By: Manna (Kitten Kisses)

Thanks to Samuraiter! If it wasn't for his perfect portrayal of Fiora and Sain's friendship is his 'fic, One Year, I might not have ever thought to write this.


The atmosphere was noisy, if only a bit too smoky and a touch too annoying, and she found herself watching him- the man sitting across from her- as he tossed his head and laughed gleefully at whatever it was the woman serving him had said. She didn't know what was so funny, really… she had been too busy looking around her as she sat with her hands in her lap, fisted in the white material of her dress.

"Dame Fiora!" he nearly shouted, a broad smile on his face as his sandy hair fell in his eyes. "Are you having a good time?"

She sighed, feeling a bit weary of it all- of his silly actions, of his flirting…of the war… Of everything. "Remind me again why I agreed to come here with you?" she asked dryly, taking only a sip of the drink in front of her before putting her hands back where they had previously been.

"To give a noble, good Knight of Caelin your most gracious company?" he suggested, the smile still firmly in place. When he could see that she was trying not to roll her eyes at him, he laughed lightly and tried again, "Or perhaps it was because we are stuck in Ostia for a few days to stock up on supplies, and I- the noble man that I am- offered to treat you to a night on the town?"

"That is more like it," she answered, allowing one of her hands to delicately play with the handle of her mug. "I am not much of a drinker, myself…but I suppose I did need to get away from all the usual happenings of our little army." She looked at him with her tired blue eyes and sighed for the millionth time that night. "But by all means, I cannot understand what possessed me to come here with you, of all people."

Looking slightly hurt, Sain shook his head and set his drink on the table they shared. "My good woman," he gasped as dramatically as he could manage, "why not me?"

She wasn't given time to reply before a young lady came to their table to pour him more to drink. She found herself looking down at their table, mentally tracing the pattern the knots in the wood made as she half-listened to his flirting and the woman's laughter.

"Sir Sain," she started to say, half-standing out of her seat as soon as the serving girl had gone, "I really ought to be going back now, I have…work to do."

"What?" he asked her, the expression on his face nearly unreadable. "Forget your work, it's all been taken care of! Sweet little Florina promised me that she would even feed your noble steed his evening snack." He smiled a sugary-sweet smile that she was sure would melt the heart of most girls, and held out his hand, taking hers within his grasp.

Gently, she pried her fingers from his own and looked down at him, sighing again. "Why must you compliment every woman on everything? Even my youngest sister can't escape your silly flattery…"

He wrapped his hands around his mug and looked into the distance, his face serious as he thought. "Sit down," he told her, and for once in his life, it sounded as if he were almost commanding her to do it.

And she did.

He pushed his drink to the side and leaned over the table until his face was as close to hers as he could get. "Now listen," he said, a small smile now tugging at the corner of his lips, "you want to know why I compliment everyone? I'll tell you."

She tilted her head at him, her eyes curious. If he had some sort of excuse, she would most likely laugh at him- but a reason… that, she could listen to. She nodded her head in agreement, pushing her aqua hair behind her ears with one of her hands as she leaned in to pay attention to him.

"In the two days that I've been coming here," he started to say, his normally carefree voice lowered to an almost-whisper, "I've found out many things. First, the reason I shower compliments and praise on every woman I meet is because…simply put, they might need it." He blinked hazel eyes at her and rubbed his chin with his hand. "Now, before you can laugh at me and leave like you appear to be considering doing, hear me out. Victoria over there," he pointed a finger at an older woman carrying dirty dishes into the back of the building, "is a widow, forty years old, feeling a little down on her luck… She likes it when customers make her laugh, even if it is at silly old bursts of merriment that only I can offer."

"This sounds more like an excuse than anything," she told him bluntly, tapping her nails on the tabletop. "Are you saying that you flirt for no reason except to amuse others?"

"Partly," he answered. "But then again, not always. Now, Gina over there is a lovely lass, isn't she? She's a mere fourteen years old, and—no, I'm not a dirty lecherous man, let me finish!—she's been a bit down on her luck. She came from a wealthy family, but married the wrong man at a young age…and her family has disowned her. Her husband is dying of fever, and she works to make an attempt at paying for healing for him."

She blinked at him, and sighed. "You're trying to make them feel better?" she asked, almost in disbelief.

He nodded, his bright smile reemerging. "Exactly, my lovely Fiora!" he said excitedly. "I am glad that you understand!"

"But Sir Sain," she said, looking him in the eye as she spoke. "Why do you continue showering praises on the women of our army, then, when none of them need your constant flirtatiousness?" She kept her gaze straight.

"I…ahhh…" he sighed. "Fine, I find that one a hard question to answer. Would you believe that in the last two years, you are the first woman who has agreed to come to drink with me?" He looked away, almost embarrassed. "I suppose I figured that if I was nice to all the ladies, eventually…one would eventually let me court her." He laughed lightly and rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. "It looks like it may have eventually paid off, though, because I have a beautiful woman sitting across from me right now!"

She did roll her eyes then, and made to stand. "Have you ever thought, Sain, that if you would only try to chase after one woman, she might feel special enough to think that you were serious about wanting her?"

She left then, leaving the cavalier to scramble to pay the bill so that he could chase her down. A few moments later, he found her leaning against a wall near the tavern they had previously been occupying, her boots scraping across a stone lying nearby.

"What did you mean?" he asked her, his arms crossed over his chest as he tried to keep his grin in place. "Do you mean to say that I make no one feel special with my words?"

"Forget what I said," she told him, looking up at the sky. "It wasn't really important."

"No," he insisted, pulling one arm free to set it on her slim shoulder. "I want you to explain." He bit back any silly banter that he might have used with any of the other women- women who would most likely understand that he was joking- because he wanted Fiora to take him seriously.

"I…" she paused, stepping closer to him in the dim lighting that the moon had to offer. "I mean to say that…when you compliment every woman, you make none feel particularly special, and your comments of high praise and love becomes meaningless in the long run." Looking him in the eye, she noticed the twinge of regret that appeared for only a moment before she continued, "Any woman who would… think to let you court her would think again when she realized that you say the same things to every woman."

"Meaningless, huh?" He looked hurt for only a moment before he laughed, and the sound startled her. "Well, I suppose I never thought of it quite that way, Dame Fiora, but now that you've mentioned it, I'll…keep that in mind. After all, so many of the lovely young women in our army have found a man that isn't me already! But I daresay that I shall find myself a woman before the battle is won, no?"

She gave him a timid smile and stepped away, but his hand still remained on her shoulder, and he gave it a light squeeze, saying, "Now, why don't we head back…home, I suppose it is, though home is a strange word for it…considering it's not really anybody's home but Lord Hector's…" he rambled on, and she started walking in the direction of Castle Ostia, letting Sain's hand drop uselessly to his side.

She stifled a smile as the motion broke him out of his thoughts and he took a few quick steps to catch up, wrapping his arm boldly around her shoulder. "Since I am walking you home tonight, Dame Fiora," he said lightly as he continued walking beside her. "I take full responsibility for getting you home on time and in the condition in which I left with you. The gentlemanly thing to do, of course, would be to offer you my cloak to stay warm, as it is a bit chilly tonight…but alas! I do not have a cloak…so you must suffer with only my arm as your warmth…though surely my heart is enough to keep us both warm!"

Shaking her head, she let herself smile as she leaned into him a little bit. "Well, Sir," she told him, "I suppose that will have to do for now."

"Do you mean…" she could sense the excitement in his voice, and she chose to play a short game of her own.

"Oh," she told him, her smile turning serious, though inside she was laughing. His words, while usually never very serious, had a way of making her forget many of her troubles, and for that, she was grateful. "I said no such thing." She waited only a moment, when the grip of his hand on her shoulder loosened, before she spoke, "But if you are asking me out again…I suppose I could accept…if…"

"If what?" he asked, his tone eager.

"If you would cease your flirting with the other ladies of the camp," she suggested, "then I would go out with you again. I am a one-man woman, after all, and I would expect no less from anyone else."

"Anything for a beautiful woman such as yourself!" he assured her, his grip around her tightening again. "As Kent would say, it would be the noble, knightly thing to do, right? And so loyal, too! Just like a dutiful Knight of Caelin, wouldn't you agree, lovely Fiora?"

She rolled her eyes and let him lead them home, wondering for a brief moment if she had made the right decision by agreeing to go out with Sain again, but deciding that in the long run that…perhaps it could be for the best.

Author Notes:

Whoa. Well, I was going to say that this was just a "short" piece…but it is almost four pages long…and nearly 2000 words. So it's not really that short after all.

I felt inspired to write this while I was at work today. You know, it really came at me out of almost left-field, the way the idea rushed into my mind as I was leaning against something, waiting for the next car door so that I could put it together. (Boring, boring job.)

Props to Samuraiter, because if it hadn't been for his fabulous rendition of their friendship in his 'fic, One Year, I doubt I would have thought to write this.

Comments and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated, particularly on characterization in this one, as I've only ever written Fiora once before. Thanks for reading!