It’s so very cold. Dark and cold. I can’t feel my hands or feet. My limbs seem to hurt like ice daggers are being driven into them.
Where am I? What am I? My memory is shrouded in fog.
The snow is swirling about me in a never-ending cascade of oncoming death. Maybe this time I’ll actually die, and he won’t be here to save me… my God of fire.
Who knows, only time will tell, as always.
Time will tell.
The tavern is loud and cramped. I almost can’t believe how busy it is, but then, I guess I should have expected this, it is the festival season after all. This is usually a good time for a jump, far away from my own time, to one with not so much… festive cheer. I barely managed to get Elias and I a seat near to the fire, not that he seems to need it but I feel the draft from the door every time it opens and I don’t much care for it.
The snow is piling high outside, making it difficult for people to move from town to town and forcing them to take up residence in the inns and taverns. It’s always like this at this time; people travel far and wide to stay with their families. Why don’t they live together all year round and save themselves the hassle? It’s a question I find myself asking all too often.
To say the least, traveling around with Elias has been interesting. I begrudgingly admit, the way he interacts with others is… unique. He is as friendly with me as the day we met, if not more so since he’s begun dragging me along with him everywhere he goes. He manages to hold down jobs for the two of us for a few weeks before he gets bored of it or kicked out. I find myself following at his heels, giving in to every whim of his under the sun. It’s tiring, exhausting, but interesting.
I have been able to sneak away every few weeks to use up time energy. I haven’t told him yet… and he hasn’t seemed to notice, not in the last year or so we’ve been traveling together. And that brings to light another strange habit of his.
Every time we stay anywhere, he insists we share a room, even if there are two available. I might understand if we needed to use our coins sparingly, but we have more than enough money between the two of us… well, for anything. The trouble is making sure no one finds out and tries to steal from us, but I have the feeling Elias would only scare them away, or try to kill them.
This has occurred on a few occasions already and I’ve had to try to hold him back, letting the thug get away with a mass of bruises and an empty wallet. Elias doesn’t care for me stopping him, but I find his judgments a little ridiculous, even extreme in some cases. He would argue otherwise, but somehow, I convince him to let them go. I’m not really sure what it is I do, but whatever it is, it works.
I lift the ale mug and take a deep drink of the sweet liquid. The warmth of the fire is soothing and the hum of the people talking as they drink and make merry is comforting until the seat next to me is filled.
Elias returns plopping himself in the chair beside me and scrapping its feet along to floor, wiggling it closer to me.
“I’m not a heater,” I say, lowering my mug.
“No, but I am and I figured you looked cold. How’s the view from here?” he asks with a cheerful smile. He’s been around, dancing with the piper across the room.
I hesitate to answer that question. I know he’s trying to point out how I’ve been sitting here for an hour and forty-three minutes without moving. I’m not the mingling sort. I don’t have much to say, and what I could say, I can’t tell a stranger. Heck, I can’t even tell him half the things I want to. I’m getting weary of keeping track of what he knows, doesn’t know, and can‘t know.
“It’s splendid. I can see everyone, including you, and there’s a fire that doesn’t move and keeps me warm,” I muse, raising the mug for another sip.
“Oh, I see. You just want me to stay here with you, don’t you,” I catch his smirk from the corner of my eye
“I didn’t say that,” I mumble.
“No, you did. It’s alright. I’ll keep you company,” he grins, waving his hand for the barmaid to bring him a mug.
I roll my eyes so he doesn’t see. If I’m being honest, I guess I am happy about it. I prefer talking to him than not talking at all. I still don’t understand these feelings I’ve had since I first met him. He has this… aura about him, like it, just makes me happier being with him. Sometimes, I find myself just staring at him as he works or talks. I just watch him and what he does and I feel… happy. Is that normal? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Maybe the lord hit me one too many times and I’m broken or something. I’ve seen that happen before, in the past.
The barmaid comes with his ale and he waves his fingers at her suggestively with a smile. I find myself slightly irked by the gesture, but I can’t explain why. I mean, he’s like that with everyone, pretty much. It’s nothing new. I grip my mug and take another swig, suddenly, it’s lost its flavour.
“So, enjoying the tavern Ceph? Found anyone to love yet?” I cough into my mug, spitting the ale in my mouth out in surprise.
“You’re forward,” I cough, glance at him sideways.
He pushes his lip forward in thought, an innocent smile in his eyes. “No, I don’t think so. A handsome guy like you, never been with anyone all their life, I think it’d be a little strange if you weren’t thinking about it. Unless…” his smiles widens as he leers at me. “You’ve been getting some and not telling me!”
“No, I haven’t. And even if I did, why would I tell you?” I think the better question is why wouldn’t I tell him. If there was someone I wanted, it would mean we would have to stop traveling. I could hardly do that to him. He seems to enjoy it just as much as I.
“Sure, that’s what you say now. It’s alright. I don’t mind,” he dismisses it.
“Don’t mind?” I ask him, confused. “Why wouldn’t you mind?” I pinch my brows together.
“You’re right. Maybe I would. Maybe I don’t want to share you,” he smirks, resting a hand on mine, on the table.
I cough again. This guy! I can’t believe him! Is he… insinuating… No. He couldn’t be. Why do I feel so flustered?! I look around and it suddenly feels as if everyone’s eyes are on us/ Maybe I need some fresh air. The air in here is thick with sweat and body odour. I lean forward and stand, slipping my hand from beneath his and sliding around the table.
“I need some air,” I tell him, adjusting my long coat and heading for the door. I hear his chair scrape and the stumble of feet as he rounds the table to follow.
“Hold up! I’m coming with you!” he calls from behind.
I need the air from him… I close my eyes, sighing before he catches up. “Fine,” I can’t bring myself to say no. “It’ll be cold out there. Don’t you need your coat?” I ask. I haven’t taken mine off.
He shakes his head. “Nah, I have my own heat,” he beams up at me, long orange hair draping over his shoulder like a shawl. I feel my cheeks warm and I force myself to look away. Yup, I’m broken. I grip the handle in my hand and pull the door open, stepping out into the blowing snow.
Compared to the glow of the tavern candles, outside is dark and quiet. The cold wind blows against us harshly, pushing the freshly fallen snow up against the buildings, as if to bury them. I pull the edges of my coat closer together. I can’t imagine Eli being fine in this. I look down at him as he crosses his arms and breathes the frigid air deeply.
“It’s a bit nippy, isn’t it?” he jests with a smile. I know he’s lying.
“Yea, just a bit,” I mutter, blinking as snow hits my face. I’ve had enough fresh air to cool me off. We should go back in. I turn to do just that when a shadow down the street catches my eye. I stop and peer down the dark lane, hand hovering by the door.
“What is it?” Eli questions at my side.
I pause. “I thought… I saw something,” I say slowly.
He looks down the lane, following my eyes. “Should we go check it out?” he asks.
“No, you need a coat,” I say, grabbing the door.
“I told you, I’m fine. It’s just a peek. What if someone’s hurt and need our help?” he presses.
It’s easy to give in to him when he wants to help others. I nod. “Alright, let’s have a look,” I turn from the door, feet crunching through the deep snow of the street as we make our way toward the shadow of a closed shop. I peer down the alley between the shop and another building, but it’s too dark to make anything out.
“We need a light. How’s this?” Elias suggests, holding out his hand as if he was holding a lantern. His tactic is to make it look just like that, a lantern, instead of magic. The fire bathes the alley in light, revealing a few snow-covered crates and footprints in the snow, leading to the back. The alley doesn’t lead anywhere, so whoever came down here is likely still here.
I follow the footprints slowly, holding a finger to my mouth as I look at Eli. I sneak forward, him following with the light. As I round the crate, the light reveals a young woman, thin and barely dressed. I stop, stunned to see her feet bare, toes nearly black. She’s getting frostbite.
I look up at Eli, pointing to the woman. “She could freeze to death out here. We should bring her back to the tavern. Think they’d let us squeeze one more into our room?” I ask.
He shrugs. “Or we could sneak her in. They can’t do anything about it if they don’t know.” Why does he have to resort to trickery? I’m sure they would understand. No matter.
“Fine, we’ll do it your way. I have a rope, we can get her in through the window.” The woman stares back at me, striking blue eyes in her pale, frozen face. She doesn’t say a word, nor does she protest as I pick her up in my arms and carry her down the street.
I send Elias up with the rope to the room and wait below our window as he drops it down. I tie it around her and have him hoist her up. When she’s safely inside, I head to the front door and join them up in our room.
Elias has already lit the fire and it’s warm. He’s got a basin of wet rags, lukewarm and he’s wrapping her feet in them, being gentle. His gentleness surprises me and I watch, amazed as he works. The rags will slowly warm her toes if they can be saved naturally. Perhaps he can heal them if we can’t. I could try… but then he’d know I have magic and I haven’t told him yet. Maybe when he falls asleep.
“What’s your name?” he asks her as he works.
She looks at him, silently. Her eyes are wide and staring, her lips, blue, and yet, she doesn’t appear to be shivering. Strange.
“Do you have a name?” he asks again. Still, no reply. Elias sighs. “It’d be nice to call you by something other than snow girl,” he chuckles.
“Noel,” she whispers.
We blink, looking at each other.
“Noel, where are your shoes? If you walk around in a snowstorm,” he asks.
“I don’t need shoes,” she says in a clear, quiet voice.
“Everyone needs shoes. You could lose your toes without them,” I point out the obvious.
She looks down that the rags covering her feet, blackened toes hidden beneath the damp mass. “No, I will not,” she wiggles her feet beneath the rags. “It’s too hot in here,” she mutters, shying away from the fire.
“Hot?” I raise a curious eyebrow. The room feels just fine to me and I’m a normal temperature person compared to Elias.
Elias studies her face, a curious expression growing. “You like the cold, don’t you,” he says with a knowing smile. I narrow my eyes at him, trying to figure out how he guessed that.
Slowly, she nods.
“I could tell. I’ll lower the heat,” the fire quickly dims in the hearth and I feel the temperature drop suddenly. If I catch cold from this… so help me God. “How’s that?” he asks her.
She seems to sigh, relieved. “Thank you,” she says in a small voice.
“So, why were you outside alone? Don’t you have any place to go?” he asks.
She stares down at her feet, slow to respond. “Yes, I was going there tonight, but…” she stops, shoulders sagging.
“But what?” Elias presses.
“I got lost,” she whispers.
“Oh, I see,” he chuckles. “It’s easy to get lost in a snowstorm. Would you like us to help? Maybe together, we could help you get there,” He tilts his head to the side as he smiles. She seems entranced by his look. It’s not surprising. Usually, everyone is, myself included.
“Would you, really?” she asks, perking up.
“Of course! Why wouldn’t we, right Ceph?” he turns his brown eyes on me and I stare back stiffly.
“We don’t even know where she’s going. Don’t you think we should find that out first?” I propose.
“Nonsense. If you’re going to offer help, it’s shouldn’t be conditional. Besides, I always help a pretty lady in need, or a pretty man,” he grins slyly, looking at me. I lean back, studying that strange expression. What’s he on about now?
“Fine, we’ll help. But don’t go promising we’ll leave bef-”
“We’ll get you there tonight! Before the sun comes up!” he beams at Noel.
“Before… we sleep on it,” Oh, God. He is always so jumpy. Why am I still here? Steady Ceph. Steady. He’s anything but steady.
And that’s how we ended up outside, in the middle of the night, during a blizzard instead of beside a blazing fire in a tavern drinking ale and listening to awkward jokes about love that I still don’t quite understand.
“Noel, why do you like that cold?” I ask, shivering beneath my long coat. Thankfully, Elias grabbed his coat before we left, bundled against the wind and snow. He may not feel it for a short time, but eventually, the cold takes his toll on him.
Noel, white skin almost glowing in the darkness around us, spins, blue eyes glimmering at me. “Because I make it cold!” Her thin lips spread into a smile. Her features are thin and pointed, almost starved looking, except, she has a bounce in her step as she walks barefoot through the snow.
“What?” I ask, dumbfounded.
“Ceph, she is a mage. Isn’t it clear? She’s glowing in this storm. I wouldn’t be surprised if she made it,” he hums through the long shawl wrapped around his face.
“How can you tell?” I ask, though I have a feeling it’s the feet that tip me off, and the lack of a coat.
“She has an aura, Ceph. Trust me, I know,” Eli muffles.
“I do,” I whisper under my breath. “That might be the problem.”
“What’s that?” Eli turns to me, peering at me in the darkness.
“Nothing. I do,” I say. He doesn’t need to know I worry.
“Well, Noel’s in luck. I’m a fire mage. How old are you anyway?” he asks her.
She tilts her head to the side, glancing toward Eli with a mixed look of curiosity and amusement. “I’ve been cold for longer than I can remember.”
I get a strange feeling in my gut, something bothers me about her, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it.
“Wow! You must be very gifted then. So what are you going to the mountains anyway? What’s up there that you need to go in a storm?” Elias asks her.
She stops skipping, ahead of me, a sad look on her pale face. “I have family in the mountains. I came down to the town to get help because our house, it got destroyed in an avalanche and I needed help. But I seem to have gotten lost and can’t find my way back.”
Elias stops and grabs her shoulders. “That’s horrible! We must hurry then! Your family could freeze in this storm!” the girl nods frantically, holding her hands to her face. I expect tears but nothing comes. “C’mon Ceph, let’s hurry up the pace!” he starts to jog along the path and I am forced to keep up unless I want to get left behind.
We trudge through the snow for two hours, the mountains looming ahead of us in the darkness, a black mass of stone, forest and snow. I don’t know how he expects to find this girl’s home in this storm on a mountain in the middle of the night unless he plans to use his fire as a torch. It doesn’t surprise me when I see him do just that, once were far enough away from any homesteads.
He cradles a fiery orb in his hand, sheltering it from the wind and snow and makes it glow bright to light the path. Soon, we find ourselves ascending the mountain.
It only takes another hour out in the cold for me to be shivering beneath my coat. I can’t feel my toes and my fingers and my teeth chatter behind my shawl. I can understand how Elias seems fine, bundles against the wind and producing his own heat. I, on the other hand, am not equipped with any gifts that aid me in such a way, unless I wanted to cast a time spell to slow down the rate at which I freeze. At any rate, I can’t even attempt that because I don’t want him to know what I am. I’m still… afraid.
I push through the snow, slowly at the back of the pack, Noel leading us forward, Elias in the middle. Every once in a while he calls back to ensure I’m still there, having difficulty turning his head, bundled up as he is. Each time I call back flatly. “Still here,” although I really wish I was just back at the tavern, in a nice warm bed by one of his fires.
Strangely enough, the image of him holding me to keep me warm floats through my mind and I find myself flustered, despite the fact that he neither knows nor can see me right now. Why would I think that, and why would I enjoy that? Maybe it’s the cold getting to me, but the thought of his arms holding me against him, warm and bare… I clench my jaw to stop my teeth from chattering. I need to think about something else.
I stumble on, his calls becoming less and less frequent as we climb higher. I start to just stare at the footprints in the snow, following them at my own slow pace, as the path gets dimmer and darker. The snow swirls thicker and the tracks get fainter and fainter. Soon it gets so dark and the tracks so faint I can’t even see where he’s stepped.
Wait, why is the path dark? I look up and stop in my tracks. Elias and Noel are gone.
I stand in three feet of snow, arms crossed, hands in my pits, staring at an empty mountain path, no tracks in site. Maybe if I follow my tracks back I can find where I made a wrong turn. I can’t have traveled that far.
I turn around, looking behind me to follow my own tracks back… to see they’ve already filled in with the swirling snow.
Great… Now I’m going to freeze to death on a mountain. Just what I wanted.
“You know, Noel. We’ve never met a mage who liked the cold before. What element are you?” I ask the lithe pale girl skipping through the snow ahead of me.
She twists her neck, looking over her shoulder at me. “Frost. I love the cold mornings in the fall. When I lived in a village many years ago, I would walk by the houses leaving little designs on the windows and in the water barrels.”
My eyes grow wide at that. “I remember times like that! I worked in a town a while back. I’d always stop and stare at the designs. That was you?” I ask, excited to know how they were created.
“Yes, it probably was,” she sings. “It’s not much further,” she adds, pointed ahead.
“Great! Ceph, did you hear that? Not much further!” he’ll be happy to know that. He’s always so quiet and withdrawn, but I know the cold is affecting him more than me. As long as I’m not directly exposed to the element, I’m able to stay warm. Maybe I should stop and make sure he’s not getting frostbite.
I snicker, frostbite. How ironic.
I don’t know why Ceph is so quiet. He’s a smart guy, despite being a slave for the last twenty-five years. I suspect that has something to do with his magic that he still refuses to talk about. I can’t believe he thinks I still don’t know. But, I can’t bring myself to tease him. I want to see how long he’ll take to tell me.
I frown when I don’t hear he reply. “Ceph? Did you hear me?” I twist awkwardly, unable to see behind me.
When there’s no answer, I call up to Noel. “Can we stop for a moment. I think somethings wrong,” she freezes in the snow, turning to face me. I turn around, looking back behind me. I hold up the fire in my hands to light the path and my stomach drops.
“Where’d he go?” Noel pops up beside me, almost making me jump.
“I – I don’t know,” I suddenly don’t know what to do. He follows me everywhere, never falling behind. Occasionally suggesting we stop and rest, but he never just… vanishes! “We’ve got to go back.”
“But… we’re almost there,” Noel pouts.
“Yes, I know, but Ceph, he could freeze out there. He’s not like me. He doesn’t have fire,” For all I know, he could have dropped cold into the snow a while ago, already frozen and unable to speak! I feel my heart racing with the horrible image of him curled up in the snow, waiting for me.
“It’s not cold, though,” Noel chimes beside me. I look down at her, small pale figure, frosty hair blowing amidst the snow.
“Maybe not for you, but Ceph’s different than us,” in more than one way. He won’t tell me, but I know he’s different. Why can’t he tell me? Haven’t I made it obvious to him yet? I shake my head, dispelling the useless thoughts. “We need to find him. C’mon.”
I plow back through the snow, surprised to find our tracks already buried in a fresh layer of new flakes. I look left and right, shining the fire, trying to keep it out of the wind. I call out into the darkness. “CEPH! Where’d you go! CEPH!” but no one answers over the howl of the wind.
“Damn it!” I curse under my breath. Where could he have gone? Why didn’t he call for me to stop? “CEPH-!”
I slip into the snow, sliding on my butt down the sudden slope. The snow finds its way under my coat and into my shirt. I hiss, sucking my teeth as the cold wetness touches my skin. It melts at it touches me, stinging a little at the same time.
When I finally come to a stop, I shiver, trying to find my footing and shaking the snow from my body.
“Are you ok?!” Noel calls from behind, sliding on her feet over the snow as she creates a frosty top layer to slide on. Handy, that trick. I could just melt all this. Maybe that’ll help me find Ceph faster.
“I’m fine. Just a little wet. Say, Noel. You like the cold. Do you think you could maybe use your frost to find someone out in a storm?” I ask with interest.
She tilts her head sideways, tiny neck stretching. She looks away into the dark, lips pressed together. “I suppose I could. But, I can only reach so far.”
“Get! Let’s give it a shot!” I hope she can find him fast. I don’t know how long he can take the cold.
I think I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have let him come out here. I shouldn’t have said anything about the shadow in the alley. I shouldn’t have agreed to leave the farm despite the death of the lord, and I most certainly shouldn’t have let him talk to me when he first showed up that day, a year and 267 days ago.
Maybe, I shouldn’t have stopped moving. The snow has piled up around me, my feet now completely numb, along with my hands and nose. I can’t move, huddled in a ball where I stopped twenty-two minutes ago. My eyes feel heavy, but I’m scared they’ll freeze shut in I close them.
I want to use my magic, but I can’t think of a way for time to block out the cold. If I slow the time, it’ll still be cold, the snow just won’t pile up as much. If I speed the time, the snow will pile around me faster, potentially burying me so Eli won’t see me. I’d time jump to a warmer location, but I don’t have the energy to summon that kind of spell.
So I’m stuck.
I’m no longer shivering, and I know this is bad. I can’t see my breath in the air, this is also bad. The forest is silent around me, except for the wind whistling through the trees. It’s… serene, calming. Maybe I could sleep here… until he finds me, or death takes me. Either way, I guess I’ve enjoyed my time with him.
Eli is witty, and thoughtful, even if he can be annoying and boisterous. He’s kind and generous. I wish I could be more like him, caring less about what others think and doing the right thing. He’s not afraid of anything. He’s brave and unique, and handsome.
I freeze, mentally, because I’m already frozen. I thought it again. Why? Why do I think that? No matter what I do, my thoughts go back to that.
But, I can’t deny it. The way he keeps his long orange hair tied back, the toned muscles of his body, the kindness of his warm, brown eyes. The shape of his smile, the sound of his voice. It’s all so attractive! Even when I have nothing to say, I find I could listen to him all day. I do listen to him all day.
But… it’s wrong. A man can’t love another man… That’s not how it works. I’ve seen it before… in Rome, but still, that was hundreds of years ago and now, I would be persecuted. If anyone ever found out I liked him… I’d be flogged and I know all too well how that feels.
That’s why I become flustered when he hints at that. I try not to think about him, but I fail every time and then… he says those things… and it makes me want him, but it’s wrong. I guess I really am broken. I don’t live in a time when what I feel is acceptable. I shouldn’t have let myself be taken by him. I’ve only set myself up for failure.
I blink, realising that I’ve fallen over in the snow. My cheek is pressed to the packed snow beneath me, the flakes falling on my coat, blanketing me in the white sheet of death. Maybe it’s a good thing that I die here… alone… Because then, I can’t bring him trouble. It was fun… while it lasted. It was… fun.
Darkness takes me into her icy cold embrace.
It’s been so long, but finally, Noel says she’s found something. We’ve roamed the side of the mountain, searching for any signs of life. I hold a shaking hand out in front of me as we stumble between the trees. Just ahead, she said she detected a body. I hope to the Gods he isn’t dead.
I trip, falling face first into the snow with a yelp. It’s not the first time. My flame goes out as my hands hit the snow.
I look back at what I tripped over and my heart flips.
“Ceph!” my voice comes out strangled. I spin around, kneeling in the snow and shoving it aside with my hands, not caring that they sting. I unbury the stiff man from a foot of snow. I look down at his still face, eyes closed, nose and lips blue. His coat is stiff, arms shoved under his pits, knees curled to his chest.
“Ceph, no! Please don’t be dead!” I couldn’t live with myself if he died out here because of me! “Noel! Quick! We need shelter! I need to make a fire!” I think fast, trying to think of ways to bring him back.
“There’s a cave, maybe twenty minutes up that way,” she points behind me.
I nod. “Perfect,” I hoist Ceph out of the snow, dragging his stiff body up the mountain. I fight against the wind and the tall snow banks till at last, we reach the mouth of the small shallow cave. I pull him in, fumbling with my coat. There are no logs to burn, so I’ll have to burn this.
I move fast, drying it first so the snow doesn’t make it soggy. Noel waits in the mouth of the cave, staring at the fire.
I then turn to Ceph. His coat is stiff with snow and frost. I use my heat to loosen the fabric. It won’t help him now. He needs body heat. I peel the coat off him, being careful when I move his limbs. He still hasn’t woken up. This has me worried.
The fire will be too warm for him, and his skin would cook from frozen, so I can’t warm him by the fire. The safest thing is body heat. I might be warmer than the average person, but it’ll have to do, considering the only other person around is a girl who likes the cold.
I smirk at the idea of being skin to skin with Ceph. I know he’d get flustered at the thought as I strip his clothes off and then my own shirt. Moving as far back from the fire, into the cave as possible, I pull Ceph close to me, holding him to my chest. I try not to be too hot.
He’s frozen to the touch and I can barely detect a hint of breathing. I sigh, relieved that he’s at least alive. Together, we lay there, huddled together in the cave as the snowstorm blows outside.
I feel a tingling in my fingers and feet as my consciousness stirs. My body feels sore and my head hurts a little, but I feel something warm enclosed around me and I feel… content. I heave a heavy sigh, my chest expanding against the weight of the warmth that holds me. I feel the warmth extend from around my chest, along my back, down to my legs.
I flex my stiff hands, feeling something holding them as well, warm fingers grip mine in theirs, passing their heat to me. I slowly open my eyes and tilt my chin down to look at the fingers. They are large and callused, fair skinned. Manly… I go rigid on the stone floor beneath me. I begin to discern the details. I feel the muscled abs against my back and the thick arms hugging me tightly. The smell of the campfire is strong and I don’t think it’s coming from the smoking coat in front of me. I catch the faintest hint of orange hair over my shoulder and my cheeks grow hot with the realisation: Elias is holding me… and I have no shirt on, and he likely doesn’t either.
If I had the energy, I’d leap from the ground and run away, but my body feels sluggish and heavy. His breathing on my neck tickles my hair and I can tell he’s sleeping. How can he sleep at a time like this!? Honestly! I might just die from shock!
He stirs, after a moment, his thick arms squeezing me tightly, but gently. His breath blows against my neck and I feel goosebumps rise along my skin and down my arm. I pretend not to notice, holding my breath and closing my eyes. I feel my cheek twitch.
“Ceph,” I hear his voice beside my ear. All my senses are alert. “Are you awake?” he whispers. My jaw trembles as I hold back my response. I want to answer him, thank him even, but I’m too afraid of what my voice will sound like. I’ve never been so close to him before… and I like it, which makes this worse!
“Ceph?” he calls again, his hand shifting, letting mine go as it glides to my shoulder and pulls me back so he can see my face. I can hear him smile as his eyes fall on my face, clearly red from blushing. “Oh, Ceph,” he hums. “Thank the Gods you’re alive. I thought I’d lost you!”
I can’t answer. I’m dying from embarrassment.
Elias laughs and it rings in my ears. “You don’t have to be so embarrassed, Ceph. There is nothing wrong with this.”
“There’s isn’t?” I croak. I was right, my voice is strange. I shouldn’t have said anything.
“No, there isn’t. You nearly froze to death out there. I took too long to find you, but, with Noel’s help, we were able to find you before it was too late. I had you use my warmth to thaw you. I will be frank, I might have enjoyed it a little too much,” he grins.
My face burns and I don’t think it’s from the frostbite.
“Ceph, are you… enjoying it too?” he asks, eyes searching mine. I want to look away, but I can’t! I find myself spellbound, unable to blink or turn. I stare back into his eyes.
I don’t use my voice, I don’t trust it, so, I nod instead, dipping my chin up and down. His face splits into a wide smile and my heart flips at the sight.
“So you finally admit it, you like me!” he says loudly.
I want to scream in protest.
“Don’t worry, there’s no one around for miles! They won’t hear a thing,” he chuckles as he leans down and touches his warm, pink lips to mine. I don’t remember what happened next, I think I passed out.
All Elias has to do these days is bring up the night of the snowstorm in any argument to make me shut up, turning red and sending me into a nervous fit, looking around to see if anyone heard him. I think he enjoys making me freak out unnecessarily.
As we sit in the Tavern, a year later, I touch my hands to my lips, watching him dance with the piper across the room, singing boisterously as the others clap and pound their feet against the floor, remembering that night. I’m not sure where the girl, Noel, went but I don’t think I’ll ever forget our first kiss, no matter how long I live.
Interlude 2 end
By Kayla West