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Wither


Because it was his fault.

Because he'd robbed her. Of companionship, comfort, lover, father...

Because there should be nothing left unsaid before the final sin was done.

When he'd stood on her stoop the last thing he'd wanted was her smile, her warmth, her welcoming. He was a blemish here, the unsightly thing on the couch hugging a cup of coffee between hands flesh and steel.

Her acceptance was brutal for all it's kindness and his throat was thick with his guilt. Their words were nonsensical and meaningless in the light of loss and when she moved to stand before him and her hand touched the top of his head, he couldn't look up at her, he could only stare down at his feet.

My soul is on the floor, where it belongs.

The warmth of her hand on the top of his head was him undoing. Unbidden he leaned forward, in the promise of forgiveness that he should never be allowed. His forehead came to rest on her stomach; around him her scent, a miasma of flowers and sandalwood, spoke of things the man he'd killed was missing.

"I'm so sorry," a broken whisper.

"You said these things to me the first time you came to visit," came a soft reply. "I told you to let it go. Neither you grief, nor mine will bring him back, and he wouldn't have wanted that anyways."

He closed his eyes. No matter how many times she tried to wash him clean, he was still dirty.

"I didn't mean for it to happen; I didn't mean for him to get involved," he said quietly. "I've taken him away from you and your daughter; I didn't mean for him to care."

The hand on his head began to stroke lightly, back and forth.

"You have no control over people's emotions," she said. "You aren't responsible for their desires. What was given to you, was given freely. It's a burden you weren't asked to share."

"But it was my fault, I keep dragging people in; dragging them down. I never asked for any of this, I only wanted... I only wanted things the way they were," he was ashamed at how thin his voice sounded, how pathetic.

"He was doing his job," she said above him, her hand still moving, back and forth on his head. "He was doing what he was good at, even if he'd never met you, who was to say that things would have been different? Look at me, Edward."

When he lifted his face, her hand moved to his cheek.

"You don't need to ask for forgiveness; not from me, certainly not from him," and she smiled, that same gentle smile he remembered from when her husband was alive.

"I have to make up somehow," he said quietly, "for everything."

He stood, he hadn't grown much taller than the boy he was, but he was taller still in spirit than most of the men he worked with. Her hand was still on his cheek and she slowly raised the other one, held his face between them and studied his eyes.

Here he was, he had stumbled into her life just four years ago, he shared her daughter's birthday and her husband's army.

Was she lonely?

"Don't be alone," he said, suddenly, impulsively. "Don't stay that way. I don't want to think of you like that, not that I'm saying anyone could replace him...," he trailed off for a moment. "I want to make it up, somehow."

When she bent slightly to kiss him, she probably meant to kiss his forehead. But he went up on his toes, tilting his head back quickly. Their lips met in that small space between them, hers parted a bit, as if in surprise and he tried, drew on his experience. But adventures and blood and tears don't teach you how to kiss a woman.

She must have known, because as he braced for rejection he was met with acceptance. She must have seen, that in his need to do what he thought was right, he sought to fill what he thought she missed. She must have realized that despite the steel of him, he was fragile in ways no one could have guessed. And she kissed him, showing him what it was like to have someone who loved you, with no reservations at all.

He reached to touch her, but pulled his right hand back quickly and then touched her lightly with his left. On her arm that held him captive so effortlessly.

"I want you to live," she said simply. "I want you to grow to be a man and know what it's like to have all this happiness you're looking for; that is all you need from me, Edward."

"But what about you? That was all taken away," he said. "I didn't mean for it to happen, all my life, I didn't mean for things to happen. But that doesn't make it not my responsibility."

He stood there in her touch, knowing somehow, in some way, she could forgive him at least this; at least. If only he could give her back some measure. So he leaned up again and she let him touch her with his lips. His kiss was a poor imitation, but if she would show him again, he would learn. Learning was his vice and his savior and the only thing he ever did right.

Women gave. That is what they did, they gave of themselves. It was the nature that set them apart and made the world of men a livable place. When he asked, she answered, in ways not with words. She placed his hand, she directed his lips. She led him and he followed, because if she will give, he will take.

"This is not right," she told him. "But I don't think that matters for you. You are lost in something that's not right and not wrong, no one can judge."

They went into the darkness, where there was a bed and a door. Yes, it needed to be behind a door because for all it's not wrongness, it still wasn't right. He was glad of the dark, so she couldn't really see what he'd done to himself in all his wrong rightness. When his jacket was on the floor and her hand was on his metal shoulder, he was even more glad she knew him and would condemn him and forgive him in the same thought.

She must have had a curiosity about it, having heard some much and seen so little. Because she touched the automail; not to caress, but to learn. This was good, learning was the foundation of everything. So he could teach her, as she instructed him. It made his shaking less.

She lifted his steel hand, lay it on the skin showing between her throat and the open 'v' of her dress. She shivered, maybe from cold and held it there as if accustoming herself to it's feel. He couldn't feel her with it; couldn't feel the warmth that must be there; it was too dark to watch it rise and fall with her breath. She released it and moved her shoulders, the sweater she wore joined his jacket, and that was fair. Equivalence in all things, that was the rule.

She loosened his clothes and pushed him to sit on the bed, he watched her outline in the dark as she worked at her own clothing, then he lay back when she moved to lean over him. He managed to toe one of his boots off, but ignored the other. She pushed his black tank top up, under his arm pits and together they worked his pants down, to his knees, then off the bootless side.

Maybe she was afraid he would never know this. Again it was women who gave. But that's not what he wanted, he was here to do the giving. The first touch of her tongue made him jump, it was slow and warm, it covered his nipple. It moved up, a slow drag and then around the edge. His stomach tightened as did his groin, he reached up with his left hand, his untainted one and touched her on the arm, high, just above her elbow.

"You can tell me when it's enough," she said, "you can tell me to stop."

He didn't know what to say, what to do. He was silent and hoped she understood what he meant by it, even if he didn't. She touched him again with her tongue, and this time, an accompanying touch of her hand. Her finger tips, over his thigh, curving inward, running along the his inner thigh and upwards. He shook, he drew in a deep breath, his fingers tightened on her upper arm.

He thought for a moment she was going to speak again. Speak to him, with him lying there on her bed, half naked, half erect, halfway between heaven and hell. But instead, she didn't and he instead felt her lips on his own.

Actions speak louder than words.

The knuckles of her hand brushed over his balls and he jerked slightly, his automail hand tightening in the comforter of her bed. She didn't give him respite, instead she made the touch firmer, running her knuckles across his balls to his other thigh. He felt the muscles tense there, it was like they were moving on their own. He had given no mental direction. His lips felt pasty and dry, he was breathing in quick, short bursts. So he licked them, when he opened his mouth to allow his tongue out, he made a small sound; again the involuntary actions left him amazed and a bit frightened.

But there was nothing to fear here. Nothing at all. This woman touching him, she was familiar and warm. He was in her debt, he was making up for what he'd done. When her fingers touched his cock, the feeling traveled the length of his body, but all the sensation centered there between his legs.

"Are you trying to put right all your imagined wrongs before the end?" she asked him softly. "There is something that you are planning to do; something that you're telling no one."

He could not hide his thoughts anymore than the trembling of his body, but he said nothing. His lack of response seemed to be satisfactory however, for she took his cock lightly in her fingers and leaned over it. He had a profound sense of disbelief when she touched him there, with her mouth, on the head. He'd heard of it naturally, glimpsed in before turning away while hurrying back to his barracks in darkened alleys between buildings. But was it normal? A natural practice? Her tongue flattened, swept broadly across the head of his cock, moving the slit, pressing down the foreskin on one side. He wasn't able to process it all at once, his hips bucked up before he could acknowledge they'd done so, he bit down on his lip to silence his noises. She tightened her grip on his cock, rested her hand on his thigh to hold him down.

Long, slow minutes, his lifetime and all his breath, she took from him. Between her lips, with her tongue, in her throat. The darkness around him moved in ways that he never though possible, every nerve in his body seemed to register every slight sensation. The comforter under his bare hips, the wrinkle of said comforter on the back of his neck, the very touch of the air on his skin. He opened his mouth, crying for air, forcing his lungs to function. He heard the clink of his automail fingers as they worked restlessly back and forth on the bed. Everything was beyond his control, everything was working on a base instinctive level and he flailed mentally, drowning in the moment. He could hear her, faintly above the den in his mind, the wet sounds and small noises. He felt her fingernail, scratching lightly though the hair at the juncture of his thighs, he tightened and his stomach began to tremble, the edges of what little vision he still possessed clouded.

And then it stopped. She released him, pushing herself up and back and he flung his arms out, senseless, trying to grab her, drag her back. She was moving in a strange way, bending and pushing at her clothes, lifting her dress. It made no sense to him, he was left there, bereft and empty and it was all he could do not to howl his denial. The bigger shock was when she suddenly moved up his body again, her knees coming to rest on the bed, just to either side of his hips. He did grab her then, fingers both natural and artificial, clutching at her arms. She reached between then, and he sobbed out when she touched him again, wrapped her hands around his cock, slid them down it's aching, dripping length. When he raised his hips to push himself deep into her hand, grind himself against her flesh, the head of his cock came against her body. He could feel it, and her fingers pressed him upwards, her hips angled forward. The head of his cock met with a texture both warm and scratchy, his nostrils flared and he grit his teeth. There was this scent now, all around them, a deep musk he tried to pull in with deep draws and heaves of his chest. It was all conspiring to drive him mad, and just when he thought it was too much, he was pushed again. His cock sank, all around it, he was gripped. Tight, slick pressure. He hands shoved his, pushing them down to her dress covered hips and she sat hard, moving her hips in a circular motion.

Such things are dreams and visions, because he'd never known the reality and his imagination was always too filled with arrays and daydreams of humanity to think of little else. He knew the logistics, knew he was buried in her flesh in a place where men were meant to be with women. The pressure he felt was her vagina, closing around him. He knew the clinical names, he'd studied them avidly. All the parts of what would have been part of his mother wrapped around him in a way that made his blood race, his mind blank and his body ache.

"You are the only one who has acknowledged me," she suddenly whispered, "since he's been gone. Everyone was aware of my presence but they forgot about my existence." She was moving, up and down, pressing up with her knees, letting gravity pull her back down and he yearned upwards, clenching her hips, panting nonsensical things. "For everyone else, it was all about him. He deserved it, but now he's gone, am I suppose to fade away, too?"

He had no answers, could give no answers. All he had was heat and lust, all he knew as the feeling between his legs. It radiated from his cock to his spine, his belly; he tried to speak but the words all slurred into a noise only fit for an animal. She kept moving on him, stealing his will, turning him into this thing that knew nothing of anyone but himself. He was degraded, debased, brought low and lingered there. His body arched and ached and drove itself upwards; he was elated, free, wallowing and filled. When his muscles seized and he stiffened and his life poured out and took all his needs and wants with it and he collapsed back to the bed, then; and only then, he could see her again.

She was looking down at him, her eyes were neither elated or sad. There was no accusation for him; no matter what he had done. He was vaguely aware she had spoken to him when he'd been in that place that she put him, but he wasn't sure of what, or why. He groaned loudly when she drew up, his cock slipping free of her vagina, their combined wetness setting over his skin. He just lay there when she left the room; then the feelings of shame and turmoil came. What had he done? Why had he done it? Why had he allowed it? But when she returned and cleaned him gently, he was delivered again; but the guilt she'd meant to assuage threw it's head back and laughed and safe within it's fortress, it reminded him that this was just another sin to add to the list. This was a dead man's wife.

He died for you, you fucked his wife.

He screwed his eyes shut, sat up and grabbed at his errant clothing. Yanked his pants back up and did up the belt to hold them closed. She said nothing, he walked past her, down the hall and made the right turn into the living room. His empty coffee cup still sat on the table. He stood there, fighting down the nausea that threatened. Blinking his stinging eyes.

"I'm surrounded, but I am all alone," she said quietly behind him. "Just his memory keeps them close, but at arms length, I suppose I should be grateful for at least that. Thank you for the thought. Even born out of regret for him, it was still a thought for me. It's been a long time."

He nodded, once, tersely.

He strode across the room, reaching for the door knob to escape and flee. Breath and recoup.

"Take that with you, wherever it is you are going," she said again as he fumbled with the knob. "Try to think back on that when the pain is to much."

He gave her a fleeting glance over his shoulder before he bolted out the door into the darkness beyond. She crossed to close the door behind him, knowing that she made his thought more for herself then she should have. Knowing she might have added more to his burden than she meant. But it was to late to take it back, to apologize. She was human, and humans get lonely.

And besides, like all the rest, once he had finished his penance to her husband's memory.

He was gone.