A short story taking place a bit after the end of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. Why Ike leaves, where he's going, and who goes with him. Not much to it. One flashback to explain what in the world Ike is thinking. Edit: Cut out some of the flashback.

I own nothing and profit nothing. Except for complete enjoyment of this game.

Ike slowly closed the wooden door behind him, being as quiet as he possibly could. The night air was cool and crisp at the fortress of the Greil Mercenaries, a perfect night to remember this place by. The clear air around him bit at his face to remind him of the warm, familiar bed he had slept in since he was a small child. It reminded him of the usual cozy room that he was leaving forever. Slinging his lightweight pack over his shoulder, he took one last look around at the place he grew up in and then took his first steps on a long journey to places he didn't even know.

It was a long-time in coming, Ike reminded himself. He had always had a secret longing to explore places no one had ever seen or heard of. Now seemed the perfect time to leave; he would no longer be welcome soon. Ike remembered the note that he had left for Titania. He was sure that she would make an excellent commander to the mercenaries that Ike had simply inherited. Titania would probably be sad, Boyd would feign gladness, Shinon would be satisfied… Ike imagined each of their reactions to the news of his leaving, stopping at Soren. What would Soren do? Would he stay with the Mercenaries? Would he begin traveling on his own?

Ike was just entering the forest outside the fortress when a nearby voice made him jump. "Not so much as a goodbye, Ike?"

"Soren!" Ike gasped. He spun toward him, searching through the infant morning light just making its appearance over the eastern horizon. Soren's slight form had melted into the shadows of the walls, obscured by bushes and brambles, painted in faint yellow. "What are you—" Ike stopped himself thinking that it was obvious what Soren was doing here. "I guess, the better question is: how long have you been waiting here?"

Soren pushed the branches aside and came toward him, saying casually, "About two weeks."

"Weeks?" Ike breathed. That was long before Ike himself knew of his plans to leave. He would have been surprised, but, considering to whom he was speaking… surprise on Ike's part would have been ridiculous. Soren knew Ike's next move before he had even made a decision on the current one, most of the time.

In any case, the night was quickly becoming day, and Ike had planned to be quite a distance away before the sun rose fully so as to prevent anyone from finding him and trying to prevent him to return. On the other hand, he had already failed at that, hadn't he? But, then again… there was no fooling Soren. "Walk with me," he said, going back to his trek toward the forest.

Soren did, his quiet footfalls barely making a noise in the brush. "Where do you plan to go?"

"You tell me," Ike said with a smile. "You predicted my move weeks in advance, before even I knew what I was doing."

Soren shrugged demurely. "The prediction was not without its flaws," he pointed out. "I anticipated your going, but I had the timing completely wrong." He had fastened his eyes straight ahead, avoiding Ike's eyes, it seemed, very conscientiously. "But," he went on, with an odd friction in his voice, as though his planned words were difficult to say. "But once I discovered your plans, I had to make sure that you had not left."

"You mean you were literally waiting outside every morning for two weeks?" Ike chuckled a little. It was very unlike Soren to be so… anxious. In fact, Ike had never known him to be anxious at all. "I trust you know you can't stop me," Ike advised. "There is no place for me here, anymore. Though I am a hero now, I will soon only be remembered for realizing the people's deepest fears and destroying the one thing they could depend on."

"I'd drawn that conclusion, also," Soren sighed, as though it was the last conclusion that he wanted to draw. Ike hadn't honestly been thrilled with the conclusion, either. "As usual, you've made the correct decision."

Ike was further confused. "Then why would you come out here in the middle of the night to make sure I don't leave?"

Soren shook his head, and rubbed his hands together in the cold. "I'm not here to make sure you don't leave. You may leave if you wish. I just wanted to make sure you… didn't leave…" He hesitated for a long time, but Ike could tell that he was going to say something else, so he waited. Sometimes Soren took his sweet time saying what he thought… "I wanted to make sure you didn't leave me," Soren finally finished.

Oh, Ike thought, feeling slightly guilty. Soren hasn't changed a bit in the time I've known him… This brought to mind a conversation from long ago, only a short time after Greil's death. They had both been very young, but some things hadn't changed at all. Ike was still as brave as a wolf and as dumb as a brick—or, that's how he imagined it. Soren was still as brilliant as a scholar and as insecure as… himself.

"Curse you!" Soren shouted, storming away. Ike was taken aback, but followed as he walked away, finding it hard, for some reason, to be offended. It was a simple question. Why, when Soren had a comfortable position in the mercenary group, when he was respected for his intelligence and strong personality, would he hate himself so much as he obviously did? "Why can't you leave me be?!" Soren demanded as he walked around the tents, Ike still following. Whatever else he was, Ike thought, he could be very stubborn. But they both could.

Finally, when they had gone away from "civilization," as it were, Soren spun around and glared in Ike's face. They glared at each other for several seconds, Ike making it very clear that he had no designs on walking away. Soren sighed and slouched, turning away, his eyes downcast. "I don't have any friends, Ike! I don't have anyone else! If I tell you and you turn on me... I... I don't think I can survive it."

Ike watched him with slight curiosity and compassion. "That's why you have to tell me, Soren," he pointed out. "You'll never tell anyone else. And if you don't tell anyone, you're just going to keep suffering." Soren looked over his shoulder at Ike with a mocking glance, as though he thought he was definitely not suffering. Ike saw otherwise, however. "Look at you!" he challenged, throwing his hands skyward in frustration."You're a mess! Come on. Talk to me."

When Soren stumbled lamely over his words, Ike pleaded, "Soren, it's me! Trust me, I don't give two figs who your parents are!"

At that, to Ike's surprise, tears brimmed up in Soren's red eyes. "Ike, I…" he began, brushing at his tears in apparent frustration until he turned away in shame. "I'm... Branded. I'm one of the Branded."

From there, Soren explained that he was part-laguz, made apparent by the red mark on his forehead. He said he was an "untouchable." An "abomination." Ike was confused when he used these words but let him continue until he was finished. "All right. I understand," Ike said, staring at the back of his head. When Soren turned around, his usual stoic expression carefully reconstructed, Ike finished with, "So, you have laguz blood in your veins," he recounted. "What's the problem?" he asked.

"What's the problem…?" Soren repeated as though he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Don't you find me repugnant?" he exclaimed. "I work beside you, eat beside you; and I'm nothing! I don't belong anywhere." He looked at Ike in ultimate bewilderment as he asked, "Doesn't that sicken you?"

Ike considered this, but couldn't think of a reason that it should sicken him or even change the way Ike saw Soren. "No, it doesn't," he answered. "You're still you! A capable officer of our army. And my friend," he added quickly. "We can't keep going unless you're with us."

"Ike, I…" Soren began haltingly and then he sighed. "When the sage I learned from in Gallia died, no one would help me. I was dying," he said. "You were the only one who helped. You and your father. That's why you're my friend. My… only… friend."

Ike realized that day what he hadn't really comprehended every day before that. The small child his father took in when he was very small himself had grown to become Ike's best friend and adopted brother. However… Ike didn't think that Soren wanted to leave the place that had been his only permanent and… vaguely friendly home.

"I guess I didn't know you wanted to leave so badly," Ike said finally.

"Oh, I didn't," Soren assured him. "I liked working with the Greil Mercenaries very much. They were all as much a family to me as I'll ever have." There was a long silence. Ike was glad to hear that Soren hadn't exactly been miserable all of these years… "But… I told you why."

"Yeah," Ike said ponderingly. He suddenly sighed. "But if you agree with my decision…?"

"I'm not suggesting you stay," Soren assured him. "I'm suggesting I go, too."

Ike thought about that option, thinking that it sounded very agreeable. He nodded his agreement, only distantly aware that a small smile was growing on his face as he realized that he had been out-maneuvered once again. Soren was pulling a knapsack from behind the bush and coming to stand next to him. "You knew that I would agree from the first, two weeks ago, didn't you?" he asked, grinning stupidly.

Soren smiled and kicked a rock idly. "It was inevitable." He laughed a little.

Ike laughed, too. "I guess it was." Soren always had everything planned out. The Greil Mercenaries would have a difficult time without him, as Ike had told Soren before. "So, Soren…" he began, beginning to like the idea of a traveling companion. "Where are we going?"

Soren started to smile, something he was not prone to do excessively. "I was wondering when you'd ask."

He went on in great detail, leaving Ike to wonder if he had their entire journey planned out to Ike's final breath. By the time Soren had explained his strategy for discovery of new lands, they had reached the edge of the forest. Day was now breaking. A radiant new dawn of change and adventure, as always, Ike thought. Things seemed to be changing quickly in his life. But they always did. He listened to Soren's ideas—all of them very good, as usual.

From then on in Crimea, it was told that once Ike saw stability return, he left on a journey to lands still unknown. He was never seen again. And, as for Soren, the Greil Mercenaries' faithful strategist, he packed lightly and set off with the only person he had ever trusted.

The end of one story is only the beginning of another.