Xanadu Weyr - Secret Garden Refuge
How has this gem stood empty so long? Constructed of hand-chiseled whitestone, this cottage is unique in that it appears to have been here from before the time Xanadu was founded, it's stones bearing a resemblance to the ruins in the old forest. Large windows, flanked by raw wooden shutters faded to a silvery-grey, have thick-leaded diamond panes that allow the meadow's light inside. Pink climbing roses scale the front wall, the porcelain blossoms scenting the air with their delicate fragrance and providing shade over the three shallow stone steps leading to a portico in which an arch-topped door is set.

The space within the cottage - sitting room, kitchenette, sleeping and bathing room - is simple: stone floors are covered in vast rugs in pale, pastel shades and the walls have been painted white. Some spaces have built-in storage: cupboards in the sitting room; counters and a cooling/heating unit for food in the kitchenette. The sitting room has a double-wide, deeply-inset window that make the sunny room perfect for housing potted plants, Isyriath's portion opening off of one side. Comfortable couches in pale pink line two of the walls, standing opposite each other, a long, low table set between them in the centre of the room. On the wall, above one of the couches, hangs a painting of meadow, in which both the cottage and Marel herself feature, the picture signed with a capital M. To the rear of the cottage, the bedroom has French doors that open onto a private retreat formed by a three-walled, flag-stoned courtyard of the same material that makes up the cottage walls. In the centre lies a flower garden, neat rows of tulips and rose bushes planted in fresh soil, a non-functional stone fountain serving as decoration alone, for now.

It's a warm summer evening in Xanadu as supper time draws to its peak. The main cavern is packed with riders returning from various duties. Out on sweeps all day since dawn M'kal's chosen to go straight to the cottage that Marel now shares with him. Xeosoth is tired as he curls up into a ball and ducks his head under one wing. Pulling off his gloves and goggles M'kal pauses to ensure his dusty boots are off before he strides into the cottage. "Marel? You home?" he calls out.

There is stuff all over the floor. It's not particularly messy stuff, nor is it absolutely everywhere, but the floor of the main living area is covered with all sorts of things, ranging from patterned ribbons to solid silver necklaces and bracelets, even a finely-woven scarf or two in pastel colours with a petal motif. And, in the middle of it all, is sat Marel, bad leg out in-front of her, and the other curled beneath her. She's got a notebook in her lap and one of the bracelets balanced on an empty page, the piece being nudged this way and that with her pen as she regards it thoughtfully. "If I'm not home, someone broke in and left presents," she responds, peering up at the bluerider.

"Is there any food amongst the presents?" asks M'kal immediately. Sliping out of his riding jacket he tosses it onto the couch before striding over and squatting down before Marel. He's careful though not to step on anything. A hand reaches out to touch a bracelet that's closest to him. "What's all this stuff?"

Marel makes much of rolling her eyes and muttering something meant to be completely unintelligible under her breath. "I swear you and Mur'dah always ask about food the moment you step through that door," she declares, feigning annoyance. "No, there isn't. Not yet." She lifts her gaze back to M'kal from where it's dropped to study the bracelet again. "Is it that late already?" Someone's lost track of time. "It's sample stock," she says of the stuff littering the room. "More independent manufacturers are hearing that the shop's survived the change of ownership and is making money, so… they want in."

"Myself and Mur'dah clearly have our priorities straight then yes?" teases M'kal. Leaning in, he plants a kiss upon her forehead. "It is this late already. Sweeps out on the Western borders took me later than I expected. Helped out a family whose wagon busted a wheel. My Faranth, did they have a lot of kids! Half a dozen under 5 turns I swear and all of 'em trying to climb on Xeosoth! And that's great news about more people wanting in on the shop."

"Then aren't you glad that you came home to this lot all over the floor rather than half a dozen children screaming around your ankles and demanding your time?" Marel answers dryly, transferring the bracelet from the page of her notebook to the low table. She makes to gather herself and get to her feet, reaching out to grip the edge of the table and use the solid piece of furniture as leverage. "Are you okay?" she asks as she does so. "I mean you're not hurt? It must have been difficult work."

M'kal's eyes watch Marel closely as she gets herself to her feet but unless she asks or looks like she needs it he doesn't move immediately to assist. "Why do you think I came straight here?" he asks with a dry chuckle. "The main cavern will no doubt be packed. Much quieter in here." no kids yet much less half a dozen ankle biters. "My time is all yours to demand though." he adds. "I'm not hurt though certainly I may be sore in the morning." he admits. He's young though. He'll bounce back! "And how was your day luv?"

Marel has managed to master the art of pretending that she doesn't see people watching her whenever she has to less than elegantly manoeuvre to compensate for her bad leg, and so though she may notice M'kal's attention, she doesn't comment on it at all. "So, you didn't rush home to see me," she deadpans. "My heart is broken." She'll play at being serious for as long as she can, until she has to look right at him again, small smile curling in one corner of her mouth. "I managed to complete my paperwork in the morning, so I've been here dealing with this lot for most of the afternoon. It's not so bad."

M'kal gasps in mock hurt as he brings a hand over his heart. "My dear Marel how could I not rush home to ensure the love of my life isn't perfectly content in everything she does hmmm?" he too has a smile playing on the edge of his mouth and his eyes sparkle brightly. "Of course I am here to see you. You do cook the best of the pair of us." Tis true! "Paperwork in the morning and this in the afternoon. Seems to me you've earned an evening off then with your wonderful weyrmate."

"You just love the fact that you haven't starved yet or had to settle for caverns food every day," Marel insists, perching on the table's edge not because she's lost her balance or almost fallen, but because it affords her the opportunity to study M'kal without leaning awkwardly or looking around for wherever she's left her cane. "…Is that what we are?" she asks quietly, head ducked a little as she sneaks another quick look up at him. "I mean… weyrmates. I didn't know… if that was how you thought of us. Or if it was what you wanted," the brownrider says slowly, voice dropping to a murmur. "Or if we were just living together."

"Yes yes, that I do love, " admits M'kal with a roguish smile. Treading lightly where he steps he moves closer to where Marel's perched upon the table. With his riding jacket off she will surely note the Wingsecond knot for Galaxy upon his left shoulder. "Isn't it?" he says quietly, his green eyes locking upon Marel. "I mean…living together…well that sounds the same as shacking up I suppose." a grin appears. "I've been thinking of it as more than just that…haven’t you?" he dares to ask.

"…I don't know," Marel has to confess, gaze darting up to meet M'kal's once more. "I don't know what I'm meant to have been thinking of it as or what you've been considering it to be," she clarifies, in-case he should consider her words a rejection. "Everyone keeps telling me we're weyrmated and we've never used that word, and so I… never know what to say. I don't imagine us not living together at some point, but I didn't know whether you thought of me as your… weyrmate. Wife. Whatever it means." The knot, she's noticed from its first appearance, though she doesn't comment on it now.

Uncertainty and nervousness crosses M'kal's expression. "Everyone tells ya that?" he asks, his brows furrowed briefly. "Whose talking' about us eh?" he wonders. Her clarification seems to be more confusing to him so he finally simply asks. "We're living together now. And yeah..I have thought of you as my weyrmate. Tell me though what you want…do you object?" he asks quietly.

Marel gives a shallow shrug. "It's always 'you're living together now' and 'he's your mate' and… I just nod, because I don't want to go telling everyone you're my weyrmate if that's not what… this is." She frowns. "Was." Seeing as she's managed to extract some clarification from M'kal in the past few moments, if not from herself. She swiftly shakes her head, like she could make it clear that she doesn't object without speaking at all or risk saying the wrong thing. "No, I… I want to be your weyrmate," she admits in a soft voice.

M'kal's eyes light up with his smile. Stepping closer still he reaches for her hand. "Then I apologize for not asking properly as I should have before." he pauses then plunges on. "I mean, I'm not even sure the proper way to ask but…" with her hand still in his he kneels down to one knee. "I've no gift to offer but my heart. Marella, I would be honored if you would say yes to being my weyrmate." this is how to do it right? He seems at a loss of the exact procedure!

"No, it's… I mean I… I did yell at you to—" To what? Wherever Marel is wandering with that explanation, she sets it aside and abandons the path, the slight widening of her eyes all that gives away her surprise at the steps he takes next. She even seems surprised that he uses her full name, for though he must know it, how long has it been since she's heard anyone address her with it? If he appears to be at a loss, so does she, for she's none the wiser about the whole procedure, except for the fact that there must be an answer given. "Yes," she murmurs, twining her fingers with his. "Yes, I will." That her other hand reaches to curl fingers in the front of his shirt to haul him to her for a kiss isn't terribly gentle, but it is demonstrative.

She said yes! He gives a small whoop of joy before he is hauled to his feet and returning her kiss. His free hand sneaks around to curl lightly against the nape of her neck as he draws out the kiss.

Even if it was a predictable yes, it's still a yes. The funny thing about balance is that it's often easier when you're not thinking about it, or maybe it's that Marel has her arms wrapped so securely around M'kal that she can't possibly lose her balance. It's likely a combination of distraction and leaning into him, when she finds her feet. "…Do you really want me to cook, my brave Wingsecond, or might I distract you for a while?" she murmurs into the curve of his neck.

Well then given those options…how is a man to say no? Shifting his weight a bit to the heels of his feet he gives just a moment's warning before his arms are encircling around her waist and lifting her up and off the feet she just found. His lips nuzzle playfully at her ear before raining soft kisses along her own neck. Certainly that's answer enough on hoc choice between cooking and distraction. As long as cooking will end up being done later!

It might be toast, by the time it's later. But edible toast, that's for sure.

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