"I could give you some... special services, you know. No extra charge."
The Arisen laughed humorlessly, staring down at Madeleine with that fake, infectious smile he always wore around people who weren't his pawns.
"Maddy, please. The only person in this room I'm willing to sleep with is Alsiel."
I blinked in surprise as he threw an arm around me, pulling me close until all I could smell was sweat and leather and bow grease. Madeleine pouted at us, but let us leave her shop unmolested anyway.
As the Arisen let go of me and shuddered theatrically, laughing, I wondered what he'd meant.
Three weeks later, I stared at his bedroll from across the fire. The meeting with Grigori had visibly shaken him, cracking that fake smile that he still wore to try and keep the fear and sorrow from leaking out. He had not returned to Gran Soren. Perhaps he wasn't ready to say goodbye to his beloved, perhaps he thought maybe he might break if he were around other people. He sought solitude instead in the road- the wilderness, he had always said, was more his home than any roof or walled city.
One week later, we left Gran Soren for the last time. We'd spent a day in Cassardis, and for a very long time the Arisen had stood on the top of the bluff and looked out at the sea. I watched his hands shake for a long time, but as the sun rose, they finally stilled. He sighed, and I wondered what it meant. I wondered what his fear felt like, I wondered how he overcame it over and over. I knew he wanted to live more than anything, he laughed louder than any human I'd ever met. He never stopped joking, even if we didn't get his jokes. He never ran from battle, he never hesitated to dive into the thick of danger to save me, though I wish he wouldn't. He is not as strong as Konstantin, or Oko-san, but still, he never hesitates throw himself in harm's way for my sake.
He always laughs afterwards, he always keeps going, keeps exploring every new inch of the world we encounter, and even if something could kill us all around the next corner I know he will smile as we meet it.
I do not understand him. I do not understand why he is quietly marching towards the mountain for the uncaring people of this country. He is very certain that he will die, but he still does not ask anyone else to take up the bow in his place.
I do not understand him. I do not want him to die. I have tried to imagine a world without him, but it feels like if he were to die, the world would die with him.
"Alsiel," he says to me, on the slopes of the mountain, "if any of us are to survive this, I want it to be you."
I do not know how to phrase my feelings about this. I do not know how to answer him, but he continues anyway.
"So if it comes down to trying to save me, or saving yourself, I want you to run, alright? I want you to promise me you'll run, and not look back. I want you to have more than this."
He stares at me, and his eyes are bright, clear and certain. He wants this more than he wants his own survival.
"I will do as you ask, Arisen," I say, and it feels like something is being pulled from my chest through my throat. I don't have a name for this feeling.
Konstantin is on watch, but everyone else is asleep. It is our last night together. Tomorrow, we will face the dragon. The Arisen asked me to cast a sleep spell on him, because he knew he wouldn't be able to rest otherwise.
I stare at him from my bedroll, trying to memorize the strong line of his back, and trying to decide if the sickening, twisting feeling in my stomach is fear or sadness.
I think back to those words, that day.
The only person in this room I'm willing to sleep with is Alsiel.
I still don't know what he meant by that, but I know I've always felt more calm when I am close to him. I reach across the space separating us, I touch his hair. I've felt it many times accidentally, but never with my hands, never intentionally. I wonder if he would remember those words, if he meant this, and slowly, carefully, even though I know he will not wake, I climb into his bedroll with him.
It is warm, and it smells like him, his leather and sweat and bow grease. I close my eyes, and the awful feeling that could be fear or sadness gradually ebbs away.
"... Alsiel," he mumbles, turning in his sleep. Before I can react, his arm is around me and he is pulling me close, up against his chest.
"Arisen...? M... Maou...?"
His face is in my hair, and he is breathing contently, sleeping more calmly than I have ever seen. All of my fears, all of my sadness, they are all gone now, melted away by his warmth.
For the first time, I am smiling.
When Maou awakens, the first thing he sees is his main pawn, Alsiel, curled up in the crook of his arm, fast asleep. Alsiel has never done anything like this, but Maou doesn't mind. He smoothes the hair out of Alsiel's face and laughs quietly, blinking away tears that no one will see.
He says softly, so not to wake him, "... You know, I can't think of a better way to wake up on the last day of my life."
A/N: All of these pawns are real, and Alsiel is a pretty good healer if you ever need one. Feel free to use him if you wish, my PSN name is siliconmage. Be gentle.