"We have more in common than you may think, you know."

Those words were almost physically painful to hear, but Panne couldn't argue against them.

On first glance, the Shepherds were a diverse group of wildly different people, and the last remaining Taguel was the most different from all of them. Who else was half beast and could transform into a giant rabbit-like monster at will? How many others had the distinction of being the last of their species? None of those were attributes that she held with pride; in fact, all they served to do was make her feel even more distanced from the Shepherds.

As to be expected from such a varied group, everyone had joined for their own reason, be it the realization that their previous employers had dark intentions, a yearning to get more powerful, or—for the skeezy man with blue hair—the desire to pick up women. Further setting herself apart, Panne joined because of her devotion to the leader's sister. The kind, loving Emmeryn made Panne feel that despite their past crimes against her, perhaps manspawn weren't so bad.

Then she took a look at the pervert and realized most of them were.

But Emmeryn was so kind, so understanding, that it balanced out and almost made up for most of the scum and villainy in the species that took Panne's family from her. And that was why she had joined the Shepherds. The kindness she was shown by Emmeryn had to be protected from those that would seek to snuff it out.

However, the day came that Emmeryn's radiant light was extinguished, despite the Shepherds' best efforts. Of all the death Panne had witnessed in her lifetime, few had hurt more than hopelessly watching the Exalt fall to her death. Just like that, she had been the helpless little girl that had her warren taken from her.

The one and only upside to Emmeryn's death was that it brought the Shepherds together and showed Panne that there was one thing every member had in common. The desire to protect the Exalt and her way of life brought them all together, and it would be her family that kept them that way. Panne had wanted to cry for the first time in years over Emmeryn's death, but this knowledge told her that there was something else she needed to do.

The hastily set up camp near the Plegian border, provided by the...coarse former khan of Ferox, was alive with the noises of rain and sobs. Using her advanced hearing, Panne located the source of the loudest cries and hesitantly stepped inside the tent they were coming from. The immediate reaction made her regret her decision, but something inside her told her to ignore the snooty blonde woman's protests and focus on answering the question posed by the slightly less pampered blonde girl. "I came to try and comfort you," she explained, a sudden feeling of sheepishness washing over her.

Of all the responses to get, she was hoping against a scoff, but alas, there it was. "Sorry if I'm skeptical, but you're not exactly the comforting type. Do understand."

"Shut your mouth," Panne snapped. "I did not come for you."

The girl who had been crying seconds earlier waved a hand weakly in her friend's direction. "Please, don't fight."

The woman huffed indignantly, but whatever argument she was going to attempt was cut off by sniffles. "As you wish, darling."

"Thanks Maribelle," the girl said. "Now why did you come, Panne?" Before Panne could answer, the princess' eyes welled up with tears once more and she said, "are you here to tell me to shut up? I bet my ugly crying is hell on your ears. I'll try to k-keep it down."

Panne shook her head, violently conscious of the oversized ears draped over her shoulders. "No. I came because..." Suddenly, she found herself at a loss for words. "I don't...I do not know."

"Lissa, I'll see her out if it pleases you," Maribelle insisted.

Lissa shot a glare at her friend. "You know, maybe you should get some air, Maribelle."

The woman dropped the parasol she had been holding, mouth agape. "Wh-what?"

"She needs to focus, and she can't do that with you nitpicking her every word," Lissa said, clearly tired of having to mediate a debate in her time of need. "Please, just for a moment." Maribelle stormed out indignantly, and Panne took a seat in front of Lissa. "Now what's up?"

Panne sighed, the sight of the usually spunky princess in such a state of despair a wonder for helping her collect her thoughts. "I know how you must be...no, how you are feeling right now."

Lissa sniffled again, rubbing at her eye. "Y-you do?" After receiving a nod, she continued, "that's right. Your family got killed, didn't it?"

Another nod. "I have been in your exact position before. I feel that if there is anyone who can help you work your way through this pain, it would be me."

"Do you mean it?" Lissa asked, a glint in her eye that could have been either a tear forming or a glimmer of hope.

"The way you are now, it reminds me of myself right after it happened," Panne explained. "Er, that is, me after the destruction of my warren. You feel young and helpless, like your entire world has been taken from you and there's nothing you can do about it. I loved Emmeryn too. Not...not like you did, of course, but she showed me the best side of your kind, and I wish to repay her kindness in some way." A moment passed, during which neither person in the tent uttered a word. Each raindrop hitting the tent caused Panne's ears to twitch, and at one point, she heard Maribelle heave a dramatic sigh outside. Lissa looked like she was anticipating something, likely expecting Panne to elaborate on her offer to repay Emmeryn's kindness. However, no elaboration came, which ended in both women sitting in silence awkwardly.

Finally, Panne hastily started to leave, mumbling an apology under her breath. Lissa lunged forward and grabbed her wrist. "Hey. Thanks."

"I-I am no good at comfort. Apologies," Panne said again.

Lissa managed a smile. "You tried your best. And that's what matters. Thank you."

Panne nodded awkwardly before leaving the tent, telling Maribelle she could go back in with a glare.

Seconds after she had left, she was approached by the last person she wanted to speak to. "I saw that," he said in his infuriating accent.

"Begone," Panne spat.

Unfortunately, the intruder persisted. "Do correct me if I'm wrong, but do I sense a tender heart beating underneath that rough exterior?"

"I can hear your heart beat, and if you continue bothering me, it won't be underneath any exterior," she said quickly.

The man put a hand on his chest, a worried look flashing across his face for a second. "Er, sorry, let me try this again."

Panne whirled around, her ear nearly smacking him in his stupid, smug face. "You have one attempt before I disappear into this tent."

Her threat caused him to nod and clear his throat. "R-right. Look, I heard what you did, and it warms my heart, truly. I'm merely trying to congratulate you on dropping the fierce facade long enough to comfort someone in their time of need."

"Who said it was a facade?" Panne asked, a smirk on her face and a hand moving towards her beaststone. "Regardless, it was the right thing to do. I do not need praise from a sleazy man like you."

The man made a noise that sounded like the kind of dying sound some of her past prey would have made. "You wound me, my dear. What, did you think I would try to take advantage of that girl's tragedy?"

"That is exactly what I'm saying," Panne said, crossing her arms. "Now may I retire to my tent?"

"Not when you're so convinced I would stoop to those lengths!" Virion said quickly. "Look, I...I was going to do the same thing you did, but it's for the best that you did it. We've experienced similar tragedies, but it does mean more coming from you than it would a womanizer than me..."

"Have you...?" Panne asked, doubtful that a man with such a cheery disposition could possibly have had a brush with loss.

"I was the duke of Rosanne, of Valm!" Virion said, making a grand hand motion. "...Was, being the key word. You see, I've had to watch my realm burn to the ground. I too, have been helpless at the slaughter of my people." He allowed a moment for this news to sink in, watching Panne's expression go through many different changes. "We have more in common than you may think, you know."

The words were almost physically painful to hear, but she couldn't argue against them. At least, not very well. When both members of the conversation had seen death and war rage around them, without the ability to do anything, it was sound logic. Finally, Panne thought of something to say, arguing, "well, you weren't as young as I was."

Virion shrugged. "Yeah, but one could argue that watching your people die around you as a powerless adult would hurt just as much as watching that as a child. Knowing you could have done something, saved someone, but didn't..."

Whatever Virion said next was drowned out by terrible, bloody flashbacks. Nothing was real anymore except the rain splashing on her head. Everything else was a blur, the current moment mixing with the day the Warren was lost. With a scream, Panne fell to her knees, hands clutching her ears tight. Virion had taken a step back and asked if she was alright, but it was lost on her. When the flashbacks had finally subsided, she looked up to see his worried face. "S-sorry," she mumbled. "Flashbacks."

Virion nodded, understanding in his eyes. Something about that look clicked within Panne, and it caused her mind to race. This was someone who truly understood the trauma and the side effects of it, and now he was reaching out to her to show her that. Knowing that someone shared her struggles like this was a totally new feeling, and she was completely lost on how to handle it.

So, naturally, she handled it in the worst way possible.

She grabbed his wrist and pulled him into her tent with her, quickly pushing him onto the ground and straddling him. "Tell me. Do you try to woo women to push the flashbacks out of your mind? Is romance a big enough distraction?"

The dumbstruck Virion struggled to form a response. "Wh-no, I—"

"Enough talk."

"I couldn't possibly take advantage of a woman in such a turbulent state of emotions," he insisted, trying to push her off of him to no avail.

Panne's explanation was strangely calm for someone looking to get frisky. "We are equals in this regard, I see no advantage being taken. Please help me push the memories away."

Virion, meanwhile, was unusually frantic for a man who seemed to pursue getting frisky often. "I'd love to, b-but surely this isn't the best way."

"Gods damn it Virion, A woman is trying to seduce you for once, so let it happen."

This was an argument Virion couldn't have countered, partially because Panne had slammed their lips together. This kind of woman's touch was too much for Virion to resist any longer, and he succumbed to temptation, thankful that the only Shepherd with ears good enough to hear what happened next in that tent was, in fact, the other one it was happening to.

The next morning found two naked bodies curled up close to each other, sharing warmth in the cold, post-storm morning. They were startled awake by someone calling into the tent. "Panne? Have you seen Virion? He's not in his tent."

Panne was quick to warn the intruder not to come in before lying about having seen him. Virion stirred awake shortly after, sighing as he recounted the events of the previous night. "We...really did that, didn't we?"

Panne nodded, the faintest hint of a blush creeping across her face. "I had not planned on it getting as far as it did, honestly. But it certainly did what I had wanted it to."

"Well, I'm glad I could help," Virion said, hesitant to sound too proud. "Just, give a man a warning next time, yeah?"

Panne scoffed. "Don't pretend as if there will be a next time. Now get out."

"E-er, right..."

After making sure he was decent, she sent him off with, "and you better not tell anyone about this."

Not long after the illicit encounter in the tent, the Shepherds brought justice to the wicked man who was responsible for Emmeryn's death. Following that was a two year period that was peaceful for Ylisse, but couldn't be less so for Panne and Virion.

The constant stress of traveling and fighting was relieved and she had time to herself, but she couldn't tell if that were good or bad. The time alone with her thoughts only gave way to more terrible flashbacks and bad memories coming back to the surface, and now that her main outlet was gone, she was forced to take the other option.

Surely once more couldn't hurt, right? Using this mindset, she was quick to track down Virion on his time off, lucky that he stayed in town to attend the rumored royal wedding that would be taking place in the coming days. During his time off, he had found alcohol, which the Shepherds had previously been staying away from in case of random battles breaking out, so he was easier to convince with that in his system. The guilt from randomly sleeping with a relative stranger ate at Panne, but it wasn't as bad as the trauma that she had pushed away by doing so.

After the royal wedding took place and the capital city settled, life returned to the relative normalcy it had before that night Emmeryn had been attacked. In the midst of the new found peace, it didn't take very long at all for Panne to realize something was wrong. Random bouts of dizzyness and nausea that were uncharacteristic for her species gave way to losing sleep over getting sick to her stomach. After that came the, to her, unmistakable signs of a very big mistake.

The first and only person she approached with this was the offending party, of course. Fortunately (or not), Virion was still as easy to track down as ever, and the clearly tipsy nobleman was startled nearly sober by Panne storming in and jabbing a finger into his chest. "I would ask if you're here to, er, lay again, but the look in your eyes is..."

"Murderous," Panne suggested. "Or perhaps disgusted? I could go on."

"No need," Virion assured her. "The sour expression adorning your otherwise lovely face tells me loud and clear that I have done something wrong. But...what is it I've done?" Panne balled her hands into fists, desperately wanting to punch his lights out, but her intent must have been easy to read, because Virion put his hands up defensively. "L-look, you can't fault me for not knowing what I did wrong. Last time we spoke, we parted on somewhat alright terms, so I have no clue what you're so angry about."

After a tense silence, Panne sighed. "Right. I apologize."

Virion resisted the urge to snark and instead opted to say, "now what is it? Perhaps we can talk this out. You know, like adults."

Panne took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak, but instead nodded in his direction. "You should sit down before I go on."

Virion scoffed, puffing his chest out proudly. "There's nothing you could tell me that would cause me to faint."

Panne raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. "Truly?"


Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Panne almost took glee in delivering the news in the most deadpan voice she could say it in. The color drained from his face in the blink of an eye, and his body hit the ground almost as fast. If she were better off, Panne would have left him there and never spoken to him again, and the temptation to do that was there. Unfortunately, she hardly had enough money to her name to support herself, so she softly kicked at Virion until he stirred again. "Wake up," she said curtly.

Ever the dramatic one, Virion had Panne grab him a wet washcloth to hold to his head before he would get up properly. When he was propped up against the wall, cloth to his forehead, he said, "you're...not joking, are you?"

"I have never told a joke in my life," Panne responded.

With a sigh, Virion drummed his fingers on the ground with his free hand. "That's unfortunate."

"You're telling me," Panne scoffed. "Now how are you going to fix this?"

Virion bit his lip, humming in thought. "Alright, we should take this one step at a time. First order of business, we should consider getting married."

"Absolutely not," she snapped.

Virion put his hands up defensively. "Consider this, it would be bad form for an unmarried noble like myself to sire a child outside of wed—"

Panne stomped her foot, nearly crushing Virion's fingers. "This isn't about you!"

Virion continued, unfettered by Panne's protests. "Call me a hopeless romantic because of Chrom's recent wedding, but it would only be proper for me—"

Interrupting him again, Panne yelled, "there are more important things to be worrying about than your damn public image, you dumbass!" Dumbfounded, Virion put a hand over his chest and looked at Panne with wide eyes. "You caused this, and you are going to help me through it. I refuse to partake in your idiotic human customs to ensure that I get the help I deserve."

Neither person spoke for a moment, and Virion took the tense lull in conversation to get to his feet. He dusted himself off and turned to face Panne with a stony face. "I see. You wouldn't want to devote your life to someone with whom your only interactions have been...illicit in nature. Very well! I will help you in whatever way you desire, and perhaps someday, when the child is alive and healthy, you will deem me worthy of your love and devotion."

"Don't get your hopes up," Panne snapped.

"Right right, but we should probably get to know each other at least a bit," Virion insisted.

Panne rolled her eyes. "That is not out of the question, of course, but do not expect me to enjoy your presence."

"Fair enough," Virion said. "Now where shall we start?"

Panne's shoulders slumped. "I...don't know."

That day set into motion a bizarre chain of events that both people involved swore to keep a secret from everybody possible. They weren't a couple by any means, but Panne started taking her payment in the form of moving in with Virion in a larger house somewhere else in the capital city of Ylisse. He wasn't too terribly comfortable with the arrangements, but the conversation they had when they first moved in helped soothe his fears a bit. "I find it odd that you refused to marry me, but insist on moving in with me."

Panne rolled her eyes. "Us being under the same roof means nothing. We will be in separate rooms, and with any luck, I won't be seeing you until I need you."

Virion sighed in relief. "Whew, here I thought you would force me to share a bed with you regularly."

Unimpressed, Panne shook her head. "Not even in your wildest dreams."

Virion was quick to point out, "stranger things have happened between us." The glare he was shot ended that conversation right away and marked the last time the two saw each other for days.

The next time the reluctant housemates saw each other was when Panne started succumbing to the mood swings. The sounds of someone frantically running around the house weren't what woke Virion, but once the front door opened, he rushed to see what was causing it. The sight he found was Panne in the doorway, eyes wide and a bag on her back. "Where are you going?"

"I've decided I need to leave," she said quickly. "I can't stay here and raise a child in such...unfortunate circumstances. I will do this on my own."

Virion raised an eyebrow. "Where will you do this?" Without responding, Panne slammed the door and, presumably, stormed off. Virion shook his head and made his way into the kitchen. "Perhaps it's for the best that I don't have to deal with this." After considering the situation over a nice, quiet cup of tea, he sighed deeply. He had come to the realization that this rash decision stemmed from some sort of weird mood swing, and that a nobleman like himself should go through with his lofty promises. "I should go find her."

It took all of ten minutes to find Panne hastily buying fruit at a stand in the bazaar. In an attempt to be as reasonable and reassuring as possible, he lightly tapped her shoulder and asked her nicely to go back to the house with him. She responded by elbowing him in the gut and stashing the fruit in her bag. "I refuse to go anywhere with you. I don't need you."

The temptation to let her go was strong, but patience and decency won out. "And how exactly do you plan on taking care of yourself and a child without a coin to your name, hm?"

Panne hesitated, but said, "the Taguel have survived in the wild for generations."

Virion rolled his eyes. "But you're a Taguel who has experienced the leisure of civilized living."

"I'll go back," she said simply.

"You do realize this will mean no more bathing, right?" He paused to let the threat sink in. "And no more decently cooked meals, unless you'd like to give your position away to possible threats. And further more, if something happened to you, what will become of the child?"

Every muscle in Panne's body tensed, her eyes even wider. "Dear gods, you're right."

Virion nodded sagely, having accidentally stumbled into a good point. "See, my dear, you are the last of your kind. Inside you, you carry the last hope of your race. If something were to happen to you, how would your child cope with being the last Taguel?"

Panne shifted her weight and tried to sound as indignant as possible. "I managed just fine."

"Did you really?" He felt bad for spitting the words the way he did when he saw the look in her eyes change from panicked and rushed to on the verge of tears, but he continued. "I promised to help you through this, and Virion does not make promises he doesn't intend to keep. And if you stay with me, I promise that if something happens to you, I will keep the Taguel alive and well through your child." When she couldn't form a response, he reached for her hand. "But you have to promise not to do this."

Instead of reaching for him like he had expected her to, Panne walked by him, making her way back to the house. "Fine. But only because you insist."

Virion smiled, shaking his head. This was going to be a long pregnancy.

The rest of her mood swings never got quite as bad as trying to leave home, but there were some pretty rough patches. Mere days after the first incident, Panne had to be talked down from a screaming fit that broke a good number things. Once she was calmed, they sat across from each other at the table, talking over some tea. "Sorry about the nightstand," Panne said. After being reassured it was alright, she added, "and the front door."

Virion laughed, raising his hand to stop her. "It's quite alright. Everything you broke is easily replaceable. Just try not to get so worked up in the future."

Panne raised an eyebrow at him, taking a sip of tea before asking, "why do you say that?"

"Stress during pregnancy tends to have negative effects on the child," Virion said knowingly.

"How do you know this?" Panne asked, concern in her voice.

After laughing his snooty laugh, Virion explained, "I've taken the liberty of picking up a couple of books about pregnancy and all the pitfalls thereof. I've been discreet, of course, but I am now fully prepared to do my duty."

Panne's hand tightened around her cup. "Why are you so devoted to helping me like this? All I truly need from you is the financial support."

"Ah, but you fail to realize one thing," Virion said. "I am this child's father, so I feel a certain responsibility to not only support the child, but do my best to ensure its well-being after it is born."

Unsure of how to feel, Panne cleared her throat. "I didn't ask for this."

"I understand that," Virion assured her. "However, a true gentleman doesn't need to be asked to go above and beyond."

Something about that explanation bugged Panne, though. "Alright, what's the catch, then?"

After taking a sip, he shook his head earnestly. "None at all. After some reflection, I came to the conclusion that I should contribute more to the life I created than by merely supporting you financially. If there is anything you need, be it questions to be answered or even..." He hesitated, clearly not wanting to give the next offer. Finally, he finished with, "yes, even foot rubs, I will provide it."

Seeing him squirm was amusing to Panne, but she decided to take full advantage of the situation. "You know, now that you mention it, my feet are a bit sore. You should get them." She smiled, but the way she lifted her feet off the ground told Virion she was being completely serious. As he sighed and got on the floor to do his work, she reflected on his willingness to go the extra mile. His heart rate had been normal during the conversation, which was solid evidence that he had meant every word of it. Even if she still didn't believe him after that, the fact that he was on his knees at her feet would prove it just fine.

Her feelings at the moment were hard to pin down. She had felt many things speaking to Virion: anger, hatred, disbelief, exhaustion, and those one or two moments of vulnerability to name a few, but this was a new one. She was mostly confused, with a dash of something else she couldn't quite pin down.

As she watched him labor at her feet, her hand found itself resting on her stomach, which would become a habit over the course of her pregnancy.

As time wore on, Panne started suffering from the physical changes of said pregnancy, which meant her hand was resting on a bigger and bigger stomach. After a point, the extra insecurities that came with the growth lead to her locking herself up in the house, refusing to go outside except when the dark of night could hide her shame. That made sense of course, because if a fellow Shepherd somehow saw her out and about, they would start asking questions about the woman that they thought was unattached to anybody being with child. It wasn't until she got really noticeable that things started getting ridiculous.

Until then, Panne had slowly started letting her walls down around Virion, allowing him to get closer with her (both mentally and physically) in ways that would have been unthinkable before. That was why it struck Virion odd that one day he had come home to find Panne locked in her room, refusing to come out for any reason, no matter how many offers for massages he made. He had whipped up dinner, confident that that would bring her out of hiding, but he wasn't expecting exactly how she would emerge.

"Panne," he called to the locked door. "Come on out now, I've made us a spectacular dinner, if I do say so myself."

The response on the other side of the door was muffled, but he knew what it was. He made his way back to the kitchen to put their plates together and started listening for the door opening. When the sound came, it also came with a strange sound of something rubbing together and frustrated grunts. He raised an eyebrow, distracted from putting food together. Was Panne leaving the room sideways to be overdramatic and getting herself stuck? Was she attempting to move her stuff out of the house again? If so, couldn't she at least have the decency to wait until supper was over? When the noise stopped, he jumped at the incredibly heavy footfalls that were now roaming the house. He grabbed a knife and whirled around, prepared to deal with an intruder, but what he saw made him nearly drop the knife in surprise. "What...are you doing?"

"Coming to eat dinner, why?" The strange distortion of Panne's voice echoed throughout the house as she spoke.

"Do you mind eating in your human form, dear?" He asked, gesturing at the mass of fur and glowing red eyes taking up most of the living room.

If she had the room to sit up straight, she would have done just that and crossed her arms for added effect, but she instead remained on all fours and tilted her head. "Why should I? And don't call me that."

"I can only imagine how cramped we would get if you insisted on eating in a form that takes up half the house," Virion explained, trying to keep calm with the knowledge that she could unleash her claws on him at the slightest wrong choice of words.

"I will be fine," she stubbornly insisted. "Now give me my food so I can go back into my room."

Virion rolled his eyes. "And how do you plan on taking your food back to your room?"

A moment paused, and if Panne's rabbit face could show any emotion, it would have shifted to embarrassment. "I'll eat in here," she finally said.

Virion shrugged and moved to the table, setting the two plates of food down before taking a seat himself. "This is odd," he said casually. "How long have we been living together that you haven't done this? I can't imagine you like to be in this form casually."

"Don't question me," Panne snarled. "I don't need to explain myself to you."

Virion held his hands up innocently. "Fine, fine. Feel free to talk about it later if you wish, though." Before proceeding to eat, Panne mumbled an obscenity under her breath, forgetting that her voice was amplified in this form anyway. The response she got was a stern headshake. "Such crass language coming from a mother-to-be," he scolded. "I do hope you don't plan to teach your child that."

"What I plan to teach my child will be none of your business." Thanks to her larger than normal snout, Panne's dinner was now almost entirely gone.

Virion held up two fingers, his free hand poking at his food with a utensil. "Two things. First of all, you probably shouldn't speak about those things in that form, lest someone overhear you and let your secret out." Panne gasped, and in a flash of brilliant purple light, the monster in the room had been replaced by... well... "Panne, why aren't you wearing any clothes?"

"I didn't feel like putting my armor on to transform," she explained, starting to eat what was left of her dinner as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

Virion shook his head, eyes going directly to the likely reason she had transformed in the first place. Seeing her hand resting on her bulging stomach stirred something in his heart, but he wasn't sure if it was caused by that or the lack of clothes on the woman doing it. "A-anyway," he continued, shaking his head. "My second point is that I can probably have a say in what we teach the child, since it is also mine."

"Still under the delusion that you will help raise it, I see." Panne really needed to work on not talking with her mouth full. "I appreciate the hospitality, but you will not be raising the kid any further than providing a roof over its head."

Virion sighed, knowing that pushing the subject today was a fruitless endeavor. "Fine, fine."

Luckily for him, he wouldn't have to struggle to avert his eyes for much longer, because she only had a little bit of dinner left to finish. Once she was done, she crossed her arms and seemed to pout. "I transformed so you would not have to see me so vulnerable, but now you've forced me to show you myself at the most vulnerable I can be. How humiliating."

"Why do you care how you look in front of me?" Virion asked. "You and I both know you don't care enough about what I think of anything, much less you." He didn't get any response, Panne opting instead to glare at nothing in particular. After swallowing a bite, Virion decided to continue speaking. "If it's any consolation, I don't think it's even possible for you to be vulnerable. You're the fiercest woman I believe I've ever met. I don't think I'll live to see the day you show true vulnerability."

Panne chuckled, taking a stand. "You're right. That does make me feel a bit better." She turned and started walking back to her room, unaware of Virion's struggles to look anywhere but at her. "And thanks for the food," was the last thing she said before disappearing into her room once more.

That was the last he saw of her that night, but he wasn't done interacting with her. Long after he had decided to go to bed, he was stirred by the door slowly creaking open. His muscles tensed, and he gripped the knife he hid under his pillow in case he was ever found by those who had destroyed his home. He listened to the footfalls get closer, but right before he would have attacked, he heard the oh-so-familiar sigh of the woman he lived with. Being sure to disturb him as little as possible, she climbed into bed and wrapped her arms around him, clinging to his back. "What...?" He asked, feigning having just been woken up.

"Don't get used to this," she said quickly. "Dreams weren't kind to me."

Virion nodded sluggishly. "Understood." As Panne pressed closer to him, he felt a distantly familiar sensation against his back. "Did you never put clothes on?"

If he had the light to see it and the energy to look, he would have seen a quickly flushing face. "Shut up."

With a smile, Virion fell back asleep. Neither person in that bed would admit it, but that night, they both relished the warmth of another human body, and that gave them both one of the best nights of sleep in their lives.

This entire fic is a bit of a late birthday present to my dearest girlfriend, who loves Panne and babyfic oh so very much. That said, this is only the beginning, and boy do we have a long way to go.