Another short story, ish. The first line of this came to me yesterday, and I thought it would be perfect to start a short story with. By the time I'd finished writing this scene, I'd come up with an entire novel's worth of ideas that lead up to it... I think it might even be my next big project; Lacie and Chadwick might have to wait a while.
“You're smiling. Why are you smiling?”
The girl shrugged her shoulders. “Because I like to see horrible things come to an end.”
“Does that include that smile? I'd like to see that come to an end.”
Her features straightened. “Yes, Sir. Of course, Sir. Returning to emotionless professionalism now, Sir.”
The man looked at her uneasily. “That's not what I meant. And you can cut it out with all of that Sir stuff; You're—”
“Dying? I know, Sir.” As if proving her right, her legs buckled under her. She fell forward onto her knees. “Sorry, Sir. You were saying?”
“Damn it, girl, stop calling me that, d'y'hear?”
She started to sigh, but it turned into several long coughs. When the fit subsided, she said, “So what do I call you?”
“Name's Polgrave. You can call me—”
“Polly?” the girl suggested, her smile returning.
Polgrave looked positively livid, then annoyed, then resigned. “Fine. Polly. What'd' I call you?”
Her smile faded. “You know my desi—”
“Yeah, and I'm asking your name.”
She smiled again, with tears in her eyes. “It's Sky, Sir.”
“What did I tell you about calling me Sir?”
“Sorry, Sir. It's a habit.”
Polgrave gave a short nod.
“And you know what they say about old habits—” She looked at his face. “Come on, it's a joke.”
“Not a funny one... Sky.”
“I thought it was funny,” she mumbled. “You mind coming a little closer, Sir? I can't see you very well.”
“Stop calling me Sir!”
Sky laughed. “You're kind of a blur,” she went on conversationally, half-ignoring the interruption.
Polgrave took a few steps through the long grass toward her. “Any better?” he asked, stopping a few feet away.
“Eyes are fading fast, S—Polly.”
“Come here,” Polgrave said, walking toward her. “Gimmie your hand.”
Sky held her hand out blindly. He took it and held it to his chest.
“You feel that? I'm right here.” He paused for a moment. “You're hands are working, right?”
“Well enough. Your heart's beating kind of fast, Sir.”
“Well, heat of battle and that,” Polgrave said uncomfortably, not sure whether or not to let go of her hand. “Listen, Sky... would you be more comfortable lying down?”
She thought. “Would you be more comfortable if I was lying down, Sir?”
“A bit,” he admitted. “But if you're okay on your knees—”
“Can you help me down?”
Polgrave let go of her hand, slipped an arm behind her back and levered her down onto the grass. A moment later, he lifted her head up and let it fall back into his lap. “Alright?”
“Perfect, Sir, thank you,” Sky said.
“Completely blind, Sir. It doesn't bother me much.”
Polgrave let out a long sigh. “Shouldn't have happened, this war. It's stupid. And you shouldn't have been caught up in it.”
“I wasn't caught up. I'm meant for this, Sir.”
“You weren't meant to die in a field,” Polgrave snapped. “No one deserves this.”
She smiled. “Horrible things, Sir.”
“I've been waiting for this for as long as I can remember. I want to die.”
“So're lots of things. Plagues, diseases, even slavery. Horrible things—”
“Dying puts an end to all of those, Sir,” Sky said, with just a hint of smugness.
“It does for the slave.”
She reached up a searching hand. Polgrave took it without a word.
“If it makes a difference—”
“It won't,” Polgrave bit back. His voice sounded choked and strained.
“I can't think of a better place to do it.”
Polgrave looked around at the golden grass and watched a missile arch soundlessly across the cobalt sky, trailing thick, dark smoke behind it. An endless flock of fluffy white seeds floated past.
“It's an alright place,” he agreed. A tear escaped his eye, rolled over his cracked, red face, dripped off his chin and got lost somewhere in Sky's yellow hair.
“What I meant was, I can't think of a better man. To have with me... Sir.”