Lexi leaves the team downstairs and heads up the staircase towards her room… and stops abruptly at the top of the landing as she realizes that she cannot remember which room is hers. For all that this is now her house, this is not her home. Not really. Lexi is beyond grateful to Laresa Terenzio for the house, make no mistake, because that generic hotel room was starting to grate on her already raw nerves. She desperately needed a place of peace even on Ruk, somewhere to retreat and recover from the chaos that is her life – even if only for brief moments. And a hotel room, even as luxurious as the one she was given, did not meet that criteria. It was simply a harsh and unforgiving reminder that she no longer had a home, or a planet, to return to. Lexi gives herself a quick mental shake. There’s no time to dwell on that right now. Sighing, she calls Harvey and asks for directions to the master suite.

The room is lavishly and beautifully furnished, decorated in deep wood tones and varying shades of royal blue and emerald green that remind her instantly of her family’s lake house on Ruk. It was an amazing engineering accomplishment really: a large, clear blue body of water surrounded by wide green lawns, lush gardens, and tree groves, suspended high in the air above the rest of the city. The water in the lake was recycled through a brilliantly complex filtering system that produced the needed currents to simulate the natural flow and movement of water, so it didn’t go stagnant, but the lake was basically still and tranquil, an oasis of peace in the hustle and bustle of city life. The more time away from Ruk she spends, the more she realizes that the society on Ruk as a whole was maybe too detached from nature, always looking to improve on it, convert it, bend it to their purposes. Not always in a bad way necessarily, but maybe it made them more isolated from one another; a cool, unintentional detachment that made it easier to support experiments that led down the steep and slippery slope to what Cornelius had… nope. She doesn’t have time for that train of thought either.

She steps into the shower, allowing herself precious moments of mindless bliss as the almost too hot water washes over her. Her mind wanders back over the events of the last day, skipping quickly over the whole movie madness – and really, what the hell kind of movies are they watching here on Earth?! – to meeting Arya’s daughter and her friends and the events that followed. Seeing Arya whole and restored was such an intense amount of relief and joy it had almost overwhelmed Lexi. She hadn’t realized just how powerfully crushing the weight of her guilt was, how it had been manifesting and multiplying in her soul over countless lifetimes, until she was released from just that small part of her guilt. It had left her so emotionally raw she had desperately needed the rum to help soothe the rough edges. And having Arya’s forgiveness, her understanding… it was beyond priceless and something she hoped to allow herself to accept before this was all over.

Watching Arya reconnect with her daughter, meeting her daughter’s friends was … fascinating. This was a world that functioned so very differently from her own. Everything about it was intriguing, the evolution of life and magic – MAGIC – on this plane… just thinking about how it had been accomplished reignited a spark, a thirst for knowledge she had buried deep inside her as a child. She wanted to know… everything. Lexi had an insatiable need to learn everything she could get her hands on as a child, tearing through learning modules and flying through courses in a wide variety of subjects until she was gently, but firmly, redirected to topics that would further her knowledge on how to run the family business. Slowly the fire was banked into a slow burn, just enough to keep her going but not enough really be considered a flame. The price of being a Bastion. One of Talithey’s friends, the dragon-like one… Zildath? He had been expressing his frustration over what he called powerful people making life or death decisions for other people. Wasn’t that what she and her friends had done in their first lives? That’s what leaders were supposed to do, right? Make the tough calls and take the blame so others didn’t have to be burdened? That’s certainly what her parents had drummed into her at any rate, but sometimes the cost of making those decisions was too high. There are always too many variables to consider, hidden consequences to be revealed only in tragedy. Lexi doesn’t want the devastation caused by the Demiurge to be her legacy, so she’ll fight to put right what once went wrong, but afterward? One more mistake to fix, planes of existence to save and then maybe, just maybe, if she survives… she’ll step down, step back from leadership.

Lexi finishes her shower and as she towels off before getting dressed, she glances over at the books Talithey had given her: a history book on Zephys, one called “Fundamentals of Arcana”, another on Planar Magic, and what looks to be an in-depth analysis on the various schools of magic and their associated spells. She fights the urge to crack one open, knowing she doesn’t have the time. But when this is all over? Jordan and Eve will watch over the survivors from Ruk, ensure that they are cared for and integrated into the new life of their choosing, as they are doing now. She trusts them both with that task. As for Mastodon? Part of Lexi feels that Mastodon can go burn and die in a fire for all she cares. Maybe Angela or Laresa can suggest a new company president though, someone not who’s not bone deep weary. Someone with a fresh vision and a backbone of steel to redirect the company, to winnow the bad seeds out and start anew. Lexi needs a fucking break. From the guilt that comes with making impossible decisions, from the exhaustion of putting everyone else’s physical and emotional needs before her own, from the pressure of friends and family, well-meaning or not. She still wants to help and to heal others, those traits are enduring and soul deep. But maybe that can be done while she indulges in some self-discovery, while she seeks out and learns about whatever topic suits her fancy. Sometimes she wants to go where not everybody knows her name, or face. Where she can just be Lexi. Not Ms. Bastion. Not Madame President. Just Lexi.

She glances down once more at the books on her bed, stoking the covers gently before carefully picking them up and placing them on her bookshelf. Magic. She smiles to herself. Maybe she’ll see if she can join Arya’s daughter and their friends when this is all over. Lexi the Swamp Witch has a nice ring to it.

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