He couldn’t deny his love for nature. There was something peaceful about being in nature, even without an ability which lent to the affinity. Since he was a young man, even in his entitlement, Roman went hiking with friends, skiing, surfing. Perhaps it was the sense of danger that came with a few of those activities, perhaps it was the ability to prove that he was stronger, faster, more equipped to handle the ruggedness of the terrain. It helped having company, though, especially when it was someone he found tolerable.
Daniela seemed as if she needed this hike more than he did, though. It was awful what had happened to her hibiscus plant - he had heard about it not just through her but one of the guards who might then have had a terrible accident. He didn’t mention that part to the woman, though, only lent a sympathetic ear and did his best to be encouraging. If anyone could put the bloom to sorts it was she.
“So beautiful,” Roman managed, fingers caught up in Dani’s when they’d gotten somewhere that being happened upon was less likely. “The day is lovely, too,” he teased, squeezing her hand.
There was no need for a map, even in the dense part of the forest. He knew these trails and where they led, which allowed him the luxury of just being in her company.
The encounter with the guard that had left her poor plant in a sorry state had really shaken her up. She knew the guards would bully the residents for their own sick amusement - poor Ehren was often in their sights - but this had been the first time she had ever received that treatment herself. It was a harsh reminder that she needed to be more wary and It infuriated her. Dani hated feeling uncomfortable and suspicious of others.
She didn’t feel uncomfortable now though. Not while she was away from everything and enjoying nature in the company of the man she adored. A walk in the forest always left her refreshed and the addition of Roman by her side just made it all the better. It was a welcome reprieve from the negative feelings that had plagued her the last couple days.
Dani let out a soft giggle. “Such a charmer,” she returned with amusement, smiling sweetly and squeezing his hand. “If you’re not careful you’ll have me falling head over heels. I’d get all dirty and scrapped up on these trails.”
A chuckle would come, color rising into the apples of his cheeks, “Ah, but a mistress of the plants welcomes the Earth.” He didn’t want her injured from swooning but he felt she would be just as home covered in the rich soil as she would void of its dark crumbs.
“How has your plant fared?” The question was probably striking a sensitive chord but he had to ask because he wanted her to think he cared.
“In your care I would assume it’s on the mend.” Hibiscus were a dime a dozen, nearly as easy to get as roses. Another could be had should she choose to obtain it.
Drawing her fingers up, Roman leaned down to press soft, tender kisses upon her knuckles before once more standing at his full height. He resumed their hike, turning his gaze to the canopy.
"Hmm she does," Dani agreed. "But with a gentle hand." She moved her free hand slowly down his arm as if demonstrating. "Not so much a face plant." She let out a soft laugh, leaning a little into him as they strolled along. Her gaze lifted to meet his, her cheeks pink. "So if I do fall... will you catch me?"
The question about the health of her hibiscus made her smile. "Quite well actually," she answered with a hint of pride in her voice. "As if it was never damaged at all." When she initially got the crushed plant home she feared there was no saving it but miraculously it had survived. Not only that, it was thriving. She was so proud.
Her smile grew when his lips touched her hand. His touches were always so sweet. They continued down the path, silence falling between them. There was no pressing desire to fill the silence, both just enjoying the sights and company in comfortable quiet.
Suddenly Dani paused. There was nothing of real interest in the area, just the typical trees and forest debris. She smiled up at him, eyes twinkling. "I'd like to show you something. It's a ways off the trail but it's worth it. I promise."
Was nature kind or cruel? Both? He supposed the same could be said about anything: the weather, human beings, love. “I would. Even if I had to break your fall. Would you nest me in the earth if I was broken?” He doubted she would fall and if she did off of anything substantial enough to warrant breaking any bones.
He was glad to hear her plant was on the mend and doing well, as much as he could be about it anyway. “I’m so glad! I knew it would be in good hands with you. Those rainbow colored ones are rare, or so I’ve been told. The man who sold it to me said they often don’t come in such colors. But those large blooms reminded me of you.”
Companionable silence was good. It allowed him time to recalibrate in case anything else came up that needed attention. Fortunately it didn’t and the distance travelled was comfortable.
And then they were stopping abruptly. He peered down at Dani with interest, eyebrows arching as he considered her words. A smile would come coupled with a nod. “Of course!”
“I would nest you in the earth and tend to your wounds until you were good as new,” she declared, raising their joined hands and pressing her lips to the back of his hand. It was the truth; if he was hurt or sick she could take care of him if he would let her just like she would any other person she cared about.
“Are they?” Dani honestly didn’t know if what he had been told was true or not. Truth be told, she didn’t know too much about hibiscus plants. That would need to change. Pink came to her cheeks. “They are beautiful. I’m glad I was able to save it, your gift. I have it in my room now so I can see it every morning.”
Her smile grew when he agreed to come with her. “Great!” Dani stepped off the trail, pulling Roman along with her. They winded through the trees never staying on one straight path long. The forest grew denser the further they travelled onward, the plant life hardly touched by human hands. Finally after a long journey, they emerged from the woods into a small clearing reminiscent of a painting. Beams of light that managed to penetrate the trees’ canopy illuminated the grassy area sprinkled with wild flowers. Tree branches hung over the clearing’s edge, offering additional shade to any that might find their way to the place.
“What do you think?” She asked, glancing up at him to gauge his reaction. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
Her words sparked a bit of electricity within him; she would save him if he was ill or dying. While that would probably mean a lot to someone else at most he found it intriguing. He would believe her if that time comes and she proved that it was more than just words.
“Thank you. That means a lot to me,” he breathed. His tone was suggestive of trust, that he would willingly put his life into her fingers and palms should it come to that.
The large flower that he’d given her would survive; he knew that whatever flora came into her possession would prevail. That was why he’d given it to her. And also tempted the guard to ruin it.
Alongside her he went, ducking under branches low hanging and dodging underbrush. The perils of being tall was obvious. But the trust was there. As the forest thickened he grew more curious and obtained the spoils of travel: scratches, nicks from the outstretched brush. But when they reached the clearing all of that was forgotten.
“Wow.” His eyes widened, eyebrows arching. In all of his time he’d never seen a place so beautiful. “Honestly,” he began, looking down at her, “This is how I feel when I look at you. I can’t put it into words, but this…” his eyes trailed back to the dancing light and the aesthetic. “This is you.”
Her heart fluttered. This was her? Her gaze moved over the clearing with its lush grass and colorful flowers. Truly? It was so beautiful and awe-inspiring, could anyone, least of all her, really inspire the same feelings that came experiencing from such a place?
She lowered her head slightly, a shy smile crossing her lips. "To be compared to a place like this..." she began softly before growing quiet mid-thought. She was at a loss of what to say so instead of attempting to voice words that wouldn't come she closed the gap between them and touched her lips against his. "It makes me so happy to know I can make you feel this way," she murmured as she pulled away from him, ending the sweet kiss.
Without a word, Dani slipped off her shoes and socks, then stepped forward into the clearing. She appeared to glide across the grass, each step resulting in plants slowly emerging from the soil, leaving a trail of wild flowers behind her. It was a conscious effort; plants did not just simply spring to life at a mere touch without a single thought from her. She wanted the flowers to bloom. She wanted to be enticing, otherworldly, like a forest nymph. She wanted him to admire her, to want her.
"This is where a come to get away. My own secret place." She paused her movement, turning toward him with a soft smile. "I wanted to share it with you." She extended an arm out to him. "Join me?"
The statement uttered was a true one. In spite of his reputation Roman did know how to spit the facts as he saw them, and without a doubt or a moment of hesitation he’d confessed blindly what had travelled from his heart and sat on the tip of his tongue.
“You do, always.” That was also mostly the truth. He wouldn’t put his worth in someone else’s hands, he knew that he was a perfect specimen and didn’t need the value of an opinion to say otherwise. But it was something different coming from her.
As she pulled away and began to remove her shoes he watched with a bit of interest. He doubted if the debris of the forest really bothered someone like her considering her affinity with nature and her ability to make things bloom or grow. He watched as she moved, graceful and elegant like a snowflake on the wind or a leaf in the breeze, and with surprise he observed the very flowers springing up in her wake. It was as if she were ethereal, a goddess amongst mankind.
Roman took a moment to look at the ground, moving around the flowers so as not to crush them with carelessness trying to close the distance between them. “I can’t think of a better place to escape to,” he managed, unable to help the genuine smile creasing his face. Hand found hers and he drew her close as if they were dancing and not standing in the middle of a secluded vale.
Her smile grew as her eyes followed his steps; he was taking great care to not damage the flowers that had bloomed in her wake. That was kind of him. So many would simply tread over the colorful blooms to get to their destination but not Roman. He’d never know just how much she appreciated him sparing the flowers she had helped grow.
“I can’t either,” she agreed as he pulled her close. Her dark eyes met his, her gaze filled with affection. "And I couldn’t think of a better person to share it with.” The way they stood, close together with hands joined facing one another, brought thoughts of dance to her mind. She lifted their joined hands and rested her other hand on his arm. “Care for a dance, Mr. Skye?”
It would have damaged irreparably what he had begun to build should he be so careless. Everything about this whisper of a dance he was leading her in was precise, calculated. Mistakes would be made - he would make sure not to seem too perfect in her eyes - but they would be accounted for. Casualties came regardless.
“You’ve stolen such words from my lips,” He purred at her, sidling up toward Daniela. Hands, arms would take position and as if they were dancing in a fairytale he began to sweep her around gently. “Only if the dance is with you.”
The one two three four, one two three four whisked both of them around in slow, patient circles. “You’re like a Disney Princess right now, all of this dancing in the forest. I think I can hear the birds singing your beauty.”
Dani giggled softly. A Disney princess? She only wished she could be like one of the princesses in her childhood cartoons. It was a sweet compliment and had her mind drifting to those classic stories. Dancing in the forest… that was Sleeping Beauty, wasn’t it? It was, Briar Rose and her Prince Philip spinning gracefully amongst the landscape. It was a beautiful scene.
“Oh? I didn’t know you could understand birds,” she said with faux surprise, smirking. “Let them know I appreciate the compliment.” She was kidding, of course; she knew Roman didn’t have any unnatural abilities to speak of.And frankly, he didn’t need one; he was perfect just the way he was.
She was quiet for a moment, then began to hum the iconic song from Sleeping Beauty, enjoying the moment they were sharing. She started closing the distance between them as they continued to waltz. Her eyes lifted, her gaze and smile filled with affection. “You say I’m like a princess right now…,” she began softly. “Does that make you my prince charming?”
A sly, playful smile would emerge, “I can’t tell you all of my secrets, can I?” He really couldn’t talk to birds and would never claim to do so considering the impact such a statement could have on his reputation. He didn’t want an ability anyway, it seemed like too much trouble to deal with in the first place. His thoughts echoed her own - he was perfect the way he was.
His eyebrows would arch at her question. He had been expecting it, it was the normal flow of conversation, but he pretended to be a bit surprised and delighted by the question. “Hmm, I suppose. Of course I am no prince, just a humble man,” came the reply.
Roman drew her closer, pressing a tender kiss upon the skin of her forehead. They were still dancing and he didn’t want to cease just yet, so the affection was kept light for now.
“Hmm I suppose you’re right,” she said with a similarly playful smile. “And If you tell me all of them there won’t be anything left to surprise me with. I do so love surprises.” The delight when he surprised her with a visit or a gift was proof of that.
Her eyes closed when his lips touched her forehead, fluttering back open once his lips left. “The best princes are just humble men. It’s not the title that makes a prince. They just have to be kind, supportive, charming..." She flashed him a playful smile, running her fingers along his cheek and jaw. "Handsome and talented... prince or not, any princess would fall head over heels."
“Who doesn’t? A good surprise is the spice of life, my dear.” In the honor of surprise Roman ducked down to press a chaste kiss upon full lips, lingering only a few seconds before he pulled backward. The motion never ceased between them, on and on he lead her in the silent waltz.
Upon her explanation of princes, Roman offered a humble smile, “I would hope to live up to such standards of this princess.” Basically she was describing him in a way that mimicked what he had wanted to elicit, he was glad for it. She was taking the bait, so to speak. “And always be humbled in your presence. How does that Shakespearean quote go? ’I am the East and Juliet is the sun.’” Dani was the sun in this circumstance, or so he wanted her to believe.
A surprised noise came from her throat when he kissed her lips, immediately followed by one of satisfaction. “It really is,” she agreed once his lips left hers.
“My standards… you’ve met and gone beyond them.” He was everything she ever would have wanted. How it had taken her so long to realize it she’d never truly know. But she did now. Dani placed her lips gently upon his, short and sweet like the one he had surprised her with. “You’re humbled by my presence?” She gave him her own humble smile. “You shouldn’t be. If anyone should be humbled it should be me in yours.”
He’d been about to say something when his pocket began to vibrate noisily, offering a distraction to the sweet moment. Irritation spread across his features, jaw set in annoyance. Roman pulled back from Dani and held up a finger as they paused in motion, free hand diving into the pocket in question.
Producing his phone he answered the call sounding as exasperated as he looked.
“...wait, slow down. Say that again?” An eye roll. A huff of a breath and Roman pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “Alright. I'm coming. Stay there.”
The phone would click off and Roman tucked it into a pocket. The annoyance faded when he looked upon Dani again, “Please excuse me. Something has come up at work that needs my attention. Would it be alright if we continued this later? My place, for dinner maybe?” He knew that indoors would never compare to the forest but it was all he had.
“I’ll text you later!” And with that he turned and headed quickly out of the vale and back into the trees toward the Facility.
Dani was in bliss. Sharing this moment together, dancing in their secret getaway, trading sweet words and kisses… it was wonderful.
Then it all ended.
It was hard to mask her disappointment though she did her best. The offer to meet again later for dinner did alleviate it somewhat. “Yes. I’d like that,” she said with a small smile. She waved to him as he left, letting out a sigh once he was out of sight. It seemed she would be heading home on her own. At least she had the evening to look forward to. Hopefully.