Disclaimer: Queen of Swords belongs to Paramount, not me.
Telling a story sure is hard when the only way the protagonist can be portrayed is as a dirty filthy whore.
So. Protagonist is a whore. Protagonist is more than a whore—protagonist is a whore bitch because not only is she fucking around, but she's fucking around on a good guy on his birthday with hisbestest friend in the world.
That last part is sarcasm. Because her accomplice in being a whore bitch is actually her man's worst enemy. And he's also the hottest thing to hit the planet. That's Grisham's favorite phrase—about her. He's all physical, except for those moments when he is so profound and so intense, with some kind of metaphysical fire in his eyes, that she thinks she could love him.
Robert celebrates his birthday by telling her he loves her. She likes his good green eyes and kisses him enough to distract him from her non-response. Later, her accomplice tackles her into the shoreline and they fuck so hard the sand flies up and glows around them.Glows. She has no idea how or why or whether it means something.
Robert is a good man. He cares about people and takes care of them. He is above social class and wealth and political correctness. He is not above beauty, but she forgives him this fault. It's not so much of a fault, is it? Her man just wants a nice, quiet life with a pretty wife and some children and an easy supply of medicine.
Her accomplice is a different sort of man. Grisham only cares about some people but says he can't be bothered to take care of them. He is obsessed with wealth and hates social class and doesn't know what political correctness is. He is not above beauty and no one forgives him for it. He loves the way curses explode when they leave his lips—and he swears English has the best curses in the world—and has taught her a whole new vocabulary. He tries not to think about his future.
It should be an easy choice, but, see, Grisham is also the most unbelievable sex she's ever had and, despite all previous behavior, is only fucking her. He agreed to this "monogamy thing." He agreed to cut back on the drinking and fights less, too, although he sees no correlation. He knows just when to flash that quick, spice filled smile that makes her ache up in her throat and throb down low. Her accomplice has the most beautiful blue eyes she's ever seen and a way of whispering poetry into her thighs that makes her think she doesn't know him at all.
Her man talks about Beyond. Beyond Santa Helena. He brings up Dolores and Boyaca and ugly words like resistance and rebellion andindependence. Robert wants to change the world and she is just as selfish as Grisham because she does not want and has never wanted to change the world. She just wanted to make it up to Papa—the lies and deceit and neglect, she just wanted to make up for that. She got a hell of a lot more than that, but she'd never intended to and she has no plans to take it further than Santa Helena.
Her accomplice makes a joke one day while he lays her back on his desk and hikes up her dress. That it's the Queen versus the king in this civil war. He says she's winning because of her tits. She shoves him away and almost walks out because she hates that word and this war and this town and the mask. He begs forgiveness on his knees with his breath hot through her cotton dress and he wins again. They fuck in his bed this time and when they're lying still and sweaty and done, he tells her about a sunset on the Mississippi. Everything is "de oro, de oro, y rojo" and she finally realizes that he's two hundred years behind his time. It's okay; she points out his choice of words and lets him be her conquistador.
Her man can't take much more of Montoya. Or of anything in this town that is too little for his soul. His good, honest, bright soul. She is awhore. He's repaid his debt to the commandante—Robert still keeps his secrets and allows her to keep hers—and now he can go to Monterey. Los Angeles. Santa Barbara. The Yucatan. Peru. Colombia. He wants Colombia and he wants her to come with him. He won't say as what, but she knows. As the icon of the resistance. Proponent of their civil war. Regal Queen opposing Ferdinand's imbecilic commands.
In Colombia, there are no accomplices. And Robert doesn't know that she likes spontaneity and fun when it comes to sex. That she feels addicted to eyeliner and needs just one nibble of chocolate every day. That she almost got a Chumash tattoo and hid the temporary one—Pegasus in pale blue, flying from above her navel—for three weeks. That she loves belly dancing more than flamenco and thinks her lips are her best feature. What he knows is that she fights for truth and justice and the peasants' way of life and in his world, that extends all the way down to Colombia.
Grisham has heard the gossip. Demands to know if there's a ring. He goes crazy and knocks over a kerosene lamp. Half his apartment burns and he has to spend the night in the garrison. She's furious. She needs him tonight and the only private place in the garrison is the jail. They make do in the darkness with her back up against the bars and his moans vibrating in her collarbones.
Robert has dinner at her hacienda the next night and brings up Colombia again. She can feel her pulse in her wrist, hammering at the edge of the table. She can't leave her hacienda and her man knows this. Isn't it a moot point?
He wants to know who she's been sleeping with. Why. How it started. She has no intention of telling him that it started because she couldn't take her eyes off the angles in those eyes or his stagger-slash-swagger. Because she figured one good kiss would let that itch under her skin just fade out. Because one good kiss was a small, controllable indulgence.
It's not like she can say anything over his screaming and crying. He is so much less noble when he's bleeding his betrayal through nail marks in his palms. So much less noble when he's throwing curses and slurs and the name of every man in the territory at her. He loses steam, sobs, gives her an ultimatum. Come with him to Colombia, or stay for her fuck buddy.
She's heard that one before. Jeeringly, mockingly, just before her first blow job ever. She hates that one. It makes her cruel and whorish and vindictive enough to tell him the truth about her quest for "justice" and "right" and just how long she's been fuck buddies with that other man. Just how many ways they'vefucked. She throws names back at him: positions, places, all of Grisham's pet names.
Robert leaves at the end of the second day in silence and in darkness. Grisham sticks to protocol and ignores her presence. She wants some grand idiotic gesture to prove that being a whore bitch was worth it. He makes no such move and at the end of the fourth day she begs the same way he did the first time. With one good kiss and three English words. Fuck, fuck, fuck me, please and he laughs at her. He's still laughing with his head between her thighs, with his teeth at her mouth, with his fingers leaving bruises on her back.
He strolls his fingers from her lips to her neck, tapping her pulse point. He licks and speaks into her skin. Tells her she's his now. Marks her strongly, boldly, idiotically, to prove that being a whore bitch was worth it. She lets him, strokes his hair, watches him move to her breasts. He tells her he loves her tits. Robert always said he loved her. Grisham kisses to her hipbones and then back up. She makes him wait and look at her with those fiery blue eyes. Pushes him onto his back and kisses him softly, hovering over him.
He begs her. Pleads. Thrusts up and almost cries when she moves away. She rolls to the side and just stares at him; he stares back in angry silence, knows better than to push her. She talks at him, knows he's getting angrier but she's talking about his body so he can't complain. She tells him that his lines are beautiful. He has incredibly precise lines to his body, between his abs, along his arms, tracing the muscles of his thighs. Her hands find those lines, trace them up as she climbs on top of him again. He smiles, that spice-filled smile, and she lowers herself onto him, watches his mouth form that perfect O and his eyes hover shut. This is a moment where she loves, this moment where the clarity of his eyes makes her mute.
He cums quickly. No marathon today, not after she teased and tormented. She flutters down from her own climax and he's suddenly tender, gentle. Stroking her hair, the small of her back, feathering kisses on her neck. Calls her "baby" and finger fucks her to a third orgasm, precisely, silently. She is completely spent and almost asleep when he asks. He wants to know whether this means she chose him.
Silly, she mumbles, and even in her half-doze knows the damage she can do. It just means she didn't choose Robert. He's not the winner yet.
They sleep and fuck and sleep and fuck and in between go about their daily lives for nearly two months before she makes headway into her quest. Her purpose, before constantly reeking of sex became her priority. A sideways mention in a harvest-time ledger she'd borrowed from the Hidalgos. One valise, Alvarado property.
She needs that valise. Grisham knows something is up when she asks him how to break into the Hidalgo villa. They're playing Warden and Prisoner, but he's not so dense as to think it's part of the game. He tells her three ways to get in and gets rewarded for each one. When he offers to draw her a map, she drops the whip and her pants and decides to let the prisoner go free.
It's when he's holding her still on his lap to make sure she doesn't fall off the chair in her post-climactic haze that he asks for a why. Wants to know whether she's finally going to switch from stealing soldier's salaries to help the poor to robbing rich bastards to help the poor. And how come it'd never occurred to her that stealing tax money after it'd been collected only made the soldiers poorer, not the people richer? Does she have some sort of vendetta against soldiers?
She pushes off of him and doesn't even blush at the popping sound. One or more of his men had murdered her father so yes, maybe she does have some sort of vendetta. He looks blindsided for a long moment, then looks at the clock and figures that they have just enough time for a quickie, if she can help him get it up one more time.
It's only later, four nights later when she's picking at the latch of the broken window of the Hidalgo dining room, that she thinks of the expression on his face. The blankness. The blankness. Who goes blank when confronted with that? People flinch, they lower their eyes, they shrink in on themselves, they don't go blank. Unless they've been trained to. Unless they know not to show any emotion. Unless they've got something to hide.
And now she starts thinking. 1817. Grisham was in Santa Helena. Hell, he'd already made lieutenant. Maybe there was one last assignment to make it to the rank of Captain. Maybe it was just a routine firing squad sort of thing. Maybe he just barked the order; maybe he held the gun. Maybe he's trying to redeem himself by this weird, fucked up relationship they have. Maybe he's just some pervert who gets off on fucking his victim's daughter.
She's stupid, stupid, stupid. So stupid that she knocks over a glass vase in the hallway and wakes up half the household. She's got to run from musket fire like a thief, and within two days her reputation is shot to hell. He's a good comfort, letting her fuck him blindly, fumble around. Lingers on her loose, sloppy kisses, her too-harsh strokes, carefully maneuvers around the bandage on her thigh covering her flesh wound. She needs that from him. Consideration. So she can pretend doing this when she knows doesn't make her a dirty, filthy whore.
Hidalgo ups his security, as do the rest of the hacendados. She is forced to do the same, to overdo it. After all, she's single and helpless, all alone on her huge estate. She needs protecting. She also needs help in getting that valise, and when Grisham lines her spine with kisses and massages out the kinks in her neck he somehow convinces her to think that getting him to help retrieve the evidence for his own downfall would be cosmically ironic.
It takes three weeks to plan, mostly concentrated in the space of three days when Marta has to go tend to the ailing Rivera children. She and Grisham fuck in every room of the villa, on nearly every available surface and at every hour of the day. Sex in the kitchen at four in the morning, sex in the parlor at sunset, sex on the formal dining table—on the dining table—just before lunch. He overwrites every trace of Robert—of anyone—in the house. When they're not screwing each other, they're sleeping. And eating. And planning. And avoiding being seen by the random visitors she has. Vera shows up four times—twice in one day. On her first visit, Vera had happened to hear the bed pounding against the wall. On the third, Vera had heard a too-emphatic "Eat me" and needed double confirmation that she was actually conversing with a piece of cake and not a smug Grisham between her thighs.
Marta comes back and comments that she needs to stop wandering around in the dark and knocking furniture out of place. She nods and hugs her robe tighter over her still slightly bruised body, hopes he has the good sense not to box shirtless until the nail marks heal.
The next week they act. She goes to visit Vera and sitting in her friend's boudoir is somehow nice. It's a chance to relax, at last, in a feminine place that doesn't have his scent and sweat dripping from every niche, in a place without his drawl echoing off the walls, where she hasn't been kissed and groped and fucked and just plain ravished. Vera's an observant friend, notices right away, asks her what's on her mind. There's no way she can say blue eyes like cornflowers or sex poetry or ginger-bright smiles or that drawl. That drawl, that drawl, that fucking drawl that whispers "Baby" and bellows "Fire" at the exact same moment in her mind. And it's that fucking drawl coming down the hallway, hollering her name with just a hint of a slur to it. And there goes relaxation.
He bursts into the room and Vera shudders, looks at him like she wants to die. Who cares if Vera does, she does, because he's got his shirt mostly open and he hasn't healed up yet. He's tripping over his words, babbling senselessly, all of it along the lines of, "Baby, come back to me, baby, I can't be without you, baby, I need you, baby, baby, baby." He doesn't say the L word, but there's that fire in his eyes, that needwantgodgottahave that makes her shake.
She plays the part flawlessly. She's through with him, she's not going to change her mind, no, she doesn't need him, no, she doesn't want him, but in her head she's got to have him now because thatfire and that drawl and holy crap, the poetry in the way he moves around the room to her. And his lips, his lips, and when she pushes him away she sees that Vera is already backing out of the room.
Once the door closes he continues to beg and she continues to shout but he's showing her the thin leather portfolio tucked into the back of his waistband and she's unbuttoning his pants. Quickly, quickly now, but he's pushing her hands away, and he's right. Reward him when they get out. Which they almost don't do because Vera wants an explanation, answers, right away, but mostly wants to know had she lost her damn mind?
Yes. Completely gone. Tossed it over a cliff, in fact. Which, she supposes, means that she threw it away, didn't lose it.
When they are outside and off the property and really honestly truly out he grabs her hand and makes her run with him into the tall wild grasses, over to a stand of slowly living juniper. He scrambles up the most heavily gnarled one, holds out a hand for her and says something beautiful about sex in a tree.
She goes home with the portfolio and has dinner quietly, says nothing about the soft worn leather with the golden initials pressed into it. Marta, good sweet Marta, smiles at her, says she seems happier, kisses her forehead and goes to bed.
She waits three hours before she settles down with the portfolio. Then she waits twenty minutes to open it. And inside there is proof. Wrapped in browned cotton paper like it's ordinary. It takes incredible strength to pull the cotton away, to push through the paper, to assess. Twenty sheets. Four, standard ledger paper, filled with figures and four names: San Martin, Bolivar, Hidalgo, Alvarado. Four, some sort of ten-year plan listing intensions, assets, takeover plans, expectations, alliances, marriages, all down to the year.
Her own. 1822. Manuel Neron.
And all this shit about Gran Colombia. Land, gold, ships, workers, a fortune stockpiled in the new country. What was this? Why did her father own this?
Well, duh. Because her father was a rebel. Hence the money to and from Jose de San Martin. Bolivar. O'Higgins. Guerrero. Christ.
Eight pages to the ranks. The Royalists: Altagracia, Bonifacio, Santiago, Desiderio, Guevarez. The rebels: Villarreal, Aguilera, Esparto, Fonda, Neron, Rivera, Devante, Vidal. One page to the opportunist Montoya. Three pages to the betrayer.
She'd just sat in his house. She'd just had coffee with him. She'd just smiled and kissed his cheek before following Vera away.
It is four hours later when she wakes Gaspar up to his wash water and a swordpoint and tears streaming down her unmasked face. For water? She screams it out. Best friend and brother, both sold and executed for water?
He tries to say something infantile about honor and loyalty to Spain and devolves into sputtering about power and wealth and social stability and she just can't care. Her father died for water. The same shit she'd poured on Gaspar.
She's screaming and crying and then throws the pistol at Gaspar. Demands that he display all that wonderful honor he gained when he executed her father. He pleads. Tells her it was a committee decision. She knows all the names. Tells her it was done by Montoya's men. By Montoya's captain.
She sits down in a chair by the door and all she can think to do is tilt her head, gesture to the pistol and wait. He keeps trying to talk his way out of it, but she just sits, doesn't really listen, watches the glint of moonlight on the sword across her lap. She waits.
At 5, he picks the gun up. At 5:30, he pulls the trigger. At 5:31, she's out the window.
She heads straight to town, straight to those quarters with the memories pounded into every square inch, opens the unlocked door. He's sitting on his bed, in his newly clean uniform, with his hands on his knees. He's got his pistol in one hand, fingers wrapped around the barrel, and a gold ring in the other. He's looking at her with those beautiful blue eyes. He doesn't speak, doesn't drawl, doesn't move, just looks at her.
She wants him to speak. To try and talk his way out of it. To prove he's a coward. She wants him to smile, to swagger, to act like he's proud of what he did. She wants Grisham, not this honest hurting man waiting to die.
He moves slightly, raising his hands the barest inch and then lowering them to his knees again. He's begging her to choose, to get it over with. She steps in close, in between his legs, and for a second has the idea of dropping to her knees like everything is normal.
No. Bad idea.
He looks up at her and fucking hell, he's got tears in those beautiful blue eyes. But he's just waiting, just waiting.
She picks up the pistol. One bullet to his temple and it'll all be over. The mask, the sword, the anger, the hurt. She throws the pistol across the room. He doesn't smile as she picks up the ring. It's plain, thin, feminine. It's heavy and real. It'll fit perfectly on her ring finger. It'll make her life easy again. It'll let her let go of all that anger and pain. Embrace it and move on. She throws it over to the pistol.
He nods, closes his eyes for a moment, puts his palms on his knees. His head drops forward, forehead to the very top of her corset. Her throat stings and she runs her fingers through his hair, pulls his head back and kisses him. De oro, de oro, y rojo.
The next morning she wakes up late in clean white sheets. She breathes in, breathes out, runs her fingers over the embroidery on her sheets. There're still a few glowing embers in the fireplace. It's Saturday; outside there is a guitar being played, music floating into her window. It's warm and bright and the sun is gold and red and beautiful. The sky is bright and blue and there's a vase of cornflowers next to the window. Her letter is on its way to Jose Miguel Fernandez. She feels like smiling and dancing and being alive; she thinks it's wonderful to be home.