Now, she didn't breathe at all, unless she remembered to.
Carefully removing her earrings, she set them in their small moleskinned case, looking at her reflection with her large, limpid eyes. Dark and melancholy, punctuated by her flutist's lips and small, narrow nose, they had been a lure for men all her life. She thought once that they would be empty at this point, finding the idea of living over a century to be impossible, unimaginable.
But there was still emotion there. She chained it to her, threw herself down bottomless obsessions, desperately digging her nails into every scrap of feeling. Nothing was new after two hundred years. New trappings and new customs, new places and new ideas all fell under the weight of what she'd already seen and experienced and done. It was all the same, all of it.
Watching her porcelain-skinned hand brush over the contour of her face, she found a splinter of relief that the thought brought a sheen to her eyes, that she could still be touched by her despair.
She grasped at it, amplified it as best she could, tried to weep and could not.
Then, Jocelyn's unbeating heart contracted, for she heard Simon open her bedroom door.
She had not heard him coming. His footsteps so often matched the cadence of his relentless clock that at times they seemed one to her ears.
She shut her eyes.
Simon had been a paradox to her. Without his patient, careful tormenting, sometimes she doubted she would have stayed human at all, and yet, perhaps it was fear, that if she ever stopped being human enough for him to torment, he would snuff her out.
When she opened her eyes, he had moved to stand behind her, and rested one of his hands on her bare shoulder. Dead, her skin sucked at his heartbeat. It was tremendously slow, powerful, like waves beating leisurely against a cliff. But there was no warmth in him, only wasteland heat.
All she saw in the mirror was his waistcoat, the polished silver chain of his pocketwatch, the crisp lines of his white shirt, and then his slender hand, taking up the brush.
If Jocelyn had been a century younger, she would still have shivered, dead though she'd been. With Simon so close, she could not concentrate enough to pretend.
Many times, Jocelyn had been convinced that there was nothing left in Simon but his malice. Perhaps it was only that which kept him alive; she did not know.
And then he would come in, and take up the brush.
Simon's hands were careful, and deliberate. They would let down her hair, carefully caress the brush against it, slow and patient, working out the snares and tangles, and then he would run the brush through in long even strokes, following them afterwards with his free hand, as if mesmerized by the smooth feel of it. He would spend over an hour in silence, weaving silk from ink and light, and end with his fingers combing through it, touching her scalp gently, insistently.
There was no sense of anything but desire in him, a cold, neglected thing that ached in his long fingers, and in the delicate strokes of the brush. But it was like iron, also. She dared not disturb him, the cold lead pooling in her spine whispering that ruining this, harming this, would bring the most horrible of consequences. It frightened her, this intensity from him.
She felt almost as if it were a vulnerability, something he could not help but show.
Feeling the small kisses of the brush at her skin, she kept her gaze locked on the mirror.
She dared not try to look at him.
The clock murdered every second that got close to them, and Jocelyn, who had seen too much time, could not wait for this moment to be over quickly enough. When he had finished, his hands leaving the drift of her hair for the last time, leaving it spread about her shoulders like night cradling the moon, she felt the brief pressure of his lips on the crown of her head.
When the door shut behind him, Jocelyn wanted to weep, but she had forgotten how.