dolevalan: (surest way to a man's heart)
[personal profile] dolevalan
Title: Effort
Fandom/original: original
Rating: G
A/N: A 15-minuter. The prompt was "perfect downfall."

She always had been stubborn.

Stella worked her way up, back toward consciousness, with a determination that she had once had occasion to apply to more useful pursuits. Or at least pursuits with more concrete results.

Now she knew she had the answers. If only she could remember them long enough to put them to use.

She woke in a small room, lit by a gas lamp. Orientation was the first thing. She looked at her hands, trying to gauge where she was. Which she was.

"Miss Willoughby?"

Well, that was some help. Gingerly, she sat up. Her head protested with a throb, but didn't get substantially worse from there. "I am awake."

A young woman came in. "You haven't been," she offered, almost shyly.

"I know." She shifted her weight, experimentally; her body seemed sound enough. "Forgive the question, but where - "

"The doctor's house. He'd have helped you, if he was here, the master said."

Stella's lips quirked into a smile. "...likely."

The girl, still a little reticent, put a basin of water and a cloth down. "I'll go fetch you some broth."

"His brother, I assume, is who you mean?"

The girl smiled, quick and almost guilty, and said, "He said to let him know straight away when you woke."

Stella sighed. "Yes. I expect he probably did. Go." She wasn't going to get much more from the child.

Once she was alone again, Stella carefully reached for the cloth. For a moment, everything seemed to shift, and she pressed her hand to the table's surface, trying to steady herself in some way. The room didn't change, but she suspected she might have. It was harder to tell, now, what was changing and how much.

Death didn't give up his hold easily. All doctors knew that. Once it had its eye on someone, it was never a simple thing, and she'd made it even less so. But life had proved surprisingly tenacious as well.

Her son, she told herself. She needed to sort through her mind so that she could tell the important bits to her son before... before something.

But first things first.

Frustrated, she reached again fro the cloth. She wasn't about to roll over and die. Not again. This hadn't just happened; this had been done to her. And even if she did her best to iron and starch it out of herself, she was a Willoughby. She didn't suffer insult to her person, nor to her family.

Before she went, she intended to repay this injury with interest. She smiled a little. Her mother had never understood her, no more than she understood the son who had never really been hers. But this, at least, would be what Anya herself might have done, if not quite the way in which she would have done it.

The water was cool and soothing against her skin. She felt more herself. Whoever that might be. But as long as she could hold onto her purpose, she didn't suppose it much mattered, anymore.

There was another knock.

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Estelle

January 2012

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