title: winning the battle, losing the war

fandom: Fire Emblem 10

character/pairing: past Ike/Soren.

rating: PG

summary: Soren only let his guard down once and that was all it took. Past IkeSoren

wordcount: 1,700+

a/n: I dub this genre "Soren without Ike" RD ending without an A support. No happy ending to be found here, folks. Since the crying scene couldn't have canonically happened with no A support, I pull something out of my ass and say...it was another, similar crying scene. (Actually, r-amythest points out that you could break their support after the scene..if you were very mean.) Thanks to r-amythest for the beta ♥

Soren only let his guard down once and that was all it took.

It was a tactical misjudgment, of course, but at the time it seemed so right to let the walls down and let himself be swept up in the warmth and love and with Ike.

It always came back to Ike.

He had trusted, loved, and even chanced a fragile hope. Through Ike he had lived a life unlike the one he had before That life spent standing outside the door and watching others, envious of their foolishness, their willingness to be heartbroken and touched.

And for a moment he'd had it, the world in his fingers. He'd trusted, even put away the coldness, his fangs sheathed away for some other time, perhaps never. So much of his life was interlocked with Ike; it was as if without Ike he couldn't survive, as if a vital organ. As if his body would go into a coma without the presence, his lungs without air.

Thinking now, his mind was a slow rush backwards, the only warmth to be had in his memories. He could only drown in delusion for so long until he was ripped back into the truth of the matter. Soren was not given to delusions, except when it came to Ike. Ike was always the contradiction, his one true weakness.

But then, it was that misguided deed, his own fault. He has no one to blame for this pain but himself. He trusted and his fingers still smart from the burn, a burning coal that slipped through his fingers.

Whenever managed to sleep, Soren found himself caught in dreams, a silken spider web of crushed memories. He saw pieces of a body, the focus shifted to small parts: a hand, the shape of a shoulder, the curling tendrils of blue hair.

When he woke he choked back a sob and bit down hard on his lower lip. He could almost smell Ike, feel the warmth and sweat of sheets. If he pretended enough, he'd be able to conjure up a similar phantom from memory. He could almost hear Ike's voice, comforting, like the feel of his arms chasing away each nightmare.

But then the cold sets in, the stark wasteland that truth brings. Ike is gone.

Soren folds into himself, like a small child. He shudders despite himself. No matter how many blankets he layers with, he can never keep warm.

Each day it gets a little easier. It isn't as some have said, that time heals, for time heals nothing. He finds their attempts at comfort foolish. Nothing they say will make it 'all right'.

It is more that he has become accustomed to the sense of numbness. The world around him was ashes, transience. His life was caught eternally in a point somewhere deep in November; even when spring came, he couldn't feel the heat of the sun – the skies still looked grey to his eyes.

No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't see color beyond the monochrome. Only black, white, shades of grey and blue eyes he can't forget.

Soren had cried the night Ike left. It had been the second time in his life; his childhood had been spent dry-eyed, grief held so tightly inside, he felt it would devour him. It had taken seventeen years for him to lose sight of his control, his composure, until he broke down.

Soren is ashamed to admit this weakness, even if only to himself.

Even now, he can't figure out why.

Of course, he is not alone. He sees Mist at times, looking out to the distance, her mind in far-off places.

Even now they try to share his grief, include him, understand him.. Soren rejects every attempt. There is not one that understands the feeling: being torn, half his vital organs gone, only one lung, one kidney, half a heart. Perhaps he resented them more for thinking they could understand his loss, for trying to share in it. As if they would steal away his last vestiges of memories and deface them with their own, lesser thoughts, lesser feelings, lesser memories.

Soren shunned everything; he turned inside, closing all of what was left of him. This time, there was no far off star, no hope to keep alive through the hunger, the cold. Just the ache to keep him company through the night.

He has seen Ike in a thousand strangers' faces. Every time, he fights the knee-jerk reaction to run, prove to himself that Ike has returned for him, that his leaving was only temporary, a misjudgment, that Ike had intended to take him along the entire time.

Even as he wished to have the strength to shy away, hide whatever remains of what he once was to Ike, shun Ike for his abandonment, Soren found that his strength never could reach that far.

They are always false, the light shined just a way so that he saw puzzle pieces that almost merge into Ike but never quite fit. It has begun to happen more frequently as of late, beyond dreams he saw apparitions. Even as he attempted resistance, Soren found himself drawn to them. His whole life had been spent seeking Ike, twisted up together, finding the pieces of hope that Ike laid out for him. Soren does not know how to live any other way.

Soren traveled from town to town. After Ike left, Soren's tactics died with him. It seemed wrong to be someone else's tactician, someone else's second in command. Even if he tried, the memories would surely overwhelm him.

He took odd jobs; secretarial work, places where he could lose himself in the tedium and monotony. He wanders through Crimea as Ike must wander through the lands beyond. The lines of Tellius bind him, an animal in a cage. As much as he longs to follow Ike's tracks, close the distance and return to what once was, a certain sense of frozen panic floods through him whenever the thought reaches him.

Through Gallia and Begnion he retraced steps, the footprints of another time. He walked without ceasing, his mind numbed to the pain of blisters and thorns, to everything but what was tearing through him inside. He traveled over ill kept roads and through forests, over monarchies and theocracies, all the way through the continent until he reached Daein.

The people of Daein are far less accommodating than Crimea or even Begnion. They have no interest in who he is, only that he pays. They are naturally suspicious of any traveler, and Soren prefers this. He would rather have the things he was used to, suspicion, hate, fear. They were much safer than trust or love, things that seemed warm until they burned his fingers for touching them. Hatred was always the same; it did not feign warmth or give happiness only to rip it away.

Still, though Daein felt like more of a homeland than Crimea, he left to a place that lore only mentioned in fragments. A place that time forgot.

The Hatari.

He had wished for solitude, to bury himself in a vast white desert where there would be nothing but graves, bones and the memories to keep him company.

The Hatari is a blank space. Dunes surround it, with far off ruins within the center. Sometimes, he hears the calling of wolves at dusk when the air has turned cold. The wind sounds like whispering during the calmer moments, screaming during the raging storms that wrack the Hatari increasingly more often. They say that spirits roam this deserted wasteland. Maybe, he thought, it was the only place they could find peace.

He saw Ike everywhere now, heat mirages, a play to the mind. Ike haunts him here, a kind specter. If he had been common before, now, in these forgotten deserts, he is always with Soren.

The first time it happened, Soren embraced the image and only felt empty air and sand. He fell to the ground, and crashed face first into more sand. Ike, or at least, the image of him, spoke something he couldn't hear, something concerned; he offered a hand that Soren couldn't take. Soren brushed the sand from him and studied the image. It didn't fade even when he closed his eyes.

He knew then what had happened. Logic guided him and accepted it, but with just as much reason, he accepted his undoing. What a pleasant madness it was, to be with Ike, even if at this state of sanity they could never touch; a love affair of ghosts and the living.

There is nothing in the wastelands here, just graves and bones, and Ike. Soren has only memories and traces of growing madness to keep him company. He gets up early to find what little water possible; some gathered from cacti or curved rocks, for most of this desert has never known the taste of rain.

Everything is focus, yet that focus is solely on the goal of letting go. He knows that one day the madness will claim him completely and his life will be all memories, a fever dream he never wants to slip from.

It is what keeps him living, this knowledge that the numbness will soon be freed once the last threads of sanity have left him. He knows that one day his bones will join the scattered white corpses. The carrion will pick them clean before they ever have a chance to rot.

His ghost and Ike's will commingle, hands touching through air, a background of stars. He will not feel the cold or the pain; the memories will fade away until his half-existence is tethered merely to Ike.

Then, it will be just them, the air, the night sky, the world so far off in the distance. They'll float above towns and cities but not see or be seen by the populace. They will fall into a dimensional crack, their regrets binding them so tight to each other, neither would ever find a way out.

Just the two of them. Forever.