Morgan's feet ached. His legs shook from all the marching. The other Shepherds had no problem with the pace Chrom maintained for his army, but Morgan had always focused more on tactics and strategy than the realities of battle like, oh, marching. Not just any marching, either. Marching in endless sand. Sand that got in his boots and ground against his heels. Sand that even got under his eye lids. Still, it was worth it, because at the head of the army beside Chrom was Vesper. The sun shone in her blonde hair. The wind picked up the edges her black robe. She was tall, a dark mage nobody would want to mess with.
It didn't even matter that she seemed to be caught in an animated argument with Chrom, as she so often was.
"You should come into formation sober," Chrom said. "It's not doing anyone any good if our tactician is drunk."
"Ugh, I am sober. That's the problem. If I was drunk you wouldn't even be commenting," Vesper replied.
"I think you might have a genuine problem, Miss Vesper," Frederick said, back so stiff and straight that Morgan wondered how he didn't get stuck that way.
"Yes, I do. I'm sober. Thank you for reminding me."
"Giving yourself so regularly to drink nulls your senses," Frederick continued. "It makes you less capable. Imagine what you'd be able to do if you weren't an alcoholic."
Vesper rolled her eyes. "Gaius has a sugar problem! Anybody going to bitch at him about it?! Hah? Hah?!"
"No need to be so crude," Maribelle said.
"Mom! Mom!" Morgan waved and rushed forward to his mother's side. "Don't let anyone else tell you what to do, because you are awesome just the way you are! Sure, you're an alcoholic. Sure, you're rude, mean and sometimes we have to go find your unconscious body in alley ways late at night. Sure, most people don't like you. But, the thing is, mom, you are awesome."
She shook her head. "Would you guys lay off? Seriously. I'm trying to come up with a brilliant strategy in my head… even though my head is sort of fuzzy right now. So if you would step back and let me strategize."
Morgan tried moving people away from her. "That's right! Step back and let her strategize!"
Morgan barely noticed her hot glare on his back, but for once she didn't say anything to him.
Gaius squinted into the hot sun. "It's about midday. We better travel faster if we're going to take those bastards from Valm down in time."
"How is mom going to deal with warships? Man, she can defeat anything!"
"Never met a braver woman," he agreed. "Flawed, but brilliant."
"I've always respected her."
"Is she much different in the future?"
"Yeah." Morgan toyed with the sleeves of his robes. "For one, she loves me. She's proud of me. She calls me her 'over eager little puppy.' Pup for short. She's... Mother..." He stared into the distance. "Why doesn't she love me now? I'm trying so hard."
"Don't try as hard. If you love her, you have to act like you don't. She likes to think she can maintain distance from people."
"So you're only acting like you don't love her?"
"It's… complicated." The thief winced. "Not something I really want to discuss with my future son."
"I understand. She's complicated and difficult sometimes." Morgan smiled, and Gaius was mildly surprised by the wisdom the boy showed. "She does love you. I know because she told me in the future. Like, she doesn't say it all the time, but she's not that kind of person."
"So we're together in the future, huh?" This mildly troubled the man.
"Well… mostly." Morgan searched for the words. "You two are on and off. One minute you're fighting and she's declaring divorce and the next you're planning your sixth wedding."
"Bubbles is an emotional wreck. Doesn't surprise me."
"Well, the fights usually resolve themselves when you bake her a cake!" The boy paused. "You look different in the future. You have a scruffy beard. She calls you a lumberjack."
"Look," Gaius said. "There's no way I'm ever going to end up with that woman. I don't trust her. She's unpredictable. I don't need that insanity in my life. And lumberjack? Not in a million years."
"Things change, dad! People change! You'll see."
Gaius frowned. "I really hope not."