I woke up feeling well-rested, but with no less wonder at what I had just dreamed. The bed was cozy and warm– not just because it was summer, but because I had a second blanket covering me. It was the fuzzy Sleipnir blanket I’d given Stefan so many years ago. It smelled like him. I mean, of course it did. I just don’t know why I had it; how had it gotten draped across me like I’d been tucked in with it? Stefan usually wrapped it around himself like a shroud. If he was ever cold enough to need a second blanket, he would put it over the Sleipnir one.
I squirmed over to the edge of the bed and peered down at Stefan’s sleeping form. He had a sheet wrapped around himself the way the fuzzy blanket should have been.. He was curled up on the mattress, his lengths of blond hair spread out around him. He was on his side facing, facing my bed, one arm sticking out from under the sheet as though reaching for… well, I wouldn’t know.
His hand was so close to the bed that I couldn’t help but reach out and brush my fingers over his. I have no idea why I did it. I’ve had plenty of sleep-overs with the boys before and we’d always let each other sleep undisturbed. This time it was like my hand had just decided on its own to reach out for him.
Stefan’s fingers laced with mine. I don’t think he even realized he’d done it. I mean, he was still asleep. His skin wasn’t as soft as Killian’s but it wasn’t that rough, either. Not rough like it is with people who do a lot of physical labor. Just… masculine, I suppose the word is. Strong enough to be reassuring, and warm, and–
I had to stop myself before my thoughts wandered too much. What I really needed right then was caffeine. Maybe Killian was already up and starting to brew tea. I was starting to pull my hand back when his grasped mine even more.
Stefan groaned softly. “Mmm… Leila?” he mumbled. His bright blue eyes opened slowly. Then he looked up at me curiously.
“Good morning,” I said.
He grinned sleepily. “It sure is.” I think he realized that we were holding hands; he withdrew gently, but didn’t say anything about it. If he was blushing, it was hidden under his hair and the sheet.
I sat up and peeled his blanket off of me. “I don’t know how I ended up with this,” I said sheepishly, offering it back to him.
Stefan grinned wider and sat up. He immediately abandoned the sheet and wrapped the fuzzy blanket around himself like a cloak. “You were shivering in the middle of the night,” he told me, “so I put it over you.”
“Thanks,” I said with a genuine smile. “I would have been fine with just a sheet, though.”
He shook his head. “I tried that,” he replied, “but you didn’t stop shivering until you had Sleipnir.”
I blinked. I hope I didn’t look too surprised. “Oh… I see. Well, thanks for helping out. I don’t know why I was cold– I hope you weren’t!”
“Not at all. You know I’m always warm.”
I chuckled at that. Usually guys as lean as him were the cold ones.
“You sleep okay, other than being mysteriously cold?” His voice was playful and friendly.
I actually had, I have to admit. And he had, too, which I was relieved to hear; he had a show that night, and I wanted to help it go really well. From the smells coming from the kitchen, things were already off to a great start. We slid out of our beds and wandered out of the room to follow the aromas of sausages, waffles, and so much more.
“Good morning!” Larsa called cheerfully. He was busily setting the table with plates and cutlery.
“Oh, is that coffee?” Stefan said in a sort of reverent groan. When Larsa nodded, he wasted no time in taking a chair and letting him fill his mug. “Oh, thank Odin you convinced Killian to keep something more than tea on hand.” He brought the mug close to is face and breathed in the rich aroma.
I chuckled as I watched them, and didn’t notice Killian doing anything until he pressed a cold can into my hands.
“Ye’d best crack this open before they try tae convert ye tae drinkin’ the black stuff.”
“Thanks,” I said with a laugh, and I sat down to open my wanna-be Mountain Dew.
Before too long, Killian and Larsa had the table loaded with waffles and crepes, fruit, cream, sausages, grilled tomatoes, cheesy scrambled eggs, and plenty of other things to choose from. They didn’t cook like that every day, but it was definitely a welcome treat.
We discussed our plans for the day while we ate. Stefan would head back to his place to get things ready for the club, such as verifying his equipment and double-checking his playlist. We’d meet up again for lunch at Schmizza’s, and later we’d decide where to get dinner. Stefan would eventually head to Club Nightshade to get set up and settle in. The venue’s doors wouldn’t open until well after sunset, but we’d find plenty of things to do until then.
“How about you come with me for a while?” Stefan asked as we cleared the table and washed the dishes.
I glanced over at him, not certain how exactly to respond.
“Killian won’t mind,” he added.
Once I saw the hopeful look in his eyes, I knew I couldn’t deny him a few extra hours of my company. Once breakfast was cleaned up and the leftovers put away, Stefan gave me time to take a shower and finish up my morning routines. We left our bags at Killian’s house, knowing we’d be back that night (well, technically the next morning, since the club would be open so late), and I hopped into Stefan’s car.
“It really is good to see you again,” Stefan said as he drove us to his apartment. “I want to hear all about what you’ve been up to lately, especially your new house.”
“You should definitely come see it,” I told him. “Oh, and Killian can definitely bring Larsa when he visits. I need to make sure I tell them that.”
“I’m sure he’d like that.”
I watched the scenery for a while as we drove. Stefan’s apartment wasn’t too far from Killian’s, just up a hill, across the light rail, and back down a few streets. We stopped at a convenience store on the way to get some more soda. Once inside his apartment, Stefan rushed to move things off his couch so that I could sit down.
“I really should have cleaned up a couple days ago,” he said as he hurried an armload of clothes to his room. “I kept putting it off, and then then I slept in the other day, and then there was work…”
“It’s okay,” I assured him. “It’s your place.”
And thankfully the mess was mostly music gear, clothes, books, and other things that generally don’t smell. I’ve seen guys do a lot worse– especially my little brother. Stefan didn’t have any pets at the time, but I think he’d mentioned wanting a cat here or there. It’s not easy looking after an animal when you live alone and work full-time plus gigs.
I sipped my soda as I looked around the apartment. Most of his décor was related to Norse mythology, like with the tapestries of Loki’s offspring and the framed poster of all the runes. Stefan turned on the television and entertainment console so I could watch Netflix while he took a shower– it was easier to come back to his place for that, rather than lug everything over to Killian’s.
I was catching up on an episode of “Norsemen” when Stefan came back to the living room. His long hair was wrapped in a towel, and he had on cotton drawstring pants and a thin robe. I paused the show and looked up at him. A sheepish expression crossed his face.
“Can I ask you for a favor?”
“Of course you can,” I told him. I trusted him not to ask for anything… inappropriate.
Then he showed me the little glass jar that had been hidden in his palm. “I was going to do this myself, but then I realized that it would look a lot better if you helped me out.”
“Nail polish?” I asked, raising a brow. “When have you ever known me to paint my nails?”
He laughed a little at that. “Okay… I know. You haven’t. Or was there that one time…” He shook his head. “Anyway, can you imagine me trying to apply this stuff with my left hand?”
“I think your whole hand would come out black,” I laughed.
“Dark green,” he corrected.
“Oh, too good for black now, are we?” I teased.
He looked around the room, eyeing the various wall-hangings with black backgrounds, and chuckled. “If we all wear black, it’s just another type of conformity.”
“You’re incorrigible,” I said as I got up from the couch. “Come one, let’s get you dolled up.”
“Who’s the incorrigible one?” He sat down at the kitchen table and grabbed a few napkins from the napkin-holder– I think all of them were extras from random fast-food places– and spread them out before laying his hand down. “You’re a great friend, Leila.”
“You don’t have to butter me up, you know.”
“I know,” he agreed, “but I still like to. So, while you’re being a great friend, I want to hear all about your new house. Especially the owl you let in.”
“You care an awful lot about that owl,” I pointed out as I shook the jar of nail polish to ensure it was well-mixed. “Why is that?”
“You seriously don’t know?” he asked, honestly worried.
I shook my head.
“In both Norse and Celtic mythology,” he told me, his tone serious and dark all of a sudden, “owls have to do with the dead and the underworld.”
A mighty song reminiscent of Sleipnir: