Summary: A guest visits Zoë and the Storyteller as Zoë recounts her adventures and how she arrived in the Storytime. April/Zoë.
AN: I noticed that out of all the Longest Journey fics, there are no April/Zoë stories! The horror! Well, I saw the connection between the two of them anyway, and April's fate broke my heart, so this is my take on the epilogue.
PS/"Fun Fact": I find it interesting that WATIcorp decided to name the program "Dreamtime." If I recall correctly, the Australian aboriginal belief is that the Dreamtime is a place where the ancient spirits lived and Creation began. Perhaps, considering the appearance of the Storyteller, Storytime is based on the Dreamtime.
Rating: M for rather explicit (yet hopefully tasteful) femslash.
The best stories are always told at night, in the quiet, by a blazing fire, the light from which accentuates the storyteller's features, providing emphasis and depth to their already soul-sprung emotions. And yet the words "listener" and "storyteller" constantly change their meaning; while at one moment, the old, wizened one may be sharing a story from his endless collection of memories with a young, eager listener, and yet in turn the listener may become the storyteller, sharing their new, as-yet-untold adventure with one who can add the tale to the never-ending thread spun of words and life. So it was that Zoë Castillo took this role at the campfire beneath the tree in the center of the Storytime. So it was that the old, wizened man leaned on his staff and listened as the young girl across the fire wove her story into the endless thread.
Even as Zoë told her story, she marveled at her surroundings. Despite the open, barren landscape of white stone and the blue-black, eternally night sky above her, she felt no chill even in her tank top and underwear, though the fire's warmth still enveloped her. She had no idea how long she'd been talking, or perhaps even where she was in her story; the story had simply overtaken her, pouring from her in an endless stream as she described every moment. Sitting cross-legged in front of the fire, she found herself drawing in the air with her fingertips to describe places and people, and even emotions.
When she came to her tale of how she had emerged from the cellar into the Journeyman and met Benrime, the first person she'd ever met in Arcadia, Zoë faltered for a moment, her hands hanging in midair. The Storyteller did not comment on her momentary lapse, but instead looked off to Zoë's right. Following his gaze, Zoë saw that a shadow was approaching – the shadow of a person, slowly making its way toward them. Zoë turned to the Storyteller curiously, her eyes expressing the question as to whether or not she should continue. The Storyteller nodded his assent, and Zoë took up her story where she'd left off, forgetting the shadow as the emotions of her tale overtook her again.
When Zoë recounted her capture, and how the first person she saw when her blindfold was removed was April Ryan, her voice wavered again, her heart aching for the beautiful, headstrong young woman. The intensity of her unexpected pain was such that she found herself momentarily gasping for breath, trying to subdue the waves of regret and loss that washed over her.
"I was so harsh to you then," came the soft voice from beside Zoë. Startled, she looked up to see April Ryan – the shadow that had been walking toward them from so far away. Did my story really take so long to tell? Zoë wondered briefly before focusing all her thoughts on April. Her pale blue eyes were as sad as they had been when the two had first met, but they were no longer filled with the worry Zoë had seen before. Instead, her gaze was peaceful and relieved, full of acceptance of her fate. Despite her life in Arcadia, she wore the same modern undergarments that Zoë did, also purely white in color. "It was such a shock," April continued as she sat down beside Zoë, "seeing someone else from Stark. I'd left that world behind so long ago, and then to see someone – someone looking for me, and knowing about my past…." April sighed. "I should've listened. I should've helped."
"You couldn't have known," Zoë whispered. "You wanted to forget your past, and I came in and intruded upon that. You had every right to not want to get involved, I see that now. And I see why." She paused. "But aren't you…I mean, didn't you…"
"…die?" April finished for her. "Yeah, that's what I thought. But if I'm here…." She looked around. "This is the Storytime, isn't it?" When both Zoë and the Storyteller nodded, April gave a sad smile. "I knew that there was no way I'd go back to Stark if I died. How strange that I should end up here, though." She turned to Zoë. "Does that mean that you're…?" She let her question trail off.
"I…I think I am," Zoë replied, frowning. "I'm not really sure."
"Perhaps if you were to continue your story?" the Storyteller suggested, finally sitting down opposite Zoë, and now April.
"Oh – yes," Zoë replied. She paused again before turning to April. "You'll…you're staying, right?" April smiled warmly at Zoë and nodded. Zoë nodded in turn and, taking and releasing a deep breath, continued her tale.
Even as Zoë reacted to her own story as she told it, so did April. At the mention of Charlie and the Fringe, she winced slightly, loss and memory briefly passing through her. Zoë unthinkingly ran her hand gently over April's as she recounted her conversation. April felt warmth in her touch that a fire never could give as she continued to listen to Zoë's adventure.
When Zoë got to the part about the DreamNet and Dreamcore, April gave a start. "The same thing is in Arcadia!" she exclaimed.
Zoë turned to her, confused. "What? How?"
"Well, after you left I went to investigate the Azadi tower…."
Soon April found herself telling her side of the story – of how she had followed the prophet through the strange gate (which, upon hearing this, Zoë explained was how she had entered the cellar of the Journeyman) and through the ruins until she had come across the chaos that she now knew really was thousands of dreaming minds. When she was done, she said to Zoë, "That's what the Guardian was talking about when he said that dreams could cross the Divide!" she said, realization dawning on her. "The same dream-chaos is in Stark, and that means it's in Arcadia too!"
"Guardian? What?" Zoë asked, baffled.
"Uh, maybe you should continue your story, up to when you got back into Arcadia, and then I can tell what happened in between."
Zoë nodded, and began telling of her escape from the facility. When she reached the part about being hooked back up to the Dreamer and Faith sending her back into Arcadia, April continued with the story of how she had gone to the Dark Library, reconnected with Crow, spoken to the White Dragon, and then visited the Guardian. When she came to the part about Brynn informing her of Zoë's imprisonment and her trek to the Friar's Keep, Zoë joined in, and the two took turns telling the story of the escape.
The girls became reluctant and slow in the telling of their argument, nearly stopping a few times as they looked at each other in shame. Both felt regret at their words and actions, and long moments of silence passed between them. Finally, as one, they clasped hands tightly in unspoken forgiveness before Zoë went on to tell of her airship flight with Brian and Crow.
When Zoë reached the part about seeing April on the dock, about seeing her fall, April's shoulders slumped. Zoë paused and turned to her, feeling her eyes well with tears, even though April was a tangible presence beside her. After a moment, Zoë wrapped one arm around April's shoulders, while guiding the girl's head to rest on her own. "I…I never did fear death…" April said, her breath warm against Zoë's neck. Zoë closed her eyes, reveling in the sensation of their close contact, even as her heart went out to the anguished girl. "I only feared what came beyond," April finished, sighing as she gratefully buried her face further into Zoë's neck. Zoë rubbed April's back soothingly as the young woman painfully recounted the events that had taken place on the pier, her voice slowly growing shakier as she continued.
"The blade came at me so fast I barely knew it had happened," April said, her voice a hoarse whisper. "The pain…it hit me just as I was falling into the water…." A single tear rolled down her cheek before she could stop it, and Zoë took her completely in her arms, holding her tightly as she stroked her back and hair. Eventually April's pain-ragged breathing returned to normal as Zoë held her close, and April was sure to kiss her cheek lightly as she pulled away, though she still held the other girl's hand tightly. Without another word, Zoë turned to the Storyteller, who had said nothing during the sad exchange, and took up her part of the story. April winced again at the mention of Chawan and Brynn, but Zoë squeezed her hand, reassuring April that she was there.
Zoë's voice held strong until she spoke of watching the doctor's recordings and learning about Faith. She was once again struck by how cruel the scientists at WATIcorp were that they would do such horrible things to a little girl. April let go of Zoë's hand and briefly rubbed her back before entwining their fingers again. Zoë took a deep breath and struggled through the story.
It wasn't long before it was April's turn to offer comfort, wrapping one arm around Zoë's shoulders as the young woman told of her vigil with Faith as the girl slipped away. Her heart too went out to the girl as she told of how she watched – how she sensed, as Faith's dream faded into light – what Dr. Chang – what her mother – was doing to her.
"I couldn't believe it…" Zoë said, her voice filling with anger and the hurt of betrayal all at the same time. "My mum…my own mother…and that dad hadn't told me at all…how he'd kept it a secret the whole time, making me think my mother was dead, and how I only found out through Faith – through my sister – that she was alive, and then only really understood the truth of it all when she betrayed me…when she…killed me."
April mimicked Zoë's earlier action by wrapping her arms around the distraught girl, kissing her forehead gently and sweetly before guiding her head to her lap, stroking her hair. Zoë held tightly to April's knee as she finished her story, taking comfort in the girl's light, reassuring caress. When she had finished, there was a long moment of silence as the Storyteller sat and thought and the girls recovered from their tale.
Zoë rolled over in April's lap, her liquid brown eyes staring up into ice-blue. April gave her a brief smile, unwittingly moving her hand to rest on Zoë's bare stomach, her thumb gently stroking her smooth skin. Zoë glanced down briefly, 'causing April to realize what she was doing. She was about to pull away when Zoë smiled shyly but warmly, covering April's hand with her own. April gave a full, genuine smile as she continued her caresses, watching as Zoë closed her eyes in content as she lay in April's lap.
"Your story explains much." The Storyteller's deep voice was like an echoing drum in the silence, causing April to pull back from Zoë as the other girl sat up straight, both of them blushing at their display of affection. "There is a reason, then, for the awakening of the Undreaming and the chaos it is causing in both worlds."
"I understand how you got to Arcadia now," April said, turning to smile yet again at Zoë. "You didn't Shift, but instead somehow used the dream connection to cross the divide. And the reason you could do it was because Faith was your sister, and she connected with you to bring you into the dreams."
"I…yeah, that makes sense…sort of…" Zoë agreed.
"Well, maybe not, but it's the most sense I can come up with," April admitted, and both girls smiled at each other.
"But…Faith said that the white lady – I'm guessing she must have meant the White Dragon, though I don't know how she got there…said that I saved you," Zoë said, frowning. "How did I save you, April? I mean, you…."
"I think you did save me," April replied. "From my confusion, and indecision, and fight to be someone for everybody else and always try to do the impossible 'cause I thought it was the right thing. I may be…well, I may not be in Arcadia or Stark any longer, but I'm not burdened by anything anymore."
"Unless we were somehow both wanted dead, and that was a strange definition of 'saving,'" Zoë said, frowning more deeply.
"I was trying to avoid that thought, but even if that were the case, you still did try to save me."
"I wasn't about to let you get hurt," Zoë mumbled. "I mean, I barely knew you, but I knew you were important for some reason…and then important to me," she added, blushing.
To Zoë's surprise, April blushed in turn. "As much as Chawan and Brynn thought they were convincing me to save you from Friar's Keep, I was ready to storm the front door without a second thought when I heard you were in trouble." Both girls smiled again, though this time with the shy tenderness of blossoming affection.
"I must go now," said the Storyteller, drawing the girls' attention as he got to his feet. "The fire is yours. As is your time here."
"But does that mean we're dead?" April asked, both she and Zoë getting to their feet.
"This is the Storytime," the Storyteller answered. "You just are." And with that, he vanished with the pop of a burning log.
The two girls looked at where he'd been, then each other. After a moment, they just shrugged and went to sit between the tree and the still-crackling fire. They were silent for a time, just staring into the flames as they contemplated their situation. It was April who spoke first.
"You know, I wish we had a –" She and Zoë both gave a little start as they found themselves suddenly sitting on a large, brown fur pelt that was distinctly Arcadian and surrounded by flannel blankets that were obviously Stark-like. The girls looked at each other and giggled – something they never thought they'd do again.
"This really is where everything is created, I guess," said April. Zoë giggled again and nodded her agreement as the two lay facing each other, stretching out on the warm fur. Almost unconsciously, they draped their arms around each other's waists and pressed their foreheads together, savoring each other's company.
Zoë closed her eyes and let out a long, contented sigh. The feel of April's slim fingertips tracing patterns on her lower back was something she never wanted to end, and the feel of the girl's smooth skin beneath her own fingers was something she never wanted to pull away from. It was she who moved first, ducking her head to softly brush her lips against April's. April responded in turn, pressing her lips back against Zoë's, closing her own eyes as she pulled the girl full against her, their bodies crushing together even as their lips did.
Their arms wrapped tightly but gently around each other, pressing each other closer as they kissed slowly and languidly. April pulled the hairband from Zoë's long tresses before entwining her fingers in the dark strands, bringing her head closer as she opened her mouth against the other girl's. Zoë eagerly matched April's advances, her tongue darting out to trace along the young woman's lips, pleading access. April's tongue clashed with hers an instant later, and the girls both let out soft moans of pleasure and need.
Zoë brought one hand around April's neck while the other slid beneath her white tank, lightly fingering the now-heated skin. April shivered in delight and broke away just long enough to gently yet quickly guide Zoë's tank over her head and down her arms before pulling back into the kiss, not yet exploring the treasure she'd uncovered but instead running her fingertips along the length of the girl's back. Zoë whimpered, finding herself unable to wait as she brought both hands beneath April's tank, cupping the girl's firm, full breasts, her hardening nipples grazing the centers of her palms. April let out a soft cry as she tore off her own tank top and pulled Zoë against her, both girls moaning as their breasts crushed together, nipples rubbing against each other.
April gently turned Zoë onto her back, lying partially atop her and kissing her lips lightly. Then she kissed her forehead, then her eyelids, then slowly kissed her way along the girl's cheek before nibbling her ear. Zoë bit her lip as she let out a high whimper, the feeling of April's teeth on her earlobe making her lightheaded with desire. With one last loving nip, April began a trail of kisses down Zoë's neck, every so often dragging the tip of her tongue along her creamy skin, causing the girl to shudder with want.
April dragged her lips along Zoë's collarbone, tongue skimming the hollow of her throat before she nuzzled her head against Zoë's breasts, her hands caressing the girl's sides. Zoë groaned and arched her back as April drew her hand up her stomach, tracing the girl's breast before massaging the generous flesh with her fingertips. At the same time, April kissed her way around Zoë's other breast before lightly kissing her nipple, causing the girl beneath her to let out an even louder cry as she pressed herself upwards, her body begging for April's lips against her skin. April complied, wrapping her lips around Zoë's nipple as she pinched the other between her fingertips, gently rolling it and tugging it as her hand danced across her skin. The wet fire of April's mouth suckling on Zoë sent tendrils of pleasure between her legs, and she was already starting to ache with the need for release. April, too, felt her own need building, and she straddled one of Zoë's thighs as she switched her hands and her mouth, licking once around the areola before taking Zoë's swollen nipple between her lips. The sensation of April's wetness seeping through her panties against her skin heightened Zoë's arousal tenfold, and the girl consciously pressed her thigh hard between April's legs, tensing and releasing her muscles against the girl's center to provide more friction. April let out a strangled moan as she instinctively thrust her hips forward, sucking more urgently on Zoë's nipple.
When April felt she was through, she kissed a path down Zoë's taut stomach as she lightly traced one hand up her inner thigh, eliciting a whimper of frustration and pleasure from the young woman beneath her. She drew her fingers along the edge of Zoë's panties once before slowly drawing them down her legs, lifting her own hips to make room. After tossing them away, April left one hand against Zoë's thigh as she kissed her way up the other, causing the girl to writhe in sweet agony. Zoë was letting out a steady series of whimpers, delirious with the pleasure April was unraveling within her. When April reached the apex of her thighs, she gently parted Zoë's folds with her fingertips and placed a sweet kiss directly on her clit.
Zoë nearly climaxed the moment April's lips met the sensitive bud, and she let out a loud cry as she bucked her hips upward. Unable to stand it, unable to wait any longer, Zoë pulled April back up and brought her in for a searing kiss, tasting traces of herself on the other girl's lips. Without hesitation, she reached over and dragged April's underwear down her legs, nearly ripping them in her hurry. April giggled slightly as she kicked the fabric away and then both girls moaned as they once again pressed together, their clits kissing even as they did.
Nearly desperate with the need for release – and the need to bring April to release – Zoë brought the other girl's leg around her waist as she dipped her hand between them, nipping at April's breasts as she rubbed the heel of her hand against her clit. April gasped and moaned loudly as Zoë bit at her nipples, circling her finger around April's entrance. Also feeling a need she couldn't even begin to describe or even comprehend, April shifted her body so she could position her hand between Zoë's legs, thumb pressing against her clit as she gently slid her finger into the girl's wet heat. Zoë's own hand stopped moving for a moment as she threw her head back, gasping for air as she felt herself clenching around April. She surged against April as she felt her long, slim finger hit her sweet spot, and she used her other hand to grasp April's shoulder tightly, burying her face into her neck. As April slid a second finger within her, Zoë responded by slipping two of her own fingers into April's core.
April nearly let out a full-pitched scream as she clung to Zoë. Somehow the girl had managed to brush her sweet spot on the first try, and the sudden jolt of pleasure left her shuddering in the young woman's arms. Without a word, the two girls began to move, thrusting their fingers in and out of each other as their bodies moved together.
Zoë could feel herself reaching her peak, and would have been lost in the wonder of it all had a single thought not plague her mind. "Is…oh God…is this real?" she gasped between thrusts. "Please…mm…please let this…be…oh, mm…be real!"
"This is…ah…the Storytime," April replied, struggling for breath as well, the feeling of their now-sweaty bodies coming together again and again sweetening her steady ascent to her climax. "It…mm, it just…it just is, ah!" She cried out as Zoë's fingers continuously rubbed her sweet spot. "It's…what…oh, it's what…whatever…we want it…to be!" She clutched Zoë tighter, bringing their lips together with fiery passion. "And this is what I want," April finished, voice somehow remaining steady.
"Me too," Zoë whimpered, lips still pressed against April's. "Oh…April!" she cried, inhaling sharply as she felt herself at the edge.
"Zoë!" April responded, right there with her as the two held onto each other. They hung on the precipice for a moment before tumbling into release.
Both girls screamed their climaxes as they came hard, overwhelmed by pleasure they hadn't thought possible. They were flying and falling at the same time, losing themselves in each other even as they kept each other from being lost. The fire illuminated their conjoined, undulating forms as waves of ecstasy poured over them, within them, and they could only hold as they continued to surge against one another, riding out their mutual release. After one last up-swell of pleasure, they collapsed against each other in a tangle of limbs, quivering with aftershocks.
It was with great reluctance that Zoë and April pulled their hands from one another, though both took great joy in tasting the essences that had poured around their fingers. Zoë clumsily grabbed one of the flannel blankets that had appeared beside the fur, drawing it up over her and April as they held each other, breathing deeply in an attempt to steady their rapid heartbeats.
Pulling the covers over their shoulders, April pressed her lips against Zoë's, running her fingers through her long, dark hair. "If this is where forever is, I could get used to it," she murmured against Zoë's lips.
Zoë chuckled. "I definitely could too." They were both silent for a moment. "Still, there's the Undreaming and that room of trapped dreams to worry about…"
"And the Dreamer and WATIcorp," April added. They looked at each other in bemusement when they realized that the troubles they'd each mentioned had been each others, and not the ones they'd each been originally pursuing.
"But that's in Stark and Arcadia, right?" Zoë asked, smiling wryly.
"Right," said April, matching her smile. "This just is."
"And we just are," Zoë murmured, drawing April close and into a kiss.
"We are," April said as they broke away briefly, only to begin their gentile kissing once more.
It was all they had in the Storytime – not the fire, not the tree, not even the landscape of the Storytime itself. All they had was each other – their own existence within that realm of beginning. For the time being, for them, it was all they could ever want.