agapi42: Livia from I, Claudius (Default)
[personal profile] agapi42
Title: Moments, Arbitrarily Gifted
Characters/Pairings: Amelia Rumford/Vivien Fay
Rating: G
Word Count: 1645
Summary: "Time is a cruel thief to rob us of our former selves." Sometimes time gives something back.
Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] biichan in the [livejournal.com profile] dw_femslash ficathon. The quoted half of the summary is taken from A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] strangledduck and [livejournal.com profile] basicare for help and beta-ing.



Cessair curses the patriarchal structure of this primitive society. It almost seems to have regressed. When she first arrived, she had been a goddess, worshipped openly and proudly. Just over two hundred years ago, the land was under her control as the Mother Superior of the Convent of the Little Sisters of St Gudula. But now she is dependent, however briefly, on pathetic specimens of humanity, judged superior to her assumed form for the most inane of reasons. She never has much enjoyed the company of males.

Lord Montcalm is a particularly weak example: she takes great pleasure in his disposal on their ‘wedding night’.

In the morning, she goes for a walk, up to the moor and straight into a small room.

A woman exclaims.

“Oh! It can’t be.” The woman leans forward in the doorway, almost as if frightened to come any closer. “Those clothes... who are you, my dear?”

The language patterns are different, as if changed over time. “I am Lady Morgana-”

“Of course, of course,” the old woman interrupts, apparently muttering to herself, looking to some point far ahead of Cessair. “Inner time, it must be. All that mucking about with hyperspace... Would you like to stay for dinner?”

“Dinner?”

“It won’t be much, I’m afraid; I meant to go to the shops yesterday, but somehow never got round to it. But I daresay I can rustle up a few more sandwiches than usual.”

Cessair strides forward, intending to leave this nonsense behind. The woman wisely moves aside.

“It isn’t your world out there.”

Cessair stops in front of the door and turns back.

“What do you know about this?”

“I know you’re here. That’s why I’m offering you dinner. I’m assuming you won’t be for long, so don’t take too long deciding, will you?”

The moor rises up before her and she walks back to the hall, trailing the half-caught “Perhaps next time, then.”

***

She had recognised Amelia, of course she had, but Amelia hadn’t known her. She hadn’t known what year or years it was that she spent those brief interludes in, but obviously they hadn’t reached it yet. She hadn’t known her and Vivien had no limitations on her time now.

Vivien Fay, she called herself so it was Vivien that Amelia called her. Somehow that name became more her than any of the others. It was hers, too, not taken from a man she needed (briefly) for power and respectability. But Vivien always wore a necklace that her grandmother had given her, whereas Cessair had the Great Seal of Diplos, and the two could not co-exist.

***

Amelia sets down her notes as another presence settles into the room – the sofa’s springs protesting, a breath taken in another time expelled here – and glances over at the room’s new occupant.

“Time for a cuppa?”

Vivien-not-Vivien tilts her head questioningly, a gesture that is foreign yet familiar to Amelia.

“Would you like a cup of tea, Vi- what’s your name?”

“Señora Camara.”

“Ah, the Brazilian.”

“Yes.” Amelia wonders if she will ask how she knows, and if she will tell her. Neither do.

“So, time for tea?”

She thinks Señora Camara eventually says something in reply, but she is drowned out by the whistle of the kettle, the bustle of tea-making as she measures out the tea – a teaspoon each and one for the pot –, pours in the boiling water and leaves it to brew.

“What was that?”

“I said I will not leave.”

“Good.” Amelia smiles, a little relieved. “Why’s that?”

“I do not understand you, or this,” Señora Camara replies, gesturing expansively around her.

Amelia laughs. “I never had a hope of doing so,” she says and returns to the kitchen, pouring milk and Señora Camara’s tea into Vivien’s second favourite mug – her favourite is by the sink – and stirring well before preparing her own and taking both mugs through.

They sit together, sipping in silence. It is all most unusual, but then Amelia never has been one for doing what is expected of her.

Señora Camara leans forward to place her mug on a coaster as Amelia has, and leaves. The mug falls and tea floods the papers spread across the table.

“Oh!” Amelia cries in dismay, snatching the soggy documents up from the table and flapping them about in an attempt to dry the sheets, succeeding only in spraying herself with lukewarm tea. It really is most inconvenient and yet, later, Amelia finds herself strangely glad of them. Stained and laid out to dry, they are proof she isn’t just completely losing her marbles.

***

“That... that absolute fool, Idwal Morgan, has got the position at Bangor!”

“Then he’ll prove a fool,” Vivien observed from her place on the sofa. “Men usually do.”

Amelia huffed in irritation, sitting down heavily next to Vivien and leaning back. “Oh, I don’t know that’ll make a difference; he’s already done plenty of that, at least as far as I can see. It’s just, oh, I don’t know!”

Vivien turned her face towards Amelia and, suddenly, dipped her head to kiss her, knowing as she did so that she was fascinated by this human, so far from the norm of her experience, and had been for at least two centuries.

Amelia’s eyes were wide with hope and fear and surprise.

***

Amelia is out the next time. She returns to find an unnatural number of black birds sitting on the roof and a note in Vivien’s handwriting on the back of a second draft of her monograph on the Nine Traveller; Señora Camara writes just to say she’s sorry to have missed her this time round.

She is sorry. Amelia rather thinks that the author of a definitive work shouldn’t be so bewildered by such a simple phrase. Ever since the strange events – the original strange events, that is, the ones with the Doctor and Romana – and her discovery of just who and what Vivien was, she has been confused. If Vivien was Cessair, and Cessair was a murderous criminal alien who didn’t care about anyone, how could Vivien have cared about her? Was she even capable of such emotions? It had seemed so, and now it did again.

She is sorry too. But why? Should she still care about Vivien herself?

She suspects things have become very complicated.

***

Amelia was sure that New York had been better last time. They certainly hadn’t arrested her then! Really, what kind of world were they living in when an old lady wishing to defend herself was arrested for ‘carrying an offensive weapon’? Luckily, dear Vivien had quickly stumped up the bail. Another poor soul was being taken in, apparently charged with ‘causing a breach of the peace’, just as she was led out.

“Honestly, officer,” the man was protesting, eyes popping in righteous indignation, “this is all a misunderstanding. My friend should be here in a minute; she can explain-”

“Everything?” the policeman said tiredly.

“Well, no, not everything...”

Amelia checked her watch. If she hurried, she should be able to make her afternoon lecture.

***

She isn’t around this time. Cessair wanders over the house looking for her, then amuses herself for a few minutes by watching from the window as crows and ravens flock to her. It occurs to her that, unusually, she is simply waiting to return. Before, she has always been reluctant, caught unawares. She thinks to leave a note, unaddressed, saying she is sorry not to have seen her, and realises it is true. The woman is certainly a more brilliant example of humanity than the late Señor Camara.

***

Amelia absent-mindedly twirled a lock of Vivien’s hair in her fingers as she read, quite absorbed. Cessair’s race had lost their hair hundreds of generations ago; it had lost its purpose. Humans were primitive, and they still wanted to conserve body heat and foster close social links within groups and so it stayed. Cessair knew this, but Vivien still found she liked Amelia playing with her hair.

***

“You’re the first person I’ve seen in twenty years.”

“Mrs Trefusis?” Amelia guesses, without looking round from her study of the bookshelves.

She laughs, and the sound is exactly that of Vivien’s laugh. “I don’t even know your name.”

Amelia takes a breath and turns. Vivien had known her name when they first met. She had assumed she had heard it somewhere, and maybe that somewhere is here.

“Professor Amelia Rumford.”

“It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Amelia.” She smiles and she is Vivien, far removed from the dour painted picture of the recluse. “Are you looking for something?”

“Found it!” Amelia plucks a cookbook from the shelf and waves it triumphantly. “Would you like to help me make dinner?”

Dinner is a near-disaster, saved in the nick of time by Vivien’s – not Vivien’s – ingenuity. That was how it almost always was when she tried cooking, she remembers. They eat their citrus-free dinner together: halfway through, Amelia gets up to close the window, shutting out the crows’ cawing, and it is a little of something, a brief interlude.

Amelia is left to do the washing-up.

***

The legend of the Callieach said that she turned to stone every April and returned every October. But Cessair had been imprisoned in June and would see every October till eternity pass with no effect.

It was cold and wet when Amelia came that time, wheeling her bicycle and ringing the bell to announce herself; Vivien almost imagined she could feel the chill moisture on Amelia’s hand as she laid it against what used to be her face.

“It’s being surveyed all over again, you know,” Amelia said, and she did not mean the circle.

***

Vivien dwells on memories of Amelia, following loop after loop with no natural end, long after she no longer visits.
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