Summary: Tokens and trophies and friends.
Disclaimer: Rysher & Co. have owned this for a decade now. Although Amanda would steal it from them.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Celli, Mary, Shadow, Jen, Kaj, Val, and Em for beta/editorial work, and convincing me it didn't suck; as well as soundingsea and anyone from the Remix Lounge who I've forgotten!
A remix of Djinn by carenejeans, written for the RemixRedux 2008.
Djinn (Touch Stone Remix)
Warmth filled the room like the smell of the food Duncan had cooked, soaking into Amanda's pores, blood-temperature, soft on her skin. The sharp light reflecting off the snow outside was tempered by the glow of the hearth. Lambskin under her knees, the taste of chocolate and honey and caviar still on her tongue; the sizzle-whisper of snowfall outside, the crackle of the fire the only other sound. On another night, she would have simply luxuriated in the comforts of Duncan's cabin, felt the satisfaction of a full stomach and safety from the cold; teased and cajoled him into bed, told stories that were all lies, planned adventures for when she left him again. But this night was a night for satiating other needs, feeding something deeper than skin-hunger and the wish for shelter from winter storms.
He never asked how she hid the jewels in his own cabin. He didn't find them, or go looking for them when she was gone; she would have been able to tell. Her treasures were always undisturbed when she retrieved them from their hidey-holes. To Duncan, they were hers, and it would never occur to him to pry into her secrets. Treasures hidden in a sanctuary on Holy Ground guarded by a tribal chieftain of honor; what could be safer? Foolish. Sweet. Honest. Duncan.
Now Duncan sat nearby on the hearth rug, an arm's length away, lean and still, wearing only his jeans, dark eyes steady as Amanda began, a silent witness to her ritual. She never needed to look at him to know he wouldn't glance away from her careful progress through her boxes and cases and bags. Before Duncan, she'd done this alone. Once a century, perhaps. It gained an extra measure of solace to have him there as she examined her jewels, with an added layer of consolation because he never asked her why.
Rebecca's crystal, a gift wholly of love, was taken off first. It had no place with her other prizes, earned and taken. Duncan could be trusted to always keep it safe in his grasp while she donned the spoils of memory.
Clothes were shed and kicked aside quickly, the heat of the fire enough for comfort, the isolation of the cabin enough for security. It would take as long as it had to, to hear all the voices of the past. As intense as a Quickening, but more intimate; nothing of the Immortal present, just Amanda to answer the call of the gems. All of her skills, her talents, her cleverness, her charms, her quickness, her nimbleness, her blood, her life often-times, had gone into these. Her prides and her joys.
The memories were at her fingertips now. The coolness of ivory, encircling her arms like the touch of a partner in a cotillion. The smooth slick kiss of gold, dangling down her back, tracing her spine. Steadiness of rings weighing against her fingers, giving heft to her movements. Combs of enamel and emerald, lifting up her hair and holding it away from her face. Anklets that sang of silver dances in the moonlight, wristbands that concealed ebony knives.
Sometimes words spilled out of Amanda on these nights, without thought or planning. Duncan never commented on what she revealed, but his unwavering attention drank up the truth and the lies and kept her from going under.
The filigree diamond tiara that Juan Pedro had laughingly perched on her head as the sun set in Barcelona, with mandolins playing in the rose garden below. The carved jade bracelet, plundered from a pirate in Singapore who'd never missed it when she darted away one dark night. Gold rings from a gypsy she'd helped hide from the Nazis, who'd gone on to America and never returned for her share. Truth to those stories, old friends that warmed her, tales of love and satisfaction and hope that endured.
The dark pearl heavy in her palms, the one that she'd stolen from a Japanese samurai whose wife had been sick with jealousy at his plans to bestow it on his mistress. The ruby choker a Russian aristocrat had thrown at her before storming off to war. The star sapphire she'd been buried with after the rancher in South Africa had shot her, not knowing she'd still clutched it in her hand. Lies here, re-casting the mistakes she'd made and didn't deny to herself, but which remained too chilling to openly give them voice.
Duncan believed her sometimes, but other times Amanda was relieved to see the tilt of a brow, the purse of a lip, to know that he wasn't taken in by her tales. Eventually his reactions would fade into the shadows again, become only a backdrop for what she saw in the jewels' sparkle and felt at their touch.
Tamara's pearl necklace, left as a bequest after the singer died too young, slipping over Amanda's fingers like her hair had moved under Amanda's comb. The butterfly topaz clasp she'd found in the ruins of Polly's home after she disappeared during the bombing of London. Michael's ring, a black opal from Honduras, the only remnant left after his ship was lost at sea.
No stories there. Everyone leaves, everything dies, only pretty stones and Immortals survive. The embrace of the necklace, the kiss of the ring, the pull of the clasp, all holding her like the people long gone to ashes and ivory. With Duncan there as guardian, she could more wholly give herself to the memories, without fear of interruption or remorse. No children, no monuments, no names that were hers to claim. No edifices, no cities glowing, no nations shaped by her hands. No stories known to anyone else, anyone still alive, of how smart she'd been, or how brave, or how well she'd lied when she'd needed to. Everything she'd taken, forgotten. Everything she'd earned, erased. But there were the jewels. Always. Tokens and trophies and friends.
When the weight of them encased her in all of their meaning, she would turn to Duncan, as if to say, do you see? The care with which he treated her hinted that he did. He gave her a cave to hide in with her baubles, like Marguerite, a space of comfort with the icy world shut outside. Then he let her pull him to the silk sheets, acquiesced to her demands, smiled into her eyes as she made new memories wearing the glitter of the old. Woke the next morning, fed her warm stew, cosseted her and made much of her, until she could laugh again. He didn't need these observances. Not yet, maybe not ever. Even after four centuries the Sword of the MacLeods was always within him, and maybe being Duncan meant that his memories all faded when put beside that. Amanda knew she would always need something more.
In the morning she would roll up and squirrel away her baubles for next time (there will always be a next time) and they would leave his home, tromping out into the blanketing drifts and the bite of the wind, alive, alive, alive, memories absorbed again like snow melting into spring, and turn their faces up to the sun.