Title: A Comfortable Sort of Love
Characters: Hector, Florina, Lyndis, Farina, Serra
Genre: Friendship, Romance, Angst
Notes: Requested by Raphi!
Prompt: Three times Hector didn't understand, and one time he did.
She was cute. Really cute. There was just something about her that drew him in, that made him want to look at her, that made him want to understand her more. Her hair was curly and her eyes wide and pretty. He doubted she knew how pretty she was, doubted that she'd believe him even if he told her himself what he thought. He wanted to protect her, too, from everything out there that might try to hurt her, from the war to the weather.
But there was the whole "she runs away from him every time he approaches her" thing. It sort of got in the way.
So it was, with a bit of regret, that he let her go, that he stopped watching her, stopped following her, stopped thinking about her. That was the easiest way to forget about someone—to just stop thinking about them.
She was bold and daring, and she definitely wasn't bad on the eyes, even if her sort of beauty was the non-conventional sort. She had no qualms about arguing with him, and she was easy to piss off. He liked that about her, because despite her quick-flaring temper, she would always have his back. Never before had he met a person so honest and loyal.
But she was so damn thick, sometimes! And she took everything he said badly, even his compliments. At first it was amusing, and he didn't mind apologizing, didn't mind making things right just to make sure things were okay between them, but it got tiring, and finally, he cornered her in the communal tent.
"Don't you get it?" he said hotly, his hands fisted so tightly his knuckles were white.
She didn't look scared, only confused, worried.
He bet she thought he'd had too much to drink, or that he was insane, but he didn't care. "This isn't a contest to see if you can beat me in a sparring match—" because she'd lost every one, and he knew she couldn't win, "—I don't care about that stuff. I don't give a shit."
She backed up another step, the color draining a bit from her face. Maybe she knew what he was about to say, but he doubted it. She had never been too quick on the uptake, and with a twisted smile of his lips, he realized that she was a bit like him in that regard.
"You're strong, and you and I both know it," he said, his anger burning out. "When I said I wouldn't hit a girl, I didn't say it to hurt you. I said it because I think you're—because I love you, and I couldn't hit someone I cared about so much!"
She shook her head, shook it firmly, eyes wide, chest nearly heaving with the effort she was making to breathe normally. In her haste, she nearly fell into the back of the tent, but she righted herself and tried to form words. "Hector, I… I don't…"
His heart dropped. It hurt.
He wondered, briefly, if he'd destroyed their friendship, if he'd been destroying from the moment he'd started to care about her a little too much.
"I'm sorry, Hector," she said, trying to be tactful, trying not to hurt his feelings.
Well, it was too late for that, and both of them knew it. "Naw," he said, sounding casual. "I didn't think you did. I just thought, you know, it wouldn't hurt to say it, just in case."
His statement might have been convincing if not for the cracking of his voice toward the end.
She reminded him a lot of Lyn, sometimes, with her arguing and her brashness, but she was a completely different person. She was witty and clever, and downright difficult to get to know.
"For the millionth time," he said as he sat by her cot in the healer's tent after a particularly terrible battle where she had taken the blunt side of an axe to the side of her head, "I am not here to wheedle you into giving me my gold back."
He considered adding a bit about how he had ten tons more of it back in Ostia, but he refrained. He had rarely found himself conscious of the state other people grew up in, but if Farina's distrust of everyone in the world told him anything, it was that she hadn't had a whole lot as a child, and him flippantly spouting off the fact that he was wealthy would no doubt hurt her somehow.
As if the axe to the head hadn't been enough.
"I don't believe you, but okay," she said, her dark eyes narrowed to slits.
"How are you feeling?" he tried asking, and it was with a lot of reluctance that she admitted it felt like she'd been trampled by the cavalry.
They spent months getting to know one another; he had always enjoyed a challenge, and Farina was a tough nut to crack. He felt triumphant every time he made her smile.
But she ran away from him.
Not like her sister, Florina, had, but emotionally, she was never truly there. And it hurt more than seeing Florina physically flee, hurt more than his memory of Lyn shaking her head at him, telling him no, no, no this won't work.
"Why won't you let me help you?" he finally made himself ask. "Why don't you trust me? Why don't you trust anyone?"
"I don't want to talk about it," she said, her voice harsh in the moonlight. She rolled out from beneath him and dressed herself with practiced ease.
He'd tried everything, tried being a gentleman, tried kissing her. He'd even bedded her, thinking maybe that was what she wanted all along, the assurance that he'd stick with her, that he really wanted her. But even his attempts to please her that way had gone nowhere, nowhere at all. She'd look at him the whole time, right into his eyes, but her eyes were always so empty that he felt like he was doing something wrong, that he was violating her somehow, even when she was the one doing the initiating.
She looked over at him, and he saw nothing in her gaze that spoke of devotion, or affection, or of love. "If you don't like it," she said, her voice softening just the smallest fraction, "then we can stop this."
"Are you ever going to want to talk about it?" he asked, wearily.
She shook her head.
In the middle of the night, he woke to find her side of the bed empty, and it was with some measure of alarm that he sat up and looked carefully around the room. She was sitting in one of the windows, curled up so tightly that he might have missed her had he merely scanned the area.
He went to join her, and when she heard the rustling of the sheets, heard him pad his way across the floor, that she leaned her head back against the stones. Her long hair spilled over her shoulders and looked oddly pale in the moonlight.
"I was awfully daft when I was younger," she said to him by way of greeting, and he reached his hand over to tuck her hair back neatly. "I can't believe I thought, for even a second, that my parents would come back to get me."
She laughed, then, but it was hollow and it sounded pained.
He winced. "No," he said after a moment of silence, "you weren't daft."
"No?" She smiled a bit. "Well, you certainly were. At least I can admit it."
"I've done many stupid things in my life," he assured her, squishing himself into the other side of the corner so that their knees bumped together awkwardly.
"You gave up on Florina, you scared Lady Lyn away, and you didn't tell Farina what it was she needed most to hear." Serra smiled at him, almost sadly. "I know I'm not what you wanted," she told him seriously. "I might be beautiful, and the best healer to ever hold a staff, but I'm not blind."
"We've been married for…"
"Years," she finished for him. "But I thought that you ought to know."
"All of it."
He looked out into the sky and saw that it was dotted with stars. A clear, cool night. "I already knew some of it," he said.
"The parts where I was a bloody idiot."
"That's most of them," she nodded, smiling slightly. "But you shouldn't use such language in front of a lady, you know. It's crude." She wrinkled her nose in mock distaste, but her hand reached out to rest on one of his knees. "We all make mistakes, you know."
"Some more than others."
"Well, yes." She rolled her eyes. "But it's important not to repeat the same mistake twice, you see. If we never made a mistake, ever, we'd never learn."
"So you've made mistakes?" he teased. "What, did you pray for the wrong thing?"
Her face turned serious, and she picked at her gown as she looked down at the courtyard. "I've said a lot of hurtful things, I've been very selfish, and I let myself sleep when I was supposed to be watching over Oswin."
"You were awake for two days straight, that time," he argued softly. "There's no way you could have helped it."
"That doesn't change the facts. Oswin is dead because I fell asleep, because I was so out of it that I didn't wake up until it was too late to save him."
"Don't blame yourself," he said, and he found that he meant it. It wasn't empty sympathy, words meant to comfort someone you didn't know.
"It's hard not to, sometimes," she whispered, and it was then that he understood.
She had loved Oswin.
And he thought, for a moment, that he'd lost the other girls he'd cared about—Florina, and Lyn, and Farina—but at least they'd walked away from him, or he from them; they hadn't died, hadn't left him suddenly and inexplicably alone.
He touched her hand. His wife. Serra. He wondered sometimes how it had come to be, but then he remembered that he hadn't wanted to marry a stranger, and there she had been, alone and perfectly unattached. But he'd grown used to her strange ways, and he even felt comfortable around her, more comfortable than he'd felt with anyone, save perhaps Eliwood. It wasn't that emotional, heart-wrenching sort of love that he had always assumed needed to exist, but he knew that's what it was, the comfortable sort of love that existed when the initial physical attraction faded and was replaced with a familiar, comforting sort of love.
"Serra," he ventured carefully as his fingers slid between hers and curled into themselves. He squeezed. "I won't say that you were what I was looking for all along, but I still found you, in the end."
"I know," she said with a genuinely affectionate smile, and squeezed his hand back.