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Stretching out, Phaedra’s limbs quivered in the morning chill that enveloped her room. The shutters were open; she liked the view of the night sky now it was returned to Lakeland, and that was fine at night when she was curled up under the covers for protection from the cold... Not so much upon waking, when her bedfellow had all but stolen the covers from her.

She shifted over the bed, closer to Thancred’s body and the heat he provided. Nudging the back of his thigh with her knee, he grunted when she began to pull the covers in an attempt to share them.

“I’m cold,” Phaedra mumbled, her voice still thick with sleep and her mind groggy. She brushed strands of pink out of her eyes, pressing her forehead to Thancred’s back and settling beneath the cover he granted her. “Budge over.”

“Mmph...” He didn’t move. In fact, he settled onto his front, wrapped his arms around his pillow and stretched out, taking up even more room on the bed. It was too early to be irritated, but the slight smirk he treated her to - sleepy as it was - would have annoyed even the most patient of people. 

“Do I have to remind you who the Primal slayer is?” Phaedra asked, pursing her lips. One hazel eye cracked open. She looked back with a deadpan expression. 

“Fine,” Thancred gave in with a exaggerated sigh, “fine, fine.” He rolled onto his side and drew Phaedra towards him, the two of them secure under the covers and sharing heat. Phaedra enjoyed the sensation of him drawing his fingers up and down her bare arm. “We make for Rak’tika today...” he said. Phaedra was aware, and Thancred knew that but she chose not to correct him. 

“Have you been before?” she asked, drawing in a slow breath and willing her body to welcome a little more sleep. 

“Passed through once or twice.” Thancred’s voice was distracted. “Its something of a jungle. Humid.”

“Lovely...” Phaedra did not want to think of her clothes clinging to her in an over-warm environment.

A few moments of silence passed and then, “you know...”

Phaedra opened one eye. Thancred was leaning up on an elbow, his hand in his hair looking decidedly roguish and dashing and like a scoundrel. This was the most at ease Phaedra had seen him since they were reunited a few days ago. Being around him, it was like Thancred kept a wall around him, making sure he was alert, aware of Minfilia at all times and yet keeping her, and everyone, at a distance from him. Even on returning to the Crystarium he wore that same mantel. 

Only alone with her did it fade and he allowed himself a moment to relax and smile. 

“We’ll be traveling again, for who knows how long,” he shifted his weight to his knees, bearing down on her with a lop-sided grin. “It’s unlikely we’ll get another chance like this for some time...”

The suggestive nature of his words was impossible to miss, but to hammer the point home he lowered his head and nudged Phaedra’s jaw with his nose. She tilted her head back in the pillows. Silver hair brushed her chin and her skin tingled beneath where he kissed. 

“You’re terrible...” Phaedra murmured, arms rising to embrace him on instinct.

Thancred gave a shrug, “so you like to remind me.”

“Aren’t you worn out after last night?” she asked, giggling at the sensation of his breath on her skin. 

He knelt up a little so he was better able to meet her eyes. After quirking a brow he inclined his head until their foreheads were touching, “it’s been five years for me, Phae. Believe me, if things weren’t so urgent I would gladly keep us locked away in here for a few days, at least.”

At that, Phaedra burst into a peel of giggles. “Then I’m rather glad we have to make a move so soon. Bells, I can manage. But days?” She shook her head, greeting the kiss Thancred pressed to her mouth, “you’re insatiable.”

Chapter Text

It was eerily quiet walking into the infirmary of the Rising Stones. The air itself seemed to blanket and dull all noise that could infiltrate from beyond the doors, creating a morose sanctuary of stillness. 

The five bodies in the five beds were all still. If not for their chests rising and falling they would each look like a corpse. The fact that they each do continue to breathe is a miracle, albeit a small one. Seeing them all there, all silent and all but dead... It dawned on Phaedra for the first time how utterly alone she was. 

There are the other Scions, Tataru, Biggs, Wedge; she wasn’t completely alone, and she was grateful to all of them. To every one for their aid and their attempts to brighten her spirits, but it wasn’t the same. These Scions, Alphinaud, Thancred, Alisae, Y’shtola, and Urianger were those most closely linked to her. They were the ones she has spent the most time with. Who she had grown to love and care for and see as family. 

The others are her friends... But nothing can fill the dull ache in her chest where her family should be. 

“Where are you?” Phaedra muttered sitting on one of the vacant chairs in the room. She bent her head, pushing her fingers back through her hair and scraping her horns with her fingernails. “I’m afraid.”

It was the first time she admitted it. Each time she ran into battle there was fear, but she never told anyone. Tried her best to keep it concealed and hidden away. After all, it wouldn’t do for the fabled Savior of Eorza to show fear. This is a different fear though. The fear felt before battle was tangible but easy to hide, easy to swallow and ignore. This fear is worse. The fear gripping her chest and threatening to choke her is a fear so powerful she daren’t even name it. 

She is afraid that this is all they were be now. Husks of the men and women she once knew. Empty shells, devoid of voice, and thought, and left in this comatose state for ages to come. 

“Please bring them back,” Phaedra said under her breath. She clasped her hands together, bowing over her knees and squeezing her eyes tight. She didn’t pray much, but this wasn’t prayer of reverence. This was prayer of desperation. Prayer of fear. Prayer of begging. “Bring them back to me, all of them. Please... I’ll do anything. Anything you want.” Her words were soft and spoken in the hopes she might hear and answer her call. 

Rarely did Phaedra call to the Mother Hydaelyn. She didn’t ask anything of the entity that asked so much of her... She hoped for something. A sign. A word. Even a breeze. Just something to show her she’d been heard.

“Please,” Phaedra begged again, sniffing back the pain behind her nose. “I’m scared of the voice asking me to come. I don’t want to be alone again. I want them back. Hale and whole. Please... after everything I’ve done... everything they have done... in your name, You owe them this. You owe me this...”

She waited for something but there was nothing. No sound. No voice. No breeze. Just more silence. More stillness. More emptiness.  A void that Phaedra balanced on the edge of. 

Slowly, Phaedra got to her feet gulping down her disappointment like it was a poison. “Fine.” She said, her voice hard. “I’ll get them back myself.”

Chapter Text

She is gone, then. 

It’s a thought Thancred can barely get his head around. Minfilia is... gone. Just like that. There was no warning. No chance for him to beg, or bargain. She answered the call of Hydaelyn and there was no bringing her back. 

He stands on a precipice overlooking the water. There is a trail of carnage in his wake. Monsters that got in the way of his ire and his grief. They show the brunt of it. His face is clear. He hasn’t been able to shed a tear. Maybe when it’s sunk in he’ll be able. Maybe, right now, the knowledge is too raw. 

 It defies belief. Minfilia has always been sensitive to Hydaelyn - he knew that... But that Hydaelyn would take Her most devoted follower to act as Her mouthpiece... 

Why Minfilia? It’s a question that keeps running through his head, and so far there have been no answers forthcoming. None, save the answers he already has. Because of her sensitivity and devotion to Hydaelyn. That’s why. Because Minfilia could connect and practically communicate with the Mother in a way no one else could. 

It hurts. 

The knowledge that she left this world without him. That he couldn’t do something to protect her. That it came down to this. He had failed to protect her. Again. Even after vowing that he would watch her and guard her in atonement for the death of her father. Despite his vows, he failed. Her loss was a wound that would never heal. The Scions would never recover - not that the Scions were a pressing matter for him at the moment. He would never recover losing someone he loved so dearly. 

Phaedra joins him after who knows how many bells have passed. The miserable grey day has turned into clear, cold night. It’s unfair how clear the sky is, how beautiful the stars are. How dare they shine when such  gentle light has been extinguished from the world...

“I’m sorry.” Phaedra says, after she’s stood at his side in silence for some time. 

He doesn’t know what to say. ‘Sorry’ seems like such an inadequate word for the loss Eorza has experienced and a part of him is angry with Phaedra. Angry with her for not protecting Minfilia in his stead. Angry at her for failing, just as he had. Angry that she has come to offer condolences. The anger bubbles inside him, and he tightens his arms across his chest. He needs to keep it all inside. 

“I understand ho-”

“Don’t.” He bites the word at her, teeth gnashing together in his head. “Just don’t. You don’t understand. How could you possibly understand?”

He’s lashing out. He may be angry, but it’s misdirected. His true anger it at himself; but that’s too honest to handle right at that moment in time, so he picks his target and snaps at her. He’ll regret it later, when his bed is cold and he doesn’t have her to hold in his arms. 

“I don’t understand loss?” Phaedra asks. Her voice is steady and calm, and her eyes on him are full of sorrow and sympathy. “Thancred, I lost people, too. I lost Minfilia, too. I lost Y’shtola, Papalymo, Yda... Thancred, I lost you at that bloody banquet.” She doesn’t move to touch him, but her voice is hard with her conviction. “I mourned all of you. Some days it hurt so much I could hardly take a breath... And I lost Hauchefaunt... I saw him die in front of me, and I was powerless to stop it. Powerless to do anything. Powerless to... As powerless to help him then, as I am now to bring Minfilia back...” She looks out of the Dravanian Highlands, her hands clasped behind her back. “I understand loss. We are... very familiar with each other.”

Silence. And slowly, the anger he feels begins to dampen. It cools inside him, like a fire being slowly suffocated. The first tear he’s been able to shed spills from his uncovered eye; and as though he’s as frail as a feather, a light breeze brings him to his knees. He doesn’t scream the anguish he feels, he doesn’t punch the ground or even begin to sob. He simply bows his head with his eyes closed and lets the tears come. 

At some point, Phaedra kneels beside him and cradles him in her arms, sharing in his grief. 

Chapter Text

It’s rare for Thancred to have a lazy morning.

Rarer still, given his recent long stay in Garlemald, to have company to share the morning with... But it’s a blessing. Between his being stationed behind enemy lines digging for information, and Phaedra dividing her time between Ala Mhigo and Othard, they’ve hardly had time to speak, let alone share a bed. And she was leaving again in a few bells time with Alisaie to search The Burn for Alphinaud.

It took all of Thancred’s persuasive skill to get Alisaie to postpone travel for the night, given how late it was when he delivered the news of Alphinaud’s possible location. He understood her desire to search for and find her brother, but also understood that it would take time to get there. And searching a wasteland without the proper preparation would solve nothing. 

Of course, there was a selfish angle to his persuasion. An angle that went unnoticed by his fellow Scion and granted himself and Phaedra some much needed time alone.

Life rarely stopped in Ul’dah, and through the windows were sounds of merchants and inhabitants making a start to the day. Thancred kept his back to the sound, cocooning himself around Phaedra and shifting her tail with his legs with a well practiced gesture. She sighed and shifted, reacting to his closeness and warmth.

“What time is it?” she asked, her words a mumble.

“Early,” Thancred brushed her hair away from her neck and kissed her nape, “go back to sleep.”

“Mhm,” she settled with a deep sigh. He appreciated how much she needed these sporadic moments of peace. It was unheard of for a day to pass without someone calling on the Warrior of Light for some task or other; and no matter how menial, Phaedra threw herself into anything and everything asked of her. It wore on her, even if she never said anything. “I have to get back to my room...”

Thancred pressed his forehead to the back of her neck, kissing her skin and tracing the pattern of scales on her hip with his fingers. “Why?” He pressed a knee between her legs and allowed the hand at her hip to venture downwards. Phaedra shifted and a shiver rippled across her body making him smile against her shoulder. 

“Alisaie,” she murmured, pushing her hips back into the curve of his body. Thancred bit the inside of his lip, grinning to himself. So much for going back to sleep, then.

“What about her?” he kept his voice casual, even as he rock his hips into her backside, rubbing his morning erection against her skin. Tilting his leg between her own, he coaxed her to part her thighs and earned a hitched breath when he passed his fingers between her folds. 

“Up early,” Phaedra huffed, her shoulders tensing and her voice catching when he pressed against her. “Alphinaud.” Another huff, and her hips rolled back into his body. “The Burn--”

She rolled onto her other side so she was facing him and claimed his mouth with a soft, high-pitched moan. Surprised for a moment, all Thancred could do was return the kiss, pressing his hands into her back and drawing her closer. “I’m not keeping you here.” He teased, biting gently at her lower lip, “you’re not my prisoner, darling. You’re free to go.”

Phaedra’s aqua eyes were half-hooded and her pupils almost totally obscured her iris as she gauged him with a look that was an adorable mixture of sleep and lust. “If I’m late...”

“You’re free to go,” Thancred reiterated, he pressed his forehead to Phaedra’s as she hooked a leg over his hip and guided him towards her. “You can leave when you want to...” He took himself in hand and they each gasped when he sheathed himself inside her. 

She was a home to him, all her own. This intimacy was private and perfect and theirs. No one else knew, though Thancred was sure they were probably the worst kept secret in Eorza. There was something about this that he could never tire of. The way she felt around his cock, and the way she held him. The way she rode him, and the ways she let him take her. He’d bedded women before, plenty of them, but there was never a connection with them like there was with Phaedra. 

She could intoxicate him like nothing and no one else. 

“She’ll kill me -- if I’m late--” Phaedra’s words were punctuated with sharp breaths brought on from the slow drive of Thancred’s hips. 

“You didn’t have to come back to my room,” retorted Thancred. He pressed his teeth into the curve of her neck, digging his fingers into the flesh of her thigh. He tangled his other hand into her hair before planting a fierce kiss to her mouth.

“You didn’t have to invite me--” her argument was less convincing when half-moaned into his mouth with her fingernails scratching across the top of his bare back. “If I’m late it’s b-because of you--”

He chuckled at that, “there was no obligation for you to come back to my room, Phae.”

“You’d have hated it if I refused.” She panted back and rest her forehead against his. 

“I’d have understood,” Thancred moved, shifting the two of them until Phaedra was on her back beneath him, her legs locking around his thrusting hips. “You’re a busy woman--”

“You were-- unh-- desperate to see me--” Phaedra arched her head back into the pillows, grasping fruitlessly for the sheets beneath her, “admit it--”

“I would have survived,” he shot back, his face buried into her neck and smiling into her skin. He slid his hands up over her back, slowing his hips to harder, deeper thrusts. “I survived plenty of time in Garlemald without your touch--” No reply came, just a noise that sounded like a complaint and a groan. A noise that only amused Thancred further, “perhaps it’s you who were desperate to see me.”

“You didn’t have to start this.” Phaedra said after a few seconds. 

Thancred laughed again, “you could have said no, love.” He kissed her, meeting her gaze and relishing her fingers pushing through his sweat-matted hair. “I respect your decision, always.”

“You--”

“Face it, darling,” he slowed and caressed her face with his right hand, brushing his fingers and thumb over her parted lips, “the only person to blame for your tardiness - if you’re even late - is you.” He smiled and pressed a kiss to her nose, “no matter how much you may try to deflect.”

Phaedra scraped her teeth along the tips of his fingers before he moved them, and replaced them with his lips crushing her own. Her urge to playfully bicker was finished and she threw all her energies into them. Into holding him, and touching him, and kissing him. Her argumentative comments were replaced by softer, ardent pleas and praise drawing Thancred closer and closer to the brink until he toppled over it with a low groan and his body trembling above her. 

His heart raced, and his cock pulsed inside her until he grew flaccid and slipped out with ease. They were both breathing hard, exchanging murmurs and softer kisses and touches of adoration that acted only to reassure each other of their boundless affection. Thancred lay on his side, waiting patiently for Phaedra to complete her ritual of cleaning herself off before she joined him back in the bed. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, cuddling her to his side and kissed her forehead while she drew lazy shapes on his stomach with her fingertips. 

“She really will kill me if I’m late.” Phaedra told him, tilting her head up. 

Thancred met her gaze and smiled, “and I told you it was early. You have at least five bells before Alisaie will be ready to leave.” He kissed her nose, “now go back to sleep, oh Warrior of Light.” He nestled his chin in her hair, “let us enjoy this while we still can.”

Chapter Text

Phaedra couldn’t remember the last time she was here; yet the memory and the moment was as clear as if it happened yesterday. 

She could still smell the blood in the air, and the salt of her tears on her lips. She could still hear the last, wheezing breaths that Haurchefant took as he offered her comfort in his last precious moments.

A smile better suits a hero. 

He was always ready. It didn’t matter what the situation was, how dire the circumstances; Haurchefant was always ready with a comment or a witty jest to bring a smile to even the most dour person’s face. It was one of his best qualities. Though he had plenty more where that came from. 

Ishgard was poorer for having lost such a brave and kind man to the ire and corruption of the Archbishop... but most of Ishgard didn’t know what they had lost. Just like Ishgard didn’t know what they had until they no longer had it. 

The Vault was a maze of towers and grandeur, garbed in gold and marble and built on the blood of ages of lies. Phaedra hated it. She hated that it was still a part of Ishgard. Hated what it stood for, and the atrocities that had taken place within its walls. She hated more that this was where Haurchefant had his last stand. This was the place he died. 

He had deserved better. Deserved a better life and a better death than the one he received. His resting place may have been peaceful, but his death should have been as well. And it should have been years in the future. Not when he was young and vivacious and so full of life. So full of the promise of what Ishgard could be. 

Taking a steadying breath, Phaedra crossed the stones to where he breathed his last. It wasn’t marked by anything, but she knew the place. Just approaching it filled her with dread, and as she drew nearer she could see a hazy visage of Haurchefant on the ground, blood leaking from the corner of his mouth. His eyes afraid, but trying so hard to soothe and assure others as was his way. 

She knelt in the place, touched her fingertips to her lips and then pressed them  to the ground beneath her. She was almost able to feel the warmth of his life’s blood coating them as it had on that fateful and terrible day. 

“I miss you,” she murmured to the stones and to the air and to Haurchefant, hoping he could hear her in Halone’s halls. “I miss you.”

Chapter Text

It’s a long trek from Malikah’s Well to any form of civilization, and the desert is an unforgiving wasteland. Even in a group of capable fighters, the creatures that make it and the ruins on Nabaath Areng their home are tough and leave those who dispose of them breathing hard. 

When the sun is at it’s highest, it is Urianger who suggests they take a rest and wait until the worst of the heat as faded. No one argues, as they are all flagging under the perpetual punishment of the heat and Thancred is still sore from his bout with Ran’jit. 

He winces as he sits under the shade of an old ruin, grasping his ribs through his coat. The blood on his face has dried and Urianger’s healing has removed most of his wounds; though there are still some that will take time to heal. Healing magicks are life saving, but even they have their limitations. 

“Are you alright?” Minfil-- Ryne asks him, coming to his side with a water skin clutched within her hands. He shields his eyes as he looks up at her. She looks so different with her strawberry blonde hair and her grey eyes. Different, but still the same. The expression she wears it still one of unease and trepidation, as if worried speaking to him will garner a sharp response.

He sighs inwardly, he can’t blame her for her reluctance. He hasn’t made the last few years traveling with him particularly easy, and that strained relationship will not change in a heartbeat. 

“I’m fine, thank you, Ryne.” He tells her, using the name he gave and she accepted, as if to make their bond more secure. She smiles when he uses it. He’s glad she accepted it, and likes it so much. Far better to be Ryne, than to try and be another Minfilia. “The rest will do me good, I’m sure.”

“Alisaie has gone hunting. Alphinaud says he’s going to make us all something to eat.”

“Alphinaud intends to cook?” Thancred looks beyond her, an eyebrow arched in disbelief. About twenty fulms away Alphinaud is assembling a fire pit with help from Urianger and Y’shtola... Although the older Scions are looking decidedly exasperated with their younger, if well meaning, companion. “I must live to witness this.”

She smiles again, then drops her gaze to the water skin she holds. “I... I’m glad you’re alright. That Ran’jit... That you weren’t hurt too badly.” 

Thancred only returns her smile and watches as she nods to herself and turns away. She runs to the others at the fire pit, just as Alphinaud topples back from the flames that rise from the kindling. He sighs, leans his head back on the red stone and lets his eyes close. A few moments later, footsteps stop beside him and he feels Phaedra’s presence take a seat. 

“How is it going?” she asks, and he doesn’t have to guess to what she is referring to. 

“Well,” Thancred opens his eyes and looks to her beside him. She’s watching Ryne with the other Scions, a blithe, contented smile on her face. “All things considered.”

“Mhm?” 

“I have a lot of damage to undo, I know that,” continues Thancred. “I kept her at arms length. I didn’t want her to make decisions with me in mind.”

I know that.” Phaedra twists onto her knees and begins to dig through her pack. After some rustling, she removes a water skin of her own, and a cloth. She soaks the cloth, wrings it out and takes him by the chin, dabbing the dried blood from his face. “You don’t have to tell me the reasons to kept her at arms length. I’m well acquainted with your methods.”

He grimaces when she dabs a little too hard at the corner of his mouth. “It’s how I protect those I hold dear.” Its a rather pathetic explanation, but it’s the truth. Phaedra flicks her gaze to him, before returning her focus to the task before her. “And Ryne, she had never been allowed to make choices of her own. I didn’t want to take that free will from her.”

“I know.” Phaedra folds a corner of the cloth over and moves to the gash he can feel stinging on his cheek. “And I saw what our Minfilia told you when you came to Nabaath Areng the first time. To guide Ryne. You did that as well as you were able.”

“Urianger would have been a far gentler guide and guardian, I’m sure.”

“Without a doubt.” Phaedra sighs and leans back on her haunches, “the thing is... There’s a lot of new ground for her to uncover, now she’s Ryne and no longer has the esteemed name of the Oracle of Light to live up to. She has a second chance to be a child. And you have a second chance to be the father-figure she needs and deserves.”

Thancred shucks off his jacket as sweat begins to drip down his back. Even in the shade the desert is too hot. “I hope I can be that person. The person she deserves.”

“Giving her a name of her own is probably a good first step.”

“Mhm,” he chuckles a little. “I hope so.”

Chapter Text

When Thancred awakened to find the space beside him empty, but warm it took him only seconds to find his bedfellow. Phaedra was an early riser. Had been since they first met, but lately he noticed she slept less and rose earlier. And when she did sleep, her dreams were never still. She tossed and turned in the night and inevitably woke and rose to work on something.

Tonight was no different it seemed. She sat with her back to him, hunched over something on the table. In front of her were scattered inks, pens and watercolours the Exarch had gifted her. 

With a sigh, Thancred pulled himself from the bed and crossed to where she was sitting. She jumped when he placed his hands upon her shoulders, and tilted her head back in time for him to plant a kiss upon her forehead. 

“Bad dreams again?” She offered an apologetic smile, her gaze turning back to what held her attention before. Open in front of her was a large book filled with thick sheets of paper. It was a book Thancred recognized. Whenever Phaedra had a spare moment she was filling with pages with drawings and her thoughts. More-often-than-not the drawings were sketches and remained that way. The ones on the pages before her were not so unfinished. 

Each page was covered with detailed drawings of the different Sin Eaters they had come across during their travels in Norvrandt. 

“I can’t imagine your subject matter is helping your mind to settle.” He took a seat beside her, his back leaning on the edge of the table. Phaedra twirled a paintbrush between her fingers, agitated. Thancred plucked the brush from her hand and laced his fingers between hers. “What’s on your mind?”

“I just couldn’t sleep.” Phaedra said, avoiding his gaze. “I feel a little... off after dealing with Eros in Rak’tika.”

“Off?” Thancred repeated. He leaned in towards her. “Off how?”

“You know,” she shrugged her left shoulder and rubbed it. “Just off.”

“Phaedra...”

“Do you notice how all the Sin Eaters we’ve come across are called ‘Forgiven’ something?” her word came out in a rush in a blatant attempt to change the subject. She never was good when people showed concern for her well being. “Forgiven Deceit, Forgiven Ambition, Forgiven Folly... They’re all ‘Forgiven’.”

“Well, yes,” Thancred rubbed his chin. He missed the scruff of his beard here in the First, but it was nice not to have to shave quite so often. “They are Sin Eaters. So, every creature, every person turned becomes a forgiven version of whatever sin they’re most guilty of, I presume.”

“I suppose...” Phaedra tucked her hair behind one of her fin-shaped horns. Thancred noticed she was biting her lip. “Imagine being turned and becoming a being like that. Mindless and ruthless and a... a manifestation of your greatest fault.”

He huffed, “I’d rather not imagine that, darling.” He leaned in to kiss the side of her head, “I’d like to sleep again.”

Phaedra smiled faintly, “What do you think Urianger’s sin would be?”

Thancred looked her over with a quirked brow, confused and curious as to her question. It came from no where, but also seemed innocent enough. A game, perhaps. Something lighthearted to calm her mind. 

“Well,” he stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing his ankles and leaned his arms back on the table. “Given the amount of books he reads and the information he consumes, something like Forgiven Avarice, or Forgiven Gluttony.”

“Gluttony?” 

“It takes many forms, Phae.” He smiled at her, “gluttony isn’t just reserved for the consuming of food. Consuming knowledge could also be considered gluttony... That also opens the door for another potential sin of his, Covetousness.”

“Isn’t that the same as gluttony and avarice?”

Thancred pursed his lips, “yes... In a way. But you know Urianger, he likes to gather all and as much information as he can. What about Alisaie? She’s a bit tricky to place, don’t you think?”

“She’d be... Forgiven Wrath, or Forgiven Confidence, I think. Or , more accurately, Forgiven Arrogance.”

“Oof.” Laughed Thancred, “that’s almost unkind... But fair. She can be a little arrogant from time-to-time.”

“And we’ve all seen how her bravado has gotten her hurt in the past.” Phaedra gave a rueful smile, “though she’s far better than she was.”

“Agreed.” Thancred sniffed, shifted and leaned forward in his seat. “I don’t think it fair to bring Minfilia into this scenario, so how about Alphinaud? I would say his sin is... superiority.”

“Ambition,” Phaedra said. “At least it used to be. Back when the whole Crystal Braves fiasco occurred.”

“And now?”

“I don’t suppose he could be Forgiven Aquatic Skills, could he?” she grinned impishly.

“A bit of a mouthful,” chuckled Thancred. “Maybe Forgiven Inaction... Passivity. He does tend to like to see how things will turn out, rather than leaping into the fray.”

“Some would call his wariness wise.” Phaedra sighed, “its funny how he and Alisaise are so different in some ways, and so so similar in others.” She seemed more cheerful now, a little more relaxed. “Y’shtola?” she gave Thancred a wicked look. “Forgiven Scorn, for certain.”

He laughed, “I’ve been on the receiving end of that on more than one occasion. It suits her.” Ruffling a hand through he hair he exhaled. “I suppose mistrust wouldn’t count as a sin.”

Phaedra hummed thoughtfully, “Forgiven Suspicion?”

“Doesn’t roll of the tongue very well, does it?” Thancred grimaced. “Forgiven Mistrust... Or maybe Distrust would be more accurate. Given her reticence to put any faith in the Crystal Exarch.”

“What about me, then?” asked Phaedra, shifting Thancred’s hair behind his ear with her fingers. “What would be my sin, do you think?”

Sitting straight, Thancred faced her and drew his the backs of his fingers down her cheeks and neck, touching both skin and scales. She looked tired, her aqua eyes dull and dark circles forming. And her skin wasn’t as healthy as it once was. There wasn’t the same glow, she looked a little sallow in the cheeks. Like she was suffering with malnutrition. Worry gnawed in his gut. Phaedra pushed herself like no one else he knew, and she was pushing herself even more in Norvrandt to rid it of the Sin Eaters and the Light Wardens. It was taking a toll, perhaps more than she let on.

He would have to speak to the Crystal Exarch about it. Or perhaps Y’shtola, given her ability to see a person’s aether. 

If he was being honest with her, he would have said her sin was sacrifice. Phaedra sacrificed her sleep, her time, her days and nights, she sacrificed everything to help those in need and do what she could to help others. She didn’t ask for a reward, and always expressed a feeling of guilt when rewards were practically forced on her. 

Forgiven Sacrifice, would have been her sin... If Thancred was being honest. 

But chose not to be. She had lost enough sleep already, and he did not wish to add further burdens or unwelcome thoughts to her restless mind. 

“Forgiven Temptation,” he told her, pressing forward to kiss her. Phaedra chuckled gently, her fingers coming to trail along his jaw and cradle his face. As he pulled away, Thancred took her free hand and got to his feet. “Come to bed.”

She didn’t resist, rising to her feet and following him to the bed in the darkened corner of the room. “We didn’t decide what your forgiven sin was.” She said as she settled beside him under the covers. 

Thancred wrapped an arm around her shoulders and cuddled her to his side. He sighed heavily and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Go to sleep.”

“Thanc--”

“Sleep.” He told her gently. She gave no reply, sighed and Thancred felt her relax beside him as she put their conversation to rest. 

He stared up at the ceiling, listening to Phaedra breathe beside him and weighing up the plethora of sins he had accumulated over his reasonably short life. Thievery. Lust. Gluttony. Wrath. Deceit. Arrogance. Drunkenness. Ambition. Conceit... The list was endless. 

The truth was, he didn’t know what his “forgiven” sin would be; he needed to be worthy of forgiveness for that.

Chapter Text

Phaedra was never someone who took time for herself. She threw herself into whatever it was she was confronted with, and occasionally remembered to sleep. Thancred knew first hand what could occur if one pushed themselves too hard. He knew. His pushing himself allowed Lahabrea to take control of him; and while Phaedra would never succumb to that kind of control, he worried for her well being.

He managed to get her to the baths in the Pendants using guile. He went with her from place-to-place in the Crystarium, helping her with mundane and menial chores until they were finished and then kept her occupied with conversation while making sure to lead her to one of the bathrooms at the appointed time. He arranged ahead of time with the manager that one of the rooms would be ready for her. Bath filled with hot water, a selection of soaps and oils for her to choose from, a fluffy bathrobe if one could be obtained. The manager was only too happy to arrange things for the person responsible for the night’s return in both Lakeland and Il Mheg. 

When Thancred held the door open to the bathroom, he all but had to usher Phaedra in. “Bath.” He pointed to the large tub in the corner filled almost to the brim and steaming. “You need one.”

“You could have just said I smell.” Phaedra crossed her arms, facing him. 

“You don’t.” Thancred shucked his coat off and draped it over a stool. “This is a chance for you to relax; something I doubt you’ve done since you got here.”

“I don’t have time to relax.” Phaedra countered, shifting her weight from one hip to the other. “We don’t have time to relax. There are more Light Wardens. And the Eulmoran army is--”

“On the doorstep, I know.” Thancred held her by the upper arms. “Phaedra, you’ve absorbed two Light Wardens. You’ve been fighting almost non-stop. Traveling and helping people. You need to take time for yourself.”

She held his gaze a few moments, before dropping it to the ground and shifting uncomfortably. “I have too much to do...” She stepped from his grasp. “Besides, other people need this more than me. I can wash in my room.”

Thancred gave a long sigh. “You leave me no choice then,” he said, under his breath. Phaedra looked at him; as she did, he swept her legs out from beneath her and hoisted her onto his shoulder as she screamed in surprise.

“Put me down!” She kicked her legs, tail whipping back and forth irritably.

“I didn’t want to have to resort to this.” Thancred said, avoiding the spikes on her tail and hold her firm. 

“Thancred!” Phaedra yelled, wriggling and squirming in an attempt to free herself. “Dammit! Put me down!”

“As you wish.” He released her, and let her fall unceremoniously into the bath water that sloshed over the lip of the tub and onto the stone floor. Phaedra coughed and spluttered, pushing wet hair from her face. 

“My clothes!”

Thancred grinned down at her. “They’ll dry.” He bent to start removing his own armor and boots. “Best get out of them now.”

Phaedra remained sitting in the tub, arms crossed, clothes wet and hair dripping, glaring daggers into him in silence as he stripped out of his clothing. He ignored her dark look as he changed, meeting it with a grin when he caught her eye. Once his clothes were safely out of the way of any water (though his gunblade was still within easy reach) he climbed into the tub with Phaedra.  

Thancred turned his attention to her clothing and where it was sticking to her skin. He assisted in removing her top with deft fingers, tossing the garment to the side. “I trust you can do the rest.” He leaned back against the edge of the tub, spreading his arms so his elbows allowed him to sit comfortably. Scowling, Phaedra pulled her (probably ruined) shoes off and threw them across the room. One of the smacked the door before it landed. He watched her struggle to remove the linen sarouel trousers she favored that were now heavier and water logged. They squelched when she dropped them on the floor. 

She remained sitting opposite him once she was naked, still glaring. Thancred grabbed her by the hand and pulled her towards him, causing her to turn in the tub. Phaedra reclined against his chest with some coaxing; and after a few minutes in the water and with him stroking her arms with his finger tips, had relaxed. 

“Isn’t it nice to treat yourself like more than a warrior once in a while?” he asked, resting his chin in her hair. 

“I s’pose.” Phaedra muttered. “I’m going to get you back for this.” 

He grinned into her hair, “I don’t doubt it.”

Chapter Text

Phaedra loved high places. 

If she was lucky, sometimes she could fly high enough on a mount and find a place that was too far out of reach for monsters to make their home. She loved the freedom being high provided. She loved the quiet, the serenity, and isolation away from everything and everyone. Most of all, she loved simply being able to sit and for a while just be Phaedra. Not the Warrior of Light. Not the Warrior of Darkness. Not even the Primal Slayer. 

It was nice to take time, even if that time equated to only a few minutes in a day, to simply remember who she was before everything started...

She also liked heights because there was no easy escape that didn’t require a flying mount, excellent climbing skills, a parachute, or almost certain death at the bottom of a long, long fall. 

It was that lack of easy escape she was counting on now. She chose the out cropping in Lakeland with care. It was high enough to be next-to-impossible to easily leave, but close enough to the Crystarium that it didn’t seem in the middle of no where. It wasn’t visible from Fort Jobb, but it was visible from the road. Places for difficult conversations needed to be chosen with care; and the height meant that Thancred couldn’t just walk away from a conversation he was uncomfortable with...

Which was exactly what he wanted to do at that moment as he digested everything she told him. His eyes kept flicking to the edge of the outcropping, and beyond his comprehending her words, she could see him calculating how hurt he would be from a fall of this height. 

“Thancred,” Phaedra decided to keep his attention, rather than risk him leaping head to his doom. “You know I’m not asking this lightly.”

“I’m amazed you’re asking at all.” He sputtered, resting a hand on his hip and rubbing his forehead. “Phaedra, you are not going to become a Sin Eater. Or a Light Warden or... or whatever you’ve got into your head. It just...”

“Y’shtola said my aether is different,” Phaedra replied keeping her voice level. “That it’s tainted some how. I overheard her and Urianger talking - and she’s not often wrong.”

“Just because your aether is different doesn’t mean you’re becoming one of them.” He gestured out to the air, as if a Sin Eater might conjure from his hand. “Have you spoken to the Exarch?”

“It’s not just what Y’shtola and Urianger said... I feel different. Absorbing the aether from that Light Warden in Amh Areng it felt different. It was different. It was... harder to absorb. And it hurt.” She grasped her hands to her chest, trying to convey the burning, searing pain the creatures aether caused. As though her blood was on fire inside her, and her whole body was weak and feeble. “I can feel myself getting weaker. Like I’m... losing a piece of myself to each Warden.”

“Phaedra...” Thancred’s expression was hard to read. He wore fear on his face, grief in his eyes, confusion on his lips, and anger in his brows. There was so much roiling inside him, and Phaedra knew her request was unfair... but also that Thancred was the only one capable of carrying it out. “Even if you are tainted some how, it doesn’t mean you’ll become one. Once we kill the last Light Warden, there won’t be any more.”

“What if I am the last one?!” Her temper snapped like a dry twig, her own fear and frustration and the pressures put upon her all crashing at once. “What if I’m the last Light Warden after absorbing all the others?! What if that’s what needs to happen to save Norvrandt?! I’ve seen the transformation, Thancred. I’ve seen the pain, and the twisting, and the grotesque changes that happens. I will not become a mindless, ruthless monster bent on destruction and killing. I won’t!”

She was panting, and unbeknownst to her, tears had started to fall as she released her worries and fears to both Thancred and the air. Phaedra’s lungs were burning, and her legs gave out beneath her. She dropped to her knees, fingers clutching the prickly purple grass as she stifled the sobs that threatened to make themselves known. “I know it’s not fair to ask you...” she sniffed, bowing her head in submission as if grovelling to Thancred’s mercy. “But if it comes to it... please... please, don’t hesitate.”

 

Chapter Text

The first few weeks were harder than Thancred ever expected.

This Minfilia was a shadow of his. She was small, and weak, and unprepared for the world outside of her Eulmoran cage. She tired easily when they walked from place-to-place, but they had to keep walking so that they weren’t attacked. She didn’t rise easily, and complained. About her feet hurting. About the heat. About her hunger. 

She’s a child. Thancred reminded himself. Each time he found himself growing frustrated with her, he reminded himself. She’s a child. She’s been kept under lock and key her whole life up until now. Be patient. 

When they did rest, he found her company to be... nice. She was curious about the world of Norvrandt beyond what she already knew, and Thancred tried to tell her what he knew; though she did more in educating him. Instead, he took to telling her about the Source. About his home. About Limsa, and Ul’dah. About Alphinaud and Alisaie. About Ishgard. About the other Scions. About the Alliance.

He told her stories of his past and the past he shared with Minfilia... He told her in the guise of education. In truth, he hoped that regaling her with his tales might spark some memory... That it might bring about some miraculous return of his Minfilia. A miracle that would make this nightmare more bearable.

But it never happened.

His selfishness was never rewarded except once when they were in Nabaath Areng and he saw her. Spoke to her. When his Minfilia was able to come through for a moment and communicate. 

Gods, it hurt. It hurt to see her again. To hear her voice and be given the wisdom only she could provide. He begged for her to stay, but in his heart of hearts he knew it was hopeless to beg. No matter how much he might have wanted it, Minfilia couldn’t make herself stay and the pain in her voice as she recounted her use of vessels like the child he traveled with made it abundantly clear that she could stomach doing so no longer...

When she faded and the child returned, confused and tired from the exertion put on her, Thancred forced himself to swallow the bile of anger and selfish pain and to carry on. He didn’t tell her about the conversation he had, nor about what Minfilia asked of him. 

To protect her. To teach her. To love her. 

He didn’t speak to her the rest of the day, despite her best efforts to broker conversation. By nightfall when they set up camp, Minfilia had given up and she imbued his ammunition in silence. 

Protect her. Teach her. Love her...

He wasn’t doing well on any of those requests, his own resentment and grief acting like a blockade. It wasn’t the child’s fault. None of it was. She was part of something so much bigger than she could have possibly imagined... And she never asked for it. No one in their right mind would have. 

He needed to try. In his own way, he needed to try and fulfill Minfilia’s wish and care for this child as he once cared for her. He knew there would be choices she would face that would be hers to make alone. He did not wish for her to make those decisions with him in mind. His feelings did not and should not matter. He decided he would try. He would keep her at a distance for her own good, but he would ignite a spark in her. 

“You know...” he spoke for the first time since Nabaath Areng. Minfilia looked at him. “You really are very talented with the ammunition. I wouldn’t be any where near as capable without your help.” He watched a small, uneasy smile come to her lips. She was so small and lithe... “We need to find you a skill so you can assist me in battle and also fight for yourself if it comes to it.”

“Are you going to leave?” her question took him by surprise, and he found himself staring at her crystal blue eyes. 

“No,” Thancred said. “No, I have no intention of leaving your side... but there may be times you will have to fight alone. And it would be beneficial for you to learn.”

“I would like to.” She handed him the pouch of ammunition and her gaze went to his gunblade. “Could I do what you do?”

“Not right away... But eventually.” He began to slot the ammunition into the bandolier hanging off his coat. “Does the idea of fighting up close appeal to you, then?”

She nodded.

“Very well,” Thancred slotted his gunblade into its sheath. “In the morning we’ll make for the Crystarium and you can experience and choose a fighting style that both appeals to you and is comfortable. How does that sound?”

“Thank you, Thancred.” 

He reached out and patted her head with a tentative hand, gaining a surprised look in return. “You’re welcome... Minfilia.”

Chapter Text

The aftermath of Mt. Gulg was difficult to stomach. 

First, carrying Phaedra down from the mountain itself after she vanquished Vauthry... Despite holding her many times, and seeing her more naturally than anyone else, it was the first time Thancred realised how truly fragile she was. Phaedra gave an air of being unbeatable, indomitable, utterly unstoppable... She gave that air because she refused to let things stop her. Refused to give up. Refused to stop fighting for what was right...

This was something she couldn’t fight against though... And it was something that could possibly claim her life. She was becoming one of them, just like she feared. Ryne was able to stabilize the corruption of her aether and the light inside her... but it was only a matter of time. 

How long had he been blind to the fragility and humanity of her? Warrior of Light, maybe, but still mortal. Still capable of being harmed and hurt and killed. She had walked out of so many fights with impossible odds and been the victor that everyone - Thancred, himself, included - began to consider her invincible. She wasn’t; this proved it. This infection that ran amok through her body and made her weak, despite her protests...

Even carrying her in his arms back to the Crystarium she felt lighter and smaller than he ever noticed.

How could he have been so blinkered?

It didn’t help that matters in the Crystarium were not positive in the wake of the Exarch’s “disappearance” and the return of the blinding light across all the skies of Norvrandt.

“The Warrior of Darkness has abandoned us...” he over heard one person saying.

“I knew it was too good to be true.” Another grumbled into a tankard. 

“Always was a fairy story. It’ll teach us all fer getting our hopes up.” That was a dwarf snarling to a mystel at the bar. 

Thancred kept his retorts to himself. They didn’t know the truth. They didn’t understand; and getting angry with their fear and confusion would help no one. The manager of the Pendants led him to Phaedra’s chambers - though Thancred knew where they were, he’d spent plenty of nights there - and unlocked the door so Thancred could put Phaedra somewhere comfortable and safe. The rest of the Scions accompanied him, and Ryne who reached out her hand to sense the Light inside Phaedra as soon as Thancred placed her down in her bed. 

“Well?” he asked Ryne, unwilling to let his poker face drop. He leaned against the wall, eyes fixed on Phaedra’s deceptively serene face. 

“No change...” Ryne murmured, lowering her hand. “The Light has stopped corrupting her for now but... but...” she squeezed her hands together in front of her, afraid of what she had to say.

“It is only a matter of time.” Y’shtola spoke for her, her milky-white eyes downcast. 

“There must be something we can do!” Alisaie, who was quiet the entire journey back from Mt. Gulg, now spoke with a desperate edge to her voice. “We can’t just give up!”

“We aren’t, Alisaie.” Alphinaud was always the calmer of the two, but in this he was painfully calm; as if forcing it for the sake of everyone else. “But we need time.”

“She doesn’t have time!” Alisaie argued, “and neither does the Exarch! If we get him back, then he’ll be able to stop this corruption.”

“If only t’were so simple, Mistress Alisaie.” Urianger’s face was drawn and haggard. The fight on Mt. Gulg was difficult for everyone and Urianger was still suffering some ill-gotten wounds. “I fear Emet-Selch hath spirited the Crystal Exarch away and finding them will be no easy feat.”

“We must try, though.” Alisaie bit back, “I will not stand idly by while everything she... we’ve fought so hard for is undone.” In a flourish she turned and stormed out of the room. Alphinaud followed after, calling his sister’s name. 

Y’shtola released a breath it sounded like she had been holding for some time. “For now she is stable, and for that we must be thankful. She needs must take time to recover, and once she awakens, she cannot exert herself lest the Light overrun.”

“I can keep it in check.” Ryne said, wringing her hands. “I... I mean, I can try.”

“’Tis stable enough for now, Ryne.” Urianger gave her a warm smile, “we all fought, and must all recover from such hardships. Phaedra will be well without attendance for now; come.” He gestured, and after glancing back briefly, Ryne accompanied him from the room. 

“You should take rest, too.” Said Y’shtola. Thancred gave her a bored look. He removed his coat and took a seat on the bed beside Phaedra’s prone form. “You will be no use to anyone - let alone our friend - if you are without sleep and not fully healed.”

“I’ll rest.” Thancred said, not looking at her. “... She told me, you know?” 

“Told you?”

“She feared something was happening to her... That she was becoming one of them. I didn’t take her fears seriously. Now look where we are.”

“This was not something that could have been prevented, Thancred.” Y’shtola’s hand on his shoulder was meant to be a comfort, but it took all of Thancred’s will power not to shrug her off. “We cannot give up hope.”

“She’s fought Primals, led armies... She deserves better than this.”

“She is not gone from this world yet, Thancred.” Y’shtola squeezed his shoulder. “Give her time, and in the mean time we must do what we can in preparation of whatever is to come.”

Thancred did not furnish Y’shtola with a reply, and after a few moments she took his silence as the end of their conversation and left. He closed and locked the door behind her, shuttered the windows to block out the blinding light of the sky and sat on the edge of the bed again. 

“Hope kindled and snatched away... All in one moment.” He murmured, “what a mess.”

Chapter Text

Rowdy, bellowing laughter followed Thancred up the hallway of the Rising Stones. Hoary Boulder’s stories, often long-winded and over embellished, often garnered such a response from his audience and tonight would be no different. Thancred would have stayed, had he not heard the actual story already and been pining for his bed for a good two bells at least since his weary bones finally returned to familiar home territory. 

He only meant to sit at the bar to rest a moment and drink a little. When be began conversing with other Scions who he hadn’t seen for too long, the simply lost track of time. At least he wasn’t drunk. Conversation usually kept him from drinking too much. 

He closed the door to his room and breathed a sigh of relief when the laughter and voices died with the click of the latch. Across the room was his bed. His perfect, warm, comfortable, soft, occupied bed. He started to undress, eye patch first, boots, tired fingers flexing around buckles and fastens that were too complicated for a tired mind. 

He grunted, half-tripping over a boot that caused him to stagger. He threw the offending shoe a dirty look - as though it was the boot’s fault for getting in his way - and continued to---

His bed was occupied?

The thought came upon him with a sudden realization that shot through him like an arrow. That... was unexpected... and a little alarming, and it stopped him in the middle of his undressing, fingers all twisted in his buttons. 

“You’re in my bed...” he said to the occupant. 

“Yes.” Phaedra replied, an unimpressed eyebrow raised and look of irritation marring her features. “You told me to wait for you here.” She sat up and the blankets pooled in her lap. Thancred was disappointed to see she was clothed.

“I... did?” he sat on the edge of the bed, ruffling a hand through his shaggy, silver hair. “When did I tell you that?”

Phaedra tutted. “When I saw you talking to F’lhaminn? I asked how your job went, you said you would tell me later and to wait for you. That generally means to wait for you in your room and that you’ll join me shortly. So we don’t arouse suspicion... Remember?”

Ah yes... their verbal ‘code’. They both agreed to keep things between them as private and quiet as possible. At least until they were both sure there was something between them to tell people, and for that reason they had established a simple code that could be slipped into everyday conversation and that would not draw attention. 

The comment of filling each other in on jobs or missions and to wait for them, was the code specifically. The one being told to wait would wait in the room of the one telling them to wait. Then, that person would join them, and they could converse and indulge in more private matters without the rest of the Rising Stones jeering and catcalling after them. 

Thancred sighed and managed to smile. “I’m sorry Phae,” he leaned towards her and was prompted shoved away. “I didn’t mean to forget...” He flopped onto his back and rest his forearm over his eyes. Couldn’t she just forget his little slip up and come to bed with him? He was so tired, and Phaedra was comfortable to sleep with. “I got caught up.”

“Listening to Hoary Boulder.” 

“Mhm.”

The sheets shifted beside him and he peeked out from beneath his arm to see Phaedra sliding out of the bed. She wore a simple linen shirt that skimmed the tops of her thighs and nothing else, aside from her small clothes. He watched her pick up his boots and put them safely beside the door. Then his bandanna, which she looped around the back of his chair at his desk. 

“I’m sorry,” he apologized again, disliking her silence.

“I’m not angry with you.” Phaedra replied. “Sit up, let me help you with your clothes before you fall asleep in them.”

Doing as she requested, he watched her begin the task of unbutton and unfastening the complex array of buckles, buttons and zippers on his clothes. Phaedra was much faster at it than he was; a fact that amused him. Clearly she’d undressed him enough times to have the order of straps memorized. 

“You’d been gone for a while, I suppose I just wanted to spend some time with you.” She said after a few minutes of silence. Thancred lifted heavy arms as she removed his jerkin. “I can’t be selfish. It makes sense that others would want to see you, too.”

“I’d have come to you right away, had I known you were here.” Thancred’s tongue was heavy, his eyes stinging with his determination to keep them open. He hoped his words made as much sense aloud as they did in his head. “Hoary Boulder got me talking, and then he was telling stories, and the others all...”

“You don’t need to explain.”

Lips pulling to one side, Thancred took Phaedra’s hands in his before she moved onto his belt. He kissed her knuckles, sighing. “You know...” he sighed again, taking a moment to run his fingers over her skin. It was amazing really... Phaedra fought almost exclusively with the fists, and yet her skin was soft and smooth, and it amazed him how much power could be housed in hands that could hold him and treat him with such gentleness and affection. “We wouldn’t need code if we just told people.”

Phaedra gave a breathless laugh through her nose. “There’s already gossip about who in Eorzea is bedding me; I’d rather you not get dragged into it.”

“Who is at the top of the list?”

“Aymeric.”

The bark of laughter that broke passed Thancred’s lips earned a stern look that sobered him immediately. “I mean... I can see why people might think that. From what I’ve seen while in conference with the two of you, he hangs on your every gesture.”

“Thancred...”

“I’m fairly certain he’s in love with you.” He chuckled, his tiredness beginning to transform into a second wind. “Even if he’s not the one bedding you.”

“You almost sound jealous.” Phaedra’s mouth curled into a small smirk and she slipped her hands from his before pushing her palms flat against his shoulders. Thancred reclined slowly onto his back, hands moving to press into Phaedra’s hips as she moved up the bed on her knees until she was astride his hips. “Do you ever get a little twinge of jealousy when you hear the rumors?”

He snorted, “no. They’re just rumors after all.”

“Mhm...” Phaedra hovered above him, the tip of her nose brushing his and her mouth just out of reach. “So it doesn’t bother you? Not even a little bit? That you’re not even considered a contender to be the Warrior of Light’s lover?” 

A muscle in his jaw clenched betraying a twinge of annoyance. “It doesn’t bother me.” He insisted, sliding his hands up beneath her shirt and pulling the fabric with him. Phaedra’s arms denied its removal. Part of his mind wondered how they got into this situation; most of his mind didn’t particularly care. 

“And what if I was to fuel these rumors?” she teased, smiling and her warm breath fanning across his cheek as she moved to speak into his ear. “After all, forgetting codes to make these meetings happen doesn’t fill me with much confidence that you’re... invested.” A shiver shot down Thancred’s spine to the sensation of her teeth lightly pressing into the cuff of his ear.

“I’m invested,” protested Thancred. He shifted his weight, held her and rolled them so their positions were reversed with him snug between Phaedra’s legs and a look of surprise on her face to the sudden change in dynamic. “Code words are a pain. I have so many to remember.” He explained, sliding his hands up the outside of her thighs towards her small clothes. “A sign would be better.”

“A sign,” Phaedra repeated, leaning up on her elbows and watching Thancred;s hands disappear up beneath her shirt once more. He leaned forward, pushing the fabric up towards her breasts and pressing kisses to her skin as he exposed it to the air. She ran her fingers back through his hair and he noticed her biting her bottom lip when he glanced up. “What kind of si-sign?”

“Something simple.” His voice was a rumble of a response, and he was relieved when she lifted one arm and then the other to help in the removal of her shirt. He tossed it blindly to one side when it was over her head and shifted further up the bed until he was lying above her. He cradled her back with one hand, the other remained lower his fingers extended and tracing soft patterns over her skin. “Crossed fingers.”

“Crossed fingers?”

“Mhm,” he moved again, pressing his hips into hers and grinding his confined cock against her heat. Phaedra released a shaking breath, teeth pressing into her bottom lip again. “If you come to me, or I come to you and our fingers are crossed on either hand... It means... well, this.”

“Crossed fingers,” she said again, lifting her head in an attempt to kiss him. Thancred darted his head out of the way and was reward with a disappointed moan. “You won’t forget this time?” asked Phaedra. Her heels pressed into the back of Thancred’s thighs as he moved against her with a slow driving motion. He regretted stopping her from removing his pants when this conversation began; his cock was throbbing and almost painful within. 

“I can remember that.” He assured her, kissing her cheeks and continuing to avoid her lips, “I came up with it, after all.”

Phaedra finally lost her patience; claiming his mouth when he went to kiss her again on the cheek. Thancred laughed into her kiss, his mouth forming to hers and his arms sliding around her to hold her closer. She pulled her legs around him, one hooking over his hip as the kiss she started drew on, growing deeper and hotter and harder. Normally, Phaedra was the more controlled one... This was a more desperate side Thancred had never witnessed before. 

“Crossed fingers, then.” Phaedra agreed against his lips. “Just don’t forget.”

He laughed, “don’t fret, love. If I can relate it to this and now, I won’t.”

Chapter Text

The note Thancred received from the manager of the Pendants requested he arrive at Phaedra’s room specifically at the twentieth bell. Time never moved more slowly than it did during when he received the note and the appointed time. 

At thirty minutes past the nineteenth bell, he decided the time was close enough and made the short journey from his room to hers. It was curious that she asked him to come at a specific time, when in the past - both recent and not - they went to each other’s rooms whenever they could. He wondered if perhaps she was in conference with the Exarch until the twentieth bell; he would wait inside her room if that was the case. 

As far as he knew, there was nothing significant about the time, aside from it being in the evening and it actually being dark now the night had returned. Passing through the wide hallways, he smiled faintly at other occupants of the Pendants who caught his eye and regarded him with an air of wonderment and awe. It was common knowledge around the Crystarium now that he was among the small group of people defeating Light Wardens and pushing back the Light. To be known for his deeds and regarded so openly was strange and unnerving. Thancred was used to working from the shadows, and his deeds either going entirely unnoticed, or known by a select few. 

Arriving at Phaedra’s door, Thancred stood to his full height before a twinge of pain shot up his back causing him to grimace and hunch a little. He was still recovering from his fight with Ran’jit and while the worst of his injuries had been magically healed and were gone from sight, memories and phantoms of them remained. The pain that came with certain movements was a steady reminder not to push himself too hard just yet. 

Settling for ruffling his hand through his hair, Thancred glanced at his appearance in the brass handle of the door as he knocked. Light was streaming out from beneath the door itself and he waited. The image of the man that looked back at him - distorted as it was - was a little lackluster. He looked tired; the constant traveling and fighting taking its toll... But it could have been worse. At least he was still alive and had a reflection. 

Knocking again, he waited. He could hear footsteps shuffling around inside and... music? When there was no answer, Thancred turned the door handle. He found it unlocked, opened it, and stepped inside, stunned by the sight that met him.

Candles. 

Hundreds of candles on every available surface were burning softly filling the room with a soft, ethereal light and heat. The window was partially open, causing several of the flames to sputter and wave in the breeze. The music was coming from an orchestrion scroll player. A piece of music that was slow and romantic and that Thancred wasn’t familiar with. There was food set out on the long table, two bottles of wine, two glasses. Phaedra’s bed was made up with dozens of pillows and temptingly soft looking blankets. 

The woman herself was in the middle of the room, an extended wick in hand, burning at one end as he obviously caught her in the middle of lighting the last candles. Thancred swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple pressing on his collar as he realised he was supremely under-dressed. In place of her usual gear, chosen for ease of movement and travel, she wore a high-collar, body hugging dress in sky-blue, sleeveless, with slits up either side up to her hip giving a exquisite view of her legs. There were silver bangles on her wrists and upper arms, and even an anklet. 

“You’re early...” She stated, glancing around. It may have been the candle light, but Thancred was sure there was a flush to her face. “I-- it’s not ready yet.”

“What isn’t ready?” asked Thancred, stepping further into the room. “Are you attempting to woo me?” He offered a lopsided grin that was returned with a halfhearted smile and Phaedra lowering her eyes. 

“That... wasn’t the plan, no.” She continued lighting the last candles and extinguished the wick with a quick puff of air from between her lips. “I just...” She clasped her hands for a moment and then gestured awkwardly, “thought you might appreciate some... appreciation”

“Appreciate some appreciation?” repeated Thancred, unable to stop his grin from spreading. He was touched, and if it was possible for the adoration he felt for Phaedra to grow, it would have at this kind and overly romantic gesture. As it was, standing in her room, watching her wrestle with her vulnerability and looking as radiant as she did... His chest warmed and he crossed the room to embrace her.

The closer he drew, the more he noticed there was something wrong. There was tension in Phaedra’s body; like a string ready to snap, and he saw that her eyes were slightly reddened.

His happiness turned to concern, and when he held her by the upper arms, rubbing his thumbs in circles that concern only grew. “You’re trembling.” He noted. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m fine.” Insisted Phaedra, her attempt at an easy laugh half sounding like a breathless sob. “Maybe a little cold.”

“Phaedra,” Thancred inclined his head to better look her in the eyes. He could see now that her eyes were watering with tears she was desperately trying to keep at bay. His stomach knotted and he pulled her into his arms. “I’m sorry I’m early. I didn’t mean to ruin your surprise...”

She laughed against his shoulder and quickly sniffled afterwards. “That’s not...”

“Why you’re upset...?” he looked her square in the eye, knowing he’d caught her in the truth. She knew it, too. He saw her clench her jaw, and the tears started coming without her bidding. 

“I almost lost you again.” She admitted finally, stepping out of his arms and wrapping her own around her. “Running away, leaving you with Ran’jit... It was like the banquet all over again. Running and leaving you to fight, alone.”

“You were doing as I asked.” Thancred spoke low, trying his best to be a comfort. “You were protecting Ryne. I couldn’t let him take her back. Not after everything she’d been through, how far she had come. You ran because I asked.”

“Doesn’t change the fact I ran.” Phaedra’s breath shuddered and she wiped her cheeks with the palm of her left hand. “You almost died.”

“But I didn’t.”

“But you almost did! If it weren’t for Urianger, you... You would be...”

He cupped her face, “but I’m not. Phaedra, I’m alive.. Breathing and walking and--”

“First the banquet, then the Exarch, now Ran’jit,” she hiccuped, “how many times do I have to lose or almost lose you? It’s like the Twelve want to do everything in their power to--”

Despite having history as a bard, Thancred never considered himself good with words when they mattered. He could spread lies, spin tales, woo a mark, befriend someone for information, but when it truly, mattered words were never his strong suit. Instead, he relied on action. That was what he did now; he acted in the hopes that would convey his meaning and the words he struggled to find.

He cut Phaedra off by kissing her, lips crushing hers and arms encircling her body, pulling her against him. She didn’t resist, rather she weakly and willingly melted into him. He tasted salt on her lips, stole a breath and lifted her up off the floor. She supported her weight with her arms around his shoulders, hands in fists around the material of his coat. Once he had her on her bed, Thancred tossed pillows to the floor, kicked off the soft blankets and made quick work of the clasps of her dress. 

Phaedra was equally eager, frustrated and determined, hands and fingers snatching and pulling at his armor. In normal circumstances, there was always some laughter and joking between them. Complaints about his buckles, or problems with clasps. In this instance, there was none of that usual affectionate banter. Feelings and emotions were running high and raw, and they were each desperate for affirmation and to affirm. 

Only when they were both bare and breathing hard with him hilted inside her, did the desperation cool and things slowed to a less frantic pace. Thancred sat with his legs slightly bent, Phaedra in his lap and her hands pressing into his shoulders as he stroked her back and guided her pace against him. Her lips were kiss swollen, and her hair had come loose from the ponytail it was in when this all began. 

Thancred took her right hand and lifted it from his shoulder, earning a curious look in response to his actions. He kissed her fingertips, before guiding her hand down and placing it over where his heart was thundering within his chest. 

“I’m still alive, Phae,” he panted, pressing his forehead to hers. “Still alive and still yours.”

Her hand curled into a fist against his skin. “It hurts...” She stopped, chest rising and falling rapidly, and looking at where her hand was. “Each time you leave...”

“We both knew this was going to be hard.” Thancred kissed her forehead. “Being a Scion has its risks and... It’s not as though I enjoy watching you walk into certain danger all the time. It scares me.”

“It does?” There was a ghost of a smile.

“Shitless.” That earned a chuckle, “but I know you have to do it. Just as I have to leave sometimes.”

Phaedra glanced at him her fingers now tracing the flesh over his heart. “But the banquet, Ran’jit... I mourned you after the banquet.”

“I know you did.” Thancred watched her fingers. “And I wish you hadn’t needed to. But, that was then. It’s been years, and you can’t hold on to that fear forever.”

“Ran’jit was days ago.”

“And I survived.” Thancred planted a kiss on the bridge of her nose. “There are a thousand thousand ways any of us could die, and each time one of those ways fails, it deserves to be celebrated. I fought, I lived, and I came back to you. Doesn’t that deserve some joy?”

“Of course it does, I jus--”

“Ah.” He put a finger against her lips to silence her. “Then allow yourself to enjoy a small victory, instead of wondering what could have happened.”

Watching Phaedra, he could see her considering his words and the reasoning behind them. She would never truly stop worrying, or thinking about things that happened in the past, no one could or did, not even he; his hope was she would consider celebrating the small victories; like the fact he was still alive. 

She didn’t garner him with a response, between her lips meeting his in a kiss that made him melt on the inside. There was a warmth and tenderness Phaedra possessed that she shared only with him, and it was enough to breathe life into the darkest, dreariest of souls. 

When they were both satisfied and wrapped up in each other and the sheets on her bed, most of the candles extinguished for safety, except a few near her bed, Thancred kissed her shoulder and squeezed his arm tighter around her so she was spooned more securely by his body. She ran her fingers over his and along his arm, stroking in place of speaking. Thancred’s left arm was extended beneath her pillows and he wound his fingers around her loose hair basking in this privacy.

“I’m sorry I ruined your surprise.” He told her, kissing the space below her fin-shaped horn. “It was kind of you to go to so much trouble.”

“I wanted to show you some appreciation.”

“You needn’t go to such lengths to demonstrate your appreciation for me.” Sighed Thancred, “this is enough.”

“Love you,” 

The response caught in his throat, and all he could manage was: “I know.” No more words passed between them, and Thancred found himself watching the closest candle burn down, the wax melting and dripping down the shaft before it solidified. Only to melt again a little later. Phaedra’s breathing slowed enough to tell him she was asleep and only once the last candle sputtered out, suffocated by the cooling wax and shrouding her room in darkness did Thancred feel comfortable enough to admit the truth. 

“Love you, too.”

Chapter Text

It was no easy task, searching a huldu infested patch of earth for sentimental trinkets; but it was something Phaedra agreed to and Ryne agreed to accompany her when invited. 

She was quite pleased with herself, really. Though the trinkets had yet to be found, she’d been able to dispatch several of the huldu without assistance and had a collection of pretty pebbles to take back and show Thancred and Urianger in Amity when they were done. And spending time with Phaedra was a nice change from being constantly with Thancred. Aside from a short while in Il Mheg and in Amh Areng, the time they had spent together had been minimal. 

One thing did cause Ryne a little confusion, though. While the task was not an easy one, it wasn’t exactly taxing either. And it was an odd thing, to her at least, that the Warrior of Darkness should take on something so mundane. 

“Any luck yet?” Phaedra asked, hurrying over to her. 

“Nothing yet.” Ryne got to her feet, wiping dirt from her knees. “I feel like we’re looking for a needle in a pile of needles.”

Phaedra offered her a smile and squeezed her shoulder. “We’ll find it.” Ryne knew from the first few minutes of meeting Phaedra why she was revered as much as she was, and why Thancred and Urianger spoke so highly of her in the years previous. Within minutes, Ryne was comfortable around her. She exuded a confidence and warmth that put her at ease. As though anything that might come about could be dealt with. That there was nothing to fear. 

“Why did you agree to help find the... the...” Ryne scratched her head, “what was it again?”

“A locket.” Phaedra squatted beside her and started to move pebbles. “And I agreed because it clearly meant a lot to him.”

“But... anyone could find the locket. He could have asked anyone.”

“He asked me, though.”

“Yes.” Ryne tutted and started to wring her hands, a habit Thancred said she did when she was nervous or struggling to explain herself. “But I mean... With your skills... Why do something so...”

“Menial?” Phaedra smirked up at her. 

“Simple.” Ryne dropped her shoulders and swept her hair back off her face. “It’s a very simple task.”

“To you. To us.” Phaedra shrugged, “but searching an area where huldu and upland iguanas make their home, that’s daunting to the average person who doesn’t know how to fight like we do. And... its kind.” She dropped onto her backside and stretched her legs out in front of her, peering out over the expanse of sky before her. “There are places in the Source that are cruel and unkind, where people are treated badly because of the station they’re born in, or because they fall on hard times. There are places like that everywhere. Kindness is free. Selflessness is free. And you never know what kind of impact you’ll have on someone.”

“Like the people of Gatetown?” Ryne turned her gaze to the tightly packed collection of houses and hovels on the horizon; humble and minuscule next to the grandeur of Eulmore. “Alphinaud said you did a lot to help people when you first arrived.”

“I tried.” She lifted one shoulder in a shrug, then paused to rotate it. “Its good to help people who can’t necessarily help themselves. They’ll always be grateful... And its good to remind yourself that not everyone is as lucky as you might be.”

“Mhm...” Ryne sighed, a breeze whipped up around them and pushed her hair back. She allowed her gaze to travel over the plains of Kholusia and up, up and up the cliffs in the direction of Amity. To where she knew Thancred, Urianger, Alisaie, Alphinaud and Y’shtola were hard at work helping with the construction of the Talos. Strange to think not long ago she was alone most of the time in her room underneath Eulmore. Then it was she and Thancred for so long... Now she practically had a family. For the first time, she had a whole group of people who loved her and on whom she could rely. She was lucky, she knew not everyone had such support. 

Phaedra hopped to her feet, swinging her arms back and forth and bouncing on the spot for a moment as if to get some momentum. “Want to keep looking? Or do you want a lift back to Amity?”

“I want to keep searching.” Ryne insisted. “Let’s look over there,” she pointed to an out cropping where the was a tall pillar of stone. “Didn’t he say he was on his way back from Tomra when he was attacked? Maybe he dropped it in river.”

Phaedra gave her an approving look and nodded, “after you.”

Chapter Text

Phaedra made a quick check of herself in the mirror. 

Hair piece? Perfect.

Sleeves? Pulled up to her upper arms.

Strings of beads and bells? All in place, draped in the ideal way. Not too taut and not too loose for optimum sound and mobility during movement. 

She smoothed down the skirts, making a quick turn to one side and then the other, trying to get a glimpse of her new apparel from different angles. She didn’t like the colour much; this bright red clashed with her hair - she hoped she would be able to change it eventually. She was more in favor of silver accessories too, as opposed to gold, but it would suffice. It was probably the prettiest outfit she’d ever been gifted upon mastering a new combat class. 

“You ready?” she called out to Thancred who - last she saw him - was sitting patiently at the table.

“As I’ll ever be.” He sounded a little frustrated, as though he had better things to be doing than indulging her... Which, to his credit, was probably true. “I don’t see why you needed to show me this in pri... vate.”

The bells jingled when she stepped out from behind the changing screen, and she twirled a few times for effect as she made her way over to him. The pause in his words was reward enough, but the way his jaw hung open slightly and his eyes darted up and down the outfit and her body were added bonuses. 

“So?” She twirled again, jingling and jangling in different tones and smiling mischievously.. Thancred’s hands flexed in his lap, he shifted one of his feet on the ground and she saw the subtle clench of a muscle in his jaw. 

The garb of a dancer had struck him speechless... And only she was there to witness it.

“I don’t much like the colour, I hope I can change it eventually.” She explained, twisting to reach for the ankle length strip of cloth that made up the front of the skirt. “The embroidery is beautiful craftsmanship; would you like a closer look?” 

His throat moved; a sound escaped him that was more a strangled whine than a word. Phaedra drew closer, dropping the red cloth back into place. “Thancred,” she cooed, lightly pushing her fingers back through his hair, “darling...” He swallowed again, eyes fixed on the clothing that she wore. “Do you disapprove?”

“Nmh--” he cleared his throat deliberately before speaking again. “No, no. Not... not at all.” Phaedra bit her lip. It wasn’t often Thancred was stunned to almost silence. It was also a rarity for his cheeks to take on the rosy hue they had. She couldn’t recall the last time he saw him flush like this. 

“So, you like it then?” she asked, leaning back a little as he shifted forward on the bench. For once, he wasn’t wearing his cumbersome armor and his hands were bare which only made her skin tingle when he lifted them to her waist and began to stroke his fingers up and down her sides. 

“It’s...” he peered up at her, hazel eyes dark and a wicked smile pulling at the corners of his lips, “appealing.” He shrugged a shoulder, exhaling a breath close to her belly that caused excitement to ripple through her. He reached for the ends of the long sleeves and easily tugged them down her arms and let them fall to the floor. He slid his hands beneath the light skirts and started to stroke up and down the backs of her thighs, all the while watching her and slowly pressing his mouth to her abdomen to kiss. “I like it on you.”

“Mhm...” Phaedra sighed, raking her fingers through his silver hair and shifting her weight from one hip to the other. “I thought you might.”

Thancred’s mouth moved lower, the fingers of one hand leaving her thigh to try and work the fasten of the gold chain that hung across her stomach. “Doesn’t seem conducive to defense.” The chain dropped to the ground with a tinkling sound. 

“It’s more for--” Phaedra paused at the sensation of his teeth nipping her hip, “f-for performance.” 

“Performance...?” he repeated, looking up at her face with a lazy grin. Phaedra took a deep breath and could feel the heat of her face spilling down her neck and chest. “Do you give private performances?”

Chapter Text

The air felt different.

For the first time since her liberation from Eulmore, the air and the sky and the aether all around her felt different. It moved differently. Spoke differently. There was excitement and power and something new and unspoken that was spreading through Norvrandt.

Something unnamed that Minfilia had only been slightly aware of, until a moment ago. That moment when the sensation shot through her like a bullet from Thancred’s gunblade, causing her to jolt upright from her bedroll. She was shaking and breathing as though she had just been sprinting. Panting so hard her chest ached and was tight. There was cold sweat on her brow, and her skin was covered in prickles.

Glancing to her side, she saw Thancred still asleep and undisturbed by her sudden awakening. Forcing herself to breathe more evenly, she rose from her bedroll as silent as she could, wincing at every sound that was louder than a whisper. Once on her feet, she paced a few fulms from the campsite, peering up at the darkened sky of Lakeland. 

“So this is what the Light was hiding...”

A sight she had never seen in person before, and only read about in books. The millions of tiny stars staring back at her, and the fresh breeze that enveloped her did little to settle the excited, jittery, nervous feeling fluttering around her body. 

Something had happened. Something immense. Something unknown. Something she knew she had to be a part of. Something... Someone. Someone was there. Someone she felt she had been waiting for. Someone she knew she needed to meet... and someone she knew she would know at first glance. A yearning feeling took over the ache; like finally, finally she would find answers to questions she had asked years and years ago. 

Glancing back over her shoulder at Thancred’s still sleeping form, Minfilia took a breath and steeled herself.

“She’s here. I must go to her.”

Chapter Text

Night was returned to Norvrandt. Vauthry was gone, as were his Sin Eaters; and those under his sway no longer were. Emet-Selch was defeated. The Rejoining of the First to the Source had been thwarted, and life continued on in Norvrandt. 

Phaedra missed her anonymity. She used to be able to walk around the Crystarim as just another drah. People would smile if they noticed her, but that was it. Some recognised her as a friend of the Exarch; but beyond that she was just another person making the Crystarium her home. 

Now, everyone knew her as the Warrior of Darkness. Everyone knew she was in part responsible for Vauthry’s defeat, the return of night, and the end of the Sin Eaters. People either avoided her, as if she was too awesome to look directly at. Or they crowded her. Where there were friendly smiles before, people now took to bowing or curtsying when she happened by - despite her protestations that it wasn’t necessary. 

“What did you expect?” G’raha offered her a sandwich as she paced the Ocular. Apart from her room in the Pendants, this was the only place she felt comfortable enough to let off steam. “You’re the reason Norvrandt still stands.”

“But it wasn’t just me.” Phaedra replied. She grabbed the sandwich, took an aggressive bite and continued around her mouthful, “I mean, I haffn’t seen ahnyone bow tuh the others.”

G’raha simply smiled, “they only want to show you their gratitude.”

“I know.” She swallowed and sat beside him heavily. “But I miss the simple smiles. I can hardly talk to anyone without them clamming up or getting over-excited... It’s like being back in the Source.”

“Ah,” said G’raha. “And there is the crux of the matter.”

She threw him a side-long look. “Is it so bad that I miss being a nobody adventurer? That I miss just being Phaedra, rather than having monikers in place of my name?”

“Of course not,” his ears twitched as he listened, betraying his feelings of sympathy. “I understand the desire for simplicity. The responsibility heaped upon you because of your gift and your deeds must be... challenging.”

“It...” Phaedra tutted. Challenging wasn’t the right word. Back in the Source, people looked to her for all kinds of remedies and solutions to problems that arose. Beastmen trying to summon a Primal? Call the Primal Slayer. Ascian’s running amok? Get the Warrior of Light. Lyse needing support for Ala Mhigo? Get the Liberator of Doma. It was never ending. “There are a lot of them.” She said finally and took another bite of her sandwich. “I’m not ungrateful for their thanks... but that’s all I want. All I could ask for. Their gratitude and that they live their lives.”

“But they react to you as though you are a walking God?”

“It’s like the way the people in Eulmore reacted to Vauthry. Like they were thralls, hanging on his every word, in awe of him and subject to his every whim...” she stretched her legs out looking across at the opposing crystal wall, focusing on nothing. “I’m no one special. Not really. I don’t deserve to be treated like I am, and more to the point, I don’t want to be treated that way... It was nice to be no one.”

G’raha placed a gentle hand upon her shoulder, his mouth curled into a warm smile. “I will do what I can; spread the word that perhaps they save their veneration for privacy.”

She snorted, “just start with asking them not to bow or curtsy if they see me.”

"Very well,” G’raha nodded and squeezed her shoulder, “I’ll start there... but, give them time. I’m sure very soon everyone will return to treating you as just another person.”

As far as Phaedra was concerned, that time couldn’t come soon enough. 

 

Chapter Text

Minfilia was easily spotted among the plants and the darkness of the Hortorium. Her blonde hair practically glowed and as Phaedra approached, she noticed her crystalline blue eyes were glassy and she was staring at nothing. 

Sighing, Phaedra gently called her name which startled her from her trance. Before she met Phaedra’s gaze, she turned away, rubbed her face and then faced her. Phaedra pretended not to notice how out of sorts she was. 

“Thancred said you’d come to get some herbs?” she said. She had left him recovering from his wounds in the spagyrics under the expert care of Chessamile. 

Minfilia nodded her confirmation. “I’m waiting for them to gather them now…”

“Mhm.” Phaedra stood at her side, swaying on the balls of her feet and glancing around. Exactly what Thancred wanted her to say to Minfilia she didn’t know… He needed to speak to her himself, not send an emissary in his stead, but he knew that. He just didn’t know how to speak to her; or how to overcome his own stubbornness. “What were you looking at?” inquired Phaedra after they stood in silence for a few minutes.

“The flowers.” She said, pointing to a plant in front of her. Large dark green leaves, lined with white and blooms of deep, deep purple. “Some of them are dying…” Phaedra could see a few of the blossoms were indeed wilting and browning around the edges. 

“Well, everything has it’s cycle.” She held her hands behind her back. There was more Minfilia was holding within herself. More Phaedra could sense she wanted to say. She took a deep breath and scuffed the toe of her shoe on the ground. “That was… quite frightening. All those Sin Eaters.” Glancing at Minfilia she noticed her clench her hands together before her. “Are you alright?”

Minfilia opened her mouth, closed it, and then opened it again her brows creasing. “Thancred got hurt because of me.” She stated. “Because I’m not strong enough.”

“I understand he took a blow for you because you were protecting Captain Lyna.” Phaedra gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze, “that’s a very brave thing to do. And Thancred wasn’t badly hurt.”

“I wish he would just come out and say he hates me.” Declared Minfilia, a strength to her voice that was uncharacteristic. A strength, but also a quiver to the tone. “I wish he could just admit it! I know he does. He doesn’t have to pretend!”

“Minfilia…” 

“I’m just a burden to him. I make trouble. I’m always in the way. He only keeps me around because he feels he has too. It would be different if I was her. If–”

“Listen to me,” Phaedra pulled her into her arms, hugging her as as tight as she could. To her surprise, Minfilia returned the embrace. “Thancred does not hate you. Of that I have no doubt.” Stroking her blonde hair, Phaedra noticed she was trembling a little. She pulled back from the hug to see Minfilia’s face and offered a warm smile in response to her flushed cheeks and watery eyes. “He’s stubborn and can be pig-headed, but he doesn’t hate you. He’s just… not very good with emotions or at articulating how he feels.”

Minfilia wiped her cheeks with the palm of her hand. “I want him to be honest with me. To tell me the truth.”

“I know,” Phaedra tucked a tuft of hair behind Minfilia’s ear, “I know what it’s like to want that honesty. To crave that knowledge of what is going on inside someone’s head, but Thancred holds his feelings so close to his chest because… He doesn’t want them to be used against him… He doesn’t want those attachments to be used by someone who wants to do him or those he loves harm.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“He doesn’t hate you.” Phaedra repeated, avoiding the question Minfilia put to her. Truth was, she wasn’t entirely sure of Thancred’s motives or why he was so brusque at times towards Minfilia, but she also knew that shouting at him or confronting him would only cause him to close up and keep more secrets. “He’s just… He’s Thancred.”

Minfilia wiped her eyes again, her cheeks now a darker reddish hue and ruddy from where she rubbed them. “I wish I knew what to say. What he wanted me to do. I know he wants me to be more like his Minfilia and I’m trying, but…”

“Don’t try to be anyone but who you are,” Phaedra dropped her voice and spoke with a more serious tone. “The person you are is enough. You’re growing, and learning… and the fact is, no one will ever replace Minfilia in his eyes or in his heart, and you shouldn’t try to. Just focus on being you… and Thancred will… He’ll…” Phaedra tutted, her tail flicking back and forth annoyed with her pause. 

“Thancred will learn to accept it?” Minfilia offered, her voice tentative.

“Exactly.” Nodded Phaedra, “He’s stubborn and hard headed at times… But if he hated you, I promise you would know.”

Chapter Text

For the first time in moons, or perhaps years, Thancred awoke feeling rested. His limbs did not ache or feeling heavy, and his mind was clear. There was no immediate regret of being awake; rather there was a peacefulness to it and a contentment that willed him to stay in the blankets and rest a while longer...

It was a tempting thought, and one he would entertain once he ascertained the location of the woman he fell asleep with. He only needed to sit up, the blankets pooling in his lap and glance across to the open window to locate her. Outside there was a misty haze of light. Pastel pinks, oranges and yellows stained the sky, bleeding into each other as the sun began its slow ascend above the horizon. 

Phaedra was sitting on the window seat, the flowers on the small balcony swaying in a light breeze that teased tendrils of her hair around her face and horns. She clutched her knees, her tail lazily draping down to the ground. She wore a quaint, somewhat sleepy smile; her eyes half-hooded and her head against the window frame. 

Thancred climbed out of bed, treading silently towards her. His movement caught her attention and her gaze turned to him. 

“G’morning,” the quaint smile on her face grew, becoming more affectionate. 

“Good morning,” he approached, kissed the top of her head and then knelt beside her. “You’re looking very happy.” He lifted one of her hands from where she was holding her knees and kissed her knuckles. Phaedra chuckled and rant that same hand back through his hair. He leaned closer, perching his chin on her knee. 

“I am happy.” Phaedra remarked, releasing a slow breath. 

“Mhm?” Thancred ran his fingers up and down her bare shin. 

“Vauthry is gone. Emet-Selch is gone. The Sin Eaters are gone. G’ra-- The Crystal Exarch is back where he belongs... We stopped the Rejoining... There’s day and night back in Norvrandt...” Phaedra listed each item on her fingers, “there are so many reasons to be happy.”

“I agree.” He peered out through the window. The sun was a little further up now, the pale pinks of the morning sky giving way to oranges and soft, warming yellow rays. “I didn’t realise how much I missed the sunrise.” He said, chuckling to himself. “Being here so long, I became accustomed to the constant light... It’s... gratifying to see the sun set and rise again.”

“Mhmm...” Phaedra stretched her legs a little and curled a tuft of his silver hair back behind his ear. Her gaze on him was soft, warm, full of her quiet affection for him; then she turned her eyes back to the sky outside. “It’s a pretty beautiful sunrise, isn’t it?”

Thancred watched her watching the miracle occurring beyond the window. Light illuminated her face, created gem-like glints in her eyes, and highlight an array of colour in her hair that was so often hidden from view. Something in his chest squeezed around his heart and that same sensation made a contented feeling settle in his belly. He rose up on his knees and kissed her cheek. “Radiant.” He agreed, nuzzling the side of her head with his temple. 

Phaedra’s hand curled around the back of his neck, a soft, breathless laugh rising from her throat. “Are you talking about me, or the sunrise?”

Thancred smiled, drawing close enough that he could bury his face into her neck and begin littering butterfly kisses on her skin and scales, “perhaps you are the sunrise.” She laughed again, allowing him to lead her to her feet by taking her hands in his. He then placed her hands on his shoulders for her and dipped his head, claiming her mouth in a brief, warm kiss. “Come back to bed.” 

“When the sun is up.” Phaedra brushed her nose against his and turned within his embrace to continue watching the sky. Thancred tightened his arms around her waist, standing close behind her and resting his chin on top of her head. She stroked her hands along his arms, and they stood together in companionable silence, watching the radiant sun dawn on Norvrandt’s future.