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In Your Arms

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"When Dani came swooping in on Brightwind, bow and arrow at the ready—”

"And then Elsa just lept out from behind her and started shooting?"

"Yes! It was amazing!” Ren declared, eyes shining with the memory as she bounced down onto the edge of the bed. The shine softened to a warm glow as she looked up at Annabelle. “You were amazing.”

"Heh, nah, not me," said Annabelle, sidling over and running her fingers through Ren’s bangs, in part to push them back and in part just to touch her. "That was all Val out there."

Ren leaned into Annabelle’s touch like a cat, a hum in place of a purr, and reached to put her arms around Annabelle’s back, careful to keep the touch of her fingers light. Her eyelids fluttered, exhaustion and relief working together to lure her to sleep; still, she fought her body to maintain eye contact.

"Mm, right— because shouting, ‘You need more iron in your diet,’ while shoving a sword down a monster’s throat is so Val’s style.”

"Well, yeah, okay," Annabelle allowed, pulling Ren’s hair loose of its tie so she could bury her sheepish laughter in a nuzzle. "I may have provided some of the commentary.”

"Is her sword even iron?"

"Artistic license— you understand."

The response was a sound somewhere between a sigh and a giggle, the combination of the comfortable bed and the comforting atmosphere finally starting to wear Ren down after the trying day. She let her eyes slide closed at last, basking in Annabelle’s proximity. Her muscles sang a tune that she was at once getting used to and long familiar with, and she knew that she would ache in the morning.

You were amazing out there, Ren,” Annabelle said in a near whisper, pulling back so that she could coax Ren into laying down and work on getting Ren’s shoes off. “Even though you’re not a fighter and you’re learning all of this as you go along, you are always so amazing.”

"I tripped over one of my own ribbons when that— that whatever-it-was popping out of the ground startled me. If I’d been slower to slack the line, my hero name would be One-Foot."

"If it was me out there instead of Val," Annabelle plowed on as though she hadn’t heard, "I would be dead ten times over because I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off of you."

"Then I’d be in good company when something tore me in half," Ren said, forcing her eyes open just a crack so that she could watch the blur of Annabelle wrestle off her own boots, "because I wouldn’t be able to stop looking at you either. Mm, I don’t guess Val would ferry us to Valhalla for that, huh, death in battle or no?"

There was a pause while Annabelle flipped off the light, then she said, “Ah. Well, she assures me that she would ferry our souls somewhere.”

They both laughed just a little, Annabelle finally coming to stretch out alongside Ren on the bed. Ren turned over on her side, Annabelle spooning up behind her immediately and snaking her arms around Ren’s waist to pull her close. Ren’s fingers twitched with her desire to entwine them with Annabelle’s, but she buried them into the blankets instead.

"Ugh," Annabelle groaned, squeezing Ren tight and pressing her face to the back of Ren’s neck like she was hiding. Then again, "Ugh. We’re on top of the covers. We’re still dressed— we didn’t even shower or anything—”

"Tomorrow," Ren murmured, barely awake by then. "If I can move tomorrow."

"But I don’t know if I want to get out of bed tomorrow."

"Would you rather get up now?"

A pause, then, “Tomorrow.”

This teased another breath of laughter from each of them, soft and affectionate. Annabelle gave Ren another short squeeze, and said, “Good night. Sweet dreams.”

Pressing back as a return of the hug, Ren murmured, “Good night. You too.”

When Ren was on the very edge of sleep, a tingle not quite like static electricity played over her skin wherever Annabelle was touching her. It roused Ren’s attention but not her alarm, as there was something about the sensation that felt friendly, perhaps even protective. It passed in a moment, and then Ren felt herself more fully engulfed by a presence broader, firmer and still somehow less certain than Annabelle’s had been.

Stirring the last vestiges of her ties to the waking world, Ren pressed back again to answer the embrace, barely audible anymore when she mumbled, “You too.”

Another tingle, and then Ren fell asleep with Annabelle wrapped around her.