impertinences: (at your expense)
you're too young & eager to love ([personal profile] impertinences) wrote on June 13th, 2014 at 02:09 pm
Some connected (I think) moments between Lene and Roman during her first week or two at the compound. Still trying to get a feel on Lene, so I meant to do this from Roman's POV but ... it didn't really go that way. She may be correct. She may not be. I don't know what correct is for her yet!

Oh well.

I didn't proof read this before posting. Fair warning. Also, copying and pasting from Word fucked up my formatting, but I'm too lazy to fix it right now.

--



There’s a cold room and a bright light and a sparse folder on a metal table. Roman’s hands are immaculate as he shuffles the few pages; he hardly looks at the woman in front of him, one of the newly arrived shields, but he already thinks her a child with a baby doll’s face. Her mouth is too like a cherry pit, her eyes vacant, depthless river streams. This is the debriefing, and he wishes he sometimes wasn’t entrusted to so much. There are seventy-two more arrivals left, and he has only just returned from the desert (carrying a swan under his arm and a wild dog in a crate with a smile that was all teeth). He asks the necessary questions, covers the standard material that protocol dictates, and he doesn’t suspect a thing until the wheat-haired girl cants her head with a smile and asks how hungry he is. That vacant expression that Roman suddenly realizes was well practiced slips away, and Lene’s eyes shimmer with laughter.
He cannot smell whatever fright she may feel, but he feels the old strangle of thirst turn his throat as dry as a carcass bone.
This is how contact is made.


--


As far as first impressions are concerned, she does not particularly like him.
Roman lets her know that he expected as much.
He is not the myth Lene was expecting. He is something that leaves her aching and uncertain, a pressure against her spine that causes her to miss her people and the mountains they belong to or even the caravans and the desert. She does not trust his eyes or how easy it is for him to play two different roles; he transitions so smoothly that she has difficulty seeing where his sincerity lies, even though they’re both living lies. It’s a dangerous game, and she can’t silence her brother’s voice in her ear – the one asking her to stay.
She never thinks he should have gone in her place.
There is a curious absence to Roman. She notices it, this nothingness that is his smell (beneath that the sordid sweetness of decay – her instincts tell her that it’s a warning, a threat of danger), when he takes her around the compound, teaching her the complicated network of tunnels and corridors. She wonders if all vampires have the same scent, and she realizes she has no one to ask. He is her first. The thought amuses her.
He shows her the infirmary, the quarters for the companions, the fighting cages, the holding pens, the loading docks, the laboratories, the East Wing that’s for all the human inhabitants, and still there’s more. The compound is far larger than she realized. She makes mental cues for herself, but she still feels lost.
“Is this all of it then?” She asks when they return to where they started, but Roman never answers her.


--


She learns that The Insurgence was right about him – that his particular past has given him a remarkable ability. A skill with enchanting devils. A moral ambiguity that borders on nihilism during his worst moments. They said behind his serpentine charm that his intentions were the same as hers; they said his path was true and his course straight. Lene isn’t so sure, but it’s been a while since she’s trusted anyone outside of her pack, and she’s never met one of his kind before. She thinks about how he must comprehend time, how his grief could be the unspeakable kind that rises like a cancer inside of him. A cross to bear.
It doesn’t make him easier to speak with. He has the tendency to treat her like a child, to remind her that there is much she does not know.
“I wasn’t born yesterday.” She quips as they climb from the battered jeep. (They only drove for a few minutes south of the compound, but a storm is on the horizon and Roman refused to travel the miles on foot on the belief that it would seem unusual for a man of his authority to do such.) They’ve been talking about the past, and Roman is convinced she has no idea what the past actually entails.
“They burn every book they can find. They rewrote the records. They filled the truth with lies, except for the worst parts. Those they drew inspiration from. Never underestimate the effects or power of their hatred.”
“My grandmother remembers – ”
“What? More than I still do? I doubt it. Besides,” he says dismissively, “I hardly think her perspective is the same as mine.”
Lene twists her mouth and then the smell hits her. She turns her face into the crook of her elbow, fights back the urge to gag, and feels her eyes water.
He’s brought her to a camp, and they haven’t even gone inside. They stand on the outskirts, and she can see the prisoners through the barbed wire fence, see their skeletal gait and smell their approaching death. She knows without having to ask what they are.
“You will get used to it.”
“Like you did? You want me to be like you?”
Roman laughs. It strikes her as such an inappropriate sound that she wants to throw her fist at his jaw until she can hear the bones crunch. Even if it’s only temporary.
He tells her that there could be worse things, that survival requires many sacrifices, but she doesn’t think she’s as quick to adapt.


--


“Is that her?” Lene’s been doing that a lot – asking questions, prying, trying to gauge what she does not understand.
“Ja, that is the one.” Roman leans with a shoulder against the wall, drinking a tumbler of Harrow’s finest whiskey, his voice raspier than usual. His hair is slicked back, pulled tight against his scalp, the dark strands styled into a knot near the nape of his neck. It makes him look all the more militant, a stark difference to his lavender suit and silver tie. There’s a diamond watch on his wrist, and Lene keeps getting sidetracked by the glare of the diamonds. Usually they wouldn’t be talking at these events, but Arletta has sent her forward with a question, some detail about Harrow that her charge is trying to ferret out.
There’s a lanky blonde near Harrow’s right side. Her eyes are downcast but her posture is perfect. It’s the slope of her shoulders that suggest defeat, the way her bottom lip is chapped from gnawing at it. Lene call smell her from here – swamp water and despair – but she doesn’t think any of the humans would know. She is surprisingly unimpressed. “I don’t see anything special about her. What is she? A porpoise?”
“A swan.”
“Does she lay golden eggs?”
Roman’s mouth curves into a predatory grin. “She’s fallen out of favor but she hasn’t been forgotten. She can be secured for anyone now, assuming the suitor is willing to enter the fights and have the audacity to win.”
There’s something in his voice, a notch of familiarity, that leaves Lene’s mouth ashen. “Is that what you did?” She keeps her face blank, but her voice is accusatory.
Roman takes another drink of whiskey before pushing himself from the wall, all lean, razor strength wrapped in silk. “I didn’t have to, liebling.”
He gives her a curt nod, a movement shredded in professionalism, before returning to the empty seat on Harrow’s left. He never turns his eyes to Ita, but Lene thinks she sees the other woman ruffle with bridled anger.
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