Summary: For prompt #42: And the taste of dried-up hopes in my mouth/ And the landscape of merry and desperate drought/ Once I knew myself/ And with knowing came love/ I would know love again if I had faith enough, and also for the January Drabblefest #29: I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,/ or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off./I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,/ in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
Notes: Beta by shinychimera, as always. The pieces of poetry above are from Vienna Tang and Pablo Neruda, respectively. I own nothing other than the word order. This doesn't exactly follow Howling (AO3 link), but it's the same Winona.
Winona can feel the storm coming in. George would have laughed and stroked the nape of her neck, looking up into the sky; her brother Frank would snort in disgust and tell her not to be a superstitious fool. But the stillness shivers around her when she steps off the shuttle, charged particles flowing over her skin with the clutch and pull of a constrictor, and she knows.
She hadn't wanted to go. She couldn't have borne staying. This is not how she wanted to return.
Winona remembers love, remembers laughter. Remembers the joy of Sam's first smile, first coo, first just about everything until the Kelvin and that Romulan ship whose name she does not know. The things she wanted to feel for Jim, needed to feel for Jim, and never thought she did; her memories of Jim's infancy are shaded with fear and misery.
She remembers love, but she no longer remembers how the feelings came to her; what bright spring her actions and emotions welled from, back when everything came easily.
She tries. She tries with Jim and Sam, she tries with Frank and her parents, but her rote attempts never click properly, do not fool her. She knows she's running when she accepts the call back to action, the request for her to serve on the Yorktown, but she doesn't know what else to do because she knows, deep in her dried-out bones, she's hurting them by staying.
Hurting them by leaving makes more sense, somehow. She's certain, even if she can't articulate the why.
Sam's eyes burn with resentment. Jim leans his head against Frank's thigh and watches her, unblinking. She boards the shuttle and presses her forehead against the glass and doesn't open her eyes again until touch down in San Francisco.
This is how Winona lives, on the Yorktown. She sends regular missives home, but is not surprised when she seldom gets a response. She performs her duties, and keeps to herself. She doesn't know if she's doing the right thing, but she tells herself it doesn't matter.
She misses warm Iowa summer nights, the heavy weight of Sam or Jim on her chest. Naming mares and mountains and constellations for her boys. Winters, and the three of them huddling up under the Wandering Foot quilt and watching a snow or lightning storm.
But she doesn't know if she's missing love, or the familiarity of weather. Not until the day she gets a half-frantic burst from Sam, Sam who hasn't spoken to her at all since she said she was leaving on a five-year mission. Who tells her Jim's gone and driven George's car off somewhere, he's not sure where.
He doesn't ask her to come home. Two minutes later, she stands in front of her captain, demanding to be sent back to Earth at the first opportunity. Captain McWhorter looks at her for a long moment, and she doesn't ask, either, and she doesn't criticize, and the arrangements are made.
Frank makes her wait, of course; long enough she's half-tempted to catch a cab out to the farm and try to catch him. Doing what, she's not sure. Not until she's ridden the miles with him, listening to him rant about the ungrateful, untameable hellions she left him with. She wants to remind him he wasn't the most sedate of boys, either, until he lets slip exactly where the car went when Jim drove it out of Frank's grasp, and that he has no idea where Sam is.
She doesn't speak, and she doesn't move, and the Furies beat at the inside of her breast instead of her heart, reminding her of the risks of fratricide.
The moment Frank hits the brakes on the car, she's out and moving, heedless of the broken storm, not waiting for the invitation or further excuses or anything else he might have in mind. She opens the door to the house and Jim looks up, blue eyes widening slightly first in fear then surprise and his lips part before he closes off, mouth forming a hard line. He watches her with all the wariness of a feral calf, weighing and measuring and she knows he'll find her wanting but she sees the dark wells in herself she thought were empty for what they are: terrifying in their full and fathomless depths.
The battering of the wings inside her rises up, fractures a barrier she didn't even know she'd erected; and even knowing she doesn't deserve more than she's being given she holds her hand out to Jim. He has no call to trust her, she knows now, she sees and the shuttered pain broken free would overwhelm her if she could not hear Frank's footsteps behind her.
She opens her mouth, not sure what she's going to say and is surprised to find poetry dropping from her lips like petals and pearls:
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz, she says to her son,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
Jim looks at her, eyes shaped from her lost husband's blueprint narrowing before he nods once, tightly, and gets up.
The distance he closes is only physical; trust and security will come slow and hard. In this moment, all she has is faith; faith she remembers how to love after all.