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fic - the faithful and the brave : 23 [novella] - the turnip patch
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fic - the faithful and the brave : 23 [novella]
Title:  The Faithful and the Brave
Part:  23

The Faithful and the Brave
Part 23

"After graduation, you thought maybe you would serve with Uncle for a while, but you didn't think you'd want to continue on with a military life."

"That's true."  Heero took the cloak his sister handed to him, and then the vest.  He draped them carefully over his arm as he retreated from the water's edge and turned his back to her, settling into an easy stance on a couple of rocks to avoid leaving obvious footprints in the soft dirt.  Night had fallen, but there was moonlight enough that keeping watch was not an overly stressful burden.  With three days' journey behind them, it seemed they had escaped pursuit thus far, but there was still the usual assortment of hazards in the mountains.

Sylvia swept a hand through the water and shivered at the chill.  Even had they the leisure for a more complete bath in the stream, she would have declined.  She wet a washcloth instead.  "When this is over... What do you think you might do?  What did you think then?"

"I never had any real plans.  I thought I'd have at least a few years to figure it out.  Continuing to serve was the obvious choice for me.  I went to the Academy to learn those skills.  And it's... a proper role, for someone of our station.  I've certainly no interest in administration, and I was never much of a scholar.  But now... Now I understand better how the world works.  And I think perhaps I never had much real choice at all."

"You and I shall settle down somewhere," she declared.  Loftily, like a dreamy little sister.  Loftily, because it was just a silly little game at this point.  "Where shall we live?"

Heero played along.  "Where would you like?"

"Somewhere quiet, I think.  Peaceful."

"Fovoham?  I thought it was both quiet and peaceful, when I was there."

"Fovoham... That's where Quatre and Wufei caught up with you, isn't it?"  She had hoped, with the easy way in which he had brought it up, that he'd been indicating a readiness to speak on it, but his silence did not encourage her.  "With all that's transpired these past days, you've managed not to tell me what happened after you disappeared."

"Well.  We've been busy."

The weakness of his argument said perhaps he was ready after all.  "I asked after you, when Une came back.  She said you chose to stay behind in Sanq.  That you would return when you were ready."

He shifted his stance thoughtfully.  "What she said was true, as far as it went.  There was an explosion.  I had a concussion.  I am not entirely certain I would say there was much conscious 'choosing' being done at the time.  But yes, Sanq was where I wanted to be that night.  I wanted to find Zechs.  But my fervor died not too long after, and I was set aside.  My chocobo came to me, I think.  I don't remember climbing on, but we apparently rode off into the night together.  And ended up in the Windflats."

"Wing was a plains chocobo, wasn't he?"

"I think so.  It might explain why he wandered out there instead of returning to Igros."  He paused to stare a little more closely at a patch of shadow, but it was the wind stirring a branch, nothing more.  "I woke in a field of flowers.  Wing was hovering nearby.  A little girl was standing over me.  We exchanged some words.  She handed me a flower.  She was picking them for her mother to set out in the rooms of the family's inn.  I gather she finished her business, went home, and offhandedly mentioned to her father that she'd found a strange man sleeping out in the fields."

She laughed softly.  No doubt no one had found it funny at the time, except perhaps the child, but such things could be laughed at in retrospect.  Even Heero seemed to make the attempt at lightness.  "Oh my.  Did he come charging out to chase this vagrant away?"

"He did.  Found me right where she'd left me.  Wing ran away as he approached.  I must have been quite the sight.  There was that explosion.  I hit the dirt.  There was fire, soot, as I dug through the debris.  Blood from where I hit my head.  I was still dazed on top of that.  And still clutching that flower.  I was fortunate he chose to take pity on me instead of running me through in defense of his family.  I would not have put up a fight."

"He sounds like a good man."

"He was kind enough to take me back to the inn, and he called the local herbalist.  The family tended to me until I came back to myself.  I had very little with me, very little to offer in gratitude, but I offered what I could.  I did odd jobs for them during the day.  Watched over the common room in the evenings."

"Is that where Quatre and Wufei found you?"  She hadn't the whole story of the investigation, but she recalled it involved the questioning of villagers in Sanq and even Wing himself.

"Yes.  I... had a lot of time to think."

"Brood, you mean."

"Brood.  Perhaps.  Quatre tells me the concussion could have contributed to my foul mood, but...  You know as well as I that I've a propensity toward such things, when left to my own devices for too long.  I was... in a dark place when they found me.  Lost.  Doubting my place in the world.  Forgetful of the people that loved me."

"Perhaps the concussion did make things worse.  I know your moods as well as you, but this seems unusually bleak for you."

"Perhaps you simply never allowed me to fall so far."

"You are, however, being quite typically hard on yourself.  Come now, Brother.  You were properly grateful.  You did work for them.  You did not forget yourself entirely."

"Not entirely, perhaps.  But I will not excuse myself.  I need only --"  Make amends, he'd thought to say, but his conversation with Duo flashed to mind, reminding him that there were no such debts between friends.  "I need the reminder, to guard against such a mood befalling me again."

"As you will, Brother.  I shall hold you to that.  And what else shall you remember, hmm?"

He smiled faintly.  "I shall remember my sister's ire toward me, as guard against disappearing from her life again."

"I shall hold you to that as well.  You may turn around now.  I tire of talking to your back."  He turned as she finished tying the laces on her blouse, but she wasn't done yet.  She handed the washcloth to him so she could remove one of her boots.  "Feel free to make use of that, Brother."

"It would take more than this little washcloth to clean me up properly."  He'd splashed a bit of water on his face earlier, and considered himself well satisfied with the luxury.

She wrinkled her nose, the expression quickly replaced by a small eep of triumph.  She set her boot down on the rock beside her, peeled off her sock, and wiggled her toes in the water.  "Yes, I suppose.  I like you better without your armor."

"I would not be a very good guardsman without my armor."

"Quatre and Wufei don't wear armor, and they make perfectly fine guards."  She reclaimed her washcloth since he wasn't going to use it and set it to the dust clinging to her calves. 

"They're mages."

"Duo doesn't wear as much armor."

"Duo is... Duo."  He picked up her boot to inspect the sole.  But he hardly missed the arched eyebrow she threw his way.

"Hardly a sufficient excuse."

He pulled the dagger from his belt to pry out a small rock.  "His style is... different.  He doesn't engage the same way I do.  Quick strikes, and then he's gone before the blow can be returned.  Heavier armor would only impede him."

"Perhaps you could learn a thing or two from him."

"He and I have sparred before.  I am no match for him in his own style, as he is no match for me in mine."

"But to fight, each in your own style?"

"We fight well together," he answered, exchanging her first boot with the one she had just removed.  He thought back to their fight against Odin and his men, and how the two of them fought against such odds.  An image of Odin bleeding out on the floor flashed to his mind, and he wrenched his mental eyes away from that swiftly spreading pool of blood.  His focus landed on Duo's back instead, framed by the doorway he had so cleverly chosen for his stand against all those guards outside.  He next recalled the tawdry invitation Duo had issued to mask his suggested plan.  The memory brought a bubble of faint amusement with it.

Sylvia pressed her lips together in a poorly concealed smile.  Not that she needed to bother.  Had Heero been lost in his own thoughts when he'd answered a question she had not asked?  He certainly was lost now in those thoughts.  She knew what would bring him back out.  "He fancies you, you know."

Heero blinked.  "What?"

"Duo.  He fancies you.  Surely you've noticed."

"Of course I've noticed," he answered with an odd tone, as if he couldn't figure out why they were talking about this.  "He's... expressed his interest quite clearly.  Repeatedly."

She studied his face intently before leaning in to whisper conspiratorily.  "And you fancy him."

"Sylvia," he chided her.  "Perhaps you have spent too much time in frivolous company recently."

"You're not denying it," she responded cheerfully, pulling her socks back on.

"Sylvia," he said again, this time patiently.  "Duo fancies... having his way with me.  And that would be the end of it."

"No, I've seen how a man looks at you when all he wants of you is what's under your skirts.  And that's not what I see in his face when he looks at you."

Heero looked at her skeptically.

"Not all of my schooling has been at monasteries, you know."

"Perhaps.  But you've only just met him."

"If he didn't fancy you, he wouldn't spend so much time trying to get on my good side."

Heero frowned.  He knew they'd spoken, had even been present for some of it, but he hadn't thought much of it.  "Duo likes a good conversation.  He's probably just tired of talking to the rest of us."

"He asks about you."

"It's quite normal to talk about things you have in common."

"Yes, and certainly he can't like you nearly as much as I like you, but we both like you all the same."

"He enjoys a good challenge, and you're just a new source of information for him.  He and Trowa have spent years trying to work out my parentage.  Now that he's just recently found out, he's probably looking for something new to chew on."

"My, you've spent the time to figure him out, haven't you?"

Heero huffed in exasperation.  "I just can't win, can I?"

"Not against me, you can't."  As soon as she got to her feet, he held her vest out and demanded that she take it with a stern look, trying to imply that this conversation was coming quickly to an end.  She took the vest, but also took her time.  "Well, I like him.  I think he's charming."

A furrow landed on his brow.  "That's one of his many skills, you know.  That's part of how he does what he does."

"Ooh, tell me of his many skills."

Heero opened his mouth, then snapped it shut with an audible hmpf and thrust her cloak at her.

She took it with a smile and fastened it about her shoulders before returning to the task of tying her vest up.  "It is true, I don't know him very well.  But you, I've known all my life."  She looked up to see him pouting.  Well, sorting through some stones at the water's edge, but it was pouting.  He selected a nice smooth rock and whipped his arm out in one clean motion, sending the rock skipping five times before it sank.

Sylvia took one of his rocks for herself and did the same.  It skipped only three times before it met its watery doom.

Heero chose a third rock, and it too skipped five times.  She pushed at his arm playfully.  "Show off."

"You're just losing your touch."  He held a hand out to her.  "And this is neither the time nor place to practice.  We should get back to the others."

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6 comments or Leave a comment
sharona1x2 From: sharona1x2 Date: February 14th, 2016 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love Sylvia. ♥ I hope her words to Heero about Duo's feelings sink in. Heero deserves that kind of love, if he can be open to it.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: February 16th, 2016 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I tried very hard to get the words brother or sister complex in during Sylvia's introduction, but didn't quite manage it. ^^'

(i also suspect duo himself needs to work on being open to such things, as he usually does.  silly boy.)
sunhawk16 From: sunhawk16 Date: February 15th, 2016 03:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, nice use of canon Heero back-story (assuming they're not all dead now...) And I do have to say that Sylvia is very astute, and obviously approves of Duo. ^_____^
And seeing Heero from Sylvia's point of view is fun... pouting and brooding and all.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: February 16th, 2016 07:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Ha, no, I did not kill off the little girl and her unmentioned puppy.  I'm sure if they were dead, Heero would have moaned and groaned about it by now.

Quatre and Wufei definitely mean well, but I'm not sure they didn't really make Heero's issues worse, giving him time and space and understanding all these years.  He needs a firmer touch. ^^'
ramenkuri From: ramenkuri Date: March 1st, 2016 09:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Lovely quiet interlude!
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: March 2nd, 2016 07:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I always dream up a dozen quiet interludes and then find that the story really doesn't accommodate all of them. =/ Responsible self-editing is the pits.
6 comments or Leave a comment