And Beats High Mountain
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel,
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
Riddle by J. R. R. Tolkien, in The Hobbit
Hevlaska's touch is as soft as a whisper, as she searchs within Miranda's body to see what her synchronization rate is, smiling as she says that with her 75, there is no doubt that Miranda is to be an Exorcist; Reever welcomes her with a tired grin.
"There's no generals at the moment to teach you, so Hevlaska will be the one to help you get a higher rate."
"I... I'm sorry to be a bother," Miranda apologizes to the woman, her English still a little rough, surprised when she sees her smile. It's so rare, she thinks, to see a smile like that. A smile like the ones Allen and Linali had given to her, honest and happy and true.
"You're not. You're our comrade," Hevlaska says in her soft, curling voice. "I'm very glad to meet you, Miranda."
Miranda remembers the way Hevlaska's time felt, a little like eternity and a little like sorrow, and she makes herself smile again, the way she only recently found out she could as she looks down, willing herself not to cry. Her hands ache a little, but she still holds unto them hard as she nods.
Miranda feels as the time starts again, a slow but steady thrum that she almost swears feels like a heartbeat, something that she had realized even from the first time she invocated: heartbeat is time is heartbeat.
She can feel that they're injured and she can feel how tired, as familiar as her own exhaustion, but more than anything, she can feel them alive. There's Linali's hurt legs and there's Allen's arm and back; Rabi's head was hit and Kanda's injuries are weird to her, there and yet not there; Chaoji's back was hurt and so where his arms and Crowley-san feels drawn out and there's another heartbeat there she doesn't know but they're there, a steady flow of life that seems to thread with hers and if Miranda was not on her knees already, she would have fallen down.
As it is, she waits, breathlessly, until a door seems to open and Rabi pokes his head out, blinking and then looking back inside, yelling to the people that are alive, to the people that came back despite the fact their time had run out.
Her eyes sting and Miranda does nothing to stop her tears but, as it is, she's entirely too exhausted to keep on her invocation, to stay awake even another second, even to cry out.
She wakes up for a few minutes after that, worried, almost invocating before she realizes what's happening: there are screams and sounds of someone fighting and if there's another battle she'll--
Warm, strong hands stop her from rising, pressing gently on her shoulders, and a soft hand curls over her right hand before she can try. Linali smiles at her gently, squeezing her hand a little, and even despite her gloves she can feel that she's alright.
"It's okay," Mari tells her, his smile soft and now that they don't have to scream, his voice is so soft, barely above a whisper. "We're going back home soon. You can rest."
He smiles gently; Miranda tries to focus on that and on the word 'home' as she closes her eyes again.
It's the first time she has a home to go back.
Next time she wakes up, there's a warm, soft hand pressed against her forehead and Miranda leans against that, knowing that there is no reason for her to think of that touch as one of a mother: if she ever knew hers it's been long forgotten, buried inside all the memories of the orphanage, of the teasing she got there.
But the touch feels so soft and nurturing... Miranda opens her eyes slowly, the face of the Head Nurse smiling at her even as she caresses her hair a little, in a soft, tender way that the nuns from the orphanage never cared to try.
"Good evening," the nurse smiles, moving her hand away. Miranda clears her throat and tries to push herself up, but she's trembling, exhaustiong still running deep over her. "I'll bring you something to eat."
Linali is sitting by the other bed and she smiles at her, even pushing her blankets to come to the side of her bed, telling her in her sweet voice that they're all fine, that they've been back home for almost four days and that they're still required to rest.
Linali stops talking when Miranda starts crying, huge, relieved sobs wrecking her body because she had been so scared, so scared for the last ten days and then she had been sure she had let everyone down, that she had been unable to help them and yet they're still alive and well and back home and--
And this time, even though she's exhausted, even though it's no different than all the other times she has cried she makes no effort to stop.
It proves to be different when Linali just smiles at her before she leans down and hugs her tight, whispering that everything is fine; even though it takes her so much effort to do so and even though her arms are shaking, Miranda hugs her back and just lets herself cry, aware that Linali's heart is beating so close to hers, even without her Innocence to tell her that.