#1 – Forgetfulness
GHOST STORY [Vincent and Avery]
The first thing he remembers (the first solid real thing, not the flashes and fragments of imagination tangled up with memory) are gentle hands against his forehead, brushing the hair from his eyes as he shivered and tried to shape a name whose shape and weight escape him, even as he reaches. He’d been so cold except where those hands settled, lulled by a voice repeating nonsense endlessly. In the months that follow, there are bits and pieces that come grudgingly back to him, but none of it is as strong as that one memory, seared unforgettable in his thoughts.
No one may touch the queen: it is not a royal decree, but a precedent she sets. When she lashes out, there is never skin-contact: her rings snag on cheekbones instead, her gem-heavy sleeves added weight. When she’s in a temper, the halls empty at once; guards remain in their posts, but all other servants vanish.
Morion stays. Even when her shrieks crescendo and then drop away to abrupt silence, even when her sobs rake ice-cold fingers across his gut, he stays. They whispers she keeps him tethered; he knows, rather, that love alone keeps him still.
They meet only twice a day, and then only briefly, at the crossroads where their kingdoms intersect with the mortal world. Her footsteps are bold and unhesitating, the heels of her boots echoing off the marble floors, and so he hears her before she arrives. He turns.
Sun-Queen she is, bright-eyed and golden; his heart contracts and relaxes. He can see affection in her eyes, though it never touches her mouth. With gravity she hands him the keys to the sky; for just a moment, their fingers brush. The warmth carries him, Moon-King, all through the night.
Once upon a time, there was a prince who went on a quest to find himself a princess. He found many along the way, some more beautiful and noble than others. He loved only one.
A prince someday becomes a king, though. Perhaps he was a good king; perhaps he was an unjust king. The stories do not say.
However: there’s a field that is part of no known kingdom, where briar-thorns grown high. They say if you pass it, you might see a prince, lying with his head upon his princess’s lap.
They’re living their happily ever after.
“Here,” the woman says. Her hands are cool and gentle across his face, so light that he might have imagined it–but there’s the scratchy pressure of a bandage against his cheek, and he knows it’s real. It’s still so strange to him, really–this real solid world, separate from the dark madness of the Abyss. For all that he was only there for mere hours, he feels as if he’s taken a part of it with him, wrapped around him like a cloak.
Obediently he tilts his face up to her deft touch, and keeps his eyes patiently closed.
Step on a crack, fall and break your mother’s back–
Sammy Winchester listens to the other kids singing these songs, a few viciously jumping on the worn concrete, stomping their bright brand-new sneakers on every crack they can find. The first time, he tried to warn them–don’t do it, stop it, when your mommy’s gone there’s no bringing her back–but they stare at him with the blank eyes of the innocent, and then they run away laughing, his words already forgotten.
He watches them go with resentment, scuffs his worn shoes into the dirt, waiting for Dean.
There’s a man in the marketplace who wasn’t there the day before: look, you’ll see him sitting at the edge of the stalls, balancing a child’s toy on his fingertip. Ask him a question and he’ll answer with one in kind; make a demand and he’ll only smile, his strange eyes looking straight through you. Offer him money and he might open the carved wooden box by his side; offer enough and perhaps he’ll let you purchase something.
Don’t search for him tomorrow, though, regardless of what you buy from him (or not) in the market.
He won’t be there.
It doesn’t hurt at first–there’s a moment where he doesn’t understand what exactly has happened.
Then he sees it, glowing in the Director of Staff’s fist, and then it hits him like a punch to the gut–there’s a yawning hollow space inside of him, and he staggers; he wants to vomit, but it feels like there’s nothing left in him; he gags on the sheer emptiness.
“There,” he hears, and something else flows into him, filling him up–black and bitter on the back of his tongue, and this feels even worse, and Mikage finally begins to scream.
There’s a song Alan faintly remembers–the words, not the melody, because he has no real ear for music (much to his elder brother’s dismay). He thinks it might be one that his mother sang to him, once upon a time–but he remembers so little about her beyond her last illness, and her pride in the Volsung heritage. Sometimes he tries, haltingly, to make up the song, fitting the words to it, especially when the trip has been long and the stars are scattered too wide and dim across the wide stretch of space.
He hasn’t been successful yet.
They’re all sheep.
Oh, sure, they wear the trappings of humans; they think they’re smart enough to talk like it means something–but they’re sheep. They’re blinded by their own petty lives, afraid to look forward and even see how utterly fake their world really is. It disgusts him to move among them, sometimes, like their worthlessness could rub off on him.
It’s not true, though.
He’s been chosen. He alone knows. While the rest of them bleat and meander through their meaningless lives, he rises above–the lean hungry wolf on the prowl.
They’re all waiting. He’s ready.
Arthur’s eyes are dark today; he moves little and says less, staring at the fire like some strange golden statue. Merlin hardly dares to breath as he puts things away, lingers without real purpose. Neither of them are willing to mention today’s execution: a dark-haired young man, too tall and skinny and pale to do anything but stand out, weeping without shame as he was dragged bodily to the chopping block.
There are things he could say–should say–but they all dry up in his throat. Temporarily a coward, he bows and lets himself out without a word.
He’ll blame it on the rain, later.
Later, when he’s dried off and in fresh clothes and the magnitude of what he’s accomplished–what he and his people have achieved–begins to sink in, and the warmth of victory begins to blossom in his chest and swells in his throat, he’ll blame it on the rain. He doesn’t cry–he has no reason to cry. This is a triumph for justice and freedom, sweeping away the tyrannical oppression of the past.
He’ll say that later.
Right now, he stares at England’s bowed head, and feels older than the whole world.
His first day on land is so strange–his new skin is so fragile, and everything is so bright and sharp and immediate, here above the water.
Still, it’s wonderful. He spends most of it gaping, startled by every little thing, and Fath–Loki is indulgent about the whole thing, answering his questions and redirecting him if his attention wanders too far. There’s something sharp and bright in his throat as he looks at this brand-new world that’s suddenly open to him–something so alien that he has to ask about it.
“Jormungand,” his father says gently, “that’s joy.”