I am swimming. The cold, ferocious water is hounding my ears and my limbs are numb and white with cold, but I am coming.
The salt burns my eyes but I am not crying. I call out to the darkness. It is a low, mournful sound but I am not crying. My lungs are screaming for more air. I need more.
The rock appears out of nowhere in this sea of shadows, hard and deadly in the swirling water and as sharp as the souls it isolates. I climb, pulling myself out of the water, the wind battering my tired frame until I feel like giving up. I think my blood has frozen to my bones, and I cannot move my limbs, and I simply hang on to the outcrop like it’s the lifeline I pretended you were.
I feel like I’m going to die. I feel like I’m going to die at your hands, just as he did. I hate it. I hate to be compared to him.
You. You are why I am here, alone and desperate and angry. You, the one whom I have hated and despised all this time. You, who have destroyed me. You, who have set me running free.
It takes a simple memory of you - you are smiling, and the wind is blowing your hair around your face and you are coaxing me towards you so we can spend another few hours in one another’s company - to pull me back, for the anger and the rage felt at your betrayal has set my heart pounding and my blood racing.
And suddenly I am made of steel and climbing the rocks with the speed of light - the light that seemed to shine from your every orifice and seemed to power my existence and my every move. There is a brief moment where I imagine - in some out of body, otherworldly experience - watching my own body fall, seeing my bones shatter and the colour fade and my breath leave.
Of course, that’s what you did, isn’t it? It wasn’t an otherworldly experience because you were there and you watched as his life expired and you reveled in the fact that it wasn’t your own. You watched as the lights left his eyes, and you watched as he climbed towards a much brighter one.
You didn’t regret it.
You should have known it was wrong and that people would come after you and that some day - one day - you would have to answer for everything you have ever done, every move and every word and every action.
My hand finally reaches the top, and I feel the cold, hard touch of concrete underneath my fingertips. I hear the shouted orders - whispers compared to the howl of the wind - and the crunch of boots upon gravel, and I feel my skin tighten at the thought of the men I will have to fight to get to you.
It is, of course, no worse than you have done.
I crouch perilously on the edge, before bounding into the shadows on the other side of the pathway. My nose twitches, picking up the scent of you and I take two right turns.
A man. Solitary against the moonlit night, his head bowed against the wind. If I move quickly enough and silently enough, then my presence will go unnoticed.
I turn another corner. Another black, dank corridor, the walls lined with bars. A hand reaches out to me - green and mottled and feeble in the strange, phantom light. A face looms out of the darkness. Eyes shine out from the gloom. It is deathly quiet, aside from the sound of my footsteps and the steady drip, drip of the rain.
Another man seems to appear from the darkness and I have nowhere to hide myself. I steal into the shadows as he passes, but he turns at the sound of my breathing. He has no time to call out or yell before my fingers are wrapped around his throat and he is gone.
I did it for you. There is another example to add to your collection.
Another few steps. Your stench is ubiquitous, seeping into my skin and clothes until I become the very essence of you. Another corner, another cell, another prisoner.
And then I find you: all alone, abandoned, detached from civilization because you wanted to see what lay on the other side, to conquer the next great adventure.
You are sitting, knees under your chin, your hair limp and greasy and your clothes worn and weather-beaten. Amazingly, impossibly, you are still beautiful. As beautiful as the day you first kissed me, when we first met, when I felt your cold, crude touch on my unsuspecting skin.
It takes very little for me to open the cell.
I eye you stealthily and you smile again, your wonderfully blue eyes shining out through night. It is genuine, and the gesture seems to grow on me. Your small, delicate hands find mine and caress them, your dainty fingers running over my flesh. I feel it crawl and I flinch. Suddenly, your hands are on my face, on my arms and on my chest.
I can't stop my sense of it. You set my mind on fire, with hate... with love. I kiss you. How can I not? Your lips taunt mine in the dark of the night, in the cold, bleak light of your prison cell. I drag my teeth against your neck and taste your beating heart. Your pulse pounds through my veins, sustaining my existence, keeping me alive. You are my life... my heart, my death. I will be the same for you.
Now... now you are like me.
And I feel I can finally love you as an equal.
You and me. Me and you. Victoire. A victory.
You take my hand in yours and lead me outside. You are smiling, and the wind is blowing your hair around your face and you are coaxing me towards you so we can spend another few hours in one another’s company.
You take several deep breaths. You like it out here, in the open, where you have free reign.
We step further towards the edge. The rain and the wind are roaring all around us but all I can focus on is you. You look beautiful. The time inside has made you paler, weaker, but there is no sign of the red stain on your lips. You look free again. Like you finally appreciate the life and the lovers you had outside your prison walls.
You take my hand in yours. It is so pale, so white. You are waving a white flag of surrender with a single movement, and our war has ended. I saved you from your own destruction. You still have all your body, your arms and your legs. You flex them experimentally, your muscles screaming in protest. I can see your blue veins dancing across the delicate skin.
“You came for me,” you whisper. Your voice is different: not the haughty, mesmerising tones that used to haunt me, but rougher, calmer. A bark in the dark of night and it calls to me.
“You always knew I would.”
You bring my hand to your mouth and kiss it softly. It is such a small gesture that I would not have noticed it if I had not been watching your every movement with adoration and longing.
You step towards me. You hands find mine again and then they move to my neck. You bring my head to yours, and when our skin touches I think I can sense our thoughts passing, like some mythical connection. When your lips meet mine I feel like I am burning. It courses through my skin.
“I missed you,” you say.
“You killed him.”
“I wanted...” you stutter, and the sign of weakness surprises me, “I wanted to see what it would be like.”
There are tears in your eyes and I feel like crying.
“I can never win with you,” I say.
“You don’t have to.”
Another kiss. Another brief moment of paradise in this bitter, desolate place. I long to spend eternity with you. I long to spend my entire life, my entire future wrapped in your arms.
Another step. I can feel the rush of wind and the smell of salt.
I taste victory on the winds. I sense you.
A shout from behind tells us that we are not alone. A dozen men this time, standing behind us, preventing us from leaving. I turn to you. I tell you that I will stay with you forever. My heart soars when you say it back.
Then we take one last step.
I can feel your loving touch on my back, your hands resting on my shoulder blades as you stand behind me. I turn, again, to put my hands around your face. I touch the delicate skin of your throat - the vast expanse of purest white between your neck and your shoulder - and you feel warm beneath my fingertips. I can feel your blood and my blood mixing within your veins. I can feel your heart pounding.
All it takes is a little push from you. A brief spell of effort.
I am falling, not floating. I am plummeting into the depths and before long I am shrouded in the darkness that used to protect and caress me, that used to shield me. It was the darkness that housed my biggest secret.
My bones are brittle under your explosive touch.
But before long I am shrouded in a new kind of light. One that doesn’t come from you, or isn’t moonlight - one that doesn’t blind me or transform me. It is warm and comforting.
I’ll miss you, just as you’ll miss me.
I know where you are now, but I find myself not caring.
The rain stops.
And that's the end of this new edit! Thanks again to Stef from biggerandbeta for looking over all this. Thanks for reading!