Written for: Merfilly, for Femslash Exchange 2015.
There was enough of the old Cassandra left to appreciate that her private quarters were divided from the rest of the compound by a curtain. She’d loved The Wizard of Oz as a little girl—both the books and the movie—as much because of her parents’ efforts to make her live in the real world as in spite of them. In fact, the one time she’d ever broken curfew before the brain tumor, she’d snuck out of the house to meet a friend at a local movie theater that was showing the movie on the big screen for one night only. And the moment which had always affected her the most was the moment when Toto pulled the curtain aside and revealed the Wizard for who he really was. She’d felt Dorothy’s disappointment as keenly as if it were her own, maybe because she’d felt it herself when her parents sat her down at three and told her Santa wasn’t real.
The best part about becoming the Librarian had been discovering that she didn’t have to wake up like Dorothy after all. That the world really was as magical and colorful as Oz.
Now…she was supposed to be Glinda, but more often than not, she felt like the man behind the curtain instead. Oh sure, her power was real, not illusion like the Wizard’s. It was a part of her now, so much so that it was easier to call a book into her hand than to cross the room to pull it off the shelf. But the great sorceress, the benevolent ruler, the savior of mankind from the dragons…she was no more that woman than she was the quirky girl she’d once been. But the mask only came off behind the curtain.
A flick of the hand closed the heavy draperies behind her. Only when they were drawn did Cassandra allow her shoulders to sag ever so slightly. Familiar hands that were not her own were already reaching to draw the cloak from her shoulders. She closed her eyes for a moment of blessed relief and smiled when those hands ghosted over the skin of her arms.
“Are you all right?” Lamia asked quietly as she folded the cloak over her arm. Outside, she would have added ‘my Liege’ to the end of that sentence, but that title was forbidden in here at Cassandra’s request.
Cassandra nodded wearily. “Just tired,” she answered.
Lamia frowned. She draped the cloak from its peg before turning back. Her fingers found Cassandra’s back again, but this time digging in firmly, kneading muscles that carried the world on them. “Keeping the dragons at bay seems to be taking a great deal more strength than it once did. I worry for you.”
Closing her eyes again, Cassandra leaned back into her Guardian’s ministrations. “I know. And I appreciate it. But who else is there?” Magic was loose in the world, but there were too few people left who knew how to wield it. Too few people left, period. Morgan le Fay had long since fled, and Cassandra didn’t blame her mentor.
Lamia’s grip tightened involuntarily. “If I could shoulder part of the burden for you, I would,” she vowed.
“You already do,” Cassandra told her, twisting out of her hands only so she could turn to look her in the eyes. Her smile was weak only because her strength was temporarily exhausted. She reached for Lamia’s hand and twined it with her own before leaning in to press a chaste but fervent kiss to the corner of her mouth. “I know I don’t tell you enough, but I couldn’t do this without you.”
Lamia smiled too, but uncertainly. “Even though if not for me, you wouldn’t have to do it at all?”
Cassandra sighed and drew back. “You know I don’t like it when you talk like that.”
“Why not?” Lamia retorted. She was surprisingly stubborn in her guilt when they were here, behind what passed for closed doors. Even though in public, she wore her role as Guardian proudly, as the badge of honor it was. “It’s the truth. I cost you the Library. I cost you your Guardian.”
“You are my Guardian,” Cassandra retorted firmly, her hand fastening around Lamia’s chin and forcing their eyes to meet. “Dulaque killed Eve. Judson and Charlene cut the Library loose to protect it from him, not you. You proved your loyalty when you killed Dulaque to save me.”
Lamia grimaced. She tugged her chin out of Cassandra’s grip and ducked her eyes. “I have heard some say it proves only that I am loyal to no one.”
Anger like lava surged upwards in Cassandra, a burst of power shaking the building. She knew there were those who envied Lamia’s closeness to her, the trust she placed in her. But that they would take it so far as this…as far as trying to discredit her Guardian. “Who said that?”
Lamia’s eyes widened in surprise. She reached for the bedpost with one hand to steady herself until the shaking subsided. It said a great deal about the trust between them that her voice didn’t waver, though. Even the most dramatic displays of Cassandra’s power weren’t enough to make her afraid, thank God. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It does matter,” Cassandra insisted. She grabbed Lamia’s arm, as if she could make her own urgency bleed through the skin between them; like a drug or a disease transmitted by touch. “I need you here with me, physically and mentally. Anyone who makes you doubt yourself puts us all in danger.”
It hadn’t always been that way. They’d danced around each other in uneasy circles for quite a while; Cassandra resentful, Lamia still coping with having her worldview turned upside down. But the Library had known, which was why it had chosen Lamia for her even when Cassandra hadn’t wanted a new Guardian.
Everything had changed when the dragons awoke.
Lamia’s hand covered hers. “I just…I suppose I just don’t understand. Why the Library chose me when I was your enemy. Why you forgave me.”
“Because you saw me,” Cassandra answered quietly. “Because you see me. Because you’re the only one who does anymore.”
Sometimes Cassandra missed the girl she had been, all those years ago before she’d found the spell to cure her tumor and transformed herself in the process. The overlapping feedback, the sheer chaos of sound and color and memory and taste all mixed up together. Eve had missed that too. Cassandra sometimes thought that she’d lost Eve long before Dulaque killed her. Her Guardian had died for her, but her lover had never stopped mourning that lost girl.
Lamia loved who she was now; magic, seriousness, and all. And there were days when that was all that kept Cassandra going. The others feared her. They remained loyal only because they feared the dragons more.
“I could make them see you,” Lamia’s eyes flashed defiance for a moment, her voice as fierce as it had been the day she’d accused Cassandra of trying to keep magic to herself. She might play meek more often than not these days, setting the example for the others so none of them got themselves killed by leaving the protective circle of Cassandra’s influence, but that didn’t mean the fire was gone. Only that she banked it.
Cassandra smiled warmly. Her heart ached with love for this loyal rebel she’d somehow won to her side. “No, you can’t. You could make them say they do, sure, but that’s it.” She let go of Lamia’s arm, but only to curl the same hand possessively around her neck. “But thank you.”
The coals surged back to life in Lamia’s eyes. “I would do anything for you,” she whispered fiercely. “My Librarian.”
Cassandra’s breath hitched in her throat. ‘My Liege’ might be forbidden here, but when Lamia said ‘My Librarian’ in that tone, it meant something entirely different. Something that was not only allowed but welcomed here, and only here. Not because it was something private, but because this Lamia was one Cassandra didn’t share with anyone. “I know,” she responded, her own eyes darkening as she leaned in for a kiss. “But show me anyway.”