and discovering other peoples' weaknesses.
Unsurprisingly, Mercury wasn’t nearly quick enough to get out of the water before he got to her. She managed to get up two steps before his arm hooked around her midsection and hauled her back against him, with her laughing the whole way. Vandrad informed her that her lessons weren’t over, implying she wasn’t allowed to leave the pool yet, and to further cement the claim he threw them both backward. She instinctively yelped as she realized he was going to submerge them both before water washed over her completely. It took a lot of effort to keep herself from laughing under the water and accidentally choking again, though he didn’t keep them down for long.
When they burst from the depths, the two simultaneously gasped for air while laughing their absolute asses off. It was the most she’d ever heard him laugh with such wild abandon, and not at the expense of someone else like Sabine. Well, it was sort of at her own expense since he was quite literally muscling her into the water, but it was a gesture done out of earnest playfulness rather than any real desire to mock her. And of course, Mercury fought back. In fact, he would find her quite slippery to hold on to, and not just because of the fact that she was dripping wet from the pool. She actually had quite a number of ways to slip herself from someone’s hold and showcased those talents for him even now while they were horsing around, finding quick and efficient ways to break out of each new lock he put her in.
But likewise, Vandrad continued to display his own skills in finding ways to counter all her little tricks, and soon she was just laughing too hard to even fight back all that much. It was the first time in her life she’d ever really felt like a kid, though Mercury herself wasn’t consciously aware of that fact. All she knew was that there was a level of silliness happening that she wasn’t used to, and it was enjoyable to the point where she’d never felt so relaxed and free before.
At some point in her squirming, she’d managed to get turned around to face him where he had her in an embrace that was still lingering from wrestling with her. Their amusement had been reduced to a few somewhat exhausted chuckles, his arms wrapped around her while hers were loosely pinned between both of their torsos. Vandrad looked down at her with a smile that still retained a bit of his usual arrogance when it came to all things combat related, but there was still something kinder in his gaze even as he teased her and claimed a win for himself. She raised a brow at him, smirking. “Oh yeah… tossing me around in an element where I’m at a clear disadvantage. Real big win there, killer,” Mercury teased back just as quietly, her expression widening into a grin.
It was… odd to see him this at ease. Sure, Vandrad had been a lot more friendly and personable this entire trip so far, probably feeling at least some measure of comfort at being home, despite all the shit he’d had to put up with from that stars awful princess. But even among all of that, he had still retained most of his stoic, muted mannerisms, never boisterous or bubbly like she could occasionally be -- though truthfully, Mercury was rarely much for over displays of emotion either, even joy. But something about how relaxed he was with her right now, content to simply float in the warm pool water with her with his guard down, both of them having just made rather honest asses of themselves, was… well, nice.
They simply looked at one another as they bantered lightly in their usual manner, and despite everything Mercury couldn’t help but think back to not even a few hours earlier where he’d kissed her just for the sake of doing so. The Silver Wolf mage couldn’t help but idly wonder what had sparked it, her mind playing the moment back in her head as she reflected on how sweet it had been. It was almost too bad that it had probably been a fluke, a random tactic to ease the strange emotions and tensions that had been steadily building since the night before, things they both openly admitted they had no idea how to interpret or handle.
But as far as she was concerned, it was just a memory now and nothing more. Their relationship wasn’t like that. None of Mercury’s relationships were, and for that matter he was hardly interested in such things, especially with her. Sure they’d slept together once, but he hadn’t even been in control of himself then and it had most certainly been a wild and passionate, once in a life time hate fuck of rather epic proportions. Or at least, it had been a hate fuck on his end. Still, it was a miracle that they’d even continued to work together. Mercury had been well aware that, at least up until recently, the only reason he kept her around was because she was a challenge for him and kept him sharp. That was where the interest stopped.
So almost in spite of everything leading up to this point, she was still taken back by the way he looked at her like he was seeing her for the first time, like he was taking note of all the little details about her as she looked back up at him. His dark eyes seemed to drink her in with an affection she’d never felt before, leaving Mercury keenly aware of how close they were and the fact that they were basically holding one another. As he leaned down to place his mouth on hers again, there was once more a flash of surprise in her eyes, though this time she was able to recover from it quicker than back on the balcony.
The kiss was just as soft as before, like they had picked up right where they’d left off, but somehow it also felt different. He wasn’t being driven by any overwhelming emotions like before, where a lot of difficult topics had settled them both into an insecure place. This was unprompted, so to speak… something he seemed to be doing just because he wanted to, even pulling her closer up against him. Mercury’s head was racing to try and understand what had stirred this kind of want from him, but she was too overwhelmed by her own to think about it too much.
Her lips met his and she once more sank into the gesture, feeling small against his chest with his large arms wrapped tightly around her. She was sure he’d be able to feel how hard her heart was beating as Mercury slowly slid her arms out from between them to circle them around the back of his neck, letting her chest fall against his and surrendering to the moment, no matter where it led. Despite her confusion on where all this was coming from, the Silver Wolf wizard couldn’t deny to herself that she didn’t want it to stop, doing her part to communicate that to him by holding him back just as needfully as she sighed softly against his mouth.