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I Won't Let You Let Me Down So Easily

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For all of her short years of life, Gideon Nav has never wanted anything more than to ignore the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House. To pretend she doesn’t exist. Unfortunately for Gideon—and the entirety of the Ninth—Harrowhark Nonagesimus has made that impossible from day one. She’s always there, one step away from Gideon, not looking at her, but making her own presence known, making sure she’s seen. That shrill, commanding tone is there from the moment she says her first word. Bones follow her every command, and she’s a tiny tyrant in black and wearing a painted mask. Where she is, skeletons follow, and Gideon is left behind, bloodied and beaten on the floor.

She never asked for this. She’s never wanted to be the bane of everyone’s existence. In fact, she tries her hardest to get away, time and time and time and time again. But Harrow demands an audience, and with most of the House being blinded from old age, Gideon is the one forced to watch. So she watches. Mostly, she watches her back, but over time, she watches just to see. What she’s looking for, she’s not sure.

She’s never wanted this, so why does a part of her now ask for it?

***

Somehow Gideon isn’t surprised that even in the afterlife, she’s forced to watch Harrow. The Dark Mistress of Drearburh is a necromancer after all. If Gideon couldn’t get away from her during any of her eighty-seven escape attempts in life, it’s doubtful a little something like lacking a body would stop Harrow from forcing her to stay.

The really annoying part is that this time, Gideon actually does want to watch, but she’s got less a front-row seat and more like she’s using binoculars turned backwards so the thing she’s looking at is tiny and the lenses are smudged and she’s got cotton stuffed in her ears. She’s grateful for that when Ianthe tries her hand (haha, hand) at flirting with Harrow—she’s never felt such intense second-hand embarrassment in her life—but seeing what’s happening on The Mithraeum would be rather helpful right now.

Especially considering she isn’t allowed to do her job (protecting) thanks to one pointy-faced emo chick performing an at-home lobotomy with only a sociopathic princess to watch over her. Oh yeah, pre-surgery, Gideon could watch everything just fine. Why is it always that she’s forced to watch when she doesn’t want to, and she can’t watch when she does want to? She’s more than a little ticked by that.

No one ever asks her what she wants.

***

You know what’s really fucking annoying? Dying for your best frenemy so she can become the thing she’s wanted to become since she was four, then getting not only walled up in a tiny corner of Prissy McBitchFace’s brain, not only forced to see how awkward God is during tea time, not only stuck watching Harrow fumble her training and social interaction, but ALSO, unable to make her fucking necromancer work out or learn one single thing about a sword.

IT’S A FUCKING POMMEL, HARROWHARK. You can learn all the bones of the body by age two and a half, but you can’t learn the very few parts of a fucking sword? Sigh.

She’s being willfully ignorant on purpose. Gideon knows it.

***

You know what’s really fucking sad? Watching Harrowhark unable to function. Not just in her usual disconnected with reality and living in her special world where she’s the queen and everyone bows to her way. No, Harrow is … not Harrow. She’s barely human now (not that she was ever particularly human, more like a pointy, annoying bat), she’s paranoid (granted, someone is trying to kill her on the daily), she’s not sleeping, there are more wards in her tiny room than in all of the Ninth House, and she’s trying to … make soup?

It’s embarrassing to watch, and once again, Gideon is grateful her view is fuzzy and distant. Except that since she only gets a far-off snapshot of events a few times a day, she has lots of time to think and contemplate. And the more she thinks about it, the worse she feels. It’s sad, Harrow’s life is. And not in a oh she’s such a dork, how sad way, but more in a way that hurts Gideon’s heart, if Gideon had a heart still, which she guesses she doesn’t, not properly.

But still, she aches for Harrow. She wants to do her job, to be the big bad protector, but someone decided to be a selfish jerk and not let Gideon do the one thing she literally died to do.

Some people suck.

***

Swear to John (who’d’ve thought God’s name would be John), Gideon is really fucking tired of watching. At least when she was forced to watch Harrow in the past(life), she had a sword in her hands and a cocky smile on her face. Oh, what she’d give to go back to being able to watch and do, rather than watch and … watch, but not really watch, because time moves funny for her and it sounds like everyone is talking under water and faces are distorted (oh, no, wait, Ianthe’s face is always like that, nm).

She needs to be able to do again. She needs to force her dumb necromancer to get some sleep and then some exercise and then some brain surgery, in that order (what? squats are important). And then maybe learn the parts of the sword. SERIOUSLY, HARROW, HOW HARD IS POMMEL?

She wishes she had Harrow’s dumb army of constructs to fight. Even without a body, she has excess energy to get rid of and– HOLY SHIT. A CONSTRUCT JUST BURST OUT OF THE SKINNY/BUFF LYCTOR’S abdomen.

Okay, Harrow. You win this round.

***

Sleep does not help Harrowhark’s mood. She’s less of a zombie, sure, but she’s still a bit bananas. Watching her cut off Ianthe’s arm is pretty great, though (less great is watching her climb on top of Princess Bitch to do it). And the sex thing with God and two of the saints is … well, the jury is still out on that one. She actually got quite an eyeful of that scene. Perhaps all the wine allowed Gideon more freedom to move about in her necro’s brain.

None of that shocks her like watching Harrow save the lyctor whose been out to kill her for months. Gideon would definitely save him if she were in Harrow’s shoes (except she’d never be in those shoes because, one, they’re too small for her, and two, SHE KNOWS HOW TO USE A FUCKING SWORD). But even after everything that happened at Canaan House, and all that she’s seen of the disaster that is Harrow’s current life, watching Harrow save the man she’s absolutely bloody terrified of is … staggering.

Gideon’s not sure what to do with this information. Harrow with a normal human conscious is not something she thought she’d ever see. It’s not the Harrow she knew for seventeen years. It’s not the girl she fought tooth and nail with almost all of her life. It’s not the tiny mad genius who broke into the Tomb just to say she could. It’s not the tyrant who puppeteered her dead parents’ bodies for seven years for a power trip. It’s not the necromancer who longed for nothing more than to become a lyctor, even at every other person around hers expense.

It’s not the bone magician who performed possibly deadly surgery on her own brain rather than share soul space with the woman who died for her.

And if Harrow’s actions now say she’s not those things, then what else doesn’t Gideon know about her?

***

For once, Gideon is the watchee instead of the watcher.

Leave it to Sextus to be the one to see her.

***

Gideon takes it all back. She’d rather spend a myriad watching helplessly and foggily as her necromancer bumbles through life because she refuses to accept help in becoming a real lyctor. She’d love to go back to watching her make soup and avoid kisses with Tridentarius The Lesser and grimace at tea and cut her hair every three days and fuck up Gideon’s beloved two-hander by covering it in bone glue.

Because the alternative, of Harrow just up and leaving her body, which has just come to pass, is untenable. It’s wrong. Not just Gideon’s eyes and her WTF expression on Harrow’s face, but also the pure lack of Harrow in the room. For such a tiny little witch, she takes up a lot of space. She always has. It’s why Gideon had watched her their whole lives. Harrow would enter a room, and her presence would draw Gideon like a paperclip to a magnet. It was hateful, but it was comfortable, a known entity.

But Harrow being gone is so wrong.

Luckily, there are plenty of bug-human-acid-monster things that hold her attention for a time. That, and trying to figure out how to work Harrow’s limp noodle arms so that she can use a sword that weighs about the same as she currently does. As Gideon hacks and kicks and watches Harrow’s extremities regrow (trippy), she avoids thinking about why Harrow has left her. She fights Princess Peach and avoids thinking. She bickers (and maybe falls just a tiny bit in love) with Ianthe Tridentarius and avoids thinking. She listens to confessions twenty years in coming and avoids thinking. She finds her (very fucked up) family and avoids thinking. She (maybe?) befriends the lyctor who tried for nine months to kill her necromancer (except its actually not the lyctor anymore and she’s definitely going to have to learn more about that at some point when she’s no longer fighting for her [lyctor’s] life) and avoids thinking.

She’s going to have to think again at some point, but she’ll avoid it as long as she’s able.

***

When Gideon finally escapes and gets somewhere safe, she has time to watch again, and she hates it. She watches Harrow’s face in the mirror. She wills her necromancer to come back. She begs Harrow to come back. She paints the best skull she’s ever painted on Harrow’s face. She puts on the rust-black robes. She stares at the mirror and tries to find Harrow in the frown lines and pointy chin. But she’s not there, and it looks wrong. Gideon screams and punches the mirror. The broken flesh repairs instantly. She hates that. She needs the pain the last.

She has always associated pain with Harrow. The physical pain of their fights. The emotional pain of being unloved. If the pain is no longer there, does that mean Harrow is gone for good?

Gideon Nav’s eyes sting, and she watches the paint melt off Harrow’s face.