“He’s really strong,…”  Acadiu wearily wiped his forehead, slumped forward under the weight of battle.  The other dice stayed back, waiting for Saign to call them.  This was the time that they had after every battle, which was respected as private.  He fell forward more, then dropped to his knees.

“Acadiu,…  you did well.”  Saign lifted his head to face her.

“I lost.”  Acadiu couldn’t bear to open his eyes.  He didn’t want to see the disappointment in Saign’s face.

She wasn’t upset.  Saign wrapped her arms around Acadiu’s head, something which the rest of her team watched with slight surprise.  “For the first and only time.  I’m,.. not going to lose you.  I won’t see you fight again like that.  Is that understood?”

“But, I must earn-”  Acadiu protested.

“No, not anymore.”

“I want to be useful,.. don’t fire me!”  Acadiu wasn’t fully catching on.

“Don’t be thick, Acadiu.  We’re going home now so you can rest.”

“Saign?”  Acadiu looked up at her, “I did it for you.  Do what you want with me, but I did it for you.”

“Acadiu, you’re not getting fired,”  Saign scowled, “Where would you even get that idea?  You know I’m not like the others.  I’ve never traded one of you, even that slouch Torbian stays.  He’s useless, but I keep him.  If I keep him,… why do you think I’d throw away the one I love?”

“I didn’t succeed.”

“That doesn’t matter,”  snapped Saign, then she softened sympathetically, “I don’t keep you around because of how good you are.  I keep you around because I would miss you if you were gone and I care about what happens to you.  I would not see you getting used and worn out against your will… now, stand up and let’s go home.”  She beckoned to the rest of her dice to help Acadiu up so they could leave.  “I love you, Acadiu.”