Chasing moonlight, catching the tide

[Author’s note: While this story is about a trans male character (it’s a chunk of Sabbat’s backstory), it uses she/her pronouns and the character’s previous name for the majority of it, because that’s how he was thinking of himself at the time.
I am a transmasc person who conceptualised myself as ‘girl’, ‘she’ and my previous name while working myself out, and that part of this story is based on personal experience – if it’s not going to play well with your brain, that’s very fair and you’re very much allowed not to read.
Content warnings: misgendering, discussed child abuse (beating, locking in room, forcing a trans kid to wear the wrong gendered clothing)]

Running away was, it turned out, surprisingly easy (not running away from home. Wasn’t home, never had been). 

Took planning, of course. Then again, when’d anything worth doing ever not?

Planning, and luck. 

“-not coming out until you learn how to apologise! Gods above, couldn’t my fucking useless sister have managed to instill her daughter with at least some manners?”

“Go fuck y’self!” Sabrian yelled back, and had the bitter satisfaction of hearing her uncle’s fist thud heavy into the plaster on the other side of the locked door. Likely she’d regret that in the morning, if she was still here, but right now, keeping him angry and off-balance meant that he’d be far more inclined to leave her to sit and stew rather than coming back in an hour or so to try persuading her to play nice and agree to learn to be a ‘proper young lady’. 

Fuck that. I’d rather fucking die. 

She sat down on the bed, looking down at her scarred hands as she counted silently. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. And… 

The main door of the house banged shut, rattling in its frame, and she grinned lopsidedly to herself. Got you. Fucking predictable as always. 

He’d be gone for at least a couple of hours now – off to ‘clear his head’, whatever that meant (Sabrian was fairly bloody certain he was off getting drunk, which’d make him six kinds of hypocrite given how badly he’d beaten her when he’d caught her with the remnants of a bottle of rum she and the other kids had half-inched). 

Plenty of time to work. 

Not for the first time, she thanked the Lady that her uncle’s definition of teaching her how to ‘live like a proper girl, not a gutter whore’s brat’ included, on his side of the bargain, a hard and fast rule on not going through her clothing chest. He’d turned the rest of the room upside down more than once when he’d got the idea she might be hiding something, but he’d never laid a finger on that chest – and, right now, that was going to make this whole thing a fuck of a lot easier. 

Not least because that was where she’d hidden her lockpicks. 

The top layers were all dresses like the one she was wearing – warm, hard-wearing things fit for any respectable merchant’s respectable daughter. Under that, there was a layer of petticoats and underskirts, and under that… 

“Fuckin’ finally,” Sabrian breathed. She reached into the trunk, pulled out the battered leather satchel she’d kept hidden for the past… too many fucking years and, with a muttered prayer of thanks that it’d stayed safe all this time, slipped it open and pulled out her parcel of treasures.

There were the lockpicks, of course – the same set that Ada’d pressed into her hand when she’d been being dragged away, the same set she’d learned to pick locks with back when she was barely old enough to be walking yet.

There was a cut-throat razor, shining and sharp and the only thing she’d taken from the haul when she’d hired out as a second-storey boy to the Drapers, back when she could still get away with doing that. They’d laughed at her for it, wanting to know what the hells a little girl (ha!) wanted with something like that, but she’d clutched it tight to her chest and shot back that if none of the rest of them wanted it, the fuck did they care what she did with it? None of them had known what to say to that and, after a round more of mocking that was closer to affectionate confusion than anything else, they’d let her keep it – and gods, wasn’t that the Lady’s hand at work in that as well. 

And, wrapped around the both of the smaller treasures, there was the biggest treasure of all. The one that Sabrian had guarded the most jealously, all the more so when she’d realised her uncle’d never allow her even the trews and waistcoats of the harbour girls. 

The sound the blade of the razor made as it ripped through the skirts of the dress rang in Sabrian’s ears like the key turning in a prison cell door. She slashed at the fabric, cutting it away from her skin as though she was carving out a tumour, excising rot from a wound, and it felt good – so fucking good, in fact, that when the dress was in tatters around her ankles and she was standing in just her underthings in the middle of the room, she suddenly realised she was laughing. 

“Ha! Y’can take your fuckin’ ‘ladylike behaviour’ and stick it up your fuckin’ arse. Sideways!”

Compared to the hell that’d been pulling on the damn dresses every morning, the shirt and trews went on as smooth as silk. And, with the addition of the waistcoat and the neckscarf, the person looking back at Sabrian in the mirror could’ve been any cabin boy or boat-boy off on shore leave and running back home through the streets of Dockside. 

Sabrian grinned, watching the unfrozen corner of his reflection’s mouth twist upward in fierce triumph. Hey, what d’you fucking know? I’m still me. 

Question was, was he still Sabrian? It’d been a perfectly serviceable name for most of his life so far, and he didn’t have too many problems with it in and of itself, but something about it didn’t quite fit right any more – that, and he’d heard it too many times in his uncle’s mouth for it not to come with an added ‘girl’ and ‘daughter’ that made his lip curl. 

Sa- Best be something close, else I’ll not know myself any more. Sabr… Sab… Saba… 

Sabbat. I’ll be Sabbat. 

He wasn’t quite sure why he’d landed on that name, but the moment he tried it on he knew that it fit – curt, sharp, and stabbing-sounding in a way that ‘Sabrian’ just wasn’t. Perfect for the kind of person he was planning on becoming, in other words. 

“Sabbat,” he said, and the boy in the mirror grinned lopsidedly back at him. “Sabbat. Aye, that’ll fuckin’ do.”

Ten minutes later, one of the second floor windows swung silently open. A shadow slid out of the darkness of the house, swarmed up the wall, and, moving with all the speed and agility of a born roof-runner, launched itself out into the empty space between the rooftops, hanging for a second in weightless flight before landing in a diving roll on the flat roof of the shop across the way. 

The moon shone down. The fog rolled in. And the boy called Sabbat raced onward, chasing a brighter future.

Copyright © 2021 by Finn McLellan.  All rights reserved.

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