serena descartes is not a queen.
"But why me? Wouldn't Calem be better suited for this grand opportunity?"
She can't help but notice the way her voice poisons her two most favorite words in the universe.
She's trying her best to keep her words from sounding bitter, from sounding angry. She loved the word grand. It meant great things, it held promise of adventure, and that was something Serena adored.
Calem, on the other hand. That word was different. She's never heard it come out of her mouth in a forced whisper, never so raw or so heavily emphasized. It sounded foreign to her ears. That never happened. The word's been with her since childhood. It shouldn't sound like a foreign language, one she struggled with for years before abandoning it in hopes of never hearing it again, or better yet, needing it.
The girl twists her lips into a frown, and crosses her arms over her chest.
"Calem? He's too self-absorbed to be of any use to us." A sad smile, and a sardonic sigh. The man places a ringed hand over his forehead, as if trying to hold back a sigh reserved for childish trainers with too many questions and too little self restraint, pushing back his unruly black hair in the process. "We like girls like you, driven and ambitious." She doesn't like how he lets the world hang on the word girls, he makes it sound disgusting, the way his tongue rolls and the way his eyes trail. "We're always looking for someone with a little more team spirit." Serena casually fixes her skirt, smooths down the red pleats, and tugs at the edges of her black stockings.
"That's kind of rude." But understandable.
"You agree with my evaluation, though." Well, yes. It was kind of hard not to. He hit the nail on the head. Calem was self-absorbed, he was vain and shallow, but that was what made him him. Serena thought his flaws complemented his overall personality: kind of prissy, but fiercely loyal and passionate. He was fire and ice and everything nice, but was the worst at cooperation. It was a miracle that the rest of their friend group accepted him with open arms and such gusto. Tierno immediately roped him into one of his dance routines, made him the centerpiece of an elegant display. Trevor didn't nonverbally shred Calem's dignity to pieces at first meeting, which was completely unheard of. Shauna was a blushing school girl at the sight of him, her small hands would cover her mouth and her grey gaze would glow, glimmer and shine like stardust.
Serena didn't like the edge her voice adopted at the thought of Shauna's hero worship.
Okay, maybe she was jealous. Sure, who wouldn't be jealous of being adored and loved by everyone and all who came in contact with you? It wasn't that she had an issue with socializing, she was Calem's equal, or better yet, his superior, in that regard. Serena was well versed in the fine art of cotillion, tea party, waltz, dance, haute couture, and battle-to be successful in Kalos you needed to have the world hanging to your every word, wrapped around your finger.
She could be better than him. She was better than him.
It wasn't even a question.
As soon as the words come out of her mouth, she regrets them, shuts her eyes and clenches her fists because that's not how she felt, no not about her beloved. That just couldn't be true. It was just a rushed exhale said underneath the pretense of sighing, nothing else.
But that was all he needed.
"Well, well, well." He says, so calm, so confident. Serena scoffs, and opens her eyes only to see his face, inches away from hers. His dark eyes burn with something indiscernible, and his fingers are on her chin, pressing lightly, delicately. He is examining her.
"You've got the makings for a queen, and you know it."
"I don't want to be a queen." She pushes his hand away with her gloved one, and glowers. "I have better things to do than look pretty and let men wage war." Her lips curl into a cruel smirk, and the man lets out another chuckle, and straightens himself out. He is a head taller than she, and against the setting sun, he is a long shadow, dangerous and threatening.
"I can give you something better than that. You'd be a warrior queen, with you by my side,"
Serena cuts him off because she knows the phrase well.
"Hell would come. You want me to be your ragnarok."
The sunset makes her blonde hair burn gold, red and then ash-extinguished. The cityscape dominates the sky, ivory lights encased in ebony pillars, they are streaks and cuts in the black sky. The man nods, yes, of course I do.
"Enough people have you on a pedestal. I want you on the front lines."
"I don't really care about what you want."
She grants him a tight lipped smile, and pivots on her heel, and starts to walk away. Despite the fact she is no longer looking in his eyes, no longer sinking in the void, she cannot shake his words off, they cling to her skin like a bad nightmare.
"What do you want to do, play second fiddle for the rest of your life? Are you truly happy with yourself, Serena?"
Yes, yes she would be content, she would be okay being Calem's sword and shield if nothing else. The streetlights she once held in high esteem were dying out, Lumiose City seemed to shudder and shake, before bending to an impermeable night. She could see her penthouse apartment from where she stood, in the company of her less than pleasant conversation partner and the bubbling, frothing fountain. Everything she loved about the metropolis, the sights and smells and air was against her, they suffocated and choked and whispered-
he's right, he's right. you're so much better than him. he's no better than the dirt underneath your boots.
"We can give you want you want, whatever you want." A noncommittal shrug and an airy titter. "We have room for valkyries on Team Flare. We appreciate things of beauty."
Serena does not shake, she does not stumble or falter, because that is not present in her coding. She is a tower of beauty and might. Her long blonde hair falls out of its ponytail, and tumbles down the arch of her back, brushes against the dark of her thighs, and she grits her teeth.
"But I want you."
His hand is at the small of her back and she does not shake him off. His breath is warm and foreign against the crook of her neck, he presses himself against her and smiles into her strawberry colored hair. His hands are callused and rough and she thinks about Calem's soft fingertips and the way they traced lines and patterns in her skin on a night just like this.
Serena inhales sharply, holds her breath.
She sees Calem, Calem and his unwavering cobalt gaze, Calem and his silly grin, Calem and his dark hair, Calem and his perfect, perfect hair.
Calem and his perfect life.
She closes her eyes and does not see Calem.
She does not see Tierno, or Shauna, or Trevor.
She sees herself. Victorious-dark eyes and fire.
What good was friendship, or loyalty, or love when you were always on the losing side?
"So, what do you think, princess?"
"Call me princess again, and I'll have your head, Sy-Augustine."
She shakes off his hand, and pushes him back, before crossing her arms over her chest and staring at him, point blank. His dark hair and dark eyes and dark ensemble, he wasn't so different than Calem.
Augustine Sycamore pushes his hands into his lab coat pockets and smiles wryly.
"I'm glad we had this chat, Serena. I really am." He says, with a slight bow and a mocking tone. What he really means is something far more sinister. In a moment of distraction, she is distracted by the way the moonlight reflects off of the man's rings, her arms drop to her sides. He takes one of her bare hands, and presses his lips against her knuckles, bone white and cold.
He disappears into a Lumiose backstreet, finds shelter within the shadows and the broken glass.
She knows why Calem would not have been suited for this grand opportunity. Her skin crawls with goosebumps, she feels autumn bruise her thighs.
He would've never been so weak to give in.
He wouldn't have been strong enough to carry it out.
Serena inhales the city air and then, breathes it out. She lifts up her left hand, and takes off a thin band from her index finger. A small opal adorns its listless features, and she brings it to her lips-a kiss-before casting it out to the fountain, she watches it twinkle and sink into the murky water.
"Shauna, keep me covered!" Tierno and the aforementioned dark haired girl are back to back, their partner pokémon locked in battle with challenging foes and filler grunts. Trevor is shouting statistics and strategy plans farther down the tower, screaming through a headset microphone, his words crackle in the radio silence.
"Keep formation, more grunts are headed your way! God, this tower is FLOODED with people! Shauna, keep your Chesnaught in check, for god's sake, I don't want the Lumiose police force knocking on my door tomorrow morning telling me that someone destroyed some priceless artifacts-CALEM WHAT IN XERNEAS'S GOOD NAME ARE YOU DOING?"
Calem is flights of stairs ahead, holding onto his Greninja's neck like rosary beads, his blue eyes a storm of determination and white hot anger. He swats enemies away like irritating Zubats, a simple hydro pump or sky uppercut puts them to their knees. Team Flare has no chance against his one-man army. His Tyrantum lets out a guttural roar, and ravages the surrounding area with a swing of its mighty tail.
But the terrifying beast is no match for the boy himself.
He is absolutely livid.
Calem screams her name, and for a moment, the words echo in the madness. The word comes out animalistic and thick with enmity. He climbs more stairs, fights back, destroys. Team Flare's scientists lie in the rubble of Lumiose City Tower.
The girl of the hour is nowhere to be found, she is high above the clouds in the highest level of the tower, her Delphox's fur bristling with energy, ready to burst. Her light hair is pulled back in a ponytail, her dark blouse covered by a brilliant carmine jacket. Her sunglasses perch on her crooked nose, and she waits, regal and cruel and victorious. She flicks a piece of hair back with a polished fingernail, and then turns towards the city, ablaze with light and sound fire. The air is thick with smoke, and Serena closes her eyes.
He says her name like a prayer.
She spins on her heel and grants him a smile, bruised and broken, with bloodshot eyes behind her cracked lenses.
"This is it."
There's a finality to her words that makes Calem run up to her, run up and spread his arms wide, only to be cast away by a psychic spell from her partner pokemon. Greninja screeches in response to the attack, launches itself towards the girl and her fox.
"NO IT'S NOT." Calem shouts from the floor, his beautiful face stained by dirt and blood. He wipes it off with a torn sleeve of his blue track jacket, stains the fabric dark brown and shakily picks himself up. "I won't let it end like this." He pulls off a glove from his left hand and pries a thin silver band from his ring finger. "You promised me."
His voice cracks. "You promised me." He waves the ring in front of her, waves it with a conviction and a freneticism that makes her want to scream-her ring. It was her ring, with the silver band and the small opal and the messy engraving on the other side, the chicken scrawl initials and lopsided heart, he has her ring.
Serena blinks back tears she wasn't aware she still had left.
Then she undoes her ponytail.
"I'm here to make good on my promise."
Her black heels carry her forward, one step at a time. Each measured footfall takes her closer to the balcony fence, the only thing dividing her from a beautiful tumble down the Lumiose Tower. The cars below are blurs of white and red, they skate over asphalt and rubble.
A very, very beautiful tumble.
Serena takes off her sunglasses and throws them away, and then the transformation is complete. She stands tall, jacket suspended in the air, with a small line on her peach lips.
"My name is Serena, and I am Team Flare's pièce de résistance."
Calem mouths a broken oh, god, as Delphox takes the stage and raises up a lanky arm in preparation for attack. Greninja follows suit and leaps in front of its trainer, fangs bared.
"I am their beginning, and their end." The lines fall flat, they're choked out and bitter. Serena takes another deep breath and points her index finger at the shaking brunet.
Delphox sprints forward and Greninja intercepts with the mage's inferno with brine. The balcony shakes underneath their combined weight and power, both trainers leap back to avoid the aftermath.
"I'm not going to fight you, Serena!"
Her eyes glint. The noise from below is crescendoing, clashing and conflicting and boiling into something horrendous, Calem can still hear Trevor's feverish jabber through his headset, he can hear Shauna's high pitched squeals and Tierno's baritone reverberate through their war zone.
"I'm not going to fight you because this isn't you!"
"How can you be so sure?"
Her sudden outburst catches him off guard, he visibly flinches and recoils. The brewing storm knocks Calem's hat off of his head and takes it away, his messenger bag clings to his lanky frame. He braces himself, and wipes the blood from his chapped lips. Serena shakes and she stumbles, and clutches herself. Her lips move and words spill out of her mouth but the wind carries her words away.
"How can you be so sure of something you've never seen, Calem? How can you be so, so certain about something you don't know to be true? God. You're pathetic. The signs were all there.
"God. I'm pathetic."
He only gets snatches of syllables and letters, but never the full picture. He charges forward, and fights the current.
"Serena, I don't understand, what the hell's gotten into you?!"
"Don't UNDERSTAND? CALEM, I abhor you. I hate you, I despise YOU and YOUR incredible ability to impress the world without doing a single god forsaken thing for yourself! People would kill to kiss the ground you walk.
They would kill."
Serena loses whatever semblance of self control she had earlier and drops to her knees, screaming in a hysteria so powerful, Calem collapses and lands in front of her, his hands cut and bleeding from breaking his fall. Serena's face is streaked with tears and she is still muttering and wailing, about something Calem does not need to know about-because she is broken. She is broken and screaming about envy, about how she wanted to be the hero, the hero of their story and the protector and the knight, she wanted to fight her own battles and watch the world grovel at her sight, she wanted to be the stars and the moon and the sun-all the things he was for her.
Calem stares: slack jawed and horrified.
His tower was crumbling in front of his very eyes, and all he could do was put his red hands on her face and kiss her.
He kisses her and she fights back. She pushes him off, and holds him at arm's length, nails digging into his shoulder blades, their gazes locked, breaths shallow and panicked. There is nothing beautiful about their ravaged clothes or singed faces, there is absolutely nothing beautiful in their bruises.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
His apologies get lost in her matte hair.
"Well, this is suuuuuuuurprising. At least, it would be, if I hadn't predicted this outcome from the start."
Augustine Sycamore laughs, and runs a hand through his wavy black hair.
"I'm kind of upset, Serena! You were supposed to be our champion, you know? Remember our chat? 'I'm going to be a goddamn valkyrie, defeat every foe', and all that jazz? Ah, well. It's unfortunate that you fell prey to some empty minded pretty boy, but, what can I say? I guess they're all the rage, and all."
Calem growls and breaks into a sprint towards the mad professor.
He stops when he flies forward and lands on the floor, nose colliding with tile flooring.
Serena tucks her leg back in and she makes a beeline towards the older man, hands at his neck and fingers wrapped tight. He struggles, and grabs her torso and attempts to push her back, push her away from his lifeline. The girl screams and kicks and does everything to take him down with her, anything to make him feel powerless, to make him beg.
"If you remember correctly, Augustine, I said I do what I want."
Calem felt his blood freeze at the sound of Serena's dark soprano. The pair of combatants were finally on the floor, Serena's knee in between his legs and hands still around his neck. He lost his lab coat during the scuffle, and the boy runs towards it, snatches it away and digs through its pockets before finding the master key. The endgame.
"I refuse to be a player in your sick game. Even if it means I'll always be second best in comparison to the love of my godforsaken life. I'd rather that, than you."
"You. sicken. me."
Serena pulls one of her hands back and Sycamore breathes.
She punches the bridge of his nose.
The professor goes out like a light.
Calem takes the keycard and shoves it in his pockets, and runs towards Serena. She picks herself up, and rips off the Team Flare blazer. They stand side by side, he offers his hand and she does not take it. She can walk by herself, thank you.
They take two steps forward towards the tower's control room.
Shortly after she collapses.
Serena felt like her head was going to explode into little bits of atoms, every single chunk of her brain would be subsidized into the building blocks of the universe and then be splattered across the nice white walls that made up the room she was in.
Where the hell was she.
Tierno enters the room with flowers and balloons in one hand, and a lunch tray in the other. Shauna was at her left, she was the one who announced she was awake. Serena knew that high pitched lilt far too well. Trevor was in the back of the room, rubbing at his eyes.
"H-hi?" Her voice cracks and she coughs loudly, trying to clear her throat. She felt really cold, and her skin didn't feel like it was her own. The blankets that pooled around her legs were scratchy and uncomfortable and Serena decides she really wants to leave, and as soon as possible would be wonderful, thank you.
"We were so worried," Shauna starts talking immediately, words come crashing like waterfalls-"you've been asleep for so long, but the doctor's said it was just exhaustion and mental exertion and we were like, oh my god like, no way! Serena is way stronger than that, she's like, the strongest person I know, oh man oh man, come on Serena wake up soon please, we have so much to discuss! But then the doc was like, we gotta let her sleep, and regain her energy, because if she doesn't, it could be harmful in the longterm! Then he sent us home and it was suuuuper upsetting! But you're awake now!" The pig tailed girl claps her hands together and grins. Tierno scratches his mohawk and flashes a sheepish smile.
"I'm glad you're awake Serena, but you better take it easy, a'ight?"
"I wasn't crying, for your information."
He wipes his nose with his hand and then makes a contorted face. He then proceeds to burst into tears.
Serena giggles, and her friends exchange smiles, and huddle around her.
Their positive vibes do not stop her from noticing a certain boy's absence. Before she can make an inquiry, Shauna informs her that the doctor said she was free to leave within the next few days, after they ran some tests and cleared her for lasting injuries. The flipside to said agreement was that they would have to leave right now and leave Serena to the Lumiose medical team.
Serena does not sigh. She gives them a small smile and assures them that the set up was acceptable and that she would see them later. They grin and say good bye, before leaving the hospital room.
"Calem? You can stop hiding now."
There was a shuffle and then a loud clank! The supply closet in the corner of the room, next to the windows and adjacent bed. Calem tumbles out of the locker, and with him, comes raining down trash bags and assorted cleaning supplies. A bucket makes residence on top of his head.
"Shit, it got dark!"
A couple of seconds later the boy was at her side, hands on top of hers.
"-Calem, you have absolutely nothing to be apologizing for. Absolutely nothing." Serena says firmly, eyes slightly narrow, eyebrows furrow. "I should be apologizing."
The boy sighs and dips his head forward, shoulder-length dark brown hair covering most of his face.
"It's just, I..." He struggles to find the right phrase, the right set of words that would properly convey his anguish. Seeing Serena, his tower, his moon, his sun, so drained and demoralized because of his own inability to see her as a person, with faults and troubles and ambitions and envies, it broke him.
"I can't believe I didn't see what I was doing to you, Serena. It's unforgivable. I was living the laissez-faire life and you were doing everything and more to stay on top of your game. I didn't even notice. I didn't care. We promised to be each others heroes, not assailants."
Yes, their childhood marriage promise in front of the Lumiose fountain, when they were fifteen years old, naive and in love. They bought rings from the 25 cent machine in front of the crepe shop in one of the downtown bazars and vowed to be each others, forever and always. Their rings eventually broke after weeks of continued use, so when they turned seventeen, they went to the jeweler's. Serena's mother nearly had a heart attack that week, and Calem's father threatened to ship him off to Hoenn if he heard anything about a Santalune wedding. Their rings were silver, with small opals and identical engravings.
And she threw hers away.
Serena's face flushes. The ring was back in her possession, now, thanks to her boyfriend.
Calem explains how he managed to get it back, after bitterly interjecting with how crushed he felt when he saw it lodged in between a couple of coins at the fountain bottom. The boy was making rounds before leaving to Shalour City, and ended up dropping by the fountain to flip a coin for good luck. While he was doing so, he noticed the sparkle of something different, and ended up crouching down to take a better look. When he realized it was her ring, he nearly fainted and ended up falling into the water headfirst from shock.
"So, that was that. I guess this means we're getting married for real soon, huh?" He asks with a wink.
Serena's eyes widen and she let out a squeak, clutching the off-white flannel sheets.
"Your ring." He points at the offending piece of metal and Serena punches his shoulder. The ring was on her left hand, snug and comfortable. She didn't realize she had slipped it on there. Or when she put it on to begin with, she woke up and it was there and it was like nothing ever happened.
Even though that was far from the case.
They fall into a comfortable silence, and Serena places her ringed hand on Calem's face, and brushes her lips against his.
"Don't be ridiculous." She whispers in between kisses, nuzzling his neck. "I won't marry you."
He pulls back and gave the girl a pout. "Why nooooooooot?"
"Because you haven't asked me to."
Serena felt her heart stop. Calem smiles, a brilliant and beautiful and warm smile, and then rolls to the floor, landing with a thump. Serena looks over the edge of her bed to see him sprawled out on all fours, trying to situate himself. Seeing him all flustered and panicked causes her to break into a torrent of giggles. She tries to hide them with her bandaged hands.
Calem was not laughing, he was straight faced and serious as he dropped to one knee, and carefully took one of Serena's hands, cradling it in his own.
It was at this moment that the girl also stops laughing. She blinks a couple of times before realizing that the intensity in his eyes was not a joke. He was staring at her intently, she counts his breaths, seven exactly, before he starts to speak.
"Serena Descartes, I've loved for for a million years I think. From before we met, to the night we tripped over each other's feet at your sister's cotillion ball, to the day we first kissed underneath the poplar tree in your uncle's backyard. I've written a litany of sonnets that encompass and embody your beauty and your strength, but all of it pales in comparison to the the real you. I've been dreaming about spending the rest of my life at your side because you're truly my better half."
He took another deep breath before casually slipping off the girl's ring, and then presenting it back to her.
"Will you marry me?"
"Calem, I'm in a hospital gown and my hair is a mess this is hardly appropriate engagement attire."
At least, that was what she would have said in another life. She really can't though because she was too busy crying. She nods and nods and wraps her arms around his neck, repeating the same word over and over again.
Yes. Yes, of course, of course.
"I'll be yours forever and always."
They don't get married.
Their parents absolutely forbid it, and send Serena off to Hoenn to live with relatives in Verdanturf Town, in hopes of facilitating the recovery process.
To their surprise, she loves it there. The air smells like fresh cut grass and mountain mist. Flower petals get stuck in her hair, and she takes pleasure in the short spring nights, where she would lay on her back and stare at the stars, hands outstretched reaching for a piece of the sky.
Her favorite thing about her midnight excursions was Calem braiding long wisps of her hair while she sang Hoenn folk songs.
The ring on her finger was gold now.
Serena does not stumble, does not shake. It is not written in her coding-it doesn't have to. As long as Calem was by her side, beautiful and egotistical and fiercely devoted Calem, she would have no reason to lose heart. He was her better half, and every day they spent underneath the orchard trees and in the warm beach sand, solidified that fact.
"Your parents are going to kill us, you know."
She's been through hell and back. She is unafraid.
Serena tilts her head to the side, and they lock gazes. She smiles, and carefully kisses his forehead.
"What was that for?" He mumbles, a blush settling on his cheeks. Small cherry blossoms fill the air and land in his dark brown hair and get stuck to his black shirt. His track jacket is a while away, bundled up next to her purse and sunglasses.
"I can't kiss your soul, so I had to make do with what I could."
Calem snorts and clutches his sides, his laughter so loud he rolls away from the girl, until he composes himself and wipes the tears from his eyes. Serena purses her mouth and asks what was so humorous about her very important and emotional statement.
"Calem, you're a jerk!"
Calem sits up, and scratches the back of his head with one hand and grabs one of her hands with the other. He smiles sheepishly, the blush from earlier seemed to glow brighter.
"I'm sorry, ahaha oh man. It's just, I don't know, I felt really happy when you said that? It was like old times, you know?" The boy draws circles on her palm, and continues. "You used to say really sentimental stuff, and I always thought they were incredible. You stopped doing that after..." His voice falters but he finds the strength to keep going, despite Serena's wide eyed stare. "After your run in with Team Flare, and it was like I was bedding a stranger, you were so, so cold. Everything about you was razor sharp and wicked, and it was terrible, because the Serena I knew, she was warm like sunshine and the summer breeze.
"After you were discharged from the hospital and I asked for your hand in marriage it felt like a dream, honestly. A really good dream, like the ones you never wanna wake up from. Living with Trevor was kind of a setback, but considering your parents were absolutely livid with us, it was all right. Despite the fact we were both free from our struggles, you still turned and tossed in your sleep. An accidental brush made you freeze, and you stopped playing violin. You love the violin. I just, I understand that you might not want to talk about what that...
"What that monster did to you, but when you are ready, I'll be here for you. I was just really happy to see that the old you was still here." He points a finger at her chest.
"Thank you, Serena."
Serena felt her cheeks get damp. She chalked it off to the grass, but then realized that after wiping her face, they wouldn't dry.
She was crying. She sat up and wiped her eyes with her hands, until Calem offered her a handkerchief.
She takes it and lets out a small giggle-snort.
"Let's go home."
He takes her hand and helps her up. They pick up their things and leave the moonlit grove behind, they run past the flower fields and the berry trees, they run past her aunt's cozy three bedroom home and the glittering town square, they run until they can't feel their legs and the scenery morphs into something undistinguishable. They run until Serena climbs onto Calem's back and he laces up his rollerblades and they keep going, they follow the moon and the north star.
They run through rain, through heat, through sleet, and hail, until they can feel the sunshine beat against their backs and the horizon of a new day soak them with hope-
With promises of a better day tomorrow.
note d'auteur: lmao i am trash this is trash