(Then again, it wasn't that big a leap. See: Schiele.)
all the greatest loves are the unfinished ones. blue bloods. r. the force that is mimi force. mimi/jack, with sideline dealings of mimi/kingsley, jack/schuyler(!), and schuyler/oliver.
Once, they were Death and Destruction before they were even given names. Now Jack is killing time in London, Mimi is reading more than she's ever read in her life, and neither of them want to think about where they're going. What do you get before the war starts? The repercussions, the actions, the myths; sex, blood, and the kind of rock-and-roll that ends with broken glass on the ground.
He has run out of beautiful words for her. Somewhere, between the cobblestone streets of the Seven Dials, the cracks in the rented room's ceiling, the whispers of verse every night into Schuyler’s ear as she falls asleep, he has lost all his poetry. So when he decides to speak to her, he speaks in plain words, so much of the language that she has adopted for this cycle. He’ll do this her way, this time around.
He thinks of her.
He chooses her words (he has always known her words) with all the hope and earnestness he can muster:
He thinks, I’m sorry I was a bitch.
The knee-jerk thing that happens is the immediate bark of laughter which jerks her out of sleep. And then she hears it properly and laughs—properly.
Mimi Force does not have to open her eyes.
It’s been weeks since the wedding—perhaps a month by now, perhaps an eternity. She goes to bed in a different room in a different hotel every night, goes to bed with tired legs and a tired head and a constantly racing heart. And a purpose, not that she’s ever been without one: ambivalence and Mimi Force have never met.
It’s not so difficult to find the way to Hell. It’s written in the myths. It’s written in her blood. But every hero has to prepare differently.
She does not open her eyes, but his voice is familiar in his head, and she laughs like she’ll never stop.
He can feel it from his bed, the low thrum of her amusement. It echoes in his blood, even still.
I will not forgive you so easily, she promises, she lies. She laughs, because he chose the right word and fuck him—he flinches and she feels it, her inward thoughts are his and she has forgotten this, has forgotten him, how nothing hides. Fuck you. She remembers his voice, sends it back to him: his let’s get this over with. If it’s tainted with sarcasm, she knows he won’t pick it up. She shadows it with the pained cast of his beautiful face (her beautiful face).
That’s not what a girl wants to hear on her wedding day, you know.
It was never supposed to be like that, he replies immediately, thinking of her on Forsyth Llewellyn’s arm: that of all things should have shown her that the bond, or the bonding, was wrong, mistimed. Forsyth Llewellyn, lackey and status-seeker throughout their time, no link to the two of them ever, either then or now. It wasn’t that she hadn’t looked beautiful (thank you, she purrs). It wasn’t them. Only everything around them: wrong, wrong, wrong.
You knew that as well as I do.
And that little cunt in the back row had nothing to do with any of it, of course?
But she shrouds that thought before she can deliver it—she can still push some things away from the fore. And maybe it was true: it was Mimi that paused in the aisle that day, standing still between Jack’s miserable face and Forsyth Llewellyn smiling for the both of them. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
And Kingsley, waiting in the wings.
But onstage, the thought dives into the audience of her mind, and it is not her own:
I miss you.
The weeks have ticked by and he has felt her absence deep in his blood. He has learned to forget it most of the time: when he reads the sacred texts of millenia past, looking for mentions of the abomination, he forgets; when Schuyler looks at him adoringly, he forgets; when she presses her face to his neck and wraps her legs around his waist, he forgets. Schuyler who looks at him with wide-open eyes and a wide-open mind, his for the having and the taking.
But she’s new, and she has not learned yet how to catalogue her thoughts. The fore, that first thrust of love, love, Iloveyou, Iloveyou, lies cheek to jowl with her loneliness, her solitude. Sometimes still she shakes in the night, violent tremors of the blood, and when he tries to hold her together he tries too to ignore the stream of OliverOliverOliver in her thoughts, the longing like a sickness. Iloveyou. Imisshim. Ilovehim. Imissyou.
And there is a limit to Schuyler’s thoughts, because there is a limit to Schuyler’s time. He has dipped his feet into the shallow swamp of her mind, undone the fragile puzzle box of her heart. So much newness: that’s new to him, now. Like so few things are.
It should be easy. Because she is new, and because she loves him, because she has decided to love him. Loving him into oppression, a love that forces out everything around it. Love of her life, love of a life, love that occupies life, takes up all the space left in it, the empty spaces and the full. She loves him. She needs to love him now.
He can feel the desperation tainting the edges of her thoughts, more and more, day by day.
He has equalled her love; he knows how. Alone in the world, just the two of them, they cling to the love with desperate hands. He knows how this is supposed to be; he has decided that this is the easy way, the right way, the stuff of stories, the need rooted in his heart. It’s his heart he’s supposed to be following.
So he whispers lines of poetry into her ear as she falls asleep. So they kiss like paintings, every embrace a work of art. They have wrought something beautiful, beautiful and desperate. He holds her and sometimes she cries when she comes. Desperate, the touch of temporariness about it never quite gone. Her blood like an earthquake, the poison of desolation: he has to hold her. This is his job and this is his reward, now. He holds her. He promises himself, he will try to be good. And she shakes and her face is turned away from him, her thoughts crying out with inarticulate longing.
(OliverOliverOliver. The patterns of need: she will never shake them fully from her blood. Not this time around.)
His arms are still and his mind is far away.
When she slips into sleep, he is left alone. With his thoughts, and with what he is without.
The weeks have ticked by and she makes do without him, as she has always made do. Over the years, she has been far better prepared for this than he has: Abbadon has left Azrael before, for days and weeks and sometimes for years. Not that she ever cast herself as any kind of Penelope in the past—love meaning waiting, love meaning temperance; in no lifetime has Azrael ever had a patience for such sobriety—but he’s always been able to find her when she gets back. It has been her task to fill up the space he leaves behind.
It’s not as hard as you might think.
(It’s not as easy as you might think.)
She’s used to it.
It’s easier when there’s someone loving her, even if he’s loving her from Hell, even if he’s not here to graze her neck with his fangs and make her laugh with blood and champagne in her mouth. The memory of Kingsley like a talisman, because the memory of Kingsley comes with a purpose.
All the old myths of heroes who go to save their lovers are men who save their maidens. Maidens are helpless in the underworld; even Persephone, the queen, is passed from hand to hand, prone to abduction. No woman comes back. The texts tell of Lazarus, then of Orpheus, Hercules.
Mimi has never been much for maidens.
She finds, in her findings-under-duress, a Sumerian myth of a goddess who ventures beneath to claim her lover. The goddess gets him. Mimi glows with self-satisfaction, reading it, and another piece of the road to hell reveals itself in the map under her feet.
There would be no consolation in ignoring the myths, in saying these are not her myths. All myths are her myths. All myths are eternal. They are all myths, each and every one of them. They have always been.
She wants to ask Jack do you remember when we were young? (when the world was young); instead, she leans back against a sea of pillows and smiles to herself.
You know, I’ve been reading, lately.
A million miles away, and he still finds space to be nonplussed. Reading who?
Oh, you know. She won’t give him the quest. Not now, not ever, now; what has to do with Kingsley has nothing to do with him. Instead, she thinks of his bookshelves, books she’s never touched in her life. The ideologies he loves. She doesn’t understand why: it’s only a bunch of humans caring too much about a world that is only temporarily theirs. But the names are his, and she smirks as she names them. Nietzche. Marx and Engels...
The laughter slips into his thoughts before she can think of more names to finish the list.
God, don’t make me miss you, he thinks.
As though you could help yourself.
Jack Force shuts his eyes tight, but not his mind.
Once left open, it takes so much work to close. It took a year of work to seal himself up the first time, to retreat. Even that wasn’t perfect; even then, she would sometimes slip in around the edges. He had counted on her self-absorption to keep his cover in check, and mostly that held true—she didn’t try too hard, not if he gave her what she wanted to see. But every now and again, she would look at him hard, eye to eye, the same eyes, would touch his cheek or his hair as if reminding both of them that they were the same, that his hair was her hair and her hand was his hand. And the veil would waver, his thoughts reaching to her, the roads always leading back to the same places.
They are the same; there has never been one without the other. Throughout history, he has never missed her. He has never had to. All he ever needed to do was turn his head and there she was: Azrael, his mirror.
He turns over and there is a body in the bed and it is not hers.
Schuyler stirs, cracks an eye open. “Why’re you awake?” she murmurs sleepily. He doesn’t say anything. “Are you okay?”
Her bare foot grazes his calf under the sheets. Her eyes becoming clearer, almost sly, she slides her toes up his leg. He sighs, closing his eyes. Feeling instead of thinking. Pulling the sheets closer around them, he looks down. She’s wearing an old slip she picked up in some back-alley shop somewhere, scraps of black lace over her pale skin. Practically bare, nipples bright beneath like drops of human blood. He runs a languid hand over her and she arches up toward him, eyes closing again and not with sleep. Slides her leg up over his hip, pulls his face down to hers. And this is easy, this makes sense. This is the thing that makes sense. Schuyler, slip slipping away, her gasp in his mouth. Her mind open and full of him, adoring, sated, never full. Lifetimes of experience at his fingertips, and it’s all new to her. His fingers sliding over her skin and her thoughts crying out to him, you, you, you. Nothing to hide, and it’s another mirror: it’s been good from the beginning, sanctified somehow. Even when she was shy and sort of clumsy, when she bit her lip and then bit his lip and lost track of what to do with her hands, her mind cried out: you, you. Pleasure pouring back into his synapses. Her thoughts were open far before her legs were, and that was good enough. The first time: he came because she did, her adoration of his deftness making up for her own lack of it. The unnumbered time, this time: he doesn’t know where she starts, where he ends, whether he’s coming for her or for her reflection of him.
You’re such a fucking narcissist. The voice isn’t his and it isn’t Sky’s and he can’t help it, he yelps aloud—Schuyler, eyes closed, grips him tighter, nails playing along his spine like it might produce notes—gulping back shock.
What the fuck are you doing?
This is what you get. Her voice in his head is furious. I didn’t want to see this.
I didn’t invite you to see this!
Yes, she says. You did. You don’t think, Abbadon.
His head is silent, but he can feel her eyes in the back of it. A million miles away, and she’s so far from gone, he’s so far from having left her.
Sky still cries his name out loud against his ear. He comes violently, and his cry is not a name but something beyond words (they were here before there were words). Sky falls back to sleep like a child reassured and he lies there awake, listening to her breathe steadily for once, living in the silence.
How dare he.
Mimi Force takes the book she’s reading and throws it against the wall. She misses; it hits the window, smashes the glass, it’s out the window and then she’s out the window, grabs it in the air, hits the next building and jumps back through the broken window of her room. Back in a second, book in hand, unscathed. Her blood is thrumming, a metronome ticking how dare he, how dare he, how dare he. Her skin is a map, a thousand years of fingerprints, and in every age in all of memory, his have underscored every path. Remembering it is a transgression now.
How dare he.
Kingsley, think of Kingsley, and she does, but Kingsley isn’t here. Her fingers against the line of her throat where his should be. Kingsley, who was complicated as complicated should be, who poured champagne straight from the bottle to her slippery mouth, who raced her around the world, Kingsley, loving her from someplace inaccessible. The gone hurting worse than the love, and the things she’s been promising herself—you’re going to get him back, you’re going to get him and then he’ll be back—not helpful at the moment,
Her skin is prickling against her bones.
Right now, all Mimi Force wants to do is fuck someone. Now.
She leaves her hotel, slamming her door behind her hard enough to shake the walls, and slips out onto the street. New York unfurls around her. Capital of the world, Mimi Force’s palace and playground. It always lived up to the images and beautiful clichés—just for her.
She’s in the mood to make someone who’s thinking shut up, so she goes to one of the student bars down on Morningside Heights, one of the favorites of the trustiest trust-fund kids. Oak walls and old dignity and old memories, even though she’s always favored flashier places. An old favorite of Jack’s, here.
She remembers being fifteen here, Jack pretending to be a philosophy major, his fake ID (never used, never needed) a Columbia student identification card. She sat on his lap and made the bartender pour her a dram of every whiskey in the house, the fire in her mouth not reaching her blood. Jack caught in an argument about existentialists and dead Frenchmen until she had reached out to the Red Blood on the other side of the table and caught his hand—you’re so clever, teach me in private. Standing with his hand in hers, and Jack’s eyes never leaving her mouth. Her first familiar. And Jack watched, and Jack knew.
(Aren’t you a little young for this?
What are you, new?
He kissed her and whispered, I can taste it; is it always like this?
Their hands together, fingers knit under the lights. She remembers. Every time, all the time.)
But she’s not thinking about Jack tonight.
She orders a Campari because it’s red and she’s planning to stain her mouth tonight. “He’ll pay,” she says, pointing to the boy one stool over—he is black-haired and sharp-cheekboned and tells her his name is Alex. They’re always so eager to tell her their names; she’s never understood why. They should know better, even if they don’t know. They shouldn’t expect to be remembered.
She frames herself in coy smiles and puts her hand on his wrist. His pulse ticks beneath her fingers. He pays for her and toasts to her and two songs in the background later, he’s kissing her. When she offers someplace more private, he says, “Please,” eyes already dark, hand inching up the bare acreage of her leg.
Outside, she pins him to the wall, straddling the ridge in his pants. His hands maneuver under her skirt, slip between her legs. She throws back her head and howls like some kind of retarded werewolf thing, something that howls whether it’s happy or it’s sad. Howl howl howl. With her mouth on his neck, she can practically taste his heartbeat. And then she does.
Across an ocean, Jack feels the burn in his throat.
Before he looks, he knows.
When the sun comes up, Mimi decides she’s done enough research. She knows where she’s going.
The easiest opening is in Greece.
She books her ticket to London.
Here is a thing that neither of them have forgotten:
She is not her father’s daughter; she is not anyone’s daughter.
She is not Charles Force’s daughter, and she knows the rules.
Jack feels her, closer and closer, the magnet of his blood pointing to her.
I miss you. I miss you. I miss you.
The plane moves over the ocean.
If I see you, I will kill you.
Beneath her sleep mask, Mimi closes her eyes. It’s not a threat. It’s only a promise. A caveat (cavēre, Latin for let him beware).
Do not forget.
Neither of them will.
Once upon a time, they were young and the world was theirs. Once upon a time, they were kicked out of the place they loved and thrown onto someplace new and uncertain and freshly made. Once, they were young, and they lay down in the dirt and remade their bodies in each other’s image. Once, they kissed and sank their teeth into each other’s flesh, in love and already broken. Once, they drowned in love and each other’s blood, glutting themselves on sensation and each other. Once, they were Death and Destruction before they were even given names. Once, and all of time.
They were in love, once.
There are two men in Mimi’s blood.
It’s a wonder I’m myself, sometimes she thinks.
The plane lands.
She steps off, made new.
Every day, Jack goes to the British Museum and reads through the papyri. He could do this faster, could use vampire speed and vampire memory, but there’s something he likes about the slow ease of human reflexes. And hieroglyphs take time, anyhow. There’s a whole coded story in the chisellings and brushstrokes, the pictures possessing meaning in themselves and as the group. Historians haven’t mapped it out yes; he has the luxury of remembering it.
It frustrates Schuyler, he knows, to be here with him and unable to help. She’s talked to the fringe elements of Blue Blood society; she’s working (futilely, he hasn’t had the heart to say) on getting an audience in Buckingham Palace. She does what she can. And sometimes, she gives up for days. Goes out into the streets, looks at clothes and music and humans, comes back with nothing. London eludes her. London hates me, she’s said with her lips in that twist that swears it’s funny, not sad.
They make routines. They meet in a pub of their choosing once the museum kicks him out. He finds her, he finds her with a book in her hands and a glass already soaking through the napkins on the bar. Still enough Red Blood in her veins to manage a slight buzz. He could envy that (if not the way her longing gets louder with every glass: OliverOliverOliver).
She’s waiting for him there, hair pulled back in a scarf, eyes bright blue. “How was today?” she asks, and he nods.
It’s when he leans in to kiss her that his whole body starts to buzz. An inch between their lips. Sky leans in, pecks him; he doesn’t move and she kisses him again, more softly. Lips parted. Leaning away, she looks him in the face. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just—I have to go. Just outside. I’ll be right back.”
He darts through the side door, but it does not take him outside. The pub has many rooms. Anywhere can become a labyrinth, if you want it to. Standing next to the wall, he feels the pull of the minotaur.
Mimi is sitting and sipping a whiskey older than her human shell when the veil begins to slip over her vision.
Her spine freezes, she coils—and then everything goes dark and she relaxes. Cool and clouded. The rest: silence.
There are two people in the world who could do this. Just two. Two she loves best, each with their special brand of destruction about them. But one’s busy in hell, and while she might see him soon, she knows he’s not here.
(She suspects Lucifer would have a hard time destroying her, anyway. The Prince of Hell who was once the Prince of Heaven always got more attached than he cared to admit.)
The other, then.
And it would take more than a lapse of vision for her not to know him.
She leans back in her seat and laughs with her throat tipped up. Hello, she thinks, again and again, hello, you idiot. Hello—you.
You can’t see me now.
Braver than he’s ever been, he stands behind her and dares to slide a hand against her neck, up through her hair. Her clavicles deceptively delicate under his fingers, her hair endlessly soft, smelling like flowers and like her.
He buries his face in her hair. Her fingers twine with his. One slim hand moving up to touch his face.
He could never blind her fully. His face under her hands is infinitely familiar: she could have shaped the bones herself.
He sighs and kisses the palm of her hand, adoring and longing, every missing piece in place—just for once, just now.
Both of her hands back, now, against his jaw, his neck.
And that’s when she grabs, and that’s when she twists.
I am not coming back, she says, and she is furious, and she can mean it, yes she can: this, Abbadon, is what you have wrought.
Next time, I will kill you, and I will do it with my own sword.
And she could cry if she let herself, but instead she blinks and the fog lifts. Around her, the pub is dimly lit and shabbily mahogany and very, very real. Behind her, she can hear the sound of bones knitting themselves back together. Better at this game than Orpheus, she doesn’t look behind her. (Call it training.)
On her way out, she sees the Van Alen brat at the bar, reading some beat-up paperback book, drinking something amber-colored and probably cheap. Skinny shoulders in her brother’s shirt. Before she can look up, Mimi has the back of her neck in her hand; before she can feel it, she’s been thrown through the adjacent wall with the force of a pissed-off god. Before she can turn around, Mimi’s out the door. The wood of the opposite wall splinters. They’ll pay for it; the brat will heal, and she and Jack can match bruises in and out. None of the patrons see her, and she’s halfway down the street before the buzz of confusion manages to start. They’ll call it a hurricane, some freak wind. Easier that than anything else. An act of God. Forgive the ego.
It doesn’t do a thing, but she still leaves feeling better. It’s easy sometimes.
(It’s hard sometimes.)
Violently awake in her skin, she scales the Nelson monument and looks out at the city beneath her. She could cry. She might have cried, but she ran before the tears could form. She jumps and lands and runs again: she’s never been stoppable in any incarnation.
At Heathrow, she picks up a ticket to Greece. Start there, she thinks to herself, making a future out of fragments. Shove your sword into the crack between worlds and twist. Go in ablaze and get him back. The war started a long time ago. The war is always starting, all around her.
“Have a good trip!” the ticket seller chirps, and she smiles right back in her face.
“I always do.”
There are two men in her blood, there always will be. But her thoughts are her own.
This time it’s she who puts up the veils.