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Aia

Just in case

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(Following Consequences)

It had been a shit day.

It started out well enough, with riding out with the princess and all, then it took a steep turn to complete fuckery when the bandits ambushed them, and topped that off with having to show up on Flavia Juliana's doorstep drenched in blood, and give explanations. Everyone got more than an earful for their troubles, which was almost as painful than the actual attack. Not to mention Decimus had to get an arrow dug out of his shoulder. Aia counted herself lucky with the bloody nose and double black eye she was sporting.

Finally, everything was quiet. It was the dark hours after midnight, with everyone sleeping the deep and fitful sleep of people who just got done with an epicly shit day. Except for Aia, who couldn't even get that far. After tossing and turning in her room - which felt strange now that all those other people were nearby, people she now shared a battlefield experience with - she finally gave up and padded to the kitchen to rustle up some food. And since food did not seem like the root cause of her sleeping problems, she padded over to the small room assigned to Decimus, carrying a wooden tray loaded with bread, cheese, and olives.

As she pushed the door open, the flickering light of the oil lamp on her tray dissolved the darkness of the room. Aia entered quietly, setting the tray on the table. She needed to check how Decimus was doing. The man had lost blood enough for a slaughtered ox. He was going to be fine, obviously. But it never hurt to check. 

@Sains

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The closing hours of the evening had seen Decimus through pain that he'd thought he'd left behind once he'd come to the heartland of the empire. Certainly an arrow through the arm was nothing to scoff at, but he'd thought he might take it better than he had! The icy touch of the medicus's blade had turned his arm into a burning mess of excruciating pain, and it embarrassed him to know that Aia had to watch him writhe as the forceps reached into his arm to retrieve the arrowhead. It was agonizing. The head itself had buried itself into the very bone of his arm, and so removing it required some deal of skill. Still, he was not dead. 

The guttural moans of anguished pain that came from his restrained mouth sounded nearly demonic, but through it all he had one small salvation. It was that calm and reassuring gaze of the same girl he'd discovered all those years ago. He could see the concern in her eyes, but not once did he feel as though they looked panicked. It was an odd sensation, truly. Here he was, his mind being torn asunder by the delirium of exsanguination and the intense moments of volcanic pain that rocketed through his body like lightning, yet his wincing eyes would always reopen to her heavenly visage. More than that he could not hear. Perhaps it was a symptom of the blood loss or simply the overloading of all of his remaining wits, but he could not hear any of the words that the medicus spoke to his lackey. He could not hear her either, but he did notice the slight movements of her lips that certainly indicated that she was speaking to him. How he wished he could hear what she was saying! It was almost certainly some quip about his ability or the lack thereof to take the pain, but he was so glad that she was sat there near the table. It was during the moments that she was speaking that they finally managed to pull the arrowhead free from the bone. Once it had been freed, however,  his vision cut straight to black.

He wasn't dead though. Aia would have a fine view of the slow rise and fall of his chest bathed in the golden hue of the lamplight which confirmed that much. Her entrance would not wake him. He lay there, a blanket covering his body just above the abdomen with his various effects stacked neatly by the bedside. His body was far too exhausted to wake from the muted creak of the old wooden door, though his face did twitch at the sudden stimulation of the light. As she approached she may also notice much more than just the fresh wound that had been bound up tightly in bandages of linen. Without his tunica to hide them, she'd see the nicks and indentations that danced across his breasts and down his midsection. They were the reminders of countless exercises and battles that were the all-too-familiar signs of legion life; scars that told stories of tragic sacrifice and unyielding devotion. Certainly they would have seemed commonplace in any other setting but in the darkness, illuminated only by lamp light, they might almost seem to form some sort of artistic design. It would make for a poor mosaic, but even Decimus would look at these marks some nights and think back to the life he'd led before all of this. 

 

@Chevi

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Decimus was asleep, and did not wake when Aia opened and closed the door, or when she set the tray and the lamp down on the table. That worried her for a moment; he had been through awful pain, and lost a lot of blood. It took the medicus a while to pull the arrowhead out of his shoulder, and Aia had felt helpless - and useless - standing by. After all the years on the front lines, this part never got easier. 

She sat on the edge of the bed. Decimus was breathing evenly, which was good; he was still pale from the trials of the day and the blood loss. The old scars stood out on his skin, with some new bruises from the fight. His wound was bandaged well, but some blood still seeped through, turning dark brown as it dried. It had been one arrow, and if wreaked such havoc for the medicus to deal with. No wonder Decimus passed out by the end.

Aia remembered another night, a decade earlier, when she had been injured in a raid, and found refuge in Decimus' tent. Poor man, he was more shocked by the fact that Aia had breasts than the torn wound she had on her side. But he still helped. She still wore that scar too. 

The day had been a mess. The bandits came close, way too close to killing him, and killing all of them. A few inches to the side, and the arrow would have hit Decimus' heart. Aia frowned at the thought. She reached out, resting the back of her hand on his forehead, checking for fever. The medicus had said that some fever might be part of healing, but if it spiked or lasted too long, it was a sign of poison in the wound. Aia held her hand against Decimus' skin, trying to check, then rested her palm against the side of his face. What an incredible, brave idiot. 

@Sains

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Something had occurred to Decimus on the ride back from that fight with the thieves that he'd never put much stock in before. The impact of that arrow had not only brought forth a feeling of utter helplessness for a few terrifying moments, it had also stirred his own sense of mortality. The arrogant boy that had gone in to battle so many times before had been replaced by the aged man who, while still most certainly a brave idiot, was definitely more focused on survival than ever before. Writhing on that table made him realize just how vulnerable he could be in the blink of an eye. Fortune had a hand in this, there was no doubt in that. She had spared him for some greater purpose, but for now Decimus could not begin to imagine why. 

Through the dim haze of delirium, the light of the lamp mixed with the gentle and familiar touch of a soft warm hand would cause his eyes to flutter open. He saw naught but fuzzy shapes before him at first. The room was deadly quiet, save for the soft crackling of the small flame, and once Aia's face became defined in his vision he began to feel a familiar twinge of existential fear. She was there once again. Honestly he could no longer tell what was reality and what was a dream. The trip here and the subsequent treatment had been an endless series of formless memories that seemed to blend and mesh with one another so well that he couldn't remember where he was! Was this it? Was he dead? 

If he were then this was not Aia, but some goddess that had found some pleasure in delighting him once more before he was dragged to Styx to pay the ferryman. He'd never know what happened to the Princess, Cynane, or Aia. All the adventures he'd taken part in would be lost to time... All a waste. It was funny though, he didn't feel dead. In fact, he thought he could smell food. Another trick, must have been. He had to be sure of where he was, and this deity would tell him.

With an unsure gaze, he brought his good arm forth to wrap a much larger hand about the one that now rested against his cheek. 

"Venus?.."

 

@Chevi

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Decimus' breath hitched, and he blinked his eyes open. There was a confused look in them, like he could not quite make out what he was seeing, or where he was. He did not feel feverish, but that didn't mean that regaining his consciousness did not leave him delirious. Aia smiled anyway, relieved to see him wake up. His hand covered hers, and she rubbed her thumb over his cheek.

"Venus?.."

Aia laughed a surprised laugh, cracking up with a sudden sense of relief.

"Goddesses don't have black eyes, Decimus. I'm afraid it's just me."

@Sains

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At the sound of her voice a relieved sigh would pass between his lips and his hand would fall back to the surface of the bed. A small part of him hoped that she would let her hand linger there for a while longer. The softness of her touch soothed his mind, and gods knew he needed just that after the kind of day he'd had. 

"Gods... I thought I was dead for a moment."

All at once he wished to sit up, but after straining his muscles for a few moments he'd only managed a short attempt before falling back to the soft recesses of the mattress. He could tell he wasn't paralyzed but he might as well have been for all the good his body was doing him right now. 

"I've been stuck and drained like a pig at a festival. Fucking thieves..."
 

@Chevi

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"Gods... I thought I was dead for a moment."

After calling out to Venus, Aia was not sure if being alive was a disappointment or a relief for her friend. Either way, she chuckled and patted him on the cheek.

"Well, you managed to scare the shit out of me."

The moment when he fell... she would probably never quite forget that. He still looked like death warmed over, but he was definitely talking, and even making sense now, given the circumstances. He struggled to move, but he was probably too weak to do so. No wonder.

"I've been stuck and drained like a pig at a festival. Fucking thieves..."

"Yeah. I hope they rot." Aia agreed whole-heartedly, shifting on the edge of the bed "You probably shouldn't sit up. Do you want to drink?" she glanced at the pitcher of watered-down wine on the table, and the cup next to it. The medicus said he would need to drink, because of all the blood he lost. "I can help. That wound probably hurts like a bitch..."

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"Fucking awful."

He said, nodding in complete agreement with her blunt assessment of the wound. There was nothing he'd like more than to get right out of that bed and to stroll over to the table to drink on his own, but in this condition he could hardly imagine lifting the cup. This was a type of exhaustion he'd never truly felt before, but then again he'd never been free to bleed as much as he had been that day. 

"Thank you... That would be great." 

He knew he was in no position to move, he'd not need a report from some money-grubbing doctor to tell him that much. He was content enough to lie there and wait for Aia to fetch the cup, though he did manage to push himself up further onto the pillows he'd been provided so that he could sit up and see a little better.

"How are the others?.. No one else cut up too badly? How are you?"

 

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"Thank you... That would be great." 

Aia nodded, getting up and walking to the table to pour a cup of the wine. On second thought, she pulled the whole small table a little closer to the bed, so that it would be within arm's reach. With that done, she sat back on the edge of the bed. Decimus had managed to wiggle up a little, but he was still far from sitting up on his own.

"How are the others?.. No one else cut up too badly? How are you?"

"I'll live. My nose hurts and I have some bruises, but I'm fine. So is Cynane and the princess. Claudia was drenched in blood but it was not hers." Aia shifted, using one arm to support Decimus while she offered him the cup. It was not an easy thing to do; he was mostly dead weight. Aia wiggled some more so he could lean against her side. She held the cup for him.

"The medicus says your arm will be fine. Provided you don't exert it before it heals."

@Sains

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Exasperated sighs would accompany his efforts to gain a more comfortable position against her, though he soon found a spot that he could drink easily from. In any other circumstance he might have been a bit humiliated that an arrow wound had brought him to this point, but even he wasn't proud enough to deny what was obviously necessary. Assisted by her arm he managed to get his lips around the rim of the cup, gratefully sucking down the reddish liquid as long as he thought he should. As soon as he'd had his fill, however, he soon rested once again on the support of the pillows. 

"Gods I needed that... Good to hear as well. You took a good beating from that slime."

He recalled how he'd felt when he'd seen the men abusing her on the ground. Even now his heart pumped with pure rage at the thought that she might have been carried off by those grisly young hoodlums. Thankfully she'd lived. Thankfully she'd managed to get away from them. In his heart of hearts he knew that he would have let a sword run him through before they'd stop him from saving her. 

"The arm will heal in time... Infection would have set in by now anyways."

A warm smile would creep across his lips as he closed his eyes to rest them for a few moments. Opening them again once a few moments had passed, the wounded centurion couldn't help but take note of the tray laden with goodies that she'd brought with her. 

"Here, stay a while, bring the tray.", he'd say, shifting over to the other side of the bed a bit to so that she might get more comfortable as well. Clearly his appetite hadn't gone. 

 

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Aia helped Decimus drink, and made sure he drank enough before he lay back down. It must have been hard for him, being so limited in his movements. Relying on others for help for such easy things as drinking was never easy for someone who made a living from being strong. Even Aia's pride would have stung if things were the other way around.

"Gods I needed that... Good to hear as well. You took a good beating from that slime."

"Yeah." she admitted with a frown. The memory of the fight would stick with her for a long time; for someone who had been in the legions, she had felt helpless and weak against the attack, even though she'd put up a decent fight. "It would have been worse if you didn't help, though."

"The arm will heal in time... Infection would have set in by now anyways."

Aia hoped the same. The night would be critical time, but she prayed to the gods things would look better in the morning. Or at least not worse. She'd seen Decimus pull through all kinds of injuries. She thought he'd gone back to sleep when he opened his eyes again.

"Here, stay a while, bring the tray."

Aia smiled a little. Decimus moved over on the bed. There was an extra blanket at the end of the bed; she picked it up and folded it, working it behind Decimus' back to prop him up a little better, before she sat on the bed next to him, hiding her bare feet under his blanket. It was definitely cozier like this, side by side. She pulled the tray closer.

"You think you can hold down some food?"

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"Please..." He'd say, smirking in the dim lamplight, "I could hold down that entire tray if you didn't need some." 

And he probably wasn't boasting either. He'd only realized it once he'd been awoken, but he was famished! It was no surprise either; his body needed to start replenishing its energy, and there was no quicker remedy to that than a good meal! A proper one would have to wait for the morning, though. A cozy room, a platter of goodies, and the company of an extraordinary companion was all he truly wanted for tonight. 

"Where did you get all of this from, anyways? You weren't skulking around the kitchen just for me, were you?"

He wouldn't really care  if she'd 'Stolen' it, but it did seem a bit odd. They'd only just arrived at this house and understandably the owner had been quite distressed at the mere sight of them. Swiping food off of their counters would only add to the disdain he supposed they might have for them already. For all that, though, he was hungry. He could give a rats arse about what they thought of him after he'd gone. 

The new support of the blanket beneath his back was welcome as well, and as she sat down in the bed next to him he was sure to bring the blanket closer about her form so that they might both benefit from each other's warmth. 

@Chevi

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"Please... I could hold down that entire tray if you didn't need some." 

Aia grinned. That was a good sign. Hunger meant Decimus was ready to replenish his energy, and his body was doing everything it could to heal. She would have been worried it he didn't have an appetite. She balanced the tray on her lap as they settled in. It was nice and warm in the bed, and up against his side like this she would have felt if Decimus was feverish. He seemed fine.

"Where did you get all of this from, anyways? You weren't skulking around the kitchen just for me, were you?"

"I live here" she chuckled, popping an olive and a piece of cheese into her mouth, and offering some of the same to him. He had one good arm so he didn't technically need to be fed, but it was an instinctive gesture. "And I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get some food. And then I looked at all the food and through Well, if Decimus is still alive, he's probably hungry." It was close enough to the truth.

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Normally, of course, Decimus would have objected to being fed by the hand of another. If not for the fact that it fell along the same lines as something demeaning, then certainly just because it seemed odd to him. Tonight was different though. It was probably because he wasn't in a proper frame of mind, but laying there next to Aia he couldn't help but disregard those impulsive feelings of masculinity and pride. He just wanted to lay there and drift off as much as he could. Whether it had been writing up a plan in a tent or holding secret rendezvous in small taverns after hours, she'd had this sort of effect on him. 

"Well... I am still alive." He'd say with a coy smile, opening his mouth to await the small morsel she'd picked out for him. 

He was truly grateful for her care for him, though. She'd always been selfless, and tonight was no exception. 

 

@Chevi

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Aia broke off a piece of bread, and offered some to Decimus as well. The injury must have had an effect on his pride because he accepted her feeding him bites of food without complaint. He noted he was still alive, implying that therefore he had an appetite. It was a simple comment, but it made her smile anyway.

"Yeah, well, not for lack of trying." she huffed, looking away "For a moment, when they shot you off the horse, I thought..." you were gone "... I thought how stupid it would be to get killed in bandits outside Rome after all we've done in Britannia."

It would have been one dumb way to go out of this world, for someone as brave and as good as Decimus. And Aia would have had to hunt bandits for the next decades to come.

"I should have been armed." she noted, frowning. The feeling of being useless was going to stick with her for a long time. "It was stupid, not carrying a weapon."

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Decimus would look over at her as she recounted what she'd been thinking when he'd fallen from the horse with a solemn sort of look. She didn't need to say anything about how awful she would have felt if that small patch of grass would have been the spot where he'd finally slipped into the afterlife. He knew how she'd feel, just as he would have felt. The thought of what could have happened if those bandits had been a bit more hostile was certainly frightening to say the least. How dark the world would have been if they'd killed Aia instead of trying to haul her off. The thought wasn't just frightening, it was downright depressing. He supposed that there wouldn't be a more painful experience in the realm of men than watching the life drain from her eyes... Perhaps it was this morbid thought that suppressed his ability to give more than a half smile when she'd continued on with her thought. 

"Better to be burned here than some frozen little speck of a town on that island..." 

He'd have said that about being buried anywhere reasonably warm. The prospect of being burned or buried so far from home had always frightened him, if not only for the reason that he couldn't imagine how the gods would find him all the way up there... Perhaps that's why he'd always clung so close to that little statuette of his for all those years in the north. It had given him some small comfort.

"A weapon?.." he said, waving a dismissive hand, "It was mine and Cynane's job to protect you and the Princess. You've left this life behind, as you ought to have. You always had too much brains to be wasted on the end of a blade."

 

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"Better to be burned here than some frozen little speck of a town on that island..." 

Better not to be burned anywhere. She could see Decimus meant what he said, and there was some sadness in his eyes. For someone who had been in close proximity with death multiple times, Aia was definitely not ready to think about dying as a possibility just yet. Not her own death, and definitely not that of Decimus.

"A weapon?.. It was mine and Cynane's job to protect you and the Princess. You've left this life behind, as you ought to have. You always had too much brains to be wasted on the end of a blade."

Aia snorted. She broke off a piece of bread and offered it to Decimus with some cheese. "Yeah, like all Rome wants is women with brains." She grinned, popping another olive into her mouth. "Bodyguard or not, don't scare me like that again. Watching you get stitched up was not my favorite pastime ever." She tried to sound like she was joking, but really, she was not going to forget those hour-long minutes while Decimus was on the medicus' table. 

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The wounded soldier was all-too-happy to pluck the small morsel from her with his good hand this time, not feeling the need to be totally pampered tonight. He'd not deny that many of those in the city still wished for their women folk to be docile, doting, damsels with about as much personality as a lost puppy, but he couldn't say that the prospect of someone like that would appeal much to him. Perhaps he was alone in thinking that having a woman of considerable intelligence and daring at his side would be ideal! Someone who couldn't carry their own weight was never desirable outside the walls of any city, let alone on the front lines, and the thought of watching over some weak doughy eyed girl was not appealing to him in the slightest. He'd always said he wanted someone with a fire set deep in their heart. He wanted someone who wasn't afraid to tell him that he was being a colossal fool, at least when the accusation was accurate. Perhaps it was why he felt so nervous laying here with his armed taped up next to the only woman he'd ever known to match all of those qualities. 

"Well, no need to worry about that." he'd say, patting her a few times on the thigh with his hand though his arm still ached with pain, "I don't plan on returning any time soon." 

His hand would linger there, though the true purpose of that was anyone's guess. Perhaps the pain of moving his arm in any way was the true reason. Either way he was determined to let his eyes rest for a few moments, leaning back into the pillows and breathing easily for a few minutes before speaking again.

"And I do remember seeing you as well... It may sound foolish, but I think I might have had a dream or two about you."

 

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They shared some more food; Decimus took it from her hand this time. She'd never known him to be the kind that wanted slaves to place peeled grapes into his mouth. Or maybe he just needed to know he could still eat on his own, and wasn't completely incapacitated by his injury.

"Well, no need to worry about that. I don't plan on returning any time soon." 

He patted her thigh with a reassuring gesture, and his hand remained in place. It was a familiar touch; they had touched each other before, they hugged, they even shared a bed. But somehow, right now, knowing that he was still alive after an awful day, it felt different. Goosebumps ran down Aia's leg.

Decimus did not seem to notice; he closed his eyes and was quiet for a moment. She thought maybe he was drifting off to sleep when he spoke again.

"And I do remember seeing you as well... It may sound foolish, but I think I might have had a dream or two about you."

Damn goosebumps. Aia's hand moved, resting on top of his. It was easier to look at him as long as his eyes were closed. He looked peaceful, and Aia found herself distracted.

"You did?" she sounded surprised. In a good way. Given that he woke up talking about Venus, he was not sure how she would compare to other things he dreamed about. She'd never considered herself someone others would dream of. Somehow she hoped he wasn't messing with her. "What was it like?"

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Aia's touch was one that he'd come to know well over time as well. Oftentimes it was friendly gestures and short interactions that brought their hands together like this, but the calmness of this night seemed unmatched by any other they'd yet experienced. More than that, beneath the warmth of her hand he could swear that he felt... Bumps?.. He wondered for a few moments if she were cold, but if he felt fine then surely she must have been boiling. Northerners worked that way. 

"Well... Let's see." he'd almost whisper, seemingly deep in thought about whatever it was that he'd envisioned that night.  "In the one I remember best, I found myself in a dark forest. It was like those deep endless groves in Britannia, but far more mystical. Fog blanketed the forest floor and I was stood in the elements with naught but a tunica about me... It was cold. 

The smile that had sat on his lips once he'd shut his eyes gave way to a more neutral looking half-frown that seemed to mark the fact that he was not about to make some witty joke, but that he was being quite genuine. 

"So there I was, wandering about the wood to find a way out of the black when I noticed a figure standing there, just opposite me. We were dead close, and when they turned, well... It bore your face. As soon as we'd locked eyes, you smiled and were suddenly engulfed in green light..." His eyes opened now, as he brought forth his good arm to gesture towards the ceiling as if he were painting a picture before himself. "The forest was lit completely then, and you were surrounded in a torrent of swirling leaves and vines that shone with the colors of autumn. Light burst from each one, and... Well, they just swirled around you until you disappeared into thin air..."

His hand had stopped its near ritualistic motions in the air and had come back down to rest at his side. Blinking for a few moments, he soon turned his head towards her and made to finish his thought. 

"Seemed almost druidic, but it was beautiful."

 

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If Decimus noticed the goosebumps, he didn't comment on them. His eyes still closed, he was picturing the dream he'd mentioned. If he was going to mess with her, he gave no sign of it, and what he said sounded genuine. Aia watched him curiously, wondering what a dream about her would be like.

"Well... Let's see. In the one I remember best, I found myself in a dark forest. It was like those deep endless groves in Britannia, but far more mystical. Fog blanketed the forest floor and I was stood in the elements with naught but a tunica about me... It was cold."

Aia had had dreams about Britannia often. Many conflicting feelings were attached to that place in her mind. Fear and worry, for sure; she had nightmares about the time she had been captured, sometimes, or the time she was injured. She had strange dreams about the endless forests and the blue people, not all of whom were enemies. And yes, she had dreams about being back at the camps, and being Aius again. It was no wonder dreams carried Decimus back there too.

"So there I was, wandering about the wood to find a way out of the black when I noticed a figure standing there, just opposite me. We were dead close, and when they turned, well... It bore your face. As soon as we'd locked eyes, you smiled and were suddenly engulfed in green light..."

Aia blushed a little. It was strange, being a character in someone else's dream. Decimus opened his eyes, getting lost in explaining the images in his memory.

"The forest was lit completely then, and you were surrounded in a torrent of swirling leaves and vines that shone with the colors of autumn. Light burst from each one, and... Well, they just swirled around you until you disappeared into thin air... Seemed almost druidic, but it was beautiful."

He looked back at her, and Aia knew she was still blushing. There was something in the way he told her about the dream - maybe the fact that he told her at all, since dreams were always very personal. Her hand still rested on top of his, and they were looking at each other in the faint light of the lamp. She wanted to hold her breath to stay in that moment. But that would have been stupid. "That... sounds beautiful." she said quietly. Decimus was a surprising man sometimes. "I... never thought someone would dream like that about me."

@Sains

 

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