A/N: Ahh, Titania and Rhys. My favorite pairing: she destroys all which stands in her way, and he patches her up afterwards. Titania doesn't need patching up often, so that helps prevent Rhys from getting ulcers, too. :) I would like to note that I don't actually patch Boyd up too terribly much; actually, Oscar gets in trouble more often. Boyd just seems like the kind of character that were the characters not completely under my control at all times, would most often require Rhys' attention.
The rain weighed down his orange bangs. Mud splashes his immaculate white robes and the wind froze his white face. But he didn't care.
Rhys had a job to do.
The sounds of battle raged around the priest: the clash of metal-on-metal, the stomp of horses' hooves and running feet, the death and battle cries of men and mounts. Squinting, Rhys sought out each of his allies in the fray, examining them for injuries. There. Boyd. Rhys hurried over as the axe-man stumbled away from yet another blow. As soon as he came within range, the priest raised his staff with both hands and channeled its power towards the fighter. The clear blue stone set atop it flared with a brief but powerful light, illuminating the immediate vicinity momentarily; when it cleared. Boyd was well and whole. "Thanks," the green-haired young man gasped before charging back into the fray, his square jaw set with determination.
"Do try and keep yourself in one piece this time," the healer called after him, knowing it was in vain. Boyd was his most frequent patient. It wasn't as if the youth tried to get himself beat up all the time, but he did a pretty good job regardless. Reckless young fool, he thought with a sigh, and turned to look for anyone else who might require his attention.
Suddenly a dark shape detached itself from the chaos to block his path. Rhys only barely managed to dodge as a bloodied, gleaming slice of death came swinging out of the darkness with potentially fatal force. Before the priest could utter so much as a sigh of relief, the weapon – a large, heavy-looking sword – swung back up over the head of its mounted unit, this time making a few passes through the air to gain momentum. A critical! He couldn't take a critical. As the blade descended again, Rhys realized with a cold certainly that he was going to die…
CLASH! A shining white axe materialized to intercept the blow, and suddenly Rhys was forced to move back as Titania's white charger forced itself between him and his attacker. With deadly grace, the paladin disengaged her weapon from her opponent's and neatly overcame every disadvantage inherent in a battle of axe versus sword in two precise strokes. Her opponent dispatched, Titania turned and extended one armor-clad arm to Rhys, who obediently took it and swung up behind her. He'd barely gained his seat before she wheeled the stallion around and sent him racing away from the battle, forcing the healer to wrap his arms around her armored waist and hold on for dear life. Something about this seems a little backwards to me, he noted with irony, but he was too busy attempting to keep Titania's thick red braid out of his mouth to point out the humor of the situation to his Paladin in shining armor.
Finally he felt Titania begin to slow her warhorse's pace, and as the steed halted he heard her say, "They won't pursue you this far." Rhys took this as his cue and slid gratefully off. He would never grow entirely accustomed to riding.
"Try not to get yourself killed this time," she said. Just as she was turning her horse again, Rhys noticed a trickle of red down her side, seeping out from under her armor.
"Wait, Titania, you're injured," he informed her, stepping forward with his staff in hand.
"No time," the Paladin answered, and spurred her stallion forward with a yell. Rhys stepped back in surprise as mud was flung onto his already mostly brown robes by the horse's churning hooves. What on Earth? Titania usually had more sense than this. Without hesitating, Rhys pointed his staff at her rapidly retreating figure. Immediately she reappeared beside him. Her horse shied, startled and bewildered at finding the very ground beneath its hooves abruptly different from the preceding moment. Titania swore, which worried Rhys even more, then reined in both herself and her mount. Once the beast was reasonably calm, Rhys stepped forward. Titania opened her mouth to say something, but he beat her to it. "I'm not letting you back into the fight until that wound is taken care of," the priest stated, calmly but firmly.
"Boyd is getting killed out there, and you're worrying about a little scratch like this one?" Titania demanded.
"It's not a scratch, it's a fairly serious battle wound. Besides, this will only take a moment."
"Can take care of himself," Rhys interrupted her, "or he'd better damn well be able to by now. Now hold still." The fearful, slightly despairing look in the Paladin's green eyes worried the healer, but he ignored it as thoroughly as he ignored the way her horse pranced under her impatient grip on the reins. There was no time to worry about these things. Raising his staff, he sent its power out to find and heal Titania's wounds. There was a flash of light, and she was whole again. She prepared to ride out once more, but was given pause as Rhys placed his hand on her arm. "Titania." She looked at him. "Take care of yourself," Rhys said quietly, his eyes flicking worriedly over her face. Something was wrong, something was making her more reckless than usual, and he had no idea what it was...
They stayed that way for a brief moment; then Titania nodded, her eyes flicking downwards briefly as if to examine her own heart. Facing forward, she urged her stallion back into the fray with a yell. Rhys sent a brief prayer to the goddess as he watched her go, then turned to resume his own duties.
Later, when the company returned to base, Rhys was tending Boyd's wounds when suddenly he felt compelled to ask, "Boyd, when are you going to acquire some sense?"
Boyd gave him an affronted look. "Hey," the fighter protested, "I get by."
"You do," Rhys admitted, "by the skin of your teeth more often than not."
"Well that's my business, then, isn't–"
"No." The priest cut him off with such unusual force that Boyd stopped and stared at him. Rhys calmed himself, with effort, then continued: "Were you a solitary warrior, then yes, it would be your business. However, you are a member of this mercenary company, and everything you do on the battlefield affects us all. Half the wounds T–" He stopped himself before going down that road, and tried again: "A lot of the wounds I treat come from defending you when you've gotten yourself into yet another situation you can't handle."
The fighter leaned forward as he responded, "I never asked for anyone's help."
"Well we're never going to stop giving it," was Rhys' reply. "We care about you too much to let you die." Finished, he raised his voice to call, "Next!" Knowing he'd been dismissed, Boyd left the small room in which Rhys conducted examinations.
The healer preferred to perform this task in an enclosed area because there were no other patients to distract him from the one he was currently working on. This time, however, his strategy failed him; when Mia walked through the door, his mind was still so fixed on Boyd and the problems the headstrong young fighter caused that it was only her cheerful but strained, "Hey Rhys!" that alerted him to the young myrmidon's presence. He blinked, looked at her– and blinked again.
"Mia," the healer began as he hurriedly prepared the materials he would need, "that is a rather nasty puncture wound you have there -- from a longsword, it looks like."
"It's not my fault this time," she informed him as she limped over to the cot sitting along one wall. "He attacked me."
"I am not concerned with who attacked whom," Rhys told her, coming over with a soft, clean rag in his hand. Dipping it in a bucket of clean water, he began to clean the wound. "What I want to know is why you weren't the first one at my door when this is quite possibly the worst wound I've seen yet."
"I couldn't get here any sooner," the girl explained, grimacing and clearly doing her best not to yank her leg away. "I wouldn't have gotten here at all if Ike hadn't practically carried me."
"I see," the healer murmured, then sighed. "It looks like you're going to need a lot of stitches."
"Great," Mia muttered, wiggling the toes of her free foot. "Just what I always wanted. Can't you just wave your little stick-thingy and fix it?"
"That spell is only truly effective on the battlefield," Rhys informed the petite soldier. "It relies on the increased energy levels caused by such stressful circumstances to enhance its effects. Without that, the most I can heal that way are small cuts and scrapes."
Mia made a face. "Why does life have to be hard?"
Rhys smiled. "Well, I would tell you it builds character, but something tells me you wouldn't appreciate that very much," he said lightly.
"I've got plenty of character. I don't need any more. See?" She stuck her tongue out and thumbed her nose, then winced as Rhys began to stitch her leg-wound closed.
"Hmm. Indeed," Rhys muttered. "You and Boyd alone constitute about half my workload."
"And Titania, right?" Mia asked knowingly.
Rhys gave a little start, then shook his head. "I don't suppose it will do any good to ask how you came to that conclusion."
The myrmidon shrugged. "It's not like it's some great, womanly secret," she said. "I've just noticed how protective she is of everyone, even when it gets her hurt. Has she always been like that?"
The healer frowned, trying to remember, as his hands worked on without his conscious guidance. "I... don't know," he admitted. "I don't believe so, but then the company has never been in this kind of situation before."
"Someone should go talk to her," Mia said, with a glance at Rhys that suggested that he should be that "someone." "She's going to get herself killed." Rhys raised one orange eyebrow at the wounded warrior as he finished bandaging her injury; she held her hands up as if in self-defense. "Hey, call me a pot, but that kettle is black!" He smiled.
"Well, you're not dead yet, anyway," the priest told her as he stood up. "See that you keep it that way."
"Great! Thanks!" Mia jumped up, winced, then limped energetically to the door. Rhys watched for a moment, wondering in bemusement how exactly she pulled that off; then, shaking his head, he called in the next patient.
Let's hope this one doesn't give me any more to think about.
Later, when everyone had been treated for their wounds, Rhys remembered what Mia said. Leaving the examination room behind, the priest set off to find Titania. He began to worry a bit when he couldn't find her at first, but finally he had an epiphany. Sure enough, when he pulled open the barn door and slipped inside, there she was, leaning her forehead against her horse's neck with a currycomb dangling loosely at her side.
It was odd to see Titania without her armor on; as a matter of fact, Rhys had nearly forgotten what she looked like without it. The knight's muscular frame actually looked shrunken to his eyes, but he knew that was just his mind comparing this image to what she looked like in battle, sitting atop her powerful battlesteed heavily encased in metal. She wore a red velvet jacket liked in gold over a white, silver-lined, high-collared silk shirt that wrapped over itself in front. Her somewhat greenish-brown boots were held up by leather straps that ran over her dark blue-clad thighs to attach to a belt that was perhaps a slightly different shade of brown than her boots. Her usually fairly orderly red braid was in disarray, and her shoulders were bowed in a way that suggested something more than mere physical weariness. For some reason, this bothered Rhys more than he would have expected it to.
"Titania?" She jumped, and the teeth of worry gnawed a little harder on the healer's insides. Usually, Titania was aware when someone approached her before one would think it possible. She turned to face him, and visibly relaxed.
"Oh, hello Rhys." Relief gleamed faintly in her emerald eyes. "Finished already?"
"You never showed up for an examination," Rhys said disapprovingly.
"Oh, I was just taking care of Cadell," the Paladin told him, patting her horse's neck to illustrate her point. "He serves me so well when human warfare should really have nothing to do with him."
Rhys sighed. "Titania, you know those exams are necessary. Even if you think you're fine, you never know what my staff may have missed on the inside during battle." For a moment there was no answer, as she first dropped her gaze, then turned to continue currying Cadell. Then, so quietly Rhys almost didn't catch it:
"I needed to be alone."
He softened, and reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. "Titania, whatever's wrong, I'm willing to listen."
She sighed. "I'm just so worried." The currycomb circled against Cadell's coat more vigorously. "Greil... well, you know how he looked after us, after the whole company, and now he's -- he's gone." Hearing the catch in her voice, Rhys turned Titania around by the shoulder and gently pulled her head down so that when the first sob came, it was muffled in the front of his robes.
"Oh, Rhys," her voice was anguished, "what is this thing that's happening to us? How many does it plan to leave us with when it's done?" Rhys felt his own face contort as tears slipped from his eyes like refugees; finding himself face-to-face with the questions that haunted him in the formless night, he could only answer with the hideous, terrifying truth:
"I don't know," the priest whispered. "I don't know." Then for a while they didn't speak again; instead, they leaned on each other, cried on each other, and comforted each other until finally both were spent. Then Titania heaved a sigh.
"I just worry," she murmured. "About Ike, and... about everyone. If they can kill Greil, what chance--"
"Don't think like that," Rhys interrupted; pulling back a little, he lifted Titania's chin gently so that he could look her in the face. "Greil was a great man, but he was not invincible." He gave her what he hoped was an earnest look. "We will get through this." Then, pleadingly: "Smile for me?" Titania reluctantly obeyed. The smile was weak, but it was there, and Rhys was glad to see it. "That's much better," he said, smiling back. "You haven't smiled in so long, I was beginning to fear that you'd never try it again."
Titania laughed. It seemed at that moment like the most wonderful sound in the world to Rhys, and he felt warm inside at hearing it. "I'll try to worry less," she promised.
"Well, good," Rhys said firmly. "You can't protect us all by yourself, you know. And furthermore," he added, placing a finger over her lips before she could speak, "as the company healer, I forbid you to try. We can't have you wearing yourself out trying to be everywhere at once."
"Yes, Mother," Titania replied, rolling her eyes at him.
"Well, someone has to look after your health," he answered. Smiling, the Paladin began to disengage the hug, but on a sudden impulse, Rhys stopped her by tightening his embrace slightly.
"Although," his voice was lower than usual, "I had hoped you would think of my concern for you in a... different way." His insides fluttered; he definitely hadn't been planning on saying that when he came down to the stables. But Titania's eyes lit up; reaching one hand up behind his neck, she pulled Rhys' head down towards her own (he was thinner than her, but still slightly taller). The kiss was light, but sweet, and they pulled away smiling.
"Oh!" they heard someone say. Surprised, the pair turned their heads towards the door to see Mia and Boyd standing there, looking shocked -- especially Boyd, who was staring at them with a gape-mouthed expression of bewilderment that would better suit a fish. Rhys flushed, but Titania just smiled at them.
"Yes?" she inquired, as if nothing was at all strange about the scene the youngsters had just walked in on. Mia shook herself.
"Um... we were just looking for some practice weapons..." she faltered. Titania pulled away (an action Rhys sorely regretted) and bit her lip, thinking.
"I... don't believe we remembered to bring any with us, when the base was attacked," the staff officer said thoughtfully. "I'm afraid you may have to make do with sticks. If we do have them, they're in the tack room." She gestured towards the back of the stable.
"Ah, that's okay, we'll just... use sticks..." Boyd interjected, having recovered, and dragged Mia (who had by now dissolved into giggles) away. The door closed behind them, and Rhys and Titania looked at each other.
"It'll be all over the castle in no time," Titania stated matter-of-factly.
Rhys shrugged. "Oh well," he said uncomfortably. "There's really nothing we can do about that."
"I should finish grooming Cadell," Titania said regretfully. Trying to ignore his disappointment, Rhys nodded.
"Be sure to come up to the castle for your exam when you're done," he instructed her.
"Just my exam?" Titania asked playfully. Her emerald eyes sparkled wickedly at him. Rhys allowed himself a smile.
"We'll see," the healer answered, and left.
A/N: Heh, I wasn't planning on any of that any more than Rhys was. Pretty much, after Rhys got Titania to smile, I was just following my inner muse. I think my ending was a little weak, but let me know what you think -- especially if you have an idea for making it better. I love feedback:)