Title: Rumor Has It...
Series: FE9 (directly after the end)
Day/theme: 2/20~ clad in the beauty of a thousand stars (late)
Character/pairing: Ike/Soren, a bit of Tibarn/Reyson too.
Rating: PG, I guess? Possibly light PG-13 for some implied stuff and kissing.
Summary: Rumors run rampant through the Greil mercenaries that Ike has a beautiful girlfriend with long black hair. Soren hopes no one puts two and two together. IkeSoren, TibarnReyson

Edited and slightly rewritten as of 6/10/09. (Nothing major, I just reworded I few sentences to make them clearer and added a little to make it less jarring.)

I. Rumors

Rumors had a way of getting out of hand in any camp, but in the Greil Mercenaries, it was especially bad. Perhaps it was the merging of many cultures, peoples and races. It was almost heartening to see them all come together – to dish the dirt.

There wasn't a word that went unheard in camp with Ulki around, and though he wasn't prone to gossip, he did have a habit of sharing things with Janaff, who never could resist a juicy tidbit and derived much pleasure from embellishing the tale until it was completely unrecognizable. Even thoughts weren't safe in camp with Reyson around.

By 7AM the next morning, already there were whispers. Outside the imperial ball, on the balcony overlooking the gardens, Ike had kissed someone under the stars.

By 8AM there was word that she was a rare beauty, with long raven hair, by 9AM she was as lovely as the night sky itself. By breakfast half of Tellius knew, by lunch, the other half was informed. The story warped until the girl became a princess of some far off region, she became someone beautiful, deadly, and awe-inspiring. With each retelling she gained new abilities and features, her body fluid, changing and reforming each time.

Aimee attempted to take hold of this rumor, by insinuating that it her who was kissed in the moonlight. She however failed with certain details which left her credibility somewhat dubious. (She did have long black hair, but one thing they all agreed on was this mystery lady had very long, very straight black hair, and hers was curly.)

.

Aimee paced outside the line of tents, just circling the commander and his two closest aids quarters. Titania was already awake and knew nothing and Aimee knew better than to wake up either Soren or Ike, as both had horrible tempers. (Though to wake up Soren you'd have to go far beyond the crack of dawn, he always woke before the sun event hinted at rising)

When the tent of Ike's other, closest advisor opened, the sun was already high in the sky.

"Oh, Soren. Ugh. I mean, you're up late."

Soren's hair was unbrushed, and still in a disarray. His robes were wrinkled in a way most uncharacteristic, as if they'd spent the night on the floor wadded up in a pile.

"I accidentally had some wine last night. The effects were unpleasant, to say the least."

"Yes, yes," she said dismissively, "Have you seen Ike yet?"

Soren stiffened, his grip tightened on the door flap of the tent. "Why would you think I'd know that?"

"Well, you usually are his assistant and I thought you might be able to clarify that little tale that's going around," she said.

"Little tale?"

She twisted a lock around her finger, then flicked it away in annoyance.

"Oh, that he kissed a beautiful woman last night."

Soren paled. "I hadn't heard."

"Yes, these rumors have a way of getting around, and oh I do so want to talk to him. Again, talk to him again. After last night. You see."

From inside the tent there was the unmistakable sound of covers rustling and a sleepy, half-awake moan.

"...was that a groan I heard? Is someone in there?"

Soren shifted as to block as much of the opening as he could and clung even more tightly to the tent flap. "..My stomach. I haven't eaten."

Aimee smiled knowingly. "Oh, of course. I'll just let you 'eat' now. And do tell Ike I'm looking for him."

"I will."

She had no clue just how soon that'd be.

.

When he was sure she'd gone, Soren slipped back into the tent. Ike shifted under the covers, as the light fell in on him.

Soren never kept mirrors around, to him, vanity might as well have been a foreign word. His quarters were always kept as fastidiously clean as a monk's cell, and with the same amount of furnishings.

For once, however, Soren wished he had a mirror, or something reflective, he guessed that he must be in a state of horrible disarray, Aimee's suspicious glaces notwithstanding.

Soren raked his fingers through his hair, trying to regain some sense of order to his mussed hair. He heard Ike stir nearby.

"Good morning," He said calmly, belying the tight grip of anxiousness that held tight to his stomach.

"'morning," Ike mumbled.

Soren didn't turn around. He continued to attempt to salvage his decency, after all, Aimee would already have it know to every shopkeeper in Crimea that he had a lover by now. the least he could be thankful for was that she didn't seem to suspect Ike was the one hidden in his bed.

Annoyed, Soren shook his head to clear his thoughts, when his reverie was interrupted by Ike's voice.

"Soren, you–"

"Yes?"

"Look like you spent the night being taken in the woods."

"Not surprising, considering," Soren said dryly.

"It's a good look. I like it," Ike replied in turn.

"...Hmm. You'll be the only one to ever see it."

"Good."

Ike yawned and stretched. He propped himself up on one elbow, the covers slipped lower and, revealed more tantalizing bare skin.

Soren purposely fixed his eyes to his belongings. Even though he was allowed to look now, to take in sight and smell and feel of Ike, old habits died hard. It would still take some time to curb the instinct to bury his feelings, rip his gaze away and calm his breath.

"Your admirer came calling," Soren said after a moment's silence.

"...Which one?"

"Aimee. Who else would take to stalking your tent in hopes of catching you?"

Ike groaned as he searched for his pants.

"Indeed," Soren said.

"You should hurry. It'd be rather suspicious to have you leaving my tent at this hour, especially as you're wearing last night's clothes."

"..Meeting that went long," Ike mumbled.

"It would be difficult to explain why it took all night."

"I'd say it outright if it'd get rid of Aimee," Ike muttered.

.

By midday, two rumors circulated. One, that Ike had a beautiful, mysterious lady friend with long black hair and two, that Soren, of all people, had a lover.

Soren held his breath and hoped no one would put two and two together.

.

News traveled fast, especially with The King's eyes and ears in tow.

In Gallia, life went on as it had, though somehow there was less sneering and hissing if the word "beorc" ever was mentioned. Changes took time, and this was a beginning.

Reyson studied his reflection in the mirror.

His attention was diverted when he heard the sound of wings; not the soft flutter of songbirds, but strong and powerful, wing beats.

"You're not going to introduce yourself? King Caineghis won't be happy."

Tibarn scoffed, "Bah, they'll get a whole party to welcome me then I'll never get away."

Reyson gave a disapproving glance.

"I'll go, I'll go, just give me a minute. It's been a while since I last saw you," Tibarn said.

"Is there any news?" Reyson asked.

"Nothing too important, though there's a rumor flitting about that Ike's got a girl. Apparently she's some dark-haired beauty – oh, and even his tactician found someone," Tibarn said.

Reyson raised an eyebrow, "You came all the way here just to tell me that?"

"I came all the way here because I wanted to make sure they were taking good care of you."

"I'm fine, there's no need to worry, Tibarn. I'm in safe hands."

Tibarn gave an noncommittal grunt. His expression suggested his belief that the only hands he'd ever consider Reyson to be safe in were his own.

Reyson set down his brush on the vanity table.

"I'm just glad to see the war is over, perhaps something good has come from it after all. It brought us all together," Reyson said.

"Even the irritable little tactician found someone. What a surprise. It really makes you wonder," Tibarn said.

"The answer should be fairly obvious, Tibarn. You, of all people shouldn't be surprised."

"Wait, what?"

Reyson smiled. "Come on, we're being rude to our hosts."

Tibarn groaned. "It'll take hours"

"Well, since you've come with no forewarning, it would be rude to ask them to prepare another room... You'll just have to stay with me."

"Now there's an idea I can agree to," he traced a line up Reyson's thigh, "Now, if only it'd happen sooner..."

.

Ranulf was only able to draw Ike aside later on, after the festivities had finally waned down to embers. It was on the outskirts of the mess hall, there was still a trace of soup on Ike's shirt that Ike hadn't noticed and Soren hadn't had the chance to wipe clean yet.

"Have fun with your pretty girl last night, Ike? I hear she kisses well," Ranulf said with a wide, knowing smirk.

Ike blinked in confusion. "No, I haven't kissed any girls lately, where'd you hear this?"

"Just around. And really? Perhaps my sources are wrong then... The whole company knows, and soon so will all of Tellius. It's all anyone's talking about. 'Ike the Crimean Hero and the mysterious girl he kissed on the balcony.' "

"Oh that. That was–"

Before he could say another word, Soren appeared, stack of papers in tow. He was frowning even more than usual, and cast a critical glance in Ranulf's direction."

"Ike, I believe there's a meeting you must attend. Now."

"Coming, Soren."

Ike nodded in Ranulf's direction, "Gotta go."

Ranulf grinned and waved as they left.

He waited until they were sufficiently out of earshot before voicing his comments, for Ranulf had found out the hard way what it paid to make Soren angry. He still had burn marks on his tail for that.

"Somebody's whipped. Looks like the honeymoon's over already."

Ranulf walked off, whistling and saving this juicy tidbit for later. He was far from done teasing them.

II. Under The Stars

The whole ball was too much. Too much finery and fakeness, there was glassware everywhere which the slightest bump would make fall and shatter to pieces. The food here was the non-filling overly fancy kind on tiny crackers. It had the consistency of mud and didn't taste that different from mud either. If this was the life of the nobility, then they could take it, Ike thought.

He'd been held on to by a lady who insisted on him recounting every detail. Her eyes were rapt and cheeks flushed as she clung to his arm and begged for more anecdotes from the war. She'd sunk her claw-like nails into him when he tried to leave, and forced him into a waltz. Unfortunate for her, especially her toes, Ike couldn't dance.

There was so many vivid colors as to be almost garish. Yellow was apparently the color of the moment: yellow curtains and yellow tablecloths, wispy yellow mage-created flames floating about like fireflies. All these colors reflected back in the glass of a chandelier.

It all hurt his eyes, their jewels, the sights and acrid scents of ladies perfume. Before another member of the nobility (or god forbid, Aimee) latched onto him, Ike made his escape.

From the ballroom, to the drawing-room, the halls were mostly deserted. Ike wandered to a room on the second floor. It was a guest room, adorned as such with secondary furnishing of much more calming colors. All blues and forest greens with soft carpeting and the most important part of all: enough books to make up a mini-library. Ike closed the door behind him and peered out to the adjoining balcony where a figure stood with his back the door. Black, wispy hair fluttered in the breeze.

It was exactly who he was looking for.

"There you are. Everyone was asking about you."

Soren turned to face him. "I don't care for crowds."

"I know, me neither."

Ike leaned against the intricate railing, the stone cool against his fingers. The view below was full of glittering lights like distant fireflies floating below. Soren, however, had not been paying attention to the ground below. His gaze had been fixed upon the clear, starry skies above.

"So what were you doing? Catching your breath?"

"Stargazing. The scholars at Begnion said a lunar eclipse was scheduled for tonight. They did seem to think it was something very significant."

"Do you?" Ike said.

"Find it significant? Not particularly. Interesting, but not 'a sign of fortuitous tidings' as they would have put it."

Ike chuckled. How like Soren, to be a mage, and yet to be completely skeptical about the prophecies and magical tales. A seeming contradiction in itself, but Ike had gotten used to Soren's idiosyncrasies. Ike knew all of him, to his cynicism, bitterness to his subtle way of showing he cared. All these facets were known and beloved to Ike.

The sky was cloudless and the night was a dark velvety black. The moon was still bright and Soren was clearly contrasted against the dark. In this light he could see Soren clearly, his skin almost as white as the marble statues, his hair was unbound and flowed about his, caught by the faint breeze. It was a fitting juxtaposition given Soren's complexion. Night to him seemed a close relative who shared like blood as the kind that flowed in his veins.

Soren noticed his gaze and looked away. "..I was getting ready for bed."

A thought brushed his mind. Soren was soft in this light, beautiful, even. Ike wanted to kiss him, find out what he tasted like. There wasn't a second thought, a double-take, even a questioning of the consequences. Ike was not surprised by this, he merely accepted it, and then acted on it. He moved closer, and Soren looked up at him, quizzical and questioning.

"Ike, what–"

"Shh."

He scooped Soren up in his arms, and Soren fit there so well. When his lips met Soren's, it was clumsy, a bit too hard. He felt Soren unmoving, and then moving, responding to his touch. He heard Soren moan softly as leaned into him, he felt Soren's fingers gripping against his shoulders. Soren was pulling him down, deepening the kiss. Soren was accepting him and without words came their confession.

The moon disappeared and yet neither noticed, both too wrapped up in each other to notice the world passing by.