This was written from Elesphyl’s Write About Prettyful Dudes challenge on TGS. It is a sequel to Solace, and without reading that, this may not make total sense. Solace will give the background information, and set the scene for why the characters ended up here.
A soft breeze dances across the grass. It collects leaves, taunts them, lifts them up and lets them fall, a conductor of a dance it quickly grows bored with. The breeze saunters along, too small and weak to conjure movement from the branches of trees; only those leaves still clinging show the faintest sign of tremors. The sky is bruised, blanketed in clouds, violet and dark and the little breeze suddenly stills, as if waiting for what is to come. Slowly, inexorably, the first drops fall lightly against the earth. Steam rises where they kiss concrete and dirt, dust flattens, is smoothed into nothing and the sky opens up.
The world is wild, alive and it makes him shiver, makes him feel he is the only person still living in this moment of ancient ritual. Rain smashes violently. The sky groans, the thunder echoes in his ears and lightning streaks across the heavens, racing, panting, charged. He waits a moment, wondering, and soon, there is only the rain, and him. Teddy stands beneath the meagre shelter of the trees, watching as the sky bleeds. Water clings to his skin and beads in his hair, but he does not shake it off. He rather likes this feeling, of being alone, abandoned.
It should never have happened, but he knew from the minute he looked at her across the room, with the candlelight dancing over her cheek, that it would happen. She went so willingly into his arms that it scared him; terrified him even, because it was not the way it should be.
He was not supposed to want her. Things were mapped out, had been for years, and he did not like this new feeling, this sense that there was something more, something untouched and unexplored.
Light shines from her window, where he had stood a week earlier. When he first crossed the threshold of that little flat he was amazed at how strongly it spoke of her. The furnishings were no nonsense, like she was, practical and purposeful, and somehow, her smell, that intoxicating essence he had only just noticed, had sunk into every corner and floating space of air. The shelves were lined with books and he had joked that she’d need a room just for them. She had smiled at that, knowing that his jokes were few and far between these days. Melancholy had its claws in so deep that sometimes he forgot to breathe, and when he remembered, when his lungs burnt and screamed at him for being so absent, he wondered what would happen if he just simply stopped. Stopped breathing, stopped being. Would he still think of her in whatever life followed?
His princess, untouchable for so long, loved from afar, the one with hair like gold and skin like snow. He had always loved her, of that there was no question, but then, somehow, by some miracle perhaps, the girl he had considered his sister, loved like a sister, blossomed. He watched as her petals unfurled; the brassy shade of her hair deepened, the freckles across the pert little nose dispersed and faded, until they skipped across her skin leaving light footprints in their wake. She grew tall like an oak, strong like an oak and as sinuous as the willows on the banks of the river he liked to swim in.
After that night, and that kiss, their second, he had spent hours wondering. Did she love him? Teddy suspected she did, and the thought was not without its own beauty. He was never a man to play with girls, to create love where there was no space for love. He was serious and sure, but since that night, the idea of flirting with such danger, such unknowing, appealed to him.
The rain stops suddenly, startling him, and he blinks it from his lashes, licking his lips and tasting its sweetness. He has no idea how long he has stood, like some crazed stalker, staring at the light that blazes in the growing darkness. As he watches, she appears at the window, her expression forlorn and painted with shadow. Another princess in her tower, waiting, watching for her prince. Teddy chews his lip. He is no prince, not by any standards, but he seems to be always rescuing princesses. This one, with hair like copper and a free and ready smile that lit any dark corner, confuses him.
There are no rules when dealing with Princesses; he has had to make his own.
She slips from the window and he pauses a moment, before racing across the little street and up the concrete stairs that lead to her flat. His feet are noisy; like elephants, they thump and crash, each step thundering inside his chest, sitting and messing with the rhythm of his heart. A rhythm that has, recently, grown furious and unsteady with want and indecision.
She is startled to see him; he did not expect anything different, not after their last encounter. Something about this moment seems dirty, secretive and he had never been one for clandestine meetings, for sneaking around in the dead of night visiting princesses in other towers. Rose ponders his expression and then smiles, the darkness fleeing her face and lighting his.
“You should not be here,” she says softly, stepping aside to let him into the flat. He pauses a moment, unsure of the invitation, and then steps through the doorway with a purpose he is not sure of. “Victoire,” Rose reminds him, her voice failing her on the last syllable.
Teddy sighs, rubs at his face again, and feels the growth on his chin. “I don’t know.”
“What does that mean?” Rose asks. She still stands by the open door and he wishes she would come inside. It is too impersonal like this, with the distance between them and yet, he doesn’t know how to close it, or if he wants to, or should.
Teddy goes to the window, runs his fingers along the sill and starts drumming them against the timber. It is a nervous habit, he knows, one that Victoire hates. She is always telling him so.
“I don’t know,” he repeats, his voice low, a whisper. Rain falls against the glass again, and he watches as it slides down, the droplets racing, furious, silken, alive. That last thought, that word, dances in his head and he realises suddenly that with her, with his Princess made of copper, he feels alive. When she smiles, he wants to smile, and when she laughs, the world is made whole. The time she laid her head against his chest is burnt into his memory forever. He turns to look at her now, finding she is in the room and the front door is closed. A finality. He knows now this is the defining moment.
There is something real about her; she is not gold, which, although it shines, is sometimes harsh and untouchable. Copper is warmth and he realises this with a jolt, as if the raw electricity flying through the sky has settled under his skin. He shivers, smiling, relaxing.
“Teddy, why are you here?” Rose asks. Her voice is brittle; their last encounter is still too close for her, for him. The emotions of that moment are still here, saturated like her perfume into the walls of her flat. She has lived here with them, lives with them now and he doesn’t want her to suffer.
“I...” he begins, and falters, unsure again. Was this right? What would they all think? Did they already know? Did Victoire already know? Was that why she had kicked him out hours earlier? He shook his head and held out a hand, imploring and warning in the one gesture.
He closes his eyes and when he opens them she is there. They look at one another, hearts pounding, and suddenly his arms are filled with her, his nostrils filled with her and his hands are in her hair, his lips on hers and he is no longer a man drowning. He is surfacing, blinking the indecision and fear and unknowing from his eyes.
Her touch is medicinal, like cool water over a burn and he surrenders to it. Outside, the storm rages, and the thunder sounds like applause, the rain like soft laughter and the wind, it whispers, that here is order, here is what is perfect and right and delicious.