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05.20.2013 , 08:35 AM |
Cross My Heart
with Wynston and Ruth, set about six years after the class line. 600 words, no game spoilers.
L + ~6 years
Ruth poured a second round of brandy for herself and Wynston. "So what about you? Anything good at work since last we met?"
"A number of things." Wynston took a sip and then leaned back to let Ruth nestle against his side. "One in particular that I thought was...interesting."
"A Navy operation out near Sullust. Some of our men made an ill-advised attack run against orders and got caught well behind enemy lines. It wasn't a pretty situation."
"So what happened?"
"Well." Wynston sipped his drink and then set it aside. "Ten years ago I would have let them die. They walked into it and getting them out again was a risk."
She gauged his expression. "But you saved them."
He nodded. "I saved them. It took significant resources and more than a little quick footwork, but they came out alive." His eyes unfocused a little. "Ten years ago I wouldn't have bothered. Too much work to do elsewhere, I would have said it's a shame but it wasn't worth salvaging."
The emphasis on time struck Ruth as odd. "What changed?"
He focused back on her and smiled. "I did. Largely because of you."
His smile faded and he laced his fingers with hers, an active hesitation. Eventually he said "Darling, before I met you I never really revered life for its own sake. I hated wasteful death, but that's not really the same thing. I put a good face on efficiency, that's all. It was always you who venerated life, put it at the front and center of your ideals. And then, somewhere along the way, I started to see what you were talking about."
They were quiet for a few moments. Then Ruth said, "Well, on behalf of the people you saved, thank you."
He kissed her nose. "It was the least I could do."
"I just told you why. I did something old-me wouldn't have done. Old-me still ought to be here, darling, I worked hard to get him into shape. When did I lose him? I find situations, alter them, then leave. They don't impact me. Except that with you, I...I got my foot caught in the door. And while I imagine one might construe that as flattering, part of me wonders...doesn't it bother you that I'm not the man who first came to you?"
"No," she said firmly. "You couldn't change into something I wouldn't love."
"Oh, I imagine I could. But I don't intend to. It will probably damage my reputation for independence to say this, but I care what you think. All my life, everything I've done – even the things I chalk up to my loyalty to the Empire – everything I've done has been subject to my sovereign whim. In my defense I've always had very high-quality whims, but...it's different now. With you. You hold a standard I want to live up to." He smiled at her, then looked away to study his glass. "I never talked this much about myself before I met you, either," he said wryly.
"I like hearing you talk. And I like when you share being thoughtful. And I like you, and your standards, and your whims."
"You seem to like a lot of things."
"Not really," she said. "I like the best things, though."
Wynston laughed. "You're too kind," he said, and settled his arms more comfortably around her. "But in the end, if becoming a better man is the price I have to pay to come back to you, I'll do it."
Tipsy-Wynston is rambling-introspective-Wynston, doubly so in the continuity where he cares enough about someone else to take a hard look at himself.
He exaggerates somewhat here; he did care about life before he met Ruth. It wasn't his top priority, but he did. It just became much more important as he got to know her here.
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