Caius couldn't help but snicker at the exasperation his purposefully pretend ploy at an ignorant response dragged out of the Burhan, her dramatic sigh amusing to the northern noble who found such pretenses more than just a little irritating, "I don't own much as I do my sarding best to keep away from parties with our kind. That said, this one, well, I really don't have a choice. I'm not judging, I promise."
Caius smiled, ink-stained hand straying to trail fingers listlessly over the back of his neck at her curiosity about Viden. The pair at least shared an understanding, a separatist tension from strict adherence to Rynlist tenants, both quite aware that yes, sometimes the Immortals actually did care about the mortals of Idalos and actually stepped into their lives in the most unexpected of ways. While Rynlism revered their clever, powerful mortal ancestors who were worthy of the worship they received, there was more to the story and at least both of them felt as though, in their own ways, knew of it. He shook his head at her question,
"In person? No. I didn't seek her out, but I did catch a glimpse of Ziell once—just a peek—in Ashan last arc—did you know he comes to visit the city and has his own holiday? Sarding amazing."
The young Gawyne made no effort to keep his voice down or hide his enthusiasm for the conversation, a passionate academic when it came to the subjects he was actually pursuing with purpose and effort, "Her hand in the city is far from invisible, to be honest."
But then she caught him, her questioning that led to him speaking of a particular Venora and the emotions that played themselves across his features, in his eyes, and even in the tone of his voice. Caius noticed quite clearly that his words made Valeria grow silent, thoughtful, far from ignorant of their history. She almost appeared to have something to say and he almost considered saying something more, fumbling through an excuse to smooth things over despite the truth that there was no shame or hurt feelings between himself and the Lady Burhan, their friendship apparently comfortable enough to allow for interesting expressions of such, "Noble? I suppose."
Stupid, too, but she hadn't said that. Would she have?
His eyes faded, paled to a duller blue, and he watched her and Ericor interact over dresses and fabric, the blonde Elithem finally allowing herself to be convinced to try something on. Disappearing from view behind the curtain, Caius let his fingers fiddle indecisively with the polished buttons of his vest, glancing around the clothing store as if attempting to find inspiration for himself before he allowed the shop owner complete and total free reign over his dressing style for the Gala, unable to convince himself that he cared either way. He would be there out of obligation more than enthusiasm, there because of Darcy and present for Oliver, already aware that he would be allowing himself to be seen in public with the Lady Venora as more than just an accessory—their relationship wouldn't be a secret.
Valeria reappeared while Ericor was ferreting the perfect selection of fabrics for the young Gawyne and she couldn't help but give him a somewhat private viewing of the dress. Grinning at her, he shrugged his narrow shoulders at her opinions,
"If you're wanting to represent your House, you know you're going to have to sarding wheel Ser Edderick back in from the depths he's swimming. He's just going to keep sailing farther from shore, of course."
Caius teased her, both about the shop keeper's eccentric nature and how his pricing could end up out of control without proper discipline. Her serious words stole his smile and made his chest tighten, one hand straying towards his mouth for him to chew on an ink-stained nail before answering. The truth was that the knowledge-hungry northern noble had in some ways already made some decisions in his mind despite the relatively short amount of time he'd known Darcyanna,
"This isn't the place to speak of her feelings about herself, and while I have comments, they aren't for ... here. Let's suffice to say that I'm doing what I can for all of that."
A mix of emotions churned in his irises—Darcy's secrets were not ones he felt like sharing with Lady Burhan. Not here. Not now. Perhaps not ever. His words were protective, guarded, and a surprising response from the young Gawyne whose tone would be familiar to Valeria as if he was speaking of his sister, Ivy. He sighed, glancing to see where Ericor was and what he was busy with, her words touching places he hadn't expected them to touch,
"I'm quite taken with her, yes. More than I should be, perhaps, but I don't have any regrets. Am I serious? Between us, V—promise me this is between us—"
Caius lowered his voice, dragging a palm roughly across his face as if to wipe the obvious infatuation from it, as if to keep the smile that tugged hesitantly at his aquiline features from fully taking over his face. He failed, irises warming to a bright near-amber hue, "—between us, yes, I'm sarding serious. That kind of serious."
The committed kind. He'd just never said it out loud before, and it showed. Caius looked away with his words—looked everywhere in the small shop than at the blonde Elithem's face, blushing furiously.
Thank the Fates Ericor appeared then, far too enraptured by Valeria looking gorgeous in whatever article of clothing she put on, arms in the air appreciatively as he teased the young Gawyne about the colors she wore, eliciting a smirk from him,
"I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm far below my Lady Burhan's station despite our similar titles. She would never choose to marry down to a Gawyne."
Caius winked teasingly at her, letting V explain her desires again to the clothier, crushing the man's dreams one syllable at a time. She seemed to be attempting to save some coin, which the printer's diri understood now that he was living on his own, far from home and without the financial support of his Barony. Ser Ederick appeared to understand her, though he wasn't entirely any more convinced than she was.
Turning his attention to the fabrics laid out by the other man, Caius let ink-stained fingers wander over the selections, creative sensibilities consuming the varying shades of purple as well as the types of fabrics offered him. As Ericor fled gleefully toward the dresses again and Valeria taunted him in return, he mocked a sneer and reached for the buttons of his vest without hesitation,
"Nothing you haven't sarding seen before now is it, V?"
He laughed, obviously willing to bury all of the honesty he'd just laid at her feet about Darcyanna with what could only be described as their rather comfortable history. Aware of just how inappropriate his comment was, the northern noble was far from shy about being so crass, though he also knew he'd have to subject himself to Ericor's measurements as it'd been several seasons since he'd bothered to actually go shopping for much of anything, especially here. Rolling his eyes, he set his vest on the chair the blonde Elithem was leaning on and slipped out of his well-worn, knee-high boots,
"Your purse may have more regrets, honestly, but it's not like Ser Ederick doesn't know what he's doing. Not that he needs to make much effort for you, however."
Caius complimented her generously as if to make up for his wickedness, finding their familiarity a selfishly needful relief when somewhere he didn't really want to be.
Ericor returned with a dress in his arms, his bright eyes straying to the less dressed and ready for his attention young Gawyne,
"Ah, the Seven have blessed me! It's good to see you know what you're doing here, my Lord."
He all but purred, waggling eyebrows in a way that was somewhat unexpected before offering Valeria what he had in his arms, "Do please try this on, my Lady, while I tend to our other guest here."