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Oct 14, 2019 11:35 PM
we're not sorry
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He nods to them both, and then to her to follow him as he heads towards the door.

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She hugs Dhayos on the way out.

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She laughs and hugs her back, ruffles her hair before shooing her off.

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And so she follows Aton, still playing with the magnets.

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He leads her out into the atrium, through the courtyard, into a hall she's never seen before.

When they reach the right door, he hesitates.

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"...this one?"

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"...this one."

He pushes the door open.

It's a bedroom, technically – there's a pallet in one corner that's clearly almost never been used. That's clearly not the point of the place.

Every square inch of each wall is covered in shelves, apart from the little glass window and a section that's left bare so it can be papered over with carefully pressed leaves and flowers and paper blessings in clumsy handwriting. One of the shelves is packed full with broken toys, little wooden animals with snapped limbs and torn corn-husk dolls and pull-toys with missing wheels – one end of another is lined with the stubs of burnt-down candles – the carefully laid-out skeleton of a little hummingbird has pride of place on another.

One of them is a little more sparsely filled than the others. It's lined with dried flowers and pressed leaves, with stones in neat lines at one end and a pair of shoes beside them and a row of little birchbark boats, clumsy and crumpled at the beginning and growing neater and neater as they go.

There's a rusted sword lying at the center, a corroded bracelet beside it, a slightly tattered bundle of fabric – and a little pile of bones.

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It's her turn to hesitate on the threshold.

"...are you sure you -- want me, in here...?"

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He glances around the room, and then nods.

He's reaching up to her shelf, to pull the bundle of starry fabric carefully down, making sure not to disturb the rest of its contents.

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It still feels a little too sacred to enter.

She follows him in anyway.

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"...you kept..."

All the stupid hopeless little offerings. Everything she hadn't been able to bear to see rejected. Her hand.

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He nods – doesn't quite look at her, as he lets the cloth fall open, faint light shining through a few little holes. He holds it up to the light.

"...harder to get them out of the river," he mumbles, halfway to himself.

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"...oh no. Really? I'm sorry..."

All of them. He fished all of them out of the river.

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"Only the ones that sank. And it's fine."

He drapes the cloth over her shoulders and carefully scoops a small pile of pins off the shelf. These aren't tarnished.

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“I would have done something else, if I’d known. Or practiced more with the boats.”

It’s easier to think about Aton, finding shining pins one by one in the riverbed, than it is to think about the painstakingly arranged pressed flowers, the bones of her hand. 

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"It's fine. You didn't."

The first pin slides carefully in over her shoulder.

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She closes her eyes.

 

"You love me."

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"I love you."

The second pin.

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It's still a lot, somehow, hearing him say it.

 

(She wants to kiss him again.)

(She feels like she should maybe get Elantine's permission first.)

 

"I love you too."

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He pulls fabric around her waist, and pins it again.

Then he leans in, quickly, and kisses her on the cheek.

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“May I...?”

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...he nods.

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She moves in slowly for the kiss, like he might run away at any moment. 

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He turns, at the last moment, and kisses her himself.

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Oh.

Good.

 

It takes a minute before she pulls back, just a little, rests her head on his shoulder.

"...this is all right?"

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