Prompt: "Who Are You?"

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{1st 25 minutes}

Scarlet's eyes flew open. She looked surprised. No, terrified. She coughed and coughed. She shook the table.

The necromancer pulled her up to sitting and began to thump her back with his wrinkled old hands.

"What are you doing?" Vincent demanded. He ran to her.

"The air in her lungs has been stagnant for years, boy. She has fluid to cough up or she'll suffocate."

Scarlet, now bent forward, continued to cough, her head between her bent knees, her face reddened from the exertion of it. Her breath came in gasps. Finally, she sat up straighter, chest still heaving.

She turned to the necromancer. "Who are you?"

Vincent nervously cleared his throat and she turned to look at him. Her eyes were red now, but the color of her face was going back to normal. It was good just to see her take on the color of the living again, rather than the paleness of death. She was just as beautiful as he'd remembered, maybe even more so. Her eyes shone with tears. She was staring at him.

"He's the necromancer I hired to bring you back."

Scarlet's brow furrowed. "And who are you?"

His breath caught. He felt as though he'd been punched in the chest. Maybe this wasn't Scarlet after all. Maybe the necromancer had put the wrong soul into her body.

"Vincent," he said at last, averting his gaze to the corner. "My name is Vincent."

Something hit the floor then, and he glanced up just in time to see Scarlet jump toward him. She crashed into his chest and wrapped her arms around him.

"My one good deed," she cried into his ear. "My one good deed has saved me!"

She squeezed him with a ferocity he'd never dreamed possible. It hurt. How could a woman who had been dead three years be this strong? He'd expected it would take her a while to get her strength back, that he might have to nurse her back to health and help her regain some lost muscle.

She breathed on his neck, and he shivered. He wrapped his arms around her. She still felt a bit cool, but warmer than she had every time he'd gone down to the crypt to visit her these last three years.

Something wet touched his neck. She'd kissed him! A stupid grin spread across his features.

He looked up toward the necromancer, but the old man was already puttering around his workbench and putting [things] away. Vincent couldn't see his face, just the fluffy white hair that poofed on the back of his otherwise bald head. He'd never looked so wonderful.

Scarlet pushed Vincent back then. "Let me look at you."

He stepped back but kept his hands on her arms. It didn't feel real. Some part of him thought that if he let go of her, she'd disappear, and he'd wake up from this pleasant dream to find his world as it had been three years ago, shattered and broken, wrong.

She looked thoughtfully up at him, cocking her head to the side. Had she always been so short?

{At this point, my timer went off, but I wanted to keep wring, so I set another one. It took about 20 minutes to finish the scene.}

"How long have I been dead?" she asked. There was something in her eyes he'd never seen before. Disappointment? Fear.

"Three years," he said.

She covered her mouth with her hand. She retained her chipped ruby nail polish from the day she'd died. Vincent couldn't bring himself to take it off of her, and he couldn't go back to their old home to get the bottle, not when the emperor was watching the place.

The tears he'd seen in her eyes before spilled down her cheeks. His heart sank. He'd taken too long.

"I'm sorry, miss," he said. He wanted to step forward and wipe her tears away. He debated it.

Scarlet coughed again and wiped her face with her sleeve. "You've grown so much," she said, "I'm sorry I missed it." She touched his face. "You can even grow a real beard now."

A realization hit him then. No wonder Scarlet hadn't recognized him! He should have shaved before coming to raise her.

"It looks good on you," she said, letting her hand fall back down by her side.

The necromancer coughed then. Vincent and Scarlet glanced his direction.

"If you two lovebirds could take your things and clear out---"

"Lovebirds!" Scarlet exclaimed.

"You're not lovers then?" The necromancer raised his eyebrows.

Scarlet shook her head. "Vincent is my ward."

The necromancer gave Vincent a look that made him color. He hoped that Scarlet couldn't decipher it.

"In any case," he said again, "Could the two of you get going? Unless you have someone else for me to raise, our business is done, and I have to get ready for another client."

"Of course," Vincent said. He snatched Scarlet's hand even as he hast the necromancer a look that said, If you ever tell her how I worshiped her in death, I'll kill you and every other necromancer I can find, just to keep them from bringing you back.

The necromancer shrugged.

"Let's go," Scarlet said.

Vincent collected his satchel from beside the corner. They walked arm-in-arm out of the necromancer's lair and into the alleyway beyond.


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