Ephraim was woken from an admittedly poor sleep by Tana, who was knocking on the door surprisingly gently for the girl. Ephraim gave a dazed smile, and invited her in. Her lacy nightgown seemed a bit too skimpy for this time of year, but it wasn’t like it was the middle of winter, Ephraim wasn’t gonna begrudge it. Tana sat beside him on the bed, placing a hand on his chest.
“I… Would you mind if I slept with you?” Tana asked.
“Why not?” Ephraim responded, budging along to one side and waiting for Tana to fall beside him. Tana looked at him, something about the situation seemingly not clicking with her. Ephraim was baffled that there was a question at all, and certainly wasn’t sure how to help.
“I… I was thinking… o-only if you want to, of course… if we could perhaps… snuggle?” Tana stammered. Ephraim beamed.
“Had a nightmare, have you? It’s OK, it happens to the best of us. I was struggling with one myself before you showed up. We can fight them together, then?” Ephraim said. Tana giggled half-heartedly, pulling herself under the covers and up against him. Ephraim placed his hands firmly on her back, running one up and down comfortingly, while Tana’s hands seemed to be more exploratory, running along his chest as well as his back. Ephraim let this run for a few minutes before stopping his own hand.
“If it’s bothering you, I can stop,” Ephraim suggested.
“It’s not that, please keep going… I just… I was…” Tana muttered. Ephraim kissed her forehead.
“Listen, nightmares are nothing to be ashamed of. Would you care to share, perhaps?” Ephraim asked, looking into her eyes. Those wide, sapphire eyes were certainly distressed, but as Tana hmmed and erred, Ephraim started to wonder if perhaps he had misread, if it was something else bothering the darling girl…
“Ephraim… I’m not just a little girl to you, right?” Tana asked.
“Of course not. You’re Eirika’s best friend, you’re by her side thick as thieves. Between me, you, Eirika and L’Arachel, we’re unstoppable. If you’re a little girl, then I’m a young boy, and I like to think of myself as past that, for the most part,” Ephraim assured her.
“Good… Ephraim… I… I like you…” Tana said, and all her nerves caught her at once.
“I should hope so, dear. Things would be a touch uncomfortable between us and Eirika if you didn’t,” Ephraim said, though he was definitely sure he was missing what Tana was hinting at.
“No… I… I…” Tana said, her chest heaving against Ephraim’s. One of Ephraim’s hands pulled around, and clasped Tana’s dainty little hand in his own calloused one.
“I LOVE YOU!” Tana squeaked out, keeping her voice down surprisingly well considering. Tears came to Ephraim’s eyes, as Tana’s own face was overwhelmed with several emotions.
“There there, Tana… it’s all right… I could tell it was hard…” Ephraim muttered, stroking her face with his free hand, wiping her tears every now and then.
“I’ve loved you for years. I wanted to run away from Frelia and marry you, and then I’d have our sweet Eirika whenever I wanted and your strength to protect us… and then you grew… and you got so handsome… I… I can’t believe…” Tana confessed. Ephraim nodded.
“Lots of girls on the street say the same, I understand where you’re coming from,” Ephraim said.
“I knew it… if I ever had a chance, I waited too long…” Tana cried. Ephraim realised that, while he was still missing something, he knew he should step in here.
“Now, now, hold up. I don’t remember saying I didn’t love you back,” Ephraim said. Tana’s tears stopped flowing, and her eyes widened, bidding him to go on.
“...Well, I don’t think I like you the same way you like me. I don’t look at your body and feel my heart race. But considering the number of girls I’ve looked at, across all the places we’ve been, you’d think I’d have found one that did by now,” Ephraim told her.
“I… I don’t understand…” Tana said.
“That makes two of us. Tana, while I might not like your body, I do like you. You’re a jewel beyond price, an ally to both me and my sister for years gone by and years to come. I think of one day marrying a girl and I see your face. It’s either you I marry or you I hurt by marrying. I’d love to be your husband. And one day, perhaps I’ll understand how you look at me… and perhaps I’ll look at you like that in turn,” Ephraim explained. Tana was crying again, but she smiled as she leaned in and kissed him. Ephraim let her do as she wished, and smiled reassuringly at her when she broke away.
“Do you want to, er…” Tana asked once more, gesturing downwards. In this context, Ephraim knew what Tana had come to ask for this whole time.
“I… I dunno…” Ephraim said. Tana gently scoffed.
“Mother always told me boys couldn’t get enough of a good ‘snuggle’. I’d have to fight them off, even. And while I’ve certainly seen evidence of that… of course it turns out the boy I fall for is the one boy in the world who doesn’t care for it!” Tana said, much more loudly. Ephraim shushed her, reminding her that others were trying to sleep.
“I can’t be the only one, can I? But to be honest, I was never interested in it. It sounds awful, doesn’t it?” Ephraim asked.
“Oh yeah, I can’t imagine doing it with someone else. But you’re cute…” Tana said.
“I’m not in the mood tonight, we’ll leave it at that. We’ve already done so much… perhaps we’d best just have a lovely embrace, instead? That sounds much nicer,” Ephraim suggested. Tana pulled herself into him, her chin on his shoulder.
“Yeah… much nicer,” she replied, and both fell into an easy sleep.