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the mirror's magic sights

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The words it’s turned to ritual lay sweet and light on Sweat’s tongue, the water cool; its feathers buoy it against that rushing water. Its head turns as an owl, as a broken neck — I love you, it thinks and doesn’t say, and her claws sink into its shoulders to haul it, bodily, from the water and shake it.

It smiles.

“Little throat!” it breathes out, halo beaming as bright as its own grin. “Have you returned to me? Have my prayers been answered?” That hateful tower’s shadow cloaks her, twists her pretty fur into something dark and matted.

But — that’s not her fur, it thinks, bewildered; grazes claws gently, gently over the curve of Lowry’s cheek and comes away feeling only chilly, perfect stone.

She doesn’t flinch. “You,” she snaps, and there’s naught but cold annoyance where all the sweetness has been torn away from her soft voice. “You. Wasn’t cursing me enough? Do you have to come taunt me like this?! I barely have a view at all — so get out of it!”

Reeling, it can’t meet her eyes; its shocked, hurt gaze drifts down and settles on her paws. They’re torn, bleeding from where they’d assuredly slammed against the steps of her tower — and where they’re not, the fur’s peeling away into that blunt, white stone.

“You believe I cursed you?” it asks, a childlike tremble in its voice, and curses itself for a fool.

“Who else?” Her bitter laugh grates along all its nerves, and the nausea flipping Sweat’s stomach into knots comes to a head as her words stab into its heart. “You’re always on that river - always riding by. So, so shiny, and every time I see you this spreads.”

Her paws, curled around its neck, are crackling stone.

It’s tearing up, it knows, in some distanced part of itself; watches the spread of that gorgon-like touch creep over her fur with a mute kind of horror. Before the magic can seal her mouth, freeze that biting snarl into permanence, Sweat sweeps her into its arms, and prays she’ll forgive its transgression.

Back in her prison of a home, its progression halts. She didn’t struggle in its embrace, though her muzzle twisted with distaste. It’s temporary, though — her muscles will release, her anger (it hopes, it would almost pray to Him) will fade.

It would take Lowry hating it, it realizes, months too late; her never remembering at all, over her death like this.

Her gaze has gone flat and dead by the time it gets up the courage to meet her eyes. “Get out,” she snaps. “Why would you save me? It’s your fault!” There, there’s a spark of anger returning to her — more life than it’s seen since her imprisonment.

Sweat can’t be grateful for it in this kind of situation. Its mouth quivers, too obviously hurt. Too obviously weak. “I didn’t —“ It breaks off into noisy, golden sobs, and she looks at it like she’s never seen anything like it on this world. An alien, misstepping with every little motion; an interloper into her cell.

She reaches to touch its cheek, this time, and its flesh gives out under it.

It bawls in an inelegant pile of feathers on her floor for what feels like hours, Lowry stepping around its nuisance of a form with ginger awkwardness.

In the time it takes to cry itself out, ichor streaming down sticky cheeks, she’s settled down beside it returned to her own fur; as weak and vulnerable as it feels, as much as it wants her comfort, the lack of disgust or pain printed across her muzzle is enough. (It has to be.) It forces itself up to its knees afore it speaks, folding its legs under it, and looks up at her through lowered lashes. “May I confess?” it asks, and hurries to clarify before that vicious, intent fury can take her over again. “Not -- to cursing you, I didn’t! But to perform sacrament - to reveal my sins, perhaps it will heal you.”

Only if it was Sweat’s fault to start with, but how can it not blame itself for her change -- for letting her be hurt? It let her go of her own will, and would have hated itself if it hadn’t. But this end is unforgivable.

It closes its eyes, and begins to speak. “Dearly beloved,” it starts; unconscious of her reactions as much as this ought to be for her sake. “Little throat. I have abandoned you, I have cast you aside.”

Her paw, backed with claws, settles gently on the back of its neck. It’s not a threat.

(It’s self-satisfaction, it’s disgusting; but, it never has been so honest with her. Sweat isn’t in the habit of lying, and couldn’t if it tried. That doesn’t mean it’s told her of its home, or of the pain it carries under its skin.)
There’s a time and place for a tale, and this is neither. In quick, sketched outlines of their life afore the tower closed on her, when she locked herself away - in the shortest shrift it can give itself, intent on making sure she knows how much it cares, it lays out what sounds like a fairy story.

It hadn’t known why she left, at the time. Only that it had questioned its choices, and as if a punishment, she was taken.

Turned in on herself, the bright light of the sun outside causing her only pain. Now, it thinks, it sees - the weight of pain, of memories left unsaid and whatever she’d gone through when they separated, though neither fault of their own, had turned her slowly to stone.

“I’m not convinced,” Lowry interrupts, and it re-ducks its head as if to laugh. “I don’t remember you -- every time I saw you, it got worse. It makes more sense if you cursed me.”

But still, her fur is velvet under its anxiously stroking claws, back and forth to remind itself she’s alive and in front of it.

Til she came out today, it hadn’t seen her in months; not having the heart to resent her, in its own way, it appreciated the lightened weight of the bond it had decided was fated for them fading. The clutch of its heart, near to pain, had relinquished itself. It came to watch that tower each day willingly, worried for her but free of compulsion.

The stormclouds of her face lighten as she speaks, though nothing is so sudden — it had never known quite why she pulled away, had seen nightmarish shadows cast on the walls of that tower through her windows (and it oughtn’t have looked, and apologized at once, but) it had missed her!

There’s nothing to be repaired so suddenly, when neither of them had done anything wrong in so many words; but she doesn’t seem to mind this repaired connection, and Sweat has changed too.

The next time it floats past her tower, she waves back to it.

Leaving her tower still turns her flesh to that terrifying stone, a spread so fast as to scare the life half out of Sweat’s carefully embodied chest. It happens too, it’s noted, when her mouth tightens on unsaid words — on the kind of things that she lived in its absence.

But, if it comes to visit only when she feels up to it, it seems to be controllable.

Over time, the curse is less aggressive (the stone leaks lighter, turns to glass next; she’s more snappish, then, easier to hurt with an unthinking word, but it tries its best. it understands that kind of pain better); Sweat likes to think, to itself when it’s warm at night, that she believes it now. That its thoughtless love, if not cure, can help her stand this. And perhaps, they keep on just the same.