Title: Best-Laid Plans
Timeline: Somewhere between GS phase 41 and phase 48.
Summary: They don't talk about after the war.
They don't talk about after the war.
Over the desk in the glorified closet that serves as the captain's office, they drink instant coffee and they talk about battles still to come. The plans they make together are about strategy and warfare, tactics constructed and picked apart bit by bit, examined from all angles, rearranged and reassembled and picked apart again.
Murrue rubs her fingers over her forehead briefly, then makes herself rest both her hands on the desktop. "The trouble is, everything depends on when one side or the other makes the next move."
"Well, it can't be helped." Mwu has turned his chair around backwards, his arms folded loosely over the back of it. "Our objective is to keep both sides from accomplishing their objectives."
"Which are to destroy each other." Her voice comes out in a sigh.
"Right," he says.
"I feel like we're waiting for the sword to drop," she admits quietly, looking down at her hands where they lie curled on the surface of the desk. "Just trying to think of everything that might possibly go wrong, in case it does."
"It's one of those unwritten rules of war," he says. "'If you plan for it, it won't happen.'"
Do you suppose that works in reverse, too? Murrue wonders, but doesn't say it out loud.
"Usually I'd say you can't win a war only fighting defensively," he says. "But..."
She finishes the thought for him. "We're fighting to prevent more bloodshed."
He makes a little hn sound in his throat. "This is a strange war we're fighting."
"All war is strange," she says.
He's watching her face very closely, though his voice remains light. "Second thoughts?"
"It's a little late for that, isn't it?" she says, and then sighs. "I just can't help but think... how can there be so many things in the world worth killing for?"
"Once the shooting starts," he tells her, "everybody kills for the same reason - because if you don't, the other side will kill you, and your comrades."
"And on the other side," she says, "they're killing you for the same reason."
He's quiet for a while.
"When you say it like that," he admits eventually, "it doesn't make much sense."
She doesn't feel like it, but she smiles anyway.
"Even if it doesn't make much sense," he points out in his matter-of-fact way, "that doesn't really change anything," and she knows that he's right.
"No," she agrees, quietly. "There can't be another Bloody Valentine, or another JOSH-A. It has to stop somewhere. I just... wish there were a better way."
He spreads his hands. "It's not a perfect world."
"The best thing," he says, "would be if we could find a way to defang both sides."
She thinks about this for a moment, and shakes her head. "The best thing would be if we could bring both sides around to our way of thinking."
"You can't make a fanatic change his mind," he says, and shrugs. "But we can make it harder for them to do so much damage."
"Take away their toys and say 'play nice, children'?"
He laughs at that, and after a pause, in spite of herself, so does she.
"Murrue?" he says, and unexpectedly she finds her throat closing. She shuts her eyes against the sting of unwanted tears. When she opens them again a long silence later, he's watching her face, and frowning a little.
She tries a smile. It comes out lopsided. "I'm sorry. Where's the line between planning for contingencies and just worrying, again?"
"A few hours ago, probably." He pushes up from his chair, floating in the ship's almost-nonexistent gravity, and catches the corner of her desk to bring himself around it.
He holds out a hand to her and she takes it. "I'm just tired," she apologizes, letting him pull her up out of her seat; "we all are."
His hands settle against her sides, and she finds herself studying the loosened collar of his uniform from a few inches away. "I think that means it's time to stop thinking about it for a while," he says.
"Thinking is easier to start than it is to stop," she says, mildly. "Like war."
The laugh hitches gently in his throat, an amused little heh. "We can't have that," he says. "If our captain loses her spirits, how can the rest of us do anything?"
It is the opposite of encouraging... but somehow endearing all the same. "Shut up," she says, and reaches to pull him down for a kiss.
Author's Note: A few things occurred to me recently. The first was that I keep having random ideas for shortfics and vignettes featuring these two characters, coherent enough to write out but not really substantial enough on their own to post as stand-alone oneshots. The second was that this fic is awfully small and slight for such a grand sweeping title, so if I was going to give up and start posting a series of oneshots and shortfics a la the likes of MapleRose and Seigi-san, I might as well use this one as a starting point.
So here we are. This fic is now a series. Film at eleven.