Incarnations
Rosalinda StMatthew


He'd shed no tears the first time time the triad was broken. Oh, sure, that was the saddest day he'd known, the saddest days he'd known and would know for years to come, but his eyes stayed dry, even as that cold blooded sonofabitch had the audacity to fucking expire in front of their goddamn faces, like they weren't standing right the fuck there -

Of course, said sonofabitch always had some sneaky bullshit up his goddamn sleeves. Otherwise there'd be no first time, just the time.

But there was a first time.

Which, of course, meant there was a second time.

The second time he still didn't have tears - just the same soul numbing ache that ate through him. He wanted to cry, dearest divinity, how he wanted to wail. But he couldn't. Couldn't even weep. Hell, his eyes wouldn't even turn red, no matter how much bourbon he poured down his throat.

Goddamn hobgoblin cried. Cried for three days straight. Came to his country cottage, locked the doors, sealed the curtains, dumped a crate of whiskey and bourbon on the table and sobbed.

Wasn't goddamned fair.

On the fourth day the supercool robot pulled his shit together enough to be seen in public. Not much more than that, mind you. Couldn't have - he kept insisting the triad wasn't wasn't really broke. The youngest and fairest and bravest and goddamned stupidest of them was still out there, being epic, probably getting himself killed properly where they couldn't really get to him. Goddamnit.

So even though they never saw him again, it still didn't count. The triad was still technically whole, even if only psychically.

Apparently, his tears knew good and damn well when the trio would really be broken.

She was old. Very old. Died of natural causes. Old age. Passed in her sleep. Went to join her beloved husband and her beloved mama in the netherworlds. Left behind a frail, aging daughter and a stubborn old bastard of a son, who was only just mollified by her passing by the soothing presence of his wife. Left six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, fifteen great-great-grandchildren, and two great-great-great-grandchildren, one of whom would remember her to his grave.

She also left behind her daddy.

A man isn't supposed to outlive his child. Ain't natural. Ain't right. Specially when she's old as the damn hills.

When the hobgoblin arrived at his cottage this time, there were tears in his eyes. But they weren't tears for his baby - and yes, goddammit, even at one hundred and twenty three terran standard years, she was his baby. They were tears for him. Tears for a passing that God still ain't seen fit to approve.

Cold hearted, logic spoutin', numbers crunchin' motherfucker. Come and bundle him all up, put him in a transport, ferry him off to Knoxville, to see her laid to rest.

An' just as straightfaced as he can be, goddammit.

The funeral was funereal. The wake was beautifully catered.

His granddaughter held the hand the hobgoblin wasn't. His grandson ranted and raved about the injustice of the world.

Amen.

Something warm and wet tickled the sides of his nose. It slipped in his mouth, salty and thin. A sob rattled in his breath.

His grandson quieted down in a hurry. "Granddaddy?"

His granddaughter threw her spindly arms around his neck and nuzzled. "It's alright, Granddady. Just let go. Go'on 'head 'n let go."

His friend? rival? frenemy? arch-nemisis? lover, he decided, brushed the dampness away with the backs of his fingertips. "I have been, and always shall be, your friend."

Something tore loose in his chest, and the world went white.


When he came to, his hands were plump with blood and firm with muscle, as they had been in his youth. A shock of dark hair flopped in his eyes - thick brown bangs that were impossible to control even in his old age had suddenly reappeared. His arms were wiry but firm, not skin and bone and age and sarcasm. Well, wait, no, there was still sarcasm.

His torso was covered in a shiny blue tunic - his short sleeved surgical uniform, then. He wasn't in sickbay, though. He was in a fog, a strange fog that had no beginning, no end.

Something began to coalesce out of the fog - there she was. Young and strong, long brown hair and big, innocent blue eyes, in the prime of her life, before her onery son was born. Her mama followed her through the fog, and for once, she didn't look like she had one mean bone in her body. Hell, she almost looked like the woman he'd married.

They smiled at him, but they didn't beckon. He didn't move.

Mist rolled in around them, not quite obscuring them from his view. He wondered, would they disappear? A brief pang of fear cluctched his heart, but the mists parted, just enough, just enough for him to see. In the distance, he could hear his daddy's laughter.

Somewhere behind him, he heard much laughter that was closer, much closer.

He turned towards the joyous sound.

Like a giant cat, reared up on hind legs, the figure stood. Larger than life, brighter, gold and green and pink and so very happy. Head thrown back, hands over belly in an all out, nothing-was-ever-funnier-than-this-laugh. When he paused to catch his breath, the eyes sparkled green and brown and surged a brilliant blue.

He winked. He glanced behind him. Another figure stood nearby, enveloped in the mists. Taller, trimmer, more subdued.

Leonard stood stock still. He half expected the mists to roll around the laughing man. He turned and looked at his family.

They just smiled.

When Leonard looked back, the laughing man had an outstretched hand.

He took it.

The mists fell. The bridge was brighter, larger, more… there.

A hand clapped his shoulder. "Bones… buckle up."

Fin


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