Fanfiction – Cordis

kalendraashtar:

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Previously - Part I, II

Cordis

Part III – Want, Want

The atelier was the heart of CordisTech, a large room with several work stations where visions became realities - discovering if they were sturdy enough to bear the weight of flesh, bone, blood, neurons and hopes. Most of my team left early on Fridays with my blessing, unless a dangerous deadline was looming on the horizon, so the space was already empty when we entered.

I walked to my usual work station, the very last in the row and the one closer to the sweeping window; I enjoyed the natural light and the proximity with the outdoors, the different shapes of clouds helping me whenever I was stuck in progressing with a task. A white box with my company logo, a red-rimmed stylized heart, was placed on top of the counter.

“Ian’s prosthetic is in here.” I barked to Jamie, who was looking around with awe in his cobalt eyes. Allowing him to be in this personal space was uncomfortable, as if I was delivering him all my clothes only to stand stark naked for his contemplation. “It’s not one of the most advanced prototypes – because a robotic model would cost you a fortune – but it’s a very light carbon-fiber one. Ian will need to come in so I can check the socket adjustment, though. I don’t want him to get hurt.”

His finger solemnly – respectfully - traced the outline of the imprinted heart and he gazed at me with an intensity that disassembled me, as if all the winter fires had been lit in the clearing behind that blue. “Thank ye for doing this, Claire.”

“It’s my job.” I answered, somewhat awkwardly. I wanted to highlight that I wasn’t doing it for him – bloody, bloody bastard -, but because of the invisible tie that strung me to the lost pieces of oneself. And I wanted very much for him to look away, not to see me, not to push me to becoming undone. I fixed a vacant point in his jaw, avoiding his piercing stare, and he licked his lips, slowly. The memory of the bite of his teeth in my mouth, that perfect indent that I could trace with the tip of my tongue, almost made me hiss.

“What’s this?” Jamie asked in a hoarse voice, pointing to a delicate structure forming a helmet with several twinkling lights, which rested close to my workstation computer. I struggled to pull myself out of my reverie, back into forceful indifference.

“It’s one of my ongoing projects.” I grabbed the device, lovingly caressing the black material with my thumbs. “It’s meant for people with severe neurological diseases, who struggle to communicate with others. These sensors might read the areas of their brains which are activated at a certain moment and transmit an idea of what they need or want to say. It’s still fairly rudimental.”

“Can ye show me?” He asked, looking deeply interested. Jamie was wearing casual clothing, a black sweater and a brown jacket with a plaid scarf, much more in line with what I imagined he truly liked than those stern imprisoning suits and impeccably ironed button downs. “A wee demonstration, perhaps?”

I shouldn’t indulge him – his presence was far more unnerving than I had anticipated, like a persistent heartburn that could suddenly turn into a deadly heart attack. But I couldn’t resist the chance to share something I was so incredibly proud of, so I caved in and placed the helmet on my own head, activating the small controller. A series of bleeps echoed and then a robotic voice “Reading failed”.

I waited for another beat, as the system tried to create a discernible pattern from the furious stream of my brain – I could barely grasp how I truly felt myself. It wasn’t a real surprise when the voice sounded again “Reading failed”.

“Here, allow me to try it.” Before I could protest, Jamie’s portentous hands delicately reached for the frame, the tip of each of his index fingers above the tender skin of my ears. His gentleness had taken my breath away in the past, that promise of strength delivered only by urgent request. He was standing close enough for me to sense the air that came steadily from his lungs, to smell the scent of his skin that was richer right above his left clavicle. “Maybe ye’re feeling too much, too fast, Claire.”

Jamie placed the helmet on top of his red waves, his gaze fixed on me and within moments the program croaked “Want. Want.”

I swallowed hard and tilted my chin away. “Like I said, it’s still in very early stages. The algorithm probably isn’t functioning properly.”

“Why would ye believe what Laoghaire said, Claire?” He asked haltingly, as if it pained him to do so. “Why wouldna ye let me explain? The lass wants naught but to cause a rift between us.”

“So, she lied to me, is that it?” I almost spat in his direction, closing my fists in anger. “You didn’t sleep with her during your campaign, while you were still married, and tried to bribe her to remain silent?”

****

When Jamie came to me before the silent auction, I was sitting on the doorsteps in front of the building – not particularly concerned with the state of my dress - savouring a cigarette. The night was cold and I was shivering, everything coiling until it expanded suddenly with his nearness.

I didn’t particularly like to smoke and did so less and less. It was a residual habit from a time when I wasn’t really eager to live a very long life and tobacco seemed like a good enough promise that I wouldn’t. There was a disquiet that nicotine helped quell in me, a blissful quarter of hour where the tides stilled, and I was able to sit by the shore of my own thoughts.

I would smoke my last cigarette after he kissed me for the first time.

I had a pack of cheap cigarettes at the bottom of my backpack when I was moved to Mrs. Fitz’ foster house. Behind me, long in the midday sun of my fifteen years, were the long shadows of a handful of placements, where I had been relentlessly acquainted with various degrees of cruelty, neglect and indifference. Those strangers who had embraced the task of keeping me a stranger, too.

Mrs. Fitz’ house opened its doors late for this scrawny girl, but the Scottish woman managed to gather enough fragments of me to turn me into a kind of Golem of her own. She brought me to life, kindness both her reviving magic and clay. Glenna FitzGibbons (the complete mouthful, although by the time I left her house I simply called her Fitzzie) used to say that I had wings built for turbulence, a “wee lass” made for great devotions, always passionate and wholehearted, both for the things I loved and the things I despised. It was a second life, after the first one had been destroyed by a combination of accident and fate (maybe they were one and the same, after all).

Laoghaire - her granddaughter, two years my youngest -, became to me the promise of a sister and until I left to go to university, we were thick as thieves. Even as physical distance imposed itself between us, we confided in each other and I trusted her implicitly. She had been the one to convince me to move to Aberdeen, not only to expand my business but in order to be closer to her again.

I looked away, pretending not to have noticed him – challenging him to dare and come closer. He hawked to make himself known and I gently puffed out the last cloud of smoke from my lungs.

“Ye smoke, Miss Beauchamp?” His tone was a living question mark, beckoning me to build on his redundancy. I detected curiosity, but also a subtle reprimand.

“On occasion.” I smashed my cigarette on the posh ashtray I had loaned from the inside of the party. The intricate object probably had cost more than my first car, a cunning lime green beetle that wheezed after five minutes on the road, who had gone to junkyard heaven after leaving me stranded repeatedly. “You can spare me the lecture that I sense it’s coming.” I shrugged and brushed a stray curl from the neat fishtail braid I was wearing. “You’re not campaigning here Councillor Fraser, and I only have the one vote to give, anyway.”

“I wasna going to lecture ye.” He walked down a few steps, which forced me to stretch my neck up in order to look at this face; the alternative was to look ahead, to the disconcertingly narrow and firm frame of his hips.

I would kneel in front of him. He would kneel in front of me. Neither of us would do it for redemption, humiliation or submission; but out of reverence for the gift bestowed and wholeheartedly taken. Seeing him wild was something that I liked, that I anticipated belly-deep, and he was never as wild as under the pleasurable torture of my mouth. The taste of him would fill my mouth until it drowned all the words I could ever say and only he remained.

“I was just making polite conversation.” James Fraser finished lamely, crouching down to sit beside me on the steps. “Ye’re a hard one to please, Miss Beauchamp.”

“Oh, so now you’re trying to please me?” I raised a brow, pursing my lipstick covered lips and glaring at him straightforwardly. “You were perfectly fine pretending I didn’t exist back inside, not even ten minutes ago. Why the sudden change of heart?”

I sensed a rapid flicker inside his eyes, but he was quick to command his face back to impenetrable stillness. “I didn’t notice ye were there.”

He was lying to me. I knew it with the clarity given by years of deception and heartbreak, learning how to read faces and bodies to predict the next source of disappointment. He had noticed me and had chosen to ignore me until I was alone.

“Okay.” I breathed deeply to calm myself, gripping the soft fabric of my dress. I raised from the steps and balanced on my insufferably high heels, holding on to a dignified appearance. “I’m choosing not to notice you are here now, so I’m going back inside. Have a lovely evening, Mister Fraser.”

My pride was hurt, even if any defrauded expectations were of my own creation. My stupid heart, filled with senseless fantasies, crumpled.

And that’s how I ended in a silent battle with the Lord Provost over a two-hundred-year Fraser heirloom.

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