Author’s Note: I will continue to post little bits of these two possible serials, though it looks at this point like they might both end up on the site.
We’ll see. I haven’t gotten a lot of response to the question of which one people want to see. I’ve got a whole explanation for the voting thing elsewhere on the site, but in the mean time, here’s more fic to help with the decision.
If all that seems confusing, I did try to explain what I’m up to here.
The water dripping off the ceiling had a sort of rhythm to it, at first annoying but now a part of their lives, familiar and even comforting. Down in the catacombs, their people had their only real freedom, and she knew that she would stay there always if she had only the chance. Reaching up, she removed her cloak and set it aside. She put her hand up to catch some water in her palm, smiling as she did. This place made her feel playful, and she had never known that as a child. Now was not the time for it—and yet, it seemed to be.
Hope had come after so long of oppression, a relief from the heat and burden of their people. She could believe that they would have some success, a thing she’d not dared to do before, and she wanted to think that they could do more than send a few fortunate refugees to the land of the new queen. She did not know if it would be possible. The revolution seemed to be gaining strength, but that illusion had fooled them before, and they had suffered instead.
“It is good to see you smiling.”
She turned, extending her hand to the man who had long since taken her heart. Back when they were both young and foolish, they had chosen to defy the edicts and marry, one of few who managed to do so without losing their heads for it. “You are late.”
“We have been busy.”
She nodded. “It is good work you do, and I should not begrudge it, even if it takes away from the few stolen moments that we have.”
His lips pressed against her cheek, lingering for some time before he leaned back and spoke. “There is momentum now that we never had before. I do not know that we will sustain it, but we have freed more of our people than ever before. We must continue to do so while there is yet time.”
She studied her hands, so pale after all the years of hiding, never being able to spend even the safe parts of the day in the sun. “Our efforts in the south are failing?”
“I do not know. That is not my part, and you know it. You have yours, doing your duty to the court and gathering what information you might, and I move our people across the border when we can.” He looked at her, shaking his head as he did. “Listen to me. I don’t know why I’m telling you things that you already know. Are we that old? Has that happened already?”
She laughed, wrapping her arms him and letting herself indulge in his proximity for a moment. “It happened a long time ago, but we were too stubborn to admit it.”
He combed his fingers through her colorless hair, and she reached up to catch his hand. So many moments like this turned into frantic ones needing further intimacy, but she did not think they could spoil themselves with such luxury today.
“What is it?”
She withdrew, walking away from him. She stood in the archway, letting the cooler air meet all of her exposed skin. She closed her eyes and waited until his hands were on her shoulders. “Should I be arranging to send you out of the country? I had thought we’d gotten too old for that, but if you carry with you another, then this time I insist on sending you away. We will not risk it again.”
“I do believe you were correct in thinking that I am too old for such a thing,” she said, though the twin suns made it hard for any of them to know what was right or wrong with their own bodies. Either they were overheated or they were burning, and they had so little opportunity for rest with their schedules and duties, sacrificing even more of it for clandestine meetings of this and other sorts. “I do regret not sending those closest to us with you, but I have no one to send now.”
“In some ways, the loss of the king’s younger cousin has made us even… stronger,” her husband said, his hand going to her stomach. “Not that it is the way any of us would have wanted it to be. He had always given us as much as he could. He was hope, and he took so many of our people to freedom during those negotiations…”
“I think it was close to thirty in a single trip, thanks to those sympathetic to our cause,” she said. Her heart still ached when she remembered the way he’d struggled when he was taken away. He was always so careful, so precise, never defying the king in a way that could be detected, but somehow he’d failed. “It should not have been his last act.”
“The king wanted an excuse to kill him, and he made the queen that reason.”
“The queen may be of use to us.”
“You think so? She has been quiet thus far.”
“She offered her land as shelter for her people.”
“You believe she was sincere?”
“She admitted she could make no guarantees for our safety, and she did not speak of it until she knew that the king was gone. She could be sincere, but I think she must be tested first.”
“I will tell the others. You must get back.” He turned her around to face him. “I long for the days when we are free to be together always, not just in these stolen respites.”
“You know that is all I want. I should say that I want the liberation of our people, but I have always wanted you more.”
He smiled at her. “Zagaime. Forever and always.”
He kissed her, and she watched him go, unwilling to let the tears burn her eyes. She picked up her cloak and wrapped it around her, forcing her arms through the sleeves. She closed her eyes, wishing she had any kind of guarantee of his return. She did not want to lose anyone else she loved.