“Shay,” my love. How did it come to this? Us, standing on the cliffs where we first met, enemies instead of friends. Instead of lovers.
“This isn’t how I pictured a reunion,” your voice is more strained than I’ve ever heard it. How is it that even now you have a way of making me smile, your words echos of my own thoughts. But we’ve always been kindred spirits, you and I, twin souls caught inextricably in the web of machinations spun eons before we ever blinked into life.
This place is just as I remembered it. The greenery just as lush. The view of the Atlantic just as breathtaking. The gnarled old oak that bore witness to our first exchange seems a bit thicker now, in the decades since that unforgettable day, and I imagine it will continue to grow long after we’re gone.
“It’s been so long...” since we stood here, much like this, on my first day of training with pistols in hand. ‘Good shot,’ I’d complimented when your bullets struck true. ‘You were better,’ you’d praised with kindness and awe when we discovered my talent.
“It has.” And I wonder, do I look as wistful as you sound?
Watching you now, standing in front of me — scarred but unbroken, restrained but unbound, and confident in your new ideals, I can’t help but see the ghost of the man you used to be. And though I miss your carefree quips and your easy grace, and though I loath to call you foe, a part of me is proud of you for finding your own path. Making your own luck.
Where did it go so wrong? You and I? To go from doting whispers to resentful shouts? Tender caresses to bruising strikes?
“You lot did try to kill me first.”
I must have spoken my questions out loud without realizing it. And the bitterness of your tone is nothing new, but today it’s especially biting. I know I’m repeating myself but “I did not. And you were betraying them- betraying us!”
“They betrayed me! And what would you have me do? Stand by while Achilles ordered more innocents to be slaughtered? More cities to be destroyed?”
“He didn’t know. And you could’ve tried! To ask, to talk. He cared for you, he would’ve listened-”
“Like you listened when I asked you not to leave?!”
I- right… No, I don’t mean to avoid your gaze but the croak of your voice and the hurt in your eyes is more than I can bear.
“You weren’t even here. How can you accuse me of not trying?”
And I wish I can tell you otherwise, I wish I can deflect. But you’re not saying anything I haven’t said to myself. That if I didn’t leave. That if I was here… Do you know, love, how often I have wondered in these few past years what our lives would be like if we both chose another path? How different we would be. Would we still be together? Would we be happy? And I wish I could regret leaving. I wish I could regret us. But I don’t. I had to go to carve my own destiny, just as you had to go to grapple your own fortune. And when I finally found the truth within that Apple, I knew- I know… that I can’t regret any personal sacrifices I must make. My only regret was breaking your heart.
The rasp of my breath grates my own ears. “Do you remember…” when we first kissed? Tentative and probing, testing the boundaries of our affections. Do you remember when you pulled me away from training to bury your nose in my hair, in the shade of a sycamore tree not fifty yards from here? Do you remember when you first told me you loved me? Voice slightly trembling and your whole body too, coming down from the high of our love-making. You looked so vulnerable then, heart exposed and eyes uncertain. Of what? Rejection? Heartache? You were right, I suppose, to be weary of such a declaration.
And do you remember what I taste like, my love? Because I remember yours.
I remember taking your hand and kissing calloused palms. I remember snaking cold fingers underneath your linen shirt and finding warm flesh there. I remember pulling you close and pushing you under, behind the helm of your Morrigan when it was docked at port and the crew given leave. I remember stifled laughter behind heady moans as I took you in my mouth and marvelled at the many different ways you unraveled under my touch. But most of all my darling, I remember the enraptured look you wore as I rode you in time to the sways of the ocean you loved to sail, and murmured my heart to you under a cloudless sky full of uncaring stars. Back then, when each whispered sigh a blithe promise, each rumbled breath a cherished secret; when the heat of being alive was a reprieve, and the friction of release a deliverance. “Do you remember?”
“Yes,” your voice is thick with something I haven’t heard in years, so heavy I can touch it. And gods, do I want to. To just reach out and skim my thumbs over the angles of your cheeks.
“We don’t have to do this,” your eyes are pleading, “Just give me the Apple and no one will be hurt.” Oh my darling, you were always the optimistic one.
It’s too late for that now. Perhaps before, when the wounds were still fresh, when misunderstandings were still new, we could’ve tried to work it out. Perhaps if we both had trained with words instead of blades we would be able to reach for compromise. But we stand athwart two worlds now, where once there was one, the chasm of our ideals divides us as sharply as the blood of our kin on your hands. And we’re both too stubborn and prideful to admit our faults. I know, just as you do, that there’s only one way out.
“No,” and I hope my voice isn’t shaking, “No. Let’s end this.” And I know you don’t want to but you will.
If, years ago when I stood here by your side, someone were to tell me that our story would end where we began, I would’ve laughed at the cliché. But here it is, and here we are, pistols in hand again, only this time our sights are trained on each other. And we both know. You are a good shot, but I am better.
And oh my love, they’ve always said I was the strong one. But it seems my one weakness is you. And in the instant your fingers twitched on the trigger I knew. I couldn’t bring myself to stop you from rending the world even as you tried to fix it.
“Why-” your strangled voice is so close now, and I’m glad that I’m finally again in your arms. You’re warm. Always so warm. It reminds me of a home I never knew.
“Shay,” my love. My heart. My soul. Let me trace again your face, even if my failing fingers are too weak on their own. Have I never noticed how slender my hands are in yours? Have I never noticed how deep your scars cut? No. Those are new. I knew every crease and crevice of you, just as you knew every crest and valley of mine.
We’re not puzzle pieces, you and I, because we’re both too bent and too broken to make a whole image. But you fit me as perfectly as I fit you. We are two crooked things, two errant parts — flawed pieces made by flawed gods. And we are nothing. They- She will tears us apart, tear it all apart, to restore what She has lost.
But you, my love, you live now and that’s all that matters.
“I’m sorry,” for what you’ve been through.
“I’m sorry,” for breaking your heart.
“I’m sorry,” for leaving you. Again.
Ah, “Shay,” no. Please, beloved, don’t mar your beautiful eyes with tears. Not for me. So many of us have died by your hands. What’s another? Didn’t you know? My heart was always yours to break. My life yours to take. No matter how far apart, how long it’s been, I always loved you. I always will. And I’m no fool to believe in life after death, but oh for once I wish I were, if only to feel your reverent touch trail over my wanting skin just one more time.
“Good shot.” And it’s an honest praise.
“You were better.”
How I wish I could tell you how handsome you are framed by the crimson light of the dying day.