She first catches herself falling in love during the long respite, where her only preoccupation should be carefully twisting the vines and flowers of this strand into a shape that is pleasing to Garden. In the long hours and days between the Canada geese and the staghorn sumac she finds herself returning again and again to thoughts of Red. Deliberately at first, trying to preserve the memory of the face and place she saw last. After that she doesn’t even need to try, thoughts of her rising above the brook of her bubbling mind. There is often not enough time, not enough space for these thoughts, but in the dark, quiet hours, laying next to her husband and hearing the soft wheezing of his breath as he sleeps, she thinks.
Her husband is sweet and his family and in time she finds herself matching her rhythms and routines to theirs, taking up new hobbies and jobs on their suggestions. In one way, its her job, her task, her role, one that was decided for her before she was born. That she embeds herself here is her orders from Garden, but in time she finds herself entwining around them of her own accord, enjoying their company and the work they do on its own account.
The undercurrent in her thoughts, though, that she is doing this for Garden, for their victory over the Agency is always there. It has to be. You can’t get too attached.
Blue hasn’t been around the same people for so long for a long time. It’s true that Garden prefers these types of interventions: slow, careful and steady, like a plant growing towards the sun, so unlike the Agency’s quick-flash interventions. Agents zipping around between strands and threads so quickly it’s a surprise they don’t lose track of them. But she is one of Garden’s best agents, best on the frontlines of change and consequences that make this war. That’s how she ended up with Red in her sights, on the knife-point edge between a duet and a duel. Dangerous to the both of them, but their little acts of communication, of rebellion, seem now so necessary to Blue’s continued existence. Funny, for something that started halfway as a dare with herself. Just to see if she could do it. How Red, who she’d been dancing a dangerous, terrifying dance with all these years, would react.
Blue thinks of Red all the time now, every red thing in her vicinity a reflection, a refraction of the things that make Red herself. In her secretest thoughts Blue catches herself calling her my Red.
Blue says to herself that she’ll write one of the seed-letters a month at the most. She saves up her thoughts and takes them and herself up onto the little hill that somewhere she started calling theirs and weaves the letters, carefully, carefully. In between the lines of every letter are the hundreds that she didn’t write.
In between the first and second seeds, autumn turns to winter. The world seems to set on fire as the seasons change and everywhere around Blue there are reminders. It is in those moments that she is glad for the amount of work that needs to be done in this strand, that she cannot sit idle and get lost in her thoughts. As the seasons turn she savours the writing of them carefully, the way she hopes that Red will as well, in another time, another place. In the aftertaste, as she puts it.
Before the third she finally takes the time to think about shadows. The thought has sat sleeping in her mind before this point, set in a dusty locked cabinet that for all purposes looks abandoned but now she takes it out, teases it. It’s not her they’re following, whoever it is. She kept on looking over her shoulder in the first weeks of her new-old assignment. Which shift is it? Which would be worse for Red? Her Agency, knowing she’s gone rogue, somewhere, or the Garden, looking to destroy her for turning one of its own against it?
She wants to curl protectively around Red, even as she knows that she can protect herself.
Blue lets more time go by between the first and second half of the letters, savouring the years as her niblings grow true and strong and her husband goes step by step along the path she is meant to nudge him onto.
She doesn’t know what makes her share the story of how she’d nearly been rejected by Garden.
It had nearly spilled out of her in the writing of the fourth note but somewhere in the composing of the fifth it runs over onto the page. To start it so simply, so casually, to write out in simple words the sensation of being cut off from Garden so completely, a black hole inside her so deep she was almost surprised her parents couldn’t see it from the outside. The feeling of it, still so strong after all of these years - or centuries - or decades, what does a lifetime even mean to a time traveller? All that Blue knows is that it will reverberate from the beginning of her to the end, wherever or whenever that may be.
Blue tinkers, again and again, with her game board, her game against herself and the world as she waits for the equinox to come. It takes her weeks to inscribe a simple four-word phrase on a piece of paper. All six sumac seeds are written now and she just needs the equinox to come. And so Blue waits, the pouch stitched and pre-prepared, stored carefully under her pillow. She is anxious to hear from her fellow agents, but not for the reasons they or Garden would expect.
The sun is not even in the sky yet when reports start coming through, at first as a trickle and then as a deluge. She knows she must act quickly and decisively, sends out her message with the goose she had found wandering around on their hill yesterday. It joins the flock around her, indistinguishable from any other bird and she can feel the echo down the timeline as it makes its slow way towards Red.
Using insects and other natural things had historically been Blue’s preferred method of message, but as Red sits, her legs dangling, on the blackened, burned out carcass of a pier, she thinks it had felt right, for the time and the place, beyond all logistical concerns. She tries not to worry at the other letter, at the scrap of heart still beating within her that flutters at the thought of Blue’s reaction. She had dispensed with the frills and formalities of the nicknames they gave to one another, gave over into plain words and plainer sentiments. That had felt right too.
It’s just a slight shiver, a refocusing, but when Red looks up, over the same sky going a brilliant red over the same green-blue sea, it’s like the entire world has shifted somehow. Blue is back on the move, and she can almost feel her twisting and untwisting the unending spiral of timelines. Red smiles. If this is what love feels like she could drown in it. She almost wants to.