Title: I'll Follow You Into The Dark
Series: FE9
Character/Pairing: Some Ike/Soren.
Summary: He had always known that when the moment came, he would choose Ike above everything. Mild AU, chapter 25. Bit of Ike/Soren.
A/N: prompt from kink meme, thought I veered quite a bit. I've had this idea ever since 07 or so. ILU Mist, but I might just fill my headcanon with this was what really happened in the BK fight. Anyways, it's for Blacklacelily's second request for the first charity auction. Many thanks to Joss for the beta job.

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He had always known that, when the moment came, he would choose Ike above everything. He expected it to be a moment in the heat of battle, the moment he had thrown his lot in with the suicide mission that was defying Daein and taking a ragtag bunch against a far superior army.

But they had survived to this point, their numbers had grown. Soren had never quite let himself get comfortable, for he was always alert and planning his next move-the second plan to save them. So when Ike drew his sword, and said The one I seek is behind these doors. Don't follow me. I'm going in alone, there wasn't even a thought to his own safety, only Ike's.

"Ike! Wait! I'm going with–"

Titania moved to grab him, but Soren had evaded many hands before. As a child, he'd had to steal to survive more than once when the times got lean. He became skilled at staying out of reach. He followed through the door, his heart in his throat, barely able to breathe for the persistent, paralyzing fear. It felt like the time one of those shopkeepers had caught up to him and thrust his head into a pail of water while he flailed about, struggling for breath. He had hit at the man, flailing out towards anything as his nostrils burned and his mouth filled with water, his remaining air bubbling up to the top. His neck had ached, and it had only been a small metal implement–even to this day he did not know what–which he had grasped and hit against the man's knee.

He walked through the corridor at a brisk pace, wondering if the fight would be already done by then. No, Ike wouldn't let himself be bested that easily. He'd put up a fight despite the odds. He caught sight of them staring each other down, still several paces apart. Ike's arm was bleeding from a long red gash that went all the way to his elbow. There was the dragon girl tactician lying crumpled in a heap on the floor. A wound bled out from her side.

"Hmmm." The knight was staring right at him. Soren knew he could not take down the knight (only Ike might have a chance at that), but he could heal Ike, and he could, perhaps, defend him if any others came, or barrage the knight with wind attacks that might not hurt him, but would irritate and perhaps, distract him. It might just be enough to buy them a few more moments of life.

Ike, too, noticed that something was amiss. "I told you to stay," he said.

"And just let you run into this madness alone?" Soren said.

"There's a good chance I won't return from this, but it's something I have to do."

"Ike...if you're going to go on a crazed suicide mission, the least you can do is bring me along."

"There's no use fighting with someone as stubborn as you. Don't come too close in the fray no matter what. Got it?"

"Yes, Ike."

"How touching..." The knight said. "I'll be sure to kill him first once you are defeated."

"Only over my dead body," Ike said. He lifted his sword in challenge with a new determination.

"That can be arranged," said the rumbling voice from inside the armor.

Soren decided he would aim for the helmet, should he ever attack. As the fight began anew, he spent the time behind Ike, cringing at each hit Ike took, and focusing his energy into the staff. He had taken money from his own salary to buy extra staves and use them until his hands were rubbed raw, his body numb from the feel of the output of magic. He was proficient enough to enhance the healing aspect, and to pull out every bit of magic and make the wounds disappear into scars sooner.

The sword cut through the air. Soren had to steel himself as metal hit flesh, as blood oozed up from the gash which certainly went down Ike's chest now. The words came up, instead of words of fear, of love or loyalty, they were words to call the wind. It beat against the massive towering helmet of the knight, as harmless as birds. But for a moment, he shook his head, his vision obscured. Soren used that secondary lapse to pull free his staff. It glowed white and the energy flowed up between the two of them. Soren knew fear, he had grown up with fear and hunger at every step. Even the coldest nights, where coyotes howled at the edges of the woods, and Laguz passed by him with their sharp teeth and claws as if he were a mere shadow did not compare to this intense, pressing fear that Ike would be struck down here. The only comfort was that he would not live to see it.

What would their fate be? Ike was assured Elysium, but Soren thought the only way he'd ever reach such heights was if he bargained or bribed his way in. Either way he would, he would. There was never a question of what he would, or wouldn't do to stay by Ike's side.

The fighting became mechanic. For every mark the knight left on him, Soren healed it. He had not attempted to attack Soren, and seemed to even relish the challenge another competitor provided. As the time passed, three soldiers came in as reinforcements. Ike had been knocked back, and before the knight could strike at him, Soren aimed at the space between them, green wind blinding him, and allowing Ike a second to regain his footing.

"Soren...get out of here," Ike said. He was growing tired, for the sword was heavy, and the Black Knight seemed boundless in his energy.

"What? No, I'm not leaving you," Soren said.

"It isn't a question, it's an order," Ike said.

"With all due respect...it's one I'm not going to be able to follow," Soren said.

He did fall back however, moving to the side and waited for the arrival of the soldiers. He wouldn't let them get the better of Ike, to distract him or sneak in a blow.

He was irritated at them. They were distracting him from Ike, and that meant he wouldn't be able to heal Ike's wounds until he got them out of the way. He thought to do it in as short a turn as possible, and took the less tactical maneuver of meeting them slightly, not so much to be far from the battle, but enough that they wouldn't slip beyond him. They lowered their spears as they rushed forth, and as soon as they were close enough, Soren began his attack. He felt the energy gather at his fingertips, hotter and more intense. It was fed from his anxiety, his anger all curling up inside him, like smoke. The first attack was let free, the wind spiraling out more powerful than usual.

When he had felled them, Soren turned his gaze back to where the battle raged on. He wasn't quite close enough to reach Ike to heal him, and Ike had taken quite a blow. He couldn't survive many more of these. They were too close for Soren to try and distract the Black Knight with another surge of Elwind. If he knew any prayers, he might have said them, for he would have even plied gods he didn't believe in if it meant sparing Ike for one more day.

But when the swords met, it was Ike who found a chink in the armor, who proved himself the better as he drove the sword as deep as he could. The Black Knight groaned, sounding like a phantom trapped within the armor.

"You've grown stronger... I...commend you..."

Ike looked on the verge of collapse. He leaned forward a moment, and held his hand to staunch the flow of blood from the wound on his abdomen. Soren reached out, but said nothing as he walked towards Ike, the relief almost dizzying.

A cry arose from one of the reinforcements. The Black Knight has been defeated! Activate the traps!

The room began to shake. A trap. He should've thought of it–should've foreseen something like this. He had been distracted by keeping them both alive, and hadn't thought ahead to this possibility. Ike was grievously injured with a slash across his abdomen. They couldn't run out fast enough in this state, nor could he heal him in before the walls would begin to fall and the ceiling crush them as it crumbled downwards. The world might as well have been crashing down around them.

"Lean against me," Soren said.

"Go on! Hurry out," Ike said.

"Not without you," Soren said.

"Soren—"

"No! I'm not leaving you behind," Soren said. "Now come here."

They were either leaving together or dying together; there was no other option. Leaving Ike behind was unthinkable. He offered his arm, and even though Ike was taller and heavier, Soren offered himself as the best crutch he could manage as they began to limp out. He heard a groan above the din. The dragon girl stirred, and still drew breath. Whatever wound she had received had apparently not been fatal.

"We can't do anything for her," Soren said. "She won't live much longer with a wound like that, regardless."

And neither will you, Soren thought.

"We can't leave her," Ike said stubbornly.

"We don't have time for this, Ike–"

Through the crumbling doorway, came in a familiar, once welcome face.

"Ike! The castle's collapsing! Get out now!" Nasir called above the din of the falling rocks. Traitor or not, he was an almost welcome arrival.

Ena pushed herself up shakily from the red, blood spattered carpet. At the sound of Nasir's voice she seemed to rouse herself.

"...Nasir?" She asked, almost as if she didn't believe this wasn't a mirage from approaching death. Blood trickled down the side of her mouth.

"Ena!" He came over to her, and helped her to her feet. They stumbled out before them, and Ike and Soren followed behind as the castle imploded upon itself behind their every step.

.

The moment they were free of the falling rocks, the ruination of the castle, Soren healed Ike. The white light covered him, erasing the wounds and leaving scars in their wake. Ike was looking up, far and away to the blue skies above.

"...Father... ...I...finally... I stopped him...Father..."

Soren didn't reply. Despite reaching to seeming every molecule of magic within his body to augment the power of the Mend staff, he could tell that Ike still wasn't completely healed. Two wounds had only begun to heal before his power had given out. He took a deep breath and focused as he lifted the staff again.

"I finally avenged him. Even now, though, I'm not as good as Father was. There's no way I could ever defeat him... Defeating the Black Knight was my way... I wanted to show him how strong Father really was."

"Ike..."

Soren couldn't even put into words this. Greil had been a kind and just man–and from Soren, this was some compliment, but Soren knew that in this respect, the son had far surpassed the father.

"...you should not dismiss yourself so lightly," Soren said. He bent to check the wounds again, his dark hair falling in his face as he did.

All this time he'd been supporting Ike. Believing him. Even back when they were just two scrawny mercenary kids who couldn't even join the fray, Soren believed in Ike's strength.

"I don't think anyone else but you could've done something as insane as taking on Daein and survive this long, let alone win," Soren said. He said this with a hint of dry humor, something so rare as to be almost mythic. Ike had been the only one to glimpse it, and even then only once or twice.

"That's me. According to you and father, I corner the market when it comes to recklessness."

"There's probably not a man alive who would dare insult the Apostle of Begnion to her face–and probably not another who could actually survive it. I suppose even your recklessness has its uses–and charms," Soren said.

He checked again Ike's chest, over his abdomen, feeling along the new scar.

"I'm fine, really. You already healed me a dozen times already," Ike said.

Soren's brow furrowed.

"Soren, I'm all right," Ike said. He smiled, good-naturedly, and reached out for him. "Really... I'm alive and there's no lasting damage. Everything is going to be all right."

Soren was silent as he checked over Ike's arms for invisible scrapes that had already sealed together under the light of his Mend staff.

"You can't say it's all right until we take Melior," Soren muttered.

"Of course," Ike said, his tone at once frustrated and fond. "Leave it to you to find the worst news in any situation."

"You should know by now that it my greatest talent," Soren said.

He pulled off Ike's bloodied glove and simply held on there, focusing on the realness of the moment. Ike was alive. They had somehow managed to survive another day.

"I would've followed you..." Soren said, his gaze fixated on possible missed injuries. Slowly he brought his eyes up to meet Ike's. "No matter where that led. Even if it was to the very depths of hell."

"I know," Ike said. "But I'm supposed to do the stupid things, here. You're supposed to be the one who calls me on them and sets me straight."

Soren tightened his grip on Ike's arm. "Call this an exception. It won't happen again...unless you make it a habit of going on suicide missions."

"Well, it wasn't exactly the plan...but I'm not going to lie, I felt better with you there."

Soren nodded. He didn't meet Ike's gaze. At the moment, his gaze had settled about Ike's belt buckle. He absently stroked Ike's arm. Ike lifted Soren's chin, gently until they were more level.

"I'm all right, Soren," Ike said. "You don't have to worry anymore."

"I always will," Soren said, his voice barely above a whisper.

Ike scooped him up in his arm in a tight embrace. His hands were coarse against Soren's hair. His gloves had been pulled off, soaked with blood as they had been.

"I'm sorry for leaving you behind, but it was something I had to do and I didn't want you or anyone else getting mixed up in it."

Soren didn't reply. It still hurt, as sure as a slap, a rejection.

"No more, though. I don't think I've made it out of there if you hadn't come anyway. I suppose I owe you my life now," Ike said.

I've owed you my life–my everything ever since then.

"It was nothing, Ike.." Soren cleared his throat to hide the breaking of his voice, the stray emotions sweeping over him. "I couldn't think of letting you go alone."

Ike pulled back, put only slightly, so that he could see Soren. He still held on loosely at Soren's forearms, still kept a thread of connection between them.

"You're hurt," Ike said.

Soren reached up to feel the cut, and their hands brushed for a brief moment.

"From the debris, perhaps," Soren murmured.

His fingers lingered there, just above the scratch. There were just barely touching, and more tired than either could remember. But Ike wasn't staring at the scratch anymore, but at Soren. He reached up and brushed aside hair from Soren's face, and stared at him with a new intensity, as if he had just noticed something that had been in front of him all along.

"Soren..."

Whatever Ike was going to say was broken off as Ranulf barged in on them, still dusty from the road he'd been running up.

"Ike, we've got a Nasir situation and—" Ranulf smirked. "Did I interrupt something?"

"No," Soren said stiffly. Even despite his thoughts to the contrary.

"They're all waiting for you. Mist and Titania worried sick," Ranulf said.

"Got it. Thanks for telling me," Ike said. He let go of Soren, seemingly even with reluctance, and gave him one last nod. "Make sure you go get that healed, all right?"

"It isn't serious," Soren protested.

"Doesn't matter. Go get it taken care of, and that's an order," Ike said.

"Yes, Ike," Soren replied.

Soren sighed and reached into his things. There was one treatment of vulnerary left, and he applied it to the wound. No need to wear down a Mend staff just for a scratch.

They'd lived another day, and Soren planned to keep it that way. He rested for a moment to appease his aching muscles. He was already the assault of Melior, and everything else that stood in front of their survival. Princesses and the group of mercenaries were mere secondary thoughts; when it came down to it, the only thing that truly mattered was the thought of survival, and him and Ike against the world.