The Things They Remembered
This is either an oddly written one shot fic or an unnaturally verbose set of headcanons or somehow both. I don’t know, I just have a lot of feelings and they wound up here.
MAJOR TAZ SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF STOLEN CENTURY
Sometimes they saw memories in the corners of their minds.
The days after Mookie’s birth were as close as Merle and Hekuba ever got to happiness together. Merle spent long hours of peace and quiet between them sitting with Mookie, coaxing him to sleep, rocking him gently. He found himself almost unconsciously humming a song, which after a moment he remembered as one of the few Pan hymns he’d actually liked growing up in the commune. Mavis, a tottering, curious five-year-old, was peeking over his lap, watching Mookie with wide eyes. She started humming along, and then singing, but words were all wrong. When Merle tried to correct her, they nearly woke Mookie back up with their escalating argument. Hekuba snatched Mookie from Merle’s arms and hissed at him about how pointless this argument was. Besides, she said, Mavis was right anyway.
If not for the sleeping baby, there would probably have been a row right then and there. As it was, Merle swallowed his pride, and nobody ever brought it back up. However, on the day Merle left to “buy a pack of smokes,” he sang the song loudly to himself as he walked away. He paused along the road, staring intently at a large patch of fungi eating away at a tree, still singing under his breath.
“And when the night gets dark
You know the moon still shines
Soon you’ll hear the morning lark
Sittin’ on Pan’s green vines.”
He paused, surprised to feel a tear slide down his cheek. He tore his eyes away from the mushrooms. If he got away from Hekuba unchallenged, he ought to offer Pan a prayer of thanks, he mused. It had been too long since he’d really prayed.
Taako didn’t understand why he always expected Sazed to have a different face. It was the most disorienting thing: they’d fall into a quiet rhythm, testing out a recipe for a future show, Taako sautéing vegetables while Sazed chopped up beef behind him. The calm and the familiarity of a happy kitchen would wash over them with the stinging scent of fresh-chopped onion until a gently contented smile stretched Taako’s cheeks. Then Sazed would tap him on the shoulder, wanting to consult him on how best to cut this piece off the bone, and Taako would turn to face him, and Sazed’s face would startle him. Once, when they’d been prepping a particularly elaborate dish for two hours straight without talking, turning around to see Sazed had made him jump so badly he dropped a knife and nearly sliced his own toes off.
He couldn’t have explained whose face he expected to see, or even if he was expecting anyone at all. All he knew was that, in those quiet moments, when he settled into the heartbeat of the kitchen, Sazed always seemed wrong or out of place. Once he nearly forgot his name, even after they’d been together for three years. He opened his mouth to ask him to pass the salt, and for a few seconds, a different name sat on the tip of his tongue, just out of his reach. He had to close his mouth, rub the sweat away from his forehead with his sleeve, and then remembered Sazed’s name with a start. He called out imperiously, burying his momentary confusion out of sight.
Julia’s friend Rachel came barreling into the Hammer & Tongs one morning, looking haggard. Magnus, whittling away the final touches on a table, looked up in surprise.
“Julia’s not here,” he said. “She and Steven went down to visit—”
“Magnus, do you know anything about coaching?” Rachel asked. Magnus set down his knife.
“Um, not really?” Rachel ran a hand through her hair, fingers catching on her tight curls.
“Lucas took a nasty fall and fractured his leg. He’ll be laid up for a few weeks, or until we can get a healer passing through to come fix it up. But that—”
“Leaves the kids’ kickball team without a coach,” Magnus finished for her. He stood up, dusting woodchips off his pants. “Don’t even worry about it,” he said. “I am here for you.” Rachel danced from foot to foot, looking anxious.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “I really came looking for Julia—”
“She can take over next week when she’s back from visiting her aunt. But you need someone for this afternoon, don’t you?”
“Magnus, do you even know the rules? You didn’t grow up here, are you sure it’s the same—?” He waved off her concerns.
“Psht, the kids will help me figure it out. It’s just for a few days. This isn’t the first time I’ve coached a sport I don’t know how to play.” Rachel tilted her head, curls swinging.
“It isn’t?” she asked. Magnus paused, frowning.
“You know, that’s a lie. I don’t know why I said that, this is definitely the first time I’ve ever coached anything. But I have a feeling I can figure it out.” He gave Rachel a grin. “Come on,” he said, slinging an arm around her shoulder. “Show me what these kids have got.”
The water wrapped around Barry in a cool embrace, lifting him gently, letting him drift quietly through the world. He could feel the heat of the sun bathing his face. With his ears underwater, there was no sound to interrupt him, nothing but the gentle rushing of the lake. He kept his eyes closed, his breath so slow his chest barely moved, his arms fluttering gently to keep him floating, drinking in the silence.
You won’t be able to remember learning to swim. And in fact, you’ll probably remember that as a kid you never learned how, so going in the water will probably freak you out a little bit at first. But don’t worry about that, swimming is muscle memory, so as soon as you start doing it you’ll be fine.
The magic coin that had his voice had been right, as it was about most things. Barry had waded into the quiet, secluded lake with trepidation, almost stopping in panic when the water first splashed up over his knees. He might have stopped there, but three months of the hottest summer he’d ever experienced – or, he supposed, the hottest he could remember – combing fruitlessly through Neverwinter for clues to a mystery he didn’t understand, wading through the grime and the stink of a city dead with heat, made him want to dive face first into this fresh mountain lake whether he drowned or not. He’d taken a deep breath and plunged forward – and found that he could swim perfectly well. His arms and legs moved without thought. So he turned on his back and floated. For once, the weight that always seemed to sit heavy in his chest eased. He let the water carry him, gentle, gentle, peaceful, peaceful, quiet, quiet, quiet.
Sometimes, Davenport didn’t sleep. Sometimes, he would be possessed by an urgency he could neither understand nor articulate, and he would pace around his room, trying desperately to think of what he might have forgotten to do. Lucretia would hear him sometimes, from her bedroom next door, and would knock on his door, wrapped in a dressing gown and yawning. He couldn’t explain what was wrong, but she’d sit with him anyway, let him keep pacing if need be. Sometimes she’d fetch a binder of the Bureau’s schedule for the next few weeks, and go over it with him. They’d note down appointments for maintenance to the Moonbase, a regularly scheduled meeting with Garfield to go over Fantasy Costco’s inventory, a check-in with Johann and the voidfish, and select reclaimers to send after the newest rumors of a Grand Relic. Eventually, Davenport would feel calm enough to go to sleep, and Lucretia would shut the binder with a smile, sending him off to bed. Sometimes their sessions lasted almost until dawn, but Davenport never once heard her complain that he kept her up. If there were bags under her eyes the next morning, she ignored them, and no one else would ever have dared comment.
Sometimes they could feel the holes in their lives like they were missing a tooth. They filled them any way they could.
“I cast Zone of Truth!”
The dragonborn woman next to Merle glared down at him. Next to her, the wizard leaned back in his chair, examining his nails, looking immensely bored.
“I don’t think there’s any need for that,” the woman said, crossing her arms. “We all trust each other here, don’t we?”
“I just think we can all trust each other a bit more if we know we’re all telling the truth,” Merle said, raising his hands in surrender.
“What is it with you and that spell?” the wizard asked, picking at a bit of dirt under his fingernail. “I’ve known you less than a week and you’ve used it three times.”
“And every time it’s put a potential employer on the defensive,” the dragonborn woman growled. She turned back to the elf, who was eyeing them skeptically across the table. “I apologize for him,” she said. The elf pursed her lips.
“I had no intention of lying to you,” she said. “But if this makes you feel more comfortable…” She shrugged.
“Sorry I don’t like being sent on an adventure for an employer who’s withholding information,” Merle grumbled. The wizard shot a single tiny flame from his fingertip, landing it in Merle’s beard. Merle yelped and patted it out. He glared at the wizard, who gave him a careless smile in response.
“Oops,” he said.
“Oh, what are you going to do? Cast Zone of Truth on me? Ask me how I feel about it?”
“Well, you’re just a wise guy, aren’t ya?” Merle stood up. “I’m not gonna be part of a group that tries to set my beard on fire. This beard is a lot of work. If you folks decide you want to keep working with me, then you can come find me, and apologize,” he announced, and walked out.
Taako pulled his wizard’s hat low over his eyes, poking a finger at the tavern’s dinner. It had been years since Glamour Springs, but people still sometimes knew his face, and an elf wizard transmuting food would be a huge tip off. He didn’t feel like making a quick exit tonight. Glancing around to make sure no one was paying attention, he whispered a spell under his breath, and the suspicious mystery meat turned into a perfectly decent ribeye steak. He breathed a sigh of relief and dug in before the barmaid could notice anything odd about what he was eating.
He’d chosen a table tucked into a cramped corner, where the building stuck out at an odd angle to take advantage of as much extra space as it could. There was a dusty bookshelf next to him, mostly full of religious pamphlets and books left behind by clerics. A six-month-old flyer advertising for adventurers had been forgotten on one of the shelves. Leaning against one end was some fat, esoteric volume on candle making, and a slim collection of bards’ songs. Taako ran a disinterested eye over all of it, ready to retreat to his room for the night, before he caught sight of a battered book lying flat on the bottom shelf, almost invisible in its black cover. He crouched and picked it up, dislodging a massive dust cloud that sent him into a brief sneezing fit. Once his eyes stopped watering and he managed to brush away enough dust to open the book, he dropped back into his seat in disbelief.
He hid the slim little book on transmutation magic under his shirt and snuck it up to his room. Lighting a candle, he devoured it overnight, reading and rehearsing every spell it described. He ran his fingers along the broken spine of the book. He was getting better, he thought, despite his still-frequent mistakes. Transmutation spells always felt right, almost familiar, to him. He wouldn’t make a mistake like Glamour Springs again. He could master this, he was sure of it. Taako would be the best transmutation wizard there ever was. One day.
Magnus scraped his knife gently along the edge of the chest, pausing to blow away the slender curls of discarded wood. He stepped back to admire his handiwork. The elaborate jellyfish carving covered the chest: its bell sat on the top, with tentacles reaching out and around, encircling it on all sides. At a small cough from the doorway, he turned to see a woman standing there, looking embarrassed.
“You, uh, you didn’t have to do this, you know,” she said. He waved her off.
“I wanted to,” he said. “It was the least I could, after you let me stay here almost a month.” The woman shook her head.
“You really helped us with driving off that sea snake,” she said. “I don’t know what we would have done if we’d lost any more fishing boats.” She stepped closer, admiring the chest. “Is that a jellyfish?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said, smiling. He ran a thumb across one corner, dislodging some sawdust. “I just need to varnish it and it’ll be done.”
“It’s beautiful,” the woman said, letting her finger trail gently across it. “When have you even seen a jellyfish? I thought you said this was your first time by the sea?” Magnus shrugged.
“I’ve seen pictures somewhere. I just really like them.” The woman dropped her hand, standing back and admiring the carving.
“Thank you, Magnus,” she said. “For everything.”
“Yeah,” he said. Something ached in his chest as he looked at the carving, an insistent feeling of loss that he couldn’t quite identify. He looked away. “Of course.”
There was a piano, and Barry’s fingers itched.
He had to keep tearing his eyes away from it, reminding himself that wasn’t why he was here. The coin had sent him asking around Goldcliff after the elf woman he was always looking for, although for some reason it never told him her name. Since one of the traits it had rattled off was that she could play the violin, he’d wandered his way to an elegant country club that hired bards and other musicians to entertain their guests. A tall human woman stood on the stage, singing a high, chipper song.
His eyes kept straying to the piano.
He didn’t even think he could play the piano. He couldn’t remember learning, and if he’d learned it during what the coin called his “stolen century,” the coin hadn’t bothered to mention it. Still, his fingers itched.
He straightened his suit jacket, forcing himself to focus as a fancily dressed dwarf walked up, staring him down.
“What do you want?” he asked bluntly. Barry wet his lips nervously.
“I’m looking for an elf woman. You might have hired her to play the violin? She’s—”
“I… don’t know her name.” The dwarf looked exasperated.
“I hire a dozen performers a month, kiddo. I’m not gonna remember one elf lady without a name.”
“Please,” Barry said, feeling desperate. “It’s important.”
“Sorry. Not my problem.” The dwarf turned to go.
“Wait!” Barry called. The dwarf paused. “Forget the elf woman. I want to play here. For the guests.” The dwarf turned back, looking him up and down critically.
“You a bard, kid?”
“No,” Barry said. “But I play the piano.” He prayed his cheeks weren’t as flushed as they felt. He was almost sure he was telling a blatant lie. But if he could figure out how to stick around, just a little bit longer, then maybe he’d be able to ask more questions about the woman. The dwarf was squinting at him suspiciously.
“Come back for an audition in the morning,” he said. “I’ll need to see if you’re good enough.” Barry nodded eagerly.
He came back the next morning, to a dwarf looking disheartened that he’d actually shown up. He sat down at the piano, staring at the keys, and for a moment he nearly bolted. He didn’t know how to do this. It was ridiculous to imagine he’d just magically know how to play the piano. Sure, he could swim without being able to remember learning, but that was different. He wasn’t even certain he had ever learnt to play the piano.
Then he set his fingers on the keys, played an opening cord, and before he could think, there was music flowing from under his fingertips.
He closed his eyes as he played, careful not to think too closely about what he was doing. He let the music come naturally, felt it move trippingly along his fingers. He knew when to pause, when to crescendo, when to let a note linger. He didn’t notice the tears on his cheeks until the song ended. He sniffed, embarrassed, hurriedly wiping at his eyes with the cuff of his shirt before turning back to the dwarf, who looked mildly impressed.
“Okay, kid, I’ll admit, you’ve got some skill there. You… can’t cry in front of the guests, though, you know that, right?” Barry nodded, pressing his lips together and sniffing again. “Well, you’re hired for next week if you want the job. That was a beautiful song – your own composition?” Barry shook his head, and didn’t understand the words that came out of his mouth, but he said them anyway.
“It was only half a song.”
Davenport liked to stargaze. On clear, warm nights, he’d find his way to one of the outdoor decks on the moonbase, lie on his back, and stare up to the stars. He’d trace constellations with his finger. It always brought him a feeling of peace and security to look up and see the stars shining brightly in the sky. One summer evening, Lucretia joined him, taking her first night off in too long to remember. She lay beside him quietly for a long time. Finally, she murmured, more to herself than him, “What do you see up there?”
Davenport turned to look at her, smiling, because he had the word today. “Home,” he said. She flinched, looking at him wide-eyed, and then slowly stood, turned, and walked away, leaving Davenport alone.
Sometimes they went looking for people. They didn’t know their names, or their faces, or how they would find them, but they went looking all the same.
Merle plopped himself down in front of the chessboard, giving a challenging stare to the man sitting on the other side.
“Fancy a game?” he asked. The man looked at him in surprise.
“I just took it out to clean off the dust – I’ve been travelling all day—”
“Exactly! What better way to relax than sit down and play a little?”
“Well, chess is actually not that relaxing—”
“Oh, come on, it’ll be fun!” Merle cajoled. “We don’t have to bet or anything.” The man glanced around the tavern, and then shrugged, reaching for his case of pieces.
“Alright,” he said. “Let’s play.”
He and Merle fell into silent concentration, sliding pawns and rooks and bishops across the board. Merle’s knight laid waste to the man’s pawns until his queen stopped it. Merle played defensively, retreating his pieces out of reach when they started to get into danger. The game progressed slowly as the tavern grew first rowdier, and then slowly quieter and quieter as patrons drifted out. Finally, Merle dropped his bishop into place with a decisive “Checkmate!” The man flicked his king with one finger, knocking it over. He smiled at Merle, reached across the board to shake his hand, and then stood up, stretched, yawned, and left for bed.
Merle stayed seated until the innkeeper came by to shoo him away, staring blankly at the now-empty table, his hands clasped, wondering if he should have said something else to the man with the chessboard.
Taako was soaked to the bone, shivering in the downpour, his wizard’s hat heavy with water and sagging on his head. The barn sat dark and quiet and isolated, the house it must belong to almost out of sight up the hill. He darted up to the door in the cover of the dark, pulled it open, and slipped inside. As soon as he was out of the rain, he pulled off his hat and wrung it out, creating a puddle. He shook himself, trying to squeeze water out of his shirt and even his hair.
The smell of manure assaulted his nose, but the barn’s only occupants were a couple of disinterested cows and a small flock of sheep. There was a stack of hay bales in the back, and Taako picked his way across the floor until he collapsed against the hay in relief. He closed his eyes and breathed slowly. Tonight, of all nights, he had to run into someone from Glamour Springs, someone who knew his face with the kind of detail burning hatred brought. He’d fled into the rain, too afraid to even return to his room for his luggage, and run as far as he could. The town’s lights long out of sight behind him, he’d slowed to a walk, and trudged along a road rapidly turning into muddy soup.
Raindrops ran down his forehead, dripping off the end of his nose. He scrubbed them away with his hand, his eyes still closed. He was so tired. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d lain down and properly meditated for a good few hours. Every time he tried, he got distracted. He felt like he couldn’t remember how he used to rest before. It had always been tough, but he knew he used to be able to do it.
Maybe, he thought, he could just try, right now. He was so exhausted. Maybe he could just lie down and be quiet, even just for an hour or two.
He stripped off most of the wet clothes and set them aside to dry. He pulled out of the haybales and lay down against it, ignoring the sharp, uncomfortable prickling. He tried to breathe slowly and evenly.
He always envisioned a field when he meditated, a field with long grass on a warm summer’s night, a vision from his childhood. He’d been a cook’s assistant in a travelling troupe. Full of a particularly good beef stew, he had gone out to lie in the field, where he could stare up and see the stars wheeling overhead. He’d felt so peaceful. But it seemed lately that his memory of the field was pale and empty.
He opened his eyes. He was so cold.
Magnus shot up in bed, shouting. He was covered in sweat, chest heaving with breath. He clutched the sheets, his eyes wide as he stared into the dark tavern bedroom. His dream had been so vivid it still danced before his eyes: Raven’s Roost was crumbling to the ground. Julia stood atop one of the towers, her hands held out to him, calling for him, but he couldn’t move, because he was made of stone. He was nothing but a statue, able only to watch as Raven’s Roost fell, burying Julia under a mountain of rock.
It took a long few minutes for his heart to slow, or his hands to uncurl from around the sheets. Unable to think of sleeping again, he climbed out of bed, lighting a candle, and retrieved a block of wood and a whittling knife. He carved a duck, occasionally humming to himself. By the time he finished, the gray flush of predawn light was creeping in through his window. He stared at the duck in his hands for a long time. He didn’t need another duck. He didn’t understand why he kept carving them. He left them as gifts, sometimes, for the innkeepers that gave him nicer rooms or let him do some maintenance work in lieu of payment for a room. Still, they were nothing but decorative. They served no useful purpose.
He felt, for a moment, the utter helplessness of being a stone statue. He felt the terror of the stone squeezing breath from his lungs and life from his heart. He saw Julia tumbling down, down, down, still calling his name.
He threw the duck so hard across the room that it hit the wall and shattered.
Barry was just walking down the streets of Neverwinter when he saw her.
It was the barest glimpse of a face, but his heart stuttered wildly in his chest. It was her, it had to be her. He knew it was her. He spun around, making the people behind him almost trip and fall into him, and caught just a glimpse of pointed hat vanishing into the crowd. His heart pounded wildly. He started to run.
“Hey!” he called. “Hey! Come back!”
He shoved people aside, ignoring the glares and occasional cusses, focused on nothing but the slightest glimpse of that pointed blue hat. He saw it again.
“Hey!” he called. She paused, and he kept pushing his way towards her, keeping his eyes fixed on her hat. “It’s you! It’s – I know you.”
She started to run. Barry shoved aside an orc almost twice his height, feeling frantic.
“Wait!” he begged. “Wait! Please! Please wait! Please – come back, please! Please!” She weaved her way masterfully through the crowd. Barry started to run after her, but the orc grabbed his shoulder, glaring in displeasure. The hat vanished. Barry went limp against the orc’s hand, and broke into tears.
Normally, Davenport was okay with faces. Faces he could more or less handle. Sometimes it was difficult – some of those dwarves looked bafflingly similar, for instance, and he frequently mixed up humans with the same hair colors. But all in all, faces were usually manageable. Names, however, were a whole different story. He could rarely manage to form words for himself. Fixing entirely new names in his head proved to be nigh impossible. Since he could almost never say them anyway, at some point he stopped trying. If he didn’t know who they were talking about, Lucretia could usually show him a picture.
The day that the Phoenix Fire Gauntlet was recovered, three strangers walked into the moon base. Davenport studied their faces, working on committing these three to memory. Elf, dwarf, human. At least, if they were together, it would be easy to remember which was which.
Then they introduced themselves to Lucretia, and to Davenport’s mild shock, the names stuck. They were Taako, Merle, and Magnus. He knew their names with as much surety as he knew Lucretia’s, almost as certainly as he knew his own. Their names were just as clear in his mind as their faces, even if he could rarely say them, even if he didn’t understand why.
Sometimes little things slipped through the cracks. Fingers moved, hearts pounded, and smiles and tears broke across their faces without rhyme or reason. What they forgot, their bodies clung to stubbornly.
It was Taako who pulled them along to the Moonbase’s pub. “We recovered one of these Grand Relic thingies that everyone here is so hung up over and yet haven’t managed to find themselves. That means we’re basically heroes,” he explained. “We ought to celebrate like heroes! Plus, we all had to drink whatever bodily fluid that voidfish ichor was, so we’re getting drunk tonight to forget what that tasted like.” Magnus shrugged and then proceeded with enthusiasm as soon as Taako waved a drink in his face. Merle sighed, muttering something about kids, and followed suit, albeit in a much more disgruntled manner. The scattered other members of the Bureau in the pub eyed them curiously.
The three of them stumbled out of the pub hours later, all using each other for support and giggling helplessly.
“But did you—” Taako snorted. “Did you see him pulling the arms off that robot? He was—” he hiccupped, “he was so intense.”
“I saw your scrawny ass getting punched by an ogre,” Merle said, trying to wave a finger at him and slapping him in the midriff instead. “So much help you were.”
“Hey, I did stuff,” Taako replied, trying to glare at Merle, except his eyes kept unfocusing.
“Yeah, that umbrella stunt was pretty— was pretty—” Magnus waved his arms, miming an explosion, and sent the whole group careening sideways, nearly crashing into a wall.
“Yeah I dunno what that was,” Taako chuckled. He glanced down to where he was leaning on the umbrella like a walking stick. He stopped, planting himself, and raised a finger dramatically. “I have. The most dangerous umbrella. In all the moonbase. Thank you, thank you!” He bowed to imaginary applause as Magnus and Merle struggled to catch their breath from laughing. Magnus, wiping tears out of his eyes, finally paused.
“You know, you guys aren’t half bad,” he said. “We make a pretty cool team.”
“Yeah!” Merle piped up. “We make a great team!” Taako’s head lolled on his shoulders momentarily before he snapped it back up to look at Magnus.
“You— you’re good with the—” He mimed punching and nearly took Merle’s eye out with the umbrella. “You’re a pretty good fighter, my dude.”
“And I’m sure Merle contributes something,” Magnus laughed.
“Hey! Hey! Who saved Taako’s ass when he was unconscious back in the cave?” Taako swayed, leaning on the umbrella, and nodded slowly.
“That is true. You did— you did in fact, save my ass.” He slung an arm around Merle and another one around Magnus. “I say, let’s keep doing this. Hey, maybe next time we find one of these relics, we turn into real heroes around here, huh?”
“Sounds good to me, buddy,” Magnus replied, wrapping his arm around Taako.
“Be nice to get the recognition we deserve,” Merle agreed amiably. The three of them started stumbling forward again, before pausing at a fork in the path.
“Hey… does anybody remember where we live now?” Taako asked. There was a moment of tense silence. Then, Merle snorted, and started to chuckle. “No, seriously, where are we supposed to go?” Taako insisted. Merle kept on laughing, his chuckles getting louder and louder until they turned into belly laughs. Magnus began snickering too, and then laughing, drowning out Taako’s protests. The three of them swayed dangerously, almost toppling. Taako, helpless against his companions’ mirth, began to chuckle at the sheer absurdity of it all. They swayed again, in the other direction, all of them nearly screaming with laughter now, and then they swayed even further and all of them fell on their asses and collapsed into the ground. They laughed so hard that tears ran down their cheeks. They laughed so hard their stomachs hurt. They laughed until none of them had the slightest idea what had started it all anymore, but as soon as they calmed down, they would make eye contact and dissolve into fits of mirth again.
Finally, exhausted almost to collapse, and their stomachs aching from laughing too hard, they fell back on the ground, shoulders and elbows and knees shoved up against each other. They sighed collectively, grins still stretching their cheeks. Somehow, even on a strange, futuristic Moonbase, with no idea where they were supposed to spend the night, they felt like they were home.