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In the Still, Soft Hours

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           As it turned out, Iduna did snore.  He didn’t mind, really, it’s just that when he imagined the morning after his wedding night he had imagined – well, sunlight streaming through the window, for one.  Not moonlight.  And while Agnarr had already awarded her a civilian honor that essentially acknowledged her as an angel made flesh, he hadn’t quite thought of her halo consisting of her hair tangled and defying gravity across three pillows.  There was also a steady stream of drool pooling down the crook of his elbow where her head lay, but he would rather cut his arm off before he’d risk waking her.  Although she had told him that when she first moved in, she kept waking due to the quiet of the first private room she had ever had.  She had grown accustomed to sharing her “very cozy” room at Fiske’s with Maddie and Greet.  And before that, she usually had one or two of the little ones climbing into her cot at Eir’s after having bad dreams or just wanting to snuggle.  And before that . . .well.  The point was, Iduna could sleep through Ragnarok itself should the need arise.            

          Agnarr, on the other hand, had slept alone in his too-large bed since he retired his stuffed narwhal at the age of eight.  He had once sought out his father, in the middle of the night, at the age of seven, but the King had sent him back to his room after lecturing his nanny.  Once or twice, he had been permitted to bivouac in the Royal Field Tent during training maneuvers, but despite the soft blankets and pillows the sounds of the camp around him had made his sleep fitful.  After his father had died, he had been quickly moved into the cavernous room that had been designed with a King and Queen in mind.  He had spent many sleepless nights since then wondering about his people, his ability to rule, whether or not he was making the right decisions to guide Arendelle.  All of his ruminations grew long shadows in the dark.

          He shifted his weight to better see his wife’s face and grinned, turning the word wife over in his head.  He reached out to gently cup her cheek.  She snorted again in her sleep and her eyelids fluttered.  He draped his arm over her waist and pulled her closer, enjoying the warmth of her skin against his.  Agnarr watched the gentle rise and fall of her chest, accompanied by the not-so-gentle reverberations in his ears, feeling immense gratitude towards the world at large that at least he had gotten this right.  And she was beautiful.  It was a battle of self-control to admire her and to quiet his own longings, aching and making themselves known.  But the wedding, remarkable and happy as it had been, was long.  They hadn’t been able to skip the receiving line in the end and ensuring that every foreign delegate was greeted had taken hours.  He could let her rest.  He could wait.  They had a lifetime ahead of them.

                                        *          *          *          *          *

          His height had come in their sixteenth year.  He had started off the winter as a gawky boy who had only an inch or two on her and by summer was a bean pole (Henrik’s words, not hers) who towered over her.  She had called him a sunflower on account of his golden hair.  But by the end of their seventeenth year, his hair had taken on its auburn coloring and he had managed to grow the mustache he was once so proud of. At eighteen, he had filled out in a man’s growth.  Tall and broad, was her love.

          Iduna had been a little apprehensive, but mostly intrigued and excited, about the prospect of joining with him.  She had spent years listening to Greet gossip about the act and how enjoyable it could be.  And though she knew Greet was prone to exaggerations, even Maddie – when prodded – would admit that different acts could be quite pleasurable if your partner was as patient and generous as Ingrid was with her.  The first time she had seen the whole of him, she was more curious and aroused than concerned.  And while there had been discomfort, Agnarr had been so gentle and made so sure that she was ready, she had started to feel as though she was hurrying him along.  It was a bit odd and awkward, but wonderful in its own way and she figured that it would be like when they taught one another how to kiss.  Practice made perfect and they two were nothing if not studious.

          And since traveling abroad was considered too risky until their union resulted in children and heirs, there was a solid week of schedules that had been cleared.  They were being provided with as much privacy as could be managed in a castle and their meals discreetly left outside the door.  She quite was certain that Lady Wollen was behind the red wine, dark chocolate and fresh oysters that first day.  Which was fine.  She wasn’t complaining.  Agnarr needed to keep his strength up.

                                       *          *          *          *          *

          “I don’t think I ever realized how long your hair has grown,” he murmured against her ear, running his fingers through her brown locks.  They flowed down Iduna’s bare back and nearly to her waist.  “I haven’t seen it down in years.  You always wear it in braids.”  He kissed the crown of her head and drew back as she propped herself up on an elbow.

          “It’s the style here,” she traced a finger idly along his chest.  “And it made it easier when I was working.  Can you imagine trying to prepare something near a fire?  I’d go up like a candle.”

          “It was one of the first things I noticed about you.  Your hair,” he smiled at the memory.  “At Eir’s, I mean.  It was so long and wavy.”  He played with a few strands, rubbing them with his thumb, feeling their texture.  “That and your smile.”  She lit up and he kissed her.  “Yes, that’s the one.”

                                       *          *          *          *          *

            Iduna crashed back into the pillows, gasping for air, the heat in her body already dissipating.  Agnarr dropped his weight next to her, looking triumphant.  She could see his lips moving, but her head was filled with the sounds of the ocean as the blood continued to surge.

            “I need a moment,” she panted, closing her eyes with his beaming expression burned in her vision.  Alright.  He deserved that self-satisfied male grin.  Whatever.  It took a few minutes, but her heart rate settled and her sense returned to her.  He still had that silly, joyous grin on his face when she opened her eyes to look at him.  If he’d been a puppy, his tail would be wagging.  “What did you say?”

            “I was asking what you said,” he chuckled, taking her hand and kissing her palm.  “I couldn’t understand a word.”  She thought for a moment as she recalled the Northuldra words that had spilled from her mouth with increasingly intensity and speed as Agnarr had finished what he had set out to do that evening.  She felt her cheeks burn red, the flush moving down her body, and felt faintly ridiculous about her embarrassment given everything they had gotten up to since the wedding.  But still.

            “I, um, don’t really feel comfortable translating that.”

            “Oh no?” He looked far too delighted.  “Impolite words for an impolite act?”

              “Something like that,” she replied dryly and pulled the covers over her chest.  He gave a husky chuckle and brought his face close to hers.

            “So what you’re telling me, my Queen, is that I pleased you so well that you completely forgot the language you’ve been speaking daily for the past seven years?”  Iduna smacked his arm and added several Arendellian curses while he laughed and laughed.

                                       *          *          *          *          *

            “How does that sit with you?” he pondered later as he cradled her back against his chest.  “Queen Iduna of Arendelle?”  She sighed and he kissed that spot on her neck, causing her to make the soft sound he found so irresistible whenever he pressed his lips there.

            “The title?”

            “The title.”

            She was quiet as he rested his chin on her shoulder, bringing his hand over her heart to feel its steady beat.  She gripped his fingers.  Agnarr had wondered throughout their engagement as she had settled into the castle, but hadn’t wanted to ruin his good fortune by pressing her too hard about her thoughts on the subject and causing her to change her mind.  She told him that she had already picked up the titles and some courtesies over the years by virtue of spending time with he and Elias.  The Council Meetings had also helped prepare her a great deal (it had slowly been dawning on Agnarr how much he owed to Lady Wollen and he was starting to think of some way to reward her short of promising to name a child after her). The only lesson she had balked at was when it had been explained to her that Royal Nannies often spent more time with the Royal Children than the Queen and King.  She had come directly to him after that talk and told him that tradition belonged in the past.  It would change.  They would raise their children.

            “Sunny?”  He whispered, wondering if she had fallen asleep.  It wasn’t hard to believe he had exhausted her.

            “Just thinking, love,” she turned her head to gently kiss his chin.  “I suppose it was interesting that Doctor Wagner retired once it became apparent that I was going to give up my old title.”  He smiled at that.  “The Queen” was certainly more intimidating than “Royal Apothecary”, although Iduna had told him it would only make it more difficult for her to poison anyone and get away with it.  She rolled over to look at him.  “You know, you’re the only role model for a monarch I’ve ever known?  And since I’ve known you, you’ve built schools, created jobs, and grown Arendelle into a peaceful place that’s as prosperous as it ever was.  It’s an impressive list.”  She closed her eyes and kissed him.  “Hopefully, I can live up to the standard you’ve set.”

                                       *          *          *          *          * 

           “Why didn’t you ever call me ‘Iddy’?”  She was drinking the wine and her cheeks were flushed with it, eyes sparkling.  He shrugged and took a sip of water.

            “Iduna sounds more musical.  It’s more beautiful.  Everything about you is beautiful.”  She pressed her mouth to his and he could taste the vintage on her tongue.

                                       *          *          *          *          *

            He liked it as he learned to make her senseless with his exertions.  He loved it when he did well enough for her to lose her language and speak in tongues he didn’t comprehend beyond the desperate tones.  But what made him join her the fastest was when she spoke his name.

                                       *          *          *          *          *

            “I hope we have a baby with your eyes,” Agnarr whispered as they watched another sunrise from their bed.  Passions and skin cooled in the chill of the autumn air, they had cuddled under the blankets in a cocoon of warmth.  She yawned and squeezed his arm.  The familiar sense of guilt curled through her stomach.  Not, this time, regarding her misgivings over the decisions she had made that led her to be lying in bed with her husband, but at wanting more time to enjoy him for herself.

            She wanted children.  She wanted to give him children.  The two of them were bound in holy matrimony as a family and she wanted to grow their joy, but for now, please, she just wanted to enjoy him on her own.  It made her feel selfish, even if she wasn’t trying to prevent it.  Someday children.  As many as he wanted.  As many as she could have.  But for now, just now, in these quiet hours, she just wanted him.  She already had to share him with his subjects, even if she was the only one who saw him like this.  She had been his for so long, surely, it couldn’t be too much to ask that he be hers for just a short while?

            He hugged her tightly.  “But not for a while.”  She smiled and shut her eyes.

            “Mine.”

            “Yours.”

                                       *          *          *          *          *

            “How did you get so good at this so fast?  How did you come up with that?”  Iduna laughed, looking pleased and very pink, as he watched her face with a satisfied grin.  He blushed and ducked his head.  She grabbed his chin and forced him to look at her.  “What?  What!?”  She was still laughing.

            “I’m just, you know, the King and therefore amazing at everything I do, Iduna.”  He could feel his face burning.  “That’s all there is to it.”

            “You’re lying,” she said with a devilish grin and nipped his ear lobe.  He grunted.  “Tell me!”  He dropped his head and buried it in her chest.  She giggled and ran her fingers through his hair.

            “You’re not going to like it,” he muttered.

            “Come on, Agnarr, it’s not as though you took Henrik up on his offer to take you to a brothel.”  His mouth dropped open as she cackled.  “You said yourself that nothing ever stays secret in a castle.”

            “I . . . haven’t asked you how you got so good at this so fast,” he cast around for anything to distract her.  Iduna shrugged shamelessly.

            “I was thinking about all of this for quite some time and I have a very active imagination,” she smiled wickedly.  “So tell me.”  She grabbed him and he squirmed.  “Tell me!”

            Oh, he was going to be in trouble for this one.  He could feel himself turning redder as he watched her struggling not to laugh.  He forced himself to speak.  “Henrik told me-“

            She burst out into laughter and released him.  “Whatever Henrik told you to do – do the exact opposite.”  She flashed him that lascivious grin again, mischief in her eyes.  “Except what you just did.  I liked that.  Keep doing that.  Please.  And soon.  As in ‘now’.”