Prisca was still alive.
Somehow, even though he’d deduced as much with great certainty, he hadn’t truly felt sure about it until he saw her. A weight dropped off his shoulders.
Not that seeing her was a pleasant experience. He wasn’t petty, wasn’t… concerned with her physical beauty the way he’d seen other boys be. Some part of him, a part he didn’t really understand, a part he’d started to associate with Macian, if only because he couldn’t figure out where he might have picked it up otherwise, balked at the mere thought of judging things by appearance. Of getting attached to the outside, be it good or bad.
It wasn’t a good thing, wasn’t a good part. He didn’t like such things because he didn’t, on a fundamental level, trust them. Them, or anyone, really. A small part of him that whispered, this could be fake, someone might be twisting things.
It was the same part that had advised him to keep so many secrets from his friends. To compartmentalise them, keep Tim and Aimi apart from Vasiliki and Dalia. To keep them all apart from Prisca, until he couldn’t justify it anymore. It was the part of his that had shouted betrayal when, in honest worry over his state, his friends had crossed the boundaries he’d set and gotten together to take care of him.
Even further, it had made him twitchy around Dalia and Vasiliki in a way he hadn’t understood for a long time. Their beauty had been a barrier between them, rather than something that drew him in, like it did damn near every other male they ran into.
It wasn’t something all-consuming. He could still appreciate beauty, once he could be sure it was honest. Whatever that meant. But upon first contact, it repulsed, made him stay at a distance.
With Prisca, it had, strangely, made things easier. When beauty was an initial barrier, meeting a girl who failed to live up to the common understanding of beauty so thoroughly had, actually, made things easier in the beginning. Let him reach out, connect, in a way he wouldn’t have been able to with any of the gorgeous girls in his life.
In a twisted way, Aimi was more attractive to him, at first glance, than someone like, say, Gloom Glimmer, even though the latter was literally supernaturally desirable, simply because Aimi was plain and plainness didn’t trigger that suspicious, dark part of his.
Finding out that she’d become a shapeshifter, it had shaken him on a level he hadn’t even recognised, back then. With the benefit of hindsight, he thought that that had been trhe true reason why he’d kept her at arm’s length, rather than tell her about his secret identity, like he’d done with Tim.
With all that, he’d been able to see past Prisca’s bodily and mental issues – and she had many of both, perhaps even more so than he did – to find and appreciate the person underneath. In time, he’d even come to appreciate the remnants of the beauty she should have had. The beauty Dusu had taken from her.
When the goblins kidnapped her and he’d been forced to operate on her to keep her alive, that same detachment had allowed him to stay calm and do what needed to be done, rather than balk at the thought of cutting open the girl he loved to attach machines to her failing heart.
When she’d mutilated herself to escape Hastur, when the stress and the strain of that wretched day had proven too much for her body and he, with Gloom Glimmer’s help, had worked on her again, it had helped keep him calm and focused.
It had not helped when she’d manifested her power. Her projection, gorgeous as it was, had made him twitchy again, though less so than others, as he’d already known her. But that part of his, it twitched and moaned, whispering suspicions about this new, false form.
But it wasn’t. Never was. It was hers, in a way that her actual body couldn’t be anymore. A form that came purely from within herself. Whereas her body had been twisted, broken, changed, by Dusu, making it not wholly hers any more. She’d been right about that. He’d seen that, come to appreciate what she herself called her true body, and gotten comfortable enough to, experiment. They hadn’t gone the whole way yet, what Dalia would call ‘home base’, but they’d run most of the other ones by now.
Thinking on it in retrospect, no one who knew her even a little had been even remotely surprised that she’d cut her own eyes out, rather than be twisted further by another monster.
None of that made it, however, easy or even remotely comfortable to see her now, as she lay on that bed that had become the sum and limit of her waking world. She was pale as a corpse and moved about as much as one, her lungs no longer functioning in any case – machines pumped the oxygen she needed to survive into her, instead.
Survive. Not live.
Her hair was gone, what few tufts she’d had left fallen off and cleaned up since the last time he saw her, a week or so ago (she hated it when he saw her like this, preferred it when he interacted solely with her projection, as much as possible), making her head seem inordinately large, especially in proportion to her emaciated, wasted-away body. Her ruined eyes, at least, were covered by bandages. Most of her body was covered by a blanket, save for her spindly thin arms with those long, tender, weak fingers, which lay atop the expensive silk sheets (her mother did everything to make her comfortable, no matter how small, even if it meant buying the hospital a whole set of silk sheets for the entire intensive long-term care ward), though the many tubes and wires that ran into her body were still outlined by them.
Not that he needed to see them with his eyes – he had them in his mind. He’d installed them, after all. A rushed job, at first, during her kidnapping. Then, later, he’d swung by the hospital, pretending it was merely his own perfectionism, a sense of professional pride, or at least generic heroic sensibility, which took him there, and had refined his work, making more permanent accommodations for her. Explaining to the doctors how to properly clean them, what the read-outs meant and how to do simple maintenance (but to call him if anything actually went wrong). Then, later, another rushed job after Hastur had visited her, followed by another round of refinement, all of it tapping a degree of medical knowledge and an understanding of surgery that’d humbled the professionals involved and whose origin he could not make out. He’d never studied medicine in any capacity beyond basic first aid, had never read the textbooks or anything like that. And it wasn’t like his gadgeteering, either, not really. The devices he’d made to keep her alive, including her current set, they were partially gadgets, yes. But his surgical skill, which had had the head surgeon of the hospital, one of the most decorated professionals of his craft, grumbling about how unfair powers were and how he wished he was so good, that was wholly his own, and yet he had no idea how or why.
Still, all that work… fixing her, putting her body back into (barely) working order, refining his work to make her more comfortable, more healthy, as much as that was possible… it had felt comfortable. Relaxing, familiar, like something he’d done so many times it had become routine.
It thoroughly creeped him out, as grateful as he may have been for the capability, because as far as he knew, the very first time he’d ever even performed first aid, much less surgery, had been after the fight against Snow Queen, when he’d saved Vasiliki’s life.
Still, of all the many things that haunted him about his condition – whatever it may actually be – that was one he could appreciate at least. It had helped him save her, in some small way.
Even now, looking at her, his eyes flickered left and right, reading the data on his devices’ readouts and the monitors of the equipment the hospital had provided (all of it cutting edge, courtesy of Mrs Fion again), and his heart sank. Massive organ failure. Slowly spreading brain damage, negligible now, but liable to mount and go out of control at any time, depending on how Dusu’s poison continued to work. The machines attached to her, his machines, were the only thing keeping her alive now, and even they would be insufficient soon enough.
”Basil…” Prisca whispered, barely audible with her lips barely moving.
He was by her bedside in an instant, not even noticing the distance he crossed as he pulled a chair closer and sat down as close to her as he could.
His hand reached for hers, the right one, on top of the blanket, after he took his gauntlet off. Her fingers were cold, and she didn’t have the strength to do more than lightly curl them, so he made up for it by gripping them as tightly as he dared.
”I am here,” he spoke, softly, his voice just slightly hoarse. Then he smiled, weakly, hoping she could somehow tell he did by the tone of his voice changing. “You knew I was coming.” His eyes flickered to the tablet he’d made for her, the one linked up to Eudocia, which Primrose now held in her expertly manicured hands, her long, red nails standing out starkly against the colourless metal. He looked back at Prisca.
“Of course… Eudocia told me… when you showed up… in front of the hospital,” she whispered, slightly turning her head towards him. “We were so very worried… when you left… Eudocia wouldn’t… tell me where you… went, but… she was worried, too.”
His eyes went up again, looking closer at Primrose. ‘We’, she says. But apart from Eudocia. So, her mother.
Primrose was always an interesting, painful sight to see, for him. So beautiful (twitch, twitch, balk), yet such a reminder of what Prisca might have been, should have been that it hurt to look at her. Classically gorgeous and just barely showing a little gray in her long red hair, he knew a lot of employees at the hospital always looked forward to her visits just to get a good look at her.
Now, though, she was clearly bereaved, her eyes showing a little red and her make-up barely hiding the palor of her skin. For her, for a woman as composed as Primrose Fion, this was the equivalent of another having shorn her hair short and scratched up her own face to show her grief.
And Prisca wasn’t even dead yet.
”I’ve known for a while, Basil,” she spoke softly, far more tenderly than she’d ever talked to him before (she hadn’t particularly liked him at first, though she’d never voiced her reasons or even actually put words to her antipathy to him, that he knew of. “Though I hadn’t told Prisca I’d figured it out until today.” She smirked, a little of her usual arrogance returning to her face. “I’m not stupid, you know? In fact, I am rather far on the right side of the bell curve, I dare say. My baby girl gets a boyfriend and then a hero who has no connection to this whatsoever happens to save her life not once, but twice? And keeps coming back to refine her life support? It wasn’t hard to connect the dots, especially after the second time.” Her smirk faded, and she lowered her eyes, looking at the tablet in her hands. “Now I know why you seemed to secretive and, at times, dishonest.”
Ah, that explains that, at least.
”For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I treated you so coldly,” she continued on, “and I’m grateful for all you’ve done for my baby.”
”Mo-om…” Prisca complained weakly.
Basil focused on her again.
“Basil… you did… something stupid, right?” she guessed, her voice grown hoarse, as if she was already straining it. “Eudocia… would not… have hidden it… from me… if it wasn’t… stupid.” She curled her fingers around his, again. “I’d… fall asleep… and smack you… for it, but… the docs’ say… I wouldn’t survive… falling asleep… again.”
He sighed, feeling the many weights on his shoulders. “I suppose it was. There is, no gentle way to say it. I found out where Dusu hides, so I gathered as many people as I could and went after her.”
All warmth fled the room, leaving only the sounds of the machines. Both the woman and the girl were listening, intently. Primrose was radiating a kind of hatred that made the Dark’s fury appear meager, her fingers curling so hard around the tablet’s edges, it groaned. Prisca… Prisca didn’t show any of the hate she usually did whenever Dusu came up, too weak to work herself up like that anymore.
”We got her,” he continued, just barely louder than a whisper. “She is with the United Heroes, now.”
Primrose drew in a sharp breath, a faint expression of hope on her face…
”You didn’t get a cure, though,” Prisca continued for him, her voice softer than a spring breeze. “Or at least it won’t be done in time. I can tell.”
He lowered his head, taking her hand with both of his and raising it to touch it to his forehead. “I am so sorry, Prisca. She never had a cure. Never could make one. The whole thing, it was her attempt at finding one. The poison, it was meant for her, to improve her body, to make her a pseudo-Adonis, but it failed and messed her up,” he spoke, the words tumbling out of him, unable to contain them any longer. “So she unleashed it on Hawaii hoping that someone else would find a cure that she could then co-opt for herself.” At some point along the speech, which felt like a confession to him, he started crying. He couldn’t bear to raise his eyes, to look at her mother’s face or, worse, at Prisca’s.
Her fingers curled around his as tightly as they could, weakly holding onto him as something escaped her throat.
It was a sound unlike any he could remember hearing, ever, and which he hoped he’d never, ever have to hear again. It was a sound of rage, of hatred; of grief and sadness. The sound of an old pain, never gone but scarred over, only to have it torn open again. The sound of a tearing heart, which reached out and into everyone who heard it, making their own hearts break out of sheer sympathy.
It was a sound Basil would remember for the rest of his life.
He held onto her hand as the sound continued, and was quickly joined by her mother who put the tablet onto the bed, near her legs, so she could take her daughter’s left hand into both of hers.
Basil didn’t know what to say, what to do. He had trouble carrying on normal conversations, often, nevermind this.
What could he say? There was no promise left to make that might ease her pain. No soothing words he could think of, no platitude to lessen the impact.
What could he do? He’d found Dusu, and it hadn’t helped. He’d done everything he could think of, short of trying to make a complete engram of her brainpatterns to later implant into a healthy body, but… even if that could solve this, there wasn’t the time to do it.
All he had left was to hope for a miracle, and even in an age of superpowers those were in extremely short supply at best.
”B-basil, I, I…” Prisca tried to speak, but had to break off, her voice too hoarse to continue. Her mother had to pick up a small cup with a straw, tilting it to let some water flow into Prisca’s mouth, before she could continue. “Basil, I, I love you,” she said, tears of salt and blood running down from the bandage around her eyes, and his heart broke a little more. “And, and, I don’t want you to b-blame your, yourself,” she continued. “Y-you did, you did all you, could. M-more than, than anyone could, ever expect of, of another, even, a boyfriend.” She turned her head towards him to smile weakly, her thin, pale lips – barely differentiated from the rest of her skin – stretching over her empty gums. “I l-l-love you and, and I hope, hope you’ll, you’ll find… the happiness, you deserve. D-don’t be, be too… sad, abo-“
He cut her off by pressing his lips to hers, softly, so very softly, his tears mixing with hers for a long, long moment.
”No,” he said softly. “I didn’t do more… than anyone could expect, because… I expected more of myself.”
She smiled again, while her mother just cried, lowering her head as she cradled her hand to her breast, her heart. “Silly… but that’s part of what… I love about you. One of the… many things.”
Basil had trouble seeing anything, had trouble breathing, but he forced the words out, anyway: “I love you, Prisca. I wish I could… put it into words, what you… mean to me, but words have never… been my strong suit. I love you, and I’m not going to give up for as long as I live. Not on you, not on anything.”
Her lips trembled and, for just a moment, her hand seemed to regain some strength, as she held onto his as tightly as possible, nearly cutting off the bloodflow to his digits.
The machines around them were starting to edge into red areas, warning signs starting up. Especially the brain monitor. It wasn’t going to be fast. It was going to be slow, and painful, and ugly, and they all knew it.
“P-please, g-g-go,” she croaked, voice thick with tears. “I, I, I don’t want you, to, to see-“
He didn’t want to. He didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want to watch, didn’t want to do nothing. Didn’t want to be there, didn’t want not to be there.
But he couldn’t choose, so he at least fulfilled her last wish.
He found himself back in his bedroom. Somehow, he’d managed to get from the hospital to his and Amy’s home while barely noticing it. Barely remembering to pull up his hood and hide his face.
Seeing how he’d been blind with tears the whole way, it was amazing he hadn’t run into anything or anyone, or been run over by something. Or maybe he had and he just didn’t remember.
He’d thrown his cloak onto his bed, and taken his lefthand gauntlet, the one with the variable force-field emitter off, holding it in his hands as he stared down at it. His ravenbot had flown off his shoulder and sat atop his computer screen, watching him with what might have been curiosity if it’d been an actual animal.
There was none of the numbness he’d hoped for. Even though people often talked about how they went numb when overwhelmed by tragedy, he felt none of that. There was no numbness, no deadening of his emotions, no relief.
He threw the gauntlet at the wall with all his strength, hard enough that it dug into it through the expensive wallpaper, becoming stuck.
What was even the point of that thing? What was the point of any of his inventions, his ideas, if none of them could even save the girl he loved?
He tore his armour off, bit by bit, even the boots, throwing them aside without a second thought. Tore off the top of his bodysuit, throwing it onto the bed to join his stupid, pretentious cloak.
Thought and memory my ass.
”I…” he began to talk to the empty room, but broke off. What could he even say? “I-“
There was a flash of red hair, a brief vision of a sweetly curved body in a private school uniform, and then her lips met his, her strong, soft arms wrapping around his neck.
He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close, pressing her body to his, feeling her softness and warmth as his other hand went to the back of her head, fingers intertwining with her hair, pulling her even closer, deepening the kiss.
When her lips parted and their tongues touched, all the worries and the sadness and the grief disappeared, leaving just her.
He clung to her like a drowning man, and she to him, mashing their lips together, their tongues dancing lovingly inside their mouths, from one to the other and back again, they-
She was gone, gone as fast as she’d appeared, and he was alone.
He staggered back a step, raising a hand up to touch his lips with two fingers. Feeling the warmth. Still able to taste her.
Had she really been here? A last flash of her power, as she’d drifted off to her final sleep? A desperate hallucination of his? A random memory his broken mind had called up?
His computer’s screen lit up, pure white, showing only two words from Eudocia.
His scream shook the house.
Somehow, at some point, he put on some clothes. A black shirt with some print on it, a gift from Dalia, black jeans and black socks. Dramatic, but somehow appropriate.
He’d thrown a jacket on over it and put on his shoes and just left. It was inadequate for the cold weather – it had started to snow, even – but he didn’t care. Somehow, he found his way to the park again, to the bench he’d talked with Magnus, what felt like a lifetime ago. The park was covered in snow, but was otherwise completely empty, save for himself and his raven.
He was still not numb. He wished he was, but he wasn’t.
He was hurt. Heartbroken. Grief-stricken. Pained. Tortured. Tormented. He could go on, think of more words. Everything, everything, except numb.
The only reason he hadn’t yet thrown up was because he hadn’t eaten a thing in over twenty-four hours.
And so he sat amidst the snow on the bench and watched the busy street in the distance, past the bare trunks and branches of the trees. Cars and pedestrians passing by, carelessly, carefree. Happily.
He saw children smile and point at Christmas ornaments in the store windows, or at toys they wanted (there was a toy shop right there in a straight line in front of him, on the other side of the street).
His raven’s programming had it fly over, landing on a branch near the street so it could watch over the people, looking for trouble.
Yet all he could think of was that Prisca wouldn’t get to enjoy a single Christmas with him. That she wouldn’t get to dress up in what she’d called a ‘slutty Santa dress’ and show off her perfect dream-body.
And one of the reasons why she wouldn’t was he. Because he hadn’t been good enough, in the end. He’d gone to bat, or at least he hoped he’d gone to bat, all out, and it had still not been enough.
God, I hope there really wasn’t anything more I could have done, a treacherous little voice spoke inside of him. If there was and I just didn’t do it…
He lowered his head, hot tears burning on his cold skin before they fell down to join the snow at his feet.
Time passed and Basil still did not feel numb.
Snow crunched underneath someone’s feet, and Basil turned his head, slowly, to the right. He saw their feet, first. Beautiful winter boots made of soft, brown leather, sporting hand-crafted stitching decorations and sensible, yet still distinctly noticable heels. Even if he hadn’t seen these boots before, he’d recognise the handiwork instantly.
Feeling his heart skip a beat, he slowly raised his head, up along the long legs in black stockings, the sensible, knee-length green skirt and the hand-made cream-coloured sweater under an expensive, thin winter jacket worn open. A pure red scarf (hand-made, of course) wrapped around her slender neck to protect it against the weather.
She also wore a handmade red wool bonnet with floppy ear covers from which two long tassels extended, and held Graymalkin in her arms, the heavy cat happily snuggling against her chest as she seemed completely unbothered by his prodigious weight.
Her eyes were red, as if from crying, making their green colour stand out even more.
”Vasiliki,” he said, his voice thick. It didn’t surprise him that she’d found him. They’d taken steps, long ago, to make sure each of them would be able to find the others, if need be. For him, it was done with his ravens, with transponders sewn into select articles of clothing. For Tyche, it was just following her gut, which usually worked out. Or so they’d thought. For Hecate, it was via samples of their blood, a little from each of them, contained and preserved within a jewel for each.
He expected her to glare at him, or accuse him or just shout at him, but instead she just took a step closer and looked at the bench.
Scooting over, he watched her sit down, her knees touching and tilted to the side. Graymalkin stretched after she put him down on her lap and got up, patting over onto Basil’s lap where he walked in a circle, then rubbed his face against Basil’s hand, once, before he curled up and went to sleep.
Basil looked down at his cat, petting him behind the ears, before he looked up at Vasiliki again.
Once more, he had no idea what to say.
Her eyes searched his face, for something. He couldn’t tell whether she found what she looked for.
”I’m so sorry, Basil,” she said, her voice thick. “Eudocia, she told me what happened. I came as soon as I could.”
He looked away, unable to meet that soulful gaze of hers. “It is over,” he said, lamely. He couldn’t say that it was alright, or anything like that. He didn’t want to.
”I wish we could’ve… that maybe,” she choked on the words, and he could hear renewed tears in her voice. “I tried to come up with some kind of healing spell, but nothing worked. Maybe, if w-“
”I thought you would be angry at me,” he cut her off, unable to bear listening to her say exactly what he himself was thinking. “I would have expected you to scream at me, not…”
”Angry at you,” she said in a neutral tone. “Of course I’m angry at you, you blockhead,” she continued, her voice both softer and harder at the same time. “More than you know.”
He kept his eyes averted. “I am sorry,” he said, feeling his stomach turn over and over. “I am sorry, but I could not betray her. Even if she may deserve it, I could not have turned against her, not even when I learned that she had killed your-“
”Is that really what you think I’m angry about?” she asked in a disbelieving, pained voice. “Do you really know me so little?” There was honest, true pain in her voice, like he’d just struck her.
He was so surprised he turned his head and looked at her, at the tears running down her cheeks and the wet eyes with the red veins running through them. Opening his mouth, he didn’t know what to say but tried…
“Did you really think I’d be angry at you for standing by your family?” she pressed on, not giving him the chance to say anything. “That I, of all people, would resent you for choosing your blood over the law?” Her hands clenched on her lap, digging into the soft, warm fabric of her skirt. “I really thought you knew me better, Basil.”
It was like a stab right into his heart, as the pieces fell into place, slowly but surely. Renewing his tears along the way.
”I’m angry because you didn’t tell me,” she snarled the words. “We’re… we’re teammates, we’re friends, we’re… We haven’t known each other for very long, I know that, just a few months, and yet it feels like I’ve known you for so long, and I thought you felt the same way.”
“I do,” he croaked, now unable to avert his eyes from hers.
”Somehow, in those few months, you’ve become… my best friend,” she said, softly. “More so than Dalia. Even more so than Stephie, and I’ve known her since I was five.” Her frame shook with a sob, as she briefly averted her eyes to take out a delicate handkerchief and wiped her eyes with it, before blowing her nose. Not that it helped much, as the tears were immediately replaced. “You’re my friend, you’re my brother, you’re m-“ She cut herself off, briefly, then started again. “I care for you,” she continued, though she seemed to have meant to say something else, at first. “And I trusted you. And I thought that you trusted me.”
”I should have,” he admitted, feeling another weight settle on his shoulders.
”But you didn’t,” she pressed on, rightfully accusing him. “You didn’t trust me. You didn’t trust me that I’d not do something stupid if you told me, or that I’d leave, or that I’d turn against you. You didn’t trust me and you left me to interact with my soi’s murderer! I laughed with her, I hugged her, I treated her to food in my family’s restaurant!” She all but screamed at him, her every word cutting into his heart like a red-hot knife. “That may seem silly to some, but it matters to me.”
She finally turned away, wiping tears away with her bare hand. “But you know what hurts the most? It’s realising that you never trusted me to begin with. And that, that’s what breaks my heart, above all and I’m sorry, I’m sorry, sorry, I shouldn’t be putting this on you now, not when you just lost Prisca,” she bent over, burying her face in her hands. “You’ve gone through so much, and you’re a good person, a good hero, but I just can’t, can’t get over the fact that the boy I fell in love with lied to me the whole time we were together!”
He hadn’t thought he could possibly feel any worse anymore, but he’d been wrong. He hadn’t even thought of it like that. That he’d been betraying her trust – and she had told him everything about herself, had never held anything back whenever it had come up, and he’d…
Then her last sentence reached his brain and everything crashed.
Graymalkin opened his eyes and looked up at him, and somehow he seemed to understand something of what was going on, as he looked just infinitely annoyed at him.
”L-love?” he stammered, looking at her with wide eyes.
She looked right back, face flushed bright red. “I know this is absolutely not the time, but… really? You never noticed at all?” she asked, sounding simultaneously amused and heartbroken. “Why am I not surprised?”
He cast his mind back, through his memories, looking for any signs of it, any hints, anything…
”I never noticed… anything…” he admitted.
”Basil, I’d say something like ‘what does a girl have to do, rip off her clothes and dance naked in front of you?’ except I did that and you still didn’t get it.”
He thought back to that particular occasion.
”But… that was for an experiment… and you need to be naked to perform some of your rituals…”
“Basileus Bartholomew Balthasar Brant-Blake,” she spoke his full name with perfect pronounciation and in the most dry voice he’d ever heard as she rolled her eyes, “When a girl, any girl, willingly strips naked in front of you and dances, no matter the reason she admits to, and it’s not a life-threatening situation, then you can safely assume that she’s trying to express some interest in you!” By the end of it, her face was glowing brighter than the Dark’s eyes.
Basil leaned back on the bench, his mouth opening and closing wordlessly, as he looked down at Graymalkin to avoid looking at her.
”Oh,” was all he managed to say.
”Yeah, ‘oh’,” Vasiliki replied, leaning back as well and putting her hands down to her left and right, the fingers of one hand briefly brushing over his fingers. “Basil, you’re the smartest person I’ve ever met and I love you, but sometimes, you’re a fucking idiot.”
He stared down at his cat, feeling like said fucking idiot.
I’ve really fucked it up completely, haven’t I? he couldn’t help but think. I lost Prisca. I failed to save her, even after trying for so long, going so far. And I broke my best friend’s heart all along the way, as well.
”I’m such an idiot,” he said, letting the tears run.
She only gave an unrefined grunt in response.
They sat there like that, being snowed upon and ignoring the cold, their hands nearly touching on the bench, but not quite, as she stared off into the distance and he looked down at his cat, rubbing his ears and making him pur.
Suddenly, the quiet contemplation was interrupted by a sudden spike of pain in his head, making his hand shoot up from Graymalkin’s head to his own, as he barely bit down on a scream.
”Basil? Basil, what’s wrong?” Vasiliki asked, frantically. “Did something happen?” She looked around, frantically, as if expecting to find a threat.
Then she fell quiet, and Basil realised that the street beyond the park had gone entirely quiet.
Graymalkin on his lap had turned his head towards said street, looking at something there with feline disapproval.
He followed his cat’s gaze, slowly, until he saw the street, where everyone had stopped moving.
Cars stood in the middle of the street, some with their engines still running, as their drivers either leaned out of their windows or stood next to them, looking up in blank horror.
On the sidewalk, people had stopped doing what they’d been doing and stared up with matching expressions. A mother knelt in the snow, hugging her child and sobbing bitterly, as the little boy stared up without comprehension. Two girls around Basil’s and Vasiliki’s age were hugging each other, tears running down their cheeks as they, too looked up.
Everywhere he looked, the same scene repeated itself, over and over, until he saw it.
A strand of light, glowing softly, so white it made the fresh snow look dirty, its tip two meters or so above the ground.
Vasiliki’s hand found his, her fingers intertwining themselves with his and squeezing them, seeking comfort.
He followed the strand of light up, and up and up, as more strands joined it, becoming a single, impossibly long mass of glowing white hair, leading up to a pair of delicate feet with nails which glowed in the exact same colour. The feet led up to long, lovely, flawless legs, bare, that joined into a gentle V-shape at the top. Above that, a flat stomach and a pair of large, but not disproportionate breasts, leading to a swan-like, flawless neck. At her sides, long, delicate arms with fingers that looked like they’d been crafted to play the piano, long, delicate and smooth, tipped with glowing nails a few centimetre longer than usual.
Atop it all, a face so impossibly, unnaturally beautiful, it could have made artists cry for being unable to ever truly do it justice, were it not marred by an utter lack of expression, her lips slightly parted open, her eyes blazing white, uncaringly, seeming to look at no one and nothing at all. Even her eyebrows were sculpted to perfection, and glowed as if they were made of light.
Snowflakes fell around and onto her, but none of them reached her skin, nor were they melted by any body heat; rather, they slid down her form, stirred by the cold wind to dance around her as they fell, creating a gorgeous dress, as ephemeral as a dream and just as beautiful.
The pain in Basil’s head intensified as above, light spread across the sky, slowly branching down towards the ground in the distance, the branches broadening to fill out and cover the heavens entirely.
Bree Whitaker’s, Desolation-in-Light’s, blazing eyes swept over Basil and Vasiliki and he knew for a fact that they saw neither of them.
Basil squeezed Vasiliki’s hand back.
Finally, he felt numb.