Gangrel was leaning against a wall in Nisha's room when she came through the door, carrying a stack of papers and books so high her head was obscured. It was a miracle she even made it into the room without falling over her own feet.
"Enjoy the meeting?" he asked innocently.
His words had the desired effect: Nisha stumbled and sent a few pages of notes and a map scattering to the floor. Adjusting her load so she could peek over it, the tactician caught sight of him.
"Gangrel?!" Her voice was unusually high with surprise. "You were waiting her for me? Though the entire meeting?"
"All five hours of it," he replied, bending down and picking up the paper she had dropped. The trickster glanced over the notes as Nisha put her other supplies down on her desk. Nothing interesting, just discussions of various routes and detours. Before he could pursue the map, however, Nisha snatched it away from him.
"That's confidential," she informed him. The Mad King cracked a smile.
"Come now; I thought there were no secrets between us anymore."
"It's not my secret to tell; Chrom wanted the meeting to stay private until he's made a decision."
"Probably won't happen until the next century," Gangrel grumbled. Nisha gave him a sharp look as she folded the map. She wasn't quick enough though: as she shook it open after incorrectly doing a crease, he caught sight of a name scribbled over a circled location. The tactician finished putting away her supplies without comment and—after taking some time to reorganize her books—seated herself on the edge of her bed, tightening her ponytail which had loosened ever so slightly. It was then Gangrel decided to ask about what he had seen on the map.
"So, what are the Ruins of Time?"
"I swear, he's doing this on purpose," the Mad King said, a tad more dramatically than strictly necessary. "Postponing decisions, just waiting for the rumors start flying and once everybody's talking, then—and only then—does his royal exaltedness begin to chose the next movements of his mighty army."
"Chrom just needed a little more time," Nisha replied firmly, "Nothing more, nothing less." Her tone warned Gangrel to drop the subject. He knew he should do just that, but he couldn't resist having the last word. Of course, that didn't mean she had to hear it.
"Of course he does. He just conveniently forgets that every day he hesitates the Fell Dragon gets stronger," the trickster muttered to himself bitterly when the tactician turned away to scoop up some more notes that had fluttered to the ground when she had been stacking her books.
He regretted what he'd said the moment the words left his mouth, but nothing could erase them now. With a growing sense of dread, he watched as Nisha slowly straightened up and turned around, her face an impassive mask. Her beautiful dark eyes were narrowed, hardened with rage.
"We are all very," she growled, stressing the last word, "aware of Grima's growing power. Especially all of us who have been attending these meetings for months now."
The Mad King couldn't help glancing down at Nisha's clenched fists. In plain sight, the six eyes of Grima glared back at him from the back of her hand. It was hard to keep in mind, but Nisha was the reason this war was being fought. Or some future incarnation of her anyway. She had to understand most of all the urgency of the world's approaching end.
He should apologize; Gangrel knew he should. But he had never given one honestly before, and the words did not come easily. As he struggled with his reluctance, Nisha closed her eyes and sighed.
"I suppose it doesn't really matter. You're just here because Chrom refused to kill you. Just another blade to the cause, right?"
The statement was like a slap to the face. Just as if it were physical, his reaction was swift and automatic, lashing back out to hurt in return for the sudden sting to his pride.
"At least I'm not to blame for the entire mess to begin with," he snapped.
There was silence. Sudden, overwhelming silence. Nisha's face was ashen and the red-haired Plegian could have sworn he saw crystalline drops of salt water shining in the corner of her eyes. And then her cheeks flushed with color, a vibrant scarlet to contrast to the darkness in her eyes and hair. The Mad King had never regretted saying something so much in all his life, but it was too late to take them back now; words did not just become un-said, after all.
Nisha visibly struggled with her emotions for a strained moment and Gangrel decided to at least try to apologize.
"Tactician—" he started, but got not further.
"Fine!" Nisha shouted, her voice thick with what sounded like suppressed tears. "If that's how you see it then!"
The cloaked woman then turned on her heel and began to storm from the room. The sudden memory of their falling-out flashed through Gangrel's mind and panic seized him.
"Wait!" he cried, grabbing her arm and pulling her to a stop. "Where are you going?"
"Anywhere but here," she replied coldly, wrenching her arm free and reaching for the door handle. The thought of re-enduring the pain of missing her—of regretting his ill-timed words—was too much for Gangrel to bear: with his other hand, he slammed the door back shut, holding it in place as he recaptured the tactician's upper arm and pulled her a few inches closer to him.
"No," he growled, "you're not. I will not let you treat me this way; I won't!"
"Let go of me," Nisha ordered, attempting to wrench her arm free of his grip.
"No," Gangrel replied coldly. "Not until you let me finish what I was saying."
"I have absolutely no interest in what you have to say," the dark-haired tactician snapped, reaching her free hand into her cloak. "Now, if you don't let go of me—"
He didn't let her finish: taking her wrist as she moved to grab some kind of weapon from the hidden depths of fabric, he pulled her to the side, almost easily trapping her against the wall. Her eyes widened.
"Listen to me," the trickster insisted, but Nisha set her jaw and looked back up into his crimson eyes determinedly.
The word burst from him, a desperate plea slicing through the hostilities. Nisha furrowed her brow, as if she were trying to decide if she had actually heard that word right, whether or not it was just her ears playing tricks on her.
"...What?" she asked, her tone soft and disbelieving. "What did you...?"
"Please," Gangrel repeated, trying to find words that explained the chaotic mix of panic and longing in his chest. Unable to articulate his emotions eloquently, he just spoke what he wanted: "Please don't leave. Promise me you'll stay."
The tactician stared at him, her expression quite blank. Then her deep dark eyes turned to look at his hand, the one that had pinned her wrist to the stone behind her.
"Let me go," she whispered.
"Promise you won't leave."
"I won't," she said, still not looking at him, "just...just let me go."
It was almost physically painful to do, but Gangrel forced his hands to release, forced himself to lean back away. She had promised not to go. But, somehow, the Mad King didn't believe her.
Nisha gasped as he gently touched her cheek, letting the warmth of her skin rest against his palm. He couldn't resist a second longer: leaning forward, Gangrel brought his face nearer to hers. Their lips were inches away...he could almost feel them.
"Gangrel..." the tactician whispered.
Sweet silence fell as he brought their lips together. There was nothing in the world but the two of them. Gangrel's slid through her hair, his other arm wrapping around her waist pulling her closer. She trembled at the contact, but did not pull back or resist the pressure. Her lips were sweet, her body warm against his. Every instinct in him screamed at him to give in to the heat that began pounding through his veins. It would be so simple to hold her tighter, to kiss her harder and deeper. But he denied the thought: he knew she would not be ready, and that knowledge armed him, kept the desires that flooded his body in check.
It was stunningly easy to just be with her, to kiss her like this and ignore his cravings for more. He could just enjoy the moment as it was, without interruptions. And when he had finished, it was also easy to pull away from her lips, to rest his forehead against hers. Nisha's arms were around his neck, and she ducked her head and rested it against his chest, her ear over his accelerated heart.
"Did I scare you?" he asked, stroking her black hair gently. She shivered against him.
"No," she replied, her voice barely audible. Gangrel gently tilted her chin up so he could look into her beautiful eyes again. A smile fell into place across his lips.
"Good," he murmured, then leaned in again.
He could do this for hours: just stand there and chastely kiss her over and over again. It were as if her lips were nectar and he couldn't resist not having a little taste. It was a sweet eternity that he wished would never end...
Then the door thudded open right next to them, and a voice came through the now open space.
"Nisha? I wanted to ask you about the—oh, is this a bad time?"
Stahl looked sheepishly between the trickster and tactician, who had rapidly separated and stepped apart in the moment between the door opening and the green-armored Ylissean entering. Nisha's face was redder than Gangrel's hair and she seemed incapable of making an excuse—or giving any sort of answer whatsoever. So he decided to step in for her.
"Your timing could not have been worse, but we were just finishing up," he replied dryly. "I'll just leave now instead."
The Mad King brushed past the young paladin, whose eyes were flicking between him and the embarrassed young woman. He closed the door behind him as quickly as he could without slamming it, then bolted from the North Wing. He didn't stop until he reached his desolate quarters and flung the door shut, his breathing heavier than normal. Wrestling with the desire to hit something, Gangrel threw himself down on his tiny bed, every foul oath and curse he knew flying out of his mouth at Stahl with vicious force.
That boy had just ruined perhaps the best moment of his life! He had ruined it! Words could not describe the hatred that Gangrel felt for his rival. And now, the dastard was in Nisha's quarters—where he ought to be—talking with her and no doubt twisting her against him. The urge to punch something was unbelievable.
The Plegian released and angry breath and folded his arms, glowering at the ceiling. After a moment, he raised his hand and touched his first two fingers to his lips. He could almost feel Nisha's kiss lingering there, could still taste the faintest trace of her. If he but closed his eyes, he could relive the moment with crystal clarity.
He had kissed Nisha again. And she hadn't run away this time. If that wasn't a victory, then Gangrel didn't know what was.