Guardian and Bekah were eating a sad meal at the cafeteria. They could barely look at each other. Just a graze of the eyes hurt. It hurt just to be near one another, but if they could get a moment, they would. Bekah was talking about her art classes and said she needed to draw something.
Artist popped out. It had been weeks since he had seen Draconic and he knew she wasn’t coming back. Without the horrible distraction she always plagued him with, he was free to look up, and he smiled at Bekah and offhand said, “Draw me.”
She looked up with that cautious hope trapped in her smile and said, “Really?”
“Not a nude. We have to be classy about it, but why not? Could be fun.”
We set up in my room. A long-time back Justin, my roommate, had moved into a room that had become vacant and we had been left alone. This was how all the visits with Draconic were possible. How it was possible to lock ourselves away for days, weeks. This was what damned us. No one to watch over us meant the pit we fell into was our own to climb out of.
Well, on this night it helped us.
She brought a light. Clipped it to the bunkbed above where I slept. She laid me in my bed with my clothing on and set up her board on a chair. She looked at me, and thus began the single most sensual night of my life.
At first, Artist lay before her. He barred himself to her. Letting her see in his eyes the longing he held for her. The need he had for just one more night in our old apartment before he was a corrupter, when he was just the guy she couldn’t do without. Let Trashy try to throw them all out again. Let Burg get kicked in the head. Artist wanted it all back. And what would he give up to have it?
Air. Rest. Sanity. One more cuddle session before bed and he would gladly hand over every bit of magic he held. He wanted to toss it away but there was no one to toss it to. See by this time there was no way back. The board she was drawing on was her only hope for closure. Let this one thing say goodbye for us. Let this last gift Artist would give her be the only thing she take with her when she left. Artist stared at her and he let himself love her intensely and intently. Let her have everything that was left of him. After this, it was all over anyway.
Shadow had devised a plan. He would get them all some much needed rest. He had the blade. He had the spot picked out. He would do it this time, he promised us, so let this last bit of intimacy be Artist’s last gift to her.
Shadow came out to glare at her. He hated her, or at least tried to, but as he looked into her eyes, hard at work and concentrating, he felt that well, that hole within him echo. He felt that constant pain throb. Suddenly he wanted her to stay. Just leave his hate at the door for a moment. This was going to be the last moments of his life, so give them to her. She had once been good for him. She had once been the thing he needed. So, let her see the last vestiges of his feelings for her. As she drew, he let himself love her this one last time.
Guardian talked to her. He spoke about all sorts of things just so she would respond. He let her talk about her classes. Her family. He let her talk about every nuance of her life that he was no longer a part of. He watched the way her lips moved, and he imagined them on his body. He closed his eyes and tried to get the last bit of himself on the page she was drawing. Let her see his love for her in her work.
He longed for a touch. Just a touch. Let her need to brush a stray lock back or have to lean in to readjust the way the cover laid. He prayed for any of it. But she just talked. It was easy again. Easy to be with her. She laughed and that extra laugh, the inhale laugh, graced the air again. He felt loved and he knew this was not going to last. Soon, it would be inexcusable hate again. Soon, she would be gone, and he would be locking her out. Soon, she would be a distant memory and was she now?
Was this even real? Could it be? Him bare before her, her capturing him on the page. Or was this a treacherous dream? Was this about to go wrong? Was she about to start to scream like she always did in his dreams? Would she get down on the ground like she had the night before and rip off chunks of her flesh and beg him to take them. Was this going to end wrong? He had no idea. So, with fading hope, dawning horror, and utter devotion he let her see him. And he waited for everything to fall apart again.
Assassin remembers laying for that portrait.
She saw Lenore as Zombie staring at her with a vague blank expression. She saw Adam as he begged her for candy, and she giggled at him and tossed him a chocolate. She saw them all. They were all coming to say goodbye.
They knew we were not for this world any longer. We had played and lost. Had everything and there was no way to go from here. We could not go back. Too much pain had been splashed on everything we held dear. We could not move forward. She was tender now. With every word, she was waiting for a barb. She could not walk through life flinching anymore. She was afraid of the cutting word. Afraid that the wrong errant thought would bring us all back to the betrayal.
Can you see what they all saw?
There was no way but out. We had to break off. We had no hope and every day with her was dragging her down, breaking her will and shattering her memories. If I left her with nothing else, I could leave her with the memories of when she was my girl, the new girl and I was showing her off to the world. Because we knew the moment she was ours that this was it.
We had taken her to meet our mother immediately. No one else had ever gotten that. She was taken to Rose instantly. He had his girl and wanted to show her off. But that had been when the world was filled with promise. That did not exist anymore. There was no promise for any of us. We were not getting out of this alive. She could, though.
She drew them all on that one piece of paper. The result is me. The result is Adam. Her husband. I was drawn for the first time in Wells by a broken-hearted girl just wanting to take it all back. She saw her husband in that moment.
The collection of faces that would become the man writing this piece right now. That is what she captured.
And when she was done Shadow took her in his arms and he made love to her. They both wept. Because he knew that even if he wanted to, there was no going back now.