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Fire and the Flood

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Editing is always the hardest part of a writer's work. Knowing what to change, what to take out, what to leave in... Ideas often flow naturally, but it's the clean up afterwards that take the longest time, even for the most skilled weaver of tales. Editing fiction is one thing, but editing real life, rearranging history? That's a whole other endeavor entirely and not one to be undertaken lightly.

Lucretia sits at the small desk in her quarters, carefully snipping, rearranging, redacting, and more. She knows it has to be perfect, has to be as flawless as possible for this to work, but she keeps hitting a rather thorny problem. The elves on their home plane, you see, are not like any they've encountered in any of the cycles since leaving it. They exist in tight-knit familial groups, the bonds that weave between them binding them soul- and magic-deep, with large but less well-connected groups of friends and extended family radiating out from the primary pack-like structure.

It's part of the reason that Taako and Lup are on the ship apart from being at the top of their class and the candidate pool. The Starblaster's bond engine runs that much better given the elves' presence, and even more so because of the unique bond they share as twins. That familial bond has grown stronger with the addition of Barry and Lup's marriage in the eighty-fifth cycle, tying the three of them closer together. And now...

Lucretia sighs, setting her pen down briefly to scrub at her face with weary hands. And now, there's the youngest member of the crew to think about. It had been a surprise when Lup had announced her pregnancy; a pleasant surprise, yes, but it had been in the early days of the Relic Wars, back when the full breadth of what they'd done hadn't quite hit. Lucretia remembers a quiet conversation she and Lup had had when it had just been them and Davenport for one long and depressingly quiet cycle, about how Taako had insisted that the signing bonuses the twins had gotten for signing up for the expedition be used to help Lup finish her transition fully.

“He said that since we finally had the money, I shouldn't have to live in a body that couldn't give me what I wanted,” Lup had said quietly, staring out over the deck railing, her crossed arms supporting her leaning weight. “Taako... He's always done things wholeheartedly, and this...” She shook her head before gesturing absently at herself. “This was something he'd wanted to give me for a long time. He hated how much I felt out of place in my own body, even though I'd been passing as female for so long.”

She laughed, the sound rough and slightly ragged from unshed tears. “He had it all planned out. We went the next day to one of the best permanent polymorph specialists in town. Two hours. Two fucking hours and I was walking out of there as a fully functional woman. I think I cried the first time I had a period; freaked Taako right the fuck out. It meant that I could have kids of my own, you know? Not that I really can, what with the Hunger and all, but maybe...”

“Maybe one day, when we figure out how to defeat it,” Lucretia had replied.

“Yeah, maybe.”

And now, the small family of three has turned to four, Taako taking to being an uncle with aplomb. He's told everyone more than once that he gets to buy his nephew his first wand when he's old enough, because no child born of Lup and Barry would not inherit at least some of their magical talents. If Lup or Barry can't take care of him for any reason, Taako's right there, keeping little Angus (and hadn't that been a discussion for the ages, with Barry and Lup coming to an agreement that his middle name could follow the Taaco family tradition and be Rizo after one of the few uncles they'd had, while his first name came from Barry's grandfather who he'd been close to as a child) company.

It's been hard since Lup left. Barry's been doing his best to balance his research and being a father, while Taako takes over caring for Angus when Barry needs to sleep. It's not uncommon to find one or the other cradling Angus in one arm while they work. Lucretia glances over at the small cot where Angus is napping, a fresh wave of guilt rushing through her. If she manages this properly, then Angus will grow up without anyone familiar in his life. It's not safe to let Barry or Taako remember him, not when they'll question who his mother is and then try to find her. Sure, she could edit around that, make them think Lup died or went missing, but that seems almost more cruel. Better to not have either of them remember.

That's why she'd volunteered to watch him so Barry and Taako could rest, though Lucretia knows her friends far too well. They'll likely still be searching for Lup, as they often do these days, and not rest until exhaustion takes them. Hiding the memories and bonds behind Fisher's static is the only way to keep everyone safe while Lucretia works on gathering the Relics and then destroying them. First, though, she'll need to finish what she's started.

She keeps writing, using a bit of magic to dry the ink once she finishes her work so it doesn't smear. Lucretia drops the journal into the top of Fisher's tank and watches as it sinks and then is caught up in the creature's tendrils. She startles when she hears footsteps behind her, tears springing to her eyes when she sees Magnus.

God, Magnus, no... You weren't supposed to see this. I'm so sorry, Magnus,” she says, going over to him as a dazed look fixes itself upon his face.

What are you do-- what?” Magnus asks, and it's all Lucretia can do to not burst into loud sobs so she doesn't wake Angus, though she can't help the tears that track down her face as she helps Magnus sit down so he doesn't hurt himself. It's painful to help her now-former crew-mates to settle into life on this planet that's so much like their own but isn't. She has no idea where Barry went to; she just hopes that he was somewhere safe when his memories shifted and faded into static.

She leaves Angus for last, putting him into the care of a childless human/elf couple who live in one of the better parts of Rockport. They'll take good care of him, she's sure of it, but Lucretia promises herself that she'll occasionally check up on him and the others as much as she can in between looking for relics. She loses time over the next decade- to research, to fucking Wonderland, to creating and managing the Bureau of Balance – and doesn't realize how long it's been until she has to compose herself when she sees Taako, Magnus, and Merle come into the audience hall.

Gods, they all look the same and yet so different. Magnus is the closest to what he had been before, but Merle and Taako... Lucretia has to hide her visceral reaction behind a carefully crafted mask as she greets them like strangers. The past decade has been kind to no one, and it hurts her heart to see her oldest friends joke around without the warmth and understanding that was once there. Still, she pushes on, crafting a persona that straddles the line of boss and friend, being careful not to give herself away.

Some days it feels like she'll shatter. Some days she wishes that this was all just a bad dream and that she'll wake up slumped over her desk, her damnable journal never thrown into Fisher's tank. On those days, Lucretia reminds herself that it's worth it.

It has to be.