[Cecily] Twenty-Six: "Trading Places"

       While Stark and Merlin conferred over my leg, talking as if that were the only part of me in the room, I stared at the ceiling. The millennia old rough hewn stone hung over me, a solid, substantial reminder of the legacy we have so little chance of reclaiming.
       It's not pessimism, but simple realism. We can't remake Amber. To our parents it's a lost memory, a myth that can't fully articulate. To us it's not even a myth - it's a figment of the imagination. We never knew it, and the people who did have lost it.
       You can't recreate what you never knew.
       Amber will never be what it was, but maybe we can make it something new. I hope. With what we have to work with, and against, it's not encouraging.
       That's pessimism.
       It's just hard to imagine that our motley little crew has any chance of pulling this off. Fletcher is certainly ruthless enough, and I have my moments, but that alone won't keep us ahead of our enemies. And honestly, sometimes I wonder just how committed everyone else is to the cause.
       It seems somehow odd that the only one I am convinced of is Fletcher. While he always seems the most unreliable, in that crazed maniac sort of way, he's also the only one who's made clear his stand on current events. I realize I'm just a means to an end for him, but his honesty and sincere desire to make something of this gives me some heart. The others, though, with the exception (as always) of Shen, I just don't know. We were all swept up in something so much bigger than we expected, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised if I can't read just where they stand.
       Goddess, it would help, though.
       Eventually Stark and Merlin came to the conclusion that they didn't really have a conclusion. Well, Merlin suggested a Patten sword might be used to cauterize it, which certainly sounded more appealing than Stark's idea that I walk the Pattern again. I left then, and let them theorize some more.
       It just wasn't something I wanted to talk about anymore.
       I've been having that dream again, the one where I can't move, can't stop the big bad monster coming to get me. Intellectually I know it's a direct result of my frustrations, and now my injury, but when even a mild version of your greatest fear comes to pass, it's really hard to be rational.
       I've been able, so far, to avoid thinking of the possibility that this might not heal, or if it does, not well. I don't want to think about it, because it terrifies me.
       My entire life I have relied on my physical prowess. It's not that I'm an idiot, but I don't have Harry's intellectual or sorcerous capabilities. My reputation has been based on my ability to fight.
       Now I can barely make it up a flight of stairs without having to stop halfway.
       The pain is bad, but I'm no stranger to pain. It's the fear that's killing me by inches. The fear that if I can't be an effective with a sword, what good am I? Other than demonology, active warfare is all I know. When they all went off to take care of the demons that had attacked Harmony and Shen, I felt empty. I had the excuse of Fletcher's pronouncement to stay behind, but I knew well that I'd be very little use to them in my current state.
       What if current becomes permanent? What use will I be to them?
       Then the fear became shame when I found Matthias.
       He stood there, hale and whole, and all I could do was think bitterly of the irony of our role reversal, and feel angry in the face of his pity.
       He turned as I approached, and I couldn't entirely read the look on his face, much like earlier that day. "You could have sent someone to find me," he said.
       "Old habits," I muttered, even as I had to lean against the wall, though a sudden flare of irrational anger washed out the pain.
       I apologized for my earlier abruptness, and we spoke of his time away, carefully avoiding much of any reference to his health and my lack thereof.
       It was a wholly uncomfortable conversation, and I could not entirely control my resentment, however ludicrous it was; I've never claimed to be reasonable about my deep dark fears.
       Then the conversation turned to our 'relationship', an equally uncomfortable topic. What relationship? I wanted to say. I know him mostly from a mirror reflection, and he knows me mostly as a confident fighter with a fast blade.
       And we're not those people anymore, really.
       There was a little of that earlier sense of camraderie betwen us, but so much has come to pass in the last weeks, that it's like starting from scratch.
       And I wasn't lying when I said I'm not good at these kinds of relationships.
       In the past, I would have made myself scarce right about then, taking off for a few weeks to go do something dangerous and stupid. But I don't have anywhere to run, even if I could. I've made a commitment to all these people, and they're counting on me. Me. A terrified cripple who has no fucking clue what she's doing, and no idea if she's making up the right things to cover for that.
       "You should find someone to share the burden with," had been Matthias' advice when I'd asked him how he'd handled it for all those years.
       Maybe he's right. I can't run from it, any of it, so maybe it's time to let go of the fear, and take this as an opportunity to make something more of myself.
       So when he held out his hand, I took it. I don't have any illusions that any of this is going to be easy, but I don't have to do it alone. Even though I can't be sure of their thoughts, I think, for now, I can rely on the others to keep me on track and sane.
       As for things a bit closer to the heart, I can't even guess how things will go in that direction. I'm not going to change overnight, and I'm not sure how good of an idea this might be. There's so much happening, and we have so far to go.
       In the meantime, though, I think I can handle a walk to lunch.