Title: By Nighttime.
Series: Fire Emblem 10
Author's note: cottoncandy_bingo, feathers.
He'd gone out to the balcony for a moment to admire the white towers of the massive beorc city, or at least that was the excuse he gave. Naesala always had only a finite amount of tolerance for company, especially when the company involved a certain hawk king who was barely civil to him at the best of times.
The night was unseasonably warm, and the view was filled with ghost lights of the many buildings, the people had thankfully retired for the night and it was not one of those tedious beorc parties.
She came in so softly he barely heard her, and it was only when she folded her wings that he turned. She had not dressed up for this diplomatic meeting, at least not by beorc standards. She wore the same Heron made dress and circlet of flowers as any other day, and yet she outshone every single girl in the party.
You left, she said in the Heron speech. Her grasp of the modern tongue was still clumsy, and when she was around him, she tended to default to her original language.
"The night is young," Naesala said.
Was Tibarn mean to you? I will talk with him. She looked so determined—determined and lovely and about as dangerous as a creampuff. And yet, she knew that she could very well get her way with Tibarn on about anything—except him, of course. Their king was ever so whipped by any Heron which came along. They might as well ditch the pretense that he ruled when everyone knew the place was under Reyson's iron rule and Tibarn was just there to do his bidding.
"No need, I'm usually away on business as it is. Your bravery is appreciated, however."
She brightened up at this. All it would take was a minor compliment from him—it need not even be terribly original or serious–and she would smile as if he'd made her entire day.
She lifted her wings and flew up to sit on the balcony, her white skirts hiked up just enough for him to see a hint of thigh before she smoothed them down again. He was not enough of a gentleman to look away.
"Be careful," he said, stepping closer to her.
If I fall, you will catch me.
"That's an awful risk to take."
You are very fast. Faster than Tibarn, even. You wouldn't let me fall.
"You put an awful lot of faith in me," Naesala said.
It is well placed. She said it with a kind of adoration, as if he were a hero or anyone worth admiring.
He raised his wings and went up to the seat beside her. If they fell, they fell together.
It is beautiful tonight, don't you think?
She nestled closer to him, cheeks flushed and not from cold.
"Yes, it is," he said.
"Naesala—" she said, halting, something she had obviously practiced. She tried to speak more clearly, but the thick accent remained. "I—"
The romantic moment was shattered with the sound of a clearing throat, and two members of her family staring out from the doorway.
"There you are," Reyson said. "Tibarn and I have been looking everywhere for you."
"I thought I smelled a rat. And what do I know, there is one," Tibarn said.
"Why, hello Tibarn. Pleased to see you as well," Naesala said.
Reyson narrowed his eyes, and reached out, taking Leanne by the arm. "Come on, now, Leanne."
Ever since Tibarn took him under his wing, Reyson had a habit of forgetting he was a Heron. Leanne pulled her arm away. For a moment, he was afraid her fragile bones would break, and Tibarn would have to deal with yet another of his Heron charges breaking bones under his charge.
"He isn't to be trusted. We may have forgiven him, but that doesn't mean we leave our backs unguarded. Do you understand?" Tibarn said.
Leanne's beautiful face twisted in rage. And now you are the one who says what I do with my life and my body?
"You're young. You don't know what he's like—"
I am an adult, and you know nothing about him! she burst out.
"And what do you have to say for yourself?" Tibarn said, turning his gaze to Naesala.
He'd made a resolution to at least try and goad Tibarn a little less this year, given that it was never good to make an enemy out of a king of all birds, but in the end the deliciousness of subtly insulting him was too much to resist. It was his one weakness. Well, one of them, at least.
He shrugged, long and slow. "I, for one, am interested in seeing the Heron line continue. It isn't my fault that the rest of you don't seem to be terribly interested in your future heirs. As far as I'm concerned, I'm doing all of you a great favor."
"That isn't remotely funny," Reyson said.
Tibarn's jaw was already twitching, his left fists clenched (and Naesala was sure aching to be around his neck.)
Yes it is! Leanne said. It's very funny!
She drifted in and stood in front of him. Yet again, a fragile little Heron was saving his tail.
Don't be mean to him. He is my mate, and the father of my children.
This was news to him. He certainly didn't think she could get pregnant from a mere flirty glance, though if it could be done, he'd be the culprit. However, a Heron could sense unease in a person, so he calmed himself and thought of her. Let Reyson see nothing but images of his sister in Naesala's heart. He wasn't quite so mean as to make said images in his mind and heart lascivious in nature, but oh, it was tempting.
And as my mate, you'll be treating him as a brother. No more shaming him for the wars, no more treating him as a possible enemy.
"Leanne, you should think about this," Reyson said. "He isn't—"
She lifted herself up to her full height, which didn't even come up to Tibarn's neck, and put her hands on her hips. No! I've already made up my mind. Either forgive him and treat him well, or say goodbye to me as well.
Tibarn and Reyson looked to each other. Naesala always interpreted that glance as how whipped am I today, Reyson? of course, the answer was always entirely.
"He tried to sell me, sold his troops to the beorc side and betrayed the laguz in no less than four years," Reyson said, his voice rising with each word. His anger was a controlled force, a fire that burned in his green eyes now.
He did what he had to. Harping constantly and bringing up the past isn't forgiveness; it's holding a grudge. What you are saying is that you will tolerate him only so you can rub his nose in it, and I'm sick and tired of it. Either forgive him for real, or say goodbye to both of us.
She lifted her chin, which quivered in her own controlled anger. It was a sight to behold: two of the last remnants of the Herons locked in a battle of words. He stood behind Leanne, and Tibarn behind Reyson. Whatever should come of this, the sides were drawn.
"As you said, you are an adult. You're welcome to make your own choices, even if they are ill-advised," Reyson said.
The implication was well there: don't come crying to me when he betrays you. Naesala didn't need a Heron's powers to read that.
One day you will see.
She stepped up on the balcony, white wings lifted up, feathers shining iridescent in the moonlight.
They fell together, her family left behind on the balcony. Tibarn had already leapt up to the balcony, ready to fly after them and catch her, but she was hardly helpless. Her wings didn't tear in the air as if they were made of paper. She flew as well as any hawk or raven warrior, cutting through the starry night sky with her large white wings.
She landed on one of the flat rooftops, bathed in white moonlight.
She smiled up at him, so proud of herself. As she should be.
"That was a clever move. A very clever move. But not a particularly wise one. Haven't you heard? I'm a traitor and a scoundrel. You don't want to hitch yourself to me," he said.
She laid her hand upon his chest. Your heart is good. You love me. You won't hurt me.
It was ever so hard to hide anything from Herons.
"You got me there," he said, putting his hand over his heart, over hers. "But don't tell anyone. It'd ruin my reputation. Still...That was a clever move back there. You played them like an instrument. I didn't know you had it in you."
She smiled up at him, so unbound with joy.
I learned from the best.
He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the back, like a knight to his lady. "You've always had my admiration, but tonight you've earned my utmost respect. Note that only two people have ever earned that," he said.
And of course, one of the two was himself.
She began to talk fast in the old language, too fast for him to make out. He didn't try, for he knew the translation could only mean varying degrees of joy. His hand over her hand, his heart like an open book to her.
"I suppose I could let you keep some of my secrets," he said, with a half smile.
I will keep them well. I will guard them, she said. She rested her head against his chest. iKeep them forever./I
"I know you will," he said. "You're...something else."
Not the grandest romantic gesture, granted, but she smiled up at him, with a happiness which seemed so powerful to infuse even him. He doubted that she could make a good man out of him...but a pretty good one, well... He could manage that.