I don’t usually bother to recruit Horsemaster Dennet before you leave Haven — nor do I hang around the stables there much — so I never overheard the flirtation that occurs over time between the no-name noble from Anderfells and the wry scout. It’s endearing. I mean in no way to devalue the non-sexualized camaraderie whose praises I sing so often, but I do think a willingness to see affection everywhere (because it is everywhere) is something of value here, one that quickly gets morphed in the sneering quips of detractors as being “all about the sex.” No. But you aren’t more heroic for locking your heart up and waiting until after a disaster to deal with it. In fact, you’re probably going to fuck up more. That applies as much to the legions of underlings as it does to the main stars of a tale. This is something fanfic and slashfic in particular gets right, albeit inadvertently. They do it for the hawtness, or for the feels, but seeking companionship in the face of dire odds is a recurring theme because it happens. Erasing this makes both for boring, one-dimensional characters (whole armies of them!) and for a hokey aura of cardboard heroism.
You can overdo it, of course. A leader has to lead, and can’t be boning all the time. But this fantasy that you can divide yourself into only needing data, communiques, tactical feedback and the occasional, too-short snatch of sleep…it’s silly at best, damaging at worst. Didn’t we spend most of the 90s deconstructing the idea of the chest-beating hulk without feelings? Whom do we serve by resurrecting that idea of a hollow hero, and giving those ideas narratives in which to move as though they were whole? If you really still need that construct pointed out as a fallacy, look at all these real-life scandals involving powerful people sleeping with those beneath or beside them in responsibility. You wind such people tight as springs, by what you ask of them, or what the world asks of them. Don’t delude yourself into thinking they can carry that alone and come out functioning on the other side.
I don’t like delving much into the whys of fandom because it’s either a ludicrous oddity, to those of an academical bent, or “teeheehee! teh sexxorz!” to others. But this is, I think, something we get right. Whether or not it is socially acceptable (or even, in real-world organizations, legal) for such intermingling to occur, it does. Providing innumerable little glimpses of it — like those two down by the stables in Haven — isn’t a fixation on bedsheets and what occurs between them. It’s acknowledging what people do. How they exist in the world. Part of that existence, for most of us, means hoping desperately that other people acknowledge our existence, too. Somehow. Someday before the end. And the end, in stories, frequently looms closer than usual.