Alyn never had trouble sleeping before.
When he lived in Wysteria, his thoughts were rarely plagued with concern. Even if something stressful was coming up, be it a ball, an evaluation, or a skirmish – he could fall asleep without worrying over it for hours on end.
So why do I have trouble now? Alyn’s eyes had adjusted to the dark long ago, the soft moonlight illuminating the small room and figure in bed with him. Something stirred in his heart each time she breathed, sleeping peacefully. A part of him could not believe she was there, alive and well. Back in Wysteria, the kingdom was caught up choosing a new princess elect, and handling the resignation of the captain of the Wysterian army. Leo told him that he wouldn’t be able to locate the princess – that she was dead. His nightmares said the same thing, troubling his rest.
And yet, he had found her. She lived a couple countries away in a little hamlet, where nobody asked too many questions and lived in peace. To them, she was just at tutor looking for work – taking her old roots and settling them into new soil. When he found her, she nearly slammed the door in his face, only stopped when he threw his arm inside, preventing it from closing. When she let him inside, he told her the truth, at how he could not go back to Wysteria ever again. And when he looked at her, sitting across the way, he saw that same stubborn princess who had left his side all those months ago. Her demands were simple: get a job, and stop calling her by a royal title.
It took him only two days to change his tune. Out of respect for their relationship and to support her, he got a job at the marquis’s manor, giving horseback lessons to his son and daughter after the former keeper was looking to retire. With that, he settled into the new routine.
But still, he could not sleep. Nightmares still crept into his dreams, forcing him to wake up. They told him horrible things: that if he did not prove himself, she would leave him. There were times he saw her dead, a dreadful voice telling him that the coffin at her funeral wasn’t empty. And sometimes, he felt as if his heart was physically being torn in two, his world being thrown into a spiral at the mere thought of losing her.
When he finally woke up, he had to catch his breath. He had to turn over and make sure she was still there. Sometimes, he would even clutch her hand, the warmth a stark contrast to how cold he felt. She was the only one for him, and he was the only one for her. He didn’t want to let her out of his sight ever again, in case she left.
That was his biggest fear – that he would fall asleep, and she would be gone the next morning, just like how she had left him the night she chose to renounce her royal title. At the realization, he clutched her hand even tighter.
He paled at the sound of her voice, quickly closing his eyes. He felt her stir, a hand coming to brush against his cheek.
“You’re not asleep.” He frowned at her curt tone. “See? I know you’re not. Open your eyes.”
He reluctantly did so, gazing up at her distressed features. He wanted nothing more than to kiss her worries away, saying that he was fine and she should not concern herself with his sleepless state.
“Are you having trouble falling asleep?” she asked quietly. He stayed silent, biting his lip. “Don’t lie to me.”
“... I might be.”
“This explains why you’re always up so early and don’t always come into bed with me…” She heaved a sigh, sitting up slowly. Alyn quickly followed, clinging to her arm. She turned back, frowning at him. “Alyn?”
He opened his mouth to beg - don’t go – but realized how selfish and childish it sounded. Biting back his words, Alyn glanced down, refusing to meet her eyes. “Nothing. Sorry.”
“What’s the matter?” She reached out, running her hand down his arm. “Tell me.”
Alyn is silent, and for a moment, it did not seem like he would answer her – until he took a deep breath.
“I fear falling asleep. Even if I want to, my body does not let me stay asleep. I have horrible nightmares, and I began to dread sleep after a while. You never notice that there are nights when I don’t even come to bed. I stay up reading or practicing my swordsmanship. I clean or I work on some of my projects. It’s lonely, but I make sure to check on you once and a while, just to make sure you’re still there. I don’t know why I have trouble sleeping like this.”
She watched him speak, clearly more distressed the longer he went on. As he finishes his explanation, she offered her opinion without hesitation.
“You probably have insomnia.”
Alyn took a moment to process the term. It was vaguely familiar, and he recalled all too quickly who he connected it to. He refused to dwell on the person who came to mind, pushing them away as she continued speaking.
“It’s probably because of how I left. This is my fault. Alyn, I’m so sorry.” She reached out, cupping his cheeks. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t… I never realized…” Tears prickled at the corners of her eyes, and Alyn quickly reached to brush them away.
“Hey, don’t go crying on me now. I’m fine. Maybe I had it coming and it’s just decided to show up now. Might run in the family.”
“No, I could have been better. This is my fault. I’m so sorry. I want to help you. How can I help?”
His only response was to pull her closer, pressing his head into her shoulder. She wrapped her arms about his torso, holding him tight. A shaking breath ghosted over her shoulder.
“Just let me hold you for a little while. Let me know that you’re still here. That you aren’t going to leave.”
“I won’t leave, Alyn. I’m still here. I won’t ever leave you again.”
“I know you aren’t going to leave. I know. I know.” His words repeated. He willed himself to believe their meaning. All the while, she rubbed soothing circles across his back, whispering her promises in return.
“I won’t ever leave you alone again, Alyn.”