Title: His Ghosts
Warnings: It's a Halloween prompt, 'nuff said.
Notes: For bottle_of_shine's Trick or Treat ficbit meme, prompted by alyssame. This one came out of nowhere!
I was walking with a ghost; I said please, please don’t insist.
– Tegan and Sara, “Walking With a Ghost”.
He keeps dreaming of the sea. There are pounding drums- or is it the blood pulsing in his head down to his chest, his fingers?- and there are waves assaulting the grey sand with cymbal crashes. And there, wavering perilously near the rocks, is a bundle of cloth that is too stark against the grey. His dreamself steps through the cold sand, tripping over dried carapaces and dark seaweed gloves that clutch at his ankles. It takes him a long time to reach the shore, for his steps are mincing and the wind pushes strong against his bare frame, but after what feels a lifetime of walking, he stops to regard the shape.
It is a burial cloth- how he recognises it as such he does not know- but it is rough to the touch, tightly woven and as strong as sailcloth. It gives slightly beneath his fingers when he touches it; a small minnow trips out from beneath a wet fold, startled. He watches it dance in fits and jerks before it dies in the sand by his feet. A wave clatters in and nudges the cloth, turning it sarcoid, pale skin punctuated with holes and cuts. They are all washed out and greyblue, from the unshuttered, clouded-over eyes to the skinflaps peeling from the deep incisions to the bitten toes and he stumbles backwards with a small cry. There are rings around the neck- two mottled fingers still hooked on the chain near them- and a ring for a mouth, open and accusatory.
Another wave pushes the supine body completely out of the cloth. Black hair flows out like ink and seaweed; at his touch, she spills to ashes.
She wakes to his hoarse cry and tangled sheets, and so wakes him. He flinches, seeing her bent over him with her hair spilling over her face and tickling his cheek, feeling her sleepy mental presence nudge his mind. His heartbeat spikes again to see her hand creep to her chain in her usual manner of puzzlement, and he snatches up her hand in his. She tilts her head at him before sliding herself down to the edge of his pillow.
—You’re cold, she murmurs. He hears a rustling as she shuffles her other hand from the underside of the pillow and presses it to their twined hands. She is warm, solid, the only cloth being the quilt over her shoulders, and his bare legs hook around hers. She is real. He watches her eyes, hooded with sleep and moonlight in this witching time of the night.
—Keep dreaming of you, he begins by way of explanation. But where to go from there?
—You were shouting. Almost.
He sighs as her eyes close and her lips still somehow find a damp spot near the corner of his eye. He, too, closes his eyes, trying to tune out the dull roaring in his ears. Her unspoken question hangs there like a heavy thing until he opens his mouth again to speak.
—You’re always dead there.
But where was she before the water and the cloth? Beneath the nebulous film of her fatigue, he feels her thoughts turning; does the residue of his dream stay with her, now? He lets her quiet breathing overtake his thoughts and the warmth seep into his bones. One of her hands unwinds itself from his and into his hair; he does not mind. Her wrist pulses against his ear, a small drum beat.
—Were you scared?
He swallows. There is a grey taste in his mouth and he bites down hard on his tongue because blood tastes better than ashes. He is scared to kiss her, suddenly, should she dissolve under his lips. He was taught to rend, not to hold. —I. I’m always scared.
He is glad, secretly, that she leaves her wrist where it is as he shifts closer, his gunblade arm circling her like a shroud.