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Change of Habit

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Lucil stood stiffly in the center of her tent, arms spread like a quintain. Voluminous yellow robes drooped around the rider's toned frame like a badly-cured ochu skin. Her figure was obscured by a stiff panel of white fabric embroidered in Yevon's signs, dangling to mid-calf where the robes stopped ten inches above the ground. A pair of acolytes with pins in their mouths were crouched at her knees, whispering. Apparently they had been expecting someone shorter and of greater girth, like the man Lucil was about to replace.

Elma dropped the tent flap and covered her mouth with a hand, eyes crinkling. "Wow. Look at you, Commander! Or, should I say, Maester!"

One girl looked up with a nervous smile. Elma winked back reassuringly.

"Not yet," Lucil reminded her. "The investiture is in three days." She always carried herself with cool formality, but there was a set to her jaw that warned Elma something was off.

"Yes, ma'am." Elma moved to the commander's desk in the corner, setting down a tablet she was carrying. "I've got Clasko's report, whenever you're ready."

"Now is good, Captain."

And then it was nothing but chocobos for a while: ages and growth, feed mixtures, training evaluations, rehabilitation reports for the injured. Finally, the tailors helped Lucil out of the half-finished garments and scurried away. Elma set the tablet down, retrieved the commander's greaves lying across the desk, and moved to kneel before her, reclaiming the patch of rug the nuns had just vacated.

Lucil set a hand on her shoulder, steadying herself as Elma swiftly arrayed her in her old armor. The commander smiled a little as her aide's fingers strayed up thighs hardened by years of riding. When Elma fitted the breastplate back into place, Lucil inclined her head for a rare, fleeting on-duty kiss.

"Second thoughts, ma'am?"

"None." Lucil straightened. "I am glad to serve Spira. And the Crusaders should have an ally among the maesters."

"But...?"

"You saw." Lucil shook her head. "No more armor. And I'll never ride in that."

"You'll be a maester," Elma pointed out. "Change the uniform!"

"Perhaps," Lucil stroked the woman's cheek with a fingertip. "But I'll need you to be my eyes and ears, keep me grounded in the field while I'm in Bevelle."

"Of course." She leaned close, ostensibly to adjust Lucil's pauldrons. "Don't worry, ma'am," she whispered. "You'll still wear the pants."