Validar's cruel grin widened as his band of assassins drew closer to their target. Emmeryn would perish tonight, and there would be nobody to prevent the resurrection of his lord and master. Brandishing his prized Elfire tome, he made his way through the courtyard, his fellow cultists in his wake.
The thieves ahead of him had picked all the locks and silenced the guards; all he needed to do was incinerate the Exalt, snatch the Fire Emblem, and Grima's return was guaranteed. He was not far from his destination, now-
He turned to face the voice, and his eyes bulged in shock as he saw Robin standing there casually, as if this were a friendly meeting rather than an assassination attempt. A woman with uneasily familiar cobalt hair stood by him, and her younger sister(?) as well. "What!?" he snarled in confusion.
"Well, Father, I heard you were coming to Ylisstol, so I thought you'd like to meet my wife," his son answered. He gestured to the woman. "This is Lucina. I'm sorry I didn't tell you about the marriage earlier, but trying to contact you when you're part of an underground cult trying to resurrect an evil god is hard."
"It's an honour to meet you, sir," she said politely.
Robin gestured to the girl, younger than 'Lucina' but certainly not young enough to be her child. "And this is Morgan, our daughter. Morgan, say hello to your grandfather!"
She waved cheerily. "Hi grandpa!"
"I…what?" he stuttered, utterly baffled by this turn of events.
Taking him by the hand, his son proceeded to lead him out of the castle. "Come on, Father, we have so much to talk about! Wouldn't you rather spend time with your family than trying to awaken the Fell Dragon?"
He looked around, noticing the contingent of Shepherds suddenly surrounding his band of assassins. "…I don't suppose I have a choice in the matter."
Robin's smile shifted into something vaguely predatory. "Whatever gave you that idea, Father?"
"That could have gone worse," Lucina commented, as the happy family retired for the night. "I thought Chrom was going to have a heart attack when you introduced them, though."
Robin was too busy writing in his diary. "Note: Validar is allergic to rhubarb…" he muttered to himself as he scribbled away.
"Was Mother Awake, or did she just want to make Chrom a pie like normal?"
'Pinging' the Loop with his Anchor abilities, Robin shook his head. "It's just us this Loop. I'm pretty sure she'll be one of the next ones to start Looping, though." He paused. "That raises an interesting question, actually. I've seen Chrom marry other women in some Loops, and I'm pretty sure he was Awake for some of them. I'll have to ask him about it."
Lucina's expression darkened. "He did, did he?"
Robin didn't even look up. "Lucy, stabbing your father won't achieve anything."
"It'll make me feel better," she said bitterly.
"Ooh, can I stab him?" Morgan asked excitedly. "Grandfather paradox! Grandfather paradox!"
Lucina looked distinctly unimpressed with her father as he stared at the ground, umming and ah-ing away. "I'm not mad, Father - Mother might be, but I'm not. I just want to know why."
"Well," he began cautiously, "I didn't understand the Loops at all until Robin explained them to me, and so I thought it was all a dream of some sort. I didn't know if my first life was real, or whether that life then was, so I was in kind of a funk. I married a few different women, more to see what would happen than anything else. I'm not proud, but…" he trailed off weakly.
Lucina stood in thought for a moment. "Were they happy?"
"…Yes, they were. You were, too; no matter who your mother was, you loved each other very much."
She sighed, then smiled tiredly. "Then that's good enough for me, Father. Just…be careful about telling Sumia, okay?"
He looked aside. "I'm more worried about what I'll tell the others."
"Father," she replied in exasperation, "they won't remember. They weren't Awake."
"Alright, alright!" he said, chuckling lightly. "I'm not as good at this whole time travel thing as you are, Lucina."
"YAAAAAAH!" came a sudden cry as Morgan flung herself at her grandfather, practice sword in hand.
When she Awoke and her internal narrative started using female pronouns, Robin knew something was up.
"Robin? That is you, isn't it?" Chrom asked, noticeably Awake.
"For gods' sake," she spat, fully aware of the irony, "Bahamut! Tiamat! Explain what in the hells is going on!"
"Well, this whole pseudo-stability thing was originally intended to adapt the timeline so it didn't matter who married who," Bahamut began.
"And it's still working even during the Loops, as you may have noticed," Tiamat added.
"But it seems to have more profound effects on you, Robin. Our current hypothesis is that when Loki and the other higher-ups altered your gender, the universe simply considered this another pseudo-stable possibility."
"And so now your gender is a pseudo-stable variable, and we're nowhere near qualified to try and alter something as important and central as the pseudo-stability of the Loop. When we do, well, you happen."
Robin just aggressively kneaded her forehead with the palm of her hand until her face turned red.
Chrom was a courageous man, a generous man, even a heroic man. Chrom was not a smart man.
"For what it's worth, Robin, I'm still not opposed to anything you and Lucina decide to, uh…" he said.
"The last time I was a woman, Chrom, Lucina was my daughter. So while I greatly appreciate your understanding, I think I will refrain."
Chrom paused, brow furrowed in thought. "If Lucina was your daughter…then…oh, gods, what?"
Robin did his customary 'ping' of the Loop as he Awoke, and the single response was an unfamiliar one. His heart sank a little. He'd been lucky recently, with a relatively long string of Loops with Lucina being Awake, but the life of an Anchor was often a lonely one.
Still, it seemed there was a new Looper, whether it was an outsider Fusing in or one of the other Shepherds. He frowned behind his closed eyes; who would it be, and where would they be, he wondered? He hoped it wasn't Tiki or Say'ri; he'd never get to them in time before they altered the Loop irrevocably, and not necessarily for the better.
"Chrom, what's going on? What's Robin doing here?"
"You know this man, Lissa?"
"Know him? Chrom, he's your best friend! Don't tell me you have amnesia, now!"
Robin smiled; it was the kind of smile only three women in the world could make him do. "Lissa, calm down, and give me a minute to explain," he whispered fervently. He turned to his not-Awake (Sleeping, perhaps?) father-in-law and his lieutenant, and switched to his formal voice. "Prince Chrom, Sir Frederick, I'm afraid I can't fully explain what's going on here, but I do have something of utmost importance to tell the princess. Would you be so kind as to give us some privacy?"
She blinked a little at his suddenly refined exterior, then nodded. "Yeah, I'd like that. C'mon, Chrom, Frederick, give us some space!"
Chrom looked warily at the strange man, back to Lissa's determined expression, then shrugged. "Well, if she's alright with it," he replied. They walked away, though Frederick's eyes remained locked on the pair.
"Robin!" Lissa hissed, lightly striking him across the chest, more to see if he was physically there than out of any sense of grievance. "What's going on?"
He chuckled in response. "That, Lissa, is a very good question, and one with a very poor answer."
"Ugh, I am never going to wrap my head around this," Lissa moaned.
"I won't deny that it's complex, Lissa," Robin said soothingly, "But it will make more sense once you get used to it."
Robin looked over to Frederick, who was staring at him like he was contagious. Had he overheard some of the nonsensical-sounding explanation of the Loops? With a shark-like grin, he called out "How's your poster of the Prince coming along, Sir Frederick? Surely there are better uses of an unclothed picture of Chrom than recruiting new Shepherds!"
Morgan fished a pair of sunglasses out of what seemed like nowhere and turned to face the gathered Shepherds.
"Yo dawg. I heard you like travelling through time, so I travelled in time to meet my mother who travelled in time so that we could travel through time while we travelled through time!"
Severa Awoke among the ruins.
They'd sheltered in the burnt-out shell of an old granary, her memories told her, while another set screamed at her that they'd already travelled back and prevented this gods-forsaken mess and where was Mother, Mother I need you-
Breathing heavily, the redhead shot upright, her ever-present scowl failing to squeeze away the tears. Her mother was gone. She was going to get her back. Any thoughts to the contrary were pointless, idealistic nonsense or overly emotional garbage she didn't have time for.
"Lucina?" she quietly called out, knowing she was near her when they'd fallen asleep.
"Mmm…" came the mumbled response as the cobalt-haired princess of Ylisse managed to rouse herself. "What is it, Severa?"
"When are we going to perform the rite? I've…I've been having nightmares about it, I think, and I want to get it over and done with."
"Tomorrow, Severa. We need to be cautious; Grima's still looking for us, even if he lost our trail."
She sighed. "Okay, Lucina. And…thanks for everything."
"Mmm…no problem, Severa. Now go get some rest - we leave at dawn."
Robin rubbed her sore shoulder with a wince on her face as Severa raged incoherently, clearly dissatisfied with her explanation of events. "This is bullshit!" she yelled, slapping at the material of the tent they were privately talking in. "You mean everything I did, everything I ever will do, it'll just get overwritten like a lazy scribe's scratchings? I cannot believe this!"
"The important thing, Severa, is that you remember what happened. Maybe your achievements will be lost, but you still did them, and that is what counts - not what other people see, but what you see in yourself."
She'd had this talk with a few people now - Inigo had taken it as 'a second chance with all those girls who rebuffed me!', and Brady merely saw it as 'another reason life sucks, but 'ey, beats the alternative, don't it?'. Ultimately, the future children took it all much the same way their parents did; poorly.
Severa sighed, and Robin flinched at the all-too-familiar memories of her as his daughter, listening to that sigh she'd inherited from Cordelia. "I suppose. It's just hard, that's all. Constantly being compared to Mother, and now I get to enjoy people treating me like that all the time."
"Well…" she paused, retrieving a tome from thin air - well, her subspace pocket, but the visual result was much the same - "There are ways of keeping things in between Loops…"
Severa looked up at the suddenly there book Robin was holding, and an evil little smile formed on her face. "There are, are there?"
Rook to B6. "I know you're not Virion."
Pawn to C7. "Is that so?"
Knight to B5. "Don't act coy. I'm the Anchor, and you've Fused in without bothering to announce yourself. I don't appreciate that."
Pawn to F5. "I find in my line of work, announcing who I am and when I've arrived tends to leave me at a disadvantage."
Queen to C1. "That's not ominous at all."
The man guised as Virion paused, hand hovering above the chess board. "It's a rare day, Robin, when I find myself wanting to not be ominous. It's all part of the villainous repertoire."
Robin frowned, her brow furrowed as she took in the flow and pace of the game before her. "Enlighten me, then. I'm still wet behind the ears, by Looper standards; who are you?"
He smiled, took a knight he hadn't moved for seven turns, and checkmated her. "That was a good game. Perhaps, next time - and I hope there is a next time - if you can beat me, I'll tell you."
Robin tossed the 3DS XL at the wall of his apartment's bedroom, growling in frustration. "Fuck."
Lucina popped her head in through the door frame, tittering lightly. "Darling, no getting mad at video games."
He slumped, gaze to the floor, as she walked in to sit next to him. "It's just…it's stupid, alright? The Risen on the Northroad were nowhere near that threatening…"
Lifting his chin with a finger, his fiancé sighed. "Dear, it's called 'Lunatic' for a reason. You may be a master tactician, but you're not a madman, either."
He grunted. "I might be, once this game's through with me." Then he snorted lightly, cupping her chin in his hand. "But you'd love me anyway." A quick kiss. "I don't know what I did to deserve you, Lucy."
"You don't need to deserve me, Robin," she whispered back, her arms around him. "Love isn't about worthiness or earning. I love you, and you love me, and nothing can change that."
(The Rainbow Serpent sat impassively, the eternal observer of the pantheon. Hub loops were always an interesting experience. Some Loopers went out of their way to berate - or in some cases, thank - their creators, but Robin was happy to try and live a normal-seeming life.)
(He was remarkably bad at Fire Emblem, though.)
Thanks for reading! Please, leave a review if you have anything to say.
University started! I started playing M:tG again! I had a crisis of faith about the viability of fanfic as an artistic medium! Then I remembered that I write this stuff for fun, not because I feel obliged to or because I'm trying to express some deep, artistic meaning in my writing. So that's a good summary of why I haven't been updating.
I'm still going to be watching you write bad fanfic, though. Judging you, and every action you take. On the other hand, if you're writing good fanfic (and that's an oxymoron if I've ever heard it), send it to me so I can include it in the next chapter of the Awakening loops.
Until next time!