sideways: [o] I am a tree (►city life has crumbled)
[personal profile] sideways
Title: When Someone Dies Abroad
Rating: G
Series: Bungie's Destiny (Andal Brask, Shin Malphur)
Wordcount: 1079
Summary: Shin's arrival at the Tower is inherently bad news.
Remarks: I stole the title from a travel advisory.

It’s Cayde – of course it’s Cayde – who leans in without knocking or granting the barest courtesy of a Ghost-to-Ghost murmur of warning. Just sticks his head through the door with fingers still clenched around the handle and cuts his voice through their conversation like an arc-lit knife.

“Andal,” he says, “you are gonna want to see this.”

At Andal’s side, the young Hunter who’s been cut off mid-sentence mouths a halting two syllables more before he lays an apologetic hand against her elbow and steps away. He doesn’t like how this will look, has always taken pride in playing favourites only as a man and never as a Vanguard, but it is because of the man’s friendships that he knows Cayde’s words may say want but the epileptic strobing at his throat is saying need and now and that is not something to be lightly disregarded.

Out in the plaza, a crowd is gathering while making an attempt to look as though they are anything but, which amounts to a scattering of strategically placed Guardians and enough tension in the air to carry the electric shiver of a storm. Andal knows, immediately, that there has been a loss. Gulls flocking at a single point over the ocean speaks to blood in the water, a cloud of crows turning circles in the sky say someone is dying below, and this uncertain, angry swirl of Guardians paints its sad story in the same symbols.

There is no body splayed across the floor, however, just a figure standing in the shadows of a balcony. Back very nearly to the wall, the corridor to the northern end of the Tower on one side and the open sky past the railing on the other. He can pick the signs on a single look: A coiled, balanced stance. Small turns of the head to check blind spots. Ghost out of sight, carried close. A Hunter’s training and all the unease of the hunted.

The not-crowd parts as he walks through, and Andal doesn’t much like that either. It itches up his spine like a badly placed footfall knocking rocks loose with a clatter, and he can feel the stranger’s attention snap to him, their restless observance stilling and settling. They are a flash of narrow eyes from the muffled security of a head-scarf, while the shadows likely cast him as little more than a handsome jawline beneath his hood. A meeting of hidden faces, he thinks with brief amusement.

And then they shift again, a subtle angling, and at last Andal sees the gun holstered at their hip.

This time the knife-strike cuts close enough to his heart for his footsteps to falter; he is caught half-surprised by his own surprise. He has known this a possibility for two long years after all, since that terse conversation over a dangerous trail, but the sorrow is no less for having started the mourning early. He had known – but he had hoped, as well.

Some instinct lifts his hands to draw his hood back, and after a moment of hesitation, the newcomer mimics him, tugging their scarf down with two fingers. The face beneath it is achingly young and yet older than many of the new Guardians that walk through the City’s gates. This is no blank slate, no forgotten past, no fresh start forged in Light. There is history in these eyes.

“My name is Andal Brask,” he says to the boy – to Jay’s boy, because it can only be Jay’s boy. “I serve as the Hunter Vanguard here.”

He gets a long, wary look that doubtless measures him against the only examples the boy has known – and oh, what a dichotomy to fall between – but whatever passes and fails are accrued, the wariness dims just enough that he edges a half-step away from the wall.

“Vanguard to the Hunters.” The words are accented and a little clumsy, the Traveler’s tongue still sitting uncomfortably on his own. A flick of eyes to the watching crowd – swift and nervous – and then the boy sets his shoulders. Swallows. Says what they already know. “Jaren Ward is dead.”

If he had expected shouts or shocked murmurs, the following silence might seem cold, but Andal knows it for a single indrawn breath. There’s movement from the corner of his eyes that abruptly halts: the surging motion of a Titan, pulled short by the Warlock at her side. A friend of Pahanin’s, once. Behind them, Cayde hooks a hand around the back of his neck, shakes his head quiet and slow.

“Oh lad,” Andal says for them all, and hears the crest of his own grief rise behind his words despite his better intentions. “I’m so sorry.”

The boy blinks, blank and evidently unprepared for this response, and then his face starts to crumple, lips thinning and twisting in a way he tries to hide in the folds of the scarf around his neck. A mistake, Andal thinks regretfully, and wishes he’d chosen formality instead, allowed the boy the safety of ritual and planned speeches. It would have been kinder than being kind.

The boy pulls himself together the next moment, though; one quick, unsteady breath and then he looks up, dry-eyed and calm as a storm-herald sky. It is entirely too much like Jaren.

“She said that I could find help here,” he says. “That…we could find help here.”

Andal’s attempt to conduct a proper reply is nearly derailed by a sudden, sharp pulse from his Ghost, a strange wordless urgency shuddering behind his ribcage – but he pushes past it to step to the side and sweep an arm in invitation towards the Hall. The crowd has mercifully had the sense to start dispersing now that they have their news, though it just as likely means it will have made a full circle around the wall within the hour. Of the light that was lost, and the shadow that remains.

“Whatever help can be given will be given,” he says, and there are few things he has meant more. The memory of his friend is close at his shoulder as he adds, gently, “The City is home to all who need it.”

This time he’s the one unprepared for the response he gets: a look both old and cold, a weary bitterness worn as boldly as any cloak. A look that no longer believes in the concept of refuge.

“For your sake,” Shin Malphur says, “you should hope not.”
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