Today

Yesterday, it was all business.

Tomorrow, it will be all business again.

Today, however, she puts her feet up, drinks her milk, watches telenovelas, and reads the same paperback she’s had for the last eight years. She smokes cigarettes down to the filter, and she eats leftover Chinese.

Today, the cat is allowed to sleep in the bed with her.

Today, she puts on mascara, and then washes it off, laughing.

Today, she orders a second cinnamon bun, and leaves it in the hands of the angel that stands guard at the headstone.

Today, she leaves her boots untied.

Yesterday, it was all business.

Tomorrow, it will be all business again.

Today, she doesn’t touch the gun; she never touches the gun on her day off.

Professor of the Future

He woke when the timer carefully installed in his basal ganglia sent a burst of neurotransmitters into his grey matter. The mix, including caffeine and nicotine as well as a bunch of other fashionable alkaloids, flooded his neurons and then settled to soak his cerebellum.

He peeled himself out of the ShowerSheets and then turned on the bed’s self-cleaning function. In only a few moments, the cells he’d sloughed off in the night, the hairs, the day’s dust — everything — was vaporized and vacuumed away.

He dressed in a flawless new suit that faintly changed color to suit his freshly exfoliated self, and tapped a quick rhythm against his temple to refresh the caffeine burst.

By the time it wore off, he’d be halfway through directly uploading his recent essays into the malleable brains of his top grad students.

Teaching was his favorite part of the day.

For Raoin (because of the duckface)

I asked for duckface. You gave me duckface. Ergo, you get rewarded. Just, y’know, months later. This bit of fiction is dedicated to you, for being a good minion.

* * *

My own darling,

I attempted to slip back into our bed — I say ours, as it has been the one I have shared with you alone, during our stolen season — but the lack of you will not let me rest. I have made communications with advisors, and signed matters of state. I have even puttered about my rooms and made the bed, not wanting the servants to come and pull away the sheets that still smell of you, and I, and our lovemaking.

As for who sees the birds — the ones I have instructed you to send fly to my own personal aerie, a place I care for them, where none else are admitted, and none see what messages I receive. Whatever you send, trust that it comes to my own eyes alone.

I remember last night (for which you needn’t apologize — I myself am unutterably sorry for not remaining more awake) with remarkable clarity, and yet a blinding sense of heat and warmth — my senses fail me, at times, after long sessions with you; I want nothing else but you, and as I am accustomed to your sweetness, the world is often too bitter for my liking, when you are gone.

I do love my intended, but I fear mending with her — it will be a journey I have yet to understand. I’ll do it for the sake of the Empire, for her sake, for the sake of our family, and for the sake of the child you ask me to raise. I shall do it for my sake, in time — if I had more hours, I would not choose this so soon, but alas, time is always against us.

All that we are — all that we do and make with one another, each moment we have created in one another’s arms… I regret nothing, save that it cannot remain like this forever and always. I will make time for you — I will spend as much of it at your side as I can hope to spare from a family that will need me, if I am to raise this child and be its father.

If my love for you is a cruelty, if my tenderness to you and my acceptance of you is pain, I pray it is only the brief agony we all endure on our way to bliss — truly, if I am hurting you, I will not continue for my sake, but cease, to ease your heart.

All the feelings of my heart, both admirable and somewhat failing in purity, fill me joy as they tangle perfectly in my thoughts of you. I am ashamed of nothing I desire so long as it fits with you.

I love you. I have loved you for some time. I will love you, as long as any heart can endure, and everlong after.

I remain yours, truly –

Elias

Only ever love

I hate everything about this place: the ticking clock, the fluorescent light, the sound of the water cooler. Nothing here is comforting. Nothing here seems safe or warm.

They have her in the back; I heard her crying, earlier. They wouldn’t let me go in, wouldn’t let me see her.

They have fucking rules.

She doesn’t like to be alone. She doesn’t want to be touched, but she’ll let me hold her hand.

Only if they let me in.

But they have fucking rules.

I can hear her again. She’s screaming now. Pretty soon, someone’s going to come out and–

“Sir?” the nurse says, looking harried. “They can’t restrain her.”

“Why would they even try?” I ask, gritting my teeth.

“The procedure — there are rules — ” she is saying.

“FUCK your rules,” I tell her, and I light a cigarette on my way to the back, where I know they have her all but penned up, collared. When I walk in, I see her, bruised and big-eyed, and she is keening, and keeps up that noise until I can stand beside her, and put my hand down on her head.

She nudges me like a feral cat, and chokes the sobbing wail back down.

I sit next to her, and pet her carefully, and I am smiling for her when the needle goes in.

She goes limp in my arms, navy blue eyes registering no protest or betrayal — only love.

Only ever love.