Pairing: Mystique/Destiny, Black Widow/Mystique
Note: These characters do not belong to me.
I: England, 1593
“You will leave me,” Eirene said from between her lover’s legs.
“Yes?” Brigit Mallory squirmed in response, hips thrusting forward, a staff blooming sudden in the dark where woman’s parts had been before.
Unsurprised, Eirene took it up and kissed the head. “Yes, darling.”
“Why would I ever do that?” Brigit asked, a smile in her voice.
“A better opportunity will present itself, my Tiresias." Eirene tried to keep the sing-song of prophesy out of her speech as she stroked, for it vexed Brigit to hear. "I am a Seer, but he will have the power to be King. The bones of the mountains will bend to his will.” She kissed the other woman again. “And you know that you can have things any way you choose.”
Brigit sat up. “I would that your visions were not so intrusive. If you must tell me, could you not have waited?” Eirene heard her shift back to her true form. “And besides,” she said, “you’re Tiresias. You have his gift.”
“Ah, but he had your power, first,” Eirene reminded. “The power to change.”
Brigit sighed. “Come. We’ll talk of this later.” She ran a finger down Eirene’s inner thigh. “Or never.”
“You will first go to Espagna, but you must wait to cross his path --”
“I won’t.” Brigit pulled her back down onto the bed. “I thought that you said I could choose.” She changed again, right under Eirene’s hands, but Eirene couldn't tell what she had become.
“You may indeed choose how long to remain by his side, for I do not yet See your resolve.”
“Well, if you should know before I, do not tell me! You know how I feel about it.”
Indeed, Eirene knew how she felt, but she also knew how Brigit would feel in a fortnight, in a season, in a year. She pulled out of the other woman’s embrace. “When you leave, when you join him, will you tell me if it is better?”
II: Espagna, 1601
The first time that I saw her, in the town of Encinasola, I thought that her skin was as white as milk and I thought that her hair was as dark and smooth as the wood of the pews, and so it was she that I followed out onto the plaza after the Mass and not my mark, for I knew that she was rare.
Her clothing was rich, but in the late morning sun, there was something odd about the fold and the drape of her underdress and the fine texture of her red velvet kirtle that I hadn’t noticed in candlelight. Her golden eyes widened when she saw that I was looking closely. She did not dip her head, but turned my stare with a glance like a sword.
“If you do not want to be noticed, you should dress more plainly,” I said to her too-bright embroidered hem, but when I looked up, she had vanished into the afternoon market crowd. I looked for that velvet and mahogany, but she was not to be seen.
When next I saw her, I doubted that in fact it was she, for not only was her dress and cloak of rougher stuff, but her uncovered hair curled close around her face, lighter brown in color than only days before, as if bleached by the sun.
“Por supuesto, rizada,” said the man weighing her figs and dared a smile, for she appeared a fine lady no longer, but I knew the curve of her back and the line of her jaw and the flash of gold under her lowered eyelashes, and I took her arm and pulled her out into the narrow callejón behind his stand. His mule was tied in the alley, and a small, winged dinsaurio watched from its perch on the flat roof opposite, but we were otherwise alone.
“We’ve seen each other before,” I said.
“You’re mad. Who are you?” she asked, her voice betraying naught but annoyance, but her hair was burnished still lighter when I blinked, and the curls frizzed more than they had a minute before. I knew I was not wrong.
“Natasha,” I said. “I pay heed to the things I judge worth my while. What’s your name?”
“I am called Reyna De Carrión,” she said, chin tilted up. “My father’s a mason in Cortelazor.”
I reached out to touch that strange hair, wondering which color was real. “My dear, you have never seen a brick.” I looked down at her shoes, but they were not on backwards, like those of a leshachikha taking human shape. Still, I had seen her change. “Are you a spirit?” I asked her.
She thought for a moment, then said, “Yes,” her defiant eyes glowing brighter than before. They were indeed inhuman, not brown or even gold now, but yellow as the sun.
Her arm was solid beneath my grip. I’ve known a woman who can shrink to the size of a wasp. I know a man who can see through a blindfold, see through pitch dark. I know a lie.
“No, you’re not,” I said. “I know what you are.”
“What will you do about it?” she asked, her eyes like a dark-lantern, half-threat and half-fret.
“Come with me,” I ordered, but I was surprised when she came without a fight.
I took her to the inn, up the back stairs, never letting go my hold on her arm until the stout door was closed to muffle the buzz of talking guests in the sala below and I was standing between her and the door.
She sat on the bed, this koldunya, the witch-child, as the afternoon sky turned pink outside. “Do you always transfigure yourself among people?” I asked her. “How many disguises do you wear? What is your business?”
“I have been here a fortnight,” she said. Not an answer.
“Where are you staying?”
She didn’t reply.
“It must be difficult to feel safe,” I said gently. “I too have been hunted.”
She didn’t look at me; her lambent eyes were on the stack of gold pistoles on the table by the bed.
“No wonder you’ve a private room,” she said.
“I can afford it.”
“Do you travel often?”
She looked shrewdly at my black dress and mantilla. “Did your husband leave you well-off, then?”
“Oh,” she said, and curled up on my bed. Soon, she was asleep, pink lips parted like those of a child. Again I was surprised by her lack of fear in a strange place, her trust for me.
When I woke up beside her, she had changed. I touched her shoulder carefully and she squirmed and stretched lazily in the beam of sun from the round window. Then, all of a sudden, she seemed fully to realize that she was awake and I saw her stiffen. She made no move to run from the room, but her hand hovered near my throat and mouth, and her eyes were bright.
Her skin was he color of cobalt glass in a church window’s picture of the sea with God’s light shining through. She was fast, I thought now. Perhaps she had no cause to fear me. “Hush, pet,” I said. “Is this your true self? It is beautiful.”
She put her hand up to cover her mouth, her eyes sharp points.
I held my breath. She might do anything. “Beautiful,” I said again. And it was, the scales dry and warm under my touch, like the underside of a snake. “I am not the only one who would worship here,” I told her, kissing the curve of her belly.
“I hear there is a goddess in the East,” she said, fretting at her thumbnail with white teeth that glittered in her dark face. “She kills and she dances and she is honored.”
“Yes,” I whispered into her neck. “I’ve been to Hindustan. Kali-Ma.”
She brought her hand behind my back. “You know the West as well,” she said. “In England, they mark us.” I could feel her sharp nail cut into the skin, tracing one line along my spine and then one perpendicular, a profane sign of the cross. “Here, they burn us.”
“You could leave with me,” I offered. “We would find a place where you would be properly appreciated, in Francia, perhaps -- do you speak Francés? -- or even Muscovy.”
“I must stay here. I am waiting for someone. A judío, named Enrico?" She looked at me hopefully. "A man who can move the bowels of the very Earth.”
“I am older than you, sweetling,” I said. “Never wait for a man. They are so rarely worth it.”
“My Destiny,” she said, “is older still.” Her skin lightened at the words like dawn breaking over her flesh, and her hair grew threaded with gray.
“Don’t,” I said.
The pallor receded. I looked at all that blue skin, at the way it stretched tight across her hatchet-sharp hipbones and trembled over the stringy muscles of her upper arms, and thought of the blue velvet case for a curved Mughal sabre I had once seen, deceptively decorative. “You’re a powerful weapon in a beautiful covering, my darling,” I said, holding her reverently.
“Nay,” she said. She changed again, and it was a youth lay in my bed, with grass-green eyes and blond hair and just the start of a beard. “I am not a weapon, nor am I a chalice. I am a knight.”
I kissed her. “Of course.”
She twisted the fine net of my veil where it lay across the bed in her big, man-fingers. “Did you kill your husband?”
I thought for a minute before I said “No.”
She narrowed her eyes as they turned back to yellow, but her face smiled as it darkened.
At noon, I rose from the bed. “Are you hungry? Stay here,” I told her. “I’m going to the market square for food. I will bring you figs.
“Thank you,” she said.
I did not see her again. When the alcade and his soldiers broke open the door of the room to find ellá de la raza bruja on my information, they found no one to chain up or burn. Not quite the lengthy distraction for which I had hoped, although I managed to get in and out of the right man’s house in the meantime, with a bloody token to prove it to my patron in Scotland.
As for Reyna, if that was her name, it may be that she stayed in Encinasola, waiting in a different skin until the Jew came for her, but I do not think so. I think she was tired of waiting.
I am a double-crosser of long practice, and I am never sorry, but I was pleased she got away, too.
III. The New World, 1607
You wake up suddenly, see her coming like a dream, a flash of white teeth in midnight skin. You’re not in Madrid or in Domdaniel, that’s what you know first. “I’ve found you, at last,” the shadow hisses. “I’ve come for you.”
Look around; your lizard is lying in a heap in the corner, his neck broken. You have only to guess what happened to young St. John, posted outside to guard your tent. It doesn’t matter.
Blue-black limbs, plastered with mud, wild hair, a belt of small animal skulls. A demon, a manitou, a golem with a soul and a will. It cannot be real. “You were the flint,” she breathes, “you!” She leaps silently up onto the bed, one sharp knee on either side of your chest.
“I was the steel,” you correct, struggling to wriggle out of the heavy bedclothes her weight has pinned tight.
She smells like incense burning in a sensor. “I have sinned,” you gasp, reaching for the pater noster on the bedside table.
She raises two bone daggers over her head, a white cross, twin white arcs of motion like white birds,
pigeons scattered, taking off from the steps of the sinagoga.
“Yes,” she says. "You have."