cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

Slash Fic: Common Tongues

And here's my Slasha Baby story...

Title: Common Tongues
Author: cupidsbow
Pairing: MO/CB
Rating: NC17
Length:5,200 words
For: jubilancy—happy Christmas!
Thanks: to Bron for the beta.
Disclaimer: It's lies, all lies! As in fiction.
Summary: Cate and Miranda are in search of a lingua franca.

Notes: For the lotrips secret slasha, 2003. The quotes are all real, from various sources, but taken out of context. The Richard mentioned is the actor Richard Roxburgh, who was involved with Miranda before the filming of LotR. NIDA is Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Arts.

* * * * * * * * *

Common Tongues

This is a story where a woman becomes her own knight in shining armour, to save herself.
—Miranda Otto.

It began with a poem.

Or perhaps it began before that, with a break-up, a fractured heart, an ending. Perhaps it began when the path of Miranda's life split away from Richard's, and she found herself alone after so many years as part of a couple.

Or perhaps it began more simply still: the moment she threw away her contraceptive pills, no longer needing regular contraception with Richard gone, and inadvertently triggered something like a second puberty in her suddenly hormone-shocked body.

But the easy beginning, the one Miranda could point to, and say, "That moment changed everything," was the moment that she trod on the poem.

* * *

I was in a dark place when I arrived on set… Although it was like a big family, I felt quite alone somehow.
—Miranda Otto.

It had been a bitch of a day. All sun and heat and sword work, until Miranda's arms felt like they belonged to some barely-animate golem: undifferentiated clay, without feeling or fine motor-control. It was an appropriate irony; her heart felt stuffed with the same sticky, unfeeling mud.

She clomped into her trailer; lifting her feet a little too high to climb the steps, in her tiredness, and so stomped down harder than was her want. Not paying much attention; dying for a cold drink, a shower and a sit down. And it was only at the skittery sound of paper skimming across the lino that she realised she'd trodden on something.

She bent over, her back protesting, and picked up the card. It was thick and creamy, faintly scented with something summery, with a smudgy bootprint across one corner. It was written on in a large, looping hand.
Admired Miranda,
perfumed like gum trees and hot
grass. The smell of home.

* * *

It’s always nice to work with someone you know, someone who’s an Australian.
—Miranda Otto.

"What do you think?" asked Miranda, looking at David expectantly.

David read the poem again, one hand rubbing his chin. Finally, he looked up. "What you're really asking me, is who I think sent it."

"Fucking hell, Wenham," said Miranda. "Yes. Okay. That's what I'm asking. So who?"

"No idea," he said with a smile, handing the card back to her.

"Could it be Hugo?" Miranda asked.

"No," said David. "You're not his type."

"How do you know?" Miranda asked. "Maybe I am."

"You're lacking the needed attributes," said David, and as Miranda opened her mouth to protest further. "Unlike me. Shame I'm not gay. He's a nice guy. He'd make someone a lovely wife."

“I thought he was married,” said Miranda, unconvinced.

“Freddie Mercury was married,” said David. “Lots of gay men are married.”

"Oh," said Miranda, in dawning realization, as though a long missing puzzle piece had unexpectedly clicked into place. "Damn. Back to square one."

"Also, Hugo couldn't write a poem to save his life," David said, "and whoever wrote that has a hell of a way with words, don't you think?"

"I think," said Miranda, "that I don't need this bullshit right now!"

"It's not necessarily a pick-up line, you know," David said, mildly. "Maybe someone just wanted to cheer you up," and added sotto voce, "you could certainly use it."

"Ha ha," said Miranda, unamused. "You try living in a body that's gone completely bonkers and then see how happy an anonymous stalker makes you!"

David looked Miranda up and down. "Frankly, I have to say your body's the only thing about you at the moment that doesn't seem completely bonkers. It's just a poem, Otter. And a nice one at that."

"Don't call me that!" said Miranda.

"Besides," David continued, ignoring Miranda's dark look, "you do smell kind of... nice."

"Fuck me now," said Miranda in disgust, "and make me pregnant!"

"Ah," said David. "No thanks. But you know..."

"No," said Miranda, impatiently. "That's what I smell like: fuck me now and make me pregnant. I stopped taking the pill after Richard, and now my body thinks it's breeding time." She ran a hand through her hair distractedly. "Everything's just bloody awful, Dave. What should I do?"

"Fuck someone and get pregnant?" David suggested.

Miranda stared at him for a moment, and then, reluctantly, smiled. "Right. Of course! Why didn't I think of that?"

David shrugged. "Because you're too busy being fixated on a three-line poem?"

"I'm over-reacting," said Miranda, "aren't I?"

"Just a tad," said David. "But it could be worse."

"How?" asked Miranda, almost charmed into something resembling good humour.

"It occurs to me that Viggo is a poet," said David.

"Fuck!" said Miranda, good humour fleeing.

* * *

"It's not Viggo," said Miranda, flopping down in a seat next to David. It was early afternoon, and they had the Catering tent almost to themselves.

David look up from his script, and made an interested, "eh?"

"I asked him probing questions about gum trees," said Miranda. "And he said, and I quote, 'gum trees are weeds', 'a blight on the Californian landscape.'"

"Could be a ruse," David said, taking a sip of coffee. "A cunning ploy to lull you into a false sense of a verse-free workplace."

"He said it was a weak metaphor with little charm," said Miranda. "And that I smelled more like the ocean."

"Did he say 'I'm a pretentious wanker' while he was at it?" David asked, with what appeared to be sincere curiosity.

Miranda laughed. "Not in so many words. I think he was a bit miffed actually."

"What? That someone else had dared to compose an ode?" asked David.

"No," said Miranda. "That someone else had dared to compose a really good ode."

"I thought gum trees were a weak metaphor," said David.

"Not that poem," said Miranda, pulling a rumpled card out of her pocket. "This one." She handed it to David.

He took it, and read aloud:
Admired Miranda,
coloured like wild honey, but
combed with bitterness.

"Bloody hell!" he said, impressed.

"Yeah," said Miranda. "I found it slipped under the door of my trailer this morning."

David waved the card meaningfully. "I think we need a new theory. This was written by someone who knows you."

Miranda raised an eyebrow. "Are you saying I'm bitter?"

"Yep," said David, handing the card back. "You're worse than day-old coffee dregs."

"Gee," said Miranda. "Thanks a lot. With friends like you!"

"I've got a good mind to look Richard up when I get back to Oz, and give him a punch in the nose," said David, affably.

Miranda sighed. "Me too."

They sat in silence for a moment, contemplating Richard. Then David said, "Maybe we're looking at this the wrong way."

"By all means," said Miranda, "enlighten me."

“Well," said David. "If it's not a pickup, and calling you bitter doesn't seem like a hot ticket to romance to me, then why does it have to be a man who sent the poems to you?”

And the moment he said it, Miranda knew.

* * *

I don’t think I’ve ever pursued anything, to be perfectly frank. I’ve been lucky… often decisions I make are not necessarily the right ones. I’ve been in the right place at the right time, or unable to avoid something.
—Cate Blanchett.

Galadriel was standing alone under a tree, smoking.

Momentum kept Miranda moving towards her, but with each step, her righteous indignation was fading away.

Cate did not look like a secret tormentor; she looked ethereal, fragile and utterly beautiful. The smoke from Cate’s cigarette was creating a pale nimbus around her, before dissipating into the shaded air beneath the tree, and one of her elven ears was glowing in a beam of light; it was translucent, flesh-pink and looked entirely real.

As Miranda got closer, she noticed that Cate’s eyes were unfocused, her lips moving a little between each puff of the cigarette. Not moving with speech, but as though practicing abbreviated expressions. A tiny pout: worldliness. A slight lip curl: evil. A hinted smile: kindness.

And every time Cate paused to take a drag, it seemed to Miranda that there were flashing glimpses of sad-lonely-sad.

Miranda stopped walking at the same moment that Cate sensed her approach and turned to face her.

Cate dropped the cigarette stub and twisted her foot down on it. "You look like you've come to pick a quarrel," she said.

"Wouldn't you, if someone accused you of being combed with bitterness?" Miranda asked, much less belligerently than she'd intended.

"Probably not," said Cate. "I'm not big on confrontations unless they're scripted."

That stopped Miranda for a moment. "So why did you write those poems then?" she asked. "Because, I have to tell you, they're pretty good bait for a heated discussion."

Cate shrugged. "You just reminded me so much of the way I used to be... before I married Andrew." She made a whirlpool motion in the air. "Like I had no centre. It was such a dark time. It was so hard to find joy."

That stung Miranda right to the quick; too true to be denied. "I thought I was hiding it pretty well," she admitted. "But Dave tells me I'm revolting to be around. So, you know, hint taken."

"Oh no! That's not what I meant," said Cate, a frown of distress creasing her forehead. "It was a gesture, probably misguided, of... solidarity."

"Oh," said Miranda, the last ember of indignation burning out.

"I miss Andrew so much, even though I know I'll see him again in a few weeks," said Cate. "It's not about commonsense, is it?"

And for the first time since the break-up, someone seemed to be speaking a language Miranda understood perfectly. "Loneliness," she said.

Cate nodded. "Loss."

"It would be so much easier if I hated Richard," Miranda said. "I could just move on, and leave all this crap behind."

"Richard and I worked well together," said Cate. "He's a lovely man."

"Yeah, he is," said Miranda, "but..."

"It makes it hard to let go, doesn't it," said Cate. "How do you trust someone new, when even a lovely man can fail so completely?"

Miranda sighed. "It was meant to be love forever."

"And then he's gone," said Cate, sounding infinitely sad. "And there's this huge hole in your life that nothing fills."

"And I feel like I'm completely mad," said Miranda. "Because no one else gets it. Dave doesn't get it, and there just aren't any words to explain with."

"Poetry," Cate said. "It works sometimes, for me. I'm sorry if my poems upset you. I just felt I had to say something."

"No. I like them," Miranda said; and now it was true. "I mean, the bitterness one is a bit too frank for comfort. But I get what you mean. Sometimes things need to be said."

They stood looking at each other for a moment.

"If you ever need a bit of female solidarity..." said Cate, and made a gesture, close to her chest, that said everything.

"I'll keep it in mind," Miranda said, gratefully. "Thanks. And, you know. Vice-versa."

Cate smiled. "Okay."

"Well," said Miranda, taking a step back the way she'd come. "I'd better get back."

Cate nodded, gave a little wave and turned back towards the tree and her private rehearsal.

A moment later, when Miranda looked over her shoulder, Cate was fishing another cigarette out of a voluminous sleeve, her mouth shaping more non-words.

* * *

In retrospect it wasn't the big love that I thought it was.
—Miranda Otto.

The next morning a new poem was waiting for her on the lino:
Admired Miranda,
foundered on love's wreck, but still
singing; siren-like.

"Yes," Miranda said, "oh yes." Because the idea of luring Richard onto rocks, making sure he was as wrecked as she was, haunted her dreams and burdened her days.

It made her wonder about the nature of love—that it could so easily turn into this petty urge for equal suffering. It made her wonder if all love was innately flawed so, or whether it was just hers that was inadequate. It made her wonder if Richard could really have been the love of her life, when the last thing she wanted for him now was happiness.

Miranda didn't bother showing the third poem to Dave; it was written to be understood only by another siren. There was no way he would have gotten it.

* * *

And you are a lady beautiful, I deem, beyond even the words of the Elven-tongue to tell. And I love you. Once I pitied your sorrow. But now, were you sorrowless, without fear of any lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still would I love you. Eowyn, do you not love me?
The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien.

That first day shooting the scene was difficult. Having to listen to Faramir cajoling and demanding...

"I love you. Eowyn, do you not love me?"

... over and over and over, passionately, in a voice that suddenly wasn't the friendly baritone that belonged to David, but was, instead, a familiar and slightly creepy imitation.

Take after take.

By the end of the day, Miranda felt more golem-like than ever: stinking, formless clay from skin to bone.

* * *

The second day of shooting was even worse.

"I love you, Eowyn. Love you. Love you. Love you," said Faramir, inhabiting David's face, with expressions of such devotion and, occasionally, glimpses of deep carnality. "Do you not love me?"

And, to add insult to injury, there was no new poem that day.

* * *

Nor the next. As though Cate's muse had suddenly gone mute, just when Miranda most needed to hear someone else speaking her language of despair.

"Do you not love me?" demanded Faramir. "Love me! Love me! Love me?"

Until the word love had lost all meaning; becoming a repetitive sound that drilled into her skull like the screaming of a baby. On and on. Inescapable and maddening.

* * *

No one listens to Eowyn… she’s really alone. Someone like Grima can get to you under those circumstances and lure you in. The minute you start to listen, it’s like when you’ve broken up with someone and you go to some other guy who’s a friend for advice, and then in the middle of consoling you, they try to make a move. It’s that kind of thing, of opening yourself up because you’re alone. I can’t say that exact scenario has happened to me before but it’s very easy to put yourself in those shoes.
—Miranda Otto.

It was on the fourth day—also devoid of poetry—that Miranda snapped.

The fourth day was the day of the kiss.

Miranda could no longer find David beneath Faramir at all; a blessing perhaps. If it had been David torturing her so, she would never have been able to forgive him. Instead, it was Faramir, and Faramir alone, who kissed her, and she wondered if he could taste the clay that was re-making her body.

She couldn't really bring herself to care too much about the taste of her kisses though, as she was too busy freaking out over her response to Faramir. Because, as Miranda quickly discovered, her body wanted touch badly, despite the deadening of the rest of her feelings. She hadn't realised how deep the craving went, until she and Faramir were skin to skin. It left her feeling unclean and desperate; as though she'd raped herself.

Despite the vileness of it, all those years of training at NIDA paid off, and somehow she managed to endure the shoot. Peter had even complimented her on her choice to underplay the scene.

It was all Miranda could do not to laugh hysterically in his face.

And when it was finally over, Miranda needed a dose of female solidarity more than she ever had in her life.

* * *

I’m incredibly open as a person. I’m a believer rather than a disbeliever. But I’m not particularly interested in knowing the future. I’d rather let life unfold. I’m not interested in controlling my environment.
—Cate Blanchett.

Cate took one look at Miranda and opened the door to her without a word, standing back to let her in.

The loungeroom of Cate's flat was tiny and spare; temporary. Not at all homely. It suited Miranda's mood perfectly.

"Coffee?" asked Cate, a world of sympathy in her voice. "Chocolate? Alcohol?"

"Poetry?" Miranda said, her voice breaking in the middle of the word.

Then Cate was near, resting a hand on Miranda's arm.

Miranda looked down at it pressing against her skin; a gift of understanding and compassion given without hesitation or expectation. And, like a chain reaction, a huge flood of feeling coursed through Miranda, radiating out from Cate's gentle touch, and washing away the numbing clay, as though it were a mere nothing. No barrier to feeling at all. The flood grew and grew until she was drowning in it; until all that liquid desperation burst out of her in huge, uncontrollable sobs, and Miranda turned into Cate, grabbing onto her tight, tight, tight, burying her face into the welcoming crook of Cate's elegant neck, and giving herself in to it.

"Oh," said Cate, stroking Miranda's back, pressing her into an even tighter embrace, "poor, sweet Miranda. Let it all go sweetheart. Let it all go."

* * *

The day Dad died, I was playing the piano, and he walked past the window and I waved good-bye. After that, I thought I would have to kiss everybody goodbye before I left the house. It was like I had an obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’d just be going down the street to get some milk, and I’d do it.
—Cate Blanchett.

"I'm sorry," Miranda said, speaking into Cate's damp skin. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't usually just lose it like this."

"Look at me, sweetheart." Cate tugged at Miranda's hair, and Miranda reluctantly lifted her head. "Saying goodbye—when we know it's the last goodbye—that's the hardest thing we ever have to do. There's no need to be sorry for it..." she pressed a kiss onto Miranda's tear-wet cheek, "... solidarity remember?"

Miranda found herself smiling, even as she blinked away a fresh wave of tears. "Solidarity," she said, and to show her gratitude, returned Cate's kiss.

Cate smiled too and dropped another gentle kiss just beneath Miranda's eye. It was so comforting, and Miranda, on a roller-coaster of emotion after so long completely numb, kissed once, twice, reveling in the easy affection of it; a little kiss on Cate's chin, another on her nose, then her temple. Another, and again, like a rainfall.

Cate's hand was still in Miranda's hair, holding her close, and Cate was kissing back; each kiss a gift. And then, as they both turned their heads at the same moment, their lips came together, sliding into a perfect shape, giving and soft and slick with tears. Cate tasted of cigarettes and salt and... a whole world of yes.

Miranda pulled away, just a little, so that she could see the expression in Cate's eyes.

"I'm so fucked up," she whispered. "I can't..."

"I know," said Cate, kissing her again. "It's okay. Neither can I."

And Miranda believed her. Because they were speaking to each other fluently in more than one language, speaking in common tongues; because Cate was an actor, aware of her own body in a way most people never were; because Cate really could understand how Miranda's body could be a kind of tower of Babel: saying “yes, yes, yes,” in the primitive languages of scent and touch and taste, and at the same time, and just as honestly, “no, no, no,” in the more sophisticated languages of mind and heart.

* * *

I think what’s important is to override one’s natural self-consciousness and embrace the absolute right to fail; not to be afraid to take on huge challenges.
—Cate Blanchett.

Cate held out a hand to Miranda, pulling her onto the bed; tugging at her until she was sitting side-ways between Cate's legs; her own legs draped over one of Cate's smooth thighs.

The way a tired child sits on the lap of someone they adore.

Miranda rested her head against Cate's shoulder, nuzzling in to lick the sweet skin beneath Cate's ear.

Cate's hands were butterflying over Miranda's skin in a way that wasn't quite soothing. Testing, practicing, learning this new dialect of Miranda's body. And once Miranda had started to tense and push into Cate's touch, she cupped one of Miranda's breasts with long fingers, pausing there for just a moment, before continuing the slide along skin. She drew a gentle spiral around Miranda's breast, around and in, closer and closer—torturously slow—until she finally reached the hard nipple. She rolled the nipple between her thumb and index finger; pinched hard and twisted; causing the tension to ramp up in Miranda's stomach in fluttery pangs.

"Mmmm," Miranda said, and gently bit Cate's neck to show her appreciation.

Cate hummed a little in response, and circled her clever fingers around Miranda's areole, pulling the skin taut. Then she leaned down and flicked her tongue over Miranda's stretched nipple. At Miranda's moan, she sucked the nipple into her mouth, hard, and began to worry it with her teeth.

"Oh God," said Miranda, her body bowing up into Cate's mouth, hands rising to clutch at Cate's shoulders. "Oh God, yes."

Just before it became too much, Cate let go; slid a hand into Miranda's hair and pulled her into a kiss full of thrusting tongue and hard-edged want.

When it ended, Miranda was panting, her bottom grinding against Cate's thigh.

Cate leaned back a little, her gaze resting on Miranda's face in obvious delight. "God. Your mouth..."

"What?" asked Miranda, trying to catch her breath.

"Admired Miranda," said Cate, running a finger over kiss-tender lips, "textured like parachute silk; encouraging falls."

"Oh," breathed Miranda, and opened her mouth to Cate's finger; sucking it in, making it slick and wet. Then she opened her legs and guided Cate's hand down, down. "Please," she said, voice rough with need.

Cate nodded, but surprised Miranda by twisting her hand around, so that her wet finger was a stripe of fire between Miranda's labia, ending in sweet pressure over her clitoris; her thumb poised for an endless moment before thrusting in, almost too hard; thrusting in all the way, so that it brushed against Miranda's sweet spot for a glorious moment, before Cate pulled out and thrust again.

"Yes," said Miranda, "oh yes," spreading her legs wider, hooking an arm around Cate for balance, splayed fingers pressing into Cate's biceps, so that she could feel the tell-tale bunching of muscle before each mind-blowing stroke.

Then Cate paused, her thumb deep inside, and lifted the finger pressing against Miranda's hot flesh; tapped it down, each tap a little harder than the one before. Tap, tap, tap. Sending jolts of pleasure-pain-pleasure through Miranda in wave after wave. And just when Miranda thought she couldn't take another moment of it, Cate stopped, and began to thrust again with her thumb.

"God! What is that?" panted Miranda, sweat popping out on her skin, sudden as pin-pricks.

"Like it?" asked Cate, interrupting the stroke again: tap, tap, tap.

"No," said Miranda, unable to keep still; her body coiling and snapping with the ever-building tension. "Love it. God! Don't stop."

Cate smiled. "Oh, I don't plan to." Thrust, thrust, thrust. Pause: tap, tap, tap. Cycling through the pattern over and over.

"Bitch," said Miranda, eyes squeezed shut; body writhing; every muscle trembling with tension. Her free hand bunching the sheet into a sweaty ball.

"You bet," said Cate, her voice sounding wicked and powerful. Thrust, thrust, thrust. Pause: tap, tap, tap.

Miranda lost all track of time; all track of sense; became a being of sensation, trapped firmly in the endless hunger of her body. And then, after an eternity of suffering, Cate said, "Come now, sweetheart," and stopped all motion, pressing down hard.

Miranda's hips bucked up into the pressure, totally beyond her control, and she came, came, came, making a harsh noise that sounded like pain. And when it was finally over, the intensity of her relief was so overwhelming that she found herself sobbing again in Cate's arms.

Cate slid her hand from between Miranda's legs, wrapped her in a full-body hug, and whispered, "Shhhh, shhhh," into her ear. "It's all over now sweetheart. Shhhh."

* * *

If I had my way, if I was lucky enough, if I could be on the brink my entire life—that great sense of expectation and excitement without disappointment—that would be a perfect state.
—Cate Blanchett.

"There is one good thing about the last shred of my dignity being just a distant memory," said Miranda, once there were no more tears left to cry.

"What's that?" Cate asked, her hand drawing lazy circles on Miranda's back.

"I can admit that there's something I've always been curious about," said Miranda.

Cate arched an enquiring eyebrow. "Sounds intriguing."

Instead of answering, Miranda leaned forward and kissed Cate slowly, thoroughly. As the kiss intensified, Cate's lazy hand drifted down to Miranda's bottom. It wasn't long before Cate's grip was painful, and her hips were grinding up, searching for more friction.

Miranda gently eased back, running a soothing hand over Cate's belly and breasts.

"Don't stop," said Cate, looking flushed and a little annoyed.

"I've always wanted to know," said Miranda, hand lingering on Cate's mons, "what it's like to..." she trailed off, blushing, and then, with determination, "I want to know what you taste like."

"Oh," said Cate, with a sudden, blinding smile. "Be my guest." She spread her legs in invitation.

"Um," said Miranda, a little taken aback by such instant enthusiasm. "Any pointers?"

Cate picked up a pillow and put it under her hips, so she was canted at a more accessible angle. "The only real trick is to keep your tongue soft," she said, and smiled reassuringly, "and other than that, just keep an ear open. I'll yell out if I'm not happy."

"Okay," said Miranda, moving to kneel between Cate's legs. "Here goes."

She rested her hands on the smooth skin of Cate's thighs, and leaned forward into the wonderful heady perfume that was Cate, all Cate. Miranda gently dabbed her tongue between Cate's lips, tasting the slightly sweet, slightly salty flavour of Cate's juices.

"Mmmm," Miranda said, surprised, "you taste good."

"You feel good," said Cate, sounding as tense as the muscles under Miranda's hands.

Miranda tongued Cate's clit, and then, urged on by Cate's little breathy sounds, became more adventurous and tried to mimic the tapping that Cate had used.

"Oh my God," said Cate, hips twisting. "Are you sure you've never done this before?"

Miranda eased off, soothing Cate's petal-soft skin with her tongue for a moment, before sucking a soft-tongued kiss onto her clit.

Cate tensed under Miranda's touch, and then reached down to tangle her hands in Miranda's hair. "Yes," she said, "yes, yes, yes."

Feeling incredibly daring, Miranda moved a hand to Cate's vagina and slid her thumb in; curling the rest of her hand downwards, so that her fingers rested in the crease of Cate's bottom. She let her index finger rub against the puckered flesh of Cate's arse.

Cate was writhing beneath her touch, ecstatic; whimpering "yes," in a breathy voice that drove Miranda on to new cruelties. She tongued Cate again, starting her own, vengeful, pattern of hard licks, alternated with soft tonguing and slick, suctioning kisses. Cate's clit became hot and hard under her relentless tongue, Cate's bottom clenching and pushing at her fingers, the breathy "yeses" blurring into an endless wail of delight.

Miranda let herself get lost in the moment; enjoying the heady thrill of bringing intense pleasure to someone else.

And then, suddenly, after a particularly wicked twist of her thumb, Cate clenched down hard and came, flooding Miranda with an intense taste that was all sex, and surprisingly delicious.

Miranda eased Cate through her climax, tongue gentle now; licking her through the aftershocks, until Cate lay limp and pliant beneath her touch.

With lazy arms, Cate tugged at Miranda's hair, and she let herself be pulled up into a hug.

"Thank you," said Cate, between sex-flavoured kisses, "that was lovely."

"You taste divine," said Miranda, reveling in the wonderful feeling of lassitude washing through her.

"So do you," said Cate, pressing a kiss against Miranda's collarbone. "Better than happiness."

Miranda was still wondering what happiness tasted like as she drifted to sleep, lulled by the feel of Cate's pulse against her chest.

* * *

The next morning, they parted with a sweet, brief kiss, before going their separate ways to different sets.

And because that day marked the start of intense location shooting for Miranda, for the next two weeks she didn't get to see Cate for more than, if they were lucky, a few minutes each day.

She fell into her own lonely bed at night, too tired to even consider sex.

But for those few minutes that they spent in each other's company, and whenever they caught each other's gaze, they might as well have been speaking for hours.

* * *

If you know you are going to fail, then fail gloriously!
—Cate Blanchett.

After a particularly difficult day of sword work, on a location reached via a beautiful but terrifying helicopter ride, Miranda returned to her trailer to change into more comfortable shoes for the drive home. As she stepped inside, she kicked a piece of white card; it skittered across the lino.

She bent to pick it up, anticipation dulling her aches. The good mood didn't last long. Miranda read and re-read the poem with a growing sense of loss:
Adored Miranda,
tasting of might-have-beens and
unlived tomorrows.

It needed no explanation. It was written in the language of solidarity; and after reading it Miranda knew, without any need to call Peter and check, that Cate was gone.

Miranda ran her fingers gently across the textured surface of the paper, feeling the slight indentation of the words, and had a sudden, intense sense memory of Cate's petal-soft skin beneath her touch.

And Cate had been right--final goodbyes were the hardest thing to face. Especially when you had to do it alone.

Twilight turned into night as Miranda stood looking at Cate's goodbye. Finally, once it was too dark to see, she walked over to her make-up mirror, turned on the lights, and slid the card into the frame, so that it would be waiting for her tomorrow.

Before turning to go, Miranda paused for a moment, finger on the light-switch, looking at the mirror. The reflection gazing back didn't look like it belonged to a clay-hearted golem; nor did it have the pinched pallor of Eowyn. It didn't look like someone with a hole in their life that nothing could fill; someone without a centre; someone who couldn't find joy.

It just looked like Miranda.

* * *

It was like a fairytale, a once in a lifetime experience. It won’t happen again.
—Miranda Otto.

* * *

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