stakebait: (Ever_Upward)
[personal profile] stakebait

A fanficlet based on Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, inspired by this quote from [ profile] suricattus: The thing about Tam Lin that always fascinated me was the “stand-fast” aspect. And I wanted to explore that outside the relatively narrow grounds of True Love—what does it mean to stand fast for someone you might not always love, who might not be your True Love, or your Love at all?

Even in the worst years, during and after the divorce, when they could scarcely meet without saying bitter words to each other, and the grooves worn around Janet's mouth were neither slight nor smiling, they would meet on the Day Of in front of the swans at the zoo.

Every year Janet would bake a loaf of crusty bread at dawn and leave it to cool on the windowsill, even when the rest of the year she had had her consciousness raised and swore off (and at) baking from scratch. She took a side and he took a side (they were good at that, by then) and tore it apart, like a wishbone, and then they slowly and solemnly fed it to the swans, not looking at each other.

In the early days, they would sit so entangled strangers had to look away, and finish the ritual by feeding each other the last scraps, and a crummy kiss.

By the end, they sat nearly on opposite ends of the bench, not touching, with almost enough room for another whole person between them, but not quite. Janet popped the last stale piece in her own mouth, like a sacrament, it was so dry and hard going down. "I'm still not sorry I saved you," she said, and stood up, briskly but not unkindly, and brushed the crumbs from her skirt.

The next year, after the papers were signed and the house was sold and the proceeds split, Thomas wasn't sure she would even show up. But he did and there she was, holding a paper bag that rustled. "The oven doesn't work right in the apartment," she said.

"It's probably the thermometer," he said, "if you want me to come by and check,.." He wished he had the words back, but she was already shaking her head. "Thanks," she said, "but the super's coming on Thursday."

It might just be his imagination that the swans were getting old too, that they didn't move their snake-necks as fast as they used to to peck at at each other for scraps of bread. It was undeniable, though, that they lost interest faster, or maybe they didn't like store-bought, or there weren't as many as they used to be.

It felt too awkward to throw it away, so he stuck the heel-end of the bread in his pocket. "See you next year," he said, and she nodded, and that was all, but he believed her, and maybe that was all the magic they had left together, but it was enough to find his way back.

Date: 2013-11-19 03:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really need to read this someday.

Date: 2013-11-19 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love that book and highly recommend it, with the slight caveat that it is a novel about college that I first read in college, and I wonder if it's quite the same if you first encounter it later.

Date: 2013-11-19 03:36 am (UTC)
batyatoon: (the world is quiet here)
From: [personal profile] batyatoon
I like this. I love how they're clearly still important to each other, or maybe it's that their connectedness is still important to each of them, even when they can't stand each other.

It is also putting me in mind, a little, of Vienna Teng's "Antebellum."

Date: 2013-11-19 04:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That song is beautiful, though I can't make out all the words.

I think it's both. And neither of them has the knack of eliding or overwriting that, even if they sometimes wish they could, because it would be simpler.

Janet, I think, would say that the right (or maybe, the ability) to do that was what she gave up when she made that decision, all those years ago.

And she'd be afraid, this version of Janet, that he's there out of gratitude and obligation, but he isn't. He's there because she never could have saved him if they weren't in some way anchored in each other, and whether that was a precondition or a result is something he has changed his mind about a dozen times and now thinks maybe it no longer matters.

Date: 2013-11-19 04:21 pm (UTC)
batyatoon: (mightier than the sword)
From: [personal profile] batyatoon
The lyrics are in the "About" section on that youtube video, if you want to read them.

And yeah; Janet would believe that once she used that bond to save his life, she doesn't get to get rid of it. Like the [spoiler].

Date: 2013-11-19 04:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is really, really good. I love the idea of it, and it's written very lovely.

Date: 2013-11-19 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you so much!

I'm glad most people weren't mad at me for making a world where Janet and Thomas didn't live happily ever after. :)

Date: 2013-11-19 05:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I loved this book, and I loved being able to revisit them, here. Thank you.

Date: 2013-11-19 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're welcome! Glad you liked it. It's making me want to reread the book too, and maybe look for other fanfic about what happened after.

Date: 2013-11-19 08:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, ow. I really like this. It reminds me a lot of a similar 'feeding the ducks' scene I wrote for my novel. I should send you that.

I love the bit about the store-bought bread.

Date: 2013-11-19 09:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks! And I would love to see it.

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