Aftermath (Family, Pt 5)
Location: Valeria and Hel's quarters
Timeline: Prior to beam-down
Hel came home a bit later than expected, with an unreadable expression on her face. Her movements a bit lethargic, as she just dragged herself over to the couch and flopped on it, closing her eyes and letting out a long, drawn out breath.
Valeria had promised herself a warm bath, and ancestors be damned she was enjoying it. The door was locked to all, save for Hel if she was travelling alone. In that sole case, the door would open with no hesitation. The room was a little more humid than normal, because Valeria had been soaking in very, very warm water. As she came out from her soak, the environmental controls kicked in, and started to regulate the humidity. Valeria poked her head out, the look of a damp Ts'usugi quite different from her usual, fluffy self.
"Someone looks comfy." She commented, and kept the bathroom door open as she fixed up her hair and fur. A towel was wrapped around her top, extending down to about mid-thigh, as she fluffed her hair and ears with another towel. There was a difference in the strokes used to fluff her hair, and the ones used to tend to her ears. Delicate matters, those ears were. "I'll be out in a moment, apologies for the damp air. I owed myself a soak after I got pummeled by a sandbag."
"Pummeled by a sa - " Hel blinked, distracted by the sight as she looked over. Though something seemed off, in Valeria's movements, lacking the grace they normally had, the grace she was familiar with. They seemed a bit less sure, a bit pained. "You ok, love?" Hel asked, sitting up, concerned. "How did you manage to get beat up by a sandbag? They're not an aggressive species. Kinda docile, normally."
"In the presence of a larger predator they become quite vicious." She continued the joke as she finished drying her ears. "Our newest crewmember, a Miss Dina if memory serves, had a bad day. She wished to take her aggression out on a sandbag, but felt the need to request it be steadied. No doubt to better vent her frustration. Myself and Brianna steadied the bag, but that simply meant that every hit the bag would take was funneled into us." she shook her head, hair flying around without abandon.
"My endless fool's errand to be helpful. I was soaking in essentially a sauna for ten minutes. I'd pay true koku for a massage back home."
"Dina? You mean, that big - " Hel trailed off. "Yeah, that would explain it." she frowned. "You ok, love? I don't know about Koku or Ts'usugi massages, but I can give you a human one. Full body if you want. Learned how from - ... From my mother." she finished quietly.
"Koku, it's the currency of Ts'usu." she explained with a smirk. Her smirk faded to a more neutral expression, but after that she gave a nod, "I'd welcome it. Just be careful around the ears. They're..." she thought of the proper word.
"... sensitive." was the best she could muster. "But, you'd have a rough day from the looks of it. I wouldn't want you to shoulder my burdens on top of your own." a pause, "Tell me about your day. While I dry off a bit more."
"I will burden all your shoulders - or, the other way around, whichever." Hel rubbed her temples. "Words. What even is them." as she rose to her feet and wandered over to where Valeria was, placing her hands on the Ts'sugi woman's shoulders while leaning in and craning her neck to place a human kiss on her cheek. "I'd be a bad girlfriend if I didn't at least try. We share all that we are, all that we have, the good and the bad, right?" she added with a soft smile, starting to kneed Valeria's shoulders, exploring them to find knots.
"My day was ... Quiet. Uneventful." she added. "Though I did get a message from my father." The pale engineer hesitated a moment. "It's done. She's gone. Funeral is tomorrow. He didn't say how she passed, but - I have my suspicions."
"I accept your gracious offer." Valeria replied, "Would it be easier if I were..." and she stopped and twitched. That was a knot.
"Tomorrow doesn't leave much time for us to arrive. Though, we will be visiting her memorial." That wasn't a question, more of a statement. Besides, Valeria had made a promise to Hel's mother.
Which she would hold as though it were her own mother.
"Should I sit? Lay down? Which will help you help me?" she asked with a smirk, looking over her shoulder at Hel.
"We'll definitely visit her memorial, when we're in the area." Hel offered. "Though if it takes too long before we are, I might just ask for a week off for a vacation with you." she added, with a soft smile.
"For your aches, it's easiest if you sit with your back to me. And for that full body massage, it's easiest if you lie on your chest, to begin with." the Asphodelian Human mused. "And I'd really like it if you allowed me to just ... talk about my mother for a bit."
Valeria gave a nod, moving to a chair to sit. "And Young Cochiro asked his father, why are our ears so long? Is it so we cannot hide behind walls like cowards? His father, Lord Kusoku, shook his head. No, my son. It is so we can listen to each other when the fighting is done." she said with a smirk, even imitating an older voice to play the role of Lord Kusoku.
"I'd love to hear about her. With me coming into your life so shortly before she leaves it, I feel myself something of the shepard to your soul."
"You always have a wisdom or something to say. I love that about you." Hel smiled, moving behind Valeria to resume the massage. Her hands strong where needed, gentle when needed, but always going slow, taking their time to be thorough.
"My ... father didn't say how my mother - ... went into the night. But I have my suspicions. And I hope that she found a way to, well ... " Hel sighed, closing her eyes for a moment though never wavering in the massage.
"Many years ago we had a conversation. I think Nirrti was too young to remember it. But I do. The topic came to how we wanted to leave this world, if we had our way. And mom, she .. " Hel smiled, just remembering for a moment.
"She made a comment about taking some old shuttle, flying it to some abandoned, uninhabited, low traffic part of space and having the reactor go critical." Hel mused. "I hope she got her wish. Think about it - it's the most beautiful way to go. It's instant, painless, your atoms will spend the rest of eternity among the stars, and for the briefest of moments - you are one."
"Embrace eternity, become the cosmos." Valeria commented as Hel paused. "If it's easier for you... Don't tell me how she died. Tell me how she lived." Another wince as another knot rose to the challenge. "Monogatari o hanasu saisi no. Tell me a story, beloved."
"A story, huh." Hel smiled. "Alright. Did you know, she always used to call Nirrti and me her butterflies? Because we were beautiful, and always flitting about from this thing to that. But, there was more to that nickname." Hel paused a moment before continuing. "It has to do with that song, that damn song. The Show Must Go On. And the reason she told you to say those words, those five words, knowing it would break me."
"You see, it was her lullaby for us. It's a five hundred year old song, from a legendary old Earth rock group, Queen. And - ..." She trailed off. "Well, I'll let you hear the song proper first, before explaining the meaning behind the song itself, and the meaning my mother put into it."
"Computer, Queen, The Show Must Go On. Loud."
Valeria tucked that little nugget of knowledge away for the moment. Music was very important to Hel, and while she didn't have a infodex of all the songs Hel had shared, even if she had heard this one a million times she'd listen to it once more. For Hel, and her mother. Though, Hel's concept of ideal decibel level needed refinement. Though, for Hel's grief, she endured.
Her hearing would return to capacity in time. A trip to sickbay would see to that.
She listened to the tone, the lyrics, the music, and the story it told. At the end, she gave a nod, "I never get tired of hearing that group. She chose well. A timeless classic group, that is as ingrained in the cosmos as she is."
Hel walked around Valeria to take her hand and lead her to the bed, where she ushered the Ts'usugi woman to lie down on her chest, for the rest of the massage.
"The singer, Freddy Mercury, died of a terrible disease that remained incurable for a long time after his passing. It's a debilitating disease that opens the door for other, normally harmless ones to wreak havoc on a defenseless body. It's a long, drawn out, grueling death." Hel mused, getting into position to continue the massage, working down from Valeria's shoulders.
"Story goes that he was barely able to walk when they'd written this song for him. His band mates cautioned him against singing it, knowing it required a lot of power. Even his producers were against him attempting it, knowing his weakened state. His response? He downed a shot of vodka, said 'I'll fucking do it, darling' and recorded the vocal in one take - the take you just heard." Hel spoke, reverence in her voice. "A year later, he died."
Valeria listened, even as she was ushered to move. The towel she had wrapped around her was shed, continuing the butterfly motif, to expose the soft (but still slightly damp) fur beneath. "Do you think he knew?" she asked. "That his time was coming? That he wanted THIS to be his message to the world, an epitaph to be remembered forever?" she asked. "Five hundred years later, and he still can command respect as easily as the day he performed this song."
Ts'usugi had similar diseases, to be certain. Every society or biology had something that could bring them low. Valeria just didn't need to bring up the parallel. There was no need for this moment.
"Oh yeah, he knew. Had to have known. It was the last song he ever recorded, long after he'd already stopped touring because he had become too weak. He had to have known." Hel mused, her words measured as a large part of her concentration went into the massage. Valeria's form appreciated as well, Hel leaned down to give a soft kiss on the woman's back, on the damp fur.
"Did you get the butterfly reference though? 'My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies'. We were my mother's butterflies. We were her soul, the very thing she was most proud of, she drew strength from." the pale Engineer explained. "'Fairytales of yesterday will grow but never die'. Believe in your dreams. fight for them, and they'll only grow stronger, and be with you forever."
She paused the massage now, simply speaking, in a quiet tone. "'I can fly, my friends'. We were her butterflies. The reason she felt like she could fly, and wanted to shout it out to anyone who would hear. She knew she was likely going to die before us, and with making that song a part of our childhood, I believe she wanted to tell us that - ... she loved us. Was proud of us. That we were the reason she was strong. That even facing her own mortality - ... Her thoughts would be with us." Hel trailed off, her eyes becoming damp, bottom lip trembling slightly.
"A mother's love for her children is endless, but for her daughters doubly so." Valeria commented. "Your traditions only bolster that. Her final thoughts could be of home, of family. Not of fear. Not of regret."
"A comfort in what could wind up being someone's final hours. She was lucky to be able to share them with you and Nirrti" Valeria mentioned briefly, a smile played on her features at the kiss. "Her strength came from you two. Knowing you flourished. Knowing you bloomed."
Hel took a moment to calm herself, to calm her emotions. Strong was the urge to just lie down with her love and pull the blankets over the both of them, but she'd made a promise, and so she resumed the massage, slowly working her way down. "Yeah. And not a day goes by that I'm not grateful to her for that." she mused quietly.
"I'm ok. Honest. I've made my peace, said my goodbyes, and though I will be sad from time to time ... I'm ok. Because I have you, and I have my kid sister. And now I'm the Samedi matriarch." A pause. "Ok, that's scary."
Valeria was quiet for a moment, but a new tension rose up. A twinge that started at her toes and went straight up to her ear tips.
"Is that was concern feels like..." she teased, looking over her shoulder at Hel, a ghost of a smile playing at her features.
"I know you're alright. Of that, I have no doubt." she offered Hel a smile. An honest smile. Then she gave a giggle. A completely out of place giggle.
"Careful, I... I'm ticklish there."
"I know." Hel smiled, tickling Valeria there again, though only for a brief moment, before resuming the massage in seriousness.