“I was sure I’d find you asleep on your parchments.”
Robin turned at the sound of his voice, smiling when their eyes met. The moon breaking through the opening in the leaves bathed the man in soft light, making the white hair almost glow silver. It made Robin ethereal. “Contrary to popular opinion, I do have hobbies.”
“Like those novels you hide between your tomes on strategy?” he asked with a grin as he stopped, close enough for the soft fabric of Robin’s cloak to brush against his bare shoulder.
“It’s called ‘organization,’ milord,” Robin countered teasingly, “Mayhaps you should get acquainted with the concept.”
“And rob Frederick of the opportunity to meticulously pick up after me? Perish the thought.”
Robin laughed brightly, the sound lighting warmth in Chrom’s chest. Robin’s attention shifted back up to the moon, head tilting back elegantly, drawing the eye to the line of his throat.
“I felt like some fresh air, to clear my head a little.” The smile on the man’s lips didn’t exactly dim, but it softened into something quieter, more thoughtful. “The moon is beautiful tonight.”
Chrom had never met anyone like Robin, who saw wonder and beauty and worth in things he himself had overlooked a thousand times. He took in the contented expression on the man’s face, the way the moon seemed to have washed the soft brown of his eyes to a pale grey, and found himself answering wholeheartedly, “Yes, it is.”
A comfortable silence enveloped them: the forest quiet around them, the sounds of camp only a distant murmur.
“There is something I wanted to confess,” Robin spoke up at length, turning to face him, and Chrom mirrored the shift without a thought. The brown eyes met and held his gaze, pinning him down with sincerity. “Of all the things in this world, you are the most important to me.”
The breath stuttered in Chrom’s lungs. The words were an unexpected gift and they buoyed him, but the note of finality in the tone cut through the warm haze. It gnawed at his stomach, pulled his brows into a frown. “I won’t let you die, Robin.”
Robin’s gaze flitted away from his, but they didn’t stray far, catching on something on his face. His tactician shook his head with a disbelieving look and stepped closer, peering at him from mere breaths away. “I’d be more worried about you.” Light fingertips brushed Chrom’s hair out of his face, lingered against his temple. “Have you been sparring with Lucina? You look like you’ve been rolling in more dirt than Sumia’s pegasus.”
Chrom thought he had known love when he found Rose in that tiny village, and in the short time they had together; grief when Emm fell, and when his wife passed while giving Lucina life. Now, faced with the quiet amusement in the quirk of Robin’s lips, the soft affection in the brown eyes, and the thought that he could lose both tomorrow, he found himself proven wrong.
How could he have been so blind to something right in front of him, all this time? He had always seen his future in those eyes.
“Chrom?” Robin’s head was cocked to the side, confused with his lack of a response.
Chrom reached up and caught hold of Robin’s hand. He had seen these hands wield various weapons with ease, had seen them tease out fire and wind and lightning from runes on paper. He had also had these hands pull him up, guide him. The feel of it in his own, soft and warm, was a weight that was familiar and dear.
“It seems,” he started quietly, “that I have something to confess as well.”
“Oh?” There was nothing but curiosity in the open expression on his tactician’s face, brown eyes clear and intent.
“Yes, I,” Chrom paused, scouring for words, “We’ve been fighting a lot together; we’re always side by side. At first, I thought of you as an ally, then a comrade, and finally a friend. I've felt the bonds of trust grow between us, stronger and stronger.” Robin was listening to his rambling with a soft smile, and the sight fanned the warmth suffusing his chest, his heart beating faster. “But now I realized, you were more than just a friend.”
“What do you mean?”
There was no understanding in the brown eyes, only a sliver of confusion, a slight furrow between pale brows. Chrom moved the hand in his hold until it was resting flat against his chest, right above his racing heartbeat. “Robin, I’m in love with you.”
Robin’s mouth fell open slightly, a single soft gasp escaping, “Oh.”
“I have been from the very first moment I laid eyes on you,” he soldiered on despite the apprehension and embarrassment making heat crawl up his neck, “and I am the world’s greatest fool to not have realized it until now.” Robin remained quiet, although the man’s cheeks were steadily colouring to match him, eyes wide. “Look, I know this is sudden. But I'm not trying to force you into a decision, believe me. Whatever your answer, I shall abide by it— no matter how painful. And come what may, we'll always be friends.” He gave Robin’s hand a gentle squeeze. “That I promise.”
“This, on the eve of the great battle,” his tactician murmured, teeth worrying at a soft lip, “This is— The general and his chief tactician? It just— It wouldn’t be right. Our first responsibility must be to the soldiers we lead, not to each other. You understand that, don’t you?”
Chrom felt the icy feeling of dread sink into him at the words, but he held Robin’s gaze and kept his shoulders squared. “Yes, I do.”
“But we will defeat Grima. I’ll make sure of it.” Robin smiled at him, eyes shining. “We'll emerge victorious and bring peace back to the world. And when that happens, we'll be free to follow our hearts.”
“Our hearts?” Chrom latched onto the words, reaching out with his other hand to draw the man closer, hope igniting in his chest.
“Yes; were you not listening?” Robin answered with a breathless laugh, “You are the world to me— I love you.”
“You do?” he asked, almost in awe, as he tried to process Robin’s reply, “But that’s— but that’s— Wonderful!” He laughed, knowing the grin on his face would look absolutely foolish. “This is the best day of my life!” He brought Robin’s hands to his lips and pressed a kiss to each knuckle, looking up to take in the amusement and affection on the man’s face, still flushed with colour that was softened in the moonlight.
“I aim to please, my prince,” Robin offered, and Chrom had never realized how much he had wanted to kiss that soft smile on his tactician’s face. He reached out and cupped Robin’s jaw.
“May I kiss you?” Chrom asked, as gently as the way he brushed his thumb against Robin’s lower lip.
“Yes.” The answer was little more than a whisper, breathed into the narrow space between them.
Pale lashes fluttered as Robin’s eyes slipped closed, and they’re the last thing Chrom saw before he closed his own eyes. They met in a gentle press of lips, and his initial thought of keeping the kiss brief was quickly dismissed as Robin leaned into the contact, free hand coming to rest on Chrom’s bare elbow. He was no stranger to the feel of Robin’s fingers against his skin, but it was wholly different when Robin was touching him only to touch, an absent wandering that had purpose and yet none. It matched the almost diffident way Robin’s mouth moved against his, and one kiss turned into several, his hand sliding through the fine hair to guide Robin’s head.
Robin shifted with a quiet noise, and Chrom let the man pull back, loosening his grip but loathing to let go. The way Robin blinked quickly, as though out of a daze, was encouraging. Chrom brushed a strand of hair out of the brown eyes. “I hope you understand I’ll insist that you move out of the shack they made you live in.”
“Sometimes it’s easier to deal with people when they’re convinced I am a mad mage kept in secret.”
Chrom shook his head with a smile. “I think that you needn’t bother with that sort of reputation after you marry into royalty.” His words made Robin duck his head, resting it against Chrom’s shoulder.
“It would be nice to finally see you after you take a bath, without half the sparring field on you,” Robin mused, only half teasing, “Morgan will be delighted to be so close to the royal library.”
“Morgan, or you?” Chrom chuckled, “It’ll be easier to carry you to bed after you fall asleep there, at any rate. And I won’t have to lead Lucina all the way out to the grounds when she gets a nightmare and wants to see you.” His tactician hummed in agreement, and he continued on, surprised by how easy it was to paint their future. “We’ll have to get a bookshelf for all your books, and a proper desk since you insist on working at all hours of the day.”
“And I will wake up every day, by your side.” It was a whisper, barely loud enough for Chrom to hear, yet he sensed that something was wrong.
“Robin?” he said, brushing the back of his fingers against Robin’s cheek in hopes of getting the man to look at him, only to feel them come away wet with tears. “Robin?!” Chrom tried to pull back and see Robin’s face, but Robin only clutched him closer.
“I don’t want to ever lose you,” Robin said softly, and the pain in the man’s voice clenched Chrom’s heart.
“You won’t, my love.” He threaded his fingers through the white hair soothingly. “You said it yourself: Together, we shall build a peaceful world. Just you and me.”
Chrom felt Robin nod mutely, but the tears didn’t stop — he could feel it in the way the man trembled in his arms, the way his shirt was crumpled under white-knuckled fingers.
“Chrom, to your left!”
He turned his head and saw the Risen, stepping away from Robin to meet them with the Falchion. The impact of his sword against the Risen’s sent a loud clang into the air, a sound echoed in all the fighting around him. Chrom followed with a strike before it could recover, swiftly thrusting his sword through the undead’s torso.
A flash of steel had him pivoting around, a quick, familiar roll of his wrist letting him parry the axe coming for his head. He knocked it aside before it could trap him in a contest of strength, the Falchion cleaving through the Risen’s neck in a decisive blow. Letting out a loud exhale, Chrom turned back with Robin’s name on his lips — only his tactician was no longer there.
Chrom’s gaze jumped from one chaotic squirmish to the next, finally finding the man at the fore of their assault, aglow with the power from a tome. How had Robin gotten so far ahead of him?
“Robin!” He took a step forward only to nearly get trampled by Frederick’s horse as it leapt back into his path, its nostrils flared wide and eyes wild. It rose on its hind legs and struck at a Risen as Frederick speared another, and Chrom stepped in to dispatch the stunned one with a quick slash. He dodged around the agitated horse and realized that Robin had advanced even further, bright lightning illuminating his path. “Robin!”
Chrom didn’t know if he wasn’t heard or if he was ignored. His tactician continued pushing forward, breaking through the Risen’s line without care for the way they filled in neatly behind. A sea of undead already stood between him and Robin, and the sickening purple light from the glyphs only promised more.
“Frederick, to me!” he said through gritted teeth as he started after the fool, moving into a familiar leap that had him pinning a Risen with his sword onto the ground. He jerked the Falchion out and continued the arc, catching another across the chest. It crumpled to dust, and Chrom caught a glimpse of Robin between the staggering undead. His tactician was standing tall and uncowed, alone, in front of a sneering Grima, the Fell Dragon’s monstrous head looming threateningly overhead.
They were shifting into motion, lightning meeting menacing shadows that lanced into spikes, and Robin broke to the left for an opening with sword drawn, only to be faced with the Fell Dragon’s open jaws and black flame. His whole body ran cold at the sight. “Robin! No!”
Chrom barely registered Frederick thundering in, lance parrying a Risen to his left, barely had time to see the glint of steel in time to bring his sword up to deflect another blow coming for his head at the last second. He couldn’t focus — his eyes immediately darted back to his tactician.
Robin had abandoned the tome to the flames and dodged with a grace that still threatened to make Chrom’s breath catch. He recognized the grim determination in the man’s form, the familiar flicker of light gathering on the sword; even with his attention violently drawn back to the Risen he was grappling with, he could imagine the way Robin must have driven the sword all the way to the hilt when the Fell Dragon screamed in rage. Another undead falling to dust, and he confirmed what he already knew: the damage was done, Grima’s avatar hunched over in pain at the unerring blow.
A snarl tore past Chrom’s lips as he lunged forward, breaking through the horde with a Risen still skewered on Falchion. He broke into a sprint, heedless of dragging the disintegrating corpse. Dark spikes had forced Robin to the right, but already the man was moving in, a dark swirl of writhing shadow gathering in Robin’s hand. Chrom could only push himself to go faster, heart pounding to he promised, he promised!
“Checkmate!” Robin’s voice rang clear as the man flung the ball of shadow right where the sword was planted in Grima’s chest, sending the avatar writhing on the ground as the Fell Dragon’s head threw back with another bloodcurdling screech. The wrenched agony was a stark contrast against the way Robin calmly turned to face him, beloved smile soft on the man’s lips.
“Thank you, Chrom, for everything.” The wind whipping around them seemed to be pulling Robin away, smoke like stardust drifting from his tactician, colours shifting as if futilely trying to fill in the spaces. Chrom shook his head, stretched out his arm; just a little more— “Tell the others my last thoughts were of them.”
Robin said something more, but Chrom couldn’t hear it over the rattling death cry of Grima reverbing from all around them, couldn’t read the lips. “Ah, gods, NO!” He lunged desperately forward even as the Fell Dragon shuddered under his feet and began to fall from the sky. His fingertips almost brushed against the hand Robin had lifted in farewell, a hair’s width separating them.
His footing gave and he grabbed nothing but thin air as the man he loved shattered into shining dust.
The sky was almost frightening blue, stretching far above them in a way that made Chrom feel so very small. He turned from the sparse clouds to watch Lucina’s tiny, nimble fingers weave yet another flower crown — she seemed determined to bury the both of them under the flowers today.
It had been faster work the last time, when Robin taught her. He had been so happy to recover knowledge so trivial and harmless, and mingled with Lucina’s enthusiasm, they hadn’t stopped until the fall of Lucina’s hair was more flower than hair.
“Father!” Chrom looked up and smiled at Morgan approaching them. He recognized the tutor trailing behind the boy, and he tapped Lucina’s hand gently to catch her attention. Her eyes flicked up to him and then followed his gaze, and she placed the flowers carefully onto his knee before standing.
“I’ll see you later, Father,” she said, and for all the years between the Lucina before him and the one from the future, there was very little difference in the severe way they called him.
“Later,” he promised and watched her walk off to meet Morgan, and then the tutor.
Morgan left the encounter with a flower crown of his own, and it slipped a little when the boy handed him a letter. “Grumps said it was for you.”
“Thanks,” he took the letter automatically, not surprised when his son dropped down gracelessly to sit at his side. Nor was it surprising that the tutor was lingering, taking his time pulling the flowers out of Lucina’s hair.
He was aware there were rumours, of course; that he would adopt a child when he already had little Lucina was immediately suspect, let alone one who shared his hair and bore the Brand of the Exalt. But Morgan was his child, and Chrom would be damned if he let rumours pull his family apart.
“It’s a letter of introduction?” Morgan asked, curious as Chrom undid the seal absently and took the heavy sheaf of paper out.
“Yes,” he answered, reading only enough to know the name and the country the woman hailed from. It had been the first time the Council thought to use Morgan to deliver one, and he wasn’t sure if he should be more insulted by them using his son or by their earlier attempts to slip them in with the reports and missives.
“Are they still pushing you to marry?”
Chrom met Morgan’s eyes with a smile, following the familiar swoops and curves of Naga’s Brand against the soft brown of his eye. “Unfortunately for the Council, I’m not looking for a Queen.” Morgan smiled back, bright and cheerful and a bit conspiratorially.
“Do you miss Dad?”
“I do.” More than words could express. More than he could ever say.
Morgan nodded, fingers folding and unfolding the hem of his sleeve. It fitted better than the tactician’s cloak that dwarfed the boy, but Morgan was never good with the cold. Like Robin—
“Dad was always going to do it,” Morgan said suddenly, a bit hurried, and it took a moment for Chrom to follow. “Killing Grima, I mean. He always said he wouldn’t, but I saw it, when he looked at you.”
“Morgan,” he started gently, but his son turned to him with an easy smile.
“I know he loves me, and he loves this world. But he loves you the most, Father.”
Something in Morgan’s eyes reminded him of Lucina, the daughter that had taken his sword and fought for the world, and he chose to accept the comfort instead of arguing. His children were stronger than he could ever be. “Thank you, Morgan.”
“Of course,” the boy said brightly, beaming. “Oh, I’ve been trying to get Big Sis to come visit! Do you think the Feast would be enough to lure her in? Or maybe if I get everyone to write to her? She has to know how much we miss her.”
Chrom chuckled, reaching out to ruffle his son’s hair. “Let me when you’re going to send this packaged guilt; she should at least attend her own birthday party.”
“Yes!” Morgan agreed empathically, “Let’s write it together!”
“Now that sounds like an idea.” Chrom stood and pulled Morgan up by the hand, smiling at the way his son laughed. The boy was still so small.
“Oh!” Morgan looked up at him as they walked into the palace. “I rerouted your patrol for tomorrow; you said you met Dad close to Southtown, right?”
“That’s right.” He reached out to ruffle Morgan’s hair again, and the boy gave him another bright smile.
Nothing changed no matter how long the intervals between his visits, the fields still full of long grass and rolling hills. Their journey had been quiet, paced barely faster than a sedate walk compared to his usual patrols on a horse. Lissa never complained about walking with him when it came to these trips, and he was grateful for her company.
A casual survey of their surroundings showed him the usual: grass, dirt path, a tree, a dark form—
He froze abruptly enough for Lissa to almost run into him, but he was taking off at a run before his sister even had a chance to ask. The closer he got the more certain he was that it was someone lying in the grass, and it hurt to hope. Chrom was no stranger to disappointment, but gods, he wished with his whole being each time.
His feet slowed when he could see the white hair fanned out against flaxen gold, the deep purples and the stark lines of the cloak. Robin’s eyes were closed, expression peaceful in sleep. Chrom was almost afraid that he’d step closer only to find himself waking up back in his bed at the castle. It was less a conscious decision and more the strength leaving his legs in relief that made him sink onto his knee.
Lissa caught up to him what seemed like an eternity later, a little breathless, and looked between Robin and him. “Chrom, we have to do something.”
“What do you propose we do?” he asked, looking over his shoulder. Did she expect him to just shake Robin awake?
“I,” she hedged, frowning, “I dunno.”
He turned back to Robin, and relief flooded him at the sight of open brown eyes. “I see you’re awake now.”
“Hey there!” Lissa chirped, practically thrumming with excitement beside him.
“There’re better places to sleep than on the ground, you know. Give me your hand,” Chrom said, reaching out like he had that day in what seemed like lifetimes ago, and Robin took it with a dazed look. The weight was real, solid, when he pulled the man up. Robin stumbled a bit, drawing their faces closer. “Welcome home.”
“Chrom?” Robin’s fingers brushed tentatively against his cheek, and then a bright smile graced Robin’s lips. Chrom’s breath caught in his chest. The hand on his face moved to gently cup his jaw, and he hadn’t known how much he had missed the soft touch until now, leaning into the warmth. “It’s really you.”
“Robin,” Chrom breathed, the name finally escaping after all this time. Robin released their linked hands abruptly, and the next thing he knew the man had thrown arms around his neck, the sudden weight forcing Chrom stumbling back.
“I’m back.” The words were quiet, relieved, and it was like a weight Chrom hadn’t known he was carrying had vanished.
“Yes.” He wrapped his arms around Robin, breathed in deeply; parchment and ink, and the sharp tang in the air before lightning strikes. “Yes.” Laughter bubbled up his chest, the feelings of finally and home and love, love, love making him giddy. He shifted his grip and lifted Robin, earning him a surprised yelp, spinning them around in a circle with another laugh.
“Chrom,” Robin chided him, but the smile never left, and the brown eyes were soft with affection.
“Yes, my love?”
Robin leaned forward to rest their foreheads together. “Thank you for finding me.”
He set Robin down just so that he could pull the man closer. There was no doubt in his mind that he would have kissed Robin breathless if they didn’t have an audience, and he didn’t have any excuse except that he was a fool hopelessly in love. “Always.”
“He’s giddier than a schoolboy,” Lissa interrupted with a giggle, and he turned an exasperated look on her. She remained completely unapologetic, stepping forward and shooing him off. Chrom pulled away from Robin, but couldn’t bring himself to let go completely, resting his hand on the small of the man’s back. “You sure took your time!”
“I’m sorry,” Robin apologized even as Lissa crushed the man into a hug.
She let go with one more squeeze, beaming widely. “You’ve missed a lot! I’ve got so much to tell you.”
“Indeed.” Frederick stopped the protective hovering for a moment to offer a handshake. “Welcome back, Robin.”
The gratitude was plain on Robin’s face. “Thank you, Frederick.”
“However,” the knight said, the usual stoic severeness back in the word, “it’d be best if we continued this in Southtown, milord. Night will be upon us soon.”
“Of course,” Chrom agreed with a fond shake of his head, “Lead the way, Frederick the Wary.”
“Gladly.” Frederick gave a curt nod before starting back towards the path, and Lissa quickly fell into step with the knight. The gesture lacked any subtlety, but Chrom was glad for the pretense of privacy regardless.
“They seem well,” Robin said, amusement curling up the corner of the man’s lips, and then the brown eyes were on him, “As do you. I’m glad.”
“Peace has been treating us well.” He glanced towards Ylisse almost out of reflex, as if it would be visible in the horizon even from here. “You’ll like the change.”
Robin hummed contemplatively. “A war tactician without a war, milord?”
“I’m sure we can find something for you to do,” Chrom said wryly, but he could feel himself smiling — he had missed this.
“True. A footman, perhaps,” Robin mused aloud, mischievousness making the brown eyes shine, “Or a stablehand?” The man turned to him with that soft smile, and Chrom couldn’t be responsible for the next words out of his mouth.
“I was thinking Prince Consort.”
Robin’s eyes widened at his words, but the surprise melted away into affection. “I did say I would bet on the bonds you’ve made.”
“I don’t think I need to say this,” Chrom said past the sudden lump forming in his throat, and he shifted his hand from Robin’s back to the man’s side, pulling Robin closer, “Don’t ever do that again.”
“You needn’t worry, Chrom.” The man’s hand settled over his own, fingers twining with his. “I don’t think I can bear to leave you a second time.”
There was nothing he could do but stop and pull Robin in for a kiss. A quiet noise of surprise pressed against his lips before he felt Robin respond, gentle and soft. Chrom let himself sink into the feeling of coming home, just for a moment, before he reluctantly pulled back. He would rather not linger long enough to have his sister’s insistent teasing ruin the moment.
“Morgan and I started a letter,” he said as they started walking again, “We’re trying to lure Lucina home.”
Robin blinked at him once, confused, before the brown eyes sharpened in understanding. “I might have a few ideas,” his tactician offered with a smile, and Chrom allowed himself to press a brief kiss to the white hair.
“What would I do without you?”