"She meant more to you than you said," Eric murmurs, running a hand through Nora's hair. He suspects he shouldn't broach the subject, but "shouldn't" doesn't really enter into his vocabulary.
This is starting to become ritual, their closeness once the others have disappeared or gone to sleep; there's more proper intimacy than they've really ever had, of all kinds, but they've settled into it without hesitation. They rarely say as much, but considering the state of their world it does both of them good.
"Brush it," she commands petulantly, shaking her head. When he moves to look at her, eyebrow raised in something like disbelief, she pouts at him, knowing full well it's manipulative and not much caring. "If you expect me to talk about Salome, I expect to be pampered."
"I've told you my embarrassing love story," he laughs pointedly.
"You've always been less private than I," she retorts. "You adore sharing when the audience suits you." She softens her tone a bit, though that's another kind of manipulation. "Please? Brush my hair, and I'll throw in scandalous details for you."
"I'd have been expecting them anyway," he teases, but he reaches for a hairbrush gamely.
Satisfied, Nora turns around so he can follow her orders and tries to think of how to begin. In a way, it's odd to think she's gone decades and centuries without saying any of this, but then, it's not so odd at all – she and Eric have always had their secrets, and given that Salome was really the only person she talked to about anything intimate, it makes a sort of sense.
"I loved her a bit from meeting her, I think," she says tentatively. Beginning at the true beginning. "Proper hero worship in its way."
"At first," he prompts, raking the brush over her scalp. He knows how she expects him to listen and participate; some things never change.
"Yes and no," Nora sighs, somewhere between wistful and amused. "You might have noticed how charismatic she was. That didn't wear thin over time."
Eric nods. "I could see that in your eyes." That, the adoration: there's a note of doubt, of course, a but I didn't know if it was just the blood, but he doesn't say it. He's not sure which is better after everything.
"We weren't always lovers," she continues. "For years, she was my best friend and nothing more. I trusted her utterly." After a solemn pause, she adds, "As I trusted no one outside our family. It's why I first seduced her."
"Seducing the famed seductress," he chuckles, not without a certain hint of pride. "Det är min syster."
"I hold no illusions that it wasn't part of her plan," she clarifies. "Me seducing her meant I walked willingly down the path. She simply laid it before me."
Another pause takes hold, long enough of one that he thinks to prompt, "And?"
"And for a time, it was simple," she declares. "We were as one, together in our beds, after a time together in our purpose."
"Walking willingly down the path," he repeats quietly. It's starting to make a modicum of sense.
"Yes," she says. "I would have followed her anywhere. Sure, she was with Roman for true, but we were no secret. I can't imagine how we could have been."
"You truly loved her, didn't you?" he realizes.
"In a way I had thought foreign to me," she whispers. "Sometimes so deeply it was alarming, and she was many things, not all of them good, but I think sometimes that she loved me too. At least as much as she could."
"She just loved her god more," he concludes – not bitterly, not cruelly, just resignedly. "Jag är verkligen ledsen, kära."
"Didn't know I had it in me, did you?" she smiles, all falsely blithe. It's enough to make his heart break, but instead, he keeps brushing, gentler and gentler. "The unflinching analyst, swept off her feet. The expert liar, fed so many lies she began to believe them."
"Min syster –"
"Oh, but I promised you scandals, didn't I?" she interrupts, her giggles sounding more sincere now. Better to try and change the subject some, she thinks.
"If you'd rather not," he begins. He knows she is not one to go divulging, and he's worried this is pushing her too far, or that it will. He will always worry when he can see her ricocheting between emotional peaks like this.
"I promised," Nora repeats, almost stubbornly.
"Will it cheer you?" Eric asks.
She nods eagerly – this is remembering happier times – and murmurs, wide-eyed, "Please? Ask me anything."
"Did she really let you dominate her?" he offers. This much he's genuinely curious about.
"Let me?" she laughs. "It wasn't quite so simple as granting permission to take her. But I could hold my own against her, I had my fair share of victories." Her smile grows wicked; she lets her head fall back dreamily. "Granted, she wasn't nearly as kinky as I can be, but she was open to play when I got it in my head."
He nods thoughtfully. "A surprise masochist?" he suggests.
"Oh, yes," she beams. "At least she could pretend. And she didn't turn it around on me, not properly – some games are only for you, brother, you know that – but she liked to make me follow orders. To lie perfectly still, just as she liked, while she feasted on me until I couldn't see straight. Or –"
Suddenly, the excitement she'd been working up vanishes, and she seems to wilt; he sets the brush down and wraps arms loosely around her shoulders, frowning. "I've made you sad," he murmurs.
"I imagine I'm going to be sad for some time," she counters, with all the blunt and bittersweet hurt of one who can't ignore what ails them. "Love-blindness is meant to do that, isn't it?"
"Whether or not you want it to," he agrees, burying his face in her brushed-to-shining hair.
"I'm a sick sort of tragedy, aren't I," she halfway-says, halfway-asks. "A proper one, the little girl from the provinces who falls into the company of the most dangerous beauty in history and leads the modern world to the brink of destruction on account of the way she smiles."
"Jag älskar dig, min syster," he declares, if just to stop the tremors in her voice. "Oavsett vad, jag älskar dig." He pulls her close against him, presses a kiss to the join of her throat. "The destruction can be abated, you know. We will see to it."
"Not rightly the point," she mutters, but she doesn't squirm away. "I suppose the combination of heartbreak, betrayal, and crushing guilt makes me especially dramatic, and for that I apologize."
"Min söta, I need no more acts of contrition," Eric chides softly. "Actions are louder, aren't they?"
As if to test this theory, Nora closes her eyes and turns to kiss him, almost desperately; he knows better than to argue it, and this is more a help to her, his words fall hollow after a time. He wraps arms around her, she moves to straddle his hips, and they make out like children until they're too tired to anymore.
"You're the only one left in this world that I love," she whispers, finally collapsing against him.
"Family is the only thing that lasts," he replies, and they settle back to hold each other as long as they can manage. It's the only thing either of them can think to do.
det är min syster; "that's my sister"
jag är verkligen ledsen, kära; "I'm very sorry, dear"
min syster; "my sister"
jag älskar dig; "I love you"
oavsett vad; "regardless"
min söta; "my sweet"