Ratty watched as the curves of a glass frog statue speckled the inside of her wife’s palm with light. She listened politely as ‘the talking frog’ was explained by a kindly late-in-life couples councillor: where she got it from, what it meant when someone was holding it. They had never had a problem with interrupting each other, never reached screaming, theirs was a quiet simmer.
“So, we all clear on the rules?” The elder grizzly smiled. Ratty nodded, turned to Sapphomet, watched them nod. “Well, good. Sapper, why don’t you go first since you’re already holding it.”
Sapphomet nodded, staring down at the lump of glass. They started with a weak “I-”, having spent the morning waiting anxiously for this moment, having run through everything they planned on saying, and now having no idea where to start. Here was a good a place as any:
“There was a point, and it feels like almost yesterday, where I couldn’t remember the last time we woke up together.” They took a deep breath, shuddering as the anxiety of holding it in left their body. “And I know, there has to be work, and time was weird, and I don't want to be controlling, but I also, know the difference between being given space, and being left alone.” Another deep breath, another moment of twiddling the glass frog between their claws. “I never want to feel alone like that again. You were so far gone and I just felt so powerless, and you’re my best friend, and I missed you, and I still miss you, I don’t even feel like we’ve fully recovered yet. I just- I want to stop missing you.”
Sapper set the frog down on the table between them, staring at it for a moment and then looking expectantly up at their wife. Ratty cast her gaze to the trim as she processed, blinking back tears as she realized just how deeply she had hurt Sapper. She picked up the frog, staring into its little glass eyes as she spoke:
“I don’t know- um- I don’t know how to reconcile the fact that you love me with the way I feel about myself, and… uh… I actually don’t remember where I was going with this, I’m sorry-” She moved to set down the frog, found her hand cupped gently by their councillor.
“Hold on, how do you feel about yourself, Ratty?” She asks.
“Yeah,” Sapper jumps in, ignoring the frog. “This wasn’t- I didn’t know this was - there was a ‘this’ part of it.”
Ratty met eyes with Sapper, then the counsellor, then back to Sapper. “I wasn’t wronged, though? Shouldn’t we be talking about how Sap feels?”
“I’m sure we’ll get to that, but I think they also want to know how you feel.” Ratty took a moment to take assurance from Sapphomet, then another to compose her thoughts. Notorious for never knowing who she was, it was difficult to talk at length, and so she just let whatever thoughts fall out that may.
“Okay, well, I mean I don’t really want to get all ‘woe is me’, um… I guess, after all this time I feel like I'm taking advantage of you? Almost? That doesn't make sense.” She bit her tongue, shaking that line of thought out of her head. “It’s more like, I’m just bad, and I think you’re…” She took a deep breath. “I’ve had a lot of loss in my life, and I- I wish I would lose you. Or- no- you would lose me. I want you to lose me. You’re so good, and I’m just straight up evil.”
There’s a short moment of silence, and the counsellor asks for the frog back, and hands it to Sapper.
“We don’t- I don’t know if we need the frog.” Ratty interjects, doing her best to defuse what she just said. “We’ve never really had a problem with that kind of-”
“Well, Ratty, for one: no couple has a problem until they have a problem, and for two: you don’t have the frog, so-”
“No, but I feel like you’re kind of interrupting the flow with this frog thing.”
“Well, Ratty. You don’t have the frog.”
“Yeah Ratty.” Sapper interjects, the edge of a giggle peeking out from under the grey cloud in their voice. “You don’t have the frog.” They teased.
“Fuck…” Ratty hissed, letting a faux frustration take over from her real frustration. “I’m evil, and I don’t have the frog…”
That broke Sapper out of therapy mode for a second, just a second though.
“Sapper...” The counsellor started.
“Mmhmm?” They managed, their breath short from the little laughing fit.
“Do you feel like Ratty is evil?” She asked. “Do you want to lose her?” Sapphomet took a long breath, letting the last scraps of frog humor out as they turned the questions over in their mind, confronted with the fact that they were, in fact, there for therapy and not just to goof off with their often absent wife.
“No, I don't. I couldn’t. I think... you’ve hurt me a lot recently, and I think you can be selfish, and dumb - not dumb, sorry,” They caught Ratty’s gaze. “Thoughtless is a better word. I also don’t really know what you’re thinking a lot of the time, but I know that…” They turned back to their councillor. “...She would never hurt me on purpose, and so: no, she’s not evil, and want her to stay.”
“How does it make you feel that Ratty thinks she's evil?”
“I… I really don’t get it. We've all done terrible things, I don’t know if anyone has really worked harder than her to correct for that.” Another deep breath, another pause, maybe a shift in weight. “I feel like, somewhere along the way - Ratty - maybe you got some wires crossed in your head, to where, getting hurt makes your good deeds better? and that scares me because I feel alone right now, with you like, still around… I mean I said this before. I would survive, but I don’t want to if I don’t have to. I will be utterly alone if you die.”
“I'm not gonna die.”
“No, you don't know that.”
“No, I do now. I said the other night- I'll be careful. I know my limit, and I can play within it.”
“Okay. Good! Good! That's a good promise!” The counselor clapped their massive paws in celebration.
“All thanks to the frog.” Sapphomet gave a sniff at their little joke.
“And I'm not gonna run off without telling you anymore because I know how that can scare you.” Ratty said, on a roll with making promises.
“Good! Two!” The counselor clapped again.
“And I'm not gonna take jobs from people who ask me to blow shit up anymore.”
“Three- wait, what?”
“You don't have to tell me like, every time. Just keep your cell phone on you so I can like, check up.”
“Deal, absolutely, 100% deal.”
Something caught Emily off guard as she crossed the threshold of her apartment: the smell of cooking. Something like barbeque, or hot oil, or- actually, it was easier to look into her kitchen than guess. Sure enough, Ratty stood at her stove, tending to a pot of round little dough balls, a fat slab of black-crusted beef resting on the counter.
“Oh, you’re making food, in my kitchen.” The rabbit blinked against her confusion.
“Hi Emily!” Ratty smiled, deafened by the rattling of the cheap overhead fan.
“Yeah, hey!” She gave an awkward wave as she pulled her mask from under her shirt and set it down into her obelisk. She popped her headphones out and draped them around her neck, catching a glimpse of Sapper kneeling in front of a menorah as she shed the trappings outsideness. “You guys are doing hanukkah… in my apartment… several weeks late.” Sapper nodded as though there was nothing abnormal going on.
“Cool, why here?”
“Well…” Ratty let a steaming dough-ball fall out of her mouth and back into the hot oil, eliciting a crackle as her spit sublimated below the surface. “I- your mom called and was like ‘what did y’all do for hanukkah?’ And we were like, oh fuck we didn’t do hanukka! And so now we… are!”
“Are you two… Jewish?” Emily asked. Sapper was literally from non-denominational Hell - something Em was pretty sure Jewish people didn’t have - and Ratty… Ratty was Ratty. Ratty clearly had no practice with the whole hanukkah thing.
“Nah Em!” Ratty scoffed. “You’re Jewish!”
“I’m- I’m Jewish?” Emily blinked.
“Yeah babes!” Ratty raised her arm, dropping a hot ball of perfectly cooked doughnut on the floor. “We got brisket! We got some donuts and the potato thing- we got the menorah! Sapper sent me some readings which I did NOT do, except for the recipes obviously. I like - it’s cultural osmosis. You get it.”
“We didn’t get everything, because we are still very much broke, and also didn’t know if this would be something you wanted to do, but… we managed quite a bit.” Sapper picked the menorah up from where they were kneeling and set it precariously on the edge of Emily’s TV stand between a bunch of salvaged equipment.
“Here!” Ratty concentrated hard for a moment on snatching one of the cooked donuts from the hot oil, then offered it to Emily on the end of a fork. She stopped as she noticed Emily crying, forcing a smile through the tears. “Woah, woah. What’s wrong?”
Another donut took a dive as Emily shook her head, trying to clear up the overwhelming surge of emotion. “It’s-” the rabbit hiccupped. “You guys are just really nice.” Emily collapsed in on herself as her friends dropped what they were doing to hold her.
And then presents. Ratty hung behind to wipe the spilled oil from Emily’s stove as Sapper led Emily to a small pile of newspaper-wrapped boxes. Her coffee table had been dragged back from its position tipped up against a wall especially for the occassion.
“The big one is yours.” Sapper pointed. Emily sat down and waited, stuck in the alkward phase of being told that a present is yours and not being able to open it.
“Oh my GOD!!!” Ratty shouted, taking a quick break to watch with a formerly-white rag hanging out of her mouth. “Don’t fucking wait for me you nerd!!!” Emily turned to Sapper for approval, and - upon the goat’s curt nod - dove in, tossing the financial section aside.
A tape player. Beautifully polished brushed silver front, wooden body with just barely chipped corners.
“We found it at a thrift store.” Sapper explained. “Ratty looked it up on her phone, apparently it’s a really good one, and it only needed some minor fixing, so…” the goat trailed off.
Emily’s smile was almost reverent as her eyes traced the machined corners. It was familiar more than anything. Old and new to her, but unmistakably polished in every sense of the word.
“I know you already have a little one, but we thought you might-”
“It’s perfect.” Emily stood, clearing a spot on her TV stand and slotting it in neatly. Each wire sat waiting, matched perfectly to the back of the box, as though her setup had been waiting for a core element.
The rabbit took a step back to admire it, then - without skipping a beat - dove under the couch for one of the bags of ethereal tape that she had stashed there. It took a few moments to find something that fit the mood, but soon enough the warmest and most comfortable jams in her collection were running between the playhead and pinch roller.
“It’s really perfect.” Emily took another long look at the somehow chaotic and organized pile of audio equipment.
“Mine next!” Ratty hopped over the counter with a mouthful of donut.
“Wow, okay.” Emily turned to smirk at the possum.
“No I mean- we did like a round robin, so I meant- mine for Sap.”
“Oh!” Sapper shifted in their seat. “Yes, of course.” It was clear which one had been wrapped by Ratty: such intense care had been put into preparing it, and yet it was a fucking mess. A little ring box, again, wrapped in newspaper. Sapper shook it, smiling as it let out a series of jangles.
“You’re not going to propose to me, are you, Ratty?” The goat teased.
“I- Do you want me to?” The possum asked, bewildered.
“Maybe later.” Sapper laughed. They tore it open, not quite so aggressively as Emily, but still with an amount of fervor. Inside: a small, brass set of keys.
“So, I had um- This one requires a little explanation.” Ratty started as the other two watched the keys spin gently on their ring. “I called in a favor, installed some bookshelves in the storage room, organized our- your collection, and uh- I also put a lock on the door.” Sapper’s eyes jumped from the keys to Ratty. “If there's anything in the world that can kill me… it’s probably in that room, and you have the only two keys.”
Ratty smiled at her wife. “Plus I mean there's a desk in there now. It sounds like a lot but I really just had some guys help me move a bunch of shit from the bullpen.”
Sapper swallowed, considering the gift. It was - in essence - a private library built from spare parts. How very Ratty…
The goat slipped off their necklace, tied the end around the keyring, down next to their sigil, and tied it back around their neck.
“Ironically mine is also in the same vein of um- well- keeping you alive.” Sapper handed Ratty her gift as she sat, setting a tray of steaming donuts on the coffee table. Which, by the way, were fucking delicious and damn-near perfect. Just so none of us forget that Ratty is uhh a kitchen legend.
“I mean, mine is… I basically sorted books for you so- lots of reading.”
“Yes, okay, fair enough.”
“We should put some carpets in there, actually. Keep your hooves warm.”
“Thats an idea.” The goat smiled at her scatterbrained wife. “Open your gift.” The possum complied, opening hers carefully, doing her best to preserve the paper, because despite being a little nerd, she was also a massive dork.
It was a harness, a small winched clip, hook, and a length of rope.
“I noticed you seem to really like throwing yourself off of things, and so- this is a safe way to do that.”
The possums eyes lit up as she took in the mess of nylon straps, clambering into it with all the style and grace of anyone trying to tie themselves into a second hand mountain-climbing kit with no instructions. “Fuck yeah.” She whispered. “Fuck yeah!” and again, louder this time.
“Race y’all to the roof!” She took off as soon as the harness could be called any semblance of secure.
“No, Ratty- its not-” Sapper rushed after her, grabbing the harness as the possum’s upper body tipped over the lip. “Babe it's not a-” they couldn’t help but laugh. Emily joined the pair at the window as Sapper began to slip, slipping through the wall and attempting to prop Ratty up from the outside.
It is impossible to know what year it is.
Two young women desperately try to explain to a third that she should not jump out of a window. All three are laughing, there is a black spot in each of their memories, but at the present moment, all they can think about is each other.
They hover above the snow-dusted streets of a busy city, all too concerned with their own business to look up.
There are others here: a family. The reanimated corpse of a possum brought back from the dead, the spectral remains of a rabbit whose life was cut short and was now beginning anew, and a demon who - trillions of years old - is now getting their first oppertunity to be a dumb 20-something.
This moment is seared into their memories.
As the wheels of time shutter and screech and do their best to realign themselves, this moment is given a short chance to last forever.
And then it moves on.