Warning: There are many mistakes. Sorry.

Chapter 18

She was reading a book, something she's never done before, when he knocked on her door. She had been sitting there for the past two days trying to recuperate with explicit orders that no one was to disturb her – with Serena as an exception – while she brooded else the disturber would lose a body part.

She was incensed at the crew for what they did. They messed with her. They messed with her head. They messed with her feelings. She knew that deep in her heart she was grateful, but it did not make the rage recede.

They did not and could not ever understand her. They've never known how to live a life in fear. They've never lived a life where everyone she turned, lightless eyes and pooling blood surrounded her. They've never known the feeling of betrayal, to have someone you trust and love so much enough to die a thousand deaths and more for them. They have never known what it was like to truly be all alone, every face deceptive masks waiting for her to come to stab a dagger through her heart. Only she has gone through all these things. But, the unforgettable part of that was that the crew were a part of the cause of all her sufferings. Moira didn't blame them for it; she was hurting.

It was not as simple as those three words.

So, when he knocked on her door, she began to hurt and feel happy at the same time. When Moira saw him, she saw the whole crew. She saw the people who had put her through a lot, who she had repeatedly risked her life for, for a reason she still could not comprehend. When she saw him, when she saw them, she also saw the happiest days of her life. Divergent emotions tore at her heart.

"Moira?" Palaemon began timidly as she looked at him keenly. He stood in the doorway, half in, half out.

With feigned lackadaisical attitude, she looked back down to her book. It was quite fascinating really, the history of Poseidon and its lenient dominion.

Moira sensed Palaemon walking in, approaching her where she sat on the couch on the balcony under the sun. She felt him shift uncomfortably as he stood near her figure. She heard him clear his throat and take deep breaths. She felt him shift from foot to foot, again and once more.

Losing tolerance, she snapped the book shut and rose unhurriedly from her seat. Deliberately ignoring him, she went out of the sun's reach.

"Moira," he said again. She did not turn back. He tried again. She gave him no response.

Sighing irritably, he finally spoke something other than her name. "Are you even going to look at me?"

She reacted by turning and meeting his dark gaze with wintry eyes.

"Leave," she said.

Leave because I don't understand what I'm feeling.

Leave because I fear that my heart will break…from pain…from bliss.

Leave because I fear I may die having seen your face once again.

"Moira—"

"Leave."

He left.

-0-

"Have you not conversed with him at all?" Serena asked. She paced as her friend pretended to read. "The King is troubled. Why won't you talk to him? Even the King has esteemed your wishes of not being approached but—why haven't you talked to him? He did rescue you!"

"After he betrayed me…" Moira muttered under her breath. Nonetheless, Serena heard.

Serena gave Moira a hopeless look and began, once more, explaining the depth of things. "But he still went back for you! He could have left you, but he didn't. He risked his life. You know how it is. How many times have you done that for him? For the crew? You should know why. You of all people should know why he would do such a thing!"

"He betrayed me and he had no logical reason to. Do you not think this too random? A deed to vivify his own daily life? If not, true he rescued me, but do you not think some guilty conscience was involved?"

Serena was stunned to silence for a second. When she opened her mouth to speak, Moira beat her to it.

"You see?" the injured girl smirked.

Sighing and knowing that it was truly hopeless from that perspective, Serena changed her track. "What about the Festival of the Sea? Do you remember a certain event?"

"I danced on the platform. The relevance?" Moira queried.

"Ah," Serena nodded. At least Moira wasn't denying it like a sudden loss of memory. "You danced with Palaemon too." Serena watched Moira's eyes grow with commemoration and then bewilderment.

"What of it?" the stranger to Poseidon asked. "It was a mere dance."

Serena laughed; Moira couldn't have acted any more foolish in her life. There was no such thing as a 'mere dance'. A dance was a story, every movement, every gesture, every step, every sway, every turn. A dance was life. Moira, being a dancer, knew this by heart.

"Do you happen to be acquainted with the intention of the Festival of the Sea?" When Moira shook her head, Serena continued with a slight smile in her face. "The Festival of the Sea is no mere get-together. It is held at the period when the fish mate. The Festival is devoted to the gods. The Festival is to have the gods at our favour."

Serena paused to look at Moira and was glad to see some sort of comprehension in her eyes. Moira was following her so far; the girl wasn't that impossible after all.

"That dance…that song you danced with the Crown Prince?" Serena started, slowly, carefully. "It was a story. It was a story of two lovers who could not be together for the distance between them were too great, oceans too great. The woman, in despair, pleaded to the gods to freeze the oceans to be with her lover. The gods, who were fond of the girl because she danced for them faithfully, did so. But, they had a condition: once together, the lovers were not to move until they decided to part. Both agreed eagerly. However, when they met, they got too caught up in their love. The frozen sea began to melt. The woman slipped from the man's grasp and drowned. The man cried out for the gods' help as he stood on floating ice. The gods found compassion for the weeping man, who played music for the woman while she danced. They decided one could not be without the other. What is dance without music however so terrible the tune? What is music without dance however so out of beat? As long as both share the same emotion, they must be together. The gods then made the man the breath to revive his dead lover. They made him the sea…and the woman the fishes within him forever together…forever dancing to the music of the earth. Do you understand?"

Moira appeared to be in a daze. She began to nod but changed her mind midway and looked to Serena, a signal she took to carry on.

Taking a deep breath, Serena began. "That dance…of love…of passion…it is no mere dance. It is a pledge of a pledge of eternal union. It is a pledge that cannot be taken back. It is a pledge of undying love, Moira of Poseidon."

Moira shook as she realized the change in her title. She was relieved, but she was also afraid. The same fear the night the Crown Prince of Ilaec proposed to her coursed through her. The same thing was going to happen over again.

Bound, caged, burdened, clamped down, and marrie—

"He will not cage you, Moira." The warmth of Serena's hand over top hers gave comfort to the worried girl. "I know why you ran. I can see it in your eyes even now that you want to. Yet you must not. You'll never be happy. You cannot live in fear. You cannot live…you ca-cannot l-live like us."

Tears fell from Serena's bright but sad eyes as she shook and looked away.

Moira then thought of Nereus and her failed mission. Her hands twisted to clasp Serena's in-between. It was her turn to placate her friend.

Serena simply shook her head with averted eyes. "Go, Moira of Poseidon. Until then you are no sister of mine."

The proclamation hurt but it discouraged Moira from running. So, she nodded mutely. She squeezed Serena's hand again. Then, Moira let go and stood up, mentally squaring her shoulders.

If she couldn't do it for herself, she would try to do it for Serena.

-0-

"I know what it means," Moira whispered from behind Palaemon.

She found him in the palace gardens where there was a cliff that paraded the awe-inspiring view of the sea. As she watched him inconspicuously, he simply stood there deep in thought. From time to time, he would bit his lower lip or scratch his head. When he sighed tiredly, she figured it was time for her to speak.

That sentence was hardly something to start a conversation by. However, of all the possible things she was choosing from saying, it was the one that managed to put itself in front of all the other things. There was no turning back now.

"Moira!" Palaemon cried out in shock as he turned around to face her.

"I know what it means." Moira spoke in a clearer voice, her heart suddenly calm and her thoughts clear in her head. "Serena told me about the dance."

Palaemon's mouth formed an 'O'. He looked like he was about to say something but couldn't quite find his voice.

The silence was eerie. It made Moira so uncomfortable that her mouth moved on its own accord again.

"Why did you do it?" she spoke again in a whisper. "Why?"

"I…I don't…I'm not…I think…" Palaemon stuttered. Taking a deep breath, he tried to calm his nerves. Why must he always lose it when she was around anyway? "I don't know." He finally said. He looked at her, anxiously waiting for a reaction.

Had he said the right thing? Her reaction gave no answer to his question.

She merely nodded and looked away into the sea. It was beautiful, the setting sun splaying across it creating curious coloured lights. She felt comforted at the sight.

Home. It made her feel of home.

Palaemon opened his mouth again, but Moira was quicker.

"I'm not going to marry you," she blurted. Palaemon blinked and sought her eyes. They were still to the sea. "Zeus knows how much I like that dress no matter how horrible it is, but I'm not going to marry you! I…I pledged myself to you…unknowingly of course, but I did."

She stopped. By this time, Palaemon did not know what he could possibly say. Was there anything to say really?

He was upset at her declaration. At the same time, he was relieved. He was confused.

Palaemon opened his mouth.

"I don't want to be caged. You're not going to cage me. You're not going to bind me, shackle me! I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to fight sea monsters. I'm going to visit islands. I'm going to sail. I'm going to wear men's clothes. I'm going to swear. I'm going to fight. I'm going to fly. I'm going to keep on dancing. There's nothing you can do about it! I'm going to live." Moira burst out, once again beating him into speaking. Her dark eyes blazed at him with a terrifying yet refreshing light.

Palaemon smiled at her. "I would not ask anything less of you, Moira of Poseidon."

Moira blinked in surprise. This time it was her who was taken aback. "What?"

"I think I've just found the reason why I consented to that dance," Palaemon said almost to himself with a dreamy look in his eyes. Then the obsidian eyes cleared, his gazed still intently and solely on her. "Do what ever you want, Moira of Poseidon. But, as you yourself have said, you have pledged yourself to me. And I to you. Ask of me anything you desire and let me ask of you one thing."

Moira blinked once more.

Was he really…?

Was he really going to let her do all that?

Then she remembered his condition. She demanded it of him and watched as his smile grew to a mischievous grin. She felt a minor bout of apprehension, but it was erased when he opened his mouth.

"As long as you dance with me and only with me."

Moira smiled at him in return.

Trust…

Hope…

Faith…

Friends...

Freedom...

Home…

Finally, she had it all.

-0-

Hello lurkers and reviewers (you know which one you are ;-D ),

Bad ending? Bleugh. This is done but ooh! I have something definitely more enjoyable for you to read. Go to Arej's FP site and read Black Zenith then Azure Sunset. Her plot...her writing...her style...SUPERB!

Thanks,

Cj