It was good to be back home.

It was even better walking up the familiar steps of a familiar home. She had, to her astonishment, missed the company of her fellow Dhampirs, their daily routine, their dojo and just Evermore in general. If the time apart had taught her anything, it was that she had finally found a place to belong, a community to belong and hence instead of the agreed six-eight months of vacation, Valeria had come back in four.

Arriving the previous day, she had thrown her bags and directly gone early in the morning to the dojo to greet everyone there. Most of them had been in the midst of their morning session and the shock and happiness on their face on seeing her warmed her heart. A few were missing though and one of them wasn’t all that known for being an early riser.

It was why she decided to make her presence known to him first. So it was at 7:00 in the morning that Val found herself knocking on his door, Memphis’ excited bark adding to the general noise. “Nathaniel Leight! Do you know what time it is?! You better have an excellent explanation on missing the training today” Valeria voiced through the door in amusement “Otherwise, you are going to be in so much trouble.”

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"Not four months gone and things have already changed!" Without pausing Valeria marched in and flopped on the couch, Memphis jumping besides her "I knew exactly why you must have changed the time. You and the early morning sunshine were never best friends afterall" With a mock accusing glare in his direction, she proceeded to make herself comfortable. During the early months of Max's departure and taking over the faction, Nathaniel had been calm rock she had needed, inserting humour and high-lifestyle in whenever things had gotten too tough and they had become good friends, though his rarely ever acknowledged that fact in public. Rather most people often believed them to be at odds with each other, what with their constant bickering and mock fights. 

Resting her head on the cushion, Val took a moment to study the house. It was nice and spacious but what she did know what that it didn't belong to the Dhampir currently inhabiting it "I was surprised to hear that you have been staying here" she began with a grin "What happened? Don't tell me all your flirting lead you to being stalked by one of the girls. I warned you this would happen eventually" It had been a long trip and Val found herself yawning and being lethargic in general. But it felt so comforting to come back to Evermore and that emotion was certainly foreign. 

She had often revisited places, going once a while back to Paris too, but none of those places ever evoked in her the sense of homecoming she felt on entering the parameters of this city. As Memphis proceeded to paw at Nathaniel, she let out a satisfied sigh at finally being back home and with people who had come to become her family. Taking a moment to study him, her mien sincere, the question was something she had asked most of them since morning,but her voice intoned that she was being serious "I am really glad to be back. How have you been?" and because it was her and it was Nate, she couldn't help adding teasingly "Do I need to track a list of all your latest mischief? Mend broken hearts?" 

"Oh come now. Even you know I am not that vain.. but I don't know, I think a part of me wasn't expecting things to change as quickly as they did" She didn't mention to him that she had rarely stayed over at a place for more than a month to really understand how things could change. She had never felt the need to stay longer before and yet here she was months earlier than she had been expected to arrive. Her perspectives had altered a lot since the four months she had been away and though she couldn't really say she had become wiser, it had certainly given her a new understanding about her own self. Perhaps, in some tiny subtle ways, she had matured. 

"I do, don't I? So I can stay with much certainty that right now, you'd probably get us all some food. I haven't had anything since morning" she grinned cheekily his way, glad that though a lot had occurred, they had remained the same. She internally admitted to fearing her members seeing her absence as an act of desertion and a part of her had been unsure about the reception she would get, but the morning had cleared all her doubts and Val was thankful to finally be back in the midst of those she now considered her family. 

Catching the pillow, she burst out laughing at that tag. It had been Maximilian's old nickname for her, that turned from a joke to a non-official title for her among her members. "How have things been? Since you are our resident Gossip Guy, I require you to fill me in on all the happenings around" Though her words were light, she was certainly curious of everything that had been happening around and she trusted Nate to deliver that information accurately. Val didn't know just how he did it, but he was one of the most reliable guys when one needed to know things. 

As Memphis stalked to the kitchen to probably search for food, Val chuckled "I'd go after her if I were you. She has been insanely mischevious and restless during her trip and I won't be accountable if she ends up breaking something." 

It was been a relaxed evening before Maximilian had parted ways with her. They had been watching a movie- watching being a generic word, it was more of Val criticizing the scenes and Max simply nodding off. When it had ended, she had found herself emphatically declaring cheesy nicknames to be the bane of any romance and it had sparked a conversation about nicknames that were appropriate-romantic or otherwise. Val could still remember her arguments on why Duchess was better than Princess or honey or baby or whatever else the generation deemed appropriate and since that time, the name had stuck, to the point that when Max had first introduced her to the faction, he had called her Duchess instead of her own name. 

Grinning widely at Nate's words she swatted him with a pillow "Admit it! You are jealous Max gave me a badass nickname and not you. Well I did offer you to be our page you know" she stated before getting up and stretching "I don't care what you eat but you better have some edible around here or I am forcing you to take me and Memphis to Joe's. I am craving a good sandwich and fries. Maybe a burger. Oh and coffee." She mentally debated her food options as she ambled along to the kitchen, side-stepping Memphis hunger dance. 

"You are telling me you don't know much?! You?! I think I am dealing with an impostor rather than my old friend who wouldn't bat his eyelash when asked for gossip. I think it is time I make good on the threat of getting you a pet. We can start with our dear hamster" Poking her head out, she grinned at the Dhampir's sleepy form before rummaging through the cupboard, snacking on a carrot she had found on the counter "You are living in a sorry state Natie. You don't even have Cheetos!" The complain rumbled more from her stomach than her lips as she walked back to the living room and flopped on the couch "Maybe we should sign you up on one of the many dating websites around. Even Memphis had a romantic boyfriend on the trip."

Resting her head on the pillow, she felt a relieved sigh escape her lips. It was great to back in familiar territory with familiar people and faces and duties. "Speaking of gossip. I have one of my own." Val began suddenly remember the pirate she had left behind in her house "You could say I have a new roommate now." 


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