It is a sin, there is no doubt about this, and Charlotte rather wishes there were a few doubts instead of none. She is sixteen and Stella is twenty-one, and that would be terrible enough if they weren’t both women.
She isn’t sure what it is she first noticed. It’d be nice if it were something poetic like her laugh, or her eyes. It’d be less awful if it were anything that she noticed after freeing Stella and her sister from the curse of vampirism, but she isn’t sure. They’d fought before then, after all, and that gown she wore left absolutely nothing to the imagination where her - upper body was concerned. She’s always been a sucker for someone with strong arms and sword skills. It’s just that before the Castle it was always Jonathan, and now, after all that, she isn’t sure anymore.
When Stella thanked her, Charlotte stammered. She couldn’t not, not with those deep blue eyes locked on hers, practically piercing her soul. That Stella was still conscious was incredible. That she could speak, that she could warn Jonathan of the cost of what he had to do without breaking down in tears, that was nothing short of astonishing.
Maybe it was after, then. Maybe it was that moment. Or maybe it was after that, after the Castle, after they’d settled Vincent back in Wygol and made their way down through dicey territory to Greece to find a way back to England. Maybe it was that incident with the Aluraune and the Minotaurs, where she’d been bone-tired from casting spell after spell after spell after spell and all the while refusing to take back the Magus’ Ring from Loretta.
She’d swayed on her feet, and Jonathan had been thirty feet away but Stella was right there, quick to catch her when her knees gave out, and what she’d done then was surely a sin in and of itself. It was getting what she wanted by deception, and that was the same as a lie, wasn’t it? She’d let herself go limp when she knew full well she could have pulled herself together, and she’d done it just to be held, trembling, in those strong arms, with her head pillowed against that marvellously soft bosom.
It was something out of the trashiest novels she’d ever read, rough men’s clothing draped over the frame of the woman who held her and all. She’d let her eyes flutter closed with a little sigh, and she’d felt content, even safe. She was, of course. With Jonathan’s yell of triumph she knew they’d cleared the ruins out, and that they’d be fêted in the village down the hill when they returned. He’d teased her a little, when he realized Stella wasn’t simply helping her up but had shifted to carry her. She turned her head and stuck her tongue out at him, and it was only at a quiet giggle Loretta failed to stifle in time that she blushed, feeling foolish and childish and more embarrassed than she ought to have.
It was nice to not have to pull herself together. It was lovely, being carried instead of having to walk. She couldn’t shut off the parts of her brain that were snarling that she was being lazy and taking advantage and on top of that doing both for a very wrong reason. But she felt safe, and comforted, and wouldn’t anyone feel like that held by such a woman? Even knowing it was a sin, it didn’t feel wrong.
It’s all been downhill since there. If they’d gone back to Spain instead of settling in America, maybe things wouldn’t be so awful. A few hundred miles is far less of a distance than a few thousand, though, and with trains that run on time she’s finding excuses to visit . Jonathan’s remarked on it; bless his oblivious, trusting, golden-retriever-dressed-up-like-Sir-Galahad heart, he’s happy that she’s befriended the sisters they once fought.
She’s not really in love with him, she knows that now. She was in love with the idea of being in love more than she was ever in love with him. She’s not really in love with him, but she does love him, and fiercely. He’s a good friend, and kind, and if eventually he’s ready to settle down she won’t tell him no. She’s used to Jonathan, he’s been there practically her whole life, and if she has to marry somebody it may as well be someone she knows and doesn’t mind living with, and as men go is fairly handsome.
She isn’t used to Stella, even visiting regularly. She’s still new, still unsettling, and it’s been nearly a year - surely by now she should be someone customary, she admonishes herself. Stella isn’t someone she can marry, but left to run wild her daydreams involve gentle hands with manicured nails and fencer’s calluses lifting a veil from her face, and the sound of the ceiling fans at Saint Mary’s wavering behind Ruth's words to Naomi. It’s an impossible dream, of course, but the thought of it is distracting. It’s terrible, and it is, no question, a sin.
And yet... she can’t seem to force herself into penitence.