When Lacie was first hired onto the Archgate Circus, Bertrum expended the vast majority of his energy trying to find extravagant and over the top ways to woo and impress her but none of it worked.
Uuuuntil he does a very normal Bertrum thing and takes care of a baby bird. Pigeons are his favorite and he dotes on every single pigeon he sees; apparently this was attractive to Lacie.
Also—as he and Lacie start dating, he starts calling her “dove” more and more often.
Very very mild description of bird feeling mildly unwell warning.
“Where’s you headed in such a hurry?” Lacie looked over her shoulder at Bertrum, who seemed determined to get back to his car as quickly as he could. Something fluttered in his large hands that he kept close to his chest.
“Come along if you’d like to see.”
She had nothing better to do that evening—the circus’s menagerie had been tended to and the training regimen for the recently acquired horses had long since been completed. Lacie followed Bertrum into his car.
The ringmaster greeted Lacie with a soft, “Hello again, Ms. Benton.” as she entered and he fetched a handful of washcloths from his closet. One was immediately wrapped gently around the softly squeaking bundle of fluff in his hand. “I apologize that my attention is a bit split at the moment, but this little one needs help.”
He led Lacie to his office, turned on the desk lamp, neatly arranged the other towels into a small circle on the table beneath it and set the bundle of feathers down in the middle. A relieved sigh escaped him.
Before Lacie could ask him what on earth he was doing, Bertrum continued muttering. “Proper miracle that this little one’s not frozen solid in this weather.”
“What’s goin’ on?”
Bertrum turned his head to her as though he just realized she was there. “Here.” The giant stepped back for Lacie to see.
A barely-fledged bird looked back at her through tired, half-closed eyes. It could not have been much larger than her own palm. Though both wings were covered in healthy pinfeathers, it was clear it was hurt. One wing hung limply to its side and its keelbone sat prominent. The bird was in obvious need of help.
Behind her, Bertrum had begun to dig through his closet a little. “She’s an Inca dove. Perhaps… three, four weeks old.” A box that looked to be a cross between a first aid kit and storage for pet supplies was set upon the desk as Lacie decided to sit in one of the office chairs and watch the ringmaster-turned-veterinarian work. At some point, Bertrum had procured a mug of warm water, a spoon and a pair of glasses, which he perched on his nose as he sat down to examine his patient.
His voice jumped an octave the instant he heard the dove peep. “Oh, you poor darling. Look at you, sweetheart.” Bertrum cooed. “You’re hurt, aren’t you, love? Goodness…” He pulled a roll of gauze from the box atop his desk before continuing his one-sided conversation with the dove. “And you’re barely out of the nest.” Lacie swore she heard Bertrum whimper in sympathy. “Poor dear…”
The next few minutes were occupied with more of the same—gentle, soothing words that she didn’t realize could come from a man with such an enormous voice. Many light, quick hand motions were all dedicated to the tiny creature.
She didn’t realize how much this bird would tolerate his gentle handling. She also didn’t realize how much she would be enamored.
Before too long, Bertrum had finished with his tiny patient. Between his care, attention and increasingly soft words, he’d managed to calm the little dove down to the point where its squeaks seemed more curious than distressed.
Lacie caught sight of a smile tugging at the corner of Bertrum’s mouth as he rested on his elbows, seemingly satisfied with his handiwork. The bird now bore a tiny sling that immobilized her injured wing against her side.
“See. Nothing was broken—she may have had a hard fall and sprained her wrist or elbow, I’m not sure which. It’s not unusual for squabs.” Bertrum had begun stroking the little bird’s head as it nestled into its small makeshift nest. “Aw. Comfortable, are you? Warm?” He asked the bird, exchanging looks with her now perked-up beady eyes. When Lacie chuckled, Bertrum smiled and explained, “You’ll have to excuse me, I… quite like chattering to them.”
“This shit’s adorable, keep goin’.”
“I’ll see if I can get something in her crop and then let her rest—it’s been quite an eventful day for her.” The ringmaster dipped his finger into the water, then grunted in approval at the temperature before spooning a bit of powdered bird formula into it and stirring lightly. “She doesn’t seem ill. Just a bit stunned, maybe not quite used to the world without mum and dad.” Satisfied with the formula he’d prepared, he offered a spoonful of it to the eager bird. “I don’t mind being mum and dad to a pigeon if need be. I like it.” If he’d been looking at Lacie, he would have noticed her expression of adoration.
“Any dove would be in good hands wit’ you, Piedmont.”