Updated: May 15, 2021
Loneliness had always been a close companion of Rúna's. It had first made itself known when Rúna was a child, as Rúna began to realize she was different from other young girls her age. Her differences made it hard for her to make friends. She also learned very quickly that her differences were more likely to earn ridicule than praise. So, while she was kind, Rúna was also wary.
She carried her loneliness and wariness with her like two twin stones slung about her neck. They weighed her down. Her every action, decision, step was inhibited by the weight. She carried them with her when she left home to seek her fortune as a mercenary. She carried them with her when she made a home on the outskirts of the village, away from prying eyes. She carried them with her with she cared for a three-legged dog and taught a small boy how to fish. She carried them with her when she made the unpopular decision to take up arms against her people during the Battle of Clontarf, fighting with the Gaelic High King Brian Boru to help the Gaels win their independence against Norse invaders.
She was tired of loneliness.
She was tired of wariness.
So, when on that first day in the cove with Fiadh, she discovered that the weight around her neck felt much lighter, there was nothing in the world that would stop her from returning to that place to spend more time with the strangely wonderful Selkie woman she began to call her friend.
It was addictive, the feeling of acceptance she felt in Fiadh's presence. When those dark eyes locked on her and Fiadh listened to her stories like everything that Rúna had to say was worth hearing, the warmth in Rúna's chest grew. When Rúna first made the Selkie woman laugh, and that lilting, musical sound tripped out over her lips, Rúna knew she had to hear it again. She carefully cultivated a knack for making Fiadh laugh as often as possible.
Their days together grew longer. A couple stolen hours here and there turned into several hours at a time and then into full days until they were seated a few hands-width apart by the fire, sharing a meal and enjoying one another's company. Rúna treasured their time together. And, when apart, her heart always tugged her back to their shore, their cove as soon as she was able to return. Love had crept up on her quietly. But Rúna would never bind Fiadh to a shore she didn't belong to. Fiadh belonged to herself and to the sea that she loved beyond measure. Rúna couldn't, wouldn't compete. She'd simply cherish the time they had together.
It was on a late-summer evening like this that everything between them shifted. The fire popped cheerfully. The interior of the cove bathed in a warm glow.
Fiadh sat cross-legged behind Rúna, braiding soft yellow elderflowers into her hair. Rúna's every nerve ending was alight and focused on Fiadh's place behind her. The gentle tug and pull of Fiadh's nimble fingers through her hair and across her scalp, over and over again felt blissful. Fiadh's fingertips leaving fiery trails in their wake. The selkie quietly hummed a haunting melody behind her. A soft tickle of breath caressed Rúna's neck with Fiadh's every exhale. Fiadh's knee, where it was folded in front of her, pressed gently into Rúna's back. The point of contact fanning the warmth in Rúna's chest into a blaze.
Rúna sat stiffly, trying to hide her racing heart, as she worried about causing Fiadh discomfort. She wet her lips and squeezed her eyes shut as she tried to regulate her breathing. The hands in her hair stilled. Then, she felt careful fingertips skim the shell of her ear.
Rúna's traitorous breath hitched at the unexpected intimacy of the gesture and, presumably, revealing her distress.
"Rúna?" It was a whisper, layered in concern, and tugging at Rúna's heart. It was also right beside her ear. Rúna clenched her jaw and said nothing, not trusting her voice in the onslaught of sensation.
Then those careful fingertips were on her jawline, firmly, yet gently guiding Rúna's eyes to meet her own.
Lord. Fiadh was close. All the air pulled from Rúna's lungs at her nearness. A beauty mark placed just above the left corner of the selkie's mouth called to her like a siren's song. She could make out the starburst patterns of gold and green in her brown eyes. She was beautiful. Fiadh was clever, funny, and thoughtful. She had a way of setting Runa's world right with just a look, a gentle touch.
Rúna swallowed. Hard. The space between them, sparse though it was, felt thick with everything left unsaid between them. Fiadh studied her, like she did sometimes, with such an intense focus that Rúna worried she'd give herself a headache.
Rúna watched Fiadh's tongue dart out to wet her lips, her eyes dipping down for the most fleeting of seconds to rest on Rúna's lips, before returning again to meet her gaze.
"Rúna," she said again, this time more firmly, with purpose.
"May I kiss you...?"
"Yes," Rúna all but breathed.
And then, there was a puff of breath on her mouth, followed by the soft press of Fiadh's smile to Rúna's lips. Smile to smile, their noses bumped, resulting in a quiet laugh shared between them. Rúna turned fully to face Fiadh and tilted her head just so to adjust, soft lips gliding effortlessly then. The selkie woman cupped Rúna's face in her palms, thumbs gliding over her cheekbones. It was a quiet, tender exchange, until Fiadh caught Rúna's lower lip between her teeth and tugged. Breath hitched. Mouths opened. Someone, Rúna wasn't sure which one of them, let out a needy whimper. Rúna's hands fisted in the fabric of Fiadh's summer tunic and when Rúna finally pulled away to catch her breath, Fiadh chased her lips.
Lost in one another, neither of them noticed, that for just a moment, they weren't entirely alone on that rocky shore that fateful summer night.
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