This is for octavius_x, who asked for something to do with Ariel. I'm a little bit drunk on sake and G&T and I make no guarantees as to the quality of what pours out of my fingertips when I start typing.
The Tempest -- Miranda/Ferdinand, Ariel/Ferdinand
all afire with me
had I been any god of power, I would have sunk the sea within the earth
when this burns, 'twill weep for having wearied you
In the line of Miranda's smile is a childhood spent as sole mistress of an empty kingdom, princess in blood and stature and everything but name; in the soft steel of her eyes is the bridge built for her by powerful men, cloaks laid over the muddy waters of adolescence, that she might step delicately from maiden to queen without dirtying her feet. No real chessboard allows such an easy transformation, but Ferdinand has only won one game of chess against his wife: the first. He suspects that she only let him cheat because she was learning his strategy, and that his king remained upright only because the flesh-and-blood equivalent stumbled into view before the game was played to its completion.
To Prospero's daughter nothing is impossible; nothing is so great that it cannot be overcome. She frowns at the elements when they displease her and she sits with her eyes fixed on the clouds as though through strength of will she can halt the winds and send them off in another direction. Ferdinand remembers her casual threat of lightning against something as innocent as a stack of dry wood, and places himself within the line of her gaze until the danger has melted into affection.
"What's this?" He smiles. "No kind words for your husband, after he has spent the day hearing tedious people talk about tedious things?"
"I am sorry that they are boring you, my love," she says, and winds her arms around his neck. "If I were a man I would cut them down for such an insult to your time."
"Then it is just as well you are not," he replies, trying for humour.
Her eyes do not darken, but they shift into confusion.
To be king you must learn when to wield your weapons and when to keep them sheathed. He is afraid most of all that one day Miranda will forget that Naples is not a desert island, and that her subjects are not errant spirits, and he will find himself once more holding a blade that refuses to obey his commands. He is afraid of what she will slice through for his sake.
If I were.
If I could.
In his opinion Miranda speaks in altogether too many hypotheticals for someone who has been given all she ever wanted.
The chess pieces create a portrait of static defeat, lying where the game of three nights ago ended. Ferdinand draws his chair closer to the warmth of the fireplace and tries to find his weaknesses within the pattern. He rolls his toppled king beneath his finger and wonders, not for the first time, if he found his wife in a dream and brought her into the real world purely by accident.
"She can't help but conquer the world; she's never been taught any better," says a quiet voice, and when Ferdinand looks up his hand moves with such violence that the chess pieces shudder in every direction and fall to the floor.
This is not his wife. This slender white-clad girl has no knowledge of her own power, nor of the world beyond the supple coastline of her island domain. She lifts her eyes in innocence and is the wondrous thing that Ferdinand fell in love with, all those years ago.
He is standing, though he cannot remember the act of standing. His hand curls around the chair's high back. "What are you?"
"Do you not know me, Prince of Naples?" There is a sweet music behind the words that he recognises not in his ears but in his eyes, a tune that calls up the shadow of mourning tears and the tragedy of blue skies after a storm.
"No," he says, meaning, remind me.
Where the not-Miranda's fingers touch his bare arms, the tips of them dissolve into intangible flames. Her hair is seaweed under his hands and inside her mouth sings the echo of the sea, the taste of salt. And yet there is something about her that is familiar, a hole in his longings suddenly slotted shut. The clumsiness of her small neat lips. The expanse of her skin like a white sand beach when the waves retreat; the promise that his footprints will be the first and the only marks to sully its perfection.
"This is what you wanted," Ariel says. "This is what you tried to bring back to Naples and contain within a golden ring."
Fire and water and the despairing leap from an inevitable shipwreck.
Ferdinand closes his eyes and says, "Yes."
Ariel whispers, "How deceived we were."
"What are you doing here?"
"Whatever I please. That was the agreement."
"No. He's mine. This one is mine."
Ariel laughs and laughs and presses her sea-spray cheek to Ferdinand's chest, drenching his shirt, the sudden chill forcing his shame and his excuses into a single ball of ice within his throat.
Miranda snaps her fingers and the fire burns high.