DISCLAIMER All mine
NOTES Getting back into the writing groove with this bit that's been stuck in my head for the last couple of months. I can't get it out right, though. What's in my head is much softer and more intimate than what I can do with words. Been out of the game too long, methinks.
Anyway. This takes place during chapter 22 of Tarnish, right after they've just busted Nol out of the Imperial Dungeons and legged it into the jungle, annnnnd I'm not sure if it's canon or not. I forget exactly what frame of mind they were both in before and after their argument to know if it fits. It's just been in my head and I needed to get it out. Maybe now I can get back to Gold :D?
Nimay folded her arms and stared at him with the patience of stone.
Nolryn held the gaze for only a few moments before he turned his head to the side and spat a few Kazinian curses at the ground. ‘You want rationality?’ he growled. ‘This is the best you’ll get from me as long as we’re still here. Definitely as long as mini-Shizaaqa’s with us.’
Nimay tightened her jaw but still said nothing. He would calm down eventually. Her patience would outlast his stubbornness.
Beside her, though, it appeared Yamin had other ideas. She got to her feet and brushed the back of her dress in a nervous motion, then gestured to Nimay and Nolryn to stand with her. Nimay hesitated for a moment but consented, rising with her arms still folded. Nolryn did the same, scowling at the ground like a teenager.
Nimay cocked her eyebrows at her twin, but already the intention was clear in Yamin’s beseeching look. Without a word, Nimay understood her meaning. Nimay couldn’t do this, not now. Not so soon after she had just gotten him back.
Nimay felt her determination melt. This was the first they had been together, properly together, since they’d split up over a month ago, the first talk they’d had since rescuing him from Shizaaqa’s dungeons. The fists balled so tightly at his sides now had been mangled messes of flesh and splintered bone only a few hours ago, and she was already trying to make him move on? She shook her head at her own stubbornness, then reached out to him for a hug. She let out a breath to feel his arms respond in kind, realising she’d almost been scared he wouldn’t.
«I missed you,» she whispered, feeling her eyes sting at the truth in her words. «Even before I knew you’d… I missed you.»
Nol’s head twitched in a nod, but he said nothing in reply.
She heard Yamin’s footsteps disappear back through the tree ferns to the camp, leaving them both in silence, but Nolryn didn’t pull away. He shifted a little, lifted one hand from Nimay’s back. She could feel his forearm tighten as he clenched and flexed his fingers, so newly healed after his time in the dungeons.
Nimay held him tighter, feeling the lump solidify further in her throat. She should have reached him sooner.
Nolryn shook his head and rested his palm back on her shoulder blade.
She took a deep breath, allowing some of the tension in her shoulders to drift away with the musty scent of the rainforest, the warmth of Nolryn’s shirt. She didn’t let him go, though, as much for him as for herself. She could feel the slightest quivering in his hands where he held them against her back.
It brought back a memory, years ago, of when he’d had to give his annual Summer Solstice speech to the whole city. Thousands of people, every year, judging his every word. When she’d asked him if he ever got nervous about such things, he had laughed. ‘Look at me, I’m shaking,’ he’d said, holding out a perfectly steady hand. She hoped that Nolryn would return soon. She knew he would. Not even Shizaaqa’s dungeons could break him.
He shifted a little, clearly knowing he was being thought about. His hands dropped to the small of Nimay’s back, one hand holding the other so only his wrists and knuckles touched her now. His breath was steady, though. Whatever his hands were remembering, his mind wasn’t being carried along with it.
She turned her head to the side, half-nuzzling into the neat hollow between his neck and his shoulder. She wondered briefly if she might be sending him a message, then decided she didn’t much care. She needed to hold him as much, she suspected, as he needed to hold her. To hear his breathing, feel him solid beside her, breathe in the warmth of his scent. As long as she was with him, he could yet heal.
He shifted again, the roughness of two weeks without a shave prickling against her neck. She could feel his lips on her neck, his breath through his nostrils as he held them there. It wasn’t a kiss. It was more like he was silently asking permission for it to become one.
Nimay grinned with a quiet breath of laughter and nudged her head against his. The briefest flicker of hesitation touched her mind, but she pushed it aside. They both needed a moment to forget all that had come before.
Nolryn’s lips softened amongst the bristle of his cheeks and chin, melting the last of the tension in Nimay’s shoulders. She smiled at the warmth and turned aside in an invitation for him to move higher.
The humid air hung around them like a blanket. Nolryn’s lips parted, allowing his tongue to slide over Nimay’s neck, tasting the salt that beaded there. He kissed her in a deep trail to her jaw, nibbled once with his lips at her ear lobe, then pressed his cheek to hers. The hairs were tough and wiry, sharp against the sensitive skin. She smiled and realised then that Nolryn’s cheek was still slack. He didn’t smile with her. His nose was right by her ear now, his breathing heavier but still steady, so steady that maybe he was trying to hold it that way.
Nimay held back a sigh and instead pretended she hadn’t noticed that he’d stopped. She smoothed her hands slowly down his back, still with her cheek pressed to his, and patted him in a quick rhythm on the backside.
He did laugh then, dropping his forehead to her shoulder. ‘Yeah, yeah,’ he muttered, a grin in his voice now.
Nimay shrugged her shoulder to lift his head up, then pulled back just enough that she could look him in the eyes.
The trust was back in them now, the black anger of only a few minutes ago forgotten. He smiled, still half a grin, half thanks. But the vulnerability was new. It was a naked fear that, this close, he couldn’t hide. A light twitch between his brows that told of his uncertainty, the slight distance in his gaze as though he were still looking backwards, still lost in memory. Nolryn had aged a decade but lost years of confidence.
The smile was more forced now. ‘Stop worrying about me, please?’ he asked.
Nimay shook her head and pulled him closer. Instead of a hug, though, she pressed her lips to his, tingling goosebumps down her neck. He responded in kind, parting his lips to welcome her kiss. His breath and unshaven upper lip tickled her skin. There was a slow, comforting rhythm to the kisses. She pursed her lips as though nipping lightly at Nolryn’s while he did the same to her.
The sounds of the jungle around them seemed to muffle behind the warmth in Nimay’s ears. The booming of the waterfall, so loud that everyone had to shout around it just to make themselves heard, was a soothing rumble. She felt comfortably alone in the world, wrapped in the soft blanket of humidity and in Nolryn’s arms.
Gently caressing her hips, Nolryn’s hands had steadied for the first time, Nimay suspected, in weeks.
The thought made her kiss him more deeply. She opened her mouth to push her tongue against his lips. With a quiet sound of surprise and pleasure, he allowed her in.
The taste of his tongue on hers brought her back to their first kiss. Nolryn had been the one to instigate it that time, years ago now, barely a month before his hrai-dani. Back then, he had tasted of salmon and Liquid Sunset. Now, in the rainforest, there was only Nolryn. She kissed him with a vigour that almost surprised her. She’d never needed to be so close to him before, never felt such a need to kiss him. It wasn’t the fear of having almost lost him that drove her, but the fear that maybe she already had.
She pulled herself back to hide her desperation, but it only lasted a moment. Nolryn, it appeared, felt much the same way. He caught her lips with his in a plea for her to stay.
His hands were shaking again, so strongly now that Nimay released her arms from around his waist and clasped her fingers tightly with his.
‘Aeia,’ he swore in a whisper, apparently only noticing his shaking hands himself. He broke the kiss to rest his forehead heavily against Nimay’s. ‘I’m a mess.’
Nimay rolled her brow against him as she shook her head, then shrugged with one shoulder. «But you’re allowed to be,» she conceded, «for a while, anyway. Until we’re out of the jungle.»
He kissed her once more, softer, lingering. ‘I’ll try.’
«We’ll try,» Nimay corrected him. «You’re not alone, Nol. We’ll try.’