What Goes Around...

It wasn't everyday that a beautiful woman dove onto one's lap. It would have been better if it weren't in a mad scramble for the other side of the bar; but beggars weren't choosers. Apparently, the girl felt the same way – she disappeared under the rim of the bar, instead of behind it, and landed in an awkward position between his stool and the empty one beside him. She wasn't from around here – all blonde and blue-eyed; lithe instead of the more stolid fishing types that made up the locals; and the insignia on what must have once been a uniform. It all was familiar, in some vague way, but he hadn't time to seriously think it over before the door burst open a second time.

Ah. Lugar. With two of his men at his back, no less, and looking really pissed off. Charming.

Hiding the gesture as a flinch he glanced down to find the girl frozen and staring through the tangle of wood. She must have been new in town, and either gutsy or foolish to get on Lugar's bad list. The beastman stalked forward, interrupting the bartender's sudden cleaning frenzy with a deadly, low growl; suddenly, she looked up at him.

He couldn't figure out, if she was scared, if she was proud, and whether or not she was asking for help. He went with a bit of each: he imagined she was too proud to ask for help, and too scared not to want it. It was just a theory, but damn she had pretty eyes.

"Where is she?"

The bartender stood up with more courage than he gave her credit for. Although her voice shook, and she had to steady her hands on the bar, she met the beast with an unblinking stare. "I don't know who you're talking about."

Wrong move, he thought, almost sympathetic. Lugar's growl deepened, and he put both massive hands upon the counter to mimic the woman's, and his claws sunk into the wood. "The human who ran in here, not a moment ago. Where. Is. She?"

He hesitated for a moment, and glanced down again. I'm sorry.

Inwardly sighing, he rested his chin in his hand, and called against his better judgement, "Hey."

Suddenly, the attention of all three beastmen, as well as that of the barmaid – and, he guessed, the charming lady on everyone's mind – was on him.

"Was she pretty?" he asked, and Lugar took a step towards him.

"Perhaps," the behemoth grimaced, "By human standards."

"Alright," he amended, and described the terrified girl from the corner of his eye, "Tall, gorgeous blonde? Legs to die for?"

Lugar took another step forward. "Where is she?"

"What do I get for it?" He looked down, miming acquiescence for a better view; she was ready to bolt. Don't lose me now...

"Your life?" Lugar offered, and the beast's dank breath warmed his shoulder.

"Fair's fair." He shrugged, slowly, and smiled up weakly. "You just missed her – made it out the window not two seconds before you got in."

"Which window?" Lugar roared. This time, his flinch wasn't nearly as deliberate, but he swallowed his fear and thumbed at the one behind the counter. Lugar glared at him, then at the window, and back.

"Fast one, she was. If you hurry, you just might catch her."

With a harsh snarl, Lugar and his cronies were gone the way they'd come. Even he had to breathe a sigh of relief at that.

The girl he'd rescued was staring up at him with an amazing expression – somewhere between awe and annoyance. As a whole, he took it for gratefulness.

"You're alright, now." He grinned as she squirmed, trying to work her way out of her hiding place without actually having to touch him again. "Although you should probably get out of the city." So should I, after that.

She was shaking when she stood, and he watched her, having to whip his head around after she'd walked around his back to not miss a second. Lugar was certainly missing out on something...

"Thank you," she said at last. Definitely not from around here.

"Don't mention it." He shrugged, although she hadn't turned around. It was natural. "'Though you might want to stay here, wait for the sun to set." As an afterthought, he smiled, "You can keep me compan-"

"Or maybe upstairs," the bartender offered. He shrugged, and agreed.

"Or upstairs." Turning back to his drink, he found her staring. A loss for words, he ventured.

"Thanks again."

... And she was gone. He never expected to see her again.

oOo

It was two surprises, one immediately after the other; one would have been enough, but together they left her stunned. Eliza was alive... smiling, dancing... bartending, and alive. She was a wonderfully adept Amazon, and a dear friend; for her to have survived was a grace unto itself, and bolstered her hope tenfold.

The second, equally unexpected, yet far more outlandish, was the young man who appeared almost out of the dark. Dodging the sleeping Navarran sloshed over the bar, he scrambled over it and landed with a cat's grace, hiding below the counter, in her plain view.

She knew him. He noticed Eliza first, gaze trailing up the woman skirt in an almost business-like appraisal, but his eyes widened at her. It took a moment, it had been months and she'd long-since dressed down, but he recognized her as well.

And the room was filled with Navarre, asking questions, and wanting to know, giving her the damnest sense of déjà vu. She was thankful for Eliza. The Amazon was confused, but that was easily displaced, and she followed her lead perfectly.

No, no one came in here. No, they didn't know him. Yes, they'd report him if they saw him. Yes, thank you, for saving them from Rolante, and for keeping everyone protected.

They left, as they'd come – the sleeping Navarran didn't budge, and the man under the bar beamed at her performance. He emerged from his hiding place and daintily leapt over the bar; she didn't know better, and wondered if he were making a show of it.

"You know him?" Eliza asked softly, giving the man a distasteful once-over as he brushed himself off and attempted to straighten his worn clothes to something near presentable. Crass, she thought unfairly, but then she'd seen him in better shape.

Whether that was normal, or was this...

"Not... really," she admitted at last. He turned and grinned, a disarming smile that was out of place, and made her believe he'd seen better days.

"Thanks." In a single wave, he encompassed all she'd done. When all she'd done was... what? Save his life? Was that even enough?

"We're even," she said.

But he was already gone.

oOo

Rolante was something to see. Where Navarre was close-quartered and crowded, warm with the sun and the bodies of her people, Rolante was open to the sky. It was grand and majestic... although, it was also rather chill.

As it was, Hawkeye figured he had a little time to waste. He wasn't going anywhere tonight, and chances were he would be safer tagging along with that trio of would-be heroes. And, well...

He snapped his head sideways, and smiled. She had introduced herself as Riesz, Princess of Rolante and Thirteenth Daughter of the Highwind Dynasty. Impressive – if he'd known she was royalty, maybe he'd have thought differently, once upon a time. If he'd known she was Rolante, he might have apologized himself.

"Princess."

The Navarran bowed in a manner that seemed to Riesz a mockery of civility. Perhaps it wasn't intentional, but he carried himself without care, and it showed, in many things he did... not all, but many. She took it in the manner she hoped he meant it, and she saluted in kind.

She stood beside him on the parapet, and looked out across the vast reaches of Rolante, much as he'd been doing moments earlier. Navarre was so far away, too far away to see and always too far away to his heart; but he knew she stared into the rocks and the tiny lights of the mountain villages, and not to the distant enemy.

"Quite a view," he said, mostly to break the silence. Perhaps she'd forgotten he was there, and this was her spot, but he didn't think so.

"I wanted to thank you," she confirmed his thoughts at last. She continued to stare ahead into the jagged mountains, almost emotional, for being so prim and proper. For being so emotionless, he corrected himself. "None of this would have been possible if you hadn't helped me in Jad."

For a fleeting moment, he knew what she meant. She was here for something more than herself, some higher calling than his vengeance; she was here for an entire people, and even if he jaded himself into thinking of all Navarre, in his heart, it was still Eagle, and it was still Jessica. In a heartbeat, it was gone.

"Maybe not." He shrugged and smiled. Riesz had already given him back, perhaps more than she'd ever know. "Maybe it's a kind of fate."

the end


Working Title: Karma

Inspiration: I don't remember properly, but I liked the idea of incidental run-ins.

Noteworthy: First completed SD3 fic?

Disambiguation: Mixture of editions. I feel the translation was decent enough, but that it could have been localized better. (Not that I'm complaining if it gets more people playing.)

Derivative work of material © Squaresoft.