Harrow hadn’t meant for it to slip.
It was nighttime, at least according to the circadian lights, and they were lying in their bed. It had been a long day, Gideon had spent it training, Harrow reading and learning. Now they were exhausted, unable to move another inch.
So they talked. They did a lot of that nowadays. They talked about nothing, and everything. A couple of times, they exchanged stories about how they felt growing up. They had both been so goddamn lonely and unloved. It felt so good to talk about it, especially to someone who understood. Harrow would mention how she felt like a monster, an abomination. Gideon would say she never thought she’d see a better life. Then they would cling to each other, and whisper sweet words of longing, care and shared pain.
They would also talk about the most insignificant things. Like, new dishes they enjoyed (Gideon), or jobs they might pursue (Harrow).
Once, Harrow spent two hours discussing each BoE officer’s efficiency, while Gideon chuckled and added how hot they were. Another time, Gideon went on a long rant about a comic book that was so passionate, Harrow almost tried to read it the next morning.
For the most part, they just said words into the air and knew someone was listening.
That night though, Harrow said one of the worst possible things she could say.
She said, “I almost wish I had met you at that ball. I always wonder how things would have turned out.”
Gideon was silent for a second, then she said, “What ball?”
Harrow immediately realized her mistake and clamped up.
“Harrow.” Gideon said, turning her head so they made eye contact. It was still so weird seeing her dark eyes in Gideon’s face. She looked dashing with them, something Harrow could not say of herself. “Harrow. Harrowhark. Harrowhark Nonagesimus.” Gideon pestered, like the little brat she was.
“Go to sleep, Nav.” She said, attempting to turn around. Gideon stopped her, not too roughly, and pulled her closer. Then they were lying face to face, their mouths a breath away from each other.
“What ball?” Gideon whispered.
Harrow took the easy path and kissed her. Gideon leaned in and they wasted the night away.
The next morning, Harrow found a sticky note on her forehead. It was an unpleasant thing to wake up to. She once again felt guilty for the way she had treated Gideon.
“I saw what you did there.” Gideon had sprawled, in her disgusting handwriting. “What ball, Shadow Princess?”
She rolled her eyes and shoved it into a drawer. It was already filled with random paraphernalia Gideon gave her. A ticket stub from the movie BoE had put on a month before. A finger bone Gideon had found, despite their meticulous cleansing of human body parts. A couple dozen notes, a drawing that she had once attempted (and failed) to make of Harrow and a piece of candy Harrow refused to eat. Love stuff, her brain supplied, and quickly shoved away. That was a remanent of a conversation she had not experienced, but had learned of through pissed off tones.
That made her feel guilty again. Gideon had told her everything, even the embarrassing and bad. Gideon made sure she knew every moment of their time apart.
Harrow, on the other hand, had kept secrets.
She had filled Gideon in on the basic parts of ghost Canaan House, but she hadn’t mentioned the alternate reality dreams. She had decided that Gideon didn’t need to hear about it, and hadn’t thought about it again.
Now she realized that Gideon might want to know what had happened.
Harrow recalled the warmth she had felt, learning that Gideon had defended her against Ianthe. That hardened her resolve.
After a quick sonic and a change of clothes, Harrowhark went off to find her girl.
Gideon was, as she always was, in the training room.
She was sparring with Corona, who had more recent experience, but less of a history with the blade. Gideon, on the other hand, had been a master before taking a sabbatical from her body.
They were both a marvel to watch.
“They’ve been getting better.” Camilla said from beside her.
A quick check of the eyes, yes, definitely Camilla.
“They look great.” Harrow said, because she didn’t know a thing about swords. “Better then I ever was.”
Camilla gave her a glance. “You could learn you know. Now that you don’t have necromancy stealing your thalergy, you could build up muscle.”
Harrow gave this a thought. Then, for the second time in two days, she recalled her other realities.
She had mastered a sword in that. Despite being miniature, she had become a force to be reckoned with.
“I’ll think about it.” She said, then they turned back and watched.
When Gideon was done, she wiped her forehead of sweat and sauntered over.
“Hey babe.” She said with a lazy smile. Harrow blushed deep red and tugged on Gideon’s sleeve.
“Can we talk?” She said.
Gideon’s smile softened. “Sure.”
In their room, Gideon sat on the bed and waited patiently.
“I never told you everything.” She said. “About my time with the ghosts.”
Gideon leaned back on her arms. “Mysterious.”
Harrow gave her a look and continued. “I realized that… it meant a lot to me that you told me everything. So I wanted to extend that option to you.”
Gideon considered this. “Do you want to tell me everything?”
Harrow froze. “What?”
Gideon looked so casual, staring up at her. “I don’t want to know if you don’t want to tell me.”
Harrow bounced between her feet. “I don’t… I don’t know. I want to tell you if you want to know.”
Gideon opened her arms. “Come here babe.” Harrow obliged.
“I didn’t mean to pressure you into telling me anything. I know it’s hard sometimes.” She nuzzled her nose into Harrow’s neck. She shivered. “I don’t want you to feel obligated to tell me stuff if you don’t want to. Obviously don’t like, murder my best friend and then hide it from me, (“Camilla would murder me first.” Harrow murmured. Gideon kissed her neck in reply, then pulled back slightly.) but you don’t have to feel like everything is fair game for Gideon Nav’s ears. I don’t even want everything to be fair game for Gideon’s Nav’s ears and Gideon’s Nav’s ears are my ears!”
Harrow pinched her in the arm.
“Anyways, if you want to tell me, cool. If you don’t, I’ve had enough ghost shenanigans happen to me for a lifetime. I can bare without these.”
Harrow hummed as Gideon ran her hands through her hair. She loved the feeling, it was part of the reason she wouldn’t shave it off. She had left it long, though Gideon occasionally trimmed it for her. It made her look different, older maybe.
“I want to tell you.” Harrow said finally. “Not just because I think it would make you happy, but because it’s something I need to get off my chest. I think… only Abigail Pent and Magnus Quinn know, knew. I need someone, here, to know.”
Gideon nodded. Harrow had filled her in on her budding relationship with the couple. Gideon had cupped Harrow’s face in her hands then, and said, “I’m so glad you had people who cared about you.”
Now she was watching intently as Harrow took in a deep breath of air.
“As you know, my brain created an alternate Canaan House. To fight the Sleeper, but also to create a world without you in it. (“A less great and less hot one.” Gideon murmured) This was where most of my… ghostly pursuits happened, but not all. After I was stabbed by Mercymorn, I found myself in alternate realities.”
Gideon’s eyebrows went up, but she didn’t say anything.
“They were… realities in which something else had changed. I was without necromancy and training to become cavalier primary. I was looking for a suitor. I was a lieutenant in the Cohort.”
Gideon’s mouth quirked. “Wicked.”
Harrow pushed her away slightly, then pulled her back by her collar. Gently, she hoped. “They were ways of coping with… my loss of you. For they were all building up to this moment. The grand, Gideon Nav reveal, you might say.”
Gideon’s grin widened. “So this ball…”
“You were the Necrolord Prime’s Daughter, Her Divine Highness. There was a… ball… so that you could choose a…”
“A suitor.” Gideon grinned wildly now. “Oh fuck yeah. I woulda had so much fun.” Then her eyes softened and she leaned in closer. “I sure as hell would have picked you, Harrowhark. Even if you were wearing some ridiculous getup.”
Harrow flushed and rolled her eyes to distract from it. “Well. We never met in that one. Nor in the one where I wanted to be cavalier primary.”
“What was I in that?”
Harrow pursued her lips. “In that reality… I had not been born necromantically gifted. Instead I was tossed aside and you, who had dropped into Drearburh, were made Reverend Daughter. I hated you in that one.” She remarked easily. “As you were my replacement. You were,” Here she blushed a dark color. “Petitioning for us to be wed. So I could join the Reverend line again. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be the greatest cavalier since Matthias Nonius. But Ortus refused to give up being primary and God did I want that position.”
Gideon gave her a soft, unknowable look. Which was odd because Harrow found pride in knowing every Gideon Nav expression.
“What was the third?” She asked gently.
Harrow fidgeted with her sleeve. “I was a lieutenant in the Cohort. To get funds for our House. I met the teens in that one, though not really their ghosts, as Pent had sent them on. You were a coffee adept. I actually got to talk to you then. It was the push that broke the dam.”
Gideon still had that look on her face as she took Harrow’s hand. Harrow realized it was the look of someone who loved another with every fiber of their being, so much that it hurt them to be away from them for a millisecond. She only knew because she found it on her own face sometimes.
“Love,” Gideon said, which warmed Harrow’s insides without fail. “I would find you in a million realities. I would love you in a billion realities.”
Then she ruined it and said, “I can’t believe your dying brain was that horny for me.”
Harrow shoved her away, onto her back on the bed, and crossed her arms. “You are my everything.” She said with a pout. “You are my breath of air, my relief from the world, my joy and tears. You are always in my mind Gideon Nav. I believe you will be for the rest of my life, as I haven’t figured out how to get rid of you yet.” She paused and added. “So yes, you’ll be on my mind every time death finds me within its grasp.”
Gideon tugged her down on top of her. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Then she kissed her and it was just as good, better, then the first time they had kissed.
“Does this mean you want to play out the other realities?” Gideon asked, leaning in the doorway.
Harrow slipped her rapier into its sheath. She had been secretly training with Camilla for two weeks now. She vaguely wanted it to be a surprise. Not in the ‘she was going to challenge Gideon and win’ sort of way, but she had wanted to see Gideon’s shock and joy.
“I’ll have to think about it.” She said, through ragged breaths. She could barely think now, sword play took all of her physical and mental capacity. She didn’t know how Gideon did it.
Gideon smirked and walked in. “You looked very sexy.” She said and kissed Harrow’s sweaty brow. Camilla decided, smartly, that was her cue to leave.
“Did I?” Harrow said looking up. “I felt rather like a fool.”
Gideon wrapped her arms around Harrow’s neck. She would never get over how good they felt there. How right. “Don’t get me wrong, you looked like you’d never touched a sword before, which I know isn't remotely true, but you make everything look sexy. Even a lieutenant’s uniform.” She said with an eyebrow wiggle.
Harrow kissed her. Then, “One of those ridiculous uniforms from your titty magazines?”
Gideon grinned, full of teeth, and shook her head. “Nah. More like the type that woulda whooped my ass if I had joined. Strict and bossy. Just like someone I know.”
Harrow hummed. “I’ll think about it.” She said again.
Gideon didn’t seem to mind her answer. “Or maybe I could get you into a ball gown. No makeup or bones, we don’t want to be yeeted out of the airlock, but something dark and mysterious. A veil maybe. I could knock into you in a hallway and spill wine all over you. Then you hate me for awhile, except neither of us want to deal with annoying suitors, so we pretend to be into each other and then we dance and I’m like damn this is kinda sexy. Then later after we talk for hours, you let me lift your veil and I’m like hot damn she’s sexy! And then we kiss and shit.”
Harrow snorted. “Your brain is filled with rot.”
Gideon stuck her tongue out. “Brain rot of you, my lady.” Then she backed up and offered her hand. “May I have this dance, mysterious woman of black clothe?”
Harrow was surprised by her serious expression. She looked like someone born to rule, powerful brows and a determined set to her mouth. Harrow fell in love with her again. What was that, the eighth time? Maybe ninth.
“If that pleases you, your Divine Highness.” She said demurely and accepted.
Then Gideon swept them around the room like she had been born to dance.
Harrow supposed she had learned to be light on her feet when she had switched to the rapier. She had become a far cry from her heavy footed past self. Still, she had no clue where this had come from.
“You aren’t the only one who’s been diversifying.” Gideon said with a self righteous smirk.
Harrow’s body filled with warmth and she let herself by danced around the room.
It was exhilarating. It felt like a kiss after a storm, a massage of sore muscles. Gideon’s strong hands supporting her were life supports, and she leaned into their touch. Gideon’s eyes stayed on hers the entire time and she let them. She would burn down cities for those eyes on her. No matter the color, the look behind them was Gideon’s. Filled with love and passion and support.
Harrow let herself be twirled and felt happier from it.
When they were done, breathless and panting, Gideon opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. Instead, she scooped her up and carried her to their rooms. Harrow buried her face in her hands, embarrassed that anyone could see her so vulnerable. Then she let them fall and stared up at those eyes. She didn’t care if anyone saw except Gideon.
When they got to their rooms, Gideon gently lowered her onto the bed.
“You look so lovely.” She said softly, from above.
Harrow knew she was dark red, and didn’t care. “Get down here you idiot.” She said instead and pulled Gideon in for a searing kiss.
After awhile, after their limbs were jelly, Harrow traced pictures into Gideon’s leg. “You could make me coffee.” She said in a low voice.
Gideon snorted and looked at her with so much love, it made Harrow shake. “You don’t even like coffee.”
Harrow found herself shrugging, a new low, and said, “Corona thinks I’d enjoy iced coffee better. She thinks part of the problem is how hot it is.”
Gideon smiled lazily. “And you trust Corona’s opinion?”
Harrow huffed. “No. But I’m willing to… try new things.”
Gideon laced their fingers together. “Hmm. I guess I could wear an apron and nothing else. Pass the coffee over a kitchen counter sexily. Write my room number on the glass.”
Harrow laughed and covered her face with her free hand. “Okay never mind.”
Gideon gently pried it off. “No, no, I like it. How about the cavalier reality? Should I put myself in danger so you can protect me?”
Harrow pressed her face into Gideon’s shoulder. “Stop it.”
“What! I’m being serious. Or maybe we can play out Canaan house.” She took on a husky voice that almost sounded like a Corona impression. “Harrow, we have to pretend to be a real cavalier and necromancer. That means you have to sleep on the cot at the end of my bed. Harrow, you must stay by my side no matter what, even if I’m bathing. Harrow, after draining your life force, I’m going to carry you back to our rooms naked.” She paused and reverted to her normal voice. “I can’t believe the last one actually happened.”
“I wasn’t entirely naked.” Harrow said defensively.
Gideon sighed. “I know. God that would have been something else.”
Harrow punched her, felt bad about it (despite Gideon saying it absolutely did not hurt) and kissed her intently.
“How about this?” She said softly, into Gideon’s mouth. “We can find a pool of water, confess our worst sins, then actually kiss.”
Gideon grinned into her mouth. “Sounds perfect love.”