And Miles To Go...
They're Marvel's. The poem is 'Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening' by Robert Frost. No money. Don't sue.
I was supposed to be in bed. I wanted to be in bed. I'd reread this poem earlier tonight, though, and it just wouldn't let me sleep, so... ::sigh::
This is for Alicia and DuAnn, since it's about their favorite couple. Love ya both, ladies. :)
Comments (send 'em, darn it, cuz I gave up SLEEP for this!) to KayleeSama@aol.com.
Whose woods are these I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
No one knew where he'd buried her. It had been all they could do to pull from him the circumstances of her death, really -- asking for more, for anything more, was something he'd known they wouldn't try.
And they hadn't. He was a man who'd learned to stand alone, pulling from the arms of those who'd raised him as soon as he could, tottering unsteadily, coltishly, and finding his balance as all young things do. Only when his balance was found he'd refused to share it or abandon it, even for a moment. He was a young man with an old soul and the prayers of countless legions forever weighing on his back.
So yes... they'd trusted him to stand alone, knowing that he would. They'd offered shoulders and ears, but hadn't pressed, hadn't invaded those carefully marked boundaries.
And still no one knew. Not even the kids would ever see this place.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
A poem had whispered in the depths of his mind as he carried her, heedless of the crimson staining his battered uniform. He'd welcomed its distraction from the constriction around his heart. Breath frosting in the air, tears freezing on his cheeks, he's slogged through piling snow and driving wind as she grew colder and colder in his arms.
And at last he'd seen it. The trees stretched in a muted green and brown semi-circle around the edge of the hidden lake, branches weighted with thick snow. The water -- motionless, locked in time, frozen in space -- hovered over the huge yawning chasm of blackness that was the lakebed. Nathan had swallowed to moisten his cold-dried throat, then swallowed again as a rock settled somewhere in that dry throat and tried to throttle him.
It was the darkest night of the year.
It could have been noon at midsummer and he'd still have felt that, but this time it was true. Black as Death's tears, this night. Dim as tarnished dreams. The moon hid its face, and even the stars seemed afraid to shine with full brightness over the blanket of white.
Her cold skin was the whitest thing to be seen, he'd thought.
And then he'd thought of nothing else but the poem as he carried her to her resting-place.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
Snow whispered. It murmured secrets and sympathies on the same gentle breath, caressing his neck with chill and tender fingers and dashing into his eyes, encouraging him to close them.
He stood beside the frozen lake and thought of frozen breath and frozen blood and frozen hopes that still felt so very heavy inside his chest. Sometimes he thought that the reason she'd felt too light when he'd carried her was because whatever was her had lodged instead within him, snug and warm, curling up beside his heart and making it so that he'd never be alone.
Then he woke up, and reality was far crueler for having allowed the dreaming.
He'd dug her grave in frozen earth with a knife and his fingers, unwilling to use his powers for this. His powers condemned him to his mission. His mission condemned him to his fight. His fight...
Condemned her. To death.
And so he'd clawed at dirt with flesh and bone, and when he was done it wasn't only her blood staining his skin anymore.
Then he'd laid her within, heart flinching at the stiffness in her body and the lifeless angle of her neck. He'd wanted to rearrange her into a posture of peace. Wanted to send her to whatever came after with the same dignity and strength she'd faced this life with. But death cares little for the whims of the living, and the reality of the process had denied him that chance. Domino had been buried with her body stiffened into the position he'd carried her in, neck arched back, arms curled against her, legs half-folded. She'd deserved better.
She'd been far beyond caring. It's only the living that mourn the dead.
Covering her twisted body might well have been the hardest thing he'd done in his life. Dirt's whisper was louder than snow's, more sibilant, ending with a heavy 'thud' against her body. He'd made himself hear it. Made himself hear everything. This was one death that would never fade to the recesses of memory, not if he could help it.
'Don't blame yourself,' she would have told him. 'I chose my life. I chose my death.'
He knew it was true, he did, but...
'It's not about you, you arrogant sonuvabitch.' Her voice would have been chiding, scalding with its warmth and earnest in its intent. 'You know the drill -- violent lives, violent deaths. Comes to us all, one day. Maybe even you.'
His head sagged. Snow still fell, layering his silver hair with its weight. In this little spot of nowhere he could allow himself this insight. In this world within a world he could reveal to the watching trees that he was just a man, and he bore the burden of too many desperate souls.
"I know you chose it," he murmured. "I don't... blame myself. I know you'd come back from the dead to kick my ass if I said I did." But even that couldn't bring a chuckle. His mismatched eyes agreed in one respect; they were full of exhaustion and the awareness that the struggle was far from over. "I just miss you, Dom." And here tears escaped, burning through the cold brushing his face. "I'd forgotten what it means to be... alone."
He knelt slowly, a little stiffly, guarding a knee that had never been quite the same after ligaments were torn during one particularly bad op. A little bit of purely human mortality to remind him that mission aside, he was no messiah, no godling.
His right hand spread in the snow, pressing through it to the earth. Eyes closed. Breathing slowed. A tremor passed through him, was stilled.
What is, is.
He called on that knowledge and strength.
What is, is.
And he used it to say goodbye. Again.
Knowing the impermanence of the gesture even as he made it.
At last, shivering a little, he stood and shook his head to rid his hair of snow, then flapped his coat a little and wrapped his scarf snugly around his neck from where it had slipped down earlier. His feet were numb. He stomped them, seeking feeling, and ground his teeth when they responded with pins and needles.
It was dark here. Comforting. Locked away from all that awaited him... back there... and a tired, traitorous corner of his soul begged for him to just stretch out in the soft and falsely warm snow and finally rest. It was a seductive thought, and he turned it away with words mumbled through numbed lips -- words that were as much a promise as a defense. He'd said them to her that first long night as he sent her to her rest without him, lost in near-delirium in his pain and heartache. He had to keep on. He had to. Those prayers of the desperate hammered at his mental ear and wouldn't -- couldn't -- let him stop.
He had to clear his throat again and the words were barely audible... but she heard. He had to believe she heard.
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
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