Actions

Work Header

Resurgence

Work Text:

He is unsteady on his feet. The light in the seemingly endless white corridor is pale, blue. Cold. It is not the golden yellow warmth of gas lighting, or candles, or fire. He feels disconnected and chilled in this stark, empty place, despite the comfortable temperature of the air. The white walls, ceiling, floor, recede away from him. The corridor feels cavernous and inescapable as Whyborne stumbles forward.

“Steady on, my dear.” The hand around his elbow tightens, keeping him upright. The pressure of those fingers is the only thing that feels real. He looks to his left. Griffin smiles up at him. How, he wants to say, what, why, but his mouth won’t form words yet. His tongue is too new. It doesn’t quite remember how to make the thoughts into shapes. He runs it along his teeth. Bones.

He should be bones. Griffin should be bones.

White-coated strangers just told him he’d been dead, but he isn’t any more. He doesn’t know which part is the lie.

He remembers being alive. He remembers an entire lifetime, in fact; all of it rushing into his head at once when he had awakened suddenly, gasping, on a cold stone slab. The overwhelming deluge of memory had nearly shoved him back into unconsciousness. The world had been a confusing jumble of shadows and sounds. Voices had chattered at him, strong hands gripping his flailing arms and legs. He’d fought to gain purchase on something, anything to keep from slipping away. The lights blazing in his eyes were painfully bright. He hadn’t been able to see faces, only silhouettes. Nothing was coherent, nothing would solidify - until one voice finally cut through the tumult of noise and confusion. One familiar, beloved voice.

He remembers growing older, but cannot recall if, when or how death had finally come to him. He thinks he remembers Christine dying, her hair beautifully silver, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. He remembers holding her hand and his heart aching at her faded but loving smile. It feels true, but he also knows sometimes madness feels true when it is not.

He doesn’t remember Griffin dying. He wonders if that means that he’d died first; it makes him suddenly sad to think of Griffin left all alone, again, at the end. Maybe they had died together on some last grand adventure. But things like that didn't happen in real life, only in stories.

The strangers gathered round the stone slab had spoken to him, but a multitude of languages had been swarming through his staggering brain like angry bees; all he could do was gape helplessly until the right one finally settled in place. When he had been able to comprehend their words, one young woman had named a year - a date unfathomably beyond the time Whyborne or Griffin, Christine or Iskander, or even their children’s children could still be alive.

His mind still reels away from the number. It simply cannot be. And yet …

If the strangers are telling the truth, then he must have died. If he died, then they must have resurrected him. Unless he is stuck in some strange Purgatory. Unless this is all part of what happens to a man such as himself … after. Shock, cold, bright lights, strangers and confusion. He shudders, wondering what might come next.

The hand on his elbow tightens again. Griffin murmurs, words meant to soothe. If Griffin is here, maybe there is hope.

Or maybe it isn’t really Griffin, either.

One thing he remembers with absolute certainty: anything brought back from the dead generally came back … wrong.

He shudders again. He keeps walking, acutely aware of the presence at his side and the sound of other footsteps following them.

His mind flips through a catalogue of legends and myths, searching through decades of stored memories, sorting, filing, hoping something clicks into place. He knows there were spells to bring people back from the dead. He remembers salts, and mummies, and ancient sleeping gods. He remembers rituals and sacrifices and death, always death, the single common thread running through the tapestry of his unwittingly adventurous life.

Death, and Griffin Flaherty.

The strangers who awakened him had tried to explain. He’d been too overwhelmed to hear them, too panicked by the cacophony of sensation and memories slamming back into his vulnerable, naked mind. The room had closed in around him, tight bands of panic curling around his chest; his heart pounding, he could scarcely breathe. As panic had risen, so had his desire to run, to escape – although, to where, he could not have said. Some primal fight or flight instinct fought its way through the noise and demanded that he get away. More specific memories pushed their way to the fore: the words of a dozen ancient curses lingered on his tongue, though he found he yet had no voice to speak the secret name of fire, or call up the wind. In desperation he had moved his hands together, one finger outstretched to form a sigil on the palm of the other.

Then suddenly Griffin had appeared from the crowd, shoving people aside and speaking sharply to the shadowed figures, the others drawing back immediately at his insistence. Griffin had grabbed his hand and held it tightly; with his other hand stroking the sweat-soaked curls back from Whyborne's forehead, had called his name, softly, urgently. Ival, Ival it's me. It's your Griffin. Come along, Ival dearest. Come along to me. The sound had snapped Whyborne out of his panic, enough to lock eyes with Griffin and recognize him. Warm and young and alive, Griffin had helped Whyborne rise from the table, then ushered him away from the crowd as quickly as Whyborne’s shaking legs would carry him.

Whyborne blinks rapidly, struggling to think through the lingering haze still clouding his mind. He is dressed in a simple outfit of clean white, as is Griffin. It is a strange thing to see a man who had loved spending every socially acceptable minute in a coat and vest, in a simple white tunic and pants. Griffin had always loved bright, jewel colors and peacock tones. But even in pure white the man’s youthful handsomeness is undiminished. His curling brown hair shines even under the strange, cold lights. His eyes are perilously green. It’s the only true color Whyborne has seen since he awoke in this bright, monotone place.

Finally they stop before the outline of a tall rectangle marked into the wall. Whyborne thinks it could be a door but there is no frame. No handle. There is a square of silver metal offset alongside the shape; Griffin places his palm against it. A soft glow suffuses from the square and the outlined piece of wall slides away somewhere unseen. The two men who have been following them each nod to Griffin politely as he leads Whyborne inside. They move to equidistant positions on either side of the opening. Whyborne wonders, fleetingly, why he requires a guard when he can barely walk.

Perhaps it’s Griffin who requires guarding. That had been the general course of events throughout most of their relationship, he recalls, his pinched lips curling momentarily in a half-smirk.

At the first step over the threshold, Whyborne stops and stares like a man mesmerized. The contrast of this room against the dark chamber where he awoke and the stark passageway they’ve just traversed is disconcerting. The furniture in this unexpected lounge is somewhat Victorian in style and beautiful, made of dark stained wood and patterned, textured fabrics in warm colors. Griffin guides him to one of the plush velvet couches and settles him comfortably. He folds his hands and looks down at him with something like concern. “Are you hungry? Thirsty? I can fetch you some tea.”

Whyborne tries to say yes please but his mouth is still dry, so dry. Like dust. Dust and bones. He nods instead. Griffin moves through a side door into another room. Whyborne hears the sound of water and the clanking of dishware. He breathes deeply. In, and out again. Slowly. Slowly. With each passing moment, each breath, the bedazzling fog in his mind starts to clear. He envisions a column of air running alongside his spine, holding him upright. Air moves through the passages in his lungs and spreads into his chest, like a net holding his body together. He floods his brain with oxygen, breathes and breathes and breathes.

Noises from the kitchen slide through his ears and into his brain. Staring fixedly at his knees, he compares each sound to his memory catalog. He identifies a hiss of steam. The clang of a spoon against china.

A cat jumps into his lap.

He makes a startled sound and flinches in surprise. The cat stretches its neck up and locks eyes with him. The cat is orange, with deep amber eyes.  It blinks, eyelids raised and lowered like an extended heartbeat. Its tiny golden eyelashes tremble in time with its purr. It blinks again, slowly.

He blinks back.

The cat, satisfied, tucks its body down over its own feet and settles on his lap like a warm, vibrating, loaf of bread. It pushes the side of its body into his solar plexus. He finds the purring more soothing than expected; closes his eyes and concentrates on its warmth. His breaths start to sync in time with its long, rumbling purrs. In, and out. In, and out.

“They thought it would be helpful.” He opens his eyes to see Griffin placing a silver tray on the table, presenting two steaming cups of tea and some bread and cheese, sliced apples, and a small bowl of raspberries. “To have a cat here, for us.”

Whyborne clears his throat. “Why?” His voice is rough, but stronger than he expects.

“I am told they’ve been selectively breeding the creatures, in this century, to be more emotionally attuned to humans. They call them therapy cats. The little darlings can sense when someone is upset and they instinctively try to calm us.”

Whyborne cracks a half smile, though his lips still feel tight and overly stretched. He’d been asking a different question entirely, and he suspects that Griffin knows that perfectly well. But for now he will accept the answer.

“It works.”

In this century. The words are almost impossible to grasp. How does a man - even one so learned about the supernatural as Whyborne might fancy himself – process the idea of being resurrected into another time, where invisible doors slide open at a touch and cats can practically read one’s thoughts?

Griffin hands him the cup of tea so he does not have to lean forward and disturb the warm body on his lap. The cat’s comfort is just the kind of thing Griffin would notice, he thinks to himself, adding it to the tally in his mind entitled Points In Favor Of This Being Real.

Whyborne sips the tea and breathes in some steam from the cup’s surface; the moist heat feels amazing on his aching throat. The cup is perfectly prepared to his taste. Another check for the tally. As he sips, his eyes sweep the room, taking note of the artwork, the carpets, a dusting of cat hair on the furniture. There’s even a crackling fireplace in the far wall, its jumps and flickers creating dancing shadows around the room - noticeable details that make the space seem perfectly normal.

Although, there are no windows.

There is no street noise from outside, no calling voices, nor carriages or motorcars rattling. Beneath the quiet rustlings of three living creatures moving and breathing in the room, there is a distant underlying hum of machinery that thrums faintly in his bones. He wonders, suddenly, if they are underground. It would explain the lack of need for windows, the strange lights, the sounds. He frowns slightly, worried for Griffin. He does not like to go underground.

Griffin sits down in an adjacent chair, nibbling the corner of an apple slice, seemingly unalarmed.

“The cat’s name is Sagan.”

Whyborne blinks. “What an odd choice. Does it mean something?”

Griffin shrugs. “I have no idea. He doesn’t answer to it when you call him, so I don’t think he cares.”

Whyborne lets his free hand settle on the cat’s warm back. “Well. It’s good to know that some things haven’t changed.”

Griffin, raising his cup to his lips, hesitates for a second then puts the cup carefully back on the tray. “I hope you understand, Ival, I am utterly overjoyed to see you; I long to throw myself into your arms, to greet you properly, but I don’t want to push you,” he says quietly. “You’ve had quite a shock. I know how it feels. I remember how it was when I – when I first awoke and I thought –“ he trails off, shivering.

Whyborne snaps to attention immediately, the last bits of fog fleeing his mind. Memories spring to the surface, their metaphorical fingers tapping the glass for his attention: Griffin crying out in the darkness, waking in a cold sweat, shivering just the same as he is now - night after night, year after year. He remembers with perfect clarity Griffin’s descriptions of his time in the madhouse, prior to their first meeting. Whyborne’s concern increases exponentially as each memory resurfaces. This must be Griffin, he must be real. Who would create a false man with such reactions? He draws a sharp intake of breath but the other man, rubbing his palms nervously against his thighs, continues before Whyborne can speak.

“I assumed I had simply gone mad again. Or worse, perhaps I had never been sane at all. I wondered, during those first hazy days, if I had imagined you. Perhaps in my struggle to overcome madness I had dreamed up the span of an entire lifetime, spent in love with the perfect man.” He smiles wistfully, his emerald eyes dreamy for a moment.  “The thought comforted me, if nothing else; that my imagination could be so … thorough.” A familiar heat rushes to Whyborne’s cheeks as Griffin continues. “But every day my hosts would come, in their white uniforms with their strange machines. I assumed they were doctors. I expected them to behave as the doctors in the asylum did when … when …” he swallows, collecting himself again for a moment.

Whyborne desperately wants to take away the small flashes of old fears he can see crossing Griffin’s face. Wishes that whoever has decided to resurrect them could have been better prepared to manage Griffin’s shock, given his history. He fights back a desire to reach for him, to pull Griffin into his arms. But once he starts touching Griffin, he suspects he won’t be able to stop. And he wants – he needs – to hear the story through.

“But I wasn’t mad, as I soon came to learn. They did not hurt me or try to ‘cure’ me. They would only talk to me, explain to me the passage of time, trying to show me that this was all real. They brought me wondrous things, demonstrated advances in science and medicine and communications. They showed me countless ways in which the world has evolved over generations. They brought me books and papers from the past; dusty photographs, faded portraits. They brought me bits and pieces of my own past – my journals. And your journals.”

Whyborne startled – their journals! His most private thoughts in the hands of strangers! How had they been acquired? He had written such things, intimate details of their life, their love, assuming nothing would ever be uncovered until after their deaths, when it would no longer matter … he pales. They will have read everything he put to paper and kept so carefully under lock and key. The strangers know what he and Griffin were - are - to each other.

“Don’t look like that, dearest,” Griffin says. His eyes are sympathetic, the rest of his expression resolute. “It was your journals that convinced me more than anything else ever could have. The things you wrote, no one else could have known. I could accept that this was real. And you needn’t worry about us, love. As they showed me, as I will show you in the coming days – times really have changed, especially for people like us. Laws have changed. Humanity has - evolved.”

Whyborne frowns, wants to ask what he means, but Griffin continues without pause. “When I finally settled in my head that I wasn’t mad or dreaming, I started asking them questions. Where am I? How did I come to this place? Why do I carry the countenance of my twenties instead of the aged man I was at the end of my life? They explained bits and pieces, slowly, as my understanding grew and I could put the whole picture together. What they’ve done, it’s …” he gestures with his hands, helplessly. “I can’t begin to describe it. But you will see soon enough. You will understand it faster, and likely vastly better, than I do. I can’t wait to see what you’ll be able to do when you get your hands on their archives.”

As Griffin pauses for a moment’s reflection, the question that’s been forming on his tongue since the wild tale started finally bursts forth from Whyborne’s lips: “How long?”

Griffin blinks. “My dear?”

“How long have you been – awake? How long were you –“ he swallows, mouth dry again, not wanting to say the words. How long have you been here alone?

Griffin seems unphased by the question. He tilts his head, thinking a moment. Whyborne watches him unabashedly, his eyes traveling over the beloved features, newly untouched by the ravages of time. “No more than a few months, I think. The first week or two really was a blur. And they told me straightaway they were planning to bring you along, so I was looking more forward than back by the time I really could grasp the measurement of days.”

“But why?” Whyborne struggles to understand. “Why did they bring you back without me?”

Wringing his hands, he forgets to stroke the cat. Chirping softly, Sagan shifts just enough to nudge Whyborne’s fingers with his cheeks until he gives in to the gentle demand for more petting.

Griffin’s lips quirk in a familiar half-smile as he sits forward in his chair. “Ah, this is the tricky part. Apparently, based on the historical records they could review from our time, they surmised that I was – let’s see, how, precisely, did they phrase it? – ah yes - the one more open to new experiences, and more likely to come around to acceptance first.”

Whyborne snorts.

Griffin eyes him, amused, then reaches tentatively for his hand. Whyborne lets him take it, and feels relieved when the flesh he touches is warm and soft. He remembers touching Theron Blackbyrne’s skin: oddly rubbery and much too cool, with the stench of the grave clinging to it. He adds another favorable check mark to the mental tally. But then Whyborne looks down at their joined hands and realizes with a start that his skin is unblemished. He turns his wrist over and pushes up the sleeve of his tunic; there are no scars anywhere to be seen. Griffin looks on with interest.

"Your leg?" Whyborne inquires.

"Not a trace of scarring to be seen. Not even the small ones from my boyhood adventures."

"So their replication techniques are inexact." Whyborne frowns, feeling petulant, for reasons he can't quite name. "I can't imagine why they thought I would be reluctant to accept their assertions as reality."

“Come now, Ival,” Griffin grins softly, stroking his thumb along Whyborne’s wrist. “You know it wasn’t an incorrect assumption to make.”

The use of the familiar endearment, the teasing tone in Griffin’s voice, brings an unexpected prick of tears behind Whyborne’s eyes. He stares straight ahead, not daring to meet the other man’s sympathetic gaze. He is shocked to realize that he is angry, that the tears he blinks back are born of a furious rage rather than concern or sadness. He is angry that these people brought Griffin back so thoughtlessly, knowing from both of their diaries what he’d suffered. Knowing what it could do to Griffin’s mind, to his psyche, they chose to bring him back from the dead anyway, into a strange future place, where he knew no-one, had no-one.

And he’d had to go through all of that without his Ival by his side.

He feels Griffin’s eyes on him, steady, watchful. “They also hoped that if you had a familiar face to see upon waking, if I had already acclimated and accepted, that you would adapt more quickly. A frightened, confused sorcerer is far more deadly than the average detective. They thought it would be safer, to revive us in that order; they only thought to lessen the shock for you and minimize the danger to us all.”

His pulse quickens as his grip tightens around Griffin’s fingers. “By worsening it for you? How could they, knowing what you had been through? If they read our journals - what sort of people could care so little for the impact this could have on your mind?  It can hardly be borne, it –“

He cuts off as the cat shifts abruptly, presses his claws delicately into Whyborne’s thigh, pushing his body into Whyborne’s ribs. The unexpected weight against his torso and the tiny sharp pinpricks of sensation cut through Whyborne’s escalating distress. Calm, calm. He breathes again. In, out. Slowly.

“The people of this time are not without compassion, Ival.” Griffin gently squeezes Whyborne’s hand. “Only, consider: the fate of the world, against the sanity of one man. How can it really be compared? What price can one put on all of humanity’s existence? They had to gamble on one of us, to begin. They thought my reactions would be more manageable. So they brought me back first. It was the most logical choice.”

One man’s sanity, a small price to pay in the eyes of their resurrectionists, perhaps; an unconscionable one for Whyborne. What could one man’s sacrifice matter, to such people as would raise men from the dead in desperation? But Griffin’s well-being is a sacrifice Whyborne is unwilling to make. Their rationale, while perhaps logically sound, does not endear Whyborne to their benefactors in the least – and he will make that very, very clear when they finally meet.

The cat wriggles again in his lap. Whyborne swallows his burgeoning anger, unwilling to let Griffin see him grow more upset. “Manageable indeed. How should we be expected to react? It’s eerie to think one’s been recently dead.”

Griffin chuckles. “Well. We’ve seen some unimaginable things in our time, haven’t we? I wager that’s why they chose us.”

“The fate of the world,” Whyborne repeats his earlier words. “So. It’s as bad as that?”

Griffin’s lips tighten. “They haven’t told me many details about why they want us here. And either my shadowsight isn't working at all, or there's something here that's blocking me. Or .. well, maybe because it was a gift bestowed upon me, it's not something that can cross the proverbial veil. I suppose it remains to be seen. But from what I can put together, from pieces of overheard and interrupted conversations, I strongly suspect there is some new world-altering paranormal activity that their miraculous scientific advances can’t combat. They have amazing machines, beyond anything the wildest pulp novelists could have invented. But they are absolutely rubbish about dealing with the paranormal and sorcery. Except, apparently, whatever combination of all three is responsible for bringing us here.”

“Perhaps you misunderstood what you heard?” Whyborne is not sure if his question is hopeful, or resigned.

“It’s possible that the phrase ‘destroy the planet’ may have come to mean something different over the centuries, but I wouldn’t want to lay odds on it.”

Whyborne sighs. “It must really be a pickle. I wish they’d have told you more. I don’t like the secrecy.” Of course Griffin would not have confronted anyone about his suspicions, yet. A good detective never lets on how much he knows. “And I like the sorcery even less.”

“You only like magic when you're the one using it." By the way Griffin's eyes crinkle at the corners, Whyborne knows he only means to tease. "Maybe they plan to tell us together. Or, maybe they only plan to tell you. You’re the strong, brave, mystical sorcerer; I’m only the barn pony, brought in to keep the prized thoroughbred calm.”

“Don’t you dare,” Whyborne snaps, and Griffin looks shocked at his tone. “Don’t ever dare speak of yourself in that way. I was never strong, or brave, until you made me want to be.“ How can Griffin still not know that? Even after a whole lifetime - he still doubts himself? “I don’t care if it is the entire planet and every man, woman and child’s life at stake. I shall refuse to take one single step without you at my side. I need your attention to detail, your insight, your courage. We are never so strong apart as we are together. I need you.”

Griffin watches him closely, his face schooled to a neutral expression. No one has ever been able to read Whyborne better, not even his own mother. But Whyborne didn’t spend a lifetime with Griffin and not learn a few things himself. Griffin always puts on an outward appearance of calm, seeming so relaxed, so put-together. But Whyborne can see through the façade and he has always known, though it hurts him to know it, how much Griffin doubts himself. Even if it takes him another lifetime, Whyborne will do everything in his power to wipe away those doubts for good.

Griffin shakes his head, and the tension passes. “Then at your side I shall stay.” He releases Whyborne's hand as he moves to sit by Whyborne on the sofa. Sagan, pleased to have doubled his possibilities for petting, stretches out lazily across both of their laps.

Whyborne brings his cat-free hand to Griffin’s face, fingertips tracing the line of his cheekbone, broad palm cupping the perfect curve of his jaw. Griffin tilts his head up to meet Whyborne’s gaze, nuzzles into the touch and smiles. This close, and now with his head clear, Whyborne can detect the unmistakable scent of Griffin. The sense memory it awakens is reassuring far beyond all else that’s happened so far: every resurrection Whyborne had ever witnessed produced a much different essence as a byproduct of cheating death. Bitterness, rot, and decay would always underlay everything else; it was a sourness that could not be removed by bathing or masked by cologne. Griffin carries none of those odors about him. He is male musk and faint sandalwood and utterly, undeniably Griffin.

Whyborne sighs. He feels fully relaxed for the first time since he opened his eyes in that terrifying wash of light. “Are you sure you aren’t an angel?”

Griffin laughs heartily at that, and warmth surges in Whyborne’s chest. “Of that, I think we can both be certain. As if Heaven would welcome the likes of me.”

“And you are doubly sure we aren’t in Hell?”

Griffin squeezes his shoulder reassuringly. “Well, if this is Hell, then it’s not nearly as awful as I’ve been led to believe. First, I doubt there are cats in Hell. Secondly, it was exceptionally kind of them to bring us back so young. Hell would have made us much less attractive.” His eyes sparkle with inviting mischief as he looks at Whyborne.

Butterflies flutter in Whyborne’s stomach. Griffin had long ago mastered the technique of opening him up like this, of pulling down Whyborne’s carefully constructed walls. “I agree. I was worried that I might have misremembered how breathtakingly handsome you are; I am pleased that is not the case.”

Griffin turns his face, kisses Whyborne's palm. “One can’t exactly expect two old codgers to go haring off on supernatural adventures.”

“Yet we did, routinely.”

“But we’ll know better now.

“Will we,” and his tone is so dry it brings a fresh peal of laughter from Griffin.

Whyborne closes his eyes and lets the delightful sound wash over him. Then, after a moment’s contemplation: “Do you trust them?” he asks solemnly.

Griffin’s hand comes to rest on his thigh, warming Whyborne’s skin through the soft white fabric. “Of course not. I know they've only shown me what they want me to see, but they've kept plenty more close to the vest. Besides ... they live in a time of unimaginable wonders, yet the best solution they could think of for their current troubles was to raise two old dandies from the dead?”

“Well. When you put it that way it does call their higher thinking skills into question.”

But Griffin does not laugh at his comment. His expression grows thoughtful. “I do have one concern, which knowing you, I imagine you’ve already considered.”

Whyborne sighs. “We both recorded in no uncertain terms, in our journals, our observations on the consequences of necromantic sorcery.”

Griffin nods. “It was rarely a pretty sight.”

“True,” Whyborne agrees. “But Griffin, I … I don’t feel wrong. Do you?”

“I don’t,” he replies. “I feel perfectly like myself. Granted, it's my mature, more experienced self, grafted into a younger body, for which any man should be eternally grateful ... But maybe things will change, over time. Maybe this won’t last. And if my shadowsight isn't working, if our scars are gone - maybe the resurrection was incomplete in other ways; maybe you can't use your power here either.”

Whyborne ponders that for a moment. He looks to the fireplace, crackling merrily away. Does he dare risk testing his power now? He doesn't feel the whirling pull of the maelstrom, exactly, but there has been something tingling under his skin ever since his return to consciousness ... He looks back and catches Griffin's knowing gaze. "You may as well give it a go," he says. "Better to find out now than when we're in a tight spot and you really need it."

Whyborne looks back at the flames and whispers softly; the flames flare up higher, just for a few seconds, then settle back down as commanded. It isn't effortless, though. He has to concentrate hard. Something wants to resist him.

Griffin lets out a long breath. "I guess it's just me, then."

"Not completely. There is definitely something trying to block my power here." Whyborne pats his hand reassuringly. “We'll figure out what's happening. With all of these strange machines and power sources around, almost anything could be interfering with our abilities. We'll have to devise a way to test it."

Griffin chews his bottom lip thoughtfully, but only nods in reply.

Whyborne continues,"There’s always a chance that their advanced technology has helped them overcome some of the less desirous effects of necromancy. But I guess we’ve no way to know yet what will become of us. Or what we might become.”

“We shall, as they say, have to cross that bridge when – and if - we come to it. One disaster at a time, my dear. Whatever comes, we face it together.” Griffin leans forward, kissing his forehead. The soft, warm press of his lips sends a bright tingling sensation all the way down to Whyborne’s toes.

To imagine that they have already lost each other once to death, yet here they are again – it is wondrous; Whyborne can scarcely wrap his thoughts around the possibilities. He has long known how fragile the world is, how easily life may be torn away by the smallest oversight. Dare he believe that they now have a second chance, another lifetime to live again together? Whyborne well knows the horrors that can befall those dabbling with forces beyond their ken. He knows nothing yet about the people who have brought them back - whether their skills and understanding are adequate to whatever tasks lie ahead; whether bringing himself and Griffin here was truly done for good or for ill. His rational mind won’t let him throw all caution to the wind; they will almost certainly need their combined lifetimes' worth of skills to get safely through whatever is to come. But the blooming spark of joyful hope in his chest refuses to let itself be quashed by simple logic. If there is any chance, no matter how small, for a happy outcome - then Whyborne will hold onto it, with all his strength.

A bell rings out; he flinches, startling at the unexpected sound. His sudden movement wakes the cat who yawns and stretches, looking up at him with clear disapproval.

“The door chime,” Griffin grimaces. “They gave us more time alone than I expected, but I suppose they’ll want to see you now.”

“All right then,” Whyborne smiles. We face it together. “Let’s go save the world.”