Winning the War
How hard could it be, she had thought what seemed like years ago, to kill a man? The mechanics behind it all were quite simple; everyone had a weakness—under their arm, their neck, their head, their heart—and once it was made known…one only had to put their weapon in it to secure a victory.
A sword, when put through a heart, almost always equaled death. And, Eirika realized with startling clarity, the good guys did not always win. Oh, she had known that, known it all along…but she had hoped—perhaps foolishly—that no lives would be lost, not for anyone's sake, least of all hers.
Was she really anything more than a girl? Despite their obvious differences in personality, she was honestly no different than Neimi or L'Arachel. It drove her nearly mad to see so many men willing to lay down their lives so that she could live. For what, she wondered, for what reason? Had she done anything in particular to deserve it, their steadfast loyalty? She couldn't remember having done any such thing.
She tossed a stone in front of her from her perch on the edge of the fountain, and as the ripples slowly faded into nothingness, she had to remind herself that the war was actually over.
No, not the war.
The battles were won, but not the war.
They'd fought in countless battles—against foes, against friends, against things she hadn't even known existed—but she was tired of fighting.
Only the gentle lift of her eyebrows gave away her surprise, but she ignored Seth's presence and proceeded to toss another stone into the water.
Couldn't she rest, just for a while?
She let her thoughts simmer like a pot of stew, and when she was afraid the contents would boil over, she turned her head to look at him. His forehead boasted lines that she had watched form—had probably caused herself. His eyes were gentle.
"Something's troubling you, Princess," he said.
She scoffed. "Princess." Another rock sunk to join its comrades at the bottom of the fountain. "That's what they tell me I am, anyway."
She hardly felt like a princess. Of course, Princess Eirika had never been the ideal princess. Tana had always been the better of the two of them at that role. But after following the simple equation of sword in heart, she had found herself feeling…
She wasn't sure. She did not hate being feminine, but neither had she pined for it.
Blood and grime and sweat were not befitting of a princess of any place, and though she knew that fighting in the thick of things had given her some much-needed practice with her weapon of choice, it also left her feeling…less than beautiful.
She felt like a girl.
Not a woman, but a girl.
She wondered if Seth saw her that way as well.
But that wasn't really the problem, was it?
She was out of rocks. She swished her hand in the water instead.
"Forgive me, Seth," she finally murmured. She knew he cared for her, she really did. Her doubts had a tendency to overwhelm her at times, and on this day in particular, they had done just that. For a moment. "I am very tired."
"Do you wish to rest?" He looked as if he would do anything to make her feel better. Surely he saw the woman that had been beneath the sweaty, blood-soaked clothes that she had worn.
It was terribly fake. "No," she answered. Well, it wasn't really a lie. Resting would not help the situation any.
Her fingers were warmed by the presence of his palm as he pulled them from the water. He traced the outside edges of her fingers for a moment before he spoke, seeking an answer for the simple question he had to ask, "What is it?"
She trembled under his touch—not her fingers, or even her toes as they curled up in her boots, but rather…her heart. She hadn't wanted to die in battle; she had given it her all, had let her instincts take over when she found herself confused or weighed down. But with the cool stone beneath her and his warm hand holding hers, she would have liked, at the very least, to disappear for a time.
How many people had died? How many families had been torn asunder? She didn't know. She didn't want to know! And didn't that make her selfish, unreasonable? A terrible person—a terrible princess?
She hadn't realized that killing was easier than saving.
His hand pressed against her thudding heart. He peered up at her through his bangs.
A sword through the heart did not always equal death, she told herself as she returned his gaze evenly. But so many people were dead, and so many lives were changed; the negative things were easier to see, and each new one she learned of was another stab through her tender heart.
"So much has changed," she said to him, taking his hand in both of hers. She smiled at him. She let the sadness leak through. She didn't really want to hide it, not from him. "Our world is not as we once knew it, and," she swallowed, "I must somehow find a way to make it…right again."
Right? She almost laughed at her choice of words. No, nothing could be fixed, really fixed.
"But I'm so tired," she said, letting their joined hands fall into her lap. She stared at the scars that adorned his knuckles and let out a long, slow breath. "We're all so tired."
Princesses didn't get naps.
She supposed that generals didn't, either.
"So many battles…" she murmured, "but the war has only just begun."
"Eirika," he said, and helped her to her feet before holding out his arm. She took it gratefully, her toes still tingling from the sound of her name being spoken so familiarly by the man that had easily won her heart. "I can assure you that no matter what task you endeavor to make successful, will be nothing but."
He would not lie to her.
It meant a lot that he was confident in her.
She smiled—her first genuine one of the morning—and tilted her head to the side. "Even defeating you in a sparring match?" she asked, testing the waters with her question.
How unladylike of her, she thought.
But his lips curved upward as he bowed his head, "I would be honored to let you try."
It would be a welcome distraction, something to help bolster her confidence. Surely, if Seth thought she was capable of getting Renais back on its feet, she was, indeed, capable.
"Try?" she said, feeling suddenly competitive. "Try? I will beat you when you least expect it. If I can pull Renais back together, then surely I can defeat you in a simple sparring match!"
She just needed to find his weakness, she thought, and exploit it.
His lips twitched. "It will take some practice, Milady, but I have no doubts that—"
She hugged his arm against her chest, effectively cutting off his speech.
When it came to her, his weakness was definitely his heart. And, she thought as she walked along beside him, she wouldn't have to put her sword in it to defeat him.
Pointless 'fic is pointless. But I really did want to try to write something for Wolfraven80, since it's her birthday. I will never be able to do Seth/Eirika justice compared to her. Haha! But seriously: Happy Birthday!