It happens all the time. People are left all the time. It means nothing. He’ll manage.
The sun drags itself up over the mountains, slow, turning the grass red with the first rays of light. He can feel their absence in the air. He can feel where they stood, all 100 of them before they left him.
101, probably, by now. His child, used as a pawn before it had even been born.
Gary turns and walks in the opposite direction. If he turned left, he could go to the river-town. They’d welcome him there. Not immediately – they’d be suspicions, hate. But he… he has too much power to turn away rightly.
He keeps on marching, away, away from it all.
Life beats around him, tugging at him, the currents hovering just below the surface of the soil, fed by the water table. Dig a well, and it would be there, the well spring of life. Only blood calls to him in a stronger voice.
His own blood is calling to him now, demanding he turn back. He just keeps on walking.
The grass fades, gets patcher, the ground balder. It’s not longer sandy soil beneath his feet, but dry cracked earth. The stones start out at knee height, and get smaller as he walks. There’s nothing to shelter them from the tearing force of the wind anymore. Not even sand rests long in this land.
Eventually, he feels nothing. No water, no blood but his own. Nothing out here alive enough to be torn at by his rage.
It’s a little parcel of heat inside him, tucked away in his shock and betrayal. He sits, because he knows he won’t be standing by the end of it, knits his fingers together and unpacks it.
The power floods out of him searching for something to rend apart. It wants a battle, soft human flesh to tear into. Water to poison if not that.
There is nothing out here. So steals rain from other places, turns the rain to acid. It burns as it falls, tearing at Gary’s skin, but the same power heals him the moment the damage is done.
This is his gift and curse. The ability to manipulate life. He is a healer, and that makes him a destroyer too. Any man who can knit flesh back together can rend it nothing more but bloody meat again.
It is only after enough acid has dropped to prevent anything from living on this land for another 10 years, only after the pain of successive healing breaks through his anger that he stops, and breathes.
“You could have taken that with a bit more grace.”
Gary doesn’t open his eyes, just turns away from her, and tucks himself into a ball.
“Your child was born safe.”
“Go away.” Harder words claw at his chest, demanding a way out.
“He doesn’t have your power. Only his mother’s.”
Inside of him, something breaks. He’d… he’d hoped and feared that. Hoped, because it would have given him someone to exist with, someone who would understand. He could have been the someone who understood.
Feared, because he would not wish this on anyone.
“Maybe I should go to him any way, tell him of…”
He turns now, rising. Above them, storm crowds rumble. She just raises her eyebrows, her silk dress unruffled. Once, as a teenager, he’d had fantasies about bedding her, bedding a goddess. Now, the idea just makes his stomach rebel.
“You leave him alone.” The words sound gritty, but they’re clear enough. “You have me. You have your great power on earth. He doesn’t deserve you.”
“You know, once I would have thought that a compliment.”
He lets the silence answer for him.
“They’ll give it to him, you know. The crown. They’ll hope, and pray that one day he’ll turn out like you. What a life to live.”
“As much as I hate Matilna at the moment, I don’t see her being anything more than protective of her son. I don’t fear for his well being.”
A beat, nothing but the wind and the creaking of his bones, the thrum of his power as it packs itself back beneath his skin. Her fingers are suddenly on his shoulder, cool, perfect. He manages not to flinch.
“You could have managed it.” Her voice is low, soft. “You would have been alright.”
“You heard what they asked of me. I couldn’t… it would have been a broken crown. The crown of a demon-king, destroying to protect what was his.”
He can’t help but choke on the words, his throat tightening, something burning behind his eyes. He should have… he shouldn’t have tried. It would hurt less, being alone if he hadn’t known. If he hadn’t known what it was like to not be so lonely.
“Well. She wasn’t asking it of you.”
“But they were!”
“But she wasn’t.” His goddess is insistent, green eyes bright. “She wasn’t.”
“And what the hell does that matter! You’re the goddess of war and healing, and you can’t keep someone! How the hell am I supposed too?”
She pulls back, mouth tight. He’s aware that he’s holding his arms out to his side, chest thrust forwards, daring her to strike him down. He doesn’t move to protect himself. She straightens.
“Well the one I picked didn’t follow me into a desert, did he?”
He stares at her for a beat, and then spins, sending his power out, twisting through the dead earth around him. He’s killed everything here, it shouldn’t be hard…
He feels a life beat. Two, coming towards him. And then suddenly his anger and hurt is nothing compared the the dread and fear inside him now.
He spins to her, his patron goddess. “How… What…”
Her grin is full of too many teeth. “Keep me in mind for the name-blessing.”
And then she’s gone. And now he has to figure what the hell he’s supposed to do when someone doesn’t leave him.