Spoilers: Series 1 more generally.
Summary: When you're young and impressionable influence can be dangerous on you, every exchange shaping your future. But sometimes it's necessary because even one person can be important to save the world. Pre-Eden fic with a couple of other characters making important appearances.
A/N: Thanks to jen_chan13 for a brief beta, though any grammar mistakes are mine - and some may come from the almost stream of consciousness style this takes.
Sarah looks around the gallery, skimming the pictures and paintings. It feels like a room of a thousand stories, told without words. Some told with color, whether it be glaringly bright or tones of darkness and others are made with texture, feeling as if you could reach out of touch what they behold. And then there is perspective.
Each of them is independent of the other, no continuity, flashes of tales. Scenes, memories but not one whole. They have promise. Hope framed and hung upon the walls. Though a teenager Sarah already feels the world is mostly devoid of hope, that's certainly what life has presented to her so far in her dull existence.
She likes that they all appeal to her eyes directly, letting her make of them what she will – they do not lie to her, there is no truth apart from their physicality. They do not trick you with promises to be that are perpetually unfulfilled. They do not say one thing but mean another. There is no love or hate but what she thinks of and puts into, onto them.
She stops in front of one, knowing enough to make out the biblical scene, however abstract its inclusion here is for the title of the exhibition, “Engrained”. She has no idea why the painter created it, she relishes not caring for once – ignoring meaning and imposing hers upon it. It's exquisitely painted, with a tone out of the normal that is perhaps why she was drawn to it. But for all its loveliness there is no happiness to it, because this story she already knows – she realises this one does hide something. It is not about what it should have been, instead she knows it as a visage of destruction. The tree that grows is lush and green, but all that flourishes is the downfall of man, for this is where sin began, where it embedded itself into Eve's heart and took root for all of time.
Feeling cursed for understanding when she only wants to escape meaning, she glares, searching for another interpretation, for hope. As she stares at it she is vaguely aware she has been joined by another. Glancing to her side, she sees a young Indian man staring just as intently as she had been, until he breaks his gaze and refocuses on her. She's caught off guard, flushing in embarrassment at her behaviour, but she cannot look away. He is undoubtedly a complete stranger to her - she barely gets out of the house - yet his dark eyes shine brightly as he looks at her, as if seeing further into her than anyone ever has.
A smooth voice, with only a hint of an accent, tells her “The Garden of Eden. A powerful place.” He does not say, this is a beautiful drawing, as you'd expect and it does not feel like he entirely means it as only a casual commentary on the painting. There is something personal to it that disturbs her. She fumbles a reply, trying to say sorry and ending up saying nothing in particular before walking backwards clumsily, out of his sight, but stumbling right into an energetic young Japanese man.
She stumbles equally over her words of apology but as she speaks his own stuttered mash of English she wonders if it matters, his kind eyes show comprehension even if she cannot formulate an adequate response. Perhaps the compassion he showed was simply a ruse, designed to lure her into a sense of security though what he did next she would never have expected and could not prepare for was. His hands clasp her and for one second she feels out of time, colors surrounding her as picture upon picture flashes around her, going too fast to truly comprehend in the moment. And then it is over.
He bows, another apology she guesses, but Sarah doesn't stay to question what it's for, what it was exactly he did to her. She merely runs back to the mundane safety of the school tour. She goes back to the normality of explanations taught – being told what is and what isn't, what she should think. As usual she does not speak up, she just ignores it all because it never matters, it is never enough for her, never anything but lies and pain somewhere down the line.
For a long time she has felt words are the world's enemy to her. She shuns them because it is with them she is betrayed, for her faults and those of everyone she has loved. No one ever says they love her any more, as if there is anyone left to who feels it, but they – her “family” - will make excuses forever more and they will turn it back on her when she questions. Therefore she does not question any more, losing all her curiosity in the process. She barely cares for anyone or anything, except avoiding the pain, so she finds she has nothing much to say apart from doing her duty, agreeing, keeping her head down and being passed over as she desires. Life is simply making it through, past problem after problem until maybe one day it will not be so hard. When it began to be like that she forgets but she fears the end of this reign will cost someone because you never seem to get change for the better without a worthy sacrifice, guilt to bear.
Yet, as she sits in the coach returning to school, she dares hope that there could be something better out there for her. A future that feels as she had done when she was gripped furiously by the Japanese man, like for just one second it is full of color and texture in a way her life has never felt it might have. Someday she will overcome fear and escape this dreary collection of black and white moments that lead to nothing, then she will live out loud with a glorious splash of the most magnificent color to contrast the old. Then she'll live with red in her world, like in the fairy tales, a rose, thorns and all, to create a new girl waking from this deep sleep.