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Baking is soothing, for Raine: measuring out ingredients, mixing things, checking if the oven is hot, all these things are solid in their domesticity - affirming that they're making a home in this remote human village; no-one who's on the run or in hiding has ever had the time to bake cookies.

But it's repetitive once she gets the gist down, and soon she finds herself experimenting with her recipe, adding interesting ingredients (don't they have some leftover green beans?) and changing methods of cooking (ten minutes is too long, what if she tried to bake them in five, and turn the heat up to compensate?) - if you're hiding, routine can be deadly; one daily habit can mean the difference between getting away and getting caught (Raine breaks eggs instead of habits these days, but even these tiny changes make her feel better, week after month after year).

Genis pulls a face when he sees her last attempt, gamely tries one cookie out, and promptly spits it out - "Sister, just ask me when you want me to bake something!" - and she accepts graciously, for her brother is a much better cook than she'll ever be, and he knows their kitchen like the back of his hand, like Raine knows the lies to tell to get people to overlook them - like only a child whose growth spurts are marked on the kitchen wall can.

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Colette was born the Chosen, and as the Chosen she was raised. Her life isn't her own, she's always known that; her father and grandmother fed her and sheltered her, but she wasn't to talk of the mysteries she was taught with them, and they'd refer to her as the Chosen as often as they called her by her name.

On the day an Angel descended from the heavens to send her on her journey, she asked if that meant he was her father, and couldn't help the joy in her heart when he said he was.

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I will make a world where no-one suffers, Mithos swore once, voice rough with tears; picking up his sister's vow with the same intensity, and his face still splattered with her blood, from her shielding him; and Kratos, who had stood too far, who had been unable to react, the bodyguard who had guarded nothing at all after all, had nodded in silence.

It's a long, arduous process - work in progress, Mithos calls it at first, with raw, cold-edged optimism, and Kratos nods and steels his arm (he isn't sure he deserves to steel his heart) and silences objections he once might have made.

He's not sure when - four thousand years is a very long time when you've frozen your conscience - Mithos start calling them acceptable losses, and shrugging, kid-like once more, for a quicksilver moment, whatever - I know it's gonna work this time; Kratos, take care of it - and Kratos, his hands in copper-smelling gloves, bows and goes.

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This is what goes through Sheena’s mind when she’s falling to her death in the Tower of Salvation: last time she tried to exchange her life for her friends escaping safe and sound, Lloyd shouted at her to stop, and Zelos grabbed her and forced her into the portal - he grabbed her, but she could have fought him off, and she didn’t; she let him pull her through the Otherworldly Gate and save her life; for all that he gets on her nerves, she’s always trusted him (i always thought you were a good person when it came down to it!).

Turns out they were both better at lying than she’d thought: she promised Lloyd she’d make it out okay and he believed her, and Zelos tricked all of them into thinking he was on their side. She fooled herself into falling for it (him, the thought rushes past her like the air around her ears, too fast for her to catch and rip) and now, there’s nothing to it - she’s falling too hard to save herself and there’s no-one to break her fall the way he broke her trust.

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The washbasins miraculously hold out until they reach the temple, and Raine collapses in giddy relief when her feet finally step onto steady ground again; for a minute, all she can do is breathe and feel her heart settle down.

Lloyd and Genis are looking over the buckets with something that could be incomprehension or could be glee - Genis has his hands on his hips in an attitude copied from her (fascination and indignation are neighbour provinces in their family's inner maps; both appeal to their instincts for why and how and the hell) - and she catches snippets of their conversation: "--guess it was safe after all, I wonder if it's magic--", "--try and use a spell on the way back to see if it rocks, that might tell us if there’s magic on theml" -- which steals the breath right out of her throat -- and "that'd be so cool!"

Her fingers claw as though grasping for a stub of chalk to throw at them, but of course, this isn't her classroom, and for a furious, incandescent second Raine hates every step of the reasoning that led her here, on a tiny island she had to row to in a washbasin to reach, as though just crossing the sea isn't unpleasant enough even in actual ships, and that she’ll have to leave same way; Genis glances at her, blanches, and adds through a gulp, "ooooor maybe I'll check if there are spells on them by using magic to make the sea even calmer, huh, that could definitely work!"

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"Don't you wish we never had to go back?" - the words steal out from Mithos' lips like a breath, or a dream he didn't know he was making; suddenly he finds himself with his throat dry and his eyes wide and a heartbeat echoing in his ears, staring at the wide sparkling sky across their heads, the mountain's soft breeze chuckling a chilly caress on his skin - what, why would I say that, why would I think that - it's dumb, it's so dumb.

Even without the fate of the world and Genis' loyalty to human friends that don't deserve him, there's Genis' sister, who needs the herbs Mithos took Genis to find here to be cured; even without Genis' sister, there's Mithos' mission, and maybe he can convince Genis to join him, but he'd accomplish nothing if he stayed here - the mountain tops are suspended between earth and sky, stars almost close enough to touch: a place between worlds can only be a parenthesis; if Genis joined him, Mithos could show him the stars for real, from even closer, and open the parenthesis on the new world Mithos is building, but he can't say so (yet, he thinks; too soon; too soon, like maybe it's not impossible, like maybe he'll take that chance and Genis will say yes).

He looks at Genis, who seems suddenly further away than the stars, bright and fragile and painful, and wills him not to answer, not to destroy the moment (or that fragile hopeless thing unfurling in Mithos' chest); when Genis glances at him and licks his lips before answering, Mithos' nails dig into his palms so hard they leave crescent marks - I wish, he finds himself thinking savagely, desperately, as though all the wishing in the world could save them; and still doesn't finish the thought.