Page 302: Expected Favors
Expected Favors
Summary: Hardwicke wrangles a favor from his wife.
Date: May 17, 2012
Related Logs: Tourney stuff.
Hardwicke Belle 
Hardwicke's Chambers — Four Eagles Castle
It's a room! Yay!
May 17, 289

An early morning rising — surprise, surprise — has given Hardwicke time to make any and all last-minute arrangements before the journey to the Twins. He's been out and about the castle for an hour now before returning to their chambers to assure that his less crack-of-dawn wife is awake. He's dressed for travel already. Naturally.

Certainly no fan of dawn's crack, Belle seems to have nonetheless risen early. Er. Than usual. In any event, she's also up and dressed, wearing the somber and practical gray befitting a servant whose house has only months ago lost its lady. Her hair is neatly pinned, and she's done a remarkably efficient job of packing in the time her waking allotted. Two trunks sit almost full, orderly and densely set. She looks up and smiles at Hardwicke as he enters, then again at the two boys who skulk in the doorway behind him. "Kindal, Etain — hello, sweetings! Would you boys be kind enough to haul these down to the wagons?"

Hardwicke frowns at the sight of the two trunks. "Why do we need so much?" he says in a gruffly disapproving tone of one who is used to bringing the shirt on his back and little else. "We're hardly staying for long."

The two young men try to cut a comfortable bargain between eyeing the Captain's pretty wife and not getting caught at it — but cowardice (and wisdom) quickly win the day. They heft the trunks and make themselves, mumbling politely. "Right away, Mistress Blayne. Begging your pardon, Captain."

"Before you were married," Belle says, exercising her Voice of Sweet Reason, "How many trunks did you take when attending a festival at the home of a lord?"

Glowering at young men at the first sight of looking at Belle too long is child's play for Hardwicke, and possibly a source of entertainment deep down. He sets a look on them that urges them out just a pace faster. To his wife, though, he says, "I hardly needed a trunk when a pack would do." Trunks are apparently a source of general bafflement.

Belle leans up to kiss her husband on the mouth, smiling. "You should have three outfits at least — something for day, something for evening formal, and something for hunting, should you have occasion to go. And that's entirely beside what you'd wear to spar and fight. Believe it or not, I've managed to cobble together something resembling the first three. You're welcome."

Hardwicke lifts a hand to curl his fingers into her hair, pulling her closer to linger in the kiss for a moment or two. "Well, if you want to pack things I won't get in your way," he wisely decides. He recognizes what ditches are worth dying in and what aren't.

"How kind of you, my love," Belle murmurs against his jaw, breathing him in. "I spent most of my life traveling, you know. I suppose I do find being well-packed and provisioned soothing.'

"Far be it from me to argue with your oddities," Hardwicke says with low-rumbled teasing. He twines a golden lock of hair around one finger.

Belle utters an indignant little squeak, though it's for the large part consumed by laughter. "Oddities. Bah." She gives his shoulder a shove, trying her best to look truculent with dimples — and failing. She nuzzles and kisses the side of his throat. "Such beastly manners. Fortunate you're such a handsome man or I might not like you at all."

"Well, you're stuck now," Hardwicke says with every confidence. "I can be as beastly as I want." He drops his hand to give her rear an affectionate squeeze through her skirts. "So," he says, now that they're in such a proper arrangement. "What are you giving me, then?"

She manages to look entirely innocent of the question, batting baffled lashes. "Giving you? My goodness, is it your name day already?"

"You wouldn't send a knight off to a tourney without a favor just because it wasn't his nameday," Hardwicke scoffs.

Belle eyeballs him. "I gave you a favor for battle before you rode off to Seagard, and now you need another? I had no idea knights were so high maintenance." She's so close to pulling off serious it might very well give one pause, though there's the tell-tale shadow of a dimple on her cheek.

Hardwicke scowls at her. "You gave me a nomad magic charm," he argues with her, brow all a-furrow at her teasing.

She gasps to hear her favor so disparaged. "How is that not a favor? It's far better than a hair ribbon, you know. It takes a good deal of thought and lore and ritual to make a 'nomad magic charm.' Any silly bint can toss you a hair ribbon."

"Well, maybe I'll just go find some silly bint to toss me a hair ribbon, then," Hardwicke claims. So there.

Oh, my. Belle's turn to glower now — though her version involves slightly poutier bottom lip action. "Maybe you should!" Huff. She pulls a long, pale pink ribbon from inside her bodice — a glistening, fascinating bit of frippery edged in crystal beads, bearing a distinct breath of her perfume and the warm scent of her body. "And I suppose I'll give this so someone who better appreciates the extraordinary thoughtfulness of nomad magic charms." So there.

Hardwicke narrows his gaze on the ribbon like a predator sensing a challenge. "Maybe you should," he echoes back at her. He slips a hand to the small of Belle's back to snug her in close against his body, and then the other snatches for the favor.

Belle has some rather quick reflexes for a woman, gasp-tsking in rebuke as she twists and contorts to keep the favor from him. There's a smile on her lips, however, for that predatory aspect of her husband, and her lashes as lowered alluringly. "This is from my costume… back when I used to fly," she murmurs, bringing the satin up to brush over his lips. "Will you carry it into battle for me, my love, so some small part of me goes with you?"

"I will fly with it," Hardwicke promises her in a lower voice, his gaze dark and steady on hers.

Belle smiles beautifully, swooning a bit for that steadfast gaze. "Then it's yours, of course," she whispers. "Just like the rest of me."

Hardwicke closes his fingers about the ribbon, now that his wife is deigning to hand it over. "Well then," he says, his voice still quiet. "I'd ask what I should with you now that I have you, but I don't think we have the time."

Laughing, Belle twines her arms around his neck and leans up again to kiss him proper. "Quality not quantity, my love," she murmurs against his lips. "No one's leaving without us."

"Mm." The taste and warmth of her lips is certainly temptation enough, the way Hardwicke lingers and extends the kiss. "I would not want to rush," he murmurs, fingers twining and twisting in her hair despite his words. "You are delicate."

She gasps sweetly as his fingers tangle in her hair; she arches against him in response. "We're both quite hearty, Bean and I," she assures him breathlessly, nails dragging down his tunic to his belt and the lacing of his breeches.

"Bean," he echoes with a faint thread of laughter in his voice. But there is a genuine hesitation in Hardwicke's manner providing some small distance. "Belle—"

Belle blinks, settling back from her ardent pursuit of him — though remaining close and warm. She studies his face, combing her fingers through his hair. "What is it, love?"

"I just think—" There's a hint of discomfort, even embarrassment, in the hesitation of his voice. "I don't want to—" Hardwicke's voice drops to a mumble. "—hurt him."

Her brows knit up in an expression of puppyish adoration and tenderness. It's quite clear she just barely manages to stifle an actual awwww. "Oh, my love," she smiles, leaning up to kiss his forehead and eyebrows, temples and cheeks. "Gifted as you are," her grin tugs wickedly wider — she can't help it, "there's no way you'll so much as jostle our Bean — he's too high up inside me. And if it's putting your weight on my belly that worries you," she flickers her lashes down and up again, "well… there are ways around that, too."

Hardwicke frowns a bit under this particularly devoted treatment of his face. "I just — don't want to be too rough with you," he says in a continued mumble.

"I know," says Belle, stroking his cheeks with the backs of her fingers. "Trust me?" she asks, tracing his jaw with a tender smile.

A huff of unvoiced laughter escapes him, and Hardwicke leans in close to capture her lips for another kiss. "I always trust you," he murmurs against her mouth.

"Good," is Belle's reply, her smile meeting his lips as her fingers once more find purchase in his hair.

It is hard to resist her, so warm and willing and eager and — pressed up against him. Hardwicke tilts into the fit of their mouths, lips parting to taste the familiar sweetness of her as he gathers her up against him in the brace of strong arms.

And she is all those things in spades, kissing him hotly, devouring him like something delicious. Then — she starts, eyes going wide. "Wait!" she whispers, suddenly very still, as though listening for something impossibly faint. "Wait…" She bites her bottom lip, waiting — then lights up. "He moved," she whispers, delighted and aglow.

Hardwicke stops very quickly upon Belle's first whisper, a bit frozen in panic. (Did he really hurt the baby without even managing intercourse?!) And then he blinks — and then he smiles. It takes a decade off his years just to see. "Really?" he whispers, as if speaking too loud would crack the preciousness of the moment.

Belle nods, beaming. She gathers up her skirts to bare her belly, taking his hand and pressing it against the lower swell. She is silent and still again, then, waiting. "Come on, love," she whispers. "Do it again for your father…" And a few heartbeats later… something flutters, faint as butterfly wings, beneath his fingers.

Certainly gathering up her skirts is usually cause for a different sort of excitement, but Hardwicke is altogether focused on that small swell of her belly beneath his fingertips. Hardwicke waits, holding his breath without noticing, and then laughs with a sudden suffusion of joy at that tiny flutter.

She joins in the laughter, leaning against his chest, both hands over his. "Oh, sweet gods," she whispers, reverently. "I'd forgotten — " she swallows, blinking against tears. "I'd almost forgotten what that felt like."

"Belle," Hardwicke murmurs, cupping her cheek with his other hand. He leans down to press a kiss to her forehead. "Someday you'll wish he moved less," he says, warmly teasing. "He'll run around everywhere."

"And climb," says Belle, shivering with delight. "Any child of mine will climb like a monkey." Then, dimples bracketing her grin, "Perhaps even fly."

"I don't know how I feel about him flying," Hardwicke says in a wry tone of voice.

Belle lifts her head to nuzzle his beard. "Our Bean, boy or girl, will learn to fly very safely. I promise." She sighs, then, and adds, "Assuming he or she is even remotely interested in fun. I know the chances are about even."

"I like fun," Hardwicke argues with a scowl. "There are simply things that are more important."

"A preponderance of things," drawls Belle, teasing.

"A man has honor and duty to consider," Hardwicke says with frowning stiffness.

"I love your honor and your duty," Belle murmurs. "Dearly." She reaches back for a pillow from the bed, dropping it to the ground and kneeling before him. "And I can think of one way that we absolutely won't bother Bean…"

"Belle—" Hardwicke starts to say, but really — what would he make up to argue this? Instead, he says, "Where did you think of Bean, anyways?"

She grins, ducking her head before setting her attention back on his breeches. "It was the first vegetable the midwife used to describe the size of the baby. She said it was the size of a bean — which I found adorable. And far less unwieldy than 'eggplant,' which I believe is where we are presently."

"Eggplant," Hardwicke echoes back, baffled. His fingers thread through her hair. "How does she know how big it is? She can't see it."

"Experience," murmurs Belle, smiling as she unlaces his breeches, dragging her lips and tongue over the flesh beneath. "I could go on explaining, if you like." Or do other things with her mouth.

"No," Hardwicke says, his voice a bit thinner. "No, you don't — need to."

Afterwards, Hardwicke draws her up to her feet, his fingers still threaded through her golden hair. "I'm sure he won't notice this, either," he murmurs in a low, rough voice as his hand begins to search under her skirts. Nobody is leaving without them, after all, and it's only fair that they're both satisfied before the journey begins. Surely no one will notice a bit of dishevelment by the time they emerge to join the traveling group.