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Sennight

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Sennight (n):   Archaic . a week.

 

It had taken them only a sennight to travel from Sentarshadeen ... into the heart of the lost Lands to face the power of Shadow Mountain.

-- Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, To Light a Candle, 2004




Q presses his face into the thick fur at Button’s neck and breathes deeply.  The rich scent of spearmint fills his nose. The cat has always smelt of spearmint:  Q gave up trying to figure out why years ago. He inhales again, and the tight twist of his shoulders relaxes ever so slightly.  Always does when he cuddles with Button. A notable tension remains, though it’s of a different kind than that generated by work worries.

He closes his eyes to the sights of the bright, sterile room and focuses instead on the soothing weight of the moggie in his arms and the gentle, humming purr beneath his cheek -- something Button has not done in over three days -- and forces back the tears.  Button nudges at Q’s chin as is their routine, but it’s sluggish. Paws weakly knead bread dough at Q’s shoulder; he barely feels the sharp claws prick the skin beneath his thin jumper.

Alec curls an arm about Q’s waist and pulls him close against his chest between legs splayed out against the hard tile floor beneath their bums.  His other hand skims the tousled hair at Q’s nape before settling atop Button’s head where his thick fingers stroke lovingly, then set to scratch at that preferred spot just below the hinge of Button’s jaw, mumbling those same endearments to the cat that Alec always denies yet Q always hears.   The purring surges a moment before receding to a whispered tremor that Q barely feels beneath his hand.

Alec presses his cheek against Q’s temple.  “Are you ready?” he asks, his baritone steady but sad.

“No.”  Q shakes his head sharply once and tightens his hands around Button’s back; the cat melts a little against his shoulder.

“Take your time, luv.”

But he can’t take his time.  Not really. Not when every moment is agony.

Their time is gone now.  Too few years stretch out behind Q.  Memories flash in his mind like film unspooling from an antique projector, spilling onto the floor at his feet, elusive and impossible to grasp.  The recollections of the last sennight, however, are etched clearly in Q’s head: the first missed leap onto the bed, the second when Button tried hopping onto the window sill in the sitting room and crashed into the side of it instead, lethargy followed on its heels by a depressed appetite, and then the turning away from food altogether.

Yes, of course.  Please. Do whatever tests you think are necessary.

The aggressive tumor engulfs the kidney and presses against Button’s heart.  Q is devastated.

He’s only four years old!

A sympathetic nod follows Q’s outburst.

There are things we can try, but they’re unlikely to do much but prolong the inevitable.   

One week ago, Button was healthy.  Or seemingly so.

We’ll set you up with medications before you leave.

Stoic little shite that he is, only after the diagnosis does Button show the first signs of pain.

A couple of weeks before things reach the point where you’ll have to make some choices.

A couple of weeks.

They had one night.

The medication ineffective, it’s a sleepless night for Alec who wraps around Q who curls next to Button on the bed as the moggie pants out his endless pain.  Though his job sometimes demands he kill with the callous press of a button, this feels like the cruelest night of Q’s life.

They’re waiting outside the surgery when the veterinarian arrives in the morning.

Q shifts in Alec’s arms so that he is burrowed deeply in the embrace and tenderly transfers Button to his other shoulder.  It’ll be easier for the vet to …

Eyes still tightly closed, nose again buried in Button’s neck, Q nods.  “I’m ready.”

Q hears the veterinarian scoot across the floor to kneel next to them.  She lifts Button’s right foreleg from his shoulder. She speaks softly, just enough to let Q know she’s started the procedure she explained to them 30 minutes ago.  

It will be quick, and it won’t hurt.  I promise.

The purring -- that whispered, soothing thrumming beneath Q’s hand and against his chest -- stops.  It’s replaced by a curious chirrup that Button only uses when he’s puzzled by something he sees outside the window of their flat.  

Daddy, what’s this ?

Q tightens his embrace.

Alec does the same.  

Button says no more.  

His weight hangs slack and heavy against Q’s shoulder where he will remain until long after the fur at his neck is damp with tears and the scent of spearmint begins to fade.