"Did you ever wonder...?" one woman asks, a little tentatively.
"Wonder about what?" the other asks.
"About her choice?"
"What good would that do?" the second woman says. "We both made our choice."
The bracelet dug into the edge of her wrist as she turned the carnelian just a fraction to the left, allowing the sapphire bit of the tiny hand drill to wear away the last spot of roughness. A ring would maybe have been more practical, but even all these years on from the unfortunate incident with Miss Allen she still didn't like enchanted rings.
"Ah... Natasha?" She stopped the drill and looked up to see Christian standing in the doorway, the golden light of autumn slanting in behind him. "Am I interrupting?"
"Uh, no. No, of course not." After all these years her heart still gave a little jump at the sound of his voice. She smiled up at him as she took her spectacles off, accepting the slight blurring of his outline in exchange for preserving the fiction that she only needed them for close work. "Is it lunchtime already?"
"It's actually a little later than that. I'm very sorry, I must have forgotten to set the alarm." He looked thoroughly chagrined, which was kind of him since by now she knew better than to expect a Fae to keep track of time.
"That... that's worked out well, then, I've just finished." The vertebrae in her back cracked as she stretched, and physical reality crashed down on her like a ton of bricks. She knew her hands would be shaking with exhaustion, if they could. A lock of white hair fell into her eyes; she tucked it behind her ear, then took Christian's proffered hand and levered herself up off the stool, wincing as her hips and knees ached with the length of time she had been sitting in the same posture.
"I really am terribly sorry," Christian said softly, and his thumb brushed across her knuckles in a butterfly caress.
"No, no, it's my own fault. I should know better," she protested quickly, pressing his fingers gently for emphasis as she darted him a wry smile that acknowledged their shared inability to keep track of time.
They didn't kiss. They didn't need to.
He went ahead to get whatever he had made - or conjured up - out of the tiny kitchen. She snatched up the carnelian and followed. Her hip joint seized as she sat down, and she surreptitiously stretched out her leg under the table.
Christian returned with a covered tray that smelled delicious, and then looked hesitant, fumbling with something rather than sitting down. Natasha ran her fingers over the smooth edges of the carnelian petals, and decided that this was the moment.
"I'm sorry it's late..." they said together as they held out their hands. On her own palm was a blushing carnelian rose, half-opened, enchanted for once with nothing but the love that had gone into its making. On Christian's was a breaking bud, dew-dropped and dew-scented; it was autumn here and had been winter in the world for years, and Natasha didn't need the sparkles that washed across her vision to know what magic had made it, and what magic would keep it fresh for almost as long as the carnelian would last.
Her eyes met Christian's, and for a long, shared moment all either of them could do was smile at the other - young, bookish man and small, white-haired old woman - with their heart in their eyes.
And then they had lunch.
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