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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Been Botherin’ Me My Whole Life



Skitch sat quietly on the bench next to Khyrisse, trying not to cry any more. He wasn’t completely sure if the interactions in here were real at all, much less whether either of them were going to remember them later, but the honesty behind Khyrisse’s statements, Skitch had no doubt about. And so he’d had a home in New Trade after all, and once again, run away from it himself. Why did Skitch keep doing this to himself? It was like growing up too fast had become such a habit he didn’t know what else to do. Here he was eleven years old, should have been out digging up worms to go fishing with and throwing a baseball with any of several perfectly acceptable father figures, and instead he was in college trying to keep up with a bunch of kids who were all a year older than him and from a race that matured faster, struggling to pay his rent and hoping not to get killed by the gang he was in over his head with. Why did he push himself like this? Diaria would still have been there in a few years.

And then Skitch thought about Lorrini again, and didn’t really know what to think about anything.

***

“She said we never had a pasirel,” Vas said dully. “She said maybe I felt that way about her, but she certainly never felt that way about me. Oh Valende.”

Val squeezed his hand compassionately. There was a terrible irony in this, Vas falling for the one person on Ataniel less constant than he was, but he looked too thoroughly miserable to allude to that now. “It’s her nature, Vas,” she said instead, gently. “She is the goddess of change. Did you expect anything lasting from her?”

“I am a chaotic soul myself, sister, and I could have loved her always.” The archer stared gloomily into the floor tiles. “She didn’t need to stay with me. I didn’t need to be the only one... not even the main one. A few moments of her time a week would have made me the happiest man on Ataniel. Could she not even have given me that? I wouldn’t have tied her down, wouldn’t have cramped her style. I wouldn’t have inconvenienced her in any way.”

“Vas,” sighed Val, “a willingness to completely debase yourself for a woman doesn’t usually make her love you more.”

“It wouldn’t have been debasing myself,” Vas protested weakly. “No more so than any man in love does, Valende!”

“No more so than any man with an unrequited pasirel does, perhaps,” she murmured. “Vas, you’ll get over this. You’ll get through it. Perhaps I was wrong... perhaps what you need isn’t celibacy at all. Perhaps all you need is a good old-fashioned rebound relationship.”

“I’ve been trying that for these past sixteen years, Valende, and it hasn’t helped a bit.”

“I didn’t suggest trying to fuck her out of your mind, featherhead. In all my years as a priestess I’ve never seen that work even once.” She shook her dark head. “No, I’m suggesting a new relationship. Sometimes, Vas, the only cure for a broken heart is to risk it again. And that I have seen work.”

“Please don’t try to set me up with someone,” Vas groaned. “I don’t have it in me, sister, truly I do not. I’ve been avoiding partners seeking anything beyond friendly sex for their sakes, not my own. I don’t want to pass my pain along to anyone else. And I have nothing to give them. I’m empty inside, Valende.”

“No, you’re not,” Val sighed. “It may not feel like it right now, but you still have much to give, Vastarin... and much to share.”

“If you say so,” Vas muttered, not looking very much reassured.

***

“Uh, Rani?” Marty shuffled awkwardly from one foot to the other as the detective tilted her head to glance across at him. “I, uh-- I can’t marry you.”

“You--what?” sputtered Rani. “Why not? I mean--” Khyrisse was unsuccessfully trying not to laugh, and Rani was sure her face was crimson by now. “I mean, why would you--I never asked you to marry me, Marty!”

“Oh, I know,” Marty assured her. “Cause I’d, like, totally remember that. But since everyone else is talking about, you know, all the things they didn’t tell each other, and never asked about but they should have... well, I realized I never told you that I wasn’t, like, available. And I didn’t want to be, you know, leading you on or anything. Like, no way on that, you know?”

“Marty, I never asked if you were available because I wasn’t interested--” Rani pinched the bridge of her nose and counted to ten. “My heart will go on, Marty,” she said through her teeth.

“Whew,” said Marty, relieved. “Because all this melodrama is getting to be a total drag, you know?”

***

Khyrisse looked up anxiously as Val and Vas emerged from the sculpture exhibit they’d been conferring behind. She’d never seen the flighty mage like this before, and it worried her. He did look a little better for his palaver with his sister, which was reassuring. If anyone can reach him, Val can. Poor Vas... I know just how he’s feeling, but I don’t know anything to say about it. Every time anyone tried to comfort me, it wound up making me feel worse...

“Hello kilhjac,” said Shilree, stepping out from behind the opposite exhibit.

Khyrisse blinked stupidly at her Mithril Dagger teammate, her interior monologue completely disrupted. “Shilree? But--but what--”

“--am I doing here?” the Diari politician finished for her. “Well that is an interesting story Khyrisse, but it is several years in your future, so I cannot tell you about it. Suffice it to say I made a decision which I think you may like. The details will be clear in time.”

“People who say that are usually up to no good,” Rani said warily.

“No, no, she always talks like that,” Khyrisse sighed. Shilree lived in Trade during Khyrisse’s entire reign there, and so she knew the Diarian’s heart better than she ever admitted to her. Oddly, she reminded her a little bit of Luthien, though she knew Luthien’s heart much too well to ever admit that to either of them. “No, I mean what are you doing here... talking to us? Do you have a--a hint for us or something?”

“You are not the only one with a destiny to determine in this place Khyrisse,” Shilree said sternly. “I am here to talk to Valende, in fact.”

“Oh dear,” sighed Val.

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