Can’t Keep Reaching for What You Don’t Have to Give

Author’s Note: Despite the many great lyrics in this song, there was only one real choice for doing fic from it, one story and one set of lyrics.

Now you’re just a shell of
Your former you
That stranger in the mirror
Oh, that’s you

~First Aid Kit, “Blue”

And since I have not shared any of this story on this site before, I will put the story’s summary at the end of this entry for anyone who needs it.

Can’t Keep Reaching for What You Don’t Have to Give

Recall should have cut and run years ago. Maybe the agency would find her and bring her back. Maybe not. She might have been free. The one who stood the best chance of finding her was gone, again, and she could be so far from here and all of this. She wouldn’t be staring in the face of broken promises and empty vessels.

He’d said he’d remember, and she’d almost believed him, but he didn’t. His eyes held that same vacancy, the lost and bewildered look he got when he didn’t know where he was or who he was. He did not know her, not as he had, not as he’d promised he would, and the man she’d made the mistake of considering a friend was gone.

She could give him back those memories, try and reclaim who he’d been, but she rejected the idea almost in the same instant as she had it. What would be the point? Any time he used his ability, he’d be lost all over again, and she had always told herself she would only give him the memories he needed, not force him to be any of his various fractures again.

His eyes found her, so frightened and scared, overwhelmed by the lack of recognition for anything, and she sighed. She knew she would not run, but she would not bring him back, either. She wasn’t going to let herself get hurt all over again.

She wouldn’t let herself care.

He wasn’t a friend. He was a task. She was there to give him memories, and she did. He wasn’t a friend, could never be one. He might want to, might think he could, but he would always forget, always disappear, and she wouldn’t allow herself to feel that pain again.

She wouldn’t get attached. Not to Fracture. Not ever again.

The agency’s most valuable asset, Fracture can bend his genetics to become whatever he needs to be. The same ability that makes him special erases all of his memories when he uses it. With the ability to store and share other people’s memories, Recall was assigned as his partner, able to restore some of what was lost during the last fracture. She adjusted to the cycle years ago, but this time Fracture seems different, and he might not be willing to let that cycle continue.

Chosen Roles

Author’s Note: I began today by staring at these lyrics and going, “okay, I don’t think fic is going to happen any time soon.”

Then I started thinking about different stories, different possibilities, and also that perhaps I’d be able to show off the updated cover for A Perfect Sunset soon.

Add in these lyrics (and remind me to prompt Liana Mir with them later)

In the hearts of men
In the arms of mothers
In the parts we play to convince others
We know what we’re doing
We’re doing it right

~First Aid Kit, “In the Hearts of Men”

Chosen Roles


The woman turned, and Jis shrank back, dodging the blade and her mother’s attack. She had not thought she had to train today, but she supposed that she knew better. The life of an esbani was always training. They could not allow themselves to make a mistake and fail to protect the royal family. No one had done that, not in centuries, not back to when her people had supposedly flown.

“Jis,” her mother chided, and she grimaced. “That was not a proper evasion, nor should you be here now. You have lessons with the tutors.”

“No, Zaze has lessons. She’s the princess. She’s the one that has to know all those things, not me. I just have to be willing to kill or die for her,” Jis said, shaking her head as she spoke. She did not see why she had to go with Zaze to the lessons, why they kept trying to make her act more and more like her. Zaze was prideful, stubborn, and stupid, and Jis didn’t want to be like her.

“Oh,” her mother said, pulling her into her arms, “my little jisensoji.”

She curled up in her mother’s embrace, aware of all that her mother would not say—that the life of an esbani was not one for a child, that Jis should have freedom to play and be herself, that she should be too young to understand what it meant to be in this role, to know that she would die in the princess’ place if it was necessary.

“Do you think the king loves you?” Jis asked, daring to look up at her mother’s face for the truth. Was that what had distracted her earlier, thoughts of the king? Or was it her own pain of knowing that she was meant to die in the place of the queen?

“I think your father loves you very much.”

That was not what Jis had asked, but she feared it was answer enough. She closed her eyes, trying to console herself with the knowledge that it would never be her. As the king’s daughter, she would never be forced to give herself to a man she didn’t love just because she was esbani.

She was born to take Zaze’s place and die for her, though. Jis would never be free to live her own life or marry anyone. She was esbani. Her life was already forfeit.

The Complications of Language and Breakfast

Author’s Note: I had a hard time getting this second piece of the challenge done. I suppose the simplest way of explaining it is that the other aspects of publishing sapped all my creativity and writing just wouldn’t happen. Not on this, not on anything. I didn’t write a word for over a week.

Today I looked at the lyrics again, and this part sparked something:

Now so much I know that things just don’t grow
If you don’t bless them with your patience
And I’ve been there before I held up the door
For every stranger with a promise

~First Aid Kit, “Emmylou”

And I was able to write more for the upcoming serial.

The Complications of Language and Breakfast

“Here,” Stratford said, holding out the fork to the boy. “Try this.”

Eyes wide, their terrified gaze held on the implement in front of him, the boy shrunk back against the headboard, trying to disappear into the bed. He let out a stream of unintelligible words, protesting as he tried to hide or escape, and Stratford frowned.

“I think he thinks I mean to hurt him when I am only trying to get him to eat,” he said, turning back to Whistler in frustration. “I wish I could make him understand, but even when he speaks more, I get no sense of the words that he uses. His speech is unlike any language I’m familiar with.”

“We do have no sense of his origin. He could be from anywhere,” Whistler reminded him, keeping his tone gentle. He went around to the other side of the bed. Taking the cup from the tray, he held it out to the child, waiting for the boy’s trembling to cease.

After a moment, the boy sat up and peered at the cup. His nose wrinkled, and he shook his head, rejecting the offer. He glanced toward the tray, hesitating before reaching for a small piece of fruit. He studied it with a frown.


“I’m not sure what that means,” Stratford said, taking a piece for himself, “but it is safe to eat.”

The boy watched him eat the bite and then coughed, rolling over in the pillows until his injuries reminded him of their presence. Grimacing, he straightened up and threw the fruit at Stratford.

“I can see he shares your table manners,” Whistler observed dryly, and Stratford glared at him.

The boy picked up a piece of bread and bite into it, chewing it down with an expression Stratford found difficult to decipher. He swallowed it with what seemed like difficulty, but when Whistler renewed his offer of tea, the boy shook his head again.

“He does not seem to like tea.”

“An unforgivable sin, according to your mother.”

Whistler smiled. “Yes, well, I happen to believe it is an acquired taste. Perhaps another flavour would suit him. He does not care for your favourite kind of fruit, either. I also would suggest that may have been the source of his reaction to the fork.”

Frowning, Stratford saw that the boy was actually playing with his fork now, using it to push around the food on the plate. “I take it you don’t want anything else that’s on there?”

The boy pointed his fork at Stratford.

He blinked. “I may just have been threatened.”

“Amusing.” Whistler did not sound amused, but under the circumstances, it almost was comical. The boy had suffered grave injuries and should have died, either from them or the fever that wanted to carry him off, but he would seem to be braver than his wounds. Or perhaps he believed a threat from a fork was a custom everyone here used, which would be Stratford’s fault, though far from his intention.

Stratford grunted. “How are we going to explain what happened? To ask him about his family or how he ended up on that shore? We cannot even communicate about food.”

“Patience,” Whistler advised. “We will learn. After all, we now what mish means, and that is a start, certainly more than you had before.”

Stratford nodded, sighing as he did. He pointed to the fruit again. “Mish?”

The boy’s face crinkled with distaste. “Mish.”

Stratford pointed to the utensil in the boy’s hand. “Fork.”

He had to duck when the boy threw it at him. Shaking his head, he watched the child, uncertain if he did have enough patience to learn the boy’s language or teach him theirs. Maybe it would have been easier if he had found some sign, someone else to give the child to, or even if the boy had died.

Seeking out and Searching for You

Author’s Note: I hereby present the first “track” of my Kabobbles Sing Along Album Challenge.

It took me a bit to decide which album by First Aid Kit I wanted to do, and I may end up doing both. That, and I got sidetracked in part by summarizing the book I’m using characters from today. This is in part a celebration for getting the summary written and in part because the initial hurdle of the challenge has been overcome (I started it, finally.) It should be more upbeat for a celebration piece, but it fit well to do this part, since the lyrics apply in different ways to the main novel.

This is based off this part of the lyrics:

Sometimes I wish I could find my Rosemary Hill
I’d sit there and look at the deserted lakes and I’d sing
And every once in a while I’d sing a song for you
That would rise above the mountains and the stars and the sea
And if I wanted it to it would lead you back to me

~First Aid Kit, “The Lion’s Roar”

Seeking out and Searching for You

Nerissa didn’t visit the overlook often. Maybe because she was afraid it meant she agreed, that she believed what everyone else did, what was sane and normal and right—that Sebastian was dead and buried. Or maybe it was because she thought coming here would mean they would lock her away, thinking her grief had driven her mad. Again.

She let out a breath, closing her eyes and trying to tell herself not to listen. That part of her that had never accepted that her other half was gone was no quieter now than it had been after he first disappeared, though if they were right and he was dead, then it should have been silent by now. Years had passed as proof, hadn’t they?

So why couldn’t she let him go? Why was she here, where they had supposedly found his body, instead of out with the man from her office that wouldn’t stop asking her out?

Nerissa sat down, running her fingers through the grass. She didn’t feel any closer to him here. She still felt as empty and sick as she had when he missed his valedictorian speech.

“If you’re out there, Seb,” she whispered, knowing she’d get herself committed if anyone heard her, “come back to me. Find your way back. I know you can. If I can feel you, you can feel me, and you’ll find me again.”

The breeze didn’t pick up, the glade remained still and quiet, and others would take that as an answer, but she didn’t. She wasn’t looking for a ghost, wasn’t hoping for relief from the other side. She was holding out hope that somewhere Sebastian was very much alive and they would follow that pull they’d always had when separated. They’d end up right back at each other’s side, inseparable as they had always been.

As they always should be.

Comfort for Insomnia

So Liana Mir and I are doing our little ficlet prompting thing we do again.

I’m going to post a few things that spawned from there over the next few days (one a day so not to spam, even though I wrote most of them the same day.

This was out of the prompt for “Malina, insomnia.”

Comfort for Insomnia

“I’m not keeping you awake, am I?”

Malina stilled, her foot still mid-step, wincing as she did. She sighed, shaking her head as she changed direction, veering off her intended path into the kitchen for the one that took her over to where her brother was on the couch. She should have known that even if he wasn’t awake, he’d know she was up and moving the moment she got out of bed. Most of the time she tried not to move around at night, but she’d given up on sleep. Again.

“It’s not you,” she said, sitting down beside him and allowing herself to take on his ability. “Though I might need you to get through work tomorrow.”

He snorted. “You know it doesn’t work that way. You don’t retain the energy the way I do. You can’t use it to keep you awake for days—and you wouldn’t want to.”

“Then why do you do it?” She asked, leaning her head against his arm. “You need your rest, too.”

“Not in the same way. I don’t… I don’t think I’ve ever really functioned like that. I remember being unable to sleep when Enadar needed the nightlight on, and I might have been showing signs of what I am even back then.”

Malina closed her eyes, wishing there was a way to will away pain and guilt, that she could take them from him somehow. “Why are you so stubborn about seeing yourself as evil when I’m not and Enadar isn’t?”

“Why are you awake if not because of me?” Alik countered. “This is the third night in a row where you haven’t gotten any sleep.”

“I have insomnia. You know that has no rhyme or reason.”

Alik gave her a look, and Malina caved. “Fine. I… It… You know it’s been a year now, right? Or almost. I…”

“You’re afraid of reliving the crash in your nightmares again.”

She shuddered, curling herself closer to him and his safety. “Yes.”

He put his arm around her, and she started twisting the fabric of his shirt in her fingers until he caught them and made them stop. “Ice is a fragile thing. Too fragile, sometimes, for any real existence. It can be broken, it melts easily in the sun and becomes as nothing… and yet ice can be hard and stubborn and unyielding—”

“I’m a mirror, not ice.”

“I never said this story was about you.”

Writing Again

Despite the fact that the last two days have really wanted to put me into tears, there remains some… good has come out of them. One of those things was that I got myself writing again.

The whole indecision and insecurity set right in, unfortunately. I’d started out to write the opening scene and ended up with a flashback. I do like the flashback, though. I have a feeling my supporting characters (Stratford & Whistler) might just upstage Dare, who is the main.

Anyway, since I am writing again, here is a teaser from my new historical mystery possibly scifi thing.

The Playtime Habits of Boys

“He’s up there in the trees again, isn’t he?” Stratford Morren said, joining his steward on the balcony. This had become familiar to all of them, a routine that they only pretended to be irritated by these days. The boy he’d taken into his home and later his heart had a smile and a manner that let him escape punishment for nearly every wrong and endeared him to everyone in the house, especially the cook. She loved to spoil him, thinking his every antic was both adorable and worth a reward. Had the boy less energy and enthusiasm for outdoor activities, he would be too large too move from his bed.

As it was, though, his son was almost always to be found in the heights of one of the estate’s many trees or even on the roof. Soon enough he would be old enough to scale the cliff, and that day was one Stratford was not yet ready to see. “I swear that boy should have been born with wings. Though if he was, that would only make things more difficult with Mrs. Frye, who is determined to see him as an angel.”

“Devils have wings as well,” Whistler said, and Stratford frowned. While some of their neighbours still disapproved of Dare’s presence among them, unusual foundling that he was, Whistler had been the one to watch over him in those early days, hardly leaving the child’s side until he had recovered from his fever. Stratford had always assumed that Whistler was as fond of the boy as he was.

“You would condemn the lad that way? I thought it was only that self-righteous hypocrite Lord Underwood that did that.”

Had Whistler’s mother not been a right terror who was prone to whack anyone—noble or servant alike—if she heard them using any kind of foul language, the steward might have had a few choice words for the earl, but even a full decade after that woman’s demise, he still restrained himself as she would have demanded.

“Lord Underwood is an ignorant man who knows nothing of anything beyond his own nose,” Whistler observed instead, folding his arms behind his back. “As for the matter of wings…”


“They would, perhaps, lessen the risk of him injuring himself when he falls,” Whistler said dryly, looking up at the tree with a shudder. In all the years Stratford had known him—they had been raised almost as brothers—he had never cared for any kind of height. Dare was the opposite—that boy seemed to have an aversion to being on the ground.

“He has yet to fall in all the time he’s lived here,” Stratford said. “I find it unlikely that he will do so now. Such a thing would almost be a sin against nature itself.”

Whistler snorted. “Mother would have you for blasphemy.”

“Your mother thought every word out of my mouth was blasphemy,” Stratford reminded him, and Whistler fought against a smile. Amusing as the words were, they were very near truth. He was forever considered a poor influence, one that seemed to overcome Whistler’s natural practicality and good sense.

“I think, perhaps, it is time you get him down from there.”

“I suppose,” Stratford said. He frowned, looking for the slight shift in the leaves that might betray his son’s presence.

“Is there a reason that you do not want him to get out of the tree?”

Stratford considered that. He did not know that he objected to Dare climbing trees, not like others would, nor did he fear that his son would fall and injure himself. Something else about the boy’s behaviour had him troubled, and yet he had not felt it until now. “When was the last time he went down to the lake?”

Whistler frowned, his brow wrinkling in a way that made him seem much older than a man of eight and twenty, a condition that Stratford feared was permanent. “Now that you mention it, I do not think that he has been there in well over a month. At least—I am used to him returning in a state of filthiness that befits his time in the trees and not the cleansing he used to get at the lake.”

“These are the warmest days of the summer,” Stratford said, shaking his head. “What boy with unrestricted access to water would not be there to spite this damned heat?”

“You say that because you were always there yourself in the summer, but you know he is not like you. His interests lie elsewhere.”

Stratford grimaced. “I do not think he will ever understand the complexities of why he cannot be the same friend he was before with Cadence. I swear he doesn’t realize she’s female half the time and he doesn’t see why she has a governess and lessons on ladylike behaviour when he is still free.”

“He is rather spoiled—and yet rather unspoiled.”

“Yet that is not enough to explain his sudden avoidance of the lake. He enjoyed being there before, so why won’t he go there now, when the heat’s at its worst?”

Whistler sighed. “Must everything make you suspicious?”

“It is my duty. I am responsible for the law around here.”

Whistler snorted. “Try telling that to Lord Underwood.”

Fire Dancers

Author’s Note: So I didn’t want to continue this idea. I figured it was… bad. Yet for some reason I felt compelled to do the other part of it, since Cress and Occie aren’t the only fourth generations in the Fire and Water universe. In fact… I found an interesting connection when I went looking, and I liked it, so… I wrote a bit for it.

I went with the fire side of things, looking not just at Enya’s possible ancestry but also someone else’s. 🙂

Fire Dancers

“You pretty dancer.”

“Thank you. From you I consider that the highest complement.” Eshne Royston laughed, turning around to smile down at her nephew, glad she was not in her whole costume yet. The mask scared him, and she did not like wearing it herself, but she found it was a bit of protection that they both needed. If only Aedus hadn’t died, then none of this would be necessary, but she knew better than to think too much about what would be different if her brother was alive. The past was done. The present was now, and they all had to survive it however they could.

“Dance?” Egann asked, holding his little hands up to her, and she took them, moving in a small circle that would not make the little one dizzy. He laughed, his smile so bright and so like his father’s… Eshne bit back a sigh. She knew she would always remember her brother when she looked at his son, but she would like for it to stop hurting every time she did.

If only their village hadn’t decided she was a witch—No. She was dancing. She was happy. All of that was forgotten. That was how it must be, how it should be.

“Eshne, lass, yer on in five minutes.”

“Phemie,” Egann said, letting go of Eshne’s hands and running toward the door. He stood on his toes and tried to reach the handle, but he was still too small for that, thank goodness. One of these days, she’d lose him, always afraid he would run off during one of her performances and she’d lose the only family that she had left.

She crossed over to the door, scooping him up before she opened the door to the other woman. “Are you able to watch him while I’m gone? I hate asking, but he’s still too young to be alone and I don’t have anyone—”

“It’s no trouble,” Phemie said, taking Egann into her own large arms. The strong woman had no trouble carrying about the three year old, and she never seemed to tire of it, whereas Eshne knew that she would want nothing more than sleep after she was done with her routine. “I miss the days mine were as young as this wee one.”

“He grows more and more like his father every day,” Eshne said, shaking her head. “Aedus would be so proud of him…”

“No tears now, lass. Ye’ve got to finish getting dressed, and ye cannot be spoiling your makeup with no tears,” Phemie admonished, pointing a thick finger at her. “I’ve got this one, now ye get yerself out there and make them stare in wonder.”

Eshne laughed, forcing herself back to the table and to the mask. As long as Egann couldn’t see it, she could wear it. She pulled it down off the back of her mirror and placed it on her face, adjusting it to where she could see. She looked at herself and shook her head. She’d been ready to be a nun, and now look at her. She did not know of much more wanton or disgraceful outfit, even as much as she tried to give herself some modesty.

The people saw only the fire anyway. She knew that. She was only a shadow in the flames, and even if her neckline was low and her skirt had a scandalous number of slits in it so that she could move without burning herself—not that she ever did, ever could.

She was the fire.

No one knew that, not even Phemie, and Eshne would not tell her, not after what happened to Aedus and his wife. This was a secret she knew must die with her, but not before Egann had grown, not until she’d seen to his safety. He was innocent, and he need not suffer because his aunt had some strange—she would not call it a curse for she did not believe that was what it was, but she did not understand how she could command fire, either.

She was not a witch. She’d never opened a spell book, never thought to ask anyone for any kind of spell, and though she knew her ancestors participated in pagan rites, she never had.

Still, when she wanted it, fire was hers.

She opened her palm, seeing the flame there, and closed it again, shaking her head and knowing that she would never allow anyone else to be harmed because of what she was. Egann would always be safe. She’d make certain of that, even if it took being whatever monster she was to do it.

Hugh Astin liked fire.

He liked it more than he should. That was the trouble, same trouble as always. He knew that he shouldn’t like fire as much as he did, shouldn’t enjoy seeing things burn or the way the flames danced, and he knew that no one would see his affection for the blaze as natural. Or harmless.

He didn’t know how many times liking fire had gotten him too close to something burning, close enough to be blamed for it, and sometimes he thought it should be his fault, he loved the sight of the blaze so much, but he’d never so much as lit a match, not once in his life.

He wasn’t sure he needed to—sometimes fire seemed to come just because he wanted it or needed it. He didn’t even need a bit of flint to start one in the wild.

Then again, he didn’t know that he was sane, either. He knew most people would say he wasn’t, given his love for fire, and he had his own doubts about it at times.

He looked again at the poster for the carnival. This was a tame way of indulging his love for fire, especially since the weather was too warm—other than a few strange bouts of heavy rain—for a fire in his room even at night. He did that, and people assumed he was either sick or some kind of freak. He supposed he was a bit of both.

A freak show was a fitting place for him, then, almost where he belonged. He purchased a ticket and went inside the circle, looking around at the tents. He figured the main arena was the best place for him, a nice seat where he could watch people do stunts with fire—he hadn’t seen a fire-eater on the playbill, but he didn’t find that as interesting as he did the flaming hoops people would sometimes jump through. He didn’t notice the people so much as the flames, though.

He sighed. Something was wrong with him. This obsession with fire had to be unnatural.

“Come on, laddies! Not a one of ye wants to miss the amazing talents of Bedelia, the ancient goddess of fire! See her invoke her most sensual of rites as she bedevils all ye!” The crier called out to the crowd, and Hugh stopped. How was he supposed to resist a goddess of fire?

Oh, he didn’t believe she was any true thing, of course, but if her act involved fire, he would enjoy it even if the rest of it was stupid or talentless. He paid for his entry into the smaller tent, taking a seat in front of the stage, wanting to be close to the fire.

Something pulled on him, some force he couldn’t see, and he frowned, but then his eyes caught the shadow—she wasn’t behind the curtain as they would have expected. He could not see much of her, just a faint outline of her form, but he felt her, aware of every movement before she made it.

The stage burst into flames, and she leapt forward into them, rolling to a stop, the flames flaring up as she turned to face her audience. Some of the others exclaimed in surprise, but Hugh just frowned. He knew that some effects could be achieved by rigging elements a certain way, and he didn’t know all the details of that, no, because he didn’t trust himself with that kind of knowledge, but he remained aware of what she was doing more so than the others, he thought, because it was easy to lose her in the shadows as she wove in and out of the flames, dancing with them as she might a lover.

He would have sworn that the fire was bending to her will.

A part of him was tempted to—no, that could hurt her, and he was only fooling himself if he thought that he could do it, but he wanted to see the flames go against her, just once. Not to hurt her, he didn’t want her harmed, but he wanted to know if she could truly do it. They called her a goddess, but he knew eighty percent of the carnival was fake and the other twenty percent was tragedy. She should be a fake.

He kept thinking she wasn’t, though.

Impossible. He didn’t believe she was a goddess. She wasn’t a witch, either. He didn’t believe in either thing, and so he would just prove it. She couldn’t control fire.

He didn’t know how he’d prove it without matches, though. He didn’t allow himself to carry any, and a flint wouldn’t work. Still, if just that little patch there was stronger, taller—he sat back, telling himself he’d imagined it changing, but then she hissed out a curse and her dress caught fire.

She spun around like it was a part of the dance, extinguishing it at the end of her twirl, but he swore he felt her eyes glaring out into the darkness, searching for him as though she knew what he’d done—only he couldn’t have done it.

No matter how much he liked fire, he knew he couldn’t control it. That was impossible.

Uneasy Waters

Author’s Note: So a fit of insanity overtook me and despite being this close to deleting all of Fire and Water a few days ago, I was compelled by the idea of the whole “fourth generation water” concept and going back to an earlier generation. I was thinking maybe historical fiction was a better idea for now, since sci fi and mysteries and the fusion there of was not working, in fact, nothing contemporary was.

Still, I don’t know that Fire & Water is anywhere I should be, and I don’t know how viable this concept is.

If I’m honest, I don’t know much of how to feel about anything anymore. I’m celebrating losing my job, after all, and this isn’t really the piece for that, but I decided it had to be at least partially written, though most of what I thought of did not make it into this brief section.

I’d almost be amused to see if anyone who has read Fire and Water would make the one connection, but then again, I’m not sure if it’s obvious… and I know not many people read F&W, so that’s something to consider, too.

Plus… I am talking mostly to myself even if I’m online because no one uses this site anyway, so I don’t know why I bother sometimes. 😛

Uneasy Waters

“Please tell me I do not have to do this,” Dayla whispered, looking out at the window, not back at her mother. She could not face the woman, would rather not see that indifference on her face when she did. She forced herself to breathe despite the tightness of her dress, wishing she could free herself from that, if nothing else.

“You know you must,” her mother said, coming over to put her hands on Dayla’s shoulders. “Your sister is too sick to manage it, and your brother is still trying to salvage the business. We need the money. You must marry him.”

Dayla’s stomach twisted. She did not even like the man. He was more than twenty years her senior, and even if he were not, if she could overlook the differences in their ages, she knew it was almost impossible to do that with the conflicts of their minds. He treated her as though she were a child—or incapable of thinking on her own—tried to dictate her opinion and her clothing when he was no relation to her, no one to make those kinds of decisions for her, especially since they were hers to make. Her parents might think they had that right, but not him. He was not her husband.

She never wanted him to be that man.

“It won’t be as terrible as you seem to think.”

“Maybe it wouldn’t be for Hlynn,” Dayla disagreed with her brother, wanting to face him even less than she did her mother. “She’s quiet. Dutiful. I’m not. I never was.”

“Yes, but Hlynn has been sick for months now, and he likes you, sister dearest, though heaven knows why,” Cain told her as he came closer. Dayla wanted to throw her mother’s hands off and run, wanted to get far from that sense she got from her brother. Sometimes she wondered if Cain was why Hlynn was always sick, if that tug she felt from him whenever he was near was stronger for his twin, more like a poison. He drained her, made her feel empty and tired, so sick…

They would say she was crazy, thinking that, considering Cain to be a monster, but she thought his name said more about him than it should, that he was too alike that first murderer, and she shouldn’t be frightened of her own brother, but she was. If only she could see this marriage as an escape, but she knew it wasn’t. She was trading one prison for another, and she could not do it.

Outside, the sky darkened, rain clouds moving in fast, and she almost smiled when she saw it. Some people’s spirits would falter with such a sky, but hers always improved. Sometimes she swore she could make that rain come right to her when she wanted it, and now was the right time for it—let the sky cry since she was not allowed to, since she could not let Cain see her tears.

“Come now, off with you, Cain,” her mother said, moving away from her. “You need to go so Dayla can get ready for the wedding.”

Dayla looked back at the window. What if the rain could wash all of it away? Not just the dirt in the street or that clinging to the house but the house itself and all her family? Then she could run. She would be free. She would take Hlynn away from Cain and get her better for once.

“I wonder if you’ll have to cancel, Mother. Look at that rain,” Cain said, and Dayla did turn to frown at him. Since when did rain bother him? The look in his eyes was dark, though, and his tone was not at all in line with his thoughts, but their mother missed it as she stared out at the water.

“Oh, dear. I’ll have the coach brought around. I hope her dress won’t be ruined on the way to the church.”

Dayla shook her head, wishing the storm strong enough to sweep away the horses—no, she didn’t, that wasn’t fair to them. She felt a hand on her arm and swallowed when she saw Cain’s expression, feeling the grip tighten with that same darkness in him.

“The rain won’t save you, Dayla,” he whispered in her ear. “You’re not the only one who can pull it to you, after all.”

“Oh, good, I think it is stopping,” Mother said, and Dayla knew that Cain had done that somehow—if she’d pulled it, he’d stopped it—but the idea of her brother having that kind of power… She shuddered, and he laughed.

“Try not to do that around your new husband,” Cain warned her. “I admit it’s tempting to let them burn you as a witch, but I might need to use you again, and so we can’t have that, can we?”

He was still smiling when he walked away, leaving Dayla with her mother and a mess of confusion. She couldn’t control the weather, could she? No—but then she always knew when it would rain, and it did seem to follow her moods, but she had to be wrong—Cain couldn’t do that. That was like magic or witchcraft, and that was a sin if even existed, and she wasn’t like that.

Yet when she looked out the window at the silenced storm, she didn’t know that she could reason away that doubt or the fear. She was afraid of Cain, yes, but she was now afraid of herself, of what she might truly be capable of doing, and how was she supposed to live with herself after that?

“Strange weather we’re having tonight.”

Destan Washbourne grunted, not wanting to make conversation at the moment. He did not know why they always seemed to seek him out when all he wanted was a drink and a few minutes of peace, but somehow he was forced to speak with men no better than gossipy women every time he stopped to rest for a while. He lifted his drink to his lips and gave the man a pointed glare.

A glare that got ignored.

“That kind of rain should have lasted more than a minute. It’s like someone snuffed out its candle.”

“I don’t care about your weather or anything else here,” Destan muttered, shoving his glass back toward the barkeep. “More. Now. Before this one has an accident.”

“What kind of accent is that?”

“The kind that is going to kill you if you don’t leave me alone,” Destan warned, taking the bottle from the bartender and carrying it with him to the only open table. He would have preferred one that wasn’t at the window, but he didn’t need this now. He needed the liquor, needed to shut out the awareness he had of everyone in this place. He was fortunate—at least there were no prostitutes here trying to seduce or men lusting after them—but there were still too many emotions and no way to make them stop without more than this bottle.

You watch that voodoo, honey chile,” Arline warned, shaking a big dark finger at him. “Ain’t nobody supposed to know what others are feeling the way you do.”

That mean it’s the devil’s work?” he asked, frowning. “I don’t want it. I swear I don’t. I just… know things. I can feel them. I want it to stop. S’il te plaît, Arline. Help me find a way to stop it. Help me make it go away.”

Hush now,” she said, taking him into her arms and holding him against her as he cried. He knew she was worried, and he wanted to take that away, too, but he didn’t know how. He didn’t know how to be rid of it, not even to sleep, and he didn’t think he’d managed to do much of that since he was twelve. “Ain’t no devil in my boy. He’s a good one.”

I’m not your son,” he reminded her quietly. His parents had always left raising him to her, and he loved her more than he did his own mother, but he knew he wasn’t hers. He wasn’t anyone’s. They didn’t want him because he was wrong somehow.

Destan leaned his head against the wall. Arline was gone, his last sanctuary with her, and he didn’t know how much longer he could wander, drinking enough to block the feelings he got from everyone, without either his body or his mind giving out on him.

He tensed as he felt a new emotion enter the room, one unlike most of the ones he’d felt so far this evening or any time in the past. He had never known something that felt so tangible, almost as though the hatred this man felt toward… everyone was something that could be touched and measured. He saw the man frown as he saw Destan, and then he went to the back, where the private rooms were.

Destan glanced at the bottle, wondering if it had affected him more than usual, and then he felt something else—a pull. He’d never known anything quite like that, either. He went to the door, leaning against it as he looked out into the night.

He focused in on the coach, and since he was already half-drunk and not feeling much like stopping himself, he went toward the door, opening it up and leaning inside. “Strange time for a wedding, isn’t it?”

Life’s Own Music

Author’s Note: So today I had one thought in my head: Dillon and Larina dancing in the barn. It had to be them as teenagers, before they split, and it didn’t come out quite like I planned, but it ended up okay, I think.

This is a thin interpretation of the idea of music, but I couldn’t resist the idea of the dance, and I remembered a song from childhood that fit, John Micheal Montgomery’s “Life’s a Dance.” So… Dillon and Larina. Dancing. In a barn. 🙂

dancing quote

Life’s Own Music

“I am going to look like an idiot at this wedding. I’d say Thyda hates me, but I know that’s not true. It’s just that her other bridesmaids do. Well, her maid of honor does. I swear she picked the dress that would look the worst on me—it’s the wrong color, too—just to make me look bad because Thyda was going to have me be the maid of honor until she found out I couldn’t sign the license because I’m not old enough yet,” Larina said, leaning over the side of the stall, kicking at the wood. The horses were out so she could do it without disturbing them, and she was mad enough to want to even though she knew they couldn’t afford to fix the stall if she broke it. “I’m too young to be a bridesmaid, so we have to get me something that looks appropriate for my age.”

“You will look better than her no matter what you wear,” Dillon said, not looking up from the stall he was cleaning. “Just ignore them, Larina. The girl wants this part in Thyda’s wedding because she will never get her own. At least—not one as nice as Thyda’s. She’ll have to get her guy drunk in Vegas.”

Larina giggled, almost falling over. “I cannot believe you just said that.”

He shrugged. “I don’t like her. Never have. When she came around here, she’d bother me on purpose. No, I pity any guy stupid enough to fall for her tricks, and I hope you won’t let her get to you because you are so much better than her—and prettier, too.”

“You think I’m pretty?”



He stopped, setting aside his pitchfork. “Truth is, Larina, while I… I have noticed the way you look since you got older and started… filling in places, I’m not… I’m not comfortable with it. Dad always blamed the thing with my mom on her being—she was pretty ’til she had me, then he couldn’t stand the sight of her, and all he ever wanted from her was some… warm body in his bed. He hated that she gave him a kid, and he hated me for being that kid, and I’d rather not think anyone was pretty because if that’s all he cared about and I start to think about it—”

“You’re not your father.”

“I know, but I worry about it. Now that I’m older, ever since I started thinking about girls—”

“You think about other girls?”

“No.” Annoyed, he got in her face. “I only like you, and that’s because you’re… you. You were my friend first, and I liked that. I think I would have kept that forever except… We both grew up and changed, and there’s this other part to us now. This… attraction.”

She smiled, kissing his cheek. “I love you.”

He rubbed at where she’d kissed him, getting a bit tense. “Larina, I’m busy working. I’m sweaty, gross, tired, and not in the mood to discuss Thyda’s friends.”

“Fine. Tell me the dress isn’t as hideous as I think it is, and I’ll leave you alone,” she said, stepping around the stall gate so he could get a good look at it. “Well?”

“I think if she was doing this to be mean to you, she picked the wrong dress,” he answered after a moment, and Larina blinked, confused. The color was wrong—she looked all stupid in this kind of pink—and it was all dressy and dumb and so unlike her.

“You don’t mean that.”

“Yes, I do,” he insisted, taking hold of her and pulling her close. “I think you look like something out of one of Sorina’s fairytales.”

Larina winced, trying not to cry. “She should be here for the wedding. It’s so wrong that she’s not. She was our mom. She loved this sort of thing. Thyda needs her.”

“Don’t you dare blame yourself for what happened. It was a freak accident, Larina. No one could have known what that cow would do,” Dillon said, wrapping his arms even tighter around her. She closed her eyes, letting his arms soothe her as he rocked her gently around the barn. She’d almost say they were dancing, but they weren’t. They didn’t have music.

“Don’t ever stop,” she whispered, wanting this moment to last forever, wanting to take away the sting of losing her aunt, wanting to feel safe and loved by the boy she’d spent most of her life with, the one who gave so much even after having had all that he had taken from him.

“If I don’t, I’ll ruin your dress, and Thyda will never forgive me.”

“’Course she will. She’ll forgive everyone when her head comes out of the wedding fog. It’s what she does,” Larina said. “If we ever get married, don’t let me do that. I don’t want to lose all sense because of a big nonsense fuss like this.”

“You’ll need the big nonsense fuss. Burditt won’t believe it’s real if you don’t have it.”

Larina snorted. “Yeah, right. Not with us. Everyone keeps saying we’ll run off and elope the day I turn eighteen—the only reason we’re not married now is because I’d need Burditt’s consent and he won’t give it.”

“That’s not true.”

She stopped, looking up at him. “Dillon, you do… love me, don’t you? I mean, the first time we kissed you said maybe we’d get married someday and—”

“The idea of marriage scares me,” he admitted, his voice quiet. “It’s not that I don’t… I don’t know that I could ever feel anything more for someone else than I do for you, but I don’t… My father became such a monster after he had a kid—”

“He was a monster before you were there. He had to be. Think about what he said about your mother,” Larina insisted. “No, Dillon, you won’t become him. I don’t believe that. Though… I know you’re scared you will, so we don’t have to rush into anything. Like I said, it’s not like Burditt will give permission. He’s still being dumb about it, and so we’ll have to wait at least until I’m eighteen. You can relax.”

Dillon let his head rest against hers. She tilted her head up so that she could kiss him, and he kissed her back, gentle as ever, and she let herself slid back into his arms, not caring one bit if he was dirty. He was Dillon. None of that mattered.

“We can keep dancing, though.”

“Dancing? We don’t have any music.”

“We don’t need music,” she told him, having just decided that. “We make our own.”

Home Again

Author’s Note: Today I got a late start on writing a piece for the digital care package. Having a spider turn up at lunch kind of threw off the day a bit.

I hate spiders. Really, really hate spiders.

Anyway, I was late, so this is a bit late, and I did the song post first, which could be considered spoilers, I suppose, though this piece has plenty (*sigh*) and so it’s all a big bit of mess, but it does come after yesterdays’ bit with the coffee. That’s something.

The song with this piece is “Feels Like Home” by Chantal Kreviazuk. It’s kind of easy to see why.

chicken soup small

Home Again

“Chicken soup?”

“Don’t knock it. It might be canned, but at least I can make it,” Larina said, opening one up and dumping its contents into the pan. She knew it wasn’t any kind of breakfast, but then Dillon didn’t eat breakfast most days anyway, not unless Burditt made him—since her uncle died, she didn’t think she’d seen Dillon eat in the morning, not once—and so her pathetic can opening skills would have to be enough for now. “You shouldn’t let yourself get back in the habit of not eating breakfast.”

“I don’t—you know that I have my reasons for not liking breakfast, and it’s not like I don’t eat at all. Burditt kept trying to make that assumption, but he was wrong. I do eat. I’m just never going to be a fan of cereal and not much of one for pancakes or waffles, either. The whole near cardboard taste of some of them—it reminds me of that same bad day, and I can’t do it. If the cereal hadn’t tasted like cardboard, I wouldn’t have asked him for milk, and if I hadn’t…”

Dillon shuddered, and she crossed over to his side, touching his arm. She hated this, hated seeing him in pain, still so hurt after all these years, unable to forget the trauma and even blaming himself for it because he’d done something innocent like ask for milk.

“He’s not here,” she said, keeping her voice low. She wanted it to be soothing, not jarring, not something that would set him off more. “He hasn’t touched you in over fifteen years, and he won’t start now. None of us would ever let him close, and you know that. You have Thunder who would break down his gate and come running to save you, and there’s Mettle, too, who’d be there for you, but even if the animals weren’t, there’s Kay and Jesse and Jacob and Thyda and Bonnie and maybe even Will, if we’re crazy enough to let him stay on.”

“You didn’t list yourself,” Dillon said, looking at her with that intensity that she found unsettling because it saw all the way through her, the way he did more often than she wanted to think about, more often than she thought he should. “You’re still planning on leaving again, aren’t you?”

She let out a breath. “I don’t know what I’m doing, honestly. I can’t say that I feel right staying. This… I still don’t feel like I belong, and I don’t know how to fix that. I don’t know where I went wrong in all of this, but somewhere in it all, I got lost, and I can’t find any kind of… direction.”

He opened his mouth, shut it, and turned away. Leaning over the sink, he shook his head. “I never figured on you ever leaving this place for good. Briarwood was your home, and I still don’t see how anyone believed it wasn’t. Yes, you went to college, and yes, you had other friends to spend time with and other places to be, but you didn’t ever forget where you came from. This is it. This has always been home. I know when we fought I said it wasn’t, but as soon as I was back, I knew… it wasn’t Briarwood you were rejecting. It was me, and it hurt, but I was wrong to say that you didn’t want to come back. I knew you did. You just… didn’t want to be there with me.”

She swallowed. That was hard to hear, harder too accept, but if she denied it—that would create another mess she wasn’t ready to deal with. She put her hand over his. “Thyda told me about your idea of making Briarwood into a non-profit organization.”

“I suppose you hate it.”

She shook her head. “I don’t, actually. It’s not that bad an idea, though I think it’s not really Briarwood. Thyda said we’d have to look into doing fundraising and I remember how hard that was in school, how stupid and scammy it felt when we brought home those catalogs—I suppose you don’t know that feeling, but I doubt you’d want to be the one that was doing much of it, and I know I’d hate it. I wouldn’t want to feel like… like we needed handouts to survive.”

Dillon grimaced. She knew he hated charity even more than she did, hated pity because he got it too much after what he’d suffered at the hands of his father. “That’s—well, you’re right. We’d all hate it. It just… It was the only way I could think of that would keep my ex-wife from any part of Briarwood. I won’t let Meghan get to it. I won’t let her wreck this place. She’s done enough damage. She can’t take this place, not one piece of it.”

“And she won’t,” Larina agreed. She drew in a breath and let it out. “I have a counter offer, Dillon. I don’t know how easy this will be, and I know right now I can’t afford anything because I’ve got debts to pay off and I messed things up between us good again thinking I was doing the right thing, but I have to throw it out, have to say it at least once, have to—”

“Spit it out already,” he said, and she looked down to find his hand on her arm this time. She could barely think at the moment, nervous as she was, but she nodded, swallowing and forcing the words out.


He frowned. “What?”

She licked her lips, trying to make herself coherent. “Yes, partners. I want to buy half of Briarwood from you. I’d have to do it with my services as a vet first because as I said, I don’t have any money and I’ve got loans to pay off from school, but if you were willing to work out an arrangement with me, I’d buy in and get half, and it would be…”

“It would be what, Larina?”

“Home again,” she whispered, feeling stupid. She didn’t know why it felt like she needed to own it to belong here, but she needed something to hold onto, something to keep her from floundering the way she was, and she knew if she had half of Briarwood, there was no way that Meghan could get hold of it. This was the right solution.

Wasn’t it?

“You’re such an idiot,” Dillon said, and she frowned again, not liking his ability to say that to her now when he never would have dared before, not him, not that sweetheart of a boy. That must have been Meghan’s doing—or was it Larina’s? “You don’t have to buy it for it to be home.”

“Yes, I do,” she said, looking up at him, and then he was a blur because of her unshed tears. She pursed her lips, trying not to let them fall because she refused to be an idiot.

“No,” he insisted. “You don’t.”

And his arms were around her, and she was crying, couldn’t stop it, but this was the first time since she came back, first time since Burditt died and that awful will was read that she felt safe again, grounded and whole—home.

“This isn’t right. I was supposed to be making things up to you, not getting comfort from you.”

“You shouldn’t have to buy your way back home,” Dillon said, stepping back and lifting her chin so she’d look at him. “I mean that. I don’t know why this got so complicated—the will, I guess, but it shouldn’t be because I would never force you from your home. You know that.”

She nodded. “I do.”

“So you don’t have to buy in.”

She sniffled, trying to calm herself. “And if I want to?”

“We’ll discuss that later. First we have to deal with the soup you just burned.”