Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 2
"Are you happy?"
Fang looks up from his book frowning. "What are you reading, doamnă?"
"I'm flipping back and forth between Dante's Inferno and Austen's Pride and Prejudice. So, are you happy?"
"At the moment?"
"Um, as a whole, I think."
"I...I don't know, doamnă; I never think of it much."
She bites down on her lower lip, her fingers absently toying with the gold Anubis charm dangling from her necklace. She does that when she's nervous - chews her lower lip and fiddles with her jewelry, usually her necklace. It's an old habit, something she's done since childhood, or at least for as long as I've known her. The pair of them are sprawled out on the library's overly plush carpet, piles of books scattered around them. Fang sits with his legs stretched out in front of him and his back propped against a mountain of pillows. She lies on her back with her head resting on his thigh. Osiris, her black fairy cat, is curled up beside her, three mundane cats are cuddled up at her feet and, of all things, a striped hyena lay with its head on her stomach. She loves her kitty piles, as she calls them, enjoying the warmth and comfort her kitties give her, the closeness of a wraith gives her.
"Is this about what London said?" Fang asks, interrupting my observations.
She shakes her head, dipping it so that her hair fell forward to veil her face. "No, I...I just wonder sometimes if...if being a wraith, being my wraith, is a gift or a curse."
Pushing himself into a more upright position, Fang gives her a long, intent look. He sighs. "London is a brat and you indulge him too much. He had his hand slapped, so he lashes out blindly with little thought of consequence and little care for who he hurts in the process. He's a child."
"And you're not answering my question."
Fang sighs again and rubs at his forehead with one hand. I recognize the expression on his face; all of we wraiths have worn it at one time or another. It's an interesting blend of exasperation, wariness, and affection, although the dosage of that last one varies depending the exact circumstances. "We're butterflies, doamnă."
An almost comical expression flashes across her face and I instantly mourn my chance to have caught it on camera. "My elite, immortal, kickass powerful undead warriors...are butterflies?"
"Yes. Did you know that once, butterflies were thought to carry messages to the afterlife? It's not as crazy as your look would suggest, doamnă."
She reaches out one hand to scratch the hyena behind its ear, then chuckles when he enthusiastically rubs his head against her hand for more. "Go on," she murmurs, "explain."
"I saw this picture once of a butterfly being lifted up by human hands. The upper half of the picture was a photograph, the lower half a pencil sketch. If you looked at it one way, it seemed as though the human was picking the wings off the insect but...tilt your head and give it another chance and you realize those hands were actually lifting the butterflying from art into realism."
She groans and leans her head back, closing her eyes. "Oh, gods, Fang, you know I suck at the art interpretations. It's all gibberish to me - is the apple an apple or is it a symbolic representation of original sin? If it is, what does its position and colouring and shading tell us about the artist's views on sin? Blah, who cares?!"
"We're butterflies, doamnă, because, while began as something else entirely - vampire, werewolf, demon, djinn, banshee, Fae - we have been transformed by your power and emerged transformed, made faster, stronger...improved."
She opens one eye and looks at him suspiciously. "So being a wraith is a gift because it makes you more powerful? I'm basically like one of those mushrooms in Mario that level him up or that flower that lets him shoot fireballs!"
Fang looks at her blankly, not catching her reference at all. Finally he shakes his head and moves on. "What's my favourite colour?" he asks abruptly.
Blinking, she sits up, eliciting grunts and growls of protest from her cats and the hyena. "You claim it's black but it's actually Mediterranean blue."
"What's my favourite movie?"
"Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, especially Return of the King."
"What do I do in my spare time?"
"Read old epic fantasy books and vintage Marvel comic books, play yourself at chess, and occasionally just stroll around taking in the scenery."
"Where did I spend my last vacation?"
"Paris. You went to Versailles and the ruins of the Louvre and the Eiffel Monument."
Fang spread his arms wide and gestured towards her. "Aha! You see? I served Elizaveta for centuries - almost a millennium, if not more. I died in her service - TWICE - and, were you to ask her, she would not remember my name, let alone anything else about me. I am nothing to her but a soldier lost to an enemy and I was less than nothing before that. You, however, care, doamnă. You care if I am happy, care if I am well, care if I am harmed or if I am hurting. Were someone to try and take me from you or to injure me in anyway, physical or otherwise, you would raze cities to the ground and slay whole armies single-handedly to avenge me. You love me, doamnă, and I know this. Let London sulk and have his tantrum; it is his own loss that he cannot see being a wraith - YOUR wraith - for the gift it is."
She reaches over Osiris' bulk to snag a Latin edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses and settles back into place. "Because you're butterflies?" she asks after a moment.
"Because we're butterflies," Fang confirms.
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