Title: Pretty Thoughts
Characters: Lucia, Janaff
Genre: Friendship, Romance
Words: 2,126
Notes: If you can figure out what the title is from…kudos to you! This 'fic was written via the FE Exchange on Livejournal for Saria on Tumblr. Warning: this is unedited, and I'll be frank: I'm not super familiar with these characters, so I apologize if anything seems off. Thanks go to Sardonic Kender Smile for punching me out of my writing block.

A quarter of a century was such a short span of time that Janaff found it hard to believe that a beorc might only live through three such periods before dying.

"No way!" he said to Lucia over drinks at a quiet but warm tavern. The snow fell outside and Crimea was beautiful; he had never been able to view a beorc's land as beautiful until he had seen it like this. "Seventy-five is old?"

"Oh yes," she responded, her lips quirked upward just slightly, obviously amused at his surprise. "Beorcs reach adulthood at, oh, it depends…but usually around sixteen years."

"Wow," he said. "Wow." Laguz lived much longer and reached maturity much later in life. "So how old are you, then?"

She raised an eyebrow. "Don't you know?" she asked. "Never ask a beorc woman her age. It's rude."

He made it a point to visit Crimea every winter, when it looked the prettiest, and when Lucia would be the least busy. Though he fancied her in a manner of speaking, he wasn't stupid; racism didn't disappear overnight, and as idealistic as she might have once been regarding the laguz/beorc relationship across borders…the years told their story better than anything.

"I had hoped," she sighed, a handful of years after the skirmishes had settled, "that things would be all right by now."

"More pretty thoughts," he said, but he couldn't help but smile at her as she leaned over the balcony and stared at the snow-covered courtyard. "They're nice to think about, but they're too much like the snow; they melt as soon as things heat up." He didn't say it, but he did admire that about her; her ability to be idealistic when most would be sour made him feel…something. He wasn't sure what it was.

He met her out on patrol; she was riding a calm mare, and he landed in front of her in a flurry of wings in the snowy morning air. "Hey!" he called, and he noticed the recognition in her eyes, and it pleased him.

"Hail," she returned, a smile gracing her face. She looked tired, and he wondered why. "What brings you to Crimea?"

"You, of course," he teased, and walked with her as she made her way around the grounds at a steady pace. They talked for a time, the usual small talk that accompanied two old friends who had not seen each other in a year, but finally, he broke the silly talk with a quiet off-hand, "I have good news to share with you."

"Good news?" she asked, pulling back on the reins as her eyebrows rose in surprise. "Well, why didn't you mention it right away then? Who talks about the weather when there's good news to speak of?"

"I had a clever way all planned out to bring it up," he teased, "but as usual, your lovely face distracted me, and I forgot what it was." Flirting with Lucia was simple, planned. It was never anything severely serious, nor was it meaningless. It was toeing a very careful line, and both of them knew it.

"Well, what is it?" Lucia did not have the patience of a saint, and the look on her face amused him.

He struck a pose, and from the inside of his coat pocket, he pulled out a scroll that bore a thick seal, "An official alliance," he said proudly, unable to contain his grin, "with Phoenicis."

He was not disappointed with her response to this information.

"What?" she asked, shock written on her face. And when he nodded and smiled wider, she leapt down from her horse and caught him in an excited hug—so very unlike her, he realized later—before jumping in place and pressing a kiss to his cheek. "That's fantastic!" she said, hugging him again. "Huzzah!"

Since their first conversation regarding age, he had not bothered to ask Lucia how old she was. Her hair had grown out, signaling the passing of time, and lines had formed at the corners of her eyes and mouth. Having spent the vast majority of his life around fellow laguz, seeing these changes—not only in Lucia, but in others as well—had an odd effect on him.

He found himself unable to really cope with the reality: that these beorc that he had come to care about would die long before him, that Lucia would die…and relatively speaking, it would happen soon.

He asked her out to help him celebrate his 130th birthday; he did not look much different than he had twenty years ago when they had fought under Ike's command, but she had changed.

She still smiled easily, she was still idealistic…but she was less patient. Queen Elincia had joked that they were all feeling their age, but Elincia had offspring to worry about, and to the best of his knowledge, Lucia did not.

He watched her nurse a mug of ale as he sat across the table from her, and he wondered many things about this woman that he had come to care for over the years. "Lucia," he finally said, breaking the silence.

She looked up at him and smiled questioningly. "What is it, Janaff?"

He contemplated asking her how old she was, again, but remembered that it was rude, and decided against it. Everyone had a secret they wished to keep—himself included—and though his age did not bother him, he supposed that beorc viewed things like age and aging differently than laguz. Instead, he put his chin in his hand and cocked his head to the side. "Are you married?"

The question was not expected; her expression changed to one of shock, but was quickly replaced by confusion. "What a question to ask an old friend," she said, shaking her head. "No, I am not."

"And no children?" he asked.

She shook her head again.

"But why not?" It was hard for him to understand these beorc ways of acting and thinking and being. "If beorc live to be, say, seventy-five on average, then most would produce offspring before they are forty, right?"

"Yes," she confirmed. "Queen Elincia had her children before she turned thirty."

And so had many others, he knew. "Do you not want children?" he asked.

"It's not that," she said with a chuckle. "I just…" The way she trailed off made him pause in thought along with her, but she picked her sentence back up again after a few moments. "I had marriage proposed to me…many years ago."

He had not known about that, but before he could ask whom the proposal had come from, he squashed his curiosity. It didn't really matter now.

"But you refused?"

"Yes." Her smile faltered a little. "Perhaps I was…foolish, then, to refuse such an offer. Geoffrey certainly thought so. But I did, and what is done cannot be undone."

"I don't think you're the type of woman to refuse an offer just to refuse it," he said in an attempt to be supportive. "You must have had a reason."

"I did," she said, and something in her eyes told him that this moment was important, but he couldn't quite understand what it was. "I rather hoped… Well… Never mind about that." She lifted her mug and he did the same. "To your health!" she said as they clinked their mugs together. "Huzzah!"

The world around them changed, and for a handful of years, he was not able to make it to Crimea to visit his oldest and dearest beorc friend. When he finally did make it, in the dead of winter as usual, he was surprised to find her looking older.

"Lucia?" he asked, frightened that he was not immediately certain that it was her.

She turned to look at him, and they embraced as usual. She laid a kiss on his cheek, ritual from the morning he had delivered his good news. "Janaff," she said, "where have you been?"

"Busy," he admitted, but looked her over carefully. "How have you been?"

"Fine," she said, "and yourself?"

But she didn't look fine. He wondered at it, but didn't call her bluff. "Great," he said, instead. "Crimea is as lovely as ever…and so are you."

Her eyes sparkled a bit at his words, though she shook her head and gave him a little shove, an indication that she didn't really believe him, though she wanted to.

"In the summertime," he said, another handful of years later, "I want to take you to Phoenicis. You've yet to see it, and I promise you, it's splendid!"

"I don't know…" she said, looking frail, now, almost painfully thin. He still wasn't sure how old she was in beorc years—but he knew she was past the "middle-age" mark. Still, she was dear to him, and he wanted to show her the one place that meant the world to him.

"I could get Jill's son to take you there," he said. "I hear he's taken up the family business of transportation. I've never ridden on a wyvern, but I hear it's not too bad."

"Well, I am curious about how amazing it is," she teased. "I don't know if I believe that it's the greatest, though."

"Oh it is," he assured her.

And the following summer, Jill's son did take Lucia to Phoenicis. When Janaff saw the man, it gave him pause—the same reaction he had had upon seeing Queen Elincia's children looking like adults. How odd, he thought, that beorcs could be born and grow and live in such a short period of time. But he had seen it with his own eyes several times over.

If the other laguz thought he was insane, lending his arm to a woman whose hair was thoroughly streaked with grey, whose legs sometimes required her to rest, whose age was, to the average eye, much older than his own…they said nothing.

When she was due to return to Crimea, she met him at the base of one of the tallest trees and gave him a smile. "Thank you for showing me your home," she said. "I've always wondered what it was like—what your life was like."

"Well, why didn't you ask?"

She looked as if she had an answer, but shook her head, "I honestly don't know," she admitted. "I think I was waiting for you to offer to show me." Her laugh was honest and full, but he was certain there was a bit of hurt mixed in.

He pretended not to notice it.

Lucia was his almost-lover, in the end. She was his "what-if" woman. Had the world been a different place, he might have pursued her as more than a friend: he might have encouraged romance, and he might have tried to court her as a beorc would. But the world was not kind to interracial relationships, and for both their sakes, he had only ever tip-toed the line of friendship and lover, never quite leaning one way or the other.

A couple hundred years in the future, when beorc and laguz marriages became more common, Janaff would hear that it was harder for the beorc; having to deal with growing old while their partner stayed young ruined more than one marriage. But he had always felt it was the other way around: watching Lucia grow old without him, and so quickly, was the most difficult thing he had ever had to deal with. He wondered if the pain would have been worse had he married her, but he didn't think so.

He returned to Crimea every year, even after he received a letter from Bastian saying that she had passed away. The winter after her passing, he visited her grave for the first time. It was simple but elegant, just as she always had been, and he stood in front of it in the snow and felt, not for the first time, regret.

Many things in life weren't fair, he thought to himself. War was not fair, prejudice was not fair… But some things a person had control over, regardless as to whether or not that person was beorc or laguz.

He watched as the snow drifted over the name carved into the marble and wondered why he had only ever allowed her to be a pretty thought at the back of his mind when she could have been much more.