Chapter 3: Between Breaths
It deeply bothered him that one night after their wedding, Robin already had all his weak and sensitive points memorized. Somehow, it didn't seem fair that his wife could make him putty in seconds while he was still trying to figure her out. The time he had to mull over all of that came long after their evening together, when his heart had finally slowed down and his thoughts crawled out of euphoria and back into clarity. He stared up at the ceiling, considering the unfairness of this intimacy while Robin rested on his chest. Her head tucked neatly under his chin, and her breathing was low as it skimmed from her lips and against his skin in an even rhythm. A sharp contrast to how quick and gasping it had been just an hour ago.
All on their own, his fingers traced up her back and shoulder, learning the layout of her skin and muscles now that he had time to really take it in. Each plane and shift in her body he moved over, Chrom made sure to commit the feel of them to his memory. His hands picked out some of her hair still stuck against her neck, and worked on untangling the strands. It was a simple action, and let his mind wander as it kept his fingers busy.
'Emm...' The name and a low aching sorrow settled across his thoughts without warning. 'If you could see us now, would you be proud of my choices? Of me and Robin?' He shifted his eyes towards the bedroom window and the night sky beyond it. The stars and silence gave him no answers, and did nothing to still his thoughts. 'I'm no Exalt like you...And I never will be. There's too much of a fighter in me for that.' Too much of his father in him as well, and that thought tried to push tension into his jaw and his hands into fists.
The only thing that kept him steady was when Robin's lips brushed against his neck. The feel of that, and a warmth settling along his face, snuffed the uneasiness out before it could take deeper root. And told him that the similarities between himself and his father only went so far. That he had something his parent never had, or never seemed to treasure. He tightened his grip around Robin's shoulders, pulling her close and tight against him. 'But I hope you'd be happy with what Robin and I can become, and what we might be able make.'
His wife stirred from the hug and blinked up at him. As he looked at her, Chrom realized that if nothing else he was proud of Robin; how strong she was with him...And even how quick she was at figuring him out. That pain in his chest from losing Emm was still there, but as he held Robin close it felt more like a healing wound then a fresh one. Something that would stay scarred up and still ache from time to time, but not all consuming.
"Still awake?" Robin's voice was laced with drowsiness. "You should get some sleep, love."
"I know...Just thinking about things." As he spoke, Robin slid one elbow off him so she could prop herself up on the mattress and look down at Chrom. Robin tried to put a stern look on her face as she listened...Which was slightly ruined by the fact that her eyelids were still heavy with sleep.
"That's more of my job then yours, isn't it? Planning, considering, not to mention pondering and dwelling on things, " She managed to put some scolding in her voice well enough, even with that sleepiness. Chrom grinned back at her as she laid her fingers out on the skin of his shoulder with each point. He suspected that the sleepiness was lifting from her, as she had the presence of mind to trace the symbol on his shoulder...Though for a change she didn't dwell on her own mark, even as it lay next to his brand. Chrom was grateful for that, and that there wasn't any heaviness on her shoulders when her eyes flickered over it. Even if that calmness for his wife meant she was leaving his skin quivering from her light touch. And was also turning all his nerves to mush from her ministrations, which was still an unfair advantage. "...And of course thinking."
"Yes, but far be it for me to let you shoulder that all by yourself." He spoke before she had the chance to consider the contrast in their skin. Robin snorted in response, before a laugh was shocked out of her throat as his hands went up to her ribs and his fingers skimmed along them. That was one thing he'd figured out, at least; that his wife had a ticklish spot along her sides. "See? Milady is already tense from so many responsibilities."
"Ch-chrom!" She squeaked out a warning as her voice went breathless from giggling. In retaliation, she dropped so they were back to being pressed chest to chest, and kissing him hard on the lips. The sudden contact took him by surprise, his hands going still. That was when Robin touched her teeth to his lip, and his grip on her sides went from strong to boneless.
"How do you do that?" He managed to gasp out when she pulled away to watch him again.
"Careful observation and a devotion to remembering things." She smiled down at him from underneath a collection of tousled bangs. "Like I said, I'm the thinker of this pair." Her voice and eyes were both wide awake as she kissed him again, letting the touch get drawn out between them as his hands regained enough strength to run up her back. When she sighed against his mouth, Chrom felt the remains of his worry and pain slide away while he kissed her back.
As it turned out, sleep was a long time coming for both of them.
She set the book aside, before shifting in the covers and turning so her hand was draped over Chrom. He could have been waiting for her, with how fast he turned to curl into her.
"Good reading?" He asked, and she answered with a nod as she rested against him. Gods bless her husband, and that he didn't find it odd she brought books to bed with them. He must have gotten used to her habits while they were on the road, realized how important reading was for her, and how difficult it was to get her mind to slow down in the evening.
Even without any pressing battles or enemies, her thoughts still insisted on working full tilt into the night.
"I've been looking at our treasury again. Plegia has done a lot to line our coffers, but I think..." She trailed off in thought. In the pause Chrom ran his fingers and palm over her stomach, coaxing her to breathe and speak again. "We've got a capable military unit in the Shepherds as is. I worry there'll be some grumblings if we shift the gold towards rebuilding instead of our army, but-"
"But it's what Emm would do." Chrom spoke as his hand rested against her chest. "And it's a sound idea. I don't want to see Ylisse bleed out from after trauma, now that the war is done. Where were you thinking of investing?"
"Rebuilding our farmlands so no one starves, for starters. I think Donnel might have some advise on that, first hand." It was odd pillow talk to engage in, but it helped set her mind at ease and mellow it out.
Although Chrom's hands on her body might have had something to do with that as well. She'd figured him out in just a few evenings, but he was starting to catch up with puzzling out where her own sensitive points were. One hand traveled along her arm, until it rested against her wrist. He rubbed his thumb over her hand, roughly tracing the mark on the back. She didn't know whether to shiver from pleasure or unease from the gesture, and Robin stalled making the choice by turning so her lips touched against his shoulder.
"I want to see the capital get back to flourishing again. Just like when I saw it the first time." She murmured into his skin. The thumb tracing over her hand kept dragging her focus away from fully thought out plans, and before she knew it her mouth was running without her permission. Robin wanted to blame the late hour, but that didn't change how her words were spilling out.
"It's strange. I know what things ARE, the names of things, but Ylisse is still my first memory of seeing a city. And the people I met there...You, Lissa, and the other Shepherds...You're still my first family that I can remember." She found herself whispering. "And sometimes I'm still scared..." Of losing that, though she didn't want to say it out loud. Chrom must have been able to guess well enough, which was something Robin still wasn't sure if she was happy about or not; it was a definite side effect of knowing each other so well.
He let out a breath, and Robin thought she could hear 'oh love' on the end of that, before his other hand found hers. When his fingers were folded fully around her hand, he brought it up to rest between them.
"Robin, look at what's on your finger again." The candles were well on their way to guttering out, but she could still see the ribbon of gold circling around her finger. The tear drop shape of the band glimmered in the shifting light, as Robin blinked at it.
"A...Wedding ring?" The weight and feel of it on her skin still took some getting used to.
"And what does that tell you?" He watched her with warm, steady eyes that left Robin ducking her head to hide any pink trying to creep onto her cheeks.
"That I'm...Your wife?"
"And a part of my life." He moved his thumb so it traced over her ring finger, across where poets claimed her heart line ran through her hand. "Always." He gave a cough before continuing.
"And..." Was that embarrassment she could pick out in his voice? "I know it's not the same, but it's sort of like a...A brand of your own. I hoped you'd see this as a good way to make you part of this family-" he was already floundering in his speech when she stretched out to kiss him on the lips. The words were swallowed up when their mouths touched and lingered together.
The candles flickered out before either of them came up for air. In the dark, Robin nuzzled at his cheek while she whispered her thanks, eyes going back to where her hand threaded through Chrom's hair. She couldn't pick out her ring in the moonlight, or at least the gold didn't stand out from her skin the same way the mark did. But she could feel the weight of the ring on her hand, and the press of metal against her skin felt far more comforting then before.
It didn't take much work to figure out where to find her, even with a castle as large as the Ylisse palace. Chrom just had to think of where they'd spent time before, and retrace his steps. He finally spotted her outlined on one of the landings; not the one where proclamations or ceremonies were held, but a sliver of balcony tucked into one of the wings. She was curled up where the balustrade met the wall, eyes scanning both the castle off to her side, and the wall and city ahead of them. The morning sunlight was soft on her face, but he could already pick out tired lines around her eyes.
"Didn't you sleep well?" He asked as he moved to stand beside her. Robin gave a little start from his voice, before relaxing when she realized who he was. All without ever glancing at him.
"Not as well as usual," she sighed out, gaze still fixed on the grounds stretched out below them. Her eyes narrowed, looking like they were trying to pick out some solution or hint from the landscape to solve whatever was bothering her. "How do you adapt to all of this, Chrom? Living in a castle is just so...Different."
"Do you not like it?" His couldn't keep alarm from making his voice thick. But Robin shook her head and took his hands in hers when she picked out that odd note to his voice. Her grip was gentle, to prove that she was relaxed.
"Not at all. It's just not what I'm used to; usually we move locations every other day. Staying in one spot for so many weeks is just...Odd to me." Chrom didn't realize he was holding his breath until he spoke again, already feeling relief flooding through him as several ideas came to mind. Regardless of what Robin teased him with, he could be clever from time to time.
"Well, soon enough you might be praying for a feather mattress again. The Risen aren't going to stop just because the war is over, and the Shepherds will still be making patrols. I won't be able to lead all of them, but...I'll still be traveling with them when I can." Even exhausted, she could pick out the meaning behind his talk quick enough, as her eyes widened and she stared right at him.
"You'll let me come too?"
"Of course...And to be honest, I'd like to have someone I can trust at my side." He ran a hand along her waist as he spoke. "And you know...If you want a change, there's no rule saying that you have to sleep in the exact same bed chamber every single night."
"If I can convince you to also move with me, I'll definitely consider it." That tired note was out of her voice, and he could hear a small laugh at the edge of her words. It was more then small when he kissed her on the cheek, and one of her arms wrapped around his back.
The other rested over her stomach, although Chrom couldn't quite understand the meaning behind that gesture. But it left her calm and with a smile in place, which was enough just then.
The mid morning sun did odd things to her memories. It streamed through the castle windows, and when she felt it on her skin, it stirred images that were far removed from the library she was settled in. When she shut her eyes, Robin was pulled completely back and into the memory; she could feel and smell fresh field grass all around her, and a strong hand wrapping around hers.
Her balance had been completely off when Chrom pulled her up that first time. Her thoughts hadn't been much better, a blur of jumbled images and sounds that settled into static in her ears. But she'd been able to push that chaos out long enough to help Chrom and the Shepherds at least, and that in turn had somehow helped order her thoughts. The new companions she'd found had always helped steady her, and left her in a better place then that field she first woke up in.
The memory pushed tears into the corners of her eyes, even while her mouth pulled back into a blissful smile. Perhaps even a little on the dopey side; when her thoughts caught up she certainly felt foolish enough, sitting in the library and sniffling over a happy memory. Robin hastily blinked her eyes clear, glancing around to make sure no one had walked in to notice her. To her relief the study room stayed quiet, and she could lean back again to focus on her book.
Save for a brief quiver in her belly as something turned and shifted. She let her hand fall down to rest over the swell until the child under her palms stilled. Her baby didn't seem to care for being stationary any more then her mother did, and Robin found herself pacing back to the library shelves for something more to add to her reading. She traced her hands over the spines of the books as she passed between shelves, through sunlight and shade, before pausing at another window. In the sunlight it was easy to see a shadow different then hers fall across the floor.
"You're both alright?" Once Robin heard that voice in her ear, she leaned back into the pair of arms that she knew would already be waiting for her. In a way, she was surprised it took Chrom so long to find her and ask the five-times-a-day-minimum question.
"Of course; I was just outlining a few new plans on patrols for our forces to take. Like you said, the Risen won't stay sedate just because there aren't wars to fight." Or that there was a baby on the way. "Trust me Chrom, I'm fine; no pulling late night studies OR wasting any candles...Though gods know you have enough in the palace."
He took her hands into his, fingers curling around hers and brushing over her wedding ring. She could feel his own against her palm as she turned in his arm and curled into his chest. "You don't have to worry about me," she reassured him again, the fourth time that week.
"I...I know don't have to," she couldn't miss the tension in his voice. "But I do anyway. I just-" He cut off, shaking his head into her hair as he held her as tight as he dared. Two years hadn't removed all of the hurt from losing Emmeryn, Robin knew. Even in the best of times, that pain was still there...And her pregnancy had left him with a mile long protective streak over her and their child. Robin let silence fall over them as they stood outlined against the window, waiting for his thoughts and emotions to settle again before she spoke. The warmth from their bodies and the sun must have helped, as the tightness in his grip slowly eased with each breath.
"You know, once I can finally hold our baby, the next thing we're doing is going back to the practice yard. Regardless of how many training dummies we break in the process." Robin murmured into the join of his shoulder and neck, eyes half closed.
"I'll have you know, I'm getting better at not putting holes in things." Chrom replied in a way that instantly told Robin he was fibbing. She bumped her head against his neck as a quiet rebuttal. "But that's really what you want?" He asked, a little uncertain as he moved to trace circles on her back.
"Well, maybe not the most immediate thing; I can think of a few more ideas and plans that involve you...But getting my skills back up to par is a high priority. I miss being with you on the field. And I get the feeling you might relax more if you remember that I can manage and protect myself." She kept her eyes closed as she listened to his breathing; from the way it fluttered under her ear, Robin could tell that her husband was smiling and trying to keep a chuckle under control.
"You know me too well sometimes," he whispered into her hair. "But you're right...It'd help ease my mind if I remembered. Though..." His pulse was trying to work back to racing again, she could tell through her cheek pressed against his neck. "Though...You're not pushing yourself right now, are you?"
"Chrom!" She worked as much indignation as she could into her voice and with her face still pressed into his shoulder. "I keep telling you, I'm alright. No risks, no chances taken...And frankly it's driving me mad, letting everything I've learned with you go to rust." She sighed the last out. "So if I promise to keep being careful, do you promise to relax AND help me train when the baby is here?"
"I..." He inhaled, clearly thinking over her offer before speaking. "I promise, milady." He was gentle with his words, the same way his hug was easing up as he reached his decision. He was soft enough that she didn't want to do more then prod him for using that half-teasing title. "Though it won't take long to get your center back."
"You sound so sure," her voice was a murmur, in contrast to the confidence growing in his. Which she found herself quickly preferring over hearing worry sticking to his tongue.
"Yeah...Because I already know we're two halves. Or at least, you reminded me about that. It won't be hard to fit back together on the field. You trust me on that, right?"
"Yes," the light was moving from the window pane, shifting so they stood in shadow and taking the warmth from the air with it. But staying pressed against Chrom, Robin found herself wrapped in plenty of comfort. "I do."
'A girl.' Chrom told himself as he looked down at their child. Robin held her head up so he could brush a thumb over her forehead and through those first wisps of hair, and look into those blue eyes. Only a few days old, and he could see the mark of the Exalt in one. They were already bright and curious, and he didn't think he was imagining that his daughter was already learning her parent's faces. 'A beautiful baby girl.'
"She takes after her father," Robin murmured as she cradled Lucina close against her. Her hands fought between shaking and staying steady, which may have been part of why Robin kept Lucina resting against her arm and body. Even though she'd been with child for so long, actually holding Lucina in her arms must have been a new and unexpected sensation. He could feel his wife's sides fluttering against his, fighting between crying and laughing from relief. A glimpse at her eyes also showed him that they were gleaming with a few unshed tears, while her mouth kept tugging into a grin. He was still reeling from the fact that they had a child as well. Doomsday could have been pounding down at their door for all the awareness he gave anything else. His own world narrowed to the wife and daughter in front of him, as his mind spun in euphoric circles and Robin continued in a hushed voice. "She has your eyes, your hair...I'm glad of that."
He could see the fingers on her right hand twitch, and knew that thoughts of the brand on her skin lurked somewhere in her head, fully realized or not. Even now, out of battle and within the walls of the castle, she wore gloves over her hands more often then not, keeping the skin on them out of sight and mostly out of mind...Save for where she'd clipped away the fingers on her left glove, leaving her ring to clearly show. He covered her hand with his own as he wrapped his other arm around her shoulders. With a tug, Chrom drew his wife and daughter against his chest.
"Give it time, and she'll have her mother's wit and strength, too." He answered, and kissed Robin on the forehead as her skin grew warm from his praise. Through the pink on her cheeks, he also saw some glimmers of confusion settling over her features.
"I thought that strength is...More of your forte, though?" She rested her head against his cheek as she said that, bumping against the muscles of his arms to prove the point. Chrom shook his head as he weaved their fingers together.
"Physical strength, maybe. But you're the strong one when it comes to faith and perseverance." Another kiss, this time on the crown of her head while he breathed in her scent. "You're always there to pull me back up. And make me a stronger person."
"Only because you do the same for me." Robin tilted her head so she caught his next kiss on her mouth, giving a soft humming noise when their lips touched. Before he could move to deepen their kiss, Lucina gave a squeak in Robin's arms; not quite fussy, but clearly wanting her parent's attention to be on her as well. Robin and Chrom both shifted their grip so she could rock their child back and forth, quieting her with the steady motion. As Chrom watched, he dropped his arms so they were wrapped snug around her waist. Through it all, the newest part of their family and lives gave a contented cooing noise, giving them an open mouthed smile as they watched. Robin never took her eyes off her daughter, and kept her head resting against Chrom as they breathed in and out together, falling into synchronization once again.