Length/Rating: 851 words, PG-13, Gen
Pairings/Warnings: Character Death
Summary: It was a Listener’s job to put the dead to rest, no matter who’s dead they were.
Prompt: Random roll: 4. High Fantasy and 2. Listener’verse
It was a Listener’s job to put the dead to rest, no matter who’s dead they were.
“He won’t listen to me,” her mother said, meeting her at the gate to the farm, tired and still covered with mud from the barns. Pel’d been out on the trail for months hunting down a missing tinker, but she knew what wasn’t whom her mother meant. “Please.”
So Pel helped her put away the horse, bring in her packs, and stoke the fire before she walked down that old familiar path.
Listeners are born, not made, and ever since she was a little girl she’d come down that rough stone path to listen to the dead. The gift doesn’t normally run in families, but she’d pulled the short straw and been born a Listener’s child.
He’s awake when she gets there, muttering to himself and pacing around the graveyard.
She’d known he’d be here, she’s known it since the letter a month ago, but it’s still a shock to see him.
“Pel–” he’s seen her now, too late to hide. Too late to sink back into her pretend world where the letter was just some big misunderstanding.
He was real here, as solid and present as he’d been in life and he scoops her up in a hug that makes her forget for a moment what she has to do.
“Ah, my little bird, I’m so glad you’re home.” He sets her down on a headstone and steps back to look at her, that same proud smile he always wears is no less dim or hesitant. “You found the tinker?”
She nods, finally able to find her voice. “Yeah, he wandered a lot farther into the woods than we thought, but he’s home finally.”
“And so are you.” He grins.
Except she wouldn’t have been, if she hadn’t gotten the letter. “Is that why you’re waiting?”
He didn’t lose his smile, not quite, but leaned back against his own gravestone with a sigh. “I don’t want to go,” he said after a long pause. “She’ll be alone.”
“She’s alone now,” Pel drummed her heels against the rough old stone, feeling like she was a child again but also very very old. “She can’t hear you Dad, you know that.”
“But she can tell I’m here.”
“Yeah,” she stopped swinging her feet and hopped off the stone in a sharp unhappy motion. “Yeah, she can, and that’s why I’m home.” She looked up at him, frustrated and angry that he’d do this to her after he’d spent his whole life teaching her to play by the rules.
“Oh.” He looked lost. “I thought–”
“It’s not comforting, it’s creepy. You know that Dad– how many times have you said it to someone else?”
“I thought it would be different,” he said finally, the jovial confidence he always had stripped away. “She’s not like everyone else.”
“But she is.” Pel said. “She tried, because she loved you– loved us, but she can’t be what we are.”
“She really doesn’t want me here?” He looked up the hill to the house.
“She wants you safe.” Because not all Listeners held to the oaths he’d taught her and the waking dead made powerful pawns.
There was a long pause.
“I could go with you.” He said, not asking, just a bland statement of fact. He still hadn’t looked away from the house.
And that’s what she’d been dreading since she first realized she’d have to come home, because there was only one answer she could give.
He looked down at her with a tired sigh. “Dammit mom.”
Pel could hear her grandmother’s stubborn muttering from the bones woven into her arm band, but it was too soft to make out the words. But they’d had this conversation before, about legacies and living forever and just how far and oath should take you.
“So that’s it then,” he said after a moment “I’m going to miss you,” and swept her up in a bearhug and if there was crying they were both too polite to mention it.
“Tell your mom I’m sorry,” he said once they were done. “I really thought–”
“She knows that,” Pel said, wiping her eyes on her sleeve and smiling a little, because her dad had always been good at turning good intentions into burnt pies and ruined carpets. “But I’ll tell her anyway.”
“See you later,” and there was his smile again, bright as the sun for one last moment and the he was gone.
Pel stared at his headstone for a few more minutes and then turned back towards the house, running her fingers over her armband with a sigh.
Her grandmother’s muttering was still there, along with the twins singsong chatter and Ti’s bright cheerfulness and she wondered what it would have been like to have her Dad there too.
And oh does her grandmother have some choice words about that. With a sigh and a grin for the same lecture she’s heard a thousand times before, Pel heads back up the hill to home.