Leia held an icy bottle to her chest, feeling lonely and a little uncomfortable.
The newspaper she worked for was throwing a party to celebrate the release of a milestone issue. She knew she should be happy, considering the fact that her story – one that she considered among the best she’d written in the five years she’d worked for the paper – made the front page. But she found herself lost in a sea of people she either barely knew or didn’t know at all, and within minutes, she’d taken a drink and all but glued herself to the wall.
Leia invited all of her friends to the party, but given the nature of their jobs, the majority of them were too busy to come. They sent their best wishes and assured her that they would all buy copies of the newspaper (Jude even promised that he was going to hang the cut-out of her story up in his office), but somehow it just wasn’t the same as having them all here.
She took a sip from her bottle – only a soda for now – and knew she was being selfish, but she couldn’t help it. She was proud of herself and wanted to share it with someone she cared about.
She was going to exchange the stupid soda for a beer when she saw a familiar face standing at the entrance.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” Milla said, brushing a hand through her golden hair – it was ruffled, but, as always, perfect in its disarray. “I was sorting something out in the Spirit Realm.”
Of all her friends, Leia was absolutely sure that Milla would be the busiest. But to see the regal Lord of Spirits standing there, smiling back at her – it made her a little weak in the knees.
“N-No, it’s totally fine!” Leia said, spluttering, when she realized she hadn’t responded. “Come on in. There are tons of great hors d'oeuvres.”
Milla’s eyes lit up. “Ooh, sounds great. And desserts, right?”
“It wouldn’t be a party without them.”
Leia introduced Milla to a few of her colleagues while she piled up several plates of food – most of them were either just as awestruck by her as Leia was when they first met, or they were concerned with the amount of food she was taking for herself. But Milla didn’t care what they thought – she never did – so Leia didn’t let herself be bothered either.
They found a quiet table out on the balcony. Milla set her plates down and put a finger to her chin as she looked over each one.
“Wow, I don’t know where to start,” she said. “Whoever ordered all of this has good taste. There’s a great variety.”
Leia snorted. “What are you, a connoisseur now?”
“I like to think so.”
Milla finally settled on a chicken leg and took a huge bite. Leia helped herself to a pink macaroon.
“Thanks for coming,” she said, nibbling a corner. “I thought you’d be way too busy with Spirit Realm stuff.”
“Everything’s been going well lately,” Milla said once she’d finished chewing. “Muzét has been a big help too.”
“That’s good. I haven’t heard from her very much these days.”
“She doesn’t have a phone of her own, so it’s hard to get ahold of her if you’re human.”
Leia’s eyes widened. “Do phones get service up in the Spirit Realm?”
“No, but I’ve made a habit of coming down to Rieze Maxia every few days to check my messages. Jude would have a heart attack if I didn’t. That’s how I got your invite.”
“Well, like I said… It means a lot that you took the time to come see me.”
“You’re a dear friend, Leia. Of course I’d make time. It’s no trouble at all.”
Leia rested her chin in her hands as Milla scooped up a piece of apple pie. The look on her face said it tasted just as divine as it smelled.
“Here, try some of this,” Milla said, holding out the fork. Leia opened her mouth – and stopped, blushing.
“Sorry,” she said, reaching for the fork, “let me-”
“No, no.” Milla pushed it closer to her lips. “Try it.”
Leia thought her face must be beet-red, but she still leaned forward and took a bite.
“Mm. That is good.”
“There. I knew that would cheer you up.”
“Cheer me up?”
“You looked down when I got here. Is something bothering you?”
“No, I was just…thinking.” Leia lowered her head. “I was being petty.”
“I’m sure the others wanted very much to come.”
“I know that! I was just… It gets a bit lonely here in the city sometimes, you know? Especially since Ludger…isn’t here anymore.”
Milla’s frown was sympathetic. “I know. The Spirit Realm can be like that sometimes, even with the Summon Spirits for company.”
“I’m sorry. I must sound so stupid.”
“Not at all. Oh-”
Milla reached out and wiped something from Leia’s chin. She sat back with a huge piece of pie crust on her finger.
Leia huffed. “Oh great, was I sitting there with that on my face the whole time? I was trying to be serious!”
“Just for a little bit,” Milla said with a laugh. “It’s okay. You’re adorable when you’re flustered.”
The flush returned to Leia’s cheeks in full force. “I’m- Huh?”
Milla’s smile was coy. She twirled her fork between her fingers and took another stab at her pie.
“O-Oh, well.” Leia shuffled, unsure of how to respond. Milla, of all people – just called her adorable? How could she say that when she was probably the most gorgeous person in the room? In Rieze Maxia?!
“I mean, I’m just…me,” Leia finished, lamely.
“Exactly. Don’t sell yourself short, Leia. Haven’t I told you something like that before?”
“So.” She took the rest of Leia’s pink macaroon and popped it in her mouth. “There you go.”
“But I mean, compared to you-”
“Don’t do that. Come on, Leia – what else can I say? How am I going to convince you that you’re a beautiful, talented young woman? You’re on the front page of the newspaper they’re celebrating, right? You should be proud of yourself. I know I am.”
“I am! And thank you,” Leia added. “I’m working on my confidence. It’s hard. I just don’t feel like I’m… you know…”
She gestured with her hands, unsure.
Milla abandoned her food and leaned forward on her elbows.
“Would it help if I told you that the Lord of Spirits is very much enamored with you?”
“The Lord of Spirits is…?”
Milla closed the gap between them and kissed her.
Leia’s first impression was how (cliché as it was) soft and warm Milla’s lips were. Her right hand brushed against Leia’s cheek, gentle and reassuring. Leia closed her eyes, lost in the moment-
And Milla pulled away, her grin wider than it had been before, but just as mischievous.
“Did that help?” she asked, head tilted to the side so her gold hair fell over her shoulder.
Leia was speechless. But only for a second.
“I don’t know,” she said, mirroring Milla’s smile. “I think you’re going to need to try it again.”