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Excerpt from my old WIP, Fortune and Glory, in which John is an adventuring archaeologist and Rodney is a concert pianist whose life has taken a turn. Fusion with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Because @randommindtime is giving me thinky thoughts about it again.

*o*

He took several menial jobs, and degraded himself on more than one occasion, until he landed his current gig playing piano at Club Obi Wan. He made shit wages but got to eat for free. It was no concert hall. He played popular tripe like Blue Moon and Red Sails in the Sunset, accompaniment for the stable of scantily clad dancing girls and the blonde tomato that was the star of the show. (Willie Scott was an American, a fact made apparent by her big mouth and deplorable lack of manners.)

Meredith – he was going by Rodney these days, a way to distance himself from his mistakes and the person he used to be –finished off Anything Goes with a flourish, not that anyone cared. Willie made an immediate beeline for Lao Che, the owner of the club and a high-ranking member of the local crime syndicate, not to mention Willie’s sugar daddy. She simpered over him and Rodney just rolled his eyes. He didn’t know what her story was, mostly because he just really, really didn’t care, but it was obvious to him that her appeal was already starting to wane with the boss.

Normally Rodney paid little attention to the goings-on in the club, apart from those that affected him directly, but his gaze lingered on Lao Che’s table as he made his own way back towards the kitchen. Lao Che was sitting with his usual bodyguards, and one of his sons who sported a heavily bandaged hand and looked worse for wear. There was another man, too, wearing a white tuxedo jacket and slouching in his chair in a way that marked him as an American. He was incredibly good-looking, with his dark hair sticking up in haphazard cowlicks and a smirky tilt to his lips.

Rodney flushed and made himself look away, tugging nervously on his own gray tuxedo; the club orchestra always wore gray. He wanted out of this stupid, fish-eating country in the worst way but he was done compromising his morals to do so. He figured he only had three, four months tops before he’d saved enough for a boat ticket home. After that, if he never saw rice again it would be too soon.

He was almost to the kitchen when all hell broke loose. Women were screaming, one of Lao Che’s men was on fire, and it seemed like every employee pulled out automatic weapons. Rodney dropped to the floor and laced his hands protectively over his head as the guests started to stampede and bullets started to fly.

“Oh, God!” Rodney’s heart was pounding and he felt very strongly that he didn’t want to die in that stupid club. He didn’t know what to do and remained frozen with indecision until a man dropped to the floor in front of him, his white shirt stained red with blood. Rodney choked off a scream and scuttled backwards on his hands and knees until he fetched up against the wall. Someone stepped squarely on his hand and he cursed, cradling the bruised appendage to his chest. Thank goodness it hadn’t been a stiletto heel.

Through the mass of humanity rushing around pell-mell Rodney spotted Willie. She was also on her hands and knees, and seemed to be chasing something across the floor. She picked up a chunk of ice in one spangled glove but lost it when someone knocked into her arm. Rodney lost sight of her after that, but then a little glass vial filled with blue liquid came skittering in his direction. He snapped his hand out and snatched it up, even though he had no idea what it was.

“Stay there!”

Rodney looked up and saw the handsome American pointing at him. He looked pretty bad – sweaty and flushed, his tuxedo jacket torn and stained. Maybe the vial was his. Rodney tucked it into the pocket of his jacket for safe keeping.

Balloons started dropping from the ceiling, triggered too early: white and black and red and pink, so many that the entire club floor was lost beneath them. Somehow the American made his way across the room without getting shot, though he did have to exchange blows with one of Lao Che’s bodyguards. He was clearly a tough customer and Rodney was no fool. Things at Club Obi Wan were a little too hot for his liking and he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to fight past the guns and the mob to get out. He was going to need some help.

“Give me the antidote,” the American demanded when he got close enough. He held out his hand, which was noticeably trembling.

“Antidote? Antidote for what?” As soon as he asked the question Rodney knew the answer. Whatever business dealings this guy had with Lao Che had gone south and the boss had poisoned him, one of his favored bargaining techniques.

“Never mind. Get me out of here and you can have it.” Rodney gave him an appraising look. “And you’d better hurry.”

The American scowled but didn’t argue. Instead, he grabbed hold of Rodney’s wrist and dragged him towards the nearest window. Gunfire spat at them from across the room and they both dropped to a crouch.

“This is suicide!” Rodney snatched his hand back. “There’s no cover!”

Except suddenly there was. The American pulled him behind a decorative gong just as more people started shooting at them. Bullets pinged musically off the burnished metal surface and the ropes that held it hanging must’ve gotten severed because the whole thing dropped to the floor with a clang that Rodney could feel in his fillings.

“Let’s go!” the American hissed at him. The gong was rolling towards the window and they went with it, keeping low and out of sight.

“Not the window!” Rodney protested but there was no stopping their forward momentum, particularly when the American grabbed hold of his shoulder and pushed him.

They crashed through the window and Rodney kept his arms up to protect his face from the broken glass. There was a momentary weightless feeling before he plummeted downward, his mouth pressed tightly shut to keep from screaming. He and the American hit an awning, which collapsed and sent them rolling onto the next one with similar results. Rodney kept waiting to feel himself splatter across the pavement, but the successive awning bouncing had slowed their velocity enough so that the last one held. He sat there mute with terror and incredulity, staring back up at the window they’d fallen from.

“It’s okay, buddy.” The American did a fancy backwards flip off the awning that would’ve been more impressive had he not stumbled when he landed, staggering drunkenly under the effects of the poison in his system. Rodney stared down at him and all of a sudden his terror morphed into anger.

“Are you whacky? You could’ve killed me! I could’ve died!”

“Well, you didn’t. But I still can, so the antidote please?”

Rodney glared, but he scooted forward to the edge of the awning and carefully lowered himself down to street level. Just as his feet touched concrete more bullets were fired from the club window in their general direction.

“What did you do to these guys?” Rodney pressed himself up against the side of the building. The American ignored him, glancing up and down the street until he broke out in a wide grin.

“There’s our ride!”

docsauvage  asked:

6, 10, 14, 26, 32, 49, 52, 63

6. When you looked in the mirror this morning what was the first thing you thought? 

“Damn when did I get this ugly?” (Don’t blame me; you asked ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

10. What were you doing at midnight last night? 

Work. Then I went to bed shortly thereafter.

14. What is your current desktop picture?

At home, it’s a picture of Hawaii. At work, I just changed it this week from a generic picture of burnished metal to this.

26. You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world, but you have to leave immediately. Where are you going to go? 

Nowhere. I don’t have the time or the money to travel right now.

32. You got kicked out of the country for being a time-traveling heathen who sleeps with celebrities and has super-powers. But check out this cool shit… you can move to anywhere else in the world! 

So like… where would I move? Vancouver, London, Berlin, or Singapore if I could get a visa to work. (Sigh) Israel if I couldn’t be accepted anywhere else. I guess I could do ad tech in Tel Aviv -_-

49. If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature, what new animal would you create?

Fish + People. Let’s make mermaids real! And I guess they can breathe underwater but also can breathe air directly, because why not.

52. How long could you go without talking?

Since I have already answered this question, I will say that the longest I have gone without talking that was not due to laryngitis was 5 days. By the end of that, I was super lonely, though.

63. Which is cooler: dinosaurs or dragons?

I honestly have no opinion on this. I don’t really give a shit about dinosaurs and never have, but I like that they were giant birds – makes them cooler than if they were all scaly. Dragons seem neat and I’m bummed that they were like a metaphor for how medieval life was oppressive instead of an actual force in the world.

(Questions from Here)

Dean gets early-onset Alzheimer’s when he’s 49. That’s the doctors’ best guess, at least, and Sam makes sure they get three, four, five opinions, under the names they’ve got the best insurance coverage for. It progresses fast, which is maybe a mercy. Sam doesn’t know anymore. He hopes, he thinks it’s one for Dean, puts an end to the months he knows exactly what’s coming and has to wait for it. Helpless. 

They don’t just sit. Dean won’t let Sam take him hunting, not when he can’t trust the fibrous nets of nerve between his temples, but they go back to a couple of places where Dean feels like being, go fishing, look over the edge of the Hoover Dam. They stop for a night at Lost Creek, wander out to the edge of the woods and kick weeds along the highway. Dean wants to eat a bullet there, but he isn’t gonna do it without telling Sam and Sam won’t let him, clocks him in the side of the head and holds him down in the gravel beside the Impala till he promises. 

‘There might be a cure,’ Sam says, hours later, back on the highway, when they’re both bruised and aching and cried out. Dean just sets his jaw and brushes his knuckles across Sam’s forearm. 

Once things get bad Sam can’t calm him down anymore. He’ll find Dean in the library running his hands over the tables, over their corners and legs, agitated, angry, getting splinters in fingers that are growing soft and uncalloused. Some nights he startles awake in the cot next to Dean’s bed and hears him breathing harsh and fluttery like a hunted animal, back forced up against the headboard, fingers wound in the sheets. Sam’s hands on him help, and that’s OK, Sam’s OK with that. But it’s not, it’s maybe, he wonders just how long that’ll be enough. 

One night in the pitchy predawn when Dean’s hair is silver gossamer in the moonlight Sam goes, finally, to the box under his bed and pulls out the amulet, not the one from the show but the real one. So this is how it ends up happening, he thinks, and grips it so hard the horns of the little god dig into his palm. He’s imagined giving it back to Dean a hundred times, a thousand, but it’s never seemed quite right, not quite. But any of them were better than this. 

The teeth in his chest soften their gnawing, a little, when he sees it against Dean’s chest, the burnished metal heavy against the grey of Dean’s chest hair. Sam lets his fingers linger a little, drag over Dean’s tattoo. 

Dean looks down. 

Samuel!’ he says, gruff, himself, blinking surprise. 

Sam cries. 

The Lady of the Lake

b-boop5 submitted: 

My bday is also Sept 2! Bday smut is always a perfect gift! Thank you!

Originally posted by painfulblisss

Mmmmm birthday smut! Happiest of days, @b-boop5!! Your delicious little slice of Everlark perfection was written especially for you by the inimitable @titaniasfics. Enjoy!


The Lady of the Lake

By @titaniasfics

Summary:  The Everdeen family have been the only occupants on Lake Vivian since her grandfather built their home fifty years earlier.  However, fate brings a new neighbor to their shores. How will she adapt to this new situation?

Rated M

So many thanks to @akai-echo, for the inspiration and for prereading. All mistakes are mine.

This is my lake.

I’m exaggerating a little but not much. My family’s small house has been on this lake since my Grandfather, Emmett Everdeen, bought the land for a song and built our house along its shores.  Because it’s a small and obscure mountain lake on the outskirts of a small town, you’d think people would eventually forget that it’s there. And most have - there are only a handful of visitors from town who park at the public boat launch and go out for an afternoon of bass fishing, or the occasional troop of teenagers who will fool around along the lake’s edge, leaving wet footprints and empty beer bottles that are fastidiously cleaned up by me the very next day.  I can’t help but feel a proprietary possession towards the small lake, even though I technically don’t own anything more than the plot of land my family’s house rests on. After all, it’s only ever been the Everdeen’s cottage on Lake Vivian and town folk always treated it as ours.

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kuipernebula  asked:

As much as I want to be self-indulgent and ask you to write something involving my favorite Noir Babe Zevowc, I'll instead ask: Older!Tamlin talking to Rey about the force

The Zabrak is old, with dingy white skin only marginally paler than his horns and tattoos that have faded to ghosts overlaying his features. It seems as if the bar was built around him: a comfortably dingy cantina that’s as good a place as any to wait for Finn and Poe.

As he pushes Rey’s drink over to her, he nods at her lightsaber.

“Haven’t seen one of those for a long time.”

Rey shifts in her seat, embarrassed. Few people know what this is, let alone comment on it. 

“It’s not really mine.” She brings her glass up, as if to hide her face. “I’m just holding onto it-”

The Zabrak nods. “For a friend.” He runs a grimy cloth over the countertop. “S’alright. I understand.”

Rey narrows her eyes. “I’m sure.”

The Zabrak shrugs, turns to the counter behind him, moved a cracked pair of salt and pepper shakers shaped like some bird out of the way. From a vantage point high above, the blank eye sockets of a Clone War-era helmet look at them balefully. 

“All these years,” He says, perhaps to Rey, perhaps to himself, “And the galaxy can still surprise you.” The Zabrak leans back, finagles an almost-empty bottle of wine off the shelf. “There’s still some stories left to be told.”

As he brings it over, Rey swears she catches something in the folds of his robes- a glint, perhaps, of metal, a burnished grip. It can’t be.

“You’d best look after your friend’s… item.” The Zabrak says, pouring out a glass for himself. “You might be holding onto it for a long time.”

littlesnowcat-deactivated201507  asked:

Just wondering, what culture would you say Khajiit clothing would suit? My main Skyrim character is a Khajiit and when I draw her, I can never seem to make her outfits work. The outfit board thing you made for Demir looked amazing and made me wanna research different culture fashions. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find one which fits. Sorry if this is not one of your strong points, seeing as how you find Khajiits difficult to draw and all. Thanks <3

hooo boy, this is a difficult thing to tackle honestly. Doing the research for my own purposes and mucking it up is one thing, but giving advice on it and mucking it up is another. I will admit I did just spend the past couple hours (maybe more???) looking it up and trying to pin point some stuff. 

I could try to offer a bit of help, but I won’t offer anything I would call concrete because I am by NOOOOO means an expert on this sort of thing (maybe some day but certainly not now) 

The thing to understand is there is never one single culture behind the inspiration of a fictional culture (especially in the ES verse). You can definitely make connections but chances are there are several behind an idea, not to mention any creative or original ideas added in. 

Even with my Demir research I was looking at several different cultures, there wasn’t a single one I drew from.

If anyone reads this and I totally miss something, screw something up, say something incorrect, etc PLEASE let me know and I’ll fix and/or address it. Also if you have any input on the matter that will help me or other people, please leave a comment. 

Under the cut because its a LOT of word vomit

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The fact that Sherlock is a girl’s name wasn’t what Sherlock wanted to say. It was meant to be an icebreaker, that was all. A joke to break the tension. Then maybe it would be easier for Sherlock to let the actual secret slip out.

A quick ficlet based on what I half-expected to happen before Sherlock boarded the plane.

—-

Not again, John thinks as the car pulls up to the runway, where a white jet waits. There are a few figures milling around on the tarmac. Mary is at his side in the car, her hand wrapped around his, though her gaze is out the other window.

He is careful to keep his feelings quiet, but that is the thought at the forefront of his mind: Sherlock is leaving again.

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((Yep, almost done with this. Idk what to do with this but it makes a nice addition to my usual digital art. This is a burnished copper repousse plated with chrome (hehe thats me) and colored with sharpies. Couldn’t find a white sharpie, though, so the eyes are white-out :3 I still havent decided what color to make the background! Please send me an idea if you have a good one! Also if you were wondering why it’s vibrating, it’s because I took pictures at slightly different angles in order to show the details that would blend away if it was just one static picture.

TL;DR I haven’t been updating lately because I joined drama last month, and we have a play in 2 weeks so that has taken up a lot of my time which I normally reserve for drawing. I might show some clips of the play later when it happens, like me dancing in my pretty blue dress ^_^))

i am my brother’s keeper

[closed to @uchihasavior]

Day 0:

Picture this: a bluebird, in a gilded cage. The door is ajar, but the bird keeps to the perch on the other side of it, huddled. Its wings are pristine, legs in perfect health, but it does not fly away. It sings a singular note: melancholic.  On the floor: its dead companion. The blood on the bluebird’s beak is still fresh from where it has torn its mate’s throat apart.

Poetic, isn’t it? Sasuke wishes it was that clean, that elegant, but like everything in his fucking life so far, the singular moment he’d been waiting for is disgustingly pathetic and tainted red by his brother’s doing. There’s no sun parting the rainclouds or people waiting on the sidelines, there’s just him with a hell of a lot of broken bones holding together bruised flesh (he is so tired), and there’s his - brother, Sasuke can’t divorce the word from the monster that fell.

He slides down the stone, limbs lead, but when he turns to look at the body he realises: Itachi’s still bleeding from a gash on his arm, a sluggish but steady drip down to the stone below. He sucks in a breath, shoulders going rigid, is the fucker playing dead, but his brother doesn’t move even after three agonizing minutes of anticipating death. He’s alive. He’s still alive, after the whole spectacle of it all. Sasuke can still feel the cold tips of Itachi’s fingers brush against his forehead and cheek like he’s tracing all the tears he’d made Sasuke shed.

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(inspired by this chatfic about strife and yoglabs, and this anon about strife using assistive technology. honestly i just really, really love the idea of strife making his own assistive technology and most people have guessed why he uses it but are polite enough not to bring it up. and then along comes parv, who hasn’t a tactful bone in his body and is a rude, clueless asshole about it.)

tw ableism, scars, panic / anxiety issues, brief mentions of medical torture

[ao3]

Strife thinks he’s being clever about it, honestly. The gloves look perfectly normal, if a little more futuristic than your average hand-covering – sleek black leather fitted around his fingers and rising up past the wrist, steel supports and servos and motors shaped discreetly around his fingers, burnished a dark, metallic grey to blend in with the material. The wiring and circuitry is hidden under the gloves themselves, in between the double-layered leather over the backs of his hands, tucked neatly out of sight. It’s functional, fashionable, and discreet, three things he values above almost everything else.

“Why d’you wear those gloves all the time, Strifey?”

Or, at least, he thinks he’s being clever until Parvis – also known as that useless human waste of space that Xephos had the audacity to dump on me, as if I owe him anything after what he did – starts asking about them over breakfast two weeks into their acquaintance.

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1924 Three Diamond Ring, 18K Yellow Gold, $13,500
1.52ct Old Mine Cut Diamond (I/SI2)
0.82ctw European Cut Diamond Sides (G-H VS2-SI1)

The most impressive diamond gypsy ring ever.  Gypsy rings were most popular from around 1890 to 1910, and are usually on a much much smaller scale. They get their name from the setting technique used, in which metal is burnished around the stone. But I actually have never known why this method is called gypsy setting.

This one’s a hefty piece of jewelry. It measures over 8mm wide at the face. The inside is engraved H. Cape to V. Cape 1924.

Gone

I overlook the cautionary signs leading to the parking lot and bring the car I’d rented to a screeching halt at the entrance of the soignée building. Its obsidian walls are nearly camouflaged completely by the black of the night but its presence is ransomed by the bright lights that beam from within.

My hands shake as I exit hastily, barely closing the door behind me and ignoring the faint call of the guard who, judging by his tone, is no doubt rebuking my delinquent actions. But I’m too far gone to care about any regulations or the repercussions of going against them.

It’s just after two a.m. and the Athens air holds a thick chill that isn’t nearly as credited to the fall temperatures as it is to the apprehension that looms around me. I struggle to take the steps that will send me forward as the wide, glass doors slide open before me, my feet rivaling the weight of bricks under the weakness I now feel.

The white lights of the foyer greatly contrast the dark I’d previously been shrouded by and I rake the space ahead through squinted eyes for the information desk.

A young, red-headed woman looks up from the computer monitor at the sound of my approach and meets me with a warm smile as I come to a stop before her. Her eyes are kind. A dark green that radiates practiced patience, and they are hidden behind a pair of round glasses that are obviously too big for her heart-shaped face. She straightens and I hear her clear her throat quietly in preparation for her automated greeting.

“Kaliméra,” (Good morning) she chimes with a pleasantness I know I won’t be able to return. “Pós boró na sas voithísei?” (How may I help?)

“Iris Baros,” I huff heavily, the edge in my voice palpable as her name leaves my lips. The weight of it lingers on my tongue and hauls open a void deep within me that I can already feel consuming me without clemency.

“Baros,” she repeats to herself, her eyes darting back to the screen in front of her.

Her fingers tap quickly against the keyboard with the urgency that’s surely radiating off me in concrete waves and I see her bite on the inside of her cheek as her now narrowed gaze scans whatever appears as a result. My fingers drum against the desk as I wait—impatiently—and I try to slow my breathing to quiet the race of my heart.

Her brows knit briefly and her fingers dance across the keyboard once more. And then her index pushes at the bridge of her glasses.

The casualness of her actions irks me and I know it has everything to do with the strain of the crippling anxiety that threatens to send me crashing to the smooth marble of the floor’s makeup.

I wonder idly how many like me she’s had to deal with while maintaining the cool demeanor she now exudes.

“Ti eínai afto?” (What is it?) I ask in annoyance.

“Umm…” She hits another key and lifts her eyes, her smile returning. “Típota, lypámai. Tha ti vreíte sto domátio 408. Aftó eínai stin anatolikí ptéryga tou trítou orófou.” (Nothing, I’m sorry. You’ll find her in room 408. That’s on the east wing of the third floor)

I offer a curt nod as a response, my eyes already combing the walls for the closest elevator.

The passing bodies are nothing but hazy blurs as my head spins, my eyes battling for focus as the doors join smoothly in closing. Consciousness begs to evade me. I’m hungry. I’m fatigued. But most of all, I’m afraid. And that keeps me in the present.

I fall limply against the back wall as my legs finally surrender to the impotence that’s deemed me its victim and I catch my slouched reflection in the burnished metal on the opposite side before I fix my gaze on the ceiling. Never before have the words “worried sick” been more faultlessly applicable and the feeling is unpleasantly surreal.

My thoughts run amuck, frenzying into a chaos of questions as I try to piece together the reason behind all this.

The sound of her mother’s voice is all I can hear in the earsplitting silence of the ascending car. She’d insisted that I was needed here, though she’d neglected to explain why, saying I had to get here before I could be informed. And she’d been firm in her decision even after my frantic pleas. So, reeling with suspicions and bursting with angst, I’d boarded a flight to Greece without a moment’s hesitation, the fear and dejection in her voice preventing me from doing otherwise.

That had been over eight hours ago and every second had been filled with all I’d never thought was possible to feel and all I hoped never to feel again.

I am out before the doors have fully opened, following the arrows that would lead me to her. The sound of my pulse rings loudly in my ears as the numbers increase.

396, 397, 398, 399…

I see them the moment I round the corner, huddled together as though nothing holds them up but the strength they draw from each other. My steps slow as I draw nearer, the eerily quiet hallway growing narrower as the gap between us lessens.

Her father looks up and his flooded eyes meet mine instantly. Something within me collapses then and the system of support my limbs offer falters yet again, leaving me staggering.

He says something to her and her head rears up, revealing the stain her tears have left against his chest. She bites back a sob when she sees me and pulls herself from his hold before closing the distance between us, her arms opening to take me in.

“Oh, Laurent,” she cries, her elfin form colliding heavily with mine.

My arm mechanically lies across her back as I do my best to return her intense embrace but I’m practically numb. My eyes flash to the number on the door. 408. She’s just beyond it but still she’s lost to me. I reach for her, call for her but she isn’t there. I can’t feel her and the void grows.

“What is this?” I ask in a fractured whisper, my arm tightening around her trembling frame. “What’s happening, mama? Where is she?”

“She’s not well,” is her only answer and the heft of her drawl butchers her words.

She sniffles and frees herself slowly, shaking her head as she raises her eyes to meet mine. They are dull, yet rife with pain and like her husband’s, glossed by a thick layer of tears. He joins us then, pulling her back into what comfort she finds in his hold and her sobs starts anew.

“What’s happening?” I ask again, swallowing heavily when my words come out hoarse. My throat grows tighter by the second and as my ability to speak forsakes me, I predict my breathing will shortly do the same.

He doesn’t answer. Instead, he takes a single step to his left, silently suggesting that I see for myself. A glimmer of sympathy flickers in his gaze as I take a step of my own and then it’s gone all together, replaced by a solid resolve. He’s being brave. Which only makes me fear that I’ll soon have to be as well.

My fingers curl around the handle of the door and I push, offering a silent prayer as I do, though for what I’m not sure.

I don’t know how different of a sight I had expected to see but the one that presents itself bars me from moving my feet even an inch beyond that one step.

My shoulders sag heavily as I take her in.

She’s still and nearly completely swathed in plain, bulky sheets. Her dark but dull hair is loose and fanned around her, paralleling the immaculate white of the pillows and below her shuttered lids are bloated sacs of sangria that tell a dark tale all on their own. One that peaks my curiosity. But I’m not sure I want it satisfied.

She’s herself. A paler, more worn version but it’s her and she’s alive. Breathing.

I frown at the vapor that clouds the interior of the mask she wears whenever she releases a breath and try to make sense of it all. But I can’t. My previously calculated breaths threaten to erupt into a fit of strained heaves and as if closing the distance will help me understand, I try for a step.

It fails and I stumble, my Doc Martens rapping against the hard floor. The echo pulsates throughout the room and she jerks, the sound pulling her harshly from her rest.

It’s then that I notice the public presence of her heart’s beat.

The machine beeps frantically, announcing how she’s been affected and I feel my forehead crease as I watch the rapid rise and fall of the thin line. It sounds louder than it should and seems to taunt me with its company, ricocheting off the walls and slamming against my eardrums with enough force to enervate the membranes permanently.

It doesn’t help that the room is practically empty. Or so it seems when held in comparison to its size.

Despite its scope, I feel I’m held captive and straitened by its walls. They let me know I have no power here, and no control of what they orchestrate for their current occupant.

It’s larger than any other I’ve seen and I wonder why considering how sparsely it’s furnished. Besides her bed, the only other denizens are that machine, a side table littered with medical paraphernalia and a chair. There are clouds of helium balloons scattered around her. Maybe too many. But I suspect she thinks otherwise.

There are big ones and littles ones and ones with her favorite animations spread proudly across their diameter. Those are inflated on either side of her and I know without asking that they’re there by her own request.

And absent by a similar request are flowers.

She doesn’t like flowers. The gravity of her allergies makes sure of that.

I catch the infinitesimal tic of her head through my peripheral and redirect my attention. When I lift my gaze to her eyes, her mouth twitches beneath the mask and I see her hand surface from beneath the sheets to pull it from her face.

“Look who’s here,” she breathes, a frail smile flitting across her lips. “You scared me.”

She sighs deeply and I blink, physically unable to offer any more of a response.

My hand is still closed around the knob and though I want to let go, I can’t. It’s my anchor as I look at her, the sole thing that keeps me standing through the typhoon of emotions whose lone objective is to see bits of me scattered about the room.

A hand on my back makes me tense and her parents circle me and step inside. I watch as her gaze shifts momentarily and her brown eyes seem to brighten with amusement.

“Boreíte káthe mou chrostás € 10,” (You each owe me ten euros) are her words of choice and my frown deepens, both at her muffled voice beneath the mask and at how out of place they seem.

Her father laughs weakly and I turn my head in time to see him wipe at his cheek.

“Eísai entáxei? Akoúsame to michánima.” (Are you okay? We heard the machine)

Iris shrugs and her attention is mine once more. “Eímai mia chará. Kápoios prépei móno na kataválei prospátheies gia lathraíos.” (I’m fine. Someone just needs to work on being stealthy).

She never looks away from me though her words are directed at them and I can tell by the subtle rise of her lips that her current predicament has done nothing to dampen her enjoyment of her raillery.

It isn’t until I hear the door click behind me that I know they’ve left and that I’ve somehow managed to let it go.

A stretch of silence passes between us and she takes a long breath before removing the mask yet again. Her eyes dissect my every feature and I watch them gleam with warmth as she takes the time to reacquaint herself.

Her assessment is slow—deliberate. The way it always is.

She always does this. Only she’s usually wrapped around me, her head craned at what I’d always thought to be an uncomfortable angle as she looked up at me.

It has been six weeks since I’ve last seen her in person and this isn’t at all how I’d imagined our reunion. Before my mind can recount the fantasy, she speaks.

“They both said you wouldn’t get here before sun up but I told them I’d see you tonight for sure so they owe me.”

She sounds just like her mother, the only difference being the density of her accent. It makes her voice sound slightly more youthful. Had it not been for caller I.D. I would’ve thought she was the one gabbling incoherently on the other end of that call.

It takes me a few moments to understand what she means and when I do, the scrunch of my forehead deepens even further.

She’s answering what is possibly the least significant of the glut of questions whizzing through my mind. And I’d be lying if I said I understood why.

The room is progressively shrinking.

I’m paralyzed.

I can’t breathe…and she’s talking about a bet.

A bet she made with her parents.

The parents who are waning on the other side of the door.

I snort a solitary laugh, similar to that of her father’s. But nothing is funny. And I want to think she knows that.

“I don’t know why they thought—”

“Iris.” My own voice surprises me.

She pauses and I manage to lift my shoulders in a shrug. “What are you doing?”

It’s the wrong question but it’s what surfaces.

I take a step back, lengthening the rift I’d just moments before wanted to close, and as if I’d physically assaulted her, she recoils. It’s small but I see it.

She doesn’t answer and looks away to hide how it’s affected her.

“What are you doing here? Why didn’t you call me?”

“I’ll explain everything.” Her eyes are still averted and her hushed tone is repentant.

“Okay, start. What’s wrong with you? How long have you been here? What…what is this?”

“Come here,” she appeals softly, extending a trembling hand towards me.

“No.” I shake my head.

“Lau.” Her voice cracks, her hand falls back to its place and I see a tear fall then. “Don’t be mad.”

“You said you’d explain.”

Even at the distance I stand, I notice the quiver of her lower lip and it breaks me to see her hurting any more than she obviously already has been but just the image of her is devastating. I don’t have the strength to go to her or touch her or offer her anything but my inevitable collapse.

She nods with conviction and I watch her shift as she tries to lift herself off the bed. But she’s weak. Her body fails her and she surrenders the fight. “I will. But I just need you to—”

“Explain.”

“I’m sick,” she finally confesses and her chest caves, leaving her scrambling for the mask and I watch through hazing eyes as she struggles to regulate her breathing, the frequency of the beeps rocketing before they revert to their steady rhythm.

Nothing made sense. The effervescent, commanding spirit I knew had somehow been reduced to this. Incapacitated and brittle. Unable to even breathe on her own. I fight to hold back my own tears but they fall anyway.

There isn’t just a void anymore; I’m being consumed entirely by a force that wants me broken too.

“I’m sick,” she repeats. “Lau, please. Come here. Come hold my hand.”

“How sick?” I mouthed and by some miracle she heard.

“It’s bad.”

“How bad?”

“I’m dying.”

“Stop. We have a wedding next week. You can’t be dying.”

The words seem to be her undoing and she whimpers, looking down at her lap as her caged cries claw at her throat for freedom.

“We’re getting married.”

“I’m sorry.”

Her sigh seems to sink her deeper into the mattress and I feel my nostrils flare as my teeth clench. I take a breath, already nodding my belief in the words I’ve yet to speak.

“Iris, listen to me. This is temporary. Okay? Maybe you’ve just been working too hard. God knows you’ve been overdoing everything. You’re just too excited, you know?”

I search frantically for a feasible solution, my eyes grazing the floor as if the answers lie within its tiles.

“Like…maybe we’ll have to push the date back but you’ll get out of here and we’ll get married. Like we planned. And we’ll go honeymoon in Maldives and make love on the beach like you want. And we’ll move to that pretty house I got us. And I’ll always complain that it smells like vanilla cause you’re gonna bake too much. And we’ll have eight fat babies and everything will be perfect…like. We. Planned.” Those last three words are a stressed staccato because I need her to understand—to remember what we’re supposed to have ahead of us and I use them to take me to her, seizing her hand as reinforcement.

I fall into the chair that sits by her side and she smiles sadly and releases a single sob as she lifts her free hand to let her knuckles glide across my dampened cheek. I melt into the caress, a brief wave of satisfaction washing over me at the tenderness of her touch.

I’ve missed it, craved it, longed for it for the weeks I’ve been gone. I’ve dreamed endlessly about returning to her and having the feel of her smooth palms gliding across my skin and her lips against mine and this simple caress manages to fulfill everything I desired.

“You got us a house?” I hear her whisper and I open my eyes to find her watching me closely.

“Yes. Neuilly-sur-Seine. It’s big and beautiful and it has those French doors you wanted. The ones that open to the backyard. It’s everything you wanted, baby. I made sure of it. You want to see it, yes?”

She nods slowly.

“Then you have to get better and leave this place so I can take you.”

She says nothing to that. She only wipes at my tears, willing them away with the pads of her fingertips. But it’s futile. I know it and so does she. They come anyway. And I know they will for as long as I have to see her like this and have her admissions badger me the way they do.

“I love you.”

But now it’s my turn to respond with silence. Both because I hear the intended continuance at the end of her words and because I feel I can’t offer anything of substance in return just yet.

“They gave me a week but I don’t feel like a week.” And because I don’t know what else to do, I listen.

“I just wanted to see you before anything happened.”

“Nothing is happening,” I promise.

“You listen to me now,” she says firmly, both her hands now gripping mine. “I wanted to see you before anything happened. I wanted to thank you for the years that you’ve given me. They’ve been the best of my life. I can say that with confidence. Thank you for loving me the way you have. So completely.”

My heart sinks so far I hear its landing thud at the base of my stomach. But even there it beats fiercely, telling me it won’t manage much more before it fades from my being entirely.

“Okay, enough. You’re welcome.”

“No, I have a whole speech prepared.” Her tone is light and she raises both her brows as she smiles her feeble smile. “That was supposed to be funny.” She pouts. “It sounded funny in my head.”

She gives my hand a reproving squeeze when my grave mein remains unchanged and I half-grant her request and offer her a smile of my own.

“Let me hear it.”

She brings my hand to her puckered lips and leaves a kiss against the back before she takes another deep and shaky breath.

I can’t help but notice that she’s forsaken her mask.

“I always thought marrying you would complete me. I got all I ever wanted just by being with you and I thought that the day I made you my husband would complete the circle…but now that I can’t, I’ve seen that just loving you did that. And I have loved you so hard. You have no idea. And…it’s enough.”

“No, it’s not enough.”

“It is.”

“No. We need more. I need more. We planned more.”

She laughs quietly and casts her gaze to the ceiling, her eyes searching for some unknown thing as she sifts through her thoughts. Her tongue pokes out and I watch it wet her lips in a clean sweep like I’ve seen it do so many times before.

“Plans are funny things when you stop and really think about them,” she muses almost to herself. Her lids droop, reminding me that I’d interrupted her nap.

“I was supposed to have the final fitting of my dress today. That was my plan. And I know yours wasn’t to be here.” She pauses as she tilts her head. “Dakar, right?”

I nod.

“See? But you’re here. The universe doesn’t care about our plans and I’m okay with that now. I was so mad at first. There was so much I wanted to do and experience but I didn’t need any of that. I’ve had what I’ve needed. I believe that.”

I sigh at her evident acceptance of something I still hadn’t even fully grasped and my head falls to her stomach. I revel in the warmth that radiates from her center, but I’m not too absorbed to not notice the frailty of her heart’s beat. More tears pour from my beneath my closed lids as her hand settles in the tresses of my hair and I hear her release a contented moan as her fingers begin their massage against my scalp.

“I missed you.”

Those are the last spoken words before we slip into a period of unimaginable silence. I can’t gather my thoughts enough to speak and she seems to understand, allowing me the time I need for it all to settle.

I’m going to lose her. The thought gnaws at me and I find myself angry. Angry at the fact that I won’t have her like I wanted and angry that she seems so unbothered by it all.

“How did this just happen all of a sudden?”

“It’s not that sudden. It’s been a long time coming.”

“Then why are you just telling me now?”

“I was going to once. That night you took me to that restaurant when we were in Barcelona…”

The mention piques my interest for more reasons than one.

Barcelona was sacred to me.

Her hair had been cropped then and she’d glowed brighter than I’d ever known her to. She’d pulsed with glee, her eyes shone, her smiles were what lit the days and it had brought me a ludicrous amount of pleasure knowing I was the reason for it all. I’d made it possible.

I’d practically been at her employ. No whim of hers was denied. No question unanswered. And no desire unmet. I had convinced myself that I couldn’t let her leave without understanding that with me was where she undoubtedly belonged.

Barcelona was when I knew, and that’s exactly why although we’d been to so many, I know which restaurant she’s talking about before she even speaks her next words in telling.

“You told me you loved me that night. Ironically, after I’d let you undress me.”

More teasing.

I let her giggle at her own joke, wishing I could manage to be as lighthearted as she was.

She peeks down at me, folding her lips when our eyes meet to try and hide how flustered the memory has made her.

“Do you remember that night?” she probes quietly.

“Of course.”

It had just been another reason to love Barcelona.

“It threw me off. I was going to tell you, I was. We were getting so serious so fast and I thought you deserved to know. But after you said that and with what happened afterwards, I couldn’t just ruin it, right? So I waited. And for the three years since then, I kept waiting. I kept telling myself the time was never right. You loved me. I loved that you loved me. I loved what I’d see in your eyes every time you looked at me and I got selfish. I didn’t want to lose that. I didn’t want what I saw to be replaced by sadness or pity or anger.”

She sighs and I follow suit. I know that’s exactly what she sees now because I feel all those things and so much more.

“I didn’t want you to think you had to walk on eggshells counting the time we had together. So I just didn’t tell you. And I thought it was okay. I thought I’d have five more years at least. I felt fine. I looked fine. But as we grew so did the denial. I told myself that there was no way I’d be given all of this—you, this love, this life, this happiness—only to have it taken away. And I became so sure that everything would be okay. It would all work out. It would go away. They’d try something new or discover something that would help and it’d all be fixed.”

It dawns on me then that I have no idea what “it” is. She’d never offered me any particulars when she’d said she was sick and even through her explanation of why she hadn’t told me she still doesn’t. I decide that it’s either because she doesn’t want me to know or because she just doesn’t think any of the details matter.

And I suppose they shouldn’t.

It has broken her. It has interrupted our existences. And it is pilfering her life.

“But obviously none of that was true. And so here we are.”

“You’re not afraid of leaving me?” I ask suddenly, but none of the emotions stirring within me materialize in my tone.

“Afraid? No. Sad? Yea.” Her fingers graze my cheek again. “I don’t want you to think that this doesn’t hurt me. Because it does. I don’t want to be gone any more than you want me to be. I’ve just found the peace that I need to accept it.”

Her stomach deflates and I feel her shift as she finally turns to the mask for the aid she needs. She’s quiet and I listen to her breathe, soaking in the sound and committing it to memory.

I take in her scent too. It’s muted by the clinical odors of the neurotically sterilized room but I cling to the bit of it I can grasp.

“You’re my heart, Lau,” she continues and the calm I had heard in her voice before falters. Her sniffle tells me that her tears never actually stopped and her hold on my hand tightens. “My whole heart. And it’s such a fragile little thing right now but it’s still beating for you and it will for as long as it can. I’ll keep it beating. But it’s hard and I’m so tired. And I just need to know that you’ll forgive me when I’m not strong enough anymore.”

I shake my head. “No, I can’t do that. I can’t let you go, Iris. I don’t know how. I don’t know what I’ll do.”

“Just tell me it’s okay.”

My jaw clenches, as does her dress in my fist. I can’t give her what she wants. I can’t bring myself to say the words that will allow her to leave. Not now. Not yet.

But then because she knows me like she does, she brushes my hair back comfortingly.

“Tell me about your trip,” she requests in diversion.

“I don’t want to talk about that. It’s not important right now.”

“It’s important to me. I want to hear about it.”

“Iris…”

“Please?”

A small voice at the edge of my subconscious reminds me that this is all I can do for her now, so with shrinking reluctance I tell her.

I tell her everything.

I give her every tiny detail of all the flights I took, how many times the turbulence made me throw up, the plots of the books I read, what I ate, whether it rained or if any of the other passengers did anything crazy.

I describe every unique feature of all the hotels I called home, told her what I loved and hated about every city and all the times I would’ve killed to have her with me, just to have her hand in mine if nothing else.

She asks to see pictures and though I’d sent them before I oblige her, watching what luster remains in her eyes shine through as though they’re all new to her. She wants a picture painted of each one and I struggle to keep the enthusiasm I know she wants to hear in my voice as I do just that.

My smile mimics hers when she asks about my brother and I show her the video message I had forgotten to send her from the day before. She tries hard to keep them away but her eyes smart with tears as she watches her favorite pair of teeth make their debut when he grins into the lens and screams her name.

She loves the way he says it. It never fails to make her laugh. And though I already know it, her soft voice announces the fact.  She says she wishes she could see him again as her finger trails his image on the frozen frame and I swallow the instinct to tell her she will.

She tells me to tell him she loves him and then she watches it four more times before her questions resume. I can’t help but notice this is the most inquisitive she’s ever been and I know it’s to keep us both distracted but I don’t mention it.

For hours she listens keenly, her soft giggle quieting my strop whenever she finds something funny. But while she’d have me think otherwise, I know she’s fading. Before long her responses are nothing but faint sighs and her mouth’s tiny twitches as she tries to smile, and I hold her closer.

I allow my words to trickle into silence and leave a lingering kiss against her belly.

“I love you so much, baby,” I whisper into the crisp fabric as my fingers stroke her sides.

“Then keep talking.”

Her voice startles me. It’s a wispy rasp that I hardly recognize and I know the three words are a strain on her, simple as they are.

“Keep talking,” she says again. “Don’t stop.”

When I feel her breathing slow beneath my cheek, I glance up at her face but quickly look away when the sight proves too heavy a burden to bear.

I swallow and start again.

I don’t know where I find the words or how they even make it past the growing lump lodged at the back of my throat but I talk. I talk and I talk and I talk.

And she sleeps.

Only she never wakes up.

Acrylic painted and metallic wax burnished yarn bowl.
This bowl is thrown using a mildly textured earthenware clay and biscuit fired before being treated. The bowl was painted in purple acrylic then burnished with Spanish Topaz, Emerald and Sapphire waxes.
For sale at earthwoolfire.etsy.com £20GBP+P&P ($34USD+shipping)