Elle felt a certain sense of nostalgia being back in the Stag’s cottage and being treated just the same as before while Mias found himself the one bringing in firewood and fetching fresh water for the kettle: good practice for regular living as Berenos called it, but less than gracious hosting according to Mias.
“Berenos, please let me do something,” Elle practically begged, knowing it would only annoy Mias if he was the only one doing menial labor.
“You are to sit there,” he insisted. “I want to see if our Lord has any conviction.”
“I’ll show you bloody conviction,” Mias grumbled under his breath as he lit the fire for the evening.
“Hm? Did you say something milord?” Berenos teased in a haughty manner that only had Elle thinking the situation would play exactly the same with their roles reversed.
“Nothing,” Mias responded in his normal speaking voice, though he hardly sounded convincing. “I’m grateful for your hospitality and am happy to lend a hand.”
“He’ll murder you in your sleep…” Elle warned Berenos.
“Let him try,” Berenos welcomed such a challenge. It was worth it to have a little bit of payback on his brother’s behalf.
“Right… anything else?” Mias asked as he put the kettle on the hook and swung it closer to the fire.
“Not for now,” Berenos smiled as they two approached one another. “But if you complain about such simple tasks, the future does not bode well for you.”
“Complaining helps me get through it,” Mias argued. “It’s not required I enjoy this.”
“But there is pride in a job well done, and remember, you’re not doing this just for yourself. You have her to consider,” Berenos glanced back at Elle who was busy nibbling at her rations and fresh fruit and nuts provided by their host. “Unless you think your wife ought to wait on you hand and foot.”
“She wouldn’t even if I wanted her to, which I don’t,” Mias frowned. “I’ll pull my own weight.”
“That, I’d love to see,” he smirked before crossing the room to fluff up Abernos’ old cot. “You can have Abernos’ bed tonight, Elle.”
“Thank you, Berenos, but what about Mias?”
“The floor I imagine, right?” Mias asked.
Mias groaned, and continued to do so after they finished supper and had the magician washing the dishes in the wash basin, giving Berenos the time for one last walk around the area before it grew too dark.
Elle wasn’t very good at keeping still. She managed to patch the holes in her shirt with the small sewing kit Retti slipped into her pack, but once that was finished, remaining in her chair became impossible, and given that Mias should have been able to finish the few dishes by now and hadn’t, had her concerns. “How’s it going?”
“How do you bloody know when wood is clean?” He asked, holding up one of the carved plates.
“Generally when there’s no trace of food on it,” Elle said, and from the looks of it, there wasn’t.
“But what about this mark? Is that a stain from berries? Is it supposed to come out? Or is it engrained in the wood now?”
“I don’t think Berenos is expecting you to transmute his wears into polished silver,” Elle offered him a smile and took the plate to dry on a rag.
“Hmpf, at least I can tell when silver is clean,” he grumbled, handing off the washed cutlery to her since the washing was apparently already done, and with Elle’s assistance they finished within minutes.
“Hey, you should take the bed tonight,” Elle offered once they emptied the wash basin of its dirty water out the window. “I slept in front of the fireplace last time I was here and managed alright.”
He shook his head. “No, I can’t let you do that, especially not with that Stag watching me. He clearly doesn’t think I’m capable of a humble existence and I have every intention of proving him wrong. Another night without bedding isn’t going to kill me.”
Knowing that his stubbornness had taken hold meant there’d be no convincing him otherwise, and come the later hours when they all did retire, Elle still felt conflicted about taking the bed while Mias slept on the floor. She couldn’t sleep, and apparently neither could Mias. She crawled out of bed at the midnight hour with her blanket and moved to join him by the fireplace.
“Can’t sleep?” She pulled the standard ice breaker for their conversation.
“Thinking…” he confessed in a calm, but distant voice.
“You know it’s tough-love, right? What Berenos is doing.”
“Yes, and I appreciate his bluntness. It’s only going to be rougher out there… and with less to rely on and more at stake… I worry I may… fall short.”
Self doubt plaguing Mias? That was an unwelcomed first. “Mias, you said yourself we’re in this together, so if you’re willing to do your share, I’ll meet you half way. We’ll make it work.”
He turned to her and forced a smile. “Saying that for the sake of your own preservation?”
“Well, yes. Of course we stand a better chance if we both work,” she admitted. “But I won’t ever ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. I know the world isn’t fair and life sucks at times, but I don’t want you to feel like you’re alone… because that was always the worst part of it for me.”
“So where you sleep, I’ll sleep. No argument,” she gave him a small smile before nestling down behind him and stretching out her legs.
“Heh, how can you be so kind to me?” He asked, now having cause enough to recline if she was by his side.
“I think that’s my own curse… Believe me, I wish I could be more spiteful, but it takes way too much energy that’d be better spent on surviving.”
“…Are you still upset with me?”
“Yes, and no… it’s not one constant feeling, but mostly when I look at you, I just… hurt… and if it were just because of the bad things you did, maybe it wouldn’t be so complicated, but there were good things… things I miss… and that’s what’s hard about this, Mias… If you could’ve just been an ass the whole time…”
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, scooting a bit closer to her.
“That’s the trouble with anger…” she continued. “It doesn’t stop the other feelings, it turns them against you… I don’t get to just stop caring about you because you hurt me, even though I know I should… but the requires time and distance, something I’m not going to get, so can you understand how scary it is for you to tell me that you love me when I can’t trust you, but want to?”
“…It sounds terribly conflicting…”
“And it’s not fair to you either. I see it… how badly you want to comfort me, but you have no idea what else to do aside from kisses and tight embraces… and if you do the wrong thing, you’re worried you’ll hurt me more…” she sniffled.
“Shh,” he hushed her, gently brushing a finger past the beading tears in her eyes. “I’m fine with it not being fair. I already made up my mind: I love you, and I’m going to show you.”
“Heh,” Elle smiled and rolled herself into his arms. “If you’re really okay with how difficult it’ll be…”
“I’ll be fine,” he assured her as he locked her in a snug embrace. Just hugging was beginning to have its merit. “…Is this one of things you missed?”
Elle blushed and slowly nodded against his chest. “Something about being next to you is reassuring…”
“Hm,” he pondered while slipping his fingers into her hair. “I like the feel of your breasts squished against me.”
“Mias,” Elle scolded through a giggle.
“You’re soft… it’s nice to feel,” he elaborated with a long stroke of her hair.
She softly smiled and closed her eyes. “Think you can fall asleep now?”
“Mhm,” he nodded, continuing the caresses as Elle allowed until they both drifted off to sleep snuggled against one another.
The following morning had Mias up early to go begin morning chores with Berenos, and took special care to be quiet as he got ready. If this was the start of a humble existence, he would have liked to part by giving her a kiss, but ruled against it given the delicate third-chance he wished to receive.
His discontent remained on his face after leaving the cottage, leading Berenos to think the unpleasantry was his doing. “The right attitude helps more than complaining will.”
“I’ll test my own theories, thank you,” Mias retorted, glancing back over his shoulder. Elle knew they were leaving to gather food and firewood first thing that morning to avoid the heat of the day and competition with other wildlife, but he didn’t like the idea of leaving her on her own no matter how capable he knew she was.
“Care to focus on the path ahead?” Berenos asked.
“This part of the forest is safe, isn’t it?” Mias ignored him. “Grindylows in the stream don’t surprise me, but what of larger beasts?”
“Anything local has sense enough to stay away from my cottage,” he answered. “She’ll be fine.”
“What about us?” Mias asked, eyeing Berenos’ spear. “You don’t carry that around just for decoration, do you?”
Berenos answered slowly, “no.”
“Care to enlighten me?”
“It’s been especially bad recently given how plentiful the forest has been this year. More food means more green eaters and more green eaters means more meat eaters… I haven’t had any confrontations thankfully, but I find the remains sometimes. I used to think it nothing more than nature and its harsh reality, but lately the things have seen have simply been morbid.”
“Heh, I’d wager I’ve seen worse,” Mias bet.
“You have a strong constitution then? Good, you may very well need it.”
Ominous words that had Mias’ suspicions on edge and his hand mindful of the dagger sheathed on his belt and the axe he carried in his basket, but what defense did Elle have?
Elle had a straw bristled broom and not much else to do except sweep and tidy up the already fairly neat cottage. Given that stags didn’t live as reliantly on material items as humans did, it meant there was far less stuff to dust and organize and so her quest to be useful continued outside as the sun was still struggling to get high in the sky. She picked up what leaf litter she could in the clearing to add to basket of kindling, picked a few wild flowers to brighten up the table, and fetched a fresh bucket of water to add to the kettle – being careful to watch out for grindlylows this time at the water’s edge.
Maybe they could just stay with Berenos, she wondered as she turned to walk back. Any place else would have them paying rent, wouldn’t it? And Mias wasn’t exactly the easiest person to blend into regular society, not without his magic. Of course it’d be rude to impose on Berenos for a long time, but if they could be useful, maybe…
Her thoughts didn’t distract her from the sudden sound of splashing water, a sound that at first didn’t seem threatening, but upon turning her head to see a large grey creature approaching her from the other side of the stream made her heart skip a beat and the bucket drop to the ground.
“I thought I smelled something familiar,” the beast grinned a toothy smile as Elle turned quickly to sprint with all her might back to the cottage.
What was that ghoul doing here? Wasn’t it nocturnal at least? It said it smelled her, had it been tracking them?! All questions Elle wasn’t sure she wanted answered, but at least she made it back to the cottage and slammed the door behind her. …A wooden door, a flimsy wooden door that couldn’t withstand the ghoul’s sheer strength as he reached the cottage and slammed himself against it.
Elle retreated inward, searching for something to use as a weapon or a space where the creature couldn’t reach her, but the second ramming of the door busted it off its hinges, leaving the entry way wide open: not wide enough apparently given the ghoul stopped moving once he poked his head in, his shoulders and upper torso being far too large to fit through the narrow entrance.
“Accursed doorways…” he grunted, trying to back out with no success. He’d wedged himself good and tight in his enthusiasm.
Elle sat back against the far wall, too scared to move at the moment and praying the walls of the cottage wouldn’t give to his struggling.
“Well, this is embarrassing,” he sighed and looked to her. “I don’t suppose you’d help free me?”
“I-I certainly will not!”
He frowned and took a look around the room. “The Dormaeus is not here…”
“No, but when he returns and finds you conveniently trapped, he’ll kill you for attacking me!”
“I’m not interested in his virgin mate. I followed his scent and given how thick it is on you, it was an honest mistake.”
Elle raised a curious eyebrow. “You don’t see very well, do you?”
“Daytime is particularly difficult,” he admitted, surprising her with his nonchalant attitude toward his whole predicament, but was it really that surprising considering he was a beast capable of human speech.
Since he was good and stuck, Elle’s fears shrunk back in favor of a more dangerous sense of curiosity about him. During their last encounter, it was still a bit hard to see in the dark, not that she wanted a full view of his grotesque form, but in the light of day and wedged between the framework of the cottage had him looking significantly less threatening.
“This doesn’t bode well for me,” Leadbury thought out loud, well aware he’d be quite easy to kill if he didn’t free himself before the men folk returned.
Poor Elle, she pitied the creature too easily. Slaughtering him like he were any other animal seemed… wrong somehow. “Alright, I’ll help free you if you promise to leave us alone.”
“You won’t bite if I get closer, will you?” She didn’t know why she bothered to ask when he could so easily lie.
“I will not,” he said honestly enough for Elle to step into biting range, and he kept still.
“O-Okay, let me see…” She gently placed a hand on his cold, leather hide and stepped to one side of him to inspect the frame. “You have no wiggle room at all?”
“Okay…” Elle said to herself as she stepped back to think. Berenos didn’t have butter, so what else could work? Maybe water? Definitely not as good as butter, but she had to start somewhere. “Um, I need to get to the rain barrel…”
“I promise I won’t bite,” he assured her and remained still as Elle reluctantly climbed up and over him to get to the barrel at the corner of the cottage.
She filled a nearby bucket and returned to the door. “You don’t mind getting a little wet, do you?”
“Presently, I have far greater concerns,” he answered.
Elle smiled, wondering how such a monster could have such personality as she tipped the bucket to each of his sides to help slick him up. “Alright, try that.”
Leadbury gripped his claws tightly into the ground and pulled back as hard as he could, the water earning him a small bit of wiggle room, but not enough to slip free. “It’s no good.”
“I was afraid of that,” Elle went back to thinking before crawling over him again to get back into the house. Couldn’t oil work in this sort of situation? Granted it was one of their more precious resources for lamp fuel, but compared to another being’s life it was expendable. She found Berenos’ lantern near the door thankfully and retrieved the oil reserves from inside, carefully taking the small, but sufficient amount over to the door and carefully lubricating each side of him. “Alright, I’ll push you this time. On, 3. 1… 2… 3!”
Leadbury put all his strength into pulling back while Elle pushed against his forehead with all her might. She could feel him slowly give way, and after the wood creaked a bit under the strain, popped him loose with the sounds of splintering and an unpleasant growl.
“Are you alright?” Elle asked as she picked herself up from the stoop, only to see a few wooden splinters stuck in his sides and drawing little pin pricks of blood.
“More or less,” he said as he shook most of the splinters free and began licking his wounds.
“Hang on, I’ll get those,” she said before running to fetch a rag from the kitchen, dipping it in the barrel on her wait out, and not hesitating to approach his side once again to tend the wounds, starting with plucking out the remaining splinters before delicately dabbing the blood away. “Does it hurt?”
“Not really. My skin is relatively thick.”
“And yet you’re bleeding,” Elle said as she went around to his other side.
“…Well, that’s my underbelly so it’s not as thick,” he said somewhat defensively.
“At least you’re free to eat another day now,” she said as she finished cleaning his wounds and carefully stepped back.
“What makes you think I won’t eat you now?” He asked.
Elle was afraid of that, but had a sneaking suspicion he was just messing with her. “…Because you would have done it by now rather than wasting time.”
“Indeed,” he gave her a toothy grin before plunking down on his backside to sit upright. “You’re a strange female.”
“So many people tell me that,” Elle shrugged her shoulders. “Although I’ll let you have this one because I suppose most people wouldn’t want to deal with a ghoul at all.”
“Well you have my gratitude, Dormaeus mate.”
“My name’s Elle,” she smiled. “You have one too, don’t you?”
“Indeed. Galfridus Leadbury, and I prefer the latter.”
“Leadbury,” Elle repeated, earning another toothy grin from the ghoul that resulted in him pushing his face forward and dragging his sandpaper tongue across the entire left side of her face. He clearly meant it as affection, but she still nearly pissed herself.
“Just wanted a taste, Elle,” he chuckled and stepped back. “I should take my leave now before your mate returns.”
“Promise you’ll stop hunting him?” Elle asked while wiping off her face.
“I can promise you a brief reprieve only. I’m not about to surrender my chance for another Dormaeus meal.”
Elle gave him a small wave as she watched him walk back into the forest, wondering how much a ghoul’s word could be worth, probably about as much as Mias’ so she still ought to remain on guard, but that was no reason to be impolite and not enjoy the more pleasant side of his company – at least for now.
Mias and Berenos’ errands had proved fruitful, quite literally with the two of them happening upon a patch of berry bushes that hadn’t been picked over, making for a suitable snack on their way back with baskets full of wood and a few bags of other plant produce they’d make use of later.
“Question,” Mias asked. “How do you handle the colder months when you’re not a meat eater?”
“By making sure my cellar is well stocked with dried fruit and vegetables, I also can and pickle a fair amount. It does get a little challenging when spring is late, but I’m a decent gardener as well as an astute gatherer so I’ve never been completely out of options. This year might be a bit tricky without Abernos helping me, but he also eats more than I do so I suppose it evens out.”
“I apologize,” Mias said in a quieter voice. “I assure you I did allow him to return if he wanted, but he didn’t.”
“If he wanted to stay, he wanted to stay,” Berenos smiled. “Abby’s always had a fascination with humans. As long as he’s safe and enjoying himself, I don’t need to play ‘big brother’ with you.”
“The last thing I need is another ‘big brother’,” Mias forced a chuckle.
“Heh, like you’d even listen to me if I did get preachy with you,” Berenos said as he stretched his arms above his head to loosen his muscles. “Although I must say you’re different than what I expected, at least in some ways: you’re still an arrogant and pompous git of a man, but you’re not entirely bad.”
“Give me time and I’ll change your mind,” Mias frowned.
“Heh, no, I don’t think you will. Anyone who sees how you act with Elle should be able to tell you’re not a heartless man. I half expected you to engage in relations the other night.”
“You were watching?”
“It’s a one room cottage, I’m going to see things when I open my eyes at night,” he defended himself. “To be honest I’m more surprised with Elle. I remember how frightened she was when I first found her and then to hear about your involvement only made a bad situation worse, but obviously something changed between the two of you.”
“I thought so too, but I made a mess of things again… last night was probably a fluke. The probability of ‘relations’ is incredibly low,” he admitted painfully as they rounded the path and saw the cottage in the distance and Elle coming back from the stream with two full buckets of water to make up for her failed errand earlier.
“Not that it’s my business, but I don’t think that’s true,” he smiled as Elle noticed them coming up the way and waved to her.
Elle smiled back and quickly set the buckets down to run to meet them, bypassing Berenos entirely to throw her arms around a visibly surprised Mias. “You’re back!”
“Er, I’m not the one with the tendency not to return,” he said while glancing to Berenos who only smiled and continued forward to let the couple have their moment.
“I was worried,” she admitted as she retracted her arms. “Um… and not that I want to worry you, but the whole ‘keeping information to ourselves to keep the other from worrying’ has never worked with us, so I ought to tell you, I—”
“WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY DOORWAY?!” They both heard Berenos shout as he saw the splintered wood frame and battered door propped up against the wall.
“Plus not being able to hide the damage leaves me with no choice,” Elle muttered under her breath.
Mias brought Elle back up to the stoop to inform both of them of the morning’s goings on. “Elle, what happened?”
“Leadbury, the ghoul, found me and—”
Mias dropped his basket and bag to seize both her shoulders. “Are you alright?! Did he hurt you?!”
“C-Calm down and let me explain,” Elle gulped, fearing that because she wasn’t hurt she’d only be in trouble for helping the beast. “Yes, he charged me as I tried to hide in the house, but he got stuck… and I freed him.”
“Elle, why would you do something like that?!” Mias definitely sounded angry, and Elle didn’t blame him. It would have been the perfect opportunity to kill the creature once and for all.
“I-I dunno… I know he ate your cousin and he wants to eat you, but… he’s still a living being and I couldn’t just… let you two slaughter him. It didn’t seem… fair.”
“You fool,” Mias heaved a sigh of relief and pulled her as close to his chest as he could. Of course Elle would want to save the ghoul’s life, it was who she was: good and kind to a fault to every manner of beast. “You’re very lucky he didn’t turn on you.”
“I know,” Elle blushed as she felt Mias squeezing her tighter, the same protective embrace he held her in the past few nights that finally made her feel secure. Maybe that’s why he was mad. He wasn’t there to protect her this time.
Berenos heaved a sigh as he inspected the damage. “Well this adds to the list of chores for the day, but it can’t be helped. You both can learn a bit about carpentry at least.”
The two agreed, but all three wished the lesson could have been given under other circumstances, especially as Elle divulged her conversation with the ghoul and Mias realized his brief reprieve wasn’t likely to last very long… and thus neither could their stay.
“First thing tomorrow morning we ought to put as much distance between us and this forest as possible,” Mias told the two later that evening once all chores were done leaving them with nothing to do but relax, although nerves remained on edge to make it easier said than done. “If it wants me, I can’t knowingly put you in that sort of danger, even if Leadbury is a bit too fat to squeeze in here.”
“It’s for the best, but I feel I wasn’t able to offer either you much assistance,” Berenos admitted.
“Giving us a roof over our heads for two days was help enough,” Elle smiled.
“We can make it to the port city before nightfall tomorrow, I’m sure of it, and from there I do have a connection I can tap so I’m not without a plan.”
“Do you think he’ll follow us?” Elle asked.
“I suppose he might, but being as intelligent as he is, he wouldn’t dare hunt in a densely populated area. Too risky of raising an angry mob.”
“I can lead you to the forest’s western edge then if that’s where you want to go. I know the quickest pathways and there’s better safety with three of us.”
“That’d certainly be helpful,” Elle smiled to Mias, knowing the man’s pride to navigate on his own had no reason be hurt by acknowledging that fact.
“Yes, the quicker the better,” Mias nodded.
Since they all were in agreement, the discussion came to its conclusion, followed by Berenos announcing he wanted to take one last walk around his perimeter before turning in for the night, although Mias found the smile the stag gave him rather suspicious. Was he knowingly giving the two of them privacy to… do something?
“I wish we could have stayed a little longer,” Elle admitted to Mias with a disappointed sigh as she helped him lay out his blanket by the fireplace. “A bit more humble than even I’m used to, but it’s… nice, don’t you think? Cozy little cottage in the forest.”
“Cozy being a synonym for small?” Mias joked, noting that a stroll around the perimeter shouldn’t take Berenos all that long.
Elle giggled. “Well, when you have nothing, you don’t need a whole lot of space, do you?”
“I suppose not, but I wouldn’t mind a proper bathroom.”
“Okay, I’ll agree with you on that.”
“But something like this would be to your liking?” Mias asked.
“We’d make any place work,” she smiled.
The way she said ‘we’ made him unreasonably happy to hear. It’s been more than a few minutes now with no sign of Berenos. Maybe he ought to make a move. He hadn’t even kissed her since their impromptu wedding, and that was hardly a proper kiss. She could do with some kissing, couldn’t she? It’d been a very trying day so perhaps the affection would be welcomed, but he’d have to be subtle. He started by simply getting their hands closer, close enough for his thumb to brush against the back of her hand. “Mhm…”
Elle felt her cheeks turning red again over the simple gesture. She genuinely had been concerned for Mias while they were apart, and continued to worry about Leadbury turning up again to try and devour him. It’d free her from this marriage without her having to kill him, but more and more her darker conscious repulsed her with such thoughts. Mias may be a grade A asshole, at times, but she couldn’t pin him down with one adjective like that. There was more to him than that, and it was by no means as simple as rubbing his thumb against her hand.
“I love you,” he said softly, figuring it was something he ought to tell his wife more often if he wanted her to believe him.
Elle flustered and put her hands against his shoulder to keep him at bay. “Um… thank you, but you’re not going to sweet talk me into sex.”
“Even I realize that’s futile currently. What I’d like is a kiss.”
“Yeah, well, the way you kiss should be classified as ‘lip sex’, so we probably shouldn’t.”
“Lip sex?” Was that supposed to be a compliment? It certainly gave his ego a boost and put a smile to his face. “I guess that’s what I get for being too good at such things.”
“…Look, I know you’ve got plenty of built up emotion you’re used to releasing in a physical manner, but I…” Elle knew she’d be lying if she said she didn’t want to, and the fact Mias was now pouting with puppy-dog eyes almost made her feel guilty enough to consent, but it wasn’t about what she wanted – she couldn’t. All it would take was one kiss and they’d fall right back into old patterns, and if Elle could separate sex and love, by god, she’d have done it a long time ago, but she couldn’t.
“It’s alright,” he smiled sadly. “You don’t need to explain yourself.”
And yet she still felt she did, but decided to address another matter. “Berenos isn’t back yet… do you think we should go check on him?”
“I’m sure he’s fine.”
“I know he’s capable and Leadbury did say he preferred humans, but Berenos has more meat on him than either of us…”
A good point, Mias thought as he stood up. “I’ll go check on him.”
Elle gave him a relieved smile and nodded understandingly.
It seemed like he was taking a walk of shame as he stepped out of cottage to find the Stag seated on an old tree stump and gazing up at the night sky. “Perimeter secured then, Steward?”
“That was quick,” the stag responded. “I thought you two would benefit from a little private time, especially after this morning.”
“I told you Elle isn’t interested in being with me in that way. She’s worried about you though what with the ghoul and all.”
“Ah, I see… Sorry.”
“I appreciate it, but we’re going to have plenty of opportunities to be alone after tomorrow… and I don’t think it’s going to change anything any time soon.”
“I don’t understand – she seems to care for you a great deal.”
“I don’t doubt that she does, but as today will tell you, she cares for everyone… even evil monsters.”
“Forgive my ignorance. This is one area I concede I have no experience in.”
“Count your blessings. As wonderful as they can be, women are complicated creatures even I don’t fully understand.”
“But it’s… nice, isn’t it? Being with one, I mean,” he said while his cheeks and ears turned a bit red.
“What, you’ve never…? Not even during rutting season?”
“I have all the urges mind you, but knowing how dangerous we can be, I try not to interact with many women.”
“Well when or if you decide to find one, make sure she wants to be with you as much as you want to be with her. It’s always better that way.”
“Is everything alright?” They heard Elle’s voice call to them from the repaired doorway where she stood wrapped in a blanket with a concerned look on her face.
“Everything’s fine, Elle,” Berenos smiled at her. “Just telling Mias I’m gonna stay out a while longer.”
“Alright,” she acknowledged before heading back into the house.
“You should be with her, I think,” Berenos told him. “She may have her reasons for refusing physical contact, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be with you.”
Perhaps that was true, but Berenos didn’t know Elle’s stubbornness like he did… or all the terrible things he’d done to earn a place in the dog house. Still, it was nice to have someone in his corner for once.
“Go on,” Berenos encouraged, much to Mias’ amusement.
He returned to the cottage, not at all sure what he should do, if he should do anything at all.
Elle was curled up on the floor by the fire, watching the flames dance in the pit as she waited for sleep to take her.
No, this wasn’t the time or the place to do anything, Mias decided as he reclined down beside her to settle in for the night. He still had his fantasies, and if his subconscious so chose, his dreams as well. Nothing compared to the real thing of course, but he had more than enough to be grateful for.
“You’re not going to cuddle closer?” Elle asked when he hadn’t spooned right up next to her as she suspected he might.
“Face to face in one thing, but feeling my neglected manhood prodding your bottom all night is probably not what you desire.”
“Oh, yeah…” She blushed and decided to roll over to face him then. “So this is better?”
“…No,” he said honestly. “Because I don’t understand why you want to cuddle so close that we’re practically intertwined, but one kiss is inappropriate.”
“Because it’s the gateway to more intimate acts.”
“And dry humping isn’t?”
“It’s not pressing against me so it’s not an issue.”
“It is an issue. I can’t help that you give me an erection you know. It’s an annoying creature when I can’t appease it… cuddling is basically torture after a certain point.”
“For god’s sake Mias, it’s a penis, not a sentient being.”
“Try having one,” he retorted dryly.
“Shut up and go to sleep,” she frowned and decided to turn back to her other side with her back towards him and inching forward to put some space between them and hopefully end all argument there.
“Tst,” Mias clicked his tongue in annoyance and turned his back to her as well. It was more of a stalemate than a conclusion, but he didn’t want to put any more energy into arguing with her. Maybe all they needed after a day like this was a good night’s sleep, and he closed his eyes with that resolve in mind. It would be better in the morning.