They had returned to the Court of Dreams for a brief period—mostly to check in as they were expected to do in person on occasion during their Venery Rumspringe, ya know, to allow the people to see their Scions and let the councilors, advisers, representatives, et al., grow used to the Scions as the adults that they were becoming rather than the children they had once been, which ordinarily sent the et al. into a tailspin, but with this Scioncy, they were practically beside themselves in horror—and would continue on next to the Court of Miracles and then on to the Court of Calamities and, then, in a surreal change of pace, to the Court of Nightmares.
Just—no one went to the Court of Nightmares. Nightmares sent envoys to other Courts but never accepted envoys into their Court. This generation of Scions would be the first to see into the Court of Nightmares in—well, Persis didn’t have a record of the last time, that’s how long ago it was.
But, they were just returned to the Court of Dreams and gone through the expected pageantry—which was more than a little overwhelming to the Scions since they had effectively been living the life of everyday Euigilans Somnium for several months now, so the sheer amount of people combined with not being in their Euigilans Somnium forms was more-than-a-little unsettling—
“Naked,” Persis said, hiding as far behind Ione and Mad March Grey as she could get. “I feel like I’m standing out here completely naked.”
Of course, Tove had had to go to a private audience and dinner with her duo-matres and Cy which wasn’t as awful as she was expecting but was still basically dressed-up torture with her duo-matres playing polite and concerned parents all the while trying to glean intelligence from Tove and Cy asking what the Scioncy’s plans were for the rest of their State Visit.
Tove had managed to bow out and escape relatively quickly, despite it being late, late, late, but, it was over for the day—thank The Thing High Atop The Thing—and Tove headed back towards her room since everyone else had already been shuffled off to their rooms for the night.
Which was also odd considering that they had all taken to co-sleeping forever ago it seemed, but Tove also thought that, maybe, a night apart for all of them was maybe a good idea too. There was just—a lot that Tove had had on her mind about all of that, especially with the trunk-load of feelings and baggage Tove had regarding Grey.
Tove thought that, maybe, she had to remove herself from the co-sleeping arrangement—had been testing some of that out when she had had a nightmare with a capital NIGHTMARE and had needed Grey’s comforting, rapid bird-beating heart echoing in her ears for the night and had found Persis and Ione there with Grey.
Had proceeded to have an epic freak-out. So, good on her.
It had worked out, though, yeah? They had come to an understanding, an equilibrium.
Then Grey had brought Killian into the fray because Grey was a certifiably kind person—an actual cinnamon roll, as their Euigilans Somnium friends would say—and there had been more adjustment, but ultimately, things were still okay.
It was just Tove’s feelings that were getting in the way, feelings that Tove was certain that Grey didn’t reciprocate no matter how much closer they had become.
And, it wasn’t like their little co-sleeping arrangement group was really big on the discussing of sickening, soppy feelings anyway.
That was all for another day because—Thing High Atop The Thing—Tove was just bone-deep tired and wanted to crawl into her old, familiar bed and pretend—for just a little while—that she was a tiny fawn again and that everything was simple and uncomplicated.
Grey was sitting in Tove’s favorite childhood chair near the fire that had always sat in Tove’s hearth, looking sleepy and sleepy-softened, ruffled and sweet.
Tove should have known that the Universe would not be that kind to her tonight.
Tove turned back to the door under the auspices of ensuring that it was closed properly and laid her head against her room door, remembering the smoothness, the coolness, and wondering just what she had done to anger the Universe this time because—Thing High Atop The Thing—this just wasn’t fair.
Tove had—evidently—completely lost control of her life.
And, Tove was seriously considering murdering whomever thought that it was a good idea to house Grey with Tove; although, to be honest, it made a certain amount of sense since they were betrothed and everything; however, the Court of Miracles Consort had always had their own suite of rooms to use as they so chose, so why in the name of all that was holy and not-holy was Grey in Tove’s room.
Yep, this was most definitely going to end in someone’s murder.
“Hello, Grey,” Tove spoke into the door. “I’ll—uh, I’ll just go and find a porter to find me another room, yeah?” Yep, Tove could feel the panic and babbling beginning to overtake her. “Because, of course, it’s a bit late in the day to be moving you to potentially a completely different part of the complex, and at least, I know the building, so I’d just need to know which rooms are empt—”
Tove felt Grey’s hand on her elbow, and she feel silent.
“Tove,” Grey used Tove’s elbow to turn her to face the room, to face Grey, who had—predictably—stripped out of the Court of Dreams finery that they hated, hated, hated with every part of their being, down to the pale blue shift and buff breeches—not bloomers, no pantaloons, breeches—that Grey had insisted upon wearing beneath the finery with a I don’t care if it ruins the lines. You all insist that I wear this frippery that I can’t even fight in properly, THAT HOLDS ME TO THE GROUND LIKE I WAS A HIND INSTEAD OF A TENGU, then I will by the Thing High Atop The Thing wear what I want beneath it. that had just—carried to all of the other fitting rooms that the Scioncy had been ushered into.
This was a perennial argument anytime that Grey was in the Court of Dreams: Dreams demanded their ruling caste wear ceremonial, court garb; Grey protested in the strongest possibly language, usually fairly loudly; Grey deigned to wear the garb, and then as soon as whatever function Grey had grudgingly participated in was over, Grey stripped out of the court clothes—sometimes in the hallway right outside of the event.
Grey had always caused quite a stir, just—Grey, everyone, the god-incarnate of non-compliance.
If that weren’t enough to make one fall in love with Grey, Tove didn’t know what was.
And, that was the problem, wasn’t it? Tove was in love with Grey, and Grey didn’t fall in love. Yes, Grey loved—fiercely, loyally, and with all of their heart—but they didn’t fall in romantic love.
Really—even if Grey were to return Tove’s feelings in their own non-romantic way—how was that supposed to work between them then?
Huge, sucking, sloppy feelings.
Grey stretched up to reach Tove’s face and cradle it in their hands, thumbs a fleeting caress. “My darling Tove,” Grey whispered. “This has been very hard on you, hasn’t it?” Tove didn’t try to nod or respond or anything; she raised her own hand and covered Grey’s. turning her head just enough to kiss Grey’s palm
I guess that was an answer of a sort.
Grey drew Tove down closer to them—close, closer, closest—and smiled. “May I kiss you, my darling Tove?”
Shocked and flabbergasted and overwhelmed, Tove nodded her assent.
The smile flickered to something wider and more wicked and so completely Grey and so completely not Grey that Tove held her breath as Grey touched their lips to Tove’s—a feather’s touch—again, pressing closer, pressing harder, and yes, Tove was so here for this, had been waiting for this, had been hoping for this, had not been hoping for this because sometimes the hoping was just too much, and now, Grey was kissing Tove, slipping their arms around Tove’s waist to arch up towards her shoulder-blades, and Tove couldn’t do anything but hold her breath and try not to pass out.
Which, of course, meant that Grey took Tove’s inaction, her unresponsiveness, to mean that Tove had changed their mind. “I’m so sorry, Tove,” Grey said pulling back, moving further away, leaving Tove to feel like a comet without an orbit—unmoored, lost, rogue—their expression one of deep embarrassment, confusion, and self-recrimination. “I misunderstood and acted without—”
Tove stepped forward and took Grey’s face in to Tove’s hands. “You didn’t misunderstand anything,” Tove pressed her forehead to Grey’s. “May I kiss you, my precious raven?”