Who: Will and Kate What: Will and Kate meet in a dramatic fashion Where: Euboea When: Early afternoon. Rating: PG-13 Status: Complete
The climate and terrain of Greece were similar to the climates and terrains of Afghanistan which should have set Will's post traumatic stress off but there was something... soothing about the peninsula country. The mountains didn't scare him, the dry hot air was redolent with living green things and sharp, soothing spices. There always seemed to be the smell of cooking meat on the wind and while Greece was similar to Afghanistan, it was nothing like it at all.
Will turned his head to the sun and took a deep breath. The memories of his capture were slowly and painfully fading away, but they were being replaced by new memories... ones he knew for a fact he had never created. As he toured Greece, there were places where he'd stand and think, Yes, I remember this. That play pleased me greatly and he would remember sending... a gift to the people. And he would remember things about places that the tour guides had no answer to. After speaking up only once or twice on such tours, Will had learned to keep his mouth shut lest he draw even more odd stares and whispers from the people around him.
Still, it didn't stop the feelings or the memories.
That morning he had woken in his hotel room and stepped out onto the balcony. He hadn't had any plans for the day save wandering the beach, but as soon as he looked out over the land he knew he had to be somewhere. It was his first trip to Euboea but he knew that there was a little known festival about three miles south toward the heart of the island and he knew he had to be there that day.
Afraid to miss it, Will threw on his clothes, grabbed his pack and headed out. A small cab took him to the festival and deposited him where he now stood. There were a couple of carts selling food and drink, a few people dressed and walking through the crowds, but it all seemed to center around a very small amphitheater. He had just arrived as people dressed in masks and ancient Greek tunics stepped out onto the stage. Will didn't understand a word of it, but not in the way a foreigner would not be able to understand a foreign language. Greek, it felt, was more like listening to Latin. He could sort of understand it but not fast enough to comprehend it. It was frustrating, like listening through a filter.
As the play progressed, the hour grew late until the sun beat down on the crowd from its noon-time position. Many people were shading themselves with umbrellas, some with newspapers held over their heads. Will, entranced by the play, was oblivious. He hadn't eaten (no surprise), hadn't had anything to drink other than half a cup of coffee before making his rash decision and had no protection from the sun. The feeling of light headedness crept so slowly on him that he'd barely noticed it. He remembered this play or more like he remembered the events that this play was based on but those memories were just... out... of... reach.
He remembered a cart, a wood doll, a beautiful woman - his dream goddess from his capture - before all went cockeyed and then dark.
Kate had been in Athens for a conference, but today she'd needed a break from it. The same people, the same problems, the same lectures. The same old everything. It just wasn't enough now. Her soul was screaming at her. That was the only way she could put it. The longer she'd stayed in Athens, the louder it was as it tried to make its discontent known. And so today she'd blown off the speakers and the luncheon and the silent auction and everything else to take a day trip out into the countryside. She didn't know why, she just felt like she had to. And the longer she was here, the more she grew used to listening to that something.
And so she found herself in an amphitheater in Euboea, sitting in the sun at a small festival. It wasn't very well attended, and yet she found herself fascinated by the play. She was coming to understand the Greek better, her studies in college coming back to her. This was apparently a festival to remember a moment in the life of the King and Queen of the ancient pantheon. The story went that Zeus had been unfaithful. As usual. And Hera, fed-up, had left him. Kate had of course cheered internally for Hera when she not only left the cheating son-of-a-bitch, but had apparently refused to come back. And then the god had tricked her. The trick at the end of the play had Kate feeling a little off. Her stomach was all twisted in knots, and something in her was screaming at the goddess not to fall for it. Zeus was a classic profile for an emotionally abusive husband. And promises wouldn't change him. He might even mean them when he made them but before the goddess could blink he'd be back to his old ways. And nothing, nothing Hera could do would change him. How naive could the goddess be? She had to have figured out that Zeus was irredeemable.
Disgusted, both with the goddess for being an idiot and the god for being a pig, Kate still couldn't figure out why her eyes were tearing up. Again. That had been happening a lot lately.
Reaching into her backpack to find a tissue, which one of the locals apparently though must be for tears of appreciation instead of frustration based on the smile the old woman shot her, Kate dabbed at her eyes, just as she heard the distinctive crack of skull impacting with ancient rock seat.
Shoving the Kleenex in her jeans pocket, she dashed to where the noise came from, pushing her way through the people who'd already made it to the downed man's side. When one of them frowned at her, she ignored him, pulling her backpack around to her side and digging out the small flashlight to check him for a concussion, her fingers beginning to gently probe for a lump as she leaned over him. "Stay with me," she whispered, keeping her voice calm and soothing, finding the lump and feeling a bit of blood on his scalp, though not much. "You took a hard hit, but you'll be all right. I'm a doctor." It never even occurred to her that he might not speak English.
The darkness was lifting but Will was still very foggy. He had the impression of lying on the ground but he couldn't remember how he'd gotten there. All he could remember was an overwhelming remorse and a nearly equal desire to do right this time. Just this time, if she'd come back to him, he'd be good. He'd try to be a good husband. And something about a cart and a doll.
Will opened his eyes and there, backlit in front of the sun was his dream and nightmare - the very one that had gotten him through his days as a POW in Afghanistan, the one that had nearly broken him afterward. "Am I dead?" he whispered through dry lips. Very faintly he was coming to realize that his head hurt. A lot. Wincing he squinted his eyes then shut them. If he was dead, let his angel take him. He'd stopped being afraid of death ages ago.
Kate chuckled softly, relieved to hear him speak coherently, especially when it was in English. Her Greek may be coming back, but not enough for this sort of thing. "Sorry, no. You just passed out. A bit of heatstroke. We need to get you in air conditioning and rehydrated. You don't even have a concussion, though I bet you're going to have a headache. Are you staying some place around here? Or shall I find out where there's a hospital?" she asked softly, pulling out a bottle of lukewarm water from her backpack and offering it to him. "Go on, drink it. You're going to need to drink a lot. And spend at least three days in AC. You'll be sensitive to heat for a while after a bout like this."
"I'll be fine," he grumbled but he accepted the water and drank it eagerly. His angel had the air of a doctor and sounded like one too. Great. Of everywhere in Greece, he had to pass out right next to a doctor. But he appreciated her concern at least and accepted her help to sit up. The people that had crowded around him backed away and returned to the play as it was winding down. He took a moment, his arms on his knees, his head between his arms, feeling a bit dizzy with the movement.
"I'm staying at a hotel about three miles up the road. I'll be ok." With that, he stood very slowly, but leaned against the woman's shoulder when his legs threatened to give out. He hated feeling weak. He'd felt weak for months on end during and after his capture and even two years later he still had the occasional feeling of weakness so this helplessness angered him. That anger helped shore up his legs and lock them in place so he could stand without assistance. "Thanks for the help," he said quietly, but he didn't move. The woman was strikingly familiar but he was fairly certain he'd never seen her before in his life. If he had he knew he was fairly certain he never would've forgotten her face. A face that had haunted him for years now. "Do I know you?"
She looked at him a long moment, then slowly shook her head no. "I don't think so," she finally said softly. "My rental car is just over there," she indicated direction with a nod of her head. "I'll give you a lift back to your hotel, make sure you're all right. You aren't concussed, but you did take a good knock. You shouldn't be alone for a bit. Especially after blacking out like that."
The feeling that had drawn her to the festival was gone now, replaced by concern. And while she knew she didn't know this man, he felt achingly familiar just the same. "Does your hotel have room service? Because once you've had more fluids, you're going to need to eat something. And I really don't want you going out again for a bit. Especially if you're traveling alone." She didn't know why she said it that way. She hadn't asked it like a question. But it felt important somehow to know whether he was here alone or with someone else.
"Uh, I don't know," he replied, his head aching and making it hard to think. "I think so. It's a little place but they seem pretty modern. And I'm alone." That seemed like a non-sequiter but he'd felt an overwhelming desire to reassure this woman whom he barely knew that he was alone. Don't fuck this up, buddy. Ok, he needed some air conditioning, food and water because now he was hearing things.
"I'm Will by the way. Will Neuman. And thanks for giving me a ride. Normally I'm not that kinda guy, to take rides from strangers," he teased with a weak grin as they walked slowly toward the narrow street that the woman had parked her car on.
"Yes, well, I'm not really a stranger, am I?" she replied, then frowned. But she was a stranger. Even if she was having odd senses of deja vu here in Eubeoa. "Or at least, I'm a doctor. We don't count," she said, flashing him her Johns Hopkins and Bethesda Naval Hospital ID cards, which were in the front of her wallet for the trip. She opened his door for him, amused at the sex-role reversal it implied. Was she the chivalrous knight assisting his poor damsel in distress? It certainly felt that way. Giggling a bit giddily at what that implied, she closed his door and hurried around to the driver's side, quickly starting the engine and turning on the AC to full blast. She let it sit while the air slowly cooled off and turned to look at him. "Do you think you're ready to eat yet? Because I'm starving, and a restaurant would be air conditioned, too." And for some reason, she wasn't quite ready to go to a strange man's hotel room. No matter how weak he was at the moment. She had been around long enough to know just how untrustworthy men were. Hell, that had been the play's theme, for christsake!
"I didn't eat breakfast so I could do with some food," he replied cautiously, the flash of her badges searing his mind. Doctors at Bethesda had been poking and prodding him for two years now and it wasn't until he'd requested and received permission to see an off base private therapist that he'd gotten any sort of help. Not that the military shrinks weren't good, they just... they were too much in that military mind set and he was a civilian now and very happy to be one even if the government was still paying for his treatments. "What kind of doctor are you?" he asked, trying to relax his tense body but he was unable to keep the wariness out of his voice. His head throbbed painfully but the cool air conditioning of the car was helping. He could only hope that the food would help too.
"Not one to usually treat head bumps," she said with a chuckle. "Open the front pocket of the backpack. There's some Motrin in there. Go ahead and take two. That's a max dosage. Especially since you're a bit on the thin side." She frowned then. Why was he thin? He didn't feel like he should be thin. And why did she have feelings about how he should feel? That didn't make any damn sense at all. "But to answer you, I am certified as an OB/Gyn. I don't actually take patients usually though. Well, unless there's an emergency. I mostly focus on reproductive research. I was in practice for three or so years after I graduated, but I soon found that my real passion was finding new ways to help women achieve their dreams for a family in a more... overarching sense. That, and I like to sleep without a pager going off. I got a little tired of that pager as an intern. I'm really only associated with Hopkins these days. But I keep my certification for Bethesda because, well, I just don't want to give it up. It's hard to get. But that's where I interned, so I have connections there and they let me keep the affiliation, even though I'm not taking patients. Well... except for friends. I'm here in Athens for a conference, but I decided to blow it off today and sight-see. Seems it was a good thing for you I did. Although I'm sure someone else there would have been able to help you," she smiled.
It was a very long explanation to his simple question, but she'd sensed his discomfort with her after she'd flashed the badges, and heard the fear in his voice. Fear? Maybe not fear exactly. But something had been in his voice. Trepidation. Bad memories. Call it whatever you wished.
"I'm not exactly a fan of the doctors of Bethesda," he said by way of vague explanation as he opened her pack and found the bottle right on top. With the last of the warm water she'd given him, he downed the pills and set the empty bottle in a cup holder. It was more than a little relief that he would never have seen her as she didn't hang around the Bethesda campus often and if she had, she would've been in a different building than the psych ward. But still... why did she seem so damn familiar? "Kate right?" he asked, dredging up the name that had flashed on the badges. "Do you know your way around here to find a good restaurant? I've only been here a couple of days and I haven't been this far out from the hotel yet."
She shook her head. "This is my first time on this island. I took a ferry. It's a good bit back to Athens. Although even then... well, outside of the conference hotel, I don't know anything about the city. Let's just see what we can find." She put the car in gear and drove off, going down a narrow, picturesque street and seeing a lovely looking restaurant after only a few blocks. From the outside it looked a bit dressier than the clothing they were currently sporting, but she wasn't going to worry about it. It was a festival day. They probably assumed they'd get more tourists in jeans. And if not, she'd find somewhere else.
Pulling the car over and parking, she noticed he was out this time before she got the door for him, and found herself stifling a giggle at that. Which was odd. She was not a giggler. In fact, he beat her to the door and was holding it open for her when she got there, which made her smile broader at him as they stepped into the sinfully cold air conditioning of the restaurant which turned out to be even fancier than she'd thought. Oh well.
The hostess looked at them a bit disdainfully a moment, but Kate looked out pointedly at the mostly empty restaurant. "My companion suffered a heatstroke at the festival. We needed a cold place with good food for him to recuperate a bit," she said, once more flashing the medical badges which showed her in her lab coat and the hostess, who apparently spoke English, nodded and took them to a table.
It was a very fancy place, Kate noted, picking up on the nuances. Good china. While the service wasn't silver, it wasn't cheap, either. The tablecloths were spotless, the napkins folded in the shapes of flowers. There were real flowers on the tables.
"Thank you," she said when they arrived at the table, and she quietly slipped the girl some a medium sized bank note. She hoped she'd spread the word that the American tipped so that the service would be good, even with their disheveled appearances.
Sitting down, she glanced at the menu, noticing the name of the restaurant was Ambrosia. She just hoped the food would qualify it for that sort of moniker.
A waiter hurried over with an alacrity that made Kate think the hostess had in fact talked about the tip, and filled their water glasses from a crystal pitcher and stood attentively waiting to see if they wanted anything. "We'd like to start with an appetizer tray and a bottle of," she glanced at the menu, "the 2005 muscat from Saga. And I would like the lamb with mint and carrots and spinach." She looked over at Will. "Do you know what you want?"
"Mousaka with eggplant, please. And lots of water," he added, handing his menu to the waiter who hurried off to put their order in. He looked over at Kate thinking that she looked perfectly at home in these fine settings but he felt like a grubby urchin especially as he was still a bit dirty from his fall. "So if you're staying in Athens, why are you all the way out here in Euboea? It seems a bit out of the way for some sight seeing." What he wanted to ask her was why she had been haunting his dreams for so long. He wanted to ask who she really was and why did he feel like he'd known her before? And why did he feel this sadness and longing and guilt and contrition when he'd done nothing wrong and had been perfectly content earlier that morning before he'd been driven to the festival.
Was this part of his post traumatic stress, these feelings that didn't seem quite his but did and these voices speaking in his head in his voice but... not his thoughts? Maybe he should check into a hospital, make sure he wasn't having some sort of break down. His flashbacks had been sporadic and not nearly as consistent as they had been in the States and when he had had them, they'd been relatively mild in comparison, but he'd never had this stuff happen to him before. Was it new? Should he ask Kate and risk scaring her off when she probably knew nothing about mental illnesses anyway since she was a reproductive researcher. He took a sip of water to ease his jumbled thoughts.
She considered that as she picked up the goblet of water, examining the crystal a moment before she answered him. Clearly, he'd think she was crazy if she told him the truth. "Well... since the hospital paid for the trip, or rather the grant did, it wouldn't do to play hookie and then stay around the area to run into other people. I'm not... well liked... in my field. Or rather... my research is controversial. It's nothing personal, but, well, the older establishments don't generally approve of what I'm trying to do. Actually... not try. What I did. Anyway, there would be plenty of them happy to tell tales of me out having fun. Even if they're doing the same thing. But... but that's only part of it. I... I felt this strange... desire isn't it. But it wasn't really a full compulsion, either. I just... it felt right to be here today. I read about the festival, and... and then I just knew I should be here to see it. But then, if you can't tell from my accent, I'm from New Orleans. We're a superstitious lot down there. Even if I've gone to medical school... I'd be the first to tell you that there are things medicine and science just can't explain. We try to pretend we have all the answers, but there are just some things that don't answer to logic. And when I get those feelings, I generally listen." She shook her head at herself.
"And now you must think I'm totally around the bend."
She wouldn't mention the book. That would only prove it.
"If you're around the bend, I'm standing there waiting for you. I felt the same way this morning," he replied, inwardly sighing as the Motrin started to kick in and his headache began to ease up somewhat. But something she said about her controversial work and the fact that she mentioned the conference again made the back of his neck tingle. He'd gotten that odd journal a couple of days ago and while he hadn't written anything in it yet he had read it. He remembered a couple of the entries being about a conference and the writer's frustration with the people attending it. Kate. She'd signed them Kate. Oh god, it was her!
He looked over at her with sharper interest now, wondering what her connection to him through that journal was. "May I ask you an odd question? Did you receive a journal out of the blue a few days ago?" he asked slowly.
Their conversation paused for a moment while the waiter set down an appetizer platter and a bottle of the muscat, poured them a goblet each and left the bottle and them to their food and conversation.
She'd been lifting the crystal goblet of the sweet, fruity white to her lips when it fell nervelessly from her fingers, splashing her shirt and clinking loudly against the silverware. Flustered, she picked up her napkin from her lap and used it to dab at the liquid while the waiter hurried over with more napkins and a fresh goblet for her.
"Sorry," she apologized, blushing, to the waiter. "I think the sun got to me, too," she murmured by way of explanation for her clumsy fingers.
When they were alone again she looked at him with wide, round, scared eyes. "You know I did," she said softly. "If you did, too, and read them. You'd have to be an idiot not to figure it out. I wasn't exactly circumspect, was I." Ignoring the new glass of wine, she put her elbows on the table inelegantly and buried her head in her hands. She looked up a moment later. "So... so you think whoever sent that... orchestrated this?" she asked softly.
"This? Our meeting?" Will asked, looking up from fastidiously dabbing at the stained table cloth. "No. I think that was... instinct. But I think... whoever sent us the journals wants us to meet and is probably doing everything it can to help us along." He had to bite back his instinct to comfort her because Kate seemed more upset about this than he was. Maybe he'd be worried about it later and maybe it was his slowly receding headache and the knot on the back of his head that had mellowed him out.
Still, he wanted to scoot over and wrap his arms around her. "When did the feelings begin? Maybe if we talk this out it'll be clearer. Was the journal right? Did you always feel... odd? Or did it just start when you got to Athens? Or did it start with the journal? Maybe this is all one elaborate hoax or maybe I've just seen one too many movies." He gave her a sheepish grin and took a sip of the sweet wine. It wasn't what he was used to but it felt vaguely familiar and more right than drinking water or beer ever did.
Kate watched him drink the wine, a faint smile playing on her lips as she saw he liked it. Muscat was an acquired taste. They had a might higher sugar content than the grapes grown in France, for example. Often considered a dessert wine, she'd always liked it best. But then his questions registered, and she lost herself in thought.
"No... I've always been different. At least, different from, say, my family. They wanted a debutante. They got me." She smiled slightly, although there wasn't much joy in it. "I went to school over their objections, and then medical school, and went into Obstetrics because it felt right. Helping women give birth, have families. I specialized in high risk pregnancies and infertility, which few people do because, well, it's high risk. But those women want families, and the happiness of a family, as desperately as anyone else does. I almost felt like a one-woman crusade for them and their happiness." She thought about those few years. Always up, coming and going. But it had felt Right, at the same time. Even if it wasn't quite what she wanted to do.
"Then, I got taken on in a project at Hopkins. It was an infertility project, looking for a way to splice the fathers genes directly into the egg to fertilize it, instead of using semen in a petri dish. It was very successful, but it got me thinking. If we could use the DNA from semen to do it, why not two ovum? It doesn't work with two sperm cells, because the dividing embryo needs the other parts of the egg to survive, but there was no reason you couldn't use two ovum. So... I did." She shrugged her shoulders slightly, but the light of discovery had lit in her eyes. "Lesbians around the world can rejoice. They can now have a baby with a partner that is equally related genetically to both of them, with no need to resort to a man for anything. To call it controversial would be a disservice. It's not popular work at all in the establishment. Apparently, men don't like to know they are now completely unnecessary in procreation."
No wonder her work was so controversial. He couldn't even begin to fathom the science of it as he'd only had a couple of college courses here and there over the years, but just knowing the fundamentals of biology, he knew that what Kate was doing was playing god. Goddess. That jolted him hard inside, hard enough to make him start just a bit, his hand jerking on the table. Looking over at the other empty tables that were slowly beginning to fill, he couldn't look at her for a long moment. She or a woman who looked a lot like her had been his goddess in his mind and here she was acting like one. But it was something else too. Something he couldn't put his finger on.
"I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later," Will replied with a small smile. "But it's much more fun the old fashioned way. Well... for the straight anyway. The gay men are still screwed in that they are still dependent on women for wombs but I wouldn't be surprised if fetuses weren't being grown in artificial wombs like in The Matrix or A Brave New World. Do you um, have a partner that you're going to try this procedure with or um, do you prefer a more ah, traditional route for children?" Smooth, Will. Like a sidewalk of tacks and glass.
It was a good thing she hadn't been eating or drinking at that moment, because she likely would have spewed it on the table, which was about the only thing that would have topped her earlier clumsiness. "I'm not a lesbian, Will," she finally managed to recover enough to say. "Nor do I have any desire for a 'traditional route to children', seeing as I don't date. I don't really care for men any more than I do women, I suppose. Or at least, my past relationships have been utter disasters, and so I've given up on trying. It seems I have trust issues. That's what the psych eval I had to do in medical school said. That's not a problem for doctors, though. We have a high divorce rate, anyway. And it didn't actually show up in partnership questions. Only marital ones." She shrugged. "They said it was odd. That usually it was only women who'd been married who test that way, and I have never been in a relationship for more than a month or so. But there you have it. Technically, it's supposed to be a deficit on their charts. Personally, I think it's a strength. I'll never have to be the woman who finds out last. And I know way too many female doctors who fall into that category. They spend so much time on work their husbands think its a signal to have a bit of fun on the side. No thanks. Not me."
Ever again, said a voice in her head, which made her frown something fierce. How could it be an ever again if there'd never been a first time?
"I never married either. Plenty of girlfriends but... the military was my life and a none of the girls liked that very much. I guess I was too good at what I did because I was always being deployed places and I didn't mind but it didn't exactly give me time to date and dating military had no appeal for me," he replied, taking one last appetizer before setting the platter aside or else over eat. It'd been two years but his stomach was still sensitive to large amounts of food and over eating in Greece where food was the center point of life would be far too easy.
It was a good thing she wasn't a lesbian because all he understood was that he couldn't fuck this up. He needed this chance and that urge was primal like the urge to procreate sort of primal.
She nodded her understanding. "Military divorce rate's even higher than medical," she said philosophically. "Everyone cheats in the military. At least that's what it seemed like at Bethesda. You'd be surprised how many paternity tests we did. Sometimes I thought they should just make them mandatory. Hell, maybe I should work on creating one that can be done before the baby even comes, like we have for Downs. They can administer it like an AIDS test at the first visit." She sighed softly. "Why is it so hard for people to be faithful? Why do marriage vows mean so little? They're supposed to be sacred promises, but statistically 80% of men cheat on their wives at least once, and half of women cheat on their husbands. Eighty percent! Perhaps it isn't that there's something wrong with me. Maybe I've just accepted the facts and live my life accordingly."
"People are stupid," he replied, but it didn't quite feel like him talking. "That's the short and the long of it. People are dumb animals and they're imperfect and they make mistakes. For the most part most men and women who cheat on their mates just make the one mistake. I'm not defending them, I'm not saying it's right, I'm not condoning it. But they let their emotions get the better of them - either anger at their spouse or hurt or just pure lust. Anyway, I think it's pure stupidity, but if a relationship can get past it, if it's just a single event not like an ongoing thing, then it's almost like a near death experience. People learn how much they truly love their spouse and they grow stronger and closer from it. Personally the thought of cheating on my imaginary spouse nauseates me. I don't know why but I've always felt that way."
"Well, seeing as you're not married, it's a moot point, isn't it. And fine, everyone makes mistakes sometimes, gets caught up in the heat of the moment and does something they regret for the rest of their lives. Lord knows I have regrets of my own. Who doesn't. And marriages survive or fail based on how it's dealt with after. But we were just at a play celebrating Zeus, the most notorious lecher to ever walk the earth, and how he conned his wife into staying with him. And she did! I don't know what's worse. His emotional abuse of the woman he should have loved and cherished above all others, treating her like garbage, like she was second best, and then laying a guilt trip on her, so that history remembers her as a jealous shrew, or her for putting up with it. There's no excuse for behavior like that! He should have been castrated and forced to pleasure her with his tongue for all eternity. And to think, he was the god of morals! It's disgusting!" And why was she so worked up by it? What did it matter to her what a mythical being did two thousand years ago to an equally mythical wife? Even if it had given rise to a culture that persisted today, that it was all right for men to treat their wives that way. As she'd said to him, it was a moot point. She wasn't married, after all, and had no intention of ever being married. So why was she almost in tears thinking of the pain and suffering a mythical goddess had endured?
"Again, not condoning what he did or didn't do but, I think a lot of those affairs were... metaphorical if you will. The marriage of memory and his divine spark brought about the Muses, the goddesses of inspiration, art, music and other creative processes. And from Metis and Zeus came Athena, the goddess of wisdom. I mean the Greeks had to explain where wisdom and inspiration came from right? Or was he just a horny bastard and I'm putting my foot in my mouth?" he asked with a self deprecating grin. He could see how upset she was getting and he hoped to diffuse her anger and hurt. And he hoped to stop feeling the guilt and shame that her words brought up. He wasn't the one who'd cheated on either her or Hera but he did see her point. How could the god of morals be so moral-less. Then again, the Greeks had a different sense of what was moral than they did today.
"You're not making much of a case. All you're really doing is confirming that men are pigs. If the myths were seen as true stories, then Zeus was a monster to make her suffer so much and not care. Not only not care, but see she was suffering and continuing on in what has to be the most selfish marriage of all time. If you take the tack you try, that they're merely creation stories, then all you do is prove that men are complete pigs because Greek culture at the time was dominated by piggish men who apparently sought to justify their own lack of concern for their wives by making the King of the Gods in their image. Either way, there's no justification for using a woman's pain as a reason to celebrate! And then, to blame the victim? To make her seem like a jealous shrew for her reactions instead of castigating him for his behavior? No. There is no possible justification for that." Her voice was actually shaking with suppressed tears now as she spoke. And she still couldn't fathom why she should care. Well, beyond her earlier reasoning that it was an affront to women everywhere, and it persisted in what was considered culturally acceptable even to this day. "Not that if I were Hera, I would have gone after the women like a jealous shrew. No. That was her mistake. She should have removed his manhood once and for all and kept it in an urn or something and only taken it out when she was to be pleasured by it. That's what I'd do. Of course, then she'd be a bad, emasculating wife. But better that than the abuse she survived. Because what she survived? Plainly and simply put? Emotional abuse. Zeus definitely didn't deserve her."
"I agree with you one hundred percent," he replied immediately. "He didn't deserve her and he knew that." He blinked, a confused look crossing his face. He was getting tired of trying to figure all of this out and decided to just go with the flow. "I have this feeling that Zeus loved Hera deeper than she had any idea and he wanted to be good, wanted to be faithful but he was stupid. He was being the husband that the Greeks revered but I don't think... no, I know he wouldn't do that again. They had good times too but who wants to hear about those? Even today with our celebrities, we only want to hear about them when they're having affairs, getting divorces, going into rehab, running their mouths when they should shut up. We don't hear about the happy times between Zeus and Hera because they don't make good stories. But she should've left him for good." She did, an infinitely sad voice said in his mind and the depth of the sorrow in that voice made him want to cry. And Will never every cried.
"Yes," she said softly. "She should have. And yes, I'm sure they had happy times, too. You're right about that. That isn't what gets remembered. It just... it just twists something inside me to see a pageant like the one today, glorifying him tricking her so she takes him back, only for him to cheat on her again. And again. And again. What makes you think he wouldn't do that again, though? Men like him never change. Women always think 'oh, he's changed! He'll be different now! He means his promises this time!' And they do... for a day. A week if the woman's lucky. And then he's back to his old pattern. Why? Because he can. And she puts up with it and takes him back again. Positive reinforcement. No. I don't think Zeus would be any different now. More discreet maybe. Maybe he would see the example of Madam Bobbitt, and would hide it more carefully. But once a womanizer, always a womanizer. And no happy time makes up for constant and continual betrayal."
Her food was forgotten. More than that, unappetizing. She had no appetite now, too upset, too emotionally hurt. For a moment, she felt all the eons of hurt and betrayal as her own, and it was too much, tears started to fall, slowly and silently, but they splashed onto the china and made wet spots on the drying tablecloth. She didn't notice until one plinked against the silverware. Then she wiped her eyes surreptitiously on her hand and looked down, trying to not call attention to herself from the other diners in the restaurant. "I'm sorry," she whispered finally, her voice shaking. "I don't know why I'm being like this. Blame being in the sun all day, please. I'm not usually so emotional. Especially over something like this that just doesn't matter."
But even as she said that, something inside her screamed that this might be the most important conversation she ever had, damn her! What it was, she didn't know. Maybe it was her subconscious, the part of her that wanted a husband, and a family, and people to love her and railed against her fears of commitment and trust. Or, maybe it was something else.
Will reached his hand out helplessly, wanting to give her comfort but not knowing how. "Something's happening to us," he said softly. "Something connected with this place. Either that or we're going nuts. The thing is to try to separate us from them even if we're one in the same. If... if what's happening to us is what I'm thinking might be happening to us... I don't see why we have to be restrained by the... past."
He looked around them because the restaurant was now pretty full with the lunch crowd and even though most everyone was speaking Greek, that didn't mean that they didn't understand English. Finally he shook his head and leaned back in his chair. "I'm sorry, I don't know what I'm saying so please just ignore me. I'm hearing voices and I need to be readmitted into the hospital. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I think this is just another manifestation." It killed his pride to admit that to her, that he wasn't whole or normal, but he figured she had the right to know in case something... happened.
But she shook her head no. "Then I'm around the bend with you, and I don't have PTSD. Since I've been here... everything's changing. And you saw the journal, so you know it isn't even just us. We may not know what is happening, but... unless we're all going crazy, then you're not. And I'm not ready to consider myself crazy yet. Listen, though, I'm not hungry now. What do you say we... go somewhere else. I should at least take you back to your hotel so you can change and relax a bit. You'll feel better after a cool shower."
"Well then, care to join me?" he teased cocking an eyebrow and giving her a wicked little grin. "It's a big shower for a little room, cozy for two...."
She was shocked at the surge of desire that coursed through her at the offer, desire like she'd never felt before. It was utterly at odds with her mood, which only made it stranger. But her mood kept her from doing something she knew she'd regret later. "Tempting though the offer might be, I think I'll pass. After all my statements about not being played for a fool, I don't think I'm ready to perjure myself. After all, I know nothing about you, really. And I don't jump into bed with strangers. Or showers either, for that matter. I might get a room at your hotel though. I wouldn't mind spending some... some more time with you." The offer came out slowly, because she was desperately afraid of what would happen if she spent more time with him, but in the end it was made anyway. She wasn't a fool. She wouldn't do something she'd regret later.
His responding desire also rocked him. He could see her eyes darken, her breath deepen so that her breasts strained against her light cotton shirt, her mouth parted slightly in surprise, her cheeks flushed with desire and it was the sexiest fucking thing he'd ever seen in his life. She lit from within but she came to herself a few moments later and gave a response that he had been expecting. He was disappointed but the hunt was on. Oh yes. The hunt was on. "I had to at least offer. And I'd... I'd like it if you got a room at the hotel. Or better yet, since I know you can't just shirk your duties at your conference, I'll get a room at a hotel nearby yours if there aren't any rooms open. I'm easier to move than you are I'm sure. Because I'm... curious to know what this... connection is too." And he felt very connected to her. He wanted to see more of her though he couldn't say why.
Nodding, she motioned the waiter for the check, then gave him her visa without even looking at the tab. "I'll take you to your hotel and let you shower and change, then you can check out and I'll drive us back to Athens," she agreed softly. "I think there are rooms at the hotel, but who knows. If not, we'll try elsewhere. The conference is ending soon anyway. Five more days." The sense of overwhelming loss that hit her at the thought of returning to Baltimore shook her to the core. "But... I may stay here. Greece needs doctors and... it just feels more like home here."
The waiter returned with her card, and she signed the bill leaving a generous tip, then stood. Smiling, she gently reached for his hand, figuring that if he'd wanted to fuck her, he wouldn't mind holding her hand. Or rather, if he did, she would run as far and as fast as she could because that wasn't what she wanted at all. Feeling his fingers twine with hers felt so right, though, that she almost reconsidered her earlier answer. If holding hands felt this good, what would a more intimate entwining feel like? But no. Not now. Maybe never. She'd have to see.
The shock of her touch ran up his arm and settled deep in his heart and at the core of his soul. This felt so right and so good that he didn't want to let go at all. "Just like that you'd drop your research or would you move it here?" he asked, surprised that she would just... up and do that so suddenly. Because of him? Not likely, she didn't know if he was staying (and he was. He'd made that decision a couple of days ago), but if she felt even a tenth of what he did, he understood the abrupt need to suddenly move here and stay. And he hoped she would stay.
They walked out to the car and slid inside, hissing at the heat inside. He had to reluctantly release her hand and felt too... timid to take it back up again just yet. He didn't feel comfortable enough with her to do that just yet. "And thank you for lunch. You didn't have to pay for mine. Actually, you didn't have to pay at all." The military had taught him how to be a gentleman where his father had failed miserably (actually hadn't tried). "But thank you anyway."
She looked at him a long moment, then shrugged. "You're welcome. And thank you for letting me. And for offering," she teased, wrinkling her nose playfully. "But I learned a long time ago that there are nuances to paying for things. If I don't let a man pay for anything, then he has absolutely nothing to hold over my head to try and pressure me into bed. And you don't ask to have bills split at a restaurant like that. It's tacky. Besides, I did most of the ordering, and picked the place. Therefore, I was responsible for the bill." Not to mention she had no idea what state his pocketbook was in.
"So. Where is this hotel you're staying at? Any idea?"
"It's about fifteen minutes up the road from the festival at the edge of town," he replied, shifting in his seat so that he could look at her. "It may seem like it, but I'm not particularly prone to whims or flights of fancy. I'd been in the military for almost twenty years so that's been all but beaten out of me so don't think that I go off with strange women and change hotels to be closer to them. And I don't normally proposition them either. Is it... is it just me or does this feel special? And I don't mean in the weird journal sort of way."
"I... I don't know. I've never felt so twisted up inside before. Ever. The... the play really... touched a nerve. And this has been an emotional week anyway. And odd. So... I don't honestly know. But at the same time... I'm not all that experienced with men, but the experiences I've had didn't feel like this. Not even at first. So. I think maybe? But I don't know." She thought about it, and that sounded just about right. At least for how utterly, completely confused she was.
For a time she drove in silence, then, biting her lip and not looking at him, her right hand slid off the steering wheel and reached blindly for his. If he thought this was special, then he wouldn't mind, right?
He was looking out toward the sea thinking about her words when he felt something brush against his hand. Looking over, he noticed her hand groping blindly and he reached for it, wrapping her strong soft hand in his large calloused one. He laced their fingers together and gave her hand a squeeze. It was a friendly feeling but with a heady sexual under current. He'd never been so attracted so deeply and strongly to a woman before nor so willing to do whatever she wanted in order to just be with her. If she was reaching for his touch, then that was all the signal he needed. He wouldn't be so timid with her any longer and he'd have that confidence that had been so shaken with his capture back.
"So. You said it feels special. What, exactly, does that mean?" she asked softly, turning to look at him a moment and give him a hint of a smile. "Because, you know, it could just be that you're on vacation and relaxing and you hit your head and there I was. I mean, maybe we're not special at all. Maybe you just... want us to be?" she asked, although even as she said it, her stomach gave an unpleasant squeeze and she felt a wave of grief wash over her. A wave of grief that didn't seem to be hers. "After all, maybe Zeus thought Hera was special and that's why he agreed to marry her, but it didn't mean much in the long run, did it?"
"I've been dreaming about you for years. Three at least that I know of, maybe more," he blurted out then winced when he realized how that sounded. "Well, maybe not you exactly but you look a lot like my dream woman. This feels special like that. It feels... right like finding that last piece of a puzzle and completing a picture kind of right. It feels special in that I've just opened up to you more in the last hour than I have in the past year with my therapists. It feels damn good to be here just sitting in this car holding your hand. Like a relief. It's hard to describe."
"But it makes sense at the same time," she said with a smile, giving his hand a squeeze. They rode in silence a few more minutes then he pointed at a building that was clearly his hotel. She pulled the car over to the curb and and turned it off. She thought about staying in the car and resisting temptation, but in the end it was a foregone conclusion that she got out and went with him into the building and up to his room. It was a small room, although it had a nice, private bathroom as he'd hinted. For a moment she let herself get lost in the fantasy of joining him in a nice cool shower, but she pushed it aside. No. Not a good idea. Instead she took a seat at the desk chair in front of the window air conditioner and sighed at the cool breeze. "Will it bother you me sitting here while you change? I mean, I'm a doctor, but I can understand if you want me to wait in the lobby and give you some privacy."
"No, it's fine," he replied with a more confident grin than he felt. He wasn't sure if he wanted her to see his battle scars, but since she was a doctor, he was certain she'd seen far worse. Turning away from her, he took off his shirt, showing a fine tracery of pink and white scars along his back where he'd been whipped by his Taliban captors. Next was his belt that he tossed on the bed with his shirt then his jeans, shoes and socks that he left on the floor for the moment. Going to his suitcase, he pulled out a clean pair of jeans, a clean shirt and boxers and made his way across the room to the bathroom. "Oh. Here." Returning to the bed, he picked up the remote and handed it over to her. "In case you get bored while I'm showering unless you change your mind." He grinned and waggled his eyebrows teasingly at her.
As he turned to walk away, she noticed the scars on his back and one hand reached out, a finger tracing lightly over a still pink welt before dropping lower to the next ridge of scar tissue. They covered his back, disappearing under the elastic of his boxers, and she was half tempted to see how far down they went. But she remembered herself in time, especially feeling him tense under her light touch. She didn't know if it was from anger or arousal, though, so she decided the safest course was to apologize. "Sorry," she whispered. "Is this why you were at Bethesda?"
"No. Not directly." He'd forgotten all about the scars as he never took his shirt off any longer and they didn't cause him anymore pain. Her touch had been light and warm and... healing. He wanted more of it. In time, he hoped. "I was at Bethesda for the PTSD that came from the scars." He was reluctant to talk about what had happened, but felt a need to let it off his chest. Settling across from her on the edge of his bed, he sighed softly and ran his hand through his dark hair. "Two and a half years ago I was on patrol in a C-130N Hercules flying on a search and rescue in Afghanistan. We were shot down with a land to air missile and crashed in the mountains. Four of us survived and I used to think that Marshall and Gaynor had been the lucky ones to die that day." He glanced over at her and away. "The Taliban picked us up about two hours later and took us to a cave about a six hour walk from the crash sight. They hid us in a cave and for three months they beat, whipped, starved and dehydrated us. The other three... god, they were bad. Worse than I was but while I was skin and bones, I was stronger than they were. A woman... came to me in my dreams. She felt like the sun on my face and her touch was as gentle as a spring rain. She kept me alive more than anything.
"By sheer luck a squad on patrol found our crash sight and then a couple of days later found us. We were first sent to Qatar and once we were stabilized, shipped off to Rammstein. A month after that, we were transferred to Bethesda and I was discharged from the hospital and the Air force two months after that." He looked over at her with a touch of wariness. No one had heard the whole story from him and even still, he'd glossed over the three months of sheer hell not because he didn't think she couldn't take it but he didn't think he'd be able to take it. "I'd completely forgotten about the scars to be honest." It was an apology of sorts.
She was horrified at what he'd been through. And it made her wonder if his earlier reaction to her was because of what he'd dreamed in captivity. If the specialness he said he felt was because when he'd seen her today, he'd equated her with his dreams. But while that was the logical explanation, something in her rebelled at her trivializing the... connection. Silently, she toed off her shoes and moved to sit behind him on the bed. She didn't ask for permission, although she probably should have. Her hands raised on their own, her fingers gently massaging the tense muscles marked and lined with harder scar tissue. "I think you must be one of the bravest people I've met, Will. And I can tell you're embarrassed. You don't need to be. You're also one of the most attractive. When you're ready to talk about it more, just know that I'll be here to listen," she said, leaning forward and brushing a light kiss over the deepest welt bisecting his back before she moved away, stretching out on the bed and looking at him to see his reaction.
His breath shuddered in his chest. He couldn't really feel the kiss since he couldn't feel anything on his scar tissue but he could feel her breath and her hands had been so warm and soothing and very arousing. That he leashed with the control he'd learned while in captivity. At least while he wasn't looking at her. And then he looked at her and his control slipped. She was laying on his bed looking at him with such innocent seduction he wondered if she even knew how good she looked. "Thank you for the compliments," he murmured, reaching over to lace his fingers with hers. She looked good enough to eat or at the least kiss.
Aw fuck it. Leaning over, he brushed his lips over hers very softly then a little harder and when she didn't resist, he kissed her fully, his eyes closing with the thrum of desire, rightness, need, passion, and aching longing. She tasted like the wine and this, he knew, must be what ambrosia tasted like.
Kate moaned softly into his mouth. Nothing in her past experiences had prepared her for this. He was leaning over her, she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him onto her, her fingers moving on his back, her lips pressed to his as though to a lifeline. She melted against him, holding him closer, needing him every bit as much as he needed her. But she couldn't let herself be that vulnerable. Could she?
Panting, they broke apart and her eyes flickered open. From the distance of mere centimeters she looked deep into his and saw her own emotions reflected back at her.
"If you hurt me, cheat on me, betray me in anyway, just know that you'll wish you died in Afghanistan," she said, her voicing holding threat and promise all rolled into one. "Because I'm not the type to take it. I won't look the other way. I'm territorial and vindictive and you will regret it forever."
"My Hera," he murmured with a grin. He'd meant it as an endearment and a sort of joke from their earlier conversation but his words so shook him to his bones that he jerked away with a gasp of surprise.
"No, no, no." Squeezing his eyes shut tightly, he took deep breaths and fisted his hands to keep them from shaking too hard. This was all in his head. It had to be. She wasn't Hera because the gods didn't exist. They were constructs created by the Greeks to explain away forces for which they had no explanation. The voice didn't say anything, but the disapproval and irritation coming off it was palpable. Taking a deep breath, he calmed his nerves down although it was just as much a struggle as if he'd had a flash back. "I'm sorry. It wasn't what you said, it was what I said." Letting out a deep breath, he ran still trembling hands through his hair and took a couple more deep breaths. "What... what were we talking about?" he asked, his mind thrown into confusion and doubt again. He felt disoriented like it was getting harder to tell what was him and what... was the other anymore.
"We were talking, we were kissing," she growled, angrily, pushing him off her with as much force as she'd used to pull him closer only a moment ago. "And then you proceeded to make a joke out of my serious concerns. I was telling you how I felt, I was telling you what terrifies me most, and it's a fucking joke to you." She shoved her feet back in her shoes and grabbed her backpack from where she'd laid it on the desk. "And that is all I really needed to know, Will. Good bye. Enjoy Eubeoa. And your life." And she left, her feet hitting the floor with enough anger to make her hair fly from static, slamming the door shut behind her and all but running back to her rental car to get back to Athens, to get away. Hell, maybe go home.
She should have known. They're all the same. They can't be trusted.
Some things never change.
Will felt as if a part of him were being ripped apart. He hadn't meant calling her his Hera as a bad thing and as he thought about it some more he came to realize that despite her wanting to improve Hera's image as a shrew, if she reacted in such a way to being called Hera, then she thought no better of the Goddess than anyone else. The confusion and the absolute heartache made it hard for him to breathe.
His mind began to slip and slide and images from his captivity and images from... before - bodies so many bodies, so much blood. Hera. Hera! How could you betray me?
Whimpering Will sank down onto the floor from where he'd stood to chase after her, curling up with his arms over his head as the pain of his scars returned full force and he could feel every lash on his back as a lash on his heart. Kate - Hera. Their faces were becoming blurred (if they were ever separate) and Will sank into his agonizing memories and delusions.