Series: Fire Emblem 10
Rating: R, but light. There's sex, but not intended to be porny.
Summary: As time passes Soren desperately searches for what many have looked for a failed – immortality. But not for his own sake.
A/N: who wants to live forever? Done for Alphabet love, 08. hourglass. Also, intended for Feb. 27 - "What shall I do to shun the snares of death?" / Feb. 28 - "Time doth run with calm and silent foot" of 31 days, however, I got frustrated with it and didn't get it done in time.
El-fontaine Eldorado + Fountain of Youth, set post RD with possible spoilers, possible existential angst and vague sex. It was actually supposed to be a great deal angstier than it was, but somehow it uh, didn't. Oh well, I gave up and let it be fluffier-than-intended.
Another page, another library. Soren squinted into this one; the lettering in faded gold, the language was old, he recognized words in bits and fragments, realization coming like bursts of flame to a darkened room.
Sighing he set it aside. Another recipe that called for a dragon's heart, dried and then ground into dust, put into the lost waters of El-fontaine and drunk at the fullest moon of the season. He rubbed at the bridge of his nose. fatigue made the letters stick together, until they became incoherent blobs of ink. Soren shook his head to clear away the cobwebs. His mind was still fuzzy, sleepiness resting around the edges of thought.
He reached for another book when he heard the doors of the library open, then shut, much too loud. He looked up, already knowing who the familiar, welcome and graceless entrance belonged to.
He heard the clomp clomp clomping coming closer to him, and felt an involuntary smile tug at the corners of his mouth.
He couldn't help it, Ike brought these things out of him naturally.
"Soren, come to bed. It's late, " Ike said.
Soren looked up momentarily from his work.
"I'm almost finished," Soren replied.
"You said that hours ago."
Soren could feel Ike's hand, resting on his spine, just between his shoulder blades. And Soren melted into the touch; leaned in, his body tensing for a moment, then relaxing into the spark of warmth, Ike's body heat combining with his own.
"Soren, come on," Ike's breath was hot against his neck, and Soren was tempted to comply... Yet there was still many pages left in this book, the answer seemed so close, perhaps just one book away.
"Just a little more, and then–"
Ike put his hand over Soren's and closed the book.
He lifted Soren from the chair, and Soren let out a surprised squeak as Ike lifted him up and threw him unceremoniously over his shoulder.
"'Drastic times call for drastic measures' isn't that what you're always saying?"
Soren glared, but of course Ike didn't see it, the blood rushed to his head and all he saw was floor tiles and Ike's pantlegs.
"You'll wear yourself out that way, constantly reading and overworking. We're not fighting a war any longer, there's no need to overwork like that."
Soren mumbled a half-hearted apology and settled into sulking.
The inn they were staying at was halfway across town, and yet Ike refused to let Soren down, even when he protested. The cobblestones and horse's hooves, people's feet all traversed through the path behind them. Soren caught glimpses as he bobbed along with each step. Soren thought that they must be an odd sight; he thrown over Ike's shoulder like a bag of potatoes, and Ike carrying him through town as if it was the most normal thing in the world to carry your traveling companion-slash-secret lover over your shoulder and through the streets.
When they reached the inn, he could hear the laughter and raucous sounds from the bar deeper in.
Their room was thankfully cloistered away from the majority of the noise, yet it could still be heard as a dull hum through the thin walls. The innkeeper had struck a hard bargain, but Soren had finally gotten it at a good price; exchanging their gold with an offer of some bookkeeping on the side to cover any side costs that might arise and to ensure that the price was kept low enough to satisfy even Soren's stinginess.
Their room for the week was small, yet reasonably clean; a bed with a cracked rough-hewn pine headboard, barely big enough for Ike, let alone the two of them. A ragged crocheted rug covered up what appeared to be a burn mark in the floor. The rest of the furniture was made from the same kind of rough, undecorated pine, which had several worn areas through the woodgrain. The walls were worse for the wear, with chinks near the window that let a cold draft flood in at nighttime.
But it would do for the time being.
Ike laid Soren down, gentler than before, and the bed creaked slightly beneath him.
"I thought you were worried about me being tired," Soren said drily.
"I'll help you get to sleep."
Soren closed his eyes as Ike kissed a warm trail down his neck and pulled at his robes. How many countless times they had given in, body to body, he couldn't remember. And yet, he'd never tire of the feeling. Soren felt the same thrill shoot through him, running down his spine as Ike peeled off his clothes. After the first night staying at the inn they'd learned that the bed was far too small and Soren had ended up crumpled on the floor as he had returned Ike's affections, so Soren laid back and let Ike undress him, take complete control over his body, the act, everything.
He was cradled in Ike's arms, his back arching as Ike kissed and sucked over his torso. Soren bit his lip as Ike licked over his nipple, soft moans escaped despite himself. He could feel Ike pressed against him, insistent, ready.
"Ike, we need–"
"Oh, yeah. It's–"
"My bag," Soren said and Ike got up and ruffled through the contents, books turned over, paper rustling. Soren laid back, waiting until he heard the uncapping of a bottle and felt the cold contents mixed with the heat of Ike's fingers.
He relaxed into Ike's touch, the kneading press of Ike's fingers, he moaned slightly as the first finger slipped into him. His moans increased, despite his attempt to bite them back as Ike stroked him from the inside.
Ike removed his finger, and inserted another one. He scissored them, moving harder this time, his pent-up desire showing through.
On his back, Soren smiled to himself.
"That's enough, I'm ready," Soren said.
Ike didn't wait another second, he withdrew both fingers quickly, almost too quickly and pressed Soren's legs open wider. He gripped his hips, and eased into Soren, slow, as gentle as he be despite his innate roughness.
Soren groaned as he waited for his body to relax fully, he had grown accustomed to Ike's body, the discomfort was much less now. It wasn't long before Ike changed his position and all Soren felt was the pleasure, the scent of Ike's skin, the feel of it on top of him pressing him down.
The nagging voice in his mind that said he was filthy and never deserved such a thing was almost silent these days. If it raised a voice, all he had to do was remember that Ike chose him, of all the people, him.
They moved faster and faster, Soren was half-lidded with lips parted, on the brink of orgasm. He felt heat well up in him, delirium, a fever dream, it felt so good to touch Ike's skin. To be touched, and most of all, even if it was never voiced, to know that he was loved.
Ike always fell asleep almost immediately after climax, it seemed to drain his last bit of strength just to roll off and pull Soren close to him. Their bodies were still half entangled, Ike's leg over his, Soren was pinned under the welcome cage of Ike's arms. He gripped against them and repositioned himself closer. In this faint light he could watch Ike's sleeping face, witness his dreamless slumber before succumbing as well.
Soon there would be gray strands coursing through Ike's hair. Age had a way of slipping through, even the barriers Soren had carefully prepared.
Soren was tempted to attempt and wriggle his way out of Ike's grasp. One more book, one step closer to some secret of immortality. And yet, a wave of languor hung over him, whether it was from overwork or post-coital, he wasn't sure. He yawned. It was comfortable in Ike's arms, sleep seemed a warm and inviting mistress, and for once, he couldn't resist.
The studies would have to wait a little longer.
After many years of searching, Soren had finally found a lead. There were plenty of fairy tales, myths and legends, but this one had a sheen of truth to it. Even as Soren suspected that the story was embellished, doubted that everything attributed to him was correct, he thought that this person had surely lived once; and could even still be alive, thousands of years later.
Deep in History of The Goddess he found an illustration of the three heros, and among them was a figure to the side. Black hair, black wings, they spread out from a tall, graceful form. Lehran, the heron, looked benevolently from the side of an illustration of the goddess.
He recognized that face, while somewhat different, time had changed it little.
Soren had a memory like a vice, he never forgot facts, names, and he definitely never forgot faces.
"Our next stop?" Ike asked.
"It's a familiar one."
"I have an errand to run to. It shouldn't take long."
"And where will we be going?"
"Begnion. Or to be more specific, The Serenes Forest," Soren said.
"Begnion, huh... Did you want to speak with the herons? Or was it Tibarn that you wanted to talk to?"
"Mm. No, someone else."
Ike seemed to tense at this, and Soren touched his arm in comfort.
'You don't have to come if you don't want to."
Soren looked up and brushed aside a strand of hair from Ike's eyes. his hair had gotten long again recently, soon he would insist on a trim, but Soren secretly liked it longer. Sometimes, when Ike was asleep, Soren would stroke it, let his fingers sift through the blue strands, and Ike would never wake to his touch. (For Ike was a heavy sleeper, he didn't sleep so much as hibernate for eight hours a day.)
He stroked the side of Ike's face, light, feathery touches.
"It's a difficult thing to live up to, being the savior of a land. I'd understand"
Ike took Soren's hand in his own, it was tiny by comparison, more delicately boned, and lacking the rough callouses that covered Ike's fingers and palms from countless hours of wielding a sword.
"So," Ike said, "Serenes it is."
It took five months to trek back to Tellius, past the ridges of mountains and forests, the untamed wild lands and oceans that seemed to span every mile. If Ike was conflicted about returning to his home country, he didn't show it. Soren knew not to ask if they should take a detour back to the old headquarters that the Greil Mercenaries had taken to again when peace had come again to Crimea. It would be too hard to say goodbye again, to see their spirits rise and then crumble.
There was no such thing as sneaking into the Serenes Forest. Herons were highly sensitive to emotions and thoughts of others, catching them easily, Hawks had excellent eyesight and hearing, the ravens had the gift of stealth and cunning on their side. And most of all was King Tibarn himself, who would not think twice about personally annihilating (with great pleasure) whatever even posed the slightest of threats to his kingdom.
Soren donned a cloak over his robes, it covered most of his face, leaving only the lower half of his mouth and jaw exposed from the shadows. The effect was a rather unnerving, malevolent appearance, while unintended, yet people asked them no questions. Ike wore a similar garb, yet somehow managed to make it far less malignant.
The entrance to the forest was unearthly, a paradise that had raised from the ashes, a phoenix among forests.
A hawk swooped down, and Soren immediately recognized it as Janaff, once a former companion.
"We seek entrance to your kingdom," Soren said.
Janaff narrowed his eyes.
"We won't stay long."
"You'll have to speak to Tibarn about that."
Somehow Janaff always forgot to attach "King", but Tibarn never cared, in truth, it was only Ulki who scolded him about it.
Janaff disappeared while Ulki stared them down, his suspicious, blank face focused entirely on them. He barely even blinked.
Janaff returned, this time with King Tibarn, and Reyson, who rarely ever left his side.
"Strange, I wasn't expecting company," Tibarn said.
Reyson stared hard at them, Soren was sure every corner of his mind was being probed by the heron. He held back the urge to fight it, stilling his breathing as those bright green eyes seemed to bore into his very soul.
Reyson leaned over to whisper something in Tibarn's ear.
"Them?! It can't be!" Tibarn said, and Reyson shushed him and whispered something else.
Tibarn turned to face them again, his gaze more questioning than threatening this time.
"What was it you wanted in the kingdom of Serenes?"
"We– I wish to see the one called 'Lehran'"
"He's away," Tibarn said.
Reyson studied him, and Soren felt the pressure against his mind again. It was deeper, more probing, and he withstood it, allowing this intrusion.
"...He is on the meadow just outside the forest," Reyson said
Soren thanked him and left towards the direction Reyson had pointed out, leaving Ike where he stood.
"So. 'Traveler'... Tell me, I've always wondered, how is the wine in other countries?" Tibarn asked, with a wry smile.
The meadow fanned out from Serenes, caught between the healing touch of the Herons and the nourishing rivers, it was a beautiful sight. Flowers bloomed in abundance, the grass was lush and verdant. There was an untold purity to it, something untouched, unmarred by human presence.
The light breeze caught Lehran's hair, fanning out with hair a deep shade of night. His expression was at once serene but with a sense of a great sorrow that spilled out from him, overflowing, unable to contain it.
Lehran looked taken aback as Soren removed his hood.
"Welcome traveler, I believe we have met before."
Soren nodded in assent.
"In both wars I believe, Chancellor Sephiran, or should I call you Lehran?"
Soren failed to mention that these wars were orchestrated by Lehran himself. He could have tact when the cause suited him.
"It's Lehran," the former chancellor said in a soft, hushed voice.
"I see," Soren said.
"They say that the hero Ike disappeared, with you by his side," Lehran said.
Soren contemplated this. He wasn't sure how much of his powers Lehran still had, he had once been a heron, many years ago before the birth of his child. The child who became the first branded in existence.
"I read something and I wished to confirm its veracity," he said, erring on the side of caution.
"I know you did not come here for pleasantries, Soren,"Lehran replied.
"You've been alive for almost a millennia. I find this rather strange. A goddess' blessing, perhaps?"
"If by blessing you mean curse, then yes, it seems so. But this path that you're on can only bring you pain. What most people don't understand is that death is a gift, one that should not be thrown away so easily."
"You misunderstand," Soren said, "It's not for me. There's a person who I don't want to disappear. My life would be meaningless without him."
"Soren..." Lehran began.
"Is there anything I can do... Is there a way to halve my lifespan? Give it to him?"
And Lehran closed his eyes. There was pain etched on that usually serene face, the pain of remembering, of knowing and loving. He'd taken this path before, and Soren didn't have to ask what had happened. It was all too clear.
"For all the power in the world, you can't bargain a single moment more for them. I've tried." Lehran's voice was tiny and fragile, it broke on the last syllable. "I tried..." he repeated, swallowing back the emotion that threatened to spill over.
"So there's nothing," Soren said, a cold sort of rage building in his stomach. "I am to give up, and that's it? I'm just supposed to sit back and watch him die?"
"I am afraid so..."
"A life without him won't be worth living through."
"Perhaps there is a way. I... The world simply hasn't found it yet," Sephiran said.
"How long have you lived?" Soren demanded.
Lehan looked pained, and Soren raised his voice, rage nearly tangible in the fragrant, pure air.
"...Too long. Much too long," Sephiran said.
Soren shook his head, again and again as if to ward away the answer he knew was coming. He moved to leave, the answer had been found, the trip had been for nothing. Anger and sadness swirled in his stomach, clenching so tight he could barely breathe.
"Immortality is a curse, you wouldn't want to wish such pain on someone you loved. Eventually life loses its sway, you see pain and suffering repeated in an endless cycle. It is...an unimaginable pain, enough to drive a person insane..."
Soren's fists clenched at his sides. Life without Ike would be an unimaginable pain, one he couldn't bear to think about.
Soren took a deep breath to steady himself, and finally responded.
"It doesn't have to be forever, but I couldn't take it if he died first..."
"Then I wish you best of luck Soren, to keep looking on for that which you seek."
Soren disappeared into the Serenes again, and Lehran said a wordless prayer for his behalf. Perhaps he could find the peace that Lehran had never been able to reach, through eight-hundred years of seeking.
"Yes," Soren said wearily. Ike was too tipsy to notice, his time spent with Tibarn had been quite enjoyable, it seemed.
"Wheere to nexxt?" Ike said, a trace of a slur in his words. Soren found this trait surprisingly endearing. Ike could even wear drunkenness well
"We should try for the Tenbetha mountains, the monks are said to possess esoteric knowledge passed down through the centuries."
Ike nodded in agreement. Ever since the war he has been aimless, drifting, a seed in the wind.
Soren held on, tethered himself to Ike's side as they drifted together. Soren steering the course, continually searching, while Ike just ambled, taking in the sights of the world, no purpose to his travels.
Ike was oblivious to Soren's machinations; he accepted Soren's advice without question. Soren would never steer him wrong. His trust was absolute.
It was later that Soren broke down. Ike had been splitting wood while Soren busied himself with the campfire. His hands shook as he cast the fire spell, sparks flew dangerously close to the tent.
Lehran's words lingered in his memory, over and over, he thought of numbers and calculations to steady himself. Numbers were comforting, they always remained the same, the equation would never bring a surprising result.
Soren whispered it like a mantra, the steady ithunking/I of the ax in the distance.
It was when that rhythm stopped, with a sound that wars had made him recognize, the axe cleaving something far softer than wood, a grunt of pain—
Composure in shreds, Soren ran. Fear gripped tightly over his chest and lungs on the brink of exploding, he ran until he came to the clearing.
When he found Ike, Ike was balanced on the wood, a tear in his pants, red staining and oozing through.
"It's not...that bad. Nothing broken," Ike said.
"Don't talk," Soren said.
He was relieved then that he always insisted on being prepared. The Mend staff glowed abluish-white light, filtering through, enveloping them both in the calming aura.
"Good as new," Ike said, and tested his leg, no bones were broken, and the staff had sewn together again whatever muscles might have torn.
It was when he looked up again that he noticed how much this had affected Soren.
Soren clung tighter to the Mend staff, tighter until his fingers hurt, but it didn't stop the trembling of his hands.
"What is it?" Ike said.
"It's n-nothing..." Soren said,
"It doesn't look like nothing. Come on, tell me," Ike said gently. It was enough to wash away the last barrier he'd built up. He could never say no to Ike. Even his darkest fears came out, and under Ike's fingers, they were soothed.
He stared at the ground as Ike drew nearer. Grass and Ike's boots, slightly worn.
"...I don't want to lose you," Soren said, on the brink of sobbing.
"Soren... Everybody dies, it's life."
"Not you...It shouldn't be you," Soren said, his voice trembling.
Tears welled up in his eyes and threatened to overflow. Weakness chipped away at what little strength he had to hold them back. Soren bit his lip hard to stop them from spilling over down his cheeks.. It'd been five years since he last cried, and Ike had been there to catch him when he fell. Still, even if he had felt such comfort in Ike's arms, he had later on sworn to be stronger.
He was losing the battle. Soren bit hard enough to draw blood, but it couldn't stop the rising panic, the fear that everything he was doing was in vain. That one day, he'd wake up alone and the only thing left of Ike would be memories, his dry bones buried under sand to rest with kings and warriors, all the other mortals who had succumbed to their mortal life.
"...It's... It's because I'm branded, it'll take that much longer for me... Providing that it's natural causes."
Ike tensed at the word 'branded', his brows furrowed. He pulled Soren towards him until Soren was completely enfolded within his arms. He stoked Soren's hair in gentle arcs until Soren calmed and ceased his shaking.
"I've had some sadness in my life, but it's ok, I lived through it. I've been happy."
Ike half smiled. "I was glad to have known you."
"Me too..." Soren whispered, burrowing deeper against Ike's chest. "More than anything."
"So. You'll stop with this search for immortality?" Ike said.
Ike sighed, longsuffering, yet affectionate.
"Still, you want to go to these 'Tenbentha mountains'," Ike said.
"Yes. The monks are said have extraordinarily long lives."
"It doesn't have to be forever, but I'll bargain with death and life as much as I can on your behalf"
"I suppose there's no way I can convince you to drop this idea?" Ike said. He was all at once bemused and exasperated with Soren.
"None," Soren said.
The sky faded to dusk as they walked on, soon they would have to set up camp, but for that moment, they basked in each other's company, enjoyed the closeness however fleeting it was.
Soren memorized this moment: the shadows falling over Ike's face, the colors of sky, like fire, a shade finer than any damask. If he could freeze this instant, keep it bottled and held in his possession, he would.
Tomorrow would come soon, much too soon, and with it another day's travels. All bringing him closer to the knowledge he sought.
Before Ike, Soren had never known hope or love or happiness, but now having tasted those, he had grown greedy. He was all too aware of Ike's mortality, the sound of ticking clocks haunted his waking hours, invaded his dreams. Even on this path that so many had taken, Soren was confident. He'd find it somehow. Forever was just a step away, hiding in some forgotten book, some ruins or long-dead language. Even if he had to fight the gods with his bare hands, wage war on innocents or watch the cities burn, he would find life.
Because without Ike there was no living. He would be reduced to a half-existence, a world of greys and existence where each breath was labored.
As night fell and stars spattered the expanse of sky, he leaned into the warmth of Ike's body.
Tomorrow, he thought, tomorrow would surely bring him closer to the answer.