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Posted as [livejournal.com profile] serenissima, March 30 2007, for the New Year's Resolutions Challenge in [livejournal.com profile] yuletide.



Title: He Kindly Stopped For Me
Author: serenissima
Recipient: Keswindhover
Fandom: Terry Pratchett - Discworld
Rating: G
Summary: "Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each/ Feels shorter than the day/ I first surmised the horses' heads/ Were toward eternity." - Emily Dickinson
Love, Death, and Curry. Crossover with Neil Gaiman's Sandman.
Written For: New Year Resolutions 2007

Author's Notes: Due to the potential confusion caused by an excess of anthropomorphic personifications, the Discworld variant will be delineated by full capitals, thus DEATH and the Sandman variant will be delineated by a single capital, thus Death. Of course, this is helped by the fact that former is male and the latter is female.

They met during an inter-dimensional crisis, as one does. One of those occasions where some megalomaniac breaks the space-time continuum and multiple realities begin to bleed into one another, thus creating the logical basis for two anthropomorphic personifications of death from different universes to meet.

What struck him most about her was how sensible and cheerful she was. It reminded him a bit of his granddaughter Susan, or rather the woman that Susan might become once she stopped worrying about her powers or her future or being Normal. For despite her girlish appearance, there was no mistaking the fact that Death was old - older than solar systems and worlds and time, and that just as she was among the first, she would be the last to leave at the end of everything. But despite this, she had developed the ability to carry her burdens lightly, with good humour and grace.

What struck her most about him was how kind and conscientious he was. Despite his intimidating appearance, he was a gentle being, and because he truly cared for every creature on the Disc, he fulfilled his duties with thoughtful diligence. But she could not help but also notice how lonely he was, for with his daughter and former apprentice gone and his granddaughter trying to build a life of her own, he had no one but the Death of Rats, the Raven, and his elderly manservant Albert for company.

Maybe it was that gentle sadness that clung to him, or the old fashioned and gentlemanly way he bid her goodbye ("IT HAS BEEN VERY NICE MEETING YOU. IT'S NOT OFTEN I AM ABLE TO SPEAK WITH SOMEONE IN MY LINE OF WORK, OR AT LEAST, NOT MORE THAN ONCE. I TRUST YOU WILL KEEP WELL, AND PERHAPS WE MIGHT MEET AGAIN SOMETIME?"), which led her to look him up again, a few years later, when a backfiring magical spell gave her a free afternoon, just to say hello. It wasn't as difficult as you might think to do so - Death's realm being infinite and DEATH'S Realm also being infinite, it stood to reason that one Realm connected to another, eventually, if you knew where to look. Albert was a bit surprised by her arrival, as they didn't get many visitors in those parts, but once he had recovered, he was happy enough to show her in and fix her a cup of tea.

"I'm afraid that the Master's out, but he should be back soon, Miss. Busy with duties as always, especially at this time of the year." He passed her a plate of fresh baked cookies. "What about yourself?"

"Oh, I'm allowed the occasional afternoon off to visit a friend. Things will tick along fairly well without me for a little while." She bit the head off a gingerbread man. "Say, these are really good."

"Wish it was the same for the Master, but every time he's tried to take so much as a holiday, it all goes a bit crazy around here. And there was that one time..."

"INDEED, IT WAS NOT A PLEASANT SITUATION. AND THAT IS TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG." DEATH carefully placed his scythe in the umbrella stand. "OH. HELLO THERE. HAVE YOU BEEN KEEPING WELL?"

"I'm doing well, thanks. I've been enjoying a cup of tea and one of Albert's excellent cookies." Death offered up the plate. "Would you like one?"

"YES, THANK YOU." DEATH nibbled on a cookie. "I DO NOT EAT VERY OFTEN, ALTHOUGH I AM PARTIAL TO THE OCCASIONAL CURRY."

"Mmm, I love Indian food. We should have dinner together sometime, I know this great place in New York near the Natural Science museum - I mean, that is, if you're not too busy."

"WELL, IT IS THE RAINY SEASON, BUT I THINK I MIGHT BE ABLE TO MANAGE."

And that was how it began. He came over for a curry in New York, and later to visit her realm, where he met the goldfish, Slim and Wandsworth. She came back to visit Mon Repos, where she exchanged chocolate-chip cookie recipes with Albert, met the Death of Rats, who adored her ("SQUEAK!") and went for a ride on Binky to DEATH'S favourite Indian restaurant in Pseudopolis, followed by a drink at Biers, where the clientele studiously ignored the pretty foreign girl with the silver ankh who spent most of the evening chatting animatedly and laughing - laughing! - with what was alternately a darkness that the eye couldn't focus on, and alternately a seven foot tall skeleton that everyone knew better than to ask questions about. The next Hogswatch, he even invited her over to a 'family supper' that included Susan, Alfred, and a selection of somewhat unconventional pork products. ("Well, at least he's *trying* to get into the spirit of things again. It's just, I don't think he really understood about the sausages..." Alfred muttered to Susan while sneaking a smoke in the kitchen. "I suppose." Susan shook her head doubtfully "But, she did say the 'hot dogs' were unlike anything she'd seen before.")

That night, as he was dropping her off at the entrance to her realm, she turned to him and said "Thank you. You have no idea how much it means to be able to talk with someone who understands..."

"...THE DEMANDS OF THE JOB. AND YES, I THINK I DO KNOW HOW MUCH IT MEANS." Carefully, he placed a skeletal hand over her pale one. "INDEED, I SUSPECT I FEEL MUCH THE SAME."

"But, it's just really nice, you know? To be so comfortable around someone. To be myself without the burden of being myself. I've never really known what that was like before." And then, she leaned up (on tiptoe, as he was quite tall) and kissed him on one bony cheek.

It is generally forbidden for the Endless, or for any other anthropomorphic personification, for that matter, to fall in love and form romantic relationships with other beings: humans, gods, muses, demons, angels, etc. More than that, it usually ends in tragedy for all concerned. However, there is a little known exception for other anthropomorphic personifications, as the matter is largely irrelevant - in her universe, they are all related to each other, and in his, he is unique. However, when Albert caught his master examining himself critically in the mirror, and found himself being asked, "TELL ME, DO YOU THINK THESE ROBES MAKE ME LOOK TOO THIN?" he could not but guess that the issue was about to be tested, and pray that it wouldn't end too horribly.

For her part, she took the matter with good grace, having realized in her heart some time ago what was happening. Her only real concern was how to introduce him to her family, whether his granddaughter Susan would approve, and so on. Destiny and Dream were certainly surprised when she told them, and Desire was petulant because it had not had a hand in the matter, the majority of the romance having taken place in another reality. Susan, while a little dubious and rather naturally protective of her grandfather, soon came to see the benefits of his relationship, as it simultaneously fulfilled his need to behave as though he were human, while leaving him quite un-human and therefore himself. Plus, she rather liked Death, who managed to combine being sensible with being stylish, and for the most part was very, very Normal.

Of course, they both had day (and night) jobs, and work kept them both busy so nothing much was going to change in either world. It was simply that neither of them had to be alone any more. He had an audience for his violin playing, and to appreciate his knitting, and she had someone who would just sit and hold her, silently stroking her hair with bony fingers, on those cold mornings when everything seemed bleak and joyless and she couldn't bear to put on a brave and cheerful face for the world. And best of all, neither of them had to explain about how hard it was to be there for everyone, everywhere, in every moment, about how difficult it could be to be fair and equal and never make exceptions, and how crushing it felt to be greeted constantly with hate and fear and anger. It was understood.

So, sometimes the realm of Death is filled with laughter and joy. Sometimes, the sound of her wings is met with eager anticipation rather than dread. And sometimes, DEATH rides his pale horse to the door of his lady, who runs out to greet him with a kiss. A pat on the nose for Binky, and she swings up beside him, black hair and black robes trailing out behind them like banners as they ride into the sunset.

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