Adam and Persephone Duel and Dance
(( This is one of several unlocked scenes detailing the secret affair between Adam Wilson and Persephone Callahan. It was written and takes place in mid-March, a few weeks after Persephone's illness and a few days before the big blizzard. This story follows "Adam receives a troubling letter."
Mild content warning for some profanity. ))
About three weeks after the first, another envelope slipped under the door of Adam Wilson. This one was a simple note, unsigned: "Your sabre is ready. Meet by the cliffs at noon tomorrow beneath the lone oak tree."
He couldn’t help a small, hopeful smile. The day after receiving Persephone’s letter (and the one she hadn't realized was included in the envelope), he had tracked down the house on Mill Lane rented by her brother, the blacksmith. His conversation with Hephaestus Callahan had been uncomfortable, to say the least. How could he explain how he and Persephone - two people of such differing stations - met? Or why he held the slightest concern for her health? Though the discomfort never faded, he did manage to commission a sword from their forge, thinking in this he might appease both of their senses of pride. The fact that it would be Persephone crafting the blade was just one more tense undercurrent to the conversation.
The next day, Adam obediently ambled along the cliffs under a cloudy sky, glad to be long past his dealing with Hephaestus. He approached the oak tree, hands in pockets.
Persephone had been perched in the tree for quite some time, trousers and all. Her loosely braided hair was pinned out of the way. A sabre at her side lay safely in its hilt while another hung from a nearby branch. The sword was perfect if she could say so herself, and built to his exact specifications. The engravings were perfect. The leatherwork was perfect. The craftsmanship was perfect. It was probably her third most perfect sword, she thought as she watched him near.
Adam tilted his head up to the tree where she sat. It wasn’t clear whether his expression was one of disapproval or amusement. Perhaps, it was both at once. His eyes followed Persephone as she grabbed his sabre and hopped down, landing right beside him with a smirk. “Afternoon, Adam.” She tossed him his sabre.
“Good afternoon, Miss Callahan.” He lifted a brow, but it quickly fell as he had to take his hands out of his pockets to catch the sword. He held it up delicately to inspect, tracing his fingers lightly over some parts and weighing the balance in his hands.
"It's alright if yer pride won't let you say it's the best sword yeh've ever owned.” She winked and took a bow.
His brow returned to its raised position. "On the contrary, Miss Callahan, a gentleman's pride does not allow him to be so dishonest." He let the blade drop to his side, the tip touching the ground, his hand resting on the hilt. "I'll have to write my thanks to your brother,” he said with a knowing look.
“Ah, f**k matters of propriety Adam. We are alone. So I accept yer gratitude and will treat yeh to the appropriate amounts of smugness." She eyed him and took a step back before drawing her own sword. "Well, get on, then?"
He tilted his head, a curious smile curling his lips.
“Don't be a woman English. Yeh asked fer a sword. Were yeh just planning on lookin' at it?" She expertly twirled her own blade.
He returned her smirk and adjusted his stance. He raised his blade and slid it along the length of her own sabre. "Ah, so you do count a difference between men and women after all."
"Only when it suits me." Her eyes flashed and she dove in quickly for her first tap on his shoulder before bouncing back with a genuine laugh. For as brash as she was, it was a rather easy and feminine sound, and her smile brightened her normally stoic face.
He strolled easily a few paces around her and made a light tap or two of his own. "How convenient. Well, you'll have to pick one with me."
Persephone grinned. "I'm a woman through ‘n’ through, Mister Adam!" She arched her brow. "You seem to be the only one confused." She spun into a block of his next attempt, and their faces drew rather close together. She tilted her head and morphed her voice into a very soft and girly sound. "Is it because of me britches?" She grinned again and spun out of the block, then ducked and thrust up to tap his belly.
His swordplay was half-hearted, but he blocked each of her attempts. "Everything about you is confounding Miss Callahan,” he admitted, though his face betrayed no emotion.
"Is that so?" She sighed and stood back up, taking a few steps back. "Yer holdin' back, Adam." She challenged him with her arched brow. "Would yeh move this poorly if you were dancin' at one of those fancy balls? With a high society lady...Would yeh leave her feelin' this dissatisfied with yer company? I mean, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Adam...I know this sabre better than I know me own body so are yeh gonna lead or are yeh gonna be a lazy dancer?" A smile curled at the corner of her lip, delighted to tease him so.
"Hmm perhaps that has been my trouble... Not appreciating the difference between a lady...and a woman." With this, he began to oblige his partner with a more forceful fight.
Her eyes flashed and her face set in excitement as he started to ramp up his efforts. One after another they would block each attack. They were, it would seem, easily matched. "One is certainly...." she spun with a flourish and landed a tap on his shoulder. "...more fun." She chuckled and bounced away from him again, twirling her sword. "Come now, Mister Adam! Hardly breaking a sweat!" Her chest rose and fell a bit quickly.
He internally cursed himself for failing to defend against such an easy blow. His jacket sleeves simply weren’t made for such exertion. He raised a hand to pause and stabbed his sabre into the cold ground. A far off rumble heralded the approach of a storm, but it was so faint neither party recognized it, too focused on their duel.
Adam strolled to the tree unbuttoning his jacket and then waistcoat, draping both over a low hanging branch. He rolled his shoulders, infinitely more comfortable in his shirt sleeves, and returned to his sword, plucking it from the ground and poising himself for her next attempt.
Persephone recomposed her own stance and grinned. "Yer arms look well, Adam,” she said, thinking she might flatter him into distraction.
He cocked a brow, his eyes dark, and he tilted his head toward her. "Hadn't you better focus Miss Callahan?"
She flicked a brow in surprise. "Ah, not distracted? I’m proud of yeh" She wouldn’t admit she was also a tad disappointed, but this was all quickly put out of mind as she hurried into a fresh advance.
More comfortably dressed, Adam started to move with greater strength and confidence, and increasing intensity. As they sparred, he found it took him a great deal of effort and concentration to match her. After a few wordless minutes, a light sheen appeared over his collarbone.
Finally shutting her mouth, she focused, the wisps of hair about her face dampening with sweat. She turned and aimed to hook his hilt to pull his sword away.
His breath was coming more heavily and the rolling thunder approached, now unmistakable. The hook held and suddenly the gray skies opened. Persephone carried his sword and he stepped back, both hands raised in defeat as a pouring rain set in.
She tossed the sword up and caught it by the hilt. A smile of victory flashed before the rain began to fall. She looked up at the sky for a moment and then held her arms out, a sword in each hand, and laughed. She slumped a bit, tossed his sword again, this time to grab it lengthwise by the blade, so as not to cut herself. She held the hilt out to him, still chuckling in the pouring rain.
He accepted its return, but placed the blade in the softening ground. Already thoroughly soaked through, he returned to the tree for his jacket and waistcoat.
She twirled in the rain and stood, eyes closed as she let it fall on her while she caught her breath
Catching a glimpse of her from his more protected position under the oak’s branches, Adam turned to face her and called out, "You're going to make yourself sick again."
She spun to face him and grinned. She then sighs and walks beneath the safety of the tree where he was picking up his waistcoat. "Ah, it's just a wee bit of rain..." She patted his shoulder once. "Yer real good, Adam. And remember I said it, because I'll only say it once."
His torso stiffened a lithe under her touch, his waistcoat still in his hands. At length he nodded. "Well if you do make yourself sick again, maybe I'll have a shot at winning. I'm terribly out of practice I find."
"Then we'll just have to dance more often,” she said, tucking a wet strand of hair behind her ear.
He cocked a brow. "I have a hard time picturing you properly dancing, Miss Callahan."
"Well that all depends on yer definition of proper dancing, boyo..." she chuckled. "Where I come from, I dance well enough."
He tilted his head in a sort of half nod and started to shrug on his waistcoat. "If you ever did, I'm sure you'd pick a waltz or something just to be shocking."
She laughed. "I've never waltzed in me life. Probably fall on me arse."
He smirked. "Impossible. You’d have a built-in failsafe in your lead."
Persephone laughed and started taking down her hair. "Not a man in England brave enough tah test his luck and reputation on a waltz with me."
Adam’s waistcoat fell about his shoulders but had yet to be buttoned. His brow arched. "Why that sounds like a challenge Miss Callahan, and one I actually stand a chance at winning." He held out a hand. "Or are you going to be a man about this?" he teased, calling back to her earlier taunts.
She eyed his hand and her gaze moved up to his. “Say my name."
"Miss Callahan." He wiggled his fingers a little, beckoning, his expression practically mirthful.
"Christian name. Yeh say yer brave enough teh waltz with me, but won't even say my name. The lady doth protest too much, methinks." She chuckled.
"I see no ladies here,” he teased right back. "But speaking of protestations, perhaps it is your bravery that might be called into question...Persephone."
At the sound of her name, her hand slipped into his.
He tilted his head toward hers a little, his brow raised questioningly, giving her every chance to retreat.
“Well, lead already?"
Adam gave an amused smirk and placed her other hand. He didn’t perch it on his shoulder as many women did on their own. Rather he measured their arms against one another to connect at the elbow, letting her arm drape the rest of the way up. She was tall enough that her fingertips could brush the dripping tips of his wet hair. He wrapped his other arm around her waist to firmly hold her in position, and finally lifted his eyes to meet hers.
She exhaled a bit uncomfortably at this and tried to look anywhere but his eyes for a moment, before finally allowed her dark blue gaze to meet his. She quickly glanced to the side. "Alright. Now what?"
He hesitated a little, sensing her discomfort and considered pulling away. His voice came low, almost murmuring, and his chocolaty eyes searched her face. "You know, women have far more control over a dance than many think. A...lady who found her partner objectionable might...adjust her hand to sit against his shoulder and push him away a bit. Or in the...opposite case, she might find ways to draw him near. Every step, a woman chooses to comply. It's a conversation, with the power in the reply." He paused a moment and almost whispered. "Don't feel you haven't any choice...follow as feels natural to you." With this, he took the first step, his firm grip on her proving a perfect guide. The fingers of his left hand curled around hers a little, surprised at how delicate her hand felt in his despite its calloused skin.
She shook her head and quietly said, "It's not about control..." She moved with him and did well enough for a turn, though she was perhaps a bit stiff. She then stepped on the side of her shoe and looked down at her feet, which only tripped her up worse. "Oh, s**te..." she whispered harshly to herself.
His tone was as firm as his hold. "Don't look down." He guided her through the same pattern again. "And this is England. Everything is about control."
She scoffed at his comment, but said little else. Taking a breath, she looked back up as instructed. She never did handle doing something she wasn't naturally good at with much grace.
Adam looked at her intently, moving fluidly through the rise and fall of the steps, sticking to just a couple simple patterns to encourage her.
She relaxed as she started to get the hang of it a bit. She glanced up at him and held his gaze longer than she intended. She blinked rapidly as if snapping back to reality and looked away, decided to save face with a jab. "Are all English dances so bloody lifeless or is it just the waltz?"
"It's an Austrian dance actually." Adam tilted his head. "And you don't feel alive?" He certainly did, he thought. He had never held a woman quite like this. Though he had maintained a respectful distance, he was keenly aware of their solitude and his half dressed state.
Persephone chuckled. "Well it's no jig...The foot rhythm is too slow. It's too...measured...careful...planned."
"The pace gives you time to appreciate the movement, the closeness. Like savoring a fine meal. Partnered closely like this, never breaking hold, one feels every slight shift." He demonstrated what he meant, drawing her a little closer in the process. "It's subtle, certainly. But lifeless?" He peered down at her. "This is life itself, Mi-- ... Persephone."
She glanced down at the closing space between them and met his gaze once more. "I...should go..." In spite of her words, she made no effort at all to move away from him.
He nodded. "Alright." But he didn’t release his hold on her right away either, as her eyes stayed fixed on him.
"Yer better at dancin' so maybe we can call the day an even draw..."
"Suits me, but I am coming away with a prize," he said, nodding toward the sword.
"Yeh paid fer that. Thanks fer contributing to my whiskey fund."
"Well it had been considerably depleted by your insistence at paying for a doctor." Adam lowered the hand holding hers and started to draw away. The rain was falling more lightly but hadn’t stopped.
"I always pay my debts, English....."
Persephone looked at Adam a moment, her eyes darting quickly to each of his before looking down. She took a step back, putting one hand on her hip and bringing the other to her forehead. She turned away from him briefly, then shook her head and turned back. In an instant, she had wrapped her arms around his neck. Despite the clear burst of spontaneity, she pulled him into a gentle and surprisingly tender kiss, her fingers running through the hairs at the nape of his neck.
Adam returned the kiss instinctively at first, but hardly a moment had passed before he placed his hands on her upper arms to push her away, just an inch or so. He looked down at her with a knit brow.
She shook her head and looked down, quickly taking two more steps back, out of his hold. She picked up her sheathed sword and fiddled with shaking hands to hook it back to her belt.
He looked her up and down, frowning, though he didn’t quite seem angry. He wished desperately she would look at him. Was she just thinking of Tom again?
Persephone sighed, finally hooking her belt and looked up. "Adam, I...." Her eyes poured out her internal conflict, before settling into a blank look. She started to walk away, but he closed the distance between them.
Seeming to change her mind yet again, she slowed her pace and turned to him. Unable to impart to him the total truth of what she wanted to say, she spoke in Gaelic. "/It's not your fault I'm leaving. It's mine./" She looked him over, a quick flash of sadness on her face before it was buried beneath her more typical stern expression and she set off again.
He was still frowning, but his eyes were softening and he reached out to take her by the wrist. She pulled it from him quickly and spun back, nearly yelling with impatience, "What!" His frown deepened and he stepped toward her, this time reaching for her hand and her waist with both hands, his face hovering over hers.
She shook her head. "Why are you followin' me?" She felt frantic, as if trapped alone in a room and slowly losing her grip on herself.
He smirked and whispered, "Call it curiosity, Irish." He moved a hand to the back of her neck and corrected himself. "Persephone..." He leaned in to kiss her, drawing her near.
She fell back into the kiss. This was against everything she had made herself into, and yet in the back of her mind, she knew she enjoyed it. Her name dripped from his lips like honey and she yearned for the taste of it. But soon, the honesty cracked. She did not push him away like she would another. Instead she simply stepped back, looking at him incredulously. "Me!? Are yeh mad!?"
He gave an amused smirk, a light twinkle in his eye. "Apparently. But no more so than you."
She huffed a bit. She hated him outside all of the moments that she didn't at all. "I have to go." She turned again and was gone in a few short moments.
Adam turned away himself and walked back to the tree to finish getting dressed and collect his sabre. He felt foolish and guilty, like a child caught sneaking sweets. What were those Irish stories about fairies? It was like he'd been bewitched. Well, no more. He stewed over that confounding woman with every button and grabbed the sabre, inspecting it even more carefully this time, almost hoping to find some flaw. He practically muttered to himself about her wicked bloody impulsiveness. Then, beneath the leather on the hilt, he found a stamped seal: two Celtic knots surrounding the letters P.C. Perhaps it was not impulsiveness after all, not entirely. He patted his jacket pocket where he kept her letters. Perhaps she'd write again when she was ready...
The sword at his side, he strode off back towards town, trying to shake the thought from his mind.