Jacey rolled over for the thousandth time that night and finally opened her eyes. The fire from the fireplace danced across the ceiling with a warm glow. Just when she thought she might have gotten asleep, something woke her. Again. At this rate she would never be able to sleep.
Something moved on the floor at the foot of the bed and Jacey pushed herself up, realizing only then that Heddwyn was not next to her. Heddwyn’s head appeared and he blinked at her.
Quietly, he rose and blinked at her. His face looked dark and worn. “Did I wake you, Jacey?”
Jacey shook her head. “I can’t sleep as it is.”
He motioned to her where he stood. “You might find down here more comfortable.”
Jacey scooted to the edge of the bed and saw what best might be described as nest filled with pillows and blankets. It looked rather like the bed they used in the camp.
“I’m going to get a drink; do you want something?”
Heddwyn straightened and grabbed a knife from the chest at the foot of the bed. Jacey blinked and frowned.
“A knife, Heddwyn?”
He glanced at it absently and shrugged, then disappeared down the stairs.
Taking up Heddwyn’s offer, Jacey slipped out of the large soft bed and curled into the nest of Heddwyn’s. After dreaming about the soft, comfortable bed that awaited her in Targo City for the last two weeks, she couldn’t believe she was actually giving it up after only two and a half nights in it.
Heddwyn came back upstairs shortly with two large mugs of something warm and steaming, probably tea. Jacey took one in both hands and held it next to her chest. Heddwyn stretched out on the floor next to her and placed the cup between them. Absently he stirred it.
Jacey had often seen Heddwyn in the firelight but watching him now, she could not remember him looking so despondent. His face looked pinched, like in pain. His eyes were sunken and dark rings curled underneath them. Even his whole body posture made him look limp, like he was merely stuffed full of something and not even alive.
“Heddwyn?” Jacey whispered.
Heddwyn glanced up and blinked at her. She smiled. He shook his head and ran a hand over his eyes.
“I–I’m just not sleeping well.”
He paused and looked back at his tea. “I’m not sure. Perhaps because you haven’t been sleeping here.”
“How long have you been on the floor?”
He shrugged. “Since about halfway through the first night. by the time I adapt to sleeping in a bed again, we’re back out.”
“Do you always do this?”
He nodded. “I’m surprised it bothered you so quickly. That first night, you looked exhausted.”
“I was. But… not anymore.”
“Which is why you can no longer sleep up there.” Heddwyn took a sip of the tea.
Jacey glanced at her cup and then back at him. “But–what’s bothering you?”
For a long moment, Heddwyn’s eyes just got the glassy look of someone who really wasn’t there. Then he shook his head and rubbed his face. “Just–dreams.”
He looked at her. “YOu don’t know when to stop pushing.”
“I’m trying to understand.”
Heddwyn took another drink before he answered. “Yes, Bad dreams. Things I wish I could have forgotten long ago”
Jacey held his eyes, wishing he would continue.
He sighed again and glanced down. “I only joined the army out of revenge. My father said that he didn’t need my help that day, since the traders didn’t come as much that year due to the recent attacks for a war yet declared. So I went into the woods to be alone for a while. I headed back when I heard the horns and the smoke. Only….” He paused and shook his head. “They killed everyone. Men, women, children. All four of my siblings. Just… gone.” He shuddered and Jacey caught the reflection of tears staining his face. “I joined the army the next day, told EVa, and went into training.”
Quietly, Jacey set the cup of tea aside and moved towards him. She put her arms around him and gently began to brush back the hair around his ear. He leaned his head against her chest and shuddered.
“I can’t forget it, Jacey. I just can’t.”
Jacey wrapped an arm around him and held him, not even sure what to say. He took an arm and wrapped it around her, pulling her close. They stayed like that for a long time, Jacey doing as best as she could to comfort him, though against that type of grief she felt miserably inadequate.
Quite abruptly, Heddwyn pushed himself up and shook his head. “I’m fine.”
Jacey moved back and picked up her cup of cooled tea.
“I’d rather not think about it.”
Heddwyn picked up his knife and glanced at the reflection of the light from the fireplace off of it. “It is strange though.” He glanced at her. “I haven’t had one for several months.”
Jacey looked at him. “Why is that… significant?”
“I’m not sure. I never thought that perhaps things inside me might change because I married.” He put aside the knife and looked at her. “I never particularly wished to.”
She blinked and searched his face. “Then why did you?”
His ears reddened slightly. “To be quite honest, because I did not wish to marry Lady Cynthia.”
Jacey raised her eyebrows.
“Although I did not wish to be married ever, there was too much pressure for me to. I knew that I needed to be able to watch out for whoever I did marry. Lady Cynthia would not have been able to tolerate half of what you did in the last two months.” He shifted a little. “Are you bothered by that?”
Jacey shook her head. “I knew you didn’t marry me out of any affection. It’s not like we could have had anything developed during two, small conversations. And I had none for you. Just an infatuation that came from too many stories from Targo traders.” She smiled faintly. “All told out of proportion.”
Jacey nodded. “We took a risk. I got lucky thus far. And I want you think you’re lucky too.”
Heddwyn raises his eyebrows. “What do you mean?’
“I mean–well, I just want to make you happy. Whenever I can. So perhaps you don’t see the world as so dark.”
“I–” He paused and took a slow drink. Jacey watched him, waiting for him to finish. “I didn’t realize I did that until now.”
Jacey leaned towards him. “I understand why. But it’s not good for you.”
Heddwyn nodded slowly and looked at her. His face seemed so much softer, like he had just forgotten the nightmare from moments before. Gently Jacey ran a hand along the side of his face, then leaned towards him and kissed him.
His grey eyes looked a little brighter when she pulled back. His rough, calloused hand brushed back her hair that fell over her shoulder.
“You are right, Jacey.”
“I am lucky to have you, even if I don’t realize it sometimes.”
“Oftentimes I think actually.”
He shook his head and rubbed her jawline gently with a thumb. “Oftentimes then, milady.”