What is a personality trait you admire in other people?
Faelurion spent the next several days in the medical wing monitoring Todd’s status, waiting for him to awaken. He had opened his eyes once when they brought him in, but he was not really there. He kept muttering that he would “get him back” and “make her pay.” Fae held out hope that he hadn’t learned about his brother’s fate, but based on the data she had seen, she knew that hope was probably in vain.
He had visitors while he slept. His squad mates came by in rotation to see if he had woken. Fae took that time to catch up on work or visit Tarathiel. He was little better than Todd, though he at least woke for a little while every few hours. He always asked how Todd was, how were his wounds healing, had he awakened yet. Fae had never known the coder to take such an interest in another person’s well-being, but the situation was unique. Todd had saved Tar’s life twice now.
She was drowsing in the chair in Todd’s room when she was startled awake by Cari. The redhead cursed as she scrambled to right the table she had nearly knocked over with her bag. “Sorry,” she muttered. “I was trying to be quiet.”
“Looks like he isn’t bothered by your racket,” Fae tipped her head in Todd’s direction. The life support systems whirred softly and the digital readouts displayed his vitals, but he didn’t stir. His face was still contorted in anguish despite the many pain killing drugs the machines administered.
Cari shrugged. “He’s used to my soundtrack now. If I’m not blowing something up, I’m knocking something over.” She set her oversized duffle bag at the base of the bed. Fae did not wish to ask what was in it. “Any change since last night?”
Fae shook her head. “The doctors have done everything they can for him to this point. The rest is up to him.”
“Todd is one of the most stubborn pricks I know,” Cari chuckled. “He’ll pull through.”
Fae’s smile fell as she turned back to her knight. “If I’m being honest, I’m glad he’s finally getting some rest. I just wish it were under healthier circumstances.” She balled her fists in her lap. “And I am ashamed to admit it but I also need him to recover quickly. I did not quite realize the extent to which I rely on him here.
Cari slid into the other chair and stared at Fae thoughtfully. “He is your right hand man, after all.”
Fae snorted. “Don’t let Jarel hear you say that. They’re upset enough that I have spent my days down here instead of holed up in my office poring over intelligence reports and planning our next moves.”
“No offense,” Cari began, “but what can you really do here? Shouldn’t you be elsewhere giving orders? You’re basically just watching him sleep.”
“I want to be here when he wakes up,” Fae answered without looking at Cari. “I suspect he’ll have questions for me, if not just words.”
Cari narrowed her eyes at Fae. “Questions you will answer?”
“I have always provided answers when I am able,” Fae replied.
“So only when it’s been convenient for you.”
Fae fell silent. She did not wish an argument with the human woman, not in front of Todd, regardless of his state of consciousness. The reaction was nevertheless expected. Humans did not like having secrets kept from them, even though they were keen on keeping plenty to themselves. The simple truth was that Cari did not trust her, but Fae had dealt with her share of untrusting followers. She withheld a grim smile as she calculated the probability that most of her current followers did not wholly trust her.
Cari took her silence for admission of guilt and did not press the issue further. As they sat listening to the beeps and whirs of the hospital machinery, Fae found herself studying Cari nearly as much as she studied Todd. In her observations it occurred to her that she knew hardly anything about the other woman. Almost everything Fae knew about humans she had learned from Todd, and the more humans she spent time with, the more she became convinced that he was an anomaly.
“Who did you lose?” She wasn’t sure what compelled her to ask that question, but she couldn’t take it back once it was out.
Cari eyed her askance, green eyes flashing dangerously, assessing the question and weighing her answer. Fae held her gaze, stared down her stony stare, and waited. The moment of calculation passed and Cari straightened her back like a wall she could lean against. “My older brother. He was in the Army, stationed at Fort Carson, when the first wave came.” Fae held her sympathies in her chest; she knew Cari did not want to hear them from her, not in this moment. “He believed that you had to protect people who couldn’t defend themselves, if you were able. He was always so serious about that duty. I wasn’t surprised when I heard his convoy was destroyed while trying to evacuate the city. It was what he did.”
Silence hung like a curtain between them again. That first wave had been more brutal than other invasions. Veralis had been trying to draw her out or blow her to the ancestors embrace, Fae wasn’t entirely certain of which. The devastation had been catastrophic. She knew the area Cari spoke of; Todd had shown it to her on a map. It was just a crater in a hillside now. There were so many craters now. Would she have left as many in her wake if she hadn’t turned her back on the Expansion? How many lives had she already destroyed before she learned the truth?
Her mouth soured with the thought. Once she would have insisted she was saving lives, and she was certain Ral was convinced that was their mission. Was it truly salvation if the defeated had no choice but to meekly assimilate? Every planet they had taken only after annihilating much of its people. Lives they could be nurturing instead, teaching, leading to the stars.
“What about you?” Cari’s voice caught her so off guard she shook her head to be sure she had heard it in the first place.
“We’ve all lost people. I figure that’s why you must have asked me about it and you’ve got a pained look on your face. So what about you? Who have you lost?”
Fae brought a hand to her cheek as if by touching she could confirm what sort of expression she was displaying. There was a dampness there. Pain, yes. Anger. Frustration. So much loss. Blood that was on her hands. She smoothed her face to calm collectedness and gave Cari a very diplomatic smile. “Everyone.”
The other woman did not return her smile. Perhaps she wasn’t convinced. It did not matter. Fae understood what she was. Todd was perhaps beginning to realize that as well. She wished he would wake so she could apologize. Words that would seem empty coming from a disgraced, fallen royal.
Cari heaved a sigh. “Well that’s a bit dramatic. Especially considering some of us are still here.” She smirked at Fae. Fae allowed herself to giggle. “You don’t have to be so strong all the time, you know. Earth won’t give up. We are stronger together and we are infinitely stubborn.”
“That is certainly one thing you all have in common,” Fae said as she glanced at Todd. “This one’s stubbornness might just be the end of me.” Cari chuckled but Fae felt a strange sensation rise in her chest. An answer alighting on her breast for a question she didn’t know she held. A chilling revelation swallowed by overwhelming calm.
Fae was on her feet and heading for the door. “Please send for me if he wakes. Jarel is right about one thing. I have work to do.”
Notes: So here’s a fun little scene I wrote during NaNo. Fae admires human tenacity, and particularly human stubbornness. When I read the prompt I knew I would write from her POV, and then I remembered I already had something for this! Cari is back too, this time as a demolitions expert in a paramilitary squad of elite soldiers led by Todd. She’s still a bit of a mayhem character, but I think I may have finally found a home for her. Now if only I could remember what Fae’s epiphany was. Remember to take notes when you stop writing, kids!
Stubbornness may be well and good for Fae to admire, but it’s maybe not a trait that most normal people would admire. For myself, I admire kindness and selflessness. I try to present them as often as I can but I’m sure I fail more often than not. What about you? What personality traits do you admire? What do you think people admire about you?
That wraps up this Monday post. We’ve got more nasty weather on the docket for tomorrow so maybe I’ll wind up with some extra writing time in the afternoon. That would be nice! Stay safe out there! I’ll see you tomorrow!
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