It has perhaps been three days already since they reached the forest, and the rest of the army is still nowhere near the meeting point.
The weather is fair and the woods are filled with light, as there is a great clear space amongst the trees’ canopy; there is plenty of fruit to be picked from bushes and low-growing plants, and there is fresh running water nearby. This place is silent, silent; like a chapel, like her quarters back in Daltanica, but ever so much more open and free. It is a lifetime away from battles and death and danger in this place, and Alyssa thinks that it wouldn’t be so bad to just stay here.
(She holds those thoughts as close to her breast as her secrets, chews at them much as she chews at the nuts Elise continually brings back to camp to get at the fruit-like flesh underneath the tough skin.)
Julio spends most of his time asleep in the middle of the odd jagged ruins in the center of the clearing—the ones where a tree might once have stood. As tall as he is and as hard as he’s always made himself behave, he is still a child younger than her, and he is still unable to cope with the past few weeks’ events so easily.
She cannot sleep so easily, so she speaks with Elise to better ignore her worries. And she is glad of it, for as strange as her conversations with the self-proclaimed angel tend to be, the more they speak, the more they come to understand one another.
It still takes her time to eat the nuts Elise brings, and she ruminates over them carefully, not confident that she can keep from breaking a tooth if she bites too firmly.
Elise always watches her intently, soundlessly, when she does so—her stare reminds Alyssa of Ilya and almost makes her smile. She suppresses that urge; it might be awkward to explain everything at a time like this.
At her own pace, she dreams; it is surreal and a curiosity when immediately after she swallows, Elise leans in and kisses her with no preface, working her lips open to explore Alyssa’s tongue with her own.
She makes—some kind of noise—into the tangle of their mouths, and Elise extricates herself to stare Alyssa down from barely three inches away.
“Are you turned on?”
The words are completely blasé, and Alyssa feels her face heat up, her words tangle. She is silent, not trusting her ability to lie.
Elise smirks and takes hold of Alyssa’s shoulders in both hands, pushing her firmly back into the grass and giving Alyssa a few moments to blink up at the sky fringed by distant leaves before straddling her on hands and knees, blocking out the view.
“I,” Alyssa gets out, and Elise leans down and swallows the rest of her words, lowering her body to press against Alyssa’s directly. Her temperature seems to instantly soar wherever they touch.
They wrestle briefly against the cushion of grass until Alyssa’s limbs go limp, and Elise gets up on her knees to begin peeling away the layers of Alyssa’s long dress one by one.
“Julio’s too close, he’ll wake up,” she tries to protest, but Elise’s expression does not change.
“Then all you have to do is stay quiet.” It is the only response she gets, and the words ring a little in the quiet like a thrown gauntlet.
(Alyssa bites her lip and then covers her mouth with her wrist as Elise bends to her and something like a fever without any ache to it ripples through her skin. And even trying frantically to hold in her voice, thin whines still escape.
Elise lifts her head just once, and she is wearing that same smirk as she declares: “You taste like kokori nuts here, too—”
And she does not stop again until the grass underneath Alyssa’s hips is beaded thick with milky dew.)