Title: Sunrise on the World’s Edge
Fandom: The Chronicles of Chrestomanci
Prompt: [Dec 30: Your Lips Are Like a Crimson Thread], ‘Wandering’ on ame_soeur, #31 - Sunrise
Disclaimer: The characters, situations and worlds of Chrestomanci belong to DWJ and her publishers.
Time: 51 minutes
Christopher spends more time in the Anywheres than at home. His family recognise the signs of an imminent departure: the sudden moment of Distraction during dinner, which obliterates his Vague Expression, if only for a moment; he adjusts his already perfect tie with one hand, slowly lowering the silver cutlery to the white tablecloth. And then he vanishes, gravy congealing over his half-finished meal.
Millie doesn’t worry, taking a book from the library before kissing the children good night; Julia isn’t tying her bed sheets in knots each night anymore, and Roger’s favourite teddy has finally left the bed, relegated to a spot on the carpet, though still close by.
And when he reappears – the first night, or the next, or the morning later - she stands on tiptoe to brush his hair back, and feathers a kiss onto his upper lip.
Then he wanders again. He disappears into the mists beyond her white vanity, pushing aside the Castle spells like a curtain. Exploring his Worlds, in the nighttime shadow of reality. He is the white man walking through the red streets of Asheth’s city; he talks with mermaids upon the shores of Five; he sips chocolatl while listening to the bar-talk of Nine.
Sometimes she follows him, into the mists of the Place Between. She touches a hand upon his spirit-shoulder, and he pulls her left hand to his dark lips. The gold ring tumbles down onto the bedclothes; they leave it where it falls, so it can provide the life for both of them. She rubs at the golden ghost which encircles her ring-finger. Christopher leads her into the Anywheres; she follows the sound of his voice and the memory of his lips.
They make love in the opening of a valley, where they can still hear the rains of the Place Between. The ground is semi-real beneath her bare buttocks, and without the tug of the Castle, and the tingle of magic that always surrounds them both, she feels without seeing.
The land here is transparent to her, as she has never had great talent for astral travel. So Christopher describes the world dark luscious green, the long fronds of the rainforest palms are hanging above us, you look so beautiful against them; can you feel that rain? The drops are trickling from the leaves, splashing perfect circles in the mud. The only thing real is Christopher, his lower lip quivering as he stares up at her. She orgasms watching the pink mist of a sunrise in Series Four. They wash in the broad stream afterwards, and wander back along the edges of the worlds. She holds Christopher’s hand, because she can barely see the Place Between.
The bracelet she wears is a delicate chain, lop-sided and imperfect. The silver is covered in a light-brushed layer of gold leaf, so that no one will ask why the wife of the Chrestomanci wears silver jewellery. He made it himself. The only time she takes it off is when Christopher wears his Very Interested Expression. She leaves it in a carved wooden box from Three, when they wander into the Anywheres.
So their safety net is gone. If someone calls for Christopher when they are on the World’s Edge, he holds against it for as long as he can. She helps him conjure clothes from the potential of the Edge, pulling on his trousers and straightening his tie. He vanishes with a flushed red face, his Vague Expression already in place. He leaves his dressing gown behind, and perhaps a sock. She clutches them tight, because they are real, as she stumbles blind through the Place Between, pushed towards home by the driving rains. Her nightgown is soaked through. She leaves the bundle in the bathroom for the maids to find.
One night the world beyond the Place Between is hot; water evaporates, steaming from their soaking clothes. The sands are a dirty grey in the predawn light, but they will be a scorching red in the heat of the day. The dawn sounds of the city can be heard even here, drowning out the splatter of the rain.
This world is only half-dark, the first rays of sun reflecting from the white-walled houses. The women walk to the wells in the dark, their heads veiled in red and purple. She can see every person, every scrubby bush, and the vibrant green of the orchards within the Temple of Asheth. Sparse clouds skit across the lightening sky. As they stand upon the hill they can see the mountains and the sea in one breath.
“Christopher?” she asks, and he kisses her hand once more, pulling her down onto the dusty, rocky ground. “What if someone sees?”
“You never worried before.” She blushes to remember the stolen moments, were the people were less real than dreams, less real than beautiful lips kissing hers. “No one will see, love,” he steals a kiss from the corner of her mouth, brushing his fingers against her throat.
“But…” And she is aware of her voice, sound waves encroaching upon his world of hers. Before, her voice was lost in the mists of nothing, of unseen potential, and she didn’t have to worry about whispering.
Perhaps she wants to say, But this is real.
She orgasms clutching at Christopher’s back, feeling the silk of his dressing gown beneath her. They watch the sunrise; the grey-blue blur changes to burning orange as the sun rises from behind the sand dunes is familiar to her.
Christopher is just as real, and the world is still a blur.