This chapter never seemed to want to end. It knows that the end is neigh! Longest chapter I've ever written for a fanfic before! Woot! I'm a little proud about that, okay? By the way, is the chapter's title a little weird? I just didn't want to go with an obvious title.
Anyway, on with the story!
Ch. 19: The Most Terrifying Thing He'd Ever Done
Gerome stared at the sad amount of money he called his life savings. His eyes counted the small amount again, even though he had already engraved the amount into his mind. Once he finished counting (which didn't take very long) and it came to the expected amount he collapsed onto his cot with a heavy sigh.
His life savings were laughable but that was to be accepted. He came from a future where everyone was just struggling to survive and thus there was no need for money but he came to a time that required-demanded it- with none to bargain with. He had nearly starved up arrival if it hadn't been for the barbarians, who were foolish enough to attack him. Pathetic as his lifesavings were it was still livable at least for him and Minerva.
Rubbing his exhausted eyes a frustrated sigh escaped his lips. He didn't have to support a family alone, Robin being a chief tactician for a nation made far more than enough for that. While it did bruise his pride a little to make so much less than her, his circumstances were understandable. Beside the feed for Minerva and a little travel expenses he didn't really need that much money, except for that moment.
For the tenth time that day he counted his money again and just like all the other times the amount remained the same. Since he and Robin had been together for two weeks he had been pondering the idea of proposing. Under normal circumstances he would have considered that far too early but with a son, from the future, it was almost guaranteed that they would be together. But before he could pop the question he needed a ring, and thus bringing him to his current finical dilemma. He knew there was just no way he could afford a decent ring with what sad little amount he owned.
Sighing once again, he returned his money back into its pouch. Briefly he wondered if he could give her a cheaper piece of jewelry but that thought quickly died when he decided that Robin deserved the best (even if he couldn't afford it). He jiggled the pouch in hopes of it magically accruing more coins and disappointment had slapped him in the face for his impossible hopes.
Hiding his shame in his pocket he decided to work on the proposing part. He sat in silence desperately trying to think of a way to romantically do it. Several minutes later a single thought had yet to come to him; he didn't have a romantic bone in his body. He started wondering if he even had the right to propose to her but quickly stopped that thought; the last thing he needed to do was to psych himself out.
With a frantic need to distract himself from his negative thoughts he decided that it was best for him to get ideas from other people, namely his parents. At his parents tents he suddenly became very nervous and was about to walk away when his mother found him and he inwardly cursed for his predicament. He was helpless as she pushed him inside, eager to help her son. Sitting in their tents, Gaius and Cherche watched as their son fidgeted, failing to hide their amusement.
He lost count how many times he had sighed that day and another had escaped him when he finally asked, if nothing more than to end that accursed moment. The parents stared at their son dumbfounded, adding to his discomfort. When they said nothing but still had perplexed expression, it had dawned on him that he had never asked his parents about their past or anything and he felt like a terrible son.
Ready to apologize he was kept quiet when his mother trapped him in a bear hug. Instead of the apology, he had meant to say, complaints spilled through his lips following laughs from his parents. In the end, it was his mother that apologized, making him feel slightly terrible again.
"Why the sudden interest in how I proposed to your mother, eh?" his father asked with a smirk dancing on his lips. Gerome could feel his neck and ears heating up and he wanted to run away.
"They grow up so fast." His mother joined in the teasing by whipping a fake tear away.
"Forget it!" He grumbled and began to walk away before his parents promised to stop and even then he was reluctant to return.
They sat around in silence as Gaius tried to figure out how to phrase everything. He took so long that Cherche feared he forgot. When she started to hint her anger it took up time as the thief had to explain his silence. The longer his parents took the more Gerome's frustration grew. He was about ready to leave when his father started.
"First off, I just want you to understand that your situation is much different than ours," Gaius said, though his tone hinted that he was still unsure how he wanted to continue. "I proposed and married Cherche in the middle of a war. I couldn't really do something major to show my feelings, unlike you."
As Gerome listened he wondered if his father could offer him any ideas. Nervousness gripped him and he wondered how he, who was too shy to simply ask for ideas, could possibly propose. He was heading down a negative spiral when his father's voice broke him out of it.
"Do you have a ring yet?" His coin purse felt lighter than ever and that crushed him more. "You can always make one, I did." Gaius was quick to say the last part in an attempt to comfort his son.
Weakly, the son shook his head. "I don't know how too," he said meekly. He was pretty good with his hands but when it came to crafting things he had no skills. Just another little thing that made him question how he was his father's son. His parents exchanged looks before placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I can teach you." That cheered him up but he still had a lot to worry about.
They talked for a little bit before Gerome had to excuse himself. He still needed ideas and he felt determine to find a way to get money. While he did like the idea of making the ring he felt that it would take too long and settled on buying a ring for now. He had remembered hearing about Gregor taking up odd jobs for extra money and he had hoped that the older man would take him along or at least help him get a job. That hope quickly died as he remembered that he hadn't really talked to Laurent since he got together with Robin and he feared that the mage's father wouldn't be so willing to help him. He had no idea if Laurent resented him for being Robin's choice or didn't care at all; after all he was with Noire after all.
The wyvern rider had wanted to talk with the mage, to see how his friend felt but he would always loose his nerve. If he could just be good with words then maybe it wouldn't be such a problem but a last he was terrible. It also didn't help that Laurent seemed to be busier than ever, which Gerome took to be a bad sign. He knew he should patch things up with his friend before asking for Robin's hand in marriage.
As if fate was on cue with Gerome's little thought he had ran into Laurent and Morgan. With no time to prepare himself, nervousness gripped the rider and he was unable to process the thought of a greeting. Lucky for him Morgan was a real chatter box and he was able to get away with just a simple nod (that was all he was able to do with Morgan talking his ear off). While the tactician-in training told his dad all about the experiments Laurent and him were doing the silent man was able to think of what to possibly say.
All too quickly the cheerful boy stopped talking and Gerome was still unprepared. An uncomfortable (or at least to the rider) silenced washed over them. The mage adjusted his glasses and shifted his books, Gerome hide all his discomfort behind his mask, while Morgan watched in confusion. The thought of leaving passed through the young man's mind but he felt like he needed to stay so he did, much to Gerome's gratefulness.
"I should be going," Laurent finally said.
"Wait!" Gerome quickly shouted and startled everyone, especially himself. Shifting awkwardly, he tried to think of what to say but of course nothing came to mind; he didn't know why he even bothered, nothing ever came to him.
"How are you?" Morgan asked for his father. Laurent looked to Gerome, who nodded his approval at the question.
"Fine," Laurent answered after a pause.
"Are…Are you sure?" Gerome asked as he jumped on Morgan's coattails to take over the conversation.
Putting off answering that question Laurent cleaned a nonexistent smudge on his glasses. Seconds ticked by and yet still no response; he could only clean his glasses for so long so reluctantly he returned them to their proper place and looked at his friend. He had been able to read his friend (somewhat) but as he looked at the barrier Gerome loved, the mask, he felt like he knew nothing about the man before him.
"Are you?" He finally countered after working up the courage. Completely caught off guard the wyvern rider was unsure of how to respond. Sensing his friend's discomfort the intellectual elaborated, "Are you okay with having me as a friend, a man, who was once your rival in love?"
Chuckling from the usually quiet man startled the other two. "Do you mean that you've been avoiding me because you thought I was angry at you while I had been avoiding you because I thought you were angry with me?" The mage carefully watched Gerome for a few seconds before a smile graced his lips. "We are quite foolish, no?"
"So, it would seem."
The two spoke, catching up and making sure that there was no ill will between them, while Morgan quietly sat back and watched just in case he had to intervene in a fight but he severally doubted that there would have been one, wither he had been there or not. At the end of their trip down memory lane, Laurent had assured Gerome that he had no residual feelings for Robin and did not hate his friend. Somehow or another, their conversation got around to marriage and the mage had given his blessing. They didn't talk for very long after that as Noire had come and stole Laurent for a date, leaving Morgan and Gerome behind.
The look Morgan was giving his father had unnerved the older man just a bit. It wasn't until that moment that the father realized that he hadn't spoken to his son about marrying the boy's mother. He didn't really get to speak as Morgan started to jump around cheering forcing Gerome to settle him down.
"I'm absolutely going to help you pick the perfect ring!" Morgan proclaimed far too loudly for his father's liking and the older man suddenly became self-conscious of all the looks that they had earned. He prayed that Robin hadn't been nearby by and heard their son. Gerome didn't deny his son but instead welcomed him, knowing that Morgan would be better at picking jewelry than him.
Morgan would not listen to a single thing Gerome told him about money. The boy had been so excited that he started to drag his father to the jeweler's, in the nearby town, and nothing Gerome said or did made it through to the boy. As they got closer to the jeweler's nervousness overwhelmed the quiet man and he became more desperate to stop Morgan.
With one great push the aspiring tactician showed off his strength as he forced the taller man into the shop. Stumbling in Gerome froze almost immediately when he noticed that all eyes were upon him. The looks didn't faze the upbeat boy in the slightest as he just casually strolled up to the counter and asked for an engagement ring. The masked man was completely grateful that Morgan hadn't mentioned the word "mother" at all as he talked to the clerk but it didn't help his nerves.
Smiling widely Morgan stared at the wide variety of rings before him. The clerk had paid attention to him but when Gerome approached the attention had shifted to the older man as she assumed that the rings were meant for him. Putting on a professional smile that didn't calm Gerome in the slightest she motioned for him to look at the rings. She watched him carefully, imaging what handsome features he had hidden under his mask.
"I like this one!" Morgan's loud voice rang out in the quiet, little shop. The ring he had chosen had a silver band with a diamond in the center and two smaller rubies on either side of it. He had specifically chosen that ring because it had reminded him of his mother and the rubies were him and his father.
Silently the wyvern rider looked to the clerk for a price. "2,000 gold," she said it so calmly as if the price wasn't anything outrageous at all. Surprisingly he had managed to keep himself from gasping out in shock. 2,000 gold was a lot more than some of the best weapons; there was no way he could afford that.
His penny-pitching side took over and tried to convince himself that Robin didn't need-nor want- a ring and it was probably right. She wasn't the type to take an interest in jewelry and unlike the other woman, from the present, she didn't own a single ring. She did own a beautiful pendant, however, but that had been a gift from his father, who made it after seeing her looking at other necklaces…Maybe Robin did want a ring after all.
Sighing he shook his head to let the clerk know he couldn't afford that ring. Briefly she gave him a quizzical look before her professional smile returned and she left to fetch the cheaper rings. He looked at the ring that Morgan liked, beneath the glass, it was plain now that he really looked at it and must have been cheap for an engagement ring. Embarrassment took over and he fiercely wanted to leave but Morgan wouldn't have it as he was determined to pick a ring that day.
With her ever present smile the clerk returned with rings upon a tray. None of the rings possessed a noticeable gem. The rider was ready to call it quits and just save up for a decent ring. He grabbed onto Morgan's shoulder to pull him away, when the boy gasped very loudly startling everyone. Scavenging in the many pockets of his overcoat he pulled out a ring to show the clerk; it was an exact copy of one of the rings for sale.
"That's the ring!" He declared once again too loudly for Gerome's taste. In excitement he shoved the ring into his father's face for him to see.
Plucking the ring from his son's hand Gerome looked at it more closely. If the first ring had looked plain to him than the ring he held now was very plain; there was nothing special about the silver band he held except for the carving of little flowers all over it. "I've had that ring since I've arrived and I had no idea what it was but now I do. It's mother's ring!"
Gerome tore his eyes away from the ring to look at his son in hidden horror. That overly plain ring that could easily be mistaken for a man's ring was the ring he proposed to the woman, he loved, with? No, there was just no way he would use that ring. Before he had been adamant about not changing the past but he had agreed that maybe change was good and he was going to change that ring. It was decided, he was going to put off proposing until he could afford a ring worthy of Robin; he just hoped it wouldn't take that long.
"But father!" The rider halted at the word; once again he became acutely aware of all the confused stares he was receiving. The looks didn't upset Morgan at all as he continued, "This is the ring!"
Embarrassment from so many things kept the rider from properly conveying his feelings on why he didn't want that ring. Morgan had proved yet again that he was Robin's son by his inherited stubbornness and wouldn't give up until the ring was bought; in his mind the sooner his parents were officially together the better.
The ring felt very heavy to Gerome and he wasn't sure if it was because of the shame for the ring or because of the fear he now carried for the next step; either way he was unable to look at it and shoved it into his pockets to hide it from his sight. Because he was so afraid of somehow losing it his hand constantly dug into his pocket to confirm that it was still there. Each time he "found" the ring it brought him no real relief.
A day turned into two, then three, and before Gerome knew it a week had pass and he had yet to propose. The longer he took the more his anxiety grew and it became harder to even entertain the thought of doing it. Morgan's impatience wasn't helping, in fact, it was only making it worst. The Shepherds were only a week away from Ylisstol and that added to his stress because he swore he would propose before they made it to the capital.
The worst thing about his fears was the way he treated and acted around Robin. He was avoiding her far more than he did when they first met. And when she did manage to get a hold of him he was a lot more cold and distant, it had been an act to protect himself before but now it was only destroying his and Robin's relationship. He knew that and yet he was unable to stop himself. If Robin noticed his strange behavior she didn't say anything but he was sure it was putting a strain on her that she didn't need-nor deserved.
Hidden away in the safety of his tent Gerome examined the ring closely in his hand. Every time he looked at it the uglier it got to him. He so desperately wished he never bought it. Sighing he flipped it around to examine every aspect of it, making sure nothing had changed; not that it could, the ring so rarely left his pocket.
"Gerome?" His heart nearly leapt out of his chest at Robin's voice. The ring flew out of his grasp as jumped out of seat. It clanged very loudly as it skipped across the crate, agitating his already frayed nerves. "Can I come in?"
Dread washed over him. "No!" he shouted purely out of fear but succeeding in stopping her momentarily. Cursing he knew his outburst would only worry her, which would cause her to enter soon against his will. "In a minute," he said only to buy him some time. Cursing very loudly he struggled to pick up the ring that had fought him at every turn.
"I'm coming in!" she declared as concern forced her to ignore his pleas and lucky for him he had managed to grasp the ring just in time. Throwing the tent's flaps opening she expected to see…actually she didn't know what to expect but it certainly wasn't seeing him calmly (or at least trying to be calm) standing there as if nothing was wrong. Though it was very quick she was sure she saw him shove something into his pocket.
"Are you okay?" she asked after a moment of silence.
"I'm fine," he growled and immediately cursed himself for his attitude. Ignoring his tone like she had been doing, she asked again to make sure. Her soft, concerned tone only made him feel worse for his.
She took a step forward and he took one back, clinging to the distance. Silence engulfed them, suffocating both of them. She watched as he refused to look at her and fingered whatever was in his pocket. Wrapping her arms around herself the strong, seemingly emotionless expression she wore to protect herself gave away and Gerome's chest tightened at her vulnerable look.
"Have I've done something to upset you?" Her voice was meek and he found himself wanting to throw everything away and comfort her and yet his nerves held him back and kept him silent. She was quiet as she waited for something-anything.
When he did nothing she reluctantly accepted it. Closing her eyes she steeled herself and hid her emotions deep down like the expert she was. Hope still clung to her as she looked at him for even the slightest gesture but nothing still. She apologized for disturbing him and left with him still doing nothing.
Finally coming back to his senses he slammed his fist against the crate and swore. Clasping onto his cot he tried to bury his face in his hands but his mask hindered him. Cursing he threw his mask away. He stayed like that for a few hours cursing himself and his inability to express himself. Enough was enough moping around wasn't going to do anything so he decided that he was going to finally do it, he need to fix the misunderstanding but not without his trusty mask to help him get him to her tent.
Standing outside Robin's tent he tried to calm himself down. The looks he got from those who were out and about weren't helping. Having enough of the onlookers he bargained in without thinking. He expected to be yelled at as the tactician tended to do with all her guest that bargained in but she never did.
The wyvern rider found Robin sitting at her desk surrounded by books. He had a strong idea what the books were about and knew he wouldn't understand any of them. Muttering to herself she grabbed the book on top of a stack and flipped through it all while never acknowledging him.
Hovering he waited for acknowledgement but after a few minutes of silence he started to question wither or not if she knew that he was there. His legs felt very heavy, almost as if they were rooted in place, unable to move he could only call out to her. His voice was weak and pathetic and she couldn't hear him over her muttering. Feeling so small he had no idea what to do.
A snapping sound from the tactician pulled him out of his melancholy thoughts. Her quill had broken and made a mess all over her desk. Cursing up a storm she tried to salvage her parchment with some rags. As he listened to her he realized that her voice was very strained, she was desperately trying to hold back her emotions.
Seeing her in that kind of state gave him the courage he needed. Placing his hand on her should, her reaction was immediate; "What do you want?" she growled as she turned to face her unwanted guest. Anger vanished from her features once she laid eyes upon him. Now that he could look at her face he could see the remnants of tears. "Gerome?" she breathed.
His courage immediately deflated when their eyes locked, well he looked into her eyes and all she could do was look at his mask. His mouth became incredibly dry and he so greatly wanted some water. Sweaty palms and trembling knees made him question wither or not he would be able to do it or not. He wondered if his father felt like that before he proposed but Gerome had doubted that, Gaius was so much better at that kind of things than him.
"Gerome?" she called as she got up. He didn't respond-he couldn't. Hesitantly she gently removed his last defense, his mask. His eyes bore into hers; unsettling her a little, but she took it as another sign that something was wrong. Once again she hesitated but that time it was to cup his face in her hands. Her hands had been callous thanks to her use of a sword and she feared that their roughness would make the situation worse; her fears were misplaced as he relaxed into her touch.
Closing his eyes he allowed himself to calm down and enjoyed the silver haired woman's touch. Eventually gloved hands meet hers to pull them away but still held tight to hers. He was amazed at how easily he could be calmed by her. It was strange power she processed and it was something he was completely grateful for.
Rubbing his thumbs over her knuckles he enjoyed their hands' size difference. She was a lot smaller than him and it was something he never really noticed before but he couldn't help but notice it now with their closeness. She was so small and yet so strong and for some reason that little fact made his problems seem so childish. She didn't back to anything and neither should he.
Once of his hands left hers to slip into his pocket and grasp the ring. It no longer felt so heavy but almost light as a feather like it was ready to float away from him and be where it belongs. Confusion had mixed with concern for her and he knew before he could pop the question he would have to quell her thoughts.
"Robin," he said her name so softly. A smile graced his lips as he watched her stand attentive at the call of her name. Brushing a strand of loose hair out of the way, he hand lingered on her cheek longer than necessary. Not liking the little barrier that his gloves created, he pulled them off so he could properly feel her smooth cheek. She didn't relax into his touch like he did to hers but given his earlier attitude it was understandable.
Rubbing his thumb over her cheek she eventually gave into the soothing action. Closing her eyes she allowed the comforting silence to continue. He watched as her stressed seemed to wash away and a smile implanted itself onto her face.
"You're beautiful," he said without a thought, not that he didn't agree. Instantly her eyes snapped open and a deep crimson stained her cheeks. A couple of chuckles escaped him as she tried to explain that she wasn't. "But you are."
Embarrassment held her tongue and the redness of her cheeks intensified. He found her adorable. After a couple of seconds she was able to speak or at least mumble, "Ingio's rubbing off on you." Again he chuckled a bit; he wasn't necessarily sure if that was a good thing or not but he was confident that it wasn't completely a terrible thing.
Removing his hand they once again locked eyes. He didn't feel so nervous and was ready to say what he wanted to say for a long time. "I've always tried to be strong so that I can fight alone on the battlefield." Confusion once again flooded her features but she kept silent. "And I still want to be strong." He was surprised just how easy it was for him to speak. "But now it's for a different reason." Taking a deep breath he readied himself to say the next part. "I want to be strong for you."
She said nothing as she absorbed everything and he was grateful for her silence. Pulling out of the ring of his pocket he got down on one knee. A small gasp escaped her as he held out the ring for her to see. "Robin, will you marry me?" The words just spilled from his mouth so easily he had no idea why he had struggled so much earlier.
She didn't say anything-she couldn't. Her mind was racing and no one thought broke though. His nerves were at their max and he so desperately wished for her so say something-anything. His stomach churned and the ring's heaviness returned with full force. Sweaty palms made him fear that the ring would slip through his grasp. He wasn't sure how much longer he could take the silence.
"Are you sure?" She finally asked after what seemed like an eternity. His stomach sank into a pit and he lowered the ring, ready to put it away and never speak of it again. "I mean," When she began again he only half-listened, "I'm a workaholic with her nose always in books, stubborn, and I can be quiet ignorant when it comes to others' feelings." The more she pointed out her flaws the more his heart soared. Her problem hadn't been with him and that was a great relief, though he didn't want her to be troubled with the idea of having flaws.
Chuckling from him got her to stop. With cheeks a blaze she gave him a pointed look. Rising to his feet he returned to his towering position. He looked at her lovingly and she found her annoyance gone. He cupped her face once again so she wouldn't give into her embarrassment and look away; she was at his mercy.
"I'm just as guilty as you for a lot of those faults and as such they mean nothing to me." He rubbed his thumb over her cheeks again to help calm her. Slowly the redness faded from her face but the fear remained in her eyes; he didn't allow it to freak himself out. He didn't know what it was for and so he wasn't going to allow it to bother him but instead focused on eradicating it.
"But, I'm-" She tried to start again but he wouldn't have it. Lightly placing a finger on her lips he had successfully silenced her.
"Robin, will you do me the great honor of being my wife?" Tears slide down her face alarming him greatly. The way her face scrunched up a futile attempt to stop them and the lack of sadness in her eyes were large hints to show that they were tears of happiness but that didn't' make him feel all that much better.
Grabbing the hand that was on her face she tried to nod yes but couldn't really with him so close. Finally she was able to find her voice, "If you shall have me. Then yes I will gladly be your wife!"
Many loud cheers overpowered Gerome's voice. Confusion washed over him as he tried to figure out what was going on. Robin instantly knew what was happening when she could hear a distinct "It's about time!" from the many shouts. The newly engaged couple was given no time to themselves as a bunch of women stormed the tent kidnapping Robin and leaving Gerome even more bewildered.
With the women gone it was the men's, from the future, turn to charge the tent. They were patting Gerome on the back and congratulating him. Slowly it dawned on him on what was going on. His cheeks burned and he tried to search for his mask but his search halted when Ingo wrapped his arm around Gerome's shoulders, holding him in place.
"Who would have thought the lone wolf would be the first among us to get married?" the dancer joked, earning laughs from everyone but the wyvern rider. "And with someone from the "imaginary world" no less!" More laughs and a frustrated sigh.
Outside the women had already begun to plan the wedding, without much care for Robin's input. All the ideas and suggestions had the poor tactician's head spinning. Quickly the planning and suggestions faded away to the idea of who would get to be Robin's bridesmaid, again they didn't seek her permission.
When the arguing for the right to be Robin's maid of hone began they had shoved the main woman out of their little circle to argue properly. With her all but forgotten she was able to look around and see the rest of the Shepherds smiling and congratulating her. Embarrassment made her want to run and hide in her tent but she knew she couldn't.
She sifted around uncomfortably and awkwardly nodded at all the congratulation she was given. Laurent pushed his way through the crowed to greet her. He smiled warmly at her but her stomach twisted together and she was unable to look at him. He said her name and she flinched. It wasn't until he placed his hand gently on her shoulder that she looked at him; he was still smiling. "Robin it's fine." Now she was truly looking at him. "I wish both you and Gerome all the happiness in the world."
She stubbornly fought back the tears that were threatening to fall at any moment. She hated how she had become so emotional that day but at the same time she didn't care. Smiling widely she thanked him and she also wished him happiness too.
For the rest of the day both Gerome and Robin were all smiles but also extremely embarrassed whenever someone congratulated them. They weren't allowed much time to themselves as someone always wanted in in their excitement but it was okay. Soon, they would have all the time to themselves.
Only one chapter left! Can you guys guess what it will be about?
To celebrate all the reviews and this story is coming to an end; I've decided to do a little contest!
In this story Gaius is Gerome's father but in my play through he isn't. Can you guess who is Gerome's father and a bonus if you can also guess who is Gaius' child. Only one guess per person and you must be a member (Guest I have no way of contacting you if you get it right). The winner will have me write a one-shot about their favorite pairing. No yaoi or yuri because I suck at those. And if the winner gets both questions right I shall write a two-shot. So, on with the guesses!
And please tell me what you thought of this chapter. I've never really written something like this before and the next chapter is also going to be a first for me as well so I would greatly appreciate input.