traincat: (Default)
[personal profile] traincat
title: between the lines
series: Fire Emblem 9/10
pairing: Ike/Soren
rating: PG
notes: For [personal profile] amielleon. h/c coldfic, modern AU, basically 300% schmoop. Seriously, I'm not kidding. It's all either touching or like, longing glances and a lot wanting to touch. Respectable reading, this is not. (Although apparently Ammie says otherwise.) Happy late Valentine's Day, Ammie. ♥

(Also I kind of wanted to read this over a few more times and maybe tinker with it a bit but uh if you've talked to me tonight you've probably heard, but I'm having ~computer issues~, so I wanted this up already in case they got worse.)





The cough started on Thursday. It wasn’t deep, but it was nagging, and it dogged Ike from class to work and then from work back to the apartment. It announced his arrival when he had to pause in the doorway, fist raised to his mouth, sound echoing in the narrow hallway.

The distant click-clack of Soren’s fingers on the keyboard stilled, then resumed.

Ike hung up his thin jacket and the scarf Mist had given him for the holidays.

--

He ached in the morning, head throbbing and shoulders stiff. He’d woken up a few times during the night, unusual for him, but Soren’s cold feet against his calves and the noise from outside had made it easy to ignore the scratch in his throat and the itch in his lungs, lulled him back to him sleep.

Soren was gone already, doubtlessly on his way to his first class.

Ike stumbled his way through a quick shower, water cold in an unsuccessful attempt to clear his head, and a quicker breakfast. He felt too big for their small apartment, bumping his shoulder against the doorway and nearly swinging the cabinet door straight into his head.

He didn’t fare much better outside, but at least the fresh air was cool against his face on his walk to the bus stop.

--

Soren woke him up in the evening, a cool hand across his forehead. Ike blinked, once then twice, groggy. He was hot but clammy at the same time, his shirt sticking awkwardly at the collar and under his arms. His mouth was dry; he licked his lips and they cracked under his tongue, rough.

Soren frowned. His fingers were cold and Ike missed them when he withdrew, sitting on the edge of the couch with his hip against Ike's side. If Ike wanted, he could reach out and lay a hand on Soren’s skinny knee. He did want, but his hands stayed where they were.

“How long have you been sick?” Soren asked.

“I don’t get sick,” Ike replied. It wasn’t a lie, exactly. He couldn’t remember the last time he was really sick – not the sniffles caught during elementary school or the lone food poisoning incident of senior year –, not well, anyway.

He’d been very young. He knew because he remembered lying in bed while his mother sang to him.

“Hm,” Soren said, raising an eyebrow. “I think your fever disagrees.”

--

Soren pressed two pills into his palm and set a glass of water down on the coffee table.

“Really,” Ike said, scowling a little, “I’m fine.”

Soren crossed his arms and scowled back until Ike swallowed the pills.

“You should sleep,” he said, bending down and reaching out like he was going to brush Ike’s hair back again. His fingers twitched, and then he withdrew. “I… you’ll need fluids. Something to eat.”

“I’m not sick,” Ike said, pressing the heels of his hands over his eyes. He let his hands drop after a minute, just as Soren was coming back in through the kitchen doorway. He had that look on his face, the one he got when something wasn’t going to according to plan.

Ike hated that look; he always wanted to take Soren’s face between his hands and wipe the frustration away, somehow, thumbs trailing across Soren’s cheekbones. He’d done that once and Soren had shivered beneath his touch, eyes falling closed, and Ike could see it now in sudden hot-cold rush.

His head spun and he pitched forward, coughing into his fist more out of a need to do something than anything else.

Soren watched him with his mouth a narrow line, lips pressed together until they were bloodless.

“I need to go out,” he said, taking Ike’s old football hoodie from the back of the couch.

Ike started to rise. “I’ll go with you.”

Soren was in front of him in an instant. He laid his hand against the center of Ike’s chest, long pale fingers a comforting weight through Ike’s t-shirt. He pushed; Soren wasn’t strong enough to move Ike around, not if Ike didn’t want to be moved, but he went with the motion anyway.

He sat back down heavily and Soren huffed out a sigh. He shrugged on the hoodie – it hung past his thighs and the tips of his fingers, laughably big in the shoulders.

“I’ll only be gone a little while,” he said. “You should try and rest.”

He took a step towards the door, and then hesitated. He doubled back and grabbed the remote from the top of the television, leaving it next to Ike. Ike, in turn, grabbed Soren’s wrist as he pulled back, curling his fingers underneath the hoodie’s sleeve.

Soren’s wrists were thin and Ike could fit his hand around them easily, but he just pressed his thumb against the soft skin, stroking over the bone.

“It’s raining,” he said. Soren’s wrist slipped from underneath his fingertips and he was watching Ike, eyes guarded underneath his lashes. “Take my bus pass.”

--

Ike slept fitfully. He woke often, and every time he was convinced that hours had gone by, that Soren was still gone and he’d start to struggle to his feet, to go out and find him, before catching sight of the clock.

In the end he turned the game on and half-watched, lying on his side with his feet hanging off the edge of the couch. Daein’s Butchers versus Begnion’s Dracoknights, at the Dracoknights’ hometown stadium in Sienne.

Boyd had invited him over to watch it earlier in the day. Ike’s head had already been throbbing at the temples and he’d grunted out some excuse, not wanting to spend the afternoon in Boyd’s dorm with Boyd’s roommates.

Even the promise of an Oscar-catered event hadn’t been enough to sway him, sitting in the middle of class feeling like he’d clashed heads with a battering ram.

It would have been different, a few years ago. His father never missed a game, if he could help it. Especially not one this big. He favored Gallia and Crimea, but Daein games were always watched with a special sort of intensity, a hand resting at the crook of his bad arm, kneading the muscle like it pained him.

“You have to really watch Daein play,” he’d say, his voice a deep rumble. Then he’d point at the screen and continue, saying something like, “There, watch that. Did you see Lanvega make that pass?”

Ike’s chest ached in a way that had nothing to do with his pounding headache or the cough that wracked his chest until he felt like he’d been tackled by an entire team. He shut his eyes and turned his face against the sofa cushions.

--

The quiet click of the door roused him half an hour later. He ached in a way he hadn’t since that one game in high school. Being tackled in freezing rain hadn’t been fun. He felt about as warm, too, teeth clinking together.

A hand through his hair, ice-cold fingers against his forehead and scalp.

“Go back to sleep, Ike.”

--

The next time he woke, the game was halfway over, and the Dracoknights’ lead was flailing. Levail knew his strengths and weaknesses and he played to them, but he was no Zelgius. Zelgius had been gone for a year.

He raised himself up on his elbows first and pressed a hand against his face. His head felt filled up with cotton, stuffy and hot.

There were noises coming from the kitchen, clinking sounds and Soren’s quiet, even footsteps. Ike dragged himself up off the couch. His shirt was damp all the way through with sweat, sticking to his stomach; he shucked it, shivering when the air hit his skin.

The kitchen archway was narrow and a little lopsided, higher on the left than the right. Ike had been meaning to fix it, but there’d been school and work and a variety of other things piling up. There were his dad’s tools, still in the garage back home.

He hadn’t been able to bring himself to go get them yet.

Soren stood over the stove, long hair tied back and the sleeves of his shirt bunched up around his elbows. Ike put his hand out against the door jamb and just watched him, following the line of his back and the fall of his hair.

Then the cough snuck up on him again, tickling in his throat before settling square in his chest. Soren turned and frowned.

“You shouldn’t be up,” he said. His eyes flickered over Ike’s chest. “You definitely shouldn’t be shirtless.”

Ike made a noncommittal noise, shoulders hunched as he continued to cough. Soren’s frown deepened; he left the stove and brushed past Ike, moving down the hall and into the bedroom. He came back a moment later with a new shirt, old but clean. Ike took it from him and shrugged it on.

“Are you cooking?” he asked.

“Go lie down,” Soren replied, and Ike supposed that was that.

--

The soup Soren brought out was hot, steam curling up, and Soren’s fingers were pink when he peeled them away, letting the bowl rest on the coffee table. Ike’s gaze lingered on them until Soren slipped out of sight. He tried to follow him, shifting on the couch and staring over his shoulder, but Soren only shot him a look.

Ike turned back to the soup. It tasted mostly of salt, burning his tongue, but he ate it anyway.

Soren came back after a moment with the blanket from their bed. He draped it across Ike’s shoulders, clever fingers overly careful as he tucked in the edges.

“Last time I was really sick, my mom made soup,” Ike said. It was the only clear memory in the haze of his early childhood – his mother’s soft voice singing a lullaby, her cool hands and a bowl of soup.

Soren was quiet for a long moment, settling down on the other side of the couch.

“So you admit you’re actually sick, then,” he said. Ike snorted as best he could considering his sinuses felt filled up with cement.

Ike laughed, bone dry, and it turned into a cough somewhere in the middle.

“Hers was awful, too,” he said around another spoonful. Soren made a noise that might’ve been amused.

“It’s from a can,” he said, sliding Ike a long slow look.

“So was hers,” Ike replied. Soren huffed, not quite a laugh, and it did a better job of warming Ike than the blanket and the soup combined. “My mother could burn water. The soup never stood a chance.”

The couch was narrow. Most of the time it felt far too small for Ike alone, but now Soren sitting on the other end felt like a whole world away. He wanted Soren next to him, pressed up against him or maybe on top of him, all of that slight weight pressing down and reminding Ike that Soren was there.

“Ike?”

He blinked; he’d been staring, he realized belatedly. Soren was staring back, concern open on his face, and that ached more than all the coughing, the pounding headache, left a bitter taste in his mouth.

“I’m fine,” he said. Soren didn’t look convinced. He amended, “I’ll be fine.”

Soren nodded. Ike’s bowl was mostly empty, nothing left at the bottom but the salty dregs of broth, so he put it down on the coffee table. He switched the game back on, more out of a need for noise than anything else.

Begnion was leading, but Daein was close behind. Ike watched as Levail fumbled the ball. The camera panned over Jarod’s face, angry to say the least, and then back over the field. The screen was bright and Ike ended up leaning back against the couch, head back, eyes closed.

After a few moments, he felt Soren shift closer. Then there were those cold fingers again, ghosting over his face. Ike kept still and Soren pressed the back of his hand against his forehead, and then his neck.

A lock of Soren’s hair slipped free and tickled his cheek; he made a noise in spite of himself.

Soren pulled back like he’d been burned. Ike wrapped a hand around his arm, reeling him back in.

“Come here,” he said, and then frowned and let go. “No, wait. Don’t. Probably contagious.”

Soren huffed again. His hands came to rest on Ike’s chest, tentative, thumb brushing his collarbone.

“I don’t care,” he said.

“I care,” Ike replied. Soren shot him a look, sharp and even and just like the kind he used when Ike got them lost on the road. He spread his fingers wide on Ike’s chest.

“Ike. If you want me to be close to you, then,” he said, “that’s what I’ll do.”

Ike swallowed; his throat ached, but he couldn’t be sure it was the cold talking.

“Of course I want that,” he said.

--

Ike awoke to a half-lit room. The television was off and it was dark outside the windows, but the hallway light was still on and it filtered softly across the floor.

Soren was stretched out underneath him, Ike’s head pillowed on his bony shoulder. He had one arm around Ike’s back, skinny fingers spread out over his side, thumb moving in small circles. Not asleep, then.

“What time is it?” Ike asked, lips moving against the fabric of Soren’s shirt. Soren’s thumb stilled, then resumed those little circles, pressing in a little harder. Ike groaned; his eyes slipped shut again.

“Late,” Soren replied.

“How late?” Ike pressed. Soren pressed the back of his free hand to Ike’s forehead, just the barest ghost of a touch.

“Very late,” Soren said. “I think your fever’s broken.”

Ike made a noise of assent, more an excuse to move his lips against Soren’s skinny chest than anything else. “Probably one of those twenty-four hour bugs, huh?”

Mist had come down with those a lot, when she’d been little. Ike remembered her trailing around the house with a blanket over her shoulders like a cape, sniffling and miserable. He remembered being annoyed, too, because he’d always be called into the house to keep her company. He’d end up sitting at the tiny handcrafted table in her room, surrounded by stuffed animals and plastic tea cups filled with lukewarm tap water.

He’d mostly gotten sneezed on a lot.

“Probably,” Soren said, interrupting his thoughts. He ran careful fingertips through Ike’s damp hair, carding it away from his face. “You should go back to sleep.”

Ike wanted to say something back, to keep Soren talking, but the way Soren dragged his fingernails lightly across his scalp was distracting, and the rise and fall of his chest soothing. He mumbled something and Soren might have said something back – Ike thought he said something back – but he was already drifting off.

--

The cough lingered in the morning, but it was light and his head was clear. Breathing through his nose was something of an issue, but Ike had never turned down a challenge.

The guilt, though, that was new, blooming bright in his chest when he woke up late – later than Soren’s first class – still stretched out on top of Soren.

He felt it again after the shower Soren all but shoved him into, standing in the kitchen and watching Soren. He stretched like a cat, arms high above his head, then rotated his shoulder and frowned.

Maybe if Ike hadn’t known him, he would’ve missed the wince.

“Sorry,” he said. Soren turned to look at him.

“You look better,” he said. “Sorry about what?”

“Your shoulder,” Ike said. “Crushing you. Making you late for class. Take your pick.”

The corner of Soren’s mouth twitched, and if Ike didn’t know better he might’ve thought that was a smile.

“You don’t have to apologize for anything,” he said, reaching out to wrap his small hands around Ike’s wrists. He pulled him forward, gently but surprisingly steely, like he’d pushed Ike down the other night.

Ike grunted, noncommittal. He wanted to lean down and kiss Soren, place one hand on the side of his face and curl his fingers into that long dark hair, but he didn’t, not even when Soren tipped his face up, half-expectant.

“I’m probably still contagious,” Ike said. Soren’s smile did widen, then, as he stood on his tiptoes and placed a tiny kiss against the corner of Ike’s mouth.

“I’m not worried,” he said, and Ike relented. He caught him and held him, one hand around his upper arm and the other brushing his hair back, behind his ear.

“I’d do the same for you,” he said. He wanted Soren to hear that. Soren stared at him for a long moment, eyes shadowed. Then he placed his feet back down firmly on the ground. Ike released his grip and Soren went back over to the stove.

“Tea,” he said, “and toast. It’s easy on your stomach.”

Ike pulled up a chair at their tiny, rickety table, still feeling too big and ungainly in their kitchen. He watched Soren pluck the bread from the toaster and pour out the tea, still with that one lock of hair behind his ear.

“Ike,” Soren said, and Ike’s gaze snapped back to his. Soren gave him a knowing look – not quite a smile, but somehow a hundred times better. “I know.”

“Yeah?” Ike said, and Soren nodded. Ike reached out to take the tea from him and said, “Good.”
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