Pike didn't like to dwell on things. It wasn't her nature, and she tried her best to keep it that way. Still, sometimes it was easier said than done. Oh, not so much during the day, when there was always work to be done and people needing help. But at night, when things grew still and quiet?
Well, that was another story.
It felt as if she'd spent more time away from her friends, her family, than with them the past few months. Every time she saw them, they had new stories to share and new scars to bear, and more often than not she felt like a stranger listening in. Their conversations were full of references to events that she hadn't been there for, mixed in with names she didn't recognize and shorthand that she didn't – that she couldn't – understand.
That hurt sometimes. More than it should, probably, considering the reason she wasn't with them was because she was doing her Lady's work. But Pike had never claimed to be perfect, no matter how high of a pedestal the others liked to hold her up on.
Still, it was what it was. Pike was a cleric, and she'd known from the beginning what that meant. It was her duty to do what Sarenrae asked of her, no more and no less, no matter the cost. She had strayed from that path once, and she had almost lost Sarenrae's favor because of it. That wasn't something she ever wanted to risk again.
But it didn't make it any easier.
Pike closed her eyes for a moment as she leaned back against one of the stone walls on the upper level of Whitestone Castle. The wind was chilly, but it wasn't as biting cold as it had been when they had first fled there from Emon. It was a subtle reminder that time was passing, winter slowly fading into the past as spring tentatively pushed forward.
It hadn't been that long ago that Pike hadn't known whether or not they would even have a future. The upcoming spring held more promise than any other she'd ever known, in more ways than one.
She wasn't entirely certain why she had decided to slip up to one of the highest points in Whitestone. She wasn't like Vex, who wanted more than anything to soar. She was perfectly fine with keeping her feet planted firmly on the ground. Her rooms had been stifling, though, their silence pressing in on her from every direction.
Maybe it would have been better if she'd slipped out to a tavern or had paid a visit to the brothel. At least then she wouldn't have been alone with her thoughts.
But a part of her had wanted to see the stars.
Pike looked up at the night sky spread out around her. It was clear for once, the cloud cover that often covered Whitestone all but nonexistent. There was no moon, not even a tiny sliver of light visible, but it made the stars shine all the brighter. It was beautiful.
It was lonely.
Almost without thinking about it, Pike reached up to touched the earring she was wearing. It had been useless more often than not the past several months, but she still wore it. She never knew when the others would need her, when they'd come rushing through the Sun Tree carrying someone who was injured. Or worse.
She flinched and quickly pulled her mind away from that line of thinking. She had enough guilt as it was, that she hadn't been there when Percy had fallen. When Vax had. That it had taken her so long to bring back Scanlan, only to chase him away with the damn prank that had seemed like such a good idea at the time but had—
"No," Pike said decisively, cutting that chain of thoughts off before it could wander too far down the path of regrets. "None of that tonight.”
She took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Then again. And again.
Who knew where the others were or what they were doing? She knew they planned on finishing Keyleth's Aramenté. Were they still there, spending time among the Air Ashari? Or had they already left, their attention focused on a different goal?
Pike had asked them not to go to the Nine Hells without her. She hadn't wanted them to try and stop Hotis for good without her at their side, and she couldn't help but hope they had listened. Still, she was under no illusion that her making a request would actually stop them from doing a damn thing once they put their minds to it. For all she knew, they could be—
Nope. No thinking thoughts like that. Not tonight.
Her finger brushed over the earring in her ear again, and she let out a sigh. Tiberius had been so proud when he'd designed them. She could still picture his smug grin, the hint of awkward sheepishness on his face when Vex had kissed him on the cheek in thanks.
She hadn't been there when they'd found his body. Yet another moment that she'd missed. Another memory that everyone in Vox Machina shared... everyone except for her.
"I know no one can hear me,” Pike said quietly, her hand still on her earring. "But I miss you. All of you.”
There wasn't an answer, not that she had expected one. The wind rustled her hair, cool but with a hint of warmth to come in it. Still, she couldn't help but shiver just a little.
"I wish you were here,” Pike continued after a moment's hesitation, "or that I was with you. But I'm doing good here, helping everyone get ready to go back to Emon. I'm pretty sure I'm doing what She wants me to do.”
She bit her lip, her gaze drifting upward at the night sky.
"I hope you come back soon,” she said after another long pause, her words barely above a whisper. "I think—”
Pike trailed off for a second, not entirely certain whether or not to say the next bit out loud even when she knew no one was listening. Not when she wasn't entirely certain whether it was true, or if it was merely wishful thinking on her part. But...
"I'm not sure,” she said, "but I think that I might be able to join you guys again soon.”
With a sigh, she dropped her hand from her earring. The wind blew her hair again. This time, it felt almost like a caress.
"I hope so, at least,” Pike whispered. "I miss you.”