Fandom: Suikoden IV
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Summary: On sparring, culture, and knowing when to block low.
Notes: For yuri_challenge - 'A character returns to the place where they were born.'
"Thank you, again," Paula said as she reached down for another roughly carved close pin. Selma had apparently made them by hand, a bit too strong and not sanded enough but perfectly functional. After coming of age as a knight of Razril, Paula was accustomed to a very different way of doing laundry and certainly couldn't remember if she'd ever pinned laundry to a clothesline.
The quiet was strange to her; the slow pace of the Elven Village seemed to make time crawl. The first day had felt like a week without drills or fighting or even simple things like polishing weapons or honing magic.
"You don't need to keep thanking me," Selma replied as she worked to hang her own share of the damp clothing, freshly washed in the cool clear water of a nearby stream. "I'm the one who asked you to stay with me, remember?"
"Yes, however I feel I am perhaps... Taking up space."
"You aren't taking up space. And besides, you'll get your own place eventually -- this is just until then," Selma said while knocking her hair back from her face.
Paula nodded, thinking that she was lucky to have such a bumper to guide her back into Elven culture, even if her guide wasn't exactly the embodiment of what her mother had taught her that elves were.
"And you don't need to worry if your friends will visit. I'm sure the kitty-men won't be the last," Selma continued as she hung another shirt.
Paula smiled as she thought of Chiepoo and his very random visit paid just days before.
"I know. Jewel is nearby and has promised to come after she has settled in," Paula said.
"I wouldn't suggest you bring everyone here though," Selma said after a moment. "But outside the village you can have everyone from the ship..."
Picking up a towel, Paula affixed it to the line in silence.
"After this, there'll be time before dinner," Selma said, apparently trying to fill the void in conversation. "We can go into the clearing and spar. But you're going to need to get bit better at blocking low."
"That is no surprise," Paula replied, stern. "I've been told the same thing before."
"Lighten up about it, then. It'll come," Selma offered as she took the last towel from the basket. "You dodge well, and obviously you've stayed alive this long... The village can always use warriors and hunters."
Standing there, watching Selma and realizing the current task was complete, Paula still seemed lost.
"Still, it is a bit difficult to suddenly not be a Knight of Razril, even if it wasn't recently that I made the decision. With Lazlo and Snowe and everyone, I did not feel quite like I'd truly left. Not like I do now," Paula explained quickly, a bit relieved to have the words out.
"Life is about changes too," Selma said. "It's true that it is good not to be too sporadic, but any constant can grow boring."
Dropping a few spare pins into their basket, Selma walked to the other end of the clothesline and rested a hand on Paula's shoulder, something she seemed to be doing more and more often.
"Perhaps tomorrow we can go into Na-Nal and have our swords repaired," she said, seemingly oblivious to the blush spreading across Paula's face. "Maybe we could find Jewel, too?"
"I wonder if she has found a boyfriend yet," Paula replied absently, regretting her words immediately. "She was always asking me what I thought of the boys on the ship."
Selma smiled. "No elves, though. At first I thought Aldo might be one - he is on the inside, even if he has a human body."
Paula nodded, well aware that Selma's hand hadn't moved. Certainly she could dance around the subject, dodging a direct question much as she knew she'd be dodging Selma's sword thrusts in the near future. "He and Ted left together. My mother never told me too much about society... Is that sort of thing acceptable here?"
"We live longer than humans," Selma replied, finally drawing her hand away. "So it is normal for our kind to have many relationships during a lifetime. Gender is of little importance unless there is a wish for children."
In all their time at sea, Jewel was always speaking of the boys she'd noticed and Paula was always confused for not having really noticed them at all save for their basic demeanors and fighting skills. But now, in the elven settlement, Paula finally understood because she found herself noticing Selma, noticing tiny movements and habits, things that normally would be of no importance.
But having finally asked that question, Paula felt even more awkward as she watched Selma head back into their shared dwelling. She followed a few steps behind, grabbing her own weapon and wondering if Selma really hadn't sensed any hidden meanings to that brief exchange.
"I am without a partner, if that's what you were asking," Selma said, raising her sword from where she kept it shelved. "Though I thought you might have figured that out."
"I..." Paula was confused at her speechlessness while her brain was saying a million things, none of which managed to make it to her mouth.
"It's okay," Selma said. "Attraction can be difficult to be straightforward about."
"Yes," Paula said finally, wondering if perhaps that had said it all.
"But you are young and just had the adventure of your lifetime," Selma continued. "So let's go spar and then have dinner. Tomorrow we can go into Na-Nal and see what there is to see. We will live each day and not rush."
The weight of her sword was a comfort in her hand and Paula knew she wasn't shaking on the outside, only the inside. Selma was watching her, closely. And it hit her -- all those touches, those little gestures and gazes were not merely torment but instead an invitation.
All along they'd been saying the same thing without words. And Paula suddenly thought that yes, with enough time and practice she would master the art of blocking low, of meeting motion and stopping it, trapping it and making it hers instead of just jumping away.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!