Steam from Duncan's shower has clouded the mirror, but you don't let that stop you. You don't need to see your reflection to complete your nightly ritual.
You set aside twenty minutes every night to brush your hair. You've done it ever since the night your four-year-old self took the brush from your mother's hand and declared you would do it from then on. It had taken time to learn to do it properly; your little hands fumbled with the large brush, leaving more snarls than you could count. Your mother indulged your independent streak and only helped when you requested it, but you missed the camaraderie you shared when she'd brushed your hair. Before long, your younger self would come up with all sorts of reasons to ask for your mother's company, and the nightly ritual became your time to share your day with her. It lasted until you moved away to university, but you always picked it up when you visited.
Meeting Duncan has added subtle nuances to your nightly ritual. He immediately picked up on the solemnity of the act, and actually asked if he could watch you while you did it. You agreed, enjoying that chance to really talk about your day with him, a reminder of your childhood with your mother. When you'd fallen ill with pneumonia early in your relationship, Duncan continued to brush your hair for you. He wouldn't let you lose out on such an integral part of your daily life.
The sound of Duncan's voice pulls you from your musings, and you turn to face him with a smile. A towel is wrapped around his waist, water beading on his skin. He is an incredible man, your perfect ideal, except for that pesky Immortality thing that you'd just as soon forget existed.
He's been quiet ever since he came home from visiting Linda Plager. You've allowed him his solitude, knowing that even four hundred years of Immortal life can't always prepare one for the finality of death and mourning.
You smile, pushing your odd bit of nostalgia aside for the moment, and move to kiss him. He plucks the brush from your hand and doesn't resist when you deepen the kiss. He smells of the fields, of freshly cut grasses and sunshine, of health and vitality. The familiar scents are a soothing balm to your jangled nerves.
"You look tired, Duncan," you say when you finally pull back from the kiss, stroking his cheek.
He shrugs, but leans into your touch. "It's been a long day, that's all." There's such sadness in his eyes, his voice, and you want nothing more than to take it all away for him. "Did you finish brushing your hair yet?"
Your lips curve up into a broader, more indulgent smile, and you shake your head. Taking his other hand, you lead him into the bedroom and sit on the bed. The mattress creaks slightly as his greater weight settles behind you. The familiar sensation of the bristles lightly scraping your scalp before gliding down the length of your hair, followed by his fingers carding your locks, lulls you almost instantly. The sounds of the Seacouver night life filter in through the window and keep you grounded in the present. Richie's out for the night and you don't expect to see him until tomorrow.
"Duncan," you ask, "you do know that I'm willing to listen, right?"
He pauses at your words, but picks up the hypnotic rhythm again soon enough. It takes several moments before he speaks, after clearing his throat.
"Do you ever wonder what you would do if you had the chance to be an Immortal?"
You can feel the heavy weight of his "gift" practically suffocating both of you. Taking a deep breath, you turn around to face him and study his eyes. Such pain and love laid bare, such hope and despair. How could you ever have thought to refuse this man anything he asked of you?
"We've had this conversation before, no?" you reply and stroke his cheek. "If it involved your Game, or whatever you Immortals call it, I wouldn't want it. I don't condone violence of any kind, you know that, but I also couldn't see myself living in a convent for all eternity either."
"A nun's habit is far too severe for you," he says with a small smile that, to your relief, reaches his eyes. "Unless you went to Tibet and dressed like the Dalai Lama."
Laughter bubbles up from deep within at that image. "Somehow I don't think the winters would agree with me. And how would I continue with my sculpting?"
"Don't forget that you'd have to cut off all of your hair." Once again, melancholy settles over him. "I love you, Tessa, but I don't think you'd look good without your hair."
Leaning in to press a kiss to his lips, you rest one hand over his heart and revel in the strong, steady beat. You don't resist when he pulls you into a hug, only shifting to accommodate the change in position. Silence descends again, but it doesn't feel quite so suffocating this time.
After several moments of resting in his embrace, you reach up to kiss him again, plucking the brush from where he dropped it into his lap. One, two, three quick strokes through your hair are all you need. "My hair is done." The disappointment on his face isn't a surprise; he has come to love your nightly ritual almost more than you do. "But," you say as you move to stand behind him, "that doesn't mean that we're finishing for the night."
"Tess, you don't--"
"I know I don't," you say, cutting off his words smoothly. "I want to do this for you. Will you let me?" You let out a breath you don't realize you were holding until he nods. "I know that I can't make the pain of her death go completely, but I will do all I can to help you cope with it."
He nods again, and you know he's too choked up to speak yet. You wait him out as you draw your brush through the damp, curling locks of his hair. Your movements mirror his, right down to running your fingers through his hair on alternate strokes. After a moment or two, you abandon the brush completely and begin to massage his scalp and shoulders instead.
You feel it before you hear any sound of him crying. His shoulders rhythmically tense and relax under your hands. His head bows forward, hair obscuring his face from your view. Without thought, you wrap your arms around his shoulders from behind, resting your cheek against the crown of his head. He tries to say something, but the words apparently won't come. He tugs on your arms, and you let him pull you around into his lap, arms wrapping tightly around your waist. Murmuring soft nonsense in French, you pull his head to your shoulder and let him cry, fingers once again carding through his hair.
You have no idea how long you'll be sitting here with him like this, but you'll stay as long as he needs you. Because that's what you do when you love someone as much as you love Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.