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"We can repair it, right?" Ghost says, when they make it back to their little apartment.

Nova suppresses the urge to throw the Ace of Spades out the window. It might hit a human pedestrian. This high up, that would probably kill someone. "Not sure if we should."

"Why not?" says Ghost, pivoting to look at it.

Nova shrugs, avoiding his gaze. "I don't know. I just—it doesn't feel right." Which won't be enough to persuade him, so it adds, "Maybe we could give it to Ikora."

He tilts from side to side, midair, and then bounces a little. "Oh—what if we fixed it, and then gave it to her? She's always so busy, and maybe it could help us all move on. Give her something tangible to remember him by, and give us something to do."

Nova continues to exercise flawless self-control and firearm safety. "Right," it says hollowly, and it starts making tea. Just to have something to do.

It manages to ignore the gun for the next two days. It knows it should be out there, fighting the Scorn or trying to pry open the Dreaming City—the job's not done; Uldren Sov was only the beginning; something terrible is happening and Nova's supposed to fix it because that's what it's for—

But it can barely make itself leave the apartment, much less hop in a jumpship and fly back into the fray.

"Guardian," Ghost says, carefully, "are you ... okay? You haven't even looked at the Ace since we got back. And I really think that repairing it will help."

"I don't want to." Nova freezes, then, because it did not mean to say that out loud.

"... Oh, Guardian," says Ghost, all horrible gentleness and kindness and wrong wrong wrong. "I know it's been hard. Since he ... died. I don't mean to push you, I just—I'm worried."

Fury roars through it in a white-hot wave. "Don't be."

Ghost flinches at the feedback. "Guardian, you're scaring me. What's wrong?"

"I don't want to fix the damn gun," Nova snaps. "It's not mine. I don't want it."

"... What's that supposed to mean?"

"You and Ikora can fix it if you want it to be fixed. You were his friends."

"So were you," Ghost says, aghast. "He considered you a friend, you hunted down his murderer, I don't understand how—"

"I need to go," it says. "Don't follow."

And it leaves, because if it doesn't leave it will scream at Ghost, and it wants to do that even less than it wants to think about Cayde fucking Six.

It doesn't go to a ramen shop. It avoids anything even resembling a ramen shop. It goes to a coffee shop, and orders the sugariest, fluffiest, most syrupy mess of a drink on offer, and then flees into the streets of the Last City because the shop's full of people, Guardians and citizens and Ghosts grouped in twos and threes and fours, talking and laughing, but subdued by loss.

Nova-2 drinks the coffee as it stalks northward, out of the Traveler's shadow. The streets are choked with memorials, walls plastered with photographs and flowers and written notes, banners in black and white for grief.

Everybody loves Cayde-6. Everybody mourns Cayde-6. Everybody misses Cayde-6.

And all it can think about is the explosion in the Prison of Elders, falling and falling after a glimpse of Cayde riding the platform down, alone, reckless and careless and so fucking stupid—

It's a Guardian. Death is a minor inconvenience. It's fallen to its death before, plenty of times. Outer plates crumple and shatter on impact, internal mechanisms tear each other apart, fluid bursts out of ruptured conduits. When it's lucky—and it was lucky, in the Prison of Elders—it dies before the pain can even register. Everything stops. And then it wakes up, whole and alive again. Because it's a Guardian.

It's been killed by its own recklessness before. It's been killed as a consequence of its fireteam's bad decisions before.

Why does it resent Cayde-6 for one lapse in judgement that led to permanent consequences only for himself?

Why does it want to scream?

(Because it's allowed to be annoyed at bad fireteams. It's allowed to be angry at itself. But oh, no, not Cayde-6, not everybody's funny lovable oh-so-sad little Hunter Vanguard, not the sainted fucking fallen hero, why don't you care why are you so callous what the hell is wrong with you—)

Uldren Sov, helpless and defeated and their only source of intel. Petra. Fucking Petra. Gunshot. Dead. Justice is served.

Ghost talked himself in circles about whether what they were doing was revenge or justice and it tried to tell him that it just wanted to stop the Scorn and figure out what was really going on and he said And do right by Cayde. Right?

Right. Of course. Cayde. Forget about the Awoken, the threat of the Scorn, the culling of the Reef—Cayde is the real reason they're fighting.

Ghost liked Cayde. They knew each other for years, while Nova was nothing but a heap of dead, inert scrap metal rusting away in the Cosmodrome.

Nova drinks the last of the coffee and shoves the empty cup into a recycler. "Selfish," it breathes, and its stupid broken voice shreds the word into something nearly unintelligible. "You selfish piece of shit."

It tried to be a good friend to Ghost, while they were hunting Scorn barons. It listened and it tried to say the right words to make things hurt less for its friend, it tried, it tried, but—

But it's selfish and jealous and how fucking pathetic is that, resenting its own Ghost for having a life before it, having friendships that didn't involve it, liking someone that it just didn't?

What the fuck is wrong with it, that it's angry that everyone it knows is mourning someone it didn't care enough about to avenge?

Nova tightens its hands into fists until the joints begin to whine.

Ordinarily it'd blow off steam in the Crucible, but it kind of needs Ghost if it's going to get repeatedly ripped to pieces by other Guardians who are much, much better at this than Nova is, and—actually, on balance, Crucible sounds like a terrible idea.

(Why does it even participate when it doesn't like getting ripped to pieces by other Guardians and the frustration claws up its wrecked throat and Lord Shaxx's shouted encouragement only makes it more hatefully, miserably ashamed of itself for failing, again and again and again?)

No Crucible.

It just keeps walking, as the sun slips behind the mountains and the City shifts towards sleep. The Traveler's faint luminescence softens the shadows beneath it.

There's a togetherness in all the sorrow, a unity in grief. There's beauty. Community. Compassion. Affirmation of the bonds between people.

And Nova's just—a shitty loner Warlock whose only friend is metaphysically obligated to stick around, surrounded by people who expect it to feel the right feelings and participate in the communal catharsis of being sad together, and if it doesn't, or if it can't keep up the act ...

Then it's hurting Ghost. It has already hurt Ghost.

(And it's bad optics for the Vanguard.)

Can it grieve for the could-have-been? For the version of Nova-2 that could have seen past the (grating, abrasive, distracting) humor and (reckless, careless, dangerous) stunts and (deliberate, calculated, intentional) facade to the brilliant, self-deprecating, desperately sad golden heart of Cayde-6 that everyone around it seems to have known and adored?

Selfish. Selfish.

(Isn't that what grief is? The could-have-been, the lost chances, the unanswered questions, the things left unresolved? Isn't grief fundamentally selfish? The dead don't care how the living feel.)

If it had died its final death instead of Cayde, would he have even hesitated before running off to avenge its murder? Would he have even hesitated before shooting Uldren between the eyes, when he inevitably ran him down?

Of course not. He was Cayde-6. He was grating and reckless, but at heart he was a good person who cared deeply.

(If it had been Casimir, the Young Wolf. If Nova had died that day, instead of him. If he hadn't been made of fragile mortal flesh and bone when they plummeted together off the side of Ghaul's flagship.

But he died. It woke up a broken doll on the ground but he never woke up at all.

It barely knew him. Did it mourn for him, like it should mourn for Cayde, or was it just as wrong inside then? It can't remember. Those early days are a blurred smear of stark terror and grinding pain and meaningless hunger and a falcon's cry and Ghost, always Ghost, limping through the air, the one fixed point in a world it barely understood torn out from under them both.

If it had been Casimir, at the Prison of Elders, instead of Nova. Casimir, who was a Hunter like Cayde, who smiled and laughed and talked to people like it was easy, who made Nova feel like it was wanted and welcomed and—safe.

Casimir would have mourned for Cayde.)

What does that make Nova?