The deserts of Hatari were warmer than most places they've been to, but she was still susceptible to the shit laws of nature. While Soren had been the first one to adjust to the scorching heat of the day—a lizard, Ranulf called him—they had all been taken aback by the freezing cold of the night.
They being Soren, Ranulf, and Ike.
Ranulf quickly took his giant, fur-covered form in order to stay warm, wrapping himself around his companions whenever he could. Smothering them in bright blue fur was a great alternative to hypothermia, he reasoned to Soren when the man complained. Right now the cat was curled along the length of a lightly sleeping Soren. He occupied himself by trying to match his heartbeat to the mage's own tempo.
A soft exhale, one different than one dripped in dreams, indicated Soren's consciousness.
"The fire is there for a reason."
"And what if that reason is irrelevant to cuddling? And what if I don't want to dip my tail into coals in order to stay warm?" Ranulf purred, taking only small cares to keep quiet. "Besides...I saw you shivering—ah! Don't deny it, my eyes see all."
Ike himself was propped against a leaning tree, long dried and possibly dead. Soren's chest was currently pressed against his thigh and he could hear quiet snores coming from the former general. It was almost uncomfortable. Careful not to rouse his lo—husband, he corrected himself with an odd warmth to his bones that contrasted drastically with the temperature, Soren turned to his other (needier) husband.
Technically, they weren't married at all. The correct term for their situation was "eloped". But Ranulf insisted on being called that intimate term and Ike just nodded like the blunt person he was. Soren flushed but complied with little complaints.
That was nigh on three years ago. Gallia was their first journey; spiriting away Ranulf their first task.
It took nothing but a few months for Soren and Ike to reach Gallia, days to arrive within the walls of Zarzi, and mere minutes to convince Ranulf to run away with them.
His attention turned once again to his lighter blue husband (currently glowing). Watching Ranulf shift was always an experience. As the fur receded to just hair and faded to the strips cupping his cheeks and sloping along his nose, the cat exhaled. His shifting was fluid, not unlike water, while the mage had witnessed other's shiftings full of cracking bones and red auras. Ranulf always closed his eyes when he shifted. When his eyes finally snapped open, Soren shivered. Only partially from the cold, he faintly noticed.
"What are you thinking about, O Great Tactician?" Ranulf hummed, "I hope it's about me."
His fanged smile gleamed in the soft light of the fire, and Soren thought about venin words and distrust.
Three years can do a lot when there's only three in your world's population.
"I'm thinking about how you smell disgustingly like overcooked meat."
A mocked gasp and Ranulf rolled away from him, immediately regretting it. It was cold as hell. Sand stuck to his cheek when he rolled back into Soren's arms and it transferred onto the red blanket beneath him. He didn't care much, but Soren glared lightly. He mentally reminded himself to make the menace do most of the packing in the morning.
Ah, and now Ranulf was staring. He was curiously still wearing that horrid headband/hat of his, probably to fend off the cold as much as he could. He wore it low, covering his forehead. His gaze brought a flush to Soren's ears and a glare to his eyes. The now quieter fire brought a soft burn to them, one green and one purple. Infuriatingly breathtaking were it not for the almost smug spark moving in the darker depths.
"Tell me something, tactician—"
"Something," Soren demurred.
"Mm, you're unbearable. Anyways, I want to hear more about your adventures before the wars. What was Ike like? I know what you were like, Mr. I Only Speak And Breathe In Ike's Direction," Ranulf drawled, not even bothering to keep his voice down. He paused, and then quieter, "No, actually, tell me all about you too. I want to know."
Soren sighed. Of course, he knew leagues upon leagues of things to talk about when it came to Ike, but he himself? Three years it took for him to include Ranulf in his lo—affections, but he had yet to tell Ranulf the nastier parts of his childhood.
Curiosity is going to kill the cat one day.
"Ike's name was going to be Paris."
Ranulf's eyes lit up with interest. "Ike is a very long shot from Paris. It sounds flowery."
"Hmm, yes. Greil never told me why it was changed to Ike, but if my opinion is wanted, I think I like Ike much more. Paris sounds too fanc—what are you laughing for? Stop it, you'll wake him up."
"No‒I just", Ranulf coughed, "you said I like Ike and it‒pffthaha you like Ike!"
"Will you please stop being an idiot and shut up?"
Ike stirred and mumbled incoherently. Soren clapped his hand over Ranulf's mouth, leveling a heavy glare at the cat.
He licked the hand.
"WH—. . .by the goddess, you will not survive this night if I have my way."