The House of the Seventh Minuet CXXV

Ilicano: Ti Balay ti Maikapito a Minuet

The second dream I had that night was actually a nightmare. We were higher up on the tower, which now knew was on a floating island of some kind. The planet far below us was all jagged mountains and stormy oceans, and leaving the tower or its island was impossible. Stefan was staring at the moon with me, and we talk about the various shapes and features we saw in the surface. I comment on how white and pearlescent the moonstones seemed to be, and he smiled at me.

“Do you want to see one up close?” he asked.

“That’s impossible,” I told him.

“Not for me,” he said. I can get one for you. “If you like it enough, I can have it made into a necklace for you.”

“Stefan, I–”

“Or I can split it and have earrings made, as well. They’d look so beautiful on you!” He started to climb onto the railing.

“No, Stefan–“

He didn’t listen to me, though. He bounded off the railing, leaping towards the moon with all his might, as though its size meant that it was close enough for him to make a jump like that. I screamed his name again, unable to do anything to stop him or help him. He was a silhouette of gold and brown against the pale ivory moon, but only for a moment.

“No!” I cried, reaching for him as he began to fall.

My dream body felt as though it had wings– wings that were desperate to unfurl, to allow me to dive down after him and carry him to safety. But they were bound, and I had no idea how or why. I didn’t know if he was supposed to have wings, too, but if he did, they were bound as well, because he was still falling.

“Stefan!” I screamed, tears streaming down my cheeks, the wind blowing my hair into my face, I was so close to leaping after him, weighing whether I could live without him or if I was willing to die just to be in his arms. “Don’t leave me, Stefan!”

The nightmare ended before I could make my choice. Their were wide, powerful hands gripping my shoulders, shaking me gently. A deep voice was saying something to me, but at first I couldn’t make out what he was saying.

“Stefan…” I heard myself whimpering, still terrified from the dream.

“I’m right here,” I heard a low, raspy voice say, trying to sound calm and soothing.

As I looked up to meet his eyes, I realized how hard I was breathing. I also realized that my tears weren’t just in the nightmare. He raised his fingers slowly to wipe them from my cheeks.

“I’m with you,” he assured me, his voice hardly more than a whisper.

My hands slipped past the soft flannel he was wearing to touch his face. He was warm. His breathing was mostly normal, and his pulse seemed about right. I stared up at him, trying not to burst into tears again.

“Stefan, are you–”

“I’m okay, Leila. I promise you, I am okay.”

“Oh, thank goodness!” I cried, throwing my arms around him and clinging to him tightly as I buried my face in his neck. My next few words rushed out of me with hardly a thought. “I love you so much, Stefan. I couldn’t bear it if anything bad happened to you.”

“I–” He hesitated for a moment, then wrapped his arms around me and held on just as tightly as he whispered. “I love you too, Leila. I’d do anything in the world for you– no matter which world we’re in.”

I froze then. I could hardly believe what I’d just heard. I sat up a little, and he rolled onto his back to keep his eyes locked with mine. I felt my heart racing, my breathing quickening. “Stefan, I– You–” Then my thoughts snagged on one of his words. “Wait, ‘too’? What do you m–“

“You don’t realize what you said, do you?” he asked me. He was grinning like a fox with a huge secret.

“Don’t play games with me right now, Stefan.”

“Okay, I’m sorry. I– Oh gods, don’t let me mess this up. You said it first, Leila.”

I blinked and stared at him.

“You were so– you said it so fast, I don’t even know if you meant to let those words out, but I’m so glad you did.” He watched me, waiting for my reply, but I was unable to speak. “Oh, Leila, it’s okay!”

He wiped more tears from my cheeks. This time they were happy tears. Relieved tears. I could never find the strength to confess my feelings to him, and he’d almost drowned without knowing how I truly felt about him. I sniffled and just let them flow.

“Come here,” he murmured, and he pulled me back into his arms, squeezing me in a big bear hug. “Gods, Leila, not telling you how much I love you has been eating at me for so long.”

When I could move, I wrapped my arms around his neck and leaned in close to his face. “You big, crazy viking,” I murmured once I was close enough to breathe his air, “I’ve almost admitted to loving you so many times. Now stop talking and kiss me!”

I didn’t give him time to think about it, though. I needed him too badly to wait. My lips went to his, eager to know how they felt, desperate to feel his strength and his love in the way he kissed. His hands gripped me, and I sighed blissfully, loving how safe and treasured I already felt in his arms. He made low, happy sounds when my legs wrapped around his waist and held on tightly.

We kissed like our lives depended on it, like he’d fall from that tower all over again if we didn’t, like he’d be dragged down to the bottom of the ocean. I adored the way he held me, the strength in his touch, the way my heart raced every time he came back to me after coming up for air, and I wanted so much more. I felt him grin briefly when my fingers slid under the hem of his pajama shirt; I had seen the muscles of his belly too many times to not touch them now. He sighed contentedly as my hands explored him, not even stopping me when they went up to his chest.

I was seconds away from grabbing his hand and letting him know that he could touch me, too, when I heard a voice from the door.

“Hey Leila, how’s– Wow! Åh herre gud!”

Stefan tried sitting up, though he hardly could with me tangled around him. When he realized he couldn’t move, he tried pulling the blanket up over me, but I just pushed it back down. I gave him a look that I hoped conveyed the sense that I didn’t want him to be shy about us.

“Dammit, Larsa, why can’t you knock?!”

“Well, it was really quiet, so I thought–“

“He has a point, lad,” Killian said as he came up beside Larsa. Then he looked to Stefan. “He wanted to check on ye the moment he woke up.”

Larsa scoffed. “I couldn’t even get to sleep, I was so worried!” Then he grinned. “But I see now that you’re doing great. It took nearly drowning to work up the courage, but you finally told her!”

“This is what he’s been nagging you about for weeks– or was it months?– isn’t it?”

Stefan looked rapidly between me and him, his cheeks turning completely scarlet.

Larsa chuckled. “What’s the harm in her knowing?”

Stefan gave him a death glare, and I snuggled closer around him. “Stefan, it’s okay.”

“She told me first,” he grumbled, and I kissed his cheek softly as a sort of reward for admitting that.

“Vaaaad…? Woah, she– that’s fantastic!” Larsa was grinning from ear to ear.

“Yeah, very incredible,” Stefan growled. “Can you leave now that you know I’m fine?”

“I could, but are you sure you don’t need a chaperone to make sure your clothes stay on?”

I was giggling too hard to stop Stefan from throwing a pillow in Larsa’s direction.

“Get out!”

“But–”

“Come on, lad, they have a lot tae talk about without us interferin’.”

“Noooo,” Larsa protested. “If they keep kissing, they’ll–”

Another pillow flew his way.

“We will talk about it! Now go!”

“We’re going to need a ‘do not disturb’ sign,” I giggled once they’d left. “Well, now they know and we don’t have to worry about filling them in later.”

He smirked and snuggled up to me. “Mmmm… Fine, but I’m only accepting being interrupted because it stopped me from getting carried away.”

“Carried away, huh? Anything I would have liked?”

“I certainly hope so,” he said with a laugh, then laid more kisses all over my face. “But, ummm… I’m guessing there are no, ummmm…”

“Condoms?” I asked for him when I saw that he was blushing even deeper. “Why is my viking so shy about that? I like that you want to be safe.”

He looked away. “I just didn’t want to seem–” Then he hesitated.

“Presumptive?” I finished. “Stefan, we’ve known each other a long time, and I don’t know about you, but these feelings I have for you aren’t new.”

I could see the passion burning in his eyes; he didn’t feel the need to slow down or go through the motions, either. I think he would have gone right back to kissing me if he didn’t know his body so well. “I… Gods, Leila, if we hadn’t been interrupted, and you’d tried going further with me, I wouldn’t have stopped you– and I’d have loved every second of it.”

“So would I,” I admitted. “It’s– we’ve been friend for so many years, it’s so easy to skip over what normally happens early in a relationship. Still, Stephan, I feel like I should voice this: we can take our time if you want us to, go step by step, but I’m not going to insist on it.”

“I appreciate that, but I don’t know how much I could bear not being this close to you,” he breathed. “I… You’re amazing, Leila. I need you in my arms. I need to kiss you and tell you that I love you. As for anything more, well… I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, and that includes getting you pregnant before you– until we’re both ready for that.”

“Thank you, Stefan. You’ve always been so thoughtful; I’d say it’s one of the reasons I fell for you.”

He smiled and kissed me again. “Same to you,” he told me. “Well, right now, I know I don’t have the self-control to try– ummm, any other method of– I mean, unless you’re–” He turned a darker shade of red.

“It’s okay if you want to ask if I’m on birth control, Stefan.” From any other guy, I probably would have been frustrated that he was too timid to ask, but I knew that Stefan really wanted things to work out between us. It was the same reason we’d both been so scared to share our feelings for so long: we couldn’t risk ruining our friendship if things went wrong. “You can talk to me about anything, Stefan. I’m sure it’ll take us time to get used to this change, but I love you so much, and I’m not going to get upset over you wanting to practice safe sex. And no, I’m not on birth control. I haven’t been with anyone for months– long before I moved.”

It took him a few moments to respond, and I gave him time to think. He swallowed hard before saying, “It’s been a lot longer for me.”

“Has it?” I asked, hoping there was no judgment in my voice. Has that been ha– difficult?”

He chuckled when he realized why I’d changed my choice in words, and I followed suit. the laughter did a lot to help relieve the tension.

“It has,” he admitted. “It really has. At first, I thought I just couldn’t find anyone I liked, then I started to realize that you were the one I wanted to be with.”

“And you didn’t tell me sooner because–“

“Because I didn’t want to ruin our friendship. I kept imagining that if I told you I was in love with you, you’d think I was just some kind of pervert who wanted to get into your pants, and you wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore.”

“My thinking was almost the same as yours,” I admitted to him. “I remember there being a lot of talk over the years about how annoying it is when people think that just because a girl and a boy are friends, that they’re going to end up as a couple– or just casually go to bed together. You know? Why can’t people of the opposite sex just be friends and that’s it?

He nodded.

“But then… my feelings for you grew stronger and stronger, and part of me thought, ‘would it be so bad if we ended up together after all?’ I can’t tell you how many time part of myself kept holding back, saying not to fall victim to that trope.”

“I’d rather us end up together, and reinforce that assumption, than force ourselves to be apart,” he replied. “I mean yeah, when we were younger and the adults kept thinking that a girl couldn’t join a boys’ friend group or vice versa, it was a really stupid reason to block friendship. Well, by now I think we’ve done a decent enough job of showing them that just because you’re friends with several guys–“

“You know what I think, Stefan?” I said suddenly; I knew where his train of thought was leading. “Our friendship has become so much more than we ever imagined it would back then. We were really responsible as teenagers, and we don’t have to work hard to prove anything anymore.”

“Really?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at me. “Not even if I want to prove how good of a boyfriend I could be to you?”

I giggled, and I have to admit, I felt my cheeks warming. I was tempted to give him a resounding yes, but part of me didn’t want to make it too easy on him, especially after the way he’d been acting the past week. “Stefan Nilsson, is this your way of asking me to be your girlfriend?”

He gave me a mischievous grin. “I could send you a formal invitation if you’d prefer. Maybe get some of that fancy paper, find someone who knows Victorian style calligraphy. ‘Dearest Leila Moss,'” he said in a dramatically deep voice, “‘would you do me the honor of allowing me to court you?'”

That got him another laugh from me. “Wow, courtship huh? You know the difference between dating and courtship, don’t you?” I wiggled my eyebrows at him.

“Maybe I do, maybe I don’t,” he replied. I don’t think he knew; he didn’t research those kinds of nuances like I did. “But, if we can get home, we can talk about it as much as you want.”

I gazed into his eyes and said, “I want to talk about everything with you.” And then I went back to kissing him.


About Legends of Lorata

Eleanor Willow is the author of the high fantasy series Legends of Lorata, which takes place on a medieval-style world filled with elves, dragons, and faeries. There is also a fourth race, one that is rare and magical: the angelic Starr. Lorata is a distant planet watched over by four deities: good, evil, elemental, and celestial-- and there are plenty of legends about them all! One of the most important ones is the prophecy of Jenh's champion, Loracaz, who is promised to return to the realm whenever evil threatens to take hold. There are currently three books completed, and the first one can be read online. Book four is currently being written, and a fifth will most likely be in the future.
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