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SaDiablo Hall, Kaeleer, Friday afternoon [Fandom time]
Dinah was going straight back to New Gotham as soon as her portal got here. In the meantime, after talking to Karla, and yelling at then talking to Lucivar, she was absently picking honey-pears off a small tree again, thinking. Yes, thinking. Not brooding! ... that would be silly.





Morton

That was fine. Morton was doing enough brooding for everyone. And his feet led him in Dinah's direction. Not intentionally, it just happened.



Dinah

Dinah looked up, and then smiled when she saw him. "Hey, you," she said gently. "You look like I feel, kinda. Honey pear?"



Morton

"That doesn't sound good," Morton said, looking over at Dinah and mustering something that was, charitably, a smile.

"No thanks on the honey pear. I'm good."



Dinah

"Thinky. Too many thoughts. Nowhere for them to go." Dinah took a bite of her fruit, and sat down on one of the benches, patting the space next to her. "You okay?"



Morton

"You should get them out," Morton waved.

See how he avoided the question there? Mostly because he wasn't sure of the answer himself.



Dinah

Dinah TK-poked him, very lightly, in the arm, and shook her head, taking another bite. "Is Lucivar always difficult to talk to?"



Morton

"You actually talked to him?" Morton asked with a small smirk.



Dinah

"After the hitting. And the yelling." She grinned, wiped juice off her mouth, and grimaced. "He'd probably say the same thing about me, though."



Morton

"You hit him?" Now the smirk wasn't so small.



Dinah

"He wasn't paying attention!" Dinah turned red, embarrassed. "I was trying to tell him something important, and he kept getting off on tangents. It was frustrating."



Morton

"And you didn't get thrown in a trough for it?"



Dinah

"I would so bite him if he tried that. And he knows it." Dinah paused. "Come to think of it, I bit him last time, that's how we ended up sparring..." She shook her head, then sighed. "Anyway. What are you all thinky about?"



Morton

"What do you think?" Mortin asked, slipping back into brooding just a bit.



Dinah

Another small poke. "She's gonna be okay. This time." Which maybe was not as reassuring as she'd hoped. "You did really good there, you know that?"



Morton

"I lost track of her," he said quietly. "One little job, and I..."

He sighed.



Dinah

Dinah grimaced, and felt another spurt of frustration with Karla, having scared the life out of so many people. "That is not your fault. That's her insane need to overachieve and overcompensate kicking in again. She loves you. And trusts you. You know that, right?"



Morton

"Usually," he answered. "Sometimes, though..."



Dinah

"She told me a month or so ago. The only person she completely trusts here is you," Dinah told him. "She just-- God. She's a little messed up. I mean. You might have noticed."



Morton

"I've tried to protect her, to keep her... stable. That's why I sent her to Fandom." And look what had happened.



Dinah

"I know," Dinah said, voice soft. "And I think she's safer there, than here in your world. At least right now." She bit her lip. "This is not your fault. She just-- doesn't want to admit she has limits."



Morton

"I protect her," Morton insisted. "It's all I have to do."

And he sucked at it.



Dinah

"Morton! Don't you get that you're the only reason she ever feels safe here?" Dinah terribly wanted to give Morton a hug now. "Look, Lucivar and Saetan-- they try. Karla's not their priority, though. She can't be. You're-- you're her champion." She sighed. "And the fact that she's a tiny bit nuts and overdetermined... how can you fight that? She does the same stupid things at Fandom."



Morton

"Hobart isn't in Fandom," Morton whispered, staring down at his boots.

They were kind of beat up. And a bit muddy. He'd have to wipe them before going back inside.



Dinah

Okay, that was it. He was getting hugged.

You did good. You kept her alive, Dinah sent, near tears that he was this upset. You make her believe in herself. As much as she can. It's never enough, except around you she almost feels good enough.



Morton

Morton swallowed. He didn't hug Dinah back, but his entire body sagged. It wasn't relaxation so much as... a sudden loss of tension.

"She's alive." He just had to say it out loud.



Dinah

"She is," Dinah confirmed vehemently, still hanging onto him. "She's safe. Right inside." Not well. Sick. That was so not on Morton, though. "You got her home."



Morton

"She is." He'd hold onto that.



Dinah

"Yup." Dinah relaxed against him too, still winding down, and maybe realizing how very upset she'd been too.



Morton

Morton snorted. "I didn't come down here to cry on your shoulder, you know." Not that he had, exactly, but...



Dinah

"Well, maybe I stuck around to cry on yours," Dinah teased him gently, and tilted her head onto his shoulder. "So, you know. You're totally welcome to use mine in return."



Morton

"Well, I guess we should get to that part," Morton smiled. He leaned over to bump her shoulder lightly. "Talk."



Dinah

Dinah grinned, then sobered. "Karla's gonna kill me, after what I told Lucivar." She winced. "And, totally unrelated, the concept of killing, after what Jaenelle did? Completely do not want."



Morton

"What did you tell Lucivar?" They'd get to the killing later.



Dinah

"That I think Karla needs to talk to a black Widow, or a counselor, somebody, about her overworking herself to the bone habits." Dinah rubbed at the skin of the honey-pear in her hands, head still leaning against Morton. "It's compulsive. And I told him stuff about Fandom that I guess she didn't feel like sharing." She sighed. "I don't think I was wrong. I don't think Karla will see it that way."



Morton

All that tension that had bled out of Morton? Yeah, it was back now. "It's that bad?" he asked, voice low and tight.



Dinah

Dinah closed her eyes, hating that she was upsetting him again. "She keeps not-stopping when she's hurt. You saw what she looked like in that inn, Morton. It reminded me--" Of the version of Karla in the vampire world, starving herself. "Of girls who hurt themselves in my world. Trying to be in control. She eats, but she doesn't rest enough. Never does. She got hurt in Fandom, and still didn't rest enough."



Morton

"No one's there to fuss over her properly," Morton said softly. He... should have sent someone. Except there was no one to send.

He should have gone himself.



Dinah

"Her mini-Morton does." Dinah hugged his side, and grimaced. "And her friends try, you know that. Ben. Emma. 'Dite. Me, when I was there. Warren feeds her like she's his little chick." She shook her head. "It's just not enough, if she won't stop herself. If it all feels like we're criticizing her when we tell her to cut it out."



Morton

"None of you know Protocol. None of you know how to make her when she doesn't want to."

He should have gone himself, Darkness take it!



Dinah

"Morton," Dinah sighed. Considered. "Are you thinking this is your fault, somehow?"



Morton

"I sent her away to be safe, but I didn't send anyone with her. To watch out for her. Someone who knew how to take care of her."



Dinah

Dinah wanted to headdesk so hard. And she felt another spurt of irrational anger at Karla, for making Morton this miserable. Although she knew it wasn't all on her.

"She doesn't ask us to," Dinah said softly. "This is-- So not your fault." She was quiet a moment. "You can't think of everything. Neither of you should be in this position yet. You should have had another six or seven years to get ready." She bit her lip, wondering if that sounded like criticism. "And from where I'm standing you're doing an awesome job, okay? You are."



Morton

"Of course she doesn't ask. She's a Queen. She doesn't know how to. That's what her circle is for." That's what he was for.

He shook his head. "You're right, though. We... have to do something."



Dinah

"Then she has to learn," Dinah said forcefully. She calmed down. "Soon. Someone has to make it clear to her. She can't have a full circle yet. It's too soon. She's safer in Fandom. And honestly, Morton, even if you were with her all the time-- she's messed up. There's stuff going on there that's not normal, even from what I understand of your people. Cassidy doesn't do this. Neither does Jaenelle, not as bad."



Morton

"I'll... talk to her."

And to the High Lord of Hell.



Dinah

Dinah sighed. "Okay." She hugged him again. "Please, please believe that you're doing a good job. You are. Don't let anyone tell you different. Not even Karla."



Morton

"She doesn't realize how bad a job I'm doing," Morton said quietly. Then managed a small smile. "Of course that's because she knows how bad a job I could be doing."

If he hadn't gotten her out of Glacia...



Dinah

"If you are even thinking of comparing yourself to that, that... person, just quit it. Right now." Dinah growled under her breath. "You have never failed her. Or let her down. Even when she made it hard on you." She sighed heavily. "And honestly, I think Saetan and Lucivar dropped the ball too. They get so worried about Jaenelle, Karla can pull the wool over their eyes."



Morton

"They're Jaenelle's circle," Morton said, coming to the defense of the other males. "I'm Karla's." He also sounded a bit possessive there. His.

And until very recently, that had been it.



Dinah

"He's an adult. So's Lucivar. They're way old. You're not," Dinah said ruthlessly. "I'm not looking for who to blame here. I'm saying you're not alone in this. You're hers, I get that." She frowned. "Sort of. Mostly... Did she tell you, we swore an oath? Blood sisters?"

And oh, wasn't Karla going to throw a baby sister fit when she found out about Dinah telling on her.



Morton

"She hadn't mentioned that, no..." Now Morton was distracted from his brooding by curiosity.



Dinah

Dinah held up her palm, where a tiny pin-prick scar could be seen. "It's silly. But I meant it. Sisters forever. Even when we're apart. We mixed our blood before I left for college." She dropped her hand. "It doesn't have any magic to it. So. This is me. Doing the big sister thing." She was quiet. "Hope I'm doing it right."



Morton

"You are." Morton sounded awfully sure.



Dinah

For this, he got squeezed again.

"You're very good at this consolation thing."



Morton

Morton flushed at the contact and the praise.

"Um..."

What was the right word? Oh, right!

"Thanks."



Dinah

"Welcome." Dinah let him go, then grinned when she saw him blushing. Aww. "And thanks for being here for me, too."



Morton

Great. Now he was blushing even more.

"Of course," he mumbled awkwardly.



Dinah

Dinah nudged his arm, and smiled at him. "See? You win at being stalwart and courtly. You can do this."



Morton

"Of course I can," he said quickly, straightening his spine.



Dinah

And did she mention cuddly? Well, that would probably just make him blush more.

Dinah grinned, and silently offered him another honey-pear.



Morton

This time he took it. "Thanks."








Gabrielle

Her friends back at the Athens Academy had wanted to write epic poems about wars; Homer, for one, had most definitely done that, but Gabrielle realized she'd been closer to Troy than he ever had.

If he had, she thought, he might not have wanted to write about it so much -- she definitely didn't want to write about what they'd just been through.

The aftermath of a big battle was always eerily quiet, almost obscene in its peacefulness-by-contrast, in Gabrielle's experience; she just wasn't used to handling it without Xena around, and it had her feeling off-kilter.

So she coped the best way she knew how: wandering around to check up on other people, offering comfort and listening if they needed it. She didn't always go to seek out others, but she'd made a habit of making herself available for anyone who needed it. Which was what she was doing now: moving slowly around the grounds, just . . . being there if people needed her.



Dinah

Dinah was sitting on the grass near some of the roses now. Trying to cope with things that *didn't* have to do with Karla, really.

She waved when she saw Gabrielle, much more subdued than usual. "Hey."



Gabrielle

There was someone she hadn't caught up with yet, and Gabrielle headed over with a bit more urgency in her steps, then dropped cross-legged into the grass across from her.

"Dinah," she said quietly, her voice gone low and a bit husky the way it always did when she was serious. "How are you holding up?"



Dinah

Dinah wanted to say Meh, okay, but somehow couldn't. She hugged her knees to her chest, and met Gabrielle's eyes with weariness. "I think I'll be better when I can get home. I love Karla, and parts of her world are awesome, but..." Right now, she'd give a lot to be a couple worlds away from here. "This place is hard to take."



Gabrielle

"It feels like a thousand worlds away from New Gotham right now, doesn't it?" Gabrielle queried gently; she recognized the look on Dinah's face, because she'd felt the exact same way herself more times than she could count.

She could guess at that unspoken response, by the way. And she wouldn't have believed it if Dinah had said it out loud.

"And," she added, guessing more than making any kind of insightful statement, "you wonder what home's going to look like to you after this."



Dinah

"Heh." Dinah gave a sad, small chuckle. "Yeah. And what I'll look like to them." She swallowed. "I've been in fights before. At Fandom. Even killed two people. They were trying to kill me a lot, but." She shook her head, and rocked a little, biting hard on her lips. "This was... something else."



Gabrielle

Gabrielle was immensely grateful, right about now, that she'd chosen to stay indoors and work with the healers instead of going out and fighting; she wasn't sure she'd have been able to stick with the non-lethal moves she preferred, fighting anything like the Jhinka.

"The important part is that you are feeling it," she ventured, a little out of her depth here; she'd never killed anyone, thanks as much to Xena's efforts as her own, and she couldn't quite relate. "I know that doesn't sound like a lot of comfort right now, but it's what makes you human."

It was the difference between Xena and Callisto, in her mind.



Dinah

"Yeah?" Dinah smiled a little, sad. She started to talk, twice stopping herself, then finally said, "My sisters. They disagree with each other, about this. They agree on so much, it's easy to figure things out. Not this, though." She sighed raggedly. "And then, Jaenelle saves our lives killing all those Jhinka, and how do you say 'no thank you' to that?"

She pretty much didn't think she'd be saying anything, really.



Gabrielle

Gabrielle closed her eyes for a moment, but it didn't help the sudden and painfully vivid mental image of the Jhinka just . . . exploding in midair. She couldn't even imagine what it would be like to have to live with that.

Except she could; she'd watched Xena sit up half the night staring into the campfire so many times.

"I don't know," she admitted. "I'm supposed to know how to use words, and for this . . . it's like they've all gone into hiding. I -- I'm not sure how to . . ."

She faltered. "It's all so much."



Dinah

Dinah slung an arm over Gabrielle's shoulders, giving her a watery smile. "Sooo, neither of us has answers, hunh?" She closed her eyes, trying to forget the look of the one whose neck she'd broken, and how desperately relieved she'd been when Ender came up with another plan that became moot so swiftly. "I like being alive," she whispered. "I hate how this feels."



Gabrielle

Gabrielle didn't know what to say, but she could lean into Dinah just without the highly fanservicey hurt/comfort cuddling.

"No answers," she said regretfully, wishing she knew what they were. Thinking there were answers, because she couldn't let herself believe there weren't. "Just the question of what we do to pay back the people who gave us the chance to stay alive."



Dinah

"Yeah," Dinah whispered. Ender, and Jaenelle. And all the dead villagers who didn't make it. And all the Jhinka who just stopped....

"Keep them safe too. Karla and the others, if they need it," Dinah said after a while. She bumped her side into Gabrielle's. "You too. I saw how hard you were working at helping everyone. It's a start, anyway."



Gabrielle

"I have a lot of practice at this sort of thing." Gabrielle was trying for humor, but her voice faded to a whisper for a moment despite her best efforts. "I didn't quite expect it to turn out this useful."



Dinah

"No." Dinah whispered. "This isn't something you can imagine before it happens." She closed her eyes a moment, then opened them. "Maybe that's a way to pay back too. To just keep going?"



Gabrielle

Gabrielle's smile was a little wobbly, but it was there. "Yes," she answered, thinking of a long trip down Mount Nestis with Xena's sarcophagus; of her ride into Talmadeus's camp and her insistence that Salmoneus rally the villagers to defend themselves. Of Terreis, and Queen Melosa, and Perdicas. "I don't think there's a better way to honor their sacrifice than to make sure what they did -- what they gave up for the sake of our lives -- doesn't go to waste."



Dinah

Dinah realized she was crying. Tried to wipe them away with the back of her wrist, and sighed. She remembered what Reno had said, the first time she'd been called him after she'd killed. "And not forget."



Gabrielle

"Never," Gabrielle added fiercely through the tightness forming in her throat, but she leaned into Dinah a little more. "The important thing is, we have to keep going."



Dinah

Dinah nodded, silent. After a long wait, she said softly, "Just. Not yet. In a little bit. But not yet."



Gabrielle

In the silence, Gabrielle glanced out around the grounds, watching the people as they went about their business.

"Not yet," she agreed after Dinah had spoken. "I don't think they'd hold it against us to take a little time to recover. But we will. Just like these people will; we'll rebuild, somehow, and life will go on. It won't ever be the same . . . but maybe we'll learn to treasure it a little bit more."






Dinah

Dinah wandered over after a while, a bowl of pickleberries and honey-pears in hand. "Hey. Food?"

Yes, she was checking on Karla's boyfriend. Hopefully he'd be okay with that, even given the way they'd met last time.



Warren

At this point, Warren would appreciate any kind gesture from... anyone. Ever.

"Hey, thanks," he said, offering her a shaky smile and reaching for a honey pear. "I should probably work on getting more of that down, huh?"

Not much appetite to speak of, after listening to thousands of people exploding in succession. Less, after the mad dash past all of those bodies.



Dinah

"Yeah," Dinah said softly, setting the bowl down between them, and sitting near him. "These are my favorite food here. Hands down. The little things... well. I like them. You might not."

She was blocking everything out pretty well now, all things considered. Focus on what's in front of you. Karla, then Lucivar, now Warren. When she was alone, it would be different. "Did Karla ever bring you here before? I swear, this isn't all there is to it. We had an great time here last spring."



Warren

"She brought me here once," Warren replied, passing the honey-pear back and forth from hand to hand before taking a careful bite. He knew these things had a tendency to ooze, after all. "I got poked at by a tailor in town, and then there was dinner."

And it had been a mostly not-awkward dinner, at that.

"I'm trying to focus on that, mostly."



Dinah

"It's a good thing to focus on," Dinah said, taking a pickleberry, her mouth screwing up on reflex. "There were unicorns, last time. Little -- foals? I guess. And I cliff-dived with dragons." She was quiet. "Karla loves this place so much."

Although sometimes Dinah was at a loss as to why, even with magic, cool people, and things like... "The winds. I can't remember the name, but. There's this trail of ice canyons that we flew through. You'll love them, when you get to see them."




Warren

"That sounds kind of like something to look forward to," Warren decided. And he was going to cling to that idea, too.

Another bite, and this time he let the taste of pear and honey linger on his tongue before swallowing. Something nice to focus on. Bonus points that it involved eating.

"It's home, to her. Of course she loves it."



Dinah

"Yeah," Dinah sighed. Then looked rueful. "I keep wishing she didn't have to be Queen of it, though. It probably wouldn't matter-- she'd still want to make a difference, and change all the crappy political stuff that's happening, even if she weren't magically powerful." She shook her head, took another honey-pear. "That's going to be an ... interesting time, a couple years from now."

Maybe as bad as what had just happened, if on a smaller scale. Or more personal, like stupid Briarwood, or Jaenelle being dosed with a poisonous aphrodisiac.

"It's a ways off, though."



Warren

... Way to make Warren absolutely, ridiculously worried about Karla's future.

"Well, she won't have to do it alone," he replied, with a bit more backbone than he was actually feeling, just then. "And hopefully by the time she has to face all of that, she'll realize it, too."



Dinah

Dinah smiled at him, relieved by that answer, even if it was a good long ways off now. "I'm glad," she said, simply. "You and Karla are good together. All that happened--" She waved her hand. "Isn't typical. It is part of the place, though."

She took another pickleberry. "I wish I knew what else to say..." And fell silent, remembering suddenly, and shaking her head as she swallowed.



Warren

"It's part of a lot of places," Warren replied, biting his lip, remembering Rapture a little too vividly for just a moment. Remembering the things he'd heard on the news in the other room when his father thought he was asleep, about attempts to rid the world of the so-called mutant menace. "Sometimes, it's just a little more in-your-face than others."

And now he was staring at his pear. Hello, pear.

"She'll be alright. That's what matters."



Dinah

"It is." Dinah studied him. "Will you? Eventually?"



Warren

"Eventually." He shrugged a bit. "I suppose I'll have to be, yeah."

He wasn't going to be able to sleep without nightmares for a long, long time. But so long as that was his biggest concern for a while, he'd be fine.



Dinah

Reassured, Dinah nudged the bowl back to him again. "The pickleberries are good."

Yeah, don't believe that face, Warren.



Warren

Warren couldn't help it. Sometimes, you just had to take people at face value.

"Why are they called pickleberries, anyhow?" Naturally, this was asked just as he popped one into his mouth.

... And then made a face.



Dinah

Dinah snickered at his expression, then popped two in her own mouth, matching him in a second. "I dunno. Opinions?"



Warren

"A bit of an acquired taste," Warren decided, tentatively plucking another one from the bowl. "Probably a lot less weird if I hadn't just been eating a honey-pear."

He waited another moment, and then ate pickleberry number two.

...

"Nope. Still weird."



Dinah

Dinah grinned approvingly, and took another bite of honey-pear. It was kind of an extreme contrast. "The first time I tasted one of these was in one of Karla's webs. The second time I came here, and had to fight Lucivar for them." She took another bite. "Now they're just free. Things get better."


[ooc: Part of the Agio Plot. Preplayed with the as-always-awesome glacial_warlord, ancientbschamp and not_a_parakeet. Follows this one. NFB, open to those in the hall, still, OOC = <3 ]

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