konstantya: (esca-text)
[personal profile] konstantya
Title: Your Words All Over Me
Fandom: Escaflowne
Genre: Drama, angst.
Characters/pairings: Something of a mild Folken/Eries.
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 3,624
Summary: While biding his time in Palas following the destruction of Fort Castelo, Folken is confronted by Princess Eries. (Companion piece to Till I Wake Your Ghost, in that it's the same events, just from Folken's POV.)

Dedicated to pethics/Casa Circe, who kept requesting something from Folken's POV, until the fic-writing part of my brain could no longer resist.

As was the case with Till I Wake Your Ghost, this takes place right around episode 6.



- Your Words All Over Me -



Palas was, to put it frankly, beautiful. He'd heard much about its architecture, and had even studied the engineering that had gone into its canals and waterways, but he had to admit that there was simply no substitute to seeing the city with one's own eyes. In his hired carriage, en route to the castle, Folken shifted his cloak more thoroughly about his shoulders and set about preparing himself for his impending audience with Asturia's sovereign.

He'd met King Aston, a lifetime ago, along with his daughters and his now-dead wife. If the hearsay was to be believed, he was an intelligent man, a fierce merchant, and was largely responsible for the economic power Asturia currently wielded. Folken admitted that he was a little apprehensive about meeting with him—not so much because he presented a threat to Zaibach's mission, but there was the vague concern that the man might recognize him, which would no doubt throw some kinks into a plan that was otherwise going off without a hitch.

(Well, with the possible exception of Fanelia's burning, he mentally amended. That hadn't been planned and hadn't been necessary, but what was done was done. An unfortunate sacrifice, but ultimately a small one in the grand scheme of things. Besides, once Emperor Dornkirk's dream came to fruition, houses could be rebuilt and lives could move on, content in the knowledge that war would never ravage them again. Yes, a small price to pay, Folken insisted.)

His concerns regarding the king's potential recognition of him, however, ultimately proved unwarranted. Upon being received, Folken thought he might have seen Aston narrow his eyes at him in curiosity, but just as quickly, the man brushed it off, and went about introducing his second daughter—who didn't even regard him as peculiarly as her father had. But then, Eries had been young, probably too young to remember him clearly, and the thought was reassuring. Millerna, Aston's youngest, had definitely been too young to remember him clearly, and was apparently out riding anyway, and thus, nowhere to be found at the present moment—much to her sister's long-suffering consternation, Folken couldn't help but notice. And Marlene, he knew, who was the only other person who might have been capable of recognizing him, had been married off to the Duchy of Freid a number of years ago. There was ultimately nothing to be worried about, and Folken's meeting with the king of Asturia commenced and concluded without issue.

And now he was content to bide his time, until his brother and Schezar inevitably showed up. He had been offered a room in the castle for the duration of his stay in Palas, but had politely declined; he needed to report back to the emperor, and besides, it wasn't a good idea to leave Dilandau unsupervised for long stretches of time. The boy was a natural (unnatural, Folken corrected, rather mirthlessly) when it came to combat and piloting, but he still had a great deal to learn about respecting authority and the chain of command. A constant annoyance, that.

He had taken a turn about the city, soaking up the sights and sounds, and now found himself in the grand expanse of the royal library, a book on Asturia's history open in his palm. Zaibach had extensive records and resources, true, and a vast intelligence network outside of that, but that only got one so far. And it was rather fascinating, Folken admitted, how the same historical events could be depicted so differently from country to country. He was in the midst of a chapter detailing Asturia's assemblage from previously-unconnected city-states when the library door opened, and in walked the second princess, a small stack of books in her arms.

He turned and bowed. "Princess Eries."

She nodded back. "Lord Folken. I do hope I'm not disturbing you."

"Not at all," he said, quite honestly. "I was simply enjoying your selection of histories."

"Well," she said, with a small smile, "please don't let me distract you." And with that, she went about returning the books she had brought in. Folken turned back to the volume in his own hand, trying to pick up where he had left off, but instead found his mind wandering to the woman making her way about the room.

She'd been a solemn, awkward thing, he remembered, when she and her family had visited Fanelia. Stuck between an older sister and a younger sister and not much like either of them in any way, she had since matured into a graceful, dignified woman. But with that maturity had come a certain…aloofness, he noted—particularly when she stopped to browse the shelf next to him. There was a properness about her person that was so perfect, it was almost machine-like. Hard to believe she had once been a girl who had smuggled a storybook in her stockings and flushed a deep, guileless red upon being found buried in it under a tree.

Hard to believe he had once been a boy who had smiled easily at her underhandedness and flopped down onto the grass beside her, but there it was. The thought shot a surprisingly sharp ache through him.

He didn't often let himself dwell on his past life for precisely that reason, and the fact that her presence had caused him to do so was bothersome. Almost irritating. He didn't need distractions right now, and he most certainly didn't need any in the form of painful nostalgia. With renewed determination, he turned back to the book in his hand and forced himself to get lost in the cool, comforting words of academia.

It was a coping mechanism he had developed not long after awakening in Zaibach—to keep himself from going mad with despair—and while he liked to think that his mental health was better now than it had been back then, it was a habit he still occasionally found himself falling back on. His breathing evened out, and his shoulders relaxed, and the woman beside him became merely one more high-ranking official in a long line of high-ranking officials he'd had to deal with over the years. She would soon enough be gone, and Zaibach would soon enough have Escaflowne back within its grasp, and that would be that. With newly regained confidence and complacency, he finished the chapter, and went to place the volume back on the shelf.

And then Eries suddenly said, "The reports said you died ten years ago."

Folken blinked, his hand frozen in front of him. The words were so unexpected, so downright impossible, that a part of him honestly thought he might have imagined them. But then she coolly added, "Please tell me that it wasn't just some ploy to get out of marrying my sister," and he knew he could no longer deny their existence.

Damn it.

She was astute, he'd give her that. And so good at playing ignorant and unaware that even he'd been lulled into a false sense of security by the performance. Again, he thought of storybooks in stockings, and it occurred to him that he might have underestimated her.

She had somewhat infamously refused to marry, he now recalled. Some rumors said it was because she was in love with a man unavailable to her; some rumors even said it was because she was in love with a woman unavailable to her. The reasons behind her unmarried status weren't nearly as pertinent as the status itself, and Folken suddenly had to wonder just what sort of tactic she'd employed to avoid being married off. Aston was a shrewd man and a shrewder king, and while all signs pointed to the idea that he genuinely loved his daughters, he was hardly the type to let a girl's whims get in the way of an advantageous business deal—which was what most royal marriages were, after all. There was, perhaps, some of her father's cunning running through her veins, and that warranted some caution on his part.

Carefully, he finished tucking the book away. "It's…a complicated situation," he admitted at length. "But rest assured, I would never do your sister such a dishonor." In an effort to appear in control, to mask the fact that she had managed to catch him off guard, he pulled another book from the shelf and nonchalantly asked, "Pray tell, how is the Princess Marlene?"

"Dead," Eries answered, and he couldn't quite help the frown that formed between his eyebrows. "She died three years ago."

"…I'm sorry to hear that," he said after a moment. "You have my condolences."

It was hardly a lie. Marlene had been a sweet girl. And a pretty one, to boot. The kind, patient way in which she'd dealt with her youngest sister had put him in mind of his relationship with Van, and while he'd been far too young to seriously consider love, he'd allowed himself to seriously consider the fact that she'd probably make a very good queen. It was a life and a future he'd left behind long ago, but somehow the knowledge of her passing still managed to sting. Maybe he hadn't quite loved her, but she'd been a good person, deserving of a long and healthy life.

There was something beyond that, though. Something beyond a vague sense of mourning for what might have been. A bit of a bruised ego, if he was being entirely honest, because that was twice now, in as many minutes, that Eries Aston had succeeded in surprising him, and that truly was irritating. He wasn't usually one to succumb to wounded pride, but he was the Strategos, after all. He'd been promoted to the position for a reason, and that reason did not include a tendency to be blind-sided by princesses of merchant powers.

Folken opened the volume in his hand—some political treatise on trade regulations—and feigned interest in the words, all the while waiting for her to make her next move. He didn't have to wait for long—it was less than a minute later that Eries snapped her book shut and put it back on the shelf in front of her.

"You know…" she finally said, "I had once hoped you might become my brother." His heart gave a little, involuntary twinge, and then she added, with damning indifference, "I suppose it's just as well that I outgrew such foolish notions." And with that, she turned to leave.

He was never quite sure what made him turn and call out to her. If anyone were to ask, he would have said it was to make sure she wasn't going to interfere with Zaibach's mission, that she wasn't going to reveal his past identity and risk unraveling his plans. But a part of him had to wonder if that was really the entire truth, or the truth at all, for that matter. A part of him even dared to think that it was nostalgia that made him do it, some long-buried part of him that remembered she had once held him in high regard, and couldn't bear to watch her walk away, knowing that regard had been shattered. Whatever the reason, turn and call out to her he did: "Princess…"

She pivoted back around. "Strategos," she simply said, cool and polite as ever. A loaded address if there ever was one, and Folken tried not to bristle at it.

"I realize how this must look," he admitted honestly. "That I've turned my back on my country. But please believe me when I tell you that the intentions behind my actions are noble."

Her brow furrowed, ever so slightly, and then she was stalking back towards him, not stopping until she was directly in front of him, close enough to touch. She glared up at him and icily demanded, " 'Noble'? You were a prince. Heir to the throne of Fanelia. You had a duty to your country, and you mean to tell me that your abandonment of that was noble?"

It was an argument he'd heard before—most notably from himself—and one that he had come to terms with a long time ago. As attractive as the idea was, morality simply wasn't black and white. Sometimes good people had to do bad things. Such was the way of the world. Really, considering the cynicism that seemed to color her countenance these days, it was rather remarkable that she had the gall to act offended by the whole matter.

More intriguing than that, however, was the fact that he had apparently—unknowingly—stumbled upon a nerve of some sort. The corners of her mouth had tilted downward, her eyes were narrowed with irritation, and a part of him had to wonder just what it might take to render her truly angry, to shake that composure of hers completely. The idea was a strangely enticing one, and he found himself saying, "You mean the same duty you abandoned by refusing to marry, despite your elder sister's death?"

Her jaw tightened, and her gaze turned hard and dark as sapphires, and humiliated color even rose high in her cheeks. And then she tried to slap him. Interesting.

The physical attack was unexpected from her, admittedly, but hardly unavoidable. He caught her wrist with ease—with his right hand, because he would have been lying if he said he didn't want to catch her off guard just as she had previously done to him—and upon seeing that it was steel that held her, not flesh and bone, her eyes widened and she actually gasped.

She was pretty, he finally decided. Not quite the classic beauty her older sister had been (and that he'd heard her younger sister was shaping up to be), but her features were striking all the same. Wide-set eyes and a delicate nose and a small, full mouth. There was a certain world-weary haughtiness about her, a sense that nothing could much surprise her anymore, and the fact that he'd managed to do so—even if it had meant relying on the mechanical contraption that was his right arm—was perversely satisfying. But then she jerked her gaze up to his, and regret immediately flooded his veins—because her expression wasn't just surprised, but fearful.

The satisfaction that had flared in him withered and turned to cold ash. Try as he might, there were some things about his past life that he could never entirely shake, and courtesy towards women seemed to be one of them. Angering a lady was one thing; frightening one was something completely different. And the knowledge that he had, if only for a short moment, enjoyed that fear made the saliva in his mouth go sour.

It wasn't the first time he'd derived some pleasure from an arguably cruel act, and the realization never failed to disturb him. He'd lost something else along with the arm, something less tangible, and sometimes he was inclined to think it was his sense of kindness. That, too, hurt. That the compassion that had come so naturally to him as a boy was now something he had to put conscious effort into. Sometimes he was tempted to think things would be so much easier if he simply gave in and embraced the darkness that had since bloomed in him. On a couple occasions, he had even tried, but all that had done was cause him more grief. It seemed he was doomed to this limbo state, forever uncomfortable in his present skin yet forever unable to return to the person he'd been in the past. Which left only the future, and he clung to it like a drowning man would a piece of flotsam. If he could just accomplish what he'd set out to, if he could just see Dornkirk's dream through, then maybe it wouldn't be so bad. All the grief and suffering and guilt would be worth it. It had to be worth it.

He loosened his grip. Slid his mechanical fingers from her wrist to her hand, clasping it gently, properly, in some pathetic attempt to make amends for his abominable behavior. Her lips were still parted and her breaths were shallow, and he dropped his hand and looked away, feeling like an enormous cad.

Well. At least she knew about his arm now. That was one bright spot—if one indeed wanted to call it that—in this mess of an encounter. If she'd wanted an explanation as to why he'd gone missing, she had it. "As I said, it's a complicated situation." And then, to hopefully smooth things over: "As are your own reasons for refusing the throne, no doubt."

She held her hands close to her, almost protectively, and it was a long minute before she was able to push any words out and break the terrible silence that had settled over the room.

"H-how…?"

Fragile, tentative. He turned away from her completely and closed his eyes for a brief moment. For the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time the details played over in his head. The slick of sweat and the pulse of adrenaline. The smell of dragon's blood, pungent and coppery. How he could have, and how instead he'd hesitated, and how even if he had gone through with it he would have been damned anyway, in spirit if not in body. What right had he had to go after the beast in the first place? How arrogant he'd been to think that some stupid tradition trumped another being's right to live. He'd deserved the loss of his arm after what he'd done to the poor creature, that was the long and short of it.

"The dragon, of course," was all he said, softly and simply. "You didn't hear wrong, Princess Eries. Folken of Fanelia did die that day."

Another pause. When she finally spoke, her voice was hard, biting, and a part of him was almost grateful for that. Grateful that he hadn't broken her composure to the extent that she couldn't rebuild it. And yet…

"And the Strategos of Zaibach was left in his place?" she demanded.

Yes, he thought, and beneath the folds of his cloak, his right hand clenched up in despair. For a moment, he closed his eyes, trying to fight the gnawing ache inside him.

Eries took a breath. It was one of those resigned, resolute breaths, and he'd heard the sound all too often from his own lips. "I see," she said shortly. "Good day, Lord Folken." And then she started walking away, the heels of her shoes clicking crisply against the stone floor. Reflexively, he reached out again, catching her wrist in his good hand, because he couldn't—

Couldn't what?

"Princess," he simply said, and he thought he might have felt her hand tremble beneath his. Before he could contemplate the significance of that, though, she turned on her heel and fixed him with the sort of glare that would make lesser men quake in their boots.

"Unhand me, sir." Her voice was cold, her gaze firm, and her chin raised. Every inch of her regal and commanding and so unrelentingly stiff with formality it was almost painful to witness. A part of him had to marvel that she didn't creak when she moved. Like old armor. Or his arm when the weather acted up.

Her pulse thrummed against his palm. And the sensation of her skin against his—soft and smooth—veritably burned, up his arm and down his spine. Aside from his brief, disastrous reunion with Van, he couldn't remember the last time he'd allowed himself any physical contact with another person, and the fact that such a small touch could cause such an intense reaction in him was almost frightening. For an ungentlemanly instant, he had the insane urge to drag her closer. It would be so easy, just a little tug and she would come tumbling into his arms. Her eyes would widen and her breath would catch, then her mouth would tighten and—

He checked himself. Let go of her. Took a breath and even stepped back for good measure. "My apologies. That was too forward of me, I admit. I only…want you to believe me."

A half-truth at best. And one she hardly seemed to buy. She stood there, watching him warily, like some mouse waiting for a cat to pounce (like a prince waiting for a dragon to attack?), the tension between them growing thick and heavy. She hardly seemed the type to indulge in melodramatic screaming, but she might try to bolt, and if she did—what then?

(A part of him actually wanted her to, because then he'd have some excuse to put his hands on her again, and he hated himself for the thought.)

Thankfully, she didn't. She said, "I'm not going to reveal your identity, if that's what you're worried about," and Folken almost sighed in relief. Maybe it was just a ruse on her part, some way to deflect the conversation back to something resembling business and away from…away from whatever it was that it had turned into, but he still found himself grateful for the shift in topics. Maybe she was even telling the truth, and he was just about to open his mouth to thank her when she added:

"Pray,"—and her blue eyes were dark and discerning—"do not make me regret that decision."

His mask firmly, reassuringly in place, he put his hand to his chest and bowed deeply. Eries inclined her head in turn, and didn't spare him even the slightest of glances as she strode calmly out of the library—never mind that his own eyes couldn't help but watch her every single step of the way.




-----

A/N: It's kind of weird rewriting a fic from another perspective. It's actually the first time I've ever done it, so hooray for new experiences? I was worried rehashing the exact same events would be boring and/or repetitive, but I was kind of surprised by how new and different it all was, even (especially?) from a writing standpoint. Folken's a very thinky character, who, despite having had prominent roles in pretty much all my Escaflowne fics so far, has managed to remain very mysterious, even to me—so really getting inside his head was a strange, enlightening sort of experience. He's a more reliable narrator than I initially thought he'd be, but he's also more emotionally fucked up than I initially thought he'd be. (Like, I can kind of see why people might characterize him as an aggressive seme type now. Not to say I don't still think the majority of those takes on him are wildly OOC, but…well…I'd be lying if I said I didn't see him as having some aggressive urges, even if he'd never dare to act on them. Losing an arm and failing your family, country, and self can really fuck a still-growing boy up, you know?)

I will say that the one really nice thing about rewriting a fic from another character's perspective is, 1.) I already have a template of events to work from, and 2.) I already have all the dialogue written. (Okay, so that was two things, whatever. ;p)

In other news, rest assured, I have not forgotten about part 6 of the Driving Circles Around Me Arc. RL just happened—you know how that is. I'm hoping this fic will act as a sort of "warm-up," and will help get me back in the writing mood, so to speak.

Anyway, I hope you liked this revisit, and thanks for reading!

All other fics can be found here.

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