Inside the fabric walls, his escapade would already sound like a strange dream were it not for her nervous heartbeat. Very faintly suggested romance. General heron laguz zen-i-ness...
They entered the Gallian forest a few days ago and the capital must stand but some miles ahead from the glade they are settled in.
With that last logical thought gone, he already finds himself stepping under the dark canopy of trees. He has just taken a couple steps ahead when her voice resounds with repressed anger, efficiently clearing his mind from its lasts shreds of sleep. "Rafiel? What's happening?"
Suddenly, the aberration of his numbing walk stops him dead in his tracks a blush burning his face. "Nothing," he nervously stutters, shaking his head. "I am sorry. I didn't think..."
As they are retreating into camp, a movement of her eyebrows dispel any doubt about her mood. Still, eight years of racial diplomacy don't care for context and deserts after all, as he knows that is the only reason she won't scold him mercilessly well, for now...
"I saw you leave with hast," he tries to explain. When her steps falter, he hopes he didn't sound reproachful; he has never dealt well with tension...
Soon enought, they are back inside fabric walls, and now his escapade would already sound like a strange dream were it not for her nervous heartbeat.
Nailah may be silent but her heart is not to his ears. It has been awhile and he has realized he had no solid reason for his earlier actions. A reason intended to ease her moods, not aggravate them, that is. (He understood long ago that trying to bring the Queen's gender in an explanation was never a healthy idea.)
So, sighing, he reachs for her, tries to appease her with gestures and caresses -everything his voice can't do yet- but her brow is nervous, her eyes closed and he can tell that nothing will ring true that way. The false sense of calm surrounding her only worsens the discomfort in his throat as empathy chews him up.
So he just lies down on her chest, closes his eyes and listens the only way he knows how -when neither words nor gestures can fill the gap of tribal differences...
"Don't do that."
For a second, he forgets the emotional balance he is supposed to strive for and considers asking her what she means. But it's already been a long time since he chose instinct and lore over pride, and silently, he takes his leave from the intimacy of her feelings and thoughts.
"Don't go out alone at night. Promise me." Seconds wilt between them in bittersweet silences, but he remembers the partition and the notes as her hand threads its way through his hair.
He realizes now that somehow, he can still understand. And the fact fills him with relief.
But being denied the empathic link they'd depended on for so long is definitely a disagreeable experience, he decides, as his heart slowly reconnects with the familiar murmurs of her soul. Then, thing seems to fall back in order; into the music of an unsung melody easing their silences in a comfortable harmony.
"I won't," he sighs. "I am sorry."
Her heartbeat has now receded to a deep, calm rhythm, but he can still tell when the end of her tail nervously stirs and curls -even if she manages to make it more and more discreet over the years.
"Well. It seems you didn't sleep much either."
"Please, don't worry about it anymore. My Queen, believe that... I fully trust in your abilities."
"You'd better," she feebly scolds nudging his head. "I promised to ensure your well-being until we reach them in Gallia, didn't I?" She heaves a sight, raising a faint smile on his lips. "This forest is a beautiful sight by night. I never thought I would see this kind of landscape again..."
Without a word he stops her hand to slowly intertwine their fingers together in a fist.
"Mm... You have changed, you know?" A smile slips in her voice now. "I can remember a time when you were more careful about some things. Could I have been a bad influence on you?"
"Am I so impressionable?" He raises his head just enough to find a little smirk on her face. "How can you say that? I'm older than you..."
She huffs and catches the finger he is pocking at her chin. "That's beside the point," said point being lost between his smile and the tickling of his hair... "In fact that's exactly what I meant."
Then, under the heavy jewelry, under power and stature and prowess, the image of a golden woman dares to bloom in the span of a stealthy smile.
Time seems to repeat itself in many ways between them, yet it reshapes and turns, and quickens- but he knows the promises will never change, for he hears them all in the simplest strength of her presence. Family, shelter, affections... and sometimes, within the songs of silence, along the paths of silver patterns sculpting the story of her civilization, the Queen of Hatari is all of that and far more.
At moments like these, in the span of their eternals seconds, Rafiel almost forgets what he is looking for in Gallia. Almost.