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Beneath The Skin

Face framed in the mirror: hair growing out, no longer the unruly mess it used to be. You take care of it now, trim it neatly rather than hacking vindictively and messily. Remember cutting it the first time? They always loved your hair, how long and thick and silky it was. They taught you how to pin it back all neat and prim. You never thought about it all that much.

Not until you were panting with pain and shock, tears pressing at the corners of your eyes, scissors in hand as manhandled locks and strands tumbled into the sink. You needed a change. You needed anything to change. The world wouldn’t. You had to.

What was it she said? “Go to Eustragath - everything’s changing there.” Not really true, it turned out. A different kind of stubbornness to Rastaban, but it’s got plenty of it. You think of your high priestess; skin peeling off the bone, eyes darkened and dead. You think of your fellows, the rot curling up their skin along the lines they inked out for it at initiation. One by one, they fill their tattoos with decay and advance in the ranks. You think of Sly, flesh falling clean away. You’re still an initiate.

Even with skin clean and intact, you feel more like Sly than ever. Now you’re the one who stands out in the crowd. Logically, there’s a whole wide world outside of Rastaban, vaster than anything you’ve ever imagined. Yet you still half-expect to bump into them every time you leave home. Them or her.

You think about her more than you’d like to. Do what you have to - push it aside, bury it. By any means necessary.

(The smile as she left.)

Metronome ticks, tocks reassuringly. You run a hand over her back, to which she wriggles appreciatively before darting back into Erosion. She spends a lot more time away from you these days. You aren’t sure why. Nice to have your head to yourself, though.

(Or it would be if you could stop imagining what she would say.)

Suppress the shudder that runs through you. Block out the voice that won’t shut up. Repeat to yourself all the ways she hurt you - you come up with more every day. Never feel quite right though. Never feel solid and quantifiable the way they should. You block out the voice as best you can. It keeps talking.

Are you sure you made the right choice? You left your family. You left Gemini. You had to - you couldn’t stay in that city another day. Besides, you murdered the Emperor, no fucking way they were just gonna let you- but you don’t know that, do you? Suppose not but it seemed like a good bet… oh, Muses, you left on a ‘good bet’? Idiot, and you’re still saying Muses, you’re obviously not integrated at all. Why did you think this was a good idea? Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.

Breathe in, and out again. Stop thinking for a second. Feel that quietness? Your head is yours. Remember that. Remember that she isn’t here anymore. Remember her name. It was all lies. Every word of it.

(Of course it was - you fell for it so easily.)

Face in the mirror again: a little panicked, a touch of emptiness behind the eyes. Shadows beneath them, of course. This gets worse every day. How long until you can sleep undisturbed again? How long until you stop dreaming of her? Remember the last one? Water all around you, head barely above the surface. You kicked and struggled to stay afloat, so unbelievably tired. She was above you, on the edges of your vision like she always used to be. That subtle heat-shimmer in the air. That warmth. Comforting and familiar. You felt her hands on your head, gentle at first. You felt her pushing you beneath the waves.

(You liked it.)

It’s possible you need some air. Take your coat, wrap it haphazardly around you. Storm out the door, out the courtyard, out the temple complex. The streets are busy, they always are. Wider than the ones in Rastaban, too. Keep walking, walk so fast you can’t think of anything except the air in your lungs. Step by step, you get calmer. You hear a distant comforting ticking, tocking. Metronome’s sleek form at your side, running along beside you.

(Sweet Metronome. Dear, sweet Metronome. I have looked forward to seeing her again.)

You can’t think of anything except the air in your lungs. Your head is blissfully empty, or at least it should be. You shake off that nagging feeling and keep walking. Just as well, really. The streets are quieter here. Feel that quietness? Or is it getting a little difficult now?

Your face: dumbstruck is really the only word. Hair streaming out in the wind - I think I prefer it that length, you know. Ah, you finally stop walking. I’m glad, I really am. It’ll be so much easier for us to talk this way. I’ve missed our talks.

Hello again, Quinn. I missed you.

resources/fic/beneath_the_skin.txt · Last modified: 2019/03/09 21:35 by florencew