Of Mars and Moon: Hearts of Ice
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. Yes, the title is a nod to a particular Ranma fanfic. Terry's quotes are from Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. This is number 15 in the series Of Mars And Moon. Each entry takes place in one day. Love and kisses as always to Shandryl for beta-reading these things.
"So it begins."
"Nothing has begun. They have not yet awakened. This is only a prelude."
"Blood has been shed."
"Where your champion goes, there is always blood."
"I do hope that wasn't intended as an insult."
"Only a statement of fact."
"Shouldn't your champion be righting wrong and triumphing over evil by now?"
"Have patience. These trying times will awaken the noble spirit that slumbers within her. My kingdom shall be avenged."
"Do you always get poetic when reflecting on your *fallen* glory?"
"When she comes into her power, we shall see whose glory has been lost."
Terry's focus was all on the road and its treacherous patches of ice, hard to make out with only the illumination of head and streetlights. Shaye leaned her cheek against the window, its chill an unfriendly reminder of the weather that lurked just outside the car, waiting to steal the heat from her bones. It had not snowed, exactly. There were no friendly drifts of fluffy white to play or build with. Instead, freezing rains had laid shimmering layers of ice over plants and structures alike, dangerously slicking any low-traffic surfaces whose maintainers hadn't yet found sand or salt to strew across them. The day's classes had therefore required keeping careful watch on her feet so as not to wind up unexpectedly sitting in a cold and uncomfortable position. But she hadn't really wanted to look anyone in the eye anyway.
"You sure you don't want me to take you home first?" Terry said without preamble, her eyes still forward.
"I'm fine. I'll just wait in the car."
"I just think it's important that I be there."
"And Mimi's even counting it as working hours, not that the money matters."
There appeared to be nothing else to say.
I want to go home, Shaye thought. To Father. Where it's warm.
But she couldn't say that. Couldn't say that she would much rather have been sitting in the computer lab watching Terry perform her job and hopefully letting the normalcy of the routine reassure her than driving to a house of the dead to visit a corpse.
The funeral home was out of their way, but the distance seemed even longer in the cold and uncomfortable silence that existed between them. They had not touched each other with any kind of passion since that exciting, terrifying Friday night. Terry's guilt was too strong, Shaye's helplessness too awkward, for either to risk reaching out to the other. And the dreams would not come.
Or if they did, they came only in pieces. Shaye had felt the flickers of memory, of Chantrea kneeling before a marble tomb, her mind made blank by grief and loss. But the scene had never formed completely, even in her sleep, and she hoped it was nothing more than a reflection of the current situation.
The car crunched over frozen gravel as Terry pulled into a parking spot. "Wouldn't you rather wait inside?" she asked as she released her seatbelt. "I don't know how long I'll be, and it'll get cold out here."
"I'm not going in there," Shaye said, trying to keep the shuddering out of her voice. The image of her mother, a waxy-skinned lifeless shell surrounded by the overwhelming reek of flowers, still lingered too close to her mind. She didn't know if it would be any easier facing the - even the word "corpse" was repugnant - of a stranger. She didn't want to find out.
"I'll try to be quick then." Terry hesitated for a moment, as if pondering some final word, some affectionate gesture before slipping out into the night. The moment passed, and she opened the door and exited.
Entering the building, Terry rubbed her palms against the fabric of her dress. The same wine-colored dress, in fact, that she had worn to church on the day that had given her a lot of nonsense, a terrible scare, and a new housemate. Funny the way things worked out. But she didn't have a lot of good dresses, so this one would have to serve another somber purpose. Terry wasn't quite certain of funeral home etiquette, but she guessed that jeans and a t-shirt wouldn't be appropriate.
Of course, it would probably have been more fitting for Alan's memory to show up in something black and ragged. But if his family were here, they might not appreciate that.
She moved hesitantly through the foyer, reading the signs to figure out which gallery she was meant to go to. Down one hall stretched a long line of teenagers and their parents, some smiling and talking with each other, others clearly hovering on the edge of hysteria. They were so young, Terry thought. But death is no respector of age.
The direction indicated for Alan Talvi, though, led to a hall that was nearly deserted. The room itself, when she found it, was no more promising. A handful of people clustered at the far end, near a coffin, mercifully closed. She suspected she had been correct about his method of choice - a gun to the head would not leave a body that one could put on display.
"You came." The familiarly frizzy form of Mimi Charis wrapped Terry in an unexpected hug. "This is such a terrible time."
Terry politely disengaged herself from the embrace, her eyes on the floral sprays on the far wall of the room. "I can't stay long. I left someone waiting for me in the car."
Mimi nodded. "My daughter's waiting outside too. She didn't want to come in, and I can't say I blame her. You go on. I'm sure it means a lot to Alan that you were here."
I'm not so sure he would care, Terry thought, but she continued on her path, coming to a halt in front of... it.
She had never seen a coffin before, not been prepared for the shiny reality of it, so much larger than the person had been. Was it a comfortable place for a body to rest? "To die, to sleep, perchance to dream," she muttered to herself, followed by, "Not that I'd like to sleep in a box, mind you, not without any air--you'd wake up dead, for a start, and then where would you be?"
The box itself had a curious ornamentation. She leaned over to peer at it. Yes, there was something unusual affixed to the lid, a patterned piece of dark green stone.
"Nephrite," said a male voice.
Terry blinked. "What?" She turned.
"The stone. It's a kind of jade," said a young man. He was about her own age and not unattractive, with hazel eyes and unevenly-cut brown hair. He walked casually, with faint signs of an uncaring swagger to his hips, but something in his face shone with a disturbing light. "I saw you looking. Would you believe Alan had a will with very specific instructions about how he should be buried?"
"Are you his brother?" That would explain the intensity of his gaze. Grief did funny things to people.
He laughed, a humorless bark. "No. I'm... was his roommate. But he was like a brother in some ways. I'm Kevin." He held out a hand.
She shook it. "Terry. I was a TA for one of his classes."
"Didn't think I'd seen you before," he smiled wolfishly.
Terry refused to admit that he made her uneasy. "Are his parents here?"
"Them? Couldn't be bothered. Didn't give a shit about him, he said. Nobody did." And now a darker, more traditionally mournful look stole onto his face, and he looked away.
"I'm sorry," she said, and retreated. There was nothing she could do here.
The two figures stood among the trees, masked by the darkness. Their voices, at least, were female, if their forms too indistinct to make out in the gloom.
"Damn it," one cursed. "Neither of us can control the temperature. Her partner should be here to keep her warm."
"Then protect her from the winds and the predators of the night," the other replied calmly. "We are not expected to give more than we have."
"The princess should not be out here by herself."
A smile was implied in the tone of the voice. "She never would listen to common sense."
If there were another watcher in the woods to gauge the direction of their interest, he might have followed their gaze to the young blonde leaning against a car, alone and unguarded in the dim parking lot.
Shaye rubbed her hands vigorously up and down her arms, stomping her feet in hopes of keeping her circulation going. She wasn't entirely sure how much it was supposed to help, but it was better than just standing there. At least there was no wind. A stiff breeze might have forced her back into the stuffy tomb of the car. The air out here was freezing her insides, but at least it was fresh and didn't remind her too much of being dead.
She felt a cough forming in her chest and forced herself to ignore it. It's just the weather, she thought. I am not getting sick.
When the cough exploded at last, it came with such a great rumbling of noise that she was quite worried for a moment until she recognised the sound of a motorcycle. Shaye watched as the bike pulled up, but the rider only stood beside it after dismounting, going nowhere. She couldn't see much of him, especially with the helmet. Maybe he was lost. "Excuse me?" she called out politely. "Do you need help?" She realized only a moment after she spoke that some people might not consider it the safest thing in the world to address a dark stranger alone at night. But, well, surely God couldn't fault her for being a Good Samaritan.
The mysterious rider came closer. She still could not make out any distinguishing features. Black helmet, black leather jacket, black jeans... until the helmet was removed with a cascade of black curls, revealing a face whose pallor made the night seem all the more cold. The woman - definitely female, if entirely unfamiliar - stared at her for a moment. "Well?" she challenged.
"Well what?" Shaye asked.
Some of the tension faded from her stance. "You don't know me."
"Should I?" she said, puzzled.
The woman shook her head. "What are you doing here?"
"I came with a friend," Shaye started to say; then, because she wanted to say it to someone, even a stranger, "My girlfriend. She's inside visiting."
The other did not react to the pronouncement of Shaye's status. "Visiting who?"
"Someone named Alan." What a strange thing to ask.
"So why aren't you in there?"
Not entirely a polite question. "I didn't know him." So she returned the favor. "Why are *you* here?"
The dark rider considered for a moment. "Because you don't know me, and you don't know him, I'll tell you." Her voice turned hard-edged, black with self-hatred. "I knew Alan. We went out once. I thought perhaps we could be friends. He wanted more. I told him I wasn't interested. He said he had earned some attention from me. I threw him out. He would keep calling. First it was anger. He called me a frigid bitch with a heart of ice. Then threats. Then it was pleading. I stopped picking up the phone, so he talked to my answering machine. On Friday night he was crying. He begged me to talk to him. He said I was the only thing who could make hislife worth something, his only chance. And I ignored him. Then I heard the shot."
Shaye was transfixed by the horrible expression on that pale face, unable to respond.
"I heard him die."
Shaye hunted for words of comfort, for any way to reach out to the pain that stood before her, but the cold was in her bones, making her dizzy, and her ears rang with the imagined sound of death.
"It wasn't your fault."
They turned to see the new speaker, Shaye bending over with coughs. It was a girl, no more than a teenager with long blond hair and a simple pink dress.
"I never said it was my fault," the biker snapped.
"But it's what he wanted you to believe, isn't it? He tried to make you love him with guilt, and when that didn't work, he tried to leave you with enough guilt that you could never forget him." She scowled. "He was selfish. He wouldn't listen to what you wanted, he only cared about what he wanted, and when you wouldn't give it to him right away, he hated you.
He did everything he could to punish you. What a worthless, self-centered bastard." The harsh words didn't suit her girlish face.
But they stung the dark woman. "No, he wasn't worthless," she whispered. "He was brilliant. He could have been someone. We could have been friends, if he had only waited..." Her words choked off in a sob.
The blond girl rushed over to the black-clad rider; held her tightly as she cried. "It's okay," she said, and nothing more, no rush of soothing nonsense.
After a moment, the woman pulled away. She made no apologies for the redness of her eyes or nose. "I'm Justine," she said.
"I'm Emily," said the girl. "Let's go inside."
And together they went, without a backward glance to Shaye, passing Terry on her way out.
Terry had been only half aware of Shaye's quiet coughing on the drive home. Her mind was full of cold silences. Maybe I shouldn't have gone, she thought. There's nothing I or anyone else can do for him now. We all need to go on with our lives. Get back to normal.
But she didn't feel normal, not even now, sitting in her apartment with the silence buzzing at her ears. Muttering curses under her breath, she snuck back outside, out to the trees and bushes cocooned in crystal ice, to be alone with her anger. It wasn't fair. He was just some kid, some naughty little boy. He had no right to disrupt everyone's lives like this. It wasn't fair!
She closed her eyes and let the anger build up inside of her, felt its fire swirling around her heart, keeping her warm even on this winter night. Then with a sweeping gesture she shoved the anger out of herself, into the cold.
It was the dripping sound that made her open her eyes. She couldn't find the source at first, blinking at the darkness, but as she moved closer to the icy trees, she found that they were no longer icy... at least, not on the side closest to her. The layer of frozen water that had formed over them was gone, melted away, as if the trees had been struck by a great heat.
"That's not possible," Terry said aloud. Clearly these trees had been treated by someone to remove the ice earlier and she just hadn't noticed. There was no other possible explanation. She returned to her room, putting the incident out of her mind. If nothing else, it had served to make her feel better.
It was much later that night, or perhaps even early the next morning, when Terry was awakened in her bed by the door to her room opening. "Unh?" she grumbled at the disturbance.
"Terry?" Shaye's voice was high and thin. "I don't feel well."
Terry was too tired to think of many options for dealing with the situation. "Get in," she mumbled.
Shaye, in one of her borrowed nightshirts, climbed into the small bed. "I feel sick," she whimpered.
"Shh," Terry soothed her with light touches on her face. "G'back t'sleep."
The gentle caresses apparently relaxed her. "You make me feel better," she sighed drowsily.
A minute later, quiet and sleepy, "I'm sorry I woke you up."
"'Sokay. I love you anyway."
"I love you too," Shaye murmured, and drifted off to sleep, neither one awake enough to remember the words they had spoken.
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