Leonard’s work with radiation-emitting Hovercrafts (designed to break down the Capitol’s magic barrier by poisoning their wizards) finally took a toll on his health. It wasn’t the testicular cancer that finally did him in, but an exploding wall-to-wall calutron. His will donates his brain to science and leaves all his possessions to his mother. His sister gets his books. His father gets nothing except the blueprint for a cybernetic leg.
It’s sugar. And cocoa. And an energy rush. I could replicate the results with caffeine or hallucinogenics. Would you offer that to passers-by too?
[Felix tensed at the mention of Arthur and Thomas’ relationship, but let out a rueful snort anyway.] I suppose we did cross that line. But Leonard… I do hope you don’t blame yourself. You’re too young carry such a weight.
The next step is to set around a toasty fire and burn marshmallows. I’ll inform the confectioner accordingly, Minister. [He wondered if he blamed himself for the fact that he and his father were near-perfect strangers. He wasn’t just young, he was smart. And all the IQ points in world wouldn’t have given him the childhood he’d wanted.] You’re too old to take on the responsibility of what you didn’t cause, either. Some people… they’re wired one way and nothing can ever uncross those wires. Not love, not hope, and definitely not regret either. What you said about how much one person can withstand? The real point of difference is that we weren’t meant to withstand that much. Just because we can, doesn’t mean… something should come along and test that hypothesis. It isn’t productive. It just breeds misery.
I matter? [To you, or to the rebellion? To my sister, or her downfall? To who, to what? All those questions suddenly spooked through her head, bashed against the inside of her skull, tingled on her tongue, wanting to be answered.] To whom exactly? [He cared? She wanted to laugh, but she didn’t.] Don’t be ridiculous, ‘kay? [Deep down, she wanted him to care, wanted anyone at all to care, because no one really seemed to. Her sister was so cold and professional, Arthur never seemed to care anyway, and Johanna… She wasn’t sure which one of those three hurt her the most, and she didn’t want to find out.]
To me. For starters. To a damn horde of other people. To even everyone’s beloved blonde twat. There is nothing “ridiculous” about what I just said. I have a measurable intelligence that exceeds the smartest person in any room. I am rarely ridiculous. Which is why I call bullshit on the assumption that you’re all alone out there. You matter because you’re important. It’s not as… impossible as you want to think it is.
[Her heart lurched in her chest when he nudged her shoulder, and she covered her burning cheeks with her hands.] L-liar, you’re finding this absolutely hilarious. [Somehow, this got a small, short laugh out of her, too, and she pressed her lips tightly together to keep any more giggles from escaping. She nodded slowly, and hummed a noise that was supposed to express a ‘yes’, but came out more like some kind of unsure sound. What was she supposed to say now? Fantastic, Ahava, really, you shouldn’t have said anything at all. She didn’t want to lie to him, but telling him the truth was even scarier. It seemed so cliché inside her head, the idea of losing him as a friend if she were to tell him she thought she was starting to feel something less platonic and more romantic for him. Surely, it wouldn’t matter, right? She wouldn’t scare him away, would she? She was unsure, and as long as she was unsure, she couldn’t tell him the truth.] T-the latter. I… I’m not even sure yet, and it seems so silly, and… It’s all so ridiculously difficult.
Okay. [He shrugged, his curiosity getting curbstomped in the battle to respect her wishes on the subject.] You know… I’ve been told I have an IQ of 167, and that makes me pretty smart. If there was ever anyone who knew how to resolve a ridiculously difficult situation… [He trailed off significantly, eyebrows raised. Leonard Paylor: matchmaker. Now, that sounded ridiculous.]
[He shrugged a bit.] I never said you called me that; I said I see your point. You said I should take it as a compliment when that’s not how I meant it, so I explained to you how I meant it.
[Leonard was sure that if Pater kept talking, his own mouth would fall open. He raised a hand to his temple, beset by the need to stop the migraine before it hit him right behind the eyes.] … Are you all right, Pater? Because you sound like a crazy person right now. You have so much trouble with your retirement you have issues sitting in one place at home, surrounded by the wife and daughter you love. [And son, reminded the voice at the back of his head. Some love. Too little, too late.] There is nothing in the universe – including the entreaties of those two women – that would cause you to give up you pipe dreams of fighting for your country again.
I would have if I could have.
Why would chocolate make anyone “feel better?” There’s nothing particularly comforting about a candy dependency problem.
Why you are all hauled up in here is beyond me. You should be a stand-up comedian. I’ll make sure to be the first to throw tomatoes in your face. If I needed someone to hold my hand, it sure as hell wouldn’t be you.
[Her frown deepened, and suddenly, she was quiet. She pondered over his words, why was he trying to help her? She didn’t want his help, but what he said made her realize that she probably needed it.] …Why? Don’t you have other things to worry about? What could you possibly gain by doing something like this?
[He ignored that, because he suspected that if he had death pressing on his brain, he wouldn’t have the time for sarcasm either. He suspected Cassie was incapable of a normal conversation without vitriol anyway, let alone vitriol that she thought was wit. Not that sickness was possibly helping the situation. Which left him with the problem of answering her without making her sound like the littlest cancer patient, and that was so many kinds of patronising, he recoiled. With an uncomfortable shrug, he settled for the truth.] Of course I have other things to worry about. Doesn’t everyone? That doesn’t change what I just said. I don’t need to get any benefit out of it. You matter, ergo, I care.
Y-yes, kind of like that. [Embarrassed, she lowered her gaze, a furious blush starting to cover her cheeks when he laughed.] A-ah… [It’s you, it’s you, it’s you.] I’m… I suppose you could say you do know him… [She didn’t answer his first question; she wasn’t sure if she could force herself to.]
[He tried to rein in his amusement, taken aback by how suddenly and unusually red-faced she was.] Sorry, that was a reflexive reaction. It’s not that funny. [He nudged her shoulder, the closest he could reach, and tried to give her a bracing smile. She liked someone. That was… refreshing? The fierce, grieving, affectionate Ahava he’d known all these years didn’t do a lot of ‘regular’ things. Or at least around him. Like talk about the family she’d lost. (Well, that one was his fault, not hers.) Neither did she have crushes and relationships. He wondered what it’d be like: Ahava with a boyfriend. Would she still have as much time for him as she did now? Would she be happier than she was now? Was she unhappy now?] So, I know your man of mystery, hmm? Do I get three guesses, or is it supposed to stay a secret?
[He scoffed at his son.] Who says I’m going to fight anyway? Maybe I’ve given up the delusion. Maybe I just want to get rid of this damn thing and get a fake leg and move on. Gods know it’s given me more trouble than it’s worth.
Regardless of what you think of your mother [and what I think of her] calling a military man a teenage girl isn’t the most flattering thing he can hear. Your mother was a hell of a woman when we met, so I see your point, but that doesn’t mean I agree.
Because Pater [you insult my intelligence] you just asked me five minutes ago if the brace - which is useful for your leg as it is now - would be ready in time for the raid.
[He shook his head, amazed.] I didn’t call you that. You called yourself that. I was merely trying to salvage the point you made about yourself, but if you prefer I don’t, then all right. Suit yourself.