Disclaimer: I don't own Radiata Stories.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."
Jack and Ridley stood in front of Vladmir's shop at Fort Helencia. The dwarf was holding out a set of Iron Plate armor; Jack paid him and recieved the armor into his own hands. It was heaavier than he though. He knelt slightly at the weight.
"You have new armor so...I..."He struggled underneath the weight, "...I thought I should get some duds too."
"Do you need a hand?" Ridley asked.
"No." Jack said, clenching his teeth, "I can handle it."
"Are you sure?" Ridley asked, concerned, "I can-"
"I got it!" Jack snapped. Ridley stepped back and Jack felt like kicking himself, "Sorry...but really its no problem."
Ridley dropped her hand, "I'm sorry for doubting you..." she said softly.
They stood in silence; close together but neither made eye contact Vlamdir looked from one to the other and said, "He's likely to need help equipping though." Both humans blushed and Vladmir grinned, "Miss. Ridley why don't you help him with that instead?"
"It'll go ontop of the padding of course." Vladmir added.
Both nodded a little too quickly, "O-of course!"
Again in silence they walked back to Jack's room. Ridley kept pace with him as he struggled with his new armor. Made by a dwarf, sold by a dwarf, in a fortress controlled by the fairies; she wondered if it was really the metal that slowed him down.
"I need this." Jack said suddenly.
"Jack?" She asked curiously.
"I need this to protect you." He said. He paused to regain his grip. "If I can do that, than I don't care what it costs me!"
The intensity of the statement stunned Ridley. 'I don't care what it costs me!'; the words echoed in her mind. His job, his home, his friends, his live, his dream...he gave them all up...Her chest constricted...for me...I ruined his life again!
"Jack I'm so sorry...I...I..shouldn't have gone to your house."
Jack stopped and blinked, "What are you talking about? 'Knights of the Same Brigade are as family' remember? I'd be devastated if you didn't come."
"But the cost!"
Jack grinned sheepishly, "Dwarven armor is never cheap. This cost most of the dagols I saved from Vancoor."
Ridley blinked. "Ohh...I see." she giggled.
"Hey, what's so funny?"
"I thought you were thinking deeper than your money bag." Nose high she took the lead, "But you're the same old 'Idiot Boy' I clobbered in the arena."
"Hey! Just because I'm your guardian now doesn't mean I'll go easy on you in a rematch!"
Ridley giggled a second time, "We'll see."
Jack grumpled and trugged along with the Iron Plate. Inside his room he placed it on his bed and reached to unclip the gauntlets of his Wind Garb. His hand froze on the strap. He bought this to celebrate his promotion to Vancoor Sergent; the most expensive armor he could find. With it on, people took him more seriously; the vancoor guys wanted to test their strength, Olacion and Vareth paid him greater respect, even Void thugs treated him as more than a kid. His hand refused to move, then it was covered by another. He looked up to Ridley's gentle smile and caring eyes. Their warmth filled his body and gave him the strength to remove the first gauntlet then the second, followed by the greaves and vest.
Piece by piece, she helped him into his new armor. The new gauntlets, the new greaves, the new breast plate; piece by piece he became a new warrior. Looking himself over and flexing his arms, he smiled broadly.
"Well, how do I look?"
"Like a true warrior." Ridley said sincerely.
Jack put his hands on his hips, "Does that mean I didn't look like one earlier?"
Turning her head regally, she said, "Well, purple vest and gold chrome gauntlets are certainly showier than simple iron."
She giggled, then gasped as he took her hand and knelt on one knee. Her heart beat accelerated in her armor. She scarcely dared breathe, waiting for him to say-
"I swear by my father's sword, I will always protect you."
Ridley blushed as red as her armor. Mortified she hissed, "Get up, Idiot Boy."
"You look like you're proposing!"
As red as she, he jumped to his feet. Quite a feet in his new armor. Scratching the back of his neck and looked around and stuttered. " Z-zane'swaiting!" he spouted at last and ran out. Ridley smiled after him. Now that the shock was over, she realized she wouldn't mind marrying him. I'd prefer him to Cross at any rate...If my parents engaged me to him...
As she followed him, she remembered the stories her parents read her when she was younger. At night before she went to sleep, they told her stories of gallant knights and their noble deeds; stories of fair maidens who traveled with them and helped them arm up. They buzzed in her head ever since Vladimir's words and were the reason she blushed; she imagined herself as the fair maiden equipping her knight with the armor he won for his lady. I guess that makes me Jack's lady... she blushed, there are worse things...