Night fell and when he hit the ground, he groaned. Day turned, smiling at him in a way that pissed Night off more than it made him glad to see her. He smiled back, a look probably just as aggravating as hers.
He shouldn’t be wasting time on smiles. All they had was a bit of twilight now and a little more time come morning when the darkness gave way to something brighter.
“Took you long enough.” Day sounded like she didn’t care that she was about to be yanked away from him again.
They’d spent their lives chasing after each other. Day into night. Night into day. He was getting damned tired of it. “I had things to do.”
“Other than me?” Her legs were open, her eyes were closed, and she looked a little bored with the whole thing.
“Well. Yeah.” It was a big fat lie. Not that there weren’t plenty of nighttime creatures that would be happy to entertain him, but he wasn’t drawn to them the way he was to her.
“Tick, tock.” She closed her legs and opened her eyes. When he didn’t move, she frowned. “You forgetting something?”
He folded his arms over his chest. “Nope.”
“I think you are.”
“Nope. Not a damn thing I’m forgetting to do.”
She pushed herself to her feet, strode over to him, and pressed her lithe body against his.
“Not tonight.” He pushed her away, and the scent of sweet tea brewed in the sun and lemons and a hint of rose followed her.
“Let’s just sit and watch the sun go down.”
“The sun’s down. It’s been down.” Her hands were roaming all over his body, a sweet touch if impatient. “And other things aren’t down, so let’s get to it.”
He’d never realized how shrill Day could sound when she didn’t get her way.
“I’m not in the mood.” He planted himself, sitting cross-legged on the ground, watching the spot where the sun would have been going down if it hadn’t already set.
“Not in the… what?” She sort of collapsed next to him, long, tanned legs spidering her into something resembling a lotus position. She started to laugh. “You’re just playing with me.”
“There isn’t enough time to play with you, Day. Maybe that’s the point.”
“We aren’t about time, Night. We never have been.”
“Well… I’m feeling a little used. I think I need to be treated with more respect.” He inched away from her. “All this ‘dark of night’ bullshit—what’s wrong with night? Perfectly nice time, if you ask me. Sky comes alive. Can’t ever see a shooting star during the day.”
“Can’t see a damned bat, either. I’d say it’s a wash.”
“Bats are good. They eat insects and bring us good things to drink.” He thought about the humble bat-pollinated agave plant, and a bottle of fine tequila materialized in his hand. He took a deep, loving swig before holding the bottle out to her. “Care for a belt?”
“Very funny. You know I prefer chardonnay.” She sighed. “Is it me? Have you grown tired of me?”
“Yeah. I’m sick to death of you, Day.” He felt sort of bad for her, looking so forlorn in the dying light—and so pretty. Even his irritation couldn’t prevent him from seeing that. She was warm and bright, her long hair gleaming a white-blonde counterpoint to her tanned skin.
She leaned up against him, steam rising where her warm body met his cool one. “It’s not my fault we come from different sides of the tracks. I didn’t ask to fall in love with you.”
He frowned. “You’re in love with me?”
She nodded and by the look on her face, she was being honest.
“Name the time you fell in love with me.”
“Well.” She waved her hand at him, as if he was a bee buzzing around her in the sunshine. “It was back when we met. You know. A while ago.”
“You’re not in love with me. You’re just afraid I’m all you’ve got.” Which he thought was stupid: there were all manner of daytime creatures who’d be happy to be with her. “You’re afraid that if you let go of me, you’ll have nothing.”
“My world is very full. Lots of people. Lots of birds flying and the bluest sky up above.”
“I’ll stick with a nice black sky, lit up with stars like little fireflies.” He took another pull from the bottle.
“Fireflies don’t do much. Just buzz on and off like they’re sending out Morse code.”
“Sound travels better at night.”
“Oh, bull. It’s just quieter at night. Easier to hear.” She leaned against him a little harder.
“Well, I like it quiet. And less crowded. Just me and the animals who mean business–people included.”
“Who mean bad business. Cruel business.”
“Nasty things happen during the day, too. I don’t have a monopoly on that.”
She reached for the bottle. “Now I’m depressed. I’ll be this way till dawn.”
“Well, join the club. I’ve been depressed for weeks.”
“It’s just…” She sighed as she pressed the bottle back into his hands. “It’s just that I miss you. We barely get started and we’re apart again. I wish…” She didn’t sound shrill, anymore. She sounded sweet and sad and like she meant it.
“I know. I wish, too.”
The last of the light was giving out. He pulled her close, held her, and hummed a song he’d learned from the coyotes.
“That’s pretty,” she said, her hand tight on his thigh.
“Not as pretty as you are.” It was true. All this velvety dark loveliness at his beck and call, and he dreamt of gold and white.
“I do love you,” she said. “I wasn’t lying.”
“I know.” He kissed her cheek where it met up with her hair and her neck. She smelled so good right there. Like everything he couldn’t have and would always want—no matter how useful the bats were or how sweet the coyotes sounded. “But you are stuck with me.”
“Works both ways, Night. Who knows what you’d choose if you didn’t have to follow me.”
“Yeah. Who knows?” But he knew he’d choose her. Because he did have to follow her. And because— “I love you, too.”
“Since when?” But her voice was soft and gentle, not scornful like he’d been earlier.
“Since forever.” Forever: that time stretching between now and when he’d see her again.
“I’ve gotta go,” she said; he could barely feel her hand on his leg.
“I know.” He’d been kissing her for eons. It seemed wrong not to kiss her properly this time, on her lips, with their mouths opening, warm and cool air mingling as they breathed each other in.
“I’ll see you in the morning.” Her lips touched down on his cheek, where it met his hair and his neck. She seemed to be breathing him in.
He wondered what he smelled like to her.
Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle. She has stories and poems published by: Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, Grimdark, She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror and others. She is editing an anthology, A Quiet Shelter There, which will benefit homeless animals and is due out in 2015 from Hadley Rille Books. See more at http://www.gerrileen.com.