Story: Heroes of the Revolution (Divide & Rule)
Flavor(s): Chocolate #19 (solitude), Papaya #27 (wrapped around my finger), Sangria #25 (I don’t need my freedom when I’m dead)
Toppings/Extras: Malt – Birthday prompt ("I broke my bones playing games with you." - roisin_farrell) + Gummy Bunnies (for hc_bingo square “broken bones”).
Word Count: 1827
Notes: 1961; Julia Graves(/Edward Iveson). (Warnings for death, suicide, imprisonment, madness, abandonment, general angst. I’ve been hanging onto this for a while because it refs some plotty things that I haven’t written yet, but I think only so briefly that I may as well post it. I knew I had to write Julia’s fate, but didn’t know quite how to do it until I got the birthday prompt above & it all fell into place.)
Summary: Julia is left here alone after all the games have been played out.
She’s locked away, alone. It’s better that way, she knows. The alternative is not freedom; the alternative is to destroy what fragments remain of everything they built together, she and Edward. That’s the price of a trial, a lawful prison, maybe a swift end, any sort of return to Emily: let the world know what fools and traitors they were. Better to stay in here; better for Emily to have questions than those answers.
How could she explain that it was never like that; that it was always a love story wrapped inside a game? They would never understand; they would be right to point out the truth. The reasons for betrayal and treachery and war don’t matter in the end. It doesn’t make it better for everyone else that they never meant it to work out this way.
So, she’s here, after all the games have ended; here alone. Her world is limited to this pair of tiny rooms – occasional walks down the corridor – it’s bounded in and shrunk to nothing. Shut away, isolated like this, she’ll go mad, she knows.
They’ve locked her in, not alone after all; they’ve locked her in with the grief she’s kept one step ahead of till now – so much to do, the world to save. There was no time to dwell on anything else. And now the world is lost, and she has nothing but time. She’d been stopped, waiting for the fall, and now it comes; she’s crushed to pieces on the rocks and breakers.
She has all the time in the world to close her eyes and see again –
(but no, not that)
She sees again –
She holds the gun, but she doesn’t pull the trigger.
(That was still the right thing, he says, when she closes her eyes and pictures him there. It couldn’t have made much difference, not then. It might have been worse.)
They take her away, and all she can think is that now she can’t go back to Emily. The real world has solid cells, and no daring escapes. She pushes that thought away. She may think of the rest; she may call up ghosts and try and twist her madness to her whims, but not that: Emily is alive, and she won’t bring her into this, not even only in her mind. She’s committed enough crimes, but not yet that.
I killed you, she says, quite calmly. It’s not morbid guilt; it’s the truth, just as true as to say he killed himself. The fault belongs to them both, but she knows to the minute the point at which she could have spared them both this fate.
She says it out loud, before she loses the power of speech: “I killed you.” She couldn’t take that gun and kill Hallam, but she could take a piece of paper and kill Edward.
She’d been angry over what they wanted to do; they both had. Too many bombs had fallen already, too many people had died, no need to add more to their number. But the brave thing to do would have been to bring that out into the light and take the consequences. The prudent thing to do would have been to never even to try.
Julia shuts her eyes again, lying on the bunk. She clenches her fists and hopes that maybe she’s bleeding to death from an old, unseen wound.
You might as well say that I killed you. He’s perched on the edge of the bed now, she’s sure he is. She can almost feel the lightest touch of his fingers on her hair.
It’s true, of course. It’s always been true, but, she thinks, not the way she did it that day. She remembers: fearing someone might be listening, watching even, in this grand old house, this borrowed splendour, so she kisses him, tells him under her breath what she has in mind. She finally makes the move that was supposed to be hers at the start.
At the start, it’s simple: she hates her life and plays the game to see where it will take her. It’s far more mercenary than she ever likes to admit to him.
No, no – at the start, it’s simple: she sees him, the way she never did in Berlin, blinded by grief. She can remember his hand on her shoulder; she remembers the kindness in his eyes. She doesn’t know why he’s playing with her now, when he knows what she’s supposed to be doing, but she matches him move for move.
It’s a game she begins to think she can win; she can have him defeated and at her mercy; she can have him.
Of course, it’s not like that. It’s a game they both lose, will always lose, gladly, helplessly, forever.
She lets out a painful breath at the thought and says into the dark that maybe isn’t really night, I love you. Don’t think that I didn’t.
She can almost feel him grip her hand – he’s kneeling by the bunk, he must be – and give the ghost of a kiss to the back of her hand. Are you sure, Julia?
“You win,” she says. His last move was unfair; that’s how he wins. All his moves were always unfair, none more so than that. She plays games that are straight-forward and well-known; his are something arcane and unheard of and she doesn’t know the rules, but it never mattered much till now.
The sound of her voice only betrays the silence in the room.
How unfair he is – it’s like this –
She thinks, before she meets him, that love is an illusion; the end result always disillusionment. He offers her only the charade of a marriage and then teaches her how to love, drawing her in with the lightest of touches. He never shows her how to stop.
She wonders: does Edward even know that anyway? She doesn’t think he does, not truly.
When she closes her eyes, he sits on the bed, leaning over her, putting a hand to her cheek. She doesn’t need to look to see the wry amusement in his face.
Don’t be ridiculous, Julia, he says.
She shakes her head; keeps her eyes closed, holding her breath, hanging onto the illusion. No, no, you don’t understand. You never did.
She knows, of course, has always known, this is how it goes: when you love someone, you lose them, they go away. She accepted what the cost would be long ago, how can she complain now the time has come to settle the account?
Do you come with a curse? Edward asked once, long ago. And: yes, yes, she thinks. Don’t we all?
True, he says in return.
She’s not sorry, though. She won’t ever be sorry for it.
She thinks sometimes that she isn’t a very good person, not as moral as she should be. Edward, she believes, is, ironic as that seems after what he’s done. The difference is that she can live with her crimes while he can’t.
She remembers –
She walks into the study at Donningford as he puts down the telephone. The event is over and she played her role as perfectly as ever. Now, she wants her reward. She wants, sometimes at least, to be of greater than national importance to the Foreign Secretary.
“Another crisis?” she asks as she reaches him.
He shakes his head, though he’s already turning slightly aside to jot down some notes.
“Then let it wait,” she says. “Everyone else has gone.” (Everyone who counts, she means, not the remaining staff and the man who’s in charge of security this time). “It’s just us.” She doesn’t move any nearer; she doesn’t touch him. She waits with a smile, and wins him over with nothing more.
She feels his arms around her in the darkness, as they’re lying on the bunk. She can’t turn to see him, though. She can’t think why. It doesn’t matter; she knows he’s here and it’s all right.
Julia, he says in her ear, Julia –
The bunk is too narrow for both of them, she thinks in sudden panic that she can’t explain. He’s holding her too tightly; she can’t breathe –
She wakes, opening her eyes to more darkness before she falls back into more drowsy confusion, a whole host of other people coming between them by turn.
When she wakes again, her head is clearer. Only feverish dreams, she realises, the thin, unfriendly bedclothes pinned too closely about her, damp from sweating out a temperature. She’s still very much herself, shaken but less confused. She’s a long way from madness yet, and Edward – Edward is not here.
For the first time in ages, she cries into the pillow and the truth comes with her tears.
She can’t hide from it now: she sees again –
Edward is dead, head down on his desk in the study. She doesn’t need to look closer; she doesn’t need to touch him: he’s so utterly still in a way he never was in life. There is no light left in him.
She burrows her head into the lumpy pillow again, trying to block out the memory, but there is no way she can.
Edward is dead and she has received her mortal wound; all her bones are broken. It’s only a matter of time before she follows him.
(One can recover, of course; she hears it can be done – but not like this, not locked away alone. You can’t move forward when you can’t move, can barely even breathe.)
The pain of it isn’t like a dagger to the heart; that would be quick and clean. It’s like a pointed piece of glass that breaks and splinters; she’s bleeding everywhere – one deep wound, but endless cuts and shards that work their way into her heart and mind.
She closes her eyes and tries to ignore it, tries to go back. Ned, she says, but there’s nothing again. She is herself, still, only now she’s faced the truth and laid the ghost and she can’t bring him back.
It’s not the way she breaks inside that hurts the most; it’s the way she can’t quite shatter fully after all. He’s gone, and she’s still here.
She opens her eyes and sits up. She’s in a small room. It’s not really a cell. She’s not sure what it must have been before and doesn’t really care. There’s a narrow bed, two bunks, not much else, other than a tiny washroom that’s not much more than a cupboard.
They don’t really want her here. They’ll kill her quietly, one way or another. Her health will decline in here, or they’re waiting till they’re sure she’s forgotten to kill her in silence. Maybe they will forget her, or be killed in the fighting and she’ll starve to death. Maybe she’ll just fade away; maybe it can happen like that.
It won’t take forever. All she has to do is wait.