Chapter 12

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Yes, life is wonderful, and this is driven home to me with especial force as I face death in the face in the form of an angry Marle.

Maybe I was selling her a little short when I airily proclaimed that nothing could be as scary as the full wrath of Lucca Ashtear-Lesley.

She's giving me a damn good run for my money here.

If I were an onlooker, I'd probably be doubled over with laughter at the sight of a cute little blonde in a fuzzy pink sweater and a matching bow in her hair, glaring flaming, poisoned daggers at someone who makes a big deal about being strong, mature, and capable, and is currently proving it by cowering back against the wall of her old bedroom.

I guess you need a little background on how all this came about.

At about eleven this morning, I was startled out of the work-induced haze that I've been immersed in for the past four days, by an insistent rapping at the door.

When I ignored it, hoping that whoever it was would just go the hell away, it turned into a full-out pounding.

Grumbling bitterly at everyone and everything in existence, I ran for the door before the knocking could give me any more of a headache.

And there, of course, I found an angrily frowning Marle, who greeted me by the time-honoured tradition of grabbing me by the front of the shirt and demanding to know where I'd been for the last few days.

Struggling to free myself from Her Highness' Iron Grip of Death, I stammered out a request to know what the hell she was talking about.

When her expression went from merely angry to severely, almost lividly angry, I realized my mistake and apologized as contritely as I ever have. To Marle, anyway.

She brushed this aside in the interest of getting right back to the demands that I tell her where I'd been, and I pleaded with her – yes, actually pleaded with Marle – to calm down and let me get her some coffee so we could discuss this like civilized people.

So, I got the coffee.

We sat down to drink it.

However, just as I was about to start my tale of all that had happened, my loving husband chose that moment to enter, send me another scathing glare to add to the thousand or so I've received in the four days since my last visit with Ariana. Or Magus. Or my mother. Or anyone else in the outside world.

Needless to say, I've stuck to my workshop for more reasons than pure workaholism this time.

Either way, with Isaac clattering about the house, there was no way I could tell Marle all about my meeting with my husband's mistress, or Magus' little fit.

I was actually relatively anxious to get Marle's opinion on what the hell was going on with this last one.

All of this pointed to the necessity of getting out of the house.

But where was there to go that was properly free from the prying eyes and pryinger ears of Truce?

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Given where we are now, it's probably pretty obvious that we decided on my parents' house.

"Talk," Marle orders me, leaning over me as I shrink back as though I'm trying to meld myself right into the wall as part of a daring escape.

"Okay, Marle! Okay! Just let me up, would you? This would probably give my mother the wrong idea if she came in for some reason."

A flicker of amusement crosses Marle's eyes, but she refuses to get distracted enough to laugh.

This does not bode well.

"Lucca," she says warningly.

"Alright, fine," I grumble. "What part do you want to hear first?"

"I've been trying to get in contact with you. Why haven't you been answering your phone?"

"Look, Marle, the past few days haven't been good, as I'm sure you can guess," I sigh, extricating myself from her grip and sitting up dizzily.

"Why?!" she exclaims, throwing her hands up in exasperation and dropping to the bed next to me, causing both of us to bounce gently for a moment. "That's what I want to know! I know you've had a reason for this – I don't think you'd just vanish from the face of the planet for fun – but I've been going insane, wondering what was going on, and if you were doing okay, and—"

"Marle!" I interrupt before the edge of hysteria I hear in her voice can get worse. "I'm fine! It's been a bad couple of days, but I've been dealing with it. Oh, and by the way," I say a little coolly, "thanks for sending Magus to keep me company few nights ago."

Marle grimaces.

"From your expression, I'm guessing that backfired. Sorry, Lucca. It really seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, if you'd gone there before…"

"I know. It's okay. And anyway, it won't be a problem again."

"What do you mean?" she asks, blinking huge green eyes at me.

Damn these adorably clueless women. How are the rest of us supposed to compete?

"I mean, I was there last night, and he threw a pissy fit and ordered me to handle my own damn problems and never come back."

Immediately, Marle is all business.

"He really said that? When? In response to what? What had you two been talking about?"

Why didn't I just crash the Epoch into a mountain on the way back home?

"Marle!" I bark, interrupting her string of questions, gradually growing less coherent, very effectively. "If you'll let me, I'll tell you about it."

"Go on," Marle says coolly, crossing her arms and watching me closely.

"Well, I was telling him about Ariana, strangely enough. I was just talking about how her husband was wasn't so good to her, and maybe that's why she was such a pushover when Isaac the Sweet-Talking Asshole swept in and offered her a date. Five seconds later, Sunny M. himself is doing all but tossing me from the premises by the back of my dress."

Marle permits herself a moment of losing focus on the issue at hand, and grins.

"A dress?"

"Shut up."

"Okay, fine. So, what do you think it means?"

"I don't know," I shrug uncomfortably. A few possibilities have bounced their way across my thoroughly cabin-fevered mind in the past four days of near-solitude, but they're far too ridiculous to even consider. So, I go with a much safer, and much more sensible option to present to Marle. "Maybe the situation reminds him of a girl he knew once?"

"Maybe he knew Ariana," Marle suggests.

"Yeah, I'd agree with you, Marle, except he met her briefly."

Immediately, Marle's eyes grow wide and begin to glimmer with interest.

"How the heck did that come about? Hang on; for that matter, how do you know so much about her?"

"W-well, I met her less briefly."

The silence in the room at this point is almost overwhelming. I'm feeling distinctly uncomfortable, and even the spider crawling up the wall seems edgy. Marle, however, is staring at me so piercingly, I could swear I've got another hole in my head by now.

Like I needed one.

"What?"

It's only one word, but I wish you could hear the shock, menace, and disapproval Marle infuses into it.

Poor Crono probably doesn't get a thing by this one. He's probably terrified to try.

"I ran into her a while back. On the way back from visiting you and Crono, actually."

"And how did you end up talking to her instead of trying to kill her?"

"Actually, the conversation got started because it looked like someone else had. I dragged her home to patch her up, and she told me about her husband. He found out that she'd been seeing 'someone', and beat her up."

"And you thought it was your responsibility to help her?" Marle asked flatly.

I raise one eyebrow at her.

"Don't tell me you wouldn't have done it."

"If Crono took a mistress and I ran into her on the street and she was injured? Well…it would be hard, but I guess you're right," Marle admits grudgingly.

"Of course I'm right. You couldn't leave an injured woman bleeding in the streets any more than I could. Probably less than I could. If I'd known then that she would get this attached to me, I might have done it and conscience be damned."

Marle eyes me sternly.

"You would not, Lucca."

"Oh, but I would. The day after I took her home and patched her up, she sent me a note asking me to meet her for lunch, and then she dragged me out shopping for the rest of the day, and insisted upon swapping confidences, and gave me all this advice about how to repair my troubled relationship with my husband."

By the time I stop for breath, Marle is smiling fondly and knowingly at me.

"What?" I shrug.

"You had fun," she says. "Admit it."

"Yeah, okay, I had fun," I grumble. "So what?"

Her smile vanishes again.

"But you were going to tell me how Magus came to meet this Ariana girl."

I frown.

"Yeah; now, that was weird. He came into the café where we were having lunch. I don't know how he found me, but he came to pick up his sunglasses."

"And then you went back later?"

"Yeah," I reply slowly and cautiously.

Marle surveys me curiously.

"It sounds like you've been spending an awful lot of time there."

"Well, Magus is a better option than Isaac right now, which should put into perspective just how badly my marriage is failing," I sigh, dragging my pillow from the head of the bed and hugging it tightly.

"At least, he was until he ordered you to stop coming," Marle corrects with an expression I don't altogether like.

"Uh, yeah," I agree.

A long silence.

"Okay, Lucca. First of all, I've got to admit that I think it's just as well that he's told you not to come back," Marle says briskly. "I mean, he can't have been so bad if you kept going back, but I still don't think he's the best person for you to be around right now. He isn't exactly Mr. Sensitivity," she finishes dryly.

"Hey, that's what I liked about going there," I shrug, extremely relieved that I've finally figured out why for myself. "It was kind of something I needed, to be around someone who was such a jerk that I didn't feel guilty about ripping into him as much as he ripped into me. Verbal sparring is a refreshing change from crying."

Marle grins a scary grin.

"Well, just so you know, I'll be perfectly willing to take a strip out of you whenever you feel the need to be nasty back."

"That doesn't make me feel a lot better," I note, inching away.

Marle laughs, and then falls serious again.

"Honestly, Lucca, even if you get the chance, I'd feel a lot better if you didn't start hanging out with Magus too much right now."

"No problem," I say emphatically. "I can't think of anyone I'd like to talk to less right now. Except for my wonderful and loving husband, who can't even be bothered to tell me before his little side-dish that our marriage is over."

Marle's eyes grow large and shiny with sympathy. Either that, or it's the dry air.

"Lucca…"

"Sorry," I mutter, dashing away a bit of moisture at the corner of my eye.

From the dry air, of course. I'm not crying again.

"Don't apologize," Marle says gently, already moving to enclose me in a comforting hug. "If you need to cry, I'm here to cry with you."

"You sound like a sappy song about the joys of friendship," I inform her coolly, nevertheless moving towards her and allowing myself to be enclosed in a fuzzy pink embrace.

That sweater of hers is truly awful. It looks like someone mutilated a – pink – sheep.

But her slightly troublesome fashion sense aside, I am once again struck by just how lucky I am to have someone like her – her and Crono – to help me deal with this. Even if they don't have the time for it, they make the time.

That means a lot.

God, now I sound like a bad sappy song.

I think that sweater is catching, which is why I'm perfectly willing at this point to spend the rest of the afternoon – hell, the rest of my life, if you want the truth – being hugged by a perky Guardian ruler in a godawful pink monstrosity that some sick person called a garment.

However, it doesn't seem as though this will be my fate.

"Now that I've got you here, Lucca," a terrifyingly ominous motherly voice says coolly from the door, "maybe you can tell me what on earth is going on."

Great.

Now I'm pinned between the two most terrifying females currently alive (not counting me, of course, and metaphorically rather than literally, since Mom hasn't joined the group-hug yet).

Do I stand a chance?

The correct answer, by the way, is 'no'.

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End Notes: Yeah! It's the Pointless Girl-Bonding Chapter! Groan…I'm sorry about this. I kept meaning for something else to happen, but these two got so long-winded that it became a chapter on its own. Not that Girl-Bonding is a bad thing, but I did NOT mean for it to encompass the entire chapter.

Still, hope it was somewhat entertaining, and I shall endeavour to have another chapter up soon, in which stuff will happen.

Thanks!