It's Better to Have Loved
There was something to be said about the Syracuse navy uniform, Sinbad thought. For all the grief he had given Proteus about it, Sinbad did like how he looked in the uniform. He had been upset at first, when he had had to keep his hair short and no beard whatsoever, but after three years, he was completely used to it.
Not that he was going to give Proteus the joy of admitting that, of course. But he had to admit, even though it wasn't quite what he had been expecting, he was really getting to like this life. Even with all the orders.
"If the window breaks, Sinbad, you'll have to pay it."
"You're just jealous of my rugged good lucks, Proteous," Sinbad called over his shoulder, grinning as Proteus raised an eyebrow, looking at him up and down.
"'Rugged', is it? We're feeling hopeful today?"
"I'm totally rugged!" Sinbad called, pointing at his chin and his goatee. "Look at this! See?"
"Oh? Did you forget to wash your face, Sinbad?" Proteus said, leaning close. "I think you have some dirt..."
"Ha-ha, Proteus. And it's sub-lieutenant Sinbad for you, punk," he added, pointing towards the bars on his uniform before he turned again towards the window, fixing his jacket. "How do I look?"
"I'm not sure," the prince hummed thoughtfully before he grinned, throwing his arm around his shoulder in a half hug. "I'm not sure blue is your color, my friend."
"Well, of course it's not, Highness. Us commoners don't get to have blue blood like you do, so the color doesn't work on everyone" Sinbad teased back, allowing Proteus to show the way, more than familiar enough with Proteus proximity to mind or care how it looked. He had been told off for treating the prince like he did, but if the prince liked how he treated him and not only that, if he actually craved someone treating him like a normal human being an not like a godling born from the waves, who was he to treat him any other way? "You don't think you could make it so that the uniforms changed colors, do you? I've been told that red is totally my color."
Proteus laughed, warm and happy the way that, Sinbad thought, only he caused. Proteus was always kind and always disturbingly polite, but most of the time it was only he who could make him laugh like that, or who could make him act a little bit less like the prince charming he was supposed to be. It was, Sinbad thought, one of the reasons why his father probably allowed their friendship.
Not that he was going to complain about that, though. Proteus was the best friend anyone could ask for, and Sinbad considered himself lucky for the fact that Proteus considered him his best friend.
... not that he was going to tell Proteus that, mind. There was only enough room in this friendship for one bloated ego, and his took all the available room and then some.
"Are you coming to the docks, then?" Proteus asked once he stopped laughing, hands behind his back.
"Nah," Sinbad shrugged. "Got stuck guarding the Academy and the troops. So you'll have to meet your ball and chain-- I mean your fiancée alone."
"What? What did I say?" At Proteus stern face, Sinbad tried his infallible puppy expression. Except that Proteus kept making that face, eyebrow raised and arms crossed and all. "Oh, c'mon, it was only a joke!"
"Was it?" It was a very good thing that his commander officer hadn't learned how to do that eyebrow trick. Nothing else could make Sinbad feel guilty in less than five seconds than that.
He huffed, rolling his eyes. "I'm just saying that if you want to, I know a pair of perfectly nice, perfectly charming ladies who'd be more than willing to celebrate the fact that you're marrying a perfect stranger. They'd even do a royal discount for you! Huge fans, those girls."
"Lady Marina and I have been exchanging letters for over two years now," Proteus interrupted. "It's not as if we're strangers."
"Except for the fact that you've never seen her--"
"She's not only smart, she's also charming and quite witty--"
"Translation: boring, snob, prude--"
"And, not that it matters, she's apparently very beautiful."
"Proteus, here, lemme give you a few lessons on how this works," Sinbad said, as slowly as he possibly could so that there'd be no misunderstandings, even when Proteus crossed his arms and shook his head, and amused twisted to his lips. "Of course they're going to say she's beautiful. Do you think they'd make the crowned prince of Syracuse to marry a hag?"
"I'm just saying, you should've met her before you told her 'yeah, sure, come to Syracuse and we'll marry!'"
"We're not getting married, Sinbad. At least not immediately." Proteus added in his 'please be reasonable voice' which always made Sinbad want to stomp his feet and demand for a treat. "More than anything - and this is something that both lady Marina and I agree on - this will help consolidate the peace treaty between our two nations. And she's not coming here as my fiancée, she's coming here as an ambassador of Thrace."
And there it came the knot of the rope. Even in the case that he didn't care for this girlie, Sinbad knew that Proteus would marry her in a second if it was for Syracuse's sake, because Proteus, with the blessing of the gods upon him, loved Syracuse.
Of course that Sinbad loved Syracuse as well: despite all the troubles he had had in the city, he was kind of sure that it'd be impossible to be Proteus' friend if you didn't share at least some of his love for this place. But Sinbad was equally convinced that there was much more to the world than just Syracuse's white shores. The few times he had been part of a crew and had sailed away so far, the ocean had thrilled him. There was, in his own experience, nothing more beautiful or intriguing than the open sea. The one reason why he remained at the Navy was knowing that, soon, he'd be able to travel more and more.
And Proteus, he knew, would be happy to stay on Syracuse forever more, not just out of duty, which was something that Sinbad could understand, even though it hurt to think that his best friend's desires and his own were so different.
He shrugged, perhaps a little awkwardly, moving a hand to rub the back of his neck. "Hey, I'm just saying. It's your funeral, man."
Proteus sighed as well, but then he smiled. "I'm sure you'll like her, if you give her the chance?"
And he was almost pleading, which was unfair. Sinbad had the right to get angry that Proteus' fiancée was coming in to ruin everything. He barely got to see Proteus these days, that with both of them having so many responsibilities. And now, the spare free time Proteus had wouldn't be used to roam through Syracuse's roofs, or training upon the palace's grounds. No, now all of Proteus' time would be used in showing a spoiled little princess what a wonderful city Syracuse was.
But Proteus was asking, and Sinbad had long ago come to the realization that there wasn't much he would actually say 'no' to Proteus.
"Hey, someone has to warn her about how much your feet reek. It'd be troublesome if she's not expecting it," he offered, shrugging.
At least that made Proteus laugh again, even as he hit his shoulder, and his laugh eased a little bit of the dark mood Sinbad would have to either ignore or get over in less than twenty four hours.
"I'll take her to your rooms tomorrow, when you're off duty," Proteus said once his laughter died. "So clean up a bit, would you?"
"Wait. You're taking her to my rooms?! Don't you have enough space at the palace? And why do I have to clean?!"
"If she's to be my wife, I want her to meet my best friend as he is, not as he has to behave in the palace, under my father's watch," and the way Proteus said that eased the darkness a little more. He still wants me in his life, Sinbad thought.
And it was still entirely possible that the princess was spoiled, bitchy and a thousand more things that would make it so that Proteus wouldn't just fall for her. Sinbad wondered if he could scare her off, or if that would cause an international conflict for a few seconds before he shrugged.
"But you owe me for this, you hear?"
"I wouldn't dare presume otherwise," Proteus nodded mock seriously before he looked up, towards the sky clearing. "I have to go, father was nervous enough as it was."
"Shush then, prince, go, go!" Sinbad grinned, pushing Proteus away, waving as Proteus did the same before he disappeared, up the wall and all the way through the secret paths that Sinbad had spent seven years teaching him. No-one would catch him through there, of course. The whole town was buzzing with the expectations of Proteus' fiancée coming to the city, about another one of the Twelve Nations joining the treaty.
Bah, he thought, even though a part of him told Sinbad that he was extremely biased on this. He too had responsibilities, and he should be going back to the Navy. Even though that was going to be more boring than watching sea snails mate. And it wasn't, even, as if they didn't have enough officers already...
Sinbad grinned as he started undoing the buttons of his jacket, heading to the roofs as well. After all, he was Proteus friend. He owed it to him to meet his fiancée on the very day she arrived.