(( Made in collaboration with Malory Grace, all credit is shared with her equally. ))
Sleeping soundly in her borrowed bedroom, with the glowing necklace still drapped over her neck, Malory had gone to bed thinking that she'd be able to get a full night of sleep. And for a large portion of the night, she did. But a few hours before the three suns rose to shine light onto Esteria, the brunette's eyes opened wide, a gasp escaping her lips. Her dream had been peaceful, pleasantly enjoyable, and it was a beloved break from her usual nightmares, until she realized what it meant. But that...that couldn't be.
There was no way she could possibly be...have feelings for...care about Virian Kyljoy. Virian! Of all the people she had spent time with, of all the men and woman she had enjoyed the company of, out of all of them--Virian was the only one she had gotten to know. Who had gotten to know her. She hated to admit that to herself, but most of her other partners couldn't even be called 'friends.' They were one night flings, maybe two, someone she bought drinks with and slept in their bed with having never even asked their last name.
Malory knew Virian's last name, and his family, and his favorite and least favorite foods, that he liked to sing and play instruments, that he played tricks on his siblings when he was a kid, that he had been trapped on Earth for hundreds of years, that he loved drowning in pillows and sheets as he slept--which, by the way, was an extremely comfortable way to sleep. She had gotten to know him, learn about him and his people while she was trapped in his world. Virian was the first person since Malory had become an adult that she had actually gotten to know, personally. Virian was...her friend.
But that's all he was! Her friend, nothing else. Hell, he shouldn't even be her friend, not after what he had done to her. Stolen from her, forced her to kill a beast for him, and dragged her with him to his world, ripping her away from her family and home so he could return to his. Every day she spent with Virian in Esteria was a month away from her mourning family on Earth. Over a year had passed on Earth, but it had only been a couple weeks since she had met Virian. Maybe acting as his fiancé was getting to her head--of course she didn't have feelings for him. That was just...wrong. Bad. And painfully, undeniably...true.
Malory's heart ached both when she denied and accepted the truth. She wasn't supposed to care about anyone, ever. Or be cared about. She loved her family and her family loved her, but no one else. Anyone else meant they'd get hurt, they'd find out that Malory hunted, that she interacted with imaginary creatures. But Virian already knew--he was one of the damn creatures. With his pointy ears and sharp features and boyish smile and uncontrollable mess of curly hair...No! She couldn't think like that!
Turning onto her side, Malory's gaze fell upon the door connecting her room to Virian's. If...If for a moment, she entertained the idea that she was actually in...enthralled with Virian, she knew it was pointless. They'd soon have everything they needed to open a portal home for Malory. There was no way she could stay--she was still human in a land full of elves, and her family still needed her on Earth. And there was no way Virian could go back with her, either. He had spent six hundred years trying to get off of Earth, he was the prince of this kingdom, and she knew he didn't feel the same about Malory as she...maybe did for him. There was no point in hoping for anything to happen. Best to move on, and forget. Forget about it all.
Virian wouldn't mind if she...checked in on him, right? The door across the room from Malory was beaconing her to go to it, open it, and just steal a glance at the elf sleeping on the other side. Malory could entertain the idea that...she had until sunrise, couldn't she? There wasn't any harm in that, right? Pushed the covered on the bed back, Malory set her feet on the marble floor, her steps carefully light on the cool stone so she wouldn't risk waking Virian. Too bad he was already awake.
Virian had spent most the night laying in his bed, wide awake and staring up at the ceiling with a fleeting curiosity for the story painted on it. It was a story that he had once admired, full of dragons and magic; laughter and friendship; hatred and adventure. Once he had admired it, even aspired to be like the king in it. Strong, fair, and jolly. The woman the king loved wasn't a princess, though. She was a witch. A strong-headed, sarcastic, irresistibly cute witch that made his life a living hell, and he loved her for it.
With a frustrated groan, Virian turned to his side, punching his pillow in the useless effort of making it comfortable. Nothing could be comfortable when his mind was this frantic and just plain disturbed. It was if the story was mocking him--literally hanging over his head, taunting him with how disturbingly similar some of the details were to his current...situation.
Malory had been stuck in Esteria for just a few weeks now, and they hadn't talked about Earth in days. Instead, they had been busy maintaining the appearance of a lovey-dovey elf couple for the court. If they had any sort of slip up both of their heads would be lopped off, he was sure of it. With every passing day that Malory stayed the danger for their secret to break was growing stronger, and he knew that she was very aware of the simple fact that if she said one wrong thing then she'd be dead. They'd both be.
Oh, this was not how he imaged his life back home to go. In his mind, it had involved a lot more hunting, laughing, and dancing. He was a prince, after all! He had been raised to expect these things. For six-hundred years he tried to get away from Earth, and now that he's finally away from it he's now supposed to slave away at trying to find another portal just to send her back? Unbelievable. Ridiculous.
Over the weeks of Malory being there, Virian had noted a couple of key things. First, she really hated him. That much was certain. Second, she hated the role she was being forced to play. Third, she hated the dresses. Fourth, she hated him. Fifth, she hated him.
And oh how he found it adorable whenever he surprised her with a kiss or forced her to dance with him, and he grinned at the glare she gave him. Or rather, she tried to give him. She had to act like she was in love with him, all while convincing herself that she hated him, when really she felt neither of those things. But what did she feel towards him?
That much was as much of a mystery to him as what he felt towards her. He knew neither of these things, and it was starting to bother him. After all they had gone through together, Virian knew she was tough. She killed a troll for him (he may have forced her to, but that didn't change how impressive it was), listened to all his ramblings without ever telling him to shut up (which was certainly new to him), survived a poisoning, allowed him to cut open her ears, helped him slay a dragon, and she even beat him at fencing. Thrice.
She never let him win an argument, she never laughed at his tricks, and hardly ever cracked a smile at his jokes. She liked getting drunk, spent most of her time reading, and ignored him at every chance she got. She's anything but a lady. She's a human. A cold, sarcastic, distant, arrogant, irresistibly cute human.
Oh how he loved her for it.
He sat up in his bed, pillows and sheets practically swallowing him up, and looked over at the door the joined his bedroom to Malory's. Once upon a time, it had just been an empty space he hardly ever looked at, let alone went into. As the prince, he would need to choose a wife someday, anyway, and this room was built for her. He just never imagined there would be a human sleeping in it possibly having another nightmare. He hated that. Not the human part, though, just the nightmare. He hated thinking of Lo waking up in the nights, screaming.
Ugh, there he goes again. Calling her Lo. She was supposed to be gone weeks ago, out of his life forever with hardly a name for her cute little mousy face. And yet there she was, pretending to be his fiancee and a whole year had passed by on Earth. She must be devastated, but she never lets it show. He can't blame her for either of those things.
Somehow, he finds himself standing up, walking across the marble floor as silently as he can. He stops in front of the door, his hand hovering above the handle as a fleeting thought of clarity enters his mind. He has no idea why he's doing this, and he's an idiot for even allowing his hand to touch the handle. But he does.
Only, when Virian put his hand on the cool metal of the door knob, it turned for him, by Malory on the other side. Her fingers gripped the knob probably too tightly, as if she was jittery with nerves. She wasn't nervous, Malory Grace was never nervous! Taking in a completely unnecessary breath, she finished the task at hand. There was a part of her that knew that she was crazy for doing this, but the other part of her was longing to look at Virian, and willing to completely ignore the other half for now.
With the doorknob still half turned, Malory twisted it the rest of the way and pulled the door open, taking a quick step forward--that would have been silent if it wasn't for the fact that she walked straight into Virian, almost smashing her face directly into his, a sharp gasp escaping her lips.
If Virian hadn't been holding his breath, he surely would've shrieked. It was one of the many things about him that Malory disliked about him, apparently. His tendency to shriek. But now wasn't the time to focus on these things. He was staring straight down into the face of his 'intended', both of them with mouths gaping open in shock and faces so close to touching that Virian could hear her breathing raggedly. Quickly, he stepped backwards, almost tripping over his robe before he tugged it out of the way, using this as the perfect opportunity to look away from her as well.
Looking back at her, Virian found that his mouth was dry and he licked his lips, blinking a few times in disbelief. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, he broke it with a sleepily croaky voice that caused even him to become embarrassed. "Wha--What are you...?" He trailed off, suddenly unable to think. She looked so vulnerable in the moonlight, eyes wide and hair unkempt. So breathtaking.
Malory, under no circumstances, had expected Virian to be on the other side of the door when she opened it. She had expected him to be asleep in his bed, pleasantly dreaming about his life without her in it. When she was gone and he never had to see her face again. Instead, he had been standing at the door, as if he had intended on going into her room. Like she had his. Oh god--had he heard her moving about? Did she wake him? It wouldn't have been the first time--despite his best efforts to help her sleep, her nightmares still came to her. But he kept trying to make it better, to ease them away, it was very thoughtful of him. But of course he would be doing that for his own sake, so she wouldn't keep waking him at night.
"I-I..." Stuttered the woman, trying to come up with a good excuse. And what did Malory do best when she was confused? Hide her confusion with anger. Blue eyes narrowed at Virian, arms crossed in front of her chest, Malory managed an actual sentence. "What are you doing, Virian?"
Of course she turned angry. At least, that's what it looked like to the prince. He frowned thinly, his mind completely blank. What had he been doing? Truthfully, he had no idea. He had just gone with his instinct, as usual. So, deciding to do just that, Virian said the first thing that came to his mind.
He blinked, only just realizing what he had said. Then Virian pushed a wild curl away from his eyes, puffing his chest out as he continued his bluffing, scarily confident in his words even as he made it up on the spot. "I heard a mouse scuttling about. It woke me up." He narrowed his eyes, "And you...?"
A mouse? A mouse had woken Virian up? Malory didn't believe that for a second, but she didn't know what else he could have been doing. Her own instincts wanted her to believe that he had wanted to check on her, see if she was okay. But there was no way that could be true, he didn't care about her that much. Virian just wanted her gone, out of his life forever.
"I see..." Was all she said, watching Virian's hand push back his curly hair. Oh how her hand itched to do the same, to share an intimate, close moment with him, without it having to be for show as they pretended they were engaged. But, of course, Virian had to ask what she had been doing. Taking a quick glance at Virian bed, she came up with a hopefully-believable answer. "I wanted another pillow." She stated, before going over to Virian's bed and taking one of the noumerous pillows off of it.
Surprise surprise--Virian didn't believe her. And--surprise surprise, he didn't say anything about it. Instead, he just watched her take one of his pillows, keeping silent. This, of course, was unusual. Virian had one of the unusually useless talents of being able to always say something. Again, a thing that Malory didn't particularly enjoy about him. Or so he thought.
Glancing at the pillow she took, Virian raised a brow and walked towards his bed, taking another one. Before he had the chance to stop himself he held it up for her to take, actually sounding like he cared about her comfort. "Uh, take this one. It's better. A lot softer."
Virian's silence surprised Malory, but not in a good way. She was used to his chatter and non-stop arguments. Not his compliance. That was actually something they had in common--they both were bad at complying. And Malory didn't really like the fact that Virian wasn't trying to argue with her. Then again, she didn't really know what she could say if he pressed her for a real answer to why she had wanted to go into his room.
Her hands held the pillow she had grasped uncomfortably tight, her nails digging into the soft fabric. Virian's voice seemed to snap her out of a trance, and her gaze fell back to him and the new pillow in his hand. "Thank you..." She said, with much more earnestness than she had intended, Malory reached her hand out to take the one from Virian. Her fingers lightly brushed against his as she took the pillow from his hand, and she shamefully savored the sensation, letting her digits linger against his for longer than necessary.
His breath hitched, and Virian blinked. Standing completely still, his gaze fixed down on where her fingers had touched his. It was strange. In public, they were always touching--holding hands, kissing, dancing, etc. But in private, they hardly looked at each other because they were so exhausted after the day. Usually, all they did was come back into his apartment, blandly talk about how to get her back to Earth (which soon turns into bickering, of course) before one of them claims to be too tired and they both go to bed. Separate beds, with a wall separating them. A wall that Virian had more than once or twice thought about breaking down. He didn't really understand why he wanted to, but he just did. And it wasn't as though he couldn't just lie and say it was because of termites or something like that, yet he found himself respecting her privacy more and more. So, the prince kept the wall up.
But now she was there, in front of him, shamefully avoiding his eyes as if they'd done something despicable. Well, neither of them were exactly saints, but they had been fairly good that past few days. He had even slowed down on his teasing and pranks, just to stop her from feeling bad about it on his behalf. So what had he done now, he wondered? What did he want to do, he wondered?
Breathing in sharply, Virian's hand clenched close and fell down to his side, swinging a bit as he awkwardly smiled and nodded, silently damning his curls as they bounced back to his face. "Good night, then, I suppose. Don't let the mouse wake you."
Malory shouldn't enjoy this--she shouldn't like simply brushing her fingers against Virian's. They touched all the time publicly as they put on their show for the surrounding elves. But they didn't need to touch right now, she could have just taken the pillow and left. But she had let herself indulge in feeling Virian's skin against her own for a few moments longer then necessary, because after that night, she knew she couldn't let herself do it again. She wouldn't let her secret feelings for Virian become anything more, she wouldn't even let herself acknowledge them. This was the one and only chance that she would give herself, because she was better than this. She wouldn't let herself pine over someone she could never be with, over someone who hated the fact that she simply existed. At least, she thought Virian hated her.
Blinking a few times, Malory quickly pulled her hand away, and the pillow closer to her. She held it to her chest, hugging the very soft pillow in her arms. "Yeah, um, goodnight, Virian. Thanks for the pillow. And the warning about the...mouse." It sure as hell wasnt going to be a mouse keeping her awake for the rest of the night. Malory took a few steps backwards from Virian before turning around and walking straight out of the connecting doorway, probably a little faster than necessary. She had no idea that Virian wanted the wall gone--she also had no idea that he really, really didn't hate her--but maybe she wouldn't be that opposed to it.
Watching Malory turn and leave made Virian's heart sting more than he'd ever admit. He stayed still, hands clutched shut as they hung by his sides, as lifeless as his brain was at that moment. Usually, he allowed his brain to control his actions, but not at that moment. At that moment, he took in a deep breath and took a single step following after Malory. After that, he stopped, and his brain started working again. With that, he nodded his head- curls bouncing around, as usual--and turned away again.
She hates him, and he hates her. That's what both of them kept trying to tell themselves, and they were both very wrong.