To Love and Honour

Who: Zinovia and Akio
When: Month 3, 204 AT
Where: Akio’s Quarters, Silverfield Hold
What: Feelings are difficult.

Time runs ever on for Zinovia, who finds that the absence of a second heir is something that must trouble the Lords across Pern, for more than one has sent their Lady to Silverfield for a ‘friendly tea’ to try and discover whether another arrival might be on the horizon. She’s taken their investigations with good grace, pretending she doesn’t know what exactly it is they seek to find out, yet there’s no denying that the pressure is beginning to get to her. And maybe it’s not all that’s getting to her. There can be no denying that she… enjoys… efforts with Akio to conceive another child. Nor that she very much loves her wife. But still, there have been times when it seems she’s been on the cusp of saying to him what she should keep for his twin, something she attempts to hide this evening, in his bed, by dropping down from atop him and to the sheets to try and conceal any trace of anything but ‘appropriate’ feelings in the motion of her sprawling to lie beside him.

Akio has settled in well at Silverfield Hold, though his relationship with his sister is nothing but cordial acknowledgement – and, to some whispered conversations – hatred barely contained by Akemi. His twin, for her part, has done her best to keep gossip at bay as best she can, but she’s never been one to navigate relationships well. Still, Akio has carved a place of respect amongst the Crafters at the Hold. If he lingers in meetings longer than he should when Zinovia is present, no one can fault the young Smith. No matter what people speculate about his relationship with his twin’s wife, Akio makes no movements in public. However, in the bed with her, Akio proves over and over… and over again how much he worships the woman that she is. Akio laughs once Zinovia has fallen beside him, his fingers raking through sweat dampened hair as he turns over and lifts himself on an elbow to grin at her. “Is it wrong of me,” he announces, “that I am not sad you haven’t fallen with child? We could take months and months,” he lowers himself over her, nipping his teeth teasingly across her flesh, “To do this and I would never complain.”

Zinovia’s groan is a half-hearted thing, at least in terms of trying to feign reluctance as she scrabbles around for her control, her hands betraying her as she grabs for Akio’s hips and parts her knees to arch up against him. “We don’t have months and months,” she sighs out, trailing her fingers up his spine and into his hair to tug him down to demand a kiss. “We should hope it’s soon or…” She could cite the deadline imposed by the Council, yet she makes herself look both him and the looming threat of liking being in his bed too much in the eye. “…Or I’m going to get too used to this. I’m going to want it too badly.” But kissing is easier and she’s been brave enough, time spent until she’s all but breathless. “…I already want it too badly.”

Akio’s groan is silenced in Zinovia’s shoulder as he tries to muffle it against her flesh as her arching draws him away from speech. “Can’t yet,” he mutters, nibbling at her ear and then turns to flop back on the bed. He tugs her against him, wanting her head to pillow against his shoulder as he takes his turn at drawing fingers along her spine and meets kisses with his own. “We’ve the revolvers,” he’s only half-joking, “we could hold off the Council until //you// want to produce an Heir.” He doesn’t trail off with that thought too long, caught offguard by her admittance. He’s silent – for once – as he draws a finger to tip her chin up enough that his eyes can meet hers. “I love you,” he tells her, braving the words ahead of her, “And when you are carrying our child, I’ll love you more.” He tips his lips against hers, a chaste embrace, before he kisses her cheeks and then her eyelids. “I… struggle, knowing I share you with my twin. It’s selfish, but…,” he inhales and exhales against the crevice between her clavicles. “I’ll want you after all of this.”

For all her concern about the matter of getting pregnant, Zinovia seems even more concerned about simply not losing too much contact with Akio, her hands threading back into his hair as he exhales, a soft sound of her own leaving her as lets out the breath she’s been holding. “…I’ve done this all wrong, haven’t I?” she utters, tears pricking at her eyes. “My parents would be ashamed of me.” She lets that weigh heavy on her for a moment or so before she murmurs, “I love you too. And I love her. And that I don’t want to lose either of you makes me selfish and terrible. I should honour my wife above all others and not need anyone else.” But she closes her eyes and the tears slip free and it’s too late for that. “…Maybe we can find you a lovely wife,” might have started out as a wry and awful joke, but it just makes the tears fall faster.

“Love me more,” Akio blurts out, hands moving to clasp with hers, his claim of her fingers to his lips and the leg he wraps around her leg quick. “Love her, but me… ,” he lets the words die on his lips, seeing the problem in his feelings before he can be reprimanded. His jaw clenches as he shifts, moving to lay more fully back against the bed so he can glare up at the ceiling. He’s not able to speak for some minutes, jaw flickering with the contained feelings, as he tries to calm himself. “I don’t want a lovely wife,” he manages to say, his tone sharper than it needs to be, “not when I have you here, with me. It’d be a lie for me to find another woman.” He closes his eyes and inhales deeply. “I don’t want to replace Akemi,” he manages to clarify, “but I’m not… like you and her… I don’t want more than one partner.” He turns to level his gaze on hers, his hands moving to feather-fingers across her cheek. “Hate me for it. But I’m not a rider. I want one person, and I choose you.”

Zinovia starts at what Akio blurts out, though holds her tongue and doesn’t rush to argue with him or interject anything, giving him the time that he needs to put together what he wants to say. She’s by no means entirely relaxed as he does so, yet she makes no move to gather herself to leave or put distance between them. “…Being a rider doesn’t mean you want more than one partner,” she says slowly, reaching to capture his fingers with hers. “Sometimes it’s just… necessity. And sometimes… it has nothing to do with being a rider at all.” The opportunity to look away as she faces that truth is one she denies herself. “Can you live with choosing me when we will never marry? When people will judge us? Judge me for being with my wife’s… If she’ll even want me… What if she doesn’t want me?” There’s a flicker of Zinovia’s youth beneath the responsibility and title she wears, uncertainty finally drawing her to glance away from Akio. “…You might not want me either, in time enough. This might all be some… biological…” Phase?

“Dunno. I don’t see too many Smiths having wives and girlfriends and boyfriends and husbands,” Akio’s a little bitter in that as he huffs a laugh and sits up in the bed. He eases back against the wall, moving to scoot her head into the pillow offered by blankets and his lap. He idly smooths his fingers along Zinovia’s cheek. He’s quiet for a time, simply touching her, and looking down at her, as he takes the time to form more coherent answers that aren’t sharpened by emotions he can’t quite explain. “I never wanted to be married. And the risk involved with my name… were the knowledge of my invention to surface… I wouldn’t want that for a wife. And I know in my child having you and Akemi as parents, they’ll be safe. You allow me… to have it. A woman, a child. But without..,” he hums under his breath, lips flattening. “Some of that burden.” He taps her nose and smirks. “Though I don’t like the idea of sharing you… for you, I’d walk away from it all. To have this. Always.” He shrugs, “I’ve got to say it,” he tries to reason, “otherwise… we can’t have this relationship be more than just getting you with child. I want to… make it work.” As to Biology and Akemi? He laughs, “Akemi wouldn’t know how to walk away from you. You’re the only one she’s ever been attached to. And I’m her twin. As for biology? Don’t demean me by saying that. It’s more than that, for me, anyway.”

Zinovia settles her head in Akio’s lap, letting a hand roam over the ripples in blankets and along his thigh in a motion meant to soothe either one of them – or both. “…I know. That you have to say it. Things need to be… clear. Transparency is generally best for parties involved in—“ Before she can sound too much like the Lady Holder and swing back in that direction in some desperate attempt to keep the more plaintive and emotional facets from her tone, she forces herself to quiet instead. “I felt… something before this,” she quietly confesses. “Or I think I did. Even if it was just knowing you wouldn’t hurt me, something led me to that understanding. It isn’t just that I want you or that you please me or that I need to have another child. I wanted to know what it would be like to be with you.” She bites down on the inside of her lip before blurting out, “And I don’t hate you and I’m not ashamed of you, but I am ashamed of /me/. I shouldn’t have let my thoughts wander. Even if I don’t want them to… un-wander…”

Akio’s soothed by Zinovia’s hands, the touch of emotions he doesn’t usually display calmed and tucked away for another day. He’s more settled as he lets his fingers toy with an end of her hair. He huffs a laugh as she catches herself going down the diplomatic way and offers her a half-smile for her efforts. “I was attracted to you the moment I met you,” he tells her, drifting his thumb along her cheek and down across her lips. He tips forward enough to press his lips to her forehead. “Don’t start down that path,” he warns her, lifting back up as he settles his arm across her chest, “You’ll never come back from it. Shame and guilt are hard things to work through. If you can’t reconcile it, being with me, don’t. I don’t want to watch it eat away at you. I,” he hesitates looking up at the ceiling, “know something of shame and guilt. It haunts you.” He looks back down at her, “If I had been different, perhaps you wouldn’t have wanted to linger with me. I don’t regret showing you pleasure. Or giving you my love.”

“I don’t regret it,” Zinovia says quietly, closing her eyes. “That’s not what I mean. …I thought I was going to be a Healer, then I had to be a Lady. Then I was a rider. Now I’m both. I suppose I thought that in my marriage, if not the typical one, I could still hold true to what my parents had.” Opening her eyes again, she looks up at Akio as she murmurs, “Maybe I can’t, but they also taught me to honour the ones that you love. I do love you and to ignore that or suggest that I don’t wouldn’t be doing that. It wouldn’t be fair. On either of us.” She shifts, tipping herself up to sit across his lap, the blankets pooled around her waist. “Maybe I need to stop thinking a greater capacity to love for myself and not for duty is a fault.” And maybe she needs to stop thinking completely, for she touches her lips to Akio’s and seeks to lead him back down the path that led them to where they are, something far less restrained in her response now that she’s bared heart and body. That, this time, she doesn’t leave his bed, but sleeps in it with him, is signal enough of what’s changed, and not only to her, for good or ill.

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