A Gift for Life and Death (pt16)

Forgiveness beamed at him. At Death, that was. The angel was like that, as if they were close. Metaphorically of course. Even if the angel seemed to come closer than they should. Death was very careful to make certain they retained that distance. Forgiveness didn’t seem to understand that they would very well die and belong to Death, whether he wanted it or not, if they came too close.

That wasn’t true. Death knew that Forgiveness was aware of this. Yet they always tempted fate. Death couldn’t imagine why, though he spent a great deal of mental power trying to figure it out.

“You shouldn’t be out here,” Death tried again, mollified a little when Pup returned to his side. Almost instinctively he reached out with a finger to his side to tap Pup’s rib.

“Hello,” said the angel. Happily. As they were.

“Causing more trouble, are you?”

Forgiveness tilted their head to the side, confused. Death snorted.

“I don’t know what you’re up to, angel, but you’re not fooling me.” Even if they weren’t doing it on purpose, though that seemed to be unlikely. How could the angel do as they did without realizing at least part of the effect they were having on the unchangeable around them? “Giving the gods strange thoughts. The last time I spoke with Life, she told me some strange things. Strange things which came from you.”

Ignoring does not only mean not looking

Inhabitants of Zinge, over whom the star Canopus rises every night, are always gay and without sorrow. This, she believed, was dumb. She flicked her lighter on and off. Because she was not an inhabitant of Zinge, she was just there right now, and she was not without sorrow.

Which meant the people around her made her irritated. Irritation on top of sorrow made for a much less than happy lady.

She was offered food and drink. She declined both, remaining on the edge of civilization. The people would leave, return, all unaffected by her reaction.

She was not only sorrowful and irritated. Now she felt ignored. They did not accept how she felt. She felt hate.

She flicked her lighter on.

Keep doing it without me

“Live.”

He held his hand, trying not to crush it. Never before had the other man felt so brittle. Never before had he felt so strong. He hated it. It was all in comparison.

“Laugh.”

He tried to at least smile, because that was what the man beneath him was doing. As he looked down, he realized how ageless his friend looked. They were the same age, yet for some reason the other didn’t look young, didn’t look old. He just looked.

“Love.”

He would have kissed him, but then he wouldn’t be able to talk. More than anything, he needed to hear his friend talk.

A rasping breath. A smile. “Just… keeping doing it. Without me. Okay?”

He agreed, because he’d never been able to deny his love anything.

Smooth doesn’t usually involve dead people

When Pranav looked back on it, he decided it could have gone a lot smoother.

“Well duh,” his best friend said. “Smoother? We have two bodies in the trunk. Two. That’s twice as many as I agreed to help out with.”

“Buck,” he said, slowing down when the speed limit decreased, “how long have we known each other?”

“Since I died of cancer at the old age of seventy nine.”

Buck was nineteen. A full half as old as Pranav. Yet he would say things like this. Much like he would lord over Pranav that he would live a year longer than him. Scratch that- lived. Buck always spoke of Pranav’s respiratory disease in past tense. The one he didn’t have at forty. Yet he was complaining about the two bodies in the trunk.

“Well, if you don’t want that to be the case, I could always drive three bodies to the docks instead.”

Buck was unaffected by the threat, but Pranav couldn’t make himself mean it. He hadn’t wanted to have the first two.

Two more hours to drive, the stench was going to be awful.

And he wouldn’t see him again for some time

“Is this it?”

Henri looked outside to see the circular apartment complex. As broken down as ever. He was oddly grateful to have had this disaster happen in the middle of the month. No bills or rent to miss. He nodded. “This is it.”

The vampire parked at the curb. It seemed almost too easy for Henri to take off his seatbelt, open the door and step out of the car. If anything though, the vampire seemed to just be waiting for him to close the door so he could drive off.

Henri almost did. A thought to return to the life he had had before he had walked into the wrong part of town. The life where the vampires were just those creatures who walked around that he never dealt with. His mother would be horrified.

“What is your name?” Henri asked, all mental faculties still present.

People weren’t supposed to ask vampires their names. That was known.

The vampire looked at him for a moment. Probably determining if Henri was dumb enough to be considered a decent meal that no one would miss. But, against all of Henri’s thoughts, the vampire smiled instead. He looked… younger than Henri had thought.

“Haruki.”

This wasn’t dangerous at all. Henri’s chest hurt from how hard his heart was pounding. His flight instinct threatened to take over. “The offer’s still open. As thanks.”

Then he closed the door and walked away, back home. Behind him, the car drove away.

That seemed to be the end of that.

after

They went home in silence. If her girlfriend said anything, she didn’t hear it. Fayth didn’t want to hear it. She was trying not to cry. She didn’t cry. Strong women didn’t cry.

That was what her father had told her. Then again, her father was not the one who usually made her feel like crying.

The house was dark, but Fayth did not turn on the lights. Fumiko did, after closing the front door behind her, removing her shoes as Fayth often forgot to do. “Fayth.”

Robotic, Fayth knelt down to remove her boots. She said nothing.

“If this is wrong, I am glad you are imperfect.”

Tears threatened her again, but Fayth won. At the very least, today, she had won in this. Looking up, she saw Fumiko standing there. Maybe not as beautiful as they day they had met, but to be fair they had met was at a fancy dress gathering and Fumiko’s dressage had been stunning.

No, it was Fumiko. The woman who loved her. The woman who stood beside her, no matter who they faced.

The one who accepted that Fayth was imperfect.

Fayth finally smiled. “Me too.”

Where everybody knows your name

They stopped at the bar, surprised to see the owner actually there. Making their way to the counter, they sat down on the far right. “I didn’t know you were back from your honeymoon. Have a good time?”

He nodded, the only response they expected to hear.

“Good you’re back. Your daughter did well enough in your absence, but she lacks the… experience, I suppose.”

The bartender shook his head, almost as though he said flatterer in his usual fond fashion, without giving mouth to the word. Only then did they notice his work, culminating in the chocolate shake placed in front of them on the counter. A cinnamon stick stuck out through the whip cream.

“How did you do that?

He looked back at them, quizzically.

“I don’t always ask for cinnamon. I was going to, this time. How did you know?”

“…you like cinnamon when you’re down.”

How he could see that, when they had done such a good job pretending otherwise, baffled them. Nevertheless, they took their drink and slipped at it, not getting in the way of the bartender and his other customers. They felt included, somehow. Despite the exclusion they had always taken for granted. Everyone greeted them, but didn’t push it when they didn’t do more than return the greeting. As they wanted, today. How did everyone know?

“Is it okay that I come here?”

The bartender paused, looking at them.

“Is it okay? Without anyone else… that it is only me.”

“You are always welcome here. With your friends and siblings, without your friends or siblings.”

It was true. When had it become true? They didn’t know. Somehow, sometime, they had just belonged. They hadn’t noticed, but it had happened.

They hid their eyes behind their bangs and regained their composure. Then, smiling, they greeted the next person to say hello.

Sometimes, you don’t have to say anything

Deston stared down at the water, where Zale moved around like one of the fish that they would be eating soon.

“The nets are full. Help me bring them up.”

He did so, climbing down the side to hoist the fish up on deck. Two small nets, set up wherever it was Zale had decided they would best harvest. He had, as always, chosen correctly. There would be enough to last them some time. Zale handed up the second and Deston threw that one up as well. Reaching down, he took Zale by the wrist and pulled him up out of the water. They both returned to the deck.

“I have to say, I think we got lucky this time,” Zale said brightly.

Deston nodded.

They sorted through the catch and got started with the packing. “The weather looks like it’ll hold up. The wind could take us further east, to the reef. What do you think?”

What he thought was that Zale knew more about this than he did, but he appreciated being treated as though he was on a similar level. He nodded again.

Zale smiled at him. He held up one of the fish. “Your favorite.”

At that, Deston couldn’t help but smile. Zale patted him on the shoulder, a hefty clap, before moving around him. Deston continued with the task and the two of them enjoyed the day with Zale’s occasional speech.

It was a good day.