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to each future

Chapter Text

There is a history, Robin thinks, in the way her mind works.

There is a story behind her very first instinct, when faced with Frederick’s stern, distrusting frown, to avert her eyes and keep her head down. There may be a gaping hole where her memory should be, but there is something to be said about how her skin is darker than his and the two he claims to watch over — her eyes a different shape, the swirling blacks and purples of her clock clashing with the soft blues and yellows they wear.

There is little time to dwell on it, however, when bandits threaten to raze the nearby village to the ground. The bandits have darker skin like her, and the man that leads them narrows his eyes at her, and it occurs to her that: oh, I’m one of them. Still, the crackle of thunder magic under her fingers is familiar, and her mind isn’t so shot that she can’t see that the right thing to do, here, would be to help those that have helped her.

Frederick’s still frowning at her, suspicion and distrust plain on his face even as the bandit leader grabs her by the hood of her cloak and holds his axe up to her throat.

Chrom’s expression is thunderous as he stops in his tracks, his sword clutched tightly in both hands. “Now, now, sheepy,” says the bandit, pressing the axe’s blade into her neck — not so hard that it draws blood, but enough that it leaves her painfully aware of its existence. Lissa stands a little ways behind her brother, her hands pressed to her mouth and her eyes wide in horror. “Let’s not be too hasty. This here’s one of ours, see? So just let us go, nice and easy, and we’ll take this one off your hands.”

There is a story, Robin thinks, in how her first instinct is to flee.

Then, Frederick catches her eye. He moves slowly, but not so slow that the bandit doesn’t see and press the axe further into her throat. This time, it does draw blood — a few drops that she can feel trickling into her shirt. Her breath catches in her throat, and her head goes oddly light, and she wonders if she’ll faint before he kills her.

—but Frederick unsheathes the sword at his belt, and bends down as if to set it on the ground — but then it slides over to her, and she grabs it with both hands before the bandit can register what has just happened. The weight of the blade in her hands is familiar; the feeling of it slicing through flesh is not. It leaves her shaking and vaguely nauseated, and for a horrifying instant, she can’t hear the bandit’s scream, or Lissa’s exclamations of surprise at her ability with, apparently, both swords and magic.

—but then there’s Chrom, right in front of her. There’s one of his hands gripping hers, and the other around her back as he pulls her to her feet. She holds on for perhaps a moment longer than she should, her knees shaking so much that she’ll probably fall right back down if she lets go.

Ylisstol is no more familiar to her than Southtown, or the field in which she awoke. Her hands are unbound as she follows Chrom and Lissa through the streets, but the people keep their distance anyway.

For now, she’s a deserter of the Plegian army, who maybe hit her head hard enough to forget this very important facet of her identity. It’s a simple enough explanation that makes a surprising amount of sense — it explains why she looks different, why her clothes are different, why she knows just enough of magic and swordsmanship to hold her own in a fight. (It doesn’t explain why she speaks with the same accent as Chrom, and not that of the bandits that had tried to raze Southtown to the ground.)

She waits at the palace, hands bunching at the black and purple fabric of her cloak, and wonders if it could really be so simple. “All right?” Chrom asks — as if this is something that can be answered so easily.

But he’s smiling at her, and though she has to take a second to remind herself that this is the person to whom she owes her life, she exhales slowly and answers, “I’m fine.”

“Forgive me,” he says. “It just seemed as if... as if you were dealing with some unpleasant thoughts.”

She wonders if it would be all right to tell him that there’s no way to tell for sure that she even existed, before he found her in that field — how he’d always have a “before Robin” period of his life but she would never have a “before Chrom.” It’s something she can only barely articulate herself, and though the weight of it threatens to choke her, she can’t be paralyzed by it — not here, when her maybe saviors, maybe captors hold her life in their hands.

“There was a war,” he explains. “Years ago, my father invaded Plegia and slaughtered its king. We thought... we thought that, perhaps, they were simply retaliating for what we did to them, but now they’ve gone too far. Emm doesn’t think we should fight back any more than necessary, but the people need to know that we’re here to protect them.”

She wonders what it means to fight a war — to hold all of those lives in your hands, to arbitrate which ones are worth preserving and which deserve to be erased. She wonders what it means for her to look so much like their enemy — and why hers, apparently, is a life that Chrom considers worth preserving.

“I can’t tell you what they believe, Chrom,” she says.

“Nor am I asking you to,” he retorts. “Whatever your origins may be, I will not ask you to speak for an entire kingdom — least of all, one you do not remember.” He closes his eyes, and inhales deeply. “I will ask, however, that you continue to aid us. I’m not so naive that I believe that skirmish in Southtown will be the last of its kind.”

“Of course,” she answers, and doesn’t even have to think about it.

Chrom smiles, nodding slightly, and she wonders if he would have been disappointed if she were to refuse. “Thank you, Robin.”