Of Mars and Moon: First Contact
By Cecily Hawkins
Disclaimer: This is a not-for-profit fanfic containing characters inspired by copyrighted characters. No damage is intended. This story will contain same-sex romantic and sexual relationships. This is number 11 in the series Of Mars and Moon. Each entry takes place in one day. Sorry about the wait, but you were warned. And yes, the references to products, information, and shows are generally true. Love and kisses as always to Shandryl for beta-reading these things. :)
The princess perched on a cold, carved marble bench; her legs, too short to reach the ground, swung carelessly back and forth. "What were you like as a little girl?"
Arete regarded the blonde's reflection in the room's mirrored walls. "Your circlet is crooked. And sit up straight."
Chantrea sighed and adjusted the silver band with its crescent moon. "No one's looking but you anyway. I don't have to be perfect in front of you."
"You *are* perfect, to me," the dark champion insisted. "But it's best to be on your guard at all times. If someone comes in, you have to be poised."
"If someone comes in, and finds my appearance wanting," Chantreasaid playfully, "I shall tell them that I have been dancing. Even I might be allowed to have a few hairs out of place then."
"You would lie?" Arete arched a brow. "That's hardly ladylike."
The princess hopped lightly to her feet. "I didn't say anything about lying." She took the other's hands in hers and pulled, drawing them both out into the center of the room and spinning into the circles of courtly dance. Their slippers glided smoothly over the floor in the ancient patterns, moving together, apart, around, together. "You're avoiding my question," Chantrea whispered as they faced each other over lightly touching hands.
"Isn't the taller partner supposed to lead in a dance?" Arete returned.
"Or the person of higher rank," she called, as their hands came apart, spinning away. "Is it such a hard question?" she continued when they were close again.
Arete clasped her hands firmly. "You truly want to know?"
The princess nodded.
"Then sit down."
They returned to the bench. In truth, the brief activity had not disrupted Chantrea's golden hair at all, only brought a hint of pink to her cheeks and a glow to her eyes - or perhaps that was simply the eagerness of waiting to hear what her dance partner would say.
"I was not raised with my parents," Arete began. "I had no idea that the people I lived with weren't my real family. I was an adult before I found out who I was. I was not quite an adult when I found out *what* I was."
"We lived in a small village on the edge of the Great Red Desert," Arete said, closing her eyes to eclipse the glowing face of she who watched. "My adoptive parents and their son, my little brother. It was too near the red sands to be a rich place, but we survived. My brother and I were always climbing the cliffs, teasing the livestock, getting into all the trouble we could find. I was nearing the age of adulthood, but our parents never pressured me to choose a trade, to leave behind my childish ways, and I never thought further ahead than getting out of the next scrape. I was nothing but a dirty peasant brat."
"I'm sure you were beautiful," Chantrea insisted.
"There were nomads who lived in the desert. They bought their freedom from government and order with a harsh landscape and a constant struggle to survive. Nothing grows out there. They mine certain substances and trade them for supplies. Or so they claimed. They didn't come to our village very often for trading because, as I said, we were not rich. Perhaps the mining was bad that year, or perhaps it was simply their way, but they..."
"They raided your village," the princess filled in.
"They attacked in the middle of the day, with a dust storm swirling on their heels, a horde of faceless men wound in dark desert cloths, riding their fierce, shaggy beasts." She recited it like an epic, not a memory. "They weren't interested in us, only in our food, stealing what they could and escaping. Most of our people scattered out of the way, let them have what they wanted. My parents grabbed me and hustled me away to hide, keeping me safe because of who I was. They knew, even if I didn't. Their attention was on me and not on their own child. I don't know what happened. Maybe he tried to stop them from robbing our house, maybe he just got in the way, but when they were gone and we came back to our trampled town, we found my brother, dead."
"You were filled with rage," Chantrea whispered. "You organized your people into a miniature army, a mob, and led them after the bandits to bring them to justice."
Eyes still closed, Arete shook her head. "I was not born to lead. I learned leadership much later. No, I took the sword one of them had left by my brother's body, and I set out into the desert alone. It was suicide. I didn't know how to survive in the red sands, I didn't even know how to use the sword. My skin was ripped to shreds by the sandy winds before I found them, and the first one I faced disarmed me easily."
"I killed them all."
"My bare hands. And the fire of my soul." Arete opened her eyes at last, violet depths blazing. "I knew then that whatever I was, I did not belong in that peasant village. I thought at first that I was a monster, a freak of nature. I wished that I had died out there in the red sands, destroyed by my own fire. And when I came to understand that war was my birthright, I resented it. I thought that being a warrior meant that I could never be free of the blood and the horror, of the death...that I could never rise above it."
"But here you are," Chantrea smiled. "*My* warrior. And you speak like a courtier and dance better than any of them. I should know, I've had my feet stepped on often enough by someone trying to impress my mother."
"But if I had been raised with the truth, instead of sent off to live in ignorance. If my real parents had told me who and what I was, and raised me there, those people wouldn't have died." Arete looked away.
"That's why I don't talk about my childhood. It was based on a lie. I was a failure as a peasant and I should never have been allowed to think that I was one."
"Do you really think it's easier to be raised as a princess than as a peasant? You led a life without responsibilities, if only for a while. You had a freedom I have never known. Only now, with you here to protect me, do they let me out of their sight. From the time I could walk I knew how many lives would depend on my wisdom, my decisions, my perfection." The golden princess's voice was calm and collected, her face the perfect porcelain that would not show weariness or sorrow. "For a little while, you were free of your destiny."
"Not knowing about it didn't make me free," the dark warrior said. "I have been yours since the beginning of time, whether I knew it or not."
"I hope you're not complaining."
"Never, my princess." She laid a cool hand - smooth and delicate as all the other nobles' were, despite the damage she could cause with her hands - on that of the blonde. "Doesn't it frighten you? Knowing that I could kill with a touch?"
"It's what you are, and have always been." Young as she was, her face remained royally impassive. "I was born to be a queen, and I know the power of the weapons I wield."
Arete released her touch. "*You* would have rallied the people and gone after them."
"Someday, I will."
The tiles of the kitchen floor were cold and smooth under Shaye's bare feet. There would, she thought, be time enough for the constraints of shoes and socks later. For now, her toes mingled with the crumbs as she moved from cupboard to stove, setting up the frying pan. She muffled a smile as a distant thump alerted her to Terry's waking - and her probable mood at being roused from sleep by the clatter of cooking. It would do the other girl good to have a decent breakfast for once instead of the garbage she insisted was proper geek food.
She splashed milk into the pan and followed it with three eggs, carrying the shells to the trash can, since Terry's sink had no garbage disposal. Shaye scrambled the mass a bit, then added shredded cheese, turned on the stove, and set the kitchen timer for a few minutes. The opening and closing of doors marked Terry's passage from bedroom to bathroom and back, and then she, dark hair still ruffled, was standing at the entrance to the kitchen, peering skeptically into the yellow-and-white concoction on the stove. "What's that?" she grunted.
"Scrambled eggs," said Shaye cheerfully.
"You're gonna eat that?"
Terry blinked. "I hate breakfast."
"You need breakfast. It's an important start to your day. Especially when you've got classes and you're going to be working into the evening." She smiled triumphantly. "Now I'm cooking these eggs and you're going to eat them."
"Is that what your mother would say?" Terry fired back bitterly.
The darker girl saw the stricken expression on her guest's face and cursed herself for a fool. "I'm sorry, that was rude of me. It's very... sweet of you to make breakfast."
She turned to stir the eggs. "I've never told you about my mother, have I?" she asked casually.
"No," Terry said, only just realising that it was true. Her mind painted frightening scenarios of a parent so terrible that the girl didn't even want to think about her.
"She probably wouldn't have added cheese," Shaye mused, then shook her head. "She died when I was ten."
"Oh," said Terry, then, finding that response lacking, added, "I'm sorry."
"It's all right," she shrugged. "She was wonderful. She really liked cooking. Healthy foods, of course, but she could make anything delicious. She didn't want to be anything but a good Church-going housewife and mother. That was her joy in life."
"She wasn't stupid or anything," Shaye defended. "She was very determined about having her way. She converted my father, way back when. He really loved her."
"Must have been a lot to live up to."
"Sometimes," she admitted. "What about you?"
Terry blinked. "What about me?"
"Your family. Your parents. What are they like?"
Terry said nothing.
The sudden staccato beeping of the timer called Shaye to turn, fumbling with its buttons to cancel the noise. When she looked back, Terry was nowhere in sight, and the sound of the bathroom door closing indicated the direction of her retreat.
So, Shaye pondered as she spooned the scrambled eggs around, my dream was right. She's hiding something.
Monday was always the most unpleasant of school days, following in the wake of the weekend's freedom. It had been even more unnerving for Shaye, with a week of relaxation being brought to a screeching halt by awkward questions of where she'd been and what had happened to her, not to mention the piles of photocopied notes and assignments she'd had to collect to make up for the lost time. To counter the stress on Shaye's face, Terry had sent her with a bathing suit and directions to the university swimming pool so she could enjoy herself there while Terry was working in the computer lab.
The lab was packed that night, and Terry, arriving late, was forced to wait at the side of the room for a computer to be free so she could sit down. She supposed that there must be a class with a group project due, since several machines had three or four people clustered around them. The room was filled with chatter, occasionally on computer-related subjects, but often not.
"...so all the kids came out walking on their hands, and they circled around the room, and then one at a time they'd come into the middle and perform their special trick..."
"...it cost $30 and it came wrapped in plastic, I am not letting it out of my sight. If you want to see it, you'll have to come over..."
"...so she said I should date his roommate to get back at him, and I pointed out that he doesn't have a roommate..."
"...and the pickles are really hard to find..."
Terry dove for a computer as soon as one was available. Despite the crowd, no one seemed to be interested in her assistance.
"...so then she bent over backwards and picked up the needles with her eyelids..."
"...well of course it was brown paper originally, or my mom would have freaked when it was delivered!..."
"...and she said I should try his best friend then, but I told her his best friend is married and he hates me, and she said that was perfect..."
"...you think that's weird? Try peanut butter pizza..."
To pass the time, Terry began running websearches on progressively stranger terms. Most of them, of course, only landed her in porn sites crammed full of every word in the dictionary precisely to catch search engines. The steam-powered Turing machine was a nice find, however. She moved to browsing webcam listings and found herself with a wide selection of virtual aquariums, plus one fellow who had rigged the lights in his room so that you could turn them on and off with a command sent by clicking a button on his webcam page.
"...and then the boy brings his feet over so that they're hanging in front of his eyes, and he threads the needle with his toes..."
"...yeah, they'll keep trying forever until they find what you ordered. They're cool that way..."
"...Not even if you paid me..."
"...I draw the line at rattlesnake..."
Remembering Shaye's cute little obsession, Terry went wandering to see what the web had to offer about Sailor Moon. She realised only after clicking the button that she had forgotten to remove the "fish" from a previous search from the line. Much to her surprise, there seemed to be a wide variety of fish-related Sailor Moon pages. Scrolling through the results, she picked a page on official snack foods, and was left giggling at various strange themed food items, like pasta shapes, rice seasoning, and of course fish sausage. Clearly, she smirked, some fans are a lot weirder than Shaye. Some people would buy just about anything with the name of a show on it...
Another search landed her in a gallery full of the characters drawn in various poses with each other, and without much clothing. Terry blinked. The images certainly looked like the artistic style of the show, but they had to be faked. Surely no children's cartoon would include lesbian characters, even in Japan... right? Zooming in on a particular intertwining of limbs, she thought to herself that if this sort of thing really was standard on the airwaves, perhaps she ought to visit...
A little message window popped onto her screen.
"Why so subdued?" she sent back.
I'm worried about Justine.
"Justine who? Justine from last week Justine?"
Yeah. Her. Turns out we're neighbors. We've talked some.
"...so the littlest one went around the room with a hat in her feet asking for pennies..."
"...no thanks, I think I can get my own somewhere else..."
Terry typed, "What's the problem?"
She went out with that Alan creep.
"I saw them together. What's so creepy about him, besides that he's no more ethical with computers than you are?"
They had some huge fight yesterday that ended with him banging on the door and screaming at her. He sounded pretty crazy and she won't talk to me about it.
"...so she said that revenge is always the best policy, even if it..."
"...leaves a nasty taste in your mouth..."
Terry typed, "You think he's abusive?"
I don't know. I'm afraid that if he did hurt her she wouldn't say anything. She keeps to herself too much. I wish she'd let me know what's going on.
"You're sure this is really your place to get involved? I mean, you don't know that they had anything but a normal disagreement. It's not really your business, and you barely know her."
She's my friend and I care about her.
"You're not falling for a girl, are you?" she sent, half-smiling.
That's not funny.
"Sorry. Well, I don't know her at all, so I can't really help you. I'm sure it'll be okay." She sent the message and sighed. I wonder if Shaye's having a good time swimming? she thought.
"Yagh!" Terry fell half out of her chair, saved from a truly humiliating upset by the fact that there was a wall and not another student on that side of her. "Don't DO that!" she chastised Shaye, who had somehow snuck up on her.
Shaye giggled. "That's the second time. Do you do that whenever anyone talks to you?"
No, only the ones who I was just thinking about half-dressed and dripping... She blinked, noticing that Shaye's hair was completely dry. "What happened to swimming?"
The blonde blushed surprisingly brightly for such an innocent question. "The pool was, um, occupied..."
"...by people who didn't want to be disturbed."
Terry frowned. A class at this time of night? How strange. "Well, find a computer if you can, I guess, I'm still going to be here awhile."
"Okay," said Shaye, and escaped.
Terry looked back at her computer and then smacked herself, realising that the naked cartoon girls she had been looking at earlier were still on the screen. Had Shaye noticed? No wonder she'd scurried off... Oh well, Terry considered, the damage is done, in for a penny, in for a pound, and so on.
She spent the rest of her shift browsing suggestive imagery, never once checking to see what Shaye had on her monitor.
The drive home had been quiet, but not, Terry judged, the awkward, strained silence of mutual embarassment. Instead it seemed that Shaye's mind was elsewhere. She had been distracted often since the previous day. Terry supposed it was none of her business. Shaye didn't appear upset. Just pondering.
They were relaxing comfortably in front of the television, Terry lying on the couch, Shaye sitting on the floor leaning against it. A rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation kept the room from being silent with a woman named Ishara trying to help the Coalition against the Alliance, or something like that. Terry wasn't certain of the details. Not then, while she was watching with only half her attention, and certainly not after Shaye turned and spoke:
"What were you like as a little girl?"
Terry forgot all about the Starfleet hostages. "What?"
"You heard me." Shaye was still facing the television, her tone casual.
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"You never talk about the past. Your past."
"Maybe that means I don't want to talk about it."
Now she turned. "I live with you. Don't I deserve to know something?"
"You're visiting here because I let you. If not knowing stuff about me bothers you, then you should have thought about that before you came here."
"So you want me to leave?"
"No, of course not." Terry bit her lip. "It's none of your... you haven't told me everything about you either," she tried, switching tactics.
"What do you want to know?" Shaye said without hesitation. "My mother was perfect and I loved her and she's dead now, and my father's a little strict and our religion's kinda strange, but I love him too. When I was six years old, I wanted to be a ballerina. Wheatgrass juice is the most disgusting thing in the world and my father would make me drink it every now and then for my health. I have a collection of Palm Sunday crosses in my dresser at home. Anything else?"
Terry sighed. "I don't like talking about some of my past because it sounds like I'm begging for sympathy. And that's not what I want."
Shaye was turned all the way around now, her arms wrapped around her legs, her chin resting on her knees. "So it wasn't a happy childhood?"
Terry grunted. "You could say that."
"Are your parents still around?"
"Parent. I don't know who my father was. As long as I can remember my mother was married to someone who liked to point out that I wasn't his."
"Ouch," Shaye looked sympathetic. "So are you and your mother close?"
"My mother did enough junk that she can't recognise who's speaking to her most of the time. Fried her brain."
The blonde appeared to be searching for something positive to say. "It must be hard, having her... sick... but surely they love you, really, don't they? I mean, they sent you to college, you've got a nice apartment..."
Terry's face went cold.
"What is it?" Shaye asked softly.
"There are things you don't want to know," she fired back. "If I tell you, you'll regret it."
The younger girl hesitated a moment, then, "That's mine to decide."
Terry closed her eyes. She couldn't bear to see the reaction on the other's face when the truth came out. "My... family didn't send me to college. They didn't pay for any of this. I did."
"We lived in a tiny rathole of an apartment. Me, my crazy mother, my obnoxious half-brother, and my bastard of a stepfather. Half the time he'd forget to pay the bills and blame us for it. It stank and I hated it there, so I spent as much time at school as I could. Not doing schoolwork, just being somewhere other than home. And that's how I got into computers."
"Yes?" Shaye prompted as she paused.
Terry smiled faintly. "Real hackers aren't doing it for money. Real hackers are doing it for bragging rights, and so they'll keep going after bigger and bigger targets until eventually they screw up. If all you really want is the cash, you can get away with thousands and never get caught, as long as you know when to stop."
"I stole." Her eyes opened. "I'm not going to tell you how, or how much, or how I got away with it. As it is, you can't prove anything, and you don't know enough to be an accomplice after the fact. I managed to get enough money to get away, and I left." Half-smile. "That's why I work in the lab now. I don't need the paycheck. But it's my way of giving a little something back."
Shaye's eyes were wide. "Oh."
"Oh? Is that all you can say? Oh?" Terry pulled her legs away from the blonde. "Don't you get it? I'm a thief. I broke the law. And I don't feel the least bit guilty about it. I walked away from my "family" and I never looked back and I don't know if they're alive or dead and I don't care about that either. I am not a good person, don't you understand that."
Impossibly deep pools of blue and shaky voice. "You needed the money. Does that make it wrong?" she whispered.
"It sure doesn't make it right..."
Eyes shimmering, trembling. "And I need you. Is that wrong?"
Shaye's knees came down. She knelt, leaned over, and kissed Terry full on the lips. Terry's mouth fell open in amazement, and the blonde continued the kiss. It was awkward, unskilled, certainly nothing like the experienced tongue-tangling of her previous passionate encounters, but it was not hesitant. For that moment, as their breaths met, Terry was sure that Shaye knew exactly what she was doing.
And then the kiss ended. Violet-tinged eyes stared into blue-green... and panicked. Terry shrank back against the couch. "This is wrong," she whispered.
"What?" said Shaye, struggling to restore her breathing to normal.
"You don't want this." She scrambled up to sit on the back of the couch, far from the girl on the floor. "You're upset, confused, you've just left home, you're trying to rebel against the church, you don't really want to do this."
The blonde looked stung. "You complain about the church trying to control my life, and now -you're- going to tell me what I want, what I can do?"
"I'm not a stupid child! I know what I'm doing."
Terry took a breath. "And what do you think you're doing?"
"What do you know about seducing a woman?" she said, and wished she hadn't.
She laughed. "Alex and Shannon were at the pool when I went down today. I got quite an education."
Terry gaped. "Oh," she managed.
Shaye stood, hands on her hips, flaunting her breasts forwards. "Didn't you want me to kiss you? Honestly?"
"Yes," she said, since there seemed no point in lying.
"Don't you want me to kiss you again?"
"Y-n-y-I.." she waved a hand in front of her face. "I can't deal with this!"
Shaye smirked. She actually smirked. "I see. I'm moving too fast for you."
Terry was sure her cheeks were blazing. "Something like that."
She winked coquettishly. "Then what should we do? We're already living together, after all."
"We should... have a proper date," Terry stammered. If this was temporary insanity on the other's part, that would give it a chance to dissipate.
"Fine. Think of something," Shaye said, and without another word, flounced past the darker girl and off to her bedroom.
Terry sat on the edge of the sofa, stunned. When did I lose control of my life? she wondered.
And she suspected that the answer to that was the first time that she had laid eyes on that bewitching little blonde.
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