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The Material and the Dream

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i. there is a landscape, veined, that only a child can see

Later, after they had most decidedly altered their formerly separate sleeping arrangements, Eliste burrowed against Dref with a sigh. "Always, you said?" she asked, thinking back to that first confession.

"After a certain point, yes." Dref's chuckle sent shivers down her neck, and he pulled her closer. "It was always enjoyable, to talk to you--"

"Despite how priggish I was," she supplied, feeling that familiar, dissonant twinge of shame and sheepishness.

"Despite," he agreed, pausing as she thumped his chest once, half-heartedly. "But when I realized I was spending hours upon the day remembering what you said, and how you said it, and considering what we could next talk about, well."

Eliste turned that over in her mind for a minute. "I suppose I felt much the same." She caught her breath as he trailed his hand down her spine. "Though I didn't realize it at the time."

"Hm?" Dref pressed his lips against her shoulder.

"I was rather young," she pointed out. "And your sister rather despised me." She stopped the train of her musing, worrying, regretting.

Dref tucked her more firmly next to him, pressing his cheek against the top of her head. "I mean, you were priggish," he repeated.

"Indeed." Relieved he had chosen a lighter path to meander, Eliste grinned against his throat. "And anyway, you were a horrible snob, yourself." She looked up at him then and caught the surprised offense before he caught her laughter. She turned her face up to his, and they made peace with a kiss.


ii. she thinks a map laid down

Though Eliste wasn't so in desperate need of employment anymore, she found herself drawn into it anyway. Or, rather, Dref was regaling her with an impression of Frezhelle arguing with one of the gate Sentients, and she remarked idly that, oh, that's not at all how Aida thinks.

She had been concentrating, during the tale, quite specifically on not burning a pan of sausages, and so didn't realize Dref was staring at her until a few moments later. "What?"

The conversation that followed, she accused Dref at the end of it, bore no small resemblance to an interrogation. What they discovered as it wended, however, was the former-Exalted had never quite conveyed how the Sentients worked, as it generally had seemed obvious to them that knew.

Eliste delighted, rather smugly, in having to explain something in detail to Dref, rather than the other way around. Though when he retrieved a sheet of drafting paper and a pencil, Eliste realized she had perhaps talked herself into something more complex.

And thus, the course of a single rapid week, Eliste suddenly became the foremost authority on the de-escalation of Sentient defense mechanisms of the city, and she was certain Aurelie would never let her live it down.


iii. a map of variations on the one great choice

Dref moved to discard the mottled rind of the morning's cheese, and Eliste protested, aghast. He looked at her oddly, then set the rind down. Something in her chest loosened as he did so, then he reached across the table to catch her hand.

"Eliste," he said, then stopped. He stared down at the rind, and she realized how unappetizing it actually was.

She twitched in Dref's grasp. "I'm just. Oh, never mind. I'm being silly."

"Not at all," he replied. "But the reaction bears considering."

Eliste's eyes prickled, and she tugged her hand away. "Perhaps not today," she said.

Dref nodded, and she felt him kind to let it lie.


iv. distances blued and purpled by romance

She awoke with a hoarse yelp, jerking away from the arms that encircled her by instinct, using her elbows and knees to increase the distance as she panted.

"It's all right," said a voice emerging in the dark. "It was a dream. A dream."

And Eliste realized it was Dref, and shook her head, banishing shreds of terror from her mind as she grew in awareness. "Oh," she said, rolling back towards him. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"No." Dref lay still as she wrapped around him, waiting until she had settled before he embraced her again. "You could never."

She nodded, listening to his heartbeat, counting along with it until she was fully, directly, in the present.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked quietly.

Eliste sighed. "If I could remember what it was this time, I would," she admitted.

"I wish I had found you sooner," he said. His fingers traced circles against her hip.

She rubbed her cheek against his chest, her heart accelerating again for more pleasant reasons. She looped her arms around his neck, arching against him as his touch slid lower. "Find me now," she suggested, and so he did.


v. being here now is what it is

For once, Dref had arrived home before Eliste did. As she walked into their flat, the scent of hot rolls and spiced apples mingled pleasantly in the air.

"How was Glorielle?" he called to her, even as he came into the front room.

"She didn't attack me this time," she responded. "After the first bout, that is."

"Temperamental as the rest of your family," he remarked, and that felt light in a way it wouldn't have, a few years prior. "And your uncle?"

"Wants you to join him at the boarding house tomorrow morning," she said. She slid her arms around Dref's waist and smiled as he caught a lock of her hair and gave it a tug. "He has a theory of fabric he wants to discuss with you."

"Oh?" The interest on his face kindled in a different way, and she poked him in the chest.

"I do not remember the specifics," she said. "But if you wish to hypothesize, I'd like to do so over supper."

Dref brushed his lips against hers, a glancing kiss, then she pulled him back down for a lengthier one.

When she pulled away, she tugged at his collar. "Supper," she repeated.

"You love me because I feed you," he said, attempting a pout.

"You feed me because you love me," she replied, completing the couplet. "So be quick about it."

Dref smirked, then kissed her again.