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When You're Good to Maman [Closed]

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
[[OOC: Morning, mid-Justinian, 9:41]]

Fortunately, it had taken only a couple of days to find a safe place to dock. While the captain of the guard at the Cumberland docks had been enraged by the reminder of his past follies, he had either been too embarrassed to circulate a description or it had yet to reach the small town of Wyburg, where they fetched up. Nobody placed them under arrest on arrival; Nicolette and Celeste were able to saunter off and negotiate the hire of a pair of horses to carry them back towards the city.

The last few days had been the happiest of Nicolette’s life, nightmares notwithstanding. The crew had welcomed her back like a lost member of the family, and that was how she had felt. The days had been spent reacquainting herself with every part of the ship and what the other members of the crew had been up to, the evenings dedicated to song and food, and the nights wholly to Celeste. She had not paid much mind to what waited for them when they did return to Cumberland and to her other family’s reaction to her sudden departure.

She had time to think about it on the ride. What had been a couple of days on the water would take them less time cutting directly over land, but they still had most of the day. The plan was for them to stay more than one night, but Nicolette, having been reunited with the Wicked Grace, was not of a mind to stay on land for long.

Most of their travel had been engaged either in playful flirting, or more trading stories – they had both built quite a store in the last six months – but as they drew closer to their destination, Nicolette turned the conversation towards what waited for them.

“I am not sure what Maman will say,” she admitted, candidly. “She will likely be cross that I left so suddenly, although as I return unscathed that will help. I imagine by now she heard about us being chased out of town.” She smiled a little. “She is fairly broad minded, but the story of the cross-dressing quanri and a guard with a grudge might be a bit much even for her.”

In truth, Maman had been furious when she first gave her story, in the days following her exhausted arrival on the doorstep. Not at her, however; she had blamed Celeste for abandoning Nicolette. She had stopped mentioning it in front of her when it became apparent how much it upset her, but she was not sure if that meant her temper had cooled.

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
DAO/DA2 Timeline
To be perfectly clear, Celeste was not afraid of horses. She’d just never been fond of them. They were large, hairy, smelly, and generally didn’t want to do what she wanted them to. She’d never even been in a saddle until she had started accompanying Nicolette on her inland excursions on occasion, and the complaints from muscles she had been unaware that she possessed afterward had not markedly increased her interest in that particular mode of travel. If she had to leave the ocean and the deck of her ship, her own two feet suited her just fine.

But Nicolette was anxious to reassure her mother that she was safe, and given the distance that they had been required to sail to escape the ire of the Cumberland guard, horses would be a necessity. Celeste would have tolerated far worse to stay beside her lover; waking next to her each morning still felt like a miracle, and she had every intention of keeping the promise that she had made so long as Nico wanted her along. Fortunately, her minstrel was quite aware of her limitations, and selected a mount for her that, while still large, hairy and smelly, was quite willing to plod docilely along wherever she directed him. Her. It. Whatever.

This left Celeste free to admire the easy way that Nicolette sat astride her more spirited horse, as graceful there as she was on the ground, and clearly enjoying herself, gently teasing the sailor for her own clumsiness in the saddle and promising a massage to soothe aching muscles later. Maker, but she was beautiful, and Celeste was not going to tire of drinking in the sight of her any time soon, but she also noticed the subtle tension in the lines of her face and the set of her shoulders as the day wore on.

“I am not sure what Maman will say,”
she said at last, trying to sound casual but not quite succeeding. “She will likely be cross that I left so suddenly, although as I return unscathed that will help. I imagine by now she heard about us being chased out of town. She is fairly broad minded, but the story of the cross-dressing quanri and a guard with a grudge might be a bit much even for her.” She smiled a bit at that, but her golden eyes were shadowed with more than a touch of worry. She had been reticent on the subject of her family since her return, which might not have been remarkable save for the stories that she eagerly told of her other experiences during their separation. The only other things that she did not speak freely of were the moments of terror, of horror, of aching loneliness. Those were reserved for her time alone with Celeste, and the first nightmare had by no means been the last, though none had been quite so intense.

Celeste didn’t think that Nicolette’s time with her family had been as traumatic as some of her experiences alone, but she suspected that she knew why her minstrel was reluctant to speak of it. “It won’t be the first time I’ve scandalized someone,” she remarked mildly, her eyes searching her lover’s face, “but I’m guessing she’s not too happy with me anyway.” She didn’t blame Clarice in the slightest; she was still a long way from forgiving herself for leaving her gentle minstrel behind in a world gone mad.

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Celeste did not like horses. Nicolette, despite herself, found this mildly amusing. Her captain sat in the saddle like a sack of potatoes and even the most mild-mannered of horses seemed to become capricious under her reins. Fortunately on this occasion they had managed to find one that had no inclination to bolt, although he had stopped on a few occasions for a relaxed period of grazing while steadfastly ignoring Celeste’s instructions. Not so much that they would have to delay their journey and camp overnight, at least.

As for Nicolette, she was finding it a joy to be riding without the threat of demons, bandits or starvation snapping at her heels. She missed Arminio and hoped the people she had sold him to were treating him well; he deserved it after everything she had put him through. Her current mount was a dappled grey mare which would clearly rather be going at a fast clip than the gentle trot they maintained, but she was biddable enough and Nicolette relaxed in the seat, savouring the breeze across her face.

It also helped that she was not riding under the dark shadow that Celeste’s absence had caused. She still found herself glancing over at the captain from time to time during the occasional moments that conversation ceased, and the warming sensation in her chest never failed to occur each time. They had only gone some of the way towards making up for the months apart, and Nicolette could have carried on kissing her until the skies caved in; but familial obligation called, and she resisted the urge to suggest they delay their arrival for a day and enjoy a night together under the stars.

Also cooling her ardour was the thought of the reception that likely awaited them. Haltingly, she warned Celeste that it might be on the frosty side.
Maman had mostly approved of Celeste, the first time they had been introduced. She had seemed to find her entertaining, and had not been shy in stating that Nicolette had had far worse choices of lovers before. But an undercurrent of concern had run throughout; fear for the situations her daughter might be placing herself in. Having had most of those fears realised following Nicolette’s near-collapse on the front step, she was likely to be distant.

Celeste took it on the chin. “It won’t be the first time I’ve scandalized someone. But I’m guessing she’s not too happy with me anyway.”

Nicolette released the reins to squeeze her lover’s hand. Try as she might, she had not yet managed to assuage Celeste’s guilt over ‘abandoning’ her. “It is not as though you are my keeper. But…no, she is not. However, I did explain – repeatedly – that staying would have condemned the crew. And Saul and Michel understood.”

Saul had actually been easier to talk to than her mother, which had made Nicolette feel a little treacherous. In his study, two days after her return, he had poured her out a long drink and simply listened, with no interruptions. At the end he had hugged her, and simply expressed his gratitude that she had made it back in one piece. He would never replace the memory of her father, but she did love him nonetheless.

The house was coming into view now. It was not a huge house by the standards of some merchants, but it was still a respectably-sized rambling country estate, and therefore had a few guards posted here and there around the edges of the gardens. One of them, on seeing the women appear, immediately ran back towards the house. “Messere Saul! Lady Clarice! Your daughter’s returned!”