Of Mars and Moon: In Sickness and in Health
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. Mycoplasmic pneumonia references are based on personal experience. I pondered titling this after Gaiman instead of Xena (ie, "I Woke Up and One of Us Was Crying") but it didn't quite fit. This is number 16 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.
Her slippered feet pattered lightly over the marble floors as she ran, driven not by desperate urgency but by frustrated tension. It didn't matter how fast she moved. Some things could not be outrun.
Boots, she thought. I should have boots. Something loud and thick to stomp with, something to make an -impact- on this horrible frozen place, something that could at least make a sound instead of silently acquiescing, being proper, going along with The Way It Must Be Done. But the princess didn't own any boots. Only the soft and gentle footwear of obedient nobility and their endlessly sheltered, dictated lives. The slippers of tradition, that passed noiselessly through the crystal palace. And she knew nothing else.
Chantrea ran through the corridors, at last reaching the door she had sought. She shoved it open, willing it to bang and clatter. "She says I have no choice," she blurted. "She says I have to marry him whether I like it or not."
Arete's face showed no reaction. "It is for the good of the kingdom," she said carefully.
"Bullshit!" Chantrea exploded, the foul word curling her lips in unaccustomed ways. "I am the kingdom! What about my good?"
"If he did a thing to harm you, I would kill him," Arete said calmly.
"And taking me away from you isn't harming me?" Tears welled in her eyes. "What happens to us, if I'm married to a prince?"
Still no emotion on her brow. "I would honor your wedding vows."
"What about us?" And now the crystalline shimmer broke from her eyes and spilled across her cheeks, painting her with tears like dew. "Tell me you don't love me," she challenged. "Tell me it's over between us, and I will marry him without one more word of protest. Tell me you never want to see me again and I'll turn around and walk right back to my mother and it will all be done with. Say it!"
The dark-haired woman, her warrior's spirit only glossed over by the soft noble's robes she wore, touched a gentle hand to her lover's wet face. "I will love you until the last sands of time fall and beyond."
"Then help me stop this!" the princess pleaded.
Arete placed her hands on her gentle beloved's shoulders. "We have a duty, both of us. I am sworn to uphold the order of the kingdom, to defend it, to sustain it. And you are required to continue it. If your mother says you must marry, then you will, and I will support that marriage. And so the kingdom will continue, and be strong."
"I want you!"
Those hands moved to cup the beautiful face. "And I want you," she whispered. "I can't imagine living without you. I don't think I could survive without your love. But this, in the flesh... the flesh doesn't last forever. We can survive apart for a while. Beyond the flesh, we -will- be together. For eternity."
"You swear it?"
Arete leaned forwards, pressing a soft kiss to the trembling lips of her princess. Then she stepped back, reaching for her sash, drawing out the slender dagger which she, as Chantrea's champion, was permitted to carry inside the palace. Its blade was more like pearl than silver to the eyes, but its edge was keen beyond reckoning, and sliced cleanly through her palm. "I swear by Mars and Moon and by the powers to which even the gods must answer."
Chantrea hesitated only a moment before snatching the dagger and applying it to her own skin. "By Moon and Mars and by the powers beyond."
They pressed their hands together.
"My blood is your blood. My life is your life. My soul is your soul. May this bond outburn all the stars."
And then they were weeping openly in each others arms, lips seeking lips, breasts and thighs moving against each other, participants in the timeless dance that soon would be denied them in the flesh, but never in the spirit...
Shaye awoke with tears flowing freely, but hers were joyous. "At last I understand," she whispered. "At last, I know."
Terry approached the office, timecard in hand. She hadn't been keeping up her usual number of hours for the department this period. First the blossoming romance with her young flatmate had driven her to distraction, making even the work that she had no choice about doing difficult. Then, the shock of Alan's death and its accompanying guilt had turned her away from computers. Finally, Shaye's worsening health had made her frantic until the diagnosis came through.
That first night, when the blonde had crawled into bed with her, it had seemed like nothing more than a cold, a light cough, and nothing to worry about. Shaye had gone back to sleep easily enough. The next morning, however, she had been too miserable to go to class, coughing painfully, dizzy and weak from rising fever. Terry had given her aspirins and hoped for the best. It was that night that fever-dreams had kept her sweaty and restless, crying out in the dark at visions only she could see.
And then it had become hard to breathe.
Terry remembered the panic of that morning, of Shaye gasping for air with lungs that refused to fully inflate, of coughing that could only be eased for a few minutes with the infusion of hot liquids and then would return in force. She remembered the rush to the hospital, the pacing as she waited for the doctors to return her precious charge, the way her heart had skipped a beat when she first heard "pneumonia" mumbled quietly among the staff. Only after she had been repeatedly assured that it was actually a very common college ailment, not a dangerous viral infection, and that Shaye would be fine, could she relax.
A nurse had warned her that prolonged close contact with Shaye could transmit the disease to her, but she wasn't worried. Terry rarely got sick, and if she did, they had experience with this now, they could handle it. She certainly wasn't going to abandon Shaye to try and spare herself.
All in all, it had gone fairly smoothly, for their first real living-together crisis.
She smacked the timecard distractedly against her palm as she entered, wondering if she should keep this job at all. She didn't need the money, or the time commitment. And as for the hairshirt value of serving an industry that she had previously exploited for her own selfish gain... it seemed less meaningful than it once did.
Terry knew she had done wrong. Cracking - no, stealing - money wasn't right, even if she'd had need of it. She had no idea whose lives she might have disrupted in her teenage crime spree. Perhaps people lost their jobs, fell into the same poverty she had been trying to escape. Perhaps small companies had collapsed when she pulled the pins out from under them. She had been careful never to find out, never to look back. And now, with the amount of time that had passed since her last illegal foray, it seemed unlikely that she would ever be made to officially face up to what she'd done.
And unofficially, a campus job wasn't any real way of paying it back. For all she knew, her having that job was preventing it from going to someone else, someone who might need the money as badly as she once had. What if someone, for the lack of that job, turned to cracking? She wasn't helping matters any. She hadn't even been able to help Alan, when she should have seen the warning signs.
But more to the point, Terry thought, what I did is my past. Maybe it all happened for a reason, the Divine Plan that Shaye thinks is guiding everything. But it's behind me. I have the chance for a real future now, if I don't let my past bog me down.
And in that future, do I want to waste my time on a pointless campus job? Terry smiled at the mostly insignificant result from such a deep and serious line of thought.
"Well, you seem to be in a good mood," Mimi Charis said from her desk, holding out a hand to receive the timecard.
"Just thinking," Terry shrugged. On the other hand, quitting her job would mean leaving her frizzy-haired supervisor in the lurch. Not to mention her favorite Venus Flytrap. She stole a glance at Audrey, but the plant was still in his dormant period.
"Mm." Mimi accepted the card and glanced over it. "Been busy?"
"My girlfriend's sick," Terry explained.
Mimi blinked and shoved her glasses back up into place. "Girlfriend?"
"Yeah," Terry grinned proudly. "I'm gay."
Shaye whisked her spoon around in the cup of hot chocolate, letting the blanket slip off of her shoulders a bit. Being home sick allowed her the luxury of watching cartoons all day, with plenty of hot drinks and sweets, and not having to swap out of a comfortable nightshirt to be respectably dressed. And of course, now that there was a bed in the same room as the television, there was no limit to laziness. (Terry had insisted on moving the spare bed out from Shaye's room, which tended to leak cold air from the window, into the main living area. She had refused any help in shoving the thing around, too, and certainly from Shaye, who was supposed to be the invalid. It was very sweet, if a trifle overprotective.)
The downside, if it could be called that, was the impact on schoolwork. Having so recently taken a week off from classes for personal reasons, being "confined to quarters" with illness was going to make it almost impossible to catch up. Shaye just wasn't sure that she minded. Sociology she liked, or at least the discussions, but she had never been one to excel at tests and grading. Other subjects were nearly hopeless. If she only knew what else to do with her life, she would be happy to give up school right then and there.
The blonde took a cautious sip of her cocoa, followed by a larger swallow when she judged the temperature acceptable. She was watching Sailor Moon again. Today's episode featured a little pink-haired girl who was somewhat annoying but very cute when she was whimpering for fear of the thunder.
It was fun watching a show full of magical girls and destined romances. It reminded Shaye of her dreams. At long last, she had proof that Arete and Chantrea had been lovers - well, "proof" in the form of dreams, and if they really existed at all. But it didn't matter much whether or not their lives, as represented in her dreams, were facts or symbols, true past-life experiences or just subconscious wishes. Characters or people, she cared about them equally, rejoiced for their triumphs and mourned for their losses. And she was curious, of course, for all the secrets her peeks into their world had yet to reveal.
Suddenly there came a loud knocking at the door. Shaye startled, clutching a blanket around herself.
It couldn't be Terry. She wouldn't knock, she'd just open the door and come in, and besides, it was too early for her to be home. As far as she knew, Terry didn't have any friends who were likely to drop by unannounced, so it couldn't be just a social caller.
A package being delivered? Her father, wanting to say something that had to be said in person and not over the phone? If either were true, she had better get the door... She was wearing boxers and an old shirt of Terry's. Not exactly presentable but not revealing anything either.
It didn't even occur to her to check the peephole before opening the door, and no thought of danger crossed her mind until the door had already cracked open to reveal a vaguely familiar face. A female and Japanese one, or Shannon, to be precise. She was carrying not books but a paper grocery bag.
"Hello?" Shaye said.
Shannon smiled. "I heard you were sick, so I brought you a few things." She handed over the bag.
Shaye blinked. "Thanks. That's very kind of you." She took the bag, wondering if Terry was behind this delivery. After all, Shaye had protested quietly that Terry was trying too hard to take care of her. Maybe now she was hiding it behind other people. She peeked inside the bag. Soup, kleenex, more hot chocolate mix... she pushed items around until her eyes lit on one box that made her cheeks flare pink.
Gauging her expression, Shannon shrugged. "Heavy antibiotics will do that to a woman. It's natural, you don't need to be embarassed about it. The medication should clear it up with no problems. There are natural remedies too, but most of them are quite messy." Her task completed, she made a small bow. "Take care, Hime."
"Um, yes, thank you again," Shaye managed, unsure whether that last word had been a name or a foreign word for goodbye, but afraid it would seem rude to ask for an explanation. She eyed the small box again. Honestly, she hadn't noticed any itching or discomfort "down there", but if this was a such a common problem, well, it meant that resuming any sort of intimacy with Terry would have to wait even longer. She certainly couldn't let herself be touched if she were carrying some sort of infection.
And just when she finally thought she understood what their love life was supposed to be about. Shaye sighed. Couldn't anything just be simple?
It was another quiet evening at home. A scene of domestic bliss, with Terry back from her day of school and work, relaxing at her desk while Shaye sprawled casually on her bed. Nowhere they needed to go, nothing particular that needed to be done.
It was driving her mad.
Terry couldn't glance over at Shaye without wanting to pounce onto her, curl up against her on the bed and wrap her arms around her, run her hands over the warm breasts so softly outlined by the old, thin t-shirt she wore, without wanting to nuzzle at every inch of smooth skin exposed in her drowsy shiftings. Not that it would have been better if Shaye were up and moving, drawing Terry's attention with the gentle pendulum of her hips. Or worse, perched in Terry's lap, with Terry's arms around that small tempting frame. It was no longer anything that could be soothed away in a frantic session of self-pleasuring. She longed for Shaye with every inch of her body, and with all her emotion besides. The vibrator could barely take the edge off of her desire, no matter how hard she tried to envision the blonde girl as she wielded it.
But although they lived together, although that body was laid beside her only half-clothed, she couldn't have her.
She understood intellectually. Shaye was ill. She had been far too miserable to contemplate pleasure, and now still had too much of a stuffed nose even to kiss for more than a fleeting touch before pulling away. But how long would it be before she recovered, and would they manage to recapture the intimacy they had been developing before the unfortunate events of the past week?
Terry fretted, and with her worries, her frustrated desires only burned more.
Shaye shifted position on the bed, rolling over to face her. "By the way," she said, "Shannon came by today."
"Shannon? As in the violin? What was she doing here?"
The faintest of frowns creased Shaye's brow. "I thought you sent her."
Terry shook her head. "I haven't seen her or Alex all week."
"Strange," Shaye murmured. "Anyway, she said she'd heard I was sick, so she brought some things over for me. That's all."
"I wonder how she knew." Terry frowned. She hadn't really mentioned Shaye being sick to anyone except Mimi earlier that morning. Shaye herself could have said something to someone, of course, or any of the hospital staff. But it was still curious. Shannon had always had an unusual interest in Shaye, hadn't she? She had made a special point of inviting Shaye to her concert the month before, when Shaye hadn't even known who she was. And she and Alex were always around these days, it seemed.
"Paranoid," Terry muttered to herself.
"What was that?"
"Nothing," she smiled. "It was very nice of her to drop by."
Melusine. The name trickled through her mind like a lover's whisper. Melusine, who had been, like herself - or rather, like Arete - a noble woman and warrior, a devoted servant and protector of the princess. Not a rival, for even in the past it was very clear that she and Aura were together, and not quite a friend, but a companion-in-arms. And now here she was, with a violin instead of a sword, but serving the same function as her ancient, mythic counterpart.
If the dreams were real.
If the dreams were real, and history was repeating itself, then she and Shaye had been destined to come together all along. But were they then also destined to face whatever mysterious tragedy had driven Chantrea and Arete apart? How had they died, in that past life? In battle, like Aura?
"Morbid," she murmured. Of course her past self had to be dead, or her present self couldn't exist, but there was no use dwelling on it.
"Nothing," Terry said again. Shaye looked puzzled, but didn't press her. Just as well, Terry thought, for how could she have explained what had been going through her mind? 'I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream?'
Never thinking to reach into the dreams of the other.
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