ladyfirestarter: (kouros)
[personal profile] ladyfirestarter

They see each other at the bar about once a week or so, and he's taken her to his world on a double handful of memorable excursions: opera halls and outdoor rock concerts, museums and seedy fairgrounds, private beaches in the Caribbean, public parks in Switzerland. They talk through the kouros almost daily, sometimes briefly, no more than a quick wave of warmth and a few words exchanged, sometimes for hours.

The one thing they don't talk about is "the thing with the clay". After the fourth time he had to tell her no-not-yet, even though his reaction was more embarrassed apology than exasperation, she stopped asking. It's something he's never done before, she tells herself firmly when the urge to ask comes up again, and you are not going to nag him about it. It'll take time to prepare, he's not going to forget about it, he'll tell you when it's ready.

It doesn't stop them from talking about anything else. Everything else, from the utterly trivial to the intensely personal to the wildly abstract, apt to switch from one to the other without warning. She tells him some of what goes on at home/at work, leaving out most of the sensitive details. In late October she finally brings him the crucial word they still can't translate, and he studies it and shakes his head; she swears under her breath in exhausted frustration, and he wraps his arms around her in silent apology, reassurance, comfort. And then looks down at her with a quirk of one shaggy eyebrow and says something that leaves her spluttering in helpless laughter.

No matter what else is going on, he can always make her laugh.

* * *

For a week, shortly after the New Year, he disappears. No one's seen him at Milliways, and the kouros gives no response but the distant rush of white noise she's heard before. It would worry her more if he hadn't warned her this could happen, that he might be incommunicado for a little while and he wouldn't necessarily know when in advance.

That doesn't stop her from worrying entirely, of course.

It's early evening on the twelfth, with pale stars starting to come out in a shivering sky, when the kouros goes warm in her pocket.

So, comes Prometheus's voice, sounding cheerful and exhausted and pleased to the point of smugness, about this thing with the clay.

* * *

This is not the best time to ask for time off, but it's going to get worse before it gets better. Charlie emails Susannah, spends the better part of a day in conference with Ted Brautigan and the Townes and Irene Tassenbaum, lies awake one night staring at the ceiling and trying (as her father tried once) to will a precognitive hunch.

One week. That's the most time off she can justify, and less than she'd like. One day to get there, one day to prepare, one day for Prometheus to work his wreaking. Three days to get accustomed to the change. One day to get home.

There's three weeks' worth of work to get done in two, talking to the staff, talking to the kids. One last very-private conference with Ted, in a room upstairs at Milliways. He's in charge until she gets back; he knows where she can be reached while she's gone, and knows to check here if she should fall out of contact.

And quietly, steadily, she goes over the new last-resort contingency plan with him. Because if pulling the fire back into herself will no longer be fatal, he's about to become the only person in their world who could stop her if she were to lose control.

Or, and this is the possibility neither will name aloud, if she were to come back sufficiently changed as to be a danger without losing control. If anything goes wrong -- it's not just herself she's risking, anymore.

But then, as she has to admit if she's being truthful, it's never been just herself.
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May 2014

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