She was a shadow and a whisper in his mind, chitter-sharp spine and red lights in the green steaming dark, promising the impossible, the unthinkable, what he had shied away from all his life--unity. Oh, how he feared it--Beverly kept at arm's length for years upon years, Nella dismissed for professional reasons, Vash given his body, into her slender grinding hips, but never his heart, and so on, and so on. Nobody could touch him. Nobody could know him. Even his friends brushed off, crusted away, at all but the most crucial moments. Even with Guinan, the closest, deep and unfordable gulfs of mystery, for Guinan in her nature did not strive for unity. No bodies melting, no souls billowing together until the boundaries between them roiled and forced their ways within--that would be the stuff of poetry, of Shakespeare, of distant dreams and perfection. That would never be for him.

She waited for so long, slick black gloves spread wide in welcome. The temptation, sweet in his mouth, painful to resist, cracking him open. The yearning for unity like knives in his skin, drills in his eyeballs, his body stretched tight in agony. Resistance, still, sheer stubbornness, to deny the allure of what he'd always wanted yet never let himself have. Such a strict man she would whisper. So small you will be, if you do not let yourself go. Open for me. Come for me. Be one with me. She would whisper. And yet he resisted. A single tear.

She showed him himself. A double-sided mirror--the same set jaw, same royal hawk of a nose. One reflection blue-green dead, weighed down with all the tubes and whirring servos that pumped his most secret dream all through his body, against all will and reason, and linked his brain in unity to a universe of thought; and his eye was hollow. One reflection pink and gaunt and suspended in the agony of a betrayal not yet made, as of yet unbroken, and his eyes were as lonely as the last star at the edge of the universe, and tiring, and weakening, and yielding, a terrible will destroyed, a terrible asceticism seduced, until all he wanted was to fall into another, to no longer be cut off.

And she gave it to him. Unity. Unity, his hand on his face, living flesh against veins beating with nanoprobe soup, a clicking claw against the vulnerable curve of his cheek. Her body clicked and hissed against his back, two backs, no backs, hand sliding over his hip--for three dimensions did not matter to her and the man she seduced to destruction, the moth becoming one with the flame. And the moth becoming one with itself--the weak and the strong, the denier and the denied, warm fingers tugging down the corner of a cold mouth ever so slightly, and a catch of breath in a throat that still spoke with a single voice, ragged and wanting to the point of tears.

And then she was gone, drawn back, to watch the final moves of her game play out; and he was one, one with himself, naked human body pressed against insect black and flashing lights, and his tongue sliding along the cold steel roof of his mouth, and his legs shaking and his blind eye crying as his soul throbbed desperate and violated against the great chorus and itself, until the boundaries broke, all spilling out, and he fell to his knees in surrender with one last wrenching lonely cry.

Unity. One. Locutus.


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