The gardens were quiet in the pre-dawn light. There was the faint tinge of red on the horizon, but everything was that slightly dusty shade of pale blue/grey and the breeze brought a coolness with it that spoke of the time between sleeping and wakefulness for those without heavy cares.

Caine ended his Trump contact, and Sioned sighed with relief as she let the held conjured state go. They neither of them were feeling, nor looking particularly spry. He rubbed his face with both hands, making a small noise of annoyance.

“Did you get through?”  Sioned leaned back against a solid looking garden urn. She didn’t trust herself to directly ask after Julia or Esmond.

“Just,” Caine replied, “But it was quick, and I barely got more than a glimpse and general reassurance. I think Julia is fine.”

She nodded in response. She should have pushed harder. This was no time for distraction, but it came unbidden lately and she had a hard time stopping it. She squeezed her right fist so hard the knuckles cracked softly. Why couldn’t she focus, damn it!?

“If you’re up for trying again this afternoon, I can probably push a longer message through…a letter maybe.” He was looking at her and smiling a faintly wry smile. There was an understanding of frustrations between them, and she returned his expression.

“Yeah,” She nodded, “I can do that.” She pushed herself upright and offered him a hand.

“Thankyou, cuz.” Caine accepted her assistance. He wrapped an arm over her shoulders and around her neck as they walked back towards the palace. He leaned a little heavily, but nothing she couldn’t shoulder.

At least they had contact, even briefly. That was two anchor points now though. And that thought sat in her stomach like cold fish soup.

He left her in the hallway to go check on Erica and talk to Gerard. He promised her he would try and get a few hours sleep, and was gently amused when she gave him a stern look for not taking her seriously.

She headed towards the Sheriff’s office. Lara should be getting some sleep, but it was unlikely that she was. There was too much happ…the whiteboard was the first thing she saw when she entered. That was an extremely large and intimidating to do list. Lara and Talion were both here, looking distinctly busy and more than a little harried. A flicker of sad panic shot across Sioned’s face and she silently backed out again rather than disturb them.

Be more useful” she was admonished from her psyche. Yes, yes, be more useful. But what she needed right now was someone to talk to.

She returned to her rooms and attempted to trump Hagen. It was briefly answered and cut again almost immediately. The only thing that came across was the feeling of dampness and disapproval. She could have forced a contact…imagining Hagan’s face on the other end of that call and she promptly dismissed that thought. There were certain rules she did occasionally observe. One of them was not to disappoint Hagan if she could at all help it.

Her father…her father. She needed to talk to him…about…she pushed his trump aside. She needed to talk to him, but didn’t want to. She needed to know, but didn’t want to. A cyclical situation that made her head hurt and her throat dry. It’s not what she wanted or needed right now, but would invariably turn into that. No.

Six anchor points. She was starting to come adrift.

Emil…seven. Not after what had happened with Isolde, with Brand, with Sarina. She didn’t know how to talk to Emil. What was he going through? Inadvertently she’s screwed things up there as well, and he wouldn’t be in any way interested in dealing with a Sioned that was not her usual self and required more than gentle needling…and that was probably a harsh thought. Emil was her friend, Emil had been inside her head, Emil had walked the pattern twice with her. And yet, she felt too vulnerable to talk to him.

She occupied herself. Take off the armour, clean the armour properly, hang the armour up. He’d kill her if he saw her treating it badly…where did that thought come from? Never mind. Run a bath, shampoo, soap, rinse, repeat. Towel dry, fastidiously; moisturise hair, untangle and braid. Climb into bed. Try to sleep.

Fail.

Sioned lay on her side, her legs pulled close to her chest, taking up very little room in the large freshly made bed. She reflected on how she was a regular pain in everyone’s ass, but had somehow managed to hang on to Melisandre, and the woman was conscientious to a fault. Sioned was pretty sure the linen was changed every day, even when she wasn’t in residence.

She smeared the trumps across the bedspread in front of her and absently ran a hand over them. Despite trying desperately not to, a tear escaped the side of her eye, rilled down her cheek and into the pillow.

Her hand rested on a trump randomly, flipped it over and pulled it towards her. She felt a strong wash of emotion looking at the face that stared back, although she didn’t quite know why. She reached out with her mind to form a connection. It was unlikely that temporal differences in space and time, let alone his own preference to not be disturbed, would make that possible.

The seconds stretched on and she let her concentration fade.

Before she let go entirely, there was a distant touch. Sioned reached out for it and focused hard. The connection became stronger, even if it was slightly skewed. A face swam into view, although movement was stilted and seemed skip time and jump. A small smile jumped to words that ran together indecipherably, to a slight frown. He offered his hand, which she took with no hesitation and stepped through the surge and eddy of rainbow light.

 On the other side, she unashamedly buried her face in Benedict’s shoulder, and despite his startled look and sudden stillness, loudly started to cry.

******

There was a moment of silence, just enough for her to notice she could not hear his heartbeat, and then he gently curled one arm around her shoulders. Around them, there was the sound of shuffling hooves, the creak of leather and wood, and the gentle breathing of horses. He held onto her for what seemed like an age, while her sobs slowed into hiccups and sniffles.

Finally, another voice intruded:

“Brother, I hate to interrupt, but you did say we need to get the bier to Eorthwick before nightfall, and since you won’t let me trump us there, we have to be moving…”

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