Title: More Than Words
Chapter Title: With the Passing of Time
Characters: Hector/Farina, mention of others
Genre: Romance/Angst
Words: 1,426
Notes: Special thanks to Fence for helping me flesh out some ideas. This takes place fourteen years after FE7 and assumes part of Farina's single ending: "Her skill earned her high fame, as well as high prices!" As an advanced warning, this is a chaptered story and the rating will be moving up to M eventually, so proceed with caution. Written for Kender.

The pegasus gave her away. Hector's twice-annual inspection of the streets and businesses of Ostia—his only excuse to get outside and be around the type of people he liked—brought him through one of many stables where one could board their horse. It was on the poorer side of the city, and he hurried through the building just to see if anything looked out of place or unsafe about it.

As he passed by the very back stall, he saw, inside, a dirty winged horse. As soon as the beast saw him its ears pricked up only to flatten again, and it lunged for the door, teeth bared, snapping at him.

He knew whose pegasus that was. He knew. Without hesitation, he had the owner of the establishment summoned so that he could ask after the pegasus's rider.

The burly man who owned the building arrived within minutes and stared to the back of the darkened stall at the pegasus, who was rocking back and forth against the wall, pulling against his tether half-heartedly.

"I hope the wench'at owns 'im isn't in trouble for nothin', milord," he said, his hand scratching at the stubble that peppered his neck. "If'n I knew, I'd've never let her stable her blasted beast here."

"No," Hector assured him, "she's not in trouble for anything. Where might I find her?"

He shrugged. "She works during the day." His hands went to his breeches to hook into the belt loops. "She always comes back 'round dusk. Sleeps here, with her horse."

"Pegasus," Hector corrected before he could stop himself.

"My apologies, milord. Sure 'nuff, he's a pegasus."

"We'll return at dusk," he said.

The rest of the day passed in a blur. He knew that pegasus. He knew him. That was Murphy, and he belonged to Farina of Ilia. She'd been so proud of her winged horse that he always looked perfect—she'd taken great pains to keep him groomed during the war. But what he'd just seen…it wasn't right.

The last he'd heard of Farina, a few years after the war in a letter from her younger sister, she'd returned to Ilia and had made something of herself, continuing her mercenary work.

She's built up a pretty good reputation, Florina had written. But she still brags about that 20,000 gold you paid her so long ago.

He hadn't seen Farina at all since the war; a lot could happen in that amount of time. A lot had, already.

After dusk, as promised, he returned to the stables. The owner met him outside.

"She's in there, milord," he assured him.

Ordering his guards to stay outside, he went in. The anticipation of seeing someone for the first time in fourteen years was thick and heavy and frightening. They'd been good enough friends at the end of the war, but she hadn't written to him even once to brag about her success or her freedom or even just to say hello. He wondered if she was still the same person, but a part of him knew better.

People changed. Fourteen years would certainly have changed her.

Still, he had an image in his mind of her from the war. What she'd been like back then—nervous and always looking over her shoulder, but generally upbeat, with a penchant for dirty jokes and a mouth to rival a sailor.

The image was shattered when he saw her bathed in the light from the doorway, bent over with Murphy's hoof across her knees, a hoof pick in one hand to dig out pebbles. At first glance, she looked much the same to him: small, with short hair and wide eyes.

But then she looked up and saw him standing there, and she bolted.

Bolted! At the sight of him. With a muffled, desperate, "No!"

Her reaction surprised him enough that she was past him and at the door before he could even think to turn around, but he gave chase, his heart pumping hard for the first time since the sealing of the Dragon's Gate.

The chase lasted ten minutes and came to an abrupt halt when she ran into a dead end. He was out of breath, but she was worse, her breathing high and gasping as if she couldn't calm down enough to breathe properly. When she tried to bolt past him again in the narrow alley by ducking beneath his arm at the last second, he was ready for her, expecting it, now.

Instead of running under his arm, she smacked right into it, coughing as her stomach pressed hard into his forearm.

His hand tightened around her waist.

He wanted to say, "Hey Farina," or, "Why'd you run?"

He wanted to ask her how she'd been, what she'd been up to.

A small part of him wanted to yell at her and demand to know how she'd come to this.

But he just stared as she pulled weakly away from him, rocking back and forth in a sick imitation of her pegasus, who was still tethered in his stall. Her hair was choppy and uneven, as if she'd taken shears to it instead of scissors, and it was limp and lifeless, like her tired eyes. She was way too thin because her clothes were too big, and she was still struggling to breathe, murmuring, "No, no, no," over and over as if she were afraid of him.

Her nose was still the same as he remembered it, though: crooked from what she claimed was a fight in a tavern, three against one; she had been outnumbered and had managed to win. She was still pretty, too—or would be, if she didn't look so unhealthy.

His guards caught up to him, panting, and he ignored them. "Farina," he said, gently, certain that something was wrong with her, wanting to assure her that she was fine, that he wasn't going to do anything to hurt her. But when he tried to finish his sentence, he found that he couldn't say anything at all.

What did you say to someone you hadn't seen in fourteen years? A connection to the past that you'd thought was severed?

She settled, at the sound of her name, and when her breathing evened out again, she said, a hard edge to her voice, "Let me go, Lord Hector."

So she did know him. And she'd run, anyway.

"You gonna run again?" he asked.

Her eyes had that glint to them once more, the one he remembered from the war. She looked over at his guards. She refused to look at him, though. "No."

He said nothing, he did nothing…for a long moment. He couldn't even think.

"You gonna let me go?" she asked.

He watched her face carefully but she still wouldn't look at him.

"You're getting dirty." Her voice was sour.

"If you agree to come back with me," he told her, "then I'll let you go."

"Is that an order or a request?"

He didn't know. "A request," he said after a moment. "If you agree to come, I'll have them bring your horse, too."

She didn't even correct him. He never thought he'd want her to bite his head off for calling Murphy a horse, but he missed it. He missed it so much it hurt.

She softened at his offer. "Well," she said, glancing up at him very briefly before she looked back down at his arm, "if you'll give him a nice stall. With good lighting…"

"I'll give him Odysseus's stall," he assured her. The great black gelding would be fine in the second-nicest stall, anyway.

There was no conceivable way she could know who Odysseus was, but she seemed to infer it, and smiled just the smallest bit.

"Okay," she said, and he released his hold on her.

The entire ride to the castle, she pressed herself tightly against the far side of the bench as if to be as far away from him as possible.

Maybe she was scared of him, or maybe she was just afraid he was going to comment on how she smelled, which was pretty bad, but he expected nothing better from someone who slept in a horse stall.

Still, he had to wonder. How had she gotten there? What happened to the fame? The money?

And then he had to ask himself: Why do I even care?

But he knew the answer to that. They'd been friends, once upon a time, and if he hadn't been such a coward, maybe they could've been more.