So what are honeymoons anyway? Aika finally has a chance to explain them to Fina when they stop for a rest in Nasrad.
"I... I see," Fina had answered. She was still a bit fuzzy on the concept of earning money by working, but she was starting to get the hang of it.
They'd kept moving until Aika had been satisfied - they had a few new outfits for Aika, a new "job" at a bar on the main street in Nasrad, and a room at the hotel which they'd rented with a few of the coins from Clara's purse. "Finally," Aika had said as they climbed the stairs. "We get a chance to relax..."
Fina had to agree. She hadn't been quite so worn out since the mines in Ixa'taka... funny that running around a beautiful city like Nasrad could be as tiring as crawling through those awful caves, but it was true. All she wanted to do was lie down and rest for a while.
Aika, on the other hand, still seemed full of energy. She was humming to herself, putting their purchases in the corner of the room and then walking to the washbasin and splashing water onto her face.
Fina had never met another girl like Aika before. She was... well, she wasn't ugly or even plain, not at all. She just didn't have the delicate, ethereal sort of beauty that the Silvites had valued so much. She wasn't as reserved as they'd been taught to be, either. She spoke her mind, didn't back down from anyone, and if she was ignored she did something about it. She could fight as well as a lot of the men she'd met, if not better.
And yet, she was so kind, so friendly and giving. It seemed almost... strange that someone could be so many different things, all at once. Not even Vyse had seemed so contradictory.
"...so, we'll go to that bar again tomorrow and start our new jobs," she was saying as she plopped down on her bed. "We've got to earn enough money to buy a ship and get out of this town. We're sure not gonna find Vyse sitting around here...."
"That sounds like a good idea," Fina agreed politely. "But I don't know how to do that sort of job..."
"Oh, don't worry. It's pretty easy. You just have to get food and drinks for people, and if you do a good job they give you extra money. It takes a while to get used to, but you can make a lot of cash pretty fast that way." She stretched out on the bed and sighed happily, closing her eyes. She was wearing her new green pajamas, one of the first things she'd purchased in the bazaar with the money that Clara had given them.
Watching Aika buy those pajamas had been a harrowing experience for Fina; she'd watched her point out a million tiny flaws in the fabric, almost going ballistic over a loose button that was just a decoration anyway. She'd complained so much that Fina had almost stopped her and asked why she wanted them in the first place, if they were so shoddily made. Of course, it had been difficult to work up the nerve, especially when Aika had been giving the poor old merchant the look of death and shoving yet another small tear right under his bulbous nose.
Aika had just laughed when Fina had finally worked up the nerve to ask why she'd been so critical, after they were well away from his stall. "Fina! You mean you don't know anything about bartering?"
"Well... no," she'd admitted. "I just thought... well, he looked really unhappy that you were insulting his merchandise, and..."
"Oh, dear," her friend had said, still giggling. "Look, it's ok. I should've known you wouldn't know - I mean, I guess you don't do that back at home. That's just what you've got to do when you want to buy things in a market like that. If I told him how much I liked them, he would've made them more expensive, and we have to watch how we spend our money, you know?"
"Well... if that's what's supposed to happen, then why did he look so depressed?"
"He probably thought we'd be pushovers and he'd end up getting a lot more money for them than he deserved." She'd giggled again. "I sure showed him, though!"
Fina didn't quite get it... but then, there were a lot of things in the world under the moons that she didn't understand, and Aika was definitely on the top of that list. If that was the way things were really done on that planet... she'd just have to take her word for it.
"Those do look nice on you," Fina said, coming back to reality. "And they're a very pretty color."
"Hey, thanks!" Aika beamed at the compliment. "I wasn't expecting to find anything good out there, so I was kind of surprised. I just wanted something to wear to sleep in while they wash my dress." She opened one eye and looked at Fina. "I would've gotten something for you too if you'd wanted it. I mean, you don't have any more clothes than I do..."
"No, that's ok. I do have an extra dress with me." She smiled nervously. "Well, actually, Cupil has it. It's kind of hard to explain." Cupil, who was at that moment resting in the form of a bangle on her wrist, opened one eye and peeped at her. "It's ok," she said to the little silver creature. "Go back to sleep." Obligingly, he closed his eye.
"Well, ok. We'll just have to make do for a while." She closed her eye again and relaxed on the bed. "Wow, these mattresses are really comfy. Not as nice as Clara's ship, but they're a lot better than sleeping on hammocks."
Fina had to agree with that. She didn't know how Drachma had stood it, sleeping on those hammocks all the time. The poor man... he was probably gone now, though, along with the Little Jack. Aika was trying to stay positive about it, trying to hope that he might be all right after all, but Fina wasn't so optimistic. Between Rankham and the Valuan fleet, there was no way he could've gotten away without getting hurt, or worse.
"I almost wish I'd let them talk me into the bridal suite," Aika said, interrupting Fina's worries. She was really relieved about that; worrying too much wasn't a good thing at all. "I mean, if the normal rooms are this cozy, I'll bet the suite would've been fantastic. Too expensive, though."
"Bridal suite?" Fina echoed. "What's that?"
"Oh," Aika said, "it's where people usually go for vacations, or maybe on their honeymoon. They're usually the very best rooms in the hotel."
There was that strange word again. Honeymoon. Try as she might, Fina couldn't make any sense out of it; the best she could come up with was some kind of moon that had been made entirely of honey, and that was just ridiculous, because everyone knew that the moons were made of stone.
Fina had tried to ask Aika what it meant before, but her friend had just avoided the question. Or maybe she'd just gotten sidetracked... maybe she ought to ask again. "Um, Aika?"
"I know I've asked this before, but... well, what is a honeymoon, exactly?"
Aika's eyes opened, and she slowly sat up. "Oh... uh... I never answered that, did I?" she asked, scooting up and leaning against the wall.
"No," Fina asked, confused. "It seemed like you forgot about it..."
"Well... yeah, I guess I did." She laughed nervously.
"Is it a bad question? Because you don't have to answer it if it is. I was just curious..."
Aika shook her head. "It's fine, I promise. I just... need to think a bit, ok? I never thought I'd have to explain something like this to anyone." She was quiet for a little while, and Fina was left to wonder exactly what it was that she'd just asked. Aika was blushing... Fina thought at first that she was imagining it. But when she looked a little closer she could see that Aika's face was definitely a shade or two redder than it had been before. But she couldn't really say anything, so she just sat and waited. "Well... ok, first I've gotta ask you something," she finally continued. "Do you, um, know what a wedding is? Or marriage?"
Fina shook her head. "Not really. I've heard people talk about those things since I've been here, but I don't know what they mean."
"Oh, man..." she slouched a little, then straightened up almost at once. "Ok, well... I'll try to make this simple. A marriage happens when a couple of people decide that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. So they have a wedding, where they meet in front of their friends and family and have a big ceremony and promise each other that they'll love and take care of each other as long as they live. Then they're married and they're together for the rest of their lives... well, usually," she amended. "It's more complicated than that."
"But can't they just be together if they want to be? Why do they have to be... married?"
"Oh... there are lots of different reasons. Some people get married because when you get married, you get to share money and property and stuff with the person you married, and it's all legal and everything. Some people get married just so they can have part of someone else's stuff. I don't like that idea, though," she continued, wrinkling her nose a bit. "I'd hate being stuck with someone just so I can have their money."
Fina nodded. It didn't seem very appealing to her, either... but then, she didn't worry too much about money. She'd just never really learned to. There wasn't money back at home, and everything had been just fine; she didn't really understand why it was so important here.
"But a lot of people get married because they really love each other, and they want to show the whole world." Her eyes grew distant, and she started to smile. The blush was starting to fade. "I mean, sure, they can just live together... but if they get married, they're showing everybody that they promised to be together forever, because they cared about each other that much. That's why I want to get married... if I ever get married, I mean."
"You mean some people don't?"
"No, a lot of people don't." Aika sighed. "Some people just never find anyone they care about that much... or they do find somebody, but they can't get married for some reason. Like, one person's already married, or they have to go on a long journey and never come back. It happens a lot... I feel really bad for people like that."
"Yes... I think that I would too," Fina said softly. She couldn't help but think of her childhood, growing up with a best friend that she'd cared about so much, then finding out that he'd gone away forever and that he was helping the people that she was trying so hard to fight. Was that the sort of thing that Aika was talking about? Would they have ever been... married, if they'd known what it had meant? But it didn't matter. Not then. Not until she could at least talk to him again.
Aika hadn't said anything for a few minutes either, she suddenly realized. Maybe she was thinking about someone she'd lost too. "Aika? Are you all right?"
"Hmm... I'm fine. Just thinking about what to say next. I still haven't answered the question, you know?" She was smiling, but her face was turning red again. "Well... let me see. After a wedding, usually the newlyweds go and take a kind of vacation... they call it a honeymoon for some reason, I don't know why. I guess somebody wanted a sweet name for it or something. It's supposed to be... um... it's a time when people who've just been married can be alone together for a while, so that they can have fun and just enjoy being together for a while before they have to worry about money problems and kids and all that other stuff that happens in real life."
"It sounds really nice." Fina stretched across the bed on her stomach, looking thoughtfully at Aika.
"Hmmm. You know, I don't know what kind of honeymoon I want," Aika mused thoughtfully. "I just never thought about it before. I think I know what kind of wedding I want, though."
"Uh-huh. I want a big wedding, somewhere really pretty - Ixa'taka might be a nice place if we can find somewhere private. And I'll be wearing a pretty red silk dress with red moonflowers."
"Does everyone wear red at their wedding?"
"Nah. You're supposed to wear the color of the moon you're born under, so I'd wear red. It's my favorite, anyway." She leaned back. "Like, Vyse would wear a neat-looking silver tuxedo at his wedding. He'd hate it, but he'd wear it even if his mom had to force him into it. He'd look really handsome in something like that." She giggled. "That's why he'd hate it."
Fina couldn't help but giggle at the thought of Vyse being forced into a suit. It was just so... well, not like him. "And what about me?"
"Well," Aika said, "you're a Silvite, so I guess you'd wear silver too. It would have to be something really pretty, though." She grinned up at Fina. "Like a silver ball gown with big, frilly skirts and a big silver bow around your waist. Something like a princess would wear. You'd look so cute, Fina...."
"You really think so?"
"Of course! You're so pretty, you'd have to have a really pretty dress, you know?"
"I guess so..." She was blushing too, now. "I never thought of myself that way before."
Aika grinned. "You know," she mused, "Vyse would be laughing at us if he could hear this."
"What? Why?" Fina asked, startled; she hadn't expected the change in subject. "It sounds so lovely."
"Oh, it is, but... well, he'd make fun of me for sure. He'd say, 'Oh, Aika, you sound like such a girl!'" Fina had to giggle at her impersonation of Vyse's voice; it was nasal and generally over-the-top. "See, we grew up together, and I was such a tomboy when we were kids that people thought I'd forgotten I was really a girl. So if I talked to him about things like this, he'd think it was really funny."
"He... doesn't like weddings?"
"Hey, now, I didn't say that. I'm sure he wants to find somebody to marry someday too. Guys take their weddings just as seriously as girls do, you know - they just don't want to admit it." She closed her eyes. "A wedding's supposed to be the happiest day of your life, and nobody wants to mess that up..."
"I wonder if I'll ever get married," Fina thought out loud, wistfully. She didn't know if the Elders would approve of something like that, though. She was only in Arcadia because of her mission. When it was all over - as far away as that day seemed - she was going to have to go home. And she'd go alone, she was sure of it.... Her best friend was lost to her, it seemed, and she was sure that they'd never accept Vyse and Aika, even if they'd want to leave everything behind just to go with her.
"Hey, why wouldn't you? If you meet someone you care about enough to spend the rest of your life with them, you ought to ask them. That's the best thing to do, I think. It's definitely the only way you can be sure."
"Yes, maybe I should..." Fina trailed off and yawned. She hadn't realized how tired she was feeling...
Aika yawned too. "Boy, I'm tired... maybe we ought to go to bed. We're gonna have to work really hard if we want to afford a ship soon."
Aika got up and pulled the covers down on her bed, then crawled in and curled herself up into a ball. "Good night, Fina," she called.
"Good night." Fina pulled her own covers back and eased herself down into the bed, pulling the blankets up to her chin. "Sleep well."
"Mmm... you too..."
Fina stayed quiet for a while, listening to the soft sounds of the city at night. She was tired, but she didn't want to go to sleep right away. She wanted to think a little bit longer first...
Honeymoon. She mouthed the word to herself one more time, smiling at how funny the name sounded. Still, the way Aika explained it, it didn't sound like a bad thing at all. She couldn't help but wonder why Aika had seemed so embarrassed by the whole thing at all. But there were a lot of things that Fina still didn't understand about this strange world under the moons.
And then there were marriages, and weddings. Aika wanted one in Ixa'taka, under the green moon - maybe with lots of flowers and trees around, where she could stand with someone she loved - maybe someone like Vyse? - and promise to love them forever. Fina pictured Aika in her wedding dress, standing in a clearing in the jungle, surrounded by moonflowers and climbing vines. A red silk dress, just like she'd said, with no sleeves to show off her trim arms and shoulders and a long slim skirt and red sandals. And maybe she'd wear her hair down, like she had on Clara's ship - it was so nice when she wore it down, she really didn't know why she spent so much time tying it up like she did.
Then she thought of Vyse in his wedding suit, a silver outfit a bit like the ones she'd seen in her few glimpses of Valuan nobles, but not so uncomfortable. Silver trim, long coattails, even a polished silver monocle to replace the one he always wore. She couldn't help but grin at the image - she just didn't think he'd look like himself that way. She was too used to him in those pirate clothes of his, she supposed, and like Aika had said, he'd probably hate wearing fancy stuff like that anyway.
She thought of the two of them for a while, standing together in the clearing at the wedding, holding hands and grinning. Then, curiously, she started to imagine herself there as well, standing beside them. She imagined herself just like Aika had said, in a silver gown like the ones in Valua, only not nearly as stiff. She pictured the ruffled skirt and soft bodice with a silver ribbon around her waist, a silver pendant around her neck and a tiara in her hair.
She smiled to herself then, because it just looked so right - the three of them together, holding hands, smiling with each other. Somehow it just didn't seem complete any other way; she cared about them both too much to leave either of them out of the picture.
Was that what Aika had meant about caring for someone enough to... to marry them? She didn't know if it was even possible - Aika had made it sound like weddings were for two people, not three. Still... it was a very nice thought, one that made Fina feel warm and happy inside.
She wasn't brave enough to do what Aika had said and "go for it," though. Not yet. But there'd be plenty of time. They were going to find Vyse - they would find Vyse, they had to - and then finish her mission... and after all that, well, anything could happen. So many amazing things had happened already, ever since she'd met the two of them. She just had to stay positive.
Smiling, she closed her eyes and relaxed, dreaming of that distant day when everything would be finished, and she'd have time to think about it. It would come. She'd just have to keep working for it.
A/N: Yes, I know. I'm dead from fluff too. But I couldn't resist answering the honeymoon question. (Romance isn't quite the right genre but it's the closest thing this site has.) Anyway, critique is more than welcome, as always. grin