Cat doesn’t know how she feels when Seril asks her to keep an eye on Tara. She’s still bitter somewhere, deep down where it won’t fade. She knows Tara didn't mean for her to take advantage of Pelham like that, she knows.
She still feels used.
And now she must guard the woman who did this to her, yet also saved her goddess. Maybe not saved. Seril was not her goddess before, Cat worshipped Justice, the unknowable being that filled her up and gave her purpose greater than anything Cat could be alone. Now her goddess is Seril who watches Cat with clever green eyes.
Seril who is silver and cold moonlight who gave her wings.
She launches herself into the air, feeling the power of Seril come over her, her whole body lighting up. The familiar rush of strength, the sharpening of her senses. Wings blossom from her back and she leaps into the sky, letting herself go.
Seril leads her to Tara, just leaving the archives. She stops to go through her bag and doesn’t even look up when Cat lands beside her.
“You can tell your goddess I’m not here to cause any harm,” Tara says absently, giving up on her search to fix Cat with a hard stare.
“She knows.” The silver seeps away from Cat, though she knows Seril is still there, watching through her.
Tara hmphs and takes a few steps out towards the street to hail a cab. “I’ve found some possible contracts for Seril, terms that could help strengthen her.”
“She doesn’t have much strength to give.”
A black cab pulls up, the horse eyeing them both impatiently. Tara shies away from it, still unused to the horses and Cat pretends her discomfort is not amusing as they both slip inside. “I know but it might be worth it. Seril has the love of you and the rest of her guardians who can keep her sustained, but it’s not life.”
Cat frowns and sinks into her seat. She doesn’t ask where they’re going, not sure if Tara will answer. “She trusts you, you know,” she says instead.
“And you don’t.” Tara smirks, apparently not overly bothered by that.
“You have done a lot for her.” Cat can be just as evasive as any craftswoman if she has to be, although she prefers punching her way through a problem. She takes a slow breath to calm the mix of emotions being around Tara always brings now.
“You haven’t forgiven me for the hospital.”
Cat flinches, not expecting it to be brought up so matter of factly. “Would you?”
Tara pauses but doesn’t look away from her. “No.”
Cat nods and looks away first, as the city flies past them. She recognizes where they are and can guess they’re heading to Kos’ temple, likely for Tara to share her findings for Seril. “I’m quitting,” she says. Not sure why she’s telling Tara but maybe to make it more real. The only other time she has said so out loud was to Pelham before he took off.
“Quitting? Seril’s service?”
She bites back a laugh, somehow not surprised that Tara’s first thought would be of Cat’s relationship to her goddess. “No. Drugs and drink and the occasional vampire bite.” She watches Tara out of the corner of her eye and doesn’t expect the small smile that spreads over her face.
“I’m not really done yet.” She longs for it, especially after Seril leaves and she is just Cat. The emptiness is there like before. But there is something of Seril left, where cold, impersonal Justice was simply gone.
Tara kicks her ankle lightly and Cat kicks back.
She follows Tara through all of her meetings, knowing Kos is listening through all his priests and she realizes with a start that no one protests her presence there. She is Seril’s representative. It feels more important than she deserves. One of the true Guardians should be there, she is only who she is because of a charm around her neck and the grace of Seril.
The Guardians simply are. Justice was gone and Seril had nothing else but serving her, she had no grand purpose.
In the back of her mind she can feel Seril’s disagreement or maybe disapproval. Cat smiles through it but she feels so weak at the end.
Tara catches her arm as they leave the temple and holds on as she hails a cab and inside the cab as well.
“Let go,” Cat finally snaps. Tired of manhandling, tired of feeling used and drained, over and over and over.
She thinks once upon a time she was someone else who had her own desires that were not simply returning to a goddess over and over.
Tara doesn’t let go. “I had someone in my head once, whispering deeds, using me like- like I was just one of his limbs with nothing of my own.” Tara holds on as the cab stops outside the building where the priesthood had given her an apartment, all the way until they’re inside and then Tara finally lets go.
She obviously doesn’t have guests often, there is only basic furniture but Cat doesn’t notice. For the first time in what feels like a long time, she takes the charm from her neck and sets it aside. She doesn’t know what she should be feeling but at first there is no change. No heavy weight has disappeared from her shoulders.
She’s still empty.
Tara starts brewing a pot of coffee and the bitter smell fills the small space. Cat isn’t even thinking as she covers the distance between them and reaches out to hold onto Tara’s arm like a child.
“There are ways. Besides drugs,” Tara says.
“Are you offering to heal me craftswoman?”
“I can’t do that.” She turns so she’s facing Cat and they’re now incredibly close, sharing warmth and air. “I won’t do that.”
Tara cups her cheek, her skin surprisingly warm. “But I can distract you. If you’d like.”
Cat leaves the charm on Tara’s counter when she leaves the next day. She doesn’t know where she is going, only that it must be away and away and away.
Seril pleads in her head as she steps onto the docks. It hurts, finding out only then that Seril can reach her without any charms, that she was more than she believed. Except she knows even more that that is why she has to leave. To not be swallowed or subsumed by another.
She breathes in the cold air coming from the sea and she finally feels the words she’s been saying, she’s ready to start.