Welcome to the last fic in the Gauntlet series.
Disclaimer: I am not Garth Nix. Don't own the franchise or the KttK books.
Music? "Life is Wonderful" or "On Love, In Sadness" both by Jason Mraz. But don't let the titles of the songs fool you into thinking about how this will end.
Noon has finally gotten used to life as Noon, rather than Dusk. And then he gets an unexpected visitor. Saved love or lost love?
Once again: debatable, thank you for your love of the series. If I've massacred them with this, let me know, and I will gladly rewrite it for you. Most likely.
--(my name is) Inconsequential
(the fifth and final installment of the Gauntlet Series)
And so ends the night, thought Monday's Noon, as he extricated himself from the thick, warm, maroon bedspread under which he hid each night, sometimes in deep sleep and sometimes not.
This past night had been one of the better ones, and Noon had slept quite well after his customary bath (a habit that hadn't changed, though much of his life had). He felt fresh and alive as he clothed himself in the bright, cheerful colors of the noon-time sun. His time. These days, at least.
He smiled to himself.
Noon'd long since decided that greeting the day with a grin (to bear it) was much simpler than moping about and wishing he'd never been given this station.
With that smile, he carefully pulled the huge emerald shawl on his favorite chair into a position where none of the original color could be seen. Best to just forget about whom he'd been rather than have silly reminders, like black chairs and dark-clad mannequins. The mannequin was now hidden in the closet—naked and alone. Noon knew the feeling.
He glanced at the large clock that hung about, above the mirror. But its hands had yet to spin toward noon, and no one had come to request any assistance, so Noon instead checked his reflection, and saw, shimmering in the mirror, that he had forgotten to make his bed.
"Good morning, Noon!" Suzy Turquoise Blue, otherwise known as Monday's Tierce, thrust the door open and bounced in without a knock. A warm draft ruffled her hair as it eased through Noon's always open windows. The tail end of this wind tickled him as well, but he drew back as though to escape from it, turning his head in the process to face his visitor.
"And you, Suzy."
His apprentice was quite the feisty one, and since Arthur's return to the Secondary Realms, she was eager to find some reason for him to come back and take up arms as the Heir. This thought, however, shifted the smile on Noon's lips. Wills and Heirs—they were the beginning, and the end. And Noon wasn't just thinking about the House, he was thinking about simpler things (could they be categorized as simple?) too.
"Did you have anything to ask of me? Am I needed by Dame Primus?"
"Nah, just wanted to say hullo. But, now that you think of it, I think I was supposed to do somefin', so, if you don't mind, I'll be off." And she was, leaving the door ajar.
The wrinkled sheets screamed at him as her off-key humming faded. Ever the neat one, he proceeded past the chair, not noticing the green fabric twist as he brushed against it, revealing the darkness beneath.
As he straightened up the bedspread and took a breath, he heard footsteps. They were purposeful and heavy. Not those of Suzy. But before Noon could react, he heard the door creak as someone pushed it inwards.
Noon exhaled, slowly. He knew who was in the doorway, simply by the silence that suddenly threatened to strangle him and the stranger there.
"Dusk," he intoned, when he could bear the cold quiet no longer. He would make no mistake about the Denizen's name, either, no matter how much he wished it were his own. Nor no matter how much he wished this particular Denizen was not in his presence.
"Noon," Dusk replied, bowing stiffly, apprehension drawing his brows together. "I was off to get more towels for my bath tomorrow, when your Tierce flagged me down. Said you requested an audience of one."
Noon didn't bother to shake his head as he spun, cautiously, on the tips of his toes. Oh, Susanna.
Even across the room, both Denizens could tell that Noon was shorter. This was not customary for a Noon—a Denizen of higher stature than the servant, Dusk. But if Dame Primus (the Will) or Suzy noticed, they were smart (and, in Suzy's case, restrained) enough to leave the point untouched.
"Well then, shall we get on with it?" Dusk sighed, frowning, as he stepped into the room and shut the door. After this, he folded his arms, a small, but obvious physical barrier between them.
"I have nothing for you. I dare say Suzy is up to her tricks again." He hadn't meant to snap, but the circumstances made him uneasy.
"Of course." The Denizen in black sighed. Noon said nothing as he pulled on a sparkling dark-orange jacket. "I had hoped that was not the case," Dusk said, shrugging; allowing a hurt, wistful look to settle across his features.
It had been quite the long while since they had spoken, and even longer since they had spoken of anything besides work. There had been a time when everything Dusk said made perfect sense to Noon. The time had long since past—faded. As Noon puzzled over the other's words, he thought of all he'd lost.
"I don't know. That you wanted to speak with me."
"Weren't you the one who rejected me last time?" Noon asked, buttoning the jacket and drawing on gauntlets and—with identical, satisfying chinks—clipping on a pair of gold cufflinks.
Taken aback by Noon's shortcut to the heart of the discussion, Dusk did not answer immediately. However, he bowed his head again and nodded.
"Why?" Noon loomed up at the Denizen, raising an eyebrow, wondering.
Dusk surprised him by wringing his hands. It was nervous tick that the old-Noon had done only in old-Dusk's presence and then only when he was extremely perturbed.
"You were too forgiving, Noon," Dusk replied softly, yet almost angrily, glaring at the windows, almost afraid to look at the other Time. He flinched when Noon laughed. It was a sour laugh. Not quite a laugh at all.
"I loved you." Dusk looked up, catching Noon's eye as the shorter Denizen said it. Coldly; smiling, but not happy.
"But you don't love me anymore," whispered Dusk, stepping smoothly back, toward the door, without looking away, unable to. The old-Dusk would have cried, but new-Noon simply gazed.
Silence can sometimes be perfect. They both knew it—had spent hours of silence together in perfect peace, wondrous peace. Love could make silence beautiful. And this silence was beautiful. But it was foreign, and it was evil, and it was far from perfect.
"No. No, I don't."
The following noise was not silence; it was hitched breathing and yammering heartbeats. Noon gazed on. And Dusk mirrored—he held the look in Noon's eye, finally saw the tears tumble across the still slightly pale Denizen's cheeks. And he understood. Perhaps he'd always known, even before they'd broken apart.
"But you want to."
For the first time, a true smile struggled out past trembling lips and onto Noon's face as he nodded.
"Yes!" He stopped nodding, and wiped his eyes on a gauntleted wrist. "But I've forgotten."
"Forgotten?" Dusk walked forward again, reached out for Noon's hand. Noon gave it. Bent his arm at the elbow and proffered his skinny, lithe fingers to those of Dusk. Their digits twined together—a little touch for a little lesson.
"How do I love you?"
Dusk smiled too, finally, and kissed Noon's sweet lips, other hand tucking against his neck.
"You know how. I know that you know," he replied, kissing the Denizen again and again, on his forehead and cheeks and neck and ears. His mouth did not go unnoticed, either.
"Thank you," Noon murmured after a beat. "For thinking that." Dusk chuckled softly against Noon's lips. Simple familiarity.
They clung together, and Noon kissed Dusk back, pale skin against tan skin, long fingers and muscular thinness, who was who? They had known each other's lives, had known each other. They'd shared each other's beds and even each other's names.
Dusk sighed, lost for a moment in a memory, as he ran a hand along Noon's jaw. Familiarity was just as beautiful as silence. But neither was as beautiful as Noon.
"I'm sorry," Noon whispered, as he kissed Dusk yet another time. "For keeping you waiting."
A breeze moved the curtains and wrapped the lovers in its whispers. Wings unfurled and words were freed. Foreheads pressed together and hands clasped and lips suckled here and there. Questions arose amidst their touch—within the few hollow spots, sliding out from the contours of two bodies. Had they truly shared their hearts before? Didn't a heart have to be broken first? Broken open to reach whatever was inside? Now they'd gotten to it, whatever was there—inside raw, ripped hearts, the innards bared for each other solely. Simple familiarity was beginning to sew those hearts up again, with new things inside. Shared things.
"Did you really forget?" Dusk pondered, his arms wrapped protectively around the smaller Denizen, breathing across his hair, as the wind did across his own back and wings. He felt Noon shake his head under his neck.
A sigh—like spiders crawling and creeping along Dusk's chest.
"I was afraid I might've, though," muttered Noon after a pause, during which he'd exhaled.
"Kiss me again," Dusk said, checking the clock. Less than an hour.
Noon did, with all his might, rolling over atop the naked servant, and he laughed as he did it. "It's almost noon." Dusk nodded, licking Noon's neck.
The bedspread had fallen when Noon moved, exposing both Denizens to the breeze—it seemed enthusiastic to sprinkle them with its own kisses, having only had Noon to visit for quite some time. Noon shivered; Dusk grasped him tight.
"I love you," he said, pushing Noon off and sitting up. They kissed again, as the tall Denizen grabbed the covers to wrap around himself.
"And I, you," Noon replied, and, with a sweep of his hand, he was dressed, though in different clothes than before—at least different socks, that is. Dusk pointed and laughed. The dark socks, riddled with stars, an endearment to the Denizen he loved.
With that, Noon kissed said Denizen again, and left the room. He wouldn't look back, but he'd know, with a chuckle of his own, that Dusk was still smiling. And that they would never forget this perfection—no—this simple, familiar sharing of hearts; this love.
May the Will be done.