Summary: The many dances of Sin and Alan. No plot whatsoever and I wrote a sort of hidden scene tucked in the last part of TDC. Spoilers for all 3 books
Disclaimer: This story is based on the books and characters created and owned by Sarah Rees Brennan, Margaret K. McElderry Books and Simon & Schuster Publishing. No money is being made from this. No infringement on copyright is intended.
AN: I started this after SRB posted the 1st chapter of Surrender but before the book came out. I knew where I wanted to go with this but I never got around to finishing it. I was working on something else when I decided I needed a distraction, so I opened files on my computer and came upon this. I started this initially as a stylistic exercise (hence the sentence fragments and strange punctuations) and rereading it, I kind of liked a few turns of phrase here and there. So despite being slightly AU now, I wanted to finish it and post it, mostly for the learning afforded by feedback.
There was a time when dancing was the moment of clarity in her life full of sleep. School and uniforms and travelling by Underground were the stuff of her dreams and for brief, shining moments, she would wake up to her life, to her real self, to magic.
Then the nightmare happened.
When the rhythm of the drums first called and her feet learned to navigate the lines between worlds, she thought- as the other dancers had whispered- that the worst thing that could happen to you was to fall. There was a darkness and a different world, instead of hard earth or stone at the end of that fall. There was madness and possession and emptiness.
The rumor was wrong, of course. The worst thing wasn't falling yourself; it was seeing someone you love fall, fall, fall, into an abyss. To see those eyes, hers still yet different- blackened- and that snake-like tongue protrude from her mouth. To see a stranger wearing her mother's face.
When Liannan demanded a kiss from Alan, Sin felt her breath catch.
Being that close, close enough for a kiss, was opening oneself to a demon, to madness. She may not like Alan but he was still human. To lose another human, to watch their eyes leach of color and go dark, to watch the soundless movement their lips, even with someone she didn't like, felt a diminishing of the race.
She watched as he limped forward, walking without trembling, chin held high. His eyes locked on Liannan as if he was predator and not prey, expression incongruous with his unsightly gait.
The exchange between Alan and Liannan was full of strange references Sin only partly understood, as if she was sitting in a coffee shop eavesdropping on the conversation of two friends in the next table.
Yet for all the strangeness, it was more interesting. The wise choice of Alan's words was a dance and he was spinning a tango with his replies.
She watched as he traced the curve of Liannan's cheek. Gentle. Gentle. Despite his fingers turning blue at the tips. She watched as Liannan melted against his body and Sin felt heat rise up in her own. She blamed the fever fruit and the sight of Alan's dilated pupils combined. She watched as he bent down and kissed Liannan like a whisper but it was her own lips that she felt go soft. Her hand reached up as if to trail her fingertips against her lips, then resisted when she felt Liannan's chilly laugh in the back of her mind.
Merris told her the truth at the end of it. She saw Merris's dislike for both Ryves boys but there was a begrudging respect there as well.
So very like a chess game. Merris had told her. Or so very like a dance.
Could you watch Toby for a few minutes?
She handed her brother to Chiara, but before she left she cradled her brother's hand in hers and kissed his palm- white and unblemished, except for the map of his fortune.
She hated being indebted to anyone, knowing that with their barter life, anything- talismans, card tricks, beacons, chimes, swords, sex, feelings, secrets, family, life, sex, magic- can be currency.
To be indebted to Alan Ryves was worse. Gimp leg aside, having Nick probably made him the most powerful man on earth.
And he wouldn't get rid of his limp. Isn't that what normal people would do?
Sin always knew that the trick to every performance was to give the audience exactly what they wanted. Assistant. Lieutenant. Sister. Friend. Haughty. Nice. Lover. Sex-pot.
That's where the fundamental problem lay. She didn't know if, aside from Nick, there were other things that Alan wanted.
Alan looked up at her approach, gun already in hand, safety gone, index finger on trigger.
Cynthia. He greeted stiffly but he relaxed and holstered his gun. Nick's with Mae and Jamie.
She noted the way he looked at her blouse, at her legs in her short denim skirt, at her lips and wondered if this was the role he wanted. If this is what her payment in return should be.
She took a deep breath and continued. I came to talk to you.
His eyes were squinted behind his glasses, studying her. But he merely nodded. He didn't have his friendly expression on, the one she imagined he used when he helped people in that bookshop she heard he worked in. Instead he looked weary and wary. He sighed.
She felt a visceral pain in the vicinity of her chest and she didn't know if she could do this but she steeled herself.
She reached for his hand, the one that Gerald marked and traced the inky lines. Then she moved his hand to her hip and inched closer. Her hands sought the hollow of his cheeks. One of her thumbs traced his bottom lip. He shivered but managed to raise his eyebrows.
A Sumerian translation may get an afternoon of your friendship. But I didn't save Toby for- ah- This.
She looked at his lips and remembered Liannan and how the demon's desire for this boy echoed in her own body. His eyes were dark, pupils dilated. His gaze dropped quickly to her lips. But he trapped her wrists in his hands and shook his head.
Don't. His voice was soft, beautiful, like when he was singing in the garden.
When he looked up at her, a very different Alan was there and a wry smile was fixed on his lips. The smile that charmed old biddies and little kids.
Every person that she had thrown a fever flower to in the past, even metaphorically, had always agreed to dance. Yet she watched Alan disentangle himself from her and move towards his brother.
She saw his face changed when he tracked Mae's progress across the camp. She watched as the lines of his face deepened as he watched Mae watch Nick and Sin felt a strange tightness in her throat.
Her annoyance bubbled over. She was still indebted to him. But somehow she wondered if this was merely about a debt.
Sin knew there were other dances in life. And Alan danced them too well.
When she first learned about Nick, she remembered the beach and the heat and the kiss and felt she had betrayed her mother. But she'd rationalize that she didn't know. None of them did. None except Alan. Who never told them. Who betrayed them all. Yet when finger-pointing at the liar should have made Sin sleep better, she remembered. He had stepped between her and three magicians with the fluidity and grace of a river, and in the darkness his shots rang true.
When the guilt about kissing a demon- which would never leave her- had somehow dulled at the edges, she started to dream again of that night. It happened sometimes, always in complete darkness.
She was walking again to the beach to the dark haired boy in the water, full of promise and fever fruit. She was sinuous and fluid. Nick had always liked her grace. And when she reached the water, reached him, reached for his belt she realized something was different. This boy was taller, leaner, but strong none the less. Even the kiss was different. Softer. Sweeter.
The taste of charm and lies.
The realization snapped Sin into full wakefulness.
She wondered when things changed. She may have begun by dancing with Nick but Alan was finishing it.
When she saw Nick, then Alan at her school, she recognized the opportunity. She tried to thank him again, this time with merely words.
I would have done it for anybody.
His reply stung.
To her Lydie and Toby weren't just anybody.
That night his words echoed in her mind as she tossed fitfully in bed. She didn't doubt it and maybe that's why it troubled her. Because sometimes the lies they told each other was a dance. And she knew that when someone danced with you, you danced as well. But the truth from Alan's mouth was something different. There was no dance, no grace in it.
Besides, she didn't need his truths. Because she recognized all of it, together with all his lies. And because of that, of all of them, she appreciated his performance the best.
And he still wouldn't accept her thanks when she didn't want to be in debt.
As sleep slowly crept in the edges of her consciousness, she remembered the way his shirt hung from his shoulders, not hiding the sinews and muscle beneath. And she remembered his agile hands. The facility with knife and gun. The efficiency of his movements despite the unseemly gait. The dance of his upper body that his lower body refused to follow.
As the warmth of her siblings pressed against her body in the shared bed, she remembered the gentle way Alan always held Lydie and Toby.
A market girl didn't want to accrue debts. That's all this is.
She didn't know, but she would have to find a way to say her thanks.
If there was one thing she could rely on it was the dance. Come next market night, she would throw him a fever flower and try again.