What Hope Gave Back - Chapter Seven
Time seemed to stop as stood there, hugging, crying, each hardly able to believe that the other was really there, really alive. Everything else was unimportant for the moment – they were together again and there was no holding back the emotion. At some point Saint Walker was vaguely aware of Arkillo making a noise of disgust and flying off, but when that happened he couldn't say.
Right now, all his attention was on the daughter who'd been given back to him.
Peesh's sobs had quieted somewhat, though she still shook and hadn't yet made any attempt to speak. That was fine, he didn't trust his own voice either. His arms were still around her and his own eyes still wet. Whenever he thought he might be regaining control, he looked down, saw her there and the tears began again.
It was when she sagged weakly against him that he finally came to his senses. Suddenly, he realised that he was a father again and his child needed him. Wordlessly, he gently guided her into a sitting position, staying next to her the whole time. He doubted he could have moved away, even if he wanted to.
He waited a few moments, centring himself, finding his voice. What did you say to the child you'd given up for dead?
"Peesh, I..." He sighed. "I do not have the words to express how I feel."
There was a silence as she sat back just a little and, in a moment that might have been amusing in other circumstances, copied his breathing, his centring. "Me too." She looked up at him, eyes blinking. "You're here. Alive." Her gaze dropped as she fought tears again. "I never thought... I missed you so much."
"It's okay to cry," he reminded her, smiling gently. "I missed you too. Peesh... I hope you know that had I thought there was even the slightest chance you were alive... I would have come back for you."
The short, dry laugh that followed, shocked him.
"Of course I know that... It's not your fault. We... We're here now... That what matters, isn't it?"
"Of course it is," he replied with conviction. "I know only a little of what you have been through, but we will overcome it together."
She smiled faintly, but turned her head away. She wasn't ready to talk about it yet. She would, in time, but it wasn't anything she wanted to relive just now. Just the mention of it brought back memories of digging a hole in the dirt with her bare hands and pulling her mother's lifeless body into it. “Can we... Talk about other things first?" She picked anxiously at her fingernails, as though the dirt from that terrible day was still under them.
"Anything... Whatever you want. You must have questions." It hurt him to see her clearly holding back her experiences, but he knew not to push. The truth would come in time and with it, healing.
Peesh nodded. "So many questions... about what happened, where you've been.” She looked at him, feeling anxious despite the joy of having him back. One question had haunted her for years. “Daddy, where's Jatt?”
Bro'Dee drew in a sharp breath. He had forgotten, in his elation, that she wouldn't know.
"He's not here and... he'd be with you unless...” She paused, hearing his intake of breath and feeling him tense up beside her. “He's dead too, isn't he?"
"Yes," he answered softly. "He... passed a few days after we lost you and your mother.” Sometimes he wondered how even hope had got him through so many losses in so little time. “We... We'd been climbing for days. What little food and water we'd had was long gone. When he saw fruit, he ate it before I could stop him. He didn't... couldn't know it was poisonous." Even now, years later, he recalled the moment vividly. He couldn't bring himself to go into any more detail. Jatt's death had been the longest, the most painful. He'd held him and been utterly unable to help him.
Peesh was visibly shaken at the details of the terrible death. “I think I knew,” she whispered, wiping a fresh slew of tears from her eyes. There had been many stories of her father's 'death' but not one of them had ever mentioned Jatt. “But I hoped...”
"I'm sorry.” He said quietly. A lost hope always hurt, but when it was so personal, it was so much worse. “I thought I was doing the right thing when I took you with me. Perhaps... I should have gone alone. But our village was in chaos, I thought you would be safer with me."
"I've thought about that a lot," she admitted. "You did your best, Dad. It wasn't your fault." She paused, looking away from him, up to the leafy trees overhead. "I was angry, at first. I wished you'd just left us at home." She reached out to play with a leaf, clearly agitated by the admission. "Eventually I remembered what home had been like when we left. With the riots and everything... We could have died there too. You just wanted to help everyone...” she rubbed her eyes. “That made me miss you even more."
Walker took the leaf and set it aside. "I tried," he said. "In the end I... Found what I was looking for and our planet survived, but the cost... Was our family."
She jumped up suddenly, breaking contact for the first time. "I still don't understand!" She cried, her hands waving around wildly in her distress. "How can you be here!? They told me you faded away in a blue light... After the sun went blue... That you died saving the planet! How can you be here?!" She looked at him intently, taking in every detail through the tears that just wouldn't stop. "You look like one of them. Like a Lantern. But I've only seen green and yellow and white and... and nothing makes sense!" Her hands clenched and unclenched as she tried to work it out. “Nothing makes sense.”
In two strides he was in front of her again, catching her hands in his. "Peesh... When I reached the top of the mountain, I found nothing. Nothing but a tall stone. No saviour, no messiah. I screamed and I shouted. I demanded answers. God gave them. That was the day it rained. The water washed down that stone and then, in it, I saw myself. It was me, Peesh, I had to become the one to save our people. So I went back, started trying to spread hope. In time, people with nothing else started to listen. It spread. In the midst of a gathering, we noticed the sun changing. You must have seen it go blue..."
She nodded. The sky had changed forever that day. "I knew something had happened. I... Believed it was you. Then when they told me you'd faded in blue light... I thought God had taken you too."
Rubbing her hand, he shook his head. "Oh, Peesh, no. You have now seen a little of what exists in the universe. Most of our people have not and they did not understand what they saw." He moved one hand, showing her his ring. "The ring came to me as our sun regained its youth. I am the first and currently the only Blue Lantern. My power comes from hope, in the same way the Green Lanterns are powered by will, or the Yellow by fear."
"That... That's... She laughed then, though the tears were still falling. "That's... So you."
"That's why the ring came to me," he smiled. "It needed someone with strong hope. And I have always had that. Even after I lost you all and my heart was broken, I held on to the hope that it was not all in vain. That the loss meant something."
"I think it did,” she murmured. “But... I wish you'd been able to save us all."
He hugged her tightly, trying not to think about his much taller she was now, how she was older than any child her age should be. "So do I, Peesh. So do I."
Resting in his arms, she listened again to his heartbeat, letting the steady sound soothe her. "What do we do now?" Would they go back to Astonia? Did either of them have a home there any more? She quite liked it here, on Mogo. Perhaps they could stay.
"I have not given it much thought yet. But there is no rush. We have both changed - I am content to spend time with you, to know the person you are today. The future will show us the way soon enough."
"I'd like that..." She agreed as they sat again. Oh, she was tired. Not since the day she'd buried her mother had she felt so emotionally drained. "Daddy?"
"Please don't leave me again."
He couldn't promise her that, as much as he wanted to. His life was dangerous and probably always would be. But, as always, he could hope. "I promise you, I will do everything I can to avoid parting from you again. It may not always be easy, but all will be well. That belief has kept me strong, has brought me to today. It can do the same for you."
It wasn't what she wanted to hear, but in a way, it was better. Her father had never been one to make promises he may not be able to keep, to know that hadn't changed was comforting beyond words. The promise that he'd try was enough.
"Thank you," she murmured, clinging to him. For that moment, she was warm, happy and incredibly content. She had her father back. Everything else would fall into place soon enough.
Walker held his child, finding that he had run out of words. The past could wait, as much as he worried about what she had been through, they had tomorrow for that. Time was on their side again and time was a great healer.
At last, he grew aware of the temperature dropping. The sun Mogo was currently orbiting had a long cycle, but the dusk had finally come. "We should go back..." He could feel that she was undernourished when he held her, she did not need to get ill from the cold.
She didn't respond and he looked down in concern... To find her eyes closed and her breathing soft. The emotional exhaustion had finally taken its toll and she had fallen asleep to the sound of his heart.
The love he felt in that moment was worthy of a dozen star sapphire rings. He bent, dropping a soft kiss to the top of her head, before picking her up with the greatest care and flying back to the others with her cradled in his arms as she had not been since she was a baby.
"Waiting here is pointless," Arkillo growled, looking up at the setting sun. "Who knows when they will return. This is a waste of time."
"Why are you still here then?" Kyle replied. "No one is forcing you to stay. You can leave any time. Kilowog would probably appreciate it," he grinned. He knew Kilowog was using every inch of his willpower to stop himself attacking Arkillo.
Arkillo glared but didn't reply. Though his loyalty to Saint Walker was rarely spoken of, it was real enough. Perhaps it now extended to his daughter too. They all knew Sinestro would have a fit if he ever found out and that probably wouldn't end well for Arkillo. Sinestro wasn't loyal to his own daughter, let alone anyone else's.
Kyle chuckled and ignored Arkillo's muttered curse as they continued to wait.
At last, a soft blue glow came from the woods and then Saint Walker appeared, Peesh in his arms.
Realising she was motionless, Kyle grew worried and flew up to meet them. "Is she okay, Walker?" he asked anxiously.
"She is fine, Kyle, thank you. But she is exhausted and I do not know where to take her."
"I do," Arkillo's voice said, as the yellow lantern appeared beside them. "Follow me, Walker." He flew directly up, towards a tall building near the medical centre. “She's been staying here.”
"You have all been so good to her," Walker murmured as the door slid open. "I cannot ever repay it."
"Just keep her alive, Saint Walker," Arkillo said as he made to leave. "That's good enough."
"I agree," Kyle said, following Arkillo to the window. "We don't need anything more. I'll send breakfast by in the morning." There was no sense in offering Walker his own room, he wouldn't be leaving her. "Sleep well." And he dragged Arkillo out before Bro'Dee tried to thank them again.
Walker watched them go, then found the bed and set her down on it, pulling the covers over her, tucking her in for the first time in years.
They were a family again at last.