Title: The House Where We Grew Up
Series: between FE 9 an FE10
Character/pairing: light Ike/Soren.
Rating: Rated G for gay.
Author's note: fic_promptly: author's choice, building a home in a wasteland / hc_bingo: homesickness.
Title comes from the Hammock song of the same name.
For tactician as I promised her feel better fic.
The fort they returned to was a shell of its former glory. What wasn't burned was filled with mold, inhabited by vermin, overgrown with weeds, and crumbling down.
"Barely worth the effort to come all this way," Shinon muttered.
Mist had been cheery throughout the trip, endlessly chattering about what she would do when she returned. All that fell away when she saw the shambles of the former home.
Soren had held no illusions to the state of the fort he had stayed in those many years. Razing the opponent's forts was merely another tactic employed in war. Even now, he held little nostalgia for the ruins of the building. It was not home to him, nor was any mere place of country. In the end, there was only one who held his loyalty.
"I hardly think we can stay in the fort in this state, the roof looks like it might collapse right in on us. We'll have to stay in the local inn for a while," Rhys said.
"We won't have enough money to stay at the inn until it's finished," Ike said.
"It's okay, we've camped lots of times, right? This will be a lot easier than all that time spent going through Daein...if I never have to pitch a tent in the snow again, it'll be too soon," Mist said.
"I suppose we should see if there's anything to be salvaged. Mist, why don't you come with me to the kitchens?" Oscar said.
"All right," Mist said. She smoothed out her yellow skirts and started to follow after him.
"It's sad to see a good fort all in rubble. I bet it must've been a great place back in the day," Mia said.
Mist turned back, pausing for a moment before she reached the doors.
"It was the best of little places," Mist said, her voice firm with conviction. She smiled at Mia, who by now was considered a full fledged member.
"You wanna help me check the kitchens? It could be like an adventure–hide and seek."
"Count me in, I never can resist an adventure," Mia said.
Mia had in less than three years time integrated herself into the group more than Soren had in over ten years, a fact which Soren did not let slip by him. She was personable, she trusted the world and saw goodness.
Soren had driven them away, only let Ike come close, and they had treated him civilly in return. He didn't regret it, so much as there was a curious twinge in himself, not so much the feeling as the knowledge of the lack of a feeling. On dark nights he'd watch the candle drip, unable to focus on his books as the growing knowledge that had Ike been like everyone else, he would be alone. He would've died then, starved away from lack of food and caring before he even reached his sixth year.
Soren looked to Ike, to remind himself that for now, he wasn't alone. Just his presence was a deep comfort. The sound of armor turned Soren's gaze back, away from Ike. Titania had been carrying some of the supplies, but she set them down at the outset and wiped the sweat from her brow.
"Restoring it will take a lot of hard work, but I think it's what Commander Greil would've wanted," Titania said. She looked over the bones of the fort gravely.
"I think so, too," Ike said.
She smiled then, but it was tinged with sadness. "I'm sure he's very proud of you—you've grown into a fine man."
Titania patted his shoulder once, and then walked towards the fort. The rest had either gone for supplies or began the work inside of excavating whatever was useful and clearing out the debris. Even a cursory glance told Soren that little could be salvaged from here. It would be easier, more advantageous and more cost effective to simply find another of the many abandoned forts in the countryside and move there.
But, Ike, like most people, was at times filled with nostalgia and sentimentality towards peoples, places, things.
Which was why Ike stayed behind, staring at the ruined walls of the fort. Moss and vines grew over the walls, and at this point, might as well have been the only thing keeping them together. Soren stayed near him, quiet as a shadow.
"All this time, I kept missing this place, and it isn't around anymore. It seems so small and insignificant. I couldn't stand the castle, the stuffiness and the manners and the endless social gatherings. But coming back doesn't seem to have made everything better like I thought it would."
Ike shook his head. "I guess I wasn't missing the place itself, so much as the memories of what it once was. And it'll never be like that again."
Not without his father, was the unsaid. Perhaps that was how people who had parents, a circle of people who loved them felt. Connected to a point, that mythic sense of a home Soren had never understood in terms of land or buildings.
Soren reached out, touched his sleeve. Why couldn't he do more for Ike? Comfort was not a language he spoke fluently. What would he know about longing for a home that once was, what it was like to miss a parent who had actually cared, loved him. Soren was not about half truths, lying a world he knew all too well was filled to the brim with coldness.
"I'm sure you'll make the best of it. You always do," Soren said.
"Only the best of it?" Ike said, with a crooked half-grin.
"I would be lying if I said it would be easy. You left the station of general in the capitol to return to a ruined fort to start up a mercenary group which was barely making ends meet before. Mercenary groups statistically lose even more money potential during peaceful times. "
"Do you think I'm foolish for that?" Ike said.
"I'm sure many do, but I am not among them."
"I don't care about what they think of me. Just what you and the rest of the group do. I know Shinon thinks I'm an idiot for giving up the commission, I'm not sure about the others," Ike said.
"Shinon would think that regardless," Soren said.
"Ha...you're right," Ike said.
"The rest came with you. I think that shows where their loyalty lies."
"I know. I don't regret it in the least, though. Maybe I'm just tired, I haven't been this muddled in a while. I'm not sure what I was expecting to come home to, but it wasn't this," Ike said.
"Time waits for no man," Soren said. A quote he gleaned from a tome long ago.
"That's for sure...You could've stayed, you know. I wouldn't have stood in your way, even if I would've missed you," Ike said.
"I wouldn't think of it, Ike. As...long as you need me, I will be here."
"It's good to know that Begnion and Crimea's libraries aren't going to steal you away to be their archivist. Or some high ranking adviser."
"Never," Soren said.
"I can't say I'm sad about that. It wouldn't have been the same without you. But I have to give all the members a chance to leave in case they didn't agree with my choice. Even you."
Soren came slightly closer, and brushed his hand against Ike's wrist. He nearly drew back as Ike entwined his fingers with Soren's. He hadn't expected the intimacy or the warmth of Ike's touch. Ike was completely unselfconscious, as Soren felt as if he were turning inside out.
Ike didn't say anything as he just stared out of what was left of the buildings. Soren couldn't say how much time passed as they just stood, hand in hand. Ike seemed lost in happier days, memories of a mercenary boy who only wanted to be as good a swordsman as his father.
It was only when a commotion started up inside, with quite a bit of indiscernible shouting that Ike let go.
"It was bound to happen sooner or later," Ike said. He sighed, and shook his head. "Welcome home. Now to turn it into something liveable."
Soren nodded. His hand still tingled. He looked down to his palm. No mark was left, even as it felt like there should be more than a memory.
He would work to make the place and company Ike loved so back to what it once was. He couldn't bring back Ike's father—though if he could, he would do it at any cost. Ike walked ahead and Soren watched him go, feeling the warmth spread through him. He had no attachment to places, or things, but he still knew what home felt like.