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The Hazel and the Honeysuckle

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It took nearly five months on the island for Red to be comfortable enough to sleep. Night after night she ran through every possible thing to go wrong, and every morning Blue explained why this code or that thread meant they were safe after all. Blue had no trouble sleeping. Garden agents were more likely to need rest or recharge, as they followed the path of their environment, their body rhythms becoming circadian. And Blue’s body was a strange fraught thing, hybrid and home-grown. Periwinkle blue ink and paper, crafted in Song China, formed the sinew of her muscles. Her bones had been rescued from a cave near the beginning of time. Her veins were vegetable, grown of the same woody substance as her last meal, dark red berried poking here and there through the surface of her skin. Red sometimes bent her neck and ate them, red juice staining her lips and teeth. The berries tasted rich and bitter, and filled her head with secrets Blue had not even put into words. Red always gave them back to her in the language of kisses. 

They had spent the better part of two weeks (of the kind of time measurement common in braids in the early twenties or the children of B-39) growing Red a new left hand. She carefully pried every pneumatic device out of her knuckles, before fitting her now limp hand into a glove of Blue’s devising. It had been torture not touching Blue while her nerves and joints re-kint. Last night the tantilization finally became too much. Blue came in from putting the sheep out to pasture and ran her fingers oh-so-gently down Red’s face. Red was, as always, hyper-aware of every sensation in her body. She wanted there to be more. She shot out her good hand and pulled Blue down to rest in her lap. Blue just laughed and kissed her with the same maddeningly gentle precision. Red reached up and tangled her fingers into Blue’s hair.

“Your hand” murmured Blue into Red’s neck. “Is it ready?”

Red responded by tugging on Blue’s hair with her new fingers, at first softly and then not so much as Blue dug her teeth into her neck.

Sometime later the two of them were tangled up in the big white bed, dots of berry juice and other liquids slowly drying between them. Red could feel sleep pushing behind her eyes for the first time in months. Blue was slowly running one hand up and down her spine, her other linked with Reds. 

“It’s okay, my Rose,” whispered Blue. “You can rest now.”

She opened her eyes again as dusk was bathing the room with a lavender glow. Blue was breathing softly next to her, fast asleep. Red sat up and began to stretch, but stopped short as Blue’s hand rose with her own. Their fingers were somehow not only laced, but trapped together. 

Blue sat up, muttering against the disturbance. She saw their hands and raised her eyebrows in dawning realization. Their hands were like latticework smothered with vines after a long summer. Tendrils growing from her own wrist had met those from Red’s, tangled and fused. She began to laugh, and Red followed suit, burying her head in Blue’s shoulder. Both marvel at the sound of their laughter, finally allowed to exist in the same air.

“Are you familiar with the lay of Tristram and Iseult?” asked Blue.

“I spent some time in prison with Malory. But I want to hear you tell it.”

“Hm, I suppose I can skip the parts of the tale where star-crossed lovers follow each other across land and see. By the bit I’m thinking of, the two have died apart, but been buried together.”

“I’m not sure I like this story.”

“Hush. The man is named after sadness itself, what more can you expect?”

“Not all symphonies in blue need end in sadness.”

“This one ends with the bittersweet. For birds drop seeds over each of their graves. Now, the troubadours argue over what plants they were. Perhaps it was just a tangled briar rose, which certainly has its own beauty.” Blue brought up both their hands and kissed the entwined vines, making Red blush a deep scarlet. (So this body blushed. She had been too distracted last night to notice). 

“But in the versions I love best, sung by Queen Elinor’s sweetest-voiced poets, a hazel tree grew above Tristram’s grave, and honeysuckle above Iseult’s. The strong and the sweet forever entwined, forever holding one another up.”

As she finished her story, the sweet scent of honeysuckle began to fill the room. White-flowered creepers pushed through the floorboards and over the windowsills.

Red plucked a flower and inspected it before sucking out the nectar. She smiled and then laughed, realizing she was using her left hand. 

“You wove another spell with your words, Lapis Lazuli. Somehow you made my unruly body yield to sense.”

“I think all I did was convince myself- maybe both of us- that we have a long time to wait before my briars need to cross the graveyard to yours.”

“Time,” said Red. “What a miraculous thing to have. Why don’t you tell me another story?”