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25 June 1891 — Emrys' Home, Bristol

The host for this evening's event was certainly growing impatient with Emrys' continued inquiries about exactly how the night would go, but Emrys was involved deeply enough in this community that he had more slack than the average guest might. It wasn't that he was anxious that things would go off the rails. This wasn't the first such event this season, nor the first this particular host had thrown, so he surely had things well in hand. It was more that Emrys wanted to know all of the details of the evening so that he could plan his own evening down to the moment. His seduction of Arthur Pettigrew was still a work-in-progress, and it had reached a delicate stage. With one evening spent together and a gift sent, Emrys was decidedly invested in continuing the affair, which meant tonight was crucial. This was the tipping point that could push the pair of them either into a continuing liaison or see them break apart, and their interactions would set the tone for the rest of the relationship. Although he was hardly new to this, Emrys was still a little giddy with nerves as he dressed for the event. It always felt this way when he was getting involved with someone new — the uncertainty, the excitement, the thrill when things coalesced as he'd hoped or the disappointment when they dissolved instead. He'd been waiting weeks to cross this bridge, but now it was only a matter of a few hours.

If Pettigrew wasn't there, he was going to be very disappointed. After their letters, though, Emrys doubted he would disappear entirely. Pettigrew hadn't been as openly flirtatious as Emrys had, but he'd written that they would see each other next month, and he didn't seem like the sort to get cold feet at the last minute.

He took a moment to consider his reflection as he finished dressing for tonight, tilting his head this way and that to ensure his shave was even — particularly since he anticipated having either hands or lips on his jawline at some point this evening. He second-guessed his choice of cologne for the evening, but it was too late to change it now when it was already applied, and the last thing he wanted to do was make it obvious that he'd been putting so much thought into his appearance tonight. He ran the edge of his thumb over one of his gold loop earrings to polish a slight smudge off of it, then decided he was satisfied and headed towards the floo.

It lit up before he'd reached it, and Emrys' eyebrows were raised in surprise even before he'd seen who stepped through it. He hadn't been expecting anyone, obviously — he was moments away from leaving himself. He certainly hadn't been expecting the person who stepped through.

" — darling," he said, eyes a little wide. "What a surprise."
@Angelica Vorona @Hermia Bonaccord


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It had seemed such a good idea at the time. They, if there was such a thing, were doing well. The end of the school term brought freedom to her schedule and she reveled in their encounters. Her inner world was organized, everything in the appropriate place and categorized appropriately, but her meticulous planning scattered with him near. She lost time with him, rendezvous bled into one another, overshadowing the more mundane responsibilities of the Season. Together, she was bolder, daring in ways she couldn't imagine. She shed the required skin of quiet and amiable, enjoyed bantering with him, guessing how he would push her. She felt alive.

It was that ridiculous fancy that found her stepping into the fireplace of her Hogsmeade home and flooing to Bristol. She expected his fireplace to be closed, but it seemed worth the attempt. It was a more direct path than apparating multiple times and a public portkey.
Arriving in his den, a place that held delightful memories for her now, was shocking. Stepping into the room and being faced with him was, for a half-second, disappointing. She wanted to leave the small box in her hands for him privately, enjoying the anticipation of him locating her token. This had not been the plan.

Eyes going wide, the greatest indication of her surprise, Angel tried not to bask in his startled "darling." Any other moment and that may have undone her, but now she was caught in a terribly awkward situation. "A surprise indeed." She collected herself quickly, attempting to wipe the shock off her own face. "I only wanted to leave you something. It, I thought of you." She mentally cringed at her own awkward wording. Dear Merlin, she was supposed to be the clever one.



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#3
  
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It took a second to register that she looked surprised as well, though he couldn't imagine why. He lived here, after all. Who had she expected to see when she stepped through the fireplace? As she continued and he caught sight of the box in her hands the pieces fell together, and he understood. She hadn't been expecting to see anyone at all, only to leave something behind. If she'd arrived five minutes later she would have been successful, because he would have already been gone for the evening and the floo would have been left open behind him. Emrys felt rather conflicted about the idea. There was a reason he typically left his floo offline when he didn't expect anyone to be using it; he didn't like surprise guests. He valued his privacy too highly to want to encourage anyone to visit him unannounced. It would have been especially egregious for her to have arrived when he was otherwise occupied — occupied, perhaps, with Arthur Pettigrew. Or with rehearsals for the Life of Zeus party last month. Or with any manner of degenerates that he would have no way to explain to her.

So he ought to have been annoyed, or at least trying to figure out how best to respond in order to make it clear he didn't want to encourage this sort of intrusion, but — she'd brought him a present. He couldn't help but be curious about what it was that had made her think of him. If her scheme had worked out as she had intended, and she'd been able to leave it behind while he was out of the house and he stumbled upon it later... it was sort of an appealing idea, despite all his reservations about what might have happened if she'd interrupted him with someone else. It was difficult to be properly angry with her, then — and if she only wanted to drop something off now then she wasn't planning to stay. That meant he didn't have to decide whether or not to cancel the night he'd planned in order to accommodate her, which was — good. He wasn't keen on the prospect of giving up on Mr. Pettigrew, and he knew that if he failed to appear tonight after a month of flirtatious letters he'd likely lose his chance at furthering the arrangement.

"Oh, how —" he began, and he was dismayed to hear how obviously unsure his tone was; the confidence he typically put on had fled him. And that was before he remembered that he was wearing his earrings, and there was nothing to be done about it now. If he tried to take them off he would only call more attention to them, and his wand was tucked into an interior pocket of his jacket so a subtle illusion charm was out of the question. If it were anyone else he might have thought to hope they wouldn't notice, but not her; she was too shrewd, and she noticed everything. Fuck. "— thoughtful."


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It would be difficult to choose the most awkward person in the room. Angelica would bet she was winning, both out of a need to win generally, and specifically the strange hope that he might somehow offer to obliviate them both so she could unlive this feeling. What was worse? There should be some relief in seeing him rattled. This was proof that his usual self-mastery wasn't unshakable; that he was human and a minor god. That sort of knowledge should be gold to her, but what she felt was fear.

She was fiercely protective of her secrets and vulnerabilities. While she welcomed him into her home, the idea of him surprising her like this would have brought out her claws on instinct. He wasn't her late husband, she knew that, but the idea of a lover whittling away her independence, keeping track of her whereabouts as if she was up to something, terrified her. And Angelica knew what that sort of fear brought out in her. In this, she hoped Emrys Selwyn was her polar opposite.

Mentally preparing for him to grow frigid, to rage, to demand she leave and forget she'd ever met him, or any other display of terminated relations had her talking over him before she could think better of it. "I only meant to leave this on the sideboard. I had no intention of intrusion, I assure you. I wouldn't violate your trust in such a manner." She felt a sick flash of nausea, amending, "It was not my intention to violate your trust. I apologize for my thoughtlessness. I -" Something was different (beyond this pained standoff). Her eyes flicked over him, attempting to locate something. When she found it, she didn't bother to hide her surprise. " - your ears." Eloquent, Angel.

Tightening her hold on the case in her hand, mostly to avoid something foolish, she was cautious as she met his eyes again. "Rather exotic," She attempted to lighten her tone, but she sounded more dumbstruck to herself. "Gold suits you." She praised, meaning it. Damn him, she had so many questions and not an ounce of a right to the answers. Extending the walnut case and the cigars it held in the space between them, she was at least relieved to see her hands were steady. "I spotted it at your bazaar last week. It seemed better suited to you than me, of course."


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Emrys had to resist the urge to flinch as she made the realization. Your ears. Yes, his ears, and what the hell was he supposed to say about it? He settled for nothing at all. Instead, at her comment of gold suits you he merely gave a shrug. He was reluctant to explain that they were not a new addition, because then he would have had to tell her that he'd been intentionally hiding them every time they had met previously. Taking out a pair of earrings was hardly a life or death matter, but what if she started to wonder what other things he was hiding from her? There was an extensive list, of course, and none of it was anything he wanted to unpack. If he lied and said they were new, though, she might question him whenever she saw him next in a public setting and he wasn't wearing them. That would create just as many questions.

So best to ignore it entirely for the moment, until he could figure out how to handle it more gracefully than he currently felt capable of. He wished vaguely that he still had any of the memory-blurring party drugs from the previous month's party, because he might not have been above offering her a drink and slipping her one. As it stood, he had little recourse but the accept the box she held out to him and soldier on through this interaction, hoping for the best.

"Thank you," he said, his tone a little too strained by the awkwardness of this interaction to be interpreted as fully sincere. He hesitantly opened the box and let his fingers brush against the tops of the cigars. Fine quality, he could tell. This was an excellent present, and in any other circumstance he would have been whole-heartedly appreciative of it. He wished he could muster up the enthusiasm now to make a joke, some sort of flirtatious banter about gender roles and cigars and the appropriateness of her smoking — or of her in general — but he didn't feel quite up to it.

"I was just on my way out," he admitted, closing the lid on the cigar case. "For the evening. That's the only reason my floo was open."


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He weaponized silence the way she did words. She fought the urge to fill the silence, give some detailed explanation about the cigars, wonder if she should tell him what she knew of their origin, maybe ask what interested him in the market, to begin with. She'd him the origins of his name, his favorite color; if his parents considered 'Myrddin Emrys' when they named him, absolutely anything if it would shake the tight set of his jaw. This was a hell of her own making.

"Of course! I only thought it a better solution than rousing the servants for such a thing. So, yes. I will be on my way out." She offered a stiff smile and made a vague gesture toward the fireplace. "I hope your evening is a success." 'A success?' What could he do dressed like that but succeed? At a social event she couldn't remember hearing about. Where he could charm other witches with his smoldering eyes and exotic jewelry she somehow never noticed. Perhaps there was something among her potions at home that would erase the last hour of her evening. That was a cowardly, but attractive thought. Before she retreated to lick her wounds, she made one more ill-advised move.

Approaching him before she could think better of it, she placed a hand on his arm and stretched up to place a chaste kiss on his cheek. It was impulsive and stupid, far too forward, and certain to cement his negative opinion of her behavior this evening, but if this ended the more intimate nature of them, she wanted the feel of him on her lips. "Consider keeping the earrings, my dear. They are very daring."
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   Emrys Selwyn


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Emrys could say nothing in response to I hope your evening is a success, so he didn't bother trying to come up with any words. All he could think was that she might not wish him success if she had any idea of his plans for the evening, and he felt — what was that feeling in the pit of his stomach as she crossed the room towards him? Was it guilt? Surely not. In all his trysts with men and women throughout his adult years, Emrys had never felt even the slightest hesitation about lying to them. Lies preserved the peace and kept things moving along pleasantly. What his lovers didn't know couldn't hurt them, especially when all of his affairs were, by their very nature, short-lived. He'd had lovers for months or even years before, but ultimately they all ended as one or both parties lost interest or engaged with competing priorities and moved on. Trysts were meant to be sweet, and lying ensured that they stayed that way. And he had never been with anyone exclusively. At least, not by design; circumstance had often seen him with only one lover at a time, but it was only for lack of other options, not because he was — loyal to them, or anything. His affairs weren't that kind of thing; it was why he'd never married.

But she kissed his cheek and he felt — maybe guilt, maybe not, he didn't know. He had the urge to reassure her, although she hadn't asked for any reassurances. I'm not angry with you, he could have said, and it would have been true even though he probably ought to have been angry with her. You can stay, if you like. I could stay.

It occurred to him for the first time since she'd walked in through the floo that this was true, too. He could stay. Did he want to?

"Too daring for polite society, I suspect," he muttered, responding to her final comment because he still didn't feel up to responding to anything she'd said earlier, or to her kiss.
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   Angelica Vorona


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He hadn't recoiled at her touch or grown tenser with her farewell peck, but he was off. The mystery of his earrings was nagging at her, but it paled next to the tense, almost uncertain way he was holding himself. 'Uncertain' was not how she ever thought of him. Of course, he would have insecurities, he was human, but it was odd to see him so uncomfortable. The unease buzzing beneath her skin reminded her she was the source of the problem.

Despite the urge to soothe him, to find new ways to comfort him, the impulse was unwelcome. They, whatever they were, never did this, whatever this was. Did lovers share emotional intimacy? Angelica rarely shared emotional intimacy with anyone, she disliked sharing anything beyond a carefully curated list of feelings with the wider world. She couldn't expect a private man caught off-guard to confide in his trespassing lover. The whole thing felt like bad opera. Still, she was hesitant to leave him like this.

She withdrew slightly, giving him back bits of his personal space. "Polite society is unimaginative and narrow-minded." She softened the assertion, but there was a calm certainty back in her words. "The gold brings out the warmer tones in your eyes." Offering him an honest observation seemed a middle ground between words of affection and their typical flirtation. "You have a fine eye for jewelry. I think it safe to trust your impulses."


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Emrys' heart seemed to twist at her assertion. Unimaginative and narrow-minded. Did she really believe that? He could not believe it possible. Obviously he agreed, but it wasn't the sort of thing he typically brought up with women, even women he was regularly sleeping with. He knew it was possible for women to share his opinions on the matter — every woman in attendance at the event tonight was proof of that. Still, his experience with women more broadly was that they liked to maintain the perception that they were respectable, even to themselves. Even while they were bringing a man who wasn't their husband to their beds, they would lie to themselves and say yes, but this is different. And he did his best to support their delusions. He could wax romantic whenever he needed to in order to make it feel different and special, so that they could keep seeing him and still feel good about themselves at the end of the day. He was more inclined to be open and honest about some of his other activities when he slept with men, because the very fact that they were sleeping with him meant they were unlikely to be scandalized. Even then, he was hesitant to introduce them to anything he thought might be a step too far; men liked to be romanced, too, although they didn't always admit to it.

So having one of his female lovers bring up the idea that society was unimaginative and narrow-minded was a shock. Having her do so was too much to comprehend. Was it just a thing to say? Could she possibly have understood the whole world she was hinting at with a phrase like that? It might have been an offhand comment with no connection to anything else, just banter. It might have been a subtle invitation to share more of himself with her, a signal that she wasn't planning to turn tail and run at the first sign of something unconventional. He didn't even know which of the two to hope for. Would he have wanted to share this world with her? Emrys was a person who existed in several different spheres simultaneously, and as a rule he didn't have company that crossed those borders. He didn't interact with people like Ester at polite society events; he didn't invite his respectable, married female lovers to model for pornographic portraits. What would it have meant for him to have a lover who crossed those boundaries with him? Who saw him in every iteration of himself?

To say that he was conflicted would have been an understatement, and he was afraid it might have been showing on his face. After a brief pause to consider, Emrys set the cigar case down on the nearest table. "Come here and kiss me properly," he said, holding his arms open for her.
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   Angelica Vorona


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Reading this man was like approaching her favorite literature. He read like her favorite novel, with layers and shifting characters, moments of quiet that lulled her into a sense of security only for the ground to shift. There was a depth to him she knew she'd yet to plumb, but it that complexity that demanded her attention and made her want to wade further. It was that sort of mystery that made him dangerous, but she'd never been the sort to run when she should.

It wasn't his face she was watching for clues at the moment. The set of his shoulders, how tight the cigar box was in his hand, both were signs she monitored. She'd expected some sort of gentlemanly send of when he set the gift aside. His order, certainly not a question, but she knew she had the opportunity to leave. She wouldn't deny him this, though, not when she felt the knot in her chest ease some. His abrupt change was odd, but his invitation was welcome.

She went into his arms gladly, but she rested her hands on his chest instead of looping them around his neck. She wanted to be close but was hesitant to make any move that would seem confining. She still was expecting him to bolt and wasn't about to impede an escape. It didn't hurt that she could feel his heart beating beneath her hand. She'd take all the clues she could gather. Keeping her first kisses light, she hoped the familiar pleasure would get him to give her some indication of what was happening in his head. Gently, her lips parted in invitation as she pressed a bit closer to him. There was so much she wanted to ask him, but for once, she chose a non-speaking tactic.


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Emrys followed her lead initially, but when she parted her lips in a silent invitation he deepened the kiss immediately. One hand went to her waist while the other moved to the side of her jaw. It didn't matter, he realized. Whether she'd intended her comment as an invitation or only as an offhand remark, whether she was serious about liking his earrings or whether she was only trying to avoid any further awkwardness in what was already a strained interaction. He wasn't going to invite her in to any more of his life than she already had access to, and it had nothing to do with wanting. Whether he wanted her there or not was irrelevant. It had everything to do with fear — fear that she might see too much and decide to cut her losses and run. He had her now, in this limited capacity. He wasn't going to risk losing it by trying to reach for something more, when that something more might not have been attainable.

Their kiss concluded and he left his hands where they were for a moment, still holding her close. His eyes met hers from no distance at all, their breath still mixing together. "I adore you," he announced, quite seriously. "Write before you arrive next time. Please."
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Despite prior boasts, her restraint around him was at an all-time low. At least that muddled reprimand was somewhere in the back of her mind as her hands slid up to cup his neck. She couldn't be a fully passive partner, the idea was ridiculous, but she enjoyed surrendering in their kisses, allowing him to rule. Tonight especially, she would surrender to anything he asked of her, she owed him that. There was little she wouldn't give him to remedy her mistake.

She kissed his palm, the sentiment catching in her chest. If only he knew. "And I adore you. More than you know." She held his gaze, her eyes going softer than she was fully comfortable. "This won't happen again. I swear it." Aware she may not have another chance, she allowed a hand to skate up his neck, letting her thumb brush over his earring. "When we are together, I want to adore this side of you, too. If you'll allow me."


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A flicker of a shadow passed over Emrys' face, but he didn't allow it to linger. You don't know what you're asking, he thought, but between the kiss they'd shared and the way she was touching him now and kissing his palm his confidence had been almost fully restored to the level it had been before she'd walked through the floo. If he'd thought she was serious in her statement here — if he thought, anyway, that she would still have said it if she had any conception of what this side of him entailed — then he might have been given to pause again. As it was, it was easy to dismiss the remark, and to brush it off with his usual gentle humor and charm.

"Oh, no, I couldn't allow that," he teased lightly. "I don't think your pride could survive it if, between the two of us, I had the better jewelry."


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She tried to dismiss her disappointment as quickly as he seemed to dismiss the truth of her words. It was unfair to assume he'd be forthcoming after her surprising once already this evening, but she felt an ache in her chest all the same. She would give him time, she had to. She wasn't rushing to share her secrets; why should he be any different? She focused on his tone now, lighter and more confident, as it usually was. Her efforts weren't in vain if she clung to his teasing. If he could leave her in a better mood than she found him, she should consider herself fortunate.

Rolling her eyes, for his benefit, she gave his neck a pat, hardly a real admonishment. "As my favored pieces were gifts from you, I would call your eyesight into question. And if you start trying to outperform me in public, I will demand satisfaction." Her tone was at odds with her "challenge," but he seemed to be relaxing. It was a pity she had to release him to whatever lucky company he was meeting tonight. She did her best not to linger on that. There were many things her pride could handle, but dwelling on the possibilities of other lovers wasn't one. She wasn't fool enough to think she was the only one - whatever she told herself when he held her - but knowing there was someone that had this part of him was hard to stomach. It didn't matter, it couldn't, but now that she knew, damn it all if she wasn't going to have the thought stuck in her head the rest of the night.

"I have to let you go, my dear one. I am sure you are missed, wherever you intended to be." That didn't sound as nonchalant as she hoped. "Just," she caught her lip for a moment, suddenly uncertain how to phrase this when he'd already sidestepped the matter. "I meant what I said. I won't push, but, when you are ready, I want to know. I am not as fragile as you may think. And, I still have better jewelry." The last she added with a grin. It seemed safer to show vulnerability in quick glimpses, neither one of them seemed comfortable with such things. Much better to tease; they elevated that to an art form. She kissed him gently, reluctant to leave him without the taste of her on his lips. Whatever mystery lover he was off to, she couldn't un-think it now, would have him, but he'd been Angelica's first tonight. That ugly, possessive little victory would have to be enough.


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I am sure you are missed, wherever you intended to be. Emrys kept his face pointedly neutral, but internally he couldn't help but wince at that remark. She thought he was going off to meet another lover, then. He wanted to correct her assumption, because it wasn't as though tonight was really like that, but there was no chance she would understand the distinction that existed in his mind. He was going to met another lover, and that was the point where most people would stop listening. It mattered to him that he had no intention of inviting Pettigrew back to his house for an entire weekend spent in languid teasing and various states of undress, but why would it matter to her? When he saw an owl at the window he always hoped it was from her, not from any of his other lovers (despite knowing very well what her owl looked like, he always carried the hope for a second until he opened the letter and saw what the signature was), but that would be poor consolation for her if she discovered he was carrying on affairs with men behind her back.

This spelled doom for the two of them, he thought. She said she wouldn't push, but if he knew anything about women she was only saying that now because she was hoping that he would confess of his own volition in short order. When he didn't say anything about where he'd been tonight, or who he'd been with, her curiosity would sooner or later outweigh her patience. She'd ask, and he wouldn't answer. She'd rail, and he'd snap, and that would be it. She'd go back to her career at Hogwarts and he'd go back to his parties and it would be as though they'd never begun this liaison. And all for the sake of his damn earrings, for an awkwardness in his stance he couldn't explain and an engagement he wasn't willing to miss.

"I never called you fragile," he pointed out, trying for teasing but with an undercurrent to his tone that showed he wasn't as jovial as the words called for. "I'll see you soon? And thank you for the cigars."

He wouldn't be smoking them, at least not until after she had left him. It would be something to hold on to, savoring her presence when he no longer had access to her.


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Angel gave him a rueful smile. "I can hear you overthinking, Caro." She let her thumb graze over his cheek one last time before stepping out of his hold reluctantly. She watched him, knowing her last words had the opposite effect than she intended. But did they really? An uncharitable voice in her head asked. She didn't want him distressed or second-guessing her, certainly, but if she stayed on his mind while he was with whomever he was off to see, well wouldn't that just be heartbreaking?

She caught the waver in his tone and she offered him a little shrug, trying to temper her response for acquisition to a statement of fact. "The fragility was implied, my dear." She tried to keep her visceral response in check at the thought of seeing him again. It was time to practice some self-control around him. It was the only way to prepare for the inevitable. "You are welcome. If you are interested in my company, I can make the time." Giving him her best practiced smile, she made for the fireplace. "I think a very long bath is in order. I will have to remember the vanilla oil you introduced me to." Looking him over openly, hoping to end on a lighter note, she gave him a grin and wink. She could deal with her feelings in private.


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