DH AN: Firstly, I am profusely sorry for my absence. Secondly, this is different from my other shots as in this piece was originally a oneshot, but I felt the need to update… and the last part of the whole has been giving me issues. I split it in half. This first half has the prompt Take this, my darling, for the damage I have done. The second half will be up once the last part cooperates with me. Enjoy Dinner Date Pt. I: Gratitude's Facets

AN 2: Timeline: Three weeks after the events of Healing Presence.


#39: Marik & Mhera, Post-Jewelshipping (Marik Ishtar X Filiron Rylae)


Dinner Date Pt. I: Gratitude's Facets

I raised my head from the paper covered desk, frowning as I saw a sheet of paper was stuck to my forehead. I sighed ruefully as I gently peeled the paper away from my skin. The stack of paper had made a very poor pillow. I glanced at the mirror in an attempt to see if I looked as tired as I had felt, taking to surveying my room when I found the sense of tiredness wasn't simply imagined.

My eyes quickly moved from the desk to the bed on my right that was visible from the corner of my eye. Sweeping my head to the left, my gaze rested on a set of clothes- a set of clothes that hadn't been there before I took my unprompted nap. Stretching, I rose stiffly from the hard chair and made for the door, stopping when I had one foot on each of the two steps.

The clothes were hung on the inside doorknob. A note was tucked into the black sweater's inner pocket. I stepped back with one foot when I registered the presence of familiar paper before sighing resolutely and marching straight up to the door, a fingertip's distance away from the note. Loosely gripping it, I rubbed the paper gently between my forefinger and thumb; soon relinquishing my two handed hold on the document to run my dominant right hand through my hair once, accompanied by a shaky sigh. The presence of his notes wasn't surprising to any extent. The new outfit that accompanied this note sent me into an emotion that I simultaneously detested and feared; discomfort that was followed closely by slight frustration at my father's nerving lack of clarity.

The black sweater rested over a sleeveless dark blue blouse, which was in front of a pleated longer than knee-length skirt of the same hue. Glancing over to my desk, I saw a new set of gray soft soled shoes and matching socks placed under the chair, away from the tactile radius of my bare feet. That was definitely new. My gaze shifted between the clothing and the footwear, finally stopping on his note. Anything that I was not used to, or not expecting, naturally worried me for about two minutes as scenarios that were none too pleasant ran rampant through my mind; this time was no exception. His notes always came unexpected, but never unwarranted. I placed a hand to my forehead and sighed; I was over-thinking things…again. Plucking the note from its place and wrapping the black sweater around the back of the chair at my desk, I slid my finger under the flap of the envelope and scanned the contents.

My office. Quarter till seven. Look presentable. R.H.

I resisted the urge to flinch, wince or cringe, as none of these actions signified anything aside from fear. Even though I knew that the note's brisk nature was anything but intentional… It bothered me. His notes had never been so curt …never so to the point. I wouldn't have been surprised if he had used my desk to write the note and the last fragment was directly referring to his only having a view of the back of my head. With a small groan, I realized that it was written on a sheet of my paper, taken directly from the stack on the small side table by the desk. My paper was stained a lighter shade than his usual note paper, and I confirmed this by pulling several of my prior received notes from the drawer of that same small side table.

This over-thinking had to stop. I sighed as I attempted to use my reasonable rational thought processes rather than entertaining the irrational and often illogical scenarios and excuses that went through my head. He had been tenser than usual the past two weeks since recovering from his illness. I wasn't surprised, nor did I expect anything different; though I wouldn't dare verbally express this to him. He shifted all of his efforts to getting caught up on that week he had missed. There was almost nothing that could break that focus. It was like nothing happened. No illness, no vulnerability; frankly, I was more than relieved.

It was already late afternoon. I'd spent my morning working on a fourth essay, yawning all the way through the process. To my displeasure I had succumbed to my drowsy mind two hours prior. My sleep schedule was a wreck due to a number of factors, but I primarily blamed it on getting three of the nine purposely poor essays rewritten as they should have been the first time within the past week, staying up nights to do so. The reason only three were complete and submitted was -and I absolutely hated to admit this- the last few meetings had bordered on unbearably long; so much so that if I were standing in a more inconspicuous spot, I would have walked out of the last two meetings once they had exceeded an hour and chosen to collapse in a chair in Raji's kitchen. However being in the left section of three made that feat rather difficult, and it was never a way I wished to test my luck. I had this somewhat rational fear that I'd immediately be found out if I tried to cut loose early.

Presuming 'look presentable' meant 'be present in the new outfit provided' among the other more obvious circumstantial implications, I quickly grabbed the hanging clothes and placed them in the bathroom. Returning to my bedroom to grab the other necessities, I ran to the comfort of a warm shower, feeling my worries cease for those twenty minutes I took. I dried myself off with the tan towel, and slipped into my undergarments. Finally, I took an opportunity to feel the fabric of the skirt, delighted that it was soft cotton that would feel pleasant against my skin. I inched my fingers upward to feel the sleeveless blouse, my jaw dropping as I felt that it was satin.

I carefully pulled the blouse over my torso, stepping into the skirt next. I stepped from the bathroom and into my room carefully, noting to my pleasure that the skirt granted me long strides as an option. I stopped when I reached the full length mirror just past the doorway.

I stared mutely at my reflection, fighting the imminent awestruck gasp that lingered on my lips. The outfit not only allowed easy movement, but in addition, it looked neither too tight nor too loose on my body. I felt heat slowly warm my cheeks, simultaneously baffled and somewhat flattered. I slipped the thin black sweater on next. The ebony complemented the blue well, as I had noted when the outfit still hung on its hanger. Pacing away from the mirror to step into the gray socks and shoes, I looked at the entire ensemble from that angle. While not one singular color, the outfit's individual parts did not completely complement each other, but they didn't visibly clash either.

Out of habit I returned his note to the sweater's inner pocket, intent on taking it with me. I didn't know why; he never asked for the notes back, nor did he ensure my presence in his office was necessitated by one of his missives. Sighing softly, I made my trek to the lower corridors, bounding over the two steps and proceeding out my bedroom door, pacing to my left through a hallway leading to the kitchen and taking a right into a second hallway. After pressing a tile in on the left wall, I heard the expected mechanized clicking sound of the seven rows of tiles in front of me descend, each row locking into place deeper than the last, to form the staircase that would grant access to my destination.

I stepped carefully on the foot switch that slid the lower wall aside and returned the upper tiles to their former position. Careful not to step upon that tile twice, I proceeded out of the opening and into the hallway with a soft sigh, motionless as the entryway slid to close behind me. Pulling the sweater a little tighter around me, I turned to my left and clung to the first doorknob I saw. I stood still and silent for a moment before turning the knob and entering through the doorway.

Calmly timing my steps to match my slow deliberate breaths, I made my way towards the second door at the end of the passageway behind the first. I knocked thrice, after which I promptly clenched my hands together and let them fall to cover the edge of my blouse. My eyes focused on the knuckles of my fingers as my mind drifted to a question that I really wanted answered and at the same time dreaded gaining the answer to.

It was more than one question actually. Why had he simply let me sleep rather than waking me? Why was I wearing a new outfit? Why was the note so to the point? I realized it all came to one central inquiry: why.

My gaze leapt to the doorknob as it turned slowly. After the door was opened, I immediately pulled the note from the sweater and turned my gaze to the floor as The R.H.'s voice cut through the silence. "I see you're awake, Sharti."

I mutely nodded, pressing the note towards him. "You wanted to see me, Sir?" I somewhat despised how timid my tone became whenever I used that phrase.

I tensed as The R.H. grasped for the note still gripped with two of my fingers and my thumb. "Would I send a note otherwise without either first making you aware of another purpose or including the alternate reason within the note itself?" His phrase was soft, possessing the air similar to how he would speak if I had been caught with a finger on the tapestry, his tone simultaneously filled with an indescribable wonder and a stern undertone of admonishment.

I shook my head from side to side, inwardly irritated by the implication of something I could not quite pinpoint that his statement brought forth. I felt heat immediately conquer my cheeks as he spoke once more, gently coaxing the paper from my hands.

"You want to understand why the new outfit was present with the note this time?" I nodded, carefully grasping the cotton skirt within my fingers in slight embarrassment. "It suits you, Dear One."

I knew there was a tint of blush on my cheeks as a smile crept across my face. "Thank you, Sir." I murmured, the miniscule embarrassment still in control of my tone.

"There will be no more 'Sir's from your lips tonight, Dear One." I glanced up as he sighed loosely, a small smile fighting in vain to reveal itself on his countenance. "It is not The R.H. who owes you gratitude." It was only then that I noticed the absence of the cloak that usually hung comfortably around his lithe frame, necessitated by both the persona he possessed and the lower temperature in this set of corridors. Instead I saw him in a gray, long-sleeve button-up shirt, a crisp pair of black slacks, and a pair of black shoes. The ensemble seemed to be incomplete somehow.

His voice drew me out of my observations. "If you will step inside my office, Mheralo, I still have one or two more tasks to complete before we depart." Nodding with a slightly resigned sigh, I stepped into the room and took a seat in the central chair. I watched as a Wall-Switch responded to its master's touch, and heard his subconsciously paced steps proceed up the path usually hidden by the bookshelf. The shelf slid back into place as soon as the footsteps ceased at the staircase's zenith.

I was left to ponder another of his facets, this time as The Wall-Switch Lover. Though that facet has never been completely perceivable, it's always been one that has held great interest to me. The facet of Switch-Lover seemed to somehow offer a bridge between that of The R.H., whose whims I am merely subject to, and that of the father I have always known and cherished. I shook my head in denial. To think of his Wall-Switch Lover facet as a bridge between two others made no sense… though maybe there was a bridging persona there that I had yet to identify. This Wall-Switch Lover facet of his was different, yet amazingly the same. When he merely activated the Wall-Switches, there was a sense of awe that I could not quite instill within myself when performing the same action. Perhaps it was because this master knew his system well and I was only presented with a small glimpse. Of course, it could be for some other reason entirely.

I jerked my head to the shelf on my left as I heard the lulling yet oxymoronic hum of the mechanized clicking that signified masterful employment of a Wall-Switch. Now wearing a dark blue tie and a black suit coat a pocket square to match the tie that completed his ensemble, my father covered the distance between the shelf witch and his desk in four long strides. He then took two strides backward and leaned over to press the switch once more, concealing the staircase behind the shelf. He then stepped in front of me. With a small sigh, he plucked a folded piece of his customary notepaper from an inner pocket of the suit coat and pressed it into my hands. "I insist you read it before we proceed any further, Dear One."

With a small sigh, I unfolded the page. I was perplexed at what met me. It was a list whose authorship I would have doubted had it not been in my father's familiar script. I refolded the sheet and placed it into my sweater's inner pocket. With a small sigh, I rose from my seat. "Why a list?" I turned on my heels quickly to face my father. "Why feel the need to present me with this list?"

"Did you even read it?" My father's somewhat warm gaze contradicted the crisp tone of his words.

"I can't." I murmured. "I can't because I know that it will only serve to confuse me further if I know nothing of its purpose."

"You can do nothing to learn of its purpose until you examine it; once you read it, the purpose will become clear."

"You promise?"

"Do you doubt me over such a trivial matter, Dear One?"

"It's not a trivial matter." I tensed, feeling my knuckles start to whiten as I clenched my hands into fists at my side. My next phrases had that softly submissive edge that seemed so right in this situation. "I don't doubt you. It's just that I'm horribly, horribly confused." I shook, turning back and dropping into the chair.

"What confuses you?"

"The past three weeks." I murmured. My father stepped in front of me, kneeling so that he was at my eye level. "Everything within these past three weeks has successfully nerved me to a degree. I just-"

"You've been having nightmares." My father interrupted as he gently laid his right arm over my knees, his hand in a loose fist. He must have noted the dark circles under my eyes.

I blanched. It wasn't nightmares…it was one nightmare. It… it never got any more vivid, only more terrifying as I continued to hear that helpless child beg, beg to be spared their fate. And then…oh gods, the screams-the screams bore nothing but pain. Shaking, I pulled my knees into my arms. And…aside from the first occurrence, I was always alone. Alone to feel my stomach churn uncontrollably, and I was truly alone to wish for this horrid nightmare to leave me in peace. "How do you-H-how do you know?" My voice was soft, any louder and I knew I would be in tears.

"When I entered your room earlier to deliver my note, you were shaking in your sleep." He stood and faced his desk. "You do not stir unconsciously when you sleep peacefully." His voice was soft, as if it were a confession of sorts. "I would take it all away." He did not turn back to face me.

My head snapped up as I spoke, my voice soft and crisp. "Forgive me for saying this, but you can't take it all away. Any of it. What I saw…" I held back a sob as the memory of the helpless child then overlaid with that accidental glimpse of those…scars, tattoos-what-whatever those were; they looked as if they should have been carved in stone…rather than flesh. Once more, I buried my face into my hands. And certainly not carved into my father's- My thoughts jarred with this acknowledgement- my father's back.

The sound of a drawer being yanked from the desk pulled me from my thoughts. "I can." My breath hitched slightly upon seeing him draw that golden rod from the drawer. "If you will let me." His piercing gaze held my attention as he took a seat and began absently rubbing his thumb along the gilded surface of the item held loosely in his hand.

"Why do you ask me?" I stood abruptly, shaking. "You could do so without my consent… very easily." I added, lowering my eyes.

"You don't understand."

"What don't I understand, Father?!" I shrieked as I sank into my chair. My voice was soft…submissive. "You never ask…you take. You made that very clear within the first meeting here after the fulfillment of the proposition, Sir. " I flinched as he swiftly stood from his seat, his grip on the Rod instinctively tightening.

"Upon our meeting this evening, you were told that 'Sir' would not be necessary so long as you are within my care during this encounter." His voice was terse as he stepped smoothly around the desk. His voice went softer with his next statement, but the roughness still carried through. "I expect you to abide by it, Dear One." His gaze captured my attention once more. "Stand." He waited until I did as he asked before turning to face the desk once more and motioned for me to step closer with a pointer finger behind his back. Grasping my hand as I stood beside him, he continued. "When we are this…" He directed my attention to the glass top of the desk where our familial resemblances were clearly visible. "When we are this, the rules that were unofficially forged for the dealings between The R.H. and Arlomhe Sharti do not apply." He gently pulled me to face him. "Your mind is perpetually this… and I refuse to alter anything regarding it without your consent."

"What about… that time when I was ten? When I was helping Raji after gaining your permission and…" I shook; the mere idea of this was terrifying. "It was like I never knew who you were until…"

"I requested you dine with me in this very room." My father finished, closing his eyes. "That was a self-serving experiment really."

"Why me?"

"Your memories were easy for me to access. I knew exactly which ones to bind, if you will." I heard my father slide the Millennium Rod over the glass desktop, and saw him take it into his right hand. He held the Rod perpendicular to his arm and level to my eyes, with a very loose grip from underneath it, the nerving eye angled toward his gaze. Without shifting his line of focus, he spoke once more. "Tell me, Mheralo… Do you think that I would truly do you harm with this?"

I didn't- I couldn't- answer. What that object could do should be enough of a prevention of anything that merited unpleasant things…and I was not about to back myself into a corner with my answer. I could be proven wrong if I answered no or proven correct if I said yes.

"Do you think me capable of callously robbing you of your will, denying you the right of your instincts that keep you from harm?" I took a step backward and felt his left hand gently pull me at the shoulder so that I was now precariously leaning on my tiptoes. His voice was an anguished whisper. "Do you truly think me capable of breaking you?" His words were painfully hollow as his grip on my shoulder vanished and the hand now merely rested there. He took a step forward allowing me to lean back onto my heels, his eyes pleading for an answer that I could not give him.

"I don't know…" I murmured softly, watching as that pensive expression set far too easily into his face. "You ask me if I believe you are capable of that… I don't believe you are…" I watched him relax, as if he were somewhat relieved. I knew that would change once I finished my statement. "However, I know that you are capable of that, and so much more than I can fathom."

"I suppose the true question is this… do you trust me not to, Mheralo?" My name was uttered softly as my father stepped past me, letting his left hand slowly fall from my shoulder. "I would think that of all the things that I have made you aware of… the one thing that would be most apparent is the one thing that was never directly addressed." He turned on his heel. "I would never even think of laying a finger on you to do you harm." He paced back to his desk, placing the Rod in the drawer, and decisively shut it. "I should never see you doubt that."

"I-I…I know…but…" I stammered, once more sinking back into the chair. "It's just that… I don't want that trust to be misplaced."

I heard my father exhale softly. "I can accept that." He paced to the chair on my right, collapsing into it. I felt a hand clasp my slack one. He rubbed his thumb in a circular motion over the top of my hand. "No one should ever have to confront that possibility."

Sparing a glance to my right, I sighed loosely as I leaned my head lightly on my father's right shoulder. "I'm sorry. I-I -"

He tensed. "Don't apologize." His eyes snapped to mine. "You shouldn't need that realization perpetually hanging over your mind, as it does now." He sighed, surrendering his hold on my left hand to clasp his hands together. "I would like to think that, someday, you will forgive me for that." His left hand dropped to his side while his right one gripped my left shoulder gently. "That list…it's the closest thing to an apology and a thank you that I can offer…"

I imagined that list suddenly weighing heavier in that inside pocket. "Would you mind if I look at it later?" I asked softly.

"If that is what you wish, then I will accept it, Dear One. I suppose it would not be fair of me to watch your reaction; after all, I've seen the list already." He glanced at the gold colored conservative black-faced wristwatch, with the Roman numerals for three, six, nine and twelve, resting on his left wrist. "Now then if you will come with me, that question of the new outfit will be answered." He stood soundlessly. "You will accompany me on an outing tonight." He wrapped a hand around my shoulders, guiding me out of the office and down a hallway I had never traversed.

We then reached a wall and once more The Switch-Lover facet revealed itself, taking us into a large garage. He plucked a set of keys from the glass case after entering a necessary access code, after which he stepped toward a black sedan, his other hand relishing a loose grip on mine. He unlocked the front passenger door and I slipped inside, clicking my seatbelt securely.

The engine came to life with a roar softening to a low purr as the vehicle proceeded, lulling me into a light sleep. Car rides always managed to do that somehow.

I barely registered the vehicle make a somewhat jarring halt. "We're here." My father stated softly. "And there weren't any nightmares during your little nap." He added in a somewhat relieved tone. He placed a gentle hand on my shoulder and held it there for half a minute, after which he let it slowly drop. He exited the car and came around the back and opened my door. My father offered a hand to pull me from the low car.

"Why are we here?"

"I want to thank you for what you've done in the past three weeks." He sighed loosely, "I figured a nice dinner somewhere with just the two of us would be a step in the right direction…"

"You would have done the same." I turned my attention to my left to avoid his gaze. "So you shouldn't be thanking me." I stated softly.

"And why not?" I caught my father arching a brow with my peripheral vision. "Over the past six years, you have provided more than enough to me that has gone beyond what has been asked of you."

"I had no other choice." I shrank back against the car.

"You always had a choice." My father whispered in my ear. "There are so many things that you took on yourself that weren't your tasks to complete. What happened six years ago would perhaps qualify as the first instance of that trend." He looked towards the building, extending a hand for me to take. "Now then… shall we?" I nodded, taking the offered hand without a thought.

Upon entering the building, a waiter in a green short-sleeve, collared shirt escorted us to an already prepared table for two on a patio, where one could see the faint reflection of the sunset on a small pond. The waiter placed two menus onto the table and left. I stood still, merely arching my eyebrows in surprise. The idea that this was all planned should have ceased to surprise me years ago. My father stepped behind me, placing his hands on my shoulders.

His hands offered me so many things. Comfort, guidance, satisfaction… all of these were liable to present in the gesture. His hands were by no means perpetually gentle, but they weren't perpetually tense. He was inexplicably tender with me, even as The R.H. …something that I could never quite understand.

Something was gripped in his right hand; I could feel his curled fingers on my right shoulder. "I have one more thing to give you before I can consider your outfit complete." He spoke softly as he brought both hands together just above my midsection. He slowly separated his hands, a delicate silver chain somewhat taut within his fingers. My father then carefully brought it to my neck and clasped it. The necklace came to rest near the top of my blouse. There was a round silver pendant with an amethyst set into the front hanging from the chain with a small replica of the Tapestry's coat of arms frosted in a light etching of silver across the smooth-cut gem.

So many questions started running through my head as my father ushered me to sit after he pulled out my chair. I sank into it, after which my fingers continually rubbed the small pendant, attempting to know every detail about the piece. I knew one thing already. It wasn't mine. Just as my father took his seat across from me, a waitress came to ask about beverages.

"Do you have lemonade?" I smiled somewhat apologetically at the waitress. "I haven't had a chance to look at the menu."

"Yes, lemonade is on our menu." The waitress then turned to my father. "And for you, sir?"

"Black coffee, if you would be so kind." My father requested.

The waitress nodded and left.

"You look as though you have something on your mind, Mheralo." My father observed as he removed his suit coat and placed it on the back of the chair.

"Why do you not hold me responsible?" My voice was soft and I felt utterly ashamed to bring this up. I already had my answer…why was I still pursuing it?

"Responsible for what?" He inquired softly.

"This was hers." I shook, fingering the pendant hesitantly in my palms. "You can't look at me without seeing her." I closed my eyes, inhaling deeply before speaking again. "Do you have any idea how painful it is to see that inexplicable longing anguish in your eyes and know that it will never go away?" My voice dropped to a whisper.

"I do…" My father exhaled. "There are days when I can barely stand to look in the mirror." My brows furrowed and I looked to my left as my father continued speaking. "I wouldn't want it any other way." My father stood soundlessly once more. "I want to see your mother in you rather than myself." He stepped behind me once more, slowly running his fingers through my hair. "I can't not see her in you." He sighed softly. "I need to remember her when I see you. I need to remember that she chose… not me."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize." He whispered. "It's not, nor will it ever be, your fault. Don't bring it up again."

"You know I can't promise that."

"That won't stop me from asking." My father stated as he stepped away from me and reclaimed his seat. "It's more painful to see you doubt."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize."

"I'm sor-" My father tensed and I went mute as the waitress arrived with our beverages. I took to looking at the menu as she set the beverages onto the table.

"Are you ready to order?" I glanced at my father, who hadn't even looked at the menu.

"I will have my usual, Asiya."

"So the kushari, Mr. Sharti?" My father nodded somewhat curtly. The waitress turned to me with a small smile. "And for you, Miss?"

"May I have a small bowl of the vegetable soup and the lentils and rice?"

"Good choice." The waitress smiled again. "I'll get this right in. If you two need anything just holler." Asiya bounced off, her pretty black curls bobbing in time with her steps. I sighed as she bounced right through the door, leaving us to our thoughts for the time being. It was just the two of us, like he wanted. I watched him drink deeply from his mug.

"Did…did you ever treat Mother to evenings like this?" I asked softly, after which I took to sipping on my beverage with glee as the tartly sweet liquid tickled my tongue.

"Many times, Mheralo." My father stated softly. "She always looked so…" His face showed what his vocal reminisce could not. "She would have been proud of who you are." He sighed loosely.

"I know." I stated softly, watching his face soften, the firm lines of his R.H. persona finally loosening. In that moment, he looked younger or at least a bit more relaxed. The stress returned to his face as soon as it had left. He sighed as his hand slid across the table.

"I'm proud of you. From the moment the proposition was presented, you learned well." My father looked at me with half-lidded eyes. "You still have more to learn." He smiled slyly. "You willingly put yourself into the hands of the unknown, trusting that The R.H. wouldn't harm you. You still do." He pulled his hand from the table and let it drop to his side. "You still have no idea how lucky you are."

"Why did you just let me go down into the lower corridors?"

"I don't understand your question."

"Why did you go through all those steps to dissuade me and…deceive me at the same time?" I shook, questions welling in my head that had already been answered but needed answering again. "Why didn't you stop me?" I sighed through gritted teeth. "Why did you even let me go down there after- after that tile broke?"

"Everything was under my control." My father assured me again, as he had countless times when this topic came up in the past. "The R.H. and I are one in the same. You have been aware of that for years."

"You aren't the same!" I went livid. "Your… personas- they aren't even separate." My hand went white as I gripped the glass. "One may seem fully expressed, but the other is never absent." I watched whatever expression was on his face slip. He stood and stepped towards the patio railing, his entire body tense. With a small sigh, he crossed his arms, staying silent save for his soft breathing.

"You were never in danger, never in harm's way. I made sure of that."

"Why have I always felt terrified, then?" I furrowed my brows in an attempt to halt the tears that were threatening to show.

"I never taught you not to be." My father murmured. "I've been told that I am naturally intimidating. Clearly, you think so as well." He looked over his right shoulder at me.

"You're not."

"Then why do you cower?" He turned fluidly to face me, tensing and crossing his arms. "I have never lashed out against you…never even thought of laying a hand on you." His voice went softer. "I have never been inexplicably impatient with you." Letting his arms drop to his side, he took two steps toward his seat, gaze fixed on me. "And yet…" He swiftly changed direction and stood in front of me with the fingers of his right hand under my chin before he continued. "You cower when you have no reason to." I felt his fingers leave my chin.

"There is no difference in how you carry yourself." I stated, willing myself to hold my gaze steady with his as he slowly returned to his seat. "You always carry yourself with determination, calculation, and confidence, with no indication of weakness." I kept my eyes on him.

"Go on." My father stated tersely.

"I know enough of what you're capable of." I lowered my gaze, my hands pressed into my lap. "As both Father and Master." I was shocked as my father did not react to the last word of my statement. I heard him set the mug on the table.

"Keep going. You've yet to truly answer my question, Dear One." His voice was now gentle, coaxing.

"The differences worry me." I finished the glass of lemonade. "What remains unchanged… terrifies me."

"Worried and terrified are not the words I would use to describe your behavior, Dear One."

"How would you describe it then?!" I tensed, my grip on my empty glass tightening to the point where my fingers ached.

"Far too careful." He smiled. "Even when you are reckless, you exhibit a great care. It's a caution that has proven useful to you." He sighed. "Your cautiousness, Dear One, comes across as timidity. Timidity is weakness. Your timidity translates my confidence, determination, and dare I say poise into intimidation." His small smile shifted to a full smirk. "You're far too strong to give in to mere confidence." He laced his fingers. "I've seen you stand up to those of my…employ who are truly intimidating without stepping back. You even once stood up to me for being rather… harsh against Nashin of all people, someone who I would think as the last one on your list of those who merit a defense from you."

"Holding grudges isn't healthy." I murmured before popping an ice cube in my mouth to let it melt under my tongue. "Noinreil himself is enough proof of that."

"You seem very forgiving."

"I am forgiving."

"Then why haven't you forgiven me?" My father's casual retort made my blood boil.

Fortunately Asiya came and placed a new glass of lemonade in front of me and wordlessly retrieved the empty one, still with that light bounce in her step. It gave me time to use that carefulness to regain my composure. "Betrayal isn't easily forgivable." My words were cold, blunt… so…-so much like his. "A father keeps their child from harm…not do everything within their power to ensnare them in it!" I watched in horror as he went entirely taut, feeling like I was nine again… only this time I had no idea what mark I had hit. By his reaction, I quickly surmised that I did not want to know.

His eyes met mine, the silently blazing fury within his entrapping the frightened curiosity in mine for only a second. In that instant, the image of those… carvings and the sound of bare feet dragging across that floor coupled with those screams very briefly brushed through my mind. I felt the color and heat leave my face quickly. I stood and excused myself, walking briskly to the restroom.


DH: The second Part will be up as soon as that last part works with me. Please Review.