Who: Zinovia, Akio, Zaimika, Zio
Where: Silverfield Hold, Honshu Territory
What: Akio makes his move.

It could be out of respect for so often putting them ahead of herself that the people of Silverfield do not gossip so much about the departure of the wife of their Lady, or it might be simply that they don’t know what to make of it, for Zinovia has seemed to just carry on without any noticeable alteration to her routine. Perhaps the nannies as best poised to note what changes have occurred, as they’ve found their presence less required through the early evening before their charges’ bedtime, the Lady’s children now spending those hours with her in the suite of rooms that make up her quarters. As time ticks by before dinner, Zinovia has settled herself on the floor in her main living area, Zaimika occupied with some colouring, while she helps Zio stack blocks in the manner he wishes – which is mostly just to create as tall a tower as possible.

It was convenient timing for Akio that his visit to the Smithcraft Hall fell immediately after his fight with Zinovia. He spends a longer amount of time at the Hall than he had originally planned, giving distance to himself and Silverfield’s Lady and his sister. He returns with enough new technology, and plans for his contribution to various projects, that it would seem he did leave on business. Unlike Akemi. He makes enough inqueries with trusted friends to learn what came of his sister and Zinovia’s discussion – not much is known other than Akemi and her blue have departed the Hold. Having had permission to enter Zinovia’s living quarters in the past, Akio comes to visit without announcing himself otherwise. He moves through the doorway and into the main living area to see Zinovia and the children. He has a letter which he hands towards Zinovia. “I’ve returned from the Hall and they’ve agreed on a very good advance for the work I’ll be doing for them,” he tells her and nods towards the letter, “Detailed within here.” He smiles at Zaimika and moves to watch her color as he waits for Zinovia’s response.

Zinovia freezes when she catches sight of Akio, going still without truly looking at him, the block she means to hand to Zio something that stays in her hand, midair, and is eventually pried from her grip by the little boy who then abruptly loses interest in said block and lifts his arms up towards his father instead. She reaches with her left hand to accept the letter, though makes no move to open it immediately, a tight, “Thank you,” offered as an initial response. Seconds tick by in silence before footsteps herald the presence of a member of the nursery staff, likely arriving to take the children to dinner, the instruction Zaimika receives from her mother only a quiet, “Go on, now. I’ll see you in the morning.” The Lady of the Hold waits until the nanny collects up Zio too, whether from the floor or from his father, rising as she departs to smooth down her skirts. “As I was informed at our last meeting, since your sister has departed, you won’t be staying either. I’ll make arrangements for your contract to be transferred to a Hold or Weyr of your choosing.”

Akio easily accepts his son’s request to be lifted into his arms and presses a kiss to the little boy’s chubby cheek. He’s reluctant to hand him over to the nanny when she comes for them. “I’ll come read to them before they go to bed,” he tells the woman as he waves goodbye to the children with a big smile. The smile drops from his face as soon as the children are out the door. He turns, facing Zinovia with a strained expression on his face. “I… do not want to leave the children under these circumstances,” he tells Zinovia. “I had time to think about them, and you, while I was at the Hall.” He folds his arms in front of his chest and looks resigned and tired, the circles underneath his eyes showing the impact of too little sleep. “I truly believed Akemi and you would have resolved this issue. That she has left… I cannot do it to the children, Zinovia. I can’t leave them.” He waits, looking to her. “Can we repair this fight? Please?”

“She chose to believe that I would hand her over or throw her out, or demand that she leave for her actions,” Zinovia replies, turning away from Akio to begin clearing up the blocks and crayons and paper at her feet. “She wanted me to chase her and put my feelings above this Hold, and what she doesn’t understand – what I’m not sure anyone understands – is that I stopped being just me when I was suddenly the last one left. My feelings got me into this mess. I brought her here, knowing it made her uncomfortable. I married her, knowing she might never //be// comfortable. Now she can do what and be whatever she wishes.” Holding out her skirts like an apron, she fills them with Zio’s abandoned blocks. “If you wish to stay for the children, that’s your decision. But it won’t be for me. I won’t have you any nearer to me than is professionally correct; not when it stands to reason you’d think otherwise was a condition of remaining in their lives.” Crossing the room, she lets the blocks fall into their box and smooths her skirts back down, the letter tucked up one sleeve.

Akio watches Zinovia as she speaks, taking the words about his sister’s choices without comment. He steps forward to stop Zinovia, his hand moving to grab her elbow and stay her movement out of the room. “You know it’s about you too,” he tells her lowly, holding her elbow firm enough to make her look at him. “I would never believe you would make it a condition for us to stay together for me to see them. I want us to be a family, Zinovia. I don’t want the words that I said to you out of anger and..,” he shakes his head, his features paling, “defensiveness for my choices to be what ends us. I’m willing to fight to stay,” he doesn’t have to elaborate that his twin was not, “all I am asking is how I might end the fight between us. It’s not as simple as arguing over leaving the room messy, or missing a dinner, or perhaps even arguing over other things. This is… not simple. My choices will have lasting repercussions on you and the children. I’m sorry I didn’t have the ability to see that for what it was back then. I’m asking you now to tell me how I can do something about it now.” He lets her elbow go, not wanting to hold her against her will. “I want to stay in your life, Zinovia.”

“No,” Zinovia says quietly, for all that she absolutely maintains her composure, “I don’t. And I don’t require it to be.” She stays right where she is when Akio releases her elbow, though she automatically folds her hands neatly before her. “You don’t have to be with me to be Zio’s father. You have your standing within your Craft and I have my duty and there is no reason why that shouldn’t work as well as anything else. What you supported Akemi in doing only leads me to believe that, should we continue as we were, one day you will believe as she does: that my need to give everything I am to Silverfield means I am incapable of any other feelings. The Hold will always win, Akio. Not because I don’t care for anything or anyone else, but because I am //responsible// for the wellbeing of so many people who care about their own families and children.” She shakes her head. “You want to be a family? What about when I have to take Yukijiath to Honshu or another Weyr when she glows? Soon. What if one day I finally feel ready to have children because I //want// to? What if I have to divorce your twin?” Closing her eyes, she murmurs, “You can stay in my life. I just don’t think it can be in the way that you believe you want it to be.”

Akio moves to place both of his hands on Zinovia’s shoulders, waiting until her eyes open and she looks at him. “Divorce Akemi. Take Yukijiath where you must when she glows.” He waits, letting those words settle between them. “Unlike my twin, I understand what it means to have the responsibility of your choices. I chose my craft over my duty to my family, Zinovia. I have dealt with those repercussions. My twin dealt with them. I am telling you now, I will not repeat the mistakes I have made before you. I will not leave my family.” Again, he waits, then continues as he keeps his hands settled on her shoulders. “I would gladly give you as many children as you want, Zinovia. You are a wonderful mother. I love you for that and because //you// are the beautiful, determined, and dutiful Lady Holder of Silverfield. I also love you for //you//, Zinovia.” He moves to brush his fingertips against her cheek before he finally releases her. “I am not my twin,” he feels the need to remind her, “and I did not run away from you.”

“You did not run away from me, but you stand – we stand – to do to what your initial departure did to Akemi and worse!” Zinovia exclaims, unable to help herself. She even lifts both her hands to press her knuckles to her mouth as if she could somehow keep words from spilling out, yet it’s a battle lost even as she makes the attempt. “I didn’t mean to drive her away; I just didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t… I can’t believe she did what she did. I don’t know what she was thinking… I didn’t think she was capable of such a thing. I don’t know what she’s feeling half the time and—“ Her shoulders slump. “It isn’t even as if her leaving changes anything. Fort’s Weyrwoman still suspects me and I would never have Akemi hand herself in. I can’t even make any of it better or bargain or make it go away for her now she’s gone.” She swallows hard and dares a look up at Akio. “Divorce her. You can’t mean it.” But even she doesn’t sound so sure. “She’s your sister. Your twin. How can you… How can we do that to her?”

“Akemi did not have to do any of what she did back then!” Akio’s irritation is sharp as he moves to fold his arms in front of him again, to still his hands from reaching for her again. “I didn’t ask her to do that either. Do you not see it? She is reckless when she decides she knows the course of action to be taken. She was stupid to even bother to take over the trade caravan in my place. All she had to do was let my parents find out. Instead, she ended up losing them too!” He shakes his head and juts his jaw back and forth as he grinds his teeth together. “She did what she thought was best,” he defends Akemi there, “whether or not she understood the far reaching consequences or not.” He puffs out an irritated noise of air through his nostrils. “I’m sorry she left and you’re here without her. I’m the one standing before you, Zinovia. I’m the one saying that I would marry you in her stead, would raise a family with you, and would make you happy. //Me//. Not Akemi.” He lets those words hover between them as he watches her for a reaction.

Zinovia flinches, curling into herself to knot her arms around the base of her ribcage. “This isn’t fair,” she quietly protests. “It isn’t as simple as all that. We aren’t quiet cotholders who can do as we please: everyone will know what we choose to do. If I divorce her, everyone will hear of it. If I marry you, likewise. And so soon on the heels of her departure, what taint I earn for casting aside my wife in favour of her twin will stain this Hold too.” She ducks her head again and stares down at her feet. “I love you for more than the fact of your being Zio’s father. But that isn’t enough. I married her because I thought the rest didn’t matter, as long as I loved her, and I broke her.” Looking up again, she squares her shoulders and takes a deep breath. “If you feel the same as you do now in three months’ time, ask me to marry you again. And if you don’t, we need never speak of it again.”

“It isn’t fair,” Akio agrees, watching her steadily. “I wasn’t implying we would do it now. That’d not only create rumors and potential discord for the Hold, but it also wouldn’t be fair to the children. Or Akemi. If she comes back and is able to make it work between you two, I’ll pretend I never said this.” He steps forward, moving to place a hand on her shoulder while the other seeks to cup her face and tilt it up towards his. “You didn’t break Akemi. I didn’t break Akemi. Akemi is in charge of her own healing and actions.” He moves to press his forehead against hers. “I’m tired of talking about Akemi,” he tells her, pulling back from enough to look at her before he kisses her gently on the lips. “I will not change how I feel, Zinovia. I’ll ask you to marry me in three months if that’s the time you need.” He kisses her again, lest she push him away. “You’re mine.”

“I don’t know that I ever made it work to begin with,” is all Zinovia can manage further on the subject of her absent wife, the words as heavy as what guilt she may have carried since finally returning to Silverfield from Honshu. What better judgement she’s tried to cling to lapses and evaporates as Akio kisses her again, her response to curl her fingers into his shirt and hold on tightly to return it with one of her own. She doesn’t stop there, taking the absence of staff and children as an opportunity to guide him back towards her bedroom. And it’s in her bed that she leaves him in the morning, awake near dawn to begin the day’s work. It isn’t as if her sharing a bed with him is anything out of the ordinary, but perhaps that it’s //her// bed that the more indiscreet rumour places him in his enough to set the Hold to wondering whether the Lady’s wife left or was asked to leave.

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