"Write three sentences about a rare pair", they said. "I might be able to manage three paragraphs," I thought. I thought wrong. It's not necessarily a "pair" either, though you could definitely read it that way.

Inappropriate. Scandalous. Shameful. Eirika was well aware of the words that would be spoken, were anyone to find out. Even now, they whispered, suspicious, when they thought she couldn't hear them. Oh, it was well enough that the royal princess got along with her brother, but was she not, perchance, a little too fond of him?

She knew the words, but they were all wrong. There was nothing shameful about it, nor was it inappropriate. Indeed, there was nothing more appropriate, for her - for them. Though, she supposed as she walked silently through darkened halls, soft slippers making no sound on hard stone, perhaps not all wrong - it was certainly scandalous. But in a way, while she would never admit it, that made it more exciting.

The door to the royal bath was open, a sliver of golden light slicing into the unlit corridor outside. She looked around for any unwanted company, but there was no sign of life. With everything clear, she slid the door open just enough to let her pass, and closed it behind her, properly this time, with the bolt.

Ephraim said nothing, just watched as she disrobed, then held out a hand as she approached the bath. She took it and dipped her toes in the steaming water; gasped at how hot it was, pulling back. How could he just sit there in water this hot? And it must have been hotter still before she came! But if he could handle it, then so could she, and she squared her shoulders and plunged her leg into the water, then the other, and sunk to her knees before she could think too hard about how it would feel, gritting her teeth as the water stung her skin, coming up to her ribs now.

She must have squeezed Ephraim's hand, because he squeezed back with his large, rough fingers, and tension left her body as she slowly got used to the heat. Her hair fanned out on the surface, then darkened and sunk into the water, and she brushed it aside as she sat down between his knees and leaned back against his chest, shuddering as the water rose to her shoulders. But the discomfort would pass, and she relaxed as he let go of her hand and wrapped his arms around her waist instead - his body, usually so warm, seeming almost cool against her now. She folded her arms on top of his, ran her fingers down a familiar scar on his elbow. His grip tightened, and she was content.

Before the water cooled, she thought, she would have him wash her hair. But there was no rush - at least some good would come of this scalding heat, and perhaps that had been his plan all along.

She didn't say anything, and neither did he. He simply bowed his head and pressed a kiss on her left shoulder, then straightened up again, and neither of them moved again for a long time.