you're too young & eager to love
21 January 2019 @ 01:21 pm
 
Writing! Woo! It's been so long.

Ignore the flashback where I clearly struggle with the correct tense. Fuck it. I proof read, but there's probably still some typos. You know how it goes.

Heeereeeee we goooooo!



to die )
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
19 January 2019 @ 09:59 am
 
This was supposed to be the opening section of a much larger piece. But it's been sitting around for so long that I forgot where I was supposed to be going with it. Figured I could post this bit at least.


--



Augusta has grown.

It's the first thing Maximus thinks as he's lead into Albtraum's executive suite. They've had the generators restored since The Incident, but he can see that they're supplementing the emergency lighting with candles, so the room is full of shadows. There's a low fire burning in a stone hearth, and the smell of cinder is everywhere. In the middle of it all, his daughter sits. Pretentious. Self-Assured. Vindicated.

Augusta is his eldest, but Maximus sometimes confuses her for another one of his offsprings, one of his younger daughters from his third wife. He's less surprised by her demeanor and more surprised that she's at the writing desk, a gigantic structure made of solid oak, square and masculine in its cut. Harrow had always leaned against it when entertaining diplomats or conducting meetings, but Augusta claims the center seat. Her ankles are crossed one over the other, modest-like, one foot bare, her left toes balancing inside the tortuous straps of a leather stiletto. It's only when she tilts her head up at the sound of his approaching that he sees the full length of her face, all the dips and planes that adulthood has sharpened and life has weathered.

She's beautiful, but she makes no attempt to hide her cruelty from her beauty. No amount of cosmetics could soften the hardness of her mouth, of her eyes. Her hair falls against one side of her face and down her back, the ends blunt and harsh. Her nails are clear and sharp.

"Do you want me to make nice?" Augusta asks by way of greeting, pausing in her writing. The tip of her fountain pen hovers, bold with fresh ink, above a stack of official looking letters. "Father arrives and corrals the disobedient children?"

Maximus wraps his knuckles around the top of his cane and taps the tiled floor absently. "This is why I married you off," he says at last, "because of your untempered spirit."

Beside Augusta, a predator cat growls, the sound low and threatening. The hair on the back of its neck rises, a rigid line following the length of its spine. It's too large to be anything but a shifter, and even next to that gigantic desk, it looks huge. For one brief moment, before he can compose himself, Maximus is startled. He hadn't noticed the beast laying beside Augusta, it's gold eyes full of intelligence and anger. A younger Maximus would have seen it immediately, but he hasn't been young for some time. He's nearing eighty. His eyes are milky, and he needs his cane more than he would like to admit. There's not much left beneath his expensive suit; he used to be a broad bull of a man, but age has weakened him. Even his voice rasps with death.

Augusta is looking at him. She sits back in the chair and drops a hand to the mountain lion's head, the way one might do to a loyal dog, her fingers idling above its brow. Its amber hair smooths, but the creature keeps staring, its eyes as defiant as Augusta's.

"And how well did that work out, father? Or can you even remember?"

Harrow mumbles something unintelligible, the slurred words jerking into the conversation from behind Augusta. He's slumped in a corner chair, half folded into himself, his mouth slack from too much whiskey, his voice a croak of impotent anger. Maximus hadn't noticed him before either.

"What's that?" Augusta asks over her shoulder. Beneath her stroking fingers, the lion starts to purr. The sound is worse than its growl.

Maximus lifts his grey eyebrows, frowning. "Sober him up. He has work to do."

"No."

He looks as though lightning has struck him between the eyes. "What did you say?"

"I said no. In fact, let's bring him another bottle. If we're lucky, he'll drown himself in whiskey, and we can say goodbye to all his foolishness." She gestures to a plain girl in a khaki colored uniform, and the girl skitters off without hesitating.

Maximus stutters on his breath. Augusta waits, scratching behind the lion's ear, and it closes its bright eyes, it's tail making a lazy, long sweep above the floor. In the background, Harrow mutters a line from a lullaby and shifts drunkenly. His eyes are only half open, but they're red and unfocused. Maximus stares at his son, trying to will him into action by the sheer force of his gaze, but there's no power in his eyes anymore, and Harrow's too busy pining over his swan to notice. His swan and his kingdom and his pride.

Augusta clears her throat. Light. Demure. Ladylike.

"Was there anything else, father? Because if not, I have a number of correspondences to address to assure the remaining compounds." She flicks her pen with her right hand, gesturing to the letter.

Maximus' mouth is a thin, grim line. It's white and wrinkled, like the rest of him. For a moment, he considers confronting his eldest, of stalking forward and cracking his knuckles across her mouth the way he had when she was a child, the way he had when her mother had also become too impertinent for her own good. Again, his hand curls tight around his cane, and he shifts his weight. He manages one step closer before the lion's eyes have opened, have pinned him with their stare. It bares its teeth like it can read his thoughts.

"Let's discuss this more over dinner," Augusta suggests before she begins to write again, the scratch of the pen deafening. At the same time, the maid returns. She's carrying a fresh bottle of whiskey.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
16 September 2018 @ 06:43 pm
 
Thanks to Muffin for the idea/direction here! Let's hope my formatting sticks.

nor are we forgiven )
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
06 September 2018 @ 05:31 pm
 
Just a little warm up/blurb.

There's really nothing in this to suggest that the girl is a prostitute, unless maybe you squint and look real close? Originally I wanted to develop a priest and a prostitute in a Western setting, but the thing with driving by the seat of your pants while writing is that ... well, your writing just develops as you go. So! Ta da.

~~~~


Won’t you just let me pretend
this is the love I need?
And I will grow
out of all the empty words I often speak.
WAXAHATCHEE





Sourstone is a forgotten town. It’s tucked behind what the locals refer to as The Black Woods, a patch of forest a few acres long, as full of thorns and old oaks as a tick full of blood. Except for Timber Creek winding its way precariously through the thicket, the Black Woods are nearly impenetrable, so most everybody has to trudge the long, lone path circling the perimeter of the forest if they want to find the town.

In his early days, before he was considered a local, Father Bathe used to sit on his back porch at dusk and he’d see a woman out in those trees. The White Woman, he called her, a slip of a thing in porcelain colored lace with eyes as blue as an Arizona sky. Sometimes she would seem to be smiling at him. Sometimes he wouldn’t be able to see her face, and he’d swear she was crying along with the owls and the foxes and all those other night creatures that were just starting to emerge. He’d only just begun to drink in those days, a few cautious sips from the bottle after dinner, and while he’d needed those sips to strengthen his resolve against the godless territory he’d suddenly found himself in, he knew the White Woman wasn’t a drinker’s delusion. She’d had too much light around her; she’d shone bright against all the dark trees. Back then, he’d thought everything was a spiritual sign, and the Woman was no different.

Bathe never told anyone about her, but sometimes the Sourstone urchins would babble about seeing a lady lost in the woods. Once, a child went missing, and the bereaved mother blamed it on a woman in white, a woman luring her baby into the woods, as evil as a fairytale witch. Bathe never questioned the mother about it, but he’d held her hand and bowed his head and prayed to St. Anthony. They never found the child, but the White Woman stayed around.

By the time Bathe is fifty, she’s a Sourstone legend, a bit of local myth, a story whispered by weary parents into the ears of naughty children. Bathe hasn’t seen her himself in over three decades, either because she’s taken offense to the amount of whiskey he now drinks or because God no longer sees him worthy of receiving His signs, but he can still picture those dusky nights, still see the glimpse of a slender figure on the brink of the woods, beckoning to him with a sad smile and a silver arm; he can still remember the sound of a woman whose cries reminded him of an owl’s trill.





He finds Modesty on his property line a week later as the sun starts to dip down over the horizon. She’s unconscious and covered in cuts from thorns and branches. Her bare feet are bloody. She’s wearing white.

Bathe thinks he’s caught himself a soiled dove.





What she sees first is the white of his collar, a pristine ivory square staring out at her sharply from the base of an older man’s throat. His shirt is black and sharply creased, like it’s new or well ironed, but all the darkness makes his build hard to identify when he looms so closely above her. His face comes into focus slowly. It’s lined and weathered with cracks -- above his bushy eyebrows, at the corners of his eyes, framing the sides of his mouth -- but it is not an unkind face. The man has the nose of a hawk and bloodshot eyes; his hair is the muted brown of dead leaves, but the grey at his temples gives him a more studious look than the alcohol on his breath reveals.

When he realizes she’s looking, he sits back on a three-legged stool beside the couch she’s been placed on. He’s tall, solidly built like a farmer or laborer, but he hunches to hide it.

“What’s that about?” she asks by way of an introduction, looking at the white square on his neck again. Her voice is scratchy, and she’s never been so thirsty in all of her life.

“It’s a clerical collar.”

“You’re a man of the cloth.”

“Yes,” he says, but something in the way his eyes draw together and his mouth grimaces makes her think otherwise. “I’m Father Bathe. I found you on my property. You seemed to have come from the woods, although I don’t know how. Can you tell me what happened?”

“My name’s Modesty.”

“And?”

She shrugs a bony but smooth shoulder. She wants something to drink, but she doesn’t want to ask for it.

“Rest some more.” Father Bathe has a confident and soothing voice. He pats her hand the way docile men are supposed to. Modesty can remember many things, even now in the fog of wakefulness, but not the last time a man touched her so passively.





The girl, Modesty, falls back to sleep within two minutes. Her eyes blink rapidly for one second, and then she sighs before turning her head into the couch pillow. Her hair, a red bronze like certain coins, falls against her cheek. Bathe thinks about tucking it back behind her ear, but he decides not to. He’s already been intrusive enough by cleaning the scratches on her arms and legs and bandaging her feet. He knows how far the freckles run up her calves and how they slope beyond her shoulders, decorating her back like constellations.

He lets her rest.

He doesn’t think of going for help. Sourstone residents mostly keep to themselves except for church meetings on Sundays, and it’s only Wednesday, and she’s only a girl.





She stays until her feet have healed. And then she stays longer.





“I think you could be a sign,” he tells her over a third glass of whiskey on a night that is dark with sin. He’s starting to slur his words and his mouth is wet. His eyes seem hungry when he looks at her from his hunched position against the table.

“A sign from who?”

Bathe stares at her, hard. She's been with him a month and sometimes he has trouble remembering her name, although her face comes to him often. He clears his throat. “That’s what I’m tryin’ to figure out.”

Modesty smiles and stretches out her foot. She rubs his ankle with his toe.






When Bathe thinks back on his time with her, he’ll wonder at how easily he let the devil through his door.
Tags:
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
09 August 2018 @ 03:03 pm
 
Companion piece! Or at least a piece from Haven's POV when her and Luke are teens and stuff is ~happening~.

nobody saw it coming but the little red devil in me )
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
08 August 2018 @ 11:12 pm
 
Sooooo, Haven has been on my mind lately. Probably due to the copious amount of Lady Gaga I've been listening to while driving around in this Virginia heat. I'm glad I followed my gut and decided to write with the siblings.

Originally, I was going to do the first half from Luke's POV and then write a second half with a different scene from Haven's POV that thematically connected, but ... I didn't want to push my luck. I'm happy with how this came out.

Thanks to my muffinpants for being encouraging and for finding a suitable quote for me to snag!


hear my sinner's prayer )
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
05 August 2018 @ 09:46 pm
 
I don't know who these characters are or what's happening in their lives. I started writing and just kept going, for whatever that is worth. It sort of sounds like they might be in the wasteland, living in the desert? But your guess is my guess.


--


“Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth
and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it.” - Ann Patchett, State of Wonder







Nora’s hands are the white of lilies, of ivory, of cream. Her nails gleam like the edge of a blade - curved and full of threats. When she smiles she shows her teeth, and those teeth are deceivingly small, crowding her mouth like perfect pristine tombstones. There’s secrets in that mouth, chained behind the gate of her lips.






“She’s like a leech, tell you what.” Jax punctuates his distaste with an equally distasteful spit, the chew-stained saliva arching into a pitiful loop on its downward trajectory.

The spit settles uncomfortably close to the tip of Colleen’s boot, and the look she gives Jax is one of pure annoyance. Colleen doesn’t like things like spit or sweat or cum. She doesn’t like stains or rips or messes. Dirt is her greatest nemesis. She puts her dainty hands in her lap and studies her cuticles, shifting her weight in the chair outside the trailer. There’s two lawn chairs but no awning, so Jax and her sweat beneath the merciless sun, ignoring the sounds coming from the rectangle of aluminum walls behind them.

“Like a leech,” Jax reiterates.

“I heard you the first time.”

“What?”

“I said I heard you.”

“You shouldn’t mumble,” Jax says with another spit.

This brown glob lands farther away from Colleen but she sniffs all the same, her nose wrinkling. She turns her face away from Jax in a silent gesture of dissociation - Jax is her least favorite of the quartet, the one she feels little to no affinity for, the one most likely to get under her skin. He’s as tired and worn as an old boot, his skin leathered and wrinkled from too many days in the desert sun, his hair long and silvered, but he has the perception of a hawk, predatory and cunning. His keenness disarms her because it counters the brittleness of his looks. A feeble man should be harmless at best and mildly burdensome at worst, but Jax circumvents Colleen’s need to categorize her world around her - he refuses to fit into the square box she’s made for him in her mind.

She wraps the ends of her coppery hair around her fingers and ignores the way the mobile home shivers and shakes; she stares into the distance, looking for anything of interest on the scorching horizon. The wind is hot, and the row of cacti in the distance shimmer in the midday heat. The sight makes Colleen thirsty, painfully so. She thinks of water: cold and clear from a lake in her childhood, as reflective as glass.

There aren’t many lakes left anymore, or so they say. They’ve been sucked dry. Turned into patches of dust and ashen cracks crisscrossing open stretches of meadows made brown from unending summers.

“You ever see a leech?” she asks, tilting her head back to Jax.

He grunts, and she hits his knee. “Hey, you wanted to talk, so I’m talking. You ever see a leech, old man?”

Jax rubs his weathered, knotted knuckles across his thin mouth, twisting his fingers into the tangle of beard jutting from his chin. “Wormy things. Fat when full. Rows of teeth you can’t see, but you know they’re there. Blood tubes.”

Colleen nods. “That’s right.”

A shadow cuts the sky above them, long and narrow. Colleen shields her eyes with her hand and looks up, but whatever flew over them has already moved on, swift as a river, dipping behind a rare stretch of thin cloud. She’s heard of swamp birds who have morphed into bat-like cranes, bizarre creatures that evolved to their new climates and terrain, their feathers replaced by leathery skin. She’d like to have seen it, if that’s what it was.

“Yeah,” Colleen says after a moment. “Yeah, maybe she is like a leech.”

“But ain’t you just jealous as can be anyway.”

Colleen rolls her eyes. Behind her, a woman’s muddled voice arches into a breathy, satisfied moan.

Jealousy doesn’t begin to describe what she’s feeling.






Abraham has two of Nora’s fingers in his mouth. His tongue is hot against her skin, his teeth blunt, scraping across her knuckles. He sucks wetly and she laughs, pushing her palm against his face when she frees herself from the suction, smearing his spit against his cheek. He chuckles warmly and scoops his thick arms around her, bracketing the narrow slip of her body until she’s once more curled on top and against him. Abraham is a tree, broad and massive, knotted in muscle, and she roosts in his lap as secure as a nestling.

They’re opposite a window, the lone twin bed within the trailer pushed against the far wall, and all the rich soft light falls on Nora. She looks creamy with happiness, as if she’s carved out of butter. It’s easy to fall in love with women who look like this, Abraham thinks, rubbing a calloused hand over one of her pale shoulders. He doesn’t understand how a woman living beneath the reach of a perpetually assaulting sun can remain so fair - no freckles, no lines, no tan. Her paleness is enigmatic.

Nora slips her arms around the trunk of his neck, touches her forehead to his. She rubs small circles against the base of his skull. As she kisses him, she tastes salt and spearmint and spit. When he’d found her in a drifter town off the Western coast, she’d been a mouse amongst vipers, ready for the slaughter. She hadn’t expected Abraham to be her salvation, just as she hadn’t expected to find herself willingly entering his bed.

Now, Abraham sighs, aware of the muted conversation from outside their window, of the way the sun moves across the sky. Nora lifts her eyes to the window. “We should go,” she says. “We’ve been selfish enough for one day.”

“But if we go, we lose the bed. Plus, I don’t like to sleep alone.”

Nora has heard this speech or something similar to it before. Abraham always says that the bed is too big; it’s a funny thing to complain about, an impossible thing to complain about, considering his height and chiseled width. It’s also a lie. The bed is barely big enough to contain his own limbs, his long feet sometimes hanging over the edge, let alone another adult body.

“I need someone to roll up against, or I just roll around all night,” he mumbles into her ear. “Some mornings I even wake up on the floor.”

“But, let me guess, you mostly wake up with other people?”

Abraham’s laugh knocks around his chest. “Maybe before. I miss before. Before, people were good. People were like doors.”

“Doors?”

“Solid. Inviting. Doors open, and you walk in.”

“You wanted women you could walk into?” Nora raises an eyebrow, knocking his forehead with hers.

“It’s a metaphor, and no.” He places a kiss on her bottom lip. “What I want is not to want things.”






The desert is ardent. That’s his mother’s word: ardent. Jax would never use a word like that himself. But with his hands on his hips and the heat of the sun already blistering the skin on his shoulders, that’s what he thinks of. The heat out here is beyond natural, beyond elemental. It’s devoted, enthusiastic, radiating. If he doesn’t cover up soon, he’ll have blisters the size of silver dollars peppering his back, but he has the hardest time feeling anything but respect for heat. He might even love it after sixty years of living in it.

He breathes in the thickness of the air. There’s a dust storm coming. He can smell it. The sky is still wide and open and blue, but he knows the weather patterns here. He’s about to tell Colleen that they’d be wise to stock some reserves in the trailer for overnight when Abraham throws open the door and barrels out. The steps sag under his weight.

Colleen’s entire body jumps in her chair.

Two white arms wrap around Abraham’s stomach, and Nora props her chin on his shoulder, her head poking up behind him like a cherubic marionette.

Abraham doesn’t see it, but Jax notices the way Colleen’s mouth tightens into a steel line.
Tags:
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
11 July 2018 @ 02:22 pm
 
This is total nonsense and not the best prose, but it was fun!

Wasteland/Albtraum Harry Potter AU! Set many, many, many years after the whole main HP story line because I wanted new professors.


---



I wish that we were magic
So we wouldn’t be so young and tragic
- Dead Man’s Bones


Augusta wears a key around her neck, tiny and rusted and not at all like her other jewelry she favors - the expensive gems that decorate her ears and fingers. The Vries have as much money as they have family history; theirs is a pure-blooded lineage that can be traced back to the 1600s, so most of the other Slytherins like to think the key is linked to that past, a relic from some archaic time.

Arletta stretches herself across the brunette’s neatly made bed, using two of the plush pillows to prop herself up. “Auggie, really, what is the deal with that ugly necklace? What’s it open? A chest of Merlin’s?”

“Don’t call me that.” As the eldest of the Vries, Augusta has worked hard to live up to the expectations set by her father and her family - she is a serious girl, beguiling when necessary, but she doesn’t smile often, and she certainly doesn’t have the time for nicknames. She turns another page of her Potions textbook and tries to ignore her roommate.

“So serious,” Arletta complains with a huff and a roll of her eyes. Although not as famous or long-reaching as the Vries, Arlette’s family history is one of impressive fortune, so she’s never understood Augusta’s need to turn her nose up at her.

“Just because you’re snogging my brother and cohabitating with me this year, doesn’t mean we’re friends.”

“Obviously,” Arletta frowns, scooting off the brunette’s bed. Not for the first time, Arletta wishes she had been paired with another of her housemates; the dungeons are cold enough without Augusta’s added presence.

“What time is it?” Augusta asks after a few minutes, scribbling the last of her notes onto her parchment and closing her textbook.

“Almost lockdown.”

“I’ll be back before then.”

“But -” Arletta watches as the 7th year grabs a cloak from the back of the door and a small purple bag that she loops around her wrist before ducking out of the room, as chilly as an October wind.







“Professor?” It’s a formality, really, this title of his that she says so quietly, slipping through the wet earth beneath the whomping willow. Augusta has her wand out in front of her, the tip glowing bright, and her necklace clutched in the other hand.

Some years back, it had been considered a threat to the student body to have a werewolf on the staff, and attitudes haven’t changed much at Hogwarts or even other wizarding academies. But Radomir hadn’t always been cursed; he’s only been suffering lycanthropy for the last two years. Augusta was the first to discover his secret, and somehow that had ended them both here.

At the end of the earthen tunnel, there’s the foundation of what once had been a haunted, ramshackle cottage, with only the basement remaining. The Committee for Historical Preservation had kept the shrieking shack as a monument of sorts, but it had been closed to the public for years. Hogwarts, however, has a history of leaving pathways open for curious students, or at least those clever enough to research the old Dark Arts and First and Second Wizarding Wars. A few hours in the library and some time practicing her hedge enchantments, and Augusta knew just how to handle her professor’s secret.

The Vries are always opportunistic.

She unlocks the cage door he’d built himself with her key; her eyes flick to all the teeth trapped in his tired smile then down to the fresh line of cuts across his abdomen. More than his clothes are shredded, but a quick flourish from her wand has his skin stitch itself together before their eyes. He grunts his gratitude.

Augusta hands him his effects, all his personal items kept safe in a purple bottomless bag the size of a coin purse. “You’ve missed a week of your Ancient Studies course. We’re covering Egyptian spells. It’s difficult because of the prononciation. The Headmaster seems to think you’re suffering from a congenital blood disease.”

“How do you know that?” Radomir asks, pulling a shirt over his broad frame, working the buttons nimbly. With his frame, he looks as though he should be teaching the Dark Arts or how to care for dangerous creatures, like dragons or the giant squid in the Great Lake, but he’s more scholar than brute.

Augusta shrugs. “I have my ways.” There’s a hint of her beguiling nature there, a serpentine kind of slyness to the cut of her eyes.

Radomir flashes a half grin at her. “I’m not surprised.” He touches the dark fall of her hair when he passes, his fingers hesitating at the curve of her jaw. She’s severely beautiful, wrapped up in the uniform of her house, the green and silver stripes of her tie and skirt complimenting the sharp angles of her face, the small expanse of her waist that he can bridge between his giant hands, the slope of her nose that he’s found himself memorizing.

Augusta smiles, the turn of her lips feeling foreign.



--



There’s a dead woman in the North Tower. Some of the students leaving their Divination class catch the occasional glimpse of her - a pale, shivering shroud of silver - but they leave her to her sadness, thinking that Ravenclaw’s ghost prefers solitude.

Lene mentions her, the Silver Lady, during Care of Magical Creatures, hauling a bucket of cream-sweetened apples and fresh wheat from the stables. The students have been split into small groups and assigned some sort of fantastical beast to groom; she may be the first student alive to ever be disappointed in handling a unicorn, but she can’t help enviably eyeing Roman and Kim who have been assigned to a thestral. Lene can’t actually see the winged horse that Roman is feeding a bloodied rabbit to, but she knows it’s there.

Palmer sees Lene’s interest and rolls his eyes. “You can’t be serious. You can only see those things if you’ve really seen death. Up close and personal. Plus, Professor Waters must be insane to have students around them. They’re illegal to breed by the Ministry, ridiculously dangerous, predatory animals with a level four classification …” he pauses, and a familiar glint, like light on onyx, brightens his eyes. “How much do you think one would go for? There’s always a market for the rare and the dangerous.”

Sunniva smacks his arm, a quick, sharp gesture. “If you paid attention to the lecture, you’d know that Hogwarts’ thestrals are properly fed and well trained. They would only attack if seriously threatened.” She’s perched carefully on the top railing of fencing in the yarded area, and Palmer shuffles to her side with a frown, rubbing his shoulder.

“I think she’s lonely,” Eda says quietly, running a brush down the side of the unicorn’s coat, drawing all of their attention back to the original topic at hand. “The Silver Lady.”

The unicorn is brighter and purer than snow, its hooves gold, it’s attitude one of easy, entitled serenity. It seems content to be momentarily bridled, content to be push its velvet nose into Lene’s hand when she offers it one of her apples. “Why?”

Eda shrugs, the gesture soft and somehow delicate beneath the fabric of her prim school blouse. “People don’t usually choose solitude. Not permanently. They just become accustomed to it, and then they forget how to be social again. It’s probably the same with ghosts.”

Palmer raises an eyebrow. “You shock me with your ability to be insightful.”

“That’s because you’re sidetracked by her breasts. You forget she has a brain,” Lene says, feeding the unicorn another apple.

Eda blushes and ducks her eyes, but there’s a coy smile on her lips anyway. Sunniva smirks knowingly, elbowing Palmer’s side when he frowns like a petulant child.




Chason Waters became a professor at Hogwarts only six years ago, but he builds an easy rapport with his students as a dark-eyed, sly grinning, attentive teacher. His calloused hands handle everything from flobberworms to fire crabs with the same easy, practiced skill. When he huffs his hair out of his eyes and demonstrates the proper handling of a bowtruckle for Tuesday’s class, the stick-like figure winding its sharp fingers around his right knuckles like vines, a good portion of the female students sigh dreamily.

“They’re slipperier than slug spawn,” Chason reminds the class, using his left hand as a safety net beneath his right.

“So’s half the class,” Roman quips, earning a snicker from Palmer beside him. They’re in the third row and they knock elbows, jabbing each other like first-years instead of seniors.

Chason sends the boys a disapproving glance. “And very sensitive creatures. They can be prone to biting when their feelings are hurt, so be delicate.”

“Not really my speciality, Professor,” Lene says with a noticeably wrinkled brow. She had accidentally cracked three of her five fairy eggs within the first ten minutes of last week’s class, much to Eda’s dismay.

“Tell me about it,” Roman murmurs, absentmindedly rubbing his bruised side from where Lene had slammed into him during Quidditch practice.

“Mind your fingers then, Lene.” Chason unceremoniously lets the bowtruckle slip from his hand onto Lene’s desk where the tree-dweller promptly loops its curved fingers around her wrist and crawls up her arm, chittering in a friendly manner.



-



Roman shoves an entire fried sausage into his mouth during breakfast in the Great Hall, following it up with two slices of bacon before guzzling a glass of orange juice. Lene’s expression is horrified.

“You know,” she says, spreading butter daintily on a biscuit, “you don’t have to eat like a lion to establish yourself as a Gryffindor.”

“I still don’t understand your sorting, honestly,” Palmer chimes in, swinging a leg over the bench seat, his silver and green tie looking shockingly out of place amidst all the gold and red around him. “You should have been with me and Sun.”

“Yeah,” Lene scoffs, looking at Palmer as though he’s insane, “you and Sun and the Vries.”

“I like the Vries,” Roman says with a casual shrug.

Lene aims her expression of incredulity at Roman. “And I like the cruciatus curse.”

“Seriously. They’re cool, and associating with them boosts my own popularity thanks to proximity alone. That’s an elite crowd.”

“See? Wrong sorting.” Palmer reaches over Lene for a cup of hot coffee, narrowly avoiding a sharp jab to his side.

“Well, I still think you have a moral compass somewhere inside of that dead heart of yours,” she mumbles, taking a bite of her biscuit. “Maybe you’re just waiting to prove yourself.”

Palmer doesn’t catch it, but Roman winks at Lene before attacking another fried sausage.




-



“You know father expects Baldric to propose by the end of the school year,” Harrow tells his sister. He stares at her porridge as though it’s gruel and opts for a slice of cured ham, cutting into it with a knife sharp enough to gleam. They’re three tables over from the Gryffindors.

It should have been difficult to look elite amongst a house primarily full of arrogant, if not ambitious, students, but the Vries manage it well with a section of the Slytherin table to themselves and their inner circle. Their isolation is a coveted thing. Arletta sits beside Harrow, her red hair a burning halo around her face, and pretends to ignore the siblings’ conversation.

Augusta tucks a piece of her dark hair behind her ear, her amber eyes turning to shoot a sideways glance of annoyance at Harrow. “Does he expect the same of you and Arletta here?” She adds a few raspberries and a pour of vanilla-flavored cream into her porridge.

As if on cue, Arletta perks up. “I’d be happy to be your sister, Auggie.”

Neither Harrow or Augusta favor Arletta with a response.

“There’s been some gossip,” Harrow says after a moment, leaning more comfortably against the edge of the table. Arletta winds her arm around his, her fingers stroking the inside of his wrist playfully with her nails.

Augusta raises an eyebrow. “I wonder from who.” She stares at Arletta like the girl’s a leech.

“What are you up to? And why do I think it has something to do with that Ancient Studies professor?”

Harrow is one year younger than Augusta, but he has the look of a predatory shark. His grin could rival Roman’s. Augusta takes a bite of her porridge, the raspberry tart on her tongue, and smiles around her spoon with a shrug.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
09 July 2018 @ 09:55 pm
 
Lene takes an ice bath, descending into the frigid cold toes-first and rolls onto her stomach once she’s fully submerged. The coldness becomes a pain so bright that it feels like a bullet wound, a knife cut, a hangman’s noose. She keeps her eyes open under the water to remind herself that she is still alive, that the ice and the freezing temperature can be withstood.

There’s a purple bruise swelling beneath her left eye, and her lip is busted at the corner. She can still taste blood in her mouth. She has at least one broken rib and knots across her shoulders that are tender enough to make her wince.

When she can’t take it anymore - holding her breath, counting the seconds, freezing to death - Lene pulls herself from the tub, her hands clawing at the porcelain edges. There’s tiny knicks on her cheeks from where she’d been cut by glass during the explosion, and her knuckles are scraped raw. She’s shivering before she has time to shake her hair from her eyes. The dull pain in the back of her head tells her to worry about a concussion. Gingerly, she stands on shaking knees.

Roman tosses her a towel. It’s so white it reminds her of snow, which just makes her colder. But it’s plush and expensive and smells faintly of lavender. She wraps it around herself before carefully stepping from the tub, her wet feet soaking the bathroom matt.

“Headquarters thinks we should lie low,” Roman says, hissing out cigarette smoke in an upward draft.

“Where were you?” Lene takes a second towel from the shelf above the toilet and uses it to start drying her hair, careful to avoid any quick movements. She doesn’t ask as an accusation, but her eyes, so like the color of her ice bath, are steel.

“I was late because I was followed.”

“There’s late … and then there’s missing the entire heist altogether. Were you IDed?”

Roman scoffs at her, flicking cigarette ash into the bowl of the sink. He speaks as he inhales. “Were you?”

“Just thrown out of a window.”

“You’ve had worse.”

She pulls on an overly large shirt, some German script printed in bold across her chest, and sits on the edge of the bath. Lene lets him tape her knuckles and clean her face. When they’ve finished, he pours her a shot of Stoli and gives her two aspirins. She skips the aspirin but takes a second of the Stoli.







“MI6 is so worried, they called the CIA on us.”

Roman shakes the ice in his drink, preferring his vodka on the rocks, and rolls his eyes. He rubs a hand over his mouth, his fingers scratching at the inch of thick beard across his jaw. East Berlin is blanketed in snow, scrawled in graffiti and neon lights and hedonists, and Roman seems to be fitting in well. He’s wearing a leather jacket studded with safety pins and heavy combat boots and an air of nonchalance.

“So,” he says, lighting his third cigarette in ten minutes, “we are in a precarious position then?”

“More like working under a time table.”

“No rest for the wicked.”

“Hey,” Lene corrects, pulling on an overly large sweater, “we’re supposed to be the good guys.”








They spend the next night in a bar loud with music and black lighting, their four eyes on a Russian and woman in a blood-colored skirt. Roman gets drunk in the name of national security while Lene’s hair is an unnatural shade of white, her teeth glowing every time she laughs or cusses.

“That’s her translator,” Lene says, leaning up against Roman’s shoulder to speak into his ear. It’s hard to hear over the music.

Roman takes one look at the hulking, massive man sitting beside Augusta and lifts three fingers to their waitress, signaling for another drink. “I don’t believe it. She doesn’t even need a translator.”

“I don’t think he’s teaching her French at four in the morning, but officially, yes, that’s his job description.”

“I thought she was married.”

Lene groans, running a hand back through her hair. “She is married. Do you even read the reports? The briefings?”

“More like skim, I skim.”

Lene laughs, half exasperated, half knowing, and plucks his cigarette from his mouth to steal a drag.

They wait another hour and then they leave … where they promptly continue to wait, only this time it’s in the cold, the snow peppering their shoulders and turning their fingers to ice. When she agreed to this job, nobody explained to Lene just how much of spy work consisted of counting minutes in the dark. At least here they are covered on either side by brick alleyways, and the bar music is loud enough to make the sound of any potential gunfire less noticeable - although East Berliners are already so accustomed to bullets firing in the night, they hardly blink an eye.

When Augusta and her party finally exit, the translator flanks her like a shadow. She has the collar of her coat turned up against the cold, and her heels sound like icepicks as she walks across the cobblestone. There’s three other men with her, but she only hooks her arm around one, burying her cheek against the side of his shoulder when the wind rattles.

Roman moves first; he’s already planning on stubbing his cigarette in the tallest man’s eye and going for a choke-hold move, but Lene catches his elbow at the last minute. She shakes her head no, glancing pointedly to the left.

There’s a car pulling around the corner, headlights blaring. It slows to a stop, and they watch as Augusta and the men slide inside. It’s hard to tell in the darkness, but Lene thinks she can make out Harrow’s form in the front seat.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
13 June 2018 @ 10:04 am
 
So, I started this a month ago, and I never went back to finish it. It turns out that Roman and Emere are too similar to be interesting. No conflict. Nadda. Nothing.

Here's the bits I managed:


I want to give in
to my dark self destruction.
I will find you there.
- Anonymous

They’re trying to destroy
something inside that
doesn’t belong.
- Anonymous


At three in the morning, all he can hear is the hum of traffic outside their window and the sharp way she cuts then inhales, strikes then drags, drinks then sniffs. Emere’s eyes are red-rimmed and unfocused, like they’ve spent too much time knocking against her skull. There’s a shake to her fingertips. Her blood must be thin, coursing through her veins with all the ferocity and speed of a runaway train.

He isn’t much better, truth be told, but Roman has always been a king of composure. His hands do not shake. There’s sweat stains under his arms and a wild, James Dean glare in his eyes, but he’s otherwise collected. He leans forward, plucking the cigarette from her hand, taking a drag as she absently swipes her fingers through his loose hair before settling back onto the couch. She pushes her bare feet into his lap, one leg bouncing, the muscles in her thigh twitching beneath her skin.

“What time is it?” She’s smoked so many cigarettes, her voice has that match-strike sound, all grit and stone.

“A little past three.”

Her leg keeps bouncing. He pets her calf, stroking down to her ankle and back up.

“Are you tired?”

Roman stares at her, judging her seriousness, and grins when she smirks. “I won’t sleep for days. You?”

“I have a meeting at eight.”

He glances back at his watch. “Five hours.”

“Just enough time,” she murmurs, swallowing a mouthful of gin and vermouth before she rearranges herself and slinks into his lap, a dusky arm thrown over his shoulders, her mouth catching at his bottom lip, the scratch of his beard as harsh as gravel.





Their Mondays are like their Wednesdays are like their Fridays. Rinse and repeat. A copy of a copy.

She never smells like cigarette smoke or scotch or chemicals. He never looks tired or out done or misused.

Sometimes she sleeps against his shoulder in the back of a taxi, her dark hair tangled and tousled against his broad jaw. He keeps a hand on her thigh, his fingers brushing old scars beneath the hem of her dress.





She takes shots of vodka standing half-naked in the loft’s open kitchen, a hip cocked to the side, wearing one of his work-out tanks and nothing else. It’s five in the afternoon, but she shouldn’t be home - she has a list of appointments longer than the Hudson that have her booked for the next week solid - and she definitely shouldn’t be three sheets to the wind. It’s early, even by Emere’s standards, but she already has that feral cat look about her, the angry, ready-for-a-fight attitude she adopts steadily, hour by hour, as the day progresses into night. It’s usually worse after half a bottle of Ketel One. Roman considers himself lucky, even if the hair on the back of his neck stands up in warning.

He loosens his tie, sidestepping a knocked over vase on his way into the kitchen, and pours himself a shot. While he’s at it, he pours her another one, and leaves the cap off the bottle. He’s a whole head taller than her and he makes good use of the height, looking at the cabinets in front of him rather than down at her. Trying to catch her gaze would be like willingly looking into Medusa’s stare.

“Bad day, dear?” he asks.

Emere takes the shot as an answer and slams the glass down on the counter. “Fuck you.”

Roman lifts his own glass to his lips and tips it back smoothly, the burn settling down his throat and into his chest with the glow of an afterthought. He pours another round. She reaches for hers, and he swats away her hand.

“Hold on, let me catch up, and we’ll see what happens.”

He tips his shot back again, surprised by the sound of her laughter.
Tags: ,
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
21 January 2018 @ 03:17 pm
 
Inspired by this photo: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/d6/4e/5f/d64e5f73268f272bb3dbce2284a0ff50--karen-elson-my-photo.jpg




“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark?”
- Werner Herzog






On the first day of her absence, his hunger is a pinprick. A scratch down the inside of his arm. A fly circling fresh decomposition - he can still swat it away.

Three days later, the hunger simmers deep in the pit of his stomach, caught in the teeth of the demon inside of him. He’s gnawing at himself.

By day six, it is a pick-axe in his temple, a wedge of ice severing his brain. An infestation.

Roman can feel the pressure it causes between his eyes. His brows knit together. His mouth feels dry. He’s agitated at meetings, his usual sarcasm giving way to a quick temper and a streak of cruelty. When one of the familiar companions – a brunette he’s sampled before with easy enjoyment – slips into his lap after dinner, a quip on her mouth and a suggestion in her gaze, he pushes her away, watches her scramble on the floor in confusion. He knocks her arm with the tip of his boot. Makes sure she knows to stay away.

Later, in the darkness of his Spartan room, prone inside of his wide bed and sterile sheets, he tries to silence the cacophony of heartbeats surrounding him.

Closing his eyes, Roman thinks of starvation.









The singer is remarkable.

Hers is a remote beauty – a Gloria Swanson face with glacier eyes, her mouth the color of pomegranate wine, her eyebrows thin carved arches the width of a razor blade, her high cheekbones and square jaw framed by her full garnet hair. When she smiles, the severity of her beauty softens, the gaunt sharpness of her face relaxing, and she is made warm. But like stoneware reverting into clay - made pliable once more, all the preciseness within the finished product lost outside of the kiln - the warmth doesn’t suit her. She looks better stoic, statuesque, withdrawn.

Her beauty becomes unimportant when she sings. Secondary to the crushing, poignant, impossibly rich voice. It seems inconceivable that such a small mouth could hold such a voice, one bursting with control, but evocative, sublime, heading towards rapture. Her voice pushes and assails, crowding into the minds and hearts of those who listen, fluttering their pulses, making them dizzy. Many within earshot cry.

Roman does not. He’s too hungry for emotion, too unfocused. The soprano’s performance of an aria (he knows it – he’s heard it before – it was famous once, in another lifetime, but he can’t recall the composer or the sounds of the instruments that should be accompanying the voice – he can’t hear anything other than pulses inside thin wrists and the scent of blood is everywhere – just out of reach) adds to the pain in his head. He keeps a hand on the tufted arm of his wingback chair, his fingers white and pressing into the fabric, the other holding a tumbler of untouched whiskey. Inside the glass, there’s a solitary ice cube melting, diluting the amber liquor, cutting the bite.

The chair to his left is noticeably empty. One chair further, Augusta sits as stern as a schoolteacher, her hulking bodyguard behind her. If she’s effected by the singer, her face does nothing to show it.

After a week, Harrow’s absence is beginning to become noticeable everywhere – especially now, here, where his nonattendance must be an insult to the soprano who has traveled by caravan from compound to compound at Harrow’s request, specifically for tonight’s private performance. Roman has seen the woman’s eyes stray to the empty chair on more than one occasion, the expression interfering with the performance required by the aria’s depth of sadness. Between lifting one ivory arm with a rising note and turning her face towards her shoulder, there’s an expression of anger that Roman understands well.

But Harrow is still recovering from his fractured cheekbone. When Roman saw him the day before last, his eye was still red from blood and broken capillaries. He could open it, but that side of his face was bruised, swollen. Physical proof of the injustice done to him. Harrow would not show himself in such a state, so his sister and his lieutenant have had to make due, hoping to placate the artist with their own presence and gratitude.

It’s a poor substitute. Augusta finds any art to be fanciful, unnecessary, a waste of resources. Roman’s charm should be enough to offset her cold professionalism, but every time the singer opens her mouth, all he can see is the wet, red column of her throat, her tongue inside a pink muscle that he would like to tear free.

Not for the first time, he thinks of Lene. Lene whose apt fist is the cause of Harrow’s foul mood, his fractured cheekbone, his absence. Lene whose smell suddenly seems everywhere, trapped inside of Roman’s rooms, impossible to ignore once she herself has vanished. Lene whose blood, ambrosial with its own preternatural strength and heady thickness, has been so easily offered to Roman month after month that its sudden disappearance has left him teeth-aching and gutted.

It’s his hunger now that makes him miss her, more than anything else: a hard, physical longing, like a craving for air under water. His thirst pounds over him in waves that leaves him stiff-jawed and sore, every vein inside of him keenly aware of its own emptiness, that useless organ inside of his chest a dry, dusty thing. When the waves wash back, Roman is barren. Empty. A husk.

Part of him hates her for this weakness she has caused him. He has not felt this type of ravenousness desire since he was a fledgling, eager to nip at every available throat, desperate to fill that seemingly insatiable thirst, and weeping at the incomparable pleasure of each new mouthful of blood that his fangs could rip from his prey. If he could think, he’d find his own hatred despicable – he knows the particular catalyst of events that led to Lene’s punishment within the desert box, knows his own accountability, knows that his missing of her should be more than just a biological response, that there’s a loneliness inside of him as boundless as the sea – but he can’t, so he doesn’t.

Distantly, Roman realizes the room has filled with applause. He tilts his head, the response of a marionette on tight strings.

Augusta is politely clapping. She glances at him with open disapproval as though he’s made some irrevocable social faux-paus and leans across the empty chair to whisper, “You had better look more impressed than that. She’ll be expecting to dine with you now. Considering the money Harrow has spent on this pointless fiasco, you might as well enjoy it.”

Roman clenches his jaw, the hand holding his whiskey tight enough to shatter the glass.









Harrow’s private dining room is intimate but gilded, a fire crackling in the stone fireplace, the wood floor gleaming in tones of amber and oak, the distressed walls opulent with their crown molding. The compound’s kitchen staff has prepared a spread of luxuries: charbroiled oysters, prosciutto-wrapped pears, sugar-sprinkled strawberries, walnut and ricotta crostini, soft boiled eggs with cracked pepper and arugula, and endless bottles of chilled sparkling champagne.

The scene has been set for a seduction. It’s as clear to Roman as it is to the soprano, but the smell of so much cooked dead meat and slowly spoiling fruit makes his stomach clench. If he was a different creature, he’d be sick.

The woman holds a flute of champagne with dainty fingers, standing near the fire, unimpressed by the display and the silence.

“I apologize, miss Fulton,” Roman says while clearing his throat, pushing a hand through his slick-backed hair, “for Harrow’s absence. He fell ill shortly before your arrival. I hope I can be a suitable replacement.”

His smile is a shark’s that makes the soprano raise an eyebrow. “Are you a fan of opera, mister …?”

“Roman, my name is Roman.”

She peers at him with the cold look of the Arctic. The same unimpressed, disbelieving expression and makes a hum of acknowledgement. “I only ask because you seemed to find my performance underwhelming.”

He places a hand over his heart and dips his head, deferring. “If it underwhelms me, miss Fulton, it is only because of my brutish upbringing. I’m afraid I am more suited for war than art.”

“Evianna. Enough with the miss.”

Roman takes the seat furthest away from the table of appetizers and watches her, trying not to stare at the pale column of her neck, the naked gleam of her shoulders above the sapphire cut of her rich dress.

When he doesn’t say anything, she laughs, mirthless and with a gesture of her fingers in the air. “Yes, I know. It’s a fiction, of course. I was told Evianna had a more elegant, refined quality. My real name is Coral. Like the color.”

“And what a color it is.”

She can’t seem to decipher his meaning, so she makes that humming noise again and sips from her champagne.









Three glasses later, there’s a flush of pink on her cheeks. He’s distinctly aware of it, his eyes hawkish, sharp, following the line of her body as she walks the perimeter of the room, trailing her fingers over the woodwork and the molding. She has an elegant gait – something she’s surely practiced – and her strapless dress pinches her waist, outlining the smallness of her body. Weak. Vulnerable. When she brings her glass to her mouth, Roman can see the lines in her lips, the nearly imperceptible imprint of lipstick left behind on the crystal.

She’s been discussing her own fame, casually, without a shred of humbleness. It’s the type of speech he would expect to find in one of Augusta’s propagandist pamphlets, highlighting all the qualities that place man’s ability above a beast’s: the arduous hours she spent training as a child, the fear of losing her voice after a bought of sickness, the admirable blurring of innate talent and practiced skill that made her remarkable in a world turned wasteland. Unlike a beast born with God-affronting advantages, hers was pure, traditional, the archetypal story of self-made success.

“Does he do this with all his important guests?” she asks at the end of her monologue, pausing at the table to slip a strawberry between her lips. She looks like a woman eating a tiny heart, and the crush of her teeth into the fruit causes Roman an immediate pang of lust.

He has difficult following her non sequitur. “Who’s that now?”

“Harrow.”

“Does Harrow do what with all his important guests?” His thoughts feel like sludge, moving slowly, as thick as syrup, inside his brain. He’s aware of the way he’s snapped at her just now, impatient.

Coral grins at him, the first true expression of the evening, her mouth stained by the strawberry. “Wine and dine them. Like the old days. This is supposed to be a seduction.”

“Is it?” He unbuttons his waist jacket, and she grins more. “You seem acquainted with how this is done. I’m at a disadvantage.”

“I don’t believe you for a second.” She tips her glass back, head following suit, and drinks the rest of her champagne in one mouthful. Roman follows the dip of her throat as she swallows.

He wants to be more business-like when he stands, more efficient, a paradigm of self-control to match her earlier reserved nature, but he crosses the room in four steps, one hand catching her beneath the ear, his fingers tangling into her hair and pressing into the curve at the base of her skull, the top notch of her spine. She gives a startled cry of surprise, but it’s as artificial as her sweeping arms and turned face had been, another performance for an admiring fan.

Coral has to look up at him. There’s a tiny smirk on her face. She places a hand on his chest, below his shoulder, where his heart should be. It’s a damsel’s gesture.

He closes the gap between their bodies. When he kisses her, it is hard, angry, full of a week’s worth of tension. There’s a flavor on her tongue and teeth - strawberries and champagne and copper.

With their mouths together, he can taste into her heart.









She is pale moonlight. A blood ocean. A siren calling from the wreckage. There’s a beguiling, confident manner to the way she stretches herself across the wall, pressing her front to the crown molding, one arm poised above her head as though she’s already expecting to use that hand to brace herself, to claw away at the paint beneath her nails.

Roman ignores the shake in his fingers when he pulls down the silver zipper of her dress, splitting the fabric open, revealing the cream contours of her shoulders, the subtle half-hidden outlines of her breasts. He sweeps her hair to one side.

Stares at the spot where shoulder curves into neck.

He does not think.

He only feels.

Feels the nervous, excited beat of her heart inside the cavity of her chest, dimly protected by thin skin and fragile bone. Feels the sea-crash roar of her pulse points. Feels the way her blood travels through her like a musical score. Feels her hushed breathing as she waits, anticipating the strike.

He has not hunted in what feels like decades. He has survived on what has been given, what has been offered.

Inside of him, something deep and restless stretches its jaws.

His fingers over her mouth. The press of his chest against her back, his weight pinning her, a hand between her shoulder blades.

The smell of fear.









He tears into her throat the way wolves tear into a fresh kill. He rips her flesh and muscle at the apex of shoulder and neck, the blood flowing instantaneously, as red as sin against her skin, running down her arm, over her right breast, seeping into her dress, turning blue fabric purple. When she screams, his hand is a shackle across her mouth, silencing even a soprano’s power. She is liquid copper, tart as lemon, and when was the last time he’d tasted human blood? Base blood, but hot and sticky and powerful all the same, still churning with its secrets and desires and emotions, all of it funneling into his hunger, making him monstrous, making him ache with a different pain. A pain of splendor. A pain of power. Every frantic beat of her heart is the pounding hooves of wild horses. Every mouthful of blood is a carrion bird’s cry.









Her breath rattles.

He’s moved his hand from her mouth, is gripping her side again, pushing her into the wall. She slips like a doll between his body. A murmur or gasp breaks free from her pale mouth.

Her heart is a distant beat now.

Her fingers curl against the wall. She’s too weak to scratch.

The darkness inside of him tells him to drink, to feast, to swallow her life.

Roman pulls away with an effort, like breaking one’s own chain. His mouth is slick crimson. There’s blood across his jaw, matting his beard.

What’s left of Coral slips into the curve of his arm, the right side of her body streaked in red, her dress stained. Suddenly weary, as full as a tick, he places the singer in a chair, watches her head roll back on her neck, and surveys the damage he’s done with a clinical detachment. She gives another one of those rattling breaths, the whites of her eyes glaring beneath her cracked eyelids.

Roman removes his jacket. Rolls up the sleeves of his undershirt. He tilts her head more to the left. There’s a chunk of meat missing at the base of her neck, the wound seeping, wet and raw as gristle.

Coral whimpers.

“Oh, I know,” Roman soothes, speaking in a murmur, all the fierceness of his voice gone. It’s the tone used to calm lambs before the slaughter. “Hush now, don’t worry. I will fix this.” He feels the weakness of her pulse and says something in German, stroking the inside of her wrist.

Cradling the back of her head, he opens his own wrist, lets his blood slide against her cracked lips and into the cavern of her mouth.









“Coral.”

His voice like a beacon. Breaking through the fog. She blinks and feels some odd, displaced sense of dread fade away from her consciousness. When her vision focuses, she realizes she’s been staring into Roman’s eyes. A blush crawls up her neck, and she turns her head away, pressing the pads of her fingers to her closed eyelids.

Something there. Some flicker of memory in that darkness.

From across the room, sitting in the chair near the fire, fresh-faced and calm, Roman calls to her. “It’s the wine, I think. Goes to our heads too quickly. Would you like a glass of water?”

“Wine?” Her voice sounds different to her own ears. Vibrant. “You mean champagne.” She presses her fingers into her temple, rubs at the spot above her eyebrow, and looks at him with veiled confusion. It’s easier to regain her composure now that she’s looking at him. In fact, she hardly feels dizzy at all. Quite the opposite. If asked, she’d say she felt five years younger. She’d say she wanted to sing.

Roman barks a laugh, and Coral smiles without knowing why. “Wine. You spilled it. I’m afraid your dress suffered the worst.”

She can’t see any bottles around the room, but there’s a definitive stain on her dress. A sloppy spill, by the looks of it. At least an entire glass. She makes a noise of disappointment, tsking, running her hands over the contours of her waist, up the stitching on the side, fretting over the hemline.









He still has her blood in his veins when he pulls Lene from the desert hotbox, when he washes her, when he tucks her into the soft folds of his bed, when he brushes her hair back from her face, when she asks if he’s ravenous.

“I’ve taken care of it,” he says with a wave of his hand.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
19 January 2018 @ 08:11 pm
 
OUR FEARS CANNOT PROTECT US.
- Reyna Biddy


Dead man walking.

The expression means something different here – more literal than figurative. The pack murmur beneath their breath as he walks amongst them, as they step out of his path as though he were a pariah, which Roman suspects he is. An outsider. Unwelcome. Foreign with his lifeless heart, chalky skin, and mystic blood.

He’s unsuited for domestic life, although Moray Mountain is a harsh environment; it’s sun-bleached, dust-covered, rock-laden, but the pack has embraced the terrain and used it for coverage. Like animals whose motley hide and assorted feathers allow them to hide in plain sight, the pack has found a way to manipulate the landscape: well-worn trails seemingly disappear into boulder curves, thorny brush cover rusted vehicles, and the mountain itself has been carved into cabins and labyrinthine rooms. The pack is hard to find, intentionally so, and the homebase tucked into the middle of the mountain path is a fortress – stoic, unwelcoming, as stark as the bedrock of its foundation. It’s a home intended for one family, one audience. Roman is not welcome.

It is not so much his look that marks Roman as an intruder (the Moray pack is itself a hierarchy of variety: long-limbed colts run next to coal-skinned boys with bear hearts, women with skin made leathery by age hand freshly washed linens to men with crane-like heights), the hard manner in which he strikes his consonants, or even his careless powerful way of being. It is his foreignness: utterly alien, immediately noticeable. He has no scent for the wind to carry, no pulse for their ears to judge, no warmth. Worse yet, he does not lower his eyes. He does not beseech. He stands next to Lene with easy entitlement, tainting her grass-scent with the smell of graves.

Dead man.

Dead man walking.








“They don’t understand,” Lene tells him on their first night, self-conscious over the cold, distant welcome her family and friends have given Roman, assuming his silence is a sign of his discontent. Later, he will find some measure of kinship in the Moray’s children, but for now she’s the only one who stands close, who sometimes places her hand in the crook of his elbow, who finds the unnatural coldness of his skin a welcome difference against her own burning heat.

Roman wipes grit from his jaw, his hands covered in mountain dirt from where he’d climbed the ascending rocky path earlier. “Why would they?”

“Give them time. You have plenty of that.” She tries for a smile, lightly jabbing his side with her elbow.

He shakes his head. “They don’t need time, liebchen. They do not understand because they do not want to. That never changes.”

“Wait and see. Once they realize you aren’t going to try eating everything with a pulse–”

“Some things aren’t supposed to be mixed.”

Lene is silent for a moment, considering the implications of what he’s said, before she looks away from him. “We aren’t like that here. We aren’t one of the compounds, and this isn’t Albtraum. Anders isn’t Harrow.”

“A world of negations, yes? … And yet,” Roman murmurs, letting his unfinished sentiment linger while he turns his eyes up to the stark, fearless moon. He hasn’t seen one so bright in years. It isn’t comforting.

Lene follows his gaze. She feels cold although the night is mild.

“You broke their rules. Bringing me here.”

“I’ve been breaking their rules for years,” she says, trying to laugh. “Hell, who I am is technically an affront to our entire lifestyle. I’m an anomaly.”

“In a nest–”

“Pack,” she corrects.

“Those who refused to follow the laws were driven out in order to maintain stability. You have to deal with dissenters swiftly. Often violently. You have seen this, I think.”

It’s Lene’s turn to shake her head. “Anders is my brother. He won’t exile me. Besides, this is different. He knows you’re part of the resistance.”

“The resistance,” Roman sneers, shaping the word as an insult. “What do I resist? No, I am trying to survive.”

“Story of your life, old man. Survival covers all manner of sins.”

Roman watches Lene’s profile, her full lips pulled down in an expression of disapproval, her blonde hair catching at her jaw and sticking to the sides of her neck. She’s cherubic – disarmingly, misleadingly so.

He takes her hand, her skin hot against his, and she startles at the gesture. She can’t remember him ever having done it before.

“I don’t know what sin is,” he tells her, and she knows he’s telling the truth.







What the Moray cannot bring themselves to see is all the aspects of Roman that Lene has found herself surprised to value. (She hesitates to say love, as though mentioning this single word would shatter the unspoken commitment that has grown so steadily between them over the years, but in the back of her mind she knows where her heart is.)

She thinks of him after the fall, in the immediate wake of so much chaos and confusion, when Albtraum had been plunged into fire, screams, panic. He had been calm, eerily so, only his eyes had taken on a hawkish, predatory alertness. When he’d found her, two backpacks slung over his shoulder as though they were about to do nothing more than hike through an easy spring trail, she’d laughed at his impossible composure.

The emergency system within the compound had taken over by then, and his face had flickered between red and shadow. There was only one casualty as they hurried towards the location of the loading docks, Roman having already secured an old SUV for their trip through the desert, and it was a young guard whose face Lene couldn’t identify. He’d opened his mouth to say something to Roman – an order, perhaps, to go back the way they’d come, or a question about their whereabouts – but Roman had already approached him, and for a moment it looked as though the two men would hug before Roman’s hands snapped the guard’s neck. His body had crumbled, falling to the floor, as weightless as a feather. Roman had looked back once. Red and shadow. Eyes alert.

He hadn’t been different in the desert. Lene drove, her foot pressing the pedal to the floormat, Roman covering the windows with old blankets, prepping for dawn’s approach. She’d found his confidence infectious, all her senses heightened, ready, and although her eyes kept straying to the rearview mirror – expecting to see a line of guards in trucks and similar SUVs, packed with guns and fully aware of the treachery played on them – all she could see was smoke from the burning building. All she could hear were screams. Even miles later, she’d thought she’d never escape those cries.

They ran out of gas with a day’s journey remaining to the rendezvous point. It was nighttime when it happened, the SUV gasping and choking its way towards death. Roman had cut the ignition then watched the sky, judging the distance, and in the near pitch-black, Lene could see the fine blue of his veins, the extreme whiteness of his skin. She wondered how he’d ever been able to pose as human.

They traveled by foot until the sun halted them. Lene had watched as Roman buried himself within the sand, his muscles straining and rolling beneath his skin, his hands shoveling away mound after mound, seeking the cool darkness of the deeper layers. She’d spent the day scouting, working away at the last of their provisions, calculating their distance with their crudely drawn map and her own memory.

When he emerged from the desert – a pale specter, coated in sand as a second-skin – he’d looked all the more inhuman. To Lene, he’d seemed strong. An ancient force, birthed from the belly of the earth itself.

That otherworldliness had only continued to grow. In the absence of humans, Roman’s differences shined all the brighter.

It’s that noticeable, marked distinction in him that speaks to her own alienation and plight. He’d told her once that he was not the only of his kind, that man’s desire to attack, destroy, and control preternatural life had forced his ancient line into hiding and deep sleep – a hibernation of self-preservation – but she’s yet to meet any other. Just as she’s yet to meet another quite like herself. Her pack thinks Roman is not the most deserving of her loyalty, of her affections – she knows this too, as she knows that her brother disagrees with her choice, whole-heartedly and without much attempt to reconcile the tension this has caused between them as siblings and as leaders within the community. Knight disagrees as well, partially to keep the peace between him and Anders, but because he wants more for Lene. Hers is a history of pain, a pain specific to that of the outsider, and she knows he thinks there’s no hope for healing those old wounds if she continues down the path she’s on. Where she sees a merging, they see disruption.

They all think it. He is a threat instead of a weapon. A liability.

Which now makes her one too.







Lene tells him as much as he drinks from her thigh, her fingers in his hair, his teeth sharp enough that she barely feels their presence – just the quiver of his mouth. It makes her back arch, her skin tingle, turn to gooseflesh. This is after. After her argument with Anders, after Knight’s silent disapproval, after the pack’s resentment towards her and her decision to bring Roman here, jeopardizing them, has turned from a simmer into a boil. This is after Lene defeated the first contender for her position within the pack, after she had to meet the gaze of her family and see them, suddenly, as strangers.

Roman opens one eye and glances up at her, one of his big hands stroking the skin behind her knee, the other at her hip. She’s sitting on her bed, wearing one of his shirts and only one of his shirts, skin smelling of salt and pine, and he’s kneeling between her legs, as naked as the day he was ripped from his mother’s body, Lene’s blood hot in his mouth, coppery with old secrets and bitter with unshared history. The sun still lingers, fresh as a wound, on the horizon, and he can feel its warmth from where his cheek presses against her thigh. Leisurely, savoring the rush of her blood, he pricks his tongue and licks the small puncture wounds, healing them before sitting back on his heels. There’s a glaze over his hazel eyes, her blood still circulating through him, making him punch-drunk, making him keen. If she reached down between their bodies, Lene knows she’d find him hard.

“Which do you think I am? A threat?” he asks finally, like he’s just now remembered the conversation, mouth still red, fingers more curious in the way they roam her leg and side. He’s distracted, reaching up under his shirt that she’s wearing to cup one of her breasts, a thumb idly tracing across her nipple.

“Are you asking me if I’m naïve enough to assume your life has been all fangs and fucking, old man?” She tugs on a chunk of his hair pointedly, making him dip forward until his mouth is back near her thigh.

He laughs. “That would sum up six centuries of living most concisely.”

When Roman slides his palms beneath her, she leans back, stretching her arms above her head. Looking up at the carved ceiling, she sucks in a breath of air as his mouth crawls further up her leg, his less dangerous, more human teeth dragging over her skin. She turns her face into a pillow. This is the room of her adolescence, the mattress firm with its quilts smelling of old cotton, so she should feel more comfortable than she does. Instead, there’s a tangle of knots in her stomach.

Lene pushes a foot into his chest, halting his progression up her body.

Roman quirks an eyebrow.

“I’ve never seen you …” she hesitates, searching for the words that gnaw at the back of her throat. All this time, but she’s sometimes uncertain how to talk to him.

“Tear a throat? Pull out a heart? Kill a child? Rape a woman? Break someone’s jaw and eat the tongue?” His voice is light, but there’s a fog in his eyes again. He sits back once more, catching her foot this time when she tries swiping at his head, cupping it between his white palms.

She props herself up on her elbows, studying his face. “You’ve done all that.”

It isn’t a question, but Roman only shrugs.

She frowns, and Roman rolls his eyes, digging his thumbs uncomfortably into the arch of her foot. She pulls free, annoyed.

“Not for survival,” she clarifies. “That’s what you won’t say, right? You’ve done terrible things because it’s your nature, because you can, because in the hierarchy of life, your kind is always on top and fuck everything else? It’s survival of the fittest.”

At times like this, Roman thinks Lene only entered his life to serve as the conscience he so desperately needs. He hears her in his head often, judgmental in a way that doesn’t sound judgmental, but philosophical, prosaic, even sometimes sarcastic, like the start of a mockery or a debate. He thinks he’ll always hear her, that he’s taken something from her that she didn’t know she was giving. An unfair truth, but a truth all the same.

“What’s your point, liebchen?” He grabs his jeans, the ones he’d worn all through the desert, the ones that still smell of campfire and salt, and slides them on with an ease and casualness that’s infuriating. He’s still hard. He has to tuck himself into his jeans, and the look he gives her is pointed. He’d much rather be fucking than talking.

So would she, but Lene can’t untangle herself from the mix of emotions she’s feeling and the surrealness of being here, at her home, with a corpse as a companion. Instead of grabbing him by the loopholes of his jeans and pulling him onto the bed, she sits up, folds her arms over her chest in a defiant gesture that does nothing but make her feel childish. Why is she angry? Nervous? Sad? What is it she’s fearing? She’s not sure how to answer his question.

Her emotions resonate inside of him, more muted and dim, but still there – flickering like sparks inside of his veins. A result of the circle their blood makes, the connection thrumming, turning him into a receptacle. He blinks, trying to make sense of this most human of responses, and then Roman surprises her when he takes two steps forward, his hands on either side of her face, his mouth on hers, his tongue licking her teeth. She can taste her own blood. She drops her arms. Presses her hands to his bare chest.

“What is it?” he asks again, softer this time, his voice a whisper that lands against her lips. His forehead touches hers, his eyes challenging.

She takes a breath for reassurance. “… Would you be able to do those terrible things again? If you needed to? If it comes to that?”

It’s an easy answer.







The meeting is called a month later.

Anders sits at the start of the circle, his blonde hair pulled back at the nape of his neck, his elbows on his knees and his hands between them. It’s a position of calm, but Roman knows that every complaint his pack lodges, every dispute, settles like stone on top of his young shoulders and threatens to break him. His desire to lead them is a burden, and the effort it takes to lead them well is crushing him, slowly but acutely. Lene sits by his left, Knight at his right, and Roman stands a step behind Lene – not in the circle, but not far from it.

Only Lene’s mouth looks worried. She’s caught her bottom lip between her teeth. Her eyes are angry, and Roman thinks that’s good. Anger can be useful.

“He doesn’t belong.” Alec, middle-aged and greying at the temples, speaks for a third of the congregation that’s gathered to discuss, for yet another time, Roman’s presence.

“He hasn’t hurt any of us or brought trouble,” Anders responds, shielding the weariness in his voice. “He is a member of the resistance. I do not want to make a habit of rejecting members of this pack purely on …” He pauses, uncertain.

“Species,” Knight offers.

“Oddities,” Lene suggests, speaking for herself as well as Roman.

“He hasn’t proven himself,” A fox by the name of Jalyn says, her eyes like arrows that shoot past Lene’s shoulder and into Roman’s chest.

“But I have.” Lene’s voice is sure, confident, assertive without an edge of meanness. “And I speak for him.”

“You shouldn’t speak for any of us,” Jalyn threatens, turning her harsh gaze on Lene. “You shouldn’t belong either. We all think it.”

“You do not have the authority to speak for all of us present here, so guard your tongue,” Anders says.

When he intercedes as the leader, Jalyn has the grace to look cowed. “My apologies, Alpha.” Her subservience is a mask she brings to her face when convenient, but Anders gives a small nod of acknowledgement regardless.

“We do not doubt that Lene has done well for this pack or that she is capable of earning her position here,” Alec begins, placing a hand on Jalyn’s shoulder. “We’ve all seen how she can defend herself, how she works for our benefit, but Jalyn is right. One’s strength does not merit another’s placement. We all earn our right to be here. This outsider should earn his.”

Roman folds his arms over his chest, shifting his weight to his heels. He follows the conversation, although he’s already certain of where it will end. He’s lived too many similar moments.

“He should fight,” a faceless voice from the back of the group speaks up. The crowd murmurs their agreement.

“No.” Anders says, immediate, his hands still loose between his knees.

“Wait,” Lene says, placing a hand gently on Anders’ arm. “I will fight as his proxy. We can solve this in one shot.”

“No,” Roman says, speaking for the first time, his voice reverberating with his natural harsh cadence.

There’s a collective snarl from half of the pack, as though Roman’s interruption has struck them as distasteful. Someone near his left spits on his boot. He ignores it and does not uncross his arms or move from his place behind Lene. “I will fight.”

“It isn’t your fight,” Lene murmurs, turning her head to look up at him, a scowl slicing the lower half of her face. “It’s me they’re really upset with.”

The smile Roman gives her is indulging. “You know better than that.” He looks to Anders, nodding. “I accept.”

For the first time since the meeting began, Anders curls his hands into fists.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
26 November 2017 @ 02:32 pm
 
More WWI AU! Because why not?



----




The war is slow like cold syrup, like the white plague, like burning driftwood. It's slow enough to cause a bone-deep hurt, the kind no doctor's scalpel can cut free.

It gives them time, and time can be an abscess.






It's Calder who watches Roman with pity. This shouldn't be as surprising as it is - Calder's wife had died young, and although he doesn't speak of it often, Roman understands that Calder saw too much, so now he thinks friendship means sparing Roman the pain of a simile experience. But Calder has always been the one in their troupe most prone to silence, the one comfortable in it, easy and confident in his tasks but lacking the dangerous arrogance of a younger man. He has rejected the idea of glory, unlike Palmer, and speaks of redemption instead. With his hair silvering at the temples and his gaze steady, Roman had assumed Calder would finish the war fully aware that they were all simply treading water. Instead, he has turned into a red-eyed dog, endlessly gnawing at the same bone.

"Sunniva says it's her lungs," Calder begins one night, working the straight edge of a carving chisel into a smooth hunk of basswood. Like most men under duress, he likes to keep his hands busy and his mind focused.

Roman folds his arms behind his head and leans back, turning his gaze to the inky sky. The nights are becoming colder and he suddenly wishes he'd kept his coat even though there's a fire blazing like a beacon between them. Palmer, aware of where the conversation is headed, makes for his tent. He had liked Roman's tales of Paris prostitutes when they were full of laughter and filth, but he doesn't have the stomach for a story so clearly ending in tragedy. It's Sunniva that stops him. She holds up her hand and shakes her head. He sits back down, frowning, eyes dark, and takes the tin of lukewarm coffee she’d been drinking for himself.

"And she won't see a doctor?" Calder prods, glancing to Sunniva as the nurse for confirmation.

When she is silent, Roman says, "I think she wants her dignity."

"Dignity," Calder scoffs with a note of wonderment, like he's forgotten the meaning of the word.
"There's none of that where she's headed. You won't know her anymore. In the end. You understand this, right? The pain will make her someone else entirely."

"Then I will love who she becomes," Roman says candidly, meeting Calder's gaze over the campfire.

Palmer looks surprised and uncomfortable by his friend's admission, like a child caught between bickering parents. He glances sideways at Sunniva, but her face is blank, as clean and cold as snow.
Calder grunts his disapproval, slicing another chunk of wood from the block between his hands. "You have no idea what you're saying."

"I think he does."

Three sets of eyes turn to Sunniva. Roman smiles, just a little, and she nods her head at him in that easy familiar way of theirs.

"He's a soldier, Calder. We're all soldiers. Roman more than any of us has never been afraid of death. You should know that. He’ll stand through it." She doesn't chastise him. Her voice is even, steady, but not angry.

Calder frowns. "But don't you see -"

"No, I don't," she interrupts, a note of finality creeping into her voice.

Palmer groans, sweeping his hands through his hair, and stands, brandishing the now empty tin of coffee like a child’s toy gun. "Who gives a fuck?" Despite herself, Sunniva laughs, looking up at him and his obvious disgruntlement. "I want to get home. Then we can all sit around and judge one another for our terrible choices. Preferably over a bottle a bourbon and a hand of cards."
Roman murmurs something that only Calder hears, but it makes the older man wince.

"I'm packing it up, boys.” Palmer tosses the cup to Sunniva who catches it easily before wiping his hands on the front of his pants. “I suggest you do the same. Calder, no more advice. Roman, maybe take a night off from fucking. Sunshine, I'll be in the third tent if you find yourself needing comforting in the middle of the night."

"Comforting?"

"From the nightmares, sweetheart."

Roman crosses one ankle over the other, stretching himself further into the grass beneath him. “Does that offer extend to everyone here, or just her?”

“Not to you, it doesn’t,” Palmer shouts over his shoulder. “You’re too fucking tall for the tent.”

Calder laughs first, melting the lingering tension in the circle, and then Roman, Sunniva joining last with a smile and a knowing roll of her eyes.






Two days later, the wind picks up, and Roman flips the collar of his coat against his face as he walks further away from the frontline. The Paris streets are cracked and ashen, but his feet know the way; he walks in long strides past the boulangerie with its fresh-bread smell, past the charcuterie where all the meats have long since been emptied from the shelves, past the wide-eyed kids in scuffed shoes playing hopscotch, and then he walks some more. He can feel the eyes of Paris on his back. The city has become a window, the stares of all the lost and distraught watching distrustfully behind curtains of faded lace and broken glass.

The Quartier Pigalle is far from the frontline, but the streets are squalid all the same, a dirty newspaper shade of grey. Overhead, the last remnants of light are fading, leaving the sky a dreary stone color. Roman nods at a homeless man sitting with his hands between his knees on a street bench and turns the corner.

The brothel with the blue door at the end of the street is one of many such establishments, but on Rue Blanche most of the shops have been boarded shut. Even debauchery is difficult to sell during wartime - the brothels that remain exist because of the soldiers, because dying men refuse to go to their graves as virgins, because a woman's flesh, even flesh you had to pay for, was comforting after a kill. As if aware of their economical purpose, there are already officers in uniform draping themselves against the sides of buildings, speaking into the ears of the early working girls, undoubtedly offering franc notes that are worthless thanks to the recent issuing of ration cards. Roman has seen the people of Paris dutifully lugging the small yellow squares to their corner markets, filling their hand-held baskets with whatever scraps can be found. He knows most of the girls will take the officers’ money anyway and hide the bills beneath floor boards or under mattresses, planning for peace and a better day.

He heads up the stairs to the blue door and knocks. His other hand stays in his coat pocket, fingers curled around a bottle of morphine.





Adira’s room smells like dead flowers. It’s a smell Roman associates with graveyards.

She has the window open to let in the cold breeze, and she’s brushing her damp hair, a flush on her cheeks. Perched on the edge of her solitary stool with a thin robe covering an even thinner dress, Adira looks cold and hot all at once. She rumbles a cough as a greeting, working the brush in short, quick strokes. Roman places the morphine on top of the oak chest, near her dwindling provisions, and she eyes it with immediate distrust, a scowl twisting her thin mouth.

“Qu’est-ce que c’est, soldat?” She asks.

“You know what it is.”

“It looks like pity.”

“Really? I think it looks like medicine.”

“Va te faire enculer.” She spits, slamming her brush down and pulling her robe closer around her thin shoulders.

“Say that again,” Roman quips, crossing the small room to throw himself onto the bed, the old spring squeaking in protest. “The difference between French and German is that your language makes everything sound romantic. Even insults.”

“Mon Dieu,” Adira sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose and closing her eyes. Another cough shakes her skeletal body, but it’s short – a tremor rather than an earthquake. When she finds her voice, she joins him on the bed, her robe splitting to show her legs. “Did you see Madame Beville?”

“Yes. She’s as relentless as a curse, that one. Were you aware, liebchen, that your hourly rate has doubled since last week?”

She laughs, the sound husky, and touches his jaw, feeling the smoothness of his skin. “You look better with a beard.”

He ducks his head, biting at her fingers until she swats him. Roman wraps his arm around the column of her waist and pulls her to him. When he tries to kiss her, she presses two cold fingers to his mouth.

“You probably shouldn’t kiss me anymore. Between me and the war, you will never get home.”

But he kisses her anyway, cupping her face as he likes to, tilting her mouth up for him to devour.






Adira is painful like the winding coils of a serpent, like the relentless crash of ocean waves, like the harsh rattle of death.

She is the war as much as the battle between the trenches. She leaves him just as scarred and twisted.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
23 November 2017 @ 11:00 pm
 
Roman and Adira - 1920s AU but technically set during his time as a WWI soldier. Not quite as porn-centric as I had originally wanted, but I'm very happy with establishing the foundation of their relationship and capturing the certain mood that I wanted.

Reference pictures:

Roman: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/ee/91/25/ee9125861376471e1b24940e6a20952f--man-magazine-dream-man.jpg
Adira: http://contributormagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/assets/images/MAGNUS%20LANDSCAPES/hannar2.jpg


I blame Google for any potential translation problems. Google and the fact that I haven't studied/spoken/read French since high school.


---



She isn't beautiful. Her nose is too large for her otherwise delicate features and crowds her cheeks; her eyes are close together; her lips are thin, pale slivers of chapped skin; her jaw angles down into a point, completing the severe cut of her diamond-shaped face. She is knobby knees knocking together and skeletal wrists, hips that are sharpened bone, collarbones like glass, dishwater blonde hair limp with grease. A scarecrow on city streets.
She's the type of woman Roman can quite literally throw over his shoulder without having to worry about being weighed down.
She's the type of woman that, in another war, would find herself behind barbed wire.
In this one, she kneels on her knees until the cobblestone has bruised them and takes soldiers in her mouth for bottles of wine and day-old bread. In this one, she washes between her legs with rainwater and vinegar and feels grateful that the brothels opened their doors to the impoverished women of Paris. She doesn't know how to feel pity - for herself or for others - but she knows how to survive, how to adapt, how to sequester.
Roman finds her in the worn-down, red-tinged Quartier Pigalle district, somewhere between the Moulin Rouge and the Sacré-Coeur – a grim place where only the drunks and the hungry belong. He smokes a hand-rolled cigarette, leaning against a damp alley with one foot cocked back against the brick, because he wants to be lost in a ruined world - because dark, sad streets have thick shadows that coat his conscious. He's still preoccupied with the image of a German boy's head splitting open on account of his rifle's bullet, a boy as perfect as boys could be, hardly fair to even call him a man, with blue eyes like ocean swells and a strong, clean jaw that had fallen open in the last second of his life as if shock was all he'd felt, the way one was shocked by a sudden burst of cold wind and nothing more. Roman remembers how red his blood had looked on the rich, dark soil of no-man's land. He’d laid there between the territorial trenches since dawn, and he'd waited for the kill, his hawk eyes trained to hunt. Just as he waited for the cover of darkness to crawl back to the parapet, moving slowly by inches, the smell of death and dirt against his cheek and an emptiness in his gut that hurt more than remorse ever could have.
His reward was civilian clothes, the scratch of stubble at his jaw, and three days of leave in a city burnt and billowing ash, damp with grime and malady. So when the blonde stumbles out of the brothel's dimly lit doorway, he takes one look at her and understands: she's exactly what he deserves.





The prostitute wears a straight shift of faded white with black hosiery on her matchstick legs and her hair hangs in her face. There's more than a few rips in the legwear, and Roman traces the length of one thin tear from the outside of her thigh to the side of her knee with his eyes. She's wrapped an old shawl around her shoulders, either to protect from the damp in the air or to hide a stretch of yellowing bruises on her upper arms. When Roman offers her a cigarette, she peers up at him with the eyes of a wolf.
"Que veux tu pour ça?" She asks in a voice like gravel scratching beneath the heel of a boot.
Roman taps his left ear and shrugs, gesturing his lack of understanding.
The blonde rolls her eyes but slips into English that, though heavily accented, is fluid. "This is for free?"
"A gift from abroad, darling."
"No such thing, I think," she says but takes the cigarette anyway, rolling up on her toes to accept the light he offers next. "From a soldier."
"Maybe you aren't being appreciative." He pitches his finished cigarette to the ground but does not move from the wall. Listening to her speak is like listening to a cat's purr.
"Pardon?"
"Not being appreciative. You're not ..." he twirls his fingers in the air, circling in his mind for the word. "Not grateful for us being here."
The woman's eyes are leather brown but in the street lights they look amber. Again, Roman thinks of a wolf when she stares at him, fearless and angry, tilting her chin up to exhale a plume of smoke near his face. "Oh, so you are a funny soldier, yes? A regular Charlie Chaplin. Funny to come to France and fight with boys and fuck their girls and burn their city and die in mud and shit."
"Your English is sehr gut, Fräulein. Sehr gut."
She recoils as if struck. When she flicks her unfinished cigarette to the ground, she flicks it directly at his boot. "A kraut?"
"Americanized, liebchen. My grandfather was the original kraut. I work for the red, white, and blue now. Or the blue, white, and red. Das ist mir Wurst."
She pulls her shawl closer to her, clutching the ends over her breasts in a poor imitation of a modest woman. She still looks uncertain, but Roman glances back to the brothel entrance pointedly. "I'll pay. And not with molded bread," he tells her.
At this, the woman laughs. "With what then? Money? With these rations? I would prefer the bread, chéri."
Roman's smile widens and becomes a grin. It isn't cheerful, but she takes his hand anyway and leads him to the door.





The prostitute’s room is at the top of a rickety set of stairs that ascend immediately from the brothel’s dark foyer, off to the left and identical in its weariness to the other women’s doors. The room is small and lacks warmth, creating an atmosphere Roman has become familiar with while in France. The ceiling is water-stained and the wallpaper peels away from the walls in long strips like yellow skin. There’s a lumpy mattress covered in colorful quilts in the corner, a solitary lamp glowing dimly atop a stack of wooden crates, and a chest pushed against the main wall that harbors what little possessions and clothing the woman still has. There’s a basin of water, a chipped pitcher, and a small assortment of food and jars on a cutting board on top of the chest. She’s propped a wrought-iron stool next to it. Roman wonders how often she’s sat there, eating rotten fruit as she peers out of the adjacent window, bracing herself for another night.
He has a small tin of canned corn beef and a package of biscuits in his coat pocket, leftovers from his rations in the trenches. He's learned to keep necessities on him. The woman has a half empty bottle of wine and a wedge of cheese wrapped in linen. Between the two of them, it is a feast.
Roman knows the kind of hunger war brings though, so he props open the can with a knife he keeps holstered in his boot and offers it to the woman first. She takes it without hesitation, watching him with her large eyes as she breaks a piece of bread and uses it to scoop out a chunk of greyish-pink meat. She eats quickly. Roman is reminded of feral dogs who swallow without tasting and bare their teeth at any hand that threatens to take their scavenged meal. After a few bites, she offers the can back to him, but he waves her away and sits on the edge of the bed. He lights a cigarette and pulls a flask from his jacket. She seems amused by this, by his seemingly depthless pockets and the possible delights they could store.
“Do you have a name?” He asks around the filter of his cigarette.
“Adira. Et toi?” She pours a glass of wine after wiping crumbs from her mouth, rewrapping the remaining bread and storing it with the canned beef next to the cheese on the top of the chest.
“Roman.”
“Like the conquerors, yes?”
“Some people would say they were diplomats, but yes.”
“And you? Which are you? A diplomat or a conqueror?”
“If soldiers conquer, then that’s what I am.” He shrugs and flicks ash onto the floor.
“Good, you won’t cry then like some of the others. I hate a man who cries.”
She’s so serious in her conviction that Roman laughs, the sound loud in the small confinement of her room. He grins at her, watching as she removes her shawl and takes a drink of wine. “No, mademoiselle, I won’t cry.”
When Adira drapes the shawl over the back of the stool, the faded cotton the color of old teeth, Roman can see the thinness of her arms and he’s reminded of his father’s ivory piano keys – how light they were beneath his fingers, how easy to push. He takes his coat off slowly, laying it over the edge of the bed closest to him, then rests his elbows on his knees, his fingers interlacing between them. There’s no music in the way she moves, no attempt at seduction as she crosses the room to sit beside him, placing the wine on the nearby stacked crates beforehand.
He turns his face to look at her, and she touches his jaw lightly with the tips of her dirty fingers. “Are you here to forget?” She asks him mildly.
“No,” he says and turns his mouth into her palm.





He doesn’t remove his shirt or his pants or his boots. Adira rolls down her stockings because she cannot afford to rip them more than they already are while the shift she wears is barely worth protecting, but she’s surprised when Roman slips the straps down her arms then pulls away the dress as though he’s unwrapping a present. She isn’t used to being so exposed, but she doesn’t make any attempt to cover herself.
Roman knows little of fear and even less of cowardice, a characteristic Adira realizes by the way he runs his hands over the bruises on her body, how his eyes take in the cuts and scars littering her skin with nothing more than a precursory glance. He kisses her as man unafraid of disease, openmouthed despite the sour taste of her tongue and the way her lips scratch his. He holds her face in his large hands, and she can’t remember the last time anyone kissed her without pity or desperation.
Instead, he seems to want to swallow her whole, a carrion-crow come to pick at her bones.





Adira smooths a hand back through his hair, the strands long on top and an ashy shade of chestnut. She catches the back of his clean neck near the collar of his shirt when he continues to kiss her. He smells like the grave, like dirt and water and rust, the kind of war smell that no amount of washing can get rid of, but he’s warm and solid and ready for her and she arches up to him.
She’s a pale line beneath him, her fully naked body a stark contrast against his civilian clothes. She doesn’t complain. She cups him against his thigh, hard, and breathes a mouthful of French that lands against his shoulder as a murmur. His stubble of beard scratches her throat when he leans down to pull his mouth across her jugular, the vein there thick but weak, a fever-hot path for his tongue to follow. He cups her breasts between his hands. They’re shaped like tears, full in his palms, and her nipples tighten when he scrapes them with his teeth.
There’s a feral look to the way she tosses her head back against the old pillows, the blankets beneath them accenting the sudden color that has brightened her cheeks. Her mouth is rubbed raw from where he’d kissed her. When her eyes flutter as she undoes his trousers and pushes them down, lower against his hips, Roman thinks the look is practiced. He doesn’t mind. He’ll fuck her because he can, because she’s been bought, because the body she loans him is as damaged as his own and he thinks there’s a form of justice, of decency, in calling a spade a spade.
Adira guides him inside of her, and then he holds her open at the thighs, his fingers spreading wide over her skin and pushing her down into the mattress as she bears his weight and his full, hard thrusts. Her breasts shake from the rhythm, and she digs her hands into the blankets rather than his shoulders or his back.
When she turns her cappuccino eyes up at him, he moves one hand to her neck. She is pale limestone; if he squeezed, she would crumble. The smile that curves her mouth is amused, full of recognition, and she arches her spine into a wider half-circle, drops her head back to offer up more of her throat.
Part of him thinks it would be a kindness to end her life now, but she isn’t the enemy, and her bed is not the trench. He keeps a grip on her neck anyway, one hand still pinning her thigh, but he kisses her for a second time.
She won’t tell him, but Adira will think it is similar to dying.





After, they share a cigarette. She coughs into her pillow, a wet, hacking noise that seems to rattle inside of her chest even after she’s caught her breath.
“That will only get worse when winter hits, liebchen,” Roman says, their fingers brushing as she passes the smoke.
Adira makes a hum of acknowledgement and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. He can’t be certain for sure, but he thinks she’s expecting to see blood.
“You should see a doctor.”
She laughs at him, leaning over the bed to grab her dress from the floor. “Oui. I’ll do that.”
“I know a nurse – ”
“You’re a good man,” she says, interrupting him with the coldness in her voice and the sudden glare of her eyes as she moves away from his body warmth, “but I do not need your charity.”
He arches an eyebrow at her, his arm curled above his head in a leisurely pose, and takes a drag on his cigarette before responding. “Why do women always do that? Confuse kindness for goodness and pride for strength?”
Adira doesn’t say anything. She slips her toes into the foot of one stocking, smoothing it up the thin curve of her leg then does the same with the other. “Come,” she says, tucking her hair behind her ears once she’s strapped her feet into a pair of worn lace-up boots and stood. “You aren’t the only lonely soldier in Paris.”
Roman swings his long legs over the bed and stands, taking his wrinkled jacket from the bed corner. His clothes smell like sweat and sex and the room’s dampness. He’ll turn his nose into his collar in the morning and smell sickness instead.





When Roman returns to American soil, two years after the war has ended, she will be dead.

He’ll taste her in the back of his throat as a memory, a vulture picking at a ghost.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
20 November 2017 @ 08:36 pm
 
Woo! Porn!


----





Haven steals one of the wife’s fur coats.

This is how she thinks of Rowena - not by name, but by title. The wife, the cripple, the recluse. Haven is only the maid by contrast and only during business hours. She’s also the mistress, the con, and the sister. Titles keep their roles compartmentalized. Easy. Manageable. Haven slips into each role as easily as slipping into warm bathwater.

Sometimes, the roles overlap. When she steals the coat, she is both herself and the maid, overcome with deviance in both forms. The coat is rabbit fur and as white as snow. Just looking at it, hanging, forgotten in the back of a closet already full of designer labels, Haven’s stomach twists with an old familiar craving. She can feel its richness when she runs her palms over the fabric, sinking her hands into the plush flesh. When she slides her arms into the sleeves and turns her face into the collar, she doesn’t see a maid wearing an ill-fitting coat in the mirror’s reflection. She doesn’t see a girl who grew up stealing soda cans from the local corner store or a teen who used to blow high school boys for a quick five bucks. She doesn’t see a woman whose entire life has been a story of cold jail cells and petty crimes.

She sees her face framed in fur and feels strength settle over her shoulders as the fabric shifts into place. She takes it off when she hears someone at the end of the hall but adds it to a stack of clothes for the dry cleaners, already knowing she won’t return it.

Haven takes it because she wants it, because in her heart she will always feel six years old: greedy and grabbing things out of her reach, things that, even as a child, she knew her poor fingers would never be able to afford. White trash, her town had called her, marking her as garbage in a town already over flowing with children of refuse. So now she puts on diamond earrings and rings that shine with solitary, sparkling jewels – rings that would weigh her down if she were ever caught in a flood – rings that her brother steals from department stores and the smooth hands of older women. She spritzes expensive perfume filched from top shelves onto her wrists and the pulse points of her neck, soothed by the smell of money.

She turns trash into luxury.





Their apartment is bare, devoid of the usual sentimentalities. Luke finds her in their living room, a shock of white against their lone piece of furniture – a threadbare couch they’d lugged up from a street curb upon moving and covered in old, mismatched blankets. Her legs are stretched out, propped up on a chipped glass coffee table, and she’s naked except for the fur. The coat hangs open, draping over her breasts, and the sleeves are too short at the wrists so he can see a string of sapphires decorating her left arm.

He smells like sunshine and freshly cut grass. There’s a smear of dirt across his jaw from where he rubbed his face while wearing his gardener gloves. In dark jeans and a shirt stained with sweat, Luke looks the part he’s trying to play: an honest man, lumbering away for a honest day’s pay. But the split of his mouth when he grins and the predatory, leisurely way he drags his eyes over her shatters the illusion. It’s an expression he hides well during the day, but the last bits of the charade fall away when he kicks the apartment door closed behind him.

“Welcome home, dear,” Haven croons in a fake aristocratic accent – something between Katharine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman. “Hard day at the office?”

“Nothing a dry martini and a blowjob won’t fix,” Luke says with a smirk, pulling his shirt off by the collar. “Nice coat.”

“Do you like it? I got it for you.” She arches on the couch and lifts her arms, letting the fur slide against her body and slip against her skin so that her nipples show.

“I don’t think that’ll fit me.”

Haven laughs and curls her fingers, beckoning.

Luke ignores her outstretched hand and sits on the edge of the coffee table, picking her feet up in the process and placing them back on his lap. He has callouses that rub against her skin when he digs his fingers into the arch of her left foot, grinning at her from beneath the fall of his hair when she moans. He travels upward, massaging her calf, skimming the sensitive skin behind her knee. She rubs the toes of her right foot against his thigh.

When he crawls forward, she drops her legs, letting her knees cage the shape of his body. He ghosts his mouth across the curve of a breast, a collarbone, an ear.

His hands go to the coat, pushing down her shoulders, and Haven jerks beneath him, catching him by the back of his neck.

“Leave it on,” she murmurs, her mouth against his throat.





She's shaved bare at the apex between her legs, and although he's pushed himself into her space, balanced above her with one arm on the back of the couch, she opens her thighs beneath him, expectant and indulgent. Luke holds her eyes and sucks two fingers into his mouth before letting them explore. She's already slick as oil, but when his knuckles brush her sex, Haven draws in a breath like a hiss. He quirks an eyebrow, gentle in the way he pets her now, sliding a wet finger experimentally up and against her.

"Did he fuck you earlier?"

Luke uses pronouns to refer to David, something he started once Rowena’s husband became wrapped around Haven’s finger. He doesn’t even bother with titles. Haven hasn’t bothered to point this out to him; she knows who he’s talking about, and she nods, her mouth dry but her eyes bright.

"You're sore," he says with a frown and the empty-husk sound of a scoff.

Haven shakes her head slowly, biting her bottom lip. She's prone to telling lies, but her body betrays her, like all bodies eventually do. Luke keeps his hand between her legs and adds another finger, calling her bluff with a scowl when she keens, low in her throat, like an alley cat. He's slow - careful - but persistent, and her body adjusts to him. He curls his fingers up inside of her and keeps his thumb on her clit, rolling the pad of his thumb in maddening circles that aren't quite quick or hard enough to do more than keep the fire in her belly at a simmer.

Fair's fair, bitch that deep, dark, ugly part of him thinks. It's the part of him that was born rotten, the part that leaked sickness out from his pores and infected those around him, the part that made Haven as damaged as he is. It's this part of him that thinks she deserves her lot, that this is payback for all those nights she crawled into his bed at fifteen and curled her body against him like a comma, her ass flush with his groin, his shame a hardness she could feel in the night. If he makes her wait now, fingers wet and deep inside of her but tortuously slow, using the rhythm of a tightrope walker, it's only half of how he used to feel, circling his arms around her waist and rutting against her with his forehead pushed against the back of her neck and the smell of her like juniper and charcoal and grass stains and her skin soft but as hot as hellfire and the whole time knowing she was awake, knowing she kept her eyes closed to feign ignorance but feeling how she would roll her hips back against him, urging him towards a precipice that, if he fell, he could never come back from.

"Luke..." Haven whines, her back arching into a bow, one hand impatiently clawing at his hip. She's lifting her hips, twisting on the couch's old blankets, trying to will that simmer he's making her feel into a rapid boil.

For a moment, he wonders if this is how she sounds with Dave. If she can stretch out the adulterer's name with the same breathless desire she uses for his. If her tongue taps her teeth in the same way upon pronunciation. They're both one syllable. The thought makes the monster in his gut bristle.

"Is this what he does?" Luke moves his free hand, the one her thighs are not caging, and spreads his fingers low across her neck. He can feel the bump in her collarbone and the way her pulse thuds. "Does he make you come like this?"

Haven's flushed, her breathing shallow, but her eyes are still bright - still the eyes of a predator. Luke might have the reigns now, but she's waiting for her opportunity to strike. Still, there's no dishonesty in the way she shakes her head, and she looks fantastic surrounded by all that cream-colored fur, her blonde hair catching in a halo around her face, a blush of color streaking down her neck and over the tops of her breasts.

“Okay,” he says like it’s a kindness, leaning down to kiss her fully on the mouth, his tongue meeting hers while his fingers send her spiraling over the edge.





Haven fucks him afterwards.

She straddles his waist and guides him inside of her. She keeps the coat on, turning her face into the collar while she holds her hair from her neck, smelling money and salt and sweat. Luke holds her hips and watches her burn above him.

When she starts in with the filth, he doesn’t stop her. He grits his teeth and listens to all the words that tumble from her mouth. She tells him that she can feel how hard he is, that her brother’s cock is better than the husband’s, that she gets wet just thinking about riding him like this, that she wants to swallow his come and taste its sweetness.

She verbalizes his shame and lets him revel in it.





After, Haven peels the coat from her body like a second skin. She’ll pick it up from the floor in the morning and hang it in the hallway closet. It will shine like a pearl whenever she sees it, but she’ll skip past it with her fingers and choose an old leather jacket to run errands in or a crimson knitted cardigan for an early dinner in the city. The fur will be relegated to decorating a closet full of slip-on shoes and winter scarves.

She finds a Louis Vuitton tartan coat to replace it in six months, and when Luke asks what can be hocked for a quick thousand, she’ll toss him the fur without a second thought.

White trash, her town had called her, marking her as garbage.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
19 November 2017 @ 07:34 pm
 
Ugh. I hate it when your mind doesn't want to cooperate with your desire to write. Like, c'mon, brain! Get with the picture!

This was supposed to be a warm up, which it was, but it's nowhere near how I wanted to write the scene.

However, Haven is a hottie. Her outfit: http://celebmafia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/farah-holt-free-people-collection-2015_1.jpg


-----


David notices her because of her breakfast: a flaking, butter-soaked apple turnover topped with two dollops of fluffy cream. She cuts big pieces with a fork and savors the balance of cream and tart chunks of apple in each bite, wiping flakes of pastry from the corner of her mouth with her fingertips. She’s been his waitress at the Cala D’Or Yacht Club before, but her tits are too small and her mouth too thin – he glanced past her until she would turn away and then, at most, he would admire the shape of her ass or the long stretch of her legs before returning to his scotch and cigar. But now, claiming his place at the bar three stools down from where she’s eating, David’s caught by the glimmer of her diamond earrings and her chipped red polish and the way her lipstick smears against the corner of her cup of black coffee.

It’s too early, even for a Saturday, to order a scotch, but he does it anyway.

Haven glances at him, and he motions to her rapidly disappearing breakfast. “My wife used to do that. Eat dessert for breakfast.”

“Sounds like a good woman then,” Haven says with a smile.

“Maybe.” He shrugs a shoulder noncommittedly and watches her lick a bit of cream from her finger.

“What does she eat now?”

In truth, David doesn’t know. He hasn’t shared a breakfast with Rowena in more than six months. “She’s become something of a health nut,” he lies. “It’s all egg whites and avocado toast these days.”

Haven shakes her head as if she’s disappointed by this news then stands up, leaning forward to put her empty plate and mug closer to the edge of the bar. “My shift starts in ten minutes, if you’ll be needing a table.”

He won’t be, but he nods anyway. When she walks off, presumably to don the customary black blazers all the waitresses wear with their navy colored skirts, he watches her the entire time.





“So how’d you end up here?” he asks her three drinks later. The club has started to fill up with the usual crowd – silver-haired would-be sailors and rich patrons with nothing better to do with their weekend – but Haven has circled back to his table repeatedly, fetching him refills of his scotch without being told to, suggesting he order the Oysters Rockefeller because they’re on special, and making no comment about his lack of company.

Haven shifts a stack of menus to her hip. “I’m part-timing while my brother figures out how we can get rich quick.”

David surprises himself by laughing, and she flashes him a bright smile, one that is all teeth. “But really,” she says, picking up his unused menu and adding it to her stack, “I like the view here, and I need something to do while I figure out my life. I was back home for a while, taking care of my dad. Lost a little time doing that.”

“Family,” David says, and he means it good-naturedly, like they’re comrades, but Haven thinks he sounds disgruntled.

“More of a burden then a blessing sometimes, right?”

His grin is all the confirmation she needs.

She writes her number on his credit card receipt and isn’t surprised when he calls her the next day.





“Where are you off to?” Luke asks, an eyebrow raised, his expression difficult to read.

“Got a date,” Haven says with a smirk, adding another chunk of silver and gold bangles to her left wrist. She has a matching set on her other wrist, a half-open cuff on her upper left arm, and ten distressed bracelets cupping the flesh of her right. Every time she moves, she sounds musical.

Her dress is a slip of a thing, white embellished cotton that flutters down her body gracefully, cutting across her thighs like a whisper. Luke watches as she slips on high heels that cage her feet, the black fabric knotting behind her ankles. It’s the kind of outfit women wear when they expect to be undressed quickly, but he doesn’t tell her to stay home or to be careful. He doesn't tell her anything.





She is unlike every other woman David has ever met. He keeps an apartment in the city, a high-rise expensive piece of property that he’s brought women to before, but she doesn’t seem to even take in the luxury of the place. When he asks if she wants a glass of wine, she opens the bottle herself, and she sits on his leather couch with her legs curled under her, wine glass in one hand, and a flip of a smirk on her mouth.

He makes a dinner they do not eat.

He doesn’t call it a date, and he never promises her anything. When he kisses her, she acts as though she’s been waiting for it all night – her mouth opening to him easily, hungrily, tasting of merlot and strawberry lip balm. She doesn’t mention his wedding ring or the wife he alluded to at the yacht club. She opens to him without hesitation, and he pushes her dress up her hips with the hurry of a desperate man.

He’s a selfish fuck – something Haven was already expecting – but she moans encouragement into his ear and hooks her legs around his waist anyway. She arches her back when she’s expected to, kisses at his stubbled jaw, fakes an orgasm as he slices between her thighs and curses into her shoulder.

Afterwards, she’s surprised when he strokes her calf. There’s a tenderness to the way his fingers skim her skin. He pushes away her hair from her face and kisses her again, full-mouthed, like he’s trying to claim something he’s already caught.

She finishes her wine before leaving and takes the money he gives her for a taxi ride she doesn’t use.





“Fun time?” Luke asks when she comes home. He’s in the kitchen, eating a late-night snack of cereal, and he can smell the sex on her and see how her mouth is stained from the merlot.

She shrugs a shoulder, pushing a hand back through her hair. “Not really.”

“So no second date then?”

“Why? Would you be jealous if there was?”

He makes a noise that doesn’t quite answer her question, and she pulls herself up onto the counter across from him, her jewelry shivering against her wrists and arms. He puts his bowl down and then he’s there, knocking her knees open to stand between her legs, his hands warm on her hips. He leans in, nose close to her collarbone, and she sweeps her fingers through his hair, dragging them down the back of his neck.

She shivers when he drags his teeth across her pulse.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
14 November 2017 @ 09:40 am
 
Just a little warm-up piece! Focusing on family dynamics and the morning after.

---

Their cinder block house has shifted. Like snow melting in the gutter - all that pristine pureness disappearing to reveal dead leaves and decay - something rotten is being exposed. Sam Elders isn't much of a philosophical man, and he certainly isn't well read enough to recognize a climax when it's happening in real life, but he knows moods. And when there's a bad one, thickening up the air with invisible rot, Sam almost always thinks there's a woman to blame.

The only woman he has to point a finger at is his daughter, and she looks as fresh as summer rain. Fresh, reinvigorated, flush with youth. Still, the mood lingers. The mood reminds him, persistent and nagging, as offensive to him as the sour smell of garbage.

Sam leans with his bad hip pressing against the edge of the kitchen counter, drinking his coffee black and watching his daughter. He scratches his jawline, calloused fingers rubbing against three days’ worth of stubble. He isn't sure what exactly is different about her - she has the same patch of freckles spanning her left knee, the same unabashed frankness, the same blonde hair streaked with tones of honey and gold - but he knows in his gut that something has changed.

Haven's wearing cut-off shorts and a velour sweatshirt in camo print, the sleeves pushed up to her elbows as she sits at the rickety lawn table (it's been posing as a kitchen table for four years now, oddly at home against the chipped mugs and hard plastic plates), spooning off-brand cereal into her mouth. She slurps as she eats, drinks the sugar-milk at the bottom of the bowl once she's devoured the last of the floating marshmallows and toasted oat pieces. Sam hides his frown, but he thinks even the way she licks milk from her mouth seems off, like the cat who finally caught the canary.

"Is this your way of telling me you're off to join the military or something?" he finally asks, clearing his throat with a lift of his greying eyebrows and a pointed glance to her sweatshirt.

"Well, there was a recruiter at the job fair last week at school." Haven taps her spoon against the rim of her bowl and runs her mouth across the back of her hand. She flashes him a playful smile - and there it is again, that something that's different, a smile that's more fox than lamb.

He snorts. "Job fair. What a bunch of bullshit."

She nods along, her easy agreement often punctuating her father's sentences. "I think Luke got polled as a potential police offer, do ya believe it?" Sam scoffs his answer as Haven watches her brother emerge into the hall as she speaks - he's stumbling out of her bedroom, thick with half-sleep and one hell of a hangover, struggling with pulling a pair of ripped jeans up over his naked hips. Haven thinks there’s a reluctant, dejected air about him. He’s slow to make his way into the kitchen, and when he does it’s with a yawn that hides the wince of his eyes.

Luke’s hair is sticking up in the back. Haven reaches out to smooth the unruly strands, her fingers coaxing them into submission slowly. Luke groans under his breath, folding his body into an out-of-place wicker chair at the table. He drops his forehead to the counter, his arms folding around his face as a makeshift pillow; his sister’s fingers keep digging through his hair, working their way down his neck. She can smell him: stale sweat and beer, cigarette smoke and ripped denim.

"Long night?" Sam asks.

Luke grumbles something the rest of his family can't hear.

"Jaime Holster had a party last night," Haven says by way of explanation.

"Yeah, well, your sister has been up for an hour." Sam has a way of speaking to his son that’s purely admonishment.

When Haven starts to rub the outside of his ear, Luke shrugs away from her irritably. His body jerks as though burnt. She grins and pats his shoulder as if to say no hard feelings here before getting up to put her bowl in the sink.

“I’m going to the mall. There’s a pair of boots for sale at Macy’s that I’ve been eying for a week now. Figured I’d treat myself.” She snatches the keys to the truck from the counter and kisses Sam on his grizzled cheek, heading out the door with a pep in her step and an off-key whistle on her lips.

Sam eyes his eldest, still dejectedly curled at the table. He pours him a cup of coffee – black, like his own – and places it down by Luke’s nearest elbow.

“Maybe take it easy on the Budweiser next time, son.”

Sam means it jokingly but Luke snarls something into his arm, head still buried in his self-made crevice of skin and table. Sam remembers being seventeen himself, full of spit fire and testosterone, his throat desperate enough for cheap Bud and watered-down vodka and his dick willing to rise for just about any free hand, mouth, or snatch, so he resists the urge to smack his son across the top of his head. The truth is, as much as it bothers him to admit it, Sam Knows Luke doesn’t have the same attitude, although Sam sometimes wishes he did. Luke is his mother’s son, through and through, bursting with too much self-control in his bones and willful ignorance in his brain.

But as Sam likes to say, there’s always a woman to blame.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
10 November 2017 @ 03:54 pm
 
Trying to get into the mindset of a new character - thanks to my Muffin for letting me join in on her madness.

Ladies and gents, may I present: Ms. Haven Elders!

(this is just unconnected scenes interrupted by lines of poetry by Reyna Biddy.)



----


“maybe I’m ashamed
to love someone just like me.
someone unafraid to bruise.
someone who knows how it feels to constantly lose the battle.
someone unafraid to be left empty.”



Her first experience with betrayal starts with her lungs burning. Her legs and arms pumping, blurring, the line of her body slick with sweat as she runs on her doe legs. In another life, she could have been a track star, a homecoming queen, a valedictorian, a silver screen starlet with a thousand different faces. In this life, she sprints away from the shouts of police and the glow of their flashlights, hurdling over a tangle of brush and a downed oak, the adrenaline coursing through her veins as raw as her daddy's moonshine. She's thirteen years old and as full of piss and vinegar as she is with fear.

She runs until she feels faint, and then she runs some more.

By the time she makes it home, her head is pounding, and her chest feels too small to contain her wildly beating her. Her shirt is soaked with sweat, her legs and arms scratched red from where branches and vines snapped her skin. Hands on her knees, pitched forward and gasping for air, she doesn't hear Sam Elders open the screen door of their cinder block house and step out into the night.

"Where's your brother?" Her daddy asks. He has the look of a parent who knows exactly what his children have been up to, but it lacks shock or regret.

"What?" She chokes out while her mind suddenly sends a warning as loud as a siren through her brain: Luke.

It's the first time she's thought of him since she started running.

She spins on her heel, still reeling, and is honestly surprised that he isn't behind her, just as out of breath and red-faced. She waits a full minute, somehow hoping to hear the woods crack at his approach. There's nothing but the wind and what might be distant, far off shouts.

"You leave him?"

When she stares back at her father, sloe-eyes wide, her daddy clicks his tongue. The sound is full of disappointment.

"I didn't - I thought .... what?"

"You're turning into your mama more and more, girl. Just running blindly ahead, not a look back."

Now Haven really thinks she might be sick. She pushes a hand back through her hair feeling the sweat gather on her palm. "He was right behind me."

Sam Elders spits near his daughter's foot. "We'll pick him up from the station in the morning." The screen door squeaks in protest when he opens it again and knocks against the frame once he's disappeared back into the house.

Haven stays outside, heart hamming in her chest, and waits for the sick feeling in her gut to pass.





“I wasn’t the kind of person you could love every day.”




Theirs is a town the rest of the world has forgotten: houses little more than shacks and row homes as slanted as roof barns, cracks battling with the weeds for space on the sidewalks, one solitary high school caging in boys who grew up hunting, fishing, and fixing trucks and girls who favored boots, crop tops, and smoking Pall Malls over Marlboros. Most of the kids turn into their parents, adults that are satisfied with hot dog eating contests every July 4th and frequenting a bar every Saturday night that seconds as a tow-truck company. Theirs is a town full of blue-collared workers – some of them good, some of them mean, and some of them Elders. For a place not known for its extravagance by any stretch of the imagination, the Elders are a different kind of folk altogether.

The live in a cinder block on the outskirts of an already dilapidated area with tick-infested woods as their backyard and crabgrass as their front lawn. They aren’t exactly social, but they aren’t private either. Most of the men have shared beers and burgers with Sam Elders for years, just as most of them have watched him lose money the same way he lost his wife. Rick Thorton is the closest thing Sam has to a best friend, but Rick can’t seem to figure out which parts of Sam’s life are fiction and which parts are fact, and that’s after twenty years of knowing each other. Janet Winters feels the same way, and she’s known Sam’s kids for half her life, having babysat for them when they were still toddlers and didn’t know beans.

It’s Janet that gets an odd feeling once the kids are three-fourths of the way to twenty. They’ve been taken care of themselves for years, but she still brings over tuna noodle casserole and tater tot delight once a month or so, figuring Sam never was much in the kitchen. Janet considers herself a good Christian woman despite smoking two packs a day and indulging in a box of wine per week, so she thinks it’s her duty to spread a little generosity - all of the Elders are in-and-out of trouble as regularly as the sun rises.

Balancing aluminum-wrapped Tupperware on one hip, Janet knocks too loudly on the paint-split door. She’s surprised when Haven answers rather than Sam and more surprised to see the girl in a tank top that brushes the tops of her thighs but little else. Haven yawns, scratching the back of her neck behind her knotted hair, and pushes the screen door open with a half-awake but cheerful hello.

“You’re gonna catch your death in that getup, child. Heavens.” Janet says as she comes in, letting Haven take the Tupperware from her. “May I?” She shakes a pack of cigarettes she dug from her purse once her hands were free.

“Sure, Mrs. Winters.” Haven passes her an ashtray half-full of butts before putting the Tupperware on the counter and perching on the edge of an old recliner.

Their living room isn’t much, just like the house isn’t much. The windows have blinds that are half-cocked, like they’ve been stuck trying to wink, and the light that filters in is low and hazy. The carpet is stained, dirty, and Janet isn’t sure how Haven feels clean with so much skin showing.

“Where’s you dad?”

“Working on Mr. Tucker’s truck. He should be back in a few hours.”

“And your brother?”

Haven grins, an expression that splits her mouth and makes her look wide awake. “In bed.”

Janet rolls her eyes knowingly, puffing on her cigarette. “Is that where you came from too?”

“Yeah, but he steals all the covers. I’ve been trying to steal them back for half an hour.”

Janet makes a noise like a hum then coughs on the smoke in her mouth. “Aren’t you a little old to be sleeping together?”

For a moment, Haven’s expression turns cold. She plucks Janet’s cigarette from her left hand, surprising the old woman, and inhales smoothly. When she exhales, the smoke filters down over her bottom lip like fog. “Yeah, I’m all grown up now.”

She smiles before Janet can say anything and hands back the cigarette, sliding from her perched position to open the door. “Thanks for the casserole, Mrs. Winters. I’ll tell dad you came by.”

Janet smiles back, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes. She murmurs something about enjoying the rest of the day and leaves without a second glance. As she heads towards the Ford she’s parked in the Elders’ driveway, she thinks about Haven’s expression, and the uncharacteristic coldness in the girl’s blue eyes. Janet’s known Haven her entire life, and she’s never seen that look before.

Not from her, at least.




“It’s just some nights I crave you when I know I shouldn’t.”




She’s seventeen, and Jaime Holster is throwing one of his notorious backyard parties on a Saturday night. Most of the adults in town know about Holster’s parties, including the local cops, but they’ve brokered an unspoken truce with the youth – a don’t ask, don’t tell policy that would make Clinton proud.

Haven wears shorts that are too short to be anything other than denim underwear and a crop top that shows how long and lean her stomach has become. Her blonde hair is thrown up into a messy bun, and there’s barely a lick of makeup on her face except for some eyeliner and strawberry flavored lip balm. She has an effortless attractiveness that other girls envy and try to emulate to little success. When Holster blares rock from a stereo system haphazardly balanced on the top railing of his deck, it’s Haven that starts dancing first.

She has a cold bottle of beer in one hand and the other in the air, her fingers tapping the beat along with her hips. When she tosses her head back and forth, her knot of hair shaking from the effort, two other girls that she could have called friends join in. Holster, never missing an opportunity, is the first guy to start dancing. He has the same confidence Haven possesses, and they grin at each other knowingly. By the time Manson starts playing, most of the party has become a pit of thrashing bodies.

Haven is sweating, throwing herself against the hive of arms and chests around her, laughing in a way that’s almost ugly, full-throated and close to a horse’s bray, her beer spilling and running down her arm, leaving her sticky and amber-smelling. She pulls her head back, avoiding an aggressive looking elbow, and leans into the escape Holster offers when he throws an arm around her waist and lifts her feet off the ground. He pivots, turning her in a half-circle, and she wraps her long legs around his hips, the majority of her weight supported by the gyrating bodies behind her and Holster’s hands under her ass.

She still has some of her beer, and she takes a drink even though it’s turned lukewarm, looping her free arm around Holster’s neck. He says something against her neck, something hot and half-drowned by music. She can feel that he’s hard and that he’s rutting against her, the fabric of his jeans chafing her thighs.

From across the yard, she can see Luke watching them. Watching her.

Haven winks and drags her nails down the back of Holster’s head.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
27 October 2017 @ 08:51 pm
 
So this is just short of 1000 words, but I'm counting it as a win since 1) I wrote the majority of it on my phone while in bed and 2) it's more dialogue than I usually ever manage.

Roman and Sun AU snippet!

----


Sunniva's hands don't shake, and Roman isn't afraid. 

He’s the opposite of what afraid should look like, she thinks. He’s posing like an emperor, spread across a cot, his lanky, muscled body taking up too much of the narrow space. His trousers are on, but he's removed his shirt. His dog tags hang, silver and cold, against his naked chest. There are old yellow bruises bartering his left ribs, the ones closest to his navel fresh enough to still be blue and purple. Angry gaps of skin jut against each other from where some inexperienced field medic tried his best to keep Roman's insides from spilling out with a needle and thread. Most of the wound has healed and started to scab, but he knows to expect another chunk of scars. He’ll be a map of wounds soon.

Sunniva's hair is pinned up, rolled under to hide its length; looking at her in her ill-fitting man's clothing as she fills a syringe with medicine, Roman is once again surprised at her capability. Most of the women he knows have been hardened or destroyed by the war, but not many adapted to it.  

"You're clever," he tells her, leaning over to the makeshift nightstand beside the cot to drink from a flask full of gin. "I never expect cleverness from beautiful girls."

"I know exactly what it is you expect from them." Sunniva rolls her eyes, but her smile is amused.

She soaks some fresh bandages in antiseptic then unceremoniously pushes a hand against his chest, forcing him into a more prone position before wrapping the medicated gauze over his gashed side. His muscles ripple beneath her hands. As a nurse, she's efficient but here, now, with him, she’s not always the gentlest - she thinks she sees Roman flinch, just a little, at the pressure of her fingers. Part of her knows he deserves the pain. Part of her feels guilty for even thinking so.

"I mean it,” Roman says. “The beautiful ones don't need to be clever. All they need to do is wake up in the morning." 

"And spread their legs at night." She sounds more bitter than she means to. Her eyes, bluer than usual in the dim light from the kerosene lantern, are grave and watchful above her frown. 

Roman scratches his beard and shrugs his opposite shoulder. "That's their choice."

"Not always."

He nods like he understands, but Sunniva knows he doesn't - Roman is and always has been a taker, a man who grapples hungrily through the world. When she finishes with his side, she sits back. She swats his hand with the easy briskness of an older sister when he reaches for the flask again. He laughs without much humor, wincing when he settles back onto the cot more comfortably. 

"You know, we don't think of you that way." His tone is deadly in its gentleness, and she glances at him warily because of it. 

With a clear of her throat, she rolls her shirt sleeves up to her elbows, washing her hands in a basin with lukewarm water. "What way?"

"Like you're a whore." He can't be sure, but Roman thinks he sees Sunniva's spine tighten. "If that's what you're worried about."

"Why would I worry about that?" She doesn't look at him. She washes her hands a second time, more slowly, rubbing the lemon scented soap into her knuckles and beneath her nails. 

"One woman. Six men. You run without consideration, you fall into a hole."

Sunniva feels her frown flip and a smile begins to broaden the side of her mouth. "Haven't heard that one before. I'm not sure it even really fits here. Am I the person running? Or the hole?"

"Which would you prefer to be, darling?" 

She laughs a little, a tad exasperated, and wipes her hands on the front of her army pants. Sometimes talking to Roman is like finding your way through a maze - you make the wrong turn, and you don't know where you are anymore. 

She pulls a three legged stool up to the side of his cot and sits. She doesn't mind when he touches her arm. When he reaches for the flask next, she doesn't stop him. Instead, she takes the drink he offers after his own sip. 

His eyebrows knit together when he shifts to his side.  Sunniva brushes a piece of his hair away from the cut of his jaw without thinking about it. The ease of their friendship should surprise her, and it does, but not in the way she wants it to. She wants to distrust it.  

"I heard you were part of the trenches before being stationed here. Slit a German's throat when the tunnel caved," she says, business-like, her tone no-nonsense. She says it like she's trying to figure him out more than she already has, like it isn’t intended to hurt.  

"People tell all sorts of war stories."

"And there was a woman. French. Popular with the boys."

"Creature comforts, darling." He flashes his toothy grin, but it looks more like a grimace. 

"Is that what I am?" 

He shrugs again, so casual, so composed. "Depends on who you're comforting."

She makes a noncommittal noise and Roman eyes her curiously. 

"It's alright, you know," her tells her after a moment. "It's alright if you want it to be Palmer you're comforting." 

The legs of the stool scratch across the floor when Sunniva distances herself.

She rubs her arms self-consciously and tells herself it's from the cold, not the conversation. 
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
21 October 2017 @ 10:08 pm
 
This thing upon me, howls like a beast
You flower, you feast
- “Woman”



His weight beneath her anchors Augusta in the moment, binding her sails and building her moorings. She feels almost child-like - a woman grown, tall as a willow, her body devoid of grace and molded into severe lines (the resulting aftermath of a life of trials and tribulations, of crossing into adulthood fully) - but she is made minuscule by Radomir's mountainous size. She is used to having control, to maintaining order, to fulfilling responsibilities; she's grateful for the freedom and comfort his body provides. It's refreshing, even if it doesn't change the fundamentals of their dynamic.  As if to further establish this point, Augusta's arms cage his head, her wrists locking behind his neck, mimicking the way her legs circle his waist. She has circled her way around him, as much as possible. If she leans down more, she'll find a shelf for her head in the shape of his shoulders and chest. If she arches too much, her oak-colored hair brushes the top of the Cadillac. 

They are a knot, insidiously twisted, and difficult to untangle. 

Radomir's heavy hands grip her hips. When she rocks down, grinding against the hard length of him, he holds her like she's the anchor instead of the ship. It makes her laugh, slick and needy, against his lips. 

Forehead pressing against hers, and in-between uttering a Slavic curse and a groan, Radomir asks her what's so funny. 

"Sometimes I think you forget what you're capable of," she tells him, trailing her palm from the nape of his neck to his jawline, feeling the scratch of the day's stubble against her skin.
 
Radomir grins, leaning back against the leather seats, spreading his arms out over their curves. "No. I never forget."

She quirks an eyebrow at him, her mouth a thin scar of a smirk, then nods briefly. "You're right." Her hand scalds him as she runs her fingers down his neck, deliberately traveling the length of his jugular, circling away from his heart as she traverses over his broad chest, burning lower and lower until she palms the outline of his hardness completely. He grunts, guttural, and looks at her from between half-lidded eyes. 

"Show me then," she says, licking the corner of his mouth. "Show me what you can do." 





Augusta could talk the devil into setting himself on fire. 

She could get into anyone’s brain – into their teeth as well as their ears. She could vibrate in the knot of nerves below the breastbone and seem to eat the damp and delicate tissue behind the eyes.

Radomir knows this. He has accepted it, has let himself be convinced by all her words and plans and promises, has even been enamored by it, but when he's deep inside of her, his hands buried in her hair, her body wet and yielding to him in all the ways he has often yielded for her, he wants to be the one who is silver-tongued and solid. He wants to lead as she follows. He wants to pave a path to a future where their footing is on equal ground, where he does more than guard her life, open her doors, and fuck her in secret. 

But then she catches his neck with one of her hands - hands that make him think of doves in their elegance and long-fingered poise - or her sweat leaves salt on his lips as he mouths the curve of her jaw and the desire to satisfy her, to be hers, battles with his urge to claim. 

Augusta is silk, spread beneath him, a leg curved over his hip, the other pinned down at the thigh and held open by his right hand. Her body is pressed against and into the Cadillac's back seats. The windows are fogged over. They're both sweating. She has a rope of pearls around her neck that glisten, sticking to her collarbone, the ends of her hair clinging to them. But she is still removed, still distant - he's only pushed up her skirt, only undone his trousers - and he's bracing his bulk above her, forced into the back of a car that suddenly feels like a coffin. His left hand had gripped the front seat for leverage and balance, but now he uses it to pluck at the matching pearl buttons of her blouse. Quick. Nimble. Too precise for a man whose history has covered his hands in blood. 

"Hold on," he murmurs, like his words are sticking to his tongue, then scowls when she groans with impatience. 

Augusta pushes her hands back through her hair, looking down at the progress he's making, inches of her skin slowly coming into sight as her blouse spreads open. "Radomir." There's a note of annoyance in the way she says his name - it's subtle, but he's been trained to notice it. 

"Augusta." He mimics, leaning down to kiss the tops of her breasts, his teeth dragging over the expensive lace of her bra. He guides the shirt off of her slowly, rolling it away from her shoulders, and feels her acquiesce when she arches up to help him. It slips from her arms, a snake shedding expensive skin. 

He curves a hand back, against her spine, and works the clasp of her bra next. When he moves to the line of buttons on the side of her hiked skirt, she huffs again. A simmer of anger from her mouth, disguised as a sigh. 

"Radomir," this time her tone is clearer - more obviously sharp, "we don't have time for this." 

"Why not?" he asks, the only part of him moving now his fingers at her hip. He's still inside of her, thrust to the hilt, but he is a creature of self-possession. 

She slaps him, her hand a viper. Three quick successions. His eyes flinch, but the crack of sound is louder than the pain. 

"No time," Radomir muses, feeling the sting of her nails. He lowers his eyes to her exposed chest, to the slender inward curves of her waist, his hand rubbing the buttons of her skirt now, feeling their worth. 

He seems reflective - humbled - so Augusta is surprised when he looks her squarely in the eyes. 

"Do you have time to undress for your brother?" The impudence is more in his eyes and the smirk his mouth makes than in his voice. That he keeps even and low. 

Although she considers it, Augusta decides to answer him earnestly rather than make him apologize. "No.” She uses her slapping hand to run her thumb over his full bottom lip, her nail scratching at the corner where his smirk is the most evident. “… and I don't fuck him in the backseat of cars either."

"Where then?" He undoes a button.

"Where I bury my skeletons."

Another button loosens, and now he can unwrap her fully, smoothing away the fabric to feel the way her thighs shiver and how her bones battle with her waist. He hums his understanding and dips his head to kiss her neck.

Slowly, ignoring the time she cherishes, he starts to move. He thrusts deeply, one hand at her hip, one arm curling around her lower back to pull her up and closer to where their bodies are joined. Augusta drags her nails across his shoulder, hooking her leg further behind him.





They fuck into dusk. Until Augusta’s skin is slick with sweat and flushed from her toes to the crown of her dark head. Until Radomir’s breathing hitches and his blood stutters in his veins.

She has crawled on top of him in the low-light, the muscles in her thighs straining, her fingers trembling. She mirrors how they began – arms around his neck, legs caging his waist – and his hands cup her ass. She rocks above him, chasing her rising crescendo.

When she comes, she bites his shoulder, stifling the cry torn from her mouth. Radomir, never the nosiest of fucks, groans with pride.

Augusta nuzzles into the side of his neck, contended.

“What does Hatchet sound like?” The question settles along his throat and constricts like a noose.

Radomir wonders how long she’s been waiting to ask. He runs his hands over her back, counting the notches in her spine. Augusta laughs, breathy, at his silence. She nips his earlobe. “Did you think I didn’t know? What you do when you aren’t with me.”

“I am always with you,” he says, “even when I am not.”

“How romantic.” She knocks her knuckles against his heart.

Even though she’s patronizing him, he kisses her – long and deep - satiating himself.

Augusta presses her fingers to his mouth. “Are we done here?”

He nods. When she slides from him, the sudden loss of her is a void.






Radomir leans against the side of the Cadillac in the darkness as Augusta dresses. He smokes a cigarette, watching the horizon. There’s a clutter of brush along the seaside. Come fall, most of it will probably be dead, but now the branches bear leaves and makes it hard to see the crashing waves. A narrow dirt road, scattered with sand, curves back towards the city. Traffic will be light he thinks, and pitches his cigarette to the ground.

In the night, Augusta can hardly make out anything. She adjusts the fall of her necklace and pins her hair carefully using the rearview mirror. Her blouse sticks to her skin and her skirt is wrinkled, but her strict spine and sharp gaze are enough to make her look composed. She touches her swollen mouth and smiles before knocking on the window.

Radomir grips the steering wheel once he slides into the driver’s seat.

“I could kill him,” he says.

Augusta lights her own cigarette, following the train of his thought easily. She speaks around the smoke in her mouth. “It isn’t him I want you to kill.”

They look at each other, and Radomir says nothing (except with his eyes, and Augusta can read them easily, can see the way pain and obligation twist him up like a tourniquet, can see, too, how quickly his love for her outweighs his devotion to any other). He starts the engine, one hand falling to the gear shift, the other balancing on the wheel. Augusta places her hand on top of his, tracing the lines of his veins above his knuckles.
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