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PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, '11, 7:57 pm
Over the next several months, Nekise became a frequent visitor to the palace. He, of course, had work to do helping run the newspaper in Camineet and I had to make trips to various places in Algol, but we did try to see each other as much as possible. It was strange – the more time I spent with him, the more time I wanted to spend with him, as if I couldn't get enough of his presence.

He noticed I was quiet late one afternoon as we were lounging about in the library. “What's wrong?” he asked, brushing some of my hair out of my downturned eyes.

I sighed. “I have to leave for Motavia in a few days.”


“I'll probably be there for a while. I don't know how long it will be until I can come back to Palma.”

He frowned slightly. “You do what you have to do. I'm not going anywhere, I'll be here when you get back.”

“But I'll miss you,” I complained.

He kissed my cheek and pulled me closer to him. “I'll miss you too, of course. But I understand when you have to travel without me.”

His words caused a previously unthought idea to pop into my head. “You could come with me...” I shyly suggested.

He pulled back so he could get a better look at my face. “Really?”

“I know you're busy with the newspaper and everything, I couldn't expect you to just up and leave at a moment's notice.”

“They could survive without me for a few days, I haven't taken a vacation in...well, ever, I guess.”

“There are all sorts of fun things for you to do on Motavia while I'm meeting with the governor and others. I hope you don't mind the heat.”

“Not at all.” He laughed and stroked my hair. “It's probably better if I'm elsewhere during the day, I wouldn't want you to get tired of me.”

“Don't say that! You know I could never get tired of you.” I snuggled back up against him. “It'll be nice to have a traveling companion who cares about something other than my schedule and meetings and appearances and all of that stuff I'm glad I don't have to keep track of on my own. This trip could actually be fun now.”

“And you're sure it's okay?”

“Why wouldn't it be okay?”

“I don't know, I wouldn't want people to start talking when the Queen shows up with a strange, yet charming and handsome young man in her entourage. We wouldn't want any rumors to start.”

Now it was my turn to laugh. “If that did happen, you could always write an article for your newspaper to put a positive spin on things.”

“I'd leave out the part where you cuddle with me and cover me with kisses. We don't want a scandal.”

I reached up to wrap my arms around his neck and pressed my lips against his. “See, you're so smart. I need someone like you accompanying me on my many journeys.”

“Well, if things work out on Motavia, perhaps I could come with you next time you go to Dezoris,” he said, blushing slightly.

“There's always room for you in my spaceship.” I laid my head on his shoulder. “I'm actually starting to get excited about this trip . I'm glad you agreed to come with me.”

“How could I say no?”

Several days later, my private ship touched down in the spaceport adjacent to Paseo on Motavia. Despite the oppressive heat on the desert planet, I donned my ceremonial robes, sat still as my crown was placed on my head, and waited while some of my guards went ahead to secure a path. When the signal was given, I descended the stairs and, surrounded by my usual entourage, started towards the governor's palace.

I stiffly stood in the center of his throne room as his court was presented to me and tried not to visibly show my impatience at the dated customs that I hoped to one day do away with. The members of my staff, in turn, re-introduced themselves, and I personally introduced Nekise to the governor as my special guest, not really caring if it fit into the usual procedures or not. Once the brief ceremony was completed, I turned to the woman who had helped dress me in the spaceship and raised an eyebrow; she nodded and I shrugged out of the robes, preferring to tend to business wearing just my usual tunic and leggings.

Nekise and I parted ways, as he was led to the room he would be occupying and I re-joined the governor and representatives from the various towns and villages. There were important matters to attend to, such as the economic statuses of Casba and Sopia, communications with the native blue-furred Motavian species, and all sorts of other details the governor and I needed to see to in order to ensure that things on this planet were running smoothly. Meetings consumed the rest of my day and it was late in the evening before I could even manage to eat a quick dinner.

“You didn't have to wait for me,” I said to Nekise as he sat down across from me with a plate of his own food.

“Nonsense, it would have been the height of rudeness if I left the queen to eat her supper all by herself.” He smiled as he raised a forkful of food to his mouth.

“Did you get to do anything exciting today?”

“Let's see...I wandered around the unrestricted parts of the palace for a while.” He leaned over to me with a sly grin on his face. “Don't tell anyone, but your palace is much nicer.”

I let out a much-needed laugh. “We'll try to keep it a secret.”

“After that, I walked around Paseo for a little while. One of your guards insisted on accompanying me, I couldn't decide whether that was a nice gesture or if it was sort of creepy.”

I continued to giggle. “Maybe he realized that if anything happened to you, the queen would not be happy. He was just looking out for me, really,” I teased.

“Of course. I know my place as a lowly peasant.”

“Oh, you're so much more than that. You're my most favorite peasant in the entire system!” Having finished my dinner, I stood up. “It's getting late and I'm pretty tired from traveling and everything. I should get ready for bed.”

Nekise escorted me to the door of the suite that I always stayed in, indicating his own room as we passed it. “It's going to be another long day for me tomorrow,” I apologized. “I think we're taking a trip down to Uzo.”

“No worries. I'll be here when you get back.” He gave me a light kiss. “Goodnight, Alis.”

“Goodnight.” Entering the room, I closed the door behind me and prepared to get some rest. My personal belongings had already been set up for me and I quickly washed my face and brushed my hair. Though Motavia was uncomfortably hot during the day, the nights in the desert could be quite chilly, and I changed into a floor-length long-sleeved nightgown before climbing beneath the covers.

I was tired and I'd thought that I would have drifted off to sleep in a matter of moments, but as I wrapped the blankets around myself to ward off the chill in the air, I realized that something was keeping me awake. It was the first time that I had been in the same vicinity as Nekise after nightfall and knowing that he was so very close to me and yet not with me was downright maddening. I closed my eyes and tried to take my mind off him, but had no luck.

The floor was cold beneath my feet as I tiptoed back towards the door. I quietly peeked out into the hallway and saw that it was empty, as the entire palace had retired for the night. Feeling more like a mischievous teenager than ever, I cautiously made my way down the corridor and, trying to make as little noise as possible, let myself into Nekise's room.

He was already in bed and the steady pace of his breathing let me know that he was asleep. Unable to keep myself away from him any longer, I slipped into the bed with him as gently as possible. Despite my best intentions, I hadn't been successful in not waking him up; his eyes opened halfway and followed my movements as I slid closer to him.

“Alis?” he murmured.

“I was cold,” I explained. It was partially true, anyway. “Go back to sleep.” I curled up next to him with my head on his chest and felt him drape his arm across my shoulders. His body was so wonderfully warm and the rhythm of his heart beating beneath his skin was all I needed to lull me to sleep. As I drifted off, I briefly wondered why I hadn't thought of this before.

I awoke with the sun and dashed back to my own room. I don't know why I felt the need for secrecy, as logically, it seemed that I should be able to do whatever I wanted. Perhaps I just didn't want to have to answer any nosy questions or suffer any lectures from my older advisers. Perhaps a small part of me liked the thrill of sneaking around at night and sleeping in a bed other than my own.

Regardless of my day's activities, we repeated this routine every night we were in Paseo. Nekise would be the perfect gentleman and bid me farewell at my bedroom door and I would wait until I was sure my furtive trek down the hallway would go undetected. I loved knowing that he would be waiting for me at the end of every day and couldn't wait to slip into his arms and fall asleep against him.

He was wide awake when I joined him on our last night. I smiled as I lay down next to him. “I hope you had a nice time here, I'm sorry I wasn't able to do more fun things with you.”

“I had a great time, don't worry about it.” He kissed me goodnight as always, but this time, his lips lingered near mine. I returned the kiss and he pulled me close to him, pressing me against nearly the entire length of his body. It was intoxicating being so close to him in such a vulnerable position and my head was spinning. The previously cool room suddenly seemed very, very warm as our hands moved over each other, hesitantly at first, then with more urgency.

One of his hands moved towards the top button of my nightgown and before I knew what I was doing, I pulled back and moved away from him. He looked at me with concern, unsure of whether or not he needed to apologize for anything. I felt a heaviness settle into my chest and I rolled onto my back and stared up at the ceiling. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to push you away,” I whispered.

“It's okay. I didn't mean to...I mean, I shouldn't have...”

He was scrambling to find the right words for a situation that was completely not his fault and I felt a twinge of guilt. “You didn't do anything wrong,” I tried to reassure him. “It's just that...” The weight pushed down on me and I still couldn't look at him as I struggled to get my own words out. “No one has seen my body for a very long time. I'm afraid it's not all that nice to look at.”

“What do you mean?”

I sighed. “I fought a lot of battles, I can't even begin to estimate how many. Armor can only do so much, and I usually used my shield to protect my face and head. Not everything can be healed all the way.”

He reached out to stroke my cheek and tilted my face towards his so I could no longer escape his gaze. “There is nothing that could convince me that you are not the most beautiful woman in all of Algol, Alis. Nothing.”

I sat up on the bed and looked at him. He lay motionless, not sure of what to do or say next. Before I could change my mind, I unbuttoned the top buttons of my nightgown before pulling it up and off over my head, leaving myself exposed to the cool night air. I didn't have to look down to see the intricate web of scratches permanently etched into my arms, the remains of the burns that had been caused by magical spells, or the numerous scars that marked up my skin, constant reminders of every enemy I had faced. I had the location of each one memorized and had never let anyone else see the physical results of my brutal quest...until now.

Nekise sat up and slowly reached towards me. He ran his finger down a jagged angry mark that started just beneath my collarbone, his touch so light against the raised skin I could barely feel it. Moving downwards, his hand finally came to rest upon a dark red blotch on the side of my abdomen that marked where I had been hit by one of Lassic's terrible bolts of lightning. The warmth in his voice matched the warmth of his caress as he said, “I love everything about you, everything that makes you who you are.” His other hand mirrored the motions on the opposite before he wrapped his arms around my waist.

I stroked his hair before letting my hands rest loosely on his shoulders. “I love you,” I whispered, as I fought back the tears I felt forming at the corners of my eyes. “You've made everything...just better. I'm so glad I found you again.” With the strength of our words behind me, I kissed him more intensely than I had ever kissed him before and let him pull me back down with him.
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