Summary: Late Victorian Era, there exists two. Two sets of secrets, two fates, intertwined. Hir lies, his lies, no end nigh. Dapper and prim, lacking poise and grace, they spiral toward an unwitting calamity. Can you keep my secret? Can you speak a lie? She seeks salvation in the light of deception. How will this tainted tale of love unravel? We begin in time...and end the same.
Author's Note: Thank you to everyone for reading (even if you don’t review)! I’ve done my best with what knowledge I have to keep this fiction fairly accurate to the time period, but there are times, such as how to end a celebration, that I just did not find any answers to.
It’s come to my attention that it would have made more sense for me to use “zhe” instead of “she” as I’ve been using “hir”, and both “hir” and “zhe” are gender neutral pronouns. However, I won’t be correcting this in previous or future chapters as I personally prefer using “she” for a story being that “zhe” sounds too foreign for my liking. I remind you that I use “she” with an emphasis that it’s only one letter from being “he” and still goes along with my theme. I hope no one is put off by this, but regardless, I’ll continue things this way.Disclaimer: The owner of Soul Eater is Atsushi Ōkubo. This work of fiction is composed entirely by me. I gain nothing material by writing this and do it solely for fun.
As soon as the opportunity presented itself, Crona left the bustling ballroom. No pleasure would be had at Medusa’s expense with the turn the night had taken. Roaming the halls solemnly, it occurred to the sullen youth that she had company. She stood as if struck by sudden paralysis in the sight of a golden-haired lady with an eyepatch over her left, who similarly had taken note of Crona’s presence.
“My, my,” the youthful woman began. “it is true how your hair resembles flowers.” The woman pressed a peach-cream gloved hand to her cheek in a show of thought. “Crona is it? Might I be so bold as to call you that?” Unsure as to what she should reply with, Crona gave a blank nod. “How nice to make your acquaintance. I am Marie Mjölnir.” Marie smiled warmly. “By chance, are you as lost as I?” she questioned with a brief laugh of humility.
‘Lost?’ Crona internally debated hir words. The pinkette was not lost for she had been wandering aimlessly, but telling a lie might appear less conspicuous. “Uh yes... I am afraid to say I have lost my way heading to bed.” At the end of hir words she cast hir gaze downward.
“No bother!” The brightness in Marie’s voice startled Crona, causing hir posture to straighten abruptly. “We shall find our way just fine! Follow me, if you please.” Already Marie was traipsing off with the expectancy of Crona following. Foreseeing no other choice in the situation she’d unwittingly fixed hirself in, she obediently trailed behind.
Kid became aware of Crona’s departure not long after, but his attention remained on his duty as host. The Christmas gala had reached its end, and the Death heir saw that all things had progressed smoothly, perfectly. However, the night had yet to end, he learned. A servant came to him with news. Uncertainty doused Kid’s good evening. Black eyebrows furrowed as Kid knew the more important of the two between hosting the gala and tending to the news he’d just received. So he strode in out of the ballroom and thereafter followed the servant.
The servant swiftly closed the door to Lord Death’s study behind the lord’s son. Greetings were spared, though Kid bowed his head to the two standing adjacent to his father, and they acknowledged it by return. Lord Death began to speak. “As I feared, the disappearances are very serious. Not only is it nothing to make light of as people reappear dead, but the fiend does such in a timely and precise mannerism.”
The fellow three occupants of the study heard the mayor’s tone graven as he continued. “Whatever took the lives of those citizens is more skilled than the typical human.” He allowed a pause for the words to sink in. “It has been discussed amongst myself, Stein, and Spirit that the best action to take for you is to keep up your guard. We shall all four remain cautious and alert of any strangeness. Until this is solved, we will not rest, and if any soul beseeches your knowledge on the matter, be weary and assure them with bare detail. That is all.”
Kid’s expression revealed obvious distress, but he refrained from speaking his suspicion. “Thank you for informing me, Father.” He bowed briefly. “Good evening to you, gentlemen.” He awaited signal from his father to leave.
“Good evening to you as well.” “Good evening.” “Good night.” They chorused, and Kid left the room. A few seconds following, Stein and Spirit appeared behind the youth, and they paced together towards the manor’s front doors where two ladies stood.
Marie and Crona wandered every which way, this proving to be nearly upsetting Crona who refrained from revealing to Marie how the woman led them in circles. It was downright pitiful and made hir feel for the slightest moment like she belonged at Gallows Manor; at least she knew the layout. Eventually, Crona offered a point of direction, and the duo arrived in the foyer just as the gala was ending and guests were leaving.
“It was a grand time, though you never were much of a dead beat, eh, Stein?” Spirit jested, seeming tipsy much to his wife’s dismay beside him.
“A grand time, indeed.” Stein returned the pleasantry curtly.
Marie smiled without word as she strode to Stein’s side, Crona still behind her. Crona’s by now tired eyes met those of Spirit’s daughter, who possessed ash blonde hair tucked back in sparkling hairpins that matched the extravagance of her gown. Both persons froze, the pinkette especially still as the adolescent blonde eyed hir with blatant curiosity. The wordless interaction was interrupted by Marie speaking.
“Good evening, Mrs. Kami Albarn, Miss. Maka, Mr. Spirit Albarn. This is Miss. Crona.” Marie motioned to Crona encouragingly.
“Hello.” Kami and Maka curtsied, each with a smile, and Spirit gave a slight bow. Crona fumbled, as unsure as always, and nodded hir head shortly with strict posture.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss. Crona.” Stein nodded his head in a simple acknowledgement, having no hat to lift politely. A cold spear of nervousness pierced hir heart from his intent stare and stitched scars, but she found she couldn’t look away. A pause of tension remained between the gray-haired man and pink-haired youth until another voice made its owner’s presence known.
“Good evening, Ms. Marie Mjölnir. Pleased to meet again, Miss. Crona.” Kid bowed his head and smiled to both. Crona looked around and spotted the young man who had been there all along without her notice. That fact didn’t soothe her any more than the strange scarred man, and she was incredibly tired of questions; she was only grateful that Kid had saved her from further uncomfortableness with Stein.
Soon she found Kid was even more of help as he offered to relieve hir of the extra company by escorting hir to hir room. It was lost on hir why the ladies of the group smiled in a knowing way at the pair, though Kid seemed to understand the implication of it as his cheeks reddened. Spirit smirked as he left with his wife and daughter, and Kid almost swore he heard the red-head chuckle under his breath, “He’s an audacious one just like his father.”
Nonetheless, the ebony-haired youth of 17 led the weary pinkette down a hall. At hir bedroom’s door he proceeded to bid hir a good night, which she timidly returned. It was in this moment of Crona entering hir room that moonlight shown upon hir from one of the many tall windows of the mansion. The light illuminated Crona’s figure, emphasizing hir ghostly pallor. ‘Such a strange girl…’ Kid thought for that brief mesmerizing moment.
Back in his room, Kid’s mind raced, not pausing as he dressed or readied his bed to his liking. Even checking the evenness of his bedding’s placement that the maids never did get right did not slow the suspicions conquering his mind. These murders had begun only a little before he had found Crona ragged and alone. It made sense to suspect she had to do with them, though she had been at the manor endlessly the past weeks.
He wasn’t convinced on either side. ‘I need to learn more about her and keep a tight watch.’ A fretful and sickly stranger found unconscious and almost constantly in fear, she really was the perfect suspect. How he had missed such before was shamefully slow-witted for someone of his stature, at least he thought. He would not be allowing hir to skim his sight any longer.
Crona rose early with the orange and pink sunrise peeking through the chamber’s thick curtains by a sliver. Hir sleep had been a restless one, nothing unusual. She lay for a moment, soaking in the sleepless morn with hir vision dancing across the lofty ceiling. Not knowing the time in the early morning, she slowly stood from bed and opened the thick curtains with gentle hands.
She squinted in pain initially at the glaring light, but once adjusted, enjoyed the view. New light coating the shadowy spaces of night came as a beautiful sight to the youth. The longer she remained at Gallows Manor, the fonder she became. Never before had she been able to wake to such beauty. The vast forests surrounding and stretching beyond the land did not even urge a grimace but a calm sigh.
Having hir fill of the sight, Crona released the material and began to fix hir bed. It gave hir something to do as all were asleep. She knew well this would not last, these calm test-free mornings. Still, if it was wrong to enjoy what she had while she had it, so should she be damned.
The tidying up of the room did not take long at all. It held very few personals, merely clothes she had received and the simple yet lovely furniture. She had been interested in dusting them like she had witnessed the servants do, but therein lay the problem; everything was already dusted and polished and pristine as the young master of the house saw fit.
Though Crona honestly did not have much knowledge on what most found strange or commonplace, she did find the perfectionist offputting. The Thompson sisters Liz and Patty were the only to give hir insight and remark on Kid’s compulsions of perfectionism and symmetry.
She shook hir head, as if clearing it of useless thoughts. It mattered not. Kid remained the one she must be closest to. It was best not to think too much on his behavior for that reason.
She attempted to sleep for longer, knowing this was the only place she could sleep fully and in the morning, but hir body refused. An hour passed, then another countless amount of minutes, until she couldn’t stand the nothingness. She dressed in a simple gray-blue house dress that was as unextravagant as proper fashion would allow and gingerly opened the room’s door.
Not one soul haunted the hall, not even a servant.
Mouse-like, Crona wandered until the thought reached hir of visiting Kid. ‘Would that be right?’ He was still a stranger to hir, but really, everyone was. She stopped walking. She bowed hir head and stared at hir bare feet, toes curling on the elaborately patterned carpet in a mindless act of fidgeting.
All she had to do was learn what made him weak. It seemed easy yet so difficult. It was easy because she did not have to learn how to care about him; difficult because she had to learn how to get close enough to find weakness. She had never been close to anyone before.
It had finally occurred to her how impossible the task she had been given was.
Hir feet managed to move and take hir to his room where she sat outside the fine polished door. The floor became hir domicile where she hugged hir knees and appreciated how the long dress curtained hir legs and feet. There she sat for a time she did not count. Silence hummed into hir ears, filling in for emptiness. Hir depthless eyes reflected the paling sunlight of morning from the windows, a sunlight that gave little warmth and could not scare away the cold that pressed upon hir back. The light into a dark house, the slight cold and vague warmth, and the sensation of carpet on hard floor consumed hir consciousness as hir senses consumed them.
It was not a curious thing that she jolted when Kid’s door opened.
The two stared at one another almost comically.
“Good morning, Crona…”
Crona’s shoulders twitched in nervous reaction, as if his words were a raised hand ready to slap hir. “Morning, Sir…”
The echo of their words gave way to a silence once more. Kid swallowed inaudibly with a strict line for a mouth. “Tell me, if you would,” He eyed hir gently. “why you are on the floor?”
“It’s…comfortable. I-I was waiting for you.” She released hir knees with hands flat beside hir and head directed at hir lap that seemed a lot easier to stare at than Kid. It was foreign warmth as she blushed in a bout of embarrassment. She wasn’t the type to fluster so often. Then again, she wasn’t around many else other than hir mother.
A hand appeared suddenly within hir spectrum of vision as he offered to help hir stand. “No apologies are needed. Is there a matter you wish to discuss?” Crona slowly accepted his hand with hir own and felt slightly eased. His hand lingered with hirs as he awaited a reply with a calm and intelligible look dressed in his charcoal vest over a white dress shirt and matching dress pants.
Many words pressed hir conscience with a familiar cold fury. She recalled the previous night’s events concerning them. “You tried to speak with me yesterday, and I fled. I’m sorry if I troubled you.” She kept hir gaze downward and saw his hand slip from hirs almost saddeningly easy. “Everything that was happening…I’m not familiar with. I don’t know how to deal with people being so close.”
Kid’s expression changed from calm to lightly apologetic as he realized just how uncomfortable he had made the meek creature. “It is I who should apologize. Had I known my actions would have been seen as threatening then I would have been less personal. Please do not misinterpret my intentions. I only wanted to learn about you in the most appropriate sense. Will you forgive my folly?”
Their gazes finally caught as Crona lifted hir head in sincere astonishment. No one had ever asked or wanted hir forgiveness before now. “You…want me to forgive you?”
“If you will, please.” His face showed not a hint of dishonesty.
She was stunned by the emotion she felt. “Yes. I forgive you.” The words were soft and odd to hir, but they satisfied Kid, who smiled in his reserved fashion. “What did you have to say at the…” The word slipped hir. “…gala?”
It appeared hir question both surprised and troubled him. It took some time, but he replied. “I haven’t any idea of where you come from or why your hair is such a color. You keep to yourself, and I do my best to respect this privacy, but my curiosity is not doused. I wonder who you are.”
Crona’s mind swam as she struggled for a reply that would do hir any good. “I-it is just how it has always been, my hair…”
Kid watched with slight surprise and complete interest as panic brightened hir ghostly eyes. He watched as hir breathing quickened and as she held hirself tight. Hir mind was racing, and his began to. Then it clicked, a figmentated cog in the clockwork that was his mind. His eyes widened; he was paralyzed by thought. The walls around them seemed so distant yet at the same time too close. Suddenly it all made such sense, the hair, the oddities about hir.
“You’re a witch.” he quietly revealed with furrowing eyebrows.
Crona went still with wide and wild eyes that seemed to flicker a shade darker as they met Kid’s. He heard hir inhale shakily but never exhale, because the next thing she did was run.
“Wait!” He followed without care for waking anyone. She wouldn’t be leaving like previously, that he would make certain. Crona kept running. In the moment she comprehended many things: the weight and thud of hir bare feet against carpet and glossed wood, the heaviness of the relatively light dress bunched up in hir trembling hands, hir sporadic heartbeat. Most of all she thought of the disaster to come from this. She’d failed. She’d failed and now was condemned. It had been futile from the start.
At least for some time…she had experienced hospitality.
Tears were blurring hir vision as she made it to the foyer. She didn’t want this, didn’t want to leave. Lady Medusa was going to put hir through endless agony, but she knew she could no longer stay; she had no idea what fate would befall hir if she tried.
Suddenly Kid was in front of hir, blocking hir from the front doors. Crona gasped as she stopped on hir heels and quickly spun around in the opposite direction. He ran and reached after hir, just barely missing. He wasn’t sure what to think of Crona now. She couldn’t leave. He had to know if she had to do with the murders, and many other questions plagued him. As they continued the cat and mouse chase, he realized she was making hir way for the backdoors.
She made it through and into the manor’s lush garden where she didn’t hesitate to keep going. Hir downfall was a rose bush clipping hir feet and dress. She yelped in pain and gasped at the fall she took but didn’t linger. She clawed at the ground in a desperate struggle to get up before he caught hir. The weight of her blood rushing and the sting of the cuts on her feet and legs just urged hir to crawl faster, but of course he caught hir. He grabbed hir arms and pulled hir up to him.
She went as limp as a ragdoll in his arms; hir eyes couldn’t will enough strength to reach his face. She was done. She stared off, perspective thrown by the angle and the garden inverted. Kid kept hir within his grasp and gave seconds away to see if she would rise. When she did not, he raised hir by an arm under hir back and hand under hir head.
To hold hir this way was obscenely intimate, but this case was rare and queer. “Crona…” he muttered familiarly. She didn’t even twitch at first. He kept the stare on hir, and slowly she lifted up. He kept hir body cradled, his golden eyes calm yet analyzing. Crona peered back with a resigned posture but with curious confusion peeking through. He wasn’t angry, wasn’t sad, wasn’t scared.
“If you are a witch,” he began, “then that is certainly unignorable. But your fear is wasted. All I want from you is the truth, not to harm you.”
“Truth…?” she shakily asked with tears welling so suddenly that she was amazed at hir own emotion.
His ringed amber eyes stared down at hir, for the first time mesmerizing instead of unnerving. “Yes.” he replied quietly. He leaned in, fingers lightly fidgeting with hir pale pink tresses as he examined. “I’ve never seen a witch before. I never thought you’d be so human.”
Crona stared in bewilderment with her fast-beating heart, teary eyes, and bleeding cuts. He was unlike anything she’d expected. He…was curious about hir. Fascinated even. He wasn’t going to make hir leave. “I can stay?” she practically choked out with tears streaming down.
Once again hir question seemed to surprise him, which it did as he had thought there were more important factors to focus on. “Why yes, of course. I still have questions for you-” Hir sudden sob broke his words. With widened eyes, he held hir up more and let hir cry against him. “Um…are you alright?” he asked almost dumbly.
Hir frail body quaked as she wept onto him, but he managed to see the difference of hir head nodding. “I-I just-…” she heaved. “I’ve never felt so happy…” It was stupid of hir to feel this way when this was only the beginning of hir troubles. The witch’s child didn’t understand it much at all. Yet she felt this way, so undeniably relieved and happy that she didn’t yet have to leave the only haven she’d ever known.
Kid patiently held hir, still confused by the emotional display, but took it in stride. ‘This girl can’t possibly be a murderer, can she?’ he mused with eyes cast down to the shivering pinkette. She was just a little thing. He’d found hir alone and nearly dead. No, his suspicions were not completely assuaged, but he couldn’t force anything on hir now.
After 10 minutes the young man vaguely wondered if hir crying had alarmed anyone, but he let hir continue. Soon hir wailing softened to sniffling, and he waited more until she was ready to speak.
Unbeknownst to him, as Crona calmed she remembered hir purpose. The fretful youth slowly lifted hir aching head to face him and was promptly offered a handkerchief. She took it a bit numbly and patted hir face. She sniffled a last time before again looking at him. He gave his usual smile, intending to comfort, and for once he actually did. She felt no treachery hidden behind it or strangeness. She only felt the kindness he meant with it.
After a speechless moment, Kid decided they were rather close in proximity and attempted to put space between them. He lightly gripped hir upper arms and positioned hir so that they could see one another clearly without being a mere inch apart. Crona didn’t mind, but continued to gaze at him with a soft awe. He cleared his throat, eyes glancing away and in the process glimpsing one of hir nicked feet. He made a move to hoist hir up so it could be cleaned and bandaged in the house, but hir voice stopped him quite effectively.
“Kid…” was all that came from hir lips at first. It was the first time she’d said his name, and as far as he could recall, it was the first time she’d said anyone’s name.
Shaking off his light astonishment, he replied, “Yes?”
She leaned into him again, arm pressed from the shoulder to the elbow against his torso. She didn’t look at him, instead watching hir hands fiddle with the soiled handkerchief. At the entirely new behavior, he had to wonder what was occurring inside hir head.
Crona was silently amazed by how easy this had suddenly become. This was perfect. She wasn’t afraid of him, just for this moment. Now she could try to befriend him. Before she could upset hirself with nervous thoughts, she continued to speak, “I would really like to see you more.” It was truth spilling from hir; so much so that hir cheeks turned a bright shade of rose.
This almost made Kid blush as well, something he was unaccustomed to. The thought to correct hir tempted him, to say she would be able to see him more if she were out of hir room and didn’t avoid him like the plague. But with hir leaning against him shyly and speaking so meekly in a way he found oddly appealing, he couldn’t be so smart. Then it occurred to him that this would work perfectly in his favor. Being closer to hir would gain him his answers without upsetting the poor thing. Usually he would be quick to the point, but questioning could at least wait until she was feeling better, and for some reason he didn’t fully understand, the thought of getting to know hir was honestly pleasant.
“I would enjoy seeing you more as well.” he said little louder than hir.
At this she tilted hir head down more in natural embarrassment, hir face even warmer. She looked up to him, moving back so she no longer leaned, and they kept the eye contact for a few seconds that felt timeless. It was interrupted when Kid hooked his arms under hir and lifted hir as he had done when he first found hir, causing a little squeak to escape hir as well as a meager grimace from the sting of hir cuts being brushed by the dress.
“You alright there?”
“Y-yes…” she muttered, eyes closed and blushing more. This was so unusual, to feel this way. His concern felt so nice. In return, the palest pink marred his pallor. Hir voice and timid nature was attractive when unmarked by fear.
He carried hir back into the mansion and into a sitting room. She sat upon a cushioned bay window seat as he cleansed and dressed the small lacerations. It was unusual for Crona as she was being tended to, and unusual for Kid as it was improper etiquette. But he was the only one awake with hir as he knew it, and a gentleman tended to the needs of others, especially ladies. “There we are.” he commented in slight satisfaction as he smoothed the bandages.
Crona’s blush didn’t fade as she watched him rise and stand before hir. He waited for a murmur of gratitude and was a little confused when he received none, but assessed it to simply be hir timid nature oppressing hir manners. To be honest, the thought to thank him didn’t occur to the introvert, though she was grateful. Silence passed between the two with eyes roaming around and further fidgeting, until Kid decided to sit beside hir. “Are you feeling well?” The lighter haired youth nodded gently and continued to twirl hir thumbs in hir lap. “Good.” Kid commented and looked down as well.
He looked at hir again, tempted to ask another question, and she looked at him with hir mouth opening to speak. They both stopped to allow the other to talk. Met again with silence, Kid tried. “Do you always rise so early?”
Another moment of peaceful yet awkward quiet ensued. Kid’s head whipped at Crona’s boyish voice interrupting the quiet of the room. “Why do I not scare you?”
“………I’m not so quick to fear what I don’t understand.” he answered after a pause.
Crona slowly looked to him with a subtle expression that told him she didn’t fully understand. “…how can you think that way?” She gathered hir dress in hir hands tightly with confusion, having let go of the handkerchief to rest beside hir on the cushion.
Kid rested a hand between them to lightly lean on, though it would appear his posture was straight to anyone not looking closely. “I’m not foolish. There are many things I don’t understand. But I plan to understand them with time. So there is nothing to fear. I learn what I can and take the rest in stride.”
This confused Crona further. His words made no sense in hir mind. She leaned forward, hand nearly touching his, as she tried to express hir growing frustration. “But how? That doesn’t make any sense. The world- The world is so confusing. I-…” She looked down. “I fear everything. I don’t know how to deal with not understanding.”
Kid was utterly intrigued by this side of the usually silent guest. “I suppose, for some, it can be extremely difficult, but you are not alone. I am willing to answer any questions of yours as well.” Their eyes met again when she lifted hir head with genuine surprise at his offer.
“But I- No you couldn’t…” She gazed away sullenly. “No one can… No one can help…” she muttered under hir breath.
“I would like to try, if you ever desire it. The world may frighten you, but those same things that you fear can make you stronger.”
Now he really had hir befuddled. This time that she looked up, she glared, making him flinch in surprise. “You don’t know.” she stated firmly, childishly.
Waving off his surprise, his dark brows bent slightly with his subtle frown. “How are you so certain, Miss.?” The polite term came out a bit snide.
Hir glare weakened into a pout, and she rubbed hir arm nervously. “…but you don’t speak sense…”
“Who is to say I don’t?” She looked at him again with an inaudible gasp and knitted eyebrows. While she remained troubled, his expression straightened. He shifted, turning toward hir a little more, and let out a soft sigh. “It’s alright. Let time give meaning to my words. I will help you understand so long as you stay, if that suits you.”
She kept hir stare focused on him with the look of an injured pup. His expression softened, the ghost of a smile playing upon his lips. “…I think…I’d like that.” she admitted with obvious struggle. His smile grew a little more to be fully recognizable, almost a smirk.
It was sudden. It was unexpected, and yet it wasn’t. It just…happened. He leaned in, his eyes closed, and she remained still. It all happened within a few seconds. His lips pressed against hirs without lingering before withdrawing. It was soft and warm and so simple.
Kid stared at hir with equal awe as was seen in hir gray-blue eyes. Slowly she raised a hand to hir lips and blush flowered into hir pale face. Crona was too stunned to speak, only wonder why Kid would do such a thing. It was absolutely the strangest reaction she’d ever encountered. He blushed similarly and needed a moment to think of something coherent to say and then another moment to actually say it. “I- My apologies.” he managed to say, eyes still wide.
She still didn’t speak and couldn’t detour hir sight from him. “It didn’t hurt.” she finally muttered.
The innocence of the words relieved him of worry and tension enough to the point he almost chuckled. He smiled sheepishly and agreed, “It felt nice.” Mentally he questioned his sanity for brazenly kissing hir. He hadn’t thought about it and was fully able to control himself. Yet he’d leaned in and kissed hir. His eyes had drifted to hir lips and he’d just leaned in and done the unthinkable.
Abruptly hir impromptu closeness drew him from his panicked thoughts. Quietly she asked, “Can I try?”
A deeper blush spread across his face like wildfire. “That’s not very proper!”
His exclaim instantly and obviously hurt hir with the pang of rejection. “But you did it.” she weakly accused and cowered.
Seeing hir this way, he attempted to soothe. “No no, well, yes, but-…” Much to his chagrin, she made a fair point. Exasperated, he stifled a groan. “If you like, you may.”
She was much more hesitant now, still very much resembling a scolded pup, but leaned in again. Kid remained still and tense as Crona closed hir eyes and gently pushed hir lips against his. She put more pressure into it than he had; it was clumsy and a bit endearing. She lingered as well, bringing more color to his cheeks, but it was still brief. She parted with the calmest gleam in hir eyes despite the raging blush clashing with hir skin. He returned the stare as calmly as he could with half-lowered eyelids. It was nerve-racking yet sedating, lifting, and warming. It was the beginning of more between them than either would have ever anticipated.