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23 April 2006 @ 04:04 pm
I'm... not entirely sure about this.

I've spent this last week editing a longish fic to the point where I was quite ready to just throw the damn thing into the abyss that is the trash folder. I proceeded to take a walk. I had an idea, and now I have fic. Fic that is, in fact, the opposite of what I'd been writing before. (Consistence? Ha, no.)

Title: Now, Then

Summary: Mal is haunted. Polly throws things. Angst angst angst. Mal/Polly, Mal/OCs.

Rating: R. I think it's R. The American rating system puzzles me every time, but I'm pretty convinced this is R and not NC-17. Anyway, things happen.

Warnings: Hints at non-con and self-harm. Slash (surprise, surprise). Het (no, really). Infidelity. Strays quite far from canon, but is not actually impossible.

Now, Then

Mal was human once.

She remembers this: a bedroom, the first of many. Hers. She wasn't Mal then, nor Maladicta, just a girl with a mirror and the ability to look good in a dress. She remembers her reflection. Even then, she looked the part, dark hair framing a face that was white with suppressed fear. Where's the difference? asked the pale woman.

Where's the difference?

She remembers looking into the mirror. She was alone in there, and raised a hand to her lips where she'd been kissed just a moment before. The kiss was elsewhere now, lingered on her neck. The girl held her breath; the woman drew blood.

In the mirror, she saw her skin open up, she saw the blood trickle down, bright red against her skin. Mal remembers asking herself what would have happened if she'd said no.

There's no room in her memory for the pain.

Mal remembers how she felt lighter and lighter, how the reflection faded, how the girl blinked and saw the portrait of the Duke on the wall behind her, right where her head had been. She remembers how the girl collapsed into strong arms, received a kiss, a mouthful of blood. She'd struggled a little; she'd been good afterwards.

This happened a hundred and fifty years ago.

The pale woman had liked the struggling, and after the girl had been good for a while, she adopted her and that was the beginning of Maladicta.

Where's the difference?


Mal watches Polly a lot, and the difference is here: in the tiny wrinkles around her eyes that are really only there when she laughs. The difference is in one single long scar on her cheek and several others on her body.

"How I wish I could take that from you," is what Mal had said when she'd been holding Polly up on some battlefield or another, when Polly had been bleeding almost too much for Mal to bear. She'd seen Polly's smile, brave and a little uncoordinated.

She still hates herself for saying that, but oh how she wished she could have taken that from Polly. Mal knows pain all right. People have been sticking stakes into her for a longer time than Polly's been alive. Mal envies Polly's scars.

Lately, it's been more swords and less stakes. It's amazing how little difference that makes, pain-wise.

Polly, now, has reached an age where, when faced with the challenge of crossing a dusty guestroom on her way from the washbasin to the bed, she wraps herself into a towel first. Frequently, it's Mal who's waiting there for her, and she shakes her head and calls her granny, because that makes Polly laugh, and her face is so alive then. It breaks Mal's heart.

Mal remembers her own thirty-eighth birthday. It's significant, in a way, because it marks the point where Mal's been a vampire for longer than she's been human. She remembers opening the window to the sunlight for the first time in nineteen years. She doesn't remember being dust for the hours that passed, but she remembers rising to flickering candlelight and to the face of the woman she won't call mother. She remembers being slapped with a hand on which a gash was already healing, the glint in the woman's eyes. Struggling again.

She'd got better with sunlight, after that.


There's this about Mal: she'd be a virgin every time, except in all the ways that count. Just as she'd be nineteen all her life. She feels nineteen, sometimes, because nothing afterwards has mattered, except for Polly maybe. Polly, who makes her miss being human so much.

Something that doesn't matter: the man, the vampire, biting her shoulder right now. Blood trickles. Mal gasps, her back pressed hard into a wall, and she grips his arms in a way that would have caused dark bruises on Polly's skin. The man just smiles, with stained teeth. He isn't nice, but she doesn't want nice at this point.

Polly is nice.

He makes a point of ripping the black ribbon off her shirt before the shirt itself falls to the ground. Mal's free to bite now, she bites and draws blood and keeps it in her mouth for a while. She spits, she always does. She's strong enough for that.

She doesn't know his name, doesn't care, just that he's so very different from Polly. She shifts, and he does, too.

There's this about Mal: she'd be a virgin every time.

The man moves, teeth grazing over her lips, and downwards to her neck, biting again, long and deep enough for him to drink. Mal feels lighter and lighter. As long as the wound's open, she's alive, she's human in a way she's almost forgotten.

And inside her head, the reflection fades. It does every time.


That happened a day ago, and Mal stands at a washbasin, in front of a mirror again. It's a picture of the Duke she sees in it, a different one now that a hundred and fifty years have passed. Mal scrubs her body with a washcloth, half wishing it were steel wool. The thought is idle, she knows, the kind of cleanliness she seeks she won't find on the surface of her bones. Besides, she'd only heal again.

In the mirror, she sees Polly stepping behind her. She's wearing slippers, it's necessary. Mal isn't, and glass shards press into the soles of her feet. Polly'd thrown a glass at her when she'd told her. Mal had ducked, if only because she'd known Polly'd been counting on that and wouldn't have thrown anything otherwise.

Mal looks at Polly's face in the mirror and wonders if she should tell her the rest of the story. It feels too much like justifying, and Mal knows that somewhere along the lines she's old enough to be responsible for the things she does, always.

"Is it because he's a guy?" asks Polly.

'It's because he's not you', there's the answer, but it's too hurtful, and not entirely precise. Mal settles for, "No," because that's, technically, the truth. "I'm sorry," she adds, still not lying.

She'd been all right for a long time before she met Polly. Polly's the first human to come this close. Mal watches her age and scar with time, and time is kind to Polly, like rain to a plant. Time, to Mal, is a drought.

"Your feet are bleeding," says Polly.

A hand is almost touching Mal's shoulder. In the mirror, it's just Polly raising her hand. It's easier to watch the mirror, because it shows just one half of the problem. It's incredibly hard to watch the mirror, because it shows her just how much she's hurt Polly. Hurts her even now.

Mal turns around, glass shards cracking beneath her soles. She sees Polly wince. She sees her eyes, pupils dilated in the dim light. For one beat of Polly's heart, Mal sees herself in the blackness. Polly looks down, and the reflection is gone.

"I'll heal," says Mal, and maybe it's true.
Ilthit: Maladictailthit on April 24th, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC)

I've always assumed Mal's a born vampire, because of the name; but I suppose it works through adoption as well. This inner world you've painted for her and that inwards-turning handling of the imminence of Polly's human death and her own lack of it is chilling, painful. It's a very different Mal from Amazon's.

Beautifully written. Tell me when you ARE sure about it, so I can snag it for the site. :)
around the duck pondlatin_doll on April 25th, 2006 03:43 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks :)

Yes, actually I think Mal's a born vampire, too, this is just me playing around :) Though now I've got a scene stuck in my head in which Mal is given two pages of middle names and told to memorise those.

Guess I'm reasonably sure about this now, so, permission granted. "Chilling, painful" (wow!) was exactly what I was going for, but, you know, the inner spoilsport that keeps going "damn, this is pretentious and possibly offensive to anyone with a brain"? I think I've got one of those. Er.
Ilthitilthit on April 25th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC)
It's of course possible that even born vampire children have trouble memorising their names.

Nevermind pretentious. Look where pretentious has gotten writers like Martin Amis and Piers Anthony. ...I'm kidding. We loved it, so you must be doing something right.
around the duck pondlatin_doll on April 26th, 2006 05:25 pm (UTC)
One of the reasons I like Mal: Polly called herself Oliver and was done, while Mal had to invent two pages of pollysyllabic names and learn them by heart, Talk about dedicated. Or maybe she just bullshitted her way through her signature, figuring that nobody would bother to double-check, I dunno.

Neither Martin Amis nor Piers Anthony ring a bell with me, but I did look them up on Wikipedia :) Anything you can recommend?
Ilthitilthit on April 26th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure she had to. If she wasn't worried about being called Maladict, I don't know why she should have changed the rest of her names any more than that. So if her names are Diabolique Fermenta Lucrezia etc, she could just go with Diabolus Ferment Lucrez etc.

In addition to which, yeah, who would check? :D I think her main possible trouble would have been to be recognised by another vampire, if she was on the run; if not, of course, all she had to fool was the humans, who probably don't know vampire society or many of its members by name.

Re: Amis and Anthony: No; they're both too pretentious to bear. :D Well, okay, I read some decent short stories from Amis.
around the duck pondlatin_doll on April 26th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC)
... I didn't even think about this.

(Or maybe she spelled everything backwards. Typical vampire idea of cunning, that one.)

Her immediate reaction to Otto was hiding behind Jade, though, so she *might* have some trouble with vampire society. Could have been just to avoid something like "Maladicta, old friend" from Otto, but I don't think she knew him. (Could have been the iconograph and some fast thinking on her side, but somehow I don't think the idea of a flashlight has reached Borogravia.)
Ilthitilthit on April 27th, 2006 04:55 am (UTC)
Hah! Yeah, backwards... I guess it depends on how bored she was. Maleing the names would be easier; not very cunning, but if she wanted to hide she would have changed her first name too.

Yeah, about that hiding. One could theorise about it. Maybe she was hiding from Otto, but he did see her later anyway - on the other hand she did say she'd heard of iconographs, so maybe she just didn't want to get fried.
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Amazonamazon_syren on April 26th, 2006 11:48 pm (UTC)
I figured she just... made them up as she went along. Listed off half the boys she grew up with, for example, maybe threw in a few masculized names of her own, maybe not. How often was she going to have to sign her (full) name, really? ;-)
Amazonamazon_syren on April 26th, 2006 12:42 am (UTC)
Oh, honey. It's not pretentious. It's fabulous. :-)
Amazonamazon_syren on April 25th, 2006 03:07 am (UTC)
Wow indeed.

I like the way you make her miss her human-ness. The lack of a reflection.
I like the man who drinks from her. I like that she can only bite someone else when the ribbon comes off. (Like Sam Vimes putting down his badge, if you will). I like that she needs someone who/that isn't nice.

I like that Polly's hurt, and that it cuts Mal worse than the glass does to know that she's hurt her like that. I like that she needs to do it anyway, sometimes.

I think this is excellently done. :-)

Brava. :-)
around the duck pondlatin_doll on April 25th, 2006 03:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)

I just finished Men at Arms yesterday, actually, and I didn't even think of the parallel. This is neat. Well, sorta. It's a bit strange, though, seeing as in this 'verse (don't bring your friends, oneshot!) Mal strives to be human, something which the ribbon is actually a symbol of (What was it she said in MR? "I'm a vampire officially pretending not to be one?" That). She's not the greatest of problem-solvers here, I think.

The mirror thing would get on my nerves greatly, I should think. It's just that and a bit of (well, a lot of) existential angst thrown in.

*has a sudden desire to write fluff fic*
Amazonamazon_syren on April 26th, 2006 12:31 am (UTC)
Mal striving to be human...
Given that in your ficverse, she started out as human, that makes sense.

I never thought of it that way, though. The ribbon, I mean.
A vampire officially pretending not to be one... I don't see the ribbon as being a symbol of hoped-for humanity. I see it as... well, partly as a reminder (a shield, in my ficverse, something similar in yours, I think) of her promises, but also as a... Okay, example from my life: My dad's union went on strike once, ages and ages ago. He was "essential staff" or something, and couldn't actually strike with them. In order to be able to cross the picket lines every morning (and hopefully to avoid having things thrown at him and being called 'scab' and what-not) he wore a button that said "my heart's with you, but my hands are tied" and had a picture of bound hands super-imposed over a broken heart. I see the black ribbon as something like that. Something that will keep the angry mob from turning its anger on you. (Something that 'doesn't cause people to turn you into a short kebab', as it were).

And no. She's not the greatest of problem solvers here.
Hell, in my ficverse (although no-one really knows this yet) Mal ocasionally cuts herself with Polly's old cut-throat razor, just to feel herself bleed. She never foreswore vampire blood, you see. But with Polly, who gags at the though of ingesting raw blood (cooked blood, on the other hand, she could probably handle), however, she can't even have someone drink from her.
Adiction (and this is such in more ways than one) makes you do less-than-intelligent things. This isn't too surprising.
Was it the first time she'd done it?

Re: Oneshot: No, no! Bring your friends! :-D

Re: Fluff: Woohoo! :-D Looking forward to it! :-D
around the duck pondlatin_doll on April 26th, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)
You're right about the ribbon, Pratchett's vampires are probably more pragmatic than Mal in this fic. So 'please go easy on the pitchforks' is probably a convincing motivation behind the temperance movement, I think. A born vampire probably wouldn't feel the need to be human.

Mal did join the army, though, which isn't exactly the same as keeping out of trouble, I think even book!Mal has some sort of interest in humans (apart from their necks, I mean).

Er. Wasn't Polly's old cut-throat razor carefully blunted so it wouldn't hurt a fly? Or wait, maybe that's something she's learned from Jackrum.

I think there's a built-in mechanism that actually makes humans gag when they ingest more than a tiny amount of blood. Don't know where I read that, though, but there seems to be some evolutionary point behind it.

(Cooked blood - I seem to recall some Swedish recipe involving pig's blood. Ngk.)

I don't think it was the first time, but I haven't actually planned that far :)

The oneshot's friends are at this moment carefully shooed away, since I still have to edit monster!oneshot (turned out I don't like it because the entire premise doesn't work. Sigh), and the fluff thing is a sudden strange fancy. I dunno.
Amazonamazon_syren on April 26th, 2006 11:41 pm (UTC)
I agree that book!Mal has some sort of interest in humans. I don't know what, though. ;-)

Re: The cut-throat razor.: Yes, she'd carefully blunted it. That doesn't mean it can't be sharpened again, though. (I think Tonker sharpened it, actually).

Re: Gag-reflex: Define "tiny". Also: Blood pudding = british sausage. Blutvurst, same sort of idea. Blood also makes a rich thickener for sauces used on dishes of wild game (See: The Joy of Cooking, believe it or not. :-) And you can get used to ingesting more than a 'tiny' amount of blood. (Thus spake the vampires in "Children of the Night" an ethnography on the vampire community. Very *very* interesting. :-)

Re: Monster!Oneshot: Uh... Not to be nosey... what is the premise, exactly? What about it isn't working? :-)

Fluff? :-) <*Looks Hopeful*> :-)
around the duck pondlatin_doll on April 27th, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC)
I tried to look the gag thing up, but Wikipedia seems down and even Google died on me twice and anyway wasn't very helpful and provided me with tons of sites about mosquitoes, and also, vampires. So. I think I've read that nausea is a common reaction to blood ingestion (whereas the gag reflex kicks in if fluid comes near the trochea), but as of this moment I can't cite any sources. No idea what quantities are involved, either.

How could I forget the blutwurst?

Monster!Oneshot. Right. This might be sort of spoilery, but since the issue is addressed right at the beginning... Mal bites Polly.

It was supposed to be an angsty oneshot. Now the damn thing's got 14 chapters and 65.000 words and a *plot* and also, some serious characterisation issues. I mean, I think I've got Mal's motivations so far, but Polly poses a problem. And it's her POV, too.

(And yeah, the inability to deal with vampire!Polly prompted human!Mal.)
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