Anacostia sighed as she watched Izadora maneuver three mirrors to her mother’s right into position. She stepped back to check them from multiple angles and then, seemingly satisfied, nodded. She turned quickly and took three steps towards the other side of the room, checked Sarah’s position in the chair in the middle and made one final adjustment.
“Ok. It’s ready.”
Anacostia watched as Sarah looked up at her and nodded.
Izadora took a step back towards the mirror that sat at eye level in front of Sarah. A large tuning fork was attached securely to an extension in front of it. Truthfully, Anacostia had never seen anything like this.
After having just gotten her mother back, she was wary of experimental practices to say the least.
“Are you sure this is going to work? I’ve never even heard of this.”
Izadora raised a brow at her and bent her attention back to the tuning fork in front of the mirror reflecting Sarah’s image.
“It’s not a standard military practice, but there is record of it.”
Sarah’s soft chuckle broke the heaviness that sat in the air. Anacostia turned to the sound unimpressed. Sarah’s eyes were closed, and her head was reclined against the back of the chair she sat in.
“I am record of it. You must relax, Anacostia. This is supposed to be a meditative place, after all.”
She could hear the chiding behind the words and crossed her arms against the feeling of being scolded as a child that it evoked.
“I just don’t understand is all. Surely there are easier ways to do this…”
Sarah drew a slow, steady breath in and then released it. Her eyes remained closed as she settled further back against her chair.
“This is an ancient practice and I have utilized it before in my time with the Native tribes. It is the surest way I know to securely do what need be done.”
With another deep sigh, Anacostia brought a hand up and wiped it across her chin.
“I can feel your nerves from here, so I will ask you kindly, Daughter, to please trust me.”
Izadora raised her gaze over the top of the mirror she was in front of and held Anacostia’s. She could read her friend’s agreement with Sarah without a single word. Anacostia felt the sigh wanting to press free, but she shoved it down and nodded. Izadora raised from her observation of the instruments in front of her and turned towards Sarah.
“Everything is in order. It’s ready when you are.”
Sarah nodded slowly, eyes still closed.
“Know this may take many hours. It isn’t likely to be a quick trip. You must be patient, but let no one disturb me.”
Anacostia could feel the unease crawling back up her spine at the thought of this taking hours, but she steeled her shoulders and straightened her posture. If her mother said she knew what she was doing, she would be damned if she disagreed with her.
She nodded tightly once.
“I think we can manage that.”
One side of Sarah’s lip curled upwards in a half grin.
“Thank you, Ana.”
Sarah took one more slow, deep breath in and released it.
“You may begin, Izadora.”
Izadora moved with lightening speed and tapped a smaller tuning fork against the larger one in the middle of the mirror in front of Sarah. Two distinct tones vibrated out into the space and Anacostia watched as the lights above them dimmed.
She glanced up at it as Izadora pushed against her arm and directed her without words towards the door. When it had safely closed tightly behind them, Anacostia dared to finally speak.
Izadora looked through the small two way glass on the outside of the doorframe. Sarah had started a seed of some kind, although neither couldn’t hear it from where they now were. Anacostia watched as her mother opened her eyes and stared directly into the mirror in front of her, her reflection caught and rippled in the ones surrounding the room.
“Now we wait.”
Abigail sighed and toed a loose rock beneath her boot.
She could feel the unease racing underneath her skin like lightning like it had been for weeks now. Her mother her told her to be strong when she had sent them away, and she was trying, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was failing miserably at keeping everything together.
Tally was inconsolable and pushing them away, turning to Nicte Batan of all people more and more, and every time they tried to talk to her, something always seemed to get in the way. Raelle had told her to be patient, but she knew the truth – neither of them really knew how to give Tally what she needed because they had never addressed the truth that was overshadowing all of this.
She had known that Tally had feelings for Alder for a long time now – had joked with Raelle about it. She had laughed as Raelle had teased Tally for her crush. It had become such a commonplace topic of conversation between them, that it had lost all of its bite. When Tally had started to pull away in sadness and anger after the nightmares began, Abigail and Raelle had both been at a loss. Rae had broached the topic one evening and Tally had shot it down with such cold finality that Abigail was certain she just needed to find someone to help her get the crush of her system.
When Tally had chosen to instead publicly throw herself to an all but sure slaughter to stop Alder from carrying out Nicte’s execution, Abigail had frozen with certainty that she had read the situation all wrong.
Tally had always been impetuous, but Abigail had been so caught off guard by the direct challenge to the General of the Armed Forces that she had been rooted to the spot. Abigail obviously knew of Tally’s brief time as a Biddy, but Tally had spoken to the General Alder in that moment as if they were entirely alone. The softness in both of their voices belied an intimacy that made Abigail certain that the feelings Tally had laughed aside were far deeper than either she or Raelle had known.
What had shocked her more was the way Alder had responded. Abigail had only a brief moment to ponder the softness of her pleading with Tally before she had turned her back and Tally had angrily attacked.
It had been Raelle who had reacted first and for that Abigail was both thankful and ashamed. Alder had responded and the blur of action would have been over in a moment had it not been for Rae’s gut-wrenching scream beside her. Even then, she watched, chest heaving as her second sister stepped forward to challenge the greatest witch who had ever lived.
Abigail felt the sigh press upwards and she loosed it to the empty night sky.
Guilt crept across her chest, and she shoved a hand through her hair in frustration. She should have spoken up then. She was the leader of their unit, but she had failed her sister more times than she could count at this point. She had left her to face her dreams alone. Had teased her into silence about her feelings for Alder which had driven her to act, without telling either of them, in the hangar.
And in the moment when it counted most, she had stood frozen and let her face Alder alone.
So many failures of the one she was supposed to protect.
Abigail shook her head hard and stared at the expanse in front of her. She may have been too wrapped in her own world to realize what had been happening with Tally and it had almost cost her her life, but that wouldn’t happen ever again.
She had always been called a leader and now without the support of the structure of the Armed Forces behind her, that was being put to the test and she’d be damned if she didn’t rise to the challenge. She was a Bellweather, yes, but Tally was her sister, and it was time she started acting like it.
She could feel certainty in her chosen action push against the guilt in her chest and she leaned into it. She and Raelle would go wake Tally up if that’s what it took. This ended tonight.
With another deep sigh, Abigail pulled the jacket tighter around her and stared into the darkness.
She knew Raelle was walking the perimeter at the moment. They had both returned to the barn after hours of no word only to find a surprisingly quiet and standoffish Nicte. She had dismissed them quickly, merely waving to the house when asked where Tally had gone. Abigail and Raelle had shared a look, unease and anger crawling up her spine at the action. Nicte was supposed to have come to get them when Tally had woken up.
Clearly that had not been the case.
Tally’s door had been shut tight when they’d came in. Raelle had pressed her ear to the door briefly before she pushed herself back and shook her head slowly. Tally was asleep. Abigail had reached for the doorhandle, but Raelle had grabbed her hand. When their eyes had met, Raelle merely shook her head once more.
Abigail didn’t turn towards the sound of Raelle’s voice from the darkness. She could hear the crunch of gravel as she got closer, but she didn’t bother to turn to look at her as she dropped to sit on the steps next to her.
She shrugged once and nodded.
Silence held for a moment before Raelle leaned back. Abigail could feel her staring at the side of her face.
“What crawled up your ass?”
Abigail couldn’t stop the scoff that left her lips as she turned.
Leave it Raelle to cut to the chase.
She shook her head once more and shrugged, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
“Oh, I don’t know. We’re on the run from the government, have been accused of murder, have an ancient group of zealots who have been murdering my family after us, have to somehow trust the leader of the Spree, and our sister is having a mental breakdown that we can’t seem to deal with because we never did anything but tease her about having a crush on a person that she was prepared to die for. That about sum it up?”
Abigail sighed heavily, dropped her arms to her sides and sat down on the steps next to Raelle.
Silence held for ten seconds before Raelle tilted her own head and looked to the dark grounds once more.
“Well, when you put it like that.”
Raelle pushed herself forward, propped her hands on her knees and leaned her chin against them. Abigail watched her from the corner of her eye, but she could tell that Raelle was deep in thought. They had spoken many times about what to do about Tally while they’d been on the run, but both of them knew that it was a situation that should have been handled well before now. They had spoken, of course, but there hadn’t been a moment when they had sat Tally down and laid everything out on the table.
They’d never shied away from anything before, save for this one looming topic. She knew Tally was feeling disconnected, she herself missing their connection terribly, and she was afraid of how far it may push her sister towards the most dangerous member of their group.
Raelle sighed then.
“Grief is stubborn and wild like an untamed animal. Sometimes you have to let it run all over the place til it wears itself out.”
She knew the words well; remembered instantly when Raelle had told them to her for the first time back when she had thought Scylla had been lost to her. When she was going through what Tally must be feeling now.
Raelle shook her head, but never took her eyes from the horizon. “When you love someone and lose them sometimes the grief is unbearable.”
It was the first time any of them had said the word love out loud. It sat heavy in the air, powerful and large.
A flash of Tally’s screams from nightmares she couldn’t explain ghosted through Abigail’s mind. She shook her head to clear the helpless terror she had felt.
If they were going to talk about this, then by the goddess, they were going to do it.
“You think she really loved her?”
Raelle turned her head slowly then to merely stare. Abigail grimaced at the incredulous look on her face and then shook her head.
“You think she’s ever going to admit it?”
Raelle raked one hand through her braids and dropped her gaze to the ground.
“Without it tearing her heart out?”
A deep sigh pressed itself up and out once again and Abigail closed her eyes to the sympathetic knowledge of the pain that Tally was drowning in.
When she opened her eyes again, the look on Raelle’s face told her she was thinking the exact same thing.
Abigail scooted a little further on the steps as her eyes searched Rae’s silently.
“She has to admit it. We know the power in saying something aloud and this is killing her.”
She watched as Raelle dropped her gaze quickly, nodded once, and then rose to meet her eyes again.
“Then we just have to do it. I know we haven’t known quite what to say, but… yeah.”
Abigail pushed herself up in one swift motion and turned to look expectantly down at the blonde. Raelle looked up at her and then raised her brows in surprise.
“Oh, you mean you wanna do it now?”
“We can’t keep putting this off because we don’t know what to say. It’s not right and Tally wouldn’t do that if it was one of us. In fact, she’d have already gotten into one of our faces about this.”
A sad chuckle escaped Raelle’s mouth as she nodded.
She pushed herself roughly to her feet and stared, eye to eye, with her sister for a moment. She jutted her chin towards the front door like she had read Abigail’s thoughts from before.
Abigail stared at her for a single moment before she nodded, pushed past and took the stairs in two steps. She grabbed the screen door and tugged it open easily, pressed her shoulder into the wood of the front door and stopped.
Raelle pulled up short to keep from slamming into her.
“Abs, what the hell?”
The soft sounds of sobbing carried through the heavy door and Abigail turned to stare wide eyed at Raelle for a split second.
Raelle’s face contorted as if trying to decipher what she was hearing, before falling in understanding. She grabbed the doorknob and pushed, shouldering her way past Abigail as she did so.
This time, Abigail was right on her heels.
The soothing sounds of someone trying to quieten the heart wrenching sobs floated down the hallway as Raelle and Abigail raced towards the sound. Tally’s bedroom door stood open but the bathroom door across from it was closed. As they neared it, Raelle could clearly discern Quinn’s voice on top of Tally’s.
“I didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“I know, sweetheart. I know.”
Abigail wrenched the door open then, squishing next to Raelle in the small doorway. Quinn turned a concerned gaze up at them from the bathroom floor where she sat holding onto a sobbing Tally. Raelle paused to take the scene in, but Abigail ripped her jacket off of her arms and shoved into the small room. Without a word, she dropped to her knees in front of Quinn and Tally.
Tally took one shuddering breath and then launched herself into Abigail’s open arms.
Abigail wrapped her arms tight around her as Tally sobbed hard against her chest. Abigail pressed a hard kiss into her hairline and rocked gently.
“I’ve got you, Tal. I’ve got you.”
She was fleetingly aware of Quinn pressing up off of the tile to murmur quietly to Raelle behind her. She pressed her head against the top of Tally’s and rubbed smoothing circles across her back.
Tally sobbed harder.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Shhh. I know. It’s ok.”
Raelle pressed close as the bathroom door snicked closed behind them. Abigail felt the slight rumble of work from Raelle’s vocal cords and knew without asking that she had sang a silence seed to give Tally some semblance of privacy. A moment later, she had wrapped her arms around both Tally and Abigail.
Abigail looked over at her and then pressed another kiss against the top of Tally’s shaking head.
Once upon a time, it was Tally who had been the one pressing kisses into hairlines and laughing as Abigail pushed her away. Abigail closed her eyes as a hundred memories of that very thing pressed through her mind.
Raelle’s soft voice was low in the confined space and Tally slipped her right arm away from Abigail’s frame to wrap it around Raelle’s. She pressed against the warmth of her, silent sobs shaking her frame, as Abigail continued to rub soothing lines across her back.
“I’m so sorry.”
It had been all she could say for some time now, but now, cramped onto the floor of a tiny bathroom in a Spree hideout, Tally had never been more grateful for this bond they shared. This need for not needing words. She felt Raelle’s hand cup against the back of her head and pull her close.
Precious images of Sarah and Amilia flashed through her mind again and she was overcome with the need to press them into words. Instead, she’d let her sisters hold her on the cold tile until her sobs had finally subsided.
They’d stayed there for another thirty minutes before Raelle had felt her shivering. She stood and pulled Tally up with Abigail’s help onto shaky legs before they led her, numb and freezing, back to the security of her bedroom.
Abigail had held onto her tightly as Raelle had traced a sigil over the doorknob. When done, she rejoined them and cautiously, they slipped Tally down onto the bed she had just left.
Abigail climbed up behind her, kicking her shoes off as she did so. Tally didn’t question the action as she tugged the covers down and slid under them. Tally could feel her entire frame shaking from the cold, from memories and regrets.
From a longing she couldn’t adequately express.
“Come on, lay back. I’ve got you.”
Abigail held the cover up and Tally felt her eyes water with gratefulness. She slid back slowly and felt her sister envelop her in her solid hold once again.
She squeezed her eyes closed against the flash of Dream Sarah pulling her close like this.
Raelle had already kicked off her shoes and had pressed onto the other side of her in the small space. Abigail pressed another kiss to the back of her head as Raelle scooted closer and lifted her right arm for Tally to press her head onto her shoulder.
Tally could feel Raelle tuck her hand behind Abigail’s back even as her usually stoic sister laid her head against her tense shoulder blades.
Familiarity and belonging settled into her so suddenly that Tally closed her eyes against the tears it brought. With a shuddering breath, she felt her chest release and for the first time in what felt like ages, Tally could finally breathe again.
They stayed like that, pressed together in a too small bed in silence for what seemed like hours. Finally, when feeling had started to come back to her extremities, Raelle tightened her grip.
Her voice was soft in the quiet of the darkness.
Tally could feel the rumble of the question against her ribcage. Could feel the sigh press from Raelle before she spoke again.
“Sorry. Stupid question.”
Tally tightened her arm around Raelle’s stomach and merely squeezed her tighter. She felt Abigail mirror the action against her own stomach.
“We’re worried about you, Tal, but we’re here. Ok? No matter what, we’re here and we’re not going anywhere.”
She could feel the whispered words against her hair and closed her eyes once more against the rush of emotions they evoked. She couldn’t fathom she had any tears left to cry.
Instead, she turned her head sideways and pressed it as much as she could against Abigail’s own.
Raelle nodded and tightened her grip once more.
“But it’s time we talked about everything, ok? You can’t keep going like this.”
How could she tell them everything? How could she explain the depth of the guilt, the horrible choices, the dreams of a life she craved with everything in her and how utterly devastating it was to know it was too late?
Her voice froze and she forced herself to take a shaky breath in.
“I don’t know how to say everything I have to say…”
Abigail squeezed her once more from behind. She could feel Raelle shift to look over at her, could feel their eyes locked in a silent conversation.
“Let’s start with the fact that you were in love with Alder.”
Tally’s breath caught in her throat as Abigail’s words pressed into her hair. She could feel the swell of tears in her eyes, the tight pull in her chest that she couldn’t press her hand against. Instead, she sunk against it and felt it blossom open into the blinding white loss she had been running from feeling.
She sobbed against the sudden intensity of it and wanted desperately to shove it away, but both Raelle and Abigail merely squeezed her tighter. She hadn’t wanted to touch the connection between she and Sarah because she had been afraid of this very thing.
But they were right. She couldn’t continue like this.
Wrapped in the safety of the arms of both of her sisters, she nodded once and slowly let the warmth of the connection, echoing with traces of pain and shock and loneliness, engulf her.
Tally pressed her eyes closed tightly and breathed deep through the waves of emotions that washed over her. With a final steadying breath, she opened her eyes and nodded once more.
Abigail pressed one more kiss against the back of her head and she nodded again, stronger this time. She could feel a warmth of hope beginning to blossom in her chest now that her sisters were with her. She could do this.
They could do this.
She would tell them everything.
Tally’s brows twitched as the sound of her name floated gently into her ears.
She was half aware immediately, an already unfortunate side effect of military life. Life on the run had made it even stronger. She couldn’t reach full consciousness - likely the result of some sleeping work that had been used on her, or perhaps merely exhaustion.
She and Raelle and Abigail had talked for hours and she had spilled every secret she had save the one she was most ashamed of. After they had talked of her actions in the hangar, they had tearfully made a pact to never keep things from each other again. She had wanted to tell them about Nicte, but doing so felt like a violation to the family from her dreams that she had told them of. She had expected them to scoff at her, call her crazy or worse, but they had merely listened and allowed her to talk of the stirrings of an impossible love that she’d never be able to know.
Talking about it had helped tremendously and she must have fallen asleep wrapped in the safety of their arms.
She scrunched her brows once more.
Abigail was never one for easy going in the mornings. She would have just shaken her awake by now.
So, Raelle. It had to be Raelle who was talking.
“Tally. I need you to wake up.”
Her eyebrows twitched once more as she felt a soft breath tickle across her forehead. She knew she knew the voice, but it felt as though she was swimming up through sleep towards recognition.
Surely Abigail would have shaken her awake by now. Raelle would have tucked her hair behind her ear and pressed an intentionally sloppy kiss against it.
No… this voice did not belong to her sisters. She knew them like her own, had intertwined her own vocalizations with them often enough. There was a resonance to them, a cadence that felt like water flowing over her.
But this voice...
It was warm around the edges. It whispered against her skin and pulsed like a heartbeat behind her vision.
This voice felt like home.
Tally slowly blinked her eyes open as recognition encircled her like the warmth of a bath.
She was used to the dreamscapes her mind had readily been conjuring for her. Details so vivid that she could paint them in her mind’s eye days after.
But this? This was different.
The room was dimly light and even as Tally pressed herself slowly up to a seated position, she could make out no discernible details of the surroundings.
The unfamiliarity of the scene did nothing to stop her eyes from watering of their own accord. Tally shook her head slowly and took a slow, steadying breath. She opened her mouth only to close it again tightly before she swallowed hard and tried again.
Her voice was barely a whisper, but she saw the impact of it on the woman’s face. Sarah’s mouth opened slightly, a soft exhale pushing past her lips. Tally watched as she swallowed just as hard as she herself had just done and then watched as she merely nodded.
Tally pushed herself up further and merely stared.
Usually when Sarah appeared to her in her dreams, she reacted to her as the role her dream state determined Tally to be.
But this? This was different.
It felt different.
Sarah wasn’t staring at her in joy or lust or humor like Dream Sarah normally did. She was staring at her as if waiting for Tally, the real Tally, to speak. But, Tally noticed as she watched Sarah’s chest rise and fall rapidly, she wore her emotions openly; more openly that Tally had ever seen in real life. She could read her like she normally did in her dreamscapes and the disconnect was confusing.
“Are you alright?”
Sarah’s words were low, her gaze as piercing as it had ever been in real life. Memories of hundreds of times Tally had stared up into it flashed through her mind interspersed with memories of an altogether different type of gaze from her dreams.
Tally shook her head.
“I… how are… is this real?”
Sarah swallowed hard once again. Her eyes darted across Tally’s entire face, down her arms and across her frame as if searching for herself for signs that Tally was alright.
“There isn’t a lot of time, Tally. There are things I need to tell you.”
Tally watched, awed into silence at what was happening, as Sarah reached up to wipe a hand across her mouth. She had seen her do it exactly one time in the entirety of the time she had known her and it had been when she was serving as a Biddy. When Sarah had been more open than ever before. When she had first been able to feel the very essence of who she was.
It was the only sign of nervousness she had ever seen Sarah exhibit.
It pressed a wave of familiarity and affection so strong throughout her that she closed her eyes against its surge. She could hear Sarah’s breathing pattern change before the worried, “What’s wrong?” had even left her mouth.
Scenes of a life she suddenly craved to the core of her being flashed behind her eyes.
Amilia’s dimpled cheeks as Sarah lifted her onto her shoulders to reach a branch on a pear tree.
Sarah’s softened gaze as snowflakes danced around them.
The press of lips against her bare back as fingers pressed deep within her.
The soft chuckle beside her in the early light of morning.
Tally felt each moment well up into a tidal wave of emotion. She could feel it lick up her throat, begging to be released in a crescendo of revelation.
Now that Sarah was in front of her in a way that felt so real, all Tally wanted was to tell her everything.
To spill the secrets of a life they’d shared together in her dreams. To say how desperately sorry that she was for everything that had happened.
To beg forgiveness for the transgressions against a love that hadn’t ever been given the grace to take hold before it was coldly stolen.
Tally open her eyes to Sarah’s face pinched in worry. Her eyes darted across Tally’s face as if she could read her very thoughts.
Tally felt the sigh press from her and before she could stop herself, she had blurted out what felt like her most devastating betrayal.
“I had sex with Nicte.”
The moment the words had left her mouth, Tally felt as if a demon had been cast aside. She gulped in a lungful of air and pressed her eyes closed tight.
The admission felt cleansing, but she knew that desperation to tell the woman she now understood she loved, in and of itself was an absolution she didn’t deserve. She hadn’t told anyone yet - had almost blurted it out to Abigail and Raelle as they had talked through the night, but she hadn’t. The words, no matter how she had tried to force them from her mouth, wouldn’t come.
Now, face to face with Sarah, she hadn’t been able to keep them in even as she tried.
The weight of the admission lifted from her chest, and Tally felt it release, but she pressed her eyes closed harder. She couldn’t bear to see whatever look her mind would conjure onto Sarah’s face.
Guilt of a different nature swept across her. Sarah had been trying to talk to her and Tally had done what she had always done and blurted out much more than she had ever anticipated doing.
Tally opened her eyes with a deep breath. If she was going to release this off of her chest, she was going to deal with the consequences.
Sarah stood unmoving for a moment. Tally watched her throat work over a hard swallow before she nodded. She dropped her gaze from Tally’s face and then nodded once again.
Tally felt a pang of hurt arc across her chest and reached up to press a hand tight against it.
Sarah swallowed hard once again and then looked up. Tally could see a tinge of coldness there.
“Did she force you?”
Suddenly the coldness in Sarah’s eyes, moments before so open, made sense. Tally pushed herself up onto her feet and shook her head fast.
“No. No, I …”
She paused and swallowed her next words down. It was another sign that her action had been entirely the wrong one to take.
With a sigh, Tally dropped her gaze.
Silence hung heavy in the air. Tally wanted to look up, but couldn’t bring herself to do so. Seeing a life she couldn’t have had hurt her for certain, but to see Sarah’s eyes cold in anger towards her after seeing them hold nothing but love? Tally didn’t think she could stand it.
Shame rolled over her in waves and Tally ran a hand through her hair anxiously.
“I know you’re maybe angry with me, but I couldn’t not tell you.”
“No. I’m … I’m not angry with you.”
Sarah’s voice was soft, uncertain. The tremor of emotion she heard brought Tally’s eyes up immediately. Sarah’s wet gaze was unwavering. Tally stuttered at the honesty there.
She felt the explicit need to explain everything. The tension in her chest pulled once again and she took a tentative step forward.
“I was sinking beneath the grief and anger, and I was drunk and I just …”
Sarah’s eyes did not waver. “Wanted to feel anything else.”
The understanding there was almost overwhelming and Tally felt a tear slip down her face.
Sarah stared at it, eyes tracking it as it slid before she nodded.
Silence held again before Sarah cleared her throat and swallowed loudly.
“Did you get what you needed from the encounter?”
Tally was caught in the unwavering, watery gaze locked on her face. She expected Sarah to be so disappointed, angry, accusatory, but she almost seemed determined to hide what seemed like hurt instead.
It was confusing to say the least.
Tally’s voice wouldn’t rise above a whisper as she stared.
“No. I thought I could, but it just further showed me how wrong that was.”
Sarah tilted her head to the side and studied her momentarily.
Volumes of explanation tumbled around each other to be released. Tally reached up and wiped another tear as it began its fall, a sad chuckle pressing itself from her lips. She turned her eyes back to lock onto Sarah’s and shook her head sadly.
“Because what I want can’t happen. What I need is a future that I am never going to have and it’s eating me up inside. It’s...”
Her words stuttered to a halt as what looked like relief flashed across Sarah’s face. Tally didn’t understand how that could be. Was her mind merely giving her a way to begin to fully release her guilt? Was Sarah’s reaction how she’d openly wish she’d respond in real life had they been able to have this conversation?
Sarah nodded over at her hesitation. “Say what’s on your mind.”
Images of a stolen moment in the Infirmary from so long ago flashed through Tally’s mind.
Tally sighed at the importance of the moment. Clearly talking to Abigail and Raelle had given her mind permission to deal with her turbulent emotions and if she was going to get to talk to Sarah as herself, then she might as well actually tell her everything, too.
Tally looked to the side into the nebulous everchanging mist of their surroundings and spread her arms wide. With a disbelieving shake of her head, she dropped her arms to her sides.
“It’s always been you.”
Sarah’s eyebrows scrunched tightly, and Tally watched as she gulped in an unsteady breath.
Swatting a stray tear once again, Tally took another step forward. Sarah’s gaze raked over her and Tally watched as her eyes watered once again.
“Always. And I know I was the silly lovelorn cadet, and then the woman at your side amongst many, and then the one who couldn’t see past her own need for the truth when I thought you were lying to me and I just… it’s you, Sarah. It’s you I want and I …”
Tally had always known that she had a problem with saying just too far beyond what she should, and it often caused her great distress to feel like she couldn’t control her mouth when she was nervous. Somehow, this moment seemed infinitely more important than nerve wracking, however.
She may not have this chance again.
She put a hand to her mouth and wiped softly.
Her voice was low when she lowered her hand to speak.
“Do you know I’ve seen our life together? Our daughter?”
Sarah’s lip trembled and Tally took another step forward.
“Amilia. She’s a little miniature you and she’s this perfect little human being. She’s always running and jumping and she loves to fight for the rights of trees. She’s outspoken and she loves to laugh.”
Tears were freely pooling in her eyes now and Tally allowed them to fall without care. A soft sob pushed from her lips and she shook her head.
“And you are such a phenomenal mother. And I just keep having these dreams and seeing these things and Nicte - it just reminds me how very far away they will always be. Because you aren’t here and because even if you were, there is so much that I did wrong.”
Sarah shifted her gaze upwards and inhaled slow and deep. Tally watched a solitary tear slide down her cheek, watched as Sarah raised one trembling hand to wipe it away.
When she returned her gaze to Tally’s, the raw want that Tally saw reflected there made her chest ache with warmth.
“Thank you …”
Sarah closed her mouth tight, swept her gaze to the side and inhaled deeply again. She closed her eyes slowly and then opened them, steadier. Tally watched as she took a step towards her.
“Thank you for telling me that.”
Tally could feel an unending desire to confess something of an entirely different nature as love and longing blossomed across her chest. She let her gaze roam over Sarah’s face and smiled a trembling smile.
“I miss you so much.”
Sarah’s breath left her in a quiet gasp.
“I miss you, too.”
Tally released a shaky breath at the confession and Sarah, gaze held steady, took another step forward.
“I need you to hear me. There is much to discuss between us, but what is important now is that you be vigilant. Things are going to change quickly. They already are. You are being hunted and it’s your sight that can guide you and your sisters to safety. And this guilt you feel? You must push past it. You must be on your highest alert. Especially now.”
The tone of Sarah’s voice, the warning she uttered was too close to the reality of their situation. Tally’s brow scrunched slowly as she turned to look at their surroundings once again.
“This is different than the other dreams.”
She spun her gaze back around to the woman who was so close to her now.
“Sarah… what is going on?”
Sarah reached out slowly, and Tally felt the feather light brush of her fingertips down her cheek.
“The time is coming, I promise. Just hold on to faith, Tally Craven and trust me. Please.”
Tally was certain there were words behind the words, but Sarah merely pushed forward.
“You need to make your way to a town called Northum. There is a native witch there - Kyia. Seek her out.”
Tally’s eyes darted back and forth across Sarah’s face.
Sarah face pinched with emotion. “Please, Tally. Trust me… and trust yourself. Trust yourself above everyone else. Lean on your sisters and stay vigilant. Will you do that?”
She didn’t know when Sarah had gotten so close that she need only whisper. Tally felt her heartbeat quicken and nodded immediately.
One more ghosting of fingertips drifted Tally’s eyes closed.
“I do not want you to sink into grief, Tally. There is nothing to be guilty for anymore.”
Tally’s eyes opened immediately, a rebuttal on her lips. Sarah held a finger to them before she could even open them.
Sarah’s gaze bore into her, and Tally’s eyes drifted from pools of blue to her lips without thought. She was so close that Tally could feel warmth radiating off of her.
She did not trust her voice, so merely raised her eyes back to find Sarah’s once again and nodded.
Sarah’s eyes darted all over her face once more and then dropped to blatantly glance at her lips. Tally felt her pulse quicken as Sarah’s tongue darted out unconsciously to wet her own. Another step closed the remaining distance between them.
Tally tensed in anticipation as their eyes locked and merely held. Wordlessly, Sarah reached forward slowly and Tally forgot to breathe.
Sarah paused for the briefest moment, then dropped her gaze to the chain that held Tally’s military medal. Her eyes flicked back up briefly before she raised her hand and pressed her fingers to the links softly.
Tally eyes fluttered as each reverent brush of Sarah’s fingers sent a wave of goosebumps spreading across her skin. When she opened them slowly, Sarah’s eyes were on hers again.
Tally watched her throat work as she swallowed before her whisper pressed against Tally’s cheek.
”Then you must wake up.”
Tally gasped softly awake and stared quietly at the far wall of her bedroom.
She pushed slowly up in the bed, mind suddenly racing with impossible scenarios. She could still feel the warmth of Sarah’s breath on her face, could still smell the faint woody scent of her.
With a soft, uncertain sigh, Tally reached up and fingered the military medal that she still wore around her neck. The chain links were warm against her fingertips.
Faint voices carried through the doorway, and she turned her head towards them. By the sheer number of them, something had to have happened.
She pushed up and out of the bed easily, took two steps towards the door and pressed out into the hallway. Nicte, Scylla, Abigail, and Raelle were all standing above the table in the kitchen as she moved into the room.
A map lay unrolled in front of them.
“If you’re not going to change your appearance, then we have to stick to the back roads. We can’t risk going into heavily populated areas. Not now. Our best bet is a Spree safehouse in the Midlow Valley.”
Khalida’s eyes landed on her immediately and Tally smiled at her. The girl’s eyes scanned her for a moment, probing, before she smiled easily at what she found there. It was a direct contrast to the tension that the others held in their shoulders.
“What’s going on?”
Abigail spun around first, but it was Raelle who pointed down at the map and pressed closer to it.
“No, that’s going to be too risky. We need to make our way along the border of Teaton and then cut back across north. I know people there, they can put us up.”
Nicte sighed angrily and looked up just as Tally pressed closer to the table and turned her head to study down at the spaces each of them were indicating.
“And that would work if we had all the time in the world, but Silver’s just publicly put a bounty on you three. We don’t know who to trust right now.”
Raelle pressed to her full height and scoffed.
“We trust the people I know. If we can get to Teaton I know that we can…”
Excitement coursed through her as she stared down at the small, dark word spelled out inconspicuously on the map. How was that possible?
She could feel six pairs of eyes on her suddenly, but it was Nicte who spoke.
Tally didn’t look up at her, but merely cocked a brow and pointed.
“Northum. We go there.”
Tally could not remember the last time she had felt such excitement, such certainty of a course of action. She raised her head and stared directly at Nicte.
“Because I had a vision and I’m trusting it.”
From the corner of her eye, she saw Abigail grin. It pushed another wave of certainty through her and she stood to her full height.
“My powers are stronger. My sight is stronger. I’ve been feeling it for a while now and I’m not going to doubt it again. We go to Northum. We find a witch named Kyia. That’s what we do.”
She stared at Nicte defiantly and watched as Raelle turned to look at Scylla, who glanced over at Quinn who looked down at the map with a nod.
“We could get there easy enough.”
Nicte’s dark eyes bored into Tally, but she merely jutted her chin out and took a deep breath. Sarah’s words echoed in her mind.
“Either you trust me and my sight or you don’t.”
Nicte cocked her head to one side, dropped her gaze down to the map and nodded. With a quick glance back up at Tally, she reached forward and began to roll the map slowly.
“Ok. Red wins. Northum it is.”
Sarah jolted and gasped loudly.
The sound of the door to the room being roughly opened filled her ears before she could even open her eyes.
Izadora’s questioning voice was curious, but clinical.
Sarah raised an unsteady hand, squeezed her eyes closed tighter, and nodded.
Do you know I’ve seen our life together? Our daughter?
A laugh hiccuped out of her quickly before she could stop it and she opened her eyes to Anacostia’s questioning gaze.
Sarah shook her head and held a hand aloft. Izadora immediately grasped it and pulled gently.
“Did it work?”
Sarah lifted her eyes to sweep across the two women in front of her and smiled.
“Yes. I spoke to Craven. She wants to believe it’s me but has her doubts, obviously.”
Tally’s words describing their daughter poured through her mind on repeat and Sarah felt her heart swell at the very thought of a little girl with dark hair and dimples who spoke for the rights of trees.
Anacostia’s eyes were probing and Sarah could feel the question in them before she could speak it. With a raised hand, Sarah shook her head and tried to assuage the unspoken fears. She knew what she was about to say wouldn’t make a lot of sense to the others, but hope wasn’t something she would allow herself to dwell upon for long. Not like this.
“Things haven’t changed, but they did get more complicated. Tally is having dreams. Premonitions, but that is a fickle art at the best of times.”
She craved the picture Tally had painted, but she knew in her heart that it was too risky to do so. She had seen premonitions be misunderstood, misinterpreted and outright wrong. The future was not set in stone and could be changed by any minute action.
Still, the notion that in some future there could be a child? Their child? It was a powerful pull.
“But for a Knower of her power? Now amped up because she’s still connected to a supercharged you?”
Anacostia’s voice held disbelief and Sarah looked up at her. Sometimes Anacostia was too observant. Hope clawed at her insides, daring to be let in and Sarah swallowed against the dangerous allure of it.
“I’ve got to go.”
Izadora nodded and stepped back to stand side by side with Anacostia. She knitted her arms across her chest and Sarah watched the worry crawl across her features.
“Do you have everything you need?”
Sarah turned a glance to Anacostia who took a deep breath and answered Izadora for her.
“Provisions have been gathered. Everything you asked for is packed and ready to go.”
Izadora took a quick step forward, arms wide as she finally voiced what Sarah could see was eating at her.
“How will you get in safely? The Cession isn’t safe for you. Not with the Camarilla making waves like they are.”
Sarah crooked a tiny grin.
“I helped found the Cession. No matter what some believe, there are those who will always welcome me there. I’ve sent them to Northum to a safehouse. Once I’m in the Cession’s barriers, I’ll be able to farspeech Kyia.”
Anacostia’s brows pinched together immediately in question. “The Ojibwe?”
“With my emotions and power fluctuating as they are, it’s too dangerous to leave to chance. I think she’s the only one who can help me.”
Without another word, Sarah stepped forward and grasped Izadora’s hands. She turned them over in her own hands and held them softly, upturned in an older gesture of gratitude.
“I cannot thank you enough for what you have done; for what you continue to do for witches and for me. You are a true friend and I count myself lucky for that.”
Izadora opened her mouth once, twice, and then closed it. Her eyes were watery as she merely nodded and smiled. Sarah knew that the woman was not prone to emotional outbursts, but in war, she was aware that this may be the last time they saw each other.
Sarah smiled a genuine smile back and then turned her head towards Anacostia.
Anacostia pointed at her immediately.
“Don’t dare look at me like you’re saying goodbye. We both know this is only for a while.”
Sarah smiled a tight-lipped smile. Life and war had taught her different, but she knew that her daughter needed the lie.
She reached over, cupped Anacostia’s face with her hand, and allowed her eyes to drink in the sight of her features.
“I am so very proud of you.”
Anacostia’s lip quivered for one moment before Sarah leaned forward and pulled her into a tight embrace. Anacostia’s arms encircled her fast and hard.
Sarah closed her eyes and pressed a gentle kiss against the top of Anacostia’s head.
When she pulled back gently, Anacostia’s face was determined.
Pride swelled within Sarah’s chest once more before she turned to look at Izadora.
Izadora nodded tightly. Sarah squeezed Anacostia’s forearms one last time. She allowed herself one last look at both witches before her then turned, pushed through the doorframe and was gone.