Part 3 starts New Year's Eve Day, five hours after their brief conversation about love & fate but still a half-day before any year ending celebrations. This one also references SvP 'Chapter 23 - I Love You' but you'll be fine if you haven't read it yet. Like always, any text in italics belongs to Star.
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Chapter 3 - What Could Be Wrong?
11:38 AM. Even with it being the last day of the calendar year, the morning was unusually brisk. Ignoring the cold, Star Butterfly decided to take full advantage of Marco and Mr. Diaz kicking the two oldest women out of the house by continuing her next great adventure. As the men prepared lunch the young mewman reminded Angie of the promise to help the teen get more experience behind the wheel. Sadly, as soon as they pulled out of the driveway, the Echo Creek mom was regretting her decision.
"HURRY UP PEOPLE, STUDENT DRIVER COMING THROUGH!"
"Star, they can't hear you when the windows are closed."
"Right-right-right, I'll open one up next time. Angie, instead of going over those weird lane rules again can we talk about something that's bothering me?"
"Star dear, stop signs are more than just a suggestion. The car needs to completely stop moving."
"Sorry-sorry. I'll stop for the next one, I'm just frustrated."
The reluctant instructor let out a sigh. "Was it something Marco did?"
"So Janna is telling me that Santa is a corporate entity who only exists to profit the white male elite. But StarFan said that Santa is the only reason for joy in the world and those stories about gift giving and flying reindeer are all completely true."
"Star, please slow down!"
"When I ask Marco the dork is all -what do you want to believe in-? Worst, he gets this smirk on his face that tells me that he knows the truth but he's not going to tell me."
"Careful! Old people crossing the street!"
"HEY, IF YOU'RE OUT IN THE ROAD MAYBE YOU SHOULD BE SINGING CATCHY BELL LADEN SONGS! See, I opened the window that time."
"Star, they aren't carolers. Humans do that for Christmas, but not New Years. Hey, how about we practice parking? Yeah-yeah, let's do that!" Angie forced a cheerful smile on her face as she pointed in the direction of an empty lot. Star did a good job pulling over but even after several tries she couldn't figure out how to keep the car from taking up two spaces.
"So Christmas morning I'm really confused because all these presents show up just like StarFan said but most looked like they came from a store with their tags and plastic wrap. And then, AND THEN some of the gifts from Santa were wrapped in the exact same heart wrapping paper that Marco used for the special present he gave me last night! I just realized it when we were leaving the house. I wanted to talk to Marco about it but Sir Dorko was 'too busy' prepping veggies for lunch. This just doesn't add up and why is he cutting up broccoli!? No sane person wants to eat broccoli!"
"Star, are you sure that you want to know the truth about Christmas?"
"Yes please! This week has been truly awesome, but I need to understand this whole holiday magic thing. It's driving me crazy!"
"Raphael and I bought most of the presents and we set them out Christmas Eve, while you and Marco were upstairs."
"But not all the gifts, some were from Santa?"
"No, Marco bought the rest."
"So Santa brings presents to other people but not us?"
"Santa is not real?"
"He was probably a real person a long time ago but not like in the classic holiday stories."
"And Marco knows this?"
"He knows. He thought you might want to believe in Christmas Magic since there's no more Butterfly Magic. He convinced us to play along. People from Earth tell the whole Santa story to get kids excited about the holidays but normally by middle school they figure it out. Even then, some still want the story to be real so everyone plays along."
"Right-right, Earth society is based on seasonal lies meant to deceive children about the true nature of magic. I still wish he told me the truth, he knows I can handle this stuff."
Angie replied with a shrug. "She's too young to understand but please don't say anything about this around Mariposa."
"Got it, keep the human lie alive. Hey, thanks for telling me. I kind of already guessed so it wasn't a surprise, I'm just annoyed that your son wouldn't spill the corn. I love the dork but he can be really annoying sometimes."
"You should have seen him last summer when he wore your father's cape everywhere, SO annoying. Tell me, what did Marco get you as a special gift? He didn't mention anything about that."
Star's eyes turned to saucers as she thought about how Angie might react to her boyfriend's 'couples only' present. "Oh...well-"
"Did my son buy you a second fanny pack? I gave him explicit instructions not to buy you any fanny packs for Christmas or your birthday."
"Ah, no-no-no it was fine, he got me another cool fanny pack. Totally-totally-totally what I wanted and it's a different color, it goes way better with that blue dress Santa...I mean you got me."
"Well, I guess if you're happy that's all that matters."
"Oh yeah, super happy. I didn't mean to sound that upset with him. Overall Marco's been an awesome boyfriend but like all of us, he has his moments. Hey, speaking of boyfriend moments...c-can I ask you another sorta-kinda-a-almost related question?"
"As long as the car isn't moving, yes."
"Have you ever heard of the Dark Lord of the Multiverse?"
"Is that another one of those bad guys you and Marco fought? Were they for or against the monsters?"
"No-no forget about that, that's not the real question."
Angie took a deep breath as she prepared for whatever was coming next.
"Do you remember saying a while back that you and Mr. Diaz broke up like a hundred times before getting married? Does that mean you were teenagers when you started dating?"
"Well, yes and no. I was eighteen and he was nineteen when we first met but it was still over a year before we officially became a couple. I guess technically I was a teen for a little while there. You see, back in college there were a number of boys chasing me and I didn't pay much attention to him. Eventually he caught me at the right time and I agreed to a museum date. Raphael and I were on-and-off for a number of years before we decided to take the plunge so it literately was a hundred breakups."
"Did you date a lot before Mr. Diaz?"
"Oh yes. I had four or five boyfriends in high school, I met someone in France, and then in college I was in a number of relationships. I even had a few girlfriends."
"So-o-o-o related question, do you know any couples who dated around fifteen or sixteen and it worked out?"
"Let me think...there were a few people who got married right out of high school but I don't know if they lasted. Wait, Trudy and Bill! I think they're still together assuming he survived the brain tumor."
"Argh! That's depressing!"
"Cancer is depressing but not the relationship part. Everyone changes when they're growing up and it takes awhile for most teens to figure out what kind of person they want to be with. Add in all the stress from making life-altering decisions for the first time and you can understand why it would be hard for young couples to stay together no matter how strong their crushes might be. On top of that, what teens do you know who don't make at least a few hundred mistakes? Take Marco, he spent a whole month wearing that cape while pretending he wasn't thinking about some girl from Mewni. Anyway, with all the craziness of being a teenager, it's a small miracle that any young couples stay together."
"Huh. Those are good points. Also related to that, do you think fate might also play a part in deciding what relationships do and don't work out?"
"Yeah. For example this morning I was thinking about how fate might have messed with Marco and I. Like, was it fate that made us get our souls bonded before we even knew we really liked each other? Was it fate that gave him the courage to kiss me even though I'd friend-boxed him while dating Tom? Was it fate trying to take him away from me when he got his soul sucked out? Maybe it was fate that-"
"S-star-" Angie's face turned a ghostly white. "-bonded? Tom? S-o-u-l? What happened to my baby!"
"Oh-OH! No-no-no, Marco is fine. That was all...ah metaphoric. Yeah-yeah, totally metaphoric! We fought a vacuum that sucked him up and he had to karate it from the inside. The 'Soul-vuum', yeah! But we won and he was TOTALLY fine afterward. The kiss was just a peek on the cheek and everyone was cool with it. Tom was in love with a pie back then so he didn't even care. And the Blood Moon Curse, we had that removed forever ago. When I think about it now all I remember is dancing around a ballroom. All that stuff, REALLY NO BIGGIE."
"Well, if you say so. I swear, you kids and your adventures! If you're thinking about fate that way you're right that it could play a role when it comes to relationships. I just don't know how much."
"That's about where I am with this. Fate must play a part but you're also right that growing up messes with your feelings too."
"Now my question to you, is something going on between you and Marco that brought this on? Did he do something he shouldn't have? Is he thinking about wearing that cape again?"
"What!? No! No-no-no-no! There was a friend at school who broke up with her boyfriend last week and I really thought they were good for each other. Seeing things end for Sabrina just got me thinking about...about all this serious stuff."
"I remember this one time I broke up with Raphael. He wouldn't take an opportunity to study art in Spain because I couldn't go. After a long fight over how stubborn he was being, I ended it. Then as fate would have it he got sick boarding the plane and had to stay home."
"And you got back together?"
"He was so cute and pitiful I couldn't help myself. So this friend of yours, are they going to be okay?"
"Yeah I think so, it's not like she broke her leg for the third time. Hey, one more related question. If you had all these boyfriends before Mr. Diaz, did he ever get upset about that? I mean you must have been way more exper...I mean good at kissing than he was."
"Maybe a little but I don't think it mattered too much since we were both about the same age. It's not like one of us was way older than the other."
"Y-yeah, that would have been TOTALLY weird." Star smiled nervously, desperately trying to keep herself from saying anything else.
"I could tell something was on your mind this morning, even at breakfast you seemed distracted. If you're still thinking about things, how about I drive us back to the house? A long hot shower is the best place for contemplating life's riddles."
The teen pondered the best ways to get all these serious thoughts out of her mind, at least for a little while. "No way Ms. Diaz, you're on starship Star's ship." After a few tire squeals in the parking lot they were back on the road. "Or is it Star's ship starship? Anyway, I bet driving while distracted by some fate-woman-weirdo should work great for clearing my head!"
Somehow both Angie and Star survived the teen's death ride. Once home the mewman made sure to grab the newest looking pack from Marco's secret fanny stash. While walking downstairs, with her new 'gift' wrapped around her waist, she thought about the best way to talk to her bestie. She had wanted to tell him about her dream all morning, but it was like fate was keeping them from being alone.
New Year's Eve
Many hours later, in one of Monster Temple's darkened bedrooms, Star Butterfly is woken by the oppressively loud snoring being aimed directly in her ear. Groggily she opens her eyes and begins feeling around for her phone. Next to the young woman, a shifting Meteora causes the former princess to freeze. However, after a few seconds the child is back in her original position dreaming away.
Every other week Star and Marco would babysit for Eclipsa and Globgor. The teens found that the best way to get the young Meteora to sleep was to lay down next to the child until she finally stopped moving. Tonight was like those other times except Marco stayed home with his sister while his parents were out celebrating. Once she was thinking clearly Star sat on the edge of the mattress checking her messages. Five were from her boyfriend.
|8:39 PM - Finally got Mari down. Time to start the laundry party. ;)
|9:10 PM - Putting a grocery list together, let me know if you want anything special.
|9:13 PM - Did you eat the chocolate chips? I was going to make cookies. :|
|9:55 PM - Weather is going to be great Saturday. We should plan another hike, check the glass serpent maybe? Sunday we're scheduled to talk to another group about the Cleave.
|10:11 PM - My parents called, they're both drinking so they got a hotel room to be safe. Please call me before midnight. Love you.
"Oh Marco, what am I going to do with you?" The former prince smiled as she daydreamed about the cute things her boyfriend might be doing to keep himself busy but then realized, he probably was having a boring old laundry party. 'Is it weird that my boyfriend folds my underwear? Hmm, maybe I should start doing that myself.'
The young mewman straightened her dress as her thoughts went back to how she tried all day to get time with her boy. Instead of Starco time, the Diaz's requested help reorganizing Mariposa's room. After Pony Head needed a bestie to help test out the new 'Ba-a-a-a-ad Choices' makeup line. Star was sure she would have time after but then Janna mysteriously showed up in Marco's room, a victim of 'reoccurring boredom'. Giving up on the dream of alone time with her former squire during the day, Star banked on getting the red belt alone that night. That was until she was reminded of her promise to babysit the little girl slated to one day become queen.
Upon leaving the darkness of Meteora's room, Star entered Eclipsa and Globgor's parlor. After taking a moment for her eyes to adjust, the young woman was surprised to see the Queen of Darkness herself staggering to the largest recliner.
"Eclipsa? What are you doing back this early? It's not even eleven."
"Star my dear! I might have had a bit too much fun tonight. But you need to understand, Earth margaritas are simply wonderful! Almost as good as chocolate. You have GOT to try one!"
"I think Earther restaurants have rules about what teens can order, but I'll check. I wonder if I could get Marco to share one with me?"
"Would you mind fetching an old woman a glass of water? I'm afraid the floor is a wee bit too spin-y right now. I'm just going to rest in this chair if you don't mind."
With that the purple clad woman flopped down on the padded seat. Removing her hat she attempted to toss it on the coffee table but instead sent it floating into one of the rooms darkened corners. As the leader of what remained of the Butterfly Kingdom relaxed, Star brought over a half-filled cup from the kitchen.
"Thank you my dear, you're so incredibly sweet. Now come, bend my ear before I let you run off. Whenever we see each other one of us is always going or coming. Let's take a few minutes so you can tell me what's new in your life...or better yet, talk to me about Christmas. You and Marco caused quite the stir. I don't know about everyone at the party but the show the two of you put on under the mistletoe had a number of the parents talking."
Star looked up to see Eclipsa wearing the same smirk she gets whenever she catches the two teens holding hands.
"If I was placing a bet, my monies would be on you talking the most."
"Ha! Guilty as charged. Come, tell a tipsy mom about young love while her husband is searching the wine cellar. I cherish the memory of the princess who complained about a boy following her from Earth and now I need to know if that relationship is going as swimmingly as it seems. Also, Marco has been looking...what's the best way to say it-"
Star raised a brow. "Ah, more defined?"
"Not exactly what I was thinking, but let's go with that."
"Well, he started working out a lot more now that he has his college workload figured out. After the Cleave I told him about this Neverzone Marco dream I had and...well...he's made getting abs a life goal."
"If you don't mind me asking, in the Neverzone does he get taller? Does he get a rather sexy tattoo of scissors on his arm?"
"He definitely grew while he was there and the tattoo did give him an awesome bad-boy look. I guess a lot can happen when you're in a place like that for...sixteen years." The young woman began to feel uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, but she did her best to hide it.
"So Marco really is in his thirties then isn't he? That explains why he had all those extra memories. At the time I just thought human brains were a bit different than those of a mewman."
"Well maybe Marco's brain is different but...WAIT! HOW DO YOU KNOW ABOUT MARCO'S TATTOO!?"
Bouncing off the sofa, Star stood before the Dark Queen with eyes of rage. "DID YOU CAST A SPELL ON MY MARCO!?"
"Well, I might have used a tinsy little charm back when I first became queen. Before he was your Marco of course."
"Oh-OHH. Was it when you were looking for the book, just like you did to me? Alright, spill it queeny! I need all the details!"
"Although I was focused on the remains of the spell book, when I cast it on the two of you I may have seen a few other things. I do apologize my dear. You figured out almost a year that I went into your mind so I had assumed this was all water-under-the-bridge by now."
With reality setting in, the rage faded and Star fell back into the soft living room sofa. "You must have seen our dreams and our memories. I bet you knew I loved him before I did. A-and, you must have known that he loved me."
"That's not exactly how the spell worked but I had a good idea that you two were fond of each other well before you handed me the wand. I admit, I enjoyed watching you teenagers even when I was chained up in the rose garden."
"But you never said anything about...wait-wait-wait, you've seen Marco's dreams. Who did he dream about? Was it me or Kelly? Or Hekapoo? I assume not Jackie, he was over her by then. Or maybe he was having one of those lame dreams where he does homework."
Eclipsa raise a brow. "He dreams about homework?"
"Did you see his tattoo because he was dreaming about being in the Neverzone?" The young woman started to panic. "OH NO! Maybe you rewired his brain and that's why he is all weird about remembering what happened there!?"
"Star, all I did was wait until you were both asleep and then poked around a bit. It might sound drastic but I assure you, all perfectly harmless. It was similar to finding a library and rummaging through a few volumes while the lights are out."
"Well, even if it was harmless, I still want to know what you found."
The queen gave a nod. "I guess I do owe you a story about what I observed. Let's see, it was sometime after the Spiderbites visited, back when I was getting a bit desperate for my Globgor. That night I stepped into his mind first because you dear would not stop tossing and turning. If you weren't already aware it was never easy applying the dark arts to someone who won't stop moving. Anyway, the way the spell worked was that the caster starts seeing the person's dream. Then if you stay hidden, you can look for books that hold the person's memories. He was dreaming about you that night but it wasn't anything I would call...interesting. You had blown up a child's birthday party and he was cleaning up the mess. The whole time you were distracting him and I think you were wearing a black outfit and an eyepatch. What was really strange was that he was wearing one of those Princess Marco dresses. If I didn't know any better I might think the boy secretly enjoyed being a young lady, not that there's anything wrong with that."
"Cleaning up a mess does sound a lot like one of Marco's lame dreams. Alright, forget about that part. What did you see in his Neverzone memories?"
"In one of the books I saw images of him chasing Hekapoo but it wasn't very interesting and more importantly, it wasn't getting me any closer to finding the Magic Book of Spells. I did find one memory volume hidden behind a secret wall so I assumed it was very important. In it were grown up versions of both you and Marco but your flaxen hair was much darker and he kept using the name Estrella. If I remember right you were both in a mist filled cavern and there was lots of weeping. I didn't watch beyond that, the scene was a bit too much for me."
Star let out a long disappointed sigh. "Weird. Oh well, I was hoping to finally know what happened to him. He'll tell me about his adventures but he never mentions anything about what it was like growing up or talk about the other stuff."
"You know what was strange now that I think about it, I don't think that memory of you had cheek marks. Maybe Marco already knew what the world was going to be like after our magic was destroyed?"
"Maybe." Star took a deep breath while becoming lost in her own thoughts. "I really wish he'd just fill me in so I wouldn't keep worrying about this."
"Tell me, why are you so interested in that part of his life?"
"Eclipsa, have you ever heard of the Dark Lord of the Multiverse?"
"Dark Lord, hmm...it doesn't have the same ring as Dark Queen but it's not bad. Is that the woman who managed to get her paws on the spell book and write a short message on the inside cover?"
"That's her. Janna learned about the Dark Lord and she's convinced that the woman manages fate or something like that. Evidently she also makes sure teen relationships don't last and it got me thinking that something might have happened to Marco in the Neverzone. I knew everything else about him but I'm kinda worried that...I don't know...maybe he has a secret he hasn't told me and somehow that'll make it so we don't stay together. I wasn't really thinking about any of this until last night when he said something during our foot rubbbbb...errr boots, while trying on rubber boots, and now I can't stop thinking about it." Star tried to hide her panic realizing that she likely said a little too much.
"Yup! We each tried on a new pair. You know for rain and snow and butt kicking. Yup! Marco and I, always prepared!"
The Dark Queen smirked while the teen nervously attempted to cover up the activity she and Marco enjoyed the previous night. "Star, if you don't mind continuing to humor a tipsy old woman, what are the normal everyday things you two do that you enjoy the most?"
The young woman wrinkled her brow as she thought. "Well, sometimes we make dinner for just the two of us and it's like we're dancing around the kitchen. I like it when we watch TV and I put my head on his chest or we hold hands. It's also nice when we're exploring the new world. Most of the time he lets me pick a direction and we just go. Whenever something catches my eye he follows and he never makes me feel bad when I get distracted. It's nice when we're all ready for sleeping and we talk about whatever happened that day. Sometimes I'll be on the bed and he'll be on the air mattress. To say goodnight he does this cute thing where he tugs my toes. We've been singing together since we first became friends and that's always fun. Actually, now that I think about it, most of my favorite stuff is the same stuff we did back before we started dating, it just got better. But I have to say, not everything is great. Sometimes he forgets I was a princess so no, I didn't know what happens when you wash a new red hoodie with a bunch of whites and I do forget to pick up the magazines I dropped on the floor but it's not like they're going anywhere." Star paused to think more about the question Eclipsa asked. "Being together isn't always perfect but Marco always tries to make it as perfect as it can be...and even when I think he's being a doink his heart is always in the right place. Sounds pretty cheesy when I think about it but when we're together...normal is...normal is special."
"Not cheesy at all. That my dear is as good a description of love as any I've heard. And now that you've found love, do you really have a reason to believe it will end?"
"No, but I'm still kinda scared it will."
"Star, I'll be brutally honest, I can understand why you would be. Even when everything seems perfect, fate is always ready to toss new obstacles at us. Sadly we've both learned the hard way, life isn't rainbows and puppies."
Star let out a slight giggle as memories of her first day on Earth came back to her. "When Marco and I met, my rainbows were on fire and my puppies shot lasers out of their eyes."
"And I bet he loved them."
"Yes on the puppies, I'm still not sure about the flaming rainbows."
"I do remember the dream you were having that night. You two were dancing together, riding warnicorns, jumping through portals. If I hadn't known any better I would have thought you and Marco were together even then."
"Back when I couldn't get my heart and mind to agree I sorta kept Marco in a besties-only box but yeah, if it wasn't for that we could have been together."
"One difference between you and I, as the Princess of Darkness I did a great deal of dating but very few could get close to capturing either my mind or my heart. At most I might settle for a few days, sometimes weeks, but usually not much longer than that. I did however get good at sneaking off behind my mother's back and she never did figure out that I was predisposed to the furrier kind."
"I know you didn't officially start dating Globgor until you were older, but if you had become a couple when you were teenagers do you think it would have lasted?"
"Interesting question. Maybe but it's hard to say. We became friends when we were younger, but I wasn't immediately sure if he was the one. On top of that when I was a teenager I didn't know what I wanted out of life. That's one of the reasons I agreed to be married off to Shastacan. I will say, when the relationship between Globgor and I became romantic, it was the right time for both of us. Another way to think of it, from the moment we first met to now we've both done a great deal of growing and I'm happy to say, we love who we've become."
Star didn't respond, instead reflecting on the Dark Queen's words.
"Growing up, changing, it's not for the faint of heart. Does this scare you too?"
"I-I don't know. I'm not afraid of Marco and I changing...I...I just feel like if we aren't together it'll be like when Glossaryck told me destroying the magic would mean that I'd never see Marco again. It was this awful pain in my gut but I had to ignore it because so many lives depended on me fulfilling that crazy destiny the blue weirdo made up for us. But even though I ignored the pain, even though I knew what I was doing was right...those terrible feelings were always there. And now that Marco and I are on the other side of the Cleave and we finally have time to be together without the world being all mad at us, I...I hate that someday we'll grow up and it'll be like destroying magic again. We'll both have to go through those painful feelings of losing each other just because we fell for each other while we were stupid teenagers." Star paused for a second to wipe her eyes. "With our luck we'll breakup over something dumb like him catching me eating out of his secret cereal stash. Granted he sucks at hiding the boxes, it's not like he makes them hard to find. O-or maybe it won't be something dumb. Maybe it's because his Neverzone family shows up a-and he'd rather...be...with them...instead of...me."
"Oh Star. I never saw another family in his memories. I just saw him trying to survive, a few images of you, and I think memories of some sort of root vegetable. Maybe not the happiest thought but even if he did meet someone there, that was thousands of Neverzonian years ago and there's likely never going to be another dimensional portal."
The young woman sniffled sadly but still smiled after hearing Eclipsa's reassurance.
"You know, there is another way to handle all this having-a-relationship-while-you're-still-growing-up business. It can even save you from our dark friend and her fate tainted fingers."
"It's something common to all relationships that last. You work on changing together."
From the floor below, the two Butterflys could hear the Plucker of Limbs loud familiar footsteps. "Honey, you still awake up there?"
"If you both truly love each other it won't be as hard as you might think. Make it a point to try new things as a couple. Whenever you can, reserve time for each other. Talk about your feelings, including these."
From slightly closer they could again hear his deep voice. "Eclipsa honey, have you gone to bed?"
"It may be hard when you're young and you have so many choices ahead of you, but no one ever said that a lasting relationship had to be impossible."
From downstairs, Globgor attempted to be a little more alluring. "Honeyyyy, I found that bottle of chocolate liqueur you li-ke."
"Globy dear, can you please call Star a ride!? I was about to send her home!"
"Oh yes dear, I forgot she was here."
The Dark Queen gave the young woman a wink. "It seems I may have a monster to battle with tonight. Now go get cleaned up. You still have time for fun before midnight and I've heard a rumor that for humans, a New Year's kiss is even a bigger deal than the ones you get under the mistletoe."
Star hurried over to the kitchen to wash away any remaining sadness before giving her Aunty Eclipsa a hug goodbye. Minutes later, as the young Butterfly is getting into the back of a classic yellow taxi, she thinks about her options. She could head to the ocean to watch the midnight fireworks. Tom had invited Star and Marco to join his family for what would be Wrathmelior's first Earthni appearance outside of the Underworld. She could head to the roof of the Stop & Slurp and hang with friends from school. The highlight was going to be Oscar performing the first song he wrote with more than ten hits on YouTube. Or she could visit the 'Midnight Mostly Monster Block Party' being held outside of Castle Alavris. Not only had she been invited, she was told that she would be one of the guests of honor. However, none of those places had her Marco.
Putting It All Away
At 11:28 PM Star stood in front of the Diaz home having been dropped off by the first mewman to have earned their California driver's license. The young woman was looking forward to some late night alone time with her boyfriend until she walked through the front door. That is when she found the former knight, a pile of open boxes, and a partially disassembled artificial tree. The boy happily hummed while taking down Star's new favorite holiday way ahead of schedule.
"Hey you're home! I didn't realize you were getting out early. You should have gone to see the fireworks with Tom and his family."
Stars eyes fell on the boxes, then to Marco, then back to the boxes, then back to Marco. Her expression was that of total disbelief. "Wha-wha-what are you doing?"
"I wanted to get a jump on taking down the tree. Mari has been asleep for a while and I figured I wouldn't see you until one or two in the morning. I was thinking if I could get everything put away now we'd have more free time this weekend."
"B-but...but I-I didn't get to say goodbye!"
The boy began rubbing the back of his neck as he tried to figure out what he did wrong. "Ah, goodbye?"
"Marco, Christmas was awesome! You can't just box up all those memories without saying goodbye to them! Where'd you put that picture of you when you were five? We're totally hanging that in your room!"
"Sorry Star, I guess I didn't think about how special this was to you. I can stop for now. I think the photo is in the box on the bottom."
Clearly frustrated by what she was seeing, Star took it out on her bangs by attempting to blow them away from her face. "Just-just forget it, not like Santa's going to get mad that the tree is gone. You know, I figured I'd come home to you watching more foot rubbing videos or thinking about us having our first New Years kiss. I didn't expect you to be putting away the best week I've had since the Cleave!"
"Well I was looking up stuff about face massages. Evidently there are all these muscles in the jaw that you can rub but-" Marco could tell that his rambling wasn't going to rollback his girlfriend's mood. "-I-I baked some sugar cookies. Do you want some?"
As Star rubbed her temples as she gave a nod. "And eggnog if we have any."
The young man ran off thinking a quick snack might be the best way to de-escalate the holiday emergency. Sadly he wasn't prepared to come back to his bestie splayed out on the floor. Her eyes were wide open as she stared at the ceiling. He wasn't exactly sure what his girlfriend was feeling but it was clear that she had it bad.
"I did it Marco. I've started us down the path."
"I'm upset about the holidays ending and you're going to think I'm overreacting. Next we're going to argue about the chocolate chips I ate. We're on the path."
"Once school vacation ends I'm going to get jealous that your spending too much time with that study partner of yours who always wears that put-everything-out-on-display bra."
"You mean the girl from my calculus class?"
"Maybe we'll pretend everything is fine, but soon after we'll start disagreeing about what Love Sentence songs to listen to. I'll be totally into the new stuff, but you'll be all -I have to stay true to the classics-."
"Well, I do prefer the first two albums."
"One night we'll be about to 'quest' for the first time and you'll finally tell me how Hekapoo gave you mewnerpes. I looked it up, they have medication that can get rid of the symptoms."
Marco's eye went huge. "Star!"
"And then...and then one of your Neverzone kids will knock on the door and you'll decide that you'd be happier with that family instead of...with me."
"STAR, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?"
With calm sincerity the young woman turned her head until their eyes locked together. "I just want you to know that I'll always treasure the times we've had together and I want to stay besties no matter what happens."
Marco dragged his hands down the length of his face while letting out a long sigh. "Alright. Where's this coming from? Start from the beginning."
"Marco, there's a woman who manages fate and she makes sure teenage relationships don't last. The other week she got Sabrina and she's coming for us next."
"Okay, fate woman. Got it. So is she upset about the Cleave like everyone else? Can't we go talk to her about this?"
"You don't get it. She's like a Glossaryck level weirdo, we can't just walk up and knock her teeth out."
"So I better understand, is she a female Glossaryck but of teen angst instead of magic?"
"Well, there's no way she'd look like the little blue guy. I've been imagining her as someone cute, like a grown up StarFan. Wouldn't a female Glossaryck have four boobs? Anyway, she manages fate and fate is tied to love. You and I are teens in love so BAM, she's totally coming for us."
"That's why you were talking about fate and love this morning isn't it?"
Star gave a nod.
"Alright, how do you know about her?"
"The Book of Spells, Janna, and today I confirmed everything with some very credible sources."
"Your mom and Eclipsa. One of the Dark Lord's favorite pastimes is going after teens and making sure there are no storybook endings. Unless you start dating when you're older there are only brief moments of happiness before she finds a way to squeeze the life out of your teenage heart and then for fun drinks your youth-filled tears."
"Are you sure you're not just over-exaggerating normal growing up stuff? Plus aren't you and I doing great? I mean, I've been thinking that us being together has been awesome."
"That's what I thought too, but has it really? If it was so good why'd you never come clean when I asked about Santa? I know you weren't trying to hurt me but now I have this feeling in my guts that you don't trust me."
"You learned the truth about Santa?"
Her only response was a disappointed stare.
"Star I totally trust you with everything, but I wanted to give you a chance to believe in Christmas magic. You deserve to have magic in your life."
"I get it, but the real holiday magic is spending time with people you care about. I miss Butterfly Magic more than you can possibly imagine but having family and friends around me is way more important. I'm being honest with you Marco, trying to get me to think that there's some guy in a red suit who makes the holidays magical really wasn't cool."
The young man paused for a second as he thought about her words. "I wasn't thinking about it like that. You're right, I'm sorry."
"If I had pushed you, would you have told me the truth?"
"I-I would have. I'm sorry I didn't."
"And then there's this whole deal of you never telling me everything that happened in the Neverzone. Also not cool."
"Whoa-whoa! Totally not the same thing!"
"Isn't it though? Every time the Neverzone comes up you either have some epic adventure you want to tell me about, like skating up some waterfall-"
"It was jet skiing down a waterfall."
"-or you get all -I'm Macro Diaz and I've never failed a test in school but my Neverzone memories suddenly got all fuzzy-. I totally want to believe everything you tell me but I'm worried that you're leaving stuff out to protect me just like you did with Santa. And what bothers me the most is that whatever you're not telling me might cause us big relationship problems later."
"Seriously Marco, how could you have gone from fourteen to thirty without falling in love or experiencing you know…stuff! And I don't just mean 'questing'. Tell me about something that happened that wasn't an adventure. Did someone disappoint you? Did you watch the sunrise from on top of a mountain? Or-or what was it like growing up with no responsibilities?"
"Watching the sunrise from high up was dangerous because daybreak is when the giant Never-bats do their final feeding. As for growing up, according to my psychology professor I grew up physically but not emotionally. I told her what happened and she gave me this whole series of books to read talking about how becoming an emotionally functional adult is tied to taking on societal responsibilities. On top of that, remember before Thanksgiving when we went to that awful excuse of a dance club? Remember how I ended up in the hospital and they ran some tests? I showed the CAT scan of my brain to some of my professors and they confirmed that I have the brain functionality of a mature sixteen-year-old, not the brain of a thirty-year-old. They even talked about writing a paper on the physiological impact of what happened. Anyway, the point is that I didn't really grow up."
"Seriously Marco, what the corn do CATS have to do with your noggin!?"
"No, a CAT scan is just a big Earth machine that takes pictures of your insides."
"Argh, Earth stuff has the worst names! So are you SURE your brain is totally teenage normal?"
"Well...they did find a little trauma. It was probably from the time I got thrown into a wall, or from the time I got my soul sucked out, or from my time in the Neverzone, or from fighting monsters, or from one of our other adventures, or maybe from when Leo hit me and I had that dream about us having a thousand babies."
"Brain trauma, seriously!? Why the corn is this the first time I'm hearing about this!?"
"I...I'm sorry. After a specialist reviewed the images I made an appointment with my doctor to go over everything a-and it was on a day when you had school. I didn't say anything because I didn't want you to worry."
"How very noble of you Marco, keeping the person you merged dimensions with in the dark about all this important stuff she would want to know about! Your brain is important to me Marco! You're important to me!"
"...s-sorry. With how crazy the new world has been I didn't want to stress you out more."
"If you're this determined to not to tell me about your health, what else are you hiding!? I love you Marco, I want to know everything!"
The young man let out a long sigh while lowering his head. "You asked about who in the Neverzone disappointed me. The only one who ever did was...me."
"Well I'm disappointed that you didn't fill me in on all this before now. So go on, how did you disappoint yourself?"
"I-I'm...sorry, I shouldn't have said anything. Listen, can we talk about anything else? Just ask me a question and I'll answer it and to start us off, until now I'd never even heard of mewnerpes."
"Hekapoo seemed to be really fond of you and you were making all sexy eyes when she was giving you your scissors. Did anything romantic happen between the two of you?"
"She never actually said it but I'm pretty sure after I passed her test the offer was there. In the Neverzone she was mean at first but after a couple of years she started acting more like a big sister, just a weird one who talked all flirty. Maybe if you hadn't showed up I would have eventually said yes, but I never did. Looking back, if I was into her I never would have left. Months later she talked to me about being an adventuring partner and implied that I could also be a different kind of partner, but by then I was spending all my time thinking about you. I know it seems weird but I kind of liked the attention she gave me. I also felt bad for her. Even with all her clones, below the surface she was a lonely person. Anyway, after earning my scissors I helped her close a few portals but it was only as friends. Nothing romantic ever happened."
"Alright. Then were you ever in a romantic relationship with someone else while you were there?"
"Do you have kids and 'not really' is NOT an acceptable answer!?"
The former princess sat up and shook her head at her boyfriend, obviously disappointed. "I don't care if you were in love before me, or had some sort of Never-fling, I just don't get why you won't tell me!"
"Who was Estrella?"
"Marco, I know that means Star. Spanish is like the only classes I'm doing well in."
Silently the young man started pacing back and forth with his hands covering most of his face. It was obvious that this was the last topic in the entire multiverse he wanted to talk about. Each time he completed one of his frantic loops, despite her frustrations, Star did feel bad for pushing him so hard. She was about to apologize when finally he spoke. "I-I-I need to go check on Mari."
As quickly as he could, the sixteen year old college student sprinted to the second floor. Once he was out of sight Star could hear Mariposa's door open and close. Then there was silence.
Dear wise and powerful Dark Lord of the Multiverse,
I totally got this.
Your humble servant,
What are you going to see in the next chapter? Marco has a story to tell that's unlike ANYTHING I've read in any other SVTFOE fanfiction. It's going to get a little weird. - Olin