Title: While There's Still Time
Characters: Fiora, Sain
Genre: Introspection, Romance, Friendship
Notes: I was hoping this would end up under 500 words, but it just kept going. I hate it when that happens. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to end. Anyway, just a cute little piece. The line about freedom is pulled partially from The Count of Monte Cristo, where Abbe Faria offers something "priceless", and when Edmond wonders if it is freedom, he says, "No, freedom can be taken away, as you well know. I offer you my knowledge." I think it would be hard to want to get to know people during a war/campaign when you know there's a decent chance that the other person could be dead by the next morning, and I can see Fiora sharing this opinion since she's a little standoffish in canon. More people to care about is really just more stress. But sometimes it's worth it, because not knowing might be worse in the end. This is unedited.
Had Fiora been born in a privileged time, she might have been the type to organize, to plan for the future. But in times of unrest, of war, plans often fell through, so Fiora shoved her imaginary timetable to the back of her mind and continued on with her life, which consisted mostly of never expecting anything out of the next day.
She was not alone in her thinking; some of the more idealistic of her acquaintance hoped for—or expected—things of the morrow. Fiora felt that this was neither wise nor unfounded, for hope was both a wonderful and dangerous thing, but she herself refrained, quite purposefully, from letting acquaintances turn personal. It was too much, sometimes, to hope for the safety of the people she cared for by default. But to add, with deliberate thought, others to this list of worry and despair and dread, to dream of more faces and fates, to scramble, shaking, trembling, after a battle to find and count the heads of more…well, it was unthinkable.
"How can you," she asked Sain once, "how can you hope that you will be able to follow through? I dare not plan something as simple as lunch with Florina, for who am I to assume the future, that she will be here to partake of food with me, or I with she?"
"My dear," said Sain in reply, his hazel eyes void of the glimmer of light that so often shimmered there, "one such as I may not hope to predict the future, nay, know it, but when the light wanes and the morn' is yet to come, 'tis better to love and be loved, or even to have lost, than to feel nothing at all."
If this were a more fortunate time, without war or famine or hunger or worry, then Fiora would organize her life. She would carefully, painstakingly craft a loving calendar, with lunch meetings for her sister inked in on Tuesdays, and with evenings with an imaginary gentleman caller on Fridays. In between would be business transactions, and, she thought, she might even keep track of what she ate at every meal.
But Fiora was not so lucky, and war did not give a person time to care, so Fiora found that she could not agree with Sain, not really.
"Is there harm in caring for another?" he asked her. "In feeling worry for my brother-in-arms, Kent? In choosing to ensure the safety of the beauteous heir of Caelin? In thinking of you when a battle eases and I've yet to assure myself of your well-being?"
"Only hurt," she whispered. "Hurt and despair and woe beyond belief when your beloved brother cannot be roused when the fight is done; when your Lady Lyndis of Caelin cries out in her sleep from the pain of her wounds." Her voice trembled.
With the edge of his index finger, he touched her cheek just once, just enough, and gave her a sad smile. "Death does not lessen my love for them, it does not render it ineffectual, nonexistent."
"But it hurts," she told him before she could stop herself, before she could admit such a stupid, silly weakness in the midst of a war. "It hurts if you know them, and occasionally even if you don't. People die every day in a war," she said. "Hundreds. Thousands. Sometimes you are left to grieve alone."
"Worth remembering, I think," he told her, "is that when they are gone, so, too, is our chance to know them, to laugh at their quirks, to tease them about their hobbies, to talk of the places you will go and the people they must meet. So I do not think it a waste to have truly cared for my dear companion, Kent; should he pass on the morrow, I shall be deep in mourning for many months, nay, years, but I shall also rejoice, for I have never been so timid that I went a day without telling him how I felt. If you do not believe me," he added with a grin, "then ask him yourself. He will say, That Sain is such a fool, he is almost not worth the trouble, but you see, almost makes all the difference with him."
Was it really so easy, so simple? Such a thing was doubtful. She had witnessed many deaths in her lifetime, and she did not think she could ever believe in living in the moment, not anymore, for she had spent an evening laughing around the campfire with those considered friends, and by the nightfall next, they were all dead, and the plans they had made over the fire—engagements, toys to buy for their children, weddings, fancy meals of greens and venison with no potatoes in sight—had followed after.
It was hard to forget it. For days all she had heard in the back of her mind was the sound of her own laughter, carefree, mocking.
"If we make it through this is sad," Sain said, breaking her thoughts. "If is a strong word. A lot rides on if."
"I do not understand you."
"Not many people do."
"Does Sir Kent? Understand you?"
"I would not consider him a friend if he did not understand me at least a little. Fiora, time is a gift, and we can waste it, afraid of getting hurt, afraid of losing the people that we've taken the time and effort to care about, or we can simply let ourselves care. If is dangerous because we don't know if we'll be given such a chance again. If I fall on the morrow, you will forever wonder what sort of man I was, because you would not let yourself find out. Knowledge is something that can never be taken away."
She thought on it for a moment, mulled over his words in her head. Would it be better to spend the war distancing herself from her acquaintances, never really getting to know any of them, or to befriend them and enjoy the time that they had left, however long that ended up being?
After a moment of hesitation, she made her choice.
"It is true that many things can be taken away—freedom and pride and happiness—but once knowledge is attained it may only be forgotten with time, never truly lost or taken by force." She turned away and picked up her currycomb before turning to Makar's side. "Sain," she asked, rubbing the comb against the white fur of her pegasus, "have you any brothers or sisters?"