Two days after the Mad King proposed, a letter arrived, delivered by an exhausted Cordelia. The message was from Chrom, ordering Nisha to gather the rest of the army and join him on the edge of Feroxi territory. True to her nature as a tactician, Nisha snapped into action and began preparations at once. Her enthusiasm to prepare the army for a move was unusual, but Gangrel had a suspicion that she was just glad to have something else to think about than the impending announcement of their engagement.
In the forty-eight hours that had passed since that life-changing moment, Nisha hadn't seemed to have adjusted to the idea yet, as no one else knew. In fact she was going to a great deal of trouble to hide any differences to her usual attitude: the ring had not left her finger since the Mad King had put it on, but whenever she was with company, her left hand was always slightly obscured or cleverly tucked away. It was fascinating to watch her determination to keep the secret until she deemed herself ready to reveal it—and more than a little amusing.
Twelve hours after Chrom's letter arrived—despite all of the trickster's best attempts to keep Nisha distracted—the tents, supply wagons and Shepherds were ready to head out. Gangrel relished everything he could about life in the fort. But after all his pleading, Nisha still refused to let him stay in her room for the night.
"We have the rest of our lives to be together," she reminded him when he protested to leaving. "You can wait a little longer to share a bed."
"We won't get to if you don't hurry up and tell the Ylisseans," the redhead muttered. "Keep up the waiting and we'll have a kid come back from the future first."
"Don't even joke about that," the tactician warned. "In any case, I wanted to wait until I could tell all the Shepherds at once, so these orders to move out actually are helping your case. Satisfied?"
"Not in the slightest," was the dry reply. The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes, smiling as Gangrel leaned over and kissed her forehead. She embraced him for a long moment, then stepped away and closed the door, setting up a physical barrier that was oh so similar to the societal ones that she allowed to come between them. One day, the Mad King would have her all to himself—properly—but until she was ready, all he could do was wait. And he loved her enough that he didn't mind it so much, no matter how much he might grumble. They had time.
Thank the gods for spring thaw. Regna Ferox was now warm enough during the day that the temperature was bearable and the amount of snow had begun to thin significantly. It was still cold at night, but this was an improvement. If only the frozen slush would vanish completely.
It didn't take too long to reach the rendezvous—four days of Westward marching. Four days of being trapped at the back of the army, unable to keep an eye on Nisha because of the distance. Needless to say, it had been a frustrating experience.
When the Shepherds finally reached the rendezvous camp, there had been an enormous blockage right before the tents as the small families of the army reunited with their friends. Gangrel did not participate, but remained a little off to the side. He watched as Nisha spoke with Stahl and the how paladin excitedly pointed out the ring on Cherche's finger. The Mad King felt slightly smug when he saw that flash of gold on the wyvern rider's left hand. So, the boy had been serious when he said he was dropping out of the competition for Nisha's affections. Well, that hardly mattered now anyway; the tactician was his regardless.
When all the excitement had settled down, the trickster left behind the rows of tents and climbed a hill with a lone tree at the summit. He needed some time to relax and be alone after witnessing all that sickening affection. Resting his back against the trunk of the tree, out of sight from the valley below, Gangrel closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He had no intention of moving from this spot until dinner. The Ylisseans would just have to handle all the chores and organization without him.
A shadow blocked out the sunlight and he smiled as the tactician's voice sounded above him.
"Mind if I join you?"
"What do you think?"
He heard her sitting down next to him before her fingertips touched his hand.
"Finally, some time to be alone," Nisha sighed. "I almost forgot how hard it is to keep an entire army organized enough to march."
Gangrel opened his eyes and smiled wryly at her as he entwined their fingers. Nisha glanced at him, her deep eyes warm with affection. Now this was paradise: just the two of them, with no one to interrupt this moment.
It was a fragile fantasy, popping like a soap bubble as an (irritatingly) familiar voice called out.
"Nisha? Where are you?"
May the gods lay a curse on that princeling's head, Gangrel thought viciously. He released the tactician's hand and shifted away from her as she did the same in the opposite direction. Slumping farther down the trunk, the Mad King listened to the conversation happening on the other side of the tree.
"I'm here. Is there something you needed?"
"Yes," the Exalt told her, his tone unusually stern at her. "We have a few new members in the Shepherds and one of them...well, he has some, ah, interesting circumstances...it would be easier to explain if you just met him yourself."
"Alright," Nisha replied, brisk and businesslike. "Where is he?"
"My tent. I wanted you to meet him first before..." Chrom sighed. "Oh, forget it. Just come with me."
For perhaps the first time, the Mad King was intrigued by something the bluenette had said(and he doubted it would ever happen again). After their footsteps had faded, Gangrel pulled himself to his feet and walked down the hill after the pair. He was careful to keep his distance and to always keep them in sight. As the bluenette pulled open the entry flap to his Brand-marked tent, Gangrel slid around to the side so he could hear while remaining partially hidden.
"Chrom, why all the secrecy?" Nisha was asking as she stepped inside. "I don't see what's so—oof!"
"Mother!" an unfamiliar voice cried excitedly. "Oh mother, I'm so glad I've finally found you!"
The Mad King froze. His ears had to be deceiving him; there's no way that new recruit could have just called Nisha...
"Mother?" the tactician repeated, sounding more than a little stunned.
"I've been looking all over for you," the voice said excitedly. "And when Chrom here said that he might know where you were, I...Mother? Why are you looking at me like that? Hello? It's me! Morgan! ...Your son? Love of your life and strapping young lad and all that?"
"Ah, let's just go back to the 'mother' thing for a moment, alright?"
Gangrel shook his head. This was impossible. A child come back from the future? He and Nisha weren't even married yet! So how in the name of Grima did this "Morgan" character even exist?!
"You know what, Morgan," Chrom intervened smoothly, "why don't you go introduce yourself to some of the other Shepherds? I need to talk to Nisha for a minute if you don't mind."
"Sure!" Morgan exclaimed cheerfully. "Now that I've found you, we have forever to catch up! See you later!"
The trickster looked up as the tent flap opened again and saw a young thief jogging away, bright red hair standing out on his head. Gangrel stared after him a minute. Could that really be his son?
"Care to explain how Morgan got to our world, Nisha?" the Exalt asked from back within the tents, drawing back Gangrel's attention.
"Well, I was going to tell you this a little later, Chrom, but..."
Nisha's voice faltered and the Mad King could picture her cheeks reddening in a blush, rendering her speechless. He had to resist rolling his eyes. She had her chance to finally admit it, and now she was backing down. Why did she have to be so complicated at times?!
"What? What is it that you have to tell me?"
Gangrel scowled at the princeling's tone, which had become uncharacteristically harsh towards his tactician. He got to his feet and strode around the side of the tent, brushing aside the entrance flap carelessly.
"What are you doing here, Gangrel?" Chrom asked icily, shooting a glare in his direction. The trickster ignored the question for the moment, smirking as he wrapped an arm around Nisha's shoulders. Her cheeks—already pink—became scarlet at his touch, the flush reaching all the way to her ears. Gangrel had to suppress a snicker as he faced the Exalt smugly. Chrom's face had begun to redden with rage, and the Mad King couldn't help but chuckle.
"What's the matter?" he asked mockingly. "Didn't want me to butt in? Too late now."
"I have business with Nisha," Chrom growled, his hand dropping to Falchion's hilt. The Mad King laughed again, resting his free arm over the tactician's shoulders. If she could blush harder, she did.
"Well, I have a right to know exactly what that business is," the trickster remarked casually, watching the princeling's eyes flicker from his hold on the dark-haired woman to her left hand where the golden ring rested. Chrom's face paled for a moment before the color returned in full force. The Exalt visibly struggled with his emotions for a moment and Nisha glanced up at her lover uncertainly. He shrugged in return, enjoying every second of his old foe's discomfort.
It took a while, but the bluenette recovered enough to speak again.
"I see. Nisha, would you go talk to Morgan and...explain things? I have something else to deal with here..."
The tactician nodded and slipped out from Gangrel's grasp before Chrom finished, still rather pink in the face. The Mad King folded his arms as the princeling paced back and forth for a full minute, still obviously upset.
"You said you wanted to talk, but I haven't heard anything," Gangrel said slyly, raising an eyebrow. Chrom stopped in his pacing, his hands clenched into fists and trembling.
"What do you think," the younger man snarled, "gives you the right to propose to my tactician?"
"She's not just yours anymore," the trickster replied, shrugging again. Chrom stalked forward and seized his collar.
"What right?!" the blue-haired Ylissean hollered, seeming quite deranged. "This is some kind of ploy, isn't it?! Payback against Ylisse?! A heart as stone cold as yours could never change so much to actually care about her! I was a fool to give you a second chance!"
"Far too late to rectify that now, don't you think?"
"What makes you say that?"
"Because if you kill me here and now, Nisha will never forgive you. And her kid? He'll vanish and then you'll have the blood of two on your hands. And I don't think your lovely subjects will be so pleased about that, will they?"
That comment froze the raging Exalt, who studied Gangrel for a long moment, the harsh lines of anger still etched on his face. But the Mad King wasn't done quite yet.
"You ask me what right I have to claim her? The answer is simple: I have none."
"Then why did you ask?!" Chrom spat.
"Oh, I don't know," Gangrel remarked sardonically. "Perhaps the fact that I love her more than life itself?"
There it was, out in the open. Chrom released the trickster's shirt in shock and the red-haired man smoothed the wrinkles, keeping his face clear of any emotion.
"You can't be serious."
The Mad King chuckled.
"Can't I?" he challenged.
Silence fell. Gangrel watched Chrom struggle with the surprise at that matter-of-fact statement. True, it was a difficult concept to grasp—the former king had to admit that if he'd been told as much just a month ago, he'd have told them to bash their heads against a stone wall to clear their addled brains.
"I..."the princeling started before trailing off again, his expression hopelessly bewildered. Gangrel chuckled a second time, which seemed to pull Chrom out of his lapse.
"Get out of my tent," he growled. The Plegian bowed overdramatically, keeping his smirk as he strode out from the Exalt's presence. Now that he was free of crummy Chrommy, he could go find Nisha—and perhaps this "Morgan" kid who claimed to be his son.
They weren't hard to find: the pair were seated under the same tree on the hill that he and Nisha had relaxed under before it had been spoiled.
"Hah!" The dark-haired tactician laughed at something Morgan had said. "You really do take after me."
"You know, now that you mention it..." the young thief added thoughtfully "There is one other thing I remember."
"I've always strived to become a great tactician like you. And even though this war is terrible, at least now I can learn from you firsthand."
"Well, you're nothing if not optimistic... Wherever or whenever you came from, I'm glad you made it here, Morgan."
"Hope I'm not interrupting anything," Gangrel said loudly, announcing his presence. Nisha twisted around and smiled.
"Of course not." She turned to the redheaded thief and began the introductions. "Morgan, this is Gangrel. Gangrel, Morgan."
"Nice to meet you," Morgan crowed cheerfully. The trickster nodded in acknowledgement as he sat down next to his lover, taking her hand in his.
"So," he remarked to her, never letting his eyes leave Morgan's smiling face. "this is our son?"
"Well, I'd assume so," the tactician replied. "After all, he certainly is mine."
"Still getting used to the whole 'future' thing too," the young man added. "I don't really remember anything except Mother and...wait, did you say 'our son'? You're my father?"
Gangrel glanced at Nisha, who shrugged helplessly.
"Amnesia seems to be a familial trait," she explained softly. The trickster rolled his eyes. Gods help him.
Dinner was the same as usual: the Shepherds gathered in the mess tent, took their food in a line and sat down, visiting with friends and family. Gangrel had come in as he always did and sat down alone in the back of the tent. The only peculiarity in tonight’s events was that Nisha hadn't yet come in herself. The Mad King wasn't worried however—he knew exactly where she was: back in her tent, trying to work up the courage to face the army.
Word of Morgan's arrival had spread, as had the speculation about where he'd come from. None of the other future children seemed able to remember him and—as far as the others were aware—Nisha was still very much single. But that delusion was going to be rectified soon.
The moment the tactician made her entrance, she was swarmed by several women, all of whom were talking at once. Lissa's voice was by far the loudest, the young princess determined to be heard.
"Nisha, when I first saw Morgan I knew he had to be your son—I mean, he's like your twin or something—but I knew it had to be impossible since you weren't married yet and-and—oh, is that a ring on your finger?"
There was a loud gasp that effectively silenced all the other chatter. Gangrel rolled his eyes. And people wondered where Owain got his dramatics from. Well, having Vaike as his father wasn't much help, but all the same it was Lissa's blood that gave him all that energy.
"It is! Gods, you're engaged! Who's the lucky guy?"
"You're engaged?" Olivia repeated, her eyes wide.
"Yes, Olivia, I'm engaged," the dark-haired woman replied, holding out her left hand for all to see. "I've been meaning to tell you all for days now, but—"
"Days?" Maribelle interrupted shrilly. "You have been engaged for more than 24 hours and you didn't think to tell us? Darling, not to be brash, but...why the wait? I thought you'd be thrilled to tell us."
The trickster could see Nisha freezing up again, but this time, he would not save her; he'd always had a talent for reading the emotions of a crowd and if he interfered, it would only worsen the situation for both of them. And Morgan; couldn't exactly forget the kid either. Thankfully, someone else interceded for him.
"Ladies, please," Cordelia said clearly, calming down the small cluster with her usual poise. "Give Nisha a little room to breathe. She'll say when she's ready and not before."
The tactician smiled at her friend, though she still looked decidedly uneasy. The mess tent had gone all but silent now, everyone watching the exchange as though it were some kind of entertainment. Nisha swallowed, folded her hands and straightened her posture. When she spoke, her voice was measured and controlled.
"Last week, I received the proposal and—as you can clearly tell—I accepted."
"But who's the lucky guy?" Nowi blurted. The Mankete then cried out as a certain black-haired sorceress hit her over the head with a tome.
"Shut up you," Tharja advised Nowi in her dreary monotone. Nisha's confidence seemed to flicker at the small outburst, but her tone was steady.
"Most of you probably won't understand why I said yes, but my only defense is that I know this will make me happy. I accepted for my own sake as well as his—because there are two sides to every relationship. And I'm not hiding ours any longer."
A pause to breathe, a pause that lasted a weighty eternity. And then:
"It was Gangrel who proposed to me. And I have accepted his offer."
Severa spewed the water she was drinking. So did Ricken. Basilio choked on his dinner and sputtered loudly. Yarne slid off the bench he was sitting on in dead faint alongside Inigo and Virion.
And then came the silence. Somehow, the quiet was even louder than the expected shouting accusations would have been. Henry chuckled, breaking through part of the tension.
"That's awesome," the pale-haired Plegian remarked in his usual cheerfulness. Several Shepherds swore reflexively.
"H-how?" Maribelle stuttered, her voice even more breathy than before.
Where quiet had been but mere seconds ago, a wave of sound erupted outwards, a deafening roar of people all shouting at once. Nearly everyone in the tent swarmed Nisha, bombarding her with questions and protests. Even if the Mad King had tried to interfere, he wouldn't have been able to get within a yard of her.
Someone's hand came down on his shoulder and Gangrel immediately tensed up, expending an attack of some kind. He needn't have worried, though; it was Stahl who had approached him, a wide grin stretched across his face.
"Glad to see you took my advice," the green-clad Paladin said over the chaos. "Take care of her, or I'll have to give you a thrashing."
Before the trickster could come up with an appropriate response, the brunette Ylissean strode away, joining his wife and son at a table.
"What's going on?"
The sudden proximity of Morgan's voice made Gangrel flinch automatically. The boy didn't seem to notice as he sat down next to his father.
"Nisha just announced our engagement," The Mad King informed him dryly. "Somehow, I think the Ylisseans aren't taking the news very well."
"You're not married yet?" Morgan asked, his brow furrowing in confusion. "Then...then how did I...? Wait a minute...am I—I mean, did you two, um..."
"Of course not!" Gangrel exclaimed. "That's low even for me!"
"But-but then how—?"
"I don't know how," the Mad King snapped. "And frankly, I don't care either. You're here and that's that; end of story."
A tense silence fell between them. Morgan stared at the table and Gangrel glared at the canvas wall of the tent.
"I'm sorry," the young thief finally said. "I shouldn't have asked."
"You have nothing to say sorry about," Gangrel muttered. "You were just asking."
"But it was a very personal question, and I had no right to—"
"You had every right. You're our son—as strange as it is—and you deserve to know about the legitimacy of your birth. Or what your birth will be, anyway. I'm...I'm not good at this family thing; never really had one to use as an example. But, no matter what the circumstances are, you are Nisha's son and in this time that makes you mine as well."
There was another pause. Gangrel sighed in frustration.
"This time-travel just makes everything too complicated."
"I can agree with you there," Morgan nodded. "And I don't even remember it!"
The younger redhead smiled, his attitude returning to positive in the blink of an eye. The Mad King just shook his head. How could this be his son? So far they had nothing in common. In fact, it wasn't even certain that Morgan was related to him; his memory was gone, along with it his father's identity. But perhaps it was better that the kid didn't remember. After all, who could ever want him as their father?
Gangrel took another sideways glance at Morgan, then looked at Nisha, who was surrounded on all sides, desperately trying to answer questions and defend herself against the verbal attacks from disapproving Shepherds. Like it or not, this was going to be a difficult ordeal for all three of them. And they were all stuck in it together.
Naturally, the moment supper was over, Nisha fled to her tent for some well-earned alone time. After enduring a full half hour of glares and whispers that lasted long after the mess tent had been vacated, Gangrel was ready to join her. Abandoning his lonely place at the campfire, the trickster walked among the tents until he found the one that belonged to the tactician. He pulled open the tent flap and walked in, but before he had made it more than two steps, Nisha had abandoned whatever she had been doing before and flung her arms around his shoulders. Taken aback slightly, the Mad King returned the gesture.
"Nisha?" he questioned and her grip tightened.
"Hold me," she whispered. "Just hold me for a minute."
Gangrel complied, pulling her closer and running his fingers through her black hair. With every stroke, he felt her relax a tiny bit and worked to make the movements slower, more soothing. When the majority of the tension had left her body, the tactician looked up into the trickster's eyes.
"They were so upset," she said, and Gangrel didn't need to ask who she meant. "They think you've tricked me into accepting your proposal. They don't understand that I..."
Her voice broke and she sounded close to tears. Gangrel's frustration with the Shepherds rose again.
"They're fools," he told her, trying to keep his tone soft through his anger. "And so what if they don't approve? I doubt very much that everyone was supportive of their prince marrying a dancer—especially one who he barely knew and was from another nation to boot. Don't let their disapproval get to you. Unless, of course, if you don't want to marry me anymore."
"How can you joke about that? When I said yes, I meant it, and I am not backing out."
"Then why do you care so much about what they think? I don't. I love you and nothing will change that sentiment, not even our impending death."
Gangrel did not give Nisha the chance to protest, closing the distance between them in a swift kiss. Her returning tension dissolved and her grip loosened behind his neck.
"Don't think about them," he murmured as they parted. "This is about you and me, and no one else."
The tactician laughed softly, a small smile crossing her lips.
"Well, Morgan too," she added. The Mad King frowned a little before he could stop himself and Nisha noticed it.
"What's wrong?" she prompted. "Is Morgan a disappointment to you?"
"No! How could you think that?" Gangrel exclaimed, more from shock than anything else. "I hardly know the boy yet, so how could I be disappointed in him?"
"Then what is it?"
The red-haired trickster sighed and buried his face in Nisha's hair, trying to find the words to express the problem.
"I thought...I thought we would have a few years together before...it became more than just the two of us. I don't know if I'm ready for a family...to be a father. And it doesn't help that Morgan and I seem to have nothing in common aside from hair color. He's...he's your son, through and through, but...I'm not sure if he's mine too. I'm not making any sense, am I?"
"No, I understand...I have the gist of it anyway."
Gangrel laughed softly.
"What a pair we make," he said softly to himself. Nisha tightened her embrace.
"It'll be okay. We can do this. Just stay by me, and we'll be fine."
"You know I couldn't possibly leave," the Mad King whispered in her ear before kissing her again. "Regardless of what happens."
"Thank you for listening," the tactician said, pulling farther out of his embrace. "It's nice to have someone to talk to."
"Especially when you need to vent," Gangrel teased. Nisha laughed and reached up to ruffle his hair. The trickster caught her hand and kissed the back of it, eyebrows raised mischievously. He was rewarded with a light smack to the head. Playfully, he pulled his lover closer and rested his forehead against hers.The world could wait. Gangrel was content to just stay here and be with Nisha in this little piece of eternity.