It was almost midnight when Chrom came upon Robin in the courtyard, once again staring at the stars. Plegia's king had left aside the formal robe he wore for the peace talks and instead wore the simple coat he had the first time the two of them had spoken one on one out in the very same courtyard, several weeks earlier.
It was a thin coat, though, and Chrom could see him shivering slightly. He berated himself lightly for not thinking to bring something warmer out to drape over Robin's shoulders, but he found the night warm himself and hadn't thought of it.
"You should be wearing something warmer," he said, striding forward. "You said before you're not used to this climate."
Robin turned to him, half-silhoutted in the torchlight. "Did I? I'd forgotten I told you that."
There was an odd expression on his face, as if he'd been lost in thought. Not that that wasn't entirely normal for him, but there was something else too. Chrom then dismissed it as imagination; he was clearly reading too much into things.
It was strange his sudden approach hadn't startled Robin though. Maybe they'd become more attuned to each other over the past few weeks than he'd thought.
"I'm sorry I don't have anything. I wasn't thinking." Not that he'd deliberately gone seeking the man out, really, but maybe on some level he had. He frequently found himself missing Robin during the times they weren't together.
"It's fine. It's nothing." And then, to his surprise, Robin shifted uncomfortably, like he was having difficulty finding words. "Lady Emmeryn told me her retainers have almost finished drafting up the treaty to everyone's satisfaction. It should be done within the next few days."
"I see." Chrom felt a slight pang. That meant... "So you'll be going home soon, then? You must be looking forward to that."
"In some ways." Robin tilted his head back to the sky. "It's probably not true, but the stars are a lot less clear from here to me. They're quite bright back home."
"They're brighter outside the city," he answered, slightly confused at the tangent. "There's a lot of torch light here, both from the castle grounds and the city. When the most light that's around is a campfire, then they're much brighter."
"I guess that could be it." Robin met his gaze again, half-turning so he was framed by the light from the torches along the walls. "Would you like to see them from the desert sometime? I'm not sure if you've ever been beyond your own borders before, but now that you're no longer being constantly pestered by errant bandits Gangrel was letting do his dirty work, it might be possible for you to take your leave for a while."
Chrom frowned slightly. It wasn't true that the Shepherds were unneeded, as there were still problems that needed solved. However, it was true they were less needed. Frederick could handle running them for a week or two, should Chrom ever have other duties to attend to.
"I think I might," he allowed. "Are you inviting me?"
"You'd be under my personal protection, and I wouldn't begrudge you bringing an additional guard or two if you felt it necessary." Or your friends did, he did not add, but Chrom could hear the end of that sentence and smiled involuntarily. Robin certainly hadn't missed the protectiveness of the various factions of the Ylissean Guard toward all three royal siblings.
"Then yes, I think I could take you up on that invitation." With a sense of relief, moreover. He rather enjoyed Robin's company, perhaps more than he should.
Robin closed his eyes, and some of the tension left his shoulders. "I'm glad," he said softly. "I wouldn't want to not see you again, and I will likely be unable to leave again for quite some time. There's still things I must do to finish putting the country in order."
Chrom only nodded, recalling the difficult time Emmeryn had had repairing Ylisse upon their father's death. Robin wasn't directly related to Gangrel and would have less direct animosity from the people than Emmeryn had faced, but it still wasn't an enviable task. Particularly since it seemed he had other loose ends to tie up, with the network of tangled plans his father's old apprentice had apparently been weaving. Even the basics of what he'd heard left Chrom's head reeling as to why anyone would attempt to solicit leverage in a war on another continent.
"There is something else Lady Emmeryn spoke to me about, actually," Robin said hesitantly, when it became plain Chrom had no verbal response. "She--well--was concerned we had been spending so much time together, and for things entirely unrelated to the official negotiations."
"That shouldn't be a problem," Chrom said with a frown. "Emm has never told me to be cautious around you in particular, so I don't think she was warning you off."
"Oh, not for such a simple reason, no. I agree. I don't think any of the three of you have it in you to automatically distrust people." There was light amusement in that tone, disguising something Chrom had trouble picking out. "She was concerned--well--that I might be leading you on."
Chrom felt his cheeks burn. "Er--you haven't--that is to say, I don't think you've done anything to--gods I swear I didn't say I thought anything like that of you--!"
Of course Emm would notice. She was impossible to fool on things like that. Of course she was concerned there. He only hoped that he hadn't made a complete idiot of himself, with what was probably an obvious crush on the king of another country whom they were in peace talks with.
"I know." The look Robin gave him at once soothed him and made him squirm internally, but he tried not to show it. "And I was shocked at first, because I certainly wasn't doing it intentionally. When I said as much she...well." He coughed. "...She gave me permission to court you, if you agreed to it."
The world shifted abruptly around him and he reeled a bit.
That...hadn't been what he was expecting the end of that tale to be.
"And you want to?" he asked incredulously, still trying to wrap his head around the connection between this information and Robin inviting him to Plegia earlier.
"Yes. If you've no objections, of course." Robin had ducked his head. His cheeks were scarlet, and he was fiddling with the top button of his coat seemingly unconsciously. "I realize I'm asking this basically on the eve of the treaty signing, but that is not at all conditional on this. Neither is our friendship. You can say no and nothing at all will change."
Chrom opened and closed his mouth a few times, but no actual words came out--although there were a few 'um' and 'er' sounds.
"I'll fully understand and respect if you aren't interested, and I don't need an answer right away." Robin gave a shuddering sigh. "But I had to say that. I'll fully understand if you'd rather not visit now, either."
"Wait. Give me a minute." Chrom finally found a few words, and it was enough to make Robin look back up at him. "I...well...I'd always thought I'd be the one doing the courting, with my station, and...well...this is strange."
Only now it made sense why Robin had so rapidly discarded the possibility of an arranged marriage to solidify the two countries' ties. He wanted to court someone.
Chrom had never really thought he would even potentially be on the receiving end of that, because that would have required--well, this.
"Good strange, or bad strange?" Robin asked, badly-concealed hope in his voice.
"Good strange," Chrom said immediately, because there weren't words for the feeling running through him and he knew what that meant. He felt surprisingly lightheaded, in fact. "I mean, yes. Yes, I definitely give you permission to court me. And I'd like to come back with you, if it's not too much trouble."
Robin sighed again, this times in relief. "Thank gods," he murmured. "I rehearsed that a dozen times in my head and I was still terrified you'd say no. Of course you can come back with me, for as long as you'd like."
There was a slightly awkward silence, and then Robin quirked an eyebrow and nodded to Chrom's right hand.
Realizing abruptly and feeling slightly ridiculous, Chrom extended his arm. Robin immediately took Chrom's hand in both of his and knelt down a bit before kissing his knuckles lightly. Chrom felt himself turn red all over again as Robin released his hand and he withdrew it slowly.
It would be a bit odd, being on that side of things, he thought as Robin stood again, giving him a genuine smile that made his whole face light up. But odd wasn't bad, after all. And some things were worth taking a bit of getting used to.
The future was hazy, since if he did eventually decide to marry Robin, he'd end up moving to Plegia. But that was something they could take as it came. Besides, it was a long way off...