A Union of Earth And Fire

From the Story Arc: Hope is the Thing With Feathers

Previous Story in the Arc: Moving In by Victoria Victrix (Saturday, January 10, 2009)

Next Story in the Arc: A Union of Earth and Fire Pt 2 by Victoria Victrix (Saturday, January 10, 2009)

(posted Saturday, January 10, 2009)

Red Djinni stood outside the apartment he shared with Victoria Victrix, anxious, confused and terrified. This was the last thing he needed, the last thing they needed. What was it about them? Why was everything a test for them?

Just let me be with her. I’m meant to be with her. Isn’t that clear now? Why do these things happen?

It was like there was something, someone, out there who wanted to throw them obstacles, see how they’d react, see if they could be torn apart. Red steadied himself, and entered. Vic was staring at her computer. Looking up, she flashed him a gorgeous smile.

“Hey babe,” she greeted him. “How's my Big Red Hunk?”

“Uh... hunky?”

“I'll vote for that,” she smirked. She watched his stiff, nervous posture. That didn’t bode well. “Um… babe?”

“Uh... yeah?”

“Something wrong? You look like someone shoved a poker up your spine.”

Red didn’t answer right away, and proceeded to study the floor, the walls, the ceiling… but finally came to rest on her probing eyes.

“Gotta tell you somethin',” he said finally with a sigh.

“Do I need to sit down?”

“Dunno,” he said, as she steeled herself. How to say it? How to explain? Well, he had been blunt with her before. “Remember that night I didn't come home?”

“Um...yeah...”

“I found out yesterday where I'd been.”

“You… didn’t know? Alright, before you tell me where, tell me why you didn't know.”

“Someone made me forget,” he replied, lamely.

“Okay. Friend or foe?”

Red hesitated. “Right now, I'm not sure.”

“No... immediate threat then...”

“No, no... Furry's in a... I don't know. A coma I guess. All I know is, I heard Furry needed help, so I show up, Flame takes me into her mind, and then...”

Red looked away, and muttered a curse. “Alright. Sit down.”

Vic sank into her seat, speaking very quietly. “This is going to hurt, isn't it?”

“I hope not,” he said, pausing. “Probably, yeah.”

“So... when I go in,” he continued, “I'm not sure what to expect.”

“Mind battles are like that.”

“And at first, I'm a little dazed, I will never get used to this mental stuff. You know I'm fairly susceptible to mental attacks. Anyway... I see myself, and Furry, come out of a portal. I recognize it, mission we did last week, that night I... didn't come home. I watch... they don't see me, which seemed odd at the time, but makes perfect sense now.”

Vic had been nodding, saying quiet things like “Uh huh” and “OK”, bracing herself. She looked up then. And her voice was still deathly quiet.

“This a memory? Or a construct?”

“I was only there to observe the past, perhaps do something... never really got the chance. Because soon… things got weird.”

“Can't change memories babe. So was it a memory?”

“I don't remember any of what happened later, so I don't know if it was a memory.”

He snuck a quick look at her. If she was nervous, she wasn’t giving anything up.

“But I think it was.”

“Then it probably was.”

“When I showed up at Furry's place yesterday to help... I couldn't shake the feeling it all looked familiar.”

Vic closed her eyes, and simply muttered “OK”.

He couldn’t look at her, and closed his eyes too. “I watched us talking in some slummy bar. The first shot I pounded back, I could've sworn I saw something fall in my drink. And then... it cut to her bedroom.”

He hurried on, wanting to get through this, to get past this.

“I looked pretty out of it, but it was clear that we'd been there a while, and that I was... um... I was... naked.”

Vic winced.

“I didn't look too happy waking up there, and bolted.”

She winced again, like she’d been slapped in the face.

Red didn’t notice, his eyes still slammed shut, his face angry. “And that's when I, the watcher I, left too. Couldn't stand it. I sorta remember Flame asking me what I saw. And I… I just left. That's it. That's what I know. What I had to tell you.”

Vic looked up at him sadly. “You and Infurno boffed.”

Red exhaled, still facing away. “I don’t know. It... sure looked like we did.”

“You... know.”

“I swear to you, darlin', I don't.”

“Under what you want to think, you know.”

He turned to her, and small, angry licks of fire escaped from his eyes. “Would I do that? Of course not. Did I? ... I... I don't know.”

And seeing… she turned away. Her voice was tight, very controlled… almost monotone. “I have... the intellectual reaction. And the emotional one.”

Red leaned against the wall, his arms crossed, and waited.

“This fight in Infurno's head… it's against another mage. I guess she's been in there a while. From all I know of Infurno, she... wouldn't even consider moving on someone else's... friend… without making sure it was OK first. And... that means it has to be the mage. And... nobody in this city knows the power of a glamourie like I do. Wouldn't even need a date-rape drug with a powerful enough glamourie.”

“So.”

“That's the intellectual reaction. And....you're clearly not happy about what happened, but you haven't told me why. So I'll hold off on my emotional reaction until you tell me that.”

“I really have to?”

“Please.” She was shaking.

“I was drugged, used, maybe even abused, and if it was just me that'd be one thing, but the only person besides me to get hurt by this just happens to be the most important person in my world.”

Vic let her breath out slowly, and tears began to creep out from under her closed eyes.

“And I feel like I failed you.”

“I... am very, very sorry that... that the person you care about... is a deformed monster.”

His eyes snapped open. “What?”

“I wish I was... pretty. I wish I was... normal. I can't blame you for... you're a normal guy... healthy.”

“You think any of that's important?” His voice had softened. “And for the record, you're gorgeous.”

She felt her face contort in anguish, and in a violent motion ripped the sleeve off her arm, exposing a mass of scarred flesh.

“This... is not gorgeous.”

She caught a glimpse of her arm, and flinched away, the tears now streaming down her delicate face. She threw the sleeve away and buried herself in her hands. Red watched her for a moment, then knelt slowly in front of her. He lay his hands on hers, and gently pried them down. For a moment she resisted, but he was insistent, and she soon relented to his touch.

“Hey...”

He looked down at her exposed arm.

“What... you think that's a new sight for me? Have I ever given you the idea that's what I care about? Don't you think I would've left long ago if that was the case?”

“This isn't about this,” he said, bringing her arm up into view. “It never was.”

She flinched again, her sobs utterly silent.

“I love you, darlin', and I'll do whatever you need to see, hear... whatever, to make you believe it.”

“I... know... that... intellectually,” she gasped through her sobs. “My... heart... knows… but... I... want... to be... pretty... for you.”

Red smiled. “I don't tell you you're gorgeous to hear myself talk.”

She shook her head, defiantly. “I want to... be able to... give you that, too… and… and…”

She folded in on herself, as if around a hard knot of pain. He moved to hold her, and gently held her to him.

“Hey. I want you to come with me. I want to show you something.”

She slowly uncoiled, and wiped her face with the back of her hand.

“Let me change first,” she said as she moved to the bedroom. In the dark, she started to change. Red followed her, and threw on the light. She winced, her hands faltering, then stopping, her shirt falling back in place.

“No,” Red breathed as moved beside her, his hands moving to undress her. “Here. I want to show you here.”

“Red…”

“Shhh.”

“… no…”

“Yes.”

She was crying. Red continued, now caressing her, kissing her. Vic’s eyes closed, betrayed only by her nervous breathing. The lights were on and she was exposed, something she always avoided. She dressed in the dark. She never looked at herself in the mirror. And Red… this was sudden, they had never… and now he was…

“I... don't look...”

“Look at me then,” he said softly. He was still dressed, and she wasn’t. She looked so uncomfortable like this, her hands moving to cover herself, moving to be everywhere at once. Gently, he took her hands, and moved them to him.

“Your turn.”

She looked in his eyes, her hands shaking, and slowly began to undress him too.

“…You’re… so beautiful… ”

He pulled her to him, pressed her to him. There was no way to hide now, her scars fell against him. She expected him to flinch. He didn’t. He was, in fact, moving all over her. Gentle and reassuring, he guided her down onto the bedding…



She lay with her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat.

“I want to talk about something,” she said, and almost laughed. “I know, women do this to men all the time.”

“Hmmm?” he murmured.

“You just want to sleep and we want to talk.”

“I promise not to fall asleep,” Red said with a smile. “I don't even think I could.”

“Hmmm…” she sighed, her hand moving tentatively to caress his jawline.

“Besides... we could always have... another go...”

She sighed. “This first.”

“Aye... talk to me.”

“I had a… dream. A mage's dreams are always important. A knight-mage's are more so. I was in Silverthorn. I was sitting on the steps of my liege's dais, at the feet of my liege, who was on his throne. But also at the feet of Anathea Eloraniel, my oldest teacher. I was listening, and they were discussing, very dispassionately, ethics. And my liege laid out all the arguments I've ever heard for why some… problems… need to be dealt with permanently. And Anathea laid out all the counter-arguments, including some I never heard before or thought of. Then they both looked at me, and said ‘What do you think?’”

“And I woke up crying.”

“Because… I gave my liege back the spurs he had given me. And I woke up not knowing how to ask all those people I murdered for forgiveness. I can't do it anymore, lover. I can't justify it. I can't make excuses or reasons.”

Red exhaled, and felt her tears on his chest. He brushed his lips against her hair.

“I sent his spurs back. Really.”

“It's not an easy choice, I know. Went through that myself, a while ago.”

“Where does forgiveness come from? she asked, and her voice sounded small… raw and hurt.

“I don't know,” he sighed. “I haven't come to grips with that yet. It might not... it might be something we just have to live with. But we keep trying to earn it.”

“Red?”

“Aye?”

“He sent me new spurs, without rowels… those are the pointy things.”

“What's that mean?”

“It means I'm still his knight, but he'll never ask me to kill again. My liege is Robin Goodfellow.”

“You're kidding!”

“No.”

“Christ..."

“Robin Goodfellow, High King Oberon's Champion, ruler of Elfhame Silverthorn. He sent a message, he said…”

“Follow your heart.”

“I think we can accomodate that,” he said smiling, holding her tight.

“And I love you.”

“God, I love you too.”

She was shaking again, and crying, though she was smiling this time. He pulled away briefly, and repositioned himself to look her in the eye.

“Follow your heart.”