Just in Time

Who: Zinovia and Akio
When: Month 6, 204 AT
Where: Silverfield Hold
What: Zinovia has news. And a warning.

It’s not so long after Yukijiath’s latest flight that Zinovia asks one of the headwoman’s assistants to locate Akio for her and request that he meet her in one of the sitting rooms usually reserved for quieter moments or meeting guests that are familiar enough not to require a more formal setting. She’s sat herself in one of the high-backed chairs before the hearth, Phoenix lounging along the top of said chair and soaking in the warmth of the fire, light reflecting off the fiery colours of her own hide. At first glance, it doesn’t seem that there can be anything wrong, for Zinovia does nothing but calmly observe the crackling of flames, her hands folded in her lap, though she sits with her back straight and shoulders rigid, not slouched where she sits.

Even though Maozheth and Akemi were the ones to take part in Yukijiath’s flight, no words have come from Akemi to Zinovia in the way of repairing what has been frayed between them. Akio has also made himself scarce, knowing the looks of his twin more than she may even realize. He can see the tension between her and Zinovia, as likely, most of the Hold can and won’t comment on. He takes the assistants glare of disapproval as he walks past her and towards the area he has been summoned. He strides in and pauses, closing the door quietly behind him, before he takes in the view of Zinovia in the firelight. He notices her posture but still tries to make light of it all, “You look lovely in the firelight,” he offers her by way of greeting, moving in further to stand closer to her. “You have need of me?”

Some might stand to meet him, but Zinovia is either secure enough in her own rank or what has passed between them not to enforce any kind of ceremony, especially when there are no others there to witness her behaviour. “Yes,” she says quietly, uncertain now where she wasn’t before, a moment taken before she can supply the reason. “I thought that you ought to know that the Healers confirmed this morning that I’m pregnant. I had my suspicions before Yukijiath flew, but trying so soon after Zaimika was never going to… yield reliable signs.” That she is so matter of fact about the news betrays only the Lady’s presence, not the woman’s, despite her hesitation. “I’m informed that this is the point at which you’ll run, so I’m going to tell you this now. If you stay long enough for our child to know you as their father and then walk out on them, you may never seek sanctuary here again. My feelings are irrelevant. What I feel for you will have no bearing on what will happen if you do to our child what you did to my wife.”

Akio’s face lights up at the mention of Zinovia’s pregnancy – his smile wide and quick as he moves to close the distance even further between them. He pauses before he’d tip closer to kiss her, rearing back as the rest of her words settle in his mind. He looks down at his feet, rather than meet her gaze, as he tells her, “I’m not a teenager anymore, Zinovia.” He moves to his knees, reaching for her hands, willing the tension between them away with the sincerity in his gaze. “When I left, I should’ve told her so she could come with me. Or I should’ve… I should’ve known what would have befallen her.” He squeezes Zinovia’s hands. “Akemi needs to learn to let go of her anger towards me. She needs to forgive me. I love you, as I’ll love our child, and if Akemi wants to bleed poison into your ears about me, I hope that you and I will form a strong enough bond that you know it is the past speaking through her and not our future.”

“It isn’t the past for her though, is it? It’s poison because that’s what it’s been doing to her, all this time. And it isn’t up to you to decide that she should forgive you.” Zinovia sighs and looks away, her hands left in Akio’s grasp. “…Even if she can’t even look at me anymore,” she murmurs, letting her eyes fall closed for a long moment. “I mean what I say,” she reiterates, directing her gaze back to him. “If our child suffers because of your choices, then that will be that. The same terms have been set before Zaimika’s father. Should he hurt her or attempt to use her for political gain, he will no longer be part of her life. It isn’t something that I choose to say to be unkind, but I have to protect my children.” Gently, she moves to interlock her fingers with his. “Do you understand? In a decade’s time, or less, you may no longer care for me, but our child is an innocent party with more on their shoulders than I ever expected them to have.”

“I wondered if that was the reason the bronzerider visits now and then. He’s Zaimika’s father?” Akio asks, taking that in with a pause, pushing his own unkind thoughts away. “Does she ask to see our parents? To ask them to apologize for the wrongs they committed to her?” he mutters darkly, a flash of the person that Akemi may be more used to seeing offered towards Zinovia and then tucked away again. “Your children should come first,” he can agree on this, spark lighting his gaze as he settles it on her features, “And that is one of the most admirable things about you. “ He watches as her fingers interlock with his and the tension that had been growing in his shoulders eases a fraction. “That’s an unfair thing to say to me, Zinovia. In a decade //you// may very well be done with //me//. That is a long time to start worrying about. I don’t know if you’ve asked Akemi yet how she’d feel about me claiming paternity on her heir,” he looks wryly up at the ceiling, “Keeping in mind that our bargain is because she is unable to provide you with one.” He sighs and moves her fingers to his lips. “Enough of this, love. Let’s tuck this conversation to the side.” He drops her fingers and reaches with his forefinger and thumb to gently turn her face towards him. “We have things to celebrate.” And he dares enough to lean forward and claim a solid kiss.

Zinovia nods to confirm that Akio’s assumption about Zaimika’s father is correct, murmuring, “We signed a contract when I was a weyrling. Thankfully, it was only a matter of his bronze catching Yukijiath.” Not that she sounds very thankful about anything to do with that encounter, her focus gone glassy and distant. “It isn’t unfair of me to be thinking of having to console a child old enough to understand that one of their parents doesn’t want to be in their life anymore.” Her eyes sharpen again, her attention returning to the room as she twitches a shoulder and sighs an audible sigh. “I haven’t even told Akemi yet,” she confesses. “Matters between us are bad enough as it is. I’m considering moving into dark and cold quarters somewhere at the back of the Hold so I can serve my time and everyone in Silverfield can stop judging me.” However upset she may be about the whole situation, it’s both not enough and too much to stop her from stop her from returning Akio’s kiss and demanding another of her own, knees parting to let her gather him closer to her. “I don’t have anything scheduled for the rest of the day.”

“There’s time later to discuss Akemi and the certainty of our future, despite her fears,” Akio tells Zinovia between kisses, “but for now… let us be joyous for what we’ve created.” He rises once and moves to the door, swiftly locking it. He moves back to Zinovia’s side, falling before her on his knees as he reaches for her hands. “I promise to love and cherish you and our child, Lady Zinovia of Silverfield,” he tells her, sincerity in his words and certainty in his gaze. “I’ll take care of you as a man should. As a father should be. Not how our father was to Akemi and me. I’m going to take these months of your pregnancy to focus on gaining advancement in my craft. I’ve hidden away long enough. It’s time I focus on becoming a Master.” He draws his hands along the inside of her calf and slowly up her thigh, easing her legs apart with a sly smile. “But first… I will prove I am a Master of your needs.” Skirts are moved as hands and tongue are put to use to draw all thought away from the ‘what if’ of their arrangement… and later, if people give him glances, or if people whisper about the things they’ve ‘heard’ from that sitting room, he’s all smiles.

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