So, despite my saying that once University started, I would abandon FanFiction... Here I am. I've had this story in the works for a while and with absolutely no work from Uni so far, (Next week won't be this nice), I thought I'd finish it. Basically, it's a deeper look into the Female Avatar and Chrom supports. Yes, I've directly copied some of the language, and other times it's improvised.
As for the title, to balk, to me, means to stop abruptly and hesitate to continue. Google dictionaries supported that, so I rolled with it. And well, to add "talk" just made it sound all the more fun, right? Also, the blue rose. I've learnt it is a symbol of love/mystery/ something hard to achieve... Truthfully, I just like them better than red roses.
Disclaimer - Fire Emblem Awakening does not belong to me in any way, shape or form. All dialogue that is taken from the game is property of the ingenious people who wrote it, not me. I just enjoy making the characters dance to my tune. Dance my pretties, dance!
Here's hoping you enjoy it.
With a hefty sigh, one that rivalled even the notorious sighs of Cordelia, Chrom scrubbed a hand down his face, trying in vain to wipe away his fatigue. But the attempts were half-hearted, his energy focused into keeping him upright rather than changing the inescapable fact: He was absolutely shattered. The last battle had drained the entire army, each one feeling the sting of wounds and the drain of exhaustion. And none felt it more than the General himself. He could feel his tiredness mounting with every passing second, his level of consciousness hanging on the precipice of being barely awake and deep slumber, but he was determined to not let it show.
Lissa and Maribelle had worked overtime offering their services, and though their fingers did not bear callouses from wielding weapons, the markings of their staves were engraved into the skin of their fingers from overuse. Even without being placed into the very core of the battle, both healers looked drained. Sage though he wasn't, Chrom knew that magic siphoned energy from the caster to give to the bearer, yet even with his offer to retire for the night and let the army rely on the use of concoctions and salves, neither had stopped giving what aid they could.
He sighed again, touching the bandages that were wrapped tightly around his torso with a low hiss. Lissa had done a grand job in addressing the majority of his ailments, but he'd drawn the line at her help when seeing her close to collapse. The lesion across his chest was partially healed; the dressings were a precaution more than anything else, but the pain was still strong.
Lissa had already chastised him, yelling his ear off that he needed rest as much as anyone else, but Chrom had simply brushed her aside. Of course he was tired, the way his eyelids were dropping was proof enough of that, but he wouldn't give in to sleep just yet.
He was the very backbone to the army; the pillar of unquestionable strength and voice of support and morality. His comrades could only be as stalwart as the man who led them, and Chrom would willingly give his all to them before he dared to show even a moment of weakness. And so, when his walk had him passing by Cordelia attending to her mount, he held back his yawn and in response to the concern in her eyes, gave the most reassuring smile he could muster. He was almost sure that her disposition appeared brighter after.
The time was late, the day consumed by their battles and the assistance required after it, yet many of his comrades were still awake. There were still wounds to be addressed and meals to be eaten to bring a comfort which potions could not. The smell of food gently being roasted over the spitfire met him then and his stomach groaned loudly in want, causing the Lord to clasp a hand over his stomach in embarrassment. The last meal he had had was breakfast, more than several hours ago now, and the appeal of food was incredibly alluring. But then, so too, was the thought of a bed.
His stomach rumbled again and he mentally scolded himself for not eating before his fatigue had become almost crushing. The thought had a small yet sheepish smile coming to his mouth. He could easily recall the conversation he'd had with Adrianna and how the duties of her role often lead to the missing of meals. Her excuses consisted of needing to read over old tomes, learning better strategies, planning their best line of attack… He admired her persistence and thirst for knowledge, but he had still insisted that she eat something. Upon several occasions, he had brought her food to her tent, just to be sure that she was actually getting some substance into her body. Besides, there was only so much she could garner from books; the best teacher was experience.
Chrom smiled inwardly, thinking himself a hypocrite. He'd had the gall to criticise her for becoming so lost in her world as she often did, but he had done the exact same thing. He cared more that his comrades were being seen to and that their morale was bolstered before seeing to himself. And now his stomach was all but growling at him in testament to that. But it would have to wait; there were other things that were of more import than sating his hunger.
Though he had to admit, thinking of his impending desire for food was better than recalling that last conversation with Adrianna… Despite its initial beginning of harmless banter, the following course had not continued in that path… She had mentioned beauty sleep and everything had went pear-shaped. He still wasn't sure if she had been intending to throw that rock or not. Chrom frowned slightly, dwelling on his thoughts. It was only as Fredrick called out to him that he looked up.
"Milord? You should be retiring for the night," the great knight chastised, his tone mildly disproving.
"I will shortly. There are some matters I must attend to first."
Fredrick looked at his armour, a frown mounting on his face. "Perhaps first a change of attire is needed?"
Chrom glanced down at himself, only then noticing the stains of blood caked into his clothes, darkening the blue to an almost blackish hue. He took note of it with surprise, knowing that only some if it was his own. Even his white cloak was practically green and brown with the multitude of grass and mud stains that covered it, gathered from where he had rolled to miss lethal blows. He hadn't even noticed.
"It hardly matters. I only need to discuss a few matters with~" He tapered his sentence off, remembering again the last talk with Adrianna. He truly didn't meant it the way she had perceived it per se. He hadn't thought of her as a lady, he still didn't if he was being truthful to himself, but it wasn't a criticism. Her courage far outshone some warriors he knew and her level of skill as a Tactician was exemplary. A lady brought connotations of a pampered princess to mind, not of a woman who didn't mind getting her hands dirty for the sake of others.
He spared another look to his cloak, frowning at the sight. Adrianna was already begrudged at his lack of manners towards her - walking into her tent covered in all sorts would not help that. Even despite having tried to reassure her that although he did not see her as a lady, but rather as his equal, she has still not been impressed. And it certainly hadn't stopped her from threatening him with rocks either.
"Milord, are you alright?"
"Hmm? Oh, yes, I'm fine. I was just distracted by my thoughts."
"And what thoughts are those, may I ask, milord?" Fredrick inquired.
"Nothing that bares a need to be worried over," Chrom reassured. To draw attention to how utterly tactless he could be at times was not something he found necessary.
"If you say so, milord. I'll leave you to talk with whomever it is."
Chrom smiled wryly. "At ease my good man. I'm simply going to speak to Adrianna about our next move. Your concern is unwarranted."
Fredrick nodded swiftly. "Once you have eaten and changed, I assume?"
The prince laughed, though a hint of exasperation clipped it. He knew Fredrick was only worried for his welfare, but the coddling was overbearing at best and damned humiliating at worst. "I will make that my next step. You should go check on Lissa; she could probably do with a hand."
"Yes, milord, right away."
The Prince sighed, watching as Fredrick marched to the healer's tent. The knight took everything Chrom said as an order, no questions asked. When fighting for their lives, Fredrick's loyalty was a blessing; his fastidious nature getting work completed in half the time it would take another. But outside of the battlefield, the motherly attitude was too much. As the general continued his walk to his own tent first, he wondered idly whether or not if he told Fredrick to jump off a cliff, he would perform the action. Knowing the knight as he did, it was not hard to imagine the answer.
"Oh! There you are!" Sumia's voice greeted him, cheerfully relived.
"Hello, Sumia. Did you need something?" Chrom replied automatically, still caught in his musings.
"Um, no," she declined. "Adrianna is just looking for you."
Chrom blinked. Adrianna was searching for him? He hadn't even changed yet! He couldn't speak to her like this, lest she think he was treating her as something other than a lady! "Yes, the strategy meeting. Adrianna sure does like to be punct~" So caught in his alarm, he didn't see the pebble until he was stumbling to the ground over it, calling out as he watched the ground rush up faster than he would have liked it to.
"Chrom!" Sumia yelled, her hands reaching out to save him yet catching grasping thin air instead.
Only years of learning how to counter effects and move swiftly and efficiently had him placing a hand out and dropping to one knee. He grunted as the small yet annoyingly sharp rocks cut into his palms and his knee became dusted with dirt. Great, more of him to be cleaned.
"Are you alright?!"
Chrom kept his eyes down as he quickly answered he was fine. Thank the Gods she couldn't see how bruised his pride was. "Gods, how embarrassing."
Sumia waved away his chagrin, blaming his most recent act of idiocy on exhaustion. Something he easily countered with words of everyone being tired. The others just happened to have more grace than him when it came to walking it seemed. "Chrom," she softly admonished. "You've no need to don a brave face for my sake. You carry twice the burden of anyone. It's only natural you're exhausted."
He looked at her in surprise, muttering words of thanks. Yet he couldn't help but repeat what he had thought earlier, that he couldn't afford such lack of strength. His eyebrows rose higher when she mumbled, "It must be so hard for you…"
Her concern was welcoming, he wouldn't deny that, but it made him feel incredibly awkward. He was supposed to be taking of care of his army, not the other way round. "I'll…be fine. And please, don't speak of this conversation to anyone. All right?" He didn't need anyone else to hear about this. If anything was to bring him to his knees, he would have preferred it to be at the blade of any enemy, not as a result of over-exhaustion and pebbles of all damn things.
"Of course," Sumia promised with conviction, and then she began giggling much to his intrigue. He couldn't help but smile at her glee that this was their first secret, even if he was ridiculously bemused as to why such a thing was so important. "Don't worry. My lips are sealed tighter than a bear trap!" She smiled, a trace of cunning lifter one corner of her mouth higher than the other. "…So long as you promise to take a nap before the strategy meeting!"
Chrom held back a scoff. "…What?"
"I'll just tell Adrianna that you've been delayed."
"Ah-huh. And if I don't agree to your terms?"
Her smile became even more vulpine, if such a thing was possible for sweet and innocent Sumia. "Then I'll tell everyone the mighty Chrom was bested by a mere pebble!"
His quirked a brow. "That sounds like blackmail…" He said disapprovingly, but he couldn't resist the tempting call of sleep beckoning him. He was so damn tired, surely one quick nap before the meeting wouldn't hurt.
Sumia clapped her hands together, grinning between her words of being glad to help out. "Sweet dreams! I'll go tell Adrianna about you being held up!" And like that, she skipped back the way she had just came, her armour gently clinking with her movements.
Chrom stared after her, utterly bewildered, yet with a fond smile steadily growing. "That girl has a strange knack for getting her way…"
Adrianna flipped the page, listlessly scanning her eyes across the spells. Her mouth stretched in a yawn and she covered it with her hand, flicking her eyes to the entrance of her tent. The glow from the camp fire outside had long diminished into nothing more than the faintest hint of light, the last lingering remains casting an orange glow outside her tent.
She had already scoured the camp in search of the leader, and to each time she asked of his whereabouts, it seemed that she had just missed him. As she had met no success of locating him, she had retired to her tent, expecting that he would eventually make his way to her. It had been several hours since she had thought that.
She closed the tome, rubbing her temples wearily and blinked her eyes a few times, chasing the onset of sleep for now. She usually stayed up late, but even she knew when it was time to retire for the night. Her eyes watched the flame of the last candle she owned, its movements wild as it danced in the growing pool of wax.
Adrianna stood up and with a sigh, she decided that she would go look for him again. It was him who had insisted on holding a strategy meeting, to unearth a tactic that would lead to quicker victories. Being the tactician, she was hardly going to say no. But she wished he would be more punctual.
No sooner had she opened the corner of the tent's entrance did someone topple into her.
"Oh! Adrianna! I'm sorry, I didn't see you there!"
The bluenette winced, feeling where Sumia's armour had smacked into her shoulder. "No lasting harm done. How may I help you?"
"Oh yes, that. Chrom said he was going to be late to the meeting." At Adrianna's hard look, she quickly amended, "Well, he is going to be even later than he is already. He's held up checking the stock of swords and what needs replacing and such."
Adrianna raised a brow. "Is that not Sully's area of expertise?"
Sumia faltered for the briefest of seconds, but it did not go unnoticed by the tactician. Quickly she gave a smile. "Yes, usually, but she retired early for the night. So Chrom said he would do it instead."
"I see," was all Adrianna replied. It wasn't the first time he had missed a meeting and she doubted it would be the last. She wouldn't have minded so much, but he always had someone else tell her. It was almost like he was afraid of her or something! A guilty feeling rose into her throat as she recalled how easily she had threatened him with a rock. The sensation was tinted with horror as she realised how she had dared to even suggest bringing harm to Ylisse's future king, but his pathetic excuses quickly oversaw any remorse. He been awfully skittish around her since their last conversation… But that hardly qualified as an excuse for missing a meeting. "I can hold off the meeting until tomorrow then. Thank you for telling me Sumia."
"You're welcome!" Sumia cheerfully said. "Sweet dreams!"
"And to you Sumia," the other female responded. She couldn't quite keep the bitterness at having stayed up so long for nothing from clipping her words. She waited until Sumia had turned to leave and was half-way outside before adding, "Oh, and Sumia? Next time, if our beloved General is that reluctant to tell me himself why he isn't here, tell him to man up and grow a pair!"
The morning sun rose beyond the horizon of hills, gently bringing its light over the camp. The crack of dawn was not an unusual time for many of the Shepherds to already be up and about, but on this morning, Chrom walked alone.
He chuckled softly upon hearing snores coming from one tent, easily identifying them as Stahl's from their deep quality. He knew not many would be early risers after the perils of yesterday's battle, but Chrom was long used to rising with the sun. Regardless of how tired he had been the night before or how late he decided to hit the sack, the sunrise always woke him.
Having learnt from yesterday's mishap, he took extra care as he picked his way through the littered pebbles towards Adrianna's tent, mostly due to his awareness of the hazards pebbles could bring… And because he was worried about Adrianna's reaction. Since that fateful conversation, he had been creating excuses left and right to avoid her, and having failed to show up to their recent meeting would grant him no favours.
Still, he was nothing if not courageous, and summing up that bravery, he marched forward with the intent of finding her tent. It was only as he found himself back at his own tent did he realise he had no idea where her tent lay. All the tents were nondescript, consisting of simple bland cloths and ropes and sticks as supports. He only knew where his was as it faced the east, in the very direction the sun rose from.
"I guess it will be a matter of trial and error then," he muttered to himself. The fire was already lit with a cauldron of water heating up to be used for various things, and his morning hunger was sated with a handful of dried nuts. A more substantial meal of meat or fruit would be served later when the other awoke. If there was one rule he absolutely enforced, it was that hunting was to be done in groups no less than three. Chrom knew his comrades were more than capable of spearing an animal, but it was the Risen than roamed freely that brought about his concerns.
Until that time came when hunting would commence, Chrom figured he could spare a few moments to himself. Time he was going to use to speak with Adrianna about the meeting he had missed. That was, if he could actually locate her tent.
He continued to walk through the slumbering camp, avoiding the ones he could hear snores from. He knew that Adrianna did not make such sounds from times he had caught her asleep and had ended up carrying her to her bed. As he reached the fourth tent on his second round, he smiled, seeing grey mist billowing out from underneath the tent's edges.
"Another spell gone wrong?" he mused. It had only happened twice in his memory, but there had come times where Adrianna had pronounced a word wrong, or her attention had become divided for a split second, and the spell had backfired. To his relief, she always came out unharmed, but a grey steam, much like the one surrounding his feet now, had settled along the ground. And even though this one smelt vaguely of vanilla and raspberries, Chrom didn't think anything of it and pushed aside the tent's flap.
She tipped the last bucket of water into the basin, satisfied with the large clouds of steam rising invitingly up. Adrianna smiled, placing her tome on top of her towel. Her fire magic had worked wonders in heating the water up far quicker than the mundane methods of holding the bucket over a fire.
Easing her body in, she let out a deep sigh, revelling in the feel of the water relaxing her tense muscles. Her last training session with Fredrick had her absolutely aching all over, despite it having been days ago now. She hadn't had a long soak in ages and it felt wonderful to surround herself in her sweet scents of shampoo. She wasn't one for fancy lotions and expensive products whose erroneous claims were not worth their expensive prices. But she loved the rich vanilla and refreshing bitterness of raspberries combined together. There was something comforting about the scents and she let herself get lost in her moment of peace.
"Hey, Adrianna? …Adrianna? Are you in here?! ADRIANNA? HELLO? I HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT OUR NEXT MOVE!"
Adrianna balked, knowing her commander's voice anywhere. But what is he doing inside here?! she thought frantically to herself. Rising from her relaxed position, she tried to spot him through the masses of steam, but it was to no avail. "Oh, Chrom, I'll… er, be out in a moment!"
Quickly, she gave a scan around the tent, somewhat grateful for the steam that acted like her shield. Yet though its concealing nature provided an advantage, it also barred her from seeing Chrom anywhere. Placing her hands on the rim of the bathtub, she slowly began lifting herself out, her eyes darting around frantically.
"Gods, I can hardly see you, what have you been doing?" Chrom was murmuring, more to himself than to her it sounded.
But he also sounded a lot closer than he had before… In one motion, she heaved herself out of the bath and made to reach for her towel… Only for Chrom to come in her direct line of sight.
"Ah, there you are," Chrom said. For once in her life, Adrianna was actually thankful for his oblivious nature and the simple smile that was sat upon his features. That was until his eyes drifted down, actually taking a moment to look at her properly.
Adrianna could only stare open-mouthed, her hand still stretching for her towel as his eyes roamed over her. She watched him blush as his own mouth fell open and shut a few times, unable to do anything more herself.
"Is there… Er… A special reason why you aren't wearing any… Um… clothes?"
She glowered at him, her anger peaking when noticing that his gaze kept returning to certain locations. "Instead of standing there like a slack-jawed village idiot, PERHAPS YOU COULD WAIT OUTSIDE LIKE A NORMAL PERSON WOULD!"
Finally his eyes snapped back to her own and he gulped when seeing the murderous intent in her eyes. "But…"
"BUT?!" Adrianna screamed. "BUT WHAT?! GET OUT!"
"I'm so SORRY!" he apologised.
Adrianna groaned, wanting nothing more to smack her head off a wall. This had to be a dream, for the sake of her sanity, it had to be. She couldn't be standing here naked, in front of her general of all people! "IF YOU DON'T GET OUT RIGHT NOW, YOU WILL BE!"
Chrom still seemed to be fumbling over his tongue and if not for the context, she would have laughed at his clear inability to follow simple instructions. "I… You… Oh gods." He brought a hand up to cover his eyes. "I'm truly very, VERY SORRY. I didn't mean to, honestly! That is to say-"
She watched him flinch. "R-right! Absolutely! Straightaway!" He nodded with each word and quickly spun on his heel. "I'll, er, wait outside the tent," he muttered and all but ran from her.
With his eyes still tightly shut, he held a hand out before him, tripping over his own feet as badly as he had stumbled over his words only moments before. And if it wasn't for how mad she was, she could have smiled as she looked after him.
Following that day, every interaction between tactician and commander was awkward to say the least. Their conversations were brief and every look led to both of them blushing. She had already demanded his reasons for blundering into the woman's tent and against all judgements and lingering embarrassment, she had forgiven him. Chrom was a brilliant general, but as a male, he wasn't exactly the sharpest blade in the weaponry. If she was being reasonable, it had been an easy mistake to make. There had been a few instances where a spell had backfired. Once or twice, it had been due to mispronouncing a word, but more often than that, it was her displaced attention. It was decidedly difficult to recite chants when the Sumia was tripping over her own feet, Valike was trying (unsuccessfully) to woo Sully or Chrom was smashing something as a result of his training.
And yet, even with reasons explained and apologies given in abundance, they did nothing to reduce the tension between them.
Adrianna slammed the book shut vehemently, sighing in frustration. They were being ridiculous. How was the army to function properly when Chrom and she couldn't even have a conversation lasting more than a minute? Even something as harmless as asking if knew where she had left her sword lead to embarrassing encounters. "Chrom, have you seen my -"
That alone had left him clamming up and sprinting away from her as though she was some fire-breathing dragon.
She sighed again, thinking that she needed something to release all her pent up emotions. And there was no better way than beating the stuffing out of one the training dummies. Feeling rejuvenated, Adrianna set on finding a weapon of some sort, believing a physical tool to be far more satisfying than her magic when, as Sully would put it, she would be, "Beating the living crap out of the dummy."
Adrianna stepped out of tent, amazed at how low hung the sun was. She smiled sheepishly, thinking of the book she had borrowed from Sumia. She never would have guessed fiction about wyvern riders could actually be interesting.
The campsite was beginning to settle down for the night. Lanterns had been lit and rested atop available logs not occupied by the Shepherds. As she looked over, she could see Valike enthusiastically detailing another anecdote of his, earning a huff of disbelief from Sully. Adrianna smiled to herself, watching the axe-wielder's attempts at wooing falter with every moment. But she didn't stop to linger and instead begun the search for a weapon. A feat which would be proven easier if she knew where all weapons were actually kept.
As the army's tactician, she had made it her duty to ensure everyone had a tent to themselves, plus spares should one happen to be in need of disposing. And though she could count every tent belonging to the individual Shepherds including others that had been set up in necessity, she didn't know what lay in any of them.
Chrom's tent lay directly to the left of hers, but she only knew that as they had been together when the tents had been set up. Long before that particular incident had happened and they were still talking amicably to one another. Yet apart from that and knowing where both the food tent and women's bathing tent lay, she was at a loss.
Adrianna mentally scolded herself, berating the fact that despite her careful planning of all else, memorising the layout of the tents has slipped her mind. She brought a hand up to her head, cursing her own ineptitude. Briefly, she considered asking each member of the army where their tent lay; a strategic method that would reveal the weaponry through elimination. But as she looked to where the army usually sat if not sparring of engaged in other activities, none save for Valike and Sully could be found. A look to the rapidly darkening sky told her that it was late enough for bed, and likely it was asleep in their tents where she would find most of the camp. Unlike Lissa, Adrianna held no desire to rudely awaken the army by pinching their nose when the purpose was for her own selfish needs.
Without any clear alternatives open to her, Adrianna begun her task of wandering through the camp, her boots scuffing across grass and dirt. From several tents, snores or muted whispers emanate from within and she did not stop to look inside of them. She had slept within Chrom's tent on occasions where the army had been too fatigued to set up each individual tent, instead favouring to pair up with those they trusted most. It had not been seen as odd for a general and his tactician to share a tent, though she had been sure to leave early enough before suspicions could arise. It was those experiences which reminded her that he did not snore.
As she passed by her fifth tent, Adrianna idly wondered just how many tents there actually was, and felt her previous agitation steadily building up, spurned by the inability to find what she was looking for. Many long moments passed before she found, to her relief, a tent which held no person inside it. Stepping inside, there were a few swords placed against the walls of the tents, but their steel was too advanced for her level of skill and she continued to look for a weaker weapon.
Her eyes scanned the tent, landing on objects that would not suit her or were simply too heavy to be used merely for venting out emotions on an unsuspecting training dummy. "There must be a bronze sword round here somewhere," she muttered, taking an inventory of all other weapons that were stocked around her.
Her searching proved to be fruitless, she turned to leave when her eyes caught sight of another section to the tent. Zoning her attention skyward, she read aloud, "The arms storage tent… Huh, that sounds promising." And without a second thought, she entered.
Only to yell out in a cross between shock and surprise.
"Adrianna?! Where'd you come from?" Chrom choked out, standing half-in, half-out of the bath in all his glory.
She screamed, coughing where she has sucked air in too sharply. She would have been a fool if she had not noticed from his profile alone that Chrom was toned, but somehow, seeing his physique in the flesh brought a starting realisation to the forefront of her mind; Chrom was extremely handsome.
Adrianna blushed sharply. She had never thought of herself as one to be concerned with such superficial things such as beauty, but Gods… She could feel her core temperature rising by several degrees and she couldn't even remember why she had come in there in the first place.
Chrom stood still, his mouth hanging agape. A foot was already placed in the bath, the other still planted to the floor. His body was turned in such a way that she couldn't help but marvel at the arrow head shape his legs had created, the point directing her attention to an area she was trying hard not to look at…
"Blazes, what are YOU screaming for?" Chrom blurted sharply. "If anyone should be screaming it's me, isn't it?" he continued on, glaring at her but doing nothing to hide himself.
Adrianna blinked a few times, and taking a lot more effort than it should, she forced herself to look up, knowing that she was scarlet. In a futile attempt to regain any semblance of control, she demanded herself to direct her attention elsewhere, tempted to close her eyes much like he had done when in the same situation.
Chrom continued to glare at her, and in her haze, she mused that he seemed to have forgotten he was talking to her completely naked. As he made to step forward, removing his foot from the tub, he said, "You aren't supposed to -"
He stepped towards her then, a mix between anger and frustration blazing on his features. And though she guessed he meant to shoo her out, to have a man, a naked one at that, advance towards her so suddenly startled her. All she could see was him, ALL of him, coming towards her. And to her dazed mind, she could only think that suddenly he was going to grab her… And from there, she didn't know what would happen. She only knew that he was coming towards her, and if experience had taught her anything, when another unit advances, you retaliate.
Adrianna jumped as his hand reached up, probably to push her out, and seized the nearest available object to her, only briefly registering its cold surface before hurling it at him.
"OUCH!" he yelled out, ducking as she picked up another item. "Stop throwing things!" His eyes widened when she picked up a razor knife. "Don't - YEOWCH!"
He took yet another step towards her and she stumbled backwards. "Have you NO shame?! Noble or not, you should AT LEAST wear a towel when you address a lady!"
Chrom stared at her incredulously. "YOU walked in on ME!"
Adrianna didn't have a reply to that, feeling another blush branding her cheeks.
"And will you STOP staring?!"
Her mouth failed to emit any sounds, working though her mind was to find a response. With a glower aimed in his direction, she spun on her heel, nearly tripping over the bar of soap that had rebounded from her throw. And much like he had done, she bolted away from him.
Chrom paced the tent relentlessly, not having left the substitute male bathing tent since entering it, though he had gotten dressed. If he had thought things had been tense between Adrianna and him before, it was nothing compared to now.
He needed to talk to her, but every time he considered it, he balked. She would probably expect him to apologise, though what for exactly, he couldn't say. It wasn't his fault she had come barging right into the very place he had been planning to take a bath. He looked at the empty tub wistfully. So much for a relaxing bath to calm his nerves.
All the same, he felt the impending need to go find her and apologise. To say once again that he was sorry for being insensitive, for snapping at her uncouthly and for generally acting like what Lissa would call a 'dork' around her. Yet though he had apologised more times than he could keep track of for catching her in the bath, he couldn't quite bring himself to regret it.
At the end of the day, he was only a man, and she was a very attractive woman. With hair as deep a blue as his own and those brown eyes that held an unfathomable wisdom, there was no denying that she was beautiful. He swore that he could see the calculations running through her head when he looked into those eyes. Chrom tried his hardest to keep his thoughts harmless, but the primitive, hormone-driven part of his mind didn't obey. Without truly meaning to, he pictured her curves, toned through work yet still retaining a feminine softness. Her ample bosom, and how the droplets of water had trailed so teasingly over the swell of her breasts…
Chrom groaned. He hadn't noticed before, but her tops were always very low cut, leaving his imagination to wander to desires he hoped no-one ever discovered. And just that smirk she did whenever she knew she was right… Gods! She was driving him insane!
He sighed heavily and once again mounting his courage, Chrom walked out of the tent, double-checking that he was fully-clothed.
Night had fallen over the camp. The lanterns had been doused but the fire was still aglow, gently being prodded by a lone figure sat on one of the logs. Chrom inhaled a deep breath and continued forward, deliberately walking heavily as to signal his presence; the last thing he wanted to do was startle her again.
Only a foot away from where she sat, Adrianna turned to look up at him over her shoulder, her blush noticeable even in the dim light from the fire. She quickly turned her head back to face the front but Chrom didn't let her embarrassment stop him from taking a seat beside her.
Before he even opened her mouth, she was already turning to him, her eyes dark. "…I… I'm so sorry, Chrom."
And instead of saying that he was too, he said, "Are we done throwing things?"
He watched her eyes narrow before her hand reached out hesitantly to touch his chin, feeling the long cut where she'd caught him with his own razor. "I think so. I am sorry. Something just snapped and…"
He took her hand, surprised when he felt satisfied at seeing another blush rise on her cheeks. "No lasting harm done. Perhaps it was the Gods' justice for my earlier blunder," he chuckled.
Adrianna kept her eyes down. "You're being very good-natured about this, but it does not ease my guilt." She winced as her eyes took in the dried blood on his ear. "I feel terrible about that soap dish…"
Chrom just shrugged. "It stings a little, but it's better." He gulped softly at the mental image his next words conjured up in his mind, but he still continued, "Look on the bright side, we've seen each other naked now, right? So I guess we've got nothing left to hide." He intertwined his fingers with her own, slowly as to not alarm her. He smiled when she squeezed his hand in response, certain that even through both layers of their gloves, he could feel the warmth of her hand. "In a way, we're closer than ever."
Adrianna hummed in the back of her throat, a noise between a huff of disbelief and a snort. "Not the most appropriate way for a man and woman to get to know each other… But…" she trailed, a smile coming to her mouth. "As long as nobody else knows…"
"We sound like partners in crime," he laughed. "But anything that brings us closer will make us stronger on the battlefield."
"And will make us stronger as a whole," Adrianna said softly, her eyes on their interlaced hands. She chuckled and repeated, "'Partners in crime.' Well, partner, your secret's safe with me…"
Chrom nodded. "I can only imagine what the others would think should they hear about this."
"It's not that hard to guess, though their guesses would be erroneous," she said, then added in a quieter tone, "there is nothing going on between us."
Chrom held back his immediate want to refute that, to claim that there was something between them, more than the bonds forged between tactician and general. And yet, a peculiar kind of nervousness held him back, leading to him only nodding in response.
"I… um. I guess I'll see you in the morning," Adrianna said, her gaze still downcast.
"Er, yeah. Yes," he agreed. He watched as she stood up, releasing his hand in the process. As she passed by him, she let her eyes look at him, her steps slowing as thought to grant her more time to observe him. Her eyes fell away as he rose his own to meet her gaze, a light blush coming to her cheeks.
Chrom couldn't help but continue to watch her, fascinated by the sudden colour to her skin and captivated by the way the fire's light caught the varied hues in her hair. "Actually, Aria, would you mind if I walked with you?"
She faced him once more, her brows furrowing. "Did you call me Aria?"
Chrom blanched, biting his lip. "…Yes, I guess I did. I'm sorry, I'll stick to-"
"No," she cut him off with a wave of her hand and smiled warmly at him. That one small gesture lighting a warmth in his chest. "I… like it. And I would appreciate the company."
He stood up then and before she could continue to walk he stepped beside her. Bowing his head, he proffered his arm to her in the most prince-like fashion that he was capable of. When he rose his head to catch her expression, he smiled at the look of bafflement playing across her features. But finally, after several moments, she slipped her arm through his with a laugh.
"How very chivalrous of you," she jested.
"I have my moments," he answered with a chuckle.
The walk to their separate tents was short and Chrom inwardly frowned at the small distance, wanting to prolong the moment as long as possible without giving away how much he longed to keep her in his company. All too soon, they stood before the entrance to her tent, neither let quite ready to say their departures.
Chrom took a breath, racking his brain for something to speak about which would keep her with him a while longer. By the way she bit her lip, it seemed to him that she too, was looking for the same as him.
Feeling his gaze on her, Adrianne rose her eyes, only for them to land on his mouth and remain there. She blushed, realising how intently she was staring and wasting time for doing so. An apology on her lips, she made to remove her hand from his arm, only for him to beat her too it.
Yet instead of letting her arm fall back to her side, he took her hand in his own, holding it between them. His eyes partially lidded, she could not decipher the emotions that lay in their depths and so could only watch as his head turned as though scouring the area.
If not for the fact that they were completely alone, he never would have even thought about his next action, let alone perform it. Yet with only the stars looking down upon them, Chrom did not hesitate to sweep into a low bow and place a chaste kiss to the back of her palm. Her gentle gasp made him smile, though he wished he had removed her glove too late.
"Chrom…" she reprimanded, and though he couldn't see her blush in the darkness now that they were away from the fire, her voice betrayed her embarrassment.
She hesitated, long enough to make him fear he had stepped too far from protocol when she whispered back, "Goodnight, Chrom." And disappeared into her tent.
Adrianna understood a great deal of many things, her sharp intellect and superior wit were her greatest assets. She could devise master strategies that lead to victory without a single casualty and unearth routes that others had missed. And yet… when it came to understanding her general, she was at a complete loss. She simply did not get him.
How could a man who showed no fear in the face of the enemy, who had acted every part of the dashing prince usually found only in Sumia's books just days ago, be so embarrassed around her now? Chrom's kiss to her hand had caught her off guard, resulting in many unknown emotions swarming her senses every time she was within a foot radius of him. But she had ultimately taken it as a positive sign, hoping that they were now over their momentary blips of chagrin and they could return to speaking like friends. Only, since following that night, Chrom was dithering around her that much, it had gotten up to the point of her wanting to strangle him.
Adrianna gritted her teeth, trying, and failing to grasp the attention of her general before her. His complete lack of engagement in the conversations was nothing new to her as of late, but when trying to discuss strategy, she needed some form of input from him. "Chrom? Hey, Chrom. Chroooooooooom!" she sang, each try receiving no response from the man before her. "YO BLUE!" Adrianna yelled, using the nickname Gaius had created, and snapped her fingers in front of his face for added measure.
Chrom blinked. "Hmm? I'm sorry, did you say something?"
"Have you been listening to anything I've said for the last, oh, ten minutes?" she huffed.
"Of course!" he immediately answered, only to drop his gaze guiltily. "Actually, no, I've erm… kind of got something… to do." He dived up, scattering the maps he was supposed to be considering everywhere.
Adrianna gaped at him, quickly snatching the bottle of ink before it could splatter across her work. Her glare was lost on him however as he barely spared a glance at her, and before she could scold him, he had bolted from the tent.
"Good Gods, what has gotten into him?" she wondered to herself, eyes narrowed in anger. Picking her way through his path of destruction; the maps blown off the desk and towers of books knocked in his haste to escape, she looked outside of her tent to where she could see him.
For one so discomposed in her presence, no such problems prevented him from acting normally in the company of their others. Though the distance hindered her hearing, by the gestures Sumia was using, Adrianna was certain they were talking about pies.
Her teeth gritted together without her even realising it. It irked her more than it should have to see him so calmly chatting with Sumia, yet unable to even say one word to her! Watching him engage in friendly banter with everyone else only caused her anger to rise to boiling point, and yet, she was unable to tear his gaze away from him.
Adrianna blew out a breath in a huff, jealous when Sumia brushed his shoulder, laughing about something to do with crumbs and pies… again. Wait… jealous? I'm not. Am I? she couldn't help but think. She immediately dismissed the speculation; she could only be jealous if there was something to be envious of. And she certainly wasn't bitter over the easy nature between Chrom and Sumia, or how much he seemed to be laughing in her presence…
She shook her head as though the action would clear the stray thoughts, but just the sound of Chrom's chuckle had her eyes narrowing. She sighed softly, deciding that a walk would ease her restless mind. She never strayed too far outside the camp's boundaries, well aware of the Risen that roamed the land, but she did venture far enough to be alone with her own thoughts for a while.
Nothing but the rustle of leaves and chirp of birds met her ears and in the peace of the forest, she allowed her thoughts to stray. And as she let herself be lost in memories, of times where he had carried her to bed when fatigue had hindered her walking, or had brought her meals to ensure she had eaten for the night, she felt herself smiling. Chrom had always been concerned for her welfare, even in those first days when he had just met her, knowing no more about her than she did herself.
He had always been a constant in her life, and to share such a familiarity with someone brought a warmth to her chest. Her smile grew in size, thinking of how much she truly did enjoy his company… When he actually gave it to her.
For the umpteenth time that hour, she sighed, beginning to walk back into the camp. Her leave from the army had taken longer than she had thought and many of those who had occupied the hearth previously had now disappeared. Chrom included. Distantly, she could hear the yells of Sully and whoops of victory from Valike.
With nothing better to do seeing how her commander was avoiding her at all costs, Adrianna opened one of her tomes she carried with her, settling down on one of the logs beside the fire. She hoped that light reading would ease what her walk had not.
From across the fire, she could hear the discussion between Miriel and Virion and the mage's fascination over prognostication. But their astute voices were hushed and didn't disturb her from her reading.
The sudden intake of breath from Chrom did.
"Adrianna?! I… er… what are you doing here?"
"I'm merely reading up on different spells," she said nonchalantly, musing silently to herself why her pulse raced at the mere sound of his voice. He did have quite the alluring voice, but as to why it made her blood thump was a mystery to her.
"I thought you were... erm, drawing up the schedule for tomorrow's march?" Chrom said.
"I was, until a certain person decided to abandon all progress in favour of speaking about pies," she bit back, unable to mask her bitter tone.
"Ah yes… about that… Can we go over it early tomorrow? If it's easier to find one another, you can sleep with me… and ah!" Chrom flushed brilliantly, his words dwindling into a muted "erm…"
Adrianna ducked her head, fighting off her own blush. He had not meant it like that, she told herself, though some small part of her wished he had meant they retire to bed together.
"For a conjecture that holds such simple import, the myriad of connotations unveiled by mere misinterpretation of semantics results in a plethora of emotions to be exposed," Miriel reflected, a knowing smile upon her lips.
Adrianna was at a loss on how to respond, her tactical mind grappling for an answer as her chagrin consumed all coherent thoughts. Though she truly did wish Miriel would just speak in plain Layman's terms, it was not hard to mishear the note of amusement in her voice. A glance up at Chrom through her fringe told her that he was as perplexed as herself.
"Perhaps we should leave these two to indulge in the matters only a heart brimming with fondness can conjure," Virion suggested to the mage who nodded.
"A wise decision," Miriel agreed before the both of them ambled off beyond Adrianna's line of sight.
When at last Miriel's distinctive voice could no longer be heard, an uncomfortable silence descended between tactician and prince. Chrom cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair, seemingly unsure whether or not to sit beside her or not. When noticing that he didn't seem to have the intention of starting, Adrianna asked, "Are you hiding something from me?"
"N-no! No! Nope, nothing!" he stuttered.
"Mm-hmm. Then what is with the fidgeting? You're acting like you've got a squirrel down your pantaloons," she said with a pointed look. "You're avoiding me recently, and I want to know why."
"I haven't been avoiding you; I've had over matters to attend to," Chrom replied.
"Oh yes, because speaking about pies is far more pressing than deciding upon the best course for travelling," she spat.
"Hey, I can't help it if Sumia happens to bake some of the greatest things I've tasted in a while."
Adrianna huffed, folding her arms tightly against her chest. "Then why don't you go eat some more pie instead of wilting away your time with me?"
Chrom quirked a brow, clearly baffled by her poisonous tone. "Hang on. Are you… jealous?"
"Of what?" she snapped. She silently cursed herself for responding too quickly and failing to mask her irritation. A look at him told her that he had not missed the biting tone.
He rose a brow at her. "I won't claim myself to be a master of emotions, but I know jealously when I hear it."
"Then you don't only require lessons in conversing with a woman but also in the field of how to interpret language," she answered back.
Chrom only chuckled. "You get very defensive when you're not sure how to act."
"Hmph, I'm surprised you've even noticed such a trait of mine when you're so damn adamant to not spend any time with me," she huffed. "Do you dislike me now or something?"
"Dislike you?" Chrom breathed in disbelief before dropping onto the log beside her. "Egads, Aria, if anything, I think I'm… uh…"
"You're..?" she prompted, turning so that she could skewer him with a glare. But Chrom had ducked his head, strands of blue hair falling across his face. She leaned forward to catch a glimpse of his expression, her anger dissolving when seeing him biting his lip, the worry etched in that one gesture softening her heart. "Chrom?"
"It… doesn't matter. I'm sorry, Aria, I'll leave you to your reading," he said and abruptly stood up, head still tucked against his chest in a bid to hide the embarrassed blush rising on his cheeks.
"Wh-what? Hey!" Adrianna called after him, discarding her tome as she jumped up to catch his arm. "You can't just bolt after leading me on like that!" Chrom sighed, so softly that she barely caught it, but she powered on regardless, "If you truly dislike me, then I would rather know. I can't keep pretending that there is nothing wrong."
"What do you think of me?" he asked so suddenly that she paused in surprise.
Adrianne puzzled over it, hearing a deeper intention to his words than simply asking if she liked him. "You're an excellent leader, Chrom. I know that this army would not be as half as successful if not for you."
"No." He shook his head. "I want to know how you feel towards me as a person, not as your general."
"Oh," she whispered. "Well, I… Um…" How did she feel towards him? Yes, she admired their friendship and their bonds of trust and faith in one another were something she wouldn't trade for anything. But did her feelings run deeper than that? She smiled, her heart practically fluttering in her chest. "At first, I cared for you because you are our general and future king – we are duty bound to keep you safe and that brings about a measure of care. But I've come to realise that my feelings for you run much deeper than that."
Chrom looked up at her, the fragile smile on his mouth becoming more assured as his gaze found her own. "Good, because I feel the exact same way. No, what I mean to say is…" His hands came up to cup her face, ensuring all his attention was on her. "I love you, Aria."
She grinned at him, laughing giddily though if someone was to ask her why, she wouldn't be able to say. All she knew was that she hadn't felt this happy since having woken up in that field to his gentle smile. "I love you too, Chrom."
He joined in her laughter then. "You do? Ha, this is the best day of my life! You've made me the happiest man alive."
"Then you've made me the happiest woman in all the realm," she said affectionately.
Chrom didn't allow her to say much else as his mouth met hers, each feeling the smile of the other as they pulled one another closer. And throughout the kiss, as he mumbled how much he loved her against her mouth, she could only smile and laugh, replying that she loved him just as much.
Ahh, fluff, once again I fall victim to your call. One of these days, I'll write something more angsty. But until that day, drop a review and tell me what you thought. Reviews are always highly appreciated.
Thank you for reading!