Lys: Love

Aithne sighed with relief. She was not mad. He was there, talking to one of the men. She gratefully squeezed the Guttersnipe's hand as the girl left, giving her a smile by way of a response. She gave one short, wry laugh at herself. Jumping to conclusions again.

She watched him, talking with one of the Companions, so easily, it seemed. Well, she supposed it made sense. This was a man's world, here in the valley. Cathair, a man, and a warrior at that, would more quickly fit in than one such as she- a mouse of a girl with most of the fight taken out of her.

She watched the Companion- he was a Companion, was he not?- finish the conversation and move off, and she moved forward to take his place. "Hello," she said in Gaelic, and, suddenly shy looked out at the horses a moment. "...You left the villa... I didn't know where to find you..."


Cathair smiled as she approached. She had cleaned up, for certain. Her dress was wrinkly and her hair was knotted and frizzing and half-dried, and he thought he saw, for a moment, the little firebrand Aithne that used to plague his days when they were children. But it disappeared, swallowed up in the skittish, quiet, insecure Aithne that had come back to him.

"I thought I would come and see the horses. Grand animals, aren't they?" And she smiled at him- a little knowing smile- and climbed onto the bottom rung of the fence, making a clicking noise with her tongue. To his surprise, one of the mares broke off from the huddle and came to her, thrusting its nose into her outstretched hand. "This is Concordia", she said, beckoning him over. "She was my mount when we came here from Vortigern's villa."

As he came forward, he instinctively put an arm about her waist, lest she fall. His other hand went out to the horse, who welcomed him the same way she welcomed her adopted mistress. "So you have learned to ride, then?"

Aithne snorted- and so did Concordia. "I don't know if you could call it riding, but I can keep my seat, at least. And Concordia's a good horse. ...When the Guttersnipe isn't making mischief, that is." she added, remembering the slap on the horse's rump and the wild ride that ended with Cu's arrival.

She slid down off the fence and into his arms- a matter of course, it seemed. It wasn't quite intentional, nor was it accidental. More... natural. And he liked it. The way she so easily fitted to him, without resistance, was something he'd never expected to see. Not that she was always pulling away, but she was never the cuddly type.

"What is this, Aithne?" he asked. "What is it that makes you so..." he searched for a term. "...unusually affectionate?"

He'd said the wrong thing. She quickly slipped out of his arms and took two quick steps back, her eyes averted. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to... I..."

Stepping towards her, he lifted her chin and looked into her eyes. "Sh... I didn't say I didn't like it. I'm just curious about why you've changed."

She looked up at him, and there was something he did not like in her eyes. An intense pain, he thought. She pulled her chin away and he let her go.

"Ten years. For ten years, I've lived without anyone telling me they loved me... barely being touched unless to..." She could not bring herself to tell him about the beatings. "Nothing, Cathair. I've been slowly dying of starvation is all."

His heart went out to her. She had not been very close with him yet, but well he remembered her family- her father in particular- and how close they had all been. "Well, then..." he said, and pulled her close. He stroked her cheek, brushed her hair out of her eyes, and leaned down to kiss her softly. "I love you, Aithne DerDubhan, and nothing in this world or the next will ever change that."

She looked up at him with wide, doe-like eyes that he'd never seen before, then quietly curled into him, sighing contentedly.

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