Participants:

Garou_icon.gif Valentin_icon.gif

Scene Title Always
Synopsis Garou spirits Valentin out to the coast for his birthday, and a very important question is asked.
Location The Wounded Coast
Date Solace 24 9:31 Dragon
Watch For Warning: Content of a sexual nature.
Logger Valentin

So the original plan had been for the actual day. Really, it had. Rou had everything he'd needed, but denying Seren the chance to get outside the walls hadn't set right with Rou, not even for this. He figured Valentin would understand. So it was to be the next day, but then he'd gotten roped into that awful assignment and subsequent chaos. They'd both been trapped in a healing process out of nightmares until Friday night and by that point even moving beyond settling in bed had been out of the question. That leaves tonight and thank the Maker his meeting to check in with Isolde and give his report and explain that yes, yes, he was quite recovered thanks to the efforts of the Enchanter had been a short one. It is possible he forgot to eat something in his haste to rearrange things in a rather last-minute fashion, but this had been put off long enough and if he delayed any more he might actually lose his nerve. So here he is, striding through the mage wings with only a little baby limp (which all things considered is a fucking miracle) poking his head in doors and generally making a ceramic-on-metal ruckus as he tries to track down his mage in particular.

So there is thing about lyrium potions, when taken in large quantities, the come down is a fucking bitch. Welcome to withdrawal. On the small scale, mind, but that doesn't make the aching any more pleasant. Or the headache. Or the terrible horrible itching when his own mana starts to come back to him. It doesn't help the mild fever or the fever dreams that come with it. What did help with a good bit of that, however, had been that Seren had the good heart to come in and insist on Valentin eating. And drinking some tea that reminded him distinctly of home. And he cleared out the empty vials. And though Valentin was stubborn, he had taken the other healer's suggestion of washing up. It's made him feel a lot more himself, even if his head is still killing him and the circles under his eyes haven't quite faded yet. But he's still in his own room, redressing after a bath, a linen towel still ruffling through his hair. The sound of Rou's bracelet makes him pause, and rise, moving to his door and opening it, towel slung over his shoulder, but thankfully mostly dressed. Could never tell how much modesty he was going to bother with. "Garou?"

That's a voice he knows better than any sound in the world. Ducking back out of the room he'd just stuck his head in, Garou stride-limps down the hall toward Valentin's room, only to stop short when he catches sight of still tired, worn down, fresh from bath Valentin. It's like watching the wind just die right out from under a sail, the way his face falls and he worries his lower lip between his teeth. "I - how are you feeling?" Smooth, Rou. Real smooth.

"You're limping, you shouldn't be limping…" Valentin says, catching the change in his lover's stride. He knows the rhythm of Rou's footfalls like he knows his own heart. His brow knits and he reaches toward his lover, and despite that shadow of tired, there's that investigative magic once more. "I'm fine." He answers all the while, "Lyrium is a bitch, but I'm fine."

"Just sore," Garou answers, dismissing his leg as anything close to the primary concern here. He steps forward when Valentin reaches for him, resting his hands on the mage's elbows and urging him gently to let them both inside where the door can be closed behind them. "Stop that," he chides gently, sliding both hands down to take Valentin's where he can lift them to his lips. "I know what kind of mistress she is, sweetheart. You will need your rest, I should have realized."

Valentin steps back into the room, letting Garou come with, the door be closed. He makes a small sound of worry, something between a whine and a hum of doubt. "Promise me you would tell me if it was more than that. I can do more if it needs to be done, but if it waits it is harder to find where it is supposed to go and where the wrong set is and…" The kiss to his hands makes him take a deep breath. He'd kept himself so together through all of that before, but it's obvious now how scared he had been, in the way that he frets even still. He shakes his head. "I am alright, really. It will pass in time. The bath helped quite a bit."

That fear is like a siren's call to Garou and he's stepping forward to wrap his arms around his lover and tuck his head beneath his chin before he's really entirely sure he made the conscious decision to do so. "I'm alright, beloved. I'm here, I can walk, I'm not going anywhere, I promise." He wants more than anything to soothe this fear and protect Valentin from everything that might ever spark it again; an urge that's rather transparent in the way his body seems to fold itself around the shorter mage. "You worked a miracle, Valentin. I am so proud of you." He lifts his head then, tucking his chin enough to kiss dark curls. "Do you feel well enough to go on a small adventure, sweetheart? I've permission to take you to the Chantry again." Though judging by the sheer amount of wicked mischief packed into that one sentence, there's no way that's where they're actually going. Nevertheless, appearances are… important.

Valentin turns into Garou's embrace easily, tilting his head to bury his face in Garou's neck, breathing in the familiar, warm smell that is his lover. He purrs gently, relaxing against his Templar, though putting a little less weight against Rou's chest than he might normally. "No, I just have more patience than sense and some really indulgent spirit friends." Valentin says with a small laugh. Miracles? He didn't believe in those. Wonders, surely, but those were provided by skill or by the giving nature of the Natural Order, not… It was in little things, these differences, but they were important. And doubly so, to Valentin, trapped in the Andrastian Circles as he was. But that question makes him raise a brow. "Oh, did you?" He says with a small laugh, "Yes, I think I could manage that." He obviously understands that is not what Garou is actually intending, but he'll play along.

Rou laughs - low, soft and indulgent. "The Sisters will be thrilled with your enthusiasm," he drawls playfully, pulling back just enough to be able to dip his head and brush a slow, light kiss over Valentin's mouth. "You'll have to dress, though. Can't have any Mothers breaking their vows over an alarmingly attractive heathen showing skin in their hallowed halls." And he draws back to allow him space to do so, though he absolutely watches the process with keen appreciation of his heathen. When Valentin is ready, Rou tucks his hand around his arm and covers it in his usual manner of 'holding hands' the way no one can complain about. Getting out of the Circle is easy enough, but once they're in the Gallows, Garou leads them away from the boats that cross the harbor and down a fairly narrow side-street.

That light kiss is accepted eagerly, returned with a little more passion that the slow, light touch originally, perhaps, intended. Tired as he may be, headache or no, the prospect of going somewhere - anywhere - other than the Chantry makes Valentin give that smile like dawn. He dresses with a small laugh at Garou's jesting. It doesn't take long, and he follows easily. And this is really the surest sign of Valentin's utter trust in Garou. Because as he leads him down the narrow side street, there is no hesitation in Valentin's steps. He keeps stride, letting Garou set the pace, and letting him lead, and sure enough of his Templar's ability to lead him that he does not mind in the slightest the other man being his eyes. "I suppose if I ask where we're actually going you're just going to tell me it is a surprise?" He says, keeping his voice low.

That passion is both energizing and reassuring for Garou, spurring him on to his mission with the knowledge that it isn't going to make anything worse (he hopes) and might actually make a few things a little bit better. "How astute of you, sweetheart," he quips back playfully, a kind of energy to his tone that speaks to excitement and perhaps a little dash of nerves, too. "In fact, it is so much of a surprise that I brought these." He stops the two of them and fishes in a pouch at his belt to place two small oblong waxy shapes in Valentin's palm. "The spit boys in the kitchens use them to keep the big fires from hurting their ears with all the noise. We'll be riding, so if you'll put those in once we're mounted, your surprise can stay a surprise." The sound of a bored snort and a very equine shifting of weight comes from straight ahead of them and Rou leans in so his smile can be felt against Valentin's temple. "Would you be more comfortable riding up between my thighs or pillion, sweetheart?"

Valentin blinks, turning his head down toward his palm in a reflex that has failed to leave him though he can no longer see. "I…" It's his turn for nerves. Without his sight, Valentin had never been fond of not being able to hear. His eyes were one thing, he'd spent days in terrible gales where he could not see his hand in front of his face when he'd been a sailor. He'd learned to adapt without his eyes. His hearing, that was something else entirely. And with the awful adrift feeling that always looms at the back of his mind… His mind hadn't followed the rest of Garou's sentence. It is the horse's breath that makes his mind catch up to his lover's words and he can't stop the small gasp that comes along with it. The sea had been his first love, and she held a place in his heart that could never be denied, but when he had been denied her freedom, it was horseback that had soothed him most easily. "Gods, Rou, I… I don't know… I haven't been on the back of a horse in ten years…" He says, tone full of wonder. And that wonder has beaten back his fear and he'll follow this man into anything, because a horse… A horse isn't a ship, but a horse is wings. Closing his hand around the plugs, he steps away from Rou slowly, with the soft clicking sound made with tongue in the back of his mouth that is practically universal in horse speak. Lack of sight or no, Valentin had never learned to shy away from animals, and his mother had loved horses. His hand extends, palm flat, to be nosed at if the creature is indulgent, or curious, enough to investigate his clicking.

"Valentine, allow me to present Lady Fleur. She's a saucy chestnut Orlesian Courser who did an admirable job of carrying me from Val Royeaux to Jader. Madame, this is the lovely heathen I told you about." Introductions smilingly performed, Rou leans a little closer to Valentin. "Mind your manners, now. She's a persnickety old dowager." And indeed, the red around her eyes and muzzle is fading into a stately sort of grey, but she is not so old that she doesn't recognize the clicking that has meant a Rider all her life. She is delicate, at first, in the manner of her greeting - velvet lips held away while she blows and pulls back the scent of him. He is neither the old wildcat who slept in her stall with his offspring while the ground tilted around underneath them, nor the forester who takes her into the mountains every morning now, but he is salty and spicy and devoid of the acid stink of fear, so it takes only a moment before she plunges her whole head into his chest, the way all equines have of 'oh hello there, you belong to me now'.

"It is a pleasure, m'Lady." Valentin says with a small laugh, colored with wonder, as he is introduced to the mare. He is patience, letting her smell as she likes, and when her head meets his chest, Valentin smiles like an idiot, his free hand moving to pat at her neck. "Persnickety, he says. I think, perhaps, between you and me, Lady Fleur, that he's just not quite well acquainted enough with how a woman ought to be treated." He says, sounding entirely conspiratorial. "First lesson, Rou. Don't talk about a Lady like she isn't right here." He says, laughing merrily by this point.

"Not well acquainted?" Garou sputters, shocked and offended in that over-the-top way that still manages to be entirely genuine (only the native-born Orlesians ever seem to pull it off reliably well). "I'll have you know that I was educated in chivalry and good manners from the time I could sit up on my own! To insinuate that I - " He huffs and folds his arms over his chest. "I'll have you know that the Lady and I have come to a very cordial understanding, haven't we, Madame?" Fleur, for her part, looks supremely unimpressed by literally all of this nonsense, heaving only a heavy sigh and shaking her head at the both of them. Humans. Muttering under his breath in a string of Orlesian that might include a list of things he'd do to show Valentin just how well he can treat a woman, Garou shakes his head and mounts up with the ease only ever attained by those who've been riding since they were very, very small. "Come on, then, brat," he rumbles, pulling the foot nearest Valentin from its stirrup and reaching down to grasp and help him mount up in front. He is not at all successful in keeping the humor out of his voice. "There are better things to do than enlist a horse to mock me."

"Oh, my love, you are…" Valentin manages through peals of laughter, "So incredibly Orlesian." Shaking his head, Valentin takes a deep breath. "I apologize, My Lady, I am sure we are the silliest things to your grander, equine sensibilities." He says to the mare over Garou's muttered Orlesian. None the less, he does follow. And, surprisingly, muscle memory serves him quite well in this endeavor. Settled easily in front of Garou, he tilts his head back to nuzzle once against his lover's jaw. "So it seems there are. Those were some colorful suggestions… Should we be finding you some maiden friend for the evening? That kind of creativity is inspired, I'd hate to let it go to waste." He is mostly kidding. Really.

Much as a small voice in the back of Garou's head says that he should only be further offended by that statement, there is something about Valentin's laughter that leaves him warm and soft and staring like a lovesick fool. Which, to be fair, is not exactly inaccurate. With his mage in front of him, Rou wraps both arms around him and settles his foot back in its stirrup before gathering the reins in one hand and… promptly using his legs to spin their mare around to face the way they came in. The nuzzle makes him purr, but that teasing jest inspires a kind of low, dark laughter that feels almost taboo outside the privacy of the bedroom. "My darling, if we make it back to the Gallows before you've persuaded Fleur to dump me on my head, we will find any maiden you like and treat her so well she can't see straight." He isn't kidding. It would appear that the 'bluff' - though Garou does not expect that his mad lover is entirely bluffing - has been called.

Valentin smiles at that purr, taking a deep breath, entirely contented. The memories of his childhood serve him well as the lady moves and he doesn't wobble terribly. Nor is he all that terribly surprised by the sway of the horse's movement beneath them. It's just… Terribly familiar, really. Then though, Garou laughs like that and says.. Well then. For a moment, Valentin is shocked. Not at the idea, but that Garou is playing along. It passes quickly. "Well, I suppose you've just given me plenty of reason to not convince her to do any such thing, then." He quips back, and it seems that Valentin is no longer jesting.

"I was hoping you'd see it my way," Rou rumbles back, bending to drop a kiss to Valentin's shoulder as the mare ambles along out of the side street and towards the wider open space of the Gallows' landing. "Head injuries have such a tendency to throw off anything approaching fine motor skills." Rou… you are incorrigible. All the same, the arm not holding the reins up where they won't get stepped on settles a little more snugly around his mage's middle. "Block your ears for me, sweetheart? We won't be long." But he wants the full effect. He's positive it will be so much better that way.

Laughing, Valentin shakes his head. "That they do. And I don't feel like having to patch you up again so soon." He quips back, leaning his weight easily against Garou as his grip tightens around him. His hand moves to Garou's forearm, holding there until that instruction comes. Honestly, he'd almost forgotten. Brushing off the fear, it seems, had brushed off the thought entirely. He swallows hard. "Are…" Valentin starts, pausing to exhale slow and strong through his nose, "Are you sure that is really necessary?" If Garou's sure, he'll do this thing but this is no simple game to play for Valentin.

"Necessary? No." Garou turns his head to press a kiss to Valentin's cheek. "If it's too much, sweetheart, you needn't. I only ask because I know if you're listening, you'll have my whole plan worked out before we're even halfway there." He turns a little further and presses his nose into the hair just behind his lover's temple. "Even without being able to hear, you'd probably work it out anyway." He'd just been thinking of the precise moment when everything could come rushing in and… but, as always, Garou is not, in their day to day lives, the pushy one. Valentin's comfort trumps nearly every other consideration, and so he nuzzles into that section of hair and urges Fleur into a long and easy canter.

It is that lack of pushiness that makes trusting Garou easy. Taking a deep breath, Valentin nods. And then he's stopping his ears in the next breath. His hand falls back to Garou's forearm, a little tighter this time. There's a small tremble, but he forces his breathing even and focuses on the fact that he can still hear his own breath, and heartbeat. That he can feel Rou behind him, and the swaying of the horse, and smell his lover, and saddle leather, and horseflesh. He's counting things he can identify, grounding himself. It only takes a few breaths, and by the time Garou's moving Fleur into a canter, he's settled again.

Feeling Valentin shift and glancing down for just long enough to see what it is exactly he's doing, Garou cannot describe the tight ache in his chest or the way joy and awe and something very like wonder bubble up in his throat. What he does do is move so that his mouth is pressed against the hollow of his lover's jaw and speak three words low enough to vibrate against his skin. "I love you." Words that feel like they should have lost their meaning by now, with how free he has felt here to say them, but still hold a magic all their own every time they touch his lips or his ears. Leaving the Gallows behind, Garou steers the mare onto a stretch of land unclogged by human presence and nudges her forward - little cues to let her lengthen her stride until the gait is almost boat-smooth, rocking but not jarring as they race across the landscape. It's nice to be outside the city walls; the brine of the sea permeates everything out here so that the air is crisp and clean and savory. It makes for easy breathing, even for land-locked Garou: almost there, now.

Even with his ears stopped, Valentin knows the rhythm of those words. He's muffled them with his lips enough times to know them. They were the sound seared into him memory that kept him sane for months. They earn a purr and a happy sigh from Valentin. "I love you too." He says back, though his voice is quiet, for the whole world feels loud when he cannot hear. Which is, perhaps, a strange and backward reaction. And as they move out into open land, and pick up pace, all of the tension falls away. Yes, horses are wings. And he can't see and he can't hear but he can tell the speed at which they are travelling and it just makes him smile. And then there is the smell of the sea and Valentin shivers with a joy he can't even put to words. It's wild and sudden, but he'd know that smell anywhere, and his eyes sting with tears before he can even stop them, before he can even think.

The trip lasts only all of fifteen minutes or so - but that's enough at this speed to cover a fair amount of ground - before Garou changes the way he sits down deep into the saddle, altering their center of gravity and slowing their mount to a trot and then a walk in quick succession. Signals from his legs have her swiveling her butt to the left and side-stepping a pace or two before walking forward and then coming finally to a complete stop. With Fleur settled (and absolutely not going anywhere) Rou lets the reins fall against her neck and reaches up with both hands to gently pull the wax free from the seal it had created; that action brings with it the rush of wind and the crashing of waves way out in front of them, the gentler lapping of the water against the shore, the little tinkling music sounds it makes breaking against the mare's legs, the whistle of breezes through rock formations of some kind behind them and the shrill cries of gulls in the sky above. It's a lot of aural sensation all at once, so Rou doesn't take away from it by adding his own voice, he simply pockets the bits of wax and re-settles both arms around Valentin's waist, chin dipping to rest on his shoulder. Welcome home.

The tears as he had smelled the sea were gentle, silent things. Little tears of longing that were bittersweet but manageable. As the slow and then stop, and Garou gives him back his hearing, however, that is another matter altogether. Valentin's mouth falls open, his hand lifting to halfheartedly cover it, just with the lightest touch of long fingers, it does nothing to actual mask his expression. And the tears that falls then are things that will not be silently ignored. They are sharp and keen and his chest aches terribly and he can't tell whether it is good or bad for a moment. His shoulders slump forward a couple of degrees, as he holds his breath. Even his own breathing would be too loud as he just listens. He had seen the sea somewhat recently, been on it, even. From Val Royeaux to Kirkwall, but then it had been colored with bitterness and pain and grief for leaving Garou behind. Now, here, with his lover beside him, this was magic of a kind no mortal could make. He shivers terribly, not able to hold his breath any longer. And as he takes a fresh breath in, it skips, breaking, sobbing quietly before Valentin can muffle his mouth with his hand more properly.

Valentin's relationship with tears has always been a strange and foreign thing to the 'painfully Orlesian' Garou. Not that he was raised in a culture that suppressed all emotion - quite the contrary, in fact - but that in his world, tears were universally a Bad Thing. Not so for Valentin. And so, it follows that Rou's relationship with Valentin's tears has always been… strained. He's known for years now that not all tears with his lover are bad things, but… It's been a long process and now - though he doesn't get the same kind of panic involved as it once had been - Garou's stomach twists into a knot and he knows no other recourse but to hum gentle reassurance and gather Valentin back against his chest, holding securely and rubbing circles on chest and stomach and arms - anywhere he could reach to provide the support that would carry his love through the emotion he's riding.

Valentin knew of his lover's strained relationship with his penchant to cry. Over the years, he's curbed some of the instinct, to be perfectly honest, the stress it caused Garou not worth it. This, however, is entirely too much for him to try and quell. He whimpers, leaning back into Rou again and then forcing a deep breath. He tilts his head back, closing his eyes and giving silent prayer to gods to which he does not actually pray often enough, no matter how much he and Rou jests about his calling out in bed. It is not often that he finds himself in places where he feels them anymore, in the Circle as he was. Or in the stone upon stone upon stone that was Kirkwall. Here, though, he can breathe. He can feel. And it all makes sense and it all fits together and the world breathes, the sea, she sighs. It's a careful sound, one you don't start to hear until you've been on the sea for awhile, her melodic, even breathing, ever present like one's own heartbeat. Here, though, he heard it and this aching in his chest just will not cease. "Rou, thank you…" He says finally, voice thick with tears and love and wonder and reverence both for the man beside him and for the world around him. "I will understand if you don't want to risk the giveaway that the sand will be but…" He starts a moment later, "Rou, if you're willing to face that, if you would help me down, I…" He can't put in words why or what or how he feels or wants, though hopefully it is obvious now.

"Silly man," Rou croons in his ear, turning to nuzzle along his jawline. "Do you really think I would bring you to the sea and expect you to sit still?" The question has no bite to it, only warmth and the kind of soft affection only Valentin ever sees. "I planned on going swimming for an hour, at least." And with more pressure from his legs, Garou turns the mare back toward the shore, the sloshing of her hooves giving way to the soft 'shhh' of sand and then suddenly to the crisp 'click' of hard rock under her feet. "If we dismount here, we can undress without the bother of sand and there are towels and blankets in the saddlebags." He dismounts first, swinging his leg over Fleur's rump and landing with a quiet 'thud' on the stone below. Only then does he reach for Valentin, taking hold of his lover's waist and helping to gentle the process of landing before pressing a kiss to his brow. "Go on then, get out of these ridiculous robes and I'll put them away in the bags." Where they'll be safe from sand and surf both.

Look, Rou, if you thought for a minute that Valentin's want of the sea was anything short of dire enough to be willing to do just that then you do not understand the power of his first love. None the less, that assurance lights him up like daybreak. All the of the exhaustion around his edges just gone. Like it never was, sake the shadows under his eyes, but those will likely linger a little while. He laughs, a little hysteric, shaking his head. "You are beautiful, Garou." He says, "And I am never, ever letting you insist otherwise." He's relatively patient as he waits for Garou to help him down, laughing again at that instruction. "They are ridiculous, aren't they?" He says, though he sounds amused, even as he's already pulling at closures. The speed at which he undresses is… Perhaps a little startling. Not even sex got him out of his clothes this fast. It's like they're on fire. But they're handed off, and Valentin is turning toward the sound of the sea in the next moment. "Wait… Rou… What time is it?" He thought he'd known, but he's gotten all turned around. He can tell it's dark, he does still have some ability to perceive light, and he can tell that there isn't sunlight on his skin, but whether it's just after sunset or the middle of the night, or just before dawn… He doesn't know, and it's relevant.

Garou is hard pressed to keep up with the speed at which Valentin is out of his clothes, very quickly coming to the conclusion that the best plan is simply to sling the cloth over his shoulders and arms for the moment. He can put it all away once Valentin has gone on in. But he's grinning so hard his face hurts and laughing easy and free at the mad dash for nudity. "The sun only just went down before we left. Low tide was an hour before that." He pauses then, an oddly sinking feeling in his stomach; he'd known to ask after high and low tide times, but maybe he missed some other important detail. "Does that… affect anything?"

"Sharks like the dawn, and the dusk." Valentin explains easily. "And the night, but there's not much to be done to avoid that." He says. "It's likely been long enough from dusk. The sand isn't hot anymore." Like THAT was the most sensible way to judge such things. "Just… Don't splash over much, and take off anything shiny. Like the bracelet." Seems it's more for his own awareness than for actually avoiding the water. Because in the next moment, Valentin is continuing toward the water. And he wades like it is the most natural thing in the world. The sea made sense. Even without sight the sea made sense. He could feel how she pulled to shore. He could right himself without sight with her. Once he was up to his thighs, even if his footing failed him, she would catch him, and he'd always been more sure swimming, anyway. At the touch of the water, though, Valentin actually can't manage all at the much farther than his calves before emotion overwhelms him and he drops to his knees, letting the surf swell around his chest as it will. And there, where the crash of waves will muffle and the pull out toward the deep will carry the will with it, he actually speaks a prayer aloud, in Rivaini, too quiet to be made out at any sort of distance.

Garou nods, the motion accompanied by the same vocalization he's been using to indicate it for years now. (He did it while changing off patrol the other day too, which had earned him more than a few weird looks.) All the same, he watches Valentin wade into the water, watches him sink to his knees. He's pretty sure he can classify the words as Rivaini, but what the individual ones are, he could not say. And it does not much matter, nor does it bother him; they were not meant for him and it's as easy as that. He keeps an eye on Valentin while he puts away the various bits of his mage's clothing and then begins to shed and do the same to his own. But when it comes down to his skin and shiny things, it is not just his bracelet but a long chain about his neck that come off, plus whatever it is hanging from the chain. Both go into one of his belt pouches which then goes into the saddlebags. Can't be losing the actual present before there's a chance to give it, after all. Still, he wades in after Valentin with far less hesitation than most. Not that he knows the sea well, only that he knows Valentin and that… is more than enough.

Another way in which the sea made sense, it made noise when people moved. So even without the ever present bracelet, Valentin can locate his Templar with ease. He's smiling like an idiot by the time Garou reaches him. Pulling himself to stand, he moves to meet Garou a step away, reaching out to his lover's arm, trailing down to lace his fingers with Garou's. "Gods, Garou, I love you." He says, breathless, absolutely struck with wonder that they are even here. But he doesn't linger, stepping further and tugging Garou gently along with him until they're more properly in the water, though still standing. It's cold. Gods it is cold, but Valentin does not seem to care at all, the summer night air is still warm, and that will just have to be enough.

Garou is not nearly so entranced by the sea as his lover; it's nice - and would be nicer still if they had the freedom to come back during the heat of the day - but even just after sunset it's pretty cold. What he is absolutely enchanted by, however, is Valentin himself. This is his lover free and raw and open in a way he only ever saw glimpses of at Val Royeaux - and almost none at all here. This is so much closer to Valentin as he was meant to exist and Garou finds his heart breaking for this wild creature caged by a dangerous world. "And I love you," he answers back, warm and easy. Laced fingers make his smile go lopsided and joyful and he follows where he's lead like a docile little lamb.

So much more what he should be, out in here in the sea. Honestly, just outside in general helps but this… Oh, sweet Gods, this is where he belongs and he can't much stand the standing anymore. Leaning into Garou he places a very quick, though tender, touched with the salt of the sea, kiss to his lover's lips before leaning back, letting go of Garou's hand and falling into the water smoothly. He's off into the darkness, as easy in the water as a damned fish.

Garou is certainly no fish. He's not even a duck. He's a grumpy old lion with very little in the way of 'aquatic grace'. All the same, he isn't hopeless. A leap forward into and easy breast stroke is enough to position him mostly where he wants to go and he settles in to float about on his back for a little while, a bit chilly but otherwise entirely content. They've only got a bit more than an hour to make use of this treat. Might as well enjoy it.

For awhile, Valentin just swims. Great, deep breaths being drawn each time he surfaces, but the next moment he's back underwater. Down there for lengths that feel impossible. But he's grown to love the burn in his lungs that means he needs air, and each time he does surface. Eventually the wild energy that compelled him into the water proper eases some. And then he's listening for the sounds of Garou, and eventually pinpointing him, he slips under the surface once more. Accounting for drift, he reaches out from under the water, coming from under and behind, wrapping his arm around his lover as he surfaces, pulling a rush of water with him, curtaining from his wild curls as her bends to steal a kiss from Garou's lips, cupping his cheek with his free hand.

The water is too cold to be entirely still. Every so often Rou twists his torso and dives under the surface, undulating his body they children imitate eels or mermaids to move lazily in the water. He keeps a sharp ear out for Valentin but that's as much hovering as he's really capable of. So the rush of water beneath him one of the times he's lying back shouldn't be a surprise, but Garou is still sputtering and laughing when his lover steals that kiss from his lips. Might as well have stolen his breath along with it for the way Rou moans and reaches to hook one arm around his middle. He opens to that kiss, for once yielding to it instead of pushing back or taking control. "Hello," he murmurs against that mouth. "I know I probably look like the sea-god's tribute laid out like this, but really there's been some kind of heinous misunderstanding." He tries, but he cannot keep the grin from reshaping his mouth more and more as he talks, so he decides simply to kiss him again, slow and sweet. "…alright, perhaps 'heinous' was too strong a word."

His lips are cold from the water, tasting of salt and seaweed, sweet and fresh and just a little bit mysterious. And with that change in his taste comes a change in his demeanor too. That soft yielding is met with a purr and a ferocious passion that is claiming and entirely self indulgent. Like Garou is, in fact, some delightful morsel left for his enjoyment, his entirely. "What a fate that would be…" He says, staying near enough to his lover's lips that they brush again Garou's own as he speaks, his own tone dark and murky like the water he's just surface from, "The right and devout Templar…" He pauses to return that second kiss with an edge of teeth, "Left as sacrifice for heathen gods. You'd be quite the delight, indeed."

That claiming edge is delightful and Garou not only feels no need to fight it, but actively moans into it, every inch the hungry, reverent supplicant. Garou might not have been left tonight, but he is entirely Valentin's; he has been for more years than he'll admit to and will be as long as he draws breath. "I would think the gods would be more offended by the same sacrifice year after year," he teases. "But I seem to please you well enough."

"Such talent, how could you not?" Valentin sends back, but there's little teasing to his tone. No, he's all darkness and edge, with a wild undercurrent fueled by a sea. His fingers pull through Garou's wet hair, and he smiles, but that smile has fangs. It's too cold to really do more than this dark teasing with his lover out here in the water, but he's enjoying the process none the less.

It's too cold by at least a dozen degrees but that doesn't stop the sharp-edged whine that comes from the combination of tugging at his hair and the danger in that smile. He rights himself and stands, sliding both arms around Valentin's waist and leaning low to lip sweetly along his jaw. There is a passion to it, but mostly it is affection and adoration, soft and unguarded entirely.

Garou melts against Valentin, panting like he's just run a marathon. "Someone should tell the Chantry," he murmurs, blissed out and hazy and breathless and not at all functional on any rational level. "The Chant would be everywhere within a month." He's not serious, but he's not entirely joking either. He wraps both arms snug around his lover's waist and turns to kiss him, open-mouthed and lazy. "There's a span of smooth, flat rock on the shoreline that would make an excellent altar on which to take yours," he murmurs against sea-salt lips. "It can't to have the blessing of the earth as well as the sea," he teases. "And I cannot hold my breath like you can."

That earns another dark, low laugh. "Oh, I don't think your Maker is near enough fun to appreciate such things. Sadly." Valentin says with a smirk, "Elsewise the Circles might be a lot more fun." Valentin returns that kiss easily, moaning low again Garou's lips, fingers playing circles along his lover's back. "Lead and I will follow, my love." He replies after they've broken, though he punctuates the sentence with a kiss somewhat more tender than the ones before, though it is kept brief to allow Garou to move them off.

"Even the Maker took a bride," Rou says softly. "We're not made to be alone." But he is happy enough to wrap his arm around Valentin's shoulders, still warm and loose from orgasm and still breathless from the sweetness of his lover's kiss. He reaches behind him with his free hand to guide Valentin's arm around his hips if he'll allow, walking the pair of them to shore and the towels and blankets that await them in the warm night air.

Valentin is not here to argue with Rou about the difference between the respectable, clinical, clean consummation one has with a bride in a marriage bed and the wild, beautiful passions that he and Rou were sharing. So he doesn't. He does allow, in fact, for his arm to be coaxed around Garou's hips. He nuzzles into Garou's shoulder and purrs, happier than he has been in years. It's obvious too, the lack of tension in any part of him save for that which came along with arousal, the ease of his smile, and this sort of unmistakable light offered to him by pure joy and the sharp cleansing of sea water and air. The warm summer air reminds him terribly of home, but even that cannot sicken his heart right now, but only make him appreciate it all the more.

And poor Garou is entirely ignorant. He's never seen anything wrong with the pleasure he and Valentin indulge in; he's never viewed it as anything but beautiful - and sometimes even a holy thing, experiences transcending what he'd ever known before. Somewhere along the way, this has become what the marriage bed is inside his own head. Or at the very least, what it should be. Coming out of the water is cold at first, despite the heat of the night. The nuzzle into his shoulder makes him smile and he turns to press a kiss into wet curls as their footsteps get louder in the shallower water until finally (on a whim born of pure happiness) he turns and bends to hook his other arm under Valentin's knees, scooping him up to carry bridal style out of the water and over to the stone where their belongings sit and where Fleur grazes lazily on sweet-salty sea grasses. "See? Not a hint of sand to give you away."

As Garou picks him up, Valentin laughs, curling to bury his face into his lover's neck. Purring happily, he smiles wide enough to be felt against Garou's skin. The terrible adrift feeling that being picked up sometimes causes doesn't even begin. Not here, not now, not with the crash of the sea right there and the smell of his lover and salt water, and the warmth of Garou's wet skin, and the still burning arousal that has built a fire in the pit of his stomach. Honestly, this was it… This was everything he needed… Just this. Put a tiny cottage on the beach if you're feeling generous, world, but that would be all he asks. To somehow stay in this place, this simple, beautiful place with this wonderful man and never, ever have to think about leaving. The world couldn't give him that, though, and he knew it, but he could dream. And right now, as Garou comes up to the stone, it's easy enough to imagine it to be real. He'll let himself get lost in that idea for at least a little while. Even through quips about sand. "No, just a decent bruise upon your neck." He quips back, grinning.

"It's the most amazing ache," Rou rumbles back, laughter and desire mixed in his voice. He noses at Valentin's face, tipping it up to where he can just stand there for a moment and kiss him and kiss him and kiss him. Only when he can start to feel the first twinges of dizziness does he pull back, dropping one final kiss on the tip of his mage's nose and then settling him gently on the stone. "I understand why you like them so." He bends over to root around in saddle bags and come up with his bracelet fastened where it belongs again (he'd felt off without it settled around his wrist) and a towel to press against Valentin's chest in offering. "Feel free to leave as many as you like." He can bend for his things, now.

"It is, isn't it?" Valentin says with a purr, "Or… Well… Perhaps not the most, but definitely one of." Because Valentin could think of an ache or two that he enjoyed more but, still. Point made. He kisses Garou back easily, languid from happiness. Smiling as Garou finally breaks that series of kisses, he makes no fuss of being set down. And as the towel is offered to him, he takes it, drying his hair roughly. His mess of curls becomes even more riotous, but he does not seem to care. The jingle of that bracelet makes him smile, familiar and soothing, comforting to know Garou would put it on again so soon. It's touching in a way he can't really describe, and though it has been years that Garou has had that bracelet, Valentin can't help feeling a new rush of love and gratitude every time a point like this is made of it. "Oh, trust me, I mean to." He responds, then, though with a little less edge than before.

"One of?" Rou questions easily, rifling through the bag. "Which aches are better, then? For purely academic purposes, you understand." He pulls a towel for himself and also one of the blankets to spread out over the stone, but he pauses before straightening and pulls the chain out from the pouch within the saddlebag as well. He slips it over his head, letting the weight dangling in its center snap it down to sit correctly with a light metallic sound. That done, he straightens and shakes the blanket loose of its folds before flinging one end out so he can settle it mostly flat on the ground. Not that it offers much cushion but it is softer in texture than the stone.

Those descriptions send a harsh shiver down Rou's spine, leaving him caught up in his own head and a little breathless for a moment. "Those sound… far too pleasant for academia." But he's already scrubbing his towel at his own hair and down his back and arms. "Your birthday present," he answers cheekily. "Would you like it before or after the ritual sacrifice?" In-cor-rig-i-ble.

"Then you have been reading the wrong books." Valentin quips with a laugh. Dry enough for his liking, Valentin shifts to the blanket Garou has laid out just as his lover answers his question. Again, he blinks. Of course there was something beyond this wonderful excursion to the seaside, but it doesn't stop him from being surprised. Blushing, even, and the moonlight does nothing to offer him hiding it. "I have never been terribly good at being patient…" He says, though through a smile that is pure amusement. Incorrigible, indeed, and precisely how Valentin wanted him.

"I know," Rou answers, his tone entirely indulgent. "It's endearing and terrifying in equal measure." Settling down on the blanket beside his lover, he actually unclasps the chain so that the 'pendant' can fall into his palm while the line of delicate gold links pools on his thigh. "Part of selling my birthright involved gaining access to a few things of more personal than dynastic value." He rolls the thing around in his hand, toying with its familiar weight and shape. "This has been passed through our family since before its branch assumed the Ducal line." Taking Valentin's hand, Rou opens his palm and drops metal into it. It's a ring, cut wide in the more traditionally masculine fashion. It's face is an octagonal ring of gems surrounding a single, octagon-cut stone. "It's called lionheart at home, the center stone. A strain of topaz so light it's like looking at the sun." They'd been a pride of lions for longer than anyone was really ready to admit, especially in light of recent circumstances. "And the ones around it are Imperial rubies." He might be rolling his eyes at that one, even he can admit that some people in his homeland are… ridiculous. "I don't know what the right answer is yet, Valentin, but I do know that I want a future with you; I want a life with you, a family with you. And while I figure out how to make all of that work, I suppose I wanted you to know that I would very much like to marry you at the earliest possible convenience." Which is a much nicer way of saying 'when it's actually possible', but it's a very Rou explanation.

"Selling your…" Valentin blinks, "Rou…" He's dumbstruck. Completely. When the ring is dropped into his palm, he turns it, bring both hands to investigate with gentle touches. And then he's blinking back tears. Try as he might, no words come to him. For once in his life, Valentin has nothing to say and he doesn't know what to do with that. Every word that falls from Garou's lips is only more and more shocking and touching and… "Oh, Rou…" And his tone is so full of love and honor that it almost overshadows the hint of sadness that comes alongside. Almost. "Rou, I…" He can't even begin a sentence properly. So instead he just reaches out, finding Garou's shoulder, his neck, pulling him to him so that he may kiss him, and try to express all of things he was feeling, even if he couldn't sort through them all himself. The swelling in his chest of pure, white hot love, the gentle amusement of 'of course' that he can't word in any way that does it justice, the aching crush that comes with realizing, at least in part, what Garou had to do to come back to him, and what that sort of sacrifice meant to him. There aren't words, words would be trite, words would make all of this quantifiable somehow, and it simple is not. So he won't reduce those feelings to words, but to pure, sweet, sad, overwhelming, maddening affection given in lips and tongue and sea-sweet breath.

Of the two of them, Garou is not the one who is the most talented at words. Valentin could paint entire beautiful worlds with just the scratch of a quill or the sound of his voice. Garou could see all of these things, but he could so rarely make them understandable to others. Only around Valentin had he ever even relaxed enough to say more than a handful of words outside of absolute necessity… but here they were with Valentin at a loss and Garou having spent all he'd been able to work out how to say and suddenly he's being kissed and that's alright - that's more than alright. Garou is perfectly willing to be in this position and in fact is reaching to try and pull Valentin into his lap (the ring's chain is about to end up on the blanket, oops) where he can wrap around him and hold him close while indulging in his sweet lover.

Moving Valentin is a simple thing, he has no impulse to fight it. The hand not holding the ring lifts from Garou's neck to lace into towel dried hair, and he just continues to kiss him. Over, and over, breaking to steal breath like he's rising from the ocean. Maybe if he kisses his Templar long enough, the words might come. If the wild, overwhelming emotion can be given through touch, perhaps the sense will have more room. A man can dream, can't he? Eventually, they do. Somehow, because words are like breath to him, and even breathing had been hard before, but now… He pulls just enough away that his lips brush Garou's as he speaks. "The moment this world gives me opportunity to marry you, Garou, you will have a husband faster than you can blink." He says with a smile, punctuating with a kiss, small and brief, "You are the greatest of my loves, you are my heart." Love the sea though he did, for she had been his first, Garou was still the greater between them, "And I know that when you find the answers, you will not try to lead me some place I cannot follow. So I will. I will follow you, my lion, through any path you need us tread."

There is something intimate to kissing simply for its own sake; when it isn't a prelude or a bridge to something else. It leaves Rou feeling warm and light and soft, wrapped around his lover and kissing him as though they were meant to do nothing else in life but this. But the words that follow are such a deep and binding expression of trust - in a way that goes beyond their games of pain and ecstasy - that his throat closes and his eyes burn and the arms around Valentin tighten for a moment as he just… exists inside perfection for a single moment in time. "Your trust in me is one of the most beautiful things I've ever known, sweetheart. I have followed you across Thedas and you would do the same. But…" His brow furrows and the next words come slowly, haltingly… thoughtfully. "But this is our life and our future. Our family. I think… I think it's going to take both of us to figure this out and both of us to walk whatever path that requires." He tilts his head to brush another kiss across beloved lips. "Together?"

"Always." The answer comes immediately, heavy and full of love. And for all that Valentin was normally verbose, sometimes the nature of a single word was enough to stand on its own. This was one of those moments, at least as far as Valentin was concerned. Another few, soft, small kisses are pressed to lips he knows like his own. Butterfly breaths across the skin of Garou's cheek. He hums happily, lingering there, just… Content. Eventually, though, he unlaces his fingers from Garou's hair, he pulls away just enough to lean back and inspect this ring once more. Testing the sizing of it, and if he can wear it on hand or if it will need a chain.

That one word is everything Garou never knew he needed in his life; the promise of a partner… that the lion wasn't prideless anymore. "It should fit your hand," he says quietly when Valentin resumes his inspection. "The band was pure enough to be easily altered and I have a good memory for relative sizes," which meant that he'd known pretty well how to use his own hand to tell the smiths what was needed. "But I brought the chain in case you'd rather."

The fact that Garou has not only given him this, but that he's gone through the trouble of having it resized makes Valentin's heart ache with adoration. Realistically, of course Garou had, but he hadn't thought to expect it and when the ring slides on easily, he smiles. "No," He says, "I will wear it. Let them wonder, I don't care." Because oh, people would certainly ask.

"You are a wonder," Rou retorts, grinning like a fool and doing his level best to 'be cool' about the way that seeing that ring on Valentin's hand made his chest ache and expand until breathing was a legitimate concern. "You'll fuel gossip for a fortnight." And he sounds entirely unrepentant about that fact

"I do so love when people talk about me." Valentin quips, smiling like an absolute idiot. He, in fact, is not trying to 'be cool' about any of this. With the ring on his hand, he turns his wrist a few times, feeling the weight of it and being more than a little bit astonished. It is… So incredibly Orlesian. Valentin can tell enough by the weight of it, much less the cuts, and having had Garou explain… So, very Orlesian. And Valentin cared not one bit because, well, what was the very same tease he loved to throw at Garou? But it will certainly take getting used to. Placing the ringed hand flat on Garou's chest, he leans to nuzzle into Garou's neck, purring happily. "I love you." Words that had not grown tired, somehow.

That quip adds a little of that darkness back to Rou's laugh, tilting his head to bump the bridge of his nose against Valentin's jaw while he turns his wrist this way and that. "Of course you do, you minx." And he sounds pretty unapologetic about that, too. Valentin is certainly his own variety of menace, but most of it has always delighted Rou and some of it he has learned to take delight in until he is the most shameless enabler of probably far too many of his love's shenanigans. Having the weight of that hand on his chest is nice; he moves his own grip so that the hand whose wrist is bound in metal and ceramic rests atop it where it lays. "As I love you, sweetheart." Words that would never grow tired.

Valentin takes a deep breath, closing his eyes and just enjoying being where he is for a moment. This is actual perfection, and though the time draws on and he knows that at some point they are going to have to leave, Valentin desperately, terribly does not want to. So instead of lingering, he opts for distraction, nosing up under Garou's ear before taking the lobe gently between his teeth and tugging, softly, once. "But there was a sacrifice to be made, and the Gods do not do well with being forgotten…" He says, the shadows of passion casting darkness on his tone again.

"I could never," Garou rumbles, a shivery sort of hum creeping up from his chest. With his earlobe freed again, he ducks down to trail wet, open-mouthed kisses along the salty-sweet skin just below Valentin's jaw, adding flashes of teeth every so often at seemingly random intervals. "I simply have to decide," he purrs against skin he already works to bruise, "how best to lay you out on our altar."

Gasping at the touch of Garou's lips on his neck, Valentin shivers. His fingers curl on Garou's chest, the first time he's closed his fist since putting on his ring. The subtle difference in the feel of his own fist makes him smile. Tilting his head to allow Garou access to a greater expanse of his neck, he moans at each small bite. "So many options…" He purrs, "But I'm sure you can figure something out."

That vulgar noise is music and Rou hums approval mixed with pure aural pleasure. He shifts to accommodate Valentin's change in position easily, wrapping both arms around him and making a playfully sympathetic noise when Valentin flinches away from the burn. Part of him worries - part of him will always worry about his wild and crazy mage who goes off on mad tangents and sometimes forgets to eat or rest and occasionally disregards the reality of People Who Can Hurt Him - but mostly on this one he knows that if it was truly unwanted, Valentin would have healed it already. The tone is enough and Garou raises one hand to pet at his curls while shifting to fold his legs inward and to wrap around his lover more completely. Because being anything but exactly this close right now sounds entirely unbearable. "That is a life plan I can wholeheartedly endorse," he says. "I'll have to keep a sharp eye for any hidden seaside castles. We can make a good living as a supply stop for pirates making the Waking Sea run. So many birds for Tytos to chase, so many wooden legs he can chew on. Room for horses and hounds and an entire wing where you can heal as many patients as you like."

Oh he certainly would have, but the sting of his burned flesh against Garou's chest, still touched by sea salt that only makes the burn sting more sharply is not unwelcome in the slightest. It maybe should be, but it isn't. He might even just keep it entirely until it heals at its pace, a reminder of this night that is sharp and sometimes unexpected. He smiles, humming happiness against Garou's neck. "I would need nothing so grand as a castle." He says gently, "Though the thought is a beautiful one."

"Have you thought perhaps the castle might be for my 'grand Orlesian sensibilities'?" Rou teases, warm and lazy and entirely too much at ease. "It'd be defensible, if anyone had a problem with us being there. And there'd be room to make a living with people coming and going that are notoriously unfriendly to authority figures sticking noses into their business." So he's put more thought into this than he would likely be comfortable with people knowing, but he is so very transparent when one knows how to read him.

Valentin laughs gently, smiling all the while. "Those are all fair points." He says, his grin turning slightly mischievous. "Though, honestly, you're not the only one between us who grew up with wealth." Not something he talks about often. Sure, little mentions of his father being a merchant, that he had stolen a ship from him, that his mother was Antivan. But he doesn't go on about his early life near like he goes on about anything else. It follows, logically, that if his father was a merchant in Rivain who was able to keep an Antivan wife happy, he must have done well for himself… But how much thought had been put into decoding Valentin's past before… Well, Valentin didn't know.

"So I'd gathered," Garou answers warmly, turning his head to rest his cheek against Valentin's hair. Honestly, he'd mostly been making fun of himself - quiet moments with his lover one of the few spaces comfortable enough for him to do so - but though the snippets through the years had been enough to come to plenty of conclusions, Valentin so rarely just… talked about his childhood that Rou would never, ever discourage it. "You rebelled against shoes, as I recall. I assume the rest of your childhood antics were similarly grand?" It's an invitation, but not a demand.

"Oh, Gods, did I." Valentin says with a small laugh. It's not that he dislikes talking about his childhood it's just that he doesn't. He doesn't think to half the time. It's almost like it was someone else's life, sometimes. Someone who knew freedom. Someone who could pray when they liked. Someone who could see. Someone whose mother didn't flinch away from his magic. It's a bittersweet thing. "All the way up until I was six, it would be a war each time my mother insisted I wear shoes." He's smiling now, though, the bittersweetness of these memories unable to find painful purchase with how happy is he right now. "And oh, they were. I have two elder brothers," Now that is definitely something that hasn't come up before, "I was a menace even back then."

"It's part of your charm," Garou quips back, laughing low and quiet in the way he does when something is genuinely funny without being at all surprising. "Brothers?" His brows shoot up and the surprise - though mild - is evident in his tone. "Were there three small wild things for your poor mother to contend with?" Even this sounds soft, indulgent… Valentin has absolutely ruined him. "Or did all the energy end up concentrated in you?"

"Oh my brothers aren't nearly the menaces that I am." Valentin says with another laugh and a nod. "The eldest is… I swear he's more Antivan than anything else. Charm of my mother's heart, he is." There's a small touch of sadness in his tone, but it is faint. Something that would likely be stronger if he chose any other time to talk about it. "And my middle brother is… Well, he's fiercer but not… Wild. Protective, bold, a little like you, come to think of it." At that, he laughs at himself, shaking his head. "I was always the one who appreciated the ships the most, and the trade. My father would take me with him most often."

That turns Garou's smile into an ear-to-ear grin. "Climbing on anything you could get your hands on, I trust?" Since, you know, thirty years, a dozen Circles and the loss of his sight haven't stopped him. "What were their names, your brothers?" he asks. "What did your family trade in?"

"Oh, of course." Valentin says, laughing, "I was one of the only people that could stomach the crow's nest." Because, really, the movement up there is wild. Even good sailors tended to dread it. Not Valentin, though, never Valentin. He had a stomach like iron for that sort of thing. "Alejandro, for my mother's father, and Gualtiero, for a friend of my father's." Who, mind, had a much simpler name, but they'd gone with the Antivan form. Their mother had quite a bit of influence over their naming, it seems. "Luxury goods, mostly. Fabrics, pearls, cocoa, pigments." He answers, "Beads. My grandmother was known for her ceramic. The beads on your bracelet are some of hers." Something that had been in his bag when he'd been taken to the Circle. Deemed harmless, he'd been permitted keep them

"Alejandro, Gualtiero and Valentin." Rou rolls all three names off his tongue with surprisingly good Antivan pronunciation. "Big names for little boys," he muses, sounding thoughtful and just a little bit like he knows what that's like. But that train of thought is stopped entirely - dead in its tracks - when Valentin explains the origin of the beads in his 'bell'. Shifting his hold on Valentin a little, he lifts that wrist to where he can look at it again - as though there's some chance it's going to look differently than it has any one of the thousands of times he's looked at it over the past few years. He's touched, somewhere deep in the softer corners of his heart that he does not often allow to see the light of day. But there is nothing to say to that which doesn't sound trite or contrived, so he just resettles his arm around Valentin and nuzzles against the side of his face to press a kiss to his temple. And then his cheek. And then the corner of his jaw. Because Garou is incapable of not being the most.

Valentin laughs, this the first thing touched by bittersweetness properly. "My father used to say that. My mother always told him they were meant to grow into, that you weren't naming a boy, but giving a man a name to defend one day. They were an interesting couple." Valentin says, the nostalgia taking on its light-hearted demeanor again. He smiles as Rou shifts to look at his bracelet again. No, it looks no different. Just the same mass of shining baubles and beads in shades of green and red and blue. Valentin purrs, content and placid against Garou then, and for the first time in years not missing anything he left behind.

Garou is happy enough in that silence, wrapped around Valentin with the rush of the sea and the contented equine grazing noises blanketing them in this moonlit sanctuary. He feels himself drift, lazy and warm and not even a little bit lonely. It's… a nice feeling. But after a little while he knows they're near to overstaying the time they safely have before a ruckus is raised and there is an apology in the way he nuzzles at Valentin's ear. "I'm sorry, sweetheart," he murmurs quietly. "Much as I wish we could sleep here…" It's just not possible. Not without dire consequences he's sure neither of them are willing to face. "Tytos gets very grumpy when there aren't two of us to burrow between when he decides it's bedtime." Sure. It's the cub that draws them back. It's … a much more pleasant thought than the reality at least.

It's true, Valentin knows it, that they must leave. He knows also, or at least chooses to believe, that if Garou could take him away from this need to return, that he would. So there is no fight. A difficult swallow, but no argument. And the more pleasant excuse, that attempt to alleviate some of the sting of returning to his cage, it makes him give a soft, grateful smile. "He knew about this, didn't he?" He jests even as he begins to pulls himself up and out of Garou's lap, "The brat didn't tell me a thing."

This need to return had always been so natural to Garou; it had always seemed right to Garou. Now… now he does not know what he should believe. It is a hard and uncomfortable thing and mostly now he shies away from it, except… except that seeing Valentin free brings into much sharper focus how miserable he is inside the Circle and that… Garou is many unpleasant and unworthy things, but his desire to make Valentin happy is genuine and heartfelt. It softens his heart to ideas that had always had difficulty finding purchase - even in the wake of his shock and horrible guilt over Seren. And so he watches Valentin stand, eyes hooded and dark with worry and distress - emotions that he does his best to keep from his voice but that he cannot stop from making him sound hoarse and a little gruff. "Who do you think chose the chain?" he shoots back quietly, forcing a smile onto his face so that it colors and softens his voice too. "He may be more like you," he continues, scooping up said chain and pushing himself to stand and dress as well. "But that only works to my advantage. I have all these years of being convinced to go along with one mad plan or another, you see, so I made good use of the experience and turned it all around on him."

Valentin tries, he really does, to keep chipper about it. The mention of Tytos is enough for him to agree to go, and the jests do make him smile… But as he begins to dress, Valentin can't really stop the way he recoils from the touch of those robes. There was a reason he eschewed them whenever he could, they were a reminder of his captivity, a fact of every day that was inescapable and engrained into his very skin. "Well, at least it sounds like he has decent taste. Assuming that it is gold. He'd heard the chain hit the ground, could vaguely judge its weight. His father being a merchant had done him favors.

Watching Valentin flinch away from those robes is like a punch in Garou's stomach and he can feel all the joy from their evening draining away like sand through a sieve and he panics - trying to grasp that intangible something and coming up empty. "Valentin, stop," he says roughly, reaching out to put his hand on the fabric to prevent his love from finishing that step of the process. And for a moment - one beautiful, terrible moment, the air is thick with the promise of the very foolish thing that is about to come out of the Lieutenant's mouth, the result of his irrational desire to 'fix it' coming hard to the fore. But then reality kicks him in the side of the head and he sighs, gathering the heavy fabric into his fist and pulling it away if he is not stopped. "Your robes got soaked crossing the harbor and I did not want you to catch your death." He doesn't need to explain the story; it's the only thing he can think to do to try and help. "So of course you'll come back in a dry blanket rather than wet robes. It's only sensible."

As he is told to stop, Valentin does. Though a little as though he is stopping because he's trusting Garou to warn him of some unfortunance to avoid. His brow knits, and then he picks up on that heaviness. But Valentin is more realistic than that, he was wild, not an idealist. He doesn't hope for that sort of foolishness to come from Garou's lips. He knows his lover well enough to know he had seen his sadness and simply wanted it to end. There no resistance to Garou's taking the robes, but the smile he offers him a moment later is indulgent and sweet. "Garou, shhhh," He says, reaching out to touch Garou's arm gently, "It's okay, love. There is nothing, nothing at all that could take the joy of this gift from me. I do not want to go back, no, but all things must end. And I do terribly miss our cub. I don't need to escape the robes with a farfetched story about the harbor. Though I love you all the more for the thought. My wonderfully sweet lion."

The part of Garou that panics when Valentin is sad is soothed by this. The part of Garou that is stubborn and ridiculous and aware that his lover needs to 'fix it' as much as he does, however, is not so easily convinced. "I thought you liked the far-fetched." But he's resting his free hand over the one on his arm, thumb sweeping over the backs of fingers. "Or that tossing them out to sea might make you smile one more time before we rode back." A real smile, not the forced cheer jesting about their toddler lionette brought them. But Valentin is sensible and sometimes Garou is not; at least he's certainly willing to recognize it. "Alright. I just wanted… I don't know." He tried. But he's also still got trousers to tie closed and a shirt to dig out and a dozen other things to do so they can 'break camp' so he's going to just go do them and try to work out why he feels like there's a heavy stone very slowly dragging his stomach toward his feet.

"Garou… I'll make you a deal." Valentin says as his lover turns to doing the dozen things he needs to do. "You stop fretting, and I promise I will indulge in destroying these robes when we're back. And it will make me smile just as much. Because I have a mind to have you cut them off of me." And this time he isn't recoiling as he returns to getting dressed.

Garou snorts laughter, tugging his shirt over his head and wriggling his way into the linen that wants very much to stick to damp skin in the most inconvenient places. It doesn't stop the feeling of his stomach sinking, but it does make his chest clench down around his heart in a breathless sensation he's become very familiar with - and yet not at all immune to - over the past few years. With his shirt tucked in and his pants tied up, he reaches for Valentin's elbow and ducks around his lover's current stage of dressing to kiss him - swift but firm - right on the mouth. "You're as ridiculous as I am," he answers, but the warmth in his voice is enough of an agreement. He makes so much noise in that bracelet, dressing and then fastening his sword belt and checking all of his weapons in a perfunctory routine before packing away the blanket and towels and setting the bags over Fleur's saddle.

That sudden, swift kiss makes Valentin purr happily. "Yes, I am. I was fairly sure that is why we work." He says, his tone full of affection. The last few stages of dressing are relatively quick things that he finishes quietly, and then just listens to that bracelet. His thumb turns the ring on his finger, his hand pulled to his chest as though he might be trying to hug the piece of jewelry. Loathe to go back though he was, he couldn't escape the fact that he had something that made his heart flutter immensely each time he remembered it. Which, with it being new, is often.

That quip earns quiet laughter, but it's not until Garou has settled the saddlebags where he's sure they won't put the mare off-balance that he offers an answer. "I think you're probably right," he begins, mounting up with a single, easy motion and then guiding Fleur to side-step close enough to Valentin to let him assist his lover in mounting up ahead of him again. "I can think of worse fates than being ridiculous. Our children will live in a state of constant embarrassment from the ages of twelve to twenty, but it'll be good for them." His grin widens just a little. "Builds character. Also fun for us. I can still hear the exact tone of my sister's whine when I would tumble into her luncheons or garden parties."

"Or they will be just as ridiculous as we are." Valentin says with a bright smile as he is pulled up in front of Garou. Settling easily there, he pats gently at Fleur's neck. "You have been most patient, My Lady, thank you for the indulgence." And then he laughs. "Oh, you should have heard Alejandro… When I was seven I stole his favorite cloak… This white fennec fur monstrosity. I'd had a mind to give it back from whatever bear I thought it stolen from… When he found me with it out on the grounds…" He devolves into entirely childish giggles then.

"Oh they'll probably be that, regardless," Rou agrees, gathering just enough rein to keep them from getting in the way and then wrapping both arms around Valentin's waist. "But teenaged children aren't aware of their own ridiculousness - I know I certainly wasn't." So being ridiculous does not necessarily preclude one from being embarrassed by the ridiculousness of others. Valentin's thanks to their mount make Garou smile and drop a kiss to his shoulder as Fleur moves off beneath them - entirely unmoved by two-legged gratitude and platitudes alike. "A white fennec fur cloak?" Look, Garou is Orlesian and even he can't keep from laughing at that one. That should say a lot. "Were there many ice bears on your grounds, then?" he teases, but there is a kind of childish delight at this tale which he cannot at all contain. "Did he shriek? Charlotte was forever shrieking at me."

"Oh, not a one. But I was a very imaginative child and thought that perhaps any bear would do. That they might be able to get it back to its rightful owner." Valentin answers easily, "Not that there any other sort of bears, either, mind. But I was seven and quite convinced that if I dug out a den in the root of a tree and wore the thing that they would come and think me one of their own." Because of course he did. This might be the most Valentin story of all time. "No shrieking that time. He didn't start shrieking until two years later when I wrote my first manifesto on a ream of parchment from Orlais that had been made of flower petals, not realizing the paper had some value beyond being paper." Okay that might be the most Valentin story ever, actually.

"Think you one of their own." Garou might actually be dying. There isn't a whole lot of sound involved - in fact there's almost none at all - but his whole body shakes with that laughter - too intense to produce a sound. The next tale isn't any better and it's a good thing Fleur had been the horse Garou had ridden to scout this place - she'd been here and back enough times to know mostly where they're going on her own recognizance. "Oh, Valentin," he finally sighs, forehead resting on his shoulder and occasionally bursting into little breathy spurts of giggling. "You would have been fun to grow up with. Charlotte got old too fast." She'd been several years his senior and therefore far more grown-up than he'd ever wanted to be. "Got old and kept trying to hurry me along to get there, too." And he hadn't wanted any part in it. Then life took care of that for her. "She had some of that paper. I have no idea what for. Probably wrote love letters on it." Which, it being his sister, had been the grossest thing ever at age eight.

That laugh is so intense it is silent is a delight to Valentin, who is smiling like the cat who caught the canary. There's no embarrassment, either. Children will be children, and he was not ashamed of having been one. "We would have been an absolute nightmare as children together." He says, "But I understand. Alejandro's only three years older than me," His parents had been busy, "But he was always so intent on being grown up. Even now I think it is overrated." Good luck getting these fools home, Fleur.

"I didn't think it was optional for… a very long time." Coming out of his laughter now, Garou sounds more thoughtful and less playful. "I started training and stopped playing and that was that. I'd become an adult between one breath and the next." And he'd 'played' in the way that adults were allowed to, because sometimes even pretending to be carefree for an hour or so was enough to be getting on with. "And then you fell on me." That one comes with a rueful smile. "And for the first time in twenty years it felt like maybe it was alright to be ridiculous sometimes."

"I suppose that very much depends, then," Valentin says with an affectionate purr, leaning back into Garou to nuzzle under his jaw, "On what you qualify as 'alright.' As far as I am concerned? Yes. Everybody else? Not the foggiest. I hear that I get a lot of weird looks, though." So much cheek, enough that it's pulled a smirk to his face. "Childlike wonder is not just for children." He says then, a touch more serious, "I have never understood why that concept is so often difficult in very Andrastian places. If you all believe yourselves to be the children of the Maker… Why not maintain the wonder one has for the creations of their father for all time?" Truly, the Chantry, and the places where it holds power, confuse him to no end. But, for once, he doesn't sound chiding, or disapproving. Just… Legitimately curious and confused.

"I said sometimes," he grumps, though there's no heat and a fair bit of play in it. "I thought the 'with you' would be understood." Rou shakes his head with a huff that might be laughter with a little more oomph behind it. "No one else is interested in my foolishness. You, on the other hand, are charming enough to get away with it." But Valentin's question is an earnest one and Garou gives it the respect of a thoughtful answer. "No one gets to stay a child forever. But even fully grown, I am still the son of my father. He would expect me to behave with dignity and to serve with honor." If he wasn't dead and their family had any honor left to speak of, anyway. "What the Maker asks of us is similar. And should we be obedient, he may be returned to us." It's not an invalid answer, but there's something uncomfortably personal about it that colors the words sad and has Garou hunching his shoulders forward just a little bit more. "Compassion is an important virtue, so is Justice and so is Valor and so is Love. All of these are vital to any good life. No one is ever condemned for a lack of fun."

Normally, there might be some sort of barbed quip here. Valentin was not always the kindest man about the Chantry and the Maker. A lot of the time they were valid, if not harsh, points. Other times, though, when he felt particularly trapped and angry, he had said some unfair, unkind things. Now, however, is not one of those times. Nosing up under Garou's jaw as he hunches, he tries to encourage his lover not to hide. "Garou…" He says the name like a precious thing, "I know that some of my opinions about the Chantry can be painful for you. I will not apologize for them. But you should know something." Taking a breath, he places a small kiss to Garou's jawline. "Your faith. Your belief, as an individual. Your dedication and love to and for a being beyond your understanding, that you choose to believe is there, that you choose to accept the wrath of… It is beautiful."

"It says magic," Rou says quietly. The nudge and the kiss and the sound of his name like he is rare and priceless… it is all reassurance and it is all desperately needed, but not for the reason Valentin seems to suspect. "The canticle says 'magic' exists to serve man. It does not say 'mages' exist to serve man." He inhales a shaky breath, steadying himself as Fleur picks her way along the rockier sections of coast. "I believed our job was to protect, not to enslave." And there is a keen ache to that word that says this past tense is still painful. "You have every right to be angry with the people who have corrupted an idea that should have been good. It makes me uncomfortable because it is hard sometimes to separate who I am from the Chantry and its customs, but I would never deny you that anger, nor do I blame you for it." He has some anger of his own mixed in with that confusion and heartache. "But the Maker did not do this to you. You have what I believe is the greatest gift he could give a mortal man. You should be respected, trusted, beloved, protected. You should not bring harm to others with your gift but neither should I bring them harm with my gift for the sword. I don't…" He sighs, sounding so very tired; this is not an easy subject for him to think about, let alone discuss. He's not even sure how they ended up here, but the topic cannot be closed soon enough as far as he is concerned. "I would not want you to apologize, Valentin, I would never ask you to."

"Oh… No, no, Rou, that's not what I meant…" Valentin says, just as gentle as before, taking a loose hold of one of Garou's arms. "Do not focus on that sentence, but the ones around it. I do not think you expect me to apologize, you beautiful, silly man." Again he's nosing at Garou's jaw. "It is that I am saying that even with all of the anger I have toward the Chantry, what I see from you, and your faith, is beautiful enough for me to see it even through all of that rage. Justified or otherwise."

"Oh." Pardon him while he turns bright pink. "Then I… am glad." He ducks his head and twists around just enough to kiss Valentin properly. "Your world should always be beautiful." He is ridiculous, but entirely unapologetic about it. He kisses him again for no other reason than he wants to and he can, pulling back to brush one nose along another. "One day I'll take you to the forests surrounding Val Henar." Speaking of beautiful places. And any other topic but the Chantry. "There are places where the trees are so old, they say you can still hear echoes of the world's creation song beneath their branches."

Valentin smiles through that kiss, purring and entirely too happy. Yes, too happy. Really, what would the Knight Commander think if she saw one of the Circle's Enchanters smiling like this? Nothing good, that was for sure. "It is." He says back, quiet and affectionate, "As long as I have you in it, it is beautiful." He nods then. "I would like that, if it is ever possible… It sounds like a place I would very much enjoy." Because it did. And those words are spoken with a touch of awe. Because Valentin could appreciate old, natural, wonderful places like that in a way that was hard to explain but touched his soul.

With all due respect, there is no such thing as a too-happy Valentin and if the Knight Commander wants to fight about it, well, Rou will have words. "I believe you would," he murmurs back, savoring this closeness while also keeping an eye on the approaching city walls. "There are ruins in the woods on the far northern edge beyond the stables. Our tutor told us they were from the time the Imperium stretched much farther south, but I was so certain they were from the elves." He can laugh at himself now, but at age nine these things are Very Serious Business. "Some ancient city, I told him. 'Phillipe, don't be a moron', he'd tell me. 'Elves don't build cities'." That man had been glad to see the back of him. "Either way, the ruins would also delight you, I think."

Someday, that will be one really interesting 'discussion.' That day, though, is not today and there is no Knight Commander present to disapprove of his happiness. "I mean… They could have done. They don't even know their own history. I think child-you could be on to something." He's jesting… Mostly. It's not like he's ever seen the things, far be it from him to gainsay nine year old Garou.

"Wonderful," Garou quips back dryly. "It would be just my luck that the legacy I leave to the world ends up being some harebrained idea I had when I was nine." And not, you know, anything he's actually strived for. One last kiss he's got to have - slow and deep and controlled - and then there's a change from hooves in sand and earth to hooves on cobblestone. Getting in and out of the Gallows itself on this end is painfully easy; it's the city's patrol and they don't tend to ask questions of Templars. All too soon they're ambling into the side-street from which they originated and Fleur - recognizing this alley in particular - drops her head immediately to start nosing around in case someone happened to leave some hay about.

Valentin laughs. "You know, there are worse legacies to leave." But then he's being kissed and Valentin purrs, smiling through it, affectionate in every manner. Even when Fleur moves on to stone, that smile doesn't fade. He has Garou, and that will be enough.


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