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Rating: 3-3-3

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RPF* Real Person Fiction; IE Apping an actual celebrity

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Thread Contributor: Belle Scarlet StreetGirl Talk
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#1
This was an odd week even for her.

Belle sighed tiredly putting her hair up into a high bun; she felt oddly like she was sneaking out, leaving Sebastian alone with out inviting him to join her seemed rude since he was living under her roof, and the laws of hospitality demanded that she make all efforts to entertain her guest and not force him to amuse himself.

But considering he featured among others in what she was hoping to pour into dear Arjay’s ear...well it wasn’t particularly viable to invite him along now was it?

Arjay was one of her oldest friends she’d made here on Hub and as with all the Quest band she felt a strong kinship with him, one she hoped was reciprocated even though she was well aware her greatest contribution had been as a glorified cook to their epic heroics.

As promised Belle carrying a tray of still warm brownies, dressed comfortably in a well worn but figure hugging mermaid style jean skirt and flannel tied neatly at the waistband knocked on the back entrance of the Moon.

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#2
Sometimes, Arjay envied the humans their sleep. It seemed like such a freeing prospect, to have entire hours of the day where you were, presumably, freed from the day, free from your worries, able to let your mind carry on however it wished. Granted, he knew just how effectively a mind could refuse to let go of its troubles, which kept him from truly envying them, but still, there were some times of the night when he felt like the only waking creature in the Hub.

Which was why, of course, he was quite pleased to have company tonight. Arjay was waiting by that back entrance which led into his kitchen, the stew that would eventually be his own late meal (and Belle’s, if she was hungry) simmering on the wood-burning stove in the corner. As she knocked, the elf opened the door, a broad smile crossing his face as he surveyed his friend. “Ah, Belle,” he said, leaning over to where she stood a few steps below him, kissing her cheek before moving aside to let her in. “Night has fallen, yet now the sun shines so brightly in my doorway. Come in, come in. Have a seat and tell me what I can get you. Something to eat something to drink?”

After he’d made Belle comfortable, he sat down with her, studying her across the table. A slight smile touched the corners of his lips as he picked up his glass, pausing to speak before he took a drink. “So… what storm clouds the sun today that I’m called upon to chase away?”

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#3
Her body visibly relaxed under the warm welcome, a soft chuckle vibrated against his cheek as she returned the soft brush of lips. “Oh you!” her cheeks flushed with delight at his familiar florid turns of speech. “If you have anything.” she agreed with a small true smile.

Belle slid her tray on an open space, finding a chair, “Tea if you have it hun, an’ maybe some o’your sweet wine.” she winked, Arjay would see how his question caused her body to stiffen out of its relaxed poise, her body betraying her distress. “Maybe the wine first.” Belle sighed out.

“Ah…” Belle’s mobile mouth turned downwards unhappily, “Ah think i’ve made a mess of things. Or rather that ah can’t manage ta keep everyone happy for much longer.”

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#4
Arjay gave the woman a compassionate look, then walked over to a cabinet that he unlocked with a small key, retrieving a bottle of amber wine that he poured out into two glasses. If Belle wanted to start with wine, something apparently was bothering her. “Well, my dear, you certainly sound like you could use this,” he remarked as he sat back down with her.

Her answer, while not very informative, was very telling. He couldn’t say he was particularly surprised that a woman as caring as Belle was would be so thoroughly worried about the happiness of multiple people like this. It was a problem he was very familiar with himself from experience… but unfortunately, the experience that helped one get past it could be very long in coming, or at least the ability to create enough distance to accept the fact could.

“I’m rather sure that things aren’t as bad as they probably feel,” Arjay said, smiling reassuringly at her. “Much as it might feel like the weight of everyone’s lives is on your shoulders, I can assure you that except in some of the most exceptional cases, it’s not. Start at the beginning, dear, you have my undivided attention, and we have all night.”

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#5
Even in her distress, gratitude peeked out, a quick flash of a smile, a whispered “thank you.” And Belle began her fragmented tale-

“Since James-“ her grief while filled by time still held a bite, enough so that she touched the ring dangling under her shirt. “Since ah stopped hopin’,” she continued, the lode stone of her engagement ring giving her strength- “Ah have been well-“ her cheeks flushed with a touch of embarrassment, saying this aloud made her seem indecent. “Been letting a few gentlemen court me.”

It had started out so lightly, just a few dates, some light flirtation-

“An’ even-“ belle flushed harder even though she was very sure Arjay would not object like some folk might- “Queth.” Belle looked down at her hands, playing around the stem of her wine glass. “Ah told her ah never...well never thought on a lady like that an’ didn’t wanna risk our friendship-“ belle sighed taking a sip. “But it was unfair wasn’t it? So I told her I could try. An’-“ Belle looked confused but the flush this time was of pleasure. “An’ the date was sweet, an’ ah think maybe ah could?” Red hair flashed in the light, as she shook her head. “An’ than Jax, Pete-“ she slumped. “Ah had a few bo’s before but not like this since ah was a teenager an’ than ah made sure ta keep them very casual.”

Belle sighed again sipping her drink, “An’ now ah’m havin’ dreams-“ the flush that creeped up her next was telling. “About the poor man that I’m boarding. An’-“ liquid blue eyes met his pleadingly. “It all feels like no matter what i do it’s gonna hurt someone ah care about and I’ve just made a mess of things an’ ah don’t-“ belle sniffed trying to hold back the tears that threatened- “an’ ah feel I’ve done something aweful along the way!” Her voice was thick with self recrimination and tears.

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#6
The fact that she seemed embarrassed about simply seeing a few people was so innocent that it was beyond endearing. “Good for you,” Arjay said, without a hint of mocking in his tone. Honestly, just the idea that someone had gained this woman’s dedication and then thrown it aside was the height of foolishness to him, almost to the point of criminality. “I can’t help feeling like I missed an opportunity not knowing to throw my lot in with the rest of them. A lesser man than me might be hurt.”

Now, the news that Queth was among the list of her suitors? That made the elf’s eyebrows raise. “Really now,” he said. “I hope you’ll forgive my intrusion if I ask how that one is going? No offense, my dear, but you simply didn’t strike me as the type. Bravo in any case, it isn’t ever easy to reassess one’s preferences and interests, regardless of what you decide in the end.” And, of course, that made him resolve to try to be very impartial here. While he might know that matters of the heart knew no sides, he did have a rather vested interest in not seeing Queth hurt.

Still, when Belle was being so open about her feelings, it was easy to speak from her side of things. Reaching across the table, Arjay squeezed his hand over hers and met her eyes. “Belle, stop,” he said in that low, ever attention-grabbing voice. “Yes,” he admitted, “It’s entirely possible someone will get hurt. That is the risk that we run when we open our hearts. However, this does not, at all, mean that you’re doing something awful. Unless you’re willing to split your heart forever between several people, and again, bravo if you decide that’s what you wish, but unless you do, you’ll eventually have to choose, just like everyone else. That is your prerogative, just as it would be theirs to choose someone else during this period. Unless, of course, you’ve made any promises to any of them…?” He lifted an eyebrow, then smiled at her denial. “Then there is nothing untoward that you’re doing. This is… in all honesty, dear, while it may not be something you’ve done very much of, it’s fairly common for everyone else. You will eventually make a choice, and if anyone begrudges your right to make that choice based upon what you want and what you need, they’re being horribly selfish and, dare I say it, controlling.”

“As for these dreams…” he stopped, smirking, “Is there a reason you’re dreaming of him? I know I dream of quite a lot of people, although you’ll have to wait until we’ve had quite a bit more to drink if you want details.”

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#7
“Oh you.” Belle smiled at his flirtation, touching his arm lightly, “You have a godess! An’ a baby on the way!” Belle waggled her finger “an’ ah don’t play with taken men.”

Belle watched the wine swirling in her glass, head bowed as he spoke, trying to listen thoughtfully past her own turmoilant emotions. Which was harder than she wanted to admit; “Ah am afraid of takin’ anything with anyone further.” She explained quietly. “I don’t-“ belle but her lip. “Ah don’t go much further than flirting an’ a few light dates.” Belles eyes fluttered up to meet his steady compassionate gaze, it gave her strength to continue past her indoctrinated shame. “An’ it’s wrong ta keep leading people around when ah don’t know what ah want.”

Queth. Belle bit her lip harder, “she’s the one I’m most worried on. I love her. She’s my friend, an’ I can-“ heat flushed her cheeks. “Ah can flirt and such an’ it feels natural when ah’m not thinkin’ but-“ Belles expression fell again. “She deserves more than mah ‘experimenting’ with her if it doesn’t work.” Belle took a long, too long gulp of sweet burning wine. “But ah told her that ah wasn’t sure but-“ belle looked at him helplessly, “she said she was willing to take the risk.” And it was clear Belle held guilt already and was dreading the outcome if she couldn’t see Queth as a full romantic partner.

Belle sighed “Well-“ she finished her wine nudging the glass towards him for a refill, finding like generations of humans before her, courage at the bottom of a glass. “He looks like Dean-“ her cheeks flamed bright red. “An’ it’s not like ah don’t have dreams about-“ her eyes skittered away from his to address the nonjudgmental ceiling “some men ah’ve met.”

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#8
“I do,” he confirmed, and yes, there was quite a bit of smugness in that admission. He honestly couldn’t help it, nor did he think anyone else would have been able to. “And she certainly doesn’t begrudge me playing with whomever I choose when she’s off on her business… but let’s not tease me, we both know that you aren’t the type to just play… much to my regret.” His eyes sparkled in amusement as he took a sip of his wine to let that one hit home.

“Belle, you seem to be under this very mistaken impression that any of us truly know what we want until we’ve found it. Looking and trying is a rather important part of figuring out what it is that you want. You aren’t ‘leading people on,’ you’re seeing what you have and seeing what fits you best. There’s no shame in that, and certainly nothing sinister. Quethadia is a smart woman, she knows that there is a strong possibility for pain here, you told her that. She’s gone into this with her eyes open, and there is literally nothing more that she could ask of you than that and a fair chance. This situation only becomes wrong if you do know what you want and still let people think that there is a chance.” He leaned back in his chair, shrugging helplessly at her. “We’re speaking of love, my dear, and as they so quaintly say on your world… love hurts. Even when things go well, there’s no such thing as love that doesn’t involve some pain at some point in time. As for when it doesn’t… You were there when Luthien returned to the time and place she’d come from. Do you think that didn’t hurt me?” He certainly hoped she didn’t say ‘yes,’ because it certainly had hurt, more deeply than he’d expected to let it. “And yet I don’t think there was a one of us, you included, who thought that she was doing something wrong in returning. Possibly… except her. She was in the same position that you’re finding yourself in now, where the one who will blame you the most for anything you do is yourself.”

Arjay poured a bit more courage into her glass, and couldn’t help smirking when she began describing her new tenant. “Oh he does, does he?” he asked teasingly. “Well, that certainly explains one bit of the ‘why.’” Granted… it didn’t explain why she was dreaming about this new person and not about Dean, whom she’d known longer and better. Even in the odd way that humans dreamed, he’d expect that the two rolls would get mixed up, like her finding out that he and Dean were the same, or dreaming about Dean but dressed like the other, or… well, something like that. “Although I find it slightly telling that you mention these dreams and not ones about anyone else you might have had, and I will just refuse to inquire into whom else might be featuring in your nocturnal fantasies”

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#9
“But-” Belle’s tone turned painfully thoughtful, “Is it fair ta anyone ta take things to a more serious than light dating when ah still am unsure and flirting with others?” Belle ticked off the problems and possibilities on her fingers. “If ah let Queth-” Belle shook her head, this was complicated. “Ah know her the best of all of them, an’ so she has a head start even if we only had a one date it was…deeper because of that friendship. Than the date ah had with Pete which was wonderful and romantic and had that something that makes me want to know him more-” Belle chuckled with womanly intent “Beyond mah urges ta rip his pretty suit off with mah teeth.” ok maybe the wine was starting to kick in, giving her more verbal boldness than she’d normally allow herself. “Or Jax? Who maybe might be a good man for me under who he has been?” Belle turned a bit more serious, “I don’t wanna change the man i love, that's not how love works, but i wonder if maybe he’s growing beyond who he was, and he’s another I dont wanna lead on because i don’t want to be someone else that hurts him.” and then came - “And Sebastian-” Belle flushed hotly, “Sebastian looks like Dean and lord knows iffen I wasn’t still committed to James during the quest-” she trailed off but the thought was clear on her face. “An’ worse he makes me curious-” Belle flushed in mingled embarrassment and excitement, “Ah read too many damn romance novels ta not be wondering about a Vampire, especially one that does his dangest to be a good man.”

Her hands reached for his, covering them warmly, “Of course I know it hurt you.” she squeezed compassion flowing out, “An’ even if ah had been single-” her smile quirked ruefully, “Ah wouldn’t have dailied with ya on the quest because ya were in love with her. And that wouldn’t have been fair ta anyone.” Belle would argue that maybe Luthien choosing duty over love...well maybe there had been another way, but that wasn’t her business and hopefully that brilliant woman was having a good and fulfilling life in that world. Arjay at least had his goddess and baby now so she knew or thought she did that he was happy.

Belle batted at him gently “Should ah feed your ego? Darlin’ ah don’t think you are a man I’d marry but if ah was another kinda girl…” her eyes dragged down his frame lower lip drawn between her teeth, she let herself see him and let him see her desire. “If ah was another kinda girl.” she whispered breathlessly.

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#10
The woman’s problems were… very telling, and completely in line with what Arjay expected of her. He let her gush a bit about her various suitors, made sure to hide his alarm when she mentioned a vampire (they could deal with that later), and just did his best to openly listen to her. Finally, though, he spoke up, after she mostly got why he was bringing up Luthien at the moment. “Yes, that little quest was most certainly not the time for anything between us, but that’s surprisingly beside the point. The point is that she did everything right, and it still hurt. It hurt me, it hurt her, and we can both agree that she didn’t do anything awful, yes?” He smiled as he stood up, walking over to half-sit on the table near her, reaching down to take up her hand in hers. “There is one thing that you need to accept, Belle. In matters of love, you can control what you do, and you can control how loving, open, and honest you are. You cannot, however, control how other people will take it. It’s entirely possible that you can be as open and honest as you could be with a person, and if things work out, they can be bitter and resentful. That’s unfortunately common, but it’s also completely unfair to you. Consider for a moment that perhaps none of your current suitors will work out. Are you supposed to be obligated to choose one of them simply because they’re the first options that presented themselves?” He scoffed, waving the idea off. “You, my dear, need to do what’s best for you. It will require you to choose. It will require you to have firm standards for what you want and need, and to revisit those when you realize something wasn’t as important as you thought it would be. It will require you to hurt someone, and it will require you to be hurt, too.” He squeezed her hand, smiling an apology down to her. “It will require you to be selfish sometimes, because your happiness is as important as theirs.”

Her little compliment to him was, at best, bittersweet. His gaze momentarily dropped, the smile left his eyes (though not his lips), before he met her eyes again. “I’m not the kind of man that anyone would marry,” he admitted. It was a truth that he’d had to learn to live with, but one didn’t always have to like the truth, just know it. The sparkle returned to his eyes with a little gleam of mischief as he leaned closer to her, though. “And what kind of girl would that be?” he asked, amused, reaching up to stroke his thumb over her cheek. “One that would see a man that she wants, and perhaps not hesitate?” He leaned closer, pressing into her personal space a bit more. “One who would want a man who desired her? Ached for her?” He let his thumb trail down her throat as he leaned in closer with every little breath that caught in her throat. “One who would want a man to worship her, body and soul, until she knew what it must be like to be a goddess?” He leaned closer again, the heat of his breath against her lips, his fingertips at her neck, stopping with his lips barely an inch from hers… before those lips turned up in a smile. “It’s too bad you aren’t that sort of girl,” he mused as he slipped away, back to where he’d been sitting.

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#11
Choose no one.

How much more hurtful would it be to be rejected in favor of nothing? Belles face settled into unhappy lines, she understood taking a risk, she even knew not all those she was dating were in love with her, but she did believe that it would happen. And she liked them.

Maybe she just wasn’t ready to date again…

Belles Hand closed around the engagement ring looped around her neck. Maybe she needed to not go looking at every casual encounter with an eye to romance, maybe she needed to wait till she fell in love before pursuing or allowing someone to pursue her…

Belle shook her head stubbornly “but it’s not.” Clear blue eyes met his, soft conviction shining from the depths of who she was, “ah ain’t no saint but if makin me happy makes the people ah care about sad-“ she shook her head, a thick curl escaping the high knot, “than it’s not worth it. I never want to be a person that thinks they are worth more, that my happiness is worth more than yours. Equal too-“ she nodded “but never more, and never equal to many people.” If a choice of hers caused so much heartache-

No Belle refused to put her needs above others.

It just was not Right.

“Oh honey..” Belles Hands settled over his forearms, compassion now deepening her gaze, “You are a man to be married.”

Her eyes widened as he invaded her space, his voice threatening to send shivers following the trail of his fingers. Her eyes filled with tears, why would he push this? Now? He knew she was confused and hurting and he tried to tempt her-

It felt almost like betrayal. But than she’d opened the door hadn’t she? “But im not.” She whispered. “Ah can’t separate love and sex.” Belle looked down as he moved away, feeling faintly ashamed.

“Ah can”t be what ya need either, ah am never gonna be comfortable going further than light petting with a man I don’t love and expect to marry.”

Her lips curled into a sad rueful smile, “I need a man that is for me and no one else-“ she let out a self deprecating chuckle. “See? I am selfish, ah couldn’t be happy with someone who couldn’t give me all of them. I need to know ah and our children would always be first in your heart and mind.” Belle had no issue with a faithful man, but she could not quite wrap her mind around the physical manifestations of ‘gods’ that wandered around Hub. And she knew it was likely unfair but she’d never be sure of her place in his heart with his goddess could just pop in.

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#12
Did Arjay feel a bit bad? Definitely. When pushed into a state of facing some of the many shortcomings of his existence, he resorted to some of the many things that pushed away from such feelings… and it worked less than well. It was foolish, of course, and he’d have to make sure to not to make that mistake again.

“You,” he said slowly, “Are a remarkable woman, but I don’t think you need me to tell you that.” He reached down again, cupping her cheek, this time affectionately, without any trace of the seduction that he could put on so easily. “You prove my point for me, though,” he said. “You know what’s best for you. You need someone who would be wholely yours, or you would never be truly happy, would never know that bliss of being as fully adored as you ought to be. That is something that, in the end, all of us need… and those courting you are no different. You’ll do no favor to them by refusing to choose in the end.”

He leaned down, kissing her forehead, then resuming his seat across the table from her, pouring himself a much larger measure of wine this time. “You know,” he mused, “As unbelievable as this sounds? We’re more alike than you’d be willing to believe.” He drank that glass quickly, then poured himself another which he began drinking at a much more reasonable pace. “I was married once. I met a woman who… well, for lack of a better way to put it, she needed me. She needed my assistance, she needed my capabilities, she needed my support…” He shook his head. “I loved her. Passionately… stupidly, if I’m going to be honest. I told her I would bind my life to hers, and I did… and she used that for everything it was worth. It began sweetly, but it quickly became a very… toxic relationship, but oh, I loved her, and more to the point, I felt like I couldn’t walk away because of the hurt it would do to her.” He also remembered very, very vividly how it had ended, and that... that memory required much, much more alcohol to be consumed, just by its very existence.

He peered down into his wine, silent for a moment, then took a drink and looked back up at her. “You have, quite honestly, one of the most beautiful hearts I’ve ever come into contact with, Belle. You are, naturally, beautiful, that much goes without saying, but you have a purity and such a giving nature, and that above anything else are going to be what draw people to you. If it isn’t what draws someone to you? Then they’re wrong for you.” He fixed his eyes on her with a sudden, almost desperate intensity, reaching across the table and laying his hand on hers. “If you take nothing away else away from me, take these two things. Don’t let fear make you run from love, from the possibility of it or from your capacity for it, and don’t ever, ever let someone change you into something you aren’t.” He peered into his glass, then took another long drink. “Love can change us, yes… but it makes us something better than we are, more of what we already are. If it would change you, compromise you… it isn’t love.”

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#13
That her rejection of his offer, even so lightly given intended by him, it hurt Belle to have hurt his feelings, her discomfort was her own, and she knew, trusted him, that Arjay didn’t mean anything harmful by his actions. It was her hangups, her upbringing, her personal moral code that disallowed casual sex even by someone she cared for as a friend.

It honestly, actively pained her that she couldn’t or rather wouldn't because that was what it really was, give him comfort as he needed or worked best.

“But how can I offer less than what I demand?” Belle pointed out quietly, “If I let them deeper into my heart, if their’s opens to include me...how dare I do anything less than risk it all with them?” Belle shook her head expecting him to misunderstand. “I mean...I don’t think I can love more than one person romantically, and it would be horrific if I let someone fall in love with me, thinking they have a chance when I am playing at love with someone else.” Belle met his gaze once more. “I can’t it's not fair. And I would hate for it to happen to me.” And that was the truth, she could not abide hypocrisy in her self. If she expected to be treated one way than by God she would treat others in the same manner, no matter what may come.

Belle slumped, “But Ah know me, even if ah say ‘I will date just one and see if it works out..’” well one that was also unfair but more importantly “I dont think I could tell Queth that we couldnt keep trying unless I fell in love with someone else.” She finished unhappily caught in a catch 22 of her own making.

‘Couldn’t walk away because of the hurt it would cause her.’ It was near her hypothetical worst case with Queth but.. “What if she isn’t hurting you?” She knew the answer already: it was more hurtful to pretend...but she wouldn’t be pretending! Just,...giving it every chance.

Arjay… oh sweetie.

Regardless of anything else Belle had to pull him into a tight hug, “And your Lady?” She murmured into his beautiful blonde hair, “She isn’t able to give you that is she?” All of her, her whole devotion her whole heart and soul. Oh Arjay…

Belle hugged him tighter, “you deserve that too. Lord knows you do.” She drew back holding his hands tightly back. “I will not love change who I am, not my core.” Belle’s damp smile shifted back into self deprecating humor. “The one thing besides that naughty grey hair that being over the hill and the Quests have given me is that I know who i am, and what i refuse to compromise on.”

She refused to be cynical, she refused to change how she saw the world as miraculous vs horrifying, she refused to judge first, and she refused to never forgive.

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#14
“Belle,” Arjay said, “I’m going to say something that sounds callous, and I need you to trust me that it isn’t.” Still coming off of his little foray into his past, he took another drink, then reached across the table again to squeeze her hand. “Broken hearts mend.” He gave her a humorless smile, then shrugged an apology. “It’s fairly impossible consolation to accept, but it’s true. You can do this because you make sure they all know what is going on. If they can’t deal with that, which is entirely reasonable, then they’ll say so. They’re also agreeing, in that, to accept it if you choose someone else.”

His point with his story of his marriage was… well, probably a bit too heavy handed to easily apply. “Even if they aren’t hurting you, you still reach a point where you realize that you’re simply staying out of duty, not because it is what you need. You even come to a point when you realize that you’re both holding each other back from what you really could be finding by not acknowledging the things that are wrong. The point, my dear, is that love is not a duty. Love, at least the kind we’re speaking of, is something that is freely given and freely returned, or else it… twists. Either it is right, and you cannot walk away even if you had a reason to try, or it simply isn’t.” He fixed his eyes on her, a slight upturn to the corners of his lips. “I can help you sort through all the conflicting feelings you have as they come, give you advice on what you should do… hells, I could even search out the truth of love if you wanted me to ruin the mystery of things. One thing that you’re going to have to accept, though, Belle, is that when you really do fall in love with someone, you can’t be blamed for not loving someone else in that same way. Can you do that for me?”

His questions about Sune caused him to pause, forced him to voice things that he tended to keep quiet. “When I’m with her, I know, beyond a doubt, that there is nowhere she’d rather be. There is no one else she’d rather be with. I can know that in all existence, of all her followers, I am by far her favorite. IT’s… an exhilarating feeling. It’s beyond description. There are literally no words ever made that can describe it, it’s a feeling that is often beyond even my frail little mortal ability to process and experience.” Although, he reflected, since she’d begun raising him away from that mortality, that deficit had begun to disappear… “At the same time, though? She’s a god. She is Love incarnate… and by definition, by her very nature, I can’t possess her like she does me. She belongs to all creatures who have the ability to love. For her very existence, she needs to be adored by more than simply me.”
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#15
“Men aren’t meant to love god.” Her Hand curled around his cheek, compassion deepening the clear blue of her eyes, “and maybe this is why.” She finished sorrowfully. There was no possibility she could tell him to find another, he was a priest as devoted as any man of the cloth she’d known, with added direct knowledge of his gods favor to reward his faith.

Belle could almost be envious, her faith was deep, but for him there was no need for blind belief, he simply could call her name had his goddess appeared.

“You need someone that can love you and also share you with-“ Belle blinked and blinked again. “I don’t suppose there is a dating app for priests of Sune?” She asked only half joking. Because that would rather be the perfect mate wouldn’t it? Another priest.

It wasn’t that she was ignoring what he’d said about her not being responsible for others broken hearts, but she didn’t know WHAT to say, there was a fundamental difficulty that she couldn’t overcome. And probably the reason she’d never had a serious boyfriend before James.

“So your advice is to keep dating them and anyone else who askes?” She slumped a thread of self aware humor lifting the corner of her lips “I must sound so spoiled. ‘Oh no! I have too many possible romantic partners!’”

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#16
“Oh, men are meant to love god,” he said, gently dissenting. “They need that love, deserve that love, even. Although… perhaps not as intimately as I do. Gods, however, aren’t meant to forego loving any who love them.” He peered into the depths of his wine glass, considering his words for the moment. “It’s the absolute bliss of knowing that someone who you’ve spent your entire life dreaming of without even realizing it has coalesced into your life, and that they love you above all others… and the sting of knowing that even with that, you alone will never be able to be all that they need.” He smiled faintly. “Some might say that this is this karma that your people speak of coming to visit me.”

“My advice to you, my dear, is much simpler than that. Court whomever you wish. Tell me, what would you say if I told you that I was obligated to entertain the advances of everyone who made them?” He smiled, reaching across the table and clasping his hand over hers. “Your problem, my dear, is not that you have too many options. Your problem is that your so-called ‘options’ are simply you being unable to deny the desires of others instead of following your own. If you were choosing those in your personal life for reasons that makes you happy, this would not be such a difficult choice.”

He considered her for a moment, then took a deep breath. “As the high servant of the embodiment of Love, please allow me to render a truth upon you and trust that I am something of an authority on it.” He picked the bottle up, refilling his wine glass, then hers. “Love is something that we must learn. We may be able to innately know how to feel it, much like we can innately learn to walk, but to do it well, to do it wisely, just like learning to walk and then run requires us to stand up, try, and occasionally fall. With every scraped knee and bruised shin, we learn a bit more how to do it right. We can be gentle in our dealings, but the lessons learned from love need to be learned sometimes.”
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#17
Belle could not imagine. Her mind couldn’t encompass the world that he was describing- “An’ ya say mah heart is generous.” she commented in quiet awe. So caught up in his words that Belle honestly didn’t see the smylie - “Oh no!” Belle reared back, horror on his behalf in her very posture. “Oh honey don’t tell me that’s so!” in that second it made an awful sort of sense; he was a kinda priest of a Love God so why wouldn’t he be obligated to encourage that emotion when it was presented to him?

“But-” Belle blinked “They all make me happy.” She groaned dropping her head onto the countertop. “Ah CAN say no. Ah do it quite often and well! But-” a hand flopped up listlessly, “Ah like em, an’ ah AM interseted in em t’one way or another.” her hair and the table hid her flushed expression as she determendyl did not think about HOW she was interested in two of them in particular. Pete and Sebastian. Both were the least near what she’d call ‘dating’ but both were the ones she lusted after the hardest. Which according to her logic meant she should be a good girl and ignore them to concentrate on real feelings. And according to HIS she should focus on them the most since they were the two that SHE wanted.

...in a very carnal way.

“Why is it so harrddd!” Belle kicked her legs, indulgently letting herself whine petulantly just this little bit.


Belle peeked up at Arjay a soft smile gracing her features; "Thank ya. for listening ta my whineing."
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#18
Arjay couldn’t help smiling slightly at her exaggerated horror at his question. “No, my dear, it isn’t so. It possibly seems true if you take a very superficial view of my life, but no… it’s completely untrue. No more true for me than it is for you.” He took another sip of his wine, deciding that if he’s shaken her up that much, she deserves a bit more of an answer than he’d given. “I do spread my affections about, yes, but there’s a bit of practice involved in finding which way you love someone, and how it fits in with everyone else in your life, including how they might feel about you and how freely you can love them before risking hurting them in the end.” He chuckled quietly, reaching for one of the brownies. “After a couple centuries, you learn to be able to gauge these things quite well.”

Arjay reached his hand across the table, stroking his fingers over her head as it lay on the polished wood. “If they make you happy, then let them. If being with them makes you happy, do so. Make no promises to any of them, and let none of them guilt you into a promise you’re unsure of. When someone no longer makes you happy? That’s when you know that one isn’t the one you’re looking for.” He smiled faintly. “A very simplistic version, I know. In practice it’s much more complicated… but all of the advice and questions come down to that.”

He picked up another brownie (reflecting that these things were yet another thing that would sell famously on his world), smiling knowingly at her as she lamented the situation. “It’s hard because without the pain and uncertainty and fear, we wouldn’t even realize that it was good when things were finally managed and the right pick for you had been found. But there’s nothing to thank me for, my dear. Even if I didn’t adore you and your company, it still would be something of my duty, would it not?” He grinned, taking another bite of the brownie as he let that sink in. "And I'm one of those fortunate few whose job is something he loves."
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#19
The soft groan as he petted her was mostly non sexual pleasure (Belle LOVED having her hair played with or head massaged) ..mostly.

Since most of her preferred hairstyles pulled back the thick mass into various updos she was constantly fighting low grade tension headaches and simply accepted them and the back and foot pain that her figure and love of high heels required of her. So anytime her hair came down or she got petted Belle puddled quickly.

For all her easy physical affection, Belle didn’t really have anyone besides Chris who she was comfortable enough with and who was comfortable with her to indulge, or spoil her with non sexual physicality. Especially since Queath admitted her feelings.

“Everyone eventually will make you unhappy-“ She murrumed, “That’s life. None can be perfect every moment, everyone makes mistakes.” And she included her self in that tally. “But ah know what ya mean.” Belle was self aware enough to know her personal drive to please would make her extremely susceptible to an abusive relationship. Perhaps that was why she was so gunshy; because when she gave her heart she gave it all with out reservations, not even sparing a little corner for her own self.

A clear blue eye peeped up at him- “you adore me? Ah don’t think anyone has said that to me afore.” Her smile was gently thankful, his kindness making her want to respond in the same vein. Because surely she could do more for him than make brownies- “you wanna talk about your Lady?” She offered softly.

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#20
And as the lady seemed to enjoy the attention, Arjay continued to stroke her hair, sliding his fingers over her head, settling himself into the platonic sort of affection that he knew was going to forever be between himself and Belle. Such was the way of things, and once he’d come to terms with that fact, it was easy enough to accept. She was who she was, and as he’d said… he had no desire to change her into something she wasn’t. As for making her into more of what she was? Well… that would be the privelage of some other person. Which… actually, brought an amusing insight into his life, now that he thought about it.

“No, everyone may eventually do things that make you unhappy. There is a great difference between what a person does and the person themselves. I’ve had people I detest do things that please me, and I’ve had people I love do things that hurt me. The question is, when someone is making you happy, is it because of who they are or what they’re doing? Time will answer that one, and wisdom will help you tell the difference.”

When she peeped up at him, he’d moved to the side of the table, the better to continue with the comforting stroking of her hair. “Of course I adore you. I sincerely doubt that I am the first, and I know that I will not be the last.” Her question brought a mischievous smile to his face, though. “Are you asking for all the salacious details?” he gently teased, his smile suggestive, but this was as far as he took the matter. Perhaps she’d surprise him and actually be curious about the details of his intimate life (which he was quite unashamed about sharing with a friend who truly wanted to know), but he doubted it. “The entire subject is complicated. She’s… changing me. Making me into more of what I was, more than what I was… and I’m learning of the sacrifices that are involved as I go along. All of it is completely with my blessing, with my eyes opened as widely as they can be, mind you. The turns my life has taken… they confuse me at times, and I think they frighten her.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “Plus, I’m going to be a father. How is that for terrifying prospects?”
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