Coffee and Sympathy

From the Story Arc: Phoenyx Rising

Previous Story in the Arc: Revelations by Victoria Victrix (Sunday, July 03, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: A Rage In Heaven by Seraphic Flame (Wednesday, July 06, 2005)

(posted Tuesday, July 05, 2005)

Triste had heard that Bella found release for her emotions in song. It was worth trying, she thought. Anything was worth trying at this point. The memory of the Heart of All Time had faded to the point that it was dim and remote as the memory of a dream. Her friends were enwrapped in their own troubles. She was cut off even from the steady web of thoughts and feelings that had been part of the background of her world since she arrived here. She was utterly alone in her mind, and the emptiness only reinforced her loneliness.

She had already attempted to smother her heart-pain in physical pain, driving herself out into solo combat over and over again, falling, going to the hospital to fling herself out into solo combat again. It had not worked. It had not even truly occuppied her mind. It was time to try something else.

Bella had sung certain songs so often that Triste had, perforce, learned them without even trying. Not surprising really, for a Seraphim, most of whom spent their time in singing the Song of the Infinite within the Heart of All Time. Song came as naturally as breathing.

Now she knelt at the edge of the roof of a building at the corner of Steel Canyon, her eyes fixed upon the changing light of the War Walls, and sang.

And wept.

When the dark wood fell before me
and all the paths were overgrown,
when the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone---

Cast your eyes on the ocean,
cast your soul to th-th-the sea,
When the dark night seems endless,
P-p-p-please remember me.

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of d-d-desire
from the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and fire.

Cast your eyes on the ocean,
cast your soul to the sea,
when the dark night s-s-s-seems endless,
please re-


(her voice broke in a sob)

-member me

Behind her, she heard a quiet murmur.

John's voice---speaking her name---

An illusion, of course. She did not turn.

She had heard such a phantom murmurs so often that she ignored it now. Often, too often, she had turned only to find the roof behind her empty, the sound nothing more than an echo of the longing of her shattered heart.

Oh give these clay feet w-w-wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars---


("Dante's Prayer" Miriam Stockley)

A cough. "Flame---"

Loud enough that, startled, she jumped to her feet, whirled, stumbled---

And fell right off the side of the building.

She heard him shout her name as he followed her down---too shaken to remember to invoke flight, she hit the pavement without anything to slow her.

But, as she had already discovered, plummeting even from the height of the tallest tower in Steel would not kill her. Wrapped in grief, her fires burning at full force, she had run out of power and dropped once, and it had not killed her. It hurt, hurt almost badly enough to overcome even thought, but it had not killed her. Metahumans, it seemed, were all too robust.

She stifled a cry of agony as the impact almost---not quite---shattered bone and crushed flesh. She cried as pain became, for a moment, all that she was, and crouched on the pavement while her far-too-resiliant constitution began to mend itself.

He landed beside her, powering down out of the sky like a stooping falcon. No longer clumsy in flight nor in landing, the sight of him added new pain to the old.

"Flame!" Blaze Phoenyx cried, kneeling beside her. "Are you all right?"

"I--" she gasped, holding back another sob. "You---startled me."

He tried to touch her; she shrank from the touch. "Christ! I'm so sorry--are you ok? Are you hurt?"

"I---I will mend," she said quietly, sadly, throttling down her sobs for the thousandth time. "I always do."

She struggled to her feet, as bone and flesh resettled itself, and staggered away from him. Physical pain receeded, leaving only the ever-present sorrow that was now as much a part of her as song had once been.

"Still..." Blaze said. She hung her head. She could not look at him. She only wanted to be away from him, at the same terrible time that she wanted to be near him.

An awkward silence held between them And he broke it--in a way she could never have expected. "I---I saw the tapes...of when it happened. At the Arena. At the Plaza, after."

Her heart froze. Stark, panicked horror made her look up at him. Surely he had not said---

He had. The look in his eyes confirmed it. It was over. She was undone. "Who showed you?" she cried. "I told them not to!"

Blaze held up his hands. "Wait...let's go somewhere private, first."

But she was not to be deterred---this was the death of---everything---this was worse than death, which would have brought release and homecoming. This was nightmare life-in-death.

"You were not to know!" she cried. "You were not to be told!"

She could see it now---the dark closing around her, pulling her down, making her Fallen---

Blaze's voice turned pleading, his hands held out before him, making little soothing motions. "I found some other things, too...things I had left for myself...it doesn't matter who showed me," he added. "Let's go somewhere...please?"

She felt paralyzed by despair. "I---I---" she sobbed. He stepped forward to hold her before she could stumble away from him, and she went rigid in his embrace.

Blaze refused to let her go. "Thank you..." he said quietly, fervently.

"You weren't to know---" she said feebly, wishing for the earth to open up and swallow her. "Never never never---"

"'The plans of mice and men'...I told myself, Flame. I left a satchel full of things for myself...not your fault. Not your responsibility." He pulled away just far enough to look at her face. "Please...come with me. Let's get out of the street."

She clamped every bit of control she had learned in these long, sad days over herself. Nothing mattered now. Her one chance of redemption was gone. "I am---at your disposal," she choked out. "Do with me as you will."

He fixed her with a long gaze. "Follow me, then...we'll talk," he said, and flew upwards, but with his gaze fixed back on her, as if to make sure she was good to her word and did follow. With despair and resignation, she did.

They landed back on the same rooftop she had fallen from. "Let's stay away from the edge this time," he said, smiling as he landed and she beside him.

"Yes," she said dully..

"Let's sit," he urged.

"Yes," she repeated, dropping listlessly down to the roof.

"Been runnin' around all day as it is," he said, folding his legs and dropping to a seat.

She sighed. "I am at your disposal."

One by one, she locked down her emotions, until there was nothing that was not under control that was as rigid as her muscles. Blaze looked at her searchingly. "In the satchel I left...I found plenty of things...letters to myself...pictures...notes...a lot of things...Victoria showed me the tape of when it happened. I wouldn't let her leave without showing me..."

Victoria?

At the sound of that name, her brow furrowed. Victoria? Had she forgotten to tell Victoria not to reveal the past? Not possible, surely---

---but Victoria had been conspicuous in her absence, those last days.

"---I---I did not forbid her," she murmured. "I could not find her---"

Blaze searched her face anxiously. "I know what you did for me...what you gave up...I saw how much it hurt, how awful it was for you...I'm still seeing that....Flame, if anyone is at anyone's disposal...I'm at yours."

That---was the last thing she wanted, or needed, to hear. Him, at her disposal?

The dark threatened. The prospect of Falling loomed over her. She must not---he must not. No obligation. No responsibility. It had been a free gift, given freely. So must his choices be.

"No, no, no, no, no!" she whimpered. "Oh--no---"

He raised a hand. "Stop," he said.

Tears welled up in her eyes. "No---no you mustn't---"

Blaze Phoenyx shook his head. "I'm not the melodramatic sort: I ain't pledgin' my life over to you...I'm just recognizing what an enormous sacrifice you've made...for my sake..."

But she could only recall what had been explicitly forbidden---and what she was about to lose. "I will Fall! I will be Fallen and I can never go home again---"

He tried to cut through her distress. "You won't...how could you? You've done nothing wrong, you haven't coerced me into anything."

She was not to be distracted. "---oh---this oversets all---" she wept, burying her face in her hands.

A pause, as she sobbed silently. "What do you mean?" Blaze asked softly.

Her words were punctuated with sobs of despair. "You weren't---to know---when you did not remember on your own---I was not to---to interfere--- You---you--- You must make---all your choices---freely---"

"You haven't interfered..." Blaze replied steadily. "I did...any choices I make have been influenced by one person; me. And do you want to know somethin'?"

She looked up through streaming eyes.

"The knowledge I have now---it doesn't change a single thing," Blaze replied steadily. "I still want to recover my memories...good and bad...and I still want to help you."

"Help me---how?" she faltered.

Blaze smiled. "Dear, you're lost here; you don't know how to be human. I had to teach you that eating was a daily activity, remember?"

"---oh---" she replied in a small voice, feeling suddenly helpless in the light of all she did not know. The robot left with her tended to so much, and when the robot was not there, she made so many blunders. "---I am---not good at any of this---"

This---was not what she had expected. No false declarations of undying love. No pledge of endless fidelity. Her grief dulled. He nodded. "It's okay; bein' human is about learnin' from everythin'. I'm gonna help ya learn so that we can avoid ya passin' out again." He smiled engagingly, then sobered. "Do you still think that you'll Fall? I don't...you've done somethin' so brave...so heroic."

She blinked at him. "I---don't understand---"

He persisted. "Do you think that anythin' you've done has been wrong? You've given up everything you've ever known...ever loved...to save me. If that isn't self-sacrifice, I don't know what is. And you did nothing wrong yourself. You didn't even try to use any of that. I wouldn't have known about it if I hadn't hunted down people till someone would tell me."

She felt her brow furrowing. "I---I did forbid everyone I could find---" she said, faltering. "Those last days were---hard---"

"Flame..." he said, his voice heartfelt. "It's alright... It really, really is."

She protested, once again on the verge of tears. "You---you must NOT think that you owe me aught. It was a gift. Freely made. I would do it again now, this moment."

He nodded. "I know...none of this changes what I would have done anyways. I'm still going to find out who I was, maybe get myself back...and I'm still goin' help you to learn how to be human."

"Thank you," Triste replied, in a small voice.

Blaze reached out to take one of her hands. "Thank you." The hand was shaking and he covered it with both of his. "Hey...idea of Vickie's, maybe expandin' on it....what would you say if you, me, and the rest of the youngin's of the CCCP went to the zoo? Re-met Shuma; cute kid. I think she'd dig it."

It felt as if he was speaking a foreign language. Oh, she knew what the words meant---trip to the zoo, a day of recreation. But the context was all wrong. What had this to do with her? She was not made for recreation. It had nothing to do with her responsibilities. She chose her words with great care. "It---it must be enough---to see you---prospering. Happy. Th-that is m-my duty."

He tilted his head, and his brow creased. "Now it's my turn to be confused."

"I---I---I have duty," she replied, wondering why she needed to explain this. "I must fulfill it." And she did not have time---even if she felt equal to---wandering off to other things. Work; that was what she had. That was where her focus must be.

He sat back and regarded her. "Well...alright. What exactly is your duty?"

She tried to think back to the moment when she first arrived. The tasks she had ahead of her. The things out of all of those tasks that she had left. And she felt horribly confused. "To---to help---to fulfill assignments---to--see you---Vickie---Bella---Djinni---others---prosper." And---truth to tell, she did not want to do this thing. If work could not fill the emptiness, how could this? She would watch the others laugh and smile and only feel more alone, more isolated. If she could not love, she could at least serve, and in service perhaps learn to find consolation.

He shook his head. "It's alright. You're human now; in addition to having a responsibility to others, you've got a responsibility to yourself, too."

Oh, that made no sense. How could one thing equate to the other? Service was all she had left, now. Why should he urge her to abandon it? That was selfish. "But---but that is not duty---duty is all I have---all I know---" she protested. "---it will keep me from Falling---"

It was all that would keep her from Falling, keep the dark voice whispering in her soul from growing so persuasive that she began to listen to it.

"Remember; you're human now. You'll have to learn to accept duty to others along with duty to yourself." He was not to be dissuaded in this mad notion.

Was this nothing more than another voice of the Tempter? She shook her head. "How can there be duty to myself? Duty is to serve others---"

Blaze paused for a moment, nonplussed at her vehemence. "Well... I dunno. Maybe it's a bad choice of words. But you can't feel bad all the time. And you need to take care of yourself."

Take care of herself. There was so little of her "self" left. She felt like a tattered garment, caught in the branches of a dead tree, being picked apart by the wind. She spoke aloud, hardly knowing that she was doing so. "---my memories are fading---the things I used to know---are gone. I knew this would happen but---but it is like seeing pieces of yourself wither and fall away." It had been one thing to know of this in the abstract. "---almost as bad as the moment when---" she faltered, "---when I became alone---the one, a slow pain, the other, a sudden---"

He had been sitting, listening quietly, when she began to weep again, what was left of her heart so overburdened she burst out with things she had not intended to share. "How do you bear it? Being so alone? oh---I want to go---home---where the memories are always alive---"

If she could not have him, she could at least have the memory, the memory that faded more with every passing moment. She could have the Heart of All Time. She could have the company of her siblings again---

But no. This was punishment for her hubris in saving him, surely. Yet there was no other course she could have taken.

She looked up from her weeping to see see that concern furrowed his brow. "It's...I don't know. Exposure, you get used to it...you've been surrounded by a presence your entire existance...and now you can't feel it. I don't think it's gone..."

Not gone? If only that were true. "---but I can't even---properly remember what it was like---"

He leaned forward earnestly. "Listen---you're not alone. You never will be. You'll always have all of us at the CCCP...and me."

Which words might have meant something, if he had not at that very moment, put his hand to his ear, listening to chatter on the comm. "I've got to go...Council goons have kidnapped some people for some experiment or some such..."

Proving only that all of them were drowned in duty. She stiffened her spine and put on her tattered composure like a mask. "Yes. Duty. Duty is all-important." she agreed. It would be enough. It would have to be enough.

It was, after all, the only thing she had left.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Too exhausted to even think of moving from her roof for the moment, after he had left, she turned on her comm and listened to the chatter herself. Finally she felt moved to add a word or two herself, since the subject touched so nearly on her own thoughts. "Individual menances come and go, but duty remains forever," she put in, identifying herself with the call-sign "Triste."

It was Rory Hartlan who answered; someone she recalled from her memory as being a wise, as well as learned, magician. "Well said Seraphic, duty, an' taxes."

She could not let that pass. "Please Mr Hartlan," she said, into the ether. "My name is Triste now."

There was a moment of uneasy silence, as if her answer had taken him by surprise. Then came his reply, in a voice quiet, and cautious. "Ye do know tha' dangers of naming from tha' realm correct?"

She stifled a sigh. "Mr. Hartlan, I am what I am, and that is Triste, and yes, sir, I know the Power of Names."

Another long silence before the reply. "Call me Rory. Just watch yerself, ye may want a name change though, once yer done with that one. Ye still up fer tha' coffee?"

Of a sudden, she wanted to speak to him, to speak with someone wise who did not know her, or rather, to listen while he spoke. She had no expectation of comfort, but perhaps there would be some direction there. "Yes sir. Please."

Rory's voice carried an overburden of concern. "Would ye like ta' meet right now lass? Sounds like ye needs it. Where bouts?"

"I am largely unfamiliar with anything other than Galaxy, Atlas Park, King's Row, and Steel Canyon, which is where I am now, sir," she replied, sadly, knowing that once, she had known every nook and cranny of every zone, guided by the vast store of knowledge available to her without a thought.

He sighed. "Drop tha' sir thing, ah may have tha' memories o' me ancestors, but ah dinna need ta feel like one. Heh."

Obedient to his direction that he would come to her, she remained quietly on her building, watching the energies of the War Walls course and flow. At length, she heard a voice behind her. "Heh, found ye."

She turned, and stood. "Hello s---Mr. Hartlan," she said in grave greeting. "My friend Bella likes this building; I do too."

He settled into a comfortable place, and snapped his fingers. A ball of light grew from his palm; it formed into a small pillar, then the light faded leaving a bottle of irish whiskey. "Sit ye down lass," he said.

She did so. He looked at her expectantly. "I scarcely know what to say---" she admitted.

He set the bottle aside, snapped his fingers again, and a thermos of coffee appeared beside the bottle of whiskey, with two cups. "Words will come to ye. Ye kinna make a rainstorm, let alone a light drizzle, it just happens."

Her nostrils flared slightly as he uncapped the thermos. This might be coffee, but the aroma seemed particularly rich. "That smells---lovely," she said.

Rory smiled, pouring the coffee into the cup. "Just ye wait. Got tha' recipe from a canadian author, Spider Robinson. Whut am ah fergettin?"

He snapped his fingers and a small container of cream appeared, alongside it a small honey pot.

The name of the author set off a dim spark of recognition in her mind. "Pain---shared---is pain halved----?" she asked doubtfully.

He nodded. "'Pain shared is lessened, joy shared is increased.' Aye, same principles. So not me own lessons ta' learn from. But any wisdom works."

She regarded the preparations with melancholy interest, and sighed. "And yet, I fear to burden any other with my pain. I cannot believe it would do anything other than propogate."

He poured the heavy cream into the coffee, along with a drizzle of honey, then poured a shot of the irish whiskey into the mugs. He handed one of the mugs to her. "Now this, will warm ye to yer toes. Sip it, tis pretty hot though."

Her first taste was with some caution; it was even better to drink than to scent. Her second sip was savoured with great enthusiasm. "Oh---not hot by my standards, Mr. Hartlan---"

"Heh. But like anythin' start off small." He followed his own advice.

She, however, did not intend to gulp this down. "I have had so few pleasures of late---" she admitted sadly. "The few I do I make last as long as may be---"

He scented the air delicately, like a hound, his eyes narrowing. "Ye got some divine in ye don't ye lass? Tha' probably doesna help either."

The now-familiar stab to her heart, of loss and loneliness, made her wince. "Had, Mr. Hartlan. Had. It is gone now."

He nodded. "We'll gets ta' tha' later..." He took another sip. "So, tell me bout tha' first time ye met him."

"Him" being John Murdock, of course. There was an undercurrent of the unspoken between them. Almost, almost as it had been between her and her siblings. Things that did not need to be said, because they were understood, known, before the thought could be voiced. "It was---after I had sent Bella to him, and he had discharged some of his own pain in the discharging of his secrets. Enough to allow me to approach him at last." He nodded. "As I counseled him, we grew unaccountably close until---"

She paused, and a tear traced its way down her cheek.

"Until I---I realized that I was in mortal love with him. And he with me, though he did not truly know his heart until the moment he knew he was---ill." The memory of that moment, at once enough to break the heart and exalt it---

Another tear spilled from her eye. "I was---fully celestial then, though partly incarnate."

"Mortal love?" He regarded her curiously. "Hmm... lemme tells ye bout tha' first emotions. Aye, an' most o' tha most passionate loves include hate, or it's original form, fear."

She wrinkled her brow. "It is a different sort of passion," she said doubtfully, with the memories of other such passions, a myriad of them, still in her memory to compare her own feelings---and his---to.

The way he settled back suggested to her that he was about to recount a story or a parable. He did not disappoint. "Nay, just a derivitive o' tha' original form. In tha' beginnin' before there was all o' this. Just ideas, an' concepts floatin' in the ether, there was two original emotions, Love an' Fear. Love came first, but it had nothin' else, all was content. There was no movement, so a shadow o' it grew. Fear."

This was nothing new to her, though he surely did not quite realize that her old name was the reflection of the exact truth. She shook her head and smiled sadly. "I dwelled in the Heart of All Time not that long ago, Mr. Hartlan. All memories live there."

"Aye, ah've got me contacts there, as any good Professor o' tha mystical college should. Drink yer coffee."

She raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. For perhaps, after all, he knew one of the others. She was by no means the only one of the Seraphim to come into the worlds on her particular errand. "Do you know why I was sent?" she asked instead.

"Doesna matter," he replied. "'tis only a trial fer ye. A trial o' Fear. Fear o' ne'er going back ta' the divine embrace. Fear o' ne'er bein' able to feel again."

She felt her eyes widen. Her own words, to her beloved, exactly.

"Makes sense doesna it," Rory added shrewdly.

"----yes-----" she replied, searching what was left of her memories for anything more about this man. She had trusted him instinctively, she had recalled he was wise and good, but was there more that that about him?

He nodded. "Tha's all Triste, or tha' root word sorrow comes from. Fear. Self inflicted fear." She continued to regard him solemnly. True, her fears were self-inflicted, since there was nothing actually, physically threatening her, but---that did not make them less real, or less than genuine. "How's tha' coffee?: asked, in what seemed an abrupt change of subject.

She sipped, and warmed it with a little heating of her hands. "It is---marvelous---" she replied.

He smiled. "Aye, ye've read Spider's work then? Ye know whut tha' name o' it is?" He looked at her expectantly, and she knew that this name probably had something to do with what he was about to say to her.

However, her fading memory did not extend that far. "I have not read it---I---I remember it---though the memory, like much of my memory, is fading."

"May be good fer ye ta' actually pick up tha' book an' feel it in yer own hands," he suggested. "Tha' drink is called a God's Blessing."

Ah. Now she knew why he had asked that question. She smiled sadly. "Which god, Mr. Hartlan?" she responded. "Not that it matters. Names do not matter. Not in the Infinite."

He lifted an eyebrow. Perhaps he had not expected that reply. It could have been a test of his own, to prove her origin. "Aye, but there are ripples in the Infinite. Small gods, lost gods, large gods. Still the same thing. A certain will or force that becomes or shapes. Ye dinna realize it lass, but the only thing tha' has really changed is yer perspective. Right?"

She blinked tears back. "Yes. Diminished. From having the view aloft to down amongst the trees, lost--"

He waved a hand dismissively. "Pfft. Best experience ye kin have is first hand. How does tha' tree's shadow feel on a hot summer day?"

She was unable to answer that question. She did not have the experience herself yet, and she did not have it in her shrunken memory.

He nodded gravely at her silence. "Ye kinna tell me kin ye? See, tha's the divine. Tis' detatched."

"Which was why I was sent," she replied instantly. "To bring that---compassion that comes with knowing mortality---back to my siblings. So there will be no more Fallen. I am one of many such...." then she added, ruefully. "---but perhaps one of the more 'successful.' They still connect with me. Only my part of the connection is severed...." She drooped wearily. "I no longer know what is permitted and what is not...."

"Ye do know," he corrected, "ye just feel lost right now. New emotions an' experiences."

She drooped further. "Very lost," she whispered. "I have never known doubt, fear, uncertainty, loneliness---I have all in abundance and ---" she added forlornly, "---little else."

He regarded her compassionately. "Yer just seein' tha other side o' tha' coin. Ye kinna have one without the other."

She blinked her eye free of tears again. "I would do it again, to save him--" she said, sure of that, if of nothing else in her life. "I would give my life to save him."

"An' tha' is the human thin' ta' do," he nodded. "But the thing is, ye expected it ta' end when he did, right?"

On way or another, she supposed she must have. No matter what she had been told, human-like, she had believed something else. She had believed she would either have him, remembering her, or else---well, she had not thought past that. There had already been so much pain, she had not wanted to think of more. "---I---I did not know there would be so much pain," she confessed, forlornly. "He pledged he would---remember. He was so sure, and I could not see past the moment when my self was taken from me---I believed him---and I look in his eyes, and there is nothing there for me---he does not remember---and it is not his fault---but---" her voice dropped to a whisper, and her eyes filled with tears. "I have nothing more to hope for, except that sometime, somehow, I will at last truly die and return to the place where all memory lives. May it be soon....."

"Bullshit," he said bluntly. He took a sip of his coffee. "Tha's the cowards way out."

She raised her head, and replied with dignity, "I do not fail in my duty. I do not pursue death. I only wait for it to find me."

He tilted his head a little. With something a little short of scorn, he replied, "Pfft, so yer' just gonna end up waitin' fer death. Sounds really borin' ta' me."

If he thought that the sting of scorn would goad her into a reply, she was past caring. She could not even feel the whiplash of contempt anymore. Such goads could not penetrate past the aching void that surrounded her. "It is what it is," she said, and closed her eyes, holding her cooling coffee. Silence deepened between them.

Then words fell into that silence. "If ye dinna start livin' lass. Ye will na' get back inta' tha' Embrace."

Her eyes flew open, and she blinked. "I will----Fall?" she asked in horror.

He shook his head, to her relief. "Nay, na' fall, just be here. Stuck between."

She felt her eyes widen. Not with horror, but---his words had rung true, and being "stuck between" would be almost as bad as being Fallen. Neither here nor there---living with her pain, endlessly---

"His will, tha' which ye serve set out a plan right?" he persisted. "Find tha' which will bring perspective to yer brethren."

That had been the plan. But---but now all she was showing them was sorrow, grief, loss, despair. Nothing of mortal joy anymore. Nothing to balance the rest. Not that she was the only one on this journey but---

"---I must---think on these things", she said.
.
"Just remember lass, if ye dinna experience these things, then yer mission has failed," he told her.

Something she had lost returned to her. The surety of knowing that something was right. He was right in this. She felt it. "---you are---Wise---" she said. "May I speak with you again?"

The corners of his eyes crinkled as he smiled. "Pfft, just well read. Aye, gets back ta' me when ye feel a wee bit o' joy. Just like ye did wit tha' coffee. Doesna' have ta' be a huge amount, just like tha' honey, a small amount makes all tha' difference."

She nodded. "I will---'thank you' seems so inadequate---" she said, "---but---thank you."

"Aye, but is enough." The smile warmed his eyes. "Thank yerself first for allowin' yerself ta' feel thanks."

She nodded. And long after he had vanished his bits and pieces, and flown off, she considered his words.

It was not an end to the pain. But perhaps...it was a way to leaven it. At least it was a direction.