Title: Circling (1/1)
Summary: Vilandra and Ava, Isabel and Tess, endings and beginnings.
Distribution: Sure, ask.
Disclaimer: WB and 20thC Fox.
Date: Dec. 25, 2000 - Jan. 2, 2001
This is how it ended:
Her gowns, fine silk and satin, vibrant blues and shimmering reds, left in her chambers. Cast aside, royal finery, in favour of simpler clothing. Tan slacks, her legs suddenly slender and curving and exposed without the layers of skirts customary to her people's women. Her husband's people had thought her strange, a throwback to an age long since lost in her feminine finery. Startlingly intimate, the slacks brushed the inside of her thighs with each hurried step. Delicate slippers left tumbled at the food of her bed, replaced with hard toed, thick soled boots. Flesh and bone and blood safer in their solid casing, the boots slammed against the polished tiles, frantic.
The sound of her hurrying feet, their armour of rubber and leather, exploded against her senses when the door shut behind her. Screaming, screaming, screaming, frantic cries of loss and worry and fear and waiting death, cut off behind her retreating back. Alone here, in temporary, secret safety. Her husband and his court had remained behind, determined to protect and guide. She had been amongst these people little more than a year. Her own people's teachings still pounded strong in her blood. Survival above all else. Let Zan wave his arms about, cry out his warnings and commands to people too frenzied with fear to hear.
Her husband's people loved the sky. Vaulting ceilings, yawning skylights, they cast their prayers towards the stars. And she escaped into the earth, a tunnel plowing into the ground, winding with desperation through rock and dirt. Always have an escape route in mind, her father's deceptively soft voice said, a distant echo in her mind. No shame in running, no shame in hiding. Let the others die in blood and gore and an agony that tore across the surface of this world. Let them fall and writhe upon the ground for their glory and their honour. And we shall hide and wait and live, emerge into the light once more and pick up the reigns of control, having slipped from the hands of kings in pained death throes.
She stopped, flight on butterfly wings, a delicate probing ahead. Felt the breath escape from her lips in a long, low hiss. Open eyed, she watched her escape twist and buckle, freedom into a prison, life meeting death in a headlong rush. "Vilandra."
Start, shadowed eyes rose, caught hers. "Ava." A shaky breath, drawing air tainted with the taste and feel of damp earth and staleness into the soft cavern of a mouth that tasted like rich chocolate and spice beneath Ava's questing tongue. "I didn't mean for this to happen," her voice cracked and wavered, steel edges blunted by the weight of her sorrow.
All around them. She could feel them, hungry and hateful and merciless, a heaviness against the sparking blue shields flung up about her mind. "You told them." Her father's lessons unfolded in her mind: trust no one. Love and friendship, duty and honor, none are so strong, so pure that they can not be cast aside or twisted. Love none but yourself. Trust none but yourself. Find safety in gaining the trust of others and giving none of your own.
Vilandra hadn't been other. She'd felt a part of Ava. Standing at Zan's side, his hand wound about hers in formal recognition of the wedding vows fading around them, she had met sharp and knowing eyes among the applauding crowd. A twisting in her stomach and Ava had known that she had found something incredible. Don't trust. Don't be foolish enough to trust in love, her father had told her. He had not warned her of the heat that unfurled low in her belly at the sound of a voice at her ear, silk seduction. She had not been told how to keep her hands at her side when they longed to brush against a wild fall of hair, against soft flesh scented of spices, against the beckoning curve of hip and breast and the arch of spine.
"I'm sorry. I don't know how to stop them." Pretty little princess, wild and cunning, sharp edged need behind wide eyes and curving lips. Weary suddenly, aching knowledge in her eyes at having thrown her will against one stronger than her own.
Wide eyed, searching the darkness stretching out behind them. No need to close her eyes in order to pull images from her memory. Skirts flowing around her, slippered feet against dirt encrusted stone, her father's words guiding her eyes. This is what trust and weakness and glory find for you, and she'd looked at charred skin, bloody gashes and agony spelt out across frozen faces.
"I do," fire burning in the back of her brain, flame licking at the inside of her hands, curled into claws. Love turned sour at the back of her throat. Death screamed forward, flesh and flame, and she didn't close her eyes.
Let them underestimate you, her father's voice. Let them see the swirl of skirt, the toss of blonde curls. Laugh and blush and curtsey, perch on your husband's arm, all pink-tinted lips and shielded teeth. And that was what they had seen. Zan, distantly tender, duty and bloodline in mind as he lowered himself over her, sweet and soft and acceptable. Rath, a silent scowl, lips held tight, a harsh condemnation of her in his eyes, too soft, too meek, a pretty little blonde nothing smothering his King. Vilandra, sharp edges hidden beneath what she was thought to be, Ava, both of them, staring into each other and finding secrets no one else had thought to search out.
Vilandra had loved those sharp edges, had run her tongue along the point of Ava's teeth, a tiny flicker of pain. Lips and teeth, clashing and hungry and everything but meek and sweet and adoring. She had thrilled at the discovery of razor edges buried beneath the flesh Zan's kingly duty had tied him to. They had moved, slick flesh and rounded flesh, waiting, wanting, to catch themselves upon the other's edges.
Screaming, the scent of scorched flesh, breath caught in throats, a final shuddering death rattle, blackened husks toppled to the ground. Ava wondered if they had ever understood each other at all. Vilandra, sharp edges and smiles, her body a gift to power warped into love. And she believed, threw herself into love, reckless, never noticing as the basis of her power, her stability, crumbled and cast her people, herself, into chaos. Safety, survival, Ava's teaching told her. Careful, cautious, don't strive to gain more than you can handle, don't ruin a good situation. Burry your head between parted white thighs, but don't forget to smile and curtsey and blush and cling to your husband's arm, don't fill yourself up on love so that you drown on unseen waves.
She loved Vilandra, everything, burning and hungry and everywhere. Adapt, her father told her, firm and certain in her head. You'll suffer losses, emotional, physical, and you'll think that you won't live a moment longer with the aching in your head, your heart, your soul. And time passes, and you're alive, and you've adapted, and you've learned that nothing last forever. And others burn on their pyres, or rot in the ground, or cling to the past, listless in the present - you'll know. Everlasting love, a myth for empty headed girls without a people to govern, a bloodline to preserve. A temporary distraction, fleeting, unreal, nothing to embrace with a passionate disregard of one's real truth.
She ran through a creeping, desperate tunnel, through ash and the scent of death. She loved Vilandra. She'd get over it. Eventually.
This is how it begins:
She meets Max in the hallway, bathroom door open behind him, grey sleep pants slung low on his hips, his face is freshly scrubbed, pink and clean. He freezes, and Tess nearly laughs. Max looks as if he thinks that she longs to fling her body against his, to follow past and Destiny and press her lips against his. Lust does not live and spark between them. Whatever they had in the past is not now. She tried to recapture her fairy tale dream - King and Queen and happily ever after. And her mind blanketing his, lips moving against Max's, she found her dream hollow.
Tess is the first to move, she shifts past Max, careful not to brush against him lest he take the touch as evidence of her refusal to accept what is. She closes the bathroom door behind her, deposits her belongings on the water splattered counter. She flips open the lid of the toothpaste, a swirl of green and red and white against stiff bristles. Her upper lip peels back, brush moving vigorously against exposed teeth.
They ask her things sometimes, Max and Michael. What does she remember? What did Nasedo tell her? Tell us, tell us, tell us, and there is nothing to tell. They want to know of kingdoms and planets, of politics and war. She remembers the sound of music, light and distant and so haunting that the breath dies in her throat and sorrow fills her. She remembers the feel of moist lips against her forehead. Sometime she remembers fire and fear and chokes on the feel of ash against her tongue. And though she knows that she is alien to this world, although she had lived her life under Nasedo's care knowing that she was other, she cannot picture herself the Queen she once was. And standing in her former husband's house, toothpaste dribbling past her lips, she is suddenly aware of how ridiculous this is. The King, his sister, his bride, his second in command, all empty and unknowing and she wonders what is expected of them, devoid of all they were.
Isabel is lying on her bed when Tess returns, eyes closed, hands clasped over her belly. And Tess stops, knowing with dreadful clarity that this is a very bad idea. All excitement and veiled loneliness, Isabel had mentioned a sleepover. Tess' loneliness had answered for her, a yes and a wide flashing smile, like the teenage girl she was and wasn't supposed to be. And she stands in the doorway to Isabel's room, parents down the hall, her dream-world husband a room over, and she feels familiar heat curl in her belly, her heart pound. Thoughts shimmer through her mind, seductive whispers, a constant urge to reach out to Isabel. She is raw and wanting and she shouldn't be here.
She sits down next to Isabel on the bed, watches the other woman's naked face and shivers. Isabel has never asked her what she remembers. She remembers Isabel. Not sight, not sound nor touch, but a shift of her very soul when she first saw Isabel. That secret part of her, heart and instinct, all far beyond the reach of Nasedo's command tell her, worried and frightened and certain, that she loves Isabel. And she nearly laughs.
Nasedo told her that she, the woman she was and is and will be, loves Max. He told her that Max loved her, that the King was kind and passionate and that their souls had twisted together, whole and strong. And her guardian told her that Max would not remember her, and sitting at Isabel's side, she remembers being surprised that her soul mate could forget her. They had enemies, Nasedo told her, and she must be careful and cunning and strong. She thinks now that careful and cunning and strong is a truth, but the Max-who-was is a fairy tale prince told to little girls by their parents, and Nasedo plundered human story book romances in order to paint a past that would help her love Max.
Tess touches Isabel's face, soft and reverent. Isabel's eyelashes flutter against her cheeks, part, her eyes catch Tess. She smiles, one hand rising to grasp Tess' wrist gently. "C'mon," she murmurs, pulling the other woman down next to her. "We'll stay up all night and talk, and..." she trails off, grins sadly, "I'm not quite sure, actually. I've never done anything like this."
Sorrow blossoms in Tess. She has known that she is different, always, but Isabel has lived her difference among humans, lost but not quite knowing. "That's okay, I've never had a sleepover, either. There's a lot that I haven't had the chance to do." She wants to kiss Isabel. She bits her lip, hard, and wonders what Isabel would say about that. She wonders what Isabel would do. Tess wants to find out, with an intensity so strong she gasps.
She rolls onto her side, looks down at Isabel. "Do you remember me?"
Isabel's eyes flicker away, silent admission. "Feelings. I look at you and I remember feelings." Her arm falls across her eyes, her lips thin, a silent plea to leave this alone.
"And now? When you look at me, Isabel to Tess, no royals and aliens and past, what do you feel?"
"Tess..." the name is a warning growl.
"It's important, Isabel," she answers. Isabel's arm lifts from her face, an eyebrow cocked in inquisition. "I want to know how you'd react to something that I'm thinking of doing."
Isabel's face softens. "You're my friend, Tess. Whatever you do--"
Tess leans down and kisses her. And Isabel kisses her back.
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