All Was Golden


rue_icon.gif seren_icon.gif

Scene Title All Was Golden
Synopsis A road trip at the crack of dawn doesn't go quite as planned.
Date January 5, 2020

New York

January in New York is hardly the optimal time for sightseeing. It’s snowy and it’s cold, but here they are, a cooler full of food and wine packed up in the back of Rue Lancaster’s Jeep. Their coats are tossed on the bench, the heater going full blast and keeping them more than warm enough. It feels a bit like the old days before the war once they get out of the Safe Zone and get to parts of the state that weren’t bombed to shit.

Rue picks up her coffee from the cupholder and takes a sip of the quad-shot, vanilla white chocolate mocha, almond, no whip, and sighs happily. She turns down the radio just a little so they can hear each other talk easier.

At their backs, the sun is just beginning to rise.

When the moon fell in love with the sun
All was golden in the sky
All was golden when the day met the night

“I’m so glad you agreed to this last minute thing. I was worried I was being too spontaneous,” Rue confesses. It isn’t like she showed up at 4 AM and said get in, loser, we’re going roadtripping, but usually people plan these sorts of excursions more than a day ahead of time.

Seren is in the midst of cupping their own cooling cup of over-expensive coffee, eyes closed to breathe in the scent of it. The sun coming up will hopefully help them wake better. For all their initial enthusiasm and adrenaline about the spot of sightseeing, the car ride (for all its bumps thanks to questionably maintained roads) keeps trying to lure them into a nap.

Which, no! The two of them were on a trip together! They needed to stay awake.

"Too spontaneous, no," Seren admits after a long drink, cup already at the point where it needs tipped back to receive a full sip from it. "But I think yesterday-me and this-morning-me should have had a chat or something before agreeing to get up this early." And there it goes, they're yawning.

When the sun found the moon
She was drinking tea in a garden
Under the green umbrella trees
In the middle of summer

But the sun's coming up. There's a pink glow at the edge of the snow white and baby blue openness of the horizon. There's a warmth to the world that wasn't there before, even if only in sight. A golden glint on the snow on the sides of the roads, accenting the angles not otherwise seen in the undulations of white. With a beautiful day ahead and beautiful scenery like this to already look forward to, they'd have to wake up soon.

Baird hasn't decided yet what he's going to be today. He was painted with all the haziness of a poorly-remembered dream when Seren and he had come outside to the Jeep before sunrise, and he'd weaseled his way down into the top of their coat to hide somewhere warm and dark to nap. As far as anyone knew, he was still there under Seren's shirt.

Except he's crooning from the back seat now, stretching in a four-paw yawn on his back. The arctic fox sprawled on top of the coats in the back has golden sparkles at the ends of his fur, amber eyes squinted tiredly against the thought of daytime. Seren lets out a rumble of a chuckle, leaning back into their seat and snaking an arm into the back to ruffle his belly. "C'mon, Baird, we're going on an adventure today, look alive!"

When the moon found the sun
He looked like he was barely hanging on
But her eyes saved his life
In the middle of summer

The figment squirms and squalls under Seren's hand, finally rolling onto his belly to protect it from them and letting out an offended sneeze at being disturbed. Seren grins mercilessly.

"It is obscenely early, bud," Rue empathizes with the little fox, glancing in the rearview mirror to catch a glimpse of his current form and smiling. "You have my permission to sleep the whole way." Which is to say Seren does as well.

She turns her head to look at Seren properly, for just a moment, then turns her attention back to the road ahead. The way the sun plays off their features, illuminating them from behind like some kind of portrait of a saint…

In the middle of summer
All was golden in the sky
All was golden when the day met the night

Rue snorts a laugh at her own thoughts. "Hey, so… I just…" She smiles in spite of her awkwardness and shakes her head. Road trips are the ultimate test of a relationship. "I'm glad you're here," she settles on finally.

"Also, you're fucking gorgeous."

Seren scoffs as they draw their arms back to themselves, their surprise at the sudden comment on a delay. Before it hits, they're already balking, "It's because I'm physically incapable of bedhead," It's not being humble if you're just stating the facts. They run a hand back through their short-shorn hair to accentuate that point. "You're full of it, because I've done nothing to deserve being called that," they sound all too knowing, with a shake of their head, "All I did was roll out of bed…"

All was golden in the sky
All was golden when the day met the night
Summer, summer, summer, summer
All was golden when the day met the night

Their head lolls to the side to better look back at Rue with a small smile, the first hint of bashfulness after their initial rejection. "So I think you're exaggerating, but thank you."

Seren arches their eyebrows pointedly. "You, on the other hand…" Rather than follow that up, they reach into the back to gesture for Baird to come up front. For all his grumbling, he leaps instantly into their arms and settles quickly into their lap, fluffy tail wrapped around himself. It's easier for Seren to hide the blush that wants to appear when there's a perfectly good Baird to help distract from it.

"I'm glad we're doing this, too," they share, more on the serious side again. Running their fingers through Baird's soft fluff and making it sparkle, Seren looks up from it to watch the road. "I've never seen the Falls, and I'm glad I'll get to see them with you."

So he said, "Would it be all right
If we just sat and talked for a little while
If in exchange for your time
I give you this smile?"

"Maybe in a more perfect world, we would have done this to like, kick off the weekend… but what a way to start the week, instead." Always a bright side, after all.

“I admit, I kind of lose the concept of weekdays and weekends sometimes.” Rue shrugs her shoulders. What’cha gonna do? “I’m simultaneously never working, but always working, when I’m not on an op.” Keeping her left hand on the wheel, she leans over slightly so she can reach out and ruffle Baird’s fur affectionately.

“If your boss gives you any crap when you inevitably roll into work late on Monday, I’ll just bat my lashes at him. I’ll even break out the Better Than Sex mascara for it.” That’s a real thing and it’s in her make-up bag right now. “Guys can’t resist the big blue eyes and the lashes. It’s just biology.”

Seren lets out a toneless pfff in reply to that. Sure, they seem to want to agree, with a heavy layer of sarcasm. But then again, they themselves have been suckered by those wonderfully-framed eyes before, so maybe this would make for a particularly weak argument. "Thankfully, they're pretty flexible with my schedule, if I've not got any meetings," they reassure her instead. "No need to get that dramatic."

So she said, "That's OK
As long as you can make a promise
Not to break my little heart
Or leave me all alone in the summer."

Their eyes are drifting shut again against their will while they drown their hand in Baird's fur. It's just so warm and soft. "Should have seen my schedule when we were working on the Mantis prototype…" When Rue reaches over, she feels a simulacrum of that, skin underneath fur a difficult layer to find given the figment's noncorporeal existence. He gives a chittering purr about it anyway, pleased at the attention, and Seren lets out a soft hm themself with the hint of a smile.

"Baird in the front seat might have been a bad idea," they admit guiltily, very softly. "It's like having a blanket and pillow all in one right on your lap." Maybe the caffeine will hit soon, maybe not soon enough to prevent them from drifting off. "The offer for additional beauty sleep still on the table?"

Rue chuckles quietly, glancing to her partner with a fond smile. “You bet. You can be my very own Sleeping Charming and I’ll wake you when we get there. Or when I’m ready to stop for breakfast. Whichever comes first.”

Well he was just hanging around
Then he fell in love
And he didn't know how
But he couldn't get out
Just hanging around
Then he fell in love

Reluctantly, she withdraws her hand from Baird’s warmth, but stops to slip her hand behind Seren’s shoulders and give the back of their neck a small squeeze before returning to 10 and 2 on the wheel. “I won’t even sing along to the radio. Not loudly anyway,” Rue jokes.

Another chuff of a laugh leaves Seren, their small smile deepening. Their head leans to the side, like they might catch Rue's hand between their ear and shoulder— but she needs that, so they don't make an actual effort of it. Sleeping Charming, Rue said. That's adorable. They open their eyes long enough to look down at Baird. "What do you say? Small nap?"

They lift their hand to pat the shoulder leaning into the door and Baird climbs up. Seren has to lean forward to let him spin about, halfway curled about their neck, nose tucked into haunch. He shouldn't have enough space, but he somehow makes being a pillow work. His conjurer lifts a hand to scritch the top of his head with their fingertips before settling in against him, head resting against the Jeep’s frame. Baird's form clips the side of their face, but eyes closed, it's impossible for them to note save for the sensation of warm fur brushing their cheek.

In the middle of summer
All was golden in the sky
All was golden when the day met the night

"Sing anyway," they murmur while folding their arms to get more comfortable. "If there's anything to be woken up by…" Their eyes flicker underneath closed lids.

If there was anything to dream by…

And they do dream.

All was golden in the sky
All was golden when the day met the night
Summer, summer, summer, summer
All was golden when the day met the night

The sun crawls into the sky, golden and bright, but Seren sleeps right through the glare. Between that light and the warmth they perceive, both real and imagined, the first oddity is the blanket they imagine themself under. Maybe at one point it was meant to be an actual fleece blanket, but instead a blanket of fur grows right from Baird and wraps its way around their body. It trails to the floor. It spills over and through the center console, but clings mostly to them.

And for a time, that’s it.

Summer, summer, summer, summer
In the middle of summer, summer, summer, summer
The middle of summer, summer, summer, summer
The middle of summer, summer, summer, summer

Then the warmth starts to feel like summer, and Seren’s eyes dance beneath closed lids again. The sound of waves crashing against an ocean shore comes inexplicably from behind. On Seren’s shoulder, Baird suddenly colors cerulean in a wash. A second wave hits an invisible shore, and the gold-tipped fur colors blue down the entire surreal blanket as well. The water splashes past its edges, spilling over to wash the floorboards in saltwater that glimmers with gold where an unseen sun kisses its surface.

It’s water that starts to rise in grades, like it might when one wades with purposeful strides deeper into it. The water begins to ripple, like fingertips are being dragged over its surface—

In the middle of

Then a wave comes from the Jeep’s console, gentle but sudden and bringing a rush of water at chest-height.

There’s a startled yelp from Rue as the water pours into the Jeep. At first, she didn’t notice it around her feet, but when it bursts forth from the console, it’s impossible to ignore. She doesn’t know what’s happening, not at first. The first whole thought she manages to form is that they’re under some kind of attack.

Panic makes her heart pound in her chest. She has to find a way out. Get them to safety. She has to get out of here.

Fingers grip the bars of the cell until her knuckles turn white. “Please don’t let me drown.” Rue pulls off the highway, jamming the shifter to P and throwing her door open at the same time. “Seren! Seren, wake up!”

It doesn’t even occur to her that this is them.

The jerk of the car abruptly slowing brings the oceanwater to slosh forward and into the back, like the Jeep might as well be a fishbowl. In that moment, the world tints slightly blue. Without any sensation one would associate with going under, the surroundings become underwater. There's no water resistance with each movement. In fact, the only sign of the shift comes from Seren themself.

The blanket over them swims, gold glimmering. On hearing the sound of their name, Seren shifts, starting to rouse. At some point. Baird curled on their shoulder has shifted to a less distinct form. "Nh?" comes from Seren, a cluster of bubbles trailing from their face and dragging up through thin air. Their eyelids flicker open as Rue's urgency drags them back to consciousness. The blanket draped over them vanishes. The Jeep door opening lets in a blast of cold wind, and lets out exactly zero drops of oceanwater. Seren's eyes snap open, ringed silver at their edges, as they start upright.

"Rue, what—?"

They blink in confusion, trying to figure out what's the matter. Bubbles of water stream away from them as they breathe the words out, the apparition of them flickering out of existence as soon as their creator notices them. Because those shouldn't be there, right? Their head feels like it's swimming, mind groggy and buzzing. Realizing something is off starts as an instinct, one they can't immediately identify.

They might have, if they could see the lingering underside of ocean waves hovering almost ten feet above the car's roof. Instead, their focus is on Rue's panic, a hand lifting to take her by the forearm. "What's wrong?" It's the distant sound of waves above crashing in on each other that snares their attention finally, glimmering iris overtaken by widening pupil.

Realizing what they've done doesn't erase it. "It's okay." Seren tries to insist in the interim. "It— it's just me."

An angelfish swims through the windshield and passes between them.

"Shit— Rue— it's okay," they try to reassure her with a hint of panic in their own voice. Baird doesn't shift on their shoulder, nearly shapeless and still cerulean. He sleeps on.

Despite the fact that there’s nothing physical about the sensation of water, Rue’s brain believes there should be something there. She should be drowning. She could be. It keeps the logic from being able to turn off the panic. When none of the water drains from the Jeep, Rue fumbles with the belt, pulling free of Seren’s grasp without truly meaning to.

The cold air is a welcome sensation as Rue launches herself out of the vehicle and stumbles along the shoulder to stand in front of it. The shaking she’s doing has nothing to do with the cold and everything to do with her absolute terror. Pressing the heels of her palms against her forehead, she crumples forward and wails just once as she tries to get herself under control.

It’s fine. There’s no water. There never was. It isn’t real. There’s no mascara mingling with the tears running down her face when she looks up to where Seren sits in the passenger seat. Her blue eyes are wide, but she’s starting to calm. Slowly, but surely.

Rue tearing out of the car incites an urge in Seren to get out of the car as well. They get as far as undoing their seatbelt, hand stopping halfway to the door. No, they needed to get themself together first. They needed this all to stop. The glow of the water around them darkens as they work on reining it in— making it disappear. Rubbing their face vigorously, they try to close out the sound of the crashing waves from their thoughts and to remove the dream of the ocean dive from their mind’s eye.

They turn up the radio loudly, hoping to drown the invasive, persistent vision out. Even that measure, though, doesn’t overpower the sound of Rue’s scream outside.

Baird stirs on Seren’s shoulder finally, and in a blink, the illusion vanishes. When the figment lets out a cautious, inquisitive note, his conjurer can only shake their head. “It— it’s…” They can’t lie even to themselves and claim this is okay. “S-stay in here, Baird. Okay?” It’s easy to scoop him off of their chest and onto the seat, his grey form as non-distinct as it is right now. When Rue looks up, Seren pushes their door open finally, slamming it shut behind them after hopping to the ground.

It’s freezing out here, but grabbing the coats isn’t a thought that hits until they’ve already rounded to the front of the Jeep. “Rue…” Seren approaches with their arms lifted in a soothing gesture. The unnatural silver glint in their eyes has faded. “I’m sorry.”

They didn’t have any control over it. But they also hadn’t known Rue was afraid of water.

“I’m—” sorry has already been said, so they shake their head instead. “It’s gone. It’s done. I promise.”

When Seren approaches, Rue throws her arms around them and buries her face in their shoulder. She cries quietly for several moments, until the cold finally seems to cut through her skin and bring her back to herself fully.

Lifting her head, Rue cups Seren’s face in her hands and shakes her head. “No, it’s… It’s okay,” she promises. “I’m okay. I’m not—” She leans in and presses a kiss to their mouth. “I’m sorry I scared you. Let’s get back in the car, huh?” She rubs her hands over her bare arms and tilts her head toward the Jeep before heading that direction.

Once they’re settled back inside and the heater is doing its job to warm their bones again, Rue turns in her seat to face Seren. “So, I…” She laughs nervously as she wipes the drying tears away from her cheeks. “I guess I didn’t realize your dreams could do that,” she admits. “Obviously I should be spending the night ever.” Because she would have known that if she weren’t the type to sneak off home after a night together.

It's not okay, though, Seren would like to insist, but they don't. They run their hands along Rue's biceps to warm them as much as calm her before they part ways for the milder climate of the jeep. When they clamber back in, they don't bother rebuckling. "I— it happens sometimes," they admit in return, withholding the urge to wipe at Rue's cheek. She's a big girl; she can handle herself.

"I didn't think it'd happen now. It was just a nap. But I guess— maybe I was more tired than I thought. I've been working on a proposal lately, getting one of my projects ready to present to a client out west, and…" There's no excuse, though. They let out a sigh, leaning over to press a kiss to Rue's cheek. "I'm sorry for scaring you," they chide her. Rue wasn't the one who'd caused the alarm in the first place.

"Are you really okay?" Seren asks, their concern very present.

Rue nods her head slowly at first, then quicker, with more certainty. “Yeah… Yeah.” She reaches out to grasp their hand. “You didn’t do it on purpose.” She rubs her thumb over the back of Seren’s hand soothingly.

Exhaling a deep sigh, she smiles. “I’m okay. Really. Now that I know what to expect, it’s… we’re gonna be just fine.” Rue closes her eyes briefly, enjoying the sensation of Seren’s lips against her cheek. She in turn leans over and presses her lips to theirs in a slow, lingering kiss.

“I think I love you, Seren Evans.”


That could be a very good reason why Rue is okay. Why she's not afraid, why she's leaning in instead of pulling away. Why she's willing to continue handling the unexpected, even when it's terrifying for her. Even when it's inconvenient.

Seren stops breathing entirely. They're not in denial, just in shock. This is something they've only imagined for themselves, not something they ever thought would be real. This never felt like an actual possibility for them. … Maybe they're still dreaming after all, and they'll wake up soon.

But fuck that thought in particular.

Seren leans back in, thumb brushing Rue's cheek after all. They kiss her repeatedly. In the pauses between them, they think they've figured out what they want to say, but resign themself to maybe needing just one more kiss first. For courage as much as to confirm this is really real. "This might come as a shock," they finally murmur to her, the hint of a smile in their voice. "But I've loved you for a while, Rue Lancaster. I've just been too afraid to say it."

Cupping her face in their hand, their eyes glimmer with happiness. Still with worry in the background, but there's unquestionably a layer of joy over it. "I'm so glad I met you. I'm sorry I gave you a start."

Rue returns every single kiss, but still feels dread in her stomach. What if they come up for air and say thanks, but no thanks? What if they just don’t feel the same? When Seren says those words, there’s an instant sense of relief, and it shows on her face.

“You’re about the only person I drop my mask for,” she admits in a quiet voice. “Don’t tell anyone I’m just a big ol’ softie. I’ve got a reputation to uphold.” Rue throws in one more kiss for good measure before finally drawing back into her seat. “You can give me a start any time, gorgeous.”

Putting her hands back on the steering wheel, she grins. “Now, buckle up, buttercup. Those sights aren’t going to see themselves.”

Even if she already has the best view in the entire state right next to her.

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