Lovemaking and channeling blended together this time. Miro’s hands pushed up her chiton while she was still drawing him in. He caressed her rear as she curled over his body and felt the slow intensity of sun aether filling her. The fey man pulsed his clothed hips against her until she gave in and used aether to undress him so she could feel his body enter her as well. So they could be linked by flesh as well as aether. When they climaxed, she closed the channel, and this time it felt right. She was replete, satisfied, not hungry to take more.
When she moved off him to lie at his side, Miro burrowed against her, body relaxed and expression blissful, contented. “I love you, Ardent,” he told her, and while she was still staring at him in shock, he fell asleep.
Well, that was…unexpected. Drunken. Right. He doesn’t mean love-love, it’s just the pleasure of release combined with the way channeling destroys his inhibitions. Just a momentary passion. Don’t take it seriously. Tears pricked at her eyelids. Definitely do not cry over it. Stop that right now.
“I love you too, Miro,” she whispered, and wiped the foolish tears from her cheeks. And you don’t mean that either, she tried to convince herself. You’ve only known him for a few days. What do you know about him? Nothing. Just that he’s brave, and determined even in the face of mortal danger. And sweet, and articulate, and resilient, and considerate, and treats me like an Ideal, and oh Love this is only gonna make it worse. You can’t really get to know someone in a few days, anyway. Maybe it’s all an act. Well, except for the bravery and willingness to face death for the people he cares about. Obviously. Can’t fake being articulate, either. Or resilience. I mean, you either fall all to pieces when you get violently assaulted or you go “nope, I’m ready for another helping of Extreme Danger, why haven’t we dived back in yet?” The sweetness and courtesy could be an act, though. Ardent sighed inwardly. This is my own story and even I’m not buying it.
She held him for a little while as he slept, but channeling invigorated her even as it drained him. Her restless energy at last drove her from the bed and into a comfortable chair. She read Jino’s notebook while she analyzed the wand she’d taken from Fallen’s catspaw. Without the notebook, she wouldn’t have been able to figure it out. Its power source was so unlike aether Ardent didn’t realize it was a form of power at all until she’d been over it several times. That power had been funneled into it from the phoenix rose’s extractor. A few tests were informative: the wand was designed to siphon aether and convert it to this strange un-aether. But the conversion was inefficient; it lost more un-aether than it regained during use. It was only good for destroying spellwork, but it was excellent at that. It looked like it had about half of its power supply remaining. Ardent refrained from any serious tests that might drain it significantly.
After a couple of hours of study, Ardent found her eyelids starting to droop. She crawled into bed next to Miro, who immediately snuggled into her, making cute sleepy pleased noises without actually waking. Oh, I forgot to include “cuddly and adorable” on my list of good qualities and enough, girl, just let it be. I’ve never been able to argue myself into or out of a feeling before, I don’t know why I think I can start now. On that note she fell asleep.
Ardent woke during the night to a muffled, tinny sound. Miro nosed sleepily at her shoulder. “Why is your chest barking?”
“Uh.” She fumbled at her locket, and hooked out a disgruntled tracer golem.
It stopped barking to snarl grumpily, “I ran out of paper. And it’s hard to write in there. And I found two of the new marks you wanted me to look for and tell you special if I found.”
“Oooh, that’s promising. Which marks?”
“Paper,” it said, insistently. “And it’s too crowded in that locket. I haven’t got space for all this. How’m I supposed to work in these conditions?”
She made it a new set of notebooks and it started writing. While she waited for it to catch up, she expended some sun aether to make a new miniaturized office in a second locket, just for the golem.
The marks it had found were the ones she had pre-arranged with Wind Sought to mean ‘alabaster in Verdant Generosity’s possession’ and the same thing for ivory. They were at the same spot as Verdant Generosity, who was still in the same city as before, judging by the pattern of their movement. “It worked.” Miro smiled. “So far.”
“Now we wait for it to come back. Good work, Trace,” she said, and kissed the top of the golem’s head. “Thanks. Here, I made you a better workspace. I appreciate you waking me to tell me. If Verdant Generosity or either of those marks enters the area of the land shared with the fey shard, please wake me again.”
The golem peered inside the new locket, and looked mollified. “Will do.”
She tucked it inside the locket, and fastened it around her neck. “I feel like a snail,” she told Miro. “Carrying my home on my back.”
He ran his hands over her back, rear, and furred crooked legs. “You don’t feel like one to me,” he said, and kissed her.
“Mph. No being adorable at me, you. We need more sleep.”
“Yes, my lady,” he said, unrepentant. Snuggled together, they fell back to sleep.
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