What Lies Beyond: Chapter 42

“I wish I could find someone special to me.”
“It's not as hard as you think. You just need to keep trying and listen to your heart. Maybe you've met someone special already.”
The woman sighed. “I don't think so. Not yet. I know what I'm looking for, and I haven't found it yet.”
“Well, it's good to have something to strive for, but don't get so caught up in your concept of an ideal partner that you ignore everything else. Love isn't just a matter of checking things off a list, you know.”
“That's easy to say when you've already found someone great.”
“I know all about it,” she said, “my lover wasn't at all like I pictured him, and it took me a long time to come around, but I'm glad I did.”
“My ears are burning”, a man said, walking up behind her. He put his arms around her neck from behind and nuzzled up against her.
“For example”, she continued, with a sly smile on her face, “my lover is not at all muscular, totally co-dependent, and way too passive in bed, but he's also very kind, caring, and he's always there for me, no matter what. And I guess he can even be a bit charming in his own way.”
Petal kissed the back of her neck, “He sounds like a great guy to me.”
The stranger laughed. “You two are very cute. I wish I was so lucky.”
“I'm sure you'll get your chance”, Lay told her, “just don't hesitate when that time comes. When your heart tells you something, you need to see it through.”
The stranger nodded. “I'll try.”

The lights grew dim in the little coffee shop where they had been talking, and Lay knew it was time to go. The two of them walked back to the ship together, arm in arm.
“I think she'll be all right”, he said.
“I hope so. It's not easy, though, no matter who you are.”
He nodded, though something else was clearly on his mind. “...Do you really think I'm too passive in bed?”
She laughed. “It's okay, I'm used to you now.” She put her other palm on her cheek, habitually, even though there was no fur to puff up, “Maybe you're just too good at doing what I tell you.”
He made a face, “I'm choosing what how we do it tonight, then.”
“Heh, I know what you'll choose...” She leaned into his shoulder as they came back to the ship.


“...he's always there for me”, she finished writing, closing her little notebook.
“I thought you gave that up?” Petal asked, eyeing her curiously as he lounged on her bed.
“Old habits die hard, I guess”, she said, putting it away, “and there's some things I don't want to forget.”
“So, do you think you've joined the great romantics yet?” he asked as she walked over to him.
“You tell me”, she said, getting into bed beside him, but she sealed his lips with her own before he had time to respond.

A little while later there was a soft knocking at her door. She pretended she didn't hear it, but it persisted, just barely audible, but definitely there. “Just a minute”, she called, disentangling herself from him and taking a moment to make herself presentable.
She opened the door, startling the gentle knocker. “What is it?” she asked, somewhat irritated.
“Aha- um- er- I'm sorry to bother you when you're... busy... my queen.” He stammered, trying not to look at her or inside her cabin.
“Ah, Sonnet”, she said, smiling wryly, “I haven't seen you in quite some time. I've been meaning to apologize to you for the way I treated you that night. You were there for me when I needed someone but I was terribly unkind to you.”
“Ah- well- think nothing of it- my queen- I live to serve- Ah ha...”
“Is that so?” she said, stroking his chin with the tip of one of her claws. “I'm surprised you haven't been boasting to me of all the women you've 'served' lately. Has your famed technique gone soft?”
“Oh no- I've been working hard, but- since that night, not once has a woman treated me kindly. That night- I learned many things about myself- that I did not wish to know. So now I keep my stories to myself.”
She laughed uproariously. “That is too funny!” He looked at her sheepishly.
“So what was it that you had to tell me?” she said, wrapping her arms around him, pressing her chest and thigh tight to his body and digging her claws into his back. “I don't like to be kept waiting, you know.”
“Ah!” he exclaimed, wincing painfully as she dug her claws in even deeper, licking his neck and biting his chin as she did so. “There's- someone here to see you!” he stammered, his eyes rolling back into his head as she rubbed her body against him.
“Oh, really?”, she said, pushing him away just before he reached his peak. “Well, I'll have to meet with them right away.” He disappeared even before she had finished talking.
“Remind me never to get on your bad side”, Petal said, shaking his head.
She laughed, “It's okay, it'll give him something to think about later.”
“Is something going on over here?” a timid voice asked. “I heard screaming.”
“Oh, nothing too obscene, just repaying an old debt. What can I do for you?”
“Can we talk?” Sister asked her. “I need your help.”

Most of the rooms were occupied at this time of night, so the two of them sat down on the deck. “So, how can I help you?”
“I need to know something”, she asked, “how is it that the love two people share can so quickly turn into something bad?”
Lay's jovial expression quickly faded, “so that's it.” She took a deep breath. “Corsair asked me the same question”, she said, running her paw along her cheek, “I didn't have an answer for him then. Or maybe I did, but I didn't want to believe it.”
“Do you know now?”
“I used to have a very simple view of love, that it was completely pure and good, the farthest thing from negative feelings like jealousy and loneliness. I wanted to find that more than anything, but I never could, no matter who I was with, those dark feelings never went away. So I turned everyone away, waiting for the one who would make everything perfect.”
“And then what?”
“It wasn't until you asked me why Corsair would hurt you if he loved you that I finally understood the truth: Love isn't perfect. Loving someone won't get rid of your faults and the negative emotions that lie within your heart. In fact, it's those very feelings of loneliness, jealousy, and self-doubt that cause us to cling so strongly to the ones who make us happy. To truly love someone is to bare everything before them, both good and bad, and to accept each other as you truly are.”
“So then how does something like that go bad?”
“Because it takes a lot of trust to show your faults to someone and know that they won't like you any less. If that trust is weakened, then people start to lock a part of themselves away and become suspicious of each other. Those feelings of distrust can turn to conflict upon even the smallest of misunderstandings, and what was once beautiful can be lost.”
“But can a lost love ever be repaired?”
“It's very tough”, she said, closing her eyes, “once a person's trust has been broken, it is not so easily given out the next time. But if a love is truly something special then in time those wounds may heal and they can learn to trust again.”

She sat there, pensively, trying to absorb it all.
“Now it's my turn for a question”, Lay asked, puffing her cheek. “What makes you wish to know this?”
“It's Lapse”, she said, “she's returned, somehow, but she and Pack don't seem to get along anymore.”
“Ah,” Lay replied, knowingly, “and you want to help them find their way to each other again.”
She smiled. “...And I'm sure you're also thinking ahead to how you will regain Corsair's love when he returns?”
“W-What?” she stammered. “That's...”
Lay laughed softly and patted her on the head. “I don't think you'll have trouble. You're very kind, and now you know the secret. Just don't forget to be true to each other.”
“I just want him to come back”, she said, a determined look on her face, “Anything more can wait until afterwards.”
“We'll see how long you want to wait when you see him again”, she thought to herself with a smile. They said their farewells and Sister was back on her way.
“And speaking of which...”, she said, opening the door to her cabin, “I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long.”
He was still lying on her bed where she had left him. “No, I think I'm just about ready for you again.”
“I knew you would be”, she said, closing the door and climbing into bed with the one she loved. He chose her favourite position, as she knew he would, and she was surprised to find herself genuinely wishing for Corsair and Sister to find this happiness together as well.

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