I watched as Leon climbed up my fingernail. It took him some time, which is sort of cute in its own right. To think, he is so tiny that my fingernail alone is something to be climbed. It really does put things in perspective. I tried my best not to make any abrupt movements for his sake. Once he was in place, I lifted my finger from the desk.
Keeping myself calm and steady required a conscious effort. I raised him up slowly, bending my finger ever so slightly in the process to maintain a level ground for him to stand on. I was careful not to jostle the tiny man around. Any shaking or tilting could have caused him to fall. Thankfully, as my hand got closer to my face, the less dangerous a potential fall became, since my body is a much safer place to fall onto than my desk. That being said, I prefer to avoid having to search for him on my person.
Eventually, my finger reaches its destination, hovering in from of my face, level with my nose.
"I am willing to entertain your whims, in the interest of peace. Being carried is not something I have ever done, at least while exposed like this. I cannot say I am very fond of it. Though, now I have the benefit of being able to look you in the eye."
I let out a small chuckle, leaning to rest my chin on my free hand.
"This is a first for me as well. I have never held one of your kind before. You are lighter than I expected. I mean, you are not even as big as a crumb, but it is still surprising. But I digress. I believe it is only fair for you to be at eye-level with me. You are the only Lilli I have ever acknowledged."
"The first of many, I would hope."
"We will see."
He chuckles. It surprises me that he would laugh in a situation like this, being literally in the hand of his greatest enemy. His focus remains on the conversation, unconcerned with what I could do to him. I had assumed the cure was something locked away in his memory. Rather, it is an item; one that could be taken by force, and quite easily at that. If I were in his position, I could never act so lax.
"Do you find something amusing?"
I ask with a look of slight annoyance.
"I suppose I do. When I had agreed to meet with my mortal enemy, I had expected someone very different."
"Oh? And what exactly did you expect?"
"Someone bloodthirsty, bent on destruction. A true enemy of peace. In other words, a monster. I was shocked when I encountered a person."
"I could have you imprisoned for a comment like that."
"You asked me a question. I am only responding honestly."
I feel my smirk return at hearing his words. He is forthright, even in my presence. The vast majority of my subjects are incapable of that, and none of them are tiny enough to fit atop my fingernail. I like it. Dare I say, I might even respect him for it.
"While we are being honest, I should tell you that you are not what I expected either. You are strong. That is not a quality I ever dreamed I would associate with one of your kind."
"That is high praise, coming from you."
I look away for a moment, thinking. Upon looking back at him, I find myself eager to ask him a question.
"Tell me. Leon, do you really think that our nations could coexist? That we are fundamentally compatible?"
He takes a moment to think. He is usually so quick to respond that I find it surprising. My question must have caught him off guard.
"I cannot claim to know what is within the realm of possibility between nations, but I can speak for us two. Despite our differences, we have managed to avoid violence after spending this time together. I would go as far as to say we have gained an understanding."
"I find that to be an apt description."
"I believe we can lead by example. Surely your subjects will want to follow in your lead. As will my citizens, in all likelihood."
"We will not know until we try. I am willing, if it will benefit my people."
"With your strength and our knowledge, I do not imagine a single force that could stop us."
"Such big words from someone so small."
"And such little faith from someone so big."
The two of us are silent for a time. I feel what was left of my hostility leaving me. To think that this man, this barely-noticeable Lilliputian, was able to bring my kingdom to its knees. And then to find common ground with its Queen. I am still in disbelief. I had previously been concerned with the inconvenience of letting him fall. Now I am worried for his wellbeing. I dare not drop this one.
To that end, I twist my hand around. I bend my finger, watching the tiny dot slip from my nail. He falls a short distance into my palm, safe from any edges. I see that he is unharmed, apart from having experienced a great shock.
"Why did you do that?"
"A test, nothing more. Are you well?"
"I am, yes. I hope you will tell me before you go ahead with your next test."
"That will be all for now. I have learned much from this. I hope the same is true for you."
I move my hand away from my face and lower it down to the table. I lay it flat, keeping it still so that he may return to the desk.
"It was an interesting experience. One of many things I did not expect when I departed from Lilliputia."
Leon makes his way across my palm, to my fingers. It takes him some time, but I am a patient woman. Again, I remain perfectly still for his sake. Eventually, he steps off my finger and I pull my hand away.
Just after, I hear a knock on my office door, even though I thought I told everyone I was not to be interrupted? It cannot be anyone but Maria. She is the only one I allow to interrupt me during meetings.
"Is that you, Maria? You may enter."
The door opens and in walks Maria, carrying a tray. There is a cup of tea atop it, which she brings over to me. It is a special blend, one that I tend to soothe my throat after a lot of talking.
"My Lady, I thought you might be thirsty."
"I am. Thank you, Maria."
She nods and begins to move the cup to the desk. She does not notice where Leon is standing, and it occurs to me that she might place it on top of him.
"Maria, be careful!"
My sudden outburst startles her, causing her to drop the cup. It falls onto the desk, spilling its contents all over it. Without thinking, I reach out and cup my right hand over Leon. I wince in pain as the piping hot liquid scalds my skin. This sends Maria into a panic.
"Your Majesty, I am so sorry! Forgive me! I will bring you ice water right away!"
She darts out of the room in a hurry, leaving me alone with Leon once more. I slowly remove my hand, making sure not to let any of the tea flow toward him as I do. I squint my eyes, confirming that he is unharmed. As relief washes over me, I feel the pain in my hand double. I try to flex my fingers, but that only make it hurt more.
"Alyssa, you...protected me."
"Think nothing of it."
Maria returns with a bucket of ice water and three of the royal doctors. Tears are pouring down her face as she sobs. I have her give me the bucket and wave the four of them away.
"I am alright. Your Queen is not as frail as you would think. Go on, now."
They leave without a word. Maria looks especially guilty, even though I know it was an accident. I do not blame her. We will have a talk after this meeting is over. There are bigger things to worry about than some silly burns. I turn my attention back to Leon, who has been silent throughout the ordeal.
"I apologize for my servant's carelessness. She should have seen you."
I notice that Leon is staring at my hand. His expression is grim. I worry that I might have upset him. He asked me to make him trust me, and I nearly drowned him in a sea of near-boiling water. This will surely set us back. I place my hand into the bucket and groan in relief as well as frustration.
I close my eyes and curse my luck. We were so close.
"Alyssa, I would like you to have the cure."
Upon hearing him say that, my eyes snap open. I look at him in disbelief. His arm is extended toward me, the cure in his hand. I reach with my uninjured hand toward him, extending a finger to collect it. To my surprise, he takes the tiny object and presses it into my skin. It occurs to me that it is not a storage device, but rather a syringe.
"I have administered the cure. As we speak, it proliferates through your bloodstream. There is no way that anyone can ever take it from you now. Should you provide your doctors with a blood sample, they will be able to replicate it for all of your sick."
As he explains this, I listen on with rapt attention. I cannot believe what I am hearing. I am so confused.
"You just surrendered your only leverage. Does this mean that you trust me? I could kill you and have my soldiers resume their attack without consequence."
"You could. However, I trust that you will not."
"Why? Because I shielded you from the spill? Surely that was not enough to convince you?"
"It was more than enough."
I scowl at him, partially because I am growing irritated with his vagueness, but mostly from the pain.
"You willingly harmed yourself to protect my life. In your own words, a 'speck' and a 'bug'. I have never known anyone to do that for a being so beneath them. Your actions proved to me that you see me as a person, perhaps even an equal. You, the Queen of Brobdingnag."
Though I know it is irrelevant now that I have the cure, I cannot abandon the topic just yet.
"My actions could have been motivated by selfish reasons. Perhaps I was protecting the cure? Or better yet, perhaps it was a charade that Maria was privy to?"
"I considered that. Though, I recognize sincerity when I hear it. The concern in your tone was not something that could be faked."
I huff in frustration. I am not sure why. Something about the situation does not sit right with me.
"How am I to know that what you injected me with is indeed the cure?"
"I suppose you cannot know for certain until your doctors confirm it. Now I would like to ask you to trust me."
My eyes remain fixed on the tiny man. I raise my finger, looking for the spot where he poked me. I cannot see it, unsurprisingly. His request of me is fair. It will take me some time to come to terms with acknowledging him as an 'equal', but I will have to get used to that.
"I suppose there is only one thing left to do now. Shall we finally end this war?"
I nod with a warm smile. I begin to lift my hand to shake his, but put it down again once I remember it would be impossible.
"It is past time. Never again will a Brobdingnagian harm a Lilliputian. Not while I live."
"Nor will a Lilliputian ever harm a Brobdingnagian. I have no doubt the next President will be eager to avoid conflict too. I am pleased to have come to an agreement that satisfies us both."
"As am I."
"Then this meeting has come to an end. Thank you, Alyssa."
"The pleasure is all mine, Leon. I will have Maria bring your transport back here. I am certain she will be extra careful with it."
I press a button under my desk to call for her. A minute later, she returns with a tiny jet in hand. With shaky fingers, she places it on my desk. I see a tiny stairway extend from it, allowing Leon to board. Maria wait patiently for it to retract, signaling that it he is inside. On a whim, I gesture for her to leave.
"I will take care of the rest, Maria. You may go. Oh, and my hand is feeling much better now. Thank you for acting so quickly."
"Anything for you, My lady."
She bows to me before promptly exiting the room.
I take my hand out of the ice water and dry it with a towel she left. I use that same hand to pick up the aircraft, placing it into my other.
"I will see you out. It is the least I can do."
I carry him and his attendants through the halls of the palace, passing several of my servants along the way. I hear their quiet gasps when they see what I am holding. Perhaps the smirk on my face has spoiled the good news? If not, I am sure they will be elated when they learn that the fighting is finally over.
I make my way to the entrance, descending the steps until I am about halfway down. I stop, bringing the plane up to my face. I turn my hand so that I can look through the little windows until I locate Leon.
"Have a safe journey, Mr. President. I expect we will speak again soon."
"I look forward to it. Until then, Your Majesty."
I crouch down and place the aircraft on the ground. Stepping back to give them space, I watch it begin moving, picking up speed until it takes off. It soars higher and higher, ascending until it is roughly eye level with me again, before going even higher. I give them a wave as they fly away, finally disappearing from my view.
The future is looking bright.