pospreterito: young man in black with a red tie against a red wall ({personal} ..ph swag)
[ pos.pɾe'te.ɾi.to ] ([personal profile] pospreterito) wrote in [community profile] copreterito2012-01-05 05:57 pm

{bracketverse, 31_days} in the future, the past is just the past

Title: in the future, the past is just the past
Rating: PG13 on the outside (swearing, talk of death)
Wordcount: 2,172
Story / World: bracketverse
Challenge: [livejournal.com profile] 31_days: January 04 2012, self-portraits seldom seen
Other: Plenipotentiary etc. etc. could serve as supplement to etc. etc. consistent with etc. etc. I know what I'm doing no really etc. etc.
Characters: Cosma Noline, some cameos and mentions through the ages
Notes: Cosma makes me sad sometimes. It's disconcerting.


you know that i am not unkind when i say, "in the future, the past is just the past"
no going back, no change of heart; but this is now, time will not defer

She thinks magic must be somewhere she can find, really. Eventually. Brute force, the doctrine Ciel preaches on a fever of thirty-six hours awake with his hair hanging in his face until she starts pinning it back with barrettes. Sometimes he doesn't notice and he goes to school like that, covered in haphazardly-placed pink and yellow flowers she doesn't really like anyway, it's awesome.

Cosma folds her arms, looks down at her skinned knees, and frowns. Her point was... her point was, yeah. She endeavours to be entirely unlike her brother and find another world through cleverness and constant vigilance, and when she finds it she's going to force it to take her in.

God knows what she'll do after that.

At this point she's fairly sure that she has definitively established an utter absence of what she looks for in this park: no nymphs and no dryads, no secret gates, no faerie circles, no secret meetings taking place at times before when she has to go home on school nights. She's had twelve years to work it out, four in which she was actually paying attention.

And now they're moving and she's afraid in a way that nips cold at her elbows and the backs of her ankles with a promise of fear and regret to come visit, maybe to stay: what if she's missed something, what if her only chance has passed her by and now she'll never be forgiven? What then?

Hope, she figures, and squares her shoulders against the hateful onslaught that seems to have forgotten to show up outside of her head. All she has to hand are trees scattered strategically far away from each other by some careful plan but long-neglected, and a bench, rusted metal and splintery wooden slats. She leaps off of her mossy rock and marches puposefully towards the bench.

It's not like anyone sits on it, anyway.

Her skirt's flapping at her ankles once again, properly, and she informs herself that the comfort she feels stems only from that it will hide her knees and that it would not do for anyone to know how badly she's tripped. Weakness, after all, is not to be shared or known by others, and oh god she really hates falling down.

By the time Ciel calls her, hoarse and slightly panicked with how long he waited to (she wonders what, or who, distracted him), there's nary a hitch in her step. No one ever sits on that bench, you'd have to be drunk or stupid or waif-light and splinter-proof to, but it's graced with an ornate c now. She is so, so pleased with how it came out, scored a good inch deep and signed with a white-out flourish. The practice on desks at school, trees, the occasional wall, always when no one's looking, has paid off.

She dated it, too. On principle.

They set off tomorrow and she hasn't packed but at least now she has one more thing to leave behind.

(In five years the park is remodeled, overhauled and redesigned, nothing left of how she knew it whatsoever -- but by then Cosma Noline is long gone, too.)

*

Her fingers ache from stitching and she's pretty sure she has actual burns from the fascinating probably-illegal glue she's using. (The fumes seem like the kind of thing her social studies teacher gets them to sign petitions against, outlawed in third-world countries and self-inflicted as narcotics in first. Something like that. They made her head swim, but she's had worse, she's had chloroform, you don't really get worse than that.) Cosma could probably just clasp her hands and will it all together -- and she's considered it for the beading, the embroidered bits she immediately regretted, the sewing, all of it -- but everyone would know and like as not it would all come apart by the vindictiveness of someone who noticed.

And in hindsight she could have paid someone else to do it, she supposes, seamstresses and tailors are things (people) that (who) exist, but she has negative any money and that would get her counted dishonourably too. Not to mention that even then it would probably be visible. It's a kind of lie, when tradition is entirely DIY or so help you, and she always feels like she can't even speak to tell the truth around the Mother of Lies. And if she doesn't do all of this herself Ciel will just grin at her, and.

She can't stand the way her brother grins when he knows something she doesn't, there's no need to give him more reasons than his post to do it.

The dress is almost done, though, and Tulio (she rolls her eyes and twitches a correction, yes okay fine, the Lord Metallurge, whatever) is obliged by honour and custom to help her make a ring. And a necklace, and earrings, she's resolved -- Cosma loves her sigil so much, it is the best sigil, she outright pities everyone else for not having hers and so anyone she meets ought to know. After all, she's done something worthy of accolades, finally, something more than being better than dunces she could trounce in her sleep.

Cosma's so happy, actually, for once. It's crept up on her in the guises of too much work and too much bad news and she doesn't know when she realised, it wasn't that important, but she is glad. Constantly. If she shakes her head her hair's a solid spill of ink-black and chalk-white (let no one say she doesn't advertise her status, let no one say Cosma Noline does not inform), she doesn't need a thimble for her butterfly-delicate needle when she can just will her skin closed, and in front of her is a dress so black it absorbs light with a spill of cosmos-bright beads that have taken her a solid year. If anyone makes anything go wrong she's going to cut off their fingers and blight their eyes and be happy anyway. Compared to this, even graduating wasn't anything at all.

Officially she's just getting sworn like anyone else would, and in fact later than some. It can't be helped, she thinks she's heard people say -- stupid bastards, has no one ever taught them to be quieter with their scorn? It's like the first thing she ever learned, herself -- and that's just wrong of them, because it's not her fault they've not done like she did, everyone's born to just half the world and that doesn't mean you have to lie down and take it. She didn't.

Everyone knows the difference between her and the others. Everyone. If they don't she'll have them know, she thinks. Cosma is not subtle with the things she's proud of -- why should and why would she ever be? Everyone should know. Otherwise she wouldn't be proud of it, if it wasn't something everyone ought to know.

Lately she's been tracing it out, point point point point perfect circle, without even noticing.

It's such a good sign.

She stands and shakes the dress out, carelessly, not minding the way her bowls of extra beads go flying: she knows she's done, she's finished, the four-pointed primary Compass star and circle are staring back at her as neat as could be.

There's been none Unknown for a while -- too long, as it happens, as she knows in her bones with her heart in her throat. They'll have her for longer than is healthy, too, and Cosma doesn't even know what she can do about that. Abdicate after a century and a half, come back under a different name and glamour she wouldn't let slip? She strikes a blue streak through her hair for emphasis and wonders for the first time really if under the mistmask the Aleph Arianna always wore was anyone to recognise.

Probably not. She'll never know, now.

The Island Star belongs to a specific family of sigils, she knows academically, and can more or less be pinpointed in age and in purpose. (The Twelve haven't always existed, but they haven't not existed, either. It's complicated. Ciel probably knows and just as probably won't answer if she asks.) It looks like it belongs on a gate in wrought iron, to her, strong graceful arcs and points. It looks like it could cut.

Direction, isolation, guidance. No one's used it who wasn't the Unknown of the Twelve for centuries.

Something about this has got to be ironic, really. She certainly knows her brother Aleph concurs, mumbles it in coughs and discomfort, but Cosma has never cared what Ciel thinks and isn't going to start giving him undue credence now.

Lately she's been brushing up on temperature, on healing, just in case the Weathervane decides to pull anything she thinks is interesting and funny. Cosma has heard stories from Arcturus, after all, she helped him bandage a burn that sketched black ceramic scars onto the literal bone, she's not going to discount that.

But really she's proud enough to be the Unknown Lady that she wouldn't actually mind having her Island Star -- hers, hers, no one can have it now, no one at all -- scarred onto her skin and her bones and her blood.

It's kind of already there.

*

It would be graceless of her, Cosma reminds herself -- a lot -- really a lot -- to complain to Ciel about the results of his reform. They're better than chaos (a little). They were special circumstances (that between the two of them could have been avoided entirely if the Lord Aleph had done his actual job earlier). It could be worse (or a great deal better).

She's been frustrated and sad for far too long, weighted down by the dead and the lost that her brother's been so kind to leave her with. Not literally -- that's Margaret, blank sallow spectre Margaret, Margaret who Cosma knew before as someone brighter than her patron star -- but figuratively, because no one else has been bothering to mourn and it's stupid and hard, having it all left to one person.

Mourning isn't even her job. It's naught to do with her post, not really, not unless things are very broken indeed and even to pay due respects to the righteous and the blameless dead approaches revolutionary. But these days to take the name of her post is a mockery too, and she was so proud of it, so pleased, but -- what good's the opposition when there's nothing to oppose? Very, very fundamentally, these days, she's just alone.

And in the end it's nothing she does deliberately, not really, but these days there's no need for the Unknown Lady, no need for the system of twelves at all. That's gone and she has to accept it, even if she still counts everything in sixes and blinks away tears every now and then at blameless, blameless imagery that sparks the wrong thoughts and sends her tumbling down again.

(It must look very, very pathetic, to the young who were born after the revolution -- it's bitter and funny, the fact that she can complain of teenagers when she still gets asked for ID on any pretence, 'Miss', because it's not for anyone to know that she is very, very old and getting older every day -- she must look weak, to those who haven't lost almost everything they know and gotten what was kept back in a form they don't even like. But she lost her system and she lost her peers and she lost her inferiors and she lost her brother. They can deal with it.)

There's no need for the Unknown Lady or for the lords and ladies at all, and she's pretty sure everyone has noticed it. Language lapses when not enforced and she doesn't really mind.

There's no Unknown Lady to oppose the Twelve, no island off the coast of what's conventional, because there's no Twelve to work against and no order to be an alternative to. There's no lords and no ladies and so, so many people who are alive and fine and don't even miss what she's lost firsthand.

In the end she doesn't notice that she stopped being the Unknown long and long ago. She's Cosma Noline, she supposes, but she only uses her surname on the other side, too. Just Cosma, who everyone knows and no one can explain.

Maybe she's okay with that.

She picks up the Queen Navegant like an afterthought, as an afterthought, a brooch left abandoned in a house that's been endeavouring to fall since before it was built when she finds herself there by chance, but it feels more right than her name.

One day she'll lose her name, after all, like she's lost her title and her post and her beloved sigil. One day she'll lose the Navegant.

But one day she'll lose everything, too, and Ciel doesn't have that.

Being better-off than one person is still quite good enough.

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