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And So My World Awoke

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“What are you doing?”

The sound of her wife’s voice startled Christianne back into the present. Christianne laughed sheepishly, holding up the scrapbook. 

“Going through old memories,” she admitted. The couch cushions beside her sank just slightly as Eledhwen took a seat, leaning her head on Christianne’s shoulder. 

Christianne remembered their earlier years of distance and division, and pressed a kiss to her wife’s forehead. Eledhwen hummed, nuzzling in deeper against Christianne’s collar. Christianne squirmed, though not from discomfort.

“It tickles, Ellie!” she insisted. Eledhwen quickly pulled back, putting one mischievous finger to her lips.

“Let’s not wake the kids,” she suggested. 

Christianne rolled her eyes, but settled back against the couch cushions. Eledhwen curled up beside her, less like one of Tolkien’s ethereal Firstborn and more like a giant cat. 

“I got to, I think… 2010,” said Christianne, tapping the photo of the two of them with the Course Coordinator of IAHF. They had met in New Caledonia, at the newly-opened Abbot’s Bakery. The line for bread had stretched rather comically down Rue Jay Thorntree… 

“Incredible,” deadpanned Mr Allen Clarke as the line to get into Abbot’s Bakery moved forward by only a couple inches. “This bread better be amazing. We’ve been waiting for almost an hour.”

“You’d understand better if you’ve only had Cafeteria food for several years,” said Christianne, trying her hardest not to ogle her own damn partner. Eledhwen in a suit was incredibly distracting.

Mr Allen raised an eyebrow at that. “Maybe we should ask them to cater to our students,” he joked, as the line inched forward again. Christianne snorted.

“Sure, if you want your students to eat eldritch meat,” she said, “since I definitely remember seeing meat from R’lyeh on the Caf menu at one point.”

“And Sue-kabobs,” added Eledhwen with a slight shudder. “Freshly roasted over urple flames.”

Mr Allen looked slightly green at that. “I think I should just ask for a supply plothole,” he muttered, before pulling out a checklist and running his finger down the paper. “So, how frequently should we expect you two at IAHF?”

“Perhaps monthly,” said Eledhwen. “Or weekly, depending on the amount of intelligence we can gather regarding the activities of Happily Ever After Ltd.”

“Ellie says she’ll be the primary point of contact, since she has more of an investment in following the movements of Lilith Wydenbrooke,” added Christianne. “You probably won’t see too much of me in comparison.”

“That’s fine.” Mr Allen smiled bracingly at them. “I should warn you two, though, I may not always be there when you do visit.”

“Of course; I can leave the dispatches and return at a later date for follow-ups,” replied Eledhwen.

Mr Allen coughed. “Not quite what I meant,” he admitted. 

The line ahead of them inched forward again, this time by a couple feet. They could now see the little English church that the bakery was contained in, with a cheerful plume of smoke rising from the belfry.

Christianne folded her arms. “What do you mean, then?” she wondered, her gaze drawn inadvertently to Eledhwen brushing imaginary lint off of her forearms. She really should have been firmer in telling her partner that suits didn’t really count as off-duty wear. 

Mr Allen’s voice brought her back to the present. “Sometimes you’ll meet Hugh,” he replied. “We have a sort of arrangement. He’s the more diplomatic of the two of us, but also he doesn’t really understand technobabble—or technology at all—so don’t be so surprised if he asks you to explain things again.”

Eledhwen paused. “And Hugh isn’t here right now, because…” 

Mr Allen tapped his head. Eledhwen looked at Christianne, as if asking her to explain. Fortunately, Christianne had heard of such situations before, thanks to one friend in high school who had been part of such a system.

“They’re in the same body, so to speak,” she explained to Eledhwen. “Two fae in one rhaw.”

Eledhwen made a small ‘ah’ of realisation. “I look forward to working with him, too,” she replied simply. 

Mr Allen nodded. “Hugh doesn’t want to wake up properly right now, but he returns the sentiment.” With that, he turned towards the belfry of Abbott’s Bakery. “Maybe we could try our luck with Chez Thorondil instead of just waiting here like a bunch of idiots.”

“No one knows what Chez Thorondil is selling these days,” countered Christianne, “and Tomoko Kogi said the hot cross buns here taste like melon pan, and I want one.”

“I could go check Chez Thorondil,” replied Mr Allen. “Hold my spot for me, won’t you?” 

And before either of them had the chance to protest, he strode off.

The moment Mr Allen faded from sight, Eledhwen turned to Christianne. “He is not what I expected,” she admitted. 

Christianne chuckled. “Were you expecting someone like Miss Cam?” she wondered. “Or Dr Huinesoron?”

“I have no idea who Dr Huinesoron is,” admitted Eledhwen, “though if he is anything like Agent Huinesoron…” 

“He may even look like Dafydd Illian,” finished Christianne. Eledhwen snorted.

“You and Mr Illian,” she teased. “Should I warn Constance?”

“You and Caspian the Tenth,” retorted Christianne. “Should I warn Ramandu’s Daughter?”

Eledhwen’s ears flushed at that. “I do not know what possessed me to behave that way on that mission,” she admitted. “The Eldar do not give their affections so lightly.” 

“I’m completely willing to chalk it up to your unfortunate chocolate habit,” replied Christianne magnanimously. “Though I do still have photographic proof of you turning bright red every time he looked at you.”

“How can I convince you to burn that?” wondered Eledhwen.

Christianne snorted. “Buy me a bun?” she asked, gesturing towards the bakery.

Eledhwen nodded. Her hand was warm and delicate in Christianne’s own. When they pulled away, Christianne could somehow still feel Eledhwen’s fingers against her own.

She folded her hands behind her back, flexing away the sensation.

Mr Allen returned to them soon enough—though not entirely, given that his whole demeanour and deportment seemed different. “Hugh Fraser,” he said, with a short bow at the two of them. “Allen said you would be waiting for us here.”

“Get back in line before someone complains,” said Christianne, and Mr Hugh quickly complied. “Great. I’m Christianne Shieh, and this is my partner Eledhwen Elerossiel. We’re the liaisons HQ has assigned to IAHF.”

“Yes, I remember Allen mentioning this,” said Mr Hugh. “Thank you for accepting the position. We hope not to overburden you—we would much prefer Ms Wydenbrooke to attack her fellow Mary Sue Factories instead of us.”

“We would all prefer she provoke a League civil war,” agreed Christianne. “But in the meantime, it’s our job to keep you up to date on her movements, especially given all the fake Nation-tans her Factory has been creating. There’s also rumours of Suvian bioweapons.”

HQ had celebrated its 2-year commemoration of the Macrovirus Epidemic this past April. Christianne and Eledhwen had been there, lighting two small candles in the echoing silence of the Tomb of the Unknown PPC Agent. At the time, Christianne could only think of Selma, lost not within the epidemic or the invasion, but in the transition back to business as usual in the wake of a thousand deaths. Falling through the cracks like so many others. 

If the information DES had already given them to pass along to the IAHF coordinators was true, then something just as terrible could be on the horizon if they didn’t stop Lilith Wydenbrooke in time. 

Christianne shivered a little. Beside her, Mr Hugh folded his arms and looked over at the still incredibly long line leading to Abbott’s Bakery. 

“Chez Thorondil decided today it would be selling books,” he said, “so, do you think Abbott’s will have sourdough?”

It wasn’t terrible at first, being the PPC liaison with IAHF. Eledhwen delivered her dispatches whenever she could, and would sometimes come back with chocolate or other things she’d picked up from the Staff Section of IAHF. Christianne would feign nonchalance about her partner’s returns, but deep down, she was relieved every time.

It was a risk for Eledhwen, given her history with Happily Ever After Ltd and its manager. Christianne would have been perfectly fine with taking her partner’s place as point liaison, but Eledhwen seemed possessed by the idea of working off her debt to Upstairs. The Flowers that Be had given her the chance to prove herself, and if she ran herself into the ground in the process of doing that, then so be it. 

During this time, Eledhwen’s neat-freak tendencies somehow got worse. Christianne frequently awoke to the sound of stress-vacuuming and pencil sharpening. This time, though, she let it slide, though she couldn’t shake the feeling of déjà-vu as restless shadows began appearing under Eledhwen’s eyes. Every attempt at some sort of relaxation—walks in New Caledonia’s parks, TV show marathons on their console, a harebrained search for the HQ Pool—seemed like only a small plaster atop a gaping wound that Eledhwen herself was reopening.

Her partner was collapsing in on herself, and Christianne was, once again, helpless.

It wasn’t terrible at first, but as with almost any assignment in the PPC, it quickly got worse. After the League of Mary Sue Factories officially split into two factions headed by the Venomous Tentacula and Lilith Wydenbrooke, Eledhwen received a summons from Upstairs and returned almost on the brink of tears.

“They’re asking you to do what?” demanded Christianne, when she finally managed to bribe the news out of her partner with a bag of chocolate-covered almonds. “No. That’s crossing the line. They have plenty of ex-Sue and Stu agents who can do the job.”

“None of them have a clone who is actively dangerous to the well-being of the multiverse,” Eledhwen pointed out. “Whatever Lilith can access, I can access. It has to be me.”

“They’re putting you in a rival factory,” Christianne pointed out. “How are you going to get to Lilith’s Vambiolaria Bomb plans from there?”

“I do not know,” admitted Eledhwen. “DES says the PPC has a contact at SparkleRainbowDreams Ltd that can get me in, and that is why I am starting there rather than at a pro-Lilith Factory. But I honestly do not think it makes sense, either.”

Christianne scoffed. “The PPC needs better contacts,” she muttered. Eledhwen chuckled in agreement, and Christianne sighed, wishing she could offer better comfort than her words alone. “You don’t have to do this.”

“I do,” insisted Eledhwen. “I will be fine, Chrissy, I promise.”

“No.” Christianne shook her head. “You can’t promise that. Factory Sues are unpredictable—they don’t have Words to obey. What am I going to do if something happens to you, and I can’t be there to drag your poncy elf butt back to Medical?”

Eledhwen smiled at that. “Aw, you do care,” she teased. Christianne felt her face heating, which she quickly covered up by punching Eledhwen lightly in the arm. 

“I’m just concerned because you’re re-exposing yourself to a place where you were traumatised,” she insisted. “It’s—” Not what I would do; I literally dropped out of school so I didn’t have to see my ex again —“I’m just concerned,” she repeated, hating how useless the words sounded. “They shouldn’t be allowed to do that to you. They shouldn’t be forcing you to do anything you’re not ready for.”

“I am ready,” replied Eledhwen, though her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. “If my help is needed to take down Lilith and all of those—all of those Sues who hurt me, then who am I to deny it? It would give me no greater pleasure than to stand triumphant in the ashes of that Factory, or to run my sword into Lilith’s heart myself.”

A cold, terrible light seemed to shine on her face at that, as if her very words had wrought a distant Doom, a distant Oath. Christianne felt a shiver run down her spine.  

“Then… take care of yourself,” she said, for lack of any better words to say. “Come back safe.” To me.

Eledhwen folded her into Christianne’s arms, and all of the breath flew out of Christianne in the moment their bodies touched. She closed her eyes, breathing in the crisp woodsy scent of Eledhwen’s shampoo. Slowly, her arms came up around her partner’s shoulders, clinging on tight.  

Eledhwen whispered something in her ear, perhaps in Sindarin. Christianne exhaled, reluctantly pulling back. She felt something warm and metallic being pressed into her hand. 

“That’s my promise,” said Eledhwen, her grey eyes warm and true. She dropped Christianne’s hand, and turned towards her wardrobe to grab a suitable outfit for her mission.

It was only after Eledhwen left that Christianne dared look down at the object in her hand, and when she did, a strange lump of something rose rapidly in her throat. Staggering back towards her bed, Christianne closed her eyes and pressed the little star-shaped ring that Eledhwen had looted from one of their first missions to her lips. 

“If you’re really a Ring of Speshul worth your salt,” she muttered, “you better get her back to me in one piece.” 

The ring merely twinkled in reply.

Christianne had forgotten how empty the response centre could get without a partner helping her fill the space. 

She remembered the first time she’d noticed this, after Isamu had been killed by a Suefluenced Orochimaru during what should have been a routine mission. She remembered the second time, too, after Selma—in one of her last lucid moments—had begged Dr Freedenburg to check her into FicPsych’s inpatient ward.

The silence was almost deafening. Christianne’s heart ached just from hearing it.

She flopped back onto her bed, looking across the duct-tape divided RC to where Eledhwen’s bed lay neatly made up, almost as if the elleth had just stepped out for the day. Her photo wall—containing mostly photos of Middle-earth sorted by geographical location—was neat and well-arranged. A worn-out stuffed oliphaunt sat in pride of place on her well-fluffed pillow.

Eledhwen had rescued the toy from somewhere in Rivendell during one of their earlier missions. Christianne had made fun of her for it at the time, though now the memory sat sourly in her mind. Had she really thought Eledhwen was nothing more than a Parody Sue? A Factory-escapee charity case? 

If Eledhwen survived this assignment, Christianne was going to make it up to her somehow. 

Eledhwen checked in regularly with the DES. Christianne only knew this because she had pestered the Weeds into passing along messages: little quotes from all the books and shows they’d consumed together during their admittedly limited downtime, little pieces of canon for Eledhwen to cling onto. Eledhwen would send replies, of course, and Christianne’s stomach fluttered every time a Weed handed her a slip of paper written in Eledhwen’s elegant script: Have heart, my friend, I am faring quite well. 

What is the weather like in New Caledonia? This Factory has an atrium of exotic birds, but the sunshine is blinding and artificial. I miss walking through the parks in New Caledonia, especially in November when the flowers are blooming and the birds are merry. 

I thought of you the other day, when I met a Sue named Chrissy. I thought, if the real Chrissy could see you, she would decapitate you in an instant. It is so strange to me that you are the ‘real’ Chrissy to me, that there is none other in the Multiverse now who could claim that name from you. I miss you dearly, my friend, and I hope this finds you well.

Christianne kept each message, tucking them into a little envelope she slid between two tomes on the ever-growing Great Wall of books she still had to read. The star-shaped ring Eledhwen had given her now hung from a chain around her own neck, warm and comforting against her skin. 

Have you ever been to Imladris in summer, Chrissy? I suppose most missions in Middle-earth take place during the Great Years, so it is invariably winter in Rivendell at the time. But if I ever get the chance to return without the presence of a Sue, I will bring you during the summer, in time for Tarnin Austa. The dances and boat races are a sight to behold. 

I think of Imladris now because there are fireflies in this atrium during the night—one must learn the art of summoning fireflies for a declaration of Twoo Wuv, I suppose—and I am reminded of how the ones in Imladris seemed to dance in time with our songs. I once caught seventeen fireflies in one night, placing them all in a little jar before releasing them in my room. How they shone like the stars of Elbereth’s raiment! I know there are fireflies in World One, but I wonder if you had ever grown up with them. 

The nature of our work does make it hard to devote time to really get to know one another, and I know the way Upstairs pairs us off has often been deliberate in creating matches who do not trust each other with such intimate knowledge of ourselves. But the longer I am sundered from you, the more I wish to know about you. Perhaps recreating you in my mind is all that keeps me sane here—which I suppose you would find terribly ironic, as we have done naught but drive each other insane when we are together.

Hoping to hear from you,


I never grew up with fireflies. They don’t really show up west of Kentucky, and I grew up in Southern California. We do get a lot of wildfires during the summer, but that’s not half as romantic, at all. 

The first time I saw a firefly was when I went to visit my ahma in Taiwan, when I was just a little girl. I was named after her—or rather, half of me was, as the other half was after my nana. (Not your kind of nana, by the way.) There are sixty-five species of fireflies in Taiwan, and maybe over a hundred species of mosquito, and I got bitten by all of the latter that first summer, so I was hardly paying attention to the former. I suppose there are no mosquitoes in Rivendell, as Sues never seem to notice them. 

Tarnin Austa sounds interesting. It’s a shame our missions never let us stay in an intact canon for long enough to enjoy all the day-to-day details of living there. I honestly never would have known half of the things about Noldorin culture if you had not told me about them.

Our RC is too empty these days. I’ve taken to spending all of my time in the Cafeteria or at Rudi’s, because all the silence where you should be is making my head hurt. Come back soon.

“Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
— The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood


Christianne dreamt of ice water filling her lungs, of the daylight fading above her head as she sank lower and lower in the river. She tried to kick, to propel herself back towards the light, but her body was sluggish, uncooperative. Her pockets felt weighted by pebbles. 

Christianne woke in a cold sweat to the hum of the console in her response centre, and a clock informing her that it was half past three in the morning (or whatever counted as morning here in this interdimensional nightmare office). Slowly, she drew her knees closer to her chest and rested her face between them, taking slow, calming breaths until her body felt like it was her own again.

Without thinking, she reached out for the star-shaped ring on her nightstand. The metal, when she brushed her fingers against it, was icy cold.

Christianne’s stomach sank faster than a stone. 

Quickly, she threw on whatever clothes she could scrounge off a nearby chair, unable to tear her gaze away from the light coat of dust across the duct tape divide. Somehow, while she wasn’t looking, Eledhwen’s bed had gone from looking temporarily vacated to empty and sterile. 

Christianne raced to the Department of External Security—or rather, ran around HQ frantically until the building took pity on her and coughed up Captain Dandy’s office. “Something’s wrong with Eledhwen,” she breathed the moment she stepped inside.

Captain Dandy’s petals crinkled. Agent Elerossiel checked in with us just six hours ago, he pointed out. One frond pushed another message from her across the table. She sent this to you. 

Christianne exhaled, picking up the note. “Please, try to get in touch with her again,” she insisted. “I know something’s gone wrong. I can feel it.”

We do not recall having psychic powers for you on file, remarked Captain Dandy wrily. So how would you know, exactly, if something had gone wrong with your partner?

Christianne pinched the bridge of her nose. This was going to sound awful. 

“Before she left, Eledhwen gave me a ring she took from a Mary Sue several years ago. The ring has been warm all this time, until today.”

She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for Captain Dandy’s ridicule. And indeed, there was some rustling, as if his petals were trembling with mirth. But when she opened her eyes, he was already tapping away at some sort of pager-like device. 

Suvian rings can be deceiving, Agent Shieh, said Captain Dandy, and there was some amusement in his voice at that. But given what Agent Elerossiel uploaded to our servers after her check-in, her accessing the League’s database may not have gone unnoticed.

Christianne nodded furiously, feeling more than a little light-headed. She clenched her hands, crinkling the last note she’d gotten from Eledhwen. 

“You’ll try to touch base with her again?” she asked.

Captain Dandy inclined his golden petals. If she misses the next check-in, we’ll be sure to let you know.

I have thought of Fading within these halls so many times before, Christianne. The memory of those days rush back to me now, and I am writing this down for you only because I know I have not the heart to put my voice to these words. In the earlier days of my captivity, when they bound me like Maedhros to the device that would incubate and grow Lilith, I thought again, and again: if I Faded now, their fell plans would be delayed. Perhaps only for a matter of years, while they searched for a new target, but it would still be a setback. 

If Eru’s only purpose for me was to Fade, then at least let it be where I could do the most damage.

But why would Eru allow me to be born and given purpose, if His goal was only for my fea to Fade? Why would He subject me to the indignities of serving Suvians, of witnessing them run roughshod over the halls of my Lord Elrond, if all He had planned was for me to give up and go quietly into the Halls of Waiting? 

I thought of Fading so many times, and yet I could not bring myself to do it. Could not walk into the comforting darkness and wait for the breaking of the world. I fear you may laugh at me for this, Chrissy, but I do think I have a new purpose now, and it is all that is keeping me from succumbing to the shadows in my mind. 

I am sorry to burden this message with such heavy thoughts, especially since my last one had been so lighthearted. But I knew if I did not say this now, I would never have the courage to.  

Have heart, my friend. I will see you once again.


To: Christianne Shieh [cshieh.console84484484489.rc9L0121F4114C3.DMS]
From: Otik Horak [otesanek.consoleP05741.POSTAL]

The DES is currently investigating a security breach at DoSAT, and they asked me to pass on the following: 

Your partner did not make her last check-in. Interception of recent League transmissions suggest her identity was compromised and Lilith Wydenbrooke has taken custody of her. 

You will await further instruction regarding possible extraction operations. 

Do not do anything stupid. 

End message. Yes. That’s the end of the message. Right there, where it said ‘End message’. You don’t need to record this part!


Contrary to the wishes of Captain Dandy and the Weeds, Christianne did something stupid.

In her defence, however, it was just slightly less stupid than whatever was happening over at Happily Ever After Ltd, because she and the IAHF Nurse currently undergoing de-Glitterification treatments at HQ had been able to break in and out of the Factory without much incident.

(Well, besides one Suvian Overheated Cerebrum Syndrome-related death, but if Nurse Takara’s reaction to that had been of any indication, the victim in question had asked for it.)

Now, for the second time in their almost three years together, Christianne found herself waiting outside Medical for Eledhwen, unable to stop the restlessness of her heart. 

“You look like you’re also in need of sleep,” said Nurse Carleton Hearth, frowning at her from over the top of his clipboard. Christianne collapsed into a chair, her legs jiggling against the worn linoleum floor. 

“I can’t,” she admitted. “Not without knowing.”

Nurse Hearth raised an eyebrow. “Agent Elerossiel is still in detox from the Glitter she took as part of her cover,” he replied. “It might take a while.”

“I have a while,” replied Christianne.

Nurse Hearth raised his other eyebrow.

“If I don’t hear my console beeping, then I don’t have a mission,” amended Christianne.

Nurse Hearth snorted at that. “If a console beeped but no agents were there to hear it, then was there really a mission?” he wondered dryly.

Christianne laughed. “You get it,” she said, leaning the back of her head against the Generic Surface wall. “I’m staying here until I can go in to see her.”

“Fair enough.” Nurse Hearth rolled his eyes. “I’m not about to meddle in the affairs of assassins, anyway. Unlike you, I don’t have a death wish.”

“Unlike me?” echoed Christianne, raising an eyebrow. 

Nurse Hearth tilted his clipboard towards the room where Eledhwen was currently being quarantined. “You did just break into a Mary Sue Factory to save your partner,” he pointed out. “News travels fast. Especially news of people doing stupid things.”

“It wasn’t that stupid,” muttered Christianne. “Nurse Takara helped me bypass the Glitter biosecurity protocols. So I was actually doing better on that aspect than Ellie.”

Nurse Hearth hummed in a way that suggested he wasn’t actually that interested in hearing the gory details. Christianne sighed, swinging up from her chair and striding over to the door, peering through the observation window to see Eledhwen lying asleep in bed whilst the de-Glitterifier hummed away beside her. 

“If I put on a biohazard suit, could I go in?” wondered Christianne.

Nurse Hearth snorted at that. “It’s not Vambiolaria, Agent Shieh,” he pointed out. “You just need a mask and gloves.”

When Eledhwen’s eyes opened again, Christianne was the first beside her, reaching out to grab her hand. “You’re awake!” she exclaimed, before mentally kicking herself for stating the obvious. “I mean, of course you are.”

Her face felt like it had suddenly caught fire. Eledhwen huffed in clear amusement. 

“Where am I?” she asked, blowing a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. Christianne reached out and helped her tuck it behind her ears, her cheeks still burning. “HQ, I suppose, since you are here, but—I have strayed in and out of so many dreams that I can hardly tell if this is another. Though—” her fingers weakly flexed against Christianne’s palm, “if this was a dream, I doubt I would be able to feel this.”

“No, this is for real,” agreed Christianne. “You’re really back in HQ. And you’re really getting detoxed, so until Dr Fitz gives the all-clear, I can’t get you out of here.”

Eledhwen hummed, now leaning back against the pillow. Even through the gloves, Christianne can feel the warmth of her partner’s hands. 

“I read your last letter,” she said after a moment. Eledhwen’s fingers suddenly tensed. “I’m not sure why you thought I’d laugh at you, but if there’s anything I’ve done to make you believe that of me, then—I’m sorry.”

Eledhwen chuckled. “You are just being nice to me because I am on my sickbed,” she declared, though the warmth in her eyes only seemed to spark something bright and uncomfortable in Christianne’s chest. “I am sure within a couple days of my return to the response centre, you will be complaining about me again.”

“Old habits die hard,” joked Christianne, before adding, more seriously: “Just—know that I don’t really mean any of my complaints, okay? Or any of my insults. What you’ve been doing for IAHF—for the PPC—it’s brave of you. Stupid, but brave.”

Eledhwen raised an eyebrow. “You are hardly one to lecture me on stupid but brave actions,” she pointed out.

Christianne chuckled. “Touché,” she admitted. Eledhwen’s expression softened again.

“Why did you do it?” she asked. “I’m sure Captain Dandy would have extracted me after a while.”

“And how long would that ‘while’ have taken?” countered Christianne. “I couldn’t run the risk. Especially after—after your last letter. You’re not Fading on me. I won’t let you.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” promised Eledhwen.

“Good.” Christianne entwined their fingers. The hitch of Eledhwen’s breath made her own heart stutter just a little. “Get better soon.”

The fireflies will be out by my ahma’s old home soon. 

I remember where I was the day I received the news of her passing. I was eleven, tucked up in my room with my then-best friend Lillian, sharing a plate of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets with her. We’d just finished our homework, so we were drawing pictures of ourselves as brave dragon-slaying heroines saving the day. 

My mother came in and asked Lillian to go home. I remember protesting this, but Lillian left anyway, promising to work on a drawing of Princess Snailesha Snailorious (the secret evil witch our characters were going to defeat next week. Don’t ask). My mother took me by the hand, and told me the news, and suddenly it was as if the entire world had fallen out from under my feet.

Even though I have no courage to give voice to any of this, I know this must be said somehow. And though you are back where you belong—on your side of the RC, filling the spaces between us with your song and cheer—I find it fitting to pay homage to the way we talked while you were missing from me, and put my thoughts to you in writing. 

If the loss of my ahma could collapse the world out from under me, the loss of you would be like the implosion of a universe. I know I’m but a firefly in the long summertime of your immortal Elvish life, but whilst my light still shines, I find myself floored each morning by all of the serendipities that must have occurred in this multiverse to bring you to my side. I don’t know what new purpose you found in the depths of that terrible Factory, but if it keeps you here with me, then it would be enough. 

Our job requires us to bear witness, to protect, to defend—things that do not lend themselves to vulnerabilities or general softness. And so, like a worm i’ the bud, these softer thoughts I now leave to feed upon the words of this letter. 

“And I, most jocund, apt and willingly,
To do you rest, a thousand deaths would die.”
Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare