A/N: This story is a self contained one shot, but I may eventually make a prequel about the events that lead up to it. No guarantees at the moment though. Enjoy!
To some, the sound of war was death's lullaby; a song in a minor key, telling of despair, desolation, and blood. Lots of blood. Rivers of it. But to warriors and soldiers, the blood was their holy water, something so pure it would cleans them of death. And the sound of war itself was like a morning bell; a bird singing on a bright spring day, or the sound of a mother's gentle voice calling you from sleep. It was war and it was death, but it was all they had.
"Lift your sword higher when you block your opponents attack. You can't win if you don't have a head." The commander's clear voice rang out across the training grounds, her lavender tail swishing behind her as she moved gracefully around the fencing square. She observed the trainees intently, her golden eyes taking in every detail as she watched them fence. None of them were quite prepared for battle, but they were making progress, and she could see their potential.
"Having fun, Commander?" If the voice hadn't been so familiar, she would have whipped around and pinned the person to the ground. But she knew the deep voice well. The way it whispered teasingly behind her ear, a soft rumble that often made her heart skip a beat. She turned around to face the black and red hedgehog behind her, his mouth quirked in a light smirk. Her expression shifted slightly when she saw him, but it did not soften.
"May I ask what happened to the training session with your trainees, Captain?" she inquired, her gaze shifting momentarily to the young men and women surrounding them. Deciding that they were in no dire need of instructions, she turned back to the captain. If they weren't on the training grounds, the way his ruby eyes gazed back at her would have made her forget the world around her. But with all the clashing of swords, it was not hard to stay focused.
"They actually made a decent amount of note worthy progress today. So I let them finish early before they got hot headed and messed something up." He scanned the group of sword fencers quickly before turning back to her. "It seems as if yours still don't know how to block a basic attack."
She raised an eyebrow at his statement before turning most of her attention back to her trainees. "If your purpose of coming here was merely to insult my soldiers, it would be advisable that you left. Perhaps then they could learn something." Her words weren't spoken harshly or coldly; it was more like a statement of slight amusement.
"I did not come to insult your soldiers, My Queen," he replied softly, his voice hardly more than a whisper. "Your advisor has matters he would like to discuss with you, so I am to take over the rest of your training session today." He watched her closely, but her expression remained the same.
"Very well," she said shortly. "Try not to give them too hard a time." She began walking back to the castle, but he grabbed her arm, keeping her in place. She looked over her shoulder at him, raising an inquiring brow. "Yes, Captain?"
He licked his lips hesitantly, not looking her in the eye. When he let go of her arm, he kept his gaze on the soldiers in training. "We're not just training them to protect their families and their kingdom, or to protect themselves." He searched her face, but she betrayed nothing of what she thought or felt. "Blaze..." At that, her eyes softened, seeming to melt into molten gold. "We're training them to march to their deaths."
She sighed and closed her eyes, shaking her head slightly. "If I could win this war on my own, I would never ask for their blood to be spilled on the ground. But if I have no warriors, everyone in this kingdom will die. Not just the warriors." She opened her eyes and looked at him somewhat pleadingly. "If I could fight this war on my own, I would."
He took a step forward and clasped her hand in his. "You will never have to fight on your own, Blaze. No matter what, I will always be by your side."
She smiled slightly and pulled away, beginning to walk again. "I know, Shadow. I know."
The evening light shone in through the small window, casting shadows around the dimly lit room. The warm rays of golden sun fell gently on the captain lying in the narrow bed, giving his black fur a silky look. His sleeping chamber was a small room in a high tower, as he had requested, but the way the sunlight danced with the candlelight on the wall, made it appear quite cozy. The captain, however, had difficulty sinking into its simple comfort. He found his thoughts drifting back to the commander: Queen Blaze of the Sol Kingdom.
"If I could fight this war on my own, I would." He should have expected her to say something like that. She was always trying to do everything on her own, always trying to carry the entire world on her shoulders. That was one of the many things he admired about her. How she always managed to do everything on her own without stumbling, how she always managed to carry the world and come back with her head held high. It was one of her many strengths. But it was also one of her many infuriating attributes, because she rarely accepted help. A faint smile tugged at his lips. It was also one of the things they had in common.
But where did they stand? Sometimes it seemed as if they were friends, but sometimes their interactions were merely business. Rarely did they ever see each other without their guards up. And on a few occasions, they seemed more than friends. Like the times their lips had pressed together... He shook his head. Even in those moments, once they pulled away, they acted as if nothing had happened; went back to whatever they were doing without a second glance. No. They could never be more than friends.
"But her eyes," a forbidden part of him whispered. "The way they melted into those beautiful pools of gold... The way she looked at you on the training grounds, the way her shielded gaze softened as she gazed into your eyes... It's as if she loves-" 'No,' he told himself firmly, clenching his fists and squeezing his eyes shut. No. She couldn't love him. He couldn't love her. Shouldn't love her. She was his commander, his queen. It would not be appropriate for a captain to love his queen. They were nothing more than allies. He should never love her. Never.
"I've already told you, Gardon, we'd be putting the whole kingdom at risk if we have the wedding before the war ends."
"But, Your Highness," the elderly koala pressed. "It doesn't have to be a big event, just a small ceremony with a handful of people. Besides, the law-"
Blaze turned quickly on her heel, staring at her advisor sharply. "I don't care about the law, Gardon. I'm not going to risk innocent lives just to follow some piece of paper." She turned again and continued walking down the gold and silver lined hallway. "No matter how small the ceremony, the prince and his family still need to travel open planes to get here. And I have no doubt that our enemies have spies everywhere. If we have a wedding now, our defenses will be down. Not only will we be open for a full on attack, but a slaughter. And I will not see my people slaughtered."
Gardon was silent for a few moments as he let her words sink, trying to keep up with her brisk pace. Finally, he sighed. "Your Majesty, it's not so much the law that concerns me, but more of your relationship with Captain Shadow." His words made her stop in her tracks, a faint twinge of irritation flowing through her.
"What about my relationship with the captain?" Her voice was steely, and the look on her face made him cringe and back away slightly.
"I don't mean to speak out of place, My Queen, but the two of you have been acting rather... friendly with each other lately. And the other day, I say you-"
"Gardon," Blaze said sharply, fire dancing in her eyes. "I already told you, we were sword fencing." Even though her words were sharp, she felt a forbidden thrill run through her at the memory.
The koala gave her a skeptical look. "I didn't realize two people could sword fence when their lips are locked together," he said dryly.
Blaze could feel a wave of heat rising to her cheeks. His lips had been so soft, so inviting. And the feel of his fingers through her hair... But instead of letting her thoughts play across her face, she crossed her arms and raised a brow. "If I recall correctly, you were just telling me how your eyesight has been getting worse. Perhaps it's time to look into getting some spectacles."
Gardon spluttered, his face a bright red. "Even so," he said stubbornly. "You could sword fence with your fiance. When the two of you do get married, you'll have to talk about war and other matters. And it wouldn't hurt for the two of you to fence together every now and then. It might help you get to know each other better."
Blaze shook her head and resumed walking. "Prince Sonic has a heart of gold; a heart filled with kindness. And a kind heart is not a warrior's heart."
"But a person with a kind heart can make a good leader."
The young queen laughed softly. "A leader of a kingdom and a leader of war are two entirely different things. The prince is a hero, but he could never be a soldier."
The fiery gold and crystal silver tents stood defiantly against the navy blue sky, long purple flags billowing gently in the soft evening breeze. Soldiers moved across the camp, preparing for the brutal battle that they knew would crash down upon them the following day. Their queen studied them as she always did, looking for any weaknesses that needed to be removed. She stood with a tense kind of grace, her shoulders stiff with repressed concern and excitement. She had a strong feeling this would be the final skirmish; the deciding of a winner for the long lasting war. And casually, as she let herself imagine victory, the young green eyed prince approached her.
"Hey, Blaze," he said cheerfully, giving her a dramatic bow. She raised a brow at his informality, but said nothing as he held her hand to his lips longer than necessary.
"Greetings, Your Highness," she replied with a practiced bow of her own. "It would be wise of you to stay in the back line tomorrow, well away from the bloodiest of the slaughter."
He grinned at her teasingly, shaking his head in play disapproval. "While you fight in the front line, my love?" He shook his head again. "After all this bloodshed is over, we'll be together, side by side, for the rest of our lives." He looked up at the sky dreamily, and Blaze rolled her eyes at his dramatics. He looked back at her and gave her a more genuine smile. "We should both get some rest. Good night, my dear Queen."
She waited patiently as he leaned down and kissed her lips, but she kept her eyes open and did not return it. When her gaze drifted over his shoulder, she caught sight of Shadow standing silently by his tent, his eyes on the two of them. She couldn't see his face very well from that distance, but she could swear she saw his jaw clench and his eyes shoot a deathly cold glare at her fiance. The feeling of warm breath on her neck, and the sound of a laugh in her ear made her turn her eyes back to the prince as his lips left her own. She took in the sad smile on his lips, the gentle look in his eyes.
"You should tell him before it's too late, before this war claims both of you." She wondered at the way he said it, as if he believed that both she and the captain would die. But before she could respond, he had left in a blur of blue, a small breath of wind that was gone before she could blink. And when she looked back for the captain, he too had gone, a soft whisper of darkness that she never seemed to be able to keep close to her burning heart. As if her flames were too bright for him to exist without fading.
He saw her standing alone, a silent figure of elegance and grace. He wanted to stride forward and wrap her in his arms, if only for a moment, just to feel her warmth encase him should it fade the following day. But before his feet decided whether or not they wanted to move, he saw her cocky, cape adorned fiance approach her with light steps and a winning smile.
He gritted his teeth as he watched them converse, a great wave of bitter jealousy consuming him. His dislike for the green eyed prince only increased as he watched him lean down and kiss the queen's lips. Her eyes drifted over the shoulder of her betrothed, meeting with those of the captain. His breath caught at their golden intensity, their flaming pools so far away as they turned back to the prince who once again spoke.
With a sigh of disgust, Shadow turned and walked back into his tent, refusing to let jealousy consume him any more than it already had. He had tried so hard to fight against the queen's enchanting air, tried so hard to fight against the pull that yanked him towards the pit called love that no poor soul who entered could ever escape. But somehow, he had found himself enchanted by a spell no wizard could ever create; found himself pulled to the bottom of the pit, deeper than anyone had ever fallen. And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't climb back up, only found himself sinking deeper.
Night had fallen with a heaviness that could not be shaken from the sleep of soldiers. They all tossed and turned with restless dreams, even those on watch twisting in discomfort. Blaze was pacing around her tent, unable to find rest with the promise of death hanging above her head.
'You should tell him before it's too late.' The thought startled her, but she shook her head. What would be the point if either one or both of them died the following day? Even if they both survived, she would still have to wed Prince Sonic.
'But it was the prince who said you should tell him,' her thoughts argued. No. It was her heart that argued. Her thoughts were what told her to keep him as nothing more than an ally. 'Just tell him,' her heart urged. 'Tomorrow may be the last time you ever see the sun rise.' She knew all too well how true that was. But it was longing and not truth that made her feet move. Longing to gaze into his ruby eyes that burned like frozen ice, longing to hold him close until they both became nothing more than dust. So she stepped out into the night, and knew that the stars were laughing down at her foolish heart.
The darkness watched the captain as he stood stiff and alert, his face a mask of stone as he watched the darkness back. 'Tomorrow you die,' it seemed to say, laughing at him relentlessly. 'Tomorrow you fade away into the lonely shadow you tried so hard not to be.'
He gritted his teeth at the words he tried to swallow, knowing now stupid it would be to have a conversation with something that was not truly alive. "I may fade into nothing tomorrow, but the only things I tried not to be, were the things I could never turn into." The darkness roared with laughter, blowing in his face and tugging on his mind as it pulled away.
'Oh my dear Shadow,' it rumbled. 'You have always been nothing. How could you ever be more or less than something you never were? You are so-'
"Captain." The voice broke through the darkness and the conversation that did not exist, a small flame reaching in to pull Shadow out. He turned to see the queen standing maybe ten feet behind him, her arms crossed over her chest and a determined gleam in her eye. "I would like to speak with you, if you have a moment to spare." The moonlight danced over her lavender fur, giving her an unearthly glow.
"I would be pleased to speak with you, My Queen, but as you can see, I'm on watch."
She had expected him to say something of the like, but she had come here for a purpose, and she wasn't going to leave until she had said what needed to be spoken. She took a few steps forward and stopped two feet in front of him, looking up into his unreadable face. "Then take a minute off to talk with me." She knew she shouldn't ask him to abandon post like that, but she also knew that the likely hood of their enemies arriving before the next day were slim to nonexistent.
He raised an eyebrow disbelievingly, unable to understand what would make her request such a thing. "My Queen," he started.
She quickly stepped up to him, closing the distance between their bodies. The way the moonlight made his fur shine and eyes glow nearly had her kissing him right then and there. But she took a deep breath, making sure she was completely composed. "The matter is rather urgent, Captain."
His heart had stopped when she had closed the distance between them, nearly making him choke on his own breath. And then she had breathed so deeply, her body pressing even closer to his. But he did not step away. "What do you wish to talk about, My Queen?" His voice was thick when he spoke, his mind hazing.
"Us." That word was so hard for her to say, taking more courage than what was needed to raise a sword. But it seemed to spark something awake in Shadow; made him take several steps back and readjust his hardened mask.
"I'm afraid that subject does not exist, Your Majesty, you are to marry Prince Sonic." He couldn't help but snarl the last two words out bitterly as if they were a curse.
The smile she gave him was playful, but there was nothing warm in it. "Apparently that subject does exist, Captain, otherwise my betrothal to the prince wouldn't bother you so much." His eyes flared dangerously, but she continued on. "Don't think I didn't notice the look you gave him earlier." She cocked her head to the side and raised a brow. "Why, it looked as if you wanted to snap his neck."
"That's because I don't trust him," Shadow snarled, finally snapping. "I don't think you should have to marry and idiot just because of some law."
"And you would be better for me?" she taunted.
"Yes." The word shocked both of them to the core, making time stop and the world fade away. Blaze's eyes widened into two large discs of gold, but Shadow stepped forward and wrapped her in his arms, pressing his lips tightly against hers. Their eyes closed and they held each other with a strength they didn't know they had. It was an apology, a confession, and a promise, merging into one until the war would destroy it.
When they pulled apart, their faces were hard as stone, but their eyes held smiles. "You do love me, don't you?" she asked seriously, her heart thundering against his.
He smiled at her the way someone might before saying goodbye. "Loving you would be loving war."
When someone becomes a soldier, they throw away any promise of tomorrow. Some fight to protect their family, while others fight out of loyalty to their kingdom. And some only fight because they have nothing else to give. But how can any of that be reason enough to throw away tomorrow? Because fighting for those you love, or fighting to give the rest you have, is more important than waking up to see the sun.
Swords clashed against swords, stabbed into flesh, warriors falling like brightly colored leaves in the Autumn breeze. The victory the queen so longed for would come, but not without its high price of burning blood, bathed in darkness.
Blood coated the ground like a second skin, washing over the battered bodies that were wounded beyond the point of just leaving scares. Death was a thick cloud that hung in the air, singing softly because it was plentiful. It skipped lightly over the soldiers, ready to leave. But there were two more souls it still had to visit.
She lay on the ground, her sword at her side. Blood flowed from her torso like a raging river on dry land. Her breathing was slowing, and she knew she would not make it. But they had won the war, and that was all that mattered.
He stumbled and fell, dropping his own blade on the blood encrusted ground. He wanted to collapse beside it; to just give up and die. But he kept walking, and he came to her.
She knew him from the sound of his breath, the feel of his hand as it clutched her own. He finally fell down beside her, and she turned her bleary gaze to his. "We won," she choked out. "We've been fighting them for so long, Shadow... I can't believe we actually won." Her words broke of into half laughter, half sobs. They were both dying, but when he gazed at her, her eyes were shining.
He pulled her close suddenly, wrapping his arms around her and letting his bloody fingers tangle in her already matted hair. "We did win, Blaze," he whispered softly, his deep voice gravelly. "You were right. You were right about everything."
"What is that supposed to mean, Captain?" she asked. But she didn't wait for an answer. One look from him was all it took for her to capture his lips with her own, tasting his pain and blood as it flooded her mouth, feeling his love and his rage as it held her tighter than life or death ever could.
He pulled back and held her face in his battered hands. "I love you, Blaze. I have more love for you than my heart is capable of holding." He let the stubborn tears slide from his cheeks, falling to mix with the ones that left Blaze's own golden orbs.
She smiled tiredly at him, her face bright with the death she embraced. "I love you too, Shadow. But loving you is loving war."