Not much to say about this one.

Also, Geese is a nickname.

People often say to me, "I understand what you are talking about intellectually, but I don't really feel it, I don't realize it," and I am apt to reply, "I wonder whether you do understand it intellectually, because if you did, you would also feel it."

--Alan Watts

Consider, the instructor says, the bird. The bird does not want, but it does not know any better. Is it any happier for its lack of knowledge?

In the third row from the back, Elijah lets his eyes close, allowing the teacher's words to flow through his mind and congeal at will: a bird, pecking at seed, fleeing from predators; a poor man, working hard for what little pay he can glean, trusting, trusting; a king, curled uncomfortably on his throne, head lolling back to view the world upside-down, as he frets over the condition of his country, over what he must sacrifice to keep it safe.

And then the bell rings, high and piercing, slicing through his contemplation with a vengeful iron sword. Elijah jerks, greatly startled, and his nerves jangle quizzically. He sees spots; it had not occurred to him that the mediation would come to an end. This is his greatest ability and his greatest weakness, that when he forgets something he truly forgets it, until it needs remembering again, that when he thinks of something he consumes and is consumed by it entirely, forgetting the world beyond the moment in which he resides.

Eventually, in his own time, Elijah collects his belongings and stumbles outside into the half-blinding sunshine. He blinks and his eyes water but he will not let himself look away from the gardens just beyond the corridor. Such is his devotion to the world: he will not allow himself to miss any moment of his life. And it's because of them, and because of what happened, and because of what Marc said- that one last night as they were getting drunk so all of them could forget they were going to battle the next day, and Marc slurs something about savoring life that would have seemed far more important at the time, in retrospect, had it been coherent- so now, now that he's the only one who came back, he has to see, to feel, to live enough for all eight of them, because if even the king admitted there was no real reason for that war and pledged to pay for every soldier's funeral and every survivor's education then there has to be some other way to bring honor to their deaths than the honor of having fought for the right cause-- and so he won't close his eyes, or look away, not ever again, because this life is beautiful.

Soon enough, Geese is there at his side, towering almost nervously at his elbow. As usual the man looks mildly flustered, shoulder-length hair, straight and dark brown like good earth, mussed like he just woke up from a nap. He has far too few books to be doing as well as he is in school, and his handwriting is too neat, and his fingers are too long and delicate, and he always smells like the ocean, and his skin is too close to the tawny color of the natives Elijah once fought, but he won't leave Elijah alone. There's nothing to be done about it.

Geese starts some sort of conversation as they head toward the tree where they have eaten lunch together for almost half a year now. It continues as they eat: Geese wants to know what that redheaded kid wanted the other day, and Elijah explains that he was just part of the security force, that he had recognized him from training; Geese laughs, and Elijah insists he's telling the truth. Geese chortles, protesting that he was younger than Elijah himself, which Elijah huffs at and attacks his sandwich. He was, though, Elijah knows, and he knows why he was training, why some kid would be going through military training at twelve, knows about the kid himself because he's seen him fight. Elijah's eyes drift as he reminisces on the way the kid walked- he was a whip, he really was, just try stepping on his tail.

When Geese is done, he gathers up his things, and then smothers Elijah in a hug, telling him he'll see him tomorrow, some sort of teasing, musses his hair, all that. He lopes off, even though Elijah didn't quite hear him. He is lost in his own thoughts, fingers tracing idly over the roots of the tree beneath him, as he thinks of freckles, and drunken sermons, and how he can smell the sea even though they're as far inland as it gets.