By Sulia Serafine
[A Protector of the Small fanfic set in Tortall with a different ending; all credit goes to Tamora Pierce. I'm broke, so you can't sue me. WARNING! SPOILER FOR SQUIRE!
This is the sequel to Unforgettable Amnesiac. I'm thinking about turning this into a trilogy. Or maybe, in honor of Pierce, a quartet.]
If this were a perfect world, I wouldn't be standing here thinking about what made a perfect world. Well then, with that said: if this were a perfect world, the villains would be really obvious. They would wear big signs on them reading 'we are evil' and it would be all too easy rounding them up and punishing them for their misbehavior. If this were a perfect world, the good guys-- and girls-- would always win and go parading off into the sunset. They would have also managed to rehabilitate the villains so that the former menaces-to-society were now upstanding citizens.
And if this were a perfect world, HE wouldn't be sitting over there, eyes downcast and perfect lips in a melancholy little pout.
In my life, I have learned to tolerate many people. I have loved my family, my friends. I have liked my teachers, my instructors. I have disliked rude persons, or if I were to gently put it... "not prefer certain company". It was very rare that I ever had hatred.
I know, I know. I'm getting to the point. Why I am so frustrated, right? Can't you tell the last couple of paragraphs have been filled with frustration? Dissatisfaction? Disappointment?
A while ago, if someone would had asked me about Joren of Stone Mountain, I would have replied that I did not prefer his company. A polite understatement. I would have been thinking, under the surface, that I hated him.
I want to hate him NOW. It would be so familiar and-- I hate to say this-- EASY to settle back into the old footing of rivalry. Or, if you will, him trying to drive me away because he's a chauvinist, raised from conservatives. I was raised with progressives... non-conservatives. I am open to new things, and have a belief in justice and equality for all. I've even been called an idealist, something I'm rather proud of.
But back to the point. He's not the young man who fought me. The young man who made my life a living nightmare. Who punched me while I punched him. Who spat words of venom from his pearly white fangs like a snake. And was I the tiny field mouse, about to be devoured? I should hope not.
That's probably what he feels like now, though. A mouse, trying to run from all his predators-- who take their shape in the form of unforgiving people and gossipers. I feel deep sympathy for his family. A bit less for his father than I do for his mother. Don't ask why.
We, on the Progress, are currently camped out in a space between two cities. A circuit of tents and wagons and watchmen have been set up. Lots of soldiers and Riders and men of the Own. There's a lot of safety here. It feels like a caravan with all these varieties of people camping out, as it were-- save for the important people. They've managed to camp on more suitable places than in tents. Like wagons with makeshift beds. It must be more comfortable than where I am sleeping.
It's still bothering me. This former rival nonsense. How can I hate someone who has no idea of the damage he's done? Of the lives he endangered or the insults he's thrown? There's a part of me that I'm ashamed of. It's the part of me which had sadly become accustomed to his ways. And now that they are no longer his ways, than my ways are no longer mine, either.
I'm reading far too into this, but thoughts should be deeply analyzed every now and then. Better than having a mess of emotions later on. So, here I am, trying so hard to concentrate on what Neal and Owen are arguing about. I can't really hear what they're saying. The sight of my former foe and his... his kitten... distract me.
Has Pockets grown so much since I last saw her? Maybe it's just me. Ah well, it has been weeks. Months. It still strikes me now how someone like Joren cuddles up to a cat so much. But I guess he's not really Joren anymore.
"Kel! Are you listening?" Neal waved a hand in front of my face.I blink.
He sits back from where he had leaned over the table. Before I could turn back to my food, he follows my gaze. His easy-going expression dropps. He becomes rigid. "Just forget about it, Kel. It's not worth lingering over."
I put down my cup, a little too hard. Some of its content splashed out. I suddenly don't see a reason to with hold my opinions anymore. Okay, keep calm. Calm. Calm. Calm...
Aww, forget it. Tiny tantrum, that's all. Okay... here goes.
"Look at him! It's not worth lingering over? How could anyone just ignore it?"
Esmond shakes his head. "I'm sorry. I just can't forget about what he did. Memory or not."
"It's not the same. He's sorry for the things he did, and he doesn't even know what he did." If I can forgive him, why can't they? Alright, I'm a hypocrite. I just said not too long ago that I still sort of hate him, but now I'm not so sure. But I did forgive him. Mostly. Well, I lied. On the inside, I didn't accept his apology... but can't they see the injustice of persecuting him for not knowing what he's done?
"You see? Mithros' Shield! How can we trust that he's sincere about it if he doesn't even know what he's done? How much it hurt to be around a brat like him?"
I look down at my plate. Something tells me that if I meet his eyes, I'm going to regret it. But he's right about some things, though I don't want to be reminded of it. "Because he's alone. I know what it feels like to be singled out."
"Then he gets a taste of his own medicine," he replied, cooly. I thought Neal was better than this. Isn't he the one always talking for hours on end about certain fair and unfair things with me because he'd read it in some philosophy book? I mean... I don't know what I mean. Goddess, help me. Just end this night soon.
There was a long silence after that. We continue eating, no one bothering to look at each other. I suppose I had stirred up mixed feelings among all of them. I didn't mean to. Or maybe I did. Things have to be stirred up. People make progress by stirring things up. They cause impacts.
Owen finally spoke. I silently thank him for breaking the ice.
"How... how do you get used to seeing him as a different person?"
I put down my spoon and let out a deep breath. He's giving me a chance to persuade them over. I'll make the best of the opportunity. "He holds himself differently. Not proudly, if you'd notice, like when he was still snob. And his hair. Don't tell me you can't mistake him for someone else. Sometimes when I see him from far away, I don't think it's him at all." I pause. Then I smirk good naturedly. "And he's always toting around Pockets."
"Well, I should think he would. I mean, they're sewn into his tunic," Neal shrugged.
Oops. Misunderstanding. "No, I'm talking about the cat. Her name is Pockets."
This sparked a large amount of notice among my three companions. They all turned around in their seats to stare at the amnesiac blonde. At the time, Joren was eating with one hand while the now larger kitten hung out of the opening of his jerkin, delightfully pawing at something in her master's shirt pocket. Joren supported her with his free hand.
"Well what do you know," Neal muttered with wide eyes. "He's become a cat lover."
Esmond chuckled, a bit forced if you ask me. "Well, if that's the case, he's fine by me. For now. Just don't expect me to become his best friend."
Why would I expect that? I just want them to realize that Joren is not the Joren we knew. And they seem to be taking it in. They see his new look, his new behavior. His cat. For all my years, I would never have thought he'd start to like cats. Daine told me that she was the one to let Joren have Pockets. It was the perfect thing to pacify his anxiety.
"I'm going to talk to him," I informed them and picked up my plate.
"But..." Owen began.
"But what?" Yes, what? They're still being stubborn? After my little righteous speech? "He's sitting there alone. I'm just going to talk." What did they think I was going to do? Challenge him to a fight to the death?
"Just don't start fighting," Neal warned, semi-serious.
I glare at him. He holds his hands up in defense. I shake my head. "No. Just talking."
They say nothing as I get up and walk over to the small makeshift table at the edge of the large camp. The rest of the guys have resumed eating their meals, preferring to occupy themselves with other topics. Fine. I'll talk to them some other time and hope to get better results.
Here I am. Standing right next to him. Holding my plate and drink, a little unsure of what to say. Pockets does it for me. She mews and tries to climb out of her designated spot in her master's clothing. I don't want to sound like one of those girls who fawn over anything, but that little pink nose and little whiskers could melt anyone's heart.
Joren looks up from his food when he realizes what Pockets is doing. He puts down his spoon so he can keep her from falling onto the floor. "Oh, Keladry, right?"
"That's me," I nod, trying to smile amiably. He gestures to the bench across from him. I set my plate and cup down, then sit. Pockets wriggles some more in his hands.
"I'm sorry. She wants to--" he doesn't finish. He doesn't need to. I hold my hands out to accept the kitten into my embrace. She immediately dives for my belt pouches. The little creature, I have figured by now, has an insatiable curiosity for what humans carry around with them. And I really do believe there's nothing Joren can do to break her of the habit.
I stroke her down from the top of her head down her back. Purring is her response. Joren glances back and forth from me to her. He clears his throat a little.
"So, what do I owe the honor of your visit?"
Wow. He really must be a totally new person if he's using that language on me. I must say though, he looks really pale and jittery with me around. I wouldn't be surprised if his hands were cold and clammy now, too. Neal did that sometimes around girls he liked. But I don't think Joren likes me like that. He's just nervous because I'm actually talking to him.
"Nothing. I just wanted to say 'hello'," I told him. That was true. I wanted to say hello. And I'd said it. So what now?
"Oh. How has your time on the Progress been?"
What do you know... he can keep a conversation going better than I can. That's good. Or else we'd be sitting here in silence. "Tiring. I'm tired of getting challenged by all these conservative knights."
He laughed? I blinked. "You're amused?"
"Oh, it's just that I'd be terrible at jousting. Paxton isn't that good, but he's been trying to teach me anyway." He shrugged. "I haven't seen you though. I assume you're good if they keep challenging you."
Wow. That's the second time he's surprised me with his actions. The more a person talks to him, the more you definitely see that Joren before and Joren after the Ordeal are two seperate people. Of course, I already knew that. It's still astonishing to see it as it is.
"You may come and watch any time you like. Don't you attend the jousts?"
He shook his head. "No. I spend my time memorizing lists of relatives and short descriptions of them. It's the only thing that seems to keep my mother from bawling her eyes out whenever she sees me."
"Oh." That's sad, but he seems very casual about it. I guess he's gotten used to it so it doesn't bother him anymore.
We talk for a long time. Pockets is finally done investigating my possessions and goes back over the table and into Joren's jerkin again. She is playfully swatting a part of his tunic that was loose when we get up to deposit our plates for washing.
My friends had already left to do something else. That was fine. I'm tired anyway, and have to rise up early tomorrow to take care of things for Raoul. That is, if Lerant doesn't beat me to it. Joren and I bid each other good night. Pockets leaned forward enough for me to scratch behind her ears as she mewed again. She looked up at Joren in a way that I think wanted him to do something about me leaving.
He laughs and caresses her head. I say good night again and leave the two unlikely friends. That wasn't as bad as I initially thought it was going to be. Now, if I could get Neal, Owen, and Esmond into a that type of conversation with Joren. They could accept him like I have.
Okay, so I don't hate him as much as I did earlier tonight. I blame the kitten for winning my friendship over for him. He owes everything to his Pockets. Well, I'll just say that to myself to make me feel better.
Cleon drops by my tent, still anxious with Raoul right next door. We talk for a long time just outside my tent flap about pointless things, just glad to be in each other's company. And yes, I confess, I little kiss here and there. Still at this point, I can't fully describe the warm feeling I get inside whenever I'm with him. It's so thrilling and dizzying at the same time to be enamored with someone.
We're still reluctant to use the words love and marriage. Very, very reluctant. The last thing I want on my mind tonight is what a mess it is to have Cleon already engaged to an heiress, and me wanting my shield over holy matrimony.
Enough of that! Goddess, what's wrong with me? Am I starting to LIKE lingering on topics of my displeasure? Because that's what it's starting to feel like. What it's... always... felt like. I guess that makes me a natural worrier.
A rustling around in my tent abruptly pauses our conversation. Cleon frowns and lifts the tent flap, his hand on his dagger for defense. I peer over his shoulder, also ready for trouble.
It wasn't exactly the intruder you'd expect.
Pockets sits on top of my bed roll, her tail swishing back and forth in the air. She mews again, that adorable little noise eliminating all tension from before. I wish I knew what gave these baby animals the ability to do that-- make us humans all bubbly inside with their cuteness. If cuteness is a word.
Cleon turns around with a questioning expression. I move past him and pick up the gray kitten, handing her to him.
"It's Joren's cat. He's probably worried sick about her." I pause. "Would you take her to him?"
His mouth opens, a little astounded by what I'm saying. He looks like a fish out of water with his mouth hanging open, but I wouldn't tell my precious redhead that.
"Uh... how do you know?"
"I spent some time with him and Pockets at dinner," I reply, completely confident that Cleon won't explode in jealousy. He's not the jealous type. And especially not when it concerns the least likely person that I could possibly ever be paired with. "She must have separated herself from him after dinner and followed me. Can you please take her back?"
He gulps. "But, dewdrop..."
He looks down at the creature in his arms and sighs. "What silly little things kittens are." He lifted up the tent flap and went back out again. Before I can follow, he sticks his head back into the tent.
"Since when in the world did Joren have a pet cat?"
After Cleon is a good distance away, I leave to follow him. I'm unsure how he would act with more former enemy. I have to admit I'm worried they'll fight. I doubt docile Joren would start it and I feel guilty that my Cleon would do something so juvenile, but I worry about these things. As I mentioned before, at heart-- I'm a worrier.
I take cover behind another tent to see Cleon approach Paxton of Nond's tent, where Joren was sitting outside, poking at a fire with a long stick. A smile graces his features when he see what Cleon has in his arms.
Joren stands up, dropping the stick on the ground. "I've been looking all over for her. I'd nearly given up!"
Cleon pets her head. "What's her name?"
"Pockets," Joren answers. And that was when Cleon found out why it was so. When he finally manages to pry the little animal from his belt pouches, he hastily hands her to Joren.
"Well, it was nice getting to know the little trouble maker," he chuckles. It was forced, I can tell, but I'm happy that Cleon's making an effort.
Joren doesn't seem to mind. "Are you thirsty? You look a little tired. Parched maybe."
"Oh, no. Thank you though. I just came to return Pockets." He reaches forward to scratch her behind her ears. She purred happily. "I ought to get going now."
"See you around."
Cleon nods and moves to leave. He stops mid-step and turns around again. There is clearly indecision in his eyes. But he makes a generous choice.
"When we arrive in Blue Harbor, we're going to wander around the town-- just for fun. The boys and I. If you want to come along, you can." He shrugs.
Joren stares at him hard. "You mean it?"
"Sure, why not?"
The blonde nods. "O-okay."
I smile to myself. I didn't even give Cleon a lecture on it, and he already did the right thing. I'm proud of him. It shouldn't be too hard from this point on.
I don't hate you, Joren. I feel sorry, yes. And even sorrier for feeling sympathy when I know that you don't like people feeling sympathy for you. But the rest is up to you now. To do with how you wish.
Author: Okay, the sequel to Unforgettable Amnesiac. Woo-hoo. There's another part to this story. I'm planning to make it into a quartet. I'm going to be working on other things for the next couple of months. I procrastinate my whole summer for something I meant to do for school. And now I'm paying the price. *insert bloodcurdling scream here*
I assure you, the next part is coming soon-- it's probably the hardest thing I've ever had to write. You'll see why. So you might want to check back for it often. Ja ne, and remember to review, my precious readers.