(2530-06-04) Girls in the Garden
Summary: Mari and Vesper meet in the rose garden where a bonding conversation ensues…
RL Date: 06-04-2020
Related: NA
Mari Vesper 

**The Rose Gardens Eavesdown **

The Rose Gardens are a beautiful well-kept park in the heart of the area. Manicured green lawns invite people to sit down in the grass and relax. They are surrounded by fragrant flower beds and tall rose bushes in a riot of pinks and reds. Strolling along the gravel-strewn paths people pass tranquil little ponds in the Asian style with elegant bridges, stone lanterns and stone benches to sit on. Koi can be seen swimming in the water. At the far end of the Gardens is a nostalgic carousel, inviting children and adults alike to take a turn on the horses.

One path snakes its way past tall Chinese bamboo leading to a beautiful compound ringed by a low wall. This is known to be the Pearl Residence, local base of high-class Companions.

It is a spring morning. The weather is warm and clear.

The sun is nearly set over Eavesdown. The light is slowly fading from the sky as a solitary figure in Alliance uniform strolls through the fragrant pathways of the rose gardens, the hem of her pleated skirt brushing the backs of her calves with a soft whisper of almost-rough cloth on pale skin above her socks. She carries her uniform cap in one hand, her long red pigtails brushed back behind her shoulders to stream unimpeded past her shoulder blades.
Pausing at the foot of a nearly-hidden path, she looks toward partly-obscured lights farther along the path, nearly hidden by rosebushes and trees. Sighing wearily, she turns to continue her walk.

While it's nearly impossible to see anything, even dim shapes, this time of the day, Vesper knows these rose gardens as well as her own skin and body. She spends an incredible amount of time here, when she's not working, and having just finished with a certain client, she needed the fresh air and to simply feel at home in her body once more. So, she's come out from the Companion's house, wearing nothing but the most simple of silk gowns, it almost looks like a night gown but is opaque enough to completely hide the places it falls. It's a deep ivory silk and hugs her frame as she moves slowly through the gardens, her bronze walking stick out in front of her, just in case they moved something when she wasn't here. She doesn't quite notice Mari yet, but she's coming down that same nearly-hidden path which Mari is now considering going up.

Mari was just about to continue past that path she'd looked at so wearily a moment before, when the sound of feet and a cane or stick draw her attention. She'd thought she was alone along here. "Someone is there?" she calls softly, in a heavy Russian accent, holding as still as she can and looking toward the approaching sounds.

That makes Vesper jump a bit, the heavy trees having obscured the little sounds of another body she often picks up upon. She turns her frame slightly more in the woman's direction, cane tracing her way through the small, overgrown path as she approaches closer, "Yes, sorry. I did not mean to startle. Just… on an evening walk. Needed some air." Her voice is core-world-trained completely neutral of accent but beautiful. Lower with an almost touchable quality to it.

"Is no harm done. Am thinking am alone, and heard someone walking with stick, maybe cane," Mari replies softly, just a moment before she sees the woman who had spoken.
And then she sees her, and her wide blue eyes get even wider. "Oh, goodness… am so sorry, Milady Companion. Should have known such beautiful voice could only belong to Companion," she says, overawed, bowing from her shoulders to the newcomer, her silky pigtails spilling over her shoulders with the movement.

There is something a bit strange about the way Vesper's eyes track, or don't track, when Mari comes into view. It's only when the woman's voice changes direction does Vesper even realize that she's being bowed to. The woman laughs a bit deeper, something earnest about it, not put upon to be flirtatious or fake. "Oh goodness, if you are bowing, please, please don't. I am nothing that lofty. Vesper. My name is Vesper." She switches her bronze guiding stict from her right to her left hand so she can offer her right hand in the direction of the woman. "I did not mean to disturb *your* walk."

Mari blinks, slowly straightening. Her eyes fall on Vesper's eyes, and she gasps softly. "You are… blind?" she asks, very gently. It doesn't stop her from gently taking Vesper's hand in her own, her grip firm, perhaps surprisingly so for her small hands, but not painful. "Am Private First Class Mariya Ivanova. Mari is easier," she replies softly. "Am not disturbed, really. Am only… how you say? Woolgathering. Is not important. Can walk with you, if you want. Gardens are lovely and peaceful, but not always safe."

The squeeze from Vepser's hand is gentle but firm, no shyness in her touch. Nails carefully done in a gleaming gold shimmer, just long enough to be felt on skin if used, and her sink is probably softer than the silk she wears. But she has none of the heavy jewelry of wealthy or showy fashion. A simple black satin ribbon is tied about her left wrist, but that is all for decoration. It seems she lefts her natural state speak for itself. At the question of being blind, her smile warms a bit more, no offense taken. "Yes. Well… mostly. In the bright day, there are… shapes. Vague outlines. But this time of night? Blind as a bat, as they say. And thank you. I shan't complain for company, though these gardens have been nothing but good to me, Mari."

"Poor Vesper," Mari murmurs, deeply sympathetic, gently releasing her hand. "Gardens are usually good company. Less so for little Mariya lately, but that is personal problem. Won't hurt your enjoyment of them, or anyone else's," she observes softly. "Please, lead on. Will follow wherever you want to go."

"Though, I will take warm companionship instead of a cold stick, if you do not mind?" And, giving her plenty of time to pull away, if Mari does not, Vesper neatly folds up her collapsable bronze toned stick and slips it into a hidden pocket in her silk gown before she winds her arm through the other woman's elbow, beginning to half lead on a long, winding stroll through the gardens. "…Why has this garden been a worry to you? You needn't tell me but it will not hurt my enjoyment. I am happy to listen." Her husky voice offers in gentle, open tones.

Mari blushes as her arm is taken, but does not pull away. "Am happy to be companionship," she replies, just slightly hesitantly. "Is not every day am walking arm-in-arm with Companion."
The question quiets her for a moment. "Is path along here. Leads to apartment building. Had friend there. More than friend… loved her so much…" she replies, her voice threatening to choke off at the last. "But little Mariya is Fed, even if never wanted to be Fed. Beloved friend hates Feds. Little Mariya was stupid… took advantage of hospitality. Made her angry. Now are not friends anymore. Still love her… cannot go past path without wanting to go there. But am not welcome anymore. Maybe doesn't even live there anymore…" she murmurs sadly, looking away from the path.

"Oh… my dear Mariya…" Vesper's voice gets the accent of her name almost exactly right on the first try, something musical but also with the more cutting syllables than general English. "That is… awful. And people do change. You, should you ever wish to try again, you may do well to give an attempt. She may be missing you as well, if regret her black and white reaction to a situation that is… very gray. The Feds are… complicated. Generally unkind. But not always. To paint all of them with one brush, yourself included, is not fair…" But then, she's a companion. She's probably taken to many federal beds before.

Mari nearly dissolves into tears at Vesper's sympathetic reply, a sudden stiffening of her body, a hitch in her breathing the only clues to her internal struggle. Such things are likely encyclopedic to the ears of a blind Companion. "Am trying /so hard/ not to be unkind. Is struggle… everyone here seems to hate Feds. Poor, dead Papa wore brown in Serenity Valley. Was buried in it…" she whispers. "Would never willingly wear Fed uniform… not for every credit in 'Verse. But am conscript… have to wear Fed uniform for awful pay. Unless getting shot down like rabid dog or going to prison sound like better living. At least is only eight months left before little Mariya is free woman. Damned well not going to blow it now…"

As Vesper hears that catch in the woman's voice, she gives a more gentle squeeze to that arm she's holding. She doesn't interrupt otherwise, letting Mari spill out all these things she's clearly been feeling for a while. Vesper just listens, attentitive and understanding, as the pad of her thumb rubs up and down Mari's forearm. Finally, when the words seem fully finished and Mari has had a moment longer to breathe, she offers quietly. "You are put in an impossible position… but you are doing the right thing. Less than a year, and you are done… It's hell and awful, but it will be done. Your friend should have understood and, that she didn't, perhaps… Not the best friend. But you are almost there and I admire your strength for holding on this long…"

"Thank you… am not sure this will feel better tomorrow, but… am glad have met you tonight, Vesper," Mari whispers, pausing for a moment to recover her emotional balance a little. "Is good to meet new people who are kind and gentle to broken heart. Are so few people like that…"

The taller, elegant companion never releases Mari's arm now, her silken skin hugging a bit closer and fingertips from her opposite hand tracing idly across the back of Mari's wrist. She seems to understand how touch starved most people, especially military, tend to be. So she gives the more tender touches where she can and still not be intrusive. "Many people have been broken themselves and… never got fixed enough to find their empathy. I'm glad I was not one of those people…"

Mari trembles faintly under Vesper's tender touches. "Am glad, too," she whispers, gently resting her free hand on the back of Vesper's wrist and hand as they gently hold her arm. "Have not met such wonderful person as you since… cannot even remember, has been so long."

"That is a horrible shame. But… this universe has eaten up a lot of people and spit them out. They don't have time for kindness because they were never shown it. Even companions… so many stay trapped in the core worlds, serving only those with money, when it's the people out here who actually *need* the help. Mental health is as important as the physical, yet so often forgotten. I… do what I can, when I can." Vesper smiles a bit more, sightless eyes lighting in Mari's direction a bit more, her face tilted so that smile and unfocused gaze is clearly meant all for Mari herself. "So, I am quite glad to have met you tonight as well."

"Is side of Companions' Guild most people never talk about," Mari observes, unable to help smiling in return, and bowing her head modestly. "Locker room jokes are sad proof of that. Am not sure how to feel right now… except content. Thank you…"

"Oh, can guarantee /that/!" Mari laughs. "Am knowing three who would not be allowed anywhere near Companion property within full minute of talking to them. Them becoming client has same odds as shark becoming vegetarian. Maybe worse."
The squeeze to her arm draws another shiver. "You keep doing that, are going to get hugged," she warns impishly. "Have been warned."

That 'warning' makes Vesper pause. She shifts, not really pulling back from Mari, but turns her body so they are more facing each other, her head tilting a bit to the side. "Do…you wish a hug? You don't need to warn me. They are lovely things and nothing to be ashamed of. We are now friends, and this is a thing friends do. I was two moments away from offering you to take a bench so I could work on your poor shoulders…" From other people, these offers might seem lacivious. Seductive. And it's strange, ehr being a companion, but the warmth and openness in her tone seems completely innocent. She just seems to respect touch for the powerful, needed part of humanity it is.

Mari hugs Vesper gently. "Is only weak joke," she explains softly. "Am… /delighted/ to call you friend. You are… /absolutely adorable/." She sighs, shaking her head slowly. "Gods… am sorry if words come slowly. English is hard language for little Mariya."

"You say mouthful," Mari whispers, sighing happily, letting Vesper hug her. Her hair smells faintly of dried sweat, and more strongly of cheap shampoo and conditioner; the scent on the bottles said strawberry, but it's a lot closer to artificially-flavored strawberry candy. At least it's soft and silky against that soft, silky-smooth cheek. "You smell like vanilla…"

"I like it in my soap. Vanilla extra, that is. It smells so good in a bath…" Vesper admits, inhaling deeply of the other woman and taking in the faint, too-sweet smell but also that gritty sweat which is very human and just as enjoyable in it. Her fingertips rub gently against the long muscles of Mari's back, working through a few knots and letting the hug linger as much as she might please. "…and I have had a whole life of this language to practice with words. Do not feel embarrassd if you do not speak as much."

Mari cries out involuntarily as Vesper begins to massage her back, the knots yielding to those strong fingertips only with great reluctance, and brief but intense pain. "Gods..! Did not see /that/ coming…" she groans softly. Gradually the pain dies away as the knots are worked out. "Is /much/ better… thank you. And is less matter of time, more matter of use. Can usually understand, but… not so good with talking."

Finally, having gotten through at least that horrible knot, Vesper pulls back from the hug before it turns into truly awkward, even if she doesn't seem bothered in the least. She slips her arm back through Mari's, beginning the slow walk back towards the outer areas of the gardens. She doesn't use her stick now, trusting Mari to tell her anything unexpected, "You seem to be doing just fine with the talking, my dear. I understand you perfectly and am a patient woman."

Mari pouts faintly as Vesper draws back from the hug, slipping back into her role as guide and companion to the Companion. The comment draws a blush. "Can usually be understood, mostly. Not everyone so patient as dear Vesper. Makes you ten times as dear," she murmurs. "Move left a bit… bit more. Gopher hole."

The warning is appreciated. Her step changes, moving slightly to the side and her toe traces the ground as she moves, sliding instead of stepping, so she can trace where it might be missing. She navigates around the edge of the hole expertly without sight, the physicality of her body expert at telling her what she needs to know, and continues to the garden's edge. "Thank you. And you can come visit me at House Pearl any time. If I am not with a client, I will be happy to see you…"

"Will be glad to. Is no stretch to say meeting you has been most wonderful thing to happen to little Mariya in almost four years," Mari observes softly, her small but sincere smile evident in her voice.

As they approach the edge of the garden, Vesper gives Mari's hand one long, gentle squeeze before fully letting go and reaching into her pocket to pull out her walking stick once more. She's still smiling, probably a bit wider than when she started this journey. "Well, the enjoyment was mutual. I do have a client this evening so… I need to return. But you know where to find me. House Pearl is not difficult to find and I am going nowhere."

"Am hoping client appreciates you as much as little Mariya, then." Mari risks kissing Vesper's cheek tenderly as her hand is squeezed. "Hoping even more can make enjoyment in next meeting mutual, too, but am pretty sure little Mariya is getting better end of bargain without trying. Take care, dear Vesper," she whisper. "How you say… parting such sweet sorrow."

"Mm… Good company is good company. There is no bargain. We shall meet again." Vesper accepts that kiss warmly, returning one to Mari's cheek before she gently clicks her stick into telescoping out so she can use it to guide her the rest of the short lane back to House Pearl.

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