Summary: Sometimes they just get tired.
He is weeping.
She does not know where his mind is, nor does she search for it. Times like this he does not want to be found.
She eavesdrops on thoughts that are tied and indistinct and take no clear course, and he thinks in a language that makes her nervous, though it occupies hollow spaces and amuses cracked corners and scatters the dust.
From across the room, bleary eyed and unfocused he watches her fluid links rise and fall. Up, down, up. She whispers, follows his breath. In, out. Imprecise, keeping time to numerous rhythms.
He is not calm and she does not ask him to relax. But his mind is loud and it is late and he is tired, so tired, and she knows best (though, he does not admit to that kind of rout).
His eyes grow cloudy so she dims her lights.
He wipes his glistening cheeks with the back of his hand, takes a few steps forward. Her running boards highlight his dragging feet and the incentive he ignores to stand up straight.
She notes the scuff marks defacing the tips of his sneakers, the flecks of mud that cling to the hems of his trousers, the arthritic ‘click’ that his right heel makes as he walks, drags, stops. The nagging urge to sit down, his habitual refusal, the tension at the back of his thighs, the humorous notion drifting skyward that her cold metal floor would be ideal. She encourages him.
He pushes his back against her, and she welcomes his exhaustion, sighing against the taut muscles between his shoulder blades. They are sinewy. Tough. Difficult to reach. Everything about his body is difficult.
His vertebrae press into her walls, and she wishes he wouldn’t classify them as such; follows his tailbone up the curvature of his spine, unraveling vibrations on tender bone. He leans into her, and she works at that tension at the backs of his thighs. His thoughts confess weaknesses- or so he labels his amenability to the touch, the trust. Their trust.
His knees buckle and she takes this as nothing more than gratitude.
He catches himself, quickly pressing his hands against her, propping himself, steadying himself, saturating the cold, uncomfortable leaching of sweat from his palms. He makes gentle contact, because he does not want her to feel him trembling, does not want her to follow the faults in his wrists up the arms that are, at present, unwilling to hold the weight of the world.
He is sick with worry, but worry is an emotion she appreciates, because worry gives newfound life to bravery. When he is feeling brave, necessity beleaguers him and motivation makes him feel independent of her support. She does not have to usher carefully after him, making sure he does not stumble or slip into sleep or daydream and misplace his priorities. She, unfortunately, is not on that list of priorities. She is nothing but a tool, a possession, a contrivance. He thinks of her as much as he thinks of himself. …On occasion.
“Oh nonsense,” he mumbles quietly, eyes closed, tranquilized. He turns his head and nuzzles his cheek over her cool, smooth surface. “I can’t stop thinking about you…”
She blushes with a surge of heat and respectfully marks his sarcasm.
“We were both worried for a minute there, weren‘t we?” He smiles against her, raising the side of his mouth, crinkling his cheek, tickling her. She does not conceive of laughter.
His hearts have slowed, though they continue to boom soundly, adding another rhythm to the chorus of rhythms, ancient and comforting. Her machinery quiets behind the back of his ribcage and she monitors the corporeal flow of blood cells that is unusual and exhilaratingly familiar. Wires pump through her and he sympathizes, and fleetingly- terrifyingly- she knows those hearts are beating voluntarily.
She needs him close.
He is a power source.
They have had this argument before.
He strokes her, stretching his fingers, and she watches the delicate network of bones fan and shift beneath his skin.
She longs to touch him back.
She is put off by the foreign synthetics that he covers himself with- clothing that is a part of their charade. She wants him to be naked like she yearns to be free of the disguise- the casing- that she is trapped in. She is often invidious, jealous of the “maintenance” he can give himself when he can only make muddled efforts to fix her properly. He can dress himself, wash himself, primp himself, bandage himself, repair her, reboot her, tweak her, fine-tune her; but they both need healing.
She realizes how weary she is- how weary they are. At one time they were a part of an invigorating whole, but now they are only an aliquot, a decimal, insignificant. Two minds, one mind, tangled, repeating.
“Shush now,” he says, finding the courage to stand up straight. His eyelashes flutter almost impalpably across her shell as he holds her close. “You’ve got me.”
Yes, she agrees. For now.