“Jesus Christ, can you feel that?”

His fingers cascaded against the wall, nails scratching at paint. Each splinter of eggshell-colored debris fluttered down on his comforter. There’d be a pile of them, had he not been thrashing about, sending them scattering about — his pillow, the floor, wherever.

Nails digging into paint deep enough to meet gypsum — it’d make anyone’s skin crawl.

Provided, that is, that you’re actually paying any attention to reality.

His head rolled against the wall. It was cold in spots, warm in others. You could trace where he was, where he’d been sitting since he escaped. His tongue traced his bottom lip, breath pooling by his chin. Slow breaths. Ones full of heat, full of intent. Every now and again his lower lip would quiver, his arm following its motion, rubbing a mound of rubber near his bicep. Six or seven twitches and the adhesive would start to show, his nostrils flaring. The snarl would inevitably pull his lips apart, re-opening the crack right in the middle. It’d sting, but by that point the adhesive was slapped back on by a hand that’d quickly go numb.

The wind howled and gently bowed the side of the house, snow pounding the window. He felt every flake. They all slammed down, each a threat, another flicker caught in the screen. But he couldn’t focus on them. He could hear her breathing.

“Oh my god,” he said. Only half the words made a sound. The rest were gone, as if half his face was numb. Out came the breath, again.

The rubber wasn’t on his face. It didn’t cradle him. It didn’t hold him. It didn’t grab his shoulders.

“Oh my god,” she said.

It’d been too long.

His hands found her waist, her skin — soft. It always was, but it was something you’d forget, you know, right before you remembered again. Green eyes found his. Emeralds? No. This was better than that. This was beyond that. He didn’t know what they were. She likely didn’t either, to be honest. She never had the patience to get every detail right.

Oh, but fuck if he cared.

She dove down, her hair tickling past his ear, her breath curling around his neck. A moan dragged its way off her tongue, sharp teeth planting just over the top of his shoulder blade, scraping down toward his collar. His hands rolled down, index fingers curling inward as they met, cradling her ass, lifting her closer to him.

His own demanding growl pulled her back. He saw those eyes again — they flashed — and then he took his own taste of her neck. Her hair brushed the side of his cheek.

Lilac, but not quite, not quite there yet. More like vanilla. But it didn’t pull him out. Not yet.

But he could see the snow.

One hand went free, crawling up her spine, index and thumb navigating the topography of every muscle, every bend — but quickly. He should’ve been savoring this, but he had an appetite. His breath grew hotter. He couldn’t wait. His head spun — just enough, just not used to it yet — as he pushed her down on the bed. His teeth went to her ear, his hand tangling itself in her hair. Eventually their lips met, each ravishing the other, looking and feeling, plotting for a ritual they’d both kill for.

His fingers crawled past her belt first. He wanted it more. His arm felt cold again. He slapped it into something. Was it cold? Was it cold? Oh, fuck it. His hand could feel her warmth — it shocked him — always did, with this one. She looked up. Those fucking eyes. Her lips mouthed a taunt. He grinned, finding more heat. Blood surged around his body. He could trace its precise path as he felt the heat scour his veins.

His eyes closed. He missed her so much. It’d been at least six months since she’d gone, since he’d last had her.

He felt nothing for a second, his skin going numb. And then there it was, there she was.

“Mel,” he said, pulling away from her lips.

“It’s good, isn’t it?” She looked up at him, her voice coated in charcoal and scotch. It always sounded just like that.

He grinned.

“I can’t believe this — I can’t –”

He was back on her. Fucking hell, that taste. He could just feel it. This time she was the one to pull away, slipping her head to the side.

“I love you. I love you so much.”

“Mel,” he said — mouth hanging open. He wanted to say something, but words weren’t good enough. They never were, not with this. You couldn’t show it with a word, you just had to dive in, to do it, for your own sake, if nothing else.

His body dropped to hers, lips meeting again. Feel it. Feel it.

“I love you. I love you so much.”

Her lips vibrated past his.

“I love you. I love you so much.”

He pulled back. Mel’s whole body curled up, just like he was on top of her. He could watch her lips curl around his, see her breasts rise — right before they’d crush back down — then her whole body would blink, ripped back just to where he was, three seconds before.

“I love you. I love you so much.”

Her body motioned again, her eyes looking where he would’ve been. Where he was, once.

His arms were cold.

“It’s just this damn thing, I can get it –”

“I love you. I love you so much.”

He blinked. Her body turned to black and white fuzz, skittering along her flesh, her skin replaced with a blanket of static. Her mouth twisted inward, her textures buffering against each other, aliasing pixels ripping between the polygons that built her throat. Then the room. The the bed. Then his left eye.

He slipped off his visor, looking at the antenna hung outside the window, each flake of snow slapping into the aluminum panel. The window was cracked just enough for the wire, but not much more than that. It was enough for a draft, though, one that kept stinging his naked face every time the wind shifted, hissing at him under the sil.

With a grunt he slid the glass open wide enough to get at the antenna, smacking it with his palm, his gaunt hands aching with each small movement. The snow fell off to the sidewalk below, chunks of ice tumbling down against rotted siding. He polished it the best he could with his sleeve before collapsing back into the room.

His breath was heavy, just as it was before.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming back. I know you can hear me. I’m coming back, just wait a minute, god damn it, just wait a second.”

He slapped the rubber sensor back on his arm, his body nuzzling itself back into the corner of the room. “Fuck,” he said. The visor slid back over his eyes, more snow meeting him.

“Fucking work!”

He spat.

His hand slammed into something. He couldn’t feel it, even though he knew he could.

She flickered in. It was rapid, distorted. It happened so fast — he could feel the chemicals churn, a wave of nausea sinking into his cortex. He fell back. Gravity never felt good, never all at once. Green eyes stared back at him.

“I love you. I love you so much.”

“I’m back,” he whispered.

Her eyes twitched. He could see her lips curl up a bit. All the tension in his body left, his eyes closing gently — either in this reality or the other one. Did it matter? He was back here, with her. His Mel. Finally.

A low, clunking noise made his body jump. Red lines etched themselves into his cornea, blocky letters lit by neon tubes that weren’t real: “PLAYBACK FAILED.”

A scream echoed in the room, the headset flung to his feet.

A spit of snow on his arm welcomed him back.

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