September 15, 2018

1.14 Interlude: Dance With Me

1,855 Years Ago


Jack Demarco fell back hard onto his mat on the floor, his eyes hard as he focused on the ceiling. The party from earlier was still turning over in his head and he gritted his teeth with a groan before flipping over onto his side.


“You seem full of angry energy tonight, Jack.” His mother murmured from where she lay. “Thinking about the party?”


“No.” He lied, crossing his arms over his chest in front of him as he glared forward.
“Yes and I once danced with the Queen.” He could hear his mother’s smirk. 


Jack said nothing, shifting a bit on his mat to try and get more comfortable. It didn’t work.
“Was it the food, then?” His mother asked idly, trying to not laugh and break her guise. “It certainly must have been the food since you ate so much of it.”


He skipped dinner.
So what? 


“I wasn’t hungry.” He bit his cheek.
She leaned over from her bed, feigning surprise. “Perhaps it wasn’t the food, but what else?” She shook her head then, laying back down as she closed her own eyes. “Lady Soliana certainly looked very pretty, so I doubt it could’ve been that.” 


That one hit too close, and he hissed in response. “You already know why I’m angry.”
Jack already knew he had stepped too far, but his mother darkly reminded him of it. “You are acting spoiled boy, and I know I did not raise you to be.” 


“They are the spoiled ones.” He sat up, gesturing towards the way to the main room where the party once bustled. “Walking in, flaunting their wealth and titles! They’re alcoholics and wife-beaters and rapists!” He fell back onto his mat harshly, his eyes burning. “Yet they are the ones who are good enough for her.”


“Jack… you know better than to say that. That is half of what you are-”
“Don’t say that.” He cut her off bitterly. 


This caused her to sit up slightly, a firmness in her eyes. “You have noble blood-”
“I do not!” He clenched his fists and rolled over onto his side again, hitting the hard surface beneath him. “I am not them!” 


His mother persisted. “Your father has noble blood-” 
“I have no father.” Jack said it through clenched teeth.


“Everyone has a father, Jack, and yours sits at the same table as Lord Cristopher-”
Jack had gotten up in the middle of her response. He turned before getting to the door, gesturing around the room they shared. “Strange, I don’t see a father anywhere around here!” 


“Jack…” His mother reached out for him. “Where are you going?”
“To work.” Jack shoved his cloth shoes on. “In the stable. That’s what I do because I’m the stable boy… and that’s all I’ll ever be!” 


He was out of the door before his mother could even respond.

~~~~~~


Soliana threaded her fingers through her hair as she looked out her window. Janna had long blown out the candles but she couldn’t sleep. 


The men tonight were lousy dancers.
Jack was a lousy dancer too, but at least he was cute about it.
Dancing is meant to be an art, and to the men she danced with earlier it was merely a show of power.



Jack appreciated the art of it.
They did not.
That was the difference. 


She lost count of how many of them she had to dance with. It hardly mattered. They bored her, and she happily let them know. Her father hated when she did that, so she made sure she did it often.


When she was very little he would try to be firm with her, and she would stubbornly hold her desires until he gave in to them. There was one time when he even hit her, claiming the matter was over and she cried about it for three days, ignoring him and shying away from him until he finally broke and rethought his stance on his position. 


He might get angry with her for her rudeness, but he would never say so, because at the end of the day he loved her more than he wanted to control her. 


Jack never wanted to control her, and she loved him all the more for it.
Her gaze was pulled by movement along the yard.
She knew that walk anywhere. 



Her Jack.
Something was wrong though - he only ever walked with his head bent like that whenever he was angry. 


Soliana sat up straighter before throwing her legs off the bed. 
Best make sure the only trouble he gets into involves her.

~~~~~~

Jack’s pitchfork met resistance as he slammed it into the hay pile.


He could break up this hay bunch and clean out the stalls, there was a number of things he could do, yet instead he continued to angrily thrust the pitchfork back into the hay. It was at the sound of footsteps that had him straightening, spreading it out instead of imagining it was one of the stuffy noble’s fat corpse. 


Just as he had begun spreading it did he recognize the familiar sound the feet made. “My lady will catch a cold out here at this time of night.”


She laughed and he slowed his movements. “So long as my Jack will come keep me company when I’m recovering from that cold.”
Normally this would’ve made him forget why he was even upset in the first place, but tonight it was just a reminder of what he was not good enough to have. Her.


“You’re up awfully late.” She said in her pointed manner, and he could hear her walking casually somewhere close behind him before she sat down on the fence.
“Just doing some work,” Jack paused, before quietly adding, “my lady.”


Soliana was quiet for a moment and he couldn’t resist turning to look at her. Her head was tilted and her smile told him she didn’t buy whatever excuse he just gave. “You know, I don’t think the horses need to eat until tomorrow.”


He didn’t have a response to that, and instead he turned his frustration back onto the hay. It was only getting worse at this point. First it was just frustration with the Lords he hated, and now it was with himself.


Perhaps he truly was acting spoiled. “What can I do for you, my lady?” He asked, gruffer than he meant to sound.
“Have I upset you?”


Her words made him freeze with just how genuinely she pleaded with him. That was not like her at all.
“What have I done that has earned your ire, Jack?” Her tone had shifted and it made him ease. That was his Ana.


“You have not upset me, my lady.” He murmured. “It’s just… been a long night.”



Soliana shifted, hopping down from her seat on the fence and she came into his line of sight with her hands on her hips. “Yes, it has been a long night,” she started, and he averted his gaze back to his work. He would accomplish nothing more than increasing a different set of frustration if he stared at her in that state much longer. “-and I didn’t even get my dance with you.”


His grip on the pitchfork increased as he remembered her being passed from each of the Lords. “I fear I am not pompous or arrogant enough to qualify as someone capable of dancing with you according to your father.”


Soliana moved back into his sight again, her eyes narrowed for a moment before she grinned at him. “My Jack… is… jealous?”


Jack gritted his teeth. “I am not jealous.” He was too angry, yet just before he could shove the pitchfork back into the pile she was in front of him, her brow furrowed over her skeptical gaze.


“Not even a little?” Her voice reflected a soft hint of hurt.
That did it.


The pitchfork clanged as he tossed it to the side and his hands immediately came up to cradle her face. “You know I don’t speak with sense when I’m angry and jealous.”
Soliana’s eyes pulled into something sweeter. “So you were jealous?”



“Insanely so.” Jack leaned to rest his forehead onto hers.
Her eyes grew more determined then, reassured and she nodded. “Good. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one then.”
His brow furrowed in response. “You, my lady? Say it’s not so!”



Yet she slipped from his grip and moved to sit along the railing again. “Me? Of course not!” She looked away with a purse of her lips in an obvious lie. Her fingers came up to pick at some of the fabric on her dress as she loosely shrugged. “I just don’t understand why everyone thinks you would be a good match with Nicoletta.” Her could see her biting her cheek and resisted smirking as she continued. “I mean… I guess she’s pretty. She’s… intelligent… with those… numbers… and things.” It almost sounded like she were in pain as she spoke the compliments. “Well, she won’t be that pretty though when I tear her eyes out.”


Jack couldn’t stop his laugh then. “My lady is not jealous of the backwater from the middle of town now, is she?”


Yet Soliana frowned, fire in her eyes as she looked away with her nose up. “Of course I was!” She brought her pout back to meet his gaze. “I’d be jealous of a crawly bug if it held your attention longer than I did!”


Now he had to laugh as he moved to lean against the fence around her. “My Ana, there is nothing in the world that could ever capture my attention away from you.”
“Good.” Her eyes searched his face, lingering on his lips before returning his gaze with a fiery stare. “Keep it that way.”


“I fully intend to.” It was easy to smile at her now as he watched her eyes shift from her stubbornness to something softer.
“So are you going to ask me to dance with you now, or what?” Soliana’s eyes batted expectantly.


Jack chuckled in response, holding out his hand. “Only if my lady doesn’t mind my two left feet.”


She placed her small hand in his own, soft and delicate, yet she was the one pulling him away from the fence and settling them into a soft dance.


He’s danced with her before, of course. They danced as children and he’d helped her with the pointe work she did… but none of it was this way. This was different - softer, like she was.
More intimate.


“You needn’t worry about those suitors, Jack.” Her voice was serene as they danced in the quiet of the barn to the crickets.


He took in a deep breath before answering honestly. “It is hard not to, my lady. They have everything I don’t.”


Soliana pulled away slightly, looking at him with her expression muted and serious. “They do not have my heart,” she murmured, “and they never will. That is yours, my Jack.”


Jack released her hand to cup her face gently as he stopped their movement. She comforted him more than she could ever realize. “As mine is yours, Ana; forever, always.”
She was right. He would win her hand.



He couldn’t picture his future at all without her in it.

~~~~~~

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