Fairy Tale in Monochrome

. o .

"Poor Sleeping Beauty," he says to her, looking through the glass. "Prince Charming doesn't love you."

And she must have heard him, because when she seeks him out, she asks him to tell her the story of the spun-struck princess. He wonders, audibly, if she is mocking him; his eyes narrow and his spine goes rigid at the imagined insult. But her eyes are an eerie shade of neutral and blue, and he is bored, so he tells her what he remembers.

Maybe she thanks him. Maybe she doesn't. But she listens.

The next time, he is waiting in Itsuki's solarium when she drifts into the room, her plum sundress swirling above her knees. His breath catches, choked by lust (which he hides) and envy (which he does not bother to.) She is beautiful… exceptionally so. Unique, and he shivers at the thousand meanings that word carries.

He could strangle her where she stands. He could embrace her. But he waits.

"It cannot sing," she murmurs, holding out a violin with broken strings. "It is lost."

And she hands off the violin, moving forward somehow before he can back away; one hand is on his shoulder with a grip too strong for her frame, but she is no ordinary girl. "I don't fix things," he says, his voice clipped.

"You did, once." Itsuki's voice sounds from the doorway and the brunet wastes no time in striding over to where the other two stand, warning and challenge clear in his tone, in the set of his shoulders as he steers his pink-haired ward away from his childhood friend.

"Hmm." The words from his old friend are enough of a push, a challenge; Makoto Isshiki takes his leave, his pale fingers wrapping around the ends of the broken strings. He is halfway out of the door when everything begins to make sense. He has always wanted what Itsuki wants. Itsuki always wants what he can never have.

With a scheming smile, Makoto fixes the violin, sending out for new strings and calculating how much Itsuki will owe him, if she will be enough – pull and twist and cut; it's not as good as new and it never will be, but it is useful again.

"It has found its voice."

Her voice is eerie, and he nearly drops the violin when she speaks. He hadn't meant to play it, he - very deliberately - hadn't touched anything musical in years, but the bow is in his other hand as he spins around, trying to see her as he stands on the balcony. Two heartbeats. Ten. She does not speak again, or appear, so Isshiki convinces himself that he is hallucinating – he hasn't been sleeping well, and that is all there is to it. Certain that she has gone, that she never was, he straightens the violin under his chin and slides the bow across its new strings. His voice, unused to song, is a ragged accompaniment to the slow, silvery tune.

Hidden by the twilight, she wants to tell him his tonality is the saddest she's ever heard. She wants to tell him that the last note should have been a D. But she waits.

They stumble across each other in the hallways three days later, and maybe it's not fate, because he is carrying her violin.

"Here," he says. "Take it."

She does, fixing him with an inscrutable expression as she nestles the violin case under her arm and against what he has heard Itsuki refer to as her life vest. Before he can study her further, however, she tilts her head and steps towards him, resting one hand against his cheek; her hands are gentle and he tells himself he is not shivering as she speaks. "You are still broken, rah-rah."

She is too close – both to him and to the truth – and her eyes know too much, but he pulls her closer yet, one hand curling under the vest. Maybe that ridiculous contraption can save him too; maybe she is - ridiculous girl - actually trying to save him herself. Maybe this is why she does not resist as his lips find hers and crush them together.

It is… not romantic, but it is the first kiss she remembers, and she feels sorry for this quicksilver man with guarded eyes. Though it is her back that hits the wall, he is trembling. Pulling away a little, Quon hums a lullaby against his shoulder, her voice high and sweet and smooth. She is calm and fluttering all at once, black wings beating at her heart as his grip tightens; something, she thinks, is very, very wrong with this musician of sad arias and torn fingernails. But she remains calm. The hand not around her violin case ghosts around his neck and her lips purse in curiosity. "That was my first kiss," Quon murmurs. "It was… a good kiss, I think."

He should correct her (she is wrong, she must be; he's always been too slow to be first at anything). He should say something. But he listens, instead.

And so by the time that Shitow and Kamina pass them in the hallway, he and Quon are a respectable distance apart. As Quon thanks him more formally for fixing her violin, something deeper than mischief pools behind her eyes; she is less the vestal maiden that Itsuki seems to insist she is, he thinks.

Still, her eyes flit to Kamina as the boy laughs at something Shitow has said, and though it's just a quick look, with Quon he knows that the glance might as well be a written confession.

"Poor Sleeping Beauty," he murmurs – the other two have turned the corner and they are left behind, once more – and he tangles his fingers in Quon's long, wavy hair that is just about the colour of cotton candy. Pink is a ludicrous hair colour, he thinks, but it is beautiful, and so is she. "Prince Charming doesn't love you."

The fool.

But then, he thinks, catching Itsuki's eye as the scientist rounds the corner and freezes at the sight of them, neither do I.

. o .

(fairy tales are not for everyone, you know)

. o .

finis…

. o .

Sabe's Scribbles:

A Christmas story for Cendri that is actually on time! Inspired by insomnia, T.S. Eliot's "Sweeney among the Nightingales," written while reading Hunter S. Thompson, and while personally infatuated with an awkward, intense young man with dark, dark eyes. If any of that comes out in the 'fic, the poem's the only thing she asked for in the above list.

Disclaimer: The characters and setting belong to the series RahXephon, which certainly does not belong to a poor Uni student like me. But if you enjoyed the tale, feedback is always welcomed!