Almost Real

K. Ryan, 2006

Written for the 1sentance challenge on livejournal, and also Lea, who got me hooked on this pairing.

NB: Sentance 37 features the end lines of a sonnet written by Marilyn Hacker as part of Love, Death and the Changing of the Seasons. Sadly, I did not write it.


1: Walking: a whole-body move, from shoulder to hip and down; scars and sharpness, blended with bronze and Daja's hands, holding the leg that wasn't there.

2: Waltz: One, two, three; two, two, three…lurch, stagger and fall.

3: Wishes: Daja wishes she didn't need, sometimes, before she remembers that that is stupid.

4: Wonders: Scars don't give—they're like iron that way—and Polyam wonders if that is why Daja can bear to touch her.

5: Worry: Caravans move, tearing up rooted things in their wake.

6: Whimsy: By firelight in a dark forge, bronze turns to gold and eyes have liquid-shine, and sparks seem almost real.

7: Waste:"I don't like to waste anything," she says, pulling living metal from her flesh and into a bowl as Polyam watches, fascinated.

8: Whiskey and Rum: Daja the mage doesn't drink, so Polyam has taken to throwing out empty flasks.

9: War: As the Caravan Idaram comes to her, asking if she will go over all their metalwork before they leave, Daja wonders if she's fighting a losing battle.

10: Weddings: Tris' wedding is as smaller than the bride's temper or the husband's belt size—small and simple and strangely beautiful—but Daja meets Polyam's eyes during the blessings, and they both smile and shake their heads while lightening flashes overhead and rain beats the air around them.

11: Birthdays: Daja turns 20 and feels no different, while Polyam feels young again when she raids smoked Trader tea from the stores.

12: Blessings: Chandrisa says nothing; Daja and Polyam are honoured by this silence.

13: Bias: "There's more than one type of beautiful," Daja insists, and eventually Polyam stops laughing.

14: Burning: gasp-cry-strain-groan-and-whimper as Daja touches her with the same hands that had placed fire back in the grate only a minute before.

15: Breathing: Daja is surprised when Polyam manages to make her breathing falter and catch in her throat—she'd always been the calm one, before.

16: Breaking: "How can I come with you? I'm rooted here."

17: Belief: "You couldn't just cure dry rot with that stuff, lugsha—you could make a new beating heart with it, too."

18: Balloon: The words, Olart—six months," prick Daja like pins and something explodes.

19: Balcony: Briar glares fire and slaughter from the upper level of number 6 Cheesman Street—"She doesn't want to see you," he says.

20: Bane: "It's the bane of my life," Daja says, eyes red, "to fall for madmen or for women who can't help but put mountains between themselves and me."

21: Quiet: Daja teaches Polyam that sometimes even a wirok doesn't need to speak.

22: Quirks: One thing Daja starts to notice is that when Polyam is nervous, one hand goes up to her face and the other tightens around a crutch that no longer exists.

23: Question: "Stay with me?"

24: Quarrel: "If you come, you'll have a place, if I stay… I'll have noth—no, I don't mean it like that, Daja!"

25: Quitting: Neither of them is ready, yet.

26: Jump: Sometimes Polyam is so happy that she can jump what feels like half a foot and she forgets that it's meant to hurt.

27: Jester: Years later, Daja remembers the surprise she felt when she realized the dour Polyam had a wicked streak and could make her laugh.

28: Jousting: "I saw it when we were in Janaal and I was eight," she says, when Polyam expresses her disbelief at the idea of two men on horses hitting each other with long. sticks.

29: Jewel: "Don't you dare use this in some commission," says Polyam, placing the bright topaz in Daja's hands, watching it glow against her skin.

30: Just: "Just one more, wirok? You must be getting old."

31: Smirk: The tilt and drag of Polyam's face makes a perpetual smirk, but it turns genuine after she's made Daja come.

32: Sorrow: "You survived Trangshi and I survived a being trampled on by horses and being cut up by flaky rocks," Polyam mutters, thick and gruff, and she meant to follow this with, 'we can survive a year,' but can't dredge up the words.

33: Stupidity: "You've made me whole, and even in the literal sense," she says as she eyes her leg, and Daja tells her not to be stupid even though she is secretly pleased.

34: Serenade: Back outside the house again, only this time it is to sing and spread her arms until Daja's laughing aloud and Tris, who is visiting, threatens to call down lightening.

35: Sarcasm: "I just love it when you use my own logic against me, Daja."

36: Sordid: No matter how hard Daja tries after she's left, no matter what memory or almost-touch she dredges up, it's just not the same.

37: Soliloquy: the end of an unsaid speech: you closed us off with a parenthesis, and left me knowing just enough to miss.

38: Sojourn: They walk in a forest—an escape full of green things and lingering fire-damage and first memories.

39: Share: Nights are shared breath and heartbeat and soon even cycles, as well as kisses that are followed by sleeping blanket-theft on both sides.

40: Solitary:Days are still full of forge-work, when Daja is a single heartbeat and a single pair of lungs, silent concentration.

41: Nowhere: The favourite answer to, "aren't you meant to be somewhere?"

42: Neutral: When asked, Frostpine's response is, "They fit well"—guarded, but still genuine.

43: Nuance: The tilt of her head, the types of heat in her face and hands and voice, and the hard chills as well—Polyam tries to memorize them all.

44: Near: Not-quite-touching arms and legs and shadows—Daja is nearer still than parting, but not for much longer.

45: Natural: To Daja, lips there and there and hands, inside-outside wetness and noise and silence and pain and soothing, teasing, slow-fast familiar-strange trust is somehow the most natural thing in the world.

46: Horizon: "Look at this sunset—what do you mean my head's in the way?"

47: Valiant: Daja is steady:"Go on—go on, love—we both know that they're waiting."

48: Virtuous: Whispered laughter as they lie down in the middle of the day, inspiring wit and wordiness: "Polyam, Tris told me 'virtue' means 'excellent' when you get down to it, so you really must be a virtuous woman, or at least one who is a virtuoso at…no more talking."

49: Victory: The first kiss: awkward surprise and juvenile nerves and true elation.

50: Defeat: The last kiss, because it is sad and familiar and devastating, tasting of tears and last closeness and caravan dust.