Landing in the innovative, futuristic desert landscape of Dubai provided a sharp contrast to the weeks previously spent trekking around the southern section of the African wild. Luna thought that it made traveling feel ever more worldly and exciting, going from gentle giraffes and luscious jungles to glass skyscrapers rising from vast fields of sand. She had never gone beyond the European and African continents before. Visiting one of the most advanced cities in the world – not just in the Middle East – was definitely not something she had expected to happen within the same year, and yet here she was.
The best part of it all was that she wasn't alone.
Luna turned off the sink and padded to the door, still only dressed in her silk sheep-print pajamas as she'd just woken up a few minutes ago and washed her face. She opened it and greeted Draco with a smile. "Good morning."
"They started serving breakfast downstairs," he informed her, lips slightly curved to that roguish, heart-melting smirk of his. He looked a bit off, though, a little unwell even—perhaps it had been too cold for his morning swim today? It was already the middle of September, and desert temperatures could be quite extreme. "I'll wait for you in my room," he continued, "Let me know when you're ready."
"Okay," she nodded agreeably, and then her expression shifted to worry. "Are you feeling alright?"
"I'm fine," he assured her, "just slept a little later than usual last night."
"Are you sure?"
He gave her a small smile. "I'll take a nap before we go down, alright?"
Luna was unable to process a reply in time, as he'd taken a step closer and surprised her with a quick kiss on the forehead.
Her senses momentarily blanked.
"You look beautiful this morning, by the way," he simply said, throwing her one last flirtatious smile before he turned his heel and walked away.
It was so, so cheesy – almost criminal, Luna thought as she tried to calm the excited pounding in her chest. It's always been there, since the night they danced to La Vie En Rose and she tried to quell expectations and wishes she shouldn't have… but it's also gotten worse, somewhat, since he declared his intentions. Since he expressed his interest in her. Since he showed more affection beyond the thresholds of friendship she was so used to.
He did ask to court her, she reminded herself. This was all very normal in that context.
Locking herself in the bathroom, Luna leaned against the closed door and slowly, quietly slid down to the floor with her head in her hands, hiding the furious blush that crept up to her cheeks and wouldn't go away.
He was sick.
She could tell right away the moment she found him sleeping in his room, his breath heavy and skin looking grey and sallow. Noiselessly seating herself at the edge of his bed, right beside him, she placed a gentle hand on his forehead.
As she thought, he was much too warm.
She brushed hair away from his forehead and he stirred awake, groaning slightly.
"I'm not quite sure what plans you had for today, but we'll have to cancel them," Luna said softly, careful not to raise her voice and irritate him. "Do you have any preferences for soup?"
"Squash," Draco groaned, shutting his eyes when her head moved and the ceiling light beamed on his face. "There's medicine in the bathroom drawer."
Luna nodded. "I'll be right back."
He felt her weight lift off the bed and heard her shuffle through his bathroom shelf as she spoke softly on the phone. It was a good thing the suite was well-equipped – not that he'd book anything less than three stars for her, but the luxury of good service was convenient for situations like this.
Gods, he felt terrible. His body couldn't make out a comfortable temperature; it was too warm with the duvet over him, but too cold without it. His muscles felt sore and tight, and just the thought of sitting up was tiresome.
He felt a lukewarm towel being wiped gently on his face, and suddenly felt worse—he absolutely hated being a liability, and it was especially humiliating to be one to someone he'd given the rare promise to take care of.
"Can you sit up for a quick drink?" asked Luna softly.
His throat suddenly felt parched at the thought. Quietly, he mustered the energy to push himself up. Luna promptly aided him by propping a pillow on his back, smiling at him when he slowly opened his eyes and stared at her.
"Here," she said, holding out a glass of water to his lips. He sipped obediently, diminishing about a half of it before letting go.
"The food will take a while, and you can't take the medicine without eating first, so let's just freshen you a little and you can go back to sleep," she told him. "I'll wake you up when it's time to eat."
He leaned more comfortably on the pillows as she took hold of the wet towel again and started wiping it gently on his neck, lowering to trace his collarbones, his shoulders, his chest…
His eyes never wandered beyond her face, wondering how her eyes could look so soft and yet so sharply focused at the same time. Her lashes were pretty long, too; she kind of looked like an adult cherub, or at least how he imagined them to look like. Her cheeks had the slightest dust of pink, and her lips were…
—Ah, shite, I can't.
She was incredibly close.
And he was incredibly sick.
The apology escaped his lips almost subconsciously, leaving a foreign taste in his tongue. It wasn't his first – what an incredible asshole he might have been if it were – but his apologies definitely came rarely enough to feel like it were every time.
Luna paused and blinked up at him.
Her smile widened a fraction when she read the expression on his face. "Nobody likes being sick," she assured him. "We're only human, after all."
"You don't have to stay," he told her. His voice sounded rough and dry. "You can go explore the city. I'll be fine."
"I'm not going to enjoy this city by myself and leave you here." She patted his cheek lightly, towel still wrapped around her fingers. "It wouldn't be as fun, anyway."
"No company's better than sick company," he drawled, looking at her wearily. "You don't have to feel responsible."
"I don't," she assured him, her lip quirking up in amusement. "I just happen to like your company, sick or not."
He frowned at her, and warned, "I'm going to whine and irritate the hell out of you." He'd always been that kind of patient—the type who would terrorize whoever took care of him because it was a way of venting out his discomfort and pain.
"You'd sooner be asleep," she shrugged uncaringly. She smiled at him in that pretty, glowing way of hers, and he would have been better poised to resist her little charms weren't his fever causing an increasingly painful headache.
He sighed defeatedly and leaned back, closing his eyes with a quiet groan. Luna didn't say anything further and simply resumed wiping the cool towel on his skin, going about it as if she were also giving him a mild massage. Draco couldn't really complain; it was relaxing and doing wonders for the mind-numbing tick in his head. He relaxed, sliding back down to a more comfortable lying position, and, without another word, drifted off to sleep within minutes, just as she predicted he would.
Luna fondly brushed his hair away from his face again, letting her fingertips linger for a minute before withdrawing her hand. Her eyes softened.
You do make me happy, she thought, more than you know.
She pulled the duvet over his shoulders and leaned forward to plant a light kiss on his cheek, wishing him a good rest and a speedy recovery.
Her lips curved to a lighthearted, wistful smile when she pulled away.
Narcissa Malfoy calls a couple of hours after brunch; Luna picks up the phone, not wanting to bother the dragon sleeping soundly on the bed. Draco told her to wake him up on the off-chance his mother or father called, but he'd just fallen asleep again and she didn't have the heart to wake him.
Soundlessly making her way to the balcony, she answered the call.
"Hello, Mrs. Malfoy," she cut in before another word was spoken. Luna hoped to make this brief; she didn't want to upset Draco too much for going against his word. "Draco is sleeping at the moment. He'd fallen rather ill this morning and I didn't want to wake him up from his rest," she explained, briefly pausing to let that sink in. "Will it be alright to call at a later time? I can also pass a message for you if you'd like."
Narcissa doesn't answer right away, but the silence doesn't sit long.
"Draco is sick?"
"Yes, he caught a fever this morning." Luna nervously fiddled with the hem of her shorts. "He's resting right now. He'd just eaten and taken his medicine about an hour ago."
"You're taking care of him?"
Several seconds stretched out in silence, which Luna found difficult to interpret. She didn't know much about Draco's mother, other than that she seemed to love him very much—not unusual, of course, but how she would perceive her in consequence was not something she can predict.
Luna can't help hoping that she'll come to like her, even if only slightly, but she keeps herself from jumping far into expectations.
"Please tell my son to take better care of himself, and—you are in Dubai at the moment, am I correct?"
"Yes," she answered meekly. Feeling compelled to let her know, she added, "We're checked in the Atlantis."
"I expected as much—Draco prefers it to the Al Arab," Narcissa replied with an easy, nearly friendly nonchalance. "How do you like it?"
"It's very lovely," she answered genuinely. "It's not what I'm used to, but the suite is marvelous, and the view is stunning, and the staff have been very kind."
"That's good to hear," There is no condescension in the way she says it, and Luna feels her shoulders relax.
"When he gets better, please remind Draco that he is not allowed to go racing," Narcissa tells her firmly, "I know he does it behind my back. He can watch but please do not let him ride those wretched things."
"I understand," Luna replied, "I'll do my best to make sure he doesn't."
"Please do—he'll listen to you." She pauses for a beat, and then asks, "You have answered him, haven't you?"
Luna felt a flutter twist in her stomach. "Not yet," she answered honestly.
"Ah." There isn't judgment in her tone, but Luna thought she detected some amusement there somewhere—especially as she continued to suggest that, "You're free to threaten him with a no if he insists on racing."
It makes her chest feel light, and Luna finds herself letting out a small chuckle. "I'll keep that in mind," she tells the Malfoy matriarch. "Thank you, Mrs. Malfoy."
"You're welcome," Narcissa says on the other line. On a more solemn note, she adds, "He's not very good at waiting, you must know. He normally never does. Don't keep him hanging too long."
Luna smiles. "I won't."
Luna isn't used to receiving love.
Her family had always loved her dearly and abundantly, but it was different with others. People were often either indifferent or spiteful—the reason still escaped her, truthfully, but she's learned not to be bothered. Her mother's death taught her that life was too short to spend too many a time and thought with people who made her feel unloved.
It didn't mean she would hate or be unkind, of course. It would have been a disservice to the people, the places, the creatures, and all the other things that reminded her that for all its terrors and unkindness, the world was still full of wonder and love and beauty. One just had to learn to look.
The world never ran out of surprises, after all.
"I'm not going to pretend I don't notice that you're staring."
And this—he was definitely her favorite.
"Aren't you eating?"
"I'm quite done," she shrugged, hinting at the finished plates beside her with a glance before smiling brightly at him.
Draco frowned at her. Sighing, he put his spoon down and set aside the tray of food and medicine – now emptied plates and containers – on the flip table placed beside the bed. When he was settled, he looked at her and slightly spread his arms open in gesture. "Come here."
Luna's bright blue eyes twinkled gleefully. Without wasting another second, she swung her legs over the armchair and skipped over to the bed. She crawled over the space beside him before scooting closer, wrapping an arm around the front of his torso as he slid his own behind her back. She nuzzled her head at the crook of his neck, pressing her body closer, and sighed contentedly at the warmth.
She did love cuddling him very much.
She knows he likes cuddling her, too; she can feel the smile sitting atop her head, and it makes her inexplicably, incomparably happy.
She's never felt love like this.
"You drugged my brunch, didn't you?" he says after some moments of comfortable silence. "I don't think I ever slept that soundly with a fever."
"I think it might just be the medicine," she giggled, "they seem to be quite stronger here. The pharmacist said you should be healthy again by tomorrow morning."
"Any side effects I should watch out for?"
"None that I know of," she hummed. "We could check with a doctor tomorrow to be sure. Your mother would appreciate that."
"She called earlier," she continued before he could raise the question, "I didn't want to wake you up because you'd just fallen asleep. We only spoke briefly." She turned her head upwards, flashing him a smile. "She was quite nice."
He looked at her disbelief, a hand carding through her hair. "What did she say to you?"
"She just asked me to keep an eye on you, and said you should watch yourself more," she said sincerely. She smiled a toothy, mischievous grin. "She also told me to break up with you if you get into an F-1."
His brows furrowed, but there's an amused twinkle in his eye. "You haven't even answered me yet," he pointed out.
"She said I can say no." She sighed, tilting her head and leaning her cheek against his chest. "I don't think I will, though. I don't want to," she confessed, looking at him dreamily. "I do like you very much."
Luna felt almost silly for waiting to say it, repeatedly questioning the authenticity of her feelings. She didn't want to reciprocate for the sake of reciprocating, but the words were easy to say – the truth always was.
Draco's eyes widened. "Are you—"
"Tomorrow," she says, her smile soft and sincere.
She nods. "When you're better," she tells him, and then looking at him hopefully, she asks, "Can we do it like they do in the movies?"
The question makes him blink. "What do you mean?"
"How they seal it with kiss," she explained, cheeks turning a light pink as she looks away shyly to the window. "I haven't been with anyone before, but I always thought that it might be quite nice."
He doesn't respond immediately, so she tentatively slides her gaze back to him to peek at his expression, wondering if she'd been too forward or demanding.
Draco appeared only mildly distraught.
"Why can't I kiss you now?" he finally says with frustration, raising a hand to cup her cheek. "I'm feeling better now."
Luna holds back a laugh, and points out, "Your fever could relapse, and I might catch it, too. I won't be able to take care of you if that happens." She smiled at him reassuringly. "It's just one night."
"An eternity," he retorted, frowning. "For all I know, you could disappear in the morning."
"I won't," she giggled, "I won't leave you, I promise." She leaned her head against the hand cupping her cheek, beaming at him. "You're my favorite."
The reminder makes him smile, and her heart melted a little at the sight.
"You're mine, too," he tells her, fondly running his thumb across her cheek. "Stay with me tonight."
She smiles at him. "Okay."
"And the day after."
"I'll stay as long as you want me to," she promised him without hesitation.
Draco gazed at her with a resigned smile. "You really are something, Lovegood."
"Luna," she corrected with a pout. "Please call me by my name already."
He smirked. "Tomorrow, maybe."
Luna laughed as he tightened his embrace, lowering his head to plant a kiss on her forehead before she nuzzled her head back in the crook of his shoulder.
They stay like that for a time, each simply feeling the other's heartbeat.
Slow. Steady. Strong.
"I think I might fall in love with you," Luna says when she breaks the silence, sounding as if she were reciting the weather.
Draco smiles against her hair, breathing in her scent as he closes his eyes. "I'll catch you when you do."
Luna beams and hugs him tighter, wondering if he noticed the increased pace of her heartbeat, hoping he does.
She feels like she'll fall sooner than she thinks.
Draco woke first, minutes before light began to seep through the windows. His body felt infinitely lighter than it did the day before – the medicine delivered its promises, and he'd woken up to the smell of honeysuckle right under his nose.
He knew it would be a good day right there and then.
Luna was tucked right beside him, her head laying on his collarbones, though the rest of her body veered away to the other corner of the bed. He didn't know if that was on purpose or not, but it helped that only the duvet touched everything below his lower abdomen, saving them from potentially more awkward rousings. He'd like to kiss her before they did anything else.
Just as he began to wonder if the entirety of their conversations the previous night were simply illusions from the medicine he took, Luna roused from her sleep. She moaned, and then moved her head to lie on his arm before opening her eyes. She blinked until her vision cleared and focused on him, looking confused and curious at first, but then her lips eventually crept up to a soft smile.
"Good morning," she whispered dreamily, "are you feeling better?"
His lip tugged to a smile. "Fantastic," he replied.
"Are we still going to kiss today?" she asked sleepily when he gently slid his arm out from under her head and shifted to hover on top of her.
"Yes, Luna," he says simply, watching her eyes glimmer, "we are."
He leans in, but pauses just about three inches above her, and returns her wide, bright smile with a wink and a little grin.
Today, he thinks joyfully, he doesn't have to hold back.
(So he doesn't.)
His lips are soft, fitting perfectly into the curves of her mouth. He's warm, and—skilled, she thinks, as his tongue slipped in the second her mouth opened just wide enough. One of his hands found hers, intertwining their fingers together as he kept them by their side. Her breath faded somewhere, engulfed by the growing heat—it was simply oh so very wonderful, and Luna wondered if every kiss ever felt like this.
When he finally pulled away for breath, he leaned his forehead against hers. She realized belatedly that one of her arms had somehow wound up around his neck, but she didn't have the energy or desire to pull away.
"More," she managed to croak out, making Draco laugh.
"Didn't expect you'd like it that much," he commented, a half-smirk pulling at his lips as he shifted his weight to his elbows.
"I've never been kissed like that," she admitted with mild fascination. She tilted her head and blinked at him curiously. "Is it always like that?"
"No," he answered flatly, bopping her nose with his. "It's different for me, too."
"Oh." She splayed her fingertips on his cheek in a light caress. "Can we do it again?" She paused for a beat and then gently urged, "Please."
He pecked her nose. "If we don't have long breaks in between, I'll want to do more than just kiss you," he bluntly cautioned.
"You mean you'll want to touch me?" she asked innocently.
"Among other things." He settled his head at the crook of her neck, breathing her in. "You haven't told me how far you're willing to go yet."
Of course he'd notice, she thought hopelessly.
"My inexperience is obvious, isn't it?"
She wouldn't put it past him to figure it out. Luna was hardly reserved about close physical contact with people she held dear, but even she was still a stranger to certain levels of intimacy.
For one thing, no one had ever wanted to be with her – not in the way Draco did.
"It's not a turn-off, if that's what you're worried about," Draco assured thoughtfully as he lifted his head to meet her eyes. "I'll wait if you want me to," he offered sincerely, eliciting a small smile from her lips.
"That's very sweet of you to say," she replied, "but I don't want to keep you waiting."
"You're not obligated to have sex with me just because you're my girlfriend now," he stated, fighting back a grin from using the term. Noting the loophole immediately, he'd also amended, "You are obligated to not have sex with anyone else, though, because you are my girlfriend."
Luna chuckled. "I'm not interested in anyone else," she reassured him, "and I do want to do it with you."
He stared at her very seriously. "Are you sure?"
"I'm going to touch you," he reiterated, "I might even—it's going to hurt… at first, anyway."
She smiled sweetly at him. "I'm not made of glass," she told him, "I'll be alright."
"Are you sure?" he asked again.
"It would be very nice," she grinned. She cupped his cheeks with both hands and pulled him closer, gaze never straying from his eyes. "Lace isn't really very comfortable," she started saying, a mischievous glint flashing in her eye, "I thought you'd might want to give me hand taking it off."
A smirk immediately tugs at his lips in amusement. "You don't have to dirty talk me into it," he said, bending down perilously close to her lips again, "but that was wildly successful."
"I hoped it would be," Luna laughed, beaming when he obliged and closed the gap, brushing his lips against hers once more.
It lingers longer than the first, and she feels her heart happily somersaulting in her chest. She had dreamt of finding a love like this, of being kissed and embraced and loved like this, but she hadn't quite imagined it would all come true.
But here it all was unfolding before her – enchanting and terrifying and indescribably beautiful all at once. She wasn't ready for it, she thought again and again, but her heart leapt anyway and there was no turning back.
That was fine, she supposed. Here she was and she didn't want to let go.
(So she doesn't.)