All the Quiet Nights You Bear @daingertmadelyn
All the Quiet Nights You Bear

"I will take good care of you 

I will take good care of you 

Everything you feel is good 

If you would only let you 

I will wash your hair at night 

And dry it off with care 

I will see your body bare 

And still I will live here"

Hella knows that this night isn't any longer than the one before. She knows this, and yet it feels as if the moon has been hanging in the sky for weeks. It's quiet within the walls of the Last University, though after her experiences with The Advocate Hella is far more aware of the rustle of wind through the leaves, the chirping of crickets and night-birds, and the babble of the river than she ever has been before. She wonders if that's going to be a permanent thing. The scrape of the whetstone against her blade pierces the night, until the obtrusive thonk! of Hella setting it down--perhaps a bit too harshly--on her bedside table fades out and leaves her in relative silence again.

Hella's bed creaks under her weight as she leans back, slowly, checking over her shoulder to make sure the frame isn't snapping in two. She isn't yet clear on how much the magic in her new form offsets the weight of the stone she is formed of. Assured of the sturdiness of her bed, Hella lets the back of her head hit the wall, and the thunk doesn't sound the same as that of the whetstone on the table, at the very least.

Sword sharpened, boots cleaned and re-laced, room tidied up, and the guards of the night watch had very kindly, misguidedly insisted that she go get some sleep about two hours ago. Hella lets her gaze drift to her pillow. She could sleep, she thinks. At least, she remembers Hadrian telling her he was pretty sure that Tabard guy had done "normal human stuff" before the weird god bullshit went down at the Mark of the Erasure.

Throndir had elbowed Hadrian in the ribs when he'd said, "normal human stuff", and while Hella appreciated the solidarity, and had laughed outwardly, it had only served to call more attention to the fact that Hella is no longer a "normal human".

Hella looks down at her hand, flexes and turns it, brings it up closer to her face and wiggles her fingers. The action feels foreign, when she focuses so much on it. Like she can feel something heavier than bone beneath her skin, and it resists the motion.

She drops her hand to her lap, and closes her eyes. She breathes deep, and it feels like the air is filling her chest, and it feels right, but she knows she could stop and she would probably be fine.

She doesn't stop.

Sleeping should be the same, right? She feels tired, even though she knows that she doesn't actually need to sleep, so she should be able to lean into that feeling, the same way she does with breathing. Yet, when she blows out her bedside candle and lays her head down on her lumpy pillow, no matter how long she closes her eyes and breathes deep, calming breaths, sleep will not come.

Hella opens her eyes and tries to make out the details of her ceiling in the dark.

"Like, you'll have different arms and stuff, but. . ."

She laughs to herself, a barely voiced breathy sound.

"You might like your new ones more?"

Not needing to sleep or eat will prove to be a boon eventually, sure, but . . .

"I just think you're important."

Hella holds up her hand in the dark, and she can't see it. She raises her other hand to touch it, and while this body doesn't have the sensory memory of the feel of Adaire's lips on her hands, it's burned into Hella's own memories so deeply she can still imagine the tingling of her skin.

The wind rustles between the leaves, somewhere outside, a cat meows. Hella gets out of bed.

 


 

"You're lucky I was still awake," grouses a sleepy-eyed Adaire, with her hair all braided and pinned around the crown of her head, already changed into a pale nightgown that has never even heard the word Pretense. Hella doesn't see this Adaire often, and the sight itself is enough to warm her chest.

"You would've let me in anyway," Hella says, with a big grin and two less certain raised eyebrows. Adaire stares her down, hand still on her doorknob, for just long enough for Hella to shift her weight from one foot to the other and give a little laugh, then she sighs and turns to walk back into the room, but lightly kicks the door a little wider open behind her.

"I wouldn't have been happy about it."

"Are you happy about it now. . .?" Hella asks, as Adaire double-checks her pins in her mirror. Adaire straightens up, and she opens her mouth, takes an audible breath, and holds it for a moment. She breathes out, then turns her head to look at Hella with those always inscrutable eyes.

"Yeah," she says, and her voice is soft, "Yes, I am."

The breath Hella doesn't need feels like it's been punched out of her. "O-oh. Well, that's . . . Good."

She rubs at the back of her head with one hand, tries for a grin again, and Adaire chuckles. Hella feels the sensation, the heat, of blood running up into her face, at least. By the time she shakes herself out of her stupor Adaire has come to stand in front of her, arms crossed and looking up at her face with a furrowed brow.

"H-huh? What? What's up?"

Adaire's frown deepens. Hella gulps. Adaire sighs.

"I. . . was hoping you would tell me," she says, eyes darting away from Hella's, "You're. . . I mean, you don't have to have a reason to be here, you know, but if you do, you can tell me."

"Oh." Hella still isn't quite used to Adaire being so open with her. It's a very nice, very good change, but it still throws her. "I, uh, couldn't sleep, is all. I mean, I don't have to but y'know, kinda boring staying up all night waiting. Ha ha."

Adaire's eyes are boring into hers again, searching for something in Hella's gaze that isn't in Hella's words. She must find it, because she reaches out and gently grabs Hella's forearm, leading her toward the bed in the corner. Hella really feels the illusion of blood rushing up now.

"Oh, uh, that wasn't me trying to--I mean, if you want to, I'd be down, but that wasn't like-"

"Oh my god," Adaire groans, and steps around Hella to stand on her tip-toes and place both hands on Hella's shoulders, "One, I didn't think that's what you meant. Two, I'm not in the mood."

She shoves down on Hella's shoulders and it shouldn't be effective but Hella sits down anyway, at least until the bedframe creaks beneath her and she jumps right back up, jerking her head over her shoulder to make sure she hasn't somehow crushed the bed like a falling boulder. Seeing that it's fine, she sighs.

"Ah."

Hella looks back at Adaire, ready to fumble all over her words, but Adaire doesn't ask. She takes both of Hella's hands in hers and sits down on the bed, pulling Hella down with her. Her thumbs rub over Hella's knuckles, and Hella can't quiet a soft gasp as she recognizes the feeling of skin-on-skin before her eyes even register the tapestry on Adaire's bare hands.

"The new arms, huh?" Adaire asks, not looking up from Hella's hands. Hella hesitates, then nods, and when Adaire does look up, because she didn't hear Hella nodding, Hella takes a steadying breath.

"I really tried to sleep," she mumbles, "But I know I don't have to. Feeling tired, it- it's fake, I could go fight like, ten guys right now." She laughs. "I mean, I might as well just stay up, yeah? What's the point, right? It's a waste of time."

Adaire doesn't respond right away. When Hella is able to look at her, she's still staring down at Hella hands, mouth twisted and brows resting low on her forehead. A few moments pass before she squeezes Hella's hands tightly, then releases them, looking up at Hella again.

"Turn around," she says, gesturing at Hella to face away from her, "If you try to sleep in that bun you're gonna give yourself a headache."

Her voice is so firm and matter-of-fact that Hella doesn't think to question if she can get a headache as she turns and scooches over. The bedframe creaks again as Adaire rises up on her knees to reach up and let Hella's hair down. Deft fingers card through and tease out tangles, and Hella sighs, shoulders drooping. Adaire pauses for a moment at the sound, then rakes her nails gently across Hella's scalp, drawing another sigh out of her. Hella wonders if marble melts.

At the very least, it's nice to not have to pretend that Adaire's touch doesn't warm her head to toe.

Adaire ties off the loose plait that she has worked Hella's hair into, then taps Hella on the shoulder, signalling her to turn back around. Once she has, Adaire scoots up closer until she's kneeling between Hella's knees, and raises a hand up to her face.

"We're going to go to sleep, because we deserve to rest at the end of the day, and this bed is pretty comfy--most of the time--and I'm tired, and I want to sleep next to you, and it would be weird if you were awake the whole time."

Hella doesn't know how to argue with that train of thought. She nods.

"Alright," Adaire says, and her eyes crinkle at the corners, "Come here."

Adaire pulls Hella down into bed without any hesitation, but with a gentleness that Hella trusts implicitly. The sheet that Adaire pulls over their shoulders is soft and cool, and after Adaire has blown out the candle lighting her room, she reaches out in the dark to pull Hella's cheek to her chest, the bare skin of her hands still just as wonderful a feeling as her fingers trace lazily along Hella's hairline and down her neck. Adaire's lips are warm on her forehead.

"Goodnight Hella." Adaire's whisper echoes deep inside of her.

"Goodnight, Adaire."

"Sweet dreams."

Hella breathes deep, listens to the soft thump of Adaire's heart beat, feels the rise and fall of Adaire's breathing with her entire body . . . and her eyes drift shut.


"I told you I was glad."

Hella starts, darting her gaze around the familiar misty rooms of Adularia until her eyes fall on Adelaide, seated at a low table and pouring herself a glass of crystal clear water. She pats the cushion beside her and smiles at Hella, who stands frozen for a moment as she puzzles out the meaning of Adelaide's words.

“Hella, you know… that I’m glad that Adaire is with you.”

“Oh- right, yeah.” Hella shoves her hands in her pockets, sheepish, and kicks her foot lightly across the floor. Adelaide raises an eyebrow and gestures again for Hella to join her at the table.

“Oh- right, yeah.” Hella shoves her hands in her pockets, sheepish, and kicks her foot lightly across the floor. Adelaide raises an eyebrow and gestures again for Hella to join her at the table.

“Hella, you know… that I’m glad that Adaire is with you.”

“Oh- right, yeah.” Hella shoves her hands in her pockets, sheepish, and kicks her foot lightly across the floor. Adelaide raises an eyebrow and gestures again for Hella to join her at the table.

“It’s a little early for you to be having breakfast, I suppose,” she says, spreading jam on a slice of the tastiest looking bread Hella has ever seen, “but since you’re here, we can’t very well let this spread go to waste.”

She holds a plate laden with grapes and cheeses out toward Hella, who shakes her head on instinct. “I’m good, I don’t really need to.”

Adelaide gives her a look.

“Not that I intended to eavesdrop, but what did Adaire just explain to you?”

“That’s different-” Hella interjects, and Adelaide gives a single, short, “ha!” that isn’t really a laugh, setting the plate down and rolling her eyes away from Hella, “No, I mean, it’s different for me to sleep than to eat--It’s a waste of food, I don’t need it.”

Adelaide shakes her head, with the most queenly, elegant, pointed sigh Hella has ever heard, and she plucks an orange from a bowl full of fruit toward the center of the table, then begins to carefully peel it.

“There’s no need to explain the intricacies of your body to me,” she begins, and Hella’s jaw only drops a little when Adelaide pauses in her task to give her a sidelong smirk, “I fully understand that you do not need food to live. You realize, of course, that I don’t either.”

She plucks a segment of the orange out and pops it into her mouth.

Hella shifts in her seat, “Well. . .”

“And that there is no food shortage in Adularia, for you to concern yourself with waste.”

Hella scratches at her neck, looking across the room. Are those new columns? They look new. The carving is really clean, she should really have a talk with the architect around here.

“Hella.”

When she looks back, Adelaide is holding out the remainder of the orange to her.

“All people take pleasure in things that they don’t need,” she says, taking Hella’s hand in her free one and turning it up so she can deposit the bright fruit, “I don’t need to eat, drink, or sleep either, but I indulge in all three. For the joy of it, for comfort, for good company . . .”

She squeezes Hella’s wrist, still caught in her silky grip. A smile wobbles onto Hella’s face, and she laughs despite herself.

“Eat, Hella.”

Adelaide isn’t going to back down from this, Hella knows, so she takes a section of the orange between her fingers and pulls, separating it from the rest of the fruit. Without breaking eye contact with Adelaide, who stares her down with a smile, Hella pops the bright segment into her mouth.

It’s probably the best thing she’s tasted, ever?

It’s refreshingly tart and not overly sweet and just juicy enough, and before Hella can even think about it she’s finished off the rest of the orange. Adelaide gives a melodic laugh, and hands Hella a tall glass of water that chills her fingers at the touch. Hella, of course, knows Adularia is the real deal but god damn Adularia really is the real deal.

Adelaide keeps the conversation flowing with questions about the University, updates on Adularia’s growth, and occasional, ever so casual personal queries such as, “Is Adaire a good kisser,” “will you be rooming together now, then?”, possibly just to keep Hella on her toes, more likely because she likes it when Hella gets all heated up and stuttery.

When most of the food is eaten or pushed aside, Adelaide reaches a hand behind and around Hella to better lean into her space, resting her head upon Hella’s shoulder. Hella places a hand over Adelaide’s the other curling around her waist to rest above her hip. Adelaide presses lazy kisses to Hella’s neck, and Hella hums a sigh.

“Not so bad, hm?” Adelaide’s free hand tilts Hella’s chin so she can look into her eyes, “Doing things because you want to?”

Hella chuckles. “Guess not. . . thank you, Adelaide.”

“For what?” Adelaide wonders, the sparkle of her eyes betraying her. Even without that, the number of Hella’s favorite breakfast foods on the table would have told Hella exactly what was going on.

But Hella knows better than to call Adelaide out on any plan.

“Everything,” she says instead, and Adelaide hums softly as she pulls Hella in for a kiss.

She tastes like oranges.

 


Hella’s eyes open like they do every morning; slowly, and with great effort. It’s darker than it should be, and Hella wonders for a moment if she woke up too early, until Adaire’s chest shifts beneath her cheek, and the sound of her soft breathing fills the room. Well, she might still be awake a little early, Hella thinks as she cuddles closer to Adaire’s warmth.

There’s still a taste of oranges in her mouth. She smiles, and blinks her sleepy eyes closed again.

 

 

"And we're not out of the tunnel 

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