Of Mars and Moon: Watercolor Memories
by Cecily Hawkins
Disclaimer: This is a not-for-profit fanfic containing characters inspired by copyrighted characters. No damage is intended. This story may contain same-sex romantic and sexual relationships. This is part 3 of an ongoing series. Oh, and love and kisses to Shandryl for beta-reading these things. :)
"Oh, this is marvelous," whispered another voice.
Terry located a soft-washed submerged rock to perch on and sat, her bare breasts remaining below the water level. Her companion was floating on her back, long blond hair streaming out in waves around her, gloriously wet and naked, but her face curiously obscured. Try as she might, Terry could not make out her features.
"I've half a mind to give up the throne and just stay here forever."
"You wouldn't, really," Terry found herself saying. "You always live up to your responsibilities. That's why I love you."
"Oh, is that why?" The other girl chuckled. "I had wondered. I didn't really give you a choice about it, attaching myself to you like that."
"Never gave me a moment's peace. Annoying little brat."
The blonde let her body sink as she turned and smacked a hand against the water's surface, spraying Terry, who promptly retaliated with an even bigger splash. The caves echoed with hoots and hollers and giggles, until Terry cried for mercy, blinking the water from a particularly good shot out of her eyes. The mysterious girl drifted through the ripples to sit beside her, snuggling into a slippery embrace. "Big bad warrior. I think you let me win."
"Of course. You're a queen-to-be, it's not proper for me to beat you."
She pouted. "And how am I supposed to learn to take care of myself if you always go easy on me?"
"That's what you'll have me for, to defend you."
"Even in water fights?"
"Even in water fights. Forever. This world and the next, I will always be with you."
The water went cold. Terry reached for her companion, but found nothing there. As the light of the cave faded to black, she heard a voice whisper, "But you couldn't save me, could you?"
...her forehead was pressed uncomfortably against the hard surface of the computer table.
Terry raised her head gingerly, wincing at the pain throbbing inside it. She hoped no one had come into the lab needing assistance while she was asleep. "Stupid dream. And we didn't even get to the good part," she muttered, trying to shake the nagging suspicion that the voice of the mysterious blonde in her dreams had been Shaye's.
She and the freshman (Shaye had admitted to being one) had crossed paths an amazing number of times in the past two weeks. It was enough to make coincidence seem unlikely, except that the one place the girl hadn't turned up was in the computer lab, the one place that Terry could be reliably located. Surely, Terry reasoned, if she really wanted to see me, she'd come here. She knows when I work. No, it's just accident that brings us together, and politeness that makes her friendly.
Shaye was incurably polite and overly apologetic for even the smallest of faults. She wore a skirt every day and kept her hair long and neat. The cross was always in evidence around her neck. But she never spoke of religion, never expressed disapproval of Terry's short hair and less traditional clothing. She chattered and laughed and blushed like a little girl. And already, Terry missed her when she wasn't around.
She rubbed her temples and returned her attention to the code she was reading through. It looked right at a glance, but was crashing on even a simple test run, so she was tracing the flow of control throughout the program, checking to see where things went wrong.
A message popped onto her screen.
Hey babe what's happenin?
She wrote back, "Grading the Trapdoor assignment for my comp sci kids," and then glanced at the results of the debug. A specific comparison function was returning the wrong results, skewing the whole calculation and causing it to collapse. Five keystrokes later, the program ran perfectly, all of the resulting data correct and properly formatted. She frowned.
Oh yeah I remember that one from last year! How's it going?
She replied, "This is really weird. I just found out why this program is crashing. It's an incredibly tiny mistake, an || instead of an && in one little function, but it makes the program completely unable to run. The weird part is that everything else is perfect, even the tricky bits. How did this person manage to test and get everything working when the program could never have run?"
Whose is it?
"You know I can't tell you that," Terry sent. She considered the code. It was strange, but people were nothing if not capable of error. It was certainly possible that the author had tampered with that function at the last minute and forgotten to check it before submitting the final program. A silly mistake wasn't enough reason to accuse someone of cheating. Besides, if someone were going to steal code without testing it, surely e would have just cut and pasted it directly, which would have prevented the error. She mailed a note to herself to keep an eye on that particular student in the future and moved on to the next program. Grading wasn't the most exciting thing in the world, but it had never put her to sleep before.
As she set up the test run, she heard grumbling behind her, followed by a quiet laugh.
"It's not funny," a low alto complained.
"It is not so difficult, really," the lighter voice replied. "If you would only concentrate on it like you do on other things."
"I'd rather be out *doing* something."
"Go, then, if you wish to. I can handle things here."
Moments later Terry noticed, in the corner of her eye, Alex walking out of the lab. She turned to find Shannon, unconcerned, at the computer behind her. "Problems?"
The asian girl smiled prettily. "Hello, Teresa. No, no problem. She simply does not like computers."
"You can call me Terry, you know."
"I know." She opened a black binder on the table beside her and pulled out a bright pink slip of paper. "I'm having a recital tomorrow night. Will you come?"
"Me?" she said as the invitation was placed in her hand. "Sure, I guess."
"Good. And will you come as well?" Shannon asked, holding out another piece of paper to someone who had walked unnoticed to Terry's side.
"A... a recital?" Shaye stammered.
Shannon smiled, cat to mouse. "I will be performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D and the Bach Partita Number 2 in D minor. It would mean a great deal to me if you were to attend."
Terry suppressed the urge to smile. Shaye would give the coat off her back if a stranger asked her for it; with a request like that, she had no choice but to say...
"All right. I mean, thank you very much for asking me, I'll look forward to it."
"Very good." Shannon returned her attention to her own screen.
Terry looked up at Shaye, standing beside her. "Hi."
"Hi." The blonde quickly sat down at the computer and logged in.
Terry waited another moment, but when no further conversation came forth, she shrugged mentally and went on with her work. The next student's code returned the correct data, but in jumbled order. Didn't any of them notice these things? She marked the appropriate scoring information and leaned back in her chair, stretching and rolling her shoulders, then remained there for a moment, staring at the ceiling.
"Um... I think your program finished," Shaye offered hesitantly.
Program? Terry looked up. Another little window had popped onto her display. "That's just a message from a friend."
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry." She whipped her head back to her own screen.
Terry sighed and read the text.
Check out today's Dilbert!
Well, that was nothing that couldn't wait. She clicked it away.
"So..." Shaye started. "How do you send messages like that?"
Terry blinked. "Um... you type zwrite and then the person's login name. And then the message. Here, try me, my login's tmh."
A few moments later:
She sent, "You did just fine. slb, huh? What's your last name?"
Badrian. Why did that girl say it was important for me to come to her show? I don't even know her name.
Terry replied, "She's Shannon. And I don't know why. Probably just making sure she has a good audience. Not many people except other performers go to the student recitals." And she waited, feeling somewhat foolish for relying on the computer to communicate with a person who was sitting right next to her.
I have to go. See you tomorrow, okay?
"Okay," she said aloud. Shaye flashed her a quick smile as she stood, shoved her chair in, and darted out of the lab. Terry returned her attention to her grading, not allowing herself to speculate on why the freshman had come to the lab in the first place.
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