For you, Charlie Homerding, Abby O. Akoto, and Chad Allen Zollinger.

He was there, on the edge of the cliff, the waves roaring and crashing around him, the rain pounding down and caressing his naked body, the wind howling, threatening to rip his wings off his back, a picture of absolute stillness amidst swirling chaos.

She approached him, tentatively, her hands wrapped around her chest, trying in vain to shield herself from the raging storm. Her heart ached just at the sight of him.

“Trent.” Even at this point, his name still had a familiar but exotic, warm but metallic tang on her tongue. Her heart bled and she gasped at the piercing pain.

“Gemma.” He acknowledged her monotonously, not even sparing a backward glance at her.

“I — ” She open her mouth to speak, but her voice died in her throat as her chest constricted hard around her heart. She gasped for air again, clutching her chest, blinking rapidly to fight the tears welling in her eyes.

“What?” It seemed like an eternity before he spoke.

“I — ” She started once again, but something in her came apart and she broke down into tears. He remained as still as ever, waiting until her heartbroken sobs subsided and quieted completely.

“Don’t leave me,” she blurted; then, before she even had a chance to register what she had just said, tears streamed down her cheeks, blinding her vision, bringing her down to her knees. She felt as if her heart was being shredded into tiny fragments, crumpled up, then drilled through. She gasped, choked, and coughed as her heart bled ceaselessly. She felt like she was going to die. No, she’d rather die than live through this for the millionth time.

“Trent,” she whispered through the rain of tears.

Almost at once, a pair of familiar, robust arms wrapped around her delicate frame. His clean, manly scent and warmth enveloped her, and she buried herself into his arms and cried as if she had never cried.

“Don’t leave me, Trent,” she sobbed into his chest. “Please.” She gripped those silken dark wings, savoring their unblemished, downy texture, breathing in the smell of him, trying to etch every single detail of him into her memory.

He caressed her, burying his face in the lush, thick, dark curtain of hair, kissing it softly and murmuring, “I have no other choice.”

“Why not?” She looked up at him with a tear-stained face.

“I…I just can’t, Gemma,” he stammered, avoiding her searching gaze. “It’s a reason you don’t really want to know about.”

She stared at him, trying to make something out of his inscrutable eyes. “Am I right in assuming that it isn’t about another girl?”

He gave a soft laugh, the laugh that filled her with happiness and the one she loved best. “You can be absolutely sure that I’m loyal to you.”

“Then why can’t you tell me this?” she whispered, holding his tanned face in her palms, forcing him to look into her eyes. “Please just tell me,” she beseeched. “I don’t want you to take this alone.”

“It really is something you do not want to know about,” he repeated, a little impatient.

“Please, Trent. At least just let me help you share this burden. It’ll be better for us both.”

Silence ensued.

“I’m sorry,” Trent said, rising abruptly, raising his head to the sky, “but I have to leave right now. It isn’t safe to discuss this here. Especially with you,” his eyes landed on her.

“Why not?”

“Because you’re a human.”

“So what?” She couldn’t help it, but her insides were on fire. “Just because I’m a human doesn’t mean you can’t tell me those things! It’s not like I’m going to tell anyone, let alone do anything about it!” Her breaths were short and urgent, and she dug her nails hard into her palm, her whole body shaking with fury.

“It’s just — ” he began to explain, but she cut him off.

“I don’t care, Trent. You’ve been hiding too much for me. I know you aren’t human” — she spat out the word — “but that doesn’t mean you can abandon me like this.”

“I’m not abandoning you — ” he attempted to explain, but in vain again. She was already on her feet, marching towards the edge of the cliff. He did nothing to stop her, just followed her with puzzled eyes. But, as he realized what she was going to do, his eyes widened in fear and shock and he quickly stepped towards her, calling her name frantically, “Gemma! Gemma!”

She ignored him, wiping tears from her face furiously.

“Gemma!” he called after her.

She readied herself on the edge, looking out and down at the thrashing black waves.

“Gemma!” He started to run.

She didn’t turn back. She raised her head, took a deep breath, then stared down, surprisingly calm, at the tumultuous blackness beneath.

“Gemma!” he yelled, just a step behind her now. He shot out an arm to grab her hand, but she moved swiftly away.

And then she jumped, welcoming the blackness beneath, his voice, shouting her name, ringing in her ears.


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