|No Easy Answer
Author: Libek PM
Spoilers for the Judith novel! A conversation between a younger Judith and Ba'ul, pre-game. What is love?Rated: Fiction K - English - Angst/Friendship - Judith & Ba'ul - Words: 1,067 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Published: 09-02-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8489495
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
What is... love?
Judith blinked, and slowly pushed herself into an upright position.
There were some questions that even a deep, irrevocable connection to another person's mind couldn't prepare you for. And her bond to her friend, as intense as it could sometimes be, was not absolute. She had learned over the years how to hide things from even him, and he had clearly learned the same trick in return.
The fire in their camp was dying, so she stood up and went to put more kindling on it while she thought about his question.
"It means... caring for someone," she said eventually, not quite turning to look back at him.
Ba'ul shifted, rolling slowly onto his back. When he did that, she usually took advantage of the offer to curl up on his belly, glad for the chance to avoid the the uneven forest floor - but tonight, she stayed by the fire.
I care for you, he said.
She smiled, closing her eyes so as to better feel the warmth of the fire on her face and hands. "I know." She added, "And I care for you," just in case he might somehow not be sure of that much.
Is that love?
This question, too, surprised her a little. Judith concentrated on the warmth and murmured, after a moment, "It's one kind of love."
Her father came to mind unbidden, the image of him clear and strong, and it took her a few seconds to realize it wasn't her image. She opened her eyes to dispel it, but said, "Yes. I - loved him, too."
Because you are kin? Ba'ul wanted to know.
Judith didn't answer right away. It was - an interesting question, if she thought about it objectively. She and her father had never been... as close as she was to her friend. Really, they'd had very little in common. It made... sense for Ba'ul to wonder why she had loved him. And, she reminded herself, she had just told him she loved him; Ba'ul thought of them as kin, too. If he wanted to understand what love meant...
"In a way," she agreed, but she knew that wouldn't be a helpful answer.
A dozen other Krityan faces flashed through her mind's eye, and Ba'ul said, They were your kin.
Judith stared into the fire, trying to see its dancing flames instead of the faces. They weren't as clear as the image of her father had been; some of them were vague impressions, based on her own memories and what she had told him of the children she had been friends with in school and the other adults in the village, but they still - stung. "...I didn't - love them in the same way," she managed at last.
Ba'ul's mental voice turned anxious. You are sad. She felt a well of sorrow, and then something else: something she would have called love, if he hadn't been asking her what the word meant. He hadn't meant to make her sad. He didn't want her to be sad. He had only been curious, and he was sorry for asking.
She stood up from the fire, returning to him and his still-exposed belly, climbing onto it carefully. As strong as he was, she was growing, and she worried about hurting him with her weight. "I know," she told him softly. "It's all right."
His response was a gentle reassurance: You could never hurt me.
"...Just because I don't want to doesn't mean I can't," she argued, but she was smiling all the same.
And then, as she had learned to do so well over the last few years, Judith very carefully shuttered her thoughts away from his gaze.
She couldn't remember a time, even as a small child, when she hadn't known what love was - but she remembered the day when she had realized she was wrong about it.
The day she had joined the Great Circle.
Before then, love had been what she felt for her father. Love had been intense and deep and powerful and fragile. The feeling of being held in her father's arms and the feeling of coming home to an empty house because he was working in his lab and wouldn't be home for days. Even when she'd hated her father, she had still loved him in spite of herself. Love was a feeling you couldn't help, couldn't control.
Love could be painful.
And then she had joined the Great Circle, and realized that everything she'd ever known about love was wrong.
Love was much too big for any one person. Love was what she felt not just for her father, but for all the people of Temza. Love was what made her smile at her neighbors each day, and it was gentle. Love was calm. Love was a feeling you controlled each and every day.
To feel love only for her father (the outcast, the troublemaker) was selfish. It was wrong to love him (the odd one, the disquieting one) more than any other person in Temza.
It was wrong to go flying with Ba'ul when she had other duties to perform.
It was wrong to want to go flying with Ba'ul when she had other duties to perform.
Marriage and children would just be one more duty, when the time came.
Judith hadn't wanted to share any of these thoughts with her friend. Hadn't wanted to remember a time when she had believed all of them, wholeheartedly. Hadn't wanted to admit that those memories were clearer and stronger than any of her memories from before.
Beneath her, Ba'ul rumbled with concern, and she realized that some of her feelings must have been leaking. She lifted her head to meet her friend's eyes - and smiled the smooth, perfect smile that she had smiled so many times in Temza.
"I love you," she told him, and she tried to infuse the words with all the intensity she had felt as a child.
Ba'ul craned his long neck so that he could bring his cheek to hers. I love you, he returned, so full of warmth and certainty, so deep and true, that even her best effort felt like a pale shadow by comparison.
She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his head and wished tears still came as easily to her as everything came to him.