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Catching the Wind: Part 1

Catching the Wind
By: Memory Dragon
Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of Vesperia, nor do I make any claim to.
Summary: Flynn wants a lot of things: his best friend and Second in Command to get along, the proper use of doors, to make a meal that won't knock people out, and possibly a little happiness of his own.  Sadly, only one of those is ever likely to happen.
Characters: Flynn/Yuri, Sodia, Repede
Warnings: I'm warning for Flynn on this one.  He's too frickin' adorable, and that deserves a lot of warning by itself.  Also, there are very brief dub/non-con thoughts of pushing someone before they are ready that the character stops himself from acting on.  It's only a paragraph, but it is there.  Finally, this is my first Tales venture, so I'm not too sure on the character voices.  Hopefully they work.
Rating: PG-13
Notes: You know, considering I've been playing Tales games for over ten years, it's kind of surprising that this is my first fic for the fandoms.  Never really felt the need to write any, to be honest.  However, while reading fic for this fandom, a pet peeve of mine jumped front and center and my mind decided it's been far too long since I've written protest fic.  Not to say this fandom is particularly filled with this problem (it was a single case, and all fandoms have at least one case of this), but the fic that finally annoyed me enough to do something about it was a Vesperia fic.  Which is how I've ended up writing a fic for characters I don't even technically ship romantically and a character I didn't actually like or dislike either way, with cuteness even I don't know what to do with.  Plus Repede, because Repede really is just awesome. 

In short, this fic is to show that characters A and B can get together without character C ruining their relationship and being bashed to high heaven.  Character C can even occasionally help in the getting of A and B together without being OOC or demeaned.  The fic kind of took on a life of its own, so I'm not sure how much protest is actually in there, but this is a fic that deals with the characters' Issues while being respectful to all of them.  Because no matter how much you dislike a character, there's someone else out there likes them, and it's nice to be respectful and acknowledge that.
Thanks: Many, many thanks to narwhale_callin for betaing this, despite never having played the game.  She helped me tighten this up, find a title, and generally sat through me sending her videos of cutscenes to catch her up on major plot points.  Many thanks to nemaline as well, who also hasn't played the game but was willing to look it over in my search for a title.



~

It was the soft breeze that woke Flynn up.

He'd been dreaming about some place warm and safe, and the gentle wind that caressed his face chased those dreams away, no matter how hard Flynn attempted to grasp at them. He woke with a sense of disappointment in himself at his inability to re-capture those warm, half-remembered feelings.

The dream had been about Aurnion, he knew that much. He found himself dreaming of Aurnion whenever he was away from the fledgling town, missing both the people and the place. The only time he didn't dream of it was on the rare occasion that he slept down in the lower quarter of Zaphias. The little town felt more and more like home, and the strength of that desire to return as quickly as he could once his business in the capital was concluded surprised Flynn. Though maybe he shouldn't be too surprised he dreamed of it, while sitting at his desk in the capital doing paperwork.

He felt the wind on his cheek again, but Flynn stubbornly kept his eyes closed. His internal clock told him it was around two o'clock in the morning, meaning Sodia was bound to be shaking him awake in a few minutes anyway, chasing him off to his quarters for a proper night's sleep. In fact, Flynn really should be waking himself up to finish that report for His Majesty on some of the odd occurrences near the aer krenes, but the faint traces of half-remembered warmth called to him tauntingly. For just a few minutes longer, Flynn reverted to his childhood in the lower quarter, when Yuri had to shake him from grudging sleep every morning.  He had just about drifted off again when he felt a light weight settle on his shoulders.

That wasn't Sodia! Flynn sat up with a start, a hand reaching for his missing sword as the blanket that had been wrapped around him slipped down into his chair. He glanced around the room with a sleepy gaze. Nothing looked out of place in his office...

There was a low chuckle behind him, where Flynn had forgotten to look in his sleep-hazed state. He relaxed, however, recognizing the sound immediately. "Yuri..."

"You haven't changed. Didn't taining to become a Knight teach you to sleep lighter?" Yuri teased.

Flynn put his head back down on his desk, deciding that if Yuri was here to make fun of him, he was going back to sleep. "Oh, no you don't, Commandant," he heard Yuri say. He groaned as he felt hands wrap around his shoulders and start to shake him. "If you're going back to sleep, you can do it from your own bed."

"I've slept in worse places," Flynn said drowsily, feeling some of the dreamlike warmth returning, despite the fact he was slowly waking up against his will. He put that down to Yuri being this close to him, something Flynn always liked, even if he didn't always admit it.

"Yeah, but you've got a bed now, in your own quarters and everything," Yuri said, and Flynn could hear the smile in his voice. "I was there when you got them, remember? Ioder wanted me to convince you to take them, or you'd have kept the room you got when you became an officer. So you should use them instead of working yourself to death."

Unfortunately, Yuri was also shaking awake Flynn's sense of responsibility. "I still have that report to-"

"This it?" Yuri asked, plucking a piece of paper out from under Flynn and looking at it in distaste. "No wonder you fell asleep."

"I need to finish it, Yuri. Please give it back." Flynn made to grab for it, a sense of frustration building as Yuri held the paper just out of reach.

"Nope. You're not getting this back until morning. Then you can write all the reports you want." Flynn made one more attempt to grab at it, but Yuri childishly waved it away.

Flynn sighed. He wasn't awake enough to deal with Yuri in one of his moods. He sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and willing the haze on his mind to release him. It was then he realized what it meant that Yuri was here. "Are you going to be in the capital long?" he asked, feeling a smile spread across his face.  If Yuri was going to be here, he'd put off his trip back to Aurnion in three days.

The smile was short lived. "Just tonight," Yuri said. "We're here on guild business, but it was getting late and Judy said we should spend the night here instead of camping. I heard you were in town as well, so I thought I'd drop in."

Flynn looked away from Yuri's shrug to see the window ajar. Dropping in, indeed. That explained the breeze. "You used to know how to use a door," he said.

Yuri grinned. "And face your Second in Command? No thanks. The window is fine for me."

He didn't return Yuri's smile, a light frown settling over his features instead. There was something between Yuri and Sodia, something more than just Sodia's inherent animosity. Flynn was a little ashamed to admit that she had gotten some of that dislike because of how angry he had been with Yuri at the time. But now... it was as if there was a real wedge between his best friend and his Second in Command, more than just the usual problems Yuri had with the rest of the knights, which both of them refused to talk about. It saddened him, that two of the people he trusted the most couldn't get along.

One thing was certain, though. If Yuri was only going to be in Zaphias for one night, Flynn didn't want to go back to sleep. And though Yuri's grin didn't falter, Flynn could tell it was more forced the longer he didn't return the expression. He sighed, not wanting to waste what little time they had together on another fight. He stood and stretched, wondering when the two of them had grown up enough to see past the fights.

"Have you found a headquarters for Brave Vesperia yet?" Flynn asked, hoping the change of subject would put Yuri back at ease.

It worked. Yuri leaned against the wall, the line of his shoulders relaxing. "Not yet. Karol's been looking for a place in Dahngrest, but he said he hasn't found the right place. I think he knows Dahngrest isn't really right for us, but he doesn't want to admit it."

The half-remembered warmth from the dream came to mind, and Flynn felt an idea take hold of him. He couldn't help the large smile that settled over his face. "Have you thought of trying in Aurnion?"

Yuri's eyes briefly went wide at the suggestion before he returned the smile. "A new town for a new guild," Yuri said, turning the idea over in his head. "I like the sound of that. I'll have to run it by the others to see what they think. It wouldn't be home, but..."

"It's a good place for beginnings," Flynn finished for him. And the perfect place for a plan that was just starting to form. "I was thinking of moving the headquarters for the Imperial Knights there too." That was just a bit of a lie, considering he had only just thought of it, but reasons for the move piled through his head faster than he could swing his sword.

"I heard Sir Drake has set up a dojo there, for anyone who wants to join. And it'll take the knights out of the royal quarter and show them what life is like for normal people. I think the further we can train from the nobility, the more equality we'll see in the ranks." And if they were both officially stationed out of Aurnion, well, Flynn knew they would both still be busy. He just hoped he would get to see Yuri more than just once a month for a few moments in passing like this, though. It could happen if they had a base of operations that were close to each other.  And maybe... maybe they could have something other than friendship if they lived in the same place, even if Flynn pushed down that hope as soon as he thought of it.  Yuri always closed up whenever he tried to suggest it, so one thing at a time. 

"Sounds like a good plan, Commandant," Yuri said with a teasing smirk. Instead of raising Flynn's hopes, though, he could feel the same sort of tension that he felt whenever Sodia was mentioned.

"Yuri, please don't call me that," Flynn asked. It was one thing for Yuri to tease him about his rank. This was something else, like Yuri was throwing that rank in between them for distance.

Yuri shrugged, pushing off the wall. "I'll think about it. Right now though, I shouldn't keep you from your sleep. G'night, Flynn."

"Yuri, wait," Flynn said as he headed back towards the window. Yuri turned back and leaned against the frame expectantly. "You're not really going to consider it, are you?"

"I said I would, didn't I?" Yuri said, putting his hands up in surrender.

Flynn shook his head, moving to block the window as much as he could and to get closer to Yuri. "You meant it before. But as soon as I mentioned moving the Knights there as well, you changed your mind. Why?"

"You don't need me there to drag you down," Yuri said with another of his smiles. "I'm a criminal, remember? I'll just-"

"You were pardoned," Flynn said over him.

"-Make more trouble for you," Yuri finished, his smile lost now to the anger sparking in his eyes. "You're the Commandant now, Flynn. You can't be seen hanging out with someone like me."

"With someone like you?" Flynn asked, hardly believing his ears. His hand fisted by his side, as he tried to control his frustration. "Someone who defeated Alexi when he had gone mad with power? Someone who throws himself into danger without even thinking just because someone else might get hurt? Someone who helped build Aurnion behind the scenes, who saved the world, yet takes none of the credit for it? And someone like that doesn't measure up to me? Yuri, you've caught up to me, you've surpassed me, and I've never been more proud to call you my friend. I don't understand what the problem is."

"There's a lot more to it than that," Yuri growled, pushing Flynn away from him with flashing eyes. "Do you have any idea what it would do to your position to have a vigilante as your best friend? You saw what I did in Mantaic, Flynn, even if it did save lives. I cut Alexi down even after we had beaten him. You don't need that sort of person by your side!" Yuri took a step forward, raising his hands in front of him and looking down at them with a lost expression. "There's blood on my hands. You said it yourself that as a knight, you can't let that go. And I don't regret it. If I had to, I'd do it all again."

Flynn felt a hopeless anger shake his body as his fist curled tighter, not caring about the pain as his fingernails dug through the skin. Anger at Yuri for what he'd done that could never quite be forgiven, despite their renewed friendship and respect for each other. Anger at Yuri for being right, that Ragou and Cumore would have continued killing people, unhindered by the law, no matter how much Flynn wished it wasn't true. Anger at himself for not having been able to do more than watch those murderers walk out the door scott-free because of their rank. Anger at himself for not being able to share Yuri's burden like the others in his guild. But most of all, anger that this had come between them, that the world had taken two orphans and set them so far apart, yet still constantly drawn into one another's orbit.

He caught Yuri's hands in his, holding them tightly even as Yuri tried to pull away. The moment he let go, Yuri would probably hit him. Flynn wasn't certain that he wouldn't do the same either. They were too good at frustrating each other. "Flynn, what are you-"

Instead of letting go and starting a fight that would probably wake up half the castle, Flynn brought up Yuri's fisted hands and placed a kiss on each of them. Yuri froze, struck speechless by the small act. Flynn didn't have any time to marvel at the fact, though, using Yuri's silence to cool his more violent thoughts as he pressed forward. It was an unspoken rule that this part of their relationship never came up, but Flynn thought that now was the time to act. "If there's blood on your hands, then it's because I've failed to keep our promise to change things from within the system," he said quietly, his voice shaking with barely contained anger as he fought to keep from crushing Yuri's hands in his. "It's as much my fault as it is yours. I forced you into that corner."

"You couldn't have moved through the ranks any quicker," Yuri said, tugging at his hands again. It was a less violent motion than before though, and Flynn kissed his knuckles again before letting go.

Yuri immediately pulled back a safe distance, wistfully rubbing the place where Flynn's lips had touched. "It was my decision to kill them," he said stubbornly. "It's not your fault."

"It is," Flynn insisted. "But I can promise you, you won't have to do it again. I won't let you fall into that position of having to make that choice again. The laws will be changed."

"That doesn't change what I've done," Yuri said, not managing to hide the uncertainty in his voice.

Flynn sighed, tension draining from his shoulders as they slumped forward. He wanted nothing more than to beat some sense into Yuri, if just to relieve his own frustration. Maybe they could spar later, as tempting as it was to act on the thought now. If he only had tonight, he was going to make it count. He straightened his shoulders and met Yuri's eyes head on. "Then I will keep changing this world until it's alright for you to be at my side."

Yuri looked away at that, out the window at the city below. "You can't change the world that much," he said, voice full of barely-checked longing.

"You did," Flynn stated, taking a step closer. "Why can't I?"

They stared at each other for a long moment, neither breaking the tense silence that had fallen. It was nearly suffocating Flynn, but he refused to be the first to give in, not on this. It was so stifling though that he had to do something or both of them would break apart. As a strategist, he should be able to think of something to breach this impasse. There had to be some way... Or perhaps he was just thinking too hard.

Deciding to try Yuri's more reckless approach, Flynn leaned forward and claimed Yuri's lips.

It was surprisingly simple. Yuri's mouth opened in surprise, and Flynn dove in as he pulled his best friend closer into a tighter, more tender, embrace that was surprisingly satisfying compared how he felt after a sparring session. He pressed forward passionately, so caught up in having all that was Yuri for the first time that he almost missed hearing the soft click of the door being pulled shut. It took a moment for his brain to catch up to the fact that this was usually the time Sodia came down to chase him to bed. She must have seen...

Yuri started trembling lightly in his arms, pulling Flynn's attention away from his second in command. Why would Yuri tremble? Not with fear - Yuri wouldn't be afraid of Flynn, for pity's sake. So why?

Once he could think around the fact that he was finally kissing Yuri, it hit him just how yielding Yuri was in the kiss. Flynn had imagined kissing Yuri before, but none of those fantasies had entertained the notion of Yuri standing passively in his arms, letting Flynn control it. Yuri should be fighting back - kissing back for dominance in a fight that Flynn honestly wasn't sure who would win. It shouldn't have been any different from when they fought with swords, except for being more tender. Yuri was as passionate as he was stubborn, and this...

Yuri was holding back, Flynn realized. He couldn't push Flynn away, and it was taking everything Yuri had to stop himself from responding - from encouraging Flynn on.

Yuri was so stubborn, sacrificing himself recklessly for others without any thought for himself. Yuri wanted this just as much as Flynn, but because of some misguided notion of guilt, he was throwing it all away. This time it had gone too far. Flynn pressed against Yuri as the trembling grew more pronounced, and Yuri's shoulders tensed. He could break Yuri, here and now, break that stubborn willfulness into a passionate submission. He could win this fight. Yuri was on the verge of breaking, and if he pushed now, he could have Yuri in just the way Flynn wanted, if just for one night. And Flynn was very, very good at pushing Yuri, even when he tried not to rile him up.

But they would both regret it in the morning, if he did that. It just wouldn't be right, not when Yuri was still fighting it. Except, if he didn't push now, he might never convince Yuri... Flynn softened the kiss to heartbreak, before reluctantly breaking it. Neither of them spoke as Yuri shook and Flynn wanted, both breathing the shared aer between them that was simultaneously too intimate and not intimate enough.

Finally, Yuri calmed enough to break the spell. "Flynn, d-don't..." he pleaded, his voice shaken and eyes more vulnerable than Flynn had ever seen them, even when Repede had been hurt that night so long ago.

Flynn closed his eyes to shut out the pain and hung his head, hating himself for being the one to put that look on Yuri's face and for what he had nearly done. Taking a deep breath, he slowly let Yuri go. However, his hands weren't quite willing to give up Yuri's form under them, and he traced up Yuri's arm as his fingers intertwined with Yuri's hair. He brought the dark strands up to his lips, kissing it before letting the hair finally fall from his fingers.

At Yuri's sharp intake of breath, Flynn focused on his face to see a light blush cross Yuri's cheeks. Now that was a much better expression. "I'm not dropping it this time, Yuri.  I'll convince you," Flynn promised, turning on his heel and leaving the room before his own self-control broke. He didn't dare look back to Yuri, afraid both of what he'd find on Yuri's face and what he'd do after he saw it.

Once Flynn had put a door between them, he leaned against it to calm down and breathe. Only Yuri could get him this riled up, that never changed, and it almost sickened him to think of what he could have done if he hadn't regained control. But Flynn couldn't bring himself to regret what had happened. He should have had this conversation years ago, if he hadn't been too angry with his best friend for quitting the Knights and breaking their promise, or if he hadn't let Yuri shut down the conversation every time since.  How different would things have gone if he had broached the subject back then, and been more understanding of the fact that Yuri had to find his own way?

Flynn sighed and shook his head. Yuri probably would have found something else to be stubborn about, and they'd be at the same impasse. At least now he was the Commandant, a rank where he could finally do something about it.

Rubbing his eyes, Flynn pushed off the door and headed to his quarters. He didn't think he'd get much sleep after that, but he couldn't exactly go back in his office if Yuri had lingered. He walked through the halls, thinking that his bed had never seemed so empty before.

* * *

Flynn was tired the next morning, and not just because of his lack of sleep. He'd spent the whole night thinking of Yuri and of how to convince his friend, though he couldn't find much hope in any of his plans. Yuri was too... No, he had to believe he could find some way to change Yuri's mind, because he wouldn't give up on this. His plans would have to wait until he could afford to take some time for a trip to Dahngrest since Yuri was probably long gone from the capital by now, but Flynn could be patient. He had risen to the rank of Commandant so he could finally make the necessary changes to the Empire, after all. A little more waiting until he could affect change wouldn't break his resolve.

That didn't mean he had to like it.

With a sigh, Flynn rubbed his eyes and finished the report for His Majesty Ioder. It wasn't until he looked at the clock again that he realized something was off.

It was almost ten and Sodia hadn't come in with her morning report. She was always prompt at nine... Except Sodia had seen him and Yuri last night.

Guilt rushed through him at the thought. He'd been so caught up in thinking about Yuri that he had completely forgotten about that soft click of the door shutting.

Flynn stood up at his desk, sending papers flying with the sudden movement. He frantically tried to gather them back up so he could find his Second in Command before she tried something reckless. He knew her feelings both towards him and towards Yuri. She hadn't approved of Yuri being his friend, and she had made no qualms telling Flynn this. The fact that she hadn't shown up this morning only fueled his notion that his carelessness had hurt her deeply. Yes, he needed to have that conversation with Yuri, but for her to find out like that...

Flynn rushed out of his office, practically running over Witcher in his haste. "Commandant!" the small mage protested, managing to look like he was looking down his glasses at Flynn despite being much shorter. One day, Flynn would figure out how he did that.

"I'm sorry," Flynn said, hoping the apology would appease Witcher's dignity. He didn't have time for more. "Have you seen Sodia?"

Witcher readjusted his glasses, huffing slightly in response. "She went out early this morning. She looked pretty angry."

"Thank you, Witcher," Flynn said, walking as quickly as he could to the castle's entrance. How was he going to be able to find her? Zaphias was the biggest city on Terca Lumireis, and that was assuming she hadn't left. He checked first with her family, but they hadn't seen her in over a week. The public quarter was busy, but there was no sign of his wayward Second in Command. At least he knew she hadn't left the city. A quick check with all the guard posts proved that no one had seen her leave.

Should he wait for her to come back on her own? But it was his fault she had left in the first place... Shaking his head, Flynn continued searching the market place. He owed her an apology, if nothing else. He should have addressed her feelings for him a long time ago, if he hadn't been too afraid of hurting her. Except now it was worse; she knew he loved someone she despised.

His feet lead him to the lower quarter before he realized it, though he couldn't imagine Sodia being here. She only came here on official business or with Flynn. No one, not even most of the knights, went to the slums of Zaphias without reason, unless you had some connection down there.

The worst of it was that he ended up at Yuri's door without consciously realizing where he was going. Flynn stared at the closed door, knowing no one currently occupied the small room. He leaned his forehead against it, wondering if he could break in. It wasn't as if Yuri hadn't done the same to him countless times in the past. But he couldn't bring himself to consider it as more than a passing thought. Yuri could get away with it. Flynn couldn't bring himself to start breaking and entering just to steal something of Yuri's for his own pathetic longing.

"When did everything become so complicated?" he asked the uncaring door.

There was a low whine to his right that Flynn recognized with a flush of happiness, despite everything going on. "Repede!" Kneeling down, he scratched behind Repede's ears, the dog's tail wagging happily behind him.

Repede barked a greeting, making Flynn laugh as he licked his face. "It's been a while," Flynn said, showering the dog with as much affection as Repede wanted. Yuri came through the window of his office so often that Flynn saw even less of Repede. "How are you?" he asked.

Repede gave another bark in reply, whining in pleasure as Flynn found a favorite spot behind his ear. Though, what was Repede doing here? If Yuri had left this morning, wouldn't Repede have gone with him?

"Is Yuri still here?" he asked.

Repede's ears twitched and he shook off Flynn's hand. He stood and walked a few meters, before turning back to see why Flynn wasn't coming as well. Yuri was still here!

But did Flynn want to see him? Well, that was a stupid question, because of course he did. The problem was if he was ready to see Yuri. He'd done nothing but plan how to convince Yuri, how to promote Yuri's accomplishments for the world if just to finally give him proper credit, but he hadn't been able to put any of that in motion yet, and Yuri had made his feelings plain last night. Besides, he still had to find Sodia...

Repede gave him a long look and growled softly. "Alright, I'll come along," Flynn said with a sigh. If nothing else, he could try and cook Yuri dinner. That part of his plans didn't take too much preparation. "But you're going to help me find Sodia after."

Repede barked in approval and started walking again, this time with Flynn trailing behind him. Flynn felt some of his worry slip away during the walk. Even if Yuri wasn't ready to deepen their relationship, they could still hang out as friends, and with Repede it should be easy to find Sodia if she hadn't left the capital.

He was so involved with making plans for everything that he was surprised to hear both of his friends in the same place.

"Yuri Lowell!" he heard Sodia yell, fury in her voice. "I've finally found you."

That didn't sound good, especially when followed by the sound of a sword being drawn. Flynn looked around, making a beeline for the alley where her voice had come from. Before he could see them, however, he felt a tug on his sleeve. "Repede, let go!" he said, but the dog held on.

"Don't you have better things to be doing?" Yuri's voice this time, sounding bored and not at all fazed by the sword being pointed at him. "I thought you knights had more to do than search the lower quarter for me all day."

This was bad. He knew how Sodia would react to Yuri's attitude. Flynn wasn't about to have the two people closest to him fighting. He took another step forward, but was still held in place by a strong jaw. "Repede, I have to stop them!" he said, feeling betrayed that Repede wasn't letting go.

But Repede didn't let go, not even when he heard the clash of swords and Yuri's surprised yell. Instead, the dog growled softly, his tail flicking back and forth in warning. "Are you saying I should just leave them be?" Flynn asked incredulously.

Finally, Repede let go of his sleeve, barking softly in agreement. Worry spiked through him as he heard the sounds of the fight, but he didn't rush towards it. Instead, he drew closer, looking for a hiding space where he could have a good vantage point. Repede might think things would turn out for the best, but Flynn wasn't going to allow either of them to be hurt.

He was able to find a few empty boxes from the nearby store to hide behind, and Flynn watched as Sodia pushed Yuri back, widening the space between them. "What's your problem?" Yuri asked angrily. "If you have charges, arrest me. I don't have time to sit around and fight you."

"You're only hurting him more by keeping your distance," Sodia accused, her eyes flashing with fury.

Yuri froze as a calm blankness replaced his earlier anger. "I guess you heard us talking last night. Don't they teach you not to eavesdrop in the Imperial Knights? I'm pretty sure there's something in the Knight's Handbook about common courtesy," Yuri said tensely. "And you can't arrest me for that."

At this, Sodia faltered, her sword lowering. "I had just come down to tell Commander Flynn to go to bed and the door was open. I didn't mean to overhear you."

Repede came and sat down beside Flynn, watching with a sort of bored disinterest. Flynn wished he could be that unworried. He rested his hand on Repede's head, scratching his ears more for Flynn's own comfort than Repede's as Yuri held his sword in a seemingly lazy manner. Flynn knew from experience it was anything but; it was an attempt to throw his opponent off guard. "It's still none of your business," Yuri said with a blank smile that didn't reach his eyes.

Flynn was surprised when Sodia raised her weapon again instead of backing down, even more surprised by the venom in her voice when she spoke. "You do not deserve him."

"I don't disagree with you there," Yuri said, leaning slightly, with his hand on his hip and contempt on his face. "Do you?"

For a long while, they stared at each other. Flynn wondered why Sodia hadn't risen to the bait. It wasn't until Repede licked his cheek that he realized his hold on the dog was a little too tight. He gave Repede an apologetic glance as he let go, but Repede kept licking his cheek in comfort.

Finally, Sodia lowered her weapon and sheathed it. Flynn let out a small sigh of relief. "I don't deserve to stand by his side any more than you do," she said quietly, so that Flynn had to strain to hear her words. "Commander Flynn deserves much better than either of us."

Flynn was very hard put to stay hidden when he wanted nothing more than to shake some sense into both of them. He wasn't someone to be put on a pedestal and praised from afar! He was just as human as anyone, and Yuri and Sodia were two of the best people he knew. Yuri was the one who had risked his life to save the world, not Flynn. And Sodia was one of the best officers he had served with. Her loyalty to him did Flynn more honor than anything he could ever repay to her. If anything, it was the other way around, that Flynn didn't deserve the respect they both seemed to place on him. It was frustrating beyond belief that neither of these two amazing people thought they were worthy of a boy from the lower quarter.

"Then why spend all day looking for me?" Yuri asked, sheathing his sword as well and leaning it against his shoulder. "I've been watching you for half the morning, since Ted warned me there was some knight looking for me. Not even Leblanc is that persistent."

Sodia looked up at Yuri, her eyes suspiciously wet. "Because you're ignoring something important. What about Commander Flynn's choice?" she asked.

"His choice didn't matter to you at Zaude," Yuri said, his eyes going hard.

Flynn watched, baffled, as Sodia took a step back. It obviously meant something to both of them, but Flynn couldn't figure out what. Flynn and his small group had gotten to Zaude after Brave Vesperia, and by the time Sodia had gone up to check on things, Alexi was dead and Yuri had fallen when the blastia core had crashed. Had there been another time they had met there?

"I..." Sodia said, looking lost.

Even Yuri appeared to regret the words, though he didn't apologize. "I said before that I was grateful for your loyalty to him, but this is taking things a bit too far. Why are you doing this?" he asked again.

Sodia looked back up at Yuri, steeling herself for what she was going to say. "I don't approve of his choice, and I won't back down from that. You are a criminal and a murderer and should be rotting away in the dungeons." Yuri shrugged, but didn't respond, so she continued on, her voice softening. "But the Commandant is always happier after a visit from you. I'm not strong like you, to wish someone else happiness, particurarly you, with him. But he is more relaxed when you are around. You may not deserve him, but he deserves to be happy. Or are you too much of a coward to respect his choice?"

"That's not true, Sodia," Flynn whispered to himself. "You are stronger than I ever imagined."

"Commandant?"

Flynn jumped half an inch as Repede gave a low whine and scratched his ear with his hind leg. Turning, he saw Leblanc fidgeting and looking worried. "What are you doing down here, Sir?"

Flynn cursed mentally, wishing Leblanc hadn't been so loud. It was too late, however. Yuri had already come closer and was peering over the boxes. "Maybe the Knight handbook did leave out that section on eavesdropping. Hey, Commandant, you should fix that."

He felt his cheeks heat up as he stood, brushing off his uniform to give himself more time to collect himself. "I was just following Repede..." Flynn said.

As Yuri gave the dog an exasperated look, Flynn faced Leblanc. "It's nothing you need concern yourself with, Lieutenant. Please return to your duties."

"Yes, Sir!" Leblanc said with a salute, looking both chastised and relieved to be sent away.

He might as well get this over with. With a mental sigh, Flynn walked around the set of boxes to face his friends. Repede trotted beside him, not the least bit remorseful. He stood up on his hind legs and pawed gently at Yuri's chest, like he was making sure their friend was okay. Before Flynn could apologize for overhearing them, though, Sodia stood at attention and saluted, a serious expression on her face despite the blush. "I am willing to accept punishment for deserting my post and for my behavior, Commandant."

"Sodia, I don't want-"

"I deserted my post, Sir, and have acted poorly. I seek no favors for you to cover it up," she said, standing tall with her head held high.

He should be angry with her for meddling, and Flynn absently made a note of that. A larger part of him hoped her words got through to Yuri, and he was grateful that she cared this much about him. He didn't want to punish that.

Yuri, for his part, merely shrugged when Flynn glanced his way, leaving the decision in Flynn's hands. "Go back to the castle and deal with what has built up due to our absence today," Flynn said finally. "I'll talk to you in the morning."

She saluted and walked off without a backward glance. Flynn watched her go sadly. He wanted to call her back and talk with her... but there would be time for that tomorrow, and she obviously wanted the time to herself.

He turned to Yuri, half expecting the man to be in the midst of a discreet exit. Repede was expecting much the same from the looks of it, as he was standing guard over the other exit of the alley. Flynn was glad that Repede was on his side for this.

Yuri was standing with one hand on his hip, his face carefully neutral. "You sure you don't want to go after her?"

Shaking his head, Flynn smiled sadly. "I'll talk to her in the morning. I hope she'll be in better spirits then. I'd like to talk with you though."

"Don't you have your knightly duties to get back to, Commandant?"

There was a gentle smile tugging at Yuri's slips that Flynn took as a good sign. "That's Sodia's punishment for deserting her post, to deal with everything today. They should be fine without me for one day." And he had already missed half of it anyway, searching for Sodia. He would just have to work extra hard tomorrow to make up for the time lost.

Besides, he didn't think he'd had a day off since... Flynn racked his mind, trying to remember. It had to have been sometime before he was promoted to Captain, now that he thought about it. Yuri was usually the one to make sure he took a day off, and they'd both been too busy for that after the destruction of the Adephagos.

"Oh?" Yuri said, with his eyebrows raised. "The Commandant of the Imperial Knights playing hookey? Next you'll be saying Rita likes ghost stories."

"You're a bad influence," Flynn accused teasingly.

Instead of responding in kind, however, Yuri went still. "Are you sure about this?" he asked. "It won't make your life any easier, being with me."

"Yes, I am sure," Flynn said. "I want this, Yuri. And it'll be worth it in the end. You're worth it."

Yuri pointedly didn't make eye contact, his shoulders tense in a way that only someone who knew him well would be able to spot. It was Flynn who looked down, his shoulders slumping forward as the rejection weighed heavily on them. He closed his eyes, ignoring the prickling sensation behind them no matter how much he wanted to give in and cry in frustration. What would it take to convince Yuri?

"I should lea-"

"Let's go get something to eat," Flynn suggested before Yuri could finish that sentence. He wasn't ready to let Yuri go yet, not when it meant returning to the castle to deal with Sodia. He didn't have the strength to follow this rejection with one of his own. Besides, the longer he was with Yuri, the more he could keep trying. Flynn refused to give up.

"Flynn..."

"Please." It was one word, but Flynn felt like he had been torn apart and left raw saying it. More than he wanted to keep trying to convince Yuri, Flynn couldn't lose their friendship as well. He searched for something to cover the vulnerability he felt, talking over it. "I have a new recipe I wanted to try-"

"Why don't we just pick something up from one of the stalls down at the market?" Yuri cut in quickly, surprising Flynn. He would have thought Yuri would fight it more, but Yuri's expression was surprisingly gentle when Flynn looked over. "I'm starving, and it'll be quicker than cooking."

Flynn felt a little disappointed at that, but he could always try making dinner another day. At least Yuri was staying, for now, even if Flynn still couldn't reach over and take Yuri's hand like he wanted to.

However, they found out that cooking would have been quicker. The moment they stepped out of the alley, Flynn was ambushed by the children of the lower quarter; asking questions about the castle, about the knights, about his Majesty Ioder, and before he knew it, he was being pulled into a game whose rules he didn't quite understand, on top of helping Lina find her lost doll.

Yuri was no help at all, laughing at Flynn's plight and watching from a safe distance away. It was good to see Yuri laugh, even when it caused a slow ache in Flynn's chest. Every so often, Flynn would look over to Yuri to make sure the other man hadn't disappeared. Yuri was always there though, whispering to one of the children, and a new rule would be added to the game, or a new monster for Flynn and the children to vanquish, or some other peril that Flynn strongly suspected wasn't coming from the children's imaginations. The one thing Yuri did do was find Lina's doll while Flynn was distracting her, and even then, he slipped it to Flynn to give to her, not taking any of the credit for it. Yuri had slipped away before Flynn could tell Lina, retreating back to his bench out of the midst of the chaos. Flynn wasn't given much of a chance to explain either, before another child took his hand and told him animatedly about the fearsome spider monsters in the Weasand of Cados.

Flynn decided this had gone on long enough. He told the kids that the most vicious monster, scarier than even the Giganto monsters, was disguised as a human and was sitting on the bench right over there. He lead the small brigade of children in a valiant tickle battle that would be retold through the ages, finally ending in Yuri's merciless defeat. It was Flynn's turn to stand back and smirk as the children hung all over Yuri, glad for a little revenge before they set back upon him.

When the children finally left to return home, it was nearly dusk and Flynn was exhausted. It was a good feeling though, one that he hadn't felt in a long while. He needed to make more time to come down to the lower quarter when he was in Zaphias. Flynn forgot how much he missed it, sometimes. This moment would be perfect, except for the fact he still didn't know where he stood with Yuri. The little terrors hadn't really given him much of a chance to talk with his friend.

"Must be nice being so popular," Yuri said as he walked up, two crepes in hand. Flynn accepted one of them gratefully, reveling in the taste of strawberries. The sweetness was just enough to give him a small boost of energy, which he hoped was enough to get him back to the castle before he fell asleep. That thought only depressed him again, sadly, as he remembered how empty his bed had felt last night.

He took a seat on the bench next to Yuri. They sat in silence for a while, watching the sun set and finishing off the crepes. It hadn't been that long ago that one couldn't look up at the sky without seeing the menace that threatened to destroy the world. But now, not even the city's barrier clouded the view. Most of the time Flynn was so buried in work that he didn't notice, and he made another silent note to remedy that. This new world they faced without blastia was harsh and frightening, but it was also so very beautiful. He wished he could just enjoy it now, but he couldn't help stealing glances at his friend, wondering if 'friend' was even the correct term for them anymore.

"I thought you were leaving this morning," Flynn said, breaking the tense silence he hadn't realized had fallen over them.

Yuri shook his head, closing his eyes with a slightly pained look of exasperation as his shoulders slumped. "Judy took one look at me when I got back and kicked me off the Fiertia. She said she and Karol could handle the delivery, and they'd come back for me once I had sorted things out."

So not only Repede, but Judith and Karol were in on this? It was starting to feel like a conspiracy, getting Yuri to stop being so stubborn. He was glad of it though, that Yuri had found other people who understood him as well as Flynn did. Friends who wanted both of them to be happy. "Yuri?" he asked, not sure what question he was asking, or even if he wanted the answer. "I meant what I said earlier."

Yuri sighed, giving Flynn that slightly exasperated look as he pet Repede absently. "You're really not going to give up on this, are you?"

"Not on my life," Flynn swore. He met Yuri's gaze head on, neither of them backing down. It would be different, if Yuri simply wasn't interested. But it was so obvious that Yuri wanted this as much as Flynn did, no matter how much Yuri resisted. As long as Yuri wanted it too, Flynn wasn't going to give up. "You're the one I want by my side, Yuri, not anyone else. This is what I want."

"Respect your choice, huh?" Yuri echoed Sodia's words from earlier, looking down at his hands again. Flynn felt his throat tighten as hope flared up so quickly that it physically hurt, an ache that settled over his body and refused to give way. He never could have gotten Yuri this close to giving in on his own, and he felt both guilty and grateful to Sodia for searching Yuri out. "People aren't going to like it. Sodia's not even going to be the worst of them. The Council might even try to have you disgraced so they can replace you."

"Then we'll be careful," Flynn said, remembering all too well how it felt to be behind bars in Danhgrest. If he slipped up now like he had then, the consequences would be doubled. "I have the trust of His Imperial Majesty, so the Council will have a hard time shaking that. His Majesty trusts you too, Yuri, after everything you've done. I know it won't be easy, but I'm willing to fight for as long as it takes for people to accept it."

Flynn felt like he was holding his breath as Yuri let the silence stretch on. The armor he wore felt heavier than normal, as if emphasizing the distance between the two of them, no matter how good the relations between the Union and the Empire were right now. Neither of them could change who they were or who they had become, but Flynn had never let difficulties stop him before.

Finally, Yuri shrugged, looking completely at ease despite the tension between them. "I could do worse, I guess. I'll never live down all the crap I'll get in Danhgrest when it comes out I'm dating an idiot knight though."

He should be offended by that, or at least have a comeback about how he was the one lowering his standards to date a guild member, not the other way around. Flynn couldn't think of much beyond the amazement that Yuri was agreeing, his heart pounding through the rush of emotion that threatened to overwhelm him. "Thank you," Flynn said, grinning broadly.

He was surprised by the silence that followed. Yuri was staring at him, as if he was barely managing to breathe. "Flynn..." he said, almost involuntarily.

What had changed? All Flynn had done was smile... Oh, this was rich. Yuri Lowell, eternal delinquent, done in by a smile. Considering their promise, Flynn felt there was some justice in that. And he decidedly liked the faint blush that Yuri was trying to hide, and the fact it was his smile that had caused it. Flynn took Yuri's hand and kissed the back of it.

Yuri looked away, the blush spreading, but he didn't pull his hand out of Flynn's grasp. "Jeez, Flynn. Aren't you taking this knight thing a little too seriously?"

Flynn laughed, feeling like he could take down a Giganto monster single-handedly. He wanted to gather Yuri up and just hold him tightly in affirmation. He didn't want to push Yuri too far, too quickly, though, not when Yuri was finally willing to give this a chance. Instead, he kept hold of Yuri's hand, squeezing it gently as Yuri tentatively squeezed back.

"Hey, don't go getting too sappy on me," Yuri teased, attempting to insert exasperation into his tone to cover his blush.

Not caring if it constituted as sappy or not, Flynn rested his head against Yuri's shoulder. It was a little awkward since Flynn was slightly bigger than Yuri, but with some adjusting, Flynn found it to be very comfortable. "You've got no room to talk, not when I've seen how you act with Karol," Flynn returned with a faint smile.

"Hey, I've gotta keep the boss's spirits up. It's all part of being in a guild." Closing his eyes, Flynn felt Yuri shift under him and a hand hesitatingly trace his cheek bone. Flynn pushed into the caress, disregarding the uncertainty he found there with sleepy reassurance. "Didn't you get any sleep last night?" Yuri asked, the hint of guilt Flynn could sense in his shoulders not appearing in his voice.

"I couldn't sleep," Flynn admitted, enjoying the feel of Yuri's hair against his face. "So I planned all the things I'd need to do to convince you. I was going to start with making you dinner..."

There was a tell-tale tensing in Yuri's muscles that Flynn preferred to ignore. Yuri wasn't going to let him off that easily though. "I thought Knights were supposed to be above torture to get what they want."

"I've been practicing..." Flynn really had been trying recently. Lady Estellise didn't even have to use her healing magic last time he visited her.

"You knocked out three of the judges at Dahngrest, and that's not including when you accidentally poisoned half the Schwann Brigade," Yuri reminded him.

"Not on purpose." The food had looked delicious too. It hadn't tasted all that bad to him, but Yuri had often told him that he could eat anything. And, admittedly, Yuri's cooking did always taste better.

"I know," Yuri said, this time with fondness. "Just let me do all the cooking, alright? I'd never catch the end of it if I let an Imperial Knight do me in, much less the great Flynn Scifo."

"I-I'm not... Stop calling me that," Flynn said, though he nodded in agreement to Yuri's plea. He couldn't help hoping that Yuri would make crepes next time instead of buying them. The short burst of energy was wearing off, and he still hadn't even started towards the castle. He felt a little guilty for that, but moving off Yuri's shoulder took more will power than Flynn currently wanted to put forth.

"You need sleep," Yuri said, running his hand through Flynn's hair.

Flynn sighed wearily, raising his head up finally. Going back to the castle meant dealing with all the things that he had left today, even if he did leave most of that to Sodia. There were some things that only he could do, so going back now wouldn't mean sleep. Flynn would also have to talk to Sodia when he got back and he wasn't sure he was ready for that conversation. Today had been emotionally rocky as it was, and Flynn didn't think he could handle more of it. He didn't want to leave Yuri either, though his guilt was getting to the point he couldn't ignore it for much longer.

He looked up to find Yuri staring at him thoughtfully. "Yuri?"

"Come on. The bar is closer." Yuri said, looking put upon. "And if you go back to the castle now, you're just going to keep working."

"But there's still a lot I have to get done. I'd get to sleep eventually," Flynn said, a faint blush crawling up his neck.

"Yeah, eventually you'll pass out at your desk again."

Flynn frowned at that, unable to deny it considering he'd done just that for the past five nights in a row. Between that trouble with the Aer Krene and the regular problems he had to deal with in the capital, he had been too busy. It didn't help that despite his guilt for not getting anything done today, he didn't want to go back yet. Who knew how long Yuri would be here before he had to leave again? And Sodia... He told her that he'd speak with her in the morning.

"I'll knock you out and drag you if I have to," Yuri threatened, earning him a laugh as he pouted.

"Now who's threatening brute force?" Flynn said with a tired smile.

"Hey, I quit the Knights. I can use torture and brute force all I like," Yuri responded.

"Alright, alright. Your place it is then." There would be plenty of time to get work done tomorrow.

~TBC~