Title: Hold On, Hold On
Character/pairing: pre-slashy Ike/Soren
Author's note: for a friend of a friend because I heard they weren't doing well. H/C bingo: hugs. Set right after chapter 20 in POR, and spoils that sector of the game, basically a missing scene.
Title comes from a Neko Case song.
The stone of the fortress they'd taken over was freezing and hard, like blocks of ice. The room was some storage area, with a bench-slash-self of stone carved from the castle walls. He was between armor and swords, spears and rope and shields all stacked together.
He still hadn't slept yet.
He didn't usually drink tea, as it was dry and bitter and too much left him dizzy around the edges but it was only tea and pure will which was keeping him up now. His voice of reason—which oddly enough, sounded like Soren—was telling him otherwise.
You can't lead in this condition. You can't push yourself like this, Ike.
But somehow, he couldn't stop. His mind kept remembering. Every time they sparred, was his father worrying that he would slip up and kill him? He couldn't feel entirely angry at his father, because it hadn't been his fault, right? The medallion had taken control of his mind. It wasn't him, he'd never do anything like that.
That didn't change the fact that now every memory had the subtitle of a murderer on it. How must it have been for his father, waking up every day and knowing that he'd killed their mother? How did he live so long and be so...together?
Ike had spent most of his life trying to be his father. One day he would be as strong as him, as good a swordsman as him, as good a leader. Somewhere along the line, that had changed. He didn't know exactly when, for the growth came quietly, a strength he hadn't even known he had possessed.
He no longer wanted to grow up to be as good as someone else, or even be someone else. He just wanted to get all his soldiers through the day, to retake his country and then he'd think more on where to go with life.
Soren came in so quietly, that Ike didn't even notice him at first. Soren could move silent and quick, just like a cat when he wanted to. He stood before Ike, looking from side to side, at seemingly nothing in particular.
Ike rubbed at his forehead, and nodded a hello.
Soren sat beside him, in a space Ike would've thought was too small for anyone to fit in. He felt Soren's thigh pressed against him.
"Was there something you needed, because you..." Ike rubbed his head again. Everything was coming out wrong, he was so tired that weariness was settling deep in him. It hurt to move, to think, and yet he couldn't sleep, either. And by tomorrow he'd have to be past this, because it was war, and there was no time for mourning in war. You'd just have to bury your friends and family and keep on going, unless you wanted to join them and let down everyone in the process.
Ike closed his eyes. The lack of sleep was getting to him. "Sorry, I just...Was someone looking for me?"
"No," Soren said. "It's nothing official."
"Okay, good," Ike said.
He didn't think he could deal with anymore official duties. Not right not. Ike leaned his head back to the cold stones and sighed.
For a few moments, Soren said nothing, and just sat there beside him. Then he leaned in and put his arms about Ike. His muscles were stiff, as if he were drawing back as much as he was coming close. It was awkward, beyond awkward. For the first time that day, it brought a smile to Ike's face.
"You really don't have much experience with hugging, do you?"
"No, Ike. I do not," Soren said. "As you very well know. But you've given and given to me. And... it's time I give back."
"What are you even talking about? You're always giving back to me," Ike said.
"Not like this," Soren said.
Ike pulled back, and Soren had a look as if Ike had shoved him away, slapped him. But when Ike wrapped his arms about Soren, his expression of shock turned to a different sort. Softer, somehow. It felt...nice, though. Of course, Soren felt entirely too thin, too fragile...but he'd always be there, wouldn't he?
"It was supposed to be the other way around," Soren murmured. "You're always comforting me...and I couldn't even do this."
"I don't know, I feel pretty comfortable. You want to be my pillow, Soren?" Ike said.
Soren's muscles tensed again. "If you wish."
Ike laughed, for the first time in what seemed like forever. "I'm kidding. Really."
With a pat on Soren's back, he broke from the embrace, feeling almost a little sad to leave. His mood had already started to lighten, slightly. It was like that with Soren. Even when Soren was raging about how the world was a cold, cruel place, Ike felt happier around him. Just his presence had that effect on him.
"Mist told me to come find you and scold you until you slept. Of course, that was already my plan," Soren said.
"Good luck on that. I've been trying for a while, no luck," Ike said.
"I have herbs, a special tea and a lot of determination in my arsenal, Ike," Soren said.
"Right, I won't be underestimating you, then. Just like usual," Ike said.
He took a half-gaze peek beside him, caught a glance of dark hair and black robes. Soren was never very warm, always wearing thick gloves and coats in the winter, but now he seemed somehow very aware of the heat of his leg pressed to Ike.
Probably he was colder than he thought.
"Do you think it's possible to learn something about someone that changes your entire view of them?"Ike said.
"Of course. From what I've read, most are idealistic fools who seem to feel utterly betrayed when the person they respect of love fails to live up to those ideals. It certainly summed up a lot of Begnion history."
"Yeah, but you don't have idols or anyone you love or respect," Ike said.
Soren looked at his hands. He pulled out a pouch from one of his many pockets and toyed with it a moment. "Mine has yet to let me down."
"Wow, even you believe in something. It sort of gives me hope."
Soren didn't reply. Ike didn't have to turn to see his lips were probably pursed. But Soren was right, his father had been this peerless swordsman whose shoes he wanted to fill. As a child, he hadn't seen the cracks. Now that he was older, he started to get it. It must have been hard for him to survive all those years, knowing what the medallion had made him do, what darkness could lay inside him. His father was stronger than any of them ever imagined. It seemed to click into place, that there was no better role model for all those years, no stronger person.
Even if he only wanted to become strong enough to protect those around him, to save Crimea, he could set to rest the ghost of his father.
When Ike did finally did look to Soren he saw instead of a grimace, the faint hint of a smile.
"Take the pouch if you know what's good for you, Ike," Soren said.
Ike took the pouch from Soren. It was faded leather, with a leather tong necklace at the type. He caught the scent of spices and herbs he didn't quite recognize. And some kind of flower... Ike was never good at identifying flowers. Soren could go on about what ones were only good for vases and flower crowns and what had magical or medicinal use, but Ike could only say that some of them were pink and some of them were white and then there was stuff that were other colors.
"Put the pouch around your neck, and drink this," Soren said.
He pulled a little tarnished silver flask, and handed to Ike.
"Are you getting things from Shinon now?"
"Hardly," Soren said. "And it's best if you drink that all at once."
Ike lifted it up. The scent was vile, and the taste even worse. He nearly gagged as the last of it went down. Ike wiped away at his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Ugh," Ike said. "That was the worst thing I've tasted since that meatloaf Mist did."
"It's potent," Soren said.
And Ike could already feel it washing over him, like someone had cast a sleep spell. His eyelids felt heavy. He stumbled for a moment as he got up, but caught himself.
"There's an unused bed about two doors down. You should be able to make it there in that amount of time," Soren said.
"And Soren—thanks. For everything."
"I'm only glad to be of service, Ike," Soren said softly.
The door closed behind him, and Ike found his way to the next door. When he slept he did not dream, and when he woke, the ghosts of regret and confusion were gone.