William frowned at the cave in front of him. The two of them had happened to stumble across this particular cave while heading into the mountains. “If this cave leads to the other side of the mountain, it would save a lot of trouble…”
“Or it could be a horrible deathtrap.” Lorelei started counting issues on her fingers. “Fire magic will reduce the usable air down there, causing us to suffocate. That and other types of magic could cause a cave collapse, trapping or crushing us. Of course, there are also many dangerous creatures that love to live in caves.”
William nodded, “We might also get lost, and the cave might not even have any other exits, and if it does the chance that they come out of the other side of the mountain…”
“Pretty slim,” Lorelei shrugged.
“It’s too bad. The shelter would be nice. Plus… the temperature would be somewhat normalized instead of…”
“Too damn cold.” Lorelei shook her head, “Freezing. Capable of turning extremities into icicles.”
They weren’t exactly prepared for a trip through the mountains. Lorelei had lost most of her supplies, left behind in an inn when she had been discovered and had to flee. William had his tent and bedroll with him, but there was only the one. They also didn’t have any cold weather clothes. Their robes were warm enough- at least they wouldn’t die. It didn’t stop it from being cold and it would get colder as they went up higher into the mountains.
William woke up facing Lorelei. He was pretty sure he hadn’t gone to sleep facing in that direction… but that wasn’t really what he thought about. His first thought was how warm and close she was. That wasn’t really a surprise, as the bedroll didn’t have that much extra room. He hadn’t really thought about her being warm before… but anyone would have been pretty much the same. The only truly surprising thing was her face. It was so relaxed and peaceful, instead of wrinkled in concentration thinking about something. It was also beautiful… and William’s instincts told him to kiss it.
He didn’t, though. The night before he was just going to sleep in the tent, with Lorelei in the bedroll. However, she suggested it would be more efficient if they both slept in the same bedroll to share body heat. William knew she meant exactly what she said. She was that kind of person. It wasn’t an offer of anything else. William had been tired enough that it had been easy not to think about anything additional… but now he couldn’t help it.
William hadn’t been sure if he wanted to be something other than friends with Lorelei. From a biological standpoint, he had been attracted to her… but that was the case for many other women. As for becoming lovers or getting married… he had little more than passing thoughts with others. For most of the time they’d known each other, it was the same for her as well. Certainly, he enjoyed spending time with her. She was smart, and curious, thirsting for knowledge. He liked those things about her, but hadn’t really considered more. After all, he would soon die… and a long relationship of any sort had been impossible. Their races were enemies, after all. Then… he died again. His lifespan was even shorter… but he came to know her more. Then, he was reborn as a gevai. Suddenly it had become a real possibility, one he hadn’t really stopped thinking about since seeing her again.
He continued to stare at her face, and thought about kissing her. He decided not to. He was afraid of the rejection that might follow. They would have to remain with each other at least for the remainder of the journey, and they had things they still would need to be allies to accomplish. Perhaps she would simply not be interested, and that would be that. However, when he thought about it, William decided that cowardice was not a good enough reason. He wasn’t going to just leave things as they were.
He still didn’t kiss her, however. This time, it was for good reasons. She was still unconscious. He hadn’t asked if he could kiss her, and she hadn’t particularly indicated that she was interested. William thought he had seen some signs, but he could have been misinterpreting them. With her… it wasn’t the right way.
Suddenly, her eyes snapped open. Her face went from relaxed to alert and almost neutral in almost an instant. “Good morning.”
“You wake up quickly.”
“Only when people are staring at me.”
“It’s not a problem. That’s just how it works.” She slid her way out of the bedroll. William couldn’t help but enjoy the feeling as her toned body passed his. “Well? Are you getting up? There’s nothing to gain from sleeping in here.”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
William wanted to wait for the perfect moment to broach the subject. Perhaps when they returned to Ducson or… William didn’t know what time would be good. Except… since he was thinking of it, perhaps it was the best time. “What do you think of me, Lorelei?”
She turned to look at him. “You’re an excellent wizard. Smart, determined. A strange phenomenon that reincarnated with all your memories. Also… terrifyingly skilled in ki, especially where it concerns the soul. Should I go on?”
William shook his head, “No, that’s sufficient.” William avoided frowning. Normally she was better at reading between the lines. Had he gotten so used to hiding his intentions that she hadn’t noticed? It didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to guess. The easiest way with her would be to be direct. “Let me rephrase. I’m interested in becoming lovers- with you- what do you think?”
Lorelei’s face went blank, and her eyes unfocused. Then she closed her eyes. William knew she only did this when thinking seriously about something. He was glad she was so serious about it… but as the time dragged on, William grew nervous. Had she never really considered it before? Or… was she merely trying to think of a way to let him down easily. Finally, her eyes snapped open again. “I don’t accept casual commitments.”
Was that a rejection? No, her eyes indicated she was waiting for an answer. “Of course. I’m serious about this.”
She nodded, then grabbed his chin, locking eyes with him. “Then, I would like to add one more thing I left off the list. Handsome.” She grinned in a way William had never seen before, mischievous and almost… goofy.
He was going to respond by telling her she was beautiful. That seemed like a good move, but it was hard to talk with his lips pressed against hers.