Warnings: just angst
Note: This is set between the two games.
The day they left Melior, Soren had thought it was the happiest day of his life. He'd expected Ike to forget about them, disband the mercenary company and marry the Queen. He was the hero, after all, and wasn't that what heroes did after they'd saved the princess? He'd seen the way Elincia looked at him; it could have all been his if Ike had only said the word.
And yet he'd chosen to give it up, abandoning even his noble title to be merely the captain of the Greil Mercenaries once more. Soren had never expected that and wasn't quite sure he understood it, but he was grateful nonetheless, more grateful and relieved than he probably ought to be, if he were honest. Ike may not have married Elincia, but it changed nothing.
It only took three days back at their headquarters for him to realize that he'd been wrong. His relationship with Ike may not have changed, but everything else had. Somehow, he'd become used to the constant work of running an army - the supplies to be tallied, plans to be made, movements of the enemy tracked and accounted for. Now that his only responsibility was their small company, a company not even particularly busy, he often found himself at loose ends, with little to do and no distractions.
Worse, it was much harder to avoid Ike than it had been in the bustle of the camp. Oh, certainly he'd seen him, but it had been all business, short meetings about the war and nothing else. Now, Ike expected them to be friends again, seeking him out if Soren tried to stay in his room, and he had no more excuses to give. There were days when the building he'd once called home felt all too small, the walls a trap he couldn't easily escape, for all that he'd never been that fond of the outdoors.
There were times when he wished for war.
It wasn't, of course, that he was truly opposed to peace. He had no addiction to bloodshed and danger; were circumstances different, Soren would be perfectly content to remain here, enjoying the leisure that now felt far more luxurious than it once had.
It wasn't that he didn't want to be friends with Ike any longer either. Of course he did. The problem was that he'd changed and Ike hadn't. Soren wasn't sure exactly when he'd realized that it was more than friendship he wanted, but now that he had, he couldn't seem to take it back. It was hard to be around Ike, hard to watch his smile and the easy grace of his movements and say nothing, hard to keep silent even when it was the habit of a lifetime. His silence, after all, had never been for Ike.
Soren took to changing his schedule, sneaking out at night to practice alone, where he wouldn't be distracted by the flash of swords or, if he were honest, by a glimpse of blue hair. In the silent shadows of night, he felt almost safe again, unwatched and free of the constant sense of Ike too near and yet simultaneously not close enough.
He closed his eyes, sought peace in the rhythms of magic, the reassuring ease of using powers he'd learned before almost anything else. He called the fire, to burn away his distraction, these unwanted feelings that made things that had once been easy so very difficult. He called the wind, to scour him clean, wishing he could ride it, fly away somewhere far from here. Soren couldn't bear to leave, had nowhere else to go, but sometimes, deep in his heart, he thought it the easiest answer.
When he opened his eyes, letting the wind finally die around him, the dirt settling in slow spirals at his feet, he found himself staring right into the concerned blue eyes he'd been trying to forget. Soren blushed, though he couldn't say why; there was nothing wrong with practicing and nothing at all to explain.
Ike looked at him, obviously considering the situation. Soren couldn't help but consider it, too – here they were, alone at night, when the rest of the Greil Mercenaries were likely sleeping. No one knew where they were and no one would be coming to look for them for hours yet.
"You weren't in your room."
"Was there something you needed?" He hoped there was, something easy that he could provide quickly and send him away.
Ike shook his head and took a few steps closer, close enough that Soren could touch him if he just reached out his hand. Silence fell and stretched between them, but Soren didn't try to break it. What was there to say?
"Look at the stars," Ike said at last, his voice quiet, a secret between the two of them.
Thus commanded, Soren tilted his head back and looked: it was one of those nights when the stars seemed too bright and too close, like they were listening. He closed his eyes and turned away, wishing he hadn't looked. The last thing he wanted was yet more observation; he had too much to hide.
"Soren." Ike's voice was close, too close, and he froze without even intending to stop. "Why have you been avoiding me?"
He'd noticed. Of course he'd noticed; he knew Soren too well. He'd been foolish to think that the change in circumstance would be enough distraction.
Soren turned around to face him, opened his mouth to say something, to make some excuse, but the words wouldn't come. He didn't want to lie to Ike, but he couldn't bear to tell him the truth either. Not now, when his expression spoke only of a concerned friend, perhaps not ever.
Ike studied Soren's face in silence and finally stepped away with a nod. "All right. You'll tell me when you're ready." And, as much as he didn't want to, Soren thought he probably would. Despite how badly he'd been burned by trust as a child, he still trusted Ike.
It was only a few days later when Bastian approached them, seeking their aid in preventing a civil war. As he listened to his words, Soren wondered if he should be grateful. His wish had been granted; his decision deferred for however long this crisis lasted. It was what he'd thought he wanted, yet he'd rarely felt so disappointed.