[P] You put all those memories so deep inside my mind
Location: the coast of Norththumberland Strait, south of NC's Nethias district || NPCs: -- || Form: Lupus

The night wrapped all around her like a cloak, and she wore it with much anticipation. Pacing eagerly, the noises she heard that made her stop and listen and scent the air were never anything that she was fearful of, although the world contained much to be afraid of. Rather, with every crisp rustle or methodical footfall or crooning hoot, an overwhelming thrill climbed up her stomach and into her chest and strummed her heartstrings until the sound roared in her ears and it was all she could do to keep from howling her excitement to the full moon overhead.

In pure dissonance with the surrounding darkness, the clear white light of Valleuar's own identity washed over Sólveig's tawny pelt in luminous brilliance. She smoothed her whiskers with a single passing of her pink tongue before her mouth broke open wide into a fleeting, anxious yawn that ended in a sharp whine. Dropping her haunches into the soft earth, she laid roughly down and tried to be patient.

Tonight was the night, she was sure of it, and this was the location, too. She would never forget the day that Appa had found her because some stranger was calling after her from this very spot. A smile spread across her lips until the corners of her eyes crinkled and her tail began to wag. She loved that memory, because, to Sólveig, it marked the start of something very special in her life. One that extended through to this day and one that she hoped would last her entire life.

Allowing restlessness to overcome her again, the Caledonian rose swiftly back onto her paws and returned to pacing. They hadn't written about precisely where they were going to go. Surely Azalea would be welcome to stay in the Realm again, but the allure of having their own secret meeting place was reason enough for Sólveig to explore other options. And if they were going to do a little exploring, Sólveig thought that loping on four legs would only enhance the experience. Although she appreciated the freedom and exhilaration of it, she assumed her feral shape much too infrequently these days in favor of having hands for her studies.

Another sound gave her pause and frozen in place with her head raise, ears perked, and one forepaw lifted in a posture reminiscent of a pointer, Sólveig rode the wave of another thrill as she searched the dark.

[WC -- 413]
OOC: for Azalea! Backdated to July 23rd. Related threads can be read here and here.
This time, Azalea was prepared for the trip, and left home with anything she would need. Her cloak covered her face, and though the warmth of the day and the intensity of the sun made wearing it uncomfortable, she felt safer with it on. Beneath the cloak she wore clothing fit for travel, loose brown pants and a thin, pale green shirt with long sleeves. All in all, her clothing was warm for the weather, but she thought that this was necessary for keeping her identity hidden as she left Salsolan land. Once she got far enough away, then she could remove the cloak, though not the shirt, since that covered the Hand of Eris.

She had set out early in the day, as soon as she’d gathered everything she needed and said her goodbyes. This time she had warned her family ahead of time that she would be gone for a few days, with the excuse that she was looking for someone that she’d met while she was away with the intention to trade. It was not entirely a lie, she would be seeking out Lukos and his loner band at a later date. Today, though, she would finally see Sólveig. Finally.

The trip took far longer than she wanted it to, though now that she knew where she was going, it was easy-peasy. Except for a few memorable moments where she’d been turned around and needed to stop to reorient herself, there were no problems, and she didn’t see anybody else. In the case that she did run into an outsider, she was prepared, she reminded herself during one moment of hesitation. Her hands fluttered to the knives hidden beneath her clothing along her body, checking that they were, in fact, there, and that she could access them easily.

Anticipation began to broil in her belly when she reached the sea and began to follow it north to New Caledonia, just as the sun was setting and the very first stars were appearing. As her surroundings became more familiar, she could hardly stop her tail from wagging, but when she saw a dark shape on the horizon she nearly howled out to it, only just stopping herself in time. She didn’t know who it was, she couldn’t be reckless. Still, she broke out into a run and only when that dark shape’s outline became more familiar, she could see her bright blue eyes in the darkness staring back at her, did she let out a quiet but pleased bark of greeting. She slowed as she approached into a jog, and then she fell to her knees in front of Sólveig, reaching out to pull her into a hug. For some reason Sólveig was in her four-legged form, which made hugging her slightly awkward, but still Azalea pressed her face into the fur at her neck and closed her eyes.

”I missed you! Are you ready to go?” She asked, pulling away and smiling broadly, sitting down in the sand so that they were on the same level. For some inexplicable reason Azalea felt the urge to lean forward and kiss her, but surely she was thinking of the Salsolan greeting? Her heart racing, she kissed her cheek hello, but it wasn’t quite the greeting she would normally give, she had messed it up because her heart was pounding too hard, and she had actually pressed her muzzle up to Sólveig’s cheek and kissed her. Biting her lip, Azalea almost apologized, but then held her tongue, remembering that Sólveig didn’t actually really know what the Salsolan greeting was supposed to be, so surely it didn’t matter? And she hadn’t meant it like that, had she? She was just trying to greet her, but then something had happened that felt overwhelming and she’d panicked a little, and misplaced where her lips were supposed to be.
(665) | NPCs: | Optime | So excited for this thread!! <3
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

Location: the coast of Norththumberland Strait, south of NC's Nethias district || NPCs: -- || Form: Lupus

Sólveig stood like a sentinel, watching, listening, scenting the air. When the light of the moon confirmed the approaching figure's identity, she exploded into movement. Wriggling like she used to when she was a plump girl of pre-shifting age, Sólveig released a low, excited howl back before, breaking out into a run, she helped to bridge the distance between them. When Azalea slowed, dropping to her knees, the tawny Dawnrunner spared no time rearing up on her hind legs to embrace her friend back, her tail a blur behind her.

She didn't recognize the difference from the usual Salsolan greeting in the touch of Azalea's lips to her cheek, but the contact sent stronger, better defined jolts of affection and desire through her body than it did the first time she had been introduced to such a gesture. But Sólveig didn't wonder about or fight these feelings this time. She thought that she understood better what they meant now and, closing her eyes to lose herself entirely to this one beautiful moment that she had been waiting for since they last parted ways, she simply let herself feel them.

Eventually, as all things must, the moment passed and Sólveig slid her forepaws from her friend's shoulders and sat across from her with her own face broken open into a wide smile that allowed her tongue to loll from her mouth. "Oh, Azalea! I'm so happy to see you again!" she whined cheerfully, her tail sweeping the sand. She stood when the question was posed and laughed lightly. "Maybe I should shift first," she giggled, giving her friend a demure glance. "I thought that if we were gonna explore..." She rolled her eyes playfully at herself. "Well, it feels silly to stay in this form, so hold on and I'll shift quick."

She felt no shame or embarrassment in shifting in front of others, but those others had always been family or friends or pack mates. For some reason, as her joints popped and her limbs lengthened and her mane spilled over her shoulders, Sólveig found the experience oddly thrilling in a way she had never felt during a shift before. Once it was complete, she immediately started work on braiding her mane, plucking a strand of grass to use as a tie, and then she beamed at Azalea.

"Okay!" she chirped. "Let's go!"

[WC -- 407]
OOC: Meanwhile, in my headspace...
The way that Sólveig had exploded into her arms left Azalea almost falling backwards, and though it was a little awkward at first as Azalea tried to gain balance and they figured out where limbs should go, in the end it all sorted itself out rather naturally. To her relief, Sóli did not comment on the kis- greeting. Instead, Azalea watched in slight wonder as her friend closed her eyes contentedly and relaxed into her embrace. Her heart began to pump a little bit faster, and Azalea wondered why this always happened at the most inconvenient times. She wanted to be able to focus on Sólveig and what they were going to do next, and where they were going to go, but instead her body starts acting all weird and she doesn’t know what to do with herself.

She was thinking about this, and about how nice it was to hug Sólveig, and how familiar she smelled, when her friend slipped out of her arms. In all honesty, Azalea was wishing they could hug longer, but was also aware of how strange it would be to just stand there hugging for so long, and she didn’t want to ask Sólveig to hug again, so she bit her lip and said nothing.

It was fortunate that Sólveig distracted her from her own thoughts by speaking, and oh how wonderful it was to hear her voice. ”Don’t worry! I normally explore on four legs, but outside of the kingdom I need to wear clothing to hide my scar.” Azalea gestured to the Hand of Eris on her back, though it was hidden by her shirt. ”So I need to be on two legs. And this way I can carry supplies, too!” She said, speaking of the backpack with her clothing and some basic necessities. Tools, mostly, but dried meat as well in case they had a hard time hunting.

But even as she was speaking, Sólveig began to shift, and Azalea felt herself blush furiously and stared avidly at the grass at her feet. When she’d been a puppy she hadn’t really minded shifting in front of others. . . but as she grew older and more conscious of others bodies and her own body this changed. Salsola was a sophisticated pack, and though she was perfectly used to folks walking around wearing nothing (her parents, for example), many more folks wore clothing. And, actually, perhaps it had more to do with who she was watching (or avoiding watching) shift.

Still, Azalea couldn’t help but peek over at Sólveig in her middling form, just as hair began to spill out onto her shoulders, and the sight of her smile made Azalea’s heart beat even faster and even louder if that was even possible. Azalea turned away again immediately, and even though she didn’t feel like she’d necessarily done anything wrong (Sólveig hadn’t asked her to look away, had she?), she also felt very much like she’d done some forbidden thing.

Azalea stood slowly and tried to hide her own embarrassment with herself from Sólveig when the other woman announced she was ready to leave. ”Yeah, alright! Well, I don’t have any place in particular in mind, but if we could find a spot somewhere in between Salsola and here, that would be great. So I guess we can just wander south?” Azalea suggested, finally looking at Sólveig again. Oh, she was so pretty. The moonlight suited her well, Azalea thought, dampening the bright colors of her fur in a way that was strangely appealing. Perhaps that was her way of saying that Sólveig looked amazing no matter the time of day or night.
(633) | NPCs: | Optime |
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

Location: the coast of Norththumberland Strait, south of NC's Nethias district || NPCs: -- || Form: Lupus

For her part, just as she better understood the feelings that billowed vibrantly from the depths of her belly following the touch of Azalea's lips to her cheek, Sólveig had an idea why shifting in front of her felt so terribly, beautifully, wonderfully thrilling as well.

Her hands fell away from her mane and the auburn braid, messy in its hastily threaded weave, was left to drape over her shoulder in its usual fashion. Looking up at Azalea, her face bright with moonlight and ecstasy, Sóli marveled at the way the Eternity woman's emerald eyes could appear both as vividly scintillating as the pregnant moon and as bottomless in their depth as the midnight sky surrounding it. She felt her heart give an electrified skip and found that she never felt more certain of herself or her convictions than she did at that very moment.

"Oh, yes!" she replied with a lilt, giving herself a little twirl. "Someplace just for us! Inga and my dad and I found plenty of little places to camp before."

Sólveig started south along the shoreline at a sudden trot but slowed just as quickly and spun around to smile broadly, purely, at her split-faced friend. Her braid took flight as she did this, the weave catching in the moonlight before it sought refuge at the crook of the Dawnrunner's neck once more.

"He took us out on a trip to La Estrella Roja after winter's end," she explained, canting her head cheerily. "Not that I wanna settle for any of those places, though! I only mean that we're sure to find plenty of options. Definitely some place only we know!"

She turned back around and clasped her fingers together behind her back, keeping step with Azalea.

"I really did miss you a whole lot, Azalea," she said warmly, somehow managing to hear herself above the roar of her pulse in her ears. She glanced up at her friend almost timidly. "How have you been since your letter? Oh! And your protection stone! Has anything happened?"

[WC -- 350]

Azalea had been beginning to understand that this just wasn’t what friends felt when they were together for a while now. That being said, that didn’t mean she had to accept or understand these feelings. So as her eyes roamed over Sólveig’s messy braid and landed on cerulean eyes that seemed to be gazing just as intently into her own eyes, Azalea disregarded the emotions and physical sensations this brought up.

Oh, that was so cute. She thought as she watched Sólveig twirl in a circle briefly, following her closely. ”I’ve never been camping with anyone before.” She said, even though it was a lie. She’d camped with Aani and the puppies. But that hadn’t been good, hadn’t been fun. She didn’t want to remember that. It didn’t count.

Today would be the first time she’d ever camped with someone, and it would be with Sólveig.

Starting to run after the other woman, Azalea brought herself to a halt when Sólveig did, raising an eyebrow in confusion. Her stomach flopped over a little bit as her eyes followed Sóli’s braid as it flew through the air to settle in the crook of her neck. Smiling, Azalea chuckled a little. ”And La Estrella Roja would be quite the trip for you to make just to visit me.” Surely it would take days and days for Sólveig to reach the parlor. ”I agree, I’m sure we’ll find someplace better!”

They began to move again, and this time they ran alongside one another. Azalea felt warmth flood her chest at Sólveig’s comment, feeling unreasonably pleased with herself. ”And I you.” She said simply, before feeling the need to expand upon her feelings. ”I really missed seeing you all the time when I was back home. It just wasn’t the same.”

But her heart sank a little bit at Sólveig’s inquiries. ”Ah, that. Well, I found the protection stone. But I don’t know what to do with it. I actually have it with me!” Azalea reached with one hand to the bag on her waist and withdrew the fist-sized quartz stone from the pouch, offering it up for Sólveig to examine. ”And, well. . . I did have another shaking fit. Not that long ago, actually. Just a few days after I sent my letter and a few days before I received yours in return.”
(416) | NPCs: | Optime | Two different kinds of people XD
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

Location: the coast of Norththumberland Strait, south of NC's Nethias district || NPCs: -- || Form: Lupus

Curling her lips around her unspoken surprise, Sólveig pushed her palms together and touched her chin with the tips of her fingers. "Not ever?" she squeaked, wide-eyed and full of interest. A big, bright smile chased away her incredulity. "Well, then I'm happy that I'll be with you for your first time!"

She locked eyes with Azalea once more before spinning back around, hands clasped behind her back, relishing that fluttering tingle in her tummy.

"Oh, but I would love to visit it with you someday," she said, glancing at her friend quickly without turning her head. "Maybe that can be another trip we can take together."

Sólveig was testing the waters now and the more positively Azalea responded to her gentle probing, the braver and more validated she felt. Hearing that her Salsolan friend -- crush, really, just as Dorian had teased -- had missed her with the same intensity that she felt made her feel as desired as Sólveig desired Azalea. And that brought a fresh trickle of tingles to her belly and stoked warmth to her cheeks and ears.

"No," she agreed quietly, her heart thumping. "It really didn't feel the same to me, either."

Silently, she kicked herself for having changed the subject, bypassing the perfect opportunity to allow Azalea a peek through the window separating her from the feelings and the thoughts and the wishes that Sólveig had of her. But she listened with rapt interest, following this new trajectory of conversation because she knew another chance would present itself. She should be patient, anyway. Maybe after they found someplace. Maybe that would be more meaningful anyway.

She took the quartz stone into her hands and observed the pretty translucent stone with wonder, breaking her curiosity to look sharply up at Azalea when she revealed her latest fit. "I wish the protection stone kept you from having more of those fits," she lamented, worry on her face. "So, the gods haven't come to you since?"

[WC -- 337]

Oooooo, the squirm of regret that wiggled in her belly after her little lie left Azalea with a wide-eyed and slightly blank smile as she tried to determine how much shit she would be in if Sólveig learned the truth. ”Me too!” She chirped in response, and felt her heart constrict a tiny bit before banishing the thought from her mind. Sólveig would never learn about that camping trip where everything went wrong, where Catalina died at her hands, so Azalea didn’t have to worry. Still, she felt guilty about her lie.

She was glad that Sólveig didn’t press for more information (and why would she?), and felt relief take the weight off her shoulders as the conversation turned to the places they could visit. ”Yes! We should definitely visit! I’ve only been there once before, for trading, it would be nice to visit again without any particular goal in mind. Just go in order to hang out and relax.” She said, and this time her tone turned a little shy as she imagined what it would be like to drink and smoke (did Sólveig smoke?) with her friend. The thought excited her as she pictured the two of them in the bustling bar, and something turned over in her stomach, fluttering softly.

As they moved on these feelings didn’t go away, and she flushed slightly, embarrassingly, when Sóli affirmed Azalea’s feelings. She went silent, looking away from her friend and gazing at the ground as she tried to put herself together again, to understand what was happening. It was a pointless endeavor, however, and she was again grateful when Sólveig changed the subject to something less intimate, less vulnerable.

She watched her friend turn the stone over in her hands, and Azalea couldn’t help but finger the protection charm that hung from her belt anxiously. Though she didn’t understand what it was, necessarily, that the two objects did, she did know that she was attached to them. It felt nearly impossible to leave the house without them, and Azalea carried them on her at all times (no matter how inconvenient). Her heart sank a little at Sólveig’s statement. ”Ah, yes. Me too. But it wasn’t as bad as the first one, I don’t think. I didn’t hurt so much after. I mean, I wasn’t so sore afterwards. But I did scare the living daylights out of my family.”

She hesitated, considering how to answer her question. ”It’s strange. . . the gods didn’t appear, no. But there was music, music that only I could hear. I’m sure that it was the gods, that I was somehow able to listen to their music. I don’t know why, though. I’ve thought and thought about it, and I can’t come up with a reason for why.” She sighed heavily, reaching out for Sólveig’s hand to hold. ”It’s all very confusing.”
(505) | NPCs: | Optime |
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

Location: the coast of Norththumberland Strait, south of NC's Nethias district || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime

When Azalea reciprocated interest in visiting La Estrella Roja together, she couldn't help but beam at her. That was a good sign, right? It had to be a good sign. All of this was good.

"I've only visited once before, too. Just this past spring!" she said brightly. "Oh, it was so cool and I met so many neat people! Mister Cook and Mister Gaston -- they help to run La Estrella Roja -- they let me help them dig their garden and I learned so many things. Mostly about Mary Jane, or, um... weed or cannabis or- Well... it has a lot of different names, but it's supposed to make you feel good. I guess like alcohol? I've never tried it." She giggled and glanced inquiringly at her friend. "Are you familiar with it?"

Sólveig wasn't oblivious to the fact that her personal experience with mood-altering substances was so limited. Aside from the occasional drink at the bigger events and parties that the Realm held, she hadn't been terribly interested in experimentation. She was curious about cannabis, though. The way that Mister Cook spoke about it had made her think that it was special to him. And it sounded almost magical, the way it could inspire or make someone hungry or tired. Alcohol made her sleepy, too. But it also made her feel brave. If Mister Cook was right, though, cannabis didn't give you a stomachache. She had no qualms against drinking, so maybe, if the opportunity arose, she would try smoking cannabis sometime.

Maybe she would try it with Azalea when they visited La Estrella Roja. That was, if Azalea was interested.

"Oh no, your poor family!" she whined, her eyes filled with feeling. "I'm glad to know that you were with them when it happened again though. And that you weren't so sore." But it was obvious by the look on her face that it was still distressing she was experiencing them and that she wished they didn't happen at all.

The revelation about the music that Azalea heard, though, was altogether perplexing. Why would the gods choose to play music for her rather than talk to her? What did music have to do with anything? She listened intently, quiet and focused. When Azalea reached out for her hand, Sólveig took it without hesitation and swallowed down the fresh wave of anticipation and excitement that climbed up from her tummy.

"Maybe it's something you need to learn? I mean, in addition to the protection stone, maybe the music is intended to... to..." She shrugged slightly, smoothing the first knuckle of Azalea's thumb with a gentle caress of her own. "I don't know, give it power? Strength?"

Her heart was threatening to crawl up into her throat again and she swallowed hard once more.

"Azalea?" she asked quietly, glancing up almost timidly through her lashes. "Can I tell you something?"

[WC -- 496]

Azalea let out a sharp bark of laughter when she heard Sólveig call weed Mary Jane. That was such an old name for it (to her understanding). She stepped a little closer to her and her gaze turned a little mischievous in response to Sólveig's question. Opting not to tease her, Azalea moved past the outdated name and on to more important matters. "Sure I am!" She said, thinking about smoking with Aani. They'd really done a lot, hadn't they?

"If you'd like, I can get some weed for us for our next visit?" She offered, raising a brow in question. The thought of smoking weed with Sólveig was enticing, she could already imagine the other woman getting all giggly and smiley.

She sighed heavily thinking about her sister, Whisper, who'd been with her the whole time. She was afraid she'd given her quite the fright. "Yeah, this shaking fit was definitely easier than the first, too. I walked away uninjured. Didn't even bite my tongue like last time. And my dad kept me safe and calm."

The concept of the music being another puzzle for her to figure out was both terribly frustrating and enticing. And if Sólveig was right about anything, she was right about the music being powerful. Perhaps she was also right about it having a deeper message. Perhaps Ankh had given her the music so that she could feel powerful and not give up. On what?

Her eyes drifted towards the protection stone in her belt pouch and then the charm on her belt. "Perhaps Ankh was trying to tell me not to give up on the protection stone." A thrill ran through her body at the thought, her hackles raising ever so slightly before settling once more.

But then Sólveig caught her attention, calling out her name, and Azalea fell still and turned to look at her with her brows furrowed. Sóli was gazing up at her through her lashes, and Azalea felt something uncomfortable squirm through her belly at the sight and the question. Without her permission, her hand squeezed Sólveig's, and she bit her lip before answering. "Yes, of course. Is everything alright?"
(376) | NPCs: | Optime | Sorry for the wait!
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

Location: the coast of Norththumberland Strait, south of NC's Nethias district || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime

"You are?" she asked, her smile quirked curiously. "There's still a lot for me to learn about you, Miss Azalea Eternity." A fresh wave of warmth ignited her ears when she said this, but so far she had received nothing but validation from Azalea. She was feeling more confident every time and the risks were becoming more and more exhilarating, rather than nerve-racking.

When Azalea offered to bring some with to their next meeting, Sóli's ears perked. "Could you?" She was solicitous in her response but also a little surprised. "Okay, yes! Yes, I would like that." She lifted an index finger and grinned at her friend. "But we need to find a safe place first."

A distant voice that sounded much like her father chimed in the back of her mind, suggesting that it was probably a better idea to try it within the protection of her pack. But Sólveig trusted Azalea, and she believed that her friend wouldn't offer it if she thought it would be dangerous. As long as they had a secure place that only they knew, what could be the harm?

She listened to her friend's recounting of her spell, nodding and clasping her hands together at her chest. Oh, but she was so glad that she was with her family when it happened. Silently, she thanked the gods for this small mercy. She didn't like to think of what could happen if she had a spell while out on her own in the neutral territories, although that worry was always somewhere in the shadows of her head and the recesses of her heart.

But then, perhaps that was what the protection stone was meant to offer.

"Yes, perhaps," Sólveig replied thoughtfully, touching her chin with her finger tips. "It must be important somehow. So I agree! You mustn't give up on it." This was said with renewed vigor and she held up a balled fist at face-level for added emphasis.

Giggling lightly, her hand floated down back to her side and her mind spun. She couldn't keep delaying this any further. It was making her feel a little bit wild, a little bit untethered. Her hand in Azalea's felt good. Natural. Perfect. She swallowed down her nerves and took in a deep, centering breath.

It was now or never.

"I..." she began, but trailed off. Slowing to a stop, she turned so she could face Azalea and, tapping into the confidence that she'd built up to this point, Sóli looked up into her friend's eyes and resisted the urge to drop her gaze. "I really like you, Azalea. Except... in a way that feels more than friendship." Her heart was in roaring in her ears and she wondered if the sound of it was drowning out her words. "When I think about you, I feel..." A smile lit up her face in spite of her nerves. "I feel so much warmth, so much... so much affection. And when we're apart... Well, I'm sad when we're apart."

Biting a corner of her bottom lip, Sólveig glanced away only briefly before she made herself look back up at Azalea and ask: "What are you thinking?"

[WC -- 549]

A rush of warmth flowed through Azalea at Sólveig’s expression—bright, curious, warm. Azalea smiled mischievously in response, though internally she felt as though a tiny ball of iron had dropped through her organs. Sólveig was right. She really had a lot to learn about Azalea. And Azalea was afraid to tell her.

”Yes, I will! Next time we meet at whatever spot we find today, I’ll bring some weed for us.” She’d have to figure out something to trade for it, perhaps she could make some more fishhooks, those would probably sell nicely at La Estrella Roja. To somebody. They wouldn’t smoke a lot, just get a little bit high, a little giggly. Azalea didn’t want to find herself incapacitated in the middle of loner territory.

She returned the stone to its place in her belt pouch and fingered the charm that hung from her belt on her right hip. It was an unconscious response at this point, anytime she thought of the gods or of her fits her hand drifted to the charm or the stone. Perhaps she was seeking comfort, or perhaps it was her body doing something her mind couldn’t—calling upon the protection of Ankh against the evil forces of the world.

Whatever it was she was doing, she was soon distracted as Sólveig called out her name, and her hand tangled with the other woman’s. Concern pressed her eyebrows together as she realized that Sóli was nervous. Still, she bit her cheek and stayed silent for once in her life, understanding that sometimes she just had to let others talk.

The words she spoke were, at first, meaningless. It was only when Sólveig expounded upon her first statement that Azalea truly began to understand what it was that she was saying, and her heart began to thump ever harder. For some reason, she didn’t realize it at first, and wouldn’t realize it for quite some time, her breath became quite shallow and a tiny ribbon of panic blossomed in her gut.

Blinking rapidly as she processed this information, she let out a long breath before breathing back in a far more steady breath. The panic faded and she felt suddenly alright again, as though she had nipped some sort of panic fit in the bud. ”Wow.” She whispered, a broad smile spreading across her face. ”I must say, I wasn’t expecting that, though I really should have.” She thought back to. . . everything they did together. Now it all made sense. How she’d thought endlessly of Sólveig when they weren’t apart, how happy she was when they were together, the little tingles in her belly when they were close. ”Sorry for not giving you a great response, I need to think about the right thing to say.” She hadn’t had the time that Sólveig had surely had, thinking endlessly about how to confess her feelings to her.

This was all new to her.

To reassure Sólveig, to let her know that Azalea felt the same way, she pulled her a tiny bit closer and stroked her thumb across Sólveig’s knuckles. ”I feel the same way. I. . . well, I didn’t know that I liked you until you gave me the word to explain how I felt about you. I’m glad you feel the same way, I don’t know what I would have done.” Even just the thought made her feel almost distraught. Would she have been able to live with either pretending to not like Sólveig or having to cut her out of her life? ”Um. . . sorry.” She laughed at herself, finding herself lost for words. The normally eloquent woman had nothing to give, which frustrated her. ”I guess I’m a little nervous. I haven’t ever liked someone before, not really. Certainly not someone who liked me back. I guess I’m feeling awkward.” She scratched the back of her neck with her free hand and glanced sidelong at her friend.

Were they friends? She’d have to find out. Not that she was brave enough to just ask her. Surely there was some way of asking without asking. She’d have to brainstorm on the matter.
(720) | NPCs: | Optime |
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

Location: the coast of Norththumberland Strait, south of NC's Nethias district || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime

Azalea's response wasn't exactly what Sólveig was expecting. Although, thinking back on it, she couldn't say precisely what she had been expecting. More of the same expressive and undeniable validation that she had been receiving from her, she supposed, but perhaps she should've been better prepared for the possibility that Azalea didn't feel the same way. Perhaps she should've been more mindful of the opposite side of the spectrum: rejection.

Anxiety was swift to chase her confidence away, and the sweetly fluttering butterflies that had taken up residence in her stomach had turned to a writhing, tempestuous swarm of wasps. If Sóli thought that her cheeks and ears and nose were hot before, she imagined that they were almost definitely, any moment now, going to combust into red-hot flames now.

"Oh! But you shouldn't!" she squeaked, waving her palms frantically at Azalea in an attempt to quell her worries. "Apologize, I mean! How could you have known? Right? It wasn't fair of me to spring that on you!" She was giggling nervously and having a difficult time understanding why Azalea's expression didn't seem to match the words that were coming out of her mouth. She was smiling, sure, but her words weren't reassuring in the same way that Sólveig imagined they would be if she reciprocated her feelings. "I'm the one who should be sorry, I-"

A surprised hitch in Sóli's throat cut her apology short when Azalea pulled her closer and rolled her thumb over her knuckles. With her lips formed around the shape of a circle and her eyes parted open wide, the Caledonian held her breath and listened, bewitched, as her friend explained herself.

"You do?" she managed, feeling almost lightheaded now in her relief. Slowly, Sólveig's tail began to wag. "Well, it couldn't be as bad as you saw me react." And she laughed, the sound bordering on maniacal for how elated she felt. "I'm so relieved. And happy!"

And, because she could help herself, the Dawnrunner stepped close to Azalea and moved to wrap her into a tight embrace, the cadence of her wagging tail increasing exponentially.

"So..." she said at length as she pulled away again. "Are we... I mean, does this make us..." She didn't really know how to ask what she wanted to know. "Is this dating? Are we girlfriends now?"

She felt silly asking it but she wanted to know and, awkward as it was, being in a state of uncertainty seemed worse.

[WC -- 435]

Azalea felt a very distinct feeling of, well, awfulness course through her as she realized that Sólveig thought she was rejecting her. Still, it was almost worth it for the moment when she realized that Azalea was not, in fact, rejecting her. And that she was truthfully quite smitten. She just hadn’t realized until Sólveig had prompted her to realize. Sólveig’s expression when Azalea grabbed her hand made her smile broadly, eyes turning joyful.

”No, you have nothing to apologize for. I think I did a quite terrible job of explaining myself. I was just. . . a bit surprised and needed a second to sort out my feelings.” She explained with a smile. Experimenting, she tried running her thumb across Sólveig’s knuckles again, finding she quite liked this.

When Sólveig stepped closer and pulled her in for a hug, Azalea felt herself suck in air quite suddenly, stomach going quite silly and fluttery. Despite this, as they broke apart, she leaned her elbows on Sólveig’s shoulders and linked her hands behind her head as Sólveig settled her arms around Azalea’s waist. She found that she quite liked their height difference, enjoying the feeling of being big. Like she was a giant.

Sólveig’s question made Azalea bite her lip and think. ”I. . . don’t know. I guess so? If we decide to make it so?” She suddenly felt very young and insecure. ”I don’t really have any role models for dating, so I guess we can just decide to be girlfriends and that’s that, right? I don’t think there are rules.” She shrugged, frowning, before turning her gaze back on Sólveig and smiling broadly. ”Would you like to be girlfriends? I'd like to be girlfriends.”
(302) | NPCs: | Optime | Let me know if anything needs changing! I think we can finish with your next reply. <3
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

Location: the coast of Norththumberland Strait, south of NC's Nethias district || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime

The feeling of Azalea's thumb passing over the hills and valleys of her knuckles sent a fresh flurry of jitters and electricity through her. There was no longer any confusion or mystery surrounding these feelings, and Sólveig welcomed them as wholly and warmly as she welcomed her split-faced friend into her arms.

They couldn't be more different, with Azalea much taller and much leaner than she and with Sólveig's golden fur like the sun to Azalea's moon-and-night markings, but she found comfort and delight in that truth. She felt safe in the other woman's embrace. Safe and happy and excited. Elated. Eager.

Looking into the Eternity's clear emerald eyes, there was hope and wonder and a little bit of fear on Sóli's face. She didn't have much of a dating role model, either. She knew only the jokes and banters and posturing she and Dorian and Naomi sometimes shared when they were together, and how mated couples were like when they were together. But dating? If it happened in New Caledonia, it was a private affair and not one shared with her.

Despite her own lack of experience on the matter, Azalea's thoughts seemed reasonable and Sólveig nodded emphatically.

"Oh, yes!" she chirped, beaming, her ears blushing. "I'd like to be girlfriends, too! So... let's do it! Let's be girlfriends!"

Thus, with the stars and the moon as their witness, and their union blessed by the moonlight, so began the courtship these two souls from different factions and of similar spirit.

[WC -- 270]
OOC: Corny ending is corny but whatevs! FIN! <3

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