Note: I don't own Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones nor the song "Ever the Same" by Rob Thomas.

Every time I listen to Rob Thomas' "Ever the Same," I always think about Saleh and Gerik. They have an interesting history, the two of them, and it gives me a greater insight into Saleh's character. This is not a songfic, per se, but I do think the lyrics make good chapter titles.

And the only possible reason I've rated this T is because younger readers might not fully understand my message.

-like soldiers falling down-

"Saleh," Gerik says decisively. "Zabba's dead. It won't do you any good if you keep yourself hung up over killing him." It isn't the first time he's said something like this. For some reason, Saleh keeps trying to apologize for what happened seven years ago; it makes him wonder why he clings to that memory, and insists on trying to apologize, when it would really be easier to just let everything go.

In spite of himself, Gerik hears a voice--his own voice--slip unbidden into his thoughts.

I'm tired of trying to forget.

"Yes... But..." Saleh's eyes catch the light in a strange way--it looks almost like he's about to cry.

This must be a bizarre picture the two of them make. Saleh, calm, unflappable Saleh, looks and feels considerably more upset than Gerik. Gerik's the one who lost his friend; if anything, Gerik should be the one about to break down. Not the one who killed his best friend. Not the sage of Caer Pelyn.

Not Saleh.

But even as Gerik thinks this, he sees that the serenity is gone and the mask is slipping and no matter how much Gerik tries to make him, Saleh will not be able to forget killing the Desert Tiger's best friend.

It's not in Saleh to forget.

It catches Gerik off guard when Saleh reaches over and hugs him--a rigid, desperate grip that makes Gerik feel like he's the only person keeping Saleh alive, keeping him sane enough to know that he's going to lose it because nobody else knows.

It makes him wonder how long Saleh's had to cope with his guilt.

"Gerik..." his voice is so much quieter than usual that Gerik almost doesn't catch what he says. "I'm..."

The sage tightens his grip; Gerik's a little surprised at the sage's sudden display of strength. There's no outward sign of Saleh's emotions; no shaking, no tears, no hitching breaths, no stammer.

But there is so much misery in his voice.

And Gerik responds with his own embrace. "Don't say it, Saleh."

Saleh doesn't need forgiveness from Gerik. He's had it for seven years--seven years before either of them got caught up in this war for the continent and the final defeat of the Demon King and another triumph of good over evil.

And with everything that's happened through the years, all his misery and guilt breaking out of his control as he holds onto Gerik like he's the last source of hope, Saleh does not cry.

It's not like Saleh to break down on on the outside.

But it's tearing him to shreds on the inside.

And, in a comically tragic sort of way, Saleh doesn't know that the only person he should ask forgiveness from, has yet to get forgiveness from, is himself.