I knew I loved Sara before I ever met her. I loved her for being the other piece of my soul, the other half of me. I knew her in dreams and visions before I ever got to touch her, to shake her hand, to tell her, ‘Hello, my name is Ryland. Call me Ry, everyone does.’ Of course, that’s not how we met. She saved my life a thousand times, and I loved her for it—or perhaps in spite of if. But she loved me back, before I ever met her. She loved a poor boy she’d seen in passing and made it her mission to save his life. And she did. Thank whatever powers that be that miracles do happen. I have seen too much evidence to the contrary to believe that they don’t.
— Journal of Ryland LeSarte, circa 4859 PD
25 Octem, 5249 PD
She’d barely spoken more than five words to him in the past two days. It wasn’t that she was angry. Upset, sure. But not angry. This wasn’t the angry treatment.
It was starting to make him go a little crazy.
He wanted to talk to her—almost wanted her to be angry with him. But instead, she avoided him. Left him to his own devices. And it was eating him up inside.
He came home that evening tired—dog tired and wanting little more than a few kind words and a hug from her. She was in the kitchen, staring at nothing, a mug of something long gone cold in her hands.
Brendan hung up his uniform jacket near the door and stared at her for a long moment before she looked up at him.
“I’m not mad,” she said quietly.
“Why didn’t you tell me, Brendan?”
He grimaced. The truth? She’ll be angry at me and Ezra. But… He shook his head. “Ezra made me promise. He didn’t know until a couple hours before the Council meeting that I’d agreed to go because I didn’t know. And by then there wasn’t enough time to tell you before the meeting and…” His voice trailed away and he sighed. “I’m sorry, Lindsay. This wasn’t supposed to hurt you.”
“I know it wasn’t.” She stared into the mug, then stood up and took it to the sink. She leaned against the countertop, staring out at their garden. “There has to be someone else who can go, Brendan. It doesn’t have to be you, does it?”
“If you know someone else who knows the corporate and tactical languages of Chinasia Corps and can back up those languages with piloting skills, Lindsay…” He sighed, moving up behind her and sliding his arms around her waist. She leaned back into him as he buried his nose in her hair, kissed the back of her neck. “It wasn’t an easy choice, Lin.”
“It couldn’t have been. I know that.” Her hands tightened on the rim of the counter. “I just…there has to be another way to do this, Brendan. There’s got to be.”
He shook his head slowly. “I’ve looked, Lindsay. I keep trying to figure out if there’s a better way and I can’t find one. I just can’t. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but I am saying it’s beyond my grasp.” His arms tightened around her. “Do you want to just leave them there?”
“We can’t just leave them there, Brendan.”
The alternative to a rescue was the death of her parents. They both knew that. It was too dangerous to let them live. It was a question of how long they had before that was the decision made. Grant and America knew too much. They just knew too much. “You don’t want them to die, either.”
“No,” she said quietly. She slowly turned, keeping his arms around her waist, and looked up at him. “But I don’t want you to die, either.”
Brendan flinched. “Did you…?”
She shook her head, resting her head against his shoulder. “No,” she admitted quietly. “But I’m just…I’m just so afraid, Brendan. I can’t do this without you.”
“Can’t do what, Lin?” What isn’t she telling me? What did she see that…that makes her think the way she’s thinking? That makes her worry so much, be almost…hopeless? He rested his chin against her temple. “What’s wrong?”
She shook her head slightly. “I can’t keep up my life without you, Brendan. You give me normal. I…I need that. More than you know, I need that. I need that normalcy that you give me.” She looked at him, biting her lip for a moment. “Do you have any idea how awful my world would be if I hadn’t met you? If you’d died in the water that day?”
He winced. He almost had, though she’d never known how close to it he’d come.
She touched his face, traced a faint scar on his chin with her thumb. He licked his lips a little, nervous.
Her eyes captured his, her voice soft and serious, laced with pain and fear. “I don’t know if I’d still be alive, Brendan. I don’t know if I’d be able to take it. It’s so hard…it’s too hard, sometimes. Aunt Rachel tries, but there’s no way she can really understand what it’s like. It’s so different, the way you can comfort me and the way anyone else ever could. I don’t think I could survive without it.”
He swallowed hard against a lump in his throat. “You’re not going to lose me, Lin. I’m going to bring them home, and I’m going to come home, and everything will be fine.”
“How do you know?” She whispered. “How can you know that for sure, Brendan?”
He shook his head a little. “Because I don’t have another choice, Lin. Failure isn’t an option. Abandoning you isn’t an option. I’ll come home. You’ll see.”
She nodded a little and sniffled, burying her face in his neck again. He hugged her close and sighed. I wish there was another way I could reassure you, Lin. I wish I did, but I don’t. I just…know what I know and feel what I feel. There’s nothing else to it. He stood there and held her, knowing that it was all the comfort he could give.