There was no time wasted in getting the troops to face battle again. They couldn't afford any time to sitting around and waiting for trouble to come to them. With the way Robin had stirred everyone there was no disagreement in moving out quickly. Troops were gathered and they rose up. No one complained. Gaius had a feeling that somewhere the entire army came to a quiet agreement. Maybe it was about the Exalt or Robin's words. Maybe it was for seeing Chrom and Lissa holding up as they were. Somewhere in the joined feelings between the army they all felt right in moving forward.
When the enemy was as underhanded as this, it wouldn't be that hard to unite. Enemy soldiers laid down their weapons or right out fled before the marching army from Ferox. The name on the lips of the soldiers stopping now was none but the Exalt's. Whatever grief her final words brought her comrades, it gave the Plegian troops a different feeling. It was a hefty price to pay, but those words paved a road ahead for Chrom and the rest of the Shepherds.
Before long they stood before the remaining tatters of Gangrel's forces; a dry, lightly forested area between them. Already Robin had the strategy for this situation covered and in motion. Gaius caught a slight, reassuring smile from the tactician before they split ways. It may have been about their talk the other night, but Gaius felt he could at least smile back at the guy. For how dark everything felt before there was a strong sense of confidence among the troops now.
There was a piece of that confidence in Gaius as well, but things did feel a little odd when Lissa and Lon'qu were set to march in closer with Chrom and Robin. The last time the tactician made changes and decisions they were right and worked well; he was just going to have to put his faith in the man once again. Once again Gaius was part of the rear group—something he expected at this point, but didn't mind. If he could be trusted with covering the others then that was probably good enough of a sign.
As others marched ahead Gaius watched their positions and motion. He didn't really get all this tactical stuff that Robin used, but he could at least get an idea of where everyone might be going. Out of the corner of his eye he caught Maribelle seated up fully in her saddle. She led her horse with that familiar confidence; a focus in her gaze. Now wasn't the time chase or do something even more foolish. Robin counted on him being here and he would follow through.
Not so sure I could make a difference with her at this point anyway.
There was a long way left to go and he could really only exist in this moment during battle. It was best to be careful.
Gaius' gaze followed the battle beginning to unfold across the long, nearly barren stretch of land. He couldn't see through some bunches of thicket, but he could tell the fighting was picking up. Occasionally steel would glint from a glimpse of sun and without fail he could hear yelling voices and metal rattling together. He had a feeling Lon'qu was probably dropping half the enemies if Chrom and Robin weren't getting them first. It was odd to have that much confidence in all these people. It would be alright; they would have told him so.
As he was starting to feel a little lonely in his post another Shepard approached; heavy axe at their side. Gaius didn't speak at first and neither did the approaching soldier—not until he was closer to speak softer at least.
"I see you have yet to raise your blade, Gaius. We'll soon have to test it I'm afraid," Libra spoke quiet but seriously. He always had that sort of tone in his voice; however it seemed worse than usual just then.
"What's up, Padre? You don't look like you brought good news."
"I haven't. If you were to pray, now may very well be a good time to begin," Libra said in warning; his gaze turned away from the action. "Robin has passed the message along that he believes the enemy will be trying to move in and catch us from this direction. I do not doubt him."
Gaius felt a jolt roll through his chest. Obviously they had men hanging back for ambushes—Robin always had back-ups, but this was starting to sound worse than usual. "The kind of catching us that's really going to call for back-up?"
"Most certainly. We're to hold to position as best we can. We will fall back if we must, but others will be on their way soon. Are you willing to fight at my side this time, Gaius?" Libra's question was both polite and concerning. He knew the monk was reliable so far, but this was probably bigger than the both of them.
"You got it. No turning back now, right? Robin says he needs us so we just fill in the ranks," Gaius commented back; getting himself a bit more prepared. He drew the blade from his side and gripped it tightly.
Libra shook his head and moved a few paces in front of Gaius. He cast a look over his shoulder; looking somewhere between concerned and pained. Gaius couldn't say he really ever got this guy's way of thinking in the short time knowing him, but he wasn't going to let it get to him right then.
"Robin put you on this point knowing full well it could be attacked. I believe he is counting on you in particular. But that is my guess." He pauses only a moment to turn his soft frown to an even lighter smile. "Will change your mind and take up my offer on a prayer before we set off?"
"Not happening, Padre. You just keep trying though." The thief couldn't help but grin a little. There wasn't much to tell anybody running upstairs if they existed well enough to hear. He could count a hell of a lot more on Libra's axe than his gods, but he keeps that thought to himself as well. "What's the plan?" he added in before Libra could argue.
The blond shifted his hold on his weapon and pointed a finger toward some brush and what Gaius would have guessed was a bridge past it. "Over there. They'll have to cross the small river and likely will come over the bridge...We can use it as a choke point."
"They're waiting until we have our backs completely turned while everyone's caught up in trying to cut down the madman."
"Precisely Robin's thoughts. I've heard it nearly fourth-hand at this point, but his language still remained in the message. We should get to position. They've all advanced fairly far in."
No arguments with that, Gaius charges forward with Libra following close enough. He wasn't too sure about any enemy scouts watching out for them, but he did have a feeling they might be able to catch the first few approaching off guard. Cover was basically nonexistent near the bridge. He could work around it somehow surely.
Once the pair reached the old bridge they found that probably four men could stand shoulder to shoulder across the width of it. As far as choke points went it was ripe for the job. Robin really did plan for everything. It was no surprise he'd been taking so many reports from scouts. Only part that didn't make sense was why he was left there. Gaius thought on it only a moment longer before shaking it off. He would just have to prove Robin was right for doing it.
He stood up a little straighter at his side on the bridge; shifting his weight to one side. No enemy signs just yet, but no doubt it would be soon. Libra cleared his throat a bit awkwardly at his left.
"I will do my best to support you Gaius, but with just the two of us..."
"It's grim. I got it," he blurted out quickly. He found himself still grinning especially as troops marched their way. He had to be finally losing his mind.
"I was going to inform you it would be difficult to heal you so please be cautious. I would rather not see you hurt as well."
"Just a ray of sunshine like always, Padre. Butter me up all you want, but I'm not muttering any prayers with you," Gaius joked back. Joking around was a lot easier than taking it too seriously.
"I'll have to do your share at least this once," the monk replied. Gaius almost would have called it a dry response, but there was just an underlying hint of amusement. Maybe Libra was losing it too.
There came a soft prayer from Libra right on cue. It was a few words—ones he'd heard out of the man before, but didn't make much of. It could have been him or maybe he was praying a little more deeply than usual.
There wasn't time to mull it over. The first few enemy soldiers arrived. The group of four looked surprised to be met here. Surprise didn't stop them from moving to attack however. The first two sprinted the length of the bridge and the first of them was met with Libra's axe. The heavy blade rocked into the soldier's armor and upset his balance so greatly he was knocked over the rails and into the river below. This did not serve as enough of a warning for the remaining runner who came at Gaius fast with a spear. Knowing better than to lose ground here, Gaius ducked under the blade and shaft—stabbing his blade into the spear-man's gut.
Two soldiers remained at the other end of the bridge; however, in the distance Gaius spotted their companions. There was a good chance they were going to need that back-up soon.
Assured by their friends soon joining, the enemy pair sped across and both lept at Gaius. After the show with the axe Gaius was fairly certain he was the less threatening looking between the two for once. Libra had his back still and caught one attack while Gaius dispatched the other. There was only a moment to breathe before more and more enemy soldiers filed in.
All they had to do was hold out; it was all Robin asked for.
The reminder didn't help much with that uneasy feeling that crept up his spine.
Any other time he would run. Any other situation and he would run, but this time he had to keep put. Absolutely nothing could uproot him right now. He had to make sure of that.
He keeps steady in his position; only hopping aside to avoid attacks and retaliate against his attackers. Between Libra and himself they started up a pretty steady rhthym. Libra's axe caught a wider range of enemy soldiers and Gaius would pick off anyone that slipped by his swing or enemies he could cut down even before then.
Each step they held at the bridge Gaius could feel steel flying ever so much closer to his vitals. He could hold up in combat well enough now with his training and with how many battles he'd been in, but it had never been anything like this. It seemed like every weakness and failing became more obvious the longer combat was prolonged. Soft slits and short cuts across his cloak painted a picture of his near-misses.
Unease wormed deeper into his chest. Back-up would come. Back-up had to be coming; Robin wouldn't lie to him.
Libra must have sensed or seen his hesitation as he called out just then. "I will not see you or I fall today, Gaius. Hold out just a bit longer," he insisted. There was a look in the monk's eyes of so much focus. The man had full faith in his leaders and he had not even been with the Shepherds that long.
It hurt to have doubted Robin even if just for that moment. Gaius took a deep breath and cut through the next enemy charging him followed back another just after.
"I got no business getting myself killed yet. You got nothing to worry about, Padre," Gaius replied; his voice steadier than he thought it would be. Heavy breaths kept it from being perfect, but he knew right away that Libra understood. Neither of them was giving up just yet.
They might have steeled through the onslaught much longer; however a burst of arrows fell around them. Gaius managed to dodge, but a couple grazed Libra. He didn't even have a chance to call out to confirm his comrade's condition.
"I am fine; do not give ground!"
Gaius took that order to heart and tore through a pair of axe-men. He stepped ahead of Libra and widen his stance. "Heal it up then, I'll cover for you."
"It's a scratch, but we cannot stand here."
Right on cue a few more arrows were cast on them; once more narrowly missed.
Libra's gaze fixed ahead, between the bunch of soldiers trekking across the bridge then. "The archers are at the other end They can't aim so well, but this it is risky to remain," he warned.
"Then I'll just take them out. If I run ahead can you cover the front?" Gaius asked fast; his eyes already picking out a path he could take.
"That isn't wise. They could cut you down on the way there."
"Just told you I'm not dying here. Can you hold the bridge on your own or no?"
Libra looked conflicted. It was clear he wanted to say no, but what he was really thinking Gaius wasn't sure. They didn't have time to argue long. "I can, but not for long. You must not get yourself hurt...I will try to advance with you."
That was about as close to an agreement that they were going to reach. No time left to argue Gaius only nodded and charged ahead to meet the next soldiers. Their blades met but only for a brief second as Gaius snapped back and ran the man through. One out of the way he shot forward. Libra was not long behind for how he lagged at the beginning.
For each enemy Gaius slayed he gained a little more ground, but it was never enough once more arrows poured in. They halted all movement for long enough that Gaius was certain the archers would let loose another volley in a second. He couldn't afford to be this slow. Breaking his unspoken deal with Libra, he jumped up and smashed his blade into the face of the soldier in front him. From there he threw that momentum into everything he had.
Ducking and dodging between blades and a few more arrows Gaius managed to catch more ground. Enemies turned to attack at his back now, but Libra was soon on them. The cuts were much, much closer now; however he was fairing much better in gaining more of a hold on the bridge.
That flash of hope sank the second he heard Libra yell his name. The monk had been held back and Gaius had gotten too far ahead. There was no support at his back. It felt like every blade flew at him at once and the only option he had was to jump far out of the way. The path took him to the railing of the bridge; barely balancing there as a soldier armed with a blade swung at him. Gaius jumped over it and further ahead on the railing. Safety there was fleeting as more attention turned on him and the amount of steel pointed his way came to be too much. He'd committed to this; he'd see it through.
Gaius threw his speed into carrying him across the remaining distance. He was swung at, but nothing made contact while he was running. He reached the end of the bridge only to be met with a poorly timed arrow. The head only tore right by his knee, but it was far too close for comfort. Not even an inch and it would have been imbedded in his kneecap.
Haste pushed him onward; tackling an archer and cutting them open to save himself from another released arrow. A second archer was right on target to fire at him now that he was stopped, but just as the arrow would have hit the sound of steel meeting steel reached Gaius' ears. It took a second to sink in however he could see now that someone had stepped in and covered him.
"Please be careful!" Her voice sounded strained to get to that volume, but he immediately recognized the owner. Olivia's short blade had helped block the arrow along with Gaius' own; the pair crossed just where the arrow had meant to fly on. Quickly drawing his blade away from her's he stepped aside and back out into the open area just past the enemy side of the bridge with Olivia joining him. Their backs were to where reinforcements had come from, but this seemed to be the end of the stream for the moment.
The dancer stuck close to his side while looking ready to leap in and support him at any second. At the very least her reaction time was pretty amazing.
"You really saved my hide out there," he said before the archer pointed arrow at them once more. He tensed and sprang right then; surprisingly enough Olivia kept up with him and jumped in too. The pair together cut into the archer; felling her easily.
"Oh, I just followed on the opposite railing while you had their attention. I didn't do much really," Olivia stumbled through her words in a rushed reply.
Just beyond a few more soldiers Libra remained in combat. He looked to be struggling, but had not yet lost the line.
"We'll chat in a second; Padre first," Gaius decided for the both of them and shot off to start taking out enemies who were still split in focus between the theif, monk and now this new addition to their little team. Where Gaius would strike Olivia would be shortly behind; ready to finish or protect against a following hit. While she didn't look too powerful, she could hold her own against an attack just long enough for Gaius to turn the attack back on the enemy.
Their sudden, makeshift and certainly unspoken plan worked wonders against an enemy who likely felt their success had been assured just seconds ago. He hadn't expected it, but the feeling he had when he realized it was Olivia at his side made his heart soar. He could accomplish anything like this; he had full faith in it now. If someone was willing to cover for him then he could protect the rest of them. The words jumbled around in his thoughts; he could hardly believe them.
Right here, just like this he could protect these people.
Spurred on by that feeling swimming in his core, Gaius jolted onward. With Olivia's assistance and Libra's persistence the threesome met together after clearing the bridge of attackers. The look on Libra's face was not especially approving, but under it all Gaius could tell he was relieved.
"Thank the gods that Olivia arrived when she did. You did a reckless thing," the monk said a bit sternly. He sounded like there might be some questioning incoming so Gaius responded quick.
"I was sure we were going to be seeing back-up soon. And I was right. She was right on time."
There was an argument stirring in Libra's brain, but it was obvious he let it be for now. The battlefield was not the best place for this.
Olivia stirred a bit nervously away from Gaius' side; her brow furrowed as she struggled with the words for something. When she spoke up it was quite quietly. "Thank both of you for holding out here while you did. I know I'm not much in the way of back-up, but I'm glad you're safe."
"Naw. Thanks for showing up when you did. I'd be full of a buncha new holes if you were a second later. So thanks."
Libra shook his head. "You have saved us both. We are in your debt."
Olivia looked more flustered at that; her face turning very red. "You couldn't be. It was just one thing...Besides, we haven't even finished yet."
Gaius managed to tear his gaze away from her cherry-colored cheeks for long enough to notice the motion picking up where the original onslaught had come from. It looked like there was another group incoming. "She's right. There's more on the way."
"There are?" she blurted; looking out the way Gaius had. Sure enough the glint of enemy steel picked up as Olivia spoke. "We might be in trouble on our own for much longer."
As if timed to her concerns there came a clattering of hooves and the flapping of wings. In seconds Cordelia flew in on her pegasus and shortly behind her was Stahl on horseback. Once they reached a stop where the other three stood Ricken joined as well—hopping off the back of Stahl's horse. He tipped his big hat up and looked over the three on the bridge.
"Were we too late for the fight?" the little mage asked; actually looking a bit put off.
"Doesn't seem to be the case. There's more incoming," Cordelia noted soundly as she pulled her lance closer to her side.
Stahl rode in a bit closer and drew his blade as he spoke. "Are you three alright?"
"We are well, but very glad you've joined us. Thank you all," Libra answered for them; giving the other Shepherd a soft smile. Stahl smiled back and nodded.
"Then we should be able to hold the rest back. The others are getting close...we're nearly done here," Stahl said kindly, but there was a spark in his eyes. The generally very gentle man looked ready for a proper fight. And it wasn't a moment too soon as the remaining enemies began to file their way. A make-shift formation was built between them all; each ready to support the others however we could.
It was not until Cordelia gave the signal that they moved in to fight; however, as soon as she did let loose that call the team fell on the enemy wholeheartedly. Somewhere Gaius knew there was no way they could lose. It had to be impossible with teamwork like this.
At the end of all the battles and bloodshed, he was right. Chrom and the others had successfully bested the mad king. It came to be known that it was by both Chrom and Robin's hands together that the man did fall and the rest of the Plegian army dropped their weapons.
Gaius felt a little lost on the battlefield now that combat had stopped and the fighting would probably be stopped for a long while yet. It didn't feel real. His comrades celebrated in bursts of loud and quiet; personal victories and victories for the better part of the world were shared together.
Stahl and Cordelia's teamwork had really made the difference on their side of the battle and it was clear afterward that the two intended to keep closer still. Ricken's magic helped blast enemies away and altogether made the battlefield safer for their side. He was a short kid, but one that was definitely developing some skill. Gaius made sure to pass the brat at least one compliment; he'd earned it.
Libra's wounds were light enough that they were easily healed and Gaius' own were no different. It seemed they had really made it out of this mess in one piece somehow. Libra insisted that the gods had smiled on them and Gaius settled on simply shrugging at him. It was easier than arguing the matter.
Through the battle Olivia had remained at Gaius' side. While her power was not in her blade, she held something of a power in her dance and motion. Watching and knowing she was there filled him with more strength to keep fighting. Once things had settled down a little she stepped up to him and gave him an inquisitive look.
"It seems that every time I've run into you I've found you taking care of everyone else," she commented as she leaned in a bit to get a peek at his face before standing up straight once more.
"I think you just keep popping in when I've got a nice face on. Don't worry about it," he answered with a slight crooked grin.
When she shook her head the mess of pink hair tied behind her head shook with her. "I don't think so. At least so far you've been very kind. Despite..."
"Not looking like a nice guy? You can say it. I hear it all the time."
Olivia let out a surprised huff of a noise and half covered her red face with her hands. "Not at all! I would not say something so mean! It's just you're very...well...It's...nevermind!" Now more flustered she hurried away a few paces. "I do think you're very kind; really!" She would have turned and left it at that, but she blurted out an apology before fleeing the field.
Gaius wasn't sure what to make of it at first. Maybe she was a little too sensitive about this sort of thing. She seemed sweet at least. He would have thought over things a little more, but he caught the gaze of a certain highborn young lady. Maribelle passed by—only stalling to speak with Libra. The words they exchanged he didn't catch, but that one brief second their gazes met he got this distinct feeling. Whatever he did right then did not matter to her and it was best to keep his trap shut.
Lips sealed, Gaius stayed out of the way even as Maribelle rode by closely. She came and left however. The passing was a short one at least. He felt himself tense slightly when a hand rested on his shoulder.
"We should be pulling back to camp. At this point I believe we have worked our part to earn in," Libra suggested politely. It was odd, but before this battle Gaius could not say he saw the approval that was now in Libra's eyes looking his way. He must have done something right by the monk.
"Whatever you say, Padre. I'm ready to have this mess over with anyway."
Libra smiled gently and helped lead the way forward. "The young lady did have a point you know. You did well out there taking care of myself and the others."
"I didn't do anything special. Same thing you all did anyway," Gaius replied. There was no getting used to these kinds of compliments. He never knew how to deal with them properly.
The blond didn't seem to appreciate being brushed off like that, but there was a small hint of understanding in his features. "We shall see. I think the others would agree with me however."
Gaius chose to keep quiet this time; his focus on the road ahead and getting back in to rest. He'd probably pushed himself too hard as it was.
That evening the troops pulled together and preparations were made to get back and to settle things with Plegia as best they could. The victory was total; whatever remaining enemy troops there were they had all surrendered. The details of getting all this worked out was over the thief's head so he stayed out of it. All he needed to know was that the fighting was over. Robin's plans worked wonders on the field and the man king was gone.
For some reason he'd thought the feeling that came at the end of a war would be a different one. Wouldn't there normally be more celebrating and happiness? No, maybe they weren't ready yet. Gangrel was out of the picture, but the Exalt had still been lost. He'd never really known the woman so it was hard for him to connect with. He saw the looks in Chrom and Lissa's eyes; it was not so easy for them. But even after the battle ended he could see them smiling a little again. War ending was a good feeling for anyone and yet still his spirits stayed low.
It was a quiet difference; one he kept to himself. Whatever had happened through this whole war nothing had changed with making things up to Maribelle. Maybe there would not be a chance to now. The thought made his heart sink a bit further. It might have to be something else at the end.
He recalled Robin's questions about strength at that moment. Perhaps the tactician had found his answer in the battle that day after all. He would have to ask him the next time he had a chance.
That time came a few days after the battle's close. The troops were heading back to Ylisse and had made camp on the road that night. Most of the army settled in to sleep peaceful, but when Gaius passed Robin's tent he saw a few candles were still lit. The battle was over and the man was working.
"Do you ever sleep without someone telling you to?" Gaius spoke as he let himself in; giving the tactician a grin. Robin shook his head and closed his book.
"And yet you're the one I keep running into at this hour. I think that says something about you too." Gaius sat casually at the middle of Robin's cot while he waited for the man to look his way.
"So you figure it out, Bubbles?" he asked right away; no mind for the teasing at this point. He'd genuinely been focused on the question this whole trip. It was just unfortunate he didn't have a chance to speak up until then.
Robin's eyes narrowed and he nodded once after. "I think...to a point. I thought about your question a lot, Gaius. After everything I saw fighting this war I feel like there's a hundred thousand words I could say about strength to you. If it will give you the clear, concise answer you're hoping for I'm not sure, but I'd be happy to share it with you." There was a softness to Robin's tone. It felt like he were a little more at ease now with these feelings—whatever they might be.
"Don't just leave it dangling there; go on," Gaius pushed a bit.
Robin settled more comfortably back in his chair; his head tilted back a bit too. "Strength is more than one thing...while it's certainly a physical ability, it's something deeper inside...and something we experience from outside sources too. I don't think someone can really know strength until they've obtained it from every angle. There's bettering yourself...but there's those around you making you better as well. It's our bonds...like Chrom says as well. We are stronger because we have each other. Whatever our individual powers are, they are a thousand times more powerful when we combine them together. Be that physical or these invisible ties...There is something profound in all of us coming together." There Robin paused to smile in such a soothing way Gaius was certain the man would probably fall asleep like that if there weren't more to say.
"If you feel you can find strength for others and others have found it for you too then already you are that much stronger...Gaius, I believed in you completely back on the field. I knew you would pull through and the strength of that faith showed, didn't it? You and Libra both showed an amazing sort of strength. It was something you decided alone, wasn't it? But it was a strength you two shared as well. That sort of thing might be what it means."
Gaius let the thoughts roll around together in his head. At first he wasn't so sure he understood what Robin was talking about, but then it dawned on him. It started small, but grew exponentially. It was when Lissa and Lon'qu came to his aid and after that they became closer. Those ties became tighter as the three fought together later and took care of one another. Even then Libra and he had only just met, but each laid their life on the line for the other. Even newer still was Olivia and she jumped right into an arrow for Gaius' sake. Putting one before the other and becoming stronger and closer for it—that was the strength Robin was talking about.
It much have been clear by his expression that he was understanding as Robin chuckled a little. "I think we both understand a little better now."
"Something like that...Look, Bubbles. I dunno if this was going where I meant when I started all this, but you know, thanks."
Robin simply smiled and laughed a bit more. "You're welcome. It was good for me to talk out too. It made me realize how valuable all this really is. I didn't have any memories of my own or ties to remember, but all these new ones make me think it might just be alright. I have something special here with everyone."
It felt sappy as hell, but here Robin was saying it so seriously that Gaius found himself being pulled into it all. Maybe he'd gained a little strength with that sort of thing too. "You got something going on here...whatever it is. I guess I just have to work on expanding that, right?"
"Maybe. I'm not sure if it's the answer to your question, but you will reach others. You have been a pain sometimes, Gaius, but I count on you greatly. I'm certain I'm not alone in that."
Gaius recalled the look in Lon'qu's eyes when they sparred sometimes, the smile on Lissa's face as he helped her learning to sew a little and the kind words from Olivia and Libra after the end of the war. Chrom had made some odd remarks, but they'd reached an understanding and even Robin was the same way after that mess about blackmailing. He'd reached out more than he expected getting into this war. It'd started with just one pleasant accident and had now stretched out to encompass so many new pieces in his life.
It wasn't Gaius alone occasionally reach out a helping hand where he could anymore. He'd caught the hands of others so many times now he had to wonder how he didn't realize it.
Everything had changed from the beginning.
"I'm counting on you too, Bubbles. Thanks again," Gaius said softly, earnestly. He could thank people halfheartedly at times, but this one he meant very much. Robin seemed to sense that honesty and nodded.
"Anytime, Gaius. Maybe we can actually do something a little more fun once we get back."
"I think that sounds pretty sweet. For now...get some rest for once."
The tactician laughed again; obviously very amused. "Then the same goes to you. Get some sleep, Gaius. In the morning we'll be that much closer to finally getting to really rest up."
"You earned it. But you're right...I'll be out of your hair," he announced like he usually might; trying to shake off a bit of the heaviness of the chat. Usually he fought so hard to keep things simple and lighthearted, but here he was wearing everything on his sleeve in front of this guy. Probably in front of half the camp now.
Robin and Gaius each parted with another variation on "goodnight." The thief lingered a bit longer—at least enough to make sure the other man actually did blow out the candles. Within a minute they were out and he was confident he could leave the man to do as he said. His tracks took him back to his own tent at a casual pace.
This was a lot to take in in one night and yet it felt like he had time to do it now. He didn't have to figure it out right away. There would be a chance to reach even farther in the future. He could take his time and find his way.