The week passed remarkably fast and before he knew it tomorrow was Sunday, and a picnic was expected on his back forty, so to speak.
Bastian was glad business had been so busy. The less free time he had, the less time he could worry about what he expected tomorrow.
Not that he avoiding thinking about Diane all week. To the contrary, it seemed he did little else. And when he wasn't thinking about work, or Diane, he was still thinking about Reign.
In fact, it was during that thinking that he remembered he had missed her birthday, and that floored him. In all the years since he met her, he never once forgot her birthday, even when they had been apart. Realizing his mistake this year just served as further proof that they didn't belong together as he had once thought. It was a small, silly thing, but when added to the list, made his decision more...right?
Back and forth he had gone debating with himself the pros and cons to the budding relationship with Diane. Yet during all that time he continued to plan the little outing for her and her son, and every day looked forward to it more and more. Every day he saw her, worked with her side by side, he held off discussing the date further. It was this apprehension that held him back some. It didn't sway his decision, or want to make him change his mind, but it stymied his thought process a little.
Things were so different between he and Diane, as compared to when he and Reign began dating. There was, of course, the fact that he was substantially older, and more versed in the way of the world as it pertained to women, and in general. But there was also the fact that his perception of how he thought his life was going to be played out had changed.
And now he was expecting, at any minute, to begin this new relationship that involved a new woman, AND a child. The idea thrilled him, and also left him scared shitless.
That was the first dream and the first night. The second evening she had readied herself for another trip into bliss and was almost too eager to sleep. The dream had started out the same only this time there was someone or something behind the glittering flames. A darkness that danced around the very edges of it. Panic rose up in her throat as the darkness easily sheared through the flames and snaked up her skin, it's bitter coldness painfully searing to her body until she was incased. It was then that she woke up screaming. Her bed linen had been torn in pieces as evidence of her thrashing. She hadn't been able to fall back asleep or shake the chills that had her shivering.
The worst of the dreams had come the previous evening. Per usual the dream started out amazingly, even in her dream she was weary of what would happen even when the thick blackness didn't appear. It was funny how worn down she had felt when she was awake had transfered into her dream. It was a thought she had remembered thinking as she cozied into the shimmering flames. It was also the reason she hadn't noticed just how much hotter the flames felt this time. By the time she noticed and tried to escape, her skin was a serious red. The scalding heat increased until she literally felt like she was melting, the skin dripped from her fiingertips and oozed down from her face. It was another scream that woke her into the cool darkness of her room covered in sweat.
She hadn't wanted to go back to sleep after that. Instead after looking at the calendar and seeing that finally it was sunday she had begun packing up things to bring. Work all week had been busy and she was thankful. It was easier to mask just how worn out she was when she could keep moving. Had it been a slow week she was sure she would have fallen asleep at the front desk. Lunch breaks made for perfect naps in her jeep and that helped to rejuvenate her. Apparently small short sleeping spells weren't long enough to warrent dreams.
What exactly these dreams meant she wasn't sure. The only thing she could assume was that they were just fears manifesting themselves in the worst form possible. Damn anxiety. It was hard during the week to not pounce on Bastian just to see if the original warmth would come back, even if it was for only a minute. That seemed a little presumptuous on her part.
Fixing her face to disguise the slight darkness under her eyes she sighed.
"I hate you sleep."
She turned and walked towards the door to their quaters where her son was eagerly waiting. He hadn't stopped rambling about horsies since he woke up. The excitment was evident in his half run gait as they walked to her Jeep. Once they were buckled safely inside she drove the familiar route to Bastians. The drive was like second nature and she guessed she could navagate it with a blindfold on.
It wasn't long before she was on his property and her whole being relaxed with ease.
"Mumma this is where horsies live!?" her son squealed in delight.
"Yes Joey. There's other animals here too you know, more than just horsies."
"I'm so 'cited!"
She laughed and helped him out the car. They approached the porch and Joey immediately shot over to the rocking chairs to try and climb onto them. She no longer felt tired and worn down, not anymore. The aches in her muscles melted as she knocked on Bastian's door. While she was nervous the overwhelming feeling of being at ease silenced the butterflies she had previous felt.
"And this must be Master Joseph, it is certainly good to meet you, my good man. Your mother has mentioned you might be interested in doing a little horseback riding?"
He could definitely see Diane in her small son, as he glanced from one to the other, his smile now welcoming. Half tempted to kiss Diane 'hello', Bastian refrained. Things between the two of them still had to be taken slowly, if there were in fact 'things between' them. Then there was Master Joseph too, who Bastian was very aware of and wanted to do nothing to cause the young man concern, or confusion.
Standing with the door open, Bastian waved them in.
"Would you like to come inside for a bit, or would you rather head for the stables now? Everything is ready, so its just a matter of when you are too."
Leaning close to Diane, Bastian whispered quickly into her ear, not wanting Joseph to hear, or wonder what was going on.
"I've a small surprise for your son out in the stables, but she will keep."
The little filly Bastian purchased had come yesterday, and he was very happy with her. He wanted something small for Diane's son to ride when he visited, and that would also grow with Joseph. The horse would grow much more quickly, but with Joseph beginning to ride early, and the filly learning to carry a rider early, he knew it should make for a good mix.
The filly wasn't a full Thoroughbred, but enough of one to carry a small rider early. Bastian knew the breeder, and had talked to her extensively, before deciding to buy from her. Just a year old, the horse was handled from birth to imprint early, allowing her to accept the attentions of a child readily. She was halter-broke, and followed on a lead well. Blankets weren't new to the filly, nor was a small, light-weight saddle she had been wearing the past couple weeks. She would still need a lot more training, but for now Bastian felt secure in getting her used to Joseph. In the mean time, until she was old enough to be ridden, Bastian would help Diane train Joseph, and allow him time to develop around the horses. Then, soon, they should be ready together, and he would have his own horse to ride.
Bastian had explained a lot of this to Diane during short breaks during work, but had kept the actual purchase a surprise. He hoped now that he hadn't over stepped his bounds.
"Yes, this would be he. He should warm up soon enough." She laughed as she watched Joseph peer one large long lashed blue eye from behind her knee.
It was then that Bastian leaned into whisper to her and she felt her head fog up.
'Snap out of it! You can't do this everytime he get's near you!'
Her inner dialogue cut short when Diane heard what Bastian had said. Her eyebrows raised simultaneously as shock registered on her face.
"She?!" her voice squeaked out.
The kid in her wanted to run out the door and hussle to the stables to see the new arrival. All that stuff he had been saying about horses lately, she had thought he was just filling her in on details incase she was interested in a good deal.
"That's what all the talk all week was about! I just thought,...I mean,... I had no idea! You didn't have to do that Bastian!"
Diane wasn't angry about the purchase she was just incredibly surprized. The inner child was winning out and the sensible mom side of her wanted to see Joe's face light up as well. That was a good enough agreeance for her.
"Wait smait! I am almost as excited as he will be once he get's inside the stables. Let's go."
Joey had come out from hiding and was roaming the porch once again. She knew that if she asked him to come inside and be a good boy for a bit he'd have a tough time staying still. The promise of animals who lived just outside the windows would drive his tiny mind insane.
"I know I didn't HAVE to, but I wanted to. I think it will be nice having a horse he can grow up with, if he likes riding, that is. I don't ever want him, or you for that matter, to think you have to ride. You both will still be quite welcome here, riding lovers or not." And he meant every word of that. It had taken Reign a while before she felt comfortable on a horse...he had patience if that was necessary. He also learned through his relationship with Reign, that it was okay if each individual had different likes, as long as they also shared a lot of other things.
But for now everyone seemed happy to go riding, so Bastian put a gentle hand on the back of Diane's neck and headed for the stables.
"Alright then, lets go see some horses!"
The clinic was down a short,slight hill from where the house stood, and the kennels were housed in the next building, along with a huge storage area, and then there was the barn, stables, and paddock. There were two paths to the house; one was tree lined, off to the side of the house, and that was the one they took now. The tall trees providing privacy for the house, and somewhat of a sound barrier as well. The other path was from the drive, and led directly to the front porch. There was a curved copse of trees there as well, effectively hiding the clinic from the views through the windows in the house as well. This copse was found beyond a grassy yard, that acted as a fire break, and stretched into a woodsy forest that circled more than three quarters of Bastian's home, and business. He liked the natural setting, and sense of solitude, especially around the house. The animals appeared to respond well in the more natural atmosphere too.
As they neared the stable, the paddock came into view, and there, running, and jumping was the prettiest little roan horse he'd seen in ages. She already wore her bridle and bit, something she only recently became comfortable with, and her halter was hanging on the side of the fence.
"Joseph? What do you think? She's a little to young to ride yet, but then you are too...at least on your own. Soon though, as you both get to know each other better, and grow a little more, she'll be here for you to ride whenever your mama wants to bring you."
He watched the little boy intently, hoping he would see interest, and excitement in his eyes, and not fear. He was trying to bring the two of them together slowly, to avoid that, and stopping Diane and Joseph near the corral, Bastian opened the gate, entered the enclosure, and closed the gate behind him. Softly nickering, and whispering words of comfort, he walked to the filly, and was pleased to see her remain still as he touched her neck. Lightly taking hold of her bridle, Bastian led her to the fence, slipped the halter on, and wrapped the rope around the wood slat. She was just tall enough to look over the paddock wall, and Bastian watched her as he slowly climbed up and over the paddock fence. On the other side, he knelt down next to Joseph.
"Would you like to pet her? Oh, and I forgot, but you're going to need to think of a name for your horse too."
New to all this kind of training with children, Bastian looked up to Diane, and hoped he wasn't moving too fast.
Once Bastian's hand made contact with her skin she fought the irresistable urge to shiver. It wasn't a bad reaction it was exactly the opposite. It was hard to control herself but spacing out now would prove to be a wrong move. Last time it had happened things had not gone so well. Settling herself with a small sigh, she handled her composure well.
As they made their way to the stables Joey ran ahead of them and collected every stick his little chubby hands could manage. His fantastic obsession with the twigs was like that of every boy. It wasn't long before those hands released the sticks into a pile on the grass. The horses in front of him rerouted his direction and he ran ahead squeeling and nearly jumping in excitement. His little head poked through the fence and he reached his thin arm out to the pony Bastian had spoke of.
"She is nice! Mumma look, she nice!" he declared, not clearly understanding Bastian's meaning.
At teh offer to touch and pet the pony Joey made his way into the horses area in ways that made Diane suck in her breath. Like the little monkey he was, he had made it over and was petting the pony in glee.
"Pet her nice Joey she's just a baby like you."
"She not a baby mumma, she a big boy!" she heard him answer as he pressed his face into her side to smell her.
Leaning on the fence she looked over the pretty little pony and grinned.
"She is adorable bastian, I can't thank you enough. He is in love with her already I can see it. You do know though, that by letting him name her she might end up with a name like Truck or Horsey. Though it could be better than when you named those two dogs Him and Her." She was teasing him but it was true. Maybe it was a guy thing to name an animal something simple.
"Where did you get her from? Someone from the clinic? I will have to them how beautiful she is if so."
It felt a little weird standing there in regular clothes. She had always choosen to wear scrubs at the clinic because of their washability and trashability. A few times she had come back here on a walk during lunch and leaned against the fences, as she was doing now, just to watch the horses. Now it felt almost foreign in her dark blue jeans and rust colored babydoll top. It was a good thing there'd be no blood or feces comming her way today. Well at least she hoped.
Reign hadn't been at all fond of horses when Bastian had first met her, but she was pretty much his only experience at introducing any girl or woman to the joy of horseback riding. It didn't surprise him to hear Diane hadn't been put off by her bad time.
"And I'm glad to see you didn't suffer any lasting damages. I was thrown hard when I was eleven, and suffered damage to my ear, and hearing." He turned to show her the scar that he was certain she had seen before, but now was using as a point of reference.
"Got this at the time too. Oddly, when I became a werewolf, my hearing impairment disappeared completely, and I now hear even better than most humans."
He always felt strange referring to himself as anything but human, yet he really wasn't any longer.
"But when it happened, I knew immediately it was my fault, and not the horse's, so I had no choice but to get back on the saddle, and keep riding. I'm lucky that I learned something that day as a person, and have always remembered it. Things done in the heat of anger rarely turn out for the good."
Memories of the past evaporated when Bastian saw the look in Joey's eyes as he went up to the filly and became instantly acquainted. A huge wave of relief passed through Bastian when it became apparent that Joey wasn't the least bit afraid of the horse.
On occasion Bastian had seen some children exhibit unfounded fears of even the smallest of pets. He had tried to research such fears, and had even spoken to a psychologist once about the phenomanon, and had yet to have anything logical given in explanation. The best he could do was to consider the fear similar to that of any other irrational phobia...Chirophobia - the fear of hands; Tonitrophobia - the fear of thunder; Melanophobia - the fear of the color black. Sure, if a person had experienced some terrifying ordeal with a dog, or cat, it would be easy to understand their subsequent fear, but there were people in the world with fears that had no basis in anything other than just being a feeling they had about something.
"Hmmm...sounds like he might be trying to convince mama that he's a big boy too."
Bastian laughed when Joey referred to the filly as a 'big boy'.
"I used to do that exact same thing...I love the smell of horseflesh."
Not in the way he liked the smell of a sweetly scented woman of course, but there was something in the smell of a horse that comforted Bastian. The smell of a woman, whether in the heat of passion, or along side him outside next to the paddock, had an effect unlike anything resembling comfort. Bastian inhaled the scent of Diane now, and enjoyed the way it created thoughts like no other in his head. He coughed to hide his interest, and quickly turned it back to Joey.
"I'm very glad he likes her, and while I will agree I'm horrible at naming animals, no one should name someone else's pet or companion. I think its when I try to do that, that I fail."
Him and Her were to be pets that he and Reign would raise, but they hadn't even had time to agree on names for the dogs. Now he wondered if he should seek to adopt them out, but hadn't decided yet.
"And Joey will have you to help him. I'll bet the two of you will come up with something perfect."
Keeping a cautious eye on the small tot, Bastian took the halter in hand, and thought maybe he should stable the filly until they got back from their ride.
"Shall we take her to her stall in the stable, and feed her before she takes a nap? Then we can go for a ride, and come back and see her again later."
"I'm officially declaring the term horseflesh as gross and undesirable." She wrinkled her nose. "It sounds like you want to eat it!"
Diane knew that wasn't the context he had used the word in, but it still brought up visions of people raising horses to eat.
"This is your expertise, you call the shots and we will follow happily."
Ironically, she thought to herself, no matter what he wanted to do she’d follow suit. This realization had come to her startlingly this morning when she was anticipating what would be on the day’s agenda. Of course she wasn’t going to risk sounding daft by admitting that.
“Pony nap time?”
It never occurred to her that ponies took naps. Why wouldn't they? They were after all, baby horses and even horses slept.
“Did you hear that Joey? The pony takes naps too!”
She saw his tiny scowl as he turned his face away. She laughed out loud and pushed herself away from the gate.
“Should we follow you or wait out here?” She asked Bastian.
As much as she got to see him with animals at work she was still in wonderment with the way he was handling the pony and her son. She was glad he wasn’t afraid of the little boy. It was her experience that not all grown men knew what to do with themselves when a toddler was around.
"You do...well I don't, but it's quite the thing in places like Sweden."
Bastian had a pretty open mind when it came to most things, but eating horse was too much like eating anything most cultures considered candidates for pets. He had never elected to eat dog either, during his travels to Asia.
"From what I hear, it tastes like chicken."
He said nonchalantly, then winked.
"Sure, come along. I want to show Joey where horses live, and how they live. If he's going to have horse to love and take care of, he needs to know all about them. That way too, when he gets older, he'll know what to do if he comes by and I'm not here."
Though that would be years off, Bastian knew it was never too soon to teach a child about animals, AND responsibility. Though it never occurred to him to think Diane hadn't already begun to teach her son some of these things, and would never imply otherwise, when it came to horses, and this one in particular, he felt it was his duty to offer up that knowledge.
Leading the filly back into the stable and to her stall, Bastian kept glancing back to watch Joey, and his reaction to things. Once the horse was inside, instead of removing her tack, he wrapped her lead around a post, and turned to the small boy, to begin to explain what different things were, and what they did. Picking up a round brush, Bastian explained that any time a horse was ridden, it had to be taken care of afterward, so the next time it would be healthy, and happy to ride again. Brushing down was one of the things he showed Joey, and then reached for a much smaller version of the brush, which he placed in Joey's hands.
"Ok...come over here, and do what I do."
Looking to Diane for approval, Bastian began brushing the horse's back, belly, and rear flank.
"You can brush here." He pointed to an area Joey could reach on the horse's front leg, and watched.
Since the horse hadn't been rode, this was all completely unnecessary, but it was better to be taught and learn now before it became imperative.
Between watching the tiny young man, and his lovely mother, Bastian thought he was enjoying all this more than anyone.
"Leave it to Europeans!"
"Ya right, taste like chickens my butt! I had deer the other night for the first time. Well, prepared and cooked deer. It was gross. I imagine horse would be just like that." In truth she had dined on deer meat before but only in wolf form. That of course was totally different. "I guess those tastes don't transfer over."
They followed Bastian, well she followed Bastian Joey followed the pony, into the stables where she was housed.
"You are correct, it's better he learns the fun with the unfun. Having a pet is a big responsibility and one he has yet to enjoy. The kitten I brought home is more my kitten and I've shown him a few things like cleaning the litter box but a pony is a different story. There's a little more to it than setting a bowl of food and water down for it. Cat's are a little less work."
With a lopsided smile she watched as Joey tried to copy Bastian's movements as he brushed the pony. It was evident that Joey was smitten with the tiny beast and with Bastian who in his small eyes was the magical keeper of horses.
"You know, I'm not as terrified of Joe becoming like us anymore. He's adjusted to life her better than I could have ever imagined. I'm almost beginning to think he'd be sorely disappointed and even angry with me if I took him from all of it by not allowing him to be a part of the pack fully."
She knew that early on she had confided in Bastian her horror of having the disease forced on her son. Even then Bastian had felt like a safe haven to dispose her darkest fears and secrets in. There was just something about him that flowed out and covered her in a blanket of...well balance. She hadn't realized just how much life seemed perfect when she was around him. Every day at work, no matter what had been happening in the backdrop of life she always had a piece of mind when she was at the clinic. Right now she doubted it was because of the animals and the amazing landscape.
With this new revelation she stepped closer to Bastian and reached out to pet the pony for the first time.
"Such a soft little thing."
Bastian winked, not at all offended by her comment considering the idea of eating horse was equally disgusting to him.
"But to be specific, I believe the Swedish are considered Scandinavian, rather than European."
Not that this mattered. European, Scandinavian, American...Bastian wasn't aware of any differences that would matter significantly. All cultures had their ins and outs, and none were better than the other, just diverse. It occurred to him then that he might adopt the same feelings toward the Kadzait...but then decided against it.
"I've heard venison needs to be marinated well, to taste good cooked, but since I've never eaten it cooked, I'm not a good judge. So I'll take your word for it."
The day started off well, though Bastian had no reason to think it wouldn't. But at the way his life had taken a slight turn for the worse lately, he wasn't taking anything for granted.
"Horses are a lot more work, but for now its good that this one will be taken care of by others for him...until he is able to assume more responsibility."
In between telling Joey small tidbits about horses, and their upkeep, Bastian wanted to keep Diane in the conversation loop too. The longer the three of them were together, the more he enjoyed it, and recognized how simple life had suddenly become. He had thought a relationship with a woman and child would be more complicated than what he'd had with Reign, but Diane and Joey were turning out to be...a good fit. No, more than that...being with the beautiful young woman, and her son was turning into what Bastian had dreamed about years ago.
"I'm glad you're feeling better about it all. I used to think I was cursed...diseased...but the more time I spend with you, and the pack, the more I feel that they are family, and being what we are is a gift after all. Thinking like you do...giving him the choice...letting him be like you...it seems fair. If I'm ever lucky enough to have children of my own, I know I'll give them the choice as well.
And you had a lot to do with my changes in thinking."
Living with and loving a human was one thing. Reign's parents weren't overly fond of Bastian as it was, if they had ever found out he was a werewolf, and that there was any chance their daughter might join him, well there was no point in reliving those thoughts.
Once he and Joey had spent time brushing both sides of the filly, Bastian took the brushes and put them on a shelf, low enough that Joey could reach them.
"Joey? Can you bring me that blanket over there please?"
Bastian pointed to a lightweight plaid blanket, folded and resting over the side of the stall. It wasn't really necessary, but while a horse was young, Bastian liked to give it a few extra comforts, helping to make the transition into adulthood easier.
"And now...shall we go see what we'll be riding today?"
Both his horse Tempesta, and the best of his riding horses, Pioggia, or Pio, which meant rain, had been saddled earlier and were ready to go out. Either horse would carry Joey as a second rider, readily, until he and Diane felt the tot would be ready to solo.
"That venison had supossedly been marinated for almost 24 hours. It just has this wicked after taste that once you get past the intial 'hm this tastes good' it kicks in and your regretting ever putting it in your mouth." With a shiver of remembrance she shook her head. "Joe liked it, so it didn't go to too much waste."
It was good to hear that Bastian had acclimated more positively to the whole werewolf heritage as she had. What surprized her was that she had anything to do with it at all.
"How did I help change your thinking? I will admit the pack themselves aren't nearly as intimidating as they seemed to be at first, so I agree with you on that front. They quickly molded into family and accepted us even though I know I'm not as pure blooded as some." She rolled her eyes.
Being a Nothos and not of lineage wasn't a big deal to her. It didn't even bother her that with some it was obvious they thought differently of her. Even then, they were still polite. Status never really meant much to her.
When Bastian asked to continue on to their adult sized rides Diane nodded and held her hand out to Joey. With a small sigh of sadness he listened and took her hand. She knew he would be happy again once he saw that they were going to be ridding on a big horse.
"Also, I'm sure any children you have will look up to you so much that they'll want to be exactly like their daddy and won't resist the chance to join the pack fully. You are a natural with children you know. Normally Joe takes longer to warm up to other people, with you though he hasn't had a moments hesitation."
Explaining to her how she came to be partially responsible for his change in how he felt about the pack...that would be tricky. The way he felt about her was still so new, and unexplored, plus with his continued love for Reign, and their long history, it wasn't like he could just put those feelings away in a cupboard.
But he had opened up this line of thinking, so he had to tell her something.
"When I first got to Nachton it was partially with the intent of learning about the Vyusher pack...as well as learning more about my werewolf side. I had spent years mastering the physical changes, and learning how to live with them in this world, but there were extraneous pieces to the puzzle that I hoped to find answers to here.
Unfortunately, while I did gain encouragement after meeting you and Mosi, I still never really got the connection I was looking for.
Then, once things with Reign came to an end, I realized my relationship with her was also a factor. Being that she is human, and as I was trying to fit more comfortably in my werewolf world...it was bound to stir up compatibility issues. I thought I was strong enough to deal with them, but am finding I was just kidding myself."
And then, into his life, stepped Diane.
"Getting to know you better, and seeing how you juggle Joey's human side, yet still maintain your own place in the pack..."
Catching sight of Joey looking through the slats of a stall they passed, studying the horse inside, Bastian took a moment to stop and turn to Diane.
"You've become very important to me Diane. I care about you...a lot. You're the first woman, besides Reign, who I ever considered the possibility of any kind of future with."
He leaned in and kissed her softly, and quickly, still tentative in his admission, and since she had yet to open herself up to him, in how she might feel, still not certain if his affections would be rejected or not. He was banking on her feeling at least a little as he did, but until she declared herself, he was still moving a little blindly.
He then placed his fingertips against her lips, and stepped back, remembering her son, and trying to keep some sense of propriety.
"It was those feelings for you that helped change the way I was thinking. But I don't want to pressure you into anything. I'm sorry if I've given you the impression I'm rushing into anything. Maybe later, if Master Joey decides to take a nap, we can talk more?"
That hadn't gone the way Bastian had imagined it in his head, but then he did have a way of plowing head long into certain things. He could only hope he hadn't ruined their afternoon, and sought the horses more quickly now, to escape any possible rejection.
The packs of food had been placed on the horses along with blankets after they had been saddled up. All he had to do now was figure out if Joey would feel more comfortable riding with him, or Diane.
"Personally I think Joey might do better in my lap, but if he has any aversion to that I'm pretty sure we can get him up there with you. This mare is a real sweetheart, and very difficult to scare. She should do very well for you."
He changed the subject, he hoped with some element of finesse, but the feelings and thoughts refused to go away. At least he had something else to focus on now.
She had been paying attention to what Bastian was saying and as she moved her eyes from the child to Bastian's face they grew wide.
Was he really saying what she was hearing?
Her mouth parted as if to say something, anything that would make sense from the scramble of words that was her current state of mind when he leaned in kissed her. The kiss was so terribly soft and....sweetly amazing that she was unable to stop the explosion of the dazzling flames from blowing out her mind. Unconsciously her hand rose to reach for his face but he had moved. The contact between their lips was broken and he was stepping back.
His words bit through the smoky fog clearing her eyes and her head. As she quickly fought her way back through the brief euphoria he had created, Bastian had already changed the subject and was ahead of her. With soft steps she made her way next to him so that she could slip her arm around his. Once she had it crooked sufficiently she brought the subject back to the one that demanded attention.
"You can't kiss me and be sorry at the same time." she teased.
Knowing what to say at times like this was never easy for her. The best she could hope for was to not sound confusing.
"I'm glad," She paused. "Well for many things at this moment, but, I am glad I've been able to help you even without knowing it. You have no idea how much you have helped me as well Bastian. I'm pretty sure if it hadn't been for you I would have been fried out in this town long time ago.”
The wall of the dams of emotion she held in side of her cracked and gave away.
“I’ve cared about you for some time now Bastian. I’ve just been, respectful and well mannered.” Her cheeks blushed and she looked back towards the horses.
“I think he might freak out at first if he sits with you. If you think it’s safer though I’m sure he’ll get over it. Don’t know how you feel about failing arms in your face as you try and ride.”
It was her turn to change the subject now as they stood there in front of the horses. Joey, who was still oblivious to anything but the horse he was so desperately trying to reach, had no clue to their exchange.
He couldn't hold back the smile that had been playing around his mouth all morning long, and saw no reason to now anyway. He also couldn't help but continually glance in her direction, taking in as much about her as he could. At least now she would understand why he acted as he did, and not take him for some kind of freak or pervert.
He chuckled at her comment, watching with one eye as Joey still remained mesmerized by the horses.
"Oh no, you misunderstood...I'm not at all sorry for kissing you." His eyes twinkled. It was now apparent he had no need to be sorry for rushing anything either. Though that didn't mean he was going to stop being careful, and taking it slow and easy. Something as important as this needed to be left to move along at its own pace. Between the two of them, now that they were on the same page, they would find a rhythm and hopefully reach the same goal.
Her arm felt good in his, and he took hold of her hand for a moment, squeezing it lightly in his other. Her blush, and sudden change of topics wasn't lost on him. The way she appeared similarly caught up in the moment tugged at his heart.
"Maybe, rather than risking any discomfort, we'll see if you can handle the horse with Joey in your lap. We'll take it slow, and I'll watch carefully...if it looks like it will be more than what you can handle and still enjoy your ride, we'll switch. Perhaps by then he'll be so into the ride that he won't care who he rides with."
Bastian winked, and led the horses out to the paddock, and opened the gate. Dropping the halter he moved to the mare's side.
"Ok...ladies first, and then we're going to put you up in the saddle with your mama."
Joey had followed the horses from the stable without any coaching, and now stood ready.
"Maam? Can I give the lady a lift?"
Diane had mentioned riding before, and having had some issues, so for now Bastian was relying on her to let him know just how much assistance she needed. He was ever ready to give her any help he could, but also didn't want to make her feel like a child either.
She nodded at his directions for the horse. They would try Joey with her first and if that didn't go well he could be transfered to Bastian's horse to ride with someone who had more experience.
"That sounds like a plan. I'm sure he'll be so entranced by being on a horse he wont give me trouble for the first ten minutes."
As she sized up the horse she considered the options for hefting herself up into the saddle. With a small grimace she turned her head to look at Bastian.
"Yes please the assistance will be needed! Either that or you have to turn around so you can't watch me struggle, amusing as that prolly will be."
She grabbed the saddle and positioned herself to place her left foot into the foot holster.
"As long as this horse isn't over worked and over heated I think we should be fine, right horsey?" With a free hand she patted the horses neck gently. "What was this one's name?"
"Come on Joey, let's get you up on this horse with your mama, so we can go for that ride. I'm getting hungry!"
Bastian was only slightly starting to feel the pangs of hunger, but was more just setting the agenda. He was by no means an expert on children, though he liked to think the class he took in school had given him a good base from which to build. He had always seemed to have a knack with kids, much like how he was so naturally good with animals, though he'd never admit to any similarities...out loud anyway. He chuckled as that thought came to him.
He figured one way to at least make an effort to get along with the miniature people, was to make sure they knew there were rules, and to set parameters for them. He wasn't at all about being a dictator, or taking the fun out of things, but he knew someone had to give them direction, and as long as you did it in a amiable way, it usually worked.
By letting Joey know that they were going to eat soon, it was Bastian's way of hopefully avoiding any problems once they reached their destination. He had experienced how children, when they were doing something they loved to do, were sometimes impossible to stop. Without a sorrowful scene anyway. He was all about avoiding sorrowful scenes today.
The little boy bounded into Bastian's arms quite gleefully, and was soon nestled on the saddle in front of Diane. There wasn't anyway for Bastian to belt the young man on under the current arrangement, but tucked between his mama and the horn, he fit snuggly.
"That should do well as long as we don't take on any races."
Winking at Diane, he jumped onto his horse and was soon next to her, and leading toward the open fields.
"I think this is probably the first really nice day we've had for riding. The temperatures have finally cooled off, and with those clouds overhead, we shouldn't have any problems with sunburn."
Not that he had any sun problems really. With his heritage, and natural deep coloring, it took a lot to change his skin color. Diane, on the other hand, and her small child, looked like they might not be able to withstand too much. But with the weather being accommodating, it wasn't anything Bastian would worry about.
Leading them away from the house, Bastian took a path he had traveled often, and one that was free of any obstacles that might prove difficult for Diane to maneuver over or around. Eventually it led them down along side a small creek that was tree lined, and that came with a nice, mossy covered bank. Once they were ready to eat, he would bring them back here, thinking it would be a relaxing setting, but one that would give Joey some form of entertainment. There were frogs in the shallow waters, and he remembered always being fascinated by smaller animals when he was a child.
"This doesn't seem so uncomfortable." She commented with a wiggle in the saddle.
The traveled out in the fields and Joe spnt the time reaching forward and petting the horse with the most serious look on his face. He was concentrating very hard on staying upright and 'riding'.
The ride itself was easy and Bastian had been correct about the horse. She was about as wild and crazy as a snail right now and Diane didn't mind it one bit. Gazing up into the sky she took notice of the clouds he spoke about but being as pale and nearly translucent skinned she knew better than to think they were safe from the sun's devil rays. She had lathered both her and Joey up that morning with SPF 45 just incase.
"Clouds can be deceiving my olive skin toned friend. We came prepaired and precoated, fear not. All in all though it is a perfect day. It's goregous out. Fall is one of my favorite seasons besides spring."
The scenery was astonishing with just the very touches of fall starting to sneak it's colors in.
"You have some beautiful property, I didn't know Nachton had such lovely parts too it. Why you run at the clearing at Shady Pines is beyond me! I don't think I'd ever leave here."
The clearing was of course nice and provided large amounts of wooded space for the pack to run through but it wasn't nearly as, picturesque as this land. She supossed that those sorts of things weren't all that important to the pack. After all they lived in an old insane aslyum. Even with the redecorating it could still be creepy.
It was apparent that the horse knew the land and she doubted that if by chance Bastian got too far ahead, that the mare she was riding would know exactly where to go, and a few 'Yehahs' from Joey didn't encourage the horse to speed up either, thankfully.
"I think it's pretty nice myself, and I don't think there is a lot of this kind of land around 'anywhere' anymore. I was very fortuitous to find it, but I also paid pretty dearly for it." And the only reason he had paid so much for the land was because it had been exactly what he had been looking for. Bastian had learned a lot over the years, and one of the things he now knew was who to listen to on advice when it came to buying land. Even with the way the country's economy was currently suffering, what he had around him was still valued well above what he had paid for it.
But that would only matter if he was in the market to sell, and that was not anything he would be considering for a very long time.
"I do love running here, and have, often, but the few times I went to the clearing it was with the hopes of meeting up with more of the pack. I know that now, even if I thought differently at the time. Specifically, after I met you, you were the one I had hope on running into. And, again I was lucky when that happened sooner, rather than later."
He smiled at Diane when he admitted his early attraction to her. Of course it wasn't anything he could have come forward with at the time, being involved with Reign...being still in love with Reign. That restriction had now been lifted, and though he was still trying desperately to remain cautious, it was becoming more difficult.
"I'm glad you like it here. That means a great deal."
For all he had been through in his life, Bastian more often than not considered himself to be a lucky man. It appeared that was still the case. But perhaps it all had to do with a person's agenda, and how accommodating they could be. He would consider that later. For now he was going to enjoy the company, and the world he was building.
They rode on a short while before Bastian suggested stopping. He looked to Diane and Joey to see if they were in agreement, suspecting the toddler would be the deciding factor.
As they rode the land reminded her of some sort of landscape out of a painting. Thomas Kincaid would have enjoyed the view and the artist creativity he would have gotten from it.
At his mention of reasons why he did choose to run at the Pack's clearing a shy smile sneaked out and she looked down to check her footing in the holster. Of course there was nothing wrong with her foot positioning but it was a perfect place to hide her eyes.
"Well I'm glad you did come and run with us. Ridiculous as it sounds I looked for you often. I started running alone more as some of the Pack women were territorial in the winter time. They cracked me up. As much as I've integrated myself with what I am I still don't seem to have as much primal force pulling me around as a wolf."
At the mention of a wolf Joey perked up and craned his little blonde head around to look back at her. His eyes were wide with excitement.
"Wolf coming?" he asked.
She was sure he didn't understand fully what happened to her when the wolf was around, but it never really bothered him. To her dismay he was often sad when the wolf left and suddenly she was home.
She shook her head at him now.
"No the wolf isn't coming today. The horses might be afraid of the wolf and you don't want the horses to be scared do you?"
His head shook fervently and he leaned forward to whisper something intelligible to the horse.
"I get the feeling that sometimes, Joey would like the wolf to be around more than Me." her statement was only half hearted because she knew that the wolf was still her, yet she managed to be jealous of herself.
"Stopping would be a good idea, maybe stretch our legs and backs a bit.”
He recalled the conversation he had had with Thanos, and thought Diane might need to know the outcome, since it could effect her now too.
"I did tell Thanos that I would welcome anyone of the pack should the need arise, and that I planned to look into buying up another piece of property connected to this...up along the coast are several more acres. I should have bought them back when I got this land but I wasn't sure then how long I'd be staying."
Grinning a little mischeviously at her, Bastian could only hope his decision to go ahead and buy that land now, would be the right thing, and that Diane might be another reason behind why it would be.
"I'm not sure if he'll ever take me up on it, but I'm thinking a guest cottage might still be a good idea." Not for pack alone, but maybe even if Diane decided to invite her own family to visit. It was clear Shady Pines probably wouldn't be the best place for them. Bastian hadn't seen her place there, but doubted it was very big, or big enough for many more beyond her and Joey. He would bring that topic up again later if it became necessary. To do so now was still presumptuous.
He listened as Diane described her contact with local pack women, and how she found herself still on the outside a little. He could identify with that feeling, but since his situation was self imposed, it didn't matter to him.
“It doesn’t sound ridiculous to me...its flattering actually.” He hadn’t caught on to any signals then, but was so wrapped up with Reign there had been no reason to look anywhere else. How many other similar signs had he missed, if any, he wondered.
The interaction between Diane and Joey was heartwarming. Watching the two of them seemed exactly as he had imagined a life with his own family would have be. Her loving patience with him was really wonderful, and he couldn’t see how the boy would grow to be anything beyond a bright, decent, happy, and caring man. How different would his life had been, if his own mother had been more like Diane?
‘Oh no...I’m not going there.’ He thought quickly. Bastian did NOT want to see Diane in the role of his mother...ever. He was just getting used to seeing her in the role of a lover, and mixing the two was...well...Oedipus he was not.
“Boys are fascinated with animals...I know...I was one once.” He teased. “But I’d guarantee you, no matter how interesting he finds the wolf, its his mama he’s going to want when he skins his knee, or has a bad dream.”
Bastian would like to think Joey would come to no harm through out his life, but that wasn’t practical, or logical. All he could really hope for was that any harm would be such that Diane could comfort the boy, and that he would not suffer irreparable damage. More thoughts that had no business in his head today, Bastian dismissed them, and slid off his horse, tying Tempesta to a nearby tree.
Walking over to Diane, he reached up for Joey, and once the boy had his feet on the ground, he reached up for the pretty lady, letting his hands linger a little longer as they held her waist. The temptation to kiss her was let go of for now, but the look he gave her shouldn’t have brooked any confusion. Knowing how she felt was all he had needed to open once closed doors to him. Bastian hoped to have the opportunity to go through those doors soon, and wanted to be sure Diane understood that. If she had any misgivings, he hoped she would deal with them now, or present them. Otherwise...
“Hey champ, are you hungry, or are you going to want to ride some more? We’ve got all afternoon, so either way you’ll have more time on the horse.”
Bastian watched Joey, and Diane, and was truly glad he had extended this invitation to them both.