Author's Note: This was originally written for the 2008 Yuletide Challenge and was actually my first trek into Spice & Wolf stories. The story was written for Demeter on LiveJournal, but it is also dedicated to Earth Star, who gave me the inspiration and the thumbs up for the plot of this story.
"Look Not Unto the Past"
Lawrence didn't realize until at least a few months had passed that his behavior around Horo was unusual to say the least. Well, he didn't think it unusual, but when he had the chance to mull things over, he realized that it was.
It happened one very cold night and they'd barely made it into a town before a giant snowstorm blew in. With luck, they'd gotten the last room using the usual traveling excuse that they were husband and wife. The innkeeper's wife had been very chatty as she lit a lantern and escorted the two to their room.
"How long have you been married?" The innkeeper's wife chirped as they ascended the stairs.
"Just a few months," Lawrence replied automatically. How long had it been since the harvest, he wondered. It was mid-January now and he met Horo during harvest ... about four months maybe?
"How did you meet?" "Ah ..." Lawrence faltered a bit.
"When he happened to pass through my village," Horo spoke up. Lawrence could hear the amusement in her voice. "I needed a ride and he happened to be enough of a gentleman to give me one."
It was more like helping herself to the ride, but Lawrence didn't bother to voice that thought aloud at this point. The last thing they needed was to get into an argument and have Horo accidentally expose her ears. Then there would be a huge mess and he really didn't want to spend the long night freezing in the back of the wagon.
But the conversation stuck with him as they ate and changed for bed. They separated the twin beds that the innkeeper's wife had pushed together, winking at them the entire time. Horo climbed in one, Lawrence in the other. She fell asleep within 30 seconds.
He couldn't sleep.
He rolled onto his side and watched Horo sleep. She was sprawled across the bed, snoring lightly. He swung his legs off the side of the bed and sat up so he could get a better look at her. He worried his bottom lip and wasn't quite sure what to make of her. Even their very first night together, he hadn't hesitated about changing clothes in front of Horo, or sharing a room. It was just business, he rationalized. Horo hadn't put up a fuss either, and that was very much unlike the women he dealt with. He wouldn't have dreamed of sharing a room with Chloe or any of the other female merchants he'd encountered. They wouldn't have allowed it. It was refreshing, really. Horo was of an age where being embarrassed by sharing a room with a male friend was a thing of the past. Or, maybe she just was never familiar with the taboo to begin with. Lawrence hunched forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. No, he couldn't imagine segregation of the sexes was a common thing in Yoitsu hundreds of years ago. Lawrence shook his head with a rueful grin and slipped back beneath the covers.
Horo looked and acted like a girl just barely making the trek into womanhood. It was strange, Lawrence thought as he stared at the ceiling. Weren't beings that were supposed to be a few hundred years old have wrinkled skin? Look like old sages? It was a better thought process than the strange feelings he was starting to have for her that definitely weren't sister-like. So much of the merchanting business hinged on the past, he mused. Old traditions, old money, time-proven methods of doing things. You rated as a businessman not on how well you were doing at the moment, but the profit you were making now compared to what you had made in the past. You could be having a very good year, but if it was even just a few gold coins below last year's profit at this time, the merchant industry suddenly feared for the stability of your business.
Then there was history itself. Times were changing pretty rapidly, even the past few months with Horo were an indication of that. But, there were things from the past that were talked about constantly. Trade before the advent of ships and well-built wagons. The founding of some of the more prominent cities they'd been through. Lawrence was fascinated with that sort of knowledge. These were the stories and facts scribbled in books and told from one generation of merchants to the next orally. And now he had a living, breathing witness to a lot of these events. Maybe.
Curiosity started to get the best of him. He rolled onto his side. "Horo," he said softly. "Horo"
A grunt sounded from the other bed.
"Horo, you're really a few hundred years old, right"
"You didn't happen to see the first ships being developed, did you? Or the construction of the main trade routes? What about developments in armor, technology?" Lawrence shot up as historic events tumbled through his mind and out of his mouth. "What about the wars that led to the founding of Rubenhaigen? What about the opening of the port in Patzuille? Did you see ..." He never finished the sentence as he was rewarded with a pillow in his face.
"I'm trying to sleep," Horo said grumpily as she rested her head on her arm, her pillow now lodged in Lawrence's mouth. "But ..." He yanked the pillow out.
She cracked open one eye. "Why is it that humans are so obsessed with the past? It's not like you ever learn from it"
She yawned, closed her eye. "No use dwelling on something you will never see or will experience again. If I did that, I'd spend all my time being resentful at what happened in Pasroe. Isn't it better just to focus on the future? Historic events occur every day. You might even get to see one"
Lawrence didn't say anything for awhile, then grinned. "Suppose you're right," he conceded. He climbed out of bed and tucked his dry pillow beneath Horo's head. She immediately rolled onto it. He crawled back into his own bed and with a smile fell asleep.