pospreterito: two clasped hands; words: "THE DECEMBERISTS" ({music} ..decemberists feeling 'round)
[ pos.pɾe'te.ɾi.to ] ([personal profile] pospreterito) wrote in [community profile] copreterito2012-04-06 05:46 pm

{bracketverse, 31_days} and if you ever make it to ten you won't make it again

Title: and if you ever make it to ten you won’t make it again
Rating: PG?
Wordcount: 728
Story / World: bracketverse
Challenge: [livejournal.com profile] 31_days: January 10 2012, I’m only saved ‘cause I’m tired of sin
Other: Before Chondrilla juncea.
Characters: January Salt, Cosma Noline.
Notes: Comfortable body temperature for January is somewhere around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. She does somewhat broadcast what she is. And a commonality between Cosma and her brother: being human takes some extra effort. She’s better at multitasking, generally, but it’s still a task (or, if you prefer, it’s still tasking).

and it's seven, eight, nine, you get your shuffle back in line
and if you ever make it to ten you won't make it again

Scritch scritch scritch scritch.

The ball-point pens Cosma insists on using seem to run out even before she starts them and the ink gets all over her fingers. They scratch nastily over paper, too. January takes her breaks in the basement anyway, sits on Cosma's cut-up drafting table and listens to the sound and doesn 't think.

"Hand," the Witch says.

January sticks her right arm out and ignores as best she can the new cut across her fingertip. She wonders where Cosma even got all her kit. Did she break into a laboratory?

"Thank you," Cosma mumbles at her book. She always says it like she's not used to the words. After a moment she remembers to put the top on the petri dish of January's blood. Then she gets distracted spinning it around against the light.

Whether January will ever stop thinking it's funny that the Untitled Lady herself needs an Outsider lamp to use as a focus for a spell of illumination January herself could probably manage in a pinch is undetermined. All signs point to no, though.

Scritch scritch scritch.

If she listens hard enough she can hear the ceaseless bustle of upstairs, rendered down to a susurrus. It's oddly comforting.

"Arianna used the Hebrew letter Aleph for her emblem?" Cosma says, and January startles.

"What? Yes."

"Any reason why? Do you know?" Cosma's actually turned to look at her.

If January knew more about birds she'd find the right bird of prey to make a simile with; having Cosma look at her tends to make her uncomfortable, even now. Her eyes are the colour of brand-new clots. January thinks of the now-stable patient she left, of how he looked with the skin missing from his arms.


"Shame. Okay." Cosma ducks her head down again, drapes her hair (today it's white and black and auburn where her fingers have touched) back across the table. "Thank you," she adds, like an afterthought.

Scritch scritch.

January's counting minutes against her teeth and wondering if the way Tabot fixes his own skin could be adapted for baseline humans and how she'll find Tabot and how much the Healers will have to expand if the murmurs of animosity between the Fetch kids and the Court get worse when Cosma taps her wrist and drives pretty much every thought out of her head.

"Um," January says after a second. Cosma hasn't moved her fingers. They're pale for anyone, the colour of someone who's not even on nodding terms with the sun, olive underneath that. Compared to January herself she might as well be ink-black.

"You're chalk, right?" Cosma asks, and doesn't wait for a reply. "Someone broke it."

A near-shout of "I do know that" bursts out of January somehow, incensed, "I happen to have noticed, yes--"

"I think I could fix it," Cosma says, same monotone drawl as ever. When January turns to look at her, speechless, she just brushes one of the Healer's braids back behind her ear.

About a thousand possible retorts flash through January's head. Very few are even ones she can consider. While she's thinking about it, "Um" falls out of her mouth again.

She really ought to keep more of an eye on what she's saying.

"Would you like me to?" Cosma asks, looking up at her properly, wide-eyed and almost earnest.

January thinks about the white abyss in the back of her head, she thinks about the occasional panicked rush of magic enough adrenaline can dislodge, she thinks about throwing herself off a seven-story building. She thinks about the first person who asked her. She thinks about how no one who looks like her ever seems to live very long.

She thinks about Cosma Noline's too-warm hand against the back of her neck, and about the Witch's brother.

She thinks about remembering to breathe, after a moment.

"I'm good, thanks," January says.

"Okay," Cosma says. She lets her go.

It occurs to January that she's been awake twenty-two hours, and that she is tired. She slides off the table, pauses by the staircase.

"I'm going upstairs. Do you--"

"I'm fine," Cosma says, not looking at her. She's turning the petri dish around in her hands again, trying to catch some light or other, failing so far.

January goes back to thinking about stolen butterfly needles and skin transplants.

bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)

[personal profile] bookblather 2012-04-07 02:40 am (UTC)(link)
Cosma is definitely making the effort here, and I like that I can see her making the effort; like she's trying really hard but I can see that it's an effort.