“You do realise that if they see me here with you, they’ll never trust me again.”
The only answer Iolithae Septimian gave was to smile, throw the cottage door wide open, and step a few steps back. The visitor grinned and followed her in.
By the time Tairté ut-Napishtim’s coat was securely hanging by the door, his host was lounging in the old armchair by the fireplace.
Lounging? No. His host was enshrined in the old armchair by the fireplace. He made his obeisance, then turned the other chair around to face her, dropped in, and let the silence spread.
At some point after it had become a staring contest, she spoke. “What makes you keep talking to them, anyway?”
Tairté’s smile widened. “Ah, we’re doing that debate tonight? You know as well as I do that arguing my case with someone who actually thinks I’m wrong is far more engaging.”
“And that’s worth forgetting to come and see me, is it?”
He threw a cushion at her. “I’m sure I would, if you hadn’t made that a conceptual impossibility. I think you have trust issues.”
“Hah!” Her plait dropped over her shoulder with a perfectly contemptuous flick of her head. “Are you going to come over here and say that?”
Tairté arose, straightened his cuffs, and took three precise steps forward.
“I’m sure I would, if you hadn’t made that a conceptual impossibility. I think you have trust issues.”
“You’re just-” But alas, her distinguished guest lunged forward to plant his lips over hers rather than let her speak.
As they broke apart, the satisfied smirk on her face put the lie to his admonishment. “And you also know I’m not going to let you wrap me around your finger with a few well-chosen words.”
“So are you just going to stand there to be pedantic, or do you want to get comfortable?”
So it came to pass that Tairté ut-Napishtim perched precariously on the arm of Iolithae Septimian’s chair, coiling an arm around her shoulders for support. Support, and certainly not any other purposes.
A breath later, his lips began a pilgrimage to every holy site atop the curve of her shoulder; onwards, up the sacred mountain, to the inner sanctum just below her jaw. She sighed a perfect sigh and leaned into his ministrations for a moment, before her hand caught his chin, raised up his face, until they were gazing into one another’s eyes.
Into the space between them, she whispered, “We’re never going to be apart again.”
With a rueful smile, Tairté ut-Napishtim caught her lie in gentle hands. Clever-fingered, he peeled away layer after layer; reverent, he laid bare the nothing at its heart.
Like water from a broken dam she wrapped herself around him - grasped at him, as a drowning swimmer grasps a spar; like the endless sea grasps a drowning swimmer.
Walls and chairs and hands slipped away to nowhere as she freed herself from names and destinies and all but the timeless moment and his understanding; until there was nothing and the knowledge of him and they two were one, and-
Nothing moved in nothing.
It was later.
Deft fingers remade what they had disrobed. Clothed and real once more, neither naked nor singular, with continental haste they parted. She standing, now, and he seated in her chair; she opening the door and stepping out into the dark. “I have to go back; there are things I’ve left unsaid.”
On the very threshold she paused; turned to face he who stepped to meet her, who kissed her softly on the cheeks.
She left then, out into the darkness; and Tairté ut-Napishtim closed the door, and sat, and thought; and tasted still the salt of her tears.