For the first month they do not buy a new boat. It's too damn expensive, says Billie, though the regret in her voice is palpable. And the Outsider has found already that he hates to watch the open sea.
("It's too much." He'd said.
"Like home?" Billie replied.
He averted his gaze from the tossing ocean.)
Billie keeps her satchels of never-returned money from the bank heist in various places across Karnaca, little hovels and holes that she'd scouted before taking her dive into the Void. Most of it remained, though she scolds herself upon finding some of the bricks pried away with nothing left inside.
There's a shack near the harbor with a painstakingly crafted lock on the door that none yet have been able to crack – partly because it does not open, and Billie enters from a hole in the sewers beneath. Common thieves wouldn't be entering on her watch. For inside rests the Outsider, in another days-long sleep in which he would twitch and mumble and not wake no matter how much Billie prodded him.
She'd called in her favors with Doctor Hypatia who came and examined him without question or judgment. She found nothing out of the ordinary except a mild fever and exceptional muscle tension she typically associated with nightmares. Billie felt a chill run down her spine when Hypatia pulled down the Outsider's eyelid, fearful that it might once again be blackened, but only finding brilliant green beneath.
"His pulse is steady and his blood pressure is even. His breathing is clear and unobstructed. I fear that if there is anything I can assist with, it is beyond me." Hypatia frowns, those worry lines around her mouth framing a lifetime of concern, "Call me again should he worsen. I prescribe rest, hydration, and a hearty diet."
"I owe you again, Doctor." Billie says and tries to pass a small pile of coins into her work-rough hands.
Hypatia shakes her head and pushes them back, as usual. "No need, you know this. And please, Meagan, call me Alexandria."
Billie nods. Regardless, Hypatia would find a waiting cart outside to take her from the waterfront and back to the city center. She couldn't give that back.
And so she cares for him like you would a sick child. She puts cool clothes on his forehead when he's overcome with fever, and she sits him up to tip water against his lips and pats his back when he sputters. There's no magic in it, no void induced visions or whale-blood seeping from him. He's no god. No matter how many times she sees his eyes or watches him cough up soup onto his weathered tunic it won't sink in.
"You know how weird this is, right?" She mumbles, wringing out a rag to wipe the sweat from his forehead. His eyes twitch under his lids in dreaming, but he does not respond. Whatever he's living inside his mundane, human brain, it has nothing to do with her. She wonders if it's his old life. If it's Daud behind those eyelids. Corvo, Emily, Delilah. Big names and big stories, and he'd been the reason for them all. Now he's choking on minced pumpkin.
"Daud should be doing this. He owes me a lifetime of grunt work." She continues as she douses her hand in the basin near her bed. Sometimes she missed the arm, but life was simpler without it.
"I'm going out, alright? I'll be back in an hour." Billie calls fruitlessly over her shoulder and throws her heavy coat and wide-brimmed hat on, in case anyone recognized her. Nobody had since the world had stopped folding in on itself, but you could never be too safe.
She watches him from the doorway for a few moments more. His breathing is steady and even and his eyes have stopped swiveling in his head. She breathes a sigh of relief knowing his rest has grown peaceful.
With a bag of slightly overripe fruit and other miscellaneous supplies, Billie crawls back up the sewer gate and into the hovel.
He's woken since she was last home, and sitting up. That was good. He's leaning back against the wall with a book in his hand, an unmarked journal that he tucks his chin down against his chest to read as quietly as furtively as can be. She's seen him with it before, though she knows not what it contains. It was not Daud's journal, which she keeps on a small wooden shelf next to Dierdre's portrait and her own journal, so it was a departure from his usual readings.
It shocked her at first, seeing him touch all that Daud left behind with a mournful gaze and a gliding hand, as though he couldn't bear to touch it. He treated everything as though he'd break it with a glance. Part of her echoes Daud's anger: you're right to hesitate, you do break things. But seeing Daud's things loved – seeing Daud loved – made her chest ache too much to judge.
"Hey." She waves. He looks up from his reading, bleary eyed.
"Billie," He says, "You weren't here when I woke up."
"I'm not your babysitter," She tries to call him something and realizes she has no name to substitute, "You were having a perfectly nice nap."
His mouth twitches into something between a smile and a grimace. It isn't unhappiness, Billie knows, but she can't quite pin what his face is telling her most of the time. He moves his own face like a prosthetic limb – new and useful, but confusing nonetheless.
"And what does that mean?" She decides to ask.
"It was funny. It's impressive Daud didn't drain your sense of humor."
Billie smiles and tosses him an orange. He fumbles it, but it lands in his lap, and she only feels a little bad about not warning him first.
"So how are you feeling?" She takes a seat in her desk chair not far from his mattress, swiveling around to face him. It was a bit of an indulgent purchase, she admits.
"Heavy. I'd forgotten how heavy life is, Billie. I used to be nothing with a face. Now I'm a face and a body, and every piece of that locks into every other." The Outsider leans back against the wall and puts the book down next to him, ready to languish in comfort.
It makes Billie ponder her own pieces when he talks like this. How the hinge of her shoulder reformed to deny her arm ever existed, how her eyelid fused into a continuous plane. Her body made itself whole again, redefined it's mechanisms to accommodate a new self.
"It's..." She searches for an eloquent term, "...weird. You'll get used to it, I hope."
"The body should work in tandem. Mine does not." He says as he looks at his own fingers, curling each one individually. "My heart is beating out of time with the rest of me. My dreams are of lives I've never lived."
Billie finds his tenor disturbingly clam. "Are you afraid?"
"No. I'm just draining." He trails a finger down the side of his face from the corner of his eye to the corner of his mouth. Mapping himself, as he does.
"Draining?" She raises an eyebrow.
"The godstuff. The void. Every time I wake up, I've forgotten something else. My eyes have been returned to me, and now they are the only ones I have."
There's an arrogance that stings her in that, a baffling response to a half-dead half-alive god's pain. "The only eyes anyone has are their own. That's something else you'll get used to."
"I know," He clarifies quickly, a sharp note of embarrassment in his voice, "But it is a long adjustment when you once had thousands. It used to be I could look at a bowl and tell you who made it, who ate from it, who's cooking it held, who lost it, who found it. Now it's a bowl. I can ask after its origins, but I can only know secondhand. I can only trust the body."
Frustration is mounting in his tone as he looks around the room and sees only objects. Billie sucks in a breath, looking for the right words.
"Listen, isn't it easier?" She says.
He furrows his brow. "What?"
"Isn't it easier not knowing? Look, I was a temporal focal point for a month, and it was more than I could take. It wore you out. It wore me out. No person should know everything. It's selfish, maybe, but we've only got space for ourselves in our heads." Billie leans forward on her palm, painfully aware of the limits of her body.
The Outsider looks pensive. It's something of a thrill every time she makes him of all people stop and think.
"...There is a peace in it. There is no way to be stretched too far when your skin holds the final say." He admits.
Billie gets down and sits next to him, taking the orange out of his hand and starting on the peel before handing it back for him to finish. "God knows I'd be a hypocrite if I told you to just get to know yourself. I never did. But maybe... you're just draining out the parts that aren't you."
He peels it the rest of the way, each motion steadying with practice. He pops one of the slices into his mouth and winces when the sourness hits his tongue. He speaks through a full mouth: "I'll have to figure out which parts are."
She slaps his back like Daud would slap hers and shrugs. "Give it time. You've got plenty. Start with a name."
The room falls quiet as the Outsider retreats into his own thoughts and Billie returns to leafing through job offers, as has become habit in this house. Billie thinks it might be soothing to him to feel time pass so regularly. Every minute in a body is a minute, every hour an hour. There's no compression of present and past like in the void, as she experienced in her first and only disoriented visit. Space is defined and steady, here, like vines growing up the vineyard gates.
Days pass, and then weeks. In the second month the Outsider has not fallen ill.
"Billie." The Outsider speaks up. He's at his own desk now, across the room from Billie's, where he's taken to reading and doing little crafts. Anything with his hands he's taken to trying.
"Yeah?" She looks over her shoulder from her desk, letting the daily accounting fall to the wayside.
"We should get a new boat." He says.
"You think?" She asks, trying hard to disguise the giddy jump of her heart at the idea of once again being at sea.
He stands up and walks over to her with a slip of paper in his hand, sliding it onto the desk in front of her. On it is a name.
"Yes, I believe we've wallowed in here long enough."