Title: The Grand Design Author: Capella Rating: G Time Period: Post BoT, pre BoA Spoilers and Warnings: for BoT Word Count: 996 Summary: Alone in the desert, Anna moves on. Notes: Inspired to a certain extent by "The Last Resort" by The Eagles, particularly the lines "cause there is no more new frontier / We have got to make it here". Because if Anna is good at anything, it's making it work, wherever she is. This is a chance to know myself, she repeats to herself whenever loneliness threatens to overwhelm her. Most of the days, she doesn't need to. She has a routine that, though it rarely varies, is nevertheless comforting in its familiarity, like the finely-woven robe she wears before bed at night, when the sun has set and the chill sweeps over the desert. It is one of the few physical items of D'ni she still possesses, and it reminds her of Aitrus' surprise after their visit to the surface- that a place so sun-scorched by day could become cold at night had fascinated him. She cares for it with the utmost reverence, the same way she cares for everything here. She is not entirely unaware of the passing of time, retiring to bed when it's dark, noting the tiny shifts in the environment that marks the change of the seasons. But she doesn't put any effort into tracking the days, not as she once had done. Instead she loses herself in work, the task list seemingly never-ending for a single person. (She refuses to admit that; it is too close to regret and loss.) There are stretches of time, she doesn't know how long, where it barely even hurts anymore. It is blisteringly hot outside, the summer at its peak, and today is a day where she will not leave the shelter of the rooms. She has been feeling a compulsion to decorate, so today she has an arrangement of newly-made earthenware vessels that are plain. She sits at the rough-hewn table and begins to work, her hands precise and economical of movement, sharp contrast with the way her mind darts from whimsy to notion, a small animal chasing after an item tossed on the wind. She needs these days when she can take a break from the tasks needed to survive and allow herself to enjoy whatever she fancies. The mind needs time to relax, she'd been told over and over by her father, who preferred quiet contemplation. Young Anna had always sought external stimulation to spark her imagination. Now, older and wiser, she treasures the moments where her mind could explore whatever it wanted, unfettered by anything outside of herself - a lesson she'd taken too long to learn. Today her mind pictures water. Waves crashing against a rocky shore, the white spray leaping into the air above the dark grey stone, hanging for a single perfect moment, and falling. It is easy to smell salt on the air, imagine a cool breeze blowing against her face, hear the rhythm of the waves as they come in to beat against the shore and then be pulled out again by the tide. Whenever she imagines places, she does it this way, as she always has. Building an entire world in her mind, vivid with all the sensory details she can muster to make it as real as she possibly could, has been second nature to her forever. As a child, it had allowed her to view many environments that she had read about in books, but that she had never actually seen. Down in D'ni, it had been useful for her to keep her sanity in the weeks she spent in the prison cell. And when she and Aitrus had planned Gemedet, then this ability of hers flowered to its fullest; what was lovingly created and nurtured in the soil of her mind had been translated into the world, the real world, brought into being from her pictures and their thoughts and his pen. And what a world they had brought into being between them! Lost, now, just like Aitrus, just like D'ni, just like their son- She opens her eyes, feeling none of the refreshment from her brief mental jaunt that she had expected, marred as it was by pain. She looks down at the pottery under her hands, surprised that it has been worked on this entire time. She has unconsciously begun to paint D'ni garohevtee around the outside of the bowl, and the fact that the designs she reaches for unconsciously are from D'ni strikes a painful chord in her heart. Life in the Cleft has felt cold and empty, and suddenly Anna realizes that what has been bothering her is not the starkness of the desert; it's the feelings inside that paint the outside bleak, not the other way around. She gently wraps the bowl in a cloth and puts it in the very back of the storage room. It's not the bowl's fault that its maker has uncertainties, and she's sure she'll want it again soon enough. And no point in the wasting of good material, either; she is practical as always. She returns to her table to mix more pigments to work on painting the next item, and she vows that this time, it will be different. Deliberately she chooses bold bright colors of earth for today's pigment, reds and oranges and yellows, and she chooses to use the geometric patterns she recalls seeing in the city of her youth, when her father used to take her to see the merchants. Another day, whether it be months or years from now, perhaps she will be able to decorate her pottery in the form of D'ni without pain. Now, though, she resolves with a sudden burst of renewed energy, now will be a time for new beginnings, for reassembling her life again. Anna is a survivor; she has done it before, she will do it again. To celebrate new beginnings, she finds it appropriate that she has decided to reach back in time, for the old patterns of her youth. She thinks Aitrus would approved of them, and for the first time feels warmth - not loss - in her breast. Ah, at the end, we return to where we came, and find it changed. Or is it I that have changed? The ending is not yet written- there's life in my bones yet.