The hunt runs longer than Osiris had imagined. Xivu Arath does not run from him; she doesn’t need to. Wherever the fighting breaks out, in the Cosmodrome or the Hellmouth or Quitter’s Well, there are her minions, and their deaths are her tithe. Theirs is sword logic, which in destroying inscribes itself upon the world. To defeat them is merely to submit to that which they serve.
Madness. But Osiris has long been familiar with his own tendency to madness, and now he lacks Sagira’s touch to temper him. He pours bullets into the Wrathborn in hopes that some measure of his rage will die with them, but in the end, he finds that he has not reached the bottom of his grief.
“You should go home, Osiris,” says the Crow, when their latest foe lies in fragments in the Boil. He nudges one of the heavy shank’s engines with his boot; it rolls into an acid pool and sizzles.
“I’ve recovered,” Osiris answers shortly, and reloads his pulse rifle. Comms chatter suggests there’s a Wrathborn broodqueen lurking somewhere in the Dreaming City, and his lure has just enough charge to draw her out.
“I didn’t ask you to rest,” the Crow says. He meets Osiris’s eyes, and there’s something in his expression that belies the studied neutrality of his voice. “You have a home. I assume there are people there who care about you. You should go to them.”
They can’t see me like this, thinks Osiris. The thought of saying it aloud is hateful; the only worse thing than having his pride pricked is admitting it. But neither can he bear the thought of Ikora’s calm sympathy, or of Saint-14 with pity in his eyes. “There are too many complications,” he says instead.
Glint, hovering at Crow’s shoulder, spins his shell a few rotations. Not quite frustration, but near enough to it. “Out here on the Shore, things are simple,” he says. “There’s you, and there’s everyone else. If I were you, I’d treasure those complications.”
* * *
Europa is cold in a way that Osiris’s mortal body can barely survive. Even under thick thermal robes, every centimeter of his skin sealed away to lock in body heat, he feels warmth leaching out of him with every heartbeat.
The Drifter looks up when Osiris arrives in the camp at the base of the Ziggurat. “If you need someone to QA another Sundial, I’m retired,” he says immediately. “Already tempted fate one time too many.”
“He’s not here for you, Rat,” says Eris Morn, making space for Osiris by the fire. Although he craves the warmth of it, he stands a long moment gazing down at her in search of some scrap or fragment of Light. Even the Drifter, whom Osiris has never seen without his aspect dimmed, nonetheless has a Light within him like a sun that shines through his skin.
Eris is not dark like a bulb blown out. She is dark like the creatures of deep seas and caverns, who have lived without light so long that they’ve learned to make their own.
“If you’ve come for news of Savathûn, I have none to offer,” says Eris Morn. “The Witch Queen continues to nurture her plans in obscurity. We cannot be certain whether she will bring her forces to bear in support of Xivu Arath, or whether her sister moves without her guidance.”
“I thank you,” says Osiris gruffly. He takes a seat at Eris’s side and folds his hands on his lap, staring at their fire as though it will show him a prophecy if he looks deeply enough into its heart. “But I did not come here for information about the Hive or their machinations. I came to ask you about the Darkness.”
The Drifter and Eris exchange a long glance that Osiris can’t read. The Drifter looks away first, swearing into his rebreather.
Osiris begins to speak, but Eris cuts him off before the question can pass his lips. “The Darkness will not fill the void left by the Light,” she says simply. “It may offer you immortality; it may grant you power to rival that of a Guardian. But it will not bring back what you lost.”
“I know that,” Osiris snaps.
“Do you?” The third of their company turns around at last, her hands on her hips. Her voice is hard and cold as the ice flats. “Eramis was no fool. She did not imagine that the Darkness would turn back the Whirlwind or return the Great Machine to her people. Instead, she dreamed of what the Darkness could offer: vengeance. Conquest. Targets for her rage. It gave her everything she wanted. And bit by bit, that rage consumed her.”
“As you imagine it would consume me.” Anger coils in Osiris’s gut, warmer than any fire; it courses through the tense muscles of his shoulders, down into his clenched fists.
The Drifter gives a huff of laughter, bitter as bile. “Looks to me like it’s already taken a bite.”
Slowly, Osiris lets out a breath. He forces his shoulders down, his hands open. He steadies his pounding heart. “Perhaps,” he says at last, and begrudges them every syllable of it.
Eris looks over at him with her three unseeing eyes. Osiris feels the weight of her gaze and finds it heavier than he could have imagined. “You have experienced a great loss,” she says gently. “It is your right to be angry. But you may find when you have taken your vengeance that your grief is still with you. You must learn to live with the wound.”
“I will not accept it,” says Osiris. His throat is tight. He misses the rage; in its absence, there is only the deep, unyielding ache of helplessness. “I’ve pulled those I love back from death before. I’ll do it again if I have to.”
“Yeah, and how’d that work out for you?” Drifter says, leaning back with his hands folded behind his head. “Seein’ as you’re out here jawin’ with us instead of cuddled up with your knight in shining armor—”
Osiris flings himself up from his seat and stalks to the transmat pad without another word. As the blinding white of transmat takes him, he hears Drifter mutter, “Guess that touched a nerve.”
* * *
Ikora, thankfully, is not interested in prying into Osiris’s psychology. She has expressed her sympathy—once—and promised to keep him abreast of any news on the Hive. Until that news comes, though, she passes him the new data on the Vex from Clovis Bray’s Europa base in the hope that he’ll be able to make some sense of it.
“I’d give these scans to Asher Mir, if I could,” she says. “But I can’t. In his absence, you’re our resident expert on the Vex.”
Sagira isn’t the only friend she’s lost in recent days. The Darkness has devoured Asher Mir, Sloane, and even poor Brother Vance with his pride and his prophecies. Somewhere in the abyss, Sloane is forever drowning in the methane oceans; Asher Mir is forever falling into the Pyramidion’s shifting depths. None of them may come again, even if the Vanguard ever manages to wrest the stolen moons from the Darkness.
Osiris wonders sometimes what losing Cayde-6 taught her about how to bear this helplessness. If he asked her, Ikora would no doubt have much to teach him.
A part of him wishes he could make himself ask.
Ikora sets down two cups of tea at their work station, taking Osiris’s half-empty cup of cold tea and dumping it in a planter. “How’s it going?” she asks. He watches her eyes flicker over his display, skimming the spatiotemporal model slowly rotating there. “Looks like you got the coaxial planar linkages pinned down.”
“The portal maintains a latent link to the Collective through subdimensional harmonic protocols. Once I found the resonant frequency, modeling the connection was a trivial task.” Osiris takes a long sip of his tea and finds it satisfyingly hot and bitter. “I’ve identified several transmitter nodes across the surface of Europa. If we were to retune the frequency based on our records from Mercury, we might regain access to the Infinite Forest—”
“Osiris.” Ikora sits across from him and reaches for his hand. “You’re still thinking about a way to bring her back, aren’t you.”
He swallows. His chest aches. Her hand is warm where the cup was resting in it. “There must be thousands of copies of Sagira in the Infinite Forest. Thousands of iterations. Perhaps the Guardian could—”
“I miss her, too.”
He waits for her to go on. To tell him why it can’t be done; to explain the dangers that he’s already considered a thousand times, or to remind him of the limitations that he can’t forget.
Instead, she just sits there with him, her hand on his hand, while the two of them finish their tea in silence. In that quiet, for the first time since he lost her, Osiris feels Sagira’s absence in every nerve and bone.
He misses her. He misses her as though she were the soul of him.
When their tea is done, Ikora lets him go. She swipes away Osiris’s model and pulls up some archival files: records of the Vex gate project that opened onto the Black Garden. “I can’t promise these files will have what you’re looking for,” she says. “But if you plan to do this, you should know that you don’t have to do it alone.”
* * *
Across the hangar, the light of the setting sun catches on Saint-14’s helm. For a moment, he is too bright to look at—a thing of molten gold, with an echoing laugh that rings like thunder from the rafters.
Then the sun shifts, and he is merely a man in dented armor with pigeons crowding at his feet.
Osiris takes a long, steadying breath. It shouldn’t be this hard to speak to him—once, lifetimes ago, they had spoken to each other every day. They had fought a thousand battles, at Six Fronts and in the Consensus, at each other’s sides and at each other’s throats. When Osiris had been wrong (and he had, at times, been wrong), Saint had been the only one who could tell him.
But they had fallen out of step with each other, when Saint died in the Infinite Forest. Osiris had learned to live without him so well that he no longer remembers what it means to live with him.
He tries that thought, turns it over in his head like a simulation, and finds the premise lacking. It isn’t that he’s learned to live well without Saint. It’s that he’s never learned to live with the wound of losing him.
Eris was right after all, he thinks. He owes her an apology, and the Crow—and perhaps the Drifter, too.
One more breath. His lungs fill; his heart hammers against his ribs.
Before he can talk himself out of it, he strides across the hangar.
Saint looks up from his pigeons, then straightens slowly and holds out his arms. “Osiris!” he calls, voice swelling with gladness. “It is good to see you at last, my old friend!”
Osiris crashes into him like a wave, and Saint folds him up in his arms and holds him tight and close. The armor is hard against Osiris’s chest and back and shoulders, but he can’t make himself care; Saint’s embrace is warm with something more than heat or Light.
Osiris works Saint’s helmet free and peers up at him, searching his face for pity. He is prepared, he thinks, for pity; he is braced for it as if for a blow.
In Saint’s eyes, though, he sees only a love so deep that he cannot find the bottom of it.
Saint leans in to touch their foreheads together, and the tenderness of it is almost unbearable. Osiris closes his eyes against the nearness of him, against the sudden hot prickle of threatening tears. He curls his hand at the back of Saint’s neck; it feels as though it’s the only thing keeping him up.
“Osiris,” says Saint again, hushed and radiant. “Welcome home.”