The Alternate Universe Weekly Challenge Thread
View Single Post
12.14.2012 , 07:56 PM |
Lodestone: Allies again because I'm not really responding to prompts as such.
Wynston woke up the second Ruth moved. Hold still. Status: half dressed, physically fine. Surroundings, perfect. Less certain than they had ever been, but she had stayed in his arms. Perfect. Her lips brushed his forehead before he admitted to being awake.
As he opened his eyes she smiled dreamily. "That was a very strange conversation we had," she said.
"We can forget about it," he drawled, keeping his manner casual. "I thought it might be nice to take your mind off other things temporarily, that's all."
"That's not all. You were serious. You jerk me around all the time, and you think feelings are all cause and effect, and you tease all this sympathy out of me at the same time you're admitting that you see it all as something useful." She traced the hollow of his throat with a fingertip. "Also you say you don't know how to be sincere. But then you're there when you're needed. For things you believe in. For me. You do so much good and that's the one thing you haven't admitted to yet."
He didn't trust his voice for speaking. He squeezed her tighter instead.
She considered his face. "What you said. It was hard for you. If changing to be what I'm supposed to want is too great a risk, you don't have to do it."
He suddenly felt very awkward. "That…honestly never occurred to me." He was too used to morphing into what was desired for the scene, too used to seeking the satisfaction of a pleased partner. He was entirely too used to responding to her.
"The effort is nice. You're giving me answers like nobody else ever has. I need those."
He kissed her. She was sweet, and soft in ways that that lean-muscled scar-laced body couldn't account for.
She backed off a tiny bit. "When did you stop lying to me?" she asked in a tone of nothing harder than curiosity.
"About a week ago," he admitted. Whether she would buy that, he didn't know. "I didn't tell any active lies on Voss but even there I left out a lot of significant context."
"I guess we didn't exactly have a lot of heart-to-hearts there, either."
"True. Your heart was rather decisively elsewhere. Which you had every reason for."
Her lip twitched in a momentary, bitter sneer. "It was stupid."
"It was amazing to see. I've been from one side of this galaxy to the other and I can tell you that almost every individual I've ever met will live and die without ever knowing something like that." He ran his fingers through her hair, studied her eyes. Once again marveled that anyone who knew her could try to break her. "I've been from one side of this galaxy to the other and never met anyone who'd be stupid enough to throw that away once they found it."
"I met one," she said quietly. "What I had was nice, but I'm not sure I could do it again."
"Not to worry. Nobody's asking you to."
"Oh?" She started to say something else, then stopped and smiled a little instead, not quite meeting his eyes. "Well. At least tell me, does it ever feel real again after the innocence goes away?"
"I've told you I'm not the person to ask. If anyone could do it it'd be you, but that will take time. And the right partner."
"I see," she said. It sounded like she knew he wasn't referring to himself.
He looked away. He shouldn't have let the conversation turn this way. Whatever this was, he still knew that love implied not leaving. He couldn't make that expectation. He wanted her to have it with someone someday; she was made for loving. He wasn't. He knew his limits.
"This, now, is good," she added tentatively.
"I agree wholeheartedly." Steer away. He ran his fingertips down her forearm to clasp her hand. "Did you sleep well?"
"Good. I was worried about you. Not quite worried enough to skip dropping all my problems on you at once, but I worried."
"It's better with you here. And you're better with you telling me what's going on." She squeezed his hand. "It was a hard day before that. I'm hoping I can work my way around any future…similar requirements."
"Me too." He kissed her forehead. "If there's anything I can do…"
"You're doing a lot already," she said. "In theory at some point I should start being nice in return."
"Tolerating the mess that was last night counts for a lot."
"You letting me see it came out in my favor."
"I'm not sure I understand how that was in any way good for you."
"I thought we established that." She gave him an arch look. "It further cemented trust. Established vulnerability so I would have the comfort of not feeling alone. Presented an interesting thought puzzle that might keep me occupied. It was in every way ideal for making me feel included, and important, while challenging me enough to keep me from rejecting it as too perfect."
He reminded himself to keep breathing. She was going to string him up with the rope he had handed her. And this was why one should never ever talk without having one's cover story in place.
She looked more thoughtful as she went on. "I think you were giving me something you don't give out lightly. You were right, that it wasn't about work and wasn't just about wanting. It was something you could do to tell me that you're trusting me, and that's…it's an honor to know." She was so very still. "This is a lot of readings to think about at once."
"It is," he said hoarsely.
"Not all of them were necessarily your intent."
"Not all of them."
"It's unwise to pick out just the ones that come naturally. That feel right."
It was unwise to push conspicuously self-interested interference into this delicate line of thought. "Do it anyway. Here at least." He pulled her a little closer.
She focused anew on his face. "I want you here no matter what." She dipped in to touch her nose to his. "I'm glad we talked. I'm glad you told me. And I'm glad you're with me now. That said, when you look at things like this, how does the bad possibility not drive you insane?"
Hedge against it. Learn to ignore the weakest odds. Plan against the others. Never stop looking over your shoulder. Learn to cut your losses. Give up on feeling bad about it. "You get used to seeing both sides," he said lightly.
"And it stops tasting bitter?"
He hesitated. That question depended wholly on the person. For the people in his line of work who were sensitive to start with, it didn't stop until they burned out and gave up caring about much of anything. Effective colleagues, but he had to watch them. "Ruth…it took me years, and I never want you learning your way around it the way I had to. There are more comfortable ways of looking at life, comfortable ways that still work. You don't have to see it this way."
"Worried I'll catch up with you?"
More than she knew. "You were made for better things."
She smiled bleakly. "Remaking is happening these days, or hadn't you noticed?"
He stroked her cheek to make sure the tiny instinctive beginning of a real smile was still there when he touched her. "Then you'll remake yourself for better things, darling. What we talked about last night, that's just what I am." He was a particularly high-functioning sanitation worker, not a philosopher; he could let her see the machinery he lived with but he couldn't grant her the perspective necessary to live with it herself. "It's not what you have to be, not if it hurts you."
"This is a better start than I have on anything else," she said. "It's something to keep in mind, at least. Besides. You think that way, and I still think you're amazing. You do a lot of good."
"Just think how much more you'll be doing in the days to come," he said warmly. "Can I double-check something for my own peace of mind? You heard all this rambling. And you know that everything I say and do could very reasonably be construed to be hiding a horrible motivation. And…you're letting me near you anyway."
"Yes," she said firmly.
Even as she acknowledged the other thing. It was as close to trust as he was going to get. He only hoped the strain on her didn't hurt. "I'm grateful. Deeply grateful. But out of fairness I should point out, if it's too great a risk you don't have to do it."
"That…honestly had occurred to me," she said with a small smile, "but I think we're both better off this way."
Yes. Yes, they were. He took a minute to just enjoy the look and feel and everything of her. "No matter what happens today," he murmured, "you'll have me." He very nearly swore it as a promise outright. "Also I'm dying to kiss you right now."
"Mm. That's acceptable."
He was better at expressing himself this way, and the lessons were far, far better for her spirit. Or, from an alternate perspective, she simply felt good.
It isn't throwing love away if it wasn't love to start with, so Wynston's evaluation of Quinn's idiocy is entirely unselfconscious.
In fact, Wynston is willing to "No true Scotsman" the everloving **** out of love with respect to himself. Whatever he's developing may have some characteristics like love, but there are CLEARLY specific characteristics that love has that this doesn't. This is a well-meaning exercise if your…person you care about…would be critically dependent on authenticity in her Scotsmen. I think this just became my favorite paragraph about logic I've ever written.
Anyway, re: his reluctance to think of her internalizing deeply cynical mechanistic thought, I think most adults have life lessons they've learned that they can't explain or directly pass on, that are important, but that they would do anything to spare their loved ones' (or much-liked ones') having to go through the process of learning.
the Short Fic Weekly Challenge
- 90+ authors to date. 2500+ stories. New prompts weekly!
Bright's Fanfic Threads
Ceterum autem censeo, Malavai esse delendam.