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20 August 2008 @ 08:21 pm
(15 pairings) theme #9: photograph  
Title: reminder
Pairing: Kain/Mysidian dancing girl
Rating: G
Word Count: 1537
Disclaimer: No part of FFIV belongs to me. All hail Squaresoft.


Kain was packing. His personal area was a shambles, belying the military’s reputation for orderliness as he struggled through numerous distractions to organise his belongings so as to move them across the castle.

He had just been made Commander of the Dragoons of Baron. Finally, he would have his own quarters, instead of sharing space with a barracks full of other men.

The other men in question were the source of his current distractions. Unable to pass up a last chance to rag him, they were making much of his newly-altered station. Bad jokes and mock subservience came at him from all sides, so that he had constantly to divert his attention from stacking books and stuffing his clothing into a sack in order to make appropriate rejoinders.

“So, Commander,” said one youth loudly, “looks like you’re getting a taste for higher stations. Maybe someday when you leap, you’ll just decide to stay up there and never come down, huh?” There was general laughter.

“At least it’s quiet up there,” Kain shot back with a resigned grin, pulling a small flat box from under his mattress with the intent to transfer it to his trunk.

“Aw, hear that, boys? We’re making too much noise for his exalted ears.” The new speaker, a burly man twice Kain’s size, jabbed him with a friendly elbow, knocking the box from his hands to the floor. Resignedly he got down on hands and knees and began collecting the scattered contents.

“Ah, sorry ‘bout that, Commander.” The large man didn’t look particularly penitent, but moved as though to join Kain. “Here, you want a hand?”

“No!” The dragoon waved him back. “No. Thanks anyway. It’s fine.” He began to work more rapidly, and soon had the debris gathered in his hands. “Thanks anyway,” he repeated. The large man peered at his face, then the sheaf of papers and oddments in his grasp.

“Hey, what is all that, anyhow? Got some love letters you don’t feel like sharing?” He leered pleasantly, and the ensuing laughter was punctuated by commentary.

“Kain, with love letters? Are you for real?”

“Man’s in love with his pike.”

“What’s all that, then?”

“Yeah, Commander, be nice and share. Set us a good example.”

Just when it appeared he was going to be forcibly relieved of his burden, the crowd began to quiet. Looking around, Kain saw the cause: Baron’s Dark Knight, Lord Captain of the Red Wings, had arrived and was passing through the press of soldiers surrounding Kain. He didn’t need to shove. Even out of armour, he commanded instant respect, and a path opened for him in the crowd.

“Let the man finish packing, will you?” he said lightly, addressing the whole room but not bothering to raise his voice. “You’d think you all wanted him to stay, or something.”

“Nah, not us.”

“Good riddance to the grasshopper.”

But the tones in which they spoke were free of malice, and the crowd broke up with reluctance. Everybody liked Kain, and he knew they respected him and wished him well, whatever small jealousies or resentments some of them might be carrying. As the space around his bed cleared, he turned to his friend.

“Thanks.” Cecil flashed a grin.

“Any time.” He held out the flat box so the other could unburden himself.

“Speaking of time, where have you been? I thought you were coming an hour ago.”

The knight busied himself with the box in his hands, aligning the contents so that everything fit inside. “Sorry. I got held up. Not as if you really needed help, though, right?” Something in the box caught his eye, and he extracted a square sheet with an image on it. “What is this?”

As a diversionary tactic, it was surprisingly effective. Kain actually looked uncomfortable, snatching the sheet and shoving it back in the box, slamming the lid and grabbing it away to dump it into the trunk standing open at the foot of the bed.

“I’ll tell you after if you really need to know. Not here. Help me carry this stuff and when we get to my room I’ll tell you.” It wasn’t exactly the sort of story with which he was keen to regale the entire barracks. He’d been hoping it would never come up at all, in fact, but after seeing that image, Cecil wouldn’t let it go. Kain knew that. Nothing to do but tell him and then hope it was never mentioned again.

Between them, they moved his belongings with minimal difficulty into his new quarters. Then Cecil straddled the desk chair and demanded, “Out with it. First of all, how was that image even made? No painter is that good.”

Kain sighed, braced himself, and sat down on the edge of his new bed. “It’s called a photograph. It’s a new thing the mages do down in Mysidia. I don’t know what kind of spell it is, exactly, but they say it has something to do with light.”

Cecil was intrigued. “Can I see it again?” Reluctantly, Kain pulled it out and handed it over. “Remarkable.” Cecil studied the photograph for a moment. Then he shifted his attention back to Kain. “All right, you know I need to know. What happened to you? More importantly, when was this and where was I?” He was already struggling not to laugh, Kain observed. This was going to be painful. Well, what were friends for if not to amuse themselves over one’s non-fatal mishaps?

“It happened last year, in Mysidia. Remember when His Majesty sent me with that diplomatic emissary? I think you were off driving the imps out of the royal forests, or something like that.”

“I remember.” Cecil grimaced. “I almost would rather have had your assignment.”

“You wouldn’t have. It was the most boring trip I’ve ever been on, mages or no mages. The inn tavern was more magical, as far as I was concerned. And then I got there, and there was this- this- dancing girl.”

Cecil shook his head slowly with mock solemnity. “Didn’t anybody ever warn you about the dancing girls in Mysidia?”

“Of course they did,” Kain said defensively. “Everybody knows to stay away from Mysidian dancing girls. But nobody ever says why. And it’s different when you’re there.” He looked imploringly at the man in the chair. “She was so beautiful, Cecil. The warnings just went straight out of my head. She had such big, innocent eyes, and hair like silk, and the way she moved…” He trailed off and fell silent without noticing, lost in his recollection. Cecil gave him ten seconds, then spoke sharply.

“Kain.”

“Sorry!” He composed himself. “But that just shows you. Imagine being there. I defy you to resist that girl.”

“If I’m ever in Mysidia, I guess we’ll see,” replied Cecil, with the air of one humouring the limited discipline of a small child.

“Yes, we will,” Kain agreed darkly. “Anyway. I was watching her, and I suppose she must have cast a Sleep spell, because the next thing I knew, I was waking up outside of town, like- like that, and an old crone wearing the dancing girl’s costume was just running away laughing.” He shuddered. “I will never un-see that. Later on when I went back to the Inn I found the photograph on my pillow. Gods know whether there are any more of them out there somewhere. I decided not to worry about it because you could make yourself crazy that way. But before that I had to go find the Potions shop so I could change back and everybody saw me and stop laughing, do you have any idea how hard it is to open a wallet like that?”

Cecil had completely given up trying to control his mirth and was actually on the verge of tears. Wiping his eyes, he held out the photograph, unable to speak. Kain snatched it back and stared down morosely at the image of a small pink bewildered-looking pig, standing next to a pile of Kain’s clothes, with Kain’s travelling pack lying on the grass nearby.

Cecil was recovering. “No wonder no one ever says why,” he commented. “Why did you keep the picture? Why not, I don’t know, destroy it?” A last muffled chuckle escaped him.

“So I never do it again. And if you ever use me as a cautionary tale, so help me, I know your vertical blind spot and I will use it.”

Cecil held up a reassuring hand. “What are friends for? I won’t tell a soul.” He glanced at the wall clock and stood up. “Hey, it’s almost dinner time. You coming?”

Kain looked around at where his belongings had been deposited, more or less haphazardly, around the room. “Give me a few minutes to make it look less like a tornado came through here. I’ll be down soon.” Cecil nodded, then held out his hand, suddenly serious.

“Congratulations, Commander. The King knew what he was doing, promoting you.”

Kain shook the proffered hand with a crooked smile. “I hope you’re right about that.”

“Mysidian dancing girls notwithstanding,” Cecil added with an equally crooked grin, and was gone before Kain could respond. He shook his head, took a last look at the photograph in his hand before putting it away, and began trying to create order out of chaos.