Hurried footsteps echoed in the hallway from which the two ladies had emerged. "Satine?" A tall figure appeared framed in the doorway, glancing left and right before noticing Satine and Margot near the edge of the scenic courtyard. The young man strode briskly across the cobblestones to meet them, his short ponytail of black hair rippling in the breeze. He wore a gold-trimmed midnight blue tunic with the Arach crest embroidered in gold thread below his shoulder.
His long legs covered the distance in a few seconds, and it soon became apparent that he towered over them, a head taller. He stopped short when he realised who was standing next to Satine and hastily gave Margot a bow. "Please pardon my intrusion, Lady Stallion."
He turned to Satine, gazing down at her with worried dark eyes remarkably similar to hers. "Satine, I saw... what happened. I'm sorry I could not come earlier. Are you all right?"
He was touching his face, why was he touching his face, this theme of touching was really aggravating and it needed to stop. Everett's face was already quite flush from the wine, but at... all of this, he had turned an even deeper shade of red. This was bad, he really had to get out of here somewhere... but at the same time, his legs felt like jelly, and he could hardly move. (Also the door didn't open from the inside, he recalled with a scowl.)
"Yes, you did. Earlier today, even," Everett retorted, trying to swat away Alain's hand—however, he missed horribly, only managing to swipe vainly at the air in Alain's general direction. "Kno... knock it off, it's not funny."
"I would love to keep in touch," was all Satine managed to say, before a familiar voice caught her ears and interrupted her. She gave a slightly sheepish smile as her brother appeared in the doorway, approaching her with some concern. She recalled that she had wanted to speak with her family while here, and was glad to see him, though she wished that the circumstances had been different.
"I'm fine, Batiste, it's okay," she assured him. "I apologize for Everett; he isn't usually... like that."
Alain blinked, his face assuming a look of mock seriousness. "Of course it's not, Everett. Do you see me laughing?" his grip on Everett's waist tightened. "I do mean it when I say you are a very handsome man. Certainly worthy of the title of the Lord of Jade."
His face broke into a smile again as he removed his hand from Everett's face and instead put it around his shoulders, pulling the Lord of Embers closer to him and looking him right in the eye. The Grand Duke blinked lazily as he gazed into Everett's green eyes, absorbing their colour and that frustrated, grumpy look in thgem, a look which nevertheless did not take away from how good-looking he was. "A Stallion and a Jade...it's almost blasphemous," his smile turned into a grin. "But if it's only once...it won't hurt. Nobody has to know."
The Grand Duke leaned forward towards the Jade Lord, aligning his face with Everett's. He closed his eyes and parted his lips slightly, ready to steal the kiss. However, just before they made contact, Alain's icy blue eyes snapped open. "Hmm...no."
He pulled his head away from the Jade Lord, his grin still wide. "It's so tempting...and yet I can't do it without seeing poor Margot's heartbroken face in front of my eyes," Alain suddenly laughed. "She's such a sweet, silly thing. Completely in love with me too. But so loyal, so loving..." his voice lowered into a purr. "And so beautiful."
Closing his eyes, he once again leaned into Everett but this time, Alain only nuzzled into his shoulder. "I wouldn't mind her here...of course, between her and you, I'd chose her without a second thought," he cuddled closer into the Jade Lord. "That's the way of things. She is my wife after all."
Margot turned around suddenly as the stranger bore down upon them. She squeaked a little, startled when he spoke but then immediately took in the colour of his clothes and a cold chill ran down her spine: House Arach! Too young to be the lord though, most likely his heir. Either way, it did not matter; he was part of Satine's House and oh Woo, he must have seen...
She quickly bowed deeply to the newcomer, clutching her hands together as though praying to the Woo himself. "Please forgive me, Lord Arach. Don't blame my husband for what he did. He...I'm sure he was just not thinking clearly," she stammered, even if she knew the truth: it was likely that Alain had known perfectly well what he was doing, but telling this lord that would no doubt be disasterous.
"You have nothing to apologise for, Satine." Batiste smiled back at her, though it did not reach his eyes. "It's good to see you again."
For a moment, the young heir was somewhat distracted by the sight of the Grand Duke's stunning wife bowing before him. "Of course you are forgiven - but... there is no need for you to apologise, Lady Stallion. This incident was clearly quite... unusual." Margot's embarrassment was almost contagious and he found himself tempted to stammer as well.
From his grandmother, who happened to have been born a Stallion, Batiste had heard many anecdotes about members of the Bernian ruling house. They were interesting and varied, to say the least. Batiste was not entirely sure of what Alain Stallion had been up to around Everett Jade earlier, and he was not sure he wanted to know the specifics.
He turned back to his sister and spoke in his cool manner again. "Is there any way I could be of help? This is not how I imagined we'd meet again... I can only hope that you are well-settled in Corvus." He glanced sideways at Margot, hesitant to reveal his misgivings. "Solis is far, but... you know you can write to me at any time."
Everett felt his body tensing as Alain pulled him close. Oh Woo, he was going to kiss him, wasn't he? As much as Everett tried to get away, to wriggle out of the Grand Duke's arms, he couldn't. Then finally, he let himself go limp, giving up. What was the point in fighting it at this point? He squeezed his eyes shut, just bracing himself for the contact of their lips. Just please Woo, let it be quick and painless.
...Except that Alain didn't kiss him. It took him a moment to realize it, and even longer to process Alain's words, but it sounded like he had ultimately decided against it, choosing to remain loyal to his wife. Was this really happening? Did Lord Woo answer his prayers?
"About time," Everett said at length, trying one last time to push Alain away. "As I said before, I'm loyal to my wife, too." His expression suddenly softened, his mind drifting back to the feast. Everything that happened, how embarrassed poor Satine must have felt... "Do... do you really think they'll forgive us?"
Satine frowned, noticing the tone of her brother's voice as he spoke. Was he worried about her and Everett? It saddened her to think of what this incident would do to House Jade's reputation. Poor Everett had wanted so badly to make a good impression at this feast, but then this had to happen...
"I'm fine, really. Everett is a good man," she insisted. She paused, reeling herself in a bit, then added, "...But I'll keep that in mind, thank you. I would like to stay in touch."
Hearing his sister's confident tone, Batiste relaxed, his shoulders dropping a little. "I thought so. What happened inside seemed so strange," he said. "I pray that it won't cause any more trouble for either of you."
He glanced back at the doorway. "We have little time to catch up here, but I'll make sure to bring you up to date later. And any news from Solis would be great, whenever you have a moment to write. It's not easy being so far away - I can do almost nothing for Princess Halo."
At this, he shuffled on the spot a little. "Well, I should get back to her soon, and let the two of you resume your conversation at last." He gave Margot a nod of apology. Despite his words, he seemed in no hurry to return to the banquet hall, to his fiancee and to the king's icy scrutiny.
Alain ruminated a little on Everett's question, all the while not lifting his head from the Jade Lord's shoulder or removing his arms from around his waist. "Maybe..." he murmured eventually, his icy blue eyes becoming unfocused and staring off into space. "Margot usually forgives me. It's not in her nature to hold grudges, and she is so utterly lovestruck," he smiled. "A hug and a kiss and she'll be just fine. As for Satine, well..."
He laughed. "You'll have to hug and kiss her yourself, Everett. I've got my own wife to make things up with," the Grand Duke patted Everett on the back. "Don't worry, she'll come around. It was all just a bit of fun, and it livened up what would have been an otherwise dull, formal affair. And, well..." Alain lifted his head up from the Jade Lord's shoulder and looked him right in the eye, a gesture which resulted in his face being just a few inches from Everett's. "They say you can only know a man if you get him drunk. So it's nice to get to know the new head of my rival House," he chuckled softly. "My meeting with your father went differently, but I much prefer this."
*** Margot stood off to the side, watching as the two siblings talked, preferring not to interfere in what was clearly a private conversation. As much as she wanted to look away though, she could not. Even if they and their dynamic were nothing alike, watching Satine and Lord Batiste talk made her mind drift away, further into memories, remembering her own brothers. In particular, the one who always looked after her.
Woo, Llyr...if he was here, no doubt he would have been champing at the bit to fight Alain over the apparent disgrace he had brought to her. She wondered what he was doing now. The Stallion lady sighed deeply, blinking back tears.
By chance, the words that Batiste spoke penetrated through the haze of remeniscence. Her head shot up with a small gasp and she clasped her hands together. "Oh no, Lord Arach, you don't have to go on my account," Margot lowered her eyes. "I understand that you want to speak with your sister. I understand you both must miss each other and that separation is hard," she sighed deeply. "I miss my own brother too. I wish I could see him more often, but he's always so far away, doing Woo-knows-what. So I would be glad to let you speak more."
Everett was silent for a while, his drunken mind struggling to fully process what Alain was saying. Woo, he'd had too much wine. What was he thinking, drinking that much? The room was spinning, and he felt on the verge of heaving the whole fancy dinner he'd just eaten. If only Alain hadn't tricked him...
"She... she better forgive me. It's your fault, anyway," he mumbled. He tried again to sit up straight, but immediately flopped back down. He was exhausted. "You shouldn't have done... all those things."
"I'm sure he won't," Satine told her brother, again reminding herself not to get too defensive. She knew Everett had no intentions of poor behavior, but she also knew Batiste was just looking after his sister. Spyder and Woo both teach patience, she thought to herself.
She frowned as she listened to the exchange between her brother and Margot, waiting for them to finish before speaking. "I'm sorry, Lady Margot. I know being away from your family can be stressful. But..." She turned to Batiste. "I understand if you have to get back to the feast."
"I have no regrets," Alain laughed loudly, watching Everett's futile struggle to get up. Unresisting, he slid off the Jade's knees as the latter attempted to stand, leaning against the storage shelves as though he was relaxing in the sun.
He grinned as the Jade Lord fell down again, laughing loudly. Alain placed his hand on his shoulder once again, wrapping an arm around him. "You'll have plenty of time to make it up to Lady Satine; she is your wife, after all. You worry too much. Being Lord is all about being able to take things in your stride," he laughed. "Even if you can hardly stride at all."
Margot nodded sadly and with great reluctance, pushed all thoughts of Llyr out of her mind. He was away at sea now, and it was probably for the best that he was not here anyway. She knew how he felt about her husband during the best of times but now, the Stallion lady had no doubt that Llyr might have let his anger slip or even get violent.
She swallowed, turning back to Satine and Batiste. "Perhaps we all ought to go back? Maybe...maybe our husbands have calmed down a little?" Margot gave Satine a hopeful but ultimately weak smile. Given Alain, that was unlikely. "At the very least, we should be there for them, otherwise who knows what could happen?" she sighed, quietly praying they would still be there at the banquet hall.
With that, Margot went back into the corridor, heading in the direction of the banquet hall. As she walked, however, she heard a noise that sounded like...Alain's voice? She shook her head, thinking she must have imagined it. Then she heard it again, followed by him laughing, then the voice of Lord Everett.
Margot's heart quickened. Woo, why were they not back at the banquet hall? She listened carefully, walking almost on tip-toe to try to understand where the two voices were coming from.
Finally, she stopped just outside a plain wooden door, behind which she definitely could hear movement and, more importantly, their voices. Margot blinked, unable to understand it. Was this not a storage closet? What were they doing in there?
"Lady Satine, I...I think- over here," she called out to the Jade. Taking a deep breath, Margot put her hand on the doorknob, twisted it and pulled it towards her.
Alain narrowed his eyes as light suddenly filled the closet and groggily lifted up his hand to shield himself from it. As his vision adjusted, however, he caught sight of his wife, her mouth hanging open, staring at the scene in the closet.
"Margot!" he cried, his face breaking into a grin. With some effort, he pushed himself up, toppling several items from the shelves in the process. With a sudden burst of speed, he leapt at her, wrapping her in his arms, making her give off a startled squeak. "I've missed you," Alain murmured and pressed his lips against hers.