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Brink

By quillandspindle

Romance / Action

Prologue

Stand before the looking glass

And see the path behind

Through rocky road and lonely pass

Here to this brink we find.


Pale yellow light from a low ceiling lamp bathes a wooden table where three coffee mugs sit, steam slowly rising. A woman, her face beautiful but tired, leans back in her chair, hands wrapped around one of the mugs, thumbs sliding over the rim, back and forth.

"How can you be sure?" She asks.

A man removes his hands from his face and lays them, palms down, on the table. He has not touched his coffee.

"She can't," he says to the woman. "I mean, can anyone be sure, really? But there is a chance."

"And you think he'll agree?" She is not so much incredulous as tentative, hopeful.

A second woman, her hair pulled back in an elegant bun, turns sightless eyes to the first. "He still loves her, doesn't he, after all these years?"

The man huffs. "Well, it's been a while . . . Who's to say he hasn't moved on? They might have been a good thing - if they'd had more time - but, you know, the war and . . . losing her and . . . everything. Not that I ever thought it was a great idea. Anyway, it's risky."

He turns to the first woman, and his tone is almost pleading as he kneads his temples with his fingers, muttering between his hands. "You know what I think about magic. I just can't let go of the fact that it's such a gamble. What if it can't be found after all - and then, it'd be -"

"You don't want to get his hopes up. I get it," she finishes his thought. "But not even trying? I mean, it's a risk either way, isn't it? And it's not as if there's anything to lose if Bunny's right." She tilts her head slightly toward the second woman.

Bunny hooks two fingers through the handle of her mug and lets the scent of the coffee guide it carefully, delicately, to her lips. She closes her eyes as she sips, more from muscle memory than focusing her sense of smell; blind eyes savor scents as much open as closed.

"Henry knows what needs to be done, Veronica. He's just being practical for practicality's sake. I may be blind but I can still feel magic when it's there. And even a blind person can see that he still loves her. Henry, of all people, should know what it's like: Everafters and humans, falling in love, and not getting their happy ending."

She adds, as an afterthought, "Sorry, Veronica. You're Henry's happy ending."

Henry grimaces, then returns his hands to his face. "Fine. Say he agrees. Are we planning on telling him everything, then? Because if -"

Veronica waves her hands in agitation. "No! We tell him enough but not everything. Yet. When we have it - the elixir - then we'll tell him everything… if he hasn't figured it out himself by then what it's for… what it can do for her."

"Deception." Bunny blinks. "You two haven't changed much, have you?"

"Look who's talking," Veronica shoots back at her. "And I prefer the term 'information management'."

Bunny smiles, pushing her mug away. "Alright. We're done. Who's going to tell him?"

Veronica looks at Henry. "I think you should," she begins, placing her hand on his arm. "He'll probably take it best coming from you. I mean, between men."

For a while, Henry doesn't move. Then he nods in staccato and rises from the table, taking his mug and Bunny's as he moves toward the sink. There, he grips the edge of the basin, half-turns and says, "You'd better be sure, Bunny. Getting everyone's hopes up like this. . . if you're wrong . . . if this is a wild goose chase . . . if . . . if . . ."

Bunny is already pulling on her coat that Veronica has handed her. As she leaves the kitchen and heads down the hallway to the front door, she pauses.

"Henry Grimm." Her voice is firm. "Maybe you were brought up to believe death is the end. I wasn't. You've got your happy ever after; let them have theirs."

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