Rey's second mug of tea has gone cold by the time she works up the courage to slip out of the living room.
She half-expects one of them to stop her — when Leia looks up from where she's curled into Amilyn's side, when Eva's fingers still halfway through combing out Klara's tangled braids — but none of them do. She makes her way to the kitchen with only the oddly almost-comforting weight of their eyes on her back as the conversation continues.
Rey wonders, as she takes a breath and puts the kettle on again, what they expect of her. The smokiness of the gunpowder tea still lingers at the back of her tongue, cloying like the warmth of this new life. She knows better than to refuse Klara's teas now, is even grateful for them, but that doesn't mean she likes them.
(Liking. She can't remember the last time she was allowed such simple preferences.)
The cold of the tile floor soothes her as she kneels, searches through Eva's haphazard cupboards for the rose and nettle blend she knows Amilyn keeps here now that their Stockholm apartment is a faintly fading memory. Her hands prepare the tea with no help from her brain, and she doesn't flinch when the kettle whistles through the quiet house.
The tea is too hot, like it always is, but the calluses on her hands have carried her through worse.
The side door to the lawn is open, wide and inviting to the cool twilight of late summer. It's only when she catches sight of Esmeralda's hair, strewn across the grass nearer the treeline where the rest of her body is shrouded in the deep blue-greens of night, that Rey realises she has two mugs in her hands.
She hesitates on the threshold of what seems another world entirely, looks back over her shoulder. Klara's eyes meet hers from where she's on the cushioned floor leaning against Amilyn's knees, and in her eyes Rey sees a permission she hadn't known she'd been searching for.
Rey picks her way carefully down the lawn, settles herself and the tea down on the grass at Esmeralda's side, close enough that she doesn't have to be an imposition. Esme's eyes are closed, but she must sense Rey, because she smiles. It's a thin, melancholy thing, but it still loosens something that had been tied too tight around Rey's heart.
"They're waiting for you back at the house, you know. Leia and Klara and Eva and Amilyn. Maybe even Ylva and Ben, by now, if they've found their way back." But Rey doesn't want to go back, not really, and Esmeralda doesn't move, so still on the ground she might have sunk below the earth entirely. Rey stares over at the fireflies in her hair as if somehow they'll supply the words she doesn't want to say yet.
"It's too big," Esme murmurs. "I know it shouldn't — it should be smaller, with everyone. But it knows we don't belong."
Rey thinks, somewhere in her cold patient heart, that it won't always be like that. The bright thread of Esme's impatience is less familiar, and Rey knows that the tea she's brought is hardly even the start of fixing something that isn't quite broken.
"They'll wait," she says instead. She had waited for Leia and Amilyn on the streets for years, before she had known what she was waiting for. Klara had waited for Eva, before Eva had known what the forest wanted to share. Silverhojd had waited for all of them. "I'll wait. We can do that now."
Night falls, and Esme opens her eyes, and Rey smiles.