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Of Cards and Gun Oil

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Coming to the first had been hard for Thancred. Finding out about Minfillia had been harder still. All the same Thancred knew he had to carry on. The Exarch had already told him that it was impossible to return to the Source. He knew he would just have to wait and see what happened. It was two years before he would see any familiar faces. He could have cried when he saw them. He was both ecstatic and dismayed at the sight of them. Ecstatic because he was no longer alone, but the fact that it meant his dear friends were trapped there as well left him feeling disheartened.

The years passed, he had saved Minfillia, a child who had no memories of him, and in the end he found them on the road constantly running from the Eulmoran army. It wasn’t until they had found themselves in Urianger’s company that they finally managed to find a quiet place to relax.

It helped, so very much. Urianger helped with Minfillia, giving her the guidance she needed and showing Thancred how to actually care for a child of her age. He hadn’t been there when this Minfillia had needed him. He hadn’t been there for the girl who’s family she stole away.

Urianger was so good with children. The man was gentle and kind and yet firm in his convictions and discipline, and to her credit Minfillia was a quick study. Just as her predecessor was. He could still see bits of his Minfillia in her, but still the woman's words rang in his head. She deserved to live her own life and not be a vessel for the spirit of a woman not of this world. It hurt Thancred, and he pushed the thought away, ever hoping that the entire situation would change. That his Minfillia would return. In doing this, he pushed Minfillia away while also keeping her close. Protecting her. Teaching her to use blades as he once did.

When he first found Minfillia with none other than the dear Warrior of Light, he was awash with this sense of fury at Minfillia. Leaving his side and being captured, but also there was joy at seeing his old friend. His hero.

“What were you thinking!?” He berated after they managed to make it to Ill Mehg. “If it weren’t for them you would be back in Eulmore, then what?”

His anger was sharp and near palpable. It took him a moment to bite it back. He could see the shame in those eerie blue eyes and it was all he could do to swallow the fury and remain calm once more. It wasn’t until the pixies spell took affect that he once again became agitated. He hated playing their games.

The group found Urianger. Walking into the cottage really did feel like coming home. He wouldn’t say it, but it felt good to be back there. He could tell that Minfillia felt the same. After all the man spoiled her.

The Warrior of Light did their usual running about, gaining the trust and companionship of every pixie, nu mou, and amarok they came across. It was always such a sight to see them work. They always seemed to know just what to say or do. Of course, nothing could ever be easy for them. Never. Ran’jit and the Eulmoran forces had followed them, because of course they had. It was then that Alisaie, Alphinaud, and himself left the others to handle the king while they moved in to ward off the army, attempting to give the Warrior of Light time to do what needed to be done.

Fighting them was hard. Ran’jit was a formidable foe, and it was hard to overtake him. The task seemed impossible. Every slash was deflected. Each blow that managed to connect wracked his entire body with pain. In the end, it was all worth it to see their faces as the night sky shimmered into existence. They had done it. They had slain Titania.

Many of the fae folk cheered, their fighting renewed with the knowledge that they were finally free of their tyrant king and the sky had been restored after so many long years. It was when the new king herself showed up that the real fight began. Thancred had never seen an army flee quicker than he had that night. He swore the cheers could be heard all the way to The Source.

While they had to be away, the new king managed to convince her ‘beautiful sapling’ to stay long enough to enjoy a night of revelry. To celebrate their victory and the crowning of a new king. So they did.

The revel had been something else. All the fae coming together to dance and share in merriment. Fires lit along the paths and herbs burned, throwing billows of spiced smoke into the air. The air was thick with the smell of revelry and it was heady. Thancred could swear that there was some sort of weed that calmed a man in those herbs.

He sat around a fire watching others enjoy themselves, watching as Alisaie and Minfillia danced around the fire. Their dear Warrior of Light laughed and carried on with Alphinaud which was a refreshing sight.

Meanwhile Urianger seemed in deep conversation with some of the fae. The small forms danced around him as he smiled, eyes glancing at the white haired gunbreaker from time to time. It made Thancred arch a brow and cant his head to the side. It was only after that, that a couple of the pixies seemed to push the elezen closer. The pixies took the drink from his hand as Urianger finally arrived in front of Thancred. The caster huffed a laugh before leaning down and offering his hand.

“By chance might I hath’t this dance?”

His face seemed to take on a deep hue.Thancred wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or whatever had been in his cup, but it was amusing all the same. Around them, the pixies chittered and laughed.

Ah, it was some sort of game to them. They must have made him ask for some favor in return. Taking pity on his dear friend, Thancred took his hand and let himself be pulled to his feet.

“Why, Urianger, I never took you for one who knew how to dance.” Thancred grinned as he watched the elezen’s eyes dance with something, a light that almost looked like amusement shining in their golden depths.

As if to prove a point the eloquent man turned Thancred towards one of the bonfires, hands moving from the hyur’s own to his hips as he directed him to sway with the music. The beat picked up and before Thancred knew it they were dancing around the fire, matching eachother’s steps and kicking up grass and dust with their shoes. Their moves were hurried as the music sped up, twirling as feet left the solid ground from time to time. When the music came to a sudden finish, Thancred found himself caught in a tight embrace, staring up at a flushed and grinning face of Urianger. His own hard breathing rang in his ears, only to be drowned out at the hooting from Alisaie and the Warrior of Light. Of course they would. Alphinaud was clapping as Minfillia ran up to grasp their hands, tugging Thancred out of the hold as the next song started up. She urged them both to dance, more a twirling in a circle with their hands joined than an actual dance. It was nice. Too long had it been since Thancred felt so at ease. Since he felt like he could laugh and enjoy himself like this.

The night wore on, more laughs and dancing. All the while they left their conflict for the coming dawn. They had fought hard for the night, so it was only fair that they celebrate even harder. And celebrate they did.

Chapter Text

When Thancred awoke the next morning it was warm and comforting. The familiar soreness of a night of hard celebration thrummed through his body. Focusing on his body from head to feet, he made to wake up. His feet and legs hurt. It must have been from all the dancing. His arms and back were sore. He remembered lifting Alisaie only for her to flail, laugh and demand to be put down. His head pounded with a pain that told only of intoxication, but there was something else there. A soft hand carding through his hair. It was enough to have himself relax and sag into the form under him if only for a moment. That is until he stiffened and the hand stopped.

“It wouldst seem thou hast wakened from thy slumber.”

Urianger. He knew that cant and language all too well.

“Be at ease. Nothing untoward happened. You fell a-bed after assisting me hither. I am afraid I may have imbibed a bit too hard at the pixies behest.”

The words flowed with a soft chuckle as the hand in Thancred’s hair resumed its petting. The hyur relaxed, closing his eyes. It took a moment to recall the previous night, but he soon found himself awash with memories. Spiced air, fire that warmed the ground and the people, twirling and dancing to music that thrummed in his bones, and golden eyes looking at him like he was all there was in this broken world. Soft lips that caught him by surprise-

Wait.

Soft lips.

Urianger had kissed him. Had danced with him, revelled with him, drank with him, and then kissed him. All of that and he hadn’t pushed the other man away. Hadn’t shunned his advances...hadn’t wanted to. Even now in the warmth of the elezen’s arms with the sun shining down on them, painting pale chest with golden hues...he couldn’t bring himself to lift his head. Couldn’t bring himself to leave the warmth and comfort. Instead, he rested further, humming and canting his head into the soft touches.

“Thou art like a coeurl kit demanding of attention.”

“Careful,” Thancred warned with no heat behind his words. “I might scratch you if you aren’t.”

There’s a soft sound, the chest under Thancred’s head rising and falling sharply with it. Urianger was laughing. Laughing and Thancred was happy for it. Turning his head he shifted to pull himself up, to bury his face in the caster’s slender neck, sighing at the warmth of his skin.

“I wouldst strive to do my utmost to appease thy onerous nature.”

“Onerous? Really?”

Finally, Thancred raised his head, the hand in his hair stilling as Urianger turned to look at him. Thancred gave the other an incredulous look.

“Harsh words to the man in your bed.”

“My apologies, I only meant it in jest.”

“Mm.” The soft hum was met with Thancred resting his head back down.

He knew he should be asking questions, knew that he should be rolling away and leaving, but he couldn’t. Urianger had been there to comfort him, listen to him, help him all but raise Minfillia. All of this, and Thancred could not be more thankful. He had needed the familiarity, the comfort of a home to return to when they stepped foot into the fae lands. He hadn’t realized when he had started to doze off once more until he felt soft hands travel to his shoulder, shaking it ever so slightly and his name being called in such a soft voice.

“Thancred” Urianger started, shifting slightly as he did. “It might behoove us to rise and be ready for the day. I am sure our dear friend wilt wish to return to the Crystarium. Besides, Mistress Alisaie and the others shall awaken soon and I doubt thou wilst want to suffer their teasing whence they discover whither ‘tis thee slept.”

The hyur groaned and turned his head, chasing the fleeting form of his elezen bedmate until the man was gone and he was left with nothing but a warm spot on the bed that smelled faintly of the spice and smoke from the previous night. There was a soft whine as his face hit the bed before he turned his face to watch the elezen move about the room gathering clothes and dressing himself before packing. It was only then he really noticed the other had been topless. Only his back was bare to Thancred’s gaze, but the more he looked the more he realized his companion was attractive under all those robes. Even if his astrologian robes were not as concealing as his old ones.

Urianger was right however, he needed to get up and get ready. He shook himself as he sat up, noting his own shirt and coat had been removed and haphazardly thrown over a chair in the corner as he reached them to redress. They’d be traveling, and he was still sore. A nice soak might be nice ... though he was sure that would have to wait. The Warrior of Light was sure to want to leave as soon as possible. They seemed so very attached to the Exarch since their arrival, and he just as attached. Yawning he stretched, attempting to ease some of the soreness in his back before heading out.

Much to his dismay many of their companions had already started to stir. Alphinaud was pouring over books alongside Minfillia, the Warrior of Light had busied themselves with cleaning their gear, and then there was Alisaie.

The woman was a menace in a sweet disguise.

Or at least to him.

She had perched herself in a chair that just so happened to be facing the door to Urianger’s bed, floating her focus in her hand. The look that crept onto her face when he exited the room was dangerous and sharp. She grinned tauntingly as the focus slowly floated down to rest in her hand and she uncrossed her legs before standing.

“Well, well, looks like someone’s finally up. Have an eventful night did we?” Her voice was light, feigning innocence as she strolled over to the man. Around them the others looked up, Minfillia giving him a sweet wave, Alphinaud nodding with a pink tinge to his ears before looking back at his book, and finally the leader of their little ragtag group who grinned and winked at him before returning to their gear. It was all Thancred could do to stop himself from groaning.

“I did, as I’m sure you did.” One of his hands raised to rest on the young woman’s head as he passed her, hearing the huff that followed him.

The morning went on like that, Urianger coming out to make them all a hearty breakfast and getting his own jabs from his “Mistress Alisaie,” only for him to berate her in good humor. They carried on before finally deciding to head out. The entire way back, through the fae lands and further into Lakeland, Thancred couldn’t help but his gaze traveling to the elezen of their merry little group. He had so many questions. Questions that needed answers but ... he couldn’t place. He didn’t know if what had happened might have changed their relationship. They had always been colleagues. Friends, if onereally squinted. Two very different people who only came together because they had both studied under the same man.

His constant staring, of course, did not go unnoticed, by either his target or said target’s ever vigilant young lord and lady. Though, even if they noticed, no one said a thing.

Not until they returned to the Crystarium. When the others rested, Alisaie had found him sitting at the bar. Hair of the jackal that bit you and all that.

“You know,” She started as she ordered a drink herself and slid onto the stool beside him. “If you hurt him I’ll be forced to pump you so full of lightning you’ll be tasting ozone for the rest of your life.”

“Aren’t you too young to be drinking?” Thancred replied, not reacting to the threat. All he received in kind was a narrow look and an arched brow.

“I mean it.” Her voice went from taunting to hard. She was serious and he knew it. The man had all but raised the twins. How could she not be? Urianger was family to her, and Thancred was sure there must have been some little crush at some point by how she followed him like a baby chocobo.

“Yes, yes,” He sighed, setting his cup down as the barman brought Alisaie’s over. “Though to be quite frank I am not sure there is anything to hurt. It was one night, Alisaie. One very hazy and ... intoxicating night.” His eyes found the polished wood of the bar as he seemed lost in thought.

“You truly are a fool,” The young woman shook her head, chuckling as the rim of the glass met her lips. “I’m surprised he went from fawning over such a brilliant mind like Moenbryda to such a…” She looked him over. “Well ...you.”

Thancred had half a mind to be insulted but it didn’t last long, she was right. There was no way Thancred was worth the attention from someone as genius and kind as Urianger. For all his flaws and deception...the man was brilliant as any star. And Thancred had no idea when he had finally noticed it. Maybe it was all the time spent with him in his home amongst the fae. He could only hazard a guess.

All the same, the topic was dropped and the two were left in a semi-comfortable silence until it was time for Thancred to turn in.

In the day or so they had spent resting and restocking their supplies Thancred had hardly seen hide nor hair of his astrologian companion. He had often seen the Warrior of Light with the Exarch, their eyes alight with such warmth that he had not seen since Haurchefaunt had been alive. It was a look that he had seen Alisaie take in with a frown.

Oh how far our group as grown, even if it’s in such odd ways.

Still, the older elezen seemed keen to avoid him, apparently disappearing just as Thancred entered a room or staying late in the libraries instead of sharing meals. It wasn’t until the group stood in front of the Exarch that he finally got a good look at the man. Who simply smiled at him like nothing had happened.

Alright then, that’s how it will be.

Their kiss and the soft morning would be nothing but a sweet memory shared by them both. A sweet memory of peace that was so rare in a place like The First.

The meeting with the Exarch and their Illustrious Guest that was Emet-Selch. The man’s mere presence caused a rage to boil within Thancred’s chest. The mere thought of working alongside the conniving snake had his skin crawingl. He didn’t trust him, couldn’t. Not after everything he had done to people, not after everything the Ascian’s had done to all the worlds and their people.

“You honestly expect us to believe you’ve come only to observe? Or that you might deign to lift a finger to aid our cause if called upon?” Thancred gritted his teeth. “Even if there were a sliver of truth in your words, I would never accept your help. Not in my darkest hour-not after all the suffering your kind has wrought.”

The Ascian gave him the fakest dismayed look as he shrugged, hands raising.

“So petty,” His tone was condescending, setting the hyur’s teeth on edge. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”

The tone suddenly changed, Emet-Selch’s face morphing to something darker, shadows covering his eyes as his brow creased.

“Wage your war against the sin eaters. Put each and every Lightwarden to the sword. Prove yourselves heroes brave and true, and I will be glad to embrace you as allies.” His eyes turned to focus on the Warrior of Light, something lighting his eyes. A look of recognition. Almost as if he was looking at someone he knew more than in passing, someone he was personally familiar with. The look was there for only a brief moment before he continued.

“Allies worthy of bearing the burden of truth. Surely such a partnership would be preferable to yet another round of fisticuffs?”

Thancred watched as the Ascian’s gaze travelled to each in their party, all were silent. No one would answer him and it was with that knowledge that Thancred watched the man's shoulders slump, his eyes cast aside as if truly dismayed.

“... And thus did the olive branch wither and die. Pity.” He sighed before continuing, “Well--let no man say I did not try, futile as it was. Though I suspect you will seek me out when you grow tired of making the same mistakes. Difficult decisions lie ahead of you. Decisions made with the benefit of knowledge to which only the eternal are privy.” He sneers and it’s only with a quick glance that Thancred catches the Warrior of Light’s face hardened. They were unsure, questioning themselves. Just as this man wanted.

“For now, I shall resume my shadowy vigil. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s worth watching, would you.” A few measured steps and the man was gone, swallowed into a deep dark portal rimmed in an eerie blue light that sent a cold shiver down Thancred’s spine. He remembered those, remembered Lahabrea inhabiting his body and forming those very same portals.

It’s only when he hears Alisaie’s question of what had just happened, seeming confused for all she had been there to witness it all, that Thancred finally manages to speak again. His tone full of distrust and anger. Yes, he was petty.

“A vain attempt to make us doubt our chosen course, most like. As if we’d believe a word that passed his lips.” The gunbreaker uncrosses his arms and turns to their ever silent leader. “Unless you think there is some truth in what he says?”

There is a long pause, the Warrior of Light thinking to themselves before their face hardens and they square their shoulders.

“I don’t know. But if he crosses us, I’ll make him wish he hadn’t.” A first is raised as they make to punch their opposite palm. It’s a reaction that puts Thancred more at ease than he had felt in a while, at least when it came to dealing with their Ascian adversaries.

It isn’t long before the others are joining in, they have a job to do. Find the other Lightwardens. The location of such beasts were yet unknown and it would take them time to hunt the remaining three. It would seem their party would be splitting up. Alisaie to the south to Ahm Arang while Alphinaud would travel east to Kholusia and finally Thancred, Urianger, and Minfillia would follow the Warrior of Light to the north to the deep forests of the Rak’tika Woods where they hoped their dear old friend Y’shtola would be able to aid in their search.

Y’shtola. Now that was someone Thancred hadn’t seen in a long time. When last he saw her she was leaving to the forest, more than ready to find her own truth ... so very done with the Exarch’s secrets and half truths. Not that he could blame her really. Still, he could only hope their reunion would be a happier one. Minifillia seemed keen on meeting the woman, her ethereal blue eyes shimmering with excitement when she thought of meeting someone from her bedtime stories. Stories Urianger and Thancred had delighted in regaling the girl with.

With their plans laid out the groups went their separate ways with the knowledge that they would see one another soon. Hopefully with good news all around.

Chapter Text

Their journey in Rak’tika had been a tumultuous one. Between the ‘Children of the Everlasting Dark’ and the Eulmorans it was fraught with nothing but trouble. Both groups threatened the lives and safety of the people of the Blessed Night as well as the Warrior of Light’s party.

It was hard, fighting the groups while also searching for the Lightwarden. However they somehow managed it all the same. Holding off the Eulorman’s as best they could while the Warrior of Light took care of the Warrior of Light with a few others. It was the first time Thancred had been able to watch and see what happened when the Warrior of Light took in the aether from the Lightwarden and it frightened him. The blinding light was far too much for any normal person, and yet here they stood hale and whole.

“The Warden of Light has been slain, the Blessed’s prayers have been answered.” Minfillia’s voice is filled with warmth and wonder as she watches the Light melt away and give way to the unending dark sky. A sunless sea filled with glittering diamonds for stars. Thancred had spent five years without a single night sky and here he had been privileged enough to see not one but two. He could only hope to see even more as their journeys continued.

Who knows, maybe we’ll have a world where night is as it should be for everyone. Wouldn’t that be nice.

“Aye, that they have.” Thancred finally replied, eyes not leaving the glimmering expanse above them. It’s only after hearing soft words off to his left that Thancred finally tears his gaze away and it settles on his two closest friends.

“... Would you describe it to me, Urianger? Paint for me a picture with your words.” Y’shtola had her head turned up, gazing at her friend with her silvery eyes. Thancred knew not how she saw them other than as aether. He could never know how each of them must appear to her mysterious gaze. He had asked once but only received a cryptic answer for his troubles.

“A sea of shimmering stars. Diamonds strewn across a raven gown, boundless and beautiful. ‘Tis an exquisite sight not unlike that of the Source. Calm and gentle … and forgiving ...” The voice in which he regales the white haired miqo’te is soft and holds an almost enchanting quality to it. It’s a tone that is gentle and stirs up feelings the hyur would rather ignore. Things he’d rather forget. Warmth and sunshine. Spice and smoke. He ignores the rest of their exchange, instead turning his eyes back to the sky and not lowering them until it seems they are preparing to return to the home of the Blessed.

That night they the party would make their way back to the Crystarium, one more in their number in the form of Y’shtola. Though it wasn’t before Thancred spied the small miqo’te woman and the leader of the blessed, a large hrothgar man by the name of Runar, in an intimate moment. Hidden in a dark corner just inside the entrance to Slitherborough the two stood, Runar leaned down to Y’shtola’s height to press his fur covered forehead to her pale face. Silent whispers swallowed up in the small space between them, it wasn’t hard to tell just how much the man had loved her. For Y’stola too, the way her tail curled, ears pinned back as she pressed her forehead closer to Runar’s before shifting to their cheeks together, Thancred could tell his feelings were returned. It was enough to raise color in the hyur’s cheeks as he turned away, instead making for the exit to meet up with the others.

He returned to the group to find Minfillia talking adamantly with Urianger about something, he would never know what it was as Y’shtola and the Warrior of Light both came out soon after. It was only then that they would start their journey back to the city. Hoping that Alphinaud or Alisaie would have some notion of where to go next.

--

Unfortunately for them their return to the city was anything but pleasant, it wasn't long before an attack had them all but overrun by sin eaters. Oddly enough the people of the Crystarium seemed completely unfazed by the whole ordeal, or at the very least didn't seem bothered by the impending attack. After they had their orders, Thancred took Minfillia with him to assist Lyna with the attack.

Rain poured down on the men and women fighting. Mud making metal and leather alike slip and give way where once there was solid ground. The air was filled with the sounds of clashing metals, thick with the smell of ozone and fire as spells and swords clashed against "perfect beings".

He had watched Minfillia grow over the years, watched her skill with the blade improve so much. He had been right to think her a natural. He wouldn't deny the small trickle of satisfaction and pride when he watched the young girl cut down a sin eater with the ease of the best rogue. However, the battle was long and soon seemed to be more a battle of attrition. They had to hold out, the Warrior of Light would be there soon.

"There are so many..." Minfillia bent over to catch her breath before both of their heads snapped up at the cry from the Vieran captain, Lyna.

"Godsdammit!"

"Lyna!" Minfillia was the first to charge forward, ever the kind and protective girl, Thancred watched her as he made his way to the pair. The silver haired Viera was laid out on her back in the dirt, surrounded by sin eaters. "Lyna, hold on!"

Then he saw it. The glowing form of a twisted angel. Armor and body emanating an ethereal light that, instead of warming the heart, chilled a man to the bone even in the hottest of deserts. The figure hovered over the pair on the muddy ground. It was almost too late for Minfillia to notice the being, but it wasn't for Thancred.

In that very instance his entire world shrank to himself and the three forms he was suddenly hurtling towards. Boots thunked against slick mud, only managing to keep himself from falling from years of practice. He had to get there, had to keep her safe. Time seemed to slow for him as the gunbreaker lept into the air, landed between the monster and the girl, and finally raising his blade just in time to block the attack.

The shock of the sheer force behind the creatures attack sent pain searing through Thancred's arms. He feared they might give out at any moment as sparks lept from between the clashing blades. However he wouldn't have to worry about his arms giving out because all in one swift motion the weight shifted before suddenly Thancred was being hurtled backwards. His vision blurred in that moment, dimming until he thought he might have been done for.

No, not yet....Not! Yet!

Forcing his center of gravity to shift his body the hyur managed to land on his feet, coughing as he tasted the all too familiar tang of metal in his mouth. Blood. Of course he was bleeding. He didn't have time to dwell on that, however. He had people to save. He charged forward, barely registering Minfillia calling his name.

"This one’s mine!" He called out, sword plunging into the breast of the sin eater. It gave a shrill cry as it began to dissipate, it's light shining brighter before vanishing. Even then, he couldn't relax. Adrenaline kept his body upright, kept his sword in his hand and his mind focused on fighting and protecting. It wasn't until the fight was won, and Thancred taken to the infirmary, that he finally collapsed. All energy lefthis body as the pain overtook him and he was forced to stay down.

Thankfully, his recovering didn't take long, aided by herbs that were brought by a very sheepish Minfillia. The girl seemed more and more distant with each passing day. However, he knew that he was to blame.

Minflillia of the Source, his Minfillia, her words still echoed in his mind. The girl would have to make a choice. Stay as she is and live out her life how she wants, become her own person, or chose to all but no longer exist and allow the woman he missed so very much to take complete control of her body. In a sense it was a life or death decision. Either way, one of the 'Minfillia's would no longer exist.

It hurt. The idea that this was a choice that had to be made. And it was completely out of his hands. As much as he would like to force the girl to make the decision he wanted, he couldn't. His Minfillia would never forgive him. It wasn't his place.

Still.

What would he even chose? At first for so long he knew he would have chosen for the girl to disappear and for his dearest friend, his only family, to be brought back. She had done so much for everyone after all. However, in the coming years Thancred had come to know the young girl who fought by his side. The very same young girl he taught to fight, who Urianger had tutored and instilled a love for reading in. A girl who had every right to live and be her own person.

Who was he to take that away from her?

Even still, the thought of his Minfillia stuck in his mind. She had sacrificed so much and seemed to get nothing in return. It didn't seem fair, and the thoughts that crept into his mind made him feel sick. He had found a family once more in Miinfillia. Found one between the girl and Urianger in all there time visiting the man in his cottage in the fae lands. Watching her grow.

So when she brought up going to Amh Araeng in search of the very place where she was sure the original Minfillia would be, so that she could give up herself, he felt a fire light in the pit of his stomach. It was a fire green and sickly, a fire over a thick tar ooze that seeped into his being. He was conflicted. He wanted to see his dear friend but also....also all he wanted was to save this world so this sweet girl could grow and become the woman he knew she could. All the same he bit his tongue.

It wasn’t his decision.

--

“Thou doth need to confide in our young charge Thy true feelings.” The caster berated softly as Thancred paced the small room where he had been accosted.

“You think I don’t know that? What am I supposed to say!?” The hyur seethed, turning sharply to glare at his friend. “I don’t even know how I feel about it all!”

“T’is not true, mine dearest friend, thou hast known for some time. Wouldst thou wish for anything but her happiness?”

“I ... Of course I want her to be happy! She’s a child! She deserves better than what this world has allotted her!”

Urianger watched him with a gaze that told of understanding and empathy. When had the man become so good at showing he understood how another felt? When had he become someone that Thancred felt he could confide so readily in.

“Thou hast but to say that. Our dearest Minfillia would not want for his child to be anyone but herself, this we both doth know.”

There’s a long silence as Thancred stares at the ground. Long and heavy and it weighs down on Thancreds shoulders like the entire world has rested on them. His regrets boil to the surface. Days in Ul’dah watching Minfillia grow from afar. Watching her make do as she could with her adoptive mother, all the while being constantly reminded of his failures and how much he didn’t deserve the little family he had been granted.

“I failed her.”

“We both did.” The words that answer him are soft and it’s not until Thancred looks up that he sees just how much closer Urianger had come.

Soft golden eyes looked at him with something, not pity, but understanding.

Chapter Text

Not long after their conversation the two met up with the others and as a group they set out. Thancred, Urianger, Minfillia, and the Warrior of Light. That was all they needed. After all, both Thancred and Minfillia knew where they were going.

Finding everything was difficult and ended up in a lot of running around and doing tasks for others. Thancred had watched the entire time, mind filled with all these different thoughts. How could he tell Minfillia what he was thinking? It wasn't his choice, it was something she had to do on her own. All he could do was be there for her when she needed him.

Or when he thought she did.

He stared out at the two, Minfillia sitting looking for all the world that she was lost. Meanwhile Urianger stood beside her with comforting words. They're talking about him and he knows it. She talks about how he hates her, how he wishes she were dead so that His Minfillia could return. But that isn't the case, he only wishes the words would come to him. He wants her to know that he wanted her safe, that he'd do whatever he could to protect her.

"Go to her."

He hears the Warrior of Light say quietly. He had noticed them approach but ignored it. There's a long silence before he finally answers.

"Not today." With that he turns and brushes past the Warrior. He can see their face pull into a disapproving look and it's all he can do to not tell them to piss off. This was his decision not theirs.

Later that day they moved on, taking the trolley through the large gates, Urianger staying behind to regroup with the others.

"Ah, Urianger..." Minfillia looked down from her spot on the trolley. When the elezen did look up at her she continued. "Thank you. For everything."

He smiled at her and nodded. "Remember: thou needst but have faith."

With that they are seen off by everyone around them. It was only after they passed the large doors that Thancred was gifted with seeing Minfillia's eyes light up. It was a marvel after all. The large gate being activated by the giant aether powered Talos.

Of course as was their luck, all good things are eventually ruined. As they came out of the dark tunnel Thancred could see someone standing on the tracks. It was a sight of someone who made his blood run cold. The very man who had hunted them throughout the lands. The very man who Thancred had saved Minfillia from at the start of their wild adventure. The same man who he was sure had died back in Rak'tika. And yet, here he was.

"Wait ... is that--Ran'jit!" Thancred called out, just before the elderly man literally kicked their large cart off the tracks and sent them flying. How this man had the power Thancred would never know. Still, he had to protect her. He listened as Minfillia spoke of how she would die alongside her new found friends. Listened as she demanded Ran'jit let them pass or kill her because she wouldn't leave without them. And finally, he watched as Ran'jit decided she was of no further use, watched as the man lunged for her.

Thancred's body moved without him evn realizing it. Soon he was knocking the man aside with his gunblade and standing between him and Minfillia. His blood pumped in his ears as he stood and in that moment he knew. He knew what he had to say to her, the words were finally his to grasp.

"I heard what you said. And I'm sorry for all the things I've left unspoken." His eyes staid on Ran'jit as he watched the man stand. "You have to go. Now!" He called to Minfillia and The Warrior of Light.

"Thancred no--!"

"Go! Do what you came here to do. I'll not have you waste that newfound resolve on me." Finally he looked back, eyes locking at his long time friend. His hero. His Warrior of Light. "I leave her in your hands. Hurry!"

All he managed to catch was a nod before he was looking back at Ran'jit and when he moved to attack their retreating backs Thancred was on him in an instant.

"Not another step. Your fight is with me."

"You think yourself her protector!? Hah! As if a whelp like you could be a better father to her than me!"

They clashed, kicks against gunblade. For each shot or slash Thancred delivered it was met with an equal or harder kick.

"Whatever it takes, I swear I will end you." Thancred pants as he brings his blade down only for it to be knocked away and a solid kick to land against his diaphragm, knocking the wind out of him.

"Hmph. You lie to yourself as you lied to her." Ran'jit's face twists into a sneer, hands encircling a ball of aether between them before suddenly lightning rained down on the two, striking Thancred and causing his grip to convulse and his hit to be weaker.

Shit, He fumed. Much more of this and I won't make it/

Watching from where Thancred had been knocked down Ran'jit called the dragon who had fought by his side, a small slender thing. It was only when the two fused, Ran'jit gaining a scythe from his ally, that he knew he truly was done for. He had to think of something fast.

"Ha, so you really are a monster."

"Better a monster than a deceiver." Ran'jit swung his scythe, cutting through the air and making Thancred dodge back just in time. "A spinner of dreams and false hopes."

"There is no folly in hope!" Thancred returned the hit with a shot before Ran'jit jumped back and away, easily dodging it.

"... I said as much myself, once. I was wrong. Never again."

Damn it! I need time to line up a clean shot./ He danced around the man, slashing where he could and trying to avoid the incoming attacks. /I suppose if there's no other way…

 

----

 

It wasn't until he used some rather nasty tricks that the once rogue managed to get the upper hand. All thanks to a little gift from Minfillia, bullets fused over time with her aether. They were stronger than any he had ever used. Unfortunately that also meant getting too close to death. But if it meant that Minfillia and the Warrior of Light had time to get away, it would be a worthy death.

"To hell with you!" Thancred cried as he delivered a rather hard attack, feeling as his body was wanting to give out. Aether coursed through him from the rounds he had used, aether that was basically like poison to him. Blood streaked down his face from cuts and he could feel a few bruised or broken ribs from the hits he had taken. He was sure he wouldn't be living through this.

"Gaahhh!!!" Ran'jit was the one taken to his knees this time. Panting he glared up at Thancred. "You would have her suffer and die. I would spare her that fate!"

"That is not for you or anyone else to decide--ever again." He held the mans gaze for a long moment before Ran'jit silently broke eye contact. Than cred tensed, readying himself for an attack that never came. Instead the man was gone in a strike of lightning, his dragon swirling around him as both disappeared.

It was only then that Thancred allowed himself to fall, the weight of everything seeming to crash down on him. He caught himself on his blade, metal sinking into warm red earth. His vision swam and he felt like he was at his end. Forcing himself back up it was in that moment that he felt the world give out from under him and he fell back, arms outstretched. He panted, feeling the air on his face. His eyes closed, only to open again as he stared up at the light filled sky. It had been five years, five years since he saw the night...and then it had been there. Brought back on the tails of a dear friends appearance. He felt himself slip into his memories.

Not a single day goes by that I don't think about all you have given me. Minfillia, His Minfillia. He can feel the blood on his face drying and caking in the hot Ahm Arang air. His body is sore...is this really the end? Countless memories and moments I took for granted ... Gods you grew up so fast.

A smile pulls at his lips, But you had to, didn't you? eyes closing as painful memories returned. For those you had lost. For those you could yet save.

His vision swarmed with light and the sight of Minfillia hovering in the void surrounded by glyphs and oh so happy to sacrifice all that she was. The memory of her voice, of her soft soft voice. It made his eyes burn. A world teetering on the very bring of oblivion, for which you gave your everything without hesitation .... Your kindness, your compassion, your love ... Then and now ...

The vision swam and disappeared as he raised an arm to cover his eyes, blocking out the light that burned through closed eyelids.

"One last time, with a little help. I'm so proud to have been a part of your life ...." His voice breaks and he can feel the wind kicking up dirt and dust that sticks to his sweaty skin. The pain in his chest doesn't lessen. "Oh Minfillia ..." He says something, lost on the wind even to his own ears before everything goes black. He lets the pain and sorrow overtake him. If this is how his story ends...he's happy to have lived it. To have been there to watch His Minfillia grow, to have watched ths younger Minfillia of the First grow. If it meant sacrificing his own life so that she might have her own ... he could die happy and without regrets.

 

Of course, that wouldn't be the case.

The pain returns and he has a vague recollection of sharp yellow eyes filled with worry and panic.

Urianger... He thinks he is imagining it all. Is this what death is like? The familiar coolness of aether washes over him. The man is trying to heal him, to bring him back. Please, don't look at me like that ...

He wants to reach out, to cover those eyes. It hurts too much, he can't move, can't do anything. Instead he feels the darkness overtake him once more.

It feels like only moments, but also like bells, before his eyes flutter open. His vision is once again flooded with light. He can hear muffled voices, familiar. He turns his head towards them. Everyone. Not just Urianger but Y'shtola, Alphinaud, and Alisaie. All are gathered around him their gazes concerned as they looked at him. He wasn't dead...how about that. It's Urianger who comes into his field of vision, those beautiful golden hues.

"Thou hast awoken," His voice is uneven, like he had been close to tears. Who knew. "I ... we hadst feared the worst."

Thancred's mouth feels dry, his tongue feels heavy and like it's stuck to the roof of his mouth. But still he has to say something.

"Come now, I couldn't very well leave you alone. Who knows what sort of trouble you might get into." His voice is raw, gravelly from disuse.

"Rest mine dearest Thancred," Urianger's voice is softer now, a hand moving to brush aside his hair. It's gentle, familiar, sunshine and spice. "The Warrior of Light will return hence forth with our young charge in toe, of this I am quite sure."

He does rest, with that warmth as a comfort. It's different than the sticky heat of the desert.

When he next wakes it's easier. He feels less sore. It's obvious to him that he has been healed even more. Sitting up he moves to sit on some stairs nearby. Urianger is near him again while the others smile.

"About time you're up on your feet." Alisaie is the first to say something. "Andhere I thought we might have to lug you back to the Crystarium ourselves."

"Not yet, I still have some fight in me."

"You will do no such thing." Beautiful Y'shtola, a woman he once thought to fancy, now so harsh from her own life. Still, she had worried like the others, he could tell. He's about to say something only to be interrupted by the sound of boots on sand. When he looks up he sees them. The Warrior of Light.

"Ah there you are, we were worried." He smiles at the two.

"Really? They weren't the ones that nearly got themselves killed." Alisaie pipes up, uncrossing her arms as she points out, teasing him to lighten the mood. "It's a good thing Urianger called on us when he did. You were at death’s door when we found you."

He looks down, cowed. She was right after all. He can feel everyone's gaze on him, Urianger's even more so. "But thanks to your timeline ministrations," Golden eyes filled with worry, cool aether that mended his wounds contrasting with the hot stifling desert air. "I was not obliged to walk through it."

Everyone is silent, the Warrior of Light looking down on him with a face of worry and ... irritation? What had they expected? He had faced Ran'jit. A foe even they had not been able to best as of yet. It's only then that he catches the glimpse of white against the brilliant sky. She comes from her hiding spot from behind a cart and Thancred can see her properly. He hair ... it's no longer the brilliant, near blinding, blonde that it had been when last he laid eyes on her. Instead it was now a soft orange. Like the sky as the sun rose painting light across it.

Minfillia ... ?

"Minfillia ... ?" Alphinaud mirrors his thoughts as he stares at the girl in shock. It's with awe in his voice that Thancred is finally able to smile and address the young lady.

"You saw her."

She looks at him, surprised it seems. Almost taking a step back before she relaxes, a hand raising to her chest, hovering over her heart.

"I know I haven't exactly been pulling my weight up till now, but that's all going to chance, starting today." Her words are full of conviction befitting someone of her station. As Oracle. Or whatever she chose to be now. He couldn't help the swell of pride as he watched her, as he listened. "I'll do whatever it takes--whatever it takes to make Minfillia's dream a reality. I can track the light wardens now, maybe even help you fight them."

Her words pull at his heart, she had been carrying so much through their journeys. And yet he had never noticed. How foolish of him. This was a girl who didn't only need a protector, she needed a family. People who she knew cared. Standing he made his way over silently, her words flowing out of her like water. When he reached her he lifted a hand to rest on her head, gentle and soft. Familiar. Like he had done countless times before.

"I'm glad you're back." The words leave him and he can't help but realize just how true they are. It would eat at him forever had His Minifillia--no, had Minfillia of the Source returned instead of this sweet young girl. He can tell his words surprise her, feel her start under his hand.

"You don't have to say that, you know ... " The words sting, she doubts him. He removes his hand and doesn't even have to think on his next words. She is family, he cares for her. He would not fail another like he had in the past.

"But I want to." It's gentle, it's honest. He almost forgets the others watching them. "You're family. How else would I feel?"

He watches as the tears rise up in her eyes when she finally looks up at him. Relief and something else swims in those pale blue eyes as she weeps, hands moving to wipe them away and cover her face.

"She will need a name." Y'shtola's voice rings out. It brings him back to the moment, to the place where everyone else is standing around the pair. And she's right.

"A name?" Alphinauds voice, the boy sounds confused. Of course she needs a name, one of her own. Not Minfillia, not a name given to her because of who she was meant to become.

"A name of her own. I would not have her walk in the shadow of another any longer." Once more the woman mirrors his very sentiments. He knew he liked her, knew he could depend on her to voice thoughts and words that he could not. "And I think it a fitting tribute to our departed friend too. At the mention of Minfillia, I would remember the woman who preserved out fellowship when all seemed lost."

Everyone's silence seems to be an agreement. It's Alisaie who breaks the silence.

"Do you remember what you were called before you were taken to Eulmore?"

"I'm sorry. I don't. I couldn't have been very old when it happened." The words leave a sour taste in Thancred's mouth, or perhaps that's the blood and dirt still sticking to his teeth.

"Then we must think of a new name. Suggestions?"

Thancred waits to hear what they might say, he can only hope they are something befitting such a sweet and gentle girl. Only...their silence has him looking around. Shock writ across his face when he realizes each and everyone of them is looking at him. Alphinaud seems to brin and cross his arms. He really is Alisaie's twin after all.

"If the lady herself has no preference," He starts, that look still dancing in his eyes. He knows what he's doing the brat. "I think the honor should rightly fall to Thancred. After all they have been through together, he's practically a father to her."

His words ring true. He has been more of a father figure in some cases, and a terrible one at that. What father fights with wither his child should live her own life or become someone else he had seen as a sister.

"Well spotted!" These twins will be the death of him. "I'm so glad you're here to explain these things." He can't even tell if the girl is serious or teasing her brother.

"And what exactly is that supposed to mean!?"

"Oh nothing~"

Their bickering seems to fade from his ears as he thinks. He thinks to Urianger and his gentle words in a language he only barely picked up. Watching the man and listening to him lecture, even if he made himself to seem like he wasn't. It was more amusing to make the man think he had willfully ignored the near constant chatter about their gracious hosts. There's a word, something that sticks and sounds like it could be the perfect name.

"What about ... Ryne?"

No one seems to understand it...until.

"Ah. "Blessing" in Fae ... " He waits, he knows it's coming. Urianger is smart, surely he'll understand. All Thancred could do was stare forward. The shock he hears makes him fight back a smile. "Wait! Doth this mean thou wert listening when I delivered my lectures on the pixies?"

"Not exactly," He can't make himself look at his companion. Sunlight and spice and words that flow like warm honey. He waves the man and his thoughts off. "But that one word made an impression."

His nerves spike as he looks away from 'Ryne'. "Of course, if it's not to your liking, I can think of something else."

"Ryne," She sounds so happy. "Yes, I rather like the sound of it." She looks up at him with more joy than he had seen in the entire time he'd known her. She was family, a sort of daughter. His Ryne, sweet and gentle and so full of conviction and life. "Thank you."

"That settles it, then." He looks at her and smiles, matching her own. "Welcome aboard, Ryne!"

"I won't let you down." And he believes it, he believes it like a father believes in his daughter.

Chapter Text

Sorry guys that I have not updated this week. Things have been a bit rough and I've been trying to get this newest chapter out!

Tomorrow will be an all writing day so I am hoping to get it done but we'll see. Hopefully I can have an update by next Monday. Getting close to the end of msq for the story and with that I do have one question for you all.

Shall I add the raid story in as well? It's a lot of rehashing with Thancred's side so I thought I would see what you guys thought. A have a couple scenes in mind if I do but we'll see. So, let me know what you guys think!!

Thanks again for all of the support and love. I have been so thankful for all of you who have been reading this. I am still so very sorry about not having a chapter for this week.

Take care and see you soon! o/

-Ichi