Sage nervously picked at his knuckles as he looked up the stairs, but he took the first step anyway.
Rosemary peaked around the corner of the hallway and asked, “You sure now is a good time?” Her long ears pointed flat, suggesting disapproval.
“I, I need to see Parsley. Ask him a question.” Sage spoke with a slight shake in his voice. “I really don’t want to wait.”
“A favor I’m sure? Something really difficult? Impossible maybe?” Rosemary smirked as Sage’s face began to warm. She briefly looked to his short round ears to see if they dropped in embarrassment. “Go ahead, he hasn’t left the place since Thyme found him anyway. You’ll be his first guest.”
Sage looked up and said, “Just don’t tell anyone, okay? I don’t want the whole village talking.”
“You know me, never known to be a gossip.”
“That is almost exclusively untrue.” Sage knew his friend’s ears would likely point straight up in feigned frustration and anger, but he didn’t look. He just continued his way up the stairs, running his hands along the old oak wood of the walls. He mumbled to himself the standard requests of this strange elf custom he didn’t really understand. “Wash laundry in a dry well. Plow a whole field with a blowing horn and sow it with a single seed.” He shook his head and stopped right in front of Parsley’s door.
Taking a deep breath, he knocked three times. “Parsley? Can I come in and see you?”
“You may enter. But please stay by the door.”
Sage opened the door and saw Parsley sitting in bed, facing towards the window overlooking the road to the woods. Wrapped around his arms and his head were white bandages speckled with red like mistletoe. Sage stopped, as he was told, but he paused before closing the door.
Parsley kept looking away. “I know, it’s not a sight worth seeing if you ask me. You should have seen the bandages a week ago. I don’t know what Rosemary does with them.” Parsley shifted his weight on the bed, still looking away from Sage.
Sage stood silently, just staring.
Parsley’s voice shook, “You may leave my company if you’d like. I wouldn’t blame you. I’m not a pretty sight. Not anymore.”
“No!” Sage shouted, and then much quieter. “No. Uhm, its not that. It’s really not.” Sage took a step further inside, but stopped himself. “I just haven’t seen you since…since you saved me. I knew the beast was strong, but I didn’t quite think about how strong it really was. Not until now.”
“And now you can see what it could have done to you.” Parsley smiled for a second. “But I’m glad you are safe. Rosemary told me you ran all the way here and told Thyme where to find me.”
“I wanted to come with her! But she wouldn’t let me. She said I would get in the way.” Sage’s voice trailed off.
After a moment of silence, Parsley turned towards Sage. Sage could already see the scarring in Parsley’s previously pristine lips. Parsley began to remove the bandages from his face, starting around his forehead, and then down to his nose and then finally to his chin until his whole head was uncovered.
Parsley’s face was covered in overlapping scars and still healing gashes. His left eye still had difficulty fully opening. And yet he smiled, his left ear pointed down, his right hardly able to move. “Do you think you could still…travel with me? I know I do not look the way I did when we first met.”
Sage walked across the simple room and sat next to Parsley, putting Parsley’s hand into his own. Sage felt a drop hit his hand. Parsley saw him crying and turned away.
Sage spoke softly, “I’ll always travel with you, if..if you can make me a…” Sage reached for the shoulder of Parsley’s shirt. “Make me a shirt with no seams. A shirt with no seams and no needlework.”
Parsley’s breath caught in his throat. He turned back towards Sage. Understanding the weight of what he was proposing, Parsley began to cry with him.
Parsley leaned closer to Sage until their foreheads nearly touched. With his breath on Sage’s lips, he said, “I will love you forever, but only if you can give me an acre of land between the sea and the sand.”
Sage laughed, his cheeks warmer than he ever felt before. “I will gladly kiss you every morning and every night if you shear that field with a sickle made of leather.”
“Will you kiss me now?”
Parsley did not let Sage’s easily flustered mind complete it’s thought. Instead he pulled him closer and began to kiss him deeply. Sage kissed back, feeling that Parsley’s breath on his lips was simply not enough any more.
And then Sage pulled back. “You’re supposed to ask for another, favor, right? That’s what Rosemary told me. One more impossible task and then I know I’m your true love, right?”
Parsley kissed him one more time, his ears perking up. “You’re already my true love! But, I’ll stay by your side for as long as you’ll have me if you can find me someone more lovely than you.”
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