impertinences: (Default)
you're too young & eager to love ([personal profile] impertinences) wrote on October 3rd, 2016 at 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.
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