Title: More Than Words
Chapter Title: An Ending is a Beginning
Characters: Hector/Farina, mention of others
Genre: Romance, Friendship, Family
Notes: Epilogue. Takes place a little more than two years after the last chapter. More notes at the end.
Hector found Farina in Lilina's room.
"Hi," she said, with a smile, her fingers buried in his daughter's hair as she braided it for the night.
"My girls," he said with a grin. Lilina rolled her eyes, too old now for such silliness, he supposed. Ten-year-olds were confusing.
"May I have a pegasus, Father?"
So grown up at only ten years old. He felt sad. But, "No. No pegasus."
Farina's lip twitched a little in amusement. He would bet anything that she'd tried to tell Lilina that he'd never let her get another pegasus. They were trouble. And he didn't like the idea of his daughter flying up a billion feet into the air any more than he liked the idea of his wife doing it.
"But why not?" Lilina complained, pouting and sounding like a child again.
He just raised one eyebrow as he kissed her, and then his wife, on the head. "Because the fall from a horse is at least fixable."
Lilina rolled her eyes but didn't argue with him further.
"Did you need something?" Farina asked.
"I've come to steal you away."
Lilina made a face. "Gross," she said, and Hector wondered how long it would be before she changed her mind about that.
Farina tied off Lilina's braid and pulled back the blankets so that she could get into bed.
"Still too old for stories?" Hector asked.
"A shame." He leaned over her to kiss her hair again. "Good night."
"Good night, Father."
Farina kissed her, too, and they left, heading back to their own room.
"Don't worry," she said, taking his hand and holding onto it for the short walk back. "It's just a phase. She'll probably get tired of pretending to be a grown up."
"I can't believe she wants a pegasus."
"I tried to discourage her."
"With what, stories of how great flying is?"
Farina grinned. "No, I told her about all of the hazards."
"Let me guess, she thought it was fascinating."
"Yes." She followed him into their receiving room and fell onto the couch, smiling up at him.
He couldn't resist that tilt of her head. He leaned over the couch to kiss her.
"Why don't you get her a white pony, instead?" she suggested when he pulled away. "Have a great craftsman make some tack that looks pretty, too. That's a close enough compromise."
"Do you think so?" He wasn't so sure. A white pony wasn't nearly as good as a pegasus, even if he didn't particularly like the animals. He doubted he ever would again—Murphy had been the only one, and he was dead a year, now.
"Her birthday's in a couple of months. It might be nice."
"True." He came around to the front of the couch and sat down before he tipped over and laid his head in Farina's lap. "Matthew's not back, yet."
"It's been months," she whispered. "No word at all?"
"Are you sure?"
"Positive." He sighed, and covered his face, shaking his head a little even as her hands started to run through his hair. "I don't think he ever will."
"Do you think…?"
She left her sentence hanging, but he knew what she was suggesting. "Yeah. I should never have let him go back to Bern."
She paused in her ministrations and sighed. "That's a shame."
"We all die eventually, you know."
"I know." Her younger sister had died only a few months after their small wedding. Florina was at the wedding, but just for a few hours. Then she'd left. That was the last Farina had seen or heard from her.
The note from Fiora had arrived later, short and hastily written.
That had been a bad day. Lilina had been teaching Farina to write, and since the letter was for her, she had tried to read it by herself. A struggle. Certain she had read it wrong, she'd made Hector read it to her later, and she'd been inconsolable for days.
Killed in battle. Honorable. At least, Hector thought so.
Farina had him write to Fiora to invite her to live with them, in the castle, but Fiora politely refused. Farina still sent a letter every month asking again, certain that eventually, Fiora would accept and be safe.
"Me, too," he added, quietly, tilting his head back to look up at her. "I'll die in battle, supposedly."
"That's just superstition."
"You weren't there," he told her, carefully. "I think it's true."
"But you could go to war thirty years from now."
"I don't think war is that far off."
She stopped. Tensed. "Did you learn anything new?"
"No. But Bern… There's something going on there. Something big. Bigger than Nergal and his damned dragons, I bet. A few more years, and I think war will be inevitable."
"If they did away with Matthew," she sighed, "you're probably right."
"I'll put it off," he said, softly. "As long as I can."
"I don't want to leave you." Because of death or for any other reason.
She turned toward him on the couch, lying down with him in her arms. It was so silly it made him laugh.
"What?" she asked, almost defensively. "I want to."
"You know," she added, after a moment, still just holding onto him like he was something precious, "I guess it doesn't matter when we die, anyway."
"I don't know." She sounded embarrassed. "I could still die before you."
"Don't you dare."
"I'd like to try and see you stop me."
"I don't want to lose more of my family," he said.
"I might let you go first. But then I want to be able to go right after."
"I would be okay with that, too."
"So if you go to war," she said, a half-question, "will you fight?"
"You know me," he admitted. "I'll lead it."
She stilled for a moment, and squeezed him tight, resting her chin on his shoulder. "Hector?"
"When that day comes, I'm going to fight with you."
He hated the idea. "No."
"You can't tell me that," she bristled. "What if all you needed all along was someone to watch your back?"
"What if you die?" he asked. "What will I do, then?"
"You'll come back to your daughter."
"I want to come home to you, too." He pulled out of her embrace and sat up, taking both of her hands in his, just squeezing them tight.
"Maybe neither one of us will make it back," she suggested.
"Farina," he said, "I don't want you on the battlefield again."
"And I don't want you on it, either, but I know you'll go, and I can't stop you, so the least you could do would be to let me fight with you, like we did that one time—I know what you do with brand new weapons. You break them!"
He could almost have cried at the thought of war, of fighting again, with Farina, and of the very real possibility that he wouldn't make it back alive—that neither one of them would.
"All right," he finally said, and pulled her hands to his face to kiss them. "It's a deal."
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him, resting her head on his shoulder afterward. "It's better not to be separated."
"We haven't been apart a day since we were married," he joked, but he loved it and she knew it. When he had to leave the castle, she went with him. Not being an acting marchioness had its perks.
"Good," she said, and got to her feet, pulling him after. "Come on, I know you're tired."
"I am," he admitted. He was always tired. It came with the job. He had worried, a few times, that Farina would think he had grown tired of her, when he hadn't tried to fuck her or even make love to her. But when he expressed his concern, she'd just laughed at it and told him that she loved him, and if he was tired, that was all right.
When they had dressed for bed, she leaned over him and kissed his face, smoothing back his hair. "Just talk?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said. "About anything."
Some men would scoff at the idea that Marquess Ostia liked his wife to just sit with him, to talk and touch his hair until he fell asleep, but sometimes it was the only thing that helped. And it was nice, that she cared enough to do it, that she'd never once laughed at him for liking it, that she seemed to enjoy it almost as much as he did.
It was more intimate than fucking, sometimes.
"All right, so there was once there was this really irritating mercenary…"
His lip twitched in amusement. "You were not irritating," he said.
"Yes I was. So anyway, this mercenary needed money badly, so when she heard rumors of a war, she flew there as fast as she could on her faithful pegasus, Murphy, and found the poor, hapless leader of the good guys."
"I wasn't hapless!" he laughed, reaching up behind him to pinch her nose.
She laughed and swatted at him. "Shut up and listen to my story!"
He did. Part of it, anyway. He fell asleep five minutes in, to the sound of her voice and her fingers combing gently through his hair.
And when he awoke in the middle of the night, for just a moment, Farina was lying next to him, just watching.
"Marry me," he said, finger brushing over her cheek.
"I already did."
She took his hand and just held it, and he fell back to sleep that way, with his hand clasped tightly in hers.
All you have to do is close your eyes
And just reach out your hands.
And touch me; hold me close,
Don't ever let me go.
More than words
Is all I ever needed you to show;
Then you wouldn't have to say
That you love me,
'Cause I'd already know.
"More Than Words"—Extreme
Further notes: Special thanks to Natural Frequency for helping me out with the beginning of this story; without her, this would not have ended up anything like this. Kender (for being my super inspiring best bud, knocking sense into me, and generally just her constant, "Hey, you know what would be good? More of MTW!"), and Thinkaman22, Sentury, and DPT24 for their wonderful reviews, not to mention everyone else who encouraged me to keep this thing going.
Some questions I've received about this story that I'll address here:
1.) At the root of things, is it always my fault? Uhm, Kender says yes. So it must be true.
2.) Why did you make Hector marry someone he didn't know? At the core of my reasoning, it's because I imagine that Hector is the type of man to love one person and love them half to death. It just takes him longer to find that person than most people. He's pretty thick.
3.) Did Hector care for Rosanne? The answer is yes. He didn't love her, but he did respect her. He's definitely a protector at heart.
4.) What's up with the lack of other characters/supporting cast? Why are the roles of others downplayed? The reason for this is simple: it's been fourteen years, and this is a story about Hector and Farina. My worst habit is to side-track myself and describe everything else, but if I did that, this would be a poorly written story and it would be hard to follow. Thus, Uther's mention was casual (it's been fourteen years, it's not such a hard thing to think about anymore), and Fiora and Florina don't play a strong role in the story.
5.) Why didn't Farina try to get in touch with her sisters? This wasn't explained as well as it could have been, so I apologize. She's ashamed of what's happened to her. She does write to them, in the end.
6.) Farina can't write? Correct. As one person pointed out in a review, that makes contracting difficult. Farina has to trust people's word that they'll pay her. Honestly, I feel it's too perfect a match. It would explain why she flips out on Hector so much, wouldn't it? Bet she didn't sign a contract with him! And maybe she's never signed one with anyone, hence her paranoia anyway, when he seems dissatisfied with what he's paid her. (This means explaining away Dart's map, but Dart's so strange he probably talks to himself.)
Any other questions? Drop them in a review or PM.
Keep your eyes peeled for more Hector/Farina goodness. I will probably post more to my alternative account, "Dame!"
In way more exciting news, Kender and I are cowriting a few pieces. We have four done—we're working hard on editing them. They'll be posted to the account "Cavaliers" if you're interested in reading them.
Thank you again for reading. I hope you enjoyed the story.