Wordcount: ~ 1,400
Summary: How to say your good-byes when they don't know you're leaving.
The woman's joints ache morning and old age. Even though she is barely woken, she wishes to return to slumber, soul-tired and frightened of the coming days. But sleep will not allow her rest, she knows, from the visions that haunt also her waking hours. The familiar madness that comes with them, reminding her of the times of her youth, as they now spin toward a blankness that makes her mind seem as blind as her eyes.
She has witnessed death during the many years years of her life, and she has provided it. She has heard, inside her head and in her ears, the dying screams of many, so many. But it still remains a matter of curiosity to her how quiet death is, in the end.
How quiet the acceptance of her own.
There is a stirring on the bed, behind her, that she knows half a second before she hears it. Feels it. She has time enough for a faint smile, colored with her sorrow, before arms so strong encircle her frail body, with no surprise. There are many who would describe her partner as unpredictable to the highest extremes, a force of nature given flesh. But she believes that she would know the other woman's words before she speaks them even without her precognitive abilities, having spent with her a lifetime. Having seen in her mind the unfurling of so many more lifetimes between them that never were.
She presses her dry lips against the woman's wrist and burrows her back closer to the other, a small lie that she hopes will prepare her for the bigger ones that she knows must come later. And she prays that she will have strength enough to tell them all.
"You've been tossing and turning all night," says the deep and rich voice behind her. The words are mumbled in sleepy softness against her ear, and she knows them to be true.
Ever since the return of the Shadow King she has been harrowed by that which she has known for a long time, ever since her youth. Ever since the erratic, feverish nightmares that attacked her regardless of whether she was asleep or awake first fractured her sanity. Her death was now five days away. One hundred and eighteen hours. Seven thousand and fifty-five minutes.
When first she had seen it, the wait had been fifty years. Half a century. It had been in the distant future, such that the mind of a youth could hardly conceive of it.
It was no less frightening now. But it wasn't more frightening either, as one perhaps could have expected. It merely was, as it always had been, a constant knowledge at the back of her skull. The quiet buzzing of an invisible fly that she could never quite reach to swat. She could well have spent all the years between then and now trapped inside her own head, tortured by the visions.
Had it not been for the woman whose soft breasts were even right now a comfort against her back, she most likely would have.
And so it is time for another lie. One that she knows the woman will recognize as one, but utters it anyway.
"Just bad dreams, dear. Go back to sleep."
There is a tensing to the arms that encircle her. She knows that were she anyone else trying to feed such obvious lies to her beautiful Raven, lies that the woman would consider an insult, she would be dead already and not yet know it. But she remains perfectly relaxed within the embrace, and soon the tensing melts away, even if the woman's hold of her grows no less tight.
"What are you not telling me, Irene?" the voice whispers hoarsely to her ear. She can recognize the tone as hurt mingled with fear, and knows that she alone could. She alone would ever be allowed to hear it. "And why do you feel you can't?"
She shifts in the woman's arms, turns to face her. It is a gesture rather than a need. She is blind, and therefore could not see her lover no matter which way she faced. And yet, with her mind's eye, she sees Raven where ever she may go.
"You must trust me," she says, reaching over to touch the woman's face. She hates how brittle and old her own voice sounds now, how young and smooth her lover's skin still feels. She has made love to this person in a hundred different shapes, and yet it is her own skin, warm and human despite its teal coloring, that she loves the most. It hasn't changed in all the years that she has had permission to touch it. "It will all come for the best."
She knows that the woman is pouting even before the tips of her fingers brush over full lips, down-curved. Despite desire having grown weaker and more seldom with the weight of her years, there is a passion to her claiming of the woman's lips soon after. It isn't just to silence further questions or indignant protests. Her kiss is tinged with a desperation to say with her body the words that she cannot speak. And it is perhaps out of mere surprise that the other woman allows her to get away with this, for now, even though she knows that her partner is marking down a follow-up for the conversation for a later time even as she gives into just feeling.
The other woman presses closer to her, palm tentatively sliding down her back. They hardly make love as often as they used to anymore, and she understands the need for assurance that is in the gentle elusiveness of the other woman's touches. She grants her this assurance, with soft sighs and the relentlessness of her kisses.
For a moment all that can be heard is the rustling and shifting of sheets, the mingling of their breaths and the sounds of wet mouth on wet mouth. But suddenly the sound of slowly tearing and rearranging flesh is added to the soundscape, and no matter how many times she has heard the very sound in the past, she still finds it a little bit sickly. She needs not feel the bulge bumping into her thigh to know what the woman has done, what she has produced and protruded, and she draws slightly back to dodge the lips that are again seeking hers.
"No, Raven," she says, catching the woman's wrist as it is mid-motion to pull her close. She opens her unseeing eyes to her partner, whom she knows can see perfectly well in the dark, and tries to convey with this the weight of her request. "You. Just you."
It seems an odd thing to say, to her own ears. Unlike very few others, she has always been able to tell the woman from all of her forms. To spot her in a crowded room without needing to see. And it has never mattered to her what shape her lover has been, has taken.
And it would not matter tonight if she didn't know what she knows. That in less than seven hours time they will receive a phone call from Valerie Cooper that will signal the last of their private time together. This is the last night they will ever have, she knows, and even though she cannot tell the one person that of all the world would deserve to know, she is determined to make this leave an imprint on her Raven's memories. To leave her with something to hold onto.
"Oh, very well, you daft old dear," the woman laughs, throaty huskiness to her voice that almost, but not quite, covers the same sound of shifting flesh. It is with the smile of a small victory that she then releases the woman's wrist, allowing her finally to do as she wishes while her own hand goes on to run the curve of readily bending back to round bottom. She wants to make this last, more than anything else, giving up thought and vision as her lover eagerly opens up for her.
This is their last night, and she intends to make out of it a short forever. Something that her beloved Raven will always remember her by. And she does.
She makes it count.