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the things you can't bear to lose

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“Heads up,” Borri said, poking his head around her door and winking extravagantly. “The Truesworn is looking for you.”

“Dawn?” Gwyn asked, setting aside the records she was examining, feeling both pleased and unaccountably flustered, though she wasn’t sure why. They were shield-sisters. Friends, even. There was no reason that hearing Dawn was looking for her in particular should make her heart flutter in such a ridiculous fashion.  

Borri’s grin widened, but he thankfully said nothing more as he ducked back around the door, and Gwyn heard him make a cheerful greeting as he walked away, and Dawn’s quiet answer. 

It felt like a such a long time since Gwyn heard her voice, and she hadn’t realised how much she had missed her until now. 

Dawn peered around the doorframe a moment later, her grave features lightening a little as she saw her. “Do you have a moment, or am I interrupting something?” she asked, and Gwyn shook her head, looking carefully at her as she came closer. Dawn would look out of place in her mage robes in the Keep, if it wasn’t for the Mystic Hammer strapped to her back, but she looked exhausted, and still ever so slightly sunburned from their time in Detyre. Gwyn tried not to frown as she took her in. 

She gestured at the chair on the other side of the table, “Please, join me. Grian has finally seen the sense in making an inventory of all our relics, and I have decades worth of records to look through.”

“Ah,” Dawn said, coming over to the table and squinting down out the paperwork. “Then I am sorry to add to your workload.”

“What do you mean?” Gwyn asked curiously, and Dawn shrugged the Mystic Hammer off her back, and placed it on the floor next to Gwyn’s chair. Even though she was handling it gently, there was still a dull thud that vibrated the flagstones under her feet.

“This belongs to the Warsworn,” Dawn said, her fingers lingering on the handle as if she was saying goodbye to it.

Gwyn did frown then. “It belongs to you. No one here disputes that.”

Dawn didn’t reply for a long moment, and when she did her voice was very quiet. “I’m going to Alabastra.”

Gwyn stared at her a moment, then shook her head. “If it were anyone else, I would point out that to get to Alabastra you have to pass through a city that has been under siege for ten years as well as miles of occupied territory, but I can’t see either of those things slowing you down for long. But why wouldn’t you take the Hammer with you? You’ll need a weapon you can rely on while you are there.”

Dawn shrugged a little, not meeting her eyes. “I don’t think I should take anything with me that I couldn’t bear to lose,” she explained, and Gwyn realised with a jolt of shock that it wasn’t the just the Hammer that Dawn was afraid of losing – she was afraid that she would not make it back herself. 

It was a reasonable fear, Gwyn knew. More Warsworn than she could list had been lost to the Tuatha. But somehow, she could not picture Dawn as being lost among them.

Gwyn wasn’t sure if it was due to faith in her, or simply denial. Dawn falling in battle so far away... it was unthinkable.

“Alright,” she replied calmly. “When do we leave?” 

At that, Dawn’s head jolted upwards, eyes wide with shock. “Gwyn, no...” she began, and Gwyn cut her off firmly.

“I'm Warsworn,” Gwyn pointed out. “Same as you, and for longer, I might add. I'm not afraid of battle.”

“I know, believe me. You are the best of the Warsworn,” Dawn said, and continued while Gwyn tried to object to that statement, her face warm. “But what of Khamazandu? Someone needs to watch over him to make sure he never escapes.”

“The Warsworn will do that,” Gwyn argued. “All of us. We won’t be caught unprepared again.”

Dawn plucked at a loose thread in her glove, looking away again. “I know. But Gwyn... if I am afraid to risk the Hammer, how do think you think I feel about risking you?” 

Gwyn gaped at Dawn, her heart beating fast. “You...?” she began, then trailed off, somehow unable to think of a single thing to say. 

Dawn sent her a tiny, unsure, smile. “Like I said... nothing I couldn’t bear to lose.” Her voice was quiet, but earnest and totally genuine, and her eyes were pleading. 

Gwyn shook her head, trying to calm her racing pulse. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. It reminded her of the way her mother used to speak to her father, the way she would promise to help him however she could, no matter what.

The thought of that sort of devotion had scared her, before. She had seen what hardships her parents had endured, after all. But now she was more afraid that she would lose it before she'd ever had a chance to experience it for herself.  

 “Alright,” she said quietly. She couldn’t argue with Dawn, not when she spoke to her with such honesty, such vulnerability. “I will look after the Hammer for you – but if you don’t come back for it, I will bring it to you in Alabastra myself, no matter the danger.”

Dawn nodded intently, looking relieved.  “Thank you. I’ll come back as soon as I can, I promise.”

“See that you do,” Gwyn said, then cleared her throat. “I... I couldn’t bear losing you, either.” 

Dawn looked at her, surprise and pleasure and a disbelieving sort of hope all open on her face. She reached out and touched the back of Gwyn's hand, briefly and gently, before leaving without another word. 

Gwyn rubbed the fingers over her other hand over the area, her heart still beating fast, before she reached out for the Hammer.

Dawn had cared for it, she could tell, but it no longer looked new. Grian wouldn't approve, she knew, but she couldn’t help but think that Eamonn would have. 

She would look after it, like she had promised. But one way or another, she was giving it back to Dawn. 

And by the time they met again, she would figure out how to put the aching warmth in her heart into words, and if she could help it, it would be the last time that Dawn would go into danger alone.