Categories > Books > Discworld8 Reviews
Polly and Maladicta trip around each other. Femmeslash, written for Yuletide 2004.
Distribution: My site and the Yuletide archive by default, others please ask before archiving.
Disclaimer: Pterry owns. I borrow.
Three Scenes That Could Be A Beginning
Perhaps it was the night, or the full moon, or the kind of half-hallucinatory madness brought on by too little sleep over too many days. Maybe it was the victory celebrations that erupted around them in PrinceMarmadukePiotreAlbertHansJosephBernhardtWilhelmsberg, edged with a slight I-can't-believe-we-did-it-/again/ hysteria.
Or, Polly later concluded gloomily, it was hard to say no to a vampire who'd obviously chewed on the strongest Klatchian coffee beans she could find and taken a few stiff espressos before finally getting around to saying It.
Polly's mind had tip-toed softly around It for a few hours (/days/) before finally saying, to hell with this stupidity. Just face it. It, with the capital letter.
Pressing her suit, Maladicta had said.
Polly had stared at her for a long, uncomfortable moment.
"Not the clothes," Maladicta explained.
The flowers, Polly admitted to herself, were a nice touch. They also irritated her for an inexplicable reason, though not as much as the way she'd slipped a few petals into the pockets of her uniform, feeling a little ashamed and thoroughly silly. When Polly returned to Munz, she placed the browning petals between the pages of an old ledger and hid it under her bed.
At least they were wildflowers, so she could pretend they got there by accident.
Maybe it wasn't the night, the moon, the atmosphere, or anything else other than Polly herself. Maybe, she unwillingly acknowledged, she was only annoyed because Maladicta beat her to the punch.
Weeks passed. Polly almost convinced herself that she wasn't fretting, and wasn't at all relieved when one of the inn's regulars came in with news of a nobby carriage with black horses.
Maladicta did not turn up at the door to The Duchess with another straggly bunch of flowers. Her arrival at the inn did coincide with an unseasonal flash of lightning and a roll of thunder, but it was /expected/. So were the old-fashioned dress (/underwire nightgowns/, Polly remembered the complaint) and the swirly black cape.
On the whole, Polly thought, she preferred... Mal. Not because she had thought of Mal as Maladict, but because Mal looked uncomfortable being anyone else. Maladict was someone Maladicta had created, but Maladicta didn't look like someone Mal was on friendly speaking terms with either.
Dinner was awkward. Shufti sensed the undercurrent between Polly and Maladicta but didn't understand it, and as a consequence bustled even more than usual. Polly's father and Eva (Perks, formerly Clambers) seemed overawed by their guest -- or nervous, more likely, given the way Polly's father had gripped his knife just a little too hard. Paul and Jack were oblivious to the tension, but neither of them were going to steer the conversation away from stiff exchanges over the weather and the harvest.
Polly wanted to thump her head against the table.
"So," Maladicta said, later.
They were sitting in front of the fireplace, womanfully ignoring the carefully-casual glances boring holes into their backs. The hour was late, but it seemed that half of Munz found excuses to linger in The Duchess and not stare at them -- at least, not when Polly was looking. And certainly not after she glared at them, when Maladicta wasn't looking.
They were on the cusp of an undefinable something, and here they were: trying to find something trivial to talk about, like what a proper courting couple was supposed to do, as if they hadn't learned that "supposed" was one of the most ridiculous words to plan your life around. Polly knew they were being stupid, which was worse than acting like a boy or behaving like a girl, because the bits that made you stupid were the same bits that made you smart.
"This isn't working," Polly said.
"Ah. I thought you'd say that."
"We're going to my room."
Maladicta nearly tripped over her cape.
On the whole, it wasn't that good. Elbows got in the way, Maladicta nearly knocked Polly out cold when they'd both accidentally landed on the floor, and they had to stop to look for stray buttons because Polly would never hear the end of it if she didn't manage to sew them back on before her clothes went on the washing line. Maladicta's necklace of coffee beans had to be placed somewhere within easy reach, though away from any possible accident.
But it was good enough, more than enough, and it was probably something that got better with practice anyway.
Maladicta was studying the lines on the palm of Polly's right hand with the earnest concentration of someone who didn't want to look up and be forced to talk. The tips of her fingers were cool and slightly sticky. Polly blushed, then told herself sternly to get over the shyness. Too late to be modest, now. Blushing may have suited country girls in brightly-coloured woodcuts (who always wore their hair in plaits and had cleavage), but it didn't suit someone who'd been a soldier and kicked a prince in the meat-and-two-veg. And, come to think of it, someone in bed with a vampire.
She didn't want to name this thing between them, not yet, because if she did, then-- well, her father would have to be told, for one thing. Approvals had to be sought, tempers soothed, formal arrangements made. There would be other rules to be acknowledged, if only so they can be broken. She remembered how good it felt in the first heady days of uncertainty after the war that made her a sergeant. No one knew what to do or which direction to take, which was just fine because at least they were enjoying the view.
"What do you think?" Maladicta asked, out of the blue, spreading her fingers and placing them on Polly's. She sounded as coolly assured as ever -- when she wasn't having flashsides -- but Polly had, after all, seen through Jackrum. Eventually.
"I don't know," Polly said, honestly. "But it doesn't matter, because it won't stop me from trying."
"I'll clear the cobwebs from that beam across the roof over there."
/If you're staying/, Polly didn't add. Most of her knew she didn't have to; the rest simply hoped. Her right foot twitched, ready to kick -- but not run.
Maladicta blinked, slowly, then looked as if she was suppressing a smile. "/Good/."