The Bird Roads
Hester turned back to the controls, and Tom continued to gaze at the burning city below. Eventually, as they flew too far beyond for it to be seen, he tore his gaze away. Hester had not moved.
Even though from the back her scars were not visible, she was not, and would not ever be the girls who he saved constantly, on shifts in the galleries. She was not Katherine Valentine; but the fire in Tom's heart was far more, for the ugly girl before him, than any of the beauties he had lusted after. Hester Shaw was prettier than any other girl he had met.
He walked and peered over the screens on the dashboard – Hester had a hand on her face, completely confused. He spoke no other language than Anglish, and neither did she.
"Where do you want to go?" he muttered, and Hester gave a start at his presence.
"Not like I can decide." Tom was used to sharp replies from Hester. She did not tolerate questions without answers, answers without direct impact on her life. "We'll fly until we run out of fuel, and maybe we'll land where we can fill up, but we probably won't – and then we'll set out on foot."
"Fine." Tom returned Hester's lopsided smile. The twisted, dead lips on her face were so horrific, until half of it pulled up, her cheeks stretched tight under the skin; her eye lit up. Those lips; Tom was sure that no one would ever have been near them, never wanted to venture closer. He doubted that Hester had even heard of the Ancient's "kiszing". To kisz was to "express love using the lips", but as a historian, he had a far more sophisticated view of the world, than Hester could ever obtain.
He held the fanciful sides, the appreciation for beauty, for dreams and love and life and sunshine. "Stop smiling." Hester held all the cynicism, the hard to earth facts, the darkness and reality and everything else that Tom wanted to forget.
"Shut up." Tom wasn't sure that Hester had ever been told to "shut up" before, she looked a little stunned.
"I don't want to be here too, but you and I are going to have to live together."
Tom recoiled. So he had been leading himself on…Hester didn't care. And yet, even though he felt physically sick…he knew that he would always love Hester. He had known from the moment that she forgave him for stabbing Shrike – but he had also known that she would not return these affections. However, as she had pulled him onto the Jenny Hanniver, he had though he had seen a spark of relief in her eyes, a spark of…love?
Hester watched Tom flinch, and a stab of ice pierced her cold heart. She was not the cruel monster she portrayed herself as, and Tom was not one who deserved to be hurt. She had hidden from herself, but she knew that Tom was hers. Or should have been. Tom and Hester. Hester and Tom.
She didn't want to be "Hester Shaw." She wanted to be "Hester and Tom and Tom and Hester and Tom and Hester and Hester and Tom." She wanted to be with him. She wanted to love him. She did love him.
"Sorry." Tom didn't look up. "No. I really am." He did not appear to have heard her. "Please?"
"Fine." His eyes were slits as he peered outwards into the hazy mists. Hester caught her breath. On the window grew a set of pathways, twisting together like ribbons. They were some of the most beautiful things that Hester had ever seen. She had heard of them.
"The Bird Roads."
"What?" Tom snapped his head upwards. "What?" He did not show any of the affections that Hester had craved over the past few months. His eyes were waxen and his lips were pursed; she felt a stab as she realized that she might have lost him.
"The Bird Roads." Hester walked over to Tom, and tried smiling. He showed no emotion. A strange sensation entered her throat, and watery fluids spilled over her eyelid. She didn't recognise the reaction…Her hand slid into his, but it flapped loose and lifeless at her side. "Damn you Natsworthy! The Bird Roads."
"I know what they are." Tom's eyes were no drier.
"Damn you." Hester repeated the words as fast as she dared, she did not enunciate this time – they were merely something to say. They had no meaning.
Hester had never kiszed anyone before. She had not wanted to, scarcely knew the meaning and had had no opportunity. Strangely, since she had met Tom, the idea of pressing lips together had become less and less unpleasant, and more and more intriguing. Hester and Tom and Tom and Hester.
"Damn you. Damn you Tom." He turned to her, and his hand squeezed hers a moment – Hester caught on her breath; it hung spikily in her throat. "Damn."
Hester had never kiszed anyone before. Neither had Tom. As their lips met; to Tom, Katherine didn't exist – to Hester, she forgot all the horrors that she fixated her life around. Tom and Hester, and Hester and Tom. There were no fireworks, and no music played in their ears – only smoke and pollution on the air, the faint chug of an old engine. They were not perfect, and they were not normal. Hester and Tom and Tom and Hester.
He was not a hero. She was not a heroine. But they were together, and everything was going to be alright.