A/N: This is a sequel to my story "Butterfly Silence", I think you'll have to read that one first. I haven't posted this as chapter 2 of that story because it's a different tempo, and slightly different themes, so it didn't really fit. Actually, that was supposed to be all of the story, but several people asked me for a continuation, so here it is. I hope you aren't disappointed by it. Please let me know!
The sun smiled at him. All that light. She disappeared behind him and then was there again, her brown curls now rimmed and shimmering with fire. She was floating, hovering seemingly unsupported in that pool of light which was failing to warm him.
He blinked, and somehow during the time it took to close and open his eyelids, other figures had materialised at his side. They were in the dark, and unclear. But she knelt in the bright contrast of the sunlight, and stroked his hair, and whispered words he couldn't grasp the meaning of. It was enough that she was still there.
The other figures also had mouths which moved, and he knew that he knew their faces, but he couldn't name them or hear them. They didn't matter.
And he blinked again, and again everyone moved with a surprising swiftness, because there were more people now, and their dark shadows fell on his face. The sun was watching him from the very centre of the hole torn into the wall, and it blurred and melded the edges, but it was such a cold sun. Where the fingers of the rays stroked his face he felt the heat leave him. But around the edges of the light, the darkness deepened.
He still felt absolutely nothing. He was floating, numbly, somewhere behind his eyes. Somewhere deep inside the body that was far too heavy for him to move. His eyes closed.
Wings brushed against his cheeks. Soft, hushed, feathery wings of moths.
The moths kissed his cold brow.
They fluttered again and again to the fading flame of his life-pulse on his throat.
He managed to lift his eyelids again, but only by a thin sliver. He could see light, and dark. Grey and black. An insect-buzz of voices faintly in his ear. But then the numbing cold of the bright cruel light was hidden behind her face as she bent low so that her eyes filled all of his dimming sight. There were stars in her eyes, shining through the liquid trying to extinguish them. He could hear her voice, the same syllables over and over again. She drew back and he could see her lips moving, shaping sounds he couldn't understand properly. He tried to focus on her.
A promise. He had made a promise to her, and that was what she was trying to tell him. He searched for the memories, but they had gone. Flapped away silently into the dark. A short day, followed by a long night. Eyes closing.
No. No night, not yet. The sun was still shining. He wasn't going to break a promise. He breathed, a deep breath consciously taken, and the first stab of pain came with it, almost preventing him from taking another. He forced his eyes back open, and her eyes burned bright through his darkness. She held his icy hand, and he threw all his remaining strength into curling and bending his fingers around hers.
More faces, but hers the brightest. And slowly she became clearer to him, the atoms of her features rebuilding her, reclaiming her from the shadows. Her name. As he breathed in, breathed out his life, he found her name fell back to him like dew from the sky. The stars shimmering in her eyes gave him his clue.
Then he blinked, and there was a great jolt of pain, and suddenly the ceiling above him was moving backwards. Tilting. He was heading downwards, among collapsed walls and gaps poked through them by the sun which was searching for him, burrowing long death-cold fingers of rays through the rubble, hunting. Light. Dark. Light. Dark. He was floating above the floor. She didn't let go of him.
She pulled slightly on his arm, steering his weightless body away from the safe dark shadows and into the white of daylight. He wanted to tell her that it would be too cold, that the treacherous freeze-burning helium fires would suck the last of his life's heat away, but the look she gave him as she ran her blood-washed fingers through his hair said, trust me, and he would have trusted her with anything. To the very end. Her smile gave him more warmth than could ever be taken away.
Whiteness and metal and plastic. A sharp stab in the back of his hand. Too much light. But he'd made a promise, a promise to a vanished butterfly, and the promise remained. Night-time insects flickered in, out of existence, black specks dancing in the fluorescence. An undulating mosquito siren-whine. Her hand the only constant, the only solid thing in a word of sterilised ghosts.
White walls. White-masked faces like hawk moths. White gloves. White strip lights. White coats. Green eyes and brown curls and red-smeared clothing and a kiss. A white light goodnight. And darkness.
- - - - -
He began to rise up through the black-treacle sleep. Slowly, slowly. The glow-worm lights blinked green on displays. His eyes moved under the closed lids, flickering from side to side. They didn't open.
All the whiteness and brightness, but there was no true light in the scrubbed and bleached and sterilised room. A window looked into a darkened seating area where empty chairs stood in a line, endlessly and eyelessly watching. A silent jury passing silent judgement. A pale moth fluttered softly, hopelessly, against the glass.
He lay quiet again. No movement at all, except his slow machine-monitored breathing.
The moth tried again to reach him, but again was repelled by the unseen barrier.
His face was as pale as the underside of its wings.
The room was silent, a sterile, clinical silence. Not the warm, alive, twilight silence of the broken bones of the broken building in which there had been butterflies. Only the click and hum and faint beeps of the machines and screens and monitors, and the soft noise of the moth battering its body desperately against the pane.
He lay beneath the last layer of blackness, a membrane of molten tar. Pinned to the dark impermeable layers beneath. His mind was filled with the floundering moth wings, but it was butterflies he wanted, and the light which he only recalled dimly, a fading shadow of a memory. He clung to it, followed that thought and gradually rose upwards on the buoyant echoes of colour. Through the darkness.
The moth flapped indecisively in midair. And left for another light.
His eyes opened.
Only a little at first. The lids were impossibly heavy. But at last they lifted, and he saw the white walls. Then a little more, and, drawn to the colour, he saw her curled like a caterpillar in an uncomfortable cocoon of a chair, sleeping. Someone else's too-large jacket wrapped around her above her dark-blood stained shirt. With her in it, the room seemed less deathly pale.
He hadn't meant to wake her, but as he moved his leaden body experimentally, rustling the covers, she stirred. And as her fear-shadowed eyes opened he said her name, and watched her face lift into delighted relief and the stars come alight in her eyes in answer.
His heart had been torn when his first love was lost in a fallen building, but he knew now that he wasn't ready to join her in the hushed moth-filled darkness, not just yet. He would have to survive for now. A butterfly day, a bright beautiful day with another love, before the setting of the sun.