• Fiction,  Short Fiction

    Sunny Afternoon

    I’m participating in Whumptober this year, which means I’m writing one fic 500-1,000 words, each day for the month of October. I like doing these fast-paced challenges because they test my ability to consistently produce work, and surprising things often come out when you’re writing a story every single day.

    Much of what I’m writing is fanfiction, but I’ve done two original fic prompts, and I’ll likely do a few more before this challenge is over. I love visiting my characters. It’s like seeing old friends. This time I visited Galahad and Iseult in a little missing scene from The Deep Woods.

    prompt: support

    “I’m too sensitive—you know it’s true.” Galahad throws the words down like a gauntlet, but he refuses to meet Iseult’s eyes. He stares out the window instead, eyes fixed on the horizon, toward the sea he can just barely see past the tops of the trees.

    “I know no such thing,” Iseult says. “You are how you are. Do you begrudge me my nature?”

    “No,” Galahad says at once, turning around at last, the shock of Iseult’s words prompting him to meet her eyes. “Of course not.”

    “Then why would I begrudge you yours?”

    He looks away again. He hates it sometimes—how reasonable Iseult is, how calm and measured. He’s the hot-headed one of the pair of them, he knows, but even he can bite his tongue when need be. He doesn’t say it. It wouldn’t do to repay Iseult’s kindness with his own ill temper.

    He looks out the window instead, eyes drawn to the shout of their father’s men in the courtyard below. They’re sparring, fighting in chalked circles, grappling in close quarters. They use real swords, blunted though they may be. He’s momentarily blinded by the glint, a blade catching the sun and throwing it into his eyes.

    He feels a light touch on his shoulder. “Gal.”

    He shakes his head. Iseult’s hand falls away after a time, but she remains at his back, watching the soldiers at their rough play. Galahad flexes his hand as he picks a man to follow and silently critiques his fighting technique. His hands, too, are callused now.

    The summer air is warm and thick. It would bring him to drowse, if he was of a mind to allow it—if his nerves weren’t strung to a tense key. It’s quiet between them.

    “Do you remember how it used to be?” Galahad asks. It’s a common question between them—a maudlin one when he says it.

    “Of course,” Iseult says immediately. “Endless summer days with the wind in our hair and dirt beneath our feet. Those were halcyon times.” She looks down at Galahad where he sits perched by the window, a soft smile creasing her face. “They can be happy times still.”

    “Can they?” he asks, meaning for once to be convinced. He looks to her—Iseult, tall and fair. Her clear blue eyes are at once old and young, the mirror of his own, he knows, though his doubts his eyes contain half her concealed wisdom. He wants so desperately to believe what she says.

    “Of course,” she says again, her voice soft and sweet and filled with mercy. She reaches out and touches his face, and Galahad leans into the soft silk of her hand.

    He closes his eyes and lets himself feel. For an instant, they’re in the orchards again, the scent of apple blossoms and damp grass rising all around them. For a second, it’s vitally important that he not tip his head too far this way or that, even as he runs, lest he undo the work of Iseult’s hands braiding flowers into his loose hair.

    He opens his eyes, and it’s all gone again, but Iseult remains. She studies him with kind, curious eyes, and Galahad brings a work-roughened hand up to clasp the hand she keeps cupped around his face. He catches her fingers in his and brings her hand to his mouth, pressing a kiss to the flat, smooth shell of her palm.

  • Short Fiction

    After All These Years (A Poison Path Story)

    It’s my birthday today! There’s never really anything I want for my birthday, but I can almost always use a rest. I took the day off today and decided to use it doing only things I want to do. One of those things is this: I’ve been wanting to dive back into the world of The Poison Path. I’ve been missing Serafina and Mag.

    I’m a fic writer predominantly, so have this in the spirit of fanfiction: what is probably a noncanonical little Serafina/Mag fic set in the distant future. I really enjoyed writing it. I hope you enjoy it as well. <3

    Mag sits before the great gilded frame of her mirror, wiping carmine from her lips with a soft cloth. She doesn’t need to wear it, not here in her own house, but old habits die hard. Bits of it linger in the cracks of her lips when she’s done, red and stark as blood. She dabs more of the oil onto her fingers, spreading it on the stubborn cosmetic before scrubbing it away.

    Mag frowns at her reflection in the mirror. There are lines that weren’t there before, shadows of terrible times lingering around eyes that look dark and sad.

    “Am I getting old?” she asks.

    Serafina looks up from where she’s scribbling down notes across the room, working on her latest arcane imagining. Her legs are pulled up to her chest, feet on the fine upholstery, and it makes Mag smile that after all this time Serafina’s never learned to sit properly.

    “What makes you say that?” she asks, chewing on the end of her pen.

    Mag makes a vague gesture in the direction of the mirror. “I have eyes to see.”

    She turns back to her reflection. She doesn’t go so far as to comb her fingers through her hair, looking for strands of silver against the black, but she does scrutinize herself a little more closely.

    There’s a soft sound across the room—the sound of a journal being decisively shut as Serafina sets her things down, first the book, then the pen. She pads across the floor on bare feet, scarcely making a sound. More habits that die hard. When she comes into view, it’s in parts, pieces of her appearing in the mirror—a long blue gown that looks cheery even in this light, flowing hair like burnished copper, long, slim hands.

    She doesn’t hesitate to touch Mag like other people do. She loops her arms around Mag’s neck, gathers up the hair that spills over her shoulder and pushes it aside to press a kiss to her temple. She plucks the cloth from Mag’s hands and sets it down on the vanity.

    Memories are all hovering near tonight, and Mag finds herself thinking of Phineus—Phineus  who might have smoothed her ruffled feathers, assured her she was young and vital, lovely as ever.

    Serafina doesn’t. It’s a reason to love her, one of many.

    “Did you ever think you would survive this long?” she asks instead. She traces the tip of a finger down the side of Mag’s face, past the corner of an eye where tiny creases bloom when she smiles. “Did you ever think you’d live to worry about beauty and vanity?”

    “Never in all my wildest dreams.”

    Mag turns her head and catches Serafina’s finger between her teeth. She bites down, not hard enough to deal injury, but just enough to feel the soft skin dimple beneath sharp teeth. Just enough to make Serafina’s breath catch.

    She could bite harder, she knows. Hard enough to bring Serafina’s blood welling to the surface, copper and ordinary. Harmless. Serafina would pull her hair in retaliation, and it would lead to a different type of night entirely.

    She lets go. She looks at both their faces side by side in the mirror. The low light of the lamps softens their features, makes them look warm and timeless. They look so good together, still.

    “I was always vain,” Mag says.

    Serafina chuckles, and Mag can feel the vibrations traveling into her own body from the place where Serafina is pressed against her back. Warm. Alive. She rests her chin on Mag’s shoulder, the fine, sharp point of it digging in. “That you were. It’s a wonder I’ve put up with you all these years.”

    “Lucky me,” Mag murmurs.

    Serafina’s lips are soft under hers. She still kisses like she’s starving, even after all this time. Like she’s never once been afraid.

    Mag pushes her chair away from the table and lets herself be led to bed.

    Lucky, her blood sings with every heartbeat. Lucky, lucky, lucky.