You can't hear what you don't want to listen to. Stefan realises this applies to nobody more than Soren. He just wants to save a friend from pain, but for once, the strategist won't listen to reason. Implied Ike/Soren. One-sided Stefan/Soren if you squint.
The meeting ended more quickly than usual - you thought it would seemd to last longer, at least. The laguz are first out of the tent. Of course, they ignore you. You'd counted on that. The beorc won't be able to sense you in the shadows, not unless they're looking. And none of them would think to look. Titania exits next, her stride heavy with purpose as always. Then comes the princess, her hands held together as she gazes at the commander. As ever, he remains oblivious. He always has been. Beside the commander, falling slightly behind, is Soren.
You walk up to him, your longer legs enabling you to quickly catch him up. He pretends not to notice you, though you know he has. You observe his pace gradually slow, allowing him to fall back behind both Ike and the princess. It is only then that he turns to face you. "Might I help you?" His brisk tone no longer surprises you. You've known him too well for too long.
"You can help me to help yourself." Soren narrows his eyes at you, glaring intensely. Of course. Soren has never been the sort to accept help, nor desire it. He despises pity. Perhaps you ought to try a different tack. "The princess seems to be getting on well with the commander of late."
Soren's gaze redirects to the couple in question, and you hear a small sigh escape him. But this barely has time to register before he's facing you once more, his expression completely neutral. "Yes. Everyone seems headed for a pay rise if they continue as they are doing." To your surprise, Soren allows himself a small smile. "There's talk of her doubling out payment, though of course Ike's having none of it."
"It would seem he's having none of anything. I've never seen anyone so oblivious." You try to keep a light-hearted tone in your voice.
Soren gives a nonchalant shrug. "It's not something Ike would ever consider. That world has been closed to him since birth. He cannot imagine being a noble, so he finds it equally impossible that one could ever fall in love with him."
You smirk. "And it's not exactly in your interests to point it out, is it?"
You notice his fingers tighten around the tome he is holding. "No, it isn't. Without Ike, the Greil Mercenaries are nothing, and I have nowhere else to go."
He knows that isn't what you meant, but you decide to play along for now. Let him skirt around the issue a while longer. You'll get him in the end. "You have the Grann desert. You'll be welcomed there." You pause to let it sink in.
"I am welcome here," Soren argues.
You shake your head slowly. "We both know that isn't true, Soren. You have no more of a place among beorc than I do. There is nothing here for you."
"There is everything." His voice is so small, so close to breaking, that you wish you could just reach out and embrace him. But you know all too well that there is only one person in the world that Soren will allow to do such things, and you are not him.
Instead, you place your hand on his shouder. He tenses, but does not brush you away. "That is why I worry for you. We are not beorc, Soren. Our lifespans may not rival those of the laguz, but we will still far outlive these mercenaries. Can you stand to grow attached to someone, only to have them pass away before you? Can you then live on after they are gone?"
Soren does not answer. Perhaps he has none. Or perhaps he has one that he refuses to admit. The one that you have been trying to drill into him for nearly three years now. Finally, he decides to speak. "I...must. I have no choice in the matter. I have a duty here."
"I hope it is duty." Sorrow echoes in your voice. "Better duty than some farcical hope of what can never be."
He turns to face you, eyes redder than you remember them. "Ike doesn't care about that." Strange how he can read implications far better than he can straight speech.
"You told him you were Branded?" Soren nods. This surprises you greatly. "You never seemed the type to trust a beorc - or anyone, for that matter." You try not to let bitterness show, though you find it difficult to believe that Soren would choose someone other than his own kind to confide in.
His next words explain everything. "Ike isn't a beorc. Ike is Ike. Ike will always be Ike. No matter what happens."
You look at him and find his face set in determination. "Even Ike will die eventually, Soren."
"...As will I," Soren says simply, turning and walking away. You don't bother to follow him. You know his mind is already made up, and with someone as stubborn as he is, it would be pointless trying to change it. It is enough that Soren knows precisely what he is getting into. This, at least, assures you that to Soren, Ike is worth the heartbreak. He knows what will happen. He doesn't need you to tell him any more. For that, Soren deserves these brief moments of happiness. Somehow, you no longer have the strength to break his world.