Erring on the Side of Caution
By: Manna


The sky was darkening with the coming of night when she set out to meet him. It had become something of a habit; he would always take a spot at the rear of the encampment, behind the encircled tents and wagons, and lately, she had found herself meeting him there.

It wasn't that he was on guard duty, or even that he would be that night. She wasn't sure why he did it, and she supposed that it didn't matter; chances were that he had good reasons for doing what he did.

Her boots were quiet against the fresh spring grass as she approached him.

"Dame Fiora," he said without so much as a glance in her direction.

She waited until she came to a stop beside him; the side of her face was only a few inches from his shoulder. "Sir Oswin." Her eyes lingered on the horizon to see what he saw, and when she saw nothing strange, or different, she strained her ears to hear what he heard.

From behind them, in the relative safety of the camp, came the sounds of a watery stew being prepared. She listened to the muted clatter of tin cups and spoons, and the idle chatter of individuals as they spread out bedrolls and hammered stakes into the ground.

The red-orange line at the edge of the western sky seemed to have nothing to say by comparison.

"It would be easy," he said, turning to face her, "for an assassin to make their way into our ranks at this time." The calluses on his fingers were rough against her cheek, but she tilted her head upward as they slid down the curve of her jaw, missing his touch the moment it disappeared.

"I don't…understand."

He gave her a half-smile and turned back to watch the last rays of light. "Everyone is so busy," he told her. "With the people running to and fro, and with the sounds of camp being set up for the night, it would be easy for someone to sneak into our ranks. They could hide with the supplies, or under the wagons, or even," he said, "in our tents while we're having dinner."

She shifted her weight. "Have you…ever encountered such a thing?"

He threw her a quick glance. "No," he said with complete seriousness.

She let a smile cross her lips.

"I do believe that it is worth considering, however."

"It's better to be safe than sorry?"

"Exactly." He gave her a meaningful stare; "I will always err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety of people I care about." The toe of his boot settled against her own, and he bent his neck down, pressing his forehead against hers.

She felt her face flush when his thumb brushed over the corner of her lips. She was very thankful for the cover of darkness; she hoped he did not notice her embarrassment. "S-Sir Oswin," she began, giving herself away. "I am…" She swallowed and closed her eyes to avoid seeing his. "I am just a mercenary."

"And I am the son of a blacksmith. What of it?"

She felt brave enough to open her eyes, and immediately noticed the way his lips quirked upward. "I don't," she floundered, trying to explain herself, "I don't know…anything about…this."

His dark eyes seemed to fill with patient understanding. "I see," he murmured, and pulled away, taking her face in his hands for a long moment.

She trembled slightly under his steady gaze, feeling unsure of herself for the first time in ages; she was reminded again of her ten-year-old self, as she got on the back of a pegasus for the first time. How scary it had been to look down from such a height! But in the end, hadn't it been well worth it? Hadn't she come to love the rush of the wind in her hair, and the freedom that height over the world brought her?

"We'll take it slow." Her brain almost didn't register the gentle kiss he pressed against her forehead until it was already over. "It's best," he whispered, "to err on the side of caution…when it comes to people you care about."


Author Notes:

This was requested by Forced Simile for the Spring Edition of the Microfic/Drabble Meme.