Off the Deep End
[Thursday, January 5]
Eiry was walking home from a party delivery about the time the Thursday class would be over, thinking about the wedding the next morning. It was at the botanical gardens, where things were always blooming; she was sure it would be absolutely beautiful. The pieces she and Yumiko had been working on were going to look perfectly at home, she hoped. They were very much like some of what she might do. But right now she just had to be patient in general. It was one of those things that was hard about being Lupa on Terra, she had decided a while ago. Working so closey with weddings for so long, seeing so many. Sometimes it confused her. Taking a mate vs getting married. But the structure made sense to her. Were they getting ahead? She didn’t want the wedding to be an afterthought. But on the other hand, it was so hard saying no to him, she thought with a few giggles.
Overall she was happy with where they were. But if she wanted to get married in the spring—before wedding season, at least—she would have one week. He had to ask before then, right? How much longer would it take for him to learn to make what he wanted? Unless they had it inside in March. It would be too cold, and the gardens wouldn’t quite be started yet. But it would be before mating season...
There was just always the one thing that would be missing. She had better finish soon, so she could stop thinking about it. It would be a hard day in that respect, but there would be plenty of happy things going on. Like standing under the big oak tree together, dancing across the lawn in their nice clothes, the look on his face that would make her heart stand still…
That’s strong. Daydreaming~?
So did you.
Yeah, but I had to wait two years. It’s going to be wonderful no matter when you do it, stop worrying.
I just...I really want to make him happy.
Yatu, right? It shouldn’t be hard. Besides, you’re going to look amazing in that dress. It still fits, right? He hasn’t been feeding you too much?
No, ten pounds isn’t so bad for a year. I’ve been getting more exercise, too, so I’m probably healthier.
Well, that’s good. Are you going to finish telling him soon? It’s back there, going over and over. I can feel it.
Yeah...tonight, maybe. He’s probably done Miara’s session by now?
So you can go wait for him?
Guyver was apparently taking another one of his long showers, and Eiry decided to wait on the couch, half composing what she might say, half trying to concentrate on a concept for a new client. Tally’s favorites kept coming out instead, though, and after a while she gave up, and just did that. Things with spicy smells, firs, amaryllis, the tall gladiolas they’d always had to dig up and set deeper every few years.
It took a long time for the shower to stop, and by then she’d wandered all over the place, eventually zoning out with her knees drawn up and a blanket drawn around her. Guyver, for his part, was happy to see her, full of warm feelings. Quietly, he stole over leaning over the back of the couch to gently wrap his arms around her and smell the flowers stuck in her hair band.
“Hey, sweetheart. Been waiting long?”
“Aww, sorry. Forget-me-nots? And mint?” Was that an odd combination, and did it meant anything?
“Hm? Oh, yeah. Yumiko did that before we left, from the leftovers.”
“It’s pretty. So, I guess you missed me, huh?” he asked, coming around to sit with her.
“Hmm. You could say that,” she said, with the half smile that told him she wasn’t saying everything. “Sali’s going to help me a bit, probably, so don’t worry.”
“Does that mean you’re going to finish telling me about Tally? Why didn’t you come say so? You know I’d be out in a heartbeat for you, ata.”
“It gave me time to think.”
“Or that...” he said, taking her hand as she turned to face him, and he did the same.
“After it happened with Tally, I’m not really sure what happened with the rest of the battle. It went fairly quickly, I think. Either things got quiet fast, or I blocked it out.” She paused here a moment before going on. “It was a blow to the neck—I heard it, it was so loud, and Sali was trying to get in.”
“Eiry...were you able to keep all that from her? What you were doing?”
“Most of it, yeah. She can’t stop her life every time I do something dangerous. But she knew when something was wrong. You will too.”
“Alright. I’m sorry, I’ll try not to interrupt. Go on.”
“As a Human, Rai or someone could have helped him, but that doesn’t exist out there, in the world. If he’d already been Lupa, it might have saved him, or killed him instantly. At heart, he’s always been one of us, but he never did it. Not even when we decided to go. He was happy with the way things were, you see. But when it happened, he realized he really should have after all, years ago. If you follow that through…his heart was the same, and so he chose that. We knew it was likely, but he still chose. And then...”
He could suddenly see all the pieces fitting together. The scar, Nannette’s anger, the elusive answers, the guilt that was always just under the surface when she spoke about Tally’s death.
“What did he ask you to do, Eiry?”
“It’s…complicated. Bonds let you understand what no one else can.”
The tick in his cheek belied the clench of his jaw. “Did he make you?”
“I...I don’t know. He could have, we knew each other well. But…he also made me understand. He didn’t come here, it wasn’t in his mind, or mine as much then, that saving him might have been easy, that he might be able to move again. And..can you imagine what life would be like for him? Among Lupa, in a condition like that? Always being a burden and...” Sali steadied her, stopping the flow of words.
“Hey, calm down,” Guyver said, concerned with the way her hands were trembling, and the increasing looks of pain on her face. “I believe you, you don’t have to convince me.”
“But...you would have waited, anyway, wouldn’t you?”
“I haven’t been there, so I can’t say.”
“You would have.”
“You granted a dying man’s last request.”
Only a little more, Sali said. Don’t get caught up now.
“Was he happy?”
“I...I think so. Rachel took us home, as soon as it was done, so that Nannette and Sali were there. And—and..I don’t remember..a whole lot besides…”
She was withdrawing from him, pulling everything back inside—that’s where Sali was, right? She was closer to Eiry than he was, he thought, trying not to feel that tiny twinge of jealousy. He had to do something to keep her with him, and fast. First thing, he pulled her over into his arms, slowly at first, trying the reassuring kind of dominance that Luke had used on him. She didn’t stop him at all, and he wrapped her arms around him instead and held her tight.
“I know it’s really painful, but I'm right here, ok? I’m with you,” he said, warming himself up and giving Sali some time to do whatever was necessary. Really, he had no idea about that. But after a few minutes had gone by, she wasn’t shaking so much any more, and he could feel her slowly relaxing against him.
“Take a few big breaths for me, sweetheart.”
She tried to, but it was difficult at first, and Sali imposed the right rhythm until she had relaxed a little.
“What can I do? Is there anything you need? I can make tea?”
But she shook her head, holding onto him tighter. “Don’t leave me,” she whispered. Would he understand this was something that couldn’t be fixed? No matter how many bonds she had, and no amount of tea could ever put a drop of comfort in that hole.
“I know I can’t help you inside right now, but someday soon, that’ll be different. But even so, I can keep you safe and warm and loved right here, at your side,” he said, lifting up her tear stained face to look at him, and she found it wasn’t so bad, being so vulnerable. Then he kissed her forehad and tucked her head under his chin again.
“Talk to me about it, please?”
“It’s…you can’t. There’s no way. Bonds are great and wonderful and beyond, but losing one...no one could ever describe that to you, either. You can say it’s bad, getting ripped apart, but you can’t really...not without having one.”
“You feel them die, right?”
“You become…part of each other. When you bond. So part of it—your soul…”
“The other half isn’t there any more.”
“No, but...it gets ripped out. Like if you take fabric and just pull, sort of.”
“And that’s what no one talks about,” he concluded, heating up a bit more as she shivered again. “I understand it’s not something that comes back. So you’re always left reaching. It' like reading for yourself. You’re there but you’re not.”
“Something like that. It does get less and less, you get used to it, but...”
“Nothing’s ever quite the same again?”
“Don’t worry, I’m here for you, and I’ll make sure nothing like that never happens to you again.”
She nodded, and he didn’t ask any more questions for a while, waiting until she was more relaxed to suggest anything else.
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