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[personal profile] mending_souls
Fic: Home from the War
Characters: Anna/Arkalian
Themes: Introspection, Sex, Friendship, Comfort
Notes: The quotes are all from the Buddha; Anna struggles with these thoughts in her journey to become a better person.
Summary: Anna returns to the one place she's afraid to go after the Rebellion ends.



All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.

She almost lost her nerve in the seconds before she knocked on the door. Her hand hovered for a moment, the barest withdrawal before she steeled herself and rapped on the newly-painted wood. There, it was done.

There was still time to run away. No one had answered her knockā€¦

Heavy footfalls made the walls vibrate slightly just before the handle turned and the door swung open. Arkalian stood inside, silhouetted by lamplight. Anna imagined what she must look like, cowed, apologetic, bedraggled from months of fighting and healing. She knew there were still strands of grey in her hair, still some few fine wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. She hadn't even given herself time to recover properly and yet here she was, on the doorstep of someone she wasn't even sure would be happy to see her now.

"Well," he said at length, face unreadable and tone equally flat, "I suppose you should come in."

He held the door wide and stepped aside for her to pass him. Anna let herself be invited in. She made a slow circuit of the room, finding her bearings. Last time she'd seen this space, it had been before Arkalian established himself. There had been boxes and bare floors. Now he had a proper clinic, a proper office. Everything was so neatly organized, as she'd expected it would be. She ran her fingers over the glass-fronted door of a supply cabinet and turned to face him as the last lock slid into place.

"You've done well," she said.

"I've had plenty of clients," he replied. She heard the note of resignation in his voice. "Wars do that. They keep the doctors and the armorers in business."

"Business might be dropping off." Anna crossed her arms over her chest and looked away. "It's over."

He paused, mid-breath, as if the thought itself was a physical shock. "Over? But I thought--I hadn't heard--"

"Hero backed down," she went on. "We were so close. So, so close." She rubbed her hands over her arms, suddenly cold. Her skin ached as if scraped raw, but the soreness at least made her feel real. She wished she could skip past this part, the part where she had to explain to her friend how everything had fallen apart. How she felt by turns betrayed, disappointed, angry, hateful, and...oddly, elated. That last emotion was the part that confused her the most.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

"So the rebellion is finished," he murmured with something like wonder, as if he spoke half to himself. "I suppose that's somethingā€¦"

She couldn't suppress the sob that surprised her as it forced its way from her chest, though she clapped a hand over her mouth to stop any others. Too late, of course, but she tried. It was mortifying to cry in front of Arkalian. She rarely let that happen, preferring to save her tears for the privacy of her own room, where no one had to deal with her weakness but herself.

It just wasn't right. All the decisions she'd made, the sacrifices of the other rebels, the rifts that could never be healed--all of it, for nothing in the final hour. She covered her face and tried to regain her composure with deep breaths.

Neither of them spoke for a while, though she sensed his presence nearby. Arkalian was like that--he wouldn't reach out unless he knew it was wanted, and often, not even then. But he was within reach of her, so she wiped at her eyes and forced her expression into something less embarrassing, then went to put her hand on his arm.

As she had at the door, she hesitated, uncertain if he'd be all right with such a familiar gesture after all the strife she'd put him through in the name of the rebellion. So when he covered her hand with his and gently lowered them both to rest upon his arm, she thought she might cry again, this time from relief.

"What do you normally say at a time like this?" He asked. "Something about food, isn't it?"

Her laugh came as unexpectedly as that first sob. "You do know me well." She took another breath, then really looked at him for the first time since she'd arrived. "Goodness, you are thin. Don't you eat when I'm away?"

He shrugged. "I do. Enough. I'm not a cook, though."

"Then it's a good thing I am." She meant to pull away briskly, to smooth her skirt and make her way to the kitchen, but instead she indulged herself for a moment, to lean in rather than away. Thin he might be, but he was solid and warm, and it was so good to see him again. She felt his typical tense-up-then-relax that he often did when he wasn't expecting a hug or some other intimate contact. It wasn't her, she knew, it was something hardwired in him, so she waited until he was ready before she laid her head on his shoulder. "Thank you," she murmured, "for being here."

Anna felt him sigh, the breath rippling over her hair. "Where else would I be?"

She smiled. "You know what I mean. Not here...but here, for me. After all this, you're...here."

He shifted to put one of his arms around her. Gestures like that could be rare, and she treasured it. "Again," he said, voice soft and wry, "where else would I be?"

****

They ate a real dinner cooked in a real kitchen, a nearly-forgotten luxury. Afterward, they did the washing up together, which turned into quiet conversation over tea late into the night. But then even their conversation faded, and she stood to put their cups into the sink. She wished desperately that she wouldn't have to go home quite yet, not in the dark, not alone to an empty house. In her mind, Anna came up with a half dozen uncertain ways to ask him if she could stay, when he caught her hand and gently--always gently--tugged her back to him. It was a wordless gesture from a man who already spoke very little, but she read his meaning in its urgency. With relief, she kissed him, hands full and shaking with empty cups on saucers, bent awkwardly to reach his mouth, and it was the sweetest thing she'd tasted in a very long time.

She managed to set the teacups down safely and let him pull her into his lap, mouths breaking contact only for the moments they needed to breathe. She felt his fingers on her hips to steady her, on her waist, sliding up to support her back and to trace the line of her neck before he landed kisses there, too. Anna gasped, threw back her head as he continued down, fingers preceding his mouth just enough to move fabric out of its path. Her own hands gripped his shoulders, curled into the cloth of his shirt as he exposed her breast. Her skin tightened first at the cold, then at the heat of his tongue, then at the cold that seemed more intense in the wake of his breath when he stopped too soon.

"The bed?" he asked hoarsely. The words barely had time to leave his lips before she was off his lap and urging him to his feet. Again he kissed her, and again, until she laughed against his lips. Her skirt was the first to go, then his shirt--the last button was hard to manage but she figured that it would be easy enough to sew back on later. If she found it.

Her legs hit the bed before his, but he swung them around so he would fall first. Experience had taught them that he was far too heavy to lie atop her; there was something about the density of his bones or something...Anna didn't really care at the moment. She had a very specific goal now, and everything else was a distraction. Turning predatory, she crawled onto the bed, eyes fixed upon his. She got to his belt before he could, and together they worked to get rid of the last of his clothing.

Anna knelt back, admiring him. He was thinner than the last time she'd seen him like this--though he was always too thin, in her opinion--but she appreciated the spare, lean lines of his chest, the wiry muscles under his scarred skin. He seemed her opposite; where he was slender, she was round. The contrast was always pleasing to her. She liked how his body felt against hers, the way it felt under her fingertips. She lowered her head to brush her lips just above his navel, but he stopped her before she could complete the action. With a finger under her chin, he tilted her face so she could look at him.

"It's my lead this time," he said. Anna shivered at the tone as much as at the words. She let him draw her up to him, though she stole kisses across his torso and trailed her fingers over his belly. Each kiss earned her a growl, each touch a gasp until she was level with him, propped up on one arm to loom over him. He caught her wandering hand without looking away from her, brought it to his lips, nipped at the tender skin of her wrist. Anna yelped, first at the graze of his teeth and then at the swiftness with which he reversed their positions. He would never lie atop her, but he could cage her in his arms.

Arkalian seemed larger, more imposing, and far more confident than he did by the light of day. Anna liked him like this, the way he looked at her as if he truly saw her. There was something in him at times like these, something she remembered despite having lost her memories. It made her ache; to cover that strange emptiness, she arched into him to feel his warmth and the realness of human contact.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

This time, his mouth crashed into hers.

****

Later, curled against him, her lips feeling bruised in the best way possible, Anna listened to his heart beat under her ear as he slept. A bed was a comfort she had long missed, and the release he'd given her more than once--seriously, those HANDS of his--left her feeling languorous and happy.

And she was happy, she realized. Not in a general sense; the world outside demanded too much of her, and the war had claimed too much from her already for her to be a happy person, no matter how much people believed otherwise. But in the moment, well, it was all right to bask for a bit, wasn't it? To lay claim to a temporary contentment long enough to remember what it was she'd been fighting for?

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.

Dear Arkalian. He understood what she needed; he needed it himself sometimes. Companionship, something to cling to during long nights in a city gone mad. That's really all it came down to, a need to not be alone, to be missed by someone else. To be cared for, to be remembered.

Beside her, Arkalian shifted in his sleep, pulling her close with the arm that circled her shoulders. Anna put her thoughts aside. There would be time enough for the real world tomorrow. It could wait. For now, she was home from the war, safe and cozy in the arms of a friend.

April 2015

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