AN: This is a sequel type thing to my story And Tears Yet Fall. If you have not yet read that, I would suggest doing so or you might not understand everything. This will be only a few chapters at most, I think. It may even stay a two-shot. I just don't know where to take it.
The young woman paced back and forth in the small room, ignoring her companion who sat cross-legged on the bed, watching silently.
Finally, she stopped and looked out the dirty window. "She's going to hate me."
"No she won't," her companion assured her in a tired tone that suggested this was not the first time they had partaken in this particular conversation. "She'll be angry, but she won't hate you. It was my decision."
"It doesn't matter," the taller woman insisted. "I was responsible for you."
The other girl frowned and pulled her long blond hair back into a braid. "I can take care of myself. I can now, and I could then. I was responsible for myself. And that is exactly what we will tell them." Her face softened and she suddenly looked as young as her seventeen years. A girl more than a woman, really. She stood wrapped her arms around her taller partner from behind, brushing her nose against the other young woman's neck. "It's going to be fine, Jean. I promise." Jean sighed and turned in her companion's embrace, letting a rare smile cross her lips.
"You are lying through your teeth, and you know it." She rolled her eyes, but leaned down to kiss the other girl softly. "She's going to kill me, Clare. But only after she kicks your ass all the way to the North and back." Clare huffed indignantly, but Jean could see the uncertainty in her eyes.
"She'll get over it," Clare insisted. "They both will. Can we just go to bed and stop talking about my moms?" She bit her lip slyly and grinned. "I had other things in mind for tonight." Jean blushed at the thinly veiled suggestion.
"If you insist," she managed to say with at least a little bit of dignity. Clare's grin grew wider and she pulled Jean down with her to the bed.
Teresa's head jerked up next to her, and she stared off into the line of trees intently. "Do you feel that, Lena?"
"Two auras. One single digit, one mid-level." She let her own brows contract into a frown as she tried to think of who it could be. They were still too far away for her to tell, but the only single digits could be Flora, Galatea, Tera, Allie, Stella, Hilda, Mira, and Ophelia. And Jean, of course, but she would not be with another warrior. None of them were scheduled to come visit, though that did not mean that they could not just pop in without notice. It happened regularly enough that Ilena kept the guest bedroom ready.
Anyway, all the warriors who were strong enough cast such an aura would not be travelling with a mid-level warrior. Ilena was much less familiar with those, but she did know them all after years of keeping track of the surviving warriors and acting as a loose head to what was left of the Claymores. They had just that past winter handed the responsibility over to Miria, who was more than happy to take over. She had been itching for the job. Unlike Ilena, Miria loved being in charge, thrived from it. Ilena only ever did it because she knew no one else could do a better job. However, after nearly six years of training Miria, the young woman was highly qualified and ready to take the position.
After so many years of being responsible for other people, Ilena just wanted to walk in the woods with her dog and her lover and tend her garden.
Teresa's eyes narrowed even further as the auras drew closer. Then they widened in a realization that Ilena had not yet come to. She hated being the last to know. "No." Teresa brought her hand to her mouth, utter horror plastered to her features. "Oh, goddesses. No." Ilena put down her spade and moved gingerly around the baby tomato plants to put herself in front of Teresa.
"What is it?" she asked, concerned. It had to be something big for Teresa to react in such a way. "Tell me. Use your words." It was something she had to tell Teresa quite often since Clare had moved out. It was just so quiet that sometimes they forgot to speak. Argus, now an old dog for his breed, lifted his head momentarily to look at them before settling back into sleep.
"Don't you feel it?" Teresa asked, wide eyes turning dark with anger. She swore violently and threw her spade as hard as she could. It embedded itself up to the handle in a tree across the clearing.
"Feel what, Teresa?" Ilena asked calmly, having not even flinched at the outburst. As much as she had hoped it would, time had not mellowed Teresa's temper. Though there were fewer things to make her angry, the ones that still existed were as effective as they had ever been.
"Who they are!" Teresa cried, standing. Her hands worked themselves into fists, but could not stay that way. They clenched and unclenched rapidly, shaking and trembling.
"You know very well that my range is not as large as yours," Ilena reminded her. "You're going to have to spell it out for me." She, too, stood, laying a hand on Teresa's shoulder and looking into the silver eyes.
Ilena frowned in confusion for a moment. "Jean? But there are two...No." She felt her heart drop as she realized what Teresa had already concluded. "They wouldn't...she wouldn't have...No." Ilena shook her head firmly. "There has to be another explanation. Perhaps they picked up someone on the way," she suggested, knowing that it was a weak argument.
"Who?" Teresa spat. "The aura is unfamiliar to me. If it was any of us, I would know. I would know." Ilena pressed a hand to her forehead, realizing that it was trembling too.
"She can't have. There's no way. It's...it's impossible." She took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. There had to be another explanation. It was just too unlikely, what Teresa was suggesting. "It must be one of the ones that never visits. That's why you don't recognize her. They probably ran into her on the way and invited her along. You know how Jean is." Teresa looked at her for a long hard moment before her body relaxed and she nodded her head ever so slightly.
"Okay. You're probably right." Normally, Ilena would have teased her about being right, but she knew that now was not the time. It would have been cruel. Instead, she reached out to caress Teresa's cheek, letting her fingers trace the old scars there. Teresa smiled slightly and turned her face so that she could press her lips to Ilena's palm. By now, Ilena could feel that one of the auras did indeed belong to Jean, though the other was still as much a mystery as ever. It was odd, she had to admit, that she could not recognize it at all. It was one thing for Teresa not to, seeing as sometimes she had even mistaken Ilena's aura for someone else, but Ilena prided herself on her attention to detail and ability to identify other warriors. It was something she had in common with Galatea thanks to the fact that they shared yoki.
"Let's just be excited that they're home for a while," Ilena said with a smile. It was an unexpected visit. Jean and Clare were not supposed to return for almost another month. She wondered if the human girl had gotten home sick. It was the longest she had ever been away from Teresa and Ilena, but she was right on the cusp of adulthood, and Teresa insisted that they let her explore her independence. Besides, she had Jean with her to take care of her. With almost all the Yoma gone, though there were still stray sightings of them here and there, nothing in the world could challenge Jean except for a few of her fellow warriors. Clare was incredibly safe with her.
The human girl was not exactly helpless, either. She could handle a sword as well as any Claymore, though with less speed and strength, of course. She also knew how to hunt, fish, and which plants she could eat in the forest. Ilena and Teresa had made sure that she was prepared for anything that might come her way in life because once they sent her out into the world, they would not be able to protect her and provide for her. She had to learn her own way.
"I wonder what's brought them back," Teresa pondered softly, worried.
"Clare probably just missed you." Ilena still felt the apprehension that came with the unknown, though. Had something gone wrong? Was Clare hurt? And who was this mystery aura? "I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this. No need to jump to conclusions." Teresa looked as though she were fighting the urge to roll her eyes. Ilena was the queen of jumping to conclusions, though she did try not to.
"Okay. I'll wait until they get here to freak out."
"Good. Because there are still weeds to get," Ilena said pointedly. "And your spade is in a tree. It better not be broken. I'm tired of buying new ones."
"I told you, the last one wasn't my fault!"
"Yes, yes, I remember," Ilena said with a wave of her hand. "It snapped in half all by itself." Teresa pouted.
"Well it did."
"I'm sure that the fact that you were using it to try to break a boulder had nothing to do with it," Ilena said. She was trying to lighten the mood, but it was difficult. What she would not tell Teresa was that she sensed great anxiety and guilt from Jean's aura. The mystery aura... found Jean's worry endearing. Ilena's mouth grew dry as she thought about what they meant. Her mind was not eased as they grew close enough that she could feel their actions, as well. She knew that Teresa felt it, too, because the wooden handle of the spade splintered in her hands.
"No." She held up her hand to stop Ilena. "Don't try to-just don't." She stood and began pacing in front of the cabin, looking as though she was only barely able to stop herself from running out to meet the travelers. Ilena joined her, wanting to do something to ease her pain and worry, but not knowing what that was. Whoever the new person was, Jean was holding her hand, and Ilena refused to let herself think about that. She would wait until her eyes could confirm what her mind already feared.
Together they waited, staring at the place in the tree line where the travelers would emerge. They did not have to wait long for Jean's familiar figure to step into the light, but they both looked past her to the shorter woman following her. She had long blond hair that cut across her forehead in a straight bang. When her face came into view, Teresa let out a strangled cry and turned to yank open the door to the cabin, slamming it so hard behind her that Ilena heard things fall over and crash to the floor.
Even at this distance, she could see Jean flinch and could feel the anxiety increase tenfold. The girl behind her quickly stepped around Jean and rushed up to the cabin. Ilena just shook her head in disbelief.
"How could you?" she asked quietly. "After everything. How could you do this?" The girl held her head high and did not flinch at the accusation in Ilena's voice. So much like Teresa.
"I made a decision for myself," she said firmly. "I'm not a child anymore and I can do this if I want."
"Clare..." Ilena crossed her arms and let out a heavy sigh. "How did you even manage this?"
"A few months back, we ran across Miria and Hilda in the east and they had just found and killed a stray Yoma," Clare explained quietly, brushing her hair behind an ear. Ilena's heart clenched at how blond the strands were. "I asked if they would help. They protested at first, but I managed to convince them. There were still notes on how to perform the operation, and well... it really wasn't all that hard. Apparently survival rate was not a top priority."
"You could have died," Ilena managed. She could hear Teresa throwing things inside. She knew that Clare could hear it, too now. "Without proper training or instruments! How could you possibly think you could pull this off?"
"Well we did, didn't we?"
"I still...I can't even..." Ilena ran her hand through her hair, turning away from Clare for a moment. Jean stood politely in the background, her hand clasped in front of her as she stared at her feet. "Do you have any idea what you've done to yourself?"
"I made it so that Jean won't have to watch me grow old and die while she never ages!" Clare shot back. "I can still remember the look in your eyes when we waited for Teresa to wake up after fighting Priscilla. The way Teresa looked when she thought you were dead. I never ever want Jean to feel that way." Ilena opened her mouth to reply, but was interrupted by Teresa barreling out the door to grab Clare by the collar and slam her against the outside wall.
"You think you've saved her pain?" Teresa growled. Jean stepped forward, but Ilena shook her head at the young woman. It would not be a good idea to interrupt. "Have you even thought about the difficulties we live through? We went through years of training to learn how to control ourselves. You have none of that. What if you lose control and Jean has to kill you? Did you think about that? About how much that would hurt her?"
"You could have had years together, but now we have no idea when you'll reach your limit!" She pushed harder against Clare, and Ilena could see a little bit of pain cross the young woman's face.
"Teresa," she said softly. "You're hurting her." She carefully reached out to pull Teresa's arm back, letting Clare breathe. "Why don't we go inside and talk about this?"
"There's nothing to talk about," Teresa hissed. "I can't even look at her right now."
"I know you're mad," Ilena said lowly, trying to keep their conversation private. "But she's still our daughter."
"I have no daughter," Teresa spat back harshly for all to hear. The wounded look on Clare's face was almost too much for Ilena to take.
"Teresa, please," Clare tried, voice cracking. "I didn't-"
"Go!" Teresa shoved Clare away. "Get out of my sight! You, too, Jean. You were supposed to protect her!" Ilena could tell that Teresa was really about to lose it, so she pulled on her arm and steered her inside while Clare and Jean stood shell shocked in the grass.
"Just wait here and try not to break anything else," she instructed her partner as Teresa covered her face in her hands, collapsing into a chair. Resisting the urge to comfort her right then, Ilena walked back outside to speak with the two younger women.
"Ilena, she can't mean that, can she?" Clare asked, trembling.
"She does. You know she never says anything she does not mean." Ilena sighed. "Clare, what were you thinking? We warned you about this for years. You've seen firsthand the struggles this causes us. You know how hard it is for an inexperienced warrior to keep the Yoma side at bay."
"I know, but I just..." She looked back at Jean, at the girl she had loved since the first time they met. Ilena knew that now, even if she had been skeptical when Clare was younger. "I couldn't not do it. We had the opportunity, and I just kept thinking about you and Teresa and …... I couldn't let her watch me die." Jean stepped forward and placed a hand on Clare's shoulder. The look they shared was so intimate that Ilena felt the need to look away for a moment.
"What is done is done. I... I understand that," Ilena said. "And I understand your reasons. I do. But Teresa is going to need time, Clare. She's very hurt. She... Goddesses, Clare. Everything she did six years ago was for you. It was so that you would never have to end up like this." Clare had the decency to look down at her feet in guilt. "She fought the Organization so that you could live as a human. Kahlin died for that." Clare paled as though she had not considered that before. "Do you know what Teresa said to me when she thought she was going to die after fighting Priscilla?"
"...No." Clare's voice was small and weak, a tone she had not used since she was a child.
"As she bled to death in my arms, her last thought was for you." Ilena's own voice cracked as she spoke of that painful day that was still so sharply etched in her memory. "She made me promise to make sure that you never became like us. That you lived as a human. I have now failed in that promise."
Clare let her arms wrap around herself, and Jean looked away sharply. Their guilt was beginning to suffocate Ilena.
"I'm so sorry," Clare whispered. "I didn't...I only thought about Jean. I didn't mean to...I never wanted to disrespect Kahlin's memory. Oh, gods. What if Stella hates me." She turned to Jean
for reassurance since Jean knew Stella the best.
"She won't," Jean said softly. "She'll understand." She kissed Clare's forehead reassuringly, and Ilena could not help but remember the year before when Teresa had found out that Jean had 'deflowered' Clare. It had been amusing to see the woman who was so open about her own sexual exploits become flustered and shocked and angry. Everyone had always assumed that Ilena would be the one to have a problem with Clare and Jean actually consummating their relationship, but Teresa had been the one to throw a fit. But she got over it. As she would get over this.
"It will be fine, Clare," Ilena said. "She's just going to need some time. Go and visit Galatea and Flora. Visit Stella. Give me a few weeks to try and talk her down. She won't stay mad forever. Mostly, she's just hurt. Just...give her time." It was the only thing that would cool Teresa's temper and soothe her hurt.
"Do you hate me?" Clare asked timidly, reminding Ilena of the days right after they had first met, when neither of them were comfortable with the other.
"What? Of course not, Clare." She stepped forward to cup Clare's chin in her hand. "I love you, and so does Teresa. You're my daughter. No matter what, I will always love you." She pulled the girl into a hug, surprised at the strength of Clare's arms. Arms that now held the power of a half-Yoma. "It's going to be okay." Clare nodded solemnly and gave Ilena one more tight squeeze before she and Jean turned to leave.
Ilena watched them until they were out of sight before steeling herself to face Teresa. The hurt and anger and confusion and guilt rolled off of her in waves. Ilena had long since learned how to control the abilities she had inherited from Galatea, but sometimes Teresa just felt...so much. Perhaps it was because Ilena was so in tune with Teresa's aura, but she often times had trouble keeping Teresa's emotions separate from her own.
She took a deep breath and entered the cabin. Teresa was exactly where Ilena had left her, sitting with her elbows on her knees and her face buried in her hands. She was crying softly. Ilena knelt beside her.
"How could she do this to us?"
"She's young. Sometimes young people don't realize how much their actions affect others," Ilena said, placing a hand on Teresa's knee.
"After everything I did for her. Everything I sacrificed." She lowered her hands and looked at Ilena. "It's the one thing I wanted for her in life. It was the one thing I asked for."
"I know, love." Ilena pulled Teresa up into a hug, holding her tightly. "But we have to remember that it is different for her. For us, it meant losing everything. But for her... it means that she gets to keep everything she has. She has the potential to be with Jean forever." Ilena pulled back and looked at Teresa seriously. "We won't have to watch her age. We won't have to watch her die."
"What if she awakens? What if she reaches her limit?"
"That could happen to any of us," Ilena said. "She just needs to learn the proper control. And she can learn that from us, if you would let her." Teresa looked away.
"I hate it when you do that."
Ilena smiled slightly and kissed Teresa's nose lightly. "It's for your own good."
"I'm still mad at her, and I still don't want to see her."
"I know. I sent them to Galatea's. I told them to come back in a few weeks," Ilena explained. "I think Clare realizes now what she did. She'll need time to think, and you need time to cool off."
Teresa nodded, then frowned. "Where's Argus?"
Ilena stood and glanced out the window. "Still in the garden." She tapped on the glass and the old dog raised his head to look at her. "Not dead." They were worried that it would be soon that Argus would die, and Ilena was saddened by the thought. He had been a good dog to them. He would be hard to replace.
"Good. That would have made this day just that much better," Teresa said. "I need some tea."
"I'll make some," Ilena said, moving to the kitchen.
They spent the rest of the day purposefully avoiding the subject of Clare, and Ilena knew it would be several days before Teresa was ready to talk about it again. But she could wait.