a Christmas present for maumau. no one else will really get it unless they've read our story (which isn't up on ficwad, so...yeah). Ket/Mija angst/love, almost (to my chagrin) soap-operaish, exce...
His fingers strummed nervously against the iced leather of the steering wheel. Lights blinked and glared crimson on all sides, vague when passing across frosted glass, and blinding when nude; they shone with such brilliance against the black of night that it stained the back of his eyelids. Sighing, he lounged deeper into the back of his seat, his brow knitted in mutual exhaustion and frustration.
Traffic, Christmas Eve traffic. Everyone had somewhere to go, and, no matter how great the distance, all made a pact to set off at the exact same moment. If not for the scarlet taillights and the groans and hisses of vehicular motions, he would have been ignorant to any negative circumstances encompassing his car, which, at the moment, was that they were at a standstill, brake pedal embracing the floorboards. Glancing upwards, he watched the string of irate lights meander all the way to what he could assume was the horizon.
"Shit." With a forefinger and thumb, he kneaded some of the anger from his mind via his temples.
"Ket?" That voice snatched his breath from his throat.
"Is everything okay?" At this, Ket chanced a look at his passenger. Mija curled in her seat, tresses mussed and fanning about her head like a dark halo, her eyes glazed with sleep and her lips pouting slightly. Waves of light blushed over her body every time another vehicle passed theirs. Sweat beaded on Ket's palms, and he felt his grip on the steering wheel grow slack.
She was so serene, so statuesque in her calm, quiet stare; those eyes were synonymous to that of a seasoned warrior, to one who saw too much, experienced too much for one soul to handle.
"Yeah," he muttered, ripping his gaze back towards the traffic before him, "just these damn people clogging the highways."
"But Kettles," she slurred, "we're part of those 'damn people clogging the highways'."
There was a sundry of comebacks that Ket could have retorted with. Unfortunately, the word that slid from his lips was: "Whatever", to which Mija purred in contentment and shifted herself into a straighter sitting position.
"Mm, 'whatever'," the vampiress mumbled, one delicate finger scratching over a certain spot in her collar bone area. "Whatever forever and never." She was laughing softly then, amused by her words, but Ket only found himself staring at the area she had scratched.
It had been a year and a half since they had settled all business concerning Dameon. No longer was his presence known through lacerations and harsh words, but through wary glances and wry smirks. With his death, Dameon dragged with him his complete sinister train. There should have been nothing further to fear, to brood over, and yet he wasn't sure that his vampiress would ever be able to relinquish the expression that she tended to fall back on in moments of calm and quiet: that soon the shadows or some inexplicable force would outstretch their malicious arm and rake in who was left of her loved ones. Often Ket wanted to pull her close to him and whisper reassuring words into her ears; but the truth was: he wasn't sure himself. Dameon, to him, transcended all notions of death and permanence.
Mija prodded her collar bone again, and again that desolate shadow bled across her eyes. 'Does she miss the kitsune?' thought Ket, who was careful to direct his head towards traffic. 'Was there something it gave her-something it showed her-to make their parting so poignant?' But, as that demon knew well, there was no penetrating his lover's thoughts unless he was granted specific admittance.
Damn, this silence was excruciating.
"We-uh-we should be there soon. Well, at least we would be, if we were moving at all." In a way, he was almost grateful for this back-up, for it allowed a target for his aimless anxiety and nerves.
"Again with the traffic?" Mija's words dragged into a yawn. "You're going to die at an early age if you keep getting pissed at such stupid things."
"This isn't stupid, it's retarded!" There was some shade of a smile ghosting Mija's pressed lips; he didn't care if the reason was him being irrational and absurd. Any sort of smile from her: he'd kill for it, kill himself for it.
"Poor Ketty-poo," Mija forced through another yawn, "no patience. Well, I can't hold my eyes open any longer, so, do you mind if I go back to sleep?"
His heart jolted in his chest, and he gathered the material of the steering wheel into a firm hold. Lately, he dreaded her falling asleep, because he knew of the dark images that awaited her. What would happen if she couldn't take her nightmares any longer, and slid away beyond the limits of mortality? Of course, it was at this point that he always found gloomy comfort in the fact that it was almost impossible for a vampire to die of natural causes. "Sure, sweetheart," without looking, the demon brushed his hand briefly against her thigh. "I'll try to keep my ranting to a whisper."
"Thanks." And with that, he was alone once more, to his thoughts and his worries.
"Mija," Ket cupped her shoulder in his hand, and shook her gently. "Mija, we're here."
With a groan, Mija turned her head to his hand, and nuzzled her cheek against it lethargically. "A little longer?" she whimpered. How vulnerable she appeared, legs tucked into chest and brow smooth and trusting.
"Nope," Ket chuckled. "We have a cabin to check into by eight, and it's seven-forty seven right now."
"Mm, screw that," Mija smothered her face in her knees. "I'm staying here."
"Oh no you're not." In one swooping motion, the demon snatched up his vampiress, who was squirming against the sudden lashes of frigid air, and kicked the car door back.
"No," she moaned, burrowing deeper into the warmth of his chest. "Why are you so mean?"
"Oh, just wake up, you big baby." Seeing that she was obstinate in her refusal, Ket dove at her, kissing her cheeks and nipping at her earlobe. A growl issued from between his arms, and Mija surfaced into the world, her legs stretching out and reaching for the ground. Ket let her down, albeit reluctantly, and warned her: "You might want to open your eyes slowly."
Instead of heeding his advice, Mija snapped her eyes open instantly, and recoiled with a yelp. After a few more probing tries at this, Mija finally became accustomed to the onslaught of the burning cold. When she could see, she gasped: Stretched before them was a stainless white expanse, glittering in the moonlight, jutting into weaving hills and skeletal trees. The Check-In and Customer Service building huddled as a stain on one chaste hillside, its brick hues sullying and cheapening the surrounding vision of beauty. People milled about, all decked out in flamboyantly colored apparel and toting both winter and living equipment behind them. Some huddled in pairs or groups for shared warmth, others toiled alone. Behind all of this, all the hills, and all the trees, soared one colossal hill- no doubt the main attraction of the ski resort. This deity was weighted to the earth by a string of lifts. Further across the ski resort, there were splashes of cabins, all belching serpentine smoke coils.
"Ta da," Ket moved to the rear of the car, and popped open the trunk door.
"Ket," Mija breathed, staring at the sights, "It's so...pretty." All traces of slumber melted with these words, and Ket turned around just in time to catch the first genuinely excited smile grace her lips. He could have laughed, it was such a relieving sight, but instead he dove into the trunk of the car, hoisting out both of their suitcases and throwing their other effects across his shoulders.
"Stubborn as a donkey," Mija laughed as he teetered dangerously to one side, "and almost as useful as one. Here," she shifted her suitcase from his hand to her own, and bade him shrug her backpack from his shoulder. The two, now under both burden and cold, struggled towards the Customer Service.
After fifteen minutes of a sharp, stooping man searching both computer database and key wrack, and subsequently the duo trudging up a snow drenched incline to the cabin grove, they stood before their rented home. Since all of the lodges were homogenized, there was nothing of interest to note of theirs. The inside of it also looked to be born of a molding: all-wood interiors, a kitchen with the usual appliances (they were going to have to buy some more food from the nearest grocery), a cavernous living room, with quaint, folky paintings of the mountains and wolves, a large couch, and a roaring fireplace. In the corner of the living room stood a door, one that probably led to the master bedroom.
"It's...nice," Mija wandered through the different areas, raping each room with her eyes in a way that only a woman could. Ket, on the other hand, made a beeline to the couch by the fire, threw the luggage from his side, and collapsed into the seat. Those seven hours on the highway flooded back to him in an instant, dulling his limbs. The heat felt good.
And then he was even warmer, once Mija mimicked his actions and settled gently into the contours of his resting form. "Tired?" she pulled his arm over her torso, and pressed her lips lightly to his knuckles.
"Nope," he said into her mane, "just resting a bit."
"You're lying. Why don't you just go to bed?"
"Because I have something else in mind." Ket could feel the quirk of her eyebrow.
"Oh really?" she cooed sensually, rolling over to face the demon, who, understanding her interpretation of his words, turned a shade redder. "And, what else did you have in mind?"
"Uh, actually," a grin broke across Ket's face, "I meant that we could go on one of those romantic moonlight strolls that all those other couples go on."
"Oh," to this Mija shrugged, and she buried her head into his neck, "I suppose that could be fun." But she was smiling into his flesh. It was three hours they passed in this way, enjoying the warmth of the other, the gentle glow from the blaze, and passing sweet words to each other. When the moon had broken above the top edge of the window, and a grandfather clock in the foyer struck twelve times, the couple rose from the couch, and tore through their suitcases, finding the proper accouterments for the winter night. At the end of this, Mija stood before Ket, in tight black pants, fur-lined boots, and a deep purple winter jacket. The latter had on black ski pants and boots, a black and red sweatshirt, and a Puma cap that obscured most of his eyes.
"Ready?" Mija found her way to the front door, paying careful attention to the way her hips moved as she walked. After a moment of shameless staring on Ket's part, he followed the vampiress out the door. Both stood stock still when the cabin was locked up, and stared up into the sky.
Snow razored downwards in curtains. Plumes of silver erupted from both of their lips. This time it bore no ships, no prelude to doom: they simply twisted up into the snow, scattered when hit by the flakes. "Let's go!" Grabbing Ket by the hand, Mija began jogging through the shower. As Ket allowed himself to be led, his hand dug throughout the pockets of his coat, searching wildly for some object. Soon he found it, although some tiny part of him anguished this discovery, and then he began to focus on his surroundings.
At the moment, Mija had led them into the veils of one of the wooded hills. Snowflakes trickled through the naked limbs of the trees, and the ground was aflame with moonlight. He wondered for a moment why they had stopped so suddenly here, and then he knew.
In the middle of the ring of trees was a grassless clearing (he knew it was this way, for everywhere else the tips of the grass blades poked out of the snow), much like the one from those years ago, the one Mija sat in as she awaited the call of her then-Master. Ket gave an experimental squeeze to her hand, which lay dead in his own. "Mija, maybe we should go."
"No," the voice was short; Ket grimaced at the sound of it. "Let's stay for a minute." And then she was gone from his grip, walking towards the foreboding scene. There was a certain something in her gait that permitted the cold to seep into every part of Ket: mind, body, soul. When she was directly in the middle of the clearing, she glared hard at it, and then, swaying, she fell to her knees. Ket was by her side a second later, hands hovering over her shoulders but not touching her.
"I'm tired of forgetting it, Ket," her voice was soft; this frightened him. "I'm tired of acting like it's all over, like nothing will ever happen again. What happened then can never be forgotten, and we shouldn't try to. We're not this snow anymore, Ket!" At this she turned to him, and he was shocked to find her face so open and bleak. "We're not pure, and we sure as hell aren't going to melt into flowers. Not at the rate we're going at anyway. Dameon is dead, yes, but he, and Bukon, and of that won't leave us if we try to just be Mr. and Mrs. Normalcy."
"But what can we do? We can't talk to them anymore and settle anything. There's nothing we can do but forget and move on." He felt very much on unleveled ground, for he had not expected so violent an outburst from Mija.
"I don't want to forget and move on! I can't, and I know it. We've tried. We have to do something else. Something more effective...."
"What could we do?" The wet from the snow had frozen Ket's knees. They stung, but he welcomed this sensation. He faintly wondered how Mija was going to respond.
"We can't go back in time. We can't reverse history. We can't live with it, and we can't die with it." She turned her eyes back to the ground.
"What do you mean?"
"We need to be born again." She whispered this in her most grave tone, lips pressed into a tight line. "We need to start a new life over the ashes of our old one."
"But wouldn't that mean that we would be forgetting and moving on?"
"No," Mija shook her head, "We wouldn't forget it. We would remember it. A child does not forget and move on from his mother. Every morning we will wake from dreams of our past, of their faces, but then we will have our new life to slip into; a life provided for by the strength we channel from the old one." It made sense to the demon, and yet he feared her words.
"How can we be born again?" At this, the pair sat in complete silence, staring at the ground. Emotions and thoughts worked under Mija's skin, but she held herself as firm as marble until she could seek her answer. Meanwhile, Ket reflected on her words, divining any futures she could mean from it.
"I-I don't know." There was a note of distress in her voice. "I don't know. I don't know. But there is something: there has to be. Otherwise, all of our struggles will have been in vain. There can't be an equation with no solution; there just can't be one. The past, the Kitsune, they were our reactants. What is our product!?" Ket didn't dare touch her, for fear that he would shatter her.
"I know one possible future." The hesitance in his voice was palpable. Mija turned towards him in a long motion.
"It's not a perfect one, remember, but it would work. I know it would." For a moment, he memorized every feature of her face, etching it behind his eyelids, just in case the reaction was an adverse one to his hopes.
Crawling a foot from her, Ket produced the object from his pocket: a small, black velvet box. His heart ripped across his ribs, and his hands convulsed beyond most mobility, but his conviction to open the box was stronger than any bodily malfunction. He pried open the top. Nestled within its own niche was a ring. A diamond shimmered in the silver band like an earthborn star, challenging the moonlight. "If you would like to start a new life, I could give one to you," his voice was surprisingly level, and his stare was unwavering, despite his quaking arms. "And, if you would like, we could start a happy life, right here, with the memories of our past as our altar and our decision for a future as our priest. So, I ask you, Mija: will you marry me?"
As his heart continued to ravage his lungs and chest, Mija looked at the ring. Words clumped on her tongue: yes, no, they wouldn't come out, but stayed rooted inside her mouth. A dread was clouding over Ket's insides, and he felt his heart drop when Mija rose to her feet, a sorrowful glint in her eye, and backed from the clearing, shaking her head once. He should have ran to her, demanded a reason, but the rejection was clear. The ring box dropped from his hand into the snow, and then Mija turned and ran for all she was worth, disappearing into the snowy night.
He never gazed upon the ring again, though it brilliance singed him regardless. Instead, he sat there, a blank haze consuming his visage for a long time. Snow clumped over his shoulders and head, but the heat inside him was unbearable. In mechanical motions, the demon stripped off his jacket, hat, and boots, and he laid himself down into the comfort of the snow. It embraced his bare skin and numbed him to the core. No thoughts swam about in his mind, just an image: Mija, the one he had memorized.
The moon continued its trek across the sky, and still he lay motionless. At one point he must have been crying, for his cheeks cracked with ice.
Mija had sprinted as far as her feet could take her, before tumbling down the rest of the hill. When she hit the bottom, she rose to her hands and knees, empty sobs wracking her body.
That wasn't what she had meant.
She hobbled across mountain terrain, vaguely aiming for the cabin.
That wasn't the future she had been aiming for. She loved Ket, more than any being has ever loved another, but she didn't want that. What she did have in mind for the pair of lovers, she hadn't been sure, but it wasn't to bind them so closely together.
Through all their trials and tribulations, it had been made explicitly clear to Mija that she was a corrupted creature, Hell-spawned and evil. No one deserved the taint that she inflicted to anything close to her heart, especially Ket. From the deepest depths of her soul she wanted him, wanted to be with him, and she knew he felt the same way. But look what happened the first time she allowed him close to her: he was dragged into a bloody war-they all were-because of her.
No, she learned from that. Although over their time together she had allotted a tender place inside of her for the demon, it was not without its barriers and embattlements. Again, she knew by the despairing look in Ket's eye that he was aware of this as well. She was a cursed being, and she intended to keep her ruin to herself, not to spread it into Ket's soil.
Why couldn't he have just let them started a different future, one where they observed the past, took notes, and improved the present? This one would have suited her fine, for she would have then been able to keep herself in check. But, no, Ket wanted something to grow, something to flourish between them and, knowing Mija, lash out with an unstoppable fury, only to destroy what life they would have fought in vain to create.
Didn't he know the turmoil he was ushering into his life?
And yet...he loved her. He had stood by her, fought for her, during the darkest and lowest points in her life. Even when he saw her for what she truly was, a ruthless vampire who was lost in the clutches of destiny, he still adhered himself closely to her. At these thoughts, Mija pumped her legs harder, wanting desperately to reach the cabin and stand inside the doorway, just to know that there were limits around her.
If he was so willing to contend against her darkness with her, then who was she to go against his wishes?
No, he was a fool. He thought he knew what he wanted, but it was all without serious contemplation and balancing of options, of cause and effects. There might be some knowledge with which he came to the decision of buying the ring, but there was no way he could fathom the complete extent of the evil that she could swathe him in.
This was the correct path. Mija could feel it in her heart: she had to protect Ket before he could protect her. In order to protect his life, she had to be Prince Charming to his Damsel in Distress.
Finally she was in front of the house. The grieving coin of the moon was in the west now, breathing its last before the plunge into oblivion. Apparently her flight back here had winded around more of the hills, for she must have been running for at least an hour. Her knees shook and clouds burst rapidly from her mouth. There were no lights on in the cabin, meaning that Ket was not home.
Her chest heaved, and she held the doorknob in her hand. "Protect his life," she panted, staring holes into the door. Then she turned her face once more into the snowstorm. Knowing that he was still out there, and left to his own, probably suffering, devices, Mija began to jog lamely again into the frozen torrent. With each weary step her mind grew more and more panicked.
Where had she taken them again?
"Shit," she ran faster. No, she was not going to skid into view and accept his offer, for she was resolute in her decision, but when she did finally see him, prostrated in the snow and thinly clad, the love for him in her heart thundered through her senses. She dove to his side and, propping him up into her lap with her arms, felt that panic blossom: his skin was ashen and his lips blue. There was very little warmth in his body, and his eyes were at half-mast.
"Ket?" Her voice cracked as solitary tears dripped down her cheeks. When he didn't respond, she pressed her head against his chest, and closed her eyes tightly. After a moment, the faint rhythm of a heartbeat met her ears, but that, coupled with the scent of encroaching death pervading her senses, drove her to hysterics. "Shit, shit, shit. I have to get you to the cabin."
With an impressive display of strength, Mija picked Ket up and walked as fast as she could back to the cabin, all the while cooing words into his ears and trying to coax a response from him. The previous events snapped at her at every turn, germinating the seed of guilt in her mind. Of course, the ring was forgotten, probably encased by a layer of snow at this point; but what was a materialistic thing in relation to a person so precious to her?
The cabin grew into view again, and she got her second wind. During the final stretch, Mija found herself grating out a mantra of "protect him, protect him, protect him". In her frenzy in opening the door, Mija actually severed it from one of the hinges, leaving the cripple to dangle and creak.
Everything was as they had left it, with clothes billowing out of discarded suitcases. Much to her frustration, the fire had dwindled out, so she would have to build a fire. She put Ket on the couch and set to work swiftly on the fire. Her tripping hands cost her some attempts at inciting the blaze, but when it was roared, she pushed the couch as close as she could to the blaze.
Ket had been motionless throughout all of this, and seemed to gain no aid from the heat. In the closet was a spare comforter for the master bed. Mija snatched this and threw it atop her demon. Still he made no hint of life. Sinking beside him, Mija placed her forehead in her hands. There had to be more she could do. She thought back to everything she had ever learned, and then Mija remembered one last thing she could do to help him.
In three seconds she had disrobed herself and climbed under the blanket with Ket. The shock of his body temperature caused her to yell, but she had no time to be weak. Keeping an eye on his face for any shred of consciousness, Mija removed all of Ket's clothes, and wrapped herself around them. His frozen skin burned her own flesh, but in response to this she only held him closer.
Minutes passed; she could feel him steadily thawing, and the heartbeat was gathering force. A joyous thrill electrified her whole body, and she pressed her lips against his in a loving motion, massaging warmth into them. After a few more minutes she attempted this again, only to jump when she felt his lips responding to hers. His eyes were still closed, but she guessed that he understood what was happening. They deepened the kiss, Mija's warm breath entering his mouth, and when they parted, his eyelids cracked open.
"Hey," Mija hugged him, if possible, even closer to herself. As the heat reanimated Ket's limbs, he began to groan and whimper in pain, but Mija knew it must hurt more than he let on. To help lessen his agony, Mija reinitiated the kiss, trying to draw him out of his knowledge of the pain.
"Mija?" he croaked when he had the energy.
She hushed him, and snaked an arm around his shoulders so that she could play with his hair. "Listen, Ket. Please, just don't think I don't love you and that I don't want to be with you. I do...it's just that... I don't trust myself to be in that serious of a relationship with you just yet. I know this barely makes any sense...but...." She didn't know how to finish it, and so she just stopped.
"It's Christmas," Ket responded, his voice fading in and out. "Can't we be born again now?" This innocent suggestion was so devoid of commitment or promise; it was just a question.
"You don't mind us not getting married?" There was shame in her eyes as she gazed into the demon's.
"We don't need to be, if it would hurt you." He kissed her cheek. Had he really relinquished his proposal so easily? "We don't need to be reborn that way. Just this way, with me coming back from death, only to find myself in your arms." The intensity of his eyes made Mija feel indescribably safe. One of his hands pressed against her heart. "And I would die again, and again, just to wake up like this." He smiled then, as did she.
Their history was gone, laid to rest by a carpet of snow. As they lay in each others loving presences, watching the first rays of sunlight slink across the ceiling, Ket was also very aware of the second dawn, the one carried by Mija's lips over her face.
That smile, that beautiful smile. He'd kill for it, kill himself for it.