A/N: I just can't stay away from this couple, so I'd thought I'd do another little piece about them. I always like doing things from his POV because there's just something incredibly about the way he represses his emotions that makes you want to get inside his head and see what he's really thinking. I also enjoy the chance to pick at Lyon, who infuriated me all throughout the Sacred Stones with his behavior towards her. I mean I feel sorry for the pathetic little dude, but honestly. A little self confidence goes a long way, Lyon.
Apologies if Eirika is a bit OOC, but I like to think of her in my head as having a bit of a temptress in her, buried deep. I know she doesn't come across that way in the game, but I think the extra oomph in her character is what is needed to bring Seth around from "No, my duty" to "I love her, to hell with duty".
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. If I did, there would definitely be a fight scene in Sacred Stones between Seth and Lyon. "SHE'S MINE!"
She says his name in the voice that only she can command. Soft, like white sheets dancing in the winds, like the silken fur on a puppy's ear. So quiet that anyone else would have to strain to hear it, but not him. He would hear her voice saying his name from any corner of Magvel, no matter where he was or what he was doing. His entire being is attuned to it, this softness of her voice, this fragility and strength commingling together, both pleading and challenging at the same time. Seth. Seth.
He looks down at her from the back of his horse. She's still dressed up in her royal clothes, every inch of her swathed in sapphire silk and radiant diamonds, decorated up like a cake. He hates that they're doing this to her. She's beautiful on her own merits, delicate and petite with large blue eyes and a sweet snub nose, but here in Grado she is like chattel. They doll her up in jewels and expensive gowns, parading her around in front of the prince like she is a prize mare. Here is what you can have. Isn't she fine? Why do they even bother disguising the purposes of their balls and parties? It is all a business arrangement, a pretty little way to sell the women off the highest bidder. She is not a human to them, but the gem of their collection.
But it's not the balls that bother him so much. She does not like those either, or so she tells him. Lyon treads on her feet and the girls make a scene over Ephraim, who usually spends the whole night trying to hide from his hoard of adolescent admirers. "It's ridiculous," she says, "my brother and I were not raised to make a show of ourselves." No, the balls have no power to tempt her. It's the other times he worries about, the times when she goes out with Lyon and Ephraim in the afternoons and he is sent along to chaperone. Mostly it's just innocent fun, the three friends running through Serafew and causing trouble or browsing through the shops and stalls in the city. But sometimes it becomes more than that. Sometimes Ephraim is gone to have lessons with General Duessel, leaving the other two alone. And sometimes they talk about things, and say too much.
Lyon has his way of doing things. A cowardly way of doing things, in Seth's opinion. He sits her down and asks her to talk about herself, and he listens diligently, staring up at her with cow eyes. Oh Eirika, you are so smart, brave, pretty, wonderful, perfect, etc, he says. She smiles sweetly, and takes his hand. Lyon, you are good, too. You have the best heart I've ever known, and you do so much for your people. He shakes his head, denies everything. No, I'm no good. Not like you. Not like Ephraim. I have to become a better man, so one day I will be worthy of- The word 'you' hangs obviously in the air, but she does not notice. She merely pats him on the arm and tells him he will make a good king one day, despite all his doubts. He continues to stare at her, wanting her, wanting her words. I need you here to love me so I don't have to love myself. He never says this out loud, but Seth knows what he is thinking. His desires are plain on his face for all to see, a completely open book.
He hates to watch this happening to her. She is so young, so beautiful, so earnest, but she is Princess of Renais, and she is doomed. Her blood binds her to a path in life, and this is where her path will end. With this pitiful excuse for a prince sucking her dry of all her happiness so he himself can be happy. Seth's blood also binds him to a path, but not to hers. He cannot save her. He cannot change their fate.
"Seth," she says again. She walks to stand beside his mount, drawing her slender fingers through its gleaming coat. Her face is turned away from him, but he can see through the curtain of her hair the tightness around her lips, the frown in her eyes. Ephraim is training and Lyon is inside, immersed in lessons, but she is only free for a little while. In time her prince will emerge from his palace and tug at her chain, pulling her back to the world where she belongs. But even so, she cannot enjoy her momentary freedom. She is unhappy.
"Lady Eirika," he says finally. His tone is guarded, always guarded. The power she has over him is his secret to bear, and she cannot ever know. She would be humiliated if she knew, infuriated. He has held her against himself when they ride together, treated injuries on her bare shoulders, untangled leaves from her hair with ungloved fingers. If she guessed that he felt more for her during these moments where he was supposed to be indifferent, she would be insulted, disgraced. He has no place loving her, and he knows it well and stays on guard. Better for them both if he keeps his desires veiled.
"Seth." This time she exhales his name in a little sigh. Not angrily or unhappily, but wearily. She is tired. There is another ball tonight, the one she is all dressed up for, and the dread of it is already wearing her down. Her slippered feet, looking so tiny and ladylike encased in velvet, are in for a long night of suffering under the clumsiness of Prince Lyon. Poor, poor Eirika. It hasn't been that long since she was in Renais, riding spiritedly on horseback through the training field and giggling over tea when Tana came to visit. She once had the to be the Eirika he loves rather than this sad, tortured princess.
"How are you?" she asks. This is not the question she wants to ask, he knows. Why come out here in her sapphire wrappings with that sad frown and quiet voice just to ask "How are you?" There's something else, something she wants to say but is holding back. He gets it. He does the same thing all the time.
"I am well, my lady. And I hope this afternoon finds you the same."
She turns her face, her eyes meeting his. "Ah, I suppose I'm fine. After dinner, there will be another ball. Ephraim's going to fake sick, but I will have to go. Unless you can come up with an excuse for me." Her lips (like flower petals, delicate pink and tender in their unfolding) tug into a smile. "Have you ever been to a ball before, Seth?"
Of course he hasn't. Not a proper one, in any case. The common folk hold dances sometimes, late at night when their children are asleep. Fiddlers come out to play and people laugh and dance and sing like carefree spirits, not a worry or fearr in the world. Eirika would love it, but she cannot cross the line into his world as surely as he cannot cross the line into hers. Harps, violins, waltzes, and petty conversations about who is wearing what and which gentleman is dancing with which lady will have to do for her. Those customs are what she was born into.
"No," he answers her. "I haven't."
"I wish I could take you with me," she tells him, a faraway look in her eyes. She continues to stroke his horse absently, flexing her fingers. He wants to weave his own through them and feel the secret of her skin, the soft, forbidden contours of her hand. "You would keep me company, wouldn't you? You always have. Besides Ephraim and Tana and Father, you are the only one who really knows me."
He does know her. In Grado, she is someone else because that is who they want her to be, but he is privy to the real Eirika, the other one. She can be a proper princess of Renais when it is asked of her, but in her heart she lives another life. At her core, she is a wild stallion tearing through a field, unfettered and unbound. Not many people are aware of this other existence, but he has seen it innumerable times. It shines in her eyes when she looks at him and dances on the edge of her voice when she speaks. She is secretly greater than her world allows her to be.
"It would be an honor to keep you company, my lady," he answers her cordially. "But impossible, I'm afraid."
"I know," she says. "Even if you could come, they'd still want me to dance. I wouldn't be able to sit and talk as I'd prefer to do. Ah, well." She prods a pebble with her toe, the tightness returning to her face. "In a few days we will be back home. And this will all be over."
Even if she goes back home, this fate will follow her. Lyon will not let her go free, not permanently. He'll draw her back in time, and one day he will not permit her to return. Lady Eirika, I know I am not worthy of you, but I love you so. Please stay with me and make me a happy man. He'd blush and she'd look down at her lap, demure and sweet. And she wouldn't be able to say no. Not with someone's happiness on the line, on her shoulders. Not with her royal blood pushing her forward into the royal arms where she belongs.
"Yes. We will go home." He tightens his grip on the reins, crushing them beneath his fingers and deepening his callouses. How would they feel against her unblemished hands? Like sandpaper against satin, most likely. An unfitting combination.
"I wish we could go now," she murmurs. Her hands drop away from his horse and she looks up at him. Her eyes are expectant, though he doesn't quite understand what she wants. For him to swoop her up with him and carry her off to Renais right this moment? Or maybe not Renais, but somewhere else so far away that no one can find them, somewhere where they can be alone and be themselves, effortlessly crossing the line between them with no consequences or regrets?
Wishful thinking on his part. She probably wants him to say something comforting. "The time will go quickly," is all he can come up with, though he dreads that it will come too quickly, and that they will be sent hurtling off into the future, a future where she will become queen of Grado and he will remain in Renais to watch over Ephraim. So much for being a comfort.
She shakes her head. This isn't what she wants to hear. "Seth," she groans, her voice no longer soft but harsh. Like the claws of a cat against skin. "Don't you wish to be free of this? Don't you want to stop pretending?"
"Pretending, my lady?" He is a good knight. As emotionless as a block of wood, even though her outburst begs him to be honest. Yes, my lady. Were it not entirely impossible, I would stop being so indifferent. I would pull you into my arms and never let you go. Ever.
"Yes, Seth. Pretending. I know I would just love to give it up. I wish I could storm up to the Emperor and tell him that as charming as his court is, my place is in Renais with Father and Ephraim. And as dear as Lyon is, I would rather be his friend than his wife. I can't be who they want me to." She exhales sharply, her beautiful eyes closing. "I thought you felt it, Seth. I thought you hated this life, too."
The honest answer comes forth from him before he can stop it. "I do hate this life for you, Lady Eirika. It makes you unhappy." He grimaces as soon as the words come out. Her being aware of his emotional involvement, that's just what he needs. "I mean-" he tries to explain, but there is no explanation to be given that she will want to hear. He falls silent.
Her eyes open again. She takes a step forward, her gown rustling noisily. Eirika doesn't even need a loud gown to call her eyes to her, she can do that just fine on her own. It's just another part of the cage she lives in, the one that forces her to pretend to be someone she isn't. He wishes he could pull the awful thing off her body, ripping away the fantasy and exposing the reality. Eirika laid bare as who she is with nothing else to hold her back. If only.
"If you hate it so much, then set me free," she says breathlessly. "Take me back."
"Take you back?" Back where? Renais? She is happier in Renais, but not safe. She is still princess there, still a puppet to the whims of her blood. If he takes her back, her path will only lead her straight back to Lyon, or maybe even Innes if Lyon will not suit. He cannot save her or help her escape. There is no such thing as going back.
"Back with you," she says. Her hands inches up the horse's side so they rests next to his own as they twist the reins anxiously. "Seth." Her voice is soft again. A provocation, a plea.
What do you want me to say? He wants to ask her, but he has no voice to ask her with. Not with her so close beside him, staring up at him with those large and demanding eyes. He feels compelled to bend over and kiss her upturned lips, to brush the few stray strands of hair from her face. But he can't, no matter how badly he wants to. So what is there to say?
"I know it could put you in trouble," she prods when he doesn't answer. "I don't mean that you should take me back to Renais tonight. I don't have my things, and I won't leave Ephraim behind. But you can still take me away for a little while. Like you used to do when you were teaching me how to ride. We can escape."
To what end? What is the point in leaving when you have to come back and return to the same daily drudge? Freedom is a sweet taste, but it makes the cage you return to that much worse after you feel it. He can't wish that on her. If she must suffer, he doesn't want her to know to what extent.
He says instead, "You have a ball to go to. And me taking you away would be improper."
"Propriety," she sighs. "Duty. I see." She drops her hands from beside his and looks down to the ground. "I'll go to the ball, then. I'll have my feet stepped on and my ear talked off about scandals and intrigues that don't matter at all to me. Who knows? Maybe Lyon will even propose to me and I'll become his wife before the month is out. Thanks for the advice, Seth. Always keeping both eyes out for duty. Of course."
She turns her back, but doesn't walk away. The back of the dress is cut low, and her neck is fully displayed. It's too chilly to be wearing such a scant thing. He imagines himself drawing a finger down this exposed skin, and it feels cold to the touch. But then again, it's just a dream. She could be warm for all he knows. She could be perfectly fine.
"I'm thinking of you," he says, truthfully. "Of your reputation. If I did what you asked, there would be repercussions for both of us."
"There will be repercussions for both of us even if I go to that ball. Either way. I'd still rather do what I want than what I should. Don't you?" She turns back, a ghost of a smile on her face. "I know you're not as closed off as you pretend you are, Seth. I know you."
I know you. Does she? When she looks at him, does she see everything he wants, and is she accepting of it? Does she see how he loves her, how he wants to enfold her in his arms and kiss her until she can't breath, how he wants nothing more to escape with her as she is begging him to do? Does she really know?
"I know you better than you think I do," she says, as if reading his thoughts. "We are kindred souls. We always have been. That's why you spar with me and talk to me more than you do Ephraim. Our hearts are one and the same. We want the same things. Why deny it?" She lifts her arm up, reaching out to him. An offering. "If it's too much, you can only take me away for a moment. You can bring me back before I must dine with the emperor and Lyon. But take me back with you. Please, Seth."
This last time she says his name, something within him cracks. He has spent every waking moment since meeting her wondering why she was placed in his life. Why should such an angel, such a goddess, such a woman so perfectly designed for him be there only to be the wife of another man, an object of someone else's destiny? Why should their paths come together if they are only meant to split off in opposite, opposing directions? And now she is offering the answer to him, their hearts truly one and the same, why should he not take it? Why should he leave her to be consumed by Lyon in order to feed his nonexistent pride when what she wants is the same thing as what he wants?
His hand slides into hers, sandpaper against satin. It feels strange, but not unpleasant. Not wrong. Not improper. He exhales lightly, surprised to realize he's been holding his breath. But he has been, for a very long time. It feels so good to finally breathe.
"Are we going, then?" Eirika asks. Her whole face is smiling now; the tightness is gone. He wonders how long she has been repressing herself, but he's guessing from the look on her face that it's been awhile. Maybe even for as long as he has.
"Yes," he says as their skin brushes together, the perfect sensation. "As you wish."
A/N: I am somewhat toying with the idea of eventually tacking on another little piece to this looking at things from Lyon's mind, but we'll see. I feel really guilty picking on him, it's like kicking a wounded dog or something. If you're interested, stay tuned because I'll probably do it anyways. Sorry, Lyon!