You find her on the bridge, like every morning. Her hair is long enough to brush against the murmuring water when she's leaning over like this, resting her head on her folded hands to peer at the creek below. It's been a long time since the last time you've been annoyed by that, and you're not going to go back now. Wordlessly, like every morning, you find a place to sit next to her, cross-legged so your feet don't get wet, and flick her hair back as greeting.
She smiles like she hadn't been expecting you, which is kind of fucking ridiculous, you muse, because you've been joining her here for what must be weeks now.
You think this is probably her only routine, the only part of her day that stays constant. For an unnerving moment, you wonder if she does it for you; but that's only before you realize that you're being an idiot and that she knows you hate coming here. She asked you why you do it, once, and after cursing numerous things, including the bridge she and you are perched on right now, you grudgingly admitted you did it because you liked being with her. You don't remember ever seeing a smile wider than the one she gave you then.
The one she uses to greet you, though, is almost as bright.
After a while, she speaks. "I like coming here," she says instead of something like 'hello'. "Don't you think the sound is really nice?"
You humour her and close your eyes to better focus on the noise of rushing water. You suppose it's kind of nice, nothing to write home about.
"You know," she starts, and you know she's going to casually drop some bomb on you like she always does, "when you die, your sense of hearing is the last to go. So if you were to die now, you could still hear the water for a little while longer. That's a bit funny."
"Hilarious," you say. "The sound you're hearing is actually me, laughing like crazy."
She nods, smiling, and you wonder if she didn't understand your sarcasm or she simply didn't care.
A few moments of silence pass, and she puts her head on your shoulder. You scoot over to sit closer to her, place your hand on top of hers. She rewards you by kissing your temple, twice. You bask in the warmth of the sun, of her.
"Sometimes I just want to jump into this fucking river," you mumble with your eyes closed, intoxicated with the silence and her company. "Breathe water until my lungs are so full they explode with the stuff and I drown."
She shifts her position, loops her arm around your body in a loose embrace. "This creek isn't deep enough for you to drown," she informs you. "I think you'd be dead before your lungs could explode, anyway. But I wouldn't let you," she adds decisively, tightening her grip around your shoulders.
Below you, autumn leaves rush in your direction, carried by the speeding water; they alternatively submerge and emerge from the surface with no discernible pattern, up and down and up again. She lets go of you for a moment to bend down and catch a golden leaf. It trembles in the breeze, wet and half-rotten and somehow still beautiful. She holds it against the sun and you know that some part of her is thinking about dead things, as you know this leaf is going to end up pressed between the pages of one of her books, T. S. Eliot or who knows what else. You guess she really loves that incredibly morbid museum of hers, where she keeps more than just dead leaves.
She must really love dead things, if she loves you.
"You're alive, Sollux," she says, and you hate when she does that, when she appears to read your fucking mind. She grins abruptly. "You're alive! You!" And there's so much honesty in her voice, so much affection. You try not to cry, because wouldn't that be just perfect, crying because of a stupid truism like that.
She's still beaming. You try to convince yourself that she's not pitying you. You think you manage quite well.
She stands up suddenly and you lose your balance. Isn't that just great? "AA, wait, I'm going to fall into the fucking water." The words leave your mouth in a rush and jumbled together, but you realize your brief instant of panic was entirely pointless as she pulls you up by the arm.
"I wouldn't let you, Sol," she reiterates. She's tucked the leaf into one of her pockets, surely, because you can't see it and you don't believe she'd just drop it.
"Yeah," you say, taking her hand in yours. "Whatever."
Her smile doesn't falter as she drags you away and through the forest, only stopping to point out shiny rocks, the skeleton of a mouse, a patch of soil that's a funny colour. You don't know where she's taking you, or if she even has a destination in mind. Perhaps that's the point, showing you that what matters is the journey or some trite nonsense like that. Almost immediately after forming the shape of that thought you regret it.
Everything she says is important, always. She isn't a fucking fortune cookie, for God's sake. She's always had your back, the least you could do is take her words into consideration. You're such a prick.
Before you can grow more angry at yourself, she comes to an abrupt stop and you notice you're in a clearing in the middle of the wooded area. The sunlight streams down and makes her face glow, unobstructed by the foliage. You want to smile, all of a sudden.
"You're angry, Sollux," she says. "I can feel it."
You open your mouth to deny it, or maybe to dig yourself deeper, but she doesn't let you.
"Come here," she tells you before pulling you into a hug.
She smells like creek water and dead leaves, but she's alive. And, the realization hits you out of nowhere, so are you. You're okay with that.
You let her hold you. Tomorrow you'll hold her, once you're out of this hole you seem to have trapped yourself into. You let yourself bury your face in her hair, tell yourself that it's fine to do so.
She kisses your forehead, once; and for a while, everything is quiet.