This is essentially unprecedented for me (as far as series go), so you'll have to excuse the FLAILING GLEE I'm currently experiencing.
[it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a fic in possession of another author's characters must be in want of a disclaimer.]
::Sally's (not-so-)immaculate conception::
"On what, oh great and powerful lord of the sea?" Her playful baiting is by now old hat, and merits only softly wry reproval. Sally beams at him, impish.
"What I'm going to give you."
"Oh? I wasn't aware you were planning to give me something. Apart from this scandalous summer sex romp, I mean." He slides her a devilish grin and traipses, naked, to the deck. She follows at a slower clip, stretching a thin sheet around her shoulders as her toes hit the aging wood. She lays her head comfortably against his shoulder and breathes him in, wild sea and sand and something electric-sweet, celestial and sublime and likely, she has to figure, a mark of his divinity.
"I'm going to give you the sea –a palace to rule and an empire to command at my side. I'll grant you eternal life and a throne of ocean pearl to sit upon by my side."
"…oh." She says, somewhat breathless. Poseidon turns to her with a poleaxed expression.
"You…don't sound thrilled."
"No, no. I am, I am. I was just expecting something a little less, um…ostentatious? Something I could wear in my hair maybe, or a lifetime supply of Poseidon Brand Bath Salts, not…not immortality and a kingdom." She tilts her face up to regard him, expression open and thoughtful. "I'm only…well, a little overwhelmed, is all. Not everyday a guy springs the 'let's literally live together forever' proposal on you."
"So you will…accept, then?" His eyes are electric in the darkness, fierce, ancient, and discerning. There is no man on heaven or earth (or that Olympus In-Between), she concludes, more beautiful than this one. She kisses him, slow and lingering and sweet. "That did not feel like affirmation." In the distance, she hears the sea churning, restless, ominous.
She takes a deep breath, bracing herself.
"It's too much to bear, my love. We mortals weren't meant for eternity as it is, and what you ask is waaaay more than I've got to offer. I can…I can only give you one lifetime, nothing more; to expect more of me would be cruel." She smiles, wistful, sad. "Holding a god in thrall's no easy business, anyway. You'd tire of me eventually—"
"I would never—" She lays one cool digit over his lips, the slightest hint of pressure, and Posiedon falls immediately silent at the behest of this infinitely fragile human woman. He marvels.
"I would tire of me eventually; I wasn't made for forever, and an obsessive love of Greco-Roman lore has taught me that you god-folk love strongly, passionately, and…and briefly." Sally falters, something breaking in the delicate furrow of her brow. He tucks her against him and huffs into her hair. "I've never harbored any illusions about us, Poseidon. I understand that the rules are a little different when you're immortal, invincible, and bored."
"Do you?" The tone of his voice is flat, faraway.
"I mean…obviously, I don't understand, not really; that'd be impossible. But I never fooled myself into thinking this'd be anything more than what it is –an absurd, incredible, unforgettable fling." Melancholy hews the musical lilt of her voice. "You have to be free to love as you choose, and I'm…" She quiets, breathing deeply. Then, with the same sad resolve in her eyes that, years from now, will flash with humbling certainty in their son's gaze when he, too, turns down the gift of eternal life, "I'm not willing to be the chain that binds you." Sally smiles past the tears that slip over her cheeks, soundless grief overlaid by quiet joy. "You can't tame the sea, Fish Breath. It simply isn't done."
The sudden insight her simple proclamation inspires is nigh epiphanic. He realizes why she can See things for what they really are, how she discerns truth regardless of its shape or consequence; she sees through the Mist because sees through all guises and pretense. There is no façade through which she cannot immediately penetrate, no reality too great for her to believe or endure. Sally Jackson is a woman of consummate sincerity and strength; peerless, invincible in her own right.
This time it is he who meets her for a kiss, tender and savage and bittersweet.
"You," he whispers, "you are a queen among women. The mortals don't deserve you. And, I suppose," he reflects, pulling away, "I don't, either." And then, before she has time to attempt to stop him, he kneels before her, fist to floor, in a position of fealty. She blinks down at him in stupefaction. "Let this be my oath to you now, Sally Jackson; you have the highest blessing of the gods, and my utmost esteem. When your time has come, I will greet you in the afterlife and plead your case personally for peace eternal." He lifts his eyes to regard her, and a sly smile worms its way onto his face. "I just so happen to know the guy who runs the place."
In lieu of being mortified or dumbfounded, Sally Jackson cocks a brow and a hand to her hip, wiping tears from her face and grinning,
"I bet you say that to all the mortal women you woo."
"I do not, however, make a habit of promising to erect palaces for these mortal women to live."
"Would that work, though, d'you think? The 'peace eternal' thing. As a line, I mean." Sally shoves her foot against his shoulder, knocking the Earthshaker flat on his butt.
Much later that evening, Poseidon pulls himself up onto an elbow, traces meandering shapes over moon-washed skin, lays absent kisses at the naked curve of Sally's hip, reverent and ravenous. He finds that he can't stop touching her, that he fears for when he inevitably must.
"I would be remiss, you realize, if I neglected now to reward you with something suitably extraordinary after you so boldly refused my generous, initial offer."
"Just leave the cash on the dresser," she mumbles sleepily, turning to curl into his warmth. He laughs at her bawdy insinuation and drags his hand lazily over her thigh, leaning to catch his teeth at her throat as her breath shallows.
"'Cash on the dresser,' hmm…? Does that mean in this scenario you'll be wearing pumps and fishnets?"
"Ha ha." She rejoins dryly, smacking him lightly against his bicep. And then, after a considerable pause he very much uses to his advantage, "Fishnets! Oh, I kill me…" Sally dissolves into hopeless giggling at his inadvertent pun, and he makes short work of truncating her laughter, his mouth working its way up the column of her throat to seal itself glibly over hers.
"Surely there is something you could ask of me; if it's within my power to give, Sally," his teeth close over her earlobe, and she arches against him with a breathless sigh, "then you'll have it. Only say the word and it's yours." Before he can wreak any more havoc against her senses, she slides her palm over his mouth, appraising him thoughtfully in the darkness.
"This is the twentieth century, your royal fishiness. These days you don't pay the women you sleep with unless…well, um…unless that's what they usually get paid for." Poseidon kisses her palm, plucks her hand away at the wrist, smiles fondly down at her.
"Think of my want to give you something as less a payment for services rendered than as a…mark of my favor." She snorts indelicately.
"That is a veeeery thin line you've drawn, Fish Breath."
"All the same." She sighs, exasperated, pulling herself still closer against him, hands tangled in the velveteen mess of his hair.
"If you insist on leaving me something—"
"Oh, I do."
"—then all I'd like is…a token, something to remember you by. Nothing fancy. Something ordinary, but something…meaningful. Something I can love forever and ever. Something I only have to look at to remember…everything, all of this, you."
In an instant, it all becomes resoundingly clear to him.
Apollo's obnoxious allusions to his oracle's premonitions ("Anyway, more recently, my mummy's been saying some very peculiar things about you, of all deities. Obviously, I'm not too clear on the details, but the mention of such arresting phrases as 'affection for the Curse of Man,' 'highly and explicitly forbidden,' and 'impending catastrophe' got me to thinking --you haven't got a new squeeze, have you?"), Aphrodite's untoward interrogation ("I made no mention of The Pact because I hadn't realized it was…relevant. The only thing explicitly outlined as 'against the rules' regarding your dalliances was…the gift of progeny, if I recall?"), and her equally, appallingly deliberate insinuation ("Besides, the young Miss Jackson is far too young for the challenges of motherhood.") –he knows precisely what he's going to give her.
Zeus and Hades are going to be pissed.
"I've got just the thing," he tells her gingerly, laying his hand flat against her stomach and kissing her, hungry and urgent and demanding. "It's the one thing I promised my brothers I'd never give another mortal woman." She goggles up at him. "But my nephew appears convinced that I'm destined to break that promise. For you." Before she has time to press him for more information, his lips are pressing into the soft flesh of her abdomen, a lingering, chaste kiss that makes her hum to her toes.
And then her belly starts to glow, a soft, seafoam green.
Sally startles and gapes at him. Poseidon awards her a brilliantly smug smile.
"Did you just—" He lays his fingers against her lips, abruptly silencing her.
"You mustn't speak of it. It is my gift and my blessing to you, Sally Jackson, my promise that you will be the only woman for me for the remainder of your mortal life."
"Except your wife." She dutifully hastens to remind him. He clears his throat.
"…right, except her. Obviously."
Sally's lips fall tenderly at his cheek. Her eyes are wet with unshed tears when she whispers her gratitude, and it is a moment he swears never, ever to forget.
Many shout-outs to canon in this chapter; extra love to those of you who catch all the references.
Really and truly, thanks so much for all your kickass reviews. Made this whole fic worth writing. ^_^
Ciao, love muffins~