When they all were younger, sometimes Faye had to fight to get them to recognise her as an equal. There was an old, gnarly tree on the outskirts of the village which was the tallest thing for miles around. When Kliff scoffed that she wouldn't be able to climb it, she went the highest of any of them, even though looking down made her feel dizzy and it took her nearly an hour to muster up the courage to come back down again. She lost her footing somewhere, sprained her ankle, and got the scolding of her life from her mother.

But she always felt like it was the right thing to have done. No one questioned her after that. She stopped being 'the girl' and started being 'just Faye'. Well, to Gray, Tobin, and Kliff at least. To Alm, she'd always been 'just Faye'. That was why she liked him the most.

Faye felt that Alm understood her best of anyone in the village, and thought he might feel the same way about her… well, after Celica left. That was why she had to go with him to war. The boys were good enough, but what would Alm do if he needed someone to bare his feelings to? Everyone had been able to see that he missed Celica after she was gone, but only Faye was allowed to see him cry.

So off to war she went. She stumbled and bled and wept and killed so many men that at some point she stopped counting, and wondered if it was bad that she didn't care.

The war changed everything for Alm.

But she was still just Faye.

Sometimes she dreams of the time she climbed the tree, only she'll fall, down, down, down, and break open at the bottom, feel her abdomen crack along the line of a scar - the closest she came to dying - and watches so much blood pour out of her that it makes a river and sweeps everyone away.

Faye's not sure what the dream is supposed to mean.

The scar is ugly, starting at her left hip and making an angry line towards her breastbone. That's how it feels to her when she's reminded of it; she remembers the face of the man who did it, his absolute fury and the satisfied smile when he carved her open.

Faye's husband kissed it once, on their wedding night. Please don't, she asked, and he never did it again. But he looked bemused and said, It's a part of you.

"No it's not," she whispered. "It belongs to someone else."

He didn't understand.

(Faye sees that man all the time in her dreams, with his satisfied smile. There's no doubt that the scar is his.)

She wakes out of those dreams with a sob and the thought I'm dying, I'm dying. She can never find her sword. The walls are thick and suffocating, closing in on her. She doesn't feel Dan's warmth beside her.

Run, run.

There are no swords in their house, as much as Faye's hands itch for one. She used to keep one - an ornate thing that Alm, the King, gave her - but she would find herself holding it sometimes, staring, feeling like she was living in her old, scared self. Dan came downstairs and for an instant, for just an instant-

The frightening part was, she could imagine killing him so easily. She knew how he would bleed if she cut his neck, how he would stare in pained shock if she stabbed him in the belly.

It wouldn't really have happened, of course. She's not a soldier. She's just Faye.

Faye sent the sword back anyway. Alm gave her a hunting bow instead - "something practical" - and that bow is what she carries when she runs away. Faye's never killed a person with a bow. She clutches it desperately, clinging. I never killed anyone with a bow. There isn't a war.

I'm not a soldier.

But Faye still doesn't feel safe again until she downs a stag, a doe, a rabbit; once a bear. Blood makes her feel safe. There. See? It's not mine. It's not Alm's. You can still kill. You're safe.

The bear made her the talk of the village for months. Even taking only the choicest cuts of meat, it took two trips to get it back. Everyone saw her covered in blood. Someone shrieked and fainted, yelling that Faye was dying. No, I'm safe. The blood isn't mine.

Well, the bear made people talk to her. She knows people are always talking about her-about the way she buys her wood chopped, because she can't stand the sight of an axe around the house. About her 'hunting trips' that go on for days at a time, bringing enough meat to supply half of Ram. About Dan, coming second to a king (except that's wrong; Faye never loved a king).

Everyone is always talking about Faye, the veteran, but they're wrong. She wants them so, so badly to be wrong. She wants very desperately to be 'just Faye' again, the girl who laughed and loved flowers and Alm, who wanted things to grow, who climbed trees to prove she was brave. 'Just Faye' could hunt but she didn't need to. 'Just Faye' knew how to swing a sword and wasn't afraid of bandits, but didn't know what it was like to kill a man or to be so scared that she forced herself to do it again, again, again.

But for the veteran, it's so hard to pretend. The sight of an axe swinging down makes her jerk and think Oh gods I hope it's not… before she remembers where she is. She still wakes in the night, afraid she might waste what's left of her life in sleep, but they aren't preparing for battle when the day breaks. She can't bring herself to visit Alm, because she remembers how many people she killed in his name, boys just like Gray and Tobin and Kliff, and how pointless all those deaths were in the end, when Duma was the real enemy.

And Dan. Dan looks at her like she's the most wonderful thing in the world. Like Alm never did - like Alm never could have done, but 'just Faye' wouldn't have minded.

Faye knows why. The war never touched Ram Village, but it lives in her; in her dreams, in her scar, in the way she misses the weight of a sword in her hands when she's startled, and the way she hefts her hunting bow and thinks clinically, yes, I could kill a man with this.

And as much as she tries to pretend, she can't ever be 'just Faye' again.

A/N: Wrote this a while ago and happened to stumble upon it again recently. I am so weirdly obsessed with Faye. The ending doesn't feel quite right, so I'd like to hear any comments you have.