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if not, winter

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It was January in the Fade.

Snow fell, or-- rose. It wasn’t meant to go that way. She thought hard. She couldn’t remember what snow was meant to do.

The snow fell. Or the people rose.

If the snow was rising, surely the people were falling

The people were not where they should’ve been. She turned around in the sky. She was going in circles; she passed the cloud with the ears five minutes ago.

Cloud with the ears?

She squinted.

There was a face, then, and it was familiar: someone quietly sad, and old, in the way that books or stars were old. All the important parts broke away from her and flew off on wings.

She made to chase them, but she couldn’t leave the face.

She couldn’t know who the face was until she caught the… birds, maybe.

She tried to take the face with her.

If she had put her hand any further inside the thing, she might have fainted. As it was, she was pushed down from above, and fell out of the sky a second time.

And suddenly, she had feet. The bottoms were pressed to the ground as though they had done that all her life.

At her side: a livelier ghost.

“Are you alright?” He didn’t touch. She wished he would, the silly man.

She shook her head once, then he did.

And she wasn’t adrift anymore. The world made sense. She stared up at him.

“It is a common occurrence for those who are not accustomed to the Fade.” He said.

She blinked the shapes out of her vision, “Well, what the fuck was it?”

He smiled like he knew a secret. “Vertigo.”

Now she remembered. They were in dreams. He brought her to Haven, and inside was all wrong because none of the doors lead where they were supposed to. 

The snow still fell upwards.

She noticed it tremble when they talked, white flakes oscillating. It stood to reason that without wind they couldn’t be moved by much else -- they mirrored sound.

The sky above them was torn still, a million shades of green. He said she changed everything. She didn’t believe him.

But she was still tethered by his hand on her elbow, and she wanted to.

This once, she could open her chest. This once, she could let him see her bones, her blood, and all the things that bound her together. He might one day offer her the same courtesy if she did.


He looked at her sideways.

“I lied, before. About my name… It’s Inara.” It dug claws into her throat, and she was afraid; could he have known me before? Could he have been that kind of man? A name she knew once intimately now had all the framework of autumn leaves, floating down from trees to crumble on the still lake. 

Quietly, she said, “I shouldn’t have told you that.”

He let the confession sit between them for a long while. Then, “Why did you?”

She tried to catch a snowflake in her hand. They couldn’t fall onto it.

“I wanted to kiss you. But I didn’t think it would be fair unless you knew at least part of who I was.”

Where she thought she would feel something, she didn’t. That place inside her sat empty aside from herself, and she didn’t count.

But something fluttered, maybe. She still wanted him to want her, and he wasn't a simple man, but he didn’t run either.

“Do you still want to?” He stayed looking off somewhere distant.

“Want to what?”

“Kiss me.”

She blinked at him. In the subtle pinkness of his ears, she found what she needed.

She turned him to her and allowed herself to seek his lips, and when he breathed life into her, felt him push back one of the little pieces of her to where it belonged.

It wasn’t January. It was May.