With every breath I feel lighter, the City with all the expectations it holds now so far away, a continent away, I am separated from the chains that bind me by an ocean, the ocean which I can see, smell, the ocean that sends the breeze to tangle my hair, whipping it into strands, coating it with salty dampness. Going native has never been a pleasant thought before...
"Come, si'down, look over da sea." He drops effortlessly to the ground, patting the sand beside him and gesturing to the islands still visible in the twilight, "Dey be Darkspear islan', we get dem back one day."
I sit carefully on the warm sand. Not too close now... My feet are coated in the red dust of Durotar and I brush my soles vigorously, distracting myself by trying to remove every speck of dust, anything that will help me to try to ignore how close he is to me. I remember how his arm felt under my hand, the coiled strength contained in the muscles, the smooth warmth of his skin. My breath catches in my throat as I speak, "Get them back? From whom?"
"One of owah own. A witch doctah dat 'ad a few too many potion. Now 'e gone crazy." He speaks the words calmly, his manner pragmatic, but surely he must mind? The timbre of his voice changed slightly, barely ascertainable, but there none the less.
I gaze out at the islands, they look so peaceful from here. The urge to turn to him, to stroke his skin is so strong, I feel another thread of my restraint snap. I bite the inside of my lip, nearly hard enough to draw blood. Focus, empathise... I gather myself, the concentration required so great I nearly sigh aloud. "That's terrible, and the islands look so serene, so peaceful from here."
"It gone pass, it gone pass, 'e won' be der fa evva. We seen da rise an fall o'many great empire, darlin', We use ta it, eh? Ya young one don' understan' dat, darlin'."
"Why..." I trip on my words, my mouth and throat so dry for a moment I am unable to speak, "Why... why do you call me that?" My cheeks flare crimson as he turns his head to look at me.
"Call ya what?"
I tear my eyes away from his, surely he knows what he says? Even if I am, somehow, managing to sound unconcerned, he must see the heat in my cheeks, see my chest rising and falling with each shuddering intake of breath? Maybe he just wants to hear you say it... I swallow hard, unwilling to give him the satisfaction of spelling my innermost desires out to him. Time stretches and contracts around me. He remains silent, his gaze turned once again to the islands off the coast. "Darling," the fire leaps inside of me, flames surging higher, my voice a throaty whisper, barely audible over the drumming and the gentle crash of the waves, "You call me... darling."
"Well, ya see, dat be 'ow we speak, eh?"
I turn my head away, I will not afford him the satisfaction of seeing the colour drain from my face, knowing my eyes would betray me, the disappointment crashing through me with a physical force, the nausea I experienced on the airship paling in comparison to the sickness of this disappointment, this rejection. The women of his own kind, the women in Sen'Jin, their sensuality, the abandoness with which they dance. No wonder a pallid 'elf' holds no draw for him, I cannot compete...
"Ya sayin' ya not a darlin'?" His voice is rough, close to my ear.
I shiver, chills dance over my skin at his words. Maybe all is not lost yet... I cannot meet his eyes, I stare down at the sand. This is hopeless, I cannot even form a sentence, this desire, so strong... I wait but he does not speak again. I have to say something, this moment will not last for eternity, "Oh... I...."
He moves with fluid grace and speed, one moment he is beside me, the next in front of me. I sense, rather than see his hand reaching out towards me, a gentle pressure underneath my chin, my face raised by his fingers, turned up towards him, my eyes meeting his. "Ya see," he pauses, his breath whispers over my face, caressing me. As he exhales, I inhale, drawing the sweet scent of his breath into me, his very essence into mine. Whatever else happens I will always have this... The memory of a part of him merged with me... I feel him draw a longer breath, "I reckon der be some jungle in ya, if ya jus' let it out." I cannot tear my eyes away from his, again time seems to stretch, expand, I know not whether seconds or minutes are passing as I gaze at him. I could drown, I wouldn't care... The fact that my desire must now be written clearly over my face matters not, this moment is everything, everything else fades away and I let it. "Ya tink ya can do dat? Give in ta da jungle rhythm?"
"I want to... but I'm not sure I know how." Inwardly I curse myself, what if the chase, the pursuit isn't what he wants? Why was I raised to be so cool, so repressed, why can I not just abandon myself to this?
"It ain' about knowin', darlin', it be about feelin'. Ya tink too much." I continue to gaze at him, my eyes widening, the blood now running through my veins feels molten, the fire raging unchecked now. His eyes seem to change in response to mine, they flicker briefly, a moment where something untamed, unchecked, feral breaks through, then as quickly as it appears, it is gone. No...... I will not....
I jump up, sweeping my skirts over my arm. I must cool off now. The sand is hot against my feet. "I must just..."
"Jus' wha'?" His voice floats behind me as I run towards the sea, letting the waves wash over my feet, calming me, soothing me, cooling the fire. I will not let this happen. I will not allow him in. If I lose myself, if I let go, what then? Who will I be? He stands beside me, watching the ripples break over my feet, I wriggle my toes with pleasure, I have regained myself once more. "Dat be good, dat be good. Dis where I spen' ma time, eh? Dis place be cool an' 'ot at da same time. A bit like you, only da odda way roun'. Ya be too cool in ya 'ead, eh? Always tinkin, always tinkin."
I look at him again, caught off-guard once more. Casual, be casual, learn your lesson... I smile at him quickly, careful not to catch his eye again, "That's the worst compliment I have ever been paid!"
"Ai speak as ai fin', eh?"
"And you find me cold?"
"Part o'yas could do some warmin' up, I reckon." The roughness has returned to his voice.
Fel, no not again, please no... The heat rises in me again, sweeping up my neck, brushing my cheeks with its heat.
"Dance fa me now. Der ain' nobody else ta see... Ya can do what ya wan'." I shake my head despairingly; how can I ever hope to recreate what I saw in the village? "Jus' do what be right fa you. Stop worryin' about what otha people tink about, jus' dance."
I think I might need a little help..." my voice is breathless, as I surrender once more to the beating of my heart.
"Ai tell ya what. I go wait by da trees. Ya dance on ya own fa a while."
"No!... I mean... please stay. Maybe we could walk a little further," I gesture down the beach anything to put some distance between the village and myself. " Down the beach I mean, I would feel less conspic-"
His voice interrupts me, "Sure - we can go as far as ya wan', darlin'."
Heat floods through me, I daren't look at him. How did he mean that...?
I feel his hand on the small of my back, my skin flares at his touch, the thin cotton of my robe may as well not have been there. I walk on, the sand soft under my bare feet, his hand motionless but firm, guiding me forward, the village recedes into the distance, the drumming faint now, the rhythm pulsing through me regardless of how audible the actual beat is. I feel his hand drop from my back, he has stopped walking. "Under dis tree, maybe?"
He settles himself under the tree and looks at me, his eyes almost hungry. "Now, darlin'... now ya dance fa me." His voice is deep, almost a growl. That was not a request...
I close my eyes, letting the faint beat of the drums guide me, merging with the beat of my heart, until I cannot separate the two. Can I do this? Can I dance here and now... dance on this beach for him? Is this who I want to be? Slowly I begin to sway my hips. Don't try to be someone else... Just let it all go... I move faster, the music within me now, as I relax it becomes easier, I keep my eyes closed and allow myself to be guided by feelings, not thoughts. This is wanton enough without seeing him watching me... My eyes snap open, his eyes are fixed to me, barely blinking, "Dat's da spirit." Careful to keep a distance from he he begins to dance again, the freedom afforded by the miles of sand affording his movements additional range. His dance, so impressive in the City takes on a new meaning here, the moonlight catching his skin, the faint shadows it permits, flowing round him, melding, merging, the movements simultaneously sinuous and strong. I want him to reach for me, to feel the strength in that body, to be crushed against him, pinioned, unable to move.
The desire for him hits me so intensely my legs will barely support me. I collapse onto the sand, breathless with desire and exertion, my chest heaves, my skin glowing in the moonlight.
"Dat's better, eh?"
"That was certainly something."
"Ya dance an' notin' bad 'appen."
I fan myself with my hands, trying to pass off the sheen of my skin and the glow as side effects of dancing, "Other than a certain rise in temperature."
"Dat be a good ting. Warm ya up a little."
I gulp, "You still find me cold?"
"Ya gettin' der, But ya got ta let go a lil' more before ya can be 'ot."
Fel, fel, fel! What else can I do? How much of a fool of myself am I prepared to make? Realisation kicks me swiftly, something has changed, something is missing. Before I can fully process the thought, I have spoken, "When I asked you why you called me... that... I did not mean for you to stop." The risk is worth it surely? I smile at him from beneath my eyelashes.
He smiles back at me, "Stop wid what?"
"I asked you... you called me..." Unable to bear it, I trail off. My cheeks burn again, desire still, but mixed with the hot flush of humiliation. How many times will he reject me? I turn and face the sea again, blinking rapidly. Surely he will understand, he will speak, will seek to reassure me. The waves continue to crash against the shore, the only noise discernible now other than the shallow intake of my breath. Again, the sensation of time stretching floods through me. I will not break this silence. Time hangs, crystallised into an eternity. Has he left?
When I hear him move behind me, the relief almost overwhelms me. "Go on, yas can say it. It's only a word, eh?"
"Darling..." That is it, the last shred of my resolve, my dignity dissolved, "Darling... you called me that, and then you stopped."
"Did I now?" the smile in his voice is unmistakable. Is he enjoying this?
"Yes." My voice is breathless, I cannot manage more than that one word.
"Ya wan' me ta call ya darlin' again?"
He wants too much. How much further will he try to push me? How much further am I willing to be pushed? I toss my tangled hair over my shoulder, feeling it caress my back. I raise one shoulder my back to him still, trying communicate how little it matters to me. Liar... I acquiesce, and turn around slowly to face him again. I will not look at him...
"Ya can say it i' ya wan', ain' no machine listenin' in 'ere,"
Time ceases to matter, my entire being attuned only to this moment, to him. I raise my eyes slowly to meet his, "Yes..." I whisper, all idea of being in control long gone, "Yes."
"We set ya free yet, eh darlin'?" He leans into me, his breath caressing me once more. My eyes flutter shut feeling his breath warm on my neck, my bare shoulders. "What else ya wan', eh?" A sigh escapes from my lips before I can contain it. His breath continues to bathe me with its warmth, a lovers promise, fleeting, tantalising, exquisite. This time he can come to me, two can play this game after all... I inhale gently, tasting his breath in my mouth again, "Want...? I am not accustomed to discussing my... wants."
"Really? I tink ya sayin it pretty clear, ya jus' ain' usin' words." He leans in closer still. Close enough to kiss... In his eyes I catch another glimpse of the savage, the raptor that lurks below, patiently biding its time. My lips part expectantly. Finally. And I'm ready for this... so ready... My eyes hold his, my lips remain parted. Surely now...? He moves fractionally back, just enough, making it apparent that anything I want, I will need to reach for. My eyes hold his still. How can he not read what is written in them? He raises one eyebrow slightly, confirming what I had thought. No. No I will not. I will be taken, be prey, I will not be the hunter. I can also... retreat.
I move back slightly, mirroring his movement. Last chance... please... oh Fates please don't do this to me! But he does not move.
"I... I should be leaving..." I despise the crack in my voice, the weakness glaringly apparent.
He shrugs, unconcerned, "Sure ting, darlin', dis beach still be 'ere when ya get back, eh?"
"And you...?" Fel! My humiliation is now complete, how could this get worse? When he speaks his words cut through me. "Maybe, maybe. I wander aroun' but ya may fin' me." These words, this night, this beach has meant nothing to him. This is all me, this is a connection I have imagined into being. I stand up swiftly, I will leave now, I will return to my City. Foolish Sin'Dorei, what have you done to yourself? Consider this your just desserts for consorting outside your own kind.
"Ya 'ave a good evenin' now, ya 'ear? Maybe ya sleep better fa all dat dancin'?"
I must speak, I must say something. My voice is barely recognisable to my ears, "Maybe I will... Thank you for showing me..." I break off, no more words will come now, my eyes prickle warningly. Leave now!
"Sweet dreams, eh?" His voice is back to its melodic tone, proof as if I need further, that this was a pleasant way to spend an evening, nothing more, nothing less.
I walked towards the sound of the village drums, pausing only to trail my fingers over his arm briefly as I passed him. He stood still, staring out towards the islands again, lost in thought, I'm not sure if he even felt my touch. As soon as I was able to think clearly enough, I breathed the incantation that would return my to my City. As I felt the magic build inside me I turned to take one last glance at the beach, the shore, but the islands were not visible from my vantage point. A moment of nothingness, then I was back in the City. I ran through the inn, uncaring how I must appear, my feet covered in sand, my hair a wild mane of tangles and salt, my face streaked with tears; shoulders heaving, heart beating painfully, I ran to the fountain at the entrance to the Court. I looked into the water, at the coins that lay at the bottom of the pool. Wishes are only for children... My hand went to my purse, reached for a coin, stroked its smooth surface. But what if they aren't? The coin flew into the air, shimmering briefly in the lamp light then sank to the bottom of the pool, joining the others, causing barely a ripple in the water.