She stood before his apartment door, pulled her coat tighter before she knocked. Long minutes passed before he answered.
"Go home to someone you've been in love with."
His brow was furrowed, looking at her through the half open door.
"Dr. Cameron," he said, a question.
"Tell him you love him still; if you have to, lie."
She studied his look of dismay, resigning herself to the pity behind it.
"He may try to resist you on principle; don't let him. Swallow his protests in kisses, say that you don't care."
"Look," she said. "I don't care that you're a misanthropic old bastard, I don't care if I'm manipulating you into this based on pity, and it doesn't matter that this can't have any future. I'm miserable--you're always miserable--and we could both use the company."
He nodded, once, and opened the door wider to let her in.
"The rest will follow."
She tried to catalogue it all as it was happening, memorize every sensation, every sound, the things that surprised her and the things that didn't, but it was too fast, too fevered--she lost coherent thought and caught only snatches.
"Don't forget to give yourself to it completely. If you don't, there's no hope for you."
Some kind of instrument was being plucked through the two of them, an instrument of taut strings and notes so bass they could only be felt. The blood sang in her veins; she could feel a responding murmur through his skin.
She surprised herself not with passion, but by being tender: she kissed his eyelids after biting his neck, stroked his hair softly after pulling it, ran gentle fingers down wet trails left by her tongue.
He surprised her by being agile, lithe. He was not young. His body was broken, in pain. Somehow, though, he moved with power and grace, and she got the impression that he was being . . . careful with her.
Every kiss filled her with fire, doused her with grief. She shivered under his fingers; he stilled under hers.
"There will come a point when you know, or you don't. Pay attention."
When their breathing evened out, they drifted apart on the bed, unmanned boats drifting apart at sea.
It seemed like only an instant before she opened her eyes, but something--she couldn't remember what, but was certain--had woken her up. She perched on top of the sheets as on the outcropping of some ridge, balancing precariously, holding her bare knees. He was asleep. She would leave him that way. Perhaps (she hoped) he would remember it as some strange dream, that the night and what came after would seem too surreal to be true.
She wondered again why she had trusted the old woman, how those words had resonated with such clarity.
"You go to join your husband by loving another man. Find a moment of ecstasy and then let go with peace. Then you will be free."