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i will keep you warm

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Cold days turned into weeks. Their search for civilization had seen both Matthias and Nina on the brink of death. Without the other, they wouldn’t have survived. As their bodies warmed lying next to each other in the whaling tent, so did their hears for one another.

One freezing night, they stumbled upon a village — Arkesk.

“We need food, and we need shelter,” Nina said through trembling lips. They had lived off scraps for who knows how long, and her stomach was begging for a hot plate of waffles. “I know this village.”

Matthias looked at her, the furs still tightly wrapped around him. They would need new clothes as well. All Matthias could think about was sinking into a hot bath, and crawling into a soft bed.

“There’s an inn just down this road,” Nina pointed as they walked the quiet streets. “Surely they’ll have a room.”

Thankfully, they did. Matthias let Nina lead the way, as his Fjerdan accent would give him away. The last thing they needed was someone pointing out that he didn’t belong here.

The room was small, but cozy, with one bed in the middle.

As soon as Nina shut the door behind her, she had already begun to take off her clothes.

“Look away now if you don’t want to be tempted,” Nina smirked as she tossed layer after layer to the ground in a heap. The only thing on her mind right now was burrowing under the covers. Even her need for food was less than her need for sleep, and that was saying something.

Matthias chuckled, but turned his back to her and began undressing. His Drüskelle uniform had seen better days, and a small twinge of doubt flickered in his heart as he threw it onto Nina’s clothes. How could he ever return to them? The people that had taught him that all Grisha were evil. If Matthias had learned anything by spending time with Nina, it was that Grisha were humans too.

As he turned to face the bed, he saw Nina already pulling the sheets up to her shoulders. His cheeks turned bright red as he tried to cover his manly parts and climbed into the bed next to her.

“Don’t worry,” Nina sighed back against the pillows. “I already saw it back at the whaling hut. So there’s really no need to see it again.”

“Nina!” Matthias balked, his eyes going wide. “You say such lewd things.”

“As you’ve said,” she nearly purred as he slid next to her. The heat from her body was welcome, and Matthias couldn’t help but move closer. After weeks of sleeping next to her, Matthias had grown accustomed to her strange magic. He even looked forward to the rush of heat that would soon fill his body.

Nina moved her hands together, then placed one on his chest. Instantly, heat surged through him, from his head to his toes. “Ahhh,” he sighed.

“I think you’ll really miss me when I’m gone,” Nina smiled up at him. His thumb moved slowly on her hand, stroking her soft skin. “At least, I know you’ll miss the warmth I provide.”

Silent, Matthias could hear his own heartbeat. It was true. He would miss her. But not just for the warmth, but for everything that Nina was.

“I will miss you, Nina,” Matthias pressed his forehead against hers. “I never thought I would, but you’ve charmed me.”

“With my Grisha wiles,” she looked up at him, and he nodded slightly. “I knew it was working.”

Laughing, he wrapped one arm tightly around her body, bringing her snugly against his chest. “Go to sleep,” he cupped the back of her head. “When we wake, I’ll find food for you.”

“Ever the provider,” Nina said against his chest. Moments later, he felt the change in her breathing and knew she had crossed over into her dreams. Finally, he let his eyes close, and followed her.

++++++

When Matthias woke the next morning, he was disappointed to find he was alone. Nina was nowhere to be found, and for a brief moment, he thought that she had left him. He wouldn’t blame her, as he’d had the same thought. But he didn’t want to leave her, in fact, he wanted to always be by her side.

Sitting up, he yawned and let the sheet fall to his waist. His body ached from lying still for so many hours.

His eyes darted around the room and landed on the door just as it opened.

“Good morning, sleepy head!”

“Good morning,” he smiled, rubbing his hands over his eyes.

Nina was wearing new clothes, and carrying a bundle he assumed was for him. She tossed this to him on the bed. “I couldn’t sleep, and I figured I would get a head start on the day. Hopefully the clothes fit, I had to guess at your size — extra large Fjerdan.”

Smirking, he grabbed the trousers and slid them on. He noticed how Nina turned her back away from him while he dressed. It was’t that he was a prude, but his people were modest, and well, Nina Zenik was anything but modest.

“There’s a pub downstairs,” Nina said, her fingers touching the sheer curtain. “I thought I’d take this time to introduce you to my one true love.”

“And that is?” He asked, coming to stand beside her.

Nina slid her hands up along his chest, leaving a trail of burning fire in their wake. “Waffles,” she nearly moaned.

“Waffles?” His brow lifted. “What are waffles?”

“The most delicious bite of food you’ll ever taste, my dear,” Nina grabbed his hand and led them out of the room. Glancing down at their hands, Matthias felt his heart speed up. He wasn’t used to such public displays of affection.

They found a small table in the corner of the pub, and he waited there as Nina went and ordered them breakfast. She came back, skirts blowing around her. He could get used to seeing Nina like this, happy and well bathed.

“It’ll be just a couple of minutes,” she smiled. “My stomach is going to eat itself soon, I’m afraid.”

“We can’t have that,” he grinned.

A few minutes later, a server placed two hot plates of waffles in front of them. Nina didn’t hesitate to shove one down her throat, but Matthias picked one up curiously. “Is there meat in this?” He sniffed it.

“No,” Nina chewed. “Saints, you’re a genius. Yeah! Infused with cured boar,” she took another hungry bite.

Matthias took a large bite, unsure of the taste. “Is this supposed to be sweet or savory?”

“Yes!”

Laughing, he chewed and swallowed. It was not a taste he was accustomed to, but it was delicious, just as she’d said.

“I like to pour copious amounts of syrup on mine,” Nina said and reached for the small glass bottle. “Here, try some.”

The syrup was sweet, and his mouth watered at the taste. Within two minutes, Matthias had devoured his entire plate. “Are there any more?”

“Oh Matthias,” Nina smiled up at him, her hand reaching across the table to his. “You really are the perfect man.”

++++++

After another full plate of waffles, they returned to their room upstairs. Nina’s stomach was full, and she could swear she’d never been so happy. She’d slept wonderfully last night, curled up against Matthias. His body heat alone kept them plenty warm. It had crossed her mind that this might be the last time they ever see each other again.

Matthias was quiet as he sat down on the bed. Nina ruffled through her things she had managed to find this morning. A bit of money, and papers for traveling.

“If we were in Fjerda, my people would help,” he said, watching her.

“Help kill me, maybe,” she snorted. “I don’t like it either, but can’t have you out on the streets in Ravka, now, can I?”

Grunting quietly, Matthias looked down at his feet. “You are safe here in Arkesk. I will go north in the night.”

Nina felt her heart stop. The thought of leaving and venturing out on her own without him was enough to leave her shaking. “No. This can’t be it. I’m not done tormenting you.”

She crossed over to sit beside him on the bed, looking up at his deep blue eyes.

“I’m not going back to that whaler’s hut,” he laughed.

“Well, then somewhere else? There must be a place where we’re not just Grisha and Drüskelle.”

“Somewhere beyond Ravka? Beyond Fjerda?” He shook his head.

Sighing, Nina said, “A place where we’re just Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar.”

“If I go…” He spoke softly. “I could never go back to Fjerda. I would court-martialed as a deserter.”

“I’d be branded a traitor to all Grisha. I know. It’s your whole life, I can’t take that away from you.” Nina laid her head gently on his shoulder. “But thank you for saving me.”

If it weren’t for Matthias, Nina knew she would be dead. He had saved her life, and frankly, she wanted him to keep doing it.

“You did the same for me,” he smiled down at her. “And if we stayed together, I doubt it would be the last time.”

He slid his hand along her back, strong and sure.

“But I have only known two countries my whole life. Yours and mine. What are the others like?”

Nina perked up, leaning back to look at him. She would love to take Matthias around and show him the world. “Well, Kerch… might be a bit much for you. On Ghezen’s Day, it’s customary to ride through the streets naked and drunk on grapefruit wine.”

“Not Kerch,” he said strongly, shaking his head.

“Oh, the Wandering Isle!” She said with a convincing lilt. “Well, I can fit in there, no trouble. Have you ever met anyone from there?”

Matthias laughed, “They are infernally happy there.”

“Yeah, you’ll come to like being happy,” Nina placed her hand on his smooth cheek. “You’ll never have to grow that damned Drüskelle beard. I mean… you’re welcome to grow a beard, but only for the purposes of keeping me warm.” Her fingers lightly stroked his skin, wanting to feel him closer.

“I will keep you warm.”

Nina leaned in towards, him, feeling the same pull that had always been there. It had been there in the whaler’s hut as he slept with his arms wrapped around her. And it had been there as they spent many nights huddled close together. Now, they were safe, and they were alone.

“Matthias,” she said softly before closing the distance and placing her lips against his.

A warm hand slid down to her waist, gentle but urging her closer. Kissing him was like taking an ice cold bath — it makes your heart stop, and leaves you breathless. Nina slid her hand to the back of his head, her lips insistent. She wanted to taste him, to explore every inch of him. For weeks, she had lain next to him, wondering what sounds he would make if she tugged on his hair.

He moaned.

Nina did it again, tugging on the golden locks. Her tongue parted his lips, seeking entrance. It was difficult to remember that Matthias had little to no experience with girls. But, with the way he kissed her back, she wouldn’t have known.

“Nina,” he whispered her name. “I feel…” He broke off, one large hand, rough with calluses cupping her face.

Grabbing his wrist, Nina nodded. “I feel the same. I don’t want to pressure you into anything, but I’d really rather like to pounce on you.”

Matthias’ eyes grew wide before he let out a loud laugh.

“What?” Nina chuckled, admiring the way his face lit up. He had come a long way from the grumpy Fjerdan on the ship. “You know I’m not one to hide my real feelings.”

“I know,” Matthias took her hand in his, squeezing it lightly. “That’s one of the things I like about you.”

Nina bit her bottom lip, looking up at him. “One of? So there’s many more, huh?”

“I once called you horrible,” he stroked his thumb over the back of her hand. “And loud.”

“And lewd,” Nina finished for him.

“Don’t forget treacherous,” he grinned. “You are all of those things, Nina Zenik.”

Her brows shot up, “I thought you were supposed to be telling me the things you like?”

“Be patient,” he slid his fingers along her wrist. “It’s hard for me to say these things.”

Nina could see that it was. The Fjerdan’s were not an emotional people, nor did they express themselves often. Matthias had completely flipped her world upside down. Falling in love with a Drüskelle was something she never imagined.

“Take your time,” she smiled softly. Grateful that he wasn’t a heartrender, and couldn’t hear the frantic beating of her heart, Nina waited.

Matthias stood then, dropping her hands. He faced away from her — perhaps it was easier for him to not look into her eyes.

“There are many reasons why I should not feel the things I do for you,” he spoke quietly. “But when you look at me, or make me laugh… I cannot help it. I have never felt so much happiness before I met you.”

“Oh,” Nina sighed.

“Anger too,” he looked over his shoulder, smirking. “Annoyed, and frustrated.”

“Back to the good stuff,” Nina swatted her hand at the air.

“You are loud,” Matthias faced her. “But when you speak, I hang onto every word, and I never want you to stop.”

He bent down before her, placing both hands on her knees. “You're lewd, and you make such crude comments. But I like the way you talk, because it makes me feel alive.”

Matthias brought one hand up to her face, “And you are treacherous. With one look, you could ruin me. You already have.”

“Oh Saints,” Nina fell against him, wrapping both arms around his neck. “Kiss me now.”

He crushed his lips to hers, and this time there was an urgency, a desperation. His hands slid along her back and up into her hair. And then he was standing and bringing her up to her feet.

“Are you sure?” She asked him.

“Completely,” he nodded, smiling as he reached for the buttons of her blouse.

Nina was fairly confident about her body, but a rush of insecurity swarmed her. Sure, she may be lewd, and say things she shouldn’t, but Nina was almost as inexperienced as Matthias. She had lost her virginity a year ago, and it had been quick and unmemorable. And the boy certainly hadn’t looked like Matthias, who now towered over her.

“Let me help,” she undid the rest of the buttons and pulled the blouse from her skirt. Her hands found the ties of her skirt and she began to undo them. Matthias blinked, watching her before undressing. Nina’s eyes never left his, and as she stood before him, left in a thin slip, she began to shake.

“Nina,” he pulled her body against his. His warm, broad chest was a safe haven for her. Her cold hands pressed to his sides and he winced slightly. “I told you, I will keep you warm.”

He released her, but only to undo his trousers and step out of them. The gasp that left Nina’s lips made his head turn up quickly.

“Sorry,” she covered her mouth with her hand. “It’s just…”

A pleased grin crossed his face. “It’s your turn.”

“Right,” she blushed. Nina grabbed the slip and pulled it over her body, letting it fall to the pile on the ground.

“Djel,” he muttered under his breath as he took a step back to look at her. “You are beautiful, Nina.”

“You’re not so bad yourself,” she smiled and stepped forward, bringing her hands to his chest. The hair there was dark, and thick. Slowly, Matthias pushed her to sit on the edge of the bed.

“I have no idea what I’m doing,” he admitted.

“That’s alright,” she smiled and shifted back onto the bed until her back hit the pillows. “Neither do I, really.”

He looked surprised to her her confession, but he didn’t ask for more details. Instead, he climbed onto the bed next to her, his hand coming to rest on her hip. Nina leaned in to kiss him, hoping it would calm her nerves.

Then he touched her. All over. His fingers softly stroked her thigh before sliding along her curves to rest under her breast. He was curious with his touch, gentle and loving. Matthias caressed her like she was a dainty petal.

“I like it when you touch me there,” she laid back against the pillows, her hand covering his on her chest.

“You do?”

“Very much,” she nodded.

Concentrating, Matthias laid on his side and began to trace underneath her breast before moving to pinch her nipple. It was hard, and she shivered as he did it again. The pad of his thumb flicked against the hard nub, and Nina moaned as he held the full weight of her breast in his hand. Without having to instruct him further, Nina watched as he bent his blonde head and placed his lips around her nipple. His tongue snaked out, tasting her. She squirmed underneath him, wanting it to stop, but never end.

“Tell me if I hurt you, please,” he kissed her breast.

“You could never hurt me,” she smiled and ran her fingers through his hair, lifting it off his forehead.

Matthias placed a gentle kiss between the valley of her breasts before kissing his way up her neck. He stayed there, nibbling and biting, while his hands slid up and down her body. Nina was growing restless, and she wrapped one leg loosely around his hips.

It was the most glorious feeling to finally be able to touch him as she pleased. For weeks now, she had wanted to touch the dip of his spine, or squeeze his firm bottom. Nina let her hands move over him with wild abandon.

As she shifted underneath him, the hardness between his own thighs nudged against her. He was hot, and throbbing. Nina opened her legs wider, her own hand drifting between their bodies. When she took hold of his cock, Matthias let out a startled groan.

“Now, tell me if I hurt you,” she smirked and stroked him.

Matthias shuddered at her touch, his eyes closing. He clutched her shoulder, his breathing becoming uneven as her hand pumped up and down. Nina didn’t want him to come just yet, but it was too much fun watching him lose himself.

Her thumb moved gently over the tip, collecting the wetness there. She was wet between her thighs, and her stomach tightened as she felt him twitch in her hand. Nina guided him to the center of her pleasure, her eyes drifting upwards to look at him.

“Are you ready?” He cupped her cheek.

Nina nodded, unable to speak for once.

Slowly, Matthias pushed inside of her. Inch by torturous inch, he filled her. Nina opened her legs wider to accommodate the thickness of his length. He grunted above her as he continued to slide forward. Nina gripped his hips, pulling them down to hers. Once he was fully rooted inside, he paused.

“I didn’t know it would feel like this,” he kissed her. “I would’ve done this days ago.”

“I did try and tempt you,” Nina smirked. “It took you long enough.”

Matthias rolled his eyes, and then he rolled his hips. With a sharp snap, Nina cried out, her body at his mercy. Her hands were filled with his arms, his legs, his shoulders. Wanting him closer, Nina wrapped both legs around him and moved in time with his thrusts. Matthias reached up and put both hands on the headboard, using it as leverage. He stared down at her, his mouth slightly open.

There was nothing that could separate them now. They were simply Matthias Helvar and Nina Zenik. Two enemies, born to despise the other, brought together by fate.

With hands tangled in the thick locks of his hair, Nina pulled his mouth down to hers. She parted his full lips with her tongue, meeting his. His body rolled on top of hers, the hair on his chest scratching against her pleasantly.

“Touch me here,” Nina brought his hand between their bodies, and placed his fingers in a v-shape on the folds of her sex. As he pushed inside of her, his fingers stroked her over and over again. Nina cried out, clinging to him. He pushed so deeply inside of her that she was beginning to see stars.

Nina pushed against him, and Matthias slowed his hips to look down at her. “I need to be on top of you,” she breathed harshly.

With his help, Nina rolled over him, adjusted herself and sank down onto his cock. It was different at this angle, closer. Matthias placed both hands on her hips, squeezing and helping to glide her along his length.

“Matthias,” Nina grabbed his hand, lacing their fingers together. Holding it, she began to rock her hips, slowly at first and then faster. Her breasts bounced almost painfully, but she couldn’t stop, not now.

“Oh Djel,” Matthias groaned, his head falling back against the pillows. His body was taut, muscles tense as he looked into her eyes. Nina rode his cock, sliding up and down, and gripped him with her sex. Tears filled her eyes, slowly falling down her cheeks as she fell onto his chest. He thrust upwards, his hand squeezing her waist as he brought his lips to hers.

A thousand stars shined behind her eyes as Nina came. Her body began to shake, and she moaned against his mouth as she felt his body jerk. Matthias gripped her fiercely, panting against her lips.

They lay there, arms and legs tangled together. Not knowing where one began and the other ended.

Carefully, Matthias slid out from between her things and languidly rose from the bed. Nina stretched her arms high above her head and let her gaze follow him. Bending over to grab a cloth from beside a small bowl of water, he dipped it in and brought it back for her.

“I thought you might need this,” he offered it to her.

“Ever the gentleman,” Nina smiled warmly and brought the cloth between her legs.

“That was…” Matthias sat down next to her, his hand settling on her knee.

“That was better than waffles,” she grinned. “And I don’t say that lightly.”

“I know you don’t,” he chuckled. “I know better than to come between you and food.”

Nina giggled and jumped up to wrap her arms around his neck. She kissed him deeply, pulling him down until he laid next to her. His arms came around to her back, before settling in her hair.

“Promise you won’t leave,” Nina said softly. “I don’t think I could bear it.”

“Only if you promise you won’t leave either.”

She shook her head quickly. “There is nowhere I want to go without you. Perhaps we could go to Kerch after all. I have some friends there.”

“Kerch…” he pursed his lips. “I’m not going out on the streets naked.”

“I wouldn’t want you to,” Nina slid her hands down along his spine. “No one gets to see that but me.”

He laughed, then kissed her nose gently. “I will follow you anywhere, Nina.”

Feeling her heart soar, Nina smiled and tucked her head under his chin. In his arms, she felt safe and protected. She knew that he would never let any harm come to her. And she would vow to protect him as well. Nina would do anything for Matthias. She would leave everything she knew just to be with him.

As the sun began to set, and the light faded from the room, they held each other. It was some time later that Matthias began to shiver, and Nina placed her hands on him, warming his body.

“My little drüsje,” he sighed, pulling her closer.

“Go to sleep, you big drüskelle,” she smiled.

The sun would rise in the morning, and life would never be the same. Nina could hardly imagine life without Matthias now, and she didn’t have any plans of letting him out of her sight. He kept her warm, after all.