Marina/Esther – “Dare” pt. 24
Disclaimer #1: This is fan fiction. Terapia d’urgenza belongs to Rai2. No copyright infringement is intended by borrowing its characters for a little while. No monetary gain whatsoever is being made. All I’m trying is to spread the love for velvet jackets, sort through the cliffhanger debris and prevent further lesbian parking lot trauma.
Disclaimer #2: This is a story about women. In love. With each other. But I guess you already knew that. – If this is not your cup of tea, rest assured that I prefer coffee and that you needn’t read this. If this is illegal where you live, please be careful. – Also, I can’t believe that after ten years of writing fiction online, I still have to apologize for my contents. If fuchsia bras qualify as NSFW in your book, I guess this story might rate as PG-13 upwards.Note/Nota: This story is also available in Spanish, thanks to Sam’s wonderful translating work! Updates for “Atreverse” can be found over at her blog, “Ya sé que estoy piantao”. — Esta historia también está disponible en español, gracias al gran trabajo de Sam. El nuevo capitulo de “Atreverse” se puede leer cada finde en su blog, “Ya sé que estoy piantao”.
And (thanks to Lang for translating) a wave to the Chinese readers: 使用中文的网友：多谢你们支持这篇fanfic，非常抱歉，我只能用英文写作，你们在情节上有什么问题，欢迎在留言里提出，我尽量回答。
Additional note: This story is as of yet unfinished. It will be written and posted in parts, updated weekly, Friday nights at 9 p.m. (GMT+1). You know that my time is limited, and that my time management sucks, but I’ll try to keep it up.
Only when Teresa and Esther had left, Marina remembered that she had wanted to ask for her phone and her agenda. Marina leaned back against the wall. Her knee hurt angrily where Esther had leaned against it, but Marina wouldn’t change anything about the past few minutes. When she closed her eyes, she could still taste Esther’s lips against her own.
Marina wasn’t sure how much time had passed. At some point, a nurse who had sadly not been Esther had removed the needle from her hand and wheeled the drip away. On the small counter across from her stretcher sat a couple of magazines. She hadn’t noticed anyone entering to place them there.
Gandini had checked on her once more before leaving, or at least Marina thought so. The pain medication had left her dozing on and off, smiling at images of Esther not moving back in with her father. If he really intended to turn Esther’s room into a room to tinker with tools or model railway or nativity set figurines, it meant that Esther could not go back there. It also meant that Cesare Bruno, albeit grudgingly, was accepting that his daughter was an adult who was supposed to live on her own. Or with one slightly impaired, but tenacious pediatrician.
And when Esther’s sublet owner came back from Honduras, perhaps she could stay with Marina for a while. Just while she was looking for a new place, of course. Or perhaps, they might even be looking for a new place together…
Marina blinked her eyes open as she felt a hand stroking a few loose strands of hair out of her face.
“Wha…” She must have dozed off. In front of her, crouched down to meet her eyes, stood Esther. She had already changed out of her scrubs and wore an open coat and two bags over her arm. One of them, Marina recognized as her own.
“My things…” she murmured.
“Don’t worry, Teresa had them stashed away under the counter.” Esther smiled, touching the point of her index finger to Marina’s nose. “Ready to head home, sleepyhead?”
“I’m sorry.” Marina tried to sit up and winced when she momentarily forgot that balancing herself on her left arm was not a good idea at the moment. “I guess I was tired…” Her mouth tasted like sleep and she was sure that her hair was sticking out in all the wrong directions.
“In between the stress and the medication, it would be strange if you weren’t sleepy,” Esther observed, while she helped Marina to upright herself. “Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
Esther smelled as if she had just stepped out of a shower and Marina could have sworn that her hair still was a little damp at the nape of her neck from having recently been washed. Despite her drowsy state, Marina tried to sit up straighter.
“Thanks,” she remembered to say as she swung her left leg across the side of the stretcher and managed to make the other one follow suit with just a little help from Esther. Her leg felt lighter without the weight from the brace – as long as the inflammation was acute, she was not supposed to wear it – and it didn’t even hurt much at the moment, though Marina knew that it was due to the painkillers she had been given.
She shook her head at the wheelchair Esther was moving towards her. “That’s not necessary.” She tried to stand. “See, I can waaal…”
Esther caught Marina just in time before her leg could give out fully. “You sit,” she ordered sternly.
Marina thought that she shouldn’t find that bossy tone quite so sexy. Least of all when it resulted in her being wheeled out of the hospital like an old woman. She hadn’t even combed her hair.
Thankfully, at least Teresa was nowhere to be seen and when Marina’s gaze fell upon the brightly lit clock in the reception hall, she understood why. “It’s already past eight?” She frowned. “Just how much ibuprofen did they put into that drip?!” But no matter how much it had been, she still noticed her arm when Esther wheeled her out into the street and she reflexively pulled up her shoulders against the cold.
“I brought you a jacket,” Esther said while she opened the car door.
Marina smiled, more at the fact that Esther noticed her small gestures than at the oversized blue fleece jacket Esther fished from the passenger seat. “I’ll be fine,” she tried to reassure Esther – after all, twenty minutes of city traffic wouldn’t give her a cold – but the garment that Esther held out to her smelled like Esther, like her laundry detergent and her apartment, and Marina would have put it around her shoulders even if she had been wearing her winter coat.
With her right arm and Esther’s help, she managed to heave herself into the passenger’s seat.
“Your car really hasn’t been made for patient transports,” Esther muttered somewhere close to her shoulder, making Marina laugh.
“I didn’t buy it to transport patients.” After the hours on the hospital stretcher, the back of the car seat felt like a friendly hug and Marina let herself slump against the seat. The car smelled like fresh wood and like Esther and as Marian relaxed into it, the tiredness returned with a vengeance. She didn’t protest when Esther pulled a light blanket over her legs – her shins were bare, and she still wore the skirt from the court performance. “Mhmm.” She didn’t even find it odd that there was suddenly a blanket in her car that she had never seen before.
“Ready to go?” Esther questioned, and Marina had to turn her head a little to look at her. Of course, with the length of Esther’s legs, she had moved the car seat backwards, granting her much more space than Marina’s normal settings would have.
“I’m sorry.” Marina suppressed a yawn. “I know we’ve both waited for this to be over, to be through with the court at last… and now I’m falling asleep.”
“That’s alright.” Esther started the motor and adjusted the back mirror. “Just go ahead and sleep for a while. With the sludge on the streets, we might need half an hour anyway.” She leaned over and pressed a kiss to Marina’s temple. “I’ll wake you.”
“Thank you…” Marina’s eyes were dark in the low light of the car. “You changed,” she noted drowsily, her eyes already closing. “You didn’t wear that shirt earlier…” Her fingertips remembered the thin shirt Esther had worn under her scrubs earlier. It hadn’t been the smooth woolen jersey that she was sporting now.
Esther laughed. “I was carrying wood up to my father’s apartment, remember?”
“Your father’s apartment…” Marina smiled. Her father’s, and not Esther’s.
“Do you mind if I put on some music?” Esther reached for the car radio.
“No, s’okay…”Marina was asleep even before the car had left the hospital areal.
“Marina… Marina?” The voice next to her ear was gentle.
“Huh?” Marina straightened in the car seat. Her body ached as if it had been cramped into the car seat for hours.
“Wake up, we’re there.” Esther smiled at her in the darkness and her face was close enough that Marina could have reached out to touch it with a mere fingertip.
Only at second thought did she realize that the street shouldn’t be so dark. She wondered whether somebody had smashed the streetlamp across the street, or whether in this city, even the streetlamps could go on a strike, but at the same time, she recognized the smell. It was a smell of wood, but not of polished boards to build shelves, but of wild pines and fir trees. It was a smell she had known since she could remember.
“Wha…” Marina struggled to sit up in her seat, but she trailed off when she looked out of the front window and saw the familiar structure in the shine of two lone headlights.
“My cabin?” she asked incredulously.
She turned to look at Esther, and Esther could have cried at the complete surprise and complete happiness that lay in that look. It was the most relaxed she had seen Marina in weeks, if not months, and it was well worth the long nighttime drive in the small car and the hours of hectic preparation earlier.
“I figured if you had to rest for a few days, you could also do it up here,” Esther said quietly.
“But you’re staying with me?” Marina’s first, hopeful question made Esther smile broadly.
“Of course I am.” She leaned over to brush another strand of tousled hair out of Marina’s face. “If you want me to. – Since you always promised to take me here and never did, well, I figured I had to take matters into my own hands.”
“But how did you even know the way?” Marina asked, and then she remembered something else. “But I don’t have the key with me, it’s in my apartment!”
“All taken care of.” Esther held up a small set up keys that Marina recognized.
“But how…?” she asked, but then she answered her own question. “Teresa.”
“That was just to find out about the place,” Esther said. “And to print the route from the internet. And then it just took me a trip to your place and some quick packing.” She hesitated a little. “I hope you don’t mind I took your key and went there… it only occurred to me this afternoon.”
“I don’t mind.” Marina opened the car door, breathing in the crisp air that tasted of clear winter skies full of stars and long walks in the frosty woods. “At all.” With her good hand, she reached for Esther’s face, barely caressing her cheek. “Thank you.”
Esther’s smile was like an answering caress. She placed her hand atop Marina’s. “Come on, let’s get you inside.”
Getting Marina inside turned out to be a little more difficult than both of them had imagined, though. Esther had brought the crutches – it wasn’t as if Marina’s vintage beetle had storage space for a wheelchair, and Marina’s look at the mention of yet another wheelchair wasn’t the most delighted, either – but Marina could only use one of them. The gravel crunched unevenly beneath its tip and even though the few steps up to the small house weren’t very steep, they cost Marina. The cold air tore at her tired and aching body and all she could think of was a warm mug of tea and a bed to sleep.
This was not how she had imagined to show her little hideaway to Esther, and she had imagined it plenty of times.
And to Esther, everything seemed to be normal. She carried packed bags and food into the cabin, locked up the car, found the light in the small kitchen and had hung up her coat in the wardrobe before Marina had even reached the door. Esther had offered to help her walk, but of course Marina had refused. It was enough that she felt decades older at the moment, she didn’t need to act like it, too.
She closed the door behind herself with relief and hoped that Esther wouldn’t notice her leaning against the wall to catch her breath for a moment. Marina didn’t know what time it was, but the painkillers were wearing off.
“Your definition of ‘cabin’ is a little aristocratic, isn’t?” Esther called from the kitchen.
Marina hauled herself two steps more ahead, finding Esther with her hands on her hips, staring at a small edition of the fancy espresso machine that occupied most of the counter in Marina’s Milan kitchen.
“That’s not the definition of ‘cabin’, it’s the definition of ‘coffee’,” Marina replied and despite her state of exhaustion, the give-and-take with Esther made her smile. And even though it wasn’t the way she might have envisioned it to be, it was still a secret dream come true to see Esther standing in the middle of her cabin – fine, so it was a little more ample than a cabin – and stashing away groceries into the kitchen cupboards.
“But your definition of ‘cabin’ is a little aristocratic, too.” Esther bent down to clear away the last of the bags and Marina knew that she had to be beyond exhausted when she barely remembered to enjoy the view while she could. “A kitchen, a living-room, two floors… The cabins I know from my study group travels were more along the lines of one big room, bare wood, the cows in one corner and everyone bringing their sleeping bag.” She stood and turned around to look at Marina. “Also, they didn’t have an access way for the car.”
“Wait until you see the private ski lift access,” Marina said.
Esther’s eyes widened. “You have a private ski lift access?!”
“No, of course not.” Marina laughed.“There’s no ski lift on this side of the valley, thank God.” She winked at Esther. “See, it’s not that aristocratic after all.” She tried to shift her weight, but the formal skirt she wore didn’t really give her space to move. At the last moment, she balanced herself against the fridge, unfortunately with her left arm. She sucked in a breath and waited for the nausea to subside. “Bad… idea…”
“Marina—” Esther was immediately at her side, catching her weight. “Are you alright?”
“Mhmm…” Marina still kept her eyes closed, relishing the warmth of Esther’s arms. “Just hurts a little…”
“Of course, it’s past midnight!” Esther stepped back to look at her watch. “You need to take your medication!” She shook her head, angry at herself for not having caught onto this earlier. “I didn’t want to wake you during the drive…”
Marina smiled wanly. “And the surprise worked much better this way.” She held onto Esther’s shoulders. “Could you get me a glass out of the cupboard?”
“Sure…” Esther looked back and forth between the cupboard and Marina, who was decidedly wobbly on her feet now. “But perhaps we should get you upstairs into bed first.”
It didn’t sound the least bit sensually charged. Marina was somewhat peeved at the complete lack of interest in Esther’s tone. Even though it was more than obvious that she wouldn’t be able to do anything tonight, it still would have been nice to know that Esther was at least conscious of the ambiguity of her comment.
“The bedroom is upstairs?” Esther continued, unaware of Marina’s disappointment.
“Yes, it’s…” Marina hesitated, but then she gave in. “Perhaps I’ll just sleep on the couch down here.”
“What?” Now Esther seemed to be disappointed.
“It’s a pull-out bed, it’s not that bad,” Marina hastened to explain. She met Esther’s disarmingly befuddled gaze. “I don’t think I can walk up the stairs.”
“Ohh…” Esther finally understood the problem. She eyed the steep staircase. “I could try to carry you.”
Marina smiled tiredly. “It’s enough if one of us runs around bandaged.” Perhaps Esther had had a few plans on her own, and perhaps she had imagined being here with Marina herself. Perhaps even more than once.
But if that was the case, Esther didn’t show it. “Alright, then the sofa bed,” she agreed with practicality. “Where are the sheets?” she asked when she was already steering Marina into the living room.
She had only looked briefly through the door earlier, taking note of the large, cozy fireplace. The whole room emanated warm comfort, though. The colors were warm and subdued – soft browns and reds, in the rugs in front of the fireplace and the polished wood of the couch table. There was a filigree shelf filled with books, with an old radio sitting to the side.
“It was my grandmother’s, during the war,” Marina explained softly, having followed Esther’s gaze with her own.
Only belatedly Esther realized that there was no TV, not even a DVR set. “I like it,” she said and something about the way she said it made Marina smile.
Esther didn’t see it, though, because she was already eyeing the mechanism of the couch. “You sit down here,” she decided, leading Marina over to a striped armchair. “No, just on the armrest.”
She managed to help Marina perch on the armrest without making her arm hurt, even though she was holding onto her shoulder. For a moment, Marina was baffled. Sometimes, she forgot that Esther spent much of her working hours moving people who were twice Marina’ size. She watched Esther set up the bed in quick movements, organizing sheets and comforters and fluffing pillows. It gave her an oddly peaceful sensation, something happy and tranquil that didn’t even need words.
“There you go, all set.” Before Marina knew it, Esther had drawn her to her feet again and sat her down again at the foot of the bed. “I’ll go get your medication.”
When returned with a glass of water and a box of pills, Marina had tried – without much success – to take off her skirt, but she hadn’t gotten much further than lowering the zipper in the back.
“Wait, I’ll help you with that.” Esther placed the glass of water and the medication on the couch table and put Marina’s arms around her neck to help her stretch out and lie down. “I’ll just need you to lift your hips for a second.” Her tone was friendly and calm and Marina wondered whether this was how Esther talked to the patients she had to turn and lift and wash.
“Ready?” Esther questioned, her hands on Marina’s hips.
“Sure,” Marina said, but she turned her head away when Esther, in one even movement, pulled the skirt down her legs.
“I’ll change the bandage on your knee tomorrow,” Esther said and she didn’t seem to find the situation strange at all. “I brought the draining paste for it, too.”
Marina grimaced at the memory of the foul-smelling ointment. She had to think about how she hadn’t even taken a shower since she had returned from the court building. Aloud, she said “Thanks.” When Esther turned around to look at her again, she drew the blanket over her legs. “Well, at least you’ll get some uninterrupted sleep tonight,” she tried to joke. “The bedroom is on the right – and you have a wonderful view at the stars from the bed.”
“Are you sure you don’t need me down here?” Esther asked uncertainly.
Marina shook her head. “No need for both of us to miss the stars,” she stated easily, even though she instinctively leaned forward to reach for Esther again.
“I’ll get you a pajama, at least,” Esther decided. “You’re still in that blouse from the court. And you’re still wearing that scarf…”
Marina touched her fingers to the green silk. “It’s my lucky scarf now.” That got a smile from Esther, and Marina smiled along, at least until Esther had left the room.
But when Esther returned, a neatly folded pajama over her arms, Marina had already fallen asleep. The empty water glass stood on the couch table. Esther tiptoed closer. At least Marina had taken her medication. Her features had already relaxed in sleep and Esther was careful not to jar her when she gently removed the scarf and opened another button on the blouse. She didn’t want to wake Marina up again. The pajama, she left on the couch table.
Marina didn’t even stir when Esther drew the blanket up to her shoulders. She didn’t move, either, when half an hour later, bare feet walked down the stairs and a slender figure in an oversized t-shirt drew back the blanket and settled in next to her, a hand searching for her hand underneath the covers before Esther fell asleep beside her.
That’s it for this week, people. Thanks for stopping by! The following chapter will (hopefully) be available as of next Friday, 9 p.m. (GMT+1), posted in parts across the weekend. – Comments, as always, welcome below.