Who: Zinovia and Akemi
Where: Silverfield Hold, Honshu Territory
What: Akio presses his claim in more ways than one.

As she said she would, Zinovia has gone to every effort that she can to make it known that it is she who has decided to divorce her wife and it was by her request that Akemi left, which has led to a somewhat divided Hold and people in the wake of such news. There are those who have sided with their Lady and always have, while others murmur about the unfairness to Akemi and mutter about it being the fault of her twin’s involvement with Zinovia, and further still who suggest Akemi was never comfortable at Silverfield and must have finally had enough. Day by day, Zinovia does her best to ignore everything that she hears, commenting no further than her initial attempts to paint herself as the villain, the children told that Akemi loves them but is needed elsewhere, all with the threat of Yukijiath rising looming on the horizon. With the Hold’s staff told to leave her alone for the evening, she flops down onto her bed and flings an arm over her face, her sigh heavy and more audible than she’d like.

“I hope that you didn’t mean for me to leave you be tonight,” Akio drawls from the doorway as he leans against the doorframe and considers Zinovia. He has kept his distance from Zinovia outside of her chambers, not wanting to have any reason for further speculation as to the reason for divorcing Akemi. He has not commented at all on the situation with his twin, choosing to leave it up to Zinovia whether or not they discuss anything regarding where his sister went. As far as letters received, Akio has kept the one sent by his sister unread and tucked into his back pocket since receiving it. He smiles at Zinovia, waiting for her invitation to come further inside or her request for him to leave her side.

Zinovia lets her head loll to one side and lifts her arm away from her face, though she doesn’t drag together the wherewithal to bother sitting up or moving from her bed. “Maybe I should just move you into my quarters and my bed and make sure that absolutely everyone here thinks I am a completely despicable human being,” she utters dryly. “Just to get it over with.” She holds out a hand towards him. “I don’t mean it,” she mutters a moment later, only to try and further amend, “I mean I don’t mean that I think…” Sighing again, she shakes her head. “She isn’t coming back,” she says bluntly. “Not for years. Maybe not ever. I have to think it’s the latter. I don’t know what she’s told you, if anything. She went and confessed. Told C’aol’s Weyrwoman.” Pinching her fingers to the bridge of her nose, she declares, “And I am an awful person, but I can’t even get over how angry I am that she tried to have someone murdered on my behalf, let alone the rest of it.”
Akio is quiet as he watches her and listens to her very valid complaints. He pushes off of the doorway and heads to the bed, moving to sit beside her head. He rests his palm against her cheek. The smile he offers her is small and there’s sadness in his eyes. “No one understands what has happened. No one blames you, though you keep trying to orchestrate them to. I know why you did it. Akio never cared about her own reputation. I don’t know why you threw yours away to try and protect hers.” He pauses to let Zinovia speak further and his face stills as she tells him more of the truth. “She sent me a letter. I haven’t opened it. I’m… a coward. I don’t want to know what she blames me for. I don’t want to hear her tell me all the things she never told me in person but I could see in the way she looked at me.” He keeps his palm cupped against her cheek. “The fact that you don’t condone murder,” he tells her drolly, “is what makes you the furthest thing from a bad person.”

“The truth would call for her exile. Maybe worse. And if we start with a fragment of it, someone would unravel the rest of it.” Zinovia dips her head just enough to press her cheek into Akio’s palm. “Rather my reputation than her death. Maybe I should pretend to be noble and say it’s for Zaimika’s sake, but… she did what she did because of me. This way, I’m guilty, if not for the same thing as I truly am.” She doesn’t quite look at him as she supposes, “You could go and see her, if you wanted to. Tell her to face it and read the letter to you. It isn’t that she’s being held prisoner outright. She just can’t leave Fort.” For a moment, she holds her breath, only to let another sigh escape. “I’ll have to take Yukijiath to Honshu in the next few days. To take her to Maozheth is out of the question, even if she hates me for it.”

Akio remains where he is, his hand pressed against Zinovia’s cheek as he listens to her and still offers no more than a neutral expression. He knows that he mirrors his twin in these ways and yet– he cannot stop himself. “I don’t want to see her,” he confesses to Zinovia, moving his hand away from her cheek. He scoots her over gently and then moves to lay down beside her. He pillows his head beneath his palms as he settles his arms against the pillow. “And I don’t want to read her letter. Consider me a coward. I don’t want to hear how I screwed her out of a life again.” He turns his head to look at her, frowning as the reality of her being the sole dragonrider at Silverfield dawns on him. “I’m sorry… does that mean…,” he doesn’t know what to say. “Will you be safe?”

Zinovia shuffles over, shifting onto her side to curl her knees to her chest, pausing only to rearrange her skirts. “If you don’t want to read it, then burn it,” she murmurs. “If that’s truly what you want. It will eliminate the temptation.” As for the impending flight, she can only twitch a shoulder, uncertain enough herself about what it will all mean. “I anticipate that some will send their dragons after Yukijiath just so that they stand to be able to say they bedded a Lady Holder. And I’ll have to go Between obsessively over the next few weeks to make sure they don’t manage to get me with child, if it’s a man.” Another shrug. “The only flight I went through at a Weyr was when I ended up with Zaimika’s father. I sincerely hope it won’t be as that was, but you and he are the only frames of reference I have for being with a man.”

Akio waits until Zinovia settles herself against him and remains thoughtfully silent as he listens to her speak about the future experience she will face. He turns his face to look at her, surprise lifting his brows upwards and then he eases a hand over to brush along her cheek again. “I hope that you find some peace in the event and that the person who shares your bed is respectful. I don’t understand any of the complexities of it. But… I have seen the difference in you when Yukijiath is set to rise. Maybe… maybe you’ll find you rather like the encounter. Maybe it won’t be so toxic.” He tips himself up enough to lean over her and kiss her gently. “I’ll be here for you in whatever way you need.” He hesitates, then adds, “I’m sorry my sister left you to face these things alone now. I have no dragon to offer. All I can offer you is my heart.” He kisses her again and allows himself to linger a moment before he moves back to relax against the pillow.

A little smile surfaces as Zinovia declares, “We had better make sure you don’t attend any Hatchings with me. There would be some great irony in a dragon deciding that they’d like you in the same manner Yukijiath chose me.” She drapes an arm over Akio and rests her head on his chest. “I’d much rather you bring me your heart than a dragon. Flights are more for Yukijiath than anything, anyway. I’m only really there to be a voice of reason when hers vanishes beneath everything else.” And yet, she supposes, “I don’t think dragons are meant to be solitary creatures. Perhaps I ought to see if there are riders who would be happy to live as holders, if only to bring her some company, day to day.” Lifting her head, she touches her lips to his neck. “I hope you won’t take it the wrong way if we get a sudden influx of Blooded visitors from other Holds. Once the divorce is finalised… I imagine Lords will push their luck with their heirs. Maybe even their daughters, since they know I married a woman.”

Akio turns on his side, moving to prop his head up on his palm as he angles his elbow against the mattress. He moves to rest a hand on her stomach as one of his legs snakes out to rest on top of hers. “We already discussed this and I wasn’t going to bring it up until the three months had passed,” he tells her gently, looking serious without any trace of humor on his face. “I will marry you, if you’ll have me. I’m no Blooded Lord… but I am a Master in my craft. I bring value to this Hold. I love you,” he adds, smiling finally as his eyes soften. “But I know you need… I know that the Hold needs more than love between us. I would not fail you.” The unstated words being that his twin most likely failed her. He lets his statement rest between them for a few quiet moments before he steers back to her earlier words. “If you asked more dragons to come, would Silverfield become a Weyrhold?”

“…When we last discussed it, my divorce was a thing of theory, not certainty,” Zinovia murmurs. “Our marriage would cement my villainy.” And yet that seems not so distasteful to her anymore. “You understand that… if we were to marry… It doesn’t mean that I can make Zio my legal heir? As long as I have the power to make it so, he will not want for anything, but Zaimika is to inherit Silverfield.” She briefly averts her gaze, whether owing to shame or the mere thought of what, “Any further children…” makes her feel at present. “They would be in the same position as Zio, though all would likely have more freedom than she will grow to have.” Taking a breath, she does her best to steady her voice as she looks back up at Akio. “And, every few months, Weyrhold or not, someone else would bed me,” she says bluntly. “Sharing me with your sister was one thing. Seeing me go to Honshu now, another. If I were to be your wife… you might feel differently about it.”

Akio looks confused for a moment at the mention of a legal heir and then the reality of that smooths his brow as he shakes his head and offers her a tender smile. “I’m not a Lord, Zinovia. You wanted a child and I gave you one. I love Zamika as much as I love Zio. How could you love them differently?” he wonders, shrugging a shoulder as he moves his fingers to gently tap on her stomach. He decides not to further discuss the divorce of his twin and Zinovia, wanting to focus on //their// relationship and the present moment. “Married or not, Zinovia, I have to share you with others. I don’t understand the dynamics of it but I know that it isn’t in your control. What if,” he stills his fingers and looks to her with a thoughtful expression, the pinch of worry gathering at the corners of his eyes. “You realized that you wished you had found a Blooded man. What if you were tired of being tied to a trader’s son? The Smithcraft Hall has quieted over the years but there was… there was risk that I brought to your doors when I came to Silverfield. You may decide that you want to distance yourself from me. Perhaps it’s unfair of me to ask it of you. To marry me.”

“Close proximity to power can change a person. Many of the Blooded families wield their children as tools to be used, not people to be loved. C’aol may have no legal claim to Zaimika, but I am… surprised that he has not tried to leverage having sired her.” At mentioned of him, Zinovia’s gaze sharpens a little, her attention settling squarely on Akio. “Could I trust that you wouldn’t, one day, make an attempt to remove him from her life? If he does something you deem awful and I have to deal with it through political channels, you wouldn’t go behind my back to ‘handle’ it?” She lifts a hand to gently run her fingers through his hair. “I never had any intention of marrying Blood. I was a Journeywoman before this and I would have married anyone I wished. When duty brought me back here, I only knew the realm of choice for my heir when they were grown would be better if they were Blooded, because that’s how their world would work and there wasn’t anything I could do about that.”

“I don’t want to have a claim of power. I’m not asking you to marry me so I can call myself a Lord. All I want is to prove to you that I love you, that I value our children, and I want to build a life with you,” Akio tells Zinovia clearly. A little sharpness enters his tone and gaze as he lifts his hand to capture hers and hold it firmly between his fingers. “I’m telling you now I will not ‘handle’ things the way that my sister tried to. I know that you have to have contact with C’aol and I know that there is past issues with him. However, I’ve never met the man and don’t believe he has anyway of impacting you directly anymore. Even //with// being Zaimika’s sire. You //clearly// have all the rights to her.” He takes a breath and presses her hand against his heart. “I’m going to say this once and I won’t say it to you again because I don’t want to constantly talk about her,” he pauses, waiting until she’s fully focused on his face, “I am not my twin. I have never been her nor will I ever become her. I am my own person who makes my own choices. I fell in love with you when I shouldn’t have and now that Akemi has made her choice, I want to make mine. I choose you. Choose me. And let us not talk about my twin again when we are sharing ideas for the future.”

“You may not want to constantly talk about her, but the fact is that people will. It’s unavoidable, Akio, and the more you try to push the thought of her away, the worse it will become.” The words might well sound like chastisement, though Zinovia doesn’t raise or sharpen her voice in the slightest. “Zaimika will ask about her, even if Zio might not remember her. One day, she will have served her time at Fort, and then, married or not, we will have to address it. If not now, then. Trying to eliminate her as if she didn’t exist isn’t the right way to go about this. If we marry and people inevitably mutter about her and //us// in the same breath, getting angry and upset about it will only encourage them to do it because they know you wish to ignore her and her fate.” She curls her fingers into the fabric that lies over his heart. “I’m not saying this to irritate you or to anger you, but you have to know that wiping her out of our lives is not a thing that is possible or //right//.” Loosening her hold a little, she murmurs, “If you can understand that – and only if you can understand it – then I will marry you. The best way for something to haunt you is to try and ignore it. I won’t have a marriage that carries the ghost of someone we cannot talk about.”

Akio looks away from Zinovia as she speaks on the reality of not being able to simply ‘erase’ his twin from their conversations and offers a small, frustrated, sigh as she rightly reminds him of Akemi’s continued ties to his future. He looks back to Zinovia with that same frustration creasing his brows only to have them smooth away as Zinovia returns to the subject of marriage. The biggest smile draws across his face as he moves himself over her body, balancing on his knees as his hand moves to cup her cheek and shift her face to his. “I’ll understand it,” he murmurs as he presses gentle kisses along her neck and jawline, “if it means I can have you.” He closes his mouth over hers and lets his hand wander down to claim her breast as he leans into her. His intent is clear as he moves to scoot her skirts up to let his fingers wander below her navel.

Zinovia tips her head back to let Akio do as he pleases, closing her eyes so that she focus only on the touch of his lips. It’s when his fingers follow another path that she gasps and blinks her gaze back to his, her mouth quirking in a quick, wry smile that she makes to press to his lips, a hand twisting into his hair. “Then I’ll marry you and I’ll be yours,” she murmurs, unabashed in parting her knees further. “Though you realise that, then, it will absolutely be your duty to ensure I don’t lose my mind when Yukijiath starts to glow.” She tilts her hips enough to encourage his fingers, her own finding a momentary grip on his collar. “Don’t keep me waiting.”

Akio’s laughter is a warm breath of air along her body as he moves himself down along until he positions himself at the base of her skirts. He works them up over her knees and settles himself between her thighs. He plies her with his tongue and fingers until he’s certain she’s fully consumed by pleasure. Only after he’s sure she’s found release numerous times does he remove his clothing and gently find his way inside her. He takes his time claiming her this way, kissing her lips and neck as he takes her. Near the end of his control, he picks up his pace and loses all senses and thoughts to be consumed only by the feel of being inside Zinovia. He shudders over her as he groans her name and then settles himself down upon her to catch his breath. He doesn’t press against her for long before he eases back to her side and draws her against his chest.

By the time Akio claims her, it’s a little difficult to tell exactly what Zinovia is pleading with him to do, to wrung out to think beyond begging him to stop winding her up in one breath and demanding that he absolutely not stop what he’s doing in the next. She can’t be quiet about it, nearly insensible when he loses control, adopting a pliancy that lets him take what he wants from her while she keens beneath him. When he draws her against him, she curses at him in a manner most unbefitting a Lady and lifts her head to quite deliberately draw her tongue over a nipple and catch it between her teeth. “The very moment you can think about using this again,” she trails a hand down below his waist, “is the moment I’m going to torment you,” she threatens through a predatory smile. “If the staff have to hear me scream, then it’s only fair they hear you too.”

Akio’s laughter is warm and full as he hugs his arm about her to press her closer to him. “You may do as you please, my Lady,” he tells her as he moves to run his finger down the bridge of her nose with an indulgent smile. “I will not complain.” He remains relaxed beside her, letting his eyes close as he savors the moment. He stirs eventually and kisses the top of her head before he makes to get out of the bed. “If Yukijiath is set to rise, I’m sure I’ll be finding myself pinned beneath you for some days yet,” he teases her before he fully stands and offers her a hand. “Let’s clean up and then find something to eat. I’m hungry.” He waits until he can draw her back into his arms to hold one more time, content with the feel of her against his bare skin. “I love you,” he tells her and then draws her away with him to the bathing chamber. It may come as no surprise to Zinovia that once they are clean he has roused enough energy to have her one more time before they finally have to leave and find food.

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