Something Nice
By: Manna


…-…-…

The box is light in the palm of his hand, and its weightlessness finally forces him to pocket it for fear he will not notice if it falls. He can't lose it as he's lost so many other things in his life, like the trust of others or the strange thing folks call control. He's never been able to tell when to stop, when enough has become enough, where the line is, exactly, that he's crossed a thousand times.

He grins lazily as he lets his hand close around the object in his pocket. She'll like it, right? He thinks. She deserves nice things, at least one nice thing. Why wouldn't she like a nice thing?

He spots her on the training grounds, and clutches the box tighter, crumpling the lid slightly.

"Marcia?" he asks as he approaches, the hand not in his pocket going behind his head. A nervous action, oftentimes the result of a guilty conscience.

Sweat running down her neck, she turns to look at him. Her eyes harden immediately, as if she knows he's there to beg for money, or to ask for forgiveness, or mercy, or a plethora of other things. "What do you want?" she finally asks.

She's schooled herself to distrust him, and it hurts.

"I have something for you." Fumbling physically and mentally, he takes the box out of his pocket and thrusts it at her.

Her blank expression as she takes it makes him speak again.

"And I didn't steal it, either. You've gotta believe me. I bought it fair and square, just this morning." And then, a moment later, in the awkward silence between them, "You can ask Astrid, she helped me pick it out."

As if pushing back hopefulness, his sister opens the box. The simple silver chain is wrapped around her finger when she speaks, her voice harsh, "You sure you didn't steal this? Or bum it offa some poor girl?"

"I swear," he says solemnly, making an X over his heart with his right hand. "I bought it with my own money. For you."

She traces the chain down to the small stone that dangles from the end of it. The color matches her eyes. She lifts the necklace from its box, carefully, looking almost afraid to touch it. "Why?"

He shrugs and puts out his hand, an offer to fasten the chain around her neck. She reluctantly lets him take the dainty thing from her, and he steps behind her to fasten the clasp. "I don't know." He pauses, settling the cool metal against her neck before stepping away. His hand pulls at the hair at the back of his neck again. He's not sure if it's his guilty conscience, or if it's because he's nervous. "I've never done anything nice for you. Not without wanting something in return, that is."

She snorts.

"Last week I saw that Astrid had a lovely pendant around her neck, and I realized that you've never had anything nice, nothing, not ever, in your whole life. So I thought I'd use my next bit of pay to try and fix that, you see…" His voice trails off when she turns around, her eyes shining a bit. "Oh c'mon, Marcia," he says. "Now don't go crying on me, I said I didn't steal it."

Her smile surprises him. "Crackers, Makalov," she sniffs, wiping her eyes with the backs of her hands. "You're still a no-good drunken layabout, but nobody's done nothin' so nice for me before." She touches the necklace and quickly wraps her free arm around him in a hug. "Thanks."

He hesitates before he hugs her back, almost afraid she'll change her mind and snap at him, or bring up things he's long-since forgotten about. But she doesn't say anything at all, and a pleased grin settles over his face before he lets her go and pats the top of her head. "It's the least I could do for my own sister, right?"

She gives him a half-hearted glare and puts her hands on her hips. "I'd be happier if you'd stop the gambling and the drinking."

Shamefaced, he turns his gaze to the soil. "It's not that easy," he tells her, his voice soft.

"Can't you at least try? If not for me, for Astrid? She follows you around like a lost little puppy. She really likes you, you know? She even looks up to you, though only Ashera knows why!"

"I'll try. I promise, this time."

"She won't hang around forever, you know. Eventually she'll decide enough is enough. I don't want to see you throw away something nice, Makalov. Your knighthood or Astrid." Her eyes squint in the sunlight as she looks up to meet his gaze.

"I don't, either," he says, and with startling realization, he knows he means it. Astrid… Well, how long will she stick around a bumbling, drunken fool like him? He wants to try to be a better person, wants to deserve the adoration in Astrid's eyes, and more than anything, he wants Marcia to be proud of him, because he can't remember a single fleeting moment of time when she was. But he can't do it alone, he's never been able to do anything good on his own. He looks at the sky as he speaks, "I don't want to lose this."

"Well, I guess I could help you." She shrugs a bit, but then grins. "It's a tough problem to tackle, but it's the least I can do for my own brother, right?"

She's already helped him more times than he can count.

"Thank you," he says, and it's all he can think to say aloud, the only two words that echo exactly how he feels when spoken. So he turns away after the words hit the warm afternoon air lest Marcia notice that his eyes are a bit damp.


…-…-…

Author Notes:

Apparently I write everything but my OTP already. Makalov demanded attention, so I indulged him with this story. The idea came from Makalov and Astrid's supports.