A/N: Written for the lj comm yuri_challenge a couple months back. The prompt phrase was "You'll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind." The title is in reference to the Sara Teasdale poem, "There Will Come Soft Rains" and/or the Ray Bradbury short story by the same title—I ain't picky and they both work.
Before Soft Rains
Rio returns to the Time Telling Fortress the day the cherry blossoms begin to fall. Framed by the soft pink petals floating gently down in the background, she is greeted by the members of the 1121st Platoon. Kanata, Kureha, and Noel leap onto her once the initial shock of her appearance wears off, the force of their combined embrace is enough to make Rio crash into the ground. The sound of their laughter encapsulates the scene while Second Lieutenant Filicia Heideman, the captain of the platoon, watches with a fond smile on her bespectacled face. Filicia stands at a distance—she is more a spectator than a participant of the scene.
The rest of the day is characterized by jubilant celebrations. Even as everyone goes about their daily routines, Rio's presence seems to energize them. They all finish their chores in record time and a homecoming party is held in the princess' honor. Despite Kureha's half-panicked protests, Filicia still spikes everyone's drinks causing the cheery atmosphere to intensify into a drunken abandon. Later, even as the festivities continue in its energetic frenzy, the blonde-haired woman slips away, unnoticed by the other members of the platoon.
Outside of the fortress, the moon shines brightly in the midnight hours. The individual lights from the town below are slowly snuffed out, one-by-one, as the citizens of Seize retreat to their beds. The humidity intensifies and the air grows colder and colder. Clouds overhead grow larger and larger and darker still.
Later, when Rio has finally managed to untangle herself from the sleeping bodies of the younger members of the platoon, she goes to find Filicia. The older girl is in her room. She is sitting at her desk, her back to the doorway, and is still dressed in her uniform. A candle burns, causing Filicia's shadow to flicker along the walls. She ignores Rio even as the other woman walks towards her. Her eyes are trained on a journal in front of her. The entry is half written.
"Hey," the blue-haired woman says. Filicia turns around and offers Rio a small smile.
"Hello Rio," she returns pleasantly.
"When did you leave?"
"A little while back," Filicia answers. She then says after a pause, "You know, we reminisced about you the day before. So it was surprising to see you today."
"You didn't really think you'll get rid of me that easily, did you?"
"Maybe, " Filiicia replies with a teasing smile before she asks in a more serious tone, "are you back for good?"
"Pretty much. The marriage is just in name only. He already has a wife and I'm a nuisance at the capital anyway. Besides," Rio says looking up, staring straight into Filicia's eyes, "my place is here."
The blonde-haired woman stares back at her before she breaks into a mischievous smile. "My, how bold of you," she says, causing the other girl to sputter and blush.
"A-anyway, what exactly did everyone reminisce about?"
"About how we met you."
"You tell them about our first meeting?"
"Did you tell them about our fistfight too?"
"Yes. Kana-chan was especially interested in who won. But don't worry," Filicia says fondly, "I didn't say who did. I didn't want to ruin your cool reputation in the eyes of our cute juniors, you know."
"Thanks," Rio replies drolly, her hands gripping the edge of the bed. She remembers the day of the fight and the circumstances that led up to it. She had been an ignorant, spoiled brat back then. She argued about the woman easily-going policy that disregarded many military traditions, saying it was disrespectful to the nation and to other soldiers. That all soldiers had to do was follow their orders.
Filicia had thrown the first punch, causing a huge fight with her in the mess hall. What was it that Filicia had said back then?
"Take what you said back!" the younger Filicia demanded with an air of quiet, barely restrained fury, looking down at Rio from her position as the winner of the fight. She was sporting a scratched cheek and a bleeding lip and the look in her eye was ferocious."How dare you," she had said with her fists clenched so tightly they shook, "how dare you assume our lives are already forfeit! Even if we're soldiers, even if we have to follow orders, we still have to live the lives the ones who gave theirs dreamed of, for the sake of every one of us!"
"Sorry about that, back then."
"I've already mostly forgotten about it."
"You were right though."
Filicia doesn't answer immediately; she only leans back in her chair. Her eyes are hidden in the light refracting across her glasses. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing the right thing—or if I'm just projecting my own selfish desires. "
Even though she's sitting right next to me, she seems so far away now, Rio thinks. Sometimes she wonders exactly what Filicia sees when she loses herself in thought—what is it that Filicia remembers. Rio herself had never been in live combat, and it was the only the memories of her mother and sister that haunt her dreams. For Filicia, it was more—Rio couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose her entire platoon. For a moment Rio wonders what it would be like to see the lifeless bodies of Kanata, Noel, and Kureha sprawled out on the bridge of the Time Telling Fortress as missiles and tank shells are exchanged over head.
It's a terrifying image.
"You're doing the right thing, I think." Rio says. "They deserve to live a carefree life. We all do."
Filicia slowly turns to look at her. The expression in her eyes is open, vulnerable. And, for the first time today, time itself seems to have slowed down to a trickle. Rio feels safe, like she's finally back home. There is a degree of comfort here and familiarity here. The fact that she is the only one alive that Filicia allows to see her weak side makes her feel needed in a way that her position as princess never did. Rio moves behind Filicia and wraps her arms around her.
"I missed you, Filica," she whispers, resting her chin in the other girl's soft blonde hair.
Filicia giggles, but she leans into the embrace.
"I've said many hellos and just as many goodbyes. But," she pauses, slowly laying her hand on Rio's arm, "this is one of the few times that I've ever said welcome back."
"Well, I'm back."
For a few moments they stay like that before the embrace is broken.
"I'm glad you are. I admit, I was slightly worried how well I could lead them without you," Filicia says candidly before turning to stare at the diminishing candlelight. "I rather them take after you than me. You can do more for them than I can."
There is an edge to her words, a sense of world-weary weight to them that sounds both at odds with the eighteen year-old's girlish voice yet at the same time so characteristic of Filicia herself. It's a thing that has tempered her personality, colored her character, and something that occasionally puts her and Rio at odds with each other, just like it did during their first fight.
And what can Rio say in response to that? She struggles at how to properly respond to such heavy words, her trepidation conveyed in a shaking, half outreached arm. Her hand falls to her side, clenches in a fist, before Rio moves forward once more. Once more she embraces Filica tightly.
"You're still young too, you know," she says.
Filicia laughs at this and takes off her glasses. Carefully she stands up, making sure not to break the embrace between her and Rio. Once she had, she turns around and returns hug.
"I missed you too, Rio," she says, emotion seeping into her voice as she buries her face into the nape of Rio's neck and clutches the cloth on the princess' back.
They cling to each other for a few moments longer before Rio cups Filicia's face with her two hands and they kiss. It is one that is slow, sensual, and familiar. Rather than having the sense of a beginning or an end, it is continuous as one kiss transitions to the next and the next until Rio has guided Filicia to the bed and laid her gently down on it.
Against the light pitter-patter of the rain on the windowsill, Rio unpins the buttons on Filicia uniform one by one. Her hand travels across the landscape of the other girl's body, exploring the soft skin over the battle hardened muscles, and she feels the slight bumps and dips of Filicia's faded battle scars. Filicia does not stay complacent for long before she too moves forward with a practiced familiarity in a long night that slowly inches towards dawn.
And in the morning, when Kanata, Kureha, and Noel rush forward towards the new day, Rio will turn back for Filicia, take her by the hand, and they together will run headfirst into the morning.