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Your Princess is in Another Castle
a short story by
As she moved, even the gravel under her feet was silent. No wasted motions, just a fluid shift as her binoculars scanned the horizon.
Peach tensed watching her, stomach drawing in and breath caught up as her heart started racing faster. There was a tingling, like warm fingers wriggling inside of her and she forgot about keeping cover behind the blue-dusted rocks. Head swimming Peach took a step forward, her foot pressing into the gravel ever so lightly, and Lara’s head turned, eyes glaring as her ponytail whipped around.
“Get down,” Lara ordered in a whisper through clenched teeth.
Peach collapsed to the ground, mortified.
Lara finished her reconnaissance. They were on a ledge in the foothills, clay-blue rocks all around them. Stretching out from the ledge were dry, silt-covered plains, and sitting out in the distance like a metallic tumor was the space pirate’s ship.
“They have sentries up,” Lara said, not even looking at Peach, focused instead on her pack as she double-checked her ammunition supplies and the guns in her holsters. “And of course who knows what wildlife is out there. But there are places to find cover on approach.”
Peach was still fixated on upsetting Lara earlier, for making noise when she had been told to stay quiet. Wanting to apologize but not wanting to make a sound Peach was frozen, pink jeans and blond hair dusted blue from the fine rock all around.
Then Lara ran her hands up her head, tilting her neck back, and tightened the braid on her ponytail, making sure no loose strands could come out, could get in the way, could tie her down. And in the overcast darkness of the southern mountains, the sky shattered by Phazon radiation, she was beautiful. Peach tried to turn away, half in love all over again.
“It’s slow-going from here,” Lara said, “and I don’t need a driver anymore.” She looked at Peach, her eyes glazed over in a prepared hardness. “This is good-bye.”
Peach panicked, her round cheeks flushing red and eyes blaring fear. “Good-bye?”
“Look, I needed your political connections at first. And it turns out you’re handy behind the wheel,” Lara said, “and not bad in a fight. Not exactly my style of combat,” she glanced over Peach’s pink outfit, “but not bad. This, though, is a solo mission. Always was.”
“Okay,” Peach said quickly, allowing the words to register but not their meaning, as if the facts being told to her would never exist if she never let them in. “And then afterwards…afterwards where do I find you?”
Lara sighed, a hard sound, like a fighter who knows what’s coming but dares to hope it isn’t coming anyway. She reached a leg out, leaning in, stretching out one calf. “I told you,” she said, not wanting to be argued with.
“But,” Peach said, because she had to say something, and even though she knew Lara was angry she reached a hand out to touch her calf, that beautiful calf, because she knew how soft her skin was and how it made her palms feel like they were made of satin.
Lara switched legs abruptly, withdrawing from Peach’s hand so no contact was made as she began stretching her other calf, an attempt at getting out of this without any embarrassment.
Peach was held together now by nothing but the mottled confusion of her emotions, her innocent cheeks flushed red as tears welled up in her eyes.
She sniffled. An ugly, painful noise.
“I told you,” Lara said. “You weren’t coming the whole way. And you knew, you knew,” she stared at Peach. “You knew I was doing this for Samus. The pirates have her and I’m getting her back and I told you that,” Lara said, brown eyes staring hard, trying to make her words sink in. But the words were useless now; their time was past.
“And the other night?” Peach said, tears flowing free as she herself welled up with selfishness and tantrum, her mind searing with hot streaks, images of Lara’s eyes closed and mouth open in ecstasy, the feel of her naked skin against her lips, the soreness in her own back from arching to hard. Those things were being denied to her forever, and she was angry. “The other night wasn’t about Samus, was it?”
Lara stared at her, wavering for a second, giving Peach hope that she was weighing her emotions, but then she turned and spoke and it was obvious she had only been weighing which words to use. “The other night it was below freezing. I was cold and you were a warm body. That was all.”
Lara didn’t return her eyes to Peach again. She went over her boots, her laces, her shorts, her belt, her pistols, her ponytail, forcing her eyes away from Peach and then she lifted them up and stared out at the horizon, across the rocks dusted in blue-green silt where the metroids wandered and the patrols waited.
She waited, timing out all the various eyes and cameras in the area. Then in a quick calculated instant she hefted herself up and over the rock in front of her and disappeared into the valley.
There was silence. No alarms sounded. Peach knew that she was safe. But as she stared down at Lara’s boot print in the dust that only made it hurt more. She was safe.
She was safe and she was gone and Peach turned and leaned back up against the rock, her fingers lovingly tracing Lara’s boot print as sobbing overtook her.