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No Other Shade of Blue but You

Chapter Text

The moon hovered at her highest point in the inky sky, but cloud cover allowed her light to break through sparingly. Thankfully, the woods around them as far as she could see were silent. There were no shadows that her Sight picked up, no colors dancing beyond the wards that swam in the air around them.

A younger her would have marveled with a smile at the beauty of the magic as it filled the air. But nowadays that joy felt like the distant memory of a faraway occurrence, buried deep within her and inaccessible.

With a deep sigh, Tally crossed her arms and leaned heavily against the back of the porch swing. She pushed softly back, the high-pitched squeak of the chain the only sound against the gentle breeze of the night air. She knew the others were asleep upstairs in their stolen refuge, exhausted and jumpy after so long on the road. She had volunteered to take watch without fanfare. It was necessary and after everything that Nicte had laid bare that she suspected had been hidden by the others, Tally refused to disturb them with the burden. She would sleep sparingly anyway – may as well be useful.

They had driven another five days straight after the fight, sleeping in shifts. Nicte and Scylla wore different faces as they stopped to fill the bus, buy food, and scout for information. Quinn had made contact with a few dodgers she knew around them when it had been safer to do so.

Everyone had held their breath, but there had been no good news from Fort Salem. Not that Tally had expected there to be. General Bellweather was in Washington dodging the blame for the escape of the group and laying the responsibility at the feet of the government who had forced her to turn them over. Senators and the White House alike had threatened her with everything they could think of, but Petra had held true that she had done everything that she had been asked. She had handed her own daughter over at the command of those who now lit the torches for the very ones they had depended upon for protection.

It was tense to say the least.

They got news sparingly and only received information from gossip and overheard conversations. They didn’t trust the newspapers they came across and all too often found their own faces staring back at them. The news of Sarah Alder’s stepping down and subsequent death was complicatedly received at best. Some of those they passed were saddened. Some were terrified of what would happen now that the one tasked with their protection for so long was gone. Some were gleeful that the woman who bore responsibility for signing witches away to a government that hated them was finally dead and some were openly cheering the death of the face of witchkind. Free now of a looming perceived threat, it seemed that those that she and her sisters had signed their lives away to protect, those that Sarah had given everything to protect, were quick to parrot hatred she had long thought dead. Clearly she had been wrong.

She had been able to ignore the comments time after time because she had been in flight mode. But Tally was shocked to discover just how quickly her ability to drown out the words had fallen away. She had done so multiple times by the night she had realized the reality of the world, but that night had slammed things into such perspective that she hadn’t been able to process it all yet.

She had pushed through the restroom door into a dimply lit roadside diner when a particularly loud laugh grated her already frayed nerves. A balding man in the corner sat surrounded by three other men as he laughed again and pointed at the others.

“Just a shame, boys. Too bad I never got a chance to meet the whore. Coulda given her what she wanted before she crumpled up and blew away. Can you imagine? 300 years making storms - bet she was real good at blowing.

The three men at his table cackled at the statement and Tally had frozen.

The blood pounded in her ears and she was moving before she could even register it.

Scylla suddenly pushed her way into her line of sight and her grip on Tally’s wrist made her loosen the military dagger she didn’t even realize she had been holding. Tally stared down at it without knowing what she had been going to do.

When she looked back up, Scylla shook her head slightly and merely pushed the dagger back into Tally’s pocket softly. She tossed a glance at the still cackling man as she pointedly guided Tally towards the exit.

Tally had stayed on the bus with her hood pulled up after that. She had been offered the option of changing her appearance, but the temptation of wearing another’s face so she could stretch her legs again was too dangerous. Without the danger of being recognized, she was afraid of what she may do if presented with another moment like the one at the diner. There was a part of her that relished the idea of being someone else for a little while, but somewhere deep inside, she would not allow it.

So she had stayed there in the chair, moving without thought when needed, but refusing to do so otherwise. She refused to sleep, too lost in the dissolution of the worldview she had always held and the guilt that ravaged her at her defending of it. She knew she was likely in shock still, experiencing PTSD of some kind certainly. Her training explicitly told her as much. She wanted to go through the modes - to lean on the training of the Army, of Sarah, but she felt numb. She couldn’t shake it, couldn’t name it, and couldn’t accept it.

And then Nicte had Slept her. After the fight on the side of the road, she had raged in the woods, destroying trees with wind strikes so powerful, she was unsure how she had produced them. She knew the woman’s words were true. She knew she was putting her sisters and friends in danger when they needed her Sight the most. She was already responsible for too much and she wouldn’t allow that to be on her, too. She wanted to fight, to protect them, but she felt ripped apart. Adrift in the ocean without an anchor to help moor her. She had wordlessly come back to Abigail and Raelle waiting outside of the bus. They had simply nodded to her as she passed wordlessly. She’d tugged her hood up and stared out the window as she dropped into an empty seat in the back of the bus.

That had been days ago. She’d tried to take Nicte’s words to heart. When the remembered lilt of General Alder’s voice lecturing them on the importance of sleep where they could find it in a combat situation flitted through her mind, she’d closed her eyes and allowed sleep to take her.

Because that was what their life was now. An active, drawn-out combat situation. A fight for their lives. The least she could do after everything she had already done was to make sure to implement what Sarah had taught her. She owed her at least that

The fight between she and Nicte was still raw. Raelle and Abigail were surprisingly uncertain around her, and it had bothered Tally more than she knew how to express. She tried to tell herself that it was their own response to everything they had experienced that was causing the distance between them, but she couldn’t help but think perhaps it was more.

After all, it was her who had dragged them into the impromptu unseating of their general. They had been right next to her when she had stared into Penelope’s frightened eyes before killing her and they were right next to her when she’d stared into Sarah’s tired gaze.

Sarah.

She had often wondered how to rectify the soldier she had idolized with the woman beneath. She had seen the facade beneath when they had been connected through the Biddy link. Their time had been brief, and Tally had only caught glimpses, but the overwhelming emptiness she had felt in Sarah at times had left a gaping ache in her own chest. The other Biddies shielded her as much as possible, she had felt them doing so, but shakingly deep moments had come through anyway. After the de-biddying, she felt it echo down the connection Sarah denied they still shared; felt it amplified by the bone deep ache of missing her that was supposed to have been lessening. She had laid awake with it at night as her sisters slept, trying to understand how Sarah had been so effective in closing herself off when Tally knew the fountain of emotion that she carried beneath. She found herself mirroring her unconscious physical moments as the bond remained intact, at least for her, and she couldn’t help as she made sure to watch her from afar. The ache was so consuming - she had physically needed to know that Sarah was ok. When Sarah would smile, however briefly, she would smile too, happy beyond measure to see the demons chased away fleetingly. The unending sadness that was Sarah’s constant companion would always slide back into place, however, kept at bay behind a ramrod posture and clasped hands. Only now, Tally had been able to see right through it.

Perhaps that was why Sarah’s eyes had held such hurt when she had asked Tally what she was doing in the hangar. Maybe Sarah had lied after all about the link being gone… the thought only made the ache grow.

So, Tally had stared out the window and decided on day three of the drive that she would take on one more trait from the woman.

She didn’t think Sarah would mind. After all, if she could manage 300 years of the weight she had carried, Tally could handle hers. When Raelle and Abigail stopped actively attempting to cheer her up every hour, she assumed her soldier’s mask had finally successfully slid into place.

Somewhere wherever she was, Tally liked to think Sarah would be proud of her.

The jumbled thoughts slid to a halt when she heard Nicte’s gruff voice cut through the darkness.

“We’re getting close. Pull over.”

Tally watched as Scylla exchanged a glance with her in the rearview mirror and then wordlessly did as she asked. The air on the bus was tense as Nicte stood, eyes scanning the woods around them.

“Red.”

Tally pushed up wordlessly and stood. She bent as she moved slowly towards the front of the bus, knowing without being asked what Nicte was asking. With a steadying breathe, she allowed her Sight to accompany her vision through the windows.

“It’s clear.”

She chanced a glance back at Raelle then and the blonde dropped her gaze shakily before she turned her eyes towards the woods again. Tally felt the sigh raise in her chest even as she watched Nicte nod and tap the seatback gently.

“Good.”

Nicte’s hand was on her arm suddenly and Tally swallowed hard against the eruptions of emotions at another’s touch unhesitatingly against her. Nicte squeezed gently and Tally wordlessly sidestepped as she moved towards Scylla. Tally’s eyes slid back towards her sisters as uncertainty blossomed in her gut. When her eyes caught sight of Abigail’s hand on Adil’s knee she dropped her eyes quickly. Nicte leaned close to Scylla in the driver’s seat as she bent down to scour outside the front windshield again and hummed quietly. Tally turned back to them.

“If I’m not back in five minutes, assume I’m not coming back and go.”

Scylla looked up sharply, staring like she was going to argue, but Tally watched her swallow whatever she was going to say as Nicte’s dark eyes held her own.

She nodded once and opened the door without another word. Nicte bounded down the stairs silently and disappeared into the darkness before the doors had even closed again behind her. She had returned after several tense, silent minutes and directed them quietly to the empty farmhouse on the outskirts of the wood line. From there, the call of a good night’s rest proved to be too much for everyone.

Everyone but her.

The chain on the swing above her squeaked once again and Tally blinked away the memory and stared into the surrounding darkness.

Had she brought witchkind to this place? Would this be their reality now if she had just stopped back then? If she had backed off of her incessant need to know the truth she thought she wanted and just listened when Sarah had told her to? She had always been so certain in her convictions that the truth was worth everything, but she wasn’t sure she believed that now.

She remembered the rise and fall of Sarah’s chest in the hanger as she removed her bars and she remembered Sarah’s eyes as she said goodbye. She had seen the weight, the exhaustion, the acceptance. Sadness at things unsaid.

But everything in those final moments together had happened too fast and then had felt just too late. After the decision she had had to make with Penelope, the pit within her chest had fractured deeper with the knowledge that she had finally understood what the pain of a greater good decision had meant to Sarah, but then Sarah had just been gone. Everyone else had been too frightened to move as blue eyes held her own, but Tally could not have kept her hand from Sarah Alder’s cheek if someone had her at the tip of a scourge.

Tally shook the image away.

It wasn’t like it mattered now anyway. The woman she had so desperately wanted to know was no longer able to tell her anything and Tally hadn’t even asked the questions she should have; definitely not the ones she had wanted to. She had been too cowardly, too young and naïve, perhaps. Now in the silence of the night, all she could do was admonish herself for never asking Sarah Alder the things that had really mattered.

How had she carried the weight of the existence she was forced to live for so long? When the aching devastation of what she had borne witness to had to give way to the weight of the world without a moment to truly mourn it, how had she endured? Had she just wanted someone to understand? To give her respite for a moment? Did she ache at night for something she couldn’t name?

Had she felt like this?

A sudden wave of the familiar emptiness that she had sometimes shouldered when they had been connected washed over her, and Tally rubbed at her chest as if the action could soothe the ache away. She knew it wouldn’t. It hadn’t worked when she had tried it in her bed in the Biddy’s dorm and it hadn’t worked when she had cried herself to sleep in her own dorm room when Sarah had released her.

As the futile movements slowed, Tally merely held her hand against the ache in her chest and opened her eyes.

Somewhere in the distance, the lonely cry of a single owl echoed.