odette_river: (xfiles; i want to believe)
[personal profile] odette_river
Title: because you are my breath
Fandom: The Ramayana
Prompt: Any, any, deserted island + volleyball companion AU
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,220
Summary: She suspects a lot of things about Ravana. He doesn't seem like he's being completely honest.



She names the volleyball Ravana. She isn't sure where the name came from; it was just there in her head one day, like it had snuck up on her from the forest, running over those few yards of sand dunes and jumping into her mind, catching her unaware. It's as good a name as any, she thinks. She likes the way it feels on her tongue—strong, exotic.

“You're no replacement for him,” she warns Ravana. “You're no replacement for anyone.”

Then she mounds up some sand into a tower and places the ball on top of it so that they can sit and watch her fire together.





It's supposed to be a signal fire for Rama. She read about signal fires once in a book. If you're stuck on a desert island, one of your best chances for rescue is to build a fire—with a fire you have smoke and you have light and then hopefully, hopefully someone will find you.

“Rama will come for me,” she tells Ravana.

She used to read a lot, maybe too much. She can't remember what else that book said about desert islands. Every time she eats anything she thinks she is about to die. She could be poisoning herself and not even know it.





She stopped reading once she married Rama, because you can't bring a lot of books on a boat, even if you're living on that boat. And she was living on that boat, because Rama was living on that boat, studying ocean currents because his little brother had asked him to. Actually, his littler brother had said, “I need you to stop hovering. I need space to do my own work. I can't think.”

So Rama had said, “Okay,” and taken her with him and off they'd sailed.

She didn't even know if he liked studying ocean currents, but his brother had a lot to deal with, and Rama wanted to do whatever he could.

So she'd given up reading, because the boat was too small for books, just big enough for her and Rama and Lakshmana, who'd come too because he wanted to help Rama. Maybe he was the one who liked ocean currents.





Now she's given up a lot of things, things like popcorn and sunscreen, but also things like clothing and properly clean hair. The endless stretch of salt water in front of her, separating her from the rest of the world, has made both of those things impossible. She finally gave up on the last few shreds of her clothes a week ago. (She still keeps a meticulous count of the days—scratching the, on pieces of bark from logs that she's burned, sometimes writing them down her forearm with mud.) She stripped her clothes off and donated them to Ravana, draping them over his sand-throne. He's a lot less rough on her clothes than she was.

At first, her nakedness embarrassed her, and she told Ravana not to look, even turned his face down to the ground for half a day, but now she's gotten used to it. She suspects that he was peeking the whole time anyway.





She suspects a lot of things about Ravana. He doesn't seem like he's being completely honest.

“I'm not going to stay with you forever,” she says. “I'm just waiting for Rama, and he'll take me away.”

Ravana just stares into the fire. He looks annoyed.

“I already told you,” she says. “You can't replace Rama. No one can replace Rama.”

She has to walk away after that because she's afraid Ravana is going to to start yelling at her. He wants things that she can't give.





She tears at the flesh of the coconut with her teeth, the milk running down her chin. She's finally figured out how to crack open the coconuts, and they taste wonderful. She pushes a hand through her hair, glances over at Ravana. He's just watching her, not eating his half of the coconut.

“Fine,” she says. “I'll eat yours too.”

He watches her while she does and eventually she has to turn away, ashamed at the trickles of coconut milk down her neck. What does it matter? Rama is certain to find her soon.

And Ravana is just a stupid volleyball. She turns his face down to the sand again.

“I don't like you watching me all the time,” she says.





She watches the water, waiting for something to come, probably a boat, probably Rama's boat. Although maybe not. She isn't sure if he could fix that boat after the fire. There had been so much fire. But even if it's not with that boat, then with another.

While she waits, she tells Ravana stories, talks about how she met Rama (archery class), their first date (Indian food, so spicy that tears welled up in her eyes), the day he proposed (“As long as this ring shines, I love you.”).

It annoys Ravana.

“Oh shut up,” she says. “I lost the ring in the ocean somewhere.”





It starts getting so bad, though, that it hurts to look at Ravana. It scares her to look at him, because it seems like he has ten heads or eyes of fire or something. She sees these things out of the corner of her eye, but when she looks right at him, he pretends he's just a normal volleyball. It drives her crazy.

So she just doesn't look at him. It's the only way to fight him. She can't kill him; she knows that much. And in some twisted way, he's probably the one keeping her alive. This is his desert island, after all.

She lines up coconut shells and turtle shells along the beach so that she can walk as far away from him as possible. But she always comes back.

“Rama's coming,” she tells him before she falls asleep at night.





It's a plane that comes in the end, this big, silver thing landing on Ravana's beach like a giant bird. She thinks he might attack it at first, but he doesn't, and the sound scares her—it's so loud and all she's had to listen to lately is Ravana. She crouches in the sand and puts her hands over her ears and that's how Lakshmana finds her, folded in on herself.

He gets her on the plane, doesn't touch her after that, finds her a blanket. She sleeps for a long time. It scares him, how thin she is. He could count her ribs, except that he's not looking.





“Where's Ravana?” she asks when she wakes up.

They're in a hospital; something is beeping; there's a tube in her arm; her hair is clean.

“Where's Ravana?” she asks again. She looks right at Lakshmana.

“You mean Rama,” he says. This is what he didn't want to say, what he's spent so much time imagining while he stared at the tiles above her bed.

“No,” she says. “Ravana.”

Her eyes are the same dark brown they've always been.

He thinks, They didn't tell me about this. But too many hours in the sun, eating who-knows-what, not drinking... Why not? Why not?

She reaches out, her fingers closing around his wrist. “Did you kill him?”

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