her head. "You're weird." Everyone she knew loved desserts and the like. Someone not liking them had never crossed the six year olds mind.
"... thank you?" Michael muttered, glancing concernedly in Selene's direction. He liked kids, but he was quickly realizing that he had no clue as to how he was supposed to deal with one.
"You know, I hope you're good to Miss Selene, she's very nice and makes good cookies," Kate commented, actually lecturing the husband to be.
"I like her bread. Do you want one of those?" desperate to change the topic, he pointed at a chocolate-dipped strawberry up out of her reach.
"Oh yes!" Her eyes suddenly got very large and settled on the strawberry. "I love chocolate!" He had successfully distracted her.
Glancing briefly over his shoulder to make sure no one was giving him the evil eye, he plucked one of the larger berries and handed it down to her with a murmured, "Knock yourself out."
"Oooo!" She accepted the strawberry and plunged into the sweet treat, juice trickling down her chin. "Mmm... do you want a bite?" She was used to sharing her food with her Mommy and Papa and had no idea he might refuse.
"No thank you," he mumbled around an impolitely large mouthful of broccoli and carrots.
"You're so good with children, aren't you, Michael?" Selene said in a playful, sarcastic tone from behind him, not facing him, but able to judge from his tone he was not exactly thrilled as she half-listened to Will share one of his stories with a small group of people.
"Wellll okay!" Kate said, gulping down the rest. "Can I have another one?"
"...No, honey, that's enough for now. We'll share a plate later," Cadenza interjected. The mother rested a hand on the girl's shoulder and grabbed a napkin from the table for her to wipe her mouth, passing it down to her.
"What? But... but I'm still hungry, Mommy..." she whimpered, giving her a sad eyes look.
The sarcasm managed to soar overhead. Michael turned deer-in-the-headlights eyes at his fiancée and shook his head slowly while whispering, "Save me."
"Then I'll fix us a plate now. But it won't be all sugary sweets, all right? You need something more in your tummy or you'll get a tummyache like at Uncle Zach's."
"Ooooh okay..." Kate begrudgingly obeyed, nodding as she watched Cadenza picked out many things, most of which were yucky.
Selene smiled as she heard the whisper, and noted the small thrill it sent down her spine. "I think it's time that Michael and I start unwrapping gifts." She had saved him. Well, sort of. Saved him from a child's incessant chatter and thrown him before the rampaging women eager to watch the gifts unfold.
Adrien stepped lightly onto the steps of Milliune manor with his black dress shoes. He wore an outfit vaguely similar to the one he wore at Cadenza's wedding. Only the slacks and jacket were dark gray and his shirt black and cotton, no buttons. The jacket buttoned several inches down from his sternum, but otherwise was smooth and without a defined collar.
He pressed the door bell without hesitation, having already had 18 years at the Dome to be rather used to more technologically advanced devices and, apparently, formal attire.
He smiled faintly. Like always there seemed to be a slight curve at the corners of his mouth, so when he wasn't smiling he often looked on the verge of it. He waited patiently at the door, there to pick up one of his newer students. He wondered who might answer the door. Saelius himself, a sibling, his mother, or perhaps his father.
He had to admit that it felt a little strange. Or ... very strange. Maybe even uncomfortable. The thought of showing up to a celebration, someone’s engagement party, one he was no part of.... In a completely different setting, too. Saelius would be traveling impossible distances, likely with a few steps past a curious door, to meet other people that looked and spoke like him. Other humans and stuff.
That, at least, was slightly relieving. The idea should have excited him more if he weren’t so concerned about fitting in appropriately and such. Adrien Krest was probably the closest he had ever gotten to a human from another world, and he was a vampire. Better said, Adrien was the only round-eared person he has made physical contact with outside of his home planet.
Luckily, touch came to mind when he contemplated whether or not to go. Saelius didn’t quite know what to expect. What kind of energies he’d encounter, nor what kind of personalities. He had to assume that there could be some heavyweights. He also had to be prepared to shake anyone’s hand. And with a possibly high concentration of people present, touch--physical contact--would be a certain problem. His Insight would need to behave this time.
Saelius sat inside the huge, poorly lit main entrance of his home, its emphasis being a fine staircase divided in two after a landing. He waited nervously on the lowest steps, close to the doors so that he could greet his teacher promptly. Preferring lighter colors and thinking it was more fitting, he wore mostly beige. Beige slacks and light brown shoes. A beige waistcoat or vest embraced his mid-section over a white, long sleeved dress shirt. Attached with a sand-colored tie tucked in his vest. White gloves covered his hands to control the pesky Insight for the occasion.
While he waited to be picked up, Saelius thought deeply about why he was really going, why he’d risk looking out of place, not belonging. And his thoughts always drifted to that ... volcano of a person. Nevisu. Maybe he could tame him a little in case he misbehaved.
Some sort of barrier Saelius still couldn’t figure out prevented him from sensing Adrien step foot onto the outer entrance. Something in the house. The doorbell rang and Saelius scurried over to the doors.
He immediately welcomed the man with a brief hug, something of a customary greeting as of late. His expression glowing, Saelius looked up to him with a warm smile. “Ah, Adrien!" He pulled away to view his teacher's clothes, a charming and more modern set. "You look very nice.”
Saelius always revered Adrien’s radiance, his composure that graced the atmosphere. The ancient seemed to make every difficult situation he faced a little less grueling for those involved. Just with his presence. Saelius reacted well, certain that everything would be okay as long as he was around. Suddenly it didn’t feel so weird going. Adrien and the lively group under his wing were very pleasant to be around, for him. It was still pretty early, but he loved them all. They were his friends now, in his eyes. It would be fun to hang out with them in an entirely different scenario.
"Of course, of course" Saelius agreed with a friendly expression. He hurried past the doorway, not wanting to hold them any longer.
Frankly, the boy was eager to see the others’ outfits. See them in a whole new way. He arrived with Adrien right outside of Ren Nevisu’s room. ...Which might not have been too surprising if Saelius considered how hard it was to make him go places. Mostly everyone seemed to be present, save for Kai.
Saelius stood by Adrien after entering. He chuckled softly, content with what appeared before him. He had confidence things would turn out well. Saelius looked visibly amused by their clothing, everyone looking marvelous. Sharp.
"Goodie; I won’t be feeling overdressed, yeah?" His charming expression inevitably settled on Ren. It was instinctual. His calm eyes locked with the other boy’s intense ones for a moment. But mere moments of eye contact with this particular person felt longer. And usually profound.
Ren seemed to perk up immediately at the sound of Saelius's voice. Like the younger boy, his eyes went to his instantly. And he smiled. It was still a slight smirk, a half smile, but one none the less the made Ren look almost normal and handsome even. Kira watched this quick and silent exchange between Saelius and Ren in awe. She wondered if she would ever get used to that. The moment Saelius walks in, Ren was suddenly much easier to handle.
Ren soon shrugged in response to Saelius. "These clothes are weird."
"You're not even wearing them properly," responded Kira, pointing at his sloppy dressing.
Instead of whatever insult usually came to mind, Ren said, "Am I even allowed to go? You might not have noticed, but that Michael guy didn't exactly take to me very well."
Khaz quirked a brow at Ren. "Didn't you call him a coward or something? Anyone would get upset about that."
"Well, he was being a spineless coward," said Ren with another shrug. "I was just pointing it out."
"Do me a favor, Ren," began Kira. "And don't point stuff out while we're there."
Ren rolled his eyes. "Back to my point, he doesn't want me there."
"As long as you're quiet and mind your business and tongue, I doubt he'll even notice you," said Kira. "You're part of the guard, Ren. We're friends and comrades--we all should go together."
"Didn't that guy almost murder two people when you met him?" said Khaz slowly and arching a brow. "I'm just sayin' ... might not have the best temper."
"Like you're one to talk about tempers," she slipped right back at Khaz, who remained looking unabashed by the comment.
Ren snorted but said nothing more, which she decided to take as his consent to come. Her eyes drifted to Rontu and Leita who had both remained silent. She recognized a bad day for Rontu pretty easily. He wasn't loud about it, but she did know him best. He had been drinking again, on and off these days. On bad days, he smelled of whiskey. Good days, he seemed to be perfectly sober. Kira supposed this wasn't as bad as it was in the past, when Rontu drank everyday and she was never sure if he was ever completely sober. She could sense the conflict in the pattern. Rontu didn't want to upset and worry Leita. So he did his best not to drink, but whatever was still bothering him wasn't enough for him to maintain that constantly anymore.
It was a bad day, but she knew he hadn't drank anything yet. Rontu didn't want to embarrass Leita that way in front of others. Kira knew that. She knew he didn't want to go anywhere right now either. She knew that Saelius's appearance raked his nerves somehow. There was just a tenser way he held his jaw when Saelius was with them.
Besides that, Leita at his side was like looking at a mirror of what was really going on under Rontu's dark face. Leita seemed to be hypersensitive to most anyone's emotions, and with Rontu, whom she was so close to, she was even more aware of his feelings. Leita had looked up only momentarily when Saelius entered, but then back down. Her face solemn, but her eyes and body sad and very anxious. She stood close to Rontu, as if afraid to let him too far from her. She looked like she was on the verge of tears. The lines of her eyelids seemed a touch pinker than usual.
Rontu's face was cold and passive, but Kira knew he was trying to keep something down because he seemed even colder than usual. The kind of iciness that made her nervous, because it reminded her too much of Rontu's old days. His assassin days. She felt less of her friend there, in that space where his body stood.
Khaz seemed to be handling Saelius's presence just fine (but, of course, Khaz seemed to be a natural at suppressing unpleasant experiences now). It seemed the aftermath of the day ... when they met, seemed to have finally faded almost completely. It was really rather natural to be together with Saelius. He was such a pleasant kid ... even if his stubborn will scared the crap out of her still.
Her attention was soon taken by Kai, who walked up to the group full dressed. It was the first time she got to see him in the modern clothes. He wore a blue suit so dark it matched the color of Khaz's eyes. His dress shoes were black and so was the black, button-up shirt under it. He had no tie, and left the collar of the shirt unbuttoned. The tattoo on his neck was full visible, and he still wore the small silver hoops on both his ears.
Kira stared for a moment, taking in his appearance.
"You know," she said slowly, still staring. "These clothes are weird ... they make me want to take them off you."
Kai smiled his half smile for her. Kira smirked right back at him, striding, almost dancing, quickly up to him. Ren rolled his eyes.
"Shouldn't we be going?" retorted Ren loudly at them.
Kira was still smiling in her mischievous way, when she looked back at the rest of them. "Oh ... right."
A door was summon, which took them all to the front step of the house where Selene and Michael's party was taking place. There everyone paused at the door. Then Khaz spoke.
"Don't you have to push the ... button thing?"
Kira paused, being the one directly in front of the door. "Button ... oh! Right, Adrien told me about those. The bells for doors!"
"Doorbell," Khaz corrected.
"Yeah, whatever," said Kira. "But I think we just go in ... right?"
Adrien chuckled and moved ahead to lead the group farther into the building to reception room.
Selene found some glee in noticing the look Michael gave her, a completely ill-pleased look that said, “Why would you say that to rescue me?” Needless to say, she pulled him over. He was going to have fun with her and she was determined to have him help her open presents. She began with the normal things one would expect from an engagement party, the household objects, the sweet cards written with real warm feelings from friends and neighbors, and then she came to the huge gift Louis had so much trouble bringing inside along with Cadenza.
“Open it with me, Michael,” she positioned him on the opposite side. “Ready?” People waited with baited breath as she ripped a little, Michael doing the same to the opposite side. “Ah!” she shrieked as she got halfway there in joy. “It’s… oh, Cadenza! Michael, look!” She showed off the bars of the crib, the wood shimmering in the light, clearly well-made and sturdy, large and including colorful padding.
“Oh Cadenza it’s beautiful! Oh thank you so much!”
Cadenza laughed at her friend’s joy. “You’ll need it for the baby, won’t you?”
“Oh I sure will! It’s just wonderful… “ She paused for a moment, then the smile returned to our face. “Thank you all so much for everything, it all means so much!” What was that?...
"Oh dear, are we late?" said Adrien as the group spilled into the room from the reception room. The only two of the group that were not with them was Rontu and Kira. Leita was led into the room by Khaz, who kept a consoling arm around her shoulders, but she kept looking back to where Rontu and Kira remained in the reception room. Khaz's face was casual and generally relaxed despite being rather annoyed with Rontu at the moment.
Whatever or whoever upset Leita bugged him instantly, and it always easy with Rontu anyway. He didn't know what was going on with the drow, honestly. He and Ren, even Saelius, were already over what had happened in that wrecked pub weeks ago. Was he still upset that the Milliune family was continuing contact? Khaz wasn't really sure about it himself. He never been able to decide if it was worth the risk or not. It was a conflict that still stirred restlessly inside him. Perhaps that was why he had not been to see Verdaint since his first visit to the Milliune's manor.
Well, in any case, he just thought Rontu had a tougher skin than he was still behaving like.
Adrien beamed, smiling in his usual jovial sort of way at everyone in the room, particularly Selene and Michael. "My apologies, organizing an outing with this many can be difficult."