asherien: (Default)
[personal profile] asherien
Title: The Boy in the Shadows
Genre: angst
Fandom: Fire Emblem 10
Characters/pairings: Pelleas, Almedha
Summary/prompt: FE Contest Challenge#12: Vanity. Based more around the lyrics of the song than the word "vanity", but also has the sense of things done in vain. Also - my first official non-kink-meme Tellius fic. (I might repost the kinky one I did some time.)

She traces the lines on her son's face from her place in the distant shadows, the dark creases on his furrowed brow, the soft pinching at the corners of his clenched lips, as he dips his pen into the inkwell and slowly goes about his work in the waning candlelight. She cannot help but notice how his hand, so much larger than she imagined his hands might be, quakes as it drags the quill across the paper, or how he stops every once in a while to clench at his thick midnight hair, so like his father's, and sigh. Were there any justice in the world, she would be able to lift him up into her arms, cradle him to her breast and whisper in his ears, hush, my darling, everything is fine. Mother is here. But there is no justice, for the days for her have been years for him, and she will never hold her babe as she so dearly longs to.

She approaches in silence, letting him carry on with his scratching and sighing in some semblance of peace, before touching his shoulder and murmuring his name. Ink hits the floor as he recoils and screams like a child in the throes of a night terror. He stares at her agape for a moment, breaths coming in short, ragged gasps as if she is some hideous creature come to devour him whole, before finally speaking.

“M-Mother. I'm sorry. You frightened me.”

He is still trembling as she draws him close to her and runs her fingers along his clammy cheek. “There's no need to be afraid,” she murmurs, but he does not relax in her grip as she imagines he should. She presses her lips to his temple and pets his free hand, but resists the urge to touch the too-thick wrist she knows is marked. “It's safe here with me. You know that, don't you?”

“Of course, Mother,” he replies, and at last, he relaxes, just a little. She feels his tense muscles slacken against her as he lets the pen fall on the ink-stained letter, addressed to one of Begnion's dogs. She lets her fingers tangle in his dark hair and stares at his eyes, trying to spot a fleck of familiar red in their depths before he closes them and sighs again. “I. . . I just have a lot on my mind. Please forgive me.”

“You mustn't worry so much, my son. Whatever is bothering you, it can wait for now, can't it?” He doesn't open his eyes to look at her; instead, he pulls away and bends to pick up the emptied inkwell and stare ruefully at the stains on the rich, gaudy rug. “Can't it wait?” she prods again, as he presses his hand to the edge of the ink and lets it stain his fingertips black.

“I'm a terrible king, Mother.”

“Don't say that – ”

He looks up at her, finally, dark eyes at last catching the red of the candle's flickering flame, but she cannot smile at the sight, even as he shakes his head and softly laughs. “I am the worst king Daein has ever seen.” He sits up, the inkwell clenched tight in his quaking fist, and turns away from her again.

“No, my son. Look, look what you have done for Daein! You are a wonderful king; you've given all of Daein hope for freedom.” She reaches out to pull him close again, to stroke his hair and cheeks and murmur his name softly in his ears like a lullaby as she imagines she would have when he was small enough to envelop in her arms. The ink from his fingers leaves little black crescents on her sleeve as he pushes her arm away and recoils beneath her gaze.

Micaiah has given them hope. I've only ruined it.” He shoves the papers away and buries his face in his hands, shielding his eyes from his mother's view. She has never seen him so distraught – it was his stoicism, his quiet voice, his calm in the face of the ghastliest deeds, that made her know he was of her blood. No Goldoan would ever hold his head in his hands and fight off shameful tears as she watches her son do now. “Everything she's done, for Daein, for me, it's all been in vain.”

She does not pry, or try to coax him into saying more, for she knows he'll confess to nothing, that this burst of weakness may be the only one she ever sees. Despite his resistance, she wraps her arms around his slim shoulders – he was always small, small even for a babe, that much she remembers – and hums the tune of an old Goldoan lullaby, one of the few written at all. Dragon children are not known for their tears. He shudders and chokes beneath her as she sings of the stars, the moon, the oceans, the plains, all the endless beauty the goddess made perfect long before she made beorc or laguz.

“Please, Mother, leave me,” he says at last as he shrugs free of her tight grip and lets his head fall to the desk. She does not want to, for what sort of mother would leave her son in distress? But she does not know how to soothe him. Even the sweetest of lies is not enough for his ears; to try again would be only an exercise in vanity. She draws her arms close to herself and leaves in the same silence she came in, imagining as if she does not hear her grown son sob as she closes the door to the study behind her.

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July 2011

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