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at the foot of my bed (I can lay down next to you)

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At first, she had slept. Rested, really. She had been so excruciatingly weary when she arrived here, barely able to stand beneath the suffocating weight of a cataclysmic adrenaline crash after eons (nine months) of constant dreadful vigilance. It was hardly a conscious choice, but she had had no objections. What else was she going to do?

She’s not even sure how long it lasted; how can one mark time in the white blank bliss of oblivion? But then, at some indeterminate point...the dreams had begun. Snippets at first. A foreign ship, all plain burnished metal curves and angles and not a single decorative skull or comforting inlay of bone to ground herself with. And, incongruous in the alien environment, familiar faces. Ianthe’s disdainful washed-out loveliness, the dark, unassuming features of the Emperor Undying gently twisting into a thoughtful frown, the violently unwelcome Ortus the - no, not Ortus, Gideon the First.

Making that correction still stings. Of all the faces Harrow has hoped she might dream about to pass her lonely eternity in this frozen mausoleum, Gideon’s (not that desiccated ass, no, her Griddle) has always been first on the list. Before, even, the Body of the Locked Tomb. Harrow acknowledges that this is potentially a massive paradigm shift but she is finding it in herself not to resist. There’s nothing quite like death to make one reassess one’s presuppositions and prejudices.

Yet, even with all her acceptance, her admission of her own bitter, selfish hunger to have those golden eyes fix their intoxicating warmth on her just one more time, as she sleeps she can’t seem to catch a single glimpse of that roguish, lopsided grin. Lucid dreaming is clearly a pernicious fiction, because she can’t manage for even one brief instant to relive the certainty of those strong arms eclipsing her like gravity in the weightlessness of dense saltwater.

Perhaps it’s what she deserves, to lose even the fantasy of Griddle. It’s payment for running away, for cruelly abscising her cavalier all those months ago, for very nearly wasting so vivid a soul as Gideon’s. If this is her punishment, Harrow will gladly take it. She always has gone in for (perhaps overcommitted to) self-flagellation. But as she floats in and out of her own dreamed existence, in rare moments of clarity she finds herself wishing that, if the dreams weren’t to be of Gideon, they might cease entirely and leave her in tranquil nothingness.

They do not.

The first time she dreams Ianthe beneath her, run through on Harrow’s rapier, she thinks the most impossible thing about the scene is her having beaten Ianthe in a swordfight. But then the dream progresses. Tridentarius is wearing a bloody shirt and a smug smile as she draws Harrow’s face in and presses their mouths- Well, she has immediately had enough of that. That first time, Harrow sits straight up on the bier in the mausoleum of the Locked Tomb for possibly the first time in weeks- Months? Years?- only to roughly slam her vulnerable diaphragm into the end of the massive broadsword she had fallen asleep clasping to her chest. She wheezes deep breaths of that freezing air, and shifts the sword to her side. The fug of long sleep clings to her consciousness the way the residue of oil-white paint on dark cloth lingers even after the most thorough of launderings.

There is a fuzzy half-light to this grey space, the aggregate glow of thousands of luminous worms in the cavern ceiling outside creeping in around the stone pillars that make up the mausoleum of what is now Harrow’s eternal resting place. Harrow wraps her arms around herself and tries very resolutely not to think of how Ianthe’s lips had felt - she’d barely gotten to it in the dream, anyway. But she already knows, doesn’t she, thanks to Harrow the First, back on the Erebos, making the only play the poor addled fool could think of.

Harrow hadn’t intended her insurance measures on Ianthe’s vows to lead her lobotomized self to such a...crude interaction. It must have been confusing for Ianthe, to think Harrow would do such base things with her, but. Well. Harrow turns the moment over in her mind’s eye, examining both the actions, and the nauseating sense-memory of Harrow the First, as clinically as she can. Perhaps there had been a brief instant during which the novel sensations had been...not-repellent.

This entire mental exercise is exhausting, though. It is a relief to realize she will never again have to confront the aching, hungry ambivalence that makes her want to shrivel in on herself when another person touches her in anything other than violence.

In life, she hadn’t ever had the time to figure out what the hell to do about it. Even Ortus’ remorseful embrace had been both years too long and gone far too soon. Afterward, she had found herself longing for one more minute of those heavy, cumbersome arms interceding protectively between her and the rest of the universe, longing for God’s hand on hers as he tells her he might have liked to have her as a daughter. Longing for a snoring unconscious Ianthe, rolling over to Harrow’s side of that wide bed and automatically folding warm heavy limbs around Harrow at odd angles, an upper arm across her forehead, a leg thrown over Harrow’s knees at exactly the most uncomfortable fulcrum. Ianthe always arranged herself as if her body had long practice sleeping pressed against some other, taller companion.

Harrow feels a bitter craving for these situations and yet knows that she would inevitably hate them when actually confronted, would freeze, incapable of either rebuffing or engaging. So it’s a relief to be here, alone, knowing she won’t ever be blindsided by unexpected physical proximity again.

The only person whose contact she is accustomed to - who has been touching her for most of her life- is Gideon. And that’s the only touch she knows how to receive. At first, she would allow it exclusively in the bloody, electrifying violence of their brawls. But then, back at Canaan House, sometime before… it... happened, she had acquired the habit of considering how she might react to other flavors, how her sharp edges might soften under the heat of tawny skin and warm muscle. Harrow had begun to fantasize not just about Gideon’s embrace, but Gideon’s hands on her, in her hair, on her face, on her hips...

Harrow groans. There’s no point pursuing this line of thinking. Acknowledging that she misses Gideon like a limb, like her very heart; fine. Acknowledging that this wretched emotion might surpass what she has felt for the Body...fine? But Harrow is a bone adept above all, and to bring the flesh into it...it’s far too late to destabilize the foundations of her self-concept like this. Not now, not when it won’t change anything.

She lies back down, this time with the sword beside instead of atop her (just in case she needs to make another quick escape from some explicit spectre of intimacy who invades her dreams), and goes back to sleep.