To be kissed by him is to be hewn in twain.
Bisected, partitioned, a tablet cleanly demarcated. Not only in body but in the world itself, all that exists, a date halved and pitted, a drop in the pond that ripples and ripples out until it rips you apart.
To one side: this earth and the ground on which you stand, one solitary bead of blue in the hunger-dark, every grain crunching underfoot, woodsmoke on the air that hangs around you both. Everything in jagged detail, the vivid realness of it. Here is the camp and within it the tent, sweeping overhead like a sky stretched taut. Here the eggshell moon hangs on its string, so woundedly bright. Here is the young man with oversharp eyes, now closed, and quick hands that brace against your shoulder and your cheek.
(He has fine eyelashes, soft as down and nearly silver: so you think as they brush against your face, though perhaps this is nonsense, perhaps they are utterly ordinary and it is you who are in too deep; you who will be devoured, in the end.)
Yet here you are, lattice of scars dripping like bangles over hands and face and neck, your stitched lips unable to open even now, even for him. It is unfair—no, cruel—to him, that this should be you. For all that he is, he is still human, and so should have someone lovely: one who can laugh and dance and go to war and is not you, this charred and smoldering wreckage of half-formed ideas and hopes that have blistered like burning petals.
But he has you, some part of you whispers, has chosen you, and just for the moment it is sweet to believe that you could save him as he saved you. That it could only ever be you.
(This cannot be true: after all, to be fated is to be doomed, and you have every one of you vowed to defy such senseless ordinances.)
To the other: everything else.
His mind is a blood-warm ocean. Echoes of whalesong, upward-drifting sediment, depths of time that transcend the boundaries of this world. As your own presses near, you can sense its presence on the peripheries. That tremendous power. You hold a part within yourself, and it calls to you now, like a limb to its twin, beseeching a duet.
(There had been pain for you, then, as once there had been for him, where now there is only the lapping tide.)
You wade out into the water. Deeper, deeper. Until you are submerged, engulfed entirely. Slowly, you sink past silvery thoughts that slip by in shoals, and flicker in the foxfire-bioluminescence of the further depths. You do not mistake them for a gestalt. Surely this is only what he permits you to see, just as you give up only the parts of your mind that you would have him know, each trusting that the other will not pry.
Rote calculations, doubt and frustration. The oxidized conviction that runs beneath it all. Most of them, you are well-acquainted with.
But some are unique to this moment. Some... are just for you. It spins itself from the void, a dendritic mesh of tenderness. Strung at the convergence of them, like a web-caught fly: a strained smile, the agitated movements of your hands, a flurry of eyes as they scan over lines of script. Your mind reflected back at you—or perhaps it is only his image of you, for it feels calmer than you have ever thought yourself. A coolness of belief and tried, unbroken love. If not for him, then for the ideal you have both bound yourselves to. The depth of his trust. He thinks you rational.
It is at once a benediction and a suffocating burden.
And—oh. Then you can taste it, there, right there, the sheer and desperate cadence of his love. For this world, for life and the living. Smothering, pulverizing, annihilating all-devouring love.
This is not for you, not alone. Nor would you want it so, though in the quiet spaces of nighttime you have wondered what it might be—to receive it all, the love of bloodied teeth and breath that breaks the ice. But that would be a selfishness. One mustn’t imagine. Enough to merely command his attention, to be the focus of all that singular intensity, if only for a moment.
And so you do. And so he does love you, in a way that is at least somewhat differentiated from all those others saved or spared or forgiven with blades in hand, or who yet languish in the world’s cruelty, and that must count for something. It must. This is what you must tell yourself. Even if only in companionship, as teacher-disciple (for each of you has been as both to the other), and even if it is pity-tinged after all this time.
My lord, you think-say-feel. And then his name, imminent, immanent. I am yours. Yours, yours.
In the flooded halls of your mind all eyes are shuttered. You cast yourself into dark waters, and he rises up to meet you.