I’ve been watching too much Dragon Ball Z; it keeps influencing me to write content with touches of sci-fi. Critiquing the repeated callous, prolonged abandonment and general maltreatment of women in that show also informed this on some level. Ahem.
Additionally, it’s Pride Month! Happy Pride Month!
Claire’s battle suit drips three different types of blood. Four, if you count oil from the robots. She doesn’t, but she knows it won’t make a difference to her wife. It’s all a smelly mess that she had broken promises about not getting on the carpet two times too many. She strips down to her underwear the second she walks in the door and tosses her suit outside for Tomorrow Claire to deal with when she trips over it.
“I’m home,” she announces.
She gets no reply. That mildly concerns her. There are superficial blast burns on one of her arms, but she resolves to doctor them after she’s spoken to Ellie.
Claire’s wife sits at the dining room table with two mugs. The only light on in the house casts a buttery glow over Ellie and their scruffy cat, McJones, who lays asleep on her lap as if he melted there. She’s dressed in cozy pink pajamas, but she couldn’t look any less comfortable. The rumples in the fabric echo the stress lines on her face and the bedraggled state of her bleached hair.
“Is that for me?” Claire asks, pointing at the mug opposite Ellie.
She takes her Ellie’s grim silence as a yes, slides into the chair, and picks up the mug. Chamomile with honey, her favorite. To her dismay, she realizes she can’t remember what Ellie likes best. She tries to decipher the scent of the other tea, but it’s too overwhelmed by her own.
Ellie still hasn’t said anything. McJones, oblivious to the tension in the air, stretches out, legs and claws extending outwards, then resettles himself. His eyes remain pinched shut. Claire wishes they could swap places. She also wishes her battle suit was still on. With Ellie glaring at her like that she might as well be completely naked.
“Thanks,” she says after taking a sip. “For the tea, I mean.”
“Is that all you have to say?” Ellie’s eyebags have eyebags.
Claire sighs. “El—”
“I’d ask where you’ve been, but I know it’ll just be gibberish.”
“Planet Ninpo.” After a moment, she clarifies, “Well, the second moon, anyway.”
Ellie gestures with the mug as if to say, “Exactly,” then takes a huge gulp of it.
“Be careful, you’ll burn yourself.”
“You’re telling me to be careful?” She slams the mug down, sloshing tea onto the tablecloth. “It’s been two weeks.”
Claire blinks at her. “Yes?”
“You said you would be gone two days.”
“No, two of the Northeastern Galaxy’s solar cycles. You know, the magnetic field—”
“I don’t know,” Ellie growls. “Why would I know that?”
Claire rotates the mug between her hands. “Look, I’m sorry if I forgot to explain, but I was kind of distracted with the Gartthan invaders and the robot uprising and—”
“I’ve been sitting here every night hoping and praying that you weren’t dead!”
Ellie’s explosive yell finally startles McJones into leaping from her lap. Just in time, too, she stands up from her seat and knocks over her mug.
Claire stands, too, clutching her own mug like a lifeline. “Well, I’m not.”
“I hope your little space adventure was more important to you than our marriage.” Ellie turns away and crosses her arms.
“It wasn’t an adventure, it was—” Claire’s stomach lurches as she comprehends the rest of the jab. “Don’t say things like that. You don’t mean it.“
Ellie looks over her shoulder at her and seems to notice her blast burns for the first time. “You got shot again?”
Relieved at the slight change in subject, she chuckles. “I always do. One of these days I’ll learn how to dodge, maybe.”
Ellie drags her to the bathroom, leaving the spilled tea behind. She orders her into the shower first. Then she sits her down on the toilet lid and cleans up her injuries with practiced motions. The normalcy should soothe Claire, but Ellie’s continued silence unnerves her instead. She winces through every bit of disinfectant and the scent stings in her nostrils.
Claire puts a hand over hers before she can reach for the next roll of bandages. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m really sorry. Next time—”
“Leave it alone, Claire.” She pulls away. “Here. Take Jonesy. He’s getting jealous.”
Ellie picks up McJones, who had been circling her ankles since they left the dining room, and puts him in Claire’s lap. He squirms, immediately trying to free himself. She starts to stroke him, belatedly realizing she still holds the mug of tea in her other hand. It’s ice-cold when she takes a sip. She attempts a grateful smile at Ellie anyway. Her wife stares over her shoulder, eyes unfocused.
McJones succeeds in escaping with a scrambling of feet and unsheathed claws. His departure leaves Claire with even more injuries for Ellie to clean up. She can’t decide whether or not it’s a good thing that it’s causing them to spend the tiniest bit more time together.