I woke up slumped in Peter's arms. I straightened up and saw he was glaring at Romulus.
"If you've hurt her in any way..."
"She fainted of her own accord!" Romulus exclaimed. "She even fainted when you brought her here."
"I have reason to distrust you."
"Yeah, I know. Right, I'm going home. If Tilly wants me, I'll be free." He winked at me before disappearing in a sickening whirl of air.
"What did he do, angel? Did he take you anywhere other than where he said he would?"
I looked up into those beautiful eyes and hated myself.
"No," I replied, sighing, looking to the ground. "He took me to the Caves of Nuki and we ... kissed."
"Kissed?" Peter asked, brow furrowing.
I nodded dejectedly.
Peter looked annoyed. "He used his powers to make you kiss him? Right, when I get home..."
"Peter," I interrupted, looking straight up into those forest-green eyes. "I kissed him back."
Peter looked confused. "Because he made you."
"No, of my own accord."
Peter looked as if he refused to believe this. "Romulus has great control over his powers: he can use them for very specific purposes," he said gently.
"But he didn't this time."
"You wouldn't know if he had."
"Okay, even if he had, I wanted to, okay?!"
Peter looked alarmed. "But ... why?! Romulus is so ... scary! And besides, I know you. That's what you've always wanted, isn't it? Someone who understands you completely. I want you to have someone who's always there for you and I want to be that person. I don't understand why you'd want to give that up ... for my brother."
"Yeah. So what's going on, Tilly? D'you think he might have made you say this too?"
"No... I'm sorry, Peter. It just ... happened. And that's why I came back. To sort things out. If I like Romulus because he's bad, then you can be bad. You can be alluring like you were in the park. I shouldn't have said I didn't want you to be and then go and kiss someone else who was more like that. It was wrong. You offered to be anything for me and I just threw it back in your face. So could we try again? You can be as wickedly alluring as you like and then I'll have no need to seek out a kiss that will feel like Romulus's."
"What if it was more than wicked allure?" Peter asked quietly. "What if you actually liked him?"
"We have to hope I don't. I don't want to upset you again, Peter - it's like betraying myself. This ... connection that you feel with me is the most gratifying thing that I have ever been told about. You make me feel special and wonderful, and you're so decent that I just couldn't bear to hurt you."
"Okay," Peter murmured, sighing, looking away. Then he glanced up at me with the wicked smile I'd seen in the park. "So you want me to be less angelic, then?"
I smiled. "Yeah, go on then."
He playfully kissed me, lying down and pulling me on top of him.
It ... wasn't the same. I enjoyed the kisses but they were more ... fun and casual than darkly passionate. I got the feeling that Peter was just too good inside to evoke quite the same sensations from me as Romulus. I felt slightly sad inside: 1) because the kisses weren't the same so Peter would always be at a slight disadvantage to his brother and 2) it felt like we were trying to reproduce a kiss that was unique and too special to be imitated. I broke away and tried to smile.
Peter looked hopeful. "Was that better?"
"Yes," I lied.
He beamed. "Then I'll be more like that for you. Just forget about Romulus - he doesn't mean anything to you. All that matters is us."
"Can I see where you live?" I asked, changing the subject.
"Sure. My room will be a better place to finish reading the scroll - Romulus wouldn't dare come in there."
I wasn't sure I wanted to tie our souls together, not after what had happened in the Caves of Nuki, but it would be nice to explore Asteria more and hopefully I'd find a way to forget Romulus by spending more time with Peter.
I stood up. Peter was smiling as he rose to his own feet. He took my hand, the scroll in the other, and teleporting was more pleasurable (though still made me faint).