She lay across from him, and wondered if she still loved him.
The answer was immediate. Ridiculous. Of course she did! Her heart still pounded when he touched her, feeling like it burst from her chest when he remembered to look her way, or better yet spent long evenings with her. He had had so little of those to spare lately…
Maybe that was why it was so painful. Each absence was longer, each demonstration of affection less. He was just going through a hard time, what with his controlling brother and his patsy wife, Alelsa told herself.
Then she grit her teeth hard. She didn’t want to think of those two.
Alelsa rolled a little closer to Tyrric, touching the nightrobed shoulder of his slumbering form. He had been too upset to even cuddle her to sleep tonight. Anger and feelings of abandonment flared up, which she quickly shoved back down.
She remembered back to their early days instead. Tyrric had seemed so head-over-heels in love with her then. She remembered him gnawing his fist to keep himself from gasping with that first gaze he laid on her, and his green eyes had glittered, almost knowingly, when she caught his glance and felt her heart flip inside her.
It had been so long since anyone had taken notice of her. Part of that was because she kept herself apart from most hints of romantic love. Alelsa didn’t feel very attractive, and most men she met seemed to agree. Her use of the fel had scarred her in more ways than one…
But Tyrric had seen past all that. The first one ever to do so.
Not quite the first…
No, he was the first, she told herself sternly.
So when she felt a prickle of anger and unease again, she had blamed it on Mirium. She was the one who couldn’t see the beauty of Tyrric, his great heart, the pains he had taken to keep Mirium safe from herself when she continued to pine after her traitorous Forsaken ex-husband. She deserved what she got in the end, and she, she was glad Mirium was gone.
Wasn’t she? Hadn’t Mirium been kind to her? Yes, there had been that fight over Alelsa’s loss of control of the fel once, and when they spoke of her magic, those little half-wincing smiles. Alelsa had seen those before in others. Disapproval they politely wouldn’t voice, instead saving it for when they twisted the knife in her back at a convenient opportunity. Yes. That was more like Mirium.
Or is it…
Alelsa shook herself. When she allowed herself to feel it, past the anger, there was a wash of confusion, a jangling on her nerves like when her wards in the lab were triggered. It wasn’t with just Mirium, either. She had been shaken by so many of Tyrric’s squires, including Furen, leaving his service in protest of Mirium’s exile. Sure, she was a warlock, and Tyrric had always sworn he’d rather kill a man than suffer his presence if that man didn’t like her for what she was, but it hadn’t been for her sake the squires had left. It had been because of Mirium.
Because of Mirium. This time the burst of anger was old. Of course they’d support a fellow paladin instead of her, no matter all she had done to protect the Eastern Kingdoms during the bad years, shortly after the Scourge invasion. She should be used to it really, but it still scraped her raw inside each time it happened.
With an effort, Alelsa dragged herself back out of the rumination. No, she wanted to think thoughts of love and belonging, not the cold and anger of exile. She rolled even closer to Tyrric and fondled one of his long ears. “Dalah’surfal?”
A grunt, then a soft frown. He was going to pretend to be asleep again, not having heard her. Alelsa felt a burst of anxiety and abandonment, oddly powerful tonight. It was just from witnessing the traitorous acts of the others, she told herself. Still, she considered letting him have his way and sleeping on, but the anxiety kept unfolding in her chest. He had always promised to listen to her no matter what, she reminded herself. Nothing to fear. So, she would speak.
She touched his ear again, and her fingers and her voice were firmer this time. “Dalah’surfal, wake up. I want to talk to you.”
“Middle of the night,” Tyrric groaned.
“I know, but I can’t sleep.” When he still didn’t stir, she considered using the tactic that always brought him flailing awake in the past. “Tyrric. I’m scared,” Alelsa whispered.
He didn’t move. Had he heard her? Yes. He wasn’t just dozing off: his breaths were shallow, and his face still frowned. She felt another moment of jangling confusion at the rejection, but ever hopeful, moved closer yet and kissed the top of his cheek.
That worked. He unfolded into her and began to pay utmost attention to her, to her body. And it was wonderful, but… not quite what she wanted.
Alelsa froze. Maybe asking for what she did want, when he was being so generous to her ugliness, would be selfish. But the confusion was burning inside her, and then she thought of Mirium hanging around Keelath’s neck. If Mirium was worth such affection, surely she was too!
“Dear, I just want to talk. Can I ask you something?”
Tyrric paused, making a grunt she couldn’t tell to be annoyance or assent. Blindly she plowed ahead.
“Does it worry you so many squires left?”
“Worry? No… It hurts me…” Despite his words, Alelsa could almost feel the energy of his anger through his skin. He began to rant, but in that gentle, deeply aggrieved voice, that somehow could scare her and arouse her at the same time.
This time, however, she just felt sick. Alelsa cut him short in his describing of Mirium’s shortcomings, and she felt the second vibration of his anger at doing so.
She ignored it. “Do you think they really meant it?” she asked.
“They’ll come crawling back, I’m sure,” Tyrric drawled in exasperation. He tried kissing her, but for a reason she couldn’t explain, she turned her face away from it. “Would you rather I tell them to stay away?” he asked in offended perplexity. “You know I’d do anything to help you feel comfortable.”
Yes, except wake up to talk to me without turning it into playtime. The vehemence of her thought startled her, and Tyrric caught her lips when she froze a second time.
Well, what was wrong with that? It did feel good. She felt secure in his arms. The squires may have gossiped about him flirting with Mirium, but he had chosen her over Mirium when it came down to it. He was hers.
And she, his. He rolled over and deepened his kisses, and Alelsa put her arms around him and squeezed tight. He cuddled her, his hands and his voice proclaiming his love of her, scars and all. She closed her eyes and relived the first days of their courtship.
Yet, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t relax back into sleep. If Tyrric noticed, he said nothing, and Alelsa was still awake once he had dozed off for real.