Gifts, Both Tasteful and Awful

Xanadu Weyr - Domicile of Discernment

On the outside, this cottage is fairly unremarkable. It's of moderate size, though it's clearly not the home of a rider - there's no wallow, nor is there any means for even the smallest of greens to enter. It's set in the meadow, amidst the gentle roll of the terrain toward the ridge, but any adornment by flowers or ornamental plants is purely incidental. The exterior is painted white, and the roof-shingles are brown. There's a small wooden stoop, centered along the longer side - three wide steps leading up to a doorway framed by windows.
Once inside, the main room of this cottage is bright and airy, made so by a high arched ceiling and large windows that take advantage of their northern exposure, with gauzy drapes and pale golden oak sills. Overhead, there's more of that oak in the form of exposed beams, the ceiling between them painted a soft cerulean. During the day, there is likely sufficient illumination from those windows, but for night-time, there are recessed lights hidden within the beams that diffuse against the ceiling. The walls are white with a sponged speckling of the same blue from overhead, and underfoot is more of that oak.
The house has a central column of yellow fieldstone, with a fireplace facing into the room and a half-flight of stairs to either side - one leading up, the other down. Above the fireplace is an oakwood mantel, and while it may provide warmth, under most circumstances, the radiant heating system beneath the floorboards is likely to more effective. The fireplace may, however, provide a pleasant flickering warmth, and as such, a sofa and a pair of armchairs are arranged in front of it. The sofa's a velvety blue-grey, accented with a pair of red pillows, and the armchairs are brown leather - suitable for company but selected primarily for comfort.
There's a kitchen tucked off to one side, near the upward staircase. It's small, but well equipped, with granite countertops and a brushed steel cold-box and stove. There's an oblong wooden table with chairs set around it, and even some plants in small terracotta pots on the windowsill, as the presence of fresh herbs is useful when cooking.

It's a fine spring evening with twilight washing the weak blue sky with an infusion of pale lavender and bathing the Weyr with an indirect farewell from Rukbat's departure over the horizon. It's been another busy day in a week full of hectic activity - catch up of several projects from being away on that trip is still on-going. Dinner has been taken in the caverns, presumably because Darsce couldn't get away early enough to attempt cooking again (small blessings!) Evenings have seen little time to unpack - at least for Darsce, possibly for Jethaniel as she's had…other things to keep him busy with. The headwoman has never worked this physically hard in her life and so has fallen into bed exhausted fairly early, so he might possibly have accomplished something when his wife is not awake. Enough of Darsce's essentials have certainly found their way to the correct places that her morning routine works, however, those still-wrapped wedding gifts stacked on a more or less neat pile beside the couch. Tonight - not that she's not in the mood for more - but her energy is definitely flagging, for as she enters the dwelling instead of pouncing her husband playfully, she melts onto the couch, closes her eyes with a sigh, then kicks her shoes off and wriggles her toes. Work's done for the day! When is vacation?

Jethaniel's managed to unpack a few of his things, though there's still various boxes - particularly down in his workshop. This is not the first time he's worked long hours on a project - nor even the most intensive; he's done a decent job at prioritization and thus actually leaves in the evening instead of late at night. Those evenings are often occupied - in one form or another - by Darsce, but there are occasions when she falls asleep at a time when he is not wholly averse to moving. At those times, or in the morning while he waits for her to finish that routine, he'll unpack a few things and put them in the new places they belong. It is a slow process. Dinner, being had at the caverns, was satisfactory. Darsce may, next time she cooks, note that certain shelf-stable foods have appeared in the cupboards - nuts, dried fruit, jerky, twice-baked oatcakes; the sort of things one could consume as an impromptu meal, if necessary. For instance, if one continued to be hungry after a scheduled one. Jethaniel has not, however, commented on their appearance. Tonight, he follows Darsce to the couch, but instead of taking a seat on it, he steps around to behind her. He gently brushes her hair back to along her neck, then curves his hands against her shoulders, pressing lightly with the palms as he traces an approximation of shoulderblades.

Darsce will eventually notice the things in those cupboards, yes. She won't give the pantry a thought until she braves cooking again though. And only then probably because she forgot something from the kitchens and will be frantically hunting for said item in there. Her reaction? Ohhh that remains to be seen! One thing she can do is make klah (and she's been providing a pot in the morning and evening without fail since they've moved in). Her concoction of that beverage has steadily improved since she first became headwoman and was taught how. The klahpot - and the supplies - are on the counter though, so she hasn't had to delve into the pantry since she last made… err burned dinner. She… should get up and make a pot now, but… soverytired! She mmms at the press of Jethaniel's hands to her shoulders; his touch bringing her lashes up while she tips her head back to view him upside down. She smiles. "Would you like some klah?"

According to an analysis Jethaniel considers entirely plausible, the frequent presence of klah is not only correlated to the long days they've been working, but caused by it. He has, in fact, found this analysis sufficiently applicable to the situation that he has not looked for alternative explanations. His fingers continue their slow press and rub along Darsce's shoulders, and as she looks up at him, he smiles back down to her. "That will not be necessary." It would, for one thing, require her to move. However, there might be other motivations behind her question, and thus he asks, "Would you?"

"In a little while," Darsce says of klah. Jethaniel's decision not to have any isn't going to deter her! "Right now I don't want to move." She'd much rather tangle up with him on that couch but she'd probably wind up falling asleep on him. And though she hasn't energy for much more than that, it's far too early to go to bed. His fingers feel so good on her tired shoulders and her pleasure in this is evident in her continued smile and half groaned-half purred, "I should do some unpacking, but I don't want to move." She does lift an arm to poke listlessly at the pile of presents. "We should open these so I can send proper thank you notes out." Instead of generic 'thanks for the gift, we appreciate your thoughtfulness' type.

Jethaniel nods to Darsce concerning that klah. He glances toward where the materials sit on the counter, then returns his gaze to her as his fingers, having worked their way out across her shoulders, begin to travel inward across the same territory. There is, he expects, still value to be derived from the transit. He further expects that such derived value will be evident in Darsce's response; so long as it continues to exceed the opportunity cost of performing those actions, he will do so. As such, Jethaniel continues to stand even as he tells Darsce, "You are not required to move." He leans forward and brushes his lips to her hair, then stands up again as his eyes turn to that pile of variously-wrapped (and variously-shaped) items. Thanking others for their thoughtfulness without giving thought as to the gift itself seems somewhat at odds with the principles involved in gratitude, and Jethaniel nods. "Would you like to pick one?" he asks, as he continues to work his hands over her shoulders. His hands are occupied, but hers may open things?

It's a slow process but, the weary tension of knotted muscles begins to melt away under Jethaniel's kneading fingers. At his assurance, Darsce’s smile turns to a smirky tease, "Are you suuure? It'll be more work for you!" Her brows twitch up and down provocatively while he kisses her hair - which no longer bears the singed ends. She's hopped a ride to Irene to have the ends trimmed and, while the length has been kept, it now bears a layered look - and a fringe of bangs across her brow. "Okay," she says and reaches for the top one. She finds the tag, reads it and wrinkles her nose, "From Asher. It's addressed to you." Oh… joy? So… since he's busy, her slim fingers slide under the seams and undo the wrapping tothe soft package. The wrapping falls away and she's left holding… silky material. Heh. It… defies description. It's definitely for him.

Jethaniel in not particularly concerned with the overall speed of the process; some things are better done slowly… or at least with their speed modulated according as appropriate for that point in the proceedings. The rate of… his fingers continues as it has been, slowly pressing to those muscles and soothing them. Darsce's imagination, on the other hand - wherever that one may be located - may not be adequately described as such. His lips quirk for her teasing. "…you are, however, encouraged to do so. Particularly under certain circumstances." In this one, however? Her motion may be limited to that unwrapping of gifts, though it is not actually required that she do so. Merely encouraged, if somewhat less vigorously than he might encourage other actions. For her description of the provenance of the first gift, he begins to nod, then pauses as the precise target of it is stated. "I… see," he says, and his fingers curl slightly, tips tracing upward over Darsce's shoulders and away from what she holds. It is, plausibly, part of the massage; the gentle kneading certainly continues, at least until the package opens and Jethaniel actually sees. It is assuredly for him. The affordances it not only provides but intends to accentuate make it quite clearly so. Jethaniel's fingers stop moving as he sees. "Ah. That… is…" Not something currently represented in his wardrobe, certainly, though there exist items with substantively similar functionality.. at least, in the functional regards. The goal may be more decorative in nature.

Some things are definitely better done slowly. She snickers over her shoulder at him for his encouragement to move while her fingers move nimbly to undo that wrapping. She stares at it. He speaks and she finishes for him, "…underwear." She is not pleased, even if she does whistle at the…garment. "Hot. Underwear." There's more to the front than there is to the back of the snakeskin print material. In fact, while the front has a… pocket, the back is nothing but a thong. "Iamgoingtokillher," she sighs in a resigned tone before turning her head to peer at Jethaniel over her shoulder. "Do you want these?" Because if he doesn't she's sending them back to Asher without a thank you note. Whatever his decision, the scrap of material is laid aside and the next package reached for. "It's from your mother and dad." This too, is unwrapped.

Darsce has words to describe it; this is good, because Jethaniel apparently does not. He continues to stare, and if there is a certain similarity to the expression of a bird trapped by a serpent's gaze… it is apropos, given the pattern of that print. As for the suitability of the remainder of the gift… it's Darsce's question to him that draws Jethaniel's gaze away from that garment. "No." He is quite certain on that point, the statement heartfelt and made without equivocation as his widened eyes meet hers. He has no interest in such garments. If Darsce chose, she could likely motivate him - but in the absence of her, ah, encouragement… Jethaniel does not want those, and will be quite glad to see them banished from his house never to return. Once they're set aside, his fingers resume motion. That was only the first of the piled gifts. The second - the one from his parents - is also soft under Darsce's fingers, and the first glimpse of the contents is of… lace? Inside are the folds of a formal white tablecloth, adorned with bits of that lace, and a full set of fancy napkins to match.

Darsce catches that look on Jethaniel's face before his answer. Yeahno. She has no wish to motivate Jethaniel into wearing this sort of… false sexuality. This might be odd coming from one perceived as shallow by the general Weyr populace, but Jethaniel, in her opinion, needs no help to appeal to her. "The modeling business… sometimes wanted this stuff shown…" She doesn't finish. Darsce is no prude but, this brings back memories of unpleasant times, of leering eyes and audience comments best forgotten. All that'll be clearly expressed by the look on her face. For a moment she leans back into Jethaniel's touch. "I'm sorry she's… like that." And then she'll unwrap the gift from his parents. A genuine smile grows for the laced-edged linens. "This is elegant. We'll have to have them for dinner." Emphasis on dinner, so not, hopefully overnight. But uh, oh? Cooking that dinner might be a challenge! The next gift? "From Erijeane."

Which is not to imply that Darsce does not notice what Jethaniel wears; nor that she does not find some garments more attractive on him than others. However, she prefers - so far as he has been able to ascertain - the things which make him look good in an overall sense instead of merely emphasizing certain characteristics. He frowns slightly for her partial answer, and while he does not - it is logical that the modeling business would behave so - his hands slip forward over her shoulders, resting near clavicles in a gesture that is both a comforting one, holding her against him as she leans back, and faintly possessive. As for the apology, he nods. "She is, fortunately, elsewhere." And will not be receiving invitations to visit for /any length of time, insofar as Jethaniel is concerned. He returns his hands to her shoulders, one of them detouring along the way to caress along the contour of her jaw as her head turns to see and reach for that next gift. They resume their kneading as she opens it, and he smiles - though he's more pleased by Darsce's reaction than the gift itself. "We shall do so, at some point." Ideally after Darsce has a method for dinner that provides reproducible (and edible) results. Erijeane's gift is rectangular beneath the wrapping, seeming solid despite not being particularly heavy. Jethaniel smiles slightly at the attribution, and his hands slow so that he may pay attention. It's a rosewood jewelry box, the top decoratively carved. The names Darsce and Jethaniel appear, each in a graceful curve around… a pair of slots on opposite sides. The top part of the box consists of a pair of cupboards, hinged on the outside. There's no knobs, but they do have… keyholes? Indeed so, and in the bottom of the three drawers beneath, set on top of a stack of blank papers and between matched pens, there's a pair of small keys to fit.

Darsce prefers the man to the clothing and though her own is - or has been oft too revealing, she has impeccable taste for quality and she's been slowly moderating her own style. Contrary to the opinion of others, she is neither stuck nor stagnant. Life is a fluid thing and while she'll never be wholly successful at curbing her tongue, and for that reason diplomacy risky when left to her, she is maturing. It's a slow process though! Preferably Darsce won't offer Jessa burnt offering as a meal but that might suffice to dissuade the woman from accepting further invitations to dinner? Or it might result in unrequested cooking lessons. Whiiich wouldn't be a bad thing, come to think of it. Erijeane's gift is admired, Darsce's fingers running over the wood reverently. "This is beautiful workmanship," she murmurs, a smile growing as she traces the names atop the chest. She doesn't, like she might have at age ten turns, pick it up and rattle it to see if there's anything inside, but places it with the other unwrapped gifts. The next she selects is too heavy to lift. "It's from… D'had." She says as she leans forward to tear the paper from the top of the box. It's a case of whiskey. She snickers because… "Here," she says handing Jethaniel the card inside that has the words scrawled in a rough hand, "For days you can't win for losing."

Some of the risks involved in life are unavoidable; others may be moderated. Darsce's attire and her culinary endeavors are both subject to change. As for the direction of those changes… Jethaniel would certainly appreciate an increase in Darsce's skill at cooking. Were she able to create meals her own taste approved of, he would doubtless be pleased, regardless of the precise nature of that dining. That is, however, likely to be a slow process, and Jessa's influence on it - at such a time as that dinner invitation is made and accepted - is presently unknown. The general aversion of Darsce's mother-in-law to transit by dragon may at least provide some degree of opportunity for her skills to improve. Perhaps she'll merely scorch the meal? She may even have discovered spices by that point. Jethaniel smiles for the wooden box, nodding an agreement to Darsce as his own fingers run over her shoulders. Later, she may investigate it further in a way more dignified than rattling, but for now, it sits with the rest. Speculation regarding the duration for which the unwrapped gifts will sit there, and its proportion to the length of time they say there while wrapped, may now commence. At least, having been opened, the uncertainty of their nature has decreased; the quantum state has been collapsed, and their identities are known. Jethaniel turns his head to observe the next object whose identity is to be revealed. This, too, receives a long and somewhat uncertain look. The opinions of Darsce's parents concerning this venture may not entirely correspond to Jethaniel's, though he accepts the note when Darsce offers it, lifting it to read as his other hand rests against her shoulder. His eyes travel from the note to that case, then return to the scrawled words. "I… believe he has overestimated." Or at least, Jethaniel hopes D'had has overestimated the number of those days. He's certainly overestimated his son-in-law's tendency to drink.

Overestimation of a different sort will be found in the gift from Liessa and Artur. It's a bundle of kitchen utensils, the sort a master baker knows what to do with and a trader hangs from his wagon as a decorative wood and metal fringe to attract customers. To Darsce's eyes, they're likely to appear nothing more than a bunch of large and oddly shaped spoons.

From Sulliam and Viorena, there's some bottles of essential oils, a few tins of herbal teas and spiced klah blends. They're fairly simple, not the ornate sort that might be found in someplace like Ierne, made - for the most part - from things grown on their farm.

Jessa might hasten that discovery into spices - at least the proper use of them. The session, however, is likely to be peppered with biting remarks less sugared than the flavor of the words used. Time - it's definitely something Darsce needs before such an encounter and a test of her…nonexistent…skills. She's still smiling somewhat at the idea she could drive Jethaniel to drink - not thiiiinking about how little faith either of her parents put in her ability to keep him happy. "Yeah, it's his answer to ev-" she begins before she closes her lips on the sentiment. The next gift is Liessa's, the bundle of utensils studied blankly - why's that spoon got a hole in the center? And what's the other metal thing with a large spring-like end for? Oh well, she'll figure it out… hopefully! "These'll come in handy next time I cook dinner," she says far, far too brightly. Sulliam and Viorena's gift is admired. "How exquisite!" She means it. There's a few packages left - one is from the family of Naois, the seafaring traders. It's a large, flat, rectangular package measuring about three feet by three feet. When unwrapped, it is a simple sepia-toned painting of a three-masted ship, heeled to the wind dancing on the waves of an endless sea with the speckle of stars overhead and the shine of Belior and Timor on the watery path ahead. The frame is likewise simple - fashioned of driftwood. There's one from Halimeda, Rehsa and Evee together. It's a key-wind mantel clock, perhaps bought in Ierne, for the rosewood case and brass hands are of excellent workmanship.

There are, admittedly, certain regards in which Darsce can already be quite spicy - whether sweet, salty, hot, or savory. They do not extend to cooking. Jethaniel lowers his head and brushes his lips to Darsce's hair as she goes silent regarding those bottles. "They may go in the storeroom." Implied: he will not be needing easy access. He won't even add one to the pantry as an additional substitute for dinner… the next time Darsce makes it. Jethaniel regards those utensils, his gaze level. They are, clearly, the tools of a craft. He… is, unfortunately, not capable of significant clarification, and the tools will not, of themselves, grant the expertise whose use they support. In Darsce's hands? They are not likely to be an improvement over a basic wooden spoon. That she will cook dinner again, Jethaniel does not dispute, but his head lowers slightly, and there's a tensing of his hands that draws her against him. For Sulliam and Viorena's present, he nods. "We shall try them." Perhaps they'll even begin to do so tonight, when that delayed klah is made. The large package from the traders, he helps hold as Darsce unwraps it, then smiles as he looks at the picture. "Attractive," Jethaniel calls it. "Do you know where you would like it hung?" He does not question that it will be, though not necessarily tonight. The clock receives a nod, and he glances to the mantel which, conveniently, exists. "It appears suitable." His gaze returns to Darsce. They're nearly through the gifts; there's a small bundle from Nereilse, handkerchiefs with J and D embroidered in alternating corners, and a rectangular package from Azliet that contains a heavy leather-bound tome entitled, "Poetry of Life and Love".

Darsce’s cooking may possibly involve spices, but her application thereof is unorthodox to the extreme and to the unpalatable end of the taste spectrum. She nods slowly, relieved, by the decision to place that carton of whiskey in storage. Eventually she should acquire the skill of cooking with it (not though, until there is no danger of her setting the kitchenette ablaze). Jethaniel’s hands press and she leans back against him, drawn to the comfort he offers and yet, she makes no comments about her own inept attempts to provide dinner. The thought of burning down their lovely cottage is one her mind shies from – and yet it remains a haunting specter. She isn’t oblivious to the fact she’s in over her head there. She will tackle this – somehow! His help steadying the gift from her trader folk is welcome, an appreciative glance given him as his hands reach past her shoulder to do so. The picture brings a pleased smile to her lips and her answer to Jethaniel’s question is without hesitation, “I think centered on the column of fieldstone a few feet above the mantel,” she says decisively. She lowers it to prop against the couch, not expecting it to be hung tonight as there are a few more other gifts to open. The handkerchiefs elicit a quiet murmur and another smile as they are placed with the other unwrapped gifts and then Azliet’s gift is unwrapped. She reads and then re-reads the title to the book, casting a look at Jethaniel over her shoulder and a bemused smile up at him, “We can read this together sometimes, can’t we?” Spiced klah? Oh yes, if she remembers to take her ‘evening dose’ but she’s looking mighty sleepy. She may awake in the middle of the night horrified that she forgot.

Nor does Jethaniel comment on Darsce's cooking. He… has not yet had occasion to accurately determine whether she applies spices; there have been certain confounding factors preventing him from actually conducting a taste test. The opportunity to do so will, given Darsce's determination, be presented to him at some future point - ideally, one at which neither cottage nor wife are singed. For now, he smiles back to Darsce, then continues to do so as he looks to the column where she suggests the painting go. "Certainly." He can hang it over their heads, in a positional sense instead of the metaphorical one which pertains to Darsce and the culinary subspecification of both arts and sciences. Another evening will see him get out a ladder and tools and place it there, but on this one, they are to see the rest of the gifts. The handkerchiefs, he simply nods to, but the book from Azliet makes him smile once he's leaned forward enough to read the title. "That is, I expect, the appropriate mode of use." How else should they employ a wedding gift, save together? "I will be glad to read with you." Activities conducted with her are something he enjoys for many values of those activities. For instance, if she does make that klah, he'll have a cup with her to try this variety. If not? That night-time waking may find Darsce not only horrified, but entangled by a sleeping Jethaniel who'll be averse to releasing her… unless roused sufficiently to be drowsily incomprehending.

Darsce smiles; to know Jethaniel’s mind about some of those poems will be interesting indeed! She is disinclined to move, the klah, since it hasn’t been a long-term habit to drink it this time of the day, forgotten. She patpats the couch next to her, the curve of her mouth deepening with the invitation. “We could-“ A yawn interrupts her question, “-read one tonight?” Should he head around the end of that couch to join her, she’ll snuggle close, use his shoulder for a pillow and indicate he should choose which one to read. She’ll listen – and ask a question or two – but her lids are heavy tonight – even though it is early. At some point she’ll rouse long enough to stumble up those stairs and prepare for bed – this may result in one of those evenings where Jathaniel gets to unpack his tools and further set up his workroom. Somewhere in the middle of the night, tangled with Jethaniel and sound asleep, a nagging worry will nibble at her slumber, poking at her subconscious until Darsce's eyes fly open and she’ll blurt aloud, "Oh damn!" Should Jethaniel stir and enquire, she’ll mutter, “Oh…nothing” and lie still trying not hyperventilate. Eventually she’ll drift back to sleep, lulled by the thought she’ll drink double the klah she did today to the point there’ll be no room in her stomach for food. That should rectify her mistake, right?

Jethaniel does step around, and smiles as he settles himself on the couch next to Darsce. One arm goes around her, leaving the other to handle the heavy book on its own. He turns the pages slowly, holding Darsce against him as he flips through to find… ah. This one, perhaps. He'll read it aloud, speak with Darsce concerning it. She may have his thoughts, though this one is not likely to be one of the most intriguing in that regard. Another night; on this one, he'll cuddle Darsce and muse on poetry and the scansion and cadences thereof until she's ready (or more than ready) for bed. Jethaniel won't be that far behind, though the progress of setup does continue. He's a light enough sleeper that her outburst later on, will rouse him to question, but he'll also be dazed enough to accept her assurance without further inquiry, snuggling in and drifting back to sleep. In the morning, he likely won't remember. Nothing to worry about?

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