To Sleep, To Dream
It was another sleepless night for Dimitri. The castle was long since abed. Stars danced in the night sky outside his window as his thoughts spun and his head ached. Eventually, he gave up on sleep and retreated to his desk. Might as well put his wakefulness to use.
The evening was chilly, and he pulled the robe more tightly around his shoulders. Candlelight flickered across the paper. The only sound was the scratching of his quill as he reviewed and signed proclamations. They were lonely, these wee hours of the night, but at least now he had work to distract him from his ghosts.
He was so used to his solitude that he was startled by a knock on the door of his study. “Enter,” he said.
A guard opened the door and saluted. “Your Majesty, please pardon the interruption. You have a, uh, visitor.”
At this time of night? Dimitri frowned. “Is there an emergency?”
“No, my lord…”
“Show them in.” Dimitri stood and straightened his robe, pondering the confusion in the guard’s voice.
Flayn shuffled into the room, draped in a blanket. Dimitri’s eyebrows rose. The guard gave the two of them an overly curious look.
“Thank you,” Dimitri said. “You are dismissed.”
The guard took the hint and quickly closed the door. Dimitri sighed. Rumors were sure to fly before dawn broke. A young woman, coming to the king’s rooms in the dead of night…. It was a scandal that would make Sylvain proud.
“I am sorry,” Flayn said. “I was remembering our late-night conversations in the cathedral, and I thought perhaps you would share my wakefulness.”
“Of course.” Dimitri sat her across the desk from him.
She curled up in the chair, completely hidden by the blanket save her head. “I see you still suffer from sleeplessness also.”
He picked up his quill and found his place in the document. “I do.”
“And the headaches?”
“Those as well.”
“Do you still not wish to be cured of them?”
Dimitri’s quill paused. Flayn’s offer, given what felt like so long ago, surfaced in his memory. “I think I have found a better way to honor those who have passed on,” he said slowly.
Flayn’s eyes lit up. “Does that mean you will let me try to help?”
“If you so desire.”
“I do! Very much.”
Flayn sprang from her chair and hurried over. Even with him seated, she appeared petite. She positioned herself behind him and raked her small fingers through his hair. A shiver ran down his spine. Human touch wasn’t something he usually let himself indulge in.
Her hands might be delicate, but they were powerful. Magic the likes of which he had never felt rippled through him. A honeyed light flooded his vision. Even when he closed his eyes, the light remained, but it wasn’t painful. If anything, it was soothing. His scalp relaxed, then his neck and shoulders, until he felt more puddle than man. Only when the light faded, and a gentle touch danced down his neck and onto his shoulder, was he able to focus his thoughts.
“It…it’s gone.” Dimitri twisted in his chair and stared at Flayn in wonder. “I have had that headache for nearly a decade. You are a miracle worker.”
A smile curved the corner of her mouth. “Some have called me that in the distant past. I am only pleased I was able to assist you.”
Dimitri rolled his shoulders. It was as if a weight had been lifted from him, as if he could see clearly for the first time in years. He was a new man.
“If there is anything I can do for you in return—”
“There is,” Flayn blurted before he could finish. “I should very much like to share your bed this evening.”
Heat flooded Dimitri’s face so quickly he was surprised it didn’t burst into flame.
Flayn’s cheeks reddened as well. “I do not mean what you think! I know I declared my intent to seduce you, but in truth, I do not know how to go about it. I merely wish to sleep next to you. That night, when I fell asleep in the cathedral, was one of the few nights of true rest I have had in as long as I can remember.”
“Are you still plagued by the fear you will not wake up?”
There was nothing for it. Flayn had done him a priceless service. Now that his pain was gone, he was suddenly very tired.
“Then I would be happy to oblige you,” he said.
Flayn’s blush deepened, but she appeared pleased. It felt strange to lead her to his bedchamber, to turn back the covers for her and see her slide inside. Something in his middle lurched at the sight of her green hair spread across his pillows, granting him the slightest peek of her earlobe. He tucked her in and got into bed from the other side.
“Is that the side you always sleep on?” she asked.
Dimitri had never thought about it before. “Yes, I suppose it is.”
“How fortuitous. I always sleep on this side.”
Dimitri blew out the candle, and they lay in awkward silence for a few minutes.
“You are very warm,” Flayn said.
“Do you need me to remove a blanket?”
“No, thank you. I am comfortable.”
Dimitri listened to the soft sound of her breathing. He had never shared a bed with anyone before. Every nerve was hyperaware of her presence.
“I know I said I was not going to try to seduce you tonight, so I hope you will take what I am about to say in the appropriate manner,” she said quietly.
“What is that?”
“I truly do find you handsome. Your body is mighty, and your heart is kind. I feel safe when I am with you.”
“I…” Dimitri groped for words. “I am flattered, even if I find it hard to believe. There is too much darkness in my heart to be called kind.”
A soft touch grazed his jaw and traced the corner of his mouth. “It is the truth. These feelings I have for you…”
Flayn yawned and removed her fingers before he could catch them. Her breathing slowed, and her body relaxed next to him. Just like that, she was asleep.
It was all Dimitri could do not to curl around her. Flayn seemed so small, so fragile, even though he knew she was strong. The desire to protect her welled up within him. As long as she remained with him, that was precisely what he would do. It was the least he owed her for her help.
“Good night, Flayn,” he whispered and followed her into sleep.