Conversation Upon the Shore

By Rhydian

She held her medium-length green hair behind her head as she sat, frowning slightly. "Sometimes --" she began, stopped abruptly when she heard the hoarseness of her own voice. She coughed roughly before making another attempt, voice soft and contemplative. "Sometimes I feel as though I'm falling, like --"

She stopped again, this time because she was unable to go on. Her throat tensed uncomfortably, and she knew in that moment that it was very likely she was going to cry. She bit her lip viciously, concentrating on the pain until the lump in her throat subsided. Her delicate fingers loosened to slowly release locks of her hair, before the cool sea breeze took them into its embrace.

"Like after the Tower?" her companion suggested quietly. They refused to say his name, lest the image conjured recalled memories of sweat, tears, blood, death. Her companion especially.

The green-haired woman looked ahead resolutely, at the churning seas and misty brine that assaulted her nostrils in a pleasant sort of way. Slowly, she nodded her head, one time. "I'm sorry ... to mention it. It must be harder on you than me, even."

The blonde shrugged. "I don't think about it too often."

"But when you do ... ?"

A crooked smile twitched at the side of the taller woman's mouth. "When I do, I think about before, when he was not the insane carnival spectacle, but the passionate young man. It's bittersweet, the memory, but it holds more sweetness than it can, I think, for any of you ..." She paused abruptly. "I'm not sure you could understand. I barely understand ... how I can think about him as two different people. But when I think about it for too long, the lines begin to blur ... so I don't think about it."

"Would that I had your self control."

"Would that you be content that you don't, for the pain that affords it is not nearly worth the skill."

The green-haired woman smiled, just slightly. "The road that the past paves is convoluted and corrupted. Better that we concentrate on the roads that lie ahead."

The blonde left her reverie and joined her companion in a smile. "With such wisdom I should be amazed that you ever feel lost at all, sensei," she said teasingly.

The shorter woman returned to playing with her green tresses anxiously. "But ... I do, often. I feel ... sometimes ... do you recall those last hours on the airship, after I tumbled through the sky? I can barely remember the details now, just the emotion ... the warmth of your arms. Sometimes ... I think you were the only one who cared for me at all."

The blonde had no reply.

The green-haired woman tried on a sheepish smile, turned to look at the taller woman. "I did not mean to silence you, Celes."

The blonde looked at her companion seriously. "The children love you like no one else ever could. Theirs is a purer love than any adult could ever feel." She looked as though she was going to continue, but smothered the sentiment.

"Please ... say what you're thinking," Terra implored, almost nervously.

The former General turned away. "Their love ... purer than any adult's ... especially mine. I'm an emotional degenerate, you know. Yours was a storybook childhood compared to mine. I was raised by the very people who seized your mind like some sort of trinket and used it to their ends. I wouldn't hold my care as any prize."

"You shouldn't say such things ..."

"Why not?" the blonde demanded. "They're true."

"They're not," Terra said firmly. "The very fact that you can care is testimony to the wonder of your character. That you can care so much -- that thoughts occur to you that occur to no one else."

Celes smiled weakly. "I thought we were talking about you. You shouldn't have to try to hold me up."

"But --"

"Shh. I'm fine."

Were the words simply the echo of a lifetime of military treatment? Terra did not know, did not have time to think. The blonde stared deep into Terra's eyes. "Are you?"

The words echoed in Terra's ears as the surf slammed against the shore, resting upon it for a few precious seconds before sliding back into the sweet embrace of its watery kin. The scene was not silent. It could never be silent. Silence did not exist.

"I feel as though your eyes are touching my soul."

Taking the sensation to be unpleasant, Celes began to turn her head away.

"No," Terra whispered. "Don't turn away ... let me get lost inside you."

"It's not a very pleasant place to be," Celes answered quietly.

"No, please ... I'm falling. I need you to catch me ..."

The gentle crashes of the water gave music to the moment without words as they breathed in shallow breaths that tasted of brine. Abruptly, their liquid companion interrupted with a less-than-gentle crash, splashing shockingly cold drops of salt-water upon their persons.

The two jumped, stiffening. And then the humor of the situation occurred. Celes grinned while Terra chuckled, laughter like bells playing across the other's spine.

The blonde shifted towards the shorter woman, her grin fading slowly. "There's a drop on your cheek," she noted softly, and without thinking about it, reached out a hand to brush it away.

Terra leaned into the inadvertent caress, closing her eyes. Her voice was a whisper. "Catch me," she pleaded softly.

Celes obediently drew the green-haired woman into the circle of her arms, marveling at their closeness. The sweet scent of the woman in her arms mingled with that of the ocean. Her eyes closed of their own volition and she felt a tear run down her cheek.

"You're crying," Terra noted in astonishment, caring in her voice that the blonde was not sure she had ever heard before. "Why?"

Celes opened her eyes, a small smile gracing her face. "I'm not sure," she answered softly, as though amazed.

Terra drew her arms around the other's waist and pushed against her, pressing her cheek against the blonde's. She inhaled deeply, savoring the sensation of being so near. Blinking, she felt tears running down her own cheeks. She recalled how earlier she had been afraid of letting tears free before pulling back slightly, wanting to see the woman's face.

"You're crying too," Celes accused with a weak smile, before pulling the green-haired woman closer to her. Terra closed her eyes as Celes slowly leaned forward, gently touching her lips to the other's cheeks and kissing the tears away. She pulled away languidly as Terra opened her eyes. Before Celes could fully pull away, the shorter woman leaned closer, running her hands up the woman's back before pressing her lips against the other's, urging her mouth open with the gentle prod of a tongue. The two played quiet, tender games against each other before the taller gently pulled away, biting gently upon the other's lips to extend the sensation.

"I should go," she whispered softly.

"I know," the green-haired woman replied, now crying in earnest.

"Because we're both needed ..."

"... and it's not meant to be like this," the shorter finished, her voice not betraying her tears.

Neither moved as they sobbed, tears dripping upon the sand, rolling down the shore to join the sea in its ephemeral embrace.

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