Jacin’s posture becomes rigid in the lunar palace, his attitude colder than usual. Winter and Cinder don’t think he realizes he’s doing it. Cinder has passed laws so that thaumaturges cannot hurt people or control them against their will, but every time a thaumaturge is nearby, Jacin shoves his weapons in one of his friends’ hands. Even now, he cannot trust himself not to hurt someone he cares about.
Winter has days when she is scared to touch Jacin. Her hands hesitate over his shoulder, she stands farther from him than usual. She knows he has no reason to reject her, with the war over and Levana gone, but she can’t help but be afraid that he will. Winter doesn’t think she could handle it if he brushes her off, if he pushes her away again. Sometimes she feels like she’s just waiting for him to shut her out for good.
Thorne hates having his eyes covered, hates the feeling of blind darkness. He pulls his shirts over his head as fast as he can, and has to force himself to keep his eyes shut at night. On his birthday, Cress tells him to cover his eyes with a bandana she gives him. Thorne flinches away, telling her quietly, “I… I don’t really like not being able to see, since the desert. Can we do something else instead?”
Cress can’t stand isolation. She hates being alone in her empty room, and cannot fall asleep by surrounded by silence and emptiness. Being inside and alone is even worse-sometimes Cress will wake up in her room, thinking she is back in that horrible empty satelite, cut off from the world. She doesn’t want to be clingy, to suffocate Thorne and her friends, so she says nothing, letting her fear rise when her door closes.
Wolf has always hated doctors and needles, but after his second surgery, it’s become much worse. He no longer travels on trains and ships to avoid having to give blood samples, and he refuses to go with Scarlet to the doctors office. After a while, he agrees to let Jacin give him check-ups every six months, but he refuses to see any other doctors. Every time Jacin has to give him a shot, he can’t stop shaking for hours after.
Scarlet has stopped putting her chickens in a pen, letting them roam freely instead. When she and Wolf do renovations on the farmhouse, the first thing she does is rip out the iron trellises over the windows, the ones that make her feel trapped, that remind her of prison bars. Winter schedules one of the Rampion crew reunions to be a day trip to a local zoo. Scarlet pretends to be sick that day. She just can’t stand to see the cages.
Kai refuses to keep guards around his bedroom. He never locks the doors in the offices in the palace, and only allows Torin to own copies of his keys. Despite lots of outrage from his staff (and later, the press), Kai refuses to carry an ID chip anywhere on his person. Levana is dead and gone, and can no longer control him. Kai doesn’t care. It may be irrational, but he never wants to feel like a prisoner in his own home again.
Iko can’t be out of her body. She clings to it, despite how illogical it is, despite the fact that newer, better versions are becoming available to her all the time. Beauty matters less to her now-she’ll gladly accept physical flaws if she can say that they belong to her. Without a physical body she can call her own, Iko finds herself questioning her identity, doubting her humanity… She’ll take a few dull wires over an existential crisis any day.
Cinder has days when she’s scared to speak. She has days when her voice feels like a loaded gun, her finger perpetually caught on the trigger. With her voice, she could control all of the people she loves. She could kill people. She could turn into a tyrant, like her mother, like her aunt. With her voice, she could make a choice, an order, that might hurt people, unleash oppression, or start a war, and to Cinder, that’s even scarier.
They survived a war. They survived being criminals, being leaders, being fugitives, being soldiers, being prisoners. And they are okay, for the most part. They are. But there are some things that stay with you, no matter what. And the survivors are the ones who have to deal with the aftermath.