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Lives of Brief Duration

by Northlight

Title: Lives of Brief Duration (1/1)

Author: Northlight


Summary: The first two children are always killed.

Spoilers: Medium is the Message, Exposure, Love Among the Runes.

Rating: R.

Distribution: If you want, take.

Disclaimer: Cameron and Eglee.

Date: August 7, 2002.

Note: Inspired by the "defining moments" challenge. Explanations for the story's content itself can be found at

He remembered: Friday afternoon, his backpack slung over his shoulders. Racing down the street, suburban maple trees casting shadow and sun latticework across the pavement. The edge of his math book striking the small of his back every time a sneaker-clad foot hit the pavement.

A voice. High and thin: "Ames! Wait up, Ames!"

CJ, lagging behind him. Knees dark with smudged blood and dirt because he'd fallen again. Useless, Ames thought. He stopped. Didn't turn around and didn't look at CJ when he finally caught up and stood still, gasping for breath.

Never forgave Dad for letting CJ live. Never understood why he did, except--


At first: Careful with Wendy. She was delicate and frail. Unrelentingly human. Sometimes--did she realize?--he saw edgy unease in the shape of her shoulders, the stiffness of her thighs. Dumb animal reaction, he thought. He loosened his mouth. Softened his voice.

He kissed her with dry square lips. She blinked at him. She had been chosen for him so he learned to set aside his distaste. He held the back of her head, strands of hair tangled in his fingers, and did not crush her skull. He set lips and tongue to work against hers and Wendy sank in towards his body.

Her mouth tasted like oranges.


He remembered: Snake venom boiling in his veins. Sharp steel pain growing inside hotweaktiredpleasepleaseplease body. Had to prove himself. Touched the mark on the inside of his arm, bit his lip. Did not scream beg plead die and he was strong. Worthy.

CJ wasn't. Mom wrapped her arms around CJ's thin shoulders. Dad screamed behind closed doors. Later, he touched CJ's bent head and kissed Mom. Soft. Gentle. The next day they were gone.

"CJ wouldn't have survived the ceremony," Dad said, solemn.

Ames sipped his orange juice. Humiliated. Ashamed. And did not understand. Never understood, except--


He knew: Babies had soft skulls.

Sophie's small loose mouth opened wetly, stretched, closed. Ames stared down at her, lips slanted. Sophie blinked back up at him, placid.


"Fe'nos tol," he told her. Reminded himself. "For the children."

His hand shook. He stilled it. Sophie's mouth was wet against his palm. He held her until she stopped squirming. He held her until her tiny chest fell and did not rise again. Sophie had been born with fine black hair. It felt smooth and soft when he cupped the back of her head and held her to his chest.

"Fe'nos tol," he said.

Sophie. Sophie, he thought. He put her back in the crib. Went back to his bedroom and lay beside Wendy until she rose and screamed and ran to him with Sophie pressed to her breasts.


It was late when Ames came home. Wendy was sitting in the dark. He paused, hand on the light-switch, and left the lights off. She curled against him when he went to her.

"I'm happy," she said, "so happy." Crying into his neck. "We're going to have another baby."

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Northlight

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