It’s nearly silent up here, up near the mountain’s peak where a shallow cave has been weathered into the rock. The summit isn’t all that high – is nothing compared with some of the other mountains, those further north where it snows in seasons other than winter – so the air is clean and fresh and easy to breathe and Brie takes deep breaths in and out. She isn’t tired – the magic in her blood pretty much prevents that – but she knows that this is it.
This is the last time.
She stops in front of the cave’s mouth, looking over it for a moment before heading in. It’s an odd place for a tomb, but it’s secluded, isolated. No-one would come looking up here. No-one is going to know this is here once she’s done today.
There isn’t much in the cave. In fact, it’s empty bar a flat stone bed with a body atop it. AJ’s body atop it. It’s been a couple of weeks since it happened, and while Brie’s used her magic to keep AJ as clean as she can, she knows it’s time. She can’t dwell on this forever, though she very well could, considering that that’s how long she’ll be around for.
Nikki always told her not to meddle with mortals, even ones with magic, saying that was her job and that Brie should stick to the sky and her plants and living in peace. Brie believes it, makes a duty of it, thinks her sister’s so-called fun frivolous and superficial and her travels away from here pointless, and ignores almost everything that isn’t the cycle of air and sunlight and green and growth.
That was before AJ, though. Before AJ and – whatever they had. She isn’t sure how to measure it, can’t even compare it to anything she’s felt in all her endless years, but she thinks of green hills and orange sunsets and the memories feel as alive as the wildlife in the fields, warm like the rays of the sun on her skin.
(She can’t be sure if she’ll feel the same way once years have gone by, decades. She hopes she will. She really, really hopes she will. Memories have a tendency to fade, is the thing. To blur into one.)
Nothing’s changed since she was last here, up this mountain, in this cave, but it isn’t surprising. It wouldn’t be surprising even if AJ had a grave somewhere easy to reach, somewhere others knew about. People knew her, but they weren’t her friends. Brie knows that AJ probably wouldn’t have called her a friend, either, but they were – something. Something different, maybe something more. She doesn’t know. She just knows that it’s over now.
It was a bite that did it, the teeth of a vampire AJ had come to blows with sinking into her neck, sharp and deadly. It’s a wonder she made it to Brie alive after that, considering that this was a bite to kill, not to turn, considering how much venom had been injected into her blood. Brie tried to help, but she didn’t have an antidote. Didn’t have anything close to one, even with all the little bottles of tonics around her house and all the plants in her garden. It would have taken too long to make one if she’d tried. All she could do was just hold AJ, stroke a gentle hand through her hair, murmur some words meant to be comforting, and wait for her body to get cold.
And cold it got, cold it is right now even though Brie’s done all she can so AJ’s body doesn’t rot yet. Cold, AJ will always be, just as Brie herself will always be warm, thriving like the flora she takes such thorough care of – just as Brie will never be able to join AJ in death.
AJ was never the garlands of spring blossoms that Brie wove and adorned herself with, never the sweet-smelling oils Brie rubbed into her own skin. She was the delicate but deadly web of a spider in the corner of a room, the bones of dead birds she’d find in the long grass and take home to clean and bend into a crown, and that’s who she should be in death, too. Herself.
Still – that doesn’t mean that Brie has nothing to offer her. There have been darker flowers growing in a corner of her garden this year, and considering that they were there for AJ in the first place, it’s only fitting that those are the plants that shroud AJ here, petals of purple and deep red and velvety black. Brie reaches into the basket over her arm and starts to lay the flowers down, the arrangement careful and in a pattern but just a little bit haphazard. Magic would make it perfect, but this is more honest. This is more like what she wanted for them.
She takes one last look at AJ, at the flowers. Reaches a hand out to stroke AJ’s cheek – cold to the touch, but she expected no different – one last time. And takes a deep breath before backing out of the cave, back out to open air.
That’s it. Brie knows what she has to do now.
There are enough rocks here to cover the mouth of the cave. To close it, to seal it. That’s what has to be done – what AJ would want to be done. She wouldn’t want anyone stumbling across her, even if it’s quiet up here most days.
Brie uses the air to do it, harnesses her connection to the wind to lift the stone, to set it down in front of the entrance. She watches as the pile of rocks gets higher, as inside the cave becomes completely obscured from view.
She could spend the next century coming up here and laying down flowers for AJ, could spend entire millennia mourning one year’s lost love, but this, Brie knows, is the closure she needs.