Loveday held Cytherea’s face in her palms—took in the want swimming through her eyes, the flush of pink on her cheekbones. She had never known her lover to look so desperate. She pressed their lips together, swallowing Cytherea’s gasps as they emptied out against her. The ache between her legs increased with every sound her necromancer made, and Loveday could hardly stop herself as she pressed further, fingertips sliding against translucent skin until they reached the back of Cytherea’s dress. She found the zipper cold against her palm, feeling more than seeing as Cytherea arched into her touch. Loveday gingerly drew the slider down. Seafoam green tumbled down her lover like waves, leaving behind tender skin and modest undergarments. Cytherea pulled her mouth away, which would be a tragedy in any other circumstance, if she hadn’t used the distance to walk backwards until she was lying on top of their bed. Loveday followed, stepping carefully over the pooled fabric. Instead of crawling beside or on top of Cytherea, she dropped to her knees in front of the mattress. She pressed a kiss against the pale inside of Cytherea’s right ankle.
“Come here,” Loveday murmured. Her eyes flickered up so she could see the way her necromancer’s chest caved as she let out a shuddering breath. Loveday waited patiently, hands hovering a kiss above the skin of Cytherea’s legs as they slid into what Loveday considered their natural place on her shoulders. Finally, she ran her palms against the outside of her lover’s thighs, settling her mouth on the sensitive junction where hips curve inward—
“Yo, Nav, you done jerking off in there? It’s been like, ten minutes. I gotta piss something crazy,” calls the voice of Naberius Tern, accompanied by the slam of his fists against the employee bathroom door like the world’s most gnarly alarm clock.
Gideon Nav has wanted to fight Naberius from the first moment she had the misfortune of hearing him speak—she’s thankfully had the opportunity to do so several times before, which is the sole benefit of working at the same gym as the worst person alive—but never so much as this moment. She was in the zone, typing words frantically as they came to her brain. She’d had writer’s block for weeks when suddenly inspiration struck as she sat upon her porcelain throne. She’d opened her doc (articulately titled “cythday pwp #5”) and pounded at her keypad like a woman on fire, if that woman could only no longer be on fire if she were to write the sexiest pussy eating scene in the history of erotic literature. And right when she was getting to the good stuff, in comes Naberius’s voice with all the sex appeal of 200 rotting corpses.
“Use the client bathroom if you have to go that bad, asswipe,” Gideon calls back, even though she knows it’s no use. The moment has passed. She might as well throw her phone in the toilet and flush it away with all the rest of her dreams.
“Yeah, I’m not doing that. It’s your turn to clean the pubes off the floor. I’m not stepping foot in there and risking tetanus or whatever,” Naberius mumbles, which could have been fair if he had anything in his brain besides bricks.
“Tetanus doesn’t—nope, nevermind, not touching that.” Gideon flushes the toilet even though she had been too fixated to actually like, use it, mostly because she didn’t want Naberius to think she was actually jacking off in there. She just didn’t want Naberius to think about her jacking off, ever. End of sentence.
She washes her hands slowly, making sure to get soap under all her fingernails and indulging herself with some sexy faces in the mirror. She stays under the electric hand dryer for the eight years it takes for her hands go from “wet” to “moist,” then wipes them off on her shorts because even in these circumstances, she doesn’t have an eternity to spare. When Gideon can stall no more, she finally opens the bathroom door and finds herself facing Naberius Tern, Cohort Fitness (local) Assistant Manager.
“Don’t think you can get an extra break by holing yourself in that bathroom. I drink a fuckton of Powerade, I’m always coming back here,” Naberius sneers, looking very much like someone who drinks a fuckton of Powerade.
“Dude, why are you bragging about constantly having to piss,” Gideon says instead, because, yeah. “Besides, if you come here all the time, you’re probably in the bathroom a net time way longer than I am. I came here once during my shift—which is nine hours, by the way, fuck you about it—and maybe I scrolled through Instagram for a few minutes. Sue me. I will take you down in tears. I will unionize the shit out of this gym.”
“Nothing you say makes sense, ever,” Naberius responds.
“I’ll say this as nicely as possible, Naberius, but that’s just because you have a giant basket full of screaming babies where the rest of us have brains,” Gideon says, and steps easily out of the way before Naberious can land a hit.
After riding the high of the pure wrath on Naberius’s smarmy face for as long as she can, Gideon slogs through the remaining two hours of her shift. She cleans pubes from the client bathroom (traumatic) and helps a man who keeps calling her “sweetheart” figure out how to use the treadmill (less traumatic, but only barely). She messages something dumb to the person she’s been talking to on Tinder, but doesn’t really expect a reply. They’ve been talking for maybe three weeks and in that time Gideon has initiated 200% of the conversation (she gives herself an extra hundred for being a shameless quadruple texter). She usually goes a few days without response, and then finally gets an incredibly dry reply at like, six in the morning. A full sentence, if Gideon is lucky. The girl might just be waiting for Gideon to tire herself out and give up on her semi-regular spam texts, but unfortunately for her, Gideon thrives off of being treated like a (human-sized, ginger, incredibly sexy) cockroach. She’d never survive at Cohort Fitness otherwise.
She is pretty sure that nine hour shifts without overtime pay are illegal, but she doesn’t quite care to learn enough about local labour law to actually start the union she dreams of seeing in the world (Cohort Fitness). Though she’s pretty sure her coworker Jeannemary is like, fifteen, which is super definitely not legal. Not her problem. She’s here to get her paycheck and free membership to a stupidly fancy gym that charges like, half a month’s rent for membership. There is no ethical existence under capitalism.
The second the clock reaches 8 p.m., Gideon is out the door, middle finger raised to Naberius as he calls after her with something not worth listening to. No one else is in the gym, anyway. Because it's 8 p.m. on a Friday night. Most people actually have things to do with their lives. Gideon, for example, has things to do with her life: she is going to go home, crack open a beer, and write the sexiest, hottest cunnilingus scene to have ever been written. She is going to write a fanfiction so titillating that anyone who reads it would orgasm on contact. She was born for this. While you were out partying, she was voraciously consuming Livejournal kink meme fills labelled things like Xena/Gabrielle x modern AU x facesitting. Her whole adolescence in cringeworthy internet fandom circles was leading to this moment. She survived Clexa for this. It was her honour—nay, her duty to use her decade of studies to enrich the tiny but fierce community of lesbians with which The First House book series had grown its cult following.
There are, of course, some non-lesbians sprinkled throughout the TFH fandom, including her internet pal Pal (heh) who writes some killer character study fic. But Palamedes is neither cis nor het, so he gets a pass. She’s also pretty sure he doesn’t read anything shippy since he doesn’t have a soul or believe in true love. He still somehow managed to land Dulcie, a lowkey-famous cosplayer he’s known since ye old days of Superwholock who has done a few shoots as Cytherea. Gideon may have swooned when she saw the pictures. She’s a simple dyke.
The point remains that the fandom is a cozy one. It has a semi-significant following in New Zealand, mostly because the whole country freaks out whenever a Local Talent produces any piece of media that becomes somewhat known to foreigners. Gideon calls it the Lord of the Rings effect. Which, like, New Zealand isn’t even a legitimate state to feel any sort of nationalistic pride towards, but that’s not here nor there. Dulcie and Palamedes are among the more numerous international fans, Dulcie living somewhere in Scandinavia—Gideon could know if she cared to, but she refuses to learn more than the bare minimum about Europe or any country within from sheer anti-colonial spite—and Palamedes in Canada. He recently managed to make his cousin-slash-housemate Camilla read the books, and she’s been drawing all kinds of sick fanart since. Things are good. Even though the next book wouldn’t be out for another, like, ten thousand years. But that’s kind of okay, because Gideon is having fun making her silly little lesbians kiss and smoosh booties in a million different contrived scenarios. She’s not ready for the pain that’s going to come in Anastasia the First.
When Gideon finally reaches her apartment, she goes straight to where her laptop is sitting half-opened on her couch. She presses the power button once, twice, three times before realizing the battery is totally kaput. Fine. She goes into her room to grab its charger, where she gets distracted for a half hour scrolling through Tumblr on her phone. Then she returns to the living room and immediately realizes she forgot the cable.
After what feels like a myriad, Gideon is lying back on the couch, beer on the coffee table in front of her and (charging) laptop resting on her thighs. The coworker who shall not be named would not ruin this for her. She is going to ride this wave until it crashes to the shore. She is going to rip this tide the way no tide has been ripped before. She is going to tsunami the fuck out of this boardwalk of poor unsuspecting tourist traps. She is—out of ocean metaphors to stall from writing.
Okay. Deep breaths. Re-read what you have written. Scroll through your #fic-inspo tag, which is like, mostly nsfw Cythday fanart anyway. You can do this. You are Gideon Nav, Tumblr/Twitter/AO3 user lovedayheptane (yes, that’s a canon URL, thank you for noticing), infamous femslash smut fic author. You are going to write this fanfiction and you are going to fucking like it. Writer’s block has nothing on sheer determination.
Gideon takes a long swig of her beer, and she gets typing.
cythday brainrot !!🔞!!
(your pussy is) god
-ambiguously postcanon. loveday is alive and i don’t have to explain how
-loveday takes cytherea apart (and then puts her back together again)
3:17 AM · 26 April · Twitter Web App
In response to @lovedayheptane
i am looking respectfully....
Abigail (she/her) @abigail_the_fangirl
In response to @lovedayheptane
Such a sweet piece (and terribly sexy, of course, but you already know that!!)—I love the way you write their dynamic, how tender Loveday is with Cyth even when she’s driving her crazy. And Cyth is gonna be the death of me ughhh!!! I need MOAR!
ianthe #lesbiansforcythmercy @yxung_nxcromantxcs
In response to @lovedayheptane
cute fanfic. cythmercy outsold
Gideon isn’t working on Saturday, which means she has the whole day to revel in her fanfiction-posting glow. She feeds off of praise, so every interaction makes her feel like she just Jean Valjeaned an old man out from under a crate of dumbbells, while on her way to ending world hunger in a well-photographed press release. It’s a great feeling. She wonders whether she should unpack that, and decides that’s a problem for another fanfic.
Right when Gideon thinks she has officially peaked in life (Dulcinea reblogging her Tumblr post about the fic, keysmashing in her caption), she receives a new email:
Archive of our Own
[AO3] Comment on (your pussy is) god
reverenddaughter left the following comment on (your pussy is) god:
“Loveday has died for her before. She dies for her again every minute they’re like this, when she can’t see beyond the haze of Cytherea, of her ocean scent and spider veins. She leaves herself defenceless. But Cytherea doesn’t let her fade away—she anchors Loveday in a cocoon of frail bones, brown curls and Loveday’s own blue eyes. Loveday has sunk to the bottom of the River for her, and she will do so again and again, just so she can hold Cytherea’s trembling form in moments like this.”
I am undone. I am utterly at your mercy.
Record-scratch. Rewind. Ring the alarm.
Gideon frantically opens her Tumblr app, messaging the person she trusts most.
pal i need you
i genuinely think i might be going insane. i am seeing things that cannot be real
Thankfully, the Wellington-Toronto time difference is for once in her favour, so the green “Active” indicator lights soon enough.
nova commented on my fic.
She waits a good minute for a response, before worrying that Palamedes doesn’t quite understand the gravity of the situation and continuing.
something POSITIVE, mind you
this is the same person who subposts every other day about ““hypersexualization”” (they're all hags get over it? let lesbians be horny) and how cytherea is #problematic. like yeah? in fact she should have committed far worse atrocities? that would have been funny
well, That nova commented. they said they are Undone, palamedes. they are At My Mercy.
wait. do you think that was their way of asking me to write mercy fic? i know theyre a crismercy stan
oh my god.
should i write crismercy smut fanfic
I never understood the weird thing you guys have against each other.
they said cythday was toxic, palamedes. multiple times.
and they don't even like, follow or interact with anyone else in the fandom?? it’s weird. just because you’re writing some 120k slow burn fanfic that’s like, 90% internal pining and 10% actual interaction between the characters, you think you’re better than us? nah man. we are all equal in hell
also, you didn’t answer about the crismercy fic which i will take as a yes, gideon, write the sexy 8th house fanfic that nova reverenddaughter is clearly gagging for in your DMs
I think making some posts about how Cytherea is in a clear position of power over Loveday and how that relates to their relationship is pretty mild, as far as meta is concerned.
Dulcie sent me some parts of your new fanfic, by the way. It was well written. But, no, I don’t think that Nova commenting something civil on it means that they’re trying to subliminally brainwash you into writing Crismercy. They probably just liked the fic more than they care about your nonexistent beef. They commented on my Anastasia speculation fic a little while ago. I feel like it’s less that they think they’re better than everyone, so much as they don’t know how to interact with strangers on the internet. Or they just don't want to. Which is honestly fair either way.
all you have ever done is hurt me
Despite Palamedes’s confidence that Nova didn’t mean anything beyond perhaps something of an olive branch, Gideon feels like something in her universe has shifted. She has come to doubt that which she took for granted: that AO3 user reverenddaughter, thelostlyctor on Tumblr, has hated her the whole 2 years they’ve been in this fandom together. Thought they were better than Gideon because they write every sentence like it’s a poem. Because they write about a rarepair that doesn’t have a million Tumblr posts of Discourse surrounding it (a good amount of which they posted themselves, thanks). Because they have written 7 chapters for No Other Wine over these past 2 years, dispersed through an alarmingly regular schedule every 3 months, and when it nears the 19th of each MayAugustNovemberFebruary Gideon refreshes their profile nearly every hour in anticipation of the next update. (She couldn’t exactly subscribe, because that would be too much for her already injured ego. She desires a content creator relationship based on reciprocity. Mutual respect and fanfiction reading and, like, not constantly dragging other people’s faves. She honestly asks for remarkably little.)
Gideon doesn’t actually know much about Nova, mostly because they never give away any sort of personal information—they might be from New Zealand, since they had hopped on the Loveday the Seventh train a bit before the book started getting international recognition, but their timezones don’t seem to quite align. They’re a student—university?? (Gideon takes a moment to ponder the horror of her number one fandom nemesis being secretly like, twelve. (They didn’t write like they were twelve.)) They have a thing against girlbosses, even though they stan for Mercymorn, who is far gatekeepier than Cytherea? The logic? (Cytherea definitely leads in gaslighting, though, and Gideon loves her for it.) The only thing Gideon is confident about is that Nova is a lesbian, which is more due to her impeccable gaydar than Nova saying anything that acknowledges either their gender or sexuality. And like, they write femslash fanfiction for a niche lesbian spec fiction trilogy and reblog Emily Dickinson quotes. It doesn’t take Alfred Kinsey to connect the dots.
While Gideon is busy reconsidering everything she knows in life, she receives another shock to her system in the form of a notification.
Harrow sent you a new message.
“What the fuck,” Gideon whispers out loud, and then punches herself in the forearm. It hurts, which means she’s not dreaming, and also that she’s got a killer right hook.
She clicks on the notification, half expecting it to be glitch. Harrow never responds within 48 hours, much less twenty four. But somehow, the words on her screen are new ones: “I don’t know what you even expect as a response to that.”
Gideon has to look back at whatever she sent last night, because she honestly can’t remember: “do u think when sheep can’t fall asleep they count humans”
All thoughts of Nova reverenddaughter and their apparent mind games escape Gideon’s attention deficit hyperactive brain, and she becomes Gideon Nav, Lady’s Lady. (So, Gideon has never actually had a girlfriend, but she’s gotten pretty close. It’s not her fault that the country is like, two centimetres big. Not exactly much of a dating pool. And she’s working on it!) She types on autopilot, not bothering to wait for a respectable amount of time after Harrow texted. Gideon has never had dignity before and she’s not going to start now.
Apr 26, 1:44 PM
I don’t know what you even expect as a response to that.
i’d take a “so true, gideon”
“your brain is so sexy, gideon”
Apr 26, 3:10 PM
Your brain is a horrorscape.
Besides, I’m almost certain you took that from a Tumblr post.
The responses (multiple!) aren’t immediate, but they’re close enough. Gideon, who spent the past hour and twenty six minutes in internal debate over whether she should tack on a “let’s exchange phone numbers and go on dates where i insult you publicly while you recite poetry about the colour of my eyes, gideon,” is beyond relieved that she no longer has the opportunity to do so. (She’s not quite sure what colour Harrow’s eyes are, because her face is covered in two of her three Tinder pictures, and the third is taken like a metre away in a dark alley. Gideon has screenshotted and blown the hell up out of that picture, but the most she can really work out of Harrow’s features are pinched lips and fragile, birdlike features. And a ton of eyeliner. Because Gideon is stupid easy, and had a major crush on Wynona Ryder in Beetlejuice during her formative years, she’s into it.) Instead she writes, “i will consider that a compliment, my midnight maiden, and accept it accordingly,” and graciously ignores the Tumblr allegation.
Gideon has a feeling she’s used up all her good fortune for the next like, five years, but she sends a follow-up before she can psych herself out of it: “also this app like sucks? so if you want to message me on like,, ig i’m @oops_theregoesnavity there.” And then: “or like, feel free to ignore this forever and never speak to me again? ”
And then: “i’d rather the first option tho”
And then: “unless you don’t have an ig??? uh. maybe just ignore everything i’ve said, ever”
Sure enough, her luck seems to have run dry in at least one manner—Harrow doesn’t message her in the next hour, or the one after that, or in any of the subsequent hours that Gideon spends sulking in her bed. Good mood thoroughly squandered, she barely cracks a smile at the next comment that lands in her inbox. Her day off work is officially ruined. Her fanfic validation glow is ruined. Even the Cytherea sketch dump that Cam posts is marred by TFW No Goth Gf, and Gideon loves Cam’s sketch dumps. (Cam is still reading Cytherea the Seventh, and Gideon derives sadistic glee from watching her suffer.)
Gideon considers going through the Tinder Process all over again to mend her broken heart, but she is nothing if not a hopeless romantic. She had stopped replying to her other matches the moment Harrow responded to her first message:
YOU MATCHED WITH HARROW ON 4/2
Apr 2, 2:26 PM
so i’m guessing ypu listened to a ton of evanescence when you were, like, 13 & never gree out of it?
Apr 3, 11:32 AM
i’m not throwing shade, btw
goth girls and girl-aligned goths are the backbone of society
Apr 6, 5:21 AM
Not that I should deign to give that a response, but Amy Lee is one of the top vocalists of her generation.
Gideon, who had pretty much given up on receiving a reply at that point, felt her heart grow six sizes. Harrow’s bio said very little (in total: “She or they. Don’t ask how tall I am.”), but her three pictures said quite a lot (“I don’t own anything in a colour other than black; I’ve probably watched Death Note; a stray wind could knock me over, and not even a particularly strong one; I would do very well with a nice, filling meal, and maybe a warm sweater”). Gideon knows fuck all about the top vocalists of this generation, or any other—she loves a good beat, something to which she can work out and/or fantasize an elaborate FMV featuring her ship of the moment—but the assertion? The confidence? The standing up for one’s values, even when those values are “Wake me up (wake me up inside)”? Gideon is weak. She imprinted like Jacob on Bella’s freak CGI vampire baby, without the weird pedophilia.
Well, Gideon can wait a few days and give Harrow her typical grace period. If this weird semi-flirtation was worth continuing, Harrow would get back to her. Gideon gets that everyone has different communication patterns; Pal once told her that he's glad Dulcie lives so far away from him, sometimes, because it would be overwhelming if he had to constantly play the part of the Boyfriend. Gideon understands. At the same time, she is not going to give a million percent and get back a fraction. She's done it before, and has since grown into a person who knows how to assert her need for Mutual Love and Respect. Or to at least try.
She groans, realizing it’s almost midnight and she’s opening at the gym tomorrow, which means she has to wake up at ass o’clock. So much for enjoying her day off. She squints at her laptop, where she’d been absentmindedly replying to comments on her fic. She finishes typing responses to a guest user and to Cam—who, along with quoting a few lines, had written “loveday eats pussy for breakfast i know that’s right” because Cam is objectively the best person Gideon knows. Only one comment remains unaddressed, because Gideon still isn't convinced it isn't a practical joke and/or trick of her consciousness that will burst in flames as soon as she clicks “reply.”
Gideon rubs her eyes and yawns, running through her brain for something she can say that she can easily brush off if Nova were to respond “Sorry, my account was hacked. You write about sex like an Ikea instruction manual. Also Cytherea is an abusive manipulator and you’re cancelled.” Which seems increasingly likely the longer Gideon dawdles. But she also doesn’t want to be rude on the (infinitesimal) chance that Nova somehow commented out of—the goodness of their heart? Gideon is pretty sure that the only person in the fandom that Nova interacts with is Abigail, which is weird, but also makes sense because Abigail is objectively the second best person Gideon knows. She makes cool theory posts and is currently re-writing all of Loveday the Seventh from Cytherea’s perspective, because she’s absolutely insane. Which, like, interesting that Your Royal Highness Cytherea-killed-my-parents-and-poisoned-my-airvents would stoop so low as to befriend someone who once tweeted “Cytherea could murder my husband in front of me and I’d thank her, then ask if she wants to take his place.” (Abigail is a 38 year old chemistry teacher who’s been married since she was like, twenty-something, and identified as straight until the year prior when she realized her strong fixation on fictional lady scientists extended from “life goals” firmly into “wife goals.” Her husband—Marcus? Magnus?—is likewise of the bisexual flavour, and from what Gideon can tell in the pictures Abigail has posted, something of a DILF. For those who are into that, at least. Gideon mostly just envies his collection of patterned button-ups.) But, what does Gideon know? Maybe Nova just likes discourse. Maybe they’re secretly into Cytherea in all her gaslighty glory, but only acknowledge it in private so they can continue to pass an anti. Maybe they’re scoping Gideon out to decide whether they’ll invite her into their secret Cyth apologist groupchat. The possibilities are literally endless.
Head pounding from the emotional roller coaster she’s been through the past day, Gideon finally decides to whip out her go-to writer's block trick: write the first thing that comes to mind, even if it’s utter garbage, and work from there.
She types grimly, as though writing her last will and testament: “loveday would die for the pussy, and she does. good for her! (not sure if ur comment was intended to be a subliminal message for me to write crismercy, but the seed was planted, so whatever comes from that is on u).” There. In true Gideon fashion, she decides not to bother with the revision step at all—best not to psych herself out, but go into the world as the trash she is. Hashtag no filter. Send reply.
Satisfied by her impressive show of executive functioning, Gideon opens Tumblr to boost the post she made about her fic last night-slash-this morning. She goes on Tinder and scrolls through her and Harrow’s conversation like, eight times, cooing over her unending wit and brilliance (“omg wait. i’m ginger, ur goth. we should couple cosplay kim possible and shego, but like, butch”) and Harrow’s barbed responses (“We are not a couple.” Which, significantly, is not a no). She refreshes her message requests folder on Instagram religiously, but it remains empty save for the thread from @gainsbybabs hounding her to swap shifts. She has long debated blocking him, but it’s funnier to watch his increasingly frustrated messages get sent into the void.
Gideon falls asleep like that, phone propped in her hand as she snores against the pillow. She won’t remember it well in the morning, because her memory is already bad enough when it comes to her waking consciousness, but she dreams of black eyes in a painted skull—of delicate, uncalloused fingers, wrapping around her neck and pulling at her hair. Of raised skeletons and blood in her mouth, saltwater in her lungs. Of a kiss to the bridge of a nose.
She wakes up to the blaring of her “sucker shift” alarm (set for 4:30 a.m., which is way earlier than any person should ever have to wake up), and thinks she’s been reading too many TFH fanfics. Then she checks her phone notifications and promptly passes away.
Instagram 3:33 a.m.
athousandmournings would like to send you a message.
Her thumb smacks down on the fingerprint ID so fast it reprimands her, and then locks her out. She lets out an undignified noise and swipes up to enter her passcode instead.
Finally granted access, Gideon unlocks her phone and is graced with the exact screen she had fallen asleep to: her Instagram request folder, sparsely populated with the thread of messages from Naberius. She drags her thumb down to refresh the page, and feels her soul again leave her body when the text updates before her very eyes.
These messages are from people you don't follow. They'll only know you've seen their request if you choose Allow.
I'm astonished you had the auda… · 58m
i know your seeing these you fuc… · 5d
Gideon clicks on the new message more quickly than she’s ever clicked anything, and Gideon has gotten a ton of AO3 new chapter emails in her lifetime. Sitting stark against the blank screen is a lone message:
athousandmournings · Instagram
1 Follower · 9 Posts
You don’t follow each other on Instagram
Today at 3:33 AM
I’m astonished you had the audacity to mock Evanescence when, for some inexplicable reason, you decided it was appropriate to have an Eminem lyric as your social media handle.
Accept message request from h. (@athousandmournings)🔒?
If you accept, they will also be able to video chat with you and see info such as your Activity Status and when you’ve seen messages.
Report Delete Accept
Gideon lets out a sound somewhere between a laugh, a cry, and a wheeze. She hits that View Profile button the way she’d hit a fat bong rip at a house party, the three times a year she goes to one. The page loads in front of her eyes and the metaphorical THC clouds her mind, making everything in her vision turn pink and heart-shaped, like one of those dumb Instagram story filters. She is high on love. (Pre-love. What they call a “crush,” perhaps.)
Harrow’s account is private, so Gideon can’t actually see much. She sends a follow request and feasts her eyes over the illicit profile. Harrow only follows one account, has the same amount of followers, and nine posts. For a moment Gideon entertains the idea that Harrow might have created this profile for the sole purpose of messaging her, but she doubts Harrow is physically capable of posting nine times in one day, if her messaging frequency is any indicator of her general online presence.
The bio is short: “If I forget you, let my right hand be forgotten.” Unexpectedly romantic and coincidentally, the one Bible verse that Gideon knows, which temporarily has her panicking that Harrow is secretly like, mega Christian. Then she remembers the pentagram tattoo on her inner wrist, as displayed on one of Harrow’s Tinder pictures, and wonders if she’s secretly like, a Satanic witch instead. Which would kind of be hot. Gideon’s into it.
She goes back to her messages, remembering that she still needs to accept the message and craft an excellent, bold, witty, heart-stopping response. She does so by again typing the first thing she can think of: the morbid truth.
Today at 4:39 AM
my mum died on her way from the hospital after giving birth to me bc her girlfriend’s ex bf rammed into her car under what he claimed to be orders from god, and according to her gf (who died soon afterwards due to complications from the crash) lose yourself was playing on the radio, so i have a perfectly good freudian excuse & also i hope you are feeling very bad
also x2: it’s a pun
because my last name’s nav
so it’s like gravity but, navity
it’s very highbrow humojr. you might not understand
besides, mary oliver but edgy? do not point your finger where it can be pointed right back
While Gideon is very, very tempted to continue spamming mindlessly until she gets a response—she’s 99% sure Harrow is awake considering her apparent sleep schedule, or lack thereof—but she does actually need to get ready for work. Because she sadly lives in a capitalist society, and lord knows she didn’t get a trust fund from her super-dead mum, much less her anonymous, completely-uninvolved sperm donor. Gideon knows very little about either of them, except that her mum ran some underground radical anarcho-communal Māori protest group—which honestly sounds sick, if not lucrative. Gideon figures she must have been an absolute knockout if she both produced Gideon (incredibly sexy) and got some dude mad enough by shacking up with his ex that he straight up murdered them. Unfortunately, beauty does not pay rent, so all Gideon got from her mother is good genetics and a fuckton of childhood trauma.
Gideon refreshes her DMs all while brushing her teeth, changing into gym clothes, frying her three eggs alongside some sausage, eating her three eggs (loaded on three slices of buttered toast, of course) and sausage, and finally cursing through a mouth full of egg as she realizes she need to leave like, five minutes ago if she wants to be on time. Which, for opening shifts, means ten minutes late because no one else is gonna be there to criticize her. Usually. She reluctantly tucks her phone into her hoodie pocket and shoves her feet into her sneakers, not bothering to retie the laces. She runs down the stairs of her apartment building, shoving the front door open with her shoulder and shuffling to where her bike is locked against the small fence around the complex with numerous red “NO BIKES” signs. Fuck landlords. She pays her rent on time every month, for the most part. She can damn well lock her bike where she pleases.
She pedals frantically to the gym, eventually making her commute in sixteen minutes instead of the twenty it usually takes. Her quads are going to burn later, but she’s always down for a surprise leg day. Thankfully there’s no one waiting at the door when she arrives. She didn’t really think there would be, because it’s literally 6:14 a.m., but she has recurring nightmares about Naberius, or—much worse—Judith Deuteros, the regional manager of Cohort Fitness, coming by to catch her in the act and get her fired once and for all. She shudders as she unlocks the front doors, thinking of the permanent scowl on Judith’s face being pointed in her direction.
The thing about opening is that, even though Gideon honestly believes no sane person should be made to wake up before 8 a.m. at any point, ever, she seems to be a minority of this opinion. By 6:30, there are two people in the gym that aren’t Gideon, which is two more than there really should be. They ignore her for the most part, which is the best she can ask for as she continues to thumb at her phone. Still no response from Harrow, but Gideon’s still riding the high that she even messaged in the first place, so no complaining there.
While Gideon is fucking around on Twitter, retweeting some necromancer!Loveday/cavalier!Cytherea fanart Camilla drew—delicious on its own, but even moreso because it means Camilla is getting to the good shit in CTS, and Gideon is giddy from watching someone else Experience it for the first time—the front door opens and sunlight floods in. Not the actual sun, because Gideon has somehow landed herself in a job miserable enough that she has to start work before it even rises; the source of UV radiation is the daughter of the branch’s owner-slash-Gideon’s favourite client, Coronabeth Tridentarius. Corona is tall, has a rockin bod, and always comes in wearing 80’s workout outfits that make Gideon want to buy some legwarmers. It’s not really a close competition, even putting aside the fact that the majority of Cohort’s clientele are greasy men.
“Gideon, what a sight for sore eyes!” she coos, and Gideon smiles reflexively until she realizes that Corona isn’t alone. All the colour seeps out from the gym as Corona’s twin sister walks in after her, wearing ripped skinny jeans, ugg boots, and an offwhite t-shirt that says “NORMAL PEOPLE SCARE ME.” She’s carrying an iced coffee and an unlit cigarette in her flesh hand. Gideon considers everything she’s done wrong in life that led to this moment of karmic retribution.
“Corona, lovely as always,” Gideon calls back. “Ianthe—I don’t know why you’re here, but please know I slept maybe four hours last night and will not be held liable for any well-provoked insults that may come from my mouth.”
Ianthe laughs, a haughty sound that Gideon is 90% sure she must have practiced. “Can’t I pay a visit to my own family’s business?” she alleges innocently, twirling a strand of limp hair around her metallic finger. When Gideon first started working at Cohort, Ianthe had a realistic looking prosthetic, but at some point during the year since then she switched to a golden skeletal model that probably cost several years of Gideon’s rent. Kind of rad, but also kind of looks like Anakin’s mecha arm from after Attack of the Clones. Which like, sure, if you're actually trying to emulate Hayden Christensen in life. Gideon is more of a Han butch herself.
“I’ve told you like, ninety times to stop tweeting at me,” Gideon says instead, because she has. Ianthe shrugs.
“But it’s so much more fun to annoy you,” Ianthe responds. Gideon wonders if she’d be fired for socking her kind-of-boss’s daughter. (She’s boxed informally with Corona a few times, who’s actually an impressive, if untrained fighter. Ianthe looks more like she’d shatter into a million shards if you laid a finger on her, and then every one of those shards would shoot back up to stab you into swiss cheese.)
Corona giggles, waving her fingers at them. “Okay, nerds, enjoy yourselves. Ianthe’s here because Babs told her you were opening, by the way,” she tells Gideon with a wink, and saunters off to the staircase that leads to the gym’s balcony-style second level.
Gideon doesn’t bother to hide her shudder. To her eternal horror and dismay, Coronabeth has been very blatantly trying to set her sister up with Gideon ever since she found out they were somehow, coincidentally, both members of the same niche lesbian spec fiction fandom. What she never seems to understand is that whatever pleasure Ianthe might derive from Gideon’s existence, it is neither sexual nor romantic, but some sort of platonic sadism that Gideon refuses to psychoanalyse any further.
Besides, no thanks. Gideon has standards.
“If you’re so sauced about the lack of Cythmercy smut fic in the world, write some yourself. No accounting for quality, though,” Gideon says, once she’s sure that neither of the other clients are in earshot. Gideon likes having some shred of dignity at her place of employment.
Ianthe scoffs. “I have and will continue to, and I won’t comment on the second thing because I’m a better person than you are. Besides, your Cyth is boring. She’s all, ‘blah, I’m so misunderstood, when deep down I am soft and hurting.’ How trite.”
For a moment, Gideon wishes that Naberius-slash-Judith had been there this morning to fire her on the spot. As it is, she has no escape. No way out. She is stuck in the nth circle of customer service hell: Ianthe Tridentarius edition. “I literally don’t know where you got that in four thousand words of pussy eating, but speak your truth I guess?” She shrugs, tapping her fingers against the front desk she’s standing behind. “Anyway, Cytherea is misunderstood. And soft and hurting.”
“She kills countless civilians, including two children personally as well as several entire planets,” Ianthe states, eyebrow quirking. She tucks the cigarette between her lips, then behind her ear when she remembers she’s not allowed to smoke in the gym. Not that she hasn’t tried before. She takes a sip from her coffee instead.
“Yeah, for love,” Gideon says wistfully. “For, you know, Loveday. The woman she’s in love with. The eternal flame in her loins and subconscious. In case you forgot.”
“Hm. Too bad she’s stuck there now, isn’t it? Lacking a body and all. Since she’s super dead.”
“Just wait for Anastasia, bitch,” Gideon says, unable to help herself. It doesn’t matter—Ianthe just laughs that same practiced laugh. Gideon’s eyes narrow, and she can’t help herself before she asks a question: “Hey, do you know Nova? Thelostlyctor on Tumblr, reverenddaughter on AO3, I don’t think they have a Twitter.”
This time Ianthe’s eyebrows shoot straight to her (slightly receding) hairline. “Harry? What about her?”
The response shocks Gideon to her core. “Her? Harry? Wait, do you actually know them?”
Ianthe rolls her eyes, drumming her metallic fingers against the treadmill she’s started leaning on. “We go to school together.”
“Wait, wait wait waitwaitwait. Like, online school? Witch school, for witches?”
“Ha, ha. No, university school. We’re both in english lit. But, I think she does actually practice witchcraft, so now you just sound like a dumbass,” Ianthe says, like she didn’t just drop a crazy knowledge bomb.
“Holy shit,” Gideon replies. That means not only is Nova—Harry, according to Ianthe, which makes Gideon feel a bit delirious—in fact kiwi, but local. Which, like, Aotearoa isn’t exactly the biggest landmass in the world, but still. Mind blowing.
“Why are you asking, anyway? I thought you guys hated each other. You get in Tumblr showdowns like, every other month. It’s good comedy.” Ianthe looks genuinely intrigued for once, instead of just callously amused.
Gideon claps. “Right! That’s what I thought, too! But she commented on my fic, and it was like, weirdly nice. A normal compliment—not even backhanded. I keep thinking she hid some message like ‘Cock is one of my favourite tastes,’ but in a cypher that only she can crack. It’s brilliant. I can’t beat her at her own game.”
Ianthe hums. “That does actually sound like something she’d do. She handwrites all her essay drafts in some dumb code so that no one can plagiarize her work.”
Jesus. “Are all english students insane, or just the ones I know? No offence.”
“Oh, none taken,” Ianthe waves it off. “You have to be some kind of crazy to piss away thousands of dollars for an education whose two plausible career paths are barista or lifelong academia.” A fair point from someone who could probably use that same amount of money as toilet paper and not have any financial struggles. Generational wealth, Gideon thinks with a telepathic shaked fist.
After this point in the conversation, Gideon gets thoroughly distracted by the Thoughts in her Brain, and Ianthe gradually loses interest once her chewtoy stops reacting in a manner she finds amusing. She scrolls through her phone for a few minutes, then leaves to smoke her cigarette directly outside the front doors. The smell doesn’t quite permeate inwards, but Gideon wants to complain at her about it anyways. She doesn’t because that would be letting Ianthe win.
Corona is done with her pilates-slash-step routine in an hour or so, and comes downstairs to chat a bit as she cools down. She and Judith are still going steady, apparently. Judith is a serious, dark little woman, and Corona giggles when she talks about her. Gideon loves to see it. Corona finally leaves Gideon with a wink as she runs outside to join her sister, who it appears had begun chainsmoking out of boredom. Gideon can’t really complain—in the end, the more Ianthe does to discourage potential clients from coming in, the better for her.
The rest of her shift passes sluggishly, as more people filter in without Ianthe guarding the gates and Gideon has to show someone that no, the rowing machine isn’t broken, you’re just not using it right. She has occasionally contemplated getting a degree to become a proper physical trainer, as opposed to a glorified secretary who happens to work in a gym, but Gideon gave the formal education thing a shot for a good sixteen years and they didn’t quite work for each other. Something to do with the whole being an unruly foster kid with undiagnosed ADHD thing, not to mention switching schools every other year as she jumped between families. Honestly, it’s a wonder Gideon didn’t end up more fucked up than she did.
But Gideon experiences a miracle. Everything is worth it—frustrating customers, the vending machine eating her money without giving her the packet of nuts she damn well paid for, Ianthe Tridentarius—when she’s sitting in the staff break room as Jeannemary takes over at the front desk, looking at her phone. Her acne—cleared. Debts, paid. She could rule the world. She could strangle a mountain ox with her bare hands.
Instagram 9:46 a.m.
athousandmournings has accepted your follow request.
athousandmournings sent you a message.
Gideon experiences what can only be described as an emotional orgasm. While she’s usually in a rush to leave work as soon as her shift finishes, there is absolutely no way she’s going to bike home for twenty minutes before dealing with This. She unlocks her phone and finds it still open on her message thread where she’d been last checking it a half hour or so ago, which would be embarrassing if she wasn’t busy going through something.
Today at 9:46 AM
You do not have a monopoly on tragic backstories, Gideon Nav.
In that moment, Gideon Nav’s soul leaves her body and she swears it meets God.
Harrow’s Instagram profile is everything she could have hoped for and more. The posts are a staggered grid, with plain black screens in the middle of the top and bottom rows, and both ends of the middle row. The remaining five images have stark white borders, and alternate between mediums: the top row contains two mirror selfies cropped from the neck down, showcasing different (if nearly identical) full-body black outfits; the bottom row, two short poems that seem to have been written with a typewriter, which is adorably hipster of her, and Gideon would be busy mooning over the text and driving herself insane if not for the profile’s centrepiece; a single, heartstopping photograph. Thin lips painted black, snakebite studs stark underneath their downward pull. A sharp nose with a titanium barbell pierced through the bridge. Coal-coloured irises, almost too dark to see where the pupil begins. Eyes rimmed with black crayon and sunken purple bags. Chin resting on a palm, fingers curled up to display skinny brown fingers decorated with black ink and chipped nail polish. Black turtleneck. Black hair, falling in short waves over forehead and tops of ears. Thick spiral gauges pierced through lobes, cartilage decorated with more titanium.
It’s a face to write sonnets about. A face to wage wars over. A face so beautiful Gideon sees and starts crying. Metaphorically. And maybe a bit literally, but that’s very possibly the smell from the bin full of dirty towels getting to her. She was totally supposed to throw those in the washer during her shift, but sounds like a Jeannemary problem now. Gideon has better ways to spend her time. Besides, she’s off the clock, which means she refuses to do anything that could be construed as work.
Gideon manages to tear her eyes away from the selfie for long enough to read the caption, and bursts into blames for the fifth time in as many minutes.
Liked by girlbossgender
“Who can guess the luna's sadness who lives so
briefly? Who can guess the impatience of stone
longing to be ground down, to be part again of
something livelier? Who can imagine in what
heaviness the rivers remember their original
Strange questions, yet I have spent worthwhile
time with them. And I suggest them to you also,
that your spirit grow in curiosity, that your life
be richer than it is, that you bow to the earth as
you feel how it actually is, that we- so cleaver, and
ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained- are only
one design of the moving, the vivacious many.”
-The Moth, The Mountains, The Rivers (Mary Oliver)
girlbossgender i won;t u
8 w Respond
athousandmournings @girlbossgender I will block you again.
8 w Respond
Gideon has ascended to a higher plane. She is experiencing true euphoria. She double taps on the picture, then triple taps for good measure, watching the heart icon turn red as manifestation of all Gideon’s 200-km-per-hour fantasies starring her and her goth witch gf. (Gideon building a cabin in the woods for them to live in. Harrow growing some sort of witch garden—to be honest, Gideon knows butt all about witchcraft, but that seems like something Harrow might be into—and like, lounging around reading on a dramatic black velvet couch she insists on buying. Harrow leaving little post-it notes of poetry for Gideon to find. Harrow asking Gideon to reach the top things in the cabinet. No brain, just thoughts.) Eventually she remembers that she still has to reply to Harrow’s last message, and preferably in a manner that doesn’t involve proposing marriage.
After taking a second to zoom into the pinch of Harrow’s cupid’s bow (adorable), Gideon navigates back to their DMs. “does this mean you’ll offer your villain origin story in return, harrow lastname? ” she sends.
Finally accomplished, and a bit lightheaded from the noxious towel fumes, Gideon hustles out the back exit so she doesn’t have to go through the gym and pass by Jeannemary. She loves the kid, but being someone’s ongoing Ring of Keys moment takes a lot out of her. She doesn't think she can handle Jeannemary asking to take a TikTok measuring her biceps right now. Mostly because, hell yeah she’d have to do it. Gideon is not emotionally prepared for her inevitable TikTok fame at this second. She needs to be sexy privately.
She unlocks her bike, taking the whole embarrassing walk around the gym—unnecessarily huge—and then standing there fumbling with her keys for a good minute. Then she goes home.
There’s no reply from Harrow, but she didn’t really expect one. No problemo. Gideon can totally respect a nocturnal night witch and her boundaries. Gideon bench presses respect. She eats respect for breakfast, along with vanilla protein powder and a generous spoonful of peanut butter. She gives respect the employee discount on kickboxing classes, which are normally like, twenty bucks per session because their trainer is nationally ranked. Not to mention fine as hell. Gideon still stumbles her words around Marta sometimes.
She opens Tumblr, ready to check the #cythday tag as part of her daily ritual. But she stops in her seat at what she sees right at the top of her dashboard, hauntingly:
swordsbian ⇄ thelostlyctor
Title: No Other Wine
Chapter: 8 of 9
Word Count: 18k
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” From Jalal Al-Din Rumi, Moving Water; trans. Coleman Barks.
Drowning among ghosts, Mercymorn chases her own. (Or: the River chapter.)
#oh my god?? #we are being fed and i’m so grateful #catch me going to bed at 1 am to finish this #tfh #fanfic #crismercy
Gideon resists the urge to slap herself across the face, if only because she’s pretty sure she’s awake this time, if possibly losing her mind. It is definitely not May 19, unless Gideon managed to skip almost an entire month in the haze of her ongoing courtship. Which she’s fairly sure didn’t happen. Which means something far, far stranger: an early update. And an official end date—just one chapter left. Gideon feels like she can’t breathe.
She clicks on the hyperlink, half expecting some out-of-character, belated April Fool’s joke of a chapter.
It isn’t one. She’s comfortable with this conclusion about eight thousand words in, when Mercymorn is caressing the cheek of her fallen cavalier, trapped in a bubble of Mercymorn’s own creation. When Cristabel takes the hand on her cheek, bringing it to her lips for a kiss against the fingers.
mfghdfkjghkhKJCHSFJHKSHJfk, Gideon thinks, approximately.
Unfortunately, this is when Alfred comes in, which is literally the last thing Gideon wanted from this long awaited (one hundred twenty thousand words!!!) reunion. She wanted confessions. She wanted smooches. She wanted spirit realm banging, maybe, but she figured that one might be pushing it. Instead, she gets a hand on a cheek. She wails internally.
With Alfred comes a lot of necromancer theory talk, which mostly goes over Gideon’s head. A good few pages talking about bone magic. About spirit magic. About Lyctorhood, about the hidden bodies of Anastasia and Samael. About resurrection. Alfred and Cristabel joke with each other, and Mercymorn erupts.
“I will not lose you again. I will not let myself consume whatever is left of you to save,” Mercymorn demands, pointer finger flush against Cristabel’s sternum. She stares straight into Cristabel’s gaze, irises once a deep hazel—those stolen eyes in her own sockets, now, replaced with the green gazing back. Mercymorn’s eyes look sad on Cristabel’s face, but maybe that’s how they looked on Mercymorn, too.
“I never once asked for you to save me,” Cristabel says; not harsh, but direct. “You’re trying to save someone who’s already dead.”
“I’m a necromancer,” Mercymorn argues.
Cristabel smiles, but those eyes stay sad. “That’s the irony of it all, isn’t it?”
By the end of the chapter, Gideon is a snivelling mess in her bed. She wants to sue for emotional distress. The books were literally fucked up enough on their own, fanfiction exists to make things happy. Not to put Gideon’s heart through a meat grinder and spit the dregs right back out.
At the end of the fic is a note, which is rare from Nova. It’s short nonetheless: “An early update, because inspiration has struck of late. The next chapter will be the last. Thank you for following their story with me.”
Still wailing internally, Gideon doesn’t even hold herself back from typing in the comment box. Nova has yet to delete their comment on Gideon’s fic, or reply with a scathing diss—Gideon figures now is as good a time as any. “this was so fucked up. like oh my god. whatt the fuck. cris literally popping the bubble at the end to save mercy, even tho it would throw her and alfred back into the river’s current bruhhhhHH and they didn’t even KISS? pls tell me there’s a happy ending where mercy saves cris and then they kill jod and then move together to a cottage planet where they have tons of life-affirming sex and like, grow a vegetable garden. i need serotonin desperately.” Satisfied with her ability to string together semi-coherent sentences, she clicks “post.”
After the adrenaline rush wears off, her body remembers that she barely got any sleep last night, and she manages to doze for a few hours. She wakes up to some keysmashes from Cam in her Tumblr DMs, to which she responds in kind. Cam also posts a doodle comic of Mercymorn’s hand on Cristabel’s cheek, and then Cris moving it to her mouth for a kiss. Gideon reblogs and keysmashes more in the tags. Even Palamedes seems to be following the fic, as he posts a meme of Beyoncé crying with the caption “one more chapter…”
Gideon opens a new doc, titles it “crismercy pwp” and cracks her knuckles. She follows through on her promisethreats.
In the end, it’s a good day.
Today at 9:21 PM
I only divulge after you’ve passed the necessary trials to prove yourself. I can direct you to perform further individual research at this stage.
careful, if i didn’t know any better i’d think u were making a joke
Today at 10:29 PM
Maybe you should stop trying to think.
i was gonna say “make me” but i don’t think the affect works as well over text
Today at 11:34 PM
You are insensible.
are you purposefully waiting an hour to respond so ig does the timestamp thing & u don’t look too thirsty
because like, it’s cute
but also no shame in the thirst
i’ve been told i am irresistible
I think the term might have been incorrigible.
the consonants don’t quite work out, but you didn’t wait this time so i’ll take it as a “yes, gideon, but i am a mistress of the night and the night alone, and i am unsure what to do with these burgeoning feelings invoked by your drop-dead appearance and captivating disposition”
Go to sleep, Gideon.
will do, my sepulchral soverign, and i can only hope to dream of you
After that, there’s a shift in the way Harrow messages. She still only seems to text between 9 pm and 7 am, which like, fair enough, Gideon guesses; but she doesn’t wait days to reply, and it becomes increasingly frequent for them to even carry out dialogues and conversations. It gives Gideon this weird tingley feeling, like when Harrow starts calling her “Griddle” after she sends a picture of a nasty burn she gets while frying her eggs that morning. It’s adorable. Gideon Feels something.
But, here’s the thing: Gideon isn’t stupid.
She knows one plus one equals two. She knows two times two equals four. She knows four divided by four is one, and one divided by one is one, and one divided by zero is nothing. She knows things. She exercises critical thinking. She’s aware that people see her mindblowingly sexy physique and her charming personality and assume she’s got a box of bricks for brains, but Gideon is smart. Not in a way that got her good grades, but the education system wasn’t exactly built for brains like hers. Gideon is sharp. She doesn’t need to go full Pepe Silvia to see something that’s dangling right in front of her nose. And despite what Harrow might realize, she’s dangling like shredded worm guts on a fishing rod. Or like, a sexier metaphor than that.
She messages Palamedes about a month into their Instagram flirtitude, when she’s fairly certain of her conclusions. After she asks Harrow if she’d like to, completely theoretically, potentially meet up at some point in their lives, and Harrow goes back to ignoring her for a few days before sending an “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” Which like, okay.
so, i know you couldn’t care less and secretly hope i die so that i shut up about this, but i have something i need to Talk About
i’m pretty sure i’m not-dating nova
as in, my not-girlfriend is nova
as in, the person i’m not-dating irl
pre-dating, if you will
...Alright, I’ll humour it. Go on.
Feeling accomplished that she managed to wrangle some form of interest, Gideon does as requested.
so, i met someone named harrow from tinder a lil while ago & we’ve been talking since (gayly)
I was unaware that you communicate in any other way.
so true king
anyway. harrow: goth, eng lit student, bad at social cues. writer. lesbian. not a girl but not not a girl. mixed māori. has a secret tumblr account she refuses to show me. goes completely silent as soon as i mention tfh & then changes topic.
this one’s the kicker
did you know ianthe goes to school with nova?
There’s literally no reason why I would know that, so no.
i’ll ignore the attitude this time but i hope u know it hurts
Anyway: ianthe goes to school wih nova
she told me herself
and she calls nova..............Harry.
harrow has an instagram
like, a local account, but only two people follow it
i’m one of them (duh)
and imagine my face when i go to stalk the other account
and i see………………Her
...I guess this is my cue to guess who “Her” is.
yes it is
And, giving the overhanded foreshadowing, I’m safe to assume that “her” is none other than Ianthe, your mortal enemy both online and in real life?
mortal enemy is a stretch, considering i barely think about her when she isn’t purposefully trying to ruin my life and general happiness
do you see!
do you understand the depth of what this means, palamedes
do your elf eyes comprehend the Implications
I mean, Nova has always been secretive. I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned out to be basically anyone.
and that’s what boggles my goggles!!
like, she definitely knows i’m me
i know she knows my tumblr & i have tons of selfies up
plus like, how many gideons are out there trying to knock down her door to talk about tfh
so like,, why not,,, tell me
like “hey, also, by the way, i also write tfh fanfic. in fact, i’m nova thelostlyctor slash reverenddaughter. you might remember me”
Maybe /she’s/ scared of what /you’ll/ do or think if you know she’s Nova.
why!! she’s literally always been the one starting shit between us, i just go along for the ride
and like.,, i Like her, pal
she sent me a whole paragraph about how mary shelley kept percy’s calcified heart after he died
how can i find someone else like her. the standards are forever shifted
You really are a romantic, aren’t you?
i’m gonna tell dulcie to leave u for cam
The thoroughly unhelpful conversation haunts Gideon over the next couple of days, as she drags herself to work and helps middle aged women as they ogle her biceps. Even the milves don’t invoke more from her than a mere acknowledgement of attraction. Is this Gideon now? Is she due to suffer at the hands of an antisocial witch poet who secretly writes fanfiction that makes her cry? Is she never to reach peace and emotional fulfillment?
She’s still contemplating this a week later. Her messages to Harrow have been largely unresponded to, which is literally the worst thing that has happened to Gideon in her entire life to date. She has been working halfheartedly at her Crismercy smut fic, but the passion isn’t in her. She'd almost finished it during the one fantastical month where Harrow was actually, you know, talking to her, and now the inspiration is dying alongside the love she was never given the opportunity to have. (Yes, she’s being dramatic about it. She has the right, she thinks.)
Cohort is moderately busy today, and she’s working with Naberius, which is always painful enough on its own. Her only consolation at this point is that she just has an hour left, after which she can slink off and mope in the comfort of her own home. It’s not quite a closer, because the gym is still open for another two hours, but it’s dark enough outside to feel like one. She feels like she needs to build herself a cocoon and sleep for eight consecutive days.
While she’s contemplating whether she can get away with calling off sick tomorrow if she looks pathetic enough, the front doors open. Gideon looks up from where she’s leaning behind the counter, and freezes in place.
Naberius is—somewhere. Maybe he’s in the sacred employee bathroom. Maybe he’s smoking out back. It doesn’t matter. The door opens, and Ianthe Tridentarius comes in, and she’s not on her own, but she’s not with Coronabeth either.
In person, Harrow looks like she’s approximately ten centimetres tall and weighs half a kilo. She’s dressed in all black, from her tights to her knee-length skirt (gnc as hell, Gideon notes appreciatively) to her long-sleeved turtleneck. Her hair is slightly longer than it had been in her picture, and curls down the base of her neck. She has replaced the studs under her lips with rings, and has two new studs on either of her nostrils, as though to even it out. Her mouth is set as though she’s preparing to walk headfirst into hell.
“Um,” Gideon says, and finds she has nothing more to add. Of all times for her brain-to-mouth filter to suddenly kick in. But—why is Harrow here? Why did Ianthe bring her? Is this going to lead to Gideon’s imminent execution? Gideon thinks she’d prefer a little warning, but maybe she’s just traditional like that.
Ianthe looks something torn between amused and miserable, which is an interesting combination on a person, but Gideon super does not care about Ianthe Tridentarius right now. Harrow too pays the other no mind as she walks past her, chin jutted forward in determination.
“I would like to have a talk with you, Gideon Nav,” she states firmly, once she’s close enough that she could touch the desk if she wanted to. Her eyes are even darker than Gideon could possibly have imagined, and her lips are pursed firmly. Gideon fears she might pass out.
“Uh,” Gideon replies. She looks at Ianthe, who is hovering in the ajar door frame. She’s managed to take out a cigarette in the five years it took for Harrow to walk over. Ianthe shrugs and lights her cigarette, making a very slight effort to blow the smoke outside. “Okay?”
Harrow too looks back at Ianthe, now, for just a moment before she turns back around. She has dots painted around her eye sockets, symmetrically staggered. One of them is a bit smudged. Gideon wants to lean over and fix it, but she doesn’t because that would probably be weird. “Somewhere else. Is there any other room in here?”
“Um, yeah. Follow me,” Gideon says, half running on autopilot. She walks out from her safe barrier behind the desk. Harrow doesn’t like, immediately take a handful of bones out of her pocket and throw them at Gideon’s face, so that’s a good sign. She heads toward the door leading to the one place in the gym where no one ever goes. “Harrow—”
“Not yet,” Harrow interrupts, as soon as Gideon gets the second syllable out. “Please.”
Sure. Alright. Gideon can work with that.
She leads Harrow down the stairs, and then they reach the pool. Harrow looks at the empty cavern, seeming unimpressed. For some reason, Gideon feels the instinctive need to defend her place of employment.
“It’s been out of commission for like, a few months since some kid found a drowned rat and his mum made a stink over there being rats in the pool,” she explains.
“I see,” Harrow says, stiffly.
Pause. Okay. Take two.
“Harrow—” Gideon begins.
“I must no longer accept being a stranger to you,” Harrow interrupts, enunciated cleanly and carefully.
“O…kay,” Gideon says just as slowly, but that’s just because she’s very confused. “I mean, ‘stranger' is kind of pushing it. Like, I don’t know your last name or whatever, sure. But I know you drink coffee black. I know your favourite book is Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and you hate the Netflix Hill House adaptation because they made it like, super normie. I know you had a Homestuck phase.”
“I never told you that,” Harrow says quickly. She looks back into the empty pool.
“You didn’t have to, babe. Anyway, I’m not finished. I know you only ever sleep from like, 5 to 8 in the morning, max—which is fucked up, by the way. Please work on that.”
“I’m a busy person. Also, none of your business.”
“Still talking, sugarlips. I know you have a heretofore undisclosed tragic backstory—which I’m still waiting to hear more about, by the way. I know you unironically listen to Evanescence and you have a Mitski song for every emotion. I know you study english literature, and you’re writing a thesis on like, monster ladies.” It’s easy to list these nuggets as they come to Gideon’s mind, like gold coins in a tabletop RPG. Gideon’s loaded up. She’s a Harrow hoarder.
“The role of the female monster as a manifestation of feminine repression in traditional to modern Gothic literature,” Harrow corrects.
“Hell yeah, talk dirty to me.”
Harrow’s eyebrow twitches. “You’re insufferable.”
“Thanks sweetheart, I try. Anyway—point proven. Not strangers. I know tons about you. I know you write poetry about like, nature and returning to the earth after death. I know you’re rev—”
Gideon catches herself, but she can tell the moment Harrow realizes what she was about to say. Something unrecognizable swims in her eyes, and she steels herself as though facing a firing squad. “Say it.”
“Vampire,” Gideon says. Harrow looks like she either wants to punch her or kiss her, which is a reaction Gideon has always yearned to invoke in a person. “Okay, okay. Sorry, but not really because you literally set that one up. I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the eye afterwards if I let it pass by.”
That chest tingle again. Maybe her ex-foster brother was right when he said being gay was a disease—still was worth it to knee him in the balls for it. “I know you’re reverenddaughter on Archive of our Own, ” she continues, watching Harrow closely. She’s unable to read the other’s expression, so she pushes forward. “Thelostlyctor on Tumblr. The artist known as Nova. Number one Cristabel Oct slash Crismercy slash Anastasia stan.”
“I see,” Harrow says, in a tone that Gideon still can’t read. Which is like, moderately anxiety inducing, but Gideon is dealing with it. “When did you come to this conclusion?”
God, she speaks like Spock in real life, too. Gideon momentarily loves being alive. “Um, like, a month ago? When you added me on Instagram. Ianthe blew your cover. Terrible choice in friends, by the way.”
“We are not friends, and it is not by choice.” Ouch. That was a zinger. Gideon takes a moment in her kind heart to feel sympathy for Ianthe, who is not so much a bad person by choice as by nature. It isn’t really her fault she’s terrible.
“Cool. Yeah, fair enough.” Pause, again. “So...yeah. I mean, like, no shame here. Literally negative shame. My face is all over my Tumblr. I have ‘#catradora canon’ on my Tinder bio. It’s all good fun.”
“I neither understand nor share your ease with sharing identifying information with complete strangers on the Internet,” Harrow says, stiffly.
“Okay, like, super fair. But, you know. There was an ‘after’ in there. I’m not a stranger to you, Harrow, and I sure as hell don’t want to be one.”
Harrow pauses—inhales visibly, and then exhales. Her shoulders, seemingly holding all 0.5 kilos of her body under exponential duress, finally relax a bit. Not fully, but enough that Gideon is less worried about her collapsing from sheer tension. She takes a minute to collect herself, and Gideon knows something Important is going to come next.
“My name is Harrowhark Nova Nonagesimus,” Harrow starts, then pauses for effect. Which, okay, maybe Gideon is a little into the melodrama of it all. Sue her. “When I was young, all I wanted to do was to lose myself in fiction, to read and write and read and write and completely isolate myself from the material world. I would fixate on particular stories, read them over and over and take notes to track their symbolism and ongoing plot points. I’d write about them too, short continuations of scenes or ends of books.”
“Okay, cool. You discovered fanfiction,” Gideon says, and Harrow gives her an unimpressed look. “Sorry, sorry. Continue, my liege.”
Harrow sighs, and brushes her hair back from her forehead. “From the day I was born, my parents wanted me to take over their business. I was not supposed to engage with these flights of fancy. I was taught early on that my...interests were inappropriate and shameful, and had no place in my future.”
Gideon winces. “Well, they sound lovely.”
“They ran away when I was eleven, when it became public that they were embezzling funds from the company,” Harrow continues, barely acknowledging Gideon this time. She sighs. “I was the one who released the information to their secretary. She was the only person who would listen to me. I found the financial records, and I gave them to her. I never thought this is what would come from it.”
“Jesus,” Gideon says, not sure what else she can say. “Harrow—that’s not your fault. You know that, right?”
Harrow’s lips thin even further as they press together firmly. She’s not wearing lipstick, so Gideon can see the pink turn white under pressure. “You don’t understand. They left me, and the scary thing is I was okay with it. Because I didn’t have to be what they wanted of me anymore.”
She looks like she might shatter into a million pieces, so Gideon does all she knows how to do—she wraps her arms around Harrow’s skinny frame, tucking her chin where it naturally rests against the top of Harrow’s forehead. The shorter tenses even further, before melting into Gideon’s embrace. Her hands come up to pull on Gideon’s tank top (it's her Cohort branded one today, thankfully, instead of the “SUN’S OUT GUNS OUT” she’d been wearing yesterday) and she heaves wet breaths against her chest.
“I’m so bloody sorry,” Gideon murmurs, muffled by the curls against her mouth. She pulls away further and adds: “I don’t know if this is the right thing to say, but from one honorary orphan to another, fuck your parents. Do what you want.”
“Griddle,” Harrow says, but she doesn’t continue, so Gideon figures it’s safe to keep going.
“Seriously. I’m an expert on shitty parental figures, and they fit the bill times ten. None of this is your fault. And like, I’ve read what you write. You’re incredible, Harrow. I cried, like, three times reading your last update—which was super fucked up, by the way. Totally not okay.”
“I don’t know how to write a happy ending,” Harrow says, voice miserable.
“Okay, well. Good news for you: I’m an expert on happy endings. I crave them, I eat them for breakfast, I fantasize about them all day long throughout my dumb shifts at this stupid gym. I can help you.”
Harrow sighs, and begins to pull away. Gideon lets her go, not wanting to trap her in the embrace. “Thelostlyctor is...a sideblog,” Harrow states, face grim like she’d confessed to, like, mass baby murder. She tugs down the ends of her long black sleeves, as though trying to cover as much of her skin as possible.
“Okay,” Gideon says, waiting. Harrow meets her eyes, and then looks away.
“My main account...I’ve been following you for years, Griddle. I always commented anonymously on your fanfiction, because I didn’t want you to know I was reading them. I’d post about Cytherea, both because I believe what I said, and because I knew it would get you to react. Then I saw you on Tinder, and I couldn’t believe it was you,” she continues, staring into the empty lifeguard station. “You write about love so freely and openly. And even outside of your stories, that’s who you are. My parents—I never came out to them, and I can’t imagine they would have taken it well if I did. But even though you write primarily about sex, your stories are brimming with passion. With love and affirmation and overall goodness. Gideon, you are so good, in every part of you.”
The tingly feeling has reached Gideon’s whole body, now, and she feels like she needs to run a lap or ten around the pool just to get the adrenaline out of her system. Instead, she says, “That last comment...it was supposed to be anonymous, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” Harrow confirms, looking ashamed. Gideon never wants her to look like that again.
“Okay,” Gideon says. “So, here’s the thing. I don’t really care.”
Harrow blinks, and she finally makes eye contact again. Gideon does something she really, really wants to do: she puts her hand on Harrow’s cheek. At the same time, her thumb swipes at the smudged dot under her eye, succeeding in getting rid of the grey tracks. There. “Like, clearly you have some deeply internalized shame and self-hatred going on, which I’m not super qualified to address beyond being like, ‘yo, don’t do that.’ But the fact that you’ve been reading all the fic I’ve written? That you’ve been commenting this whole time? Harrow. You’re full of good things, too. You’re the best thing in this godforsaken city, and I didn’t even know you lived here until like, a month ago.”
At this, Harrow’s face turns a bright red, and Gideon momentarily wonders if she’s crossed a boundary. But then Harrow is taking the hand on her cheek and bringing it to her lips. Gideon wonders if she’s gone to heaven without realizing it.
“Ianthe told me you asked her about me. About Nova,” Harrow says, barely a whisper. “I felt so guilty. I felt like a fraud.”
“I think that was just secondhand Ianthe you were feeling,” Gideon replies. “Also, like. Why would I not be excited to find out the super hot goth I’ve been talking to is also the amazing fanfic author I sometimes fight with on the Internet?”
“You are the strangest person I know,” Harrow says, but it sounds like a marvel.
“Thanks, angel cakes.”
“I would like it if you kissed me now.”
And who is Gideon to say no to that?
Gideon goes back into the main fitness centre with a shit eating grin stuck on her face and an Official Goth Gf trailing after her. She feels like a new person.
“Where the hell were you?” Naberius says, seething behind the front desk. Ianthe, who is sitting next to him on the desk itself and filing her nails, rolls her eyes.
“Oh, grow up, Babs. Isn’t it obvious?” She gestures to Gideon and Harrow, who is doing her best to mask herself behind Gideon’s (hunky, godlike) figure.
“You can’t run off for a half hour on the clock,” Naberius sputters.
Gideon rolls her eyes. “You literally were doing exactly that when I left? Besides, I totally didn’t run off. I was in the gym with a paying customer.”
“I am not paying, and am therefore not a customer. Also, the pool is out of commission,” Harrow adds, helpfully.
“You can’t fire me. Judith loves me,” Gideon tries.
“Judith loves kickboxing, Coronabeth, and nothing else,” Ianthe counters.
“Fuck you too, gaslight gatekeep girlboss,” Gideon says, flipping the bird. Ianthe sends her one right back.
Instead, Naberius passes her the key to the client's bathroom. “Your turn to clean pubes, bitch.”
Gideon turns desperately to Harrow for a voice of support, before she sees the glint in her eyes. She realizes she had made a fundamental miscalculation: assuming that Harrow, Tumblr user Nova Thelostlyctor, would be any more on her side now than she’s ever been.
“I’ll see you this weekend,” Harrow says. And then she squeezes Gideon’s butt on her way out. So maybe it was worth it in the end, after all.
Gideon smiles all while cleaning pubes, and when the clock hits 7 pm and she’s finally done, she opens her phone to a new notification:
Instagram 6:46 p.m.
athousandmournings sent you a message.