Neither of us can remember when she started sleeping in my chambers, in my bed. Only that one night, a few months after I had freed her, she had slipped under the covers with nary a word, and curled up against my side. I remember that first night like a still photograph: Auburn hair spilling across the pillow, her bare leg over mine.
All we have done is sleep, with no compulsion for more. It’s comfortable. Comforting in its routine, despite the unusualness of her schedule; every night like clockwork Rhea comes, both our duties done for the day. She sleeps, wakes at 2am to draw or walk or get some air on the balcony, then comes to bed again. Sometimes I join her when she wakes. Sometimes we talk of what troubles us.
I have never questioned why she started to join my bed, and she has never explained. Neither of us has felt the need; it feels the most natural thing in the world. Even on hot nights, our combined body heat adding to the sweat on our skin, we lie pressed together.
It’s 2am. We’re both awake, this time, merely lying in bed. I’m savoring my last night with her, before having to leave for the Academy. Despite graduating years ago, most of us have been called back. An evil is coming; we’ve all felt it. And when the Academy headmaster’s sister turns up, long-presumed dead, claiming to have been buried in ice, we all know that the academy will be the center of it all. Again.
I’m showing her a picture from an older time, one of the few happy memories from the Academy, her chin tucked into my shoulder from behind. Then, with a suddenness that chills, she pulls away. I turn to follow, facing her as she lies on her back, staring at the ceiling.
“How long will you be gone?”
“I don’t know. There’s things we must learn, and relearn, if we’re going to be ready. Especially against an unseen force where we don’t know what to expect.”