This time, you know you’ve really fucked up.
You’re alone – the first time in all these years that you’ve been truly alone – and there’s no way the others will make it to you in time.
You’d been stubborn – nothing new there, right? – and you’d insisted you’d be fine on your own, that there wasn’t anything you couldn’t handle. Turns out you’d been wrong about that; if nothing else, the burning wound in your side is evidence of that. A couple of those large worm-like monstrosities weren’t necessarily dangerous, but a pack of them…. Well, you always act like you’re tough, like you can take a hit. But there’s a reason your brother is always insistent on the two of you running.
Your idiot twin brother, your best friend; the one you tell everything to, the one who’s been there for you, always. He’s smart, smarter than he gives himself credit for, and yet he still manages to get himself into trouble – then again, you’re not exempt from that either. Oh, the trouble the two of you have gotten yourselves into, and somehow gotten yourselves out of. You manage a small smile and half a laugh before pain lances through your side again, doubling you over for a moment.
Leaning heavily against the wall of the cave, you lower yourself to the ground, umbrella in your free hand to support yourself. You sit heavily, breath coming in shallow gasps as the impact jars your wound. You can feel the creatures’ poison burning through your veins, making your already slow death even more painful. You hadn’t known the creatures were capable of producing poison when you first encountered them, and now you have no way of warning the others. Knowing Taako, he’ll manage to get himself bit, and then won’t shut up about it until Merle cleanses the wound. At least he would have someone to do that for him, though. You don’t often regret not being able to heal yourself, but times like this make it a bit more obvious how useful the ability would be.
Who will watch your brother’s back now that you’re gone? The last time you’d gotten yourself killed mid-cycle, you’d come back to the news that Taako had nearly gotten himself crushed by a crumbling pillar, before The Hunger had even arrived. You can only imagine what it will be like here, with so many new and dangerous things, this plane one of the more heavily-inhabited ones you’ve all encountered so far. He’ll at least have Magnus and Merle to keep him out of trouble this cycle, unless they get themselves into it as well. Maybe Davenport will keep them close, once they all realize you aren’t coming back from this expedition; or maybe Lucretia will keep an eye on him, observant as always.
It’s a sad thought, that there will be one less person to make sure there’s enough time for fun along with the mission. You suppose that Taako will keep the others busy enough, though, with his antics; even without you he’s capable of creating quite the fuss in the name of having some fun, and the two of you together are like a whirlwind of mischief and magic. You just hope he doesn’t give Barry too hard of a time while you’re gone.
There’s an unexpected ache in your chest, and though you’re tempted to dismiss it as having to do with the fact that you’re sitting with a wound in your side, dying … you know it’s more than that. You and Barry had gotten close over the many, many cycles you had all lived through; you’d called him a nerd, the day before you left your home, and you know now that you were so right in calling him that. But he’s brilliant too, dedicated to researching the Light and what it’s capable of, The Hunger and what can be done to fight it. You know that he works late into the night, pushing away sleepiness to inch just a little closer to what might be a new breakthrough (it hardly ever is), or even a solution (there hasn’t been one, not yet). You know he pushes himself to the limits of his human body, especially when no one is around to stop him – you know, because you’ve seen it yourself, been the one to insist he gets some rest – yes, Barry, I know I’m still awake, but I don’t need as much rest as you do, now go.
You’ve found yourself drawn to him over the years, at first begrudgingly accepting his requests for your help with his research and experiments, more recently offering your assistance out of a genuine desire to help – and, well, being around him isn’t the worst thing. He’s pretty alright, for a nerd, and… you may have taken more than a bit of liking toward him, if you’re being honest.
And he’d been the one, along with Lucretia, to figure out what could be done with the Light of Creation, if you were able to track it down again on this plane; that its power could be split, creating magical artifacts that could then be scattered across the current plane, preventing The Hunger from tracking it – and all of you – down so quickly. And you had been able to find it, all of you, and you’d all done exactly that, each of you designing and creating a relic of your own. There had been plans to hide them away, once you had returned; you hope that they find a good place for the gauntlet, and that Taako doesn’t name it something incredibly stupid, despite what you’ve told him you wanted to name it.
Your thoughts are interrupted as a wave of dizziness washes over you, darkening your vision momentarily as you clutch at your umbrella to keep from toppling sideways. It’s getting harder to move your body, even holding on to your staff taking more effort than it should. And the pain in your side isn’t going away, instead spreading as a distant ache through your body as you can almost feel the blood leaking from the wound. You let out a shaky breath, letting the reality of the situation sink in – there’s no way you’re making it out of this cave, let alone back to the ship, and you’re most definitely going to die here as a result.
A tightness rises in your throat, the realization that this really is the end of you for this cycle – and with the Light split, there’s a possibility that it’ll be much longer than normal before you’re able to come back. It’s a cold realization, that you’ll be here for who knows how long, and you can feel the numbness of it setting it – or maybe that’s just you dying, it’s hard to tell now.
You’re going to miss everyone, you realize; because despite the way that you may act sometimes, they’re all your friends, and there’s very little you wouldn’t do to protect them. You can only hope that they won’t forget about you the rest of this cycle, however it long it ends up being. It’s a small comfort when you remember it briefly, but knowing that Lucretia will likely write things down for when you return makes it just a little easier to bear.
Your vision blurs again, though this time it’s not from the blood loss; rather, it’s from the tears that are burning in your eyes, falling against your will and leaving hot tracks down your cheeks. You don’t remember the last time you were ever truly alone – after all, Taako has always been with you, and since then you’d somehow managed to make five other friends – and it’s… haunting. You’re not the type to be afraid of things, but here, alone and in the ever-darkening cave, you find that there is a small pit of fear nestled in your stomach, eating away at what’s left of your strength. You may act tough, but when there’s a ragged wound in your side and the shadows of unconsciousness are creeping up at the edges of your vision, it’s a lot harder to keep up that front.
You don’t – you don’t want to die here, alone, underground, so very far away from everything and everyone else. It’s a thought you have, as clear as sunlight piercing through the clouds on an overcast day, and you have a desperate wish because of it. You wish there was a way that you could survive, a way for you to get back to your crewmates, to your friends; to Barry, whatever he is to you now; to your brother , your partner-in-everything. It’s a fierce desire, burning bright in you even as you feel yourself fading.
There’s a light – at least, you think there is – somehow, impossibly, and you think for a moment that you can feel it weaving it’s way around and through your body, your soul, the very core of your being; and it’s bright, and warm, and everything about it calls out to you like your friends, like your family, like home . You let it caress you, carry you to… somewhere, somehow, something about it familiar but also not at all. And then it’s gone, just as soon as you thought it had arrived, the last of your own fire leaving with it.
You let your eyes slide shut, nothing left to keep them open, accepting and surrendering yourself to the soft darkness that has been closing in.
And you wait.