To Sleep, To Dream
Dimitri rose slowly from slumber. A warm, comfortable weight rested in his arms. Only when his arms grew empty did he rouse, but he soon dozed off again. Apparently, now that sleep had found him again after so many years, it was loath to let go.
A knock at his door woke him, and by the time Dedue entered, Dimitri was alert. He sat up in bed and scrubbed his face. The stubble on his chin scraped against the calluses on his palms.
“Good morning, Your Majesty,” Dedue said, closing the door behind him.
“Good morning. I thought we’d dispensed with the honorifics in private.”
Dedue cleared his throat and glanced at the door. “Are you hungry?”
“I feel like I could eat a horse.” Dimitri couldn’t remember the last time he was so starved for breakfast.
Dedue picked up Dimitri’s dressing robe from where he’d discarded the night before and held it up as Dimitri slid out of bed.
“You’ll never guess what happened,” Dimitri said as he slipped his arms into the sleeves. “Flayn stopped by and healed my headache. I had the best sleep.”
“I am aware she stayed over.”
Dimitri whipped around. “You are?”
“When I came to wake you this morning, Flayn lay in your arms.”
Dimitri stared at Dedue, mouth working.
Dedue’s expression revealed nothing of his opinion. “She is making you breakfast as we speak.”
“I…I didn’t know, I don’t remember…I did not take advantage of her,” Dimitri said.
“She said as much. She concealed her disappointment well.”
Dimitri’s shoulders drooped. There was truly no winning.
“Do you wish to bathe and dress before you eat?” Dedue asked.
Dimitri shook his head. “If she truly seeks marriage, let her see what she would have to contend with.”
Dedue nodded and opened the door. Dimitri took a deep breath to steel himself and moved through his apartments to the small kitchen. Flayn flitted about like a fey creature, green hair bouncing as she moved from counter to table and back again. Her bare feet pattered on the stone floor. The scent of blueberry preserves filled the air.
She whirled when she saw him, and a grin spread over her face. “Good morning!”
“Good morning,” Dimitri said, returning her smile despite himself.
“Did you sleep well?”
“Extremely well, thanks to you. How did you sleep?”
Flayn’s smile turned sly. “Very well, thank you. I slept and woke without fear.”
“Good, considering I hear you may have taken advantage of me in my sleep.”
Dedue snorted behind Dimitri, and Flayn’s eyes widened.
“I-I did not! You extended your arm and I merely—”
Dimitri chuckled. “I jest. I have no memory of holding you, and I beg your pardon if you found it objectionable.”
“I most certainly did not.” Flayn’s cheeks turned pink. “You may hold me as much as you like.”
Dimitri’s eyebrows rose, and he exchanged a glance with Dedue. Dedue unsuccessfully stifled a smile.
“A-at any rate,” Flayn said. “I made breakfast. I hope you will enjoy it. Please, sit.”
Dimitri did as asked, and Dedue helped Flayn finish setting the table. Flayn wore only her oversized linen nightdress, which fluttered around her ankles as she moved. It made Dimitri think of how she had filled out the silk gown the night before.
“There,” Flayn said as she slid several griddle cakes onto Dimitri’s plate, slathered with butter and preserves. She sat down next to him as Dedue poured them tea.
Dimitri took a bite and almost choked as flavor rushed over his tongue.
Flayn’s brow furrowed, and she put her hand on his arm. “Oh dear, is it awful?”
“No, not at all. I can taste it.” Dimitri stared at his plate. “The butter, the berries…The flavors aren’t strong, but I can taste them.”
Dedue closed his eyes, and his lips moved as if he were praying.
Dimitri sprang from his chair. He grabbed Flayn by the waist, lifted her into the air, and spun in a circle, laughing all the while. She gripped his forearms as she laughed along with him.
“You are a miracle worker,” he said when he finally put her down.
Flayn fanned herself with her hand as she sat. “I am so happy to have been of service.”
“Perhaps the headaches and inability to taste shared a root cause,” Dedue said.
“That must be it.” Dimitri sat and took an enormous mouthful. “It is perhaps just a tiny bit salty, but I have never had anything so delicious in my entire life.”
Flayn beamed, eyes damp.
“You have made progress in your cooking, Flayn,” Dedue said with a small smile.
Dimitri chuckled. “And you know Dedue does not give out compliments lightly.”
“I will do even better next time,” Flayn said as she took a bite.
Dimitri wolfed down his meal and asked for seconds. Dedue fried some eggs while Flayn prepared Dimitri another plate. When Dimitri finally sat back in his chair, he was the most content he’d been in years. For once, he felt fully prepared to face the day.
“What will you do today?” he asked Flayn.
“I do not have anything on the agenda,” she said.
“Would you care to join me in the audience chamber? I would be interested in your perspective on the petitions.”
“I would be delighted.”
Dimitri caught Dedue smiling as he cleared the dishes.
“And you,” he said to his friend. “You need to tend to that lovely wife of yours. Leave that for the cleaning staff. I have received complaints you do not leave them enough to do.”
Dedue shot him a long-suffering look but said, “Very well. I will return in time for the first audience.”
Flayn sipped her tea with a dreamy expression as Dimitri used the last of his griddle cake to sop up egg yolk. Dedue made a fresh pot of tea and departed. A comfortable silence descended upon the room. Sunlight streamed through the windows and danced in Flayn’s hair. Dimitri sighed. Peace, at last. These moments were more precious than gems.
He was so lost in thought that he didn’t notice Flayn move until she stood right next to him. Her lips brushed his cheek. It was the first time he’d been kissed since he was a child.
“What was that for?” he asked.
Flayn blushed. “For your assistance with my sleep.”
“You are the one who rid me of my headaches and restored my sense of taste,” he said with a chuckle.
“It was my pleasure.” She sighed. “I should get ready for your audience.”
But when she went to go, Dimitri caught her hand. He meant to pull her near, but he used too much force, and she ended up in his lap. Her breath caught as his arms curled around her. Flayn was so small, but she did not feel like a child in his embrace.
“Thank you,” he murmured against her hair. He enjoyed the feel of her for a moment before releasing her.
Flayn hid her red face behind her hair. Her steps appeared a little wobbly as she headed for the door. She put her hand on the knob, but she paused before turning.
“May I sleep in your arms again tonight?” she asked, voice small.
After the way she’d felt in his lap just now, perhaps that wasn’t the wisest course of action. Yet he could hardly deny her, not after what she’d done for him.
“Of course,” Dimitri said.