lady_flamewing: (Default)
[personal profile] lady_flamewing
Title: Touch
Fandom: Original
Pairing: An established M/F relationship, but more emotional than physical.
Rating: I'm going to go ahead and give this one an R for really dark themes and some pretty graphic blood and the like.
Warnings: PLEASE NOTE - there are very dark themes and suicide in this piece. Please don't read it if those things are triggers for you.
A/N: Interestingly, I actually started this piece a long time ago, but never finished - NaNo gave me just the incentive I needed. And I'm not going to lie - I really, really, really like this piece. It broke my heart while I wrote it, and it breaks my heart over and over again every time I read it to edit it. I can only hope it does the same for you.


You know, you never give much thought to those old, tired sayings everyone tosses around. Things like…'A penny saved is a penny earned', or 'The early bird gets the worm' - stuff like that. And what's most irritating about all of that is that…those stupid sayings are true. You just don't realize it until later (and there's even a saying made just for that - 'Hindsight is always 20/20'.) I guess stuff like that wouldn't stick around so long, be so pervasive, unless there was something to it.

Anyway, the one that's been coming to mind a lot recently is 'You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone'. That suddenly seems really pertinent since the world has gone insane and everybody's just trying to survive. There's all kinds of things you don't realize you're going to miss until it's too late - all kinds of things you realize you've been taking for granted, because not having them…well, frankly, it sucks.

And I'm not talking about stuff like…you know, running water or fast food restaurants. Not even stuff like knowing where your food and water for the next week are going to come from - although, I do miss that. But that's all stuff you're pretty aware you're going to miss, even if it's just in the back of your head. You know that all that stuff's a convenience, and if there was ever a disaster or something, it would kind of suck not to have them. Everybody knows that.

No, I'm talking about stuff you literally never think about. Stuff like…having someone to talk to at night, when you can't fall asleep. Like knowing the people you love are probably safe, even if you haven't talked to them for a while. Or even something as basic as human contact.

That's a big one. I don't think anyone ever thinks about how much people touch each other, even if they're not particularly friendly. Our whole society is practically built around it. People shake hands when they meet, they form connections by touching each other when they're talking - a hand on the arm or the shoulder. Pats on the back are a way to show encouragement, high-fives are ways to express enthusiasm. And that's not even touching on the really emotional stuff - stuff like hugging and kissing and having sex.

Don't get me wrong, that's not what I'm missing most - although, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it. Who doesn't, right? But what I really miss most - and this is going to sound so stupid - is having someone to curl up with at night. Someone to lie down next to, someone to hold, someone I can talk to with a touch and a glance, rather than having to waste words explaining myself. That's what I miss. And sometimes, I wonder if everyone else does, too.

'Cause it's not like anyone saw this coming - and I don't think anyone was really prepared for it, either. Because it wasn't anything like the movies or the books or the video games made it out to be. It was…hell, it was like one day it was just some weird disease cropping up in tiny little villages in places nobody had ever heard of, and the next day it was everywhere. I mean, I'm sure that's not how it actually happened, I'm sure there's all kinds of travel patterns and incubation periods and god knows what else - that kind of thing was never my strong point, it was…hers - but that's just what it seemed like. For a while, all they'd been telling us on the news was that we didn't have anything to worry about, that all travel was being screened, and there was little to no chance of this thing ever showing up in the US, and then…then it was here. It was everywhere.

Someone must have slipped the screening, I guess. I don't know how, and that probably should have been everybody's first clue. Those things, they were supposed to be stupid, easy to outwit, and everyone - everyone, again, being all those movies and books and TV shows - said that corpse-sniffing dogs were all the screening we really needed. That they couldn't slip it, they weren't smart enough. But I guess that's where everyone was wrong.

And - in hindsight, there's those stupid sayings again - I guess we probably should have figured that. Sure, most of them are pretty easy to outsmart, because most of them are made from people who were pretty average, and there's definitely a drop in IQ once you're dead. Take something away from 'pretty average', and you end up with 'not so smart', and everybody else left who's alive and still operating with 'pretty average' doesn't have too hard a time figuring a way to kill those things. But there's plenty of people out there who were a lot better than 'pretty average' when they were alive, and when you take a little away from 'super genius', you end up with something that's still a hell of a lot better than what the rest of us are operating with. So now you've got dead things that are still smarter than you are, only what they're using all that brainpower for is figuring out ways to outsmart you. And that was definitely not in any of the movies.

What was in the movies, though, was something I like to call 'universal firearm competence' - and I'd bet that was responsible for just as many deaths as the walking dead, or at least gave them a run for their money. You know what I'm talking about - how everybody in movies or video games can just use anything as a weapon, or somehow just knows how to use any gun they happen to pick up. And if they don't at the start, they're taught by some grizzled survivor type, and in a couple lessons, it's like they've been shooting their whole lives.

It doesn't work like that. Guns are complicated pieces of machinery, and the moment when there's a horde of decomposing bodies coming at you, trying to crack your skull open and suck your brains out, is not the best time to learn how to use them. And even if you do somehow manage to survive without breaking a couple bones 'cause you're not prepared for the recoil, or accidentally shooting someone you're trying to protect because you're not aiming right, you're never going to just pick up proper care and maintenance. And you know what happens to a gun that gets all gunked up with stuff you're not cleaning out? It misfires, and all of a sudden you're either being eaten by the things you were trying to fend off, or you're short a hand or an eye 'cause the stupid thing's blown up in your face. Honestly, I'm not sure which is worse.

And this happens all the time. People who don't know any better, who just know that to drop these things, you've got to take out their brains, picking up weapons discarded by other people or raiding camping or hunting stores, and ultimately being worse off for it. A good axe will take the head clean off one of those things, and if you're a good enough shot, a bow and arrow will drop them just as fast as a gun. Plus, you can retrieve your ammunition. And a crossbow misfire won't necessarily hurt you. The only situation in which a gun is a good idea is one where it doesn't matter if you die or not. Or, you know, if that's what you're trying to do in the first place.

Seems like some of this stuff ought to be pretty easy to fix. Stay away from guns, travel with other people - especially that one. You'd think you'd want other people around, just to keep from going crazy, or to have someone watching your back. Only one problem - you gotta meet people before you start hanging around with them, and if you think that was hard before, when no one wanted to eat you, it doesn't hold a candle to trying to do it now. I was never the most sociable of people - she definitely got on my case about that a lot, before - so meeting new people was always hard. It was always my first instinct to just clam up unless I thought I had something important to say - which is stupid, because when you meet people for the first time, it's all about trivial smalltalk and nobody ever says anything important. And I knew that, it was just…hard. And that hasn't changed much.

Of course, smalltalk really isn't anyone's concern anymore, but that doesn't make it any easier. Now everyone's on guard all the time, wondering if the next person they meet is going to be the one who snaps and kills them all for their supplies, or waits until the cover of darkness and preys on their women and children or…anything like that. Nobody wants to trust anyone anymore, and definitely not strange men strapped to the nines with all kinds of old-fashioned weaponry and not a respectable gun in sight. So I've just kind of…given up.

Plus, I don't know about anyone else, but I'm a little leery of anything that's coming at me. And sometimes it's easy enough to tell the difference between somebody who's alive and somebody's who's dead, but it gets a lot harder with the smarter ones. Live humans will stop when you point a crossbow at them, but some of the smarter dead ones will, too. They'll act just like they're alive, and if they've only just changed over and haven't had time to get noticeably stiff or start to decompose, it's pretty much impossible to tell the difference until they're reaching for your skull. Better to just avoid the whole thing all together - I do better on my own, anyway.

Okay, that's…not entirely true. The truth is I do better on my own now. Ever since…all of that. See, I used to have someone with me, someone I trusted more than anyone in the entire world. If I could have handpicked someone to weather all of this with, it would have been her - not just because I loved her, but because she got it, you know? She knew how things worked, where to find supplies and make them last, how to avoid getting sick or hurt, all that stuff. She was perfect for this kind of thing, and being with her just…made it easier. Made everything easier. Not anymore, though.

I still remember that day. I'll probably never be able to forget, honestly. It's just not the kind of thing you let go of.

----------

We probably should never have been in that building. But one run-down, abandoned building looks an awful lot like the last, and neither of us were architects or anything like that - how were we supposed to know whether or not it was safe? Anyway, the place was tall - a couple stories - and looked pretty empty, we thought maybe it would be a decent place to camp out for the night. And maybe other people hadn't gotten to the upper stories, and there might be something useful for us to take.

It was some kind of office building, I guess, which didn't really bode all that well for supplies. Still, we looked - managed to pick up a couple things that might come in handy later - but figured it'd probably be best if we looked for somewhere else to spend the night. 'Cause high ground is nice, and all, gives you a better vantage point for anything shambling down the road, but it just didn't seem worth it - the floors creaked under us just a little too much to be comfortable. I didn't particularly relish falling through the floor in the middle of the night, and I don't think she did, either.

And anyway, we had plenty of time - we'd been keeping up a pretty good pace, and the last big group of walkers we'd heard about should have been at least a day's travel behind us, and there was still some daylight left. We decided that if we had to look for another place to camp out for the night, that would be just fine. So we made our way back to the stairwell and started for the ground floor.

We were nearly there. I think that's what makes it such a hard thing to remember - that we were so close to getting the hell out of there, and maybe if we'd just moved a little faster, nothing would have happened. But I guess it's not really worth thinking about that. You can't change the past. And no matter how much I wish it had been different, the fact of the matter is that it happened the way it did.

That building must have just been waiting for the incentive to collapse, must have been held up by a whim and a prayer. And even though it looked sturdy enough, I guess our footsteps and moving around were enough to push it over the edge. One minute we're walking down the stairs, I'm helping her over some debris, we can see the sunset through the broken windows in the lobby - and the next minute, everything starts to shake, the supports start screaming, and she's giving me a good hard shove from behind, sending me flying.

Later, I'd realize that I'd sliced my arm open pretty good on something - a piece of pipe, or a shard of broken glass, maybe - but at the time, I didn't even feel it. All I was concerned about was making sure we both got out of there with no injuries worse than we could handle on our own. We'd both patched each other up enough times by that point to be pretty well-versed in everything from sprains to lacerations, but anything more than that could potentially have been a problem. I guess I didn't really need to be too concerned about that.

There was dust everywhere - a side effect of the collapse, I guess - and I couldn't see more than a couple inches in front of my face. I was frantic, though. I knew the collapse would have made enough noise to alert everyone and everything in the near vicinity, and I didn't really want to think about the fact that within a couple minutes, we were going to have every walker in the area on us at once. They hadn't formed a horde yet, but they would now, especially if either of us was hurt enough to bleed. They flock to that smell like nothing I've ever seen.

So I went a little frantic. Started yelling for her, trying to see through the dust - even just far enough to get back into the stairwell without tripping and bashing my brains out on a loose bit of concrete. I couldn't hear anything, though, and that just made it worse - all the reasons why she wasn't answering me started to run through my head: she was unconscious, she was too dazed to recognize her own name, she was dead. Those all seemed like worst case scenarios - but in fact, they might have been better than what had actually happened.

When the dust finally settled enough for me to clamber over the debris and towards the stairwell, I braced myself for the worst - but how could I possibly have anticipated that? The entire stairwell had collapsed, dropping several stories of building around and onto her - but only onto her legs. She'd been trying to get away, or maybe she'd fallen when she pushed me out of the way; however it happened, she'd been pinned under hundreds of pounds of steel and wood and cement. For a minute, I couldn't tell if she was still alive or not, but then I must have shifted or kicked something, made some kind of noise, because she opened her eyes, got her arms under her somehow, and smiled.

That was the worst, I think - that she took the effort to smile at me. That even though I could see the way the vessels had burst in her eyes from the pressure, the way her breathing was shallow because of how she was trapped, the fact that she'd thrown up from the pain, she pushed all of that aside just so she could make me feel better.

"Hey," she managed, and then coughed, sending blood everywhere, and I think, in that moment, I figured out what it really feels like when your heart breaks. I started to move, trying to shift stuff around so I could get to her, but she shook her head.

"Don't," she said, struggling a little to prop herself up on her elbows, and I'm pretty sure I heard bones grind. "Don't, I…I don't want you to get hurt."

"Don't be stupid," I hissed at her, trying not to cry - she always had that knack, making me cry. I guess that just goes to show how much I cared about her. "I'm not going to just leave you here."

"What are you going to do?" she asked. "Best case scenario, my - " I remember the spasm passing over her face, just then. "My legs are shattered. Worst case scenario, my spine is broken and I'm at least partially paralyzed. Either way, I'm useless. Dead weight. There's no point in getting me out of here, especially if you get hurt in the process."

I remember breathing hard, trying not to scream at her. "I can't," I said. "I can't just leave you here, not like this. You'll…" I couldn't even finish that thought. Trapped like that, with no way out and no way to defend herself? She'd be an easy target - and that's no way to die. If she got really lucky, she'd bleed out before anything got to her, and how messed up is that? When you find yourself hoping the person you love most will be lucky enough to die bleeding - rather than being torn to pieces while she's still alive - that's the moment you know nothing's ever going to be okay again.

She nodded, shifting, and I realized she was trying to grab her pack and hand it off to me - not an easy task, I'm sure, when the slightest movement looked like it made her want to die. She'd always been strong - I'd seen her break bones and not even know it until later - and I didn't want to think about how much pain she had to be in to make her look like that. She got it, somehow, and pushed it out in front of her, as far as her arms could go.

"Take it," she told me. "And leave me one of the guns. Fully loaded."

I'd figured that if I laid out flat and really reached, I could snag one of the straps and pull the pack through, but I froze as soon as she said that. She'd always felt the same way I did about guns, and hearing her ask for one…I knew what it meant. And I guess there really wasn't much other choice, but…

"No," I said, and she shook her head.

"Now who's being stupid?" she asked. "Just do it."

"No," I said again, a little more vehemently this time. "No, I - I'll do it. If that's what it's come down to, I'll do it."

She scoffed a soft, bitter laugh. "You're being an idiot. What good will it do if you kill me now? They're going to come flocking here, you know it - I'll hold them off for as long as I can."

I tried to protest - I don't even remember what I said - but she just shook her head again. "You're already bleeding, you need time to get away and bandage it up, so they can't follow you. If I can buy you a little time, give you a chance to get away…that's worth it."

"What if it doesn't work?" I asked desperately. "What if you…" I didn't even want to think about that, but it seemed like it was about time to start. "If you come back, I don't know if I can…"

"That's not going to happen." I don't know how someone who's in that much pain manages to sound that determined, but somehow she pulled it off. "Trust me. I've always been a better shot than you, anyway."

True as this was, it didn't really make my decision any easier. But what choice did I have? She was right - there was no way I could have gotten her out of there, and even if I did…would it have been worth it? If she wanted to go out like this, was it really my place to tell her 'no'? It was her life, her decision - and if I was being honest with myself, if it were me in that position, I'd have made the same choice. Her life had always been more important to me than my own, and it was starting to seem like she felt the same way about my life over hers.

"You're sure you want to do this?" I asked her, and she nodded, laying her head back down on her arms.

"Take the pack, leave me the gun, and get out of here," she said, breathing shallow. "You've already spent too much time here."

Taking a deep breath, I did what she'd asked, and for a moment the only sounds were her rasping breath and the slide of fabric over cement as I pulled the pack towards myself. I was digging for a full magazine to load into one of our handguns when she suddenly spoke again.

"And…you'd better be safe." I looked up to find her struggling to prop herself back up on her elbows again, just so she could look me in the eye through the rubble. I met her gaze, black with blood, and frowned. She laughed a little, then said, "Because if you do something stupid like get yourself killed after I've gone through all this trouble for you, you can bet you'll get an earful whenever we meet up again - wherever that ends up being."

I remember just staring at her for a while. After everything we'd been through, everything we'd seen - I didn't understand how she could still believe in that stuff. Afterlives, or there being something after you're dead. It just didn't seem to make much sense. It was one of the only things we'd never seen eye-to-eye on, the one thing we could never reconcile between us. She'd always believed in something bigger, something more, and I…hadn't. And couldn't, not anymore. Not after I'd seen people get up and come after me, dead and rotting but still somehow moving. I don't know how something bigger lets a thing like that happen. If there ever was anyone looking out for us, they'd left a long time ago - that's what I always thought.

It didn't seem worth it to argue then, though. Not when I was digging around in her pack, looking for something I could give her to kill herself - but only after she'd suffered through more than anyone should have to suffer through, just to protect me. So I just swallowed hard and went back to looking - because if I'd kept looking at her, all laid out like that, I wouldn't have been able to do it. I wouldn't have walked away, no matter how hard she'd asked. And she deserved more than that. But I did answer her.

"I promise." When I glanced up again, she'd put her head down, but I thought she might have been smiling.

It seemed to take me forever to find a full magazine, although I'm sure it was only a minute - maybe two at the most. The sound it made when I snapped it into the handgun was almost unbearably loud, and from the way she stirred, I wondered if she'd somehow managed to fall asleep. Maybe she'd just gone away, somewhere into her head, to get away from the pain. She used to do that, sometimes, just…escape from reality. Her eyes would go unfocused, and you'd just know she was gone. You could do almost anything to her, and she wouldn't hear it or feel it. I guess if that was what she was doing, all the better - I'd hate to think she just felt all of that pain right up until the moment she died.

She stretched out her hand, and I reached through the debris again, the gun clenched in mine. There was a brief moment, both terrifying and thrilling, where I thought I wouldn't be able to reach her, that all of this would have been pointless, because I couldn't get the gun to her, but then I guess I found a little more stretch somewhere, or she did, and the gun brushed against her hand.

She grabbed it, moved to pull it back to her body, but I suddenly heard myself saying, "Wait."

I hadn't even known I was going to say anything, it just sort of…happened. She looked surprised, too, as she glanced up at me - and I guess I can't blame her. I'd already spent too much time there for her liking, and now I wanted to stick around for even longer - and I didn't even know why.

And then all of a sudden, I did. I knew what I wanted. I stretched out my hand again, feeling debris dig into my shoulder where it was pressed against the barrier and not caring, hearing blood drip down my arm to puddle on the floor - and knowing that even with all of that, what she was feeling was so much worse.

I didn't have to say anything. I never did, with her - she always just knew. She set the gun aside and reached out, and maybe there was someone looking out for us, because I don't think I should have been able to reach her - and yet, I did. It wasn't much - just enough to hook the tips of my fingers against hers - but it was something. I could feel the pads of her fingers against mine, her nails pressing little crescents into my skin, her hands cold and only getting colder from blood loss.

"It'll be okay," she said softly, curling her fingers against mine, and I still couldn't understand how she found it in her to comfort me when she was the one getting ready to sacrifice herself. To this day, I still don't. That seems like more strength than any one person should be able to have. "Just…get out of here. As far and as fast as you can. Promise."

I nodded, squeezing her fingers gently. "I promise. And…I love you." The tears came, then. Maybe I ought to be ashamed of saying that - that I cried, lying there on my stomach in that building - but I'm not. I think leaving her there was the hardest thing I've ever done - and probably ever will do. Seems only right I should have cried. "And I'm so sorry."

She just shook her head. "Don't be." I could feel her fingers flex against mine, and the weakness in them made my heart ache. Her hands were always strong, calloused and powerful - she used to hate them, before all of this, because they were about as far from graceful and ladylike as you could get. But I loved them - they were the hands of someone strong, the hands of someone who worked rather than someone who had everything handed to them. Now, though, I could barely feel the flex of her fingers against mine, and that just drove it all home. "If this is the way it has to be, then…that's that. It's not your fault. I'm just glad you're safe."

She let go of me then, took up the gun and pulled it to her, doing a cursory inspection. She was a little better with the things than I ever was, but if something wasn't immediately, visibly wrong, she'd probably never have known. And at that point, I guess it didn't really matter much, anyway. She slipped her finger into the trigger guard, slid her arm underneath her to rest her head on it, and smiled at me.

"I love you, too," she said. "I always will."

And then she closed her eyes and went away inside her head again, going silent and still. For just a moment, I watched her, trying to burn the memory of her into my head - as she was, just like that, her face smooth and calm - and then I left her there.

I scrambled over the debris and into the fading sunlight, heading away from the building at a fast clip. What mattered most just then was getting as far away as possible, and I walked for a quarter-hour before I even paused to wash and wrap my arm. My hands shook as I took care of the cut, and as I tugged on the bandage ends and had to use my mouth to tie them off, I couldn't help but think how much easier this would have been if I'd had her with me. It'd be a long time until I stopped having thoughts like that.

As soon as I was done, I kept walking - but I didn't walk far enough. Gunshots carry, especially when all of those background noises of the world have dropped away - no traffic, no hum of electricity, no idle conversation. Just still air, hanging there to carry sounds for miles, even when you don't want it to.

There was no screaming. I don't know if that's because I was too far away to hear those particular noises, or because she didn't ever scream - I'd like to think it was that latter option. That none of them ever got close enough to make her hurt, that she was so preoccupied she forgot her legs had been crushed. But it's probably more likely that she didn't scream because she wouldn't have. Because she knew I might have heard and come back, or just because she wouldn't give anyone the satisfaction of driving her to her death like that - undignified.

The shots started, and I knew it was her. That's stupid, I know - it could have been anyone - but I did. I knew. And before I could stop myself, I was counting - it's like being that girl at the ball, knowing you only have until midnight before the charm wears off, and hearing the clock chime. You have to count. There's no stopping it. Except in my case, it wasn't something as simple as being stranded with a pumpkin instead of a carriage - it was knowing exactly what that last shot meant. Knowing what I was about to lose.

The pistol and magazine I'd left her had fifteen shots. I knew that. And so I stopped, listening, and counted, unable to help myself. One, two, three, four, five, all measured and steady. That was good - that meant she had no reason to panic. Not, I suppose, that she would have, anyway - she'd always been one for keeping her head.

Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, a few odd pauses between those. It was possible that the walkers were having as much trouble as I'd had getting to her, meaning she could line up her shots while they struggled over the debris - that was good, too. But, then again, walkers didn't have the same qualms about injuries as living humans did, and it was very possible they were simply dragging themselves through it, unconcerned about potentially leaving limbs or organs behind. Maybe the shots were slower because she was losing her strength, having a hard time aiming.

Eleven, twelve, thirteen. The pauses were getting even longer now. Was it because she knew what was coming, because she was afraid? Or maybe the walkers she'd already dropped were providing a sort of extra barrier, stopping the others from getting to her. Maybe her strength was almost gone now, and she was afraid the recoil from the shots would tug the gun from her hands, leaving her helpless.

Fourteen, and it felt like every muscle in my body drew tight. The pause after that shot felt like it went on forever, long enough for me to wonder if she was losing her nerve, if she was staring down at the gun in her hand, unable to pull the trigger for the last shot. Long enough for me to entertain horribly morbid thoughts about whether she would tuck the gun under her chin, or press it to her temple, or slide the barrel into her mouth, past lips red with the blood she'd been coughing up. And long enough for me to hate my inability to stop those thoughts from coming.

When that final shot rang out, my knees went out from under me, and I sat down, hard. I probably ought to count myself lucky I didn't accidentally impale myself on one of my own weapons, or cut myself open one of the pieces of glass or metal that seemed to litter every road. But right then, it was all I could do to keep breathing, to keep myself from reaching back, pulling one of the other guns, and following her example. It was just the thought of my promise to her that stopped me. So I just dropped my head into my hands, rubbing my eyes hard enough to make lights spark behind my closed lids, and tried to find the strength to get up and move on.

----------

That was six months ago. The first few weeks were the worst - because I kept forgetting. That seems like it ought to be impossible, I know - how do you forget something like that? But I guess when you spend that long with someone, when you go through the kinds of things that we went through…I don't know, you get used to them being there.

I'd wake up in the morning and reach for her, confused that she wasn't curled up beside me where she belonged. Or I'd lie down to sleep at night and wonder why I was so cold, why her heat wasn't there to share. I'd see something during the day - a deer wandering through the city streets, or a flock of birds taking wing - and I'd turn to look at her, anticipating the wonder on her face, only to remember that there was no one walking next to me anymore, no one to help over particularly precarious pieces of rubble, no one to reach out and hold when things got too hard to handle alone.

I still do it, sometimes. Even though it's been so long. Reach for her when I wake up groggy before the sun comes up. Turn to see a smile on her face. And…the weirdest thing is that sometimes - sometimes I could swear that I feel her. That fleeting touch on the tips of my fingers, when I reach out - like she's just out of my reach. I know it's nothing, just…my brain playing tricks on me, remembering the last time I felt her skin on mine, but…it's hard not to think about it as more than that. And it's hard not to be afraid of losing that.

Maybe it's ridiculous. Maybe I'm just…clinging to false hope, or punishing myself for something that really isn't my fault, but - I can't let go of that. I can't let go of that brushing, phantom touch, not even for the chance of something real. So I travel alone now, avoiding other people - even actively chasing them away, sometimes, when it comes down to that. And at night, I lie down alone, and reach out into the dark.

And sometimes, just sometimes, the dark reaches back.

As always, comments and criticisms are more than welcome.

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