A Brush with Madness

Kendall and Margot land in a tumbled and rumpled knot of legs and arms, to lie breathlessly for several heartbeats until some sense of up and down could return. He takes this opportunity to shift back to his human form, so she is the first to recover her voice. “Are you alright?" she whispers urgently.

He levers himself up on one arm to look down at her. Blue eyes that glitter with swirling emotion meet wide and startled blue, and he barks a short laugh. "It all depends on your definition,” he answers in a clipped, cold voice. “I live, and so do you. For the present."

Responding to the excitement of near death, she leans up to kiss him, no longer caring who saw. Her body thrills to feel his so close, his enthusiastic response only increasing her ardor. Her fingers tangle in the shredded material of his robe as he bears her back against the soft loam and envelopes her lips with his. The kiss lasts a small eternity, and her heart is still pounding when finally they break apart.

She stares up at him with a smile wreathing her face. "We need to find you new robes,” she says.

"Not to worry. All will be attended to," he replies, dismissive of the concern.

His voice is hard and chill, and he gives her a smile to match as he toys with her gown at the shoulder. He pulls the fabric away from its tenuous perch and kisses the skin there, tasting her shoulder and neck. She mews in pleasure at the sensation of his warm breath against her skin, her fingers stroking his back and hair as her body cradled his. She wanted to tell him how proud she was of him, how disgusted she was with his father, but such words seemed out of place here and clinging to hate was not what they needed.

He purrs against her and trails kisses up towards her ear. "Now may be the last opportunity for us, my sweet," he whispers, beginning to move his clothing aside. "If you desire a child by me."

"It will not be," she answers with complete certainty in her soft, longing breath. “Not the last opportunity, nor the last child. We will have many years of life together. Give me a child because you desire so in your heart."

Kendall's quiet laugh chills her with its cold and mocking edge. "My heart is dead, Margot," he answers softly in her ear.

Hands against his chest press him back so she can search his eyes, realizing something is not quite right, but not able to identify exactly what. He returns her stare with a little smile turning his mouth upward, but it feels as if she's looking at someone she knows at an angle — everything is familiar, but something in his eyes and his smile make her heart flutter.

"Why would you say that?” she asks just as softly.

"Less talk," he answers, and then leans down to claim her lips with his again.

"Kendall… please. You're— You're hurting me.” She moves her head away from his and turns to her side so she can face him, feeling uncertainty pricking her heart. Never before had she felt unsafe with him, yet right now she did not wish to lie pinned below his greater weight.

He moves away at her behest and lies carelessly in the dirt next to her. He runs fingers through his tousled and dusty hair, and then turns to lean on both elbows with his face lifted toward the dark ceiling above. Beyond him, the shades of the future seem dimmer this trip, perhaps because neither lord nor princess are paying them any mind. Yet they all seem to involve Margot, with Kendall nowhere to be seen.

"This isn't the answer. Talk to me. Please," she pleads. "We have just escaped death or worse. Because of you. We should be feeling elation and warmth. Why are you being so, so—" She stammers and pauses to swallow and take a breath.

"I am your sweet, your shay'na,” she insists softly, regaining her voice. “If your heart is truly dead, why would you have saved me? I love you with all that I am and will do anything for you, but I will not be merely a vessel to prove some misguided point. I want to give you a child because of the bond we share."

"No matter, then," he mutters, though he sounds a little disappointed. He stands and straightens his tattered clothes. "I still have an obligation to you, Margot, no matter the state of my heart. I will see you safely beyond Chanicut, if I can, before I go."

"Before you go where? Kendall!" She climbs to her knees before him and takes his hands in hers. "Please. Look at me. Talk to me. I stood by your side and will continue to do so. I do want to bear your child, but out of love and passion, not indifference or obligation. Explain to me what is going on so I may help you."

He looks at her with an expression of puzzlement, as though he's trying to remember something that continues to elude him. He shakes loose one hand from her so fingers can tease the loose locks of hair around her face, and he crouches down in front of her so their faces are at a level. She caresses his cheek, trying to hide the worry in her eyes.

"To see Lord Serpent," he says in his matter-of-fact tone. "That's where I'm going, and you can't go with me. We're unlikely ever to see each other again, because I will most likely die." His eerie smile reappears.

"What? Why?" she asks, her heart constricting in fear. "Why am I unable to walk with you to the Lord Serpent? What if— What if I, too, wish an audience? Would it not be easiest for me to achieve that escorted by a Lord from an Ancient House?" Not knowing what to do with her anxious energy, or how to reach him with mere words, she leans close to kiss him feverishly in hopes of speaking through her passion.

"Oh!" he exclaims after they kiss. "You are interested after all? Good." He stands up again, tugging her up with him. He looks around the island garden, which was furnished with only a bench or two and the gazebo structure.

"Perhaps not here after all," he decides. "But we shall arrive soon. We can find something more comfortable. You don't want to see Lord Serpent, Margot. The most common result is death. I could die from exposure to the Abyss, from being eaten by wild beasties, or from being eaten by Lord Serpent." He sighs and some tension drains from his shoulders, making him look suddenly weary.

"That is hardly an experience to be enjoyed alone," Margot suggests softly. "And I'm anything but Common. If we're together, Fate has only one choice but to smile upon us. You never have to endure or overcome anything alone again."

"You say such pretty things," he says, looking towards the approaching tunnel entrance. "But you can't go with me this time. You have to find your own way to the Abyss. You can ask Dara about it."

His expression takes on a childlike solemnity, and he looks into her eyes with his hands on her shoulders. "I'm sorry, Margot. This wasn't the way things were supposed to work out. Not with my House, or with you. I'm sorry to leave you on your own, but it's probably the best. Dara will make you a proper lady of Chaos. Heartless, efficient, and deadly. I would just spoil you."

Sadness fills her eyes. "I don't want to be just any Lady of Chaos, I want to be your Lady. You don't have to do this. You don't have to leave me alone and I won't abandon you."

"I have said I will face Lord Serpent," he says, voice just above a whisper. "Would you have those words — my words — become a lie?"

"No, of course not," she answers, stroking his cheek with tender fingers. "But I'll not have you so easily sacrificed."

"Then I see our paths diverging," he answers, the light of madness in his eyes dimming as he looks down at her. "Mine is a dark road that leads to the Abyss. Yours will wend a different way. Our paths may join again in the future, but the chances of that are slim, shay'na. Not impossible, true, yet I will not mislead you with false assurances and empty promises."

"They are not diverging; merely twisting and turning," she returns with a lover's gentleness. She leans close to lay her lips to his neck, sampling the taste of him and feeling the pulsing of his heart. "A child will only strengthen that bond. Not even the Serpent will be able to sever our connection."

"Very well, Margot," he agrees as the island slows to a stop. The bridge back to the chamber builds itself brick by brick while he gives her an elaborate bow. A secretive smile plays on his face. "The time has come to step upon our individual paths. Shall we go?"

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Beyond Obligation

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