disclaimer: I hereby disclaim

teaser: in which a decision is made, but nothing is resolved. Rennac, Dozla, and, most importantly, an absent L'Arachel

notes: why can't L'Arachel have an ending with Rennac?


/No Greater Good/

The fact that she doesn't smile anymore shouldn't be a problem, because he's always remembered finding it a bit of annoyance. Such a bold flash a teeth, enough to blindside him (which he often blamed for all his woes; vast as they were).

For a while it was all well and good, the sudden lack of that brilliant smile, and the lack of that gleeful voice bellowing down the halls for him. He still doesn't miss leaping to the tips of his toes, like some lap dog.

Or not much, anyway.

Maybe it's Dozla, he reasons with himself. After all, it seems a little perverse when someone that permanently happy with the world loses all his joy and wonder. Dozla's a simple man (and he won't be the last one to tell you, not the brightest gem in the cache) and it feels a little confounding that such childlike simplicity can be lost in an instant.

Or, Rennac thinks, maybe he's just a sap.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's because she doesn't smile anymore. Ten years as queen wears on the soul. Or so he assumes, as he's never been royalty, or even noble. He's always been a lout and a thief, and a damn good one, too.

Dozla glares down at the chess pieces. Ten years, and he still doesn't know his rook from his bishop. If Rennac wasn't so determined to win the money, he'd probably go easy on the old guy. But Dozla would know, and then he'd take those long, long walks in the garden that have a tendency to make Rennac uneasy, and he doesn't like to be uneasy.

"Your move," Dozla mumbles from beneath his hand as he holds it to his lips. He looks around the room, and probably thinks of things best left in the past.

Rennac looks around too and wonders why he's still here. He has a bag of all his things under his bed, ready to go whenever he wants to, and he'd be gone long before they find out, but he never gets up the nerve to go.

And she never smiles anymore.

"So," he begins, picking up where they left off countless minutes ago. They do that now, start conversations, leave them hanging, and come back to them sometime later. The world is surprisingly slow. "Her Holiness returns to tomorrow."

Dozla doesn't react.

Ten years ago, he would have given a mighty bellow and the whole castle would have been in an uproar preparing for her arrival, with Dozla the ever omnipresent chorographer.

Well no, he thinks, that isn't true. Ten years ago, he wouldn't have left her side.

But that was ten years ago.

--

The message is handed to him by one of the servants, which in itself is an oddity. She likes to make flashy entrances and likes to hand out her royal decrees by herself. He's accepted that that is just how she is.

But the servant hands him the simple letter (which is strange, seeing as he's in the castle with her and why can't she just walk down the east hall and find him? He never strays far) and walks away.

It's a simple thing. Worded plainly, and that should have been his first clue. She never words things simply. She likes to write as much as possible about every little thing she can think off. She likes to spell words he can't even pronounce and likes to snicker when he struggles over them, trying not to show his failure.

It isn't malicious, and he tends to forgive her after a couple of hours. She would have just tracked him down and talked to him until he did (a far worse punishment).

"Well, Dozla will be pleased," he tells himself, because his mind is oddly blank. His brain is always whirling, full of clanking gears thinking fast about how to best serve himself. Everything is screeching to a halt.

All he can think is that Dozla always wanted her to get married.

--

Dozla mutters something unkind, and Rennac agrees with him, but he keeps that mostly to himself.

At first, Dozla had been loud and vocal, rushing to and fro, dancing around her in concern, pinning her husband with glares and accusations and what did you do to my little girl? And the matter might have been solved nine years ago (Dozla could have broken him in half) but she called him to her private rooms, and when he came out Dozla wasn't Dozla anymore.

Rennac never asked what she told him. He hasn't the courage.

They're pawns, he thinks, moving around his own disposable piece. They're no more than decorations, to be thrown away when they're out of style. The fact that they still have rooms is testament to how closely she tries to hold friendships.

"It's been ten years," he says suddenly, breaking a sort of understood taboo between them, lifting his head and looking at the shorter man. "Ten years, you know."

"What about it?" Dozla says unkindly, his mouth curled sourly. Rennac resists the urge to sigh. He was fine for the few weeks when she and her husband were away, mostly because Dozla could stalk the halls in peace and remember happier times.

But they're coming back, and bringing all the unhappiness with them.

"I think…" He shrugs then, and considers keeping his mouth shout. Dozla would let the subject drop, since he hates speaking on it. It would be the easiest thing to do.

She doesn't smile anymore.

"Ten years… is a very long time."

--

She is always so pale on her throne, looking down at her subjects at they parade before her, singing her praise. Once or twice, she looks over at him (in the shadows, like always, like he was good at the job he seems stuck with) or Dozla and then her lord husband puts a hand on her wrist and she looks away.

There are no more travels. No more traipsing across the continent, hunting down some foul deed or foul beast. He hated doing it, and its sudden cease should have been welcomed.

Instead, he notices the dullness of her eyes, the way her hair doesn't seem to shimmer with her own righteous light, the way she hung up her staffs at her lord husband's request ("it really isn't the proper place of a lady to go about fighting, is it?" "of course not, my lord.").

Instead, he notices the way she never lifts her lips to smile.

--

"All the others, Eirika and Innes and the lot, they all married well, didn't they?" Rennac remembers. He didn't go to any of the weddings. "Of course, they all strengthened the ties between their countries, did all those silly things nobles seem to think they have to do, and even a couple of their knights got blessing for their international weddings…"

The rest hangs, but it does not need to be said. Because they've both thought it before, quietly, watching the sunlight die.

She didn't fit with the lot of them, they were all together before she appeared. They had all known each other before she had arrived. They had all been friends, or rivals, or had stolen kisses from one another in the shades of their own castles. Held hands and took walks while she had tripped over her own feet in her palace far away, with an aging Dozla laughing and picking her up.

"Thought he was alright," Dozla muttered, picking up a king and crushing the stone in his palm.

No, they'd both known that her husband had been a man of noble standing and nothing else. But they had figured that she'd conquer him as she conquered everything else. She had never seemed like a lady who would bend, or break, or who would so willingly subjugate herself to abuse. They had always thought she thought too highly of herself.

They hadn't counted on her desperation for love, just how willing she was to transform herself into a lady fit for a king, and a queen fit for her country.

Not that it matters, Rennac thinks. When it starts to get really irritating, watching her prostrate herself when he'd known what she was like before, he'll just pick up his things and go, kick the dirt off his feet and leave and never, ever come back. And he'll be glad to be gone.

Then, for no real reason at all, he thinks about the way her hair fell down her back, passed her shoulders when it wasn't braided, and the way her legs looked as she rode and the way her arms lifted with tome or staff, or the way her eyes blazed when she shot down an enemy. And the way her teeth flashed white against her face as she lifted her voice in a loud proclamations of her majesty.

He remembers something that he should forgotten, and sometimes he's tried to forget, the reason he keeps telling himself to leave, and the reason he stays.

"What if…" he stops himself, wondering why he's digging his own grave, and what good it does for him.

Then Dozla looks up, his eyes alive with hope for the first time in many years.

--

He's pressing her down into the ground, and her arms are around his neck, and she is gasping at all the things he's doing to her, and he thinks, oh Goddess, this is such a bad idea, and I'm just asking for trouble here, what on earth is wrong with me?

But he isn't stopping.

"Oh Goddess," she breathes against his neck, lifting herself up from the grass, her tongue flicking out, running along his bottom lip. "This is—well, I shouldn't doing this—it isn't something—but you know, tomorrow we could all die—"

Yes, die. That must be why he's pushing his hands up her legs. There's a whole world with bad people out there, and on most days he's one of them, but he isn't dead or a zombie and he doesn't serve a Demon King, which means he has to fight a Demon King and he could die tomorrow and here she is, all soft and warm and fairly pretty when she isn't smiling so hard or laughing so loud…

"Rennac, I swear I—oh!—alright, I suppose just this once I could probably…" Her hands are on his back, tugging at his shirt. "Oh Goddess, forgive me!"

He pulls his head up and looks down at her, into her green eyes and her green hair blending into the grass, and he's never thought she was all that beautiful, but she really is. Every time she claimed to be the fairest woman in the realm… she hadn't been lying.

"L'Arachel," he mumbles, kissing her collarbone. "Could you be quiet it? Just this once?"

"Well I never…" but her voice does die, and her hands stroke his face.

And, yes, this is what he needs. Her, under him, quiet and not smiling at all.

--

"What?" Dozla asks, pressing, barely daring to breathe. They've been thinking about it, silently, to each other whenever they're together, but they've never breached the silent barrier that kept the words inside.

Rennac looks at him, an old man with no daughter, and thinks of himself, a man who isn't that far off from being old, and thinks of her, and how he once wanted her to stop smiling. And now he's old enough to say that he feels just a little bit guilty about it.

So he slides his fingers down his side, to his hip, to the hilt of his small sword, which he's never had a reason to use but never found one to put away, no matter what she said. Dozla watches him, his eyes hungry, his fingers twitching over his chess pieces. Rennac looks into his earnest face and remembered when it laughed, and thought of what she looked like when she smiled.

Beautiful.

He contemplates how hard it is to do something unthinkable.

--

From his room (she gave it to him after they defeated the Demon King, mostly because she claimed it would improve his gloomy mood) he watches her walk in the garden, her head tipped forward, basking in the light, a smile on her lips.

He leans forward and watches the smile, surprised to find that he has missed it. She hasn't smiled since the wedding.

Then her lord husband comes and says something to her. Her smile dies, she nods, and turns away from the green of the garden and the light of the sun. She touches her husband's shoulder, a strange look on her face, before he shakes her off and walks away.

She passes under his window, but Rennac can never be sure if she looks up. He has already turned away.

--

Not hard at all.



notes:
no, it stills bugs me, years after I played it. L'Ararchel can only have a ending with Innes, Ephriam, and Dozla. Why not Rennac? I mean, honestly, their Support B is such an innuendo! C'mon! I feel jipped.