The muse demands a meme. Here follows vignettes about what characters see and feel when they look at each other. Which sounds sort of lame now that it’s in print, but I think it’ll work in practice! There is also an emo warning on this one. Maybe the muse will perk up for some fluff later.
There is a ghost between us, and one fact that cannot be escaped; she kept you, and she threw me away. We pretend she isn’t there and that she doesn’t matter, even though without her, there is no us, no sisters. If she weren’t the kind of woman she is, there would be no Bree and no Iseulte for you to go looking for, and even if you came this way, someone like you would hardly bother to seek out someone like me. I sometimes wish we could speak about her, but I’m afraid to invoke her. If I did, perhaps we would dash this sister-love to pieces on that unyielding boulder of a fact – she kept you, and she threw me away.
But. When I look at you, I don’t see the ghost. Not directly. But I see how much of you is hidden, tucked away safe behind dazzle and mirrors and your beautiful smile. How bright that face is that you show to the world. I can’t wonder that you rivet and fascinate and drive men to madness for want of that vision. But dearest, what I see behind the dazzle is so much more beautiful. I don’t know why you hide it like you do. You are clever and intelligent, and no heart is more open to the wonder of the world than yours. What a mind you have, and what a tender heart! You are never cruel, not even to Tad. Not really. I have never heard you say a mean-spirited word in your life. And how generous you are with your friends! And how kind you are to a sister who is so difficult to love, whose pricker-bush friendship offers you as many thorns as it does berries. And though you are kind, you are also made with a core of the finest steel. You are brave in the face of setbacks and once your course is set, you do not deviate until your goal is attained. I don’t always agree with how that course is set, but I admire you for keeping to it when I have made so many deviations from my own convictions. This I know; you are far stronger than I.
When I look at you, this is what I see; this and not the sparkle and glamour and pliant loveliness. And I wonder – a question I can never, ever ask – did mother throw you away too?
Something’s changed lately, and it scares me to death. I used to look at you and see you as you were when you were strong and happy and young. We were young. Can you believe it? I haven’t felt young for a while now. But now, I’m finally starting to see you as you are. You’re thin. You twitch and jerk when the elves aren’t watching you close. You look grey. I see it, and I’m beginning to think for the first time in all of this that it’s true. You’re dying. There might not be some great rescue at the last minute or some desperate quest that kills the witch off for good. Those things only happen in tales and Cecibug, I don’t know that I believe we’re in a tale. Nobody would put a dumbass like me in a tale. A hero like you, sure, but not some boring carpenter whose most heroic deed involved shooing a brown bear out of the skep.
Anyhow. I always saw the future when I saw you, only before now that future was full of fat babies and a nice house on a dock somewhere with lots of fish. Now, I see a future in which Wynne never forgives herself for not saving you, and bloody if I know that I’ll be able to make myself forgive her either. Not that I’d say so, mind. It’s a future where I’m all alone in that big house with Brago and building a business for… what? It’s a future where I’m broken for real, and not just feeling sorry for myself and wearing black to get attention. When I see you, I see my heart in ashes.
When I look at you, I see devotion and welcome. No matter what went on that day, no matter what a shouting jackass I’ve been, no matter how many penny-words I dropped in front of Rosie, no matter how awful my body’s messed up, you always give me that same look. You’re happy to see me. You don’t care about anything except that I’m there, and I’m me. You don’t know about deaf, or marine, or duty, or woman. You don’t ask ‘will it hurt’ when you jump to protect me, and you don’t say ‘I’m too busy’ when I need your ears. You know that you can trust me to take care of you, that I trust you to take care of me, and that neither of us will ever fall out of love with each other. My brave, noble hound, you put my own soul to shame.
I never really knew normal children who weren’t trying to throw things at me or tease me about my odd relatives. You’re a surprising delight to me; I didn’t think I’d particularly like a boy your age. And yet, when I look at you I see a hybrid boy somewhere between the studious companions of my youth and those children I’d watch playing through the glass of Papa’s forge and the archives. You’re quick, but not what anyone would call exceptional. You need reminding and make mistakes, and you have days on which it is clear that you’d rather be doing anything other than mastering the fine art of grinding alum. And yet, you persevere in your studies and you make such progress that I have reported you to the Master Cutter as exceeding expectations. When I see both your struggles and your triumphs over them, I am proud beyond anything I thought I would feel when I asked for an apprentice.
I thought that one likes children most like one’s self, and this is how parents (and yes, masters) are meant to relate to their offspring. Heredity, I reasoned, is the driving force that accounts for how most parents can tolerate trying children. Most children seemed, to me, to be very trying indeed. You are not a younger version of me by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t matter. I have come to admire you greatly. This astonishes me.
I see how hard you work for things I found so easy, and how easy you find things that are difficult for me. I see it, and it brings me satisfaction to view your own triumphs on their own merits. I see how deeply you care about your work. You do need prodding sometimes to take greater pains, but you never refuse to do better when you see why and how it can be done. If you balk, I have only to explain a practical application or two, and then you dive right into it like a frog to his pond. You are kind to your parents and respect them, even though you are now far more learned than they will ever be. You are gentle with your sister and brilliant with Belion when he’s in one of his moods. And with all of this, you are a normal, happy boy who plays with the village children as if making friends were the easiest thing in the world. It’s remarkable. I look at you, and my sense of the world shifts.