Kivan had been watching the moon through the window for hours. He had tried to rest, but it had been quite impossible, much to his growing frustration. He needed his rest. They all did. They had chosen to take the road for that reason. The highway had led them to the Friendly Arm Inn, where warm food and soft beds promised at least a single night of comfort. Much-needed comfort and rest. The confrontation with Tazok was just days away, and then there would be decisions to be made, a promise to consider….
He closed his eyes with a sigh, nestling his shoulders more deeply against the pillows. Why had he promised her that he would consider her request? Why did the idea of travelling to Baldur’s Gate with Arien fill him with a strange feeling of excitement mixed with terror? And why… why did she always seem to have this effect on him?
You know the answer, Kivan.
He groaned and flung his arms over his face. Not again. Not this conversation again. Arien had told him once that it was not the arguing with yourself that should concern you. It was when you started losing the arguments that you should worry.
And he was losing.
He could almost hear her laughter. And in spite of himself, a faint smile crept to his own lips. He let out a long sigh and let his arms drop from his face, though he kept his eyes closed. The breeze from the window was cool, and played over his skin with a gentle touch. His mind began to drift. The touch of the breeze slowly became the soft caress of smooth fingers, the rustle of the leaves whispered words in the shadows. And in the corner of his mind, a pair of soft green eyes sparkled with laughter and passion….
His eyes opened quickly at the muffled shout from the neighboring room. It was Arien’s room, and Arien’s voice.
He threw himself from his bed, in the same movement pulling his sword from where it lay against the wall. The scream quickly faded into silence, and for a moment he wondered if he had indeed heard it at all. He stood in the center of the small bedroom for what seemed an eternity, looking toward the wall that separated his bedroom from Arien's, his sensitive elven ears straining to hear some further sound.
At last the ranger let out a deep breath he had not realized he had been holding, then closed his eyes and ran his hand tiredly over his face. Perhaps he had dozed off after all. Perhaps he had been dreaming…. He shook his head violently, trying to push the last of the "dream" from his thoughts. He sighed softly and lay his sword against the wall once more, then walked to the small dressing-table in the corner and bent toward the basin, shivering as he splashed the icy water over his face and chest.
"Please…. No! No!"
His head turned quickly at the sound, and in the space if a breath he was at the door. He flung it open and all but ran out into the hall, stumbling in his haste to reach the door next to his own. He tested the latch.
He could hear Arien’s pleading cries behind the door, though he could no longer make out the words. He continued to play with the door handle, pounding his other fist on the door and shouting.
There was no response.
Kivan stepped away from the door, his thoughts racing. A spare key… Surely the gnome had another key. No… There was no time for that. He squared his bare shoulders and widened his stance, then let his heel fly at the door.
On the third thrust, the door flew open, the bolt tearing with a shriek through the frame. Kivan rushed into the room, just ducking the edge of the door as it slammed shut once more behind him. He cast his eyes quickly around the room. The moon had cast shadows in the corners, and the wind moved the curtains softly, but there was no one in the room other than himself and the small figure in the bed. Of that he was certain. He looked toward the bed.
Arien was thrashing under the blankets, her hair clinging to her forehead in damp curls. Kivan frowned as he crossed the few steps to the bed and dropped to his knees. The thin sheets and blankets had tangled themselves around her body, and had grown damp with sweat. Kivan hesitated, then pulled the blankets away and started gently trying to unwrap the sheets from around her shoulders.
Her sobs turned immediately into gasping cries, and her hands curled into tiny fists that flew at the darkness, catching Kivan on the shoulder and throwing him away.
"No! Help me! I…."
Kivan abandoned the sheets and grasped Arien's shoulders tightly, feeling her tremble under the thin fabric of her nightshirt.
"Arien, wake up!"
She shook her head violently, opening her eyes. They were wide with terror, and she pulled away fiercely, shouting at him with a choked sob.
"Leave me alone!"
Kivan took her by the shoulders again, trying to turn her face to his as he shouted.
"No! I won't let you!"
Slowly, the light of recognition crept into her eyes. Her fingers lay softly against his chest, helpless and trembling as the dream faded. Kivan let out a sigh of relief and let his grip fall from her arms, only then realizing how violently his hands were shaking. He curled them into tight fists, taking a deep breath and sitting back on his heels.
"It was a dream, Arien. You are in no danger…."
He shook his head softly and stood, then walked toward where her washbasin stood in a shadowy corner. He looked around quickly. There was nothing even closely resembling a washcloth. He noticed her pack beside the basin and crouched down beside it, throwing it open and rummaging through the contents.
"You were having a dream, Arien. I heard you shouting…." With a grunt of triumph, Kivan pulled a roll of bandages out of the pack and stood again, dipping them in the cool water and wringing them out in his hand. He shook away the clinging drops and walked back toward the bed, looking at Arien again. "But it was only a dream…." He handed her the damp bandages.
She took them in a trembling hand, taking a shuddering breath. He watched her, his smoky eyes dark with concern. She made no move to wipe the sweat from her face. Instead, her eyes searched the damp bandages, as if for answers. Her face was pale and glistening. So pale. What were these dreams?
She shook her head. "The voice… Kivan, the voice…." Her voice trailed off into a series of whispered sobs and she lowered her head. Her hair fell over her face in shining strands, hiding her eyes. He could hear the faint patter of her tears as they fell onto the coverlet, could see her shoulders shake as she struggled to swallow the whimpers that broke occasionally from her throat.
Kivan hesitated. He ached to pull her into his arms. To pull her in and drive the fear from her heart. But that was the place of a more… intimate friend. Imoen, perhaps, or Jaheira. Yes, certainly the druid had more maternal instincts than she let on, and Imoen had known Arien since childhood. Certainly they had shared such things….
And he… what… was he to her? A friend certainly, but no more than that, and....
Arien threw away the bandages with a cry of frustration, then put her face in her hands and collapsed onto the bed, another series of sobs disappearing into the thick blankets. Without quite realizing what he was doing, Kivan sat down on the edge of the bed, then raised a hand and lay it softly on her shoulder. There was no response.
After a long moment, Kivan sighed quietly, slipping his hands around her trembling shoulders and pulling her close. He paused for only a moment, unsure, then slipped his fingers into her hair and drew her head to his shoulder. She did not resist, curling her fingers further on the bare skin of his chest close to her face and closing her eyes. He slipped the second arm around her shoulders and began to rock gently on the edge of the bed, murmuring softly in a low voice.
"It’s all right… All right…. Shh…."
He could feel her tears on his chest as she began to weep openly. Kivan pulled her closer, running his hands through her hair. His fingers caught gently in the silken tangle….
So it did feel like silk, after all….
Ikotane maksa…. (1)
She was so young, so frightened. He closed his eyes as he felt tears sting at them, felt the tightening of his throat and chest. She had told him that she needed his help, and….
He began to hum softly, as one would to a child woken from a nightmare. Her sobs quieted slightly, but still she trembled in his arms, and an occasional sob would escape into the darkness, tearing at his heart as it passed.
He rested his cheek on her hair, his voice softening into a near whisper. She had almost completely stopped crying now, breathing evenly against his skin. His own breathing seemed suddenly more difficult.
Kivan turned his head slightly, brushing his lips over the top of her hair as his voice trailed off into silence. He let them linger there for a moment, breathing in its fragrance. It smelled faintly of new grass and honey, and the scent of flowers carried on the wind. Fresh, and full, and completely intoxicating….
Leave her, Kivan. Go now, before….
He moved his mouth softly against her hair in a gentle kiss, then lifted his head slightly and brushed his lips over her forehead. She trembled softly, but made no move to pull away.
He curled his fingers around the nape of her slender neck and touched his lips to her forehead again, then to the skin just above the temple. Her temple, the curve of her cheekbone, her eyebrow. The other. She lifted her head only slightly, and he found her lips. Soft and full, parting slightly under his touch until he could taste her breath in his mouth. It was warm, and sweet.
After a long moment, he pulled away, his chest rising and falling heavily as he struggled for breath. Arien raised her eyes to his. Her skin glowed softly in the moonlight, the flawless ivory touched with silver. Her hair fell in waves over her forehead, framing the brilliant green of her eyes and the fire that lay in their depths.
He lifted a hand once more to brush a silken strand of hair from her eyes, letting his fingers trace lightly down the curve of her eyebrow and over her cheek. He had forgotten how it felt to have a woman in his arms, to feel the gentle pressure of a soft body against his.
Sensations long forgotten began to wash over him, setting his heart to racing in his chest. He let his hand slip again into her hair, searching her eyes for some sign that she wanted him to stop, hoping that she would push him away and terrified at the same time that she would do exactly that.
Instead, he felt her hands slide slowly over his chest and around his shoulders, her fingertips tracing lightly over the smooth muscles of his back. There was something in her eyes. Behind the fear of the dream, behind the moonlight that sparkled in the pale green depths. A flame that thrilled him and set his blood to burning. He took a deep, shuddering breath and closed his eyes. His resistance was broken. He hesitated only a moment, then brushed his lips over hers again, shivering softly as their warmth flooded through him.
Arien responded hesitantly at first, then with a growing eagerness as his lips began to search hers more hungrily. The sensations were overwhelming. The scent of her hair, the softness of her arms, the gentle pressure of her hands over his shoulders. He was completely lost. He groaned softly and pulled her closer, crushing her in his arms and pressing insistently against her lips until she shivered, a soft whimper breaking from her throat. She slid her hands over his back, finally tangling her trembling fingers in his long dark hair.
His kisses wandered from her lips over her face, burning on her skin as they traced her jaw, then traveled with agonizing slowness over her ear and finally onto the ivory skin of her throat. His heart pounded against his chest and in his ears until he could hear nothing else but its insistent rhythm and the sighs of the slender figure in his arms. His hands roamed hungrily over her back as his lips moved gently against her skin.
"Vanima … Ikotane vanima...." (2)
The breathless sound of his name on her lips enflamed him. He groaned again and shifted her in his arms, pressing her back against the pillows and moving his lips over her neck. She sighed breathlessly, pulling him closer.
I love you….
His mouth found hers again, moving hungrily against it. She shivered in his embrace, then took a deep breath and murmured against his lips, opening her eyes.
He drank her breath, feeling the flame grow hotter within him. There was nothing but Arien. Her lips, her arms, her body against his…. He found the laces of her nightshirt and began to tug at them softly.
She shivered again and pulled back against the pillows, closing her eyes. "Kivan… We… have to stop…. Please…."
He shook his head as he traced his lips over her collarbone, sighing against her skin. "No, a’maelamin…. (3) We don’t…. Please…. Amin mela…." (4)
She shook her head softly. "Kivan… I... I’m not Deheriana." Her voice barely rose above a whisper, with a pleading note that drew his eyes to hers. They shone with tears. He felt a cold knot form in the pit of his stomach.
Kivan, you fool….
She doesn’t know.
Kivan sat up slightly, circling his hands around her slender waist. He could feel the rise and fall of each breath under his palms.
"I'm sorry, Kivan... I shouldn't have let it go so far.... I didn’t mean to, but I thought…."
Tell her that you love her….
Her soft green eyes looked up at him, almost glowing in the moonlight. There was a look of hope within them, and fire, and softness, and something more….
He shivered and drew a deep breath, then let it out slowly and slipped his hands from around her waist, closing his eyes.
"I’m sorry, Arien. I... should go."
He pushed himself from the bed and stood, running both hands through his hair. He paused, closing his eyes. Perhaps it would be better this way. The next few days held so much uncertainty, and if he should fall….
If she should fall….
He could feel her eyes on him still, but could not meet them. He dared not. He had re-laid the first few bricks in the wall of his resistance, but the mortar was yet soft, and it would take no more than a breath to crumble it forever. No… This was the best way. She would be hurt no further, she would forget, and he… he would not lose another….
You are a fool, Kivan. A fool and a coward.
He took a step toward the door.
He did not turn to face her, did not slow his steps. He walked to the door and put his hand on the latch, still loose from his earlier assault.
He heard her rise in the bed. "Kivan, wait…. Please…. Talk to me…."
"There is nothing to say. I have… made a mistake, and I humbly ask your forgiveness…."
He sighed softly, closed his eyes, then opened them again and turned to look at her. She sat on her knees, her small hands holding her blanket to her chest. Her hair moved softly in the breeze from the window, touched with silver in the moonlight. Her cheeks glittered with tears. Kivan felt a painful tightening in his chest, but could say nothing. An eternity passed between them, and at last it was Arien's trembling voice that broke the heavy silence.
"You’re leaving... aren’t you? You’re not… coming with me to Baldur’s Gate."
His grip tightened on the door handle until his knuckles were white and ached with the effort of keeping his voice steady.
"No. I’m sorry."
Arien nodded faintly and dropped her eyes, then closed them as the tears began to fall. He watched her still, his hand on the door. Someday she would understand. Someday….
As he turned once more to go, she spoke again, her voice no more than a whisper.
"I love you."
Kivan could feel his heart breaking.
(1) So soft....
(2) Beautiful... So beautiful....
(4) I love....
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