Mmkay, so this is the other Soren/Ike fic that I've been working on. It's back in old, familiar 3rd-person past-tense, so I feel slightly more relaxed - though I do find writing in 2nd person a lot more exciting and intimate, and I think I could get used to it all-too-easily.

Again, this is a partial AU - because clearly, for whatever reason, I'm obsessed with Soren/Ike that isn't built on them being childhood buddies. This time I shifted the time scheme a little so that Soren joins the mercenaries a few months after Greil dies. In case you're wondering, there is a reason behind my obsession - I think that the relationship has a lot more scope than it gains within the game's timeframe, so I'm trying to expand this scope as much as possible beyond the usual fanfiction, whilst retaining their original characterisation.

But I digress. On with the story - and the appearance of Ano!Soren. xD Here, have a free cookie:

To tell the truth, it didn't even so much resemble a military base - more a semi-derelict fort. But this was where he had been told to come. And there had never been any harm in trying. He rapped gently on the door, worried it might crumble if he hit it hard enough - not that he could. Several moments slipped past before there was any sign of reply, and Soren began to think that he may have been misinformed once again. Finally, a woman answered, a thick plait of red hair strung down to her waist. Her eyes fixed on him immediately. "Might I help you?"

Soren swallowed. "I...I'm looking for Commander Greil."

The woman's eyes softened somewhat. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but Commander Greil is no longer with us."

"I see. Is it possible for you to tell me where I might find him now, then?" Soren clutched at the hem of his cloak. Wrong information yet again. Still, at least the trail seemed somewhat fresh.

The woman averted her gaze to the ground. "No, what I meant was...Commander Greil passed away some months ago."

Soren glanced away. "I'm sorry to hear that." If only he had gotten here earlier...learned to read more quickly, been better at hunting down information. But he always had been that little bit too slow. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He inwardly cursed himself for not getting there faster, though he knew there was nothing that could be done about that now.

He looked back up and met the eyes of the woman directly. She hesitated. "Perhaps you would like to speak to Commander Ike instead?"

Soren thought back. He was unsure of the name of the boy with the blue hair, but he was fairly certain that Commander Greil would have made his son his successor. That made Ike likely to be the person he was seeking. He nodded, and the woman returned inside the fort, replaced some minutes after by the new commander.

Soren's first thought was that Ike was indeed the young man that he was seeking. He was then struck by just how much Ike had grown and changed - his muscles were well-developed and a large sword hung by his side, making him look every inch the mercenary commander that he now was. Suspicion shone in his eyes (Soren didn't blame him; he hadn't even given his name yet), but the same stern smile was plastered across his face. Soren doubted he had changed his expression at all during those twelve years, even given recent events. "I'm sorry to hear about your father."

Ike gave a noncommittal shrug. "These things happen. You'll have to forgive me for not remembering a face."

"My name is Soren. We met just the once, some years ago."

"I see. I don't recall. Anyway, I assume you have business here?"

Soren was quite surprised by the commander's abrupt tone. Maybe he had changed after all. "I do. I'd like to join your band of mercenaries, if I may."

There were several moments of silence while Ike eyed up the young mage. Commander Greil had known about his Brand, Soren knew that - it would be foolish to assume otherwise about such a well-travelled man. And yet, Greil had bothered to give him the time of day. While the beorc children had thrown rocks at him and the sub-humans had ignored him entirely, Greil had smiled at Soren. It was stupid, but it meant a lot to him. Even if it came from someone else's father. Soren could only hope that Greil's son was as accepting. It wasn't exactly as though he had anyone else to turn to.

"Can you use a weapon?" Ike sounded uncertain. Soren didn't blame him for asking - with his frail body, he hardly looked like a fighter.

"I'm a spellcaster." He saw Ike's eyes flicker up to the mark on his forehead, and quickly corrected the commander's assumption. "No, not...not a spirit charmer. Just a mage. I...I happen to rather like my soul." Though I bet the Goddess doesn't, he added silently.

Ike's expression relaxed a little. "What sort of tomes do you use?"

"Wind, fire, thunder...though my skill largely lies in wind magic." He noticed Ike's curious expression. "What?"

"Nothing. I just...You just looked more like a dark mage, that's all."

Soren stiffened. First a spirit charmer, now a dark mage. The compliments just kept coming.

Ike obviously realised that Soren was uncomfortable, as he quickly changed the subject. "So, what kind of payment do you expect?"

Soren's eyebrows jumped. He hadn't given money a second thought. "I...I don't require payment. I owe Greil a great debt. He saved my life." It wasn't exactly a lie.

Ike considered this. "Are you rich, Soren?"

"No!" Soren realised too late the abruptness of his reply. If anything, he had surely raised Ike's suspicions. But the commander appeared not to notice.

"Then how do you expect to feed and clothe yourself, unless we pay you?"

The commander had a good point, and Soren knew that his own arguments would require a lot of explanation, so he kept quiet.

"I mean, I know Mist and Oscar take turns cooking for us all, but if it's Mist's turn...Well, sometimes a back-up plan is useful." He smiled guiltily.

"I eat very little," Soren replied. "And I am sure that any meal would be appreciated, regardless of who cooked it."

It was Ike who looked uncomfortable now, as though he wasn't quite sure how to handle such a lack of humour. "Mm...You do look kinda skinny. What sort of meals do you eat?"

Soren had difficulty replying - nothing that he had partaken of in the last six or seven years was really large enough to classify as a meal. The longer it took him to answer, the more worried Ike's expression grew. "Soren...When was the last time that you ate?"

Soren glanced away. "Last night, I suppose."

Ike grabbed hold of his wrist. "Soren, I won't allow anyone to join if I can't trust them." Soren might have laughed at the irony, except he wasn't the laughing type. "Now tell me. How long since you last ate?"

"Four days? Maybe five," Soren said in a hoarse voice. "I don't quite remember."

Ike's eyes widened. "How are you even still standing?! You're inhuman!" The comment was made in shock, possibly even with a hint of admiration, but it was tactless nonetheless. Soren had to clamp down on his own tongue to stop any unnecessary reaction to the overfamiliar word. The firm grip on his wrist pulled him forward. "Come inside. Let's get you something to eat."