"Bright"

A Stardust fanfic by Sandoz.

Disclaimer: The film belongs to Neil Gaiman, Matthew Vaughan, and Paramount Studios. No infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Written for Sonya for Yuletide 2007. Beta read by the very helpful Bewize.


Night had fallen in the kingdom of Stormhold. The skyboat sailed on without its captain at the helm, half-hidden by heavy clouds. Though Captain Shakespeare snored softly in his bed, dreaming of a bewitching, ruby-eyed Spaniard whom he had known when he was a much younger man, laughter could be heard behind the closed doors of his dressing room.

Tristan Thorne stood in front of the tri-fold mirror, his hands on his hips. Atop his head, a messy blonde wig spilled curls down his forehead and around his shoulders, giving him the appearance of a young lion.

He looked at his companion expectantly. "What do you think? Dashing?"

"Quite." Yvaine smiled wryly, pressing her hand over her much-desired heart. "I fear I may swoon." She sat on a sturdy oak chest, her long flaxen hair tied into a braid that she draped over one shoulder.

Tristan chuckled and returned the wig to its striped hatbox. Captain Shakespeare's wardrobe had been the source of much fascination and delight for the star and her keeper. Tristan had never seen such extravagant or colorful clothing in his life. From her heavenly perch Yvaine had glimpsed beautiful garments on countesses, kings, and even bawdy actresses on stage, but she had never been close enough to admire the intricacies of lace or run her fingers over silk.

There was much for Yvaine and Tristan to play with: bright wigs and colorful stockings; boots that laced up to the knees; chemises scented with rosewater; beaver-fur top hats; feather boas that tickled their necks; embroidered petticoats; tailcoats and cravats; gowns with long skirts and necklines that plunged perilously low; and a kimono from the Orient that rippled like water when Yvaine wrapped it around her slim frame.

Tristan sat down beside Yvaine. At her feet were two cups and a brown jug; Tristan picked it up and poured warm cider into each cup. He handed one to Yvaine, and they sipped in silence together. It was a spicy brew that made Yvaine's toes curl. Heat spread across Tristan's face; the drink was much stronger than the champagne he had drunk on a picnic that seemed to have happened to a different Tristan in a different lifetime. His eye caught Yvaine's and she smiled at him, a feeling of safety and contentment enveloping both of them.

In addition to his extensive wardrobe, Shakespeare possessed an impressive array of powders and face paint, not to mention perfumes with the scent of every flower that ever bloomed in Stormhold. Setting down her cup, Yvaine opened one of the Captain's makeup kits. She rubbed blackened fingers above Tristan's upper lip, giving him a dark greasepaint mustache. A shiver slid down his neck at her touch, though Yvaine's fingers were far from cold. Tristan glanced at the mirror and his trio of reflections, his face bright with amusement. He touched the greasepaint.

"It itches!"

Yvaine knit her brow. ‚ƆWhat does?"

Tristan turned around and Yvaine was taken by surprise. From the greasepaint sprouted hundreds of thick, black hairs; the lower half of Tristan's face was nearly lost under a bushy handlebar mustache.

Unable to hold back, Yvaine erupted into giggles. "Tristan!"

Tristan turned once more to the mirror. He pulled at the hairs on his face; they were firmly rooted. "I look like old Mr. Monday."

Yvaine regained her composure. "Who's Mr. Monday?"

"My boss at the shop. Well, not anymore. He's the father of a chap I went to school with." A shadow passed over Tristan's face as he babbled. "Humphrey."

Yvaine frowned. "Humphrey. What a dire name."

Tristan let out a sudden laugh. "Very right you are."

Yvaine dabbed her pinky finger in a white powder from the same makeup kit. She spread the powder across Tristan's mustache and within seconds the hairs had shed from his face. "Well, I'm glad you're talking about someone other than Victoria."

Tristan gazed down at the floor, ashamed. He had been thinking of Victoria. His thoughts about the shop or his "dire" schoolmate always led back to her.

Silence fell between them, as if Yvaine herself knew that saying Victoria's name had invoked her specter to come between them. Tristan stood up and rummaged through Shakespeare's wardrobe, searching for something to relieve the tension in the air.

"A-ha!" Tristan pulled out a fur coat and draped it over his shoulders. The coat was massive; it looked as if it had been skinned from an enormous red beast. It dragged behind Tristan as he took steps forward. He wagged his eyebrows at the star, hoping for a response.

Yvaine blinked. "You look like you"ve been eaten by a bear."

"Shall we fly to Antarctica?" he asked with a roguish smile. A few days ago, perhaps, such a smile would have looked ridiculous on his boyish face, but he had lost all his coltish awkwardness. Standing tall and draped in fur, Tristan Thorne looked like a captain; if he truly wanted to sail to the poles, she would follow him - even if he did look as though he had been swallowed by a bear.

"We'll find a polar bear and make you a coat to match," he continued.

Yvaine wrinkled her nose in distaste. There was an icy edge to her voice. "Comments like that suit you even worse than that ridiculous coat."

Tristan silently cursed himself. What an arse he was, talking about adventures. He had promises to fulfill, first to Victoria, and then -

'Damn,' he thought. He was suddenly angry at himself for thinking of Victoria. There had been a time when thoughts of her made him deliriously happy; now, remembering his affection for her--and his promise to bring her a star--stirred feelings of frustration.

He had meant to brighten Yvaine's spirits, but even his suggestion of flying to Antarctica had been an echo of his vow to venture to the South Pole and bring Victoria a polar bear's head as a token of his love. After everything he had seen and experienced, obtaining such a trophy would seem hollow, meaningless. He had changed so much, but he knew he would still be a simple, hopeless shop boy if he hadn't seen a falling star. And that star was sitting in front of him at that very moment.

Tristan's cheeks burned pink, though it was due to embarrassment rather than alcoholic cider. He was no longer playing the part of Captain Tristan, rogue pirate and ravisher of wenches; he was simply Tristan. "You're right. I don't think I should like killing an animal, not even a bear. Still not much of a hero, am I?"

Yvaine removed the ribbon from her hair and unraveled her braid with her fingers. Her hair fell loose around her face. "If you've come this far and think that killing bears is what makes one a hero, you're not very bright, are you?"

Tristan leaned in and brushed a lock of Yvaine's hair behind her ear. She looked at him, surprised by his closeness, and the anger seemed to vanish from her face. Her eyes were shining.

There was a pause, and then a tiny glimmer of a smile on Tristan's lips. "Well, fortunately you're bright enough for both of us."