Outside, the thunder rolled in the distance and the lightning flashed when Lucian finally materialised, dripping wet, in Chay’s room where we were lying snuggled up together against the sudden drop in temperature and the change in what had started out as a sunny day.
Lucian didn’t care to dry himself and came straight over, sat as wet as he was on the edge of the bed and bent down to kiss me, very cold, making me shiver.
He stroked my hair with a wet hand, sticky pulling sensation and then the cold from his hand penetrating to my skin and I reflexively snuggled closer back into Chay, deeper beneath the blanket.
“I’m sorry,” he said gently and sighed, then smiled at me, smiled at Chay and got up. He walked physically to the door and without turning back, send us, I’ll be in the Tower. When you’re ready, just before closing it behind himself.
Behind me, Chay blew out a breath and his thoughts stood clearly and unshielded, his non-understanding and understanding both of Lucian and the old reflex habits of not liking to be found in the bed of another man's woman.
He is delicious and warm and I snuggle into him some more, turning around and letting his arms enfold me entirely. There is a big crash and both of us hold our breath as we wait for the thunder which will tell us where the storm is – half a day’s ride away perhaps and coming closer, coming closer.
I don’t want to get out of this bed, out of your arms, ever, I tell him and receive a smile and notion of utter comfort and of relaxation in return. Me neither, he replies and then attaches a hesitant, But he is waiting for us?
Don’t worry about that, darling. Lucian knows how to wait. He knows more about waiting than you or I could ever begin to imagine. He has waited in some form or shape for centuries, it is of no concern to him.
Sometimes I feel kinda sorry for him.
As well you should. I can’t conceive of what it must be like to be – him.
But you know everything he knows?
That is nothing, Chay. It doesn’t mean you can understand. I know I cannot. I used to think I might have a chance of learning if I took enough care, spend enough time but that was truly an illusion.
He sighs into my hair and nuzzles at my ear, lazily and just for the taste of it. Oh Chay but you are so comforting, such a wonderful experience.
So that is what I am, an experience?
I smile and find a single hair on his chest to pull with my teeth, slowly.
I said a wonderful experience. There are many other kinds.
He turns me over swiftly and gets on top of me, takes my wrists and holds them down. Most seriously, he says, “We have to get up or I will not be held responsible.”
In response, I wrap my legs about him, pulling my hips up towards him. He kisses me slowly and enters me even more slowly still this time and there truly cannot be anything or anyone more delicious than he is in all the planes, in all the universes.
Above us, Lucian tracks us from the Tower, keeping a respectable distance at first until I cannot help but invite him to join me, just me, lightly and surreptitiously for I don’t wish to frighten or dismay my golden lover who is riding me steadily, holding me back, keeping me in check and building and building my frustration and desire to explode and hurtle forward with intensity of passion, entirely, unheedingly.
But he declines and stays in distance and not too long afterward I forget about him, and about all of us as I become pure physicality and let my lover take me where he will, how he will and fall to him, releasing all control.
When I re-surface, breathing hard and resonant all over like a temple bell, he is no longer apparent and I lie with Chay in fully coursing heat, sweating we are both and trembling, until we disentangle and I am far too relaxed to rise. I must have drifted for a while and was awoken by an almighty crash that seemed right next to my ear.
Starting awake and jumping upright, I pull the sheets before my breasts as Chay climbs over me and makes for the window, squinting out into the driving rain. I don’t know what he hopes to see and instead, I let myself become aware of all there is and find a vibrant outline, only a few men’s length from the Tower, where the lightning struck one of the big trees that line the approach road.
Just a heartbeat later, and there’s another crash followed immediately by thunder claps that rattle the windows – we are right in the centre of the storm. Chay shivers and looks for his clothes. I look for Lucian but again I cannot find him. He is shielding in perfection and I have to ask in a different way to know that he is here, in the Tower as he said he would be, and I send an open thought of greeting and of some concern lest the lightning struck the Tower next.
It is a silly thought on too many levels all at once and I’m glad he doesn’t bother to respond, to have to try not to remind me of my own stupidity. Lucian can do with the lightning as he pleases. He plays with it, has played with it, and I wager he could make me a new piece of adornment from a herd of them, a coronet or such, or perhaps something more unusual, a pair of shoes.
I shake my head at the same time as the next crash vibrates the very floor and causes Chay to nearly lose his balance for he is involved in getting into his pants. I ignore the storm outside and focus on him instead, moving with entirely unconscious grace as he always does.
You mean I stumble around like an idiot, he sends me and laughs.
I am about to reply when the next crash occurs, and this time it really does shake the house, at least enough to make the mirror in the washroom fall and shatter and some dust and small particles drift down from the ceiling. I trace the impact point and note it is to the left of me, near the stable buildings. I hope the morning room has not been damaged, my favourite room in the house and inspect its structure but it is sound in all ways. Both Chay and I are still in posture, listening with care but there is nothing for a while, until it happens again and it is distinctly further away this time.
The storm has passed us by.
I too get up and find my undergarments, my new Serein type robe and slide into it quickly, looking forward to the fabric shielding me against the cold and wet that stands now clearly in the room as though it has the presence of a visitor who came to call straight through the walls.
I remember with some sadness my original soft boots, bought for me by Lucian in the market and shaped to my feet, goodness knows alone where they ended up. But I remember the toy Chay brought back from his trip with Lucian to Serein. It is possible to manifest such things from memory, and I know full well I could have made the waterfall be much, much realler than it ended up becoming; at the time, all I wanted was to create a brief divergence to stop the two from fighting again.
Little good that had done. I concentrate on my feet, remember the time when I first felt the boots, the first time I stepped into them, unusual feel, a little tight, and on another level I can feel them coming into stronger existence, stronger resonance, tighter, closer. I step up the desire to have them be entirely real, entirely of the now and there is a threshold shift as though they truly step across from dream to hard, I can feel it tingling through me and when I open my eyes, I am wearing the boots, brand new, bright and fresh, pale soft leather and just a little too tight around my toes and chafing at my heels.
I walk carefully across to the bed and sit down, bend over and touch them, feel them with my fingers and with my mind. They have that same odd little dissonance pattern that Chay’s looking toy has in its structure, just a little reminder that they are not quite all that they might seem but if you didn’t know just how to read these fine strands you would simply never guess there was anything amiss at all.
They were perfect and I remember clearly how Lucian shifted them to fit them perfectly to my feet, softening the structure fractionally, and re-setting it in that old way of his where he was doing these things without understanding them in the slightest, doing them just as he had been told to do them with his mental eyes firmly shut and head half turned away as well.
I turned a foot here and there and looked at the boots lovingly, quite aware that Chay was tracking me with interest and not a little consternation at his own familiarity with the incident I had remembered so deeply.
“How is it,” he says hesitantly and comes over, shirt still unbuttoned, crouches before me and touches my boots with both hands, “that I remember where you got these? You got something else as well, wait, yes it was a pouch for a singing stone. Green, green dyed leather with a glass bead for a fastening in yellow.”
He looks up to me and I stroke his hair from the side of his face. You know how that is, darling.
A sadness falls on him and he says, nearly pleadingly, “Not his, as well?”
I smile and close my eyes, lean forward and let my lips touch his forehead. Don’t worry. They are with you but far away. They won’t trouble you unless you go looking for them. We – we have learned how to deal with this thing better since it happened to us.
Do you have my memories, too? Does he? All of them? Everything? Chay shudders beneath my lips and I curtail him with a swift mental wind that blows away his fears.
We do but that is really not a problem now. Not one of us is in any position to judge the other. Not one of us doesn’t know just about anything there is to know. It really doesn’t matter anymore, Chay. I love you and so does he.
He sighs and gets up, reluctantly. I stand up too and start buttoning his shirt for him, smiling up at him. He does not return my smile. Instead, he says sadly, “We will never be the same again, will we,” and his sadness touches mine, it is the same, born of the same understanding and knowing that I have fought so hard this day to not admit to consciousness. There is nothing I can say to him to make it any better so I simply continue pushing the small opalescent buttons through their carefully stitched holes until I am done. I stroke his shoulder lightly and sit back down on the bed, hands folded in my lap and watch him tuck the shirt into his trousers, run his hand through his hair a couple of times. Outside, the rain is beating against the house in unabating hard drifts that come and go, rasping breath of giants kept at bay by a little stone and a little fragile glass.
It is time to go. It is time to go on and I really, really do not want to leave this room, I bite my lips and feel tears in my eyes but I get up nonetheless and hold my hand out to him. He takes it immediately and it is I who starts us to walk through the door. I want to walk, I want to turn the handle with my hand, cold copper, so familiar to my touch, and I want to walk out into the corridor and past the rooms, past the room I once inhabited and to which I have never sought to return, past the pool room in green and blue, dark today and not as vibrant as it would be if the sun was striking all those coloured panes, and past Lucian’s room and here I falter and must stop. Chay stops too and doesn’t ask or try to want to know, just waits until I am ready to move forward again, down the old blackwood staircase, turning the large landing with the leaded windows and down towards the hallway.
Memories assault me at every step of the way, overlaying each other, vantages and viewpoints not just my own but his as well, and then Chay’s memories join in the dance and it is nearly too much for me, yet I keep taking a step at a time and breathe a sigh of relief when I feel the cold stone floor through the soles of the boots.
There once used to be a tapestry, very old and grey in grey, the colours all faded out, with geometric patterns and swirls that covered the door to the tower room. Now, there isn’t even a door there, just an opening to steps, narrow, worn and dark. I have to release Chay’s hand to start my ascent and raise the garment automatically, feel a need to run up these steps like I used to when he called me, such a long time ago it was, eons or so it seemed. I felt ahead for his presence but other than the knowing that he was there and waiting, there was great silence and his shielding wide and far across the layers, all across the levels.
It is not much lighter in the tower room.
Lucian is standing, looking from a window, to the left of the entrance. I know the stance intimately. He is in his special timeless space that will be broken only by incident or the sun biting into his sensitive eyes, whichever comes first. I go to him and begin to feel his shielding, as though he was himself a circle of stones this day, a very similar notion of storm and confusion as I get closer and then through and out into a profound silence of self, a calm that I have not experienced with him.
I step up next to him and follow his line of vision that extends beyond the sheets of water and the drops and rivulets on the dirty tower windows into nowhere, lean my head against his shoulder and wait for him to sigh and centre back to self and by default, to me.
It is different from how it used to be. Then, we used to have to make a conscious effort to create a link, stealthily moving towards one another, bouncing of and out when one rejected the other’s advances or if we were angry with each other. Now, there is no division and just by the very act of existing we are deeply linked.
Where did you go, my love?
I needed to understand your sadness. I do, now.
Chay feels it too.
I am sorry about the ocean.
The sadness descends heavily upon me and I struggle with tears again that I don’t want to cry. It is futile. It is childish. I want to be brave and strong and I should be happy.
Lucian puts his arm around my shoulder, familiar gesture, familiar weight and oh, such familiar need to have him hold me tight. He turns to me and enfolds me, and I cry into his shirt.
Beside us, Chay comes closer, hesitantly. He is confused by Lucian’s barrier and is still not sure that he is an invited guest of honour at this meeting. Lucian sighs into my hair and the barrier dissolves. Chay steps closer and then doesn’t know what to do. Lucian simply turns us both in his direction and then puts one arm about Chay’s shoulder, drawing him close. I put my arm around Chay’s waist and lean my head so it is supported by both of them. In response, both tighten their embrace of me and we weave together, very separately each other still, very aware of each other, all of us waiting for something, for one of us to make the first move.
In the end it is Chay who speaks first.
What do we have to do, now?
Lucian’s sigh touches us all and then he says, Perhaps we should put our affairs in order.
I have a child, too.
That too, should be put in order.
The Serein children.
We all sigh together and drift for a little while.
I have to repair the network, I tell them.
They assent quietly.
It is the last task left to be done.
We are very silent and the sadness lies heavily on all of us.
Lucian says, I didn’t think I would feel this way.
Chay says, It is alright. We had a good run, all told.
I say, I had hoped we would be given time to play a while, to be happy.
Even as I say it, I know it is a futile thing to even think. I am such a child.
Gentle love touches me from both the others.
That is nothing to be ashamed of. It is what you are.
We have to go to Pertineri.
It will be our last journey.
Is it too much to ask if we could ride there?
Lucian says, Nothing you ask is too much. We will ride to Pertineri.
Five days. Five days left. The sadness overwhelms me, spins me but the others catch me, steady me, their own sadness of no concern at all in the context.
We will leave tomorrow.
It is done.