Anacostia was many things.
She never thought she would add - unwitting love counselor and matchmaker to the list, yet here they were.
“Collar!” she stood near the entrance to the old building, watching students filter out of the large heavy doors and past the brick walls toward their next destinations. By the placement of the sun and the tired yet happy buzz among the soldiers, it was most likely to the mess hall for supper or their dorms for a quick nap.The gentle spring breeze tickled her nose as she held her shoulders back, face unreadable.
Raelle Collar glanced over from where she was ambling out, weary eyes hesitant along with her footsteps at the call.
“A word.” Anacostia tilted her head, indicating for the young witch to make her way over.
Looking back at the path the others were taking, one that would lead away from whatever conversation was about to take place, she heaved a sigh and marched over, adjusting the regulation bag hanging from her shoulder. She stopped about a foot away from her former teacher and commander, hands going behind her back, a slight air of respect taking over as she adhered to the protocols drilled into her every day she awoke at Fort Salem.
Anacostia looked her over. Blonde hair tied back in neat perfect braids. Uniform still crisp even after a full day of sitting down at a desk. Face clean.
Shifting ever so slightly on her feet, Anacostia spoke, “Beltane is tonight. Some of the festivities have already begun.” Many of her newest cadets at that very minute were gleefully partaking in punch and chatting with the boys bussed over earlier that week.
Raelle didn't react.
Anacostia looked closer, and she could spot the cracks in the image the soldier was projecting. The uniform wasn’t as crisp, wrinkles and rumples peeking out. There was a ring of redness around her eyes and purplish bags underneath. Her posture wasn’t as strong, her shoulders slumped slightly and spine curving with an almost imperceptible hunch. She could almost feel the hands itching to fidget, to rub together.
“While it is not mandatory for War College students to participate, it is encouraged.”
The corner of Raelle’s mouth flickered with something resembling a scornful smirk, “A lot of things are encouraged .”
Like not speaking about how Alder left her and Abigail to die in the desert in China.
Like not acknowledging how bad the Camarilla threat actually was.
Like not feeling every single emotion imaginable when confronted with the fact that Spree were on campus and roaming about under the watchful eyes of the officers, the alliance between the two factions fractured and hanging by a thread, at best.
Anacostia gave her a look, and Raelle silently returned it, not backing down, not showing anything more than a brief flash of anything.
“It would be in your best interest to attend, Corporal.”
“Beltane is important. It will help you recharge. Regain focus. Replenish your strength.”
“I’ve been plenty focused, ma’am.”
She had been, quietly excelling in her fixer courses.
But, that was it.
She didn’t participate in outside activities.
Barely interacted with her fellow soldiers.
Only spent time with Tally Craven and Abigail Bellweather, and even that was miniscule.
She went to class and went to her dorm.
And, she made sure to stay away from the buildings known to house Spree operatives.
Taking a tiny step forward, Anacostia ducked her head, lowering her voice, “You need to see her.”
“No, I don’t.” her back stiffened and her jaw clenched tightly.
“If anything, to put this all behind you.”
“You’re the one who is best friends with her now. You go and see her.” she worked her jaw, “Did she send you to do this?”
Anacostia pinned her with another look.
Had she ever done anything a young witch had told her to do? That Scylla had ever told her to do that she didn’t agree with?
Would Scylla have even told her to come find Raelle and tell her to meet her?
“She also refuses to attend.” Anacostia internally rolled her eyes, “We all know you both are too stubborn for your own good.”
“I have nothing left to say to her.”
“Don’t you?” her face softened, “You have another chance, Collar. Not many get those. Why waste time when you don’t know how much you have left?”
Raelle didn’t meet her eyes, ticking her gaze slightly to the side to miss brown orbs so full of unspoken care and wisdom it ate at her grieving soul.
“Think about it.” Anacostia took a step back. “I’d suggest putting on something a little more...attractive than that.”
Raelle scoffed, “You don’t find regulation uniforms sexy?”
“Not for this.”
Raelle squinted, “Why are you doing this? Why do you care?”
“You both have the inability to stay out of trouble. If you are in trouble together, at least I only have to deal with it once.”
And, if she had a soft spot for the two and wanted to see them happy, only Izadora needed to know that.
Scylla hovered around the perimeter of the party, watching the cadets mingle and flirt in their flowing dresses and sparkling suits. The mug of punch felt heavy in her hand, and she had half a mind to set it down on the nearest table and leave.
But, it was encouraged that the Spree operatives join in, show a modicum of trust in this shaky alliance. And, her fellow witches were eager to peruse the offerings. They may sneer at the blind loyalty and ignorance of the soldiers, but Beltane was Beltane, and some of their cohorts were hypnotizing and alluring enough to set aside any disagreements for one night.
She also needed something in her hands to stop her from fidgeting.
She passed the mug from one hand to another, smoothing down the skirt of her dress with her now free hand. Draped in a swirl of black and dark blue, the dress fluttered around her knees and hugged her curves. Her bare arms and chest caught the eye of more than one passing boy and girl, the dark splashes giving a sense of mysterious intrigue amongst the light floral colors, but she didn’t notice.
She wasn’t here for them.
Quite honestly, she wasn’t sure who she was here for.
No, that was a lie.
Another lie to add to her never ending stack of mistruths and mistakes.
She knew who she was here for.
Who she wanted to be here for.
But, that person wasn’t there.
Raelle wasn’t there.
She’d only caught glimpses of her in passing. Spotting her walking to class, gait sometimes quick, sometimes lethargic, but never halting to offer even a peek Scylla’s way. Scylla heard a few rumblings about the Fixer who somehow survived a Camarilla attack, but most rumors were squashed by the officers and the Spree were too focused on saving their fellow witches from their ancient hunters to fully appreciate who was amongst them.
Twisting the mug in her hold, Scylla felt the ever present buzz grow. A redhead - Tansey - had gathered everyone’s attention. She spoke about Beltane and the dance, but Scylla barely heard her. Instead, she moved over to an abandoned table, setting her cup down but keeping her hands wrapped around it.
So much had happened.
So many memories. Regrets. Hopes. Wishes.
She refused to let herself dwell on them. If she did, she would never leave whatever darkness nipped at her heels and heart.
The darkness that was only tamed once.
In the arms of Raelle Collar.
The woman Scylla loved.
The woman she would always love.
The woman who no longer loved her back.
Scylla gulped down her emotions and stared into the liquid in her cup, red and unmoving.
She shouldn’t be there.
A powerful bang echoed across the land, followed by a steady beat.
The dance was beginning.
Tightening her grip on the mug, Scylla inhaled deeply before pushing away, letting it go and forcing her feet to move toward the dorms, toward the lonely bed and even lonelier soul that now inhabited her chest.
With a few steps, she found herself, not on the pathway toward the barracks, but, instead, at the edge of the dance. Bodies swayed before her, then around her.
Her body began to unconsciously roll with the unrelenting song, arms and legs hypnotized into joining the chaotic gathering of bodies. An unseen force gently guided her into the fray, urging her to partake, to join, to feel. To let her mind give in as her body took over.
Arms swept up from behind her, fingers teasing the back of her neck before skimming bare shoulders. She spun away, a flash of a boy in a dark red suit gone in a moment’s breath. Hands caught her, a delighted girl, dress bright green and teeth shining, pulled her close, hips dipping against the brunette’s. Scylla allowed her to touch her, trying to not compare brown eyes to blue, smooth hands to calloused ones.
It was no use.
With a twist, Scylla was passed along to the next warm body, the next eager partner.
She refused them all.
The song played and she twirled, body humming in anticipation, in disappointment, in confusion at not being able to find what it desperately sought.
Until a once familiar, always familiar, warmth wrapped itself around her lungs and coiled low in her belly, a thread of gold and heat that glimmered along her skin and tapped like playful fingers against her heart.
Her breath hitched as a body, strong yet supple, pressed against her back. Eyelashes fluttered closed with the feel of weathered worshipful hands against her waist and a delicate nose nuzzling the crook of her neck.
Pushing back into welcoming hips, Scylla gave in to the feeling of what she wanted finally being there. Her body sung, louder than the music crashing around them. She reached behind her, palm gripping the back of a blonde head and guiding searching lips aching for tender flesh to the side of her neck, her head tilting to offer herself up.
At the feel of a gentle kiss, the affectionate hungry nip of blunt teeth, a surge of pure desire erupted inside, molten heat racing through her veins and lighting her entire being on fire. She ground into her partner, her lover, barely holding herself back as a whimpered growl brushed against her ear. An arm looped around her waist, holding her close, urging her even closer, as a hand reached for her own, holding it aloft as a mouth tasted her pulse point.
With a quick dip of hips and flick of a wrist, she was spinning out, another’s hands reaching for her but coming up empty as she was almost viciously, posessively, twirled back, the invisible band between her and the blonde snapped taut.
Foreheads coming together gently, mouths all but meeting, and Scylla melted as a palm curved around her hip, fingertips bunching the small piece of fabric, luxuriating in the smooth silk, teasing what lay beneath.
Raelle’s eyes were half closed, hooded with unspeakable desire that made Scylla want to drop to her knees. To let Raelle take her again and again, kiss every inch of her, marking her for the rest of the world to see that she was hers.
She breathed in, catching the air Raelle exhaled and letting it fill her lungs and infuse her body. She could almost see the glittering strands of light wrapping around them and never letting go. Gold and blue and so so bright.
And goddess, but in whatever small part of her mind not overtaken with drum beats and need, she felt tears fight to be free, to roll down her cheeks and release months of pent up yearning and love and anguish.
To let herself feel hope.
The hope she secretly harbored that, one day, she would be here with Raelle. With her Raelle.
As the music slowly drifted away, ending with a flourish, Scylla let everything go.
She roughly grabbed Raelle’s face and smashed their lips together, needing to make her feel everything that was inside of her, that had been there since the moment they met and never left. Would never leave. Would never falter. Would only grow as the years passed.
Both whimpered at the kiss, their first in so long.
Scylla didn’t know her tears were actually falling, painting her cheeks, until thumbs brushed against her pale skin, wet with both of their deeply hidden cries.
Needing her closer, needing more, needing to feel what lived between them, what was unbreakable, bent but never shattered - needing, needing, needing - Scylla leapt, her heart soaring and legs wrapping around Raelle’s waist.
The younger woman caught her, their mouths never leaving each other. Raelle ran her palms along the backs of smooth thighs caressing and remembering long forgotten spots that she would kiss in a previous life.
Wet and messy, they wordlessly ached, tongues and teeth fighting to regain what had been lost. What had been denied them for too long.
When they finally broke apart, both panting and - touching, touching, touching - anything within reach, Scylla found herself caught in stormy blue eyes. A hurricane of want and passion.
And something else.
Something that made her chest grow heavy and eyelids droop.
Burrowing her fingers in the dark blue material of the waistcoat her girl had worn, so much like the dress wrapped around her own body, Scylla tugged, urging her to move, to follow.
To be with her.
Raelle followed without hesitation.
They fumbled, staggered, picking up speed with each step until they were running past the others, Scylla’s hair, once in an elegant updo, now flowing freely, the pins holding it in place long gone.
Sun setting in the distance, neither paid attention to where they were going until they tripped into a large old oak tree, it’s large branches and bright leaves a cocoon, protecting them from the rest of the world.
Mouths meeting once again, melding together seamlessly, tongues darting out to tease, to play, to taunt and praise, the couple crashed together like the sand and sea at high tide, one taking and one giving, both twisting and turning together, becoming one, neither knowing in the ebb and flow where they became two instead of what they had always been - A whole split only to be pieced back together when the time was right..
Biting at a plump bottom lip, Scylla nibbled the tender flesh before she pushed at Raelle’s shoulders, guiding her on to her back on the blanket of green grass surrounded by flowers. Hazy passionate eyes gazed up at her, Raelle’s mouth slightly open in wonder at the vision before her.
Scylla gasped at the look, a look she hadn’t seen in so long, that once filled her nights and mornings.
The look of a woman who thought she saw heaven and was willing to pray at the altar of the goddess.
Slowly, Scylla dropped to her knees, straddling her lover.
Raelle’s hands immediately went to her waist, fisting her dress and roughly pulling at it.
Scylla caught her hands, forcing them to her sides before leaning over her. She lightly kissed her lips, pulling away with a smirk as a wet mouth chased after her.
“Shhh,” she shushed, plucking at the buttons of Raelle’s vest.
“Scyl,” Raelle groaned, face flushed and hips rolling up.
Scylla felt a small spark in the farthest corner of her mind at hearing her name uttered by her lover.
The way she would when they were together.
“Patience, baby.” Scylla undid one button, then another. Carefully. Methodically.
“Fuck,” Raelle’s head dropped back as a hand slipped along her chest and cupped her breast. She tried to reach for her, again, but her efforts were batted away. “Scyl.”
“Let me take care of you.” Scylla whispered, undoing the last button and pushing the material away to reveal naked flesh, an unmarked palette waiting for lips and fingers to paint with desire and love.
Except for the raised scar over her rapidly beating heart.
Whatever Raelle might have said was lost as Scylla kissed the valley between her breasts, nipping and sucking a well known path from one side to the other, tongue tracing each curve and swell.
Raelle threw an arm over her face, biting her lip, other hand grabbing at Scylla’s dress, but this time to anchor herself to the ground lest she fly away.
Scylla ran her tongue along her collarbone, tip dipping into the small hollow before pausing at the thin white line.
The line that mapped where the Camarilla nearly took Raelle away from her. Where Raelle almost fulfilled a plan she had promised to not pursue.
Die on the front lines, young and quick.
Closing her eyes, Scylla gently touched the precious spot with her lips, barely coming into contact with the discolored flesh.
Sensing the shift in her lover’s mood, Raelle softly murmured, “‘m here.” Fingers slid into dark tresses, massaging Scylla’s scalp, “I’m here. ‘M alright. Not goin’ anywhere.”
Scylla kissed the scar again, letting the promise chase away the demons lurking in her subconscious, threatening to appear with memories of heartbreak and hopelessness.
Focusing on the present, letting the past disappear, locked away in dark crevices overshadowed by lust and love, she bit at the crook of her neck, sucking and soothing with her tongue. With a muted curse, Raelle’s arm flew back to her face, hips jumping.
Muscles twitched as Scylla’s lips dipped lower, teeth scraping against the faint outline of her abs. While Raelle had been fit, her time in training was reshaping her body in a way Scylla wanted to appreciate all night. Raelle’s hips jerked as the tip of Scylla’s tongue teased the small patch of skin just below her navel, swirling along the edge of dark royal blue trousers.
“Scyl,” Raelle gasped.
“What do you want, Rae?” Scylla ran her hand along the edge of the fabric before sweeping over the belt buckle, “Tell me. Anything you want.”
Raelle’s arm dropped from her face, and blown pupils slowly rose to stare at the woman above her, “You. Always you.” She swallowed, “Let me see you.”
Scylla’s heart sputtered at the declaration. At the request.
“Please, let me see you.”
Hands suddenly shaking, Scylla cautiously reached for her dress. Hands joined her, Raelle sitting up as they both hiked up and guided the material over Scylla’s head and off to the side. Raelle stared at her, face twisting with a look that sent shocks to Scylla’s heart and core.
“You are so beautiful.” Raelle spoke, words pulling Scylla in.
Their lips met again, Raelle falling back and Scylla always following.
As the sun hinted at appearing in the hazy sky, the last vestiges of night drifting away on the breeze, Scylla slowly came to reality, the land of dreams and peaceful slumber letting her go with a wisp of warmth and cozy comfort. Mind waking, she felt the weight of an arm around her waist and the puff of hot air against her forehead.
Breathing in the early morning dew and unique scent of sex, soil, and something purely Raelle, she squeezed her eyes shut tightly.
She was wrapped in Raelle’s arms, Raelle in hers. A nose nestled against her hairline, mouth resting against her forehead. Her own face was tucked into the curve of Raelle’s neck and shoulder, legs tangled together. Sometime during the night, a baby blue sheet had been draped over their glistening bodies, helping the branches hide them from view and protect them from the early morning chill.
For a moment, she wondered if she was still in a dream.
A dream where she was loved by the woman she loved. No pain or doubt between them.
Sensing her lover’s wakefulness, Raelle began to stir. Taking her last chance before Raelle inevitably walked away, leaving her behind, Scylla pressed a gentle kiss to her exposed shoulder.
Arms around her tightened before going slack. She felt Raelle stiffen, spine going rigid.
This was it.
Beltane had swept them both up in heady bouts of carnal lust, but that was as far as it went.
Now that the haze of hot need and wet touches was gone, it was back to how they were.
Pretending they were not two broken souls wandering lost without the other.
Hesitantly, a hand trickled up Scylla’s back, rubbing her shoulder blade, voice gruff with sleep “Hey.”
Scylla buried her face deeper, hiding the blissful reaction one word drew out of her, “Hi.”
They laid there, neither seeming to know what to say.
Gathering herself, Scylla felt like she was on the edge of a cliff.
She could jump and fly, slap on salva and trust herself and Raelle to keep her from plummeting to the darkness below. Do something she had never even contemplated doing for another before. Open herself up fully, accept whatever Raelle wanted, whatever she needed.
Be vulnerable. No safety net. No plans or hidden tricks.
Just Scylla Ramshorn. In love and silently hoping her girl was still her girl.
Or, she could leave. Save them both the pain and heartache of an awkward morning.
The image of Raelle sleepily pulling her into her arms as they both gave in to exhaustion hours before washed over her.
The way she looked so young, so happy, so content.
Like the girl Scylla wanted to be with.
The girl she wanted to help Raelle be again.
Turning her head, she pressed a meaningful kiss to the side of Raelle’s throat.
The blonde’s breath hitched, and her fingers dug into Scylla’s bare back.
Scylla allowed herself to brush her lips up, little butterfly pecks along the length of her neck until she found her ear. She bit down tenderly.
Raelle finally leaned away, blinking at her warily, “What’re you doin’?”
Scylla’s mouth wobbled. Her palm came to rest over the scar on Raelle’s chest, right above her heart, “I miss you.”
“I miss you.” Scylla pushed on, taking the leap. “I miss you every day. I know I hurt you. I never wanted to. I never wanted to lose you.” A new set of tears welled in her eyes, “I know we haven’t talked. It’s been a long time. But, I want you. I still love you. I’m willing to prove to you that I love you. That this is real for me.”
Raelle remained quiet.
Pressing her lips together, Scylla blindly ran her hand along Raelle’s arm, tugging until their hands joined. She laced their fingers together, “If you want to never see me again, I’ll leave. I won’t force you to do anything. But, Raelle, if you want me, even just a little bit, I’m yours. Completely. Tell me what you want. Please.”
Raelle’s arm dropped from her face, and blown pupils slowly rose to stare at the woman above her, “You. Always you.” She swallowed, “Let me see you.”
Raelle sniffed, “I didn’t even want to go to Beltane.” She licked her lips, “I didn’t...I didn’t want to see you.”
Scylla grew cold.
“I hear your name or...look at you...and I remember everything you did to me...but then I don’t care. I look at you, and I don’t care.”
Scylla felt a tear roll down her cheek.
“I’m so angry, Sylla. I’m so mad at you. At the army. At everyone.” Raelle couldn’t remember when there weren't the crackling flames of rage slowly building inside, waiting to explode.
She could, though.
Back when she was waking up, a free day ahead of her and her girlfriend in her arms. Before the Camarilla. Before lies and manipulations and death.
“I should hate you.”
Scylla bit her lip to hold in the painfilled gasp.
“I don’t. I can’t.” Raelle shrugged despondently, “I’m just...sad.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” She held her hand firmly, steadily, “I’m so sorry.” She searched for bright blue eyes.
“I didn’t want to go. But, there you were, and I had to dance with you. Be with you.”
“What can I do?”
Raelle allowed their eyes to meet. “Can we talk?”
“Yes,” Scylla nodded, “Yes, of course. We can talk anytime you want. Anytime.”
“Breakfast?” Raelle gave her a tiny smile that felt like the first rays of sunshine peeking over the horizon.
“Breakfast sounds perfect.”
“I should shower, but I’ll come find you?”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Hearing the rustling of people moving about and the campus slowly waking, Raelle blinked and glanced down at their naked bodies, “We should probably get dressed.”
“I don’t know, the view is sort of nice.”
Raelle rolled her eyes, but blushed.
As they slowly began to pull apart, Scylla dove in for one last kiss.
When Raelle returned the embrace, not pulling away but drawing her nearer, cupping her chin with her thumb and forefinger, for the first time, Scylla felt like maybe things would be ok.
Walking along the well worn path, hands clasped behind her back, Anacostia noticed her companion’s quirked eyebrow and faint smile. Following Izadora’s eyeline, she spotted two young figures scrambling into clothes before stumbling away from a large oak tree. The witches held hands, seeming to have trouble letting go even though they had to go in different directions.
“It seems Raelle does listen to orders.” Izadora hummed.
Anacostia sighed with resignation, “Suggestions, not an order. Those two would have found each other either way. I’ve learned I can’t keep one away from the other, no matter what I try.”
“Of course.” Iazadora didn’t believe her at all.
Anacostia squinted, “Interesting. That blue sheet looks similar to the one in your quarters.”
“Interesting, indeed.” Izadora continued along.
Anacostia rolled her eyes and followed.