It was night, the skies lit by the dozen moons, the colours of the rivers of light that flowed above them sparkling with their faint greens, reds, and blues. It was nearly as bright as early morning, when only one of the three suns had risen, but still it was the most dangerous time for the hive. Predators were out in force, flying overhead or crawling up from the crevices and cracks in search of prey. Battle sylphs were out as well, fighting their nightly battles to protect everyone while the elementals, healers, and young stayed with the Queen inside the hive.
Most of the battle sylphs were outside fighting, the little water sylph thought with a bit of a giggle and even more of a guilty feeling. Up near the apex of the dome's roof, she nestled in a cavity underneath the thick, protective roof, close to one of the currently sealed exits. It was cool there, so far from the heart of the hive, but still she felt warmth pressed up against her back.
Shouldn't you be guarding? she asked, feeling guilty. She liked to have him there, but his duty. How could he turn his back on his duty? What would happen to them both if he were caught?
I am guarding, he answered her easily. Someone has to watch the entrance here to make sure nothing breaches it.
She looked over her shoulder at him through her many eyes. Aren't you supposed to guard it from the other side? she asked.
Well, yes, but then I wouldn't be able to snuggle with you.
She giggled and pressed back against him. His tentacles went around her, his bulk pressed against her back. It felt nice and she lay there contentedly for a time, just enjoying his presence. It was like but not like being with her sisters, all curled up together. He was definitely not a water sylph and he felt different against her, strong and forceful where her sisters were just damp. He seemed happy to be with her as well, but still, she found herself feeling guilt. He was a battle sylph, bound to protect and woo the Queen. She was a water sylph, neuter, and she knew that there were things she couldn't provide to him, desires she could feel in him but had no ability to feel herself.
Do you regret this? she whispered, despite her promises to herself that she'd stay silent. He'd remain with her until he left, she told herself. That was all she could wish for. It was just, despite all the things she couldn't do with him, she didn't want him to leave.
Regret what? Meeting you? He pressed closer against her, a warmth all along her side. How could I regret that?
Well, because I can’t be with you... the way the Queen would.
Ahh... He was quiet for a moment and then, unexpectedly, gave a snicker. You might not have noticed, but I don’t exactly have the Queen’s favour. I don’t think of you as a substitute and I’m happy with whatever you can give me.
Really? she said, happy and sad and wishing she could be more all at once.
Yes. It...it did bother me at first, but honestly, I realized I loved you. That goes a lot deeper than anything physical.
She leaned against him, the happiness outweighing her sorrow. I love you too.
A tentacle stroked the edge of her pattern. I’m glad. I’d trumpet it to the whole hive, but....
The Queen, she said.
The Queen, he repeated. The Queen, who had their absolute loyalties, but who was petty and jealous, and who would resent a battle sylph who found love with a water sylph, even if she never intended to touch him.
Our secret, she said.
He pulled her close. Our wonderful secret, he agreed.