Chapter 1: Lessons (Mulan/Aurora)
Rosie Briar has nightmares. Almost every night sometimes. She doesn't know why, it's not as though anything bad ever happens in Storybrooke – or anything at all, much.
They plague her though, these nightmares. A red room, filled with flames. She has a couple of counselling sessions with Mr Hopper but it doesn't feel as though she's getting anywhere, so he suggests something a little more practical.
Fencing lessons are the last thing Rosie wants, but she doesn't want to make Mr Hopper feel bad, so she goes to the first one, just to see.
The instructor is very serious, and Rosie is a little intimidated. Even the invitation to 'please, call me Maggie,' seems stilted and formal. But Rosie gives it her best shot, clutching the sword so tight her fingers tingle.
'Not so hard,' says Maggie. 'It won't turn around and bite you. Here, like this – may I?'
And, at Rosie's uncertain nod, she leans forward and corrects her grip, loosening her fingers around the hilt. She comes around behind her to put her own hand on the grip beside Rosie's, and moves their arms together to demonstrate how it ought to flow. And suddenly Rosie feels a little different, a little less afraid.
She goes to every lesson. While Maggie is teaching her she forgets about the nightmares. It seems as though the heart she has lost has come back to her. And she's not sure whether it was the fencing or Maggie that did it.
Chapter 2: Warm (Vastra/Jenny)
Jenny wasn't much of a reader – in fact she struggled even to read a pamphlet – but what she lacked in ability she made up for in determination, and somehow, sitting up late at night with a candle, getting up early, snatching moments here and there during the day, she managed to read the book on lizards from cover to cover.
Her new mistress often seemed sad and... well, grumpy was more like it, if Jenny was honest. And Jenny wondered if perhaps she just wasn't looking after herself properly. It must be difficult to be the only lizard in a sea of humans. Hence the book – she'd got it for a couple of pennies from a stall. It was battered, but it had interesting illustrations, which helped.
When she got to the part about lizards needing to be warm, suddenly everything made more sense. The house on Paternoster Row was large and difficult to heat – high ceilings, draughty corridors, cold tile and stone floors.
She started with the draughts. She bought some cheap fringe and glued it around the edges of all the doors, then made some long, thin cushions to lie at the bottom edges. She waited for a windy day and went around the whole house, hands outstretched for chilly air currents, and when she had traced them to their sources, she blocked up holes, covered cracks, made up thick curtains for the windows.
Madame Vastra seemed not to notice. She wasn't very good at noticing things humans did.
Jenny kept on. She tripled their coal order and started to keep the fires in all day and night. She bought two dozen hot water bottles and distributed them evenly around Madame Vastra's favourite spots – her bed, her comfy chair, her eating area.
The house started to feel stiflingly warm to Jenny – she wore as little as possible under her uniform, and ran her hands under cold water as often as she could get away – but she knew she had succeeded when she came into the sitting room to find Madame Vastra naked and... well... basking, in front of the fire. She looked up at Jenny, but didn't say anything, and in fact she didn't mention it at all until a week later, when she told Jenny to fetch her a book from the upstairs back bedroom.
The upstairs back bedroom, when Jenny got there, was blessedly cool. This was soon explained by the wide-open window, and the pile of ice in the old bathtub in the corner. There was a chair, with a cushion on it, and a couple of very ugly paintings on the walls.
'It seemed only fair, in return,' Madame Vastra said behind her.
Jenny turned and grinned, and Vastra approximated a smile back.
Chapter 3: The Orb of Desire (Claudia+Pete)
'So, uh, Claud...' Pete says, as they're cataloguing some artefacts in the pre-Renaissance aisle. She's sitting on one of the shelves, her feet on the ladder, and Pete is cross-legged on the floor. 'I found a mysterious document, and I wondered if you might know anything about it...'
He waggles his eyebrows. Her face turns red and she launches herself down the shelves like a monkey.
'You give that back, right now!' she says, but he's already on his feet and dancing backwards, waving the printout out of her reach.
'Major Kira watches as Jadzia bends over to check something underneath her console,' he quotes, 'and then, when she catches herself, she flushes, and looks away, her heart pounding...'
'Give it back!' shrieks Claudia.
Pete jogs backwards, grinning at her. Claudia gives chase.
'Jadzia winks at her, but then, Jadzia winks at everyone, it doesn't have to mean anything. So Nerys doesn't know what makes her reach under the table, trembling fingers brushing Jadzia's knee...' Pete reads, a little breathless from the jogging. He grabs a shelf to swing himself around a corner.
'I hate you!' Claudia screams.
'There is no Orb of Desire,' says Pete, in a dramatic voice, 'but Nerys imagines that if there were, even the power of the Prophets couldn't compare with the sensations she's experiencing in this moment...'
'Stop it!' yells Claudia. 'It isn't done yet!'
Pete stops inches ahead of Claudia. He looks at her.
'You wrote this?' he asks. 'I thought you just printed it off from the internet! That's... that's actually pretty impressive...'
She shakes her head, grabs the printout from him and stalks away.
'Hey, wait,' he says.
She ignores him.
'Hey... I was only kidding,' he says, following her. 'I really liked it.'
She turns and glares at him. He smiles back.
'Really?' she asks.
'Yeah!' he says. 'That whole part with the jumja stick? That was... um... pretty hot, actually.'
Now he's the one blushing. Claudia sighs, her expression softening.
'So... are you going to finish it?' Pete asks. 'I'd love to know what happens. And, I don't know, you're probably not interested, but I could show you the story I wrote about Spock finding a mysterious facility full of objects from Vulcan's past...'
Claudia grins. 'Come on then,' she says, 'what are we hanging around here for?'
And she's halfway down the aisle before Pete's even started.
Chapter 4: Bedside Manner (Sarah/Harry)
Perhaps Sarah shouldn't have been surprised that Harry had an excellent bedside manner – he was a doctor, after all. Somehow the moment she was sick, his cheerful ineptitude transformed into cheerful efficiency.
She'd been climbing a tree to get a better look at something far away, when she accidentally touched a rora thorn. And in spite of the fact that it had turned her bright blue all over and made her fingers, toes and nose swell to three times their usual sizes, he hadn't let a laugh or even a smile escape, except for a gently reassuring one as he helped her make her wobbly way back to the TARDIS.
He'd even managed to refrain from calling her 'old girl' throughout his initial exam, and had sent the Doctor off to fetch her some medicine in quite a commanding tone of voice, while he made sure she was comfortable.
'My fingers itch,' she said, staring at them, two bunches of big blue sausages. Her nose was visible to her as a fuzzy blob in the centre of her field of vision.
'That'll go away soon,' he said. 'Don't you worry about a thing, Sarah. I've been reading the TARDIS medical database and the rora thorn is really quite harmless to humans. It should clear up in an hour or two once you take your medicine – ah, here it is now.'
The Doctor made solicitous noises, but it was Harry who checked the medicine, measured the correct dosage and helped Sarah to take it.
'There we go, you'll be right as rain soon,' he said. 'In the meantime, would you like me to read you a book or something?'
While he went to find one, Sarah lay back and reflected that, as irritating as Harry could be, it was sometimes worthwhile having him around.
Chapter 5: Ha'mara (Kira+Sisko)
The first anniversary, she didn't celebrate Ha'mara. They put on some sort of light show in the capital, more than they could afford, a silly expense considering how much work still had to be done. Kira was invited but there wasn't time anyway, what with the political rumblings to deal with.
The monks on Deep Space Nine asked to have a Ha'mara celebration on the Promenade. Commander Sisko politely but firmly denied their request. Kira was unsurprised – if she felt awkward working for a man who might be the Emissary (was the Emissary, dammit, no matter how wrong it seemed or how little he seemed to appreciate it – she had to trust Opaka's judgement if nothing else), it was nothing compared to how uncomfortable Sisko felt about being the Emissary. He certainly wasn't going to let them have a party about it right where everyone could see.
Nevertheless, he couldn't tell them what to do in private, so there was a small service, exactly one Bajoran year after the discovery of the Celestial Temple. Kira didn't go – she just sat on the Promenade, watching the wormhole open and close.
* * *
The second anniversary, she fasted, and didn't tell a soul. She let herself be dragged to the temple service, protesting only weakly. She bumped into Commander Sisko in Ops and couldn't quite meet his eyes, especially when her stomach rumbled.
* * *
She spent the third anniversary with the Emissary, telling him stories to keep him conscious and praying over him, begging the Prophets to let him live long enough for help to arrive. It was one of the more surreal ways she'd spent a religious festival, and she'd grown up in the days of secret ih'tanu ceremonies and burning renewal scrolls under cover of darkness. Somehow this felt even worse than that.
* * *
On the fourth anniversary, the Emissary finally agreed to attend the festival – a ceremony on the Promenade and the party on Bajor itself. Major Kira blushed and denied it when the vedeks thanked her for persuading him, but they were right to.
* * *
On the fifth anniversary the Emissary was far away, kept from Bajor, Deep Space Nine and the Celestial Temple by the Dominion's presence. Kira presided over the subdued ceremonies, itching under the watchful eyes of the Jem'Hadar. She wasn't sure whose return she was the most desperate for – her Emissary, her superior officer or her friend.
* * *
On the sixth anniversary, they were at war, but Ha'mara continued regardless. The light show in the capital went on. Hundreds of thousands of people attended. The Promenade on Deep Space Nine was packed to capacity as the Emissary gave out blessings, handshakes and hugs.
* * *
By the seventh anniversary, the Emissary was gone. Kira fasted and prayed, looking out of the window in the office that used to be his. In the distance, Bajor blazed with light.
Chapter 6: Credit Card (Sam+Vala)
Vala and a credit card was a bad combination, but it had been agreed that it was unfair for her to have to wear standard-issue clothing all the time.
Daniel was supposed to take her on a carefully-supervised shopping trip, but he'd contracted a mysteriously sudden cold. Sam was drafted in.
Contrary to what people seemed to think, Sam actually quite liked shopping. Leisurely, unhurried shopping.
Of course, that was a concept unfamiliar to Vala. As, apparently, was moderation. In six hours, she had managed to buy more earrings, shoes, and hats shaped like animals than Sam had ever seen in one place before. Sam hadn't even realised there was so much to buy in Colorado Springs.
'Isn't this amazing?' Vala grinned. 'And it's all free!'
'Actually, the Air Force is paying for it...' Sam pointed out.
'Yes, that's what I said, isn't it?' Vala asked.
Sam shifted her bags from one hand to the other and sighed.
'I haven't... what's the expression... maxed it out, yet,' said Vala. 'Why doesn't the Air Force pay for our dinner as well?'
'I'm not sure that's...' Sam said, but Vala was already leaving.
There was nothing Sam could do but follow. She was meant to be supervising Vala. And if supervising her meant she had to go for the best steak in town, and drinks afterwards – well, that was a sacrifice Sam was prepared to make.
For the Air Force.
Chapter 7: Boxes (Odo/Lwaxana)
Odo's maleness was more-or-less accidental, at least at first. Back in the lab there was only ever Doctor Mora for a role model, and Odo had no way of realising that he wasn't the default. Certainly Doctor Mora never gave him any guidance in that area. When it came to choosing an identity from the ones presented to him by the solids, Bajoran versus Cardassian seemed a lot more pertinent, anyway.
By the time Odo realised there was something else he could be, everyone around him seemed already to think of him as male. It didn't matter, though. What could it matter? Gender was for solids, anyway. Why should he care what assumptions they made when they looked at... him? It was a convenient set of pronouns, nothing more.
But it was like everything with the solids, they tried to make everyone like them, make everything fit into boxes they could understand. And the longer Odo stayed in the box marked 'male', the more he began to fit the shape of it, changing to suit his environment as he was accustomed to doing.
Luckily Lwaxana didn't believe in putting people in boxes. And she liked to experiment. And if Odo eventually decided that 'he' and 'him' were the right pronouns after all – whatever shape he was in – well, he'd had a lot of fun exploring the alternatives.
Chapter 8: Modern Technology (Myka/Helena)
Helena was generally unimpressed by modern technology, given that she had thought of most of it long ago. She took television in her stride. She got the hang of the internet in less than half an hour. She adored the microwave oven, but she wasn't especially impressed by the concept.
Strangely, the invention that caught her imagination was a simple one – invented by a naval engineer in the 1940s, it was nothing but a helical spring with the ability to stretch and reform itself with the aid of gravity and momentum.
Pete heard the rattling and came out of his room to see what was going on. Myka was sitting at the top of the stairs, watching Helena with an indulgent smile.
'She's not bored of the slinky yet?' he asked.
Myka shook her head. 'Three weeks and counting.'
Helena looked up at them, grinned, turned back in time to see the slinky reach the bottom of the stairs, then picked it up to start again.
Chapter 9: Room Mate (Nyssa+Tegan)
Nyssa had never shared a room before coming to university. She hadn't wanted to at all. It wasn't as though her father couldn't have afforded to pay for one of the private suites in the more expensive halls of residence, but he and her stepmother had decided that sharing a room might help her to make friends – as if she needed any help. She was just a bit studious, not some shrinking violet.
Her room mate was anything but shy. Nyssa thought she might have been the loudest person she'd ever encountered. She talked non-stop about anything and everything, from her coursework to what she was planning to have for breakfast, she left her belongings all over the room and refused to respect the imaginary line Nyssa had drawn down the centre, she tinkered with Nyssa's experiments and skewed her results, and she listened to loud music all the time.
It was tiring, it was confusing and it was unlike anything she was used to.
Somehow, Nyssa loved it.
Chapter 10: Death and the Witch (Discworld)
In a dark, musty hut, Granny Weatherwax was playing a game with Death.
This wasn't by any means the first time it had happened. Granny knew her stuff, and if she thought there was a chance to make a bargain for a life, she'd give it a go.
He'd stopped agreeing to poker, though. She was much too good.
They were playing Battleship.
Granny's face was intense with concentration. Death's face was... a skull.
'How long does it usually take?' Agnes asked Susan.
She was cross-legged on the floor, as far from the game as possible. Susan had spread out her cloak and was sitting demurely upon it. She shrugged.
'I'm not often around,' she said. 'But not too long, I don't think. I think even Grandad gets a bit worried by Mistress Weatherwax.'
'She's a bit formidable, isn't she?' said Agnes.
'She's a force of nature,' agreed Susan.
They watched. The game was close. Granny glared at her little wooden boats without blinking.
'You know, if she ever retired, it could be you doing this,' Susan said.
'If he did, it could be you,' said Agnes.
They met one another's eyes, then looked away.