Despite his anger at her, Paris still felt a bit guilty for hurting Ayrnessa. He had struck her quite hard. She had helped him and truly was only attempting to protect him… Paris supposed he should check if she was all right. Her comments remained on his mind, though, and they would not fade anytime soon. Paris had always been one to hold grudges, most especially when it came to insults on his courage, strength, intelligence, and appearance. Ever since he had humiliated his entire country by fleeing from Menelaus, he had always been extra touché when it came to jabs at his competence as a warrior. People simply did not insult him that often, especially people of lower class than him. If he had still been prince, Paris quite possibly could have ordered Ayrnessa's execution. At the very least, he would have had her whipped.
"But she isn't of lower class anymore." Paris reminded himself out loud. With a heavy sigh, he picked up the rag he had been polishing with and stood up. He strode back to the slave quarters and spotted Ayrnessa kneeling on the floor, looking somewhat frail.
"Ayrnessa? What are doing? Are you well?" Paris frowned, crouching to her level.
She immediately straightened and stood up. "I'm fine. What do you want?"
"I wanted to ensure that you were well," Paris said uncertainly, "I'm sorry for hitting you."
"Are you really or are you simply sorry that you got whipped for doing it?" she answered.
"I didn't mean to hurt you." He told her. Paris took a step closer and gingery brushed his finger against the cut on her cheek. Ayrnessa backed away instantly and looked away.
"I have to set up the bath for the Princess." Ayrnessa stated, walking out of the shabby room.
"I'm sorry-!" Paris repeated, louder, as he followed her out. "Ayrnessa! I was wrong, all right? Stop being so stubborn!"
"Rather rich coming from you," she muttered. "You really are no different than the whippers. Did you have slaves, when you were royalty?"
"I still am royalty. Even though I may not have a country to rule now, my bloodline did not suddenly change. I still have royal blood in me. And yes, I had slaves." Paris replied defensively.
"Did you have them executed when they refused to do your bidding? Did you feel unsettled at all when you made their lives a hell? Even after having the roles reversed, were you to be respected and worshipped once more, would you still have slaves, still treat them with brutality? In the present, do you wish to be on the other side again, caring only of yourself and not remembering that at least a few of the slaves you once whipped were quite likely to be in your very same position? Paris, how many lives have you crumpled thoughtlessly?" Ayrnessa asked heatedly. Without waiting for him to respond, she left the room and briskly walked down the hall and out of sight.
Paris frowned at her retreating figure and felt another surge of frustration rise up in him. He rarely apologized as it was, but he didn't think he had ever offered a sincere apology to a woman, aside from his mother, in his life. Paris was not angry with the girl…instead, he found himself simply wanting to be liked by her. She was the only one who had attempted to befriend him so far, and the only woman who had spoken to him without wanting to bed him.
He didn't get a chance to see the girl again until that night. He strode into the area he knew she slept in and found her lying curled up, resembling the fetus position. The moment he walked in, she jerked up and quickly turned to see who had come in. The expression on her face was unmistakably one of fear, quickly turning to relief when she saw it was Paris.
"What do you want?" her voice sounded was so quiet that Paris had to kneel down beside her to hear her.
"Are you well?" he frowned. Something was truly off with her.
"Paris, what do you want?" she closed her eyes.
"Did I wake you?" Paris chose to ask instead of answering.
"No," Ayrnessa admitted.
"Then why were you lying like that?" he questioned.
"Never mind." She shrugged, sitting up and pulling her knees up to her chest.
"Are you still upset with me?" he peered carefully at her.
"What do you care?" she bristled.
"You're the only kind person I've come across here. I didn't mean to hurt you." Paris sighed. "I wanted to thank you for trying to help me earlier, and to see if you may still want to be friends."
"We can talk about this tomorrow." She dismissed him and laid down again with her back to Paris.
"Why not now?" he demanded.
"Because you're a stubborn man who needs to learn that you can't have anything you want." She snapped. "I'm tired, leave me be!"
"What happened to you?" Paris gingerly cupped her chin and turned her face so that she was facing him.
"It's not your problem." She quietly answered, "Please, just go."
"As you wish." He said dubiously, "But-"
"Thank you for your concern." She interrupted him in a very final manner. "I hope you don't get nightmares tonight."
"I hope so too." Paris stood up and with one last look at her, left.
That night, it wasn't Paris who couldn't sleep well. He had dropped off to sleep only to be awoken a while later by the sound of soft whimpering. He thought it was a figment of his imagination at first, but upon carefully listening for a few moments, he realized it was real. Paris sat up and frowned, trying to locate where the noise came from. He stood up and slowly walked towards where he thought it came from and realized with a surprise that it was Ayrnessa.
She was still curled up with her back to him, but he could see that small sobs were shaking from her.
Paris strode over to her and lightly put his hand on her shoulder. "Ayrnessa. Ayrnessa, it's all right-"
The moment his hand touched her she jumped and let out a strangled yelp. "NO!" The shaking increased ten fold as she slowly turned to see who was touching her.
"It's only me!" Paris hastily reassured her upon seeing the increased fright he had given her.
"Paris?" she questioned.
"Yes." He nodded, running a comforting hand up and down her arms, which were still trembling. "Why are you crying?"
"Did I wake you?" she asked ruefully. "I didn't think I was that loud."
"I wasn't sleeping well, anyways." He brushed that off. Stroking her tear stained face he repeated, "Tell me why you're so upset."
"Bad dream." She said, smiling slightly as she struggled into a sitting position. Thinking to himself that it must have been a really horrible dream for her to be so affected, Paris gave her shoulder a squeeze.
"You are awake now." He soothed. "Don't worry." Paris felt sincerely bad for the girl, who suddenly looked so much more fragile and innocent than she had in all the time he had known her. The terror that still remained on Ayrnessa's face caused Paris to drop any grudge or anything else that had been holding him back. It didn't matter if they hardly knew each other and so far did not like each other that much, from one human to another, he wanted to calm her. Cautiously, Paris hugged her, not wanting her to take the gesture as anything other than him trying to comfort her. He was surprised when she hugged him back, and clung tightly to him as if trying to reassure herself that whatever it was that had plagued her was gone.
"Thank you." She said after a moment and with a sniffle, she pulled back from him.
"Are you all right, now?" he questioned. "What was so horrible that it made you cry?"
"Don't ask." She shuddered and rubbed her face. "I'm fine, go back to sleep."
"We have to be up in not too long, anyways." He shook his head. "I don't trust you to stay here in this dark wretched place by yourself."
"I am sixteen." She flatly responded. "And I've done quite well without your help for all these years, I think I can sleep by myself."
"I didn't mean to insult you." Paris backtracked. "I just do not want you to stay here by yourself to be trapped with the lingering thoughts of nightmares…to be haunted, as it were. It's the loneliest thing in the world to lay there in the dark, thinking about all the things that are wrong, being scared with no one there to tell you it's not real. Trapped in some reality you've never seen before."
"I see you've had a lot of experience." She raised her eyebrows.
"I should not have turned away your help earlier, Ayrnessa. If you let me back in, we don't have to be alone anymore, either of us. We can get through our nightmares, deal with these demons, together. You don't have to cry here by yourself." Paris softly said.
"What happened to the fact that you were royalty and were too good for my help?" she looked up at him.
"I got over it." Paris smiled and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"I'm still mad at you." She told him.
"I won't hit you again, to that I promise." He swore.
"Break that promise and this is done." Ayrnessa warned.
"I won't." Paris assured her. "I told you what I was dreaming about-"
"I'm not ready." She interrupted quietly. "I don't want to think about it, I don't want to deal with it."
"All right." Paris rubbed her shoulder and repeated, "Remember, they are just dreams."
"No… no they're not." Ayrnessa confessed softly and with much pain. She began to shake again and a few tears slid down silently down her cheeks. Paris held her and wanted to protect her from whatever unseen force was making her so desperately in pain. He didn't question her further, accepting that many things would take time. He understood that she wasn't emotionally ready. Paris couldn't help but wonder though, what it was that had changed her from the stubborn and strong girl he had known into this crying heap he now held.