Green Summer Eyes, by kishmet. Original fantasy femslash, PG-13/R, 1,946 words. On roses and freedom.
The rose vines caress her arms as she slips through the thicket, thorns not catching on her skin as one might expect. She's not to be here, and she still hears Mother's words echoing, the reprimands, the threats of punishment if she goes beyond the autumn-russet fields again, steps beyond the borders of the cultivated into the realm of the uncontrollable, the unknown. She's to spend her time in the warm, cloying embrace of her home, fetching buckets of water for the cows, bringing buckets of fresh white milk back to the house, spinning and dying and weaving and burning her hands with the lye they use to make the soap. She's to be obedient, and she is, day in and day out, doing what Mother asks, what Father asks, what Aunt and Uncle and her elder cousins ask of her.
But she cannot do this always.
Her skin remains untouched by the thorns, but the tie that binds her hair snags on one, releasing her hair, the red-brown of the fields, into a banner that streams behind her. She laughs and shakes it out, letting it fly in a cloud around her face and shoulders, a cloud that shines bright in the rays of sunlight that show through the trees and the vines around her. The sleeves and skirt of her dress catch on branches, on brambles, and rip here, unravel there, as though they want to rid her of the last traces of her small, slow everyday world.
And then, oh, then, she reaches the heart of everything, a tree full of roses, an explosion of scarlet, of blossoms, of sweet scent despite the season, too late for roses and yet here they are, as she knows they always will be, even in the dead of winter when the snow howls above and around. Autumn and winter never touch this place, just as the thorns never touch her skin as she makes her way here. She walks to the tree and closes her eyes, the fragrance of the flowers surrounding her, enveloping her, becoming a part of her.
Eyes opening, she stands up on her toes, reaches up and plucks a rose from the highest branch she can reach, a rose in full bloom, petals perfectly unfolded without so much as a hint of black around their edges. She likes this about roses, though, she likes even the way they wilt. The red ones don't go brown, they go black, black as the mourners' clothing in a funeral procession, black as the downy wing of a crow, black as the soot that collects on the hearth.
She closes her hand around this one's green stem, and only now does she feel the sharp bright pain that means she's pricked herself, and when she opens her hand, a bead of red blood, bright as a rose, wells up from the cut. Suddenly she draws in a sharp breath as she's pushed back against the smooth firm trunk of the tree, as warm sweet lips slide
along hers, over her mouth and her cheek and the edge of her jaw. "You are here," murmurs the voice in her ear, and she inhales the breath that's scented like rosewater.
"Of course," she says simply, and turns her head to meet eyes more verdant than summer leaves, with centers impossibly black. Her gaze travels over pale green shoulders, bare and lightly patterned with circles and swirls of vines deeper green than the rest, over red hair longer and brighter than her own, and wilder, over ears pointed as thorns. The hands that hold her, those nails, too, are long and sharp, but they are careful not to scratch except when they forget, when she and they are both lost and drowning in the stormy gale of their kisses, their embraces. Then, sometimes, she has to be sure to hide her back from Mother and from Sister when she dresses and undresses, to hide it until the long marks fade again into her pale skin, gone from the outside world but stored inside of her forever, sunken beneath her skin where they cast hot, fierce, wonderful licks of fire through her whenever she thinks of them.
Today is sweet and slow, with a time still remembered when her dress had been torn so badly and she'd had no explanation to offer upon her return, and been forbidden outside on her own for seven days. Counting down the minutes had been agony, each seeming an hour to her, each hour seeming a full day on its own. Now the hands slipping into her hair are careful, gentle, though the fingernails still prick her skin lightly, like sewing needles against the hands of a quick seamstress. One of these clever hands strays down the nape of her neck to the buttons on the back of her dress and begins unfastening, one, two, a third, in a neat line as she sighs and lets her shoulders drop, lets the clothing slip off and away.
Here, she is here, so glad each time because she's forgotten the feeling in the dull hours spent doing what's been done the day before, and will be done the next day and every day after. She is touched, and held, and wanted, and can touch and hold and want in her turn, her quick breaths mingling with the scent of the roses, the scent that's always there, familiar and true. "Oh," and her head falls back, her eyes closing as she nearly tumbles over, legs turned to water that can't hold her up anymore, but the arms catch her, keeping her close, safe. She glances up then, fast as she can, to see all the new buds on the tree explode into full, open flowers, and eyelids fall like curtains over bright green eyes. It's her turn to hold and support, though the tree does enough for both of them when they need it, when it's the same second that sends them spiraling over the edge.
They stay, and breathe, and rest together, and she whispers words of nonsense that mean more than any she's ever said before, and whispered back to her are words in another language, one she does and doesn't understand. This once more, she thinks, it's the last time and she's giving it to herself as a gift and a curse, a way to fracture her heart even further when it breaks.
She's crying, tears tracing streaks down her face, and as she raises a hand to brush them away, light fingers catch her wrist and then her tears, following the path of them from her eyes to her chin. "You're hurting," murmured near the juncture of her neck and shoulder, lips moving against her skin. "Tell me why."
"It's nothing," she says, an untruth easily uncovered when she's trembling and turning away, staring into the dark forest beyond, where neither of them have ever been or will ever go, for there are things there worse even than obedience and good manners and homes too small to contain all the wondrous things in life.
"It's not nothing," a truth, and she nods, hiding her eyes in a curtain of bright hair.
"They-" It's hard to say, and she swallows, takes a breath, and readies herself for another try. "They're sending me to my cousin, in town. I'm to be raised properly, to be. To be what I'm meant to be, not, not this." She isn't sure what and how much of this will be understood, here, now, where all is wild and free and eternal, where there is no cooking hearth, no squalling babes needing to be coddled and fed and minded, no buckets of grain and slop to be hauled out to the barnyard, no sowing or weeding or hoeing or reaping. There are no young men here to gather wildflowers in hopes of a wife, a mother, a hearth and babes of their own, no sewing, no mending, no young eyes grown ancient and fogged, no mind gone dull as a needle used too long.
"I won't be back," she says, and her heart aches at the idea. The fingers touching her go still at first, and then they rest, with the palm of the hand, on her skin, and begin to stroke, slow and soothing, as though she's a young colt in need of calming.
"No." The voice is fierce as it has never been before, shot through with lances of fire and something else, something more, something that tugs at the strings of her heart, giving her pain and hope in equal measures. "No," a denial and a promise all in one.
"Please," she whispers, hoping harder than she's ever done before. "Please, keep me." And then her head falls back, hair spilling in waves down the smooth skin of her back. She shudders, and opens her eyes, and closes them again, falling into the dark toward the light. She's being held tightly, so tightly that it feels she'll never be let go, and she doesn't want to be.
"I'll keep you," whispers the voice at her ear, sweet and soft, soothing and reassuring. "I'll keep you with me always."
She is drawn forward, held ever more tightly but never painfully, so close it is as though they are sharing the same skin. The vines coil around her arms, her legs, her hands, her feet, and her head as well, a crown of brilliant scarlet blossoms and emerald leaves, and tiny thorns that rest against her face without drawing a single drop of blood.
Again she sighs, and draws in a long breath that is filled with heady rose fragrance, intoxicating her and clearing her mind of its fears, dissolving the knot of tension that's been resting at the base of her breastbone for so many days. She embraces the vines in her turn, closing her eyes and resting her head on the smooth trunk of the tree as though it's a shoulder, cool and comforting. The leaves rustle in a sigh of their own, in her ears, in her hair, in her bones, in her blood, caressing and holding her, secure as she's never been since lying as a babe in a cradle by the hearth.
She opens her eyes and meets deep green-and-black ones with them, and her smile is returned before she lowers her eyelids again, lashes fluttering like rose petals in a breeze.
Now the forest, the clearing, and the tree are silent, still and slow and peaceful. A sparrow perches for a moment on the tree's topmost branch, which is shaped and curved like a delicate hand with fingers reaching to touch the sky. The bird flits away a moment later, and a single rose petal drifts to the ground behind it, and lands on a torn piece of fabric that might once have been a plain homespun dress.
Around this tree, in the places where seasons reign, late summer fades almost unnoticed to autumn, and autumn darkens to winter and its snowdrifts, like enormous unshaven sheep slumbering huddled together in the cold. There is work to be done here, as ever, leaving only brief moments for a daughter, a niece, a cousin's fate to be puzzled over, and remembered. Winter slips in its turn into spring, a pale green gown of new grass and new leaves just budding into existence.
And when summer's verdant cloak unfolds over the earth, all of the fields, those that grow wildflowers and those that grow wheat alike, all blossom into a sea of crimson roses, and two voices raised in whispered laughter whenever the wind touches them.
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