39th of Achtus, 2718
UPPERTON | Early MORNING
Too familiar and too aware, Nauleth couldn't help the hint of a smile at her surprise realization, chewing the inside of his cheek to hold back a totally untimely sort of chuckle, allowing himself to be welcomed and shooed inside the petite Gioran's home without a second word on the matter. He fumbled to close the door a bit too loudly than was polite, and it felt as though he'd left his grey matter on the steps out in the still air of a neighborhood carved out of the very insides of a mountain.
The Anaxi felt tall again for this moment in the foyer of his fiancé—did she live alone? surely she must to be so not dressed? right?—instead of diminutive next to so many pale giants. He hadn't really expected Athrym to cry. He'd expected anger, surprise, awkwardness, but there was a resistance in their fields like like magnets forcibly pressed together even though her body was welcome and warm against his as her arms wrapped so tightly around his person that his eyes fluttered shut and he sighed. He didn't deserve her tears and the way her sobs shattered the otherwise statuesque illusion of all his senses had been filled with since arriving in Gior just a day and a half ago,
"We left before the worst of the weather—Alioe knows the trouble it took to get Nor and myself here, I wasn't going to clocking back down over a bit of wind and snow. I had faith the Circle knew what they were doing to get us to Qrieth safe and sound. Besides, all things work as they should, Athrym, and I for one am glad that didn't include some icy cliff face miles from anywhere."
Nauleth wanted to rest his check against the pale cascade of her hair and say more but the young woman pulled back. The way in which Athrym tearfully chided him brought color once again to his freckled cheeks, deepening the flush that refused to leave his expression, creasing the hint of a smile when she called him foolish. Her hands trailed downward to his chest where surely she could feel the wild thrum of his heart beneath her fingertips, and the weight of her palms warmed him in a way that was almost immediately distracting, though he managed to listen above the hum of his pulse,
"I over-reacted. I was very stressed, stretched thin at the end of the school year between classes and my research and my dissertation and travel and everything else, and while my students left campus in Vortas still talking about that particular dinner, it wasn't the end of life on Vita as we know it. I just—I have fought so hard for everything and it's such a natural reaction for me." He frowned at his honesty, watching the way her warm green gaze strayed from his, imagining for a moment that they'd wandered the rest of his face or at least his lips. He imagined he felt a tension in Athrym's body pressed against his and he thought to move to meet her, but when she hovered as she was, he simply looked as though he was leaning closer for no reason.
She escaped him, stepping back again and chagrin tickled the inside of his chest and stung his nerve endings, aware that he shouldn't expect such wonton forwardness—despite decisiveness being a respectable Gioran trait. He laughed—a quick, sudden sound—not at her awkwardness but his own, unable to keep his gold-rimmed eyes from drifting over the delicate, pale creature in a robe and nightclothes, not ignorant of all that was just just out of view, the unexpected weight of desire settling at the base of his spine. He shouldn't have wanted such things, the wild thoughts that whispered suggestively instead of the wise words he should have been replying with, but at the same time, why not? What did they really have to say that would have mattered more than not speaking at all?
"Zeu—uh—zeu coffee kdeuee.No—No coffee, thank you." The tall red head shook his head for emphasis to his quiet declining of coffee, reaching up to unravel himself from his scarf and begin to unbutton his coat, warm now, "And please don't get dressed for my sake. I'd rather you not."
He paused, aware of the impropriety of his words, of the tone of his voice as he stepped toward the pale, lovely Gioran. Nauleth was suddenly so very aware of what he was doing, searching her face while she asked very blatantly conversational questions and he reached up to untangle himself from his scarf, "We've only been here less than a day, and while I wandered so much of the city at such a clocking ungodly hour this morning, we're actually just a few streets over. I know. I'm a little travel-worn. The ersehats at the Post pretended not to understand my Gioran and gave me quite the run-around when all I wanted was to see you sooner—I should have—Qrieth is a blur but it's just as beautiful as you described it to me. More, maybe? More than I expected, I think. Yes."
The young Siordanti reached up to brush Athrym's face with his hand in a gentle hesitance while he rambled, field welcoming hers, mingling with a tangible welcome and a very warm sort of wanting. His thumb brushed tears from her cheek and while he didn't cry or sob, his sinuses stung with the kind of emotion he withheld from pooling in his eyes.
Finally, then, Nauleth grinned, inviting and genuine, chagrined and timid. He could have admitted that he was nervous to be so much on his own here, that he already felt guilty for dragging Norwyn so far from home for adventures he knew would be dangerous, that he had no idea how to cook his own meals or tie a proper cravat, that he had no interest in defending himself from Gioran judgments. He could have admitted all of the stonework was amazing but he already missed the sun. Instead, he just brought himself closer still, ignoring all the things he should have said to attempt to make sense of everything that had passed between them because all of it felt lacking in substance after just the right amount of time.
They had argued. It had hurt, deeply and personally, and they were, on both accounts, in apologies. Words were perhaps not the best method of communication for anything more.
He'd already proven how well he could muck those up almost two months ago. He didn't need to get in over his head with more attempts to make up for either of their verbal mistakes with more wounding words.
She was flustered, keeping herself back from expressing all of herself, too, skittish as though afraid she would offend him now that they were both so aware of how they could be offensive to each other in unimaginable and unexpected ways. They'd set that precedent together and it stung to feel the reminder, to see her shy away from the affection they'd once shared out of fear. He knew this feeling already and he loathed it: the sharp edge of anticipating rejection. He'd felt it for so much of his life that he couldn't stand to perpetuate it within their relationship any longer than he had already, having agonized in some Ever of not knowing for far too many weeks already.
"Athrym—" Naul's other hand curled fingers with a sudden conviction into the smooth silk of the petite Gioran's robe, palm that was still against her cheek sliding into her hair so he could tilt her head and lean in further still to kiss her.
It was not a demanding press of lips but a firm one—a declaration of his feelings as much as it was an apology for hurting hers. He remembered somewhere in the middle of tasting her warm, familiar mouth all that he'd wanted to say, all that had filled him with the bravado to come here so godsbedamned early in the first place. He'd wanted to assure her, he supposed, and he'd wanted to be forward—as Gioran as possible, one could say—about how much he indeed still cared.
The tall ginger was not in a hurry to lean away, either, expressing his regrets without saying anything. Inhaling sharply as he lingered, Nauleth pulled away only if Athrym stopped him or when he realized he'd been distracted for a few heartbeats too many,
"—I'm well now because we are in the same Kingdom, even if we don't share the same views. I missed you."
This isn't Brunnhold any more, ersehat, and you're not going home.