“Sir, you forgot your snowpuffs.”
But the man already left, leaving his purchases in the counter and a confused shopkeeper.
Caltha was only about to pay when she grabbed the stranger’s box and rushed for the door.
From inside the shop, Sirius watched as she caught up to the man. She blocked his path and began to talk. He could only hear the faint sound of her voice but not what she said.
Giving the stranger his purchases, she smiled at him before rejoining Sirius inside.
Caltha paid her dues to the shopkeeper, marking their day outside to a nearing conclusion. Before stepping outside, Sirius’s scarf was back in place, covering half his face.
On the way back to Crolis’s, Sirius offered to take the box. Caltha jerked her hand away, slapped his, and told him not to bother.
“What did you say to that guy?” Sirius noticed a slight crease on the man’s brows when she spoke to him earlier. Like the stranger did not appreciate the reminder.
“Huh? Oh, the guy with the flawless face?” Caltha recalled. “I told him he might as well take it since he paid for it. You should have seen his face though. He looked like he was ready to burst.”
“Should’ve taken it with you, give Astrum two boxes.”
Caltha glared at him playfully, finding humor in an unacceptable idea. ”That sounds like something you’d definitely do.”
Smiling under the scarf, Sirius said nothing more.
But that smile vanished over a thought. The abrupt encounter with the man.
His voice sounded like everything strayed from danger, but the look on his face led straight to hell. There was something in his gaze that made Sirius’s alarm bells ring.
Instinct? Unease? No matter. When he felt that way, it was as though undisturbed wilderbeasts lay hidden in darkness. Flash them a light and they wreak havoc.
He pushed the thought aside and focused on the path ahead. To his companion.
They walked in silence. Almost as if everything that needed to be said had already been spoken. He looked to the sky and noticed how late the day had already beckoned through the auburn haze. There was a serenity in this moment that he found, in its own way, fulfilling.
How nice would life be if it was always like this. None of the potholes in the road that ruins a good journey.
In the distance, and moving closer, was the gate of Crolis’s two-storey house of steel.
He noticed Caltha’s steps slowed to a beat. The closer they got, the slower she walked, catching up to him until they walked side by side. She must be tired.
They stood behind the adjacent perimeter wall, avoiding the latticed gate in case some servant might catch her with him. The last thing this day needed was a report on Crolis's desk.
“So,” Caltha turned to face him, “this is it then.”
He waited for her to go inside.
Caltha was looking at the ground between them, the gap. Her gaze lifted, but he did not catch it. Hers rested on the scarf that concealed his face.
“I remember when I gave that,” she said.
“Seven years ago.”
She smiled. “I’m surprised you still get the years right.”
And then nothing. How do you end a casual conversation tactfully anyway?
Not knowing if that needed a reply, silence was the only answer he could give.
When awkwardness began to creep in, he looked to the side. “I should go.”
Caltha nodded as if in defeat. “Thanks for today.”
She headed for the entrance.
The image of her walking away blew a waiting to break its ground, urging him to take a step. It introduced him to a path that led to the scent of witheroses and desert lilies. To an atmosphere he knew.
When she disappeared inside, he climbed over the wall. One of the two balconies on the second floor invited him to get over his head. He grabbed the ledge and pulled himself up to wait for one known presence.
Pulling his scarf down, he breathed in the welcoming scent of flowers and rusty air.
Moments later, the door to Caltha’s room opened and allowed her inside. He assumed she’d already given the treats to Astrum since it was absent. She closed the door and turned around. She froze in place when she caught sight of him sitting on the balcony ledge.
“I forgot something,” Sirius said.
Caltha blinked her gaze away from him. Then blinked back at him. “Y-yes?”
He jumped off the ledge and walked toward her, a walk that rendered no obstacle. With purpose. He didn’t know how this was going to work, but he decided to take a dip anyway.
His hands reached for her cheeks and drew her close.
Caltha took a clumsy step back, but was met with the door behind her, keeping her in place. She gasped which immediately died when his lips clamped it down to silence. And the only sensation that overruled everything else was him.
He must have thought it a dream of velvet silk when their lips touched. As if hers were a bounce of rosy tint begging to be kissed for a long time.
She responded willingly.
There was a heated need and a torturous intensity in such a small term that defined desire. Caltha wondered what it took for him to finally realize that.
The space that was between them moments ago closed to a tight seam. She crushed those barriers when she held his shirt to draw him ever closer.
The taste of him danced against hers. Slowly and knowingly, familiarity was established between them. She begged to let it last longer.
With a hunger in this kiss, they made this moment their own.
A bell tolled, resonating soundly for everyone to hear. It marked the end of the conclave. Which also separated the subsiding heat that this brief passion had shared.
His eyes were on her, and so were hers. Searching. But the bells signified the return of her supervisory borders, and a duty that he had to perform. Which meant he had to let go despite having her hands on top of his while he held her cheeks.
He lowered his forehead so it touched hers. “I have to go. For real this time.”
Her hands wouldn’t let go. If anything, she seemed to tighten her hold.
If things were different, if things were in their favor, perhaps he would allow that.
In the end, and without much of a choice, Caltha nodded as she let him go with a hesitant voice. “Okay.”
As he withdrew his hands, Sirius took a step back. Then another. He found himself on the balcony once again. Before he went off, he looked back at her. She was in the same spot where he left her.
A subtle smile broke on her face as she waved at him. Take care.
He could take a hundred images of that and store it in the locker of memories. It was, important as it appeared, something worth keeping.