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3-Sentence Miscellany

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"Just decause we're in the Belta Quadrant doesn't mean traditions don't still hold true, or not!" said Harry, ever earnest and increasingly bleary-eyed as the evening wore on. "Take this - us - we, I mean, we are endulging, ingaging in a time-old, age-honored tradition right now - right now, as friends and colleagues across the galaxy are sharing an after-cock drinktail - I mean..." he trailed off helplessly as everyone burst into laughter.

"You know, he's right," said Tom, winking at B'Elanna, "and speaking of traditions, I think I feel a new one coming on right now."

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Prompt: Peggy Carter/Edwin Jarvis(/Anna Jarvis), You are the light and I will follow / You let me lose my shadow

I know how utterly he is devoted to me, so I say nothing when he follows her out into the night, again. My husband would deny unto his dying breath that he loves the thrill of skulking in shadows and running for his life, but that Miss Carter of his is not the only one whose post-wartime duties have withered into tedium. 

When he comes home, his cheeks are flushed with excitement, and who am I to complain if, when it is all over, we both reap the rewards?


 

Prompt: pranks on the Commandos

As a rule, Peggy did not indulge in childish pranks; as a woman and an agent, she needed to be above that sort of nonsense. But the Commandos were different: they had accepted her as one of their own, and being "one of the boys" entailed a certain level of patience with shaving cream or hot sauce (heaven only knew where they had acquired it) on her toothbrush. So Peggy gave as good as she got - with a great deal more imagination (ladies' undergarments were a useful weapon in this little game of theirs - even the most stoic soldier blushed and blanched upon finding certain unmentionables in odd, stray places) - and besides, some rules were meant to be broken.


 

Prompt: Peggy/Angie, "You can cry on command? You have to teach me!"

"Of course I always believed you were a good actress, Angie," Peggy rushed to assure her, "I never meant to imply you weren't!" But tears welled in her friend's eyes and Peggy bit her lip – truth be told, hysterical and weepy women made her every bit as uncomfortable they did as most men.

Abruptly, Angie grinned and shot back, "Pretty good for a civilian, huh?"

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Prompt: Hobbit (films), Thranduil/Tauriel, learning to love again

The starlight in his shield was caught

For the second time, Tauriel's heart had been cleft in twain by a love that, though reciprocated, was nevertheless impossible - first, her friend and prince whom she feared would never forgive her; and then Fili the Dwarf, whose lightness of spirit drew her, and whose gentleness had been all the more dear for being so unexpected. 

She swore she would not commit the same error a third time, much less with her Lord and King. But when he asked, with his gaze fixed upon her instead of some distant horizon or memory of light, whether she would do him the honor of singing the Lay of Leithian under the bright evening sky, she could not find it in her heart to refuse him.


 

Prompt: LotR, Tom Bombadil, with that pesky Dark Lord and his Ring gone he can finally take over the world.

Down with metal, brick and mortar,
Up with water, tree and stone.
And as for River-Woman's Daughter,
The world would worship her alone.

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The children received oranges in their stockings that year

For two miscreants who had not-so-indirectly caused their current predicament, Paksu and Valkotukka did not seem particularly penitent. With Father Christmas's swollen fingers unable to tie a single bow thanks to an ill-advised bout of arm-and-paw-wrestling, the cubs were tasked with wrapping all the gifts.

Had the harried North Polar Bear been thinking a little more clearly, he might not have let his nephews within arm's reach of the chocolates; of course, had he thought of it in time, he might have kept that job for himself.

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They say the devil built the aqueduct in a night

Even a foreigner with a loose grasp of the language must have noticed the rising tension, but the poet and the pilot wore both blue and red seemingly with no thought of the implications. They stood underneath the great Roman aqueduct and praised the splendor of Segovia as shadow-arches swept across the square. The pilot watched a lame man out of the corner of his eye (was his limp too exaggerated, his posture stooped but not stiff?), while the poet watched a one-legged pigeon peck, off-balance, at crumbs fallen between rough cobblestones.

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The monosyllabic lover

"Westley, I'm sure it is the dream of most women in the kingdom to have a husband so compliant, but it is wearing on my nerves. We don't argue, we don't fight and make up, you never tell me no, you never tell me to stop talking - are the words 'as you wish' the only ones you know?"

"Yes, dear."

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Starting off on the wrong note

"But baby I've been up all night / devising tender words just right / to proclaim my love in rhyme and verse --"

"Why do you think I'd have any interest in participating in a singing contest with you, and why are you using such odd punctuation? Oh, fine: I hereby do decline, there's nothing worse than verse, and nothing decent rhymes with Galavant!"

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Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder

Number three was Guinness in Ireland, thick and dark and so filling that I barely had to pretend I wasn't drunk when the cops showed up, or guards or bobbies or whatever the hell they were called over there - Fi would know, but don't get her started - anyway, then all hell broke loose so who cared if I could see straight as long as I could shoot straight, right?

Number two was just like it sounds, some watered-down crap in a backwater village in some country south of the border, I can't tell you where because I was never there, but Margarita Flores was there and, wow, I tell you - she was intoxicating enough to make you forget the beer (if you could call it that, it smelled like it came from a horse's, uh... trough), but Margarita - there's a name you can roll your tongue on, right?

Número uno best beer of all time, that's a tough one - if I were a sap, I'd tell you some story about me and Mike back in the day (no offense to Fi, she's great, but sometimes a guy just wants guy time, y'know?) - but I'm not gonna do that, and I can't remember how to pronounce any of that fancy Belgian stuff, so whaddaya say we go out and try a few, pick a new favorite - are you coming or what?

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Prompt from adaese: Stonehenge, Woodhenge, True Free Cult of Henge - builders (reformed)

Crack in the henge

The Nameless Druid, Leader of the Brotherhood, gazed at this latest creation with a critical eye and tried not to breathe too deeply. "It seems to me, my brothers, that you are counting too heavily upon past success. Wood was surely appropriate for communing with our Mother Earth, and Stone was an inspired choice for pillars to lift our thoughts ever upward towards the dome of the heavens - but what under the starry sky possessed you to build a sacred Henge out of reeking peat?"

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Prompt: The Iliad, Hektor/Andromache & Astyanax, naming their son

Namesake

"The King, the priests, the oracle, the people, your father, my uncle," muttered Hektor, rubbing oil into the leather of his saddle perhaps more vigorously than was warranted with every new complaint, "why do they all insist on foisting names upon our son?"

Andromache smiled patiently, saying "He is not one of your horses, my husband, to be named upon your whim."

At her words, a smile sly and sudden broke across her husband's face, and Andromache covered her eyes — perceiving too late that her husband's prized colt Astyanax held a higher place in his eyes than all the Pantheon of gods.


Prompt: Trojan War Cycle, Hector/Andromache, little less forgiven than a barren queen

Wife of Hector, Tamer of Horses

They stood on the rampart, their son clapping at the sight of each new sail as if the Greek ships were but whitecaps eager to breach upon the sand.

"I bid you return with your cloak unstained, husband, for I have but lately finished weaving it," Andromache said with her head held high, as he knew her husband liked — proud, spirited, unafraid — for that was the only comfort she could give him in these darkening hours.

She did not speak of her dream, that cruel foretelling for which she would not soon forgive the gods; unto her dying breath, she swore she would be as one of her husband's warhorses — proud, spirited, unafraid — tamed to the bit, but never broken.

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By day, the burial shroud of Laertes took form under her deft fingers, mere strands woven into a greater pattern — much as the lives of men in the hands of the gods.

At night, the unraveling came like a slow death and Penelope buried her dismay and despair anew, for it was not an easy thing to undo what she had made, to reduce her fruitless days in her own household to a formless tangle, to behold how easy it was to tug one thread loose and watch the rest of the pattern dissolve.

But Penelope was a patient woman, snaring suitors in her web and leaving them to dangle there, and if — when — her husband returned, she would tighten the weave and hand the netted invaders over to him, and their firm hands together would act upon the threads of fate.

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Prompt from sidonie: Any, any, lighthouse

Innovation

A pillar of reason at the edge of madness: they say the lighthouse tamed the seas, calmed Poseidon's thrashing horses, bound the waterways to the will of man... but I, Peisinoe, siren out of myth and mist, say otherwise.

When first the eye of light swept 'cross the waters, we shied from it; later still, we feared starvation, our lawful prey having been warned away from the lustful cliffs, the insatiable rocks; but now my sisters and I watch this beacon, observe how it calls the mariners home, blindly trusting.

We watch and we smile among ourselves, for truly I tell you: we are excellent students.


Prompt from silvr_dagger: for the wild sea, we sailed upon it / too close to the wind

Sirensong

We sailed too close to the wind, too near the rocks, risking fragile mast and hull between steep-valleyed waves and the sharp teeth of the shoals.

Still, their voices called us closer — the wistful melody of hearth and home, the piercing notes of love and longing — so close now, yet too soft to hear clearly, so onward we strove, straining to hear...

And their voices called us closer still.


 

Prompt from silvr_dagger: But I sang you from the dark skies / Filled the sails with my own breath

Sirensong, Canto II

The Lorelei was not a goddess; she spent her powers willfully, dangerously, to almost her last breath — and she did so again and again, every time her eldritch sight caught upon a ship in dire straits.

The fragile ships faced so many perils: the gleaming mouths of Scylla, the dervish undertow of Charybdis, pirates and warmongers, storms and sickness and — worst of all — a still, listless air that left them powerless to move.

The Lorelei knew this pain of being bound in place, and so out of pity she drew the ships on — filling the sails with her very breath, her enchantment carrying them from afar, past troubled waters and out of reach of lurking monsters — and then, when they were all but safely home, if a few grateful souls leaped overboard to reach her, to restore her spent breath with their own lifeblood ... then who was she to deny their bold sacrifice?

 

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When first she crawled from her cave, face veiled and hair carefully coiled in a severe bun and pinned beneath her hat (and oh, how it hated that!), Medusa had been shocked into stillness by the world she found: women and men with chiseled features, stiff-lipped smiles, taut and brittle skin — at first she feared her veil had slipped.

But at last she understood, and her empire was born. Years later, the matriarch of Marble Cosmetics ("maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Marble," the sirensong commercials whispered) was quoted during one of her rare public appearances, talking about the crumbling competition: "Botox? How quaint!"

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Meeting minutes

They met weekly to compare notes; the fishermen, bakers, poets and satirists were easy, but some petitions were confounding.

"Is Agamemnon one of yours or one of mine?" asked Thalia the Grace, munching on a luscious apple.

"Not much call for comedy there," snorted Thalia the Muse, "so you'd better set him a banquet fit for a king — he's liable to start a war if he gets peckish."

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The apple of Granada

"I don't want to go to Spain," Cora told him flatly, but they went anyway, exchanging a comfortable suburban house with a two-car garage for a cramped apartment in Granada and narrow cobblestone streets that rattled her teeth when they drove up the hill in Hayden's preposterous black sportscar.

She left him, once, when an unseasonable cold snap left them sniping at each other as they huddled by the radiator (wasn't Spain supposed to be warm?), and Cora dragged her bursting suitcase over the teeth-wrenching cobblestones with every intention of leaving Hayden forever.

But a pattern underfoot distracted her — a swirl of white stones, ancient heraldry echoed in the painted tiles and again by the fruitseller at the corner — and she was arrested by a sudden memory of the two of them, sitting on the balcony in the warm night, eating pomegranate seeds and licking the juice off each other's lips... and so in the end, Cora returned to him, and the city of Granada grew rosy and plump with spring.

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Anonymous prompt: Any, any, water into light

1. "Don't follow the lights"

Frodo wasn't conscious of the tilting horizon as he fell. The waters of the marsh seemed to clarify and thin to a veil between him and the dancing lights, the ghostly figures who wavered and shimmered as if dancing, who grew brighter and loomed closer as if to embrace him —

And then Smeagol's pale, grasping hands were drawing him up, and Frodo was suddenly aware of the burning in his lungs. Not knowing whether to say "Sorry" or "Thank you," he clutched at the ring beneath his sodden shirt and followed meekly, looking only at his own footsteps in the muck.

2. "When all other lights go out"

Years later, when Sam told the story, he could only describe the Light of Earendil as a star in a bottle, which seemed an awfully poor description to him but which his daughter loved and set out to replicate by chasing fireflies and putting them in old canning jars made new with cunning little holes for air.

Watching her, Sam felt much the same thing as when he had held up the precious vial, watching what seemed like mere water under glass blaze into pure light and glory.

Now as then, Sam thought, surely no world containing something so good could go far wrong forever.


Anonymous prompt: Lord of the Rings, Faramir/Eowyn, learning about each other

Lessons

He approached her not like a wild animal, a half-tamed horse that shied from the bit, but rather like a book: to be handled delicately, without gloves and without haste, to be studied and savored and tucked close under an arm.

She was a shieldmaiden, accustomed to attacking every new challenge as a foe, to probing for weakness and to donning armor for every conversation, but something had quieted the battle that used to surge within her breast: her uncle's dying words, the crumpled Nazgul's helm, or perhaps Aragorn's healing hands.

Whatever the cause, Eowyn found herself listening to Merry's descriptions of the Shire with a new yearning for greening things, and she sought to nurture her growing love for Faramir as a gardener: with gentle hands and with patience, eagerly awaiting the warmth of spring.


Prompt from lignota: The Lord of the Rings, Faramir, history

Like the heathen kings of old

With his father it was always the Line of Stewards — and, incidentally, the Line of Kings (as Boromir asked mockingly when their father was not present, "Who could have a steward without a king?"), and the rest of history was a weight to be borne in lordly fashion.

To Boromir, history was like a sword edged with duty and glory, both an aspiration and a responsibility (aside from the boring bits, as he called it when their lessons focused on trade, politics or anything that required long hours indoors, away from the armory).

Faramir embraced all of Gondor's history, from the musty smell of the tomes to the eerie ancient tales of ghostly kings and heathen rites, but he especially loved glimpses into the lives of common folk in olden days ("What would I be had I been born seven generations ago?" he asked his brother, who laughed and skillfully deflected the question: "A bore!"), and so Faramir would slip away from his studies to roam the streets and chronicle what he saw there, for some future boy, bent over a musty tome, imagining what life had been like in the glorious Days of the Stewards. 


Prompt from lignota: The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn, home

Roads diverging

It was a strange thing for one who had travelled so long to be still: the man once known as Strider had trod nothing but flagstones for months, and his world had shrunk to the size of a single city.

Yet every path in Gondor was new to him, every doorway held the promise of the unknown, and his feet did not grow restless. And when sometimes he yearned for the quiet of the woods, he would sit with Arwen beneath the White Tree, gaze upon its greening branches, and discover the wonder of deepening roots.


Prompt from sidonie: Any, any, Endless road

The road goes ever on and on

As much as he loved the wind in his hair, the salt spray on his face, the sound of his nephew's carefree laugh and the light that permeated everything, Bilbo yearned for the end of the journey.

Ironic, perhaps (although Gandalf might call it fitting), but Bilbo had long since made his peace with his own contrary nature, always pining for home when on the road and wistfully gazing down the road when safe at home, and so forth... all very unlike a Hobbit to be sure, but then there was the Tookish side to account for.

In any case, Bilbo's hairy feet positively itched for a road beneath them, for warm earth and cool grass and new lands to explore — and wasn't it a marvel that he had the breath, the stamina, the spring in his step (that is, if there were anywhere to step to aboard a ship, even an Elvish one), and so Bilbo peered eagerly over the rail for the first sight of the West, the lights of Valinor, and the next adventure.


Prompt from lignota: The Lord of the Rings, any, the White Tree

Latticework

Many years ago, grand-nephew, when I was as small as you are now, a wooden tree stood in the Shire — and I do mean a wooden tree! — for it was carved out of a gigantic fallen log, and had intricate lattices for bark, curled shavings of leaves, and branches so lifelike they seemed to wave upon the wind.

It was made by a hobbit named Peregrine Took (a rather peculiar chap, by all accounts, who went on Adventures and was involved in that Very Strange Business your friend Gamgee's gaffer likes to talk about), who was an accomplished woodcarver but never touched so much as a stick unless it fell of its own accord — no hewn logs for him! — for he used to say he'd known many fine trees and would never raise a knife to one.

This Peregrine — Pippin, as they called him — said the wooden tree was but a pale imitation of one he had seen abroad, a tree of white — as white as my hair is now!— that stood in the grandest courtyard of them all, in Gondor; and even today, although our little wooden tree is no more, they say the White Tree of Gondor still flowers, all because of four hobbits... but that, of course, is another story!

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Off kilt-er

"Commander Riker, are you aware that holographic projections cease to function outside the Holodeck — and that, furthermore, they cannot be transported, as they have no mass?"

"Data, unless Holophysics 101 is pertinent to the red alert you called me up here for, I suggest you take your projected mass and—"

"Will," interrupted Deanna, "as much as I enjoy the view, the next time you run your Braveheart program, you might not want to follow local custom quite so... thoroughly."

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What the doctor ordered

"Do you want me to turn my head and cough?" asked Odo irritably, fully prepared to twist his head around and around and around to make his point.

"No need," said Dr. Bashir, smoothly injecting a syringe into the Changeling's arm, "I can get the same results by asking you what you think of Quark's plan to open a theater—"

"That cretin wouldn't know culture if you gave him a petri dish." 

"— and there's the swelling, right on cue."

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Prompt from iawenbemerry: Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home

Homecoming

Kathryn Janeway felt like an ancient explorer, returning to a decrepit Old World court with strange tales of new land, bearing bright flowers and unknown fruits and tales of unimaginable mystery.

The Dominion War had ravaged Starfleet; even though Janeway had lost half her original crew (and gained another — she would keep reminding Starfleet of that until she was as blue as a Bolian), she had likely saved more lives by trapping them in the Delta Quadrant than if they had stayed home.

Or so they told her — but as far as her own heart was concerned, the old guilt simply wore a new face.


 

Prompt from lignota: Any, any, "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield"

Though much is taken, much abides

Captain Kathryn Janeway recited the names of the lost every night, facing the stars through her viewport and trying to conjure the spirit of Chakotay's stories — the sense of oral tradition, of timelessness, of death that meant something beyond mere loss.

At times, she felt like a beleaguered Odysseus, stranded far from home and beset by fresh perils at every turn; other times, the slim volume of Tennyson resting at her bedside restored her sense of wonder, of adventure, of an eagerness to pierce the veil of the unknown and charge boldly into whatever light dawned there.

On those days, she would invite Chakotay for supper, curl up on the couch and stare into the candlelight or out at the stars — much the same thing, really, at least to the ancients — and when she asked him to tell her a story, she would imagine that the muse he invoked wore her own face.


 

Prompt from iawenbemerry: Star Trek Voyager, Tom Paris, commend

Belta Quadrant, Revisited

The First Annual Belta Dar Awards Ceremony was a resounding success, with crewmembers spilling out of the makeshift and misnamed bar until the wee hours of Alpha shift the following day. Among the honorees, the Doctor (Best Photographer) and Ensign Tal Celes (Most Unexpectedly Photogenic from the Most Unexpected Angles) were the most pleased, although a certain helmsman thought privately that he might have them both beat.

"Commendation for Special Services to the Captain?" Tom drawled in her ear, eliciting a delightful shudder, "I'm touched, really I am, and I'd like to thank the Academy, without whom I'd never be in Starfleet, serving under, or on top of, the captain who made this award possible—" and at that point Janeway was obliged to remove her helmsman from the proceedings for a thorough debriefing on the particulars of the award and its corresponding privileges.

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The Sheriff's clumsy frigate had more firepower, but it was about as accurate as hurling an asteroid at an apple — more force than finesse — and Robin scoffed as rolled his stolen yacht between twin laser flares. He flipped the comm switch, a little breathless (belying its name, the Stork was fast!), and sent a tight-beam transmission back to Sherwood Starbase. "Marian, my love, I know I promised you the moon -- but what would you think about a gem of an asteroid right out of the Nottingham Belt?"


Marian shook her head but allowed herself a fond, tolerant smile, since Robin wasn't there to see. "I'll grant your motives are noble, for the people of Ainglund are sorely in need of ore... but what, pray tell, would you do with a whole asteroid?" she asked even as she peered out the viewport, taking care to disguise the anxiety that threatened the calm timbre of her voice with every flash of light from the duelling ships in orbit. No pilot was more nimble, no gunner more skilled, but it always worried her when Robin's reach exceeded his grasp — sooner or later, John Prince and his greedy cohorts would dangle a bait her beloved could not resist; and they would not be the only ones to suffer for it, for the shipping coalition had a stranglehold on the planet that even Robin and his squadron of Merrimen starfighters could not break.


"I'll use the asteroid to bowl for freighters in the shipping lanes," boasted Robin, his mind only half on the repartee as he dodged laser blast after laser blast — and was that a concussion missile? — my, but the Sheriff was getting cranky in his old age.

"Never fear, love, I'll run rings around him like a gas giant... say, that's rather apropos of the good Sheriff's girth, wouldn't you say, Little John?"

The hulking alien in the gun turret let loose a volley and growled, "just listen to the lady for once in your life, Rob, and leave the shiny rocks alone — please?"

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Every choice a splinter

There was a saying in Spanish — he'd forgotten which whore he'd heard it from (or maybe it was Rackham; the man was always spouting out little bits of knowledge like a whale's blowhole) — de tal palo tal astilla. Like father like son, only less abstract, something he could grasp and grip and feel the rough wood in his hand: from this stick, a like splinter; and though a splinter was not as strong as the stick, it was still a thing of its own, not heavy enough to bludgeon but surely sharp enough to blind the eye of an enemy — or a father.

And so Charles Vane left his teacher on the sand in the sure knowledge that, having carved and shaped him in his own image, Blackbeard could blame no one but himself for whatever would follow.

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"Tilt the emerald grail to the west, and raise libation at the gods' behest — why the devil are these instructions always so complicated?" Jack broke off mid-recitation to scowl at the inscrutable scroll (aye, and try saying that three times fast after four-fifths of rum). 

Elizabeth neatly plucked the map from his fingers, ready as always with a tart observation: "You're supposed to pour the wine on the rock, Jack, not drink it — watch for the liquid to disappear into a crack or something, I don't know, you're the pirate — but I suppose if you made a map, you'd just write 'X marks the spot, come and get me'?"

"I've been trying that with you for years, love, and you haven't caught on yet."

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Prompt from silvr_dagger: in the arms of night

Night unfurls its splendor

Christine wrapped her arms around herself, but not for warmth; this was not the first time the chill of the graveyard had failed to touch her. She knew in her heart that her father would despair to see her like this — as cold and distant as a statue — but it was the only way she could survive the harsh light of day without him.

But at night, when shadows eclipsed her face and the velvet darkness wrapped her in its cloak, then she could feel again: her tremulous heartbeat, the swell of music in her breast, a faint warmth at her back as if somebody stood just behind her.


 

Prompt from killing_kurare: Christine/Eric, I stood while you slept and whispered a goodbye

Let the dream begin

He stood in the shadows while the patch of moonlight roved across her quilt, her bare arms, her pale face. He sang lullabies in counterpoint to the wind; he composed wordless hymns to the rhythm of her breath.

He never said goodbye — but she would hear him just the same.

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Rules of the game

"What does the ball turn into after you hit it?" Elfangor asked, so seriously that Loren paused openmouthed mid-explanation, wondering where to begin — with the rules of softball or Earth's laws of physics.

Then he smiled shyly, and she got the joke — and then paused for a different reason, because god but he was getting the hang of having a mouth fast, and the thought of what else he might be getting the hang of galvanized her into evasive action, blushing furiously.

"Funny, but we'll see if you're still laughing when I screw you into the ground on the third strike," and the smart-aleck comment almost shriveled in her throat as the unintended double meaning caught up with her; Loren had never been so glad that Andalites had trouble with slang.

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In the golden years that followed the Beast's transformation and the castle's restoration, the nearby lands also underwent a change: no longer did the road seem dark and forbidding, no more did the fields refuse to produce healthy crops, and never again did ravenous wolves trouble passing travelers.

However well fed, though, the wolves were not gone; on winter nights, their howls carried on the thin air, and Belle would shiver, and Adam would pull her close. She did not know how to explain to him that she was no longer afraid, that the memories of biting cold and fear had been eclipsed by the ones of his rescue, his tenderness, their growing love — but for once, Belle could not find the words, so she simply pulled the furs close and Adam closer still and let the wolves' music carry her to sleep.

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Jo knew Henry would have strong opinions on the proper preparation of tea or coffee, which flavors or brews were acceptable and which were gauche, and (while he was thinking of it) a history of Earl Grey or the dubious merits of decaf, medically speaking — after all, it was Henry.

So she neatly sidestepped the issue by plunking a steaming cup of cocoa in front of him; his eyebrows rose as he took in the little smiley face of miniature marshmallows. 

"Hot chocolate is for drinking, not talking," she warned, and the warmth of the brilliant smile he gave in return lasted long after their empty mugs cooled side by side on the table.

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Bea once tossed her hair and asked him if he resented libraries for giving away — for free — what his family had built their lives around selling. Mesmerized by her hair and her imperious expression, Daniel had a hard time articulating his answer, only managing to say that he could never resent libraries, but neither could stacks of borrowed books ever comprise a home.

There was more, though, which he could not bring himself to tell her; even as a boy, Daniel had known that it didn't matter how one came to love books, to crave knowledge, to immerse one's self in a story to the exclusion of all else — and only then did it occur to him that he could spend the rest of his life reading Bea like a book, and never discover all her secrets.

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The teeth of Scylla, the mouth of Charybdis

The cliff rose sheer and impenetrable on one side, the currents dangerously swirling on the other. "Port or starboard?" asked Orlando with a gulp, and Sam snorted and replied, "You might as well ask 'death by dismemberment or drowning?'"

Neither cared to mention the perils that the stories say awaited even further downstream (because it was always the river that carried them, even in this ocean Odyssey - or was it the Iliad? she could never remember), but Sam rather thought she preferred the monster's claws and jaws — something she could fight — to the eyeless menace of the water, forever pulling them somewhere they did not want to go.

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"What's the punctuation of the Happy Birthday song?" the writer asked, hurriedly shoving a pencil in the cake and a candle behind her ear. "Caramelsilver will be here any minute, and I can't figure out whether I have two sentences left or if I'm one over! And does the writing on the cake count, or is the icing just an interjection?"

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Anonymous prompt: Any, any, look at me still talking when there's science to do

A better mousetrap

"Of course I'm sure I can build it," Kaylee laughed when anyone else — including Mal — would be affronted, "all I need to do is reroute the plasma conduit and shunt a reverse charge through a series of damping rings around that silly bomb you're not supposed to have, and boom — I mean, no boom!"

She looked at her captain's bemused expression and took pity on him, adding "Just think of it like a giant Faraday cage, only inside-out."

"I'll do that," promised Mal. 


Prompt from samueljames: magic is real.

The dance

As Kaylee twirled across the floor in her froth-and-frosting dress, she could swear she say little fairy silhouettes in the lamps. She wouldn't say so to Mal, of course — he was still a little too stunned by this side of her, bows being a bad idea in the engine room and all (she was pretty sure this gown was flammable) — but he didn't make a half-bad Prince Charming, at least when he bothered to turn on the charm.

Later, she wondered if fistfights ever happened in those stories she'd loved as a girl, if the fairies she almost believed in might have trotted out some trouble just for her... or if that was just Mal checking to see if his girl was still there under all the ruffles and lace.