Title: As Loud As Hope
Series: Fire Emblem 10
Character/pairing: Ike/Soren
Rating: PG
Author's note: dark_fest: Fire Emblem, Ike/Soren, getting used to physical contact is no easy thing to do.

This combines the concept of Joss's old request of Ike is into Soren, but Soren has been emotionally abused and has issues believing him.

Title comes from an Iron & Wine song.

And yes, I know Ike doesn't have sleeves in RD. Mist sewed him some or something. She was tired of his manly biceps making traffic stop and hordes of groupies going ooh mister Ike ooh. And I have a sleeve kink.

Thanks to Joss for the Beta.

.

For Ike, growing up came in stages. He became a man the minute his father was stuck through with a sword, leaving him with a promise he could never keep and a mercenary group to guide whether he felt ready or not. He hadn't time to think of love. He'd barely gotten himself figured out, let alone complex matters like that.

He was nineteen before it really all began to sink in, those things he'd sort of known all along but had never really realized. The things he took for granted. He'd never hid from them, never denied that part of himself, but he hadn't looked deeper, either. If Soren navel-gazed in excess, then Ike didn't look to his own feelings enough to explain why everything felt so right about Soren, and how it'd felt like a part of his foundation had been taken away when Soren had gone to study with the other group of mercenaries so long ago, even before the first war had started.

So maybe it was this stunted growth that made the true extent of the feelings come to him one day, until he was driven to distraction and suddenly aware that he did, in fact, have a heart which had been buried under saving his mercenary group, Crimea, and maybe even the world.

He was also aware that he hadn't a clue of what to do. So, he did what he always did: take care of things in the most blunt way possible, and go to Soren.

Soren always knew how to make things better.

.

The fading sunset glinted into his eyes, gold and pink between the trees. The town was long behind them, the others either still coming or, in the case of Shinon and Gatrie, sure to be passed out in some bar before the dawn came.

It was a steady rhythm, a pressure, and it felt right.

"Carrying me back wasn't necessary," Soren said, sounding somewhere between snappish and just weary. It'd been a long day for both of them. A twisted ankle meant that Ike could've just offered himself up as a crutch, but this was easier.

"I wanted to," Ike said.

Soren was so small in his arms, so light. And yet he smelled so good. He didn't even wear that floral scented stuff that Queen Elincia or his sister wore, just the faintly bitter scent of lye soap, and yet Ike wanted to take him by the collar, bury his face in Soren's
neck, to just breathe him in.

Soren began to undo his things. First, off with his boots. It was understood that Ike would leave before Soren was to the part where he was nearly naked, as he hadn't been comfortable with such things about the time they hit their teens. It'd been confusing, but Ike just figured it was one of Soren's own personal quirks and let him have it. This time, however, he watched as Soren pulled off his boots, careful with his injured ankle, his dark hair swept over his shoulder. Everything about him was so elegant, somehow. So methodical and graceful. Silks and carefully coiffed conversation was nothing compared to rough linens and loyalty.

"So, I've been thinking," Ike began.

Soren raised one eyebrow. "That's not something you hear every day," he said dryly.

"Well, I just started today, actually," Ike said.

Soren shifted in his seat and began to undo his ponytails. It was about that time that Ike's thoughts started to slow, until none of them were related to the topic at hand.

"You were saying?" Soren prompted.

It all came out, words and thoughts and feelings without a thought of the possible consequences.

"I want to be with you."

Soren responded without a beat.

"As do I. I hope to remain by your side wherever you choose to be, Ike," Soren said. He combed his fingers through his hair.

"I mean I want to be with you," Ike said.

"You are with me," Soren said stiffly. He began to order his things, unable to meet Ike's gaze. "We are friends, you're here in this room with me—"

"Soren," Ike said softly. "You're the smartest person I know. You've got to know what I mean––what I'm talking about here."

Soren didn't respond. Ike reached out to him, grazed Soren's arm, only to have Soren pull back.

"Soren?"

Soren looked like a feral animal, shying away at his touch. The only time he'd seen Soren this agitated was when he'd been torn up inside about his Branded heritage.

The thing about charging blindly into situations was that it gave no exit strategy. He hadn't even thought of what he'd do if it didn't go right. Ike searched for the words, fumbling around even more.

"Listen, if you don't feel the same way, it's fine," Ike said. His voice sounded hollow even to his own ears. He cleared his throat, tried to put on a brave face to it even though it felt like he'd been kicked in the chest, had the wind knocked right out of him. "I mean—it's not like this will break us. It might be weird for a while, but..."

He'd never thought about it like that, never even considered that Soren might not feel the same way as him. Nobody had told him that love was this complicated. Ike raked his hand through his hair. Here he was, putting his foot in his mouth all over again.

"No..." Soren said quietly.

"I get it. I'm sorry, I'm probably making you uncomfortable. I'll just–"

"No," Soren said more forcefully. In a moment he was up, flinching from the pressure on his injured ankle, his hand caught on Ike's sleeve.

"Soren?"

Ike reached out, and Soren drew back.

"Then, what?"

Soren bit his lip. He was holding on so tight his hand was trembling. He took a deep breath and finally looked at Ike.

"It isn't that...I just..."

"I'll never know unless you tell me," Ike said.

"How can you even like me?" he said in a very small voice.

"We've been through this before. I don't give a damn about who your parents were–it really doesn't matter to me, Soren," Ike said.

Soren shook his head, wrinkling his nose as if he'd tasted something bad. "It's not just that..."

"Soren, I—I thought we were already went through this three years ago," Ike said in exasperation.

"Are you angry at me?" Soren said, his voice so small and fragile that it made Ike ache inside. There was a haunted look to his eyes, and it made Ike want to deal with whoever had done this to him, made him this way.

"No, not at all," Ike said. "I just...didn't expect it. I thought we were through with this."

Because they were a we, together or not. No matter what, he'd still be supporting Soren–they'd be supporting each other. Still, it wasn't entirely a rejection. It wasn't acceptance, either. Soren was clinging tight to him, unwilling to let him go, yet unwilling to let him nearer.

"No," Soren said. "It's just...I don't understand how you can say this, say you like me when there are so many other people so many other people who aren't a mess. Elincia had her eye on you; you could've been a king."

"Soren, you know me better than that," Ike said. "What would I do with a kingdom?"

"Rule it fairly?" Soren suggested. Ike could just make out a wryness in his tone, a hopefulness.

"I want nothing to do with titles. You know that," Ike said.

"I...know," Soren said. "But what else could I tell myself? I had to remind myself of my place. I had to remind myself where I belonged and that I could only be by your side as a friend, always a friend and never anything more. You're the most important person in my life, and I can't love you, and I can't not love you—"

His voice had quickened, a panicked jumble of words. And there it was, a hesitant, shaky acceptance. Ike felt himself veering back from the empty, breath-knocked-out-of-his-lungs feeling of before. Had it only ever been about blood at all? Maybe it was just all the years of holding back coming out in one moment.

"I do too, you know," Ike said.

"—But I'm a mess. How can you even want me?"

"Yeah, but you're my mess," Ike said. "You're strong in plenty of ways. Everyone has their weaknesses. I'm too blunt and never think things through. You think through things until you've got yourself worried again."

He reached out, laid his hand on Soren's shoulder, only to have Soren flinch away from his touch. He was so used to casual touches that it came without thought. There he was again bumbling, and doing the wrong thing.

"Okay. I'll step back then. Whatever makes you feel better—"

Soren tightened his grip, until he was holding on with both hands for dear life. He had a panicked look, as if Ike was abandoning him.

"I'm not leaving, just giving you some space," Ike said.

Soren took a deep breath and guided Ike's hand to rest on his shoulder. He pulled at his loosened collar, revealed a scar. There was fear in his gaze, yet a determination. His chin was lifted defiantly, though Ike realized that the defiance was towards Soren's own fears, the voices that haunted him from every person who had rejected him and told him he was worthless, Branded, unwanted. When Soren looked in the mirror, traces of those taunts, those cruel words had to follow him.

Ike traced the scar with his thumb, feeling the roughness, and the vulnerability exposed. It didn't seem to be the cut of a sword, but perhaps a burn mark? Like a poker hot from the fire had been drawn over his skin. What had brought about this scar? It wasn't from battle, it seemed something far deeper, a hurt cradled deep inside.

Soren didn't offer an explanation, and Ike knew better than to press Soren. Not now. He would tell when he was ready about what had caused this spider's web of lines over his shoulder.
"I'm trying, Ike," Soren said. His voice seemed on the verge of breaking. "I'm trying."

"I know," Ike said. "That's all I ask."

He covered the scar with his hand, as if he could heal it by surrounding it, surrounding Soren so no one would ever dismiss him or reject him again. Ike couldn't heal all the scars that other people had left on him, but he'd do his damnedest to ensure that Soren didn't get any more.