To Be Happy
She came to his tent again that night. She did not do so every night. When they were on Greldik's ship going to and from Nyissa, she never came to his sleeping quarters. Though he had been sharing with a number of sailors there. It made sense she did not come to him when others were around.
But when they had their campsites in the woods, she came to him at night on occasion. Sometimes she would leave her own tent to join him when he was keeping watch. They would talk softly, sometimes. But usually they would say nothing at all. She would fold herself into his embrace and breathe in deeply and sigh happily. He thought it was happily, at least. He hoped it was happily.
Tonight, though, Mistress Pol entered Durnik's tend. He greeted her softly, only saying a quiet, "Hello."
"You were very good with Ce'Nedra this evening," she said, lying down beside him as she always did when she came to his tent like this.
Durnik did not really want to talk about that. He was glad that he had done well, in her eyes, that his attempt to set the little princess straight in the way she treated Garion was the correct thing to do. He had worried he had overstepped with that with the assumption that she and Garion might marry one day. But then Ce'Nedra had told him about her duty to marry whoever she was told to, simply because her station provided political advantages to her family. She would have no choice in marriage. And Durnik had felt quite sick at the very prospect.
"She was good with you, too," Mistress Pol added, resting her hand on top of his chest.
"Oh?" he responded, worried that she might feel the way his heart skipped in his embarrassment.
"I forget, sometimes, that Sendaria kept you so sheltered. I adore your Sendarian sensibility and practical nature," she assured him, reaching up to brush his hair from his face. "But the world outside Sendaria is very different."
"Yes, I've noticed." Durnik hoped he did not sound too bitter, for he did not feel bitter. He was bewildered, more often than not.
She smiled softly, though he could only see her through the shadowy darkness. "Durnik, why did you never marry?" she asked.
That was an entirely different conversation, though he supposed it was a similar topic. He felt himself blush and was thankful that the darkness hid it. "I was focused on my work. And I have always been shy around women." He had not really thought much about that before.
"You've never been shy around me?"
"I have," he disagreed. "But you are very different."
She hummed knowingly. Obviously she knew that she was different. "I never really knew why you were unmarried when I first came to Faldor's farm when Garion was a baby."
"I was young," he explained.
"Not too young," she countered. "You were about the age when marriage might have been expected."
"I had not yet met anyone I fell in love with."
He continued, "And after I met you, it would have been cruel to wed any woman when I loved another." Never before had he said so close to plainly that he loved her. He would tell her properly one day, but now was not the time. And besides, she knew very well how he felt about her.
"Durnik…" she warned.
"I know," he said, cutting off her protest. "I know I don't understand everything about who you are and what you are duty-bound to do, but I know what it means. And I would never presume to be a hindrance. All I want is to be near you, to help you however I can, to…to try and make you happy. Even with everything else."
She leaned in and pressed her lips to his. Their first kiss had been quick, had been a way for her to quiet him and tell him what she felt without having to say those words. But this kiss was very different. It lingered. It was soft and yet powerful. Her hands rested on his cheeks and he could not help wrapping his arms around her. She continued to kiss him and he kissed her right back. But eventually she pulled away from him and he forced himself to let her. And she whispered, "You are the best of men, Durnik, and I would be lost without you."
He felt a bit dazed, but he was smiling. She was still halfway lying on top of him and his arms were still around her beautiful body. "Will you stay?" he asked boldly.
"Yes," she replied. "I'd like that very much."
She settled down to get comfortable lying in the tent with him. Durnik turned his head to brush his lips on her forehead. He felt her sigh happily. He knew it was happily, this time. And they fell asleep just like that.