Balancing Act by TeraS

Cassie returns to her present, to find the future waiting for her, this week on the Tale. You can find the prior chapters here, here, here and here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. The part before this week’s is here. Truth requires one to accept it, no matter what may come from that decision. But knowing the truth also brings a…

Balancing Act
By TeraS

“Cassiopeia …”

She’d know that voice anywhere, even when it held that tone that said the owner wasn’t exactly pleased with her. She hadn’t heard that tone for a very long time, and, honestly, she wasn’t sure if it sounded as upset as Cassie expected. Looking to the right, the Temptress decided that it wasn’t good.

Standing in front of Keith’s desk was the Queen of the Realm in all her dominant glory. Her wild, ebon mane framed her piercing, so-green eyes, focused on the silver tail so very intently. The black dress trimmed in red proclaimed her power; her red tail arched over her shoulder while red horns glinted in the light of the room. The sound of her sharp, red heels clicking on the smooth wood floor sounded like thunder as she stalked the Temptress. Cassie shivered as the Queen gestured her black-gloved right hand towards her, then stopped.

It was clear that her Monarch wasn’t exactly sure how to continue. Was she angry, upset, displeased?

Before Tera could say a word, Cassie did: “I’m not sorry for what I’ve done. I’m not sorry for challenging you, making you leave the Realm and find Keith. I’m not sorry for going back and finding him. Not sorry for falling for him all over again. I’m especially not sorry for every word I said, including saying that I love him.” She’d turned to face her dearest friend, not backing down as she told her truths: “I am sorry that I was so stupid for so long. I’m sorry for not realizing what Keith was trying to tell me. I’m especially sorry that I wasn’t as part of your lives as I should have been.”

The canvas bag slipped off her shoulder easily and she reached inside: “I didn’t do this for me. I didn’t do it for you and Keith.” She knew that didn’t make any sense to Tera, but she kept going: “I had to go, it all had to happen like you and Keith remembered.” Cassie thrust the silver framed picture at Tera: “That’s why. Tell me it wasn’t worth it. Explain to me why it doesn’t matter. Convince me that you wouldn’t have done the same thing.”

She watched the Monarch of the Realm, her dearest friend, the soul she loved, hold the frame. So-green eyes, the eyes that Cassie adored, held the picture. Those same eyes that began to tear, becoming wet.

Those eyes rose to meet Cassie’s: “You know I would.”

The Temptress gently took the frame from her Monarch and set it on the couch with the canvas bag: “It all comes to that, doesn’t it?”

The red-tail had a wistful smile: “Perhaps … perhaps not.”

The silver-tail sighed: “You know, that’s where this all started.”

The Monarch of the Realm gave way to her red-tailed friend and lover as Tera closed the distance between them, tails twining, fingers lacing together: “Yes, it did. But it didn’t end there did it?”

Cassie couldn’t quite look her in the eyes: “Tera … What do we do? Keith is your Eternal. I gave him to you. Please … let me …”

“Cassie, you’ve been his Temptress eternally. I’ve never held that against you, never been upset when you’ve been with Keith, he’s never been upset when you’ve been with me.”

The Temptress smiled: “I still remember that time we tried to trick him, me looking exactly like you.”

Tera’s smile was naughty: “Of course, it didn’t work. He knows us too well for it to work.”

“But it was fun.”

“Yes, it was.” They both giggled.

Cassie sighed softly: “Still don’t know where this all takes us, Tera. I want you both, I want to be part of your lives. I don’t want to be watching from afar anymore.”

Tera’s smile became even more naughty, a shiver trickled its way from the tip of Cassie’s silver tail to her horns, making her gasp; “What …”

“I have a thought, but we need to ask for advice first.”

Cassie had no idea who Tera was talking about, and she didn’t give a hint or clue as they left Keith’s office together, Cassie carrying the canvas bag with its mystery within.

Wherever they were going, it didn’t seem to be too far away. The palace grounds receded behind them as they walked into the Realm proper. They’d passed a number of souls along the way, Tera waving to all of them, sharing an occasional hug with a few who came close. Cassie didn’t expect the greetings sent her way as well, however. She wasn’t part of Realm royalty, after all; it wasn’t her thing and she was quite happy to let Tera and Keith deal with it all. She couldn’t deny that returning a hug made her smile.

Eventually they entered a familiar cul de sac; the light red brick home at the very end sported a shrub trimmed into the shape of a hockey puck near the entrance, along with several others trimmed within an inch of their lives into other hockey related items. She still had no idea how the gardener in question had managed to make one look like a goalie mask. Still, she knew exactly whose home this was and was so very thankful she was wearing her silver best as Tera led them into the backyard.

A very familiar, gruff voice called out to them both as they passed under the awning that protected the patio: “Well, this is a surprise. What brings the most beautiful red and silver tails of the Realm to my humble abode?”

Tera stopped and put her hands on her hips: “You must be in a good mood, Uncle. Did your team win last night?”

The patio held a circular–red, of course–wooden table with four chairs placed around it. Seated there was an elderly soul, the only one in the Realm with shockingly white hair and a red tail. Formally known as an advisor to the Realm, he was, of course, their Uncle.

Uncle looked them both over, passing over his beloved niece’s comment about his hockey team–they’d lost. “Being formal today, are we? I don’t recall my nieces doing that before. I’d better go and change into something more proper .”

Cassie placed a hand on top of his, the one holding his cane, and shook her head: “Don’t you dare. You just stay there, Uncle.” She looked at Tera, who nodded: “Absolutely. This isn’t … formal … exactly.”

Uncle waved his free hand: “I’m not about to have a conversation with the two of you standing there. Now sit, the both of you.”

The chorus of “yes, Uncle” did bring a smile to the elderly red-tail. After his nieces had found their places, he continued: “Now, what brings you both here?”

It took a while to fill him in, to explain how they both loved Keith, which didn’t surprise him at all. Learning about what Cassie had done, the relationship she’d had with Keith before he’d met Tera, did. He’d never liked the idea of poking his tail into time, never would, but accepted that his silver-tailed goddaughter believed she was doing the right thing when she’d finished explaining her side of the story.

It was a bit more complicated to listen to his red-tailed niece as she told her side of things. He’d always known she adored Cassie; that was plain to see from the moment the two had met as children. The revelation that they’d fallen in love before Tera had met Keith was a surprise, but Tera was known for her love, and so loving Cassie made sense.

Both younger souls knew when their uncle was thinking. He had a habit of scraping the tip of his cane on the ground, and did so as Tera finished telling her story and they waited for him to collect his thoughts. His first comment, being a red-tail, wasn’t a surprise: “You both love him and each other. I don’t see the problem.” He watched them nod, then continued: “But it’s the Eternal problem that’s bothering you.”

Cassie was worrying her hands: “There’s only one Eternal for each of us.”

His eyes held them both: “What, exactly, tells you that?”

Cassie didn’t know how to answer that. It was clear from their lessons and the words of Goddess wasn’t it?

The wise red-tail continued: “The writings of Goddess state that there are Eternals for each soul. They don’t say how many. They don’t say there is only one for each of us. From the view of our kind, all of us in our Realm, you are both Eternals to Keith and you are Eternals to each other.”

Tera looked at Cassie: “I don’t have a problem.”

Cassie nodded: “I don’t, either.”

He tapped his cane against a table leg: “The problem is that your Eternal was human. He has his sense of honour, and that tells him that Tera is his wife and Eternal. But he loves you, Cassiopeia. He loves you both but doesn’t want to upset Tera.”

Pulling at her hair, Tera sighed: “I’m not upset. We’ve talked about this; he knows that he’s wanted by Cassie, that, honestly, I’d love for them to be as close as Cassie and I are.”

He nodded, then turned his attention to his blonde niece: “Is it that important for others to recognize you as Keith’s Eternal?”

Cassie shook her head, her mane floating about her shoulders: “No. Everyone knows that I’m always tempting him, that I desire him. Being labeled by the Realm as his Eternal, I’ve come to realize, isn’t that important to me. What matters is being with Tera and Keith, that’s all.” She looked at her ebon-maned best friend: “He has one Eternal and that’s Tera.”

Their uncle allowed himself a chuckle: “Then I have a solution. But the Queen and her King will have to hold court.”

Tera sighed, which made Cassie giggle: “Uncle … Do I have to? Can’t I just sign something?”

“Not this time, dear niece. For this to work, we’ll have to have all the pomp and ceremony you dislike so much.”

Cassie giggled as her tail nudged Tera’s: “You have fun with that. I’ll watch from the balcony.”

His tail pointed in his blonde niece’s direction: “As for you, you’re going to be at the centre of this, Cassiopeia.” Cassie didn’t feel so pleased as he continued: “Things are going to be less fun for you. Are you absolutely sure?”

Her answer was to open the canvas bag she’d brought with her and hand the silver-framed picture to him. Like Tera, she’d always wanted her godfather’s approval of her. Tera was his niece by birth, she by her parents asking him. But that didn’t matter, he’d always been there for them both.

He held the picture for some time before returning it to her care: “I’m very proud of you.”

Cassie knew she’d done the right thing.

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