Origin: That novel I've been writing for like 17 years now
Genre: Sci-fi/fantasy (or "Demons in spaaaace!")
What/why/how/huh?: A snippet that's been tumbling around in my head since my neck decided it hates me and won't let me write anything. Screw you, neck!
She takes him aside that same evening. The echoes of compromises, alliances and agreements still fill the air, and she takes the opportunity to repair one last bond.
All day, she and Gra have stood shoulder by shoulder, but only, she knows, because that’s where they found themselves standing at the start of all of this.
“Do you have anything brewed yet?” is her excuse just before they should go their separate ways to their rooms in the abandoned hotel. “I could really use a drink.”
She knows he won’t take it as a come-on. If there’s one thing the tension between them has never been, it’s sexual. Lilim couldn’t think of a less likely partner than Gra, and she is convinced it’s mutual. Too much history.
Possibly, her motives are entirely transparent. That’s okay, openness is what she needs right now.
He nods and heads down the corridor, and she knows that’s all the invitation she’ll get. He leads the way to a room two doors down from his own. Inside, all furniture has been cleared out, and a construction the likes of which could probably be found in every other backwood on Earth a thousand years ago, sits in a corner. The copper gleams, fumes puff through the half-open window, clear liquid sings as it escapes the contraption. Gra has a way of making everything he touches more beautiful. Even a still.
He pours them both a glass from a full jug, then leans against the windowsill. Lilim is left standing awkwardly in the middle of the small room. If she had intended to seduce, her body would have found a pose like water finds the shape of a vase. Or moonshine the shape of a glass. But she is less than twenty-four hours into her career as a diplomat, and so she just folds one arm over her chest as she sips her hooch with the other, feeling like a wallflower at a school dance.
“I want to bury the hatchet,” she says bluntly. Gra’s face remains impassive, as always. Hard features permanently locked in a scowl in Lilim’s presence make it hard to see any subtle emotions, though.
“Hatchet?” His voice is hard, too. Lilim’s eyes stray to one of the still’s containers. Along the side an abstract pattern marks the copper in a circle around the middle, reminiscent of the flight of birds. If it were created by Gra, an angel that had his wings clipped a long time ago, the pattern might carry a deeper meaning than Lilim can interpret. She looks him in the eye again.
“Maybe we can’t be friends. But we need to trust each other. I understand that you resent me, I took your freedom away for a thousand years. If it were me, I’d probably have taken some bloody revenge by now. But-”
“It was my choice.”
“What? To not take revenge?”
His brows furrow even more. Anger? Or confusion?
“It was my choice to become your slave. You did not bind me against my will. You offered to bind me, to destroy the bond I had to my flock, to the ones who were trying to kill me. I accepted.”
“Yes, but... Like you said, they would have killed you. Not much of a choice.”
“It was the choice I had, and I chose your offer. I might have been near death at the time, but I knew what I chose. Daughters hardly ever release their slaves. I knew that my options were death or a lifetime of servitude. My lifetime, or yours. I do not resent you.”
“I never have. My servitude ended. If anything, you might resent me. My escape from my chains foiled your plans.”
“Right. That.” Her plans had taken a bit of a nosedive when her captive angel had found a way to release Gra from his chains. But... “Honestly, I had almost forgotten about that. I’m much too lazy to hold a grudge. But then why...”
She half drains her drink, enjoying the prickly warmth spreading from her stomach. She briefly wonders if nephilim hooch is bad for her now slightly more mortal body, but dismisses the thought.
“Why do you always look at me like you want to eviscerate me with your bare hands,” she blurts out.
She gets no answer, just another one of those dark stares framed by thick eyebrows drawn tightly together. And slowly, as if released by the ninety proof rushing through her veins, it dawns on her. More than a thousand years of memories, of time spent with the slave she didn’t want, of shared looks of quiet understanding whenever she realised that she would never fit in with her sisters no matter how hard she tried, no matter how many chains she forged; memories of trying to catch him unawares, to find out who he was when he wasn’t reluctantly following orders she equally reluctantly gave. She suddenly understands. She suddenly sees a glimpse of what’s beneath that hard exterior, and realises that it looks just the same.
“That’s just what your face looks like, isn’t it?”