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And Yet We Love These Broken Stars

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The door opened without a sound. The warframe padded inside in equal silence. His dark coloration and the thin light of the stars, the only light at this time, rendered him nothing but a shadow. But he paused, looked over at the Tenno sleeping in the bed she'd made, before continuing on.

As he sat by the window, knees sinking into the light padding, the shift of blankets announced the girl's waking. She wasn't as quiet, she stepped audibly, and she took a blanket with her which swished against the ground. The steps grew louder, she yawned a couple times, then she settled beside him.

“You okay?” she asked. She scrubbed her eye and squinted at everything around her. The stars. Umbra. The tea set she'd placed by the meditation spot. Why didn't she put her glasses on?

”You- you all right?”

He shook his head. She nudged her way under his arm, nestling further into her blanket. His hand rested on her shoulder and he pulled her closer. With her anchored in place, he sunk into thought.

Had he held his son like this, when the boy was her age? He reached for an image, a thought, a feeling, but there were none. As always. Isaah was the young man who sat by his hospital bed. All he came with was a deep love and the feeling he'd have frozen the stars for this boy. Ballas forced him to keep that, he bet. It worked.

“Neither am I,” she rasped. She freed one arm from her blanket – a woven sheet made to be warm and nothing else – and hugged him. Her arm crossed his stomach, her hand pressed into one side of his ribs, her cheek squished into the other.

He brushed her hair down, tapped once under her chin. She looked up at him, eyes already wet. He crooned.

Illness stole the Dax's voice. Umbra took it back, but paid for it with his tears. At least he had a way to share his pain.

“I miss Mom.” Her voice cracked. Her breath hitched and she coughed it out in short bursts. She embraced him with both arms now, scrunching his scarf in her grip.

She told him everything she knew, in the hard nights before. About her birth mother, about Margulis, about the Lotus. He never knew who she mourned. He knew he wouldn't mourn what of the Lotus he saw, but he never knew the woman who wore the mask kept in this room, sitting reverent on a pedestal. Even if the Lotus she cried for was no more than an ideal, it hurt her nonetheless. Though an ideal that picked her up and carried her to her Transference chair after she learned what she really was, as the story went, must be powerful indeed.

She cried into his chest. Tears tickled, went numb when they trailed down his gold rib.

He lowered his head, lacing his arms around her. He wanted to squeeze her tight, to ensure she was there but it scared him. Too hard, and she'd be gone. Just like his son. Just like his Isaah.

He warbled with her. The sound filled the otherwise quiet room, drowned out the hum of the Orbiter's machinery. She spoke once of eighth-remembered cleansing rituals her father performed, how he'd taught her since she was young that many things could purify, all they needed was intent. The lessons dug deep enough she remembered the heart of them to this day.

So now, he put into his keening the intent to clear the ghosts.

Her tears slowed eventually, and he quieted. They stared at each other a moment, red-rimmed eyes meeting a black plane. She reached up and ran a thumb around the top edge of where his skull had been torn away. He tapped the side of his head against hers. This was the way of things. After these expressions, this emotional bloodletting, they put fresh bandages to each other's wounds.

She shifted. With concerted movements and not a word between them, she half-crawled, he half-lifted her into his lap. She peered out at the stars, her blinks growing longer and longer. He wanted to sleep, too, but he had only ever found a strange facsimile of rest.

At last she could hardly keep her eyes open. She turned and settled in, making herself comfortable. The weight of her against his chest and belly felt... familiar? He didn't know. Maybe he deluded himself. He didn't know if he ever held Isaah like this, especially at this age. Did he have other children? Ones who, for some reason, had not stayed by the side of their father's supposed deathbed?

Had he forgotten his children?

He sighed, stroking the girl's shoulder as her breath slowed. He'd never know. He had to- he had to accept that. Hard as it was.

The girl yawned. She reached out of her blanket just far enough to grasp a few of his fingers, pulling his arm closer around her. In a voice thick with sleep, she mumbled, “Love you, Dad. 'Night.”

As the last tension melted out of her and she fell asleep, he rumbled his reply.

He may never know anything more than what Ballas let him know.

But he had at least one son.

And at least one daughter.