In honor of the Thor 2 trailer and a new cover for To Cleave the Stars, have a random Lokane drabble, fandom. A Beauty and the Beast inspired AU chock full of pretentiousness.
Thanks given to Aenigmatic for giving me an excuse to birth this abomination.
In the oldest of tales, hell is not a place of fire, but of ice.
Jane believes this to be true, as she trudges across a limitless plain of winter. Her broken device, the traitor that has abandoned her to this nightmare landscape, eats into her skin and freezes fast to her fingers as they blacken and curl. She does not remember telling her feet to move anymore, but they do regardless. Unwilling to give up even if her spirit has long ago flagged, edging step by step towards the only sign of life she sees - glassine towers in the distance that jab accusingly at the iron sky.
When her legs finally give she's too far gone to even notice at first, until the snow fills her nose as she tries to breathe. It burns hot against her skin and she knows, in some detached part of her mind, that this is a very bad thing. But that doesn't stop her from snuggling into the pillow of it, reaching for the first measure of comfort she's found since she stumbled from the wormhole into this misery. And as her stiffened eyelashes stick together one last time she hears a chorus of howls ringing clarion, like Lucifer's own choir singing her to sleep.
When she awakes in a bed cloaked with blankets of shifting snow, she's warm and well again for the first time in ages. Blue fire crackles in an impossible hearth, thrusting a terrible silhouette onto the glittering wall. A man but not, a monster but not - the wretched melding of both, tangled together like angel and devil.
The creature at his side is an animal in essence only - tossing ice for fur and frostbite for fangs, as if winter lay dreaming it was a wolf.
Azure sky has been stretched over the lithe frame of his bones, and mysteries are scrawled across it in ripples and ridges that rise like waves on the ocean. Eyes of flame burn brands onto her flesh, withering her beneath that hot stare. His brow brandishes a savage crown, heavy horns that tower above the black fall of his hair, and the grim set of his smile is savage and cruel. White frost driven on the edge of the wind.
He is all the more ugly for being so beautiful.
She wonders what he is.
I am the Beast, the Destroyer of Worlds, he proclaims, and the words crouch snarling between them. And now you are as damned as I.
She wants to flee. The root of her mind, the deep hidden seed present since time began and men rose to two legs is gibbering, but she cannot afford it free rein because that same part of her knows - to falter now is to declare oneself prey, to perfume the air with blood and vulnerability. So she forces herself to look, to study the dissonance and dismantle it until it holds no power over her anymore - until it is merely a series of observations and theories, the parts of its sum.
She swallows the rusty nails of fear, regardless of how they pierce her belly, so that she may return that layered gaze unflinchingly.
And thus begins the oddest friendship of her life.
Not at first. Not right away. Not all at once. At the start she mourns the loss of her home, sifts through the fragments and shards of her device as if the pathway to return is something she can simply unearth. The Beast keeps to himself, and if not for the shadows that shiver oddly when she isn't looking straight at them she might think she was truly alone.
She finds the library one day, stumbling across it as she wanders the labyrinthine passages of diamond and grit, and when she throws wide the door to find the cyan smudge of him curled in a window it's impossible to say which of them is more surprised. Day after day she returns, seeking answers amongst the whispering tomes, and day after day he tolerates her intrusion, always watching from a distance. Crouching in the corners of her awareness like a gargoyle atop ramparts, muted but ever-present. Until the morning a taloned hand places a scroll before her as if it were an offering, and she is startled into meeting those crucible eyes, and she finds that his terrible torn-silk voice is something she can get used to.
He's still as glacial as ever, but beneath his incongruent surface she catches glimpses of fractures, the buried schism of misaligned futures. The bastion of his shoulders crumbles when he thinks she can't see him, and despair adorns him like a battered torque.
But each night there's one less chair separating them across the yawning table as they pick at their food, and once she thinks she almost catches a raw bone glimpse of his smile.
She's reminded that ice is merely water which has forgotten how to bend.
Fear abates to the soft wound of pity before healing into compassion, for this castle seems to haunt him just as much as he haunts it.
Time passes, how much she cannot say for sure. Her already narrow life focuses even tighter, into an endless whorl of pursuit. And at long last, somewhere in the space between their bowed heads, she finds the answers she's needed.
Even to the questions she hadn't thought to ask.
She begs him to come along, to forsake this forsaken place, but the red of his eyes bleeds raw and he only shakes his head. He will not leave. Or perhaps he cannot. Either way it is the same, and she's unable to look upon the shipwreck of his face when she finally says goodbye. Because she's certain she's all wrong for this world, even more so than back home. If she was a square peg in a round hole there, she's a triangle here - the gaps between what is and what should be even wider.
But it's all wrong back on Earth too. The shadows here only move with the moon, and the wind lacks an ardent edge. When she speaks, she sees only pity and discomfort in the eyes of those around here, and she realizes they've never filled their lungs with the prickly scorch of illusion. Never stepped across a faultless field of snow that sighed in ignorance of the sun.
Never seen the stars framed by horns that shine blacker than sin, as claws trace filigree over skin.
Magic has touched her, left marks like fingerprints in wet clay that can never be smoothed away. And she will only shatter in this kiln, in this hot and pitiless place, with such a flaw as that.
So she returns - because that's all she's ever really been searching for. A life less than ordinary.
He's still in the exact spot she left him, as if she'd merely wished life into a statue. When she touches the black rope of his hair, unplaits the strands and lets them spill like dark water between her fingers, only then does he lift that great, awful crown.
White feathers of snow are drifted around him, but it's not until she's brushed her lips against his cheek, until she stirs them into the air, until one happens to melt one as its pressed between their skin and the ocean touches her tongue that she realizes they are tears.
Then she is on his lap, and in the tilt of her hips against his, in the brush of her tongue against that waterfall mouth, in the cautious dance of her fingers over the impossible shape of him, she tries to say it.
I love you, whispers every pause between heartbeats.
I love you, sings the blood as it careens through her veins.
I love you, lingers behind every breath exhaled.
And finally, when she cannot contain it any longer, she simply shapes it.
Like the warm wind of spring it flows over his skin, melting ice in its wake, the softening of a river squeezed by winter. Only melt is the wrong word, for it somehow implies less, and this is not less. Not more. Only different. Roses bloom in the spaces left behind, turning blue flesh to pink. His smelted gaze is tempered to green, one last fragment of ice to linger when all else is gone, and she's left clutching a man like any other. Strange, but not a stranger.
She names him, then - frames the syllables that squeezed the collective throats of her world for so long.
No longer Beast.
And at first she's alarmed, until she can see in the quirk of an eyebrow and the guarded tilt of lips that it's still him. She'd know that capricious soul anywhere, whatever envelope it had been slipped into, and whatever fear his true name might have once held has dried up and blown away ages ago.
And when he returns the favor, when the smooth curve of Jane falls from his mouth like a gem she can't help but smile back.
She's always wanted the stars, and now she's finally found them - crackling in her chest and sparking bright on her tongue. An entire cosmos bound within the circle of his arms.
Merely the beginning of a grand adventure.
Anyone interested in seeing this revamped and fleshed out as a multi-chap? I promise less artsy-fartsy if so.