A Love Story That Happened in Front of a Dragon

   'What's the point of having a dragon around, if she doesn't keep foes at bay?' 
            Quint said, throwing up her hands as she looked at the dragon idling by the hearth.
‘Well, obviously because we are delightful company, my dear,’ the dragon said lazily.  ‘Additionally, I have no desire to sit across our doorstep in the dead of winter.  And, of course, we have a difference of opinion about the word “foe” at the moment.’  She raised a lethargic claw in the air as though it proved her point, and then circled around twice, winding her long tail around her, and lay down.  Despite her fearsome jaws and scales, the dragon was practically adorable.
‘How can you sleep in the middle of the day when the world is falling apart?’ Quint said, exasperated by the relaxed body and slowly closing lids.
‘The world is not falling apart.  Your world has a small hitch in it, which I’m not entirely convinced is unacceptable to you.  And I’m sleeping in the middle of the day because it is winter, and that is what dragons do; a fact which you know full well, having witnessed it five seasons running,’ the dragon’s voice was clear but slow of pace.  Evidently, very little would move her to exert anything other than a yawn.
Quint huffed.  It was indeed winter, and it was beyond the middle of the day.  The sun, what could be seen of it, was ebbing, and ice crystals crept around the windows of the cabin that stood in the middle of a thick wood.  Had Quint been in any other mood, she would have perhaps noted the quaint domestic charm of a hearth filled with flames, the heady smell of pine logs, and the picturesque beast laying before it.  Granted, in the most usual cases that beast was a dog.  But Quint was the village witch, and it behooved her to have a dragon.  That is to say, it usually behooved her.  Just at this very moment, she was not so sure….
The rest of the cabin was filled with other delights as well, a full wall lined with books of herblore and the occasional tale, and open shelves revealing lovely patterned dishes.  A copper kettle sat atop an iron stove, having provided hot water to a cozy teapot and a handful of peppermint leaves.  Next to the tea pot sat a small bowl of honey and an empty cup, waiting to be filled with the delightful ambrosia that was peppermint tea and honey.
But Quint’s mind was on other things.
One other thing, to be precise.
And to carry precision further, not so much a thing as a person. 
‘You do not get to decided who I say is foe, Libby’ Quint said crossing her arms, and directing a cross glance toward her scaly friend.
‘True,’ the dragon said with her eyes closed.  ‘But likewise, you cannot tell me, either.’  Libby cracked an eye, raising a majestic brow.  Quint huffed again.
‘Fine,’ Quint said.  ‘Fine.  I’ll deal with Jack myself.’
‘I’d like to see you try,’ Libby muttered under breath.
‘Let’s see,’ Quint said, pretending she hadn’t heard her friend and opening a cupboard filled with jars and bottles.  ‘There’s itching powder, that could do very nicely if poured in the right places.  And wart additives, yes, covering his entire horrid face.  And what’s this here?’  She pulled out an unmarked bottle.  ‘I don’t remember brewing this.’  She scratched her head, staring at the bottle trying to job her memory.  ‘Libby, when did I make this?’
Libby raised both eyes slowly and glanced at the bottle in her friend’s hand.  Her magnificent shoulders gave a shrug at the same time a pounding began to hammer away at the door.
‘Quint, open up,’ came a deep, masculine voice tempered by the wood that stood between him and the inside of the cabin.
Quint huffed.
‘She’s pretending she’s not at home,’ called Libby, her raised voice rumbled, causing the dishes on their shelves to shiver slightly.
‘Oh, you…’ said Quint, glaring daggers at the dragon.  Then, glaring at the door, she said, ‘Go away, Jack.’
‘Oh, come on, Quint.  Just open the door,’ the man’s voice seemed to carry a mix of annoyance and desperation, with a hint of resignation.  ‘Libby, tell her to open the door.’
‘It’s her house,’ came Libby’s deep rumble, and Quint gave her friend a look of satisfaction.  ‘If she’s going to be as stubborn as an ass, that’s her business.’  Satisfaction gave way to frost.
‘Look, I’d apologize to her,’ said Jack apparently to Libby.  ‘But the fact is, I don’t have anything to apologize for.’
‘Good for you, Jack,’ Libby rumbled.  ‘Stick to your guns.’
‘Libby!’ cried Quint with equal parts fury and frustration.  And then she said, ‘Jack, if you feel like you have nothing to apologize for, then you can stay out there all night.’
There was a moment’s pause.  Then Jack said, ‘I’m not standing in the freezing cold on your doorstep all night.’ 
There was a sound of snow crunching under a boot, which seemed to cause Quint to say, ‘Well, if you didn’t come to apologize, then why are you here?’
‘I thought you might like the opportunity to…’
Quint knew where this was headed, which appeared to be why she moved to the door and flung it open, letting in a cold blast of chill air.  ‘You think I should apologize to you?! Of all the…’
‘Hey, close the door!’ Libby said so strongly a little flame escaped her jaws.  Fortunately, it landed in the hearth fire.
Quint had no problem with Libby’s request, and had every intention of slamming the door in Jack’s bearded face, when before she knew it, snow covered boots were mussing up the door rug, and Jack was pouring himself a cup of peppermint tea and stirring in honey.
‘Of all the nerve!’ Quint said, slamming the door before Libby bellowed again, and eyeing the unknown potion.  If she could only get it into his cup without him seeing…
‘Quint,’ Jack said, sitting calmly with a look fully directed at Quint, which had the two-fold effect of making her extraordinarily furious and preventing her from any clandestine poisoning, ‘All I did was ask you to marry me.  Now, if you’ll sit down and kindly tell me where I went wrong, then perhaps I’ll think about apologizing.’
‘Very rational, Jack.’ said Libby.
Quint gave the dragon a look colder than the chill outside, and stood her ground, crossing her arms.  ‘You want me to explain where you went wrong, Jack?  I’ll tell you where you went wrong,’ and with that Quint started pacing.  ‘First,’ she ticked it off on her fingers, ‘you’ve never showed a mark of interest in me.  Second,’ she said putting out another finger, ‘you presumed I’d want to leave my whole life on a whim.  And third,’ it seemed it would be the last finger and, apparently, the worst affront, ‘you put no thought or effort into it.  It had to be the worst proposal anyone’s ever…’
‘I haven’t shown a mark of interest?!’ Jack stood up, and Quint reveled in the fact that she had finally got to him.  ‘Who built you those shelves after Libby burned down the other ones?’
‘Accidentally,’ Libby interrupted primly, her chin resting on her forearms.
It was Jack’s turn to glare at the dragon.  ‘Who brings you firewood,’ he continued, ‘as regular as clockwork.  And who’s over here almost every night of the week just to enjoy the pleasure of your company?  So, what if I didn’t know that I was interested before?  It just came to me all of a sudden that there was no one else I’d rather be with in a life-long kind of way, so I asked you!  You didn’t have to say yes, not that you did.  And, why would you think you’d have to leave all this here?  I’d rather be here.  I’ve practically built the place anyway.  Besides, what kind of a village witch moves away from her village?’ 
It had to be the longest speech Quint had ever heard Jack make.
‘He’s got you there, Quint,’ Libby said, measurably impressed.  Quint tried to roll her eyes at the dragon, but somehow they kept getting stuck in a furrowed brow of marked confusion.
‘You didn’t know you liked me until you proposed?’  That was her big take away.
‘Liked you?  Of course, I liked you.  What sort of idiot spends a bunch of time with someone they dislike? I didn’t know I loved you until all of a sudden it dawned on me.  And then I proposed.’
‘You only knew you loved me for a second?’  Quint was trying to keep the argument going, despite the fact that the life seemed to be going out of it.
‘Well, yeah,’ Jack shrugged, and looked at her in a way that made something jump in her stomach.  ‘But it was a pretty powerful kind of knowing.’
Quint was silent, her arms clinched across her chest.  Her eyes stared at the ground. 
She was so focused on the ground that she didn’t realize a pair of woolen socks covering a sizable pair of broad feet standing very close.
‘Don’t you think you should have taken some time to think…’ Quint said looking up, and finding herself staring into two rather blue eyes.
‘I didn’t need to,’ Jack said, as he put his hand on Quint’s cheek.
‘Oh,’ Quint said, and worried for just a moment that her wildly thumping heart was going to thump its way right out of her chest.
‘Oh, for heavens sake, kiss her,’ Libby said, exasperated for the first time all afternoon.
Quint got there first.

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