A/N- This piece, next to Paradigms and Beautiful Imperfections, is one of my ultimate favorites, one of the ones I love the most. It was in the Smash Bros Romance Commission, but I think it deserves a place of its own as well, its own individual oneshot for those to see, so it may live as the great work it is.
Credits to Araceli L for the idea, and for this schnazzy book cover she made for it. Thanks, girl, and damn ya!
Htt p : / f ntar t. net/fs71 /f/ 2011/1 97/2/7/gift_ cov er_viva_la_vida_by_moda celim azing42-d3ua5fs.j pg
Anyway, about the story. Don'tcha love copypasta?
Technically, this is my first songfic- and Audience: An Artist's Story doesn't quite count, it's a musicfic. :P The song won't be Viva La Vida itself, it will primarily be Death and All His Friends, but that wasn't really the proper story title. It's not gonna be overwhelmingly lyric based (since the lyrics are sparse in this song) but it's gonna be based off of the story told in the song, as well as elements of two other Coldplay songs, Violet Hill and The Escapist. It's sort of AU, but not entirely. Samus lives in Crimea instead of in space and the story, although in the FE nations, takes place in the 21st century type times.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, regret nothing, and I let them forget nothing.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!
It was a long and dark December, and on the rooftops I remember there was snow, and a lot of it. White snow, pure white. Not the sort of rocky, crunchy grayish-white stuff that didn't seem enough like snow more than frozen sky. It was soft, white, and completely pure of blemish, as if someone had poured fresh coconut shavings over the town.
I never was one to really worry about the weather; I was much too practical for that. But even I had to admit that the complete anomaly of the weather seemed almost like it could be a good omen. Not a thought I entertained that much; I never really believed the notion of things being out of my control. I didn't like things being out of my control.
Whether I liked it or not, the good omen persisted. And I have to admit, it was a blessing.
I spent a lot of time on rooftops, more than the average person should. Maybe it was my strange attraction to the snow, or maybe it was that omen subconsciously urging me forward. Maybe it was my fondness for heights; to go through the city and peer down on all the poor, unfortunate souls as they froze down below. I guess it was the whole long and dark December thing putting a strain in their spirits that even St. Nick was having trouble wrinkling out.
I wasn't one to worry about the weather influencing my emotions or little things out of my control. Made no sense to me. So impractical.
I was on top of the tallest building in the town of Violet Hill. A moderately sized town, albeit one of the most famous, simple and clean. Practical. Like me. The tallest building, 42 North Cemetery, had a (by now useless) small patio up on its roof, entirely covered in the soft layer of snow that I had no intents to impact other than my gloved hand print. I always sat on the corner of the building, over Cemetery Drive, on the spot where today there happened to be a tall, blue-haired man sitting already.
That day I didn't bother to tell him to move; I did it for him. Wordlessly I jerked him out of the way, on the roof and off of the ledge, and took his place.
"Hello, Samus," he told me expressionlessly.
"Hello, Ike," I replied with equal monotone.
It wasn't an uncommon experience for Ike Greil to be on the rooftops as well. He enjoyed that type of thing. What was uncommon; rare, more likely, was to run into him anywhere. What never happened was us exchanging more than a wave outside of the rooftop of 42 North Cemetery. On the rooftops, I remember, was where we communicated and interacted.
And the odd thing was, I never questioned it before. Never before did I want anything more.
By all accounts, we never should have gotten along so well or been able to relate to each other so well. I remember the first time we met. It was almost identical to this. When I had gone up to the roof that day, he was there, and I simply sat down next to him and started talking, as if we'd already known each other for awhile. We hadn't.
But he and I shared one thing. We were both wearing dog tags.
I'd recognize those telltale army necklaces anywhere. We had both been in combat. Violet Hill was part of Crimea, and Crimea had been in war with Daein. We were both of the patriotic sort, so we both registered in the army, he at twenty-two, myself at twenty. We had never ran into each other or even heard of each other, but we had been in the same war nonetheless. We both had tales to tell. But while mine were bitter, his were focused on better times; the times he spent with friends in the barracks and camp.
One would deduce that the man had never been in combat before, but I had noticed a scar on his neck, and deduced that nigh impossible. He just didn't seem like the type to lie.
I couldn't say Ike had any underlying intent for going to war- he was simply a skilled sword fighter. I, however, had revenge on the mind. My parents had died in Daein at the hands of a bandit, and I had hated the whole nation ever since; it didn't help that their officials seemed to take no interest in solving the case; finding the bandit or doing anything to help. It didn't matter because they and Crimea were on tense terms to begin with. I was only fifteen at the time, and I struck out on my own. I didn't dare turn to others for help; I wanted nothing to do with anyone.
The war ended just a year ago, and five years since I had signed up. And that was that. No winners, no losers. My appetite for revenge was never quite sated, but it wasn't my sole focus anymore. But it was always there, in the back of my mind, waiting, like a white clad sniper in the snow, just like snow here.
Either way, it was the bond of war that got us talking. And that's the way it was. I didn't question it. It didn't matter.
Ike scrambled across the roof to claim a seat to my right, as per the norm. We peered down, watching the mirthless people shuffle across the ground. Even a couple hundred feet up, we could tell that they weren't enjoying the weather.
He was aware of this. "Ho, ho, ho," he muttered, devoid of any joy. I could see out the corner of my eye, though, that he was smiling, and deduced that he was dryly mocking the depressing dots below.
I granted him a sparse chuckle. "Brainwashed slaves to the weather. A master they cannot escape, but cannot adapt to."
"I don't actually get it," he sighed, reclining on his elbows ever so slightly. "The weather isn't actually that bad."
"I actually quite like it," I admitted.
"Hmm?" he cocked his head at me, tossing his subtle spikes of hair along with it. I could see his interest peaking at my statement; even he knew me well enough to question my statement about sentimentality over something so small.
"I dunno, really," I shrugged, turning the slightest red and hoping he didn't notice. "I just think it's a nice change from usual snow." I scooped up a slight bit in my glove and elaborated "See? This is storybook snow. Not... normal snow."
Ike chuckled a bit. "I always thought you liked things plain and practical."
With an annoyed wrinkle of the eyebrow, I tossed the snow at his face. Him having lightning fast reflexes, though, he blocked it with his own large palm, and it limply collapsed onto the ground from whence it came. I sighed. "Y'see, that's the thing. I'm... rather surprised by how much I like this snow."
"It's called being human, Samus," he replied, but not mockingly or accusingly. Almost... comfortingly, reassuringly.
"I didn't know I struck you as so inhumane," I held back a pout, instead letting my eyes do the attacking with a sharp, disapproving look.
"You're only as inhumane as you make yourself."
I nodded, not looking at him. "You know I'm not a scathing, short tempered bitch," I muttered, if only to appease myself.
"Never said you were," his response to that was tired, as if he was wondering what I wasn't getting. Ike was sort of easy to read
"Then what do you think makes me so inhumane?"
My words were irritated, terse, but it wasn't so much at his words to me as they were from self-conflict. Ike sighed loudly, but said nothing more, as if he was trying to cognate an answer. While he reclined back further, I slumped forward, my blonde, whiplike ponytail draped in my lap. If I were to shift my balance any further forward I'd probably fall head first off the roof.
How fitting. While he wasn't exactly a hippie he was definitely laid back, and here I was. Echoed. Tense. Exhausted. Hollow. Not depressed or downhearted, but hollow nonetheless.
He put a firm hand on my shoulder, and before I knew it he had tilted me back so that I was lying next to him. I wasn't a touchy-feely person, but when he touched me, I shuddered slightly. Not out of cold, but from surprising warmth. I put forward a slight, guarded attempt at resisting but I decided it wasn't worth the effort.
He was facing me when my head descended on the snow, and he had an indeterminable expression on his face. His mouth was straight, turned in neither a northern or southern direction, and his eyes were simply firm, not betraying emotion. He could have been amused, angry, frustrated, manic, gleeful; really, anything. Even though I could usually read him, when he closes up there's no opening him by force, even for me. The only determinate I had was the warm hand on my shoulder, restraining me but not against my will.
He always did have a very handsome face. No point in dancing around it or denying it. He looked very dashing.
I returned his look best I can, but he was always better at reading me when I closed up than when I was open. He didn't address whatever he thought I was feeling, but he did ask me "What do you live for?"
"Hm?" I was unprepared for his question. He was always prepared, but I never was, at least in manners of the casual psyche. Something else to separate us, but truth is, we never were that different. We both shared sensibility, we were both grounded, we were both practical, although him not anywhere near to the extent that I was. More similar than on first glance.
He let out a slight smile and a hint of amusement when I respond so lamely. "I just wonder what keeps you going, what you look forward to. What you spend your days doing that, you know, defines your life."
Goddamn it, Ike. I chuckled nervously, because I knew I didn't have an answer.
It wasn't that I was suicidal, it was just that I didn't really occupy my time with... well, anything. I sort of drifted through the days. Transparent. Just sort of... there.
"You don't have an answer, do you?"
"Go to hell." I was angrier than I suspected, annoyed that he caught me, aggravated that he was trying to figure me out.
"You don't," he confirmed, and his smile, instead of widening like I predicted, simmered down into the unreadable expression, as if he was calling back his emotions like a dog fetching information for him.
"You're sure trying to break walls of my thoughts down today, aren't you, Cobb?" I grumble, wanting to smack that expression off his face. True, I was never a belligerent person, but it was so angering that he was trying to break into my subconscious.
"Repressing walls, guarding walls, fourth walls, I'm breaking them all down today," he said lazily. "Right, guys?"
In a flash of a second, I had examined the area around me only to find no one there. "Ha ha," I grumbled.
"Made you look," he smirked.
"Okay then, Confucius," I growled, wanting him to just stop. "What do you live for?"
His smirk morphed into a smile, and while he still had a hand on my shoulder, I see his other hand above his waist, moving around but never going too far away from him, as if it was looking for somewhere to rest, but didn't know where it should.
"Opportunity," is all he said, his grin wistful. He was never usually so flighty or in the clouds, so it was unusual to see him like that.
"Opportunity?" I gave him an incredulous look.
"Yep. Simply, to find opportunities to enjoy life. Anywhere, anytime. That's why I like you; you didn't think twice to start talking to me."
"Okay, cut to the chase, what's your point here?" I was about sick of all this philosophy crap.
He finally put his other gentle hand on my skyward shoulder. "I dunno," he admitted. He wasn't smiling or at his baseline face. In fact, he seemed a bit sad as he held my gaze. "Really, it's sort of... I guess I just don't like seeing you so..." he sighed, and I could practically see him stumbling on words.
Groaning, I wrestled out of his unresisting grasp and start to sit back up. "God's sakes, if you're going to intrude on my psyche, at least know what you're going to say."
"Empty." his response was amid my sentence.
Halfway up, I sighed and dropped back down next to him, not caring that my head slammed against the concrete through the half-inch thick snow with measurable force. He winced but turned me back towards him. There was something about his touch that struck me- he was forceful, controlling, but not manically or overtly so. He was gentle, unassuming, not denying me control while still taking some of his own. Opportunity, perhaps?
Oh, great. Now I was buying into this crap.
He sighed as he faced me again. Our faces were dangerously close but I thought nothing of it. His eyes were striking as they penetrated through mine, as if he was looking into my soul. It would have been haunting were it anyone else, but he was gentle about it.
"I guess it just is... a bit painful to see you looking... for a purpose. For... something to be. Considering how much... potential you have." I couldn't help but note how much of a struggle it seemed to voice his thoughts, as if they were things in his own subconscious that he drew from mine, and my gaze was reflecting them back to him. "You're... quite a person, Samus."
I sighed as night started to fall. It was only three-thirty, but I think you'd understand by now what a long and dark December this was. "Look, Ike," I told him with as much force and distance as I could muster, "I can take care of myself."
"I know, I know," he replied, blinking in a spastic burst of surprise. "I just want to... revive you." As soon as he said that, he closed his mouth, as if he wish he hadn't.
With good reason, too. His words were really starting to aggravate me. "Revive me?" It took all my energy not to start ranting and to keep a cool head. "I don't need anyone to 'revive me' or 'save me' or anything like that. I don't need your hero-boy antics, so if you'll excuse me." I didn't finish my sentence, I just sat back up for the last time, hanging back over the roof and shaking snow out of my blonde locks.
Ike sighed but said nothing, and his head sank a bit deeper into the snow. It came up to his ears. I felt a bit of regret for shutting him out like that, but he could get in line of people who wanted to get me to open up.
"Sorry," he mumbled, quiet to a point of barely audible. I didn't respond, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a pout on his face, of all things. I tried to hide a smirk but I think I failed.
He didn't say anything but he pulled out of the snow and sat up next to me. He refused to lay a hand on me, and I couldn't tell whether I appreciated or missed that. He just looked forward, and so I found it fit to do the same.
I glanced to my side at him, and noticed how deep in contemplation he was. Sort of like the statue of The Thinker, but with better hair. Heh, I apologize. I had to indulge myself there, just that one time.
I studied him, but he made no move to motion towards me or acknowledge me. He was stone still. I sighed and asked "What are you thinking about?" In retrospect, shutting him out of my thoughts and then demanding his probably wasn't the best move but he didn't point this out.
He didn't face me, but in a flat tone asked me "Do you want the straight answer or the non-sappy answer."
With an unlabeled glint in his eye, he smiled slightly and chuckled "I was just... admiring your beauty in the winter moonlight."
Well. He certainly didn't go for the non-sappy answer.
He noticed my eyes widen and flinched a bit with a nervous grin of accomplishment on his face. That alone made me sigh. "Christ, Ike, I'm..." I was at a loss. "I'm not gonna kill you."
"I know," he replied, throwing his hand in the air. "It wasn't about that. I just know I sounded like an idiot right there."
"Meh..." I had nothing to say. I was too busy sorting through the comment. I glanced at him. He was back to looking out off the building, but I could read disappointment in his glazed stare.
Okay. If he wanted me to open up, fine. I'd open up. A little bit.
"What, I don't look intimidating to you?" Well, that was as good as getting me to open up was about to get- me trying to hide it in a jab. Count it as lucky or unlucky, my face wore the... ache I truly felt.
He gave me an eyebrow raise that looked like an attempt at suave. "No, I don't. I just told you that you were beautiful. Were you looking for intimidating instead? I mean, I've never met a woman fishing for that compliment, but-"
"You look ridiculous," I scowled, but he actually looked somewhat endearing.
He let his eyebrow rest. "No, actually, I don't find you intimidating. I find you weary. But last time I tried to tell you this, you weren't very receptive. At all."
I sighed and threw my hands into my lap. "Alright, then. Tell me whatever the hell it is that's bugging you so much." I slumped forward again.
He looked at me, and in his eyes... I couldn't help but stare at him for a considerable amount of time because, for once, I couldn't tell what was in his eyes. But something was there, and he returned my gaze for a full minute and then some, as if I held something for him as well.
He didn't say anything either. He just held my gaze. It was almost hypnotic, and I don't mean like I was swooning for him. Staring directly into one's eyes was a very unsettling, remarkable experience. You just get... lost. Not in your thoughts, not in your heart, not in his gaze even; at least not for me. You just get lost.
"Well?" I asked, this time without frustration. "Aren't yo-"
My words were interrupted by the loud, system-shocking thought of wait a second he's kissing me. And the reason I was thinking that thought was because... well, he was. We both sat in the exact place as before, only he had my lips between his, not touching me in any other way, and I was sitting there, wide-eyed, in shock. I clumsily, instinctively tried returning it, but I wasn't very good. But it wasn't like I had prep time for this or anything.
Gradually he let go and faced me. I was nearly frozen in a look of bewilderment as he gave me a smile. This smile was slight, gentle and lacked the nerves and flinch his others did. I think it was because he knew his point was made loud and clear. Gently his hand crept onto mine, fallen at my side, and he held my gaze again, but before we could return to our prior state, quietly, was the first time he told me "I love you... my friend."
There are many ways to say that you love someone. What I usually heard, though, whether in movie or books or anywhere, really, is those three words followed by... some adjective of how one looks. A compliment on one's beauty. It was extremely disarming to hear that followed by words such as "my friend." What I heard was that it wasn't just my beauty he was proclaiming about me earlier that made him love me, it was the fact that I was there, that I was his friend. And the look in his eyes from earlier... what passion that would usually have been there since, in retrospect, his intent was this proclamation, it was sincerity. I could read all the more clearly as he said those words that there was a sincerity, honesty, that no matter how he went about it, was there.
Taking all of this into account, you'd understand why I smiled back and gave a kiss of my own.
I had come to find in the weeks to come, as the snow reached the ground at long last, that when you're freshly in love with someone, you wonder about them. Not just think about them, but wonder. Wonder what they like to eat, what their favorite colors are, wonder what they think of foreign drama films; at least if you didn't know already. I never really had to wonder that much about Ike, because throughout December, we spent every day together, and almost every moment of every day.
Really, what else were we supposed to do?
I hadn't found employment yet, nor had Ike, so we really had nothing better to do with our time than to spend it with each other, but really, there was nothing in the world better that we could bide our time with.
I'd always wondered what happened after a first kiss. As far as I knew, the screen faded to black and the credits ran, or the scene changes into the next chapter. When I wasn't looking for work I was watching a lot of movies or reading a lot of books. Apparently, what happened after a first kiss was sitting next to each other, my face extremely red and his hand gently in my hair, and then us, for the first time, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, other forms of contact- I even got his Skype, and I don't have a webcam.
I guess you could say we were moving too fast, and if I had been on the outside looking in on our relationship blossoming, I'd have said the same thing. But for some reason, it didn't matter. Just go with it and see what happens, you know? And really, I was entirely unprepared, albeit welcome, for the coming weeks, for the relationship ahead, for falling in love, and I could tell Ike was as well. There was no time leading up to it; our time on the roof excluded; there were no final realizations, there were no rehearsed lines. It just happened to both of us, and we acted upon it.
And the next day, he showed up at my house. And I was glad. And this time it was me who kissed him. I loved him.
It seemed like we were like a sunflower, growing several inches a day. A sunflower in the winter, but still blooming nonetheless. And even practical me wasn't regretting a day of it. I loved him. I truly did. I had been in a few short relationships before and never had the urge, even in my longest relationships, to go this fast. We weren't perfect, but that made it more meaningful. No finishing each other's sentences; I had tried on a whim once and had said the completely opposite of what Ike was going to. We had argued fiercely one night over I can't remember now, but it was never drastic, relationship-threatening in my mind. We simply were fighting. We were human.
And despite the fact that we didn't speak through the rest of the night until morn, it felt more real than any relationship I'd ever been in, and I was grateful for it.
And the first time we slept together, we were doing just that, sleeping together, and nothing else. I was at his house, and he let me crash at his place, assuming I'd sleep on his couch where I was more comfortable. But I found that I felt awkward there, like it wasn't where I needed to be. So, quietly, and nervously, I crept into his room, and I lifted up the covers on the right side and quietly crept in. I noticed he was still awake, but he didn't get any ideas- he just kissed the top of my head and wrapped an arm around me, and soon he was asleep. It was blissful, and I fell asleep soon after.
I remember how on the twenty-third, he asked me to come with him to one of his favorite places in the city. I couldn't pass off the opportunity; he seemed so happy when he told me about it. Also, I felt the need to find a new place other than the rooftop, a place we had abandoned for the sake of each other's houses, out in the city. Sort of like a special place where we could mark the progression of our relationship.
And thus, on the morning of the twenty-third, he and I were driving through the city in my small, unnoticeable sedan up to the city's namesake, Violet Hill.
I was halfway up the final stretch of the hill before he was a quarter way. I looked back down with a light smirk and a wave, and let him catch up to me. In playful retaliation, upon approaching me he picked me up like one would hold a child and started to carry me up the hill. Amid my protests, I laughed, oh how I laughed! Giggling like a young schoolgirl and nothing like a grown soldier not even a year off combat. It was... renewing.
He set me down under a dead oak tree on the top. There was a single, bold violet amid the snow. I had to admire its tenacity to stay within the snow, its unwillingness to die down or leave.
Violet Hill was just shy of a short mountain- it was fifty miles distant of the central city but in its height of two thousand feet above the plains beneath it, was a notable enough landmark to link to its nearest city. And the view up top was remarkable. The city was a speck on the edge of an appropriate angle and all you could see was the snow. It was as if one had tripped into heaven without knowing about it.
I leaned against the barren oak with a smile as I overlooked the fields dreamily. Ike chuckled when he saw the glaze in my emerald eyes; he had been accustomed to how much I (apparently) drift off in my thoughts. He gently reclined my head against his shoulder, and I sighed in content. While some preferred long walks on the beach, I preferred- prefer, really- reclining on a snow covered hill. I felt the snow seep into my pants, leaving them soaked around the leg openings and scraping against my calf; even in all my practicality I hadn't thought to wear layers that day.
I guess I was just sort of excited.
"I knew you'd like it," he whispered into my ear.
"I do," I placed a hand on his lap, not quite present still.
"It is a remarkable view," he chuckled, his hand drifting over mine until it came to a stop on top of it. "During the harvest is remarkable as well. The patchwork of colors and plants really makes it quite a sight."
"I dunno," I replied, still somewhat entranced. "I like the snow, a lot."
"I figured you did," he chuckled. "You're sort of a cold person, after all."
I put enough effort into looking over at him with a raised, incriminating eyebrow. "I'm coming to find that telling a woman that she is a cold person isn't exactly what she wants to hear."
"I never said it was a bad thing," his response is devoid any defensiveness that a lesser man would have had. I like that about Ike; he's solid in his convictions, even if they annoy me.
"Cold is a good thing?"
He shrugged and, pulling me against his chest, added "Well, it's a lot of fun, melting your heart."
I couldn't help but be somewhat swooned by this; I'm only human after all. I softly kissed him with another giggle. My, but was I changing!
He grinned and pulled me to my feet, and about as excited as a kid showing off, pointed to the top of the tall, dead oak. "Up there! See that nest?" The conversation change was sudden, but welcome, as I looked and saw a crow roosting in a nest. I always liked crows; they were very no-nonsense. Nothing like, say, peacocks.
Ike looked up to the nest and called "Hey, Isadora! Down here!"
Atop the nest, a small crow flew down onto Ike's shoulder. I was rather amused by this; she looked very... fitting, up there, as if she was there often. I figured this may have been Ike's 'pet'.
"Hah, this bird has the best ability to track one's voice I've ever seen, really. I can call it anytime, anywhere, and within the hour she's on my shoulder. It's remarkable."
"Quite. Anywhere, anytime?"
"Even when I don't expect it," he added, and with a laugh, recapped "One time I was in the middle of a farmer's market when she arrived on my shoulder; twenty minutes after I had called her and forgotten about it. Scared the hell out of me! Jumped back into a big basketful of tomatoes. Very unpleasant."
I really regretted not having seen that; I was doubling over with laughter, this conjured image something that'd make me laugh just on the thought. With mock annoyance, he mocked sarcastic laughter- mocking a mocking person; quite paradoxical- and snapped "Yeah, yeah, very funny." I knew that he was just messing around, though. The smile in his eyes would give it away no matter what.
"So..." he gave me an eyebrow raise and a mischievous grin, "Wanna teach Isadora your voice?"
"Hmm?" I looked at the elegant crow meaningfully, and it was looking back at me. "How did you do it? I mean, teach her the name you gave her and everything?"
"Oh?" he allowed Isadora to take flight a few feet above us, steadily hovering near her nest. "I spent a lot of time here and so did she. I became very bored so I came up with a name and whenever I was near the crow, repeated the name towards her. Apparently she's a damn smart bird and figured it out; I can't really say. Nature confuses me."
He called her back down, and she dove down onto the shoulder. "Don't be shy, call her!" Ike urged me, his grin growing wider.
"Just call her like you would someone you were looking for. Don't baby talk it like a kitten; that annoys the hell out of her." Oh, really? I like this bird already.
To give us some distance, he walked backwards so that there was a twenty foot gap between us.
"Okay," I cleared my throat and called out "Isadora!"
Isadora cocked her head at me but didn't move. Knowingly, Ike gave a sideways, amused look to the crow and told her "Oh? She's a friend to you. No worries." To demonstrate his lack of nature knowledge; unwitting or not, he pointed at me and gave the bird a thumbs up.
As if to say that she wasn't that dull, she pecked his hand, which he jerked back in surprise. I couldn't help but spare a laugh at that.
I tried again. "Isadora!" I called, a smile on my face.
She cocked her head but nonchalantly flew over onto my shoulder, pecking my ear without much force. I didn't bother reacting.
"Ah! She's got you in her system. Trusts you. Good progress, especially for someone so new to her! You must have a good aura!"
I chuckled, gently stroking Isadora on the top of her head. "She's a fine ally indeed. What else does she do?"
"Well, not much, but I'm not looking to train a circus act," he smiled crookedly. "I do think I shall train her on your name as well, and use her as a messenger between the both of us."
"Interesting concept..." I couldn't help but feel a fleeting omen at that statement.
Ike smiled again, closing the gap between us until we were less than a foot apart. I settled against his chest, and he wrapped his arm- Isadora and all- around my chest, placing his face alongside mine. To my surprise, I sighed in delight; so unlike me. It just felt very serendipitous; running into Ike on the roof, and just starting off so easily; so effortlessly. And I was forever thankful for it. It was... bliss, standing on the hill above a world of white with the man I loved, and I couldn't help but take in how lucky I was.
He gave me a smile and said "Well, as much as I could stay by your side forever, let's not fool ourselves. The world's out of our control and we can't be glued to each other forever, it just makes no common sense."
How frank of him. I actually liked it; he wasn't drowning in sentimentalism. I guess there are some parts of love that are practical, and it keeps it real, knowing that it's not a fairy tale and I liked that Ike didn't expect it to be. I wasn't that kind of girl.
"Either way, if I ever get lost from you too drastically, I'll always find my way back," a hint of world-weariness that only soldiers like ourselves could possess, and I smiled with a hint of comfort that wasn't overwhelming or with pity, just support and recognization. "Isadora here will be our link, because she can travel in a way we can't."
I thought this was extremely sweet and thanked him with a quick kiss to the cheek. He smiled and took my hand in his.
Life was about to get better.
He put my hand in his, but only for a brief moment, and before he removed his grip he planted a small kiss on my knuckle; a knuckle which was no longer bare.
I guess you could say I was shocked when I looked down to see a small, simple ring on my finger, but unlike most I didn't break down crying from ecstasy or in shock; mind you, part of me wanted to but I didn't. I looked up at him and he didn't adjust his hold on me. I smiled, a more sincere smile than I ever had before. Even in my childhood where everything was perfect. Because come what may everything seemed perfect now.
"We're getting very carried away," I chuckled, not that I cared. I had come to find that the best parts of love, the most beautiful moments, don't involve practicality, and it was a change I could adapt to.
"I don't care if you don't."
"Sorry the ring wasn't as nice as I'd wanted." I guess he could be considered right; the ring is simple, smooth silver, but it didn't matter to me.
"It serves its purpose," I replied, feeling the smooth surface with my thumb. "It reminds me of the snow right now."
"That's good to hear," I could hear his grin; so easy it is for me to determine his emotion. "So you'll marry me?"
He held me closer to his body, pulling in for a kiss which I was happy to reciprocate. In retrospect, I look back and wonder what was so different this time. Had any of my prior romancers asked me to marry him three weeks in and I'd have probably wondered what was up with him. But, really, I didn't question things. I didn't want too. No- I didn't need to.
I think that's what made me so happy.
After the kiss, he separated from me and reclaimed the distance in order to train Isadora a bit more. I could hear him telling the dark avian as he gestured to me "That's Samus. My dearest companion. I want you to pay attention to her, because she's going to be as important to you as she is to me. When I tell you 'find Samus'," he gestured to me again, with a soaring hand similar to a bird's flight, "I want you to fly off from me and find her, no matter the distance." Such a strenuous order was followed by a friendly, trusting "Think you can do that, Izzy?"
In response, she flew back over to me with a triumphant caw. Ike gave her a thumbs up and said "That's the spirit. Isadora, back here!"
She gracefully glided onto his shoulder with another caw. One last time, he told her "Find Samus." She instantly made her way back to me.
"Okay, Samus, train her to find me!" Ike called.
I nodded and faced the bird. "Okay, Isadora. Just like Ike sent you to me, I want you to find Ike when I say, 'Find Ike.'" With a thankful sigh, I add "Thank you, Isadora. You have no idea how much this means to me." And it did mean so much, to have such a smart, willing creature that would bridge the gap between us. I stroked her feathers one last time before telling her "Find Ike."
She cawed and flew back to her trainer. I swear, she was smiling as much as a bird could.
We spent a minute playing crow tennis, so to speak. Having her fly back and forth between us. A lesser bird would get frustrated and probably lash out, but Isadora cheerfully complied. After we were sure she got it, Ike came back over to me and accepted her perch on his shoulder.
"We're as lucky as it gets," he spoke fondly. "This crow is smarter than I ever imagined birds could be. She understands our tongue, she's loyal, she complies with a good spirit; really, animals are more intelligent than humans sometimes."
"You're a vegetarian." Not a question, a statement.
"Indeed," he replied. He didn't go on to preach, thank God, but I knew I was never going to be able to eat chicken again.
I couldn't help but smile as he boasted about her. It was touching to speak so fondly of his companion; true, not as fondly as he felt of me (or that I could ever find logical reason to be jealous of a bird), and it truly stuck. I understood what he meant of opportunity; he turned a running into a bird and turned it into the glue that would hold our relationship together if necessary.
It was the example of how, despite how fast we got into things, this was going to work. I was truly convinced. It felt amazing to have things work out so well, and it truly couldn't get any better.
It was a long and dark December. The last week was the longest of all.
I should have seen the downturn in our fortunes coming; the snow was no longer pure and dirt chunks were seeping in. It had become rather gray the day I walked down North Cemetery Drive.
In school, I remember my third grade history teacher talking about how Crimea used to be a peaceful nation that avoided war. I had told my teacher "That can't be right." The idea was so flabbergasting that I debated the teacher for a few minutes before being sent to the principal's office. Really, though, I think I had said what everybody was thinking. Crimea's feud with Daein was about ridiculous; not that it mattered to me, really.
Not that you'd expect much different from a place where the biggest building in one of its largest cities was on North Cemetery Drive.
On the twenty-seventh I was walking into the Violet Hill Credit Union, to draw some more out of my dwindling savings account. When I stepped in the door and the electronic, lifeless ding-dong rang through my ears, it echoed through the room. It was not lively with polite chatter as was the norm. In fact, the teller in his booth had his head bowed, and on the floor, in chairs, were people knelt, head down.
They were praying. The bank had practically become a cathedral.
The teller was leading the session. I didn't hear him very well, but on a hopelessly strewn newspaper I read the headline- Tensions with Daein at All Time High! It was not sounding good. I picked up the cover and started to read.
I had only seen the lines "After a brutal attack on Melior, King Jasper declares that he shall rally his forces in another attack-" when I heard the teller mutter "please, God, be with all our returning servicemen" when I piece two and two together and, panicked, run out the door, leaving the newspaper and its curse to rot in hell for all I cared.
I started running up Cemetery Drive, hoping for an escape, any escape. For this not to have been happening. As I passed 42 North Cemetery Drive, I saw that Ike's car was parked; a small, slender blue truck with a modern feel. I opened the door without a word and he started driving away.
It was like on the roof; we weren't surprised to see each other here. We just knew.
On our way up to what I knew was to be Violet Hill, neither of us spoke. How could we start that conversation? I couldn't even admit to myself that he and I would be going back into military service.
Our walk to the tree was silent. No giggling as he swept me off my feet and up the hill. The world had just become a burden instead of a sanctuary. How I wish I could fly above it all, away from everyone, everything, except Ike. I never wanted to admit that I needed a man; I was too proud of a feminist for that, but I did need him, even if I didn't depend on him physically, emotionally I did, just as he did on me. He was part of my life, part of me. It was just being human, I suppose.
We collapsed wearily under the broken shade of the bare branches. The violet was still there, and I desperately wished that, like it, I could stay. Not be moved back into the battles.
Not to fight from beginning to end, living in constant terror of whether I'd live through the night and then have to worry about Ike as well. Not having to kill more people and their love having to suffer their loss.
Not to have to cycle recycled revenge. I didn't want to kill more people because they killed someone on our side when we're all being forced into this anyways. I didn't want to care about who killed my parents; he wasn't worth my time, my soul.
I didn't want to follow death and all of his friends; revenge, transparency, hardening of the heart, loss of self.
I don't want to follow death and all of his friends.
He reclined my head against his shoulder, and it felt all the more painful since I knew it wasn't going to happen again for a long time. Even on the slight chance that we did stay together through the battles, there would be no way we would be able to truly be together, to love. This was war; you couldn't be weak through war.
I never found the nerve to speak. The only time I tried, I fell apart, dissolving into tears. I never wanted to cry; to be so weak. I didn't want to be falling apart like this. But I couldn't help the pain this caused, and it was overwhelming. He didn't question or respond; he simply held me as close as he could and gently squeezed my hand as my walls crumbled. I thought it would release my burden but it just made me feel worse.
That first day, we never spoke of our fate. We couldn't. We were trying desperately to sort through it all. I never broke down like this afterward.
The next few days we accepted it. Promised to never drift apart, even miles and miles away. That Isadora would, after all, be an emergency link. We'd go through the motions of war and hope it was over soon, and visit during our off-time. He got a matching ring to mine. We were determined this would work.
On the last day of the long and dark December, we were recruited by Crimea's army. We were separated to different forts. And the battles began.
It was the worst decision I ever had made.
It took everything in me not to break down during the battles. I was required to grow the hard shell again, and that was the last thing I wanted to do, but I wouldn't make it through the war otherwise.
In desperation, three weeks in, I punched an officer in an attempt to be honorably discharged. But Crimea doesn't lose soldiers that way. Instead they gave me three days solitary confinement. It was the most painful experience in my life. It left me hollow afterward, which was hard to shake off. Thirst for war aside, the Crimea army wasn't evil or anything, it was practical. Doing what it must for war. And I hated them for it.
When I noticed that I was hardening again, returning to my former self, I knew I couldn't stay here any longer under any circumstances.
And so I escape the camp.
It was simple to do. Crimea doesn't like to suffocate its army so it doesn't do an extreme job at keeping us in check, and I am able to sneak out easily. When I am sure I am a distance away, I run. I run for two straight hours, straight ahead, and my mind is full of worry. What if he's still in camp, not sharing my mad rationale? What if I truly lose him? It is the only time I will ever doubt him, but circumstance has a big play in that doubt.
And then I stop. I stop in my tracks and call her.
"Isadora!" I call in the barren fields. "Isa-"
I am interrupted by her crashing into me, causing me to lose my balance but not fall over. I'm surprised by how close by she is.
I smile, petting her feathers. "You're amazing, Is," I tell her.
She responds my dropping a paper in my open hand. I feel it as it descends and eagerly open it. What I read makes all my reconstructing walls tumble, my doubts fade and my heart shine.
"And in the end, I lie awake and dream of making our escape.
I've just started to put it into action.
Call it serendipity, a friend I had by now welcomed, call it fate, call it the bond between us lovers. But he was out. And we were going to escape. I try not to cry and compose myself.
I face the bird, and tell her "Find Ike." She responds by flying off her perch, and, knowingly, flying at a speed I could keep up with.
We are going to make it. We are going to escape.
Death and all his friends would never catch us.
My mother had said once that I should strive to 'viva la vida'. She was in the garden, picking tomatoes and surrounded my a small swarm of bees she was sparring against, yet she was laughing while I was screaming for her safety. I didn't know what it meant at first, but I'd come to find that it meant "Live the Life." She wanted me to find the best moments in everything, to strive to make life enjoyable.
And back then, I dismissed it as a sweet little trinket from mother to daughter. But when she died, I simultaneously noticed how she had the disposition of one that enjoyed life even at its worst, and shrunk into such a shell of myself that I never did what she had asked. Ike was a man who understood her disposition, and who went out of his way to make sure I enjoyed my life.
I will not lose that again. Today, I Viva La Vida.
A/N There is something about a cliffhanger that, however frustrating, allures me. It's an open door. You decide what happens next. Whether it be happy, sad or completely unexpected, I have relinquished my control. It's up to them now.
I'm... exceedingly proud of this piece. It's gorgeous. I can't believe how well it turned out for my first explicit romance (explicit meaning, in this case, strong, not just a subtle introduction but an exploration into the romance.) I'm not trying to brag on myself... but I'm proud. Here's hoping that I don't jinx myself.
I do have a few notes to share, just for insight and info.
Before you review, I advise you listen to the songs or at least check out the lyrics, just because it explains some of my choices, mainly, why Samus x Ike's romance moved so fast.
The more I worked on this, I realized that my interpretation of Samus reminds me a bit of Katniss Everdeen, heroine of the Hunger Games series and my favorite heroine, just over Violet Baudelaire. Also, watching Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in X-Men: First Class has me pumped for the Hunger Games movie- she's incredible.
In here is a big yet subtle reference to A Series of Unfortunate Events that bigger fans (ohai Souldin) would recognize. If you don't read those books, you should, but in my P.S. I'll spoil the reference, just to shed a little light. This is sort of a mini-commentary, after all.
At the end, the shift from past to present tense is intentional. Trust me, if it wasn't, the whole story'd be littered with accidental tense changes (I still fear there may be a few.) The prologue's supposed to be in the moment, and the rest her narration.
I actually have no idea how exactly crows work; I wanted Isadora to be a remarkable creature, so I kind of made my own rules, as well as coinciding with the ASOUE nod.
As I've said, this is one of my three favorite works, and I hope you enjoyed it.
Ciao Food! Er... Chow on some Ciao! ...er... bye...
P.S. Remember that ASOUE reference? Well, here's the symbolism. In the 7th book, the Vile Village, imprisoned poet Isadora Quagmire sent short poems on behalf of her and her brother via one of the many crows that resided around the area of the Village of Fowl Devotees. Hence, her using the crows as her messengers inspired me to name the messenger crow after her.