Hey, people! I should probably be studying for my exams, or at the very least writing the next chapters for my current stories, but the idea for this oneshot hit me so vividly and clearly that I dropped my textbook and ran over to the computer so I could write it :P
Anyway, I haven't written legitimate romantic fluff in a while so I was incredibly happy that this was what my brain was inspired to come up with! It's pretty inspired and based around the song I See the Light from the movie Tangled. I don't care that I'm eighteen years old and a dude, I love Disney stuff, and that movie is definitely one of my favourites. Princess movies ftw lol! So, yeah, here we go!
Disclaimer: I do not own Fire Emblem or the characters and terms affiliated with it. All rights go to its respective owners, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems.
Edit: Removed the song lyrics due to a violation in the guidelines. If you want to hear the song, just search it up.
I See the Light
Grey. Dull, plain, boring, hassle-filled grey.
She never asked for this; this grey castle, these grey halls of stone, or these grey people she knew as her advisors. All she wanted was to reclaim her homeland, not become stuck in a flurry of paperwork and errands. She knew that the transition would be difficult, but never did she expect it to be such a nuisance. The tireless requests, the unending questions, the nitpicky aristocrats; everything was becoming such a blur of how to be prim and proper, and it was giving her a migraine: one that lasted for weeks on end.
Elincia Ridell Crimea, that was her name, was it not? She was meant to be the queen who would bring peace and prosperity to her kingdom, the one who would unite the people in an age of camaraderie and brotherhood, but she didn't feel like that sort of queen. In fact, she felt more like the queen of paperwork, drowning in a sea of signed parchment and stamped insignias. If given the chance, she would have liked to work alongside her subjects, aiding in the reconstruction of Crimea, but her advisors had argued otherwise.
"Oh, no, my queen, you should not be subject to such toil!" they had scoffed at the very idea of her partaking in physical labour. "Leave such unpleasant matters to the common folk."
Had they not understood just how she came to reclaiming her homeland?! Not only did she walk amongst the soldiers of the Liberation Army, but she had fought alongside them too! Her own tasks seemed much more unpleasant than aiding in the rebuilding process. What did a bunch of stuck-up nobles know anyway? She hadn't been raised like them; if anything she should be living the life of a commoner, just like she was raised.
Elincia sighed as she slouched in her chair, resting her elbows on the desk and resting her chin between her palms. She smirked slightly at the thought of if her etiquette tutor could see her now, "slouching like an ape" as she would say. Blowing a stray lock of hair from her face, the young queen allowed herself to ignore the stacks of paper before her as her amber eyes wandered around the room.
The office, to be quite frank, was smaller than she would have liked. Located nearby the throne room, it was a simple office with enough room for a desk, bookshelf, and a couple decorative statues. Windows all around the room allowed her to look out beyond the courtyard and into Melior. She smiled at the sight of the people going about their work, talking and laughing as if they had not a care in the world. If not for the fact that they were setting up scaffolding and such to rebuild their destroyed homes, it would look as though hardship had never befallen the cheery commoners.
Elincia stood from her seat to gaze out the window. Though she hated the fact that she had to mull over enormous stacks of paperwork, she was relieved that she could have some privacy. Because the threat of her being attacked was so low now, her advisors had agreed to let her move about the castle without an entourage of knights to defend her. In truth, though, she was afraid; not because of the threat her position in the kingdom garnered, but because she could not disappoint her people.
"Look at them," she muttered quietly to herself. "They're all so happy, so carefree. How can I possibly rule them? How can I… be their… queen…?"
The last words came to her with difficulty. She was the queen of Crimea, a kingdom that did not know of her existence until only recently. For one adventure-filled year, she had been away from the castle, and yet she had never felt more alive. Being kept in hiding in a small villa so close to the castle did not allow much freedom. In fact, the only time she had been able to go outside was when travelling between the castle and the villa, or when a chore required her to do so. Though she wanted nothing more than to free her people from oppression, it came at the price of her own freedom, and she secretly envied the lives she had saved in place of her own. Even Ike knew of the freedom he would give up by staying in the court, which is why he had told her personally that he would stay only until things had settled down. Though she was saddened by his news, she could respect his decision, and hoped only that he would come visit occasionally to sweep her off her feet with tales of courage and justice.
Ike… the saviour of Crimea. She smiled as thoughts of the blue-haired man crossed her mind. To think that he'd somehow gone from being a simple mercenary, to uniting the beorc and laguz under one banner, to being knighted by Empress Sanaki, and finally to leading the Crimean Liberation Army as the commander to generals as high-ranking as even Sir Zelgius! His tale was much more satisfying than her own, a true underdog story. Surely she would not have gotten through the year without him.
Bards and minstrels sang of his exploits of strength and bravery, and he was known throughout the kingdom for his rise to glory. Even her pessimistic advisors lauded his achievements, though they probably would have been happier if he had been of noble birth. He was a leader, commander, and a true friend through and through. No one had the ability to pick her up like he had, and she had been grateful for the chance to meet someone as extraordinary as he. If she had the option, she would hand her crown over to him…
"My queen?" said a voice from the door, accompanied by a knock.
"Yes? You may enter," she replied, straightening out her posture and returning to her desk.
In stepped one of her retainers, a short, stocky man. Wrinkles covered his face, and his hair was clearly beginning to thin and grey. He pushed his glasses up along his crooked nose, clearing his throat before speaking. He was a kind enough man, she thought, but if aristocracy had made him this, well, unattractive, then she hoped her reign would not be long. Then again, her mother and father had never seemed quite so poorly aged as this man, nor had her Uncle Renning.
"An audience has gathered in the courtyard," he said. "They wish to be greeted by their new queen and hero. It seems strange, but I had not realized that you had yet to address them publicly!"
"Oh," she replied, sounding rather unsure of herself, "I, er… yes, I will need a few moments to prepare myself."
Nodding, he quickly left the room, closing the door behind him. Once he was gone, she slumped in her chair again. Playing with the orange folds of her dress, she thought nervously about stepping out before her people. How long had she been inside of this castle? She'd never seen any of the outside world until this past year, and the idea of leading people still frightened her. She needed someone to help her, someone to stand beside her through the hardship, someone to love and take care of her right now, someone like Ike…
Her cheeks burned at the thought of imagining Ike like that. True, she had often imagined what a life with him would be like, but they were all silly, girlish fantasies that she knew could not come true. As her advisors would tell her, he was not a true noble; therefore, not a viable suitor, and it wasn't as if he seemed to be courting her at all. No, her feelings for Ike were simply a fantastic dream from which she could not awaken. She knew he would not be staying, and she did not have the gall to make him stay. She was a queen, and he a saviour, but a relationship between the two of them would not work with their clashing life purposes.
Taking a deep breath and exhaling, Elincia stood from her seat and exited the office with as much false confidence as she could exude.
It did not take long, however, for her inner nervousness to take control, and rather than turning out to the balcony, she turned the other way towards the throne room. The room was large and stony, though rather dimly lit. The only source of light came from the windows high above the throne and the doorway leading to the balcony across the hall. What sort of fear had driven her here? Was she truly so cowardly that she could not simply go out and wave to her subjects? She had been trapped inside all her life, and yet now she was afraid to find out how a queen would be treated. Slumping onto her throne, she hung her head in shame. Before she knew it, footsteps sounded from the entryway.
"What's wrong?" asked a voice, a familiar voice that made her skin tingle at the very sound of it. "Everyone's waiting to see you."
His footsteps stopped only a few feet away from her, and she could see the brown boots on his feet. As much as she wished she could look up to him, she could not bring herself to make eye contact. His voice held no impatience or annoyance, but was soothing and compassionate. She forced her gaze to travel slightly upwards, but only enough to see his torso. His arms weren't crossed or in some sort of closed-off position; rather, he stood with openness, ready to hear her out. Elincia knew she could be plain with him, it was how they both preferred things.
"I'm nervous," she stated truthfully, a slight quiver in her voice. "I've spent my whole life in hiding. It's just… no one ever taught me how to rule a kingdom. I don't think I'm ready to be their queen. I don't think I'm… ever really… going to be ready…"
The last words fell out of her mouth before she could properly think them through, and yet she knew they were exactly how she felt. She allowed herself to meet his gaze for a short moment, but it fell back down as her disappointment in herself set in. Verbalizing her lack of ruling ability only made her feel worse about it all.
"What's the matter with you?" he replied, catching her slightly off-guard. Ike did have a habit of being somewhat insensitive, but his soothing tone betrayed the slightly jarring nature of his words. She wanted to be angry with him, but his face was calm, peaceful even.
"Ike, stop it. How can I-"
"Did anyone teach you," he cut her off before pausing, thinking of a proper example to reference, "how to hire mercenaries?"
"No," she responded, feeling less strength behind her argument, "but that's not the same."
"How to win back lost allies?" he continued, ignoring her weak attempt at arguing with him. "How to win back your lost kingdom?"
"That's…" she stopped, unsure of if it was even worth arguing with him at that point. He knew he was getting somewhere, but this was bigger than he was making it all out to be! "That's different…"
"No, it's not!" he proclaimed, making her wince slightly at his elevated volume. Noticing her resolve wavering, he smiled just enough to make her heart melt. Then he did something she did not expect; he knelt before her, the light of the entryway flowing in behind him.
"You've done such an amazing job," he soothed, his blue eyes staring deep into her entranced, amber ones, "and I think you… always will."
At that point, Elincia had to physically stop herself from blushing. She could feel the shivers running through each nerve in her body as she allowed the words to sink in. He said nothing more, simply kneeling before her and smiling that handsome smile of his. Perhaps he was right. No one had ever taught her how to do anything she had done over the past year, and yet she had done it all. Even to this day, her subjects still held firm beliefs that she could lead them into the golden age, and, with Ike at her side for the time being, she finally realized that perhaps she could too.
"I see," she said quickly, giving a small smile and a jerky nod. Neither of them said anything for a moment, and stopping the blush was becoming more difficult with each passing second. She could stare at him all day, but she knew that it would be unbecoming of the queen to do such a thing.
"All right," he said, getting to his feet, "c'mon. We'll do this together."
Try as she might, she knew her cheeks flushed at least a little bit when he held out his hand for her to take. Not wanting to waste a second, she lightly grasped his hand, her own tingling at the sensation. She couldn't help but notice the slight pink complexion on Ike's cheeks as she met his eyes once again. Standing to her feet as well, a smile crept its way across her lips, and she was glad to see him mirror her expression. This was the man she grew to care for more than just a comrade or a friend, and she wished she could say something in this moment. However, perhaps now was not the most opportune time. Still, she had to say something, so taking his hand in both of hers – much to his surprise – she held it close to her heart.
"Thank you, my lord Ike," she began, allowing whatever came to mind, to heart, to pour itself out unto him. "I am… I am so blessed to have met you."
She had to stop a giggle from escaping her when she looked upon his face. He gazed back at her somewhat dumbfounded while the light blush on his cheeks became more apparent. However, Ike had always been quick with his reflexes, so rather than messing up his words, he simply gave her a reassuring nod before turning towards the balcony with her in tow. Hand-in-hand, they walked out to greet the people together.
"Elincia," said Ike after they had addressed the people, "I, er, d-do you think that maybe… we could talk?"
She gave him a confused look before responding. "Of course, Ike. I'm sure there is a place somewhere where-"
"No," he cut her off before mentally berating himself. "I mean… Maybe could we speak sometime t-tonight? I-It's… kind of important."
"Oh," she replied, the slight confusion still in her voice, "um, yes, I should have some time to meet with you tonight."
"Great, I'll, uh, I guess I'll meet you in the courtyard. Say… sundown?"
"Yes, I'll see you then."
"Right. Bye for now…"
With that, he turned the opposite way at the fork in their path. He made sure that she was out of sight before smacking himself in the face. Running his calloused hands through his messy, blue hair, Ike cursed himself. When did he ever get nervous around Elincia? He was supposed to be the fearless hero of Crimea! Goddess above, he'd been travelling with her for the past year, and never once did he find himself messing up his words in front of her. Even when he'd found out she was a princess he didn't feel nervous around her! This was ridiculous; he was the one who had talked her nerves out of her only a short while ago! If he could give himself a pep talk to let his nerves out, then maybe he'd stop feeling so stupid about this. It didn't make sense… well, actually it made all the sense in the world. Though he continued asking himself why he had acted so foolishly, he knew the answer.
He had feelings for Elincia.
He knew her power and her status and her money didn't entrance him, because none of those things had ever really mattered to him; in fact, they still didn't. No, he was attracted to her kind soul and caring nature. She was also attractive to boot, but that was not the most prominent reason for his attraction. Despite being a timid figurehead of the Liberation Army, she'd proven that she could fight alongside them as a competent ally. He remembered how reckless he thought the idea was, but when she pleaded to stop any more innocents from dying, he found that he couldn't say no. It was then that he knew that something had grown between them. Saying no to anyone else would not have been an issue, but somehow he just wasn't able to say it to Elincia. However, speaking to her then had never made him into the stuttering idiot he had been just now.
"I'm going soft," he muttered, opening the door to his bedchamber.
"Yeah, you are," came a quiet voice from within the room. Ike jumped at the sound; he hadn't realized Soren was in there.
"Thanks for the support, Soren," he chuckled wryly. "Have I been that obvious about my sensitivity?"
"It's not so much that as it is your… lack of tact," Soren replied flatly; he never really did like to beat around the bush. "If Elincia hadn't been so caught up with everything around her as of late, I'm sure she would have had no trouble noticing your antics."
"You think I should be more careful around her?"
"Not unless you want her to find out."
Ike sighed as he slumped down onto his bed. He knew that something between he and Elincia would be impossible. She was the queen of a country that could barely stand on its own right now, and he was a newly appointed lord who would be giving up his title within a few months. In his head he knew these things, yet in his heart he did not want to accept it. They were no more than a girl and a boy who had formed a close bond on an adventure together. There was no war, no social status differences, no nothing! He knew what his feelings for her were, but his head didn't want him to know it properly, and neither did life in general.
"I… I do want her to know, Soren," he breathed, turning to the mage leaning on the wall. "I can't keep hiding myself from her."
"And why is that? You've done a… mediocre job so far."
"Yeah, but it's just…" he paused, but the words wouldn't form a comprehensible sentence. "Do you remember what you said to me when I told you about my conversation with Elincia the night before the battle to reclaim the capital?"
"Which part specifically?"
"When I said that I would do all I could to ensure her dream, even if it killed me in the process."
"Ah, yes," Soren smirked, recalling the memory. "I called you an obvious idiot."
"You know that isn't what I meant," Ike retorted, tossing a pebble that struck the smirking mage on his brand. "I was talking about the main part."
"What, you mean when I said that then would probably have been the best time? I was trying to make you feel better so you wouldn't be depressed for the most important fight of our lives! And besides, you didn't act on it, so what's your point?"
"Yeah, but… well, it meant something to me. I just kept thinking to myself, 'He's right. I might not see tomorrow, but I'll be damned if Elincia's dream isn't fulfilled. Maybe I won't make it, but I promised her that I would do everything I could, so if I die, I need to let her know how I feel first'."
"But, like I said, you didn't."
"I know, but that's why…" Ike hesitated, and Soren focused his gaze on Ike as if to read his mind. "That's why I asked her to meet with me tonight."
Immediately, Soren's hands flew up and flopped back to his sides. "You are hopeless, you know that, Ike?" he groaned. "What could you possibly hope to achieve from this? You know that someone as lowborn as you can't court her, so what's the point? You aren't dying and neither is she!"
"I don't care about any of that," Ike said flatly. "I'm not trying to court her, and I'm not trying to win her hand or anything. I'm just a guy trying to tell a girl how I feel about her."
"Need I remind you that neither of you is 'just a guy' or 'just a girl'? In case you forgot, you are a mercenary-turned-saviour and she is the queen of your country!"
"I didn't forget!" he barked at Soren.
A heaviness hung in the air as the two of them remained in silence for a bit. Ike bit his lip, angry that he'd let his emotions run like that. He'd never felt so confused like this before. Was he making a mistake? Soren seemed to think he shouldn't tell her, and honestly Soren usually had the more intelligent ideas. Sure, they weren't always the most pleasant, but sometimes morals and pleasantries had to be substituted for one another. Perhaps he was making a mistake by substituting the right thing to do for something he wanted to do. Was that what Soren was trying to get at with all of this?
"Why now?" Soren asked after a moment. "What made now such an important time to do it?"
Ike sighed, scratching his blue hair, and readjusted his headband. "I missed one opportunity; I won't miss another. I have to let her know before we're gone."
"We won't be leaving for many months. You still have time. What if she feels uncomfortable after this?"
"She's not like that and you know it. If all goes as planned, she'll hear me out, and I won't have any regrets once we leave."
"I don't think it'll be that simple," Soren sighed, stepping towards the door. "You may regret more than you know if you go through with this, and you won't be the only one."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ike asked as he turned towards him.
"Well, Elincia, she…" Soren stopped as he was about to step through the doorway. Glancing back at Ike's oblivious face, he shook his head and turned away. "Make it count, Ike. These last few months will be important for you," was all he said before leaving the hero to stare confusedly out the doorway.
"Make it… count?" he said to himself, lying back onto his bed. What could that possibly mean? Why would these last few months be any different than the previous? Well, minus the fact that Elincia may or may not feel differently around him.
While he pondered what Soren could have meant by that, he smirked at another sudden realization. "What on Tellius was Soren doing in my room?"
"Finally," Elincia sighed in relief as the last piece of parchment was signed and stamped. "And just in time," she added, noting the sun just barely touching the horizon.
Finishing paperwork each day made her happier than anything else lately. Well, except for actually reclaiming the homeland that had supplied her with such a tedious task. She smiled brightly to the maids and servants whom she passed by in the halls. She knew that tomorrow would be filled with another stack of horrible paperwork, but at least she could get a nice sleep before that began, and even better, Ike had asked to see her.
She giggled girlishly at the idea that he'd wanted to meet her tonight. He never stuttered in his speech, and it was made especially humourous that he had right after he'd calmed her down. What could he wish to speak to her about? Nothing of great importance between them seemed to have come up since she'd been crowned. Hopefully she'd be able to see him more now that things were starting to show the early stages of settling. She wanted to spend as much time with the hero as she could before he was gone. Oh, if only he didn't have to leave…
Assuming she had arrived early, Elincia began to stroll around the courtyard. Some gardeners were finishing up their last touches on the flowers and such surrounding the fountain, and she greeted them kindly as they each gave little bows to her. Once she had circled the area, she sat on the edge of the fountain and examined the waters that reflected the sunset's orange glow. Why had Ike seemed so anxious about speaking to her before? Her curiousity grew more and more with each moment that passed. He had always had such a strong resolve, and it seemed rather uncharacteristic, not that it made her feel any less about him.
Elincia blushed as she tucked a strand of her long green hair behind her ear and looked at her reflection in the water. She always wondered what he thought of her, not as a queen or ruler, but just as a girl. What would he say about her if she were just any ordinary girl he had come to meet and befriend? Of course it was all hypothetical, but she was still just a girl with hopes and dreams like any other. She wanted to find love, and who better to find it with than the man who had saved her countless times? Still, the fact that he would not be staying continuously plagued her mind. In fact, she would not mind leaving with him, but that would be impossible given her position. A relationship with Ike, as magnificent as it sounded, was anything but possible.
"Sorry I'm late," said someone from beside her. She smiled as she looked up to see Ike with a bag over his shoulder.
"Hello, Ike," she responded peacefully, noting his handsomeness in the orange glow of the sunset, "what do you have in that bag?"
"Oh, this?" he asked, looking down to the pouch at his waist. "Er, it's a surprise. I was actually hoping to take you somewhere tonight. I hope you don't mind."
"Heehee, I suppose it would be all right if I'm being escorted by Crimea's hero!" she giggled, wondering where he could be taking her on a rather ordinary evening.
"Heh, I guess so," he chuckled. "So, erm, shall we?" he asked, holding out his hand much like he had earlier that day. Feeling her cheeks flush slightly as she took his hand, she stood, and the two of them exited the courtyard together.
"A cart?" she asked when the sight of a merchant's cart came into view.
"Yeah, I would've gotten a carriage, but these nobles still don't exactly trust me," he said sheepishly. "Anyway, the local merchant said he'd be honoured to transport us. It's not too… rugged for you, is it?"
Elincia gave him a light chuckle and released his hand. "My lord Ike, I have been travelling in one of these and walking amongst your ranks for the past year, I think I can deal with riding in one again."
He chuckled and shook his head. She followed him up to the flap in the back where he held it open for her. Smiling sweetly to him, she gracefully stepped up into the back of the cart and took a seat on one of the wooden benches. Ike followed soon after and informed the driver that they were ready to set out. Once it was understood, Ike sat down and Elincia felt the cart bump a bit as they started moving along.
The journey to their yet unknown destination took a little longer than Elincia was expecting, and when the cart came to a halt, she could already see that the sun was just barely peeking out over the horizon. After a moment, the well-toned merchant opened the flap in the back and helped each of them down. He nearly fainted when she personally thanked him, and the sight of him swooning made her giggle slightly.
"Ike," she said as he led her down a walking path, "where are we?"
"Hmm? Oh, we're at the stillest part of the river that runs between the ocean and Flaguerre," he answered matter-of-factly.
She was taken aback at the plainness of his statement. "Is there some specific reason we're here?"
"Heh, relax, Elincia," he chuckled reassuringly. "There is a reason we're here, but you'll see for yourself in a bit."
She wanted to ask more, but she figured that he would continue answering just as vaguely. She lifted her dress as the grass brushed against the bottom parts of it. It did not take long for the two of them to reach the edge of the river. Ike was correct when he said that this was the stillest section, for it resembled a lake more than a river. In fact, she could hardly see the current at all. A little farther up the shoreline was a boat made for two, and she felt her cheeks grow hot as he led her towards it.
"Won't it be dangerous to be out on the water once it's dark?" she asked when he gestured for her to step in.
"Don't worry," he said soothingly, placing his hand gently on her shoulder, "it won't be very dark once we're out there."
His cryptic responses left her at a loss for words, and the touch of his hand was sending her heart into flutters, so taking his word for truth, she eased into the boat and sat on the seat in front of the rower's. Gently pushing the boat off of the shore, Ike stepped in and began to paddle out to the middle of the river. The current seemed to be too weak to actually push the boat anywhere.
Though she was still unsure why they were there, Elincia was still quite glad that she was getting to spend some alone time with Ike, and she sat facing him with a soft smile etched across her face for the entire time he rowed. Whenever her beautiful, amber eyes met his deep, blue ones, she could feel her cheeks redden but she never wanted to look away when it happened. He smiled back to her, rowing the boat like a canoe as they travelled farther and farther into the water. Night fell upon them quickly, and the stars illuminated the two of them once they were sitting out in the centre.
"It's beautiful out here," she sighed, the only sound being the light splashing of the water against the side of the boat. How romantic of Ike to take her somewhere like this! Then again, she was probably just thinking of it in a romantic mindset. He probably just wanted to show her the beauty of it all.
"It is," he said softly, and she redirected her eyes from the thousands of stars to Ike's face. "I think it should be starting soon."
"Yeah, I wonder- Ah, there we go," he said happily, pointing towards the shore up the river from where they were. Elincia followed his gaze to see a few small lights floating down the river.
"What are they?" she asked, mesmerized by the way they flickered and danced down the current. Before he could answer, she gasped in surprise as hundreds, maybe even thousands, more suddenly lit up along the shores and began drifting all along the water.
"What is this, Ike?" she asked, her eyes glued to the approaching lights.
"Well, I thought you should see something a little special tonight," he said, forcing her gaze away from the lights and towards him. He'd opened his pack, and in his hand were two candles sitting on little boats and a pack of matches. "I'll, uh, explain the meaning behind this later, but maybe you'd like to add a light to the river?"
She nodded gleefully to him as he lit each candle and handed a little boat to her. Together they placed their candles in the river as more and more began to surround their vessel. Now she understood what he'd meant when he said that it wouldn't be dark once they got out there.
"Elincia," he said in a dreamy tone, once again forcing her gaze from the candles to the voice she'd grown to love. "I'd… I'd like to know more about you. I know you didn't grow up in the court, and I want to know, well, as much as I can about you."
"Really?" she asked, hoping that her flushed cheeks weren't too obvious or that her voice didn't sound too overly mirthful. "No one else has ever really… asked about my upbringing."
"Then you just haven't been talking to the right people," he said softly, and she could have sworn that her heart melted. He was so sweet and caring, much more than he had often appeared to be.
"I grew up in a villa near the castle," she started, memories of her childhood coming back to her. "I was raised like a commoner, so I had all the basic skills that aren't typically taught to noblewomen. As much as I enjoyed being taught all the things I was, I sometimes wished that I could have stopped hiding whom I was. My caretakers allowed me to roam freely between the villa and the castle, but I could never reveal myself to the world. I didn't have any friends, and I never really questioned my position until I began getting older. To me, it was all just a way of life. It wasn't until last year that I realized… that I realized there was more to everything than what I had been raised to know."
"Sounds like it must have been difficult," said Ike. "I can't imagine what it would be like to never show myself for so long. You're a tough cookie for sticking it out all this time."
"Yes, well," she giggled lightly, "it seems it was all worth it. I've never gotten to experience anything like this, and I never would have if not for you, Ike. I… I can't thank you enough for this wonderful experience."
"Don't mention it, Elincia. Like I said, you deserve something special like this. I wanted tonight to be perfect for you. There's no real occasion, but I remembered that this event was happening tonight, and I figured it would be worthwhile for you to come and see it. You've been through so much and I wanted to let you know that everyone appreciates you. We all care about you, Elincia; especially me."
She was at a loss for words. She had never heard him speak so sincerely since the time he defended her in front of Begnion's aristocrats. Back then he had been so angry at the way they slandered her name and kingdom, and he was still a nobody in their eyes. That same intensity was radiating off of him now, but it was projected in a different aura. He was being sweet and sincere, a side she had not seen of him oft, due to his rather gruff personality. Elincia could feel her heart pounding in her chest, begging her to be honest with him. It didn't matter if things couldn't quite work the way she may have hoped, she just wanted to let it all out. It was more than just attraction, this was the man she wanted to be with and she would let no one tell her otherwise.
The soft features of his face were illuminated by the glow from the river of candles all around them. From afar, it was truly a magical sight, the two of them sitting together in a boat surrounded by a glowing river. Up close, she could examine everything his face said without his words saying it. Most of the time his face was angry or rough, but tonight it looked soft and gentle. He brought her here for a reason, and she so desperately wanted to know. There was more to it than him showing his appreciation for her and she knew it.
"Ike," she began, speaking for the first time in minutes, "who are you really? I've gotten to know so much about you, and yet tonight I feel as though I'm meeting you again for the first time. Everything about your courageous and daring nature has been wiped clean now that I see you in this light, both literally and figuratively. You seem like a whole different person right now. I thought I had you figured out, but you've surprised me more than you know."
He let out a single breathy chuckle and took her hand in his own. Something about the action didn't make her blush this time and she could see that he was not blushing either, just smiling dreamily as they locked eyes again. The lights in his eyes reflected the flickering candles below and the twinkling stars above. He truly had mesmerizing eyes. And this change in him was just so… wonderful that she had to know who the real Ike was. Everything he did in that moment was making her fall for him more.
"This is the real me, Elincia. You knew me as the gruff commander of the army before, but I sit before you now as Ike through and through. I'll admit that I am still partially the rough man you knew over the past year, but I had to keep my soft side from showing. Something about you, though, made me want to show it. I had to find the perfect way to let you know just who I am; the man I've always been, and the man I want you to see me as."
"I tried to hide my true personality so that people would think I was strong enough to continue my father's legacy. In truth, Mist, Titania, and Soren could always see through the ruse, but everyone else bought the fake me. Even when I first met you, you were just another person to me; someone I had to trick into believing I was tougher than I actually was. Yet somehow I was never able to pull it off properly around you. Maybe it's because you were around before my father's passing, but I think it was always something else, even from the very moment I first laid eyes on you."
He took a moment to pause, only wanting to look into her eyes again. The amber orbs shimmered with the orange glow of the candles and the white stars above. He could gaze into her soul right now, but he couldn't read what she was feeling. There was so much emotion behind those beautiful eyes he loved, but he only wished he could read it properly. Could she be feeling the same way as he was right now? It was hardly likely, but the chance to tell her was coming soon.
"You wanted to know why I brought you here, correct?"
She nodded in response. "Yes," she said, sounding as if she wanted something from him, "I know it has more to do than with you being appreciative of me."
He let out a chuckle; that had been a weak attempt to cover this up, but it was only meant as a temporary stall. "Well, the truth about this thing is that, up the stream, couples come to let their troubles flow away as they begin their love anew. At least, that's what I remember my mother telling me. The candles burn away the bad and reignite the passion that should flow like a river through any relationship. It's a ritual for lovers to light their candles and release them into the river so that they can flow out to the ocean, leading them to many places, much the way love is supposed to."
Elincia thought her heart might burst from her chest. Was he saying what she was interpreting this as?! It was one thing for them to witness the passion of lovers flowing down the metaphorical yet physical river of light, but they had also taken part in it! She, of course, hadn't known at the time, but Ike knew. If Ike knew about the ritual, then that meant he must…
"I-Ike?" she asked, her voice wavering a bit, though she couldn't say if it was from excitement or nervousness. "A-Are you saying… what I think you're saying?"
He simply smiled, now taking both of her hands in his own. "I've waited a long time to say this, Elincia. I… I wanted to say it the night before we retook the capital, in case I didn't make it, but I was just so afraid of what might have happened then. But the funny thing is I'm not nervous anymore. I was afraid to tell you before because I didn't want to mess things up before we went into battle. Now, though, I have nothing to lose."
Everything seemed to freeze as the next few words left his mouth.
"I love you, Elincia."
And before she had the chance to react, he moved his lips towards hers, locking them in a gesture that she had only ever dreamed about, and yet even her dreams didn't compare to what the actual thing felt like.
Ike felt as she let go of his hands to wrap her arms around him. He mirrored the gesture and snaked one arm around her back while the other slid behind her head. He could feel her beautiful, green hair dangle around his fingers, and he wanted nothing more than to stay in this moment forever. She had returned his kiss, the last thing he was expecting. He fully expected the kiss to be short, and for him to apologize as she sat stunned, but instead he had gotten a passionate lip-lock in return for his bold action. It was complete euphoria to forget the world he had fought for so he could remember this moment right now. Everything from the lights to the boat to the starlit sky had made everything absolutely wonderful, and his perfect night for Elincia had become a perfect night for the both of them.
When they finally pulled apart, both of them fell into some light, mirthful giggles. Though he was happier than he had ever been in his life, Ike finally understood what Soren had meant earlier.
"Make it count, Ike. These last few months will be important for you." The words echoed in his head. Soren, the clever dog, he knew that Elincia also had feelings for Ike, but he didn't want to say it. He knew that if he revealed it too soon, it would have destroyed whatever plan Ike had in store for tonight. Now he understood why he had to make it count and why these next months would be important. As much as he would love to stay with Elincia, he had no business in the castle. None of that mattered right now though; if he had to make these next few months count, then they would be the best of his entire life.
"Ike, I've dreamed of this moment for so long," Elincia said dreamily. "I… I wanted to tell you that I love you too. Everything has been so busy lately, and I was afraid that I wouldn't get to see you very much before… before you leave…"
"Elincia," he said, pushing up her chin as her gaze dropped in sadness, "I promise that I will make our time together the best you've ever had. The aristocrats would never accept me as a suitor for you, but I don't care about any of that. I'll be with you in secret if that is what we have to do, as long as I can have you by my side, everything in my life will be perfect."
"But what about when you leave?"
"We'll never truly be apart, Elincia. I'll stay in your heart, and you'll remain in mine. I won't be gone indefinitely, and I will see you as frequently as I can. We may come from different worlds, but our feelings for each other are exactly the same, regardless of who we are or where we come from. As long as you can promise me that I'll always have a place in your heart, I promise that I'll always be there for you when life gets hard."
"I promise, Ike. I could never lose sight of the man I love most dearly."
"And I could never lose sight of the woman I love more than anyone else."
Once again, their shimmering eyes locked, both glowing not only from the beautiful candles or magical stars, but also from the mirth contained within each of them. A love that remained between the hero and queen would never be broken, and even when their paths would eventually split, the two remained in each other's hearts, forever interlocked in the embrace of love that bound them together from the very first day they saw each other until now when they could share the true secrets of their hearts' desires. And that was all they could ever ask from each other: true, undying love.
Oh, man, all dat fluff. Sorry if it was overly cheesy, but I will reiterate what I said before about not having written true, legitimate fluff in a while. Heh, I'm honestly not even sure what to say at the end of this… Er, sorry if the ending seemed a little weird and narrator-ish, considering that the rest of it was from one of their POVs. I was thinking of the way that Path of Radiance ends and how they just have the narrator saying something like "And so it was that in the spring of the year 646, Elincia Ridell Crimea saw peace…" (That's all I remember from what he said off the top of my head :P), so that's kinda why it might remind you of the ending from PoR.
Oh, I guess one thing I should say, since people who read my Golden Sun oneshot might be thinking 'uh, didn't you say you don't like oneshots to have characters tell each other they love them?', is that I actually wanted them to say they loved each other for this (and, yes, I did indeed say that). The difference between this fic and the other one is the perceived age differences mainly. I said that I don't think it'd be realistic for two seventeen-year-olds to say they love each other right off the bat, but Ike and Elincia don't have an official age (I just assumed something around 19-22 for the events of PoR) and they also have been travelling together for a year (all while building their feelings).
Anyway, hopefully this made enough sense. I know I should be working on Crossfire, but I really wanted to write this as soon as the idea popped into my head. I think the ending started to get a little sloppy, but other than that I'm content with the way this turned out.
Thanks for reading!