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“They have returned home safe from the funeral.”

Sylvia’s voice lacks its usual edge, and her gaze remains stoic, level.

“I was under the impression I was summoned for another mission brief,” his quiet voice rings out in the small room that is empty save for their presence.

“This operation is extremely crucial and there will be no addition to your workload until it is complete. I just- I thought you would need to know.”

“I trust WISE to handle the situation without leaving loopholes or either of them coming to harm. If there’s nothing else, I’ll be heading out.” He stands, wrapping himself in his trenchcoat to keep out the biting cold.

“Don’t do this, Twilight.”

“Unless there was a misunderstanding, I believe my current mission is urgent and my time would be better spent-“

“Twilight.”

“-engaging the next stage of the plan-“

Twilight!

The slight wobble in Sylvia’s voice is enough to stop him in his tracks. He meets her gaze with one of his own, calm and in control.

“You can’t do this forever.”

He wills a corner of his lips to tick up in a confident smirk. “Watch me.”

The mirth in his voice is like a knife to the throat, but Sylvia forces her words.

“You didn’t have to make this choice. We were ready to support you - I would have supported you if you had chosen otherwise. But you don’t have to forget them completely, or refuse news of them or their well being - I know it matters to you. You cannot bottle it all up and move on from something this impactful.”

“You know you could not take a risk that large, either alone or with WISE's support. I am too hot of a target and my cover would be an operation in itself. Besides, in your own words, this mission is extremely crucial. Given my choice to disappear and move on to other objectives was approved of, I doubt I would be asking too much of WISE if I requested to be kept unaware of their movements unless it interfered with my work.”

“You have refused even a break to collect yourself. You are not in good shape, Twilight. You will compromise your own work if you don’t-“

“Nothing will ever cause me to compromise my work.” His voice gains an edge, sharp like the edges of a shattered vase. “I have nothing more to say here. If I may, I’d like to get back to it.”

“By that you mean, you’d like to get back to the objective that involves a suicide mission as a backup plan?”

He stills, then lets out a breath. “I never said anything about such a backup plan.”

“Not to WISE, no. But your notebook holds a rough outline. Don’t worry, you never forgot to secure your little apartment. It is only compromised to me.”

Twilight’s gaze turns sharp. “I wouldn’t be too concerned. The main course of action is solid and any unforeseen circumstances should be within control. The objective will be accomplished one way or another, simply because it must be. Are we done?”

“The point isn’t the viability of the main course of action, Twilight! It’s what you will do if it fails!” Sylvia barks out, taking to her feet and shoving her chair back in one strong motion.

Twilight is silent again, and she walks around the desk to stand before him with folded arms.

"You have prevented so much strife," Sylvia continues, her voice low and unusually gentle. "You have risked your life over and over to keep the peace and take down any threat to civilians who will never know you for over a decade. You are the finest of all of us - for a time, you have almost singlehandedly kept WISE afloat when we were stretched thin. You deserve to be a little selfish, now. WISE would-"

"Again, if I am not mistaken, I was offered this opportunity because of everything that qualifies me to be the one WISE trusts to pull it off. Strix bought us time, but if this operation fails, war will be imminent and inevitable. The week I asked for with my- with them after Desmond was dealt with was enough, and I am very grateful for the favor." Twilight folds his arms. "I need to get back to work. There are a million ways things can go wrong and we can never be overprepared."

Sylvia stares at the man in front of her. There is a new fire in the calm, placid lake of his eyes, and she worries it will consume him whole. 

She takes a step back, never breaking his gaze, and folds her own arms.

"Nightfall was at the funeral as well," she says, and watches him go rigid in anticipation. "She reports that Ms. Briar did not speak beyond trying to console the child, and that the child in question technically did not speak at all because -"

"Stop it."

"-she could not stop screaming or wailing for her father, and that she caught her mumbling to Ms. Briar that her father was not dead, that she wanted him to return, and that she couldn't figure out where he had gone. I'm sure the empty casket did nothing to help her feelings of denial." 

Twilight says nothing, his jaw clenched tighter than his fists.

"Ms. Briar has been by to visit the destroyed building thrice after the explosion," she presses on. "They could not restrain her from digging through the rubble for any sign of you the day they were given the news-"

"Stop," his voice breaks. He takes a breath, and he grips the metal frame of the chair. "Stop. I don't need to hear any of this."

"I disagree," Sylvia retorts. "It would've been easier on you to have listened to me two minutes ago."

Twilight is silent once more, but when he straightens and squares his shoulders, the only trace of his distress is the tear-tracks along his cheeks, and the frame of the chair left dented within an inch of giving way. 

He turns, and steps away to the door. Before he slips out, he casts a glance back over his shoulder. "Expect an update within forty-eight hours. If I need backup, I will get in touch."

The door slams behind him, and Sylvia stares at it.

 

-

 

"Yor, are you awake?" Twilight knocks softly, and rests his forehead on the door, waiting for the groggy little groan he usually hears in response.

Instead, the door opens within moments, and with no warning by way of footfalls, Twilight almost stumbles into Yor's arms.

"Loid!" she grabs him, even as he steadies himself. "I woke up a little over an hour ago. Don't worry, the hangover's gone! I'm all better, look!~"

He lets a soft, genuine smile shine through, and it widens when Yor flushes a red as deep as her eyes when she sees it. "I see it," he says. "You look great."

Yor fumbles and cups her own cheeks in her hands, grinning. "You you! I mean. Um. Thank you. You too. But you always look great, so I don't mean you don't otherwise, I just- I- you-"

He bends forward and quickly pecks her lips with a little kiss. Yor shuts down before his eyes, her jaw dropping - before she waves her arms, squeals in confusion, and shoves past him to run to the kitchen. Twilight finds he doesn't mind the air being knocked out of his lungs if it's Yor that manages it.

A month ago, when the end was in sight, Twilight took a plunge into uncharted waters - he let her in on his feelings, quickly learned that they were reciprocated, and discovered that he would never tire of his wife reacting to the revelation every day as though falling together was not something they had been tiptoeing around for the better part of two years.

He follows, stretching lazily along the way. "Did you enjoy the gathering last night, Yor? You seemed so happy, but I don't think we had the chance to talk about it."

"Oh!" Yor whirls around, eyes twinkling. "I did! Oh, it was a beautiful night. Anya looked so proud to have made Imperial Scholar! I think the mess she made was adorable. The others didn't seem to mind, either."

"She's a happy little bundle of chaos, but that's okay."

Yor nods vigorously, then shrugs, her gaze turning mildly thoughtful. "I suppose I felt a little bad Damian's father left so soon, but it was nice to see he was not alone despite it. And I wish you could've stayed longer, too - but it's okay! I understand emergency patients must be tended to." She smiles, her cheeks dusted with red. "At least we all have the week off to spend together. That more than makes up for it, I think."

Twilight smiles, and feels tension seep out of his frame at the reminder - the success of this operation would be something he would learn to get used to, after three years of work and complete unpredictability of the ways a long-term objective such as this could get out of his control.

But maybe, by the end of the week, he would be ready to move on from it instead.

No, Twilight, he reminds himself. We have one week. What comes after will be dealt with when it is time.

And so, he steps behind Yor, and circles his arms around her torso, pushing himself close against her. He feels her stiffen, but smiles as she seems to melt in his warm, solid presence. She leans her head back against his neck while she puts together some breakfast sandwiches.

“I love you,” Twilight breathes against her skin. He presses a gentle kiss to her jaw, and it goes slack again. “I love you so much.”

Yor is, as usual, at a loss for words. But then she dismisses the bread in her hands, and turns around in his arms to snuggle in. Her warming face presses into his neck, and he laughs, bringing up a hand to gently play with her hair. “I know, I know. You love me too.”

“I- Loid! I was- I was going to say it!”

Twilight’s heart flutters, and he shoves away every instinct that espionage has beaten into him. “So say it,” he whispers.

Yor scrunches her eyes shut, and wraps her own arms around him. Twilight barely tames a wince. 

“I- I…I love you too,” she splutters. A moment passes, and she seems to collect herself, but Twilight is not prepared for when she raises her head to meet his eyes, her own burning bright with a fierceness, and he sees the love she holds for him in that fire her eyes glint with. 

“I love you,” she states, her voice as firm as Twilight’s knees suddenly aren’t.

He lets out a shaky breath, eyes blown wide, and when she drags his head down into a kiss, he falls all over again.

 

-

 

Twilight lets the door click shut behind him, his shoulders dropping as he makes his way to his bed in the small apartment in an empty project in an isolated little neighborhood.

He sits on the edge of the bed, and breaks.

No living souls bear witness to the screams that tear out of this building in the middle of the night.

 

-

 

A shrill scream from Anya’s room shatters Twilight’s sleep.

He bolts out of bed, and faintly registers Yor being shaken awake from the sudden movement as he rushes to his daughter’s room and opens the door.

Anya sits in a miserable little pile in her bed, and starts to cry even as Twilight runs to her and takes her into his arms, and sits near her tossed-around blankets. 

His heart breaks when Anya tries to cry quieter, and brings up his feet to create a little Anya-sized cradle with his body. He rocks her with himself in gentle, calming, repetitive motions.

“Don’t push it down, my angel,” he murmurs into her hair. “Let it out. You aren’t disturbing anyone. Mama will be here soon. Don’t forget - we are here with you because we want to be here. It's okay to cry."

It is all she needs to let her sobs out completely, and tiny fists grasp at her father’s soft night-shirt. Twilight ignores the growing damp patch over his heart, and kisses his daughter’s head over and over, holding her close. He senses another presence, and within seconds another pair of arms wrap around Anya, and Yor completes the little chrysalis that keeps their daughter safe. Anya cries harder, and tries her best to snuggle into them both.

Minutes later, as her cries begin to subside, Twilight cups her little face in his hands. 

“Did you have another nightmare?”

Anya turns her large eyes to him, and forces out words in a broken little voice.

“Will you always wanna be with me?” she asks - earnest, desperate. She turns to look at Yor, and Yor knows the question is meant for her as well. 

She nods hard right away. “There is nothing that would make me not want to be with you, Anya,” she says, firmly even through the lump in her throat. “I love you. I will always love you, and I will always be with you, no matter what. I promise.”

Anya watches her, and nods slowly in relief at the overwhelming honesty in Yor’s words.

She turns back to Twilight.

Four days, Twilight’s mind offers - and is immediately shut down. Then it goes quiet - and he speaks.

“I will always want to be with you,” he murmurs - reverent, quiet. Sincere. “No matter where I am. Every day that I go to work, I want to be with you instead. Every evening you were away on a playdate, I would wait for you to be home and to listen to you telling us about everything you wanted to. Every work trip, there has not been a moment that you weren’t at the back of my mind. I’d wonder if you had eaten, if you’d had a good day at school, if you slept in time, if you were happy. I’d spend my free minutes wanting to come home to you and watch Spy Wars with you.”

He gives her forehead a soft kiss, and nestles her closer into both their arms. “You - and your mother - you two are all I have in the world,” he near whispers. “There is no reality where I would not love you both, and you especially, with everything that I am.”

Anya stares at him, and new tears spring in her eyes even as she calms further.

“So - so…you’ll never leave me, right? You’ll never go away?”

Twilight is silent. It is all he can do to not let his own tears surface, and he bears his heart ripping itself in two with a practiced smile that is yet honest, and loving, and reassuring.

And he braces himself to tell them one last lie.

“Never,” he smiles. “I will always find my way back to you.”

But then Anya cries harder, and burrows into his chest, clinging onto him. “Don’t go away, papa,” she sobs. “Don’t leave Anya, don’t leave mama. I love you- please-“

Twilight panics. He murmurs assurances into her hair, but that doesn’t calm her at all - and it is only when Yor gently wipes his tears that he realizes he is crying, too. Quietly, he lies down on the bed with his girls, curling up to give them as much space as they can comfortably get - and starts to sing, in a tender, warm voice he only realized he had two years ago.

Slowly, his daughter calms, and her sobs abate; Twilight continues to softly sing, and stops long after both his girls have fallen asleep in his arms.

 

-

 

Twilight rolls behind a wall when the last of the mercenaries fall. He pulls down his mask, breathing heavily and deep to check for lung damage from a lodged bullet, and pulls out shards embedded in the skin of his arms without a wince. He makes his way out and toward a small, hidden clearing the moment he is done.

“Twilight?”

“All clear, Franky,” he meets his friend’s eyes. “Let’s head out.”

When they are back on the road, Franky is unusually quiet. Twilight knows he will not want to hear his answer if he asks, and his fingers clench around the wheel.

He asks anyway. “You all right?”

Franky says nothing.

Twilight looks over, before refocusing on the road. “Is there anything we’ve missed?”

“Had you met with Handler earlier this week?”

“How did you-“ he blinks. Never underestimate the informant. Of course. “Yes, I had.”

“What did she want to talk about?”

“You know already.”

“Right! And clearly you didn’t listen, since you’re still here.”

“This is not-“

“I heard you screaming last night, Twilight,” Franky says, voice quiet as though he is mourning. He dismisses Twilight’s sudden glare with a wave of his hand. “I’ll remove the bug the next time I’m there. There's only one, I placed it while you met Handler, and I placed it outside my orders.”

Twilight grits his teeth in annoyance. “I will not defect or compromise this operation in any way. You know that. Why did you bug my apartment?”

“To check on you, you absolute dunce!” Franky swats at Twilight’s arm, and scowls when he is deflected. “I've known you since you tried to shoot me back in the middle of war. I’ve never even seen you sulk and yet, days ago, you spent two hours in the night screaming and crying and everybody and their dog could've guessed what drove you to it if they'd heard. What I didn't know until Handler told me was how reckless you've been since the explosion."

Twilight growls. "It isn't any different from that time with the nuclear weapon, or the terrorist base. Or a dozen other operations. I haven't even mentioned the war yet."

Franky shoots him a look. "Were you anywhere near this reckless during Strix?"

"Don't even-"

"Compare? Oh, I know what you're going to say. It was a different kind of mission and you couldn't afford to drop yourself into death's jaws or it was mostly non-violent up until the finale or yada yada yada." Franky scoffs, gazing out the window. "But you're a liar who bullshits even himself, and you're in so deep you will not listen to the truth even if it kicks you in the face."

"You need to stay out of my business," Twilight growls again, and swerves to park the car off road. Franky watches, not batting an eye, as Twilight turns to him in quiet rage.

"You, Handler - everyone that feels as though it's their job to tell me I could've chosen differently. It was my choice. It was in everyone's best interest-"

"Except yours, of course."

"My best interests are the same as WISE's. We are faceless, Franky. Nameless. We are shadows. We only function if we have nothing to lose but our own lives. There is no reason I should compromise the entire organization just because- ...because..."

He closes his eyes, turns his face away from his friend's knowing gaze.

"Because you grew to love the family you brought together," Franky gives him a soft, sad smile.

He hears a shuddering breath, and Twilight turns to face him again, but doesn't meet his eyes this time.

"Like I said," he murmurs, "this decision was calculated and is - or will eventually be - the best outcome for everyone involved. It took innumerable resources and a constant level of risk to maintain the cover I did for three years. It could not have continued indefinitely and blowing my cover or exchanging it for a new one was no option. That aside," Twilight swallows, and licks his lips in a (desperate, Franky knows) successful effort to keep his composure. "My d- I meant, the girl and her mother deserve a real family, either with each other or with someone whose existence isn't just an elaborate lie. They will move on from this with time. Whatever they choose from this point on, I have made sure they will never want for anything for the rest of their lives. There is nothing more to it than that."

"Your daughter, you said."

"No-"

"Don't play with me, Twilight."

"My daughter," he says, his voice raw and angry. "There. I will always be her father, whether it remains that way for her or not. But I will not compromise their safety or WISE's work any longer, because I refuse to let her grow up in the middle of another war. Stay out of my business."

Franky swears he sees tears glisten in his eyes before he blinks. Then he turns and starts the van again. "That said, I do have one request."

"Whatever it is, consider it done once you're ready with the details," comes the quiet response, and Twilight nods.

Franky turns back toward the window. 

"The woman who took you in and trained you hard enough for you to become the best agent we have was ready to let you go, and yet..."

Twilight ignores him.

 

-

 

"I can't believe it's Monday already. I almost don't want to go to work," Yor giggles.

"Anya doesn't wanna to go to school either!" she screeches brightly. Twilight thinks he picks up a slight wobble in her voice, so he gives her little headpats.

"I won't stop either of you from staying home, but I do have to get to work myself," he offers, sheepishly, standing up after finishing breakfast. He collects his girls' empty plates - one last time, before he wills away the thought - when he passes them on his way to the kitchen.

"Can Anya come with you to work again, Papa?" she asks, way too loudly, and hops off her chair to run to her father and glue herself to his leg. Yor follows once she clears the table.

"I would love that, but not today, Anya," he says as he rushes through the dishes. Within a moment, he finishes and dries his hands, then crouches down and cups her little face in them, giving her his best smile. "My appointments today are not exactly...friendly. I have to be careful myself while I meet with them."

"But- but! But Anya knows to fight!" she pipes up - is that desperation in her voice? - and grabs the collar of his shirt. "If they get near me, I'll go ka-pow! Mama taught me!"

He huffs a little laugh, then hugs her close - and is shocked to find himself wincing from the vice-grip her arms have on his neck. "I'm sure you can, my love, but I'd really rather not take the risk. I'll try to come home early today, though - would you like that? We could go out for ice cream, and maybe dinner, too." He pats her back.

Yor kneels next to them, and gently pries Anya from his arms. Anya bores her gaze into her father's. "I think that would be great, don't you?" she grins into her daughter's cheek. "But the thing is, the sooner he leaves, the sooner he can come home! And maybe, if you go to school today, you won't even notice when it's suddenly time to come home again. Okay? Come on, off we go!" Yor stands and fetches Anya's backpack along with her own work bag, and waits for Twilight to catch up at the door. 

Twilight runs a cursory gaze over the house, takes up his briefcase, and follows suit.

Anya forces her way to a seat by the window on the bus, and resolutely keeps her gaze on her father until her bus rounds a corner.

Yor smiles, and kisses Twilight's cheek. "I'll see you soon, okay?"

Twilight finds he cannot move.

He stares after the bus for what seems like hours, and when the little kiss lands on his cheek, he turns to gaze at Yor instead.

"...Loid, are you all right?"

Twilight swallows. No, he wants to say. I never will be, after today.

"Yeah, yeah, of course," he pretends to snap out of his thoughts, and is about to bend to meet Yor's face - but then he pauses, drops his briefcase, and sweeps Yor off her feet into his arms. Yor shrieks, and he hides a wet laugh in her surprise.

"Loid?" she laughs, breathless, clutching his shoulders as he walks to a quieter spot. "What- I don't-"

"You're incredible, Yor," he whispers, so no one can hear but her. "I couldn't have been luckier than I was to have married you."

Yor fumbles for words while she is set onto her feet again. Twilight lets himself watch for a few seconds, before he kisses her lips, then rests his lips against her forehead. 

"I love you," he whispers again. "See you in a few."

Yor has barely gathered herself enough to respond before he turns smoothly on his heels and walks away, taking his briefcase with him.

.

.

.

"We have news, Mrs. Forger."

.

.

.

"Ma'am, please stay behind the tape- no, ma'am!- Someone hold her back-"

.

.

.

"Ma'am, you have to understand - there is nothing left to bury. There were no survivors-"

.

.

.

"Mama, where's papa?"

"Mama, you're scaring me. Say something!"

"Mama!"

 

-

 

"Franky?"

Franky gives a start, then stands from his seat next to the bed. "Here."

Sylvia walks in, and takes her place on the other side of the bed. "Give me a run-down. You were with him the entire time?"

"I was. There, uh..." he takes a breath, before he starts a recitation. "There were only two at first, as was expected, but a larger crowd was imminent. The assumption was that they all carried concealed weapons. The switch was believable as it has always been and-" Franky suddenly punches the wall. "I can't do this."

Sylvia frowns. "Can't do-"

"It was peaceful enough for around fifteen minutes, but then things escalated and just- the bastard had told me he'd called for backup, but it was just me and I was so worried for him I didn't realize that enough agents could not have arrived without alerting at least one person - it was a planned miracle the way he and I got through and I stayed out of sight. I'd made sure he had a vest on. They... they attacked him the way they'd planned to attack the prime minister, and he took their blows long enough for them to lower their guard. Then he fought back, took them all out but one." 

Franky sits down.

"He'd...he'd taken stabs to his arms and legs, and whatever got through the vest would've been minor, but the one person he had left to bleed out in favor of making it back to safety quicker himself somehow got hold of a gun, and-"

He gestures at the bed.

Sylvia has been watching the labored, shallow rise and fall of Twilight's chest, and at Franky's indication, her gaze moves up to land on the bandaged bullet wound in the crook of his neck.

"That last assailant is dead, and the operation was a success," Franky chokes out. "He's lost a lot of blood. They gave him some, but it had been too long since the shot by then. They said it was unlikely he would wake up - he doesn't have a lot of time to do it in, anyway."

She nods, gaze fixed to Twilight's clear, peaceful, too-pale face.

"I'm...sorry for your loss, Franky."

"Yeah, I bet you are," he hisses. "I'm taking a week off."

"No problem."

Franky bristles, then lets out a sigh. "Sorry," he says, quiet. "I know this is a loss for you, too."

"It's fine."

"...yeah, okay. Anyway, there's uh...there's one last thing."

Sylvia looks up. "Yes?"

He takes a long envelope from his coat pocket, and passes it to her. "Twilight requested for the letter inside to remain for their eyes only."

She takes it in her hand, and does not let herself smile at the little ink-pen sketches all over the envelope of tiny bags of peanuts, pistols with silencers, and a spy in a hat and mask swinging around with a little princess wearing little cones near her ears in her hair.

"I assume this is only in case he doesn't make it."

Franky nods.

 

-

 

Yor smiles as she lets Anya paint her nails. "I love this color."

Anya grins - she never grins as wide as she used to, anymore, Yor realizes - and nods. "It looks really pretty on you, Mama."

Yor giggles, soft and muted, and kisses Anya's nose. "If you say so, I believe it."

The soft music that wafts from the radio - one of the little parts of Loid that still lives with them - is interrupted by a knock to their door.

"I'll get it, Mama!"

"Oh, that's okay, my love. I'll be just a moment." She gives her daughter a peck on the cheek and jogs to the door.

When she opens it, a woman with an elegant bun of red hair smiles kindly up at her. "Ms. Briar?"

"Forger," Yor corrects. "Mrs. Forger."

"Oh," the woman's eyes go wide for a second. Then she nods. "I apologize, Mrs. Forger. I'm Ms. Wood. I'm afraid I have a delivery for you."

"A delivery?" she frowns. "Okay, I suppose... um, would you like to come in?"

"I don't think that's necessary, but thank you," she nods. She holds out the envelope. "I was requested to deliver this to you in person."

Yor takes the envelope, confused. "I see."

"Papa is dead."

Yor jumps at the little voice right behind her, and barely stops a sob. "Anya?"

Anya only stares up at the woman at their door. 

Sylvia, in disguise, stares back.

Was it not denial? Did she know, somehow? No, that's preposterous. Maybe the letter did it for her.

But I never said it was from Twilight?

She clears her throat. "Right, I believe it's been a while since Dr. Forger-"

"Is this letter all you're here for, Ms. Wood?"

Sylvia meets Yor's gaze. "Yes."

"Thank you, Ms. Wood. It was nice to meet you."

Sylvia stares, then nods. The door closes the minute she turns to leave.

 

 

"I wanna read it out, Mama."

 

"Let's both read to ourselves, together."

 

On the sofa, Yor cradles Anya close in her arms.

The pages unfold in their hands.

 

 

Anya, Yor,

Have you two been all right?

I'm sorry I didn't get to ask you that question in my own voice, standing before you. But I can't do that for a while, and I'm sorry that this letter will have to fill in for me.

Yor, I'm sorry I never did meet you later that Monday. Please know that I wanted to, more than anything in the world. I spent every second of that day thinking about you both, and I have held you in my heart since I slipped that grenade pin onto your finger. You are the love of my life, and I could never imagine being genuinely happy being at anyone's side but yours. The ring you got me is still on my finger, and there it shall always remain.

Anya, my sweetest little girl, my little bundle of sunshine. I'm sorry. I have made mistakes, right from the time I put you in danger hours after we met to this. I will not try to justify anything I've done that has led to you reading this letter. Nothing excuses my absence. I don't ask for you to forgive me, and I deserve it if you're angry with me. I just need you to know that I love you more than I've ever loved anyone, and that I've loved you ever since I brought you to our first home, even though I hadn't realized it then. 

I won't ask you to be good, Anya, because you are already the best. Don't hesitate to feel weak, to hold onto people, to ask people you trust for help - your mama and your friends love you very, very much, and they will be there for you because they want to be. Don't stop trusting them, and don't ever stop trusting yourself. You are smart, and kind, and you know the difference between good and bad. Believe in yourself, my love. If you find that difficult, either now or at any point in the future, let mama help. She's good at it, she will never lie to you about yourself, and there is no one better than she is at looking after the unimaginably precious gem of a human being that you are.

I, however, have lied to you more times than I can count - and strangely, I don't think you ever believed any of my lies -  but know that when I say you are beautiful, and that I wished I could be more like you, and anything else I have included in this letter - I have never been more truthful in my life. If my words will help you, you have them right here, for as long as this letter lasts, and hopefully beyond that too.

You are worthy of everything good, and you don't have to prove your worth to anyone, not even to yourself. Remember to give yourself time. Be patient with yourself, and be kind to yourself. One letter or even a million aren't enough for me to tell you to my heart's content exactly how much love and kindness you should receive. Know that you have every bit of the love I was ever capable of, and never forget to be kind to yourself before you are kind to everyone else, my daughter.

I'm sorry for the pain I have caused you. I'm sorry I can't teach you to dance, to speak my favorite language, to cook, and fight, and draw Princess Honey - I left you off in the middle of that one, didn't I? Although, if you draw the princess I've sketched for you on the envelope that carried this letter, I believe you will have outdone Princess Honey herself.

Because you see, this one is my Princess Anya, and there is no one like her in the whole world.

I wish I could have dropped you off at all your playdates, attended every single event you participated in even as part of the audience, been there for every turn you took in this journey, and given you goodnight hugs for as long as you wanted them.

I wish I could curl up around you with Yor on your other side, and sing you to sleep. 

I don't know what comes next, but if I get to see you again soon somehow, I hope you will let me make it up to you both.

I hope your world is peaceful, Anya, at least for as long as you live, and may you live a thousand happy years, my angel. 

I love you both, I always will.

Take care of yourselves for me, okay?

Yours,

▇▇▇▇

[aliases: Loid Forger, Twilight]