"Last Kiss Before Morning"

By Amber Michelle and Rune Grey
myaru@earthlink.net, starstrike@softhome.net

*Generic disclaimer... we don't own these characters, although they might go around claiming they own us.*

Water dripped endlessly, splattering against the window, and pouring down from the sky outside to shower the earth with heaven's tears. Rain pattered onto the roof above, more a dull roar than the peaceful sound the storybooks loved to speak of, but it soothed nonetheless, a welcome change from the chaos of war that had shaken the very earth not more than a day ago.

The house was nameless, and now without an owner... Yet even Miang's critical eye could find nothing to mar its quaint perfection, though surely the previous inhabitants had suffered a bloody death at the hands of her... companion.

"What a pity..." she murmured, twining silken strands of red around her fingers. She turned her gaze back to her hands, combing her fingers through hair that, for some odd reason or other, fascinated her to no end. It was quicksilver, almost... just like its owner.

"Pity?" Lacan asked quietly, his molten gold eyes tracing along paths only he could see on the ceiling, following the grain of the wood for a moment before they dropped to meet Miang's. "Such a strange emotion... 'pity'. Pain, loss..."

He shook his head, running his fingers lightly down her arm until they lay atop her own. His eyes were haunted now, different then they had been in the past... although the raging fury that had burned in them as he had attempted to reduce the world to a cinder had faded away during the battle at Solaris' gates, they had not returned to the eyes of the Nisan artist he had been for so many years...

"I do not know if I can feel pity... or sadness... or pain. I may already be dead, Miang... dead since the day Sophia died, or dead since I killed Rene..." his eyes closed for a moment, and he twined his fingers with hers, a few strands of his hair trapped beteen them.

"One would think... that a person incapable of such emotion would no longer pay it any mind." She pressed her cheek against his pale shoulder, burrowing closer to avert the chill that clung to the room even with their ether shield in place. "It will return, sadly... given enough time."

What she was to do now, Miang didn't know. Everything was caught in the balance, now, after Lacan's spree of destruction... She was not sure what kind of effect it would have on their future plans, and her hopes of being able to manipulate his desires had died along with the first city...

But perhaps things were better this way. He was right - much easier to work with an equal, than to leash a willful child.

"This face, this voice... this LIFE is no longer of any use to me," he said with in a bare whisper, catching a few strands of Miang's hair with his free hand. The tone of his voice was almost impossible to identify... it could have been sadness, or something else. "There is too much here now... this spirt and knowledge were not meant to be united, except to fufill the purpose of the Exsistance."

He let his head drop, until it was inches away from Miang's. "That... desire still drives me at times. A sense of knowing there is something I must do at all costs, an obsession not my own... I'm sure that you can understand..."

"Obsession..." She tightened her grip on his hand, though whether she was attempting to give comfort, or seeking it, was beyond her at the moment. "I have died, following that desire... more times than I can count. Yet... I am no closer now than I was at the beginning."

Miang halted her words, sensing the bitterness creeping into her voice, scrabbling at her control with ghostly fingers. She disliked that feeling... and liked her lack of control even less. Wasn't she supposed to be above that, now? "Deaths without meaning... and lifetimes of wandering, and searching... and failing..."

"Impatience is part of mortal existence... and very much a part of me," Lacan replied, turning to look back up at the ceiling. "I wish to leave this wreached shell for a time, and try to find my peace before I can walk again, to begin our search and try to end this... farce that we call 'destiny'."

The sigh that escaped his lips, faint as it was, echoed of bitterness... a sense of something lost and never to be regained. "They will never trust me again... and with good reason. But I've moved beyond forgivness... I just want to see 'them' again..."

She shifted onto her elbow, tilting her head to the side to look at him. "The only real peace is that of death... But you may do what you will, if you think you will find anything in this world. Perhaps you will stumble across something I've missed..." The air seemed frigid, where it touched her skin, compared to the relative warmth she had been entwined in. She wanted to lie down again, but... much easier to watch him, this way.

Lacan's smile was bitter as he looked at Miang, running a finger down the side of her face. His eyes softened for a moment, the gold seeming to flow away from them for a moment...

"Yes... the only peace is in death. The only way to proceed... both for us and for our world, is through that shadowed path. As long as I live, there will never be another Contact or Anti-type..."

Miang offered a slight shrug, lowering her gaze to their entwined hands. "That will be remedied, eventually..." His skin was almost as pale as hers, surprisingly soft to the touch.... many things about him had been surprising. How odd, that such a thing would hold her attention over the more pressing matters at hand.

"They won't allow you to walk free, now... if anything, you might die at their hands. Krelian's, perhaps, or even that child-queen's..." She shrugged again, trailing off for a moment. "And if not, time does march on... even for one such as yourself."

"The prospect of dying at their hands is not one that appeals to me..." Lacan replied quietly, running his thumb against the palm of her hand. Miang had not changed, no matter how his actions had shaken the heavens of this world... a comfort, although why he could not say.

With a slow, deliberate motion he pulled her towards him, resting their interwined fingers on his chest. That flicker of gold returned to his eyes for a moment as he looked at her, his expression not grim, but determined none the less.

"If I must die... I want you to be the one to kill me. Of all of the people here, I have not tried to hurt you. And you would gain little satisfaction from finding a way to keep me dead..."

There was little more she could do than blink at him in shock, for those first few moments. The idea was almost ludicrous, and it might have been funny under any other circumstances... but no, he was quite serious. His mind may have been closed to her, but she could still see it in his eyes.

"I... I can't..." was all she said, when she finally managed to speak. "It wouldn't be allowed..."

"And how is it forbidden to you, Miang?" he asked quietly, his hand still holding on to hers. "There is nothing to stop you... just draw in your Ether, and you can still my heart, right here and now."

Of everything he could have asked her, he knew this was the last thing that she expected. And perhaps, the last thing that she wanted to do. But he would need to do this, one way or another. 'Lacan' was too visible, too well known to be effective. Even if he could move as Miang could, given enough time the fools in Shevat might find a way to kill him permanently.

"I'm sorry, but... I have to insist."

Silence gripped Miang, even her breathing stilled to almost nothing. What had possessed him to ask this...? And of her, no less... She wasn't a murderer, she didn't enjoy taking lives... nor did she wish to end his. Surely there was something she could say, a loophole she could slip through... But she had never tried to kill a Contact before; if there were rules against such things - or not - she didn't know about them.

She turned her face away, sure her thoughts must be obvious. Nothing would save her, no ideas drifted to the surface of her memory, no words came to her lips... No way to refuse.

Did he know...? Had he learned something she was not aware of?

Lacan sighed a moment later, resting both of his hands on top of Miang's. "Can you imagine Krelian if he were the one to kill me? The satisfaction that he had won over you and I... had won Elly from both of us? Or Zephyr... if she would even kill me, and not freeze me in carbonite for all of eternity?"

He felt her hands tensing her his, and gently cupped her hand in his. "You will see me again soon... you don't need to worry about that. After all, you taught me how..." He doubted he would ever fully understand Miang... not after all he had seen and heard, and experienced in his merge with Zohar. Her dedication was a part of her, but there was something else there as well....

Miang stared silently at their hands, teeth scraping at her lip. If there was anything she had never thought to hear from him... She should have expected it. Of course he would not wish to allow the others to do this - he was as succeptible to pride as anyone else, and if not that...

"You don't know what you're asking..." Something in her chest shied away from the very idea, as if wanting to physically withdraw from the words he had spoken... Death was nothing new to her, but the idea of inflicting this sort of death on someone was... it pained her, almost...

He looked at her, his eyes betraying a certain wearyness. "Why not Miang...? What is so difficult for you? You've done it before, although not with your own hands. Is this so difficult for you?"

His grip on her hands loosened after a moment, as he sat up with a sigh. His hair spilled down around him in a red wave as he leaned over, touching his forehead to Miang's. "I understand... forgive me for imposing such upon you..."

She supressed a shiver as he moved, her free hand moving to curl around his shoulder. So he wasn't going to press the issue? That was unlike him... "Do... do you understand what you will be taking upon your shoulders? Really?" Zohar couldn't have told him everything... "Do you know what you will be doing to yourself?"

He wouldn't be able to do it properly, without her help... the Contact was not meant to exist as she did, and he would be in danger... Guilt flashed to life, silencing anything else she might have said to him. She didn't have a choice... It would be necessary to follow through... if he wanted to do it this way.

God curse the impatience of children... She sighed, looking with no small trepidence into his golden eyes.

There was something like a smile of satisfaction that flashed across his face, but it came and went so fast Miang could not say for certain if she had seen it or not. "Yes, I do understand... but I must live with it. That is why I want your help... I want, no, I need to live. I promised her..."

His fingers brushed her face, and his golden eyes gazed silently into hers... a silent promise. A companion through eternity, regardless of the consequences. Someone with whom she could weather the storm, until the world burned to its last....

Miang squeezed her eyes shut, drawing a deep, shuddering breath.

He'd promised her things, once they had agreed to cooperate. Things he couldn't have known, without the influence of his 'master'. Was this a part of the plan? Was it all a part of the manipulation, meant to drive her in another direction, to do Zohar's work instead of Deus'?

Or was this 'Lacan' speaking, and not his master? Unlikely, she thought... but she wanted to believe him, so badly... She hated being alone...

He'd likely take her silence as acceptance... and so be it. She would not say it aloud. To say it would be to make it real, and she did not want to be lucidly aware of what she was about to inflict upon him.

Grahf released his other hand from around Miang's, leaving it resting on his chest as he cupped her cheeks. His eyes met hers for a moment, and she could hear his request as if he had shouted it at the top of his lungs.

Do it.

In the same moment, he leaned forward and kissed her once on the lips... a final act, to deny any protest that she might have, and a reminder of words that he had spoken her as he burned the world...

We will come full circle Miang... just as I have killed you, you shall destroy me in return. The cycle of the Guardian and the Contact, repeated endlessly... our own private waltz, outside the eyes of all mortals...

Forgive me, then... for my lack of conviction... She pressed her other hand against his shoulder, pushing him back down onto his back and almost expecting him to resist, though of course he did not.

She didn't want to do this... For whatever reason, be it weakness, attachment, fear, she did not want to do as he asked. But she had to... It was her end of the bargin, her promise to him... and far be it from her to break her promises. It would further her goal - that should be enough.

Leaning over, hair falling over her shoulders to shield her sight from everything but his face, she lifted her hand and placed it upon the smooth, pale skin over his heart. "Remember what I told you," Miang whispered, face inches from his. "You must do as I said, or you will be lost..."

When no response was forthcoming, Miang dipped her head down to press her lips to Lacan's in a kiss. Though she'd doubted at first, the contact was enough; before another thought could form in her head and plague her with another doubt, she drew upon her ether and weaved it around his heart.

The filaments of power were strong enough to rip a city out of the ground, and the roots of the earth with it... She pulled them tightly, constricting them around his heart as if around that city, all in the instant before she had time to think.

He didn't even flinch as she struck, his last breath passing softly from his chest even before she broke her kiss. His eyes looked up at her for a moment as the light faded from them... no longer the haunted eyes of a monster, but someone who had the heart and soul of an artist... and appreciated a companion's finest work. His hand slipped from its place on her cheek, falling down by his head in an almost careless sprawl.

If Miang hadn't known what she had just done, she would have sworn that he was sleeping from his outward appearance... and the expression of peace she had never seen on his face before. But she did know... she had felt his heart stop, and even now felt the emptiness where his soul should have been in that body...

She turned her face away, resting her cheek against his chest and closing her eyes. Nothing. No heartbeat... No comforting, rhythmic breathing...

It was ridiculous to feel this way...

Long moments stretched, before Miang finally sat up and slid from the bed. It was still cold... and she would find no more warmth where she was, now would she? Not for long, in any case... and she was not so morbid that she wanted to remain there, next to him, like that...

She took the first thing she could find - his coat, she noticed - and wrapped it around her shoulders, holding it closed as if it were a blanket rather than an article of clothing. It still smelled of dust, and smoke, and faintly of metal... but he was there too, underlying it all. She wondered if he would reclaim it, whenever he returned...

She would have to remain here. He would be able to find her if she left, surely... but why make things more difficult? He would be tired, and completely drained, hardly in any condition to search. And he would need her to aid him in overcoming the soul that would be trapped within his new vessel.

Yes, better to remain here... She turned, glancing back at the shell of what had once been Lacan. And she immediately turned away again, striding quickly into the next room and pushing the door closed behind her. She couldn't look back again.

It was better, not to look back...