we spoil ourselves with scruples long as things go well [tw]

Trigger Warning: death themes


Again he reaches for her, and again she feels that heat rise in her blood; an unfamiliar flame. She inclines her head, eyes searching, serious, her smile slipping into something more guarded. In the dim light, she can almost imagine he is really there with her, his lack of color an optical illusion. He is sharper this time, somehow. And he is looking at her like something known to him – she can feel his gaze run over and through her, swimming in the space between her cells, like he’s been there before. No one has ever looked at her this way. Why does he?

She was not expecting it. She was certainly not expecting the way it might make her feel.

“I am glad you found them,” she says delicately, “I am glad you have found purpose in the world beyond.” But she is troubled, too, that he seems to care so much for her, so little for Green. For it had been Green, not her, that roused him from that insensate void, that reminded him of who he used to be. Electra had not counted on becoming entangled in new memories, cleaner burning. Had not counted on the intensity in his eyes. The longing.

She wonders, for the first time, if Jack is not merely the shade of some unfortunately, lonely fairy. The legends of her home-world spoke of powerful spirits that roamed through every plane of being, at times able to impose themselves on mortals. Electra had always considered them quaint, pastoral superstitions – easy explanations for a sudden death, or milk that spoiled, or precious things gone missing. Or love, that seemed to strike like lightning, bright and burning. Her lashes flutter subtly, as she processes the possibility that he is doing this to her, that the tension in her belly is no accident, that she may have stumbled into the path of something ancient and dangerous.

For she had not called him. She had not done the rituals, had not drunk from the sacred spring or burned the nerium, had not found him when she looked for him. Instead, it seemed it was he that found her. Or had he been sent? And if he had been sent, by whom? For what purpose?

For what purpose…

I think there is a soul that means you harm.

Electra’s expression clouds, calcifies. If she flinches, it is likely imperceptible – her chin lifts as she draws a slow, thick breath, her gaze sliding to the edges of the room. Her fingers tighten, as if they mean to become fists, but think better of it. She smooths them across the fabric at her hips.

“You have been…very busy. I wonder that you have learned so much in so little time,” she replies tightly, turning away from him and crossing to a dresser, where her hands can busy themselves opening and closing little drawers. “Or does time flow differently, in the life-after?” Her tone is casual, verging on dismissive, but there is a tremor in her fingers as she withdraws an emerald on a chain. The dead were meant to forget. Jack had forgotten everything, forgotten green, but she remembered. Remembered her. And only her, which defied reason, for it was not her hands that were bloodied. It was her rage, her conviction, her plan – but it was Orestes’ knife. But of course she must have known, Electra mused bitterly; she must have sensed that the prince would never come to such a decision on his own. She had always been able to sense her enemies, and conjure them from nothing when convenient.

Electra’s jaw tightens, and she shakes her head a little, dislodging the memory. She wants to curse, to call upon all their gods to bring her justice for once, for once to set their fates in proper order. But she has learned the word forsaken, and knows that word holds magic just for her. “The shade you speak of,” she says instead, schooling her voice into velvet, turning back toward him with the amulet cupped in her hands like an offering, “is indeed dangerous. To you. Not to me.” She holds her hands out a little, inviting him closer, and her eyes turn young and fretful to match her tone. “Please promise me you will stop looking for them. I do not want any harm to come to you.” The faintest smile plays across her lips, as if this statement is a confession. In a way it is, for it is not untrue, though it is not the one that simmered beneath the surface of these questions. That is an admission she is unable, or unwilling, to make. “That is how you may help me, Jack. Now, I would like to help you. This color was important to you – the most important thing, when we last met. I would like to find out why.” The candlelight sparkled across the facets of the emerald, flashing green fire, and glimmered across her skin like dust of gold.

It is a pretty distraction, at least. If she must lead him off this scent, at least she might tempt him with a better one.


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