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            The memory comes out of nowhere and as she is thrust back into the past, Vex feels like doubling over to be sick.  It’s not like any magic she’s felt before, which is at least a relief for once.  Something about the memory just feels… different.  And suddenly, Vex is no longer merely riding the waves of the past – she’s thrust back into the present, sitting atop a desk in Percy’s workshop as he tinkers absentmindedly with something and chatters with her about nothing.

 

            That asshole.

 

            She leaps away from the desk, and Percy looks up from across the room as her feet hit the floor.  “Is everything alright?” he asks, and his brow furrows in the way they do when he’s more confused and concerned than he is alarmed or scared or angry. 

 

            Vex’s brow, on the other hand, is all anger.

 

            “That asshole,” she growls, this time out loud, and Percy’s expression only deepens further in concern as he attempts to piece together the nonsensical clues she’s provided him.  He never could resist a puzzle, never could resist a challenge. 

 

            Neither could she.

 

            And neither could her asshole of a brother.

 

            Before Percy can repeat his question, Vex whirls towards him, hysterical disbelief written across every inch of her.  “He took the boots with him.  When he left with her, he took the boots.”  She’s furious.  Of course he fucking would.  Even after their conversation, and all his morbid jokes, and all his caring (and sympathetic and solemn and peaceful) glances at her as they walked side by side – of course he fucking would.

 

            Percy’s confusion smooths out into concern and sympathy and maybe something a bit darker and more serious and drawn that Vex can’t look too closely at right now because that asshole took her boots and she has to go get them back right now.  She knows that this is not normal for her, that this is nowhere near the rational or right way to deal with whatever the hell this is, but there’s a burning in her chest that drives her to move and to get up and to find him and not let him get away with his bullshit, even when he’s nowhere near her.

 

She settles instead for a quick peck of reassurance from Percy as she retrieves her cloak from the stand beside the door and hastily throws it on.  “I’m just… going to go have a chat,” she murmurs, not sure she recognizes the tone her voice has taken and not quite sure she cares.

 

            She doesn’t care, she decides, because right now all she cares about is getting her boots back from her thieving asshole of a brother, and that takes precedence over analyzing the lump in the back of her throat and the pressure in her gut and the burning in her eyes and heart and soul.

 

            Vex makes it from Castle Whitestone to the cemetery in record time (not that she was keeping track, but with how out of breath she is she supposes it must be some sort of record).  She almost pauses at the door.  For the first time since she watched her darling brother walk into her arms, Vex finds herself at the feet of her brother’s mistress.

 

            The door to the temple slams open as she pushes through it, sending dust up into what looks like plumes of smoke as she charges forward.  The fading beams of light catch the little clouds from the crack left by the door as it swung back to remain slightly ajar. With a single crack of sunset somehow managing to draw her a path directly to the stone altar at the front of the room, Vex charges forward as she always has, because this is her brother and he is no different now than he was before because why should he be?

 

            “Vax’ildan, where the FUCK are my boots?” she screams, and it echoes off the cold, stone walls of the temple around her.  Before the sound of her voice dies away, she is screaming again, paying no attention to the lump she forces the words around at the base of her throat, or the sensation that her thoughts are being ripped from within her, leaving jagged scars up her throat, up her stomach, up her soul. 

 

            “I know at least one of you can hear me, and if it’s just you this time, My Lady, then you’d better get my brother down here right now before I come up there myself and kill him again!”  The words come flying out of her like arrows – fast and flurried and sharp and as targeted as possible in the heat of battle.  They echo once again around and around the room, and once the last of her yelling fades away, Vex is left with nothing but her own heavy breathing. 

 

            She must be more out of shape than she realized, Vex thinks, as breaths rip themselves from her lungs one by one.  After all, she’s run for miles on hunts without anything like this happening, so why can’t she slow the jagged gasps that suddenly seem to have a mind of their own?

 

            Vex is sitting alone at the center of the room, she suddenly realizes, with nothing but her own heavy breathing, the last lingering echoes of her own desperate anger, and the memory of a conversation she had once stopped because her brother had been getting morbid again and she was sick of thinking about how little time they had.

 

            How little time they had.

 

            How little time they had.

 

            The thought echoes uncomfortably against her temples, and Vex shakes her head a bit in an attempt to clear it.  It doesn’t work, and she knew it wouldn’t, but her desperation and the spark that drove her here is starting to fade into a different kind of desperate energy, and she does not want to face that while at the mercy of her brother’s regent.  After all, she too is a lady now, and though it may be of a different domain, she is capable of the same poise and authoritative air Vex remembers the Raven Queen’s carrying herself with in conversations with the rest of Vox Machina – how she held herself, while her quiet demands and authority were belied by the unspoken knowledge of what happens to those who cross her.

 

            The next minutes find Vex choking back a sob as she gathers herself up into a more presentable stature.  She bites the inside of her cheek as she walks with purposeful steps towards the front of the room.  As she reaches it, Vex primly folds herself against the cool stone of the altar (like a proper lady of Whitestone, like a queen in her own right) and declares in as steady of a voice as she can manage around that goddamn lump, “Well?  I’m waiting, brother.”

 

            The silence that follows is oppressive and painful and smothering.  She feels the back of her neck prick in discomfort, as it always does when she feels she’s being watched.

 

            (Vex has always felt like this in temples, she remembers.  Vax never understood her discomfort.  How could she be uncomfortable with the eyes of the gods watching out for her, he would ask, never quite believing in the entities she so feared but making an effort to pretend so that he could mold them into something less terrifying for his sister.)

 

            Despite the sensation of eyes watching her from beyond her line of sight, and despite the rush of adrenaline-fueled memories, and despite the echoes of her breathing around her, Vex has never felt more alone.

 

            Vex doesn’t remember falling asleep, but she definitely remembers waking up.

 

            She doesn’t remember sobbing against the marble altar as her control finally broke, but the dried tears on her cheeks and funny feeling in her head more than prove that it happened.

 

            She doesn’t remember a voice guiding her into a gentle sleep, but she does remember the (odd, strange) comforting sensation of a wing being tucked around her, feathers against her back and tickling behind her ears as a light whisper washed over her as if it was a dream.

 

            She doesn’t remember her brother’s footsteps behind her, nor does she remember him placing his damn boots at the foot of the altar, but she certainly sees them now as she wakes.

 

            Vex’s first reaction is not relief, or anguish, or satisfaction, or anywhere in between.  It is suspicion, born from the memory of Scanlan’s elaborate, intricate illusions and Percy’s minor (but incredibly useful and believable) distractions.  She reaches a hand out hesitantly, like if she gets near them they’ll burst into flames, or that they’ll be as hollow and transparent as she fears they are.

 

            They are all too real when she reaches out to test what sort of sick joke someone must have played on her and her hand instead meets fabric and leather.

 

            They are all too limp in her grasp as she first cradles, then stares down at them, equally motionless in her own right.

 

            They are all too heavy in her hands and in her heart as she trudges back to Castle Whitestone, where her husband waits, wearing the same expression of concern and sympathy and drawn, deeper pain that she left him with.  His eyes harden slightly and his jaw tightens as he realizes what she holds in her hand, and Vex can tell he wants to ask a million questions that he refuses to let himself bombard her with.  It’s one of the many reasons she loves him so.  She comes to a stop in front of him and wordlessly holds the boots in front of her.  She doesn’t need to explain.  He knows what they are, and he knows what this means for her. 

 

            “I didn’t do anything stupid, darling,” she reassures him finally, forcing herself to meet his eyes.  “I just… I wanted to talk with my brother.  He always takes my things, you know?  I wasn’t going to let him just get away with it this time.  I couldn’t let him think he could get away with things like that, now, could I?  It would just…”  Encourage him, she wants to say, but can’t bring herself to.

 

           Percy reaches out and slowly, gently tucks her against him, with those goddamn boots between them.  “I know, dear.”

 

            Vex feels the burning in the backs of her eyes again, and this time doesn’t bother to try to hold back the sobs that begin to tear their way through her.  “I don’t know how to let go,” she admits finally, no longer ignoring the burning as it travels down her throat and into her very core.  “I don’t want to.”

 

            “You don’t have to,” Percy whispers against her hair, and she tries not to think about the expression he must be wearing now as she feels a single damp droplet fall against her hair.  The warm nose that presses up between them provides ample distraction, and she absentmindedly drops a hand down to scratch between Trinket’s ears as he tucks himself against her.

 

            Vex doesn’t know what she’s going to do with the boots now that she has them, but somewhere in the back of her mind, her brother’s voice tells her she has plenty of time to figure it out.