AN: For my dearest Estoma on her birthday. Inspired by Regina Spektor's Samson. Beta'd by the wonderful finnicko-loves-anniec
A shimmer of white appears and quickly fades into the black abyss; in another breath, it crashes forward again and dies with a whisper. If the earth had a heartbeat, it would be in time with the waves that strike the rocks, pushing life forward and drawing it back. Only this heartbeat will never cease.
His footprints in the wet sand reflect the pulse of the waves as they vanish as quickly as they are created. Curiously, he jogs across the grey beach in search of the source of the screams. Screams, not of distress or despair like in his dreams, but of greatness and challenge.
His toes sink in the sand when he finds a girl with tangled hair sweeping around her crown as if it were a flag on a mast. Her sheer nightgown, illuminated by the moonlight, whips and flutters with the waves' breath, revealing slender legs and delicate hips. She stands at the edge of the cold, biting water as it roars at her.
And she roars back.
The waves dampen any sound he may have made, yet she turns with sudden surprise and runs to him with her arms outstretched and head back, calling his name. He makes no effort to move and awaits her approach; drinking in her image, he watches the finer details of her smile, eyes and freckles develop in the silver light. In this moment, her hair almost looks red.
She stops a few feet short of their embrace and their eyes meet for the first time in four months. The childlike grin and excitement in her eyes disappear with the next crashing wave.
He expected this.
She runs her hand through his hair and with a finger turns his jaw for closer inspection. Wrinkling her nose after the examination, she takes his hand and leads him up the stairway made of old wreckage nestled into the sand. It leads to her small, weather-beaten house that sits just out of reach of the ocean spray. She prefers the seclusion and simplicity of this small home to the one she earned with blood.
Paper globes hang from the ceiling, illuminating the room with a soft yellow glow. She pulls up a heavy, lopsided chair flecked with blue paint and sits him down. He dares not protest her motives, for her ways are special and to question them would be cruel.
He removes his shirt and rests his hands on his knees and waits for her fingers to comb through his long hair again. When he hears the snip of the dull pair of scissors, he takes a breath and keeps still.
She met him when he had long hair, she had adored it. But when he came back from his duties, it isn't the same; his hair no longer smells of the ocean and there isn't any sand to brush from its roots. The golden threads too smooth to stick up on their own are even the wrong color - it just isn't him.
When she finishes, he sweeps up the fibers of who he was and she returns with some bread, breaking it in two for them to share. With all the accommodations he had in the other place, bread was not one of them. In the other place, he was meant to be someone else.
Her eyes shine in amusement as she places the bread to her mouth. She watches him run his fingers over his scalp and the back of his neck.
"There you are," she says.
Although the layers are uneven, he smiles and tells her she's done alright. Finally, she pulls him into the embrace he has been waiting for since the moment he left. With his hand in hers, she takes him to her bed and he kisses her until the stars disappear in the morning light.
While he was away, the others didn't feel like her, smell like her, and in no way did they smile like her. No one else has the sea in their eyes - unpredictable, calm, and fierce at the same time.
As his hair grows longer, they share stories of old and he asks why she doesn't cut her's.
"Because then the mermaids won't recognize me, silly," she says and kisses him before returning her gaze to the stars.
When his hair reaches his collar and brushes over his eyes, it is time for him to leave. In his absence, she gathers new stories to tell him the next time she sits him down on the lopsided chair.
In the yellow light, she tells a tale of a man who had magical strength given to him by a god. He tore down gates, ripped apart a lion with his bare hands, and slayed a thousand men. Sadly, when the man revealed that his strength would leave him if a razor were to be used on his head, the woman whom he thought loved him, betrayed his trust. She was bribed by his enemies to cut his hair while he slept in her bed and the next morning he was captured and put in chains. During his imprisonment, his hair grew and so did his power. On the day of his execution, he was bound to two great pillars of an even greater hall. He pulled on the chains that tethered him to the stone, bringing the columns down, killing everyone that was underneath - including himself. The lives he took when he died totaled more than when he was alive.
Amused by her story, he runs his fingers through his short hair, still not accustomed to its length. He thinks that she is all the strength he needs, not some magical immortality given by the gods. He sees his entire life in her eyes and any land they cannot see from their beach is of no matter because she is his entire world. When she speaks of the constellations, he only needs to see the soft freckles sprinkled across her face to see their past.
He in turn tells her the stories he heard while on his leave: a man of science had told him that the stars are just old light and what they saw are more ancient than the gods they represented. He tells her of the books he has read and the places he has been. When her brow furrows and she chews on her fingernail, he returns to the old stories she finds comfort in; even though the stories speak of war, deceit, sorcery, romance and explain their world in an unusual fashion. He realizes the cold theories and facts do not ignite the same glow in her eyes.
One day while lying on the sand, tangled together in a blanket, his eyes follow his fingertips from her cheek to her hip. He notices her lips are the same color of the soft flesh at the tips of her breasts, and her face is not the only skin kissed with freckles. He wishes they could run somewhere faraway where not even the richest client could find him.
"Why would I ever leave here?" she asks.
She stands up, opening her arms wide to the sea and says that here, there are no columns to destroy, not a single one. Here, they can live a simple life that will never end up in a book. Nothing else matters on this beach when he is home, she says, scratching the sand from his hair.
They sit together three more times under the yellow light before the ocean and stars are torn away from them. Grey walls make up their world now and the cold bricks contain no stories.
He looks at the sea in her eyes and kisses her goodbye. Before he leaves, he sits in a heavy metal chair and his hair is cut with sharp, standard issued shears.
Four months pass before she finally believes the story she is told. Back in her small home by the shore, she sits down under the yellow light and unfolds a piece of paper tearing at the creases. She mouths the words as she rubs her hand on her growing belly and by the last line, a tear falls for the first time.
It wasn't an ancient story when she first heard it; monsters, explosions and sacrifice just wasn't something she saw in his eyes or in the stars. She learned that he did in fact bring the columns down and every history book would speak his name.
She still looks to the stars, even though she no longer listens to what they have to say. She still listens to the roar of the ocean, but no longer challenges the gods like she did all those years ago. There is a greater challenge awaiting her up the stairs made of old wreckage, and he is getting bigger every day.
"Mommy? What are you looking at?"
"Just old light, sweetheart. Just old light," she says, scratching the sand from his long golden hair, stiff with salt.