TITLE - The Smallest Smile
RATING - G
SUMMARY - After the events in Turad, Diana wants to have some peace to think, and Eric tries to "help", in his own unique way.
A/N - Originally Written for Yuletide 2008 - with thanks to Meltha; and thanks to Rummi for the lightning beta :)
The Smallest Smile
Diana noticed a flash of yellow and blue out of the corner of her eye, and her heart sank. At the moment, she didn't want to talk to anyone, least of all him! She wanted to sit here alone, and think and be alone. That was why she had come over here, so far from their camp, to get away from everyone else. And everyone else should have understood that. She thought the message was loud and clear: she didn't want to talk to anyone!
Hunching her shoulders, she hoped the Cavalier would get the message, but he kept on walking towards her. She scowled. How much more arrogant could he be? He was too arrogant for words to describe! Arrogant, selfish, smug, annoying... She glanced around at him as he laboured up the incline towards her.
The way he looked at her, the way he came strutting over to see what she was doing, even though it was none of his business, made her more annoyed. He just had to be sticking his nose in where it wasn't wanted, or needed! Her scowl grew more ferocious. Why did he keep doing that to her? Why didn't he go and annoy someone else for a change?
Diana looked away, back to the view, hoping that he might turn around and go. But she could still hear him, she could tell the sound perfectly by now, the slight creak of his armour, the rub of metal and the swish of his cloak. He stopped beside her.
She didn't want to talk to him. She didn't want to talk to anyone, and least of all him! Why couldn't he understand that? If he stayed to "chat", she was going to lose her temper.
'Hey!' he said.
Diana didn't reply, she just kept looking out over the city below. Turad was a beautiful city, especially in the evening, with white towers and silver roofs that glittered in the low light. And she hated it; she hated it with a passion that surprised her, even though she had been the one to save it from the evil Queen and another thousand years of oppression. She didn't want anything to do with that place ever again, not for as long as she lived!
There was a quiet cough behind her, and the Acrobat suddenly realised that Eric was still standing there, waiting for her to say something. When had he grown so persistent, or so slow on the uptake?
She still didn't move, scowling down at the city.
'Um, you know there's some food down there waiting for you, if you want it,' he said.
It was odd, he didn't sound like Eric usually sounded, he sounded... she couldn't describe the difference, but he definitely sounded odd.
Surprised, she glanced up at him, dragging her eyes away from Turad.
He stood there with a small smile on his face, flicking the edge of his tunic and looking like he needed pockets to put his hands in. A snide remark formed in her mind, but she didn't say anything. She couldn't bring herself to speak. She didn't want to speak to anyone and Eric was not going to get her to change her mind.
Instead, she concentrated on the city in front of them, seeing the tall tower of the Temple of Light in the centre.
That was where it had happened. That was where everything had changed. Power had flowed through her fingertips, through her whole body in a way that she had never felt before. For a few minutes, she had been a Goddess, with the power of life and death over thousands of souls, people she had never met. But even with all that power, she couldn't save... The thought stuttered to a halt before she could mentally say the name. She didn't dare, or she would start to cry again.
Diana closed her eyes for a few moments, waiting for him to get the message and leave. But he clinked closer to her, coming right over and flopping down beside her, close enough to touch, if she'd wanted to.
They sat there is cold silence for a long while. It surprised Diana that Eric seemed so relaxed. He just sat there, leaning back with his legs stretched out, gazing down at the city. He wasn't uncomfortable with her presence the way she was with his, and eventually she couldn't stand it any longer.
'Look, Eric,' she said in a tight voice. 'It's not that I don't appreciate what you're trying to do, but I don't want to talk to you. You can't possibly understand. So just go away!'
'Why couldn't I understand?' he asked, sounding as if it was a perfectly reasonable question.
She stared at him. Of all the arrogant and selfish and self-centred things to say!
'You've never cared about anyone but yourself!' she snapped.
'Hey! That's not true!'
'You've never loved anyone but yourself, Eric,' she said, relishing the anger that overwhelmed the other, more painful feelings. 'So you can stop pretending you know, or care and go away!'
She was in full flow now, and in no mood to stop.
'You know nothing about it! You don't know how it felt to hold the fate of someone you care about in the palm of your hand, and let it slip away! All that power, and I couldn't help him.'
Her breath caught at the back of her throat and she forced the tears back down with the chill of her anger. There was silence.
'What? No reply from the ol' Cavalier?' she asked.
Eric was looking out in the direction of Turad, and not at her. But though all she could see was his profile, his expression was one of sadness.
'So I don't know what it's like to hold the fate of those I care about in my hand?' he asked. 'I don't know what it's like to let chances slip away?'
He suddenly looked up at her, his eyebrow arched in that way he did when he was being superior and annoying. But the rest of his expression wasn't what she expected at all. He was angry.
Eric stood, pushing himself up from the ground.
'Y'know, I came over here to say I was sorry,' he said, the familiar snap back in his voice. 'I felt bad for you, if we had gotten home, this wouldn't have happened and you wouldn't have been so hurt or so unhappy. And I wanted to tell you I was sorry.'
Her face furrowed in fury. If they had gotten home... what would he know about it! Why did he have to pretend to be the centre of attention all the time?
'Well, I'm sorry,' he continued, cutting her off before she could speak. 'There, I've said it. So there's nothing else to say!'
He turned and stomped away, his head tipped down to the ground, his usual confident swagger gone. And though Diana wanted to be angry still, she wasn't. Even for Eric, that was a strange thing to say. He never apologised, never!
He was a good way down the hill before she realised what he was talking about. He'd been apologising for Darkhaven. It had been their best opportunity for a long time and he felt responsible for their failure to get home.
Confused, she stared at his retreating form. He'd apologised! When was that ever going to happen again?
It was a snap decision; and when she thought about it later, she couldn't understand why she hadn't just stayed put. But rather than doing what she had wanted to do and be on her own, Diana had suddenly stood up.
She jogged down the hill after Eric, slowing to a walk by his side. And when Eric looked around at her, she smiled. It wasn't much of a smile, but at least she meant it, and it was the first time she had smiled for days.
After a moment, he smiled back at her, and in silence they walked down to the camp where the others were waiting.