acquainted with the night

The summer air was hot and close against her skin. He was prowling in the garden; she could pick out the faint padding of his bare feet on the lawn, crushing the dry grass against the hard earth. The tree that he liked to rest beneath was parched in the current weather. When she had reached up her hands to touch the leaves, they were dry and light as though they were about to fly away.

His footsteps approached the window, and he vaulted into the room; the slap of his hand on the windowsill, the rustle of clothing, the soft thump of his landing. His nearness.

"Have you finished practicing?" he asked gruffly.

"Yes, Shido," she said, turning in his direction. "Did you have a nice time with your friends?"

A throbbing roar from outside answered her.

"Oh good," she said happily. "Would you like some tea?"

He shifted his feet uncertainly. "Madoka," he started.

"Yes, Shido?"

"Doesn't this ever -- that is, don't I ever --"

She waited, hands folded politely in her lap.

His breathing speeded up. "You shouldn't let me stay," he said curtly. "I'm not safe."

"Well, of course you aren't," she agreed.

"Eh?"

"Shido," she scolded him gently. She could never have made herself be harsh to him. "Nothing's safe. You should know that."

He stalked towards her, and let his hands fall on her shoulders. She could feel the prick of nails through the light cotton of her blouse. "Listen to me, girl. I'm really not safe. I'm a thing of the wild. I'm savage, Madoka.One of these days I'm going to take what I want and . . ."

"And?" she said sweetly. She raised her hands to stroke his. "Shido. Are you trying to frighten me?"

"Yes."

"It's all right."

He stroked her neck, rested his hands against her cheeks. "You don't understand."

"Shido, you're the one who doesn't understand. Look." She moved his hands until they rested against her eyes. "See? I don't surrender to you. I accept you. Can't you understand?"

"Madoka --"

"You are the darkness that I want. With you I'm safe. You are my protection. I know you'll never hurt me. You can't take me. I give myself to you. Every day that I've listened to you, I've heard it in you. Shido. I'm yours."

She could tell that he was quite still, looking down at her, and his breathing quickened. "Madoka . . ."

"And you're mine." Her hands tightened on his. "And I'll never let you go."

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