Once, Palutena had said that she could read Pit's heart through his laurel crown. While she had intended it as a joke, there were times when she could feel some kind of emotion niggling at the back of her head that wasn't entirely hers. She had chalked it up to a kind of sympathy that she'd developed over her long partnership with her angel - a kind that allowed her to sense whether he was truly enjoying himself or if some remark she had made hurt his pride.
She should have figured it out sooner. There would always be a part of her filled with hope and spirit, even when she felt like all was lost. Her angel never gave up, never hesitated. The unwavering drive, hidden just beyond her reason, was not hers - it was his. It was a pillar of strength that emboldened her despite the ever-increasing darkness in the world.
Then, after three years of silence in that corner of her mind, she had felt not one, but two waves of relief once the Chaos Kin had been defeated and her body made flesh again. And just as quickly, her angel flew to the rescue of another - despite the damage it did to his entire being.
Once again there was utter quiet in that place reserved for his emotion. As if the sight and scent of burnt flesh and feathers wasn't numbing enough.
Though, honestly, she wasn't sure she could handle any second-hand emotions with all of the ones thrashing through her at the moment. She'd been so lonely, so empty, when they were separated. Seeing him again had unlocked sentiments previously sealed and hidden away, even from her: need and want and joy, a desire to hold and keep close. She was afraid to call it love - especially when Pit was so still, barely alive, and had so quickly sacrificed so much to help another, even after risking everything to save her.
She had once told Pit he needed to make friends...could she really blame him if he had done so? That instead of celebrating their first real meeting after so long, he would save someone else dear to him? Or was it that he did not quite trust her as he once did? The Chaos Kin may have stolen her voice and her body, but she was still aware of what she had done under its influence. Such pain and suffering...to humanity, the world, and the kindest angel she had ever known. Perhaps she did not deserve his complete and unwavering faith.
There was business to attend to, she was aware. Now that she possessed herself, she could reach out to the battered humans or rebuild her realm. Which she managed to do, barely, in bits and pieces.
Dark Pit seemed fascinated by the debilitated state of Skyworld, and Palutena thought she could sense some disappointment from him when she brought back the pristine marble and gold.
"Would you like me to craft you some chambers? I figure you'd want to rest by yourself," she offered from a distance.
"Don't get any funny ideas," he said, not even turning towards her. "Once Pit's back to normal, I'm leaving. Just get the gear room working."
She lingered, but he did not move from his perch overlooking a floating island still covered in ruins. Part of her wanted to restore them in front of his eyes, out of spite, but her heart was too weary for such play.
The Centurions bustled as usual, carrying news of the Overworld to her attention, and there was an angel in her realm making use of the weapons and powers she had set aside for such purposes. And yet, Skyworld felt empty. Her limbs were heavy, her gaze leaden, as if she was still made of stone. She needed to heal, but she could not heal what she wanted to most.
Pit stayed in her chambers, floating on a soft cloud when she wasn't holding him. Any rough movements cracked the flesh of his wings, and she wanted his room to be clean of blood or ash for him to return to. She could spare him this one horror out of many. Palutena blinked hard; her eyes were raw from crying, and it was exhausting to keep fresh waves of tears from breaking.
His muscles would seize on occasion, his breath rattling through his whole body until it reached the stumps on his back, where the motion would come to a sudden stop. She wanted to run a hand through his hair, to whisper encouragement (though at this point she did not know if she would be talking to him or to herself), but she was afraid of disturbing his fragile state. She caught herself muttering to air anyway.
"Palutena." The voice in her mind was rough and low. Dark Pit spent all of his time in the gear room now, only speaking to her using telepathy. "You worry too much."
That little phrase, familiar to her, made her laugh quietly. "Pit's said that too. You sound like him."
She could easily imagine him bristling in the brief silence after she had said that. "Tone down your fretting, alright? I don't want to be distracted when I fly."
"Why, did I say something?"
There was another silence, whether it was because he was adjusting his weapons or because he hesitated to answer. "You...feel. You know what, never mind. Forget it."
Palutena considered this, looking down at the angel resting in her arms. Pit's breaths were shallow, but they seemed even for now. If the empathy worked both ways...and if Dark Pit, who did his all to distance himself from her, could sense her unease, then perhaps it could reach Pit, even in his current state. That was unacceptable.
She heard Dark Pit sprint out of the gear room and leap into the gate. "I'm out of here!" he shouted, and then she was nearly alone.
Dark Pit did not need her power of flight and resented being watched over, but Palutena couldn't help but point out what she knew of the City of Souls in order to hear herself speak. Perhaps a part of her wished the clone would share the original's curiosity and appreciate some context behind the scenery, or she wanted a distraction from the eerie quiet in her realm. He did seem to listen, and watched the world around him with the eyes of someone with a real thirst for knowing, though she could not determine his reasons for wanting to.
He certainly was not Pit, but she could see shades of her angel in him. He could not be totally bad.
The Rewind Spring came into view.
Save for the disheveled state of his clothing, Pit stood before her as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. His wings were intact, he stood on his own feet, and his expression was as open and hopeful as always.
"I'm home," he said in a small voice, as if he could hardly believe it himself.
Palutena made her way down marble steps to where he was standing. "It's so good to see you safe and sound," she said, smiling.
"Lady Palutena!" he beamed, his whole body perking up as if he would run up to her. Suddenly, his expression fell as something dawned on him, and he dropped down to a kneel.
She paused halfway down the flight of steps, then approached him a little more cautiously than before. He was...guarded? Afraid? Something looming had replaced the joy and relief she had been feeling from him, though she could not understand what. "Please stand, Pit. I...don't think you need to be so formal with me any longer."
He remained where he was, though his wings folded closer to his body. "I...I'm sorry, Lady Palutena. For not being able to protect you from harm. I hope..." he swallowed. "I hope that you'll keep me in your service."
Oh, gods, Palutena thought, her smile vanishing. I've hurt him so much, haven't I?
She knelt in front of him, touching the side of his face to get him to look up from the floor. He seemed surprised that she would stoop to his level, but was quiet. "As painful as it is to dwell on it...I failed in my duties as well. I won't send you away because you couldn't help me, if you're still willing to serve me."
"Why wouldn't I!" Pit reached for her hand, touching the back of it with the pads of his fingers. "You're the goddess of light, of goodness and wisdom..."
"And I am fallible," she reminded him gently.
He seemed torn between maintaining eye contact and lowering his head again, but his gaze was steady as he said, "That doesn't matter to me. I'll stay with you, Lady Palutena. I...don't want to see you hurting anymore."
She smiled a small smile, and he answered with one of his own. Then she reached her arms around him and pulled him into an embrace. He started at the gesture of affection, but brought his wings - restored, healthy, gleaming - around her in response. Her smile brightened when she sensed the uncertainty in him melt away into a barely contained happiness.
"I want to do something for you," he said softly.
She ached to be able to say you do more for me than you could ever imagine, but could not bring herself to form the words. Instead, she took a deep breath and said, "I need you to keep fighting, despite the wounds and hardships you've suffered. Hades must be stopped."
Pit pulled away from her, his expression slightly offended. "You don't need to ask me to do that, Lady Palutena - I'd do it anyway. I can't leave the war unfinished."
Hm. He seemed eager and earnest enough to insist upon his offer, but Palutena knew she shouldn't take advantage of it...as much as she might want to. Which she did, deep within, and hoped he couldn't tell.
He fluttered his wings, which drew her attention to his shoulders, and then to his tunic. "Well...I want you to take a soak in the hot spring."
"Huh? But I feel fine..."
"You might feel fine after that dip in the Rewind Spring, but you look like a mess. Clean up," she said, standing and pulling him up to his feet. "That's an order."
He laughed, spreading his wings. "If that's an order, then I still get to grant you a favor, right?"
"Fine, fine. Now get scrubbing," she said, warping him away with a wave of her staff. She had to imagine the splash he made when he landed in the spring's waters, but it made her laugh anyway. A tuft of feather fuzz lingered in the air where he had been standing, and she caught it in her hand, smiling.
Skyworld still needed fixing, but it felt whole now with Pit's return.
This chapter of this story was inspired by the many different interpretations of Pit and Palutena's interactions I've read here, but most importantly by skywolf666's "To Break Down The Walls" - which you should definitely check out if you haven't already.