“You don’t want to care the way I do,” She said quietly, “No one does.” He laughed at first, until he saw the look on her face and realized that she was serious. “What makes you think that?” He asked, curiously. She grimaced, “Because it’s hard and it hurts and it always costs more than it returns.” A spasm of annoyance crossed his face as he quipped, “Oh, I see, and it’s about the return, is it?” She shook her head, indicating dissent, “Not really, though it does seem that is always the first and favorite reaction when I say it.”
She looked him directly in the eye and asked, bluntly, “Are you really unable to think of any other reason? More over, why is that one the first you come up with?” Her gaze sharpened as she drove the point home, “Are you asking me what I am motivated by, or are you telling me what you are?” She leaned in slightly, “Why is it that suspicion and cynicism are always the first resort?” He blinked as the realization of what she was implying reached him; he leaned back and away from her as his thoughts turned inward to consider it. She waited, the sadly determined look on her face communicating all too clearly that this was not a conversation to be taken lightly, “Can you think of no other reason why giving unceasingly, with no return, might eventually become impossible?”
He blushed and hung his head, “Yeah, I get it.” Her voice, arch with question, mumured, “Do you? What, precisely, do you get?” He murmured softly, “I’m sorry,” His face rising as he met her gaze with his own, “I know what you are saying and yes, I know that hurts. I can understand why it becomes impossible and I wish I could say there is a thing in the world I can do about it.” He shifted his position on the rock and curved his shoulders, shrinking into himself, trying to make himself small before her, “I am sorry that I have to be like the rest of the world in this.” She immediately looked contrite, “That wasn’t at all what I meant or intended; surely you know this?” His face flooded red as he nodded, “I know. But that’s my point. Look at you…. the minute you think I hurt, you give yourself away to try and heal it.” He looked miserable as he gazed at her, “I could no more keep you from doing that than I could stop breathing,” He sighed, “It hurts to have this from you when I have nothing to give in return. It makes me feel craven and selfish and impotent all at once.”
She blinked and rocked back slightly at the admission, “Is that it?” Her voice dropped and shifted, approaching something akin to awe, “Good grief, is that really it? How stupid I am.” He glanced up, curious and openly unknowing, “Is what ‘really it’?” She was no longer actively listening, he could tell. Her eyes were veiled and her expression held that stillness that he knew meant she was browsing the infinite library; shuffling papers and racing through internals and mnemomics as she cross-referenced, analyzed, and made marks to match shapes and patterns somewhere in the deep reference room there, inside herself.
It was no surprise to him when she smoothly stood and absently waved goodbye, walking slowly and somewhat like an automaton as she departed. He watched her leave and shook his head, shrugging lightly; there were a great many things he never got to know of her because she was unable to speak coherently when she was working like this. He had grown used to it; her odd ways and lightning intuitions; there was nothing to do except wait for her to return and wonder if, when she did, she would have a story for him; something that would convey recent findings in a way that would make sense to him.
Somewhere, over the horizon of his awareness, he could hear the wooden echoes of doors opening and cabinets being reviewed. His attention wandered from it, returning to the world and things of it that made sense to him; the river’s soft cooing, the sound of wind upon tall grasses, the feeling of the sun sinking into his skin. He smiled; all was well with the world.