impertinences: (so I ran faster)
you're too young & eager to love ([personal profile] impertinences) wrote on September 21st, 2014 at 07:00 pm
Aaaaah. I don’t really know what I’m doing. I was happy with this, once upon a time, but I kept fiddling with it and it somehow got more jumbled in the editing process. Maybe? It just looks very different from what it was like when it started. I don’t think that’s how editing is supposed to work. Or it could be because I edited while sick. Sick!brain has never helped anyone.

The timing for this is all over the place. Aaaalllll over the place. It’s supposed to be when Roman and Lene are with her pack in the desert after they’re forced to flee the Compound, with flashbacks from previously. But I had to scrap the flashbacks because they weren’t working. I also tried to incorporate Calev. Maybe I’m trying to tackle too much.


Here we go.


I am having a private conversation with my sister.

My sister, Anders says, the way another man might have said my wife back when strangers used to ask to intercede on a dance.

Lene notices it, and her mouth crinkles into a smirk that makes Roman’s perpetually wolfish grin flash all the more dangerously. She shrugs dismissively, and Anders sighs with all the pent up frustration of a leader tired of mediating between the fine line of duty and obligation.

She punches him on his shoulder playfully (which does everything except help) as she ducks beneath the flap of the tent opening, circling close to Roman, his fingers already hooking into the crook of her elbow. It’s a territorial hold. She wonders just when that happened – when the way he held her changed from a predator’s snarl to a lover’s claim. Lene thinks there’s only so much difference between the two, but it’s enough.

Outside, the fires are burning, blazing, shielding them from the cold of the wasteland. There are children here. They dart between campgrounds, playing, momentarily fearless, while the adults prepare the beds for the evening, finish the cleaning from dinner. A few pass around skins of wine while trading stories or smoke the last remaining cigars that have traveled with them for thousands of miles. Lene absorbs everything, as though her thirst has just now, within these past few nights, been quenched. She can breathe again.

Roman, as she expected, adjusts quickly. She is still getting used to the sight of him – unwrapped from his meticulous suits, free of a silk tie, his cedar hair brushing into his eyes and against the wide span of his jaw, scraping the back of his neck. He wears shirts of linen, pushing up the sleeves, and old jeans that they stole from abandoned homes. He either does not feel the sand – how it gets everywhere – or he does not mind it. He looks as threadbare as the rest of them, but it’s not his appearance that causes the others to distance himself. He is, yet again, one amongst hundreds. These are shifters, and they smell the curious emptiness of his bones, the lingering scent of death that is buried somewhere in his veins. Lene thinks back to that first night, after the remnants of cactus salad and rice had been cleared (the type of substance he does not touch). Roman had insisted on helping the women as they cleaned with an intensity that had almost frightened them. So, Lene had passed him battered dish after battered dish, studying him. It was as if he were doing some sort of penance. She watched as he braced himself against the well, handling each plate and spoon like a relic, careful to use as little water as possible. He never joined the conversation around them.

They all look at him, the seemingly young man with his meager wardrobe and deceptively soft voice, and think he’s bringing death in his wake. Then they look at Lene, and they try to understand, just like they always have.


He’s not as standoffish as he seems, doesn’t flinch or pull back when she burrows into his shoulder or takes his hand, even in front of others. Never one to initiate contact, though, except in bed, where he’s got the surest hands she’s ever known. Sometimes she finds fingertip-bruises on her hipbones, circling her thighs. He notices once but the knowledge does not gentle him.

She thought he would like her less soft, that he might like smooth planes to feminine curves, but she finds that he favors her female shape. He doesn’t say so, but she knows – he prefers her as a woman, because it was as a woman that he could truly make her his. A quick tear. A deep plunge.

Roman never asks if she enjoys it; he doesn’t need to. He is aware of every flutter in her pulse, every raised degree in body temperature, the imperceptible tightening of thigh muscles; she knows he knows when a wicked grin crosses his face. She’d like to see his control crack, to see desperation and desire cross his face, watch him shatter in her hands. She might have, once—the file The Insurgence has on him suggested that Roman had been a bruised, fragile thing when he first arrived—but the man she knows now seems like an outcropping of stone, weather-warped but upright and unmovable.

Some people are rocks in a river. Lene is already beginning to suspect that she’ll have to divert her course for him.


It’s almost a year of them working together (being together?) at the Compound before he tells her about Calev. It doesn’t bother her much that he waited so long to tell her; she’s seen the closing of enough lives, both suddenly and slowly, to know that grief is not a straight line, that there are no rules for how long it will take to pass. It bothers her, though—in some ill-defined way that she doesn’t want to examine too closely—that he had told Harrow the night they met (she knows this because the conversation was overheard, and even here the walls still talk, and although it was only a shred of the true story, it is enough for her to feel bothered now).

His past is a mass grave that she stands at the edge of, peering down, trying to make out the shapes of corpses. Trying not to fall in after them.

He can tell immediately by her lack of surprise that she already knew, and the raw, open look on his face shuts down immediately, like the slamming of a heavy door. It’s not her fault, she tells herself angrily after he’s left; Roman understands how debriefings work, and he had willingly provided all of the information in his file to the council. More importantly, she had never asked to be partnered with a man who, after all his hundreds of years, could not put his grief into words.

Sometimes, she thinks she’s just something there to fill in the space left by the ones who came before her. She doesn’t say this to him, but she wonders if their life together is an experiment on his part, an attempt at walking around in the world like one of the living.

She pities him. But this time it isn’t enough.

This world has no need for pity.

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