This was originally a two-hundred word deleted scene from 'Marcus and Didyme' describing a peep-hole Didyme creates for herself when shut out of recruitment meetings by Aro one morning. I scrapped the scene long ago, but have now come back to it in an attempt to write a Christmas oneshot for fanfiction author Kyilliki – check out her stories, folks, she's pretty incredible :)
And…I was only partially successful in this, as the piece turned out rather Didyme-driven, and my perception of Sulpicia ended up a bit like everyone's worst nightmare of a Twilight fangirl who needs to rethink her life/priorities in love a little :P still. I think it turned out ok. And please note, no offence is meant towards blondes. Or humans. Enjoy!
The morning was foggy, the air swirling with mist. Fluffy, frothy, feathery clouds of it. I crouched, huddled and out of sight from my brother's darting gaze – below me he stood, framed by the lopsided woodwork of the ceiling. I'm hidden, hidden, hidden away. No one could find me there, no one, not even Marcus – and he knew all my hiding places so very well, now. I grinned at the thought. Not this one. Up the eastern most marble staircase, over the banister, through the window, onto the roof, and down into the dilapidated attic chamber with the rotting floorboards and swallows' nests. My peep hole was tiny – a bare gap where I'd worn decayed wood away with my fingernails alone – but effective. Especially on days like today.
I tucked my knees up and watched Marcus greet line after line of would-be recruit before my brother. A swarming, unruly mass they seemed – well, they were nomads, I supposed; what more could you expect? – all seeking a place amongst our ranks, a place to take a stand, a true stand, against the Romanians. I sighed, shaking my head. Poor things. How many would he pick today, I wondered? Two? Three? Maybe even just a lucky single.
The brawny one, as it had been with Santiago.
The gifted one, as it had been with Corin.
The blonde one, as it had been with Chelsea. I smiled to myself. Oh, of course I knew it wasn't really true – Chelsea was easily the most precious of recruitments brother had ever made – still. I couldn't resist; the gripes wrote themselves so beautifully. The blonde one…oh, how I lovedto tease her about that!
Besides, that was all my brother truly seemed to be after these days, judging from the way recruitments had gone most recently. Since that first time I had sided with Marcus during a council; since he had lost that first vote from me, as I chose mate over brother…the thought made me smile again. Yes. Since he had found himself outnumbered by his own accomplices for the first time in his life…recruitments had been dicey. Unpredictable. Of course, we all knew what he was searching for. A replacement. For me, that was. This time, however, it seemed a very specific kind; a simple vote, that was all he needed. A devotee. A new hand to – constantly, and not just metaphorically – hold his.
Well. He had learnt his lesson, I supposed, counting on me and Athenodora – who still refused to have anything more than the barest minimum to do with him, despite all his attempts to harness her loyalty. Now, it was back to basics. Simpletons. Adorers. Blonde ones…
I sighed. I was not in the best of moods with Chelsea at present. Knowing – assuming, rather – that I would not be watching, she had taken her chance, and spent every second of the past morning by Marcus's side, my Marcus's side. Hair tossing, eyes batting, hand chasing after his worse than brother's did…ugh. She had no shame. Oh, I had him, of course, and always would, for myself and myself only – still. The jealousy stung, and rightfully so. Especially with Aro doing next to nothing to rein her in, despite all his promises to do so. Empty words, my dear brother. Just you wait till I'm allowed down later…
All the more reason for me to have the right to spy upon them all.
I sighed, settling my arms around my knees. Maybe Chelsea just needed a taste of her own medicine. Yes…yes, maybe I would take my own chance, a taste of revenge, later on. Maybe I would run downstairs just a few minutes early, find my husband-to-be, make certain she was watching before I greeted him with a touch more enthusiasm than brother was sure to find appropriate…
A pitter-patter of footsteps caught my ears; close by, outside and underneath me. I stiffened, head tilting to one side. Uneven and ungainly, whoever it was must be passing down the alleyway that the staircase window backed onto. My eyebrows raised.
That was odd. I would have to tell Aro. No humans used the dilapidated alley these days, allowing us our inconspicuous residence. I focussed on my brother below me, drifting across the room with arms thrown wide in greeting. Caius had entered the room, face scowling as always. Honestly, what a nightmare he was…
…I heard the footsteps pause. Shuffle a moment – then change, scramble…scuffle…upwards…
Hm. It was coming over the wall? Why? I stayed very still, an ice-sculpture in the attic, silent as the grave. Not that its feeble ears would hear me, but still. One could never be too careful. I could smell it, now. That familiar, succulent taste on my tongue, drying up all moisture from my throat; welling venom in my mouth. Mm-hm. I had only hunted this morning, but maybe…just maybe…
Then the footsteps started up again – but this time, scuttling the sound was familiar.
It was on the roof.
I hissed in frustration. I couldn't kill it now, not in full view of the city like that! But what should I do, then? Stay hidden, or run for it, just in case it saw me…?
…the footsteps paused again, and I paused too, frozen in my train of thought.
It couldn't be…it wasn't…
…coming in here…?
But it was. It was, and there was nothing I could do to stop it, now. Before I could so much as move, a shadow passed over me from behind, precariously wobbling on the roof edge – and I knew it had seen me. Bother. Bother, bother, bother.
Having said that…if it really was coming in here, coming in and out of sight, into this warm, secret, enclosed little space…
The voice was silvery, soft, sweet. Ah, it was a female, then. I carefully bent a little closer towards my peep-hole in the floorboards, feigning human deafness. If I could just get it close enough…the scent was overwhelming, clouding the air. Its blood was fresh, young; all honeyed sweetness and syrup and sugar...gods, I was suddenly so thirsty…
Footsteps padded again, tentative this time. I tensed in anticipation. Just a bit closer…
And then, quite suddenly, the strangest thing.
I blinked, thrown off. Was she laughing at…at…me? Why? The thought distracted me more than it should have – I was not to be laughed at, of all things; where was the gasp, the staggering blow at my beauty? The intake of breath at my flawless poise, my immortal grace, even in stillness? Who did she think she was -?
Down folded the little human creature beside me. I skittered backwards, almost falling through my own peep-hole.
"It's all right." The face of it giggled, giggled again, and I narrowed my eyes, struggling to pull myself up into some sort of respectable position. "No – really!" it insisted, pressing doll-like hands to rosy lips. "I'm not scary, I promise."
I mouthed, unable to conjure words to speak. Gods…above…what had I let in?
"Really." The female shuffled, close enough to pat my shoulder in an accommodating manner. "Promise, promise, pinkie-swear. Friends, all right?"
I…beg your pardon?
"…Excuse me…?" I mumbled, but it – she – only beamed.
"I'm glad. Now, we can get to it! I suppose you're here for the same thing I am – oh – or even same things, I suppose." Her hand squeezed mine in an understanding sort of way. "Well, we can talk more later, if you like. But now, what are they up to today…?"
She turned away from me, settling herself comfortably in a neat little half-kneel…then she bent over my peep hole.
My teeth clamped together with an audible snap. This…creature…used...my…
…no. No, it couldn't be. I would have smelled her – its – scent! Wouldn't I? But then, it had rained so much these past few weeks…and we had had that flurry of snow in the night…
I folded my arms, examining it. Hm. All right. I had to admit, this female was…pretty. For a human. Very small, very sweet, in more ways than just smell. Cherubic little features, all rounded and flushed. Petite, porcelain hands. Too many curves though, for my liking. I conjured a mental comparison with my own figure, thin as my brother with the same bony hands – and quickly buried the thought. Hm.
At least its hair was nothing especially lovely. Blonde. Of course, I smirked inwardly, they always were, weren't they? First Chelsea, then Caius, now Athenodora…I made a few amusing comparisons; wished I hadn't, because disapproving siblings would hear later, and then I would be in trouble.
I did notice its eyes, though. They were wide, and baby-blue. Clear as a summer sky, transparent as water. No secrets. No lies. An open soul, the picture of innocence. Vulnerable. Helpless. Defenceless…
My hands flexed, and I had to swallow down more venom. Just a second, Di. Just a second. Curiosity had got the better of me – the female was sighing now, distorting the cold air before her. Her eyelids drooped, batted slowly as she gazed, transfixed, through the floorboards before her. I almost laughed. Gods, what a child…
…and gods, what a delicious one, at that…
Yes – what did it matter to me, how odd she had acted, how pretty she was? I was thirsty, oh yes, I was thirsty, now. And she was as fresh a meal as I could have hoped for.
Surreptitiously, I shifted a half-inch closer towards the blonde creature, eyes on that exposed neck. Mm. I already make out veins.
"Aren't they pretty?" she gushed abruptly, turning dreamy eyes up to mine again – I conjured a swift smile.
"Indeed. They are."
"I don't know what it is," she sighed. "They are so perfect. Perfectly perfect. Too much to be real. Magical,I think."
Her words tumbled over each other, empty mush; so much, but so little. No proper articulation, no refinement, I noted. Very distasteful – something even beauty could never make up for.
That made me feel better.
"Oh – look!" She giggled, pointing one finger like a five-year old. "Someone's picking – I mean, being picked – you know, chosen." She sighed wistfully. "Isn't it exciting?"
I flickered one eye downwards, careful to shift another half-inch closer whilst she was distracted. Yes, it was true. A hulking man dressed all in red, almost twice Corin's height, was being greeted by my brother. I caught his name, Aelfric. Lovely, I thought, smiling. Another male.
"I forgot your name. Will you tell me?"
Her sentences barely held together – uneducated, obviously, victim of a poor upbringing.
"It's Didyme. Just Didyme." I flashed a warm smile. "Pleased to meet you."
She blinked; stunned for a moment. Inwardly, I laughed. I'd forgotten how much fun playing with humans could be.
"Oh. Oh, you…you are pretty, Didy – Didi –"
"Yes, that." Her lips pulled up tentatively. "I'm…um…me too. Pleased to meet you."
She blushed. My mouth watered. Gods. Her words were fervent, thought; strange, how much she really meant them. An open book, that was what she was. Simplicity.
As easy to read as Marcus.
"I really didn't know until now, I mean, today, that anyone else knew. About my hidey-hole, you know. I do think its sweet, this little attic, don't you?"
I smiled. "Yes, yes it is."
She laughed a little, turning back to the scene below us. Perfect. My muscles tensed in anticipation. I reached up one hand, dusting ringlets of butter and silk back from her shoulder; baring the perfect spot. Her heartbeat faltered.
"Don't mind me." I patted her shoulder, minding my nails against thin skin. "Just admiring this wonderful hair of yours. What a lovely colour."
It worked. She squirmed like a kitten being petted, little hands twisting in her lap.
"Mother always used to say so. I'm not vain, I promise I'm not, but…I do love my curls."
"As you should."
My fingers skimmed the curve of her neck tentatively. I worried I might have taken things step too far, but I hadn't. And she still wasn't even looking at me – her eyes were riveted on the scene below, following the smoky trio of Marcus and his 'brothers', as Aro so affectionately referred to them all…
"Aren't they handsome?" she gushed, resting a dimpled chin on folded hands. "…Who?" I questioned casually, feeling the pulse of her blood under my fingertips and almost losing it right there and then. Nearly, nearly.
"Them, of course," she said, pointing like a child again down at my brother's retinue. "Simply otherworldly. Oh, I would give anything to meet one of them in the streets sometime. I have tried, you know, asking all the others – my friends, you know – but nobody has seen them. They're secret." She tittered, the sound like a newborn bird chirruping. "Still. I can always hope, can't I? Oh – oh, I must ask you. Who is your favourite?"
I clenched my teeth, forcing myself not to dive for the bite. Patience, little sister, I could almost hear brother cautioning me. Control. Always control.
"Oh, I suppose the dark-haired one – he takes the chair on the left," I answered lightly, not meeting her gaze. She gasped under her breath.
"Me too." Her voice trilled with delight.
There was a short pause.
"…What was that you said?" I inquired mildly, lips frozen much too close at the pulse of her neck.
"The dark-haired one, the one on the left," she sighed, hugging her arms around herself in glee. "Oh, he is beautiful, don't you think?"
Hm. My eyebrows knitted together, an automatic gesture.
"Yes…yes, he is beautiful," I said carefully, watching her face. She only beamed, rocking a little from side to side.
"I've been in love with him for months," she murmured.
I almost choked out loud.
It took every ounce of my self-control not to plunge my teeth into her right there and then – how dare she! How dare she speak about him that way! How dare she feel – she – she – a mere human – this meal I was about to devour! – how dare she, how dare she…I couldn't believe it…
"- Didyme?" a trilling little voice murmured, whilst a warm hand touched one of my trembling ones. "Didyme, are…are you quite all right?"
I took a deep breath. Closed my eyes. Fixed them again on that perfect, angel-face.
Smiled the widest, sweetest, most smouldering smile I could muster.
"Yes," I answered the blonde still gazing at me with saucer-wide eyes. "Yes, I'm quite all right, thank you. Quite all right."
Quite all right…
I gave her time to nod, to let out her breath in a sigh of relief, open her mouth just a half-inch to speak – before slamming her hand down against the floor beneath us with enough force to break every tiny, pathetic twig of a bone in her fingers, splintering boards and shattering wood.
"Oh!" she gasped.
"Oh," I hissed, half-mimicked the word back at her; Caius had done so to me, only days ago, and I hoped for the same affect. "Oh. Such a surprise I have given you, such a shock! Well, let me tell you, human, I have another one for you, oh, a positive revelation on the way, so hear me well, I shall notbe repeating this for you!"
She whimpered, clutching her hand against her chest. Below us, several heads turned up – oh no – I threw myself sideways, dragging her with me, but not before I'd seen Chelsea frowning, Corin gasping…
…Aro raising those familiar thin, inky-black eyebrows high enough to disappear into his hairline…
Oh gods, gods, gods!
"You listen to me," I hissed at the blonde, struggling to spit as much venom into each word as I could; anger did not come naturally to me, any more than it did to brother. "That man – that man! – is mine, do you hear me? Mine! My wish is his command, my every desire is his to fulfil, my orders his to carry out! Marcus loves me, adores me, worships me more than he ever could you or anyone else! Is that clear?"
Another whimper. A frantic, bobbing little nod. A squeak of pure terror as I caught her wrist, pulled her to me, more than ready to bite –
"Y-y-yes, it's clear!" she squealed. "Y-yes, Didyme, of course, but – but -!"
"Didyme, w-what…w-w-what…w-what did you c-call…him…?"
My eyes darted downwards for the briefest of instants. They couldn't see us now,but who knew how much they had heard, or how soon brother would be up here, all smiles and amusement, pleasantly informing me that I was confined to the tower for the next five centuries…
What did you call him…
"Marcus, of course," I snapped, not looking at her. "Who else?"
There was a very long beat of silence.
Then impossibly, incredulously…she started to laugh. Not a giggle, not even a titter, this time. A laugh. The sound burst from her lips, bubbled like a stream, playful and pure and sweet as a little girl – so beautiful it made my insides writhe with jealousy.
"There is nothingeven the slightest bit funny about this!" I hissed, but she only laughed louder, longer, her head flopping against my shoulder – I jerked away, my fingers leaving plum-coloured bruises on her wrist.
"Oh dear – oh no!" she choked through her mirth, shaking her head in disbelief – though there were tears in her eyes, tears of pain as well as laughter, whilst she clutched her crushed hand against her chest. "No, Didyme, oh dear, not that one!"
She pulled me to the hole again, hands feeble as butterfly wings on my shoulders, breath sweeping out in a tearful sigh as she pointed across the room – and it was only then that I realised it Marcus wasn't seated in his usual chair, because…
"…that one," she gushed reverently, fingers settling not on Marcus's face, but on…on…
"…I…beg your pardon?" My voice was faint, barely gasping the question for the second time that morning, because she couldn't…she couldn't mean…?
"Him, of course." The blonde shrugged cautiously, squeezing my hand between hers; the one still in working order, that was. "Aro. That is his name, isn't it? I do hope I got it right. It's so hard understanding – to understand, I mean, what they're all saying – from up here…isn't it…?"
I couldn't speak. Couldn't seem to close my mouth. That was…this was…
…oh, this was…priceless…
I almost choked out loud with a mixture of horror and delight. The very idea! My own brother…my brother…
Gods, Aro, I'm going to have so much fun with you later…
"…well…!" I spluttered, realising the blonde wasn't even watching me anymore – she had gone back to ogling the scene below with glassy sapphire eyes, lost in a dream again, though tears still streaked her face, and her hand was flushing ruby, uneven blotches swelling under the skin where I'd broken it. "Well…I…oh dear…"
"It's all right," she sniffled, trying to smile at me. She gestured to her flaming hand. "I really have had worse, I promise you. And I don't think it's broken. I'm not sure." She hiccoughed a titter, not looking at me.
I bit my lip. Hm. Marcus didn't like prolonging human sufferings unnecessarily like Caius and his wife did. Of course, I could persuade him otherwise, if I wished, but…but…
"I apologize. I have rather…strong grip." The words blurted out. I tossed back my hair, pretending to examine the scene below us again. The blonde sighed, dabbing her eyes delicately with one angel-white sleeve.
"It is silly, I suppose. I mean…anyonewould want him. Such a gentlemen – the way he treats them all, like every one truly matters to him. And oh, he is beautiful, simply heavenly to look at. Don't you think so?"
I covered my mouth to hide my grin – oh brother, if only you could hear this…
"It must be impossible though, mustn't it? To be with him, I mean." She shook her head forlornly, curls bouncing. "I mean, I don't even know how to get inside his house…"
"Mm-hm," I murmured, distracted by the scene below us again. She continued to chatter on, but I did not listen. Marcus was being monopolized again; Chelsea's long, long lashes batting inches from his as she whispered something I couldn't catch to him…ugh…stupid blonde one. Blonde one.
…now…wait a second…
I took a look at my brother; laughing that shrill, unnerving stream of laughter we had both unfortunately been blessed with. Then at the simpering, golden-haired nincompoop still eyeing him up dreamily beside me.
My head shook once, side to side; automatic, incredulous. No. No. She was right. There was no way, no possibility. Brother wasn'tsearching for a mate – the very idea made me want to collapse into giggles – he was searching for an ally. A strong, new ally, the likes of which he had lost in me so recently. Nothing more. No, there wasn't a chance, wasn't even the faintest inkling of a chance…
…if all he was truly after was a simple devotee, someone to vote on his side, someone he could count on at all costs…someone without the capacity to abandon him like I had; outgrow their simplicity, their childishness, their blind devotion…
…and I wouldn't put that past her…
I remembered how he had promised to keep Chelsea in check this morning. Hm. Thank you once again for nothing, brother.
The golden head bobbed up, bluebell eyes on mine. She smiled a moment – inched closer – then paddled an arm through mine.
"You never know," she murmured. "You can always keep waiting on fate and dreams and all that, can't you?" She heaved a sigh. "Well, I know I can. Wait forever and ever and ever, the longest time it takes. And it does feel so much better, being able to share all this with someone. Oh Didyme, I'm so happy we have met. Aren't you?"
I closed my eyes, sinking back against the attic wall. All right, brother. You want to replace me. Find yourself a new second-vote of your very own. Well. Guess what?
I opened my eyes. Smoothed back my hair. Hesitated – then raised my head, jutting my chin.
"Oh yes," I answered the blonde brightly, and I turned to smile at her, beam at her. "Yes, my friend, my…dear new friend –"
"- it's Sulpicia, really –"
"Sulpicia." I beamed. "Yes. Yes, I am."
I stood up, pulling her with me. Her eyebrows raised the tiniest bit, but she nodded all the same, evidently pleased. I flashed her another smile. Dazzling. The smile every man under my brother's rule would fight tooth and claw to be the object of. The smile reserved for occasion. The smile reserved for Marcus.
She blinked at me, a baby rabbit caught in the lights of a hunting party. Oh, dear.
"Come," I ordered, letting one arm settle around her waist, the other flip back a little tumble of curls. First impressions, it was always those first impressions. "I injured your poor hand. I want to make it up to you. Let me take you to meet someone, a brother of mine. I'm sure you will two get on just…famously."
Her protests were feeble, half-formed and flustered; stammering a little 'o-oh' of breath as I tugged her to my side and into the brisk beginnings of a half-walk, half-drag out the attic and onto the roof again. I shook my head in amusement. Humans really could be so entertaining, sometimes. Her heartbeat sped, freshening thick pumps of blood through veins and under skin that was so terribly, deliciously thin under mine. I swallowed venom and smiled.
Mm…maybe. Then again, maybe not. We would see.
And if not…well. I would most certainly enjoy her. At least this little trip would be something to while the morning minutes away, this never-ending watching and waiting, this century-long struggle of politics and warfare...
Sighing under my breath, I headed down the roof for the window; head held high, breath held fast, smile stretched wide…and the blonde one – the blonde one…tucked neatly under my arm.
This piece is dedicated to fanfiction author Kyilliki, a truly magnificent writer capable of doing things with words that no other writer could ever hope to match. Happy Christmas, Kyilliki :)