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TEEN: A Beautiful, Brilliant Panoply

Audrelite

O mio padre, there's a ghost in my body
Joined
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Pronouns
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  2. They/Them
This was originally posted to AO3 on January 1, 2024 (New Year's Day), hence the themes present herein. I thought I'd cross-post it here, as it still stands as a favorite one-shot of mine, even a couple of months later.

Read A Beautiful, Brilliant Panoply on AO3 here.




Rating: Teen

Content Warnings: Brief implied sexual content towards the end, nothing depicted; themes of intimacy throughout.




She tilted her head up to the sky, as if she and the world were embracing one another as she watched the magnificent display. Above her, brilliant bursts of color painted themselves across the dark sky, fiery afterimages seared momentarily onto her vision before fading slowly, only to be replaced by the next blossoming explosion. Each one seemed more wondrous than the last; it was almost impossible for Shauntal to fathom how mere mortals could craft such panoplies of beauty using just basic mineral compounds as their palette.

Yet here these visions unfurled for all who cared to look up, a gift from the citizens of Lacunosa offered as tribute to usher out the old year. Normally the superstitious townspeople barred their doors well before midnight, eschewing the deep night hours filled with supernatural threat, and so generally their quaint streets lay long abandoned by the time the sun set. But tonight proved the lone exception: the townsfolk cast aside their habitual fears, if only for one blessed night, in order to give proper fanfare for the turning New Year.

Music and laughter drifted up faintly from the central square on frigid air to where Lucian and Shauntal currently reclined together atop a snowdrifted hill just beyond the small town. From this isolated hill they could appreciate the full glory raining down from the heavens without obstruction or need to feign polite interest in the surrounding festivities. Neither felt particularly inclined to congregate among the close press of strangers when far lovelier prospects for occupying the midnight hour presented themselves. Up here, most sounds faded to a dull murmur beneath the sharp reports of each aerial explosion. Close darkness embraced the periphery despite the blazing detonations high overhead; only the hill’s smooth slope glinted icy bright beneath the momentary coruscations before fresh snowflakes fluttered down to erase impressions of passing radiance. The world below barely seemed to exist each time fresh blossoms illuminated the sky, vision narrowing only to those glorious gleaming pinwheels.

Another burst splintered overhead, this one soaring high before splitting suddenly into myriad glittering comets that flashed briefly, defiant of gravity, before winking out one by one. No sooner had the last trailing embers faded then a quick series of tight precise spheres rapidly unfurled in rippling pastel concentric rings. Shauntal inhaled a soft gasp. The colors! Never could she have envisioned the range of vibrancy on display tonight.

No wonder artists across time and mediums struggled to adequately capture firework shows within flat static canvases; pigments simply could not convey the thrumming experience of standing riveted from head to toe while the night lit up the sky as though the whole strewn firmament slowly kindled to flames before one’s astonished eyes. Even the typically restrained Lucian seemed momentarily humbled beside Shauntal’s outright enthralled state.

While he would never admit aloud to sentimentality regarding what were, essentially, just explosions in sparkling colors choreographed to music (Lucian had witnessed much more beautiful phenomena out in the natural world than this, he had told her once so casually), neither could the normally stoic Elite resist subtly craning his neck skyward as the elaborate finales built seemingly ever upwards in towering edifices of light and pattern and color and sound. Shauntal would glimpse furtive reflections shining within the amethyst depths of his eyes as his noble features painted themselves in ephemeral pastels for each blooming burst against the black sky. If their current vantage point allowed such spectacular views, she rationalized that surely that justified braving such frigid temperatures and unsavory wet snow currently crusting along her calves.

Besides, nestled snugly beside Lucian, with both pairs of eyes fixed unwaveringly overhead, the cold barely registered except where their clasped hands met between close-pressed thighs. And Shauntal refused to risk breaking the spell encasing them in this isolated pocket out of time by voicing any complaints about minor discomforts. Not when the greatest show on earth—or more accurately, in temporarily inverted nocturnal heavens—unfolded continuously before their transfixed stares.

No, she would endure far harsher trials than wet socks for the privilege of witnessing Lucian’s usual urbane composure slip slightly in unaffected appreciation under each exploding fount of shimmering colors reflected across sharp features so often schooled to careful neutrality. Their current champagne bubbles of pure delight would surely burst if either shifted focus away from the glittering display long enough to take note of creeping aches from muscles held too long enraptured without shifting, or the prickling growing ever more sharply insistent along exposed flesh as icy winds wormed fingers past inadequate coverings.

Better by far to simply subsist solely on shared exhilaration distilled in the small private smiles unconsciously lighting both their faces at particularly impressive bursts flowering overhead...better to lean increasingly into lush shared warmth and pretend all else faded beyond relevance or acknowledgement.

At long last even the most elaborate works must inevitably give way to darkness and silence. As the final tremendous barrage slowly faded into drifting smoke trailing wind-tattered banners of scattered amber embers fading muted against the ether, a collective sigh swept the gathered crowds below followed by slowly swelling cheers and clapping. Shauntal rather imagined she glimpsed slumping postures as once-electrified spines unclenched along with throats surely grown raw and tingling after prolonged shouts and exclamations. A few scattered reports as the last delayed fuse finally discharged gave way to renewed rippling laughter.

She drew a shuddering breath then, some tight coil slowly unknotting within her chest as well now that the enthralling spectacle concluded with peace stealing softly back. Raw chafing tingled sharply in the wake of sustained strain upon eyes fixed against the churning dark for endless suspended minutes on end. Reflexive tears gathered along her lashes now, spilling down wind-bitten cheeks to crystallize instantly in crackling tracks. Strange how such an aftermath could somehow surpass awe experienced within the moment itself...as though witnessing such rampant beauty demanded tribute through reciprocal vulnerability when at last one surfaced from fugue. Mortality seeped swiftly back in tears and protesting marrow.

With a start Shauntal realized just how fiercely Lucian’s hand still gripped her own half-numb with cold. Or perhaps she clasped his just as tightly, that desperate anchor coupling them together alone amidst the chaotic brilliance flaring riotous overhead too intense for any one person to withstand solitarily. Gradually her white-knuckled clench eased as the last afterimages slowly faded from her dazzled eyes. Their clasped hands dropped limply, still loosely tangled across both their laps as heavier sensations needled evidence of physical forms once more.

Shauntal flexed tingling fingers gingerly before swiping roughly at wet cheeks with her sleeve cuffs. Rueful acknowledgment of just how soakingly drenched both were now thanks to hours spent crushed down into piles of freshly fallen snow came paired with the muted surprise to find herself inexplicably smiling even while vigorously striving to chafe some warmth and pliancy back into her numb face half-frozen by icy trails slowly crackling to joint against her wracked skin. Her eager smile lingered, seemingly etched permanently despite the violent massage along clenched jawline and chafed lips that likely glared angry crimson to match the general flush stinging her otherwise drained features.

Glancing sideways, she took in Lucian’s faint answering grin beneath his casual, unconcerned mien as his own eyes turned aside serenely back towards her own features from contemplating trails of ghostly vapor embroidering the night sky with lattices of vanishing lace, all that remained to suggest this beautiful, brilliant panoply now departed until next year. No doubt it would find them both again, bannerless wanderers convening spontaneously beneath whatever strange new constellations threaded the miles to this place, becoming tradition for the pair of them alone...




A lone, belated firework whistled shrill through the darkness, scattering the heavy quiet settling back over Lacunosa. Shauntal started at the abrupt noise, a wayward ember detaching to trace dying sparks against the night sky. Beside her Lucian glanced up, amethyst eyes tracking the last guttering glow until it faded into deception.

Neither spoke for a long moment, the surrounding hush louder somehow for that single impertinent disruption. At last Lucian stirred, body unfurling from his casual sprawl to stand gracefully before extending a gloved hand down toward Shauntal. His touch at her elbow remained light as they picked their way carefully past snow-laden brambles, heading back toward the pale smudge of her home waiting to receive two footsore wanderers back from their hillside refuge.

Shauntal fumbled for her key with clumsy, stiff fingers, cursing under her breath as the lock refused to catch and turn. Lucian hovered patiently over her shoulder until finally the tumblers aligned and the door swung inward with a protesting creak. "Finally!" Her breath rasped painfully through her smoke-roughened throat, raw and tingling. But lucidity emerged slowly from the strange sustained dazzle glazing her thoughts as blessed warmth rolled over their hunched forms shuffling quickly across the threshold.

Deft movements as Lucian latched the door firmly behind them betrayed none of the bone-deep chill likely numbing his own limbs after so long braving the elements without sufficient insulation. Halting her awkward progress farther into the dark room, he caught Shauntal’s shoulder instead, holding her in place.

"Are you okay?" Quiet words puffed soft against her temple as Lucian peered closer. Shauntal started to nod automatically before realizing her entire body shuddered still in reaction from the extreme cold, eyes watering anew to further distort her vision. She pressed both palms hard over her face, hiding briefly within that dark cocoon as hitched breaths strove toward some semblance of composure.

Gentle hands closed at her wrists, drawing her palms away. Without a word Lucian pulled her flush against his chest, arms enfolding her to share blessed warmth. They stood unspeaking for endless moments as Shauntal burrowed closer still, face nestling into cashmere wool redolent with his scent underneath the acrid perfume of breathing distant icy ether catching at the back of her throat.

At last the wracking shivers eased, if only gradually. With extreme care Lucian unwound his embrace, though still maintaining his clasp upon her shoulders to steer them both toward the sofa. "Let’s get you out of those wet clothes before hypothermia sets in, shall we?" His features creased faintly with concern as Shauntal perched awkwardly beside him, movements stiff nearly to the point of dysfunction when at his murmured urging she feebly worked cold-thickened fingers toward the icy coat clasps.

Lucian brushed her fumbling efforts aside, guiding the resistive fastenings himself. Shauntal willed herself to breathe beneath the oddly formal ritual as he conducted the removal of her garments layer by layer. The chill air raising prickles along her exposed flesh scarcely registered under that intent assessing stare; neither did the vulnerable realization she now wore only her thin cotton camisole and undergarments before his trailing regard swept back upward.

Warm, slightly calloused palms skimmed up her bare arms, fingertips imparting delicious friction to jumpstart sluggish bloodflow prickling needles and pins across hyper-sensitized skin. Despite Lucian’s clinical detachment from the intimate procedure, he took obvious care to respect her modesty by never dwelling anywhere that could be misconstrued as taking advantage of her. He extended the same almost meticulous ministrations downward to chaf sensation gingerly back into her calves and feet, gently straightening curled toes likely purpled from deprived circulation.

Every movement was delivered evenly with obvious focus on simply restoring proper function. Still, such sustained contact with her bare skin must have seemed to inevitably kindle more. True, Shauntal herself perched precarious on the crumbling brink between mortified shame and arousal spiking dizzy through her core at the delicious way his strong palms smoothed everywhere. But more alarming still came the realization he did not remain inured...

Those usually serene eyes darkened now. His measured breaths emerged slightly faster, twin flags of color riding along sculpted cheeks. And try as politely as he might to angle himself to disguise such telltale lust, she'd surely prove dead not react to that unmistakable thick ridge suddenly apparent through the fine gabardine front of his slacks.

As their elongated joined stare broke at the synergistic realization, twin fiery trails seared up her throat and face to meet his own roseate blush. An ember distilled from deep within her at the utmost range of yearning, watching, feeling... one another transfixed so long past propriety neither apparently could conjure an excuse for ignoring these feelings now. And so their locked eyes bypassed awkwardness in unspoken accord. No syllables were uttered, but simultaneous consent flashed electric in the scant space separating their faces tilted ever closer, as if maneuvering twin sun and moon into cosmic alignment.

"Happy New Year, Lucian," Shauntal managed to whisper just before their lips met. The cheering crowds and flashing fire-flowers still so fresh moments ago now faded utterly beyond recollection. No gentle platonic comfort imbued this kiss; instead their lips clung, urgent and alive, with all of the restless hunger and latent desire existent in the world. Liquefied relief surged through her as the chill receded before the mounting heat shared avidly between them.

No cork burst nor bells pealed faintly in the distance to mark the changing calendar for problems so much less crucial than this press of an impassioned kiss. Yet silently Shauntal acknowledged this moment’s impact as two separate worlds slowly converged upon each other. Soon coherency fled beneath the onslaught of Lucian’s mouth, hot and slick, moving ever more frantically as small desperate noises escaped her lips to match his own wanting.

Some final barrier crumbled to dust between them. She felt the shape of him, sensed his warmth filling spaces left neglected for so long craving exactly this. Tentative touches ventured past the point of chastity to gripping, capturing, sliding lips and fingertips along newly bared flesh with fevered determination until they were fully joined as one—through heart and mind, and now, through body. Love poured bountiful, until she lost all track of boundaries—of him, of herself, of them, and of the cold, dark world that had once been a beautiful, brilliant panoply.

"Happy New Year, Shauntal. I love you."
 
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Review of A Beautiful, Brilliant Panoply

I think this fic is interesting. The focus on the new year is pretty unique – and the mention of the ritualistic behaviour done by individuals regarding the new year as part of superstition gives a clear idea of how their world operates in that sense. Unfortunately, I did struggle to read some of this fiction, not because of the grammar, or the words being used – but the formatting. Currently there are no spaces between paragraphs and the text itself comes across as a wall. There are no indents in the paragraphs to mark where they begin as an alternative. Once this is fixed, it will be much smoother to read.

Character wise, I am glad Lucian appears here (as he appeared in one of your other fics). The way that Lucian and Shauntal interact with each other is nice and realistic. It seems to connect to some extent to your other fic (Something about the Night Sky), in the sense that their relationship seems to be reinforced between the two fics. I like how you depict how kind Shauntel is, especially when she is taking care of the freezing cold and wet Lucian.

Overall a nice little one-shot painting their relationship.
 
Hi @Cavespider_17. Thanks for your comment! I'm sorry that the fic was hard to read for you; I happen to use a screen-reader, and thus have no idea as to whether formatting is as it should be for the benefit of readers. I have posted this particular fic to AO3 (as are all my other fanfics) so I highly encourage you to read it there. I believe the formatting is much better and clearer there.

Regarding this fic's connectedness to "Something About the Night Sky," I'd like to believe that these two fics are set within the same universe, though admittedly I don't really put much thought (if any) into the timeline/canon placement of the many BookshelfShipping fics I've written.

Once again, thanks for reading and commenting! I really appreciate you taking the time to do so.
 
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