dolevalan: (surest way to a man's heart)
[personal profile] dolevalan
Title: Good Enough
Fandom/original: original
Rating: PG-13
A/N: For [livejournal.com profile] rougen's prompt, "if I can't be good enough for this..."


Nicolas felt physically ill.

It was not a sensation he was greatly accustomed to. Being raised the way he had been, he’d skipped the influenzas and aches that had plagued other children. Eating normal food, bland and unappealing as it was, didn’t turn his stomach. Even hunger, while it hurt, was something else entirely.

He was sick, he realized, with the gulf between who his son wanted – had once expected – him to be, and who in reality he was. With his mother, even if he didn’t understand, at least she’d known him to be what he was from the very beginning. She’s known of him long before they got involved, known who he was, and what he was capable of.

She knew the weakness in him long before he recognized it himself.

But his son had once thought him a hero, and was now disgusted to find him the villain. No, not the villain. Just weak. A fool.

Michalai had outgrown him.

His relationship with Katiya was a mess beyond fixing. One sister would barely speak to him, the other was beyond his reach. His mother had withdrawn, and he hadn’t seen his father in months. Amy, who he felt ashamed to try and call a friend, didn’t know him anymore.

Arthur Sloane’s scorn was almost comforting. At least it hadn’t changed.

He found no pleasure in riding, and little in hunting. He felt cornered, desperate, and he wasn’t certain exactly why.

The texture of the world felt wrong.

He decided to start with his twin. He’d fixed things with another Stella, once before. It could be done. He would try again.

Instead of the hall, he tracked her down in their world. It felt appropriate, somehow. Meeting in the world that felt as close to home as anything did. She was staying in a boarding house, back in Lamordia, when she was in the story, and he managed to track down her address with some effort and some bribery.

When she opened the door to his knock, something he couldn’t quite read flickered across her face. It stung to realize that their thoughts weren’t open to one another anymore – or hers weren’t to him, at the very least.

“Nicolas? What is it?” Of course she would think there had to be an occasion. He’d gone to too much trouble for a simple social visit, by most standards.

“May I – is it alright if I come in, for a moment?”

Stella frowned, but stepped back, leaving him room to enter. Nicolas came in, glancing around the room. It was similar, but not identical, to one he’d seen before: warmly lit but spartanly furnished.

She said, “I’m afraid I don’t have much. Tea and a bit of vodka.”

“I don’t need anything, thank you.” He didn’t sit yet, uninvited to do so.

Shutting the door behind him, Stella moved to pour herself a drink. “So. No occasion?”

“No. That is…” He faltered, then said quieter, “I missed you.”

She looked nonplussed. “I see.”

“Damn it, Stella…”

“You’re lonely.” She laid it down like she was presenting evidence at an inquest. “You may as well sit, since you’re here.”

He felt himself a bit irritated. “How incredibly charitable of you.”

She watched him in that way of hers that was so familiar and yet so aggravating. She’d done it ever since childhood, that silent look that pushed him away. Even before she’d left home the first time, she’d been interested in having time apart, now and then, and if it had been left to him, they would have been together almost constantly.

He wondered if he’d ever known her at all.

“From the journal, I gathered that we reconciled, some time ago,” she said, finally. “Before all that happened to both of us. But you were rather busy, and your version of me was busy having her soul torn to pieces. Is that about right?”

“…it’s fair, I suppose. I wanted to help, but I didn’t know…”

“No,” she said, a bit softer. “No, I don’t suppose you did. Besides, if you had to fight the thing with faith, I can’t say I’ve known you to be a man who believed in much of anything. Not with the steadiness necessary.”

The fact that the observation wasn’t a reproach stung him a bit, but he couldn’t contradict her. After all, the Avatar had needed to patch together the poorer faith of several broken men just to make her a safety net. Instead, he tried to change the subject. “Is it odd? Having everyone remember years that didn’t happen to you.”

She looked at him condescendingly. “Of course it’s bloody odd. What I’m more annoyed about is that the other version of me made some discoveries I could have used, if they hadn’t been stolen.”

“The potions.”

“Among other things. And they were more drugs than potions; I assure you no magic was involved.” She sipped her vodka. “So. You’d like to try to start over a bit, now that your son has outgrown you?” He started to protest, but she shook her head. “I know you too well, Nicolas. Even if the past years have shaped you, you’re still the brother I knew, for better and worse.”

He looked at her, probingly. There was something… new, about this Stella. Something he couldn’t quite place, as if it was hard to focus on the whole of her. His eyes were drawn to her hands, or her face, or her shoulder, but never all of her at one time.

Quietly, he said, “I want to try again. I know that I’m not…”

“Please,” she said, equally quiet. “Spare me a litany of your flaws.” She sounded a little tired. “I have no wish to feud with you, Nicolas. Maybe we could have a meal together, now and then. But we both have work to do. Work that the other can’t much help with.”

He opened his mouth, then closed it again. She was right, of course. Though reconciling with her was something he should have done weeks ago, he was here because it was easier than facing the work undone ahead of him. He missed Meaghan, and it stung that Sloane was the one who asserted that he wanted her back, if nothing else, for his son’s sake. Sloane might very well be the better man, but Nicolas would be damned if he loved his son more.

She nodded, watching him think it through, then stood. “Go on. We’ll have supper tomorrow, if you like, and we can talk more then.”

“…very well.” He offered a hand, a bit awkwardly. She took it, and gave it a squeeze, but didn’t move to embrace him.

“Good luck,” she said, as he left.

Only on his way down the street did he realize she’d gotten rid of him. He glanced back at her building. He hadn’t the faintest idea why she’d needed to. And it bothered him more than it should have.
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Estelle

January 2012

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