|A Newlywed Reunion|
|Summary:||Hardwicke tracks down his wife at Stonebridge. News is shared on both parts.|
|Date:||February 4, 289|
|Related Logs:||Ironborn invasion, the wedding, etc.|
|Garden — Stonebridge|
|It has plants. And flowers.|
|February 3, 289|
It's a lovely late afternoon in Stonebridge, the town still a charming idyll, having avoided the worst of that nasty business with the Ironborn. The light is golden and the shadows long; Mistress Blayne is in the garden, gathering the last roses of the day for her lady's chamber. She looks, perhaps for the first time he's ever seen, precisely the picture of a fine lady's maid — her hoydenish hair tamed (mostly), wearing a finely embroidered lavender gown and slippers, the necklace that was Luci's gift on her wedding worn about her neck. She cleans up nicely, does the former Miss Beckett. Though there are still likely knives on her person, one certainly wouldn't know it to look at her.
He has possibly asked every person he saw at the tower until he found out where she was. And then — there she is. Hardwicke just watches her a moment, taking in what's different, what's the same, with an ache of yearning in his eyes that has been hidden up til now. Finally, he says in a quiet voice, "Belle."
Her hands freeze in the midst of snipping a showy, golden rose with scarlet edges. She closes her eyes and turns her head toward him — then peeks, opening one eye. Just the tiniest bit. Then everything happens all at once, it seems — an incredulous, joyful yelp; the shears and basket cast aside, roses littering the ground in wild profusion; and Hardwicke's wife runs to him, throwing herself into his arms and kissing him as though they've been parted for years.
He looks a little rougher around the edges, perhaps, his beard a little less trimmed, but he is there and he is whole. Hardwicke gathers her up in his arms, holding her tight against him, and kisses back with a fervid slide of lips and tongue against her mouth. "Gods," he whispers on the break of a kiss. "Here?" His fingers are already tight with immediate need along her curves.
Belle laughs against his lips, still kissing him in the midst of both laughter and tears — beaming. Radiant. "Yes," she whispers. She laughs again, darting a quick glance at the garden wall, then kissing him again, all heat and hunger. "Gods, yes."
He exhales slowly against the sweetness of her hair, his body left trembling quietly in the wake of his release. "Belle," Hardwicke whispers in quiet ache, his arm wrapping about her waist. "Gods, I missed you."
Belle reaches a hand back to cup the stubble of his cheek, then further to the nape of his neck. Eyes shut, she breathes him in. Them in. The musk of sex and sweat and how uniquely, deliciously they combine. She nods, her laughter soft and breathless. "I'm half alive without you," she whispers in reply. She turns in his arms, pressing close and kissing him, echoing that tender ache. "I love you so — what are you doing here?" she finally asks, nuzzling and kissing his jaw and cheeks and temples and forehead — everywhere. Then, more importantly, both urgent and wistful, "How long do I have you?"
"A week?" Hardwicke guesses, holding her close. "Maybe two? When the King arrives, we sail to the Iron Isles." He draws his hand in a slow stroke over her hair. "I have leave to attend to business as I might until then." His smile sliding sad, he murmurs, "And I have a missive for your hand alone. From the Lord of Seagard."
"A week," Belle echoes, smiling against his jaw. "Maybe two. Oh, the gods are good." She embraces him tightly, "That's so much more than I hoped for. I didn't even know you were coming home at all." Then, with that more melancholy announcement, she draws back to look at him. "From Patrek?" she asks, sobered and concerned.
"I told him if he were any older, I wouldn't take so well to him writing my wife," Hardwicke says with a quiet sort of humor. "He is fond enough of you as it is." He relaces his breeches first before sliding a hand into an inside pocket to pull out the letter and present it to her. "I'll have to see to the Roost as well," he says. "I went there first before I knew you had already gone on to Stonebridge with Luci."
Belle chuckles at Hardwicke's observation, shaking her head. "He's never been anything but a perfect young gentleman and entirely seemly in his friendship, my lord," she assures her husband, dryly. She opens the letter right away, however, sitting on a nearby bench and reading.
To Hardwicke's credit, it's still sealed and unread from his journey. He waits patiently for her to read, his gaze tracing the familiar lines of her face, the slim curves of her body, with an attention entirely devoted.
It's a bit lengthy, the young lord's letter, and it has, at times, Belle pressing a hand to her heart and blinking away tears. Towards the end, the tears do fall, dislodged by a blink and tracing her cheeks to her chin. Finally, she folds it up, sniffling softly and wiping her cheeks. It's a moment before she's certain of her voice. "Hardwicke," she begins softly, a bit hesitantly. "My love, if we — if we're blessed with a son…"
When she begins to blink back tears, Hardwicke draws up behind her to slide a soothing hand over her hair. "Jason," he says quietly. "I want to name him Jason."
Belle stares at him a moment, then laughs wetly and kisses him — fiercely and with such adoration, such passion, that it's near dizzying. "I love you," she whispers. "You cannot know."
He gathers her to him with the strength of hard-corded arms, kissing her back with a passion entirely for her. "You should have seen — no." Hardwicke tips his head against hers. "I would not have wanted you to see him fall. But it was — an honor to see him fight."
Belle smooths his hair and beard, brushing the side of his nose with her own — ceaselessly caressing. "It's a fine name," she whispers. "The finest. I'd like to ask the present Lord Mallister to be his Gods-father, if you think it right. And Lady Lucienne to be his Gods-mother."
"You have many plans for a son not even conceived yet," Hardwicke says, his smile a quiet thing. "But aye, if we're blessed with one."
"Who says we haven't?" Belle whispers, smiling against the curve of his ear.
"Do you—" But Hardwicke exhales slowly. "It would be too soon for you to know, aye?"
"I'm a few days late," says Belle, dimpling. "And I am never late. Not even by an hour. If rivers flowed with the constancy of my blood, there'd never be a hitch in commerce." She bites the corner of her bottom lip, adding, "I think we conceived before the wedding, despite my precautions. Though I think we'd best have as much sex as possible while you're home. Just to be sure."
He is quiet. And then a smile of rare brilliance lights his expression, and Hardwicke kisses her once more with a bright, fervid joy, cupping her face in his hands. "To be sure," he whispers against her mouth.