Author's Note: As I've noted (ha!) before, I have a terrible habit of being extremely cruel to Ciani. I wanted to break this trend - or at least, write her character semi-realistically. So I reread Black Sun Rising, concocted a fairly basic slash plotline - similar to other ones I've used - and then I turned my attention on Ciani. This is my take on her relationship with Damien, her relationship with Gerald, and her views on their relationship with each other. Ciani POV, an all-time first for me.

Warnings: Slash, sort-of het, serious angst.

Pairings: Damien/Gerald, sort-of Damien/Ciani, hints of Gerald/Ciani

Disclaimer: I do not own the Coldfire Trilogy, although I think I have managed to write a fic that Ms. Friedman might not actually assassinate me for. She'd just shriek in horror, and maybe throw a few things at me. More than likely. Let me check. *scrolls down, scrolls back up* Nope, scratch that. Would have been true, but then I threw in the slash scene at the end. Damn my muses - especially Gerald, he's constantly jumping Damien! *grabs old-timey morning star from over the mantel* Oh, Gerald dearest! I need a word with you...

A.N.2: Fic title is from the song From A Distance, by Alan Jackson. I can almost hear Ciani singing that song: for this AU, it couldn't be more perfect. And yes, I know I have other fics I should be working on: this just wouldn't leave me alone enough to write! Especially "Of Dreams Forgotten and Fables Untold", which shall be updated soon, I swear!

A.N.3: Another reason this fic exists - I wanted to shake things up a bit. This fandom's pretty much exclusively Damien/Gerald, because they're just such a perfect pair: I couldn't break the trend, but I still wanted to do something different. That gave rise to this idea.

It should never have happened. Just the thought of it was almost enough to bring tears to her eyes. She was a loremaster, immersed in and dedicated to the fae, balanced carefully on the razor's edge between light and shadow. Nothing could be allowed to compromise that, nothing in the world. And yet somehow, between that wonderful evening in Jaggonath when she met Damien, and the hellish situation she now found herself in now, she had allowed herself to become compromised. Not once. Twice.

Damien entered her life like a force of nature. He was a bit like an earthquake, really: he could shake you up a little, or he could tear through and leave you in rubble and ruin. Yet, like the earth, he could also be deceptively calm and gentle, almost complacent until the warning tremors started again. Ciani had long ago vowed she would never fall in love, never suffer the heartbreak of loving one who could never understand her - yet she had felt an attraction to Damien from the moment she laid eyes on him.

Part of it was his faith. The faith of hundreds had tamed the fae around the Great Cathedral, keeping the ancient walls pristine and untouched through quake after quake: the faith of Damien Vryce made him shine like a beacon through the fae, a blazing light of determination and hope. That fire, that zeal, that passion: it drew Ciani like a moth to a flame, drew her in and trapped her beyond hope.

Part of it was the small voice of ill will and temptation that lives within every sentient being of every world. The voice that urges you to find out if you can really make that jump, the voice that supports your decision to run away with your boyfriend, even though he's years older and your parents swear he's no good. The voice that secretly wants to be hurt, thrives on the danger, and will do anything to feed that craving for risk. Ciani enjoyed danger, the risk of a dangerous lover, the intensity of an illicit affair: once, she had allowed herself to indulge those urges. That part of her had been buried for a long time, but it surfaced with Damien's arrival, and it urged her to love him simply because he was a Church knight, and therefore out of bounds to any adept.

Part of it was her own hunger for knowledge. So many people she could read like an open book, but Damien was different. His faith was sword and shield, a weapon but also a defense: she could not decipher him at a whim, as she could so many others. She had to know, it was in her nature, so she stayed to try to learn. And slowly but surely, she fell deeper and deeper into the trap.

Damien had not trapped her on purpose, of course - she knew he would never dream of doing such a thing. Yet it was he who had trapped her, there was no mistaking that. He had played the roles of both trap and bait, and even though she had seen the outcome she had walked straight into the jaws of the trap anyway. She cursed him for that allure: she cursed herself for that blindness.

Even after her power and her memories were taken away, she still felt that pull. It was weakened, though, and she began to fight against it. She remembered her old reasons: she was an adept, he was not. They were night and day, too different to ever reach an accord - he would age and she would not, she could see things that he could not, she had suffered things that he could never comprehend, much less survive. At least, that was what she told herself to ease her guilt, when she saw the hurt in his hazel eyes. That was in the first stage of their journey, when she could still read that much of him - back when his hazel eyes remained unveiled to her.

Oh, how she had loved his eyes...

Everything changed the night that Gerald Tarrant slipped so gracefully into her life. He, too, was a force of nature - but oh, how different a force! With Gerald there was no calm, no pause, no time of safety and security. Gerald was fire, ever shifting and ever dangerous. The flames could soften to a warm glow, or they could roar to a searing inferno, but no matter the height or intensity, if you touched the fire you would burn. He could warm or he could kill, but the danger was ever-present. Constant - and thrilling.

Ciani craved danger more than ever then. The thrill of pushing the limit, and the constant tingle of fear that she might push too far, kept her mind from dwelling on the pain of her loss. Gerald was elegant, cultivated, and perfectly polite - but with him the danger was always, always there. And Ciani thrived on it. She looked away from Damien, with his inconstant bouts of risk and his irritating spans of gentleness, and turned instead to her newfound daemon lover.

For there was no question: there was indeed a sexual element to their interactions. Though they had never so much as kissed, it was there in the way Gerald touched her hand when he guided her through the patterns of a new Key, in the way his cool breath grazed her skin when he spoke with his head bowed close, the way his silver eyes followed her everywhere. At first she felt only the pure, unadulterated thrill of the danger, knowing she was literally courting her own doom - then one night, as they neared the rakhlands, she saw the worry and the hurt in Damien's eyes. Her pleasure became mixed with guilt, because she knew that Damien cared for her in the way that she had never cared for him. She cared for him because of the inherent danger in such emotions: he cared for her because he was a kind and caring soul. Yet, perversely, she cared enough for him to feel guilt over her lack of care. Thus the trap was sprung - and she fled, guilt-ridden and bitter, into Gerald's arms.

He whispered his honeyed falsehoods in her ear and he wove his deadly Workings around her. He convinced her that by leaving Damien she preserved her neutrality, that she was doing the right thing. He guided her thoughts skillfully away from the fact that by apprenticing to him, she was shattering her neutrality, perhaps beyond repair. For a time she was taken in: for a time she believed the serpent's venom of sweet lies that he poured out to her.

Then came that night far in the rakhlands, the True Night, when he used her to strike at the enemy. How the darker part of her soul had leapt when he called to it, whispering the lover's endearments of a demon to her, commanding that she answer. She had obeyed - and he had turned her own darkness against her and used it as the bait to bring the demon. He had wrenched the enemy's secrets from the demon's unwilling mouth and nearly destroyed Ciani in the process. And that night, as she lay writhing and screaming agony under Gerald's lethal touch, she realized how far she had strayed.

She lived on risk, but she was not suicidal. She knew that in risking this entanglement with Gerald, she had gone too far: she had crossed a line she ought not to have touched. Yet she was hopelessly ensnared in his silken web, and she could not find a way loose.

When Senzei died, it almost broke her. Senzei was her oldest and dearest friend - the one man in her life who was truly safe. He was her anchor, the strength that brought her back when she had strayed too far in her pursuit of a thrill. Now he was gone, leaving her alone - adrift between two deadly traps, both of her own making. Exhausted by the effort to stay afloat but unwilling to risk either shore, Ciani began to sink.

When Gerald was captured by the enemy, she was torn between relief and anguish. Somehow, she knew that he was not dead: such evil could not perish lightly. When she suggested that they go after him, she had expected Damien to fight to the death against the idea. She had not dared to believe that he might concede to her plan. For the first time, she looked past her own interactions with the Hunter, and felt fear chill her blood. What bond had existed between the Hunter and Damien? What trap had that demon laid for her lover?

Damien would not tell her, though. Time and again, he refused. When the Hunter was rescued, she tried to see what she had missed, but it was as though that talent too had been taken from her. The Hunter was inscrutable as always, still too powerful for her - and Damien... what little connection they had had, what little entrance he had given her, was now gone. He was as untouchable as Gerald, now.

When their enemies were at last destroyed and the four returned to the camp of Hesseth's tribe, Ciani hoped that she might be able to mend her fences with Damien. With her own powers returned, she had finally shaken off the Hunter's hold: she was free now, free to return to her lover.

She had been horribly wrong to cast aside his care like that. They could have had so much together - perhaps Damien would have proved to be different. Perhaps they could have worked past the barriers that separated them, and come to truly love each other. Perhaps they still could, if she apologized and begged his forgiveness. So she left the rakh where they danced around their celebratory bonfires, and set out to find her Church Knight.

She sensed his presence at the edge of the camp, where the firelight blended into the shadows, and quickened her pace. She could feel Gerald's distinctive darkness as well, and an inexplicable foreboding fell across her heart. What business could they have together now that the battle was won? Might she finally find out what had created such a bond between them on their journey?

She rounded the last tent - and stumbled to a halt, the breath leaving her throat in a tortured gasp.

Damien was holding Gerald in his arms, their mouths locked in a ferocious kiss. It was not the priest, though, but the demon that drew her eyes: Gerald was wrapped around Damien like a serpent, tendrils of fae coiling over them both. His slender fingers were buried in Damien's dark hair, his mouth moving almost brutally against Damien's, the kiss hungry and devouring. One of Damien's hands gripped the Hunter's waist, the other pressed against the back of the pale neck, holding onto him fiercely. They were lost in each other, blind to the world.

Then Gerald's silver eyes snapped open and fixed on Ciani, molten and burning. Her cry caught in her throat and she shrank back, trembling, remembering too late her own assessment of Gerald as the fire. That look in his eyes burned her, seared the flesh from her bones and left her charred and bleeding: his lips curling into a vicious smirk, Gerald trailed his hands down Damien's muscular back and mouthed a single word.

Mine.

Either Damien was unaware of her presence, or he chose not to care, for at that moment he leaned forward and captured Gerald's mouth again. The adept gave her one last soul-searing glance before he surrendered, raking his hands over Damien's back again, moaning into the kiss: low, hungry and wanton, a sound of sinful invitation. Damien's grip on the adept tightened, his hands sliding upward, underneath the silken tunic to caress equally silken flesh...

Ciani snapped out of her trance and fled, tears pouring silently down her cheeks as she tried desperately to escape. It was futile. No matter where she turned, no matter how hard she closed her eyes, she could still see the image of Damien and Gerald entwined, as though it were branded on her very soul.

That was what had led her here, sitting in the long grass just beyond the firelight, on the other side of the rakhene camp. Her tears had long since run out, she had nothing more to give. She felt empty inside, empty and hollow. She had let her craving for risk lead her astray once more: what could she do now?

She watched the fae swirl about her, absorbing her pain and bearing it away, and the softest of smiles graced her lips. She would do what she had always done: she would turn to the fae. She would watch Damien from afar for a time, to see if he could be won back: if not, she would forget him. She would go back to Jaggonath, back to her shop, and do what she had done the first time: move on as though nothing had happened.

She was a loremaster. She was always neutral.

Nothing could compromise that. Not in any way that lasted.

...

...

Well, that was... weird. I can't tell if it was fairly good, or atrocious. Hopefully someone will review and tell me? I'll keep my fingers crossed.