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a storm in the form of a girl

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He’s played on the beach as a toddler, explored the rockpools and crevices as a little boy. Watched by strange eyes from the shadows.

When he learns to swim, his father guides him with a steady hand, tells him of the grand future awaiting him, a life of achievement and riches. All the kingdom, all the world will know his name.

He meets her one night by the light of a wavering moon, the sky so many shades of sea blue, the sea so many shades of midnight black. He’s dreaming of his beautiful life to come when she moves through the slipping waves, and he sees the gleam of her wet hair, the wide beautiful eyes catching sealight.

He falls in love in a moment, stolen of breath, stolen of heart.

The foolish young boy leans too far to be kissed by a bare breasted girl. She pulls him off the rocks and drowns him in her mouth.

The father dies of grief, the kingdom mourns and is annexed into another country.

The world spins on.

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He meets her as a young man, a spoiled prince who wants to run away to the sea and prove that he’s more than a title and an accident of birth. They fall in love in hidden coves and on secret beaches, long conversations of ambition and dreams.

She gives him a secret amulet of power. With it, he raises a terrible armada, wins a war, annihilates the armies and navies of neighbouring countries. The ocean seems to aid him in this, sudden storms and whirlpools pulling down warships and dashing others on rocks and reefs. Sometimes there’s a flicker of green fire whispering along the masts and rigging, throwing the compasses off course.

He crowns himself emperor of the land, builds himself a magnificent castle on the edge of a sea cliff. The architect is ordered to construct a concealed staircase from the imperial suite down to an underground chamber leading to the ocean. It’s crystalline black and blue, a shimmering secret place of cool water.

The architect is murdered in his sleep not long after the castle is complete.

There are fearful whispers about the white caped emperor who lives much much longer than the normal human lifespan, that he has given his soul to a sea witch, that he is less human with every passing year.

They’re not wrong.

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One of the tales they tell under the waves is of the woman who leaves her cool blue world for the hard earth and cruel tones of a human man’s kingdom.

This man of arcane science and technology builds an abalone palace of saltwater canals and pools for her. He drowns a whole wing for them.

She willingly traps herself so they can be together.

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In the worst version of this story, she gives up her voice

(a ghost song lodged in her throat)

and her finned tail for a life that cut and bled her

(every step like hot knives)

Was the love worth the agony?

Was he worth it?

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There are two successful versions of this myth.

One is where she becomes human at day, moving easily through his world, as his wife and his confidant. His white cape, her smooth white gown, their jewels glittering and fine.

And at night she resumes her true form, and they make love in the saltwater pool, the long fins of her tail coiling around him, his cock deep in the slick soft slit of her cunt.

Mermaids live for a very long time. She watches him age and sicken and die in her arms, always seeing him the way he was the day they met. They bury him at sea and she swims out with the shrouded body, sinking down down til he disintegrates into fragments of bone and flesh to be eaten, and she dissolves into sea foam.

In another ending to this tale, they leave the kingdom to their daughter, and sail away, searching the seas for a way to be together forever.

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The other version -- and this is the one the young creatures whisper to each other in private giggling moments away from the adults -- is the story of the man who left the sunny shores and burning land. He was never content there, always longing for the cool shadow world of hidden brilliance and changing tides. As a young man, he was ever in the water, sopping dark curls and clever blue grey eyes, learning the currents and the creatures, happier naked in the waves than clothed on the land.

She watched him for months, a year, before revealing herself to him. And of course he loved her instantly, of course they talked and sang to each other, longed for each other across the hours of separation, across the ocean breezes and changing sunshine.

It was not a difficult decision for him to make. He was ready to give up his voice, give up his legs, all the money and comfort of his house on the hill. There was no family for him to abandon, it was just him offering all of himself to her.

Her father had misgivings, distrusting one more human male after so much destruction wreaked on their kind. But the young man spoke with passion and eloquence, swore his undying fealty not to the sea king or to the ocean but to the proud lovely girl with a wicked laugh and stardust eyes. So her father transformed him into one of their own, letting him keep that rich voice she adored.

The mermaid and her lover explored the oceans of the world, meeting and connecting with all the underwater tribes and great civilisations, exchanging knowledge and science, art and music.

In time she became empress of the sea, and he was her blue grey prince consort. It was a long prosperous era, a golden age of enlightenment and advancement, characterised by a wilful compassion.

Theirs was a love to inspire every young dreamer below the waves.

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His mother calls him back home to help on the cattle station. It’s a big rolling property out in the Australian highlands, dewy green hills and meadows bordered by tall dark trees to break the rushing gales. He knows every dip and rise of this land, it feels like his soul comes home from the big smoke.

They keep a few sheep along with the cattle, dogs, and a family of gorgeous horses that his mother absolutely refuses to race. His hat tilted on brown silver hair, he rides the big glossy gelding along the fences, whistling quick notes to the blue heeler that barks and snaps at the livestock, herding them across the paddocks.

It’s a lonely life: when all the cattlehands have gone home to the nearby town, it’s just him and his mother and the animals of the station. Sometime he rides a lean rickety dirtbike along the narrow paths, up over the hills at sunset, a dangerous swift shape against the vivid purple and gold skies.

On the very hot days, he shucks off the flannel and jeans and boots, and dives into the glittering silver waters of the dam. Down and down to the swirling murky depths, the weeds and plants reaching tangled fronds up to him, tiny frogs and yabbies fleeing into the shadows. The blue heeler lies on the bank, head on its paws, watching as his brown silver head breaks the surface, tossing an arc of droplets. He swims the length of the dam in long slow strokes, lazy and thinking always thinking, his body gleaming, so much tanned muscled flesh.

It’s one night when he’s pulling his boots back on that the dark waters ripple, and he glances over to see a pair of eerie blue eyes watching him. He goes very still, the stars arching over him seem to hold their breath. He doesn’t know yet whether to be afraid, he’s never heard of her kind. She stays for a while, submerged but for her unblinking uncanny gaze. Until the blue heeler dashes up, heels churning, barking madly. She hisses in the water, and sinks out of sight.

He warns the cattlehands away from the dam, muttering something about algae. When his mother hears of this, she reminds him of the time he nearly drowned. And he remembers how endless the depths seemed, how something curled around him, an unfurling water plant or a long hand, and pushed him gently up to the light.

Now he sits every night on the bank and talks to the woman in the dam. Her black skin reflects blue in the moonlight, her face is long and patterned with brighter blue lines and tiny triangles, a curious face that peers at him in the vivid shadows. Her hair is long and dark, threaded through with tiny stones and broken shells.

She tells him she was brought forth by the ancestor beings when the Dreaming began, long before his kind ever came to this continent. The blackfellas call her Muldjewangk, keep their children away from the rivers and lakes she travels.

He asks if he should be afraid of her.

She laughs and says he has no idea of her magnitude.

“So show me,” he says calmly.

She comes out of the dam onto the sloping grass, a massive dark body with blue glowing dots and stripes that narrows to a forked tail, her arms long and angular with hands that could tear him apart. She blocks out the light over the hills, looms over him. There are scars on her flanks where she’s been speared and shot by guns. She curves her slender fingers around his body, looks sadly down at him.

And he smiles and kisses her.

He promises he will always be here on the edge of the dam, waiting to talk with her. She promises to always come back, through the natural caverns and tunnels under the great southern land. It’s a promise they keep as the years roll by, as the weather systems change and the economy ravages then rescues the land. His mother passes away, the cattlehands grow up and marry. Some move away, some bring their children to work the land with him. He never marries, he sleeps most nights on a thin roll-up mattress under the dark blue sky by the glittering waters.

She touches his face with the tip of one long gentle finger as he dies, a beautiful white haired man with kind blue grey eyes fading on her. And she feels the ancestor spirits reach up through the earth. His body falls apart, transforms into a huge white creature patterned with dark blue dots and stripes. She touches his long kind face, their slender fingers entwine, and they sink into the waters, alone no more.

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He hunts her across the oceans of the world.

Once glimpsed, once kissed and let go for a reason he has never worked out, a reason he obsesses on in his dark hot cabin, lucid dreaming over his maps by the blurring candlelight.

His hair had turned silver when they found him floating in the waves, his mouth torn by a jagged kiss.

Through gales and typhoons he chases her. Her mocking laughter like a song on the sizzling air, she leads him into maelstroms and tsunamis.

Ships break apart, sailors turn against him and clap him in irons for the good of the company. They send him down to the depths, shackled and furious, his heart hammering with hope.

And she rises out of the dark, glowing black and blue, a terrible goddess, laughs at him struggling to reach her, laughs with a perfect vicious interest.

She holds his face between her cold hands and kisses him for the second time. He wants to die in that kiss, a grateful blissed out death, but she sends him back to the surface.

Hers is the cruelest love. She wants him chasing her forever.

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Orson Krennic is summoned to the Indian Ocean to build a bridge spanning the gulf between two countries. It’s a project that will earn him the greatest engineering honour, the culmination of so many years of planning and ambition, of travelling the world to hone his skills.

He doesn’t do it to help people, he has no regard for compassion. His is a mind of steel cables and gleaming rivets, his hair silver and eyes cold crystal blue.

From his office on the shore, he supervises the plans and the construction, delegates to the teams of brown skinned men and badly sunburned white men.

There are no women allowed on his projects.

He has been given five years by the two governments to complete the bridge. He promises to do it in sixteen months.

Construction begins well. The supply routes are set up, the sheets of steel and braces arrive. The first two cofferdams are built to drain the first section of ocean. In his office, he flicks his silver pen over his fingers and smiles thinly as the roar of water begins, moving from one dam to the other.

The first man to die falls from the top of the dam, breaking so many limbs on the way down. Krennic fills out the requisite paperwork, signing off on the compensation payment to family, sends the body home.

The second man drowns. When the corpse washes up, there are great chunks bitten out, and the whispers start to spread.

Soon the fear runs rampant through the teams, wild stories of sharks and killer whales displaced by the churning muddy waters, of worse stranger predators disturbed from the seabed. He calls an assembly, talks to them of glory, of human endeavour conquering the natural elements. He fills their heads with visions of a steel bridge crossing the blue waters, of the money that will send their children to college and dress their wives in finery and buy them houses and cars.

This works until the first dam splinters and a tide of water smashes out, taking ten men into the open ocean, ripping apart their bodies on broken girders whirling loose. Construction is halted while the company investigates.

One night he walks the tall rim of the shattered dam. A storm roils on the flashing horizon, the waves are high, crashing against the steel walls and temporary fences. The air churns, angry and dangerous, salt on his skin.

She is waiting for him on a jutting broken section of wall, lying sinuous on the steel. Her hair is a streaming cloud of black and white, filigree gold across her high forehead, filigree gold clasping the slender brown arms that she folds and leans her cheek upon as she watches him coming. Her fingers are slim, the nails curving wicked sharp. Her body is long, shading brown and dark reds, the undulating tail fanning into an impossibly beautiful ragged shape of vivid crimson.

He does not doubt the evidence of his eyes, too much an engineer for that. Silent, he stops where the wall ends, gazing across the empty blue air at her.

The moon glitters off his silver hair, off the shapes of his cheekbones. He is more beautiful than she expected, something eerie moving along her skin as she sits up to look at him. Her hair drapes down over her breasts, gold glinting through black.

“You will never build this thing,” she tells him. Her voice carries harmonics, lust and dangerous beauty and death. He takes half a step back, instinctively alarmed. She smiles at that, her teeth filed to jagged points of white.

“You cannot stop me,” he replies.

Her brows quirk, dark and arching long. “No? Have I not already? Be warned,” she says with a languid flick of her rippling fantail. “Your fate will not be pleasant, your death will not be easy. You will not be warned again.”

She dives off the crest of the ruined dam, stopping his breath in his chest, a lethal graceful arc of female flesh and shimmer red plunging through the dark air and into the black waters.

The construction resumes. More men die, still more desert the site. The company sends in replacement labour, having decided the project is more important than the methods and the lives. Supplies go missing, girders damaged, holes blown in the dams. Each delay is surmounted and dealt with.

Every night they meet on the bridge slowly taking shape. The empty space between them is spanned with steel, the blue air between them narrows. Until she puts a cool hand on the white contour of his cheekbone, her eyes deepest brown and flecked with gold. And he moves the long black hair away, revealing her breasts with dark nipples circled in filigree gold.

“You have been told,” she murmurs and leans in to kiss him.

“I have,” he agrees and pulls her close.

The bridge is completed in seventeen months. The morning of the celebration is clear and sunny, ribbons and champagne at the ready. All the company men and their wives are there in their smug opulence, all the surviving workers ranged behind. In his gleaming white jacket and dark trousers and boots, Orson Krennic smiles thinly at the tall spires and fanning cables of his greatest achievement.

The chairman cuts the ribbon. And through the fanfare comes the explosion.

One after the other, each pylon, each pier erupts in shards, a green fire blazing unnatural through the waters. Screams and chaos as the spires topple and the cables snap, lashing out and taking down the company men and their wives.

He goes silent into the waves, blood clouding red. And she comes up to meet him, her hair snaking black and white around his face.

“I told you,” she mouths.

And he smiles at her, goes into her killing embrace.

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Adrift on an arctic sea, he is dying slowly, hallucinating under the green and blue lights that fill the vast indifferent sky above the white mountains. His tiny boat is encrusted with ice, his breath clouds in the air. His research mission has failed, and he is dreamily aware that he floats at the top of a world that will drown as the glaciers melt and the seas rise.

Except his perfect solitude is bumped, nudged by a curious creature that swims up from the depths. On the rim of the boat, two pudgy white hands appear, and then a girl pops up, blinking wide white eyes at him. She seems made from ice and snow, not delicate but unnervingly soft and plump. Her hair curves around her round face, platinum waves, as she stares and stares at him.

He’s too weak to move, they regard each other with a sort of comic surprise. And then she flicks off, disappears from view. He’s left wondering if he entirely dreamed her.

She returns a while later, tossing a wriggling fish into his boat. It’s a charming gesture and utterly useless because he has no fire and can’t even summon the energy to say that to her. She looks from the fish to him and then back again, her cheerful expectant face turning to impatience. Hitching herself up, she grabs the fish and tears it apart, flinging the two halves against his chest.

Amused despite his exhaustion, he fumbles the meat to his face, trying to suck the briny juice from it. She clicks her tongue, dissatisfied by this effort. And the boat rocks violently as she pulls herself in.

She is a strangely warm creature, all luscious blubbery flesh and rippling pale curls, her tail curving in lightest blue like chips of ice into a delicate white flutter. He doesn’t understand what she says but the grumbling is unmistakable as she tears shreds of meat to feed him.

Overhead, the arctic moon hangs heavy and round. The blizzard winds roar over the mountains, over the shelves of ice, through the crazed beautiful shapes carved by the elements. In his little boat, she pulls the frozen clothes off his body and gathers him into her arms, crooning and muttering as she pillows his head against soft breasts, rubbing his skin with rough scaled palms wherever she can reach.

There are other creatures of her kind in the water, bumping the boat as they enquire of her. He’s dimly aware of some conversation taking place, some fiery word from her that sends them off. The light caress of her tailfin moves over them, over and over again, long strokes of warmth. She stays with him for so long, her breathing a gentle rhythm in his ears. And slowly slowly he feels heat seeping back into his flesh.

Eventually he raises his head and smiles with faint embarrassment at her. She smiles back at him, delighted. But then just as he’s about to thank her, a storm of white birds rise up beyond the ice mountain.

She straightens up, alert, her hand on his chest. The arctic moon pulses a hard white light, once, twice, three times. The air seems to throb with a sort of urgency, and then the seas erupt. Black shapes rising, enormous and silent in the cold air. He gasps, flinching back against her. The whales fly up and up, with the white birds. And then he sees the other shapes, the creatures like her, half fish and half human. A mass migration into the green and blue.

When he darts a look at her, she’s smiling at him. A quiet offer, a choice he understands without words. Around his boat, more of her kind are leaving the waters, taking to the skies. He smiles back at her, sure of this. She cups his chin in one scaled hand and kisses him with a soft lush mouth, tasting of cool seawater, of a different kind of freedom. And he feels a warm breeze take hold of them, lifting them from the boat.

She kisses the change into him, he feels his lungs expand and transform, a different kind of breathing. Up and up, leaving the arctic ocean behind, up into the shimmering green and blue, the silence filling with a faint cosmic song that grows louder and louder, that fills his heart with joy and discovery. Clutching her hand as she watches him with a brilliant smile, up and up until they go through the gold white clouds, and there is nothing but stars glittering the promise of other skies and other worlds.

All that’s left in the boat are his clothes and his journal and a few scales of white blue.

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He dives too far down, a reckless thrill seeker pushing into the deepest trench.

His tether to the underwater vessel spools out, lower and lower. The air grows colder, heavier, the darkness sucking at his lungs. The creatures get uglier and stranger the further he sinks, they flee his light with their own bulbous lanterns trembling.

When his shod foot touches the bottom of the trench, he feels fragile in the crushing weight of so much dark water. And exhilarated because no one has ever come this far, walked this surface.

But then the ground moves beneath him.

In the tiny flicker of light, a huge face blinks open enormous eyes.

She looks at him, this speck of a man. Her limbs and tentacles coil through all the plates and sea beds of the world, resting for aeons. In his head, he hears her voice, soft and gentle. “Is it time?”

She knows him, they’ve spoken across ocean currents and night breezes for millennia. They’ve watched the young planet flower and grow lush. They’ve seen the first bodies crawl out of the sea, smiled at the first creature taking flight. They’ve loved each other and the teeming chaotic world.

And now it is broken, poisoned beyond repair.

He puts one gloved hand against her opalescent skin. “It’s time.”

She rises.

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His father owns the aquarium, and little Orson Krennic learns to crawl and walk among the tanks and pools of sea life.

When he was very small, his father had taken him into the secret labs far below the public exhibits, and shown him the tiny creature uncoiling from below a frond. She was a delicate white wisp of translucent veins and huge wondering eyes.

They grew up together -- the quiet boy with serious blue grey eyes, and the girl with the fine long filaments uncoiling from her sleek head, her long tail splaying silver.

What he learnt in the classroom he taught her. What she learnt in captivity she taught him.

Every time she is moved to a bigger enclosure, he is there to hold out his arms. She hides her face against his chest as he carries her to her new home, gasping for breath.

At night, he sheds his clothes and slips into the glittering waters of the tank. They play and swim and giggle in the hush of the darkened aquarium. He is found most mornings, entwined with her, naked and asleep on the rocks.

One morning the enclosure is empty. No one knows how she escaped, where they went, what became of them.

Maybe they found a coral reef somewhere, far away in tropical waters, where they live happily ever after.

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He finds her after everything falls apart.

He has been a mediocre man all his life, all his ambition amounts to nothing. All his family have died, the money has run out, the estate sold off to recoup debts. He retreats to the fishing shack on the edge of the village, it’s been a refuge for the men of his family over so many generations. There he sits in the shade of the thatched roof, carving fragments of whale bone into tiny creatures, into delicate faces from his dreams. Waiting for his heart to stop beating.

The village children play on the dunes, keeping a careful distance. He hears the whispers, sees the quickly averted gazes in the shops and marketplace. It’s not fear, it’s pity, the reflected shame of seeing the last of his line reduced to this. He drinks too much but only in the privacy of the shack alone at night. He sleeps too much, and is sometimes too shaky on his feet to go out on the boat with the fishers who ask him along from charity.

Then one night as he fumbles through the shelves, looking for that bottle he stashed away for times like this, he finds the knife. It’s small and vicious, a serrated edge, tiny markings on the handle, made from a kind of bone he doesn’t recognise. The next morning, his head aching, he searches methodically through the old papers and books that cram the walls of the shack. So many generations of Krennic men and their thoughts, their chronicles, their observations of the village and the sea and the world around them.

He finds the illustration. It stutters his heart in his chest. And he reads the words with a slow pounding in his ears, the roar of the dark under the ocean. Instructions, a location and a warning, a secret history passed down through the men of his family. It lodges in his chest, a hook of pain and hope, and the idea seeps up into the back of his head, lies dormant and gleaming, bleeding corrosion into his thoughts.

All his ambition funnels down to this. If he can’t have the riches and the respect of the world, if he can’t make his name known out there, maybe he can have just this.

He patches up the small boat with the help of a few men from the village. But he sails out alone, telling himself there will be nothing to find. There’s been madness in the Krennic line, and of course a man could let his starved and fevered imagination run wild in the confines of a small shack on the edge of the ocean.

A tiny outcrop of rocks, lashed by spray and sea wind, in the outreaches of an uneasy sea where the currents are treacherous, and the fish are bitter and don’t come easily to the hook or the net. There are no birds here, no distant seagull sound. There is just the sound of the waves and the wind. He idles the boat as the sun sinks into the sea, and the skies plunge into lurid shades of violet and pink. Expecting the shape of a manatee, some great ungainly creature lumbering onto the rocks that some lonely sailor could twist into a lustful dream. But still, feeling half foolish, he stops up his ears with leather plugs, and curls his hand around the knife.

Gold creeps through the waters, rippling from the sunset horizon, spilling up and over the jagged rocks. The air wavers with heat, unnatural. The hair on his arm start to rise, there’s a song on the sea breeze, muffled but calling, calling, twisting the hook in his chest. And the shapes rise from the darkness of the rocks. Three sinuous creatures that look to him and focus all their glistering siren song on him.

He is swimming to them before he knows it, but the knife cuts into his palm and reminds him. The leather plugs muffle the song, he holds onto the clarity of his mind, holding onto this last shred of ambition.

They are part woman, part bird, part sea creature. Long white talons on webbed hands that grip the rocks, the suggestion of scale and feather along the naked blue white shoulders, baring their upper bodies with unabashed female pride. All three have long dark spooling hair, all three have long opalesque tails shimmering so many colours, a powerful coiled muscle trailing delicate blue green into the waters. All three are bathed in sunset gold, singing to him.

He swims to the one in the middle.

She leans down to him, smiling deep with knowing, too much sexual knowing. Sea green eyes with flecks of gold. Her hair is dotted with tiny iridescent jewels that catch the dying sun, embedded at her temples and dipping across her forehead, spiralling in fine patterns down her arms. In the water, he steadies his hands against the rocks, concealing the small knife, and he looks at her nakedness. Bare tender breasts of blue white flesh, a trail of jewels fanning down and around one pink nipple, leaving the other unadorned and perfect. The deep curved indent of gills along her ribs, vents fluttering open just a little in the damp air.

He looks into her face, and hauls himself up. She puts her arms around him, her eyes turn a glowing white. And as she lowers her murderous mouth, he severs her spinal cord with the knife made from the bones of her own kind. She screams pure terrified rage, her skin sloughs off in one long glittering swathe.

The other two are lunging forward with snarling mouths. He pulls her into the water, knife at her throat, her body of ripped nerves and exposed sinews already sealing over with human skin. She’s screaming total agony, he’s screaming at the others to stay away, flailing to grab her discarded siren skin.

In a mess of limbs and hair, he swims back to the boat, the air snarling fury, and wrestles her in. She can’t fight him, her body heavy and limp, but she can scream and spit. He scrabbles for the ether, and clamps the soaked rag over her nose and mouth, holding it there until she goes silent and still.

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In his bed, she is a pale young woman sleeping uneasy in the sunshine. He draws the curtain across, covers her with the light blanket, and stands for a few long moments, staring down at her. Outside his window, the children are playing with some dog, joyful yells and laughter. The only sign of her strangeness are those nails, long and curving white. He’s going to have to trim them.

She wakes just after the moon rises, a sudden gasp and tiny frightened squeak as she registers the bed and the candlelit room. And then she sees him in the chair, and her face contorts into killing violence. “Don’t,” he says automatically, putting his hand out. “It’s all right, I won’t -- I’m not going to hurt you.”

He doesn’t know if she understands him but her expression becomes one of incredulity, a flashing sneer. And then she opens her mouth and starts to scream and scream. It reverberates around the room, no doubt audible outside. Desperate, he pushes out of the chair and claps his hand over her mouth, shoving her deeper against the pillow. “No, please! You mustn’t -- please --”

Her teeth lengthen into fangs, she bites him. Green eyes spitting fury, promising murder, promising vengeance. When he pulls his hand away, nursing it against his chest, she spits into his face. Stifling his anger, he wipes his cheek and moves away, picking up the blanket from the floor with his uninjured hand. He had put her in one of his old linen shirts, and the dark hem comes almost to her knees. Some weird sense of gallantry makes him put the blanket back across her body, now unable to look her in the eye. Her violence radiates off her like heat.

He could keep her bedbound and unable to walk. Other Krennic men have, down the ages, tended to and fathered children off the immobile women they stole from the sea. Before tonight, he had fully intended to do the same. But now the thought turns his stomach.

So the next morning he fetches the village surgeon. The story is he found this poor girl in a shipwreck, unidentified but clearly needing aid. Before he lets the surgeon into the small bedroom, he says to her, “I know you can understand me, I don’t know if you can speak. But do not say anything to him of what you are. This is a small ancient village with small minds and ancient fears. They might help you, they might kill you. Neither of us can take that chance.”

She meets his gaze unflinching, her huge beautiful eyes smouldering contempt. But she says nothing, perfectly silent when the surgeon makes his examination. Her spine will need to be sewn back together, the surgeon insists this be done as soon as possible.

Krennic stays in the room during the operation, his skin crawling at the sight of what he did to her, the repercussions of that one lethal cut. The opiate scent hangs heavy in the air, she stays unconscious through the whole intricate procedure. It may or may not work, the surgeon tells him. He nods, and hands over all the money he’s managed to save over the past year.

When she wakes for the second time, bandaged up and placed on her side, he says to her, “It will be a few days, maybe weeks before you can walk. I will --”

“The first thing I do is kill you.”

Her voice slides into him like a blade into his softest parts. It’s golden somehow, speaking of summer and naked skin and slippery female heat. His cock hardens in his trousers despite himself, and her mouth curls with a sneer. She knows the effect she has on him, of course she does.

“You do that, and you will never find where I’ve hidden your skin.”

Her glittering green eyes narrow on him. “Maybe I’ll kill you anyway,” she murmurs.

He doesn’t doubt her.

Over the next few days, he puts all thoughts of desire out of his mind. He cannot afford to give her such power over him. Not while she burns with such fury.

But if she can talk, he can taunt her into getting better. She spits and snarls at him, knocking a plate of food out of his hand. “Fine, eat off the floor then!” he yells back at her. She laughs wild mockery at him, and then looks startled at her own arm, curling her fingers into her palm. He conceals his smile and goes to fetch her more food.

He feeds her, earning a few more bites in the process. Once she lunges at his face with her red mouth and vicious white teeth, and he nearly hurls himself off the bed, trying to get away from her. Which makes her laugh again, that golden delighted sound of pure evil. Sometimes she lets him feed her for almost the whole bowl or dish, watching him get all the more nervous and apprehensive, before she attacks.

A few times she doesn’t bite at all. And laughs under her breath when he frowns at her.

During this convalescence, he braces himself to tend to the more unsavoury of her bodily needs, embarrassed for them both. The first time she wets the bed, he’s fairly certain she does it out of sheer malice. “No,” he tells her sternly. “You use the bowl, you tell me when you need the bowl. Or I put you outside on the sand and leave you there.”

She swears at him in a jagged nasty language. And when he does slide the chamberpot under her, she sinks her fangs into his arm almost to the bone. That time he snarls and yanks her head back, cock hard at the blood on her mouth and the iridescent green of her eyes. And too late remembers her healing spine, his guilty conscience pushing him away from her.

He can’t bathe her, she can’t be moved until the bandages come off. But he can’t leave her in sheets of her own natural filth. So in the full knowledge of this being a very very bad idea, one afternoon he soaks a bath sponge and brings the bucket of warm water over to the bedside.

“Oh, won’t this be fun?” she murmurs, smirking up at him.

“Shut up,” he says tightly, throwing the blanket to the floor. She lies with her arms by her side, watching with that faint smile as he puts the sponge to her right foot and scrubs up the whole length of her calf and thigh. He doesn’t remove the dark shirt, instead slides the sponge under, trying to be as brisk as possible. His blood is hot with arousal, thrumming at the sight of her gleaming legs, at the scent of faint flowers and cool water that rises up from her, the scent of deeper female heat from between her thighs. As his breathing quickens and the material soaks through, outlining her slim belly and the small perfect shapes of her breasts, she laughs softly.

“Are you sure I can’t … help you?” she asks, and her hand lifts very carefully to the front of his trousers.

“Stop it,” he snaps, furious with her, furious with himself for allowing this intimacy.

Her laugh is so merry he throws down the sponge and leaves the shack.

Outside in the wild salt breeze, he gazes up at the bright blue skies, willing his lust under control. Yes, the idea was to capture a wife and a mother, yes the eventual aim was to have her body, to enjoy it.

But not like this, not falling on her like some ravening beast, and absolutely not with him at her mercy. This is not what he planned.

___________

 

She heals much faster than expected. The bandages come off in a matter of a week, revealing neat stitching up her spine that the surgeon promises will not scar. Something dark moves in her eyes, Krennic notices, but she turns her face away from him.

The surgeon gets her to slowly stand, helps her take a few steps across the wooden floor. It hurts her, that much is clear, but she grits her teeth and keeps going. Impressed, the surgeon proclaims the operation a success. All she needs to do now is get stronger, and all will be well.

Krennic closes the front door after the surgeon, palming a dagger. But she isn’t behind him, she is still sitting on the bed, staring intently at the window with its ragged curtain of white. Clasping the hilt, he says quietly, “You have nothing to fear from me. I promise you this now. I realise this arrangement --”

She swivels to face him, getting to her feet. He conceals his flinch very well, and talks on, “I realise this started badly, but it has worked before in the past. People have done very well out of --”

“What people?” she asks, like her curiosity has distracted her. The sunlight gleams off the matted black of her hair, catches the gold in her intelligent eyes. “Men, you mean?” she says with a snide softness, approaching him. “The men of your family?”

He faces her, heart thumping, shame curling corrosive in his chest. “The point is you can be happy. I can --”

She tilts her head, the point of her chin stubborn and pretty. “Oh, are you going to make me happy?”

“I will do everything I can,” he says through his teeth. “I will be a good husband to you and, and --”

Her brows raise. “A good father? To our children?”

“Yes. We could give each other what we want, we could --”

“How do you know what I want?”

He feels disoriented, gripping the knife with the thought that he should be struck by now, lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Instead she’s examining his face with those curious compelling eyes, asking him questions like, like --

He understands suddenly. She’s playing with him, like a predator toys with some hapless creature before the kill.

“I know what you are,” he says through a dry throat. “You call us, you devour us, you feed off us. I can --” He’s making this up as he goes along but it’s starting to form a kind of sense. “You can feed off me.”

She chuckles, deeply amused. “And what makes you think you’ll be enough for me?”

“I will be.”

“Ah. Such supreme male confidence.” Her eyes slide down his body, brazen. “Are we so well endowed, then?” she murmurs, shocking him a little.

“Whatever you want,” he manages, “I will get you. If you want me, you’ll have me. If you want other men, I’ll bring them to you.” He’s making wild promises now, half wondering why, half wondering whether he intends to keep any of them. “We can, we can build a life together.”

She stares hard at him, stepping closer til he can smell her skin, the rank filth of her hair. Her eyes green and gold like eldritch fire, she says, “You have already violated me. You hurt my body, you took my skin, you forced me into something I am not. I will never forgive you!”

“I’ll keep you safe,” he protests, hearing the desperation in his own voice. “I’ll be good to you, I promise!”

“I am not yours to keep!” she screams. And strikes him so hard his chest splits open, a long ragged gash, her nails breaking off in his flesh.

He falls to his knees, dropping the knife, his blood spilling onto the floor. She kneels before him and clasps his face with both her hands. “Do not,” she tells him with unwavering precision, “think that you can create some false happiness for me to forget what you have done to me. Do not think your power is secure. I will find my skin. And you will suffer before you die.”

___________

 

He leaves the shack while she washes her hair and bathes herself. Sitting outside, hands idle as he watches the gulls whirl over the sunsoaked ocean, and listens to the sounds of water sloshing inside. The sight of her unbidden in his mind, all the pale lithe softness of her.

The chronicles said these women made perfect wives and mothers, that they cleaned and cooked and kept pretty house for the Krennic men. She does none of these things. She spends the first few days sitting under the thatch outside, watching the ocean and the children playing on the beach. Casting him an ironic look when she comes inside at night and sees him cooking.

She puts her feet up on the bed and looks slowly through a book as he tidies up around her. He wonders if she can read, he almost offers to teach her but stops himself in time, knowing she’d only sneer in response.

She barely speaks to him, it’s like living with a very beautiful moving statue.

Sometimes when he passes her a plate of food, she trails her sharp nails along his forearm, that knowing smirk gleaming her eyes. His face tight, he pulls away, refusing to give her the satisfaction of a response.

He brings her clothes from the village, rough dresses and skirts and blouses like the other women wear. She curls her lip at all of them, says they feel awful against her skin. She prefers the smooth fine linen of his long shirts from another life. So he does a few fishing expeditions and uses the money to buy her the finest softest dresses and shirts from the seamstress in the village. There are whispers behind him, more looks of pity and commiseration, this lonely man besotted with a girl who has tastes much grander than he can afford.

The dresses are simple and pretty, she wears nothing beneath them, and he doesn’t dare suggest otherwise. She walks along the beach, the sea breeze fluttering the light flowered material around her thighs. The children come to her, he rises alarmed when the dog bounds over. But she laughs and talks with the children, leans down to pet the dog.

She refuses to tell him her name, pretends not to hear every time he asks.

“Well, I have to call you something,” he snaps, exasperated. “So I can name you and you’ll probably hate what I choose, or you can name yourself, it’s up to you!”

She laughs at him, her eyes bright with malice. “Call me what you want, I won’t answer anyway. And you,” her voice dips, making him tense, “don’t deserve my true name.”

But he listens when the children gather around her. All her cruelty vanishes when she’s with them, a genuine lively interest in the way she talks with them and listens to their confidences. On the white sand, she sits in their midst, the dog laying its happily panting head on her lap, while a little boy and a little girl stand on either side and make tiny braids in her long dark curling hair. They go for long walks along the beach, past the rockpools and shallows, the dog clamouring for thrown things.

He watches from where he works on his boat, heart sore with resentment and longing.

They call her Jyn, yelling their goodbyes as she comes up the slope to the shack, her face soft with smiles. At the door, he watches her approach, this lovely woman with intelligence in her eyes and laughter tilting her mouth. His heart pulses, he catches her hand and kisses her on the lips.

It’s a gentle spontaneous thing but useless. She pushes him away and swipes the back of her hand over her mouth, disgusted.

He doesn’t try again.

At the kitchen table, he tells her what they’re having for dinner, his voice careful. “You may like it, Jyn.”

Her eyes glint danger.

But she doesn’t forbid him from using her name, a small surprising thing he thinks about later, listening to her breathe in his bed.

While she was convalescing, he had slept on a thin pallet mattress on the floor. Now she’s recovered, he lies in the dark and thinks a thousand times about getting into bed with her. It always comes back to him silently swearing it will be when she invites him in.

A deadening voice in his head says it will never happen. The only carnal interest she displays in him is for her own power, to remind him of his weakness for her. But he lies on his side and remembers his promise to her, that she can have him, if her siren desire burns so hungry and wild.

If she wants him.

He starts to play his own game, testing her, looking for the signs. Now when she trails her nails up his forearm, when she smiles her cynical knowing at him, he doesn’t pull away. He holds her gaze, and sees when she feels the heat arc between them. It startles her a little, the lovely eyes widening as he smiles faintly. She realises instantly what he’s doing, pulls her hand away and turns from him, pretending coldness.

The powerplay between them shifts once more. He stops himself a thousand times from touching her, but it seems his gaze is enough. When he smiles at her, she reacts with a wary confusion and tries to hide it. She’s aware of him now in a different way, simmering heat in the confines of the shack, and she attacks in a different way now, not with fangs and talons, but with flesh.

He no longer leaves when she bathes. And she in all her insolence stands up in the tub, water cascading off her naked skin. Still feeding off the lust of men. In his chair, hands curled on his thighs, he watches in an agony of need, practically vibrating as the firelight gleams her pale wet form. She steps out of the tub and walks towards him, gathering her long soaked hair in a dark twisted rope over her shoulder. Bare breasts, bare belly, and the soft pink slit of her cunt glimpsed through dark hair.

She looks down at him, a silent curving curiosity. And he undoes his trousers, shows her the effect she has on him. She looks long and sly at his hard cock that stiffens further now, he remembers she’s eaten men like him, chewed up all their flesh, with blood and gore streaming from her mouth. His cock pulses, leaks a bead of clear fluid.

She laughs and walks away, back to the tub where she reaches for the towel and dries her body, concealing it once more from him.

He doesn’t allow himself relief.

____________

 

On the beach, the children are teaching her how to read. Her fangs and talons seem to retract when she’s around them, she willingly accepts as they chide her gently and urge her with enthusiasm. He says nothing about this but quietly brings more books home, more paper and writing materials. She notices, sends him a sharp look, but they don’t talk about it. If she does use the paper to write, there is no sign.

Instead, he finds a small stack of drawings tucked by the pillow. Dark moody charcoal pieces. Over weeks, she draws everything she sees. Gulls in flight, seaweed in rockpools, the dog’s big smiling face, the hands of children. There are never any sketches of him.

He brings her colours, leaves the little tin trays of paints and crayons on the shelves. She buries their glints in darkness. A child’s bright laughing face and red scarf surrounded by black cloud. A florid creature glowing in ocean depth. A siren’s face in profile, jewelled and grieving.

A month passes, and one day she goes with the children over the dunes in the direction of the village. By the boat, his hands snarled with nets, he fights the urge to chase after them. She has no money but she could get some. She has nowhere to go but there are the children and their parents who would take her in, take her away from him.

Still, he has her skin.

The knowledge lets him return to his work under the bright clear sky.

She stays away for hours and hours. It’s only when he sees her appear at the top of the dune in the warm evening shades, raising her arm in goodbye to the children, that he lets out a breath he’s been holding all day and goes inside the shack.

He starts to prepare their evening meal, glancing casually over when she closes the door behind her.

“Aren’t you going to ask me where I’ve been?” she challenges after a while.

He brings the bread to the table, his expression mild as he replies, “The village, I imagine. Why?” He gives her a slow smile, quietly pleased at how that makes her eyes change, the pupils dilating dark. “Is it very important to you that I know?”

“No, of course --” she starts to say, automatic defiance. And then calms herself, staring at him as the dynamic shifts once more, recalculating this powerplay. “Well,” she drawls after a moment, reaching for a hunk of bread. “You’ll find out soon enough, I’m sure.”

In fact, it’s a few hours later when he’s lying on his back on the pallet, watching her douse the lamps around the small bedroom. A single candle by the bed limns the shape of her dark head, catches the curling waves of her hair. His hand lying over the thump of his heart, he breathes in steady, aware that he could have this sight every night for the rest of their lives. Aware that he wants it forever.

Her back to him, she looks down as she unbuttons her dress. There’s a slight bulkiness to her torso that makes him frown. Pushing up on an elbow, he opens his mouth to ask, and her dress slips to the floor.

There are bandages all down her back, blood-stained.

He shoots to his feet, alarmed. “What did you do? What did you do!”

Her mouth curling with delight, she glances over her shoulder. “They need to come off.”

Of course he helps, his heart pounding with distress. The bandages drop unheeded to the floor, her flesh is bloodied and ravaged. He fetches a soft cloth and a bowl of water, gently cleans her skin off. His anger throbs in his head, quickens in his chest. How dare she, how dare she damage the body that belongs to him?

His hands still when he hears his own thought. He closes his eyes, of course that’s why she did it.

Her back is pale flesh bisected by a long tattoo of an exposed spine, black and ornate. Hours of pain, hours of blood and needles, and now she turns, his hands slipping from her skin, to meet his rising gaze. She doesn’t need to say anything, he understands.

She will never let him forget what he did to her.

There is ointment that needs to be applied to her bruised newly inked flesh. Naked and gleaming, she lies on her stomach along the bed, pillowing that smirking face on folded arms. He takes in an unsteady breath as he spreads the ointment between his palms, looking down at smooth skin blotched angry red around black. It may be the first time he’s properly touched her body since her recovery.

She doesn’t react when he puts his hands on her, it’s that very absence that narrows his attention. Her skin is warm and so soft under his palms, it makes him gentler than the desire raging through him. And she closes her eyes as he rubs her slow. She turns her face into the crook of her elbow, hiding her expression from him. The ointment gleams the new ridged pattern that’s changed her body forever, unscented but growing hotter and hotter on his slick fingers. He doesn’t know when but at some point his touch goes from clinical to caress, stroking the lithe female curve of her back, wanting, wanting so much to lean down and put his mouth on her, to breathe in the richness of her hair. To make love to her.

His hands slow to a stop, resting on the inward dip of her waist. Holding for a sign, the smallest indication of yes and please.

Her breathing is just that little bit uneven. She doesn’t move.

So he turns his thumb sideways against the small of her back. And runs the edge all the way up her ornate spine, one long swoop that makes her convulse violently and throw him off, darting to the other side of the bed.

For a silent roaring moment, he does want to grab her and force her down with his mouth and all his strength.

But she’s hunched in a curve away from him, gasping to herself like she’s been traumatised all over again.

Disturbed, he leaves the bedroom to wash his hands at the kitchen sink, his thoughts turning over. When he returns, the candle is out. On the pallet, he listens to the sound of her breathing in his bed, wanting so much to ask, to talk, to share this strange uncertain time with her.

____________

 

She retaliates the very next day. He walks into the bedroom to find her naked in the sheets, legs sprawled and belly soft, her hand between her thighs. He halts in the doorway, choking on rage and desire.

“Sit,” she says, her voice rich with harmonics of death and lust. “Stay. Watch me. Watch this.”

He obeys, hands clenched on his knees. The afternoon sunshine spills through the curtains onto the worn sheets, across her long legs and dark private hair. She watches him with a brazen smile as she strokes and touches herself, making love to this human female body that is and isn’t hers. Taking ownership.

Outside, the seagulls whirl and call. In here are just the little gasps of sensation when she tugs on the pink nipples, the way her spine moves on the sheets as she pushes her fingers into soft pink cunt. The long fine braids in her hair curl across the pillow, twist against the delicate colour of her face. His cock hardens and hurts, blood pounds in his temples, wanting to put his face between her thighs, drown in her smell, in her ocean wet.

After she comes, all glittering eyes and feral red smile, he uncurls his hands and asks, “Why? Why do you keep pushing me? Are you trying to get me to rape you? Why are you doing this?”

She regards him for a long pleased moment, her evil an almost visible heat distortion of gold around her.

“I want to.”

Simple devastating malice.

“You want to break my will,” he supplies. “Except that’s foolish. If I lose control, if you push me too far, it’ll hurt you more than it’ll hurt me.”

Her brows arch, lips quirking. “Will it? Do you know what happens when you fuck a siren?”

That word in her mouth almost makes him come.

“You aren’t a siren anymore,” he manages hoarsely.

She smiles wide and deep, baring her fangs. “Aren’t I?”

Fangs and talons and unmitigated sexual cruelty. Giving into lust will see him ripped to shreds.

So he leaves the room and stays on the boat for the rest of the day, feeling his blood congeal in his veins. On the beach, she walks with the children and the dog, exploring the rockpools and laughing with them. He strips off his shirt and starts to scrub down the deck, needing the physical exertion. The sun reflects harsh off the waters, he can feel his skin pinken and start to burn.

There was a time his mother used to warn him about exacerbating his freckles, that no woman would want a man so covered with spots. He snarls a laugh under his breath now and scrubs on, his shoulders slick with sweat. When he stops to wipe off his forehead, still so angry, the woman on the beach is standing very still, looking in his direction.

They don’t speak for about two days. She reads at the kitchen table, her face fierce with concentration. When he finishes clearing up after their evening meal, he sits opposite her, smoothing his thumb over a new piece of whale bone. Entering that deep reflective peace where the bone tells the whirls on his thumb what shape it wants to become.

“What’s this word?”

Her tone makes him grin, so impatient and annoyed at her own failure to understand. His mouth twitching, he leans forward to look at the book she holds open for him, her finger jabbing at the page. Her brows are very dark, the lush mouth tight and sulky.

“Hedonism.”

She grunts and reads on, forgetting him as the sentence absorbs her. It’s almost companionable, this silence. Husband and wife, sharing a life, sharing a quiet evening by the fire, with the soft rush and roar of the ocean outside. Is this what contentment feels like, he wonders, half conscious of the blade he puts to bone.

“What does it mean?”

“Indulgence, usually.” He meets her gaze, his tone mild. “A complete wilful immersion in pleasure.” Her eyes change on him, that glimmering sea green. But there’s no smirk, no malice. She looks at his mouth as he says with a slight rasp, “All the physical pleasures, all the sinful fleshly desires. Wilfully enjoying every moment.”

In the crackling silence, she’s breathing soft and rapid, her eyes roaming his face, her body seized in a kind of stillness. It’s the same tension he sensed from her that moment on the beach, watching him. Like a flame licking along the back of his neck.

“Oh,” she says now, her voice a little husky, and drops her gaze back to the book. Her lashes are very dark against the fine skin of her cheekbones. She’s starting to tan now from all the hours out under the sun, a faint gold glow under the creamy skin. He moves his blade along the curve of bone, stripping tiny shreds away, away.

And after a while he feels the weight of her gaze. She watches his hands from under her lashes, making him aware suddenly of how small the knife seems in his grip, of the shape of his fingers and the deftness of his touch, the contour of wrist and sinew. A peculiar sensation prickling along his nerves, that warms a secret place inside him with shameful soft pleasure. Maybe he is no longer an object to be loathed and destroyed, maybe he is desired.

It’s a brief hot moment that repeats over the next few days. Now he’s aware of her covert gaze, he feels it more and more. She still tries to taunt him with touches and glimpses of her flesh, but the malice keeps fading when she looks at him, a lambent green intensity, so much possibility throbbing between them.

Now he waits. Now he withholds his touch for an entirely different reason, sees the flicker of her lids when he moves around her, the way she goes still when he leans over to put the plate of food before her. At night when he sheds his clothes, she lies with her face pillowed in her arms, but he can feel the vibration of awareness off her, can feel her listening to the sounds of fabric on bare skin.

Sometimes in the morning, he dreams her crouching by his pallet, so close she could be breathing him in, her long nails almost grazing his sleeping face.

When he wakes, she’s already outside, watching the skies brighten over the ocean.

___________

 

He goes away on a fishing expedition, two nights out on the open water, two nights away from the seething flame of her in that tiny shack. He finishes carving the little piece of bone, and smiles grim at its shape, all the detail that came up to the surface.

There’s a woman on the boat who laughs at his jokes and touches his arm, her hair like fine pale silk short enough to brush her jawline. She’s well liked in the village, a capable fisher with her own boat and business. He has never been attuned to matters of attraction but now it’s a source of dark amusement. All this while longing for companionship, going to such dark rapacious extremes to procure himself a bedmate and life partner, and maybe the possibility had been here all along but he had been too consumed with self-pity to see.

The woman with short pale hair crawls into his berth the second night and kisses his mouth. Her body is the right blend of soft and strong, her nails trimmed neat, and her lips sweet. He lies quiescent for a little while, feeling out the shape of this other life offered to him. Maybe both, he could keep them both, two separate lives, one in the comfort and light, and the other in the hurtful dark.

He puts his hands on her shoulders and sets her back from him. Tells her he’s very flattered and she’s very kind and attractive, but his heart and flesh belong elsewhere.

The shack is warm and darkened upon his return, the fire banked to embers. He stokes up the hearth, and goes to change out of his seastiff clothes, undisturbed by her absence because he knows the hiding place hasn’t been discovered. He’s dragging his shirt up over his head when he hears the bedroom door open. His thoughts are on the money to be collected from the expedition, whether to spend it on the boat or the shack, whether she needs clothes or shoes or books.

Her voice lashes out. “Why do you smell like that?”

“What?” He blinks at her, dropping the shirt. The air sears around her, gold and green sparks in her eyes, the prettiness of her face turning vicious as she advances on him.

“You stink of another woman, she’s all over you.” The heel of her hand strikes his chest, talons glancing off his skin, and he stumbles back. “Why do you smell like another woman!” she screams.

“What do you care --” he starts to retort but she’s grabbed his throat with one hand and is kissing him, all fangs and tongue and the drowning red furnace of her mouth.

His mind flies apart, he drags her up against him. His hands are so big on her but holding her is like trying to hold a dragon, strong and wilful and so, so dizzyingly hot.

She shoves him down on the bed, straddling him, all dark wild hair and fierce glowing eyes. Tasting his own blood, he reaches up and drags her mouth back to his, devouring the taste of her, the bones of her face pushing against his palms. If he dies in this consummation, so be it. He’ll take her with him.

Her dress catches up around her waist as he finds the damp hair between her sleek thighs. It makes them both moan, she grabs his wrist and forces his fingers into her, through the slick female folds into the clinging heat inside. “Fuck,” he snarls and rolls them so he’s pressing her down. He scrabbles at his trousers, pulling them open so she can take hold of his cock with both lethal hands. “Oh fuck,” he says involuntarily, because she spreads her thighs and he can see the dark framed pink lips of her cunt opening for his cock. That shocking sight and then she’s shuddering on a long moan as his cock sinks to the hilt into her, such exquisite sweet slippery skin. They’re locked together, sharing breath and flesh, trembling in an agony of overwhelming sensation.

“Look at me,” he mutters, pressing their foreheads together so their lashes tangle into a blur of white skin and green flame. And she snarls a little, kisses him silent. She digs her nails into his lower back, a needy whimper, and he can’t wait any longer. He starts to fuck her, slow at first so she gets used to the size and pace of him, but faster as she catches his rhythm, as their blood moves faster and hotter, as she writhes and moans louder and louder, clawing at him to get closer, sucking him in deeper and deeper, her sweetest flesh clenching wetter and fiercer on his pulsing cock.

Green gold eyes, dark lashes, her violent soul gleaming at him as he fucks her and fucks her and she takes him, engulfs him with all her strength and vicious lust. He comes once into her and it’s not enough, he fucks her through it, savage and raw. Hears her cry out and feels her convulse around him, once, twice, again and again, strong sucking contractions that drench his invading cock in female fluid, the smell rising up between their bodies, heady and intoxicating.

It drives him wild, drives him harder and crueler into her, knowing he’s marked all over with her scent now, knowing she’s in his blood now, that he is forever her creature. He comes on that thought, on a groan that racks his body, shuddering into her, giving everything, everything.

___________

 

She pushes him off her after a little while. He rolls to one side, tired and happy, and catches her wrist as she rises. When she looks down at him, her expression cool but her face still dewy from their exertion, he says quietly, “Come directly back to bed.”

She detaches her wrist from his grasp, and leaves the room.

Krennic turns onto his back, only then realising their first fuck was more or less entirely clothed. The first -- as if she isn’t entirely capable of refusing him. She may well pretend this never happened, one aberrant act. As he shucks his trousers, a conviction rings otherwise in him, he knows things have irrevocably changed, that what they’ve done cannot be denied or erased. And she may be as unpredictable as ever.

He’s putting the match to the bedside candle when she comes back into the room, light flickering across his skin and up into the contours of his face. She halts with a soft gasp, drawing his attention. This woman he stole from the sea, who swore to kill him, who would kill him yet, stares at his naked male body like she would eat him whole.

He knows then. Her siren lust won’t be slaked in one tumultuous fuck.

As he watches her, his mouth tilting with a satisfaction he can’t hide, she lifts her chin and says, “Come here, please.”

He’s already obeying but the please curls happiness inside him. Her desire hasn’t eroded her arrogance, and as he smiles at her, deeply delighted, there’s a certain responsive gleam in her eyes.

Maybe they will form an understanding.

She undoes the top of her dress and lets her hands fall away, looking up into his face, a curious challenge. With a breath in, he puts both hands gently into the opened neckline, aware that he’s shaking a little. Already, so soon. Her small breasts are warm, so petal soft and smooth, yielding sweet in his grip. It makes him moan in his throat, makes him dip his head to kiss her mouth.

She averts her face with a caught breath, as if they haven’t devoured each other, as if she doesn’t already have his blood in her mouth. She kisses his throat instead, a delicious sort of confusion. So he pushes the flowered material of the dress further apart, shaping his hands to tender curves gleaming faintly in the candlelight. Watching her face as he rubs his thumbs across her nipples and she gasps so prettily, surprised by sensation.

“Kiss me,” he says roughly, ordering her.

And she doesn’t laugh or snarl at him. She stares at his mouth, so much dark turmoil in the vivid colours of her eyes. Kissing him out of spontaneous rageful possession was one thing. Kissing him now with deliberation, with their short vile history around them, is another thing.

So he strokes his fingertips slowly up the side of her neck and around the whorl of her ear, coaxing her, and sees how she shivers and catches herself, wide-eyed. His mouth curves. With the other hand, he tugs the dress off one shoulder, baring one sweet pink tipped breast. If she’s going to draw this out, he’s going to make it beautiful agony for them both.

She touches his hair when he bends and kisses down her throat. Tips her head back on a soft breath to allow him access, her body swaying towards him. He looks at the perfect shape of her nipple, the delicate colour against the palest cream of her breast. A tiny whimper in her throat, her fingers tighten in his hair, urging him on.

He goes to his knees before her, pulling her dress away to leave her bare, and he places his worshipful mouth where her belly flattens above her sex. Tender kisses, one after the other, down to where her female heat burns fiercest. He dips his tongue in, through the fragrant tickling curls, tasting where she’s still full of his come. Her knees buckle, and he catches her with a laughing breath, puts his tongue back into her before she can lose her temper with him. And sure enough, her fingers seize his hair, a moan in the soft hot air. He sucks long and slow on her clit, licks in deep and sure until her flesh ripples and pulses with new hot wetness. Now, in this moment, he finds himself unashamed to seduce her right back. Maybe he’s been seducing her all this time.

He kisses the inside of her thighs, one then the other, and moves up. Up along her smooth flinching skin as she breathes soft and excited, one slow kiss after another. Until he closes his mouth on her breast, and she melts against him, a warm willing woman who coils her arms around his neck when he stands and swings her up into his arms, ready to take her to his bed.

He doesn’t need to say it then.

She puts both hands on his face and kisses him, her mouth open and fierce.

____________

 

They don’t leave the shack for a day and a half, nearly all that time spent in bed as the candle dwindles and gutters out and the sun comes up, the eerie dawn light turning to sunshine streaming warm through the white curtains. Clothes on the floor, the sheets smelling of skin and hair and sweat and sex.

He spends several slow minutes licking the long black violence of her tattoo, his tongue firm and wet, until she’s quivering and sighing, reaching her hand between her own thighs. He licks her there too, lying between her legs for a long lazy while, taking his sweet time on her clit and such hot intricate flesh, as she runs her fingers through his hair and shudders and whimpers her pleasure like a song.

All her mockery is nowhere to be seen when she arches into his hands, touching his face as he cups her breasts and suckles long and tender on her nipples. Moaning and clutching the back of his shoulders when her thighs spread and wrap around him, taking him into her. She shares her body with him like she has no agenda other than need and pleasure, an uninhibited sensual creature. It makes his head swim, kissing her throat and mouth and breasts as the candlelight dances across their gilded flesh, cradling her face in this effort at love making because it is true, he admits it now. He is trying to make her love him.

The children trudge up to the door in the morning, knocking and calling for her. Mostly asleep, he lets her dislodge his weight, cracking open his eyes to see her slip into his rumpled shirt. Her hair is a tangled black mess by now, a sight that makes him smile as he dozes and waits for her to return. She sends the children away and comes back to their bed, discarding his shirt with a conspiratorial smile.

In his arms, she lies against his chest and kisses him deep, kisses across his shoulders and then down, down, roaming her clever mouth across all of his sleep warm skin. She bites his cock with care, making him grunt and clench his hand in her hair. When she flicks her intelligent green eyes up at him, he mumbles, “All right.” And it’s a dizzy dangerous bliss when she skins him with her tongue, when she rakes across his flesh with her fangs, tiny slices of bright sweet pain, marking him all over with her fatal mouth. He comes down her throat, puts his fingers up the cloyed heat of her well used cunt, and laughs low and deep as she seizes sweet pleasure on him.

When the sun is at its highest, filling the room with warmth, he moves the dark curling hair away from the back of her neck and slowly kisses the knife scar where her tattoo begins, stroking down her arm until she wakes and lifts her mouth to his. She’s in the same bloodheavy daze of pleasure with him, a delicious callous familiarity in the way she wraps her arms around him and drags her palms across his back, like she’s taken ownership of his body. They’ve fucked in at least seven different positions by now (he’s lost count), he’s come more times in the past day than he has in a few years, only leaving their sexsoaked bed to fetch them both water.

“Hedonism,” he murmurs at one point, and she laughs quietly into the pillow. It’s a golden sound, of summer sex and smooth female skin, a sound that he takes into his heart.

___________

 

A few days later he sees her searching the rockpools on her own as the day shades towards dusk. She stoops, the flowered hem soaking, and brings a clump of seaweed to her mouth. Disquieted, he stares but she doesn’t notice him, chewing reflectively as she stands in the murky water and gazes out to the ocean.

She does this every couple of weeks. They’ve settled into a new routine of ravenous sexual debauchery and perfunctory talk. She still doesn’t clean or cook, still spends her days walking the beaches with the children and the dog. On the days they don’t visit, she reads and draws and fucks him.

There are sketches now of him, of his broad hand cupping her breast, of the back of his neck where it slopes into his shoulder, of his cheekbone with so many freckles, the long contour of his sleeping body in bed with the blanket slipping off his hip. Charcoal and fine pencil detail, the pink of his nipple and cream of his skin in swallowing darkness.

Then one day he sees her pause. She crouches on the edge of the rockpool, staring at the seaweed. And with hesitancy, she touches low on her belly.

In the shadows, his skin goes cold with understanding.

Her face hardens and she grabs the handful of green, cramming it into her mouth like she’s made some ruthless decision. He turns away, unable to watch any longer.

She finds the bone knife he used on her, and carves little patterns into his skin, laps up the blood with small excited cries, squirming against the sheets. Of course he lets her do this, drowning in a red golden bliss, his throat arching as she kisses her way up and sinks her teeth in the soft spot behind his ear. A growl in his chest, he rubs her cunt as she cuts and licks him, exquisite pleasure made keener by the pain, fucking her with his fingers until she moans and covers his body with hers, swallowing his sounds with her hungry mouth, losing the knife in the warmed sheets.

There’s so much hunger in the possessive way she looks at him, in the drag of her fingers on his skin, when she tips her chin up and kisses him fierce, when she pushes him down and swarms his body with hers. She takes his cock into her mouth as he presses his face into her cunt and licks her open, sucking on her clit as she sucks him into her throat. Her siren desire for him is rapacious, it exceeds any words they could possibly manage.

In lust they are honest.

The months pass, and her belly stays flat. He sees the rags she washes and hangs out to dry, he knows she menstruates like any other human woman. Several times he considers taking a firetorch to the seaweed in the rockpool, but she’d find some other way, wouldn’t she? And maybe, maybe he likes it this way too. They have time, surely. Maybe it’s enough to enjoy each other for now, enough time to nourish a tenderness he knows he shouldn’t hope for, but he does, he does.

When they’re lying together in the cooling sheets by candlelight, her cheek against his, she traces the lines in his palm. Curious, he nudges up her fingers, and they look at the almost smooth surface where her palm is only just beginning to striate and engrave.

“Do you know how old I am?” she asks quietly, startling him on some deep level.

“Older than your hands,” he replies, laughter in his voice. Of course she doesn’t understand that too human reference.

Her eyes flick with curiosity to his face but then she looks back at her hand. “We don’t count time like you, you realise?”

“No?”

She’s never spoken like this before.

“Well, maybe,” she amends. “We do use seasons. Like you.”

With great care, knowing she could pull away at any second, he nuzzles her temple, his voice low and nonchalant. “How many seasons, then?”

Her mouth curls up at both corners, pure mischief. She rubs the tip of one finger against the gentle curving line across her other palm. “Three hundred.”

And she lifts her gaze to his face, a bright challenge.

He thinks several steps ahead in this conversation and decides it’s far better that he kiss her hard, moving his body onto hers, a bold unashamed demand. Maybe she realises why, maybe she’s pushing away the same knowledge of their difference, of all that separates them. She kisses him back, open-mouthed, her hand fastening on his nape, holding him to her.

She likes to sleep in the sunshine, bare and curled across the middle of the rumpled bed. He strokes the shape of her ankle to rouse her, tugs her foot in a long gentle movement so she uncurls and wakes, blinking a lazy smile up at him.

“You’re like a cat,” he murmurs, leaning over her. She makes a face but strokes his jaw when he kisses her slow and deep. Sunlight diffuses gold through the white veiled curtain, glowing the warm dusky air of the bedroom as he fucks her steady across the bed, her hair in midnight waves spilling over the edge. She watches him, pretty and soft, smiling with so much female sensual delight, her hands hooking light onto his hipbones. He feels the moving muscles in his back and shoulders, the clenching curves of his arse, driving his cock smooth and strong into her as she tips up her stubborn chin and moans in time to his rhythm.

Afterwards in the sweet golden peace, he kisses that chin.

Early mornings when he’s asleep is when she allows herself to touch him with tenderness. He feels it, keeps his eyes closed, when she watches him, so close her breath whispers over his skin, stirring his lashes. It’s like she learns him, memorises him. Maybe this is when she draws him. Other times she traces patterns across his cheekbone and chin with the very tip of a talon. It takes him a few mornings to realise she’s connecting the freckles that darken with the sun.

Sometimes she traces the uneven curve of his lower lip, her tongue darting out to the stubble on his chin. A few times she sighs into his skin and wakes him with a bite, wanting to be fucked. Other times she lays her head against his heart and thinks.

A loveless fascination … is it?

______________

 

One night in bed, she touches his mouth and tells him where her name comes from. They’re talking about sailors’ constellations, soft idle murmurs with half-conscious caresses of skin and nipple and dark hair. And she says her father named her for the gold dust in her eyes.

“Stardust,” Krennic says softly.

Jyn gazes at him, her expression open and artless, so close to a vulnerability he has never seen in her. It disturbs him a little, he doesn’t pursue the conversation, he doesn’t want her thinking about the family she’s been taken from, the family out there looking for her. So he wraps his arms around her, buries his face in the fragrant curling darkness of her hair. And she stays silent and thoughtful in his arms, her hand clasping his wrist.

A rainstorm pounds the shoreline a few weeks later, the wind driving the drops horizontal. She goes outside, stands under where the water pours off the thatched edge of the roof. The air tingles, he watches her from the doorway with a creeping chill.

She has no idea how close she is to her skin.

He watches as she undoes her dress, as it falls away, her body lithe and pale catching stormlight. She lets the water pour down over her face, slicks her hands over her hair.

He leaves his clothes in the doorway and approaches her, ducks his head under the cold stream of water.

Her eyes gleam joy, she leans up to kiss him, then pulls away a little so they can both watch as she strokes his chest, tracing the ropy line of his scar where she had struck him and he hadn’t let it heal clean. Need flickers in the air, tastes like steel. The rich scent of rainsoaked earth and wild ocean rushes in waves around them, he tastes that too when he cups her face and kisses her, stroking down her neck, thinking he’ll never get enough of her.

A whimper in her throat, she kisses along the line of his shoulder as the rain pours down on them, runs her tongue over the wet flat shapes of his chest. It reminds him that his body is entirely hers, willingly given, sacrificed to all her hunger, a shockingly easy relinquishing of himself.

When she turns around, looking up at him over her shoulder, her bottom rubs sweet against the hard curve of his cock. He swears a little, reaching around to in between her thighs, pulling her back against him the way she wants. Wet tangled hair and wet hot skin. Her nails rake down his forearm, delicious little cries as he teases her clit, as he fingers her until she’s slick and clenching, cunt hungry for him.

The clouds roll and thunder overhead, flashes of light on the horizon, the roar of rain moving across the churning ocean waves. And she lets out that long heartfelt cry when he pushes his cock into her, rain cool on their hot skin, such exquisite warmth inside her. She braces both arms on the shack wall, the muscles moving gleaming in her back, and gasps as she fucks him swift and deep. Her hand comes to cover his when he grasps her breast, nails digging into his skin. He has his face buried in her wet hair, the fingers of his other hand working her clit, and her cunt is pulsing soft hot sweet around his cock, taking him, taking him.

Much later, after a few hours of moans and sweat and come in the safe warmth of their bed, he goes nude to the window, watching the storm drift out to the horizon. It’s been a brutal one, there’ll be so much damage in the morning, so much to salvage and clear away on the beaches and in the village, maybe boats and fishers lost out at sea, bells ringing hopeless on the keening winds.

His arms curved up, hands resting on the top jamb, he senses her the moment before she touches him.

“What are you watching?” she murmurs, caressing slow from the curve of his arse up and across his back to his nape. Her mouth touches his shoulder in a light open kiss that feels so much like affection his heart clenches.

“That,” he replies, indicating the distant lightning as he turns to her. She doesn’t look, smiling at him with the satiated calm of a woman well fucked. He smiles back, knowing. The skies could blow away the world beyond the window for all they care. Salvage can wait until the morning. His mouth curving tender, he dips his head to kiss her, and takes her back to bed.

______________

 

The village clean up takes a few days. Reluctant to leave her, he pitches in as best he can. When he takes off his shirt to work easier, moving toppled rafters and debris with the other men, there are sideways looks and eventual jokes about the thousand little marks across his arms and torso. Some are healed, some are not. He doesn’t realise until they point out that he’s lost a startling amount of weight over the past few months. He shrugs it off as a hard year’s work, but a secret pride twists hot and sure in his chest.

Their arrangement works, then. He gets to have her, and she feeds off him.

One of the children come running with word that a sea creature has stranded itself on the beach. Krennic’s mind leaps immediately to the worst possibility as they hurry down to the ravaged shore.

Jyn is kneeling beside the great wounded sea lion dying slowly. There’s a grief on her face he has never seen, anguish in the eyes she raises to him when he touches her shoulder. While the villagers argue the best course of action, he crouches beside her and asks a silent meaningful question. She reads his expression correctly, shakes her head in a minute gesture.

In the babble of voices, Jyn cuts through all the arguing. “We need to return her to the ocean. She deserves that at least.”

As the massive bleeding creature sinks below the waves, watched in silence by the children and the adults, Krennic bends his head. Jyn’s hand curls around his, her eyes steady on the changing blues. Only he hears the words she murmurs under her breath, a soft sibilant language of valediction.

The curious villagers invite her back to the pub where she laughs and charms them all. He watches her with a less than subtle pride, sees how their approval of her reflects on him. The last of the Krennic line isn’t so pitied now.

As the beer flows and the noise increases, she starts to get the kind of attention that makes her preen and smirk, that gleam of gold to the air around her. It spikes a violent jealousy in him, remembering her taunts, and he finds himself wanting to drag her away. Watching the men flock around her, watching her smile deep at the blushing women, the powerful allure of clever green eyes in the pretty face surrounded by dark wild hair, the intoxicating blend of intelligence and sexual promise.

This is his fault. He brought her here, when he should have kept her isolated, kept her where she could focus only on him. And now he has to watch and seethe with fury because now he will no longer be enough for her.

By the time they leave, his grip is too tight on her elbow. They don’t speak but he can feel her delight. She knows exactly what he’s feeling. And when they enter the shack, she laughs at him.

“Well?” he snarls. “Is that it? Are you done with me now?” He’s grabbing her elbows, panic firing his rage. “Am I not enough for you anymore?”

She opens her mouth to reply and he kisses her, not wanting to hear. His hand in her hair, pulling her head back, she gasps into his invading mouth. Ever voracious, she digs her long nails into his chest and sucks on his tongue. He’s pushed her onto the kitchen table, her legs are wrapping around his hips, she’s pulling her skirt out of the way, the buttons ripping off her dress as he gets at her baring breasts. She cries out when he bites her on the throat and rams his cock into her, a shocked exultant sound rife with all the harmonics of lust and violence. He fucks her so deep the head of his cock bumps the mouth of her womb, startling her into a different kind of moan, a giddy laughter spilling from her bruised lush mouth.

“Look at me,” he says, catching her face between his hands. “Look at me now. Do you want other men? Those men in the pub? The women? Do you want me to bring them to you? Do you know what they’ll call you then? What that’ll make you in the village?”

She laughs at him, reckless. “I don’t care, why should I care about your stupid human morality --”

He kisses the words back into her mouth, trying to silence her. She’ll have none of that, she tears at his lips, spilling his blood. Her legs tighten around him, hips moving, making him groan and fuck her in a jagged shallow rhythm. But then her words sink deeper into him, hurting far more than they should. He’s disengaging, trying to pull out of her cunt, trying to peel her fingers off him.

“No!” she exclaims and swears at him in her other language. “No, don’t --”

“No one but me,” he insists, gripping her face, locked in this furore of emotion with her. “Say it.”

Her eyes smoulder at him, an untamed creature. “You’re enough for now,” she says tightly.

It’s not what he wants to hear so he puts his hand over her furious mouth and fucks her hard til they both come in a wet hurtful pleasure.

“What’s that word?” he asks when they’re in bed, the candlelight wavering across them. Her back is to him, he’s stroking the long dark curls that stream down her inked spine. Over, not through. He’s learnt by now that if he tries to run his fingers through, her hair tangles him until he fears he can’t get free. “What’s that word you keep calling me?”

She stirs, glancing over her shoulder, astonished. “What do you care?”

“I like to know what filthy thing I’m being called,” he replies mildly.

Her body vibrates with a chuckle. She turns to face him, her expression bright with glee. Says the word again and explains, “It means -- well, it’s hard to translate exactly. Our -- we use a lot of phrases that -- our swearing is very inventive and extremely flexible. So it means anything from cheeky rascal to vile lowlife to what you would call a motherfucker.”

“Ha,” he says with satisfaction. “I knew it was a bad word.”

“How clever you are,” she replies, quite droll. And he laughs as he pulls her close, kissing her warm smiling mouth.

____________

 

To his surprise, she shows no interest in returning to the village. She reads with the children on the beach, asks him with diffidence to bring her more books, and keeps a light hand on his wrist as he carves his little pieces of bone.

“Would you like to try?” he offers on a whim one day.

She shakes her head, soft lucent gaze dropping to his mouth. “No, I like to watch you do it.”

He grins at her, sees how that makes her blush and smile back at him. Like they have always been this way, a good and happy human couple who met and fell in love under blue skies in sunshine.

Sometimes he wonders how she could have forgotten, how she could be this ardent and generous with him. But then he remembers. She still takes the seaweed. He still keeps her skin secret.

So he pushes the unease away to concentrate on each lovely moment with her.

There are times when he’s sitting at the kitchen table that she passes behind him and stops to tip his head back, one hand cupping his chin. Her hair falls around them as she kisses his mouth slow and tender, how she lingers in these long luscious moments like she’s tasting the curves of his lips for the very first time.

When the children leave and she returns to the shack, he’s reclining in bed, trying to decide whether to get up to start cooking. She walks into their room, slim and naked and inked, having left her dress on the kitchen floor, and straddles him in one long easy movement. A bright laughing smile between them as he curves his arms around her, as she cradles his jaw with both hands and kisses him. The smooth black line of her spine moves, she reaches between them to nudge the head of his cock into her. He whispers her name, sees how her eyes flare breathless arousal, and clasps the sweet round shapes of her bottom as she rides him.

When she’s nestled in his arms afterwards, cheek to cheek, his mouth against the corner of her lips, she sighs and reaches up, curving her arm around the side of his head. He tightens his hold, catching her lips with his. All hands and stroking, soft little murmurs, the sheets sliding over their skin in the sunset reds and golds.

“If,” he says slowly, “if … I gave you your skin back …”

Jyn goes very slow, her nails lengthening on his forearm.

“... would you consider …”

She looks up at him, her eyes terrible and beautiful.

“... staying?”

“No.” She says it without hesitation and tries to roll out of his arms. He doesn’t let go, locking his arms around her.

“What if --”

She twists around, incredulous. “Do you think you can bargain this? Do you --”

“Yes.”

“Why?” she retorts. “Why would you --”

“Because I want you to stay,” he says simply.

As she stares at him, her disbelief fading, Krennic adds, “But it has to be your choice --”

She scoffs, rightly so.

“-- and yes, I know I gave you no choice in this. I know I have no right to offer you one now --”

“You have no authority over me! You do not get to set the terms here!”

“I understand,” he replies, trying to stay calm. “Tell me what you want.”

Her eyes flash, the fanged red mouth opening.

“Tell me what I can do so you want to stay. With me.”

This time the stare is wide-eyed and a little distressed.

So he offers her the suggestions he’s been considering. “You could live with me every day, and every night go out on the ocean.”

“Your people will find and kill me.”

“Then stay a season with me, and a season away.”

She shakes her head. “That is not how it works. Once I leave, I cannot return.”

“Then take me with you.”

Jyn goes silent, her eyes huge and worried.

“Make me one of yours --”

“That’s impossible,” she says softly.

“Is it?” he challenges. “As impossible as you and your skin?”

She shakes her head, turmoil in all the lovely shapes of her face.

“There has to be a way,” he coaxes. “I could be one of you. Loll around on the barnacles, singing sailors to their death. All of those men who don’t care for women -- I could bring them in, I know a great many shanties.”

She laughs weakly. “Stop -- don’t -- it’s no laughing matter.”

“No, it isn’t,” he agrees, sobering. “Then --” he takes in a painful breath. “Then give me a child. Stay until the birth. Or go away and have the baby with your kind, but then bring him to me. Leave her with me.” As she watches him, he says with difficulty, “I’ll take care of it. You know I will. Our child will be the most precious thing in the world to me.”

He holds back the words just in time but she’s distracted anyway. Her mouth twisting, she says, “What if it’s more me than you?”

“I’ll love it just the same. I’ll do whatever it needs. No harm will ever come to our child.”

She considers this for a long dark moment. Then says abruptly, “I will not be separated from any child I choose to bear.”

“Then stay,” he says softly, pressing her against him. “Stay with me.” He nuzzles her hair, feels how she trembles a little in his arms, the same impossible yearning that runs through her. “We can have children,” he murmurs, “and live here by the ocean or wherever you want. Maybe some of them will be more fishy than you and never leave the water. And some will be like me and never leave the shack. We’ll care for all of them --”

“How many are you planning?” she exclaims, indignant.

“Six?” he offers, not serious at all.

“I hardly think so!”

“Four?”

“Three,” she counters and then catches herself. “No! This is absurd!”

“If you leave,” he says in the dark after the sun is gone, “I will come find you.”

It’s not a threat, his voice is quiet and leaden.

“And I’ll kill you,” she replies, her voice hollow.

“Yes.”

__________

 

He returns one night to the shack to find her sitting on the bed. Her skin is laid out beside her.

“You moved it,” she says without inflection. “I had already looked in the woodpile. You put it where I would find it.”

Today marks a year since he found and captured her.

He leaves the bedroom door open. “I did.”

Jyn leans on her arm, breathing shallow and fast, her gaze locked to his.

“You made me a promise,” he reminds her. “You said the first thing you’d do --”

“I know what I said.”

She straightens on the bed to face him, somehow taller and so much more powerful, her shadow rippling dark on the candle bright air. “I am not yours to keep,” she says unsteadily, her vivid gaze roaming his face.

“I know.”

She sheds the dress and slips into her skin.

The long glittering swathe transforms her utterly, all rich coloured scales and white blue skin, the great fantail of blue green that ripples across their bed with impossible beauty. Long white talons on her webbed hands, jewels like seafire in her long wild hair, across her brow like a diadem, spiralling down her arms and around one bare tightening nipple. His breath catches with so much pain in his chest, he had forgotten what a magnificent sight she is in her true form. All the feral predator beauty of her.

“Orson,” she says in her rich melodic voice and holds her gleaming arms out to him, shuddering on a great gasp as the gills in her torso flutter in this dry trapped air. He moves to her without thinking, sweeping her up off the bed into his embrace. She smells like the ocean in a storm, chaotic elements and tingling air, even as she buries her face against his throat, the great heavy tail dragging its shimmer blue fin down to the floorboards.

“It’s all right,” he says hoarsely, “I’ll take care of you.”

He carries her out of the shack and down to the shore, carries her into the waves crashing high under the lowering dark blue skies. The moment the water touches her skin, she slips out of his hold. It feels like his heart tears on a hook right in his chest.

But she keeps hold of his hand, her eyes very deep and glowing an uncanny sea green in the shadows. “Don’t leave me,” he says on a painful breath, and she moves up, pressing her wet strong body against his. Red mouth, hidden fangs.

He kisses her with all the awful knowledge that this is the last time, his hands coming to the smooth inward curve of her naked back. Has she kept the tattoo, does her siren form carry the memory of human flesh? He wants to see but then she’s kissing him in response and drawing him into the rushing waves.

Her hands on his face, she coils her powerful tail around his legs as they sink into the ocean blue. His lungs start to burn but he doesn’t care, a screaming grief inside him as he kisses her throat, down and down until he’s mouthing the jewels around her nipple and she’s guiding his fingers across scales to the slick opening slit of her cunt.

He makes love to her as the waves close above his head and her hair floats in a great dark cloud around them. She stares at him like she’s memorising his face, he knows that’s what it is, and she brings his mouth to hers, all death and beauty.

His lungs bursting, he comes into her and clings to her, locked in an embrace he never wants to end.

Wordless now.

She holds his face and kisses him. She seems to taste of regret and murdered dreams. Her eyes are very beautiful and glow white in the ocean deep as she gently releases him.

“No,” he tries to say, reaching out his hand to her. But water rushes into his mouth and he loses her.

The last thing he sees is the long black design down her back, the flick of the blue green tailfin as she disappears into the dark.

Worldless now.

__________

 

The ocean spits him back onto the shore, a fragment of driftwood stumbling up to the shack. Nothing makes sense anymore. He doesn’t move for days, deaf to the children and the few visitors, numb to everything but his annihilating loss.

He will never see her again.

Then one day he looks around at the shack that has been the refuge of so many generations of broken and disappointed Krennic men. And he moves on instinct, following a path that unfurls like stardust in his mind.

He takes the boat to the village where he talks with the fishers who were his friends on the open sea. The children find him, ask him where the clever pretty lady has gone. The villagers read the graven lines of his face and don’t ask. It’s obvious that the young woman grew tired of him and went away like everyone thought she would.

He thinks a shadow follows his boat through the waters. But every time he turns to look, there is only the rolling glittering blue.

Back in the room he shared with her, he collects all the sketches of charcoal and paint into an iron box. There is one he has never seen before. His spine asleep, touched by a tender webbed hand. With a painful breath, he rolls it up in a scrap of leather and stows it in a shirt pocket next to his heart.

When the sun begins its silent arc into the ocean, he takes the iron box out to the beach where the children will find it the next morning. He sets fire to the thatched shack, but he doesn’t wait to watch all the Krennic artefacts and chronicles go up in flames. They don’t matter anymore.

As the dirty black smoke rises into the vivid skies behind him, he takes the boat out one last time. In his trouser pocket is the bone knife. Around his neck is strung the delicate creamy carving of her true form. He sails into the sunset waters, to where the birds don’t fly and the seas roil unpleasant dark, to where the gold creeps in from the horizon up the rocks.

She is waiting for him, alone and silent, a luminous creature of so much murderous beauty. His heart lurches with sickening delight in his chest. This woman he knows so intimately, who watches unsmiling as he dives off the boat and swims to her.

“You came,” she says, her voice rich and unrevealing.

From the waves, he gazes up at her. “I promised. I said I’d find you.” He pauses, then says it. “Will you have me?”

Now he sees how her breathing quickens, the tiny signs of her agitation in the flickering green gaze, the pulse in her throat. He moves closer, one hand finding the rough base of the rocks. With the other, he offers her the bone knife. An apology, a tribute, an offering of himself once again.

She leans down, her smooth blue white shoulders moving with faint feather and scale, and takes the knife from him, setting it aside before she looks at his face for a long troubled moment. “You don’t know what you’re asking.”

“I know exactly,” he counters firmly. “There is nothing else I want.”

Her eyes glint with that fierce intelligence, distrustful and yet something, something gives her pause. She touches his face with the long white talons of one hand, a caress that pulses a soft hunger through him, makes him lift his mouth to hers, yearning.

“Jyn,” he says. Pleading.

But something distracts her. With a tiny gasp, she touches the bone carving strung around his throat, her expression changing swift as she traces all the intricate detail.

“You left me,” he murmurs, daring to touch her now, the weird texture of scale and smooth flesh. As she focuses on his mouth, on his eyes, he says, “You said I’d suffer when you found your skin, and I did. I wanted you to kill me in the ocean, that last time we -- I thought you would, you promised. But you left me instead. And that hurt so much worse. Did you intend that?”

Her eyes go very dark and vulnerable. “Maybe.”

“You wanted me to suffer,” he says softly, reaching up to drift his lips on hers.

“You deserved to suffer,” she replies, her voice catching heat against his mouth. “For everything you did to me. For taking me away from everything I knew, for your own selfish loneliness, your small human greed.”

He lifts his hands to her hair, willingly tangling his fingers, binding himself to her. “For making you care for me?”

She takes in a long painful breath, the sea green and gold eyes searching his face. And then she says with precision: “Fuck you.”

Just as he starts to grin, her gaze flicks past him to where he realises there must be smoke rising from the distant shore. She realises in a moment, darts her attention back to him with disbelief. “What did you do?” she asks, horror ringing in her voice. “What have you done?”

“Nothing important,” he says and hauls himself up onto the rocks beside her. “You haven’t answered. Will you have me?”

Her temper sparks. “Your arrogance --”

He catches her hands in his, brings them to his lips. “I know. I’m a deeply flawed horrible person. I did terrible things to you, I maimed you, held you captive, made love to you --”

She pulls her hands away, humour warring with annoyance in all the expressive shapes of her face. “Don’t you dare make fun of this --”

“I’m not! I set fire to my whole life, I have nothing left on land!” He softens his tone, curling his fingers around her cool webbed hand. “All I am now is yours. Will you have me?”

She stares at him, thought moving fast through her eyes. “You willingly give yourself over to me.”

“In a heartbeat. This heartbeat.”

A lovely malice flickers and changes the contours of her sleek face, gleams in sea green and gold. “This is not open to negotiation, you understand. You have absolutely no power here. You will do as you’re told, go where you’re told, live how and where I tell you.”

He stares at her, starting to understand. “I am your captive.”

“That’s exactly right.”

His heart is pounding wild. “I belong to you.”

“Precisely.”

“Love has nothing to do with it.”

“Of course not.”

“I understand,” Krennic says and kisses her mouth swift and hard, unable to stay apart from her any longer, unable to be anything but wrapped up in all of her. Jyn gasps like she’s finally released a breath, her arms twining around his neck, her tail coiling around them. His hands stroke up the bold pattern of her back, slipping under the heavy damp weight of her hair, and he kisses her deeper and deeper until his head grows light and she’s pulling him down onto the rocks with her, whimpering those needy little sounds he loves.

“I own you now,” she whispers to him between kisses. “All of you. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” he says thickly, cupping her jewelled breast with one hand. “I will do everything you want.”

She frames his face with her webbed hands, her talons cool on his skin. “You will be a good husband.”

“Yes.”

“And a good father.”

“Yes -- what?”

Her eyes light up with pure joy as she catches his hand and brings it between their bodies. Against his palm, a tiny shape wriggles in her flat belly.

“Oh gods,” Krennic mutters, kissing her deep and fervent. The world has changed in one dazzling moment and now it’s changed again. Now his mind races with plans and ideas, where to take them, how to care for them, where they can build a good comfortable life, safe from intrusion and prurient curiosity.

“Are you scheming?” Jyn demands, touching his face. “You are, aren’t you?”

“Well,” he says, dropping a kiss on the tip of her nose. “Plans need to be made.”

She pushes up on one elbow, scowling at him. “Did you not hear what I said? You have no say in anything anymore, I am entirely in charge of you.”

He grins at her, undisturbed. “Very well, then. Tell me. Where do we live, where do we raise our little fishy human?”

As he pets her smooth belly, Jyn laughs softly, raking her nails gently down his cheekbone. “Well … since you ask …”

She turns her head and calls one long trilling note across the sunset waves. And the seas erupt, water fountaining up, sloshing hard across the rocks. Drenched and coughing, Krennic grabs her to his side, trying not to panic.

As his vision clears and something huge surfaces, Jyn is saying coolly, “You see, if you didn’t come to me, I was going to come get you. Once our child was born, I was going to take you from the land, whether you wanted to or not, and we would live on this.”

This is a huge old ship with rigged sails and towering masts against the vivid skies, water cascading from its decks thronged with creatures of her kind, some tailed and some legged, all regarding him with various expressions of curiosity and disapproval in the changing lurid shades of dusk.

“You,” he stammers. “This -- who are those -- you did this?”

“Yes.” There’s a very smug tilt to her mouth. “Well, my parents helped.”

“Your parents!”

She grins, tossing the sodden mass of her hair back over one shoulder. “It was my mother’s idea, actually. My father made it happen.” She casts a merry glance at the figures on the decks. “They don’t like the idea of you, of course.” That mischievous green gaze settles on him. “I told them that you’re a surly difficult and thoroughly selfish man, everything we know to be the worst of humans.”

“I beg your pardon!” Krennic splutters.

“Not that that’s surprising,” she barrels on, clearly enjoying herself. “After all, you stole their eldest daughter from them, imprisoned her on land, and then had the effrontery to return her with child. According to my parents, you are the worst embodiment of every awful thing we’ve heard about human men. You’re going to have quite a task getting them to like you.”

He groans, casting a nervous glance at the silent figures watching them from up high. “I look forward to it …”

She gurgles a laugh, hugging his arm with a fondness that sends warmth blazing through him. As he embraces her, she looks at him with a soft sobering expression.

“I am not yours to keep,” she says. “Do you remember I said that to you?”

“Yes.”

“But … I am mine to share.”

It moves through him, a tide of steady happiness, knowing what she gives him.

“Do you understand?” she asks, somewhat anxious.

Krennic beams at her. “No. Explain it to me. At length. In detail. Forever.”

Jyn laughs, a glorious delighted sound of summer and sunshine and all the golden beautiful days ahead.

The siren and the sailor travel the oceans of the world aboard a grand old ship with a family of noisy curious half human half sea creatures. Some are more human, some are more fishy. All are a great deal more trouble than expected.

He gets everything he wanted after all. She has to give up nothing for him.

Together, they sail into a thousand sunsets.