AN: So as soon as I said I wasn't going to be doing any writing for a while, this popped into my head. Damn you, muse.
Teresa stared up at the ceiling of the inn, unable to sleep. She would have moved to the floor, but she did not want to disturb the other occupant of the bed. Next to her, naked back facing Teresa, lay the Organization's Number Two, Quicksword Irene. The thin warrior was fast asleep, which Teresa could not understand. She hated sleeping in beds, and knew that it was the same for most warriors, knew that it was usually the same for Irene. Teresa turned her head to admire the planes of Irene's back, following the indention of her spine until the sheets obscured her view right at the curve of Irene's hips. She was so beautiful, and she could not see it. Teresa had tried to tell her that for years, even before...this had happened.
Their meeting had been unintentional and unexpected. It just so happened that they had been passing through the same town. Irene was heading to the Organization's Headquarters for a summons, and Teresa was heading back to her territory after her own summons. They had both been recently promoted, and they had not seen each other in such a long time that they decided to take the day to catch up. It had brought up long forgotten feelings that Teresa had spent years trying to suppress.
When Irene suggested that they get a room at the inn and spend some time together, Teresa had hesitated, worried about her resolve. But she gave in. After agreeing, as she watched Irene remove her armor, all of those emotions and feelings that she had been too scared to admit had come crashing back to her. Teresa was normally a very forward woman, scared of nothing. Some would even say she was pushy. But she had never been able to tell Irene how she felt. Had never been able to voice the words. Until tonight. When Irene had looked at her and smiled, something she so rarely did even though it brightened her face and softened her angular features, and said that she had missed Teresa.
The next thing Teresa had known, they were naked in bed together, exploring each other's bodies. Teresa never knew it could be like that. She had had a few flings with other warriors over the years, but she had never felt the way Irene made her feel. Now, she was regretting all the wasted years, all the time they could have spent together, and she wished she could change it all.
Irene shifted onto her other side so that she was facing Teresa, still asleep, with one arm over her bare breasts, the other under the pillow supporting her head. Her face looked so peaceful, unlike her normal hard expression. Teresa wondered how she could have let Irene slip through her fingers so many years ago. How could she have been so blind?
As she watched, Irene cracked open her eyes and smiled. "Can't sleep?"
"No," she replied, returning the smile and turning onto her side so they could face each other. "But I was enjoying watching you." Teresa reached out to stroke Irene's arm lightly. How could one person make her so blissfully happy? Was this why humans dedicated their lives to their mates? Teresa thought she was beginning to understand. "Go back to sleep."
"I'm not tired anymore." Irene scooted closer so that their legs were touching. "We have some time before I need to leave. They aren't expecting me until the day after tomorrow." Teresa grinned.
"Did you have something specific in mind to do?" she asked suggestively. Irene blushed slightly and looked between them at Teresa's naked body.
"I think you know," Irene said softly. It was so strange to see Irene being shy and nervous. She was normally so stoic and sure of herself.
"Hmmm, perhaps if you showed me?"
Irene's blush deepened, and Teresa's grin widened. There was very little talking for the next hour, and as the sun came up, Teresa ran her hands through Irene's silver hair.
"When can we do this again?" she asked quietly. Irene frowned.
Teresa blinked in surprise. "Yes, of course. You don't think that I would just...do this and leave, do you?" Irene propped herself up on her elbows, the sheets sliding off her chest.
"Teresa, this can't become anything more than what it already is," she said sternly. "We can't become involved." Teresa stared at her, unbelieving, the nausea threatening to rise in her throat.
"But, I thought that...we..." She felt her chest tighten. She could not be losing Irene right when she had finally found her.
"Relationships between high ranking warriors are strictly forbidden," Irene said. "I thought you understood that."
"Then what was this?" Teresa hissed.
"A mistake, apparently," Irene replied, swinging her legs off the bed and standing up. "We're the top two warriors," she said, now lecturing Teresa as she got dressed. "We cannot afford to be distracted. We have responsibilities."
"Responsibilities? To who?" Teresa's voice was growing shrill, and Irene grimaced. "To the Organization? We owe them nothing."
"You're probably right," Irene admitted as she slipped on her wrist guards. "But this is the only life I can have. I can't jeopardize that." She pulled on her pauldrons and cape, clasping it over her chest. "I should go now. They'll be waiting."
"Irene, please wait," Teresa said, hating how close to begging she sounded. She stood and walked around the bed. "Don't go. I'm not finished talking about this. You can't just leave."
"I can and I will." Irene closed her eyes briefly, and Teresa thought she saw pain flit across her face. "No matter how much we want this, it can never be." She turned to leave, and Teresa panicked.
"Irene, no, please. I...I love you." The other warrior froze, standing stock still with her back to Teresa. Slowly, she turned, her brows trembling as she looked back at Teresa.
"You don't mean that," she whispered.
"I do," Teresa insisted. "I love you. I've loved you for years." She carefully walked towards Irene, whose body was tense and coiled.
"Why?" Irene croaked, voice pained. "Why are you telling me this now?"
"I should have told you a long time ago," Teresa said. "I hate how much time I've wasted when I could have been with you."
"Teresa..." she trailed off, and Teresa feared for a moment that Irene would cry. "If I had known before...we could have..." She swallowed hard. "But we can't now...We can't." Irene wrapped her arms around her torso, looking small and defeated, and Teresa knew that she was the cause. "We can't...Why didn't you say something earlier? Why didn't you just tell me?" Her voice was harsher now, accusing.
"Because I didn't think that you would want me!" Teresa snapped. Irene's eyes widened.
"Wouldn't want you?" she repeated softly. "You have to be the most oblivious woman of all time."
"All it would have taken was one word from you, Teresa!" she exclaimed. "One word and I would have been yours." Her voice was rough with emotion.
"What are you saying, Irene?" Teresa asked.
"Goddesses, Teresa," she sighed, exasperated. "I've loved you since we were trainees, you dolt." Teresa's jaw dropped.
"I love you," she repeated, quieter. "I always have."
"Then, I don't understand. Why...why are you saying 'no' to me?" Teresa's mind would not make the connections. Irene was terribly logical and would not have made such a decision unless it was also logical. However, the logical thing for Teresa would be for them to be together. "And why didn't you ever say anything?"
"Because you were you and I was me and we couldn't...we just couldn't" She swallowed hard. "I couldn't take that chance, Teresa. I didn't think that you …...you never gave any indication at all."
"Neither did you," Teresa accused.
"I gave you every indication I could think of," Irene argued. "I spent as much time with you as I could. When Elda came on to me, I complained to you that there was someone else I was interested in, and I basically described you, but you were too oblivious to pick up. I thought that you just weren't interested."
Teresa paled as she thought back on all the times that she and Irene had spent together, analyzing each encounter in her mind and suddenly seeing the truth in Irene's words. She had never picked up on the signs.
"Oh, gods," she whispered. "I'm...I'm so sorry, Irene." She deflated as she realized how stupid she had been. "Irene, please...this doesn't mean that...that we can't..."
"We're under a magnifying glass, Teresa," Irene said tiredly. "If we had started when we were young and unimportant, then maybe we could have figured out how to keep it going, but we don't have that foundation. It wouldn't work."
"Irene...Please." She crossed her arms, realizing that she was still naked. "Give me a chance, that's all I ask. If we get caught... they won't kill us off for this. We'll just ….stop seeing each other if it comes to that."
"I don't know if I could take my heart being broken like that," Irene admitted softly. "I can't have you and then have you taken away. Better not to have you at all." She closed her eyes again. "This was a mistake. We shouldn't have done this."
"Please don't say that," Teresa pleaded. She closed the distance between them, cupping Irene's cheek. "No matter what happens, I will never regret last night. I don't want you to." Irene seemed to break at that and leaned into Teresa, wrapping her arms around her.
"Gods, I love you so much," she whispered into the blond waves. "I wish this had happened five years ago." Teresa pulled Irene closer to her, holding her in a tight embrace.
"I can't change the past, Irene," Teresa said, bending her head down to place her lips on the place where Irene's shoulder met her neck. "I wish I could. But can't we at least try to make up for that?"
"Teresa, I don't know..." Irene took a deep breath. "I have responsibilities."
"I won't ever ask you to sacrifice your duties for me, Irene," she said. "I promise you that. This will never interfere with our work."
"I want to, Teresa. I want you so badly."
"We can do this, love," Teresa assured her. "I will protect you."
Irene gave a small snort. "I'm the Number Two warrior. I hardly need protecting." Teresa smiled wryly, pulling back slightly.
"That's very true. But I will, all the same." her face grew serious. "I won't let them hurt you. I'd die first."
"My duty comes first, Teresa," Irene said, and Teresa knew that she had won. "You have to know that before we can try this. Do you understand?"
"I do." And she did understand. She knew that Irene needed that structure to her life, needed something to which she had to answer. She knew that she could never be the most important thing to Irene, and Teresa could accept that as long as she got to be part of her life. "I understand." Irene leaned in to kiss her and Teresa's heart fluttered.
"I really do have to go now," Irene said after pulling back reluctantly. "They're expecting me."
"Travel safely. I will find you when you are done, and we will...talk more." Gently, she pushed Irene's hair behind one pointed ear. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Reluctantly, Teresa let Irene leave, knowing even as she did so that they were most likely destined for tragedy. But she would enjoy her happiness while she could.