To my surprise, it was about seven o'clock when I returned home - either teleporting took a long time or time had passed more quicky than usual. I was worn out from such a long day and food and sleep were the two things I needed most. I had dinner and got ready for bed. I took a shower and luxuriated in the comfortable heat of the water and its therapeutic nature. It was also quite soporific. I climbed out of the shower feeling drowsy and fuzzy, which kind of didn't make sense since the comparative coldness of the bathroom, which wasn't heated in the summer, was usually a shock and woke me up. I didn't dwell upon this though as I dried myself and changed into my thin cotton nightdress (cerulean blue with polka dots, short-sleeved and a bit shorter than knee-length) and put on my fluffy dark blue slippers which seemed to remind me of Romulus' eyes.
Upstairs, I snuggled down into my comfortable duvet and was about to close my eyes when I heard a deliberate cough.
I sat up, propping my pillows up against the headboard and leaning against them, and saw Romulus standing in front of the door which I had just closed.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, instinctively pulling my duvet up to cover as much as possible.
Romulus smiled chillingly and thrillingly. "I'm here to kiss you goodnight, Tilly."
Romulus shrugged, walking towards me. I was both scared and delighted by the prospect of him being closer. "Well, I wondered awfully what you meant by what you told Peter."
"What I say to Peter is none of your business."
Romulus perched on the end of my bed and gazed intently at me. "I think it is when you say you don't want to tie your soul to anyone else's."
"Well, that was my decision. End of discussion. Is that all you wanted?"
"Oh, this discussion is so not over," Romulus said, and I shivered at his wicked and alluring tone.
To my indignation, he lay down on his side on my bed so he was facing me. I backed up against the wall, watching him warily.
"Why? What is there to say?"
"Well, for one, did your decision apply to me, as well?"
"Yes. In fact, it would have applied to you before it applied to Peter."
Romulus raised an eyebrow. "When we've been through so much more together?"
"All we did was kiss a couple of times."
"No, we shared some thought-provoking experiences. I really don't see why you feel so obliged to please Peter."
"He deserves my love! And my promise to be faithful."
"I thought we came to the conclusion that he deserves more than you can give him," Romulus said, sounding bored.
"Yes, but he wants my love," I replied dismissively.
"So do I," Romulus said. Something flashed in his eyes and before I could protest, he pulled me closer to him and began to kiss me.
Romulus broke away abruptly and the twinkle in his eyes told me he'd deliberately ended the kiss that way to make me want more. My heart was pounding wildly in my chest and wasn't ready to calm down yet. My mind was a twilit scene with stars beginning to appear in the vast blackness overhead to create a night sky, under which dark passion would slowly unfold, and shadows creeping across the lawns.
"I should be off," Romulus said, pretending not to notice the way I was watching him. "Pleasant dreams." He stood up in one fluid motion. "See you later..."
"Wait!" I cried. Realising he probably would go as far as disappearing, I said "Stay."
Romulus smiled. "And why would I want to do that?"
"To tell me what you think of my decision. I didn't really understand what your opinion was."
"It wasn't asked for."
"Well, it is now. Please stay."
"With pleasure," he said, wickedness flashing in his eyes as he lay back upon his side upon my bed, tugged my duvet off me and pulled me across it into his arms. He then started kissing me with such ferocious intensity that everything became unclear for several minutes.
When I came back to my senses, Romulus and I were lying on our backs, each with one of our arms underneath the other. Someone had turned off my bedside lamp and we were staring up at the dark ceiling, both breathing heavily. The underlying sense of rightness was so strong that I felt like we were fulfilling our destinies.
"So," Romulus said, as if continuing a conversation we'd been having, "my opinion is that you should forget what you said to Peter and tie your soul to mine. If you like, I can help you completely surrender to the darkness first; though, to be honest, you're dark enough as it is."
I felt his eyes on me. I looked at him.
"So what d'you say?" he asked.
I took a deep breath. I felt like I'd been considering telling Romulus this shocking new discovery I'd made for a long time, and maybe I had ... subconsciously.
"I say," I began, knowing full well that I wasn't answering his question at all, "I think I love you."
Romulus looked startled.
"Pardon?" he asked.
"I think I love you," I repeated confidently.
"Really?" he asked, looking at me intently, searching my face for the lie I knew he wouldn't find. I didn't blame him. I was surprised by the way I found myself feeling about him too. I nodded.
"Yes," I said, to confirm it to myself as well as to him.
Romulus was speechless. He stared at me as if I were crazy.
"Cat got your tongue?" I teased. "Seems like roles have been reversed: I've rendered you incapable of response."
Romulus frowned suddenly. He extricated his arm from underneath me.
"You're not thinking straight," he said dismissively. "You're intoxicated. You might even get a hangover when Peter comes to wake you up." He grinned but it wasn't quite the same. He was still in shock.
"I don't want Peter to come," I told him truthfully. "And you can check to see if I'm thinking straight by reading my mind. You've done it enough times before."
"I'm tired," Romulus said evasively.
"Really?" I asked sceptically. "I thought the king of the darkness was nocturnal."
"Where'd you hear that?" he asked, trying to look amused.
I rolled my eyes. "It's only logical..."
"Well, my powers aren't so strong on Earth."
I sighed exasperatedly. I pulled my arm out from under him and got up onto my side, drawing my bent knees closer to my body and leaning on one elbow. Romulus watched me warily. I tried to take one of his hands but he pulled it free of my grip.
"The king of the darkness is scared?" I asked.
Romulus resented this insult and took my hand. I moved it so it was touching my temple. Romulus worked out he had to keep it there. I let go and closed my eyes. I watched a replay of the events after the kiss which ended just before Romulus' claim to be tired.
I felt Romulus' hand move away.
"You can... open your eyes," he said hesitantly. He looked utterly bewildered.
I stifled a laugh.
"I don't ... understand," he said heavily.
"Neither do I," I told him, and it was hard to keep the happiness out of my voice. "This is totally unexpected."
Romulus nodded, frowning slightly again. "Tilly, I ..." He trailed off.
I frowned, suddenly realising something. Romulus hadn't declared his own feelings yet.
"It's not ... unrequited, is it?" I whispered.
Romulus looked startled. "What? No, of course not. I was going to say..." He broke off with a short laugh. "I was going to say that I don't know what to say." He beamed. "This is great."
"Isn't it?" I asked, beaming back because he'd told me what I need to hear: that he felt the same.
"Tilly, I thought you knew I loved you," he said, chuckling, evidently having heard my thoughts.
"Well, I didn't. I'm glad you do, anyway."
All of a sudden, Peter appeared.
"Tilly, I just couldn't wait till midnight..." he began, and then stopped. And stared. "Romulus?!"