Those words have finality when said aloud. An indirect farewell. Zavala can't quite see Ikora's expression in the muted reflection from his office window, but he can hear the disappointment in her voice. Beyond the glass, the City seems agnostic to the tempest of emotions. Ships soar through the night sky, lights glitter against the dark, the Traveler looms silently.
"I know," is Zavala's belated reply. He watches as Ikora's reflection reaches toward him, but he's still surprised when he feels the weight of her hand against his shoulder.
"I want to commend them for their bravery," he says, confiding in her. "But I'd prefer they be here to berate them for their foolishness."
Ikora wordlessly squeezes Zavala's shoulder in response before standing beside him at the window. "I remember when you and I felt invincible. When our Ghosts felt invincible. When we could lay the foundation for the future with our bare hands. But now, it’s different. The list of names to memorialize gets longer by the day," she says, watching debris slowly orbit the Traveler. "We've said goodbye to too many friends over the years."
"And who is left to join us now… Rasputin? To think that I welcomed him in," Zavala says, turning his back to the window and the Traveler, "only to find out he betrayed the Iron Lords all those years ago." He looks across the datapads on his desk, jaw clenching. "Are we that desperate that we're willing to accept mass murderers—"
He settles into his chair with a heavy sigh, lifting a hand to his forehead, eyes shut.
"Zavala." Ikora's voice is stern but tempered with concern as she follows him to his desk, her fingers curled against her palms. "Stronger together, remember? We aren't abandoning anyone now." The slight quaver in her voice belies her confidence. Most people wouldn't notice, but Zavala has known her for over a century. When their eyes meet, she sees an unvoiced burden on his face that would appear to anyone else as a merely stoic and unflinching expression.
She sits on the corner of his desk, hands folded in her lap. "You know they'd all be lost without you," she affirms. He doesn't answer, but she can tell he agrees. "I would be lost without you." When Zavala starts to counter her argument, she continues over him, unrelenting. "Out there, thousands of people look to us as a sign of hope. We need that. Everyone does."
"It feels like I'm lying to them. To everyone," Zavala interrupts. "The Darkness is here. We're facing the end of all things, and I..." he closes his eyes, "I feel helpless."
Ikora shakes her head and gives Zavala's shoulder another squeeze. "Maybe we are." It seems a poor thing to say at first, but she continues. "Even so, helpless doesn’t mean hopeless. We forget that sometimes, and instead of embracing our faith in moments like this, we often turn against it out of fear and doubt. When I found my faith diminished, I exiled myself to Io. I questioned everything. Including the Traveler." She levels a knowing look at Zavala, who also recalls how that chapter of their lives ended.
"What has the Traveler ever done for us?" Zavala exclaims, his words strained through gritted teeth as he slaps his palm against his desk.
Ikora gently lifts her hand from his shoulder and searches her old friend's face. She understands the pain behind his words and recognizes the wave of anger in his eyes as it recedes. She rises from the corner of his desk, walking back to the window.
"I'm sorry," Zavala mumbles after the fact.
"It's all right," Ikora replies, gazing up at the Traveler hanging weightlessly over the City illuminated by its light. "If nothing else, the Traveler did one thing right by us." It takes a moment for Zavala to respond to her candor.
"And what was that?" he asks, rising from his chair.
Ikora watches Zavala's reflection in the glass, little more than a dim silhouette with glowing eyes. She smiles softly, and he can see a moment of peace and relief in her expression. A moment of faith. A moment of truth.
"It brought us together."