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Paragraph-at-a-Time story, "The Branch" #12, aka The End - Laura Wise

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September 12th, 2009


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08:45 am - Paragraph-at-a-Time story, "The Branch" #12, aka The End
Here's where the experiment ends. I have to say again, I've appreciated so much your reading and comments. :-)

Last entry finished with “All right, Rodriguez,” she said through her tears, snarling worse than he ever had when changed. “What in the name of the Branch was *that* shit?”.


“Jessa, hon.” He said it quietly. “I'm so sorry.”

With a sudden sharp movement, he broke her hold on his wrists. But he didn't change himself, didn't bolt away, didn't do any of the things she might have expected. Instead he caught her wrists and then brought her bloodied hand to his mouth.

The sweetness took her anger. “Don't lick,” she said without force. “It's gross, and besides, your tongue, after you've been magicking--”

Still was a little sandpaper, cat-like, as he ignored her and kissed the blood away.

The same power they'd used to heal the Branch, the humming joy and tears of it, sang through her body. The small wound closed.

Yet she felt worse --hopeless and suddenly sad, the emotions which had smothered her for twelve months, three days, and an eternity. “Tim, seriously, tell me. What has this shit been about?”

“The Branch.” He looked away from her, beyond her. The falling sun poured over him in gold, burnishing his unhealed bruises. He'd taken care of her, she thought, but left himself hurting -- “I've tried to deal with it myself, but it... I wasn't enough.” His gaze flickered back to hers. “I'm so sorry.”

Okay, her anger wasn't as faraway as she'd thought: it bubbled up now, old flames, old scars. “Sorry for what, though? Sorry just because you kept the ritual for yourself for a year? Because, Rodriguez, you have more to apologize for than that. More to explain.”

He said nothing, just twitched his shoulders.

She pushed him back against the rock, hard. “Timothy Francis Rodriguez, talk already!”

The wind – light now; cool sunset breeze rising from the basin -- stirred the leaves of the lone tree. Other than that, only silence.

She realized that she still was sitting on his stomach. Part of her wanted to root there, entwine them together with golden thread, fill them with magic. Part of her wanted to thump his head against the stone repeatedly.

“Tim,” she said. “Come on.”

“I had a bad dream,” he said almost inaudibly.

“What?”

“A year ago. I had a bad dream. A series of them – well, same dream, over and over.” His eyes were impossibly bright, unblinking. “Us here on the island at the turn of night. You cutting your hand in the ritual, you taking the magic piece, you climbing the lone tree.” He swallowed hard. “You falling over the edge. Me not catching you.”

“You had a bad dream,” she repeated.

“Yes.” Now he was focused just on her, all of that formidable sorcerer's attention encircling her. They were an island on an island on an island. “I dreamed a death-dream, and so I tried to prevent it. Left our home and bed, tried to keep all of it together so you'd be okay. But I couldn't.”

“You left me because of a dream.” Falling, falling, and the pain.

“I said that already, Jessa.” He should have smiled there, but there wasn't so much as a hint of amusement on that thin, battered face. “So today, when I realized that I wasn't... I didn't have enough...I figured I could at least take your place. You know, in the... thing.”

Twelve months, three days, an eternity of solitude without shared magic and love. Twelve months, three days, an eternity of heartbreak --

She raised onto her knees again, and then smacked him, hard as she could, on his arm. “Timothy, you stupid son of a bitch. You're a powerful shape-shifter, you have magic to burn, but goddamn it, you are not a freakin' seer!”

Yellow-gold eyes narrowed. “Dream came true, hon. The shape of it was true.”

She smacked him one more time. “No, it didn't and it wasn't and my God, Rodriguez, I could push you over the cliff myself right now.”

Growling deep in his throat, he rubbed the point of impact. “Hell if I wouldn't jump all on my own.”

She didn't trust herself – she leapt to her feet and then turned away.

Before her, the Branch spiraled up, spiraled down, caught the last of the sun in its spin.

She crossed the circle. She stood underneath the sword-point tip of the Branch. She pressed her unmarked palms against the rough bark of the lone tree.

The hole she'd cut there shone silver, a small place of cool emptiness in this remnant of old fire. But the lone tree was hot to the touch, just like Tim.

She closed her eyes against the sunset and breathed. Then, without turning around: “You're not forgiven, Rodriguez.”

“Right. I got that.”

Then she did turn. He stood at the boulder-gate, one foot already on the path to leave her. Hadn't left yet, though. Not this time.

Not this time, she told herself.

“So,” she said casually as she went toward him, scooping up her knife on the way, “when you called earlier, I was making enchiladas. Got the pan in the fridge ready to bake. Even though mine aren't as good as your abuela's --” they both smiled at that memory of an old fight -- “you want some?”

“Yes,” he said. “Please.”

“Okay.” She caught his hand. It was rough-smooth to the touch, and warm in the midst of dusk-chill, and he linked fingers with her without hesitation. Still: “Unforgiven.”

“Understood.” He raised her hand to his lips and pressed a lion's kiss, just a brush, rough-smooth, on the inside of her wrist.

“All right then,” she said.

Sun disappeared as soon as they stepped on the path, but that was fine. They knew the way, and moon was coming.

....................
THE END, hurrah. :-)

Happy weekend to all!

(26 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:anne_d
Date:September 12th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
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That was perfectly lovely.
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From:laurawise
Date:September 12th, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
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Thank you thank you, A. :-)
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From:paratti
Date:September 12th, 2009 02:15 pm (UTC)
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Lovely:)
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From:laurawise
Date:September 12th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
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Thank you, L, thank you. :-)
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From:freixenet
Date:September 12th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
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Aww. That was nice. I liked this a lot--thank you!
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From:laurawise
Date:September 12th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
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Thank YOU, F! I'm grateful for your reading! :-)
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From:kathyh
Date:September 12th, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
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I really enjoyed that. It was full of beautiful writing and an intriguing world and characters. Many thanks for sharing.
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From:laurawise
Date:September 12th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
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K, what a lovely thing to say -- your comments and encouragement have been wonderful. Thank you thank you!
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From:cindergal
Date:September 12th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
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I wish I could have read this in daily installments, as you intended. but as you know, my life is crazy right now. But it reads just as well in one sitting. I really enjoyed it. :-)
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From:laurawise
Date:September 12th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
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It is v.v. kind of you to go back and read these bits-of-story, C, and kinder that you say it reads all right in one sitting. :-)

Thanks and more thanks!
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From:mamculuna
Date:September 12th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
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A perfect ending. Love the lion's kiss!
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From:laurawise
Date:September 12th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
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Thank you thank you! I'm so grateful for your cheering comments, here and along the way. :-)
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From:gwynnega
Date:September 12th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
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Yay! That was lovely.

::hugs::
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From:laurawise
Date:September 12th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
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You are a kind person for reading, Gwynne! Hugs and many thanks. :-)
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From:heron_pose
Date:September 12th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
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OK, I'm gonna have to go back through this ... but I'm amazed at your control of the medium, and your generosity.

::hugs::
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From:laurawise
Date:September 13th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
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Writing the story --not to mention the end-product -- wasn't as controlled as I'd like, truly. ;-)

Thank you for stopping by, H-P. I am so glad you did.
[hugs]
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From:ladyforash
Date:September 13th, 2009 01:11 am (UTC)
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Wonderful! And I loved the ending.
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From:laurawise
Date:September 13th, 2009 10:13 am (UTC)
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Thank you so much! Thank you twice, C! Much appreciated. :-)
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From:stateless82
Date:September 13th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC)
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I love the 'Don't lick'. Perfect timing, perfect transition.

And the silver spot on the tree- I don't know why, but that just makes me happy.

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From:laurawise
Date:September 13th, 2009 10:14 am (UTC)
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I was a little worried about the tonal shift with "Don't lick," so I'm v.v. pleased it pleased you, Susan. :-)

Thank you thank you for your cheering and helpful comments! I'm grateful for them!
(Deleted comment)
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From:laurawise
Date:September 13th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
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Thank you, L, for reading along and sending cheerful comments! I've appreciated both v.v. much -- and I am glad you liked Jessa and Tim's world. :-))
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From:pinkdormouse
Date:September 13th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
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I love that ending.
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From:laurawise
Date:September 14th, 2009 09:54 am (UTC)
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I'm so glad! Hurrah, and thanks thanks thanks. :-)
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From:mobile_alh
Date:September 14th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
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Hurrah indeed! Late but loving it, as always!
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From:laurawise
Date:September 14th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
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(I hope it was a productive weekend, ALH!)

And I send thanks and more thanks -- glad the ending pleased, and grateful you've read it! :-)

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