d.Nothing sits in order with him. He can never tell when things are going to happen or what time. Nothing is linear. No straight lines. Not even his memories move in straight lines, they bounce and jump and occasionally make no sense at all.He should know this. He should recognise it.He misses his chance. Reinette is gone. Only the letter remains.The letter is never truly discarded, only misplaced in places he won't forget.I shall not listen to reason---He opens it when he feels truly lonely. He re-reads words long since memorised because they deserve to be re-read and when he's truly lonely there's no way he could fall any lower.I.When he first sees her, she's seven and peering at him curiously through a fireplace."What are you doing in my fireplace?" she demands. She is only seven. Her voice carries a sort of impudence; an almost rebellion he can appreciate, even as she covers it up with the politeness she knows is required for adults.She's a good child. He lies to her, as he does to all good children, and she appears appeased. Of course there's a fireplace inspector, and of course it's all routine. It's not naiveté; it's an open-minded-ness one doesn't see too often in children anymore. Willing to believe the impossible. A bit like Alice, if Alice spoke in proper French.He stands, and makes the decision to go into this magic door. He has to see this child, after all. It's his job to protect her. The fireplace spins, and he saves her. The monster that monsters are afraid of, that's him.He doesn't stop to think that he's making an impression on this little girl. How could he, after all? He's only been in her life five minutes.c.His fingertips touch her temples, and he remembers her memories.Her eyes wide and afraid of the clockwork men, her hero saving her. He remembers her long hair flowing behind her as she runs through the forest with her imaginary Fireplace Man, and their grand adventures beyond the fireplace.They battle monsters and demons, and her memories of the imaginary creatures are amazingly well-detailed and truly quite terrifying. She stands as his partner and equal, with a branch from a tree as her own magic wand to keep away the monsters.She grows older and eventually twines together flowers to make a crown. She is Queen of the Fireplace and her handsome Fireplace Man is King. They rule together, and they have fantastic adventures.She bases her crushes on him. Tall and dark-haired with a quick wit. They have to compete with the Fireplace Man that she visits in the forests behind her house.The visits to the Fireplace Man become shorter and shorter as the lessons become longer and the adventures she has become real. Her crushes become ambitions, and she is never sure if the Fireplace Man will approve of what she is becoming.He is never really forgotten, of course."Fireplace Man," she whispers, and he can just hear it over her memories, "You are inside my memories. You walk among them."In more ways than one.II.When he first sees her as a woman, he is unaware that it is her. He is expecting the small, fair-haired girl, not the beautiful young woman that stands before him. He fumbles a bit with his glasses and stuffs them in a pocket."I've been away," he says, "Not sure for how long."She looks so completely surprised to see him. Her face is then joy, expressed through a small grin. She knows him; she's remembered him for years and years after they last saw each other. She has no need to appraise him---as many women who have been attracted to him often do---she already knows him. Her memory has never failed her.Her mistaken identity isn't held for too long, and his eyebrows just about hit his forehead in surprise. Reinette, of course. Sticky fireplace and all that, of course she's grown up.Her expression changes. It's no less pleased, but now it is pride rather than simply a happiness to see him. He thinks of her expression like his own when he presented his father with his first completed Academy project.She, herself, is a project. A work in progress. She has little more than herself to offer, so she's improved herself. And there she is. Beautiful and lovely and brilliant and alluvasudden she's kissing him.So little time, she said.He's more than a little flabbergasted by this turn of events. After all, he's only known her twenty minutes at most, while she's had an entire lifetime to fantasize about him and grow herself around the imaginary Fireplace Man without a name.But, goodness, it's been a long time since he's been snogged quite like this, and she's very good at it. By the time he gets the wits about him to return the kiss, to place his hands on her hips and be a bit more aggressive in return, she's gone.b.It should be awkward.It should be awkward and frightening. He should be especially nervous because it's been a ridiculously long time since he's done this. Her breath is hot on his throat, and his hands fumble with her corset, and it's not awkward, it's all…strangely natural. Like a primitive step he knew at one point but forgot after many years.They dance. Every lonely little boy, she says, must learn how.A locked room in the palace and her arms twine around his waist and pull him towards her, but he is the first to kiss her tonight and it should be awkward and strange but it's not and it worries him that it's not. It worries him because he can't feel comfortable with her, because that means he'll love her or something equally stupid, and she doesn't belong to him, she can't belong to him.She's spent five hours preparing for this night. Five hours of powders and pins and corsets, and he manages to undo them all in the span of five minutes.Her fingertip snags on his pants zipper."If I am to be marked," she says with a teasingly arched eyebrow, "I'd prefer it to be with your teeth."He kisses her fingertip. He doesn't understand the look she gives him for his tenderness. They kiss again, and he's foolishly already started to fall for her.Never afraid. Never unsure. In some era at some point in existence, she might be considered a whore for her lifetime as a courtesan, but not to him. No, he knows she is more than that. More than the sexuality people mistake her life for. It is more than sex. She doesn't merely seduce. Such a concept seems almost too primitive for her.After all, he would not lie in the arms of a whore. He would not love one. But he loves her.Oh, he's in such trouble, now.III.The first time he dances with her---in front of others---it is a waltz.A dance considered a bit too lewd for its time, all that closeness and touching. She places a hand on his shoulder, and he has a hand on her waist, and they dance."You French certainly know how to party," he teases.She smiles. For a moment, just a moment, they are two ordinary people dancing together. The party vanishes, history vanishes, and he can have this moment. This moment where he's with her and he loves her.The moment ends, as all moments do.But he never forgets.a.When he first sees her, she is a child.Young and smiling and so very innocent.He shapes her unknowingly.IV.When he last sees her, it's with the promise of a return.A return he can't make.His memories come in waves, and he can't stop the entire day (lifetime) he spent with her from crashing around him when he remembers. It overwhelms him, and every emotion spent from the moment he saw the child through the fireplace to the last time he spun away from her come back as sharply and as fully as if he were experiencing them all over again.He promises himself he'll never think of her again.He does, of course.
This was absolutely amazing, not only have you borrowed from one of my favorite stories and made it your own, but you captured all those little moments in RP that have become theirs, down to the zipper. And the mark.Thank you for this, and all of this.