Title: This Modern Love [1/?]

Series: FE 9/10 AU

Day/Theme: 8. and crazy is the forecast all week

Rating: PG-13, for now.

Summary: Silly Modern AU, It's Fate Prequel. Past meets present as Soren finds out the finer aspects of enforced blind dates and carpentry by-proxy. Surely, his life isn't going to be the same again. Eventual Ike/Soren

a/n: This was originally to be a collab between R amythest and I but it fit too well into another thing I was writing so I'll just have to send her another work to take a red pen to and hack away at.

This is a sideverse to It's Fate verse, though reading that isn't entirely necessary as this is a prequel. It should have about 5 chapters in all, give or take a bit. Like It's Fate!verse Soren is a bit more high strung here. Uh, it's AU and I'm going to justify that from his being raised by Almedha. You just do not go unscathed being reared by a crazywoman. It seeps into your bones I tell you! Uh, Ammy was begging me for cute, so this is the cutest thing I had that didn't involve cat ears.

The title comes from an a Bloc Party song of the same name. a No, this isn't a songfic, yes there will be a mix at the end of this or possibly somewhat before.

I. To Be Lost In The Forest

Ike's apartment was cluttered at best, messy at its worst. Ranulf pushed aside a pile of dirty clothes with his foot. Mist obviously hadn't come in a while, as Ike couldn't be trusted to do his own laundry. His newly pink dress-shirts and black shirts frosted with lint were ample proof of that.

Ike already had a beer, ice cold, and handed one to Ranulf. He took it gratefully, even though he usually preferred sweet things. There was nothing like a nice Strawberry Daiquiri. Ranulf just couldn't be bothered with this manly rotgut, he liked something that didn't taste like drain cleaner (that produced a similar effect on his body)

Not that he ever really belonged in the manly category to begin with.

Ranulf waited for Ike to finish a few gulps before he sprung into his plan.

"So, I've got an excellent idea," Ranulf said, sounding entirely too much like a used car salesman.

"Mmn?" Ike was all too used to Ranulf's plans. He usually went along with some of the more sane ventures.

"Well, since the previous dates with Elincia, Lethe, Marcia, Aimee, and Mia didn't go anywhere, I thought we'd try something different."

Ike stared blankly at him.

"I've got just the person."

Ike continued to stare.

"Well?" Ranulf said.

"Ranulf, I don't know why you're obsessed with fixing me up, but I'm fine being single."

For many reasons, Ranulf thought. Skrimir was driving him crazy with the whole mancrush and even if he'd always had something of a clue about Ike's unstated preference, there was something irresistible about setting Ike up with chicks. The aftermath always proved to be amusing, for there was never a date Ike couldn't botch with his obliviousness. It provided great anecdotes to give at parties, and Ike was genial enough to let him keep doing it.

Last month Ranulf had gotten an angry phone call from one of his female acquaintances, none too happy at the fact that for such a handsome man, he was a bloody clueless lout who left he hanging when it came to the end of the night. There wasn't even a goodnight kiss, let alone anything more. But that amusement could only last so long and now Ranulf had another plan, one that Ike might even like in the end which would make it that much more amusing. When they were together and getting settled, Ranulf could stand up and say "I totally knew you were gay so I paired you up. Yep, I'm the one to thank for the happy couple."

Which brought another thing Ranulf was just dying to know. He sipped a bit of beer and waited for Ike to get a little more drunk before asking. He clapped Ike on the shoulder in a friendly manner. He'd be able to tell if Ike was a cherry, right? He had a sixth sense to these things.

"Ike, have you even gone past first base?"

"I never really played baseball. I always preferred basketball and football," Ike said.

And that was all the answer Ranulf needed.


Soren glared. He pushed up his glasses, mostly used for reading, and stared Ranulf down.

"I'm returning this book of er, courtly love," Ranulf said with a slight chuckle, more nervous than actually humorous.

"Skrimir, again," Soren said. It was a statement, not a question.

Ranulf cringed.

"Yeah, his alright."

Which meant that soon there'd be serenading (which sounded more like cat calls to his sensitive ears) flowery language and attempts at knightly affairs. Lovely. The only satisfaction Soren could glean from the situation was that he knew that several of Ranulf's many admirers would surely have noticed the book, and thought it to be Ranulf's choice. Soon they'd be hoarding around him and expecting to be swept off their feet, quite a feat for some, considering that Kyza dwarfed Ranulf in size and muscle structure.

"It's late. By two weeks," Soren said.

Soren was at once irritated at the absence, and happy that misfortune of any kind had happened to Ranulf.

Ranulf gave his best sorry, not my fault don't kill the messenger shrug and winning smile. Soren was neither swayed nor amused by this.

Soren put the book aside and put it into the database again. Oh, the fines. At least something good had come out of this.

While Soren typed out the receipts and checked through the account, Ranulf leaned on the desk and gave his most charming smile.

"So Soren, I've got–"

Soren was not charmed or swayed in the least.

"No," he said.

"C'mon, you haven't even heard the best part! See I've got–"


"Soren, you'll like this, just listen–" Ranulf pleaded.

"No," Soren said emphatically. He finally turned back to Ranulf to glare again. Ranulf had spent enough time with Soren to become pretty immune to these kind of killing glares. He saw them on a regular basis, after all.

Seeing this would take drastic measures, Ranulf stared Soren down, his charming smile now gone.

"Soren, I've got a video here and I swear to high heaven I will up it to youtube if you don't go."

Soren blanched.. "...Video?"

"Yes, high quality. I'm sure you remember what of. I bet it'd hit front page popularity. I wouldn't be surprised if all of campus would enjoy seeing this."

Soren stepped back to survey the situation. Ranulf could be bluffing, he might be able to shrug off the video in question, claim libel or mistaken identity, even.

"Apparently you forgot. I'll just have to jog your memory."

Ranulf started belting an aria in his best Skrimir impression. He got very close to the timbre of Skrimir's deep voice, and perfectly captured the absurdity of the lyrics which the king had penned himself.

"This is a library," Soren hissed. He took a quick look around and found the room empty, it was late enough that his coworkers had gone home. At least that was one thing to be thankful for.

"Ok," Ranulf said. "I'll take it outside."

Soren let out a long sigh. He knew when he was outmatched, when it was time to fall back to superior forces, (or videos, in this case) and that time was now.

"...Fine," he said.

"What was that? I can't he~ar you?"

"I said fine. I'll go with...whatever you have planned this time."

Ranulf smirked in triumph, and Soren glared at him, hating every single part of him, from his multi-colored eyes down to his so-uncool-they're-cool sandals. He hated that Ranulf had inserted himself into Soren's life for the only purpose to fill it with Skrimir and horrid songs and embarrassing displays. He hated that he was getting pulled into one of Ranulf's notorious tricks, yet again.


The place was overcrowded for a Monday night. There was the press of bodies and sound, too much action, too much noise. A baby cried from the other end and the child's parents attempted to soothe it, speaking is soft tones. The father looked apologetically from face to face, while the mother tried comforting it against her chest. The floors were a dingy gold color and a multicolored bead curtain separated the kitchen from the small eating area. It was what happened when a generic family restaurant closed and was bought by a pair of new age hippies who left some of decor and added flair where they wanted. There was assorted religious symbols placed about, with a yin-yang symbol, a wheel and various generic spirals. There was assorted maudlin quotes, all which were unbearably 'cheery' and 'perky'. Waitresses came in rainbow-hued loose skirts and bowed. They appropriated customs at will and poured it into some shapeless soup of feel-good concepts with none of the bite or responsibility of the various ways they'd sampled.

Soren crossed his arms and bent down low against the table,, as if to shut the rest of the world out. For all this space, the room felt oddly claustrophobic. His date was already fifteen minutes late, and the waiter hadn't even looked his way. His throat was dry, but there wasn't even ice water to quench it.

Muttering under his breath about how time would've been spent better at home (studying with some takeout) Soren clicked his fingernails against the table. The idea had obviously been Ranulf's as Soren wouldn't have set foot in this straight-out-of-a-chick-flick setting. He'd have thought of something stimulating, like staying home and ditching his date for another shift of work.

The clock clicked excruciatingly slow. A few more minutes and Soren thought he'd ditch this travesty altogether. He stared down the clock, daring it to go to the necessary five minutes so he could be free of this waste of time— When a voice broke through his thoughts.

"Got caught in traffic, sorry."

And, it was a guy.

Soren couldn't help but stare. Ranulf had set him up with a guy. Surely, somewhere far off, Ranulf was having a great laugh over this. Soren however, wasn't laughing. He wasn't even cracking a smile. He was giving his best I hope you drop dead glare but the man seemed impervious to the evil eye. Admittedly, he was what was considered good looking, with his broad shoulders, dark blue hair, a chiseled, angular face. His body was firm and well toned. Definitely into sports, Soren thought.

He looked vaguely familiar, but Soren couldn't place where he'd last seen him. It was an odd feeling, a recognition like an itching beneath his skin, and yet Soren knew he'd never met this man before in his life. He'd have remembered, surely. There was something about him that prompted remembrance.

The man nodded at him.


"Hello," Soren said in his best ice queen voice.

"Hope you haven't been waiting long," his date said. He picked up the menu and begun to leaf through it.

"Not at all," Soren replied sardonically.

If he had caught it at all, Ike certainly didn't show it. In fact, he seemed completely oblivious to Soren's vitriolic reactions. Silence spread, it loomed out a as there was nothing but the murmurs from other tables and the sound of the occasional menu page turning. Soren felt the anger building. He had to get away, out of this place.

"Excuse me," Soren said abruptly. He pushed the chair away from the table so hard that the chair almost toppled over. He righted it, and moved out swiftly.

"Wait, where are you going?"

"...restroom," Soren said.

Soren made his way through the chairs and tables alike, dodging the patrons and didn't rest until he reached the hall leading to the restrooms, cutely arrayed in pink and blue plaques.

Soren seethed. How dare that idiot Ranulf put him in this position? Soren. Didn't. Date. He hated the atmosphere and the whole act of dating itself. The vapid courtship rituals, all with the same end. He had no desire for children, or companionship for that matter. He had his books and his logic and that was enough for him. He was just fine alone.

Soren couldn't count the times he had shaken his head over the love affairs of co-workers and students alike, irritated at their sheer stupidity, willingly throwing themselves into the same hopeless situation time and time again. The institution was outdated. At times Soren wished it abolished altogether. It wasn't like the world needed a population growth. He figured he was doing it a favor by being a bitter cynical bastard for the rest of his life.

The back door was close. He could run away right now, go home and forget this night ever happened. It was unlikely he'd ever run into this man again, for they hardly shared the same crowd. Soren could go on with his life and simply pass off this night as a very cruel joke by someone who was going to have several mysterious fines on his record, or possibly have his card revoked altogether.

Soren looked back to the table. His date was half looking at the menu, every once in while checking back. Soren noticed so many new things about his date that he hadn't seen, from the way his Adam's apple bobbed when he swallowed to how he rolled his shoulders to stretch out a tense muscle. Even if Soren had been abrasive in his remarks, he had simply not noticed or shrugged it away. As much as he wanted to leave, Soren felt compelled to return. As much as he wanted to be unaffected, he knew that something about this had caught his curiosity. That unexplainable tingle of recognition had shaken his composure enough that Soren found himself taking one, two three steps before logic could call him on such a decision. By then, the man had caught sight of him and there was no running at that stage.

He made his way back, the door shutting then reverberating back before finally settling behind him. He irritated the same patrons he had managed to offend when he'd gone the first time. He gleaned some pleasure from making their days worse at least (usually he couldn't be bothered to even care about people, even to the point of hating them but when faced with this much irritation and people to deal with, Soren could be given to schadenfreude.). When he sat down, Ike momentarily moved aside he menu and their gazes met.

"Hey, you're back," his date said, with the hint of a smile. The smile reminded him of another time, of a face that was not Ike's but much younger and of a warmth he had clung to. And with that brief coalescence something in Soren fluttered.

Soren was mortified. Obviously Ranulf had given him some personality-swapping drug that made him suddenly gain the mannerisms of a fourteen-year-old girl. Because right now his palms were sweating, and was it just him or was it suddenly much too warm in here? Soren clung to his menu to hide his slightly flushed face. And Soren Did. Not. Blush. He didn't, and certainly not over some stupid male date that Ranulf of all people set him up with.

Soren swore to himself that he'd strangle Ranulf in the morning. Being put through this kind of thing surely justified murder, he could claim it as a form of temporary insanity brought upon by Skrimir's voice. Hmm. Soren thought through the logistics of getting away with murder and it cheered him up some. His date scoured his menu again, seemingly entranced by the third page of the menu. ( the entrees. Soren figured ) He didn't look up until the waitress was upon him. Literally.

"Oh hello, heroboy."

The waitress was a tall, exotic woman with curly black hair that fell down her back in thick waves. Her shirt was surely altered to be more revealing and held a hint of the far East. She wove a sort of gypsy-chic new-age sari with fake antiqued gold coins tied into the stiching. She winked, and hovered close with the simple reason of ogling his date. Soren narrowed his eyes in annoyance at the girl, and Ike for seeming to humor her, even if he made no attempt at flirting back. It annoyed him, the sheer gall of the girl to flirt with ihis/I date, though he thought, she must have assumed them merely friends.

And they weren't even technically that.

As she went to refill their glasses, she dipped low to show off his sizeable cleavage. Soren felt his mood shift from bad to worse.

His date ordered a salad, mozzarella breadsticks, spaghetti and meatballs and finally, the restaurant's special Rising Dragon Steak which had a clause that if you actually managed to eat the behemoth, it was free. It was called such for the sheer amount of spices used were said to cause the person to breath fire, or so the menu bragged. Soren settled on just the soup and salad. All these fluctuating emotions, anger, jealousy, shocked denial and even something like interest had gotten to his appetite, not that it was ever particularly robust to begin with.

Menu set aside, now came the part Soren detested most: making conversation.

He supposed he could leave the man in nothing but an awkward silence for the next approximate fifteen to twenty minutes and leave directly after, and indeed that was his original plan – but something in Ike's face made him pause. There was an honest trait to him, one that made him want to know something more about him. After postponing the moment by taking a gulp of water, His date saved him from having to start the conversation. (Which was a good thing, as Soren's topics at hand were the Heian era and economic boom of the industrial revolution, with assorted dissections of the collective themes of Proust and Balzac.)

"I'm Ike, by the way," he said.

It was a fitting name. Walking chiseled masses of muscle like this person just weren't named Leslie or Fabian.

"Soren," he replied.

"What?" Ike said.

"My name. It's Soren," he replied.

"Oh," Ike said. "I can't wait for the food to come. I'm starved. I had to skip lunch earlier."

Beside the fact that Ike had ordered half the menu and only stopped to save his wallet, Soren was somehow not surprised at this realization.

"Salad first? You seem like the type to prefer some kind of spicy red meat," he said wryly.

"I do, it's my favorite. How'd you know? Did Ranulf tell you?"

"...lucky guess, I suppose," Soren said. The odd knowledge scratched at his insides again. It had been more than merely a good guess, it had been intuition. Soren shook that thought aside. It was unreasonable, but then so had the whole night been thus far.

"What about you? You aren't one of those Vegan-offended-by-meat-types, are you?" Ike asked. He tilted his head slightly and frowned in concentration. In some deep dark hidden corner of his mind Soren found it endearing. Soren pushed that part down with another wave of rage.

"I have no particular fondness for food. It's merely nourishment," Soren said.

"So, what do you do?" Ike asked.

"Do? If you mean my current venue of study... I'm a history major. I work at the student library if you were referring to working status."

"I came in on a sports scholarship," Ike said. "I work over at Lowe's to pay the rent."

"It figures," Soren said.

And then their dinner arrived, so they were spared any more conversation.

Ike ate his salad in what seemed to be two bites and then started on his Rising Dragon.

Ike didn't just eat this meat, he romanced it. Soren thought bitterly that he should've dated the meat dish and not himself. He probably would have given the choice.

Soren picked at his salad, his last traces of hunger leaving him. The salad wasn't fresh, it felt wilted and he had to force each bite down. As much as he disliked wasting food – and money, he couldn't force down another bite. The soup was worse, too creamy and far too oily. Soren reminded himself to never visit this restaurant again. Not that he had eaten in this kind of venue for the past fifteen years or more. Chinese Take-out during finals was the only kind of restaurant he'd ever indulged himself in, and that was only because without nourishment, he'd likely faint again.

Ike seemed unaffected by this bad cooking, thus Soren surmised that he either would eat anything that wasn't nailed down or that it was only his own food which was bad. He couldn't tell which.

When Ike finally finished his meal, he pushed the plate aside and sat back, filled with a satisfied contentment. There was still a trace of barbeque sauce on his chin, it gave Soren a mixed response, half annoyance and half the desire to clean it off.

Ike waved for the waitress who came eagerly, itoo/I early.

"Oh, your chin– Let me get it," she tittered and took a napkin and wiped it clean.

"Oh. Thanks," Ike said.

She gave a wink and took too long readying the check, chatting away the whole time. Soren stared sullen out ate this garish, facsimile of a place and hated everything about it – especially her.

She laid out the bill with perfect red tipped fingers and Ike paid before Soren could get his wallet out.

"I was going to pay my share," Soren said.

"Well, I'm the man. I always pay for the dinner," Ike said.

"Excuse me?" Soren said.

"Uh," Ike said, seeming to finally realize the connotations of what he'd said. " I just always pay. It's a thing."

Soren, however, annoyed as he was, didn't complain. He was saving money, money which could be used to pay off student loans or pay for actually edible food when he got home. He could stand being the 'woman' once in a while, but only if there was bad food involved.


The air had turned unseasonably cool by the time they left. Streaks of cars swept by, ribbon-like lines of white floating lights. While nature had fallen asleep, the city had just begun to rise. Outside the restaurant it was darker, less blinding. Several of the neon bulbs had gone out in the store across the street, and the light fixture above them was currently in the process of being replaced.

He couldn't see the stars from here. An orange glow clung to the night sky, lightening the darkness of the oncoming night. He'd once had an annoying classmate who found such colors entirely 'romantic'. He knew it by name, as it was the decidedly unromantic phenomenon of light pollution. It was turning autumn, the stars shifting unseen above. It had been a warm day and faded into something more compact until every breath would be held to its deepest core and cherished before being released. Soren had underestimated the earliness of the coming fall chill and shivered at the cold despite himself. He heard unzipping and inclined his head to see, mentally wondering if he shouldn't be turning his head instead.

"Here," Ike said.

Soren blinked as he stared at the jacket. It was tannish in color and large and heavy A bit ripped at the sleeves, as if it'd see many years of work. Soren remembered from some dim corner of his mind that this type of jacket was called a 'Carhartt'.

"Go ahead."

Soren murmured a thanks as he attempted to fit it over his slender shoulders.

"Here, I'll help you," Ike said.

Soren froze as Ike slipped the coat over his shoulders,.it was heavy and he felt weighted down. Soren wondered how Ike managed, but then, it was Ike. It probably felt light to him.

"So, I guess this is it," Ike said, with something like a trace of wistfulness in his voice.

"I'm off. Goodnight."

"Wait, aren't you driving back?" Ike said.

Soren shook his head, well aware that Ike might not catch it in the low lighting. "I walked. I live by here."

"Come on, I'll drive you."

"There's no need," Soren said.

"It's late. You could get mugged," Ike said.

"I'm only fifteen minutes away, " Soren replied. "I walk this every night and I've yet to be mugged in the two years I've lived here."

But Ike was already unlocking his truck. (Typical that he'd have a beat up off-road vehicle.)

The seats were even more ragged than Ike's coat, and it obviously hadn't been cleaned since Ike got the thing, it may have even retained some of the earlier owner's garbage. That may have explained why it smelled of cigarettes when Ike didn't seem to be a smoker.

Ike eased the starter a moment and it made a wurring sound before finally starting. The rumbling of the motor was overpowering enough to prevent talk or worse, the use of the radio. Soren was glad for this, his mind was blank of things to say and the only music he'd ever been able to stand was classical. Given Ike's background and beat up truck, he might enjoy anything from Country to Rap to Hard Rock, and every of these options was sure to be rage inducing.

Soren muttered the directions, almost absently. Ike was able to translate those mumbled phrases, which was admirable. The car trip did not last, it took less than half the time it would have taken to hike on foot. When they reached the street Soren waited until he turned the behemoth to idle and opened the creaky door.

He pulled at the thick zipper, and it caught. He gave it a few sharp tugs, but it refused to budge.

"I'll be fine. You can give it to me another time."

With that, the door had been left slightly ajar. It would not simply go down as a strange whim of Ranulf's, but there would be an after. Soren thought about giving the zipper another try, but he let his hand fall to his side in acceptance of this.

"Alright," Soren said.

He walked around the beast of a car and up towards the stairs leading to his apartment building. It was small and was once another color but had faded to a brownish grey shade. The windows were high and he could see reflections of the streetlights and lamps on their surfaces.

He was still close enough and for some reason upon looking back he couldn't place, Soren looked back. Ike's window was open, he was seeing Soren safely back and watching to make sure he got into his apartment building well at the very least. And the realization came upon Soren that he didn't entirely hate this moment. It wasn't uncomfortable, in fact it was almost pleasant. He'd almost enjoyed himself this past few despite the awfulness that was the bright spot. The realization of this was like finding a thorn, or a bit of silvery glass stuck under one's skin. Soren was far too used to being miserable; he had no clue what to do with this contentment.

"Aren't you going to go back?" Ike said.

It was all so familiar, so mirrored that Soren felt a sense of unrealness. It came then, the clear cold stark angles of the memories he had so treasured when he was younger and set aside as useless in his adulthood.

"Aren't you going to go back home? It's dark.... Mother always says that the dark brings out the monsters. I'd like to fight a monster sometime, wouldn't you? I could take you back to my house if your mother would let you. Mother is making pot roast tonight, it's delicious. You could come back with me..."

"What..." Soren shook his head to clear it. The past was gone, over. He'd searched and come up with nothing.

Ike was looking at him, expectant, waiting for some reply. Soren had none to give except one.

"Goodnight," Soren said sharp and quick. He climbed the stairs and didn't look back.


Soren slept that night, though barely. He arrived at work and began settling into another angry routine. No one noticed this as being particularly different from any other day of the week. He was, if possible, even harder to work with. His coworkers gave him plenty of distance lest he explode, like mixing volatile chemicals, or the currents of warm and cold air in a storm.

Soren was still caught up in the memories of the date, how horrible and yet... enjoyable it had been. He denied the existence of The Flutter, attributing it to temporary insanity or some Ranulf-involved-drugged scheme. Or perhaps it had all been some vivid nightmare, or something hallucinogenic slipped into his coffee–

But Soren knew it was all true, because of the presence of the jacket. It mocked him when he left, with its irresistible scent of smoke and wood and Ike. It jeered at him with memories that shouldn't be as clear as they were. And like anger or any other upset, Soren worked through it. To him, working through something was the cure for every ill, to bury oneself into enough paperwork and filing jobs to set his mind on other things. If he was going to be miserable, he might as well be productive.

And he was often miserable.

Soren thought the world would be a lot better if all those besotted women would stop with their daydreaming and start with their working. Of course, this was only hypothesized. Soren had never loved, thus never gotten his heart broken. He could hardly speak on the subject but then he didn't care to become fluent in the ways of it anyways.

He worked through that night and another day before his phone buzzed with a number he recognized only from the records of the library themselves. Soren almost ignored it, but thought this a good chance to give him a piece of his mind.

"What?" Soren said upon lifting the slim black phone to his ear.

"Hey, you must've done something right – he asked for your phone number."

And with that all the insults fell back and he couldn't grasp them. He swallowed and replied, with far less vitriol than he had intended.

"...My phone number?"

"Yeah, he's never asked for that before with anyone else I set him up with."

Soren gripped the phone so tight that he thought it might splinter and burst in his hands. "There's been others?"

He heard a laugh on the other end. "Whoa, jealous after just the first date? You must've fallen hard for him, Soren. I didn't expect you to be the 'fall at first sight type'"

"I– No. It's not that at all," Soren said, knowing very well he wasn't sounding particularly convincing.


Soren gritted his teeth and cleared his throat. "I don't appreciate being the last on the list, another piece of meat to be sold off nor do I appreciate being set up with someone without my knowledge, let alone another guy. I'm sure you had a good laugh over this."

"You're right, I did have a great laugh. But you hit it off, so it's no sweat. Oh, and I've been setting him up for years. He's usually indifferent to them. You're the first one he's really reacted to."

The fluttering began again. Damn butterflies. Damn Ranulf. Damn it all to hell.

"It's nice to see the big lug finally getting a clue. All these years I've been pairing him up with attractive women when I should've been trying scrawny sharp-tonged androgynous men. It really makes one think you know?" Ranulf said.

"Excuse me?" Soren said

"Nothing, just some thoughts. So you're up for another date?"

Soren paused. Half his brain was in the abso-fucking-lutely not crowd, the other half – the magical fourteen-year-old drugged by Ranulf side was saying yes. Emphatically. He opened his mouth to refuse but Ranulf cut in before he could begin the one word he had plenty of practice using.

"I'll take that as a yes," Ranulf said.

"I didn't–"

"I'll set the plans for you two lovebirds. Just leave it to me."

And with that, he hung up. Soren was left staring in disbelief and rage at the phone. He fumed at Ranulf, but mostly he fumed at the part of him wasn't opposed to seeing Ike again.

Soren was in tumult. Something akin to happiness, rage, attraction and faint remembrance and realization in one day had left him drained to almost nothing. It was a far cry from his usual assortment of constant shuffling irritation and apathy. He looked out the windows and set aside memories of different kinds and set himself back to the solace of menial work.


Characterization note: before anyone starts going THIS CHARACTERIZATION IS OFF!11 Trust me, this is a plot point as well as a sort of philosophy. The lingering of Soren's draw to Ike comes from the remnants of the first draft which had a reincarnation theme, a however it is kept for another DEEP DARK SECRET to come later or something. It was hinted at in the taking home part, which should definitely clue in pretty deep about the nature of this if not give it away entirely. Oops.

The second is probably my own philosophy. I sort of see Ike and Soren as soulmates in a sense of the word – even if they didn't have the same history there would be a sort of draw. Ike would still probably be immune to Soren's vitriol and they would both bond over dislike of the upper classes and coarseness or something. Sort of like Akira and Hikaru from Hikaru no Go – not in the rivalry aspect, but in the way they react in different ways to each other than they do to anyone else. Especially Akira who is usually on the quiet side who simply explodes around Hikaru.

Digression aside, what I'm saying is in my opinion there'd always be a faint trace of difference there with them, even if it was a late meeting with a more cynical Soren. It might not be immediate but I think Soren would learn to respect Ike soon enough and that respect turn into like.