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What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?

The shard of the Dragon Gem weighs heavy in her hand, her gaze cannot decide where it wants to settle as she glances between it and Raya; fingers gripping loosely around it. She had been cause of it shattering once before, she would not drop this piece and make their already terribly bleak situation any worse.

Why are you trusting me?

One by one they gave her the shards and one by one, they perished to stone. The black and purple mist danced in taunt around her, never touching but ever trying.

It did not get easier to watch but Raya was the hardest to swallow. There was the blooming trust in her eyes that pinned Namaari’s soul to the moment; that shot an arrow straight through her.

Instinctually, her mind raced back to her people and what she should be doing over blindly trusting her enemy and the strange gaggle of people that she had convinced to the cause along the way.

Her biggest mistake was looking back.
You never do that.

I hurt you, I broke your home and your family. Why me?

Raya’s stone form stood there as a monolith of judgement to her, a monolith of suffocating trust that had been placed on her shoulders to fix this.

And she did, didn’t she?

The Gem was fixed but without a reaction, the sinking sensation at the pit of her stomach grew to a gnawing and angry prickle of anxiety that she could not shake in the moment. Raya’s trust in her was so misplaced and once again, it would be her fault that the world fell into ruin.

Bile congeals at the back of her throat and with no escape route clear (not that she considered it an option), she closes the distance between her and Raya. Her hand sets upon her almost-lovers shoulder and she inhales…

The exhale does not come as stone encases her and her last fleeting thoughts were of nothing more than how much Raya must have trusted her and how helpless she was to save Raya in return.

I’m so sorry… For everything, Raya.

The world comes back in a rush, air punches it’s way back into her lungs and she forces a spluttered inhale and a rapid blink. The Druun-...

The Druun are gone and Namaari’s eyes can only blink as they try to adjust back to reality once more. Memories flood back and she snaps her gaze straight to Raya whose staring right back at her with disbelief and… something else?

The nervous laughter all bubbles up, Raya’s hand is on her own and she doesn’t even try to hide her tears as they fall but as the others return to life, Namaari is almost keenly aware of being the outsider looking in amongst this group.

She is the fox in the chicken coop; the traitor.

I think I love you but… forgiveness is not easily earned. I won't dare ask for it, I don’t deserve it.

Except she finds herself within more group hugs in the next forty-eight hours than she has ever been in the last nineteen years of her life. The acceptance is too much to bear, she is undeserving and their trust is misplaced.

“Hellooo…? Earth to Crazy Cat Lady?” A hand waves in front of her eyes and Namaari jerks reflexively away from it as Raya smirked. “Wow, where’d you go?”

The grass is soft beneath her, the sky overcast and cloudy as she laid there with the one person in the world whose wayward trust saved it. Sisudatu’s influence was so very clear to see across Raya’s face, across the intricate etchings and cracks of her heart. ‘

Mutedly, Namaari ponders if it is going to rain.

Why do you trust me..? I don’t understand.

Her hand snapped up to catch Raya’s mid-wave, rolling her eyes with a snort. “I would be enjoying this outting that you invited me on more if you didn’t shove your hands in my face and crawl all over me like a toddler, you know. What are you, five?”

“And yet, you’ve done nothing to stop me. I’m starting to think you enjoy it, Namaari.” Raya’s smirk broadens into a grin and the Fang Princess recognizes the playful teasing even before her companion has dared to speak. “Has the big bad kitty princess finally accepted friendship into her heart?”

The tone is mocking, babying, and Namaari shoves Raya’s hand back at her with a sneer.

“You are a child, I knew it.” The banter was something she had grown accustomed to many years before Kumandra reunited, it was their way of communicating and at the time Namaari paid little attention to it save for how it prickled anger beneath her skin.

Now?
Every word was a second guess between playful jokes and the thought of a thinly veiled true thought.

Except, it was her that was pushing Raya away now.
Raya was soft in her words, veiling over affection and-...

No, no. She did not care.
Namaari was not going down that rabbit hole again.

“Hey… If something’s bothering you then you can tell me.” Raya’s tone is of concern, her brows furrowed and retreating from their close proximity. The mood sobers at an alarming rate and Namaari is unable to stop the whiplash hitting her.

Now she had gone and fucking done it.

“No-... No, it’s…” A hand lifts, rubbing her own face as Namaari struggles with her emotions again; an endless battle that yields few results. She knew herself well, she knew she cared for Raya but she also knew that she did not have the right to it.

That love was not earned and she didn’t even dare think about the possibility of it being reciprocated, not when the fleeting idea of it caused her heart to squeeze between a vice.

Not even when Raya’s hand cautiously reached out to touch her own and ease it away from pinching the bridge of her nose. “Okay… If you’re not good to say it then we can go back or something that’d cheer you up. You want to go throw rocks into the lake or go for a jog?”

Anything to stop how Namaari’s brows creased and how her eyes would glaze over as if tears were almost imminent. What was she thinking about?

“No. I’m good, you invited me out here for a reason and I'm not going to bail. I’m not that flaky unlike you.” Another jest and jab that Namaari can only cringe internally at despite how she forces a huff of laughter.

My heart hurts for every time I do this to you but I don’t know how to stop...

“Ouch, something really crawled up your ass today.”

“Oh, don’t start. You’re the one pestering me after a promise of a relaxing afternoon. Do you even know what relaxing is, Raya?”

A cycle on repeat.
She could deflect and deflect and deflect but it never changed what was at the core of her issues.

Her mother had told her on no less than seven occasions that whatever happened on that last day of the Druun changed her, shook her unwavering confidence and put a hole in her. Something was different and it was pulling her down into the blackened depths…

Trust, sure, she could do that now but forgiveness?
She couldn’t just buy and compliment her way into that, it had to be earned and Namaari did not even deserve the consideration of earning it.

“After everything with the Druun, I thought this-...” Raya began, cutting herself off with a sneer. “I’ll leave you to your peace then. If you’re done being a bitch, you know where I am.”

She should have stopped her.

Namaari is so keenly aware that she should have stopped Raya from leaving but all she did was watch.

This. I deserve this.

All Raya’s anger and betrayal and hatred; that is what she deserved.

Tuk Tuk vanished into the distance with Raya in tow and Namaari sat in the grass as the first crackle of thunder echoed across the sky. Raindrops are slow to start before the heavens open and the grass is now slickened mud beneath her hands and feet.

Yeah, I probably deserve this too.

Every strand of her hair clung to her face, attire adhesed to her body and the cool wind leaving goosebumps in her wake. Numbly, she is aware that she should go back to the temple but her limbs are heavy and her ride left minutes ago.

She sighs into the chilly air, forcing herself to stand and dredge back through the open fields of mud and misery.

Why are you doing this to yourself?
She can hear her mothers voice at the back of her mind chiding her, scolding her for being so self-destructing andstupid. She was a proud warrior of the Fang and she was walking in the pouring rain whilst wallowing in self deprecation.

Pride makes her straighten her spine, an expression of murder and disdain was plenty to keep any poor soul who passed her path from even considering to stop her.

Her thoughts ran in hostile circles as her feet carried her without a destination.

I love her and I want her but I do not deserve her. She can do better, she has better. I should not be here, should not be doing this but fuck-... I love her.

It was only when the familiar sound of Raya’s voice filled the air did Namaari stop dead, still soaked from the ongoing downpour that rattled the roof tiles.

“I don’t know, Sisu-- I really thought I could win her over this time! I took her somewhere nice, I was flirty and playful and she just--!” A small thud was indication enough that Raya might’ve hit something.

“Maybe it was a misunderstanding? I know Namaari and I know she likes you, Raya. Maybe she had a bad fight with her mother?”

“I even got her a stupid gift. Eugh-...”

“And you didn’t give it to her!? See, this is why it went badly. You always open with the gift and then she won’t be upset because she’s happy you gave her a gift!”

Namaari bit back a broken noise, leaning against the white wall between herself and the voices in the room behind her. Her hands cupped her face, the tears hot and mingling with the cool raindrops that clung persistently to her.

What am I doing…?

“Namaari…?”

The voice startled the warrior, flinching as hands withdrew from her face to gape in a mixture of shock and embarrassment. When the pair had moved from the room to the doorway, now watching with muted concern, she could not say…

Sisu’s snout gave a gentle press to Raya’s back, words shared with just looks that Namaari couldn’t quite decipher.

“Whatever is haunting you, Namaari, I know you’re strong enough to overcome it.” The dragon's words are quiet as she approaches, offering a brief hug and a caring smile before leaving her raw and exposed for Raya to pry apart.

“Nam-..”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, okay!?” She is yelling again and it only draws more tears. “I’m-...”

“Hey, no. Hey-...” Raya is at her side and pulling her close, caring so very little if Namaari wants this embrace or not. “I don’t know what's bothering you but I meant it when I said that I’m here for you, ‘Maari.”

Dilapidated walls crumbled to the ground and Namaari turned her head into the warmth of Raya’s shoulder; openly weeping against her shoulder as the Guardian softly soothed and shushed her.

“I don’t deserve this… I don’t.” Namaari croaks, voice hoarse from crying and bones tired to their core. “I hurt you, I hurt everyone a-and-...”

“You fixed it.” Raya’s tone leaves no room for arguing, firm, as she leans back just slightly to hold her heart’s sight. “You fixed it and got rid of all the Druun, don’t you dare say you didn’t. You saved all of us and the dragons!”

“That’s amazing, Namaari. You know that, right? What you did was so amazing… You could’ve ran or saved yourself but you stayed with us, with me, and saved everyone. The world is better because you were a better person than me.”

She wouldn’t quite agree to Raya’s statement but there was no giving voice to that nagging thought. She did save the world and the dragons too but-...

“You’re the amazing one, Raya…” Sniffling, Namaari’s gaze shifts away as she wipes the tears free from her cheeks. She is vaguely aware that both her eyes and face sting but she is more so aware of the warm arm around her, rubbing circles on her upper arm. “None of it would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for you.”

“Now you’re just trying to make me blush.”

A snort, quiet and broken but with trickles of endearment sneaking through. “Is it working…?”

“A little. Would be more effective if you weren’t crying on me. Just sayin’...” Raya dares a small chuckle, hand lifting to cup Namaari’s cheek and wiping away the remnants of any tears that had been missed.

It was Namaari’s face who flushed first, meeting Raya’s gaze and forcing that lump back from her throat finally. “I love you.” The words are of the moment, spoken without thinking and she can only regret their existence the moment that they escape her maw.

Raya’s expression turns tender, lips turned upwards and fondness drowning the prior moment of sorrow. There was giddy disbelief skin deep below the calmness that Raya did not dare give time to lest she spook the already distressed Fang warrior.

“I’m-.. I shouldn’t have said that. I-...”

A kiss silenced Namaari immediately, Raya’s lips capturing her own deeply; pushing away all coherent thought and their hostile whispers.

“How…” Raya began, her forehead resting against Namaari’s own, “have you not realized that I love you too? I wasn’t being subtle…”

The Princess spluttered, frowning ever so slightly. “I thought…”

You can do better.

Raya’s smile is a sun against her skin; drawing her into its warmth like a moth to a flame. She cannot lean away nor take her hands off of the other, not if she tried.

“I love you, Namaari.” Their foreheads collide in a gentle bump, “And if you say you don’t deserve this or me, or even imply it, I will be forced to fight you or tell your mother.”

The ice breaks and Namaari is forced to groan, “Don’t. Please, don’t. I’m too tired to kick your ass and my mother is-... She does not need more fuel to tell me she is right and she told me so.”

“Oh, so your mother knows and you still took this long to get here? Wow, Namaari. I thought you were cool and suave.” A finger boops her nose and Raya is still smiling. “C’mon, I have a spare set of clothes. You can get into something dryer and… we can talk if you want?”

Blinking, Namaari can only nod as she is aided to her feet, as that hand remains around her waist guiding her in free from any passing eyes.

“I would… really like that. Thank you…”

“Don’t worry about it, ‘Maari.”

“... This is just a ploy to get me into your shirts, isn’t it?”