The Garden of Live Flowers
As soon as she had parted from Leo, she started to feel regret. She knew she shouldn't dally with him but she just couldn't help herself. He was generally the... One option she had. And she had fancied him since she was very young when a girl might first start noticing young men. But in the end, they were using each other and she knew it. He wanted the conquest and, well, if something came of their joining...

But she escaped to the manor gardens, far away from the actual party though not far enough. She settled, hidden in a patch of flowers and pulled the daisy from her hair to twirl it between her fingers. Failbhe had not followed which wasn't entirely unusual. Wolfhounds were fairly independent thinkers though not necessarily clever. Not thinking anything of it, she hummed under her breath as she just stared at the stupid trick that was a daisy.

Failbhe, on the other hand, had spotted Charles and had bounded up to him, bouncing in wild circles around him and barking. Then the dog had sneezed quite suddenly, before trotting off in the direction that Ceana had gone. Whether Charles followed or not, well, that was up to him.
He had been done with most of his work and didn't do much at this point, though if he had known what his young gardener was up to, he might not have been so social. Charles couldn't do anything with it though, if the boy was caught there would be consequences then. But, at the moment he moved away from Meril to be greeted by a dog, a dog he knew fairly well at this point. "Well, good day to you to, Failbhe." He responded to the barks and put a hand to gesture him down a bit. It was quite the energy, that Charles couldn't seem to muster a match. Instead, there was a sneeze and the dog ran off.

Charles figured it was best to follow, Ceana couldn't be far away if her wolfhound had been parading about. He walked behind him and kept up with the pace before long he had found himself in the gardens. There were so many different flowers in bloom this time of summer. He kept always thinking and noting the perennials he would be moving around in the fall to make something a little more appeasing. But, it didn't mean that this arrangement didn't have its own beauty. He watched as the dog soon disappeared in the flowers and now all that was left to show the way was a faint humming.

He furrowed his brows and moved through looking high and soon low. But, he hadn't seen her yet. "You sound happier than I would have expected here, Ceana." He spoke out her by name, knowing that it had to be her. Failbhe wouldn't have lead him to anyone else. Charles pushed a bush aside here and there, but was still unlucky in his search.
What was the most shocking thing about Failbhe galloping into the flowers was how deftly he navigated them. Not a single petal out of place. For a massive dog, he was quite graceful. Ceana was pleased that he caught up but was not pleased about his apparent detour to drag Charles into the gardens along with him. She could hear him rustling around. "Does humming mean happiness? I'm not happy - well, I am and I'm not. I don't know. It's complicated."

He was so close that she could have reached out to touch him but he didn't see her. It helped that her dress was green, blending in with all the flower stems and leaves. She reached out to touch his arm and give him a bit of a hint as to which direction he should have been heading. "I hope Failbhe didn't tear you away from something important."
He frowned a bit at the idea that she wasn't happy, or maybe she was. What she said was complicated, but at least she had no problem admitting it. The voice made it a bit easier, but the reach out of her arm had made it clear as he moved into the little clearing of flowers she had found. "No, I was done with my last minute touches." He admitted. Really, he had already checked in with Kellan and then with Meril after the jolt of electricity went through. That was an oddity. But, he tried his best not to think anything of it.

Charles lowered himself down into the flowers like she was, though he was taller and had to bend a few to fit. They would be fine. His hand reached out and patted the dog before looking back to Ceana. "Do you wish to talk about it?"
"That's good," she muttered, glad that she hadn't drawn him away from any business. Well, that Failbhe hadn't dragged him away anyhow. She watched as he fit into her little spot though it was a little precarious and she was certain some of the flowers wouldn't make it out with their petals intact. Ah well. They were just flowers and they'd be dying soon enough anyhow. That was the nature of beautiful things - they died so quickly.

Perhaps it was inappropriate, but she shifted to lean against him as if she needed something sturdy to keep her up. At least no one would see them in the flowers. "I won't bore you with the details - only that I'm a bloody great fool and I am setting myself up to fall in the worst way possible."
They had only been on their third run in and she leaned into him so easily. The act had caught him off guard and he wasn't entirely sure what to do with it. Especially, when he had been called on how to be careful about intentions that perhaps weren't supposed to be there. He looked down at her blond hair for a moment. Finally, after a moment that had probably felt like an eternity, he wrapped an arm around her. She seemed to need the comfort perhaps?

"A fool wouldn't be the first thing that comes to mind when I think of you. Fall in the worst possible way? Did this dream good man you thought up come along?" The only bad way to fall, what the kind where he figured it was time to fall in love. Or things that dealt with the heart. Actual, literally falling bones could be mended. Reputation falling, well that was another that it could be, but she already admitted feeling pretty low in that respect. "I'll listen if you need. Or we can talk about something else."
For now, they were friends and friends could count on each other for leaning, couldn't they? He seemed to figure out what she wanted after a long moment of hesitation. Ceana looped one of her arms around his so her hand ended up on his bicep, holding on a little tighter than maybe she'd meant to. There were no expectations and that was sort of a relief.

"A fool is what I am, though," she replied in turn, "No, the dream didn't come true. The reality, though..." She really didn't want to talk to him about it but she didn't have many female friends and the ladies of the manor would just find it scandalous that she even looked at them. "There's... Someone I've fancied for a long time who has given me more attention recently," she told him very carefully, "But I know his reputation and the only thing he really wants. It's going to kill me but damned if I'm a complete idiot."
He was sure that at one point in his life he had been in the situation she was in, sort of. Charles didn't ever have a girl who was in it for what she was implying, but there were different things that women looked for. There were plenty of times he wasted money on gifts when it wasn't about to really go anywhere spectacular. They liked the pretty things.

"You seem to be going into this knowing full well what it will end up as." He spoke out seriously. Ceana knew what she was getting into and it would be her decision whether or not to go that far. She wasn't a stupid girl and Charles could respect that. "Is that what you want of it right now? And if he isn't betraying you and lying about changing, you know what it is." That would be the worst. He feared for feelings if he was toying with her just for the fact that he knew she liked him before and perhaps even liked him now. "I apologize, I don't think I'm very good at this subject. But, I would assume he is as interested in changing as you are?"
Ceana was never in it for the pretty things - she was more practical but even then, it was about trade and keeping things even. She never wanted someone to think they had wasted their time or that she was taking advantage of them. Even if she was, on occasion. "Oh, I do. I know full well that it will end with me crying and him never knowing."

She shook her head, smiling a little sadly, "He's blunt like I am. He's made it very clear that bedding one another is all we'll get out of it. His heart is stone and he's a collector of virginities." Admittedly, Leo would not be getting that particular trophy with her but no one needed to know that. Her previous indiscretion had been kept secret, along with the failed pregnancy that had gone with it. "That's why I'm very stupid."
"I think if you are already calling yourself a fool and stupid, that you shouldn't do it." Charles was just being real. The lady in front of him hadn't even done anything real with this other man and she was already had down turned lips. He could only imagine the sadness that would ensue after she gave anything up for him. In his mind, a man like that wasn't worth it. A man who made the girls fawn and then cry was a worthless person, playing with emotions was bad enough. But, he was also one who had been broken once upon a time. He figured that the man she was talking about had always been in control.

He gave a light squeeze around her shoulder. "You have the choice here." Charles didn't expect to be in this position, talking to a woman about whether or not to go to bed with a man? It was an odd conversation to begin with, but he really didn't like that she was this sad about it. "What can I do to cheer you up?"
That was a fair point. And she felt bad for even bringing it up to Charles. He was so sweet but she knew he had some level of interest, even if he kept it to staring at her hair and face. "I do have the choice, don't I... It would be so cruel to just tell him no now. I wonder how angry he might get," she mused. Leo had a temper but he didn't think that he'd take it out on her. Not truly. She wasn't sure how to answer Charles' question so she didn't.

Instead, she shifted her position so she could look up at him, with a faint almost sad smile, "Why couldn't you have come along first? It's hardly fair." Alright, saying that wasn't very fair either but she was nothing if not honest. "Especially when you smile - it's like seeing a very large child."
"Well, he has no right to get angry if you've liked him for this long and just now showed interest. What a fool." He didn't so much worry about Ceana, even if he did take it out on her she seemed to be able to hold her own. Though, he was interested in asking the dog whether he liked this mysterious guy. Charles wasn't the knight that would save her the trouble to shoving him aside, especially when it wasn't his job. Not even close.

His brows soon furrowed in a rather confused way. "Come along first how?" He obviously had no idea, like in her life, on this day? What in the world did she mean. "I rarely smile, you must be mistaken me for someone else." He jested with her and gave her a weak smile. A large child, maybe that was just his inner being finally getting to escape the snobby city. It was refreshing even to himself.
"Perhaps not but he might get angry at getting so close and then getting told no," she pondered for a moment in silence and then added, "Eh, I'll take a knife though I don't expect I'll truly need it." She usually had a knife on her anyway though she didn't have one now. No one would try anything untoward on the property of the castle. At least, she hoped not.

"In... All ways. Before this man. Before the first worthless boy. Perhaps I'd not have felt so much pain," but she didn't expect Charles to understand. Despite him being so much older than she was, he was shockingly innocent to the ways of the world. But he was a different class than she was, even if he was technically working class at the moment. "Ha! Hardly," Ceana lifted her hands and pressed a fingertip into either of his cheeks, "I've seen you grin from here to here and it's absolutely precious."
Well, a knife. He was definitely trying to rethink that whole not going to be a man at her side. But, he knew better than to worry about that. She liked to be independent. He wouldn't invade that and he really had nothing else to say about some other guy. Instead, she started talking about what must have been her whole life. "Pain is part of life. I know." And she knew that he knew. "It gets us where we are now." There was a road that everyone traveled on and each person that was there changed them a tiny bit. The goal was not to let them take pieces and leave a person empty.

"I really wish you wouldn't call me precious." His face became serious once more as she said that word. If anything he had been forced in and out of some friend zone talking about another guy and then brought up he should have been there for her sooner. It was the kind of confusion a man could get whiplash from. Or maybe she liked to play the game just as the man she talked about. But, somehow that wasn't the feel he got from her. She was too easy to read to go about things like that. "I am supposed to be manly, strong, dapper, handsome. Those are great descriptions." He gave a nod.
She could handle Leo, one way or another, but she really didn't expect him to get angry about it. Maybe he'd just think it was a new level to the flirtatious games they already played. She didn't know but she would find out if this day ever ended. "I could skip it. I really, really could," she scrunched up her nose a little bit. Yes, there was so much she would have skipped if she had the choice. Maybe she'd be sweeter, more innocent, better. There had to be a better version of herself out there somewhere.

Ceana couldn't help but laugh at his dour tone and expression, not taking it seriously at all. If he were really upset, maybe he would have slapped her hands away from his cheeks. "Well, as I don't like to use words I don't know the meanings of, I couldn't call you dapper. But I could agree to the other three... With precious on there as well." To be perfectly honest, she didn't realize the entirety of the emotional torture she was putting him through. He had asked a question and she had told him the answer. It was talked through and now it was over. She could recover and move on to better pursuits.

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