Keara heard the news from her brother, who spoke very quietly in the privacy of her bower.
“I hate to be the one to tell you,” Kian said, “but better you hear it from me than anyone else. Dramsol, your Seer, was caught in a trap as he helped rescue Dalziel from the Imperials. His fate is unknown, but the one who seeks his death, both his death and the death of our cousin, was there. It didn’t look good.”
It took her a moment to realize that she was crying. Her hand clutched the rings she carried beneath the fabric of her bodice. She had started carrying them only that morning. “He promised.” She murmured the words as if they could be a shield for him in whatever darkness held him. “My Seer promised that he would come for me when I was grown.”
Kian sighed. He hated to see his sister cry. It made him want to hit something, hard. “Perhaps you will dream of him again and he will tell you that he is well.”
Keara nodded slowly. “Perhaps. I pray that he is well and that he will still come for me.”
Kian grinned. “If he doesn’t, then I’m going to tell our cousin the situation and she’ll help me track him down and drag him back here, in chains if that’s what we have to do. He has made promises. He will keep them.”
Keara smiled and hugged her brother in thanks. He held her close and prayed that she received hope in her dreams.
— — —
Late that night, Riva woke crying and trembling. The darkness and a sudden fear pressed in on her even though the moonlight through the window was bright. She rolled over in her cot, disturbing the slumbering form of Annie, who opened one eye to look at her curiously. She shushed her and she went back to sleep. The other one was nearby; she did not need to go searching for him. Not this night. She had not had to go looking for many nights. She preferred matters this way.
Riva didn’t bother with slippers as she padded on silent feet over to the door that stood between her room and Bastion’s. After a moment’s hesitation she turned the handle quietly and stole through.
He must have sensed her, even in his sleep, because he blinked his eyes open to look at her, her nightgown glowing in the moonlight. “Riva? What’s the matter?”
He heard her sob, quietly, as she walked over to the side of the bed. “Please?” Her voice wavered in the darkness with fear. She hadn’t needed this in so long.
He sighed as he understood what she needed and slid closer to the wall, opening the blankets for her to slide in beside him. She was shaking and shivering and he held her close as she started to calm down. “What happened?”
“Nightmares.” She buried her face in his shoulder, reaching up with one arm to feel his heartbeat. “I… I was in the cavern again, and Wolf Eyes was there, and he said that I would never escape, that you were never real, and there wasn’t anything I could do because I was so small… so small.” She started shaking even harder and pressed into him. “Please, please tell me that you are truly real. I’ll believe anything you say, just tell me that you are real.”
He wrapped his arms around her and simply held her. “I am real, Riva. I am here. You are safe.”
She sighed and relaxed in his embrace. Eventually they drifted off to sleep again.
— — —
They woke suddenly as one, eyes snapping open, bodies trembling with an emotion very different from the fear that had woken Riva earlier in the night. It was still dark out, and the moonlight was still bright. Not more than an hour could have passed. Riva moaned and hid her burning face in Bastion’s shoulder. “Ohhh, that was a new one.”
“You’re awake too? The dream I just had. I haven’t had a dream like that… since I started dreaming about you.” Up to this point the dreams had all been vague, even in the ones where they experienced such things. She thought for a moment that the earliest dreams must have been more detailed in matters of desire, and only grew less so as her body grew younger and less flooded by the hormones of adolescence.
“Are you alright?”
“I will be, I think.” She shifted slightly and noticed the tenseness in him. “What about you?” He was very tense and still and it worried her for a moment.
“I would rather you didn’t move too much right now. I dreamed, but the dream… was not appropriate.” His voice roughened and he fought against himself. It was difficult; it was very difficult not to continue the desires of his dream. She was so close, and so soft against him. He wanted so much to feel her softness, to hear her voice moan in his ear… This was not helping matters.
She blinked. “A pool, surrounded by trees, in the summertime. We were alone.”
“How did you know?” He was startled, but somehow, not surprised.
“Because I had the same dream.” She pressed against him, still trembling with the emotion of the dream, shifted upwards slightly and caught his lips with hers. The contact caused all of their fading desires to reassert themselves. It was powerful. They moved together, rolling to the side. She was beneath him and he was on one elbow above her. It was intoxicating.
His hands started to reach for her, reach for the nightgown to pull it out of the way so that he could touch her, and he made them stop. It was painfully difficult. “I don’t dare.”
“Please? I want…” Her voice shared the same hoarseness that roughened his. Her hands ran over his chest, burning where they went. He caught her hands with his, pinned them above her head with one hand holding her wrists. Her touch threatened to steal his restraint, it held by such a narrow thread as it was.
“I know… what it is that you want. I want it too.” He realized, then, that there was no going back for him. His decision had been made. “I swear to you, one day I will give it to you. One day I will accept all that you offer me, but not now, not tonight, not like this. I care about you too much… to do this to you now.” As he was now… he would overwhelm her. He would hurt her. He did not want their first experience together to be marred by pain. She had suffered too much already. She had been abused too often, too deeply for him to simply take without consideration.
She looked up at him, frustration and need in her eyes, something he knew all too well himself. “Do you think that you would be the first to be rough with me? That you would be the first man to hold me down and make me scream for pleasure from what you do? Mere roughness, no matter how bad, is not going to reignite the curse, Bastion. You don’t have to fear for me.” She shivered slightly, her body shifting as her back arched away from the bed slightly. “I can handle it, Bastion, I swear. I can take your worst.”
He trembled, shaking his head slowly. “I cannot. I cannot subject you to that, not after all that you have suffered.”
She sighed deeply. “Bastion, I need it precisely because of what I suffered. I need to know that what those bastards did isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, the way it’s supposed to feel. I need it, no matter how you choose to give it, because I care about you.” She met his eyes with a wry half-smile. “And I guess that’s why I understand why you’re saying no. I don’t like it, but I do understand it. I’ll let it go for now… but I’m still going to want it, whenever you’re ready. Rough, gentle, or anything in between.”
He echoed her sigh with one of his own. “Are you going to be alright?”
“As soon as this calms down? Yes.”
“Have you ever…?” He didn’t even know how to ask the question, and all the terms he knew sounded impolite.
Somehow she understood. “I used to, but I haven’t in a very long time. Whenever Simon looked after me, he made me do that fairly often. I think it was his way of making sure that my needs were met even if he didn’t see to me himself.”
He sighed again. “I dare not help you, not as I am now, or I would lose restraint.” But oh, how he wanted to. To bring her pleasure, to hear her cry out with it… He really needed to stop thinking about those things, at least until his body calmed some.
“It’ll fade. That much I know for certain.” She pulled away from him slightly and he let go of her hands. “But perhaps I ought to return to my cot for now.”
“That would probably be best, yes.” He couldn’t hide the disappointment in his voice, though, as he spoke.
She paused as she slid out from the bed, and leaned over and kissed him. “Thank you, for being here… and for the dream. Even if we can’t see it to its natural conclusion.” Then she was gone, padding back to her room and he was alone again, cursing the honor that was reward and punishment in one.
It didn’t help that dreams were never the same again, for either of them.