well, okay, sorta.
IT’S CLOSE E-FREAKIN’-NOUGH.
Grey was sprawled in their nest of a bed, staring up at the curve of the enclosing roof, streetlights dimly reflecting up off of the falling snow and filtering through the gauzy curtains that spilled over the top of the bed’s vaulted structure so that Grey could just barely see the glimmer and gilt of stars and swirls and shapes that had been painted onto bed’s ceiling.
Grey’s heart thudded painfully in their chest, breath coming up short, shorter, shortest as a cacophony of sound and image and light and blood, blood, blood—always so much blood—caught Grey sideways and flooded and flickered and filled all those dark places where fear and doubt lived.
This was going so well.
Sticking their head between the gauze—nearly getting tangled up in it because Grey was first and foremost graceful as fuck—Grey saw their aerie door crack open and a familiar, antlered head—antlers just at a scant few inches of length—peer around the edge of the door. “Grey, are you by chance awake?”
Jaw cracking in a face-splitting yawn, Grey hmmmm-ed. “Do you need me for something?”
“Something like that?” Tove shuffled in the paler darkness, hands visibly twisting in even the dark, translucent shift eerily ethereal and soft sleep-pants askew and showing a fawn-dabbled hip. “May I come in?”
That was unexpected.
Despite Grey and Tove being effectively betrothed to each other, there wasn’t, as a rule, a whole lot of contact. Grey’s reticence at having been sent to the Court of Dreams and married the fuck off without any sort of consultation—not that Tove had ever shown any indication that she was any more amenable to their betrothal than Grey—combined with Tove being a blood-wielder—WHICH THERE WAS NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, WRONG WITH BEING A BLOOD-WIELDER (it was actually kind of awesome)—made Grey—anxious.
That might not even be the correct word. Grey did have the emotional range of a warped teaspoon.
But, Tove’s blood-wielder tendencies—triggered things. And, in ways that Killian’s blood-wielder tendencies did not.
Maybe that had to do with how they had come to their abilities: born and innate versus hard-won and unexpected.
Maybe Grey was just unsettled by Tove, and the blood-wielding was a handy-dandy place to lay blame.
Maybe Grey was just an awful person being squicked by something that was a part of someone else that they couldn’t change—and shouldn’t have to.
Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe…
“Sure.” Sitting up and scooting to the edge of the bed, Grey touched the little bedside, rolly-polly, unicorn-shaped light, a cool, soft blue lending just a touch more illumination to the room. Tove was still stalled uncertainly in the doorway. “Please.”
Tove stepped into the room—graceful, always so graceful—her tiny hooves thudding lightly on the vast expanse of rug that softened the floor of Grey’s aerie.
And—it was weird. They all spend so much time together—they lived together, they had classes together, they had lessons with Aedeir together, they ate together—but so much of that time was spent in their polymorphed Euigilans Somnium guises that seeing Tove stripped bare to her Venery form was unreal.
Like a gift.
“How might I help you?” And, there Grey went, shifting into formal obnoxiousness because of their anxiety and confusion. So much fun.
Tove kind of—well, swirled was the closest that Grey could come to describe it even though there was nothing really about Tove to swirl. It was just odd leftover wild skitishness of the deer from which Keryneia had formed all of the Hinds, but the movement—the illusion of movement—was still fascinating, still alluring.
“So,” Tove sighed, settling on the edge of a plush bench, close enough to Grey to speak softly and still be heard but far enough away to not invade Grey’s personal space. Oh. “This is kind of embarrassing?” Tove look uncertain and unsure in the blue-tinted darkness, eerily turning an odd aqua—more a creature of Nightmare rather than Dream.
But, maybe, there weren’t that different really.
“I won’t judge.” Tove’s gaze snapped to meet Grey’s with a look of such incredulity that Grey nearly laughed. “Right, I’ll try not to judge. I know that I can be a Judge-y McJudgerson.” Tove shook her head, a laugh playing across her face, her luxurious hair falling in loose waves against her bare shoulders, more of those soft fawn-spots winking through. “Tell me. I promise to do my best to be the Tove Support Squad.”
Tove sobered, fidgeted, took a deep breath, and blurted. “I had a nightmare.”
Grey nodded encouragingly—they hoped encouragingly—and waited for Tove to continue, watching as Tove’s nimble-quick caster’s fingers picked out the fancy embroidery on the hem of that practically not-there shift. “I—I was wondering—” Tove stammered, trailing off. “Fuck.” That was softer, clearly pointed with self-deprecating precision at Tove’s self. But, there was something so temptingly vulgar about Tove’s cultured tongue speaking such a base word that Grey had to bite back a smile while Tove rallied, straightened her shoulders and spoke with a regalness that didn’t befit the situation at all. “May I sleep with you tonight?”
And, Grey kept on blinking.
That was, again, not expected. However, what they had all gone through in their lives to even get as far as the Scioncy—and the futures that were laid ahead of them that were not of any of their choosings—Grey could understand why Tove might need some physical comfort.
Especially since it seemed—from what little Grey had gleaned—that Tove hadn’t really had a whole lot of affection or comfort during their early years.
And, really, wasn’t that precisely what had been keeping Grey away? Past traumas writing themselves on to the present in indelible ways?
Grey touched their little unicorn light again, plunging the room back into that snow-lit not-darkness and scooted back in their bed. Tove’s eyes looked hopeful but also wary—as if Grey had already said no.
Pulling the cloud-like duvet and softly plush blankets back to reveal the space next to them, Grey whispered “Then you’d better get in here before you get too cold.”
Tove practically dived into the space—all grace falling away into eagerness and relief—but Tove still kept herself stiffly away from Grey until Grey reached out with fingers that they could feel trembling just the barest bit to snag Tove’s elbow and pull her close, closer, closest and whispered in the velvet shell of Tove’s ear. “You shouldn’t be embarrassed.” Grey felt Tove tighten up, ready to pull back away, but Grey brushed still trembling fingers down Tove’s shoulder. “You weren’t alone. The past is too close tonight. Tomorrow will be better.” Tove began to relax just a touch into Grey’s personal space. “And, if not, it’s not like we can’t bundle ourselves back into this bed and hid from the world for a while.”
Tove didn’t say anything, but Grey felt the twitch of a smile on Tove’s face as they fell asleep.