Name: Sweet Talk 101
Pairing: RxOC, MxV, BxN
Summary: A certain assassin's return to court causes a few ripples in the relatively new peace of Remalna's politics.
Disclaimer: I own only the words and any original characters that appear in this work. The characters, settings, and main plot derive from the work of Sherwood Smith. The song lyrics belong to Cute is What We Aim For, All That Remains, The Fray, Oingo Boingo, and Goldfinger.
Chapter Three - Home Again, Superman
Where is she going - ooh, she looks like she's lost
Won't someone help her - somebody giver her a hand
She's got such sweet eyes - look like they've seen too much
Knew someone like her - nobody helped, but she's
Home again... home again... home again
There was a ball that night. He was expected to attend, expected to flirt shamelessly with almost every woman there who was both unmarried and under the age of thirty. He was also expected to dance with Tamara, fight with her, and leave alone.
Russav never liked to disappoint, but at times, it was worse to live up to expectations.
He was currently sitting in the gardens, along a rickety old bench that had seen many better days, in the shade of an old willow tree by a pond. He hadn't changed out of his court clothing, and looked both odd and uncomfortable, or so he surmised from the looks he'd seen on many of the serving girl's faces as they raced through the gardens between wings of the palace.
He was waiting. For what, or whom, he refused to specify even to himself. He knew, obviously, but denied such knowledge. Things like this were at times better left unknown, unthought, unsaid. But when the minutes began to tick by, he started to worry. Maybe, maybe he had missed her. Some form of cosmic statement about the state of their relationship. Karma. Or just a miscalculation.
It was at the precise moment that his paranoia began to escalate to the point where he was thinking that she hadn't actually returned at all and he was clearly an old man in an asylum somewhere in the country, that he heard her voice amble down the path toward him.
"Where are you going - to see a crazy old man. What will he tell you - he'll tell me where I'm going. What will you do then - I might just quit my job. What will you do then - I'm gonna find my way home again."
He turned to see her, head tilted to the sky and distant tree line, clearly lost in thought. A rare, completely unguarded moment. Russav was shocked. He hadn't thought he'd see that look on her face again. After everything, even he was wary about wandering so carelessly. And the flirtatious Duke of Savona had much less to fear.
Closer still she came, as if she hadn't seen him, but she had. He knew she had, as her singing became clearer, louder, as if she had something to say to him. She had done this before, it was an established pattern. The comfort that came from the simple act of her singing for him, which in truth wasn't as simple as it seemed, astounded him. She astounded him.
And she was sitting next to him, a smile on her lips, her shoulder brushing against his, the sheath of her sword propped awkwardly against the seat of the bench and his leg, their knees a breath from one another. She was too close, and, predictably, her smile turned into a smirk of devious, devilish proportions as she sang through the chorus of the song and into the next verse. Clearly, this was meant for him. Which was just lovely.
"Where is he going - why does he walk that way. Sticking his chest out - what is he trying to say. He's got charisma - but when he's all alone, he curls up in a ball - and wishes that he was home again, home again, home again."
She hummed a few bars of the song to keep place, then slid away an inch, barely noticeable, but the loss of heat against his arm and side was far too obvious for him. He wanted it back, shamelessly, selfishly, always.
"Where are we going - why do we feel so small, alone and helpless - in this big crazy world. Looking for something - that's so hard to describe, but just like children - going along for the ride again."
She then cut herself off, turned to him with questions in her brow but not a word from her lips. Accusations flew from her fingertips as they drummed against the wood slats of the seat back, apologies hung by her feet, but nothing crossed the distance. The mere three inches from her shoulder to his, the ocean between their thoughts. He could see it, and feel it, but he couldn't mend it.
"It's been a while. A long while, since we've been able to just sit here. Me singing some silly song I picked up from some village children or some small group of minstrels, you just watching me. It's awkward now. I don't like it."
He looked to the side and nodded. If he continued to look at her, he'd do something stupid. Kiss her again. Put his arm around her shoulders and pull her to him. Tell her he never meant any of the words he'd said to any other woman. But none of those actions would help him. All he could do, the only thing he could do to save them was to sit on that bench until she left, silent, still, and smiling, because even when her lips pulled themselves into the motion, nothing reached her eyes. No laughter, no hate, nothing but placid violet.
"'Sav, when did we become so awkward?"
"Apparently, some time between yesterday and this morning."
"Russ. I'm serious."
"Probably the moment I thought I lost you and then realized that I never truly had you."
He wouldn't let her finish. He couldn't let her finish. He didn't know what he'd expected, but this? It was one of those moments where everything should go fine, where you want it to go as it should, but you just can't help yourself from ruining it. From taking all of the anger, hurt, and frustration that you have and making sure that those facing you experience it tenfold. Because you can. Because your sadistic streak decided to show itself and how dare they do this to you? So it had been years and things hadn't gone well, but that doesn't mean that things can just go back. That you can just forget about everything they ever did to you. Russav often fell victim to this trap. See every interaction between Lady Tamara and himself as evidence.
Looking at the woman sitting next to him, all he could think was that: sure, he loved her, despite everything, and he'd always known she wasn't what she seemed, and gods was she beautiful, but he just couldn't forgive-
"I'm sorry, don't know what came over me. I must be feeling ill."
"Russav, I never betrayed you. You know that. What were you thinking?"
He could only sigh. I'm a fucking idiot, thats what.
"My lady, we have never been anything less. On the other hand, we have certainly been much more, now haven't we?"
"Most certainly. Now, there's a song that reminded me of you. Heard it on one of our campaigns near Sartor. It's Marloven in origin though, I think."
They sat for hours in that secluded bench, both looking extremely out of place and certainly mismatched. Predictably, neither cared to much. They weren't bothered by apperances, as they knew few others used that particular section of the gardens except the servants who would certainly gossip only among each other. And what was there to gossip about? Certainly it wasn't so surprising that a woman thought dead returned half-conscious and bleeding only to land in the arms of the man she left, who was, regrettably tied to another woman at the time, but courtships were bound to change. Especially the political ones.
Everything was standard issue, all things considered. Well, except for the threat of physical violence. That was a bit new, but came with the territory. What more could Russav expect from a trained assassin.
She was pretty calm. Not all twitchy and paranoid. She had her moments, and she certainly didn't trust easily, but it wasn't as if you could easily tell that she worked in the business of espionage. Russav wasn't an expert, by any means, but he did know what it was like to believe that everyone was against you, Galdran had seen to that being a simple part of living, and the girl didn't show it much. Just a slight tenseness in her shoulders and the content of her speech: personal, but revealing little other than life-philosophies and observations. Although this showed some amount of trust, everything was said with an air of absolute distrust and uncaring. Oh, she was just lovely when you got down to her main personality traits wasn't she?
"You aren't even paying attention. Just what has gotten your attention so thoroughly?"
"Upset that it might not be you that has me so ensnared, my lady?"
"Well, if you must know," the next words that would come out of his mouth would ruin everything. He knew that even as he purposely let the words fall from his lips. "I was just thinking of Lady Tamara, she never ceases to amaze."
"Yes, for one such as you, her machinations must be an unsolvable mystery."
"And for one such as you, nothing human could ever hold your interest for long, could it?"
She spoke into the wind, voice carrying far off, away from him into the shadows.
"Nothing, just an old memory."
"Thinking about the old days?"
"Yeah. Things were so much brighter then, even though I think it was all in grayscale. It's as if life is dulled by its own vibrancy lately."
"I'm not making sense, am I?"
"No, it's just, you aren't usually so poetic about it. You certainly aren't immune to bizarre thoughts or anything. They're kind of a staple of your personality, but this is a bit different than usual. Kind of like that night, huh?"
The night Russav referred to was one he'd recalled over a thousand times to keep himself company when the biting cold got too much, or the stars seemed just too bright at night. When even wine wouldn't warm his bones or obliterate his thoughts by dulling his senses. He remembered the time she came to them, her first ball at Athanarel. Some political thing, he remembered few of the details, just flashes of green and a beautiful girl sitting alone in the gardens. On this bench by the pond. Singing to no one and everyone at once. He barely even knew her name then, but he remembered being pulled to the song.
When he returned to his bed that night, he lay on his back, unable to tame swirling thoughts and calm his nerves. He couldn't help but recall her eyes and the waves of her hair as her bangs arced across her brow and covered a rather sizable portion of her right eye. The way she moved, like a trained dancer, with precision and grace he'd never seen. Just twelve years old and he had already become a slave to women.
She would leave him five years later, to the date. A week from her return would mark the eighth.
She still managed to captivate him, sometimes, but that dancer grace had left her in some form, it could still shine through, but many of her movements had become more cock-sure and segmented. The movements of one accustomed to wearing heavy armor and wading through corpses. Her actions were jerkier, more angular than soft and sweeping, but her balance was impeccable and her motions still had the fluidity of water. Perhaps it was age and old wounds.
"I sometimes wish- but it's hopeless. I am where I am because I was who I was, if I were to change that, then I would no longer be myself. I don't know what it is, but I just want to destroy it all. Nihilism should never be something you turn to, however, I can't stop myself. It'd all be so much easier."
"Who'd you loose out there?"
"A few damn good soldiers and a lot of good friends. They didn't- no one deserves war, and I'll be damned if I don't stop this. I know Danric's gonna try to keep me out of it, but I swore, dammit. I will avenge each of them."
"I know I can't stop you, but 'Rya-"
He watched her turn her head, seemingly to gaze at the surrounding fauna, but it was likely to hide the look on her face, or even prevent herself from looking at him. As if his very presence could kill her.
"So here I am doing everything I can, holding on to what I am, pretending I'm a superman. I'm trying to keep the ground on my feet, it seems the world's falling down around me. The nights are all long, I'm singing this song to try and make the answers more than maybe."
"That one's new."
"Yeah. It fits. Upbeat, but somewhat depressing."
"Don't mock me Russav, you'll live to regret it."
"Likely at that tournament tomorrow regardless."
"Don't tempt me. I might just knock you off that pedestal of yours. Destroy your whole fan base. It'd save me a lot of trouble at least. Not that you care all too much, you insensitive prick."
"You wound me.
Silence reigned for a few long moments before she began tapping her foot to a quick rhythm.
"And I'm so confused about what to do. Sometimes I want to throw it all away. So here I am, growing older all the time, looking older all the time, feeling younger in my mind."
"You know, this could all be simplified, if either of us would simply speak our minds. Then you and I would be out of this dreadful situation."
"Yes, but one of us would have to take that risk first, admit to being open to wounds and scorn. You and I are both cowards when it comes to our hearts, are we not?"
"We always have been."
A long, profound silence stretched between them. Or what seemed to be a profound silence. Perhaps it was simply the knowledge, the dread, that one of them would have to risk everything, and even though they knew the outcome, neither could force themselves to do it.
"I do believe that it is my turn to take a chance, is it not? I am, after all, simply hanging."
"So you do. Very well then, I'm listening."
"I'm dreadful at this, must I really continue? Oh, you're going to make me do this any way you have to, aren't you? I should have known. Well, my lady, it seems that what transpired between us all those years ago was not the folly of youth, rather that describes my actions from that point to this, and indeed may continue to describe my actions until I tell one Lady Chamadis that whatever she believes stood between us was nothing but a distraction, an sham, something to keep my mind busy and away from depressing matters. To keep me as jovial as my cousin needs me to be. He is far too melancholy for someone who desires to be king. Though I do speak ill of him, as he does not desire to be king, but rather has had it thrust upon him like- like a-"
"'Sav, shut up."
And she put all of his idiotic fears to rest by pressing their lips together. She on her toes, stretched, and he pulled down by the collar of his jacket by fisted, gloved hands. Tiny hands, but dangerous. What a pair they must have made, a soldier and a fop, looking all the world like their reputations would have them - the demanding, calculating murderess and the licentious, dim-witted decoration. If only things were that simple. If only he was most worried about getting the woman into his bed rather than keeping her in his heart and in his arms. It was the last one that was the true killer, after all.
Because he loved her, she'd always be with him. His memories of her, his thoughts of her, his comparison of every woman he saw and spoke with to those fond memories. Getting her to stay safe, within the palace grounds, or even within the borders of Remalna, was difficult. She was honor bound. Not that any of that truly mattered to Russav, but if it mattered to her, by extension, it mattered to him. For she mattered.
He was hopelessly lost. There would be no redemption from this point on, and for that, he was glad. Better to be a lovesick fool than a love-scorned idiot. Either way, it was a blow to his intelligence, but he had suffered worse. Far worse from worse people. For as long as he could, he would cling to her coattails, like a child, hoping to keep her from walking away. To keep her with him, there was no sacrifice he would not make. The question was wether or not she would let him. The answer was a resounding 'no.'
I'd like to ask that you review, if only to tell me that you regret wasting your time on this fic, because any kind of feedback is welcome. Even if it isn't very constructive, though I'd much rather have constructive criticism.
Regardless, please, let me know what you think.