Hey all, just wanted to put this out there. I do not own A Little Night Music. I am not, nor will I ever be Stephen Sondheim. If I was, that'd be awesome because Bernadette Peters would be my best friend and that is just too fantastical to be true. So I write about this instead. This was written for my darling friend, and because there aren't any ALNM fics on this site but there should be.
She's a fool.
He murmurs thanks into the creamy flesh of her shoulder, gently tucking the rumpled sheets back around her hips, the white of her uncovered calves gleaming in the candlelight.
"Will you not stay?" She asks, face turned up, immediately noticing how his back tenses before he turns around with a cheery smile.
She could choke on all the saccharine.
"I promised Anne a game."
She sighs, she knew better than to ask, yet she couldn't resist. Her face never shadows as she smirks, lips a bitter twist.
"I hadn't realized she'd finally started playing with you."
"Well it certainly suits her...age of mind, no? Maybe this time you'll finally be kinged."
She wonders if she's stepped over that pesky line between humor and distasteful spite; his face is a frozen stone.
Finally, he smiles; a hand reaching to tug a fiery curl lightly.
"Here's to hoping."
He leans down for his shoes, she untangles herself from white. A teasing smile adorns her face as she presses herself against his back, arms curling around him to button his less-than-crisp shirt.
First, his pristine collar. Second, his sharply-inhaling chest. She grins with unabashed glee. Right now, he could only be described as putty.
Her hands move tortuously slow down the rest of his shirt. They linger at the very last button, trailing lower and lower-
"Well, I must be going. Again, I cannot thank you enough, Desiree."
"Anything for an old friend," she purrs.
He does not look at her as he stands from the bed.
"Oh, would you be a dear and hand me the telephone? I have a certain count I must call before the sun sets."
He grabs it from the dresser, finally bringing his eyes to the kneeling figure in bed.
She smiles victoriously as his Adam's apple bobs.
It grows at his audible gulp.
With considerable effort, he tears his gaze from her, handing her the phone mutely.
"Thank you." She says sweetly, her voice practiced and suddenly demure. His nod is terse and stiff.
She receives his back as he moves to the door. Pink lips are bitten as she tries to reign in her words. She doesn't bite hard enough.
"Will I see you again soon?" Internally, her mind is a whirlwind of cursing herself for such silly hopes, anxiety for his answer, and a deeply buried, harshly battered, but still existent glimmer of faith.
"I very much hope so," he says. "But I am in no mood to be caught by your passionate count. Again."
It's happier and lighter than she feels.
He kisses her cheek softly, ghosting over the fragile and pinkened skin.
With a quiet farewell, he's gone.
His absence settles in the room like a dull ache; she sits numbly in her unmade bed.
Her thoughts are interrupted by the shrieking of the telephone. She answers it with startled hands.
"Count Malcolm. Of course not, why would I be surprised by your call? On the contrary, I was waiting for it."
Again, it doesn't reflect her true emotions.
Her eyes scan her room. The disheveled mess could be cleaned before he even knocks on her hotel door.
"Perfect. I shall see you soon."
She waits to hear the line click before she falls backwards on the bed.
A groan escapes her tired mouth.
She's a fool.
He's no fool.
Paranoid hands buckle a silver belt, anger simmering ever so close to surface. He leaves with barely a goodbye.
He's unsatisfied, her count.
Not with her of course, she'd made sure of that, but unsatisfied with the answers she'd given him.
But of course she'd taken a shower late at night, that wasn't an uncommon occurrence. Of course she didn't smell of the perfume he'd given her, it was expensive and saved only for the best of occasions. Of course she'd left her clothes in a heap on the floor, she was exhausted from a long day. And of course she was exhausted, she'd been busy on stage with her troupe.
He's suspicious, but he decides to believe her.
He trusts her. She's Desiree. She's faithful.
He's no fool.
She's such a fool.
She grimaces in the mirror.
Little bruises mar her porcelain skin.
Her count was not a violent lover, but her already love-lavished neck had not been able to withstand two different sets of kisses in such a short increment of time.
But it's nothing a little bit of makeup can't fix.
She dabs it on with light fingers and muses on the attention she'd received.
Both times had reflected both men.
The first was soft and sentimental, so much like the charmer Fredrik was.
The second hot and heavy, as impulsive and impatient as the emotion-ruled count himself.
Both were mostly predictable.
She knew them, they were accountable.
One thing she hadn't accounted for was Fredrik's hunger. He was like a thirsting man, begging for water.
She should have expected it, the poor thing.
To wait so long for his wife, what unbearable torture.
To her, it was unfathomable.
Even when they'd been together and young, she had not been so eager to wait.
She's older now, much older, and still the wait, though for different reasons, might just destroy her.
But for him, for him she could wait forever.
That might be how long it takes.
But she can wait, she will.
The count will not wait for her.
Oh, she's such a fool.
"And then she said I might get a band of flowers for my hair. It's a new summer fashion, you know. She said it would look pretty on me. But how silly of her. What do you think? Fredrik?"
His chin falls from his fist as he's pulled from his thoughts. He smiles at her faintly before looking back at the checker board.
"I'm sorry Anne. Please repeat the question?"
"Do you think I would look pretty, with flowers in my hair?" Her little hand reaches up to stroke a bit of her brown curls. He thinks of different curls, vibrant and downy tendrils the color of a dissipating sunset.
"Henrik says they are excessive, and therefore a sin... Silly Henrik," she finishes.
"Silly Henrik indeed. You would look pretty with flowers, but you look pretty with everything." He kisses her hand, she giggles coquettishly.
He smiles, but cannot help but compare her soft and young hands with other softened hands.
He cannot help but, when hearing Anne's giggle, remember a throaty chuckle.
Anne's eyes are bright and starry, but he finds himself longing to gaze into the eyes that hold a universe and its history.
Her chatter continues and he shakes the feeling off.
"Anyway, I think I shall get a flower band, if only to please you," she beams at him once, a dazzling picture of innocence and youth. "And to prove a point to Henrik. I can do something for myself without it being a sin."
"King me." Fredrik says, capturing one of her red pieces.
He remembers pink lips mouthing the innocent words, in a way that was anything but innocent.
His buttoned collar is suddenly very tight.
Very tight indeed.
"Just a forewarning, dear, I will probably have to work late again tomorrow night."
Anne's pout reminds him of her sulks as a child. He quickly shoves the thought far from his mind.
"Must you? I do so miss you during the day."
"Well I promise you shall have me for the night."
"Alright, I know your work is important."
His answering smile is tight, wracked with invisible guilt.
Disappointing both the lovely women in his life is not something he could say he enjoyed.
"Ha, I've won!" Anne squeals excitedly, running to Fredrik's side and peppering his cheeks with kisses.
"Dearest Fredrik, did you let me win?" She asks gleefully, he smiles.
"Heaven forbid it."
"Oh I must tell Henrik, he'll never believe it!"
Hesitantly, almost as an unwanted second thought, she kisses him on the mouth.
Though her lips are soft, the kiss is hard and quick, a little peck of flesh merely hitting flesh. Then she's skipping away, and Fredrik is left alone with a finished checker game and a dozen unfinished thoughts.
Mostly, he thinks of another pair of lips, warm and pliant under his own.
Such sweet, sweet relief.
With those lips, he can breathe again.
It's a shame he's content having his breath taken away.
Her name is fitting.
He desires her, always has, positive he always will.
But a taste of her is all he can afford.
She is a gamble, dangerous and alluring, untamable in her wit and charm.
She is hard to decipher and ever so easy to touch, whereas Anne is an open book where touch is not allowed.
Anne is safer.
There is comfort in a blooming flower, a security that a flame cannot guarantee.
But there is warmth in the fire.
He shouldn't touch either.
Better to keep his heart in Anne's inexperienced hands, for his hands encompass hers.
Desiree's hands are too capable, too observant to pass over his flaws.
The two women, so stark in contrast, they both hold his heart, whether he wants them to or not.
He does. He doesn't. He doesn't know.
He does know one thing, knows it with a surety that stands strong against his confused wants.
He's a fool.
He's a god-damned fool.