dedication: to annie, who is the saturn in my life. also to melissa, for everything else.
title: good god, let me give you my life
summary: Judge, jury, and executioner. — Saturn, Serenity, Small Lady.
The world tastes thick, your tongue slow and dry as it sticks to the roof of your mouth.
You haven't really been awake, not for a long time, so the light that slats across your eyes hurts in a way you didn't even know was possible. Your stomach rolls, and so do you.
You bend over the bed and empty the contents of your stomach on the floor.
Or you try, anyway. It's been a long time since you've had anything in your stomach, longer still since you've had enough to actually vomit. There's only bile in your throat, and you dry-heave until you're exhausted, trembling with it.
You roll so you're on your back; again, take deep breaths in through your nose until you've air back in your lungs. The trembling slows and that's a good thing, probably, but you're not sure. You're not sure where you are, much less how you got here—gods, you don't even know where here is—because the last thing you remember is a swish-thud, and then the end of the world. You had carved the solar system to pieces, but you're confused and you're not sure what's happening—the only times you ever really wake up are when the universe is in need of a clean slate.
You weren't always judge, jury, and executioner, but it's been centuries since you've been anything else.
You don't know how to be anything else, anymore. Lady Selene took your old self away, and though you never resented her for it, you never forgot, either. She had her reasons, and though they were valid, it doesn't make it okay.
You don't even remember the name you had before Lady Selene bestowed you with Saturn.
Saturn is all you know.
Saturn is all you have left.
You cannot give yourself up more than you already have. The universe took your mother and your father and your sisters—the universe took your name. What more can you give, than your name? What more?
You sit up, knees bending at odd angles, shaking the long sleep out of your limbs. The sheets are cool beneath you, silky cotton soft as better and just as slick. They don't stick when you shove them away to push off the bed and stand on unsteady legs.
Your hands are pale and your nails are long, and you are imperfect.
Your stomach rolls again.
(This time, you ignore it.)
You don't speak—you don't know if you can. Everything is still vague around you, swirling in leisurely circles like some Picasso painting (you remember Picasso, you remember his wild orange hair and his kind eyes), and everything clenches inside of you. Your throat is tight with apologies to no one still alive.
"Oh," says a gentle, female voice. "You're awake."
You turn with a start, imperfect nails digging into your imperfect palms. You hadn't even noticed there was anyone else in the room; your instincts are all off and your mouth twists around the sour taste of it.
There's a woman sitting in the corner. She—
"Lady Selene," you breathe, and fall to one knee. "I'm—"
The words cut off there, and you can't say any more. You are mortified to realize that you are crying, cold clear tears dripping down your cheeks as bright as diamonds.
Lady Selene laughs, sweet and honest. "Wrong generation. Serenity, at your service."
"Pr-princess," you manage to get out, and your head dips lower. You'd never met the heir apparent, but you'd heard stories on the solar winds: Serenity was beautiful and kind and a true treasure born to the moon's line, a prophesized saviour.
Tasked to protect her, falling in love with her had been non-negotiable. You loved her then, and you will love her always. You love her already.
You are going to be sick.
"Hey," she says softly. "Hey, it's okay, don't look like that! The world isn't ending."
"It's—it's not?" you say, muzzy. The world spins around you lazily, blurring and smearing into itself until Princess Serenity is the only sharp thing left in the room. Her hair pools around her, two streams of spun sunshine, and she reaches out to thumb gently at your cheeks.
"Nope," she says, hands still patting at your cheeks, fingers spread wide like a child's. "Everything's fine, no one's dying."
You're still crying, but you don't move to wipe the tears away—you don't expect the comfort that settles along your bones at her touch, but there it is. You let her dry your tears until you have none left to cry, and you feel a little better. A little lighter.
Your mouth still tastes like bile, and she offers you a mint without question.
Like she knows.
(She probably does.)
Your fingers do not shake when you take the sweet from her hand. It's a burst of flavour on your tongue, too sharp for your faded senses.
"I have a proposition for you," Princess Serenity says.
Something twitches in your throat—your vow continues to dictate your world, even in another body, even in another life. You would give her everything, if your could.
But she's looking at your with wide blue eyes, and you think that she wants this to be your choice.
As if you would ever choose anyone but her.
You nod, the words still rusty in your mouth. Go on, that nod tells her. Yes. You, I will always choose you. I always chose you, my lady.
"I'm having a baby," she says, and her eyes shine with the light of every universe. "A girl. She's going to be perfect."
You don't ask how she knows this. The Moon-blooded are always a little precognitive—you're not surprised that this has lasted. Very little surprises you, anymore.
"But she needs—" the princess continues. "She needs—I don't know. She needs—"
"She needs a guardian." The words escape you against your own better judgment. You have one Princess; you don't need another. But an heir to the Moon Kingdom is what you were always trying to protect.
Maybe it's a good thing.
"She needs a friend, Saturn," Serenity says, face soft. "I don't know how long I'm—but that doesn't matter. I'm asking you to look after her, if I can't."
You have no idea what to say to that.
From the look on her face, the princess doesn't expect you to. There is something there, slick and slow in the subtext, bubbling in the back of your throat the way you remember blood doing the last time you died. People like to pretend blood tastes like copper, but it doesn't. It tastes like blood. Smells like it, too. If your Glaive had a taste, it would probably be that thick metallic tang that you know so well.
"Of course, Your Majesty," you say, lips dried to crackling, that bitter metal red in your mouth. "I'll be here."
"Thank you," she says, and she means it. "Thank you, Saturn."
You bow your head, and you nod.
Small Lady is born tiny and squalling.
Serenity looks weak and exhausted; the life in her is slipping away, and no one notices but you. Her other guardians flit around her and the hospital room is an explosion of life, but they don't see it. They don't see it at all.
She looks at you and your darkness with old, knowing eyes.
And for the first time, you begin to understand.