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For a second, staring down at that tiny, dying moth, all Viv could think was: Sugar water?
She almost cursed herself out for the thought. She didn’t have time to go make sugar water, let alone make Thys drink without drowning them at this size! While probably unconscious!!
And then she paused in her self-recrimination.
Sugar water was a metaphor. Had already been a metaphor. Last time, Thys wanted Viv’s energy in lieu of sugar water, explicitly took it because Viv had already promised sugar water to them. So perhaps this was the same.
She needed to reestablish the connection despite the fact that Isaac wasn’t here.
But—she’d seen Isaac cast it twice, in two different situations. And while she’d never been able to cast anything before, never had a spell that didn’t fail, perhaps now she’d be able to.
She was afraid. She was terrified. If she was still as broken, as much of a fuck-up as she always thought she was, then Thys would die.
But she had to try. With shaking hands, she began doing the same gestures, outlining the same circle that she had seen Isaac do in the past, making shapes with her hands and arms over that tiny form. She put aside her self-doubt because there was no room for it any more, and focused on the energy inside her, that raging storm of power and loss and grief and fear that felt like it was boiling out of every pore she had. She imagined drawing light into the gestures she was making, a pattern that would make a circuit that would build a connection between them.
And then she pushed it into Thys.
Power poured through her. She felt electric, electrified, electrocuted, as if there was no difference between being the source and being the conduit and being the receiver. The moth twitched on the counter, and Viv felt a confused, alien touch on her heart again.
She latched onto it, grabbed it with her energy, and poured back along it.
That touch became a thin string between them, and she widened that too. She felt like she could widen it indefinitely if she wanted: make it a ribbon, make it a path, make it a road, a river, a lake to drown in. But after a moment’s consideration, she left it a ribbon tied to them both.
The moth’s wings fluttered, and abruptly it expanded, no longer small, no longer a moth: Thys’s long lanky form draped over the kitchen island, shoving a mug off onto the floor where it shattered. Viv’s cats scattered.
Thys sat up, rubbing their face, and said, with a tone of awe, “I nearly died.”
When Viv grabbed Thys, she honestly didn’t know what she meant to do. Hug them. Shake them. Cry on them.
She settled for a mix of all three and kissed them on top of it, her lips trembling as she mushed her mouth to Thys’s, her cheeks abruptly wet, heart pounding in her chest as she squeezed Thys tight.
Thys made a soft sound into the kiss and then kissed back, mouth moving, strange insect-like tongue flickering against Viv’s lips. The contact tingled, and for a moment Viv was worried it was some kind of magical backlash, or maybe some sort of strange faerie venom, but then her knees just went weak and she thought,
She pressed Thys back against the counter hard, kissing and kissing like she couldn’t bear to stop, and thought she felt Thys’s own relief and pleasure radiate through that connection. Thys’s hands came up, tugging at Viv’s sweater, and Viv broke the kiss with a gasp.
“Are you okay?” Viv demanded, her voice high and tight. “Are you all right? It’s not draining you again secretly, right?”
“I don’t… think so,” Thys said, breathless, black eyes wide. “I’ve had a connection with you both when it was and when it wasn’t, and it feels like when it wasn’t. I think it hasn’t kept a connection to me.”
“Thank fuck. Maybe the lanternfish thought it had killed you this time since it didn’t see you get away, so it didn’t leave a hook in.” Fuck, she hoped so. Everything was hitting at once; the room was almost spinning, and she limped over to Thys’s couch and sank down on it, putting her head on her knees. “Oh my God.”
Thys slid off the kitchen island. “Viv…?”
“Holy shit, I did magic. You almost died. We’re connected again and—” It was the third time; that occurred to her it was significant somehow, a magic number with the faerie, and if Thys had gotten engaged with her over the first time, what would this mean? Viv didn’t let herself think about that, not yet. “Are you sure you’re okay? Last time you were shaky for a while after.”
“I shouldn’t want to do anything too strenuous,” Thys said, “but I am…” They tilted their head, drawing a deep breath as if assessing. “I am good. I am reshaped by you, remade by you…” Their expression grew a little heated. “I feel you fill all the spots of me that were eaten up by the lanternfish’s needle sharp teeth…”
Viv went red and rubbed her face. She wanted to take Thys up on that, but… “Shit. We have to call Dandelion. Have to let him know—” She pulled herself over to the table next to the couch where she’d left her phone when she went to go shower, such a short time ago.
“Oh! Oh, you’re right,” Thys said, startled out of the mood. “After all, it is wandering the city in my form, is it not? I don’t know much of what happened after it took me out…”
“I… I don’t think it is,” Viv said. “It might be but it was saying it was going home. It told me that I think to cover for your ‘disappearance’.” She tapped Dandelion’s contact. “I think it’s… I think it might want to take over your old life.”
Thys seemed startled. “My… old life? So it tried to kill me so there would be no risk of them thinking it was not me, when it went to the court in my stead?”
The phone was ringing. “Yeah. You’re an isolated fae noble, right? You have lands. Followers, and vassals and all that; you already said you’d be welcomed back with few questions asked. If it wanted power of that kind, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity? You seem like a perfect pick for a predator who can take over another person’s life…!”
“But that’s a good thing,” Thys said blankly. “If they think I’m there, there will be no pressure for me to return, nobody sent here to try to fetch me. I will be free, if it takes over my life there! I can just live with no worries! Can we not celebrate instead?”
Viv shook her head furiously. “You don’t know what it wants to do with your face, Thys! What it would do with that power! Even if you don’t care about the courts, do your people deserve that?”
“Hang up! Or don’t tell Dandelion that part,” Thys said.
The thought of hiding this important detail from Dandelion made Viv angry, but she swallowed it. She could tell Thys, at least, was concerned. Even so, she protested it, sure that telling him would be the right thing. “He deserves to know! He’s your friend! And he’s a potential loose end that the lanternfish might want to eliminate before it—”
The ringer clicked off as Dandelion picked up and Viv stopped talking immediately. “Hello?” he asked. “Vivian? Did something happen?”
“But if you tell him, he will want to go back and help despite his exile,” Thys said softly. “He will think he must.”
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