Dallas isn’t built to accommodate downpours like this. The gutters are overflowing into frigid puddles, sloshing around their ankles and soaking into their socks — but for once, Temoc is grateful for the rain.

“Don’t do this,” he breathes, like it could possibly begin to help. “Richard, please.”

If the other man gave a response, the howling midnight wind must’ve whisked it away. All Temoc can make out through glittering streetlights and the moon’s almond-sliver crescent are blue eyes, narrowing. Shoulders recede on themselves, posture bitter and unyielding, as if instead of two feet of wet concrete it’s a groaning chasm separating him from Temoc. From home.

“You know I have to,” he responds coldly.

“You don’t! We had something beautiful, how could you just throw it away like that?!”

Richard turns away, little black umbrella doing nothing to save his suit from the storm. The white hair at his temples is plastered to his scalp; Temoc remembers seeing that same look after morning showers, after summer days poolside, after the Northside leakages they’d cheerily done nothing about. He remembers when that hard, unflinching scowl used to be a soft smile, wrapped in the private hours of daybreak.

He remembers the spring of 1998, all magnolia blossoms and promise, when he’d met Richard for the first time and immolated in the spark between them. He remembers the decades since, awash in their whirlwind romance. It’s sour now, jagged and bleeding, trashed at his feet: all those years, all that love.

Temoc’s clenched fist slackens helplessly. Divorce papers flutter to the ground and steep in the streetwater.

“Didn’t I mean something to you?” And he’s shouting now, he can’t help it, because he thought this was forever. He still remembers how Richard’s hand felt in his when he’d promised him ‘Forever, Temoc, you and me.’ “Don’t I matter? You sweet-talked me for years but now you won’t even hear me out?!”

“Temoc,” Richard sighs. “Please.”

Temoc is grateful for the rain, a perfect disguise for his white-hot tears.

“You said you loved me! My thoughts, my ideas, my willingness to stand up for what’s right — you told me, over and over, I always believed—”


Temoc flinches. Richard whirls around.

“I like your ideas when they’re about engineering,” he growls, canines gleaming in the lowlight. “Not social justice. Over twenty years and you still couldn’t get that through your head — that’s why it’s come to this. Now sign the papers and get out of here.”

Temoc bends to pick up the drenched papers, flicking through pages of bleeding ink without reading a word. His vision swims, his inhales keep shuddering. He wants to wake up from the nightmare.

“Sign,” Richard insists, offering a pen. And because Temoc can’t help but trust him even now, he signs.

Only then does he see the clause that will end his life.

“Th-the rocks!” he gasps. “You just made me sign away the Spirit Rocks!”

Richard smiles, but it’s not the summer-sunshine smile Temoc cherishes. It’s cruel and cold and calculating, tactic and strategy where there used to be warmth.

(Or was there ever warmth? Was Temoc’s own flaming hair the only heat between them? How long had Richard despised him so thoroughly like this?)

“They’re all I have,” he tries to beg, before Richard rips the signed contract out of his hands. “Please, you can’t — you can’t do this, I’ll do anything, just don’t take the rocks. We can negotiate partial custody, just let me have weekends—”

Three Enarcs rumble past, spraying floodwater on Temoc until he’s shivering. There’s one Spirit Rock each suspended in their chains. Richard pockets the contract wordlessly, not even sparing them a glance.

“Where are you taking them?”

“I think it’s time you leave.”

“Please, just tell me — where are you taking my children?!”

A mocking scoff, almost inhumane. “You can find scraps of their paint in the new Student Union’s walls… if you’re lucky.”

Temoc crumples to his knees. Richard turns away again, finality and purpose hard in his shoulders, a self-satisfied smirk on the pale lips Temoc used to adore. He looks downright proud, as if this has been a long time coming.

As if this was his plan all along: lure Temoc in, learn his dirty secrets, then destroy him and everything he cares about.

Temoc bawls.

Richard doesn’t spare a glance over his shoulder as his form disappears into the endless night. His voice just barely carries over the howling rain, the freezing wind:

“Best whooshes.”