Title: I'll Stand By You
Series: FE10
Character/Pairing: light Pelleas/Micaiah.
Rating: PG
Author's note: Manna asked for "FE6-10, a hug. Any characters." I'll fill her other possible requests (esp. the Rajaion/Ena which I've had planned out for years~) sometime when I'm not swamped with stuff. Alludes to spoilers, but never quite goes there, so no worries on that front.

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She returned to the castle with the sun low in the sky. Her muscles ached with each step, and she longed for a hot bath to soothe the nagging pain, and clean the sweat and dirt from her skin. She had one last report before this, and she did not wish to keep her king waiting, so she pressed on.

He was not in the throne room, the library or his chambers. She closed her eyes and felt for him, and followed the anxiousness she associated with him to one of the inner rooms. Pelleas' hand was against the stone wall, his breath heavy. He trembled, and stared at his hand in confusion, as if in a fever dream, and he believed it did not entirely belong to himself. She had not sought to disguise her approach, but the clatter of her boots to the tiles did not seem to alert him to her presence. When had he last smiled? She could not recall, for her attention had been diverted. Slowly he had been dragged down by the worries of the court, of being a ruler. Somewhere, all the happiness and innocence of him had been snuffed out.

She reached out, slender fingers to his shoulder.

"My lord, are you ill?" She murmured.

He looked back, startled for a moment. She felt a rising terror in him, and an overwhelming sense hopelessness.

"You're—you're back," Pelleas said. "Though that's a very obvious statement..."

He looked down, abashed. His eyes did not meet hers, though before they were always seeking out her gaze. She caught the edge of a ragged feeling–his thoughts were too muddled to catch.

"Um. No, I am not ill. Just very—tired," he said.

Sadness. She felt it rising from him. The color of his emotions were black and rising, surrounding him as a swirling cloud. He was lost in this haze, groggy and consumed by whatever worry he held hidden under too much sorrow and guilt for her to sense.

"My lord..."

"Did the campaign go well?" He asked. "Please tell me it did, I don't think I could take bad news right now. With–with how tired I am."

"Yes," she said simply. "The bandits were routed and the orphanage was protected. There were no casualties."

"Good. Thank you for taking the time to watch over them. I know this was asking a lot of you, but some of the clerics there were very kind to me. I wouldn't want to leave them alone, you see...Izuka–before he left–and mother says I should forget about them, but..."

"You have too kind a heart to do so," she said.

"A kind heart hasn't helped me much," he said, sounding cynical for once. "All it seems to have done is left me open and weak and terribly useless..."

"You aren't useless, my lord."

She leaned into his back and wrapped her arms about him in an embrace. His energy suddenly changed, the sorrow turning to surprise, and embarrassment. She held him tight, as tight as a heroine in a fairy tale, as if he'd morph to iron bars or a lion in her grasp. She held him as if her was slipping from this world, her silvery hair draped over his shoulder as she leaned into him. Forehead to his back, above the acrid scent of fear is the scent of rose oil which his clothes had been soaked in assailing her.

He did not say anything, but after a moment relaxed in her grasp and leaned back into her. They stayed like that for how long she doesn't know, for time has ceased its meaning and protecting Daein and its king is all that mattered to her. It was only the sound of footsteps that made him tense, and push away from her grasp. He looked like a frightened animal, a hunted rabbit then. The footsteps moved on, perhaps a servant. Micaiah can feel nothing so insidious as a spy, or some other unseen malevolent force.

"Ah, that—" He shook his head, his cheeks flushed pink. "I'm glad no one saw us. Some of the ladies in court said some awful things. I admonished them, and I do hope that is the end of such vile insinuations. I mean, I would never take advantage of you like that, of course."

He seemed to realize that he had digressed in a way he hadn't meant.

"I mean. Not that I disliked it–or you–just, I wouldn't want to have them say such things about you," Pelleas quickly amended.

"I understand," she said with the hint of a smile. "You don't have to explain."

She too had sensed their envy, and suspicions. Their insinuations felt like slithering snakes over her skin. More than a few rumors that she had earned her post ion her back/I had sprung up. They must be quite blatant if even King Pelleas had noted them.

He seemed on the verge of apologizing for apologizing, but she lifted her hand to touch his shoulder, and his apology was cut off as he looked down to her fingers.

"A king isn't meant to take everything on his shoulders. I and all of your army are here to help and support you. Please remember that."

He nodded. The dark cloud of guilt and anxiety had not completely abated, but it had lifted, ever so slightly. There was the anxious flutter at the edges of his heartbeat, the feel of his love for her.

"I'm thankful you exist. My life is infinitely better because of it," Pelleas said. He looked away, blushing again. "But...I'm keeping you. You're probably very tired."

"I am," she said, but did not pull her hand away.

"I will have a servant draw you some warm water with these lovely bath salts. I had one of the apothecaries give them to me. They soothe stress, you see."

"Thank you," she replied. She nodded her head, a slight bow, before reluctantly letting her hand drop to her side.

"Oh, and you are dismissed. Sorry, I always forget that part. I had two nobles stand there for nigh fifteen minutes until I realized that I had to excuse them so they could leave.."

"You're learning," she said.

"I'm a country bumpkin at heart–a sow dressed up in silk, but I suppose I am learning. Not fast enough," he said. He smiled, crooked and more of bitterness than true happiness.

"Life is simply one learning experience after another, and most of them are painful and hard. But in the end, it is this pain that forms us—that makes us stronger. Please remember that, my lord," she said.

"Yes," he sighed. "I will try. And..."

A pause. He cleared his throat twice. "...Thank you, Micaiah. For everything."

"It is no problem," she said. A slight inclination, a slight bow. He was framed in the colors of the sunset. Orange and crimson, blues and golds and purples. Blended together, he seemed a tragic portrait. She sensed a vague foreboding, tragedy with unfiled edges and shapes in the distance she could not quite make out. Something would happen. Not if, but when. And when this undefined omen came forth, she knew she would do everything in her power to protect Daein and its king.