She didn't want to go.

It wasn't that there was anything wrong with the cause; the cause she believed in deeply, the cause she had given speeches for and volunteered for over three years now. She didn't even mind Tony going, even with their wedding plans still locked in the seemingly eternal family stalemate. And yes, really, she understood exactly how much of an honor it was and how few young amputees were being asked to go. And no, after all she had been through already, she certainly wasn't just scared.

Really, all her reasons had been very practical. There were less than a half dozen full pelvic amputees in the world, it wasn't as if they'd be well accustomed to accommodating her needs. Egypt wasn't as bad as Sudan, perhaps, but it was still not exactly Britain, and what if she developed an infection in her catheter or colostomy? Would the required vaccinations interact with her medications? Would she frighten the children; Tony had a Mediterranean look, familiar enough to refugees from all over Africa, but with the Chinese and North Koreans subsidizing so many of the militias, would her Asian features be more traumatic than her missing limbs?

They had answers for all of it, of course. Calm and competent and professional and after she allowed herself to be talked into it, she was so glad she had. Things were certainly more difficult at the WHO refugee camp than they had been at home, but not at all untenable, and it was very much worth it to see what a difference it made to the children that after the lectures there was someone who could spend time with them who truly got it.

Li held nothing against the other volunteers, and yes, they all understood what it meant to live without parts of your body you had once taken for granted, but there were a particular group of refugees who gravitated to herself and Tony with nothing specifically explained and nothing needed to be. They were the ones whose scars went deeper than their bodies. They hadn't been frolicking about and happened upon a long-forgotten landmine. They could wield a machete and field strip an AK-47 faster than most adults, and they all knew together. We had to. We hate ourselves for it. We hate the people who made us do it. We hate what it's cost us. We hate that we can never forget it. We hate that we hate.

They never tried to tell them that it would be okay, that things would go back to how they had been, or that they would ever have much in common with the children who were still children, but they told them other things. That they could be loved, even in pieces. That they didn't have to live on anyone's charity. That they could make a difference without having to fight for it. That they weren't monsters and yes, someone really did know what they'd done and still said that. Ritual scarifications and loyalty brandings were answered with tattoos of two joined letters and a date.

They stayed for three weeks, and when it was over, she didn't want to go.