That is Something

Prompt: I don't have a choice but I'd still choose you / Oh, I don't love you but I always will / I always will. ~ The Civil Wars, "Poison and Wine" by pygmymuse. Poison and Wine AU

So pygmymuse wrote the first piece of fanfic ever of my work, an AU piece I liked a lot but wanted to tweak into being more them and more indicative of the underlying dynamics involved in being kahtchen. She liked this and let me plunk it in here. Actually, this is one world where it could even end up as canon (see “Tenderness”—more info coming with WIP “Eglantine”), but that’s another story.


Allowyn Nyrti and Liana Mir

Series Listing

409 S

Hunt the Mists

409 W

Keeping the Balance

459 S

A Handsbreadth Light

461 S

Remembering Stories

489 S

Tenderness

496

Gone Hunting

496 AU

That is Something

509 W

Portrait of a Butterfly

510 S

To Dance with a Dragon

514 W

Crossing the Barrier

517 S

The Cloths of Heaven

517 S

The Way of the Hunt

519 S

Blood of Dragons

Story Within a Story

The Caller and the Dragon

Story Within a Story - 508

A Lady in the Dragon's Court

Story Within a Story - 510

How We Write Poetry

Story Within a Story - 517 W

A Letter to Fellow Historical Intern, Whom I Named Huerél

That is Something

We do not choose who we love.

Rhiannon gave up her hunt and accepted the first failure of her life as a guardian—for Tracer, but he might never forgive her for considering choosing another.

496 AU
Vardin Science Fiction Fantasy Romance
Short Story

It was a fact not often dealt in that men who were rothnen were far more likely to never look elsewhere than the woman their dreams marked out for them. That did not prepare Rhiannon to face her own rothnen when she passed the stormy lake through the Barrier from the French Pyrenees into those of Vardin. Tracer was waiting for her at the docks, helped her draw in the boat, reached out for her hand to pull her onto the dock.

She didn’t take it. In her own way, she couldn’t, any more than she could meet the quiet accusation in his eyes as she climbed up on her own and stood beside him.

“You loved him,” Tracer broke the silence at last. His voice was quiet and even, but Rhiannon knew him well enough to taste the betrayal in those words and wince.

Every time her target had touched her with affection, the pain lanced through her own body, her own nervous system, doubled back through the resonant system in her body, and leaped across the Barrier to slam into Tracer’s. It was the simple, undeniable, unavoidable fact of the rothnen. They were resonant from birth and only the binding could undo the intense physical attraction they felt, the dreams of a lover they might not even have met. But Rhiannon had met him, and all her Haila sense of duty to the hunt could not wash Tracer away beneath her skin.

“Yes,” she replied simply, her voice as even as his.

“You could have stayed with him,” Tracer volleyed back with a trace of… what?

Rhiannon sought his gaze with hers. What should she expect? Anger? Hurt? She had betrayed him, betrayed their bond, their dreams.

His eyes were as impassive as Haila grey, though he was no Haila, though she knew he cared little for duty or the sacrifice of blood demanded of all guardians of Vardin. This was a side of him she had never seen.

“Could I have?”

“You might have seen it as your duty. As your way of keeping the silence.”

Inside herself, she flinched. If her mother and trainer had delivered those words, it would have been a chastisement. Rhiannon had never failed a hunt until now, had never called home and asked her mother for a solution to her own tools, her own capabilities. She had no gift to silence this man who had seen too much. She only had that uninvited, unwelcome, dangerous love and the integrity to realize John Henry did not deserve to die. “I found another way.” Bitterly. She had passed her hunt to another and did not deserve to retain her rank.

“You did not kill him,” Tracer said slowly, surprise blinking away the coolness in his eyes. He had known her well enough to know she considered it.

Rhiannon shrugged in apparent and deceptive indifference. “They allowed him to forget.”

The cool returned. “He no longer knows he loved you?”

This wasn’t about the hunt, not to Tracer. It was only about her betrayal of their rothnen bond and she turned away. “He does not remember me or what he saw.” She kept all tone from her voice, for what could she say? She had loved John Henry, not because she wanted to but because it overtook and overwhelmed her when she should have been on guard against it. It was her own failing and her own curse to be left with only a loveless bond where once she and Tracer had found themselves suited and carefully testing a friendship against the all-too-impossible-to-ignore physical desire that plagued all unbound rothnen.

“Yet he lives.” Tracer looked at her—comforting her? “That is something.”

She studied the lake waters, tried to ignore that resonance now. “Do you think you will ever forgive me?” she asked, lightly, but oh so seriously.

Silence stretched and hung between them. Finally, she heard the breath of his sigh.

“What we have is still there. What comes in the night is still the same. You would have had that always. Had me always, even if you stayed with him.”

Rhiannon took in a sharp breath at that, incredulous. She had heard—oh, everyone had heard—that there were rothnen who took comfort in their dreams, in the knowledge of their perfect match, that one they would be truly happy with, but she had not. She had been pleased when she met him that she liked him immediately, but the dreams were embarrassing, frightening, impossible to escape. What sixteen-year-old girl wanted to know intimacy before she knew love? What woman would want to keep another man in her dreams than the man she married? What could she say to that as she turned around and met his gaze with her own searching eyes that asked him where he was walking this conversation?

“Yes,” she said. Yes. I know that I would have dreamed you the rest of my life.

“I should hate you.”

“I—”

“Do not tell me it was your duty. That it was unavoidable,” Tracer said abruptly, the anger bubbling out in words at last. “We were born for each other, Rhiannon. You don’t understand what I went through when you—” It was too painful to say. He shook his head, unable to continue that line. “You can’t even try to understand.”

Rhiannon let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. “It did not go as planned.” She couldn’t say the right words. She couldn’t say, I chose you.

“I wish I could break our bond,” he went on as if he hadn’t even heard her. “I don’t want to feel you. I would have hated you for the rest of my life if you had stayed.” And there he finally faltered, finally showed pure undiluted hurt flashing through his eyes amidst the anger. “You would have been kinder to wipe my memories,” he said softly.

That hurt her at last, lashing where all her own pain had protected her through his coolness. “Those beyond the Barrier say you cannot help who you love.” It was still the wrong words, but she could not give him what he wanted, the knowledge that she would have chosen him were he not her rothnen.

He knew it. He knew it in her stance, in her half-shut eyes, and finally, his pleading hands fell from her arms. He drew away in disgust. “They would have seen us as the fulfillment of those words… and yet you chose another.”

“Please—” She opened her eyes. She would tell him she chose him, not John.

“I cannot forgive you,” Tracer cut her over coldly. He smiled grimly. “Yet I love you.” He paused, turning away at last, growing thoughtful, perhaps resigned. “I suppose we’re both cursed.” He breathed out a sigh softly into the Vardin air.

#


Vardin Science Fiction Fantasy Romance

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7 Responses to That is Something

  1. Kabobbles says:

    Hmm.

    First... I still like this as my version of canon. Shouldn't, but do.

    Then... what is that in the note about... could become canon? What is this WIP you speak of?

    • Liana says:

      :bats eyelashes:

      I finally decided which storyworld got to keep the tidechangers. Really, "Tenderness" mentioned it obliquely but unavoidably, so Vardin gets the ones who can see, walk through, or change time. Kingdoms and Thorn gets those who can't. But en brief, that doesn't mean this is the timeline that becomes permanent, only that it might have really happened. Somewhen.

      :D

    • Liana says:

      But now I've got to figure out how she would have thought of letting go of the hunt because that was, as mentioned earlier, the reason this is unfeasible in the basic canon. Not because she wouldn't have done it. Nope. Not at all. Because she wouldn't have thought of it. It was trained out of her. Hunters don't fail. Ever.

      So...

      Thinking.

      • Kabobbles says:

        Well... I guess I'll just be happy that it happened somewhen, I guess.

        Perhaps John Henry might be less selfish and help her think of it. His touch does hurt her, after all, so maybe he asks her if there's a way to spare her the pain, or if he offered to die or begged her to find a way to avoid killing him that wouldn't hurt her, getting her to ask someone else for help.

        I almost suggested that it somehow came from Tracer, but I don't know how that could work.

        • Liana says:

          Tracer unfortunately is really a householder. He's a cyberpath and so there's a law that says guardians will be utlitized where their gifts are needed, but there's a reason he couldn't forgive her for even having to think about it. He does not understand the obligations on and the mindset of a hunter. Rhiannon was raised by two parents who do not consider themselves householders at all. She's a hunter with a hunter's mindset, so she'd need someone who would actually be considering both sides themselves. And there is John.

          But as Renaiven explains somewhere in a WIP:

          "The scientists have it wrong."

          Startled reaction. "You just said—"

          "I said time changes based on decisions. There has to be a reason for the decision to change. Changing time isn't arbitrary. There are no coexisting parallel universes. There's one place called time and the only way to change it is by going there and doing something."

          • Kabobbles says:

            I didn't figure Tracer could affect her decision.

            I guess another option could be the hunter she went there to save/protect, the healer. If there was any reason they spoke, that could have affected her decision. They'd have the hunter's perspective, which John still doesn't.

            That is a different perspective on time. I guess, being an AU creator for so long, I kind of prefer the parallel universe explanation. That way every choice has an alternate, but that goes back to me and my need for people to overcome the bad and get their happiness, even if only in some other universe.

          • Liana says:

            Now, there's an interesting idea. Healer would give a very different perspective. Hm...

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