warning for moderate swearing

As the ship bobs up and down on the waves, Thea stares at Oscar and contemplates the world. She's pretty sure that he's doing the same.

It's so… strange, to be leaving. It's so strange to be walking out on the only life that she's ever known, to be getting rid of everything and just leaving, sailing far away to where no one can touch her anymore. They've both had entire lives of being trapped by the constraints that the people put upon them, and she doesn't really want to do that anymore.

She finds herself drifting away, so she snaps her attention back to Oscar, who's watching her and smiling. His smile is beautiful, she has to admit. It's the most stunning thing she'll see over the entire trip to Scotland, all the way to the country that a quarter of her hails from, all the way to the country where she'll come to call home. All the way to the country where she knows that home already is, because Adam and Alexander are there, and that's more than enough.

Oscar grabs her hands in his, and the size difference isn't that great - Oscar's always been small, after all - but the touch is so all-encompassing that Thea feels a strange warmth that she hasn't felt in many a year. She's never had any reason to, within the last few; all of it had been a long run of ups and downs and everything in between, so that she became so accustomed to the chill in her bones, to the lies as they formulated at the back of her mouth and slipped out past her lips, to the feeling of her hair pulled tight with her status shown to the world. Gold, then black, then gold again.

She smiles. She lets herself properly smile to herself, and Oscar picks up on it immediately. "What is it?" he asks.

"I - I can't believe I'm going to see him again. I can't believe that I'll get to hold him again," and even though there's the question as to who he is, whether Thea means Adam or Alexander, Oscar smiles alongside her. Even as she says it, she's not quite sure which one. She decides that her indecision means both of them are the correct answer, and if she searches for the truth to the question, that's what she finds.

"Yeah, you are, you dummy," Oscar replies. "I can't believe I'm seeing this with my very own eyes. Thea Spencer, emotional at last."

"Shut up," replies Thea. "You shut the fuck up. You forget I still know a hundred ways to kill you."

"So do I," replies Oscar. "That doesn't mean that I'm about to go through with any of them." At that, she narrows her eyes at him, refusing to admit defeat. In response, Oscar widens his eyes and flattens his mouth into a hard line, into what Oscar likes to call the meme face. He's so ridiculous, Thea can't help but laugh. She never could help but laugh when it came to him, could she? Oscar breaks into a laugh too, a bright sharp laugh. Thea spent nearly nine years without hearing Oscar laugh. Every time she hears it now, she savours it for all that it's worth.

She breaks off and shakes her head, casting her mind back to last November. Oscar looks expectedly at her, and Thea shakes her head again, shutting her eyes and swallowing sharply. "I can't believe I nearly lost you," she says, finally. "I can't believe I let Faulkner go through with that plan of his."

Oscar smiles ruefully at her. "I'm not quite sure how you did it either," he replies. "If I'd been told that you were going to die, I would have broken the laws of physics just to get to you. But I'm grateful that you did because if you didn't, we wouldn't be here. Henry would never have left the palace. And what a tragedy that would have been." Thea nods again. Even though it didn't feel like it at the time, it was for the best, when it came down to it, both from an Acothran perspective and from a personal one.

Thea swallows again. "I'm sick of it, though," she confesses, finally letting out a secret she's been harbouring for years. "I'm sick of losing all the time. When I look back on my life, I feel like it's just a long series of losing, and I don't know if I can bear that."

Oscar exhales sharply, smiling. Thea's not quite sure what to say next. She's not sure whether Oscar's just formulating his next sentence or whether he wants to say something else because, with Oscar, it could go either way. She's answered a few seconds later when Oscar's smile becomes far brighter than it was before, and he's still smiling as he asks her, "May I kiss you?"

Thea nods, and Oscar does. They're in their own room on the ship, so there's no need to worry about anyone coming in, so Oscar's free to be as promiscuous as he wants, even though Thea knows that he'll ask first, that he'll always ask first, because they both remember what happened when they were eight years old and Thea knows that Oscar will never let that happen again. So will Adam, when they eventually get to Edinburgh.

How did she luck out like this? How did she fall in love with these two idiots, these two calm, loving idiots who she'd burn down the world to keep safe? There aren't many people that she can say that about; in fact, she can count them all on her fingers. Thea looks back on her life, looks back on all she's lost, and she finds it increasingly difficult not to cry.

She can't help herself. The tears spill over and Oscar, though only half a foot taller, pulls her into his chest and lets her sob. He rubs her back, and Thea can't help but notice that this is something that ordinary couples do, something that they might have done far sooner if they'd been born to another land and another time. They'll never be an ordinary couple, not least because of the fact that there's a third person missing, but they can at least try to make some semblance of it.

"Shh," Oscar whispers, pulling them apart and taking her cheeks in his hands. "Listen to me." Thea knows that tone; it's the tone of a leader. She knows it far too well, having had to use it for the last two years in order to keep firm hold of the 10th Battalion, in order to keep her soldiers alive, in order to keep herself from falling when all she wanted to do was to lock herself away in her quarters and cry - she's getting distracted again. She's getting distracted again; she's always had a tendency for it. Oscar is the thing she needs to focus on, and he's right there, so why can't she? Why does she always keep sidetracking?

Oscar's voice snaps though again. "Please don't cry," he says, wiping the tears from her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs. It tickles a little, and Thea can't help but laugh, and Oscar laughs along with her. "Not because you're not allowed to; I won't be them. I won't echo what they said. We're not at the Victory Ground anymore. But because when you're sad, I'm sad and I don't want to be sad right now; I just want to be happy. We're moving on, Thea."

Thea laughs, batting away Oscar's hands. "That we are, Oscar O'Sullivan," she mutters at last. "That we are."

That draws out Oscar's brightest smile, the one that he reserves only for moments of pure bliss, the one that she's only seen seven times before today, in spite of twenty years of knowing one another. "Good," he says, finally. "Now, I don't want talk of any more losing. You've lost too much."

Thea snorts. "Tell that to Freddie," she replies. "He's lost far more than I have."

"Maybe," Oscar replies. "But his loss doesn't cancel out your loss." Thea leans back in her chair. He's right, she knows. He's right, but it doesn't make the instinct to deflect any weaker, doesn't make her want to talk about anything else but herself because she doesn't know how to talk about herself. She's never known how to talk about herself. She's always relied on people to ask questions and to give answers as necessary as if the act of talking about herself unsolicited is a crime. In her short life, her life that's longer than it was statistically supposed to be, she's already been arrested twice and jailed once. She has no intention of ever doing that again.

She looks back at Oscar. "What do I do, then? What do I do if I don't think about loss?"

"You do the opposite," Oscar replies, putting on that leader voice of his again. "You do the opposite, and you don't talk about loss. You talk about gain. You look back, and you look at all the things in your life you have gained."

And so she does. "There's a lot of things I've gained, Oscar," she mutters after she's flicked back through only a handful of memories.

"I know. That's the point I'm trying to make. There are so many things you've gained, and I want you to focus on those."

Thea sighs, flicking back through a few more. "Focus on those. I think I can do that." That prompts a quiet laugh from Oscar. "You know, I'll bet you that Freddie is sitting in the mess hall right now, just thinking about all the things that we've been through together. I almost want to do the same." Oscar doesn't say anything, but when she looks at him, his blue eyes are filled with sparks, with nothing but adoration and wonder behind them. "You actually want me to do it, don't you?"

Oscar nods vigorously, and Thea's afraid that his head might actually snap off in a minute. "It's not like we've got anything better to do."

Thea tuts at that. "I almost want to renege on that sentence, now that I know that you're so interested. Why should I give it to you so easily?"

"Because I know that you'd never be able to resist me for long," he replies. "I know you far too well for that. If you don't start now, I'll just keep asking you until you do. You don't have to tell all of it if you don't want to. But I want you to tell it. Tell me about all about your life. Tell me all about him, because I've been gone for so long and I want to know him. Tell it. For me, if not for yourself." Thea can't argue with that. Oscar's right, she may as well start now. She may as well start telling it here, where it's just them, rather than have to tell it over lunch or dinner with a hundred other people. In some ways, that might have been easier, but these are private moments and private stories and Thea absolutely can't be sure that she'd be able to tell them if she wasn't in the safe environment of the room she and Oscar are sharing for the next few weeks.

"Fine," she replies, leaning back in her chair and sighing. "But be warned, it's not exactly a pretty story."