Age of the Geek, Baby (lorax) wrote,
Age of the Geek, Baby

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Two-Line Challenge

Two ficlets written for musesfool's Two Lines Challenge. I ended up with two because I hated the way the first one turned out, so I did another, but figured I might as well post both. Neither is Beta Read - sorry in advance, I'm sure they're messy.

Title: Lesser for the Loss
Author: Sullen Siren (adena (at) direcway (dot) com)
Summary: Wash and Zoe call it quits.
Spoilers: None specific, though allusions to a few throwaway lines in Heart of Gold
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Mutant Enemy, Joss, Fox, etc. Not me. Never me.
Notes: Written for musesfool. Song lines were Pearl Jam's Nothingman. "Caught a bolt of lightnin'/Cursed the day he let it go."

Lesser for the Loss
"Caught a bolt of lightnin'/cursed the day he let it go."
- Pearl Jam, Nothingman

He'd had her, and he'd lost her. It wasn't a new story, and the part of his mind that wasn't wasted in regret cursed the lack of originality. He was an original - it was what she'd loved in him. Now she was gone, and he was a cliché, and he wondered how much of what she'd seen in him was only there when she was looking.

Serenity seemed a lot smaller when you had to work to keep your paths from crossing between your bunks. He slept in the empty shuttle, but his things were still in the bunk where she was, and she'd not told him to move them. He'd kept hope because of that. Because her clothes and his were still intertwined in the too-full laundry bag; because she kept the sheets on the bed after he'd left. Because she just left, silently, when he came in to get something, and didn't tell him to go.

He'd gone planet-side this morning. He'd bought her cherries because he knew she loved them, and he loved the way they stained her mouth red, and how she tasted with the juice still on her lips. His things were laid out neatly on the bed of the cold shuttle. There was no note; she didn't stay to speak to him. Ghosts on a ship, drifting within feet of one another but never touching.

The controls of the ship had been soothing, familiar, and predictable before, when his toothbrush was still on the shelf beside hers. Now he looked past them to the empty black of space and realized how alone they were. He hadn't been, before. He wondered if this was how the others always felt.

The voice behind him, dreamy and sharp all at once, didn't startle him. He didn't jump in surprise, didn't panic, and didn't laugh. He hadn't since the day she'd looked at him with a look he'd never though he'd see her give him, and told him to leave. "She misses you. Out in the black. The lights. Like lightning. Need grounding. Ground her out so she doesn't burn. Misses that."

He strove to keep his voice light, normal. Emotion upset River, they'd learned that early. It set the short-circuits in her brain into some kind of frenzy, and she became strange and frantic and saw things that no one was ever meant to see. "I'd rather we not discuss my personal life right now. What about you? How are you getting along with everyone? Have any interesting conversations with dead metal ships lately?"

"She's not dead. She's just not alive like everyone else. Chips and circuits and moving parts. Not very different, really. We're her insides. Her guts. Her heart, her voice, her touch, her strength, her spirit."

"Very poetic. Why don't you go and write that down? We'll put it up on the cortex once we're in range of Demeter."

"You let her go." Her voice was blunt and matter of fact.

His own voice rose in response, despite his attempts to control it. "I didn't! She was . . . it wasn't fair. It was unreasonable. She wanted me to be something I'm not. She wanted to do what wasn't-"

"2.5 children. White picket fences. Tradition. Safety. All that fills up your mind is like paintings. No substance. Wait for perfection that won't come. The truth is cold-metal ships with living hearts. Truth is blood, and death, and running, and everything too bright and hard and black and white all turned to gray. Couldn't except that. You weren't there. Not hard. Didn't see. You didn't go to Serenity and never leave."

He laughed because it was better than crying, and he didn't cry in front of mentally unstable little girls. "She wants a family when all it is going to be is another thing to worry about."

"For her it's another thing to love."

"Same thing."

River frowned, looking younger. "You're not suited for intellectual discussions of paradigm shifts in relationships."

His tone was more bitter than light. "I'm most abjectly sorry."

"You shouldn't say things you don't mean." She told him sternly.

"I meant it."

"Didn't." She insisted. "Don't mean what you say. Always your problem. Bend and take and sway until you break, and then it's a fight, and a problem, and her voice sounds like nails over porcelain when she tells you that this wasn't what she want-"

"Stop! River, go!" He'd never lost his temper with her. Others had. Mal with his quick temper and easy surliness, Jayne with his cursing, bumbling fury. They'd all snapped at her. Wash never had, and he saw the look on her face when he did, and cursed himself for putting it there. "I'm sorry, mei mei . . . "

"Don't. Not sorry. Daddies chastise little girls gone astray. Roving hands in ships with humming lights. Daddy would be so angry. . ." She murmured distantly, mad again, and her hands ran up and down her arms in a strangely sensuous gesture that set his skin to crawling, and his mind to wandering where he didn't want it to. And then she was back, eyes lucid and aware and too-sharp. "She'll come back."

He sighed tiredly, pressing fingers into the sides of his nose and feeling older than he had any right to. "Hard not to run across one another in a ship this size, River."

"You let her go." River repeated. "Strength. Bones of Serenity. Thinks she needs you - but she doesn't. Too strong. Doesn't know. She's happier with you though. And she'll come back for that. And leave again, and come back again. Like a dance. You should wear slippers and tulle."

She would come back. Coming from anyone else he would consider it nonsense. From River . . . "How do I make her stay if she doesn't need me?"

She made a small noise of frustration, and suddenly she was just a teenage girl frustrated by adult idiocy. "How should I know?" She flounced back down the stairs and out of sight, and he could hear her singing Kaylee's favorite song as she drifted away.

As always, the step was too light to be caught. "She ain't wrong, you know. Can't stay away. Wish I could."

She was beautiful in the doorway, holding one of shirts as if she'd needed a reason to seek him out. Tall and lithe and entirely more than he'd ever deserved to have, she was his. Or she was. He wanted to have that again. She didn't need him - but she wanted him. He needed her. He'd fix this. "Zoe . . . I'm sorry. I was wrong. We can have a baby."

She looked at him with the expression he'd never been able to read, but Mal always could. "Do you want one?"

She always knew when he lied. "No."

"Then we won't have one until you do." The same expression; unreachable, unfeeling maybe, though he doubted it. She seemed serene to any who didn't know her.

"And you'll stay? With me? Anyway."

"Can't make no promises, Wash. I love you. But if it gets to be that I'm wanting that more than I'm lovin' you - I'll move on."

"I'll learn, Zoe, I'll get over it. I'll want it, ài rén"

She studied him, and he didn't move to embrace her. She wasn't ready yet. "For someone who can be so brave, you're a nuòfu sometimes." She turned and left, taking his shirt with him, and he sagged in his chair, caught somewhere between relief and dread.

Title: A Trail Behind
Author: Sullen Siren (adena (at) direcway (dot) com)
Summary: Angel's left a trail of dead loves behind him.
Spoilers: Up through the current seasons "Shells"
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Mutant Enemy, Joss, Fox, etc. Not me. Never me.
Notes: Written for musesfool. Song lines were Pearl Jam's Nothingman. "Caught a bolt of lightnin'/Cursed the day he let it go."

A Trail Behind
"Caught a bolt of lightnin'/cursed the day he let it go."
- Pearl Jam, Nothingman

His arms still felt empty, now. Everyday. He looked up from the too-large and too-expensive desk whenever someone entered without knocking, half-hoping to see someone he'd never see again.

He was beginning to love the interruptions, the chaos, and the noise that made up their lives. Because in the silent moments his mind ran over all that he had lost. And the numbers grew day, by day, by day until sometimes he felt he was drowning in the voices of the dead and lost. He wished that he knew how to find joy, or even feign it, as Spike did. But he didn't. He just survived, fought, kept going. He'd tried to hard to regain hope, but as those he considered his fell one by one these days, he'd lost that again, and not reached to reclaim it. Hope only hurt worse when it was gone.

He missed the way she shone even when it was dark, the way she was irreverent in the face of danger, the way she dressed for looks before practicality. He missed the Buffy that had once been. He missed the Buffy that lived now too, though he didn't think he knew her.

He missed her smile, her habit of spending more than she could afford, and her ability to summarize everything into short statements. He missed the perfume she'd always worn, and the laughter that had always hidden behind her teasing. He missed her wit and her bravery. He missed Cordelia.

He missed the way she'd moved, and the way he couldn't tell the difference between laughter and danger in her eyes. He missed knowing that she was out there. He missed when he could hate her without a strange slash of sorry. He missed Darla.

He missed her endless questions, and the way she'd pushed her glasses up onto the bridge of her nose when they fell forward. He missed the way she'd speak on and on about things as foreign to him as daylight, never realizing that he - and most everyone else - never had any idea what she was speaking of. He missed Fred.

He missed them all. The endless litany of women - and some men - that he'd wronged and lost over the years. Some came back, most did not. Those that did he would usually rather have stayed gone. Above them all he missed one. The one he'd let go. He missed Conner.

He missed the smiling baby he'd held, the one that had loved him without concern, without requirements or reservations. And he missed the angry, bitter young man who had looked at him through the eyes of one who had known horror. When Conner had been here, his purpose had been as clear as flashes of lightning in a thunderstorm. All around him the world had raged and rain, but he had Conner. Conner was his purpose, and his focus.

In the end, he'd failed. He knew that. Conner had been broken, and he hadn't fixed him. He had cheated, and perhaps sold his soul and everyone else's in the process. He flinched sometimes, when conversations turned to places where Conner's name should be said, but wasn't. Sometimes that hurt worse. He'd erased the boy from their lives like a useless file. Fred died never remembering that she'd helped rock him to sleep, back when she still wrote on walls. Wesley remembered only the anger and pain of that time - he'd forgotten that it had been because he wanted to save the boy from Angel. (And Angel had long since forgiven him for that. It had been done with good intentions, he believed that. He knew now the lengths Wesley would go to protect those he loved.)

He found her in the same cheap room, poorly drawn tattoos covering the parts of her body he could see beneath the worn sweatshirt she wore. Her eyes widened when he pushed the door open and walked inside. "You can't! I didn't invite you!"

"You don't live here, Eve. You just hide here. And I've been here before. Remember?"

Her eyes were hunted and afraid. "What are you doing here? What do you want? Have you . . . heard anything? About Lindsey?"

"No. And unless it was a nice filmstrip about him being prodded with hot pokers, I don't want to hear anything."

She flinched at the imagery. "Then why are you here?"

He sat heavily on the bed beside her, ignoring the way she backed away from him. When her eyes slinked toward the door he smiled faintly. "Don't try it. You'd never make it before I stopped you." Her shoulders sagged and she stood, resigned, and waiting for whatever came next.

He studied her a moment and then said simply. "I want to talk."

"About what? Fred? I don't know anything beside what I told you. You need to find-"

"The deeper well. I know. No. This isn't about Fred. Fred's gone."

Something that might have been regret flickered over her face. "Oh. Well then what?"

"I want to talk about Conner."

Wariness returned in full. "I don't know anything about him. I just know what the senior partners told me."

"No. I want to talk. You get to listen."

She frowned, not understanding. "Why?"

"Because you're the only one who can."

Realization crossed her face. "You must . . . miss him? He was there, a part of you. He loved you. And then he was gone. Because you didn't help him."

He nodded. "I miss him. But don't make the mistake of thinking we're alike. Lindsey didn't love you. He used you, Eve. One day you're going to realize that, and it's going to rip you apart. And I'm not going to care. But in the meantime, you can listen. Sit."

She sat sullenly in a threadbare, rickety chair opposite him and listened as a vampire began to talk about the son he'd let go.

I've decided I hate my Remix fic, and am considering redoing it. Ponder ponder ponder.
Tags: fandom - btvs/ats, fic, fic challenges

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