I do believe this marks the very first time I have ever cautiously stepped into someone else's ficverse. Everyone, crash positions. (puts on helmet and goggles.)
This actually ended up as an entry for Ghost of the Dawn's Samurai Reflections 2007 fic contest. I had originally planned on entering to try and score one of the prizes, a doujinshi anthology that I've since procured by other means (wickedly clever other means, in my own opinion, but unfortunately I needed to be looped to hell on medication in order to be so clever, and that is a much more ridiculous story that you will not get to hear.)
But even though I already had the doujin I wanted, I absolutely couldn't pass up a chance to enter the contest, especially because I'd actually been wanting to write something like this ever since I read Ghost's "Demons in the Doorway, Monsters Down The Hall" (and may I add, not now or ever will I be able to come up with a story title as cool as that one.) For those readers familiar with the DitD universe, this takes place somewhere in the middle of chapter five, "Magic Beneath The Moon". I would consider this the absolute least I could do for Ty for helping to show me the way back to Toyama last summer.
I mean it, everyone, if you're not in your safety harnesses, get in them. I have no idea where this is coming from or where it is going.
Walking on Water
A Ronin Warriors/Demons in the Doorway vignette by Firestar9mm
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Even all these years later, the mere thought of water made her throat constrict and her brain tighten with claustrophobia. She still remembered the pain in her arms as they reached back at an unnatural angle to scratch feebly at the iron grip that held her down; the burning acid languor in her muscles as her struggles weakened, hands fluttering like dying butterflies, unable to free herself from her tormentor. And the whole time the water, the water rushing in like a virus to fill every available space, to freeze, to choke. To kill.
The only time water ever seemed friendly to her was when she saw it reflected in Cye Mouri's eyes. She envied him those eyes, the ability to see a whole other world beneath the waves, while the water promised only death to her.
It wasn't the water she feared when she looked into those eyes…it was the hint of emotion she saw beneath their shining blue, like fish darting beneath waves, rippling and uncertain. Every so often it would bleed into his voice and she would see it flickering vaguely in his eyes, refusing to take full form, color but not shape. Something uncertain, something for her, and she was afraid—not of it, but of the desperate depth of feeling it evoked in her, the feeling of hardly daring to hope…
Robyn McCarthy closed her eyes, as if the lowering of lid and lash would shield her from everything that was trying to invade her vision and fill her mind with things she'd rather not think about, rising in her like the water, the dark, icy, unmerciful water.
The moon hung like a bright coin at the edge of the night, turning the beach she stood on to pale and shadow. The sand was warm beneath her bare feet, having trapped the heat of the earlier summer sun, but not as warm as the arm that was currently around her. She cuddled into it, hopeful and mistrustful all at once of its ability to shield her from the low-level dread that dogged her every waking moment.
Robyn's eyes opened and her gaze wandered out across the ocean, watching the waves bow to the shore. Sometimes her entire life felt like that, day rolling into dark day and crashing to the ground without any end in sight, comprised of the cold of night and the salt of tears.
As if sensing her thoughts, the young man at her side drew her attention from her own brooding to the thing he always tried to lift her to—the light.
"It does look like magic, doesn't it?" Cye asked softly, his eyes on the ocean that shared their color, the moon highlighting his rusty hair with hints of flame. "The path of the moon on the water."
Despite herself, Robyn smiled as the night breeze made her skin prickle, mixing into the warm echoes of the dead day all around her.
"Remember?" Cye reminisced. "I used to think we could walk on it. We just didn't know the magic words." As he spoke, he slid his hand from her shoulder, down her arm, his fingers twining through hers. Slowly, he wandered closer to the water, leading her gently along.
Immediately, Robin dug her bare heels into the damp sand, using her slight weight as best she could against him, not to fight, just not to go. "I'm tired. Let's go back," she suggested, something thin creeping into her voice. He knew how she felt about water, and after what had happened today she was shocked he'd even suggest going near it.
Her blood seemed to chill in her veins as she remembered the cold grip of the ocean around her that afternoon as the waves had stolen her from her friends and tried to shove her down into the dark. But now, just as before, Cye was pulling her up, back to the light, away from the memory, away from the fear. He held her in place effortlessly with one strong hand, keeping her moored to him as surely as a buoy held a ship. His smile was sweet and secret, the one he saved only for her, flashed in the dark of night or in the moments when the others weren't watching. The smile that she remembered from a shared past but kept inviting her into a shared future.
"Let's walk on it, Robyn," he entreated, a note of excitement coloring a voice that had fallen to just above a whisper. "Maybe tonight we'll figure out the magic words."
Instead of smiling back, Robyn tore her hand from his grip and physically turned from him. The beach was there to greet her, pale and empty, looking as cold and lonely as the surface of the moon. In the stillness between passing breezes, the pain in her own voice shocked her even after all this time, the volume of her hurt startling them both. "There is no magic, Cye."
Even when she closed her eyes, she could sense him behind her, long years of being attuned to him painting a picture on the backs of her eyelids—Cye standing patiently beyond her, shirt open to frame his chest, the loose fabric fluttering behind him in the breeze like a wounded ghost. Waiting for the moment when she would inevitably turn back to him.
Had it not been for the lingering scent of cologne on his skin, she mightn't have been able to tell the difference between the caress of the breeze and his favorite embrace, his cheek rubbing against hers as he hooked his chin over her shoulder. Once more his hands found hers, fingers fitting into hers and turning, a puzzle she'd never solve.
"Come with me, Robyn," he whispered against her ear, as seductive as the serpent must have been in Paradise, large hands tightening around her small ones, never pulling her, his gentle voice moving her more than any physical action.
Not then or ever would she know what bound her in its spell that night, dropping her guard and sending her drifting along with him to the water's edge. They walked hand in hand and she thought idly that holding hands was a touch that never changed as one grew up; it remained comforting and the same for children as it did to adults. With the moon at his back, Cye was little more than a silhouette against the bright-tipped ocean as it rolled in behind him, sound wrapped in motion. For one second it was shining and beautiful, starlight trapped in the curl of the surf, but then everything crashed to the ground once more, shocking Robyn with sharp iciness as the sand around their feet flooded.
Robyn hissed, dancing backwards, only anchored by Cye's hands. He chuckled at her discomfort as she orbited around him, trying to avoid the chill spray, held to him by the gravity of his grip. Making the decision for her, he stepped backwards, the water wicking up his pants as he got further in.
"No," Robyn said, stopping.
"I've got you," he said, his hands strong over hers. "It's okay."
There was something about him that she couldn't refuse, not since they'd been children, and not now. Hesitantly, she followed him, her skin numbing in the freezing water that swirled around them both. Their clothes clung wet and heavy to them as the ocean climbed their bodies. Eventually, Robyn's toes scratched for purchase on the wet sand, her hands gripping Cye's tightly.
"I can't, I can't touch the bottom," she gasped, her chin lifting as she tried to keep her head above water, voice high and reedy with panic.
Instead of stopping and leading her back to shore, Cye continued to drift further out, his feet still steady on the sand due to his height. Robyn couldn't remember when Cye had started towering over her—one day she'd just stopped growing, and he'd kept on until she had to raise almost painfully on her toes to kiss his cheek.
Now she couldn't reach the sand at all; water lapped at her face as she flailed in fear. "Cye!" she sputtered, and then he finally pulled at her, drawing her against his body and dropping her hands so his arms could lock around her.
"Gotcha," he breathed against her ear. "You're safe."
Unable to get over the panic that rose in her like high tide, Robyn clung to him like a child, her knees pressing against his sides, arms winding around his neck, breathing in loud ragged gasps of salty air. Their lips actually brushed as she struggled to keep afloat. "I want to go back," she said thinly.
"Don't be afraid," Cye whispered, his breath warm on her skin. "Robyn. Relax."
Doing as he asked was a physical effort, but every lessening of tension in her muscles was balanced by a tightening of his embrace, her head staying well above water. The ocean tugged at her tail of fox-colored hair, which had been working loose and dropping to her shoulders; now it fell free, the water soaking it greedily. Bending her head, she pressed her cheek against Cye's shoulder, closing her eyes as she nuzzled into his neck. "Don't let me go."
"Never." His vocal chords vibrated warmly with conviction, a rumble Robyn could feel in their embrace. The absence of sight made it easier to feel the rhythms around her—the thump of the ocean blurring into the beat of his heart, the shivers that shook them both. Water blurred clothing and skin, carving his every muscle into high relief against her body.
The old hatred of water returned to Robyn, but instead of the cold panic that she was used to, this anger was bright and hot, tightening her chest with envy. Jealous of the water, of how close it got to touch Cye—it surrounded him, wrapped him in a tighter embrace than she could ever manage, beaded on his skin to kiss him everywhere. She tightened her hold on him, hoisting herself higher, as if to prove to the ocean that no matter how it called to Cye, he did not belong to it. He belonged to her.
Cye mistook the shift in her position and the constriction of her arms for fear. He leaned back slightly, letting gravity keep her secure against him. "I've got you, Robyn. I've got you."
"I know." Her lips dragged against his skin as she spoke. "Don't let go."
Cye's mouth brushed her ear. "Look."
At his urging, she lifted her head, eyes opening to take in their surroundings. The water sparkled bright and shining around them, the ocean a palette of light and shadows with them in the middle, directly in the path of the moon. Robyn felt the last tenseness in her muscles ebb away, her fear draining at the simple beauty she hadn't been receptive to before.
"It's beautiful," Robyn breathed, face tilted up to look at the haloed moon.
"Yes," Cye murmured against her ear, the closeness of his voice betraying that he wasn't looking at the moon at all. "Beautiful."
He let himself sink deeper into the water, submerging their shoulders. Robyn squeaked, nails digging into Cye's skin.
"No?" he chuckled. "Don't want to swim with me?"
"Don't," she said, trying to keep the fear from shaking her voice. "I'm in…I'm in too deep already."
Cye pressed his cheek against her ear, laughing softly. "Don't be afraid, Robyn."
"Just don't let go," she repeated.
"Never," Cye promised. "Ready to head in?"
Shivering shook Robyn in his arms as she nodded, reminding them both that it was late at night and they were out in the ocean, slowly being carried away with the receding tide. The usual relief that flooded Robyn's veins upon getting out of the water was borne on something she'd never expected—the slightest hint of disappointment.
The water made them both weightless, Cye following the path of the light back to shore with Robyn in his arms. Even when the water grew shallow and they both knew she could touch the sand, he kept a tight hold on her until they were back on the cool dry shore. Even after he let her down, his fingers trailed down her arm until they found her hand again.
The cabin's sleeping occupants were never in danger of being disturbed by the two as they returned; a spoken word would have broken the spell. Damp footprints through the tiled kitchen were the only evidence that they'd been out; the only communication between them were shared smiles as he walked her almost shyly back to her bed. She smiled at him, leaning her cheek against the doorjamb, as self-conscious as a first date.
"Don't sleep in those clothes," Cye advised in a whisper. "Wait here. I'll bring you a towel for your hair."
After changing into dry clothes, Robyn sat on the edge of her bed and closed her eyes, the better to feel the chill still caught in her skin, doing her best to commit everything to memory.
Her reverie was interrupted by a soft knock at the closed door, followed by the rough feel of an old towel against her skin; Cye had returned and was wrapping it around her to banish the cold. She giggled as he rubbed her hair playfully, more to tease than to actually dry her off. Robyn tried to turn the tables with her best weapon—cricking her fingers into hooks, she tickled his ribs, doing her best not to laugh out loud and wake someone.
"Well," Cye whispered when their quiet laughter had died down. "Good night." But he didn't get up, didn't look away.
Robyn couldn't help but smile at him, tossing one end of the towel clumsily around his shoulders, pulling him as close as she could to share the warmth.
The moonlight slanting through the window stood silent guard as they sat cuddled together, shivering passing between them like electricity.
(pulls off helmet and glances around, motor oil smudged across her cheek) If that was a crash landing, I want a roll call—is everyone all right?
So there you have it. I'd actually wanted for a bit to write something for these two—I'd drawn them a few times for the art challenge, but never written anything. That ends here; I do believe this is one of the few canon/OC pairings I actually find sweet. (See, even I'm not made of stone.) I'd forgotten about it for a while after the contest ended but when I was transferring files to the new laptop I found it and didn't see any harm in putting it up. Call it an experiment.
Ty: should you see this, even though you've read it already, please forgive the creative licensing and any glaring errors that might have occurred; I take full responsibility for injuries incurred while reading this scene. (chuckles.) Bloody good fun, though.