[P] The way that dust hangs in sunshine
Since his conversion to a Sunweaver, Liam realized his faith made him more present. It all clicked now. Camp Eclipse was his new home, and it mattered not what came next. Grieving did not need to be perpetual. He could enjoy life and his time with his family. Each member of the Camp meant something unique to him, and they all meant something to each other. He brimmed with pride and joy when he remembered that.

The 'newest' member was Thistle. But was he really new? Liam considered it finding home again. The Cormier man was overjoyed to reunite with his family. Prior to the present, Beth was incredibly sick and her poor mood did not help. The arrival of her father and uncle did much to brighten her back up. Her warm disposition helped her heal, but so too did Thistle and O'Brien's presences.

Liam thought to find Thistle now. He was tending to the sheep in their current pasture. It was not perfect. The fences were newly installed without the hand of any skilled carpenter. Everyone was still growing accustomed to their new responsibilities and life. And that was okay. Did they need to be perfect? As far as anyone else was concerned, not really. Things would grow and improve over time anyway. The seeds Lorien and Gwenninur (and any extra helping hands) would plant in spring would flourish. Their young would grow, and more would be born.

Bonds would mend and strengthen.

Liam recalled how Thistle helped him clean Haven's debris from the war. He remembered all the conversations they had after. The two of them were not incredibly close, but they were friends. Liam at least considered it that.

Approaching Thistle and the two sheep (fondly named Radish and Parsnip), Liam waved. Thistle appeared to be doing something with the sheep.

"Hey Thistle, it's been a while. I hope you're settling into the Camp alright," he said. "What are you up to, would you like help?"
Thistle crouched in the crisp sunlight, his shoulders loose and one hand stretched out toward one of the ewes, who didn’t seem accepting of him yet. He was determined to do right by Morchant, the black ram he’d taken on after the disbandment; Merchant would follow him easily enough but Thistle was keen to understand how the minds of sheep worked. With Sidonia, even without the paltry High Speech she knew, it was far easier to figure her out. Luperci and eagles were both predators. Sheep, Thistle supposed, were more like the caribou of Krokar and Ironsides, at least in terms of what they ate.

Thistle let out a long sigh, allowing his shoulders to slump. Before his most recent trip to Old Ironsides, the Cormier man had longed for the place. But not now. Now, his childhood home was also the place he’d (alongside Percival) returned Siskin’s body to his parents. He couldn’t know the pain of losing a child of his own - but sometimes when the birds were sending up a dawn chorus, he heard his nephew laughing among them.

And the boy whose life had ended was not the only memory from that night that was still visiting him weeks later. When the wrangler roamed at night, every distant fire or flickering shadow made his hackles prickle. When he heard the ring of metal against metal, he thought of the chain, in Thistle’s hands, which had finished off the Omniscient.

He was eager for Camp Eclipse to be a new, brighter chapter - but there was still a shroud of pessimism over him. Even as Liam waved to him and his head turned toward his friend, there was something guarded in his expression.

“‘Ello.” As Thistle greeted the coffee-coloured man, his lips twitch into a facsimile of a smile. “Can’t complain, thanks. Sorry I ain’t really pulled my weight yet..” He offered Liam a rueful look before gesturing toward the sheep. “Ya know I got a ram after…” Thistle frowned. “Well, figured I’d try t’learn more about sheep with some who couldn’t headbutt me into next week. You know much about ‘em, Liam?”
Thistle smiled, yet Liam could tell there was a wavering diffidence behind it. The collapse of their former home took the wind out of everyone's sails. Liam nodded in understanding and placed a gentle, comforting hand on Thistle's shoulder.

"I think you're doing wonderfully. Just you being here is enough. We're all recovering still, I'm not gonna punish you just because you're struggling. You're my friend."

Liam looked deep into Thistle's eyes. He hoped to impress on him that he genuinely meant what he said. He dropped his hand and looked to the sheep.

"Ya know I got a ram after..."

After the End of the New Caledonian era.

Liam went still. Terrible, gorey imagery flashed before his eyes. His screaming packmates as they were crushed and stabbed. Their enemies laughing among the flames they choked them with. Lorien running to Liam with his father's severed head in his mouth. Liam was grateful he managed to shelter Sphinx from a majority of that conflict and the previous war. Many of whom were his former packmates thought him a traitorous coward for leaving early. That was fine. He could accept this if it meant one thing at the end of the day:

Each of his children were spared.

It was slow, but Liam eventually managed to re-focus on the present. The faraway look in his eyes faded. He managed to see Thistle again without looking through him. Everything would be alright. They would enter a new era.

"Sh... sheep," he mumbled. It took him a moment to process what the Animal Wrangler had said. "Oh. Uh. Yeah. I know a lot more about horses, only a thing or two about sheep. Ida knows so much more, have you met them?"
Thistle shifted his weight, rocking back on his heels and giving the reluctant ewe a sidelong look as Liam spoke. His ears swivelled to take in his friend’s reassurance and his head dipped into a nod that was too slow to sell the idea that he was entirely convinced. He didn’t avoid the man’s gaze but his brows pinched together. There was a lot Thistle could’ve said to shake off the earnest look Liam was giving him but he found himself inching closer to honesty than bravado.

“Let’s not pretend I en’t gettin’ the better end of the deal right now.” Thistle chuckled and the sound lifting from his throat was almost foreign: while he lowered his gaze, his ears lifted, a shift in expression mirrored in the nearby ewe. “Y’know I appreciate it, though, Liam.”

Thistle had seen the telltale stillness, the slide from the present to the past and back, before. He’d witnessed it in his siblings who had seen more of the world than he had, and in himself after Rand had been slain. It had been Losse who’d come closest to pulling Thistle out of it when he’d been trapped behind the horrors his eyes had taken in. The wrangler knew what it was to get lost in the pervasive darkness of unwanted memories but he still didn’t know how to approach those things in others.

“We’ll get there.”

Thistle’s palm pressed against the ground for a moment as he rose from his crouch. It was enough to get the ewes’ attention; the most forthcoming even ventured a step in his direction. Now Thistle had the upper hand in the interaction with the livestock - but he refrained from focusing too heavily on them, crossing his arms and turning his gaze back to Liam instead.

“My uh, social circle, hasn’t got much wider,” Thistle admitted. “Unless ya include, y’know, this lot.” His head tilted and one elbow jabbed toward the sheep, which sent the least confident one sidestepping away. A gentle sigh pushed through his splodgy nose. "Two steps forward, one step back."

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