|Keep Thee Only
Author: websandwhiskers PM
Continues in the series of ‘Unbroken’ and ‘Going On’ – Nuala’s having further legal issues with the human world, and Abe doesn’t want to add to her troubles. This is either the fluffiest angst or else the angstiest fluff ever written. AbexNualaRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Words: 2,182 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 9 - Published: 08-09-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4460183
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army and all its associated characters and concepts belong to a whole bunch of people who aren't me, including but not limited to Guillermo del Toro, who is pretty much God. I'm making no profit and intend no disrespect, so please don't sue me.
Summary: Continues in the series of 'Unbroken' and 'Going On' – Nuala's having further legal issues with the human world, and Abe doesn't want to add to her troubles. This is either the fluffiest angst or else the angstiest fluff ever written. There's schmoopy romance. Abe/Nuala.
Author's Note: I've referenced, in this series of fics, Senators from a couple different states – presume these are fictional stand-ins, not the men or women actually holding those offices.
Also, "Run" by Snow Patrol is the Abe/Nuala song. Just saying. It's been on constant repeat for a while now.
Edited as of 10/10/08 - the similarity of the ending here to the end of 'Surfacing' just bugged me, and I liked it there much better than here - it wasn't really needed here. So this ends about one paragraph sooner than it originally did.
"You look tired," Abe observed, sitting down across the Council table from Nuala. It was very late and they were alone, but the table was crowded with books and journals and no less than three laptop computers (he made a mental note to be sure someone had shown her the miracle of multiple browser windows; of course, it was possible she was trying to read so many things at once that she needed the three regardless). With some difficulty, he found a space to set down a mug of dandelion-root tea.
"Is there another state of existence?" Nuala asked, glancing up. Her eyes fell on the tea and rounded in completely disproportionate gratitude; Abe had no doubt at all that it was sincere. She reached out to grab it with both hands, cupping her palms around it and making a tiny mewing noise of appreciation at the warmth.
"Well, there's exhausted," Abe offered, watching the way the steam that rose up around her face made the little wisps of hair around her temples curl, just the slightest bit. Her hands were almost paler than the china, except for the brush of color at the base of her nails. Her eyelids slipped closed in contentment as she sipped. "Also overworked, overwhelmed, overwrought, overburdened, under-informed -"
"Can I be all of those?" Nuala asked, voice muffled by the mug of tea, eyes still shut.
"It depends – it's what, Tuesday?" Abe ventured.
"Is it?" Nuala frowned; her closed eyes lost their look of peace, creasing about the corners as her brow furrowed. "It is. Tuesday," she repeated hollowly.
"I'm sorry, then, but you can't be more than three kinds of miserable until Wednesday," Abe quipped.
Nuala smiled, and blinked her eyes open. "Why?"
"Mostly so you can have some misery left for Thursday and Friday, I suppose," he said, shrugging.
"Well then, for Tuesday," Nuala responded, putting the mug down with a sigh. "For Tuesday I select . . " she plucked a legal journal from the vast collection of various reference materials in front of her, the movement determined and purposeful until she got a good look at the volume she had in hand. "Under-informed," she said, deflating; despite her obvious frustration, she set the journal aside with care, eyes once more scanning the table. "Certainly under-informed. And unprepared. And petrified. Those last two weren't among the original selections," she observed, tilting her head and giving him a wry attempt at a smile. "Are they acceptable states of distress?"
"Oh, completely," Abe agreed, though he felt a bit strained to keep his tone light; she looked all of that and more. "I've spent many a Tuesday utterly petrified."
"Tell me?" she asked, tone gone a little distant as her eyes fell to one of the computer screens; she bit her lip and began tapping uncertainly at the keyboard.
"Tell me what I'm distracting you from?" Abe retorted gently.
"I've said something very foolish," Nuala said with a slight shake of her head, eyes still on the screen. "And now I'm attempting to find a way to unsay it. This is even more foolish, of course, but I don't know what else to do."
"What did you say?" Abe asked.
"That Fey folk have the inherent right to the use of their Glamour," Nuala explained, tone clipped and precise, "as it is part of our cultural heritage - something equivalent to the free practice of religion, which your people are guaranteed."
"Ah," Abe said, frowning. "McClaggan's Law."
"Yes, McClaggan's Law," Nuala replied, face twisting up. "It's not as though I'm not sorry a man is dead. I said that as well."
How anyone could doubt the sincerity of her remorse was beyond Abe's comprehension.
"But this law -" she made an empty-handed gesture, abandoned the computer screen, and began searching once more through the stacks of journals. "I cannot condone it, and I cannot possibly enforce it if it's passed. I will not enforce it, it tramples on the long and dearly held customs of half the people I rule. I am their queen, however much I may wish for peace, and if this legislation is approved by your Council -"
"Senate," Abe corrected reflexively, then cringed. "I'm sorry. That was irrelevant -"
"I'd found a very useful legal precedent," Nuala interrupted, voice high and strained, "or at least I think so, but it referenced another case and I set it aside to hunt down that and now I can't find it – and the Senator from Illinois is saying on your evening news that if we can't relinquish the right to any and all Glamour in dealing with law enforcement – he doesn't even know what he's asking – he says if that's our cultural heritage, it amounts to little more than a genetic predisposition to trickery and deceit. What do I say to that?" she all but wailed.
"That he's a self-righteous fool who's far too enamored of the sound of his own voice?" Abe suggested; Nuala glowered, but half-heartedly. "That you know a few trolls who think Senator tastes good with ketchup and anchovies?"
"No!" she exclaimed, but half laughing. "Hush! Do not say things like that!"
"Of course, I'm being facetious. Really, anchovies?" Abe gave a theatrical shudder, and was rewarded with a weary little giggle. "Where are your advisors? The attorney you hired?" he asked softly.
"I sent them to bed," Nuala responded. "Well, I didn't send Ms. Deitrich to bed, but I sent her home. She's giving me a discount, you know," Nuala said, retrieving her dandelion tea once more and burying her face in it, as if the subject embarrassed her. "She says she believes in me. In what I'm trying to create, that is – not me."
"Why not you?" Abe asked.
"Because I'm doing it very badly?" Nuala suggested. "I'm not fooling myself that I'm managing well, or competently, or even forgivably, really, but there is no one else and if I don't do this, there never will be. We'd fade away." She took a long draught of the undoubtedly lukewarm tea, eyes screwing shut.
Abe reached out and cupped his hands around hers, trying to project every ounce of faith he felt in her; she blushed and smiled, and said, "Thank you," very softly. Then she frowned once more. "Something is troubling you. Something . . a question? Something you wish to ask me."
Abe drew his hands away. "No – I mean -" He sighed. "It's nothing that won't keep."
"Give me something I can put right?" Nuala asked, eyes opening and finding his.
"I – I don't think this is . . something like that," Abe hedged; her face fell, and her eyes returned to the books.
"Oh," she said, very hollowly.
"It's – damn," Abe muttered. "I'm attempting not to burden you, but it isn't working out, is it?"
"Things don't work out," Nuala murmured, eyeing the bottom of her teacup as if it might hold answers to all the mysteries of the world. "Things just carry on, and on, and on. You could never be a burden to me." She said both things with the same simplicity of tone; two equal truths. "I want to know your troubles."
"I – damn it," Abe swore again, starting to reach towards her and then pulling back. "This is no good. This isn't the right time, but, well, I don't suppose there's going to be a right time, and – well, I meant to do this very differently, you know."
"No," she said, eyeing him curiously, tilting her head. "If that's so, you've hidden it well, whatever it is."
"Well, that's something," Abe replied, swallowing nervously. "I may as well - I want to say first – I have – I have something I need to ask you, yes, but I want you to know, first, that I understand you're going to say no. I'm expecting it, so you needn't feel badly about it."
Nuala frowned in weary confusion, pale fingers curling around the empty mug. Abe stood, walked to stand beside her chair, then paced away again.
"You have responsibilities – I know that. You're royalty, and that means you have to be concerned with things like the preservation of your culture and your bloodline and – my blood isn't even the same color as yours, literally. It's blue, which, really, is rather ironic when you consider -" He stopped, strode purposefully back to her, and knelt down beside her chair.
Nuala's eyes were very, very wide – with comprehension or with its lack, Abe couldn't tell, and she looked so, so very tired.
"This wasn't how I intended this to be," he repeated quietly. "I suspect I shouldn't be doing this at all, but I need for you to know that . . that I love you, and honor you above all others – that I would be honored more than I can say, if you would be my wife."
He hadn't thought her eyes could go wider, or her skin paler.
"You don't even have to answer," he hastened to reassure her. "I just wanted to say it, so you'd know -" he began to stand.
Her hands shot out to his shoulders, clutching almost painfully. "You stay where you are," Nuala replied in a voice that shook and wobbled and sounded both nothing like her, and exactly like she felt inside his mind.
Then she slid out of her chair, awkward in her formal skirts and with her hair falling into her face, and knelt as well. Her hands slid down his arms to capture his, cupping them between hers just as she had the teacup, and she closed the space between them on her knees. Their hands ended up pressed between their chests, so that Abe could feel the push and pull of their breathing and both their pulses, there between them, as if their joined hands were the heart of one single creature that was both of them.
"It's – it's not that simple, for us, you know," Nuala began, voice still quivering and eyes still round. Abe thought they looked more liquid than usual, ready to spill over into tears, but he found that his perception was limited, drowned out by the sound of their mutual pulse. He had no idea what she was thinking; but then, he considered, that might not actually be a failure of his empathic abilities – he had no idea what he was thinking, either, and perhaps she felt the same.
"My people," Nuala was explaining, "are tied to their king, or their queen. As their sovereign goes, so go they – in ancient times the strength of the king determined the fertility of the fields, but that's not all. The health of children born, the talent of artists, everything – I am their wellspring."
"You don't have to answer," Abe repeated, a bit desperately; he'd convinced himself he could bear to hear her tell him no, but now it came to it, he wasn't so sure. He hadn't counted on this, on the thud of her heart in his chest.
"Of course I do," Nuala insisted. "And I have to explain that I'm not really being selfish, however much I'm pleasing myself, though I am. I am. But there are things more important than culture or bloodline that I must consider."
Abe said nothing, caught in the upwelling of tears that still weren't overflowing her lashes, wondering inanely if perhaps this was what drowning felt like.
"You are the preservation of me," Nuala concluded in a whisper, "so yes. Yes."