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fic - the faithful and the brave : 20 [novella] - the turnip patch
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fic - the faithful and the brave : 20 [novella]
Title:  The Faithful and the Brave
Part:  20

The Faithful and the Brave
Part 20

It was difficult to tell whether he was excited or nervous.  Perhaps he was both.  He waited within one of the many foyers of the palace, afforded the courtesy by his blood.  Otherwise, he might have been waiting in one of the courtyards for the lady to come to him.

In truth, he might have preferred the courtyard.  This was a lesser receiving room, lacking in the ostentation of the main halls, but that merely put it on par with the castle of his youth.  Igros had been his home, once upon a time, and it had felt like home, but sometimes, home had meant a weighty, stifled feeling.

The sound of footsteps drew near.  He didn't need to straighten because he had never unstraightened.  He calmed his mind, knowing there was no faking it in this situation, and when she appeared, he no longer needed to fake it.

She smiled brilliantly when she caught sight of him, but immediately toned it down and continued demurely until she had reached him.  She then turned to her escort to dip respectfully and murmur words of thanks. The goodwife fussed at her travel cloak for a moment, leveled a critical look at Heero, and finally excused herself.

"Milady," Heero said formally, offering her a bow.

She pursed her lips and glanced over her shoulder, waiting patiently for the goodwife to disappear around a corner before she fairly leapt into his arms.  "Heero!"

He staggered back a step, but caught her all the same, returning her embrace with slightly less force.  "Sylvia.  I'm--"

She pulled away from him with a disapproving frown.  "All that armor is less than comfortable.  Now, I'm very upset with you, Brother."

"I know."  He paused, unable to summon up any of the explanations he'd conjured during the night.  They'd all seemed woefully inadequate, anyway.  He bowed his head with humility.  "I'm... sorry."

"Is 'sorry' all you have to say for yourself?  For disappearing without a word?"

"I... didn't plan on it."

Her expression softened.  "Quatre told me what happened.  Quatre.  Who was kind enough to send me a letter after they found you.  Otherwise who knows when I would have learned if you were alive or dead."

Heero winced.  "I was not well.  I..."

"Got better.  And where was your letter then, Brother?"

He worked his jaw for a moment.  "You were back at school by then..."

"That didn't seem to bother Quatre, since he sent word even so."

"...And Quatre mentioned he'd taken care of it..."  He closed his eyes and sighed, knowing how pathetic it sounded.  How pathetic he'd been.  He'd hardly been functional when the others found him.  He dropped to one knee and took her hand.  "You have every right to be angry with me.  I was a terrible brother and have given you no cause for forgiveness, and yet I must still beg it.  Please, forgive me."

She frowned for a moment more before tugging him back to his feet and taking his arm.  "You must make it up to me.  Now, come on.  Let's be away from this place.  I was surprised when Une informed me I would be returning to Igros so soon, but I could scarcely believe it when I heard that my escort would be none other than my beloved brother."

"Whom you had not seen for years," Heero said guiltily.

She hugged his arm more tightly as they walked outside.  "This cloud of gloom ill-suits you, Brother, and I'll not see it persist.  You shall tell me of all that has passed, and together we shall see it off."

He smiled faintly for her, but it seemed to take an effort.  "This cloud has lingered long past its welcome.  Should your warm sunlight and gentle breeze manage to overcome it, the land beneath may well be withered."

"I see 'gloom' is perhaps too mild a word," she murmured.  "Withered lands can return to green with care and patient nurturing."

As they stepped outside, they paused to let a squad of four soldiers run past.  Heero inspected their retreating backs with a keen eye toward both their deployment and a convenient change of subject.  "Is it always this busy in the morning?"

"Not always.  Today..."  She decided to go along with the change in subject.  "Today I heard some gossip in the halls."


"It's said..."  Her voice dropped confidentially.  "Something has happened to the queen."

Heero absorbed this bit of news.  "Which queen?"

Her look was just slightly exasperated, though he could not tell if it was because he asked or because the current situation was such that he had to ask.  "The queen mother."

Leia Barton.  He wondered if this had anything to do with Treize's absence yesterday.  "How accurate is the gossip within these walls?"

"It varies.  Have you taken an interest in politics, Brother?"

"It is difficult not to in these times.  One must keep an eye on it, lest one be trampled by it."  He didn't mean to sound so grim, and grimaced when Sylvia picked up on it.

"You must tell me what you have been up to lately, Brother," she said lightly.  "I thought you had taken up the quiet life of a sellsword."

He huffed in amusement.  "Yes, that did happen."

"Is Quatre still with you?"

"Yes.  Wufei as well."

"My heart is glad to hear it.  They have been steadfast friends, haven't they?"

"Yes, they have seen me through rough times."  He thought of the debt he owed them, and then of the conversation he'd had with Duo regarding it.  No, true friends didn't keep score between themselves, but Heero owed them his own steadfastness and loyalty in return, if nothing else.  "You shall have a total of five men as your escort.  We were travelling with two others.  I vouch for their worth."

"My, such an honor guard.  You are all that I need, though I must thank you for bringing Quatre and Wufei to me, that I might express my most heartfelt gratitude toward them.  Have these others your friendship as well as your faith?"

It took him only a moment's consideration to answer.  "Yes.  They do."

"Then I shall welcome their company."

Heero had acquired a chocobo for himself that morning with the others, and requisitioned one from the Khushrenada flock for Sylvia on his way in.  He led his sister to where the birds were waiting, already packed with her belongings, and waited while she introduced herself to her mount.

"Why, hello, there, sweetling," she cooed, scratching around its beak.  It nuzzled at her.  "You chose me a darling, didn't you, Heero?"

"I know what you like in your birds."  He sighed lightly as a wave of nostalgia washed over him.  "He's no Bobby Corwen..."

"But he'll do.  He'll certainly do.  Oh, and hello to you, too," she said to Heero's bird, giving it a pat.  Heero came around to check that her things were stowed securely, and she went to face him across the bird's back.  "You were with a whole band of men, were you not?"

"I was."

"But now you are not."

He was silent for a moment.  "You may pry after events long in the past, Sylvia, but I beg you not ask after more recent history."

She read his somber look and complied.  "Will you force me to pry?  It is most unladylike, I'll remind you.  Won't you talk to me now, before we join your friends?  I've no wish to make things awkward for you."

"How much did Quatre tell you?"

"He said you and Zechs went to Sanq, following Une.  Something happened.  Sanq burned.  Zechs died.  You disappeared."  She shook her head when Heero stepped back and gestured for her to mount.  "I suspect we'll spend most of the day in the saddle.  Are we in a hurry?"

In response, he walked over to his own chocobo and took its reins in hand.  The activity in the castle yard faded as they distanced themselves from the soldiers' quarter, though there was still the usual traffic of daily life.  Their exit, a side gate, came within sight before Heero felt he had to answer.  He had little interest in discussing this while making their way through the hubbub of the outer city, and he wanted it squared away before rejoining the others.

"I wish I could know how I would have reacted, had I not a head injury.  Would I have fled?  Would it have taken so long for me to process what happened that night?  Would I have protested Une's rough treatment of the villagers?  Demanded that she stay to help?  Or would I have followed her meekly?  Come home, graduated, gone off to do the things that I had planned to do with Zechs, with perhaps only the occasional backward thought of regret?"  He shook his head.  "I fear I know the answer.  And it is not flattering."

"If it is your intent to convince me that it was for the best that you didn't come home that night... I will stand convinced."

"It is not my intention at all, Sylvia.  I would have been weak, had I stayed.  I was weak as I left.  In shock for so long.  So what if Une ill-treated the townspeople that night?  Nobles do it all the time.  There was nothing unusual about any of it.  And yet..."  He turned to her earnestly.  "How do you see yourself, Sylvia?  What is your place in this world?"

"Father was unusually kind to us, and to Mother, too, of course," she answered slowly.  It was too large a question to be answered so easily.  "But... I'm not certain what you mean, Heero."

"Forgive me for asking such a question.  Think on it no further."

"Don't be ridiculous, Heero.  You did not ask it without reason.  Nor did I entreat you to talk to me, only to dismiss your concerns.  What is your place in this world?"

"It is a question I have asked myself many times over, and still I have no answer.  Never have I pretended nor even dreamt that I was a trueborn son, and yet we were raised so generously, as you say.  When at that point, on that night, I found myself suddenly caught between sides, asked to choose one against the other... I froze.  I had loyalty both to the nobility to which we were raised, and the common blood to which we were born.  And disagreements with both.  I did not want to choose, Sylvia.  I could not."

She touched his arm.  "I do not fault you for that, Brother.  It is a grave matter to choose sides."

"It's more than that, Sylvia.  I don't think there ought to be sides at all.  I don't know why one must oppose the other.  I don't know..."  He exhaled his frustration audibly.  "I know there is no place in this world for such a fantasy.  I must figure out what role I am to play in this world, for this is the world that we have."

Her steps slowed, and his followed suit.  "I... am not without sympathy.  We are in a strange place, aren't we, Brother?  Sometimes... I have mixed feelings about Father.  I love him still, of course, but... we are where we are because of him, for better or for worse.  And now he is no longer with us.  No longer able to force the world to see us the way he saw us."

He took her hand solemnly.  "My apologies, Sister.  Things must be difficult for you as well.  Perhaps the more so since I was --"

She told him to stop with a squeeze of that hand.  "I am not without recourse.  My schooling was convenient for Treize, that is true, but for my own benefit as well.  I was not a good fit for Victoria.  I would have loved nothing more than to have stayed by your side during those years.  But there are other ways to make one's way through this world."

"And you shall succeed, most assuredly, for you always were a most clever girl.  But know that it has always been my intention to provide support for you, should you wish to part from Treize's custody."  He had accounts into which he stored his savings, with his sister as inheritor were something to happen to him.  Life as a sellsword was not luxurious, but it was decently profitable for a man with few vices.  "Perhaps you will not need it.  But I will not see you alone and adrift in this world, Sylvia."

"Nor will you, so long as I have your love."  She kissed his cheek impulsively, oddly pleased that she still needed to lift her heels from the ground to do so.  "And there you have it."

"Have what?"

"Your role in this world.  You are to be my most loving brother.  And I, your most lucky sister."

He smiled.  "It will be my pleasure and my honor to serve, milady."

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4 comments or Leave a comment
sharona1x2 From: sharona1x2 Date: October 18th, 2015 12:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
What a nice relationship those two have between them! I hope everything is as it seems, and nothing sinister is going on that will shock Heero later.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: October 19th, 2015 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I promise not to kill Sylvia off. ^_^
sunhawk16 From: sunhawk16 Date: October 22nd, 2015 12:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I am oddly looking forward to how Duo and Sylvia interact. I think theirs could be an interesting relationship. :D
This was lovely; lot of carefully reined emotion going on there. And a bit more history.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: October 26th, 2015 05:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, Duo and Sylvia... Well, Heero's got two arms.  There's one for each of them. =D
4 comments or Leave a comment