"Open your eyes. It won't hurt I promise."
Dallieh hesitated. It was bright and it was warm. He didn't recognize the voice of the man who was somewhere before him. He had been asleep. He had been dreaming about the sun. Now he slowly became aware of birds singing in the trees, different birds than those that lived where he had been, and the soft feel of a blanket below his knees padding the earth beneath him.
Where had he been? He had been dreaming but not quite asleep. He had been talking to someone that he could hear in his mind. He had confessed something. He had said something... He opened his eyes.
He did not recognize where he was as a place that he had been before. It was a field that was drenched in sunlight with great ancient trees that stretched to the sky. He took in his surroundings, afraid to move, afraid that the slightest twitch of a muscle would set off the turmoil he should be feeling, the pain of burning, and the agony of what it was to be a child of the night.
The man before him moved before Dallieh brought him into focus, casting his eyes down to the blanket between them.
Now Dallieh felt badly for his apprehension as he was sure he must have worn it upon his face as clearly as the man before him now wore his disappointment. There was something else though. Dallieh stretched before curling his legs under himself and parting his lips to speak.
"How did I get here?"
"You asked to come, in your own way... perhaps not to this place specifically, but here."
"So you did this? You are the reason that I am here?"
"No. You are the reason you are here. I just happened to be listening."
"You speak in riddles."
"Well, my name is Ridley, Dallieh... All I did was make it so you could get what you wanted. This is what you wished for: to see the sun and feel it upon your skin, to watch it pass from day to night one more time with your own eyes."
"But there's more. You're hiding something from me aren't you?"
"Tell me what it is, Ridley."
"What is the catch. Why are you doing this?"
"I am doing it because you asked. I don't expect anything from you." Ridley's voice cracked as he spoke expressing more than he had meant to say.
"I don't believe you. You could incinerate me in a matter of a moment by simply halting... this... but you expect me to go on good faith that you have no other intentions. I just want to know why." Dallieh rose to his knees and then stood, not allowing a reaction from the bewildered man before him.
"Wait! Where are you going?"
"Not far... are you coming?"
"..." Ridley was unsure of how to react as he watched the raven's gliding footfalls carry him some distance away to rest himself in the sun against a gnarled tree. He didn't move a muscle when Ridley joined him or show any indication that he was attentive until Ridley spoke.
"I did it because I thought it would make you happy. I could feel your longing. I thought if I could do this one thing... it might please you."
"Please me... Ridley. I don't understand why you would care to. Why me? surely there are others that are worth your attention."
"Perhaps, but you were the one who was most moving... and you were screaming. I wanted to make you happy. Have I?"
"Yes... Is this place real?"
"As real as that truck is."
"You can make me not burn up during the day, I'm pretty sure making a truck would be easy."
"I am pretty sure I could think of a few better things than a truck to create if I could just make things all willy nilly."
"This really is amazing. It's so warm. I haven't felt this warm in so long..."
"It is almost a perfect day."
"Almost... I am getting tired. There are consequences for what I am doing."
"Ridley, what's wrong?"
"I had just hoped that I could see the look on your face when the sun set. It was what you had wanted, but I don't know if I can stay here long enough..."
"Don't sacrifice yourself for me. I don't need to see it."
"You will see it either way... it is me who won't be able to see you in the last moments before the darkness... which is what I had most wanted." Ridley crumpled against the tree before Dallieh could catch him.
"It's OK... so long as you are happy, that I gave you just this one thing... it's OK"
"No it's not! It's not OK with me at all that you should give me this and not get what you had wanted when it was something so small."
"I wish that I could remain, but it must not be meant to be, or I would have lasted longer. I will return to the place that I came from until I am stronger... but by then, all of this will be over and you will be gone."
"That's not fair! I don't want to see this alone if it means that you will diminish. I wish you could stay. I wish that you could see this with me and just be here for one more moment. I don't want to be alone..." Dallieh's words came in a panic and blood rose in his eyes before he regained control and opened them to look at the man he thought must have surely disappeared.
"What did you say?"
"I said I wish that you could stay!"
"That was all you had to say..."
Dallieh closed his eyes and bowed his head. He could feel that Ridley was watching him... the light pressure of his hand upon his leg and the warmth of his body beside him. This was the first time that Dallieh wasn't afraid... not of what he was or what he'd do. Some how he was just a man and not a monster here in the growing dusk. Around this one person, there was no fear. It was what he had always wanted and now he was too daunted to look into those burning green eyes. What could he possibly give to someone who had already given him so much and nearly sacrificed himself for one shared moment of his time. There was nothing.
"You're missing it..." Ridley still sounded drained. All he had to do was open his eyes. Just give him that moment. It was the least that he could do. It was all he had left to give... himself. He was not prepared for what returned his gaze.
"What are you doing to me?"
"It's not in my power to do anything to you..."
"But you are doing something.... I can't think straight."
"You smell like the night... did you know that?"
"And you taste like honey and so many other things that break my heart."
"Shut up, Ridley..." Dallieh closed his eyes forcing air into his lungs, breathing in the breath that left the lips that were not even an inch away from his own. His head was spinning and it felt like the only thing keeping him steady was the warmth of the man in his hands. Against every bit of sanity he had, he leaned in again greedily before pulling away, stepping back from the feral edge he could feel deep within his chest. He let the air out of his lungs heavily before he allowed himself to once more enter Ridley's space and leaned his forehead against his.
"You were made for someone else. You aren't mine. You aren't going to be mine. You will never love me... but you keep looking at me like that and I can't stop. I have to touch you. I have to feel how warm you are. I have to know you. You are amazing... I hope you know what you are doing. I hope you know how much this hurts. I hope you know I'll remember this forever."
He was already on his feet. The sun had set around them and the cool of the growing gloom did nothing to chill his nerves. One by one a billion stars illuminated in the silence around them. Dallieh could feel that he was still there, just breathing and giving him space yet always touching.
What was it that he'd said. What was it that he had said when he had been half asleep? How had Ridley heard it? Then it struck him. He had been screaming. He had been wishing with all of himself to be warm. He wanted things to be the way that they had been before... before the blood and the pain. He wanted to remember what it felt like to watch the sun set and feel a night without fear.
One of the stars landed beside him and illuminated the tree with its firelight.
"Are you feeling any better?" He glanced down trying to gauge Ridley's expression in the darkness.
"Are you doing this?"
"No, but I wish I could Dallieh."