Stars and Topsoil
by Thyme In Her Eyes
Author's Note: Yes, it's another Fuchsia/Steerpike piece, but for a change it's written in Steerpike's perspective this time. Also, his characterization is definitely closer to how he's portrayed in the BBC miniseries so that's where I'm setting it – sometime during the final episode, after Steerpike is burned and he and Fuchsia start seeing each other in secret, but before the red-room scene takes place. Enjoy!
-- STARS AND TOPSOIL --
His secret is out, though he'd sooner die than admit it. That Fuchsia should unearth it is a shame worth dying of in itself. It's the filth at the heart of the pearl, or possibly the reverse. It all depends on each day's particular project and mood and changes with each accomplishment and setback. But there's no room for setbacks or failure here, alone with the Lady Fuchsia and the immense breadth of her loneliness and longing.
A deep silence drifts down upon them, cushioning the pair in the soft hollows of candlelight and secrecy. Steerpike often allows this without a worry, aware of her many moods and kaleidoscopic nature, and her need for silence as much as companionship. Her irritation is so easily ignited and even now he would do well to tread carefully with her. Eager for a chance to spend some small portion of time crafting and polishing his next words for her, he lets the quietness settle comfortably. The glow of candles lull with unobtrusive intimacy.
He will not heap too much romance and desperation on her too soon, he warns himself – she's receptive, has been ever since fire burned away half his face and all her restrained feelings, but still far from ready, and he's wary of frightening her off with her still unsure of what to make of him. She's happier when close to him than she's ever been in her life, but a wrong word or a too-bold touch could ruin everything, and he's careful not to risk failing now with so small a distance left. This is so much less of a game than it used to be, and the stakes aren't as he'd imagined them seventeen years ago. Winning her is vital now, a need. But for the moment, she's pensive and subdued, her eyes wandering towards the ceiling and perhaps imagining a canopy of stars or remembering the forest, rain and decomposing leaves of so many years ago.
Steerpike's chance lies somewhere folded between the half-light, dreamy eyes and the sounds of her breathing, a noise never soft and delicate on the best of days, now magnified in the silence. He almost closes his eyes, almost tips his head back.
As the silence consumes, she ruins and uncovers him as she moves and shifts restlessly, crimson shoulders brushing his black edges, her vibrancy nudging at his cold vitality. Every thinkable desire is awakened and racing as her hair obscures most of her face and Fuchsia's eyes fix stubbornly on the stone floor after leaving the ceiling, only rarely and clumsily directing themselves at him. Her breath catches and he knows he's got her fluttering in his hand, prisoner to his words and insights; the truths living inside his lies. Dew-drops stringing faux-pearls on the threads of a spider's web.
In the pale light her eyes find his and her stare, bold and desperate at the same time, gives away everything and he sees a clear image of himself tangled in her thoughts and dreams. Her hair is still as thick and dead-black as ever, in spite of her attempts to manage it and give it beauty and style, but her skin issues soft invitations, rose engraved on cream. He wants to slice his icy hands between the two elements of her and pull her close to him, finally capturing the sensory anarchy he's thirsted for so long.
Her watery gaze scans and darts as her confidence and trust rises and retreats. He's already familiar with the motions of this internal dance as grains of nothing separate them, then oceans. And in those short and hushed minutes, for the first time Steerpike isn't isn't preoccupied with considering his next move, weighing variables, planning effective counters, and generally calculating how to take greatest advantage of the moment and all it chooses to unveil.
Instead, his breath grows shorter as he waits for her answer. Energy ignites in him like a star. And like a star, it grows and a potential for life gathers around it. For that one moment, he is hers and she knows it, and sees that it frightens him as much as her. Knowing that scathes at him, and he can barely forgive her.
Steerpike nuzzles comfortably against secrets and deceptions every night in his sleep, but this hidden truth is the only one to make him ashamed and powerless. It's easy to be honest with himself about anything but this. As always, he hates her with the most vicious bitterness when he loves her most.
The candle's light grows cold, and withers. So does he.
-- FIN --