Of Mars and Moon: Candles in the Sky
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 number 6 in the series Of Mars And Moon. Each entry takes place in one day. Religion
warning: No offense to any sect, belief, or lack thereof should be inferred. Oh, and love and kisses to Shandryl for beta-reading these things. :)
"Your Highness, don't do this," pleaded a voice behind her.
Chantrea turned to see a dark-haired woman kneeling before her, not in the armor of battle but in the soft, flowing robes of the nobility. "Since when have you ever bowed to me, Arete?" she demanded. Arete, not Terry.
"Only when you need me to," Arete retorted. "Princess, this is not safe. You are not a fighter. You don't belong out there. You are a woman-"
"I am a woman in a nation of women."
"-born to rule. You have a responsibility, and you cannot be risked. I am your warrior. I fight in your name. You are the heart of the kingdom..."
"And you are my strong hand, but the heart and the hand must rule together." Chantrea's hand closed around the staff. "I am not a child anymore. How can I learn to lead my people if I am constantly protected, coddled from the world they live in? They depend on me for protection. I
have to be strong enough to justify that faith."
Arete's eyes blazed, but she held her submissive position. "Love, you are not a warrior. I don't want you to have to see the violence. I don't want you to have to kill. That's what you have me for."
"There are ways of conquering people without killing them," Chantrea said.
Arete, her champion, whom none but she could tame, lowered her eyes.
Shaye opened her eyes, memories of hearts and strength and rulership fluttering at the edges of her mind. She knelt beside the bed, lowering her head and crossing herself swiftly. "Dear God, in your wisdom please help me to understand my dreams," she whispered. They could not be literally true. For that to have been herself would mean past lives, reincarnation... and those things simply weren't real. The Church had said so. The dreams were symbols, somehow, of what God needed her to do... She only wished their messages were clearer.
For a moment, she envied her dream-self. Chantrea knew what she wanted and what she was meant to do. While Arete might argue with her, in the end she would serve and support her princess. They were always together, in those dreams. In the waking world, Shaye hadn't seen Terry since her attempt at witnessing. Even the thought of Terry made her heart beat faster, made her angry, frightened, and lonely all at once. She had to find some way to heal the breach between them, to bring the lost lamb to the love of God. Surely then her heart would be at peace.
An image of Terry surrounded by fluffy wool and wearing a pink bow popped into her mind, and she smiled. All right, "lamb" really wasn't the right word.
Shaye stood, yawned, stretched. Maybe the latest dream only meant that she needed more strength, more confidence. The situation would work out somehow if she were simply patient and persevered.
On her way to the closet to pick out a dress for the day, she paused by her bedroom window. Her eyes widened. *Snow!* She pressed her hand against the glass, smearing fingerprints on it in her rush to feel the cold leaking through. Snow was a rare and wonderful event here, and
she immediately wanted to run out and play while it lasted. Snowballs and snow angels and snowmen... even if they'd have to be very small ones...
But she was not a child anymore. Shaye tore her eyes away from the falling clumps of white and completed her morning preparations, descending the stairs washed, dressed, and brushed, to eat her healthy breakfast and begin her proper day.
Father smiled at her over the table. "Did you see the weather outside? The groundhog won't see his shadow today here."
"Yes, Father," Shaye replied automatically. Maybe, she thought to herself, maybe I can play in it later. He doesn't have to know. If the snow sticks.
By noon, the snow was only a memory preserved in a light dusting on rooftops. The temperature was still low, but the fall had stopped hours before, and what had reached the ground had mostly melted away.
Terry had given in to the weather enough to cover her arms and legs, wearing blue jean overalls and a long-sleeved burgundy shirt. It was more than sufficient to keep her warm, and she pitied the
unfortunates who had bulked up in heavy coats when they set out in the morning, expecting the snow to continue.
"Hey," someone said.
She turned to look. Alex was leaning casually against a brick building, in black pants and a white men's button-down shirt, with the top buttons undone and the rolled cuffs showing above her hands, jammed into her pants pockets. Gold glittered around her neck. "Hey yourself,"
"Not really. Why?" The two of them had never really done anything together, and Terry wondered what she wanted.
"Wondered if you wanted to go running with me."
With a glance at Alex's build, Terry guessed that she could be quite a good runner under there. "Does Shannon run with you?" Careless smile. "Shannon doesn't run with me for the same reason
I don't play the piano when she performs."
"You suck at it?" Terry grinned. She could just imagine the tall blonde growling at a musical instrument that failed to do what she wanted, much the same way she treated computers...
Arched brow. "No. I don't want to distract attention from her."
"Uh-huh." Leave it to Alex to refuse to admit any weakness. "Are you on the track team or something?"
"Nah." She tossed her head, still smiling insolently. "No fun. I'd just win all the time."
"Honest." She pushed off from the wall and stood up straight. "I don't like losing. And I always get what I want." She winked.
Terry backed up ever so slightly, keeping polite conversational space between them. "What's the secret of your success?"
"Know what you want and never give up." Alex's eyes fixed on hers intensely.
To her annoyance, Terry felt her cheeks warm slightly at that look. She grabbed for a quick distraction. "Nice necklace. Is it new?"
Alex's fingers picked the pendant away from her shirt, pushed it forward to be examined. "My birthday present from Shannon."
"Oh, happy birthday." Terry reached for the necklace. The pendant was a small golden sword, incredibly detailed for its tininess. She could see the wire grip of the hilt, the swirls etched into the crossguard, and the circle-and-cross symbol for woman on the pommel... realising how
close her face and hand had been brought to the other woman's breasts, she let go and stood up again. "Nice."
Alex shrugged. "Well, if you don't want to run with me, guess I'll just go on my own." She turned and walked off.
Terry was tempted to call after her, but she stopped herself. She knew what she wanted, and it wasn't Alex.
The cloud cover thinned out by afternoon, and splotches of blue sky or bright sunlight broke out amidst the greyness. Shaye was seated on a bench, reading her homework in the fresh air, and wishing she'd had the chance for just one snowball.
Various people were milling about the quad, some still in winter coats, most in light jackets. She saw a woman with a little boy in tow and smiled reflexively, wondering what the kid was doing on a college campus. Probably his mommy worked here.
Shaye returned her attentions to the basic theories of social deviance. She liked sociology. Other classes were frustratingly difficult and required too much work, but sociology was all about people, which she understood... well, only sometimes, but the more she studied, the more she hoped to understand. Maybe she could be a social worker. Not as a real job, but to be able to reach out to people.
A sudden wail jerked her away from her book. The little boy, red curly hair tight to his head, had apparently run ahead of his keeper and fallen on the sidewalk before her. The woman who had been with him was not immediately in sight, and the child was crying over his bloody knee.
Shaye closed her book and set it on the bench with her bag, then knelt down next to the boy. "Shh, shh, let me see," she soothed him.
The child continued blubbering, but did not draw away from her.
A memory crept into her mind, of laying her hands upon people and watching cuts mend themselves, fevers fade. She reached out her hand, cupped it gently over the wound, not quite touching the injured flesh, and thought she could feel heat flowing through her and into the boy. His
crying slowed, then stopped, as her smile grew. Cautiously, wonderingly she peeled her fingers away, to reveal... that the knee was still bleeding.
Shaye rocked back on her heels, dismayed at her silliness for believing.
"Danny!" The woman she had seen earlier appeared and scooped the child away, scolding him as they went. "I told you not to run like that..."
Shaye sighed as they moved out of sight. Someone offered her a hand, and she took it without looking, pulling herself back to her feet. "Thanks..." She gulped. It was Terry. She snatched her hand away. "...but I could have gotten up on my own."
Terry's eyes hardened. "I suppose you had to help him because of your religion."
She winced. "I had to help him because of *me*." Not wanting to fight, she sat and reached for her book again.
Terry looked abashed. "I'm sorry, that was rude. I didn't mean it like that."
"No, I'm sorry," Shaye said properly. "I shouldn't have said what I did last week. It was very unChristian of me. I hope you will forgive me."
"Of course," she said, but didn't look happy about it. Moments passed while each waited for the other to find something to say. "Well, see ya," Terry mumbled at last.
"Yeah," Shaye replied feebly and watched her depart. Getting things out in the open between them had been supposed to make them stop feeling so awkward. Why were they so tongue-tied around each other? She wrestled with the confused misery Terry inspired in her and pushed it
back down out of sight. She *would* find a way to deal with this. Somehow.
Terry sat in the lab that evening, replaying those moments over and over again. No question, she had been downright impolite. Accusing any action of having religious overtones? What would she do next, blame Shaye for breathing in the name of God?
She started it, a whiny voice in her mind insisted. She called pagans evil witches. She probably thinks you're possessed by demons because you're a lesbian. She told you to go to Hell. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
Besides, Terry reasoned glumly, if she hadn't jumped away from me like I was the Antichrist when I tried to help her up, I wouldn't have said what I did. She hates me. There was never any chance of something happening between us anyway, and now it's over, and I can deal with that.
"Miss? Um, miss?" called a voice.
Terry got up and wandered to the side of a young redhaired man, who pointed a finger accusingly at his screen. "It says there's no such function defined, but that's the name of the function we were given. See, it says right here!" He flipped through some papers stapled together. "It says to call confine from class CBox, and that's what I did, but it won't compile."
Terry looked at the specifications on the sheet, then back at his code. "You're passing it the wrong arguments, so it can't find the function you want. You're sending it the pointer when it wants the actual object. Here, put a star in front of this." She typed in the change and hit compile for him. "Like that."
"No problem, that's my job." Terry returned to her own computer, adjusting the bag of supplies by her chair. She had one last commitment tonight...
"Do you have to sound so cheerful all the time?" she typed.
"No, nothing's wrong. I'm fine."
Have you made up with ChristianGirl yet?
"No, she still hates me because I'm a wicked witch."
And because you like to eat little girls!
Terry smiled. "Only after I lure them into my gingerbread house," she sent.
You know I love you like a sister. Don't take it too hard.
"I thought you were the one saying she wanted me?" Terry teased, and sighed. Maybe Alex was right. Maybe she just shouldn't give up. Maybe at any minute now, that cute little blonde would walk in and say....
Terry jumped. "Ack!"
"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you," Shaye said, sliding into a chair beside her and smiling. Terry glanced nervously back at her screen. Sure enough, a message from kdh had popped up. Her eye picked out the first few words, "Of course she wants you. She's desperately repressed and needs you to service her hot wet..." Terry quickly clicked on the window, banishing it from existence before Shaye could possibly catch sight of its contents. Summoning up a smile, she turned back to the freshman. "I just wasn't expecting to see you here."
"After the way I treated you last week?"
Oh, good, bring up the unpleasant part right away. "Yes, after that."
"I'm really sorry about that," Shaye smiled apologetically. "I came on too strong."
Gods, I wish you had. "No, it's okay. You were just sharing what you believe in. I can respect that."
"But I didn't show any respect for your beliefs." She reached up and brushed her hair back behind her ears. "If you want to meet sometime and tell me about them, I promise I'll try to listen and not get angry."
Terry checked the clock. "How about now?"
Shaye blinked. "But... you're at work!"
"You work four hour shifts, you get a fifteen minute break. It's a law." She stood, grabbing the bag at her feet with one hand and Shaye's wrist with the other. "Come on."
"Where are we going?" Shaye followed along.
Terry picked up the pace. "Outside. Can't do it in here."
"I'll show you."
Shaye balked at the door. "Show me *what*?"
Terry mustered what little innocence she could manage to turn big eyes on the younger girl. "Trust me? Please?" Almost to her surprise, Shaye acquiesced. Together they left the building through the back exit.
Although the building itself had been quiet, the stillness of the winter night was a noticeable difference. It was cool, but not unbearably cold. The few parking spaces here afforded no lamps, so the only illumination besides the night sky itself was a single light over the door from which they had exited. No insects buzzed. No cars waited. No dark figures lurked.
Terry crossed the paved area and sat crosslegged in the grass, knowing the moisture from the morning's lost snow would find its way into the seat of her overalls. The bag she set beside her with a clink. "Come here. Sit down. On the blacktop if you want, it might be a little wet in the green."
Shaye squatted obediently. "What are we *doing* out here?"
"Shh." Terry closed her eyes and tilted her head back. "Just sit still and listen for a moment."
"It's quiet," Shaye said after a while.
"In the beginning." Terry reached into her bag and brought out two old glass soda bottles, washed clean, and set them on the flat surface of the parking lot. Next she pulled out two white candles, the
base of each whittled down to be able to fit properly into the neck of a bottle. She slid them into their improvised holders and dug around in the bag for her box of matches. A few scrapes and light flared at her fingertips. She touched the match's flame to each of the candle wicks, then blew it out and tucked the spent match back into the box, which was dropped into the bag. The twin fires grew steadily in the breezeless night. "To new beginnings," Terry intoned solemnly.
Shaye waited a moment. "Aren't we supposed to be talking about something?"
Terry grinned. "You were just part of a pagan ritual."
"Not much of a pagan ritual, but then, I'm not much of a pagan."
"But you didn't even do anything... I mean, there's no robes, no pentagram."
Terry shrugged. "I don't need 'em. I told you, I'm not really into the big stuff. This is plenty for me."
"But all you did was light candles! Everybody does that."
"Ever heard of Candlemas?"
Shaye fidgeted with her hair. "Umm... it's an old feast day when they'd bless the Church candles for the year."
"Should have figured you'd know. Did you know it was today?"
She blinked. "No."
"Yup. And there used to be a bunch of old rhymes about it, too. Like, "If Candlemas day be sunny and bright, Winter again will show its might. If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey, Winter soon will pass away." If it's sunny on February 2nd, winter will continue... sound familiar?"
"Groundhog Day!" Shaye smiled. "I didn't know that came from the church. But what's that got to do with witch things?"
Terry watched the candle flames wink and dance. "It's Groundhog Day and Candlemas. It's also Imbolc. It's a sort of... not quite a rebirth, that doesn't come until around your Easter. It's the first
movements of the seeds that will be reborn. It's a day about beginnings. So it's traditional to burn white candles. And I made you part of it because... I wanted us to be able to have a new beginning." She looked up at the other girl. "Are you mad?"
Shaye, too, stared at the candles. "I... am I supposed to feel something? Some sort of magic?"
"Well, you're not supposed to feel a huge overwhelming urge to sell your stuff and join a hippie cult or something, no." Terry risked a smile.
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"Um. Meditate on seeds and beginnings. Think about things you want to bring into your life." Things I want in my life. Like you.
"Okay." Shaye pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, closing her eyes. Terry watched as the girl's breathing slowed, a peaceful expression relaxing her face and making her seem even younger than usual. The light of the full winter moon gleamed in her long
golden hair. Silent and serene, she was unutterably beautiful.
Terry realised she was staring and tore her eyes away. It had only been an impulse, to pull the girl into her ritual, but Shaye's presence made the winter night more warm and wonderful than the pitiful candles ever could. Shakespeare's words spoke in her head: "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!" With pain in her heart, she raised her eyes again, unable to deny herself the sight of one for earth too dear. "Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight. For I ne'er saw true
beauty till this night."
Shaye opened her eyes, blissfully unaware of the other's thoughts. "Look at all the stars," she said softly. "Can you believe this morning it was snowing? It's all so clear now."
"Pretty, isn't it?"
She smiled. "Thank you for showing me a little of your world."
Shaye reached around to take hold of Terry's hand. "I want to ask you to do something for me."
For you, I would go to the Moon and back. "Okay."
"I want you to come to church with me this Sunday." She squeezed her hand gently. "I'm not asking you to convert. I just want you to see my world too."
She knew she should say no. She knew she should run now, cut her losses while she still had a chance. Forget her smile, forget her hair in the moonlight.
"... all right."
You are such an idiot, Terry told herself.
Shaye looked at the flickering candles, still near their original height. "How long are you supposed to burn them for?"
"I think they generally burn them all the way down. But I don't have time, really."
"Oh, yes, you have to go back to work."
Terry had almost forgotten *that* reason for leaving. "Right." To prevent temptation, she blew the flames out at once, one after the other. She stood, swatting ineffectively at the wet patch on her behind. "Are you coming in?"
"Actually," Shaye mused, "I think I'm going to sit here for a few more minutes."
"You're not afraid? I mean, to be here in the dark, alone?"
The blonde shook her head. "I'll be fine. You go on."
It was with the memories of this almost unreal discussion that Terry returned, alone, to her computer in the lab, where an email waited for her. From Alan Talvi. "Watch your back," it read. "I know who you really are."
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