|Somewhere Else's Spring
Author: Annwyd PM
In the aftermath of the last battle, Ravi has to make a decision. But he needs a little help from Rinali first. Onesided RaviRinali, implied AllenRinali.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Words: 1,462 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 21 - Follows: 3 - Published: 09-20-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3162918
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Right now, though, it felt about as lovely and open as a prison cell. The open window might as well have had bars on it.
Ravi slammed his fist down onto the table, pulling his strength in only at the last moment. Things around here were fragile, and he didn't want to break them--well, no, he wanted to break them, but he knew he shouldn't.Beneath his fist lay the paper with the symbols he'd traced from the battlefield after it was all over. He lifted his hand, stared down at the paper, and sighed. It was the old man's writing, no doubt of that--the little flourishes were a clear signature, and a deliberate one at that.
The door opened. Ravi looked up, and he froze, his breath whistling out of his throat and, for a long moment, not replacing itself.
Rinali leaned around the door, still clinging to one makeshift crutch. "Are you all right?" A third of her face was still bandaged, but she managed to look beautiful anyway.
Ravi had gotten used to that, or he thought he had, but it never quite went away. "I'm fine," he said. "Been pretty crazy the past few days."
"I know," she said. "I hadn't gotten the chance to tell you--"
Rinali hesitated, and for a moment, Ravi had the horrible feeling that he didn't know how he wanted her to answer, and he was all prepared to hate himself for it.
Then she smiled, and he knew that all along that's what he'd wanted: seeing her smile, sensing Allen's smile reflected in it, and knowing that the two of them were safe, maybe even happy.
("Bookmen aren't happy," the old man had lectured him once. "But don't get too worked up about it, because exorcists aren't happy either.")
"He woke up yesterday," she said, "and he ate pretty much the whole food store here. Then he fell asleep again. But he'll be all right."
"That's good," Ravi said.
Rinali paused, gathered herself up. "I wanted to say that I'm sorry about the Bookman."
Ravi stared at her blankly for a moment.
She reached out a hand. "Did I say something wrong?"
He caught her when she stumbled on her crutch. "No, it's okay," he said. "It's just--uh--the old man's not dead."
She blinked. "But--the battle--"
"He disappeared," Ravi said. "But the symbols left behind in the dust were his. He..." He scowled. "Damn panda mentioned he might do something like this. It's a test."
Rinali pulled herself back to her own two feet and took a step back. "What are you supposed to do?"
"If I knew it wouldn't be a test, would it?" He made himself grin at her. "I think I have a pretty good idea, though. The first step is finding him and telling him what I've learned."
She returned his grin with a smile more genuine than any he could remember coming up with himself in the past month. "So why are you still here? You're not too injured, you could have said your goodbyes any time and gone--"
And there she cut off. Ravi realized, to his embarrassment, that she was looking at him, and something in her visible eye told him that she knew a little of what he was thinking.
But not all. He said, "I'm not leaving. I'm not going to take his test and I'm not going to be a Bookman," and she still had the decency to be surprised.
"But this is what you've trained for all these years," she said.
"Yeah, I know," Ravi said. "And it was a mistake. I should've figured it out earlier. I'm not cut out to be a Bookman."
Rinali eased herself off the crutch and leaned back against the wall. She looked at him closely. "How do you think he'll feel when he realizes you aren't coming after him?"
"He'll be relieved," Ravi said. There was too much bitterness in his voice. He wasn't used to it. "He'll find a better apprentice, train him to be a better Bookman than I could ever be."
"I don't think he will," she said. "I think he liked you. A lot. I--" She hesitated. He felt himself hanging on her words, as he always was, as he always had been. "I don't know much about how parents treat their children, but I think you were just a little bit like a son to him."
Ravi swallowed hard. "No way. The old man's smarter than that. He'll get another apprentice, one who'll do better."
"Are you sure?" The way she was looking at him--
--it broke him, a little. "No!" He frightened himself a little with how angry he sounded. "I'm not sure of anything! All I know is that I'm no Bookman and I'm not made to be anything else, either. Dammit, old man, it's not fair!" And then he snapped; he drove his fist into the table and this time he didn't hold back. The wood cracked and broke.
And then her hand was around his wrist, pulling him away from the splinters before they could dig into his flesh. "I like you," she said.He stopped. His face felt hot.
"I don't care if you're not the perfect Bookman," she said. "You're still good enough. Maybe better."
"I don't know," he said.
She smiled again, and something inside him ached. "Maybe you can even change what it means to be the perfect Bookman. I'd like that."
He hoped he wasn't blushing. "Maybe I'd like that too." He looked down. "Sorry about the table. I should probably find out how to pay for it."
Rinali straightened up. "I should go back to Allen. He might be awake again." She turned to limp towards the door.
"Wait," Ravi said. It slipped out before he could stop himself.
"Never mind," he said, and he looked down again, studied the shattered wood at his feet.
"Are you going?" she asked after a moment.
"Yeah," he said. "I think so."
"Good luck," she said. "When will Allen and I see you again?" The Allen-and-I was almost one word, and Ravi felt weirdly proud of her for managing to make it that way, when so much had conspired against her to take him away from her."I don't know," he said. "I don't know much. But--" For a moment, he felt stupid, even stupider than usual, and he let it show. "I'd like to see you again when we're both feeling better. But not here. Not now. I want to see you in spring in some foreign place we've never been to before, somewhere and somewhen we're both, both stronger, okay?" He found himself stumbling over the words as he looked up.
She had turned around again, and she was smiling at him once more. "That's--really sweet. Okay. I think I can do that."
When she had left, he knelt among the shards of wood and began pushing them all into a pile.
I'll see you again.
I'll see you again, someday when I can protect people like you do.
When I can protect people like you.
When I can protect you the way you protect him.There was still something aching in him when he left, but he told himself it was only the kind of ache one gets from growing stronger.