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testing a hypothesis.

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It began when he noticed her hands.

Albedo watched as she rubbed them together rapidly, cupping them close to her lips. A cloud of breath leaving them as she tried to warm herself up. How her golden eyes shut tightly as she shivered and moved from one foot to the other. So, she gets cold, interesting.

“May I assist you?” he said as he lowered his sketch pad and set it on top of the table. She was already near the fire, so it was strange that she was still cold. But it would indicate t it took her a while to adjust her body temperature quickly. She's sensitive. He concluded as he went through the theories in his head. It must be so that her senses were more acutely aware to changes in the environment, it would be a survival instinct sharpened from her many years of wandering.

“O-Oh…” Her voice quivered as he approached her slowly before reaching out to take her hands. “You don't have to..It’ll just…”

“It’s not a problem for me. In fact, it would help me tremendously with my observations. Unless you are bothered…Are you bothered, Lumine?” He asked almost absentmindedly as he took her hand, his eyes observing the way she kept her nails short to the little birthmark on the back of her hand. It sat between the place where her thumb and index finger met.

“I’m not bothered.” She whispered quietly, watching him carefully as he held her hands in his. They were larger than her own and surprisingly warm. “Do you...Are you not cold?” He was gentle in the way he held her hand, somehow she felt safe as she felt the pad of his thumb lightly rub her cold hands.

“I tend to run a bit warmer than most.” His jade eyes lifted slightly and they caught her staring at him, her golden eyes quickly looked away. A cute reaction. He noticed the slight tinge of pink that dusted her cheek. Was she running a fever now? That couldn’t be the case, her hands were still cold. Hmn. I wonder.

Bringing her hands up, he felt her stiffen up slightly in his grasp and couldn’t help but chuckle. She makes the most fascinating expressions. “Do you trust me?” He whispered, his soft breath lightly brushing against her fingertips. And when she didn’t pull away her hands, he lifted his eyes and noticed her nod slowly.

So, he lightly blew warmly against her fingers, tender in the way he held her hands close to his lips. Barely touching them and yet the proximity of how close they were felt more... intimate. He slowly lifted his gaze and caught the way she looked like she was holding her breath, the way she flushed more pink than before.

This brought a smile to his lips. Was she shy? He wondered how she would react to a bit more. His lips lightly brushing against her knuckles, he heard her sharply inhale and as she tried to pull her hands away, he held them a bit tighter.

“It’s okay now..I’m quite warm.” She said almost breathy and normally he would have let go and moved on. But the way her hand felt in his, the way she reacted to his actions, he didn’t want it to end. I want to see more of her reactions…Strange. He thought quietly before a smug smile appeared on his lips and he brought her hand back up again.

“I don’t think that would be wise. Upon further evaluation, your hands are still very cold.”He whispered softly, letting his words graze against the skin of her fingertips. “Your hands..they are important to me…” He looked at her through his lashes, a small smirk lifting onto his lips. “After all, they are an integral part of my research.” Regarding the sword, your abilities, you. “You getting frostbite would be very unfortunate…And for the sake of my research, I must take care of you, personally.”

With only the crackling of the fire filling the air, they stood in silence as he warmed up her hands the way he saw fit. Taking in and memorizing every expression that crossed her face. The way she looked everywhere but him and when he gave her hand a small squeeze, the quick way her gaze turned back towards him. He liked having her attention. He wanted to sketch it all out, he wanted to immortalize the moment forever.

It seem as though his mere curiosity regarding the traveler went deeper than he thought. But he didn’t mind, on the contrary, he was fascinated that about the way she held his interest so intensely.

“Do you feel warmer now?” He stared at her fingers and held back the urge to kiss them. He was so close, it had almost a phantom effect on him.

“Yes.” She breathed out slowly and quickly her golden eyes shyly looked away from his curious gaze. “I’m…quite warm now.”

“That's good. Then shall we head out?”

And while he lowered her hands from his lips, he still held onto them tightly in his own. “The path we will take is slippery so I hope you do not mind that I hold onto you for a bit longer.”

 

 

 

Touching her hands has become almost second nature at this point. Whether to help her through the cliffs of Dragonspire or when his fingers would lightly graze against hers when they were standing nearby. And of course when he insisted on warming her cold fingers when the sheer cold was getting to be too much. He quite enjoyed how just like the first time, she’d be flustered and shy. He hoped that that part of her wouldn’t change. That he could always bring out the sweet expression that he had grown fond of.

She looked quite lovely with her pink cheeks and shy gaze.

He had begun to dislike the gloves he wore to combat the cold because he enjoyed tracing the little scars that were on her hands. Rubbing her soft skin with the pad of his thumb, he began to want to touch her more.

Albedo understood that his interest in her has become something less objective as he spent more time with her, but he didn’t quite mind. He enjoyed talking to her, enjoyed listening to her soft voice as she asked him a question. She had become one of the select few that he could listen to all day and not get bored.

Watching her in battle, watching her use her sword had become an interest of his as well. They both specialized with the short sword, and how she moved was completely different from his. She was quick and agile and moved like a dancer. Every movement had a gracefulness that made it enchanting to observe.

The way she’d grit her teeth, the little snarl that she would show, it made it very difficult to concentrate on anything else. Even her expressions which were not conventional pretty, were charming.

“Do you always hold your sword like that?” He asked one day after they finished fighting a group of Fatui. “Is it to help with balance?”

Looking down, she looked at her form, and how she held the sword with her pinky slightly crooked. “Oh...I suppose it’s just a habit? When I was still learning…I broke my pinky and I didn’t want to fall behind on my training…so I just..adapted.”

Albedo chuckled low as he lowered his own blade and approached her, hand held out. “May I see?”

Without a second thought, she placed her hand on top of his and he lifted her hand to see the way her pinky wasn’t perfectly straight and how it skewed to the right slightly. He found it quite adorable that she would insist on continuing to train rather than letting her finger heal. The little things he learned about her just continued to fascinate him. “You are stubborn.”

“Because I insisted on continuing my training? Hmnn I think my brother said that too when I came back the next day with the sword in my hand.”

He traced the edges of the scar before he felt an urge overwhelm him. With a spark of playfulness in his sea green eyes, he brought her hand to his lips and lightly kissed it.

Lumine’s soft gasp was so sweet to hear and he wondered what other sounds he could bring out of her. As he pulled away slowly, a boyish grin tugging at his lips, he simply flipped his hand so that he could hold hers again. The soft crunch of the snow as they walked together hand in hand, it was nice. It was a quiet peace that he enjoyed sharing with her. “So, shall we get some dinner? I’ll make you my specialty.” And the way she smiled at him, the gentle curve of her lips to the soft way her eyes sparkled as she nodded, it made him pause.

The way the light from the sun reflected off the snow, how it made her softly glow before him. Like she was a fairy from a dream, it felt surreal to see such a beauty in front of him. He wanted to sketch the moment, to immortalized it outside of his own memory. Yet he knew that there would be no way to truly capture the beauty before him. There was no pigment in the world that could truly showcase how gold her hair looked, how her eyes sparkled. There was no way, even with his skills, that he could capture the dreamy haze that seemed to surround her…

And most importantly, he didn’t want to let go of her hand.

 

 

 

Albedo knew it was inevitable. He knew that it was bound to happen. Things that capture his attention, things that become something akin to an obsession, would soon appear in his subconscious, in his dreams. It would occupy his thoughts without him even trying.

He wasn’t surprised the first time it happened. He wasn’t surprised that it kept happening. He actually quite enjoyed it. He enjoyed seeing her in his dreams, smiling and happy. Sometimes they would be his memories of the previous day, the questions she asked, the little expressions she made. The only thing he didn’t like was that when he held her hand in his dreams, it didn’t quite feel right. There was something lacking as he held it, something missing.

Then his thoughts began to wander and lingered with the idea of kissing her lips instead of her hands. How would they feel against his? Would they feel soft or would they be cracked from the cold? What would she taste like? He often saw her snacking on berries and fruits in between the meals that her comrades would give her. She was not a picky eater and usually took any food with a gracious heart. But this all rotated around the question, would she allow him to kiss her?

As he dozed off on his laboratory couch, arms crossed, the warmth of the fire luring him to rest a bit longer, he wanted to see her in his dreams again. Maybe this time, he’ll get the feeling of her hand in his right.  Maybe his mind would satisfy the craving he had, the urge to kiss her that seemed to grow stronger by each passing day.

“Albedo?” And her voice nestled in his ear as it echoed through the room and he enjoyed the way she said his name. There was a soft lift to it, almost like a song. “Oh…you’re sleeping.” She whispered more to herself. While it would have been easy for him to wake up and greet her, he kept pretending to be in deep slumber. She was curious as to what she would do. Would she leave him to rest or would she stay behind and wait?

First, a soft giggle left her lips as she approached him. Her steps careful not to make too much noise. He wondered if she was walking on her toes. And even with his eyes closed, he knew that she was now in front of him, slightly to the left. “Lisa was right when she said that you were handsome. Your eyelashes are also really long.”

He bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from smiling or revealing that he was awake. But that became increasingly difficult as he felt her gaze on him. He wanted to know what sort of expression she was making, He wanted to see if she had that dreamy soft smile on her lips or if it was something more sweet and playful. But he resisted because his curiosity could be controlled and he still wanted to know what else the traveler would do if she thought his guard was down. What other things she’d confess to him unknowingly.

“I always wondered if your hair was as soft as it looked.” And then he felt her brush the front of his hair away from his eyes. Humming happily, he concluded that as a yes, his hair was as soft as she believed it to be. “It’s a pity…though…I really do like the color of your eyes…I always wonder if they are more blue..or more green…”

“I suppose you’d say that they are more teal.” He responded finally, his eyes opening slowly as a small amused grin appeared on his lips. He was right in that she was to his left. Her hand was laced behind her back, her head tilted slightly to the side. She was close to his face, he already knew that from the way her breath lightly touched his face when she spoke. Waking up to see her was something he could get used to. He thought quietly as he looked at her surprised expression. The way her golden eyes widened slightly before a slightly upset expression came forth.

“You were awake?” She said in a hushed whisper, a small pout appearing on her lips and before she stumbled back too far, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her towards him. Having her fall on top of him and seating herself on his lap. Her hands quickly moved to press on the back of the couch so that she wouldn’t fall completely on him and he smiled at the weight of her body on his. “A-Albedo?!”

“I was curious.” Albedo responded before he lifted a hand to take a piece of her hair into his hand. The silky texture of her golden locks felt nice. He tilted his head and looked at her reddening face with a look of amusement. His hand brought the lock of golden hair to his lips and kissed it reverently. His gaze never leaving her, memorizing the way she blushed and froze at the intimate gesture. Like time had frozen in this cold tundra, they stayed still for a moment, enjoying the other’s company.

“Curious?” Lumine whispered before she felt a hand on the small of her back. Supporting her so that she wouldn’t need to be so tense around him. “What were you curious about?”

“What you would do…How you would react..What sort of adorable expression I would see…Things that seem to be occupying my thoughts quite often these days.”

“Is that a bad thing? Me occupying your mind like that? I’m sure that…”

“No. I find it quite pleasant. To be reminded of you when I see the sun in the morning or when I see the stars at night. It’s quite…nice.

“You think of me that much?”

“Do you hate it?”

“I…” She pursed her lips before she finally relaxed under his touch and gazed down at him sweetly. A sort of look that surprised him and made his heart skip a beat. “I don’t hate it. It’s nice to think that I’m occupying that pretty head of yours.”

Even the way she teased was soft and sweet. A low chuckle before a thought popped into his head. He wondered what sort of expression would appear. Quickly, he flipped them so that she would be on her back, laying on the couch, her hair spreading out like a halo while he hovered over her. “What about now?” He was curious as to how much she’d let him touch her, as to how close she’d let him get, to the limits he’d find. What she would find to be too much? Did she found him to be..too much?

Her golden eyes that widened in surprise for a moment at the new position before they softened into something more endearing and warm. “You have a warm touch…that I enjoy.”

His playful gaze softened before he lowered his head, his forehead touching hers. “Do you trust me?” He asked finally serious as he inched closer. Their lips were so close that he could feel her breath against his lower lip. 

“I do.”

And with that, he lowered his head completely and finally captured her lips. His fingers lightly grazing her throat and chin before they cupped her cheek. The way his lips fit with hers, it was intoxicating. Her taste was sweet on his tongue. When she giggled against his lips as she wrapped her arms around his neck, he couldn’t help but feel a certain amount of joy spread throughout his body. Warmer than the fire that crackled behind them. The smile on his lips mimicked on her’s as he felt her play with his hair.

And when they pulled away, their breathing was a bit heavier than normal. The smiles on their lips lingered as their gaze met. A dreamy expression in both of their eyes as he lightly pecked her lips once more. His name was broken up by her soft laughter that he could listen forever and never grow tired of ringing as he stole as many kisses as he could.

“Mmmmm.” he hummed as he leaned into her hands that tangled themselves in his ashy hair. He noted that he liked the feeling of her hands in his hair.

“Your hair is very soft.”

“Did it confirm your hypothesis?”

“Yes.” She said with a light laugh as how everything was so technical with him. He hoped she found in endearing and when he caught her gaze, kind and sweet, he felt he could come to conclusion that she did.  “And what about you?”

“What about me?”

“Did….Is your curiosity about me…Are you satisfied?”

“Mmnn.” He pondered for a few moments before he lowered his head to kiss the tip of her nose, and then her cheeks, and then back to her lips. “I don’t think so. I’ll have to continue my observation...As long as you’ll let me. After all..all good research..comes with” His lips lingered against hers before he pressed his forehead against hers. “Repeat experiments.” 

“I suppose if it’s for the sake of your research.” She sighed softly, teasing him with that sweet glimmer in her eyes and he smiled against her lips. “I’ll be happy to help.” And then he dived back into kissing her. enjoying the way she felt in his hands, against his lips.

 

 

 

As they headed to the knights' headquarters, he reached out and took her hand. Her gaze slowly lifted, a look of amusement in her eyes at how easily he took her hand. He stared at their hands for a moment, before his eyes lifted and she saw a mischievous look in those beautiful eyes of his. Then slowly a small smug smile appeared on his lips. “Albedo?”

Bringing her hands to his lips, he lightly blew against them and noted the way she shivered at the soft touch.

“We aren’t…my hands aren’t even cold!” She said, mirth in her voice as she weakly attempted to pull her hand away which only made his grip tighter.

“They looked cold to me.” A smirk on his lips appeared before he pressed her fingers lightly to his lips. His sea-green eyes piercing as he stared at her blushing face. He could never grow tired of that expression, he knew that as an infallible truth. He could never grow tired of her hands in his. Like the endless and infinite universe, there were countless things he found interesting about the woman before him, and he couldn’t wait to discover more.