You grew leaves on your skin and copse on each of your fingers. Your coffee colored skin seemed as if it loves the way the sun rays struck it while you feel the thick and fervent air to your bones. You acted as if you love the way this world molded you—just to be razed by hurricanes and thunderstorms. And then you realize: your roots are just feet; and you should have not apologized for being who you really are.
Part one of my contribution to tonight’s Coran Week theme. Whether it’s fully poly or a shared relationship is up in the air (for reasons I can’t say without spoiling). Part two here.
His head was throbbing when he cracked one eye open. But rather than searing pain he had been expecting, he felt… soft?
Coran weakly raised his head and found himself in what seemed to be a copse of some sort of flower vines. Bluish pollen dust coated his clothes and hair, and when he stirred more up trying to push himself up onto his knees, he sneezed.
Above him, laughter filtered through the noises of the birds in the trees.
He hadn’t heard that laugh in-
A hand appeared in his field of vision to help him up, and he stared at it dumbly for several seconds before looking up.
“Are you just going to sit there in the lillika knots forever?”
She had more of the pale pink streaks that had sprouted in her hair after Allura had been born, and the markings under her eyes had evolved with age, changing shape slightly to something even more exotic. But… but it was her.
Even though it couldn’t be her.
“Illyere?” Coran asked, voice weak and barely audible even to his own ears. “How are you here?”
The vision in front of him arched an eyebrow, mouth quirking slightly in an expression he still knew so well. “We all got here with Yellow nine cycles ago dear; are you alright?”
Yellow? The Yellow Lion? Feeling sick with confusion, Coran raked a hand through his hair, trying to make sense of his thoughts. He remembered a maze of caves - the Paladins - Allura - a mission - … what had…
Illyere touched his shoulder with an expression of concern and, almost on reflex, he yanked her down, wrapping her in a fierce hug as he buried his face in her shoulder. “Illyere… am I dead? Is that where we are?”
“You’re starting to worry me, Coran,” she said, gently pushing him back to check his eyes. “Did you fall? Were there any pichal spores in the flowers?” She took off her gloves and cupped his chin in her hands, and he thought he might cry at the familiar prick of her sharp little claws. “You don’t feel feverish-”
“No,” he rasped. “I don’t- it was… just a nightmare, I think. It was just a nightmare.”
“All the same, might be best if you rest a bit and don’t go exploring again for awhile. Come on.” She stood, dusting pollen from her skirts and offered a hand again. “I’m sure Allura’s played herself into an appetite by now.”
He swallowed, still feeling strange and confused and kind of dizzy, but let her pull him up and link their arms together and they headed off, presumably back down the path she’d come to find him. A blur of bright green flashed past his vision, and he turned his head to see an Emerald Tirpaeki Bird land on a nearby branch, fluffing out its four wings at them in a threat display. “Arus? We’re back on Arus?”
“Oh, are you starting to get your bearings back?
Except… he was sure Tirpaeki of all colors were extinct now, weren’t they? The updated computer sweeps on Arus had said so. They had died out when…
“Aipa! Mama, you found him!”
The dizzy feeling washed back over him in force, making his legs buckle as Allura, looking barely as old as when she’d first begun her training, ran out from under an archway, a hard light miniature holo of Yellow on her heels.
Aipa… Second Father… What was going on…?
“Allura, sweetbug, go get your papa, would you? Aipa Coran came across something on his walkabout that left him not feeling well,” Illyere said, her hold on him subtly tightening to keep him on his feet.
The little princess -his little princess?- gave him a look of worried confusion, but nodded and vanished around a corner, and Illyere pulled him over to sit on a large chunk of stone.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” he mumbled weakly.
“What’s the matter, old man? You get attacked by marchak venom?” The question was joking, but the concern was real, and as another pair of hands -strong, warm, familiar hands that couldn’t be there- settled on his shoulders to hold him steady, it seemed like his mind was falling apart for a moment.
“I’m here. We’re all here. We’ve got you. Yellow, run a diagnostic on him, would you?”
The holo rumbled an affirmative, and Coran watched her as she sprouted several little screens, all of them directed at him. He did remember this protocol from medics, and let Illyere take off his left glove for a tiny blood sample.
“Looks like we were both off, darling,” Illyere said, reading the results screen. “It’s not pichal or marchak. A vikapal must have bitten him in his sleep.”
“Damn. Nothing to do for that but let it work its way out of the system. Sorry, old man. Looks like you’re going to be feeling rotten for awhile.”
“No, no, my own damn fault,” Coran said with a weak little laugh, relief washing through him sickly. The nightmares, the confusion, the memory dazes, it all made sense now. “Should have paid better attention to where I was going.”
“Does that mean we have to go home?” Allura asked, peeking over the rock he was resting on.
“After all the work it took to get us all a day off? Not a chance, dolly,” Alfor replied, ruffling her hair affectionately. “We’ll just have to change plans a bit.”
Put out the lights now! Look at the Tree, the rough tree dazzled In oriole plumes of flame, Tinselled with twinkling frost fire, tasselled With stars and moons—the same That yesterday hid in the spinney and had no fame Till we put out the lights now.
Hard are the nights now: The fields at moonrise turn to agate, Shadows are cold as jet; In dyke and furrow, in copse and faggot The frost’s tooth is set; And stars are the sparks whirled out by the north wind’s fret On the flinty nights now.
So feast your eyes now On mimic star and moon-cold bauble; Worlds may wither unseen, But the Christmas Tree is a tree of fable, A phoenix in evergreen, And the world cannot change or chill what its mysteries mean To your hearts and eyes now.
The vision dies now Candle by candle: the tree that embraced it Returns to its own kind, To be earthed again and weather as best it May the frost and the wind. Children, it too had its hour—you will not mind If it lives or dies now.
Reblogging last year’s Secret Santa fiction…. just for fun.
She stood in the woods just behind the Castle and surveyed the Scots Pine trees in the copse. They certainly didn’t resemble the trees she remembered from her time, but they would have to do. Finding one little enough that she and young Thomas Baxter could manage to cut and carry on their own would be the hard part. Finally, after traipsing around for an hour she heard Thomas shout, “Mistress Fraser!” and she followed the sound of his voice to where he was standing. The tree was as tall as she was, but not too big around. It was beautiful, and full enough.
She laid a hand on his shoulder and smiled at him. “It’s perfect, Thomas. Exactly what I was hoping for.”
Thomas grinned up at her and shook his head. “I still don’t understand what you mean to do, Mistress, but if you give me the saw I’ll crawl under and cut it down for you.”
After a lecture about safety and careful direction on what she wanted, she relinquished the saw. In no time the tree toppled over and he stood up, dirty kneed, disheveled, with pine needles in his hair and a grin on his face. Grabbing the tree from tip to trunk they carried it back to the Castle.
“The tricky part is getting in unseen,” Thomas said from the edge of the forest. “Follow me, Mistress. It’s likely to be dark and dirty where we’re going.” Having grown up around the Castle he knew all it’s secrets. So when she found herself climbing a narrow, spiral staircase with a heavy tree she bit her tongue when tempted to complain. Popping out a small door, she found Thomas had led them to right outside her and Jamie’s chamber.
“Well done, Thomas!” she exclaimed. “Wait a minute…just let me check for Mr. Fraser first,” and she cautiously opened the door. The room was empty so she grabbed her end of the tree and they carried it inside. Leaning the tree against the wall she said, “Now, Thomas, I’ll need some water in a bucket. Can you manage?”
“Yes, Mistress!” and off he went down the corridor, dirty and happy to be on a secret mission.
Jamie would not understand. How could he? Just days before they’d managed to reach an understanding in their marriage. Her ways vs. his ways. But, if she was stuck in this godforsaken century she would at least celebrate Christmas the way she wanted. Looking around the room Claire knew what she had to do. She moved a table, a chair, and cleared the spot in the corner by her side of the bed, quite far from the fireplace. When Thomas returned, she placed the bucket in the corner and they lifted the tree together and placed the trunk in it. “What’s that for, Mistress?”, Thomas asked.
“The tree needs to stay hydrated, Thomas. Otherwise it will get too dry and the needles will fall off.”
“No, not the water Mistress. Why bring a tree inside at all?”
“Well, where I’m from, it’s what we do. We decorate it with ribbons and such. And place our gifts for each other under it. It’s kind of a tradition.”
Thomas gave her a pointed look, glanced over at the tree again and said, “Begging your pardon, Mistress Fraser, but Oxfordshire ways are a wee bit strange”. Claire laughed, thanked her young friend again, and sent him on his way.
Down in her surgery Claire rummaged around. She found a roll of linen that she used for bandages and ripped it into one inch strips. In Mrs. Fitz’s sewing room she gathered up some unused fabric. Entering the kitchen, she grabbed some shortbread biscuits, and any berries she could find. Wandering outside, she used her shears to cut away some holly with its bright red berries. Stuffing all these things into her basket, she made her way back to her chambers again and set to work.
When Jamie returned to the Castle he headed to the surgery first to look for his wife. Not finding her, he headed to the kitchen. No sign of Claire among the bustling servants. Reaching their room he was just about to open the door when he heard signs of a struggle inside. A shout, a scream and a loud bang had Jamie bursting through the door, dirk drawn and ready for action. What he found was Claire on the floor, in nothing but her shift, an overturned chair and a great bloody tree in his bedchamber.
“Claire!” Rushing around the bed to help her up he said, “Sassenach! Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Really. I lost my balance trying to put the ribbon on top of the tree.”
“Mo gradh,” Jamie said slowly. “What the hell is a tree doing in our bedchamber? Covered in bandages and baubles?”
Claire glanced at his face and laughed. “It’s a Chris…I mean, a Yule tree!” At his puzzled look she continued, “It’s what we do in Oxfordshire. We decorate it. Then, we place gifts for each other underneath it. It symbolizes life…because it’s evergreen.”
Hands on hips, feet spread wide, Jamie continued to survey the corner. He had to admit, it smelled good. He loved the smell of pine. The shortbread biscuits were dangling from the branches by bits of ribbon. And Claire’s linen bandages had been tied to the ends of the boughs in little bows. There was a huge ribbon atop the tree, probably the one that knocked her off balance and on her fine arse. Berries strung into garland, and holly sprigs here and there. It really did look festive. “And you put gifts under it. For the tree.”
“No, silly!” she giggled. “I put a gift under there for you! And you put one under there for me. And on Yuletide morning, we open them.”
A hint of a smile lifted the corner of Jamie’s mouth, but he quickly pulled his face back into a look of consternation. Nodding slowly, he looked over at his wife. And noticed her shift. And her tousled hair. And flushed face. “Is it usual? This custom? To dress only in your shift for the decorating? Or was this meant as a way to soften your husband into accepting this….” he gestured toward the tree but kept his eyes narrowed on Claire.
She had the grace to look a little embarrassed when she said, “Well, no. It wasn’t comfortable to move and reach up high in my corset. So, I took it off.”
“Hmmmph”, he said, and moved closer to his wife. Taking a finger he gently brushed a stray hair from her forehead. Slowly, trailing his hand down her neck and across her shoulder he gently grabbed the fabric and brought it up over her bare shoulder. Then, he slid his big hand down her back and brought her closer into his embrace. Brushing a soft kiss against her temple he brought is head down and whispered into her ear, “I don’t understand it, Sassenach. Not one bit. But does it make you happy?”
Wrapping her arms around his waist she leaned into him and whispered back, “Yes, Jamie. It does.”
With a finger under her chin he brought her face up for a kiss. And fumbling in his sporran for a bit, he brought out a small package. Wrapped in paper and tied with string. Looking deep into her eyes, he smiled, turned, and placed it under the tree. “Like this, then?”
“Yes,” she said. “Just like that.” Eyeing the tiny, odd-shaped package she said, “Jamie, what is it?”
“Ach”, he said taking off his vest and belt, “You’ll have to wait until Yuletide to find out, no?” He gave his wife a look and pulled his shirt over his head. “But come to bed, Sassenach, and maybe you’ll be able to get an answer out of me somehow, aye?” And his kilt fell to the floor.
So because of this post I am now thinking about Steve Rogers, son of Irish Immigrants, and the practical magic that he no-doubt learned at his mother’s knee.
Finding bullaun stones in the woods as he crossed the continent during the war, stopping to place a small blessing on the Howling Commandos that their aim be true and their step be sure.
Leaving honey on the edges of wells to thank those that kept it flowing clean, and passing around bread and salt each time they were in a new house, just to make sure the threshold would be steady.
Keeping a couple of small potatoes in the bottom of his bag, even when he was hungry, just in case someone had trouble with their feet or a rash that wouldn’t go away.
Finding faerie circles in the woods and re-routing his mission around them because hell if he’s crossing through that particular copse, thank you very much, he’s not here to upset anyone.
Seeing magpies and delaying a charge. Carefully catching chairs before they fall when someone stands up too fast. Addressing certain trees very politely and putting snipers nests away from them so they don’t get damaged.
If you know Irish folk, this in no way precludes the Catholic-ness of his background, but man, it’s interesting.
There’s a certain type of ~aesthetic~ post that I always find curiously fascinating. You’ve all seen them, I’m sure. It’s those posts that are just an assemblage of pictures of people inexplicably naked in random locales with lighting that turns the side of a road or the alley behind a diner or whatever place it happens to be into a liminal space.
Usually the people are either unusually attractive or at least interesting to look at in their appearance, and part of why I find it fascinating is that although the pictures should, according to current social standards, be at least hinting of eroticism, they’re completely devoid of sexuality. It’s an interesting contrast that the same person, dressed (or undress, as it is) in the same manner, in the same place, just with different lighting or atmosphere, could be a highly charged erotic piece; and yet, nothing about the picture has sexual content to it.