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An Instant of Understanding

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Dunstan had once hoped, although never truly expected, that he would see her again. He focused on Tristan instead, even though every day seemed to bring another reminder of Una. His laugh, his smile... Especially his smile. Truly, he was his mother's son. And yet...

Here they were, the both of them.

He was so distracted by the simple reality of seeing her again that he was perhaps not paying as much attention to the conversation as he should have been. He was certainly trying, but after several words his mind seemed to need to loop back to where it started again. 'You're here! Here you are! Here we are! I'm not certain where to even start to–'

While his mind wandered, Una's was apparently getting other ideas.

“You will return, then.”

The statement took him by surprise. Here they were, on a fresh crisp night, on a terrace overlooking all of Stormhold, and Una spoke of leaving. Of all the suggestions she could have made, there were few he'd find more ludicrous. Why should he leave now?

“I will... what?” For as bewildered as he felt, his confusion must have shown on his face.

Una's brow crinkled a bit. Her lips pursed. Considering, perhaps. Or calculating, more likely. Her quick mind was hard to miss, even under the circumstances of their first meeting. It was her eyes, Dunstan decided, while waiting for her to speak. There was so much going on behind her eyes.

“You'll return to Wall. ...Your side of Wall.”

She was beautiful... a bit sad; but also serene. A bit hopeful? Woe to any man that thought the Lady Una simple and easily read. He turned to face her fully, reached for her hands. She turned her palms up towards his, twined their fingers together.

“Why should I do that?”

“You... you don't want...?” And then it was her turn to be confused. Endearingly confused, he would admit, and all the more so for how rarely it would happen.

“Want to return to my lonely, empty house in my boring, mundane village?”

Una blinked, and then freed her hands from his – so that she could step forward and lean her head on his shoulder. Dunstan would have thought he was well past it, but in that moment he felt the very same thrill he had the night they first met. Her fingers slid up his back to toy with the hair at the nape of his neck.

“Lonely and boring, is it?”

He stroked idly over the fabric of her gown at the small of her back, and leaned his cheek against her curls.

“Stormhold is a strange and perilous place, it's true. But the scenery is... breathtaking, and the company is... beyond compare.”

He leaned back so that he could look her in the eye, and gave her a small, hesitant smile. That was good, right? She took a breath... And then the corners of her lips turned up. He exhaled a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.

Una leaned into him again, lightly running her fingers up and down his spine.

“The last time we did this,” she murmured into his ear, her voice warm, “I remember a lot more stammering.”

“Well. I've had a lot of time to think about what I might say.”

This seemed to give her pause. She stepped back; her hands resting lightly on his shoulders, her expression guarded and unreadable.

“And did you?”

He reached up, slid his hands along her arms, and took her hands in his. “Every night.”

It has often been said that love is an adventure. Love is also a peculiar thing, and it has a peculiar way of turning moments and admissions that would otherwise be trivial and forgettable into yawning chasms of uncertainty, at the edges of which the would-be lovers perch and wonder if that terrible, chest-constricting vertigo is affecting only them, or their opposite as well. The trick of love – and never has there been anything in the history of the universe or even in the history of Faerie more skilled in its trickery – is to find an adventuring partner with which these moments become not terrifying, but exhilarating.

Una and Dunstan were lucky enough to find such a partner in each other. As the moment stretched out between them, each reveled not only in the stomach-dropping thrill, but also in the surety that there wouldn't be a sudden, painful stop awaiting them when it was over.

And so they let it stretch, savoring it precisely because they had the luxury of certainty that something good awaited them at the end. Her eyes sparkled, bright and merry in the starlight. His thumbs brushed over the back of her hands. The silence and stillness enveloped them, everything important in the world condensed, just for now, into this one precious instant of understanding.

“I am glad,” Una whispered into the quiet night between them, “to have made such a strong impression.”

She stepped forward, and him as well; and when their lips met it was made all the more heady and intoxicating for all the years between this time and the last. It wasn't quite like that first time. He didn't feel like a nervous, silly boy anymore, although he still felt just as giddy. Even more so, when Una's fingers tickled the hair at the back of his neck. He pulled her closer against him –

And that was when Tristan walked out onto this scene and began to stammer incoherently.

Dunstan had not realized until precisely that moment that one of the greatest pleasures of parenthood was horrifying your children by continuing to be in love. It was something he would have to do more often.

“F-F-Father,” Tristan laughed nervously. “Oh, and mother too. What were you – No. No, nevermind, no. I'd prefer you not–“

Yvaine – a star, of all things; what wonders the universe held – rescued Tristan by gliding over and resting her hand on his arm. “They're almost ready to start.”

Una smiled at the pair, brilliantly, reassuringly. “We shan't keep them waiting.”

'No, we certainly shouldn't,' Dunstan thought as he offered Una his arm. After all, what was the length of one ceremony when they had all the time in the world?