Work Header

la douleur exquise

Chapter Text

"Welcome to Mark 2 STELLAR IMPACT. Let's work on your entrance." —Stellar Impact Greaves 

THE COSMODROME, EARTH Pre-Red War: Before The SIVA Crisis//.The Guardian and Cayde–6

The first emotion she ever learned was fear.

She woke up under a blanket of snow, taking a cold, even breath with this white, polygonal orb thing—

 “I’m not a thing, I’m your Ghost!”

—screaming at her. She was surrounded by nothing but rusting cars and blistering winds. She was bundled in ponchos and hoods, no doubt to protect herself against the elements. She was alone. 

“Whoever you were with must have not realized when you collapsed and kept moving,” the “Ghost” thing said urgently. 

A guttural yet piercing howl echoed in the wasteland of ice and she twisted to look behind her, the apprehension rising with her pounding heart. She saw no shadow approaching through the screaming wind, but the noises were getting louder. 

Getting closer.

She looked at the Ghost with fearful eyes. His multilateral body contorted and expanded, the pieces of his shell almost blowing apart to reveal a spherical body. The eyepiece darted about, scanning. 

“Fallen,” he noted. His body snapped back into place like a rubber band.


 “We gotta get outta here,” the Ghost said, burrowing into the snow beside her. “Pick that gun up. Can you run?”

She found a small sidearm in the hole the Ghost made next to her. It must have been hers. She was still sitting in the snow and began to feel her feet. She hastily stood up, dusting off the icy powder and began to run towards the Ghost’s bright blue eye.

She wanted to speak but couldn’t find the words. A wisp of her long jet black hair fell out of her hood and fluttered in the wind, and she tucked it back behind her ear, lip quivering and eyes wide. She can’t remember who she was, and it scared her more than whatever was chasing her with those horrible snarls.

The Ghost turned left into an abandoned building and she followed him. There was no way to pull the rusted door shut—she didn’t have the strength in her right now, anyway—but it gave some respite to the unforgiving climate outside. The howls were now further away, but the echoes bounced around in her head.

“Hey! I need your help.”

She turned around and found the Ghost hovering by what looked like a small, bulbous fighter ship, run down but still in working condition.

“Fallen skiff. This crashed recently but I can salvage it. I’m gonna need you to plug those wires in. You’ll be faster, on account of my lack of hands.”

She fumbled with the sidearm; not finding any pockets or suitable bands to tuck the gun in, she opted for clenching the barrel between her teeth as she snapped the plugs together. As if waking a sleeping child, the skiff rumbled to life. She shuddered in some relief and held her hands up to the glowing engines; warmth. It was short lived as the Ghost finished whatever he was doing to the engine and shouted, “C’mon, we gotta go, let’s go!” as the piercing growls drew nearer.

She turned away from the heat as the cockpit of the ship swung open. She grabbed onto the holds of the exterior and pulled herself in, the hatch shutting once the Ghost hovered in. At noticing her balk at the dashboard filled with so many levers and switches, the Ghost desperately rattling off instructions, becoming more furtive the louder the growls got.

“You got it!” the Ghost shouted as the radar console turned on. The lights turned green. “Now just—“

She saw “THRUSTERS” labeled on one lever and instinctively flicked it on, gripped the control column and pulled up. The ship curved up and shot through the abandoned building, tearing the roof like paper. Her heart thudded erratically with the deafening engines as they ripped through the atmosphere. Soon they were in the inky black of space. The Ghost, now calmer, instructed her to put in coordinates into the nav system. She obeyed, feeling numb and robotic from the down of adrenaline coursing through her veins.

They soon came floating into the view of an actual tower, high into the sky, right underneath a giant white sphere. It wasn’t a moon–it was too white, too smooth, and far too close. It was awe–striking.

“We’re landing,” her Ghost said.

Fast trip, she noted, as the skiff pulled into the Tower, now being led by the magnetic fields of the docking bay. The lights and booming noises of metal tech and grinding machinery overwhelmed her ears.

“We gotta get you to the Vanguard.”

“How do you know all this?” she blurted out, finally finding her voice. It sounded rough from lack of use.

“You can talk!” the Ghost exclaimed, almost excitedly. “You have no idea how long I’ve been looking for you. I know none of this makes any sense or means anything, but I promise it’ll all be explained. Just follow me.”

She obeyed, the unease eating at her stomach again.

It was like a military hangar. Personnel everywhere dressed in drab greys and clipboards, inspecting a ship or weapon or other gear. There were more unique individuals, donned in helmets and magnificent capes, extravagant robes, with glowing swords and hand cannons on their backs and hips. She couldn’t help but turn and stare as they walked by.

“My, my, is that a Kinderguardian?”

She turned around and was stunned at what she saw. A robot-man with a beautiful blue horn coming out of his forehead under his hood stood before her. Survival chiq, donned in leather with a large knife hanging at his waist. Shocking electric blue eyes examined her attentively.

“Cayde-6,” the Ghost greeted.

“Just call me Cayde,” he introduced himself, extending a hand.

“A robot?” she murmured hesitantly.

He laughed in good humor and clapped a gloved hand on her back before letting his arm dangle around her shoulder. She stiffened at the foreign physical contact, though saw how the gesture was meant to be comforting.

“Don’t worry, grasshopper,” Cayde said self–assuredly. “Your friend here did the right thing bringing you to me! You’re in good hands, I promise.”

Her stomach growled audibly and she soon noticed how famished she was.

“But first some food!” he declared. “Come with me for some of the best ramen the Tower has to offer. Oh, and welcome to The Tower, Hunter.”

THE TOWER, EARTH - Post-Red War: Before The Prison of Elders Emergency//.The Hunter and The Drifter

The Hunter transmatted back from her Flashpoint patrols. Cayde has been away, helping Petra Venj quell rebellions and in–fighting at The Reef. The last mission she ran with him was putting away the Barons, months ago, and since then, nothing. She pulled off her helmet with a bored sigh and headed towards the ramen shop.

As she walked towards the Bazaar, she heard music––a guitar? ––from the alleyway next to the shop. Odd, the gate there was never opened before, and the lilting and grizzled humming got louder as she got closer. She found a tiny back storage room, now crammed full of crates and boxes. Right outside of it was a work bench full of papers and screens. A man sat on a chair made of concentrated Light, his feet propped up on the workbench, idly strumming while muttering to himself.

He wore shaders of brown and army green but she’s never seen another Guardian like him. Fur Titan pauldrons, a Warlock’s coat, and a hand cannon strapped to his chest, Hunter style. He stroked a thick black beard with his gloved hand before running through his short cropped black hair. A dark green headband hugged his forehead, with these deep scars hiding in his beard.

“I haven’t seen you around here before,” the Hunter said suspiciously.

The man quickly sat up, the chair and guitar dissipating, and tried to hide his workbench with his body and outstretched arms. His stark grey eyes stared daggers into The Hunter before softening his demeanor, a smirk tugging at his lips.

“Welcome to the Tower, stranger.”

“You’re a sight for sore eyes, sister,” he chuckled.

He straightened himself up in shock when he studied her face.

“A Hero of the Red War!” he exclaimed excitedly. “One of Saladin’s Young Wolves, or should I say, Cayde’s Babe?”

“Is that what people call me?” she responded, taken aback.

The roguish, dashing man cocked his head, amused.

“You and Cayde are the system’s worst kept secret. I mean, Petra Venj is one thing, but you? A Godslayer? Get outta here!”

She didn’t appreciate the mention of an ex so flippantly, but she brushed it off.

“You clearly know a lot about me.”

“Ah, how rude of me!” the man exclaimed with a flourish. “Call me Drifter, kid. I’m here bring you something new called Gambit.”

The Hunter let this smooth-talking stranger explain what Gambit was––

“Is this underground Crucible?” she said wryly.

He laughed heartily. “No need to oversimplify it, but I’d let you do things Shaxx wouldn’t,” he said suggestively.

She felt a chill cross her, but willed herself to not shiver. She sauntered over to him by the work bench, graceful, catlike. The Hunter couldn’t help herself but tempt him with saying, “Why don’t you break it down for me a little better?”

She attempted to read some of the papers but the Drifter slammed a large hand down, covering the contents. She was suddenly very aware how close he was. His aura––his energy. Unsettling. Wrong.

“Why don’t I show you instead?” he whispered salaciously in her ear. “You’ll see that I’m a fun distraction.”

She wormed out of his way, hiding her flush, and began backing towards the exit. He walked towards her with a slow, predatory gait.

“Maybe next time,” she stammered.

He brightened and backed off, turning back to his work desk. “Come back when you’re ready to make some cash, toots.”