"I assume you dream, Preston?"
His partner came to him in dreams. Could only come to him in dreams.
Partridge was dead, killed by a neat red hole blown in his pale white throat by Preston's gun. By Preston.
He'd killed his partner and now his partner lived again in his dreams.
At first he'd appeared only as a corpse, dead white skin shrouded in lifeless white plastic, inanimate meat awaiting the burning heat of the city furnaces. He'd cried in his dreams that night and awoke shaking, wracked by unfamiliar emotions. All emotions were unfamiliar.
The next time Partridge came to him, he stood in the corner of a stark white room, clad in the austere black of his Cleric's uniform. He'd stared at Preston with sad green eyes, and Preston had felt the grief well up within him again. But this time grief had been accompanied by another emotion. Something that might have been regret, might have been longing. He opened his mouth to ask the question, certain that Partridge would understand, could explain, but no words had been possible. Partridge had only shook his head and faded away like the morning mist.
In the third dream, they were both in Mary's hidden room, white supplanted by reds and oranges and colours whose names had long been forgotten.
Partridge stood in the centre of that small sanctuary of colour and emotion, dressed in black pants and a green shirt that highlighted the emerald flecks in his eyes. He smiled at Preston, and Preston felt an unfamiliar tenderness well up inside him. He drew in closer to the other man, touched the hollow of his throat. The wound from his bullet was gone; unmarred white flesh was all his fingers encountered.
Tears pricked his eyes and he looked up to meet Partridge's gaze.
"I'm sorry," he said. And he really was. This time the word was not just a hollow platitude, not just a vestigial response remaining from a long-forgotten emotion.
The corners of Partridge's eyes crinkled as his smile broadened and then he moved forward, took Preston in his arms, kissed his mouth with a passion that Preston could now return. He held Partridge close and drank in the warmth of the other man's body, the comfort of the arms that surrounded him. Too soon, Partridge broke off the kiss. Too soon, he leaned in close to his ear.
"Remember me," Partridge whispered. The same words his wife had used. The words shared by the two people in this world that he loved. Both dead. Neither forgotten.
A final touch of his lips to Preston's forehead, and Partridge faded from view. And Preston awoke in his own bedroom, bereft of colour, bereft of warmth. But not bereft of emotion.
He would hold onto the love, hold onto the tenderness, even hold onto the grief. He would remember those who loved him.
And he would fight.
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