Notes: Dedicated and inspired by Sonya.
Nine, ten, eleven, twelve ...
Smooth, firm, slow strokes sliding through wild, copper hair, removing
unseen snares and tangles, tugging away at stubborn knots and the
unpleasant little catches right at the tips of every strand. Steady and
practiced, he slid the bristles of the long handled brush through the
unkempt mess of his hair.
His mother's hairbrush. Long and white, with little, fancy, blue
curly-cues and chipped, silver gilding, thick, horsehair bristles tipped
in soft, downy ivory. He remembered the pale, spindly fingers that used
to drag it through his hair, gently pulling at the fine, orange threads
till they fell as they were guided and lay still within strong, old
hands. The soft caress of fingertips with thick, chipped nails as they
worked out knots and catches, brushing errant strands from his
youth-plump face. One hundred strokes every night by the old woman who
had smiled her worn old smile when he called her grandmother and tsked
in her dry voice that she was not his grandmother, just an old servant
of the family's, his caretaker. But always, her eyes had smiled at him
and her thoughts had been pleased.
As she brushed, she spoke, telling him stories in the cold winter
shadowlight beside the empty fireplace in their small stone home. For
every stroke, another line of a story, mixing together into a soft,
rhythmic lullaby till he merely drowsed in the stool before her chair.
In the stillness she wove stories as she unwove tangles, telling him
about the days before the wars when she had been a "mere slip of a
girl", about his mother whom he had never known and about the father he
rarely saw. She told tales of love and woe, of war and victory, of
horror and adventure, and, upon occasion, the odd fairy tale about cats
with boots and dogs with pipes.
He had loved the old woman.
Thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine ...
Brush to make it fine, to shimmer and shine, leaving only liquid fire
behind. Like a thousand tiny, thread thin lamps, shifting in a wave of
crystal, burning flame. A million lamps to light his hair, but only one
to set his world on fire.
His father's oil lamp. Slender and round bottomed, with thick, tinted
glass sides and a shallow, copper bowl for the new, refined, sharp
scented oil. A gift from a friend on the holiday, something that was
supposed to be simply ornamental, a pretty bauble to grace the mantle or
a low table. He remembered the tiny, twine wick that burst into
brilliant light when the match was set to it. A match he had lit that
one cold night, playing with things he shouldn't as he snuck into the
cupboard to steal some glazed gingerbread left over from Christmas Eve
while his father and the old women lay fast asleep in bed. In a burst
the wick had lit and the newborn flame licked at his ill-placed finger.
It fell in his childish startlement and fear, shattering into a wall of
flame on rug covered floor.
In fear - of the fire and the punishment should he awaken them that lay
so soundly - he had run, fleeing the house only to watch it turn to
flame ... and they to never wake again.
In the end, in the charred remains on the small stone house, in the
orange fire engines that screamed in the night ... he really was
Fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-three, fifty-four ...
Brush to make it soft, smooth like silk and satin, glossed like gold and
mirrors, a sheet of pure red gold to flash and dance, swishing softly at
every breath and movement, a counterpoint to every heartbeat, every
breath, a sound of silent life.
Crawford's glasses. Fragile, wire frames with pearl pattered rims and
softly triangular lenses, perched just so on a sharp nose, accenting
narrow, shrewd, gold eyes and errant strands of short, black hair. He
remembered Crawford pushing the glasses up his nose, catching the light
in a silver flash of stars and sun-dance, making the darkness of his
murky apartment vanish away.
Even now, when the glasses were laid to rest on the stand beside the
oracle's bed and the glimmering eyes closing in silent sleep, they were
a source of his fascination. A delicate, fragile thing, meant not for
fingers such as his or his teammates, made only for catching that
elusive thing made of light and dreams ...
And while they sat, Schuldich's breathing matched another's breath for
breath, blinking in sleepy satisfaction as the world became unfocused
and blurred, fuzzy as his eyes slid closed again in quiet contentment.
The sheets felt warm and soft against his bare skin as he turned, hazy,
unimportant thoughts flitting free inside his head. Then his breathing
slowed into sleep and the mind slid into the sweet world of dreams. In
the next breath Schuldich returned to his own mind and left Crawford's
to the peace of sleep.
Seventy-six, seventy-seven, seventy-eight, seventy-nine ...
Brush to make it smooth, like water and glass, porcelain and steel, to
caress the wearer with perfect satin strands, alive with light and fire
as a child with mischief and smiles.
Nagi's fingers. Long and slender, like delicate ivory spiders that
drifted over shimmering webs, bending and folding with liquid grace, yet
spindly and dry like bones, whispering with contentment as the old
woman's fingers had long ago. He remembered them clutching a gun to the
narrow chest, midnight eyes ashine with fear and the reflection of
fragile glass and wire, desperate in it's reversed attempt to defend.
The gun had twisted and snapped in the childish grip, shattered by the
fluttering fingers of power fueled by fear. In silence, the boy had
looked down, only to be caught in Schuldich's arms as the aftershock of
power left him a shell of cobwebs and ivory spiders, content to be
carried away into the flickering light.
Again Schuldich drifted, easing into the warm glow of accomplished work,
of hands that washed and dried each dirty plate with precise and
efficient skill, of sweet contentment at the normalcy of the chore.
Wide midnight eyes blinked slowly as each dish was stacked and put into
cabinets with careful hands. Dark bangs were puffed aside with
impatient lips as the glasses were put away. Then the sweet lips smiled
as all was put away and he stepped back to look at the now clean
kitchen. A goodnight whispered in Nagi's mind as he slipped away and
tipped his head to watch his own green eyes and wandering fingers.
Ninety-one, ninety-two, ninety-three, ninety-four ...
The brush clatters on the stand and hands lift to slide through copper
strands. A test of supple sensation as like flax they bend to the
weavers hand. Then the brush lifts again to slide through glowing
metallic bands. Shimmering bars as light plays across wave after wave,
red gold chains ...
Farfello's earring. Small and simple, a tarnished silver band in the
midst of many bands, unimportant in it's anonymity, special only because
it was first, dangling in the softest curve of flesh and skin. He
remembered it twisting in his fingers as he turned the scarred head to
face him, tugged without protest or fight as a bull by the ring, held
fast by tender bonds, but touched not by pain. Fingers had lifted to
break his hold, closing on a wrist with delicate design, only to forget
what it was to break as Schuldich slipped like a serpent into the
labyrinth of his mind. A bond that broke only when he moved his eyes,
emerald liquefying gold to honey, tempering the liquid orb with the
elusive grasp of sanity and of service.
Water splashed over pale, pale skin as once more Schuldich wandered the
halls of thought, feeling the pleasure at the damp and heat and the
thick smell of borrowed raspberry shampoo. A pleased sigh as hands
rubbed the rough, bristled brush from Schuldich's own stash over soap
scented skin, gouging away dirt and blood and sweat for the sweet feel
of raw and tingling flesh. Pouty lips curving into a smile as snow
white hair was shampooed and rinsed in the stinging, hot water that
cascaded from the shower head to drench him in delicious waves of heat
and sweet smelling steam. Silence except for water falling as he slid
as liquid from the satisfied maniac's mind.
One hundred ...
Brush to remember, brush to forget, brush to calm the soul, unknot the
pain as one unknots the hair, unravel the darkness as each tangle
becomes undone, find peace and rest as the task brushes every care away,
like water washing the skin and soul clean.
The brush settled itself quietly on the nightstand as he released it
carefully from his grasp and rose to move on silent feet to his waiting,
open bed and the embrace of waiting, pleasant dreams.
Weiss Kruez |