So here's the next installment! XD somehow I feel this installment takes two enormous leaps forward, yet eight giant jumps back. Ugh. XD haha no worries, everything's ok...for now. XD

i don't own -man or the lady Jane. I hope you're all enjoying this story, whomever out there is still reading, and don't forget to review (shamelessly, I also take anonymous reviews, so you don't even need an account to review)! XD

Chapter 7:

"May I have a word with you, Lady Theresa?" Theresa looked up from where she had been sitting across from Lavi to find Lulubell half hidden behind the door, eyes trained solely on her mistress. The young girl frowned lightly, placing a bookmark on the page before her and turning to face her older lady in waiting. "It's rather urgent, you see, and I'd like to speak with you before I make any decisions on my own."

"Come in, Lulubell." Theresa said instantly, standing and moving across the table to stand by Lavi. He frowned at the maid's insistance, placing down the quill he was using to write down something that he wouldn't tell to Theresa, though he made no move to stand and simply watched the situation unfold before him. They had been in a companionable silence, and the disruption irritated Lavi's nerves just a bit. "What's happened?"

"Well..." The blonde woman trailed off as she pushed the door open and entered the dining room fully; a body followed her, limping slightly, with clothes that were filthy and far too big on what appeared to be a young girl.

"Oh." Theresa breathed, leaving Lavi's side just as the red head stood with wide emerald eyes. She knelt down in front of the girl, wanting a better look at her; in response, she grabbed onto Lulubell's skirts and shrank back slightly. Theresa sent Lulubell a questioning look, one which the blonde responded with a slight shrug of her shoulders, before returning her attention on the body before her.

"My apologies, milady." Lulubell said, her hand petting the long, mangled hair soothingly. The girl- - -for now that Theresa looked closer, she could tell that it was indeed a young girl- - -didn't appear to notice the motion, instead staring at Theresa with wide eyes and clenched hands. Theresa found herself wanting to give the girl her own soothing touch, but found that she didn't want to make her any more uncomfortable than she already might be. Lord only knew what her family was like, and how she would react to being touched by someone of Theresa's appearance; while some have enjoyed the attention, there were just as many who would rather settle matters with violence, and there was no indication in the girl's posture where her stand in the matter was. "I found her wandering alone at the edge of the property on my way back from the market. She says that she's been traveling alone for a long while."

"Where are your parents, little one?" Theresa asked softly. She gave the young woman a look of deep distrust, sliding backwards against Lulubell more and practically hiding in the woman's skirt. Though it didn't answer her question, the fifteen year old girl moved just that much closer to her, keeping her eyes trained on the brown eyes before her as she slowly moved forward. Almost instantly, distrust sprang in her eyes and Theresa stopped, blinking slowly and watching to see if any of the mistrust faded in the younger's eyes. When it didn't, she resolved not to move any further. Theresa waited a few moments for the girl to answer her question and glanced up at her lady in waiting once more, eyes expectant. "What do you plan to do with her, Lulubell?"

"If I may, milady," Lulubell drawled slowly, wrapping a protective arm around the girl. "I would very much like to look after her. If she says she's alone, I very much doubt that someone is looking for her at this very moment, and I simply can't turn her away in hopes of someone else taking her in. Out here, in these conditions...they're more than likely going to allow her starve to death rather than offer her a scrap of bread."

"Excuse me!" Lavi snapped, and Lulubell's eyes moved to the red head in surprise, as if she'd forgotten he was there.

"My apologies, my lord." She bowed as best she could, though there was no sincerity in her voice. Despite her friendly teasing a few days previous, Lulubell still held a strong dislike for the master of the house. Lavi scowled at her, apparently remembering that the last time he threatened to fire her, the woman had easily put him in his place without so much as the bat of an eye. "I forget that people of your stature often dislike hearing the truth pointed out so abruptly and without other words to soften the blow. I shall endeavor to remember that in the future." Lavi scowled even more at her response; Theresa opened her mouth to try and build a bridge between the two, but Lavi spoke before she could.

"She can't stay here." He said firmly, crossing his arms. The girl whimpered, and it was all Theresa could do to make soothing noises and not glare at her husband. "There's barely enough money to take care of the county and ourselves. We simply can't afford to keep her here."

"We can so!" Theresa contradicted immediately, not taking her eyes from her study of the young child.

The girl was small, and more than likely much older than she appeared. She had long, matted hair that was an odd shade of blue, with brown eyes that seemed too big for her tiny face. Her features were dainty, delicate enough that if she were a noble, she would be in competition with Tricia for beauty. Her body was too thin, and Theresa had no doubt that underneath the baggy, filthy shirt she wore, her ribs were visible. Her feet were bare, sliding slightly against the stone floor as she began to panic a bit. There were cuts and scratches on her face and arms, blood trickling down and mixing with the dirt on her body. The girl was terrified, shaking and eyes darting all over the place, grip on Lulubell's dress tight enough that her knuckles were white.

"She can't stay here!" Lavi repeated to his wife irritably, running hand down his face. His tone made her jump and whimper again, and Theresa finally gave in to shoot him a glare from where she knelt. The red head ignored her, running his hands through his hair and gripping it tightly in places. It's messy demeanor became even wilder and messier, making the young man look half mad. "What would Bookman say if he came and visited, and found a peasant child in our house!"

"She is that, just a child!" Theresa insisted, gesturing wildly at the young girl in Lulubell's arms as she stood to face her husband fully. "Can you really turn away a young girl in need like that?" Lavi opened his mouth to respond, but Theresa had already turned back to look the shaking child in the eye. "What's your name, little one?"

She stared at Theresa with her big brown eyes, fear visible in them. For a long moment, Theresa was afraid she wouldn't answer again.

"My family used to call me Mimi." She said finally, her voice hoarse and scratchy. To the couple's surprise, there was a surprisingly thick accent in her voice that spoke of her coming from a different country. Theresa smiled gently despite the shock, reaching her hand out to Mimi. The girl shrunk back into Lulubell, all but molding herself against the lady in waiting's legs. In respect for the girl's space, Theresa drew her hand back easily, the smile never leaving her face.

"Ok, Mimi." She told the girl easily. "How about this- - -you can stay with Lulubell, and we'll bring you some food to eat. If it's all right with Lulubell, I'll even have you stay the night with her." Mimi's wide brown eyes went impossibly wider, and a brief smile flitted across her face before she looked at the blonde woman hopefully.

"If it's fine with my lady, then it is fine with me." Mimi beamed happily, and Theresa straightened.

"Krory!" She called out for the older servant, and he appeared in the doorway instantly; his dark eyes took in Lavi leaning against the table with his face buried in his hands, Lulubell standing in the middle of the room, an unidentifiable girl in her arms, and Theresa getting to her feet. His eyebrow rose in curiosity, but he said nothing, merely waited for his orders. "Fetch some food for us."

"Lunch has yet to be prepared, milady." Krory said slowly, confusion tinting his voice as his gaze darted to the young girl again.

"You see?" Lavi added, pushing himself off of the table. "Lunch isn't prepared. We've nothing to give her at all."

"Oh, hush." Theresa snapped at him, swatting his chest as he moved towards her. Lavi stopped, more out of surprise than anything else, and Theresa smiled down at Mimi. "Fetch us some bread and cheese." The girl jumped slightly in place, reminding Theresa of Rosaline just a bit, making her smile warmly and her gold-brown eyes soften even more. Childhood, she mused while watching the small girl, was such a precious gift that vanished much too quickly. "Some grapes as well."

"Of course milady." Krory bowed and closed the door behind him as he left. Mimi squealed happily, words escaping her mouth before she could stop them. The language was different, explaining the accent, but Theresa couldn't place it; she simply laughed when, at the end of her monologue, Mimi threw her thin arms around Lulubell's waist and hugged her tightly. Lulubell, though stunned by the action as it had been many years since even Theresa hugged her so enthusiastically and willingly, simply hugged the girl back; she sent Mimi a small, thin smile in response to the excitement that met her gaze in the form of a youthful face with big brown eyes.

"Sit her here, Lulubell, so that she may be comfortable as she eats." Theresa instructed calmly, moving around the room to set a place for the young girl. Lulubell did as she was told, leading Mimi to a seat in the middle of the table. Lavi, standing in the midst of the room, watched in astonishment as Theresa completely ignored his presence and took control of the situation. Running his hands through his hair for what felt like the millionth time, Lavi kept his emerald gaze narrowed on his wife, wondering what Theresa was thinking.

"What plans do you have for this girl?" Lavi hissed at her as she passed him by. She shot him a glare, but the red head followed his young wife. Krory appeared again with a drink for the younger girl, telling her in gentle tones that the food would be out momentarily, placing it on the table while Mimi and Lulubell sat down. The girl squealed again when she realized that the water placed before her was cold and fresh, and grabbed the goblet immediately. Her hands were small and thin, and she needed both hands to keep a sturdy grip on the cup holding the water. "We have no reason to keep her here, you know that, Theresa."

"This is my house as much as yours." She shot back, turning and facing her husband with a fierce glare. "I am offering food and a momentary roof for this poor child. It is the least I can do, and it is what we will do. Understand?" Shocked, Lavi could only nod in response to his wife's ferocity. Theresa smiled in response, glancing back at her blonde lady in waiting and the small child. They sat at the table together, Lulubell smiling and watching the young girl as she spoke to the lady in waiting in between inhaling the cold beverage before her. Every so often, the blonde would nod and murmur something in response to what the girl said. At times, Mimi made a noise of acknowledgement, and at others the girl actually put the cup down to laugh at what had been said. "I've never seen Lulubell so focused on a person before."

"She focuses on you like that." Lavi told her softly. Theresa shook her head, a smile gracing her features.

"This is different." She informed him. "I was the only one ever the focus of her attention. Not even Rhode compared to me in that respect. Which, in hindsight, was probably why she wanted Lenalee so badly." Theresa was acutely aware of Lavi's curious eyes on her, and continued before he could break in and say anything. "She's far from her home and her husband, and I am no longer a child. I do not need her now as I have needed her in the past. Yet she hasn't said a word of discomfort, or mentioned anything that could be seen as ungratefulness."

"So why the girl?" Lavi asked quietly, watching the duo again with a new perspective in his mind. "Does she have her own children?"

"No, she was with me so constantly she couldn't afford the time away from me if she had gotten pregnant." Theresa responded wistfully. It had always tugged at her heartstrings that Lulubell was so old and without children. Though the blonde insisted time and time again that Theresa was the only child she needed or wanted, Theresa often wondered if Lulubell ever longed for her own children in the darkness of the night. She had hoped that once she married the King, Lulubell would at least try for a child of her own; but then she was married to Lavi instead, and so that put halt to any plans Theresa might have made for her lady in waiting. It was unlikely that Lulubell would ever mother her own children with Skinn, and though it was through no fault of Theresa's own, the young girl still felt guilty about taking that chance away from her. Mimi would hopefully manage to ease that guilt, at least for a short while. It was another child for Lulubell to love, another little girl to play dress up and allow for the blonde to fuss over her the same way Theresa had been until she had been eleven years of age. "Perhaps this is her way of making up for that. Or, perhaps, she just remembers what it's like when she is the only thing keeping a child happy and sane." Lavi placed a hand gently on Theresa's arm, but as he did Krory appeared once more with the food Theresa had ordered him to bring; the girl slipped away from him easily as she directed him where to put it before ushering the two men out of the door while she and Lulubell tidied the girl up.

Mimi, despite her thin state, ate a lot more than Theresa expected. She ate all the bread Krory brought, as well as the grapes and cheese. Lulubell sat behind her, using one of Theresa's brushes to slowly and gently comb the tangles out of her blue hair, as the girl all but inhaled the food set before her. The young girl didn't so much as wince when Lulubell found a particularly tangled bunch of hair, she was so focused on the food before her; making Theresa wonder when the last time Mimi had eaten a decent meal, and why the girl had been so alone to begin with.

"Where are your parents, Mimi?" Theresa asked softly, watching the girl with an amused look on her face. The girl shrugged, looking at the grape juice dripping slightly off of her fingers as if debating before shoving the appendages in her mouth and sucking the sticky juice off. Lulubell winced slightly behind her, though Mimi didn't seem to notice, and reached around to gently pull her fingers from her mouth; Mimi shrugged and obediently allowed the blonde to wipe her hand for her, picking up the cup again when her hands were released.

"Mama told me to stay put, but then our house caught fire and I couldn't breathe." She explained without preamble, her focus never leaving the table. "When I got out, I couldn't find anyone- - -not Mama, or Papa, or any of my brothers. So I started looking for them, and I suppose I ended up here, huh?"

"Poor thing." Lulubell murmured absently, placing the brush on the bench beside her when the blue hair was all but shining from proper care and beginning to braid the blue hair. Mimi didn't move, barely breathing at the loving touches that came from gentle hands wrapping her hair in a plait down her back. "Well, if Master Lavi decides to change his mind, then you shall stay with us. We'll help look for your parents."

"I'll convince him as best I can." Theresa promised. She stood up, getting a napkin and placing it in a bowl of water. Approaching Mimi slowly, Theresa moved the wet cloth toward the girl's face.

The reaction was instant- - -the smaller girl all but flew backward along the bench, Lulubell's fingers getting snagged in her hair briefly before falling free of the blue locks. Mimi stared at Theresa with distrust in her eyes, her face twisted in a snarl, a soft hiss escaping from her mouth in defense. Her entire body was shaking, her hands clenched firmly against the wood. Theresa and Lulubell shared a frightened look before Lulubell took the cloth and gently moved towards the girl. Her narrowed brown eyes followed the woman's movements until the cloth was placed against her cheek, Lulubell rubbing gently to remove the dirt and blood on her face.

Mimi's tense body relaxed, her head tilting to follow Lulubell's soft easy movements subtly. She closed her eyes and hummed something under her breath, what sounded like a lullaby. Her fingers tapped out another rhythm against the wooden bench beneath her, her feet swaying. Mimi was a small creature, and her feet never touched the floor where she was sitting, even now as she relaxed her posture and came out from her sudden protective ball. Lulubell wiped her face and her neck, humming along with the small girl after a few moments, apparently knowing the song the girl wanted to hear and indulging her as easily as she had indulged Theresa; Mimi was so relaxed in the arms of her current caretaker that she didn't notice the worried glances between Theresa and her lady in waiting.

The question, however, burned in Theresa's mind- - -what had happened to this child?


Tyki knocked softly on the doorframe, her gold-brown eyes locked on the boy before her. Lavi looked up from his spot on his bed, frowning slightly when he saw his wife in the doorway to his room.

"Theresa?" He questioned slowly, placing a bookmark on the page before him and placing the closed book on the nightstand by his bed. "What's happened? Is everything all right?"

"It's fine, I promise." She smiled. Lavi didn't seem to believe her; he stood and crossed the room swiftly, placing his hands on her shoulders. Meeting the younger girl's eyes, Lavi searched the golden-brown orbs before him, speaking quietly when he opened his mouth.

"Something troubles you." He murmured. With a quiet sigh, the red head glanced out into the hallway before pulling the girl into his room, closing the door softly behind her. Both were feeling uncharacteristically nervous, but neither seemed to know what to do until Lavi pressed his hands onto Tyki's shoulders, leading her from behind until her knees hit the edge of his mattress. "Sit, Theresa."

Swallowing heavily, Tyki slowly made herself comfortable on the bed, acutely aware as Lavi did the same on his own side of the bed. They sat in silence for a long while, not knowing what to say.

This time, Tyki spoke first.

"You are," she said quietly, "so much more knowledgeable in this than I, my lord." Lavi touched her chin gently, making Tyki turn her face and meet his eyes as she spoke. The warmth and support she found there, despite the tinge of curiosity, gave her the strength and courage to speak louder. "I wondered...what would it be like, to be with someone fully?"

"Fully?" Lavi questioned her just as quietly. A deep flush covered Theresa's face, crawling down her neck and covering her ears. She couldn't bring herself to look Lavi in the eye, but couldn't find another way to word what she wanted; instead, still crimson, Theresa took a deep breath and looked him square in the eye, fidgeting uncomfortably. After a long, awkward moment, Lavi seemed to understand what she wanted to say. He turned crimson as well, flushing darker than his wife due to his fairer skin tone. His mouth opened and shut wordlessly several times, and each time Theresa felt her hopes lower dramatically.

"My apologies." She murmured, humiliation filling her. How had she read things so incorrectly? Perhaps, that day (oh, fateful day!), he hadn't meant anything by his closeness. He didn't mean to make her heart race, her breath shorten in ways that had nothing to do with their impromptu race. Perhaps he thought her foolish now, no different than the young ladies of the nobles who create fantastical worlds in their minds and whine pathetically when they remember their true reality. This was, she realized, a bad idea, and- - -

Lavi stopped her easily, his hand shooting out and grabbing her bare arm. His warmth on her suddenly made her pause, half off the bed in an attempt to escape. He looked at her, taking in her cascading hair, the thin satin night gown she wore for the night, revealing her leg as it hung off the edge of the bed; studied her flushed face and nervously twining fingers, her arm in his grip. Without a word, Lavi pulled her back onto the bed, not allowing her to stop until she rested in front of him once more.

"It starts with a kiss." Lavi muttered softly, releasing her arm. She felt herself fall in the familiarity of her husband, though her blood still decorated her face crimson and she couldn't meet his eyes for more than a few seconds at a time. Tyki raised an eyebrow, a small smile covering her face at the simplicity of the statement.

"A kiss?" He nodded slowly, looking unsure how far Tyki would take this.

"That's right. Like this, my lady." Lavi leaned in slowly, giving Tyki time to back out. When the girl didn't move, the red head placed his lips firmly against hers, their eyes sliding shut without hesitation. They sat close to each other, nothing but their lips and knees touching, Lavi's hands hovering by Tyki's face. After a few seconds of awkward stillness, they broke apart gently.

"Surely," Tyki breathed softly, "one such as yourself, with your reputation, could do better than that, milord." As soon as the words left her mouth- - -an invitation in all forms- - -Lavi surged forward, pressing his lips to hers firmly once more; he angled his head slightly, allowing his tongue to trace her lips several times before she reluctantly parted them. Her hands gripped his shirt sleeves tightly, his hands cupping her face to hold her still as his tongue roamed freely in her mouth. A soft noise left her mouth when they parted for air; their gazes locked briefly before Lavi kissed her again, this kiss much gentler than the one before.

Tyki sighed through her nose as she leaned backwards slowly, Lavi following her so that they remained attached by the lips, until he had to brace his weight on his forearms to keep from crushing her.

"What are you doing?" He asked against her lips, breathing as harshly into her mouth as she was into his.

"We've been married for a minimum of eight weeks. That's, at the very least, two months." She answered, reaching up and wrapping her arms around the red head's neck. Leaning up slightly, Tyki made sure her lips brushed against Lavi's as she spoke. Lavi shuddered over her, and Tyki felt his body move, suddenly overly aware of what he did in response to her words. "Perhaps it is time for us to reconcile our differences, as it is unlikely either one of us will die anytime soon, and make the most of this marriage however long it shall last us, hm?"

"I thought you wanted to live as cousins," Lavi bit back a groan when one of her hands left his back and trailed down his chest teasingly, though unsurely.

Theresa leaned up again, kissing him fully and mimicking the movements of his mouth as best as she could. Her hand continued its trail as she did, a small noise of contentment filling the space between them.

"Perhaps I've changed my mind." She told him quietly, an unsure look in her eyes. Lavi stared at her for a moment, his face unreadable, before he lunged down and kissed her again. Her hair spread out around her as they moved almost frantically, grasping at his arms and back whenever something jolted up her nerves; she had never before felt the way Lavi made her feel. She couldn't help the marks she left on his arms when he managed to get his shirt over his head and onto the floor by the bed, nor could she stop the soft cries that left her mouth.

They lay intertwined afterwards, Tyki's head on Lavi's chest while the red head played absentmindedly with her hair and traced random patterns into her side. It was quiet, the two of them basking in the afterglow of the consummation of their marriage.

"I think I may grow to love you." Tyki admitted quietly in the dark, her eyes half shut as she spoke. Without her permission, her arms had tightened around Lavi's waist while she spoke. "I'm not sure how, or when, but I think I may." No response from her husband, nothing to show that he even heard a word Tyki had said. There was silence for so long, she was almost afraid Lavi had fallen asleep- - -but no, he was still drawing patterns in her side.

"I've never actually- - -" His voice was hoarse, so he cleared his throat and tried again, slower than he had the first time. "I've never actually lain with a woman before tonight." Tyki blinked slowly, the words running through her head until they completely lost all meaning. Without her consent, a warm feeling that had nothing to do with their previous activities filled her chest and spread throughout her entire body.

"Truly?" She said quietly. Lavi made a noise of agreement, and Theresa couldn't help the smile that broke across her face. The man she had met so long ago was nothing more than a reputation built by others, a role he helped take part in by his words and actions. He existed as nothing but an idea of Lavi in the minds of disapproving nobles, his real form hidden under lock and key. That he let down his guards enough for her, at the very least, was enough to endear him to the young girl. After another moment of silence, Tyki made herself slightly more comfortable. "What do you wish for?"

"Come again?" Lavi murmured against her head, sleep in his voice.

"What do you wish for?"

"Sleep." Tyki laughed, hitting his stomach gently. He made her laugh even more when he exaggerated, making it sound as if she had hit him harder than she actually had. With a laugh, he shrugged, the motion making Tyki's head rise and fall. "If I had to wish for something, it would be..." He went silent, and for a moment, Tyki lifted her head to see his face; he kept his hand on her hair, keeping her down. "A family."

"Who would you want in this family?" Tyki asked softly, closing her eyes as if it would help her picture better the scene she wanted Lavi to describe for her. Another moment's silence passed, though she knew better than to try and get up again.

"Boys, one, maybe two." He said finally, his voice far away. Tyki pictured him instantly, with flaming red hair wild and free and golden brown eyes, a wide grin and a graceful walk. A boy with shaggy brown hair and wide emerald eyes, an inquisitive mind and wild energy. "Full of energy, and protective. And a girl, two girls for sure, so that he may have something to be protective of." Instantly, two girls with long hair came to her mind, though not as much thought went into them. One with brown hair and emerald eyes, the other with crimson hair and brown eyes. Both with dainty features, small hands and wild personalities.

The image of them made her smile, though it was hidden from her husband.

"I'd have someone to help watch over them, as I had Krory," Lavi continued, "and perhaps, like Father Mana with you and the king, an intelligent traveler to teach them the ways of the world outside our lands."

"The girls as well?" Tyki asked, amused.

"Of course, lest my wife complain that I'm not treating the girls equally." Lavi shot back, his voice much more in the present. Tyki smiled at the teasing tone in his voice, ignoring the slight rush of jealousy. "Heaven forbid I allow the girls to be untaught while their mother is well-schooled." Tyki flushed darkly as the implications hit her.

"You would allow me to mother your children?" There was a pause, long enough for Tyki to feel foolish for bringing such a subject to light; Lavi shifted, moving around until he could comfortably place his hand on Tyki's chin and lift the girl's face to meet her eyes with confused emerald. Silence rang between them, slightly tense, as the red head searched Tyki's face for something.

"Of course." He said slowly, as if such a thing were obvious. "I could think of no better woman to be a mother to my children then you." Tyki couldn't stop the smile trying to cover her face, and she ducked her head to hide both the blush and her involuntary smile. Lavi gently forced her to look at him again, amusement and hope written on his face. "Would you," he asked gently, "want children, a family, with me?"

"Of course!" Tyki stammered, her face still crimson. "You are so much better than your reputation suggests, Lavi, and I just know you'd make a wonderful father..." Lavi sighed slightly.

"You really think so?" He asked softly. Tyki nodded, confused, though Lavi seemed far off again in thought.

"Don't you?" Tyki asked worriedly, her eyes searching Lavi's. The red head shrugged, looking away this time as if it would help him avoid the question. Tyki pushed herself up on her elbow, using her free hand to turn Lavi's face to her as he did. He fought slightly, but gave in after a moment. She waited until his emerald eyes were locked firmly on her golden brown before repeating her question firmly. "Don't you think you'd make a good father, Lavi?"

"I was eleven when my father died." He admitted quietly. "And even before then, because of their religion, my parents couldn't care for me as they should have been able to. I was left with Bookman from the time I was six until now. I haven't learned about being a good father."

"I've no idea how to be a mother." Tyki responded quietly. "My mother was killed when I was nine. King Malcolm's wife had passed on long before that time, because she was always sickly, like Neah. Yet you think I'd make a good mother."

"You had Adam." Lavi shot back instantly. "Adam Mikk is renowned for being as kindhearted and respected as his wife."

"And Bookman?" Lavi was silent, and Tyki wasn't sure if she should press on or change topics. Obviously, the old man was a sore subject for the red head, and Tyki was in no mood to start another fight with Lavi; especially not with the events that just occurred, and the fact that they were getting along so well.

At the same time, she was burning to know the history behind her red headed husband and his caretaker. Why was he so against Bookman when Neah had talked so highly of him?

"Bookman," Lavi spoke slowly, as if he was thinking through what he wanted to say as to not offend Tyki. The girl nodded in encouragement, holding her breath in anticipation; Lavi noticed this and gave her a small, sad smile. "Bookman had no idea on how to be a father to a boy."

"But your mother..." Tyki trailed off in confusion.

"That was a girl, a young lady." Lavi shrugged, Tyki moving slightly with the motion. "Despite the imagined flaws he was convinced she had, my mother was a respectable young woman in society's eyes. She was gentle, soft-spoken, obedient, and so very fragile. I was a boy, a child, full of energy and wilderness, with no way to filter what I should say and what I should keep to myself. He'd had no idea how to turn me into a functioning member of noble society." He looked away awkwardly and they sat in silence for a moment. "That bruise he'd given me that day, when your sister had visited?" He waited a moment, just long enough for Tyki to acknowledge the memory. "That was nothing. He's done a lot worse to me; the more I acted out, the worse the punishments got, which only made me act out more."

"Oh, Lavi..." Tyki breathed softly, touching the area she remembered it to be. It had faded and slowly vanished, as marks on the flesh had their way of doing, but Tyki could tell by the intake of breath from her husband that he remembered each and every punishment inflicted on him; not only the recent ones but the past ones as well. Words and actions may blur with time, but intentions and pain remain, something Father Mana had taught Tyki and her family well.

"My whole childhood was a mixture of nobility lessons and punishments." Lavi admitted. "I wouldn't place that on any child in the world, much less one of my own flesh and blood."

"How can you want a family but be too afraid to have one?" Tyki asked, sitting up and bringing the sheet with her; Lavi opened his mouth, but she cut him off before he could even speak. "Who it was our parents are and how the people who raised us act has nothing to do with how we will act as parents."

"How do you know?" Lavi shot back, sitting up as well and turning to face his wife better. She rolled her eyes.

"Sheryl has done nothing to even hint at violence with Tricia." She responded quickly. "The Kamelot family was one of the harsher known noble families when it came to punishments."

"Sheryl Kamelot is a hot headed, lovesick fool." Lavi snorted. "You've said so yourself."

"You've yet to raise your hand against me." Tyki reminded softly. Lavi stopped short, looking at her with wide eyes that matched the bewildered expression on his face. A smile crossed her face, shy and unassuming. The red head flushed slightly, swallowing heavily. "You've treated me kindly."

"You are much different than a boy, Theresa." Lavi stammered, slowly turning a deeper crimson.

"Tyki." She said quietly. The air in the room changed, but Lavi seemed to not notice; still, in Tyki's mind, the moment weighed heavily between them as a deciding factor. The red head looked confused, emerald eyes darting around the room nervously. His mouth opened and shut, forming silent words that made Tyki hope that he would finally seal away the formality that existed in their marriage. With what had just occurred between the two of them, she desperately wanted to be as close emotionally as they had been physically just moments ago. The last barrier stood between them, the difference between Tyki and Theresa the only thing between what they had now and a true marriage.

"You should speak up." He refused to meet her gaze, going so far as to turn his body from her when Tyki attempted to catch his wandering eyes. "A noble young woman like yourself shouldn't reduce herself to mumbling her words, Theresa." The slight emphasis he placed on her full name caused Tyki to draw further away, pain flickering across her face openly.

Even now, he refused to use the old, familiar nickname. She had given permission before, however jokingly; though he refused it then, when they had still been on uncertain terms with one another, Lavi had no reason to refuse it now. They had just been together in every sense of the word; surely he would feel comfortable using a more familiar name with her now. But the red head still wouldn't meet her gaze, and despite their proximity, Tyki felt the space between them wider than before.

Had he allowed her to believe that he'd actually wanted her? He had been stuck under the same roof she was, unable to live as he had before (however immoral that had been), forced to keep up the sham of a marriage by staying home and playing the dutiful husband. Was he just taking in the fact that she was there, not likely to ever leave in the near future, and finally using her to his advantage? Had Bookman somehow contacted him and ordered such an act to finally occur, lest something bad happen to the red head? She had mentioned, as well, that they would be stuck together for a very long time; the rest of their lives, in fact. Was Lavi just now understanding the meaning behind such a statement? Had Lavi lied to her about not being with any one else? Was he even capable of lying that way, about such an important matter?

Had she been stupid enough to believe it?

Feeling as though she'd made a grave error, Tyki scrambled for the silver nightgown that had fallen by the bed, forcing herself to keep the tears creeping into her eyes back. Lavi didn't seem to notice how his words, or what he called her, affected her; his gaze was still on the opposing wall. He didn't move as she struggled to get into the nightgown, though he did look at her in confusion when she stepped off the bed.

"Where are you going?" He asked, curiosity and confusion mixing in with the exasperation in his voice. A single drop fell from Tyki's eye, and she wiped it away irritably, trying to gain enough control over her voice to speak without crying.

"I am going back to my room." She snapped back, striding over to the door and yanking on the knob. "And then, in the morning, I am going home."

"But- - -" Lavi started, confused, though Tyki cut him off.

"Home, Lavi!" She yelled over him, pulling the door hard enough to make it crash into the wall behind it. Lavi winced at the loud noise. Tyki was torn between hoping none of the servants heard the crash and praying that any one servant, even Krory, would come by and see how Lavi had shamed the Bookman name yet again. "Home, to my brothers and my sister, and my father. To the King, and the castle, and as far away from you I can get!" With that, she stormed out of the room, wiping at her face in irritation each time a tear escaped the confines of her eye. She passed no one on the way to her room and closed the door much more gently than she had Lavi's; collapsing on the bed, Tyki allowed herself to succumb to her tears. She wouldn't leave, Tyki knew this and knew also that Lavi understood that. There was no where for her to go, because she was home already. Tyki cried for the loss of everything she had worked for, feeling alone in the home filled with servants and her husband. Curling into a ball underneath the heavy blanket on her bed, Tyki allowed herself to cry until she slept. Tomorrow, she would come up with a way to get back at Lavi.

Lavi sat in the bed after she had left, his head in his hands and his fingers digging into his scalp. His elbows rested on his knees, and though he wasn't sure what had happened that made this particular encounter go so wrong, he cursed himself for allowing it to get so bad it drove his wife to tears.