Carefully Constructed Kisses

by Thyme In Her Eyes

For TheMadPuppy, with love.

Author's Note: I'm back, and with yet another Steerpike/Fuchsia-centric piece based on the BBC miniseries of Gormenghast (and God forgive me for the fluff), so purists beware. This is set firmly during the last episode when the pair are seeing each other in secret, and has a strong AU feel to it. And just to disclaim, Mervyn Peake owns everything. Now enjoy, and keep in mind that all feedback is deeply appreciated.

-- CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED KISSES --

Once, he tried to steal a kiss from her in the rain.

It had been many years ago. But even now Steerpike still remembered the moment, and could still taste the fresh rainwater on his lips as he leaned in closer to her. Fuchsia's face had been tilted up towards the rainfall, her throat flashing as she arched, her smile full of freedom and abandon as she reveled in the sudden downpour. Her eyes had squeezed shut in sudden delight, and he had never felt more alive. In spite of himself, standing near her and absorbing her nonsense rhymes and childish laughter, he'd felt surrounded by something unfamiliar, but not unwelcome. Something began to reveal itself. In her being and her dreams he saw a world which did not exist, and which he could never belong in, but which seemed to invite him regardless. And for the briefest moment, he experienced the feeling of all lies, eloquence and pretenses sliding away, unneeded and useless. Remembering that made him smile and seethe.

He still thought of what had almost been, and still saw the look on her face as she listened to him, fascinated by his words, and he still recalled how quickly she forgot them, and how he hadn't cared. The moment had belonged to them alone, and he could still almost taste everything that had never been. All he had done was allow a smile to play on his lips as he fell into silence and began to inch closer, eyes intent on her, and it was nothing to do with deception, cunning, or a chill seduction planned and crafted with his usual glacial precision. It was about being alive, alone and under the rain with the Lady Fuchsia, lost in freefall and liking it.

It was about how he had wanted that kiss regardless of all consequences.

It had been an impulse, maybe a foolish one. Perhaps he was lucky she hadn't noticed. But he had been younger and wilder, his confidence limitless, and he had thrived on taking risks. They had been so alone, the air between them so vivid and electric, the want so piercing, and it was an opportunity he couldn't afford to let pass him by.

If she hadn't broken away from him when she had, and had never thrown herself away from the protective cover of looming rock-faces and tree-branches and out into the rain to dance and spin under it, then he would have taken that first kiss. And she might have hated him for it. He might have ruined everything, might've set himself back by years in terms of trust. But for all of that moment, he had utterly forgotten.

It was a thrill and a gamble, because the Lady Fuchsia was nothing if not unpredictable, but it had been more. He hadn't wanted to be patient, and it wasn't hope alone that made him believe she would respond. He had been brave, strong and certain. There would always be moments when he would freely choose to leap from the summit of the waterfall to reach the treasure in the pool far below, most especially with her.

It hadn't mattered if she was ready or not, or what her response might have been. If she was panicked, fearful, or outraged, he could have faced it and transformed it. He hadn't cared for the risk. He was fearless – if he fell from her favour, then he would learn and climb and claw his way up and into it once more, and find another way to put her into checkmate. He could not be hurt or defeated. His cleverness could have set things right easily, and found a way to make her his own, and make her want to kiss him back. He could make it happen. He'd believed in himself and in his ability to recover from any setback or miscalculation and still pursue her; unashamed and unapologetic. He could defy the odds, and everything else.

What mattered was seizing that moment. After all, she adored his energy and spontaneity. He teased her with it, and himself. If it wasn't the right moment, he had the power and charisma to make it the right moment.

And he'd almost had it. They had been mere breaths apart, and he could have kissed her for the first time – and certainly not the last – out in the woods and under fresh falling rain. The memory became valuable to him. He would have stolen a kiss, claimed the Lady Fuchsia, and captured that crowning moment out in the wet and cold, surrounded by the scent of a forest that belonged to no-one.

Years had passed since that overcast day, and he had yet to take that kiss.

Time had taught him many things, and some lessons had been hard and painful. Now Steerpike no longer believed in affording to be reckless, or in his own ability to recover from anything. He had since tasted the fire and now carried its mark on him, inside him, and with him everywhere. He had learned the true cost of carelessness; of letting personal pleasure get in the way of cold purpose and absolute objectivity. However, with the Lady Fuchsia, it was still so easy to forget.

Once, it had been a sort of game. Now, he couldn't afford a single slip or misstep, and failure was unthinkable. Now the idea of rejection was utterly and unacceptably final.

And so, he thought ahead and planned everything with meticulous care and craft. After so many secret meetings, he was waiting for this moment and avidly preparing for it. Nothing went unplanned or unconsidered, and no detail was beneath his notice. His talent for improvisation was still his finest weapon, and yet he still laboured to carve and shape every part of the evening before their meeting took place. He rehearsed his words, anticipated her myriad possible responses, carefully considered when to steadily move closer and take her hand in his own. He focused his energies and talents and commanded all his artistry and versatility to enable him to school every one of his actions as he tried to mould them into perfection, into her favourite dreams made real.

Nothing would be gambled or left to chance – not this time. A part of him didn't want to trick or trap her, or win her through guile alone, but he knew of no other way. He soured while thinking of it, and longed for the life and colour she brought.

Too many of the moments he had stolen with her were imperfect. Fatally flawed. Although he would never admit defeat, there had been no right time for them – something, some stupid mistake, an action too bold or a word too subtle, never failed to destroy the atmosphere he took such pains to construct. In the past, something had always fouled his scenarios, spoiled everything, and denied him what he wanted. So many years had been wasted, but no more.

This would be the right time, the perfect moment, their secret night. Tonight, she would trust him. Nothing would go wrong, for there would be no slip-ups or miscalculations tonight. He would see to it, as he had seen to everything. There was so much to be gained and won – her, best of all. At last, he could satisfy a portion of his hunger and need, seize everything, and never let go.

Tonight, he would charm and impress her. He would warm her to him once and for all, and make her see. And as the night deepened and the lights dimmed, he would offer her many things and she would accept them. She would smile, unafraid.

It had to be perfect, the moment when he finally kissed her. Steerpike could not afford it to be anything less. It had to be everything – everything she had dreamed of and ached for, but had never been given. It would be a dark dream; his as much as hers. It had to close her eyes and unveil her, and destroy what remained of her hesitance and resistance. It had to excite and consume her, had to ensure that she would respond and surrender, that she would make herself his and realize at last how much she needed him, how she loved and wanted him, and how his scarred face and base birth no longer mattered. The kiss had to persuade her, enchain her, enchant her. When his mouth touched hers, she would forget her family, the castle laws, and her station as the sister of an Earl. They would be tangled together, hopelessly and irreversibly. Their kiss had to take them both far away from Gormenghast; away from her fears and doubts, away from the rage and bitterness boiling through him and barely suppressed, and soaring away from both their loneliness and into somewhere new. It would be something different, and it would belong only to them. This time, he would choose the moment well, and would die before he failed.

He wanted it more than ever, yearned to seal everything between them so soundly. It would be better than walking on the rooftops, far and high above the world, looking down at everything laid before him. It would be better than being free.

When the perfectly-planned moment arrived, he would kiss her without fear. Without a hint of nervousness or anticipation.

With so much in mind, fermenting in him and swirling in violent confusion through his thoughts even as he suffocated and masked it all beneath perfect composure and charm, Steerpike found himself facing the one possibility he hadn't anticipated, and had never prepared for. The Lady Fuchsia was nothing if not unpredictable. She was vividly crimson, alive and real.

As he turned by a fraction to pour her a second glass of wine, Fuchsia surprised him as she shuffled closer, biting her childish under-lip, eyes wide with trepidation and tenderness. And, to his great shock, she very quickly raised her hands, took his ruined face between them, and impulsively inclined her face towards his; full of fear and courage. She effortlessly and carelessly devastated all his plans and perfection, and annihilated the flawless kiss he had agonized over, but made him forget it all for a single instant. Once more, he didn't care, and for a rare and short moment of vulnerability, he breathed her in and closed his eyes.

He could taste the rain again as she darted forward and pressed a soft, brief, terribly awkward and throughly burning kiss on his mouth.

-- FIN --