Bittersweet

(This chapter immediately follows A Lost Heart. Please let us know in the comments what you thought of it. Enjoy =)


Dawn was so surprised to see Zach standing there before her on the little bridge, she too found herself quiet, but from sheer speechlessness. He was so beautiful, so perfect standing there, she realized she didn’t want to break the mood with any words. 

He was just as she had last seen him…soft brown hair slightly messy, though she caught the glint of water droplets on the wild strands at its edges as the lights lining the bridge refracted in their surfaces. His dark, worn leather jacket was curiously dry, holding no such evidence he had gotten wet and yet she had the distinct impression he had been very recently wet or had showered. Could he be…she looked out over the river, at the several dragonflies that stuck close by while taking in their airborne evening meals. 

A million questions fought for attention in her brain, with a few very important ones taking center stage. But the first thing out of her mouth was a heaved sigh that curled her lip as she fought back tears. Her hand reached out to touch him, but drew back before making contact. Despite his confessed apology, she was still uncertain all was forgiven.

He appeared better rested than when she had last seen him at the diner, still, there was that restless, wild undercurrent of energy just below his surface that by contradiction seemed so perfectly at home here, on the bridge overlooking Whocate’s sacred waters. 

Zach moved a step towards her as if to say it was alright for her to initiate the contact, but the moment had passed as the tears blurring her vision refused to be abated. The sight of them concerned the cameraman, softening his neutral expression, which made them only spill over at last and run down her cheeks. From his vantage point, they too caught the light, but it only made her more lovely in a setting that had the magic to do that like no other place in their world.

He couldn’t stand being their cause or the cause of Dawn’s suffering any longer. He touched her arm. “It’s alright. I’m okay. I’m safe here.”

That did it. She dissolved into an open fit of crying now, so obviously fighting it with all her will, yet losing. “You almost weren’t,” she hiccuped. “Because of me!”

Confused as to why his reassurances weren’t working, Zach drew her to him, enfolding her in his arms. “But I am now. That’s all that matters, Mis,” he assured her, calling her by her middle name’s shortened version.

“Only because Tank and Holic were there to protect you!” she cried harder. “What if they hadn’t been?”

So that was it, he realized. She felt his chest heave in laughter. “Holic sticks to me like a conjoined twin these days. I can’t get rid of him.” He pulled her back to look into her eyes. “You know, he even follows me to the can? It’s all I can do to keep him out of the stall!”

She frowned, her crying easing. “Serves you right. You have such a big mouth, you idiot!”

Her abrupt scolding didn’t throw him. He nodded. “Yeah,” he breathed out slowly, looking contrite. “I was in the moment, I guess. But I can’t stand their paranoia and disrespect of Lord Wilfred.” His eyes held a spark of fire in their golden depths.

“I know. And yet, I didn’t start feeling that way until after the diner, when Pippi and I both got home,” she confessed, moving away slightly. The hem of her cloak found its way into her fingers where she fiddled with it nervously. “It wasn’t until we talked – really talked, that I realized she’ll never understand, but it was more than that, Zach.” She moved away, going back to facing the river, leaning against the railing. “It isn’t just that she doesn’t understand.” Dawn looked back to see if he was following her rambling. His attentiveness told her he was. He joined her at the railing. “Maybe it’s because I know her, but up until then it was so hard to be afraid of her – really afraid,” she continued. “I felt frustrated, sure, like when you know if someone would just calm down and relax and listen, seriously just listen, then maybe they could accept what you’re telling them, even if they don’t understand.”

The cameraman nodded. He had a feeling he knew where this was going, but let her continue.

“And while we were talking, underneath that frustration I started to feel something else, something familiar,” she added distantly. “Like maybe we had had this talk before, but I couldn’t quite remember.” She grasped his wrist, giving it a little shake. “And I know we haven’t, Zach, but – “ she stopped, taking a deep breath, bracing herself emotionally. “I wasn’t afraid of her until after I got back into my room and calmed down, then I started shivering uncontrollably, violently. I was overcome with such a strong sense of deja vu about that talk,” she hyperventilated, mixed with a sob, the tears threatening to overwhelm her again.

He knew she didn’t want to go on, to face what he had thrown in her face about Pippi back at the diner in Moonville. He placed his hand over hers. She looked down at their hands joined together, then up to his face. He was so patient, letting her say this and yet she knew he already knew what she was going to say. Oh Goddess, she loved him for that!

“I’ve tried to convince her of this before,” she pushed forward before her nerve failed her. “And – “

“‘And?’” he gently prodded.

“And,” she shook her head, trying to deny what she was going to confess to him. “I’ve never talked to her to my memory about Wilfred, about the New Coven, about death, Zach, but I know I have. It was – this is going to sound crazy – but it was a lifetime ago and I know back then I was…”

“Scared?” he offered.

She shook her head and he thought she was going to say something else until she exhaled, “Terrified.”

He toyed with an overhanging spray of flowers. He broke one off and drawing Dawn’s hood back, set it in her hair. It was white and smelled of night-blooming honeysuckle, the fragrance releasing even stronger when Zach crushed it slightly as he leaned in close, kissing her forehead. “Sari told you the safest place for you is here, with us and she’s right. You have all the symptoms of something Dr. Whocares calls ‘recall shock’. It’s the remembering of intense memories in prior lifetimes and the inability to deal with them. It’ll wear off as you accept it.” He looked out over the river, taking in its eternal beauty. “But only if you stay here and let Whocate heal you. Just be patient.”

Dawn nodded. “I want to stay, Zach, I can’t go back. Pippi won’t let it go. She thinks we’re some crazy cult and I’m being mind-controlled.” She squeezed his hand. “I don’t even know her anymore. I’ve known her for 10 years and she doesn’t even trust that I know what I’m doing. I think she’s scared of our friendship changing, but she’s the one who changed it by not trusting me!”

He nodded, understanding completely. “And at the house, the more she revealed she knew or just figured out on her own, the silence spell broke down, right?”

“Yes,” she replied softly. After a moment spent by both in quiet contemplation of the river below and its teeming life, something occurred to her. “Wait, you had no trouble telling her way more than I could have before it broke down, but you said at the interrogation you couldn’t even say what you had found in Lord Wilfred’s study. How?” 

“That part is – complicated,” he hesitated, trying to find a way to explain that wouldn’t upset her. “I have a more advanced place in the New Coven that allows it, Dawn.” He drew his lower lip in, worrying over it with his teeth while tapping his fingers lightly on the bridge railing. In the short time she had known him, his station boss knew it meant he was working out how to break news he didn’t really want to reveal for fear of how it would be received.

Her face fell a little. “It has to do with Luna, doesn’t it? What Pippi accidentally told me at the diner?”

He nodded, but quickly added, “It doesn’t mean we can’t be together, Mis. I want to be with you.”

“And you can’t?” she asked quietly.

“We can – if you can accept my place in the scheme of things here,” Zach assured her. “Once Wilfred is released from jail and, well, you’ll see. We’ll talk with Luna tomorrow night. She’ll explain it all.” He drew her closer and she gratefully nestled against him, listening to the lulling sounds of the river below, the crickets further downstream and the soft beat Zach’s heart against her own body. “The safest place for you is here,” he murmured into her hair. “Trust what Sari told you, what I’m telling you, Mis.”

She smiled for a moment, reveling in the relief from the stress this had all caused her these past, long days. Then she thought of something and drew slightly back. “How did you know what she told me? You weren’t here.” Her hand gestured out towards the activity over the river. “It was just her, me and the dragonflies.”

He pulled back slightly, looking uncomfortable. “I’m a good guesser?” he offered hesitantly.

“More like a lousy liar,” she mildly accused him. “Wait,” she looked to her wrist, at the bracelet he had given her, then back out over the river again, her eyes darting over it, her lips moving as if she were counting or searching for something. “He’s gone,” she finally said.

“Who?”

“My companion,” she answered. “He’s been here all evening, but he disappeared when you showed up.”

A black dragonfly chose that moment to land on the lapel of Zach’s leather jacket. He looked down at it, then back up to Dawn while setting his hand by the insect, offering it a perch. It obliged, climbing onto his finger. He carefully brought his hand to rest on the railing while they talked. Dawn noticed the creature’s blue highlights…like… her eyes widened. 

“Are you a dragonfly?” she straightened, facing Zach, asking him point-blank.

Zach spluttered, laughing. “Do you want me to be?”

She smiled. “Yes.”

“Then I’m a dragonfly,” he said in a mock confession. “OW!” He drew his hand back, startled at the sudden pain from the annoyed insect’s bite.

“Oh…someone didn’t like that confession!” Dawn said, her smile growing.

“I like it much better when you smile, you know,” Zach said, dodging the question, unable to hide a grin himself.

“If that dragonfly could talk – “ Dawn began.

“What makes you think they can’t?” he challenged, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

She conceded the point. “Fair enough. If she could talk – “

“Oh, now we know the sex of dragonflies – ” the cameraman teased.

“Shut up!” Dawn admonished, laughing. “Okay, have it your way. If it can talk, what did it just say?”

Zach grew less mirthful. “She would say, ‘Be careful what you wish for, Mis.’”

“Why?” his former boss asked, sobering slightly. 

He seemed to withdraw a little, to grow distant, the mischievous glint in his eyes dimming slightly. He looked down at the wooden deck. “Because, Mis, they never live very long.” His gaze came back up to hers. “In any incarnation.”

Fini

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