Memory shot. He'll never grow any older. Nor does he want to. He wants it to stay like this forever. But for every happy ending, there are countless hopes destroyed - a trail of shattered chances, of what might have been. Oneshot. Ike/Soren.
The commander is grey now, though no less lively for it. A few streaks of blue still remain. Soren can see that. Though with the way he acts, it’s quite possible he can’t see it at all. In Soren’s mind, Ike is just…Ike. No longer the commander, but always the friend. Always the cheerful, determined, straightforward man that he fell in love with so long ago. He may have changed on the outside, but Soren has never worried about insignificant things like that. For Soren, Ike is unchanged.
But Soren has changed as well. He has noticed that, though very slowly. He doubts he will ever rival Ike’s height, as he appears to have stopped growing, but he is nearly at his friend’s shoulder now. His face has changed, too. His forehead seems narrower in proportion, his face less round. And his expression. Soren’s smiles are no longer rare. That is perhaps the most noticeable change, though there must be several dozen others.
Some things, however, never change. Ike still relies on Soren to be perfectly blunt about his opinions. Soren still trusts Ike to realise when he is hiding something. Somehow, Ike always knows where the line is and when to cross it. And he always ends up crossing it. Soren is used to that by now. Forgiveness comes a lot easier these days, sometimes with just the whisper of a word.
Soren still wakes up at the break of dawn - old habits die hard - but often with a comforting arm around him. He never bothers to disturb Ike. He used to watch him sleeping, watch the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathed - but by now he knows it too well for watching to be necessary. Most mornings he spends deep in thought. Often, he casts his mind back to everything that they left behind, to all of the people that they had once known.
As wandering mercenaries, there had never been a true home for them. The closest they had ever come had been their original base, destroyed during the war. But Soren understands that for Ike, no place could ever be called home - only people. And he knows that after everything they went through, the Greil mercenaries were home to Ike. He often wonders why Ike left his home behind. For Soren, this is the only life he has ever known - running from one place to the next, taking nothing with him and leaving everything behind. He thinks that something in Ike needs this kind of life now. That something in Ike needed to let go of everything and just run.
During the war, Ike fought for the memory of his father - a memory that died along with the Black Knight. Soren knows that despite what he says, Ike will never be able to remember his father in the same way again. The memories of both his parents are tarnished now. This is part of the reason that Ike runs. Mostly, Ike runs because he can. He runs because he has the freedom to do so. Ike has never been one to be tied down to duty, let alone suffer the embarrassment of being made a noble. He has already been made a hero. And while this is no more than he deserves, Soren knows it is more than he can stand. He knows that Ike would much rather be a nobody. It’s simpler that way.
Even after so many years, Soren still remembers Shinon’s reaction to this. Worse still, that Ike was leaving Titania in charge of the mercenaries. Shinon had seen it as intolerable, called Ike an ‘insolent whelp’. He had ranted on for length about how disgraceful it was that Ike had been made a hero and the rest of the mercenaries’ efforts ignored - and how impertinent it was of Ike to leave now that he had fame and glory. “And girls,” Gatrie had added.
Soren often wonders if there is any truth in that. Certainly, Ike found favour from Elincia. The princess had been smitten with him from the start. Given time, though, things change. The last that Soren has heard is that the Crimean queen married Geoffrey. There had been quite a commotion over her marrying a commoner, but Geoffrey was a high-ranking knight, and this was acceptable enough for most. When Soren last asked around, the royal couple were still waiting for a child. Soren is glad about this. Inside, he knows that had there been a quick birth, he would never have had peace of mind. Without seeing the child, there would be the constant worry that it belonged to Ike.
Mia, too - Soren is sure that she had some sort of romantic involvement with Ike, though he doubts that it was ever requited. He remembers the young myrmidon growing increasingly close to Rhys, as well. He wonders if they ever made anything of it in the end, though he finds it difficult to imagine the fierce young woman with the timid little priest. The thought makes him smile. He finds it strange that he has grown closer to everyone since leaving them. He wonders whether Ike has found something similar. Though as commander, he was a lot closer to them to begin with, Soren reasons.
And then, almost without realising, Soren’s thoughts turn to those that he left behind. There weren’t many - not too long ago, he would have argued none at all - but one or two made a lasting impact. That’s as close as it gets with Soren. There was Ranulf, more Ike’s friend than his own. Judging by the political situation between Gallia and Crimea, Soren thinks that Ranulf will still be aiding the country, helping to rebuild relations between the two races. Soren knows it will take a long time for this to feasibly happen, if it ever does. But Ranulf will outlive Soren by many decades, possibly even seeing it through to the end. And Soren is glad that it is Ranulf doing so, because he has a light heart reminiscent of Ike’s. Besides, somebody needs to keep Skrimir in line.
There is another that Soren remembers. A tall swordsman with understanding eyes and a curious mark on his chest. Soren remembers Stefan, not for the brutal words of truth - for Soren could not blame him for the harshness of tone that he was equally guilty of - but for attempting to make Soren see sense, even if it hurt. Even if, ultimately, he had failed. Soren remembers on the day of Ike’s announcement that Stefan had nodded at him. Go on, then. Go with him if you have to. Stefan was willing to give Soren a shot at his own happiness, even if he didn’t approve. For that, Soren remembers Stefan as the best of those left behind. He wonders if Stefan is still with the other Branded in the desert. He thinks it unlikely to be otherwise. Soren thinks that Stefan cares more about the rest of their kind than he does about himself sometimes.
With a low murmur from beside him, Soren is jolted from his memories. He realises that neither he nor Ike are very good at running, because they haven’t left everything behind at all. There are still the unfading memories of the mercenaries, the nobles, the laguz and everybody else caught up in that mad war together. Nor have they taken nothing with them - because, Soren realises with a small smile, they’ve taken each other. He knows as well as Stefan does that his days with Ike are numbered, though he doesn’t dwell on the thought. Since they left Tellius, Soren has learnt not to worry about the past or the future. He knows there is no use reminiscing about everything that has come to pass already, or to wonder about what might be yet to come.
After all, he spent most of his life just dreaming that he might one day be here.