Understandably she was tense throughout the day as she did her best to avoid standing within 3 feet of the Prince. Face aflame whenever he passed by her, she skirted his gaze and gave him only the sparsest attention permitted without outright disrespecting him, if only to save what little face she had left after her mistake. Because it had been a mistake, and a horrible, horrible one too. It was only a miracle that he hadn’t called her away to dismiss her. Everyone knew you weren’t supposed to cross that line, and the fact that she had abused his trust to take advantage like that…
All day, she put as much space as she could between herself and him. Thankfully he didn’t bring it up or corner her since whatever he said would probably be heard by the others, what with the need to be close to one another in this tree-dense environment. And perhaps in a way he was embarrassed too. Sure it might be kind of a stretch to so much as imagine that Prince flustered, but maybe if he was going to ignore what had happened, he was too self-conscious to. After all, when she’d realized that he’d been awake for what was supposed to be a secret, he hadn’t said anything. He hadn’t really been smiling or frowning either for the matter, but that was only because of his mask. Even so, there was no trace of either emotion in his eyes. But he had gotten up rather quickly and vanished into the woods – perhaps to indulge his human emotions – and only returned until the rest of the members had woken and with a bundle of firewood at that.
Her rationalization proved to be partially incorrect, however, when night fell and she took first watch. While the others wrapped themselves and huddled around the fire before dropping off to an uncomfortable yet peaceful slumber, he poured them two cups of coffee each before coming to stand beside her. Seeing his boots out of the corner her eye, she pretended not to notice until he cleared his throat.
“May I speak to you, C.C.?”
“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” she muttered.
“No, not particularly.”
Sitting beside her on the fallen log, he offered her a cup. Dreading the bitterness, she took a cautious sip, when she was met with a sweetness so pleasant, it made her realize how long it had been since she had tasted anything remotely sugary. Surprised, she looked up at him.
“I’ve never really enjoyed coffee’s natural flavor, and I happened to have some money put aside for personal use.”
All the same, she knew how expensive sugar was and so quietly thanked him. Nodding, he trained his eyes on the steam wafting from their lips and drinks. Seated beside him, she nursed her coffee. As much as she hated to admit it, it was nice, being able to sit like this. In spite of the cold, it was a nice evening, and to watch the countless stars studding the vast clear sky was oddly romantic.
“I promised you I’d answer your questions. Now that we’re here and have taken care of everything immediate, I am at your disposal. What would you like to know?”
“You’ll answer all of my questions?”
“To the best of my ability, yes.”
As she tried to think of what to ask first, she was surprised by her loss of words. Before she had had so many demands, so many things she had needed and wanted to know, but now that the opportunity had presented itself, she no longer felt the burning desire. She wasn’t quite sure if it was because how they were sitting here together, their sides close together, drinking coffee sweetened by the sugar he had bought just for her – or so she presumed – or if it was because she had only cared because she wasn’t allowed to know. But either way, she couldn’t remember much of what she had wanted to know and so sat dumbly until he gently said, “Would you like to hear first how I know of your maiden name?”
She nodded, and his sigh materialized before their eyes. Setting his cup down between his feet, he clasped his hands together. Obviously the story was a long and complicated one as he fell silent, but she wasn’t really all that bothered. The silence had been a comfortable one, and as they nestled against one another, she slipped his gloves off and delicately reached out to touch his hands. Feeling how cold they were, she mustered up the courage to lay her hands over his much larger ones if only to warm them a little.
“Cera,” he murmured. Shyly she looked up at him to see the quietest glimmer of happiness in his eyes. “Apple of my eye, love of my life, sweet, beautiful Cera…”
Truth be told, she couldn’t help but feel her heart flutter. She couldn’t help it; he took her breath away with the way he looked at her and the words he whispered to her in the dark of the night. He leaned forward until their foreheads touched, and it was in that fashion they basked in the other’s company until he finally began to tell her the story of a boy who met a girl and loved her so much, he never once forgot her for the rest of his life.