(Okay so my FIRST crossover fanfic, I've started writing these because I can and Lise and Mary are both warriors anyway and they're so freaking cute together anyway so yeah :p wanted it to be subtle so drew it out a bit. ALSO! I'm using a lot of Mary's lines from what she actually says in the game itself (i.e. Tales of Destiny) so that's why she sounds like that)

Lise stumbled out the door of the inn, javelin in hand, as the stranger knocked into her and set the two of them stumbling down into the snow. Dazed, she tried to catch her breath, rising to her feet as a young swordswoman stood in front of her, face lined with worry and panic.

"Are you all right?" Lise said concernedly.

"I'm sorry," the swordswoman said in rushed tones, her face distracted. "I wasn't paying attention to you because I've got a lot on my mind. To be honest, I'm in trouble."

Lise hesitated before she thought to ask further. It wasn't as if she had somewhere else to go or anything else to do that would improve her current situation. Here in the border town of Janos, armed soldiers guarded the roads to Darilsheid and Phandaria. In her circumstances, she didn't have her passport – that's what happened when you stowed away on board an airship and then had to make a speedy escape. She was stuck here with no way out, and she needed some way of getting to Darilsheid if she was going to get back home.

"Trouble?" Lise said curiously. "What happened?"

The swordswoman took a deep breath, her eyes nervous but intently focused. "Actually, what I should have said is that my friend is in serious trouble," she said. "My friend was caught in a trap inside the ruins by the snow mountain."

"That doesn't sound good."

The woman nodded. "I'd like to help her, but I can't do it by myself."

"I see," replied Lise, her hands tightening around her javelin as she prepared herself. "Then I'll help you."

"Are you sure?" Apprehension then relief flooded the woman's face. "That'll be great. My name is Mary Argent. Call me Mary."

Lise broke into a smile and stepped forward to embrace the woman in greeting, then decided against it. "I'm Lise. It is a pleasure to meet you. Let's get going."

What was she doing anyway? This woman was a total stranger to her. She needed help, but Lise had barely known her even ten seconds and she had already agreed to aid her in an effort that may well involve fighting a ton of monsters, if her past adventures were any real comparison. Or a long hike up a mountain in any case. It had been a chance encounter and Mary didn't seem to mind having her along at all. Did she just instinctively trust her, just like that? How was she to know Lise wouldn't stab her in the back halfway there and try to rob her blind? Not that Lise would ever dream of doing such a thing, but the thought was still there.

Lise tried to gather her own thoughts as she followed her new companion through the eastern exit of Janos and back into the snowy woods. Surely she was doing so for some other reason other than the kindness of her heart. Unless she was somehow attracted to Mary or her plight, but that couldn't be it either. No, she thought, there's someone in trouble and I can help them. If I'd have said no, then she'd have been wandering all around town trying to find someone and it wasn't like the soldiers would have helped out. There were monsters all over the forest, after all.

She swung her trusty javelin out professionally, having been trained in the use of the weapon ever since she was little, and noted Mary's fighting stance as her companion drew her sword guardedly in preparation for unseen enemies. When the wolves came, the two of them would be ready.

Under Mary's guidance, the duo made their way up and around the eastern side of the forest to what appeared to be the entrance of the temple ruins. Lise smelled the blood on their weapons keenly in the air, but she was used to having to fight for her life before and the wildlife in the forest was just easy fry.

She had a few scratches from near misses and some of the birds had gone for her eyes. Fortunately Mary had brought a few Green Gummies along with her, which Lise had accepted gratefully. She felt her strength return as the first one slid down her throat, and increased the pace unconsciously. Although she had a few restorative items of her own, she had almost run out now and was trying to save them for when she really needed them.

The two of them entered into a vast cavern which stretched all around them, barely visible by the light of torches, and consisted of winding corridors which led deeper inside. Lise squinted into the semi-darkness, tapping the shaft of her javelin against the ground thoughtfully.

"You'll find the temple after you get through the cave," Mary's voice said close next to her, echoing slightly against the rock walls. "Like I said before, my friend is trapped there."

A shiver ran up Lise's spine as Mary touched her shoulder gently, startling her.

"Lise, I'm really counting on you."

She swallowed, her heartbeat picking up speed. "You...you are? But you've barely met me."

Mary sighed. "I mean I'm counting on you to back me up in here when we rescue Rutee. I didn't mean I'm sending you in here by yourself. I came all the way here, after all."

"Oh, of course!" Lise exclaimed, trying not to show her relief. "I've got your back. Of course."

"You fight well," Mary commended with respect shining in her eyes. "I can tell you're not from around here at all."


"Oh yes." Her companion glanced at her bare legs, starkly visible in the light of the cave entrance, and stifled a giggle. "You're not exactly dressed for the winter, Lise, are you?"

"No," Lise shivered, drawing her thin clothes together. "I swear it wasn't snowing before I got here..."

Mary laughed. "Where are you from anyway?" She frowned, and then shook her head quickly. "You can tell me later when we get back to Janus. Let's get through to the temple first before we become sitting ducks for monsters."

They made their way through the caverns slowly, fending off attacks by the creatures which infested it as they slowly progressed through the winding corridors. Lise found that she was holding herself a little higher, and realised with a jolt of surprise that it was pride. Mary had held real respect for her, and for some reason that had really struck home for her. But why should it? She was still more-or-less a total stranger. Maybe that, in itself, was why.

She stabbed another foe through the heart as they rounded the corridor, and Mary sliced apart another of the vicious bats that was coming at her from behind. Up ahead Lise could see brighter lights still, upon marble and stone, and realised that they were virtually at the end of the cavern at last. Give or take a ton of enemies blocking the exit.

The huge cave grizzly in front of her slashed once, twice, scoring red marks on Lise's unprotected thighs. She bit back the pain like all her other wounds so far and thrust and stabbed with the javelin, springing clear to the side before it could counterattack. Agony wracked her body as she went down to one knee, feeling the air whistle round her head as a claw slashed above her head, and Lise flipped the haft of the javelin, slamming the sharp metal tip hard into the creature's unprotected neck. It gurgled and collapsed in a heap, and three more enemies from behind moved to replace it.

"Beast Blade!" Mary shouted, slashing through a mound of orc jellies barring the doorway. "Come on! Before more of them surround us!"

Lise sprang into a forward roll, stabbing in every direction as enemies came from every direction, and rolled through the gap in their ranks and into the temple at long last, nursing her wounds and scratches on her body. A few seconds later, Mary followed suit, cursing with her sword covered with blood.

"Green Gummies," she gasped, diving into her pack for them, "and you too. Looks like you need them."

The two of them spent a few minutes recuperating in a sitting position. Lise felt herself gradually recover, leaning against the wall to catch her breath. She realised her head was on Mary's shoulder and quickly tried to move it.

"It's all right," Mary said wearily, "we both need to rest for a bit. The monsters went a bit mad at the last turning." She motioned with her head towards Lise's legs. "Does it still hurt?"

"Not really," Lise replied, relaxing her neck muscles as best as she could. She felt like she was rubbing her head onto Mary's shoulder. Should she be doing this? They were both worn out, what did it matter anyway. "Just stings a little."

"You need to get yourself some proper armour when we get back to town," said the swordswoman critically. "Cover up those legs. You're just going to get hurt."

"But I move faster dressed like this," Lise protested. Her voice felt slurred and out of focus this close to Mary's neck, like she was getting woozy.

"It doesn't matter how many enemies you beat," Mary said, her voice an effort in the air, "sooner or later one's going to get past you and cut the legs out from underneath you. That and it's not exactly ideal weather to be dressed like that."

"I don't think I've got enough money for any armour," Lise said mournfully. "I'll probably have to pass."

Mary sighed. "Then I'll buy you the armour. At least have some adequate protection for future battles."

Lise turned her head on her shoulder, staring into her eyes. Their faces were so close that their skin was almost touching. Blinking furiously, she quickly adjusted her distance. That was way too close, so close that it made her dizzy.

"Really?" she said when she was at a more appropriate distance. "I really don't need it - "

"Yes you do," Mary said insistently. "We'll have enough gold from all that the monsters dropped. The kind of clothes you're wearing right now are just going to get you killed." She put a palm to her forehead, wiping off sweat, and struggled to her feet. "I've a good mind to give you some of mine right now, actually. I should have got you some before we left town."

She leaned against the wall, still panting from the exertion, but the fire in her eyes was ever-present. "Come on. We're inside the temple now, and we don't have to go too far inside. Let's go."

Lise made no such attempt to follow. She remained seated with her legs spread out in front of her, leaning against the wall as she looked up at the other woman.

"Do you think I'm a beginner at all this?" she said quietly. "Do you think I'm just an amateur who doesn't know how to pick the right armour? I'm just a burden to you, is that what you really think?"

"Lise, I'm just - "

"Because I'm not. I've been fighting for my life for years just to keep going. I've seen my father killed before my eyes, my brother kidnapped, my entire kingdom taken from me. I know how to survive." Lise gazed at her companion standing above her, her eyes filled not with bitterness but more with passion. "And I am not going to be a burden to you. Maybe you think I'm a little unskilled or inexperienced - "

"I do not think that!" Mary protested hotly. "I think you're a great partner to fight alongside! I wouldn't have gotten halfway near the temple without you! I'm just worried that you might suffer too many wounds to your legs because they're unprotected." The swordsman extended her hand towards her, concern etched in her face. "Come on, Lise. I didn't mean to sound patronising or anything. I just don't want to see you get killed. After all, I'd like to still be able to get to know you more after we get out of here." She smiled slightly at the thought, and the motion stirred something in Lise, allaying her suspicions enough to get her off her feet.

It was a lot quieter inside the temple itself, but also a lot more open so that the pair of them were better able to sense where possible attacks might be coming from. They were able to relax a little, but didn't dare let down their guard completely. It seemed the worst had passed, however.

Lise thought the temple was beautiful; even though the walls were ruined and most of its treasures had been ransacked by thieves, it brought an inner peace to her heart that eased the pain. Without thinking she squeezed Mary's hand, and then quickly looked around for unseen monsters to cover her embarrassment. She didn't usually meet people like Mary who warmed to her so quickly; scaring them off with her advances was not the thing to do, especially here of all places.

They consumed Green Gummies as they ventured deeper into the rooms of the temple, and slowly the dizziness passed completely. Mary took a few Orange Gummies for herself, but that was because she was using special sword techniques which drained her with each use. Lise had no need of such abilities, but found the execution of these special attacks fascinating to watch.

At last they came to the last room of the temple itself. There were three crystal-shaped objects floating about a metre above the ground, just in front of three pedestals upon which lay a switch of some kind.

The crystal at the end of the room contained a girl with short dark hair not much older than Lise. She blinked when she saw them, pushing at the bubble imprisoning her.

"Rutee!" cried Mary, rushing into the centre of the room.

The girl trapped in the bubble bent down with a rather annoyed expression on her face. "Mary! Where did you run off to?"

Mary stepped over to one of the other pedestals, looking apologetic. "I couldn't help you by myself. I had to recruit some help."

"Mary, is this your friend?" Lise whispered over to her, looking over at the girl in the bubble nervously. She did not at all look like someone who could sit still for long.

Mary nodded. "Yes. Her name is Rutee."

"Let's leave the introductions for later!" Rutee looked like as if she was going to explode from frustration. "Just get me out of here now!"

"Okay, okay, we'll get you down now," Mary said quickly, and motioned sharply to her blonde companion. "Lise, please help me."

Lise edged forward nervously, glancing towards the pedestals and the switches. They all looked rather important. "What do you want me to do?"

"Just stand in front of the other pedestal. We need to press the switches at the same time."

Somehow, Lise thought to herself as she hurried over to the other pedestal, this situation seemed really familiar. How many times had she had to press a switch at the same time as another party member to open a door?

"Okay, ready when you are!" she called out. "One...two..."

"Lise, wait!" Mary said urgently, her sword in her hand. "Someone's coming!"

The sound of footsteps echoed on the ground as the faces of soldiers appeared in the doorway. Three of them, all armed to the teeth and in a familiar-looking uniform. At first Lise couldn't place it, but then realised from the descriptions in Janos that the three men were all dressed in the standard uniform of the Seinegald army. What on earth would soldiers from Seinegald be doing here?

"Hey! Guys!" Rutee said loudly, beating at the bubble keeping her floating in mid-air. "Are you going to free me yet or not?"

"In a moment, Rutee," Mary said as the three soldiers came up to them. "We're a bit busy right now..."

"It doesn't take ten seconds to just press a couple of buttons! Do you know how long I've been stuck here?"

The three soldiers marched into the room, mouths formed into a sneer. Lise's eyes hardened at the sight of them. She knew their lot. Nothing but unintelligent thugs caring only for fighting and looting and getting their hands dirty. She had more an inkling that they were not on Seinegald business.

"Hey!" snarled the first soldier. "What are you scum doing here?"

"You've got some explaining to do," said the second soldier. "And quickly!"

"Yeah, yeah!" his companion joined in.

Rutee was not impressed being insulted inside a bubble. "And who do you think you are?" she snapped. "You sound like a bunch of thieves trying to snatch other people's treasure!"

The three men reacted as if she'd just struck them with a hammer, although Lise admitted to herself that it would be a lot more dramatic if she hadn't been stuck inside a crystal at the same time.

"Thieves?" one of them roared in outrage.

Rutee tossed the comment aside as if it were nothing. "Oh, no? Then bandits?"She tossed her head, looking disgusted. "Sheesh. What's the world coming to?"

The second man drew himself up, shaking with anger. "Why you little...we're..."

To Lise's dismay, Mary sprang forward with her sword raised high, blood boiling and ready to fight.

"Just shut your trap and come and get us if you dare!" she shouted. "That is, if you don't want to lose your life."

"Mary," Lise hissed, "is this really the time to be - "

The first soldier sneered openly in contempt. "My, my. Don't you have a big mouth."

"Aw, forget it," his friend muttered. "Let's finish the three of them together!"

Lise blinked in surprise. "What do you mean, the three of us?"

Rutee shrugged from her position in mid-air. "I guess you're with us now."

"Hey, wait a minute!" Lise argued, turning back to the hostile soldiers. "I'm not - "

The third soldier slashed the air in front of him savagely as they all came forward. "Shut up!" he yelled. "Save your excuses for the afterlife!"

Lise muttered a mild curse under her breath as the three charged at her and Mary head-on. She whipped her javelin around like a quarterstaff and crippled the legs of the one dashing towards her. He howled in pain and dropped to the floor at once, weapons clattering away from him out of reach. Mary held off the other two single-handedly, taking blows on her shield and using both her sword and body as a weapon, giving about as much as she got.

Quickly, Lise came from behind and plunged her javelin between the plates of the first soldier's back. He grunted and staggered round, his eyes unfocused, giving Mary the opening she needed to knock him down for good. The remaining soldier grabbed a healing potion out of his pack to drink quickly, but Lise knocked it from his hand with another thrust and it smashed on the floor.

"Damn good waste, that," Mary murmured, leaning heavily on her good leg. "Come on!" she yelled at the man still standing. "Come and get me!"

Woozily, the other two soldiers who had been knocked down stirred and got to their feet, smugness now replaced by fear and cautiousness. They backed away next to their companion, burning with rage but not daring to come any closer than they needed to.

"Re, retreat!" the first soldier barked out to his friends, blood staining their armour. With one last glare towards the two girls, the three soldiers turned tail and ran back down the hallway to flee the temple. Lise breathed a sigh of relief, feeling like she'd won her first real battle. She wasn't used to fighting real people but in this case it hadn't been much different from fighting monsters.

"Lise," Mary called to her, "you okay? Are you hurt?"

She shook her head. "I'm fine. They didn't even scratch me. Maybe we'd better get - "

"Hello?" Rutee demanded in her bubble, clawing and slashing at the crystal with a dagger. "Has everyone forgotten about me? Did you come here for a reason?"

Mary laughed. "Sorry, Rutee. We'll get you down now and then get back to Janus. Come on, Lise." The two of them settled over the pedestals. "One, two...three!"

Lise pressed the button at the same time as the swordswoman and felt the crystal holding Rutee de-activate at last. Bare seconds later, she felt red-hot pain shoot up her thighs. The pain took her breath away and Lise grabbed hold of the sides of the pedestal to keep her upright. "Ow..." she complained.

"I'm free!" Rutee crowed. "Finally! I'm free!" She waved her dagger around in the air. "Now if you could just tell me who your blonde friend is then - "

Lise forced herself to look down and saw a thin sliver of blood blanketing her knees and thighs. Where had that come from? She was sure the soldiers hadn't been able to hit her. Was it a wound from the monsters before?...Everything was beginning to sound fuzzy. She couldn't think.

"Lise?" Mary caught sight of her wounds and her eyes went wide. "Lise, are your legs okay? Lise!"

Lise felt herself falling towards the ground, and was dimly aware of Mary catching her at the last second. She smiled and faded into unconsciousness.

She dreamt of red and white. The blood she left behind as her body fell away, and the light which took away her sight. Her javelin felt like it was a part of her body, constantly slashing and killing until it was drenched with the blood of countless enemies. That didn't bother her, really, nor the lack of caring in doing so. It bothered her that she might not be good enough. That she could die in the next stroke, like she was dying now.

Except that Lise knew she wasn't dead, because Mary was besides her, carrying away from the battlefield, adrift tankards of beer and ale with Rutee whilst they roared with laughter and -

...Wait what?

Lise opened her eyes blearily.

She was in a tavern, sprawled out on about three chairs and she ached all over. Numbly, Lise reached over for her javelin and found it trailing from her other hand. Steeling herself, she tried to sit up.

A hand reached over to her from the side of the table and helped her up. Lise raised her head and looked into Mary's familiar red-brown eyes.

"You're finally awake," she observed. "You were out cold for the whole journey. I guess it may have been a bit too much for you."

Lise coloured slightly. "I'm sorry. You must have carried me all the way here. I'm very grateful to you. But your friend, Rutee, she got out okay?"

"I'm over here, Amazon girl," came an impatient voice, and Rutee's face drifted out of the shadows at the opposite end of the table. "Lise, is it? I saw the way you fought those punks back there. You're strong."

"Not strong enough," Lise said regretfully. "I passed out, remember?"

"You're still alive, aren't you?" Rutee folded her arms and stared at her directly as if trying to work out something. "What are you going to do now? Are you joining the army or something?"

Lise blinked in confusion. "The army? No...no, I guess I'm just passing through."

"I just figured, since there aren't many fighters around half as decent as you around." Rutee shrugged. "Not the army, huh? What are you going to do then?"

"I don't know yet," Lise admitted. She'd only just woken up, after all. There hadn't been time to think that far ahead yet. After all, she had been stuck in Janos in the first place because she didn't have a passport to proceed, but...hey! What if she could tag along with these two? That would give her passage out of the town for sure, maybe give her a bit more of a direction.

"By the way, where are you from?" Rutee asked curiously. Now that the girl was out of the bubble at last, she was bursting with questions about Lise. "Anyone can tell you're not from these parts." She snickered. "Where on earth do you dress like that in the middle of winter?"

Lise drew herself up haughtily. "Rolante," she declared. "I am Lise, Princess of Rolante, rightful heir to the throne. The sorceress Isabella murdered my father, the King of Rolante, kidnapped my brother and took over my kingdom. I was forced to flee under overwhelming odds." She stood up dramatically. "But I shall return to reclaim my place on the throne!"

There was a long silence between the two other girls as they stared back at her uncomprehendingly. The noise of the tavern went on behind her as if nothing had happened. Lise hesitated: perhaps she shouldn't have made such a revelation in a pub. Maybe it would have been more dramatic if she'd announced her heritage on some epic mountain peak.

"Uh-huh," Mary yawned, and appeared to go to sleep in her chair.

Rutee leaned forward, her eyes wide. "You're a princess?"

"Yes," Lise said stiffly.

"Do all princesses dress in that fashion?"

"I don't think so," Lise answered rather doubtfully. "Just me."

"You're lying," Rutee said without a hint of remorse. "You're not a princess. You're some weirdo from faraway who dresses up in totally the wrong clothes. Unless you're an Amazon princess. We could do with an Amazon princess in business with us."

Mary raised a hand right on cue. "I'm the Amazon princess here."

"No," said Rutee, "you're the Amazon warrior. Lise can be the Amazon princess. She has the spear and everything."

"It's a javelin," Lise retorted angrily, "and I am not lying! I really am the heir to the throne of Rolante and - "

"Sure, sure," the other girl replied with a bored look on her face. "You just stay put with Mary here. I've got to go out and book our accommodation. Keep up the façade, Amazon girl."

She left through the doors of the tavern without another word. Lise seethed at her back, annoyed by her attitude. Then again, here she was in a different land completely; how could she expect anyone to believe her story? She slumped onto the table, resting her chin on her hands sadly. At this rate, nobody was ever going to believe her.

She felt Mary's hand prop her chin up and she inclined her head towards her questioningly.

"Don't worry," Mary said softly. "I believe you."

"You do?" Lise repeated numbly.

"About the sorceress taking over the kingdom and trying to kill you kind of thing. That bit's quite believable." Mary looked into the distance thoughtfully. "The princess part may be a little unconvincing, however."

"What do you expect?" Lise retorted. "Do I have to wear a crown to convince everyone?" She sighed and ran her hands through her hair.

Mary smiled and shrugged. "It doesn't really matter to me. All I know about you is that you're a good fighter who helped me out when I needed it. And I am very thankful to you for that. If you're going to go around saying you're the princess of this place called Rolante, then go ahead. As long as you're not some wanted criminal who - " She frowned at that thought and then amended it. "Or maybe it would be better if you were, then we could do some more fighting!"

"Mary!" Lise said sharply disapprovingly. "There's more to life then just constantly fighting!"

"Fighting is what I live for," the swordswoman replied bluntly. "It teaches me to breathe, how to smile, how to feel. It makes me feel alive."

There was a fierceness to her eyes as she spoke, and Lise wondered exactly who Mary was to be this kind of person. She had been quite reserved and quiet whilst Rutee had had no difficulty firing questions away, but then opened up when the girl had left. The two of them were certainly friends, but Lise felt something different between the two of them.

"Mary, why did you set out on your adventure?" she asked.

"Me?" Mary looked confused for a second, and then sadness lined her face. "I...can't remember."

Lise was taken aback momentarily. "What?"

"I don't remember. My memories only begin from the time I first met Rutee."

"You've got amnesia?" Lise felt a pang of pity for the woman. "You don't remember anything?"

Mary shook her head briefly, and Lise saw that her hands were trembling somewhat. "The sword I carry with me. I don't know why I have it or who it belongs to..." She took a deep breath, her lips tightening. "Before I knew it, I had this sword...this is the only connection to my past for me."

Gently, almost unaware of what she was doing, Lise placed her hands on Mary's. Their fingers interlocked together, and Mary blinked in confusion, tensing up.

"I'm sorry," Lise said quietly. "I shouldn't have pried."

Mary relaxed, letting the younger girl try to comfort her. There was nothing wrong with that. "It's okay. It's kind of liberating to not have any memories. Besides, everything I see, hear, touch, taste...everything is new to me."

Lise's eyes grew troubled and she removed her hands self-consciously. "And you can always make some new memories."

"I guess so," Mary agreed a little nervously.

Lise shivered and stared into the other woman's face with a heaviness in her heart. "Am I a part of your new memories?"

Mary's eyes softened. "Of course you are," she said in a cracked voice. "You're part of the better ones."

They looked at one another wordlessly until Lise could feel her eyes burning from staring too hard. Feeling a little awkward, she removed her hands, suppressing the urge to embrace the woman. For some reason, she had a feeling that it would make her even more uncomfortable. "You don't like being touched, do you."


Lise shifted her head until her hair covered her face. "It'll all come back. You'll remember in time."

"I know."

Slowly, Lise extended her hand out and cupped the side of Mary's cheek tenderly. The other woman made no move to pull away. She says she doesn't like being touched, but she didn't really have any problem when I rested on her shoulder earlier, did she? Leaning forward in trembling anticipation, Lise drifted the fingers of her other hand through Mary's long auburn hair. She felt tense and on edge, as if she were about to break away at any moment.

Mary stayed very still, but a drop of moisture chained her cheeks. It could have been there already.

"Is fighting," Lise said, her fingers stroking through the same stretch of hair, "the only thing that makes you really happy?"

Mary's eyes narrowed, growing haunted. "How would I know?" she whispered.

Her hand stroked down her cheek now, moving around to the back of her head to gently hold the curve of her neck. Mary stirred and moved her hair in response as Lise moved her face closer to hers. Why am I doing this? she thought. Why? Is this any way to melt a warrior's heart encased in ice?

Lise turned her face sideways, so that their cheeks brushed together. The tear drops on Mary's face touched onto hers as their skin burned together, barely an inch away from each other. She could feel Mary's breath through her hair, and squeezed her other hand tighter.

"It's okay," she breathed. "You can touch me, if you want to."

Mary's hands trembled in front of her as if they were struggling against some inside urge, but didn't move. "I..." She gradually reached out with one hand and felt the back of Lise's arm above her elbow, then froze. "It's so difficult for me, Lise...I feel like I can't remember how..."

"You don't have to remember," Lise said against her skin. "Just let go. Let go of everything and let your body do the rest."

Her mouth moved and pressed against Mary's lips gently, feeling Mary's hand tighten against her arm as she moved her tongue gently against her lips. She didn't want to move it too deeply inside her mouth and alarm her. Just make it seem like a comfort kiss. They breathed in and out in unison with each other, until Mary's other hand came onto Lise's shoulder and stroked downwards, further down until it stroked over her breast.

Startled at the sudden movement, Lise broke off the kiss, staring at where Mary had touched her, breathing hard. Mary seemed confused and quickly let go altogether as if only just aware of what she had been doing.

"I'm sorry," Mary said quickly, "I didn't mean to - I just let go like you said and - "

Lise felt the shock start to pass away. Despite what had just happened, Mary was finally coming out of her shell. She'd learned to let go and relax. It was important that she feel safe and secure in doing so, not make the barrier between her and other people get any bigger. Before the ice between the two of them got any thicker, Lise quickly embraced her on the spot, hugging her tight in forgiveness.

"That's it," she said, and felt Mary's arms come around her too so that they were locked together. "Do you still not like being touched?"

Mary smiled, feeling bold enough to feel one hand stroke down Lise's long mane of hair at the back. "I still don't like being touched. But it's different with you for some reason." After a moment's hesitation, she overcome another barrier and planted a kiss on Lise's forehead. "I...I think I can do it now." Her eyes shone with emotion. "Lise...thank you. I feel like...I feel like I've experienced this before. In part of my memory."

Lise laughed shortly into her hair, pressing her face against her ear. "So am I in your memory?" she asked teasingly.

"I wish. You're a bit too young for me to be that far in my memory."

"Hey, I am sixteen, you know," Lise retorted good-naturedly, pressing her lips to the other woman's ear.

Mary's eyes widened. "You're what?" She almost let go for a second, but the kiss kept them together. "Couldn't you have told me that before?"

"There wasn't exactly a good time for it," Lise said dreamily. "Besides, who cares about age? You're not that old."

"I'm twenty four, girl! "

"Really? How did you remember that?" Lise smiled and pressed her hands into Mary's hair with increased urgency. "Would you rather wait until I was eighteen? It doesn't matter either way to me, as long as you're happy."

"Lise...I just want to say..."

"What do you want to say? Do you want to talk about sex? Or how far we can go? Or Rutee being in the other room and being able to hear us? Or the parts of me that you find most attractive? What do you want to say?"

Mary closed her eyes. "I want to say," she said in a low voice, "that we should get out of the pub right now because we've been kissing for ten minutes straight and virtually all of the guys here are staring at us."

Flushing with embarrassment, Lise let go instantly and whirled around in her seat. Three whole tables of people quickly looked away again.

"Pervs," she muttered.

"Let's go find Rutee," said Mary happily. "She said was booking some rooms at the inn. I want you to stay with us."

"What?" Lise would have spit out her drink if she had had one. "You want me to sleep in the same room with Rutee?"

"And the same room as me."

"It's still the same room as Rutee!"

"You're missing the point," Mary sighed. "Come on." She hugged Lise on the spot as they both turned to head out of the tavern. "Let's make some new memories together, you and me, to last forever."