"What is that? 'What feels right.'"
Timeline: Between GSD phases 43 and 46, ish.
Summary: "What is that? 'What feels right.'"
It was well after hours... but somehow, inevitably, Murrue found him. She came wandering across the observation deck to stand beside him, looking up at his face as he stared out into the spangled darkness outside the Archangel's hull.
"Is something bothering you?"
How had she learned to read him that well, Neo wondered distantly. And why should she spend her energy on his worries, when she had a whole shipful of worries of her own?
He lifted his brows as he turned his face toward her, doing his best to make his voice light. "Not at all."
"Is that so?" Her mouth curved just a little in a tiny smile, warm and, he thought, faintly knowing.
It didn't seem fair that lately she seemed to know him better than he knew himself.
He let out a sight, dropping the feigned nonchalance and watching her face, the affectionate way she looked up at him. "I wonder," he said, "if I told you the things I've done in this war... if you'd still look at me like that."
For a moment, her brow creased in surprise and incomprehension - but only for a moment before her expression smoothed again, and that little smile softened with something that might have been concern. "You could tell me," she suggested gently, "and find out."
He could tell her, he realized. He could tell her about the Phantom Pain - about Stellar and Auel and Sting - everything he'd done over the course of a war that he was beginning to wish he'd had no part of. He could tell her, and she would listen.
And if he did, and the warmth of her brown eyes grew cold and accusatory?
"...No," he said. "Not yet. Maybe some other time... when all of this," a wave of his hand made 'this' encompass the full scope of the war, "is over."
Murrue looked away, the smile slipping from her face. "There may not be another time," she said, voice soft with... sorrow? Regret? But then she shook her head, and her smile was back. "It's all right. You shouldn't do anything that doesn't feel right to you."
Neo laughed, a short, sardonic chuff of exhaled breath. "What is that? 'What feels right.' I'm a soldier; I follow orders. But now..."
She laid a hand gently against his arm. "Any good soldier knows that 'I was just following orders' is no defense. We're all still accountable for our actions..." Her shoulders lifted, and she smiled up at him with that same affectionate warmth. "If only to ourselves."
She said it so simply. Maybe, for her, it really was that simple.
"How do you do it?"
She paused, looking momentarily thoughtful, then shrugged again. "I can't do anything else. It doesn't make me a very good soldier, I know..." he smile took on a note of cheerful self-deprecation, "but I can't help it. At least - even if things don't always happen the way that I hope for - at least this way I have fewer regrets."
Fewer regrets... what an alluring thought. He watched her for a long, silent interval, searching within himself for something like her quiet certainty.
"For now," he decided at last, "I'll follow your orders."
Her eyes widened. "That really wasn't the solution that I meant to suggest," she said, a trace of surprised almost-laughter quivering in her voice.
On an impulse, he slipped an arm around her and pulled her close. For the first moment, she was stiff with surprise, hands splaying against his shoulders like she would push him back - but then a breath went out of her and she leaned against him, winding her arms around him, just as warm and as comfortably familiar as she had been on the outer deck of the Archangel back in Orb.
This is the same feeling, he thought. This is right.
Strange. Had it been so long since something had really felt right to him, before he'd come to in the Archangel's infirmary and first laid eyes on her captain?
But... it's a really good feeling.
He leaned his head in toward hers, resting his cheek against her hair and breathing in the subtle fragrance of her, just as if she'd always belonged there.
He could follow her. She wouldn't lead him anywhere that he shouldn't go. That much, Neo was certain of.
This is right.