Note: I never write second person. Or present tense. But nothing else seems sensible when you're writing about a player-character that you don't want to give a specific race/class/etc. Weird. I just love Haurchefant, okay?

The mortifying truth of the matter is that a little wyvern is the one that manages to sink its teeth into your forearm. You know how it should be; the Warrior of Light should never let her guard down. Not even when she's being given a tour by a good friend on a rare quiet morning. It is just that the mountains look so beautiful from up among the peaks when you have the time to stop and look.

It had been Haurchefant's idea, naturally. He had coloured it in the light of a cultural trip, something to help bring your nations together. You know him well enough by know to be aware that this was absolute nonsense. Perhaps he had seen the weariness in your eyes after a long few weeks of travelling, or noticed the careful manner in which you were trying to hide an ache in your left knee. You would not be surprised if this was true. He has been watching you carefully, as of late. Whatever his motivations, you had surprised yourself in accepting readily. A chance to leave the city for a reason other than bloodshed, a precious opportunity to relax a little.

That's all you had been doing, stopping to look at the sun glinting off of distant snow and breathing in the clean, chill air while safe in the knowledge that someone else was there to look for dangers. The wyvern had appeared out of nowhere, cresting the nearby ridge and knocking you down with one powerful wing. You had scarce managed to draw your weapon before the needle incisors pierced through the scant armour of your forearm.

Haurchefant had felled the beast. It had been easy, of course. You had been careless. Now, crouching in the snow and holding your arm out before you and watching crimson droplets of blood staining the snow, it is not the physical pain that makes you feel weak.

"Forgive me," your companion says, pulling his weapon from between the scales of the intrusive beast and darting towards you. "I should have been on guard."

You shake your head and offer a pained smile. Usually, this will suffice. You have made yourself quite a reputation as a strong, silent woman. You have found it easier this way. It would be too easy to blame the loosening of your tongue on the stinging from your arm rather than the beauty of the vistas that had so blinded you, and the selfless concern of the man kneeling beside you.

"As should I," you reply. "It was foolish, to come here."

He looks shocked to hear more than a few words from you, his eyes brightening, and that is almost worth having admitted your weakness.

"Not at all, friend. You deserve one morning of respite."

"Not if it puts others in danger," you say with feeling, noting a graze on his cheek. "We should-"

"Hold still!"

His voice is urgent, serious, but it is not his tone that stops you mid-sentence and leaves you slack-jawed with shock. Did he just . . . interrupt you? You are not vain enough to find this offensive by any means but you speak so little that you have become used to people listening when you talk. So overcome by surprise and confusion, you fail to understand as he takes hold of your elbow and raises the wound in your forearm close to his eyes.

"Poison," he decides. "Nasty little creatures. I have no antidotes prepared. I have failed you again, my-"

It is probably spiteful to interrupt him. You do so anyway.

"I can manage to reach the city."

He seems to sense that your pride has been wounded worse than your arm and gives you one of those dazzling, true smiles you have come to expect from him.

"In usual circumstances I have no doubt," he agrees. "But I know these enemies, friend. The cold will sap even your strength. Pray forgive my forwardness. You may chasten me later, if you must."

Without further explanation he lowers his head and seals his mouth around the bite, staining his own face with your blood. Too shocked to wrench your arm back from him, you stay frozen in place with your lips parted, unsure whether to laugh at this absurdity or worry about the seriousness of your injury. You forget to do either of these as he leans to the side and spits mixed blood and venom onto the snow, once more lowering his mouth to your skin and drawing the wound free of poison.

His mouth is searingly hot in comparison to the coldness of your skin, you realise, and his lips are soft. You do not blush. Even a Warrior of Light is not innocent to the ways of the world. But you do feel a weight settle on your heart, something long felt but ignored. Perhaps he is aware of this. Perhaps not. You cannot blame him for it, for the way he is and the way you admire him for it. Only this man would fail to think twice before acting in such a reckless manner, no one else would have invited you in the first place, and you cannot imagine even the proudest Ishgardian to have taken such joy in showing you the sights from among the peaks.

No, you cannot blame him for this. It is your fault, after all. You have shown him weakness, yes. Maybe you have spoken too freely around him in turn, his honesty and enthusiasm being infectious. You should be a fighter first, a symbol second, and never a woman, with a heart that has room for matters other than Eorzea and Peace.

You should not have come. Realisation dawns too late. The snow is messy with poison and blood and ugly reminders of the way of the world. The wound is clean, the stinging abated. Yet, against your skin you feel yet again the soft touch of his lips. No longer urgent but a lingering, warm gesture. Relief? Perhaps that is a part of it.

You mean to ask a question, or to make a joke, anything to make this moment meaningless and forgettable. Precocious as always, he beats you to it.

"Would you believe me if I tell you it's an Ishgardian custom of well wishes?"

His voice is soft and his eyes closed. You raise your free hand to his hair, barely touching the silvery strands and let it fall back to your side in silence.

"Is it foolish to ask that you pretend to believe?"

There should be words you can say to make this okay. Such a wonderful, easy morning now feels more difficult than even the hardest battle. You are good at killing. Feeling is a different matter entirely. You borrow a little of his impulsiveness and lean forwards to press your lips to his forehead. A mere brush but now you can feel your cheeks colouring after all, your pride and composure almost beyond saving.

"A custom of gratitude," you say simply. He understands. The look he gives you is grateful, heated with emotions that he must find so difficult to repress with a nature such as his. The beauty of the scenery pales in comparison to this, a moment of pure agreement, something that does not need the words you always struggle with.

It cannot be, this bond between you. It cannot, but it is and acknowledging it for the first time makes it burn all the brighter. You think perhaps that you should have acted less affected, or that he is to blame for crossing the line you so carefully tread in your dealings with others.

"Damn dragon," you say quietly, choosing something upon which you can place the blame.


He gives your wrist a soft squeeze before letting you go and rising to his feet, offering a hand to help you up.

"We should return, alas. Poison or no, bloodloss is no trifling matter in temperatures such as these."

Of course. You nod in agreement and allow him to begin leading you down the mountain.

"You should speak freely to me more often, friend," he says in a low voice, as if afraid the mountains may hear. "Your voice is all the sweeter for its lack of use."

A final twist in your heart to remind you that it was a mistake coming here, or of meeting this foolish, brazen man at all. Despite everything, you smile.

"So long as you do not spread the word that I even know a single curse."

He laughs aloud at that, and your relief bubbles out of you in an answering chuckle.

"I shall protect your secrets with my life," he replies and you know he is being honest. After all, his own lie entwined with them.

You keep your eyes on the distant city during the trek back to the manor. Anything to keep yourself from reaching for the hand hanging just out of your grasp.