Title: The Five Finger Discount
Summary: Heather tries to stop stealing after the war and be a good girl for her mother's sake just as Nephenee comes back into her life. Unfortunately for her, quitting the wild life is a lot easier said than done.
Author's note: fe_fest: FE 10, Heather/Nephenee - Heather can't shake her thieving tendencies. / cottoncandy_bingo: future.
The five finger discount is slang for stealing.
Heather was done with stealing, really. She had a mother to take care of, and she hardly needed her mother guilting her on how her uh, career choices were going to break her heart and kill her off for real this time.
The war was over, and she was going to get herself a legit job and pay for the rest of her mother's medicine like most boring, law-abiding citizens.
Just after she lifted this one jewel to keep them comfy, oh and some food for that night, and a bit of coin from that jerk who catcalled her—he deserved it, after all—and a little something for herself, since she'd been working so very hard...
The thing was, she was working towards it. Slowly, but getting there.
So far, looking for work hadn't panned out to well. She was hardly meant for farm work, working in an inn and being a shopgirl sounded so dreary. She needed adventure, a job that traveled, that provided her lots of opportunities, in both senses of the word.
Heather sighed and reminded herself that the whole point was to stay home and be a good daughter and take care of her mother. No travel or adventure in that. She was done, all through with sowing her wild oats. She wouldn't go as far as settling down with a man for her mother, but she'd try to be at least reasonably respectable.
Maybe she could work with nearby mercenaries again. But with peace coming on, plenty of them were working more and more menial jobs and barely getting by. Some of them were even disbanding, because they couldn't get enough work.
She hated to admit it, but she had enjoyed wartime more than peace. At least in the war there'd been excitement and a lot of pretty girls. Heather wandered the streets, taking her time as she got the supplies. She caught a glint of bluish green, and did a turn so fast she nearly dropped her bundle.
"Huh? Did someone call me?"
"It is you!" Heather said. She reached out, bags be damned, and pulled Nephenee into a tight hug. And to Heather's great pleasure, Nephenee laughed and returned the hug. Even if that meant having armor crushing against her chest. Hey, it was little price to pay for being able to hug a beautiful woman.
Finally, Nephenee patted her shoulder and pulled back, much to Heather's disappointment.
"Oh, hello there, Heather! It sure has been a while since I last saw you, I didn't know you lived around these parts," Nephenee said in that charming country girl drawl Heather found so pleasing.
"My mother wanted to live closer to some of her relatives," Heather said with a smile.
"I didn't realize you had country roots, Heather. What family you got in these parts?"
Heather shrugged. "I'm not sure, they're on my father's side."
"Oh, is he comin' too?" Nephenee said.
"He was in the army and died when I was pretty young," Heather said.
"I'm real sorry to touch a sore spot, I didn't realize at all," Nephenee said.
"Don't worry about it, that all happened a long time ago," Heather said.
"I'm still real sorry," Nephenee said. "So, er, you look good."
Heather smiled coyly. "You don't look so bad yourself."
"Oh, I'm still workin' the guardin' force out here. We started it to keep the people safe should the brigands come around. Gotta protect the little ones, you know," she said.
"Oh, of course. You're awful good at guarding, I remember you being a real fierce back in the war," Heather said, her voice hitting a flirty low point that went entirely over Nephenee's head.
"You're real sweet, but I really do hafta get goin'. My family expects me. I hope to see you around," Nephenee said.
"Oh, you will," Heather said. She smiled, feeling much better about the day. Maybe there would be something interesting down in this boondocks place after all.
So, she'd quit, but onelittle job wouldn't count, right? She had to get Nephenee something nice. As a reunion present, because she really wanted to see that cute shy smile again.
She'd only steal from men, she decided. Like that tale of the famous thief who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, she would steal from ugly, stinky, mean men and give to pretty girls.
It was the perfect plan. And technically what she'd been doing all along, but shh, it was totally progress.
As it was, the plan wasn't too hard to implement, there were plenty of handsy drunks to lift from. Flutter her eyelashes a bit, pretend they were interesting, get them in a dark corner and lift all their gold. Really, she was doing a good deed to society and keeping them dry and away from groping the serving maids.
Heather hummed to herself as she fingered the coin purse she'd picked. Now what would be a good gift? Would Nephenee find jewels shallow, or would she be just the sort of girl to secretly crave silky dresses and jewels and other fine things?
Heather figured she'd play it straight and get her something small. Come on too strong and she'd be as bad as that one knight in the mercenary group she'd been in who practically spilled his heart out for any girl to stomp on.
Instead, she went and use the coins to buy some sweet cakes. Everyone loved sweet cakes. Well, everyone except that little dour mage who always stayed by the general she'd served under. But he even seemed to even dislike pretty girls, so he was a lost cause entirely.
She cursed herself inwardly for letting Nephenee get away without getting her address, but after checking with the people, she was able to find the farm on the outskirts of town. A bunch of blue haired children ran about in the fields. Heather rested at the fence post, as little calves swung their tails and looked up at her with big, brown eyes. Cute little things, they were. She couldn't help but wonder–hope–that the children were cousins and siblings. She couldn't imagine a woman as fierce and beautiful and strong as Nephenee barefoot and pregnant by some stinky farmer. The mere thought made something clench in her chest and fill her with a visceral loathing.
She made it her vow that she would make sure that this vision of horror would never happen to Nephenee. It would be her mission in life. Save Nephenee from being a farmer's wife, a thousand times over!
With that new goal in mind,, Heather walked up the long path to the farm house.
"Is Nephneee around?" she said.
An older woman with brown hair greying pulled back into a bun looked at her suspiciously. She wore a faded blue gingham dress that had been patched many times and certainly seen better days, and seemed too thin and too frail.
"You a friend of hers?"
"We were in the war together. Same unit, and all," Heather said.
"Hmmmm," she said.
Heather smiled encouragingly. The woman's frown did not let up in the least.
Well, Nephenee's relatives were turning out to be quite pleasant people. Then again, Heather had to admit that if she had to deal with a stinky farmer as a husband, she'd be pretty angry at life, too.
"You must be the one she keeps talkin' about. The one in all the letters," the woman said.
Heather's ears perked up at this. Nephenee had mentioned her? A little pulse of joy went through her.
"Really?" Heather said.
The woman nodded. "She'd be out in the pastures now, talkin' to Jaepeth before dinner."
"Oh, thank you, then I'll just...go talk to her," Heather said.
"You be good to her, you hear?" The woman said, with a piercing gaze that threatened pitchforks and torches her way if she didn't.
"Of course, I wouldn't thinkof doing anything to hurt her, really," Heather said.
The woman just eyed her suspiciously. "I sure hope so," she said.
There was an unsaid implication of or you'll regret it.
Yes, Nephenee's relatives were downright charming.
Heather all but ran out, and not just because she wanted to get as far away from the unpleasant woman as possible. She leaped from the porch and stared out at the many fields. The woman hadn't specified which pasture Nephenee would be in, and there were quite a few of them.
Oh, well! She'd find Nephenee with her heart, like a dowsing rod!
She walked through a pasture that seemed oddly empty, even peaceful, when she noticed that it wasn't. A big black cow was pawing at the ground. She walked slowly, far enough off as not to be a direct threat.
"Hey there," she said in a soft, soothing tone. The cows were quite cute, she'd even wanted to pet a few. This one, however, was not cute. In the least. It had big horns and was sleek and filled with muscles and stink and yep, it was male all right. The bull snorted.
"Easy there," Heather said.
The bull snorted again and started in a charge. Heather hauled it out towards the fence, not daring to look behind her as she could just hear the sound of the bull's hooves behind her. She just barely missed a charge from one very mean black bull with a chip on its shoulder and her behind in its sights.
Heather took a minute to catch her breath when she was out of the reach of the horrible thing.After her heart (which apparently needed directions) stopped racing, she went the other way, towards the big barn on the other side of the pasture. A little while later, she found Nephenee talking away to a tall youth who she could only assume was Jaepeth.
He looked her over suspiciously as well before nodding and saying a see you at dinner, Nephenee, and making his way to leave.
Friendly people, out here. Or maybe they just didn't like her. But Nephenee was all that really mattered, even if her family looked at her like she was something gross a dog had rolled in.
"Ah, Heather, I didn't expect to see you here," Nephenee said.
"Oh, I just wanted to drop in. I bought far too many sweet cakes and figured I'd share," Heather said.
"I'm sorry if Aunt Trudie gave you the third degree, she don't take kindly to strangers," Nephenee said.
"Oh, she was..." Heather sought for the right word. None of the words seemed to fit, and she didn't want to insult Nephenee's family right in front of her.
"...fine," she said finally.
"Sorry, my clan's a bit tight, they're nice once you get to know them, though," Nephenee said.
"It's no problem, really, none at all," Heather said. She looked behind her, making sure the black beast wasn't around to try and gore her again. She had a feeling she'd be far less confident when going through pastures for now on.
"Oh, no, don't tell me you went through the bull's pasture?"
"Unfortunately," Heather said.
"Are you okay? He didn't hurt you or nothin', did he?"
"Oh, Nephenee, don't be silly! I'm much to fast and agile to get gored by any stupid old bull.Not that I'd repeat it, mind you," Heather said.
Nephnee laughed. "Oh, I'm so glad. It's practically a tradition out here to have to run from the bull at some point. He's a nasty thing, especially when he gets out. But I've been around him enough that I can get him to mind."
"I'd always feel safe around you, Nephenee," Heather said.
"Well, I do my best," Nephenee said. She shifted her feet, a bid unsteady.
Heather looked to her pouch, only to find it torn apart and empty. She hadn't realized just how close a call she'd had.
"That damn bull stole my sweet cakes!"
Drat. So much for her plan to woo Nephenee with sweets. And she'd practically made a fool of herself, too! She was supposed to be country like Nephenee. Of course, she was more a village girl than a farm girl, but still.
She sat down, her back to the barn, and Nephenee bent down and patted her shoulder.
"It's all right, Heather. It's the thought that counts. I'm just glad it got the cakes and not you."
Then again, if she'd been hurt, she could've had Nephenee nurse her back to health and tie her in bandages. Even kiss it better. It might even make being horribly gored halfway bearable. Almost.
"How have you been? We didn't really get a chance to talk back then..." Nephenee said,
"Oh yes, you were busy. I've been...trying new things. Decided to turn over a new leaf with the war being over," Heather said.
"Really? You're givin' up your wild ways?" Nephenee said, a little half smile on her cute face. "I never woulda thought you'd be the type to settle down."
"Well, not allof them," Heather said, giving Nephenee a lascivious look.
Nephenee turned to hide her flushed cheeks. So cute!
"But not even a little stealin'?"
"Ah...I'm working towards it," Heather said. She shrugged. "Mother wants me to be around, and she's so ill lately. I can't be gallivanting about."
"So, what are you plannin' to do?" Nephenee said. "I can't see you bein' a farm wife..."
"Oh, hellno. I'm. Well, I'm going to do...something."
"If you want, I can ask my local group if they need another hand. It'd be hard work, but you're used to it from bein' in the army."
"Ah, but I'm more suited to more delicate work," Heather said.
She could go for intelligence work, but there wasn't exactly a huge call for spies in a peaceful time, alas. It'd been tearing her up inside, and all of her frustration came out at once.
"To tell you the truth... I don't think I can do it! Life is just so boring! I'm trying to be a good daughter, but nothing gives me the thrill that working as a thief did."
It really wasn't fair. How was she supposed to be a good daughter when that equally a boring life with everything she hated? Oh, she'd tried to go good, but being bad was in her blood. She just couldn't escape it.
"Well, if you ask me, you're best in stickin' to what you're best at," Nephenee said.
"So, you're saying the best way to be a good daughter for my mother is to carouse, flirt and steal a lot?" Heather said, with one eyebrow raised.
Nephenee shrugged. "You should be the best you you can be. I never met the woman, but I bet she'd want you to be happy, and you can't be a good daughter for her if you're just lyin' all the time and resentin' her for wantin' you to be somethin' you're not."
Heather practically threw herself at Nephenee in a hug. "Oh, Nephenee! I knew you'd have all the right answers."
Nephenee was flushed pink and cute, and felt rather nice in her arms, too. A perfect mix of sleek muscles and soft curves. She thought about what Aunt Trudie had said. Screw going slow! Her heart was telling her to go full speed ahead. So what if it'd lead her straight into a bull's pen a little while ago? That was obviously just a little misdirection and not a sign that her heart needed directions and probably wasn't the best thing to be listening to.
"Maybe I'll just focus on stealing your heart instead," Heather said.
She reached out to stroke Nephenee's pink cheeks, and bring their lips closer together.
"Heather..." Nephenee said.
"Yes, Nephenee?" Heather said.
"...If you're not careful, you're gonna go right into a cow pattie."
"What?" She shrieked. She pulled back, away, the romantic moment effectively ruined. "It's on me, it's on me, ughhh!"
Nephenee laughed. "You're all clean, but if you aren't careful, you won't be."
So much for her romantic move. It was like that damned bull was out to ensure she messed up every romantic opportunity. Damned countryside and its damned evil cows.
"Don't get me wrong...I've been wantin' you to do that for a long time," Nephenee said. She pushed back her hair, looking shyly to the side.
"And I've been wanting to do that a long time," Heather said. "War has a way of getting in the way of romantic interludes, however."
That and those damned cows.
"That they do," Nephenee said. "We should, ah...find a better place than here for stuff like...kissin'. If you're worried about your boots, I'll carry you. It could be fun...like old times."
"If you're any more dashing, I might just swoon," Heather said.
"I don't know about me bein' dashin', but I'll do my best to guard you with my life," Nephenee said. She was in just a state of perpetual blushing. Her shyness would be the death of Heather, yet. She would have too many feelings and just expire in the happiest state of being close to such a cute girl.
As if on cue, Nephenee plucked her up and carried her through the pasture bridal style, and Heather felt like floating. Being in the arms of a pretty girl, really, what was better in life? So, maybe she didn't quite get to steal a kiss, but she'd gotten the girl in the end, and that was what mattered, right?