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Warmth

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Night had fallen fast. The sun seemed to leave the sky like one might blow out a candle, leaving the hills and forests below wrapped in a darkness that might at one time had seemed scary to you. The noises that had once made you jump are now a comfort, the flicker of shadows little more than the shift of animals who live their lives outside of the light of day.

It had been terrifying to you at one time, but darkness means little more than as a time to rest and recuperate from the day’s events. 

“I think it’s going to get really cold tonight,” you hear Hak say from across the campfire, his tone low and gentle. “Do we have enough blankets for all of us?”

“The issue isn’t if we have enough blankets,” Yoon corrects, poking at the fire with a stick. “We don’t have enough dry blankets to go around, not after that stunt with the river today.”

You can already feel Kija tense as he sits beside you. He had been the one carrying the bedrolls when he slipped into the water; though the river had not been a danger in itself, many of the blankets were still soaked and would do little use to keep anyone warm.

“It’s not your fault,” you murmur gently, resting a hand on the white dragon’s arm. It leaves him after a few seconds, drifting from his form like a slow, even breath. “We’ll just have to share is all, I don’t see an issue with that.”

You rub your hand over Kija’s arm for a moment longer before turning your eyes towards Yoon, quirking a brow when your gazes meet.

“How many are there that we can use tonight?”

“Only three--and one is the smaller blanket that can’t really be shared.”

You let out a hum as your mind goes to work, trying to work out the best usage without leaving someone out in the cold night air. Having to sleep in the cold is an experience you’ve had to endure before in the early days of your travels with Hak, so you want to avoid leaving anyone to a similar fate--it’s a guarantee that they’ll get next-to-no sleep.

A soft breeze caresses your cheek and slips into the trees above, making the leaves shift and whisper among themselves. A reminder, or perhaps a warning, and it makes you think for a few seconds longer.

“I think...” you start with a hand to your chin and finger tapping lightly at your lips. “Yoon, you should take the smaller blanket for yourself. You’re the only one who can really use it anyway.”

“That’s fair,” he says, prodding at a piece of wood as it slowly burns down to smoldering ash. There’s a quirk of his tone as he sighs; you can practically feel the pessimistic curiosity in his words as the then asks, “How are you going to distribute the other two?”

“Obviously they’ll share one blanket with one of us,” Kija says, finally able to speak, though you can hear the softest tinge of guilt in his voice. “And whoever is left will simply have to decide who sleeps without a blanket tonight. I...”

You feel his body tense up again.

“...I vote that I am one of them.” He sounds so guilty that it almost hurts--he is so very earnest about his mistakes that it’s nearly to the point of self-loathing. “It’s my fault that I let this happen in the first place, so that leaves-”

“No.”

All it takes is one word for Kija to fall silent--you didn’t mean for it to sound like a command, but yet it fills the air with all the same power. You can feel the eyes of the others on you from that one word alone, and you had said it only offhandedly, a mere reaction to Kija doing the thing that you find most endearing and aggravating about him at the same time.

You try to deflect the tension in the air with a rather sheepish smile, only then realizing how quickly they all deferred to you; Jae-Ha, Shin-Ah, Zeno--even Hak looked at you openly from across the campfire, his expression as if ready to follow whatever words that may fall next from your lips.

“Guys,” you say with one hand to your mouth, trying to stifle a laugh. “We can just all sleep together tonight.”

A beat of silence fills the air. It’s as if nobody else knows what to say, and it leaves you the only one making any noise--your laughter seems to carry far into the shadows of the dark woods around camp.

“My dear,” Jae-Ha says, sitting on the other side of Kija. “I don’t think that’s entirely appropriate for us to do-”

“You’re one to talk about being appropriate,” Hak deadpans. 

The glare exchanged over the top of the dying fire is amusing in its own right, but you’re grateful when Zeno’s voice finally pipes up.

“I think that’s a wonderful idea!”

The gold dragon always seems to radiate warmth wherever he goes and whenever he speaks--his optimism had been a welcome to the group from the day he joined, and continues to glue the other dragons together in even the roughest of moments. The man all but hops up onto his feet and stretches with a flourish, commanding the attention of the other dragons and Hak alike.

“Nobody would be left cold,” he says with a grin. “-and it’s not like one of us suggested the idea first. They can decide what’s appropriate or not. Besides-” you feel a soft flutter in your chest as Zeno’s gaze moves over you. “-I think we should all enjoy to hold you in our arms.”

Heat fills your face as not one of the others corrects him. They are all oddly silent, which is an oddity in itself, but it seems as if nobody wants to be the first to speak--the silence is affirmation enough. For as much as you want to prod a little into what Zeno means you also have no desire to make the others feel more awkward than they already do--

Which is likely why Yoon is the first to break the quiet air, standing up with a yawn that sounds just a touch overdone.

“Well, you guys can all fight about it without me, I’m going to bed.”

He leaves to get settled underneath one of the trees just as you start to get to your feet. Every second that passes without one of the dragons piping up against Zeno’s words leaves you more and more curious, but still you say nothing. Instead, you feel it better to go grab the two dry blankets in question--the other couple are still as soaked as they were just a few hours ago. It seems like it will take another day for them to be usable again, especially with how cold the nights have been getting in the northern lands of Kouka.

You return with the blankets over your arms. Hak and Shin-Ah are putting out what remains of the fire, but Zeno seems to have other plans than merely putting it out--sometime while you were grabbing the blankets he has procured a long stick, and he’s gently spreading the ashes and coals from the fire over a stretch of open earth.

“I think it will be best to set down one blanket beneath us,” the gold dragon says, covering the ash and coals with what loose earth he can dig up with the stick and his boots. “The ash from the fire stays hot for a very long time. If we cover it with dirt and the blankets, then sleep on top of that, we’ll be able to stay warm all night long!”

You’re not sure whether it’s his positivity or idea that tosses the others for a loop, but your equally amused and thankful regardless.

“I never thought of doing something like this, Zeno,” You say, helping him cover the last remnants of the dead fire. “This will definitely keep us all warm.”

You feel the eyes of Hak and the other dragons on you as you lay down the first blanket--it covers nearly all of the spot that had been prepared. When you finally kneel down and lay your hand over the cloth you’re utterly surprised. It feels so very warm to the touch, warm enough that you don’t hesitate to crawl onto the blanket and stretch out your limbs.

Zeno joins you with the enthusiasm you adore him for, quick to snuggle up on one side of your body, head tucked against your shoulder.

“Well?” you ask, gently lifting your head to glance over the others. “I said we were going to all sleep together right?”

They all look at you in turn, silent, but eventually either the awkwardness breaks or the sudden cold breeze of air pushes them into motion. It’s Kija, Jae-Ha, Shin-Ha and then finally Hak that join you on the blanket, finally wrapped up as best as can be done with six people. Though the second layer of cloth isn’t able to cover you all perfectly, the warm layers of ash and dirt below seem to make up for the rest, if not also the fact that you all soon find yourselves wrapped up in each other’s limbs.

“This is... nice,” Shin-Ah murmurs, only loud enough for the group to hear. His arms are wrapped around Jae-Ha’s waist, face maskless somewhere in the shifting and pressed between the green dragon’s shoulder blades. “....very warm.”

“I have to agree,” Kija says in a tone just as light. His head is tucked up against your other shoulder. “But are you sure this is....alright?”

You can only laugh at first. The innocence is endearing with Kija, a man who treasures his traditions and cares so much for the comfort of others--for you.

“Of course it is,” your face turns and hesitates for but a moment. A heartbeat. But eventually, you press soft lips to the top of the white dragon’s head. One of your hands is able to stroke through Jae-Ha’s hair, the other with fingertips playing softly over Hak’s cheek, as he’s taken the spot just behind Zeno.

They are all so close to you, all so warm; you can feel everyone huddled up together, limbs tangled and faces nuzzled in a warm pile of people you’ve grown to care about so deeply over the many months since leaving Kouka’s castle.

it’s perfect, in a way. Something in your heart sings to this, as if you’ve finally finished a puzzle you never realized was left forgotten. Though you had always felt safe with Hak and the dragons around you, never before had you felt so utterly complete until this moment.

Being with them, being close to them, holding them as tightly as they hold you--it feels like heaven.

“I don’t think I’d want to sleep any other way after this.”

Your words are but a whisper, but you feel each of your bed partners shift to snuggle closer to one another--as if in silent agreement.

And, slowly, each of you finally drift off to sleep. Though the wind is chilled and the night cold, never once do any of you want for warmth. The dragons curl around you and one another through it all, and for once you think even Hak is able to find some peace in slumber, not a nightmare to wake him.

You’re the last one to drift off. There is no worry in your mind nor discomfort keeping you awake; you simply take the extra time to look between each of your partners, to see them in a way so intimate that you hadn’t been able to before. How peaceful they all look, caught in each other’s arms--it’s something you want to commit to memory forever.

And only then, with a smile on your lips and a warmth in your heart, do you finally fall asleep.