Pax isn’t quite sure when her definition of home came to begin and end with, “Wherever the girl who swallowed the sun lives,” but it doesn’t exactly feel wrong when she tests it out on her tongue. Home is walking hand in hand down a deserted shortcut; it is pouring over case notes, spread out over the kitchen table and scattered across the floor, while Miriam sings over a pot of soup like she’s enchanting it; it is the gentle press of Miriam’s lips against Pax’s temple to wake her from a doze. Home is pulling Miriam into a kiss right in the middle of the street, right in the middle of a thunder storm, and having the girl who swallowed the sun kiss back like she’s trying to spread that sunlight into Pax’s own cold body. Home is finding that she finally doesn’t mind letting herself be warmed from the inside out.
Pax was a Ghost, just another runaway kid in a city of runaway kids, where her face hardly mattered any more than her dot on the yearly statistics. If there had ever been an investigation into her disappearance then the fruitless search would have dried up years ago. Everybody in the Fifth knew a Ghost, and nobody went looking for them.
And yet for all her talk about the missing staying missing, like the outskirts of the City were some kind of grave of their own, Pax had come back. She didn’t feel proud that she’d clawed her way back onto the map from which she’d tried so hard to drop off. Despite all that effort, the Fifth had stuck to the soles of her boots with enough determination to bring her walking right back to the heart of it.
Her right side feels cold, empty without a warm body pressed tight against her. Her hand feels empty without wingers twined together. There is a strangeness, an alienness to the sensation of needing someone so close after so long without the affection of another friendly face. Out in the Flats there is nobody but oneself, but in Midian City it is nearly impossible to turn without bumping into another human being just as desperate to keep moving. Pax isn’t sure that she can understand a world in which she finds comfort in the kind of casual embrace that Miriam partakes in as if it were her first language.
It was a long time before either of them said anything, and then it came: “So that’s it?” Dare’s voice had dropped since she’d last heard it. “You’re just going to drink your milkshake. Then what? Leave?” He didn’t sound hurt, didn’t sound anything other than practiced and casually distant, in a way Dare could never quite pull off when his heart was in every word he spoke.
“You haven’t given me a lot to go on, Dare,” she grumbled into her glass. “What are we doing here?”
When Pax looked up, Dare’s expression was unfathomable. His hazel eyes, the same as Pax’s eyes, the same as their father’s, were fixed on her with such intensity that it was a struggle for her to understand the rest of his face. His brow lay flat, his mouth was a straight line, but his shoulders were packed with tension that Pax couldn’t understand.
“It’s not hiding if nobody looks.”
“Nobody looked? Pax, you were gone before anyone woke up in the morning, dropped off the feeds an hour later. You didn’t want to be found.”
They weren’t alone in the diner. Sadie’s steady buzz of conversation gave Pax something else to focus on other than the way her baby brother looked at her as if she were a stranger.
“What are we doing here?” He was quiet against the din. “What are you doing here, Pax?”