Things She Knew… and Things She Learned (AU/If I Die Old)

We’re still deep in AU territory here.
Cya died in If I Die Young.

And Um. Didn’t stay dead. She’d planned for that.

Then Cal wrote Don’t Just Survive,

So I wrote Stay Alive. Your Job is to Stay Alive.

Then Cal wrote A Child Named Thistle

So here’s Thistle.

There were things Thistle knew, the way she knew her own name and how you always had an escape route, the way she could tie a knot, the way she could shoot a bow, the way she breathed.

And there were things she didn’t know until she knew them.

He’s hurting so hard, she thought, and she realized that she wanted to take care of him.

And she knew I’m a kid still. She looked down at her fingers, at her hands, too small. “They’re not big enough,” she muttered. And then she cleared her throat, because she knew better than to talk like that.

Except this was…

“Leo.” She tried out the name. It came out warm and affectionate, a little exasperated, and full of love.

It made her blush a little, and it made her aware that she wasn’t remembering everything.

It made her aware that she was a kid, and he was a grown-up. That had never happened before.

“Leo.” She cleared her throat. “That’s you? Yeah?”

He nodded slowly. Had he heard in her voice what she’d heard?

“Sir…” she tried, and noticed that he frowned.

“Leo,” he agreed. “That’s my name, though most people call me Leofric.”

“Leofric.” It sounded like she was irritated with him. “Leofric Lightning-Blade. So you… you know.”

He cleared his throat. “I know…” He sounded like he was asking her. Like he knew, something in her suggested, but he didn’t believe.

“I told you I’d come back.” There she was sounding exasperated again. She shook her head and cleared her throat, trying to get everything sorted out. “There’s – there’s…” There’s me and there’s me. And they’re both me, but one of me isn’t grown-up yet and one of me is a hundred years old and she… and she… “Oh.” She put her head down on her knees. “Reincarnation,” she said slowly, “it’s what happens, my dad said, when a soul is reborn. Which means, uh. Which means dying first, doesn’t it?”

He didn’t have to answer, which was good because she didn’t think he could.

“Sometimes I remember things that happened before I was born. Sometimes I don’t. But I always know who I am.” She looked at him and tried to put it into words. “I’m Thistle. And… uh. I’m Cya. Cya, not Cynara.” She tried that on carefully. “And… I was born being told to survive and to learn. So um. I think that school is a really good idea.”

My hands aren’t big enough yet. But she couldn’t have made him wait any longer.

And her hands would have to grow kinda fast, from the looks of things.

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