Lesson Number Five

When he was a kid, he was always playing stupid war games. He and Vaan would get caught up in all these elaborate games, like he was a knight in the Dalmascan army, and Penelo was the princess, and Vaan was some evil Imperial trying to capture her. He'd come dashingly to her rescue, but most of the time she didn't really want to be rescued because Vaan was telling her some funny story, so the game would end up less a save-the-damsel-in-distress and more a convince-Penelo-that-he-didn't-really-do-that.

But he liked the idea of war, more than Vaan and certainly more than Penelo. He liked the daring aspect of it, the glory of fighting a war in some other country, wanted the bloodlust he'd heard so much about from his father. His father was never in the army, no, but he did know people who were, and painted this glorious picture of it.

Vaan thought he was crazy for all the games he played, all the daring stunts (most of which weren't really daring, but none of the other kids would do them, so by jumping into the waterways, he'd get labeled "cool", even though the worst down there were a few rats, nothing he couldn't handle) he pulled, just for fun. But he liked that. He liked the game.

But he couldn't play his war games after his parents died, because he had to take care of Vaan, even though Vaan could take care of himself just fine (and told him this all the time). But he wasn't going to risk anything happening to his baby brother, especially not since his dad told him to watch out for Vaan, make sure Vaan's okay, don't let anything happen to Vaan.

And he didn't. Wouldn't. Ever. But then... When the war started, he wanted to join. Desperately wanted to go. But he wouldn't, because Vaan still needed him more than he wanted to think.

And then one day, Penelo looked him in the eye and said that Vaan would be okay without him, that her parents could take care of him, and that Vaan wouldn't mind him going off to war because they all knew it was something he really, really wanted. And then Vaan told him the same thing.

So he went. Telling himself the whole way that he was doing it for Vaan, doing it so his brother could be free, not because he wanted glory.

He learned fast on the battlefield, the first lesson that glory doesn't happen often. It wasn't all flashy fighting and great champions saving the day. He was just a face in the masses to his enemy and to his allies. No one here really bothered to learn each other's names, and he didn't really stand out at all, just like the rest of them with a little training and a lot of green behind the ears.

The second lesson - war is bloody. He didn't think it'd be all amazing charges and the-good-guys-always-win, but he hadn't expected this. After the guy next to him got his arm lopped off, and then the one in front took an arrow straight between the eyes, he started to think that he might have been better off in Rabanastre.

But he held on, held on now because everyone back home was trusting in him to come back safely, and he couldn't, wouldn't leave Vaan alone to fend for himself. Less about glory and winning now, more about staying alive.

His third lesson was quicker than the rest - do what it takes to keep breathing. And if that meant using your battle partner as a human sheild after he's taken four bullets to the heart, then so be it. Whatever it takes, that was what he'd do. And he started to think that he'd never be the same again, after the second night of fighting in Nalbina, that he'd never be able to go back to the Mhuthru Bazaar and laugh like the rest of them, or dance with Penelo, or fight off some jerk giving Vaan a hard time ever again.

His fourth lesson was that war changes people. He wished he'd learned that one earlier.

But he hadn't, and there was no putting it to use. It just was and the best thing now was to keep going, because that was the trick. Keep breathing, keep moving, one foot ahead of the other, and you could survive, at least for another second.

And then he found himself with a small group on top, heading into the fortress, trying to stop the king from signing the treaty. And he had no idea what had brought him there - everything was fuzzy, and he didn't want to remember it anyway - but he just went in, just followed. Captain Basch led the way, and gave him a much-needed leg up.

No one was shooting at them, and only a few Imperials stood in their way. He thought, for a moment, that it was going to be okay. And then he walked into the treaty room, everyone around him dead or dying or worse, and learned his fifth and final lesson of war.

When it comes to staying alive, don't trust anyone but yourself.

He didn't have time to wish he'd learned it earlier.
(A/N: Didn't have time to edit it, so there might be mistakes. Not sure I like this one, but I've been wanting to write Reks for a while, so... Review!)