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Desert Storm

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Shulk was largely a man of routine. A couple months had gone by since the beginning of the fourth Super Smash Bros. Tournament, and by this time, anybody remotely familiar with the flaxen haired Homs had become accustomed to which places were his usual jaunts. He was usually found in one of three main places: his bedroom (which he shared with his boyfriend Robin), a room in the mansion's garage that essentially had become the blond's weapons laboratory, or the establishment's gigantic library full of books from dozens of different worlds. Whenever he wasn't in one of these places, it was likely because he was eating in the grand hall, but considering the teen's small appetite, the chance he was there was rather slim.

And yet, the silver haired tactician had looked in all of these places to no avail. It was getting pretty late and the sun was about to set, so it worried Robin that there had been absolutely no sign of the Heir to the Monado lately. He had asked people in every room he visited during his search, but not one of them seemed to know where the missing swordsman was. Anxiousness started to build in the tactician's stomach as he searched around frantically, hoping that something terrible hadn't befallen his boyfriend.

No, pull yourself together, Robin! The ivory haired male told himself as he smacked the palms of his hands against his forehead, as if trying to beat the thoughts out of his head that something bad happened. Shulk has the Monado - if anything bad were to happen to him, he'd see it before hand and prevent it from happening. That self-reassurance was the only thing at this point that kept the male sane as he continued his search, now looking in every place imaginable for some sign of his younger friend.

He had no idea where the thought came from to check it out, but Robin quickly plodded toward the top of the building, perhaps hoping that looking out from the roof might give him a bird's eye view. Perhaps he could locate some kind of hint as to where Shulk could be all the way up there. Of course, it was a bit of a silly thought, as that would assume that Shulk would even be outside, but still he climbed to the topmost floor. Upon opening up the door to the balcony, Robin's heart skipped a beat. Sitting behind the barricade that prevented individuals from falling off was a swordsman clad in magenta, brown, and gray, legs swinging from the edge of the roof. He was leaning against one of the railings, arms folded and staring off at... Robin had no idea what, honestly. A ruby red sword lay at a strange angle across its chosen wielder's back, propped into that position by the ground. It was a large weapon, and thus it had to hang at an angle in order to remain attached. After the initial shock of realizing who was sitting there before him, Robin called out the other's name.

"Shulk!" He yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice. It was a bit of a habit that he wasn't exactly trying to break, but it had succeeded in getting the attention of the Heir to the Monado, who quickly whirled his torso around in order to face the tactician. The blond was oblivious to the slight scraping that the Monado had made as he turned, smiling up at the other Smasher behind him.

"Oh, Robin, you're just in time." Shulk announced, tapping the ground next to him three times as if to invite him over. After the silver haired male silently gave his boyfriend a puzzled look, Shulk couldn't help but chuckle before continuing. "I came up here in order to watch the sun go down. Come on, sit next to me so we can talk." Robin shrugged slightly, figuring he might as well do what the swordsman wanted and walked up over to the railing and sat down. Long purple sleeves suitable for somebody with at least twice as much muscle mass as the tactician reached up and folded together as he reclined over the barricade much like how Shulk did. A second later, Robin felt strawlike hair brush against his ear as Shulk rested his head next to his boyfriend's, sighing contentedly. "The sunset here is so beautiful..." The blond said, voice sounding almost singsong in its lightness. "It's really nothing like anything we have back on Bionis..."

"...You don't have sunsets back on Bionis?" Robin asked, turning his head slightly to look at Shulk. He knew that the boy laying on his shoulder right now wasn't a human like him, but a member of a humanoid alien species known as 'Homs'. Robin was also aware that the world Shulk came from, known as Bionis, was very unlike the world that the ivory haired male called home, as it was made up of the body of a dead titan that was about the size of an entire continent. But to think that Shulk had rarely ever seen a sunset much like the one they were sitting in front of now practically blew the tactician's mind. He needed to hear more about this.

Chuckling slightly, Shulk decided to humor the male with an explanation. "I don't exactly have sunsets like this at least." The flaxen haired seer readjusted his head, leaning back on his own gray-sweatered arms due to the fact that his neck was starting to get tired. "Usually the sun on Bionis just sort of... blinks out of existence after a certain time of day, only to reappear when daytime returns. It doesn't exactly dip below the horizon line like it's doing here. Quite the odd behaviour to you, I'm sure. It's a sight that I really wish Fiora was around to see..." Shulk's mood took a turn for the worse whenever he mentioned Fiora, who Robin had gathered as being a friend of the blond's who had died in a Mechon attack not long before the seer had been chosen to participate in the tournament here.

Wanting to take Shulk's mind off of his misery, Robin turned his head and nodded slightly, deciding it was time to do something he wanted to do for a long time. The two of them had been dating for some time now, but neither had visited the other's world yet. Considering Bionis was a bit of a war zone right now due to the threat of the Mechon, that option was off limits to everybody who wasn't from the world in question. Robin wasn't going to be able to see Shulk's supposedly beautiful home until the Heir to the Monado had dealt with the problems back home. Ylisse, on the other hand, was perfectly safe, as the threat of Grima had been eliminated prior to the tournament's start. Robin slowly looked over the younger male, noticing that he looked quite downtrodden. Gods, Shulk's sadness just pulled at every heartstring in the tactician's chest. He just wanted to do whatever it took to get the seer's sweet smile to appear once again. And that was what prompted the next action.

"Shulk..." He said slowly, prompting the teenager in question to redirect his cerulean eyes into the chocolate orbs of the tactician. "Would you like to see what sunsets are like back home for me? It's a bit different in Ylisse than it is here, though it's certainly nothing like what you described a Bionis sunset to be like." The rings of Ether in Shulk's eyes shimmered knowingly as he listened to the question, nodding briskly after a few seconds.

"...Yes, I would love to see what Ylisse is like! I would love to compare your world with its relatively flat continents to Bionis!" The Homs' arms quickly clamped around Robin's shoulders, very nearly tackling him sideways. It was taking much of the tactician's strength to push back against the taller boy. He found it rather hard to believe that at one point, the young man who was very nearly pinning him to the ground with nothing but his weight used to be a very frail and sickly boy. That's what Shulk had said about himself, at least. Still, Robin couldn't help but reach up and place his arms around his boyfriend, holding onto him gently as they continued to embrace.

"In that case, I'll ask Master Hand for some time off from the tournament for both of us so you can check out my home." The ivory haired male said gently, one arm reaching up and starting to run through the strawlike locks that his boyfriend possessed. They stayed like that for a little while before Shulk turned his head in the direction of the sun, which had very nearly disappeared below the horizon line by this time. The dusk sky was bright red and the air was still quite warm even though it was going to be dark very shortly. The two embraced until the sun completely disappeared, agreeing that it was about time for them to head back indoors. People were probably looking for them by this point, after all.

Several days later, Robin and Shulk had gotten the permission to head out to the world that the former called home under the pretense that the Homs would be led around to see what the world was like, as it was far different from Bionis. Even though it was a time of peace, Shulk couldn't help but bring his trusted weapon along with him, just in case things happened to go sour. He sincerely hoped that he wasn't going to need it, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

Once the portal had dropped the two off, Robin took a look around the area in order to figure out exactly where they had been dropped off. Within a couple of minutes of pacing around for some kind of landmark, the tactician finally got his bearings, figuring out that the two of them had been deposited somewhere near the border between Ylisse and Plegia. Judging by the look on Robin's face, this wasn't where they were supposed to end up. He looked extremely perplexed, scratching the top of his head as he usually did whenever he was trying to think. Curious, Shulk voiced the question that had came to his mind, unintentionally tilting his head slightly as he inquired.

"...Just where were we supposed to end up, Robin?" He asked, clasping his hands together. The sound of the Homs' voice seemed to be enough to snap Robin out of his deep thoughts, giving a reassuring smile to the younger male.

"We were supposed to end up right in the middle of Ylisstol, the capital of Ylisse. Chrom was supposed to greet us as we arrived, but clearly he's nowhere to be seen here..." After a moment, Robin looked extremely uncomfortable, as if realization had just hit him hard. "...Oh gods..." He muttered. "We're probably hours away from Ylisstol and Chrom's probably just waiting in front of where we were supposed to appear, tapping his foot impatiently... I had told him that we'd be around at approximately 17:00 so that we'd have time to see Ylisse for a little bit before sunset. So much for that..." Robin gave a great sigh, hanging his head in frustration. "By the time we get to Ylisstol from here, it'd probably be the middle of the night."

"...So, what do you suppose we do?" Shulk asked, a little concerned. Seeing as he wasn't from this world, he had every reason to be nervous if he had absolutely no idea where he was and Robin was only a little more sure. Robin seemed to be acutely aware that Shulk was on edge, walking over and clasping his partly gloved hands around the seer's own bare palms. Trying to make things a little less tense for the Monado wielder, he reached up and took a quick kiss from the mouth of his younger lover, rolling up onto the balls of his feet to reach, considering Shulk was a few inches taller than the tactician.

"We head to Plegia's capital." He said tactfully. "It's closer to our current location than Ylisstol is and we'll get there before night falls. From there, I should be able to write a letter and send it out to Chrom telling him that we'll be spending the night there and we'll be setting out for Ylisse again in the morning. Just follow my lead and we'll be able to cross the Plegian desert with little difficulty." Shulk nodded, trusting completely in Robin. He knew a lot more about this place, after all. And with their plan decided, Robin let go of Shulk's hands and started trudging across the savanna. The seer stayed close behind, not wanting to let Robin out of his sights. Sure, the area around them was almost completely flat with perhaps a large rock or two every so often, but he still didn't want to risk getting separated with no chance of being found again. The sun was fairly low in the sky, so the burning sands weren't nearly as bad as they might have been several hours earlier.

Neither of the two young men realized it, but they weren't alone out here in the supposed middle of nowhere. People were scattered about out of plain view, hiding as quietly as they could to glean as much information as they could in regards to the two that had just appeared before them. Some might have actually been spotted if Robin had bothered to search a little harder than he had in his survey to determine where he and Shulk had ended up. However, that wasn't the case. Signals were shared between the vagabonds, silently communicating their next plan of action.

They had all seen it, the undeniable proof of love between the tactician and the strange boy with a foreign accent and even more foreign looking clothing. It was the former that they had been initially sent to capture, but something about the other drew them in. Judging by the fact that the highwaymen had never seen clothes even notably similar to the lad's as well as the questions that he had asked, they knew he wasn't from around these parts. Considering they all knew how much the boy and the tactician were in love, perhaps it would be worth their time to show the young man just what he was getting into by becoming romantically involved with a Plegian.

Quickly and quietly, the group slinked forward, getting into a position to surround their targets, all while trying to keep themselves still hidden. Robin still failed to see any of the danger, and neither did Shulk, but he didn't need to actually physically see it, as it wasn't long later before he stopped in his tracks, gasping slightly as his eyes started glowing bright blue.

"I-I'm... seeing something!" He announced, which immediately caused Robin to stop and whirl around. The tactician quickly strode back to where Shulk was standing, taking both of his hands with a look of concern on his face.

"...What is it, Shulk?! What do you see?!" The ivory haired male asked, not even trying to hide the look of apprehension on his face. Robin knew that whenever Shulk's eyes started glowing, it meant that he was seeing a glimpse of the future, and more than likely, it was bad news. The seer shook his head slowly, his brow furrowing in frustration and confusion.

"I... don't actually see much... Give me a second to analyse..." The teenager fretted. "I see myself... And you faintly... But then we're completely surrounded in blackness. Yet there's something clearly there, as you and I have our weapons out. I can't see what it is... We're trying to fight... something." He then gasped, eyes widening even more despite the fact that they were already completely open to let him actually see the future play out before him. "...Whatever it was, it ended up knocking you down... and then me too! And then... I see myself being carried away into the darkness..." After finishing that explanation, the blue glow disappeared from the clairvoyant's eyes, and he could finally see the fear on the smaller male's face.

"That darkness... What could it possibly be?" The elder urged. "And what do you mean you could barely see me? Shulk, this is not good... I'm very concerned about your vision." Had Shulk just seen himself, he probably would have suspected an actual darkness attacking, but the fact that there was a faint glow highlighting Robin's body gave the Homs the most probable answer to what he had seen.

"...It's Ether." He explained succinctly. "Rather, a lack thereof. The Monado's visions are created when the weapon senses the flow of Ether and predicts where particles will be in the future. It's super useful on Bionis because everything is made of Ether, and Master Hand probably made some kind of adjustment to my visions to allow them to happen in the tournament grounds properly, but no such adjustment exists out here on your own world. I couldn't see anything because whatever it was that attacked us didn't have any Ether in its body... or perhaps bodies." Knowing that his visions had been all but rendered useless out here in Robin's world just because there wasn't any Ether around made the poor Homs feel extremely vulnerable. Even if he technically still did have his foresight, it was impaired in such a way that knowing what was going to happen didn't really mean much.

As if to make things worse, the Plegian vagabonds finally came out of hiding, charging with axes and dark tomes at the ready while screaming intimidatingly at the two men. Robin very quickly pulled a Levin Sword and an Arcfire tome out of his robes while Shulk took the Monado off his back and flipped it open to let its Ether beam appear between its sides, the two swordsmen standing back to back as the attackers came at them. Several of the barbarians were quickly dealt with, their bulky weapons no match for the sleek swords that the two Smashers wielded.

However, it quickly became apparent that the enemies had far many more of their kind, and that advantage would soon make things hard for Shulk and Robin. Several axes chopped at each young man at the same time, making it extremely hard to not only defend, but attempt to attack in return. That coupled with the fact that several Dark Mages were off to the sides preparing spells meant this was certainly a losing battle. Once those spells had been finished, dark magic reached up from nowhere, sapping away the energy of their victims as they yelled out in agony.

Robin was the first to fall, tome and sword scattering across the sand in the wake of his defeat. Shulk realized now that this was the exact scene that the Monado was trying to warn him about but failed to do so properly thanks to the lack of Ether allowing him to see the whole situation. It was a moment later when the Heir to the Monado also fell, dropping his legendary weapon. After being let go by its wielder, the ruby sword quickly snapped shut once again. Realizing they were victorious, a signal was made for a Wyvern Rider who was flying overhead to come down. The draconic creature that was being rode upon hovered above the ground, allowing for one of the barbarians to throw the unconscious blond over onto its back. A Dark Mage had come over and confiscated the Arcfire tome and Levin Sword, figuring that they could be useful for their troops. However, when he went to pick up the Monado as well, curiosity quickly took over. The Plegian wanted to figure out how it worked, but couldn't seem to figure it out for a moment. Upon flicking a switch on the underside of the weapon, though, he was quickly electrocuted, as he was not the weapon's chosen wielder. Giving up, he just dropped the red sword, figuring there was no need to bring it along if it wasn't capable of being used for anything more than painful shock.

The troops hurried off with their loot while the Wyvern Rider sped away with the captive in tow. All that was left there out on the sand was a disarmed Robin and the Monado.

When Shulk finally woke up, he felt immensely weak. Groaning slightly, he rolled over a little to try to get up, finding that his hands were firmly bound together in front of him. Whatever struggling he attempted to do failed, as the binding was strung in such a way that it nearly cut off circulation to his hands. There was still hope to get out of this situation, however. Both of the hands reached back over his right shoulder in anticipation of grabbing the weapon that usually sat there. However, that hope quickly vanished as the blond realized that there was no Monado on his back. Trying to piece everything together in his mind, it quickly became clear as to why he was unarmed, causing the young man to gasp slightly. He remembered everything - the vision he'd had, the fight not long later, and then the fact that he and Robin had lost the fight... Shulk realized he had dropped the Monado much like how Robin's weaponry had fallen out of his hands after his defeat just prior.

Seeing as he was completely unarmed and unable to get the painful bindings off his hands, the seer knew that he was in big trouble. Two individuals in long purple cloaks seemed to be headed in his direction as well, apparently having noticed that the captive had awakened. It was impossible to see their faces as the hoods attached to the cloaks they wore covered them up. The Homs tried to roll away - or at the very least to the furthermost wall of the cell he was being held in, but upon doing so, he came to realize that there was a purple cloak draped over him as well that hit him in the face when he shied away. Shulk hadn't noticed prior, but the bright magenta vest he usually wore had been removed, replaced with a dark purple cloak that hung over his tied up hands. The rest of his typical gray and brown outfit seemed to be intact, though. Odd, why had his kidnappers went through the trouble of taking his vest off and not any of the rest of his clothes?

"You there." One of the two hooded individuals said with a deep voice, standing at the bars of the cell. "It's time for your ceremony. Rise to your feet or else you will be forced to do so." Of course, Shulk had no intention of obeying these freaks who had captured him, and thus he spat insults back at them.

"...I'd rather do a nosedive off the Bionis' Head than follow any of your orders, you bloody bastards!" He hissed. "I'm going to make you wish you hadn't done this to me!" There didn't seem to be any physical reaction to the defiance, however. The two just nodded to one another before one made a quick flicking motion with his wrist. A second later, there was an immense pain that jolted throughout the Homs' entire body. As he screamed out in agony, Shulk realized that he had been forced to his feet by whatever terrible magic he was being subjected to. Finally, the pain disappeared as he just stood there at the far wall. As much as the teenager wanted to fall down onto his face again, he wasn't so stupid as to do such a thing, knowing that he'd be forced to his feet once again in an equally painful way. Therefore, he just stood there, trying to regain his breath.

"Step forward." The other cloaked individual said, his voice even deeper than his companion's, opening the cell door so that the captive could come out. Realizing that refusal would mean being dragged out by painful magic, Shulk complied, lumbering out between the two. He hadn't realized it until he was standing right next to them, but the two men (he assumed they were men at least by their voices) were quite a bit taller than he was. Just then, a long, spindly hand reached out and grabbed the hood from behind the seer's neck, forcibly pulling it up over his head. Shulk had very nearly gotten whiplash from the surprisingly strong move, but now there was thick purple fabric half covering his eyes.

"You must keep your hood up at all times unless told otherwise." The first man said. "Now you're ready for your induction... We will bring you to where you need to be for the ceremony." Induction... Something about the whole situation told the Homs that it wasn't going to be a very pleasant ceremony - at least for him. It was enough for figurative butterflies to start trying to escape from his stomach, leaving him feeling quite sick.