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can't we get a little grace

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Cassandra is in the middle of reviewing a report about… something (Crop projections? Quarry output? Possible trade alliances? All equally important and boring as hell) when Asum runs in without knocking, two guards trailing behind him.

“It’s your brother. He did not look well. They’re taking him to the temple of Sarenrae. You must go. Now.”

She runs as fast as she can in her long, narrow skirt, out of the castle and into the town. The little temple has not progressed much in its construction since the last time she was here. But that is not surprising, given how little labor there is to spare these days.

All thoughts of the building’s state flee as soon as she sees Percival on the table. From here she can’t tell if he’s breathing, but he looks awful. Somebody’s cleaned away as much blood as they could, but she can still see traces of it marring his face. Her throat wants to clench up, and she counts her breaths: in, out, in, out.

“I’m going to throw up,” Percival moans, and something in her relaxes. The fucking reckless asshole is still alive. She walks up to him, cards her fingers through his hair. He is so very cold, lying there. Her hand stills as she takes in the scene around her: people standing around a table on which her brother lays, tear-streaked faces, Pike the cleric still clutching her holy symbol. Something terrible happened, of that she is sure. But something marvelous (she supposes if she was religious she would call it miraculous) also, because her brother is still alive.

She catches Pike’s eye. “Thank you,” she says softly.

“You’re welcome,” she replies. Pike also looks like she’s been crying. Cassandra is glad that her brother has so many people who care about him, but she is also envious of them, the way they know him in ways she never will. How he is part of a family she does not belong to.

She leaves the temple after admonishing her brother to get something to eat. She is overcome by a wave of emotion and she leans against a wall, trying to catch her breath.

“My lady, are you ill?” Asum asks, full of concern. “Shall I fetch a healer?”

“No, thank you. I believe a bit of air and a walk are all I need.”

Asum nods, and motions for the guards to follow him back to the castle. Cassandra waits until they are gone, and finds an alley that looks like it is clear of people in and around it. She sits down on a box and cries, her body heaving with sobs. Eventually, she reaches a sort of calm, and she wipes her face with a handkerchief. She heads back to the castle, and to the report she was reading. It makes no more sense than it did before.

--
She does not come to this wing of the castle very often. There is usually no need, as Vox Machina meets with her elsewhere. (She wonders if the feeling of being an intruder in a place she has lived her entire life will ever go away.) She steps down the hallway, trying to remember which room is Percival’s.

“If you’re looking for Percy, he’s in there,” a voice says behind her. It is Keyleth the druid, pointing to a specific door.

“Thank you,” she murmurs. She begins to move, but Keyleth puts a hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t be too hard on him, okay? It was a bad fight.” This close now, Cassandra sees Keyleth has scratches all over her face, and she moves stiffly, as if injured. She nods, because she doesn’t know what to say to this. Keyleth squeezes her shoulder and lets her pass.

Percival is in bed, looking through a wad of notes and scribbling in a notebook. His color is better, although not as healthy as she’d like. He looks up when the door opens.

“Am I interrupting?” She asks.

“Not at all.” She knows this is a lie, but she appreciates it anyways. He motions. “Please, sit.”

She sits in the chair beside the bed, and folds her hands in her lap. Her old governess would have laughed to see this, the way she reminded Cassandra at every opportunity when she was younger.

“You scared me,” she says to her lap. “Asum did not say you were--well, you’re not now, but it was heavily implied.”

“If I could have avoided it, I would have.” His voice is uncharacteristically gentle, and that more than anything rattles her.

“I hope so. Unless you’re stupider than I think.”

He laughs, albeit a little weakly. “I assure you, I don’t plan on making a habit of it.”

“Was it a dragon?”

“No.” His voice is flat. She wants to ask what it was, if it was powerful enough to put the group in such a state, but it seems too soon to pry further.

“But there will be more fights like this.”

“At least two. Probably more.”

She sighs, even though it was the answer she expected. “So I am to wait here, pray the other dragons don’t attack while you’re gone fighting, and wonder if I am once again the last de Rolo.”

He makes a noise, and she looks up. The pain on his face makes her regret doing so. He places a hand on her knee, light, tentative. “We are left with few choices, if the world is to be rid of these dragons.”

She puts a hand over his, curling her fingers under. “Duty is a cruel thing.”

“Remember when we thought the worst it could be was tedious?” Percy’s voice is dry, and she laughs. It feels good to do so again, with her brother.