you're too young & eager to love
11 October 2017 @ 10:22 pm
 
More AU Madness! I don't know why my mind went to 1920s bootlegging ... but it did. Oh well!

This piece is a bit of a trickster. It looks like it's going to be a full piece because of how it starts, but oh no, nope, no way. I fizzle out at the end. But hey! Writing! That's a thing.


------




They don’t talk about the war.

Decades from now, people will reflect on this stoicism and say it’s unnatural. They will discuss the effects of trauma in sympathetic tones and try to imagine the cold-blooded horror of the trenches, of men choking on yellow gas, of soldiers clutching their breasts while the old world tumbles. They will speak of war from a distance with all the nuances poetic imagery grants. The Great War, they will say, is a World War. The Great War that bred the Greatest Generation.

In truth, their silence is a shield. Their shattered lives only pave the way to more pain.





Unloading crates of alcohol isn’t much different from unloading medical supplies, food rations, or weapons. It’s the same push and pull of muscles, the same overseeing of inventory, the same hurried, methodical ways. If it wasn’t for the back-alley exchanges, shipments arriving in covered trucks armed by men with metal guns as black as night, Palmer wouldn’t know the difference.

He steps lightly over the wet cobblestone, slicking his hand back through his hair before lighting a cigarette. There’s a dozen men around him; their shirts are sweat-stained, the sleeves rolled up to their elbows, their hands full of boxes and callouses. They speak in grunts, ferreting the crates into the back of The Emerald with all the efficiency illegal activities like theirs require.

Sunniva stands close to the car at the front of the line of trucks. She seems out of place against all the masculinity. “How many boxes does that make?”

Harrow is a knife sliver, leaning gracefully against the side of his Cadillac, the car a mix of intimidating steel and luxury glass. He glances at Sunniva the way men glance at wasps and turns to Palmer to respond. “This should cover you for the month. We have another shipment coming in from Chicago in two weeks.”

“Chicago? What do they have that we don’t have right here?” Palmer grins as he pulls an envelope from the inside of his pin-striped jacket. He hands it over with the smooth flourish of a man accustomed to dealing cards.

“Ask my sister. It was her idea to expand business and all.” Harrow lets his driver take the envelope. They’re already ducking inside of his car, but he hesitates at the last moment, sticking his head partially out the passenger window. Sunniva steps away, shifting to let Palmer slide past. “How’s the new girl working out?”

“Fine. She can light cigarettes and deliver drinks. About all we need.”

Harrow’s nod is curt. He thumps his fist on the hood, and his driver takes the signal. The engine rattles powerfully as they drive off.

“You didn’t tell him?” Sunniva asks once they’re out of sight and the last of the loading men are shuffling to their trucks.

“What’s to tell?”

Palmer recognizes the look she gives him – one mixed with disapproval and surprise. He’s seen it plenty of times before, but they don’t talk about that either.






Chason has dark hair, dark eyes, and, as far as the majority of The Emerald’s clientele believes, skin that’s a touch too dark to be white. They think he’s one of those wops, another filthy immigrant suckling at America’s great teat, or a spy sent in by Masseria to compete with the Vries’ booming business. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. To them, he’ll always be the bartender who can’t speak their language, his mouth too slick with olive oil and his mother’s tomato sauce to get any words out properly. To them, he’s fit for shining shoes and sweeping stoops.

He could tell them that he doesn’t speak a lick of Italian, wouldn’t understand a single word if he heard it, and that his mother would burn water before making any type of sauce. He could tell them that he was born in Atlantic City, that he knows the boardwalk and the beach as well as he knows his bones. He could tell them that their affluence doesn’t protect them as much as they think it does, that their blood is the same as his. But he doesn’t. He cleans his bar, he gets their illicit drinks, and he lets them think what they want.

When the Vries deliver a new shipment, he oversees where the crates are stored, choosing certain unlabeled bottles for the back of the bar. He’s lining up glasses when the pianist arrives for the night, cracking his fingers dramatically before sitting at the stage and beginning his warm up. There’s a few working girls around, smoking cigarettes and sipping champagne, resting their heels before the night begins. They all have freshly sheered hair, their bobs softly curled and framing their heart-shaped faces. They look like dolls – replicas and waxen – and their clucking chatter mingles with the piano melodies.

The one whose name he can never remember has a bridge of freckles across her nose and a shock of red hair. She’s Irish, still fresh off the boat after six months of American living, but the women at The Emerald bond over shared bruises, broken hearts, and booze all the same. He’s about to offer her a light for the cigarette she’s been holding, but they go silent, their words cut off abruptly. Chason follows the path of their scrutiny, pocketing his lighter.

Coming in from the faded street, the new girl is a fresh field of snow, her arms so white that they seem to shine. She’s wearing another slip of silk, the silver fabric iridescent and cut on the bias so that it bunches and gathers near her hip, the folds somehow sinuous and showing stretches of leg as she moves. A rope of ivory beads shivers around her neck. With her hair slicked into a neat chignon at the nape of her neck, not a strand out of place, she looks more like a guest than an employee.

The smile she wears is cautious, and none of the other girls return it.






“Are you seeing him again tonight?”

The question is sudden, jarring, and for a moment Ita thinks the bar itself must have spoken to her. “I’m sorry?” she asks, her voice as silvery as her dress, and more quiet than the voices Chason is used to hearing.

He pours her two fingers of whiskey and slides the tumbler across the bar. She palms it awkwardly and fixes him with a curious look.

“Would you prefer champagne?”

“That’s what the other girls drink?”

“You don’t seem like the other girls.”

Ita is surprised he doesn’t tack a sweetheart onto the end of his sentence like Palmer and the other men would, their drawling accents syrupy thick with drink and suggestion. The corner of her mouth flips for a moment, trying to picture the way his voice might lilt at the syllables, and then she blushes. “You don’t really know me well enough to say that, do you?”

Chason’s face is indecipherable. It makes her blush more. She ducks her eyes and takes a sip of the whiskey, her lipstick smearing the rim of the glass.

“… It’s not bad,” she says at last then takes another sip.

Chason laughs, a barking, biting sound. It’s harsher than it needs to be. She smiles anyway, softly.

When he turns to leave, she says, “I’m not with him.”

Chason pauses, wiping a nonexistent spill from the bar top before meeting her blue gaze evenly. “That isn’t what I asked.”

Ita doesn’t say anything, so the silence fills the space between them.







The Emerald is in full swing when Harrow arrives.

Chason isn’t surprised to see him.

And although Ita’s smile remains cautious, she finds herself pulled to his table and his entourage. When he fingers the rope of beads around her neck, she bears it.
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you're too young & eager to love
23 September 2017 @ 09:22 am
 
Posting some bits! I'm not unhappy with this, per say, but I also wasn't sure what tone or mood I wanted for the overall piece. I still want to do the whole Roman-pack-fight eventually.

The conversation is supposed to be between Roman and Knight, but it sounded too formal and melodramatic.

-------


"He isn't blood. And he isn't family."




He is cold. With her palm pressed above his dead heart, his skin feels the way glass or metal does.





"This is not up for discussion," Anders says, using his stern voice, but there's a softness around his eyes and mouth - a questioning look - that seems to ask why. Why shouldn't it be discussed? His allegiances are to his pack; Roman is an outsider.

Lene steels his shoulders. He tilts his chin up in a gesture of defiance. He is silent and sure. The pack has not seen him in this shape for some time now. He knows their ways - how what you earn here is determined by strength and capability rather than gender, but he's always thought they listen to him more, respect him more, in the guise of a man.

Roman looks more relaxed than he should. He sits with his elbows on his knees, his shirt threadbare and cut off at the shoulders, showing the fine muscles in his arms. His hair is loose, slipping against his jaw, and when Lene catches his eye, Roman grins - his teeth are very white in the darkness.





"You know you don't smell like anything? Nothing. You're the absence of a scent."

"So I have been told."





"You think you can win? That you can persevere? Outlast their malice by hiding in these western mountains? I know men. I've seen what they are capable of, how they hate what they do not understand, how they fear what they cannot create or control. They are weeds. They will cover everything until there is nothing left, and then they will turn on themselves. It is what they do."

"You speak like you aren't one of them."

"I haven't been for many years now."

"So why are you here? Why did you join the insurgence?"

"What else was there to do?"

"The last man standing."

"Until the sky falls."

"And her? She has enough protectors. If you're staying because you feel obligated, don't. You aren't doing her any favors. Prolonging the inevitable."
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
17 September 2017 @ 03:10 pm
 
More bakery AU! Featuring gossip, coffee, awkward run-ins, and some sex.

This gets smutty, but honestly not as smutty as I thought it would get.


-----



The coffee shop holds open mic events the third Friday and Saturday of every month. They've grown in popularity since they started a year ago, but it's still a hit-or-miss on how well the performances will be. That's the nature of improv, Sunniva assumes, standing with her arms crossed in the archway between the pick-up point on the counter and the hall designated for Employees Only. She's stiff even outside of her work clothes, her purple summer dress doing little to soften her. She hasn't smiled in half an hour. She's watching the guests drink their table wines and order their coffees split with sweet vodkas or syrupy Bailey's, and she frowns, knowing from experience how dangerous easy booze and lackluster poetry readings can be to one's will power. 

"I don't get it either," Eda tells her, stopping on her way to clear a recently emptied booth. "We should really ask why every staff member has to be here for these events. You shouldn't have to come back after working all day." She's misread Sun's expression, but Sun doesn't correct her.

"Augusta likes a full house. It's easy promotion. Besides, they're here too." Sun inclines her head to one of the far tables and Eda's eyes follow. 

Augusta is sitting with her husband, her brother, Roman, and Radomir. She's holding hands with her husband on top of the table, blatantly declaring her devotion, her fingers much smoother and younger than the ones clutching hers. Sunniva thinks her body is leaning towards Rad though, that Augusta is resting the tips of her heels on the bottom rung of Rad's adjacent stool. 

"Sort of an odd social circle, isn't it?" Eda asks, shifting her weight to one hip along with her obvious envy.

It's an accurate assessment though – odd indeed and unbalanced. The Reinhardts’ clothing alone could pay the entire staff's salary for a month, and although Harrow is just as well-dressed, his antisocial tendencies are showing. He keeps glancing towards Ita's lean figure behind the counter; Sunniva has lost count on how many times he's gone to get a refill of what might be water. Roman is texting, somehow able to manage the shop and take a whole hour of break time without actually overseeing anything, and Radomir’s bulk causes him to look out of place anywhere that isn't a war zone. It doesn't help that they're also the most serious of the clientele - the mood noticeable chillier. All the other tables are full of laughter, chatter, cheers for the performers on the half-circle stage. 

Eda and Sun watch as Radomir shifts and digs his phone from the back pocket of his working class distressed jeans. He looks down at the caller ID, answers with an apologetic glance to the table, and rises, stepping towards the bathroom. One hand holds his phone, the other covers his left ear to drown out the cacophony of noise caused by a singer’s croaking rendition of Ring of Fire. He looks a bit like the secret service, shouldering past a crowd of fresh-faced twenty-somethings. 

"Do you think he's talking to anyone?" Sunniva asks, amused. 

"What do you mean?"

"I don’t think anyone is on the other line. Watch, I guarantee Augusta follows him within the next five minutes."

"Can we just look at how he walks? Parts the crowd like Moses. I heard he used to work for the government. One of those special ops, hush-hush types of situation." Eda says, her envy shifting to judgment.

"Roman said he was a personal trainer?" 

Ita shakes her head from behind the counter, having caught the last bit of the conversation, and places two steaming cappuccinos down under the Pick-Up sign dangling from the ceiling. "Here, these are for you two. And I don't think that's true. People just assume. He told me he graduated from Harvard. Studied linguistics. He can speak a number of languages, actually." 

"Really?" Sunniva picks up one of the cappuccinos with a hint of a smile. "How did he end up working for the Vries? I don't think bakeries need translators." 

"He doesn't. Not technically. He works for Mr. Reinhardt."

Sunniva makes a hum of interest. She isn't surprised Ita knows any of this - Ita seems to know everything, but she's mostly a sealed vault, and she's never been the center of the gossip in the shop. Unlike Eda with her frank expressions and beguiling mouth. 

"That is one rich man," Eda says, turning her attention to Augusta's husband and his expensive suit. Even from a distance, the three of them can see the glare of Augusta's wedding ring. "How do you get that rich?" 

"Bonds?"

Sunniva shrugs. "Sell your soul, more like it."

"Maybe you should start taking bets," Eda teases, heading to the booth still in need of cleaning. She's got her coffee in one hand but she motions subtly with the other towards Augusta. She's standing and smoothing her hands across her skirt. She whispers something to her husband before following Radomir's path. 

"Told you," Sunniva says to Ita, the blonde merely shaking her head in response. 





"I want to fuck you," Radomir speaks into the shell of Augusta's ear, his need outlined more clearly by his roaming hands than his voice. There's a slight hitch to his words - some accent long-ago muffled - that warps his consonants whenever he gets like this, but Augusta doesn't think anyone else would notice. She doesn't think anyone else has the same effect on him as she does - at least not in two years - or that he talks much without first being prompted. 

"No, you don't," she corrects him, pushing a hand against the center of his broad chest. 

She's perched on the edge of the wide sink, her slim-cut skirt pushed up against her thighs, her silk shirt missing its top two buttons so the lace of her bra and the swell of her breasts are showing. There's scratch marks there, against her cleavage, from where Radomir's beard has rubbed her skin raw. 

"Augusta." Rad says her name the way a petulant child might, and she tsks at him, feigning disappointment. 

His giant hands trace the length of her calves, roaming upwards, circling the curve of her knees, until he treads her thighs with his fingers. Standing between her legs, he looms above her, her hands tiny, pale butterflies that flutter over his chest and shoulders. He could crush them, could pin both her wrists above her head with only one hand, but he doesn't. Rad leans down instead, pushing his forehead against hers, and she lets him kiss her the way he likes to - soft and too tender, like he would swallow her if he could, if it meant he could keep her safe inside of him. 

Augusta runs her sharp, pointed nails down the back of his neck and bites his bottom lip hard enough to taste blood. He jolts a bit, groans, and when she snakes a hand between their bodies, she finds him painfully hard. She cups him with her palm. He's hot and straining against his jeans. His groan is wet against her mouth. Needy. 

"Hands only. And make it quick," she tells him in her best boss-voice. The noise he makes in response is a tortuous sob. 

But he's eager - eager and willing and thrilled by her. He slides one of his hands between her legs, tearing aside the flimsy strip of lace he finds there to push three fingers into her. She's wet enough, but it still hurts, a kind of burn-ache that fills her as much as his fingers do. Her legs are confined by the contours of her skirt, so his knuckles dig into her thighs. Her gasp is more of a grunt, an exhale of hot air. She keeps her nails like claws in his neck, anchoring him as she arches up from the sink, his head buried against her chest, teeth scraping down over her bra and biting at the hard point of her nipple. He's mouthing all types of obscenities against her skin as his fingers piston in and out of her. He's only ever loquacious during times like these. 

A stoic thing, undone by her. 




Fifteen minutes after Augusta has returned to her table, looking a little warm but otherwise composed, Ita takes out the garbage. 

The alley smells damp and dark with an herbal sweetness that drafts towards her. Ita shoulders the trash, headed to the dumpster, and gives a yelp of surprise when one of the shadows speaks. 
"Do you want me to get that?" 

She recognizes the outline of his jaw and the way he carries his shoulder before she places his voice. "... You startled me." It comes out quiet and tongue-tied. Ita clears her throat. "Most people don't lurk in alleys, you know." It's meant to be joking, but it comes off as a scold, which makes a blush creep awkwardly across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. 

"Sorry." Chason flicks the last of his joint to the ground, smears it in the gravel with his work boot. She's not sure if he's apologizing for smoking or for startling her. "I like things back-alley. Used to them."

Ita doesn't know what to say to that, so she doesn't say anything. She's distinctively aware of the trash bag in her hand and how it's started to leak. 

"Guess a girl like you wouldn't know anything about that though, huh?" Chason shoves a hand through his dark hair, his eyes bright beneath his lashes, and grabs the trash before Ita can protest. He throws it up and into the dumpster easily. 

With her hands empty, Ita can't decide what to do with them. She settles them on her hips and again is aware that this was the wrong choice. She looks like a mom about to begin lecturing. 
He stares at her, waiting, but she doesn’t know what for. It seems to be her perpetual state of being whenever he’s around: confusion. The silence sinks over them. She feels crushed. Chason looks amused.

He quirks an eyebrow. “Well.”

When she still doesn’t respond or even move, he laughs, a bit of a biting, scoffing noise that’s meaner than it should be. “Okay. Nice talking to you then, tiny dancer.”

She turns to her side when he passes, avoiding the brush of their bodies.
When she gathers herself enough to go back inside and continue with the last orders for the night, her hands are shaking.





The girls forget to lock the back door, the one that leads to the alley. Whoever closes for the night inevitably remembers before leaving (thanks to the security alarm), but throughout the duration of the shop’s business hours, the door is unlocked – there’s too many smoke breaks and trips to the dumpster. Sunniva, more fastidious as a manager than Roman, rarely thinks to complain about it, but she makes a mental note to mention the need for added security at the next staff meeting when Palmer pulls her into a supply closet by her wrist.

She hates the way her heart skips and the quick moment of panic that causes her pulse to startle before she realizes its him.

He smells like the bar and cigarette smoke and leather. She hits him square in the chest, which causes him to laugh, then pulls her hand free. “Palmer. Jesus. What the fuck? What are you – twelve? I’m trying to help Ita close up here.”

“Shut up,” he murmurs, pressing his taller body against hers and circling an arm around her waist. She’s as stiff as a board, unrelenting, and the sigh she exhales is pure annoyance.

“You’re coming off more than a little rapey.”

“I thought you hard-to-get types liked an element of surprise.”

“Let’s not start that again. Do you ever actually work at that job of yours? Don’t you need to be pouring some shots right now?”

“Got off early.” He keeps his voice low, the same grey murmur, but when he looks down at her, his mouth splits into a grin that makes him boyish. He looks younger than his age, and Sunniva knows that’s supposed to be part of his charm. “Speaking of getting off …”

When he thumbs the hem of her dress, she smacks him across the side of his head. Palmer rolls his eyes, catching her hand mid-air when she tries to hit him again, forcing her backwards until her spine collides with the cold metal of a shelf. Supplies tumble and there’s the sound of breaking glass. Sunniva thinks she hears sugar scratch beneath Palmer’s shoes.

“I’ll scream,” she threatens.

“Bullshit.”

She opens her mouth, and Palmer clamps his palm over it immediately, turning his face into her neck and bracing his body against hers. He hisses when she bites, but he pushes the heel of his palm further against her teeth. It doesn’t really hurt, and she isn’t really fighting, and he knows if he were to skim his hand down across the insides of her velvet thighs that they’d come back wet.

She’s a good faker though, and he appreciates the game.

She makes a noise against his hand, her eyes throwing daggers at him, and he trails his mouth up to her ear. Palmer thinks she shivers. “If you insist on screaming, at least let it be on my terms, Sunshine.”

He kisses the hot curve of her neck, scraping his teeth down to her collarbone, mouthing the thin strap of her dress at her shoulder. She isn’t exactly responding, but she isn’t trying to leave either, so he plays his odds and lets go of her mouth, his hand falling to clutch her hip.

“I hate you,” she finally says, voice twisted into a tangle of emotion that another man would think more about.

“That’s fine.”

“… Five minutes.”

Palmer keeps one hand on her side but reaches back to click the lock on the closet. “Good, I like a challenge.”

There’s a surprising amount of grace to the way he slinks to his knees in front of her, fisting her dress up to her hips. Sunniva wishes her stomach didn’t twist with lust at the sight; as repercussion, she sweeps her fingers back through his dark hair and pulls – hard. Palmer doesn’t seem to mind though. He’s too busy wrapping a hand around the backs of her thighs and nudging her back. She complies, stretching her arms out on the shelves and leaning back, settling her weight into the metal frames. It’s surprising how easy it is for her to straddle his face like this – he keeps his hands on her thighs, her ass, supporting her as much as the shelves, her knees draped over his shoulders. His own knees must be killing him, and the angle cannot be the easiest, but she doesn’t want this to be easy. She wants him to suffer a little.

“Four minutes,” she says, fingers still tight in his air, and feels his laughter against her slick skin.

There’s a minute to spare when Sunniva all but tumbles out of the closet. She’s smoothing her dress across her legs, fixing a strap from where it fell down her arm, and shoving her hands back through her hair. She isn’t as disheveled as she thinks she is, but her eyes scan for Ita nonetheless.

Palmer steps out after her, rubbing his jaw, smirking.

She takes one look at his face and rolls her eyes. “Oh, fuck off.”

“My dick’s hard as a rock, but you’re the one who’s angry? That makes sense.”

She doesn’t bother answering, already heading to the front.

Palmer opens the back door and takes a step out, pausing in the threshold. “Sunshine?”

Sunniva doesn’t stop or look back. “What?”

“You should really keep this door locked.”
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you're too young & eager to love
16 September 2017 @ 09:31 pm
 
Bakery AU! This is so cute and fun and how nice is it to write something that doesn't require pressure?

Thanks to my Muffinpants for letting me join in her madness.

--



Roman’s hair is sweat-slicked and pulled up into a bun - it’s the type of hairstyle that Lene knows he adopts with an attitude of apathy that is too forced to be genuine. Lene smirks a bit, picturing him in front of a mirror, adjusting the stray strands that fall against the sides of his long face, trying to capture what he imagines effortlessness looks like. They catch his eye and he grins, bypassing the counter and Ita’s expectant face to stalk towards their corner. In typical Roman fashion, he ignores Lene’s paperwork and in-work-mode expression, standing so close that his crotch is nearly eye-level. Lene knows that’s intentional.

“You smell like the gym.”

“You’re very observant on this fine Tuesday morning.”

“I meant you stink. Fucking bad.”

As if reveling in the effect, Roman lifts his arms and stretches. He’s wearing grey sweatpants that dip across his stomach, and his sleeveless shirt lifts enough to show his hard-worked, finely etched abdomen and the cut of his hipbones. “Stop acting like you’re unimpressed. This body takes hours of dedication. Hours.”

Lene’s eyes roll. They’re about to say something or even jab him with an elbow and demand a refill on their coffee, but the door’s censor twangs its familiar chime, interrupting the banter before it can really begin.

“Saved by the bell,” Roman quips, heading back to the counter where he meets Radomir and Augusta.

Augusta looks flushed in running pants and a slim tank-top, but her dark hair is still neatly held in its French braid and there’s barely a sheen of sweat on her. She’s already transitioning into her more formal professional self, scanning the shop for any signs of disarray or problem spots to report back to Harrow while the men nod at each other with an easy familiarity. Radomir is just as sweat-stained as Roman, but he’s all bulk and force where Roman is lean, carved marble.

When they approach the counter, Ita catches some talk about weight lifting and sets between the men. They’re engaged with one another while Augusta stands to Rad’s left, but there’s a pivot to their stances that Ita thinks says more than they realize – the way Rad is a half-step behind, the subtle lean of Augusta’s hip towards the man’s mountainous form. Ita smiles when they finally turn to her and knows it’s too tight, but the good morning she chirps at them still manages to be cheerful.

“Soy Tazo Chai Tea Latte,” Augusta orders without looking up from her phone. “Medium. He’ll have a coffee. Black. No sugar. What size?”

“Small,” Rad answers.

“And for you?” Ita asks Roman, her fingers hovering over the cash register.

“Same as him.”

None of them say please or thank you, but Augusta slides her Platinum American Express across the counter.

Ita hesitates, trying for another smile. “You really don’t have to pay, Miss Vries.”

“Mrs. Reinhardt,” Augusta corrects with a touch of annoyance creeping into her voice. She flashes her left hand where a rock of a wedding ring burns against her finger. “You must be thinking of my brother. And I’d like to pay. As a principle.”

“Oh, um, right. Yes. Of course. Sorry, I forgot.” Ita gives a little shake of her head, sliding the other woman’s card in the machine.

“Can’t imagine why,” Roman murmurs, and Rad turns his head to hide his grin.






“They all work out together?” Eda asks later, helping Ita wipe down the counters. It’s the mid-afternoon lull, so the two clean to keep themselves busy.

“Apparently. I had never seen them come in together before.”

“What does Augusta look like outside of pencil skirts and silk?”

Ita lifts a narrow shoulder in a shrug. She doesn’t like to gossip, but Eda has a sweetness about her that’s difficult to ignore. Some of the workers distrust her, and Ita isn’t naïve – she’s seen how Sunniva and Eda talk – but Ita sometimes longs for the easy female comradery she sees between others. “Pretty. But she’s not the type of woman who looks like herself in casual clothes. She’s so …”

“Severe?” Eda offers.

“Do you think she’s that serious when she fucks?” Palmer interjects. Ita hadn’t heard him approach, but she should have guessed given the time – Sunniva’s shift is about to end, and Palmer always seems to arrive around that time.

Eda laughs, but Ita blushes. “I don’t like to think about it,” she says, and she means it.

“Ask Rad,” Palmer suggests without any slyness, and Ita chews on the bottom of her lip, wiping an already clean counter. Radomir has never been rude to her, not in the blunt way Augusta has, and he’s never disregarded her in same cold manner as Augusta either, but there’s something about him that unnerves her all the same. Ita doesn’t want to think about how the feeling amplifies whenever she sees Augusta touch Radomir’s arm, when he idly brushes a chunk of the woman’s hair from her neck with all the easy entitlement of intimacy, or how much stronger it might be when they’re alone and less restrained.

Ita would rather not go to bed imagining their particular forms of depravity, but Palmer might, if his grin is any inclination.

“Palmer!” Eda snaps her towel at his leg disapprovingly, echoing Ita’s unspoken sentiments. “She’s a married woman. That counts for something to some people, you know.”

Palmer’s grin is wolfish, and he catches Eda’s towel easily when she tries to snap it at him a second time. He pulls her forward until he can wrap an arm around her tiny waist and speaks against her temple. “Ever the romantic, aren’t you?”

Eda lets him tease for a moment longer before wiggling out of his grasp.

She bumps Ita’s shoulder good-naturedly when making her retreat, curving towards Sunniva’s office. “Careful with this one,” she sing-songs over her shoulder. “He can’t be trusted.”





Kim is mixing batter for a new batch of White Chocolate Blueberry Oat Cookies in the kitchen when Sunniva sticks her head through the door to check in a final time before leaving. She can hear Palmer arguing about the upcoming Red Sox game with that construction worker Ita is clearly fond of, so she’s in a hurry to get going and is grateful Kim is never demanding.

Kim raises her eyes, her dark hair caught in a knot at the nape of her neck, and wipes her hands on her apron. “We’re almost out of whole milk.”

This is usually how Kim interacts; she disregards niceties and generalities, heading straight to the point, hence Sun’s appreciation. “I’ll have Roman pick up some on his way in for tonight to hold us over and adjust the order for Calder next week. That all?”

“Do people really eat these?” Kim glances to the batter pointedly while pouring in a cup of oats.

“One of our best sellers. Why, you don’t like them?”

“Too sweet.”

“Some people like their sugar.”

“Some people are morons,” Kim suggests, and Sun laughs.

She’s about to linger, to seize the opportunity to exchange a few more words with her typically aloof baker, but she hears Palmer’s voice pitch to a tone he usually reserves for political rants and ducks back out the door, one hand waving a quick goodbye.
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you're too young & eager to love
22 August 2017 @ 11:30 pm
 
This is a warm-up, I guess, so it's not very pretty, but oh well. I wanted to write about vampires and Roman was kind enough to offer himself.

This is most likely AU.


--


There’s blood on his jeans.

Sunniva notices this, as well as his clean hands, and the way his bones smell of absence. His palm comes back sandy when he runs a hand through his disheveled hair, the strands cutting across his bearded jawline. He’s a whole head taller than Palmer and imposing in the way of all men who are well-sharpened blades.

“You’re outside of the Vries’ jurisdiction,” she says, “but money is money if it’s all the same to you. We don’t allow any trouble here.”

“I doubt that. With a face like yours.” His grin widens his entire face and Sunniva finds herself smiling. He glances across the marble entrance, taking in the thick columns and the smell of wet stone. “I’m not here on business. Only passing through.”

She nods and gestures for him to pass.

Most men push money into her hands and choose a girl. They circle like scavenger birds attracted to easy meat. Roman is different. He finds a seat at the bar and lets the women come to him. He talks easily, one of his big hands occasionally lifting a tumbler of scotch to his mouth or reaching out to stroke a tanned arm. After half an hour, Sunniva sits beside him, her silver dress shivering across her thighs. She flicks her fingers at the bartender and the woman hands her a glass of fig wine.

“We have others, if you don’t like – ”

“Do you miss it?”

She blinks, surprised. “Sorry?”

Roman reaches down between their bodies and strokes a palm across the back of her prosthetic leg, the metal as cold as his skin. She can almost feel the sensation. Her shoulders tighten and her mouth becomes a hard line.

“It’s beautiful work. Fine craftsmanship. But you still feel it, don’t you? Your lost limb.”

She swallows and cuts her eyes at him, shifting her legs so her good one folds on top of the other. He retracts his hand but not as quick as she would have liked him to. With a forced smile, she tucks her fingers under her chin, her elbow resting on the bar, and cants her head at him. “You must be well acquainted with loss. But overstep again, and I’ll ask you to leave. I am not one of my girls.”

Roman raises his eyebrows. The expression makes him look smug. Sunniva imagines he wears the look often.

“What are you?” She is usually too professional for such bluntness, but he’s already crossed a line. There’s a hint of coyness in her tone, as though she’s asking a question she already knows the answer to.

“Hungry,” he says with another grin. “I’m hungry.”

“We have a fantastic cook. Although most of our clientele don’t come for the food, I admit.”

He tsks at her, disappointed.

She pauses before signaling to the bartender. “Could you send for Odina, please?”

Odina smells like the mountains when she arrives a minute later. She has a spread of freckles across her face and shoulders, her hair the copper of worn pennies. Sunniva runs a hand down her arm invitingly when she comes to stand beside them. Her smile is shy and directly disproportionate to the frankness of her gaze. The lavender of her dress doesn’t suit the color of her skin or the pink flare of her bee-stung lips. Roman likes her immediately.

Sunniva brushes a few strands of Odina’s hair behind her ear, speaking low and close although she keeps her eyes on Roman. “Our guest here has special tastes. Oblige him.”







When Roman catches her jaw in his hand, she does not shy away. She has a bear’s heart, and it hammers bravely inside of her chest. He grips one of her long arms with his other hand and sees a flicker of realization in her eyes.

“Cold hands.”

“Mmm,” he concedes and pushes into her space, walking her backwards until she’s bracketed by her bedroom wall and his body. He has to lean down to press his face into her neck, and he breathes in the smell of her, the hot, youthful blood right below her fragile skin beckoning to him.

“I haven’t seen one of you in a while. Not as a customer.”

Roman pauses, his mouth humming across the slope of her shoulder. When he speaks, Odina can feel the press of his fangs against her flesh. “You’re too young to have seen one of me, mädchen.”

She laughs a little, digging her fingers into his hair and arching up into the length of him. “Don’t be silly. You’re not common, that’s for sure, mister, but we cater to all types here at the Isle.”

He growls, pinning her more forcibly against the wall, and craning her neck to the side. For all his physical threatening, he doesn’t hear her heart skip even a single beat.

“The last one said I tasted like apricots. Do you remember what those taste like? Smooth but sweet and tart.”

She bites her bottom lip and strains against his hands – not to get away, but to press closer. Roman wants to call her a minx, but now all he can think of is velvet skin and golden fruits. He presses his nose into her shoulder again, trailing his mouth up, letting the ache settle in his groin and thrum through his veins.

Hunger like drowning. Burning. Suffocating. All the sensations he has never experienced firsthand and probably never will.

He sinks his teeth into her without warning. He gets hard at the way she cries, a quick, sharp gasp from her slavish mouth. The blood spills across his tongue, thick as syrup but so much sweeter. He’s vaguely aware of letting his hands drop to his waist, of fisting the fabric of her dress at her side until he’s crushing her against him, and she just keeps arching and yielding and relenting herself to him. Roman knows she’s wet and he’d like to fuck her until she comes against him, her hair a blaze across her soft cheeks, blood smeared across her collarbone, but he lets himself get lost in the thunder of her heartbeat for a few more moments.

He’s too old to be careless. He rears his head back with a growl well before her pulse begins to flutter, circling an arm across her hips while lifting the back of her thigh until she’s looped her legs around his sharp waist.

Roman keeps his fangs out. He drags them across her collarbone, over her chest, leaving a trail of red to stain the lavender edge of her dress.

When she tells him she wants it, he bites again, against the swell of her breast.

She’ll stroke the fading imprint of his teeth for days to come.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
13 August 2017 @ 10:47 pm
 
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
- “Scheherazade”


Praise this beautiful, terrible world where we are opened
and crushed, where the kiss comes from a mouth that bites.
- “The Diver”





She hungers.

Roman can feel the yearning roll off her – silent, heated waves crashing through the air and landing against his dead skin. He isn’t sure if their connection is because of the blood they share, the thick, heady stuff he takes from her regularly (because he hungers too, he hungers more than he needs) and the drops he’s offered her over their many months together making a circle of their life, or simply because proximity has granted him an intimate awareness. But he can feel it: clear, obvious, undiluted. He runs his tongue against the sharp points of his fangs. He glances at her from beneath his eyelashes, body still against the floor, his hands behind his head and legs stretched forward. He has kept the room sparse, ever militant with his lack of need to display affection or familiarity, and made himself a marble statue posed in relaxation.

“Feeling needy, kid?” he asks.

Lene closes the wooden door separating her bedroom from the smaller, darker back room before shoving her hands into her pockets, her weight shifting to one hip. “No,” she lies. “Being home feels –”

“Home is never how you remember it as. Trust me.”

She rolls her eyes and kicks at one of his bare feet. “I was going to say good. It feels good.”

He moves so suddenly, so like the wolves lambs learn to fear, and snatches her foot. When he pulls, Lene tumbles, her small body awkwardly responding to pressure and gravity, while the beast inside of her instinctively charges with anger at the unexpected attack even as she outwardly laughs. She lands on the carpeted floor with a thud, the stone ground beneath sturdier than her bones. Roman crawls forward, ignoring the way her right knee jams into his rib, her left leg with her newly freed foot wrapping loosely around his hip, his hand pinning her elbow, her fingers in his long hair until they are half-holding, half-wrestling each other’s bodies.

“You smell like the sun,” he murmurs once the skip in her pulse has calmed, his wide nose near her neck, his teeth on her ear. He can lick the dust from her skin.

“You don’t smell like anything, old man.”

She pushes a palm into his face, the coarseness of his beard scratching her fingertips. He nips at her knuckles until she laughs again. It’s a sound like the wind through fresh grass. He’s more used to her nighttime sounds, to her sighs like nightingales and her vixen cries. Lene grins with her hair in her eyes and feels his body move above hers, his hands anchoring at her hips, until she’s rolled and is straddling his sharp waist. One of his palms slips across her stomach, pushing the fabric of her shirt up.

He raises an eyebrow at the bruise blossoming against her ribs and the welts only freshly fading.

“What is this?” Roman asks.

“Nothing.”

He digs his fingers in, hard enough to hurt, and sees the way Lene tries to hide her wince. She sighs, a huff of annoyance, reaching down to halt his hand by his wrist. “Nothing. The usual contenders, welcoming me home.”

“Ah, I see. You disappointed them by bringing me here, so they doubt you. Do you want me to eat them?”

“Oh, that’ll help. You’re a thousand-year-old child.”

Roman’s expression goes blank like ivory. He bites his own thumb then smears the blood across her welts. Lene accepts this, her eyelids shivering at the sensation of pinpricks near her ribs. Gradually, she shifts her weight, stretching herself slowly above him, bracketing his head with her elbows, the ends of her hair trailing across his collarbones, making a curtain around his long face.

“You don’t know what it’s like. A family. A pack.” she whispers.

“A nest. We call them nests, and they are dangerous. They breed stupidity and hunger and greed, liebchen.”

“Not here. It’s different here. We’re different.”

He tucks a piece of hair behind her ear, a soft gesture unlike almost all of his others. “So everyone thinks, kid.” He doesn’t ask what she means – which we she is referencing. Him or her family.

In the brief silence that follows, she touches his forehead with hers. Roman’s sinewy – not as broad around the chest as Lene had originally surmised him being, his narrow figure hidden behind heavy jackets and expensive suits, his length tapering into a finely muscled abdomen and defined hips sharp enough to batter against her thighs – but he’s a brick of a man. She can feel his solidity beneath her, his cold strength that has become a comfort to her, and for a moment it is enough. She had wanted to tell him about family, about a kinship different than heredity and genetics, how blood and bond can forge affinity, but she thinks he already understands. He’s simultaneously been a lover and a son, a father and a brother. She’s still not sure how to articulate her place in the history of his personal hierarchy; she doesn’t know how to ask.

Lene feels it as part of her desire, all those anxious and burning pains she’s felt low in her belly ever since they crossed the desert in Knight’s SUV.

Roman doesn’t wait. He feels the way her hunger is a quake, an ache that matches his, and sits them up. His arms circle her slender back, his fingers sliding along the nape of her neck until he can fist the blonde length of hair. She loops her arms around his shoulders, kissing him softer than she had intended to. She appreciates it when he bites her bottom lip; she likes it more when it’s rough, when she can feel the push and pull of him linger on her body.

“Your brother,” he says afterwards, when they are naked and lying close together, speaking against the curve of her arm, “do I have to call him Alpha too?”

Lene rolls her eyes. “Shut up.”

“He has longer hair than I pictured.”

“As if you ever sat around picturing my brother.”

“And his friend. He has long hair too.”

“Is this really what you want to be doing? Talking about men?” She shoves her wrist against his mouth, her skin knocking against his teeth. “Isn’t it feeding time?”

Roman does not respond to the bait. “I am wondering if you have a pattern. In the type of men who hold your affections.” He smirks, and she can feel the tiny stretch of his lips.

She punches him in the shoulder. “You’re a dick.”

His face splits when he laughs, his mouth wide and teeth white. His eyes crinkle at the edges. (This is how she likes to think of him when he’s being particularly difficult, when she’s having trouble deciphering whether his morals exist, or when his smug leers infuriate her. His laughter makes him surprising; he’s humanized by it.)

Outside the bedroom, all the way on the deck, Anders can hear the muddled sounds of Roman’s laugh traveling up through the maze of corridors. It pierces his ears like a warning signal.






The pack follows Anders. The majority keep their distance from Roman and are less than warm to Lene. They watch her with judgmental gazes. They whisper behind her back. But even this is a kind of homecoming. A familiar burden. It is Roman that she is unsure of, watching his tall figure stalking the trails, learning the area’s geography by night. She tags along too often, feeling like an unwanted shadow in her own house, showing him the paths from her childhood and the worn parts of the mountain that hide their secrets from the world.

After a week, she is still uncertain, still aware of the tense mood lingering around the trainers in the fighting pits, the old women stocking the storage units in the caverns, the children as they bathe, her brother as he watches.

She doesn’t think any of the pack has spoken to Roman outside of formal introductions, so she’s surprised to see a girl marching up to them as they descend a cliff path close to the main house, Lene’s boots skidding against the rock. Roman is a step ahead of her, pushing a hand back through his hair, glancing past the approaching figure to the giant face of the moon behind her. Lene realizes the girl is Rebecca, a brunette whose grown three feet since Lene saw her last, her body now at the brink of womanhood.

“Mama says you’re dead.” Rebecca tells Roman before Lene can even say hello, sure in her wording, her freckled arms folded over her chest in the age-old stance of adolescent defiance.

Everything about her is skinny, from her waist to her legs. Even her hair is thin, like straw, and Lene, still half-bent from where she’d been brushing the mountain grit off her legs, sucks in an air of breath without meaning too. He’ll eat her alive, she thinks, craning her head to the left to judge Roman’s reaction.

He arches an eyebrow but keeps his tone even. “Your mother sounds like an observant woman,” he says, glancing sideways at Lene with a hint of amusement in his hazel eyes.

“What do your teeth look like?” Rebecca asks, unabashed.

Lene waves her hands in the air in a gesture of shock. “Hello, rudeness alert. Young lady, you go tell your mama that I -” She’s cut off by the sound of Roman’s snarl and the way his body shifts in her periphery. He puts his hands on his thighs, crouching forward into Rebecca’s young face with the same predatory swiftness that Lene has come to know well. She finds herself holding her breath again, seeing his face contort, seeing the savagery in his expression and the glint of the moon on his descended fangs. Rebecca yelps in surprise, shrinking back.

Lene can see Anders, ten feet off, stalking towards them. She grabs Roman’s arm hard and pulls, but he is stone, not budging, and to her surprise Rebecca’s yelp has turned to giggling.

“Cool!” the girl exclaims with a grin, and Lene realizes Roman is smiling.

He doesn’t move when Rebecca touches one of his fangs with the tip of her finger, feeling the point.

“That’s enough,” Anders declares once he’s within earshot.

Rebecca lingers until Lene gives her a hard look, then she drops her hand reluctantly, stepping around and partly behind her legs. Lene places her hand atop the girl’s head, watching her brother watch Roman with open disapproval. Roman retracts his fangs before standing. He has to look down at Anders, a fact that Lene knows irritates him more.

“Is this where you tell me that I am a guest, and I should behave myself?” he asks, and Lene elbows his side.

Anders frowns. “You’re a guest,” he says, but nothing else.

Roman makes a noncommittal noise, not quite a hum, before continuing down the path towards the cabin. His shoulder hits Anders in passing, and he growls even though he’s staring at Lene.

“It will get better,” she tells her brother, squaring her shoulders despite her desire to expose the vulnerable white of her belly.






It starts with the children, so for a while Lene thinks she’s right.

Children are less carved by the word, more resilient and able to see past the fears of others. Rebecca becomes the ringleader, the springboard for the others to use as a gauge in ways that Lene can never be. Rebecca is not different; she was born into the pack and embraced by it – normal in all of their eyes. Willful. Beautiful only in her gracelessness and growing coltish limbs. She has a horse’s wild heart, the beast inside of her passed down from her father’s line, skipping the predator that is her mother’s shape.

She lingers near Roman during dinner hours, quiet except for the occasional smile she sends in his direction, until the lingering becomes a welcoming. When Roman slips down the mountain, headed towards the cold night sands of the desert, she follows his tracks dutifully. They return before dawn, sometimes side-by-side, sometimes with her legs thrown over his shoulders and her body hunched above him, her arms gripping his neck like winding ropes. They morph into one large figure, an amalgamation of monsters.

Before long, the pair doubles. Triples. Forms a group.

Harper has a lisp, but Roman smells scales beneath her skin, and a cunning that belies her shy speech. Isaac has eyes as dark as sage. He smells like forest things, like ancient oaks, but he barely comes to Roman’s thigh. Judah never speaks. He tags along reluctantly. Rebecca says he was rescued from the worst of the drifter cities only a few months ago; she’s surprised he follows at all. Bailey is the loudest – braying with laughter easily, the most untouched by hardship, the loveliest in her innocence – and she likes to cling to Roman’s elbow until he lifts his arm, her feet dangling above the ground, toes dragging over rocks and dust.

Lene keeps her face impassive except for when she grins at Knight’s raised eyebrow and shrugs a shoulder. She doesn’t say anything.

Sometimes she joins in their walks. Sometimes they tussle like she used to when she was their age. She lets their young bodies pile into and over her. She gets elbows in her face, knees in her ribs, laughter in her ear. Roman plucks them off of her one by one. He hooks them by their arms or the backs of their shirts and calls her name, searching for her beneath a pile of squirming kids. As easily as pulling weeds after a fresh rain. Their fingers splay, grasping at empty air. Once, Lene tackled Roman head-first, his arm still circled around Harper’s waist, and the three of them had caused tracks in the dirt.

He’d looked up at her from the ground, a smear of grit across his cheek, and laughed.

Harper had butted her head against Lene’s and scrambled over them, reaching for Judah’s nearby leg. When Lene stood, she’d offered Roman her hand like she’d done it a hundred times.

“Tell us about before,” Rebecca had demanded on their return back.

“Before?” Roman asked, picking a shrub from Lene’s hair.

“Before this, she means.” Bailey clarified.

“There was more color,” Roman said, “and men were kinder.”

Lene had looked at him with disbelief. Men had always burned hearts, her grandmother had said, but she appreciates the lie for what it is.


It’s better, she had thought. It’s getting better.

It isn’t the first time she’s been wrong.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
25 July 2017 @ 11:11 pm
 
Weeeelll, this didn't pan out. Posting just because.


-


Palmer flashes Mac a hard, fixed smile. “Back so soon?” he asks, digging his fingers into the rind of an orange, nails blunt but pressure hard.

Mac’s expression is boyish in response. “I’m a glutton, it’s true,” he says, his smile splitting his face, the hint of dimples at each corner of his mouth adding a flair of sweetness that Palmer knows he personally has never possessed.

Sunniva is more diplomatic. She pivots her weight to her good leg, taking Mac’s arm in a practiced gesture of welcome. “Patrons like yourself are always welcome here.”

“What she means to say,” Palmer clarifies, his fingers wet from where he’s broken into the heart of the orange, “is that you’re welcome as long as you can pay.”

Sunniva’s gaze is hard. Her mouth purses into a thin line. There’s a warning in the look she’s giving Palmer, but he ignores it.

“What? Let’s not pretend we’re running a shelter instead of a business, my dear.” He flashes a full-teeth grin that doesn’t reach his eyes.

Mac laughs good-naturedly. Sunniva looks unamused, but she steers the young man towards the atrium with an outstretched hand. “Come on. Eda’s waiting.”




The atrium is golden. It’s the finest room in the Isle, the mosaic tiles scrubbed to shine, the sun glittering off the clear waters of the shallow pool. There’s a few girls lounging on the lavish furniture, enjoying the afternoon breeze. Eda has her feet in the water, perched on the edge of the pool. She is resplendent in pink, the delicate shade of seashell and beach sand. The dress is damp at her calves where the water has hit her. She’s missing one of her pearl earrings, and Mac’s first thought is that she’s lost it swimming.

Sunniva releases his arm and clears her throat. The girls recognize the signal and rise together, slipping through discreet exits. They cast knowing glances over their shoulders. Eda is the Isle’s prize – she has a room larger and more lavish than any others, but she’s not limited to entertaining guests in a 12 by 13 space. She can have them anywhere, or they can have her.

“Take your time,” Sunniva tells Mac, closing the double doors behind her.

Eda dances her fingers across the water. When she smiles at Mac, her entire face arches into the expression. She looks like she’s spent her day waiting for him.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
23 July 2017 @ 05:57 pm
 
Trying out a newbie! Welcome, Calder, you silver fox.







I sink the boat of love, but that comes
later. And yes, I swallow
glass, but that comes later.
- Richard Siken




YOU STILL see your wife’s face after all these years.

It comes to you at odd times – when you’re scrubbing a cast iron skillet after breakfast, after you splash cold water on your face in the midafternoon heat, when you kick sand into the fire-pit before bed out on the desert – and you see her as clearly as if she were still slipping into the back room at Mick’s bar, her feet bare, her smile wide, hardly a day over twenty. She had a girl’s face, still round with youth, and a dusting of freckles across her nose that made you think of constellations in the night sky.

(She was younger than you; everything about her body proved it. You had a scratch of beard across your jaw when you met and a moral code that could only be classified as grey. You’d wanted her immediately, her face a sunflower between your palms.)

Sometimes you mourn the gaps in your memory. You can’t recall her voice (was it soft, melodious, or raspy, full of need?) or how she smelled, so you cling harder to what you can remember: copper eyelashes, the slight gap between her front teeth, the mole inside the shell of her ear. It’s the details that are precious. It’s the details you try to memorize.

You want to pay homage, but you want your guilt too.




YOU ACCEPTED the blame for her death long ago. Looking back, you’re almost grateful for it (the catalyst that is your cataclysm). Her death made you rootless, sent you crawling from backstreet gutters to mild, open planes, over sandy dunes and across mountainous cliffs. A misplaced soul. A rover. You needed a reason to change, and you were always the type of man to seize an opportunity (you know that’s how it all started – you see the irony).

Your grief was a stone in your chest, weighing you down. It threatened to suffocate you while you slept. You would wake, wide-eyed and clutching at the air, her name like a plea in your mouth. Drinking helped, but not enough. So you turned to the desert like a madman and used the elements as a test. If you could survive the land, you could survive your sorrow.

It took six months before you realized that you liked being unmoored. You liked trading the mud and blood on your hands for more honest callouses and the ache of a hard day’s work. Your body, as in approval, responded well to your new way of living; your face weathered the changes; your skin darkened; you lost your laugh lines.

You lost much.




IT TOOK three years before you decided to return to society. As far as you could surmise, not much had changed. It was still full of hatred, greed, spite. You remember having to look just as hard as before for anything good.

You’d gone to Palmer because he was familiar. You’d gone to Palmer because there was no one else.

“Calder! How’s your temper?” he asked as an ice-breaker, as unshakeable as you remembered him being. He watched you take off your coat and signaled to the bartender for another beer. “I just want to know if I should expect to get my ass kicked before the night ends.”

He passed you the beer, and you took a drink before answering. “Not your fault. What happened.”

When Palmer grinned, it was sly, foxlike, an expression you never cared for. But you sat with him anyway, drinking slower than you had in years, and surprising yourself when laughter escaped your throat from time to time. The bar felt comfortable. The din of other nearby conversations was not as grating as you had remembered it being. Even Palmer’s smugness didn’t bother you or the carefree manner he had of discussing the past.

It was Palmer that told you about the Range, the old Mistwood ranch a handful of miles out past the western ridge. Palmer had been scouting for land in your absence, on the hunt for a business opportunity, but he handed over the news as a favor.

“I owe you,” he’d said, and for once there hadn’t been a hint of humor in his voice. His face had been a closed door.




YOUR WIFE’S death taught you what happens after love.

You don’t want to forget the lesson.

You bought the Range.




THE RANCH is small, but it’s still hard work for one man. You start slowly and spend long hours making lists of repairs and materials needed. You start with the main house, mending the weak spots in the roof, digging a second well, stocking the pantry with canned goods, dried spices, and cured meats. You have to fix multiple posts in the fence running the length of the property. The best news you hope for is that patches of the land are still viable. You settle for a stretch of pasture hardly larger than an acre.

You start a garden out of necessity. You raise sheep for the company. You have three horses, one little more than a pony, and an old cow that still stands for her milking.

You can’t go much further west. There’s drifter towns to the south, desert to the east, and unexplored areas to your north. You don’t get many visitors. The western ridge is difficult terrain for the unfamiliar traveler, and the ridge hides your valley well. Even the headhunters stay away, preferring desert heat to untrustworthy, treacherous rock. Rumors suggest tribes of beasts occupy the area, migrant clans that roam the lands, laying waste to human allies and Compound sympathizers. Palmer doesn’t give the idea much stock, but you’re grateful for whatever reasons may support your isolation.

You’re on the periphery.





YOU AREN’T searching.

But he comes to you anyway. He arrives at the change of the seasons when the nights are a little calmer, the wind a little madder. He arrives during the month you’ve been dreaming of sharks and the coastal waters of your childhood.

You find him half-alive and feral in the barn, scaring your favorite mare with all the noise he’s making. It takes you less than a minute to realize he isn’t an immediate threat, not in his current condition, but you’re more cautious these days. He’s talking nonsense, his eyes mostly closed, clawing the far corner of your mare’s stall. There’s the smell of sickness about him and something else, something chemical, something synthetic. You open the stall door slowly, coaxing the horse into your steady hands, and out into the yard. When you return to the barn, you have a shotgun in one hand and a medicine kit in the other.

He’s passed out. You’re grateful, but you still keep the gun in reach.

There’s more blood than you were expecting. You have to go back to the house for hot water and clean bandages.

Later, you’ll find blood under your nails even after you’ve washed your hands. You’ll chew on the side of your thumb and taste copper.

You’ll see your wife’s face again.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
20 July 2017 @ 08:27 pm
 
Hello, journal! It's been so loooooonngg. I blame my descent into the world of fanfiction.

It feels good to return to my babies though. 3500 words - woohoo!

The novel I'm reading right now uses multiple spaces to separate sections of a chapter, but the author also capitalizes the first few words of each section. I stole that stylistic choice. I always worry about how many spaces I use for separation and whether or not aesthetically it works, so the added formatting helps me visually. /random

Title/text at the beginning comes from a Halsey song, of all things.

you're a masterpiece )
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
10 November 2016 @ 12:07 pm
 
“Mein Kommandant,” she murmurs, her mouth like blood, rich in crimson, pressed to his cold ear. “Aufwachen.”

He reaches, his hand settling against the side of her face. He smears his thumb, hard, across her lips.



She had a smallness about her that belied her true strength. Adira had large hands with dull nails, but she was delicate everywhere else. Her weak chin, her thin lips, her half-sunken eyes and the sharpness of her bones. He could count her ribs when she stretched her arms above her head.

He liked to drag his teeth over the ridges and dips of skeleton beneath her skin. Her sliver of hip. The round rock of bone where her hand met her wrist. The threat of her severe elbow. The protruding twin icicles that were her collarbones.

He is a statue in comparison, a solid, perfect specimen of the male form, all his bones and muscles carved into an ideal shape. She could straddle his prone body and feel weightless above him or hide beneath, sheltered by his formidable width, a brittle carcass tucked close to his heart. She would place her palm against his side and stomach and follow the cut of his body with her long fingers. There is a deep line on either side of his abdomen, charting his hips, that she liked to trace.



Roman remembers her in snow. The crunch of her heavy boots on ice, how pale she was, in a world blanketed in white. The black of her leather riding crop in her hand. The collar of her uniform turned up against her neck and cheeks.

He remembers her in cut-off dresses, thin fabric slashed off at the thigh, the brightness from a pearl dangling from her left ear. He remembers when she used to speak French, her most fluent language, and the syrupy quality of her voice. She used to smell first of man’s cologne and then of cigarette ash; there was no bottom note, no lasting scent (he knows it is the same with him). This was an era of decadence, before the wars, with jarring, feverish music and never ending liquor.

The blood boiled then.



She sinks her teeth into his wrist and feels the groan leave his mouth.

The blood is thick, primordial, sticky with strength. It splashes hot against her tongue. Roman takes her own arm to his mouth and completes the circle.
Tags:
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
10 November 2016 @ 10:12 am
 
The man in the King’s bed is beautiful.

You would not expect less.

His eyelashes are thick and long; they brush the tops of his cheeks when he blinks, slow and leisurely, a half-awake feline still basking in the sun’s warmth. There is something overtly feminine about him despite his muscled chest and well developed arms. It is, you think, the leanness of his torso, the small expanse of his hips, the fine fingers that could play the keys of a piano or trip up the knots of a spine. There is something familiar in him too. The hands that are almost too big, the moss-colored eyes, the square cut of his jaw when he turns his head to see past you towards the door.

Despite the thick fur rugs, the burning fire, the heavy wrap around your nakedness, the scalding pulse of your heart, you are still cold. You feel the ice in your feet and how it crawls up your legs, tightening the muscles, to settle as dread in your stomach. You pull the wrap closer around you before turning your head.

“Your Majesty,” the beautiful man says.

“My Lord,” you echo with your cherub voice, dipping into a curtsy that is small and informal.

Renan passes his fingers over your shoulders. He sweeps your wrap away in one gesture and appreciates the way your skin prickles as a result. As if to appease the anxiety that brims in your eyes, he stands behind you, a solid weight and warmth that you curl into. His arms are heavy when they wrap around your stomach. You used to do the same to Gerhard, although he never had his brother’s width and broadness. Still, you had always felt safer there, more sure-footed, than you do with the King.

He strokes your arms slowly, blunt nails scratching. You breathe out broken air against his chest.

“Who does he remind you of?” The king asks, wine on his words.

You turn your face back to the bed and the man it holds.

“No one,” you lie.

Renan makes a noise from his throat, an amused chuckle that you can feel in his chest; he senses your dishonesty.

“I want to watch,” he says into the shell of your ear, pressing his lips just below, to the curve of your jaw.

You don’t ask why.




He’s a courtier, and you have seen him often around the palace, but you cannot remember his name. He kisses you slowly – slower than you would have imagined possible – and the strange newness of his mouth makes heat and shame flutter in your stomach. He does not look so much like Gerhard now that you are closer, now that you can see the bridge of his nose, the crooked arch in his ears, the dull shade of his hair. But you can pretend when your eyes are closed, so you keep them shut.

The King doesn’t mind. It’s not you he wants looking at him.




Gerhard used to spend afternoons with his head in your lap. You read poetry to him, slowly and haltingly, laughing at the way rhythms and words tangled uselessly in your mouth. He was patient; he was endeared. He would say a line and have you repeat it, kissing your hip or stomach every time you were successful.

He used to make your hands shake when he would trail his mouth lower, unabashed at the intimacy, the exposure. He was gentle and, as in all things, a scholar – eager to learn, to lay claim to the new unexplored map of your body, to become a virtuoso of the instrument that was you. You would tangle your fingers into his hair and pull and knot until his laughter washed over your thighs, and then he would sooth. He liked to take you from above, keeping your bodies locked tight, his forehead pressed to yours, his hands traveling from your hair to your hips, ever bracing.

You would leave him, always, with a bruised, overly-kissed mouth.

You would leave him.




You had always fit better with him. Even after months together, your body refuses to meet Renan’s perfectly. You turn when he would have you arch; your hips are too small for his large hands and it sometimes feels as though he would like to crush you between them; you bite when he would prefer to kiss.

You are startled by your own basic muscle memory and weakened by the nostalgia it brings when Gerhard catches you (you catch him) in a dark hall befitting dark intentions. He has not been drinking, but you cannot remember how many glasses of wine you had with dinner, if you ate or merely picked at the baked partridge. You have felt like air for so long, requiring little sustenance, and your bones are starting to show your secrets. Gerhard notices – your thin wrists, the sharp contour of your collarbone, the tightened bindings of your corset.

“You’re wasting away,” he murmurs into your hair, soft and sad. You feel the trembling of his mouth and the mixture of emotions pouring from him. He is hurt and he is angry and he, like you, is confused. But the weight of his hand on the small of your back and the closeness of his body tells you all you need to know: he misses you. You cling to this as you would to a rock in storming waters.

“Soon, I’ll be nothing but bones for him to batter away at.” You mean it as a joke, but the humor fails and the bitterness is not nearly strong enough.

Gerhard’s hand on your back stills. He holds his breath.

“Is that what you want?”

You don’t understand the question until you realize he is holding you, hard, at the waist. You tilt your face up to his. You want many things, your eyes seem to say, and what Gerhard sees there is enough to convince him to act. He kisses you, his teeth catching your bottom lip, almost clumsy in his aggression. His fingers dig, his long gait pushing you, forcing you against the cold wall where the merciless stone scratches your back through the fabric of your gown. Still, you tangle into him easily, leaning up to meet his mouth, your legs wrapping around his waist when he lifts you.

His strength surprises you. It always has.

One of your shoes slips from your foot and clatters, impossibly loud, to the floor.

You turn your face to the wall when he enters you, rough and quick, your cheek hot against the cold surface. You hold on to his shoulders, brace yourself against the stone, pressed against a hard place and what you can only surmise is a punishment wrapped in a plea.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
05 November 2016 @ 08:10 pm
 
At my Muffin's request, some Roman and Harrow and Lene!


~~~~


There’s a dinner of roasted lamb and salted oysters, glasses full of wine and whiskey, the scent of cigarettes and cigars muddling the smell of fresh meat in a layer of ash. Roman does not eat; he helps the women to the seats instead, picturing the long columns of their throats and how vivid their blood must be. There’s so many heartbeats, all of them thundering in his ears. Arletta’s is weak, sporadic. It lessens the more she drinks. He pours her three glasses of chardonnay, one after the other, and watches her pick at the assortment of desert fruit on her place, how she sucks the pieces into her mouth, her sly eyes never straying from Harrow’s thin lips.

The room is hot from the amount of bodies present – the couples, the affluent men of power, the bodyguards and companions – but Roman alone is cool to the touch. Women find reasons to press their fingers to his wrists and do not wonder why.

Harrow grins at him from across the table, a wolf in gentleman’s clothing.

They have this in common.

They have many things in commons.




Afterwards, Arletta whispers something into the shell of Harrow’s ear, her hand slipping invitingly across his arm when she steps away. A linger and a promise. Lene follows her, the black lace and sequins of her dress catching the candlelight, her face stoic in its impassiveness.

“She’s very pretty.”

“Who’s that now?” Roman does not lift his eyes. He has moved on to business now that the hour is late and the swarm of guests has departed. He feels the hair on the back of his neck stand. There’s tension in the room, a palpable warning, and none of it stems from the pile of documents spread before him on the table.

“Who’s that?” Harrow mocks with a laugh, the sound wet in his mouth, as warm as blood. (For a moment, Roman feels hungry. His teeth ache.) “Arletta’s little mouse of a guard. Though I know as well as any how deceiving looks can be with these beasts.”

He knows better than to say he hasn’t noticed. Instead, he tells Harrow that they’re all pretty – it’s a shame, a waste of good looks on a lowly set of DNA. With a sigh, he crumples one of the papers in his large hand, the Minister’s official seal a hard clump of wax in his palm. “Your sister is a pain in the ass. She’s ordering new pamphlets on the spread of disease - ”

“Why are you changing the subject?”

“What subject is that?”

“Ita sees everything, you know. She’s rather astute. She reminds me of that which I have forgotten.”

Roman looks. He’s forgotten the swan. She’s as still as a statue, perfectly poised, kneeling beside Harrow’s seat. He wonders how many even noticed her throughout dinner, if Arletta had stepped over her as others step through ghosts. He settles back into his own chair, grinning. “Are you spying on me now, brother? At least give me another drink before you interrogate me.”

Harrow laughs again – the same sound as before, the simulacrum of a laugh. He passes the bottle of whiskey though, feigning good nature, and Roman refills his glass himself.

“No, no. It’s alright. I have thought all this time that you have been so much the soldier. The red right hand. But here you are … hot blooded after all, I’m relieved. I don’t know how I never saw it before. How long has she been visiting you? Does Arletta know? We pulled the security cameras. She was seen outside of your room four times before you left to check the Eastern perimeters. Four times.”

Roman drinks. He is slow in his movements. “Du bist verruckt, bruder.”

Harrow grins. He leans forward, an elbow on his knee, his left hand forming a threatening point. “Now see, that’s very good. That language of yours. You only speak it when you’re drunk, but by my count that is your first drink of the evening. I, too, am astute. What’s her name?”

“You know her name.”

“She must be very talented or you must be very much enthralled to have kept her a secret so long. Arletta will be disappointed, however, to know that her own bodyguard has been fraternizing under her nose. She doesn’t like surprises, that woman. I would hate for her –”

“What would you hate, Harrow? This is getting boring, and I have work to get done. So say it. What do you want?” He is too sudden, too quick with his tone. There is a flare of annoyance in his voice that Harrow notices, and it is as if Roman has suddenly shown all of his cards.

“I am only hurt that you have not bothered to share, considering how gracious I have been with my own gifts.” He places his hand on Ita’s head, his fingers stroking her pale hair. “It is a curtsey that I even ask, you understand.”

Roman’s smile splits his mouth the way a fist might. He is all teeth. “You call this asking? If you want to fuck the bitch, fuck her. But if she calls out my name instead of yours, tell yourself it’s only from habit.”

For a moment, Harrow wraps his hand into a fist, Ita’s hair caught between his fingers. “Ah, defensive I see. Would you like to watch?”

It is his turn to laugh, and Roman’s is not like Harrow’s – full of bitterness and threats – but strong, barking. “I’ve seen enough of you as it is. My imagination will be adequate, I assure you.”

They do not shake hands, but they might as well.




Lene is out of her dress when he finds her in his room. He sees it, still catching the dim light, laying over his lone chair. She has swapped the lace for one of his white dress shirts, the sleeves rolled up on her slender arms, but the buttons undone so that he can see all the expanse of her flesh. She is a canvas like this – entirely fresh – waiting for his markings to color her.

“I only have a few minutes, but that dress was torture. I thought you would be hungry after all that meat and those women. Do you even notice how they look at you anymore?” She’s smiling, her voice easy, her movements languid when she slides from the center of his bed to sit on the edge.

“I’m not looking at them, liebling.”

“Liar.”

He smiles, but the swiftness of his movements do not match the softness of his sentiments. He crosses the room in three strides, a strong pillar wrapped in a suit, and leans his face into the tender crook of her neck when she wraps her arms around him. He thinks he hears her laugh when he kisses her skin, her shoulder, the inside of her elbow. He bites at her collarbone, her fingers tangling into his coarse hair, murmurs a spread of German over the top of her breasts.

She tugs on a fistful of his hair. “Casanova, we’re running out of time.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“I would ask if you died, but …”

Roman chuckles, a cinnamon sound warm enough to blanket his nerves, and slinks to his knees. He’s still tall. He has to dip his head to press his mouth to her stomach. She smells like grass and mountains, heat from the surrounding desert, and blackberries. When he kisses her hip and licks the salt from the skin, she tugs on his hair again, pulling his head back taut so that she can finally see his eyes. “What’s going on? You’re acting … this is different. Did something happen?”

“Keep pulling and I’ll want to use these fangs.”

“Roman.”

He does not sigh. He has never quite mastered that sound – the frustration or distress it requires to be believable. He settles back on his ankles, half disappointed by the easy way Lene releases her grip. She has a beautiful face he realizes, not for the first time. Her mouth is full and plush. He wants to tell her that he reminds her of a doll when she’s like this and that all things deserve to be cherished, even the ones who are strong enough not to need it. He wants to tell her that if he were a different man, he would be more frightened, more possessive, more capable. He wants to tell her that she is a weakness for him.

Instead, he says nothing.

He blames the whiskey for his softness, watching as she removes his shirt and slips back into her dress. He lets her go.

Much like Harrow, his words are only good for biting.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
11 October 2016 @ 07:27 pm
 
A bunch of random snippets. I meant to write more, write better, or at least write more significant things. Then I realized that they're just snippets, and I'm just wrapping my head around Austin and Sabra and pack dynamics. I didn't even proof read this. Oh weeeellll.


---



“She has every right,” Austin says, pulling her shirt up and over her angular body. She is lean muscle, her skin rippling over her ribs, her cells already sensing the change that is about to happen.

Chason scowls. It’s an angry expression on his otherwise beautiful face. “I don’t like it. We don’t have to fight each other.”

“We aren’t,” she laughs. “Not really. This is the most natural thing of all.” Her hands drop to her canvas pants and she undoes the old buttons, pushing the fabric down and away.

There are old scars on her legs, peppered with freckles and sun marks. They remain after she shifts, slashes crisscrossing through her abyss spots. She has sharp teeth, long and white, but Chason has never felt them himself. He has heard the clamp of her jaw on another’s tender neck, felt the hot spray of arterial blood against his muzzle, and cannot imagine the weight of her teeth on his own skin.

Tilly has. She’s thought of all the different ways this could play out, and no matter the outcome she finds the struggle essential. She’s already shifted. She’s down the dune, waiting with the rest of the pack, their role simply to observe and judge.

Chason is the last to change, the animal inside of him uncharacteristically cautious. He follows Austin’s loping shadow, eyes bright, teeth bared.



There are rules. Austin has not raised her pack to be uncivilized.

This is not about death, but in many ways it is about life.



She catches Tilly by the hind leg, her teeth slicing, gouging flesh and fur. The blood tastes bitter to her. Too familiar. Too like her own. She craves cold water, but now she’s caught the scent of vitality and copper. As tart as a lime. She shakes her bearish head and hears Tilly’s whimper.

(Austin lets go. Ever the matriarch.)

Tilly turns with such sudden viciousness that Austin slips in her surprise, claws and padded feet grasping futilely at the sand, body rolling in a final effort to avoid her snapping jaws.

Austin kicks. Tilly lunges. They reel.



“I just got lucky,” Austin says later, her fingers twisting, working to finish the last of her braid.

“You don’t have to say that,” Tilly murmurs, but she thinks otherwise. She thinks Austin wasn’t lucky at all, just more used to an audience.

“How’s your leg?”

“Hurts.”

“Tell that to my arm.”



Garret has a grin as wide and sloppy as his manners. He licks his fingers around the fire, too close to Chason’s left side. He watches Austin with a hunger that is palpable, burning ten degrees hotter than the flames centered between them.

He leans towards Chason, rubbing his hands over his jeans. “Don’t you wish her tits were bigger?”

Chason sneers. “She probably says the same about your dick.”

Garret laughs, a sound that is all bite.



Garret was their third. He was obnoxious when they found him, mostly drunk, ripping apart a drifter bar with half an arm dangling from his teeth. He’s still obnoxious; Chason can’t figure out what Austin sees in him. He thinks it’s because she wants the numbers – it’s safer to be in a group – because two people alone cannot be a pack. Or maybe she just likes their kind. He doesn’t know. She doesn’t tell him everything.

She can sense his distrust though. His disapproval like a bitter scent in the wind.

She winds her fingers into his air and nips at his ear. Chason smiles begrudgingly, feeling the weight of her hand against his arm when she stands to leave, trailing her palm across his shoulder.




Sabra hitches when she breathes. Her chest like a rattle, all the air strangling in her throat. She should be used to it by now, but the pressure threatens to knock her over every time. She has to rest, bent over, hands on her shaking knees.

She is sixteen years old and alone in the desert.

The sun scorches. The sand stings. She thinks it is a friendless land.

She is wrong.



Austin bites her wrist. Austin pulls her hair. Austin digs her fingers into her ribs till it is more painful than ticklish. She laughs and laughs and laughs, the sound like sharp glass.

Sabra doesn’t laugh. She whines and struggles to breath and pushes up. Her nails are blunt and do not scratch.

Austin rolls her eyes, relenting. “C’mon. Where’s your spirit? I’m only playing.”

Sabra can’t answer. Her words choke in her throat like her breath, and Austin is too impatient to wait.



She has steady, sure fingers. She breaks apart metal, electronics, rusted bits, frayed wires, and puts them back – makes them better. She shows Austin the repaired radio and feels pride warm her chest like a sunburst when her older sister nudges her arm and thanks her.

Sometimes, if she feels like she’s been helpful enough and deserves it, she curls into Austin’s bed and listens to the easy rise and fall of her chest as she sleeps. She breathes in her scent of pepper and lemon, the softer undercurrent of fresh cream. She smells like their mother, although she’s sharper, harder to curl against.

Austin never says anything in the mornings. If she’s lucky, Austin will pull their blankets up and over their heads and speak in her sulfur early morning whisper. Sabra will laugh then, the noise easier and more natural in the wake of Austin’s kindness.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
09 October 2016 @ 09:15 pm
 
I exist in two places,
here and where you are.
- Margaret Atwood




His hair is long when he finally accepts Austin, when he is ready to defer.

(It will be cut when he is forced into the compound. This will be their first act, the men with their needles and white jackets. They will shear him, clumsy cuts with dull scissors that leave the sides short and the top long, uneven, falling forward into his eyes. He will already be transformed by the time Ita sees him. He will be more beast than man, more feral dog than human heart.)

Austin drags her fingers through it, dark oil slipping against her callouses, softer than her own coarse curls and tangles. He is barely more than a boy; she is still half a girl. She nips at his strong jaw, pushing her nose into the curve of his ear. He holds her hip, laughing into her neck.

They have spent years together, picking their way through the wasteland of barren, drifter cities, creating a home in the heat of the desert. They are well suited for it – creatures of craft and shadow. They find a balance. She is stronger than he is, quicker, more persistent and capable. He is too prone to anger, too haunted by their shared pasts and its aching horrors. He does not speak of his parents or his brother, and she knows he has replaced all of them in his eyes, that she has been transformed into a new being entirely. She is herself, and then she is Austin.

(She does not mind, does not see the burden. He would die for her, she knows and it is enough. Sometimes, she wonders how much of it is genuine and how much is biology.)

She makes a choice. She will lead. He will follow, an eternal phantom limb, her second right hand. Austin seals the pact in the only way she knows how, in the only way that is provided to them: in flesh and blood. A promise born in salt and sweat and her body braced above his.

They will find the others together. One by one, they will join, until a family of six is forged.

A pack.





“What was she like?” Ita asks, highlighted in the warmth of the fire’s glow. There is sand in her eyelashes, under her nails, scratching her smooth skin red.

“Is. What is she like.”

“How can you know? That she is still alive?”

“Because I do.”

“Because you are bonded.”

Chason laughs, harsh like the wind through the sand. “No. We do not bond like that.”

“But–”

“You think we’re all sentimental birds?”

She flinches around the eyes at the insult, catching her lip between her teeth. Her mouth is dry with tension. “I think she was your-”

“She’s Austin. Don’t overcomplicate everything with your expectations.”

They are not bonded, he says. He insists. Like a liturgy.

He presses Ita to him on their third night, and she feels her heartstrings tighten and knot around their bodies. Something in Chason responds, the deep well inside of him lessening, ebbing, until he has made room for her inside of his chest, protected by the sharp cradle of his ribs.

It is familiar to him, and yet completely foreign.





They change together. His muscles harden, his skin darkens, his laughter deepens. She becomes taller, sinewy, more dangerous. There’s a sharpness to her jaw and a cunning to her green eyes that beguiles. They spend those first years growing strong until they have wrapped around one another, two solid oaks whose branches have intertwined.

Austin learns that his laughter stems more from nerves than confidence. That a heat storm causes the hair on the back of his neck to stand up straight. That he sleeps with an arm thrown over his face, careless as a housecat, although every muscle in his body is poised for a fight. Chason learns that she loves to run, in any form, her long legs pumping her narrow body forward and faster, her hair catching in the wind, her laughter like lightning. That she is not ashamed to cry, tears thick on her eyelashes, mouth twisted into a scar of grief. That she sings to herself, soft wordless melodies, fragments of a childhood far warmer than the world they found themselves facing now.

Their roots go deep.

Like all close pairs, they keep to themselves. They move every few nights, never staying more than two weeks in the same spot, circling back around to familiar, isolated haunts like ghosts. They become acquainted with the desert, learning its foul plays and temperamental nature. Austin knows the skies, the hazardous sun, the trickster moon. Chason knows the shifting dunes and the paths their feet have crossed, his mind an ever-growing map, forever adding details and never missing the mark.

If they sleep in each other’s arms, it is because of the cold.

If he cradles her sharp face in his strong hands and tries to claim her mouth until she accepts, it is because of loneliness.

Like so few remaining things, she has become a comfort to him.

She thinks it her responsibility.





“She had a sister. Has. We found her, somehow. It seemed like a freak accident. There she was, skin and bones. A cough that sounded like a death rattle. Just working in one of those end-of-the-world bazaars out by the Eastern slope, where the desert is the worst. You know they say there’s an oasis out there? But we never found it. Never went further than that bazaar. It was like Austin saw her sister there, and that was enough for her. She was ready to rest for a while. And why not? We knew the desert, or thought we did, we’d been living like that for years.”

Ita is sunburnt, her lips cracked, her fingers bleeding. But she doesn’t mind; Chason has been talking for twenty minutes, his voice low and full of growls, and he has been patiently untangling the knots in her silver hair. He pulls and slips the strands over his fingers. He has been in a better mood ever since he caught the pack’s scent four nights ago, and it shows.

“What is her name?”

“Sabra.” He twists the last section of her hair before letting it coil down her shoulder in a thick plait. “There. That should last for a day at least.”

Ita does not ask how he learned to braid or whose hair he learned with. She doesn’t need to. Instead, she feels a storm of emotion twist, low in her belly, so she turns her head suddenly and peppers small, sweet kisses across his jaw and neck. He laughs, smoothing his hands across her shoulders. Dips his fingers with more insistence and unwinds the many layers of scarves she wears for protection.

“Were you always this eager?” Ita asks.

Chason rasps a snickering sound against her wrist. “You mean, with others?”

She smiles, not half as bashful as he expects her to be.

“My circumstances have always required urgency, Swan Lake. I didn’t have the luxury of protective walls.”

“… Neither did I.”

She says it so softly that he barely hears her, his mouth already wet on her collarbone. He ignores it for now, preferring to keep her a treasure, untarnished and golden in a rotten world.





Austin stands with her hands on her hips. The darkness creeps across her face with the last remnants of the setting sun. She tucks the long, rope-like twists of her hair behind hears and sighs. Chason touches her elbow. He feels the sweat on her skin, can sense her nerves.

“They’re close,” she says. “The men with their big guns and bigger traps.”

The pack cackles behind them, warning howls on the horizon.

“We should leave then.”

“Nowhere else to go. We don’t have the supplies to head back. Wherever we go now, we’re all caught up in their nets.”

“We’ve been in tough spots before.”

There’s a sad little smile on her mouth when she turns to face him. A kind of knowing. She pushes her hand back through his hair, leaning her weight into him, feeling him brace against the sand to steady them both. “I think I made the wrong decision. We shouldn’t have come back. We should have taken Sabra and continued East. Should have found the oasis, the others, those rebel camps.”

Chason shrugs. It says a thousand things and nothing all at once. He dips his head and presses his hard mouth to her temple. It’s meant to comfort, but he can tell it doesn’t.

“Where you go, I go,” he says. He wants to make her smile.

He doesn’t realize how true his statement is until it’s too late.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
03 October 2016 @ 04:34 pm
 
Originally, this was going to be a 3-part piece where I contrasted different characters' relationships in the Wasteland universe. I only wrote the first part though, and I can't seem to gather enough steam to do the other two parts. I'm hoping to come back to them eventually.

But here we go!


--



What’s left, if you take away love?
Just brutality. Just shame. Just ferocity. Just pain.
- Margaret Atwood




“Please,” he says, the word a hot iron coal in his thick mouth, searing his skin as he spits it out.

Augusta hates his mouth – the full lips that remind her of her father’s pit bull terriers, her father’s feared hounds, and the association it causes between beasts and dumb brutes – as much as she loves its talents. She stares at him in the darkness of her compound suite, at his mouth which has shaped such an ugly plea, and cannot pull compassion from her heart.

“What did you say?”

“Augusta, please. We should leave, tonight, now.”

She scoffs, turning her narrow body towards him, this giant, hulking, monster of a man. One of her thin eyebrows arches; her hand is on her hip, the withering moonlight from the open window catching all of her sharpness. For a moment, in the second before she acts, she thinks of her brother. Harrow who bought a serpent from across the western seas. Harrow who created a striker when he was hardly even a man. But Augusta has no need of whips or poison-fanged shifters. She strikes with her own hand, a rapid white blade that launches from her hip and lands across Radomir’s solid jaw.

She has to roll up onto her toes to bridge the distance between their heights, to sink her nails into his skin. The scratch of his stubble its own kind of brand. The stoic press of his shoulders tightening beneath his shirt, the way his eyebrows draw together in shame, its own kind of devotion.

“Since when do you decide what’s best for us?” she asks.

All his great strength has shriveled. Radomir is still standing, the slap of her palm inconsequential for its meager pain, but the denouncement alone is a burden heavy enough to make him wilt. She can see it in all of his small gestures, his body’s miniscule responses that betray him, his coiled rage and grief that is always just below the surface, shimmering up into his dark eyes during his best and weakest moments. Another man might as well be crying.

“… I thought you-”

“What? I can’t hear you.”

He clears his throat and ducks his eyes. Augusta can feel the weight of his gaze settle on her ankles. “I thought you valued my opinion, Minister.”

She steps away and curls into the solid weight of a high-backed chair. She is still dressed for dinner. Her brother is a knife wrapped in a suit; she is often the same, hiding her feminism in more masculine fashions. The fabric of her dark cigarette pants heightens the razor cut of her body. Her plum silk blouse sleeveless and leaving her finely muscled arms naked. There is nothing descriptive about her – no silver trinkets dangling from her wrists or diamonds claiming her fingers. Her hair is brushed free and dark, left to spread down her shoulders like molasses, to slip and stick to her collarbones. Even her mouth is bare, lips a girl’s shade of pink, but the curl of her smile is more beguiling and capable of cruelty. Radomir knows what she looks like, has memorized all the details, but he keeps his eyes on her feet where he is least likely to offend her with the heat of his gaze.

She stretches out one leg. The patent leather of her flat ending in a sharp point aimed directly at him. “Maybe I do … on good days, when you remember your place.”

Radomir does not drop. He is too graceful, too familiar with his large gait. He slinks to his knees instead, like a dog with its tail between its legs, and catches her foot between his powerful hands. She pushes her shoe into his chest before he slips the flat off and digs his fingers into her high arch. He does the same with the left, turning his head into the bridge of her foot, ghosting his mouth across the skin.

Augusta sighs, the softest sound she is capable of. The sound of a butterfly taking flight. “Why should we leave? I thought you weren’t afraid of anything.”

He kneels in front of her, her feet warm in his lap, and continues to drag his fingers from her ankles to the bottom of her calves where the muscles are tight. He has almost forgotten the slap from earlier. “I don’t trust it here. Something is different. Harrow is … unwound. Irrational. His eyes are bloodshot all the time now. His anger palpable.”

It’s true. Harrow had, until now, always possessed an egotism and narcissism thick enough to deflect any of her best barbs, as he had always sidestepped and circumvented her attempts to usurp his place within the family hierarchy. But the curl of his hand against his whiskey glass over dinner, the glare of his unfocused eyes, his half-hearted wit and hurricane-level anger were all the defense mechanisms of a dying wolf. He had lost more than his swan when she’d fled across the dessert, and not even her triumphant return had restored what her disgrace had taken from him.

Augusta shrugs, shoulders thin, bones cleaving against her skin. “Perhaps he senses the fall of an empire. The rise of a new era.”

“Wounded animals become the most vicious.”

Slowly, she pulls her legs from his grasp, bringing them to her chest, until her body curls into a fist. He is still on his knees, and she sits high above him. “Well, if something happens to me, I’ll know who to blame, won’t I?”

Radomir nods. He stands when she does. He helps her undress, his fingers soft against her skin, careful with her clothing, and they don’t speak anymore. He waits until she falls asleep, her long back turned away from him in the darkness, and then he shifts.

His eyes golden and fierce beside the bed.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
23 September 2016 @ 08:29 pm
 
My Muffinpants posted a piece, so naturally I became inspired, and this happened.

Oldies but goodies! A few snippets because I’m too lazy to write anything legitimate at the moment.

~



Chason has the hands of a miner. They are rough with thick callouses blanketing his palms. There are scars on his knuckles, old wounds with even older histories.

Ita presses her thin mouth to them in the dry desert night. She has a tongue that blisters despite her silver softness, and Chason instinctively bends his hand away from the heat.

She looks hurt.

But then, she always looks hurt.

“What are they from?” Her questions are never loaded, her mouth too unaccustomed to saying what she actually wants. Sometimes Chason swears she has trouble even shaping certain words.

Words like love, like separation, like future.

He forces the uncomfortable laugh back down his throat and pushes a hand into her pale hair, an apology of sorts (he does that a lot: laughs at nothing, at everything, hoping to hear the response of his brothers and sisters on the horizon). He curls his fingers, and he can feel the sand under his nails, the tangle of knots that cause his hand to stick. Both, he knows, are caused by their failing journey, and he feels the responsibility, the guilt, settle over him like a shroud.

She’s a delicate thing, long-limbed and snow-skinned. She is blistering beneath the heat of the sun and shivering during the long hours of the night. She is starving, he thinks, her ribs like sharp blades against her stomach when he presses her to him.

But she is his.

In this form or another, she is his now.




~


She likes her tea scalding hot with a heavy dose of lemon and just a hint of honey. Once, Ita brought her a gold-rimmed cup syrup-thick with honey, and Augusta had thrown it at her feet after one sip. The porcelain had shattered; the tea had burned; Ita had caught her voice in her throat.

Augusta had said nothing, and Radomir had made her a new cup, the saucer as fragile as a toy boat between his large hands.

When he placed it on the table beside her folders and official documents, she had touched his wrist in passing, a sweep of her fingers in gratitude. She’d sucked the end of a fountain pen into her mouth, her teeth white and sharp against the metal, and caught his eye. There was something amused there, something dark in her red glance, something he appreciated and understood.

Ita had seen it, and she had shivered.

Mated, she’d thought, bonded, paired.

The idea had unsettled her, and the scent of lemons still makes her skin crawl.




~

Eda is a waif, but she is horribly pretty. Too pretty, Sunniva sometimes thinks. She has all the beauty of a desert flower but none of the poison. Sunniva worries she might have bet her money on the wrong horse, so to speak, that her investment is not as promising as it once was. She could be losing.

Financially, and maybe something else.

Palmer shrugs, his movements slow from plum wine. “She’s a hell of a survivor though, that one. Better than a fucking flower.”

“Some cacti can survive two years without a single drop of water.”

“I thought we were talking about flowers? Who said anything about cacti?”

Sunniva rolls her eyes, her mouth a straight line, but there’s a slope to her shoulders that reveals her amusement. She finishes counting the last of the day’s coin and refills Palmer’s glass from the pitcher between them. It’s been a long time since she’s poured for charm’s sake, but there’s still a practiced, natural elegance to the way she holds out her arm, to the flash of her white wrist, and the curve of her fingers.

Palmer catches her hand.

There’s a hungry look about him, like a dog scavenging for bones, that makes her want to push her nails into his face.

But then he laughs, his off-kilter, off-balanced, rumbling sound, and strokes her the soft center of her palm with his dangerous fingers. “You could be a flower, you know. You’re pretty enough.”

“A flower?” she deadpans. “Tell me, does this type of approach work with all your women, or just the particularly vapid ones?”

“Eda likes flowers. She would be a Canterbury bell. Some dainty purple thing. But you, you would be …” Palmer sucks the air into his mouth in thought, still stroking her palm, circling his fingers closer to the thin veins near the bump of bone in her wrist.

He is silent for so long that Sunniva finds herself uncomfortable, unfamiliar with her embarrassment. “What?”

“A prickly pear.”

She snatches her hand back to the protective shield of her body, scoffing. “Charming. Very charming.”

Palmer laughs again and drinks from his refilled glass. “As ever, my dear, as ever.”

He flicks a coin at her playfully, but later he will fall asleep thinking of the desert claw and its copper blossoms.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
22 September 2016 @ 04:59 pm
 
They are reduced to hands and mouths.

The floor is hard beneath her knees; bruises blossom on her lily skin. It doesn’t matter. He is a tall, fierce warmth against her back. His hands like scalding shackles across her shoulders and breasts. She can feel his mouth, wet, on the cold notch of spine at the top of her neck. He traces his skillful, calloused fingers across her stomach, and all she can feel is the splintering, decadent pivot of his hips and the insatiable heat between her own thighs.

He wants.

She aches.




He has always been hers. Yes, there are the others – to say she was not fond of Sara would have been dishonest, and she takes pride in how eagerly Tull wishes to prove himself - but from the beginning, Eric had thawed a piece of her frozen heart.

It was not maternal, her affection for him. Even as a child he had been willful, cocksure, rugged. From the moment of his servitude, he had been her Huntsman. So she had not favored him as a mother, no, but as a Queen favors a most loyal subject (she, who knew only cold comfort and barren grief). She had not swept her silver hands across his heated brow and kissed away his fever dreams; she had not comforted him with soft lullabies and softer touches. Yet Freya was a beacon nonetheless.

Freya was a savior, as she was a conqueror.

Freya was the stuff of myth and legend, and so she was his first light in the darkness.

(He was very young, and so he did not know. Children are easily tempered. Boys are easily claimed.)




“I think she’s the Lady in the Lake,” Tull says over a breakfast of hot bread, butter, and blackberry preserves. They’ve been with the Ice Queen for three years now, and breakfast is still Tull’s favorite part of the day. He is serious everywhere but the dining hall.

Sara scoffs behind her mug of mint tea. It burns her tongue. She isn’t used to hot things anymore, but she likes the feel of the steam against her mouth and the smell that is fresh and green. “Queen Freya? Don’t be daft. That’s baby stuff.”

“It’s of the lake.” Eric says, wrapping his wrist with old gauze. Sara had caught him yesterday in the training yard and nearly broke it with one of her trademark twist moves.

“What?” Tull asks.

“It’s Lady of the Lake. Not in the lake. My mother used to tell me stories of her and some boy who pulled a sword from a rock.”

Tull lowers his eyes, and Sara glances at him disapprovingly. They do not speak of mothers or fathers anymore. They have not been children for some time now, and they try their best to remember it.

Eric finishes wrapping his wrist. He takes a piece of bread from the basket when he stands, headed for the yard, already tall and defiant in his body language. “Doesn’t matter anyway. Fairytales aren’t real.” In a year, he will be the best with a sword and an axe. For now, he makes do with his sharp wit and persistence.

It is later that night, the three of them half-grown bodies overlapping in one makeshift bed, that Sara reaches over, fingers searching for his, and continues their conversation in a whisper. “You don’t have to believe in a fairytale to love it.”

“What are you on about?” Eric has sleep in his voice and eyes.

“You can’t love her,” she says, somewhere between a threat and a plea. If she were a different girl, it would be more plea, but it isn’t.

“Can’t love anyone,” he says, and squeezes her hand.

Between them, Tull groans and shifts to his side, pushing an arm into Sara’s chest.




Freya’s jeweled cloak shivers across the ground, twinkling sharply like icicles. She has an ethereal, aloof manner to her despite the immediate beauty surrounding her. The winter garden, a landscape of dogwood, heathers, and winterberry. She’s turning the roses to ice when Eric sees her, fifteen years old with snow in his hair, her fingers ringed in twisted, barbed silver. One of the rings ends in a sharp, deadly point, encasing her entire finger.

There’s a large white owl perched on an oak branch above her. Its round eyes spot him, even though he only moves to breathe. It hoots once, solemn, and the Queen’s gaze finds him pressed against the thorny shrubbery.

Everything is thin and barren in her Queendom. There is little cover for hiding. His breath causes the air to mist, but he is not scared. He steps forward before she can beckon him.

She does not smile, but she plucks a frozen rose from the bush and twirls it between her fingers. It shines in the daylight, the red petals caught at the peak of their beauty, made timeless. “Your name is Eric. I have been watching you. You show great promise, along with the red-haired one.”

“We train hard, my Queen.”

“We?” She raises an eyebrow. Her voice is deceptively soft, impossibly devoid of emotion. “You are a we already?”

He feels himself blush, his tongue thick in his mouth, and drops his gaze. “I only meant …”

“I know what you meant, boy. I remember the feeling well.” Freya steps closer, proud of how he squares his shoulders and lifts his chin. She catches his jaw, harder than he would have thought possible, and he feels the burn of her icy touch. Briefly, he thinks of Tull, and how she had nearly frozen his entire mouth the first time they had arrived, the first time she had decried that love be outlawed. “Do not disappoint me. I have great things planned for you.”

She drops her hand, and he asks without thinking, “Are you a good witch?”

He has never heard her laugh before. He cannot even remember having seen her smile. But she laughs now, in the wake of his question. It is light and fragile, the sound of fresh snow blanketing wildflowers. He feels foolish, but he knows that the question stems from a deeper urge within him; he wants to tell her that he would fight for her, die for her, if she was good. That her coldness and her sorcery do no matter to him. That what he seeks is fairness and compassion. He wants a Queen worthy of servitude, and there is something about her snow-skin and soft voice that beckon him.

He is still young. He still does not know.




He is seventeen when he first touches her.

He has the heavy steps of a soldier as he pushes open the solid oak doors of her antechamber, unbidden but already welcome. He smells like rust and frozen waters. There is blood beneath his fingernails and a grin on his wide, sloping mouth.

“I do not think you ever age,” he tells her in greeting, his voice brogue and thick at the syllables.

He has only been gone, raiding, for a handful of months, but she seems taller to him somehow, standing before a silver mirror, a thick cloak of fur settled over her shoulders and her hair swept back from across her face.

“Huntsman.” She smiles with only one side of her mouth, the tiniest hint of emotion, and extends her hand to him.

He presses his raw mouth across her knuckles. His hair has grown, and a few strands slip from its leather knot and brush her fingers when his head dips in subservience. She notes the scratch of stubble across her skin.

“You have grown. What do you bring me from your campaign?”

“More lands, my Queen, and more recruits.”

It is the same response she has heard many times before. She nods, imperial, and flicks her hand in dismissal. She is already half turned from him when he catches her by the wrist, his fingers rough against her cold skin and thin veins.

He reaches and grasps and takes, his grip like an anchor.

As if in warning, a shiver of ice spreads across her mirror.

But Eric grins with all the charm of a boy and places a pair of fragile earrings in her palm. “The Blackbeard’s lands are known for their skilled craftsman, my Lady. I have brought these for your inspection. As a token.”

They are silver, like the delicate working of her crown, and crusted in small diamonds. A larger crystal in the shape of a teardrop dangles from the setting. She closes her fingers around them. She does not say anything, and he leaves quietly with his spine straight and his eyes warm, but she will wear them every day.

As he will spend hours rubbing his fingers together, trying to remember the coldness of her wrist.




“What are you doing?” Sara asks him, her copper hair twisted away from her face by her many braids, a smear of dirt clinging to her strong cheek.

“You’re a bit dirty,” he says, and rubs a thumb across her skin.

She is warm and freckled. She smiles easily. She is neither delicate nor ethereal. She has built her body into a weapon, her eyesight the sharpest and best for the bow, all the softness grace provided her at birth ruined by a warrior’s life.

In a week, he will discover that the rest of her is freckled too. That her finely muscled arms and calves yield to his fingers. That she is an entirely different landscape, one that she offers for his discovery.

He will not think of Freya. He will not think he has betrayed his Queen.

He will wear the necklace Sara gives him, and he will call her wife.




But first, he will come home from his thirteenth raid, and he will place a triangle pendant around his Queen’s throat. It is heavy with diamonds, and it is another one of his promises.

He will be reduced to his hands and his mouth.

For her sake, it is not the necklace that undoes her – she is not a woman to be undone by trinkets. It is the callous rub of his fingers across her collarbone, the way he brushes her heavy hair from her neck. There is something so familiar in this most gentle of gestures that she remembers the Duke of Blackwood and how his mouth felt below her ear, against her shoulder, inside the sensitive crook of her arm.

The memory twists grief and anger in her stomach.

There’s a sound like breaking glass that comes from her throat, and she curls her hand into her palm, feeling the ice grow there.

“Freya,” her Huntsman says, and that too sounds familiar. The plaintive tone of a man’s longing.

So she lets him take. She favors him, as she always has.

When it’s done and over, when she has wrapped herself in her softest fur and he is pushing her white hair away from her cheek, she tells him again to be weary of love.

“It is a cruelty, not a kindness,” she says.

“Can a man not love his Queen?” he kisses her full bottom lip, silencing her answer, breathing in her frost scent when he turns his face into her neck. He thinks of the roses she once captured in ice. She is like them – caught at the peak of her beauty but lacking true warmth. He wants to melt away her frigid exterior, but he already knows he cannot. She would not allow it, and she is as deep and unmovable as a wild river.

Already she is leaving him, pulling away, encasing herself in winter’s cold.

Freya touches his broad jaw. “Love, my Huntsman, will make you a pawn.”

He is an adult now, but he still does not understand.

He will learn.
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
17 August 2016 @ 05:46 pm
 
This is supposed to early, young Emere. Emere that looks like this: http://67.media.tumblr.com/580c8fe5b910bc2f8fa5c4b6a2fa690b/tumblr_nctm7lPYrP1qz4acfo1_1280.jpg

Or this: http://cs303810.userapi.com/u103248306/152448911/z_57cb2ca2.jpg

I was trying to flesh out a new character, but it became more Emere-centric/Emere-POV rather than focused on Jameson. I'll try again later. At least this is something, right?


--



There’s a meeting in his office at a time that’s too late to be decent. In response, she wears a skirt that’s too tight to be professional, a dark blouse tucked in but with the top buttons undone.

It’s the same old song and dance.

She’s young and beautiful – too beautiful, really, considering she’s barely over twenty, too beautiful to be soft (she’s harnessed her looks into a weapon) – and he’s in a position of authority.

They fuck like they aren’t strangers, like they haven’t just seen each other casually across departments, like she isn’t nearly seven years his younger. He keeps his mouth on hers, biting on her lip, tasting her with his tongue. She tangles her dusky hands in his hair, ruining its slicked-back look. He messes up her skirt, his greedy hands wrinkling the fabric, and she pushes all the items off his desk when he shoves her against it. Everything is tit for tat.

Afterwards, she has to pick up her portfolio spreads from the floor; they had slipped from her hands when he grabbed her by the inside of her arm. She does this after she fixes her hair and her lipstick; he’s straightening his tie, clasping his belt.

“I like this,” she says, still a little breathy, reaching over to run her fingers against the groomed hair on his face.

“So does my wife.” Jameson’s grin gets lost in his beard.

She raises an eyebrow. “A wife? So you’re just a piece of shit in a good suit.”

“Yeah, well, welcome to advertising, sweetheart. We’re all pieces of shit.”

“You’re still hiring me?” There’s a notch of surprise to her voice. “Don’t tell me office fucks are part of the new interviewing process.”

“Technically, Floyd is hiring you. He’s the boss. I’m just your partner.”

“So this was, what? A seduction?”

“You ask a lot of questions.”

She makes a soft, noncommittal noise. Her eyes are dark and her mouth straight. She has a way of closing herself off so that she’s impossible to read. It’s a defense mechanism, but Jameson doesn’t know that yet.

(He never really bothers to learn).




“He could be your father,” Brando tells her over the phone, his voice full of judgement.

She pictures his disapproving gaze in her mind and rolls her eyes. “Hardly. He’s not that old.”




They walk out of the building together. Jameson holds open the door, offering her a cigarette. “You want to get a drink?”

Emere shrugs. “Sure,” she says because she knows he’s paying.

It could be any Tuesday or Thursday night.




She’s good at her job. She might be better than him, actually, but Jameson has the experience under his belt and the rapport with the clients. He does most of the talking over the expensive dinners; she smiles encouragingly, showcases the rough drafts of concepts, and wears paper-thin dresses and diamond rings on her fingers. The clients like her more than they like the advertisement blueprints sometimes, but the night almost always ends with signed contracts and champagne bottles.

Occasionally, she points out his flaws like they’re her own.

“Your Vienna Beef campaign was shit, you know that, right?” She cuts into a steak rare enough to bleed.

“Not my fault. You can’t make hotdogs sexy.”

“You’re lucky I distracted your bad taste with my spectacular tits.”

Jameson laughs, throaty and harsh. “Where do you buy those dresses?”

“From the prostitutes on the corner, obviously.” She winks.

She eats like she’s starving. She isn’t used to having money, to fancy restaurants where waiters pour water from reclaimed wine bottles, where the napkins are linen rather than paper, and there are no prices listed on the menus. She fakes it well enough. Jameson forgets sometimes that she’s a Jersey girl. It takes three dinners for him to realize she’s trained the accent out of her own voice and that she’s practiced the way to smoke a cigarette, harkening back to Audrey Hepburn movies with the delicate way she inhales.

He notices the scars on the insides of her arms on the fourth dinner. He nods towards them, eyes serious. “What happened there?”

Emere doesn’t look. She doesn’t touch the scars self-consciously or try to pull down the slinky, gossamer sleeves of her dress. “I was bored in high school.”

“Must’ve been bored a lot.”

“You have no idea.”



It surprises her how much they don’t fuck at work. It surprises her that she’s capable of liking him in spite of their limited relations. It surprises her that he’s funny and warm and professional (excluding the occasional glance or touch of her hip when he passes her while she’s pouring her fourth cup of coffee in the breakroom). A small part of her dislikes it. She wants to be distracting, she wants to be memorable, she wants to burn.

She thinks the rest of the office must know. If they do, they keep their mouths shut. Or maybe they’re used to it; maybe he’s done this with all the new girls. Or maybe they keep their silence because he hasn’t, he wouldn’t, and they think this affair will be the ruin of him. She’s the harlot with the scarlet letter.

Sometimes she lets her imagination get the better of her. She read too many books in college.




They do not go to the company Christmas party together. She shows up two hours late, her dress as red as cranberries, smelling of honey and crisp apples. While his secretary gossips with his wife (a waspy woman named Carol), she gives him a blowjob in the bathroom, his hand fisted in her hair, his groans more pleased than pained.

Later, she shakes hands with his pretty, blonde wife. Emere compliments her jewelry and modest heels. They even clink glasses when Floyd finishes the obligatory Christmas speech.

She’s aware of how bruised her knees feel the entire time they’re talking, but she doesn’t feel ashamed.




Jameson never talks about his marriage. She doesn’t even know if he has kids.

He never stays the night at her place.

They share bottles of whiskey on her fire escape and smoke cigarettes. Sometimes he smokes cigars instead. He often smells like lemon and saffron and sage. It’s a cologne she’s familiar with but can’t place – clean and straightforward. It doesn’t really fit him, which makes her think it’s a standard birthday present from Carol.

They don’t hold hands. She doesn’t lean her dark head on his broad shoulder. He doesn’t kiss her temple or tell her she’s beautiful in a sad, violent way.

They drink and they laugh and they fuck and Monday mornings he’ll bring her a coffee.
Tags: ,
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
16 August 2016 @ 09:39 pm
 
Henderson is a warm face in a sea of strangers. (The talk had gone well, but they usually do.) You handled yourself with your typical poise and grace. It’s the same poise you possess when he introduces you to Jasper.

You shake hands.

He’s polite and gracious, thankful for the opportunity. You’re flattered that the occasional college student can still fluster himself over your name.

You do not remember thinking much about him afterwards. You recall liking his hair, its length and feminism, and the sharpness of his cheekbones. You could cut yourself on them. But his face quickly loses its distinctiveness in the blur of your memory as the days go on. You fall back into your wifely routines: laundry, cooking, dinner, chaste sex between clean sheets with your husband.

You’ve almost forgotten him by the time Henderson says his name over a lunch that consists mostly of white wine.

“Who?” You ask, rubbing a smudge of lipstick from the rim of your glass with your thumb.

“Jasper, the art student. I introduced you. I think you’ve inspired him. He’s made three new pieces since your lecture.” Henderson sounds amused and a little affectionate. It’s the sound proud fathers have when discussing their talented sons. “I think you could be good for him, Margot. He’s been in a bit of a creative slump this past semester. He’s worried about all his work being derivative or some such dribble.”

“Well, we are our own worst critics.”

“You would know, my dear.” He smiles and clinks his wine glass with yours.

You roll your eyes, laughing a little, accepting his passive criticism. Henderson has been one of your primary supporters since your early days. He had dutifully proofread your manuscripts and listened to your midnight phone calls about character concepts and plot twists. You feel like you’ve disappointed him now that your success has lost its luster and your life as a novelist has waned. He’s too kind to say as much, so instead he offers you a prodigal pupil.

You point out your hesitation. “I don’t think muses should feel this cheap. Or like such a fraud.”

“Oh, come now. He’s just a kid, Margot. You can’t disappoint him. He already thinks you walk on water. You should hear him analyze Albtraum from a Freudian perspective for Pete’s sake. Have coffee. Take him to lunch. Let him talk your ear off, although Jasper may be just as happy if you do all the talking. He’s a serious kid. Passionate, but a little too intense at times for his own good.”

You shrug, still uncertain. Do you have time for this, you wonder? The drive to the campus is a hassle now that you’re in the suburbs, and you’re a creature of habit. You’ve found routine in your day-to-day happenings, if not a certain measure of boredom.

“Who knows,” Henderson says, “he could be good for you too.”

You think about those prophetic words when you’re awake in Jasper’s bed and two months have gone by since your luncheon. You sit with your back against his cold, iron headboard. Jasper rolls a joint casually, his sweatpants hanging from his sharp hips, his hair in his face and an indulgent smile on his mouth. There’s a red mark on his shoulder from where you scratched him too deeply, and you can feel a bruise blossoming on the inside of your hip from where the bed frame’s blunt edge dug into you as you bent over the side of the mattress.

Good for me, you think, and the thought makes you want to cry as much as it makes you want to laugh.





It bothers you because it’s true. You hate to admit it. He is good for you, even if being with him rips another hole into the fabric of your marriage. But if you’re being honest with yourself then you know that your marriage has been situated on a cracked foundation from the start.

You used to think you were an honest person. Now you’re not so sure. You’re sometimes paralyzed by the things you have found yourself capable of.

You think about him on the days you cannot see him. You fold laundry in a daze. You wash dishes by hand after dinner, up to your elbows in bubbles and murky water, too scared to dry the glasses and plates in case Kenneth sees how badly your fingers shake. You feel dope sick with longing, all of your cravings as petty and paradoxically substantial as any addict’s. Your stomach is in knots and your mind turns manic, replaying the same thoughts, the same images.

You mourn for your marriage, but you mourn your time away from Jasper with the same intensity.

You stop recognizing yourself in the mirror.

You try to stop thinking about your life in terms of black and white. You try to live in the grey.

You try.





As it turns out, the grey is an old apartment off campus.

It’s sticky and humid inside. The air conditioner is broken. It’s the middle of summer, but you don’t care. Kenneth took an unprecedented vacation from work, so you spent three weeks with a husband who barely looked at your face and didn’t even bother to throw his dirty shirts in the right laundry bin. Sunday evening, you took a bath so hot that it scalded your too-thin skin. You shaved your legs and bikini line. You washed your hair with jasmine shampoo and tried not to feel guilty. After Kenneth left for the precinct Monday morning, you all but ran to Jasper’s doorstep.

Your hands shook the entire way, clutching the steering wheel till your knuckles were white. You feel pathetic, and your need disgusts you.

But you kiss him when he opens the door anyway, hardly making it through the threshold. You’ve forgotten about the possibilities of his roommate or if the blinds are open or any shred of decorum you once possessed. Your kiss is mostly teeth; he’s much taller than you, so he has to bend to meet your mouth, but his arms are sure and steady. They find their way around your waist before dropping to the backs of your thighs.

He sweeps you up and off your feet. Like you’re one of those damsels in those romance novels you hate. It’s a cliché. You’re turning into one, you know, but it doesn’t seem to matter once he’s sat you on top of the makeshift dinner table and knocked your legs open with his knees. He reaches behind him and pulls his shirt off from the collar, throwing it to the side with a lascivious grin. Jasper looks older than his years when he’s like this – excited by the prospect of having you.

You think he plans on pushing up your skirt and shoving down his pants, that he’ll keep your ass perched on the edge of the table and fuck you until your knees are sore from bending and you’ve clawed ownership marks into his back.

He surprises you instead.

You suddenly understand why your husband conducts his affairs with girls in their twenties.

They’re refreshing in their unpredictability.





He is holding you down and spreading you wide. One of his long, lean arms is thrown over your lower stomach. He doesn’t seem strong enough to pin you, and maybe he isn’t, maybe you’re letting him. Like how you’re letting him use his mouth on you, between your thighs, his tongue and lips blurring into one. You can hear a ragged, pained breathing, and you’re surprised to realize that it’s your own.

It sounds like he’s hurting you.

He isn’t. He knows it.

He uses his free hand and suddenly there’s two fingers inside of you, sliding and stretching, making you shiver.

You make an “oh” noise that is sharp, glass-like, and you hear his laughter on your wet skin. It’s the sound of someone who is young and proud. You feel his smugness in the way he breathes against your navel when your hips rise on their own accord, and he adds more weight to the arm thrown across you. Pins you more securely.

You want to get away. You scratch at the backs of his shoulders with your blunt nails. You’re close to sobbing. You want to stay.

Jasper doesn’t know that Kenneth never does this for you. It’s selfishness on your husband’s part, but it’s also because you always thought this act, more so than any others, was the most intimate. Even as a teenager, your adolescent boyfriends were barred from exploring southward with their mouths. It’s too messy and too personal. You’ve always been bashful about the idea of spreading your thighs wide and watching someone lick their way down to your cunt. (It’s a strange thing too – thinking of your own anatomy in such crude terms. You’re an author – you’ve written the words in your own stories – but you have trouble speaking them or conceptualizing them in terms related to your own body). Vulgarly open, you can smell yourself too, your arousal that is heavy and somehow foreign to you ever since you turned forty, and your sweat. It’s sharp and florid. There’s that small, embarrassed part of you that still finds reason to blush from the obviousness of your own excitement (unladylike, your mother would have said).

But then you curse under your breath because his tongue is rolling over your clit. Your legs are shaking. Your hair has curled with sweat against your jaw, sticking to your neck.

He replaces his tongue with the pads of his fingers. He has a delicate touch. You picture him with paintbrushes and metal tools, his dark hair pulled loosely back at the nape of his neck, his gaze serious and focused. You feel like artwork at the moment, like he’s molding and burning you into the proper form.

He murmurs something against your skin. It’s wet noise. His breath is hot on your thighs. You reach down and curl your hands into his hair, suddenly appreciative of its length. You want something to ground you with, some small action that will keep you here, keep you from shattering.

Please, you whine. It’s been awhile since you’ve sounded like that – exasperated with need – gasping with sweat on your collarbones and one of your hands thrown up over your head, arm bent backwards, fingers curled to grip the back edge of the table. Please, fuck, Jasper…

You feel him hesitate, the sudden slowness of his ministrations filling you with an ache that must be impossible to fill. He says something again. His hair tickles across your legs, and you curl one of them around his back, trying to drag him closer.

You have to open your eyes. You half sit, rolling your shoulders and chest up so you can better see him. “What?” You sound more annoyed than you mean to. Then you think you’ve forgotten something – the time, perhaps, and how you need to leave his apartment before the highway traffic thickens. You have a dinner to make and a table to prepare. Or maybe your phone has gone off, and you’ve missed ten calls from your husband.

“Say it again.” Jasper speaks softly, as though these bedroom activities require bedroom voices, despite the curve of a smile twisting the corner of his mouth.

His lips are swollen. They’re wet and shining. Because of you. With you. Your cheeks flush red.

You feel a bit like a child, self-conscious, and you lower yourself back onto the flat surface of the table and turn your head. Your hair helps, shifting soft curls that hide the side of your face. You laugh, hummingbird soft, and the hand in his hair relaxes. Releases. He catches your wrist lightly with his teeth in passing when you raise it to your own face, feeling the heat of your skin, covering your eyes.

“Come on. I like how you sound,” He coaxes. His fingers are tracing the insides of your calves now, and he turns his mouth and kisses the back of your left knee.

“Aren’t you supposed to be the devoted fan? Humble in your servitude and all that?”

“I am,” He says it seriously enough. There’s a glint to his heavy gaze that looks predatory, however, and not at all what you would describe as humble. He looks amused and patient, as though he could play this game all day, skirting his nails across your thighs, whispering his mouth against your cunt, all hot breath and no useful pressure.

He wants you to want him. He wants you to need him. His ego is flattered by this, you know, and he won’t do the one thing that would make you acquiesce. He could dip his head and continue, slow as molasses, and you would come, so close already that you briefly want to relinquish all your modesty and reach a hand down to get yourself off. But he needs you to vocalize your desire, to beg for it, so that this – the two of you, what he does with you and for you – is not a favor. Not a spur of the moment fuck or an indulgent weakness quick to be forgotten.

Your wedding ring is suddenly hot on your finger. The diamonds are sharp, pressing into your skin when you curl your fingers into your palm.

When you say it, you say it in a breath you’ve been holding.

Pleaasseeee.

His smile should be self-satisfied, but it’s loving instead. He lifts your leg and kisses his way up the inside of your calf, to your thigh, to where you want him most.

You come like that, his dark head buried between your legs, your back arched and your skirt pushed up to your hips.





It’s four o’clock, and you should have left by now.

You’ve moved to the threadbare couch, still lazy with orgasm, your heart beating slower and louder. Jasper kisses the side of your head when you finally untangle yourself to leave. You push your underwear into your purse and find your heels by the door.

Your knuckles are white on the drive back to your home, your fingers still clenched.

You have a dinner to make and a table to set.

You push through the grey and come out on the other side, back into the white and black.
Tags:
 
 
you're too young & eager to love
11 August 2016 @ 01:06 pm
 
The formatting for this piece is all types of fucked. It's correctly posted on the Archive. I'm too lazy to fix it here.

-

“You escaped those who would pluck
your fruit.
Not that they didn’t try.”
- Sappho


She wears these purple stilettos, strappy and precarious with decorative bowknots on the back, and they drive all the boys mad.
They aren’t the kind of shoes her mother would approve of, and they aren’t, admittedly, the best for a professional environment. But a girl has to have a little color, especially when she does such a good job keeping her pencil skirts black and her psychiatrist’s coat a pristine white. To further the image, Harleen wears her thick hair in tight buns, high like a ballerina, or low and at the nape of her neck. As a young girl, she had grown up watching Audrey Hepburn movies, idolizing the graceful curvature of the actress’ body and maybe Harleen’s hairstyles harken back to an adolescent love of Holly Golightly. Her mother didn’t like those movies either. She frowned at their unrealistic, romanticized plots - the too-handsome leading men always saving the redeemable starlet. It puts bad notions in the minds of young, impressionable girls.
Her mother, however, is worm meat and has been for a few years now. So Harleen wears the shoes and styles her hair as she likes.
It isn’t enough.
Look at the little girl playing dress-up, the guards murmur under their sour breath as she walks down Arkham’s corridors, her purple heels clicking and patient evaluations clasped to her chest. She’s got a sturdy clipboard with an attached gel pen and a fresh French manicure. An alligator briefcase holding a prescription pad and a legitimate, board-certified psychiatric degree. But she isn’t a professional to these men, and she certainly isn’t a bonafide MD. She’s too young, too pretty, too rich. She hasn’t earned an honest day’s pay in her entire life. She sucked off her father’s trust fund and went to college and nobody said anything about the pretty blonde who missed classes but still passed with flying colors, who sometimes slipped from an office of a professor’s or two at odd hours, who grew up right and grew up tall on hot Indiana nights.
Or is that Tom Petty singing about a girl named Mary Jane?
Or is she Alice, tumbling down a dark hole, following a white rabbit?
Or is she Dorothy, swept up in a twister, landing in the emerald Land of Oz?
She can’t say. She knows she’s looking, searching, hoping. She knows she wants to be seen and understood. She wants validation.
She finds it in her first real patient and, in finding him, she finds a bit of herself and all she’d been wanting. The Joker does not doubt her. He bares his soul, quicker than most, and lets her poke around. She prescribes him lithium, Thorazine, Clorazil – pinks and whites – pills that taste chalky, but each one seems to help.
He tells her it isn’t the medication healing him.
It’s love.
And laughter.

--

I know, child. I see.
June Moon who is no longer June Moon, who is ancient and pagan and terrifying, who is destroying the city with her fiery brother, is staring at Harley. Her gleaming, bright eyes bore into Harley’s. Harley knows the Enchantress isn’t speaking, not aloud at least; she’s even vaguely aware that her squadmates are nearby and also caught by the witch’s gaze, also hearing her mind-voice. Some part of her understands too that the Enchantress is seeing the rest of them the way Harley is being seen. Like her insides are being turned outward, like all her secrets are being spilled.
So much suffering. So much unfairness. I can change all of it, child. I can show you greatness if you will only come to me, kneel for me.
This voice is unlike her other voices. This voice is deep, melodic, yet feminine. This voice does not ask her to hurt. It does not tell her to kill, to cry, to scream. This voice sooths and offers.
Harley wants to take.
And because she wants, she’s allowed to see.

--

She can smell espresso. It’s bitter and sweet, vanilla-esque. There’s a green cup next to the brewing machine, and there’s a sugar spoon for stirring cradled delicately in a flower-shaped, ceramic spoon rest. It’s a quaint, charming touch, just like the plush tea towels hanging from the silver cabinet hooks and the magnets depicting cartoon hyenas on the stainless steel fridge.
Harleen has made the water in the sink too hot; she can’t feel it, although she’s up to her elbows in bubbles and dishwater. Her fingers aren’t doing any scrubbing. She’s too surprised. This is her kitchen, she realizes, which is a silly thing to comprehend because didn’t she know that? This is her dispenser of soap next to the faucet, her fruit basket with the connected banana hook, her rack of red and white wine bottles.
This is her wedding ring and those are her children at the table, their laughter like sparklers, bright and clean.
This is her

(dream)
life.
She takes her hands out of the water and goes to wipe them, instinctively, on the front of her skirt. It’s charcoal grey and clingy, the type of pencil skirt she’s always favored. Harleen hesitates, uncertain as to why she would want to ruin the polyester, and goes for the nearby tea towel at the last minute.
She almost rubs her knuckles raw. The fabric feels wrong. The skirt feels

(torn, ripped, six inches short and tight leather)
wrong.
And for a moment, she has the strangest thought; she thinks she’s put on fishnets instead of sheer pantyhose.


--

Nobody talks about how much tattoos hurt. They say it’s like a slow cat-scratch, an annoying vibration, or picking at a sunburn. It turns out they’re dead wrong. It feels exactly like what’s happening: countless needles rapidly stabbing into the skin and dragging. Different spots only heighten or lessen the sensation.
Fortunately, Harley has learned to love pain, so she’s a giggling mess when she gets her Lucky You. The Joker watches the process, shirtless and stretching, pacing back and forth. His metal teeth catch the fluorescent light of the lamp when he grins. He still has his guns in his shoulder holster, the black leather straps cutting across his pale skin. He taps the guns’ muzzles distractedly from time to time, watching his girl, focusing on how her white tank is ripped and pushed up to expose the vulnerable flesh of her stomach.
She’s so much prettier this way, all wild and full of sparks, gasp-laughing as the needle gets closer to her sensitive hip bone. He remembers her in her business blouses and impractical heels. How delicious her surrender had tasted and how unafraid she had been to let the chemicals strip away her everyday façade and reveal her true self.
He gets hard thinking about it, feeling how proud he is of what he’s created.
He steps closer, watching, and yes, it’s almost as good as seeing her convulse from electric shocks. It might be better because here she’s unrestrained. She’s on that table by choice. Exposed by choice. She’s so trusting, his Harley-girl, so sincere in her belief that he won’t interrupt the tattoo session and replace the vibrating gun for one of his knives.
The Joker laughs. It punctuates Harley’s, and she doesn’t have to ask what’s humorous at all.

--

Let it go, child. Let it all go. The Enchantress waves her hands, somehow elegant despite the havoc she is causing. Behind her, a tunneling vortex of light and destruction continues to grow.
Harley doesn’t think she’s stopped staring in a long time. But she isn’t sure if a second has passed or half an hour. She knows her heeled boots are still on the ground, there’s her signature bat hanging from her limp left hand, and Flagg is still on her right.
Why resist?
Why, indeed.

--

She feels an itch under her silk shirt. A similar sensation on her left forearm and little pinpricks of feeling on her thighs.
(one two three diamonds, HA HA HA HA, I’ll Wait Forever, an arrow-shot heart)
It lasts for a second or two before fading. Her husband is in the kitchen now, bringing with him the scent of
(chemicals and clowns)
expensive cologne. He is both familiar and strange. He smiles when he sees her, pressing a kiss to the side of her blonde head in passing. He’s headed for the espresso, dressed for
(murder)
the office.
The sight of him, so handsome, so normal, makes a burst of warmth flower in her chest. It’s strong and surreal; she worries she’s having a heart attack. Surely this is the same sensation – the odd numbness, the sweat, the heat, the breathlessness. Harleen is unaccustomed to the type of joy she’s feeling. It’s enough to drive her mad.
She laughs instead, a bubbling bright sound from her throat, her mouth spreading wide in a smile.
Her husband looks back at her from over his shoulder, catching her eye. He has a curious grin on his face too, full of questioning and bemusement.
It’s absurd. It’s hilarious, ridiculous, over-the-top.
Harleen can’t think of his name.

(J. Kerr, Joe Kerrrrrr, Ha HA ha)
It makes her laugh all the more. She’s roaring with it.

--

“Puddin’,” she says, or maybe she doesn’t. Maybe her mouth just shapes the word.
Something in the Enchantress flickers. She takes a step closer. If possible, her gaze thickens.
At the same time, Harley blinks.