Title: The Secret's In The Telling

Fandom: FETellius, timeline being between 9 & 10

Day/Theme: November fourth | competence as a compensation for loneliness (how can i possibly be lonely?) (late)

Character/Pairing: Ike/Soren

Rating: PG-13

Summary: A promise made, a secret kept. Some things are easier to keep quiet than others. IkeSoren.

A/N: Ammie suggested this idea ages ago and saw some of the earlier drafts quite some time. Thuuus, Merry Early Christmas, Ammie :D

I.

They had been in the castle for nigh a year and a half now.

However, in-between jobs left far too much times on the mercenaries hands. In their home they would've simply done the remaining necessities: chores, mending, training. Their work turned from all out jobs to assortments of small jobs to help to the local populace.

As the queen's men, there was always a certain expectation. Most were called to attend any balls or social gatherings. Ike had even been called into a few royal meetings, he'd refused to go without Soren and Titania by his side.

They had to sit straighter, country manners were frowned upon. No spitting, no swearing, brawls (which extended to everything but the most noble of fencing) were strictly forbidden.

While Queen Elincia would not have cared, as Soren lectured the them endlessly, the views of nobles could reflect back to her with negative results. Even as it was not quite so oppressive as Sienne, Melior had its share of 'useless blowhard nobles' as Soren often said when he was sure no one else could hear him. Ike would say it regardless of who could hear him, but it was accepted by everyone that Ike would likely find a way to inadvertently insult death himself given half the chance.

However, as of late they'd been left with little to fill the time. Work had been halted until the rain let up for thatching roofs or patrol work could hardly be finished in this kind of weather.

Times like this gave entirely too much time for idle thought. It all started with an simple. observation. At the lower barracks in the castle and the surrounded compounds, half the group had settled for spending the day casting bones. It wasn't played for any money, lest they be labeled unrepentant gamblers by nobles who often themselves partook in the tables at times.

The brothers and Mist played around the rough table. Gatrie and Shinion were inevitably away visiting some bar, it was unsaid but commonly held thought that the best place for them would be as far from the stifling nobles as possible. Of course, that would also apply to both Soren and Ike, but there was nothing that could be done about that.

Rhys had not partaken in the game, but chosen to mend his robes near a corner window. Even as the winds inevitably blew out his candle, Rhys never stooped as low as anger. He merely lit his candle again, calm as ever.

"Your play," Boyd said. He stared out at the glum scene outside for a moment and then turned back to the game. It'd rained for quite some time, the thick grey mists and clouds floated over the city like a lingering cough, a heaviness in the lungs of Melior. The many colored flowers were bent and broken from the weight, the queen's gardens had taken a hit this spring, one that it likely would not recover from this year.

Rolf laid down his bones and nudged Oscar. "Your turn."

"I saw one of the royal ladies trying to make eyes at Soren. She even tried to draw him into conversation. He just brushed her off like she was a bug on his shoulder," Oscar said conversationally.

"I bet he could've won her if he wanted to," Rolf said.

"Pfft, Soren? He's married to his books," Boyd said.

"I think Soren could find someone," Mist said. She smiled at Rolf and Boyd rolled his eyes. Two optimists until the end.

"Who knows, maybe he already has,"Rhys said as a compromise.

"Yeah," Boyd scoffed. "The Collected History of Tellius."

"I just think it's good that Soren gets some attention too. It's not fair for brother to hog it all, especially when he's just a big doofus and misses the point anyways. Maybe he'll find a nice girl to settle down with."

"Yeah, maybe he'll become a library so he can spend more times with his books – like The Collected History of Tellius."

"The term is a librarian and that wasn't funny the first time, Boyd!" Mist said.

"You laughed, admit it," Boyd said. He threw down his bones and they fell quite favorably.

"My win, better luck next time!"

"You cheat, brother!" Rolf cried.

"I've just played a lot longer," Boyd said. He grinned and "Try again when you're older, shrimp."

.

There was some luck on his side, little of the staff cared for his opinion (and the ensuing bitterness they'd have to endure) to bother him in his quarters. Soren was Ike's man, and few but Ike dared to bother him in the sanctuary of his quarters.

Thus, none of the staff took notice if he left.

His presence was practically expected in Ike's room; he was the strategist, staff officer, Ike's right hand man. Even late night trips could easily be explained away as some urgent meeting that had sprung up.

Soren sat on the edge of his commander's bed. Ike had been offered the finest lodgings, a guest room close to the queen's own chambers with a bed large enough to fit four and furniture made from the finest trees of Crimea's forests. Elegant carvings ran up the tall dressers and the drawer handles were made from silver. The rug was a pelt that the former king and Duke Renning had bagged themselves during happier times. Queen Elincia had thought it a better match than the one across it with the woven rug with the patterns of the rites of spring, where flowers and castles and ladies all paraded around trees in bloom, with women's ribbons tied into their branches. Even with this one thoughtful gesture, Ike had immediately turned down the offer and said he'd bed with the rest of his mercenaries in the barracks. He had barely excepted this slightly larger room with its slightly larger bed. Soren had to convince him to agree to the choice, and in this, his opinion was hardly unbiased. Even when it came to Ike, Soren's choices remained quite selfish.

Soren certainly didn't mind the lack of finery in the room. It was ample, and that was enough. The bed was just large enough to fit two, though if Soren was any larger, he'd have probably ended up on the floor. Everything about the room was standard except the size, which was only slightly larger than the norm.

Soren turned another page of the tome and started to survey a new paragraph on the fabled rainy season that had happened in 543, almost as bad as the flood that had nearly destroyed Tellius by the goddess' wrath.

The door opened and a familiar face entered. It was the only person who could draw Soren from his books when he really got immersed within his own realms of logic and history. Muddied, weary and far too tired of nobles and their petty affairs. Ike threw aside his cloak and began to strip off his dirty clothes before he even glanced at the bed and its occupant.

"Welcome back," Soren said. While he hadn't quite set the book aside, he'd long given up trying to pay attention to dry history with Ike undressing right in front of him.

"I thought I told you not to bring books to bed," Ike said.

"I was just finishing," Soren said. He pushed another page to find his place again, his fingers traced along the pages with something nearing a loving gesture. 'Just finishing' to Soren was a far different thing than it was to Ike. He waited all of five seconds before he took the book from Soren's hands and laid it beside the bed.

And when he pressed his lips to Soren's he made it oh so clear that no books were allowed here, not even The Collected History of Tellius, as informative and helpful as it was sure to be.

If Soren didn't know better, he'd think Ike was jealous.

II.

They were all subtleties. Perhaps once he proclaimed his loyalty freely, his devotion was worn openly, his badge of honor, but these were different times. At first it had been tolerated, the loyal friends, closer than brothers ever could be. But as time went by in the service of the queen, around the nobles, there had been whispering. Ike hadn't minded one whit what they said, something so very Ike in nature that Soren had almost smiled.

Soren had always kept his emotions hidden, it was no difference that somewhere along the line Ike had revealed those feelings. Everything had been stripped bare, until there was nothing left to hide.

Soren waited in the stratagem room provided him. It was wider and more elaborate than the tiny, stale cells he was used to working with. The curtains were of some satiny material and a deep forest green, like Gallian pines.

The desk was a mahogany color and placed exactly in order. Everything was organized for efficiency. The rain had let up for a short while, but Soren predicted that it would return, if not in days, then weeks. He could feel the pressure in the air, and read the signs in the skies. Hopefully such a rain wouldn't result in floods or destruction of crops. Soren made a not to check the royal library for more information on seasonal patterns over the years. History would always find a way to repeat itself. By the history one could accurately predict the future, and then see it come to fruition, if they lived long enough.

Queen Elincia had completely opened the royal archives to him. Soren wasn't turned aside from even the most sacred texts and secret lore of the royal family. The queen could be surprisingly generous at times, he thought.

Morning slanted in as the mists rose around Melior. It was a cool day and would likely remain so given the wetness that had saturated the countryside. Soren only stole a single glance outside to gauge the time, for he had no time to admire the rising pinkish hues of dawn.

He had been up for hours already, the plans would be laid out, edited and perfected long before Ike woke. It was his honor, his duty and he took it with every fiber of his being.

Soren gathered his notes, his thoughts anxious and wandering; he worked out the few remaining details as he waited. Even as his head was bent he was listening for the sound of Ike's arrival.

Ike was groggy when he first went through the hallways leading to this room, and Soren looked aside, straightening his papers while Ike rubbed the sleep from his eyes. If Ike didn't get some coffee in him, Soren might have to guide him back from the kitchens again.

Soren knew well who would arrive through the door when it simply opened up without so much as a knock. Ike was the only one who would dare to enter Soren's quarters and offices unannounced. Ike was the only one who Soren would never admonish for surprising him.

"Ike, I've readied everything for today. If you can take just a moment I can explain it quickly–"

Ike took one quick glance around the room. Satisfied with the results, he closed the door behind him, and closed the distance between them.

"Wait Ike, we might be discov—"

Ike covered Soren's mouth with his, effectively silencing anything else he might have had to say. Soren relaxed into the kiss, and let himself be pulled to Ike. Soft moans escaped him as Ike pressed him to the wall. All logic and thought was thrown to a very far off place indeed as Soren wrapped his arms around Ike's neck and embraced the sinking ship that was the last remains of their self-control.

Soren was gasping by the time the kiss had broken. He cast a desperate glance around the room and when it revealed nothing, he finally relaxed, satisfied that they were truly alone.

"Ike, we could've been caught," Soren admonished. But even as he scolded, there was no true sting to his words. His scolding was like everything was to Ike, too infused with affection to be neutral.

Ike shrugged. "I don't care if they do," Ike said.

Soren sighed. "Ike. Not everyone has that attitude, did you ever stop to think that we might lose support? That our relationship might adversely reflect on Princess Elincia's efforts? The entire Crimean reconstruction? That our entire group might up and abandon us?"

"Soren— You worry too much."

"Ike..."

Ike gripped Soren's arms, just above his elbows, Soren's breath caught, and he tilted his chin up.

Soren surrendered to a force far more superior, the draw of being this close to the person he adored beyond everything else in this world was something he couldn't resist even in these circumstances. Ike's hands moved steadily up Soren's arms from where they had been, and even nervous and taut as he was, he complied. Ike's hands were at his waist now, it wouldn't take long before the belt was undone, and then it would be both of them gasping and falling into passion and a sweet moment of oblivion before they'd have to make a mad dash for their scattered clothes again.

Part of Soren accepted this even if his mind revolted at the likelihood of some servant or help or noble or Queen Elinciawalking in on them with both of them stripped and in a position that there was no explaining away.

"Ike, I–" Soren gasped—

And then the door was flung open, and Boyd burst in.

"Hey, Ike! – Eh? What are you doing?"

"Uh–" Ike said.

Soren, ever prepared, managed to slip out from Ike's hold and sent Boyd a withering glare.

"I stumbled and fell, Ike helped me up. That is all. Now what was your business with Ike?"

Boyd shifted under Soren's gaze. "Er, eheh, Mist wanted me to deliver this, she said Ike hasn't eaten breakfast."

Soren raised an eyebrow. "Ike.?"

"I was going to, I just didn't get a chance yet."

Soren turned to Boyd, with one glance he conveyed a scathing amount of annoyance at Boyd's mere presence.

"Was that all? Because I was in the middle of giving Ike a very important briefing."

Boyd looked bewildered, as if he was pondering whether he would rather face the extent of Mist or Soren's wrath.

"Um, yeah. That's all. Sorry about that."

They both breathed a sigh of relief when Boyd finally went out the door.

"Case in point. Not everyone else is as easily fooled as Boyd."

.

Women of all kinds stayed around Ike, he seemed to have a subconscious magnetic force that drew them in. Something that caused persistent headaches and was a source of constant frustration to Soren. Where had they been when Ike had simply been the unsophisticated mercenary boy? Vultures to his fame, they circled round to feed on the scraps of his heroism.

The worst of the bunch was the item salesgirl. With her long ebony hair that fell in sumptuous curls, and her curvaceous body, she was a temptress of a woman who was used to getting exactly who and what she wanted.

Perhaps if it had been anyone else other than Ike, Soren's hold might have been endangered by this siren. But with Ike, he only brushed her aside in annoyance.

Soren was thankful for the little things, like Ike's complete and utter oblivious to women. Without it, he'd have long driven himself mad with jealousy if say, Ike had ever had a more flirtatious personality.

Even with Ike's clueless reactions, Soren watched her carefully and made sure she never slipped anything into Ike's drinks. He had to be constantly vigilant against the threat of love potions.

But of all, she was hardly the only woman who lingered too long around Ike. At times Soren was tempted to allow their relationship to be known just so he could publicly claim possession of his commander instead of glaring from the shadows.

.

Soren hadn't wanted to come, the finery of balls always left a bad taste in his mouth; all the superficiality, the too sweet and too frothy delicacies, even the chandelier of lights that twinkled like a tiny sun, too bright to look on directly.

Soren had avoided most of the rest, but Ike had asked him and enduring the ball as Ike's companion was more palatable than staying behind and wondering what new queen or lady was trying to sink her claws into his hero this time.

It was questionable what Queen Elincia thought of these kinds of things, having grown up in near seclusion. Her manners were still impeccable, and she adapted to court life as if she had been within the confines of the castle all along. Still, Soren suspected she found such affairs tiring. But, as a queen she would have to curry favor with the nobles; though she'd already won the hearts of the common folk, thus these kinds of affairs were needed.

It wasn't long before his commander got pulled off by the queen and Soren was left to fend for himself. A waiter passed with a tray of appetizers. All arranged in neat circles, creamy things and spicy things, none that looked particularly appealing to Soren. He wasn't hungry, but he took one just for the visceral pleasure of stabbing the piece of meat and skewed peppers with the metal skewer given for such purposes.

All around he saw groups of the high born, those lucky enough to be given riches instead of toiling labor, but then, for every revolution those lucky ones would often find themselves on the wrong side. It was expensive to stay in luxury, many paid with their life.

After he finished the appetizer ( which was far too spicy for his tastes) Soren watched the path of the queen and his commander on the far side of the room.

A voice interrupted his seething watch of the queen's continued closeness, and he turned to see a young girl addressing him, about the age of Mist.

"Is it true you're the tactician who worked for the hero Commander Ike?"

"Yes," Soren replied. He was tempted to say no and disengage himself from the predictable conversation to follow, but he'd stick by Ike, even if it meant enduring inane conversation.

She was dressed in a clad in a mix of green and red silks . She looked like one of the parrots that used to reside in the Serenes. He'd found in one of the books in the royal library that went in lengthy detail about how they could be taught to talk and mimic words and would chatter all day long in broken parts of the modern tongue.

That was exactly how he saw this girl with her idle prater.

From the other side of the sea of lights, Soren saw the queen introduce Ike to a group. Her hand was on his arm, and Ike didn't shy away from her touch. To be fair, he didn't even seem to notice it, but that didn't stop the feeling of resentment and jealousy to bubble under his skin.

"Did you hear what I said?"

"Not a word of it," Soren said.

She stormed off, something he hardly noted. Soren continued to watch from afar until he saw the queen and the hero steal outside for a quiet moment.

Then he too, stormed off down to the lower levels, down stairs all the way to his commander's room.

.

He'd meant to slip away earlier but Elincia herself had asked for him to accompany her. Ike had expected an update of their orders but all she had talked about was how pretty the stars were. They were nice enough, Ike supposed, but he didn't particularly see why she repeated it over and over.

He was saved from further conversation when Geoffrey appeared to check on his queen. Ike took this as a cue to go searching for Soren for if he left his tactician any longer, he'd be sure to hear about it later on. Just as he was leaving he caught Geoffrey remarking about the stars as well. Ike figured it must be a noble thing, but at least she found someone to remark about how much those heavenly bodies were sparkling and twinkling and gleaming.

After a quick search Ike found Soren had most likely left and he thought that he would most likely catch hell from his tactician when he got back.

Later back in his room the dullness contrasted with the lights still caught in his eyes from the ball. His feet were killing him and Ike had almost fallen over from the stench of one of that Maquis or Duke something or other. After a while the names just began to blend together. He was glad that it wasn't something he'd have to remember permanently. Already he'd made a million mistakes with cutlery alone, if he hadn't saved Crimea from certain danger they probably would've exiled him from court on the grounds of using a soup spoon with the wrong hand.

Soren sat on the edge of the bed, and practically twitched it agitation. He hadn't seen Soren this upset since last Thursday when he'd almost been given dancing lessons by the queen. Almost because it soon became clear that Elincia would be bruised until she couldn't walk for days after trying to dance with someone that clumsy and graceless. Thankfully, Geoffrey cut in and the knight and his queen were a perfect fit.

"You're angry," Ike said.

"I'm not angry," Soren said tersely.

"Soren, I can tell you're angry. You're clenching your firsts again What's wrong?"

Soren sighed. "....They always fawn all over you. It's disgraceful."

"You know I wouldn't be anywhere near the royal court unless Elincia requested in."

Soren was hardly comforted by this. On the contrary, it only seemed to inflame him more.

Ike stripped off his boots and sat on the edge of the bed, in close proximity to its current occupant. He leaned back and stretched out sideways over the covers and welcomed all the humble lack of finery and comfort that it gave.

"I can't wait to get back and ditch this title and go back to being a simple mercenary," Ike said.

"I agree. It's one thing to do work for the queen but being a display for her parties is another thing entirely," Soren said.

Ike half smiled. "If I didn't know better I'd think you were homesick too."

"Time with the high born can make anyone nostalgic for a simpler place," Soren said drily.

Ike chuckled. "My thoughts exactly."

"I'm starting to wonder if they're keeping sentries about to ensure our chasteness. That's the only thing that could explain midnight interruptions three nights in a row."

"You never know," Ike said.

He reached out and pressed a black lock of hair through his fingers. It was beautiful in this light, like all the stilted talk of stars that Geoffrey and Queen Elincia had talked about. He brushed it across his lips and breathed in the lemony mint goat's milk soap scent of Soren's hair.

"You've already brushed your hair?" Ike said, with a tinge of disappointment.

"You were late," Soren said, a with trace of irritation.

"They kept asking for questions and retellings of the same story. You know how it is."

"Hmm. Indeed," Soren replied.

Ike twirled a bit of coal colored hair in his hands and Soren finally leaned back from his ramrod straight position and relaxed, if only a little. Ike wove more of that sleek, dark hair around his fingers. Soren gave a contented sigh.

And Ike knew he had been forgiven.

"Soren– We should tell the rest of the mercenaries about us at least."

Soren stiffened. "That's a horrible idea. Do you have any idea of the consequences that could come of such a thing?!" he said in disbelief.

"I don't like lying to them. If they don't like it, they can leave."

Soren pursed his lips. "If you feel like you must then go ahead. Ruin your name and reputation and take down the entire mercenary group your father worked so hard to build. Obviously my opinion means nothing here."

"Come on Soren, you know it's not like that. I can't keep it up like this. Maybe you can keep secrets all day long but I never could, Ike said. "We can either break it to them now or have them catch us in the act. Or have it accidentally blurted out. Either way, I'd rather be the one to tell them."

"Or we could simply go as we were already doing. We've not been caught yet," Soren said.

"How long until one of them catches on? You're always telling me we've got to stay one step ahead of them and keep it to our advantage."

"Well, that's true, but–" Soren said.

"But what?" Ike said.

"...I don't want to share," Soren said.

"What?" Ike said.

"I'm not sharing that part of you," Soren said.

Soren's eyes were fierce and passionate, an expression that only came rarely. Ike had only seen him like this twice before. His grip on Ike's arm was possessive, any argument Ike could have had quickly faded.

"It wouldn't be sharing, it'd–"

Soren leaned over and stole a kiss. "This side is mine, no one else's. Mine."

Another kiss, two, three, four– Soren could be relentless when the cause suited him. It was cheating, swaying this deal like that, but Ike was hardly complaining.

"I can deal with that," Ike said.

A few more kisses and he forgot he'd ever posed the question in the first place.

.

Rhys rose early and aired out his linens. While there were servants to do it, he always preformed his own chores himself, as part of his austere self-imposed duties. This endeared him to the maids and serving girls, most of who already fussed over his gentle features and soft hair already.

"I wonder if that hero and Queen Elincia will get married," one of the maids said. They giggled together as they carried the dirty laundry off to be washed.

Doors opened around him, and Oscar came out, as well as Mist. Mist yawned so wide and bright that her nightshirt ran up high enough to show pink floral bottoms. Rhys averted his eyes in respect to her modesty, or lack thereof. It was the only polite thing to do, after all.

"Morning!" Mist chirped.

Rhys nodded. "Good morning, Mist."

Oscar smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. "A good morning to you, too."

Mist beamed. "It's such a warm day, I wonder if we'll go out working again. Maybe the servants will let me help out at this rate. I'm going crazy with boredom."

Oscar chuckled. "I just might try the same with the kitchens. You can't fault us for trying."

"I wonder what brother's up to."

"Probably with Queen Elincia. He just got out from Soren's briefings and I think she wanted to talk to him," Rhys said.

"Queen Elincia again, huh... Do you really think she'd marry someone like him? They can't even dance together," Mist said.

Rhys coughed politely, "I really doubt so."

"I guess I can agree," Oscar said. "Can you imagine commander Ike as king? He'd alienate every high born person in all of Begnion and Crimea by noon of the next day."

"I don't know, it would've been romantic, just like the plot in To Spring, A Flower," Mist said dreamily. She walked ahead, her step light, and her head quite firmly in the clouds.

"I doubt Soren would stand for such a thing," Rhys said carefully.

Oscar chuckled. "Indeed. They aren't hiding anything."