Title: Shone with Salt
Fandom: Solitaire (Kelley Eskridge)
Summary: Bodies in absence displace their weight. Relationships are defined by the things that happen between events.
Notes: Title and summary taken from Derek Walcott's "Coral."
The dim shine of the interface flickered under Snow's fingertips as she traced the edges of the blueprints. The framework wouldn't hold, not with the materials initially requested by their client. She twisted the stylus in her left hand for a half-second, then pulled up the specs for a close fabrication. The client's concern was aesthetics, she thought, because they were a new corporation trying to attract a unique clientele. The impression was just as important as the function or, rather, the two were one and the same.
She saved the original set of calculations, then created three branches of options according to equivalent appearance, to approximate cost, and to fit for purpose. When Snow looked up from her interface, diagrams and numbers scrolling past as they uploaded, it was hours later and her neck twinged as she stretched.
She had two messages. One was from her father, confirming dinner the next week. The other was from Jackal, and if Snow was smiling after the rambling invitation from her father, she grinned at the tinny echo of Jackal's voice.
--this never-ending cascade of glue, I can't even describe the look on the floor manager's face. Like Tiger after Mist dropped the first tablet he built, back--
Westman paused at the edge of Snow's vision, her palm raised at an angle meant to draw attention, but not demandingly so. Snow closed the message, Jackal's half-chuckle the final punctuation.
"Apologies," Westman said, her expression appropriately apologetic.
Snow waved off the courtesy with an equal amount of politeness. "Please," she said.
"The project adjustments," Westman began, and Snow leaned forward, focused again.
Home was farther from her workspace than it was for most others, but Snow had always liked the longer, wending way home. The rush of corporate traffic gave way to the insistent crescendo of ocean, of wind beating against the cliffside. They were a fitting counterpoint to Snow's thoughts, making the click-click-click transition from projects to less urgent places. While work kept her until sunfall, Snow usually arrived home before Jackal, whose schedule often seemed deliberately irregular.
After a quick shower, water sluicing the last of her work-weariness away, Snow stood in the center of the kitchen, her hair still water-tousled. She considered, then discarded, a number of dinner options as she decanted a glass of wine for herself. After settling half a chicken into the oven, Snow sliced three potatoes into thin strips and tossed them with olive oil and rosemary, and that was as far as she got before the front door slid open, and Jackal was home.
Jackal swept in like a sandstorm, her attention arriving in grains and morsels, and then in a hurricane rush. She dropped her coat and her tablet on a low table, pausing to catch a handful of decorative pebbles up, then scattering them back into their dish. As she saw Snow was busy sliding potatoes from bowl to pan, Jackal sidled up and curled around her, landing kisses against the back of her neck and the line of her jaw. Snow tilted her head back, and Jackal's final kiss brushed against the corner of her mouth. Even then, Jackal's fingertips stuttered agitation against Snow's ribs, and Snow wondered at the contrast.
"A long day?" she inquired. The potatoes were crisping perfectly, and she gestured with her chin towards the oven.
Jackal disentangled their limbs and leaned towards the oven, squinting at the timer. "Long enough," she replied. "You are amazing."
"Come here." Snow twisted, her hands on task even as Jackal returned. Their lips met, finally, in a proper kiss.
The potatoes burned, just a bit, but the chicken turned out perfectly.
In the months of Jackal's absence, Snow packed away things often left out of sight: clothing, keepsakes already in storage, a few files. The Seguras, without much comment, collected the boxes and stored them elsewhere.
In their home, however, Snow rearranged almost nothing. Their shared history, as represented in objects, continued to strike staccato against the borders of her consciousness.
When Jackal's message first arrived, Snow read it over, and over, and thawed.
Jackal offered to seek another apartment, but Snow had acquainted herself with the strict parameters of Jackal's freedom. "It's temporary," Snow said, delaying the longer negotiation. "After this project, we'll figure it out."
"After," Jackal responded. Two dozen expressions crossed her face, and Snow only knew fifteen of them. "After."
Snow nodded. She knelt in front of one box, slicing the packing material open with her nail. "Not all of this is practical," she admitted, prying the lid off.
"Then what?" Jackal asked.
Snow shrugged and continued with the unboxing. First, a granite tile, painted with faint suggestions of an albatross. A piece of driftwood, worn into the shape of an S. A fistful of marbles that belonged to Mist before Jackal won them away.
Jackal reached out, her hand trembling. She touched one marble, a sea-green ribboned through with purple. "I remember," she whispered.
Snow caught up her hand and placed a kiss at the base of each finger, and in the center of her palm. "I know."
The project kept Snow late most days, but her work still ended just as Jackal's usually began. She would make her way to Solitaire, savoring the shift from muted office clatter to the pizzicato song of the city at night.
Though she was known well enough that she could disappear upstairs, if only to search for Jackal, Snow preferred the bustle of the main room. If Jackal wasn't immediately apparent, she joked with Jane, or slipped behind the bar to make her own grilled cheese sandwich. If Jackal was around, and not too busy, they would split a bottle of wine and a bowlful of pretzels.
After dinner, and maybe busing a few tables during lulls, Snow would stretch, yawn, and blame her early mornings for departing so soon after midnight.
When Jackal returned, Snow was already be in bed, warm with sleep.
"Shh," Jackal said, her fingers stroking along Snow's spine. "Hours until dawn."
Snow half-roused. "Not enough," she murmured.
"Never enough," Jackal affirmed. She kissed Snow's shoulder, her throat, and under her chin.
Snow rolled and folded her arms around Jackal's waist. "This will do."
Originally archived on AO3.