Chapter 8: The Sun and Her Daughter
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Alesha has taken off her armor and is chopping firewood.

I pause for a second at the sight of her, in her skirted arming jacket, expertly splitting wood with a hatchet - before remembering I was here to help her do it and kicking myself for thinking about my best friend that way, like I have with everyone else in the party, apparently. 

(At least you knew not to touch doing anything with Jules, what with the roommate situation).

Focus, Jake!

"I, uh, can get more logs?" I offer.

She sends the axe down, cutting through the log seemingly without effort - before looking up. She takes a deep breath and wipes her brow and you have to avert your eyes. 

Why am I like this? 

Didn't Hikaru already answer that question?

"Probably a good idea. Won't break my stride that way," Alesha says.

I nod, and start looking for dryer palm fronds and logs, gathering them up in my arms.

Both of us ask "How are you holding up?" at the same time.

I take a deep breath. "You first. You're the damn tank, you've gotten the worst of this," I insist.

Alesha laughs, a little too long, and you realize something is wrong.

"...Leesh," I say, voice rising a little, "what's going on?"

Alesha looks up to the sky. "You know," she sighs, "I play paladin types all across my games, yeah? Templar-types in O.K. and Golconda-seekers and Watchdogs of the West."

"Yeah," you say. "Uncomplicated do-gooders. Knights in shining armor. I remember you doing pro-bono work against Tlatocorp in that one Sprawlrunners game, because fuck those guys, they're Tlatocorp."

Alesha replaces the log, lets her axe fall. "This just got complicated all over my heroics," she says. "This tore me out of the good work I do in the real world, like getting people food, and my kids." 

She leans back, rolling a shoulder, wincing.

"I'm sorry," I say, because what else can I say?

Then I fight my impulse to go over and look at her shoulder - before realizing, fuck fighting that, I'm the party healer. 

"Let's do what we can right now, okay?" I say. "I really hope you aren't chopping wood with an injured shoulder."

She tries to wave me away. "Drunk a potion, laid my own hands on myself. I tested it before I started, it didn't hurt then."

I back off half a step, but fold my arms. "Yeah, well, if it starts acting up tonight I'll have a full tank of Pneuma to air-kiss it better with," I say.

"I'll take that under advisement," she sighs. "Deeds, I know that pushing past my limits here isn't gonna do Jasmine and Keenan any good. I'm trying to pace myself. It's just..."

It strikes me that I can't quite relate to people at home missing me. My rent checks, yes. Myself, not really.

Deep breaths.

"This is bigger than us," I say, honestly. "Just... tell me what you want, or need, and we'll see what we can do, okay? I know everyone from DC/AC would do the same."

Alesha nods, and I drop my pile of lumber next to her.

After a moment, she takes another log and sets it up. "Which means lasting until we can do something about it," she mutters.

I nod. "Until we know what's going on. Why we can't log out."

She drops her axe, and splits another perfect piece of wood. Then leaves the axe in the stump, and puts her hands to her face.

"Fuck," she says. "I think I was running Jazz through the Neverglades last night."

Fuck propriety, fuck holding back affection because I'm afraid of getting a crush. 

She needs a hug, she's getting one.

After a moment Alesha hugs me back.

"She's smart," I say. "She'll make it. We'll find her."

"Don't make promises you can't keep," Alesha says into my shoulder, before letting go. "I want to believe you, but there's only one part of that right now that isn't up to God."

I ask "Which one?" before I can stop myself - then smack my palm against my forehead. "Probably the one who died for your sins," I say.

She manages a bit of a smile. "Deeds. If I'm offended you know I'll let you know. Right now I figure He won't begrudge delegating to Aurora."

"This got complicated in your do-gooding, huh," I say, grimacing.

She shakes her head, and takes up the axe again. "Never stopped me from helping people before."