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Fictober 2019

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A chakram sings past Thancred’s head and carves into the face of the creature he currently holds at bay. There’s a sickening crack, a gurgling sound and then the creature’s eyes roll back in its head and the body falls limp. Thancred relaxes, lowers his gunblade and glances behind him to Phaedra who catches the chakram as it flies back into her hand with a flourish.

“Funny,” the corner of his mouth curls upwards in a lazy smile, “I seem to remember someone telling me, quite firmly, that they didn’t dance.”

Phaedra gives him a side long glance as she passes him and begins to dig through the corpse for the body piece they’ve been sent to collect for the healers in spagyrics.

“This isn’t dancing in the traditional sense.” She explains, her tail swaying back-and-forth. “It’s a form of fighting.”

“Mhm-hm...” he squats down beside her. “It requires a sense of rhythm, does it not?” Her eyes flick to him, then back to the entrails she’s going through. “A sense of rhythm, and an ability to keep time and pace...” He notes that her tail stiffens, and the spikes at the very top of it have risen like the hackles on a cat. “The only difference between traditional dance and your version is that you are armed.” 

He smiles at her when her eyes again flick to him. There’s a hint of scarlet on her cheeks and she leans further forward to obscure her face with her hair. A few moments pass and Thancred opens his mouth to wheedle her a little more. Phaedra beats him to it.

“That’s seven.” She rises to her feet as she carefully places the organ in a pack specifically prepared for the transporting of it. “We need another three” She points beyond them and Thancred looks in the direction to see another over-sized iguana. “If you’d be so kind.”

He sighs, rises and arms himself. Clearly their conversation is at an end. For now.

 


 

Tasks completed for the day, Thancred spends most of his evening in the Cabinet of Curiosities, doing further research on the Empty and, when he’s had enough of that, research on how Hydaelyn came to be. The words of Emet-Selch still hang and echo at the back of his mind, and it’s a worry that plagues not only him, but his fellow Scions as well. 

By nightfall, he’s returned to his quarters and has several books to continue his research in private. He already has five or six on his desk that he’s copied passages and taken detailed notes from, but it’s never a bad thing to have more research... And that’s all he can really do while he’s here in the First given his more specialized skills have not been needed since he liberated Ryne from Eulmore. 

Half-way through a tankard of warm ale, his door opens and Phaedra enters. She runs her fingers through his hair and kisses the side of his temple as she passes him at his desk and sits on the bed. It’s a very familiar gesture and one that makes Thancred’s whole body feel warm and tingly. She’s still in the clothes from earlier that day, though they’ve been cleaned of viscera and dirt. That means she’s still attuned to her Dancer soulstone. 

His mind draws back to their brief conversation and how he teased her about dancing. The time he asked was during a celebration in Ishgard. Phaedra sat on the sidelines and clapped along to the music, tapping her feet watching other people dance together and in groups. She declared she didn’t dance when Thancred offered his hand. He asked her to dance a few other times after that, when there were parties and celebrations for one reason or another. Each time the answer was the same. 

Placing his quill down on his desk, he flexes his hands and rises. Across the room is an orchestrion player and the Exarch has been generous enough to furnish him with a few scrolls when silence is no longer good company. Thancred selects one, sets it to play and approaches Phaedra who is watching him curiously. Her eyes grow wider when he offers his hands to her. 

“N-”

“It’s just the two of us, darling.” He slides his hands into hers. “And you can’t embarrass yourself in front of me.”

Phaedra laughs airily, “do you want to put gil on that?” 

Despite her reluctance, she follows him onto her feet, away from the bed and to a more open area of the room. Thancred places one hand on her hip and clasps her other hand in his, Phaedra rests her vacant hand on his shoulder and he begins to lead her. It’s a simple waltz step he knows from his time in the Source. His needing to gain entry to places gave him a lot of skills, some of which he uses in day-today life, others that come up once in an era. Dancing is one of the latter. 

Phaedra hardly looks at him, her head tilted forward, her eye down as she watches their feet. He can practically hear her counting the beats. She steps on his foot once, twice. A third time and she pulls out of his embrace. 

“I told you...” her cheeks are bright red.

Thancred purses his lips. “Why is this dancing so much harder than what you’re doing on the battlefield?” He takes her hands and places them up on his shoulders; his own hands he rests on her hips. 

“This is a little more intimate.” Admits Phaedra, quirking a brow. “When I’m fighting it’s less about dancing and more about getting the moves right to properly direct aether and to make the most out of each attack.”

“Your mind is distracted?”

“More... focused.” She shrugs, “I’m concentrating more on survival, and not falling flat on my face. Or tail.”

“Interesting.” Thancred sways them in time to the music. Either Phaedra hasn’t noticed or is ignoring it. “And you’ve never liked dancing?”

“Not particularly. It’s not really something you’re taught to do when you grow up scrounging for food. I’m sure you can understand that.”

“I do.” He remembers his life in Limsa before he was taken in by Louisoix. Phaedra rarely talks about her life before he knew her. He knows she grew up an urchin, much like he did in his younger years. He was lucky though. Phaedra, and others, far less so. “Do you object to this?”

She dips her head. “No...” Her hands slide across Thancred’s shoulders to encircle his neck. She rests against him continuing to let him lead. “This is... nice. Though it’s not exactly dancing.”

“We’re moving to a rhythm.” Thancred says as he rests his chin on top of her head. “This is as much dancing as anything.”

Phaedra gives a light chuckle. “If you say so.” 

He moves his hands from her hips to her back, one pressing lower and the other higher, his fingers stroking her scales at the base of her neck. Thancred smiles into her hair. They keep dancing long after the music has stopped. 

Chapter Text

Coerthas is no stranger to snowstorms and blizzards. They came from nowhere, lasted however long they wanted, and then disappeared as suddenly as they came. 

Thancred doesn’t hate the snow, per se, he just prefers it when its on the ground rather than buffeting him in the face. His chocobo is struggling in the face of the harsh weather and so is Phaedra’s a few yalms ahead of him. Though she is determined to make it through the storm. 

“Phaedra!” he calls to her, but his voice is carried off by the wind. He pulls his fur-lined jacket closer around him and urges the chocobo into a quicker pace. It argues with him, but he’s able to get it to trot ahead and curve around in front of Phaedra. “We need to stop!” He shouts, and cups his hands around his mouth in the hopes his voice will reach her. 

Phaedra’s brows furrow - they are all that is visible of her face. She pulls her scarf down. “Just follow me, I know this area!” She calls back and snaps the reins of her chocobo. 

Thancred does the same, and moves his bird so he is still blocking the way. “It’s too dangerous. We need to pitch up and wait until the storm is passed!”

He sees a element of conflict in her expression as she looks to him and then around them. There’s nothing but white for malms, swirling around them. It clings to her hair and her eyelashes, and Thancred’s hair is drenched from the wet snow melting into it. 

“The chocobos are struggling!” He tries to appeal to her softer side. If she won’t stop for him imploring, she’ll stop for the welfare of the birds. 

Her face falls a little and a look of resignation comes across her features. “Alright.”

Relieved, Thancred climbs off his chocobo and begins to unpack their supplies. They pitch up as fast as they can given the inclement weather. One tent for the two of them, and another for the chocobos to protect them. The two birds huddle close together in their rather feeble make-shift stable, but they seem satisfied with the gysahl greens when he places a large armful in front of them. 

When he enters the second tent, brushing snow from his shoulders and his hair, he finds Phaedra sitting with her knees held close. She’s dug a fire pit in the middle of the tent and it gives off welcome warmth and light. The blizzard outside rages on and batters the outside of the tent... but it will pass. Of that, Thancred is sure. 

“You’ll catch your death if you don’t change.” He says, indicting to Phaedra’s snow drenched outer clothing. He removes his bandanna and wrings it out. He removes his coat and hangs it off one of the poles that support the tent’s roof. His arms are cold and damp, and he reaches his hands out to the fire to warm himself. When he glances at Phaedra, he can see she hasn’t moved. “Phaedra!”

The snap of his voice seems to pull her from whatever thought she was in. She starts and lifts her head to look at him. Its then he can see that her eyes are red and watering with unshed tears. 

“It’s just a storm, Phae...” he tries to offer some assurance and moves closer. “Whatever it is will still be there when it passes.”

“That’s not...” she pauses, sniffles and rubs her cheeks when the tears fall unbidden. “Today is important to me.”

Thancred helps remove her wet outer clothing. Once it is hanging up and drying, he sits beside her, covers them both in several blankets and takes her hands in his. “Your hands are like ice.” He begins to rub and blow on them to warm them. When he glances at her, he can see she’s smiling a little. “Why is today so important that it warrants tears?” he asks as casually as he is able. 

There’s a long silence before Phaedra inhales, “Haurchefant.”

The name is only vaguely familiar to Thancred. He has heard it spoken by Alphinaud, Phaedra, and on occasion Aymeric and members of the Fortemps family. His knowledge is limited barring what he’s been told which, to be fair, is precious little. He does know that without Haurchefant, both Alphinaud and Phaedra would never have been granted entry to Ishgard, and that he perished defending Phaedra from a spear of light.

“Ah.” Thancred says, simply. 

“It’s a year today.” Phaedra tells him. She curls her fingers around his. “His memorial is at the top of this hill. I haven’t been able to visit. I want...”

“I’m sure he’d understand, given the circumstances.” Thancred says, though he feels he’s at a loss for words. What can one say about a man one never knew? He clears his throat, “would you like to talk about him?”

“I miss him,” Phaedra inclines her head and rests her forehead on Thancred’s shoulder. He turns his head to press his lips to her hair and cradles the back of her head in his hand. “He was the best of Ishgard... They don’t know what they lost when they lost him.” Her voice catches and her shoulders tremble a little on a breath. “I owe him my life, and I’ve been terrible at repaying the debt.”

“I never knew him,” Thancred murmurs to her, “but if he was as good as you say, I doubt he would have been the kind of person to consider you indebted to him for saving your life...”

“You would have like him.” Phaedra hiccups. She clutches his clothes with one hand and turns her face into his neck. Her eyelashes are wet on his skin. “I think a small part of me loved him.”

Something deep-seated and with sharp claws freezes around Thancred’s heart and digs in. He’s never considered the idea that Phaedra could be in love with someone else, even a little bit. It’s foolish, but a small part of him flares jealously. “How small a part?” he tries to keep his voice light.

“He was kind and generous and charming... Selfless.” Her face is still tucked into Thancred’s neck. He winds his fingers around her hair. “He made me feel alive after I lost you and the others. He gave me hope when I had none to spare for myself or Alphinaud... I hate speaking of him in the past tense. It feels wrong.”

She’s avoided his question, either that or not really heard it, but Thancred doesn’t press. This is a part of Phaedra that no one ever sees. The moments of weakness and remembering the losses of close companions. Thancred understands the need to grieve. He understands it well. Minfilia’s absence still weighs heavy on his heart. 

Phaedra continues to talk about Haurchefant until she’s run out of words and tears. They sleep huddled together. At least Phaedra sleeps, Thancred lies awake listening to the wind and watching her. He wonders about this Ishgardian man who had such an impact. Wonders what his feelings towards Phaedra might have been. She speaks about him with such fondness and warmth that Thancred wonders if perhaps it might have been better if he perished and this Haurchefant lived... Not that such a thing is possible. He finds himself thinking that Haurchefant was more deserving to be at her side, to share her bed, and to have her heart so willingly given. 

He sleeps, but it is not restful and in the morning the storms have passed. 

They break camp, eat, feed the chocobos and continue their journey. Thancred isn’t sure what he is expecting when they come to the top of the hill. Perhaps a cenotaph or a marble tomb. What he see’s is simple and understated. A black shield adorned with the symbol for House Fortemps and a plaque with his name. 

Haurchefant Greystone

Phaedra cleans the memorial. She removes snow from around it and removes some flowers that are long past dead. They all but disintegrate when she touches them. She has her own flowers that have been carefully tended and have survived both travel on chocobo and the harsh weather. Thancred keeps his distance as she tends to the grave. He watches as she drops to her knees and prays in silence. 

He bows his head in reverence and respect and sends a prayer to this man who gave the woman he loves hope when she had none. 

‘Thank you for watching over her when I could not. Thank you for caring about her when I was not here. Thank you for protecting her.’

Chapter Text

Phaedra shuffles her feet, the blanket in her arms feeling more like a lead weight than simple cloth. She’s paced to and from where the healers are situated in Ala Mhigo several times, gearing herself up to enter. 

She’s afraid. 

Going inside means she’ll see Thancred, comatose and a husk. It’ll make it real... Losing him again. 

Its the sound of someone else approaching that spurs her into action and she darts inside the healers quarters, closing the doors behind her. It’s quiet inside, and there’s a medicinal smell coming from incense burners that stings her nose and eyes. 

The healers quarters are large enough to house about twenty people. Several beds are occupied by Alliance soldier recovering from minor injuries or being checked in their recovery. The healers are obvious only by their garb. At the far end of the main chamber are doors leading to separate rooms where more serious cases are taken. 

Thancred is in one of them. 

She clears her throat and enters more fully. An older elezen woman sees her and there’s a glint of recognition in her eye. She approaches Phaedra and fixes her with a warm smile while reaching out for the blanket. Phaedra clutches it to as though it’s made of gold. 

“To what do we owe the pleasure of a visit from the Warrior of Light?” asks the woman. Phaedra’s snatching back of the blanket has not moved the warmth from her face.

“Has there been any change in Thanc--... I mean, in the Scions condition?”

The woman’s face softens, “none. We would alert you if there was.” Phaedra smiles briefly at her own foolishness. Of course there’s no change. Why would there be? She averts her gaze to the blanket she’s clutching and brushes the fabric. The air grows stagnant as silence grows. “Would you like to see him?”

“Yes!” Phaedra jumps at the chance. She hasn’t been able to get in and visit since he collapsed. As always, she’s been pulled in every other direction except the one she wants to go in. All she’s wanted to do is be by his bedside and offer what meager help she can to his recovery or discovering what it was that took him in the first place. She’s been told by Alisaie, Y’shtola, and Urianger that the best thing she can do for Thancred is to carry on.

Easy for them to say. 

“Please, I...”

“Follow me.” The elezen woman leads her through the lines of bed to the door on the right. She opens it and gestures for Phaedra to enter. The room is lit by natural light from an open window. Its sparsely decorated, but comfortable. A single bed is against the wall, a bedside table, and a lamp. There’s a desk too, untouched, with a chair tucked beneath it. “Take your time.” The woman closes the door. Phaedra waits until she can no longer hear her footsteps receding.

She lingers by the door as though she’s intruding. There is no noise, except for the slow inhale and exhale of breath. Thancred’s chest rises and falls equally as slow. His clothes are folded neatly on the bedside table, his bandanna hangs on the back of the chair. His hair has been released from its braid. It’s so messy around his face. A simple white cotton blanket covers him up to his chest, his arms rest by his side. There is still colour to his skin, though the dark hue of the archon tattoos on his neck seem more stark than they ever were before. 

Phaedra bites her lips into her mouth and enters further inside. She worries her footsteps might wake him; he looks so much like he’s in a deep sleep... but then she remembers he won’t wake.

“I...” her voice strains against emotions she’s trying to keep under control. she takes a breath, settles herself and walks further in. “I brought this for you from the Rising Stones.” She unfolds the blanket and gently lays it over his prone form. Its a simple thing; blue with a white pattern on the edges made of wool and some kind of down so its warm and soft. “I know it’s your favorite.” Thancred told her once that it was the first thing that made him feel at home in Sharlayan; that Louisoix gifted it to him and he’s kept it close ever since. 

She sits tentatively on the edge of the bed after tucking the blanket around him. All she wants to do is crawl underneath it, to be near him but she resists. “The Alliance are doing as you suggested. Feeding rumors into the provinces... We have a chance, thanks to you.” Her breath catches, she sniffles, tilts her head to stare up at the ceiling but its not enough to hold back the tears she’s been wrestling with. 

“I don’t know if you can hear me,” she inches closer to him and brushes away long, unkempt silver hair from his face. She cups his cold cheek in the palm of her hand and traces her thumb over his eyebrow and down his cheekbone, “Gods, I hope you can hear me.” Phaedra sniffles again and wipes her cheeks with the palm of her left hand. “I need you to... To fight whatever has you, if you can. To come back.”

She takes one of his hands in both of hers and lifts it to her lips. His arm is heavy, a dead weight, and his skin is so cold to the touch he might as well be made of ice. She kisses his knuckles, silently praying that she might feel something. A tiny little movement, a gesture to signify he was still in there, listening and fighting. 

There’s nothing though. No miraculous recovery. No sleepy murmur of her name. Not even a sigh or groan of waking. Thancred remains still and silent as a corpse; the only sign he is not one yet being the subtle rise and fall of his chest. 

Phaedra covers her mouth as a sob rises up her gullet and spills out of her mouth. To smother the noise of those that follow, she bites her hand and bows over, burying her face in the blanket she brought. She cries until she is weary, but when she leaves his room, her face is blank and clear.

No one can see the Warrior of Light weak. 

Chapter Text

As Thancred paces his room, nervous and trying not to count the seconds until Phaedra is due back at the Rising Stones, it occurs to him he has never gone to this extent for anyone.

Despite his past reputation as a rake and a lover, he’s never gone down the deep end of trying to woo someone. Never gone to them with soft words, poetry, and firelight. It’s strange; he’s nervous that Phaedra may not like this kind of thing. That perhaps he’s gone over board.

Scratch that, he knows he’s gone over board but he’s also trying his best to make her nameday special and unique. In previous years it’s passed as another day for her and the Scions, all too busy and wrapped up in troubles with Primals and Garlemald and whatever else is rearing its head to pay any attention. Having his own nameday ignored doesn’t matter to him. He has had celebrations in the past.

Phaedra has not. 

That is why his room is currently awash in candle glow, and he’s dressed himself in his finest gear. He looks like an Ishgardian nobleman. The jacket collar is high and chafes around his neck, and there’s a stupid frilly cravat that he’s left discarded on his bed. He’s managed to avoid questions and inquiries from the others... But Tataru probably knows what’s going on. And if Tataru knows, then its only a matter of time until the rest of the Rising Stones knows. 

He groans and sinks down onto the edge of his bed. He’s overdone it, and his gesture is stupid. Maybe there’s time to get rid of all the candles before Phaedra returns.

As he begins to extinguish two of the candles sitting on his desk, there’s a knock at the door. He looks up, startled like a rabbit caught in a foxes den. 

“Yes?”

“Its me.” Phaedra’s voice comes through, “may I come in? Tataru said you wanted to see me before I went to bed?”

Thancred curses internally. Too bloody late. He smooths his jacket down. It’s thick and he’s sweating underneath it. How do Ishgardians live in these? “Come in, the door’s open.”

The latch clicks. “Please don’t take this the wrong way but I’m exhausted and...” Phaedra pauses, releases the door and lets it close behind her as she takes in the picture in front of her. She eyes the candles, eyes Thancred in his uncomfortable garb, and she eyes the fresh sheets and how tidy he’s made everything. 

To Thancred’s eye, she looks beyond tired. She manages a weary smile, and her shoulders are rolled forward. There’s a smear of Gods-knows-what on her trousers, and another smear of it in her hair. 

“This is...” she loosely folds her arms over her abdomen.

“I know you didn’t ask for this.” Thancred interjects stepping towards her, “and it’s a lot. Too much. I’m trying too hard.”

“A little.” She gives a light laugh. “All this for my nameday?”

“Well,” Thancred rubs the back of his neck awkwardly. “I thought I would try to do something to celebrate.”

“This is very sweet,” she places the flat of her hand on his chest and kisses his cheek. Even that seems tired. “Unnecessary, but sweet.” She sits on the edge of his bed. “You didn’t have to dress up.”

“I thought I would put the effort in.” He sits beside her and smooths his hand over her hair and through whatever it is that is tarnishing it. He notices more of the sticky substance is coating one of her horns and some of the scales on her forehead. “What did you get in a fight with?”

“Ugh,” Phaedra grimaces. “Best not to ask.” Her shoulders droop and it looks as though she’s only just keeping her eyes open. “I was going to bathe and go to bed.”

Thancred smiles. “Don’t let me stop you. This was... poorly executed.”

“I appreciate it.”

“Just one small thing before you go to your rest.” He rises, crosses to his desk where there is a small cupcake specially baked by F’lhaminn with white icing and a single candle. He lights it and takes it to Phaedra, sitting down beside her and holding it out to her. “Tradition dictates you have to blow out the candle and make a wish.” She quirks a brow at him. “Humor me.”

She does. She purses her lips as though in deep thought before inhaling and blowing the flame out with one quick puff. Thancred holds the treat to one side and leans in close. He tilts his head, asking permission which Phaedra grants by tilting her head and meeting his lips half-way. She slides one of her hands over his neck beneath the collar of his jacket. 

“Happy Nameday.” Thancred whispers as they break apart. 

“Thank you.”

“What did you wish for?”

Phaedra taps the end of his nose with the tip of her index finger. “Secret.”

Chapter Text

“Where in the Sevens Hells did that come from?” Thancred runs his hands back through his hair, sending a spray of water in all directions. The noise of the heavy rain hitting the ground and the boughs of the tree he and Phaedra have taken shelter under is loud enough to deafen. 

Only minutes ago, the sky was clear with bright sunshine, barely a cloud in the sky and then, like magic, the weather turned and the heaven’s opened with a torrential downpour. He supposes that makes sense for somewhere like Il Mheg where aether may be a little wilder and more untamed. 

“Urianger will have to wait until this is over.” His coat is drenched, and there’s water dripping down the back of his neck underneath his clothes. It’s uncomfortable. 

“It’s only rain.” Phaedra returns in a teasing tone. 

Thancred sends her a dry look, which quickly becomes more a wide-eyed gawk. She is as drenched as he is and wears less clothes for better movement in battle. Her skin shimmers; and the fabric of her clothing clings to the subtle curves of her body. She has untied her hair and is wringing it out, utterly ignorant of how alluring she looks. 

Despite having seen her naked plenty of times, Thancred averts his gaze as though he’s intruding on something private. He fights to ignore the tug of desire that immediately throbs in his belly and the molten heat curling around it. He stares out at the rain and crosses his arms. His coat squelches.

He is taken by surprise when he feels Phaedra’s arms wrap around his middle and her body press into his back. He almost wants to whine. She is doing this on purpose? 

“My coat is wet, dear.”

“I’m already soaked.” She retorts, playfully. 

She has him there. He drops his arms and turns within her embrace. His hands automatically go her bare waist. Her lips and face are wet from the rain, there’s an amused smile on her lips as though she knows he was staring just a few moments ago. The simple top she wears only covers her breasts, and a glance down reveals to him that her nipples are erect, straining against the white fabric.

“Here,” Thancred clears his throat and slips out of her arms to remove his jacket. He drapes it over her shoulders without a word. “Before you catch cold.”

His coat his huge on her and smothers her smaller frame. Phaedra looks from it, to him, and back. “That’s the only reason you want me to wear your coat?” 

The tone of her voice is sultry and teasing in equal measure. Thancred’s restraint is a thread about to snap. “Not the only reason, no.” Phaedra begins to back up towards the trunk of the tree under which they’ve taken refuge. Thancred follows, pulled by the heat in her gaze and his own urgent desire. 

Phaedra’s back meets the tree trunk and she stops. Her lips are parted, her breath is short and Thancred looms above her, supporting his weight on his arms against the tree, effectively blocking any method of escape. Phaedra runs her teeth over her bottom lip. Her gaze flickers from his eyes to his mouth and h can see her chest rising and falling rapidly. 

Something rather primal has taken hold of them both and cannot wait to be satiated. 

“If you remove my coat, I might just kiss you.” Thancred tells her, leaning in close but not so close to kiss. He satisfies both himself and Phaedra by dipping his head lower and kissing her neck instead. Her sigh is audible. It trembles and that alone causes Thancred’s already heated cock press against the confines of his trousers. 

As he presses more slow, soft kisses to her neck, Phaedra lifts her arms to encircle his shoulders. His coat slides off her arms but remains pinned to the tree truck by her back. He lifts his head, meets her half-hooded and hungry gaze, considers for half a moment the potential consequences, decides he doesn’t care and kisses her. 

It’s a hard kiss that Phaedra greets with enthusiasm and returns just as fiercely. Her hands slide up into his hair, her tongue sliding between his lips causing the kiss to deepen. Thancred grunts when she hooks one leg up around his hip and restlessly writhes against him. He shoves a thigh between her legs and she starts to grind on that, fast and urgent. He fondles her breasts in a grip that is none too gentle, circling his thumbs around her nipples and earning a low moan in return. 

Dragging his mouth from hers, he kisses down her neck to her shoulder, pausing there to bite down. He wrenches her top up, exposing her breasts to the cool air and quickly tends to one peaked nipple with his lips. Phaedra gasps and her body shudders, her fingers tightening in his wet hair. Thancred swirls his tongue, biting down hard enough with his front teeth to earn another gasp. His other hand reaches lower, pushing passed the hem of her trousers and small clothes, to cup her heat. 

“Gods,” he rasps, and slides his fingers between her lower lips. They are coated with her slick and Phaedra bites back a slightly higher-pitched moan than before. His cock strains against his trousers, Phaedra grinding against him has brought him to a full erection and there’s already precum leaking from his head. “Phaedra...”

She rocks her hips forward into his palm, grinding against the heel of his hand and his wrists. She pleasures herself, shuddering each time she’s able to find her sweet spot on her own. Thancred leaves her breasts, returning to kiss her once more. He tangles his free hand in her hair, guiding her head further back and biting her bottom lip. 

“I want to be inside you.” He all but growls to her. 

She nods, “Hurry--”

He strips one of her legs out of her trousers, and undoes the buttons and fly of his, sliding them down enough for his cock to be released. Phaedra’s cheeks are scarlet, her chest heaves as Thancred holds her gaze. He strokes his cock, cups her thigh and uses the fingers of that hand to expertly pull her small clothes to one side. He lines himself up and sheathes himself with one quick thrust that causes both of them to gasp. Phaedra braces her arms on his shoulders, he lifts her other leg to curl around his hips, presses her against the tree and begins to move. 

“Twelve, Thancred--” Phaedra’s fingers curl into the hair at the nape of his neck, her lips are parted and each breath she takes is a sharp inhale. Thancred presses his brow against hers, pressing kisses to her mouth when he can, and squeezing her thighs in his hands with each snap of his hips. Phaedra cries out, but the sound is swallowed by the leaves at the rain. “--so deep--”

Her muscles squeeze around his cock, pulling him in with each movement. Her hot breath stings his lips, and her voice is a symphony of their own making. Thancred grunts, the effort to hold off from release causing him to clench the muscles in his thighs and backside. The heat inside him swirls and grows, ready to burst at any moment. He loves his woman. He loves her occasional wickedness and the joy she is able to bring him, in more ways than just physical. But at this precise moment, he loves the way it feels inside her. Loves the way she voice rises each time he hilts himself, loves how she clings to him, and praises him. 

“Phaedra,” he gasps into her mouth, tongue meeting hers briefly in a messy kiss. He clenches his jaw and buries his face in the curve of her neck. “Fuck, Phaedra... Phaedra--”

The heat inside him bursts. He hilts himself and the release that comes over him is euphoric. He spills inside her, panting against her skin and littering kisses to her neck. She curls his hair around her fingers and kisses his temple and his forehead over and over again. More praise, more affection. Thancred just wants more of it for the rest of his days. 

He slips out of her after a few minutes where they’ve both caught their breath and have had their sense returned. He gently lowers Phaedra to her feet, and cups between her legs to catch any of his spill. He digs around in one of the pockets of his jacket and finds a clean cloth, not yet stained by oil when he tends gunblade. He replaces his hand with that, and lets Phaedra clean herself up. 

When she’s done, and they’re both fully clothed again they return to their original position. Phaedra leaning against the tree trunk, Thancred over her. This time, his arms linger at her sides and he strokes her waist. They exchange soft, affectionate kisses, reaffirmation and gentleness the order of the moment. As Thancred softly brushes his nose back and forth against Phaedra’s, the rain stops as suddenly as it began, and beams of bright sunlight break through the clouds. 

He glances lazily at the grass now illuminated, and the water dripping from the leaves of the trees. He tuts, “bloody weather.”

Phaedra laughs, wraps her arms around him and relaxes. He returns her embrace and they silently agree to linger a little while longer.

 

Chapter Text

The sound of giggling is what draws Thancred from his own quarters to Phaedra’s. It rare enough to hear her laughing. Giggling is practically a miracle. The door is open; and she stands in front of a full-length mirror with Tataru behind her lacing something up her back.

“It’s not exactly made for mobility.” Phaedra says, twisting one way and then the other. She’s holding the front of the garment Tataru is lacing to her front and stands straight with tense shoulders after a quick word from Tataru. “It is lovely though; I’ll have to thank him when next I see him.”

“Thank who?” Thancred leans on the frame of the door, arms folded and feigning interest. 

“Aymeric sent a few gifts.” Tataru tells him, glancing back over her shoulder. “Isn’t this corset beautiful, Thancred? Come look at the embroidery.”

He arches his visible eyebrow but enters. He glances over the intricate stitching in silver and gold thread on a midnight blue silk dupione background. The stitches show pictures of dragons and starlight. Thancred circles, allowing his hand to curve across Phaedra’s waist out of Tataru’s line of sight. Phaedra throws him a withering look, which he returns with a lop-sided smirk.

“The gifts he showers you with, its a surprise he hasn’t just proposed to you yet.” He says with a lazy drawl. He sits on the edge of Phaedra’s bed and stretches out his legs. At the end, down by the bedpost nearest the wall is one of his shirts hastily stuffed out of sight. “He’s clearly in love with you.” He tilts his head back and leans back on his hands. “Considering his position as a politician, I’m surprised how bad he is at keeping a straight face.”

“You sound jealous, Thancred.” Tataru laughs, a big grin on her face and her purple eyes sparkling with mischief. “I wonder if you’re jealous of the gifts Phaedra gets, or the attention Aymeric pays her.”

He tuts, smirking at Tataru. “That’s none of your business.”

The three of them talk back and forth a while longer as Tataru finishes lacing the back of Phaedra’s corset. When she’s done, her hands are reddened, and Phaedra’s waist is tiny. She smooths her hands down her sides while examining herself in the mirror. “It’s rather extravagant.” She says, glancing back at both Tataru and Thancred. “And I can’t really breathe.”

“That’s part of the allure, surely.” Tataru goes to the box the garment arrived in. There’s a note she quickly reads from. “’I’m told they are the height of Ishgardian noble woman fashion. The tighter, the better as they bring a natural flush to the face in place of rouge...’”

“Well, that’s certainly true.” Phaedra gives a breathless laugh. She continues to press the flat of her hand to her abdomen and to Thancred it looks as though she’s struggling. “Tataru, would you mind removing it?”

“But you’ve only been wearing a minute.”

“Yes, but I can’t breathe.”

Thancred gets to his feet. “Allow me.” He steps behind Phaedra, winds his fingers in the laces and smiles at Tataru who stares, open mouthed at her hard work being undone. “I’m sure you have other things that require your attention.” 

“Yes...” Tataru glances at her hands, “finding a salve for these blisters to start with.” 

As she leaves, Phaedra calls to her; “I’m sorry Tataru!” But she’s already gone. Phaedra tries to slouch, but the corset does not allow her to. “How to women wear these.”

“Men wear them too, sometimes.” Shrugs Thancred. He works his fingers quickly back and forth, tugging laces through eyelets revealing ilm after ilm of slightly reddened skin. Phaeda hisses once or twice, when the lining of the corset catches on her scales. “You certainly are his favorite, aren’t you?” He laughs, “is there anyone you meet who doesn’t fall in love with you?”

“Estinian.” Phaedra says after a moment of consideration. “But really, Aymeric is not in love with me. He’s simply... generous.”

“Generous in sending you tight-fitting garments that accentuate your waist,” Thancred touches her waist, “and draws the eye to other attributes.” In the mirror’s reflection his eyes flicker to where Phaedra’s breasts are quite literally heaving against the tightness of the corset. Even as he unlaces her, the mounds of her breasts look ready to burst out. 

Phaedra groans a little. “How are you so adept at unlacing these things?” she asks after a few heartbeats of silence. 

“I may have unlaced a corset or three in my time.” Thancred grins at her in the mirror. 

“Of course you have.” Phaedra sighs.

He tilts his head and rests his chin upon her shoulder. “My, my. Now, do I detect a hint of jealousy?” He turns his head to press his lips to her neck, kissing her skin and lightly nudging his nose against the curve of her jaw to coax her to tilt her head. Phaedra does so on a sigh. Her eyes slide closed and she lifts a hand to push her fingers back through his hair.

Thancred’s kisses on her neck grow hotter as he scrapes his teeth over her skin and along the curve of her bare shoulder. His fingers wind speedily through the ties of her corset, and Phaedra begins to wriggle at it loosens, trying to quicken her freedom from its constraints. Her tail bats against his leg impatient and twitching with frustration. Just noticing that causes a smug smile to curl at his lips, and he presses his teeth into Phaedra’s skin causing a sharp gasp. 

His fingers feel up over the skin of her back as it becomes more exposed. He follows the dip of her spine with his free hand, down, down to the base of her back and where her tail extends out. Avoiding the base spikes, he curls his fingers around the base of her tail, presses two fingers into where her back and tail meet and that alone almost sends Phaedra toppling into the mirror. 

“Steady,” Thancred murmurs hotly against her neck. He holds her in place. Phaedra is panting and her face is blooming with colour. 

“Door,” Phaedra mumbles, voice low and breathless. “Door and then get me out of this thing.”

All he can do is chuckle. “As you wish.”

Chapter Text

Thancred blinks awake in a room that is not his own. His right arm is outstretched and there’s a weight on it. He’s also naked and the only modesty he has is a fraction of the covers resting over his hips. His bandanna is also gone, which bothers him more than he wants to admit.

The memories of the previous night are still fresh. Phaedra’s skin. Phaedra’s mouth. Phaedra’s voice. Phaedra’s body. The two of them giving into some deep-seated longing they dared explore, until now. It’s hard for him to know whether the actions of the previous night will have a good or bad impact on their friendship and the future of it. There’s always a risk of stepping over carefully placed boundaries. Always a risk of something going awry, or something being changed permanently. 

Phaedra sleep beside him. It’s her weight that pins down his arms, but he doesn’t mind it. If anything, it’s nice for him to see her at this moment. When she’s vulnerable and the weight of the world doesn’t seem to be pressing down upon her shoulders. He sighs and rolls towards her. He’s able to twist the fingers of his pinned hand through strands of her hair. 

For a few moments he debates touching her further. He’s not sure if this is just a whim - an itch that needed scratching - or if this is the start of something more intimate and personal. The not knowing bothers him, but selfishly he decides to linger and slowly slides his free hand over her waist. He leaves it to rest there and Phaedra does not react. 

It’s a strange sort of intimacy. 

It feels like a lifetime ago he was last in a bed with someone; and it was rare for him to share intimacy and softness like this. He would exchange false words of adoration with his paramour of the night - both he and they knowing this was a one-time thing and they would likely never encounter each other again; but there was also something kind about lying to each other and themselves. 

Perhaps it feels like a lifetime ago because it might well have been a lifetime ago. There’s no sense of time passing in the lifestream, and Thancred was in foreign lands, with no sense of season or day when he was released from it. The only thing he knew in the Lifestream was a desperation to get out. And a strange, inexplicable pull. As though, in whatever form he was in, he had a link to the physical world all the time he was there. 

The link lies beside him; aqua eyes hooded and a small smile--

“You’re awake...” Thancred says, realising he’s been so lost in his own thought that he missed Phaedra awakening completely. He quickly slides his hand off her waist, letting it fall into the middle of the bed between them. 

“You looked very pensive.” Phaedra sighs sleepily and shuffles closer to him. Slightly taken aback, Thancred places his palm on her hip. Phaedra snuggles into his chest, tucking herself beneath his chin. Something pleasantly tingly and warm fills Thancred’s chest and his heart quickens.

“I was thinking about if I should leave or not.” He tells her. If they’re going to embark on whatever this is, they may as well start with honesty. 

Phaedra moves back a little and rises onto her elbow. Pins and needles rush up Thancred’s arm that she was using for a pillow. He bites back a grimace and clenches his fingers into a fist. “Do you want to leave?” She looks... hurt. Not just hurt, but confused and concerned. 

“Would you like me to leave?” he has to counter with his own question. He can’t outright tell her ‘no’, he doesn’t want to leave. He can’t let her in that far yet. Can’t let her know he cares as much as he does. If she wants to believe the night before was simply physical, then that will be so much easier without feelings getting involved.

“Well... no, not ... not really.” Phaedra speaks with her eyes lowered and after a moment she flops onto her back and pulls the covers over herself entirely. “But, if you’re not comfortable then...”

“I--” He catches himself before he says he is comfortable. Again, that’s too honest and too vulnerable and he can’t let that out yet, but he can’t simply leave the air as stagnant as it is right now. The warm feeling in his chest as dissipated into a cold chill. He’s ruined what was a perfect start to the day. 

He licks his bottom lip, shifts towards Phaedra and rises onto his elbow. Before she can say anything, he has his fingers in her hair and his lips pressing to hers. He can feel a moment of a resistance before she relents and her hands slide over his shoulders. They kisses dozens of times the night before, each one lost in a plethora of others. So-much-so, the only kiss Thancred really recalls is the first one. 

He considers this their second. Their second kiss takes place lying in a plush bed in a grand manor in Ishgard. The windows are frosted with the cold, there’s sounds of people outside, the fire is low in the hearth, and Phaedra is as warm and vibrant and accepting as she was the night before. Thancred hopes there’s a chance for them and more kisses in the future.

Chapter Text

There’s something strange and yet immensely satisfying watching Ryne interacting with the twins and other youngster of the Crystarium. She spent so much of her life trapped in a guilded cage and then with him, that Thancred worried she would find being around others her own age or younger to be difficult. He worried she wouldn’t know how to interact.

Watching her now, he knows there was no reason to worry. Ryne’s natural warmth draws people to her. Alisaie and Alphinaud bicker back and forth in the way only siblings can and do; with equal amounts of love and frustration. The other teens and children who have gathered around them are laughing and playing. They instruct Ryne in games they’ve concocted, and tell her about books she should read. They regale her with stories of the Norvrandt she never knew and the world outside of Eulmore. 

She lights up with laughter. Tears bead in the corners of her grey eyes as she cheeks flush and she fights to conceal her giggling. Thancred sits and watches at a distance. A steady presence, but not encroaching on Ryne’s growth or on her happiness. She deserves this. To be happy. To have good memories of her youth before she takes on responsibilities far beyond her years. 

He’s not alone in his observations. Phaedra sits beside him, a glass in front of her the contents hardly touched. She’s not so much watching, more like staring into the middle distance. Looking and seeing nothing. 

Thancred nudged her, startling her from whatever thought had her so focused. At the same time, there’s a peel of laughter from the gaggle of teens and children. Ryne is in the middle of the game, doubled over laughing. Phaedra gives a faint huff beside him and lifts her drink to her lips. 

“It’s good to see.”

“Mhm.” Phaedra returns the tumbler to the counter and twists it between her palms. “She deserves this. The time to be a child.”

“Being a child...” Thancred purses his lips, “that’s certainly something she didn’t learn from me.” He leans back in his seat and stretches his legs out. He expects a response from Phaedra and when he isn’t given one he watches her once again. Now her eyes are downcast, and her mouth a thin line. He glances from Ryne and the children, back to Phaedra and slowly exhales. The air between them is heavy. “You know...” he leans forward and rests his arms on the counter. “I don’t recall ever asking about your childhood.”

The corner of Phaedra’s mouth quirks. “Not much to tell.”

“Oh? The Warrior of Darkness came from inauspicious roots, did she?” He tries to tease and lift her mood, but he can tell his attempt has fallen flat by the way she only side-eyes him. 

“I don’t know, really.” Phaedra shrugs. “I was fished out of the sea in Moraby Drydocks after a storm. I was about eight.”

That shocks him. Shocks him so much, he’s not entirely sure what to say. He opens his mouth only to close it again, and no words come to his mind. He’s only known Phaedra from the time they met outside of Ul’dah on that fateful day... Her past has never cropped up in conversation, either because he was too foolish to ask, or more likely because Phaedra did not wish to discuss it. Thancred has mentioned his street level beginnings to her in passing. Its not something he likes to recall. It may be the same for her. 

“I was...” she tuts, drinks from her glass and returns it to the counter, “I was quite an odd sight. I don’t think the dock workers had ever seen an Au Ra before.”

Thancred finds his voice and wets the roof of his mouth. “Do you remember the ship? Where you were coming from?”

“Not really.” She lifts her head and looks out over the Musica Universalis. “It’s a long time ago now. I try not to dwell.”

“Were you taken in?” he queries, tentative in his questioning. 

She snorts, “I was... tolerated. Barely. Given food in exchange for doing a tasks. Delivering messages, fetching and carrying. I used to dream about Ul’dah, the Jewel in the Desert... Foolish of me; but I used to believe it really was a jewel in the middle of the desert.” There’s a bitterness to her laughter. “I saved my gil and managed to make my way there and... was very disappointed when I arrived.”

“Do you remember any family?”

Silence for a few moments then, “no.” As Thancred goes to ask another question, Phaedra pushes her stool away from the counter and rises. “It’s nice to see Ryne enjoying herself. She deserves a life away from hardship.”

“Phaedra...” Thancred goes to take her hand but she slides it out of his grasp before he can take full hold. He’s not hurt by the gesture; taken a bit by surprise, but he understands that she’s exposed a very raw part of herself to him and she’s not ready to expose any more.

“I’m going to bed.” She says, her voice choking a little on a swallow emotion. “Say goodnight to the others for me.”

She’s walking towards the Pendants before Thancred can speak. He watches her until she’s disappeared into the building. His chest hurts in a way he can’t explain. Like something inside him has cracked and can’t pull itself together. Like he’s breathless, but without having exerted himself. It’s strange, and painful, and a lump forms at the back of his throat. A lump he forces himself to swallow. 

Later, he considers knocking on Phaedra’s door to see how she is and to offer comfort if she wishes, but he thinks better of it. This is something she’ll approach him about in her own time. Frustrating as it is that he cannot help directly, he knows that simply being there to listen when she’s ready will be enough.

Chapter Text

 

Phaedra doesn’t celebrate Valentione’s day... not really. She joins in the festivities a little, enjoys the decorations and she understands the appeal, but also finds it difficult to comprehend why a specific day is needed to show those one loves how much one cares.

Surely that should be something for every day?

Its a harmless festival overall, and doesn’t impact her. As long as people are enjoying themselves that’s what matters. She has no intention of raining on the parade of others. 

Mercifully, her reluctance to become fully immersed in the celebrations means she is generally left without unwanted cards, flowers, and gifts. Generous as the presents may be, they’re unnecessary and just... awkward to receive. Each year she’s received a card from Tataru - who sends them to everyone in the Stones - and a handful of letters from those whose path she has crossed. 

This year, there’s something new. On a table in her quarters is a box. Square, plain and tied with a purple ribbon. Attached to the ribbon is a small card.

From an admirer. 
May you wear them, and not the other way around.

Cryptic, and the message becomes no clearer when she opens the box. Inside is pink tissue paper, and inside that, garments. A black bralet, lace and silk with delicate ties on the straps of the arms; accompanying it is a matching pair of small clothes. More lace than silk, beautiful in their design, intricate and masterfully made, with a divot in the back for her tail and lace ties to be fastened above. 

These have been made to order and made by hand. 

She takes a moment to examine the flimsy garments, turning them one way and then the other. Phaedra shrugs. She has no where to be, and it would be a shame for such a fine gift to be tucked away in a draw. Underwear in hand, she ducks behind her changing screen and begins to undress. 

Lower half first, the lace is soft enough that it doesn’t catch on her scales, and the divot in the back is perfect. Not just perfectly aligned to her tail, but also the perfect depth, and width for it to sit. The strings that tie above it are long enough that not too much additional ribbon hangs down to tickle her flesh. The fit is... perfect. The bralet too, does not catch. The straps sit comfortably on her shoulders, not digging or pressing into her flesh. The fasten is comfortable, not tight or loose; and the garment itself holds her breasts comfortably. She’s not compressed, or held too tight. 

The gift is tailor made for her and might just be the most beautiful clothing she’s ever been given. She turns one way, then the other, examining her reflection in the mirror. Normally, she runs around Eorzea in clothing best suited for fighting and her undergarments reflect that. It feels rather luxurious to wear something so fine. 

There’s a knock on the door and Phaedra quickly grabs up a bathrobe hanging off the screen before stepping out. Thancred is closing the door behind him when she emerges, tying the robe tight around her waist. He eyes the open box on the table, and the tissue paper.

“Aymeric sent gifts for wooing?” he asks with a wicked smirk and plucking the card from the table. He sits on the edge, leaving his legs to dangle. 

“From an anonymous admirer, actually.” Phaedra pinches the card from his fingers and turns away to carefully place it on her bedside table. “Although I think I have a decent idea who that might be.”

“Is that so?” 

Phaedra leans back on her bedside table when she faces him, and stretches her legs out, the position she stands in causing her robe to part, exposing bare legs up to almost the tops of her thighs. “You need to work on disguising your penmanship.” She quirks her head a little, and shows a small smile. 

Thancred gives an over dramatic sigh. “That’s what gave me away?” He’s grinning, but he does seem a little disappointed that he was so easily found out. Phaedra crosses towards him and slots herself between his legs. She strokes his upper arms while he lets his hands come to rest at her hips. “I knew you wouldn’t accept it if you knew it was from me.” He chuckles, his exposed eye glancing up at her from beneath a brow. “Was it a bad idea?”

“No,” Phaedra cups his jaw and lifts his head so she can kiss the end of his nose. “Must have cost a fortune in gil.”

“Redolent Rose owes me a few favors.”

“And you called how many of them in?”

“Doesn’t matter.” Thancred nudges her forehead with his, a brief gesture of affection that makes Phaedra’s stomach flutter. “I assume you’re wearing my gift under this...” He tugs at the cord of her robe.

“I might be.” 

As Thancred loosens the cord and her robe falls open, Phaedra’s skin is hit with the cold that embraces the Rising Stones like a second skin. Thancred looks her over. He drinks her in with his one eye slightly wider than before. She notes how his Adam’s apple bobs in his throat when he swallows and his fingers twitch like he’s not sure where to touch first, or if he’s even allowed. 

“Well...” he releases a rush of air. “I may owe Redolent Rose, now.” He laughs. “Is it comfortable?”

“Very.” Phaedra steps away lets her robe slide off her shoulders and it pools on the ground. A muscle in Thancred’s jaw clenches. “How did you get it to fit so well?”

“I have my methods.” Thancred’s boots land heavily on the ground when he hops off the table. “Right, my gift now.”

“Wha-!” Phaedra shrieks as she’s hoisted unceremoniously off the floor and over Thancred’s shoulder. “Whatareyoudoing!?” She lands on her bed, bouncing a moment and taking stock of Thancred tossing his bandanna off and beginning work on his boots. 

“Your gift is the lingerie,” he explains, leaving one boot half off and moving up the bed, “mine is removing it.”

Phaedra bursts out laughing, though the sound is smothered by his mouth on hers. Later, when her flimsy undergarments are somewhere on the other side of her quarters and Thancred’s clothes litter the floor and the two of them are curled up together, naked, laughing, and talking, she supposes Valentione’s day is, actually, quite fun. 

 

Chapter Text

The Crystarium is lively with voices and music and bodies moving through throngs of other bodies. Everyone celebrates, drinking liquor, singing songs, many pulling food as if from no where to share around. There’s not a sad face among them, and yet the face of the Warrior of Darkness - the woman of the hour - is no where to be seen.

Its a detail only Thancred notices, because of course he notices. His instincts remain heightened and well tuned due to his choice to imbibe only water. Urianger’s comments about alcohol and Thancred’s past have nothing to do with it. He looks through the sea of faces for familiar eyes, hair and horns. He listens for her voice, her laugh, and when there isn’t any of that, he goes searching.

She’s not in the Wandering Stairs, nor does he find her in the Pendants, the Universalis Musica is a hive of celebration and song, and the crafters of the Crystalline Mean have a party of their own in full swing. His search takes him outside. He goes to the rookery where the amaro are quiet and seem undisturbed by the cheering and shouting not twelve fulms away. There are two of their guardians standing by who give him a side-long look as he passes before they return to their conversation. 

Thancred climbs the steel steps of the lookout tower... At least he thinks its a look out tower. It faces away from the Crystarium proper, and out over the long bridges that lead to Lakeland. He does not quiet his steps. He could if he wanted to, but if Phaedra is up top, he’d rather not startle her.

The top is where he finds her. Sitting with her back against a metal strut, her legs extended and peering out into the night. 

“Am I that predictable?” she asks him when he’s reached the top.

Thancred takes a moment to admire the view. The stars, the light from the moon. The night has finally returned; for good, and he’s happy about it. “Only to me.” He replies to Phaedra’s question as he comes to sit near her. Not too close, he doesn’t want to crowd her and she wouldn’t be sitting alone if she was in the mood for company. “Plus, I know you don’t enjoy being the center of attention.” He tilts his head to look at her and catches a glimpse of a small smile. They sit in easy silence for a few minutes before either of them speak.

“Is it strange that I don’t feel happy?”

“I suppose that would depend on why you don’t feel happy.” Thancred steeples his fingers in his lap. “Are you unhappy that the night has returned?”

“No.”

“There are no more Lightwardens to slay?”

“No.”

“You destroyed an Ascian.” Ah. There it is. The subtle clench in her jaw and tightening of a muscle in her neck is enough of a giveaway that Thancred knows that’s why, even if she was to deny it. “Hades said something that bothers you?”

Slowly, Phaedra turns her head and looks at him. She as a hard expression on her face. Hard to read and hard in general. She does not look angry, or as though she has been crying. She looks more... unsatisfied. She sighs, and rakes her fingers back through her loose hair. “He had the audacity to tell me to remember them. To remember that they lived.”

Thancred arches a brow, “the Ascians?”

“The Amaurotines, I suppose.” She shrugs one shoulder, tilts her head back and Thancred can see she closes her eyes. “After everything he and the others have done, the lives they have destroyed, the worlds they’ve ended prematurely, not to mention the chaos they’ve unleashed over and over again on the Source... he still acted and believed himself the victim. His last words were to be remembered and he doesn’t deserve it.” Her words are hard, spat and hissed with conviction and quiet rage that she keeps concealed most of the time. 

“He and the Amaurotines are the reason Zodiark exists. They are the reason Hydaelyen exists. They are the reason for all this!” She gestures with a wild fling of her arm to nothing. Thancred understands her deeper meaning. “And he was never sorry for it. Never apologetic. People like you and I were just worms beneath his boot. He and his brethren would never remember those they massacred, so why should he and his ilk be remembered? He-- they don’t deserve it.”

She’s breathing hard as she stops, her mouth open slightly and looking a little surprised at herself. Thancred rises, slides his coat off and drapes it over her shoulders before he sits beside her. 

“But I’m doing as he asked.” Phaedra continues, voice softening and clutching Thancred’s coat around her shoulders. “Despite how angry I am, I’m doing exactly what he wanted. I’m remembering. I’m talking about him, about them and giving them life again because of that.”

“I don’t know what to say.” He tells her, honest and simple. There is no miracle word he can give, or phrase that will make everything better. There’s anger in everyone, and so much to be rebuilt in the First. So much to be done and made right now the truth of how Zodiark came to be has come to light. Thancred takes her hand in his and kisses her knuckles. 

They sit, quiet and contemplative for a while. “Maybe it’s alright to remember them.” Thancred says after some time. “Not him specifically, but what they stood for and what they were capable of, before ... the end.”

“You think so?” Phaedra’s head rests on his shoulder, Thancred has his chin on her hair and they’re both staring out into the night. Below them, the party atmosphere carries on, unaware that two of the guests of honor have disappeared. 

“You don’t have to remember everything. You don’t even have to remember much; but you could remember the things you want to remember. You spoke to one of the shades, didn’t you? The one who was... conscious? What was their name?”

“Hythlodaeus.”

“Maybe try to remember them. Focus on them instead of on Hades.”

“Maybe.” Phaedra sighs. A long sigh that only someone with the weight of the world regularly on their shoulders could make. “Do you mind if I have some time on my own?”

Thancred nudges her head with his nose. When she lifts her head to look at him, he smiles and kisses her forehead. “Of course not.” He gets to his feet with a grunt and stretches his back. “You know where I am, should you have need of me.” 

He departs with a smile and returns to the sound and laughter of the Crystarium without his coat. Thancred finds he is no longer in the mood for a party.

Chapter Text

The pot of salve slips from Phaedra’s grasp and clatters to the ground spilling the sweet smelling contents across the stone floor. She curses colourfully under her breath, before wiping her fingers of residue and bending to reach for the container. 

Its strange. Her fingers ache. She has experienced joint pain before, and muscles pulled or bone bruises, but this is the first time her fingers specifically have ached. And it’s an ache that has started to migrate. Up her fingers and now into her wrist joints. It makes it hard to hold a pen, or even flex her hands... A problem when hands are her main weapon.

Ignoring the dull pain, she reaches underneath the dresser where the container rolled and is able to wrap her hand around it. She goes to sit back on the edge f her bed, checking that the pot is not broken and trying to gauge how much of the salve has been wasted. She sits at the same time that Thancred drops a soiled cloth on the floor and wipes up the ichor with his foot. 

“Clumsy this morning.” He smiles and pushes a hand back through his wet hair. He’s a few minutes fresh from a bath, still wandering around shirtless and with his trousers undone while readying himself for the day. It’s a nice sight for Phaedra; Thancred being relaxed enough to let his guard down is a rare thing in the First, she’s noticed. He’s more comfortable around her and in private. 

“Thank you,” she smiles back at him, but it doesn’t even feel genuine, so when Thancred quirks and brow and tilts his head - the way he does when he’s concerned - she isn’t surprised. 

He looks over the wrappings and other pots of ointments and salves she has. Daily protection and treatment for her knuckles, fists, and wrists. He sits, plucks the pot from her fingers and takes some on his fingers. He begins to administer it to Phaedra’s knuckles. She holds her hands as rigid as she can, but its not enough. 

They’re shaking.

She is shaking. 

She has been since absorbing the Lightwarden of Rak’tika. Absorbing Eros was... different somehow. There was pain when the light of the creature came into her. Pain that was burning hot and icy cold at the same time. Pain that shot through every limb and pulses around her head. Since then, no amount of exercise or sleep has helped her calm. Somehow she’s been able to hide it, or at least she thinks she’s been hiding it from him. For all she knows, Thancred has been aware all the time and simply been waiting for her to say something. 

“It’s not always like this.” She tells him, squeezing the fingers of one hand around his. 

“I know.” He moves onto her other hand, smearing salve over her hands and waiting for it to be absorbed into her skin. “You should tell Y’shtola.” He starts to wind her wraps over her hands and wrists in a set pattern. He’s seen her do it so many times, yet she’s surprised that he has her pattern of dressing memorized. 

“It’s nothing.”

Thancred looks at her from beneath his brows. “Phaedra...” his nostrils flare when he sighs. “You cannot bear everything alone.”

“I have you, don’t I?”

His eyes soften, “of course you do.” He leans forward, curls her hair behind one of her horns and kisses her brow. “Always. But this...” he gestures to her hands, “this is beyond me.”

“It will pass.” Phaedra assures him, plastering a smile onto her face and lifting her voice. “I think I simply overdid it a little in Rak’tika. It was... a lot.”

“On that, I agree.” Thancred’s attention returns to her hands. “I find it quite impressive.”

“Hm?”

“In battle, I’ve seen you administer immense pain, and even death to foes in your way, and yet...” he lifts her right hand - currently unwrapped - and kisses her palm, “with me, with Minfilia, the twins, with those you care for, those you love these are the most gentle hands of all.”

Phaedra’s pulse quickens and her heart clenches. She fights to ignore the heat that leaps to her face and averts her gaze instead. “I can punch you, if you’d like the taste?”

Thancred laughs, “no. I’m content to have my body in one piece.” He resumes wrapping her hands, “I only meant that I am amazed how gentle you are when it comes to handling the well being of others. Especially me. I know my heart is well protected and well tended in hands such as these.” He glances up at her from where he works so diligently and smiles. Phaedra feels her chest constrict, and only lets out a slow breath when his attention is back on her wrapping her hands protectively. 

His words carry more meaning that what is being said, Phaedra is only too aware of that. She knows she ought to take better care of herself, especially given the difficulty of the task before her, and how much it has already taken a toll. Thancred knows best what can happen when a person forgets to care about themselves, and focuses so entirely on others. 

He finishes wrapping her hands and makes sure they are secure by having her clench her fists. Satisfied, he rises to continue getting dressed. 

“Thank you, Thancred.” Phaedra says, eyes meeting his when he looks back at her. 

He gives her a small smile that only tugs at the corner of his mouth, returns and kisses the top of her head. Without another word, they each resume their preparations for the journey to Amh Araeng. 

Chapter Text

Leaving was never an issue for Thancred before Phaedra. In his younger years, leaving in the early morning without rousing his bedfellow of the night wasn’t just simple, it was expected. They didn’t expect him to still be in their bed when they awoke, and he didn’t want to be in their bed, preferring to avoid unnecessary and awkward conversations.

It’s different with Phaedra. Whether in his bed, or hers, leaving to pursue Scion business is never pleasant or welcome. They make the most of their time together when they can, but the inevitable time when they part has never grown easier or less painful. 

The hurt what comes with parting is what reminds Thancred partly, of why he avoided relationships in the first place... But, there are a myriad of good and positive things that outweigh the negative, so that thought never lingers for long. 

He wakes early; a time where it’s still dark outside the windows of the Stones, and begins the arduous task of extracting himself from the warmth of Phaedra’s bed and the temptation of her embrace. She moans a little when he moves, and he pauses, stroking her hair and hushing her back to sleep. She settles easily enough, and he’s able to leave the bed a bit at a time. 

His clothes are piled up on the floor, neither of them are particularly fussed when it comes to folding them or keeping them tidy. As he moves to collect them, he watches her sleep, a rueful smile on his lips. This mission is taking him into Garlemald territory, and communication will be on a necessary only basis and through a linkpearl shared only with Alphinaud, Riol and a handful of other Scions. He’ll be away for Gods know how long, and the knowledge of that is making this leaving harder than before. 

Risking waking her, he leans down towards Phaedra’s sleeping form and kisses the side of her head. Hopefully she’ll still feel it when she wakes up - a parting gesture of affection to remind her of him while he is absent. “Stay safe.” If the words weren’t so utterly terrifying to him, he would whisper that he loved her - but he’s not able to utter them yet.

Thancred begins the task of dressing. He finds his bandanna first and quickly ties it around his silver eye. He then gathers up his clothes, accounting for each article. Trousers, jerkin, two boots, gloves, pauldron, leather strappings... He glances about the floor, looking for the one item that he’s missing after a thorough check. 

Underwear. 

His small clothes are usually one of the last garments to be removed, so it makes sense for him to find them first. But this morning, they’re no where to be seen. Perturbed, he checks through his clothes again, and then picks through Phaedra’s clothes wondering if they got mixed in somewhere. He clicks his tongue when his search is unsuccessful and turns his gaze to the rest of the room.

Did one of them throw his underwear somewhere, and he forgot?

Its then he sees it. A pair of eyes all but glowing in the dimly lit chamber. Sitting on top of a stack of books is Phaedra’s favored pet, a fierce-looking hunting hawk. The books are where it nests. On shredded pages, scrap pieces of paper, some of Phaedra’s clothes... and poking out from beneath fluffy, brown feathers, Thancred’s small clothes. 

He sighs. The bird has never liked him, despite his best efforts. Efforts not helped by the fact the hawk sees his own nutkin as a potential snack any time they are around each other. Given the glower already on the bird’s face, he decides not to risk losing a finger to the razor-edge beak.

“Phaedra,” he rubs her shoulder and speaks her name as softly as possible so not to startle her. “Darling, I have need of you.” He kisses her bare skin when she moves, sighing and stretching her arms above her head while blinking her eyes open. She takes stock of things, and Thancred can almost see her mind working through the sleepiness. 

“It’s still dark.” She mumbles, glancing at the window. “Come back to bed.” Before Thancred can protest, she has her arms around him and is trying to guide him down to the mattress beside her. 

“Darling, no, darling I have to--” he protests, but the bed is warm, and she is tempting and he is struck with a sharp pang of how much he is going to miss her. Miss this. This ease of togetherness they’ve grown too accustomed to and familiar with. He’s going to miss their sharing a bed; but more than that, he’ll simply miss her presence. Her smell, and laugh, and how she brushes her fingers through his hair. He’s going to miss her voice and her eyes, and how he can feel the way her gaze lingers on him when she thinks he’s not looking. 

Gods he is going to miss her. And the realisation of that hurts so much he can hardly breathe. 

“Phaedra,” he sighs. His body is betraying him as he winds his arms around her and fights the part of him that reminds him of his job and his duty. “Phaedra...” The two of them knit together, legs entwining, arms wrapping around bodies. Her fingers wind around his hair as they both breathe slowly, as if doing so might cause time to slow. “Darling...”

“A little longer,” Phaedra murmurs into his hair. “Stay a little longer.”

He strokes her back, silently agreeing to her request. He knows he couldn’t refuse it, even if he wanted to. He wants to stay and delay the inevitable as long as possible... Its selfish, and foolhardy, but Thancred has never been what one would call wise.

Chapter Text

For a long time it’s too hard to talk to Minfilia. She’s not there, Thancred knows that; he can’t let go of her. Won’t let go of her. She was - is - to important to him and to his life that its impossible for him to think of letting her memory go. But for a long time the agony of her passing and his inability to stop it make speaking to her, let alone about her, all but impossible. 

It gets easier. Slowly. First, bell by bell. Then day by day. Then sennight by sennight, and moon by moon. Thinking about her comes easier first. Remembering her smile. Her voice. The way she trusted him, and lifted him up and gave him hope. 

Then talking about her become a little easier. If he hears other Scions telling stories, he no longer hesitates as much to chime in with anecdotes about her. He takes time to sit and reminiscence with F’lhaminn about the Minfilia they knew. When she was a younger woman and would turn up covered in dirt and tired, but happy from a day of mining. 

It’s painful. For him. For F’lhaminn. For all of them. But the more he talks about her, the less pain he feels. The gaping hole of her presence begins to knit itself back together. He finds more happiness in his memories of Minfilia. More joy in the time he got to share with her. He takes pride in the woman she grew into, the things she accomplished. 

Talking to her comes without any realisation on his part. It begins as nothing more than talking to himself while thinking, or focused. Then it becomes more. He starts... talking  to her. Discussing things that matter. There’s no answer. He knows he’s just speaking to air, but it doesn’t matter. In his mind, Minfilia can hear him, she listens, and it helps. It helps his mind, and helps quell the loneliness and grief that sometimes still rears its head. 

One day, the one-sided conversation is different. 

He is happy and he tells her so. Its perhaps the first time he has felt truly happy since learning she became the Word of the Mother, and he wants to take a moment to share it with her. To reassure his Minfilia that he is healing. That he’s well. And that she needn’t worry about him, if she was, where ever she might be. 

“I never knew it could be this way.” He says. He sits on an outcropping, his legs dangling over the crystal ground below him. He is safe here, out of range of creatures, and away from any passers by who may chance to over hear him. “Perhaps if I did, I would have been more fervent in my affections for others.”

He’s met with silence as he always is. He doesn’t mind it though. Talking lifts his spirits, and he can feel a connection to Minfilia, even if its only a placebo. A trick of his wishful imagination. 

“I love her,” Thancred clasps his hands together in his lap. “Although, I haven’t yet been able to say so... I think she knows. I hope she knows.” He clears his throat. “Of course, its very different to the way I love you. You were always steering me in the right way. Making sure I remembered when I tripped up, or made a fool of myself over a paramour...” He smiles sadly at the memories of Minfilia playfully chiding him about his promiscuous ways and how they would one day land him in trouble. “Phaedra is... is different to you. She is what I need. What I have always needed, though I would never have admitted that years ago.”

There’s a light breeze that whips his white hair around his face. He can swear he can hear Minfilia’s laughter in his ears and closes his eyes. 

“Some days are still hard without you, but she makes them easier... Somehow, Phaedra makes them easier to bare. With her strength, her compassion... her love.” A pinch behind his nose cause him to inhale and fight the pain of tears. “She demonstrates so many of your good and wonderful qualities, Minfilia... I know you would approve of... of this. Of us.”

Below him, a caravan passes by on the way to Saint Coinach’s Find. Thancred watches it pass, keeping an eye out for any potential trouble. He relaxes once the caravan reaches the outskirts of the settlement. There’s a chill in the air, more pronounced than usual and Thancred feels it down to his bones. 

“I hope you are happy.” He begins to get to his feet. “Happy and proud and... that you think of me, of F’lhaminn, and the people who love you, as often as we think of you.” 

He waits a few moments, hopelessly hoping for some miracle of recognition. A reply of some kind. Perhaps there is one, but he cannot feel it because of his ‘condition’. Eventually he turns, and walks back to Revenant’s Toil, and into the Stones. He is greeted by patrons and friends alike and he greets them in kind, curt but polite. 

When he reaches Phaedra’s door, he knocks and enters without awaiting permission. Inside she’s sitting on her bed, a book in her lap. She begins to rise, but stops when he crosses towards her, wordlessly removes the book and slides onto the bed, resting his head in her lap. After a moment of surprise, Phaedra’s fingers start to slide through his hair, stroking his scalp and helping him relax. 

Thancred wraps his arms around her middle. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” asks Phaedra, keeping her tone soft and unassuming.

I just want to be held. Thancred wants to say, but does not have the courage to do so. Instead he simply closes his eyes. “No.” He tightens his hold around her. Phaedra doesn’t say another word, but comforts him in companionable silence. There’s no tension in the air as she waits for an explanation. No sense of irritation or hurry. He needs this. This contact, this support, this affection, this... unassuming and unselfish love that she offers. 

And he, selfish as he is, covets it and keeps it until his mind quiets and sleep takes him.

Chapter Text

Phaedra squeezes the sheets beneath her into her hands, pressing her hips against the pressure of Thancred’s hand pinning her down into the bed. she arches her head back into the pillows, nostrils flaring while she breathes through the shocks and tingles that ricochet around her body.

Only minutes ago she was asleep. Dreaming, content, and otherwise unaware of him sneaking into her bed in the middle of the night. He woke her with soft kisses to her neck, and softer touches over her belly and between her legs that roused her slowly and pleasantly from her rest. While she was still closer to the realm of sleep than awake, Thancred took it upon himself to bury his face between her thighs, and that was where he remained.

He holds her to the bed with one hand, the heel of his palm pressing into her abdomen creating a delicious pressure point. His other hand is beneath her. Fingers wrapped around the base of her tail where he fully exploits the weak point where her tail and back meet. He’s woken her like this before, but never with quite so much gusto.

She’s already a quivering mess. She can taste her sweat on her top lip, and her toes curl each time Thancred redoubles his efforts. He licks and swirls his tongue around the sensitive, pulsing nub at the hood of her sex. He puckers his lips and sucks at random intervals that only serves to makes her more sensitive to his touch. 

Pushing herself to sit up on one hand, the sweat beading on Phaedra’s skin trickles down her spine. She pushes sweat white hair away from Thancred’s face and is met with a look from him that is both determined and voracious. He’s like a man who has been denied water, the way he laps and sucks and teases. When he squeezes his fingers around the base of her tail, Phaedra’s toes curl and she bites down on her hand to stay quiet.

“Th-- Thancred...” her teeth have marked her hand deep and there will definitely be a mark later. Her eyesight is hazy in the corners and she struggles for breath. She tightens her grip in his hair, clenching her eyes closed. She more feels him laugh, than hears it; the vibration travels up through her body and out the top of her head making every hair stand erect. He hoists one of her legs over his shoulder and his efforts increase. As Thancred elevates her hips a little, Phaedra topples down onto her back. She rises slightly onto her shoulders, chest heaving on every hot breath. 

She’s speaking. Forming words and praises she’s only vaguely aware of. A heat in her belly coils and curls around itself, wending its way down to pool between her legs. Thancred releases her tail, and that hand moves to between her thighs. He slides his fingers between her lower lips and Phaedra’s eyes bug at the sensation of him slipping them inside her. He presses harder with the heel of his hand down into her abdomen, that pressure point only adding to the heat building inside her. His fingers move at a pace with his tongue, curling with each movement so his knuckles brush a sweet spot inside her. 

Phaedra squeezes her eyes shut. The heat inside her boils over with the combined efforts of his mouth and fingers. Sound goes fuzzy, her body writhes and spasms while she chases her breath. Thancred comes to a stop, and her muscles pulse around his fingers as he withdraws them. 

Before she’s come down from her high, Thancred is on top of her. He kisses her soundly, fingers raking through her hair and Phaedra can taste herself on his mouth. She curves her legs around his hips and moans a little when he sheathes himself inside her. She is lucid and trembling, pliant to Thancred’s movements and requests when he has her move. When he’s on his knees, one of her legs curled around his hip, the other elevated on his shoulder, Phaedra pushes herself up onto her hand.

“-- had dreams like this--” she pants to Thancred, burying a hand in his hair and relishing how deep his cock goes with each thrust of his hips. It’s been months since they saw each other. He’s been in Garlemald, searching for Krile and she’s been in Othard. She’s distracted herself from missing him with her duties, but nothing ever gets rid of the ache entirely.

“--as good as the dream?” Thancred smiles against her lips and leans over her. Phaedra lowers her leg from his shoulder, eases down onto her back and accepts the warmth of his lips and the deep kisses he supplies. His hands explore her as though he’s forgotten how she feels. Its intimate and erotic, and the way he touches, with expert fingers and knowledge causes Phaedra’s stomach to knot all over again. 

“Better,” she sighs into his mouth. Thancred chuckles, buries his face into the curve of her shoulder and slides his arms around behind her back. He squeezes the top of her ass and his thrusts become harder than before. Phaedra tightens her legs around him, the sound of skin slapping skin joining the sounds of their breathing until Thancred’s voice strains and staggers on a moan that is muffled against her neck. 

Neither of them move. Phaedra’s heart races along with Thancred’s and he nuzzles his head beneath her chin while they remain entwined. She winds his hair through her fingers, waiting for feeling to return to her extremities. She knows when she wakes there’s a good chance that he will be gone, so she wants to stay awake and enjoy this atmosphere as long as she is able. 

Chapter Text

When the flock of feral bats lie dead at Thancred’s feet, he sheathes his gunblade and turn to where Phaedra is healing herself and Ryne. None of them are badly hurt, thank the Gods, but things could have been truly awful. 

“Phaedra,” he approaches and she looks up at him. She averts her gaze, the way she does when she knows she’s done wrong. “What was that?” He folds his arms, keeps his stance steady and tense. There are other creatures in these caves that could potentially attack them, he needs to stay alert for those, while also making sure the healer with them can actually do her job.

“What was what?” Phaedra stands and sheathes her healer’s staff. Ryne moves ahead a little, looking over the paintings on the cave walls. “The bats?”

“Yes.” He sighs, “that is what I’m talking about.”

“What about them?” 

A muscle in his jaw tenses. She’s playing dumb… She has to be. “Please don’t run ahead. We’re already down one, and if you fall then Ryne and myself are going to fall easily, too.”

Phaedra crosses her arms, “I told you I’m not a good healer. You should have asked Urianger, or Alphinaud.”

“Both are busy, and you have the skills that Ryne and I need.”

“I’m better at fighting. You know that.” She rubs her arm, shrugs, and glances around. “I feel like I should be doing more.”

“You’re keeping us alive.” Thancred tells her. He softens his voice, but still fixes her with an annoyed glare. Out in the field they all need to be vigilant and work together. In a settlement, in private, the two could easily talk this out. But, while there is no settlement nearby, he has to take charge and make her understand her mistakes. 

Luckily, Phaedra is not against taking criticism. 

“I’m… a nervous healer.”

Thancred arches a brow. “Why?”

“Like I said, I feel like I should be doing more.” She shrugs again. “And I’m used to being in the thick of everything. It’s also stressful… watching you two getting hurt. My healing never seems to be enough.”

“It is enough.” He says. Phaedra sighs and begins to move past him. He wraps his fingers around her wrist to stop her. “Do you feel it should be you getting hurt?”. 

There’s silence for a moment or two, then she slips her hand out of his grip. “That’s how it usually goes. I’m not accustomed to hanging back.”

Thancred quirks his mouth to the side. He knows Phaedra is better in the midst of a fight and more comfortable doling out the damage as she takes it, he’s seen it. It’s not an easy thing to watch; so he understands the difficulty she might be having watching he and Ryne in the thick of battle while she stands back. He takes a breath and offers an encouraging smile. “You’re doing fine. Once this is over, you can return to being more comfortable. But for now…”

“Stay back and heal.” She sighs, “I know.”

“Please.” Thancred takes a moment to kiss the side of her head. “And no more attracting mobs.”

Chapter Text

“She’ll be fine. It’s just a touch of heatstroke.” Phaedra closes the door to Minfilia’s room as quietly as possible while speaking. “She needs to rest and hydrate.”

“Do you think she--” Thancred begins, but stops when he notes the look Phaedra is giving him. He shrugs under this heavy jacket and turns to go to his own room. “I suppose it makes no difference. Urianger and the miners won’t have the Talos going for a while.”

He can hear her footsteps following him at a small distance. “What’s the rush to get to Nabaath Araeng?” Thancred’s hand hovers the handle of the door to his room. He notices that there’s a slight tremor which he tries to hide by flexing his hand before he grasps the handle and enters. “Are you so eager to see Minfilia again?” asks Phaedra, “your Minfilia, I mean.

Sitting on the edge of the small bed provided in the room, Thancred slings off his gunblade, unsheathes it and begins to search through his pack for a whet stone and other tools he uses to maintain it. Phaedra lingers in the door way. She half leans on the door frame as if uncertain whether to come or go. 

They haven’t talked much about Minfilia. The Minfilia of the Source. They haven’t talked about the conversation he had with her years ago, and that Phaedra was able to witness, thanks to the Echo. Minfilia remains a difficult topic for him. He has never been good at sharing his grief or his emotions, he keeps these things hidden and close to his chest. Secret, even from Phaedra, despite all they share. 

“You need to talk to her.” Says Phaedra. She crosses her hands behind her so they rest above her tail and then she leans on them back against the door frame. “At least before she puts herself through this ordeal by fire...”

Thancred focuses on the blade in front of him. He skims the whet stone over the blade steady and rhythmic, keeping his focus on the task he has set himself. “She thinks you hate her. That you resent her for not being the Minfilia you knew... Don’t let her go into this thinking that. You’ll regret it.”

Phaedra sighs and pushes off the wood. It creaks. She goes to walk down the hall, either to her room or to Minfilia’s. Thancred pauses in his task. “Phaedra.” His voice is harder than he expects it to be. She stops, looks at him, eyebrow arched. 

“Yes?”

“I need you to listen, really listen to me.” He gets to his feet putting his blade to one side and moves towards her. Retaining a short distance between them, he levels her with a look that is hard and he hopes conveys the seriousness of what he is about to ask. “I need you to make me a promise.”

Phaedra brow raises slightly more, “a promise?”

“Yes.” He takes her hands. “If something happens to me, you must promise that you’ll get Minfilia to Nabaath Araeng. That you’ll help her fulfill her destiny, and let her make her own choice.”

“Thancred--”

“Promise me.” There’s no room in his tone for mirth or for her to misjudge his meaning. He is as serious as he has ever been and knows that if he cannot fulfill his promise to Minfilia, then at least he’s asked that someone else can. Someone he trusts, and who has time and again, done the right thing. 

“Nothing is going to happen to you.” Phaedra slips her hands along the lapels of his jacket. Her tone is lighter, as though she’s trying to make his request seem less severe. His expression remains still and cool. After a few moments of them staring at each other, Phaedra nods once. “I promise to get her to Naabath Araeng. To protect her in your stead, if you cannot.”

His mouth quirks at the corner, “thank you.”

“Promise me you no intention of throwing yourself to the wolves.” Phaedra’s voice becomes sharper the second he leaves her side and goes back to his gunblade. “I’ll be annoyed if I have to bring you back from the dead just to kill you myself.” 

Her attempt at humor belies the true fear she feels. Thancred knows it. Phaedra is not so adept at hiding her fears and concerns as he is. He cannot offer her comfort though, as much as he might want to. There are so many things that could go wrong. Not least of all is the Eulmoran army converging on them while they try to get the Talos working. After everything Minfilia has endured and how much she has grown since he liberated her three years ago, she does not deserve to be captured and returned to her cage. Not with her goal so close at hand. 

If Minfilia’s success requires a sacrifice on Thancred’s behalf, it is one he will gladly make. He will not promise Phaedra that he won’t throw himself to the wolves, because it is a promise he would surely break. 

Chapter Text

Thancred blends into the background. He melts into his surroundings, never drawing attention to himself while keeping an eye on the guest of honor. There are throngs of people at Aymeric’s party for the noble houses of Ishgard, and all of them are vying for a moment of Phaedra’s time. 

She’s courteous to all of them. All smiles and little head bobs of acknowledgement and greeting. She shakes hands, accepts awkward air kisses and listens attentively when they talk at her. Rarely, Thancred notices, does she get a chance to speak herself. She may be Aymeric’s guest of honor, but the nobles of Ishgard only want to be able to boast they spoke to her. The one who ended the Dragonsong War. The Warrior of Light. The Slayer of Nidhogg. 

Phaedra is a fascination and the flavor of the month. No matter where he’s traveled, people in the higher up societies are all the same. There’s always a new fad every few weeks. Something shiny that grabs their attention until their pawing at it has dulled its gleam. 

Still, Thancred keeps watch. 

Someone has to watch out for her, given that Aymeric is no where to be seen in the crowds of coats and gowns. He’s left Phaedra to fend for herself - and while she can manage it, its hardly sporting of him to leave her defenseless. Thancred watches. He observes. He sips a little at a time at a glass of champagne he’s been nursing since guests started arriving. 

It’s a strange sort of feeling. He watches the woman he shares a bed with some nights being adored and fawned over and there’s a curling twist in his stomach and his chest that burns. It flares any time he catches her flinch away from someone getting too close, or when someone touches her, or grabs her and Phaedra is forced to snatch her hand away. 

There’s no label for what their relationship is. It’s almost an unspoken agreement now that one of them will go to the other - if possible - and spend the night. Sex doesn’t always occur. Sometimes they simply talk. They share secrets and hopes, and dreams that neither of them have shared with anyone else. There have been times where there’s been no need for words; times when only gentle touches have been a balm to the day’s trials. 

They are friends of the closest kind. They are lovers, too. They know each other intimately and the trust is unwavering... But still, the name to give their union is hard to pin down. 

Lost in his thought, Thancred almost misses the sound of footsteps approaching but his training in stealth and subterfuge does not let his senses completely rest. The person approaching does nothing to hide the sound of their steps, so Thancred relaxes. An assassin would be silent. 

“She’s doing well.” Aymeric’s voice is beside Thancred, his form appearing in  regal blues and golds in the periphery of Thancred’s uncovered eye. “I had thought she would struggle with a meeting like this... Thought she would have need of me at her side.”

There’s an almost wistful and disappointed tone to Aymeric’s words. That twisting heat curls in Thancred’s belly again and he is forced to relax his grip on his champagne glass. 

“It’s not her preferred battleground, but she navigates as best she can.” Thancred keeps his gaze fixed on Phaedra. 

“Truer words have never been spoken, I am sure.” Aymeric laughs. “She is a remarkable woman... I have never known anyone to be able to wrap others so easily around their fingers and hold them in the palm of their hand. Appeasing Ishgardian nobility is no easy task, yet she makes it look effortless.”

Thancred clenches his teeth. “There is just something about her that... causes people to gravitate to her.” He glances up towards Aymeric. He’s not looking at Thancred at all. His blue eyes are fixed on Phaedra. His gaze soft and half-hooded. He looks like a man in love. The heat inside Thancred flares again. He clears his throat deliberately. “Shouldn’t you be mingling with your guests?” He inquires, shifting his stance a little. “It seems ungentlemanly of you to have Phaedra field your invitees.”

Aymeric huffs a laugh though his nose, “you are right, of course.” After a quick adjustment of his coat, he straightens and looks as though he is about to enter the throng of guests. He hesitates a moment and his eyes dart towards Thancred who is watching him. “May I ask a question?”

“Of course.”

“You are... close with Phaedra, are you not?”

Beneath his bandanna, Thancred arches a brow. “As close as any of the Scions.”

“You would...” Aymeric gives a nervous chuckle and his eyes dart to where Phaedra is in the crowd. They linger a little too long for Thancred’s liking and he forces himself to relax his grip on his glass again. “Is she... involved with anyone?” Thancred almost drops his glass. He had a feeling Aymeric’s question would pertain to such a topic, but didn’t think he would be so blunt about it. Nor did he think Aymeric would ask him, of all people. They hardly knew each other. Why not ask Alphinaud or even someone of House Fortemps? 

“Speaking man-to-man,” Aymeric continued, “I would hate to encroach on a relationship or have my pride thoroughly squashed by doing so.”

Thancred considers for a moment, running his tongue over his teeth as he does. He could tell Aymeric that Phaedra has no one. After all, its not as though he and Phaedra have discussed their arrangement or if they are exclusive to one another, so telling Aymeric she was unattached would not - strictly speaking - be a lie.

Or he could act on his flaring jealousy. He could inform Aymeric that Phaedra had someone. Someone she wished to keep secret and private, and that forcing her to reveal their identity would only upset her... Now that was a bare faced lie. Perhaps Thancred was the one more worried about what impact his reputation would have on hers. 

He swallows a hard lump at the back of his throat. “As far as I know,” Thancred begins. He glances at Phaedra who is in conversation with an Elezen woman a man that looks like her husband. He dampens the jealous heat inside him as best he can. He has no claim over Phaedra, and should she choose to embark on something with Aymeric - if he was to approach her - then Thancred would no stand in the way. 

“As far as I know she is unattached.” He tells Aymeric. His voice is hollow and devoid of tone or feeling when he says the words. There’s a pain that cracks up through his ribcage and squeezes around his throat. 

“Thank you, Master Thancred.” Aymeric’s smile is one of hope and vigor. He strides into the crowd of people who part of him, and easily takes Phaedra’s hand to place it on his arm. She lights up at the sight of him. The pain Thancred feels doubles to the point he wants to choke. 

Chapter Text

 

There are days when even the fabled Warrior of Light struggles. 

It is something Thancred notices after the banquet and after he returns from the lifestream. There are days where he can see her pushing herself to communicate, pushing herself to socialize, and forcing herself to exist. It’s like he can see the weight she feels physically holding her down. She keeps her eyes downcast, barely eats, doesn’t talk much... Like the effort of existing is too hard.

He’s not an expert. He doesn’t notice it all right away. It’s little things that give away the fragility of her mental state. How she’ll only pick at a meal, instead of eat it. How she does nothing with her hair when she normally ties it back neatly. She’s harder to wake, and more-often-than-not can be found in her quarters of the Stones or wherever she is, sleeping. Or, trying to sleep. 

He doesn’t blame her. Eorzea looks to her and the Scions for all matters now, and Phaedra has never been the most forthcoming when it comes to sharing her woes. All the Scions feel the burden, but Phaedra most of all. She carries her responsibilities and her self-doubt inside, and this is how it manifests. In these... episodes of lethargy and isolation.

He takes it upon himself to offer comfort and company, even if that company is sitting quietly in the same room while he reads and she sleeps. He never asks anything of her - except to hydrate herself and eat a little something if she has the stomach. He thinks - hopes -  she appreciates that. That he wants nothing more from her but her company and her well being. 

Sometimes they talk. Sometimes they don’t. 

Thancred acts as a deterrent for others who might disturb her, and when her mood has passed, he makes no issue of it. Of the time that has passed, or the problems that now require her attention. He stays close when he is able for a few more days as she recovers her mood and throws herself back into her duties. 

It’s hard on her. He can how everything strains and how aspects of her life are a drain on her energy. Being around people constantly wanting her for something exhausts her and while Thancred would like nothing more than to take her from stressful situations and lie with her in bed... he can’t. All he can do is be a supportive presence while he is around her, until he’s called away on his own missions and to fulfill his own duties. 

Phaedra falls into a deep funk that is only apparent to Thancred shortly after they discover that Zenos’s tomb is empty. He understands that. It’s a blow to all of them to know an Ascian is walking around in the skin of the heir to the Garlean throne; but Phaedra fought him. Phaedra almost died fighting him, and wears the scars to prove it. It took her everything to kill him both in human form and in the form of Shinryu... and it was all for nothing. 

He goes to her room with fresh water and a tray of food. He’s not surprised to see her curled up in her bed with the curtains drawn. Nor is he surprised when she doesn’t greet or so much as acknowledge him. He locks the door behind him, places the tray and water on her desk, and removes his boots and bandanna. She doesn’t say a word when he joins her under the covers, just shuffles over to him and curls in tight to his chest. They stay like that for some time; silent and breathing and simply together.

Then, after a bell or more, Phaedra breaks the silence. 

“Can I tell you a secret?” her voice is hoarse through lack of use, and she doesn’t so much as move when she speaks. 

Thancred strokes her hair, “secrets? I love secrets. My whole life is embroiled in secrets.” He tries to be jovial, to lift her mood in his own sardonic way. The attempt falls flat, like a balloon, slowly losing air. 

“Sometimes I wish all this never happened to me.” Phaedra all but whispers the words, as though she’s afraid that if she speaks them too loud the walls and all of the Stones will hear her. “It’s too hard.”

Thancred is not surprised by her admission. He draws her closer and tips his head down so he can press his lips to the scales on her forehead. He doesn’t say a word, after all there’s nothing he can say and words are not what Phaedra needs or wants. She doesn’t want platitudes or words of encouragement. She wants to unload onto someone she knows will not judge her for a moment of weakness and regret. 

She talks for a while. Never lifting her voice in anger, but simply talking and spilling out all the deep, dark truths and secrets that she dare not say to anyone else. She’s the Warrior of Light, after all. The Warrior of Light is meant to be selfless and never one to falter. People forget, though, that the Warrior of Light is - at the core - a woman with struggles and doubts like every other person in Eorzea. She doesn’t cry, and when she has finished speaking, the atmosphere in her room somehow feels lighter and less oppressive. 

Phaedra sighs when her words end. She stays curled in Thancred’s embrace and her eyes close. She sleeps soundly with him watching over her; and when she wakes a few bells later she is ready to be the Warrior of Light once again.

Chapter Text

The idea of an evening with Ishgardian nobility is about as appealing as having teeth pulled; however, that is where Phaedra finds herself. 

The event is an obligation on Aymeric’s part. Something he must endure every few months to hear their complaints and soothe any issues or arguments in an environment of cordiality and professionalism, even if there is an undercurrent of animosity between some of the houses.

Aymeric requested her attendance some months ago, and at the time Phaedra thought little of it. Now, standing in amidst the false flattery and strong perfume, she is regretting her choice. At least she’s not alone in a sea of unfamiliar faces. She has Aymeric - who is absent at that moment in time - but also the members of House Fortemps are there, steering her through conversations pertaining to Ishgardian politics that make no sense.

Thancred too, is a guest. He acts as her bodyguard, looking out for any would be assassins. A necessary precaution after the drugged wine fiasco in Falcon’s Nest. 

Though he is more of a distraction than a bodyguard at the precise moment. 

To fit in, both she and Thancred are dressed in finery. Her dress hugs her figure until it reaches her hips, where it is then split from hip to ankle leaving a thick strip of fabric in front of her, and a billowing skirt behind. Each step gives glimpses and flashes of skin. It’s sleeveless, and utterly useless against the cold of Ishgard; but its warm inside the hall where the gathering is taking place so it’s not such an issue. 

Thancred has swapped his roguish garb for more debonair and fitting attire. He keeps his silver eye covered with his bandanna, but that is all that remains of his usual clothing. His jacket is fitted over a simple shirt which is covered in fine embroidery. The shirt fits him just right, moving on his breaths, the fabric stretched over the muscles of his chest and abdomen. He has the jacket sleeves rolled up to his elbows, the shirt too, rolled up exposing muscular forearms. He has his hair neatly tidied, pushed back from his face and braid out of the way as much as possible. The trousers are snug and fit him well. 

Neither of them look like they belong in Ishgard. There’s no heavy fabrics in their clothing, no fur-lined collars, or thick, draping sleeves. No house emblems to show their affiliation, excepting the Archon tattoos on Thancred’s neck. They are the odd pair out, and Phaedra would rather be at Thancred’s side avoiding being talked at, than anything else right now.

...

Almost any thing else. 

It’s rare for her to see Thancred in any other clothing that his “work” gear. The clothes that allow him mobility and to move silently. The clothes she’s stripped him out dozens of times now when they finally get a moment alone. 

Now, all she can think about is stripping him out of his suit jacket and kissing every ilm of his chest as she unbuttons his shirt little-by-little. She wants to have him beneath her, his breath catching when she bites down gently on his skin. Wants to have his hips rocking into the slightly touch of her hand or mouth as she takes her time removing his formal clothing bit-by-bit. She wants to take him inside her, the two of them still partly dressed, and she wants him to all but utterly ruin her dress with his grasping hands.

She’s warm under her clothing, and squeezes her thighs together moving as subtly as possible to alleviate some of the pressure that has generated there. Phaedra smiles awkwardly, vaguely aware of the conversation going on between the people around her, who seem to have utterly forgotten that she’s there. She drums her fingers against her champagne glass-- would she be missed if she and Thancred...?

No. 

She cannot think like that. It would be a scandal for Aymeric if she and Thancred were caught in a compromising position and would do very little for Ishgardian welfare. 

Phaedra clears her throat and takes a breath. She tries to think of the cold air outside that buffets the building in an attempt to cool her raised temperature. Now is not the time for fantasies, but she will have to keep the clothing in mind for a more appropriate time. 

Chapter Text

Phaedra lies awake in Thancred’s bed for... It feels like bells, but her mind is likely exaggerating. She has tried to sleep. Thancred was meant to join her, but wanted to speak with Ryne before retiring. Phaedra assumes he is still with her. And that is the focus of her uneasy mind.

Watching the two of them, it is so clear to her how fond of each other they are. Alphinaud himself said once that Thancred was practically Ryne’s father, and Thancred was the one to give her a name of her own. Phaedra isn’t jealous. There’s nothing to be jealous of. She is happy that Thancred has that close familial bond with someone again, and that he wasn’t alone all the years he was in the First. 

It’s hard to put into words her feelings. Hard to bring them to the fore of her mind and admit her concerns. Ryne’s abilities continue to grow. Her skill in both battle and her skills with Eden and aether. She becomes more confident every day, and Thancred is constantly at her side, guiding her with a gentle hand and offering support the way he felt he could not when she still lived under the guise of Minfilia. 

They are as close as they could be. They share private jokes, and Thancred watches Ryne with pride whenever she asserts herself, or speaks, or acts without first apologizing for simply existing. She is coming into her own, and Phaedra... worries.

One day, eventually, she hopes the G’raha will have found a way to transport the Scions back to their bodies in the Source. When that day comes Thancred will have to make a choice. He will have to choose between the First and Ryne, or the Source and the life he knew. Even thinking about that day fills her with a sense of dread and sends a cold chill down her back. 

She doesn’t know what he will choose. Or even how he could choose. She doesn’t know what she would choose, if the situation were reversed. It bothers her. It’s kept her awake more nights than she would like to admit and, shamefully, has kept her away from the First at times.

The latch on the door clicks and light shines in from the hallway. As Thancred enters, as quietly as possible, Phaedra quickly rolls onto her side facing the wall to give the illusion of sleep. She listens to Thancred moving around his room. She hears the familiar sounds of him changing out of his jacket and armor. He washes his face and brushes his teeth and then joins her under the covers. As is typical of him, he slides up behind her, shifting her tail out of the way with a leg and drapes an arm over her waist. His fingers find her hand and he laces them between her own. He kisses her shoulder and she listens to him settle behind her. 

Phaedra stares at the wall. Her mind is restless and her worries swirl around her brain like a maelstrom. She feels sick. The space behind her nose prickles the longer she thinks and the longer she remains silent. Her eyes water, and she squeezes them closed. She clenches her fingers around Thancred’s. After a moment he squeezes back. 

“Did I wake you?” he asks, resting his forehead against the back of her neck. 

Phaedra bites her bottom lip. “No.” She fights to keep her voice steady. “Is everything alright with Ryne?”

“She’s fine.” Thancred shifts behind her, “I’m sorry I was so long come back. We were talking about Eden, and the Primals on the Source.”

“Mhm...” the end of Phaedra’s tail bats the mattress beneath her. 

“I don’t remember Leviathan having two heads.”

“Maybe Eden put its own spin on my memories.” She wants to sleep. Wants to stop talking and sleep. She wants to make her mind quiet and forget the fears for a while. To fall into silent oblivion. Just for the briefest of moments. Her breathing is growing shaky. She can hear it, even as she tries to control it and there’s a wet patch on her pillow from the tears she’s been silently shedding. Behind her, Thancred moves again, releasing her hand. 

“Phaedra,” he’s up on his elbow and gently curls the fingers of his free hand beneath her chin. He coaxes her to turn her head; which she does, swallowing thickly. There’s a moment where he takes in the tears and the anguish she is trying so much to hide. He exhales, his expression soft and leans in to kiss her forehead. “Why the tears?” 

It’s all that Phaedra needs to hear. The floodgates open unbidden and she finds herself crying openly, her face buried in Thancred’s chest while he does his utmost to soothe. He strokes her hair as he lies back and holds her to him letting her cry until her eyes sting and she’s almost breathless. 

Phaedra hiccups when the worst is over. Her cheeks are wet and she can feel the tiredness of emotional exhaustion trying to lull her into slumber. She fights it. She owes Thancred an explanation even if he hasn’t asked for one. 

“What will you do in the future?” asks Phaedra, trying to embolden her voice. Thancred looks at her, head tilted to one side. He doesn’t understand. Perhaps he hasn’t thought that far ahead. “You might have to choose. Whether you stay here, in the First with Ryne, or return to the Source and your body with the others... Have you thought about that?”

He closes his eyes as though concealing some kind of pain. Slowly, he sits. Phaedra shifts out of the way, watching him. The blankets pool in his lap. “I... try not to.” Thancred looks back at her enough that she can see some of his expression in the low light coming from the moon outside the window. “Losing Minfilia was hard enough. With Ryne...”

Phaedra places a hand on his arm as she rises to sit beside him. She leans her forehead on his shoulder. Thancred rests his cheek on her hair and covers her hand on his arm with his own. “I would never ask you to choose between Ryne and me.” Phaedra tells him after a few heartbeats. “That would be impossible, and unfair.”

Thancred swallows. “I know returning is an eventuality - provided the Exarch can find a way for us all to return to our bodies...” There’s a silence. A few times, Phaedra hears him begin to say something and then stop. She circles her thumb on his wrist. “It will be hard.”

“For everyone. I’m sure.” Phaedra’s eyes ache. She fights to keep them open. “What if you could stay in the First? Would you do that... if you could?”

Silence, then he speaks in a quiet voice. “I would be tempted.” A sickly cold sensation swirls out from Phaedra’s stomach down each limb and hair. She wants to vomit. “Ryne is my chance to do things correctly. Make right the things I failed with Minfilia.”

“Mhm...”

“But,” he sighs, and Phaedra feels him nudge her hair with his nose. She lifts her head enough to look at him. “Staying here would mean losing you. Losing the twins, Urianger, Y’shtola, and the others friends and family I have in the Source...  Ryne is becoming more confident in her skills and powers. Every day I watch her grow and become more her own person. I am fiercely proud of her, but I know I cannot be a guiding hand forever. I want Ryne to be as prepared as she can be when the time comes for us all to return to the Source.”

Phaedra does not want to admit it to herself, but there’s a sense of relief to hear him say those words. She pushes her fingers back through his hair and draws her hand down his face to cup his cheek. Thancred leans into her touch, needing her support now.

“It will be hard to leave her.” He says, eyes closed and eyebrows furrowed. “She is...”

“I know,” Phaedra moves towards him and presses her forehead to his temple. “I know...”

There’s very little left for either of them to say. They sit in silence, breathing and comforting each other. The air is heavy with the rawness of exposed emotion and the vulnerability on display. Phaedra’s moment of relief has turned to cold ice in her veins. Thancred will lose someone he loves, again. And it’s impossibly unfair. 

The future is unfair.

Chapter Text

Aymeric’s party begins to wind down in the early morning hours. Thancred has spent the majority of the event on the sidelines, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings and growing increasingly more frustrated each time Aymeric makes Phaedra laugh, or smile. 

He’s not sure if he’s frustrated with himself, with Aymeric, or with Phaedra. All he knows is that he’s relieved when he closes the door to his quarters on the party and can shut everything out. He loosens his jacket, unbuttons the top two buttons of his shirt, and flops down onto the lavish bed that has been provided. On Aymeric’s insistence, he and Phaedra are staying overnight. 

A stray thought digs into Thancred’s mind. Will Phaedra be sharing Aymeric’s bed? 

He groans to himself and buries his face in one of the pillows in an attempt to drown out his thoughts and his sense of jealousy. It’s foolish. He knows how stupid he is being. How possessive and childish. Phaedra is not his. They are... Whatever they are, there is nothing between them that has ever hinted at exclusivity.So it shouldn’t matter to him if she shares Aymeric’s bed. Just as it wouldn’t matter to her if he took someone else to his...

Except, it does matter to him. 

It boils and burns and writhes inside him like a serpent. This... jealous streak that has suddenly reared its head and will not be ignored. These are circumstances he has brought upon himself. In his efforts to protect her from his reputation, he’s successfully pushed her away and into the arms of someone else. Someone who is not him. 

Aymeric is a good fit - though that is something Thancred is loathe to admit. Aymeric is noble, and gentle and kind. He looks at Phaedra with open adoration and there’s no murky past to tarnish her reputation with. He has breeding, and a station. He has power and influence. 

Thancred has... nothing. Nothing but himself. And he’s a rather poor prize in comparison.

It’s for the best, he tells himself. If we kept on we would just grow too attached. Its for the best... Thancred tries to ignore the simmering jealousy. That is something that will fade in time. As will the memories of Phaedra’s touch, of her skin beneath his hands, of her voice praising him in the throes of desire. Memories of her kisses will fade, of quiet mornings wrapped up with each other. He’ll forget the smell of her on his clothes, and the feel of her fingers knotting in his hair. He’ll forget. Everything will fade... eventually.


 

There’s a knock on the door that causes Thancred to stir. He’s unaware that he ever fell asleep, but its a reasonable assumption. He glances to the window; outside its still dark and the windowsills are caked in a fresh layer of snow. His clothes are rumpled. He does his best to smooth them out as he rises and quickly shakes his hair to neaten it. When he opens the door, he’s surprised to see Phaedra on the other side. She’s still wearing her figure-hugging sky blue dress. Her hair is still neatly styled. 

She didn’t go to Aymeric... Thancred realises. In his chest is a sense of elation and pleasure that makes his spine tingle. 

“May I come in?” Phaedra gestures to the open door. Thancred starts. He’s been standing there, staring in disbelief like a fool!

“Yes, yes. Please--” he stands to one side and guides her in with a flourishing bow. He catches a glimpse of a fond, amused smile as she passes him. His stomach twists pleasantly. He closes the door. His heart is racing in his throat. He’s breathless and... he almost feels dizzy. It’s alarming and exhilarating all at once.

He doesn’t understand. He is all but beside himself that she didn’t go to Aymeric. That she is here, with him and not with their host. He feels like a giddy teen, sneaking out for a midnight tryst. It’s unlike him, given his experiences with paramours in the past... But then, none of them have been Phaedra or made him feel the way Phaedra does. 

“That...” Phaedra drops down onto the edge of Thancred’s bed. “Was a very long night.” She reaches down and begins to unbuckle the white ankle boots she’s wearing. Thancred crosses and kneels before her, batting her hands away and tending to the boots himself. 

“From what I saw you handled Ishgardian high society rather well.” Thancred says, pausing to smile up at her. Phaedra’s lips quirk to one side and she draws her right hand down his face. They look at each other for a few long moments, eyes locked and Thancred’s heart thunders in his chest. There’s a flush of colour to Phaedra’s cheeks. He wonders if it’s the champagne or something else.

“I’m glad you were here.” Phaedra combs her fingers back through his hair and reaches over to untie his bandanna. “I felt safer knowing you were there.” She speaks as his bandanna falls away. She winds the material around one of her hands. “I’m surprised you didn’t find yourself whisked away by some of the nobility. A few asked me about you.”

Thancred returns to the task of unbuckling her boots. “Did they indeed?” He can’t help but laugh. “And what did you say?”

“I told them you were with me.” She speaks so breezily, but there’s a look of focus in her eyes when Thancred looks up at her. Silence again. Tension crackles between them. Slowly, Thancred makes himself swallow. 

“And what did they say to that?” 

Phaedra tilts her head to one side. She reaches towards him and cups his jaw in her hands making it so he cannot look away. “Why did you tell Aymeric that I was unattached?”

There’s no anger or accusation in her voice; just simple curiosity. Thancred releases a long, slow breath.

“Because...” He searches the ceiling for inspiration, for answers. None are forthcoming. “Because...”

“I am attached to you, aren’t I?” she offers him a branch with her words. A branch to save himself from drowning. Her smile is small and hopeful, eyes crinkling at the corners and full of warmth.

“Are you?” asks Thancred. “I didn’t... I dare not assume to know your--” Phaedra cuts him off, her lips claiming his in a forceful kiss. She slides her fingers back through his hair, cradling the base of his skull. Once his surprise passes, Thancred can only return the kiss. He abandons her boots, using his hands to curl around her neck. He settles his thumbs in the hollow beneath her jaw, angling his head to deepen the kiss. 

Phaedra’s breath grows shorter. She slides her hands beneath the collar of his shirt where he loosened the two buttons earlier. Her palms ghost over the skin of his shoulders, then she has them wrapped around him and has dropped off the edge of the bed to her knees on the floor. Thancred works her hair free from the intricate style it’s been put into. He buries his hands in thick tresses and tugs gently. Phaedra tilts her head back, her mouth opens and Thancred slides his tongue passed her lips. She tightens her fingers, her body is quivering a little against his chest and an urge for air forces him to pull away. 

“--heart.” He finishes his words, breathing hard and fighting the urge to kiss her again. To hoist her onto the bed and put aside his fears and jealous feelings and rejoice in just... this. In her and what being around her makes him feel. He doesn’t though. He will not. Not until he is sure of her mind, as much as he knows his own. 

“Thancred,” Phaedra inclines towards him, lips reddened, eyes sparkling and cheeks flushed. She brushes her nose back and forth against his. Something in Thancred’s chest flutters excitedly. “I am all yours. If you’ll have me.”

A bark of laughter escapes him without his meaning it to. Before Phaedra questions him, he kisses her once, twice, a third and forth time using the pause to organize his thoughts and settle his mind. “Gladly.” 

Chapter Text

There’s a storm brewing in the Dravanian Hinterlands when Thancred leaves Master Matoya’s cave with Y’shtola, Alphinaud, and Phaedra. Thick, and heavy black clouds hang low in the sky obscuring the sun and there’s the smell of lightning in the air. 

Once a safe distance from the cave entrance, the four of the come to a stop. Y’shtola and Alphinaud both look pensive. Phaedra watches their surroundings for any encroaching creatures or the Warriors of Darkness. A crack of thunder sounds above them rumbling deep and guttural. It shakes Thancred down to his core. He is not looking forward to the trek back to Ishgard in this...

“Master Matoya has given me much to think on.” Declares Y’shtola in her usual curt manner. “I will return to the Rising Stones and appraise Krile of our findings. I am certain she will have some ideas of where we can begin our search for these so called Warriors of Darkness.”

“And I’ll inform Aymeric.” Alphinaud shields his head from the rain that is already starting to drench Thancred’s hair and clothes. “He should know and have his people alert for them, should they try to enter Ishgard.”

“I doubt they’d be foolish enough to storm an entire city.” Thancred folds his arms, “but, then again, the fellow I fought did not seem entirely sensible.”

“We must be prepared for all possibilities.” Alphinaud’s voice has a sharpness to it that is uncharacteristic. “For all we know they could be minions of an Ascian.”

“And they are clearly capable in battle if they dispatch Ravanna.” Y’shtola’s ears flick water off the tips as she speaks. 

Thancred shrugs, “very well. Do what you must. I will join you in Ishgard.”

Y’shtola and Alphinaud both nod to him. There’s a familiar sound of humming and then a buzzing noise as they both shimmer in to blue specks and disappear utilizing the teleportation magicks he no longer has access to. There’s a pang of frustration in his chest, but he swallows it down. 

Phaedra has been silent the entire exchange. He expects to be alone; and is surprised to see her sheltering from the rain nearby in a small hole in the base of the rocks. The sky lights up with lightning, swiftly followed by a long roll of thunder. Thancred dashes to the same spot.

“Shouldn’t you be in Ishgard?” he asks, peering out into the downpour and watching the droplets splash in the stream. 

“Alphinaud has things in hand.” Phaedra tells him, standing at his side, close enough that their arms are touching. Even in the rain, her skin is warm. A part of him hates to admit it, but he appreciates her being there still.

“Wouldn’t you rather be warm and dry at home in the Fortemps Manor?”

“I’m with you. I am home.” 

Thancred’s eyes widen to hear her say those words, and when he looks at her, Phaedra is peering out into the rain. There’s no smirk on her face, and she isn’t laughing. His chest tightens and he can feel his heart beat at the back of his throat. 

“You mean that...” he says, tentatively, “don’t you?” Phaedra says nothing, just glances at him and gives him an enigmatic smile. Thancred huffs. “You cannot do that.” He declares, taking hold of her hand and leading her slightly deeper into the alcove.

“Do what?” Phaedra follows. She sounds genuinely confused.

They come to a stop about ten fulms from the entrance. Thancred turns to her. He’s flustered by her sincerity and how ardent she always is. No woman he’s ever known has been able to catch him off guard the way Phaedra can. He supposes that’s what love does to you, and he’s not sure if he likes it. 

“You cannot... say things like that to me without warning me.” He gestures as he speaks, hands flailing wildly. He’s so glad none of the other Scions ever see him like this. He would lose all credibility. “You keep catching me at a disadvantage.”

The confusion on Phaedra’s face softens to affection. She closes the space between them, places her hands on his chest and leans up to kiss him. Thancred does not move to meet her half-way as he would usually. He lips ghosting against his is still enough to make his spine tingle. “Best get used to being at a disadvantage then, darling.” She all but purrs the affectionate moniker they have taken to calling each other. 

Thancred backs up a step, Phaedra follows. A wicked grin pulls at his mouth, “I see. This is nothing to do with you seeing me as your home, you want to be alone to have your wicked way with me...” His back meets the wall of stone and chalk and he rests his hands on Phaedra’s hips bringing her into full body contact with him. Her hands slide up his chest to encircle his neck and her fingers wind in his wet silver hair. 

“Oh no,” she tilts her head to one side, “I do consider you my home... Getting to have you alone for a few days as we make our way back to Ishgard is just an added bonus.”

He chuckles at that, giving into his desires and her tempting as the thunder rumbles above them. 

Chapter Text

Phaedra’s body aches.

No. Not aches. It throbs with pain that radiates from her chest and shoots its way into every conceivable part of her. Her muscles are screaming as she breathes slow, measured breaths and tries to find the strength to open her eyes and move. 

Beneath her is a soft bed. Her mind is clouded and fuzzy. She remembers racing into the fray to confront Zenos. Remembers the blows they exchanged. The intensity of his gaze as he followed her movements across the battlefield like a hunter pursuing his prey. She remembers the battle turning in her favor. Then the pulsing pain in her head. The disembodied voice and this time a form beckoning - begging - for her aid. 

Then...

Then it is dark. 

Somehow, she is still alive. And, she can only presume that Zenos is as well. She is confused, exhausted, disappointed, but most of all, furious. She was so close to bringing everything to an end with Zenos. To bring the end to him and his endless desire for blood. Only for that chance; possibly the only chance she will ever get, to be snatched from her grip. 

She wants to scream... but what is the point of that? It’s not going to change anything. All she can do, all she has always done, is squared her shoulders and carried on. She must do that now. Get up. Heal. Put one foot in front of the other and begin again. 

Slowly, painfully and biting back the whimpers, she forces herself to sit up. As her eyes focus, she takes in the room around her. One of grandeur and lavish opulence. Not a room she knows. As she twists her body to swing her legs over the side of the bed, she hears footsteps fast approaching. She grasps her ribcage and peers up at the door as it opens. A familiar elezen all-but skids to a halt.

“You’re awake!” Aymeric’s black hair is tousled, as though he’s run his hands through it a dozen times. His usual composure is gone. He smiles freely, relief as clear on his face as his blue eyes. “Thank the Gods.” Phaedra manages to smile a little. He approaches her and the door closes behind him. “We feared the worsted after you collapsed on the battlefield.”

“I suppose I can assume...”

“Zenos yet lives.” Aymeric tells her. Phaedra groans and buries her face in her hands, resting her elbows on her thighs. She knew, but hearing it confirmed is somehow worse. “Do you remember what happened after you...”

“No.” Phaedra speaks from behind her hands.

“Estinien intervened.” The mattress shifts under Aymeric’s weight as he sits beside her. Their bodies are touching. It’s honestly nice for Phaedra to feel some physical contact. “He distracted Zenos, while our allies were able to carry you to safety.”

Phaedra drops her hands into her lap. “Remind me to thank him.”

“You will be had pressed. No sooner had he appeared then did he disappear.” There’s a touch of amusement to Aymeric’s tone. Clearly Estinien’s habit of appearing and disappearing without a moment’s notice is a small joke between them. 

“Well...” Phaedra sighs. She goes to rise, but a stabbing pain strikes into her ribcage. She yelps, grabs her side and topples back down onto the bed. She feels Aymeric’s hand on her lower back, steadying her as she breathes through her teeth, and focuses through the pain until it subsides. “...Dammit.” She hisses through a snarl. “Dammitdammitdammit!” She scrapes her hands back through her hair, fingernails raking across her scalp. Each movement causes more pain, but her rage is louder. “I can’t believe this. I failed. I was so close and I failed.”

Aymeric moves his hand on her back. “Phaedra...” 

“How many times do I have to kill him?!” She forces herself to rise and begins to pace. “How many times do I have to confront death until this is done?!” Her hands are balled into fists. Each step alerts her body of new pain. She ignores it all. “How many times do I have to face Zenos until it’s over?! And that voice! That being! Haven’t they taken enough from me?!” She’s screaming and crying and she doesn’t care if the whole of Eorzea hears her. She’s tired of being the stoic, reliable, unflappable Warrior of Light. “What more do I have to do? What more can I do? Will I have to die in order to end Zenos? Are we each other’s foible? Will we have to destroy each other for this to finally come to an end?!” She wipes her cheeks with her hand. “What more can I do?!”

Her breath comes in hard, short gasps as she stares at Aymeric  her anger burning in her veins. It’s not just anger, though. It’s fear and frustration. It’s loneliness and isolation. It’s exhaustion and weariness. It’s all the things she never dares to let others see, only Thancred. And he is... Thinking of that makes another pain pang in her chest. Keener, sharper. It hits harder than any physical pain she’s in. Her knees give out and she drops to the floor, burying her face in her hands. Her shoulders tremble as she steals shaking breaths. 

“Phaedra,” Aymeric’s voice is soft and soothing and lacks any anger for her outburst. His body enters her space, and he gently cradles her in his arms. He strokes her hair, rubs circles on her back and offers no false hope or platitudes. He is gentle. He has always been gentle. He has never been demanding, or thankless, or petty. Aymeric is a good man and perhaps, if things were different, she would return his feelings. “If it were up to me, you would never face Zenos again. And I would return those you love to you at this very moment... There is nothing more you can do. You are already doing everything and more that is asked of you.”

He withdraws enough that he and push his fingers through her hair and eases it away from her tear-stained face. He offers her a smile, brushing his thumbs over her cheeks. “You cannot give more than yourself.” He tells her. Phaedra hiccups. She has no words to say and not the strength to find any. Aymeric pulls her into his embrace again. She is grateful for his comfort and counsel and will tell him so when she is in a better mind. For now, she takes advantage of his kindness and she holds him as though he was someone else. 

Chapter Text

Steam coils upwards from the hot water, and Thancred dangles his head over the edge of the bathtub thoroughly relaxed. Phaedra’s back presses into his chest. She’s tucked, snugly, between his legs and idly draws the fingers of her right hand over his knee where it sticks out above the water. 

The bathroom is lit with candles, and there’s incense burning on a nearby shelf. The whole experience is... nice. It’s calm, and Thancred enjoys the respite between missions. Baths are something of a luxury. He usually washes quickly in the shower, or whatever water source is nearby; and he never languishes like he is now. 

Phaedra makes the wrinkly skin worth it though. And she’s been enjoying herself by giving him bubble beards and new hair styles until the bubbles all faded. She finds bubble bath a novelty, and he’s more than happy to entertain her playful whims. 

The water ripples and Phaedra shifts against him, causing him to lift his head to check on her. She’s just adjusting her position, and he does the same moving to envelope her in his arms. He notes the smile that forms on her lips and kisses her shoulder. 

It’s a strange sort of feeling. They’re both naked. The setting is as intimate as anything, and yet Thancred feels no desperate sexual desire. This is different to any other kind of bath he’s had with someone. In those, there’s always been an air of tension that resulted in sex. This is intimacy in it’s rawest form. It’s a skin that is unfamiliar to him, but one he finds is growing more comfortable each time he wears it. 

“This was an excellent idea.” Thancred tells Phaedra, nuzzling her neck and the curve of her jaw. 

She lifts a hand from the water to cradle the side of his face, “I do have them on occasion.”

“Please feel free to pass on any more...” He kisses her skin and her scales, “I could very easily get used to this.”

Phaedra hums a contented noise and tilts her head back offering more wet, bare skin to him. He covets every ilm available, kissing only to tickle and tease rather than arouse. She giggles when his lips brush a sensitive spot slightly behind one of her fin-shaped horns. The sound only serves to enthrall him further and he eagerly presses more kisses to that same area. 

Soon she’s wriggling and laughing, and water slops over the sides of the bath splashing on the stone floor beneath. Thancred keeps his arms around her waist, preventing Phaedra’s escape. He takes her with him as he leans back far enough that they are both almost totally submerged for a moment. Thancred blows water from his lips and pushes his hair off his face when he breaks the water’s surface. Phaedra does the same, flipping her hair over one shoulder and turning within him embrace so they’re face-to-face. 

They’re almost lying in the tub. The lower half of Thancred’s legs stick out over the end of the bath, and Phaedra’s tail swishes lazily in the water. Thancred loosens his arms and begins to trail his fingers up and down the sides of her back. Phaedra sighs. She crosses her arms and rests them on his chest while perching her chin on her hands. 

“May I ask a question?” she looks at him with a half-hooded gaze. Her eyelashes are clumped together from the water.

“Of course.” Thancred follows the dip of Phaedra’s spine up towards her neck with his fingertips and then down as far as he can reach to the base of her tail. 

“Have you... done this before? Bathed with other women, I mean?”

He quirks his head to one side and runs his tongue along his upper back teeth. “And men.” He shrugs a shoulder. “My job has required certain... acts to be performed to get the answers I need or to gain entry into certain locations.”

Phaedra nods, “mhm...”

“Does that bother you?” Thancred draws circles over her shoulder blades.

“No.” She turns her head and rests her cheek on her hands, “not really. It’s what is expected of you.”

“What was.” He corrects her, his tone gentle. “I’ve found other methods to complete my work since... Well, even before you and I.”

“Did it ever bother you?” Phaedra lifts her head to look at him. “That you had to resort to using... yourself for Scion business?”

“It was never asked of me.” Thancred smiles wryly, “I found, after a while, that using the skills I acquired as a bard and a younger man often made my task... easier.”

“Oh.” She looks pensive for a moment. “If it works so well, why change your tactics?”

Thancred chuckles through his nose. “I am a very different man to the one you met outside Ul’dah so long ago. My priorities have changed. I’ve changed.”

“I know, but--”

“Do you really want to imagine me doing this,” he gestures to the bath and their position, “with other people?”

“Not really.” Phaedra tucks her hair behind one of her horns. “I’ve never bathed with anyone else before. I suppose I was curious.”

For some reason that takes him aback, and he scrutinizes her. He knows she’s had relationships and sexual encounters before him. They’ve never gone into the gory details of one another’s pasts, but it’s fair to assume. It’s never occurred to him that something like a bath together is something Phaedra might have missed out on. 

“Any reason you’ve missed out on bathing with a past paramour?”

She snorts at the term. “Paramour sounds so... frilly.” She scrunches up her face as she speaks. “And honestly, I don’t think it was ever anything I ever considered. It’s quite intimate, isn’t it?”

“Very.” Thancred laughs. The water ripples around them. “Right up there with sharing a bed with someone. It’s a lot of trust to put in someone. To fall asleep in the same bed is to demonstrate vulnerability. So is this.”

“Did you find it easy? When you had to do it for a job?”

He thinks for a moment. “My mind was focused on my task... And I never exposed my true self to whomever I was with.”

“So... you never allowed yourself to be vulnerable?” Phaedra has a brow arched as she questions him.

“Not in those situations, no.”

She shifts against him, moving in the water and against his chest to be closer. “And what about now? Are you allowing yourself to be vulnerable with me?”

Thancred slides one hand up her neck and face. His finds wind within her hair, and he cradles the back of her skull. At the same time, he leans forward and claims her mouth, lips moving against hers slow and sure. He’s kissed her dozens of times. Too many times to count, and each time he can feel a little more of his carefully constructed walls and barriers beginning to fall. Phaedra is easy to be himself around. He doesn’t need to pretend. There are no pretenses or lies he is forced to keep up. The honesty they share is refreshing. 

“You’re possibly the only person I feel I can be myself around.” Thancred tells her as he pulls back. He brushes his nose against hers and smiles. “You’re the only person in Eorzea I want to share a bath with.”

Chapter Text

 

The sun is warm on Phaedra’s skin while she sits on the wooden jetty. Her sketch book is open, and she has her pencils and watercolours carefully arranged around her. Thancred sits a few fulms away. His legs dangle over the edge, bare feet skimming the surface of the water while holds his fishing rod and lazily surveys his surroundings. 

It’s nice. Calm. The first time since the end of... well, everything they have been able to relax. Thancred shows it in the way he’s not really focused on anything and seems happy to simply be. He still carries his gunblade with him, but has discarded some of his armor and his heavy jacket. The denizens of Sullen carry on about their day, letting them enjoy their peace. 

The page open in front of Phaedra is littered with sketches. Portraits of people who live in the First. The earlier pages were full of detailed drawings of Sin Eaters and Light Wardens. All proof of her time here that she showed to Tataru, Krile and other Scions on her brief return to the Source. Now she fills the pages with portraits, or drawings of the flora and fauna. She fills them with colour and detail. 

The sound of the reel on Thancred’s fishing rod grabs her attention. She glances up in time to see him pull in his catch and hand it over to one of the fishermen of Sullen.  A light wind ruffles his hair. He turns his head and see’s her watching and flashes her a dashing grin. Phaedra’s heart stutters in her chest and she drops her eyes to the page in front of her.

“I hope you’re catching my good side.” He teases, tossing his line out to the waters. 

“I didn’t know you had one.” She retorts, smirking at the page and the profile beginning to take shape. She’s drawn Thancred so many times she probably has most of his features memorized. But there are differences between this form of him in the First, and his body in the Source. Subtle, but differences. 

Thancred gasps, and clutches a hand to his chest. “My lady, you wound me!” He swoons for dramatic effect, laughing a moment later. Phaedra shakes her head and glances up to make sure she’s getting the slope of his nose right. The slope of his nose, the shape of his mouth, and the quiet smile that has barely left his face since peace finally found the First. She sketches his chin, his throat, pausing to quickly scribble the Archon tattoo on his neck. 

Checking the design on his skin and that on the page match, Phaedra lays her pencil to one side, squinting at the mark. It’s hard to miss. One of the first things she noticed on meeting Thancred the first time were the tattoos on his neck - and his white hair. All the senior Scions have at least one of the tattoos. 

Except her. 

“Something wrong?” Thancred’s voice pulls her from her reverie, soft and quiet in his concern. His elbows rest on his thighs, and he holds his fishing rod steady while his head is turned to her. 

“I was looking at your tattoo.” 

He touches the one on the left side of his neck without thinking. “What about them?”

“You were given them by Louisoix, weren’t you?” Phaedra puts her sketch book to one side. “You, Papalymo, Y’shtola, Urianger...”

“And Yda, yes.”

“Did it hurt?”

“It pinched a bit. Though there was more aether involved in their application that is probably usual for traditional tattoos.”  He smiles a little, as though recalling the memory. After a moment, he blinks and focuses back on her. “Why? Thinking of getting one?”

“I wouldn’t be able to have one like yours, would I? An Archon tattoo.”

He makes an ‘ah’ sound and gently places his fishing rod on the jetty before rising to his feet. He leaves prints in his wake as he crosses towards her and then drops to his knees in front of her. “Not an Archon tattoo, no.” He begins to sift through her paints and pens until he finds what he wants. A tube of deep purple paint. He uncaps it and squeezes a little on to his index finger. “I can give you one temporarily, if you’ll permit me.” He holds up the finger with the paint on it. 

Phaedra quirks a brow. “Just don’t write something horrid.”

He feigns insult, “I would never!” Then, he quickly darts in and pecks her lips. “Hold still.” He tilts her head up with one hand and begins to draw on exposed skin below her collar bone. His brows furrow in concentration, and Phaedra notes how he pulls his mouth to one side as he works. It adorable, really, and it takes all her willpower not to laugh. He squeezes more paint onto his finger, continuing to work until, after ten or fifteen minutes, he withdraws, apparently satisfied. 

Phaedra scurries to the edge of the jetty and peers into the still water below. The symbol stands out against her skin. It’s no where near as perfect or professional as Thancred’s, but it’s obviously the same symbol as those on his neck. She looks back at him, smiling. 

“You think it suits me?” 

“It does.” Thancred smears the paint over his other finger tips. “Though if you were to get an actual tattoo, I think you would be better off getting one more personal to you.”

“Mhm,” Phaedra sits back where she was. “I’ll have to think on it.” She leans in towards Thancred, smiling. “Thank you for not writing something rude.”

“You’re welcome.” He claims her waiting lips, smiling into the kiss and drawing his fingers slowly down her cheek. Phaedra pulls back a little, brushing her nose against his.

“You just smeared paint down my face, didn’t you?”

Thancred nods, grinning more mischievously than she’s seen in some time. “Yes. On purpose.”

“You’re awful.” She shoves him. He yelps, caught off balance and then a splash as he hits the water. 

Chapter Text

It took a moment for Phaedra to realise she was alone in bed when she stretched her arm out and patted the covers, searching for Thancred’s body. As soon as her drowsy mind realised, she jerked upright in, eyes wide, mind alert; all thoughts of sleep vanishing in her panic. 

Not again. She couldn’t have him back, only to lose him again.

She frantically searched the room with her eyes. It looked the same as it did when she settled down beside him. Small, compact, with a bed tucked into one corner. Most of the floor was taken up with stacks of books. Moonlight was streaming in through a window, casting clean, silver light on the floor. By the window was where Phaedra saw Thancred. Her panic receded, and she was able to relax her hands where they were clenched in the sheets. 

Unencumbered by his white coat, and his armor, he looked more relaxed standing by the window than she had seen him since they were first reunited. The moon illuminated his face, and brought out shimmering white and silver in his hair where he stood. He was smiling at her. 

“Gods, that’s a beautiful sight.” He sighed, leaning on the windowsill, his gaze still focused on her. 

Phaedra tilted her head, “the night sky?” 

“You.”

She huffed, the comment causing her skin to burn. “You’re making fun of me...”

“I’m not,” Thancred crossed towards the bed, stopping just in front of where she was. Curling his fingers around her chin, he held her in a gentle grip so she couldn’t simply look away. “After five years, you are the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.”

“W-well...” Phaedra swallowed thickly. Words were never her strong suit, and around Thancred she always fumbled, even after years of knowing each other. 

“I missed you.” Thancred’s voice was low, and he inclined to press a kiss to the scales that adorned her forehead. “I missed you.” Another kiss, further down on the bridge of her nose. “Missed your eyes,” he kissed her eyelids and perched a knee on the bed. He released her chin, only to caress the bare flesh of her neck. “I missed your hair...” his free hand worked Phaedra’s hair from the thick ponytail it was still in. Once released, it fell around her shoulders and down her back, a tangled, wavy messy. “Your neck...” he kissed her throat then, his lips moving gently enough to make her skin tingle.

Phaedra leaned back on one hand, her head tilted back and eyes half open. Her skin was growing hotter by the moment. She had feared timed would change things. Change Thancred. It had, but it seemed his desire for her was still burning. For that she was grateful. 

As his fingers ghosted over her rib cage, Phaedra bit back a quiver of laughter that threatened to break past her lips and disrupt the mood. Thancred only laughed in return, a low sound that rippled through her from the top of her spine to the end of her tail. 

“I missed your laugh, too.” He left neck and cradled her jaw in one hand, pausing to slide his thumb along her bottom lip. On instinct, Phaedra ran her teeth along the top of his thumb. She was breathing hard, despite doing nothing. Her body was yearning for more. For months she was plagued with worry for Thancred and the other Scions. For months there were no answers, and there was little hope. Now she had him again. Had him in front of her. Had him touching her. He was tangible and alive and he made everything inside her burn in such a way she never thought possible. 

For a few moments, their gazes were locked. A tight string strung between them taught and ready to snap the moment either of them moved. The pressure and tension was almost too much to bare. Phaedra wanted nothing more than to wrap him in her arms and plead for the night to never end. Instead, she sat in the bed, her breath short and sharp, with her teeth pressing to the tip of Thancred’s thumb. 

He broke first, but not how she expected. He pressed a light kiss to the end of her nose. Taken aback, Phaedra smiled and gave a breathless laugh. 

“And your smile.” Thancred said, leaning in close enough to press his forehead to hers. “I think I missed your smile, most of all...” He slid an arm around her, his hand spreading across her lower back. With him supporting her weight, Phaedra lifted both arms to drape around his shoulders. She wound his hair around her fingers, and allowed her eyes to close while she relished the closeness they shared, and the absence of which she felt for so long. 

Chapter Text

There is a pall over the Rising Stones when Phaedra arrives back. A grief that encases the walls and smothers the air in a suffocating blanket. In envelopes everyone inside and out. Inside of the usual din of laughter and conversation, there’s almost nothing. No laughing, and the only sounds are the light clink of a glass on a table, or a brief exchange of conversation. 

Hoary Boulder only nods his head when Phaedra meets his eye. When she pushes the door open to the more senior Scion’s quarters, she pauses to see an array of candles and flowers on the ground outside of Papalymo’s room. Her breath catches at the sight, and she takes a moment to utter a prayer in silence. 

She couldn’t bare returning too soon. The wounds of loss were too fresh. She went to Ishgard instead. She camped out by Haurchefant’s grave for several days. Another loss in this seemingly endless war. Another sacrifice, and this one just as keenly felt and cutting just as deep. 

Phaedra passes the memorial. She passes the door to Y’shtola’s room, and the door to Alphinaud’s and comes to a stop in front of the last door on the right. Thancred’s room. She hasn’t seen him or spoken to him since... Since it happened. She knocks, and waits for a response. 

It’s a few seconds before the door opens. Thancred peers out. His beard is longer, and there’s scruff on his cheeks where from where he has not shaved. His hair is disheveled and loose, framing his face which looks gaunt and tired in the light of the hallway. The room behind him is dark, except for one or two concentrated areas given; she presumes he has candles lit. He doesn’t have his bandanna  on either, and he looks her over with his mismatched eyes before stepping away from the door without a word and allowing her entry.

He is on her as soon as she closes the door behind her. Thancred’s hands close around her face, and his lips press to hers, hard. It isn’t a kiss of desire. There is desperation in his kiss. Desperation, neediness, hunger and hurt. Phaedra’s back hits the stone wall and the rough texture scrapes her back. Thancred’s hands descend lower, one on her hip, the other palming her breasts roughly through her top. As the initial shock wears off, Phaedra finds she’s kissing him back just as hard, and just as desperate. She knots her fingers into his hair, fingernails scratching over his scalp and pulling.

Thancred does not treat her kindly as they each search for something else to feel beyond their grief - even just for a moment. He is rough with her, hands and fingers digging into her flesh hard enough to bruise. The texture of the wall catches of Phaedra’s scales. She rakes her fingernails across the top of his back when his skin is exposed to her; and that earns a sound that is not quite a moan of pleasure, and not quite one of pain, but somewhere in the middle. 

A moment of softness arises only when Thancred begs “please” into her mouth. Phaedra is wise enough to know the permission he is requesting, and grants it with a single sound of consent. He takes her roughly, hands gripping her backside, holding her aloft against the wall and driving into her hard and fast. The friction hurts. His grip on her hurts, but the act itself does not. Phaedra buries her face in his neck, her breath catching each time he hilts inside her, and biting his shoulder to muffle her voice. 

It is over as quickly as it begins. Thancred’s body shudders as he pins her to the wall. She can feel his cock throb inside her and his spend begins to drip down the inside of the thighs as he pulls out. Her legs quake as he returns her to the floor and she has to hold onto him for support. Both breathing hard, their clothes in a pile around their feet, Phaedra can see shame in Thancred’s expression as he refuses to meet her gaze. She cradles his cheek in her left hand and rises on wobbly legs to kiss him. This one is tender. It is heartfelt and forgiving. Still, Thancred is resistant and leans his hands against the wall on either side of her head. 

“I’m sorry...” he says after minutes of silence. “I shouldn’t have... I...”

“Shh...” Phaedra strokes his cheek, “I understand.”

“Doesn’t make it right,” his shoulders sag. His eyes close and he leans into her touch as though her touch is all that is keeping him grounded. “I failed again.”

Phaedra tilts her head, “failed?” She draws her thumb over his eyebrow and down, along his cheekbone to the corner of his mouth. “Papalymo knew what he was doing. He made a choice.”

“He should never have had to.” There’s a catch in Thancred’s voice. A choking sound as though he is fighting the emotional bile trying to get out. “How many more sacrifices must be made? How many more people we love must we lose?”

“I don’t know.” Phaedra gives the honest and hard answer. “But I feel as though Papalymo knew he would have to do something... Why else would he ask to be the guardian of Tupsimati?”

Thancred closes his eyes and drop his head until his forehead is pressing on Phaedra’s. He is trembling, though trying to fight it, and the muscles in his jaw clench as though he is battling to keep his grief at bay. “First Louisoix, then Minfilia, and now Papalymo... People I vowed to keep safe.”

“People who knew what they were doing, and did so gladly.” Phaedra draws her fingers through his hair, pushing unkempt strands away from his face. “Papalymo saved thousands. So did Louisoix. And Minfilia... she knew Hydaelyn needed her. You are not responsible for the choices they made, Thancred.”

“I--”

“You are not responsible.” The conviction in her voice seems to surprise him, and he opens his eyes to peer down at her. His mismatched eyes flicker over her face as though searching for deceit or treachery and finding none. 

“I can’t bare this grief...” He says, finally letting his carefully constructed walls crumble a little. “I’m trying, but I can’t.” He speaks as though its a weakness, and Phaedra’s heart cracks. She knows what it’s like to try and shoulder grief alone. She should not have fled to Ishgard; but she is here now. 

“You don’t have to shoulder the pain alone, Thancred.” She brushes her nose against his, “I’m here. You have me.”

They stand together a few more minutes. Thancred sheds tears that Phaedra can only assume he has been holding in for days. He does not sob, or wail, or scream, or curse the Twelve. He only sheds his tears and holds her, and they both take comfort in the other’s closeness. When he is ready, he scoops her up off the floor and carries her to his bed, lying her down with the gentle affection she is more accustomed to. He covers them both with a blanket and lies beside her, face-to-face. 

There are no words either of them can say that will lessen the pain, or make the grief easier to bare. It will take time to heal, for everyone who knew Papalymo. Thancred holds Phaedra close. He strokes her back, her shoulders, and occasionally draws his thumb over the scales across her forehead. In the morning they will have to face the grief again, but it might not be as harsh if they face it together. 

Chapter Text

Phaedra’s lanner makes a soft landing on the outskirts of Clearmelt and squawks as she climbs off its back. With a brief pat, it disperses into the aether and she walks towards the small wooden building. There’s no one outside... No one at all, in fact; something that causes her no small measure of unease. 

She walks around the main building towards where the natural hot pools are located. In the past, there have been soldiers using them for recuperation, or inhabitants of the Crystarium taking a bath. This time they are deserted.

Well, almost.

There’s a body lounging in one of them. A body that possesses a head of silver-white hair. Steam is rising from the water, swirling and lazily wafting around Thancred’s head before it disappears into the air. Phaedra can’t see any of his clothes nearby, so can only presume they are inside. It makes sense. Clearmelt was developed as a sanctuary because the local aggressive fauna of Lakeland avoids it for some reason. There are no threats here. 

Phaedra clears her throat, stopping a good few fulms from the pool where Thancred is languishing. He turns his head, spots her and rises from the water with a smile on his face that could illuminate the sky. Since banishing the Light, Thancred has been more at ease. He is more relaxed. Smiles easier, and Phaedra finds the pulse quickens each time she see’s it. 

“There you are,” he steps over the edge of the naturally formed pool, dripping with every step and wearing nothing but a simple pair of shorts. He looks like something on the cover of a terribly trite and impossible romantic novel and Phaedra finds she can’t look directly at him. “I was worried you might not have received my note.”

“You made it sound quite urgent,” Phaedra curls her hands behind her back and fiddles with the spikes at the top of her tail. It’s a habit from her childhood, something she does when she is nervous. Thancred knows it. He notices, and the smile he wears only increases. 

Everything about him shows how relaxed he is. Phaedra can see the regular, steady rise and fall of his chest. His shoulders are back, and there’s no tension in his body and no muscles clenched in his jaw. His eyes are fixed on her, not scanning their surroundings for potential dangers. 

She clears her throat again, “so. Uh...” she flexes her hands at her sides and focuses her gaze on the pool he just climbed out of. She makes a beeline for it. “What’s the issue?”

“The issue,” Thancred’s quick reflexes mean he snatches the end of Phaedra’s tail before she’s out of his reach and the light tug he gives it brings her to an immediate stop. She glances at his hand on her tail, at him, and then back. He strokes his thumb over the ridges and scales... Phaedra is rather relieved that at least the end of her tail is not sensitive. He closes the space between them with a steady swagger in his gait. His smile grows lopsided, and he circles her with amusement clear in his hazel eyes. “The issue, darling,” he speaks with a low husk to his voice. A tone that sends a shiver up Phaedra’s spine when the sound translates through her horns into the words he’s saying. The bass of his voice hits right down in the depths of her stomach, “is you are working too hard.”

Thancred stops behind her; slides his hands over Phaedra’s waist and lightly kisses her shoulder. The kiss is enough that Phaedra’s knees grow weak. It’s true she’s been running around the Source and the First dealing with all manner of issues... That’s what she does. She doesn’t really think of it as work. Or even think that it might be taking a toll on her. She just... does it, because it’s what is expected. She’s the Warrior of Light.. and the Warrior of Darkness. It’s part of the job description to be in the thick of things... Right?

“W-well, I...”

“I heard about your foray into that lost factory place, with the dwarves.”

“Oh, that.” Phaedra tuts. “I didn’t exactly expect my investigating potential thievery in the mines to lead to--”

“Phaedra,” Thancred cuts her off with a light purr to his voice and his lips skimming her neck. “We have the whole of Clearmelt to ourselves for the night. Indulge me darling, please.”

“The whole of Clearmelt?” she repeats, glancing to her right where she can see Thancred’s hair. Her skin tingles beneath the touch of his mouth where he kisses, doing his utmost to distract her and pull her mind towards other things. More lascivious things. Things that involve him. She wants to give in. She does. Gods, they have’t had time like this together since... Since before Thancred’s soul was pulled from his body and brought to the First. They’ve managed moments here or there. Briefs intervals and the occasional night together, but nothing quite so private and quite so elaborate as this. 

As much as she wants to give in and surrender to the sensation of his lips, and the familiarity of his hands on her skin... She is wary. She has grown too tense and too accustomed to things going wrong and to moments of quiet being brutally interrupted. 

“The whole of Clearmelt,” Thancred slides his hands over her bare stomach and down towards the simple frog-clasp of her trousers. Phaedra places her hands over his, stopping him, and leans her back against his chest. Thancred sighs, “we deserve some time to ourselves. A chance to relax...”

He’s right, of course. Despite ending the Light, ending Vauthry, and stopping the Rejoining, there hasn’t been a moment to rest. Between journeying to the Empty and other tasks pulling Phaedra’s attention the thought of resting, relaxing and simply enjoying this peace has hardly crossed her mind. “I know, but...”

“Tell you what,” Thancred moves and stands before her, his hands resting on her shoulders. He smiles, patient, amused, and gently moves his thumbs in circles on her skin. “Give it half a bell; if you’re still uneasy or not enjoying yourself then we will leave. If you are enjoying yourself, then we stay. Deal?”

Phaedra quirks her mouth to one side. She glances at Thancred, the eagerness in his expression that he is failing to hide. She glances behind him at the steam rising from the naturally formed pools, and thinks how nice it might be to have a chance to unwind. “You’re impossible.” She tells Thancred, “alright, deal.”

“Praise the Twelve, that took far more convincing than I had anticipated.” Thancred swoons for dramatic effect, laughing when Phaedra bats him on the bicep. 

“I don’t have a change of clothes, you know.” Phaedra steps around him and towards the pools, slipping her flat shoes off as she goes. She nudges them together a few fulms away from the water to stop them getting wet. 

Behind her Thancred chuckles. She watches him approach until he is in front of her, and fights to ignore the tingle up her spine when he ghosts his fingers over her back. “Darling,” he leans towards her, his voice dropping to that deeper, richer tone that hits a primal need inside her and causes it to pool between her thighs. “You won’t be needing clothes.”

She goes to argue, but his mouth claims hers and silences whatever retort was on the tip of her tongue. Their banter back-and-forth has made him impatient - that much is clear from the way he kisses her. Hard, and long, his tongue moving against hers in a way that makes her tail straighten. Thancred’s kisses have always stolen her breath, but this one in particular makes her head swim and her chest constrict. He grazes his teeth against her bottom lip and a piteous, breathless whine escapes her. She’s weak to him, she always has been; and he knows exactly how to make her pliable in his skilled hands. 

His hands unravel her hair first, undoing the braid from around the thick ponytail until it’s all loose and long. He combs his fingers through it, thumbs pressing into the hollow of her jaw as he pulls his mouth from hers, kissing over her cheek to her neck. Phaedra’s legs feel like the tendrils of a jellyfish; and she finds herself shifting her weight from one hip to the other to stay upright. 

“Phaedra...” Thancred’s voice rasps against her throat. She tilts her head back and surrenders to the white-hot kisses and the scrape of his teeth. “Gods, it feels like years since we’ve had a chance for this...” He slowly drops to his knees before her, kissing down her clavicle, between her breasts and over her stomach. His hands and fingers touch and stroke places his lips cannot reach, and all Phaedra can do - all she wants to do - is allow him free rein.

Thancred nips the skin of her stomach with this front teeth, all the while his dexterous fingers undo the clasp of her trousers and begin to strip them off her. He pulls them down a little at a time, pausing to kiss each ilm of exposed skin until he cannot reach any more. Phaedra buries one hand in his hair, the other she clasps his shoulder with, using him as an anchor as he removes her clothing from one leg and the then the other, discarding it without a thought. Her cheeks burn as she peers down at him, watching him kiss and gently bite the insides of her thighs. His hands stroke up the back of her legs from her knees. He squeezes her backside prompting a sudden bark of laughter from her. 

“Ah, yes.” Thancred smiles up at her, looking more dashing and roguish than she has seen him in some time, “I forgot you were ticklish there.” He squeezes again for good measure. This time, Phaedra bites back the laughter, and tenses.

“Notticklish.” She argues.

“Of course not.” He rests his chin on her hip. Phaedra brushes his hair away from his face and skims her thumb down the slope of his nose. He kisses her palm and gets to his feet. “Best we make the most of the water, wouldn’t you say?”

“Rude not to.” 

As soon as they are both standing in the warm ankle deep water, Thancred is kissing her again. Time is inconsequential for the moment, and they each take time stripping the other of their remaining garments. Thancred’s cock stands hard and hot, and he gasps into Phaedra’s mouth when she wraps her hand around his length. Before she begins to stroke him, he stops her. 

“Turn around,” he says, breathing hard and squeezing his eyes closed in concentration. “On your knees for me?”

Without hesitating, Phaedra does as he asks. She drops to her knees with her back to him and uses the edge of the pool as a support. She watches him over her shoulder as he kneels behind her and straddles her legs. He leans over, his mouth skimming her back and his arms come from beneath, stroking her breasts. His pelvis presses into her backside, Phaedra rocks against him, able to feel the heat of his cock on her skin. Her eagerness only serves to amuse him, it seems.

“Eager all of a sudden...” Thancred’s voice remains low. His hands move soft and expertly over her skin. He circles her nipples with his fingers, and slides one hand down to touch between her thighs. Phaedra pushes her hips back against him, her fingers digging into the earth around the pool. “I take it you’re enjoying yourself, then?”

“Mhm-hm,” Phaedra nods her head. She is enjoy herself, not just because of the sex aspect. Having some personal, private time with Thancred that isn’t confined to one of their rooms at the Pendants is healthy. They’ve both been needing this. “This was a good idea...”

He chuckles,  “I didn’t even have to ask you to say that.” He works his fingers against her clit, the bulb of nerves pulsing and throbbing in time with the heat coiling in her belly. Phaedra rocks into the movement of his fingers, drawing her pleasure from his touch. She bows her head a little, eyes closed as she focuses on the sensations roiling through her body from that central point at the crux of her thighs. She focuses on way his fingers move and the skill he demonstrates in his touching her. Her nostrils flare on a breath, and she whines a little when release she desires is almost within reach. She reaches down and grasps his hand in her own, guiding his fingers. “Gods, Phaedra...” Thancred hisses against her back.

“Want you,” Phaedra says, peering over her shoulder. His face is flush, pupils blown wide as he watches her. “Want you...”

Thancred swallows. There’s a pause in his ministrations that leaves Phaedra quivering and bereft; her body surging with desire and adrenaline and left begging for it. He braces one hand on her thigh, with the other he grasps his cock. Phaedra bites her bottom lip as he rubs the head along her heat. She pushes back, urging and wanting. A moment of pressure, then he slips inside her spreading his hand over her lower back. He hilts inside her with a gasp, and Phaedra is too late to contain herself. She reaches back with one hand and grasps his hand where it rests on her back. 

“You alright?” He is still, and his voice is breathless but concerned. 

Mhm-hm...” she squeezes his hand and nods.

He kisses her lower back before he moves again, withdrawing and then driving into her. They settle into a rhythm easily enough, Thancred hands grasping the flesh of her backside, and the sound of skin slapping on skin. Phaedra digs her fingers into the earth, the water splashes around her, and at one point she folds her arm on the edge of the pool and rests her cheek on that. He thrusts hard, and hits deep, the sensation rocketing through her like a lightning bolt. Colour blooms on his chest, and sweat forms on his brow; but he manages a smile whenever he happens to catches Phaedra eye. 

The build up of pressure in Phaedra’s belly is slow and steady. The heat grows molten. It coils and writhes, descending deeper and hitting lower each time Thancred drives into her. He grasps her shoulder in one hand, the other curls around the base of her tail- she expects him to pull, and in surprised when she feels a tug on her shoulder instead. She pushes herself up; Thancred slides his arms around her and pulls her the rest of the way until her back is flush to his chest. They share a messy kiss, moving in tandem, gasping and moaning into the other’s mouth. Phaedra curls her earthy fingers into his hair and his breath sears her skin. 

“Phaedra,” Thancred groans into her skin, his teeth scraping along where her scales and skin meet. “Gods, Phaedra-- you feel so good--” His free hand slips between her thighs, and his fingers return to work, teasing around her clit and working the bundle with skillful fingers. Phaedra helps him, guides him as she steals air between kisses and the edge of her eyesight begins to blur. 

The pressure inside her bursts, sending her tumbling and trembling over the blissful abyss that has been so tantalizing close. Her body quakes, and she clutches Thancred’s hand in her own. All the spikes on her tail stand straight up as the sensation washes through her; her toes curl, her voice catches, and when it is gone, her body is lucid and boneless. 

Thancred does not lose pace. He strokes up over her stomach and palms her breasts, his thrusts growing steadily more erratic. Phaedra presses her forehead to his, urging and encouraging him with hot kisses, and her fingers enmeshed within his hair. He hilts himself a final time and his heart jumps so strongly Phaedra feels it ricochet through his chest into her back. He tenses, gasps and groans and buries his face into her neck. His cock pulses, her muscles tensing around him as he comes. Thancred’s breath lands hot and sticky on her skin, and his kisses her neck, her shoulder, the top of her back and down her spine as she leans down on the edge of the pool and he pulls out of her. 

Phaedra flops down, and Thancred does the same. He leans back on the edge of the pool and dangles his head back. His chest rises and falls on rapid breaths and he pulls her into his arms. She can feel his heart racing through his chest, and kisses where it is beating. She kisses up, over his throat until her lips find his. 

They sit a while, Phaedra’s back in Thancred’s chest, the water warm, welcoming and submerging them both up to their chests. Thancred strokes his fingers up and down her arms, pausing occasionally to kiss her shoulder. Phaedra languishes against him her gaze drawn skyward to the inky black sky and the sparkling diamond stars littered above. 

“I admit it,” she says finally, “this was a good idea.”

Thancred chuckles and nuzzles her neck. “I do have them on occasion.” Turning her head, she greets the kiss he presses to her mouth. “And we have this place to ourselves until morning...” he quirks a brow, his mouth curving into a smug slant.

Phaedra laughs, “pace yourself, Waters.” She strokes her hand down his face before she leans into him and brushes her nose against his. “As you said, we have all night.”

Chapter Text

“What’s it like?” Thancred cannot sleep. He’s been trying for a few bells and failing, despite his best efforts. Phaedra, on the other hand, was asleep when he climbed into bed and remained asleep while he settled. He was happy to endure his insomnia alone; but it seemed his restlessness woke Phaedra and she’s been humoring him with answers to inane questions rather drowsily.

“What is what like?” she returns, her voice weary and low.

“Having a tail.” He nudges hers out of the way with a knee. It immediately falls back to where it was lying on the mattress. “Hyur don’t have them. Is it odd to have an additional appendage?”

Phaedra shifts. She squeezes Thancred’s hand in hers and her nails bite into his skin just a touch, a signal of growing frustration. “Couldn't say. I’ve never known life without my tail.”

“Hm.” Thancred extracts his hand and lies back. He rests one arm behind his head and exhales heavily. He is wide awake and stares up at what he can see of the ceiling. He blinks slowly, willing sleep to swallow him. It does not answer his call, even though his body aches for rest. “Does it work independent--”

“Thancred,” Phaedra rolls onto her other side in a flurry of movement. “Love of my life. Darling of my heart. I adore you with every onze of my being. I will gladly humor your every question and intrigue about Auri anatomy at a later date, but please, for now, enough.” She’s leaning up on an elbow and peering down at him with her messy pink hair loosely tied back and her eyes half-hooded with tiredness. 

Thancred offers a rueful smile. “I’m disturbing you, I’m sorry.” He reaches up with one hand to curl round her face and rises off the pillows to press an apologetic kiss to her lips. Phaedra hums, his apology accepted, and she gently slides a tuft of his silver-white hair behind his ear when he pulls away. “I will make myself scarce. There is no reason for the both of us to be sleep deprived.”

As he goes to sit up Phaedra places her hand flat on his chest. He stops. “You’re thinking too much.” She says, her voice deeper and richer than before. Thancred lifts a brow and holds her wrist. “I don’t know what has you so distracted, but, mayhaps I can be a better, more... tempting distraction.”

Ignore the warmth that has immediately ignited in his belly given the implication behind her words, Thancred clears his throat in an attempt to hide his eagerness and willingness. He is meant to be a bard, after all. Someone who can seduce anyone and who is utterly unflappable when in the face of suggestions such as the one Phaedra is making. Of course, this was Phaedra he was confronted with. And no matter how well they knew each other, or how much they tried, they sometimes managed to catch one another off guard.

“What did you have in mind?” asks Thancred, his own voice dropping to a lower timbre to match Phaedra’s more sultry tone. He catches a glimpse of her smile before she leans in. He expects her lips to claim his, but she diverts at the last moment and instead catches the cuff of his ear in her teeth. She tugs and nibbles gently and Thancred’s eyes roll back in his head while his stomach drops out beneath him. If the bed weren’t there, he would probably hit the ground. 

“Th-that’s ch-cheating,” he grouses, grasping at Phaedra’s waist with one hand and trying to bring her closer and pull her linen shirt up at the same time. “Exploiting known weaknesses is--” He swallows when she bites down a little harder. His cock hardens and throbs with each passing moment and Thancred gasps when Phaedra slides her hand between his flesh and his smalls to curl her fingers around his length. 

“Am I doing well as a better distraction?” teases Phaedra. She follows the curve of his ear with her teeth, bites on his ear lobe - which causes a throaty moan to arise from Thancred - and follows down his neck with her lips and her tongue. 

Gods, he cannot fathom or form words. It’s not unheard of for Phaedra to take the lead in their sexual encounters, but Thancred is more accustomed to him initiating. He’s far better skilled at giving pleasure, and far more used to it, than receiving. Plus, receiving means he has to have done something to be worthy of that... And he’s never been worthy of anything in his life - except perhaps a prison cell. 

“Mhm...” Thancred’s hips move and rock into the slow rhythm she creates with her hand around his cock. It’s steady, easy, and languid. No rush or desperation in her touch. He realises around the haze in his mind, that this isn’t for her. She’s doing this to him, for him. “I thought you were tired...” He manages to choke out. He leans back on his elbows, watching through vision that is fuzzy at the edges as Phaedra begins to kiss down his bare chest. Her lips are like shocks of lightning across his skin. She skims his muscles with her teeth, nipping at random intervals which makes him start each and every time. Her breath all but burns him when she exhales these slow breaths. 

She takes her time and winds her way down his torso leaving few places untouched by her lips or her tongue. Thancred hesitates, but finds some flicker of courage that he’s surprised he needs and places a hand on her head, sliding his fingers through her loose ponytail. Phaedra tucks her fingers under the edge of his small and he lifts his hips to aid her in their removal. Phaedra kisses his hip. She draws her fingernails lightly down the insides of his thighs which draws a guttural groan from the back of his throat. He can see her tail lashing to-and-fro, the spikes all taut and tense with her own excitement. 

“Come here,” Phaedra’s words are a soft request, and Thancred watches as she slides down to the foot of the bed and onto the floor. He shimmies down, no longer trying to hide his desire. His cock stands erect and sensitive to even the cool night air and heat coils in his belly and down into his thighs. 

Once he is settled, he leans back on one hand and lets Phaedra have her way. He watches her take his length in one hand, and can only moan to have the velvet warmth of her mouth surround the his head. She holds him steady with one hand, the other she uses to support herself. Her tongue curls around the swollen crown of his cock and with painful slowness, she begins to take more of him into her mouth. 

Thancred squeezes one hand fruitlessly into the sheets. He hesitates again with the other letting it hover and alternate over Phaedra’s head and her shoulders. Only when she gives him a definite nod of her head does he dare to rest his palm on her head and wind his fingers within her hair. He watches, enraptured and focused on her. On the movement of her head, the way her throat expands and contracts. He watches the movement of her eyelids, the depth of yearning he can see reflected back at him when she peers up into his eyes. He tenses the muscles in his abdomen and his thighs, despite the desire for release rising inside him, he does his utmost to resist. 

Phaedra’s is unique. Since their relationship took on a physical aspect, she has learned. She listens and watches and remembers, and has learned from past encounters what Thancred likes, what he loves, and what to avoid. Praise spills from his lips the longer she works him. When she pauses to give her mouth a rest, she strokes with her hand and smiles while she kisses the inside of his thighs. She never works him too hard or too fast, and it’s like she knows when he is getting close to the brink because that is when she stops. She licks him from base to head, lets him watch her slide her tongue along his shaft and back. It’s bold and verges on indecent, and it’s one of the most fucking erotic things Thancred has ever seen. 

When she goes to take him into her mouth again, he stops her, holding her head still by tightening his grip in her hair a little. She peers up at him, turquoise eyes wide and hungry. Saliva clings to her lips and drips down her chin. He cleans it away with a brush of his thumb and leans down to kiss her. Phaedra hums into the gesture and leans her arms on his thighs. 

“On the bed, darling,” Thancred says against her lips. He shifts further back away from the edge and she follows, crawling on her hands and knees. It’s a rather primitive way to move, but it matches the primal look in her gaze. As she goes to straddle his legs, he shakes his head and meets her puzzled look with a smile. “Turn around, back to me.” He spins his finger in midair to signal what he means. 

“Hands and knees?” Phaedra queries. 

“No, no...” Thancred shifts himself and her, stopping briefly to remove her small clothes which he tosses to the other side of the room. “If you kneel, yes. Like that...” It takes a few moments. He moves Phaedra and himself until she’s kneeling over his lap, her back to him and he holds her waist to keep her steady. “Now, reach down.” Her hand slides between them and closes around the shaft of his cock. She positions it and slowly, torturously sinks down on to him. 

“Twelve, Phaedra...” Thancred’s chest is tight when the skin of her backside and his thighs finally connects. He can feel her heat around him, slick and pulsing like a heartbeat. He considers it a minor miracle he didn’t come simply from that. 

“Now what?” Phaedra peers back over her shoulder, brushing her hair away. 

“Lean forward,” Thancred guides with his hand on her back. Phaedra leans until she’s resting her hands down on the bed between his legs. “Now, just... move, backwards and forward...”

The awkwardness of explaining is quickly forgotten once Phaedra starts to shift her hips back-and-forth. Thancred can only watch his cock slide in and out of her, while he squeezes his hands into her hips and presses his thumbs into the flesh of her backside. She sets the pace, slow and unhurried to begin with as they both adjust to this position which is clearly a first for her. As he confidence increases, so does her pace. Thancred is forced to hold her tail to one side so not to get a face full of spikes. 

“O-oh, Gods... Thancred...” He can hear her praising him, and watches her, his lover, his friend, his soulmate, as she tips her head back and begins to move in earnest. She grips her hair in one hand, the other he can feel pressing into his thigh, her fingers squeezing harder and harder. Phaedra’s breath grows short and sharp and her rhythm becomes erratic, faster, losing all sense of timing. Her focus is on the budding release that she is chasing, and so in Thancred’s. 

The heat inside him is unbearable now. Molten, coiling, simmering and ready to burst. He waits until Phaedra comes to an abrupt stop, her breath hitches, her tail flexes from the base to the tip, and he can practically see her orgasm flood through her from her head to her curling toes. He changes his hold from her hips, curving his hands beneath her backside and clenching into her flesh. He holds her there, slightly elevated, listening to her catch her breath as she leans forward on her hands. He drives into her from below; fast, hard and only just able to hear the slap of flesh against flesh over the thrum of his heart and blood pounding in his ears. Phaedra clenches around him as the shock waves of her orgasm ebb and recede.

His own release is swift and brutal. He reaches the precipice and falls over it willingly. His chest constricts and all the air flees from his lungs as he lets loose the raging heat that has been building inside him. He comes with a deep, guttural noise that is somewhere between a growl and a groan. His fingers press into Phaedra’s flesh, clenched into place until he finally regains feeling and sense and can release her. He is sweating and panting and... tired. His mind is tired, his body, and he wants nothing more than slumber.

“Phae,” he murmurs her name as he sits up, leaning on one hand. He realises his arm his quaking. He smooths his free hand over the top of her back and clears her hair over her shoulder to kiss her skin. Phaedra glances back at him. Her skin is flush, eyes are shining. He’s seen her in the afterglow so many times, but each time he is struck by how Godsdamned beautiful she is. She is so open and vulnerable and gentle and real. She is Phaedra in these moments with him. Not the vaunted Warrior of Light, or any other moniker. She is just Phaedra. A woman who loves him, and has willingly given him her heart. 

He kisses her shoulder again, pressing himself as close as possible until he can feel one of her fin-shaped horns against his hair. 

After a few minutes, Phaedra climbs off him and the bed. He watches her clean up his spend, and waits for her to join him under the covers. They each lie on their side, facing the other. Thancred slides his fingers up-and-down her back.

“Feeling better?” asks Phaedra.

“Mhm...” Thancred tries to hold back a yawn and fails. 

Phaedra chuckles, “I see my distraction worked.”

“Aye. S’pose so.”  Thancred draws her closer to him. Sleep is quickly pulling him in. 

“What was it that had you so distracted in the first place?”

“Mhm?” He opens his brown eye a little and tries to recall. His mind his hazy. “You know,” he yawns and kisses Phaedra’s head. “I can’t recall.”

Chapter Text

set towards the end of Shadowbringers MSQ

==

Emet-Selch disappears into the flaming maw beyond the gates. The heat is intense, even from the fifteen or twenty fulms Thancred stands at. He doesn’t want to think of what he and his companions will have to face when they ventured into what lies beyond; but face it they will. 

He reaches for his gunblade to check the ammunition. Around him, his friends... his family are readying themselves for what will likely be the hardest fight any of them have faced before. The Sin Eaters and Vauthry will be mere child’s play compared to whatever the Ascian has conjured beyond the veil of flames. 

The faces around him all look determined and set. Jaws clenched, brows furrowed. Intensity etched in every expression and body position, but there’s fear too. Behind the eyes. In the way the twins separate themselves from the group a little and have a private conversation. Y’shtola is murmuring under her breath. Urianger’s eyes have a faraway look glazed over them while he peers dead ahead. Ryne is the most visibly afraid. She squeezes her hands around the handles of her daggers. Thancred can hear the creak of the leather. 

He goes to comfort her. He wants to reassure her that nothing will happen to her, but he stops before the words leave him. He catches movement from the corner of his eye. Phaedra, moving steadily towards the doors and the flames. 

Alone. 

Abandoning his desire to comfort Ryne, he dashes the ten fulms between himself and Phaedra, and snaps a hand around her wrist.

“What in the Seven Hells do you think you are about to do?!” He hisses at her through snarling and bared teeth. “Have you lost your senses?!”

Phaedra looks down at his fingers wrapped tightly around her wrist and then back to him. Her face is set. A steady look in her eyes. Her mouth set in a line. She could easily break free from his grip; he knows that. He’ll fight her for that control, but it doesn’t come to that.

“I’m going to face Emet-Selch.” She tells him, turning her eyes back to the doors and the fire beyond. The heat is so much worse now Thancred has drawn closer, and behind the fire he is sure he can hear... wailing? 

“Of course you are.” Thancred sighs. “You aren’t going alone.”

“Yes,” Phaedra yanks her wrist free from his grip where he allowed it to slacken for a moment. He tries to grab her again, but she steps out of his reach with lightning speed. “I am.”

She has her chin lifted, her shoulders back, a look on her face that is all power, all strength and severity. She is every inch the Warrior of Light and Darkness. She is the hero of Eorzea. The Eikon Slayer. The Slayer of Nidhogg. The Scourge of Garlemald. The Liberator of Doma... 

Except, Thancred knows her better than that. He ventures he knows her better than anyone. Beyond the lifted chin and the set mouth, the muscles flexing in her jaw... Beyond the titles and the accolades and the deeds she has accomplished since they met... Beyond everything is fear. 

“Phaedra...” Thancred moves with swiftness this time. She is fast, but when he wants to be, he is much faster. Before she can react fully he closes what space remains between them and pulls her into his arms. She stiffens. He hears her breath catch in her throat and her whole body is tight as a string about to snap. “You can say it...” he speaks directly next to her horn and buries one hand in her thick ponytail to keep her head close to his mouth, “no one will think less of you. Least of all me.”

Apart from her breaths which are shaky and shallow, there is silence. Her heart is thundering in her chest and the rhythm reverberates into Thancred’s own. She holds her body tight and tense. She’s trying to hide the fact she is quaking from head to foot. Thancred turns his head slightly, enough that his lips brush her temple. “I’m with you, you know that.”

“I’m scared.” Phaedra’s voice comes out small and raspy; like she is speaking through held back tears. 

“I know.” Thancred moves his head back to look down into her face. He draws his thumbs over her cheeks. “We all are. Every one of us. But we’re doing this together. All of us.”

She swallows, hard. “Do you remember what I asked you? After Rak’tika and Eros?”

Thancred’s body goes cold. Yes. He remembers. He remembers her plea and her tears. He remembers the fear that was like ice in his veins when he realised what she was asking. He didn’t know if the fear came from her request, or from the possibility of what could happen. It doesn’t matter though; all that matters is that he remembers. He didn’t give her an answer then. He does not want to furnish her with one now.

“You can’t ask me t--”

"Please, Thancred.” Phaedra grips his coat, her fingers clenching in the fabric. “If something happens... If I begin to turn...”

“Why me?” he snaps. How can she ask him to do this? He loves her, doesn’t she know that?! He loves her, and she is standing before him asking him to strike her down if the Light is too much for her to bear. How can she look at him with her pleading eyes and ask him to... to...

“Because you’re the only one I trust to do the right thing.” Phaedra enunciates each word. “If it happens, the others will try to help. To stop it. To... stop me. Or try to get through to whatever of me is left if I am consumed. You...” She looks at him, part sadness and part hopeful. “You would do the right thing.” 

He wants to vomit. Thancred’s mind feels hazy as he tries to wrap his mind around her request and her logic. He doesn’t want to think that he is the kind of man who would strike down the woman he loves if she became a mindless abomination at the will and whim of an Ascian... but if there was no other way...

Something inside his chest feels as though it’s cracking into pieces. He pulls Phaedra back into his embrace and holds her there, tight. She reciprocates, arms around him and fingers clutching to the back of his coat. He lets loose a shaking sigh.

“I promise.” He says to her. 

Behind her back, he has his fingers crossed.

Chapter Text

The key Thancred held in his grasp is heavier than anything he had ever carried before; it was also more precious. When Phaedra offered it to him explaining, breathless with excitement, that she had bought her own apartment in The Goblet and that he should have a key so he could come by when he wanted, he took it without question or consideration. It was only later when he found it in his pocket did the implications behind such an innocuous object really hit him.

A key to her home so he could come by when he wanted...

It took their relationship to a new level, didn’t it? It meant things were serious. Not that they weren’t serious before, but the key was a symbol of more seriousness. Growing more committed. Though, Thancred was already committed to Phaedra; so maybe the key was just a thoughtful gift and he was reading too much into things...

But then, often did things without thinking them through, so maybe this was one of those things. For all he knew she had given keys to all the Scions so they could “drop by” whenever they felt like it...

His mind considered all possibilities for days after she gave him the key. So-much-so, that he decided to simply put his worries to the side and visit. After all, it was the first home that was hers. Not a room rented in the Adventurer’s Guild, or given to her in the Scion headquarters. It would be rude and unkind of him not to visit and see why she was so excited. 

Standing outside the door, he could hear sound from inside. He debated knocking, but reconsidered and turned the key in the lock to open the door. It opened inwards, revealing a chaotic mess of things that had yet to find their place in the spacious one room. 

Some items were already set. There was a double bed set up on a small mezzanine in the back right corner. The windows were covered with floor-to-ceiling drapes. Beneath the landing where the bed was were two sofas facing each other, and beneath the steps leading up were books and piles of paper. There was a dining table with a couple of chairs and a bench shoved beneath it sitting, forgotten in the middle of the room. Forgotten, because it appeared as soon as Phaedra had set up easels, canvas and paint, she chose to indulge in some stress relief. Only made more obvious by the paint splattered over her face, arms, clothes, hair and horns. 

She beamed when she saw Thancred, a smile that might well have been brighter than the sun, and quickly tried to make herself more presentable by wiping her paint covered hands on an equally paint covered cloth and tucking messy hair behind her horns.

“You came!” she trotted over to him as he let the door close. “What do you think?” She gestured to the space and looked to him, grinning expectantly. 

“It’s... very you.” Thancred offered a small smirk to her arched brow. “It looks like your room at the Stones.”

“It’s no where near that messy.”

“Yet.” 

Phaedra smacked him on the upper arm for that comment and Thancred walked further into her apartment. 

For all the mess, it was homey already. He saw planters on the walls with carefully cultivated flowers in full bloom. There was a small kitchen area with herbs hanging above the stove within easy reach. In one corner were rolls of fabric and thread, and a loom for weaving. 

“Looks like you’ve made yourself comfortable already.” Thancred said, walking towards the canvas that was a mess of colour and shapes that would eventually become something beautiful. “I haven’t seen you paint in a long time.”

“Well, I...” Phaedra wiped her hands on her shirt again smearing more of the paint on her clothing. Thancred quirked the brow hidden beneath his bandanna, quietly amused by her shy response. “Honestly, I’m a bit shocked to see you.” She stated. A clumsy attempt to change the subject. 

“Oh?”

“Given you looked at me with abject terror when I gave you the key to the place, I thought you’d have run for the hills of Coerthas.”

“You thought me scared?” Thancred snorted. “Scared? Me?” Despite his bravado, his insides were squirming. Had he really looked so terror stricken when she gave him the key? Had his face betrayed his inner feelings of apprehension and concern even before he realised he was feeling them? Gods, he needed to practice concealing his emotions... Especially around Phaedra; she was the only one who could catch him so easily off guard. 

“You looked horrified.” Phaedra replied flatly. “I mean... I get it, I guess.” She started to work at the canvas, dabbing paint with her fingers and guiding different colours in different directions to create shapes. 

“I wasn’t scared.” Thancred leaned on the table, watching her work. “I was...” he thought for a moment, “surprised. You caught me off guard.”

“I debated giving it to you.” Phaedra continued, as though his comment had not been spoken. “I didn’t want you to think it was a proposal or something like that. Last thing I want if for you to feel chained down, or like things are going too fast. It’s why I tried to explain it was a key and you could drop by if you were in Ul’dah and rest if you wanted, save having to rent a room at the Quicksand or...”

“Hold on, hold on,” Thancred rose and placed a hand on Phaedra’s shoulder. She turned towards him and he could see for the first time the flush of scarlet covering her cheeks. “You were reluctant to give me a key to your apartment because you thought I would take it as some kind of... proposal?”

“Well...” her tailed swayed, the tip flicking anxiously. “A little bit.”

“So... you were scared?”

Phaedra huffed, “scared? Me?” She echoed his words and then laughed, “I was... terrified.” She shrugged and covered her face with her hands, laughing into her palms. 

For a moment Thancred was speechless. For all his worrying, he never thought perhaps Phaedra had been consumed with fear too. That she thought she was pushing too hard or asking too much of him. It never crossed his mind that she might have wrestled with the choice of giving him a key to her home, as much as he wrestled with actually going there and taking her up on the offer. 

“We’re both a little foolish, aren’t we?” he asked, fondness making his voice soften. Phaedra slid her hands down her face, smearing paint over her skin and scales.

“Why are you foolish?” 

“I just am.” Thancred inclined his head to press to Phaedra’s temple and guided her hands up onto his shoulders. 

“I’m getting paint on your clothes...”

"We could get paint on the sheets if you would prefer...”

Phaedra gave a breathless chuckle, “well...” she twisted her fingers in the loose strands of his braid, “I commissioned a double bed... Seems a shame not to put it to good use.”

“A terrible shame.”