"How Delicious Was the Glow..." (Part One)
A/N: This fic continues from the end of the 2005 BBC TV adaptation of Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters. (Owned by her and Sally Head Productions; no copyright infringement intended!) It was originally published on the sadly defunct fanfic site fingersmithfever dot com, which can be searched on the Wayback Machine for those of you who are so disposed.
A/N 2 my fellow Calzona fans: If you haven't yet read/seen Fingersmith, check it out RIGHT NOW! Then come back and read this series. :)
I clasped her lips with mine, but awkwardly, like the neophyte I was, for all my carnal knowledge; and when I drew back, I touched Sue's face and found myself beaming at her. Sue instinctively returned my smile, but somewhat dimly. Did she perhaps realize, as I did in that instant, that I hadn't smiled in almost a year? After a heartbeat, the muscles of my cheeks and jaw began to twinge, so unused were they to that form of exertion. By force of habit, my gaze fluttered down, and I began to turn away — but I caught myself, and forced my eyes to meet Sue's. Suddenly I felt winded, overwhelmed by her closeness; and so I rested my forehead on hers, just as I had done the last time we kissed, at Mrs Cream's. I pressed against her, wishing we could merge completely and be done at last with conflict and misunderstanding, the ugly stepsisters of independence.
I hadn't realized that I was caressing Sue's cheek until she raised her hand to cover my own. She caught her breath, as if she were going to say something, but a long moment passed before she did; and even then, she kept swallowing and clearing her throat as she spoke:
"I, I ... I thought I'd lost you! I came here to find out where you'd gone ... as I never thought you'd've stayed here ... after your — after Mr Lilly, I mean ..."
And then she shook her head, sat back, and looked up and away from me, trying to compose herself, and her thoughts too, I suppose, before continuing:
"When I heard, I ... — oh, Maud, I thought I'd lost you, and I fixed on searching the world over to find you, even if you'd gone across the sea, even if you'd got married, and had babies ... !"
Here, I confess, I laughed out loud at the thought that I might have married a continental Catholic and borne ten children. My laugh must have carried a bitter note, however, for Sue looked quickly back at me; and so I leaned forward to touch her face again, reassuring her. "No, no, my dearest Sue, it's just that I'd never countenance a husband, not after all that's happened, not even if I were able to reach an understanding with a man who, ... who does not care for women either. Please believe that I would have no companion apart from you — and I'm so very glad that you've returned to me, for otherwise I'd have gone to my grave alone!"
Then Sue smiled, but simultaneously she fell against me and wept freely for some time, her sobs alternating with laughter; and then I could see just how rigidly she had been holding herself. Up till then, I think, the slightest chink in her defenses might have undone her, and me. I held her tightly, willing away that familiar stab of envy as I marveled at her freedom of emotion: I myself was still incapable of tears. Later, perhaps, they would come.
When she seemed to have recovered, I tried to look into her face, and I asked her if she was all right. "Better now," she said, as she wiped her face on her sleeve, smoothed her skirts, and began to smile once more in spite of herself, "though we'd better get up, love, — my knees is killing me!"
I laughed again, and felt that Sue would always have this effect on me: she would sweep away all my cobwebs and throw open my shutters to the air and light, even if I persisted in closing them.
Sue released me, just long enough to push herself up; and then she reached down for me and helped me to stand. "Blimey," she said, laughing and blinking, "we forgot your papers!" So she leaned over and swept them up quickly with her long arms, and then stepped lightly over to the table, where she stood for a moment straightening up the pile. "God forbid the Inkers should see these — they might think that you're ... that you're ..."
"...And what am I?" I whispered into her hair, for I had silently embraced her from behind and was kissing the base of her neck. I felt her arms drop as she released the papers; and then she turned and pressed herself firmly against me from head to toe, and her open lips found mine.
Several luscious minutes later, Sue moved her mouth to my ear and said, "Why, you're mine!"