Castles and Cathedrals Crumble
He'd like to say that she just appeared out of the mist one day. Because that's exactly how it happened.
One morning, she was just there. A ghost, ethereal, untouchable. But desired. Where she was concerned... He'd be lying if he said he didn't desire. He focused on the gentle sway of her hips, the daintiness of her bare feet, the swirl of her plain skirt. Her hair, bright blonde, curled around her face. And her eyes...
Her eyes burned through him.
She may have been in town a few days before he actually noticed her. When he did notice, he couldn't take his eyes off her. A few other woman hun around the decrepit town. All of whom were dirty, broken, lacking hope. All of whom whored themselves to the soldiers just for a few quick dollars. And he pitied them. But, she was not like them.
He stood outside of the tavern, a cigarette between his fingers, the burn of it down his throat strong and welcomed. The night was unbearably hot, and worse inside the rowdy tavern. And while he loved a good drink, he preferred the summer air outside.
She knelt before a young girl curled on the street, offering a piece of bread. The girl didn't take it, didn't move. Seeming to huff slightly, she left the bread and stood. He watched as she turned, saw him from the corner of her eyes, and moved away, disappearing into the humid darkness beyond the lamp light. He regarded the girl she had been trying to help with pity. If the girl didn't eat the bread, he knew, someone else would steal it.
It wasn't until later, peeling his uniform from the sticky body to lay down for rest, never sleep, that he realized he didn't know her. He had long since memorized all the faces of every civilian in town. There were only five other women, the bartender of the tavern, and a very shady old man who hung around too close to the soldiers.
Her. He would have recognized her. He would have imprinted her eyes, a dark mysterious blue, into his very soul.
He would be lying if he didn't admit that she was horrendously beautiful. Laying on his cot, he thought of her. Of the curve of her hips. Of the bare dirty pale expanse of her neck, the peaks of her collar bones visible over the neckline of her loose blouse. Of the way the darkness swallowed her. A ghost.
Silently, he berated himself. He was an idiot.
She made a ghost-like appearance a few nights later.
"The boys are louder than usual," he mumbled to himself, pushing open the door to the tavern.
He froze. She was there. He had looked all over town for her, hadn't found trace of her anywhere. But she was there, a tankard of beer, the cheap kind, in her hand. She drank deeply from it, unfazed by the soldiers who gathered around her and cheered.
She was beautifully silent, and were it not for the sparkle of her eyes, the flush of her cheeks, the way she wiped a stray drop of beer with the back of her hand, he really would have thought she was a ghost. She was too ethereal. Too dreamlike and fuzzy. A fairy, maybe. Only he had told himself that he had stopped seeing those a long time ago.
No one noticed him at the door way, too engrossed by this new woman. The novelty of her excited them. She wasn't as hopeless. Wasn't as weak. Wasn't as easy. She was beautiful, in a more classical way than the other women, with her long nose, and long legs and broader shoulders. She was not tiny. She was possibly even a challenge. And the threat of that was more exciting than anything.
She leaned against the bar, elbows resting on the beaten wood, her eyebrows narrowed in a way that clearly announced that she was thoroughly displeased. She flicked a lock of hair from her face, nursing her tankard. Her posture was too relaxed, and he found himself following the line of her neck. The roll of her shoulders. The curve of her back. And he had to stop himself there, traveling back up. To her pink lips, pursed in annoyance.
A solider, Russell, he reminded himself, swaggered up to her. His grin was too wide. A few of the other boys followed, flanking her as though to impede her escape. She didn't seem worried, taking another long swig from the tankard, ignoring the soldiers as they leered at her, tossing jokes about how well she would 'handle' back and forth, and he had to force his feet to stay where he was.
Who exactly did they think she was? One does not talk to fairy queens like that. But he stayed still because he wanted to know what she would do. How she would react. She didn't seem to mind at all, until they started touching her.
Russell's hand slid over her thigh. Teasingly, slowly, a smirk twisting his face. And he had to quickly squash the image of his own hand there instead of Russell's. His fingers traveled over the fabric of her skirt, around to touch the inside of her thigh, too high to be comfortable.
She turned then, the smile that played on her face thin and dangerous. "Fairy queen", he mused quietly, and felt a smirk of his own grow. Russell backed away when she leaned up the last few centimeters to his ear. "Je ne serais pas facilement manipulé." Whatever she said was lost on him, but his gaze was fixed on the arch of her mouth as it moved slowly. French, he realized.
He noticed her fist clench at her side, her chin turning up in a look of sheer defiance. And then her fist connected with his face, pushing him back from her, stunning the others until they froze. He froze. In awe of her power, of her fearlessness, of her firm honesty, of her breath taking beauty. In awe of the way her eyes flashed, as though daring others. In awe of the way she dug into her pocket, dragging out a few crumpled bills to toss them onto the bar. In awe of the way she stepped around the soldier on her left, bare feet and all. She brushed past him to leave.
Rather than stay and watch the others gape at the door, he ran out after her, searching the night for the swish of her skirt. For the light graceful footsteps. For the sway of her hips. For the flash of her hair in the dim lamplight. All sounds and scenes that he wanted to become familiar to him.
There was nothing. She was gone.
A ghost. A fairy queen returning to her sidhe. Too fantastic to possibly be real. Had he not returned to the surprised silence of the tavern, to Russell whimpering over his broken nose, he would have thought he had made it all up.
Afterwards, he could not help but think of her. Of the haughty curl of her lips. Of the way her shoulders tensed in anger. Of the way her face stilled for just a moment, endless need shining through the cracks in her eyes. She was beautiful. Too mystical for him to claim.
She could not be tamed. She could not be controlled. She could not be bent. And it made him want to give back the desire she openly displayed. Pained him more because he could not. He could not hope to attain her.
In his cot, alone, sweaty and sticky and too tired to sleep or rest, he thought of her. He cursed himself. Cursed his stupidity. But most of all he cursed her.
There was music coming from the tavern, mixed with laughter and singing. He imagined sounded like this originally. Before the war. Before the bombing. Before the soldiers and the spies and the Nazis and the prostitutes. Back when the town had been a happy country side place, the tavern at the center of its simplicity.
Someone found a fiddle. Someone else knew how to play. The rousing music had him tapping his feet by the time he got in. He didn't dance. Didn't even consider it. Instead he watched the others laugh, dancing away the war and the worries that would assault them as soon as they stepped outside the comfort of the tavern walls.
The women, girls really, which he hated reminding himself of, were dancing with other soldiers near the bar. Drunk, hopeless, dirty. Nothing but snake smiles and sultry glances, inviting whoever they could to their beds. For the warmth another body could provide? For the worthless money it got them? He didn't understand, so he tried not to think about it.
She was there. He turned from watching her, grabbing the beer that slid down the bar towards him, taking a quick gulp. She was there, dancing by herself. The music had roused her, he knew. Had drawn her out and towards this place to dance. To forget the war just like the others. She glanced up, noticed him watching. Her smile....
Her smile pierced right through him and made his face burn with embarrassment.
He sat at a table not too far from her, leaning casually against the wooden back of his chair, eyes drawn to her. It should have occurred to him that he shouldn't grow too attached. Shouldn't be so fascinated with her.
Her hair, curling and tousled, stuck to her forehead and the back of her neck with sweat. Her body flowed with each strum of the fiddle. She was more erotic than the other girls could ever be. More inviting, even though she tried to close off her eyes. More beautiful. More sensual.
The subtle movements of her hips. The solid, tangible grace of her working feet. Her flushed cheeks. The tongue that darted out to wet her pink parted lips. The pants of air that rasped from her as she moved. Her fingers twisted in her long skirt, dragging it higher to show off her dancing. Her grace, her speed. The dance itself was like an offering to god.
He considered dancing with her. Considered sliding his arm around her waist. Considered pulling her close until he could feel the heat of her through his uniform. Until their breaths mixed and he could look into her eyes and attempt to dive deeper. He considered getting up and asking the man playing the fiddle for a slower song, while holding out his hand to her.
As it was, he remained in his seat, the laughter of the men around him ringing in his ears. Was it okay that her body leaked eroticism? Her eyes remained closed, like she wasn't all there. She was somewhere else, dancing and freeing herself to a plane of higher being. And he wondered if in her mind, someone else was with her. He shouldn't be so enthralled by her. But it was impossible not to be.
Impossible not to be enthralled by her when her very eyes told him that she knew something he did not.
She left long before the soldiers were ready to leave, satisfied, sweeping her hair back from her face. She tossed him a glance over her shoulder, as though to ask if he was coming. As though to ask if he was interested, curious. Her blue eyes, as usual, burned through him in the most pleasurable way. Downing the rest of his beer, he got up to follow her into the small hours of the morning.
Mist drifted over the ground. He had to follow the shadow of her cast by the moon, nearly running to keep up. She wasn't trying to avoid him, and yet she grew farther and farther away. He stopped when he remembered the stories of will-o-wisps from his child hood, ghosts with lanterns that enchanted and led travelers to their death. He had to force himself onwards before he lost sight of her completely.
Distantly, he heard the crash of the river upstream, the lines of trees on the horizon just black shapes through the fog. He stopped again. He didn't see her anywhere. He was tempted to call for her, search through the mist until he found her. But she was gone. She would not answer.
Perhaps, she was a will-o-wisp who had taken pity on him, as a pathetic traveler.
"Where did you go?" He mumbled softly, turning to head back into town, certain that the fairy queen's escort was somewhere close by.
None but the river's roar answered him.
Morning dawned the way it always had. Bleak, pointless. He hadn't gotten any sleep. He had stayed awake all night, thinking of her. Of the way her skin would possibly glow under the full moon. Of her gentle, subtle, intelligent smile, daring him. Daring him to move and come closer and possibly touch her –
He leapt forward out of his dream as a hand touched his arm, smashing his head against the bunk above his. "Jesus christ!" He hissed, holding his forehead. He couldn't remember falling asleep. He couldn't remember the last time the blessing of sleep had graced his mind. The war kept him too wound up. Too alert.
"Captain Kirkland, sir, there's a radio message for you."
He nodded, pulling on his uniform jacket over his sweaty skin. Going through the motions of army life was tiring. Too many formalities. Too many mountains to sidestep. He wished... he wished he could find his fairy queen, leave the world and find her sidhe.
A worthless dream that he had carried with him from his days as a boy.
A spy was to make contact with him in the next three days. The spy would have important documents stolen from the Nazis. Don't mess this up.
He snorted in contempt at the thought, wandering beside the river, the roar of the rapids drowning out the voices of his superiors, of their orders. He didn't want to think of them. He wanted to distance himself from the front that was now too close. Looming over him with storm clouds.
The river calmed further south, burbling over smooth stones, reflecting the sunshine that peeked over the trees. A voice drifted on the wind, melodious french words tangling with birdsong, no doubt a love ballad. He stopped to listen, looking for the singer.
She was there, at the shore sitting on a rock, her skirt rolled up to keep it from the water. She hadn't noticed him, quietly singing her french love ballad as she dipped her hands in the water and lathered a thin bar of soap between her slender fingers, rubbing the suds through her hair.
He watched a water droplet roll down the back of her neck, watched it disappear into the line of her peach colored blouse. The cotton stuck to her skin, and he imagined she already had her bath, cool river water lapping at the pale creamy skin that was revealed as the dirt, perpetual and irritating, was washed away. As usual, he had to bury any other images that tempted him closer.
The blonde waves fell to her shoulder blades, dripping wet and leaving dots of water on her clothes, a tantalizing color of autumn wheat. She left the skirt and shirt that she had washed out on the rocks to dry, gathering her other supplies to return to her sidhe. And he followed her, stalking her quietly through the long luscious grass. He wondered why she hadn't noticed him. She was normally so perceptive.
But perhaps she just wasn't a morning person.
She lived closer to town than he had first expected, in a little tent that had seen better days. Army regulation. He smiled to himself, taking just a moment to watch her pull black clothes from the bag that sat by the remains of a fire, before leaving. He had found her sidhe. But she was too close to the world he was trying to escape.
The wind picked up the dust of the main road out of town and carried it off. The sun blazed down on every weary head without discrimination. The heat made him miserable. Through the traveling clouds of dust, the outline of a figure emerged, coming from the direction of the river. Not a soldier, the clothes were too dark.
The black of the man's smart suit stood out in the pale town, his blonde hair swept back into a pony tail, a simple bag slung over his shoulder. He stopped for a moment, looking around at the soldiers before finally spotting him and walking right up to him.
Each step measured, precise, confident. "Captain." He greeted with a light bow, smiling charmingly, a wolf in sheep's clothing. "If you could direct me on the path to the nearest town?"
He frowned, studying the man, before pointing a thin finger down the one road out of town, a road he desperately wished to travel along, perhaps long before this war was over. "Follow the road straight. You'll come to a fork in the road; stay left."
The man bowed again, his blue eyes flashing bright in the sunlight, the fingers that held his bag long and elegant. "Merci," He whispered huskily, a breath on the wind, caressing his ears. He was like a tempest.
He was like a fairy king.
It was a sick fascination, he knew. Ultimately destructive. He couldn't afford to look at her anymore, not when she turned and seemed to send him an ever present, ever knowing smile. What was worse, he had taken to following her, knowing where she was, watching her in the bar. Admiring her peach skin against peach cotton. Truth be told, he despised that he wanted to know everything about her.
He'd noticed things about her. That she never spoke, and when she did it was always in a low sultry whisper. That she was not very curvaceous, and always kept herself immaculately groomed. She never awoke before noon, and had a habit of disappearing into the forest for hours at a time. Her secret. He wanted to know it.
He watched her at the bar, watched her slim fingers, fingers he vaguely remembered curled around a hemp bag, brush away her bangs. She reached into her breast pocket, tossing out a few crumpled bills. At the door, she stopped for just a moment, tossing a look over her shoulder, at him as always, eyelids low. Inviting.
And as always, he got up to follow.
Just as he exited the tavern for the humid summer air outside, the moon a waning crescent in the swathes of the inky black sky, he saw her disappear down an alley, her skirt swirling behind her. He followed her, not a shadow, not graceful like she was, not near as silent. He turned, looking down both ends of the street, spotting no one.
Standing at the mouth of the alley, he peered in. Belly of the beast, he supposed. There was nothing. No flash of her hair, not even the soft pad of her bare feet. Was she gone? Had she vanished into the darkness like on many nights before? He had to know.
Steeling himself, he surged forward. This, he could tell, would be the last night. The fairy queen's time was over. She would go back to her sidhe, never come out until the earth had changed, where she could find another man, seduce him with her eyes and her smile and her dance of the gods. This would be the last night she would grace him with her presence, moonlight playing on pale skin.
The last night.
"Oof!" He grunted as he was forced against the wall of the alley, the aged brick crumbling as his cheek rubbed it. "Fuck." He cursed himself for thinking he could let his guard down around her. He had fooled himself into thinking that she was not dangerous. Long fingers wrapped around his wrists, his arms locked at the small of his back. Awkwardly, he turned, glaring into her eyes.
She smirked, her eyes glowing even in the dim lighting, her body warm against his back. "You've been watching me." She hissed, nails digging into the flesh of his wrists. "You follow me with your eyes." But her voice was too deep. Too much like one he remembered. Too much like velvet, too smooth. The voice of a fairy king.
"Who are you?" He groused, struggling vainly against the iron grip. She was strong. He should have figured as much when she broke Russell's nose. But not 'she'. The man in the suit, with cerulean eyes that displayed the same need. Who was this? This apparition that confused his senses and drove him to the edge of insanity with desire? Who nearly made him want to give up everything, not for 'her' but for the dreams of fairies that she had brought back.
The fairy ignored him, waving a pale hand flippantly. "You're lucky that I'm the sort of man who can take that as a compliment." A gentle, amused smile was flashed at him, charming.
He growled. A confirmation of what he already knew. If there was disgust, he didn't sense it; there was nothing swirling in his stomach, fluttering. There was still beauty, still an air of refinement to the fairy king. Still a pleading hunger that he wanted to feed. Ghost or demon, man or woman, he wanted. He wanted. He wanted.
And he had no idea why.
The fairy distracted him from his thoughts with a rough shake. "Captain Arthur Kirkland."
Not a question. He frowned, trying vainly to turn and see his face. "How do you know me?"
He got another flippant hand wave, as though his name and rank were common information among civilians. "You're my contact in this town. I imagine your superiors informed you of my arrival?"
The spy. He nearly laughed as the other let him go, his wrists bruised, but not quite enough to cover the clenching in his heart. He had fucked up. He had fucked up before he had even gotten the mission.
"I've come from an occupied town. I have information for you."
He paused to think, the appealing apparition still close, breath fanning against his cheek, trapping him against the wall without forcing him back. Information. How could anyone, let alone a French man masquerading as a woman, attain information from the Nazis? Who was this man who smiled with the intentions of sucking out souls? With his cruel eyes, what depths would he sink to?
"Do you do what the women here do?" He asked the question slowly, carefully, afraid to hear the answer and know that this man was an incubus. The man before him cocked his head just slightly to the side, frowning.
"Whore myself, you mean?" When he nodded, the other laughed, a harsh sound that still made him think of silver bells, honey. Figurines shattering on unforgiving flagstones. Dancing feet flashing beneath peach cotton. "And what, let them find out that I am a man?" His smile became condescending, sharp. Fairy king. "Non, mon cher. I may perform..." He paused for just a moment, searching for the right word, a finger tapping the corner of his mouth."Sexual favours. But not sex." He studied his face, green eyes traveling over and memorizing every detail.
Reaching for something in the dark, the [spydemonfairyman] handed him a folder.
He backed away just a little, enough so that he could scan through the pages inside. Some were papers right from the desks of officers. Others were still spotted with blood, caked brown and dry at the corners, flaking off. It was no longer 'what depths would he sink to?', it was what depths wouldn't he. There was cruelty in those blue eyes, malice and revenge twisting in with the hunger. Warping him. He was glad that the spy, cunning and sly, was on their side.
"This is good." He said, having nothing else to say, no other words to comment with. He received a slow smile for his efforts, the other drifting closer until they were pressed together chest to chest. "I'll see that it gets into the right hands."
A hand found his hip, thin fingers turning his chin up. "Do you not want to be rewarded for all that hard work?" He spoke the words sensually against his mouth, so quiet he had to strain to hear. "The kiss of death, perhaps?"
He shook his head, trying to find stability in the wall. "Your name. What is it?"
That surprised him. After all, a fairy king never tells a mortal his name. He waited with bated breath as the fairy thought, taking in the image of him pressed against the wall, before smiling. No one else had ever thought to ask for his name before.
"Francis." Sung on the wind almost the way it was whispered in the grass, a soft caress against his skin, his very soul, torturing him. He didn't deny the kiss when it was pressed to his mouth, couldn't quell the fluttering in his stomach as he tasted the other and committed it to memory. He would play this night over and over again in his mind. The taste of pomegranates sweet on his tongue, the scent of the other's soap, lilies. He groaned softly into the kiss, fingers twisting in blonde silk hair.
The kiss of death? As certainly as the wind blows.
When they pulled apart, they were both breathless, panting. "I'll see you again soon, Captain Arthur Kirkland."
And then he was gone again, the swirl of a skirt and the sway of hips that had entranced him so thoroughly. Vanishing in the darkness, back to an elven court in a secluded glade near the calm ripples of a clear river.
But perhaps this would not be the last night.
"Je ne serais pas facilement manipulé" I would not be so easy to manipulate.
Much thanks to Nerica for my french (and her awesomeness), and Steph for her awesomenes, and my english teacher for her patience~