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Gaius had that feeling like someone was watching him as he crept down the halls. Suddenly, he turned and lunged into the darkness behind him. He found someone there. Reflexes taking over, he tripped and pinned down his follower. “Gotcha! Now, who are you, and why were you following me?’

“You were sneaking around the castle at night. Naturally I was suspicious,” Niles answered.

“Ah, Patch.”

“Niles," he corrected.

“Relax alright? I was just getting a snack.”

“And by that you mean you were stealing extra cookies again.”

“Alright, you got me. Happy? I’ll grab you some if you won’t tell.”

“Not interested.”

“Oh, cookies aren’t your favorite? How about pudding?”

“Are you going to stay on top of me all night, Gaius?” asked Niles in his most implicative tone.

Gaius sighed and stood. “Here I am just trying to be friendly and share, and you have to go and make it awkward.”

“Consider it your punishment for petty cookie thievery.”

“Like you’re one to judge? I’d bet your history ain’t any prettier than mine.”

“True, but at least my history is history.”

“Gods, it’s just a few cookies. Hang me,” Gaius muttered as Niles left.

Ylisse must be nice if Gaius could be sarcastic like that, pondered Niles as he wandered beneath the stars. Such a comment wouldn't have been funny in Nohr.

Maybe it was just a few cookies, but if Gaius was willing to steal a few sweets, why not a few gold pieces? Rumor had it Gaius was persuaded to join the Shepherds with a bag of candy, which sounded plausible. How could they be sure then that it wouldn’t be just as easy for someone else to turn him against The Order of Heroes with a bag of candy?

Niles didn’t trust him.

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None of the Shepherds seemed to know much about Gaius’s past. Well, it was possible Maribelle did. They appeared to be close, but she and Niles were too repulsed by each other for a conversation to go anywhere useful.

That meant Niles had to spend a night digging for information in Ylissian criminal circles.

Gaius’s reputation was actually not that terrible. He was even known for being a bit soft, refusing to kill those who he thought didn’t deserve it and once being pressured into a scheme with the threat of the death of some noble girl he didn’t even know. His darkest secrets weren’t violent in nature; they were past addictions to substances far worse than sugar. That was really the only thing Niles could use against him that everyone couldn’t have already guessed, though at this point he didn't suspect he would have to.

Someone grabbed Niles from around a corner and shoved into a wall. He was face to face with Gaius.

“I know what you’re doing here.”

Well, this was going to be interesting. It was very rare that someone caught Niles in his research, and also rare for someone to sneak up on him so smoothly, even in the night. He wouldn’t admit it, but truthfully, he was impressed. “Gaius. You just can’t keep your hands off me, can you?”

Gaius was too serious to be flustered. “What do you know?” He kept his voice steady, but there was definitely fear in his eyes.


“You’re not getting anything from me until I know what you know.”

“I don’t want anything from you. I collect information on everyone. It’s nothing personal. As long as you don’t get yourself on Prince Leo’s bad side, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

His grip tightened and his eyes narrowed. “You better not breathe a word, or--”

“Or what? Why are you trying to bribe and threaten me when you could silence me right here and now?”

“Because we’re supposed to be on the same side, and The Order needs all the help we can get.”

“So… you really do like me.”

“You wish, Patch.” Gaius tossed him to the ground. “I mean it. If you tell anyone in The Order about--anything, I will get back at you for it.”

He really was soft. Niles couldn’t help but think with a touch of envy that Gaius was better than him… but he would never have survived in Nohr.

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It wasn't too difficult for Niles to find Gaius. He still knew these streets of Nohr quite well, and he caught the sound of a brawl that led him straight to him.

There were two other thieves teamed against Gaius. While he was adeptly evading their strikes, to make sure he stayed in one piece, Niles notched an arrow behind the corner and landed it in one of their heads. The other looked around in alarm, barely dodged a slash from Gaius, and then decided to flee.

“You have to watch your step around here,” said Niles, coming out into the open.

“Yeah, I noticed. Thanks for the help,” said Gaius with a deep breath of fatigue.

“Oh, don't thank me. I only wanted you for myself.” Niles was face to face with him now.

“Look, Patch, at first I was just trying to get even with you, but then I found out about what happened at the castle, and I understand now, why you’re so nosy and paranoid. You’re just scared of getting backstabbed again, and I don't blame you. So what you say we put all this behind us and keep it between you and me?”

That wasn’t the reaction Niles was expecting. Maybe Gaius was just trying to get himself out of trouble. No, that couldn't be it. If he was only looking for mercy, ‘nosy and paranoid’ would not have been good word choices. He was being honestly sympathetic.

“You alright?” Gaius asked.

“Yes, just a bit surprised. You really are as soft as they said.”

Gaius rolled his eyes indignantly. “Yeah, whatever. We got a deal or what?”


They shook hands on it.

A sound of some nearby movement cut them short as they both immediately looked around, a dagger and an arrow at the ready.

Several long suspenseful seconds passed in silence.

“We should get out of here,” said Gaius.

“I couldn’t agree more.”

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“Hey, Patch, what’cha doing out here so late?”

“I could ask you the same question.”

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“Me neither.”

Gaius was close enough now that they could exchange a glance and silently agree not to talk about it with only the moonlight.

“Mind if I join you?” Gaius asked.

“Not at all.”

He sat in the grass next to Niles, unwrapping a candy. “Want one?” He offered another to his comrade.

“If there’s nothing else you'd rather have me do with my tongue.”


Finally, truly flustered. What a shame that it was too dark to fully appreciate his face. Still, Niles accepted his offer, more out of appreciation for the gesture and an excuse to touch his hand than for the taste itself.

There was a moment of sweet silence.

“Romantic isn’t it, starlight?” said Niles as the last of it dissolved.

“Um, yeah, I guess.” It was hard to be sure if he was flushed, but he sounded like it.

“Come a little closer.” Niles dared to slip their fingers together.

Gaius started to reciprocate hand-hold, but hesitated.

“I won’t bite, promise.”

“Somehow I don’t believe you.”

“Ouch. I thought we trusted each other now.”

“You better not just be teasing me again.” It was a joking tone trying to disguise a serious concern.

“I’m not teasing. Want me to prove it?” By now, Niles had inched closer to Gaius instead of the other way around.

“Go ahead.”

Next thing Gaius knew, he was pushed onto his back, and Niles was on top of him, grabbing a handful of his hair and kissing him…. and he did bite.

“Do you think you'd rest any easier if you came to bed with me?” Niles asked.

“Maybe, or maybe we still wouldn't get any sleep,” said Gaius, now fully returning the flirtatious tone.

“At least we would have fun while not getting any sleep.”

Despite all the implications, Gaius was out within five minutes. Niles was okay with that, happy even to be a source of comfort, and soon fell asleep as well.