LJ Mystery challenge 10/3/10: Hermia and one of Mytho's heart shards. Akt 2 is mentioned; takes place before Akt 10. Rated K, no warnings. Sorry about the title... no, not really. It was too awful pass up.

Love Bottoms Out

Aimless and so endless drifting had led to several hosts, but in the end, each had found what was needed. He had been displaced, his presence unsuspected. Not one heart had been so lacking in love, or bereft of another's love, that it could have been the home he sought: the heart that knew neither how to give nor to accept love.

It had not taken long for this new host to feel his influence, and he felt– her– awaken her feelings, felt her begin to focus them. She began to look at others, and speculated how they might feel, with (as he should know) a high degree of accuracy. What gave him the chance to stay longer than usual boiled down to her self- consciousness. Hermia was tall, taller than any of the other girls, taller than all but one or two of the oldest boys; so she tried, somewhat successfully, to efface herself. She was placed in the rear of the corps; she placed herself behind everyone, or apart from them, outside of class.

In turn, that meant that when she first noticed the young man, she had every reason to think that he saw her only as a looming shadow in the background of another division, and would never be of concern to him. He had looked toward her once, but his eyes slid away, and she had lowered hers, disappointed.

Unrequited infatuation gave the wandering emotion a foothold, but no more. In her way, the girl was quite sensible. That her feelings for the art student suddenly expanded to fill her soul to its horizon, she put down to her own inexperience; but only after duly appreciating his quiet reserve, his kindness, his shyness, his solid handsomeness, the sensitivity she perceived in his sculpture... and so on.

The heart shard was surprised when she determined to take action, and conceived the idea of delivering others' love- letters. Now he had a use. She found an appropriate costume in the school's wardrobe that fit, and set about her self- appointed rounds. One of the teachers had simply sighed at the use of the costume, and told Bottom the Donkey to use the old wooden lockbox, putting it in a front corner of her classroom. It was at least half- full every school day.

Shortly they began to approach her personally, or sent their friends with their letters. Thanks to him she always knew, though– the real sender would be that one, watching from a safe distance.

Some people were hopeless, though. For weeks now Iggy had gotten several letters each day and would shuffle through them until he got to one particular girl's writing. The particular girl received only one person's letters, ever. Iggy's. Even after so short a time Hermia wondered how he could remain unknown to Anteaterina; he was the only danseur big enough to want her as a dance partner, they saw each other every day...

There was Mr. Cat, who never wrote; Hermia's project was to him strictly a student activity, much as he approved. Only one of his correspondents was serious, and he threw hers away. The others were pranks: "I want to marry you, signed (by 'a friend.')" Hermia threw those away herself. She could always tell which they were, by the cruel giggling of the donors. Mr. Cat was not to be put in a bad mood. Ever.

Senior Fakir was another one. He never wrote either, though half the girls at one time or another wrote to him. Hermia never spoke to him after the first attempt, merely handed him a stack of perfumed, beribboned missives and turned away. She knew they would be dumped, unread, in the first wastebasket he saw. Despite the snide speculations about him and his roommate, Hermia knew they weren't in love. It took her a while to puzzle out that mystery, but in the end she concluded that Fakir was, in essence, taking care of an idiot elder brother. She couldn't think of anyone less suited to the role.

And the roommate... was a total enigma. It was as if Senior Mytho felt little, just drifted along, a fallen leaf in a current defined by school, and Fakir, and Rue. Rue never needed to write. Her hold over Mytho had never been seriously contested. Other girls had tried and given up, stymied by the utter lack of response. Rue was always there when they went away, never really angry at him, just proceeding as if nothing had happened; because nothing was what had, indeed, transpired.

Mytho's absence of feeling interested the wandering emotion, but that selfsame emptiness meant that there was no way for the heart shard to latch on to him. Mytho felt no need of love, or emotion, or a heart, without enough feelings to know to want those things.

He moved on, though, soon. Hermia passed a small shop one afternoon, walking on air because the object of her affections had nodded and grunted a reply to her murmured greeting as she crossed the Quad. Inside the shop a gift was changing hands– paws, rather. The buyer... No, he did not want love. His thoughts were plain: whether she liked this or not, it was cheap enough to be no loss either to give or to lose. She was almost ready for his proposal, surely, and then there would be fussing about the wedding, but surely within months she would be installed in his household, and the housekeeper and cook and perhaps one of the maids could be dismissed, for a great savings. It was just a matter of manipulating her feelings a little.

The jewel, however... A round yellow cabochon, too big for Imperial topaz or heliodor at that price. Probably just citrine. It was made to be a beautiful gift, love given and received, and even a stone could know that it was being ill-used.

There was room for him; he went.

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