"Ugh. I hate this grey slime." Gaius held up a spoonful of his lunch. It was supposed to be soup, but the consistency, taste and colour did not give him a very good impression.
"Food is food. Just eat it," growled the stoic myrmidon beside him.
Gaius scowled. "Easy for you to say, Stabby. You've lived here almost all your life. You're used to this…" he gestured to his bowl, "… stuff."
It was a typical day in Ferox. The Shepherds had been camped there for over a week, with seemingly no intention to advance into Plegia. Chrom's mood hadn't gotten any better over this time, and Lissa's cope-through-distractions technique was slowly becoming less and less effective.
"Chrom? Oh, Gods, I've been looking for you everywhere!" Startled, Gaius looked up from his soup and saw Basillio standing in the doorway of the mess hall.
Chrom, who had been sitting with Robin and Frederick, immediately looked at the West-Khan. The relaxed atmosphere of the mess hall had vanished-replaced by tension that seemed so thick it could be cut with a knife. Gaius braced himself for the impending bad news.
"My scouts from Plegia are back," Basilio continued, "and it's dark news they carry. Ylisstol…has fallen."
Standing up, Chrom exclaimed, "WHAT? What about Emm? What happened to her?"
As if this wasn't enough bad news, Basilio proceeded, "The Plegians captured your exalt and retreated back across their lines. Gangrel's said that she's to be publicly executed within the month."
"Executed?" Chrom looked horrified. Lissa, who was a few seats to the right of Gaius, collapsed onto Maribelle's shoulder. Flavia walked into the hall, her face set into a deadly glare.
"That dastard's not even trying to be subtle anymore. To anyone with brains, it's obvious that it's a trap. The mad king knew our scouts would relay the information back here. It's clear provocation! We should consider all of our options before jumping into any-"
"Shepherds!" Chrom addressed the crowd eating in the mess hall. "We march to Plegia!"
Clearing his throat, Basilio shook his head. "That would be one option, yes, but I'm sure that if we sit down and think for a bit, there would be-"
"I don't care if it's a trap! That dastard is going to murder my sister!"
"We're not saying we're not going to act," Flavia replied as calmly as she could, "We're saying that we're going to act wisely. Jumping into Plegia with no idea of what we're going to do and no strategy whatsoever, is not wise."
"Chrom, don't worry." Robin got up to face Chrom, "I'll think of something, alright?"
"Are you sure you'll be up to it?" Basilio asked, as if it was already decided, "It'll be a hard job. In one hand, you'll have the Exalt's life and in the other, all of ours."
"I understand that it won't be easy, but I'm up to the challenge."
Looking from Robin to Flavia, and from Flavia to Basilio, Chrom sighed, knowing that they wouldn't let him do anything other than wait and formulate a plan.
"Fine! I leave it up to you!" He sat down for a while and put his head in his hands. The two Khans slowly left the room, and shortly after, Chrom got up and left without another word.
No one had the appetite to eat their food after that. Even Stahl pushed his half-eaten bowl to the side. Robin left the dining hall soon after Chrom, no doubt to work on her plan, and Maribelle helped Lissa to her room. Slowly but surely, the population of the mess hall dwindled to just a few.
After staring at nothing in particular for several minutes, Gaius got up, put his tray away and followed his comrades out of the dining hall.
"Come on…" Gaius was hunched over his bed, fiddling with a long golden chain. "Damn it!" a chain link had gone flying. Crawling onto the floor, he scoured the ground for the missing piece. It was part of the pendant that he had made for Robin. All he had to do was slip both ends of the chain into another link, before sealing the opening. But it was easier said than done, and he had yet to finish the job despite the amount of time and effort he had put into it.
He had decided to make the pendant after his talk with Lissa. Robin had liked the one in the store, and he was good at making things like that. The design would be simple- a pink stone partially encased in gold, suspended by a gold chain. Upon giving it to Robin, he could consider the issue closed- a fair trade: the secret about his tattoo for a pendant.
Since his decision to make it, Gaius had gotten up early almost every morning to head to the forge. After all, when less people see you, less people ask questions. It had been a bit weird showing up for training already tired and sweaty, but no one had questioned him.
"Finally!" Gaius said as he finally managed to connect the chain. Grabbing a pair of pliers to seal up the gaps in the metal, he began to ponder the final stage of this whole ordeal: when would he give it to her?
It had already been two days since Robin had agreed to come up with a rescue plan, and Gaius had seen her only once since then. She was obviously stressed and tired. During his midnight 'excursions' to the kitchen, he had noticed the light in her room still flickering out from under the crack in the door, and heard the sound of a pen on paper filling the hall. The one time he had seen her was when she ate lunch the day before, but other than that time, Gaius had no recollection of her eating anything whatsoever. With all that considered, it probably would not be the best time to give her anything. The only other option would be to give the pendant to Robin after they had-
"Argh!" Gaius smacked his forehead. Why was he thinking of this, when he had just realized that he would soon be marching into a battle, led by an underfed, tired tactician? Grabbing a lolipop and stuffing it into his mouth, he stormed out of his room and headed over to where Robin was working.
Gaius stood outside the room for a bit, looking around to make sure no one (especially Vaike) was in the vicinity. After all, knocking on a girl's door, while by himself, could be easily taken the wrong way. Finally, satisfied that no one was in the vicinity, he rapped his knuckles on the door to Robin's room.
"Come in!" Though it was obviously Robin's voice, Gaius could hear a fair bit of annoyance in her words, and there was a weary sort of tone that made her fatigue very apparent. Walking in, he saw her sitting at her desk, with different maps and charts littered across the floor.
Being sure not to step on any of the papers, Gaius walked over to where she was. "Hey, Bubbles. I think th-"
"You know how much I hate it when you call me Bubbles, Gaius!" Whoops. Sighing inwardly, Gaius realized the mistake he had made. Calling an already agitated Robin 'Bubbles' was one sure way to set off her temper.
Holding up his hands in defense, he replied, "Sorry, Robin. I forgot for a moment. Anyways-"
"If you're just coming in here to annoy me, then please leave!" Robin stood up, obviously very aggravated. "I have work to do, you know!"
"Calm down, Bu- er, Robin. I just need to te-"
"How can I calm down? Do you know how stressed I am right now? We're heading out in three days! I haven't got an inkling on a plan ready! I haven't gotten any sleep for days! I haven't eaten in ages, either! I need concentration!"
She's snapped, Gaius thought.
"If you don't leave me alone and let me get something done, it'll be MY fault that Emmeryn will be executed! Please, just get out and let me do my job!"
"Gods, Robin! Just let me say what I need to say!" Robin was startled into silence by Gaius's uncharacteristic outburst, giving him time to proceed.
"First of all, eat this chocolate. You probably need it more than I do." Robin snatched up the chocolate bar and wolfed it down. Gaius cleared his throat and contintued.
"You're smart. We all get that. That's why you're our tactician. But obviously, you haven't been paying attention. The reason why you can't think of anything is because you haven't slept in days. It's because you haven't eaten in ages. I know I don't want to walk into a battle led by someone who can barely stand or think clearly."
Gaius's lecture only seemed to make Robin even more aggravated. "Are you telling me what to-"
"Yeah, I am. Now, don't do anymore work tonight. Go to bed, and think about what I just told you."
With that, Gaius quickly left the room, before Robin had another chance to explode on him. "Crivens, what am I? Her mother? For someone that smart, she can be really dumb." Sighing, he shook his head. "What I said probably went in through one ear and out the other, but it was worth a shot."
The next day at breakfast, Gaius was greeted by a pleasant surprise: Robin had shown up. She still looked extremely weary, but he could tell that she was much better than the night before. Her tray was laden with food as well, a testament to how hungry she was. Grabbing up a pastry and popping a sour gummy into his mouth, Gaius sat down at a table and ate his food, put away his plate and got up to leave. Robin, noticing that he was heading out, stuffed the last bite of her bread into her mouth and ran to catch up to him.
"Uh, Gaius?" Feeling the tap on his shoulder, Gaius turned around to find Robin behind him.
"Morning, Bubbles." Whoops. It happened again. Hopefully she wouldn't freak out like last time.
Rolling her eyes at the nickname, she continued, "I just wanted to apologize about what I said yesterday. I was really tired and angry, and I couldn't think of anything, so I took it out on you. So…sorry about that."
Shrugging, Gaius replied, "Don't sweat the small stuff, Bubbles." Suddenly, he realized that this would be the perfect time to give her the pendant. She was feeling sorry about what had happened, so she would be more likely to accept it- he would be able to get the blackmail business out of his hair at last!
"Could you wait here a moment?" When she nodded, Gaius ran to his room, grabbed the pendant off the ground and came back. Holding it out, he said, "Here. I got you something."
Taking it into her hands, Robin examined it. "A pendant? Is it because of the one I saw in town that I liked? Thanks, Gaius, but I'm not sure I feel-"
"Heck of a thing, too! Probably worth a big sack of gold down at the market."
Shaking her head, Robin gave it back to him. "Then I must refuse. I can't accept an extravagant gift. Sorry, but I have to get back to work." as she turned away and began to walk off, Gaius shouted,
"All right, all right. Maybe I stretched the truth just a little." Puzzled, Robin looked back at him with a confused expression. "It'd be worth a sack of gold IF they paid for sentimental value, see?" When she didn't put two and two together, he added, " 'Cause I made it myself."
"What?" Robin ran back up to him and grabbed the pendant. "But it's magnificent!"
Grinning, Gaius responded, "Pleased you like it, Bubbles. Makes all the effort worthwhile."
"But why did you-"
"Oh, no reason at all! Just, uh…one good turn and all that." Glancing at her to see if she bought it, he found that she was not convinced. Gaius had been dreading this moment that he knew would come eventually.
"You're trying to bribe me again, aren't you? I've told you a hundred times! I'll keep your secret! I gave you my word, and that should be the end of it!"
Sighing, Gaius replied, "Look, I trust you. Honest and truly. It's just that in my business, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Gal who says she'll do something for nothing? Well, she's the first one wanting payback down the line."
"Well, I was hoping it wouldn't come to this." Leaning forwards, Robin said, "I have something important to tell you."
"It's a secret. A very embarrassing one. You see…" She whispered something into his ear, and he immediately started laughing.
"And the chicken? Oh, Bubbles, you did NOT do that!"
Blushing in embarrassment, Robin stated, "Ah, but I did, and you and I are the only ones who know. So, in return for you keeping my secret safe, I promise to safeguard your secret. Do we have a deal?"
"I see what you did there, and I appreciate it." Thinking on it for a moment, Gaius gave his consent. "All right, it's a deal! But you have to keep the pendant. It's not a bribe anymore. It's more like… a thank you gift."
Robin smiled. "In that case, I accept." With the pendant in hand, she turned and walked into her room. However, before she closed the door, Gaius saw her put the necklace on.
As soon as she closed the door, a rush of people surged down the hall, towards the training grounds, causing Gaius to realize that it was already time to train. Tearing his gaze away from her door, he followed the current of people outside.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"…God damnit, Gaius, you're not even trying!" The blunt edge of Sully's practice spear hit Gaius's arm again, causing him to wince.
Grimacing in pain, he rubbed his arm. "Sorry, sorry. I'm just a bit distracted."
"To hell with that! Concentrate!" This time, Gaius managed to deflect her lance with his sword. They continued to spar, and though Gaius was no longer allowing Sully to land any blows, his mind was elsewhere, focusing on questions which had no relation this battle. One thing had been bothering him since he had given Robin the pendant, and he wanted an answer.
It didn't concern him anymore, not in the slightest, so why was he so happy that he had seen Robin put the pendant around her neck?
Author's note: Aaah this chapter took so long to write! I don't even know why!
Well, maybe I do... I beat the Sacred Stones and I'm dying because the ending was so touching...
I'm sorry that I take so long to put out chapters compared to when I first started, though! Even though I posted this one, I'm still not too happy about the ending on the chapter. Please, if you have any critiques, ideas or suggestions, post them in reviews! I would like to see how I can improve!
Planning a wedding is hard, considering how I've never been to one. Who should be the best man? (Help me please)
Oh, and I noticed a MAJOR mistake, so I fixed it. The last part previously had Libra, but we don't get Libra yet, so I switched it to Sully.