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We lay in the snow breathing roughly to catch our breaths only to then launch ourselves into another kiss under the midday sun. Neither of us makes use of our tongues, the moment is too marvelous to spoil by provoking each other’s lust.

I slowly let go of her wrists to wrap my arm around her waist and pull her closer while she uses her slender fingers to caress my face, quietly running her right thumb along the scar on my cheek.

Each brush on my oversensitive flesh is hard to tolerate but it makes me feel alive. I pay close attention to the pulp of her tender lips in order to detect the slightest twitch that would indicate that the scar bothers her but I grow less touchy after a quarter of an hour.

I end up splitting us when I hear Leomi’s stomach grumble for the third time, mine only did so twice. We get up and walk back inside hand in hand without a word. I notice that our clothes are drying on a window’s border and it makes me grin.

While I serve the warmish gruel, Leomi slips away to the storeroom so I decide to sneak a peak. Her strong back is turned to me, she’s checking the root of her hair with her mirror.

I almost sigh but manage to stop myself in time. She could take it as regret on my part towards her changing hair color. I instead chose to reach out to the golden jay on her shoulder. As I focus, I become aware of a small headache and that I’m slightly dizzy.

It’s far from enough to distract me. I shape a trickle of flow into a signaling construct to tell the bird to bite her ear, which unsurprisingly doesn’t work. I don’t waste time and immediately switch to throwing a burst of unstructured energy at the jay with the same image in mind along with a teasing feeling.

Aih!” Leomi yelps as the golden bird suddenly starts pecking her ear. “Jay!” She quickly growls in mock anger.

Despite her reaction, she very carefully puts her mirror away before turning around. I absently notice that the jay’s beak is going through her flesh without actually touching it. I wonder if she’s feeling a prick or just aware of what my intent is and reacting in kind.

You ambushed me, this is revenge.” I throw out with a grin.

Leomi makes an admonishing expression and starts stomping toward me while taking long steps. The jay opens its beak and snags the lobe of her ear, making her literally jump up in surprise with wide open eyes. Ha, she definitely felt that.

Stoppit!” Leomi cries out.

She turns to glare at the bird but it isn’t easy to do so when it’s so close to her head. Leomi stops trying after spinning around on the spot once, probably because of my uncontrollable giggle.

The golden jay does finally let her off and sidesteps away from her ear, allowing Leomi lock eyes. The bird hasn’t changed expression, and probably can’t, but it seems to me that it’s making an utterly fake innocent expression.

It’s just as bad as you are!” Leomi whines, throwing me into an intense fit of laughter.

Turns out, it likes me, better than you.” I choke the works out.

Of course it does.” Leomi groans, making a pitiful face.

I snap my mouth shut at that look, unable to keep mocking her. I hurriedly step forward and caress her cheek in a reassuring way. Leomi sticks her tongue out but doesn’t avoid my gesture.

Will it…” She trails off, leaving the words hanging. There’s no need for her to complete her question since the whole basis of this was me distracting her from her hair.
“The color will go well with your eyes, don’t worry.” I tell her with a smile. Her expression mellows, but a slight frown remains. “I’ll love how unique it makes you.”

Leomi acquiesces with a cute nod, moving forward to rest her chin on what remains of my left shoulder. She settles against my side, making good use of my lack of breast. It’s so good to have her so naturally settle there but I can’t help but feel self-conscious of my wrecked body because of it.

What do you think of my injuries?” I lift my chin and get on my toes to whisper the question in her ear, wishing to hear the harsh truth.

I take the risk because the atmosphere between us is at a high so I have the courage and question is so important to us that I’m willing to sacrifice this moment in order to obtain the answer.

It infuriates me.” Leomi responds in such a low and gravely tone that it’s almost a growl. She suddenly grabs at my back’s flesh, causing me to briefly stiffen from the pain. “You should be taking perfect care of yourself, for me.” She adds in a reproachful way.

Leomi, be honest.” I command.

I love you, Jessica.” She murmurs, her unwillingness to answer clear in her voice. I use silence and immobility to pressure her. “Fine.” She sighs. “It awakens my protective instincts every time I think about it, I’ll…”

I don’t want to be protected.” I cut her off with a firm and harsh tone before she can proclaim she’ll never let me be hurt again. “I won’t let you.

…” She doesn’t speak but her disagreement is palpable.

A network of warped silver strands that come to life in her head before dissipating as quickly as they appeared. We break our intimate embrace at once. We face each other, her eyes are filled with a fury akin to that which burns in my chest. Yet, she doesn’t blow up.

Let’s eat, I’ll finish answering.” Leomi utters carefully in a difficult voice, like she’s facing a dangerous adversary.

I nod without allowing a word to cross my lips. I shouldn’t have spoken to begin with, her unrestrained response is too important for me to mess with. We settle in the chairs, facing each other but not locking eyes.

As soon as I finish my bowl, she gets up and gives me another serving with a pointed look at my cheekbones. I decide to check and raise my hand to touch them before letting my irascible temper get the better of me.

The thin layer of flesh I find makes me realize she does have a point about how skinny I am right now. I accept the food and force myself to eat, ignoring Leomi’s smoldering gaze.

You don’t want to depend on me, that’s…” Leomi’s voice breaks, like the next one is one she really doesn’t want to utter.

That’s?” I pressure.

Fine.” She says between grit teeth. “But you’re overcompensating, we’re a couple so we support each other, right?” I asked for honesty, I can’t return any less.

Yes.” I acquiesce, aware that she has a point even if I don’t want to admit it.

The state of your body matters to me because I love you, not because it belongs to me.” She clarifies, her expression softening by a bit.

Yet it hardens once more, likely because my face must reflect my twisting guts, my painfully panging chest, and the oppressing boulder stuck in my throat. Her vision of me is negative no matter how you turn her words. I shift uncomfortably on the chair.

I feel a pull, an itch I can’t scratch, a desire that erupted immediately after the parasite was removed but that I buried under my hopes and dreams inside the void in my chest that can otherwise be ephemerally filled by the cool confident euphoria the Little one granted me.

Jessica.” Leomi utters, commanding my attention.

I look up to her with rage in my eyes, my right hand clenched into a fist so tightly that my nails threaten to pierce the skin of my palm. My anger wishes for me to rise, to strike her with all my strength but I don’t because this desire conflicts with the intense loss I’m experiencing.

My desire to harm her is born from scorned love and vexation rather than true anger. I know this because my parents indirectly taught me as much from their constant bantering and pranks, they never let loose any response of true anger no matter how mean-spirited a hit they took.

I’m screwed up, it excites me merely to imagine what you’re hiding beneath these clothes, what more you could withstand at my hands and still remain passionately in love with me.” Leomi speaks up.

It takes me a while to discern the emotions in her voice as it contains a chaotic mix of timidity, fear, brutal honesty, and a hint of sadism which I am starting to realize is aimed at herself but can only be realized through me.

I could have shrunk back from the feeling of inferiority that her confession causes to arise, a familiar shadow of my past that I refuse to let her awaken. I’m stronger in every way now than I was with two arms, I refuse to let this destroy us.

I’m quite furious right now.” Liz can’t help but warn on my broken behalf.

What other way do I have available when you insisted on an immediate and truthful answer?” Leomi asks rhetorically. She doesn’t even pause before completing her previous answer. “Simultaneously, I want to know the extent of these scorching feelings in my heart, what they could bear, if there is a limit.” She pauses. “It is a self-destructive obsession to find the edge and look down into the abyss that lies ahead. I passionately believe that there is no end to our love but so insecure that I feel the need to test it.” She takes a deep breath. “Your body? Jessica, I would still put a ring around your last finger if that was all that remained.”

…” I stare blankly at her, unable to find the words.

Even if what I find shocks me, which is unlikely, I’ll learn to love it.” Leomi adds, scattering the last of my darkness.

Yet, even gone it doesn’t mean I’m experiencing a single positive emotion. I swallow my saliva, feeling pale and drained like there’s not enough blood flowing inside my head.

My question tread over a grievance I have always held back on and never truly vented while her answer dug at my core, exposing it to the light. The last hit, what truly breaks through, is my sudden realization that our relationship is nothing like my parents’ was and can never evolve to reach that phantasmal ideal.

You’re not okay.” Leomi speaks up.

It is not a question, nor a guess, but a doubtless and shuddering affirmation on her part. It is accusation and condemnation to my ears because I’ve told the lie that I was okay to the beings closest to me in order to make it the truth, to reassure them, to preserve my pride in the face of a reality I am powerless to change.

Snap. Something breaks in me. Jessica’s mind goes blank from despair while Elizabeth’s mind turns red from rage. We lion’s stomp at the ground under the chair so hard that it propels us at her and propels soil at the wall behind, producing a brief but beautiful sound of stormy rainfall.

My shoulder hammers her stomach and there is no lighthearted guffaw this time as she doubles over and half-coughs, half-chokes. The back of her chair hits the ground, causing her back to follow and impact it even harder. Crack.

The piece of furniture that took us all yesterday afternoon to build shatters under the blow and our weights. I love her, why am I trying to hurt her? The question is instantly smothered by the madwomen in me.

Jessica and Elizabeth’s intense but differing emotions do not have room to consider or think in the disastrous mental state they fell into, the only thing that links them is an all-encompassing feeling of loss.

My fist rises and falls towards my Leomi’s heart. An open hand flashes and intercepts it. The fingers close and capture the weapon before I can recover it. A long growl erupts inside my throat and I bite down at the pit of her neck.

Leomi makes no move to stop my teeth from sinking into her flesh. I pierce skin to find blood within moments, faster even than she wraps her other arm around my waist and twists my only one behind my back.

I feel her lift us off the ground more than I notice the silver light of flow that arose all around us. I clench my jaw, using even more strength to secure my hold. I swallow the blood slowly pouring into my mouth gulp by gulp, it feels like an instinct, like it’s natural.

She shifts her grip from my fist to my wrist almost too quickly for me to react. I don’t manage to free myself but it gives me just the bit of room I need to fight back. Yet none of my pushing, pulling, or wrenching works as she perfectly counters my struggle.

Leomi prevents me from even hurting myself when I try to push out with my elbow and jam my arm so far into the lock to dislocate my shoulder in order to open some more options for myself.

It’s like she’s long predicted that I would try. My minds don’t clear out but reach for flow on their own for lack of another path, only to find that none of the energy listens to me apart from my own of which there are mere scraps left.

Rhaaglaaa!” Elizabeth roars in rage, making blood bubbles at the corners of my lips.

I‘m sorry, I’m sorry.” Leomi utters, trembling. “What else can I do?!”

Her apologies after what she kept saying throw me into a bout of insane laughter. It seems to shock her into action because she pushes her face into my neck and starts using her spare arm to rub my back.

What is it, my Jay? Talk to me, please.” Leomi murmurs in a tiny voice.

We don’t respond, having found two limbs to knee her with. She doesn’t flinch or even stagger, she merely releases my arm to hug me tightly within her arms. Her action pierces my clouded mind like a ray of sunlight.

It causes me to finally realize, no admit, that I cannot return her embrace. This illumination isn’t good in any sense of the term, it causes me to start crying as my undisciplined insanity is incapable of handling it.

I, my life, it‘s gone… they’re dead, even me… Can’t even, hold you, I…” This gibberish makes me feel better so I grasp at the air to fill my drowning lungs. “I hate you, you took my arm, I hate you, why, why did you have to take it?”

I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Leomi replies, her voice a mere squeal as she doesn’t even attempt to explain or justify herself even though we both know I’m wrong and mistaken. “I‘m sorry for being so weak.” I, regretfully, decide to stop kicking her because I’m starting to feel weak and continuing to exhaustion would make us look silly, not because I feel guilty.

I love you.” I growl in anger, pouring my entire self into the words. Her action of putting herself down infuriates me so I snag at the bloody wound in the pit of her neck again. “Sho, muhch, Ih, shhate, yhou.” I utter before starting to giggle because of how impolite it is to speak with a full mouth.

We’ll figure it out, I swear.” Leomi responds vehemently, her voice sounding painfully resolute to my ears.

Nothing can be allowed to come between us, not even ourselves.” I utter with madness and glee.

Leomi nods, her nose brushing against my neck. We hold each other tight, she provides the power my single arm lacks with hers when I try to pull her closer or lose strength.

It allows me to cool down, yet it doesn’t suffice. One will never be enough, two barely suffice, three can overcome a singular point of failure. Leomi carefully lets me down but I stagger as soon as I hit the floor, feeling the arrival of a splitting headache and dizziness that makes the ground spin.

Water.” I croak.

Leomi nods and picks me up in her arms like a pure righteous Lady of tale rescuing her lover. It isn’t my imagination, she’s being more careful with her movements than she’s ever been with me.

The last clue that she heard and remembered the words I spoke to her about my dreams as a teenager is how she delicately lays my head near her fiercely beating heart to carry me over to the nest of blankets she made me.

Leomi gently places me on top of the covers before wrapping them around me. She then places the back of her hand on my forehead. I startle because her skin feels freezing against mine.

You’re freezing! Are you sick?” I ask urgently, panic billowing in my chest.

I try to rise but Leomi effortlessly holds me down by placing the tips of her fingers on the center of my chest. It takes me a moment to read the situation and add the clues together to conclude that I’m the one who’s sick.

Elizabeth immediately rises to the front, seeking the pity in my Leomi’s light gray eyes while Jessica melts from the loving care she’s being shown. One isn’t stabler than the other, but Jay’s glow of happiness could shroud reality itself right now so Liz has to take charge to guard us all.

Leomi leaves and returns with a bowl of water within a few tens of seconds. A feat impossible unless she used flow. She kneels by my side to help me drink my fill. She then pulls a tissue out of her pocket to drip it in water and place it on my forehead.

There is undeniable concern in her gestures, and actions. The worry I catch in her gazes approaches panic but there is no sign of condescension or superiority, all I can find is a pit of anguish bordering on desperation concealed behind a loving touch.

Leomi’s lips are the best indication of her state of mind, and Elizabeth Vil watches them for hours from the corners of our eyes as she takes care of us. Her sadism has regularly broken past her self-control, originating from before I even knew what it was.

It’s as if she subconsciously wants me to know and beware, no matter what she says about wanting to conceal that side of her. The fact that the corners of her mouth never even show a hint of rising at my almost defenseless state is the best proof that her fear of losing me is much stronger than her impulses.

I apologize.” The Bloody Dwarf utters when she finds no excuse not to revel in being taken care of by the one whose love she sought out so hopelessly it almost drove her to complete insanity instead of a slight mental breakdown. “I…” Leomi’s index finds my lips in a soft suggesting to keep quiet.

It was sickness you had to expel because it ate at you, same as this.” She tells me, visibly forcing herself to make a gentle smile. It first breaks my heart before melting it back together. “I should have asked about who you lost before this came up, it made it worse. I failed at my responsibility as your girlfriend.”

…” I force myself to remain silent.

She’s sparing me the need to answer, she clearly guessed or saw. The reason she couldn’t bring herself to ask is just as crystal clear, Celyz. Leomi fails to hold her smile so she buries her face in my chest, her lips falling on my breast. She didn’t apologize again so neither should I, exception was made before.

Sleep with me.” I say.

I don’t even know myself whether I’m making a demand or making a proposition. Either way, Leomi nods against my chest and settles down by my side without moving her head.

It’s a struggle but I manage to pull my arm out of the covers and lay it on the side of her breast. There is no lust or eroticism to us at this time, simply two beings who love each other sharing a deceptively casual embrace.

— — —

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