Character/Pairing: Ike, Soren
Summary: Soren sees the world as it is. Ike sees the world as it should be.
A/N: #29 - See the world my way / kaleidoscope alphabet_love
A/N: It was originally intended to be pairingfic, but this turned itself into pure gen somewhere along the way. I suppose there's spoilers for mid-to-late-POR but do I even have to warn about the A support spoilers anymore? Seriously?
This one is for Chiba_kun, as an early Christmas present (Yes, I know it's only October, however my Christmas list has 60+ names on it and thus from now until then there will be lots of early gifts.)
Soren had watched Ike's every expression the from the instant they'd left Sienne. From that grand cathedral, a place he'd once been even enthused to visit, every step felt like another ringing sound of finality. Every twitch was a warning of rejection. Paranoia swept through him. Could Ike have already guessed?
He had finally pulled himself from his thoughts long enough to consider the future. The first glimpse of that information, the brands drawn out as a diagram was the last to fall upon him. So many unfortunate occurrences, he'd wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all for one crazed second. That second faded and he was left with just the knowledge of how horrific human nature could be. People would abandon their own children if they thought there was some imperfection in them.
He'd left the cathedral in a daze, barely comprehending the world around him. Ike's voice was pleasant but incoherent against him, a waterfall of sentences and structure, words he couldn't quite catch. He could remember the questioning touch of Ike's hand on his shoulder, how warm and comforting it was. He wanted to draw back, wanted to lean into Ike and cling to him like some child. His mind was one divided. One side told him You don't have to tell Ike. What he doesn't know won't hurt him. Tell him you discovered you were a spirit charmer, or tell him nothing–
But the secret clawed at him, begging to get free.
If he didn't tell Ike, what if others did – what if one of the Laguz realized and let it slip in conversation. Will he turn against you? Will he– Would he–
Would he hate you if he knew?
Amongst the laguz Ike acted as if they were no different. Indeed, he seemed to treat them as any beorc, their fur and feathers were meaningless to Ike who saw them as they simply were.
"You'd trust a sub– Laguz, Ike?"
"They're not really that different," Ike said, as if to shrug the question away.
"Of course with their teeth and claws they're entirely similar but it's the prejudices, their bigotry is the only thing that they share in common with us. Hypocrisy will bind together the nations with their own common cause," Soren spat out.
"What's wrong with you, Soren? You've been strange since we left Manithal Cathedral. Are you ok?"
"..I haven't slept well. Please excuse me."
Soren hurried away, his head down. Maybe if there was more people like Ike, the world would have been a more hospitable place than the cold, cruel one he knew it to be. But still, a part of him didn't believe. No, hatred would always win out of human nature. Perhaps even in Ike.
Ike didn't call after him. Part of Soren wished he had.
Soren couldn't bear to voice the word, so he picked another, connected subject: the years before.. He stared down at his hands as he said it, looking for traces of otherness in his veins. They were blue, and highly visible against his pale arms. Ike's skin was darker, though hardly tanned. He could see no outward difference between their blood, and by all accounts neither should Ike have been able to.
He had felt as if in a trance as he related the story of the woman, the sage, but keeping the story of a boy, and of blood to himself. Ike didn't say much, but only because there was not much to be said. Ike was an excellent listener when he truly needed to be.
Honor, morals, love, kindness were all taught things. He'd never had a parent to show him these, to pat him on the head and tell him he was a smart, that he was their beloved child. Whenever he caught sight of affectionate mothers with their children, proud fathers out telling other father's of their child's exploits, he felt a cold emptiness where that place would have been. He had no one to look up to, to emulate, to praise him in that respect. Greil had offered some kindness, but he had children of his own to attend to. By then, Soren had already shut out everyone but one person who had held out his hand, and truly cared for him, despite his persnickety, harsh ways, and his aloofness.
Soren had no parent to love him, but he did have a friend. When he dared to look in Ike's eyes, all he saw was concern. The concern of his closest friend, who never judged or turned him away.
If only such a thing could last, pristine, innocent of their differences. The last word felt hard and cold in his mouth, like a stone. He couldn't bear to say it. I've got the blood of a beast in me. How can you even stand to be near me? How can—
No. He couldn't.
"There's more, but I've yammered on enough...if you'll excuse me..."
This time, he heard Ike call after him. He willed himself to keep walking despite the urge to spill it all, right there and now. A scab half torn off was more painful, and took far longer to heal than a clean rip. With this, most of the pain was still buried deep, and all it meant was he was that much closer to breaking.
One by one Ike befriended and won over the Laguz. He came to terms even the bitter feline Lethe and the vengeful white prince. He won against odds, and became an unwitting ally to many of the Laguz states.
He could dine with the Laguz , (in truth he seemed to prefer them far to dining with nobles) joke with Gallian emissaries and beast kings. He had never looked down at them and since the first accidental slip, had never given them any insult.
The tiniest whisper brushed against Soren's mind. A gentle caress, an invitation to weakness. Perhaps, just perhaps, he wouldn't care– it said. Perhaps you should tell him. He has never betrayed you before.
Soren pushed it aside. Just because a person could accept the Laguz didn't mean they would also accept the accursed mixed-blood offspring. Laguz were pureblooded creatures; people could always justify their hypocrisies. Surely even Ike was fallible.
His stomach churned at the thought of Ike staring at him in repulsion, the thought of him pulling back. Those familiar eyes would turned guarded. The one person he had relied on, despising him for a quality that Soren had merely been born with, cursed with—
The quill shook beneath his fingers, ink splattering. Soren's breath caught him his throat. He could withstand being abhorred by the rest of the populace, for they were merely ignorant strangers, but to be turned aside by Ike, his closest and only friend even since he was a child...
If he couldn't believe in Ike, who could he believe in?
He was so focused on the thoughts at hand that when Ike came in, shutting the door behind him, Soren started, ink dripping from his pen over the desk and papers in the process.
"Are the moving plans ready?" Ike said.
Soren nodded. He did not look up from his paperwork. Ike leaned on the desk. His arms were bolsters, like tent poles and he looked at the papers over Soren's shoulders. Soren snuck a glance from under his lashes. Ike's gloves were off, perhaps for cleaning. Bluish blood vessels twisted down the backs of his palms like tangled vines.
"Why am I assigned every room?" Ike said.
Soren looked back to the inked work. His mind had made the dangerous fault of wandering off into thoughts and the moral ambiguities of to tell or not to tell. In his neat hand he had written exactly what he had been distracted by, in every single note and lodging.
Ike frowned, a confused, thoughtful frown. It was the kind of expression that Soren found endearing, but this was no time to be thinking of subtleties.
"It's nothing– I'll fix this, it will only take a moment–"Soren said. Everything was too hastily, it sounded unlike him and was far too suspicious and revealing of the tumult within him.
"Soren, you're trembling," Ike said.
"It's cold," Soren said sharply. He pulled the cloak tighter. "You know how I react to the weather. Especially the cold."
The ink spilled in squiggles over the ruined paper. Every waking thought returned to his plight, the same gaping nagging question—
Would he? Would Ike be like every other of the people who had closed the door upon him? The thought made him clench down his fists until his nails dug into the fleshy part of his palm. Soren wasn't sure he could bear this rejection.
Soren was not prone to navel gazing in excess. It served no purpose and left him exhausted by the weight pressing upon him. Still, even as he tried to push away fears with menial labor, they stayed with him. They leapt up at night and stole the sleep from his eyes. They robbed him of peace and what little contentment he had gleaned for himself in this place. Ike was different than the others, but was he different enough? Anyone could claim ideals, it was an entirely different thing to actually follow them.
"Soren? You're spacing out again."
Soren shook his head. He grabbed the paper and tore it in two, which took far more effort than it should have.
"I'll begin again."
"You're a mess. You should go get some rest or something."
"I willl...once I'm finished," Soren said.
He worry that haunted him, tore at and taunted him at every turn was bit by bit devouring his composure. Others may have seen it, but only Ike ever truly worried about him. Here he was now, looking down with such caring that it almost hurt to not spill it out now, damned the consequences. Ike always found him when he was down, listened to his rants against an unkind world and comforted him.
"If you say so," Ike said.
Soren had told half his tale but stopped at the most important part, the one that chewed at his insides. Ike waited somewhere, asking the question without asking, speaking the words without speaking them.
As time passed Soren pushed the worries deep inside where they could fester into an brewing madness. There was a war to be fought and it would do no good for him to be messing up tactics because of some deep-set worry ravaging the inside of him. He worked himself until his mind was too numb to expand beyond the menial tasks of the day. When thoughts of Ike's reaction invariably came, Soren thought of numbers. He calculated strings of numbers, rounded out and perfected them. They would always remain the same. Four times four would always be sixteen. In a world of numbers, there was nothing but bare facts. Feelings were stripped away to the most cold and mechanical equations he could muster, until he felt little more than an abacus.
In that setting aside he began to notice something peculiar about their merchant guide. Of course, there had always been something off about him in his mind, but now certain instances increased. When he had served his apparent purpose, Nasir reappeared and with that came strange circumstances. . Soren suspected his reasons no longer were merely a Gallian watchman, but something much more.
It had been all precisely prepared, the die cast and Nasir cornered. There it was, the slip, the turning – We all have secrets which we wish to keep buried, even you
Those alien, Laguz eyes seemed to look through him, and there Soren was again. The beasts in the forest walking past him one by one, pointedly ignoring his existence. Soren swallowed, his throat tight. He knew. Who else among the Laguz knew? Would he reveal it to Ike?
The retort died in his mouth.
So Soren said nothing. Every time Ike said the familiar I can't believe Nasir betrayed us Soren would avert his eyes and say little. Everyday was a little more of being weighed down with the eternal question of would he..?
There it stayed, awkward and shaky, a glass on the precipice precariously balanced, until Ike made the move. He called Soren into his tent, which was still somewhat messy from that morning's unpacking. Clothes lay strewn about, along with half-eaten food beside the bed. The bedroll was still unmade, and his spare clothes were shoved unceremoniously into a duffle bag thrown near the bed, yet open enough to see the state of Ike's so-called-organizational skills.
"I've prepared the route for the day and gotten what information I could on the architecture–"
"That can come later. First we have something which we need to talk about. You need to finish telling me something," Ike said. It was somehow firm without being forceful, gentle in a blunt way that only Ike could manage, and on anyone else would be contradictory.
He touched Soren's arm with the same kind of concern that had been in his eyes earlier.
"Soren, what is it? You have to tell me. If you don't it's going to just keep bulding inside you. You're a mess, Soren, and it's not going to get better until you tell me."
After he had said the hated word that had devoured months of his life to misery, Soren stood back, wondering what would become of this.
"What? What's a 'branded'? " Ike said.
Leave it to Ike to not understand the technicalities. Soren repreated the same facts he had read A union between Beorc and Laguz, strictly forbidden by the goddess.
The face he had looked to for acceptance, for strength did not change. Ike did not revile him, or even react to the news.
"And?" Ike said.
"I thought...I thought you'd...." Soren began.
He felt as if he could collapse with relief. All the anxiety that had been building within him snapped. There was a knot of sadness just in his throat, and everything seemed to burst free.
It was between sobs (dry sobs, however) that he related the last, hidden piece of the story When the sage died, no one would help me. I couldn't speak. Couldn't find food. I was dying. You were the only one who helped.
That's why you're my friend. My...only friend.
And there it was, the last declaration. He'd hung up all his secrets for Ike to see, knowing that Ike could cast them, cast him aside.
But he didn't.
"I don't think you've ever called me your friend before. Or even used the word in a non-sarcastic tone," Ike said. He sounded somewhere between thoughtful and wry.
"You of all people should know how I am about people," Soren said.
Ike smiled, slightly in that way of his. It was never really a full, bursting smile like Mist's, but a lopsided half-smile.
"Yeah, I know. I never minded."
Ike took his hand and flipped it over. There wasn't a trace of squeamishness or disgust in his behavior. He pulled up Soren's sleeve up and examined their arms, side by side. Soren was much thinner, and more fragile than Ike's strong arms.
"I don't see any difference. Nor should anyone else."
He'd been a fool to worry all this time. Warmth spread in him, and for that brief time, he did not extinguish that hope. Ike was trustworthy, and proof that all the human race wasn't a lost cause. Not everyone was selfish and bigoted, and too stuck in their dogma to even reconsider the details.
Soren knew the world to be a cold, unforgiving place. He had known hunger and rejection so intimately, that he couldn't recognize true kindness when he came upon it. Soren was always suspicious. Nothing in life was free, and people did not do things without expecting recompense. Somewhere, there would be debts to be paid back for that kindness.
But Ike saw another world. One where redemption and acceptance could exist. One where culture and race were just another facet, and people were not judged by them, and where branded was just another word. If anyone else had said such a thing, Soren would've dismissed them as a daydreamer, an idealist who didn't live in the real world. But this was Ike, and Ike was special in that he didn't just talk an ideal, he made it real.
And despite all his cynicism, all the horrors he knew the world to contain, Soren knew that Ike kept his promises, and when he said he'd change the bad things in the world, he would.