Interlude

Edward, Edge/Rydia. PG. ~1500 words. For Yuletide.
Edge’s gaze swung away from the door. “You’re not seriously trying to distract me with talk of flowers.”

If Edge were forced, on pain of death, to say one nice thing about Cecil’s old, drafty, hunk of rock for a castle, his High Chancellor’s worst nightmare would become a reality. Castle Baron was as uninspired as its name. It squat like an imposing toad at the edges of the quaint seaside town, where it proceeded to loom, menace, and generally present itself as uninviting as inhumanly possible.

Which entirely explained why Edward had suggested they hold the Midyear Banquet there this year. And why Rosa had not only encouraged him, but become so excited that there had been a flurry of correspondence from Baron to Damcyan and back for months on end.

A sizeable chunk had been the usual plans for entertainment, menus and the like. The rest had been Cecil’s impassioned pleas for aid that had spanned the globe.

Between the three of them, they’d single-handedly created a market boom for Troia’s swift chocobo messengers.

One Edge had rather skilfully horned in on.

“They say your enemies – of which I thought you’d claimed you had none – run terrified from that grin,” Edward said.

“Friendly rivalry,” Edge countered. “A prosperous, well-loved man will always have rivals.” He set his goblet back to the table to be refilled by one of the many serving wenches Cecil had conjured out of thin air. “I see you’ve finally extracted yourself from the talons of the beast.”

Immediately, as predictable as the tides, Edward shushed and chided him like a child while hurrying to take a less conspicuous position than perched at the edge of the table. “She’s merely enthusiastic. Such energy should be,” he paused, no doubt searching frantically for the most diplomatic way to say Yang’s niece had the temperament of her spoon-slinging aunt, “appropriately channelled.”

“That roast pig, while impressive, is not nearly large enough to hide behind, your Highness.”

“Fie,” Edward said, reseating himself more comfortably and helping himself to Edge’s cup as if not a thing were amiss. “She’d much rather-” Again, Edward paused, this time turning towards the corridor Edge watched like a hawk. “Edge?”

Edge made the sort of conversational, I’m listening, go on, noise he’d learned from his father, utilised faithfully and unfailingly during his Chancellor’s more lengthy speeches.

Sampling the rich red bouquet of one of his own country’s wines, Edward said, “I believe she’s in the courtyard with Rosa.”

“This cave has a courtyard?”

“Mm, it’s rather beautiful this time of year. I hear Porom brought the yellow roses from Mount-”

Edge’s gaze swung away from the door. “You’re not seriously trying to distract me with talk of flowers.”

Wise enough not to point out its obvious effectiveness, Edward gave a light, one-shouldered shrug. “It’s been months since we last spoke. The topic hardly matters so much as the company.”

“It has, hasn’t it? What’s happened that you’re suddenly not launching the Fifth Wing on a whim to pay one of us a visit?” Edge reclaimed his goblet as Edward flushed, and motioned for another chunk of the still-warm brown loaf to go with it. “I don’t think Cecil meant for you to go traipsing off to the four corners when he made a gift of the Red Wings.”

Edward plucked at the lace spilling like ocean froth over his hand. “You simply sounded so… so bored,” he protested. “Cooped up in the palace, overrun with reconstruction details and foreign affairs….”

“A good hunt would’ve suited me fine,” Edge agreed. “Perhaps I would’ve been able to bring a fine gift of game for Cecil’s table.”

“Exactly. You needed to leave the stuffiness behind,” Edward said, pouncing upon the topic and waving it about like a trophy.

“Troia wouldn’t have been my first choice,” Edge said, voice fond and distant with the memory. “Tell me again how you came to be in the possession of that membership card?”

For the second time – or perhaps third, it was difficult to keep track of Edward’s flight of mood – Edward flushed darkly. “I’ve forgotten. My weeks in Troia-”

“‘Were a blur, a fitful haze suspended between sleep and waking,’” Edge finished. “Have you managed to pen that into a song yet, then? I’m certain the Clerics would be appreciative.”

Impossibly, Edward’s blush deepened. It was nothing short of foul play to needle Edward on such a delicate subject, but over the weeks and months and years since the end of the Last War, Edge had learned to tread carefully the line between playful and cruel.

“Actually,” Edward began, “my attention’s been caught by the newest poet at court, but I have a few hundred lines, more or less, if you’d like to offer an opinion.”

Edge groaned, and missed the glint in Edward’s eyes as his chin dropped to his chest in defeat. “I’m no help to you there, bard. I’d have thought you learned that lesson the last half a dozen times you sought me out as a hapless guinea pig.”

“Hapless? You?” Edward glanced at the central hub of the dining hall and back to Edge in the same breath. “A skilled warrior of Eblan is never hapless.”

“They are when faced with the oversweet words of a certain desert king.”

Edward glowed, discreetly, in the manner of all who are humble but not quite. “You would prefer I whisk you away to a hunt in the future.”

“I did enjoy Troia, don’t forget.” To ensure the state of his scruples remained soiled, Edge allowed a touch of wickedness to creep into his tone. “I enjoyed the Troians quite a bit. When do you suppose the next Cleric’s birth celebration will be held?”

Again, Edward’s gaze flickered to the left. Curious, Edge turned, and caught sight of a figure as old and as imposing as Castle Baron itself.

Ramuh stood several hands taller than Cecil, his beard reaching nearly to the floor and shining bright as the youngest moon. Other guests cast the Summoned wary glances trimmed in fear while he smiled as if greeting a dear friend. For all the times Rydia had called the old man to battle alongside them, it wasn’t an entirely incorrect comparison.

Rydia laid a hand on the Summoned’s arm and he granted her a grandfatherly smile. Tension shifted in the Grand Hall, a ripple in still waters and a quiet sigh of breath.

It was not rare to see a Summoned gracing the hall of Baron, but both man and monster alike were aware of the distance between their worlds.

“She’s done much,” Edward said. “For Ramuh to walk amongst us so.”

“You, my friend,” Edge said, reaching for his goblet again to find it filled to the brim once more, his eyes still fixed to Rydia’s smile, “are preaching to the converted. Do you suppose she owns a dress in anything other than green?”

“The colour is fetching on her.”

“Besides the point,” Edge said, thumb grazing his chin in a thoughtful manner. “Do you suppose she’d like one?”

“Perhaps, but you’d most likely earn yourself a lecture on Eblan’s strained coffers for your trouble.” Edward laid a hand on Edge’s shoulder. “I do not think you need to buy her favour.”

Patience thinning, Edge waved a hand. “If you can expect to get away with a flimsy excuse such as rescuing me from my boredom to abandon your kingdom for weeks on end, I can entertain notions of spontaneous gifts. What do you think of a sunny yellow? Something soft. Springlike.”

“I’ve always thought I was my best in burgundies and deep blues, to be completely honest.”

Edge’s expression became pained. “First flowers, then poetry – why hasn’t Kain returned from finding himself in the blasted mountains yet? He’d appreciate a lively hunt.”

“Is there something wrong with Edward’s verse?” Rydia asked, appearing at their end of the table as if she herself had been Summoned out of thin air.

Edge abruptly swallowed a string of particularly Dwarfish curses.

“Rydia,” Edward said, suddenly comprised of nothing but tact and grace. “In Sylvan silks once again, I see. You’re already the envy of so many, I doubt you need to give the ladies of the court another reason.”

Rydia laughed, full-throated and rich and without a trace of the artful blush affected by so many. “Most days it’s leggings and a tunic, I like the excuse to wear something pretty.”

“So pretty that it must be showed off properly. I hope to presume you’ll join me in a dance?”

Rydia’s delicate fingers slid into Edward’s clever minstrel’s hands, and in a flutter of fine silk and heavy brocade, they were gone, melting expertly as one into the spinning steps of the court’s favourite dance of the moment.

Edge slumped in his chair and drained his goblet to the dregs. He could woo the most stoic Troian warrior, he could charm, literally, the clothes from their backs, but Rydia still eluded him. He felt it fair to blame Edward’s attempts to help – it was far worse to say nothing at all and have the woman vanish before his eyes than to speak with her as they did when they first met, wasn’t it?

Laughter bubbled from the far side of the room. Desolate – sulking – Edge pried at a glittering blue sapphire set in the goblet’s stem with a short throwing knife.

“Edge, really,” Rydia said, a touch breathless, genuine pleasure staining her cheeks, and altogether too fetching to bear. “Come dance with me.”

The blade slipped, nicking his thumb. A curse escaped him this time, muffled as he sucked at the wound out of reflex, and prompted another warm-honey laugh from Rydia. The blood in his veins ran warmer.

Stomach somersaulting, he let her tug him into the heat and the music, and prayed his training would make up for what he lacked in ballroom grace.

End

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