Title: Catching Burning Birds

Author: Kali

Rating: T

Summary: He's not some stupid bird that can't stay dead. She's not some big cat to be tamed. These are things they don't know.

Note: Inspired by Gravidy's The God of the Lost, in the Harry Potter category.

This story is in four parts. If my internet connection stays stable, I'll have the whole thing up by the 4th of July.

Please review.

Disclaimer: Queen of Swords belongs to Fireworks/Paramount. The plot and word order are mine.


He remembers:

One day in Arizona north of Tubac when he's so goddamn tired and closes his eyes for just a minute, just to stop the burning bitter desert dust and angry vengeful sunlight trying to burn out his eyes. One moment of rest, all he strives for, and he's just closed his eyes when the temperature drops thirty degrees and there's a blade to his neck in the darkness.

This is familiar and routine now because they've only been doing this for a month and sixteen days. She never actually slices his throat and he wonders why, always—if she wants him dead, why doesn't she just do it?

But he knows she doesn't really, even if she does a little bit. He rolls out from under the blade and tackles her to the ground, gets a knee in the groin and a fist in the throat, falls back and grabs his saber. One month and sixteen days have tamed the wild swings and now he lunges like he really does want her to die, pushes forward until she's cornered and the animal comes out, goes for his throat and forces him back and advances like a cat until he's crawling backwards on the ground. He loves this.

Blade to the neck again and her eyes are cold until she looks at his. He watches her soften—baby hasn't learned yet—and grabs her sword and drags her down to the ground. Pins her and is so tempted by that pulse point and the smooth expanse of skin between the black silk V, then remembers and flips her.

One knee into her back, forearm across her shoulder blades and one hand keeps both of her hands together and useless. Her precious sword is three and a fifth feet away. In the old days, he would've said something stupid here, like "Eat dirt" or some idiocy. Now he just wants to flip her over and brush the dirt from her face and—stop being a sentimental idiot. That's what he wants. To stop being a goddamn pansy.

Too late. She's coiled up and then explodes and he's down for the count, but she's gone. Running. It's a draw. Again. Fifth? Sixth?

In the beginning, she'd be winning until he took his coward's ass and ran for it. And then he stopped remembering the ring and the satin and the silks and the kisses and the nights. Then he'd won, once, and from then on, all draws. She pushes him hardest and he finds her animal—and hadn't he known that was there from the first night? She's beautiful black and raw, like velvet, like old Nebbiolo wine.

One night, before the truth, he'd told her all of that, whispered it while tasting the sweat above her breasts and gone further. She'd twisted and purred and he'd grinned and reached for her ink. The panther had been simple and soft, curling around her right hip, scratching up towards her navel. She'd laughed and laughed and kissed him so hard, with his inky fingers marking leopard spots on her back, and let him stay the night.

The moon is down and she's away—not sure how far, but away enough—and he falls under a myrtle tree to sleep.