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Melbourne ☆ Master Cellist/Conductor of the MSOSanctusX
28 year old Halfbreed Dhampir ☆ He/Him

Vladimir had been surprised that morning after Sollozzo struck, when he had awoken to find Améa still sleeping in his arms, along with the small feline companion. Even more surprising still was the fact that after all that had happened, and with all the lingering doubts that whatever it was would die away with the morning light, Améa did not seem to harbour any rancour. Neither did Vladimir, of course, but in his case he knew it would go without saying.

No, it was becoming painfully obvious to him as the days and weeks rolled by that her company wasn't just something he was obligated towards because of duty. He wanted to spend time with Améa. He wanted to watch her read, or study her expression whilst he played the cello, or as she tended to the animals. This was no longer a bond built solely out of duty and a promise. 

He simply wanted to be in Améa's company for the sake of her company. And, of course, mostly importantly for her.

Damn it, Vladimir, what are you doing?

He chose not to listen to the part of his brain that was questioning everything. There was to be none of that, and especially not today. Not when the home was oddly vacant for once, leaving only Vladimir, Améa, and the animals for a time. The man had promised Améa an afternoon with music, and so it was spoken - so it would be done. He trekked outside with his cello though he did not set up camp out on the lawn. No, he had other ideas, though he was certain the first time Stuart had caught him playing on the roof of the house, he had almost given the man a heart attack. 

"Améa," he greeted her outside on the lawns, extending his hand out and motioning with his head to the roof. "An afternoon of music I did promise, and I do not break those vows. Indulge me - it has been a while since I performed on the rooftop. Shall we?"

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Narragyambie Guest
25* year old Halfbreed Sorceraic ☆ She/Her

With her limitations lifted, there was no longer a need to be constantly under guard. The sudden freedom of being able to move as she wished, and to be left alone at times, had taken some time in getting used to. It had become an odd feeling to realise that none of her blood family were within yelling distance, and while she still enjoyed the quiet solitude as she always had, it was no longer as preferable to be alone. She found she'd become so used to knowing that Stuart or Mary, Jezebel or Adele were just around one corner or the next, that it was weird to know that they no longer were. Always ready to move if she needed them, but not as physically close as they had been since the Unwedding.

She had spent the morning tending to her share of the animals on the property. Now that she had the size and strength to do more jobs, more jobs she had been given. She enjoyed it. Améa had never shirked any mud or smell, or avoided a job that needed doing. The animals were perfect company, and she had a way with them that she had never had with people. Animals did not judge your clumsy use of a strange language, and so she babbled to them almost constantly as she worked. Sometimes in English, sometimes in her more comfortable native tongue. 

Today she worked and talked doubly fast, looking forward to Vladimir's promise to play for her. Always thorough, she promised each and every one of her animal friends that she would tell them all about it when she next did her rounds. Perhaps they would even hear it from where they were, she said. They were definitely in for a treat, Vladimir was extremely talented. 

Returning to the house, her expression brightened visibly on seeing Vladimir with his instrument. She wiped her hands across her long skirt, aware of the muck and grime that had attached itself to her as she worked. Améa gave an embarrassed half-laugh, though the prospect of a rooftop concert was utterly thrilling. And sweet of him, too, to remember her love of heights and the nights where his music had first carried her through deep sadness.

"I am very mess, will you allow for me to change?" she asked, but it wasn't really a question. Now that her work was done, she wanted to be clean again. With a broad smile, she ducked in toward the house, fetching towels along the way as though she'd lived here all her life and felt utterly comfortable in every way. At least, until the quiet serenity of the shower brought her mind back to some awkward scenes in her latest dreams, and she realised that this was the first time that she and Vladimir were entirely alone together. Was this wise? What if those impulses got the better of her?

It was, she told herself, simply the absence of Zane in her life that had caused this. Poor Vladimir had become the target by proximity, she hoped he had not noticed. With no outlet to sate her appetite, it had simply gotten... well. Worse. She had seen the same happen to Adele over the years, starved of those particular attentions, there was very little her mother would not reach for. That was how Lauren had happened.

Améa was better than that. Améa would not, could not use Vladimir in such a way. He deserved more, and far better than just that. The dreams disgusted her in a way. Still, she had found it difficult lately to be near Vladimir and not be reminded of those vivid scenes. Not be curious about the reality. She had caught herself staring, stopped her hands and the words just seconds before they left her lips. Was it really a good idea to be alone with him?

The question played on her mind, stepping into her room to dress. She saw the bed, and the present left upon it. A sudden fury burned away all of the complex questions, she dressed herself hastily and stormed out to the hallway.

"Who is leave this here?" she yelled, to Vladimir or to the empty air---it was hard to tell. "Who is bring this here? Who is that did bring. this. here?!" an angry arm pointed into her bedroom, and the offending item laid upon her bed. Still covered in dust, inches thick. Strings worn and warped, dulled with neglect and in need of loving restoration. Her once-treasured violin.

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Melbourne ☆ Master Cellist/Conductor of the MSOSanctusX
28 year old Halfbreed Dhampir ☆ He/Him

"Of course," Vladimir remarked softly, watching as Améa went off to attend to her needs after taking care of the animals. In the meantime, Vladimir settled his cello case down on the ground, at the same time that Améa's small feline friend joined him. Blinking, Vladimir's red eyes softened upon sight of the little creature, crouching down to give the cat affections. Vladimir would have even turned into his panther form to play with the cat, but he knew that it was perhaps not wise to be in that form especially if someone could arrive home suddenly.

Vladimir had no desire to have hot coffee thrown into his eyes. He had no desire to be struck with spells in order to incapacitate him. Enough of that happened to him in his human form as it was - he wished to leave his animagus form in peace.

Eventually the feline grew bored of Vladimir's petting, and thus he let the creature move on with the day, the man taking a seat in the meantime while he waited for Améa to finish refreshing herself. And, the longer he was with his own thoughts, the more they drifted back to Améa and the niggling at the back of his head. Was this wise, to pine over a woman that he knew he shouldn't feel such things? The worries began to compound. What if she only tolerated his company for the sake of his sad history? What if everything was simply untrue, that this was all just something fabricated by his very mind, that all of this was nothing?

Or, the worst worry of all, that if Améa laid eyes upon Zane again, everything would be forgotten, and that cretin would have back in his grasp a woman he did not deserve in the slightest.

It was the latter of his worries that caused Vladimir physical discomfort when he thought about it. If only Améa could see that she deserved better than that... Vladimir could give her everything she-

His eyes snapped open when he heard the indignation and fury in Améa's voice, the man immediately on his feet and heading to the source. "Améa, what has happened?" Vladimir asked, though his eyes soon caught sight of the offending item. The maestro's face softened immediately, mask gone, at the sad state of the violin. As for who, he did not know, and he told Améa as much. "I don't know who brought it." 

He knew what he wanted to do however. Vladimir approached the item as though it were a frightened creature, hand reaching out to touch the dust and grime upon the wood, to feel the strings worn out and warped. Without much a second thought, he picked up the violin and held it in his hands, surveying the workmanship that he could see went into the making, despite the sad state of affairs that it was in. The violin that he had heard tales of - for a split second, he wondered what sound it would produced in harmony with his cello - before he refocused.

Turning back to Améa, with the violin in his hands, his eyes were still softened as was his expression, gesturing with the instrument. "I can restore it, Améa, if you would want me to do so. Breathe new life into it.

But Vladimir also knew that the violin was a source of... contention? Perhaps that was one word that could be associated. Vladimir had to explain further. "A musician, a maestro... It hurts the heart and the soul to see it in such a state, when I know I can repair it. If you will it, then so it shall be done If not... I will leave it alone." Perhaps if he could repair the violin... if he could help repair the damage that had been done, perhaps it would help Améa to heal from her past, from all that had been done. 

A question then. "And... I hope you will indulge me, my dear-Vladimir Ivanovich what are you doing with that verbiage choice!? "-would you accompany me? If I do repair it?"

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Narragyambie Guest
25* year old Halfbreed Sorceraic ☆ She/Her

The violin was--or had been--a masterpiece. Lovingly hand-crafted, a one-of-a-kind work made specifically for Améa. It had been beautiful, once. Now it was the sad and neglected reminder of the father who had it made for her, simple, elegant, clean and with no effort spared in selecting the finest materials and adjusting for the sweetest sound. It had been her absolute joy, this violin. She had never seen another that compared, though even the most perfect of examples would always pale in her eyes against the one she had loved so much. Seeing it here and now, in the harsh daylight, she realised how broken it had become.

She hadn't loved it enough. She had let it die, like she had her father.

Of course, Vladimir didn't know how it got here. Améa wasn't sure why she had asked, except to vent the burst of anger. This had her mothers' family written all over it, specifically her grandmother. What was she playing at now? Améa was sick of the games. Seeing Vladimir handle the instrument, her heart twisted. How could she have done this? Perhaps it was only a violin, an object, a thing in the world, but the way Vladimir cradled it, the way he looked down as if it were a wounded animal, she felt remorse for what he saw. 

"Mine father had this made for me," she said after a long and sad moment. "I do not play now." And he knew why, too. When he asked if he could restore it, Améa fought back the urge to snatch it from his hands. No. He was being kinder to the violin than she had in many years, she had no right to do that. An instrument like this deserved... better. So she nodded, she would allow him to restore it. That at least seemed appropriate.

The next was a flutter of confused delight as he uttered the words "my dear", quickly followed by a deep uncertainty. Be there when it was repaired? For what reason? Would he need her assistance in the task? Did she have to? Maybe it would be better just to lock it away again... but still... it would mean more time with Vladimir. Watching him work. Talking about music. Listening to music. Feeling safe and happy and connected and did it even matter if the violin was a part of it? She was curious as to how Vladimir went about restoring instruments anyway, it wasn't like she would be playing it, and this way she would be able to ensure that the finished result was worthy of her father.

"Even if you go to depths of hell, mine Vladimir, for any reason I will go with---only need is you want for me there," she said with a half smile. "If mine company is your desire, this I give in you working."

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Melbourne ☆ Master Cellist/Conductor of the MSOSanctusX
28 year old Halfbreed Dhampir ☆ He/Him

No, Vladimir knew all too well by this point that Améa did not play the violin any longer. Though he had to wonder - if he did manage to restore it to its former glory, would that help? Would it encourage her to take up the strings once again? Would she accompany him on the cello, a beautiful string duet? Vladimir found the imagery pleasing to his mind, but he nipped the idea before it had any time to grow.

First he needed to work on the restoration, and see how Améa would respond. Only then would he entertain anything else. What he wanted was not imperative - the only thing that mattered was that the violin was fixed, and to Améa's liking. 

When he received the nod that he could restore the violin, a pleased little smile came to his face. There was an absolute joy in bringing and instrument back to life, and the feeling in his belly grew a little more when Améa agreed to the idea of joining him in the restoration process. Never mind the fact that she had called him mine. There was a giddy sensation that went right up his spine, and he knew all too well at this point what it meant.

Damn it, Vladimir, you shouldn't be. But yet it was becoming clearer and clearer that he was.

"I will cherish the company," he informed Améa softly, setting the violin back down on the bed for the time being. "Restoration takes time and patience, but another set of eyes and hands helps to make the process a lot more bearable. It is also your violin. I want to make sure it is restored to your satisfaction." And Vladimir was most certainly not lying about that. But, this was not the purpose of the afternoon, and after all, he had promised her music. Heading to the doorway with Améa, Vladimir stepped out into the hall and, with a small wave of his hand, summoned his cello case. When it was in his grasp, he set it down and turned to his companion.

"I did, however, promise you music. And music you shall have," he indicated, before gently threading his arm through the crook of Améa's elbow. With a small pop, he brought them up and onto the roof of the house.

Now begged the question... He did have an enormous repertoire of music at his disposal, but what did Améa want to hear in particular? Did she want him to ride on pure feeling? Classical? His own words and creations? 

As he prepared the ebony cello for an afternoon of performance, Vladimir asked Améa, "Did you wish for some music in particular Améa? Or is this afternoon to the maestro's discretion?" He supposed he ought to elaborate. "Classical? Original work? Or perhaps... riding on the waves of feeling whatever feels best? I am at your disposal."

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Narragyambie Guest
25* year old Halfbreed Sorceraic ☆ She/Her

And that was it, the violin was being restored. Améa pushed back her unease over the project, better to leave it in Vladimir's capable hands. At least once restored, it could be put away properly, preserved in absolute perfection. She liked the idea of that. She could not part with it, but perhaps a case and display worthy of the violin's beauty, that would be a fitting tribute. Maybe one day, it wouldn't hurt so much to look at it.

She followed him back out to the yard, the matter settled. Though she still had half a mind to find her grandmother, demand to know who and why and what on earth they thought they were doing bringing it here, that anger could wait. This afternoon was for music. Faireth circled around her ankles, and she bent down to scoop up the kitten-sized cat just seconds before Vladimir spirited all three up to the rooftop. An experience the cat did not appreciate all that much, though Améa simply shook off the uncomfortable prickling of wizard magic from her system. 

Perching herself comfortably on the rise of the roof, she settled Faireth into her lap, stroking her fair white coat as she stared intently at Vladimir.

"I wish for to hear you play your heart," she said. Essentially whatever felt best, whatever best represented Vladimir's state of being. The cat purred under her attentions, nestling in against the fabric of her skirt as Vladimir prepared to play. The afternoon was nice, so clear and quiet. From here Améa could spot Mary's cabin, most of the animals she tended, and well out toward the township of Narrie, across the flat earth. It wasn't the storeys-high view from Tallygarunga, but it was still nice.

"Play for me what you is feel."

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Melbourne ☆ Master Cellist/Conductor of the MSOSanctusX
28 year old Halfbreed Dhampir ☆ He/Him

It was almost comforting to watch Améa settle herself down with the cat on her lap, a small smile gracing his lips as he took the cello and prepared for the afternoon of music at hand. All the while his eyes kept careful watch of the surroundings, not wanting to be caught unawares by anything. Even though he was well aware that it was just the two of them home, their animal companions notwithstanding, Vladimir's sense of duty did not leave him. He had vowed to protect Améa, and though he was certain nothing would happen, that did not mean he would be lax.

That was until Améa told him to play what he felt, based from the recesses of his heart.

It was a most dangerous request.

His mind was at war with what his heart wanted. It had been this way for some time now, since Améa had returned to her normal state. Since the night he had held her in his arms and watched her sleep, worry and stress free for a time. Sollozzo was still a risk, Zane was the proverbial thorn in Vladimir's side, Vladimir had no right to feel what he did. His mind was still as of yet too worried to put a definitive label on what his heart wanted.

Perhaps he ought to talk to Stuart... the man was, after all, Améa's biological father.

"Then play from the heart I shall," Vladimir informed Améa. She had made a request, and he could not refuse her, even if it caused him internal pain knowing that he could not have what he truly wished for. He could show Améa all that he could offer her, but in the end, Vladimir was well aware that he could not proceed, nor should he - she was, after all, a married woman still. But to keep her company, he would live with the internal agony. If Améa was happy and content, then that was all that truly mattered - she did not have to know or be burdened by his own emotions.

He chose not to introduce the song by its title - would be too on the nose, almost rude, but it was a beautiful piece, and he was certain Améa would approve of it. To tell her that it was called Seduction was... no. He should not, even as he began to play, letting his hands do their work on the cello. But instead of allowing his eyes to close, they remained open, carefully watching Améa and her feline companion.

Would she be able to read between the lines of the notes and chords that he played?

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Narragyambie Guest
25* year old Halfbreed Sorceraic ☆ She/Her

Améa was not familiar with the music by its name. She knew the names of very few pieces, and when she did know what they were called, always found the names paled in comparison to the stories told within the notes. Nor was she particularly familiar with much music outside of what Vladimir played, what was popular around town. The majority of the music she knew was songs of her homeland, pieces entirely unknown here. She would have to start bringing Vladimir sheets to play, she still had them. Back at home. Locked away where the poor violin had been.

From the first note she was spellbound. This was normal. Even Faireth stopped her fussing, allowed Améa to absently pat her while the two of them watched Vladimir play with quiet intensity. The long, dulcet tones wrapped around her, the world outside their rooftop seemed to fade away. Sollozzo could have walked up behind her and she would not have noticed, so completely enthralled was she in the music. Watching Vladimir's body as he moved with it, feeling his heart and soul sing between the strings. Melancholic, longing, a delicate dance of desire and hope, fear and caution. She did not know what the piece was called, no. But she knew that it reflected well enough the internal battle that kept her awake long after dark.

Did he fight the same battle? She had asked that he play his heart... was this some clue, that he watched her with the same thoughts as she watched him? No---Améa knew she couldn't even begin to let her mind wander down that track. And Vladimir was far too polite for such thoughts. He was her good friend, her protector, and she was a mite confused and (ahem) thirsty with all that had happened over the past twelve months. Vladimir was a man of honour. She couldn't imagine him being driven by such base wants.

Captivated, she watched, listened, eyes locked onto Vladimir and almost unblinking. A profound love of music, something else, or... both? 

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Melbourne ☆ Master Cellist/Conductor of the MSOSanctusX
28 year old Halfbreed Dhampir ☆ He/Him

Vladimir continued to play. With every chord, every tremolo, Vladimir allowed his music to speak where his words could not. Music could say so much more than any verbal language could convey. And in this instance, Vladimir was allowing his music to reach out to Améa, to grasp her in its winding, dulcet tones, and hold her just like he had the night Sollozzo struck and killed David. He had promised to protect her - he had not thought that any other form of affectionate thoughts would join in and take over. 

And as the song continued, he could see that she was not taking her eyes off of him. There were swirling emotions in her eyes, unblinking as they were, and Vladimir attempted to try and decipher what she was thinking without both breaking into her mind, nor losing his concentration. The song could not be interrupted, it could not be blemished in any way. He had to show her that she deserved to be happy, content, to be protected and lov-

No, Vladimir, there's no point in thinking of that word. But good Lord, it was so hard not to.

When the last tone rang in the air and his music stopped, Vladimir lowered his bow arm momentarily but did not let his eyes leave Améa's face. He knew she loved his music so - she never hid it, and it remained obvious even now. But was there anything else? Vladimir could never bring himself to ask. What he was feeling was forbidden - and besides, he had been burned enough in the past. What made him think that, even if her vows and marriage to Zane were not in the picture, that she would even choose him? The positive of his brain brought forth the conversations they'd had, the closeness that they now shared. The negative brought up his ever familiar argument, in his former love's voice.

He was nothing but a monster.

"I have another piece in similar fashion. I hope it is to your liking, my dear," Vladimir managed to tell her, without spilling out all of the confusing emotions running through him. Reflection was also a beautiful piece, and perfect for his heart at the moment - to reflect on all of this and wonder if he was on a fool's errand, or if perhaps he ought to stop his brain from spearing his heart over and over again. His eyes stayed on her as he played, as they often did.

If it really were a fool's errand, then at least let his end be dignified.

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Narragyambie Guest
25* year old Halfbreed Sorceraic ☆ She/Her

Was she even breathing? The music faded away, but her rapture did not. The world was so small and so perfect, she couldn't take her eyes away for fear of letting reality back in. Even Faireth, cosied up on her knee, was forgotten for a time. This moment belonged to them, the bond so intense and so strong and so real. At any other time, with any other person, such prolonged eye contact would be weird and uncomfortable. There was no hiding here, either. Améa had reached a point beyond concealing herself from Vladimir. She made no effort to obscure her pure love of his music, and whatever else that she harboured there but feared to name.

Very few saw her this expressive. Almost none saw her in this state of true happiness. Her dreams may have plagued her with unwanted desires, but the truth was that she was awed by him. He called her "my dear" and those two words made her heart sing. Had she not been frozen in place by his gaze, she might have stood---rushed forward to embrace him. Crashed into that strong body, laced her fingers between his---worshipped them for the magic and the music that they made. 

Zane's strength had been false. She knew that now. A farce held up by pain, he "proved" his strength with a fist. Vladimir did not need to. Vladimir did not crumble, he did not lose himself if she said the wrong thing, made a wrong step. And he wove beauty from wood and strings. Zane had never made music. Zane had never made anything beautiful for her. Not even herself, and not even as she dedicated every moment to him. Her every breath. 

That devotion had nearly brought about her end, she had thought that a mere and expected consequence of love. Yet her connection to Vladimir was as strong, arguably stronger than that she had felt to Zane. She did not feel depleted in his presence, she felt energised

Améa's mouth parted a little, breathing in as still she stared back into his eyes. She wanted to tell him. She wanted him to know that when he spoke, her heart skittered a little. That she never felt more secure than when he was near. That the best part of waking up was rushing to his room, and seeing him again. That for all the flaws he hated in himself, he was impossibly perfect in her eyes, that she would quite happily spend the rest of her life reminding him that he was no monster. He was her Vladimir, protector and friend, and no one would ever be able to convince her otherwise. 

The words bubbled to the surface, her thighs tensed ready to stand and let it all out----but Vladimir spoke first.

And the moment was gone.

Instead she nodded, certain before the first note even sounded that it would be to her liking. She relaxed again, the words settling back into feelings, admiration and awe. Gods, but if only she wasn't married.

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Melbourne ☆ Master Cellist/Conductor of the MSOSanctusX
28 year old Halfbreed Dhampir ☆ He/Him

Vladimir continued his playing, but it had not at all escaped his notice that Améa had seemed poised on the verge of saying something. Was she perhaps going to refute his musical choice? Or was it something else? Vladimir could not ask for clarification, not now, not when the music demanded his attention. The music, and his admiration of Améa both, they took every ounce of his brain capacity. 

He would beg her forgiveness after the song was done. For now, he would reflect on everything, much as he had been for the past several days, weeks, and months. He could spend his time reflecting on how much better Améa seemed since he had first laid his eyes upon her when he had returned to Australia a year ago now. He could easily recall how disoriented she had been in the hot sun. How he had picked her up in his arms, taken her to shade and safety, cursing within his mind with every breath and cuss he knew. Zane had never deserved her, not in Vladimir's opinion.

But he would not bring that up. She was still married to him, even if it seemed as though his hold on her had loosened considerably since the year before. Would Vladimir ask for confirmation, however? That was unlikely. Vladimir did not want to risk upsetting her, or worse, finding out that his reflections and his affections were all for naught.

And when the last of the chords rung in the air and it all fell into silence, Vladimir could hear her breathing, hear her heart as it beat away in her chest. Well then, out with it, so he could make his apologies before ceding to more music.

At least music was a good shield, insofar as an instrument and intangible notes could be.

"Forgive me, I began to play and it seemed as though you were poised to speak. Is everything all right?" Vladimir asked at first, before he inquired further, "Would you prefer I change the tone of the music?

Please don't say yes. Anything but that. For such an answer would mean his affections and his feelings were most certainly misplaced, and even though he knew he could not act on some of the deeper desires coursing through his veins, he did not want to lose his ability to at least hug her. Hold her. To smile at her and revel when she would smile back. The want to kiss any of her worries away was a forbidden wish, and it could not make itself known, not with her vows in place. Vladimir himself almost froze when he realized what he had just thought of.

Gah. He was falling in love with her, and he shouldn't have been. 

Monsters aren't supposed to be loved or feel it in kind. He still remembered that line in particular, from all those years ago.

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