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Original, "Xanadu"

Title: Xanadu
Author: shiegra
Approx Word Count: 3214
Genre: Fantasy/Smut
Fandom (if any): Original
Summary: A muse does their best to inspire.
A/N: A little rushed, sorry. I'll probably turn this into a multi-chapter at some point, but not now.

The painting emerged more slowly than she'd anticipated.

It wasn't as though inspiration was a problem. She'd almost run out of paint, slopping fiery golds and reds and oranges and sharp lemon yellows over canvas, sometimes finger-painting when she couldn't get her hands on a brush fast enough. She worked like time was running out, but any patterns emerged haphazardly, slopped generously on in lines and layers that only gradually found an image.

And when it ended she was gasping, hungry, trembling and vaguely surprised to discover black paint covering her hands. Last time she'd paid attention to the color it had been all reds--

The reason for the black, she discovered, was because the man in the picture was wearing black.

Long sleeved shirt, black pants, black sunglasses, dark disheveled hair and a black cigarette. Only his face and hands weren't covered, and they were white and fine boned. The fiery colors raged around him.

He was smiling; she could see that at some point she'd taken time to accentuate that, shaping a full, sculpted mouth in softer shadows. She didn't remember that at all, and that was distressing.

Not to mention the fact that it wasn't a particularly nice smile.

She flexed her fingers as she backed away, putting down the palette and wiping her hands on her apron. All that did was smear it, and she looked down in surprise to grimace at the already paint-slick surface.

There was...not so much a gap in her mind but a blur, long hours of frenzy where she could only remember the ache in her arm and the burn of her eyes.

The yawn took her by surprise and she started to raise a hand to her mouth, realized it was still wet, and grimaced as she peeled off her apron, dropped it to soak in a bin of cold water, and trotted towards the wide idustrial sink to wash up. Along the way she hit the button on her answering machine, which was blinking its red eye exasperatedly. There were already long-dried paint smears over the button from long exposure to her workroom.

"Serina," her mother's voice said impatiently, "the latest orders are stocking up. Why haven't you answered your phone? Hurry and call me back."


"Serina, come on, we're due a party night!" Becka, her voice bright and sly. "It's time for you to lighten up and get out of that damn studio. I'm picking you up tonight."


"Serina, are you all right? You've been acting strange. Not answering calls, not answering the door...please call back." Cody's firm, crisp voice went a little uncertain on the last words.


Two messages from machines, the bank and the library, a calmly professional message from her agent...Serina frowned, picked the last dried fleck of orange off her forearm and looked at the calendar. No help there; she'd stopped marking the days at June because she liked the picture.

With careful fingers she peeled off her sweatshirt and crossed the loft in her bra and sweats to boot up the computer. When the screen popped up, she squinted at the date and time in the corner. Four days. Damn! What had happened?

She didn't feel dehydrated, so she must have eaten and drank, but exhaustion turned her spine to lead and made her fingers heavy. Serina rubbed at her eyes and shook her head, shutting the computer down again and straightening to rub the small of her back. Whatever the mystery meant, it was bed time now.

Without any conscious decision, she turned to look at the painting before she went into her bedroom, and a shiver crawled up her spine. She could have sworn she'd painted one hand resting on his thigh, not up as though reaching out of the painting.

Clearly sleep deprived. She ducked into her room and kicked off her sweats and panties, dropping her bra on the floor and then toppling into bed, asleep practically before she hit the mattress.

She woke up to someone playing with her hair.

That was...different. The last time Serina had had a lover had been three years ago. Cody had been making advances, but she simply didn’t have the time. He would be far from a low-maintenance, obliging boyfriend.

And besides, the touch was simply too warm to be him. She would have said too warm period, but obviously someone was touching her. That was human contact, and a human hand stroking lazily down over the long stretch of her upper arm and then to her waist, fingers curving against her hip. The air smelled like fire and turpentine and she shivered and finally decided to be awake enough to open her eyes and roll over.

The man she’d last seen flat in 2D staring at her living room from canvas looked her in the face, his fingers wrapped possessively over the curve of her cheekbone. He was smiling, an expression that didn’t manage to be anything but utterly intimidating.

“Hello Serina,” he murmured in a voice like rasping dark-chocolate.

She reacted in what she thought was an entirely understandable way; she screamed at the top of her lungs and catapulted herself backwards, skidding off the edge of the bed in a tangle of blankets and smacking into the floor. She very probably bruised her tailbone and certainly sent a jarring impact up to rattle her elbows in teeth.

“Wh—” She gasped air, skittered back on her hands, and finally found the breathe to demand, “what the hell are you doing in my apartment?” And what the hell are you doing alive? Was a subject best left for later, she suspected.

He sat up and swung long legs over the side of the bed, lean in tight black jeans. He had a heavy silver ring on one hand that was set with a black stone, and he held the dark sunglasses in the other hand, tapping them against his knee. “Serina, Serina,” he sighed. “You invited me.”

“Um. NO. I’m sure I didn’t. I think I’d, uh, remember that.” She glanced around frantically, making it to her feet and then realizing that beyond the blankets tangled around her feet, she was totally naked.

Another aborted shriek and she grabbed for the blankets, clutching them to her chest and backing to the wall. “I repeat: how the hell did you get into my apartment? Because I don’t—”

“You asked for help.” Smiling broadly, he stood as well; a sinuous movement that ended with him only a few steps away. The smile wasn’t particularly reassuring.

The sheer ridiculousness of that statement left her gaping. “I did not.”

Then his hands were on her upper arms. Not painfully, but inexorable. He walked forward and she had to scramble backwards to keep from being pressed skin-to-skin with the long line of his body. He somehow maneuvered her through the halls without running into anything, and when he spun her she was facing the painting she’d left in the studio.

Which was—unmistakably empty. The flames remained, the bright twisting smears of orange and crimson and yellow, but the stark black figure was missing.

Serina stared at it in reeling shock. “That is insane.” She said flatly. “This is—a hallucination brought on by too little sleep, or something. People don’t step out of paintings.”

He laughed, low and dark against her neck, and she shivered convulsively as he took her hand, fingers folding over her wrist, and raised it. “But I’m not a person, Serina. I’m a muse.”

“A muse.” She had enough rudimentary memory of mythology to pin that one; Greek, led by Apollo in most versions, also known as the Pierides. “You’re one of the nine sisters?”

He wandered out from behind her, stalking along the borders of the loft, examining stacks of unfinished and finished paintings draped in cloth and ignoring her sarcasm. “Don’t be narrow-minded. I’m a creature of inspiration.” He whisked the cover off of one—an unfinished painting of a tiger, golden eyes gleaming from the shadow of deep green leaves—and touched the painted surface.

The air shimmered around his fingers and the gold eyes blinked lazily, a massive mouth opening in a lazy yawn, pink tongue curling between white teeth.

Serina pressed a hand to her chest and felt her heart give one tremendous gunshot thump, rattling against her ribcage as she stared. “Okay, this has got to be a dream.”

He dropped his hand, sending her an amused glance out of black, tilted eyes. “No, not really,” he told her. He wasn’t what she would have expected her dreaming mind to come up with; no big romance-novel-cover muscles, only a serpentine poise and long, angularly lean body that slanted forward into outthrust hips, his hands hooked into his pockets. It was all eerily—not normal looking, because his skin was too pale and his eyes too black and now that the smell of turpentine seemed to have eased he filled the whole room with the scent of fire—but more like the scene in all those movies where the demon comes up to tempt whatever unlucky hero and is good-looking as sin but also oozes danger like the over-application of cologne.

Less like the airy wings of inspiration and more like a ticket to a ride right off a black cliff, with a grin that promised you'd enjoy the whole way down.

Or maybe her imagination was just working overtime. Her hormones certainly were. This is a dream, she told her body determinedly, taking a step back. So? It replied. Then there's no harm in having a little fun.

"Why me?"

He’d seemed focused on the paintings; at that, he turned and crossed the length of the floor, warm fingers closing on her chin. She started to take a step back but he followed her, body kept at a polite distance but the touch undeniable.

And then he leaned in and the distance wasn’t polite at all, his breath was ghosting over her mouth and his fingers slid down, over her throat to hook in the sheets she’d roughly wrapped around herself. “Because you’re a painter,” he breathed, “because every day that you can’t lose yourself in painting, it aches here—” his touch poised over her heart, burning into her skin, “—and I could...fill you.”

She dragged in a breath and it came honey-slow, shivering warmth down through her fingers. “Inspiration.” She said, the words a breathy murmur. “You’re here to give me inspiration?”

He smiled. Serina laughed, an incredulous gasping sound, and he moved both hands to spread, thumbs sliding up between her breasts, palms flattened against her ribs. She might have whimpered. This is a just a dream.

“Well?” He asked, and his lips curved into that dangerous smile again. “Do you want to paint?”

Serina licked her lips, tried to think, tried to find some rationality, some solid answer. This is a dream. It has to be a dream.

“Yes.” She finally answered, anticipation turning it into a taut whisper, and his smile flared into a sharp-toothed smirk at the same moment that his touch spilled fire into her veins, electrifying her body, a heat that was very nearly painful.

Her head fell back and he caught her, supporting her weight, but after a split second she planted her hands against his chest and shoved. He rode the motion into a catlike leap back, but she was already turning, her fingers curling. She took photos every week, went out into the city with a camera to snap shots that seemed interesting. But she didn’t need to fish through the pile of glossy prints; she knew exactly what image was tugging her toward the paints, in a way she hadn’t experienced for weeks.

The shot of a building cast in sharp shadow, a small boarded up storefront beside a tall, ivy-twined brick building, the play of evening light and bright flickering already-lit fluorescent sign positively fascinating.

She was paying him about as attention now as she did Becka or Cody or her mother when she was in this state. But she felt it when he came up behind her, hands closing over her hips, and breathed against the back of her neck. “Yes,” he murmured, but she didn’t need any encouragement. She was already hauling the table of her supplies closer, fingers sliding over brushes and tubes of paint.

His fingers never left her skin, but she wasn’t paying attention anymore.

It might have been hours later when she let the brush clatter down to the tray and blinked in a daze at the canvas in front of her. It was a new one—her third?—but all she had time to attend to was a riot of color before he spun her, grinning down at her with a sharply wicked slant to his mouth.

“Beautiful work,” he said softly. She was breathing hard, and surprised herself by smiling jubilantly at him, giddy with the triumph. His eyes glittered, and she put her hands on his face, pressing them against the angles of his cheekbones, the long line of his jaw. His mouth curved. The skin was, again, hot enough to be just below the line of uncomfortable.

This is a good dream. "Thanks," she replied, and stretched up to kiss him.

He met her halfway down and there was a split second of stillness, her mouth opening against his, the kiss slow and exploratory, his hands cupping her hips, body pressed in a line of heat against hers. He tasted--sharp, like fire and heat and something vaguely spicy, and Serina fisted her hands in his shirt and tugged restlessly. And then his hands slid under her thighs and he lifted her like she weighed nothing. She hastily hooked her legs around his waist, arms twining around his shoulders as her palms flattened against the muscles working in his back, and laughed breathlessly against his mouth.

"Here?" He asked, and his eyes glittered with dark heat.

He was so hot, warmth spilling in an intoxicating line against her front. She never let anyone stay in her studio for too long--it was too intensely personal, her workspace, the place where her soul spilled out her fingers. But she was dizzy with heat, and she curled her fingers into his shirt until her nails scraped his back, tugged and panted, "if you can make it comfortable."

She had a couch tucked in the corner, old paint-spattered plush, a worn dark purple. He spilled her onto it and went to his knees, his lips at her knee, the pulse high in her thigh. Serina gasped and pushed herself fully upright, reaching for him, but the sharp edge of teeth scraped across the crease of skin just to the side of the juncture of her thighs and she collapsed back, supporting arms suddenly nerveless.

"You are a work of art." He murmured against her skin and she moaned low in her throat, ragged and impatient. "Shh..."

The sheet slid away, easily pushed to the ground, and she bucked her hips against his hand as he pinned her, fingers sliding against her, a deft and silky touch that pressed her open and stroked down against sensitive tissues. The warmth was infectious; she felt feverish, like smoke was about to curl out from under her fingernails. She pressed the back of her wrist to her mouth and bit down, but when he kissed her there, a flat-tongued stroke, she screamed anyway.

The neighbors will be pissed, she thought hazily, and tangled her hands in his hair instead.

He moved away--tearing another cry from her throat--to bite the curve of her hip when she yanked too hard. "Don't be harsh," he whispered, and rose to kiss her throat, sucking hard, teeth sinking in to make her yelp until it dissolved into a liquid moan as the fabric of his jeans rasped against her.

Don't tease, she might have said, only she didn't honestly think she was coherent enough. And he sighed, a deep pleased and curiously harsh gust from deep in his chest, and kissed her mouth even as Serina worked her hands between them to fumble with his utterly mundane jeans.

It felt real--down to the slippery button and the belt-loops against her inner thighs, the crotch seam of the jeans distracting her enough that she stopped trying to unfasten it and just rocked against him, tangling her fingers in the loops to hold him there. It felt like some of the best sex she'd ever had, though her range of experience was admittedly poor.

He lifted his hips away to open the jeans himself, and kissed her harshly enough to force her head back into the pillows, a fine tremble of excitement shivering his frame against her. "Art..." He murmured, sounding distracted, and for a tormenting moment the angle was utterly wrong, but then he braced his feet and tilted his hips and slid inside, and her eyes rolled back in her head, her hands flying up to clutch at his shoulders.

He was burning hot, inside and outside of her, and she thought she might be about to pass out as bliss soaked into her skin, spiking a line of electric heat up her spine.

"Still with me?" He murmured, his voice rough edged and deep, and she wrapped her arms around him--he still hadn't taken his shirt off--and gasped something that might have been an affirmative or might have just been 'please'. He thrust against her in response and conscious thought dissolved.

She woke up to the annoyed blare of her alarm clock and yawned, batting at the bedside table. Wait, what...? Bed. Of course, bed. That had been one very vivid dream.

Only she didn't remember changing her sheets. And when she sat up long-unused muscles protested.

Unease prickled down her spine; Serina flipped the sheets back, slid out of bed, and darted out of her room. Bright noon sunlight spilled through the windows, and inside the studio the air was heavy with the smell of paints. She was wearing an oversized nightshirt and nothing else, certainly not what she'd gone to bed in.

She could not, in fact, clearly remember going to bed in anything.

And there they were. Three new paintings, stacked slightly haphazardly--one had a smear she'd have to fix. A small building cast in evening light, green fluorescent sign half gone dark, and the encroaching ivy on the brick beside it. Another of a portrait, a half-profile of a woman in a long black coat, gold hoop earrings tapping against one swarthy cheek. She remembered the photo, and in the painting the gold was pronounced, the dark gleam of the woman's eyes turned smoky and mysterious. And the final a slantways upwards shot of birds taking flight from a grimy, ragged rooftop edge.

Three completed paintings. In one night. She stared blankly at them, and then her eyes moved to the side.

And there, just in case she'd been thinking of passing it off as a dazed sleep-painting frenzy, was the painting of the tiger in the jungle; frozen now in the act of a lazy, yawning stretch, the golden eyes she'd emphasized now half-closed.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 25th, 2008 11:43 pm (UTC)
If I had a muse like that, I'd be able to bang out three paintings in a night too. XD
(*secretly nosebleeds in the corner* O_O)

Aug. 26th, 2008 12:52 am (UTC)
It seemed like an appealing form of inspiration, no?
Hee, thanks!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )